St. Jerome visit

Writing workshops are so awesomely fun! Thanks Anne Marie Sisti of St. Jerome School in Mississauga for sending me this pic of last week’s writing workshop with your talented students.

st jerome 031

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Meet the Professionals: Melanie J. Fishbane, Online Merchandising and Marketing Professional

With over 17 years in Canadian publishing, Melanie J. Fishbane is a freelance writer and editor who coaches writers on social media and teaches creative writing. A Co-ordinator of Children’s Book Reviews for the National Reading Campaign, she also writes reviews for both Canadian Children’s Book News and The Quill and Quire and has sat on a number of children’s book award juries.  A graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts Writing for Children and Young Adults MFA program, her first YA novel based on the teen life of L.M. Montgomery will be published under the Razorbill imprint in 2015.Melanie kindly agreed to answer some questions about her involvement in the publishing industry. How did you get started in the book industry? I was going to York University and needed a part time job. I applied to Lichtman’s News and Books at the Promenade Mall and was hired on as a part-time employee around 1993. What was your first position at Indigo? Temporary employee for a Chapters store that was opening at the Rockland Centre in Montreal in 1999. In addition to your other work, you are a writer yourself. Can you tell me about your latest project? I can. I’m working on a YA novel based on the teen years of L.M. Montgomery, the author of the Anne of Green Gables and Emily series (and many others.) It will be released through Razorbill Canada in 2015. Can you walk me through your typical day? That is an interesting question for me because I am basically a person with a lot of different things on the go. I would say that before I start my day,  I try to get in some yoga, then I’ll journal and make a plan for the day.  I’ll work on my freelance and any other work in the morning and then write in the afternoons, checking in periodically in case there is an issue. But I like to make sure that I spend time with my partner in the evenings, who is an excellent cook. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to get into online merchandising or social media? If you want to get into online merchandising or social media, I would recommend understanding how online marketing works, trends, social media, etc. I would also recommend having an interest in the area where you are working so that you can stay on top of trends. What kind of writing are you passionate about? Writing the comes deep from the heart, where the author has truly devoted him or herself to the topic at hand and where the characters are acting from an authentic place–not just being moved across a story for the sake of plot. I’m passionate about stories that speak to our universal truths and also give us hope and something to think about. Can you describe the qualities of a dream author to work with? I’ve had the privilege of working with a few authors in social media and as a writer. I would say that for me it is an author who shows such passion for their craft and gratitude for working with a bookseller–someone who is positive and open to possibilities and just plain fun. I appreciate it when things come in on time, too…This author would be present when we are promoting things through social media, and possibly going over and above to advertising the piece themselves. Enthusiasm and positivity. That is what it is all about in my mind. That is what we all respond to. Regarding my other experiences with authors, I would say that it is about integrity and respect. It is about being constructive without being cruel. Being aware that we are all out to tell the best stories that we can. And what about your author from heck? See the opposite of what I wrote above… Honestly, I’m grateful to say that I haven’t really had an “author from heck.” Most of the authors I’ve worked with have been really lovely, gracious and truly happy for the opportunity to promote themselves. What advice do you have for a first time author? That would be my question to you as I am a first time author… J As a first time author I’m trying to be patient with myself and allow for things to unfold. Not always succeeding at that but not being hard on myself when it doesn’t all go the way I had initially conceived it. I am also so appreciative of my author community both here in Canada and abroad. I would suggest that for a first time author, that is key–find your people and understand your process. From a marketing perspective I would say that it is about being your most genuine and positive self without being so incredibly pushy that it becomes all about your novel and no one else’s work. I am turned off by people who send out messages through LinkedIn or friends you on Twitter just to let you know they have a book out. Recently, someone messaged me through Goodreads through a review I had written recommending their book. I would say that there is an opportunity to be a positive force through social media and other avenues, consider how will you best represent yourself and your work? Ask yourself how you would feel receiving a letter or email from a complete stranger? It is that idea of treating others as how you would like to be treated. The same goes for personal marketing strategies. When I work with people who are starting out in social media, the first thing I say to them is “do what you feel most comfortable with to show your most authentic self.” Thank you for this opportunity, Marsha.
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When Mama Goes to Work — nice review from the Midwest Review

When Mama Goes to Work

When Mama Goes to Work
Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, author
Jessica Phillips, illustrator
Fitzhenry & Whiteside
311 Washington Street, Brighton, MA 02135
9781554553143, $18.95,

“When Mama Goes to Work” is a cheerful descriptive book for preschool and up children about daily routines of both parent and child when Mama goes to work. Filled with beautiful color illustrations of families with skin tones of black, brown, white, and tan, “When Mama Goes to Work” presents a positive, upbeat attitude towards the experience of separate schedules of mother and child during the day. Both mother and child have prepared for their busy days by wearing appropriate clothes, and packing a lunch in a special bag. Sometimes there is a pleasant surprise in the lunch bag left by mother or child (like a spider toy or a valentine note)! Both mother and child are busy all day long, work with different tools, and get things done. Both smile (this is important). Both think of each other during their day and also miss each other. But the child knows that Mama will be back. The end of the day brings reunion, coming home, changing clothes, cooking, eating, books and reading, and bedtime. The child dreams of growing up and working with tools, being busy all day long, and smiles. One nice touch in “When Mama Goes to Work” is the pictured occupations for the mother, which include doctor, construction worker, and astronaut. Cheery text and happy faces in the illustrations help teach the young child that Mama going to work is a good thing, and an adult goal to aspire to.

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Ottawa book event: Underground Soldier


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When Mama Goes to Work — youtube reading

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Author completes Second World War trilogy

by Michelle Ruby, Brantford Expositor.


The release of the third book in a Second World War trilogy by city author Marsha Skrypuch couldn’t be more timely.

The young readers’ novel, Underground Soldier, tells the story of the terrorization, enslavement and killing of Ukrainians by both the Soviets and the Nazis.

The underground army formed by Ukrainians included people of many nationalities and ages with one thing in common — the desire to live in a democratic country.

“This parallels the Euromaidan conflict where regular people of all ages and nationalities took to the streets and proclaimed they would rather die than take the corruption anymore,” said Skrypuch. “It just goes to show how timely history can be.”

Underground Soldier is the story of 14-year-old Luka, who works as an Ostarbeiter in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe, alongside Lida from Making Bombs for Hitler, the second book in the trilogy, which began with Stolen Child.

Desperate to escape the brutal conditions of a Nazi slave camp, Luka manages to break free by hiding in a truck under a pile of dead bodies and joins a group of Ukrainian resistance fighters.

Caught between advancing Nazis in the west and Soviet troops in the east, they mount guerrilla raids, help POW escapees and do all they can to make life hard for the Nazis and Soviets. After the war, Luka must decide whether to follow Lida to Canada or stay in Europe and search for his long-lost mother.

“They were 10 years in the making,” said Skrypuch of the trilogy. “Finishing it feels like a relief but there is also a sadness. The characters were in my head for so long.”

Underground Soldier is the prolific, award-winning city author’s 18th published book.

Skrypuch will be in Toronto on Wednesday as one of five nominees for the $25,000 Kobzar Literary Award for Making Bombs for Hitler. The award recognizes outstanding contributions to Canadian literary arts by an author who develops a Ukrainian Canadian theme with literary merit in one of several genres, including literary non-fiction, fiction, poetry, young readers’ literature, plays, screenplays and musicals.

Although Skrypuch said she has written more on Ukraine than anyone else in Canada, this is her first nomination for the biennial Kobzar.

Most of Skrypuch’s works are fiction but she bases all of her stories on detailed research. Of great help on Underground Soldier, she said, was Peter J. Potichnyj, professor emeritus at McMaster University who was a teen soldier in the Ukrainian Insurgent Army and has written extensively about it.

Skrypuch said she is closely following the ongoing demonstrations and revolution in Ukraine.

“I’m so proud of the people. It’s a very civil revolution. All they want is freedom. It’s a wave of democracy. In the long run, it’s the most beautiful thing that could possibly have happened to Ukraine.”

In the meantime, acclaim for Skrypuch’s books continues. The non-fiction One Step at a Time, which is based on Brantford resident Tuyet Yurczyszyn, is shortlisted for the Silver Birch award with winners to be announced in May.

She also has a new young adult novel scheduled for release in August to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Dance of the Banished is partly set in Brantford.


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Congratulations Luba Goy! Kobzar Awards night!



A wonderful night was had by all at the Kobzar Literary Awards. I was honoured to be shortlisted and delighted with Luba’s win.

judgesfinalistsHere’s a pic of the finalists and judges.

centrepieceAnd the amazing centerpieces that incorporated themes from all of our books (Lida’s OST badge, needle/thread and spoon).

tablesThe tables

soupstationSoup station inspired by the Kantine at the slave labour camp.


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Near North librarians rock!

Thanks, Karen Upper, for this great photo of my signing at the OLA Bookstore at the OLA Superconference! I am surrounded by awesome Near North librarians!



Thank you also, for this great review of Underground Soldier, and the book trailer, and the youtube reading!



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lovely review for The Best Gifts from Midwest Review

“The Best Gifts” is a lovely book about precious gifts of love and life from loving parents to each other and to their child. Filled with golden-tinted, faintly exotic portraits of a loving family and friends, “The Best Gifts” begins with the birth of a special baby girl, Sara, who receives many gifts to celebrate her birth. But the best gift comes after everyone leaves, having been thanked for their thoughtfulness, and the new family cuddles quietly together while the baby feeds at her mother’s breast, surrounded by swirls of fragrant sandalwood scent and love. The story continues with the little girl growing up, leaving and beginning a loved family of her own. The besbestgiftst gift her parents give her to celebrate the birth of her son, Sam, is a love-worn story book filled with precious memories of the best times of her childhood. Again the young family retires after putting all the thoughtful gifts away thankfully, and cuddle while baby Sam drinks his mother’s milk and falls into a happy sleep, surrounded by a light scent of sandalwood. “And Sara knew, as she always had … that the best gifts can never be bought.” “The Best Gifts” is a lovely book that celebrates life and love and supports a precious beginning of life nurturing through breastfeeding.

Source Citation   (MLA 7th Edition)

“The Best Gifts.” Children’s Bookwatch Jan. 2014. General OneFile. Web. 2 Feb. 2014.
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Best moment of the OLA superconference

The very best moment of the OLA Superconference? It came after the Thursday morning Forest of Reading winners’ panel discussion.

I had spoken of my Ukrainian mother-in-law, who lived through WWII, surviving both the Nazis and the Soviets. Just before she died, asked me to write about her experiences in WWII, because she had never seen them in a book. We usually only see the Nazis as the enemy, not realizing that for Eastern Europeans, there were two genocidal dictators targeting them — not just Hitler, but Stalin as well. She was my inspiration for Stolen Child, which led to Making Bombs and Underground Soldier.

After the talk, many people came up and hugged me, openly weeping. Three sisters, whose late Latvian mother was also subjected to Nazi and Soviet oppression. Thursday was her birthday. They’ve been able to amass much documentation about her life and her community. I want them to write her story. A Bulgarian librarian friend, whose history is similar. Ekaterina, please write your family’s story! My books are their stories as well. We get such a sanitized version of WWII history in the western world, largely because we allied ourselves with Stalin.

And of course, what’s happening in Ukraine now — deja vu all over again. Putin is holding off until after the Olympics. I dread what will happen then.

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