THIN AIR is Alive and Well

Last week, I was one of many authors involved in the school side of THIN AIR, the Winnipeg International Writers Festival.  For two days, I barreled down Winnipeg roads and dipped into schools like Oak Bluff Community School, John de Graff and John Pritchard to visit students from K to Grade 6.  On the third day, I stood stage center at the Manitoba Theatre for Young People to face a crowd of enthusiastic middle graders from Munroe Junior High and Oakenwald School.

For me, it was three days of shared moments. At each stop, we talked about books – mine mostly, but sometimes others. We talked about stories and why we love them.  We talked about reading books and what it takes to write them. I read passages from my books, and students asked questions. Many questions. 

Much of my time with middle years students centered around Coop the Great. Several teachers or librarians were in the middle of reading the book to their classes, and one school had embarked on a Coop the Great novel study. Because Coop the Great is one of the nominated titles on the Sundog list for this years’ MYRCA (Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards), it was also a way to introduce students to the program and get them started.

I was blown away by the students’ enthusiasm and interest.  They seem to enjoy reading Coop the Great as much as I enjoyed writing it.  Everywhere, they had questions.  Where did you get the idea for the book?  Did you ever have a dog like Coop?  How long did it take you to write Coop? Are you going to write another Coop book? Will Coop be made into a movie? (I wish).

A number of questions explored delicate themes that run through the book. Why did you include Lucinda (the cat) and why is she so mean? (bullying).  Why did you make Rick (the father) the unlikeable character he is? (abuse). Why did you include the 9-11 story of Salty and Omar? (I steered around answering that one because the reason only becomes apparent later in the book).

At the end of my THIN AIR experience, I had a much broader appreciation of what the school side of the festival brings to readers and writers.  Charlene Diehl, the director of THIN AIR, expressed it better than I ever could in the message she wrote for the program guide.

What happens at THIN AIR?  The writers we gathered this year will read to us, think with us, provoke us to examine our assumptions, and make us laugh (or cry) in moments of shared humanity.

Thanks for inviting me to THIN AIR, Charlene.  Thanks Chelsey Young, Admin Coordinator, for taking care of the fine details.  Thanks teachers and librarians who stirred up student interest.  Finally, thanks to all the youngsters who came armed with insights, curiosity and enthusiasm. You are the reason I continue to write.

With students from Oakenwald School after the stage event at MTYP

 

 

MYRCA’s Big Reveal

The crowd waits
Monday, May 6, 2019 – 7 pm   McNally Robinson’s Booksellers, Winnipeg

Teachers, librarians, parents and kids fill the atrium. I am there, too. We are all waiting for the same thing. The big MYRCA reveal. What books have been selected for the 2020 Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award reading list?

Prizes line the table, all ready for the many draws

MYRCA was established by the Manitoba School Library Association in 1990 to mark the International Year of Literacy. For the past 29 years, students across the province in grades 4 to 9 have been offered a slate of short-listed Canadian novels to read, discuss and assess. In early April, students who have read a minimum of 3 titles vote for their favourite. Votes are collected, tabulated, and when the dust settles a MYRCA winner and two Honor Book winners are announced.

Sundogs on display

As it stands now, MYRCA offers two lists of nominated titles: MYRCA Sundogs for grades 4-6. MYRCA Northern Reflections for grades 7-9. But back to McNally Robinsons. The moment. The big reveal. The Sundogs first. Lucky me, Coop the Great is a nominated title. I’ve known for a while, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. It’s a relief to have it public now.

Nancy Chappell-Pollack & Colleen Nelson introduce their book,Pulse Point, a Northern Reflections nominee
Heather Smith talks about Ebb & Flow, her nominated novel in the Northern Reflections category
Its my turn to introduce Coop the Great

There are 10 books on the Sundogs shortlist and another 10 on the Northern Reflections list. Congratulations to all the nominees. I’m thrilled to be in such great company. Even more thrilled that kids across the province will be reading about Coop.

It was an exciting evening for all who attended. The teachers, librarians and devoted others who head the MYRCA program made it special. Thanks to all who attended or contributed time and resources to launch another MYRCA year.  Let the reading begin! 

More information about MYRCA can be found on the MYRCA website

MYRCA 2020 Sundogs
MYRCA 2020 Northern Reflections

The Write Stuff Festivals

Along with other local writers, I was lucky enough to participate in a couple of writing festivals this week. It takes a lot of drive and initiative to organize school-wide events like this and in both cases, they ran without a hitch. At least, that was my limited perspective as one of the drop-in presenters.  

The sessions offered were as varied as the writers and the genres they represented  The festival at St. George ran almost a month, with authors of youth material visiting students from K to Grade 8.  Daniel McIntyre’s The Write Stuff Conference ran over the course of a single busy day. From journalists, to scriptwriters, to film makers, to authors of non-fiction and fiction, The Write Stuff offered a buffet of writing approaches and talent for Grade 11 students who attended.  

Hats off to Lisa Ferguson at St.George School and Benjamin Paul at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, master teachers and organizers, who extended the invitations and ensured students were pumped and ready for us. Thanks everyone. I had a grand time.

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