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A Minute of Time with Larry Verstraete

0af604035b5121092813cda8ad865055_sThis time around I asked fellow Anita Factor writing group member, Larry, the following two questions:

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was enrolled in a correspondence writing course at the time.  For our third assignment, we were asked to write an article for a children’s magazine.  I figured lightning would be a fascinating subject for kids.  While doing research on the topic, I encountered a story about a weird demonstration conducted by Benjamin Franklin in 1750 that involved zapping a turkey with a powerful jolt of electricity.  Things didn’t go as planned.  Franklin accidentally touched one of the connections and was sent flying.  The loud bang and flash of light produced by the discharge reminded him of lightning. The experience led him to his most famous and dangerous experiment two years later – launching a kite in a thunderstorm to test the properties of lightning.

Image result for accidental discoveries verstraeteRight off, I realized that I’d found writer’s gold – a true story so odd and fascinating that properly told, it practically guaranteed the reader’s attention. I abandoned my earlier subject –  lightning – and wrote about Franklin and the turkey instead. Then, as I worked on my course assignments, I wrote other science stories with similar mixes where mishaps, mistakes, and unusual circumstances ultimately led to major breakthroughs. By the end of the course, I had a sizeable collection – enough for a decent book. Scholastic published the manuscript under the title The Serendipity Effect. Years later, it was revised and reissued under its present title: Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite.

What are you reading now?

Image result for The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings that Sell by Paula MunierRight now, I am reading a reference book called The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings that Sell by Paula Munier, a top literary agent.  The book covers much more than just the first chapter, but also what should happen after the beginning.  Munier writes with clarity and wit, and she includes numerous examples drawn from a swath of genres.  On every page, I find insider tips and valuable information.  I’d recommend this book to everyone who writes fiction whether they be novices or seasoned veterans.

Please connect with Larry:

Website/Blog: The Footloose Writer
Facebook: @larry.verstraete.author
Twitter: @VerstraeteLarry
Instagram: @larryvrstraete
Pinterest: @Larryverstraete
LinkedIn: Larry Verstraete
Goodreads: Larry Verstraete

Bio:
Larry Verstraete began writing for youngsters while he was still teaching.  He is the award-winning author of 16 non-fiction books for young people and one middle grade novel.  His most recent release is ‘Dinosaurs’ of the Deep: Discover Prehistoric Marine Life (Turnstone Press, 2016), a book about the Western Interior Seaway and its exotic creatures. Larry is a frequent visitor to schools where he shares his enthusiasm for reading and writing with students, teachers and parents.

A Minute of Time with Larry Verstraete

Larry and I actually met as members of a writing group. Prior to the Anita Factor, we were both involved with Vast Imaginations. After a few years, the two groups amalgamated.

0af604035b5121092813cda8ad865055_sWhen Larry and I first met, he was already an award-winning, established writer of several non-fiction books for children. He joined our writing group as he was writing his first middle grade novel. A few years later, Missing in Paradise, was published, with recognition to boot.

We often joke within the Anita Factor that in amongst a bunch of “Anitas,” Larry is our one “Anito!” As a retired teacher, Larry is observant, patient and thoughtful. He cares about his friends and will always lend a listening ear. He was a supportive sounding board for me during  my ridiculously stressful 2016. I treasure his friendship.

In my attempts to get to know my fellow writers a little better, I asked Larry the following:

What was the last book you finished? Would you recommend it?

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein.  Highly recommended.  Insightful, humorous, intriguing plot line, and, for something different, it also features a philosopher-dog as a protagonist.

 

What was your favourite book as a child/teen? Do you remember what it was about the book that made it your favourite?

(tough question, so many…)

The Source by James A. Mitchener

I read this 900 page book when I was 15. Mitchener sweeps through time, blending historical fact with a fictional plot and characters.  I was blown away by the way he tied so many elements about religion together.  It was my first ‘heavy’ read, and once I finished Michener’s book I went on to read other equally weighty ones with that mix of history, fiction, and challenging ideas.

(Side note: As a young lad, I don’t have many memories of books.  We didn’t have many books kicking around our house.  But as a teenager, I made regular trips to our local library so most of my favourite books come from that era.)

Please connect with Larry:

Website/Blog: The Footloose Writer
Facebook: @larry.verstraete.author
Twitter: @VerstraeteLarry
Instagram: @larryvrstraete
Pinterest: @Larryverstraete
LinkedIn: Larry Verstraete
Goodreads: Larry Verstraete

Bio:
Larry Verstraete began writing for youngsters while he was still teaching.  He is the award-winning author of 16 non-fiction books for young people and one middle grade novel.  His most recent release is ‘Dinosaurs’ of the Deep: Discover Prehistoric Marine Life (Turnstone Press, 2016), a book about the Western Interior Seaway and its exotic creatures. Larry is a frequent visitor to schools where he shares his enthusiasm for reading and writing with students, teachers and parents.

 

Seeing Bea in the Roaring 20’s

I attended the Manitoba Book Awards on Saturday night, for the first time. My novel, Empty Cup, was shortlisted in the McNally Robinson Book for Young People, older category. I didn’t win, but having my first novel shortlisted is a true honour. I congratulate the winner, Eva Wiseman for her book The World Outside.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my publisher, Rebelight Publishing, had two of their inaugural novels in the same category. Empty Cup was nominated along side Larry Verstraete’s Missing in Paradise. An incredible feat for a new small publisher.

The theme of the night was the roaring 20’s!

MBA Mel headpiece MBA Christina and Gabe

Here is my writers’ group, The Anita Factor, all dressed up with some place to go.

Melanie, Me, Jodi, Christina, Gabriele Melinda, Deborah

Anitas: back: Melanie, Me, Jodi, Christina, Gabriele
front: Melinda, Deborah (missing MaryLou and Patricia)

It’s pretty incredible really – seven Anita’s have been published in the last twelve months. It’s been a wild year.

 

And the winner is!

Fellow Anita and Rebelight Publishing owner, Melanie Matheson, won in the McNally Robinson Best Book for Young People, younger category, for her picture book, Hokey Dowa Gerda and the Snowflake Girl. Congrats again my dear friend!hokey cover

MBA Mel wins

An absolute highlight for me was seeing Beatrice Mosionier, author of The Search for April Raintree. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the best picture, but I was stoked just the same. This is one of those books that everyone should read.I was hoping to meet her afterwards, but I couldnMBA bea‘t find her in the crowd. Still, this is the author of the highest selling book of any Manitoba author. An new award recognizing aboriginal writers was named after her. I could go on and on, I was starstruck.

The Manitoba Book Awards was a truly wonderful experience and one that I look forward to taking in annually.

I would highly encourage people to check out different awards programs in their areas. You may be surprised what or who you discover!

Talk About Being in Good Company !

I was going to blog about what an amazing year the members of my writing group, The Anita Factor, is having, however, one of my fellow members, MaryLou, who blogs at What Next? beat me to the punch. So, I’ll piggy back on her wonderful post. Thanks, MaryLou! It really has been a year of one fantastic story after another – literally and figuratively!

What Next?

The nominees for the Manitoba Book Awards have been announced and three members of my writing group The Anitas have made the short lists. suzanne costigan empty cupSuzanne Costigan is nominated in the fiction for older children category for her book Empty Cup. Suzanne’s novel has also been selected as a featured book in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s Spring 2015 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens. 

deborah froeseDeborah Froese is among the nominees in the fiction for younger children category for her picture book Mr. Jacobson’s Window.

melanie mathesonMelanie Matheson is nominated in the same category as Deborah, for her picture book Hokey Dowa Gerda and the Snowflake Girl.

jodiSome other good news for The Anitas recently was the announcement that Jodi Carmichael’s novel Forever Julia was featured in an article in Quill and Quire.  Jodi launches her book April 16th at McNally Robinson.

enslavement melinda friesenHighlights for our writing group this past…

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A Pretty Damned Exciting Day!

EMPTY_COVER_COVER_FINALI don’t like to toot-my-own-horn so to speak, but yesterday, was a pretty damned exciting day!

Here’s how it panned out:

In the morning, I was sent an email telling me that Empty Cup has been shortlisted (nominated) for the Manitoba Book Awards, McNally Robinsons Best Book for Young People (Older Category)!!! I can’t tell you what an honour this is. I’m SO excited!

Not only that, but my fellow author from Rebelight Publishing, Larry Verstraete, was also shortlisted for his novel, Missing in Paradise, for the same category. I couldn’t be more thrilled to be sharing the spotlight with my good friend. Congratulations, Larry! MIP cover

Mr Jacobson's WindowNot only that, but the editorial director of Rebelight Publishing, Deborah Froese, was also nominated for her picture book, Mr. Jacobson’s Window in the same category except for younger readers. Congratulations, Deb!

AND not only that, but the creative director of Rebelight Publishing, Melanie Matheson, was shortlisted for her picture book, Hokey Dowa Gerda and the Snowflake Girl in the same younger category. Congrats to Mel too! hokey cover

So, there was much to be celebrated yesterday morning and there was much congratulations and cheer flying around on Facebook and Twitter and even through phone lines!

In the afternoon I took my boys to a matinee, Home. I normally leave my phone in my purse, however, I forgot and left it in my pocket. All through the movie I could feel vibration after vibration… which is why I leave it in my purse, so to not be distracted. However… I did ignore it until the end credits. To which I checked  my text messages, and from (the afore mentioned) Deborah – “Check your email!!!!”

I checked my email and my jaw dropped. Again, Empty Cup and Missing in Paradise have been selected to be listed in the Canadian Children’s Book Centre’s (CCBC) Spring 2015 edition of Best Books for Kids & Teens (BBKT) magazine! This is national recognition across Canada aimed at teachers and librarians and authors. Congratulations again to my friend, Larry.

To receive such recognition in one day is astounding and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

We find out the winners at the Manitoba Book Awards on April 25th at the Awards Gala. Personally, I’m just so happy to be shortlisted that I’ll be ecstatic for whoever wins. Congratulations to all of the nominees and to all those recognized in the CCBC, BBKT!

Three Authors… One Big Launch!

Sunday was an exciting day!

After two years of research and hard work, Rebelight Publishing Inc. launched it’s first three books at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

I haven’t talked a lot about my book on this blog…one thing I can’t stand from others is the hard sell coming into my inbox, so I’ve been sparing my followers 🙂 But today, I’m going to talk about it…

You can read about Empty Cup here on my website. This page will be updated periodically with where to buy the book and new photos, character info and whatever else I find may be interesting to share that relates to my novel.

However, Sunday was filled with excitement as we launched three novels and I have some pictures to share with you.

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Larry Verstraete reading from Missing in Paradise

http://i1.wp.com/www.rebelight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/MISSING_COVER-2.jpgMissing in Paradise

Four months after Gramp’s mysterious death, Nate helps out at Gram’s garage sale. An eerie feeling, as if Gramps were reaching beyond the grave to send Nate a message, leads Nate to a box full of clues. A missing plane. A secret to keep. A map highlighting the route where Gramps died and the message, “Shipment #35—Gold”.

Nate and his best friend, Simon, are convinced that Gramps was on a treasure hunt when he died. They’re just as convinced that Gram’s shifty next door neighbour, Fortier, is after the gold too. Nate and Simon sneak away on a Greyhound bus for the small town of Paradise where Nate is sure treasure awaits.

Can they find the gold before Fortier gets his thieving hands on a treasure that rightfully belongs to Gramps?

IMG_2567

Me reading from Empty Cup

Empty Cup CoverEmpty Cup

More than anything, Raven wishes for a knight to rescue her from a life of abuse. On her seventeenth birthday, her mom’s boyfriend assaults her. Mom blames Raven and kicks her out into a bitter winter night. As Raven struggles with the aftermath of betrayal, her knight appears in the form of a concerned teacher. But people are not always what they seem.

 

IMG_2615

Melinda Friesen reading from Enslavement

http://i2.wp.com/www.rebelight.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Book-Cover.jpgOne Bright Future: Enslavement

“One world. One currency. One bright future.”

 In the wake of global economic collapse, the OneEarth Bank promised world prosperity in exchange for compliance with the commerce chip insertions. Those who refuse the chip are vilified and labelled resistors—including Rielle James’s family.

On the day officers arrest her parents and seize her younger brother and sister, Rielle is assigned to a Community Service contract. Officially, contracts are portrayed as a way to rehabilitate kids from Resistor families, but in reality, they’re legalized slavery. Rielle’s contract is sold to the highest bidder—a wealthy and abusive banker. She quickly discovers that nothing in her owner’s home is as it appears. His seemingly perfect life is a facade that hides volatile secrets.

Escape means freedom and the possibility of finding her family–if she can pull it off. Prison or even death await if she fails.

 

We were all received well from the crowd that came to celebrate with us. We all had guests sign our own personal copies of our own books so we’d each have a keepsake from our day.

IMG_2695 IMG_2702 IMG_2690

 

2014-11-26 Lance coverAfter the launch, an article came out in our local area newspaper – we made the front cover! You can see the article here.

It’s been an exciting time for all of us.

Author Contact info:

Larry Verstraete: www.larryverstraete.com

Melinda Friesen: www.melindafriesen.com

Me… contact page

We’re all happy to hear from you.

Where to buy our books:

McNally Robinson Booksellers

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Chapters/Indigo.ca (if they are not available at the time of this posting they will be within a few days!)

and soon – everywhere!