Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

The Word on the Street interview series: Deborah Ellis

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Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis, author of No Ordinary Day (Groundwood Books), talks with Open Book for today's edition of The Word on the Street interview series.

Open Book's interview series features authors appearing at the Vibrant Voices of Ontario tent, a brand-new element at WOTS which is supported by the OMDC (Ontario Media Development Corporation), and which features some of the best fiction, poetry and non-fiction being produced by writers and publishers in our fine province.

Stay tuned to Open Book: Toronto this month for more interviews and a series of exciting contests in partnership with Word on the Street! Check out the first two contests here and here.

Open Book:

Tell us about what you’ll be reading in the Vibrant Voices tent.

Deborah Ellis:

I'll be reading and talking about three books. The first is No Ordinary Day (Groundwood Books). I'm very excited about this book because it deals with leprosy, a very old disease we are on the verge of wiping out.

The main character is a girl named Valli who leaves he home in search of a better life. She ends up in Kolkata, that magical, vibrant city full of excitement and struggle. She keeps herself alive by relying on her considerable wit, not thinking about the future, until one day she meets a woman who shows her she can aim for much more than bare survival. But before Valli can accept this new version of herself, she must look hard at her fears and decide which is more important — her old way of thinking or a new way of living.

I'm partnering on No Ordinary Day with The Leprosy Mission. They run hospitals, provide the drugs that cure leprosy and assist people affected by it to support themselves and their families. They do terrific, empowering work.

The second book is called True Blue (Pajama Press). It's a young adult murder mystery that takes place at a summer camp near a small town. The book is mostly about the choices people make when the murder takes place, and the consequences of those choices.

The third book is We Want You To Know — Kids Talk About Bullying (Coteau). This is a book of interviews I did with kids in Southern Ontario talking about how bullying has affected their lives — what they did about it and what they learned from it. It was released last year — now it's out in paperback.

Three different books on the surface, but all pretty similar — they all deal with the power we have to make choices.


Have you attended Word on the Street in the past? If so, tell us about a favourite memory. If not, what are you most looking forward to?


I attended WOTS a couple of years ago, to introduce a book of writing done by adult learners. It was exciting to hear words people have struggled to learn to write, and to hear the power in their voices from overcoming their obstacles.


The Vibrant Voices tent celebrates Ontario authored and published books. Tell us about a favourite Ontario author or book.


Favourite Ontario author — Jean Little. My parents' friend was a childhood friend of Jean's, and would give my sister and me Jean's books for Christmas when we were kids. My favourites are Look Through My Window and Kate and From Anna. Jean writes complex emotions in a straightforward way, and treats her readers as if they have intelligence. I always felt respected when I read her books as a child.


What’s the best advice about public readings you have ever received?


I can't think of any advice that I've gotten, but I make it a point to show up on time. That's the part I can control. Whether anybody attends, whether they like what I have to say — I can't control that, so I don't worry about it.


Word on the Street happens simultaneously in Toronto, Vancouver, Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Halifax. If you could be in two places at once, which WOTS festival (in addition to Toronto) would you attend on September 25?


I was in Saskatoon WOTS last year and had a great time. I also love Kitchener — I spent some years in nearby Elmira as a child.


What can you tell us about your next project?


The book coming out next spring is called — tentatively — Children of Kabul. It's a book of interviews I did with kids in Kabul last winter, getting an update on how they are doing since the fall of the Taliban.

Deborah Ellis has achieved international acclaim with her courageous and dramatic books that give Western readers a glimpse into the plight of children in developing countries. She has won the Governor General's Literary Award, Sweden's Peter Pan Prize, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the University of California's Middle East Book Award, the Jane Addams Children's Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award. A long-time feminist and anti-war activist, she is best known for The Breadwinner Trilogy, which has been published around the world in seventeen languages, with more than a million dollars in royalties donated to Street Kids International and to Women for Women, an organization that supports health and education projects in Afghanistan. In 2006, Deb was named to the Order of Ontario.

For more information about No Ordinary Day please visit the Groundwood Books website.

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

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