16 August 2020
The Author Spotlight Series shines a light on writers creating heartfelt and original work across genres, giving them an opportunity to talk about their books and why they do what they do.
“Ted Staunton wrote his first story as a class assignment at university. He barely handed it in on time, but he’s glad he did: it became the picture book Puddleman. Now the award winning author of over forty books, he writes everything from YA and mid-grade novels (including titles in the popular SEVEN series) to Hi-Los, non-fiction, early chapter books, and of course picture books. He’s getting better at handing things in on time. His YA novel Who I’m Not won the 2014 CCBC John Spray Mystery Award. Ted’s work has also been nominated for Silver Birch, Red Maple, Hackmatack, Arthur Ellis, and BC Stellar awards, and many of his books are on CCBC Our Choice lists. Trained as a teacher, Ted is a speaker, performer, and workshop leader in schools, libraries and venues across Canada”.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always liked making up stories; that’s what imagining when you play is all about. Discovering I also liked playing with how to tell them came a little later.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
I remember the first thing I wrote that anyone liked: a story about suspecting my dad had eaten the sandwich left out for Santa. I was a pretty shy kid, so I think my grade four teacher was surprised to find I’d written something funny. That stuck with me.
How did you develop your skills?
I learned on the job, because I got published pretty young (sheer luck: right place and time, not gigantic talent). The learning curve was steep and fast. Whatever skills I’ve got came from three things: reading, listening hard to great editors and learning that when you’re writing there are so many choices to make that you can’t make all the best ones in one try. The bad ones aren’t mistakes, they’re steps you have to take to get someplace good.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
I have tons of favorite authors. They’re all over the map, from all times in my life, but what they all have is humor and wonderful characters in their work. Here are a few at total random: Penelope Fitzgerald, James Marshall, Nicholson Baker, Beverley Cleary, Anthony Powell, S.J. Perelman, Raymond Chandler, Josef Skvorecky, Arnold Lobel, Mark Twain. And then there are…
How would you describe your work?
Varied. I like to try all kinds of projects, so I’ve done everything from picture books to YA mystery to non-fiction, to graphic novels. I hope all of them have humor and interesting characters, too.
What’s your writing process like?
I look for ideas in real life, and start imagining. Sometimes I make a plan, sometimes I don’t. The main thing is, I keep thinking about it. I get a lot done while sorting laundry or cutting the lawn – which means I often do a lousy job of sorting and cutting, but still. Next, I have to write it down before I forget. Finally, I know I’m going to change my mind – and probably re-sort the laundry.
Tell us about your most recent book.
I have two new books, both from Scholastic Canada: Friends for Real, a picture book illustrated by my great friend Ruth Ohi, and It Seemed Like A Good Idea…Canadian Facts, Feats, and Flubs, non-fiction goofiness for all ages, co-written with my great son, Will Staunton. I wasn’t kidding about all kinds of projects.
What are you working on now/next?
Next up is The Good Fight, a graphic novel based on the 1933 riot at Christie Pits in Toronto, illustrated by Josh Rosen and out next year with Scholastic Canada. There’s a family connection to that and I’m really excited about the project.