So now the truth can be told.
A few weeks ago, on a sunny morning as I sat down in front of my computer, Teacher-Librarian James Steeves, from the Peel Board, called me from out of the blue and asked if I was sitting down and swearing me to secrecy. His voice was entirely too cheerful for this to be bad news, so I told him I was sitting down, and he said, “You’ve been nominated for the Red Maple!”
I was, I admit, floored. Nobody expects to receive good news out of the blue like this, but I was also shocked at what had actually been nominated: Canadian Structures and Sustainability, a 32-page non-fiction book for grades 2-5, published by Beech Street Books and Saunders Book Company.
Though I consider myself first and foremost a fiction writer, I have produced over 60 non-fiction books for young readers as part of my freelance day job. These are entirely different beasts to write. My fiction takes months, if not years, from idea to draft to something publishable. For many of the non-fiction pieces, the publishers have come to me with the idea, asked for an outline, and expected a fully-researched and finished manuscript within weeks.
But, truth be told, I am proud of every one of them. Each may be a more collaborative affair as editors work tirelessly to keep each title relevant to school curriculums, and ensure that the language is appropriate for the audience, but I am pleased at some of the touches I’ve been allowed to put in, and it has been fun researching a topic from scratch, learning about it, and reworking it into a format that kids (I hope) enjoy reading.
Canadian Structures and Sustainability was a particularly interesting title because the topic was both limited and broad at the same time. I got to talk about Hurricane Hazel and other natural disasters, what keeps structures upright, and the latest in green technology that helps our new buildings fit into the environment. And it all has to happen within a Canadian context.
And thanks to the work of the editors and designers who took my manuscript and made it into a book, the Forest of Reading Awards, run for the Ontario Library Association, have recognized this book among other extremely worthy finalists for their Red Maple Non Fiction Award. I do not expect to win (Have you seen the other nominees?), but for the Forest of Reading, just finding yourself in the finals is a true honour, something which my mother and my wife Erin know all about.
So, thank you to my editors, and thank you to all involved with the Forest of Reading, for giving me this chance to talk a lot more about this book in the coming months.