Book launch and signing

Want a signed copy of a fun story for kids? I’ll be selling and signing copies of my new picture book Six Stinky Feet and a Sasquatch on Saturday, March 21 at the Chapters bookstore in Coquitlam, BC. Watch for me from 1 to 3 pm at the Chapters store in the Pinetree Village on Lougheed Highway.

Young Writers’ Festival, Gibsons, Feb. 26

I’m one of five authors who will be doing a reading and presentation to kindergarten and grade one students at Gibsons Elementary School in Gibsons, BC on Wednesday, Feb. 26. I’ll be sharing my new picture book Six Stinky Feet and a Sasquatch and talking about “Picture Books: Fact and Fiction.” I look forward to hearing what the students have written. It should be a fun half-day.

Picture book launch Dec. 7: Six Stinky Feet and a Sasquatch

It was fun presenting my new picture book, Six Stinky Feet and a Sasquatch, to an audience of young and old Dec. 7 at Sechelt Public Library. Andy Johnson, storyteller for the shishalh Nation, shared a sasquatch song he composed and told a sasquatch story. I’m honoured to know that he plans to read my book to shishalh kids.

At the event, I wore a red hoodie with the sasquatch design by shishalh Nation member Candace Campo. She explained to me how cultural Indigenous tradition determines the shape of each eye of the creature’s face. At the end of my fictional story, I include some cultural history and trivia regarding the sasquatch and a few URLs and book titles for those who want to find out more about this mysterious creature.

The hard-cover book, published by Peppermint Toast Publishing, features illustrations by talented Vancouver, BC animator Lillian Lai. The book is $18. Ten per cent of proceeds support pediatric palliative care in British Columbia.

Click here to see media photo and event coverage.

Click here to find out more and order a copy.

New hospice video to screen Oct. 5

Photo 8 Rosemary award with Heather and Karen

(From left): Heather Blackwood and Rosemary Hoare, SCHS’s first two volunteer coordinators with long-time volunteer Karen Falk

 

 

Want to know what hospice has done on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast for the past 30 years? Come to an Oct. 5 event in Sechelt and see the video that I wrote, produced, and directed called “Legacy of Love: 30 Years of Compassionate Care on B.C.’s Sunshine Coast, 1987 – 2017.”

The seven-minute documentary includes two poignant stories and an overview, by decade, of the achievements of the Sunshine Coast Hospice Society (SCHS). You’ll see historic pix and meet some of the founders of hospice plus board members, donors, a patient and more.

The video is part of a project commissioned to celebrate the 30th anniversary of SCHS.It will be screened at a special event to honour current and past hospice volunteers and donors. The event starts at 6:45 pm on Thursday, Oct. 5 at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt.

Besides making the video, shot and edited by Arthur Le and Jordan Williams, I researched and wrote a lot of original content for the 30th anniversary: a detailed chronology, and nine web features with interviews and photos that reveal key highlights of local hospice history.

 

Heather to teach screenwriting Feb/March in Powell River

I’ll be teaching “Writing Short Documentaries” and helping students brainstorm a group documentary project from Feb. 27 to March 2 in Powell River. This is an annual appearance I make as an instructor at Powell River Digital Film School.

Every year, the content varies, depending on the wishes of school founder and director Tony Papa. Usually, I cover how to write both drama and documentaries. Most years, I include a workshop on Introduction to SoulCollage®.

I encourage students to share their deepest personal stories or sociocultural tales from their community that no one has documented. I love their willingness to jump in and learn new things and to explore storytelling with a compelling, authentic voice.

Job placement students gain insights with SoulCollage®

SoulCollage cards low res

I enjoyed introducing SoulCollage® Jan. 27 to a group of job placement students at M. Magas and Associates, an employment agency in Sechelt, BC.

We did a guided visualization, identified their respective dream job, and discussed accountability, victimhood and what archetypal influences might resonate with them.

I appreciated their openness and willingness to share what symbols were meaningful to them.

Since this was one of their “fun Friday” events, I was advised to keep it “light and uplifting.” I love that SoulCollage® is hands-on and fun but still a revealing form of self-discovery that creates connectedness and empowerment.

group shot low res

Mentors in Violence Training held Dec. 6 in Sechelt, BC

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I was delighted to receive one-day training in Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) on Dec. 6, 2016 in Sechelt, BC. Roughly a dozen of us attended, including local teachers and providers of an after-school teen drop-in program. The event’s co-facilitators were Wayne Spychka, my boss as an SCCSS gender violence prevention worker, and Keely Halward, Wayne’s boss. Both are experienced MVP mentors and employees in Together Against Violence at the Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS).

In male-only and female-only groups, we did exercises that identify gender stereotypes and practised facilitating and observing scenarios portraying inappropriate sexual behaviour. The MVP process reinforces a stance of Be More Than a Bystander: if you witness anything sexually inappropriate occurring between others, doing nothing is not an option. It is important for youths to either notify an adult or authorities and/or intervene, if they can do this safely.

MVP Strategies was developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, based on a peer leadership model using trained student leaders. It strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations of violence unfolding around them. The primary goals of MVP are to

  1. Increase awareness of verbal/emotional/psychological and sexual abuse.
  2. Challenges messages within a social setting about gender/sex/relationship violence.
  3. Inspire leadership by empowering participants with options to effect change in social norms.

For more details read my MVP training Dec 2016 Coast Reporter.

Publisher wanted for Bigfoot picture book

Annie_Sasquatch_colour jpeg July 2016

Rough illustration by Lillian Lai of the sasquatch and main character Annie

 

NEWS FLASH (Feb. 13, 2017): A Vancouver publisher wants to publish this book. Hurray! It all depends if their grant comes through in March. Here’s hoping . . .

I`m currently looking for a publisher for my new picture book Dirty, Smelly, Feet. It features the mischievous antics of little Annie and her sasquatch or Bigfoot pal.

Illustrator and animator Lillian Lai has done a great colour rendition of the book`s two main characters. Lillian did an excellent job of illustrating my first picture book, Gracie`s Got a Secret.

Unfortunately, the publisher of that book, MW Book Publishing, has ceased operations.

I don`t want to reveal too much about what makes this book special and different. If you know any publisher who might be interested, please let me know.

Despite the popularity of the Bigfoot on TV and in books for older readers, there are surprisingly few for young readers.

An honour to host and organize Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program

JR LaRose with kids low res

Former BC Lions player J.R. LaRose (back row, centre) joins grade 10 and 11 students at Mentors in Violence Prevention event in Sechelt, BC

I was honoured to organize and host Canada’s first Mentors in Violence Prevention program in Sechelt, BC on May 5. Here’s a story that I wrote for the local media:

 

A former B.C. Lions player, open discussions and hands-on scenarios recently helped about 40 local high school students learn what words and actions can lead to violence against women.

 

Sunshine Coast Community Services Society (SCCSS), in collaboration with School District No. 46, hosted a Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Student Summit May 5 at Seaside Centre in Sechelt. Grade 10 and 11 students from Chatelech, Elphinstone and Pender Harbour Secondary School, Sunshine Coast Alternative School and the Aboriginal Program attended, along with about 20 school administrators, SCCSS staff, and RCMP members trained in MVP strategies.

 

“I’m not OK with just standing by and being silent when someone is being abused,” keynote speaker J. R. LaRose, a former BC Lions and spokesperson for Be More Than a Bystander, told the group. “It’s time we speak up and be a voice for those that have been hurt and abused. Speak up and break the silence.”

 

This event marked the first time in Canada that high school youth have participated in an MVP program. Developed in the early 1990s in Boston, MA, this peer leadership model, using trained student leaders, strives to empower those who might otherwise be silent observers to situations where bullying and violence is unfolding.

 

“We are so proud of the youth stepping up as leaders and change-makers at the MVP Student Summit,” said Keely Halward, director of SCCSS’s Together Against Violence Services. “Gender-based violence is not just a statistic, but the reality for hundreds of women and girls on the Sunshine Coast. Almost half of our Police Based Victim Services files relate to domestic violence, and research tells us that most domestic violence goes unreported.”

 

In scenarios that ranged from verbal abuse to sexual harassment, and from dating violence to sexual consent, students learned practical ways to communicate that violence and abuse are not acceptable. They discussed related issues as a whole group, and in male-only, female-only and fluid-gender groups.

 

The ongoing MVP initiative is possible thanks to funders including the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Department of Justice Canada, RCMP National Crime Prevention Initiative, the Sechelt Indian Government District and donors. For more information about this initiative and to learn about services addressing gender violence, please go to the Sunshine Coast Community Services website at www.sccss.ca or contact Heather Conn at hconn@sccss.ca.

To see story and photo in The Local, click this link: Tackling violence against women.