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Emma Donoghue charms families at Telling Tales Festival

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Emma Donoghue, at Telling Tales Festival

Emma Donoghue at Telling Tales Festival (Alyssa Lai)

Emma Donoghue was the marquee name at the ninth annual Telling Tales Festival – held at the Westfield Heritage Village outside of Hamilton, Ontario, on Sept. 17. The internationally celebrated author was presenting her first children’s book, The Lotterys Plus One (HarperCollins), which came out earlier in the year. While acknowledging children’s festivals are completely new territory for her, Donoghue said she’s feels more at home in this world than she was in Hollywood two years ago – when the film adaptation of her novel Room was nominated for multiple Academy Awards, including a screenplay nod for Donoghue. “I’m more comfortable walking on grass here than being at the Oscars in a gown,” said the Irish author, who lives in London, Ontario. “A lot of the film world is just nonsense, with all the appearances and glamour. It’s just incongruous for a novelist in her forties.”

Donoghue gave two presentations at Telling Tales to rapt audiences and was excited to see fellow middle-grade author Joanne Levy speak – saying she found Levy’s 2012 novel Small Medium at Large (Bloomsbury/Penguin) very entertaining. At nearly all the readings, spread across many stages, you’d find fellow authors in the audience supporting each other. Last year’s TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award–winner Melanie Florence brought her daughter to a journalism workshop by Joyce Grant, and took in Donoghue’s talk. When it was Florence’s turn to present, authors Andrew Larsen, Erin Bow, and Melanie J. Fishbane were in attendance. “I love being around other kidlit authors,” said Florence, who was debuting her new picture book, Stolen Words. “Whenever you talk to anyone who only writes for adults, they don’t have the same experience. Children’s authors are really supportive of each other. We’ll read each other’s books and share them – it’s not a competition.”

Andrew Larsen

Andrew Larsen at Telling Tales Festival (Alyssa Lai)

A five-year veteran of the festival, Larsen said getting a chance to read to both children and their parents is what makes this festival special. He read from his new picture book Goodnight, Hockey Fans and performed a kazoo version of the old Hockey Night in Canada theme song, which drew cheers. “Lots of families come and it’s big day out that’s all about books and stories,” said Larsen, mentioning the fact that there’s both free transportation and admission. “At other readings, it can be a drag when your kids are there, your wife is there, your neighbour is there, and no one else. But this festival is always well-attended and enthusiastically attended.”