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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“Michelle Wang is an elementary school teacher who was inspired to write Oma’s Bag by her own mother-in-law and for all families who have loved ones living with dementia. She lives in Toronto.”


When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I wrote the initial draft of my first book It Must Be Autumn many years ago when, as a grade one teacher, I couldn’t find a story book about the signs of fall that I wanted to read aloud to my class.  So I wrote one. It sat in many dark corners of various rooms until my older sister finally got fed up with asking me when I was ever going to do anything with it and told me to self publish during the pandemic. So I did. Working with an amazing illustrator to convert my stick figure sketches into her art, it became obvious that books for the three other seasons needed to be written. (I say this as someone who needs to play out a tic tac toe game even when it’s an inevitable stalemate). That was when I knew I wanted to be a writer of at least these four picture books.


Do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

I was chosen to represent my school in a Young Writers of Agincourt competition. I remember being led into a room full of tables and given a thin blue folder. In one pocket was a list of titles and a handful of black and white images; in the other was a pile of lined paper. The instructions were simply to pick a prompt and write a short story about it. We were given an hour or so and I probably spent half that time trying to figure out what choose. With the clock on the wall literally ticking down in front of me, I printed Strange but True at the top of the blank page and started writing. The story was about a girl who went riding on her horse in the woods one morning and ended up on a series of adventures that she slowly realizes are in sequential order to the fairy tales in a book that she has at home. Each escapade is stranger and more harrowing and as she finally runs away from the big bad wolf, her sweater gets caught on a branch and she is forced to leave it behind so as to escape. That night when she goes to read the same book of fairy tales, she turns to the last page and sees in the picture her sweater hanging on the very same branch of the tree.


Anyways, I won first prize, and yes, I peaked in grade four.


How did you develop your skills?

As a child who borrowed 10 books a week from the library (actually 30 if you count my two sisters because they each had their own plastic shopping bag to fill), an elementary school teacher who does a read aloud every chance I get, and a mother of four bookworms, I have and continue to read a lot of books.  That’s probably the best way I’ve developed my skills as a children’s picture book author. Beyond that, I just try and write something that I would want to read to my kids.  Working with an unbelievably good editor has also helped me find ways to use less words, better words, and craft my sentences in ways I didn’t even realize I wanted.


Who are some of your biggest literary influences? Do you have a favourite book/author?

I am someone who will pick up anything to read – even a cereal box – so it’s hard to know what to write for this question. I love books with a good dose of humour, witty dialogue, characters who I wish I knew in real life, and clever turns of phrases that make me read them over and over again just to savour their brilliance. In terms of influencing my actual writing of picture books, I would start with Eric Carle, Sandra Boynton, Phoebe Gilman, Mo Willems, Dr. Seuss, Robert Munsch, and end with really anyone who has written a really good book.


As for my favourite author/book?  Again there are so many! If I have to choose, I guess it would be Gordon Korman.  When I first read It Can’t Be Happening at McDonald Hall and realized that he was just a little bit older than me when it was written, he immediately became my hero. Mr. Korman continues to hold prime real estate in my book heart even now. I always read his classic I Want To Go Home all in one sitting at least once a year and still laugh out loud in the same places, every single time.


How would you describe your work?

I don’t really know how to answer that, so I will say that Oma’s Bag has been depicted by some people as “Where’s Waldo meets Robert Munsch”.


As for my other series, here are some other words that have been used to describe my books:  “a bright and sunny day”, “whimsical and engaging”, both a “delightful gem” and a “delightful romp” (clearly I’m scoring high in the “delightful” portion of the competition ), and maybe the best compliment of all, “a fun read”.


What’s your writing process like?

Mostly a lot of staring at a blank page or a screen.


Tell us about your most recent book.

Oma’s Bag is about a fun-loving family whose grandparents come to town for a visit. But this time, things seem different – grandmother Oma’s cooking doesn’t taste the same, and she’s started asking the same questions over and over, even while talking about specific moments from her past. Then things around the house begin to go missing: keys, eyeglasses, the TV remote. When the items turn up in the oversized shopping bag that Oma carries around with her, along with other cherished momentoes, the journey from the past to new shared experiences reminds the family that Oma is still Oma. And it is the memories made and discovered that will live in their hearts always.


What are you working on now/next?

There seems to be no shortage of things I could be working on. Lately, wherever I look, every anecdote I hear, every small moment I experience, a picture book starts forming in my head. My “It Must Be Seasons” series stars a high-spirited family out to discover the beautiful signs of the changing seasons. I hope to bring this family on more “delightful” learning adventures. The series also features a couple of joke-telling squirrels that have been fan favourites and I’ve started writing a spin off story for them. Finally, Oma is not done her adventures quite yet…we may well hear from her again.