Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Open Book's Interview with Eric Walters

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Open Book's Interview with Eric Walters

In 1993, Eric Walters began his writing career while he was a grade 5 teacher. Since then, Eric's popularity has skyrocketed. His name is a fixture in contemporary children's and young adult literature. He has published thirty-eight books and his output shows no signs of slowing down. He has received more than thirty awards including seven separate children's choice awards. He is the only three-time recipient of the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Award - quite a distinction since close to one hundred thousand children contribute votes.

Eric's novels have been translated into French Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese. He remains true to his educator routes by continually touring schools across the country. He always encourages audience participation and interaction through presentations that blend drama and storytelling.

Open Book interviewed Eric Walters about his most recent book, Bifocal, which he co-authored with Deborah Ellis. The interview was conducted by email.

OB:

Is this the first time you’ve co-authored a book? What led you to work with Deborah Ellis?

EW:

I’ve co-written a picture book with my oldest daughter, Christina, and two basketball books with my friend Jerome Williams – a former Toronto Raptor. With this book I approached Deb because I really like her writing and respect her as a person. I knew we had a similar life view and I thought we could collaborate on a book dealing with fairly charged material.

OB:

What was the most challenging aspect of co-authoring a book?

EW:

It was remarkably non-challenging. I think we appreciated the writing ability of each other, felt the story was the important focus, and could allow the input and the creativity of the other person to help craft the story. The story was important, not who was putting what words down or where an idea came from, simply that it allowed the story to flow forward.

OB:

Bifocal is about racial tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim teens at a high school. Did the idea for your book stem from a specific incident?

EW:

The real life arrest of 18 Canadians – including two high school students from Meadowvale Secondary School in Mississauga.

OB:

How did you research your book?

EW:

We went to places, settings, so that we could visualize the same places, talked, knew the background, spoke to students.

OB:

When did you first realize that you wanted to be writer?

EW:

I started writing in 1993 for my class to help my students become better and more enthusiastic readers and writers. It just evolved from there.

OB:

What was your first publication?

EW:

Stand Your Ground, 1994

OB:

What’s the most memorable response to your work that you’ve received from a reader?

EW:

I’ve had young people tell me how my work has impacted on their lives, helped them understand difficult life situations, move forward. What could be better than that?

OB:

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

EW:

Write. Write. And then write some more.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

EW:

Anywhere where I have a place to sit or lean and a computer or scrap of paper. I’ve written in Africa, while stranded in a traffic jam on the 401, at half time at basketball games, while sitting by a pool. Anywhere.

OB:

What’s your next project?

EW:

I’m working on two non-fiction books, one When Elephants Fight, about war children, and the second Tell Me Why, which features 25 amazing Canadians responding to a kid’s letter about world events.

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