Words on a Limb Interviews A.S. Chung

Happy Family Day Everyone!


A.S. Chung jpgIf you are an author or avid reader, you are definitely familiar with Goodreads. If you are not, you are in for a treat, you should go ahead and visit goodreads.com. If you have visited our website often, you’ll know that we have often pointed you in that direction for further information. One of the joys of Goodreads is that we often meet terrific authors with special stories to tell.

One of those terrific authors is A.S. Chung. She reached out to us from her home in Melbourne Australia, to discuss doing a feature with her. After doing a little research, we realized that Amy (A.S.) was not only an author but she also conceived Pigeonhole Books as an avenue to create books that both empower and enrich families – especially non-traditional homes with blended, divorced, multiracial and same-sex families.

In general, mass market literature tends to shy away from books that do not depict mainstream family circumstances, understandably so if the goal of selling books is to bring as many people under the tent as possible. However, as Bob Dylan wrote, the times they are a changin’. Now, we see established authors delve into the non-traditional with titles such as Patricia Polacco’s In our Mother’s House and Leslea Newman’s Mommy, Mama and Me and of course I Wished For You: An Adoption Story by Marianne Richmond.

This coming February 16th is Family Day in Canada. We are so encouraged that Amy does a great job gently introducing young readers to families that don’t necessarily look like everyone else’s, but are still overflowing with love. The stories are told with great energy and from a child’s perspective.

Author Teresa Villegas did a piece for us a while back, sharing with us neat ideas on how to talk to kids about being born into an egg or sperm donor family. Today, similarly, we feel inspired to share Amy’s story with you. Enjoy!


About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
Writing has always played a significant role in my life but it was always just something I did, be it for education, work or fun. I enjoy blogging and I have always loved putting pen to paper.

However, I first realized I wanted to become a bona fide writer when it became an outlet to express how I felt while going through my divorce. It was an excellent way to release all my feelings and thoughts and I was amazed how I felt afterwards. I haven’t been able to stop since then and I now write children’s picture books for kids from diverse family backgrounds.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
I read widely as a child. I read all the classics every child should and in most cases, the resounding style I enjoyed the most was anything which stretched the imagination. The likes of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis resonate with me, even until today. While my stories are less fictional and far from fantasy, these authors provided me with the courage to push past the boundaries and write what I wanted to, simply because I could.

When and where do you prefer to write?
Anytime is a good time! Ideas always seem to pop into my head at the most inopportune times. I’m often in situations where the concept and words flow faster than I can write because sometimes they come to me while I’m standing in a middle of an aisle in the supermarket! Most times, however, I do love to write in the comfort of my own home, in front of the computer with a cup of tea, as I lounge in my pyjamas.

What was your biggest challenge in writing your book?
Reducing the length of the manuscript. I could have gone on forever!

While going through my divorce, with a 4-year-old in tow, I was constantly worried about my daughter’s state of mind. There were plenty of resources at my disposal to deal with this life challenge, however, I felt that I needed to find an alternative way to communicate with her, to tell her that life is beautiful and that everything will be ok. I felt that telling and reassuring her was simply not adequate. So, I decided I would further highlight the good in what we currently have through loving words and beautiful illustrations. The message of the book is to hone in on the positives because at the end of the day, she has no choice. So let’s not wallow on the challenges and difficulties.

I also wanted a gentle resource for close family and friends. Divorce also affects the people around us and changes social dynamics. It makes for a difficult conversation to have with children when they’re not in this position themselves.

Based on this premise, my first attempt was a jumble of feelings on paper. There was no structure or body to the story. I simply wanted to write. When I finally finished everything I wanted to say, I had to peel it back and segment my thoughts. The result was an additional three manuscripts in the series that are currently being worked on.

What advice do you have for other writers?
Write all the time! Write about anything and have a great time doing it.

Believe in your words and your message. Don’t sway too far away from your initial goal as you may not like the finished product. Stay true to yourself.

About you …

What do you like to do when you are not writing (other than reading, of course)?
My most favorite thing in the world to do is spending time with my daughter and partner and we’re extremely active and social. Travel and photography take on a natural second and third place.

Travel continues to educate my heart and soul. I love discovering things about places I had visited before that I had never noticed in the first instance. Age, wisdom and maturity changes one’s perspective. I also love travelling with my new partner. He sees things I otherwise wouldn’t have and travelling with a child is even more exhilarating. Looking at the world through their eyes is always filled with wonder.

The camera (next to the laptop!) is my one prized materialistic possession. I love creating stories through pictures. My subjects are always people and I love being able to capture precious moments, when it was least expected.

Do you have any unique talents besides writing?
For a writer, I lead an extremely normal, left brain life. I’m afraid I don’t have any other special talents that would be deemed extraordinary.

What can we expect from you in the future?
A Brand New Day is but the first of many books in the divorce series to be published. However, I am currently working on the first book of the Pocketful of Pride series, entitled A Wishful Wedding, which delves into stories about same-sex families.

Quick Hits …

Is there an author that you would really like to meet?
I would love to have met David Eddings, an American fantasy writer. He was my “first love” and I was so engrossed and enthralled in his five book series The Belgariad as it introduced me into a wonderful world of fantasy. Much like J.R.R. Tolkien, he created an entire world, generations of characters and a language of its own. I have read all his subsequent books and feel like I have grown up with this fictional royal family! I wished I could have thanked him for immersing me into the kind of reading where I locked myself away for days and only left the room because I was hungry.

What book are you currently reading (eBook or paper)?
The Shipping News by Annie Proulx and Adultery by Paulo Coehlo. Adultery was released while I was reading Annie Proulx and I am an avid fan of Paulo Coehlo. I turned to Paulo Coelho’s spiritual words to get me through the difficult phase of divorce and in many ways allowed the slow minutes become beautiful days.

Who designed your latest book cover?
The most amazing illustrator I know, Paula Bossio. She is so incredibly talented and she has a remarkable knack of translating my words into art.

What is your favourite quote?
Your children need your presence more than your presents.” Jesse Jackson


Visit with Amy:

 12166559 Facebook Twitter Goodreads Pinterest


A Brand New Day – A Banana Split Story
by A.S. Chung, Paula Bossio (Illustrator)
Pigeonhole Books
Amazon | Chapters

Mondays and Tuesdays are fun, going on cooking adventures with Dad. We look forward to Wednesdays and Thursday too when we get to be a green thumb with Mum. Don’t forget the holidays! Spring breaks with Mum and hot summer camping with Dad. Each day is a truly special day!

A Banana Split Story is a series within the Pigeonhole Books collection that features stories about children from separated and divorced families.


Amy on Facebook:

Amy on Twitter:


lomo-photo-effectWhen you take a moment to get to know Amy through her books, publishing, blog, interviews and social media, you’ll discover a woman who has found a way to make a difference in people’s lives, one shared story at a time. She encompasses the true spirit of Family Day – a chance to celebrate everyone who feels their family around them, no matter what it might look like.

We congratulate Amy on her success and wish her continued good fortune in her bright future. Great to meet you Amy!


Words on a Limb would like to wish everyone a happy, warm, love-filled Family Day.

Lora

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Words on a Limb Interviews Stella Partheniou Grasso

A little while ago, I was pleased to connect with Stella when I was in contact with Scholastic Canada. She was very gracious and supportive to me as a burgeoning writer. Her insight and advice gave me great direction and confidence. 

Stella has been the Publishing Coordinator at Scholastic Canada for several years. During that time she has also successfully published three exceptional children’s books. I caught up with her recently this fall, as she was launching her new title: There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Puck.

Stella has a compelling career as a publisher and author, and I’m happy to share her story with you.

* For our teacher friends – do not miss the classroom resources available for download in the book review section below!


Where did you grow up? What were you like as a child? What part of those personality traits have stayed with you?
I was born in Nicosia, Cyprus and came to Canada very young. I grew up in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I was a shy kid and I’m still pretty shy. I’ve learned to work around it, though. I always loved reading and sharing stories.  I spent a lot of time at the public library and I always took part in the summer reading programs. I helped with the reading buddy program at my elementary school and later I tutored high school kids who needed help with English and Math. My parents would tell me stories of our village in Cyprus that I share with my own kids now.

What was your first piece of creative art that you remember (craft, book, painting) creating? Where is it now?
I always loved arts and crafts. As a kid I learned to crochet, knit, dance (ballet, jazz and Greek dancing), play the violin and piano. I even taught myself how to make pysanki (Ukrainian Easter eggs) and I’m not even Ukrainian. I decorated some eggs especially for my mom and she still displays them every Easter as part of the centrepiece.

In grade four I wrote a play called “Prince Pickleworth Stops Littering.” I worked on it for weeks and when I showed it to my homeroom teacher, he was so impressed that he asked me to perform it for the class. So a bunch of my friends and I stayed in for recess over a couple of days and then put on a show. I kept worrying that the play was going to be a disaster but when it came time to perform for the class everyone did a great job. It turned out really well. I was so proud of them. The play is lost but the memory is always with me.

Tell us about your first “YES” in your career. Where were you? How did it feel?
The first “yes” in my writing career was the one I told myself.  It was a “yes” to doing what I love regardless of the outcome. I never thought I’d get published but there was no harm in sharing what I had written and seeing what happened.

My first published book started with a silly punchline that popped into my head as I was walking down the street: Sasquatchewan. I don’t know where it came from but once it was there I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew I had to write a joke to match that punchline. I finally figured it out, “Where does Big Foot live?” Before I knew it I had written over 150 spooky jokes and some silly poems too. I sent them to an editor at Scholastic Canada. She liked them and the next thing I knew we were working to make it into an actual book. We left out the poems and pared the list of jokes down to 101 creepy Canadian jokes, which we published under the title, um, 101 Creepy Canadian Jokes.

Getting published was actually a big surprise. I didn’t know if my jokes were any good (and, quite frankly, some are better than others).

Tell us about your writing process from idea to page. Do you envision your book completely or does it unfold for you as you write?
Most of the time I know how I want the story to start and I know how I want the story to end. I then figure out how to get from start to finish. Sometimes a story will start taking on a direction of its own and in those cases, I just let the story write itself without worrying too much about getting to the ending that I had in mind at the beginning. After I’ve worked out a first draft, I’ll figure out how that story would fit into a 32-page picture book and revise it to fit.
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Words on a Limb Interviews Maureen Fergus

543233The air is crisp and chilly in Winnipeg as fall descends on us. We had a unique opportunity to sit and talk to one of our favourite picture book authors, accomplished writer and mom, Maureen Fergus.

Born in Regina, Saskatchewan and raised in Winnipeg, she has lived quite a journey to arrive at her dream of creating multiple picture books, several young adult novels, including a wildly popular fantasy trilogy. She admits, that in spite of all her achievements, the one thing she values is most is the recognition of her many readers and fans.

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Maureen spoke to us over the phone from her beautiful home, apparently full of treasures (more on that below), in Winnipeg where she lives with her husband, three children, a hedgehog and the family dog Buddy, affectionately known as Sir Barksalot – handsome fella, no?

Here is her story. If you are a young writer, there is plenty of gold in this river.


Welcome Maureen, it’s a privilege to speak with you today. What kind of kid were you , how much of it has stayed with you?
Maureen at 4I’ve never been asked that, that is an interesting question. I was very studious, I liked school, I was a perfectionist. I loved a good laugh, I thought I was hilarious, that certainly hasn’t changed. The perfectionist thing mellowed a lot once I had kids. You sort of have 2 choices when you have 3 kids in 3.5 years. You can continue to try to be a perfectionist and go off the deep end, or you just relax a little and except that not everything can be in its place all the time.

But in terms of the way I think and I approach situations I think a big part of that has stayed with me. In fact, I can go back and have a very clear memory of who I was at 4, how it felt to be 4, how I saw the world at 4. I can see that vividly, even at the ages of 7 or 11. This really helps me as a writer because, when writing picture books or books for middle grades or for older teens, I’m not thinking from the outside looking in, I’m thinking what a kid would do or think. I really try to put myself back in that place to write.

Do you have any creations from when you were a child?
I actually have one story that I wrote when I was 10 or 11. It was about a super pickle that goes to Ottawa and becomes a member of parliament. I was just a rambling sort of story. As a young girl, I never really wanted to be a writer, it was never my objective. I was always much more interested in science and math. I did love reading – I would keep a journal, keep up with out-of-town friends through snail mail.

I remember one other story from grade 7. I had a perfectionist teacher. Every week we had to write a story and my goal was write one that would get a 10/10. So, I wrote a story making fun of how strict she was. I wrote about me turning over the table, kicking the garbage can and how Miss Shanks got really upset. Funny enough it was a piece of writing that most closely resembles what I’m writing 20 years after. I got 10/10 for that one – the only 10/10 she gave out that year, it appealed to the perfectionist in me. Fortunately, she pushed me to get in touch with the voice of the writer I was going to become. It wasn’t a moment where I suddenly recognized I was going to be a writer, but looking back now, I realized it was the first moment when I really tapped into what that voice was going to be. I would like to go back and let her know that, even though I did not know it at the time, she had a pretty profound impact on my 20 years down the road. Continue reading

Words on a Limb Interviews Eric Litwin

EricWe were ever so fortunate to spend a moment with the entertaining storyteller, musician, teacher and prolific author of the first four Pete the Cat picturebooks, Eric Litwin … Mr. Eric. He is also the author of the new musical series The Nuts.

He has spent the better part of his career championing literacy through music and movement, particularly impacting new and emerging readers. Eric has travelled across the US, Canada and abroad spreading the message of building creative communities where children feel confident tackling their first reading experience, and having a fun time along the way.

He spoke to us from his home in Atlanta, where he is busy dreaming up the further adventures of the Nut Family. Here is his story:


Where did you grow up? What were you like as a kid? What still holds true for you?
I grew up in Dobbs Ferry on the Hudson, a small town in the Hudson River Valley. It’s very beautiful there. As a kid I would say I was creative and quiet. I loved to read.

This is an interesting question, I give about 300 performances every year, where I entertain in front of a group, it’s hard to claim that I’m introverted and shy, but I will say that it’s been a long time since I’ve felt shy.

You have been a teacher. What were your influences encouraging you towards writing?
Wonderful question! I was a special needs teacher. I have a masters degree in both education and administration. My main interest in education was to get my students engaged and interested in reading, and feel empowered about reading. I was also a musician at night, focusing on getting my audience involved with a lot of folk type of music with interactivity. So I started using music and movement along with interactive techniques. My influences were folk tales and songs – the whole American oral tradition of music and stories.

Tell us the story about the first turning point of your career?
I taught for 3 years – I found my favourite part of teaching was creating the content and writing the story. I realized this was where my greatest gift was, so I left the classroom to create content and performances. I became a very popular performer, doing 200-300 performances every year for almost 10 years. I would perform in schools, libraries – during assemblies. Believe it or not, it was during these performances that I started to develop a writing style, which I now call interactive literacy, because I don’t have a better name for it. It basically means stories told with sing-alongs and move-alongs. There’s call-response and repetition. These techniques engage the audience and they engage the reader. It not only makes a great performance piece, but it also makes it a great early reader. That was the key to the first four Pete the Cat books.

So during those ten years I guess I did what Malcolm Gladwell calls putting in your 10,000 hours. I wrote the story of a little girl and her white shoes. It was the best story I’d ever written, I knew it was special. It was a story that would work with different characters so I would swap her out for a cool cat or cool dog. Some time after, I saw Pete the Cat at an art festival, he was a folk art character created by illustrator James Dean. I felt that this cat and the story of the girl with her white shoes were a good fit. I had a vision to blend early literacy, folk art and music together.

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Words on a Limb Interviews Trilby Plants

I met Trilby Plants on our Facebook Page. We connected and spoke about how important it was to support each other in the writing community. I read up on Trilby and found that she has led a fascinating life.

She shares that she was immediately hooked on words when, at the age of four, her mother read her Gulliver’s Travels. There began her love of all things speculative and fantastical. All her life she’s been telling stories about fairies and creatures – real and imagined – and things that go bump in the night. Trilby is currently editor of The Petigru Review, the yearly literary anthology of the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop. She lives with her sports junkie husband in Murrells Inlet, SC, where she writes, knits and plays golf.

Trilby took some time away from golf clubs and knitting needles to sit under our Author’s Spotlight. Among other great information, she shares some great tips for beginning writers. Take a look!


About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
When I was in fourth and fifth grade grades, I lived in a tiny town in eastern Montana. My teacher, who was ahead of her time, had us writing and illustrating little books. She sent one of my drawings and a book I wrote to the Montana State Fair. I won blue ribbons on both. I was hooked on stories.

Both my parents were avid readers, so books and magazines were plentiful around our house.

Then life intervened – growing up, college, marriage, career and children. Along the way I dabbled in poetry, nonfiction, short fiction and the inevitable first novel, which remains in a box under my bed. As a teacher I channeled my love of story-telling by encouraging writing. My first children’s book, Hubert Little’s Great Adventure, came from a decades old story I wrote along with my students when I first began my teaching career. I scanned the old illustrations, Photoshopped them into parts, used some digital backgrounds and put the book together. It was purely a labor of love for my then three-year-old granddaughter. Hubert will have more adventures. Now that my granddaughter is reading everything she can get her hands on, the next Hubert story might be a chapter book.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
My mother read to me and my brother when we were young. The first I remember was Gulliver’s Travels when I was four. I loved Swift’s complex language and the imagined journeys to faraway lands where Gulliver met fantastical beings. By brother, a year younger, only remembers the scene where Gulliver urinates on the town to save it from a fire.

I am a voracious reader. I loved Ray Bradbury’s stories. His blend of the ordinary with the fantastic appealed to me, as did his somewhat literary style.

When and where do you prefer to write?
I find myself most productive during the day, usually after lunch. I’ve never been much of a morning person, so I use mornings to ponder ideas and afternoons to bring them to life. My desk is in our guest room and looks out at a berm of trees. Squirrels’ entertaining antics force me to look away from the computer every once in a while.
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Words on a Limb Interviews Sylvia Stewart

Sylvia Stewart grew up in the (then) Belgian Congo. She spent 21 years as an Assemblies of God missionary in Malawi, East Africa, with her husband, Duane. While there, she taught some writing workshops, which are now bearing fruit. She started writing Kondi’s Quest to weave a story for the children of Malawi. In 1992 Sylvia and Duane were asked to go to Ethiopia to found a Bible College. They spent 11 years there, doing mostly Bible College ministry. Sylvia taught college-level English to students who had never taken a grammar class before. Sylvia is the mother of four children who grew up in Africa. Her eleven grandchildren are the delight of her life. Sylvia’s book was a 24-year project. Through the eyes of a Malawian girl, Kondi’s Quest shows middle-school readers that God’s love and presence is with us, even in very hard times.

We are very pleased to introduce you to Sylvia and her story:


About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
English was my favorite subject in school. Writing essays was easier for me than for my classmates. I don’t remember writing stories as a child, but I would “tell” myself stories as I lay in bed at night. I guess you could say I’ve been writing most of my life.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
The Nancy Drew books captured my fancy even before I was a teen. Later Zane Grey, D.E. Stevenson, Miss Read, and Mary Stewart taught me how to turn a phrase and make a story come alive.

When and where do you prefer to write?
I prefer to write in the morning, but that doesn’t often happen. I prefer no interruptions, but I don’t often get that either. I prefer silence for my writing time, but usually I write in the middle of the house with life going on around me. Soon I will have my own “Just Write” cabin on the back of our property. Bliss!
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Words on a Limb Interviews Peter H. Reynolds

peter_reynoldsWhether he is busy at FableVision inventing new ways to inspire children to just start, or enlightening people at his Reynolds Centre for Teaching, Learning and Creativity, or building a community center with his Blue Bunny bookstore, Peter Reynolds is doing what he does best, CREATING.

A couple of months back, my son came home with a request from his kindergarten teacher to capture the colours of the sky at various times of the day. She had read the story Sky Colour by Peter Reynolds and wanted to help her students experience a bit of the story. I thought this was a clever idea. Not having heard the story before, I quickly went out to my neighbourhood bookstore get my own copy. It was a unique pleasure to read his work and begin a poetry project of our own as a result of his inspiring words. Peter Reynolds is truly an ambassador for creativity.

We invited Peter to tell us more about where it all started and where he feels it is all going. Here is what we discovered.


Thinking back to when you were five years old, what did you want to be when you grew up? When did that change to story-teller?
I was asked by Major Mudd, a television show broadcast in Boston when I was a kid, what I wanted to be and I responded, “A firetruck.”
Fortunately, I broadened my horizons and started a newspaper with my twin brother, Paul in first grade.
That lit the publishing fuse for me.

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Words on a Limb Interviews Ashley Spires

ashleysWhether she is busy hacking her new book into a stylish bag, or demonstarting her flair for fashion, or buried in a heap of ideas embodied by her sketches, Ashley Spire’s artistic passion shines bright.

A few weeks ago, we picked up her latest picture book The Most Magnificent Thing and recognized that Ashley brings a fresh voice to children’s picture books; in this instance, sharing a story about perseverance and the value of imagination, mixing in some science, math and technology. Your little ones will love this story’s diminutive protagonist and her loyal assistant. The book is brimming with clever, engaging words and complemented by Ashley’s own charming artwork.

Ms. Spires has also authored the wildly successful Binky series, along with other picture book favourites like Larf. We reached out to this favourite Canadian author to learn more about and ultimately share her story as a writer and illustrator. After her whirlwind Library Tour, we finally caught up with her. Here is what we discovered.

What were you like in school growing up on the west coast?
I was constantly drawing. Every project had the most elaborate title pages! When my best friend and I passed notes, we weren’t writing about usual kid stuff, we were writing each other stories. Mine always had illustrations with them too.

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Words on a Limb Interviews Pollyanna Darling

Pollyanna Darling began writing short stories, cartoon strips and poetry at age four and has a passionate love of high quality literature for children and young adults. She has four boisterous children (all boys) and lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Back in the mists of time, Pollyanna was vigorously dissuaded from writing by a well-meaning careers officer. She dabbled in diverse and curious jobs before deciding that writing had her by the heart and wasn’t going to let go. Her intuitive life coaching work led to the publication of her first book in 2011, a self-help guide for adults: The Relationship Revelation, which won gold in the the Living Now Book Awards (USA) in 2012.

Pollyanna has since discovered that writing for children offers many opportunities for fun, mischief and magic. After a two year creative process with Victorian artist Kirsty Chalmers, she completed and published Heartwood (2013): a hand-illustrated, first chapter book for kids who are beginning to read independently.

Words on a Limb had a chance to sit with Pollyanna and learn her story.


About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I learned to read at 2 years old as my mother was very passionate about education. By the time I turned 9, I’d read all the children’s books I could lay my hands on, and began on the walls of adult books that lined our house. I have loved words for as long as I can remember – their power to hurt, to heal, to ignite imagination, to take the reader deep. I began creating poetry, short stories and
cartoon strips as soon as I could write. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, but I was talked out of it by a well-meaning careers officer – too many writers, can’t make a living etc etc. I know now (regardless of income), that if you ignore the internal drive to create, life becomes flat and meaningless.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
As a child I loved the Narnia series and I devoured ghost stories, but I distinctly remember discovering Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, a book I sneaked from the shelf when I was 12. In those startling pages I found the edgy, fascinating world of feminist literature. My own writing has been influenced both by the heroic hope of the great children’s writers and the holistic world view of feminist writers. I also love the majestic Russian story-tellers (like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) and the magical realism of Marquez and others.

When and where do you prefer to write?
As a mother of four, time can be a scarce commodity, so I seize the opportunities that arise. I have learned to be self-disciplined around this, it’s too easy to fritter away the time I could spend writing. If a couple of hours loom, I jump on them! My favourite place to write is my bed, but I feel wickedly indulgent doing that, so move around the house – my office, a table on the verandah gazing out at cows, or a cafe in town.
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Words on a Limb Interviews Karen Autio

Karen-Autio-AuthorKaren Autio is the author of a trilogy of historical novels for young readers. She writes about events in Canada’s history that haven’t had much attention: the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, tuberculosis and living in a sanatorium; spies, sabotage and internment during the First World War.

Karen also focuses on the value of family stories and heritage. When her Finnish-Canadian grandmother gave her a silver spoon and told her its tale, Karen had no idea it would lead her into a whole novel’s worth of words. She learned that her grandmother’s Finnish friends had members of their family from Port Arthur who died in the wreck of the Empress of Ireland. Karen researched the steamship and wove the ship’s story into fictional Saara’s life in SECOND WATCH.


About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
While I enjoyed writing and illustrating stories as a kid and thought I’d be a children’s book illustrator when I grew up, I followed a different path in university, studying computer science. A few years after graduating, I took a course on children’s books and chose to write a story as my final project. That was my first inkling that I wanted to become a writer, but it wasn’t until 1998 that I realized I wanted to devote my time, energy, and creativity to writing for young readers.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
The Dr. Seuss Beginner’s Dictionary played an important role in turning me into a lover of words. Julie Lawson’s historical novel Goldstone about Swedish immigrants in the early 1900s in British Columbia was an inspirational model for me as I was writing my first historical novel called Second Watch about Finnish immigrants in 1914 Port Arthur, Ontario, and their involvement with the sinking of the Empress of Ireland steamship. A book about the writing process that I frequently reread is Take Joy: A Book for Writers by Jane Yolen.

When and where do you prefer to write?
Morning is my best time to write, although I’ve been found writing late into the night when a deadline is looming. I prefer quiet. I filled a spiral notebook while writing Second Watch and wrote scenes out of order. Writing Saara’s Passage and Sabotage was entirely different. I wrote both in a linear fashion from a detailed outline directly on my computer.
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