Not many can say they have interviewed Betty White, been an athlete, or are an award-winning Canadian children’s author all in one sentence. Lorna Schultz Nicholson talks about her new book Good Morning Sunshine, dedicated to the late Joey Moss and the Moss family.
When did you realize your passion for writing?
As a child I was more of an athlete, but I was a voracious reader and I also liked to write. I remember entering a contest when I was in grade eight and winning second prize. I also got my very first publisher’s rejection when I was about twelve. I went to this two-week summer camp and I thought it was the best thing in the whole world. I came back and I wrote an article and I mailed it to the magazine. Then I got the rejection letter from them saying they couldn’t use it. I ran upstairs crying and my mom asked what was wrong. I said, nothing, because I had sort of secretly done it.
So I always liked reading and writing, but then I got into athletics and I didn’t think of that part of my life. It was something that I never really figured I would ever do. A lot of writers will say, oh, I knew right away I wanted to be a writer right from the time I was little. I teach a lot of writing courses to kids and I can see that there are kids in there that want to be writers. If someone asked me what I wanted to be, I would say that I wanted to be an athlete.
I got into it when my children were really little. I remembered how much I loved writing as a child and how I used to write lots of stories. So it was almost like a full circle for me.
How did your transition into the children’s genre happen?
I started off writing adult mystery novels. I love that genre of thriller and suspense. I’ve always read and enjoyed it. I got my fair share of rejections; it’s part of the game. It’s part of writing and being a writer. I belonged to a writer’s group in Calgary and one of the gals in the group was a children’s writer. Her name is Jacqueline Guest, a great, brilliant Canadian writer. She was writing sports’ books and she knew that I knew a lot about sports so she would phone me all the time and ask me questions. One day we were laughing and I said to her, I’m going to write one of those books and she said, actually, you should, because she really didn’t want to write sports’ books anymore. She was moving into writing young adult novels. Then I thought of an idea from an old past story of mine when I was a rower. I had a friend who had type one diabetes and nobody knew about it. I’d just make it about a hockey player and make her a boy. I sent in the first chapter and a synopsis and I got this call and it was like, we really want your book and I thought, oh gosh, I haven’t written it yet! I had never done that before. All of a sudden I had to write it, and she wanted it ASAP.
I literally turned the book out in fourteen days. It was crazy, but I finished it, sent it in and they published it. I worked well with the editor. She’s brilliant. We really connected, so I just kept pitching ideas to her and I started a career in children’s writing. I’ve never looked back because I absolutely love it. I love being able to encourage literacy amongst kids.
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Joey Moss has left an important legacy in Edmonton. Let’s talk about your new book, Good Morning Sunshine.
I am so excited about this book. When Joey passed away, I thought, Lorna, you’re the children’s writer. You’re the one who can write this book. I really believe in story. I really believe that stories need to be told and I really believe that stories told in book format last a long time. They go to shelves and they sit on shelves. Kids ten years from now can pull it off a shelf and read it. Somebody that’s born with Down syndrome can be active in the community and I really wanted to get that across. I approached my agent first and asked, what do you think about this? She said, it’s a great idea but you need support from the family, and I agreed.
Joey’s eldest sister and I got into this great conversation. I said, Pattie, I really want to write this book; I think it will be a beautiful story. A book is that treasure that a parent can read to a child or a child can read. I just felt that it was important that we got this story out there and I felt that I was the vehicle because I was a children’s writer. So, two and two went together and the family was brilliant. They helped me out so much and they all read it before it went to press.
I’m honoured that I was able to write this book. I’m absolutely ecstatic about the illustrator. Illustrations are really critical to a book and Alice Carter is 50% of this. I wrote it, I did the research and I know Joey, but she took the book and my words and she found Joey. She did a fantastic job with the illustrations and I’m very excited.
Lorna is giving back to the community through her literary success. Her young adult novel, When You Least Expect It, just won the R. Ross Annett Award from the Writers’ Guild of Alberta. From the award, she is creating a scholarship for a female rowing athlete through the St. Catherine’s Writing Club, honouring where she grew up and where she started her rowing career.
She will also be giving a portion of her royalties from Good Morning Sunshine to the Joey Moss Literacy Centre for Excellence in Edmonton.
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