Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Kathy Kacer

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Kathy Kacer is a children's author whose focus is historical fiction and true stories about the Holocaust. She is dedicated to writing about the Holocaust in a way that is sensitive to the age and stage of development of a young reader. Her many books include The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser, Clara's War, The Underground Reporters, Hiding Edith and The Diary of Laura’s Twin.

A winner of the Silver Birch, Red Maple, Hackmatack and Jewish Book Awards, and a finalist for the Red Cedar, Geoffrey Bilson and Norma Fleck Awards, Kathy has written unforgettable stories inspired by real events. Her books have also been sold to Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Thailand, Japan, Korea and Belgium. Her novels are stories of hope, courage and humanity in the face of overwhelming adversity.

Although she has been writing for many years, Kathy only became a published author in 1999. Before that, she worked as a psychologist with troubled teens. Kathy speaks to children in schools and libraries around the country, about the importance of understanding the Holocaust and keeping its memory alive. In addition, she speaks in universities and colleges on the topic of teaching sensitive material to young children.

Visit her website at Send your questions and comments for Kathy to

Ten Questions with Kathy Kacer


What was your first publication and where was it published?


My first publication was my historical fiction novel entitled The Secret of Gabi’s Dresser, published by Second Story Press. I wrote lots of short stories before that, but never tried to get anything published.


Describe a recent Canadian cultural experience that influenced your writing.


We are huge theatre goers in my family. I recently saw the play Scorched at the Tarragon Theatre. Written by Wajdi Mouawad, Scorched is about a twin boy and girl struggling to understand their mother's past growing up during the civil war in Lebanon. The language (translated from French) was sheer poetry. While I can’t tell you just how it will influence my writing, I know that I came away with a new appreciation for language that will certainly have some kind of impact on how I write.


If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

The Diary of Laura’s Twin

By Kathy Kacer

Laura has just three weeks to go before her Jewish "coming of age" ceremony, called a Bat Mitzvah, when she is assigned a special project. She is to read the diary of Sara Gittler, a young girl her own age who was imprisoned by the Nazis in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Holocaust. Sara never had the chance to celebrate her coming of age, so Laura is to learn about Sara’s life and then share her Bat Mitzvah with her “twin” by speaking of her at the ceremony.

Recent Writer In Residence Posts

Kathy Kacer at Bookclub-in-a-Box in Toronto


Thursday, May 5, 2011 - 10:00am


Bookclub-In-A-Box Talks
875 Eglinton Avenue West
Toronto, ON


Kathy Kacer will be giving a talk on her book Resitution: a family’s fight for their heritage after the Holocaust (Second Story Press) at Bookclub-in-a-Box.

Based in Toronto, Bookclub-in-a-Box offers author talks, discussion guides, and bookclub faciliation.

More info:


Bookclub-In-A-Box Talks
875 Eglinton Avenue West
Toronto, ON

Saying good-bye!

Time to sign off, folks. I must say, I’ve loved every minute of this gig – enjoyed the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas about the writing world, particularly from the Y.A. perspective.

It’s always hard to figure out how to end a piece of writing, isn’t it? Finding that perfect last sentence is as challenging, or perhaps more so, than writing an ideal opener. So I think I’ll say good-bye with a quote. Remember, I started blogging at the beginning of the month by telling you that I’m a collector of quotes. This one is simple. I once heard Robert Munsch say that you can always end a story simply by saying, “And that’s the end of the story.”

So that’s it for me. Here’s wishing you and yours a rewarding and productive 2009.

Holocaust Stories

I’m going to be signing off shortly as WIR for the month. But before I do, I want to take this opportunity to tell you about my new book due out in February 2009. I figure that, while I use this forum to talk about other people’s books, why not talk about my own. So here goes. My new book is entitled Whispers from the Ghettos, published by Penguin Group (Canada). It’s actually the first of a three book collection of short stories from survivors of the Holocaust. The next one, Whispers from the Camps will be out in six months, followed six months later by the final book, Whispers in Hiding. I’ve written this collection of stories with a writing partner, the wonderful and award winning Y.A. author, Sharon McKay.

Unlikely book Titles

I’m terrible at picking titles for my books. I can’t honestly say that I have named one of my ten books. What started with what I thought might be a good working title, instantly changed to something better in the hands of editors, publishers, and even, in one case, my daughter!


I have to salute an organization called CANSCAIP, and this is the perfect time. CANSCAIP is the Canadian Association of Children’s Authors, Illustrators, and Performers ( This national group for professionals in the field of children’s literature supports and promotes kid lit through monthly meetings, its website, newsletters, and an annual conference. In a profession that can too often become isolating and lonely, CANSCAIP provides an opportunity for those of us who write for young people to meet, share writing ideas and programs, and celebrate our accomplishments. I’ve been a member for ten years and encourage everyone I meet in this field to join.

Airport Book Stores

Have you ever noticed how pathetic the children’s book section is in airports? (Remember, I’ve been flying a lot lately). I’m moderately impressed with the selection of adult literature in airports. There is the usual collection of best sellers – fiction and non-fiction – business books, romance, humour, you name it. There is even a classics section in most airport bookstores. I’ve seen Hermann Melville, Harper Lee, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and many others on the shelves.

Does the age group matter when it comes to writing?

I’m in the process of writing my first adult novel. People have often asked when I am going to write an adult book, as if writing for kids is a stepping stone to that other “real” writing. For the longest time I’ve resisted the urge to venture into this territory. I love writing for young readers; love the voice that this forces me to write in, and enjoy the response of the Y.A. audience to my books. But then this remarkable story came my way, a story that I knew was not appropriate for a young audience, and after having written ten Y.A. books, I decided to bite the bullet and take on this new project.

Holiday Reading!

I’m going away for a week of holiday. Yes, lucky me! I will be spending a week in the Dominican Republic with my family. My family actually consists of about twenty people; my husband, myself and our two grown kids; my husband’s three siblings, their spouses, a bunch of their kids and grandkids, and even my mother-in-law. This has become an annual tradition, and an opportunity for as many of us as possible to get together in a place where we can enjoy quality time with one another. We all love it and look forward to it with great excitement.

An Open Letter of Apology

I was in my car this morning, listening to CBC radio as I always do. Yes, like many of you, I am a CBC radio junky. I heard a fascinating interview with a writer from Turkey. Recently a group of 200 Turkish academics, journalists, and writers wrote an open letter, apologizing to Armenians for what they have dubbed “the Great Catastrophe,” the genocide of 1915, in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were massacred. "My conscience does not accept that (we) remain insensitive toward and deny the Great Catastrophe that the Ottoman Armenians were subjected in 1915," read the apology. "I reject this injustice, share in the feelings and pain of my Armenian brothers, and apologize to them."

Last School Reading of 08!

I just got back from doing my last school reading for 2008. I visited a wonderful school in Guelph called Kortright Hills Public School. Many thanks to Kathy Gossling-Spears for organizing my visit. I spoke to the grade 7’s and 8’s and talked primarily about my book, The Underground Reporters. The book is about a group of young Jewish boys and girls who created a newspaper in their home town in the former Czechoslovakia at a time when all of their freedoms and privileges had been taken away from them. The theme of the book, writing as a form of resistance or using words in a powerful way, is a perfect topic for thirteen and fourteen year olds who strive to assert their views to adults and others.

The International Board on Books for Youth - IBBY

For the past two years I have been on the Executive of a wonderful organization called IBBY – the International Board on Books for Youth. IBBY is a non-profit group which represents an international network of people who are committed to bringing books and children together. Founded in Zurich, Switzerland in 1953, IBBY now has more than 70 National Sections from all over the world. The Canadian Branch of IBBY was established in 1980.

A good writing day!

Yesterday was a good writing day! What did that mean? Well, for me it meant first that I had uninterrupted time in which to write – few telephone calls, and even fewer emails that can occupy the bulk of a day before you even know it. But it also meant that yesterday, I produced words – beautiful, coherent, lucid words, and lots of them!

My friend and writer, Eric Walters, says that he writes no less than 5000 words each and every day, no matter what. That’s not me. If I can produce a good 1000-1500 words in a day, I’m thrilled.

Yesterday was one of those days. Here’s to many more of them!

Book Review - "One Peace"

I attended a CANSCAIP meeting last night (I’ll talk about CANSCAIP in a future blog). Writer and illustrator, Janet Wilson was the guest speaker. I have to say, right off the top, that I am a huge fan of Janet’s. I was privileged to have her do the cover illustrations for my Our Canadian Girl series of books (Penguin Canada). I even bought one of the original cover paintings which hangs on my dining room wall and is admired by everyone. Last night at CANSCAIP, Janet was speaking about her new book, "One Peace: True Stories of Young Activists" (Orca Book Publishers, 2008). I bought a book after the meeting and I haven’t stopped looking through it.

It’s all in the Details

Did you read about the nine year old boy, Alex Greven, from Castle Rock, Colorado who recently secured a major book deal with Harper Collins in New York after completing a classroom writing assignment? His third grade teacher had encouraged the class to take some time to observe people and their behaviours, and then write about these observations. Alex spent a week watching his classmates interact at recess. He produced a 46 page book entitled, “How to Talk to Girls.” Initially sold at the school book fair for $3.00, the book will now be available in 17 countries. Alex joins that select group of authors who had their first books published when they were mere youngsters. The list includes, among others, Canadians Ken Oppel and Gordon Korman.

Back from L.A.

I’m just back from speaking at the book fair in Los Angeles. I’ll talk about that in a moment. But I seem destined to have travel adventures. Not the kind where you explore exotic countries and discover new and breathtaking sights, but the kind where just getting to your destination is a challenge.

I was due to leave Toronto for L.A. on Thursday Dec. 4 at 6:30 p.m. I arrived the requisite two hours early at the airport, checked in on line, and discovered that my flight had been cancelled “due to mechanical problems!” Unbeknownst to me, I had been placed on a fight leaving early the next morning with a stop and connecting flight through Chicago.

California here I come!

I’m off to California today. I’ve been invited to speak at a book fair in Los Angeles. I am one of those writers who enjoys speaking and has had the opportunity to travel quite a bit with my books. I’ve done book tours in Germany, the UK, parts of the United States and, of course, across Canada. I may actually have the chance to go to Australia in the spring! I look forward to all of these speaking opportunities.

What I don’t look forward to is the time that this always takes away from my writing. These invitations to speak are lovely when they arrive. I eagerly book myself into schools, libraries, book fairs, conferences – you name it. It all looks great when it’s a year away. It becomes overwhelming and incredibly time consuming when I’m in the middle of it.

Writing Styles

I teach a class at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies called Writing for Children: Introduction ( I’ve been doing it for the past five years and it’s something I love. It forces me to think about the process of writing and to articulate it. The class is part didactic; I give a one hour lecture on some aspect of writing (i.e. character, setting, plot), and part workshop; the students bring in samples of their work and we as a group critique the writing.

Canada Book Week - Nova Scotia

I recently spent a week in Nova Scotia as part of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week ( Every November, close to 35,000 children, teens and adults participate in activities held in every province and territory across the country. Hundreds of schools, public libraries, bookstores and community centres host events as part of this major literary festival. This program sends approximately 25 children’s writers and story tellers across the country, speaking in schools and libraries where students might not otherwise have the opportunity to meet authors.

First Day!

Greetings! It’s a pleasure to be part of Open Book Toronto, and to be your WIR for the month of December. I’m looking forward to sharing thoughts and opinions on books and the writing process. One of the first things you need to know is that I collect quotes and sayings. Some of you will find this endearing; others will think it’s awfully “cheesy.” I find something in truisms that makes me pause and think about what I’m doing and why. In other words, they work for me.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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