Wednesday, 15 October 2014

It's a Red Maple nomination for The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden!

I could not be more honoured to announce that my 2014 novel, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden, has just been nominated for a Red Maple Award by the Ontario Library Association. This is an annual Reader's Choice award, and young readers in grades 7 and 8 (ages 11-14) all across Ontario will be reading the book in school, and discussing it in book groups all winter, then voting on their favourite book out of the ten selected next spring.

Here is the amazing list of nominees: Kenneth Oppel, Eric Walters, Richard Scrimger, Vikki VanSickle, Jaqueline Guest, Sigmund Brouwer, Jess Keating, Sarah Ellis, Caroline Pignat, and me.

I'll be touring the province with many of these wonderful Canadian authors (cannot wait to meet Ken Oppel!), talking to young readers about the book, about writing, about my fascination with the gift of flight. Next spring, May 2015, the program culminates in a huge celebration of reading and books at Harbourfront in Toronto, at the Forest of Reading.

I'm so very honoured to be part of this in 2014-2015, it's a huge achievement and a remarkable program. Hundreds of thousands of children in Ontario take part, from ages 4-18, and all the authors are locally-grown Canadians, which is also wonderful.

Thank you to the Ontario Library Association, and to my publisher, Dundurn Press, for letting me tell a strange story about a girl who wakes up one morning floating on the ceiling of her bedroom. More to come, but for now, please have a look at some reviews and earlier posts about Gwendolyn Golden:

Starred Review in Quill & Quire
Goodreads reviews
Why I chose Gwendolyn MacEwen's poem for an epigraph
Earlier Blog Posts

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Upon choosing an epigraph from Gwendolyn MacEwen

"Something has come to pass, you think, something
more important than a mere flight over the ravine."

Gwendolyn MacEwen, "Fragments from a Childhood"

This thoughtful sentiment is the epigraph to my new novel, The Strange Gift of Gwendolyn Golden. Many thanks to the author's family for kindly permitting me to use it. 

I've been thinking about Gwendolyn MacEwen a lot lately. She died 27 years ago next month (November 1987), at the age of 47. She was a Toronto poet who I really admired.  I often walk through her park at Lowther just north of Bloor and say hello to her statue. 

As an undergraduate English student at The University of Western Ontario in 1985, I saw her perform her work a few times. She was writer-in-residence there at the time, and she held a few readings at the local student centre. Then a few years later, when I was a graduate student at the University of Toronto, she was again writer-in-residence. I never missed an opportunity to see her perform and to glimpse those deep green eyes, listen to that lovely voice. At one reading at  U of T she performed a poem, The Compass, which inspired me to volunteer for literacy programs for years afterward. 

One night in May 1987, Gwendoyn MacEwen visited my graduate poetry class. We had a good night, just nine Canadian poetry students and the Professor, discussing art, life and poetry with her. She was charming, warm, down-to-earth, a wonderful storyteller, and very smart.

I lived in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto as a graduate student, and often saw her riding her enormous, flower-strewn bicycle along Bloor Street. A few times she said hello and waved at me. I was so surprised but I always managed a smile and a hello back, for days afterward wondering how she knew me, but then my student life mirrored her writing residencies and we were at the same universities at the same time so maybe it's not surprising. But that was one of her many gifts, she made people feel very present. At least, she always made me feel very present. Her work inspired me in many ways, and I was very sorry when she died, far too young, and just a few months after her visit to my class.

Years later, I published a book with her name in the title, not even consciously realizing it at the time. I was going for alliteration of the hard "G," Strange/Gift/Gwendolyn/Golden, but when I realized I had used her name, I went and revisited her work. How delighted I was to rediscover "Fragments from a Childhood," a magical (and frankly hilarious) poem about a child's gift of imagination, and that delicate moment when new truths about the world and about ourselves are revealed. I felt it perfectly described my Gwendolyn's dilemma: how a gift can set us apart, open our eyes, and change us forever (whether we decide to fly or not). At least that's my interpretation, yours may differ. As the young speaker of the poem says about her former heroes, "Are they really interested in their marvels?" 

I am. I always will be.  I hope you take a moment to read Gwendolyn MacEwen's lovely poem, too.