Our first book, Fragile Bones: Harrison and Anna, is off to a great start. A while back, we announced that it was nominated for the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading awards in the Red Maple category. Well, this week, we were delighted to add two more award nominations to the list!Saskatchewan's Willow Awards are, like the Red Maple, a set of readers' choice awards. Fragile Bones was nominated for the Snow Willow award for readers in Grades 7 & 8.Fragile Bones has also been shortlisted by the Alberta Writers Guild for the R. Ross Annett literary award. Congratulations to Lorna Schultz Nicholson! We're super proud of you!
is a popular presenter and author for young people, as well as a playwright and radio personality. His first hi/lo fantasy series, Keepers of the Vault
, launched in October with Fire and Glass.
1. Why were you interested in writing a fantasy series for hi-lo readers?
When I was a kid, I was a reluctant reader. My parents were immigrants from China who could speak a little English but couldn’t read it. They didn’t have the ability to teach me to read, so I was behind the other students when it came to literacy levels. Some of the books other kids were reading were far beyond my abilities, and I was stuck reading the kinds of books that were more suitable for young kids. It was embarrassing walking around with these books. When I became a writer, I wanted to make sure there were books that reluctant readers could read and not feel embarrassed for having them in their lockers.
2. What elements were important for you to include in the Keepers of the Vault?
I wanted to set the book in Edmonton because that’s where I live. The city has many old schools, and some are rumoured to be haunted. I couldn’t resist using one of the schools as the setting for my book. For me, it was a chance to play out my fears of my old elementary school. For readers, this might a familiar sight in their neighbourhoods.
3. When you write a series like Keepers of the Vault, do you have an idea of where the series is going as a whole, or do you plan it out book by book? Do the characters and their stories surprise you as you go along or do you know where it's all heading?
I have a general idea of where the series might go, but I don’t know all the details. I like having a vague idea of direction, but I love having the freedom to explore and get lost in the story and characters. Some writers loathe the idea of getting notes on their drafts, but I welcome them, because they give me a chance to revisit the world and play with the characters. I compare the process to playing a beloved video game. Even though I’ve finished the game, I like seeing if there’s anything I missed, and I always get a thrill when my editor points out something I didn’t notice before. Sometimes, I’ll make a discovery about a character or story as I’m working on the draft, and it will change the story. In the case of Keepers of the Vault, I was looking for something the students could be studying in class, and I decided to use the novel Frankenstein. As I wrote the teacher’s dialogue, I realized I could use the thematic connections in Mary Shelley’s novel to connect with the theme in my book. I hadn’t planned this; it was just a happy discovery. The way I look at this process is that I will find the story I need to tell while I’m trying to figure out the story I want to tell.
4. You've written funny stories, mysteries, picture books and teen fantasy in the past. How have your past, real-life experiences been helpful to you in writing this series?
An urban legend about my old elementary school inspired the book. I attended classes in a four-storey convent that had been converted to a school. The kids heard rumours that the fourth floor was off-limits because it was haunted. Some claimed that the ghosts of people who died during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 walked around the fourth floor. While this myth was the starting point for the book, I took my story in a different direction. I like having an anchor point in something real. I guess it’s my way of being able to connect to the story. I often picture myself as the protagonist in the story so I can drill down into the heart of the story and make it real for readers.
5. What sorts of books did you like to read when you were a "tween"? What sorts of books do you wish had been available to you back then?
I lived in a small town with a tiny school library, so the options were few and far between. I read non-fiction books about VTOL planes and the Hobbit. With all the great books around today, I wished even a fraction of them existed when I was a tween. I look at books by Arthur Slade, Kenneth Oppel, Susin Nielsen and Susan Juby, and I think, “Why couldn’t you guys have been around when I was a kid?”
6. You are going to be touring Ontario as part of TD Book Week. What are you most looking forward to?
For me, school and library visits are a chance for me to connect with readers. While I love meeting fans, I’m particularly interested in meeting the kids who don’t know my books or me. My greatest joy is to stand in front of group of surly and bored kids and then slowly but surely win them over with my presentation until they’re talking about my books for days after the visit. My presentations incorporate storytelling and stage magic to illustrate key points about the writing process. I love the look of wonder in the kids’ eyes when they realize writing is more interesting than they assumed. That’s the fuel that keeps me going through long road trips, restaurant food and uncomfortable hotel beds.
7. Can you give us a hint about what will happen to Kristina and Dylan in book two?
In book two, Kristina and Dylan are going to chase down the person who broke into the vault, but they will run into a bit of musical trouble, and they may have to pay the piper.Want to book Marty for a school or library visit? Visit his website at www.martychan.com. Also, check out how to book an author visit as part of the TD Canadian Children's Book Week Tour! Applications are being accepted now.
A fourth floor that is only pretending to be a storage space, stairs that lead to an abyss, and a Goth djinn stalker with an attitude who likes to play with fire... As if life wasn’t hard enough for Kristina Mah being the new kid in school. The adventures of the Keepers of the Vault are just beginning.
Keepers of the Vault is a hi-lo fantasy series for reluctant readers ages 12+ and uses a dyslexia-friendly font.
Today, Clockwise Press is pleased to announce the release of our first installment of the Keepers of the Vault fantasy series: Fire and Glass, by Marty Chan!
This brand-new, hi/lo fantasy series is full of action, adventure and mystery. In Fire and Glass, we are introduced to Kristina Mah, the new kid in school; Dylan, the one guy who thinks her fondness for old-school video games is cool; and the mysterious Dr. Grimoire, the custodian of the bizarre fourth floor. Oh - and a goth, teenaged Djinn with pyromaniacal tendencies. As if being the geeky new kid isn't hard enough!Our Keepers of the Vault is written especially for emerging readers who are looking for engaging, age-appropriate books at their own reading level. It's also set in a dyslexia-friendly font. Find out more about this book on the Our Titles page of our website.To find out more about Marty Chan and his many wonderful books, or to book him for a school visit, check out his website.
Clockwise Press is absolutely delighted to announce that our very first book, Fragile Bones: Harrison & Anna by Lorna Schultz Nicholson, has been nominated for the Forest of Reading's Red Maple Award! What is the Forest of Reading program?The Forest of Reading® is Canada's largest recreational reading program! This initiative of the Ontario Library Association (OLA) offers eight reading programs to encourage a love of reading in people of all ages. The Forest helps celebrate Canadian books, publishers, authors and illustrators. More than 250,000 readers participate annually from their School and/or Public Library. All Ontarians/Canadians are invited to participate via their local public library, school library, or individually.
This means that THOUSANDS of kids in Grades 7 & 8 across Ontario (actually, across Canada and beyond) will be reading Fragile Bones and several other awesome Canadian books and then voting for their favourite one.Then, in May, thousands of kids will descend on Harbourfront Centre in Toronto to cheer on the authors as the winners in each category are announced. It's an amazing event, and we can't wait to share the experience with Lorna and her fans.For more information, visit the Forest of Reading website and follow the various social media updates on the resources and hashtags below.
What do you hope readers take away from Stay Strong?
I hope that they see that there is always a story behind how and why an immigrant has come to their country and that people around the world are struggling with the same things: discrimination, fear, hate, and sorrow. I would also hope readers would see that if they look hard enough, we are more alike than we are different.
What have you taken away from writing this book?
Although I was aware of trouble and conflict in other parts of the world, it’s different when you hear someone’s personal story. I couldn’t help but wonder as I wrote about the dangers and risks Gentil and his family faced, how I would have reacted. I wonder if I could have remained as positive and optimistic as Gentil has.
Where did you get the idea to write Gentil’s memoir?
My editor, Solange Messier, noticed that Gentil was honoured as one of Canada’s Top 25 Immigrants of 2014 and pointed it out to me. The little blurb beside his name was intriguing and the deeper I delved into his background, the more I knew that this was someone special whose story needed to be told.
Why was it important to you to write about this topic?
My mother is an immigrant and growing up I saw the way she was treated at times because of her accent or misunderstanding of Canadian culture. I know, too, that despite those incidents she is fiercely proud to be a Canadian citizen and call this country her home.
This is your first time writing a creative non-fiction book. How much did the writing process differ from the typical non-fiction books you write?
I found this process to be a fascinating blend of fiction and non-fiction writing. In information non-fiction I spend a lot of time researching interesting facts, but here I was also looking for the story behind the facts and the emotions that came out of the events. It was difficult at times because unlike fiction, if part of the story needed more embellishment or explanation, I couldn’t just use my imagination to fill it in, I had to go back and bug poor Gentil again.
What was it like to interview Gentil?
Gentil is a genuinely warm and welcoming person and never once complained about long interviews or the endless questions I had for him. I was constantly impressed with his attitude and enthusiasm and he always ended our interviews or emails with a note that he would be happy to answer more. He has probably spoiled me for any future interviewees!
Do you have a typical writing routine?
I typically begin my writing day by answering email and doing paperwork, generally trying to clear up any odds and ends that might distract me. Then I get down to writing whatever project I’m working on. Sometimes I am working on two projects at the same time, which works well for me. If I get stuck or bogged down with the writing on one manuscript, I switch to the other.
Do you have any other books in the works that you can tell us about?
I am currently working on two more novels: a quirky middle grade and a humourous young adult, both of which are lots of fun to write. I am also thrilled to have been asked to write another book in the Arrivals series.
Visit Natalie's website to find out more about her many fiction and non-fiction books!
Gentil Misigaro and his family fled Congo when he was only six. The next ten years the family moved eleven more times because of daily fear of attacks, kidnappings, and even death. Gentil wondered if he would ever find a place to call home.
Stay Strong: A Musician's Journey from Congo is available now!
Clockwise Press is pleased and proud to present our inaugural title, Fragile Bones: Harrison & Anna! This is the first book in our new One-2-One series. We'd also like to introduce you to series author, Lorna Schultz Nicholson!
What is the One-to-One series?One-2-One is a series of novels centred on a group of students who belong to the Best Buddies club at (the fictional) Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School. The Best Buddies program is a real program that runs in high schools and colleges around the world. It pairs students with intellectual abilities with volunteer peer “Buddies.” The pairs make plans to meet once or twice a month for coffee or a movie or some other event of their liking, plus they take part in group events. There is often a Chapter President who heads up the program in the school and sets up committees for the group events. So each book in this series follows the story of a different student pair and the friendships they develop.
In Fragile Bones, why was it important for you to tell the story of Harrison and Anna in both their voices, rather than just one POV or third person?Both characters are seeing the situations in the novel differently and I wanted to be able to show those differences. I want the reader to understand both characters and really see that the world is made up of a variety of people, that everyone is NOT the same and that we shouldn’t be so quick to judge people. If Fragile Boneswas only written in one voice or written in thirdperson, I don’t think I could have delved into the mind of the characters, and to me, that was so important. I wanted the reader to know what the characters were thinking and to see the same situation from two different perspectives. Exploring their inner thoughts and the reason why they are acting the way they are is what makes the book interesting.
Your background as a writer is in picture books and hi-lo sports novels. Fragile Bones is quite different from anything else you’ve written - for one thing, it’s definitely not hi-lo. What was the experience like for you to delve into writing a more literary novel?Wonderful!!! I loved every minute of writing this novel and I enjoyed digging into my characters and having that freedom to explore their personalities and innermost thoughts. I appreciated Christie Harkin’s editing as well,and just our discussions about how I could make it deeper and flesh it out more.
What sort of research did you have to do to write this book?I talked to parents of children and teens with autism, and I talked to children with autism and also professionals who work with autistic children. I used bits and pieces from every conversation even if the child was in elementary school or was a female. And I did a LOT of reading!
Did you learn anything surprising or new in your research?YES! I learned soooo much from my research. People with autism are smart and charming and beautiful and deserve respect. Their brains just work in another way. Does that make them weird? NO! Of course not. If you hear a child having a tantrum in a store, please don’t judge the parent or the child. Maybe that child just can’t deal with something at that moment. You don’t know what is going on inside the child’s head. I learned to be more patient with people in my real world and to not judge.
What is your favourite part about Harrison’s character? What made you want to write him that way?He really is sweet and lovable and interesting. His brain is pure genius and I love how it works. I interviewed so many parents and pieced together a character from my research. I wanted the reader to like him but I wanted to show the reason why some kids with autism act the way they do.
Where did Anna’s character come from?Anna came from watching my own children go through high school. Academics were so stressful for them. Many teens want to be that "high achiever" and they end up with eating disorders or dropping out of college after a year. I didn’t go that far with Anna but I created a home life that was difficult for her. I wanted to show a mother who was hard on her, but I wanted her to learn something too. I’ve come across mothers just like her who constantly push their children because they are smart, and focus only on good grades, not development of the whole child. I think teens today are placed under a lot of stress to be that single-minded high achiever. Anna was the perfect match for Harrison - there was a lot she was able to learn from him.
What were some of your favourite books to read when you were Anna’s age?You’re taking me back a bit here (lol) but when I was Anna’s age I loved Tennessee Williams, Margaret Laurence, and Joyce Cary (they were the required school reading authors), but I also loved Leon Uris, Sidney Sheldon, James Clavell, Arthur Hailey, Irwin Shaw and (believe it or not), Jacquelin Susann and Colleen McCullough. (The Thorn Birds came out when I was 19 and I loved those books.)
Tell us about the Best Buddies program. How can kids find out more about the program and get involved?Any school can start a Best Buddies chapter. Please check out their website as there is great information there to help out and get programs started.
www.bestbuddies.ca (this is Canadian)
www.bestbuddies.org (this is international)
If someone reads my book and starts a chapter in their school, I would be delighted and excited. It would be wonderful to know that something I wrote could motivate someone to do something to create awareness and make a difference in their community.
When you aren’t writing, what are some of your favourite things to do? I walk my dogs, run (I just ran my first half marathon), ski, golf, bike, read, and eat chocolate. A lot. I eat good food too. I travel quite a bit with my husband and enjoy visiting and chatting with my grown-up children when I can.
What is coming up next in the One-to-One series?Erika and Gianni. We don’t have a title yet. These are two characters who were introduced in Fragile Bones. Erika is a girl born with Down Syndrome and to date I have interviewed teens (male and female) who were born with Down Syndrome. I’m so excited to write about her. And Gianni is, right now, a work in progress. You’ll have to wait and see what I have in store for him! But not too long - the book ought to be available next spring.
Clockwise Press: New Publishing House Enters the Canadian Children’s Literature MarketClockwise Press is the newest entrant into the world of Canadian children’s literature today.The press’s mandate is to publish high-quality young adult and children’s books featuring themes of diversity, inclusion, and global awareness, while fostering a love of reading in both avid and reluctant readers.Solange Messier will act as the new press’s publisher and non-fiction editor. Previously the non-fiction editor at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, Ms. Messier is joined by Christie Harkin, former publisher at Fitzhenry & Whiteside and associate publisher at James Lorimer & Co., as consultant publisher and fiction editor. Together, Ms. Messier and Ms. Harkin have a substantial history of publishing award-winning books for children.Ms. Messier explains, “At Clockwise Press, we believe all children should be able to find themselves in and identify with the stories, characters, and communities represented in the books they read. And they should be able to find imaginative, engaging, and inspiring books that suit their reading aptitude at any level.”Clockwise Press will publish its first book in spring 2015, with three more titles scheduled for the fall.Clockwise Press books will be distributed in Canada and the US by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. For interview requests or further information contact Clockwise Press at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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