Let me introduce you to the amazing Ann Walsh, a prolific BC writer of nine novels for kids and young adults. An has also co-written a non-fiction book about forestry, and was editor of two short story anthologies. Her most recent novel is Whatever.
What inspired you to begin writing?
I always wanted to be a writer. Then one day I found myself fast approaching 40 and realized it was time to get on with my dream. So I took a 6 day writing course in Wells, just outside the restored gold rush town of Barkerville, with a wonderful teacher, Robin Skelton. Wells forms the setting for much of my first book, and I still carry a picture of Robin in my wallet, with the photos of the grandkids.
The first book you published was a lovely teen novel called Your Time, My Time that was set in the historical town of Barkerville. Having read the book, I’ve never been able to go past the old Barkerville cemetery without getting goosebumps. You’ve written four stories set in Barkerville. Can you discuss the importance of special places in inspiring story?
Thank you for those kind words. Barkerville still gives me goosebumps, the whole town, not just the cemetery. The first time I ever saw it, in the early l960s before the road in was paved or even more or less straight, I knew that it was a special place, one where the past and present nearly touched. In YTMT my protagonist, Elizabeth, expresses that feeling. She says “It’s as if the old times are jealous of the new and want to be, not the past, but the here and now.” Or words similar to that. That feeling of the past ‘looking over your shoulder’ still haunts me in Barkerville, and in some other historic places.
In your own books, who is your favourite character? Why?
Percival Theodore MacIntosh and Moses (from Moses, Me and Murder) and I have travelled together a lot, and done many, many school presentations together. They are my most entertaining characters. But my favourites change. Right it is Janie Johnson, an elderly (that means older than me) woman who is a central character in my new YA, Whatever.
What author do you read over and over again?
Arthur Conan Doyle; Shakespeare
You’ve recently been studying in Victoria. Why do you feel continuing education is important for an author?
Books need fertile ground in which to grow. A stagnant brain isn’t receptive to the seeds of ideas. I loved re-discovering Shakespeare’s words and themes and had an introduction to Women’s Studies. My brain woke up and a book was finished.
Do you have a favourite writing quotation to share?
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
What do you like about writing for children and teens?
Recently I met a young mother and her two small children. She had been searching for a copy of Your Time, My Time to re-read because it had made such an impact on her when she was a teen. I signed a new copy of the book to her young daughter, even though it will be many years before the toddler can read it. When you write for young people your audience is always new and always changing. One day a teacher contacts you, one day a grown-up fan, one day an Indo-Canadian boy translating for his father who has limited English but who wants to know if a certain part of Shabash! is true. It’s a wonderful audience to write for, and young people are generous in their praise. My favourite quote, make by a young girl who must be in her 20s by now, is “Ann Walsh, do you know you’re world famous in Kamloops?”
What has been the most interesting thing that has happened to you because you are an author?
A difficult question. I’ve driven all over BC usually by myself, met people I’d only heard of like Margaret Atwood, Ann-Marie MacDonald and Farley Mowatt. I’ve danced with Pierre Berton, and eaten breakfast with Robert Munsch. I’ve learned so much, about writing, about people and about myself. It’s been a wonderful career, and I wish I’d started when I was younger so I’d have longer to write. However, I’m not done yet!
Which of your books was the easiest to write? Why? (or if you prefer, What is the easiest part of the writing process for you?)
Moses, Me and Murder! was easy and fast to write (after all, most of the story is true, there wasn’t an decision to be made about the ending for me to wrestle with.) However, it took over 5 years to sell to a publisher and got scathing reviews from ‘literary’ reviewers. It was first published in 1984 and, much to my delight, has just been re-issued as a new edition with a different publisher.
Which of your books was the most challenging to write? Why?
Whatever was difficult for me because in it I deal with the issue of aging as well as the Restorative Justice process.
What is the most asked question when you’re doing author visits in schools?
In every session someone asks at least one of the following three questions: “How old are you, how much money do you make, where do you get your ideas?” I now answer them before the question period begins—seventy one, not very much and anywhere I can, in case anyone else wants to know.
Thanks, Shawn. This was fun!
(Note from Shawn: I am SO JEALOUS that you danced with Pierre Berton and had breakfast with Robert Munsch!)