Author Interview with LOIS PETERSON
I remember back in 2009, being invited to participate in a writer’s group with Lois Peterson. Together, with other wonderful writers, we workshopped both of our books, Benched and Beyond Repair, which were released in early 2011, as part of the Orca Currents. Later that year, my second novel, Living Rough was released; a fictional account of a homeless youth living with his Dad in a tent. I did a fair deal of research for Living Rough back in 2010, and I remember in one chapter my main character, Poe, was in Social Studies when a student mentioned that over 200,000 people could be homeless in Canada on any given night.
Can you share with us how you researched for Shelter – Homelessness in Our Community, a new release in the Orca Think series for middle-grade readers? How have things changed in the past ten years in Canada?
I did have the advantage of having a bit of an ‘insider’s view’ when I started this book, as I was working for a homeless shelter in Nanaimo at the time. That said, to fully understand the issue in both Canada and the US I still had to immerse myself in the topic, reading studies, reports, following news items, staying in touch with what many organizations working with people affected by homelessness were doing ‘on the ground’. Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there – most notably, the Homeless Hub website of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, which was invaluable during my research. www.homelesshub.ca
And no. I don’t think the homelessness situation has changed… in fact it may be worse with more poverty, less affordable housing everywhere and many complex issues still being unaddressed, despite the efforts of so many people and organizations trying to help.
This is your ninth book with Orca Publishers, and it is your first non-fiction title. How did preparing to write this book differ from writing your works of fiction?
This took much longer than most of my fiction… I had to document sources of everything I learned, search for multiple sources to verify some of the facts, follow leads without always knowing where I would end up, interview a number of people, and work really hard to ensure I covered the topic from a number of perspectives. I had to ‘get out of my own head’, which is where I spend much of my time when I’m working on fiction – although as you know, some research is often involved to ground fiction in fact.
What drew you to writing about this important topic?
Working in community services in the homeless sector, I had come to understand how much misinformation there is about the causes and effects of homelessness. As children get much of their information – and many opinions – from the adults in their lives, I wanted to give them insights and facts to learn more, form their own opinions, and develop empathy for people whose lives might be very different than their own.
Taryn Gee did the wonderful artwork and illustrations for this book. Can you comment on how that process works – do you have an opportunity to work together and talk about your visions for the pictures?
I did see ‘roughs’ of some of Taryn Gee’s sketches early in the process, but there was no collaboration as such. It was quite thrilling to see how her vision of what the book might look like was revealed as I saw drafts of the finished book quite late in the process. The one thing I get the most comments about from readers is the cover image, which I feel is very powerful.
Congratulations on becoming one of the all-stars for Canadian Children’s Book Week, 2022. What advice do you have for authors applying next year?
This will actually be ‘only’ my second time touring during The Children’s Book Centre Book Week. I toured Southern Saskatchewan in 2013, but this tour will be online rather than in person.
I don’t think there’s a science in applying successfully. But I do think it’s a good idea to talk about outcomes in applications – what you hope students will gain from your presentations – just as much as you describe what you will actually do in the workshops. Also, make sure not to miss the application deadline which is usually in mid-October! #CCBCBookWeek2022
What are you planning to write next? I also know you are painting – will that factor into any upcoming stories?
Some days I have trouble deciding between writing and painting!
As always, I have a number of fiction works on the go. In fact, just last night I got a new idea for a picture book while watching a TV quiz show. But currently, I am putting together a proposal for another midgrade nonfiction book – this one is about creativity. Something that has always been a big part of my life, one way or another, and something that I think is vital to our development as human beings in a challenging and changing world.
Thank you, Lois Peterson, for sharing your thoughts with our readers! We look forward to enjoying your new book.
Thanks, Cristy. I always enjoyed having the opportunity of sharing our writing journeys. You can follow Lois Peterson on social media: http://loispetersonwriter.cahttps://www.facebook.com/LPwordshttps://twitter.com/lpwords