Category Archives: Lost on the Prairie

2022- A Banner Year for Lost on the Prairie

Holding my book in my hand for the first time when my author copies arrived in May 2021

Although my book Lost on the Prairie was published in May 2021 and many great things happened for my debut novel that year……… it turns out that 2022 was every bit as exciting for Lost on the Prairie.

Some highlights were………….

Being nominated for a Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award

Being nominated for the Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book

Check out the classy refreshments served at one of the book clubs that invited me as a guest

Meeting with a variety of Winnipeg book clubs who had read the novel, and discovering that several other book clubs including one sponsored by the Envision Community Group in Steinbach were using Lost on the Prairie for a reading selection.

Speaking to the seniors’ group that meets at the Selkirk Library

Being a guest and doing presentations to six different senior groups about the novel.

Continuing to add to the large collection of photos I’ve been sent of people of all ages enjoying my book.

Visiting my son’s grade six class in Langham Saskatchewan

Receiving invitations to be a guest in school classes that were reading Lost on the Prairie.

Having a popular children’s book blog Bit About Books feature Lost on the Prairie as part of its summer reading challenge.

Discovering in May of 2022 that Lost on the Prairie had made the McNally Robinson Bestsellers List for the 14th time.

Receiving this photo from Beena Thomas in Dehli India in July 2022 confirming that my book had now been read in at least six different countries.

Continuing to get kind recommendations for Lost on the Prairie like this one I received just now in December from Carol Penner a poet, pastor and teacher whose daily verse I enjoy on Twitter.

I discovered my novel featured on the shelves of the Millennium Library near my home in May of this year.

Finding my book in all kinds of new places- in libraries and bookstores and people’s homes.

Learning a description of my book and teaching ideas for using it had been included in this catalogue which was sent to 2,500 British Columbia schools.

Developing an ongoing and deep appreciation for the way my publisher Heritage House and especially its brilliant marketing and publicity manager Monica Miller have continued to promote and advertise my novel in all kinds of places and spaces all through 2022.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the attention my book would continue to receive for more than a year and a half after it was published, but it’s just terrific.

I am so grateful to all the people who have shown an interest in Lost on the Prairie, who have read it, bought it, given it as a gift, talked about it with friends, discussed it in book clubs, shared it with school children and have reached out to let me know what they thought about the book.

I do hope that interest continues in 2023 and that the good fortune that has blessed Lost on the Prairie may rub off on my new book Sixties Girl which debuts this coming spring.

Other posts…………

A Bento for My Book

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

Lost on the Prairie in Australia and Saskatoon

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A Bento for My Book

Showing the students my grandfather Peter’s cufflink case

I had never heard of a book bento till I visited Lynne Smolinski’s grade six class at John W. Gunn Middle School this week. They had just finished reading my novel Lost on the Prairie and had created a book bento for it.

Bento box photo from Creative Commons

A bento is a Japanese lunch box with different compartments.

A book bento looks much the same except instead of food portions arranged artistically it takes tangible objects that connect to a book and arranges them artistically. It’s become quite a popular thing to do. Check out this Instagram page of book bentos.

I loved the book bento Lynne’s class had come up with for Lost on the Prairie. She said it had taken the class a fair bit of discussion to decide which were the best objects to use to convey the main ideas and message of my book.

They chose the novel Captain’s Courageous by Rudyard Kipling which my hero Peter takes on his trip and uses as a touchstone for his own adventures.

They also used a train and a horse because Peter’s adventure begins when he is riding in a box car with his family’s horses and it becomes detached from the rest of the train.

They used the magnifying glass to represent the things Peter discovers about the world and himself during the book.

Is that brilliant or what?

The class also reimagined parts of my book as a movie or video game and created artwork for that!

This young artist envisioned the roller coaster accident in my novel.

Look at this dramatic image of the scene where my hero nearly drowns

Here’s a video game called Find Your Way Out of Sica Hollow a haunted forest in my book

This young artist brought to life the copperhead snake Peter finds in his railcar.

It is so amazing for me to see how my readers imagine my characters and scenes from my book and use their artistic gifts to recreate them.

I also paid a visit to Wayne Paton’s grade six class at John W. Gunn and his students had all kinds of great questions about my book. Wayne sent me a lovely note later thanking me for coming in and talking to the students in the two classes.

He said how much the children had enjoyed reading Lost on the Prairie. He loved watching how genuinely interested and engaged they were with my presentation about the book.

I so appreciate the fact that Wayne and Lynne read my book to their students and guided their learning about it in such creative ways.

Getting a book published was certainly a dream come true for me but having the opportunity to meet its readers like I did at John W. Gunn Middle School this week is every bit as rewarding.

Thanks a million, Wayne and Lynne for reading my book to your classes and inviting me to visit with your students.

Other posts………

The Audience Makes All the Difference

My Novel is in India

An Amazing Birthday Gift For My Novel

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The Best Way To Spend I Read Canadian Day

Did you know that exactly one week ago, November 2 was I Read Canadian Day? It’s a special day set aside to raise awareness of Canadian books for children and celebrate their richness, diversity and breadth.

I got to spend I Read Canadian Day in the best way possible. I was invited to make an author visit to John Pritchard School in Winnipeg to talk about my novel Lost on the Prairie which the grade six kids in Allison Caldwell’s room had just finished reading!

What a delight! Those students knew my novel inside and out! They had come up with twenty questions about Lost on the Prairie that really got me thinking and brought to mind all kinds of stories I could tell them about the writing of the book and my family members who inspired it.

They were so interested in the family artefacts I had brought along and when it was time to go out for recess many stayed behind to ask me MORE questions and to get my autograph.

I felt like a celebrity!

A Canadian author, visiting Canadian kids, in a Canadian classroom, in a Canadian school! What better way to celebrate I Read Canadian Day?

This week I made a pile of middle-grade fiction books by Canadians currently on my bookshelves but it really doesn’t do justice to all the amazing work by Canadian authors I’ve read over the last while.

That’s because I give away so many of the books immediately after reading them. Some go to my grandson who is ten or to my son who teaches a grade six languages arts class. I take them to our church to put in the library there so more kids will have a chance to read them. Many of the books in the stack pictured here will soon find their way to those destinations as well.

The next time you are buying a book for children why not be deliberate about buying Canadian? There are so many FANTASTIC titles out there for Canadian kids by Canadian authors.

I’m proud to say I WRITE CANADIAN and I READ CANADIAN!

Here are the most recent blog posts I’ve done about AMAZING books by Canadian authors!

Harvey Takes The Lead by Colleen Nelson

The U-nique Lou Fox by Jodi Carmichael

Elvis, Me and the Lemonade Stand Summer by Leslie Gentile

Sorry for Your Loss by Joanne Levy

The Undercover Book List by Colleen Nelson

Rescue At Lake Wild by Terry Lynne Johnson

Tainted Amber by Gabriele Goldstone

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes by Kathy Stinson

Show Us Where You Live Humpback by Beryl Young

The Vegetable Museum by Michelle Mulder and Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field by Angela Ahn

The Fabulous Zed Watson by Basil and Kevin Silvester

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I Talk With My Hands

I’ve had people comment before that I talk with my hands and I know I do. Last week I was speaking at the Gaynor Library in Selkirk and a wonderful man named Earl Palansky did a photo essay about the event. He took lots of candid shots of me. Looking at them there can be absolutely no doubt I talk with my hands.

I know sometimes my hand-talking embarrasses my husband and he will give me a private sign when we were at a social event because I’m going overboard with my dramatic descriptions using my hands.

I decided it might be fun to do a little research into the science behind people who talk with their hands.

An article by Carolyn Gregoire explains that the Broca area of our brain which is connected to speech production becomes more active when we move our hands.

A blog on the Helping People Connect site offers some fascinating facts.

Our brains are wired to pay more attention to people who gesture while they talk and we learn more from them.

Young kids who move their hands while talking their way through tough math problems solve them more quickly.

A year-long study found the most popular Ted Talk speakers were the ones who used the most hand gestures.

People who talk with their hands have more friends and generally are well-liked.

Talking with their hands actually makes speaking easier for people especially when they are trying to explain complex or abstract ideas.

Although I’m sometimes embarrassed about the way I talk with my hands I think I’m going to embrace it from now on. It’s actually a trait that’s pretty positive.

Other posts………..

We Both Talk With Our Hands

Calculator Conversation

What is Your Body Saying?

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The Audience Makes All The Difference

I am currently preparing for what I just figured out will be my twenty-third presentation about my novel, this time to a group that meets at the Gaynor Library in Selkirk. I very much enjoy engaging with people about my book but one thing I am discovering is how much the audience matters as I prepare.

Speaking to a group of women in Carmen who meet to learn new things and discuss them

I naively thought when I first began these presentations that each one could be more or less the same and I could use the same slide show and talk for each one. No way! Each presentation must really be prepared anew as I consider my audience.

Meeting with my son’s grade six class last week

If I am speaking to a group of grade sixes or a group of senior citizens I have to prepare very differently considering the age of my audience.

Meeting with a book club in Steinbach

If I am speaking to a writing group whose main focus is to hone their writing skills or to a book club whose main focus is to discuss literature I have to prepare very differently considering the purpose of the group.

Speaking at the Mennonite Heritage Village Museum in Steinbach

If I am speaking to a group who are primarily interested in general Canadian history or a group that is primarily interested in Mennonite history I have to prepare very differently considering the interests of the group.

Poster for my presentation at the library in Drake Saskatchewan

I even find that if I am speaking to a group in a small town in Saskatchewan or a group in Winnipeg I have to prepare differently considering the geographical location and the way that impacts the group’s familiarity with my novel’s topic and content.

The audience’s age, focus, interests, and location make all the difference and I have learned if I don’t consider my audience very carefully as I prepare I probably won’t do a very good job.

I am currently working on a manuscript that was intended for an adult audience when I originally wrote it and now I am rewriting the entire thing for a middle-grade audience. It is an enormous and incredibly challenging task and rightly so because…………………. the audience makes all the difference.

Other posts………….

I’d Like to Visit Your School

She Believed She Could

Meeting My Readers in Person

Does It Get Any Better Than This?

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Does It Get Any Better Than This?

Last Friday I was a special guest in my son’s grade six language arts class at Walter W. Brown School in Langham Saskatchewan. His students are using my book Lost on the Prairie for a novel study and are about halfway through the story.

Showing the students a photo of my grandfather who inspired my novel

My son invited me to talk to his students about how I’d written the book and the process of having it published. The kids had lots of questions for me which was great. They were an alert and lively bunch and so interested in my book.

I told them all about my grandparents Peter and Annie Schmidt, who inspired my novel’s story. I had brought a number of things with me that had once belonged to my grandparents and they were so interested in them.

Message from the students

After I talked to the class and answered their questions they had a fifteen-minute break and during it, one of the boys in the class took the initiative to make me a card. He wrote a special message to me on one side, and then got his classmates to put their signatures on the other and make comments about the book.

Reading aloud from my novel to the class

After the break, I read the class another couple of chapters from the book and then the young man who’d engineered the making of the card presented it to me.

I was nearly in tears. As my son arranged his students for a photo with me I thought, “Does it get any better than this? Here you are talking about a published novel you’ve written in your own son’s class?”

Definitely one of the most memorable moments on life’s journey so far.

Other posts about Lost on the Prairie……

History Hunting in the Cemetery

My First Interview

At the Top of the List

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A Song for the Journey

This week I am visiting four seniors homes to talk about the story in my book Lost on the Prairie but mostly what I’ve been doing is listening to seniors tell me stories. And their stories are delightful. Yesterday a 99-year-old man regaled me with a tale of his family’s vacation trip to South Dakota after I mentioned I’d gone there to research my novel.

The Austin 14 registered in 1938

He said in the 1930s people didn’t have radios in their cars so they had to make up their own entertainment. As his family had travelled to South Dakota in their Austin 14 they had composed a song with seventeen verses about their journey.

And ………the gentleman proceeded to sing them to me. He still remembered the song clearly. His family had needed to hurry their return trip because his mother held an important position in the Aid Society at her church and she had to be home for their monthly meeting.

That is just one of many stories I’ve heard in the last three days. I’m off to visit another home today. I wonder what stories I’ll hear there.

Other posts………

Granny Stories

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

Bennett Buggy Anyone?

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Lost on the Prairie – A Blast From the Past

It’s been a while since I’ve posted about what’s been happening with my novel Lost on the Prairie. More than a year after it was published there are still lots of copies being sold and my editor mentioned in our last phone call they are considering another print run.

I am so grateful to my publisher Heritage House who continues to promote my book on social media with unique graphics like this one

I have to pinch myself sometimes when I consider the idea that thousands of copies of my book are out there in the world and my publisher thinks it has a strong enough future to publish more.

I am always excited to hear from people who are just discovering the book and reading it for the first time.

I was out for a walk with my son and his family when a man popped out of a house we went by to tell me he had just finished reading Lost on the Prairie to his son and daughter. My novel had been a gift to his children from their grandmother and when he saw me walking by he wanted to let me know they had really enjoyed the book. I still get a thrill from encounters like that.

I know one of the reasons my book has experienced a surge in sales is because of my nomination for the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award. (MYRCA) This has meant that many community libraries and school libraries have purchased my novel. Lots of schools have MYRCA book clubs and they’ve ordered copies of Lost on the Prairie for kids to read.

I noticed in recent MYRCA advertising they’ve put the 2023 nominees into groups and mine is in the Blasts From the Past category. I am thrilled to be featured together with Leslie Gentile’s book Elvis, Me and the Lemonade Stand Summer. I LOVED her novel and wrote a review of it a couple of months ago.

This summer I walked into the McNally Robinson Booksellers branch at the Forks to buy a copy of my friend Jodi Carmichael’s new book The U-nique Lou Fox. Jodi is in my writing group and I have written a post about her latest novel which will launch at McNally Robinson Booksellers on September 28th.

Later looking at my photos I realized a book by another member of my writing group was there too, Gabriele Goldstone’s Tainted Amber. Three members of our writing group all displayed together on the same shelf! Marvellous. My book would never have been published without the help of my writers’ group.

Thanks to Teacher Librarian Mrs Dutka and Library Technician Miss Brydges at Highbury School in the Louis Riel School Division for creating this fabulous MYRCA bulletin board that includes Lost on the Prairie.

I’ve been a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators since 2014 but have always been listed as only an associate member because I didn’t have a published book to my name. It was kind of thrilling to log on to the site recently and see that I am now listed as a ‘full member.’

My brother-in-law is outside the James Bay Library in Victoria letting me know they have a copy of my book on their shelves.

However, family stories related to Lost on the Prairie are the ones that never fail to make me tear up.

Like when my daughter-in-law told me she had been at the library with our granddaughter and they had stopped to look at Grandma’s book on display in the children’s area.

Or when my son a school principal and teacher in Saskatchewan sent a text to let me know he’s ordered a class set of my books so he can use it for a novel study with his grade six English class.

Or when my niece who teaches in a community just outside of Winnipeg told me when she saw her school’s librarian unpacking copies of Lost on the Prairie she said, “My auntie wrote that book and I can probably arrange for her to visit our school.”

My marvelous Auntie Louise bought five copies of my book one for each of her children and one for herself

Having Lost on the Prairie published remains an exciting thing for me. I promise I won’t blog about it forever but for now, writing these posts is a good way for me to keep track of the ongoing adventure of being a bona fide novelist.

Other posts……..

Lost on the Prairie in Australia and Saskatoon

Lost on the Prairie Arrives in Hong Kong

Lost on the Prairie in the Great Outdoors

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I’d Like to Visit Your School

Opening the box from my publisher Heritage House and seeing my novel for the first time

Although I was very excited when my novel Lost on the Prairie was published in May of 2021 one thing that disappointed me was that COVID made it almost impossible for me to visit classrooms to talk about my novel with kids.

Books nominated for the 2023 MYRCA Sundogs Award

With a lifting of many COVID restrictions and my novel’s nomination for the Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award I am hoping I can start visiting classrooms to talk about Lost on the Prairie.

In order to facilitate that I’ve put together three different kinds of presentations I could offer to schools.

In the first one The Writing Journey I help students understand the process of writing by exploring ways to get ideas for writing, do research for writing, develop your own style of writing, work with others to improve your writing and be intentional about celebrating your writing.

Here I am with Naomi one of the interesting people I interviewed while I was researching my book.

In the second one Doing Research I discuss how conducting interviews, going on field trips, investigating scientific information, looking at documents and historical materials and considering artifacts can inspire writing and enrich it. I give tips and ideas for doing each kind of research.

The third workshop Lost on the Prairie Book Club is designed specifically for classes where the teacher has read aloud Lost on the Prairie or the class has used it for a novel study.

I’ll be focused on the children’s questions and wonderings about the book but will also tell them more about myself as an author, provide a timeline for the writing of the novel, talk about some of the mistakes I made or almost made when writing it and what people have had to say about it.

The first teacher who contacted me about visiting her classroom wanted to pick individual topics from all three of the presentations that would connect with things she has planned for in the coming school year with her students. That was great!

The workshop outlines are just jumping off points and I am happy to custom design a workshop that fits each individual class and their interests.

Lost on the Prairie does have a comprehensive teaching guide included at the back of the book that offers lots of hands on activities for students and is linked to the middle grade language arts and social studies curriculum outcomes for the western provinces.

And of course I am open to doing virtual presentations for classrooms in other provinces.

Please feel free to contact me and we can work out the details of a classroom visit.

Other posts………

She Believed She Could

My Novel is in India

Lost on the Prairie Arrives in Hong Kong and Australia

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My Novel is in India

My friend Beena recently sent me a photo of herself with my novel Lost on the Prairie which has made its way to Delhi, India. When we visited Delhi many years ago Beena and her family entertained us for a meal in their home.

In the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden with Beena during her Winnipeg visit

Dave and I taught with Beena’s sister at our school in Hong Kong and Beena has visited us here in Winnipeg. I was delighted to know she had a copy of my novel.

Every month or so I like to post an update on things that are happening with my novel Lost on the Prairie. My publisher Heritage House is as diligent as ever in promoting my book and recently featured it as part of a summer reading campaign.

When I first retired from teaching and decided I wanted to try and write a children’s book and get it published I took a correspondence course in writing for children from The Institute of Children’s Literature based in West Redding Connecticut. The course provided an excellent start to learning about writing for children.

My personal writing coach was Pegi Deitz Shea and she was wonderful. She gave me such encouraging and helpful feedback on each of the submitted assignments but more importantly she gave me confidence. Recently the Institute of Children’s Literature contacted me asking if they could feature me on their successful graduate’s page and I agreed. You can read my interview with them here.

I was delighted that the popular children’s book blog Bit About Books featured Lost on the Prairie as part of their Summer Trails Reading Challenge.

I have to admit I LOVE going into the Millennium Library near my home and seeing my novel on the shelf just as you walk into the children’s section where it is featured as a Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award nominee with so many other great books.

Teacher Librarian Ella Munro reported on social media that Lost on the Prairie was the fourth of the ten nominated books for the MYRCA award she had read before singing the praises of its charming hero. You can read more comments about Lost on the Prairie here.

Recently my friend Pearl had Dave and me over for brunch which included a delicious quiche made by her husband Ken. She asked me to sign five copies of my book which she was giving to families she knew. Thanks, Pearl!

I always think that one month soon there won’t be anything to write about my novel but more than a year after it was first published things keep happening that I want to write about and remember and that was something I didn’t expect.

Other posts……….

What A Week You’ve Had

So Much Novel News

Pantser or Plotter

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