Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Shane Peacock

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Shane Peacock was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and grew up in Kapuskasing. A biographer, journalist and screenwriter, he is also the author of several novels and plays. He has received many honours for his writing, including the prestigious Arthur Ellis Award for Eye of the Crow, the first of the Boy Sherlock Holmes series, and he has twice been a finalist for the TD Canadian Children's Literature Award. Shane Peacock lives with his wife and three children near Cobourg, Ontario. Visit www.shanepeacock.ca and www.theboysherlockholmes.com.

Send your questions and comments for Shane to writer@openbooktoronto.com

The Proust Questionnaire, with Shane Peacock

Shane Peacock is Open Book's October 2010 Writer in Residence. In his answer to the Proust Questionnaire, Shane tells us idea of misery, his favourite virtue, his motto and more.

The Proust Questionnaire was not invented by Marcel Proust, but it was a much loved game by the French author and many of his contemporaries. The idea behind the questionnaire is that the answers are supposed to reveal the respondent's "true" nature.

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What is your dream of happiness? To be able to write like Shakespeare and Dickens, paint like Van Gogh and create music like The Beatles and Bob Dylan.

The Secret Fiend: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Fourth Case

By Shane Peacock

"It is 1868, the week that Benjamin Disraeli becomes Prime Minister of the Empire. Sherlock's beautiful but poor admirer, Beatrice, the hatter's daughter, appears at the door late at night. She is terrified, claiming that she and her friend have just been attacked by the Spring Heeled Jack on Westminster Bridge and the fiend has made off with her friend. At first Sherlock thinks Beatrice simply wants his attention, and he is reluctant to go back to detective work. He also believes that the Jack everyone fears is a fictional figure. But soon he is suspicious of various individuals, several of them close friends."

For more information, please visit the Tundra Books website.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

The Best Job Ever

During Q&As, I'm often asked why I became a writer. My favourite answer is that I did it because I didn't want to have a job. It's a response that is only partially facetious.

Most jobs involve an individual participating in some sort of chain of production in our world, some sort of service, sometimes almost thoroughly for money, other times to make oneself of use. A writer, an artist, in my opinion, doesn't really fit in to any of that.

Oscar Wilde said, in the introduction to "A Picture of Dorian Gray," (if my memory serves me well) that "You can forgive a man for making a useful thing, as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely. All art is useless."

The (Should Be) Great Farini

I've just returned from a grueling tour in Calgary and Regina, where I gave 16 presentations in six days and then took a flight home that got me to Toronto just past midnight. Coming back, reflecting on my tour and considering the many things I had to do on my return, I recalled that I still hadn't responded to an e-mail from a teacher in the Bowmanville, Ontario area who recently let me know that her school board was building a new school, and they were looking for names. She knew, from hearing me give my presentation to her students some time ago that I would have a perfect name in mind.

The Need for Narrative

It is interesting to look at trends in TV programming and consider why some shows are popular and others aren't. Sometimes it seems a bit baffling. Why, for example, is there such an interest lately in home renovating shows. On the surface, they seem pretty pedestrian. Why in the world do people keep watching them and why do networks rush to make them?

An obvious answer is that we all either own homes or would like to own one, and put ourselves in the places of the people fixing up their abodes. We fantasize about doing the same.

But I think there is much more going on than that. I think the popularity of these shows reflects the deep-seated human need and fascination with narrative.

Scary Stories

I always find it amusing when I travel across the country doing readings in schools for young people, as I was doing today in Regina, that kids love scary stories so much. But it isn't just that. It's also that they often like those stories to be much scarier than their parents prefer them to be. They like "dark."

The IODE & The Violet Downey Award

I'm in Calgary doing a couple of readings for the Public Library and schools. Before that, I had the pleasure of addressing the combined chapters of the IODE of that city. You may well ask yourself ... who, or what, are they?

Their full name is the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire. Sounds very old-fashioned, doesn't it? In some ways, they are. A women's organization, they were founded at the time of the Boer War near the turn of the last century, specifically, I believe, to support Canadian soldiers and generally stand by the British Empire and its ways.

Reading, Writing, Baseball ... and the Death of the Attention Span

An excellent question someone asked me about one of my recent blogs that dealt with high school students not being interested in, or required to, write short stories got me thinking. The question posed was ... "WHY are they not interested?"

Kids Ask Authors the Darndest Questions

I just returned from London, Ontario where I was spoke at a private school - two classes of grades 6, 7 and 8 students. I was in Richmond Hill the day before and will be in Calgary and Regina throughout next week.

Almost every YA novelist who speaks in schools allows a bit of time, often at the end of presentations, for questions. It is amazing how often kids, from Newfoundland to B.C., will ask exactly the same questions; and it's interesting to consider why they are curious about those particular things.

The Inside Scoop on Robertson Davies

In an earlier incarnation, I was an M.A. student at the University of Toronto. All my professors were bright and interesting men who helped me better understand literature, but one stood out. Well, how could he not stand out ... he was Robertson Davies.

Kids Lit vs. Adult Lit

Authors who write for "Young Adults" have often encountered the frustrating situation of appearing at Writers Festivals and finding their names in tiny print at the bottom of promotional material. There are the featured, important, real writers, those who write for adults and create complicated art for the ages ... and then, those who make up stories for kids.

No Short Story Writing Please, We're in High School

I help to run a short story writing contest in a town in southern Ontario. It has been very successful since its inception about five years ago. In fact, I'm guessing that it is one of the most successful of its kind in Canada - we get about 250 to 300 entries in a single year. Another author and I go into the schools each year and pump up the kids and really push them to be creative. We also have the support of a wonderful children's librarian and the Public Library itself. But two years ago, we decided to do something different. Instead of just inviting the students in elementary grades, we decided to open it up and bring in the big boys and girls ... high school writers.

Are Literary Awards Worthwhile?

On the heels of the announcement of the shortlists for the Governor General's Literary Awards, complete with the possibility of $25,000 prizes for the eventual winners, it is interesting to take a look at what such purses and recognition do for authors and for the reading public. Are they worthwhile? Is it money well spent?

"North Words," The Muskoka Literary Festival

"North Words," the Muskoka Literary Festival, came into existence this Thanksgiving Weekend in Huntsville, Ontario. Until then, there had been no literary festivals north of Orilla and south of Thunder Bay, a considerable stretch of the Canadian landscape. So, it was about time, and considering the roaring start it had and the calibre of writers on its stages, one can assume (and hope) that this event will become a regular on the Canadian literary scene, one that writers will line up to take part in, and that readers from the Muskokas and elsewhere will be excited to attend.

Is RDJ's Sherlock Holmes Any Good?

Since I created the world's first series of novels about Sherlock Holmes's childhood, I often get asked for my opinion of the Robert Downey Jr. version of the Master that hit the big screen last year. Word is that RDJ will reprise the role at least one more time, perhaps with a big name Moriarty in opposition - some rumours claim it will be Brad Pitt.

Sherlock Holmes, I've heard it said, has been portrayed more times on film than any other character in history. And Robert Downey Jr. is unquestionably a compelling actor with a long list of stellar turns on the screen. With Jude Law as his Watson and Guy Ritchie behind the cameras, and such famous roles to toy with, one would think this was a match made in heaven. But it wasn't. At least not for me. It was a match made in Hollywood.

Boys and reading

During the early part of my career I wrote solely for adults but a fascinating kayaking trip to a ghost town on an island off the coast of Newfoundland a number of years ago changed that, stimulating my first book for kids. When "The Mystery of Ireland's Eye" appeared the following year perhaps the thing that surprised me most about its reception was the fact that I kept receiving congratulations for writing a "great novel for boys."

Montreal, eh?

Montreal is an amazing city. Anyone who has been there knows that. But it seems to me that lately it has ascended to an even higher state of attractiveness, and it has nothing to do with the night life, the cafes, or even the resurgence of Les Canadiens. Montreal has become a truly cosmopolitan city, a gloriously Canadian city, a wonderfully FRENCH Canadian city.

Breaking Our Legs for Lit ... and the Kids

I've just returned from several days speaking in Montreal, followed by a stint on the stages of the Thin Air International Writers Festival in Winnipeg, and a few readings at libraries in Kitchener, Ontario. Before this month is out, I'll be at the Muskoka Literary Festival in Huntsville, Ontario, at libraries in Kingston and Ottawa, in Richmond Hill, Ontario, at schools in London, and then in Calgary before finishing things off with a week entertaining students in Regina. I feel tired already.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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