2022 TPL Writer in Residence: Meet Vikki VanSickle
People engaged in creative pursuits of all types will often remark on the benefits of working away from home. Whether it’s a remote cabin, a castle, a former public school or even a sailboat, the practice of moving to a new environment for a finite amount of time, often in community with others, can be hugely beneficial for creative work.
TPL Writer in Residence Program
Toronto Public Library (TPL) hosts a number of residency programs but has maintained an especially long history of supporting a Writer in Residence. This initiative invites selected writers to take up shop in a library branch, engage in their craft, conduct programs or events with members of the public and frequently to work one-on-one with individuals looking to learn from them. Over the years, resident authors have been selected based on their work in a wide variety of genres, from memoir to historical fiction, sci-fi, short story, poetry…..the list goes on. This year, the focus of the residency is YA – short for Young Adult, or, writing that is intended for younger audiences – and the Writer in Residence is acclaimed children's author, Vikki VanSickle.
Meet Vikki VanSickle
You may know Vikki as an award-winning author of books for young people, or you may know her as a member of the kidlit publishing community where she has been a mainstay for over 10 years, first at HarperCollins Canada and then at Penguin Random House Canada. This combination of creative work as a writer across genres paired with industry experience in Canadian publishing makes Vikki a truly valuable resource for learning about writing from all angles.
Vikki is in residence at Toronto Reference Library over June and July, working from the office in the freshly minted Jack Rabinovitch Reading Room. We asked Vikki a few questions about her inspirations, process and favourite books:
What are some books that have inspired you?
There are so many! I keep a running list of books I wish I had written. These are books that I have found especially moving, memorable, or made me want to be a better writer. How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff was one of the first YA books I remember reading as an adult and it totally floored me. Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick and The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith are great examples of voice-driven YA narratives and characters that you won't forget. Code Name Verity is an excellent example of a YA historical thriller (something I'd like to try one day).
Sorta Like A Rock Star by Matthew Quick
The Agony of Bun O'Keefe by Heather Smith
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
When do you like to write most?
I feel most creative in the morning, so I work on bigger things then and save revisions for later in the day. I can't sit still for very long, so I often break up a writing day into two-hour chunks. I might work on a poem in the morning, a novel after breakfast, and a picture book later in the afternoon. If I'm really into the flow of a project I'll stick with the same one, but this generally only happens when I'm close to finishing a draft.
Do you have a favourite TPL library service?
I've been in Toronto for fifteen years and I still can't get over the fact that I can have a book from any branch delivered to my local, which is conveniently right across the street! I've also recently discovered the Libby app and have been listening to a lot of memoirs while I do dishes or go for walks.
Do you listen to music when you work?
I am too easily distracted, so I prefer silence and isolation when I'm working. No cafe writing for me!
Describe a library memory that stands out for you.
When I was very young and had written and illustrated my first book, complete with a hand-drawn ISBN (although I didn't know exactly what this was at the time), the children's librarian at my local library kept it behind the desk for me in case someone wanted to borrow it. It was very kind of her and was the first time I felt like a real writer.
Can you give us any sneak peaks into what you'll be working on during your residency at TPL?
I have a few projects I'd like to work on, including a horror story about a lake full of ghosts and a historical novel about a girl guide troop that forms inside an internment camp in WWII.
Please recommend a few new titles for us!
Books I've loved recently include The Change, a tongue-in-cheek, witchy revenge story from Kirsten Miller, who I first fell in love with when I read her YA series Kiki Strike, and When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O'Neill. Heather's book has all the softness, grit, subversion and glamour of a Sofia Coppola movie. Her characters will stick with me for a long, long time.
The Change by Kirsten Miller
When We Lost Our Heads by Heather O'Neill
Join Vikki for one of her upcoming programs this summer or submit your manuscript to receive one-on-one feedback. For more information, please email the Languages & Literature Department at [email protected].