This summer, I was honoured to be asked to join the board of the Vancouver Writers Festival. Here’s the pin to prove it!
I had a great time this year helping with many kidlit events. The first day I had official duties, I had a triple‐whammy schedule: hosting David Alexander Robinson, Christopher Paul Curtis and Eden Robinson at three separate school visits! Between them, they have two Governor General’s Literary Award nominations, one Governor General’s Literary Award, two Giller Prize shortlists, one Newbery Medal, and multiple Coretta Scott King Awards. And they’re three of the nicest people you’ll ever meet!
First up was David Alexander Robinson, who talked about his complex relationship with his indigenous heritage at Handsworth Secondary in North Vancouver.
I couldn’t help but be a bit of a kidlit groupie, asking to take a picture with David, last year’s winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award in the Young People’s Literature – Illustrated Books category for When We Were Alone, illustrated by the amazing Julie Flett.
After saying goodbye to David, I rushed off to my second event with Christopher Paul Curtis, author of American middle‐grade classics such as The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963 (Newbery Medal Honour Book) and Bud, Not Buddy (Newbery Medal Winner).
Christopher was given an incredibly warm welcome by the students at Hastings Elementary, and he didn’t disappoint. His talk was funny, insightful and inspiring.
And he did something I had never seen before at a school presentation: he handed out cold hard cash! Six lucky students got crisp $20 bills — I mean, “bookmarks,” as Christopher called them — for showing their book smarts.
Not sure I would do that, but it sure got the kids’ attention!
Finally, I went to Britannia Secondary to host and introduce Eden Robinson, a Canadian literary treasure who has been shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize not once, but twice! Eden dazzled the crowd reading from her new book, Trickster Drift.
The next morning, Dr. Dominic Walliman (author of the Professor Astro Cat series) blinded the kids of Crosstown Elementary with science as he talked about matter, and wowed them with dry ice experiments!
DON’T try this at home, kids — dry ice is 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, or -78.5 degrees Celsius!
A few days later, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Jeffrey Brown, an old friend from the Star Wars circuit (we met at Star Wars Celebration years ago). Of course, Jeffrey is perhaps best‐known for his Darth Vader and Son series. We had dinner on Granville Island where the Writers Festival was taking place, and I had to bring my own son’s copy of Darth Vader and Son to get it signed. My son was thrilled!
Then, on Free Saturday (a new initiative to honour VWF’s commitment to principles of inclusion, equity and access), Jeffrey gave an amazing one‐hour talk. He spoke about his journey through the world of comics, and even cartooned live on stage.
Here’s Jeffrey Brown sharing one of his early (and I mean early!) Star Wars drawings of you‐know‐who!
And here’s Jeffrey signing books for the throngs after the talk. Beside him is one of the images he cartooned on stage — himself as a hobbit!
My only regret for 2018 was that I didn’t make enough time to get to more literary events! Next year, I think I’ll book the whole week off. It’s always an enormous pleasure to be around people who care about books. It’s exciting, inspiring, and life‐affirming.
See you all the Vancouver Writer’s Festival next year!