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Heading south to talk comics

With Harpo’s right-wingers cutting literacy programs here in Canada, it’s fitting that I’m heading across the border to the US next week to talk to librarians about comics and literacy. After all, librarians and educators in the US are on the front lines in the battle to ensure that the future generation knows how to think independently and critically about the laws they live by and the people who make them.

With that in mind, I’ve been invited to speak at the upcoming Library Development Day for the Genesee Valley Board of Co-operative Educational Service. I’ll be talking about how comics can be used to foster literacy and springboard kids into a life of reading. I’m really excited because literacy and comics are two subjects that I am very passionate about and have no trouble going on and on about.

Passion is something that I know I’ll find when I meet the librarians of the GVBOCES. In both the US and here in Canada, librarians, educators and the schools they work in are constantly being tested, undermined and underfunded.

It takes a lot of passion to continue working in an environment like that and I’m looking forward to meeting them all.

Max fans make book launch a blast

maxstandsmaller.jpgWhat a hectic few days it’s been! First, the good news: I submitted my wilderness survival graphic novel manuscript to my editor at Orca Books. Very happy about that but it’s also the reason I haven’t posted about Saturday’s big launch yet. But that’s about to change (aren’t you lucky?)

The lauch was crazy but tons of fun. It was part of the larger Owl Day festivities at the CN Tower, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew it was going to be busy when I arrived at the tower and saw dozens of kids in the foodcourt filling out Owl/Max Finder contest forms. I had no idea what the contest was and still don’t, but I knew for certain that the word had spread about Max & Alison and their new book.

The day kicked off with a comic workshop given by myself, Max illustrator Michael Cho and Brian McLachlan, the writer of the Alex & Charlie comic in OWL and a hilarious comic illustrator too.

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None of us (including the folks from Owl) could believe the number of people wanting to get into our little workshop. We turned people away from the first session, but the theatre in the tower wasn’t even full, so we packed the second workshop. As you can see from this photoe, there were people sitting on the floor!

For the workshop, I got the kids to help identify the “ingredients” to a mystery story: crime, detective, clues, etc.

I got a lot of great answers including when I was looking for the key ingredient of “detective.” One audience member, who couldn’t be older than 10, stated very clearly that the ingredient I was looking for was the “hero.”

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When I asked who she thought the hero was in a mystery story, she loudly announced: “The protagonist!” How can you argue with that?

When I’d finished talking about the writing side of comics, Mike took over to show the kids how he uses body language in his illusrations to convey emotion, by drawing Max Finder in action. It was clear from the smiles in the crowd that they got a kick out of watching Mike bring Max to life.

After Mike, Brian came on to show the kids how to be funny – not a enviable task at all. True to Brian’s wacky humour, he floored the kids with some of his secrets to writing gag-comics.

crowdwidesmall.jpgWhen we were through blathering about comics, it came time for the real action: the signing. Once again, Mike and I were blown away by the numbers. The photo on the left gives you an idea of the crowd waiting for us when we arrived at the table.

Mike and I jumped right into the action and started signing.

An hour later we were still happily talking to Max Finder fans and signing posters, books and anything else that was put in front of us.

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By the end of the day, my hands were weary and my pen worn-out, but I was feeling great. After working on Max Finder for nearly four years, both Mike and I were overwhelmed by the support and enthusiasm of the fans.

With Max Finder Myserty Collected Casebook Vol.1 now available in book stores across North America, I’m excited to see Max & Alison leap from the pages of OWL Maganize into their very own graphic novel, making new friends and fans along the way.

Ready for launch . . .

maxcvrwebsml.jpgThis Saturday is the big party at the CN Tower, celebrating the 30th birthday of the tower and OWL Magazine. Part of the celebrations will be the launch of my latest graphic novel, Max Finder Mystery Collected Casebook Vol. 1.

The day promises to be a busy one, with kids streaming in from all over town to check out the tower, stuff come cake in their mouths and get their sticky hands on the book (I hope.) The festivities run from 12 noon to 5 pm and throughout the day, there’ll be comic workshops given by myself, Max Finder illustrator Michael Cho and Alex & Charlie writer and comic wizard, Brian McLachlan.

If you’re in Toronto this Saturday (Sept. 16th) then stroll on down to the CN Tower, grab some cake and say hi.

Max Finder Mystery Collected Casebook Vol. 1 lands in bookstores next week, so pick your copy up from your local bookseller and get solving those mysteries.

Book readin’ fun in Eden Mills

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The Eden Mills Writer’s Festival was great. The sun was shining, the air a bit cool but perfect for lounging, listening and reading – and there was much of that going on.

streetscenesmall.jpgMelanie and I arrived in the early afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to have a wander, check out the book stalls and soak up the country air.

Under a shady tree in Jenny Kitson’s backyard, fellow CANSCAIPers Linda Bailey, Audbrey Davis, Rahna Gilmore, Linda Hutsell-Manning and others shared their latest creations, as we watched from welcoming lawn chairs on the deck overlooking the yard.

Then it was my turn. I hopped up from my patio chair and made my way to the grassy patch that served as our stage.

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I could tell our young book fans were in the mood for adventure, so I started with Pepper’s Snowy Search – a tale of trecherous avalanches, lost skiers and a Black Lab with one powerful sniffer.

I followed that adventure up with Baxter Needs a Home. It’s a bit of a sad story about a lonely tabby in search of, you guessed it, a home. Don’t worry it has a happy ending.

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Judging from the eager answers I received, the kids liked both stories. That includes the one bright spark who made a prediction about Baxter’s fate because, as he put it: “These types of stories always end that way.”

His prediction wasn’t completely accurate, so I’m happy to know that my tales can keep even the brightest readers guessing.

The day wrapped up with a quick signing and then it was time for the magician. I knew I didn’t stand a chance against the rabbit in his hat, so we said goodbye to Eden Mills and its book-loving residents for another year.

Thanks to all the organizers for the great day and the kids for reminding me how much fun it is to be a children’s author.

On the road to Eden Mills

The summer may be on the way out the door, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy one last day of outdoor fun. If you’re around the Eden Mills area on Sunday September 10th, then come to the Eden Mills Writer’s Festival, where I’ll be reading my Pet Tales picture books at 4pm.

The festival runs all weekend and there will many great writers in attendance, so I’m both honoured to be included and excited to meet some of my own literary heroes. If you’re in the area, come on out and say hello.

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