Wordpower 2017: Literacy in the Making

Word power is a tour sponsored by Cenovus Energy and organized by the Young Alberta Book Society (YABS). The goal is to promote literacy by bringing Alberta students together with professional authors, illustrators and storytellers from across the province.

Pre-tour prep: picking up my signs at the YABS office with Jenn Plamondon. Very generous of Cenovus Energy to buy copies of our books for the schools involved in the tour.

Picking up my signs from Jenn at the YABS office. Notice too all the books that Cenovus Energy purchased for the schools, in addition to paying the artists’ fees and expenses.

Wordpower North ran from April 24th to April 28th, 2017 and I was proud to be a part of it – travelling to schools in Lac La Biche, Plamondon, and Wabasca, Alberta.

I will never travel as lightly as Gail de Vos but this is an improvement from last year!

I am not an especially light traveller. It didn’t help that the tour began with a snowstorm, requiring heavy boots, mitts, toque, etc.

Although Wordpower wrapped up several weeks ago, my mind keeps flitting back to the many special moments that comprised it, including –

Perfect “bones:”

Even before the tour began, it smacked of perfection by its very structure – or by its “bones.” After all…

Happy tour partners... Gail de Vos and me at Oski Pasikoniwew Kamik School in Wabasca.

Happy tour partners… Gail de Vos and me at Oski Pasikoniwew Kamik School in Wabasca.

…I was returning to a region of Alberta that I adore; I got to share my passion for reading, writing and books with students; and I was touring with Gail de Vos  author, storyteller, adjunct professor, and all-round amazing human being.


Excited Readers:

Few things excite me as much as discovering a new book. I met many students who feel exactly the same way. Two groups of high-school students – at Mistassiniy School and at École Beauséjour – were the first to hear excerpts from my upcoming book, Saving Grad.

My upcoming Young Adult novel, Saving Grad. (Release date: August 2017)

My upcoming Young Adult novel, Saving Grad. (Lorimer Books: August 2017 release)

Through our book discussions in both English and en français, I’ve learned that students are extra inspired to read a book they feel invested in – something that happens when they’ve had the opportunity to engage with the author. The reactions of these students to a brand new, never-before-been-read book were priceless and inspiring.

(Guess who has been writing harder than ever since her return from the tour?)

The students always inspire me so much. And as I like to warn them: "Anything you say and do might end up in a book."

I often warn the students: “Anything you say or do might end up in a book.”

Compelling Numbers:

Although I’m more of a word person than a number person, these numbers excite me:

Number of tour days: 5

Number of schools visited: 6

Number of students spoken to: 933, broken down as follows… Monday – 290 students; Tuesday – 132; Wednesday – 193; Thursday – 150; Friday – 168.

Grades of students: grade 3 to grade 12

I so enjoyed all 933 students who I met during this year’s tour!

I returned from Wordpower feeling extra secure in knowing I had unleashed many new superheroes on the world. Forest Girl, Mr. Mighty, Oilers Girl, and others. They've so got this!

An added tour perk: I released many new superheroes into the world. Forest Girl, Mr. Mighty, Oilers Girl, and others have so got this!

Amazing students:

They were everywhere…. Aurora Middle School (Lac La Biche); École Plamondon and École Beauséjour (Plamondon); St. Theresa School, Oski Pasikoniwew Kamik School and Mistassiniy School (Wabasca). They all made me feel welcome. Cases in point…

…at École Plamondon: “M” in grade 8 stayed after the presentation because she wanted to share with me this excerpt from her work-in-progress: “Your fear is not what they will do but the fear of not knowing what they are capable of doing.” *shivers*

…at St. Theresa School in Wabasca – 

Grade 5 student: Do you have any friends here in Wab?

Me: No, I’ve never been here before.

Student: That’s okay. You have lots of friends here now.

Me: *heart melts*

and –

….through this email from a grade 7 student at Mistassiniy School – 

“J”: “I found the book that I wanted to show you. It’s called Riding Through Fire. I don’t usually read these kind of books but it really is a good one and I hope you like it.”

(Dear J: Thanks so much for the recommendation. I will definitely read Riding Through Fire. And I’m thrilled that you so enjoyed Vanish!)


As Ms. Gullion says: "I tell people I am the principal of the most beautiful school in the province."

As Ms. Gullion says: “I tell people I am the principal of the most beautiful school in the province.” Such pride at Bigstone Cree Nation. Many thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and the beautiful day at Oski Pasikoniwew Kamik School!

One incredible hour after the other:

My final presentation of the tour was in a special-needs program, which I think of as “a single perfect hour of my life.”

The aptly-named “Eagles” made my heart soar. In addition to sharing laughs and chatting about books, animals and pets, the students made me the most thoughtful cards, which I continue to savour.

I only hinted a *little bit* about how much I'd enjoy cards to remember them by.

I only hinted a *little bit* about how much I’d enjoy cards from the students. And yes, I made one in return for these new friends at Mistassiniy School.

Many thanks to Cenovus Energy for sponsoring Wordpower 2017, and to the Young Alberta Book Society for organizing the tour. As a student, I would have benefited greatly from meeting professional writers, illustrators and storytellers. I have seen first-hand that this tour indeed fosters literacy. I’m humbled to have met so many wonderful young readers and writers!

Many thanks, Cenovus and Young Alberta Book Society. It was an honour being a Wordpower 2017 artist!

It was an honour being a Wordpower 2017 artist.

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