Authors love to party and we love being appreciated. So when Wendy Mason and Christie Harkin invited us to an author appreciation party, we showed up in droves. (Full confession, camera battery was dead and Frankenstein and his bride did not attend, my daughter, the bride here, is the author of soon to be released Wardroids, though)
What we did, besides eat and drink, was discuss books, publishers and awards. Librarians and literacy consultants also showed, they were very appreciative of us and that felt wonderful.
I met Jennifer Lanthier and looked at her lovely Heather’s pic’ The Stamp Collector. I chatted with Barbara Reid (Picture a Tree) and Deborah Kerbel (Under
the Moon) who are both nominated for Govenor General Awards. Afterwards I rushed to Indigo for Deborah’s book. Then I talked to Mahtab Narsimhan (The Tiffan) about our Red Maple nominations. I’d long ago bought and read her novel about a boy whose life went a different direction because of a message misdirected in a lunch box.
Readers might be surprised to learn that these awards do not pit author against author. Most of us are good friends and admire each other’s work. We know how difficult a job writing can be. Ah but so much fun, especially the parties. And I love to enjoy someone else’s story. We are our own best appreciators; we love to read. I can’t tell you how many times I heard authors tell each other at this party that they’d read or were going to read each other’s books.
The Red Maple shortlists ten fiction (and ten non fiction) books for grade 7 and
8 students to read and select one favourite. Hurray if that’s my book or Mahtab’s. But both our books can be your favourite, or all ten. Or you can like each for a different reason. You can read those ten and read our other titles and decide you like a different novel much better. I would definitely read Deborah Kerbel’s and I will buy Barbara Reid’s Picture a Tree. I also bought The Town that Drowned by Riel Nason. She wasn’t even at the party and her novel is on the Red Maple list.
The bookshelf in my heart holds many titles and so can yours.
The Red Maple program will get into full swing around January, so I’m told, but I received my first note regarding the awards, the day after the announcement. I think it had more to do with bookstore signings than the Red Maple.
Most authors despise these events. Bookstore customers slink around you, averting your eyes, or ask you where the washrooms/mugs/giftwrap is. No matter which award you’ve won, your audience stays away in droves. Hey, they’ve already read your novel.
Everyone who is nominated has already won a larger readership.
Nobody lines up for your autograph; you have to call out to distant passerbyers. I make treats: so for crush.candy.corpse I call out, “Hey, want to try a Mars Bar square.” and when I draw them in, I quickly spew about the story and hope to hook them into buying. At the end of a good four hours of this, I will have sold 30 books.
So what makes it the least bit worth while? If you don’t make the tree lists and you haven’t had any author visits for a while, it’s a way of reaching out to the public. The sales clerk may develop an affinity for you and your titles and may hand sell for a while. The store may keep a display of the book for a very short while.
The real payoff I think, though, are the new readers you make, independent of school, teachers,
librarians and awards. Takes reading out of the have to, hate to category. Makes broccoli into chocolate again, if you know what I mean.
Chloe would be such a new reader. Chloe, if you’re reading this blog post, can you answer this question: would you have read crush. candy.corpse if your cousin had not met me and bought you Last Chance for Paris? Do you think you ever would have read Last Chance for Paris? Authors out there did you ever make a contact who you felt was worth your four hours? Yes or no, are booksignings worth it. Weigh in!
Here’s Chloe’s note, published with her kind permission.
My name is Chloe and I am in grade 7 at Immaculata in Ottawa, Ontario.
I read your Last Chance For Paris book which my cousin Claire had got signed for me at a chapters in Toronto this summer and was so excited when our schools teacher librarian Mme. Charon told us one of your books was on the list. I want to email just to tell you in person congrats on your nomination and you will probably be getting my vote. Thank you so much if you actually read this and again congrats!
The angels who help us around there are the librarians. Over the summer a flock of the angels spend their times reading all the Canadian children’s books and making lists of ten for each tree award. Each different tree represents a different age group. The Silver Birch is the tree for grades four to six for example. My novel Bringing Up Beauty won this award and I would say it launched my career even though I’d written eight books before it.
Only ten books make a list and I think the criteria cannot be that the books are the best, but rather that they are appealing in unique ways. I’m not sure. I just know fabulous books make the list and fabulous books don’t. Being nominated for a tree award by a group of these angels sends us halfway to heaven. When I write a story, I’m always hoping for an audience of readers, a big audience. When you’re nominated for a tree, all the schools participating order a set of your novels. That delivers many readers to my story.
So I’m very happy to announce that Crush. Candy. Corpse was nominated for the Red Maple Award. This would be for grade 7 and 8.
I love the competition on the list and hope to read all those books. Hope you will too.
The other night at writers’ group, I read a new scene from a story with the working title What the Dog Taught Me This will make the fourth rewrite for this book and I should have it perfect by now. In this scene a dog galloped.
One of my friendly colleagues suggested that horses galloped. That to her it was a very horselike move.
Worf aka Brownie in my book has white socks which make him horselike too
I thought about this but then said that while it was a verb often reserved for horses, by allowing the dog to gallop it made him more horselike. In point of fact the real dog I based the story on, always reminds me of a horse. He has a horse brown smooth coat and when he’s calm well, I feel like I’m patting an equine animal.
Do you like that verb? Can you picture this big brown Australian cattle dog moving his legs in unison quickly off the ground like a horse?
Well, then this morning I took my dog to Bronte Creek where they have this great leash free hike and there in the path was a snail, his head all stretched out of his shell and I remembered a book I wrote called The Big Race. The kids in it competed by playing baseball, reading for crocheted bookworm prizes and racing snails. While doing research for this first chapter book, I learned that when snails move slowly, the verb used is creeping. But when snails move quickly, and quick is relative, they gallop.
I used to tell my grade 2 and 3 audiences about this little known fact. Then I