#fridayreads Teen Writer Maria Yang Interviews Graphic Novelist Willow Dawson

November 21, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Today's #fridayreads interview is with graphic novelist Willow Dawson and it was conducted by TPL Editorial Youth Advisory Group member Maria Yang

PressShotOfWillowDawson-ByDanijela Pruginic2008-300dpiCMYKWillow Dawson's books include Ghost Limb (self-published), Hyena in Petticoats (Penguin Books), No Girls Allowed with Susan Hughes (Kids Can Press), and more. She is currently raising a baby while finishing revisions on The Wolf-Birds (Owlkids Books) and Avis Dolphin (with Frieda Wishinsky, Groundwood Books), both due in 2015. And she is in development of 100 Mile House (excerpts: Top Shelf 2.0). Her books are supported by the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts. www.willowdawson.com

Maria: Why did you choose to be an illustrator and comics creator instead of a novel writer?

Willow: I've always had a difficult time with reading and by extension, writing. I'm a more visually literate person and so illustration is a natural fit. I like comics because it's a really complex storytelling medium and yet so much of the writing is visual!

Maria: What are your favorite subjects to explore in your work? Why?

Willow: My first loves are myths and fairytales, especially the older, more unsettling versions. And I like history and science, too! Wolves and ravens are a big part of my research these days and I have a couple projects on the go that bring together the scientific and mythological aspects of these awesome creatures. 

Maria: What's the hardest thing about illustrating a book?

Willow: In comics I'd say the thumbnail stage because you're translating words into images. It really is two different languages and so there is a lot of editing.

Maria: Can you give some tips or suggestions for youth who want to be illustrators and/or cartoonists?

Willow: Draw and write every single day. Self-publish and submit your work to different magazines and anthologies. It's the best and fastest way to improve your craft!

Maria: In The Big Green Book of the Big Blue Sea, you and writer Helaine Becker explain the cradle of all living things—the Ocean—through vivid illustration and tell us that the ocean is at risk. Canada is surrounded by the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans. What should we do to reduce our impact on the sea?

Willow: Firstly, what attracted me to this project was that it wasn't simply a book of alarmist facts and warnings. Instead, Helaine brilliantly delivers the information in ways that are creative, engaging and inspiring.

I think there are many ways we can decrease our footprint (eat local and organic if you can, decrease energy and water use, cycle or use public transit…) but the biggest obstacle we face is knowledge. It surprises me how many people deny that oceans are overfished / polluted, sea levels are rising, or that climate change is real, despite irrefutable scientific data. And I'm shocked when people draw blank faces at the thought that this is urgent and will require longterm vision and political engagement.

Which brings me to my next point. Our current Federal government appears to act with complete impunity, pulling Canada out of worldwide environmental initiatives, signing trade agreements with other countries that will be devastating to the environment, pouring money into tar sands, silencing the scientific community, and destroying Canada's relationship with its First Nations who rely on hunting and fishing as a way of life. And nobody holds them accountable.

This is the byproduct of a culture where people feel hopeless and politically disengaged. In order for people to be inspired to change they need to understand how the health of our fresh waterways and oceans affect them personally. Knowledge is power and large scale change won't happen until we make the political personal. It's going to require creativity and solidarity. Think about ways you can inspire friends to see hope in our future. That is where the solution lies.

MariaBorn in Beijing, China, Maria Yang moved to Canada in grade 6, and is glad to be a new Torontonian. She studies at St. Joe's and volunteers with the Toronto Public Library's Editorial Youth Advisory Group. Loves nature and animal. Enjoys reading, painting, drawing, travelling, skiing, cooking, food, and caring for vulnerable people and voiceless living beings.

What's on Wednesday: November 19 to 26

November 19, 2014 | Amy | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Poetry saved our livesThere are Pan Am poetry slams taking place throughout the city from now until August 2015! Here's the list of host branches:


Thursday, November 20

Reality of the Film Industry: Distribution & Trends - Toronto Reference Library, 6:30-8:00

What do filmmakers do when their project is ready for viewing? Sarah Goodman provides an overview and tips on film distribution, including entering the festival circuit and regaining investment. Plus: Get the inside scoop on recent film trends in a wired world.

Weston BranchSaturday, November 22

Weston Branch Centennial Celebration
- Weston Branch, all day event

Toronto Public Library is celebrating the centennial of Weston Branch with an all-day birthday party for everybody in the community. There is something for everyone - adults, kids, seniors and teens! Come join us! Please read the event listing for more information.


Indian Martial Arts Workshop - Malvern Branch, 2:00-3:30

In collaboration with IMPACT this workshop showcases Kalaripayat, a martial art form that originated from Karala, India. It evolved from weapons training and based on animal stances, has a focus on balance, strength and awareness to a point where "the body becomes all eyes". Please call to register 416-396-8970.

Toronto Mini Maker Faire (Day 1) - Toronto Reference Library, 9-5 Toronto-Mini-Maker-Faire

Come out for two days of discovery, experimentation, and innovation. Meet local makers, tinkerers, inventors and tech enthusiasts. There's fun for all ages and skill levels. Curious about 3D printing, wearable technology and electronics? Want to learn more about robotics, woodworking and soldering? The Toronto Mini Maker Faire has it all! For more details, visit makerfairetoronto.com.

Sunday, November 23

Toronto Mini Maker Faire (Day 2) - Toronto Reference Library, 10-5

Day two of the maker faire! For more details, visit makerfairetoronto.com.


Wednesday, November 26

Intro to 3D Design - Fort York branch, 6:30-8:00

Learn to design simple 3D objects and prepare them for printing. Explore the applications Autodesk 123D Design, OpenSCAD and Sculptris and get a hands-on demo of each. Registration is required. Online registration for this program begins on November 12 at 9am.

Teens Talk: Their Favourite Authors

November 19, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I talked young adult fiction with Toronto teens.

Who are their favourite authors? What do they recommend? Why do they love what they love? Are they even reading teen-specific books?

Find out now!


Who are your favourite authors and why do you love them so?

Teen Reviews: Two Tragic Love Stories

November 18, 2014 | Amy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Both reviews submitted by Lia, Youth Advisory Group member at Lillian H. Smith branch.

Romeo & Juliet
Graphic adaptation of the original play

Romeo & Juliet (multiple formats available) by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet is a classic Shakespearean romantic tragedy. The settings for the production are Verona and Mantua in Italy. In the play Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet are teenagers who fall deeply in love but their families are bitter enemies. They secretly got married and they weren’t allowed to be together they make every effort to conceal their actions but these end in tragedy when Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Mercutio and Paris all die. So suicide is the best option for them. But the story is also about feuding families and the tragic effect on their children.

As I read the play, I realized that's how real love occurs. As is seen in the play, nobody could prevent their love, and this was the point that amazed me a lot.



The Fault in Our Stars (multiple formats available) by John Green

The Fault in our Stars

Hazel and Gus are two extraordinary teenagers who are suffer lung cancer (Hazel) and osteosarcoma (Gus). Their relationship is all the more miraculous, given that they met and fell in love at a cancer support group. The Fault in Our Stars is a perfect novel because one can feel lots of emotions at the same time. While I was watching the film, I remember that I smiled and cried at the same time. I was sad because Hazel lost her best friend and her best love in the world; however, I was smiling because their smiling and the way they love was so cute. I really enjoyed watching this film. I really should thank my ESL teacher and of course thank to John Green who wrote such an amazing novel for the world. The part that impressed me a lot is Hazel’s and Gus’s relationship. They fell in love but they are also best friends of each other. For today’s teenagers trying to find this friendship has become tougher.

What I recommend for the readers or watchers is just try to feel their emotion and loyalty. 

Writing Exercise: Three-Panel Comic Set on Public Transit

November 18, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I recently found a couple strips from the now-defunct M@B comic online and it reminded me how much I used to love reading it. Of course, Matthew Blackett has gone on to do wonderful things, such as Spacing Magazine, but he used to create a semi-autobiographical comic set in Toronto.

It ran in a weekly newspaper for a while. The editor brought it on board: "because of the strip's unapologetic Toronto touches. Many comic strips take place in an unidentified Everycity, North America. Blackett, by contrast, refers to Toronto streets and landmarks by name. And in some panels, the CN Tower can be seen looming in the background."

Reading it was the best. Sort of like having a private conversation with a good friend. Or eavesdropping on someone's conversation while you're on the subway. Occasionally, you'd recognize a familiar face in one of the strips.

Here's an example: 

M@B Comic Strip

So my challenge to you is to write a three-panel comic set on the TTC. Then take a picture or scan it and post it in the comments below...

I'm no artist (think stick figures), but I'm going to challenge myself to do this, too. 

Your Bookmark Here - Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

November 18, 2014 | Helena | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read recently.  It is the story of Jack and Early’s friendship and the incredible journey they go on.  There is a lot going on in this book – it is a coming-of-age tale set in the final months of the Second World War, a thrilling wilderness adventure, and a dark mystery – but most of all, it is a really good story, and you keep reading because you want to know what happens next. 

Continue reading "Your Bookmark Here - Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool" »

Teen Review: Mayday

November 18, 2014 | Ashley | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

This review is from Nayomi C., from the Youth Advisory Group at the Malvern Branch.


Mayday By Jonathan Friesen

 Mayday by Jonathan Friesen is a very intriguing and suspenseful book. It kept me hanging most of the time and I wanted to keep on reading it. The protagonist of the story was an interesting young, girl who would do anything to save her younger sister even if that means risking her own life. She faces a lot of problems and is on death bed. However, she would still fight and save her sister. I like the characteristics of the teenager in this novel and this persuaded me to continue reading this novel. This story truly captures the love of sisterhood and the sacrifices that are needed to be made for a good relationship. Personally, I enjoyed this book because of its thrilling plot and got a new perspective on life. I also loved reading the quotations at the beginning of each chapter; they were both inspirational and unique. I would encourage teens who like suspense to read this book.

Writing Tip #5: Set Goals (and Stick to Them)

November 17, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Teen writerI've been posting one writing tip a week during my TPL eWriter Residency for Young Voices. If you are a teen writer between the ages of 129 and 19, you can submit writing for feedback (from me) via that page until Dec 8.


Today, we're going to focus on getting to the finish line in the marathon of art forms: writing books.

More specifically, we're talking novels. Though the same general technique could be applied to a collection of poetry or short stories.

It's fairly easy to come up with an idea for a novel. It's easy-ish to get started. Some mental gymnastics are required to to create an outline and keep it updated as you write. The ending usually makes itself clear at some point. 

The hard part is always the middle. You have all these balls up in the air and none of them came drop. Your first flush of inspiration is tapped out. You've put off friends, family and social life for a few weeks... and maybe you're exhausted, your brain hurts, and you're more than a little terrified by what you've just taken on.

Novels are a lot of work!

Most likely, nobody is cheering you on once you've been writing for a while or even encouraging you to keep going. Sometimes, your friends and family can even feel resentful of this project that's a huge time suck. So you're pretty much on your own.

Being on your own can actually be a beautiful thing. When you're in the middle of a giant creative project, you have this built-in invisible entertainment system. I think of it as my Creativity Console. It's always on and I don't have to buy $100 games to use it. It's free!

But keeping that Creativity Console running is sort of gruelling. I'd guess that most writers give up at least a million times before getting to the end of their novels.

Your chances of staying on track--and not giving up--are much greater if you set manageable goals for yourself and figure out a way to accomplish them that won't leave you feeling like a loner who hasn't seen the sun in weeks. I aim for 750 words a day (5 days a week) when I'm writing a first draft, five pages of editing per day during the first couple rewrites, and 10-20 pages a day when I'm copyediting.

Before I show anyone--my agent, author/editor friends, or potential publishers--I've usually worked my way through a manuscript at least four times. 

I do my best not to reread previous work too much, so I continue to move forward, but occasionally revisiting them is part of the process (at all stages).

Oh, and I am a giant nerd, so I also create these spreadsheets (Google Drive's online one is pretty great) where I tally my daily word count and watch the total word count creep upward. There's something very satisfying about it.

If I get discouraged, I ask a friend to work beside me, and I reward myself for reaching my goals by getting out, going to a movie, taking a walk, or eating a cupcake.

To summarize: Figure out what long-term goals are reasonable for you. Strive to meet them. Adjust your expectations if they're not realistic. You need a way to keep yourself on track, because nobody else will..

And... good luck getting to the finish line!


Didn't catch the previous tips? Never fear! They're over here: Tip #1: Don't Give UpTip #2: Make Friends with Writers and Tip #3: Reread to Analyze and Tip #4: Make Editing a Game.



Weekend Smile: Total Waste of Tech

November 16, 2014 | Alice | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Technology can be an amazing thing, and help us accomplish many things. Or, tech can be used just for the sake of using it, and accomplish no real work at all except for being cool or amusing.

But the weekend smile? Is all about amusing, so here are a few machines that are little less than that. Enjoy!

 First of all, there are machines that do one simple task in the most complex way that can be devised. These are known as Rube Goldberg machines, named for a cartoonist who used to draw this kind of foolish contraption. There are now competitions to see who can employ the most steps and the most convoluted method of performing one. simple. task. Check out this one on Jimmy Kimmel, which explains the idea pretty well, too:

Continue reading "Weekend Smile: Total Waste of Tech" »

Friday Faves: Dragon Age Inquisition

November 14, 2014 | Erin | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...


Dragon Age Inquisition box art

On this coming Tues, Nov 18th the latest game in the Dragon Age series, Dragon Age: Inquisition, is finally being released (alas, though we have video game programs, games are not borrowable from Toronto Public Library. Maybe one day... a girl can dream).

This highly anticipated third game in the immensely popular action RPG series set in the fantasy world of Thedas is getting rave reviews from critics across the board.

Judging by the absolute beauty of the artwork and animation, a brand new engine, and hints at an engaging story line, it's easy to see why.


I'm excited to hear that the story line is said to be more open-ended and less linear than the previous games. The previous gift and dialogue based system in romance arcs, for example, has been replaced by a more natural-feeling system of characters reacting to events and variables specific to each character. More customization options and features have also been added, as well as the ability for players to import their save files from the first two games into Dragon Age: Inquisition using Dragon Age Keep.

If you really want to pump yourself up for it, give this Joystiq article a read.

And while you're waiting for release day, have a leaf through this:

Dragon Age Vol 1

Helping set the stage Dragon Age: Inquisition, Dragon Age Vol 1 collects every Dark Horse Dragon Age comic to date -The Silent Grove, Those Who Speak, and Until We Sleep – in one complete volume, written by Dragon Age lead writer David Gaider.

And maybe watch Dragon Age: Redemption online via Hoopla while you're at it.

Dragon Age Redemption

E-Writer in Residence My Curved Border

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