It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

February 2017

It's a Mystery, Pig Face!

Books I’m looking forward to….

 

My To-Be Read List is Soooo Long.

Last week, I shared a list of books I’ve read recently and loved.

Well how about some books I can’t wait to read?

Here (in no particular order!) are some Middle Grade books coming out between now and July 1st that I can’t wait to read!

 

 

And here are some books currently in my to-be-read pile that I cannot wait to get to:

 

 

 

 

So many books, so little time! But I want to read them all and then get ready for what’s coming next!

 

How about you? What MG books are you looking forward to reading soon?

Books I’ve read lately that I love!

 

Every once in a while I think it’s a good idea to share with you some of the amazing books I’ve been reading:

The following are in no specific order, but they will surely give you a great few hours of reading:

 

 

 

 

A mixture of mostly middle grade, with a dash of YA and Adult, these are great reads!!

Enjoy book this long weekend!

Words of Wisdom on Writing

 

We writers can be a solitary lot, given to highs when the work is going well and lows when it is not.

One thing that I find of great comfort are words of wisdom about writing. Some of my recent favourites, all of which I found on Pinterest:

 

 

 

I like to collect these quotes, along with other pieces of advice about the craft of writing on my Pinterest board, which you can check out HERE.

Would love to hear what pieces of writing advice you’ve collected on the way!

Revision Land

 

I am there. And can be a dark, dark, place.

 

 

 

But it doesn’t have to be!

 

Every time I go to revise a book, I employ different tactics. Usually, they involve the latest craft book I’ve read.

For example, for my current revisions I have used:

 

 

and

 

and

 

Each of them is excellent in their own way, and each has me thinking and rethinking what’s currently on paper.

So does reading other people’s work.

 

Need a cliffhanger? 

Hmm – I think I’ll reread The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands or Withering by the Sea by Judith Rossell, which are chock-a-block with them!

 

Need to remember how to go deep, emotionally?

I’m looking at you, The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw and The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla

 

Need Humour?

How about the Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes by Wade Albert White?

 

 

What I am learning is that there is no one way to revise a book, and so much depends on the book itself.

Oh, and here’s the most important thing:

 

Keep going to make it the best it can be, but remember to have fun! Because if you’re not having fun with your revisions, it means your reader likely isn’t going to enjoy themselves either…

 

 

 

 

Frye Literary Festival

 

I’ve been invited to do a reading at the Frye Literary Festival this evening as an Emerging Author.

 

As I haven’t emerged as anything for many years, this is quite a delight!

If you don’t know about this prestigious literary festival, click here.

If you want to come see me read, here are the details:

20 h 30 / 8:30 p.m.
PRÉLUDE : AUTEURS DU N.-B. EN ÉMERGENCE / PRELUDE: EMERGING NB WRITERS Caroline Bélisle, Sarah Cooper, Andrée Cormier, Spencer Folkins, Wendy McLeod MacKnight,
Félix Robichaud
Centre culturel Aberdeen Cultural Centre – 5$

140 Botsford Street, Moncton, New Brunswick

 

Hope to see you there!

Some thoughts about St. Stephen Storyfest

 

 

When Derek O’Brien, the CAO for the Town of St. Stephen, told me last summer that he wanted to start a literacy festival in St. Stephen and he wanted It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! to be the inaugural book, I was floored.

And honoured.

It seemed a full-circle moment for me.

I cannot recall a time in my life when reading wasn’t central to my well-being. Begging for one more story, thrilled when I could read by myself so I could read whenever I wanted to, I was the fortunate child who was taken to the library once a week to get a fresh stack of wonder.

 

 

What I discovered early on was that so long as I had a book, I was never alone, not even when I felt lonely.

Throughout my first career, I prioritized early childhood literacy and investments in libraries, knowing what a huge difference both make to a child’s development.

To be part of a festival designed solely to promote the love of reading in the community, particularly for kids, was like being invited to a reader’s paradise.

So two weeks ago I decamped to St. Stephen and had the great gift of spending two and half days with the amazing kids who attend St. Stephen Elementary School, Milltown Elementary School, and Lawrence Station Elementary School.

I went from class to class, chatting and talking to them not only about Pig Face, but about the importance of reading, the mechanics of writing (and rewriting), and how their stories are as valuable as any one else’s.

 

I admired their projects, their enthusiasm for the book, their enthusiasm for reading, their curiousity.

I admired their teachers, who were kind and enthusiastic.

I admire the community spirit I met at every turn.

I spent time at the Public Library with some wonderful book club kids (and wished there had been one when I was a child!)

 

 

On the night of the book launch, 100 people showed up. Many of them were kids and their parents. Others were community leaders, including the Mayor, who had already been in the schools encouraging the kids to read the book and reading it themselves.

I chatted with old and new friends, and I loved that we could chat about books!

I ate student-made Ralph’s Brownies. I wrote stories with kindergarten kids.

And I donated a whole bunch of new books to each of the school libraries I visited, because they never get enough new books.

The thrill of donating new books written by writer friends was amazing.

At the end of Storyfest, I returned home knowing three truths:

  1. our teachers are as fine and caring and inspirational as they have ever been
  2. that there is a book for everyone; all it takes is a gentle nudge (I had one boy come to the launch with his dad, who told me that his son was so inspired that he wanted him to meet me and how he couldn’t believe how keen his son was to read!)
  3. That St. Stephen is more magical than I could have ever put on paper.

I’m not sure who next year’s Storyfest author will be, but I know this: they will be very lucky, and the Town of St. Stephen will be waiting for them!

 

Thank you St. Stephen!

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! in the news!

 

Pig Face got lots of love this week thanks to St. Stephen Storyfest, which was a huge success!

 

Check it out:

St. Croix Courier Article: (sorry there’s no online link!)

 

Telegraph Journal Article:

 

Interview with CBC Information Morning Program:

Click here to listen to the interview, which is about eight minutes long!

 

The Hiding Spot Blog

I was also interviewed by the wonderful blogger Sara Grochowski (if you’re not following her blog you must – it is so good!) over at her The Hiding Spot Blog!

 

Book Signing

I’m at Chapters in the Regent Mall this coming Saturday, April 15th, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Come up and see me and buy a copy of the book!

 

So happy to see It’s a Mystery Pig Face! getting so much attention!

 

 

Public Speaking and School Visits

 

I’m not typically nervous about public speaking.

I had the kind of job where that was required from time-to-time and I always enjoyed it.

So why am I so nervous about all of the school visits I’m doing next week?

 

I’m not sure if it’s a fear of not being entertaining enough or educational enough, or not being something enough, but I know it’s mostly because it’s something new.

And that once I do it a few times, it will get easier and easier.

 

 

I’m not alone in this sudden nervousness at presenting to kids, so I thought I would round up a few resources I’ve found that have helped me with my preparation:

This really great post over at the Writers Unboxed website.

Another great post over at BookMoot.

And this great post over at Publisher’s Weekly.

My materials are ready. Mostly though, I am taking the attitude of allowing the experience to lead me. One thing I do know is that kids are curious beings and things are going pop up that I am not expecting.

The great thing about next week is that all of the kids have read the book. That is a real gift, and I can’t wait to hear from them what they liked about It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

 

 

My love affair with books about large families!

 

I just finished reading an advanced reader copy of Karina Yan Glaser’s wonderful The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street.

 

Unfortunately for you, it won’t be released until October 3rd, but I certainly would not want to leave you hanging until you can get your paws on this delightful book (you can read my Goodreads review here).

You see, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a welcome addition to the canon of children’s books about families with large numbers of children and their lives and adventures.

These kinds of books have always been a favourite of mine. I come from a family of three children, although there were only two of us until I was nearly ten years old. I longed to be part of a large family with many brothers and sisters.

Though my parents wouldn’t accommodate me, my librarian did. To that end, let me share a list of books, in chronological order, which I think The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street is a direct descendent of. You’ve got six month to read them all (okay – some of them?) and believe me when I tell you: you will love these families as much as I do!

Little Women:

 

 

If you’ve never read this wonderful story about the four March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy – then by all means, get it TODAY. A true delight. Made a writer out of a lot of readers.

 

The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew:

 

 

Written in 1880, this story of the five Pepper children – Ben, Polly, Joel, Davie and the perfectly-named Phronsie – is a delight. Yes, it is old-fashioned. But you sure want to be part of that family.

 

Rainbow Valley:

 

 

Anne of Green Gables grows up and has six children, whose adventures are told in this book, plus Anne of Ingleside and Rilla of Ingleside. The kids – Jem, Nan, Diana, Walter, Shirley, and Rilla are every bit as delightful as their mother.

All-of-a-Kind-Family Series

 

 

I read this book in elementary school and was so taken with the family that I decided I needed to move to New York City and convert to Judaism. Neither of those things have happened yet, but I’m not discounting the they might still. The story of Ella, Henny, Sarah, Charlotte, Gertie and Charlie is so delightful you will immediately go off in search of the sequels, which are equally good.

The Penderwicks

 

 

This series is so wonderful and the characters – Rosalyn, Skye, Jane and Batty – are so lovable, that it’s like slipping into a warm bathtub. Beautiful stories.

And thus we come to:

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street!

 

 

The good thing is, you have time to read all of the other books before this one comes out. But now I’m looking for more suggestions for me, especially ones featuring People of Colour. Can you help me out?

 

Happy reading!

I’m Being Interviewed over at the I Write For Apples Blog!

 

Want to read my latest interview?

I talk about It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! my path to publication, and the best thing about being a debut author.

Hop on over to author Dee Romito’s wonderful blog, I Write For Apples and take a read!

 

 

 

Interview with Kristin L. Gray, author of Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge

 

Kristin L. Gray is a treasure, as is her book, Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge.

 

 

I loved her new book so much I had to corral her into doing an interview with me!

But first, let’s hear about the book:

 

 

The Description:

 

Vilonia is determined to prove she’s responsible enough to care for a dog in this hilarious and utterly lovable debut novel.

Being responsible is NOT easy.

Fourth grader Vilonia hasn’t lost her rain coat in the three weeks she’s had it and she’s brushed her teeth every night and she’s volunteered to be the Friday Library Helper. But all that hard work is worth it if it means she can get a dog. Besides, this dog isn’t just because Vilonia has wanted one for pretty much ever. It’s also to help Mama, who’s been lost in one, big sadness fog for forty-three days—ever since Nana died. But Vilonia read that pets can help with sadness. Now all she has to do is keep the library goldfish alive over spring break, stop bringing stray animals home, and help Mama not get fired from her job. And she’s got to do all of it before the Catfish Festival. Easy as pie, right?

Tremendous voice, humor, and heart make this debut novel utterly lovable.

 

What I think:

This book is a delight from beginning to end, and the voice is fresh and funny and at times bittersweet. I guarantee you are going to love Vilonia!

 

The Interview

I love Vilonia Beebe Takes Charge and the idea that kids can feel so responsible for their parent’s wellbeing. What gave you the idea for the book?

I’m so glad you liked it, Wendy! Originally, the idea was for Vilonia to prove she was responsible by adopting a sickly puppy who’d been born preterm. In my grand plan, Vilonia would nurture the pup to health. Thankfully, I have a good relationship with our local veterinarian’s office, and in talking with the staff, I quickly learned that such stories, unfortunately, rarely have happy endings. I knew I wanted to write a hope-filled, light-hearted book that rang true. So I went home to think on it. I was momentarily stumped, but I wasn’t deterred. I still wanted use animals. I turned to google and my library for research. And wham! I was immediately hit with a flood of articles and posts on how pet ownership has been scientifically proven to help humans overcome a dozen obstacles – grief, anxiety, social anxiety, isolation, fear (of flying, for example), lethargy, stress, and more. I knew I had my story, my why. I just had to figure out the how.

 

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

I’d probably choose my favorite middle grade in recent years, WHEN YOU REACH ME by Rebecca Stead. (Ooh, or Kelly Barnhill’s THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON, as I’ve not read it yet! Spring Break goal!)

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

Oh, six is not nearly enough! But I think a taco party would be fun, don’t you? I LOVE tacos, chips, and queso.

  • You! I’d so love to meet you, Wendy. We could talk art museums and heists and wear our matching leopard print shoes!
  • Madeleine L’ Engle – I admire her work so much, and I named my daughter after her. I’m overjoyed about The Wrinkle In Time movie slated for 2018. It’s produced by Ava DuVernay (a force) and starring Storm Reid, Oprah Winfrey, Mindy Kaling, and Reese Witherspoon. All the exclamation points!!!
  • Kate DiCamillo – I adore her stories. They are simple yet hefty. She never fails to bring an emotional punch. I also read every single one of her Facebook posts. She is just so wise and sensible. I want her to adopt me, basically. (See also: Rebecca Stead).
  • Melanie Conklin – I’d give her a margarita or two because I’m dying to know what she is working on next!
  • Anne Ursu. I love that woman, her books, and everything she puts on twitter. She speaks truth.
  • My fellow 2017 debut Leah Henderson, author of One Shadow on the Wall. She is an absolute joy and a whole party in herself.

(EDITORIAL NOTE: I AM DOWN FOR THIS DINNER!)

What projects are you working on next?

A quirky middle-grade mystery with a mostly all-girl cast. The research has been especially fun!

Thank you Kristin! What a fun interview!

 

Want to learn more about Kristin? Visit her website!

The Writer’s Life

 

Sometimes a writer’s life can be lonely.

I blame the blizzard for my current feeling of melancholy, for when I look out the window all I see is snow, snow, snow.

Still, I am in the throes of drafting and revising so am pretty much tied to my computer these days, with the odd break on the treadmill and a bit of yoga to work out the kinks, for there is always a deadline when you are a writer.

(Well not always, but ideally).

In my old life, I worked nearly 80 hours a week, 50-60 of which were spent in meetings with other people. Now I find myself longing for a meeting! My one respite during the workweek is a standing coffee date with friends, and I cling to that coffee date like grim death.

The strange thing about writing full-time is that you’re alone, but you’re also not alone. Right now I am living in 1802 for a good chuck of every day. Soon I will be full-swing into editorial changes for book number two and will be back at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery with Sargent Singer and Mona Dunn.

 

I am also percolating a picture book idea.

Still, company is a requirement, which is why so many authors, myself included, are so active on social medial. Whenever I feel particularly lonely I can pop online and see what’s up. Nothing like sharing your misery or triumphs with like-minded individuals to keep you going.

For those of you who work at home alone, I’d love to hear your ideas as to how you keep from going stir-crazy!

In the meantime, I dream of spring…

 

Books for International Women’s Day!

 

The goal of any society should be to raise its girls into strong, powerful women and raise its boys to value those women, and vice versa.

One of the best ways I know to help incubate strong women is to give young people books that feature inspiring young women.

Since today is International Women’s Day, here’s my list of the YA and MG books that should be on every young person’s list. Note: this list is just the beginning, but a good place to start!

I’d love to hear your suggestions!

 

 

 

World Book Day!

 

Books Can Change the World.

They can show us places we’ve never been, they let us live other lives, experience other feelings.

They are the cheapest, and safest, method of escape.

They are one of the most powerful ways to share the truth.

They are magic.

Honestly, I can’t remember the first book that was read to me, although I know I forced my long-suffering mother to read The Gingerbread Man over and over again until the words bounced off the paper and into my head.

 

 

I remember reading Go Dog Go! and wishing, as I still wish today, that I could attend the party at the top of the tree!

 

 

I remember sobbing when Matthew died in Anne of Green Gables, loving Ponyboy in The Outsiders, being blown away by the biting wit of Jane Austen, the haunting prose of Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison.

Every book I read invites me to live the lives of its main characters. Last week I was Anna in Blood Rose Rebellion and Griffin in History is All You Left Me, this week I am Starr in The Hate U Give, next week – who knows?

The greatest gift we can give our children is a love of reading. It is hard to hate other cultures or ways of being when you read the works of Rohinton Mistry, Khaled Hosseini, Tiffany Jackson, Alex Gino, Jason Reynolds, Kathleen Glasgow, Kerry Kletter, to name a few.

These are troubled times for sure, but World Book Day is a reminder to me that for most of us, that the path to empathy and peace and understanding can begin with a visit to our libraries and bookshops.

Since today is also Dr. Seuss’ birthday, it seems appropriate to let him have the last word:

 

How about you? What books spurred YOUR love of reading? I’d love to know!

 

Interview with Mary E. Lambert, Author of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes

 

I’m thrilled today to talk to Mary E. Lambert, author of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes.

 

 

 

What it’s about:

 

Annabelle has a five mile rule: She must keep her friends from coming within five miles of her home. That’s because Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. Their house is full of stuff: canned goods, broken toys, old newspapers… It’s everywhere except for Annabelle’s spotless room.

Annabelle can’t let anyone find out what her house is like. They’ll realize that her mom is crazy. They’ll make fun of her. Or feel sorry for her. Or try to help.

But when the newspaper piles come crashing down on her sister’s head one morning, it kicks off an epic fight between her parents that ends up with her dad taking off — and her fix-it-all grandmother stepping in.

As Annabelle realizes how bad things have gotten for her little sister, while trying to navigate her first crush, not to mention stay sane herself, she’s forced to come to terms with the fact that maybe she can’t keep all her secrets to herself. Maybe she can’t just throw her mom’s things out… maybe she has to let some people in.

 

The Interview!

I love the premise of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes. I’ve never read a children’s book that has hoarding as a central theme. What gave you the idea?

Thank you! I’m so glad you like my novel’s premise. When I was in graduate school, I considered writing a piece of speculative fiction inspired by hoarding. After I explained my book concept to one of my advisors, she asked me, “Why not just write about hoarders?” And I thought she had a good point. I’ve always been somewhat intrigued by hoarding, probably because at certain points in my life I have struggled with the compulsion to collect things like empty water bottles or junk mail. Most of the items Annabelle’s mom saves are things I might feel compelled to keep; although, I have never reached the extremes of my main character’s mother.

What’s the one middle grade novel you’d take with you to a desert island?

Oh no, only one book! I think I would have to choose Anne of Green Gables. I love the novel’s humor, hopefulness, and heart. Anne Shirley has been one of my favorite characters since I was a middle-grader, and her story is one that I can happily read over and over again.  

 

How do you plan to celebrate your books’ launch?

I’m so excited that Changing Hands, a local bookstore, is hosting my launch. I’ve invited my students, my family, and my friends to come celebrate with me. I plan to read the first chapter of my novel and to give away miniature Beanie Babies as party favors (since Beanie Babies play an important role in Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes).

 

So here’s my dream dinner: you can host a dinner party and invite six middle grade authors (living or dead). Who would you invite and why? Bonus points if you tell me what you’re cooking for them!

 First, I would have to invite L.M. Montgomeryafter all, I chose one of her books as my desert island companion! And from what I know about Montgomery’s life, I think she must have been an entertaining individual.

 Next I would invite Roald Dahl and Beverly Cleary, because I first fell in love with the magic of books when my teacher read The BFG and Ramona the Pest to the class. 

 C.S. Lewis is another writer I would like to meet. I loved The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but was less enthusiastic about The Last Battle. As the oldest girl and the second born of four children, I always felt a kinship with Susan Pevensie, and after reading the last book in the series, I’ve got some questions for C.S. Lewis.

 I also have some questions for Laura Ingalls Wilder. When I was young, I loved the Little House books. This deluded me into thinking I would have been a great pioneer. Now I realize that Laura left a lot out of her novelslike the toilet situation and dental hygiene…and many other things that now make me realize I probably would be a terrible frontierswoman. 

Last of all, I think I would pick Hans Christian Andersen. He played a pivotal role in the development of modern children’s literature and wrote poignant, enduring fairy tales that have inspired storytellers across the ages. His birthday, April 2nd, is International Children’s Book Day.

I would serve my guests an afternoon tea, which would include cucumber sandwiches (as snozzcumbers are currently out of season), cheese danishes, little heart-shaped cakes sprinkled with white sugar, and hard boiled eggs. Raspberry cordial would also be offered.      

 

What projects are you working on next?

I am currently revising a contemporary YA novelmy working title is The Briefly Existential Crisis of Miranda Miracle. (What can I say? I guess I just really love long titles.) I am also about three-fourths of the way through a middle-grade fantasy and about a quarter of the way through a middle-grade contemporary.   

 

To learn more about Mary and find out where you can order her books, visit her website!

 

THANK YOU SO MUCH MARY (and I want to be a fly on the wall for that dinner party!)

 

Launch Party Shenanigans!

 

I happy to report that the IT’S A MYSTERY, PIG FACE! Launch Party was a success!

Over one hundred people squeezed into Gallery 78 in Downtown Fredericton, munched on cake and snacks, sipped wine, and enjoyed a short reading from the book.

I was fortunate to have two young friends join me for the actual reading.

Myra and Cole did a spectacular job!

I was also thrilled to be introduced by Author Kathleen Peacock, who primed the audience by talking about the importance of children’s literature in our lives. If you haven’t read any of Kathleen’s work you really should – it is so good!

Special thanks as well to Westminster Books, who were on site selling books!

 

Thought I’d share a few photos from the event with you:

 

It was a wonderful day and a sincere thank you to all of my friends and family who showed up!!

 

Go Pig Face!

Book Launch Today!

 

If you’re in Fredericton, come over to Gallery 78 on Queen St. between 2 and 4 pm!

They’ll be refreshments, a reading, and I’ll be signing books at the gorgeous Gallery 78!

 

See you then!

 

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is in the world and I’m giving away a free book!

 

It happened – It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is finally in the world!

I couldn’t be more proud or more thankful for you folks who’ve been part of this journey with me!

 

I’m getting photos of Pig Face on bookshelves in New York City…

 

 

On people’s bookshelves, including my amazing agent, Lauren Galit:

 

For a while, Pig Face was even trending on twitter thanks to all my author friends across Canada and the USA!

 

 

 

To say I am grateful would be a gross understatement.

A little over two years ago, Lauren took a chance on a new author from a place she’d probably never heard of before. She has treated me with care and respect ever since, and thanks to Lauren, I got a deal with Sky Pony Press and got the chance to work with the amazing Alison Weiss.

Pig Face being published is the result of a lot of hard work, most of it done by me, Lauren and Alison.

And the work continues! I’m still writing, and more books are coming.

But I have a request:

if you buy or borrow Pig Face and like it, please leave a review or a thumb’s up in Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Chapters. Those reviews impact restocking and how much coverage those sites give to the book, which in turn results in more sales.

Though Pig Face be small, we can be mighty! If you’re not sure how to do a review, drop me a line!

And thank you again for following along!

As a thank you, I’m going to randomly choose one of my newsletter subscribers next Wednesday and send them a copy of the book, If you aren’t subscribing, jump in – you could be the lucky one!

Until then! Keep on reading!

 

 

Telegraph Journal Interview

 

I’ve been interviewed by New Brunswick’s Provincial Newspaper, The Telegraph Journal about It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! and my journey to publication!

 

 

Here’s the article:

From deputy minister to children’s author

Wendy McLeod MacKnight worked for the Government of New Brunswick for 25 years. Then one day, she decided to start over and follow her childhood dream of writing books. This week, her first children’s book will be released, just in time for the inaugural St. Stephen StoryFest.

By Emily Baron Cadloff

Wendy MacKnight’s sister Margaret McLeod, from left, her friend Barb Doyle who still lives in St. Stephen, Wendy MacKnight, and her brother Patrick McLeod (along with Charlie the dog). Patrick and Charlie are in the book.

 
The author’s view from her desk. PHOTO: WENDY MCLEOD MACKNIGHT

Wendy McLeod MacKnight’s working space at her home in Fredericton. PHOTO: WENDY MCLEOD MACKNIGHT

Wendy McLeod MacKnight worked for the Government of New Brunswick for 25 years, eventually reaching the post of deputy minister in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. PHOTO: MARY ELLEN NEALIS

 

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! The tale follows friends Tracy and Ralph, with Tracy’s younger brother Lester, with the unfortunate nickname of Pig Face, tagging along. PHOTO: SUBMITTED

 

Wendy McLeod MacKnight wrote her first book when she was nine years old. Complete with illustrations, the novel was set in an apartment, perched atop a laundromat in New York City.
“I’d never been to New York City,” MacKnight recalled with a booming laugh.“I always knew I wanted to write books, and I always wanted to write children’s books.”
So she wrote. MacKnight wrote stories throughout her childhood and teen years, and into her 20s. But as she got older, there were more obstacles in the way.
“People were telling me at the time ‘Nobody ever makes a living as an author,’” MacKnight said.“I just thought, maybe it’s just not going to happen for me.”
Instead, MacKnight entered a career as far away from being a children’s author as you might think. For 25 years, she worked for the Government of New Brunswick, eventually reaching the post of deputy minister in the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. While she liked the job, she had an epiphany, one sad afternoon in the fall of 2012.
MacKnight sat at her dying father’s bedside, and had a flash. Life is so short, and so precious. Why was she spending her time not chasing her dream?
“I always felt like a square peg in a round hole. It was never fully aligned. And the things I loved best about being a civil servant were the times I got to be really creative and imaginative,”MacKnight explained. “I just thought, (life) just goes in the blink of an eye. And I have not done what I wanted to do, so I tendered my resignation.”
At the age of 50, MacKnight screwed up her courage and dove head first into a new career. But instead of starting completely from scratch, she found an old manuscript she had written in her 20s, set in her hometown of St. Stephen.
“It’s a story that is not autobiographical, but is sure as heck is based on me and my neighbourhood and my friends. And it’s about two friends who find a bag of money in a baseball dugout and decide that rather than turn the money in, this is their chance to figure out and solve a mystery,” MacKnight said.“The mystery is probably more about, in the end, friendships, and what does it mean to be a friend and good sister.”
That manuscript became her first novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! The tale follows friends Tracy and Ralph, with Tracy’s younger brother Lester, with the unfortunate nickname of Pig Face, tagging along. Aimed at readers from the ages of nine to 12, MacKnight worked to polish the book for more than a year, before finally landing an agent in 2014.
“I think I was rejected 48 times,” MacKnight said with a chuckle.“OK, if 70 agents turn me down, I’m going to put this book aside…and if that doesn’t work I’m going to just be a retired person.”
But with each rejection, MacKnight took any comments or critiques the agent had, and used them to improve the next round of submissions.
“I would send batches of queries,” MacKnight explained. “Then I would do a lot of revisions, so I was still working on the book, because I would take any advice or critique. That was really important to me, to make it as good as I could.”
After 48 rounds of this, MacKnight signed with a literary agent, and together they worked to get her novel published. Now, nearly 30 years after she first wrote it, the book will be released on Feb. 7 by Sky Pony Press. And not only that, but the novel was chosen to kick off St. Stephen’s inaugural St. Stephen StoryFest, starting the same day the book is released. It’s a lot for the new author to take in.
“It’s a really surreal moment, I have to say,” MacKnight said. ”I was just astounded that they wanted to do that. That was really great.”
The town has already purchased and distributed 500 copies of the novel, so each and every Grade 4 and 5 students in the area will receive his or her own copy. They will read the book together, and work on classroom activities, before gathering at an official book launch at the town civic centre in April.
“There was a reason I loved growing up there. I really loved St. Stephen, they always had a really close community, and they’re really proud, they really celebrate things.”

Love this article and all the pictures they included!

 

 

The It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! Book Launch

 

Only five days until It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! is “officially” published!

 

 

This is an exciting time for me, but I wouldn’t be here without your support!

So I wanted to invite you all to come to the book launch!

 

Where: Gallery 78, Downtown Fredericton

(located on Queen Street across from the Beaverbrook Art Gallery)

When: Saturday, February 11th, from 2-4 pm

They’ll be a short reading around 2:30, some remarks, nibbles and drinks and I’ll be signing books!

Westminster Books will be have books available to buy!  Hope to see you there!

 

xox Wendy

 

 

 

 

Author of Children's Literature

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