2016 Book Camp Authors
E.K. Johnston had several jobs and one vocation before she became a published writer. If she’s learned anything, it’s that things turn out weird sometimes, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Well, that and how to muscle through awkward fanfic because it’s about a pairing she likes.
You can follow Kate on Twitter (@ek_johnston) to learn more about Alderaanian political theory than you really need to know, or on Tumblr (ekjohnston) if you're just here for pretty pictures
Get to know E.K.!
Favorite book as a teen: The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien
Favorite genre to read: Fantasy! I love exploring real problems by peeling them back with metaphor, and I love using magic to do it. I think we so caught up in what's real that we forget the value, the common ground, people can find in an invented world, where any colour of skin, any sexual orientation, and an identity is possible.
Area of writing she is trying to improve on: I constantly work to make my worlds bigger, and more inclusive. I try not to take easy outs, and push myself to get better, not only as a writer and reader of stories, but as someone who has to live in the world and be open-minded about it. Sometimes it's rough, but the end result is almost always that I get a better story AND become a better person.
Her unique writing process or tradition: I do my best writing in massive bursts (at least when it comes to first drafts). To help keep my distractions down, I go to my brother's cottage, because there's no internet or phone there. Of course, this does mean that I have to drive up to the top of the hill (where there's cell coverage again), in the evenings to check my business email, but it's worth it!
The most exciting thing about being part of Book Camp? A strange thing about writing YA books is that you spend a lot of time with booksellers and librarians and teachers...but not always with kids. I'm looking forward to talking with readers and writers who are the reasons I get to write books!
Emil Sher writes prose and plays for the young and the once-were-young. His debut novel for young readers, Young Man with Camera, was a 2015 Governor General’s Literary Award finalist, a 2016 CLA Book of the Year for Children Award Honour Book and was shortlisted for the 2016 Red Maple and Snow Willow Award. His two board books — A Button Story and A Pebble Story — were listed as amongst the Best Books for Kids & Teens 2015 by the Canadian Childrens’ Book Centre. Emil’s stage plays include adaptations of Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine, Marie Day’s Edward the ‘Crazy Man’ and Ian Brown’s The Boy in the Moon. The Book of Ashes, a play inspired by the true story of an Iraqi librarian who saved tens of thousands of books in the midst of war, premiered at the International Children’s Festival in St Albert, Alberta this past spring. Emil is a laureate of the 2014 K.M. Hunter Artist Award in Literature. He invites you to follow or ignore him on Twitter.
Get to know Emil!
Favorite book as a teen: Is it any wonder why Charlotte’s Web is a classic? I remember first being introduced to Wilbur and Charlotte when I was nine years old, and when I shared the story with my daughters when they were young children I was reminded of why this story has endured. The writing is lovely, the characters are so well drawn and what the story says about friendship is timeless.
Favorite genre to read: I love non-fiction but there is something about novels that not only pulls me into a story but keeps me running back. The landscape of fiction is boundless, and the most satisfying and gratifying reading experiences I have had is when an author digs deep into a rich landscape and reveals truths that go beyond facts.
Area of writing she is trying to improve on: My biggest challenge as a writer is coming up with a well-oiled plot. I love creating characters and spending time with them but it’s what these characters do with their time — the choices they make and the consequences of those choices — that keeps a story moving. That’s where I feel I need help, which is why working with an editor is so important and so helpful.
His unique writing process or tradition: The only work habit I have is to alternate between writing a draft of a story on my computer and then printing whatever I’ve written in small batches so I can work with a hard copy, pen in hand. There’s something satisfying about crossing out and scribbling and generally making a mess with the words on the page, knowing that some day something will rise out of that mess.
The most exciting thing about being part of Book Camp? Learning from the campers! I know from first-hand experience that whenever I’ve shared my experiences with young writers I always learn something from them in the process, something they give me: a perspective, an insight, a thought that help shapes me and my writing.
Evan Munday is the author and illustrator of the acclaimed series of novels for young adults, The Dead Kid Detective Agency (ECW Press). The first two books in the series were both nominated for the Silver Birch Award. The third, Loyalist to a Fault, got a thumbs-up from his mother. He was the publicist at Toronto-based literary press, Coach House Books, for eight years, currently works as the interim director for The Word on The Street Toronto, and once tied for second place in a Gilmore Girls trivia night.
Get to know Evan!
Favorite book as a teen: As a child, it was definitely Bunnicula (the book about the possible vampire rabbit) by James Howe. As a teenager, I adored Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes. (Still do, really.)
Favorite genre to read: Since a very young age, I've been obsessed with comic books (or graphic novels or whatever you want to call them). There's something really amazing that can happen with you have writing paired with the correct illustrations – to me, it's capable of some of the most memorable passages in literature. But I've always been really lured in by images.
Area of writing he is trying to improve on: All of it? I certainly struggle with description – I have a difficult time describing a setting or even a complicated series of actions. And I have no idea how to pace stories – to build excitement as you read along. I honestly have no idea what I'm doing when it comes to that. I rely heavily on readers to tell me when things become extremely boring.
His unique writing process or tradition: The first draft of any book I do always has to be handwritten by pen in a spiral-bound notebook. I can't stare at a blank computer screen. A blank lined page in a notebook bought at a pharmacy is way better
The most exciting thing about being part of Book Camp? Nothing is better than working with kids who are enthusiastic about their own writing. And If I can help them in some tiny way to get slightly better, or smarter, or more confident in that writing, I'd be delighted. I'm expecting to meet some of the next generation of great writers at Book Camp so when I'm an older man, I can say I knew them when.
R.J. (Rebecca) Anderson is a Canadian author of eight speculative fiction novels for children and teens, including the UK-bestselling Knife and the Nebula Award-nominated Ultraviolet. As a child she immersed herself in fairy tales, mythology, and other classics of fantasy literature; as an adult she learned to love the Golden Age detective novels of Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham as well. The result is her latest book A Pocket Full of Murder, a magical 1930's-style mystery set in an alternate version of Toronto. Rebecca lives with her husband, three sons, and two obstreperous felines in Stratford, Ontario.
Get to know R.J.!
Favorite book as a teen: The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. Eustace, Jill and Puddleglum are some of my favorite characters in the whole Narnia series.
Favorite genre to read: Fantasy, because the possibilities are unlimited -- and particularly middle grade and young adult fantasy, because it isn't constrained by the same traditions and expectations as adult fantasy often is. There's a lot of genre-crossing and genre-blending in MG and YA, and I love that.
Area of writing she is trying to improve on: All of them, really! I don't feel that I've mastered any particular aspect of writing -- every day it's a struggle with the prose, or the plotting, or the characterization, or the dialogue, or the description and exposition, or on particularly tough days, all of them at once. I'd love to be the kind of writer who could just sit down and lose themselves in the world of their own story, barely aware of their fingers flying across the keyboard... but for me, good writing takes a lot of work. And some days the words just won't come no matter how long you sit there, so all you can do is give yourself a pat on the back for trying and resolve to try again tomorrow.
Her unique writing process or tradition: I usually start my work day by making a cup of tea, and then shutting off the internet (I use a program called Freedom to do this) for 60-90 minutes while I write. I take a 30-45 minute break, then go back and write for another 60-90 minutes, and so on until I've written all the words I can wring out of my brain for that day (which for me is usually no more than 1000 -- I'm a slow writer). If I write 1K or more, I reward myself with a pretty sticker on the calendar -- it's surprising how motivational and encouraging those cheap little stickers can be!
The most exciting thing about being part of Book Camp? The chance to encourage and help young writers the way I wish someone had done for me at their age. I never met any authors until I was well out of high school.
Wesley King is the author of three previous books, including The Forest of Reading’s 2013 Red Maple award winner, The Vindico. He has also been nominated for The Forest of Reading’s 2016 Silver Birch award for his first middle grade novel, The Incredible Space Raiders from Space! An Oshawa resident, Wesley does many school visits locally and throughout the Toronto area. He is beloved by students, teachers, and librarians for his fun, informative, and interactive presentations.
Get to know Wesley!
Favorite book as a teen: My favourite book as a kid was My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. The book is a definite classic in my opinion and I loved the themes of independence and considered many times making own trip out into the wilderness. I think kids today will still love this timeless story.
Favorite genre to read: My favourite genre is a tie between science fiction and fantasy. While I do also enjoy historical fiction, I love being transported to strange and new places.
Area of writing he is trying to improve on: I am always trying to improve my writing! We all get stuck sometimes when we worry about whether what we are writing is 'good' or not, and then we begin to question our own abilities. I do this all the time too. I am always working to remain confident in my story and let the characters do the work; to let the story evolve naturally. Always remember that editing is such an important part of the process and that your stories will change and develop dramatically when you go through them again.
His unique writing process or tradition: I don't do anything particularly odd or unique, I suppose. Rather I just like to write in my office without distraction (no music or television), and I like to write a lot on the days when I sit down to work. Sometimes I can write as much as 10,000 words a day.
The most exciting thing about being part of Book Camp? I love meeting like-minded campers who share my passion for reading and storytelling. I was lucky enough to attend the camp in the past and I was blown away by the bright young minds there who will undoubtedly form the next generation of Canadian authors!