CCBC/TD Bank Gala – Nov 17, 2016.

Winner Karen Bass, and I. 15036354_10153425649412325_4831764329784626920_n


The CCBC/TD Bank Gala was fabulous and fun as always. We started to celebrate on the train ride to Toronto.

The winner of The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical fiction was the talented and gracious Karen Bass. Congratulations, Karen. I felt disappointed for me, but am still honored to have been shortlisted.

Someone said I should post my acceptance speech anyway, so here, wistfully, it is.

Thank you for this wonderful honor!!!

Thank you to the judges, to the TD Bank, the CCBC and CBC for this fabulous evening that we all enjoy so much.

Thank you to my talented editors Kathryn Cole and Kelly Jones, and to Margie Wolfe and the staff at Second Story Press for their faith in my book.

Thank you Sonya Dunn for first mentioning farmerettes. As soon as you said farmerettes, I knew I had to write about them.

And thank you to my husband Frank for his unwavering love and support.

I’m honored to be on this short list along with such talented writers – Karen Bass, Kelly Armstrong, Frieda Wishinsky and Sara Henstra.

When I began this book it was going to be a nice story about girls working on a farm. As I did my research, I realized it was so much more – the tragedy of war that affects not only those living through it, but the generations following it too. And the awakening of women and girls to learn that they were capable of so much more than housework.

I am so proud to belong to this amazing community of the children’s book industry. You are the most interesting, curious, fun-loving, imaginative and supportive group there is.


The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction

The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction is a major national prize that anyone who writes a historical novel for young people dreams about. It’s given annually for the best historical fiction novel for teens. Five books are shortlisted in September, and the winner is announced at the CCBC/TD Bank Gala in November.

The news that I was shortlisted came out of the blue. I was shocked, then elated, jubilant with joy. For days I carried that wonderful feeling quietly inside me. It’s hard to describe the feelings without going in clichés. I now carry a little thrill of pride inside me. 

Writers research and write stories in relative isolation. But the topic fascinates us and we fall in love with our characters, so we go on. Occasionally as we’re writing we think how brilliant our work is, more often we have doubts and sometimes even despair that we’re writing total junk. Being shortlisted for this award shows that esteemed experts in our field have validated and value our book. Wow. That is so encouraging and affirming. I’ve also loved all the congratulations I’m receiving from friends and fellow writers. The young people’s writing community is very supportive.

This award and eight others are presented at the glittery CCBC/TD Bank Gala at the Carlu Hotel in Toronto every November. It’s a fabulous evening attended by everyone in the industry, all dressed up and excited to be there, sort of like the Academy Awards of Children’s Literature. 


The fun begins when we are escorted in on a red carpet, by a doorman in a tux and top hat. Wine, food, conversations, connections and good wishes flow through the crowd. I’ve always loved attending, but this year will be extra special. Once the audience is packed into the huge auditorium, each nominee’s book is shown on one of the two giant screens as praise is heaped upon it, and then the winner is announced. I will be sitting in that audience, basking in happiness, and a bit anxious, waiting to see who wins. Either way, I will be celebrating.

Now my problem is – do I write an acceptance speech just in case, or will that jinx it?


The Power of Story

“I’ll tell you a story.” These magical words quickly hush an unruly audience, comfort and delight a bored or tired child, entertain a curious listener. We love to become immersed in stories. It’s fun and fascinating to hear about the lives of other people – often in places, times and situations more exotic and exciting than ours. And even when they’re more familiar they provide us with new insights into events and milestones we too have experienced.

We love a good tale in all its forms. Why do we like gossip? No, we’re not mean, just curious about people and their predicaments. When Jesus, Aesop, or any public speaker want to teach a lesson, make a point stick, they tell a story. Parables, fables, anecdotes – they are all stories.

Most non-fiction articles and documentaries hook us by zeroing in on one person and their story. Large numbers and statistics are difficult to picture. We can identify with and care for one person or family much more easily. Fact or fiction, Anne Frank’s diary and the saga of Uncle Tom each make us understand and care about them and their situations in history.

A story gives us a human connection and teaches us empathy for others. It empowers us as we watch a character cope against overwhelming odds. And of course it entertains. When author Barbara Kingsolver wanted to write about the political history of the Congo, she knew that a dry non-fiction book of facts would not have the impact or the audience of a story, hence her wonderful award-winning novel, The Poisonwood Bible, which sold over 4 million copies.

For me to curl up on the couch to read a good novel or watch an interesting film, is luxury. Add a cup of tea and a nougat chocolate egg to that and I’m in story heaven.