What a year :)

Like a beauty queen contestant waving her last wave, Margaret and the Moth Tree’s reign as the Silver Birch Express Award book of 2013 has come to an end.

The year ended right where it began, at the Ontario Library Association conference here in Toronto, and this time, Brit was able to be there too! (Thank you, OLA!) Brit and I were part of a panel of authors talking about what our OLA award meant to us, and I want to reiterate here in cyberspace what we said (or tried our best to say) there: it was life-changing.

Apart from the honour of being nominated for (let alone winning) a provincial award because librarians selected us, the contact we were able to make with young readers was the truly priceless thing about this whole experience.

There is nothing more inspiring than direct feedback from kids. Without that contact, without that exposure, we would never have had such strong encouragement to keep going and keep writing after our very first book. I really can’t emphasize enough how much this means to fledgling authors, and of course, what it means to almost 250,000 kids.

To everyone involved in this wonderful program, a million thank-yous.

Long live the Forest of Reading!

ForestPanel

Author Marsha J. Skrypuch, Author Wesley King, Author-Ilustrator Martin Springett, Author Brit Trogen, Author Kari Trogen, and Co-Chair Helen Kubiw at the ‘Forest of Reading’ Winners Showcase

Thoughts From My Child Self: ‘Too Many Sisters’ Edition

 

There’s a fantastic reading series here in Toronto called “Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids.” It’s exactly as its name suggests: respectable adults — writers and non-writers alike — delve into their closets and basements to find their most entertaining childhood writing, and everyone gets together to laugh at them. I have yet to make it to one of these readings (they always sell out!), but the knowledge that they’re happening in my city makes me happy. This event, along with my blogger friend Caitlin’s hilarious foray into her childhood time capsule, reminded me that the last time I was back home in Edmonton, I did some digging around in my room. And oh, did I find things. What did I find, you may ask?

Sister issues! Deep-rooted sister issues I didn’t even know I had! My introverted nature = EXPLAINED.

Without further ado…

Relics of My Childhood

aka

The Tale of Too Many Sisters

 

Here is a poem I wrote about the precious escape offered by my bedroom. Sometimes sisters want to have fun, and all you want to do is have some alone time. You know, a place for yourself.

IMG_1392

 

Sisters sharing rooms. Dirty cats. Small, orchardless backyards. Some things are just so sad.

IMG_5196 - Version 2

 

Sisters are full of lies.

IMG_5189 - Version 2

They’re totally talking about my new ball behind my back. Sniff.

 

Sisters steal from you.

IMG_5193 - Version 2

 

It’s okay though. When the real world feels crowded with sisters, simply insert yourself into famous literary classics, taking the place of the main character. This allows you to hang out with imaginary people instead of your sisters.

Scan01 7 - Version 2

 

Better yet, write a book with no one else in it at all! This sisterless story won the Caldecott “Medle,” apparently.

Scan01 14 copy_2

*At the bottom it specifies that “Kari Trogen” and “me” are, in fact, one and the same.

 

Ummmmm…

IMG_1389-001

Warning: excessive sisters can lead to delusions of grandeur.

 

And if there was any doubt about my feelings on the matter…

IMG_5194-002

IMG_5194-002 - Version 2

Chatting with “Margaret” readers

 

I can’t say enough how much of a pleasure it was getting to meet so many readers, young and old, around the province this past month. Seeing the Margaret-inspired artwork some of you made, getting such insightful questions and comments, opening the mail to find a stack of reader letters… it’s been just amazing for Brit and me. And one form of reader interaction that’s been especially fun — which we just tried for the first time! — is video-chatting with book clubs.

We first heard about Toronto’s Bookworm Bookclub when two of their members, sisters Thea and Annika, made a fantastic movie trailer for the Silver Birch Award voting, costarring their mom Kim (aka Bookwormmom). They did such a good job… future filmmakers in the making, perhaps?

 

So when we got to meet this club at the Toronto “Forest of Reading” event, we jumped at the chance to virtually “attend” one of their meetings.

Bookwormmom went all out, as she writes on her website!

I set the table in the manner that Ms. Switch would have entertained her real guests – lovely flowers, pretty cakes and tea (a.k.a. pink lemonade)…

IMG_1685

We had a good discussion about how we stand up to bullies, even when the bully is an adult.  It was encouraging to know that all the girls had someone they felt they could turn to if they needed help (usually a teacher or parent).  After that, we played a game where we stayed silent with our eyes closed for 2 minutes and listened for as many sounds as possible.  It’s amazing how long it takes the ear to settle down and begin to hear the soft sounds of birds chirping or dogs barking far away.  By 90 seconds we were wavering between trying to remember all the sounds we were hearing and trying not to giggle because we felt kind of silly sitting all together with our eyes closed.  I have to admit, I peeked a few times to check that the girls weren’t all sitting there staring at me! :) Our next activity included a lot of magazines and scissors.  In the book, the moths feed on nimblers; the stuff dreams are made of.  The girls cut out pictures depicting dream-like and nightmarish images to them.  They chatted about the kinds of dreams they have and what they might mean.  I didn’t know you could have a nightmare about a spoon, but apparently it happens!  I would have loved to have done a dream analysis activity with them, but alas we barely had enough time to finish cutting out the pictures for pasting onto poster board before our author call… Each girl had a question that we had come up with earlier in the meeting.  Since all of us were siblings, we were very curious to hear what it was like to work so closely with a sister… Margaret and the Moth Tree was one of our Bookclub’s favourite books, both because of the story it told and the authors who told it.  It’s one of those sweet little tales you fondly recall on a warm summer night watching moths flit around the porch light at the cottage.  And the message of hidden strength no matter your size is one I hope the girls will carry with them always.

bookclub

What fun — it was so great to chat with you guys, and we both hung up feeling so energized and inspired.

Can’t wait to “meet” another book club, the Share-A-Story club in Milton, next month!

Margaret won the Silver Birch!!!

 

Margaret and the Moth Tree won!!!

I feel like I just want to echo everything Brit wrote on her blog last week, so I will go ahead and steal her words…

Wow!! Kari and I are so insanely thrilled… Margaret took home the Silver Birch Express Award in Toronto last Thursday! What a fantastic way to end of this whirlwind tour of Ontario. For those who aren’t familiar, the Silver Birch Express is a provincial readers’ choice award in Ontario. With over 100,000 kids voting across the province, we couldn’t be prouder to have been selected as this year’s winner in the middle grade category. The fact that we were chosen for this award by our readers makes it so meaningful to us — so much so that we are now hard at work on our next book!

As Kari and I said on Thursday, we’re so grateful to the Ontario Library Association for having us as part of the amazing Forest of Reading program. And to all the kids who took part in the program and voted: you guys are the BEST!!! Keep reading!

Thank you again, OLA, teachers, parents, and especially our readers — we’re just over the moon to have gotten to experience all this with our first book. It’s been a wild ride to share with you and Margaret!

P1020934 - Version 3

973132_10152830019875137_813431677_n

P1020942

More photos on the Margaret and the Moth Tree Facebook page! Thanks to those who sent pictures in!🙂

Margaret’s Whirlwind Week

 

Brit and I are back in Toronto after the most unbelievable and wonderful week on the road! We’ve been travelling from Parry Sound to North Bay to Thunder Bay with a roving band of fellow “Forest of Reading”-nominated authors — and meeting hundreds of amazing young Margaret and the Moth Tree readers in each city!

We’d heard before that the “Forest” award ceremonies are a once-in-a-lifetime experience for an author. And they really, really are.

In each place we went, we got to meet kids, parents, teachers and librarians who’d read our book. We heard questions and perspectives about our own story that we never would have expected. We got to know the other authors, and we got swept up with everybody in a sea of OVERFLOWING BOOK LOVE. And, as the icing on the cake… Margaret was the regional winner at all three ceremonies! Thank you so much to all the Ontario kids who read and voted. Your fantastic enthusiasm, curiosity and passion for books are such an inspiration to Brit and me. It’s been a huge boost to keep writing and try to return to the festival again some day😉

We’re so excited to meet 2,500 more of you next week at the provincial awards ceremony in Toronto!!

IMG_1642

IMG_1581

IMG_1693

IMG_1618 - Version 2

It all begins… next week!

 

When I was growing up, I listened over and over to an audiobook version of Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White. At the beginning of the tape, E.B. White says of his story: “I wrote it for children, and to amuse myself.” I always loved the sound of his voice saying those words, and they’ve come back to me often over the years. Now having been through the process of writing and publishing a kids’ book myself, I’m still inclined to agree with E.B. — writing for children is equal parts self-amusement (sometimes self-help!), and the desire to tell a story that a child might get something from.

Well, Brit and I definitely amused ourselves while writing Margaret and the Moth Tree. But so far, the writing for living, breathing children part has been a bit theoretical. So far, we haven’t got to meet and talk with that many child readers face to face…

This is about to change!!

After counting down the months, we’re off on a journey around Ontario for the Silver Birch Awards! Thanks to the wonderful Ontario Library Association who administer the Silver Birch and the rest of the Forest of Reading awards, Brit and I will be travelling by ground and by air with a group of fellow nominees. In each location, we’ll get to witness the announcement of the favourite children’s book of the year in each age category, as chosen by young voters! We’ll be going from Parry Sound (May 6) to North Bay (May 7-8) to Thunder Bay (May 10) to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre (May 16), with a school visit in Richmond Hill squeezed in on our off-time. Then I’ll be going sisterless to the final destination, Durham Region, on the 17th.

I absolutely can’t wait, though my nerves are getting a wee bit jumpy… What does it feel like to be surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of book-loving children, cheering at the top of their lungs about how much they love to read? We’re about to find out.

IMG_1192-001

“Forest of Reading” Breakfast 2013… and some reviews from kids!

 

Last week, I got to eat breakfast with a room full of people celebrating the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading Program (the program that nominated Margaret and the Moth Tree for the Silver Birch Express Award!).

It was a treat to meet the librarians and to chat with some fellow nominees. And listening to the speeches about the program, it really got me thinking about what it’s like for teachers and librarians nowadays, helping to raise a generation of young readers. This is a group of people who work a lot of unpaid overtime to bring literacy to kids, whose programs often lack the funding they need, and who are always trying to reach struggling, disengaged kids.

So when a literacy program comes along that’s as popular and effective as Forest of Reading is, it makes you want to get to your feet and cheer.

As I wrote about when nominations were announced, Forest of Reading is an annual youth reading challenge, in which ten books are selected for each age category by a group of librarians. Kids read the nominated books, then they get to decide which title takes home the prize at the end of the school year, and attend a super exciting awards ceremony where they get all worked up cheering for their favourites. Usually kids will take part within their schools, with the support of their teachers, or sometimes they’ll take part through a parent-run book club.

Something I’ve heard so many times — and something I can’t wait to witness firsthand — is that kids just love this program. It gets them excited about starting the next book on the list, and it gets them to form opinions and start discussions about what they like to read.

It’s a pretty inspiring thing, especially when it comes to reluctant boy readers. I heard someone at my table say, “Usually, it’s only the girls whose hands you have to pry a book out of when reading time is over. But after taking part in Forest of Reading, it was the boys in the class who wouldn’t let go of their books.”

Let the reading games begin!

Being nominated for one of these awards is a wonderful boost for any author, but especially for a new author. It’s obviously really encouraging to know that a committee of librarians thought your book worthy enough to nominate it. But beyond that, being a Forest of Reading title means that your book gets brought into schools in a way that it otherwise wouldn’t. It means that more teachers know about it, more students read it, and (my personal favourite part)… we get to hear kids’ thoughts on our book!!

The students have started posting their reactions on the Silver Birch online community… here are some delightful bits of conversation from the Margaret and the Moth Tree forum.

(You can keep visiting www.birch.bibliocommons.com to read the ongoing comments, but if you haven’t finished the book — beware plot spoilers!)

 

“I think this book was awesome because it showed a lot of caring and it also showed how a little girls life could become spectacular, in just a little time!”

“I think that this book is a great book because it shows how teamwork works.”

“This is so cool it is about a girl who goes to an orphanage. WOW! You should read it because Margaret saves the day!”

“I heard it’s a great book, and we have it in our school library. Ready to read it!”

“Done!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was so cool”

“I didn’t like this book because it was sad that miss switch was so mean.”

“This one’s plot is terrific and some parts are funny.”

“I love this book because it is funny and it is great for all ages.”

“I like this book because it has a good ending and it makes a lot of sense so you guys should read it.”

“Such a great book! i loved how every chapter started with a saying or a lesson. And there couldn’t have been a better ending!”

“Wow, this book was both funny and terrifying at the same time (how would you like to dangle on a window sill on a blistery day). We learned that you shouldn’t judge someone by the way they look or a book by its cover. Ms. Switch is such a lovely lady………..”

“I think this is a great book because it tells you that at the loneliest times you can still make friends and make the situation better.”

On our book becoming an eBook; Or, My Luddite life

 

My, how the world has changed…

At the risk of sounding like an old fart at the advanced age of 29, when I was young, things were so different! We passed elaborately folded notes in class instead of texts, we used landline phones to talk for hours after school (doing three-way calls if we were really fancy), and emails were sent from the family desktop or in computer labs. Before Skype came on the scene, my now-husband and I didn’t see each other’s faces for six months when I went away on a student exchange. I know that’s nothing compared to, say, The Penelopiad — but for young people nowadays, that would be unthinkable!

On top of all the technological evolution that’s happened since I was a teenager, I’m also one of those people who’s often suspected/been told that they might have been more at home in another century altogether. Over the past decade, the comments have graduated from “It’s so annoying that you don’t text” to “We’re all on Facebook… why aren’t you?” to “It’s so annoying that you don’t have a smartphone.” (Full disclosure: I still listen to books-on-tape that are actual cassette tapes, on a cassette player that makes a ticking noise due to being dropped on the ground so many times. What can I say, it’s comforting!)

I’ve since taken one step after another into the iPad-iPod-iEverything world. But to my former Luddite self, thinking back on how Brit and I couldn’t have written “Margaret and the Moth Tree” without today’s technology is amazing. And the news that “Margaret and the Moth Tree” is now available as an e-book is pretty mind-boggling.

For those of you taking part in the reading revolution… here she be on Kobo!

“Margaret and the Moth Tree” on Kobo!

P.S.

This cartoon from Debbie Ohi is true-to-life, as I observed over the holidays when I witnessed my two-year-old nephew trying to figure out why the television wasn’t a giant touch-screen. His little finger kept swiping and swiping… !

150080_10151650986559768_1802416446_n

An overdue post about some highly exciting developments

 

Okay I’ll get right to it… Margaret and the Moth Tree has been nominated for a kids’ choice award!!!

This is such a wonderful honour for Brit and me, as the nominations are done by people who read a lot of children’s books — librarians and educators — and it’s hugely exciting, because the votes will be cast by students across the province!

Here in Ontario these awards are called the “Forest of Reading” (aka the Tree Awards), with a different “tree” for each age category. Margaret‘s category is the Silver Birch Express Award: fiction and non-fiction aimed at the Grade 3-4 reading level. This year’s nominees are listed here :)

How it works is, students at participating schools have to read five out of the ten nominees in order to cast their vote. Then in May, the Ontario Library Association holds an awards ceremony and announces the winners in front of  all the kids. This footage makes me feel absolutely giddy that Brit and I will get to attend. So many children… so much literary love… eek!

 

And there you have it: proof that kids can get just as excited about BOOKS as they can about Justin Bieber!!

 

To add to the excitement, Margaret has also been nominated for TWO other awards (eek!).

The first is one that you — yes, YOU! — can cast a vote for.

Margaret’s been nominated for Best Middle Grade Fantasy in this year’s YABC Choice Awards. Staff editors from Young Adult Books Central nominate their favourites of 2012 (huge thanks to editor Claire Johnson), and the public has until midnight on New Year’s Eve to vote. Should you care to vote for Margaret, click HERE. (Best to do a search for “moth tree” if you’d rather not scroll through every category.)

Margaret has also been nominated for a Cybils Award in the “Science Fiction and Fantasy” category. The Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Awards are nominated by the reading public and judged by a panel of children’s book bloggers. We’re just thrilled to be included among the nominees — thank you so much, lovely online friends.

 

And lastly…

The Sisters Trogen are proud to present… Margaret and the Moth Tree‘s shiny new book trailer!

“Margaret” at WOTS Festival 2012

This past weekend I had my very first experience of The Word on The Street festival, where I got to read Margaret and the Moth Tree to a crowd of strange parents and children for the first time! (They were strange to me, that is. I’m sure they were quite normal overall.)

This was my first time being a “featured author” somewhere, and I had no idea what to expect…

My date for the day was my baby sis, Emily, who very kindly carried my belongings for me when I was otherwise occupied (and was a good sport about being asked repeatedly if she was Brit Trogen!).

As soon as we stepped out of the subway by the Royal Ontario Museum, we were right in the middle of the action. Queen’s Park Circle was full of tents and people, and I did a double-take when I saw a giant Olivia the Pig walking around.

We made our way through the hubbub to a lovely lunch for the participating authors and illustrators, at Hart House on the University of Toronto campus, which is really beautiful and looks a bit like Hogwarts.

The first person I made eye contact with and thought, “Hey, I’ve met that person somewhere — where have I met that person?” turned out to look familiar because he was Vincent Lam, the Giller-prize winning writer. I had this realization midway through eating a pastrami sandwich. Surreal moment number one.

When it was time to take my turn at the children’s tent, my nerves were immediately eased a bit by the sight of a tent full of people in chef’s hats, and the author-illustrator Kevin Sylvester giving his reading in full chef’s get-up. (Kevin’s children’s series, the Neil Flambé Capers, is about a boy chef.) Watching him sketch illustrations in front of the audience as he talked, I wished that I was an illustrator as well as an author! But I suspect the story of Margaret would not be better told by me drawing wonky-looking moths on an easel…

Kevin left to go to the signing tent, and author-illustrator Patricia Storms, the host, introduced me. The sun had just decided to hide and it had started raining, but since I was telling the story of Brit and me coming up with the idea of writing a book on a stormy car trip, the rain seemed appropriate. It seemed fitting for poor Margaret’s fate in the opening chapters, too!

And then, the most fun part: getting to read aloud and do all the voices! Especially when Brit’s not up there next to me, I like having Great-aunt Linda and Cousin Amos and Gertrude and Prudie and Hannah and Switch to help me out😉

Click here to see more WOTS photos on the “Margaret and the Moth Tree” Facebook page!

I’ve had the chance to read in front of a couple different kinds of groups now, and my favourite reading experiences have been in classrooms when you can talk to the kids afterwards. There wasn’t any time for that, though, so I was ushered off to the other tent to sign a pile of Margarets.
That was when the strangest, most wonderful moment of the day happened: a little girl whose mother had bought Margaret and the Moth Tree for her at the festival that morning had read the ENTIRE THING. Cover to cover! She and her mom came to get her copy signed, and she told me she’d been looking for a book report book and was going to do Margaret. Amazing!

The Word on The Street takes place in six cities across Canada every September.
Learn more about WOTS here.
 

the festival’s logo… I approve