Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015


Both Sides, Now: An Interview with Vikki VanSickle

Vikki VanSickle and I have a few things in common; from our alliterative names and a love of all things kidlit, to the fact that, in addition to writing books, we also work in publishing. It's not always an easy balance, but Vikki handles it with style and grace. And it's shaping up to be a particularly big year for her; her fourth novel, Summer Days, Starry Nights, is a finalist for the Ontario Library Association's Red Maple Award, and she has both a digital non-fiction short and a picture book on the horizon. We chatted a bit about what it's like working on both sides of the desk.


Which came first, your first publishing credit or your first publishing job?

Sorry, Not Sorry

When people asked me if my first novel — called When We Were Good, a coming-of-age story set in Toronto about going to all-ages shows and grieving the loss of a grandparent— was based on my life, I told them that it was not.

It’s a question that people love to ask, or don’t even bother to, with the assumption being that any story of adolescence written by someone under the age of 30 is a defacto memoir disguised as fiction. So I swore up and down: no, no, no, no, no — this story, these characters, were not me.

And it was true. Almost.

Talking with the amazing Jess Taylor

I don't remember exactly when I met Jess Taylor, but I do remember when it suddenly seemed like she was everywhere all at once. Every reading, every literary party and event - she was there, supporting writers and connecting people. I was - and am! - totally amazed by her ability to champion local writers, promote young talent, and generally kick ass and take names.

Speaker's Book Award and Young Author Award Ceremony Recap

The Speaker's Book Award and Young Author Award were presented last night by the Honourable Dave Levac at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. And because I wrote a young-adult novel in 2013 about Toronto at the turn of the millennium, I had an excuse to wear a pretty dress.

I was honored that When We Were Good was selected as a finalist for the inaugural Young Author Award along with Rêver au réel by Daniel Groleau Landry and Ceremonies for the Dead by Giles Benaway. Giles Benaway took home the award for his collection of poetry, which I'm really looking forward to reading. We had a great time chatting before the awards; a driven and talented writer, he's definitely someone to look out for.

The Speaker's Book Award and Young Author Award

Monday, March 9th marks the third annual Speaker's Book Award as well as the inaugural Young Authors Award, two prizes that will be given by Ontario Speaker Dave Levac at a ceremony at the Ontario Legislative Building.

Launched by Speaker Levac in 2012, the Speaker’s Book Award aims to bring awareness to books written by Ontarians covering historical, regional, cultural, or parliamentary aspects of the province.

And, new this year, the Young Authors Award for writers aged 18 to 30 will bring attention to a young Ontario author whose early work has had an impact on the province’s writing scene.


Jo, the main character in Something Wiki, uses Wikipedia as her diary to cope with change during the worst year of her life. Each chapter of the book opens with a Wikipedia entry that Jo has made her mark on: everything from acne vulgaris to Ulen Township, Clay County, Minnesota. Jo gleefully ignores the editorial rules of Wikipedia and makes a space for her own stories (even if they are swiftly deleted), and it helps see her through her family’s sea change.

A lot can happen when you're scared

When the team at Dundurn was getting Something Wiki ready for its print run of advance review copies, my publicist (which will never stop being fun and weird to say) asked me to write an introductory letter to go along with it.

I'm guessing that no one expected me to extol the virtues of aspartame and fear, but that's just what happened.


I wrote Something Wiki while I was unemployed. And kind of scared.

I had just quit a steady retail gig so I could take on an internship with a publisher, but there was no guarantee that it would lead to something permanent.

And it didn’t. But I learned a lot.

So my internship ended and I had nothing to do. Taking on another internship didn’t appeal to me, so I set about working for myself. Kind of.

In Defense of Middle Grade

I used to want to be a teacher.

It made sense. I’d spent years working with kids, first at a summer camp outside of Orillia and later as volunteer mentor of a group program run by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto.

And the age I wanted to teach, I told anyone who came asking about my career aspirations, was middle school.

Those years, I would say, are amazing. Those kids are old enough to have some idea about who they ultimately want to be, but young enough that their shell of teenage cynicism hadsn’t hardened completely and they can still, on occasion, get very, very silly.

Ugh, the person I was talking to would invariably say with a shudder, I hated middle school. Those were the worst years of my life!

Right, there was also that.

Re: (Whether it is) Becoming (to Be) a lady and the use of the word in Jamaican Creole (JC)

News flash! Author copies of my novel, Red Jacket, arrived in the mail yesterday. About to post this exploration of the use of the word ‘lady’ in the land of my birth and here in North America, I put a question to myself about the many female persons, the heroine Grace included, in Red Jacket. Women? Ladies? Both? Neither? Hmmnnn... Five ladies maybe, and three women? Except who’s who would shift, depending on the ‘speaker’. But I get ahead of myself...

Favourite books of 2014

Every year I keep track of how many books I've read in the year. For the past two years I've made a Pinterest board, which I like because it's visual, but then I also tend to forget to add some books. What surprises me is actually how FEW books I read in a year. It's surprising because i read EVERY SINGLE DAY. How can it be that I only end up reading an average of 2 books a month? I used to read a book a day, when i was in the sixth grade. Anyway! Some of my favourites of the year --

The Dept of Speculation - which I mentioned yesterday I just read in the past couple of days after seeing it on the New York Times Best Books of 2014 list.

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