Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Do you know a kid? You should see this calendar!

When I was a little girl, I would have crawled on broken glass to the nearest bookstore or library or hole-in-the-wall whereverland if there was an author signing books.  I lived way out in the country where the nearest thing to civilization was the ice cream parlour/burger joint at a major intersection just a stone's throw from the egg farmer. But I would have done it.
My pilgrimage to Green Gables. The best I could manage at the time.
The thought of actually meeting the Person Who Wrote the Book That I Read Last Week, or who wrote the book I might read next week - the person who wrote something good enough to be published - was unreal to me. After all, most of my favourite authors were British or dead or both. I'm just old enough to have grown up as the Canadian children's publishing industry was about to take off in a big way.
I remember my mom bringing home Dennis Lee's Alligator Pie when it came out, and Gordon Korman's MacDonald Hall series (Whoa! He wasn't a whole lot older than I was! And the books were set in Stouffville, just a bit beyond the egg farmer's place!), and Jean Little, of course. But the notion that I might actually meet any of these people? Nah. Never going to happen.

Today, however,  many children in Canada have so many opportunities to meet authors and illustrators either online or in person at schools, libraries, and bookstores. Lucky kids! I've been to a fair number of events over the past few years, and the best ones have lots of young readers there - little ones responding enthusiastically to the stories and asking lots of questions, or teens chatting oh-so-casually with the author about dirt bikes or journaling.
With Gordon Korman (30 years later). I sent this one to my mom within about ten seconds.
Now here is the Big News: Being able to engage with Canadian children's authors and illustrators just got a whole lot easier. This year, the Canadian Children's Book Centre launched a new website that highlights and promotes book events across the country. Any CCBC member can post an event. And ANYBODY can check the calendar to see what's happening on any given day of the week.
My 10-year-old self would have been beside herself if she could have had access to these sorts of opportunities. I think my head would have exploded if I could have met Jean Little when I first read From Anna.
Whee! Bookish types know how to have fun!
Do you have plans for this weekend? How about next weekend? Do you know kids who like books? Who think they hate books? Check out the calendar and see what's happening in your neck of the woods. Take those kids to a book launch or a reading. If you are a teacher or a librarian, let your students and their parents know about the calendar.
Chances are it won't cost a thing to participate in the event (though you'll probably be eager to buy the book after you hear all about it!). Bribe your reluctant readers with the inevitable free juice and cookies. If it's a Fitzhenry & Whiteside launch, I promise that there will be cake.
See? Told you there'd be cake! (A "novel" idea.)
And there will be at least one author - maybe an illustrator. Maybe more than one of each. Readers (children, teens, and adults alike) can hear a story, ask questions, get to know what went into making that particular book. They can meet other people who also really like the book and/or the author and/or the illustrator. Or maybe they will simply meet people who are fans of books in general and are there for the bonus cookies and cake. And somewhere between the apple juice and the autographs, a few on-the-fence readers might take more of an interest in reading a great new Canadian children's book. How could you NOT want to make that happen? 
Presenting Gabby at  Story Planet & Intergalactic Travel Authority
But fair warning - it might also make an avid book-loving kid's head explode. And that will be SO worth it.

Sent this one of me with Dennis Lee to my mom, too. And then my head exploded.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Looking backward and forward

My “new job” resolution was to try and update this blog more often, so here we go…
Now THIS is a happy goalie!
Tonight, I’m sitting in my Other Office (aka a McDonalds with free WiFi) while my daughter is at hockey practice. It’s a good couple of hours with little to distract me as long as we discount Facebook and Twitter, of course. (though I must admit - this Blogger site doesn't make formatting very efficient, either!)     Looking back at 2012, I’m terrifically proud of the books we’ve put out into the world: picture books like The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier and Francois Thisdale, Bye, Bye, Butterflies by Andrew Larsen and Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli, and Gift Days by Kari-Lynn Winters and Stephen Taylor; novels by Helaine Becker (How to Survive Absolutely Anything), Natalie Hyde (Hockey Girl), and Valerie Sherrard (Counting Back from Nine); and in non-fiction, Northern Dancer (at long last!) by Gare Joyce and Saving Lives and Changing Hearts: Animal Sanctuaries and Rescue Centres by Rob Laidlaw. Gabby by Joyce Grant and Jan Dolby officially pubs this week (though rumour has it that the books sneaked their way into stores before Christmas!!).
Tonight, I’ve been getting some work done on a few upcoming titles – a new Tell-Me-More Storybook by Sean Cassidy about a tenacious young woodpecker (Fall 2013), a STEAMPUNK novel by Marty Chan (yes, STEAMPUNK!!) and Dying to Go Viral, an intriguing and engrossing novel by Sylvia McNicoll (Spring 2013). I’m hoping to have a cover for Dying to Go Viral soon – one of my favourite cover designers, Erik Mohr, is working on it right now. Erik does amazing cover art, so I’m all tingly with anticipation.
Speaking of things that make me tingly, all the artwork for Skink on the Brink is completed! Suzanne DelRizzo has done a phenomenal job of bringing Lisa Dalrymple’s story to life.
On that note, I just want to say how incredibly lucky I have been to find such marvellous writers and illustrators. Not only are they all incredibly professional and cooperative, they support each other every step of the way. For example, last spring, Brian Cretney (Tooter’s Stinky Wish) invited Andrew Larsen (Bye, Bye, Butterflies!) to join him at a school visit and even prepared a PowerPoint presentation for his upcoming book. Suzanne DelRizzo created a plasticene rendition of Gabby for Jan Dolby and Joyce Grant – and has even offered to decorate a cake for their launch! Through social media, authors and illustrators share reviews and cross-promote each other’s books every day. Any given book launch is populated by book professionals who are there to support their fellow writers and artists.
This is what makes me love my job more and more every day.  This is why children’s books in Canada will always survive.
I can’t wait for the rest of 2013.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Selling books in a hockey arena - when worlds collide

A couple of weeks ago, I hopped in my car and drove out to Kitchener-Waterloo to go to a hockey tournament THAT NONE OF MY KIDS WAS PLAYING IN. But I did have a couple of boxes full of Hockey Girls in the back seat, and they are sort of my babies, so I guess it's the same thing, right?

The Aud was home to the Kitchener Lady Rangers annual FallFest tournament. Hundreds of girls in various levels and divisions from all over Ontario streamed past our little table with its nice big poster advertising Hockey Girl, a new novel by Natalie Hyde. Even better, Natalie was there to sign copies!

And of course, because she knows me so well, Natalie brought fudge. Homemade, no less!

We had a wonderful day together, sold plenty of books, and got to talk to some great hockey girls and their parents, grandparents, coaches, trainers and team managers. One older gentleman asked Natalie if she had heard about the Preston Rivulettes! We were pretty excited because they were part of Natalie's inspiration to write Hockey Girl.

Another exciting moment came when Jan Dolby, the illustrator of Gabby, stopped by the table. Her daughter was about to play her second of three games that day. (Whew!) I just so happened to have a hot-off-the-press copy of Gabby in my briefcase. How wonderful it was to be there the moment that an illustrator sees a copy of her book for the very first time! And, even better, her whole family - including in-laws - was there to see it, too!

Unfortunately, I had to take it back to the office with me since we only had a handful of advance copies and I'd sort of snuck this one out on a weekend pass. Gabby will officially pub in January, so keep an eye out for it then.

But back to Hockey Girl.

Hockey Girl by Natalie Hyde
One of the best parts about being able to show off this book was seeing the response to it from the families of so many hockey girls. This story is about teenaged girls who are fighting for an equal opportunity to play hockey - they aren't just chasing the guys who play hockey, or trying to sort out the best cheer-leading outfits to wear when they go watch hockey. And as my own teenaged daughter will verify, there is real hockey in the book. The rules, the positions, the plays: they are authentic. The girl on the cover is a former Willowdale Red Wing Bantam AA player. And of course, the story is a lot of fun. There's a website featured at the end of the book that looks at various issues in womens' hockey and how girls' teams have fought for equal access to ice times, and highlights a few groundbreaking female hockey players.

And since I promised a book giveaway or two, I'll give away a signed copy of Hockey Girl to a random person who comments on this post or shares it on Twitter or Facebook. How about that? SCORE!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

New Beginnings in Editoriania

It's been a while and lots has happened. For one thing, I survived the International Beijing Book Fair and climbed the Great Wall of China (then took the toboggan down!). And survived the 36 hour trek home to Aurora, Ontario! Yay, me!
"Toboggan is a dangerous sport..." Excellent!
Also towed my husband along to Las Vegas where I attended the National Council for Teachers of English convention and sold books.

Troy edited by the pool. No, we didn't gamble, but we did see a Cirque de Soleil show and walked around, taking in the sights.

Our new friend, Kotton Kandy. Hey, it was VEGAS!
Immediately returned from Vegas in time to attend the annual Canadian Children's Book Centre awards gala at the Ritz Carleton. No pix for this event since they turned out way too fuzzy, but that's just as well. Let's just say, everyone had a reeeally good time!

And most of you probably know by now that our children's book publisher, Cathy Sandusky, retired recently and I've taken on the job here at Fitz & Witz. Cathy's sitting by a pool now (or, more likely, chasing her awesome dog Maddie around said pool!) in Florida and we all miss her tremendously. But I am cheered by the fact that I have a new editor, Solange Messier, giving me a hand with the non-fiction part of our (superb) list and generally making sure my head doesn't explode (so far, so good!).
I'm hoping to make regular blog updates part of my new job routine. Maybe I'll even be able to throw in a few book giveaways....Wish me luck!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Beijing calling (but I don't know if it's working)

Well, here I am in our booth at the Beijing International Book Fair. More updates to come!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bologna to Rome: Part Whatever - I'm pretty behind

We left off at the end of Day 1 of the fair, I believe. Well, Day 2 was fun. I met with many interesting and innovative publishers as well as international organizers who were sort of scouting to see what we are doing in Canada. The Singapore Arts Council was particularly interesting. I'm hoping that we can form a really productive partnership with them.
On Tuesday evening, Special Agent Ali and I went to the Egmont UK party. Apparently, getting an invie to this affair is quite a score - which is one reason (among many) why Ali is a special agent. What a great evening! We met a most gregarious UK agent as well as a British illustrator and her dad. Rosie Brooks is her name and you can see her illustrations here. They are sweet and remind me of some of my favourite Canadian illustrators. Rosie's dad used to work for Scholastic Canada back in the day - when they were located in Richmond Hill - and he was very enthusiastic in his admiration of all things Canadian. Rosie has an incredible body of work behind her and had been involved in some fascinating projects. Would you believe that she has even illustrated a guitar for Paul McCartney that he uses on stage? And check this out (#6)! Whoa. They gave me some interesting ideas that I'm hoping to pursue with other people in CanKidLit when I return. But I'm going to remain a bit mysterious about that for now...
Mario treated us very well!

Speaking of being mysterious, there is a fabulous restaurant I discovered in Bologna last year which Ali and I returned to this year. We love it to bits, but we don't want it to become common knowledge among the Fair frequenters since we want to be able to get our table there again every year LOL! Anyhow, when we went to ""our place on my last evening in Bologna, our wonderful server brought us free hors d'oeuvres and, instead of the prosecco we ordered, champagne. (See? Can't let this place get out of the bag!)

Fair participants enjoying the sunshine between halls 25 & 26
On Thursday, I had another busy morning at the Fair, keeping several appointments and welcoming the occasional drop-in before packing up the booth. This year really was very, very busy. When I wasn't roaming from appointment to appointment, I was manning our little table. As one person left, another would be waiting in line. Not bad for two metres of space in a collective booth with several other publishers! Though it certainly didn't hurt having Orca, Pembrooke, and Pajama Press surrounding me. Sometimes people would come in for one publisher and stay for the rest!

A gift from the Iranian IBBY delegation
In all, I'd say that the most requested genres were picture books and middle-grade novels. The teen novels and non-fiction weren't in demand this year, unlike last year. At least, not among the people I was meeting with. I was extremely happy to have had the picture books on my iPad and the fabulous colour sell-sheets and bookmarks in my binders (thank you again, Uma and Solange!)

And with the conclusion of the Fair, I had one last Bologna gelato in the beautiful sunshine and headed off to Rome.

The  trees were bursting into bloom, thanks to the fine weather!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bologna Part 3: Lesson of the Day - Bus routes can be circuitous.Circular, even.

After scoping out the area where Bus #28 dropped me off, I figured it would be a piece of cake finding the pick-up point the next morning. It knew it had to be close - I could sense it - surely just across the street. So the next morning, I set out, confident that I had the whole route to the Fair sorted. But there just wasn't a stop for a bus heading in the opposite direction anywhere to be found. I walked back and forth, back and forth, ready to finally hail a cab (but, of course, there weren't any cabs available at 9 am) when it finally dawned on me. Yes, the shoe finally dropped.
The bus route is a loop. And my stop is at the end of this loop. So OF COURSE there's no correlating bus stop across the street. Well, duh.
Two minutes later, I was on a bus, heading to the fair.
But dang, my biceps are getting toned!

Good thing I've been doing a lot of superfluous walking.
Today was my "stay-at-home" day - in other words, I booked appointments with people which were held at the F&W booth in the Canada Stand. It was great! Everyone showed up pretty much on time, they were really enthusiastic about our books, and we ate chocolate together.
As soon as I finished talking to one person, someone else would come by, so between the scheduled and the unscheduled appointments, I was busy the whole day with barely time to grab lunch. It seems that the picture books are a big draw this year, though the novels are getting some attention too.

I am personally excited by the incredible illustration that is on display here. I only wish that I had more time to explore the other booths.

Dunno what the pastry thing is but it's full of nocciola awesomeness.
As I got off the bus at the end of the day, I noticed a farmers market right there in front of me. Since we have a handy little kitchen in our flat, I thought that it would be a good idea to make dinner for myself rather than having to go out again and sit in a restaurant by myself (Ali had dinner plans already). It was so much fun picking out vegetables, cheese, eggs, bread and (of course) dessert! I don't know why - it's not like I don't go grocery shopping every week at home. But this was novel, for some reason.
The food was great: salad, finnochio, zucchini omelette, and pastries (with tea, of course).
But alas, Dish Fairy doesn't make housecalls in Italy either. Apparently.