Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My brothers, mes freres

Looking for something in French to read to that bright toddler of yours? Have I got a book for you. A French-language edition of "Book of Big Brothers" will be published this fall by Scholastic. It's available for pre-order on Amazon and other sites.

Does this mean I have to give my brothers free copies again?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recent reviews

One of the results of an award nomination is that it shakes loose some reviews.

NOW, the Toronto weekly, reviewed "Valentine's Fall" a week or so ago. Here's Susan G. Cole:
"Though the themes are serious, Fagan displays a deft comic touch as Huddie tries to figure himself out. And the characters are classic. ...Props to Fagan for not writing an easy, tidy ending."

And the new picture book, "Book of Big Brothers," is getting some reviews too.

School Library Journal:
"Will make readers giggle with delight. [A]fresh approach to fraternal relationships."

CM Magazine:
"Told with warmth and wit, this is a terrific story about the ups and downs of sibling relationships. Highly recommended."

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Picture Book Classes Start Soon

This semester I'm teaching two classes in the University of Toronto's Continuing Studies department.

"Writing for Children: Picture Books" begins on Wed. Oct. 6 12:30-2:00 p.m. In the course I talk about the fundamental structure of picture books and other essential elements. Each week there is an assignment, all of which go towards producing drafts of two manuscripts. There's always a lot of good energy and enthusiasm in the class and we all enjoy it.

"Writing for Children: Picture Books II" begins on Monday Oct. 4 6:30-9:00 p.m. While it has no prerequisite, the course is intended for people who have taken previous writing courses. (If you really want to take it anyway, you can email me.) There are no set talks or assignments. Instead, the class is devoted to detailed workshopping of manuscripts brought in by participants. As well, we are having two guests. One is a picture-book illustrator who will talk about what makes a good manuscript from the illustrator's point of view. The other is an editor at a major children's publishing house who will give us the inside scoop on how manuscripts are accepted and what editors look for.

Here is the website for the school:

Or phone 416 978-2400.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

'Valentine's Fall' a Toronto Book Award Finalist

The award nominations for the Toronto Book Award were held at the Toronto Reference Library, with Mayor David Miller making the announcements. (I've met David Miller twice--once when he was trying to get elected and now, on his way out.)

Naturally, I am delighted. Being a born Torontonian, this award nomination means a lot to me. I'm just now starting to read the other nominated books. That's what awards really do--help readers to discover good books.

All of the nominees are reading at this year's Word on the Street in Toronto next weekend, and also at the Yorkville Library on October 5. The winner is announced at a ceremony on Oct. 14 (6 p.m.) at the Toronto Reference Library. Everyone is invited, so come on down and see what a bunch of nervous authors looks like.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mr. Karp Goes to Hong Kong

So the other day I opened a package left at my door to find six copies of 'Mr. Karp's Last Glass.' In Chinese. For a moment I thought I was dreaming.

In fact, the good people at Groundwood had simply forgotten to tell me that the book was being published in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau by Pan Asia Cultural. Well, it was a nice surprise.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brotherly love...most of the time

My new picture book is out and it's called "Book of Big Brothers." The funny, slightly crazed pictures are by the award-winning artist Luc Melanson who lives in Laval, Quebec.

Here is how I wrote this book:
One day I was sitting with a pad and pen, playing around with ideas for a new picture book. I found myself writing down a true incident that happened with my brothers (the day we lit a tree on fire). Then I wrote another and another. They were all pretty good--which one, I asked myself, would make the best book? I couldn't make up my mind and so I decided to stick all of them into a single book. Instead of being about one particular event, the book really became the story of our brotherly friendship.

CBC Childrens' Book Panel

I always look forward to CBC Radio's childrens' book panel--that is, when I manage to catch it. Well, I missed the one in June where Michelle Landsberg and Ken Setterington chose their favourite books for this summer's reading. Ken put no less than two of my books on his list of five: 'The Big Swim' and the forthcoming picture book, 'Book of Big Brothers.' I suppose it isn't my place to say that Ken has impeccable taste.

You can see all the picks at:http://www.cbc.ca/thenextchapter/2010/06/.

While we're at it, I owe Michelle Landsberg thanks for introducing me to the late Grace Paley at Harbourfront several years ago. Afterwards, I ran into Grace a few times and became rather chummy with her, as she no doubt was with just about everyone. Kind of felt like talking to my bubby--that is, my grandmother. I've been re-reading her great short stories lately and I'm glad to have a chance to mention them.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Going ape for the story form

When I was a kid we had a subscription to 'National Geographic.' My favorite articles were about Jane Goodall's experiences among the chimpanzees in the Gombe Stream Game Reserve by the shore of Lake Tanganyika. I loved the photos of her reaching out to some enormous male chimp or making friends with a new infant. And I think, well, that I was a little in love with Ms. Goodall.

That's the source for the short story "My Life Among the Apes" which was published recently in the excellent journal 'Taddle Creek.' (I suggest you all subscribe!) A link to the story can be found here:


The magazine also posted "Valentine's Fall" on its recommended reading list. "A damn good book" was the verdict. No wonder I like the magazine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

'Ten Lessons' A Silver Birch Express Honor Book

Today at the Silver Birch Awards 'Ten Lessons for Kaspar Snit' was named a Silver Birch Express Honor Book! (Yes, that deserves an exclamation mark.)

And did I like being cheered by hundreds of kids? Yes, I did.

Thanks so much to everyone who organizes these great awards, to the teachers and librarians who run the program in their schools, and most of all to all the kids who read the books. Cheers to you!

I've been visiting a lot of schools in southern Ontario and will be going to a few more before the school year is out. What a treat to be able to meet so many kids in person and talk about books. Yup, being an author feels pretty good today.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Frye Festival

On Monday I head off to the Frye Festival, a literary festival in Moncton. This will be my first time at the festival, and in New Brunswick (the last maritime province I've yet to visit). I feel pretty lucky as a children's author because I get to read not only at the festival, but in schools too. Meeting lots of teachers, kids, and the volunteers who drive authors around (always the nicest people, and deeply informed about where they live), I get a much better sense of the place. Should be fun!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

They're saying nice things about "The Big Swim"

The first reviews of "The Big Swim" are coming out and they're rather nice. Publishers Weekly writes, "Fagan perfectly captures the summer camp experience" and calls the book "satisfying and charming." CM Magagine calls it "a thoughtful exploration of how children judge each other and the bonds of friendships." The review in Quill & Quire is also very good but I read it standing in a bookstore, too cheap to pay for it, so I don't have a copy to quote from.

The image, by the way, doesn't come from the book. It's from the cottage we borrowed last summer.

Monday, February 8, 2010

In the middle of winter, a taste of summer (camp)

April fool's day is the official publication date of 'The Big Swim,' a short kids' novel about a boy nicknamed "Pinky", his first camp experience, the arrival of a 'bad' kid, a girl named Amber Levine, and the infamous Big Swim. Since it is now listed on amazon.com and indigo.com I figure I can get away with this rather early notice. Mostly it's an excuse to post the great cover, designed by Michael Solomon of Groundwood Books. I think the cover perfectly captures the book's spirit of humour, adventure, but also its darker side.

I wrote the first draft immediately after the first draft of "The Fortress of Kasper Snit" quite a few years ago. Three Snit books and several others have made it to publication first. Some stories just want to take their time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More 'Jacob'

Life has been busy and I haven't had a chance to post much lately. But I'm pleased to be able to mention that 'Jacob Two-Two on the High Seas' was named a 'Book of the Year' by 'Quill & Quire' magazine and a best book of 2009 by the magazine 'Resource Links.' Sweet.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Writing Courses

In the last week of January I'll be starting two new introductory courses in writing picture books. I believe that one is full but there may be spots for the other (Thursday afternoons) for anyone interested. Contact the School of Continuing Studies at the University of Toronto. The website is learn.utoronto.ca.