Choose Your Own Adventure Writing

One of my favourite things to do is create dilemmas for my characters, and I’ve found that writing a book is a lot like working out a Choose Your Own Adventure Story. In this workshop, students will learn how to put characters into conundrums and dilemmas, and how to get those characters out of them. Using an interactive “pick and play” style, students will develop their story to be the most exciting version of itself. Discussion and time for questions will follow. This presentation can be tailored to be a hands-on workshop for smaller groups. (90 min)

A Bad Case of Writer’s Block

This is my standard school presentation. I talk about how I loved to write, but often came up against a serious case of writer’s block in school, and how I tried to solve the problem. I touch on how I use inspiration from my own life and the lives of others around me to craft my novels and find humour in tricky situations. Writing in a different format, using emails, texts and class assignments, is one of the unique aspects of my novels, and this presentation will cover how this style of writing can help develop unique character voices. At the end of the presentation, depending on the size of the audience, I’ll lead the students in a short activity that shows how one or two words can spark the beginning of a whole idea. Discussion and time for questions will follow. This presentation can be tailored for small or large groups. (60-75 minutes)

Different Formats, Different Worlds Workshop

The Arthur Bean series is told through class assignments, emails, texts, newspaper articles, and more. I’ve found that telling a story in a different format can make the story come alive. So let’s get into characters’ heads. What texts does a girl send to her secret crush? What kind of journal entries would an aspiring evil wizard write? How can email connect two characters on opposite sides of the world? We’re going to let the readers fill in the story!

In this workshop, I’ll describe how I used alternative narratives to find my characters’ voices, as well as discuss the pros and cons of setting limitations in how you tell a story. Following a presentation, students will create their own characters using emojis, and develop them from there. This workshop is hands-on, and works better with small groups or in classrooms. (60-90 minutes)

Dawson City, I Love You

From January 3rd until March 31st, I had the amazing opportunity to live in Pierre Berton’s house up in Dawson City, Yukon. It was the best three months of my life. Seriously, the best.

Not only was it a cozy home with a great space for getting writing done, the community up there is friendly, welcoming and vibrant, rife with stuff to do!

You might be thinking, “A small town in the middle of the Yukon in the dead of winter? What could there be to do?”
Well, I curled, I hiked, I snowshoed. I went dog mushing. I played a lot of ping pong. I went to trivia nights. I attended potlucks and worked with the kids at the school on writing for the newspaper, and on writing a survival guide for school. I went to concerts, movies, and plays. I also learned how to skijore, which is the best! It’s cross country skiing, but you also harness your body to a sled dog. They pull while you ski, and it’s so fast and sweaty and super fun! I saw the northern lights a lot, and I got to take a weekend trip up to Inuvik, which is in the Northwest Territories and even farther north than I was!

I would say that it was a once in a lifetime experience, but I don’t think it is. I’m already planning my return trip back next winter.

Berton House!

The beginning of 2017 has started with a great adventure: I am living in Dawson City, Yukon for three months as the Berton House resident!

If you’re wondering what the Berton House is, it’s a wonderful little home in Northern Canada (close to Alaska). My job while I’m here is to write, and discover Canada’s north. Dawson City was the heart of the gold rush in the 1890s, when the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nations site swelled to 40 000 people (today about 1,500 people live full-time in Dawson).

The Berton House itself was gifted to The Writers’ Trust of Canada by Pierre Berton, a prolific Canadian writer (as you can see from the photos here of his library). It’s a cozy retreat from the world, and I’m loving it so far.

I’ve only just arrived, but I hope to keep you updated with a few interesting stories and photos of my wintery time here. To keep you going, here’s a few photos so far.

September = New Book!

It’s out! Notes from the —- Life of a Total Genius is on the shelves! The end of the #TotalGenius trilogy… I’m so pleased with this one, so I hope that you like it. It was a bit of a strange feeling to receive my copies of this book; I thought I would be thrilled to get to see them, but actually, I was pretty sad. Why? Well, it’s hard to say good-bye to Arthur and his buddies (and his enemies too!). I realized that I wasn’t going to get to write more snarky Arthur responses, or try and have a battle of wits with myself while writing text banter between Arthur and Robbie. I’m excited about the next few projects I have waiting to write though, and who knows? Maybe Arthur Bean will make a cameo appearance along the way…

I am excited to share this book with kids and adults this year though! I’m participating in Wordfest in Calgary in a couple of weeks; I’ll be heading to the Yukon in January, and I was chosen to be part of the 2017 TD Canada Book Week tour, so there’s lots of chances to talk about my love of Arthur coming up!
Want me to come speak to your class? I’d love to! Send me a note through the contact page, and I’ll get right back to you!

Awards and Desserts

I’m very honoured that A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius was awarded the Chocolate Lily award for 2016! It’s amazing to be nominated for awards, and I’m so stoked that I actually won one! It means so much to an author to know that their book was chosen by readers as the best one of the bunch, especially with so many amazing novels in the race. It just warms my heart to know that kids around BC have connected with Arthur Bean and friends! So this is my huge thank you to all the readers who chose my book; I’m so thankful to you all. You guys rock!

In other very awesome news, I found out that A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius was up for a record ten awards in a classroom “Academy Awards” style competition at Deerfield elementary school in Short Hills, New Jersey! This idea is amazing; I love hearing about kids celebrating their reading accomplishments, and how creative and engaging to have them vote in different categories. Arthur and friends won six awards in total, including Best Book of the Year, and I won Author of the Year! I celebrated by eating pie* for breakfast (because my day is only starting when school is ending in New Jersey, so it only seemed right to celebrate at breakfast.) They celebrated by eating cake based on the American cover, and they shared a photo of this epic cake. It’s amazing, so I’m sharing it here with you!

Lastly, Scenes from the Epic Life of a Total Genius was nominated for the Manitoba Reader’s Choice Award! Thanks, Manitoba! You’re a real peach to include my book on a list of epic proportions!

*You’re probably wondering what kind of pie. It was strawberry and cream cheese pie. And it was delicious.


Berton House, Here I Come!

I am very, very excited to announce that I’ve been chosen for the Berton House residency next year!

And you’re reading this and you’re like, “What is that?”

The Berton House is in Dawson City, Yukon. It was Pierre Berton’s childhood home, and now it’s a retreat run by the Writers’ Trust of Canada. Four writers are chosen every year to spend three months in the Yukon, to work on their writing projects and experience Pierre Berton’s north.

And I’m one of them!
I’ll be heading north next year, from January to April, to write a middle-grade novel about a night at the aquarium gone wrong. I’ll be experiencing long, dark nights and the north at what I think of as its northiest. And I’m going to try dog-sledding, and photographing northern lights and snowshoeing in the twilight… it’s going to be magical.

As long as I can find a coat that’s warm enough.

Notes from the —– Life of a Total Genius

Summer is coming, and what does that mean?
It means that the adventures of Arthur Bean will be available soon!

Notes from the —– Life of a Total Genius is coming to bookstores near you September 1st. Follow the adventures of Arthur as he heads into grade nine. He writes a play, he gets in trouble… I’ll leave the rest for you to discover…

New Reviews and Great News!

My first book, A Year in the Life of a Complete and Total Genius, came out in the States in November, and it’s getting some great press that I wanted to share with you!

There’s a lovely review on Publishers Weekly that you can read here.

It’s been chosen for the Junior Library Guild! This is a big deal; I even got a pin in the mail to celebrate!

Hooray for me!