So there I was, sitting at the table at the Coles book store
in Saskatoon’s Midtown Centre mall last Sunday when a number of very
interesting things happened:
A nine-year-old girl came up to me with her mom and they gladly
accepted my leaflet describing our books. The girl, who was well beyond her
years in intelligence, was excited that I am an author. I asked her if she liked
to write and was told that she does. I encouraged her, as I do all young
writers, by telling her that writing is a wonderful way to learn and develop your
“Do you like to read?” she shot back at me.
Why, yes, I do. This young lady reads all the time
apparently. (I wasn’t surprised.) “I’ve read the whole Harry Potter series and
the Kane Chronicles,” she said. Good for her. At age nine, that was impressive.
We spent a few more minutes chatting and admiring each other’s
talents and gifts. We had a mutual admiration going on for quite a while.
Some time later, the young man working at the cellular phone booth in the middle
of the mall kept looking at my table full of DriverWorks Ink books. Finally, he
walked over and picked up The Sailor and the Christmas Trees,
which I wrote and Catherine Folnovic illustrated.
me. What’s it about?” he asked.
I told him the brief description of the book. It’s about a
sailor from Manitoba who cut down some evergreens in Newfoundland in November 1944 and
hid them on the ship for a month so he could bring them out on Christmas Day in
the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, surprising his crewmates and some little
children on another ship in that convoy who were coming to Canada from England.
“It’s a children’s book but adults are enjoying it as well because of the War
connection and the inspiring story,” I told him.
“So it’s a children’s book!” he said, even more interested
now. “My nephews and nieces love it when I read to them. I’m always looking for
books for them.”
“It’s a great
children’s book for ages 2 and up, about a little guy who grows and grows into
a giant baby terrorizing the neighbourhood,” I told him. “The parents have to
figure out how to get him back home, so Mom grabs a mask and cape and becomes
SuperMom and saves the day. The other thing is that the author’s wife talks in
her sleep and everything that SuperMom says in the book is something his wife
said in her sleep. It’s a funny story, kind of like a Robert Munsch book.”
“I love Robert Munsch,” he said, “but I’ve already got all
"The artwork’s amazing,” he said.
I agreed. Guy Laird is a very talented artist.
Then the young man had to get back to work, but I watched him at his spot, reading our entire leaflet later that afternoon. Who knows if he’ll ever buy
one of those books, but I had fun telling him about them and that was my goal for the day - to tell more people about our books and keep spreading the word about our great Prairie stories.
Next up on my list of interesting experiences was a pre-teen
girl and her friend, who wandered by my table and then came back (once they decided I
would be agreeable to their proposal, I guess). They attend St. Edwards School
in Saskatoon, which has a focus on eco-justice issues. One of the girls had a
class assignment that involved interviewing 20 people and taking their
photograph. I didn’t ask a lot of questions (unusual for me, I know), but I did
answer such things as my age, where I live, who I live with, what is my
favourite colour (red, by the way), and what is my favourite thing to do (it
took one second for both her and me to answer together - ‘write’).
So that was a new experience.
Then I chatted with a United Church minister that I have
known as an acquaintance for decades in my work freelance writing for the United Church Observer magazine. I have
not seen him for years, though, so it was nice to reconnect. He and his wife
happened to be shopping at Coles that day, and there I was. Surprise!
I handed out bookmarks to numerous children who came by with
their parents, which is something we always do at signings and trade shows. One of the funniest incidents happened when a boy about five
years old accepted a bookmark and then showed it to his mom. As they were
leaving the store, the mom asked if the boy had said 'thank you' to me. He had,
but she didn’t know that, so he said it again.
Being a grandma, I automatically replied, “No
problem, hon. You’re welcome.”
The little guy stopped walking, turned around and looked at
me and announced, “I’m not hon. I’m….. (and then said his name).” He cracked me and his mother up. We burst out laughing and they carried on their way.
About an hour later, this little guy and his mom came by again and he proudly waved the bookmark at me as if to say, “See! I still
have the bookmark you gave me! THANK YOU!” It was very cute.
The most fascinating event that day occurred when three
teenage girls came up to the table to chat with me. They were thrilled to talk
to a writer. One of them announced that this was the second author signing she’d
been at within a few days. Her grandmother had just released a book and had a
signing at another Saskatoon store, she said. (I made a mental note to check out the book.)
All three of these girls like to write, but the two on the outside
agreed that the girl in the middle was the best writer of all of them. This led
me to ask questions about the kind of writing this girl does (romance novels
for teens), if she’s ever been published (yes, but not paid), if she wants to
be a writer as a career (yes) etc. We chatted for a while and then they left.
Some time later, they came back and walked to the back
of the store behind me. Soon, the girl with the grandmother author came up to
me and handed me a cell phone, explaining that her friend is shy but wondered if I would read part
of one of her stories – so I did.
And my official pronouncement is that – this girl has talent. To make a long story short, I gave this
young writer some words of advice, starting with “people are 'who' and objects
are 'that' ” and including suggestions of Saskatchewan publishers that she could
approach about getting her work published - including us at DriverWorks Ink.
I also advised her, as I suggest to
all young writers, that she should keep track of every piece of her writing
that is ever published. This helps to build a portfolio and credibility in the
writer’s work. I recently had to dig up my records of my work 20
years after the pieces were published to submit information to a particular national project, so keeping track is valuable.
Also, don’t throw out your old poems, short stories or
other written work. Find a place to store it so that decades from now, you can
look back on it and know the answer (when you’re making speeches at schools,
libraries and the like) to the often-asked questions: “When did you start writing?” and "What kinds of things have you written?" Then you can not only answer, but you can show them as well!
And finally a Coles Saskatoon that day, this great phrase came from a woman who asked me
to tell her about Never Leave Your Wingman,
which I wrote.
After my brief explanation that this book is the true story of a fun-loving
seven-time cancer (Dionne Warner) who dances into chemo with her husband, both dressed in
costume like it’s Halloween every day, the woman said this:
“That is crazy. That’s a pretty triumphant story.”
I had not heard Dionne and Graham Warner’s Story of Hope
described as ‘triumphant’ before, but it certainly is.
It made me smile all the
way home. And that’s a long drive.
P.S. If you'd like to win either a SuperMom and the Big Baby book or a Never Leave Your Wingman book from us
, post a simple message (even a "Pick me! Pick me!") as a Comment on the Thank you blog
below BEFORE MAY 15 to enter your name in the draw. Thanks!