What I Read When I Was Young: Bev Brenna

Bev Brenna is a professor, a hiker, a long distance cyclist, and a terrific writer. Her most recent intermediate novel is Fox Magic, a story about hope and transformation for twelve-year-old Chance Devlin after her two friends have taken their lives.

 

 

 

What was your favourite picture book? What was special about it?

I liked One Kitten is Not Too Many by Dorothy Levenson because at an early age I learned to read it by memorizing the gently repetitive text. Then I felt like a “real” reader until a family member said, “Oh, that’s all very well, but you know you’re not really reading it.” Also, in the storyline, the kids “won.” Yay kids!

 

 

What was the first chapter book you read?

I read and re-read Penrod by Boothe Tarkington. It is the story of a bad boy and I relished the idea that I, too, could be bad. If only the stars would align.

 

 

What was your favourite chapter book? What was special about it?

Mouse Mountain by Fred Lindsay was my favourite, because it was one of three novels I was repeatedly read aloud at bedtime by my all suffering mother (“Oh no, not that one again!” she’d moan). I liked it because the protagonist was an adult, and the other characters were talking animals including a mosquito. My mother gave the mosquito a high, squealy voice when she read his part. Perhaps my interest in mosquitoes was hatched then and there.

 

 

Did you ever reread your favourite chapter book once you became an adult? Did it stand the test of time?

I re-read lots chapter books I read as a kid, and consider the “chronotopic” movement (see Bakhtin’s definition of this, from his applied work on Einstein’s theory of relativity)  through time and space as I read them. When I read Anne of Green Gables, for example, I remember exactly how it was to be a nine-year-old reader. I’m also interested in how I now gravitate towards different characters during adult re-readings, in contrast to the subjects I focused on when I was a kid. Current readings of Anne see me relying heavily on Marilla and Matthew. Old is interested in old! Maybe readers really do like to “read up.”

 

Did you read comic books? Which was your favourite?

I read comics voraciously but do not recall any of them. I treated them a bit like candy. And in those days, perhaps they didn’t have the same substance that many comics do today.

 

Did you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

I preferred fiction simply because that was what I had the most access to, I think. Also, the non-fiction of my childhood was very text heavy. Today’s non-fiction for kids is often glorious!

 

Did you like series? Which ones?

I read the Anne series out of love, and the Nancy Drew series out of greed—trying to have a higher stack on my bedroom floor than my friend’s stack. Beating my friend turned out to be easy, however, as when my sister moved out, I fell heir to her dozen ancient Nancy Drew books. At that point, I stopped competing and turned to other things. Many really great series’ books—such as most of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books—I didn’t discover until I became a teacher. My own kids enjoyed the “Redwall” series—that was a lengthy and joyous find!

 

Did you have a local library? What do you remember about it?

The children’s books in our local Saskatoon library seemed limitless. I knew I could never read them all, but I dragged in a big basket every Saturday, and I really tried! And…I’m still trying!

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What I Read When I Was Young: Melanie McFarlane

Melanie McFarlane is a part-time author and full-time claims adjuster, living in Moose Jaw with her husband and two daughters. Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie jumps in with both hands on her keyboard. She likes to write dark stories from the past, present and future for teens and tweens. She has four novels traditionally published and believes that a writer’s strength comes from their writing community.

 

What was your favourite picture book? What was special about it?

Little Blue Ben, by Phoebe Gilman. I obsessed over this book as a child and still have my copy! It’s written in rhyme, and I know the opening lines by heart… Little Blue Ben lives in the glen, with his brother blue cat and his mother blue hen… It’s the first fantasy story I can remember (what human had a cat for a brother and a hen for a mother!).

 

What was the first chapter book you read?

I definitely do not remember that far back 😉

 

What was your favourite chapter book? What was special about it?

Charlotte’s Web. I also still have that copy! I loved the magic and mystery that Charlotte was a spider who could communicate through her web.

 

Did you ever reread your favourite chapter book once you became an adult? Did it stand the test of time?

I did read it to my children, but they weren’t quite as taken with it as I was.

 

Did you read comic books? Which was your favourite?

Outside of Archie comics, I didn’t read any until I was a teen. Archie comics were the easiest to find back in the 80’s because they were at grocery stores (usually near the checkout). But when I became a teen I remember my younger brothers obsessing over the death of Superman – and that was when they sucked me into their world of superheroes.

 

Did you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

I’ve always preferred fiction over non-fiction. We grew up very poor, so escaping into stories was the only holiday/adventure I had for a long time.

 

Did you like series? Which ones?

 

In middle grade I read the Hobbit and LOTR and loved it. I also obsessed over Choose Your Own Adventure Books and the Fear Street books, but as high school progressed I learned about Ray Bradbury and nothing was ever the same again.

 

 

 

Did you have a local library? What do you remember about it?

From kindergarten to grade 3 we lived in Midale, and I only remember the school’s library – massive and beautiful with all of its shelves of pretty books. Once we moved to Moose Jaw, we lived quite a ways from the public library and all I remember is that my parents were always working. So I relied again on my school library until I was old enough to go across town on my own.

 

What I Read When I Was Young: Dianne Young

Dianne Young is primarily a picture book writer, who lives in Martensville. Her newest book, Grampa, Will You Tell Me A Story?, will be out in October.

 

 

 

What was your favourite picture book? What was special about it?

 Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss

I loved the rhythm and the rhyme of it and the pure silliness. I remember that my parents had friends that we would go visit, whose kids were older than me so weren’t terribly crazy about having to play with me. But they had a whole set of Dr. Seuss books! Every chance I got, I would sneak into the living room (while our parents played cards in the kitchen) and hide in the corner by the book shelf and read their Dr. Seuss books. Bliss!

 

What was the first chapter book you read?

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

I borrowed it from the book trailer that came to the parking lot in front of the Safeway (?) on Grant Road in Regina when I was in grade four.

 

 

 

What was your favourite chapter book? What was special about it?

My first always remained my favourite. Island of the Blue Dolphins was so exciting! And it was about a girl! A strong, independent girl.

 

Did you ever reread your favourite chapter book once you became an adult? Did it stand the test of time?

I did, and loved it just as much the second time around.

 

Did you read comic books? Which was your favourite?

I sure did! Like every kid I knew I read a lot of Archies, but I think my favourite was Casper the Friendly Ghost.

 

 

Did you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

Fiction, unless it was fairy tales or tales from other lands.

 

Did you like series? Which ones?

I was, and still am, a fan of series. I started with The Bobbsey Twins, then moved on to Trixie Belden, and Cherry Ames. I don’t remember reading a lot of Nancy Drew, because I soon discovered Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie’s famous sleuth and was hooked on them.

 

Did you have a local library? What do you remember about it?

We moved every three years when I was growing up, so I have a few different libraries that I have great memories of – the public library in Prince Albert that my dad would take us to (I remember the children’s section being downstairs and the picture books were under the window); the book trailer in Regina that I mentioned earlier, that my friend Leslie and I would ride to on our bikes; the tiny little library in Meadow Lake that always had that dusty book smell to it. I loved them all.

Meet Our Members: Judith Silverthorne

Judith Silverthorne is an international award-winning author of numerous novels for children, some of which have been translated into other languages, plus a picture book, a YA novel, and two adult biographies. Judith teaches writing classes, has presented hundreds of readings and writing workshops at libraries, schools, and other educational institutions, and has given many presentations at conferences and literary festivals. The love of nature, people, and history inspire her writing and help shape many of her books. Regina-based, she loves to travel the world acquiring knowledge of cultures, exploring mysteries, experiencing significant events, and the everyday lives of people, which she weaves into her stories. For more information about Judith and her writing see: https://judithsilverthorne.ca/

 

Describe your workspace.

I mostly write at my dining room table where I can gaze out of the large-windowed balcony doors to a delightful view just above the trees across the city. Beside and behind me, I have my living space with over-filled bookshelves and artwork, (and the usual furniture pieces too, though they are often covered with books and papers). As an empty-nester, I live on my own in a 6th floor apartment near a beautiful inner city park.

 

Describe a typical workday.

Now that I’ve retired from a full-time job, almost as soon as I get up, I start writing on my laptop. I can be there for hours before I realize I should probably eat, or exercise, or do something beyond sitting at the computer. (Actually I used to do this when I was regularly employed too, only then I had to tear myself away to get to my job on time.)

I do eventually stop to eat, go for a walk outside or on a treadmill, answer emails, and converse with friends and family. But most of my day is spent writing and researching, and editing, and then writing some more or planning a variety of projects. I continue to write in the evening, if the mood strikes me and the energy lasts.

 

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

Did I say how much I love my large balcony windows? The sky is always changing as is the weather and these inspire me. I also love having the doors and windows open during warmer weather to have fresh air, and the wind rushing through. I love the openness of my living-dining room space.

 

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?

Not that I’m aware of, although maybe automatically heading to and sticking at my laptop is a trained habit?

 

What do you listen to while you work?

Only the muse in my head. Music distracts me. Either I get nostalgic or I want to get up and dance and then I’d never get any work done.

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Water, water, and more water, and occasionally snacks like apple slices with almond butter. Sometimes a trail mix or a handful of nuts perk me up. When I do remember to have a meal, I’m often eating while I work too.

 

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

My characters tell me where they want to go and what they want to do…I just follow along, writing about their actions.

 

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

If I was forced to have someone sharing my workspace, I might never get any work done. I’d probably be so busy chatting with them, sharing our work, discussing writing, and other related topics. I prefer to be on my own though probably several of my closest writing group friends would be fine. They’d likely keep me on task.

 

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Keep writing, and read what you want to write, and write some more.

 

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

 

Meet Our Members: Arthur Slade

Arthur Slade was raised on a ranch in the Cypress Hills of Saskatchewan. He is the author of eighteen novels for young readers including The Hunchback Assignments, which won the prestigious TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award and Dust, winner of the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature. He also co-created the graphic novel Modo: Ember’s End.  He lives in Saskatoon, Canada.

Check our Arthur’s website here.

 

Describe your workspace.

I have a workplace designed by a medieval inquisition. First, I stand on a horrible torture device called a treadmill desk. It is truly frightening, It forces the author to walk and write. AT THE SAME TIME. Also, my eye catching device is called an iMac. It forces the author to stare at the screen until a novel (or Facebook post) is finished. Finally, I have a wireless keyboard. I kind of like it.

 

Describe a typical workday.

I get up at 6 AM when the rooster crows and write until 8 AM. If it’s a perfect day I continue writing from 9 to 11 AM (after the child is off at school). And spend the afternoon answering emails, being pithy on social media, and drinking tea. That’s the perfect day. Often I’m answering emails and other “stuff” after 9 AM to catch up. I try to always protect those first two hours for writing. At the very least.

 

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

My treadmill desk. Yep, I make fun of it. But it keeps me healthy and I do feel more energized as I’m writing. My bookshelves because they have books on them and seeing printed books is somehow inspiring. And I love having a big screen on my iMac for my old, old eyes.  

 

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?   

Bang my head against my desk for the first five minutes. And whenever I get an edit letter.

 

What do you listen to while you work?

Heavy Metal. Lots of heavy metal. I follow that up with heavy metal. And Adele.

 

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

Turtles. The chocolate kind. Not real ones. They don’t taste very good.

 

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I fly by the seat of my imaginary pants. Don’t worry, I have real pants. I’m too lazy to plot.

 

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Stephen King. Then I could borrow ideas and money from him.

 

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

Don’t give up your day job. Keep writing until it becomes your day job.

 

 

 

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.

Meet Our Members: Sally Meadows

Sally Meadows is a multi-award-nominated author and singer/songwriter. Her picture book featuring a child on the autism spectrum, The Two Trees, was shortlisted for two awards. To date, over 3000 Saskatchewan students have seen her The Two Trees presentation and participated in her hands-on science activities. Sally’s next book, The Underdog Duck, releases in the fall of 2018. Sally is an avid photographer and happily spends her time creating from her Saskatoon home.

Want to keep up with Sally’s latest news? Sign up for her newsletter at https://sallymeadows.com.

 

Describe your workspace.

As an empty nester, I have the run of the house! I have a formal corner computer desk in our family room that I occasionally sit at, but most of my work is done at our kitchen table. This lets me look out our big windows and feel inspired by the trees, the birds, and the occasional bunny. I generally stay off the computer at night so in the early evening I also do research or write out stories longhand while sitting on my comfy couch in my living room. Music composition, not surprisingly, happens at my piano.

 

Describe a typical workday.

I start my day with warm lemon water. I then sit quietly meditating for about 20 minutes. While my breakfast is cooking I quickly review my emails. After breakfast I dive immediately into the work of the day. I am getting better at putting a priority on the most important activity of the day right off the get-go, and not getting sucked into the social media tornado. If I am not out leading workshops, doing school presentations, travelling, doing concerts, having meetings, doing trade shows, or a myriad of other things outside the home, I spend most of my day on the computer writing, blogging, editing, doing training, and organizing photos for my upcoming publications. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of song writing—it was one of my priorities for the first quarter of 2018. I also take time twice during the day to exercise—usually walking or the elliptical—for at least 20 minutes per session. Near the end of the day I address emails and pop onto social media for a bit.

 

List three of your most favourite things in your workspace and why they are meaningful.

   

 

 

 

 

I am a self-proclaimed science geek—I used to do science shows for kids, and most of my kids’ books have some element of science in them—so I like keeping a few science gadgets at the ready to fiddle with if I feel so inclined. I am also an avid crafter and often have a project sitting in the middle of the kitchen table ready to go for evenings and weekends. (Luckily I am disciplined enough not to work on crafting projects during the day!) Finally, my camera is always within reach if I see an interesting bird outside.

 

Do you have any rituals in your work habits?                             

Not really; at least, nothing more to add to what I have already mentioned above. I do try to keep a record of what I do every day in a day timer. Scheduled events are put in ahead of time. Most times I record what I do as I do it. There is the odd time that I go back and record things after the fact. So I guess my ritual is to record everything I do.

 

What do you listen to while you work?

I like silence. As a musician, if I had music on in the background, my brain would go to the music and not on the work I am doing.

 

What is your drink and/or snack of choice while you’re working?

I usually have a glass of water close by. I rarely snack when I am working but I do get up mid-morning and mid-afternoon to walk around and have a piece of fruit and/or a few nuts.

 

How do you develop your story ideas? Do you use an outline, let the muse lead you, or another technique?

I develop a lot of my story ideas in my head over a period of time, so that by the time I actually put my fingers to the keyboard, the story flows rather quickly. Having said that, I do a LOT of fine-tuning after the initial draft. Music is an entirely different beast. I most often start writing a song after getting a snippet of melody in my head. I then go to the piano and build the song from there. What the song is going to be about can come quickly or take a long time. And like my writing, I do tons of revisions, especially for the lyrics.

 

If you were forced to share your workspace but could share it with anyone of your choosing, who would it be?

Nope, not going to happen! I need my space. I even find it hard to work when my husband is at home, even though he spends most of his time at the basement level! On the other hand, I would LOVE to share my space when it comes to writing music. The only caveat—he or she has to be as dedicated to the process as I am.

 

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve heard or received?

I have discovered that I truly am happiest when I am creating. As much as I don’t mind doing marketing and other administrative work, after a while it saps my soul. I am so happy that I have found my groove in 2018 by putting a priority on the most important thing I do—writing and song writing—as recommended by a number of successful authors. As a writer and musician, my ultimate success will depend on producing quality work and lots of it. Everything else is secondary.

 

Thanks to Jennifer Chambliss Bertman for the use of her Creative Spaces interview questions.