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November 8, 2010 | Allan Stratton | Comments (0)

It’s been a wonderful month at the library. Following the Meet ‘n’ Greet and the Young Writers conference, I met with the public on October 28th to discuss writing Fact-Based Fiction. In particular, people were interested to hear about the people I met in Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Malawi and Zambia in writing my novels Chanda’s Secrets and Chanda’s Wars; and of the friends, teachers and teens from subSahara who’ve vetted the works. The more I travel, the more I’ve come to understand our human commonalities not as abstractions but as visceral realities. Cultural expressions differ, but the heartbeat behind them is the same. To imagine oneself as the Other, and the Other as oneself is one of the great challenges of life; in pursuit of that goal literature serves as a bridge across centuries and continents for readers and writers alike. We laugh and weep as we read patterns of ink on paper, abstract shapes that create bonds across divides.


Then, this past Saturday, I was part of the inaugural Human Library, organized by Ab Velasco and other of the imaginative and hardworking library staff across the system. Approximately sixty people from all walks of life offered themselves as ‘human books’ that could be ‘borrowed’ by interested library patrons for one-on-one chats. What a fun and novel idea.


Throughout the month, too, I’ve been meeting one-on-one with writers at all levels of development. The talent and commitment of all those who’ve submitted work is humbling. I wish I had the time to see everyone who submitted -- not getting an appointment has in no way been a comment on wonderful work -- but those sessions I’ve been able to schedule have been among my happiest times at North York Central.


Oh -- a little reminder -- this Saturday, November 13 between 1:00 and 4:00, I’ll be doing a workshop on character creation. The workshop uses theatre techniques like visualization and ‘hot seat’ improv to help writers to create charcaters from inside their characters heads. Space permitting, I hope to see you there!



October 18, 2010 | TPL Staff | Comments (0)

Thanks to Elsa Ngan who organized the fantastic Young Writers conference at the North York Public Library. After a great continental breakfast of fresh fruit, muffins and juice, the young writers and mentors settled in to a day of stimulating workshops. I was lucky to have two groups of extremely talented and hardworking writers; we shared writing problems and the various solutions we've each discovered. It's always amazing to me to know that no matter what age we are the same issues keep recurring.

One of the best things about the conference is the knowledge that there are so many others who share our passion for creating worlds and people on paper. Seeing the young wqriters sharing strories and ideas with each other over an equally fine lunch was perhaps the most inspiring part of the day for me.

Writing. What a miracle -- creating squiggles of ink on paper that become human beings in our imaginations, able to make us laugh and cry!


October 4, 2010 | Allan Stratton | Comments (0)

So... I'm now officially installed as Writer in Residence and am really looking forward to my two months with you.


Saturday afternoon, I was at the North York Public Library for a Meet and Greet. Greg, Elsa and some of the friendliest librarians I've ever met had laid out a table of cheese, fruit and sweets. About forty people showed up from age ten to seventy. After a short reading from CHANDA'S SECRETS, I fielded questions, then all of us mingled.


I particularly remember talking to a young woman in grade nine and a young man who, at a guess, might be in grade six. It brought me back to my youth in London, Ontario. In grade nine, I auditioned for James Reaney -- Canada's greatest playwright and one of its greatest poets. He cast me in the first production of his play LISTEN TO THE WIND. After that experience, I joined his "Listener's Workshop" at Alpha Centre, an arts centre he founded where he workshopped scenes from his plays-in-progress, like COLOURS IN THE DARK; produced puppet shows, like NAMES AND NICKNAMES; and published his hand-typeset literary magazine Alphabet.


Jamie read my plays, encouraged me, lent me Alpha Centre to produce a couple of them, and published one of them -- THE RUSTING HEART -- when I was in grade twelve. That led to my first paid professional production: Norman Newton, a CBC producer in Vancouver read it in Alphabet and asked me to adapt it for radio.


I don't edit a magazine or run a workshop space, but I'd like to provide young writers (new writers of any age, actually) the kind of advice, support and encouragement that Jamie provided me. In addition to my public events at the library, I'll be reading writing submissions and meeting one-on-one with as many applicants as I can. (Submission guidelines and deadline are elsewhere on this site.) This is the part of the job I'm most looking forward to.


I'll be at the Writer's Table at the Young Voices Writers conference on October 16; I'll also be fielding questions about writing fact-based fiction and my personal travels and research in subSaharan Africa at 7:00 p.m. on October 28: both events to be held at the North York Public Library.


But starting today, I'll be reading your work and getting back to you on a time for us to meet and discuss it in person. Don't be a stranger!







Allan Stratton is the internationally-acclaimed author of Chanda's Secrets, winner of the American Library Association's Michael L. Printz Honor Book, the Children's Africana Book Award, and ALA Booklist's Editor's Choice among others.