#fridayreads Anupya Pamidimukkala Interviews YA author Carrie Mac

October 31, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Carrie-macAs part of the eWriter in Residency series of #fridayreads interviews, fab teen writer and TPL's own Youth Advisory Group member Anupya Pamidimukkala interviewed Vancouver author Carrie Mac about writing inspirations, formative books, and what drives her creativity.
Carrie Mac is the award-winning Vancouver-based author of eleven novels for teenagers, including the breathlessly paced fantasy Droughtlanders (the opening novel of her Triskelia series), high-interest low-literacy novels for Orca Books, and most recently The Opposite of Tidy. She lives with her partner and kids in East Van. You can connect with her on twitter: @carriemacwrites, or drop by her website: carriemac.com

Anupya: Was there a formative book of your childhood, teenagehood and adulthood? What is it and why do you think you connected with it?

Carrie: This is always a tricky question, and definitely don’t hold me to the answer, because it’s never the same and there is no one book. I have a long, glittery train made up of beloved books that I’ve read, and it’s always trailing behind me. I just need to look back and choose the ones that sparkle the most. I can honestly say that I’ve never been able to narrow it down to one. Never.
Childhood: Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh. I saw myself in the main character, and went so far as to crafting my own spy belt and monitoring my own set of locals on a regular ‘spy route.’ Also, there was so much at stake when her friends read what she wrote about them. It put her friendships at risk, and the fallout was immense. I realized then what kind of power words carry, and how they can be used to sharped your own identity and injure others.
Teenagehood: The books of Anne Cameron, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro. Those are the writers who introduced me to so many women and girls, and wrote such compelling stories about them, and let me into the lives of their characters so that I could snoop and spy and collect all the shiny bits. 
Stephen King taught me that being terrified is exhilarating and to trust the writer to bring me through the terror to a compelling and satisfying end, without it being pat. Robertson Davies deftly created characters and place and relationships, and worked them into such rich tapestries. When I read anything by him, I felt like I was sitting at the feet of a profoundly gifted storyteller. Perhaps the writer who most influence me as a teenager?  Raymond Carver. He showed me that the lives of working class people (my people) are filled with stories worth writing about too, and that you don’t need to go on and on and on and on to relate human emotions when you can nail it down so adroitly with less. I truly, truly wish that he hadn’t died at 50, when he still had so much to write.
Adulthood: Over the years I've looked forward to new work by Zadie Smith, Sarah Waters, Anne Enright, Shani Mootoo, Khaled Hosseini, Jeffrey Eugenides, Anne-Marie MacDonald, Jonathan Safran Froer, and José Saramago among others. And I’m always excited to be introduced to a writer whose work I’m not familiar with. But I can’t narrow it down to any small number. That part of the train is vast and so shiny, sometimes I need to wear sunglasses to look at it. So many books. So many writers. So many characters. So many stories. Thank goodness for the abundance . . . although sometimes it’s hard to find the really good stuff.
Anupya: Were the characters in The Opposite of Tidy inspired by real-life people? What gave you the idea to write The Opposite of Tidy?
Carrie: I’m a magpie when it comes to characters. I shamelessly steal all the shiny bits from real people and real happenings and real perils, and then I use them to build my characters and stories. The characters from The Opposite of Tidy are all very fictional, even though I can see where I’ve woven in bits from real-life observations. The story came from being in a hoarded house as a paramedic. I’d climbed over the detritus with my partner and we were doing CPR on a mostly-dead man while the firefighters worked on a way to extricate him. I saw several hoarded houses when I was a paramedic. I am fascinated by hoarded homes and the people who live in them, especially because I am fastidious when it comes to my own home, and am very much a minimalist. 
Anupya: What was the most difficult scene to write in The Opposite of Tidy?
Carrie: Not a scene, but an element of the story. I didn’t want to harp on the actual artifacts that stuffed Junie’s home from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, but I did want to establish and maintain the feel of the hoard on every sensory level. I wanted to achieve that without repeating too much or interrupting the narrative with lists of items and descriptions of the mess. That was a challenge.
Anupya: Based on your website carriemac.com, I think you are eccentric and hilarious. As a person with a similar personality, I find it hard to articulate what I want to say when I write. My head gets too clouded to function. Do you know what I mean? Do you have any techniques that help?
Carrie: This has been a challenge for me since I was a little girl. My imagination is the strongest part of me, and sometimes it takes over in very unhelpful ways. Sometimes I get way too much inspiration, and I spend far too many late nights trying to get it all down. Sometimes my characters won’t leave me alone, and their voices are too loud and insistent. Sometimes I have so many projects on the go that I have to map them out like the London Underground. Techniques that help?
  • Avoiding the late nights (it’s taken me almost 40 years to get a handle on this), in favour of regular sleep and early mornings instead. 
  • Avoiding the news and the Internet as much as I can. Seriously. 
  • Eating well. 
  • Reading every day.
  • Keeping a notebook and sketchbook with me at all times. 
  • Completing projects, even if I have to triage them. Each of my works-in-progress is listed on a sticky note on my kitchen wall, so I can see the big picture and know what needs doing.  
Anupya: Do you need to be in a particular mood when you write or draw? For example, do you write when you're sad or draw when you're happy? If your creativity isn't driven by mood, by what is it driven?
Carrie: My creativity has its own engine. It’s fuelled by all kinds of things, and I never lack for something to work on. I also can’t simplify its needs into categories like "happy" or "sad." I don’t believe in writer's block at all, but if there are times when I don’t want to work on one piece of writing, I’ll just work on something else. I love the editing process for times when I don’t feel like creating original content. Editing something that I’ve already written is always something I can do, and it always gets me back on track. There are also times when I MUST write, and if I can’t for some reason, I go very squirrelly.
I don’t have set hours, although I do make time from about 430am-307am for original writing, with longer stretches when I have childcare. I do my illustration work and art with my kids around, so that usually happens once they’re up. My office is on the third floor and has a door; my studio is part of the kitchen. For writing, I need silence and solitude. For art, I can have company. We homeschool our kids, so I almost always work on my illustrations with my children making art or building inventions alongside me. I love that. Absolutely love that.
Photo on 2014-10-21 at 10.05 PM #2
Anupya Pamidimukkala
Anupya Pamidimukkala is a Grade 11 student at Earl Haig Secondary School in Toronto. She is interested in computer science, writing, movie editing, mathematics, sciences and graphic design. If you've done your research, you'll also notice that she is a high-functioning fangirl.

Oh the horror!

October 31, 2014 | Ray | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

What's the most horror-rific book you read?

 Yeah, we want to know!



Love this book cover. Can this cover get a blinky-eye GIF, please?

Want movies? Check out 20 best horror films on DVD and at the library!

Tried and true, Stephen King novels will scare you.  I admit, I loved Carrie and decided to read Pet Sematary purely because it had a snarly cat on the cover.  Some folks debate the scary-merits of The Stand vs. The Shining vs. It.  However you side, that triple whammy is fantastic!

Maybe you're new to horror - or feel you've read them all. In either case, here are a few titles that are creep-tastic and chilling:

Mutant-making STI's take over the high school
Nope, this lottery isn't for money...
Gore! Zombies! Action!
Even Steven King looks up to this writer. Horror Classics.








Recommended for older teen readers.
Even the print is red. Good stuff.
Great ghosts!
Compendium of creepy stories








What horror book has scared you the most?   What do you recommend?

Throwback Thursday: Vintage Hallowe'en

October 30, 2014 | Alice | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

I love this holiday. I love the reason to put creativity to use and see if I can reasonably replicate a costume without just buying it, I love seeing other people's great ideas brought to life, and, well, I love candy, so yeah, I'm definitely feeling Hallowe'en. And yes, I even dress up for work.

But you remember when you were a kid and you were all excited about your costume and then it would be brutally cold and you'd be forced to cover the whole beautiful, special thing up with a coat? I was so bitter about that one year, I still remember it, and I was like seven or something. Man, was I mad. I talked to one person whose very clever dad used to build his costume around his winter coat when he was a kid. Dang, next year I'm doing that!

Of course, back then costumes are not what you get now. A pretty standard setup was a thin plastic mask and a sort of plastic bag printed with something that was meant to make the whole thing clear. This was, um, before safety standards were a thing and people cared if your costume was totally flammable, obviously, because this was pretty much how it looked:


Continue reading "Throwback Thursday: Vintage Hallowe'en" »

Teens Talk: The Best Writing Advice

October 29, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

TPL Teens dished on the best writing advice they ever got. 


Their advice includes: read a lot (the types of books you're interested in), keep a notebook/journal, write down what you see/hear/smell (make use of all the senses), don't reread your writing until you're finished an entire draft, and make sure to edit.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

What's on Wednesday - October 29 to November 5

October 29, 2014 | Amy | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Are you a fan of Halloween? Here are some of our awesome programs this week to celebrate the holiday!

Wednesday October 29th Halloween Party

 Thursday October 30th

Friday October 31st

And, unrelated to Halloween...

Thursday October 30th Mark-Twain

Monday November 3rd

Tuesday November 4th

Want to know what else is on this week? Take a look at the full list!


October 28, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

NYCL2012_Young_Voices_Writers_Con_MG_4677Get your creative juices flowing by trying a new writing exercise each Tuesday!

This one involves turning a real story you've told people many times into contemporary urban fantasy. How? you ask. Just add a monster!

First off, let's explore what makes a good short story:

  1. There's a clear beginning, middle and end. 
  2. The plot revolves around a small number of very different characters so we can get to know them as much as possible in the limited space available.
  3. There's a compelling plot. And possibly one or two smaller subplots.
  4. Often, there's a theme. But not necessarily.

Bring to mind a story about yourself or a friend that you tell often to get people laughing, feeling sorry for you, relating, or just knowing you better. Picture the setting where the story takes place. It would be great if it was in Toronto, since we ARE on the TPL site, but really just make sure you can see the place well.

Think of a few ways you might be able to "push" the story to exaggerate aspects of it and get a better reaction from the listener/reader. Jot these down.

Write down your familiar story somewhat realistically, allowing yourself to add any flourishes you came up with to make it a better story (if you want to), but staying fairly close to the actual story. Try to add touches of dialogue, a tiny bit of character description, some good visuals and sounds and smells. Get all the way to the ending.

Before continuing, take a moment to think about what you like and hate in fantasy stories. What’s been done too many times? Any serious cliches? Also, when you read a story you love, what’s different about it? What makes each of the characters unique? The things you love and hate should be guidance for the next step.

You're going to replace one of the characters in your story with a magical creature (monster, unicorn, witch, dragon, etc.). Think about which character would work best or be most fun, in terms of the plot. You can change the story to work better, if you have to. Or even add a new character.

Write down everything you can think of about that magical creature: where it sleeps, what it eats, how it might talk and interact with humans, and how your main character will react to seeing it.

You’re finally ready to rewrite your story with the magical character in it. Try to make the creature's appearance happen naturally, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world to see a djinn or Fox Woman on the streets of Toronto.

And PLEASE post your stories in the comments below! Can't wait to read them!

I'm posting another writing exercise next week (Tuesday), so you have a little time.

Writing Tip #2: Make Friends With Writers

October 27, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

NYCL2012_Mar_YAG's_MG_2769Each Monday during the eWriter residency, I'll post a new tip for emerging writers. The first one is over here. 

Tip #2 is to make friends with other writers. Talking to them is an important part of developing your skills and knowledge of the industry. But it can be a little hard to meet us.

Many writers jealously guard alone time and can be notoriously hermit-like. We can be afraid of social situations where we have to (gasp) interact with strangers. We are the lurkers and the observers. Some of us have been known to bring a book and even a backup book to parties... just in case there's a chance to slip into a quiet corner. Sometimes we lead smallish closed lives, and burrow deep inside our minds, despite what might seem like a whirlwind of activity and promotional efforts on social media.


Don't let that discourage you from finding like-mind people. Here are a few effective ways to meet the illusive animal:

  • Go to someone's website and send them a personalized message. Trust me, hearing from a thoughtful reader is a job perk. But make sure you've read their book beforehand, and say something smart!
  • Attend literary readings, events and award ceremonies that sound interesting, and make a resolution that you'll talk to a couple people you've never met. Open Book Toronto and the Patchy Squirrel Litserv (patchysquirrel@gmail.com) are two of my favourite ways to find out about stuff.
  • Interview them for your blog or another online forum and dazzle them with unique questions. This is an especially good tactic when they're promoting a new book!
  • Review their book and send them a link to the published piece.
  • Form your own writers' group and invite writerly friends to join.

Continue reading "Writing Tip #2: Make Friends With Writers" »

#fridayreads Interview with YA author Mariko Tamaki

October 24, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

Photo by Sorrell Scrutton
Mariko Tamaki is an author of young adult novels and comics. She is also the co-creator of This One Summer and Skim with her cousin Jillian Tamaki. And she's currently working on her next YA book, about unexplained phenomena, frozen yogurt, and California.

Mariko and I have a history. In 2005, we spent nine days together in a compact car, touring around the east coast to promote my anthology Girls Who Bite Back.

But I first met her through her writing. Mariko's novella Cover Me (published waaaay back in 2000) spoke to me like a good friend whispering funny, lewd secrets right into my ear. After that, I devoured everything she wrote. In fact, my little magazine Kiss Machine published a short version of her graphic novel Skim (about a teen girl who's anything but "skim"), which later went on to become a full-length book that was nominated for a Governor General's Award in the Children's Lit Category. 

It's timely that I'm interviewing her right now. Her most recent graphic novel (illustrated by the superbly talented Jillian) was also nominated for another Governor General's Award in the Young Adult Category. 

Emily: How does it feel to be nominated for a Governor General's Award? A second time.

Mariko: Thrilling. Even more so because my cousin and collaborator Jillian Tamaki is nominated.

Emily: Why do you write?

Mariko: Because I love it. I can't imagine doing anything else.

Emily: What's the hardest thing about writing?

Continue reading "#fridayreads Interview with YA author Mariko Tamaki" »

Ken Sparling: The Writer Behind the (Young Voices) Machine

October 23, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Ken SparlingLast night was the award ceremony for the 2014 edition of Young Voices mag (which is 49 years young, by the way), and there's some huge giant teen writers' conference happening this Saturday (which you better be registered for by now!).

Thought I'd interview the guy who always seems to be running around making things happen behind the scenes. If you've ever been involved with Young Voices, you've probably met him. 

But do you know much about his secret life as an author of experimental fiction and poetry?

Back when I even wasn't capable of thinking of myself as a writer, I heard rumours of some guy named Ken Sparling.

He was a ruthless editor, known to suggest that a rambling short story should be cut to three brief paragraphs. A writer of the sparsest prose and poetry. A guy who regularly rode his bike from North York down to King Street to pick up a bag of zines for review in Broken Pencil: The Magazine of Zine Culture and the Independent Arts (where I worked as an editor for several years).

So, now, we'll find out about the inner workings of Young Voices straight from Ken. 

Emily: What's your super-important position at the TPL?

Ken: I’m a communications officer involved in a lot of teen initiatives, including Young Voices and WORD OUT teen summer reading. Basically, my job is to look for ways to spread the word among teens about all the great stuff the library has for them.

Young Voices ConferenceEmily: Who else works behind the scenes to make the conference and magazine happen?

Ken: It’s a big program and it’s growing, thanks in large part to our donor, the Daniels brothers, who support the program in honour of their mother Norine Rose. We also get support for the Young Voices Writers Conference from Deloitte. Both of these supporters are on board thanks to the hard work of the staff in the Toronto Public Library Foundation. We have a large group of teen volunteers, dubbed the Editorial Youth Advisory Group, who do everything from selecting what gets published in Young Voices to creating an Instant Anthology at the Young Voices Writers Conference every year.

There’s a library staff team that works hard to make the conference, the magazine, the electronic writer in residence and the Young Voices workshops happen, including Lillian, Nalini, Cameron, Adele, Amanda, Jennifer and Jayne. My manager, Brian, is a great help. And our designer, Cathy, makes the magazine look beautiful and creates promotional materials for all the Young Voices initiatives. There’s a teen social media team that promotes Young Voices initiatives… I could probably go on, but I better stop. It’s big!

Jenn and Lillian at young voices magazine launch
Jenn and Lillian at the Young Voices 2014 magazine launch

Emily: Young Voices magazine has been published for more than 40 years. Tell us about the history of the program.

Ken: Close to 50 years, actually… I think it might be 50 years next year! It started at the North York Public Library in the 1960s. It was basically a zine back then. But it’s gotten slicker. By the time the city of Toronto amalgamated, North York was making thousands of copies of the magazine and distributing them through all 19 of their library branches. When the current Toronto Public Library was formed in the late 1990s, Young Voices came along for the ride.

We added some writing workshops, then the annual writers conference, and now we have you, Emily, our electronic writer in residence!

Cameron and nalini at young voices magazine launch
Cameron and Nalini at the Young Voices 2014 magazine launch

When I came on board, everything that went into the magazine – all the stories, poems and art – was selected by a team of professional writers and artists. We used to only accept submissions between November and April and the magazine was run like a kind of contest. But in the mid-2000s we started thinking more the way a literary magazine might think… we started taking submissions year round, and in 2006 we formed the Editorial Youth Advisory Group to select what goes in the magazine, with the help of six professional writers and a professional artist. We currently print more than 12,000 copies of Young Voices each year and distribute them for free, mainly through all 99 Toronto Public Library branches.

Emily: How did you originally get involved in the Young Voices programming?

Continue reading "Ken Sparling: The Writer Behind the (Young Voices) Machine" »

Why Does the World Need People Who Write? (TPL Teens on Writing)

October 22, 2014 | E Writer in Residence - Emily Pohl-Weary | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

In honour of tonight's massive celebration/launch of the 2014 Young Voices magazine, I give you our latest video, in which Toronto teens weigh in on why the world needs people who love to write...


They believe that people who love to write evoke the dreams we all want to be part of, provide great entertainment, pass down ideas from the past, generate new ones, and encourage empathy.

Why do you think the world needs people who love to write?

E-Writer in Residence My Curved Border

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