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.
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“Phyllis Bordo is a retired English high school teacher who enjoys reading to her six grandchildren, volunteering at their school library, and volunteering at Ibby Canada’s Reading With Newcomers program. After noticing how much children worry today, Phyllis created Lilly Esther to show them how to overcome their fears and anxieties. She hopes that Lilly Esther will help children find ways to cope with their worries, no matter what they are. Phyllis’s books open discussion among children and their teachers, parents and peers on these sensitive issues. Lilly Esther’s stories deal with these topics in a humorous and loving way. Lilly Esther Conquers the Worries and Quincey Loves Lilly Esther Forever are the first two books in the Lilly Esther series. Phyllis lives in Toronto, Ontario with her husband and her two dogs, Cleopatra and Quincey named after the heroine of her stories, Lilly Esther!”
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
In grade one! As soon as I learned to read. I wanted to write adventures for Dick, Jane and Spot. I wanted to write stories for the Bobbsey Twins and mysteries like Carolyn Keene wrote in the Nancy Drew novels.
Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?
One story that has never left my mind, that I remember as the first story I ever wrote, is a story about a boy named, Tom and his adventures at his summer cottage with his dog, Heidi. I collaborated with a friend who drew the pictures with Crayola crayons.
How did you develop your skills?
Reading, reading and reading! I read voraciously as a kid and continue to do so. I did and still do a lot of journal writing, practising different writing styles.
Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?
I am always very conscious of voice in a novel. I love the Olive Kitteridge novels by Elizabeth Strout. I love The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible, and Stephen King’s The Institution and On Writing. Right now, I am reading Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo which I can’t put down.
I love writing for children . I like the books by Eric Carle. The middle grade novel, The Bridge To Taribitia by Katherine Paterson made a big emotional impact on me. I also enjoy the books by local children’s picture book author, Aimee Reid.
I try to understand and analyze why I am riveted by a book, or a scene, a character and then try to apply the technique to my work. “Try” is the operative word!
How would you describe your work?
My work is honest. I write real life truths, and issues. My books often cover serious topics like anxiety, death and believing in yourself and not giving up. My picture books, the Lilly Esther series, cover these topics in an honest but humorous and loving way.
What’s your writing process like?
I have an idea and start writing! I am not a planner. I sometimes know the beginning and the end but I have to figure out how to get there! I often write a scene and figure our where it fits in as my story progresses. I sometimes dive right in and write that first draft and often the finished work looks nothing like the first draft.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book is the third book, in the Lilly Esther series of children’s picture books. The title is Lilly Esther, Queen of Magic. Lilly Esther is a female magician. She wants to show her magic to her family but they are too busy to listen. She refuses to give up. Will her magic help her find a way to show the world that she is Lilly Esther, Queen of Magic?
What are you working on now/next?
I am currently editing my middle grade novel about a 12 year old girl, Miranda Asher, who lives in Toronto, Ontario in a middle class family. She runs away from her home, from her mentally and sometimes physically abusive father for a life on the street. This story sees Miranda navigate the hardship and dangers of living on the street until she finds a way to a better life.