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Writing with Four Hands

Travels in Cuba, like the other books in the Travels series, was written with four hands. Readers are always curious about how we do this. There is piano music for four hands, so why not books? But do the writers sit side by side as if on a piano bench and write with the same rhythm? What happens if they disagree? We know that creative people are solitary creatures with large egos and a need to control their creative process. So what happens when two very independent authors with very different ways of seeing the world begin working together?

Actually, we were surprised at how smoothly it went. Marie-Louise has worked in children’s theatre, writing plays and designing sets, including large puppets. She knew what it was like to work with a team. The two key ingredients are a dash of compromise and criticism of the constructive kind. And David has worked writing and directing documentary films, and filmmaking is the collaborative form par excellence.

Also, the idea behind the very first book we did, Travels with my Family, came out of our shared experience. These were the family journeys we made together with our two boys. And, of course, we don’t sit side by side looking over each other’s shoulders. As the story is coming together, many, many versions of the m …

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How an Email to an Astrophysicist Changed My (Book’s) Life

Literary worlds collided when YA novelist Ria Voros, whose latest is The Centre of the Universe, connected with astrophysicist Dr. Elizabeth Tasker. 

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She writes about exoplanet research. I write about adolescent humans. This month, astrophysicist Dr. Elizabeth Tasker and I are embarking on a multi-city book tour in Canada in support of both our books. Hers, The Planet Factory, is nonfiction, and mine is a young adult novel called The Centre of the Universe. It turns out our areas of interest have some overlap, and maybe not in the ways you’d imagine.

Our connection goes back to January 2018, when I was working on the final draft of my novel. I’d written a male astrophysicist character for my astronomy-obsessed protagonist to look up to, but he didn’t feel quite right. I decided the astrophysicist needed to be a woman. And then I decided—because, why not?—that this character should be real. The known universe has a reasonable number of space scientists these days, and surely one of them would agree to be written into my story?

Book Cover the Planet Factory

At my local …

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Notes From a Children's Librarian: Creative Thinking and Collaboration

Our Children's Librarian columnist, Julie Booker, brings us a new view from the stacks every month.

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September is about change, new routines, working things out and learning to work together with friends and schoolmates. These books about creative thinking and collaboration to solve problems have never been so timely.

Any Questions, by Mary Louise-Gay, is a brilliant introduction to the writing process for readers as young as kindergarten. The book itself is a collaborative adventure, beginning with the author fielding questions during a school visit. “How do you write a story?” the kids ask. Gay begins by explaining a white piece of paper might inspire a snowstorm. But what if it’s a yellowish paper or a purplish gray? Gay then begins a story-within-a-story with the illustrated characters offering suggestions (along with the readers, especially if this is used as a read-aloud). Will it be about a ferocious snail or a boy who can fly? Gay decides on a shy giant and a purple beast. The reader watches how the author paints, creates, and writes, scratching things out, changing her mind. The illustrations are large, compelling, with enough detail to beg for a re-read. Plus, it’s paced perfectly so that the characters, and the reader, are disappointed when i …

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Marthe & Nell Jocelyn in Conversation: On Monkeys, Collaboration and Avoiding Purple & Pink

Book Cover Where Do You Look?

Marthe Jocelyn and Nell Jocelyn are the mother/daughter picture-book creating powerhouse behind Where Do You Look? most recently, and also Ones and Twos. We thought it would be fun if they interviewed each other, and we weren't wrong!

Marthe: I'll start by asking you the same question that everyone else asks: What was it like working with your mother?

Nell: I've never been too excited about working with a partner or in a group at school but somehow working with you is a lot easier. We've known each other for 22 years so we know what makes the other tick. In other aspects of our lives we might intentionally push each others' buttons but professionally we keep it... well... professional.

How do you like working with your (favourite?) daughter?

Marthe: Intentionally push each others' buttons? You say those things on purpose? Just kidding... I LOVE working with you! (Also with your sister, Hannah, by the way, but that's a different interview). It's a marvel to me to watch another artist work from the same sketch and come up with something so utterly different from what's in my own head. But then to recognize at once the references, or the path that took you there. I also like that we both avoid pink and purple as much as we can.

Nell: Who is your favourite character that …

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