I’ve always loved the Proust questionnaire, so when Open Book Toronto invited me to try it, I jumped at the chance. Fun! Check it out here on Open Book Toronto.
I’ll be at CANSCAIP’s fabulous annual Packaging Your Imagination conference on
Saturday, November 14, 2015. Along with digital expert and author Angela Misri, I’ll be conducting assessments of author websites and social media.
If you’re a kidlit author–or aspire to be one–this is the conference for you.
Our Author Website Critiques are sold out, but you can sign up for one from us after the conference at the Plot Goes Viral, here.
Hope to see you on Saturday at PYI:
Humber College Lakeshore Campus, L Building, 21 Colonel Samuel Smith Park Drive, Toronto
This time, it was in the middle of a forest in southern Ontario.
I’m working on a new novel, set in medieval Scotland and my characters are about to go on a long trek. I needed natural beauty, trees, birds, a cool breeze and the sounds of the country.
And I found them all in this treehouse.
For more on my new book, click here.
Gabby’s magic book creates letters. Whatever she spells with the letters, comes to life. That makes a connection for kids between letters, words and real-life things.
In Gabby: Wonder Girl, we wanted to extend the learning a bit, with questions–question words and question marks. So we had to invent a bit of a mystery for Gabby; she finds a mysterious photo of a little girl and wants to know: WHO is it?
This is me, just a bit older than Gabby, holding a prize-winning doll cake my dad and I had baked for a father-daughter contest. And below is the photo Gabby discovers in Gabby: Wonder Girl. (Greta is my late grandmother’s name.)
Once the text was written (Wonder Girl is 574 words, by the way) it was time to talk to my publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. This is my first book with Cheryl Chen as my editor; she’d been enthusiastic about the idea of a question-based Gabby from the start. She poked some very intelligent holes in my manuscript, as a good editor will do, pointing out where the story needed to be improved. So I rewrote… and rewrote… and rewrote. There would be 19 rewrites and polished versions by the end of it. Every word has to work really hard, especially since part of the book’s job is to help kids learn to read.
Next, illustrator Jan Dolby was given the text, to make her magic with it. It was particularly tricky, because Gabby creates questions (“Who?”) and somehow, Gabby understands that the answer is “Mrs. Oldham.” I thought the “Who?” could turn into Mrs. Oldham’s butterflies (from the second Gabby book) but I sure as heck didn’t know how! I just said, “Hey, Jan and Cheryl–figure this out, will ya?”
Long-story short… Jan pulled it off beautifully. Here’s what it looks like in the book.
When the story opens, Gabby happens to be dressed up like a superhero. I love that idea, because if you’ve ever seen a kid put on a cape–they’re immediately transformed. And I wanted to portray Gabby as a powerful girl. A super girl!
Jan immediately caught onto that idea. She has all kinds of superhero t-shirts and paraphernalia. She loves superheros. She spent a lot of time thinking about “Wonder Gabby” and “Super Roy”, and studying superlogos.
I wonder if you picked up on the pun: “Wonder Girl” refers to Gabby as a superhero and the fact that she’s questioning, or wondering.
Incidentally, Gabby’s friend Roy is indigenous. I think it’s really important that kids in our northern and First Nations communities have picture books with kids who are like them. In this book, Roy becomes Super Roy. (Thank you to Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus and Dr. John B. Zoe of the Tlicho government and Dale Matasawagon from Canada’s Assembly of First Nations for their help in developing Roy.)
I’ll be posting more about Gabby: Wonder Girl as the book is completed (we’re not quite done!) and of course, when it launches. In the meantime, please check out Jan Dolby’s website.
And please do pre-order Gabby: Wonder Girl on Amazon. If you live near me, let me know and I’ll sign your copy. If you don’t, send me your snail-mail address and I’ll send you a signed bookplate sticker.
I’d like to thank Winston, Rowan, Cheryl, Tracey, Daniel and the entire gang at Fitzhenry & Whiteside Publishing for their support, encouragement… and talent!
And, of course, Jan Dolby who I hadn’t met before Gabby came along but who I now love like a sistah. ‘Cause she’s awesome. And talented. And super-quirky. But in a cool way.
Debbie Ohi is a wonderful picture book illustrator (“I’m Bored” and the upcoming “Naked!” by Michael Ian Black). She’s also got a wonderful blog called Inky Girl with tips and information for aspiring children’s book writers and illustrators.
She recently interviewed me about the writing and editing process for Gabby.
Here’s the interview.
NaNoWriMo is: National (presumably it refers to the U.S. but they welcome everyone) Novel Writing Month.
Starting Nov. 1, you write and write and write every day… until you’ve reached 50,000 words by Nov. 30. Simple! Well…
To help you in your endeavour, the NaNoWriMo website offers forums, blogs, tips, ideas and a word counter. (You scramble your writing and upload it to the website where it is counted and promptly deleted.) Your word count then goes into the pool for your city. Or just for yourself.
Obviously, this is something we can “just do ourselves, anyway,” right?
But… do we? No. If life was that simple, there wouldn’t be Weight Watchers. Or spin classes.
Or Chocoholics Anonymous. (Note to self: Start Chocoholics Anonymous.)
See? The ideas are flowing already and it’s not even November yet!
Sign up for NaNoWriMo and get inspired. Do it now. Before November. Because in November you’ll be, like, “Oh, it’s already started — I’m behind… I can’t possibly catch up… I’ll do it next year.”
Just like you said when you were trying to kick your chocolate habit. Uh-huh. Here’s the link again: NaNoWriMo.
By the way, there’s a kids’ forum as well so no excuses if you’re not “this tall.”
Gabby is the main character in Joyce Grant’s new children’s picture book (illustrated by Jan Dolby and published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside). She recently agreed to chat with Joyce Grant about the new venture.
JG: Gabby—may I call you that?—it’s so wonderful to talk to you in person. After all, you’ve been in my head for so long.
G: My full name is Gabriella, but almost no one calls me that so please do call me Gabby. And yes, it’s great to finally be out of there—it was a bit cramped.
JG: Well, there’s lots of other stuff in there and I won’t apologize for that.
G: Streetcars? Chefs?
JG: Right. Sorry about that. They’re from a couple of other books I’m working on. They’ll be gone soon—I hope. But let’s talk about your book. You’re the star! Are you excited?
G: It is exciting! I was especially thrilled when our editor, Christie, suggested naming the book after me. I can’t wait to see my name on the cover.
JG: And your picture, too! Would it surprise you to know that your name was nearly Sarah?
JG: Well, when I first wrote the book it was called, “Sarah Makes Friends,” after a girl I know. And then Christie and Cathy (from the publisher) met with me for a coffee at Starbucks and we discussed other names. You were also nearly Fanny!
G: I’m speechless. I’m so clearly “Gabby.”
JG: Yes, I agree. And part of the reason for that is that Gabby is kind of a quirky name. Would you say you are quirky?
G: People call me that, certainly. I think they mean that I sometimes look at things a little differently. And I do agree with that.
JG: Can you give us an example?
G: It’s mostly about letters and words. For instance, you’re wearing a T-shirt. So I’m asking, “What does the T stand for? Is it ‘Tea shirt’—like one you’d wear while you’re drinking tea? (It would account for that stain, Joyce.) Or is it a Tee-shirt like you’d wear on a golf course? I mean, what’s the T for?”
JG: Well that certainly is a unique perspective. Oh, here’s our appetizer.
G: Alphabet soup—my favourite! Letters you can eat. How perfect is that?
JG: Yes, stop playing with it, though. You’re getting it all over the…
G: See, if you put these letters together…
JG: Gabby, you’re splashing soup everywhere!
G: …just need another L for G-a-b-r-i-e-l-l-a…
JG: Gabby, can we please talk about something else? I just love your signature red hair. It’s so “you.”
G: Thank you. And I don’t even have a stylist. I just get up in the morning and stick it in ribbons… really I just let it do whatever it wants. In fact, that’s my attitude towards life in general. Go with the flow.
JG: It certainly seems to work for you.
G: Yes. How else could I get two warring species to become friends?
JG: Now, Gabby, don’t spoil the ending for people!
G: Hey, it’s not every day a kid helps to thwart thousands of years of evolution.
JG: “Thwart”? You do love words, don’t you?
G: Speaking of words, look at what I’m spelling in my alphabet soup!*
JG: Gabby, I think this interview is just about over, don’t you? Is there anything you’d like to say in conclusion?
G: Well, just buy my book, please.
JG: Well, it’s your book and it’s my book and Jan’s book and Fitzhenry & Whiteside’s book. In any case, this seems like a good note to end on. Thank you very much, Gabby.
G: Thank you. And you just ended a sentence with a preposition, Joyce.
JG: On which to end, then. Gabby—stop splashing!
* “Fitzhenry.” She spelled Fitzhenry.
My editor sent the layouts for Gabby!
I was out of town on vacation when the email came through; I sent the file to my local copy shop so they could print a couple of colour copies for me to pick up on Monday morning.
It looks even better than I could have hoped. Jan Dolby has done an extremely thoughtful job, illustrating “between the words.” When I wrote the manuscript I took out some descriptive lines that I had thought might handcuff the illustrator. I wanted her to feel free to go her own way, creatively. And boy, did she!
Readers will love some of Jan’s little jokes and ongoing features–like the tiny frog who hides on every page. Kids love reading books again and again; having hidden illustrations and jokes makes reading the book an ongoing discovery not only for kids but for the grown-ups reading it with them.
In just a few months, Gabby will be published!
Writing a picture book is an exciting process and through this blog I hope to bring you into the loop.
For instance, many people think that your manuscript needs to include both words and illustrations. While it’s true there are some writer/illustrators, in my case — and in the majority of cases — the publisher chooses the illustrator for you.
My editor from Fitzhenry & Whiteside Publishing chose the perfect illustrator for this book. In my head, Gabby was irreverent, quirky, confident and likeable. Jan Dolby (check out her blog here) captured Gabby’s nature perfectly.