White Pine Honour

Witchlanders is a White Pine Honour Book–and pics!

Everyone in the book industry says it: At the Forest of Reading awards, authors are treated like rock stars. Well, I’m a skeptical girl and didn’t quite believe the hype, but after going to the Festival of Trees ceremony yesterday as a White Pine award nominee, I can tell you: I felt like a rock star. I stood on a stage as fans screamed for my book–my book!–, people stood in long lines for my autograph, 3 people asked me to sign their arms, and one girl told me that Cassandra Clare used to be her favourite author–but that was before she read Witchlanders!

We writers spend so much of our time in private, sitting alone at our computers, that it’s easy to lose the connection between us and the people who read our books. I’m so glad I got a chance to reforge that bond by meeting so many enthusiastic teen book lovers. Here’s a recap of my day:

Wednesday morning I was the first early-bird author to arrive at 9AM at Harbourfront Centre for Canada’s largest children’s literature event, the Forest of Reading, Festival of Trees, two days of of award ceremonies, fun workshops, author signings, and other exciting activities that celebrate the shared experience of reading. 6000 people were expected to attend over the two days.

I was soon joined by a few fellow White Pine Award nominees and we all waited to be called up on stage.

Nominees Cecil Castellucci, Megan Crewe, Lena Coakley, and Teresa Toten

Teen readers had been chosen to introduce our books and carry our banners onto the stage.

On stage is where everything became a blur.  I’ve never heard anyone scream for books before!  Okay, maybe when I went to hear JK Rowling speak, but that was the only time!

An author-eye view of the White Pine audience!

All the nominees were asked to speak for one minute about their book.  Here’s what I said:

Witchlanders was a labour of love.  It took me ten years to write.  Ten years! So if you think about it, many of you in the audience hadn’t even started school yet when I started writing the book back in 2001.  Believe it or not, when I started out, many people asked me why I was even bothering to write a fantasy novel.  YA fantasy, especially high fantasy, wan’t very popular back then; it didn’t sell.  My answer was always: I’m writing the book that I wanted to read when I was 17 years old.  The two protagonists in my novel, Ryder and Falpian, were calling to me, and I had to write their story, whether anyone would publish it or not.

So it came as a surprise and a delight to me that not only was Witchlanders published, but that it found fans and was nominated for this award. Choice awards like the White Pine are especially meaningful to authors because they are chosen by you, our readers.  I’m so proud to be standing here with some of the best authors in my field.  Thank you.

And then, it seems, I flaked.

Names of the three finalists were called.  I heard Jeyn Roberts’s name, author of Dark Inside, and Catherine Austen’s, author of All Good Children.  They stood up.  Then Jeyn Roberts was announced as the big winner. I clapped frantically for my fellow author.  As we all left the stage and someone handed me a certificate.  It said that Witchlanders was an honour book.

That’s right, Witchlanders won a White Pine honour and I had somehow missed my name being called!  (In my defence, there was a lot of screaming going on. Also, I’m a bit spacey.)  Of course I was totally delighted.

White Pine winner Jeyn Roberts and me.

Upon leaving the stage, something happened that has never happened to me before and will probably never happen again: I was mobbed for autographs!  It was awesome.  I’m particularly happy that my niece was with me at the time so she could tell my family that this happened, because otherwise they would never believe it in a million years.

Since I signed so many autographs leaving the stage I thought that there would be no one at my official signing a half hour later.  Not so! They were lined up to meet me.

My adoring fans.

As I was signing, the Red Maple awards were going on.  Winners were The Vindico by Wesley King for the Red Maple Fiction award and Real Justice:  Fourteen and Sentenced to Death by Bill Swan for the Red Maple Non-Fiction award.  (When I get the official press release, I will update and tell you who the honourees were for these awards.) I was lucky enough to just catch Bill’s win and dacceptance speech as I was coming out of my autograph session.

Bill Swan

After a quick lunch Megan Crewe and I rushed off to do a joint writing workshop.  One of the great perks of being nominated for this award has been that I’ve had a chance to get to know the nominees a little better.  On our way out, look who we ran into!

Blue Spruce Winner Martin Springett

Martin Springett was fresh from winning the Blue Spruce award for Kate and Pippin.  His and all the Forest of Reading award plaques feature artwork by a child reader. (Again, when I get the official press release, I’ll update with the names and titles of the honourees.)

After the ceremonies were over, there was a reception for all the winners and nominees, their friends in publishing, and all the hardworking librarians who made this day possible.

R-L: Me, author Cathy Ostlere and author/editor Gillian O'Reilly

Thank you so much Ontario Library Association, for giving me my rock star moment.


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Upcoming Events

I’ve just updated my Upcoming Events page.  I’m lucky to be doing many school and library visits this winter and spring–unfortunately most of them are not open to the public.   However, I do have one public speaking engagement coming up that I’m very excited about, the WCDR Breakfast in Ajax on Saturday February 16th.  There is still time to sign up and hear me talk about writing fantasy for young adults.  Check it out!

And of course, the really exciting upcoming event will be the Forest of Reading celebrations at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto this May.  Did you know that tickets are already on sale?? Come see me on the White Pine stage!

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Moor Path

The Next Big Thing: What I’m Working on Now

The ruins of Top Withins, a farmhouse thought to be Emily Brontë's inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

Authors are tagging each other with a questionnaire about what they’re working on now. I was tagged by Karen Krossing, who was tagged by Karen Bass. I’m tagging authors Keely Parrack, Megan Crewe, Anne Laurel Carter, and Kari-Lynn Winters. I hope they’ll share a glimpse into their works-in-progress.

What is your working title of your book?

The working title is The Worlds Below but I expect that to change.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Sixteen-year-old Emily Brontë and her three siblings, Charlotte, Branwell, and Anne, have never questioned their ability to make the worlds and characters they imagine become real, but when the villain Northangerland breaks out of the confines of their imaginary worlds, Emily is forced to ask herself whether she and the others really made him, or whether some dark force is inhabiting the characters they create.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The idea for the book came to me while I was watching a documentary about the Brontës.  When I heard that they had imaginary worlds they wrote about in childhood, the thought hit me: What if those worlds were real?  Since then I’ve been reading the volumes of juvenilia that Charlotte and Branwell left behind about their imaginary city, Verdopolis.  Considering the time period and their upbringing, the content is quite shocking.  These very poor parson’s children loved writing about the affairs and scandals of the very rich.  Emily and Anne’s childhood writings don’t survive, so creating their fantasy world, Gondal, will be my biggest challenge.

What genre does your book fall under?

YA historical fantasy

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Northangerland, who is both the villain and Emily’s love interest, should be played by someone who is handsome but a bit sinister.  Robert Sheehan from Misfits or a younger Eric Balfour would be perfect.  Casting Emily would be the difficult task.  She’d have to be both vulnerable and strong. Emma Watson?

Will your book be self-published, traditionally published or are you represented by an agency?

The book is being published Abrams in the US and by HarperCollins Canada in Canada.  If all goes well, it should come out Spring 2014.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Umm…let me get back to you on that.  My deadline for the first draft is March 1st next year, but I hope to be finished before then.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

This will be a dark and atmospheric fantasy novel along the lines of The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab or perhaps Misfit by Jon Skovron.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?


And this!

And this!

Is there any better setting for a fantasy novel than the Yorkshire moors?

Because I’m not British, it’s a bit cheeky for me to attempt to write about these famous siblings, but once I visited the Brontë parsonage and saw the moors, I just couldn’t resist.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I love the Brontës and I especially love Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.  It’s such a strange book that breaks so many of the rules of narrative, and yet it never fails to fascinate and enthral me.  The romantic anti-hero Heathcliff is the prototype for many of the bad-boy heroes we read about today.  He’s about as wicked as any human being can be, and yet his one redeeming quality is that he loves the heroine, Catherine, with a passion that defies even death.  Some scholars believe that the character of Northangerland, a villain that first appeared in the writings of Charlotte and Branwell, was so captivating to Emily that she used him in her own writings—he may have even eventually become Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights.

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WFC Program

My World Fantasy Con Wrap-Up

Check out my World Fantasy Con wrap-up, posted over on the Enchanted Inkpot blog today!  Here’s just a small taste:

Favourite Quotes from WFC

“If you think teenagers aren’t having sex, I wish you’d been my parents.”  Laura Anne Giman when asked whether there was too much sex in YA.
“Horror is the literature of hopelessness; fantasy is the literature of hope.”  Patricia Briggs.  (Horror writer Sephira Giron disagreed!)
“In horror you survive; in fantasy you triumph.”  Tanya Huff
“When I picture urban fantasy, I think of the bastard love child between fantasy and romance.” S. M. Stirling
“If you can remove the romance and still have a plot it’s urban fantasy; if you can’t, it’s paranormal romance.” Ginjer Buchanan
“Reality is a crutch for people who can’t handle fantasy.” Geoff Hart
“One of the great things about fantasy is that it is metaphor actualized.  (In a changeling story) not only do you feel alien; you are alien.”  Holly Black
“For me, fantasy is a way into philosophy; it’s the way to grapple with the big questions.”  Isobelle Carmody


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Where I’ll Be at World Fantasy Con


World Fantasy Convention

November 1-4, 2012
Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel, Suites & Conference Centre
Toronto, Ontario

Thursday, November 1

The   best   monsters—ghosts,   vampires,   werewolves,   zombies—all   begin  as  human  beings,  as  US.  All  have  their  roots  in  the  ideas  of  lost/ strayed/stolen  humanity.  Freud  alludes  to  the  factor  of  semblance  in   The Uncanny,  and  that  idea,  with  the  tensions  inherent  in  duality/ dichotomy—an   otherness   both   projected,   and   found   within—is   crucial.  Think  of  works  such  as  Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde,  and   Dracula  like  a  hall  of  mirrors,  begetting  their  own  reflections.  Is  our   continued  fascination  with  these  monsters  our  way  of  grappling  with   our  own  demons?  And  which  fantasy  characters  are  most  persuasive   in   convincing   us   that   they   are   not   really   monsters;;   that   they   are,   in   reality,  a  reflection/distortion/creation  of  us?

Ellen Datlow (M), Lena Coakley, James Alan Gardner, Christopher Golden, Richard A. Kirk, Holly Phillips.

Friday, November 2
Meet,  talk,  and  get  your  books  signed. (No  wheeled  carriers  or  backpacks  allowed  in  the  signing  hall.  Park  them  outside  in  designated  areas.  Please  be  considerate  of  other  attendees.   We  reserve  the  right  to  limit  the  number  of  books  signed  for  any  one  person.)

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Crystal Kite 2012

SCBWI Ottawa-and My Crystal Kite!

I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Ottawa, the highlight of which was undoubtably receiving my SCBWI Crystal Kite Award!  SCBWI conference organizers Lizann Flatt , Rachel Eugster and Alma Fullerton did an incredible job gathering a stellar lineup of speakers.  Here are some of the published attendees at a reading at Collected Works bookstore on the Friday night:

Urve Tamberg, Brenda Hammond, Me, Peggy Collins, Nahal Bahrman, Alan Silberberg, Helaine Becker, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Alma Fullerton, Kate Jaimet and Lizann Flatt


On Saturday the conference officially started.  Promptly at 8:30 AM we were welcomed by the hilarious Alan Silverberg and for the next two days, our time was crammed with workshops, lectures and break-out sessions.  Alan’s humour was a highlight for me, as was Darcy Pattison’s novel revision workshop.  I also got to meet Maria Middleton, Associate Art Director at Abrams Books for Young Readers, my new publisher.

Then this happened!

Alma Fullerton, Lena Coakley, Lizann Flatt

For those who don’t know, the Crystal Kite Awards are given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators each year to recognize great books from 15 regional SCBWI divisions around the world.  They are chosen by other children’s book writers and illustrators, making them the only peer-given awards in publishing for young readers. I’m so very honoured to be one of this year’s winners.  The fact that’s it’s an award given by other children’s authors and illustrators makes it especially dear to my heart.  Thank you SCBWI members!

And here it is in its new home:

All in all, a great weekend!



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Witchlanders Nominated for a White Pine Award!

The told us two weeks ago and all the nominees have had to keep it secret since then.  I have an enormous mouth, so I can tell you, it was pretty difficult.  Anyway, I can finally spill!  Very delighted that WITCHLANDERS is part of this exceptional list:

  • All Good Children by Catherine Austen (Orca Book Publishers)
  • Dark Inside by Jeyn Roberts (Simon & Schuster BFYR/Simon & Schuster)
  • First Day On Earth by Cecil Castellucci (Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc.)
  • Getting Over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald (Candlewick Press)
  • Karma by Cathy Ostlere (Puffin Canada/Penguin Group)
  • The Opposite Of Tidy by Carrie Mac (Razorbill/Penguin Group)
  • The Taming by Eric Walters & Teresa Toten (Doubleday Canada/Random House of Canada Limited)
  • Way to Go by Tom Ryan (Orca Book Publishers)
  • The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe (Hyperion/Disney Book Group)
  • Witchlanders by Lena Coakley (Atheneum Books For Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)

Yipee!  I’m also very happy that my TorKidLit buddy Megan Crewe and my friend Teresa Toten are on the list with me!

The White Pine award is the YA category for the OLA Forest of Reading awards, Canada’s largest children’s choice awards.  To read about the nominees in other age categories, go to the OLA website.

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Witchlanders 3D

Worst Self-Promoter Ever Forgets Own Book Birthday

Hey! Witchlanders is out in paperback today!  Thank goodness for a tweet by IndigoTeenBlog because…I sort of forgot.  I still haven’t seen the pb’s in the wild and I haven’t gotten any author copies yet, so anyone who’d like to send me a pic will receive…my eternal gratitude?  A signed bookmark?  Yes, that’s it, a signed bookmark.  (Actually I’ll mail a signed bookmark to anyone who wants one.)

Happy book birthday to me!

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Young Adult Fantasy Author