Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Margriet Ruurs

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Ten Questions with Margriet Ruurs

Open Book talks to Margriet Ruurs about reading, writing and her latest book, My School in the Rain Forest (Boyds Mills Press).

Open Book: Toronto:

Tell us about your latest book.

Margriet Ruurs:

It’s called My School in the Rain Forest, published by Boyds Mills Press. The book is a photo collage with information on how children go to school around the world: a girl in Afghanistan is able to get an education but only in a school behind a wall. A boy in the heart of Australia speaks to his teacher via the radio at the School of the Air. There is a boarding school in a medieval castle in Scotland, a floating school in Cambodia and many more.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote your book?

MR:

I write books for children. I hope this particular book will be read by adults as well as kids. I wanted to show kids that a school is not necessarily the same old school building they may be used to. I hope that the book will generate an interest in service learning by adopting some of the schools around the world that don’t own books or teaching resources. It’s easy to share our wealth and abundance.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

MR:

My reality is pretty ideal. I live on a 5 acre lavender farm on Salt Spring Island. It’s very quiet. When I sit at my desk, I look into the forest. A deer sometimes saunters by or quail moonwalks under my window. Behind me are floor to ceiling bookshelves holding an eclectic collection of, mostly, children’s books. I run a booklovers’ B & B (Between The Covers: www.betweenthecoversbandb.com) in my house so my house is full of books!

OBT:

What was your first publication?

MR:

Well, I won an essay contest when I was 9. Does that count? My first book was published in The Netherlands before I immigrated. I worked in a primate center raising baby chimpanzees. They were so interesting that everyone always wanted to see photos and hear stories. I put those together, sent them to the biggest publisher in the country and wham! They published it. I thought then that getting a book published was easy….

OBT:

Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.

MR:

There are many interpretations of the word "cultural." I "perform" at many children’s literacy events and in schools across the country. Being involved in an event like The Vancouver International Book Festival makes you realize the enormous diversity of cultures within schools. I need to make sure my books appeal to children of many different backgrounds. Visiting a school in Nunavut I realize that Inuit children have a very different set of reference than children in the Okanagan. I try to write books that will interest them, amuse them and perhaps show them a glimpse of different worlds. Books for children are windows to the world.

I recently visited Burma and saw that schools and homes have no books or learning resources. That makes me aware of our richness in Canada. Visiting Pakistan I ended up writing a picture book about the value of libraries. The book is now being handed out to children across Pakistan. I hope this helps to promote a love of reading in some small way.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

MR:

I would choose three children’s books. Gifts by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Barbara Reid. It shows how interesting our world is and encourages people to travel. The Kids’ Book of Canadian Immigration by Deborah Hodge. It is the complete guide to acceptance and adaptation in this country. Everyone should read it. And Wow, Canada by Vivian Bowers. A fun, fact filled book.

OBT:

What are you reading right now?

MR:

I am listening to To Kill A Mockingbird as an audio book. And I am treating myself to a relaxing summer read by Maeve Binchy.

OBT:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?

MR:

Two simple sentences with lots of wisdom behind them: “Show, don’t tell.” It’s the golden rule in all writing and “From the specific comes the universal.” That was said by Kathy Lowinger, my publisher at Tundra. I see that being true time and time again when I write a story about something specific and it has universal appeal to others who take the story to their heart, to their own interpretation.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

MR:

Rewrite. Read it a loud. Rewrite. Let others read it. Rewrite. And read all the books you can get your hands on. The more you read, the more you will know… right?

OBT:

What is your next project?

MR:

I always have many projects on the go. I’m rewriting a novel which I hope will be a cross-over YA/adult story. I’m doing the research for a book for teachers on using picture books with older students. And I would love to write a story about ancient forests, trees have so many stories to tell.


Margriet Ruurs is the author of 27 books for children. With a Master of Education degree from Simon Fraser University, she teaches writing workshops at elementary schools across North America and has been a guest lecturer at several universities. The recipient of the 2005 Region West Presidential Award for Reading & Technology of the International Reading Association, she has conducted writing workshops in Lahore, Pakistan. She travels extensively to International Schools around the world. Margriet writes a regular column on writing, as well as freelance articles, for Reading Today, the magazine of IRA.

Several of her books have won awards, including the Storytellers World
Award Honor Title for Emma’s Eggs and short listings for the Mr. Christie Award of Excellence, the Shining Willow and the Chocolate Lily, Blue Spruce, Utah Information Book Award and National Crown Award. My Librarian is a Camel was awarded Teacher’s Choice Award and named IRA’s Notable Book for Global Awareness.

She lives on Salt Spring Island, B.C. where she runs Between The Covers, a booklovers’ B & B. When she’s not busy writing and speaking, Margriet likes to hike or knit. But what she likes best is getting children excited about writing and reading good books! www.margrietruurs.com

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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