Yesterday I was part of a group of children’s authors who met on Zoom to learn how to bake bread from Harriet Zaidman. Harriet is the author of several picture books as well as the middle-grade novel City on Strike recently nominated for the 2020 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction. Harriet shares her recipes and her culinary expertise on her blog North End Nosh.
I had never baked bread before and neither had several of the other authors in our group. But under Harriet’s expert guidance we all managed to produce three kinds of delicious bread before our baking session was over.
We baked artisan bread first, then plain white bread and finally, we learned how to make challah a bread whose name comes from the Hebrew language. We needed a little help from Harriet to learn how to pronounce “challah” just right.
Our group included Anita Daher whose fourteenth novel You Don’t Have to Die in the End was recently nominated for the 2021 White Pine award, Gabriele Goldstone author of Red Stone and Broken Stone who has a new novel coming out with Ronsdale Press in 2021, Pat Trottier whose book Relationships Make the Difference was published by Pembroke andaward-winning authorColleen Nelsonwho has a long list of books to her credit including this year’s Teaching Mrs Muddle and Harvey Holds His Own both from Pajama Press.
As we baked we chatted about our current works in progress, the state of the publishing world during a pandemic and events in our personal lives. Colleen interrupted our conversation at one point to announce the final results of the American election and that of course generated lots of discussion.
It was a great day and in the end, a group of children’s authors had become a group of accomplished bakers. Thanks so much, Harriet!
After reading the first five chapters of Anita Daher’s new book You Don’t Have to Die in the End I considered not finishing the novel because Eugenia Grimm, the teenage protagonist has such a troubled life! It was tough allowing myself to be drawn into her dark world. Her father has committed suicide and her mother has abandoned her. Eugenia’s brother and his wife, who live in a small Western Canadian town, have taken her in, but Eugenia is understandably angry and confused. She is making such bad decisions! Eugenia seems to be hurtling towards an early death but……… the title of the book You Don’t Have To Die in the End assured me she’d survive. So I kept reading.
The novel becomes much more hopeful both for the reader and our heroine Eugenia when she is arrested and qualifies for a special youth program that sends her winging up on a plane to a remote ranch in northern British Columbia. There Eugenia’s relationship with the caring but tough staff, the other kids, and the ranch horses help her begin to pull her life together. The wilderness setting is like a breath of fresh air and inspires optimism, but Eugenia still faces enough pitfalls and obstacles to keep readers intrigued with her story.
On Wednesday Anita Daher, the author of You Don’t Have To Die in the End was the featured guest for an online event sponsored by the Manitoba Writer’s Guild. Anita has fifteen published books to her credit and is the current chair of the Writers Union of Canada. It was great to be able to take advantage of her expertise and ask questions about the writing and publishing process and how to access writing grants. Anita also talked about some of the unique challenges of having your book published during a pandemic.
Anita is an enthusiastic and interesting speaker and it was so valuable for a developing children’s writer like me, to have access to the insight of an author with Anita’s experience. I hadn’t met Anita in person before, even though I have belonged to a children’s writers’ group named in her honour for many years. The Anita Factor was founded by a cohort of Winnipeg authors who had taken a writing course with Anita.
My Manitoba writer friend, Mitch Toews who used to play basketball with my husband, colourfully noted in a recent rant on his Facebook page that the path to publishing your work affords no easy lay-ups. He’s right! But……. organizations like the Writers Guild and experienced authors like Anita Daher who are generous with their advice and interest make the challenging journey a collegial meaningful learning experience that enriches the writer’s life.