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Joan Betty Stuchner

Author

Contact Information

hayabat [at] shaw [dot] ca

5057 Angus Drive
Vancouver BC
V6M 3M6

p. (604) 261-3359
b. (604) 822-3713

Selected Bibliography

Honey Cake (Tradewind Books, 2007)
Sadie the Ballerina (Scholastic Canada, 2006)

Location: Vancouver, BCAvailability: nationalAvailable: Weekdays

Reading Location:

libraries, schools

Grades:

2 to 4

Audience Size:

30 to 60

Fees:

$250.00 for 45-60 min presentations; travel expenses claimed for long distance travel.

Language:

English

Readings

With picture books I give the students some background to the story before reading from each book, and I ask questions to prepare them for the story. Later I talk about my inspiration for the books and how I include experiences from my own life. That leads to discussions about their experiences, their writing and journal keeping.

I’m a great believer in collecting family stories and anecdotes and I encourage the students to appreciate how interesting their own families are – their own histories. What stories do they know about their parents and grandparents? Have they asked them questions about their own experiences and those of other family members? Great Aunt Gertie should be more than just a photo in the family album. All this information can be passed down through the generations, adding colour and flavour to their family story, and/or can be used as material for fiction.

An aspect of storytelling, spoken or written, is one’s family and cultural traditions. Mine are often included in my books. Everything is important, from music, holiday celebrations and recipes to ‘where did your name come from?’ Those are also part of a person’s story.

With Honey Cake I include a discussion of the different types of historical research. It’s not easy to find out small details about everyday life in the past. You have to do a bit of digging. Also, with Honey Cake I sometimes sing a song that relates to the story.

When I read Sadie the Ballerina I usually wear my tutu, tights and tiara, and I can often convince the children to practice a few ballet positions with me (yes, even the boys).

For Grades 2 to 3, picture books are read. For Grades 3 to 4, chapter books are read.

Special Equipment:

n/a

Book Sales:

Copies of books can be brought to be sold and autographed, if asked in advance.

Workshop Location:

libraries, schools

Grades:

4 to 5

Audience Size:

15 to 20

Fees:

$250.00 for 45-60 min presentations; travel expenses claimed for long distance travel.

Language:

English

Workshops

I give the students an idea to use as a springboard for a writing exercise. ‘What if you fell asleep on the bus and woke up in an unfamiliar place or time?’

Tell the story of an object or photograph, or something you have in your house. It doesn’t have to be true.

Describe a situation where you felt sad, happy, scared etc. How did you show this? How did it feel?

What’s your favourite season/month and why? How does it make you feel? With your writing, try to make us feel the same way.

I ask the students to share their writing only if they want to do so.

A final exercise might be to describe a family member. How does s/he talk, walk or eat? What does his/her hair remind you of? What does her/his skin remind you of? What about mannerisms and what they say about someone?

The purpose of these exercises is to pay more attention to the world we often take for granted. The more we take notice, the more we’ll have to write about. A writer wants characters and places to reach out from the page and come alive, and stay with the reader long after the book has been closed.

With both readings and workshops I emphasize that we should never ‘switch off’ our imaginations.

Special Equipment:

n/a

Book Sales:

Copies of books can be brought to be sold and autographed, if asked in advance.

Biography

I’ve always had stories inside my head. When I was a child I invented a brother and sister and created scripts that I acted out (with them!) even before I could write. A lot of people do that, of course, but when they grow up they usually stop, because they think it isn’t grown-up. I never stopped. I think the imagination is for both children and grown ups.

I only began to regularly write down my stories when I was in my twenties because the stories moved faster than my hand, and writing things down wasn’t easy for me – until I got a typewriter, and then a computer. Even then I had to work hard – and still do – to perfect both the technical and creative parts of telling a story. It’s worth the effort. My first book was published in 1990 and my fifth book will be published in 2008.

Over the years I’ve performed as a storyteller on t.v. and in front of audiences, and I’ve read in schools, libraries and at book festivals. Once in a while I act in plays on stage.

Strangely enough I studied English literature, rather than creative writing at university (UBC, B.A 1977. Teaching Diploma 1980) I’ve also studied storytelling and drama. When the opportunity arises I still take classes from some of the best storytellers, actors and writers I can find.

The learning never ends.