Sheila Barry

It is with a heavy heart that I write about the loss of Sheila Barry, the wonderful, insightful publisher at Groundwood Books and a long-time editor and friend of mine. She made the world a better, brighter place — both in person and through the books she published. I will miss her dearly.

Groundwood Books said this about her today:

As she did her whole life, Sheila brought happiness and laughter and thoughtfulness and love to all of us here. She was such a valued colleague. And Sheila was a great publisher – influential in ways large and small. The legacy of books she leaves will run far into the future.

We hold Sheila in our minds as the most wonderful example of a truly good person, one who had such a positive effect on so many people. We will miss her terribly.

Reading Lights at the VPL

Bear's Winter Party
I was happy to hear the news that two of my recent books have been selected to be Reading Lights books by the Vancouver Public Library.

Bear’s Winter Party, illustrated by Lisa Cinar, and West Coast Wild, illustrated by Karen Reczuch (both published by Groundwood), will have illustrated plaques featuring them on lampposts around the city of Vancouver.

The purpose of Reading Lights is to highlight local books and to encourage children and families to take them out of the library. It is a lovely honour and both of the illustrators and I are thrilled!

The plaques will be installed sometime in early 2018 and I look forward to seeing them! For more information about the Reading Lights program, you can visit their website at the VPL.

(And if you check the Reading Lights map, you will see an earlier book of mine, Watch Me Grow!, with photos by Brian Harris, has a plaque at the northwest corner of Sunrise Park.)

A Writer’s Neighbourhood

I had planned to write about a memoir session I attended at the Vancouver Writers Festival last week — always an interesting and thought-provoking event — but then I took a walk down my street to look at the trees in their magnificent fall glory.

They are so striking that people are coming to my old Vancouver neighbourhood to take photos of themselves and their loved ones against this backdrop of colour. Here’s a photo I took this afternoon.

In other fall news, I’m greatly looking forward to being at Authorfest at UBC on the 30th. It’s always heartening to meet the wonderful students who are on their way to becoming teachers.


Vancouver Writers Festival

It is teeming rain outside and brightly coloured leaves are covering the streets and lawns. This is fall in Vancouver! As long as you don’t mind carrying an umbrella with you, it’s a great time to be in this city.

One of my favourite fall events is the Vancouver Writers Festival, now in its 30th year. This afternoon I heard some wonderful children’s authors speaking about their books on child refugees, past and present. The young students in the audience were mesmerized!

And in a couple of days, I will go to hear a panel of authors who have penned new memoirs, always a riveting session. More on that later.

If you are on the west coast, I hope you are staying warm and dry. It’s wet out there! And if you are somewhere else, I hope you are having a great fall, too.

WORD Vancouver

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending the festivities at Word Vancouver (the west coast version of Word on the Street) and what a grand day it was. As always, it was wonderful to see the range of books published by authors who live here.

The highlight was hearing some of my colleagues talk about their new works. I especially enjoyed seeing Irene N. Watts (author) and Kathryn Shoemaker (illustrator) speak about their graphic novel, Seeking Refuge — the story of a young girl, Marianne, who finds refuge in England after being rescued from the Nazis on the Kindertransport. (Irene helped me enormously on my own book on this topic, Rescuing the Children.)

I also stopped by the booth of our local organization,  CWILL BC (Children’s Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia), and was happy to see their presence there. At the top of this post, is the lovely CWILL banner designed and drawn by our very own Mary Jane Muir. (If you are ever looking for an author or illustrator to visit your classroom, you can search for one on the CWILL website.)

It was an excellent day to celebrate books and writing in our book-loving community!

Settling into September

It’s been a couple of weeks that school in my area has been back in session and judging by the lovely schools the young children in my family attend, the year is off to a great start!

It is heartening to see the efforts of the teachers who work so hard to make the children comfortable in their new settings. And it often makes me wish that I was back in the classroom saying hello to all the young students as they come through the door.

A big thank you from me to all the teachers and librarians who do so much for the students in their care. I hope you have a wonderful year!

And just for fun: here’s a photo of the school I used to teach at many years ago in beautiful Armstrong, BC.

Saying Goodbye to Summer

The summer is winding down and in a few days, school will start again. Here on the west coast, it has been a warm and beautiful couple of months.

Living near the ocean lets me see incredible views like this all summer long. (It’s the Vancouver harbour as seen from Granville Island.) I feel very lucky.

Soon the Vancouver rain will return and the giant trees and thirsty lawns will be happy to see it. In a way, so will I. Fall is one of my favourite seasons, with many new books to read, writing festivals to peruse, and the chance to visit children in schools.

Two of the children in my family are starting full-day kindergarten this year. I wish them a happy and successful time as they make this big transition. And to all the students and teachers heading back to the classroom, I wish you the best, too!

Summer Inspiration

I’m just back from a little holiday on the west coast of Vancouver Island and feeling both relaxed and inspired by the beauty of that area.

I spent a lot of time walking the beaches, listening to the sounds of the ocean, and immersing myself in the magnificent scenery. One morning, I watched a graceful bald eagle soar overhead.

This is the place where West Coast Wild was set and an area I hope to return to often. Thoughts of a new west coast book are beginning to percolate.

Here is a photo I took of the beach at sunset. I felt lucky to be there.

Wishing you the best of summer, too!

If I Weren’t a Writer

I’ve often said if I weren’t a writer, I’d like to be a cook. Spending time in the kitchen is one of my favourite things to do. I find it both relaxing and creative — especially when I am baking pies (my specialty) for family and friends.

For years, I’ve wanted to combine my two of my favourite pastimes: writing and cooking, and now I’m happy to say, I am hard at work on a cookbook for kids. It turns out that writing a cookbook isn’t as easy as I might have thought. Each recipe requires much testing and retesting, both on my own and with the kids in my family, who provide me with a lot of great feedback and inspiration.

And helping me along are the books on food that I am currently reading: The Cassoulet that Saved Our Marriage, which is a wonderful collection of essays about people and their relationship with food and family; and Feast: Recipes and Stories from a Canadian Roadtrip, an account of two women who spent five months camping across Canada, eating and talking to locals about their favourite foods.

My own book, Cooking with Bear, which combines a story and 20 recipes won’t be out for some time, but it continues to be a fun and interesting project. More on this later.

In the meantime, I can recommend both of the books noted here. I’m certain they will provide you with hours of happy reading and eating!