Author Interviews, Authors, Book Interviews, Lauren Reyes-Grange

Interview with Lauren Reyes-Grange

 

I’ve been wanting to interview my co-author, Lauren Reyes-Grange.

But how do you do that when she is your daughter, as well as the person who inspired the first Myrtle the Purple Turtle book?

I decided to put on my professional interviewer’s hat — after all, I’d done thousands of interviews in my journalistic work.  Here goes:

When did you first realize you loved to tell stories?
LRG: I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to read stories, write stories or tell stories. I am fairly certain I was born with a wild imagination. Pair that with two parents who were superstar journalists (and naturally fantastic storytellers), and I think I was bound to catch the bug, too. 

Blog Photo - Lauren headshot

What was it like growing up in a house of storytellers and writers?
LRG: It was wonderful. I loved hearing stories about my parents’ work, about their day. My parents also encouraged my sister and me to read, be curious, stand up to injustice, and look for the humour in everyday things which I believe makes for great storytelling. 

Do you remember any of the stories you first wrote?
LRG: Yes. One of the first stories I wrote was about a bird who, after overcoming some obstacles, learns how to fly. 

Blog Photo - Lauren and Quentin and CR
Cynthia, Lauren at 5, and her beloved doll Quentin

A story your mother wrote for you when you were nearly five, was published many years later and became an immediate bestseller. What was that like for you?
LRG: Pretty emotional in all the best ways possible. Myrtle the Purple Turtle was a lifesaver for me when I was going through a tough time at school. Myrtle’s story made me feel proud, confident and strong. I feel very lucky that 28 years later we were able to share this gift with children who may need a reminder that they should be proud of what makes them different/unique. 

Myrtle - Cover latest at 2MB

You are now the co- author of the Myrtle series, and you are the one who comes up with the new story ideas. Where do your ideas come from?
LRG: After visiting numerous schools and speaking with children of all ages, it’s clear that messages of inclusion, kindness and friendship are still very much needed. This is what’s inspired us to continue writing more books and has made the ideation process relatively simple.  

Myrtle - Cynthia and Lauren and Students

How did you react the first time you saw your name on a book cover?
LRG: Incredibly proud. I still can’t believe I’m an author. I also feel very fortunate that I get to collaborate with my mum on this. It’s made the entire experience even more meaningful for me. 

Book Cover on Amazon - Myrtles Game

Why are the messages in the Myrtle books so special to you – and what do you hope children will get from the books?
LRG: The messages in Myrtle’s books are how I was raised. I hope the Myrtle series inspires children to act with kindness, to make their peers feel included, to be a good friend and to embrace their own differences. 

Myrtle Makes a New Friend - Cover Front 3 Sept 2019

What are your hopes for the series?
LRG: I hope we continue writing books! At least 1-2 books every year for as long as there’s an audience who wants to read them. I would love to speak with even more children and continue to inspire young people to act with kindness and self-esteem.

Your own daughter is due to be born soon. Can we assume you will be reading the Myrtle books to her when she gets old enough?
LRG: Absolutely. I’ve already started reading the books to her, but she likely doesn’t know that yet. I hope she falls in love with Myrtle’s message and is as proud of me as I am of my mum.

Blog Photo - Lauren and Dan

 

A Good Home, Authors, Books

When an Author Has a New Book

In Canada, autumn is when a lot of new books are released.

But completing a book, and publishing it, can take an author years. It’s a huge achievement.

Blog Photo - Lee Gowan Book cover

Blog Photo - Yvonne Blackwood book cover

So you can imagine that when a writer releases a new book, messages of support and encouragement matter – a lot.

“Congrats! How may I find out more about it?”

“Wow! I’m happy for you!”

“Where can I buy it?”

“What can I do to help you spread the word?”

“I’ll recommend it to my local library.”

Blog Photo - Laurie's book covers

It’s the way to an author’s heart.

Writing is a lonely act. And when it’s done, you hope the book is great, but you secretly fear others will think it’s awful.  So when others deem my book worthy of buying?  Wow.  I’m honoured.

Book Cover - An Honest House

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By the way:  If you’ve bought and read someone’s book (and especially if you liked it), a short review on Amazon — or a blog, or social media — helps. 

Blog Photo - Robbie Cheadle new book

Blog Photo - Bette Stevens Book Cover

Explain why you like the book and why you are recommending it to others.  And if there’s something you didn’t like, say so as well. That’s really all you have to do!

~~

There are some responses that will disappoint an author with a brand-new book:

1: “You know, I’ve always wanted to write a book on that same topic. Maybe I still should.”

2: Start talking about the book you’ve already written that’s so similar, then ask: “Can you help me get my book published?” 

3: “I wrote a book just like that and I didn’t sell many copies. But I wish you luck.”

It’s not that you shouldn’t say any of the above. (Most authors are happy to help others.) But not as a first response. Take the time to acknowledge their achievement first.

~~

Please join me in congratulating three more authors who have written new books in recent months:

Jill Weatherholt, author of Second Chance Romance, has published “A Father for Bella”. Jill describes her books as “stories of love, faith and happy endings”.

Blog Photo - Jill Weatherholt Second Chance Romance - CoverBlog Photo - Jill Weatherholt A-Father-For-Bella - Cover

Annika Perry has published The Storyteller Speaks, a compelling mix of short stories, poetry and flash fiction. Annika says the one common thread that binds them all is“the belief that there is no such thing as an ordinary life; they’re all extraordinary.

Blog Photo - Annika Perry The Storyteller Speaks - Cover

And, coming soon from Toronto author Nadia Hohn, is Harriet Tubman: Freedom Fighter.  Written for young readers, this illustrated book follows the much-praised Malaika stories.

Blog Photo - Nadia Hohn Harriet Tubman book cover

Congrats, authors! I’m happy for you!

Cynthia.

A Good Home, Artists, Authors, Canadian Authors, Canadian Prime Ministers, Northumberland County, Ontario, Portraits, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group

Artist Susan Statham’s Great Year

Blog Photo - Susan Statham in Studio

2017 has been a heck of a year for Susan Statham, and that’s not counting the new arts festival she’s co-chairing in November, or the murder mystery she’s almost completed writing.

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Self Portrait

The Ontario artist – she paints and writes – has produced portraits of 12 of Canada’s prime ministers, a project that required tremendous work.

After thoroughly researching each subject, Susan painted the portrait in her home studio in Northumberland County, east of Toronto.

If you visited her home repeatedly in 2016 and 2017, you’d notice a different prime minister’s portrait on her easel each time.  It was awe-inspiring.

The portraits were commissioned by Galerie Q in Cavan, Ontario, to celebrate Canada’s 150th year as a nation. 

One surprising similarity Susan discovered in ALL of Canada’s prime ministers? They all had blue eyes. (Strange, eh?)

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Robert Borden3

But each portrait is unique.  Susan included cues.  The ‘8’ on Sir Robert Borden’s ring? He was Canada’s 8th PM. Also, a newspaper headline declares the income tax he introduced.  

In PM John Diefenbaker’s portrait, Susan says,  “The Inukshuk represents the opening of the North and the pin on his lapel as the first to sell Canadian wheat to China.”

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Portrait of John Diefenbaker

Canada’s 15th PM, Pierre Trudeau, introduced the Official Languages Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are cues to them in his portrait below.

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Portrait of Trudeau

In some cases, the cue/clue may point to a well-known controversy or personal foibles.

Take, for example, Susan’s depiction of Canada’s longest serving prime minister, William Lyon McKenzie King, who governed through the tense years of WWII, and led the creation of the TransCanada Airlines, among other deeds.

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Portrait of MLMc

Search the portrait and you’ll find other cues.  A lifelong bachelor, King was a spiritualist who visited mediums, conversed with his dead mother, political leaders and his dogs, and owned a crystal ball. He loved dogs — 3 consecutive terriers named ‘Pat’.

“We know about this because he entered it in his very comprehensive diary (1893-1950) – a diary he wanted destroyed when he died. These wishes weren’t followed. In fact, you can read his diary online.” 

Then there’s Lester Pearson, prime minister from 1963 to 1968.  He received the Nobel peace prize for defusing the Suez Canal crisis; Susan wrote the Nobel motto “Pro pace et fraternitate genitum” (“For the peace and brotherhood of men”) on the bookcase behind him.

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Portrait of Lester Pearson

Other telling details:

“In the bookcase are binders representing some of his accomplishments, despite leading minority governments – universal health care, Canada pension plan, student loans, the 40-hour work week, the auto pact, the point-based immigration system, and the abolition of capital punishment. He was determined to give Canada a new flag and despite intense opposition, he persevered.”

Blog Photo - Susan Statham Book The paintersCraft

But there’s yet another side to this talented artist: Susan writes short stories and books. Her novel, The Painter’s Craft, is a murder mystery, set in Toronto’s art world.  

Susan says: “The inspiration for this book, published by Bayeux Arts, came from one sentence in one art class – ‘Cobalt violet is the most poisonous colour in your paint box’.”

Her second novel in the series, titled True Image, is almost complete. It won the inaugural Medli Award for most promising manuscript by a published author.

Blog Photo - Susan Statham and Pet

You’d think that would keep Susan busy enough, but she’s also president of her local arts association, Spirit of the Hills.

Blog Photo - SOTH Partial Group

The group represents 150 artists from diverse disciplines – visual artists, illustrators, designers, sculptors, musicians, artisans, photographers, writers, and more, from Northumberland County and neighboring regions.

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival of the Arts Photo

On November 3 and 4, Spirit of the Hills will hold a Festival of the Arts in the beautiful lakeside town of Cobourg.  Susan and Felicity Sidnell Reid are its co-chairs. The Festival opens with a bi-lingual musical, closing with a concert and anthology launch. A book fair, art show and workshops (Susan’s leading one in portrait painting) take place between these events. 

I told Susan I hope she plans a good long rest in December.

But I’m not counting on it!

A Good Home, Artists, Authors, Canadian Authors, Canadian Homes, Canadian life

AT HOME WITH AUTHOR YVONNE BLACKWOOD

Yvonne Blackwood is best-known for the books she’s written about her African travels: “Into Africa A Personal Journey”, and “Into Africa – the Return”.

The former bank manager loves books. Writing them, and reading them. 

Blog Photo - Yvonne with Book

Not surprisingly, there are many books in her home north of Toronto. The photo above shows her in the bedroom “nook” overlooking the wetlands behind her home. 

“I can watch the geese frolic there all year except for the winters. A bookshelf stands in a corner and it is chock full of my favourite books along with books bought but not yet read.” 

Blog Photo - Yvonne wetlands2

More recently, Yvonne authored a humorous book “Will That Be Cash or Cuffs?”

Blog Photo - Yvonne at Desk

Long before that book, however, Yvonne wrote two others.

“One crisp autumn morning after exiting the train, I walked briskly up University Avenue (in Toronto) to my office. I noticed a tiny park next door to a large courthouse, and a gang of squirrels were frolicking and having a good time there. The crab apple trees in the park had lost all their leaves.

“It was a beauty to see the slender branches covered with thousands of little ripe crab apples. Some were strewn on the ground and the squirrels were feasting on them. Suddenly, an idea came to me; write a children’s book about squirrels living in a city!”

But she couldn’t find a publisher. Last fall, she “dusted off the manuscripts, edited them”, found an illustrator and published the books herself. 

Blog Photo - Yvonne Nosey Charlie 1

Two Nosey Charlie books – for children 3 to 8 — were published earlier this year on Amazon’s platform, Createspace.

Blog Photo - Yvonne Nosey Charlie 2

How is writing for children different than writing for adults? I asked.

“The big differences are―because it’s a children’s picture book―pictures show the readers a part of the story, therefore, there is no need to spell out everything in prose; you use fewer words. Each book has less than fifteen hundred words.

“You also have to be a bit more careful with the words you use. Although you never ‘talk down’ to children, at the same time you do not use too many big words, and you do not write long, complex sentences.”

BLOG Photo - Yvonne with NC Book

As Yvonne enjoys the summer in her house and garden, there is still more news on the way.

Blog Photo - Yvonne Clematis Vine

A third Nosey Charlie book  will be published in September .

Yvonne says:  “I’ll keep writing the stories as long as I remain inspired and the readers continue to love Charlie.”

Congrats, Yvonne!