You never know how you’re going to engage your young person with books. I love series reading because the entry point into the story becomes a safe home you’ve already visited. That is for the second, third and fourth book.
How do we hook a new reader enough to acquaint themselves with a set of characters and a premise in the first book?
I worked with my son at Epilogue Productions.com to visually demonstrate how I put myself into every character I write. But really these videos are for fun. Laugh with your students or kids. Visit Sylvia McNicoll Youtube for more videos of The Great Mistake Mysteries.
After reading 70 mystery books in three months in order to judge them for the Arthur Ellis (novel) Crime Writing, I felt inspired to write one. Just one. Endlessly I walk my dog in Brant Hills so I instantly found a natural setting. An inciting moment was when I took a bag of dog poop from a tree (who puts them there, honestly?) and deposited in in the new blue domed recycling box. OMG! Once you put something in you can’t reach back in to get it out. The irredeemable, Mistake one.
How awful it feels to realize you’ve made an error you can’t correct. I thought about how anxious kids seem to be these days and thought of structuring stories around mistakes; celebrating the errors that help us observe something more clearly or make us more understanding of others’ errors. Mistakes that cause us to change and grow.
Remember no story happens unless something goes wrong.
The Best Mistake grew into a series of four book: The Best Mistake Mystery, The Artsy Mistake Mystery, The Snake Mistake Mystery and The Diamond Mistake Mystery.
Mysteries can require tight plotting; for me I certainly approach with an ending in mind. But my characters take over and I seem to chase after this quirky bunch as I write my stories.
Check the video out to see what I mean and to enjoy a giggle.
We created this video as a special thank you to all the authors and illustrators who took the time to be videoed with my son Craig McNicoll at Epilogue Productions. You can view them reading, drawing and discussing their work at the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Youtube channel. There are way more wonderful Canadian writers and illustrators to discover out there. Visit your library and ask. Or open the book and read the “about the author/illustrator,” to find out where the writer is from. An bookstore like A Different Drummer Books or McNally Robinson can help you. Books give you wonderful other lives to live, places to visit, ideas to explore. Enjoy! Happy I Read Canadian Day.
Making a shortlist and/or winning an award can make a difference in the life of your novel but it’s not anything you have control over. I always tell everyone that I work just as hard on books that somehow don’t hit a note with critics or readers as I do on ones that do.
So I was happily surprised when Body Swap shortlisted on the Hamilton Arts Award fiction list. There is no special category for children’s and young adult literature which means my book needed to compete with adult literature to make this list.As I sat in the audience with at least thirty friends and family members, I felt as though I had already won in the category of most loving support. But as I listened to the other nominees’ credentials: Anna Chatterton is a GG nominated playwright, she was up for her play Quiver, and Margaret Lindsay Holton,is a previous HA fiction winner, filmmaker and visual artist extraordinaire, and was nominated for her novel Trillium–I doubted my chances of winning. Each of the three of us read and I enjoyed being able to entertain my supportive audience. This was a lovely celebration of my work on its own.
But then Body Swap won! What a great surprise!
Reading from Body Swap at Hamilton Awards Night
Another wonderful surprise came earlier in 2019 when my agent Amy Tompkins, who attended the Hamilton Awards Ceremony, sold Russian translation rights for the Great Mistake Mysteries to Eksmo Publishing.The plot twist is that the Russian literary agent involved lives part time right in my own town Burlington.I was able to go to lunch with Olga Baykova. What a rare privilege.It’s so much fun to meet people whose great geographical differences are still surpassed by the commonality of our love of children’s literature. A new friend from a distant land.
Finally, the biggest privilege of the year came from the I Read Canadian campaign initiated by Eric Walters. I pitched a project to my son Craig McNicoll at Epilogue Productions. We video authors in my home at below market rates so long as we can get five together on any given day. This videos are readings and interviews designed to raise awareness of the wonderful writers and stories Canada produces. Craig agreed, he’s grown up around all my writer friends and loves authors and books.
We hoped for a day or two but because of the enthusiastic response, we keep going.So far we have videoed some 20 authors.( I will post my own videos here soon.) And into the new year expect to video some 20 more. How often do you get to partner with your son on a project you both are passionate about. You can watch the videos at Sylvia McNicoll-YouTube You can also read the titles, February 19, or any day by visiting your local library or ordering them from your favourite bookstore. Happy New Year!