Elmira children’s author Nan Forler is ready to put up her literary dukes.
Forler is one of 10 local “champions” who’ll be participating in Waterloo Reads! Battle of the Books on Oct. 18, defending one of the books nominated for the Evergreen Award.
The Evergreen Award was introduced by the Ontario Library Association in 2005 and lets the public vote for its favourite nominated work of Canadian fiction or non-fiction chosen by librarians across Ontario annually.
Forler will be defending and arguing for All Saints: Stories by K.D. Miller, which she was given at the beginning of the summer to read.
“The book I was assigned is a book of short stories. It’s centered around the Anglican church. So all the stories, even though they’re unrelated, they’re all stand alone short stories, they’re all connected through some association with this church or the Anglican priest there,” Forler explained.
The other nine books are They Left Us Everything: a memoir by Plum Johnson, Punishment by Linden MacIntyre, Local Customs: a novel by Audrey Thomas, The Hunger of the Wolf by Stephen Marche, Seconds: a graphic novel by Bryan Lee O’Malley, The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant, That Lonely Section of Hell: the botched investigation of a serial killer who almost got away by Lori Shenher, Under the Visible Life by Kim Echlin and Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.
She had never read the book of short stories before, but says she enjoyed it. Her defense of the book will revolve around the interconnectedness we experience in our daily lives.
“I’m actually going to relate it to Elmira, because in Elmira every dinner when anyone’s name is mentioned they say ‘and who are their parents?’ and ‘I know them, they work with so and so.’ There is so much interconnectedness in a small town and that’s kind of what the story’s like as well,” Forler said.
Each person will have two minutes to describe their book, as well as three minutes to discuss why they think their book should win, and an opportunity at the end to defend why theirs should win instead of someone else’s book.
She was invited to participate after one of the librarians at the Waterloo Public Library, who used to be a librarian at the same school where Forler taught, put her name forward.
“I knew some people who have been part of it before. I heard that it’s a really fun, lively night, so I thought it would be a fun thing to be involved in,” Forler said.
She’s even heard some people bring props and costumes to add to their defense. She says the battle of the books is a fun way to bring books to life and she’s honoured to have been asked to participate.
“This is such a great competition, it’s such great exposure for Canadian books, and this is for Ontario books, so it’s just a great way to be familiar with books that otherwise you might not have heard about or know about,” Forler said.
Drawn to children’s literature, Forler wrote Bird Girl, the story of a small, bird-like girl who stands up against bullies. She also wrote Winterberries and Apple Blossoms, which was illustrated by Peter Etril Snyder. It received the Nautilus Silver Medallion and it was named an Honor Book for The Lion and the Unicorn Excellence in North American Poetry Award.
She has another project in the works for the spring of 2018.
“I have some other manuscripts that I sent away. It’s always kind of a long wait with children’s books. The book, it’s currently called Trampoline Boy, but I’m not sure in 2018 if that will be the name for it. I’ve already seen the sketches from the illustrator, so it’s very exciting,” Forler said.
Those who attend the battle of the books will vote on the book they think should be read by everyone in Waterloo Region after hearing arguments from the 10 participants.
“I think any time that books are the centre of a conversation and especially when they’re Canadian books is just great exposure for other authors. It’s a way for a community to come together and have a shared experience, almost like the One Book, One Community. It’s just another opportunity for books to become real and important in the community as well,” Forler said.
The Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex hosts Waterloo Reads! Battle of the Books on Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. where one book will be crowned the winner.