Friday, October 14, 2011

A trip to Portland, Oregon

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Portland, Oregon to present my new young adult novel, First Descent, to 200 booksellers, librarians, publishers and other book lovers. I was attending the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association’s Fall Tradeshow 2011, and I was so impressed by the attendees, I wrote a guest blog for Tundra Books' site, right here: 
But more importantly, I scattered some brochures promoting Keen Readers around, thinking that if no one picked them up, I'd stuff them back into my briefcase before I left. Whoa! Every single one got scooped up, and I had people asking me for more! Here was a crowd highly receptive to a youth literacy website (and hopefully they'll get kids they know to enter our youth writing contest, since we could definitely use more entries there). Anyway, I'll take more next time, I promise.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The power of one (plus one plus one...)

by Pam Withers

It all started with one letter from a teacher of grades two and three, who felt overwhelmed by the needs of her inner-city elementary students. She and her school struggle to meet their kids’ academic needs, but after school cutbacks, she could no longer turn a blind eye to unmet physical and psychological needs affecting their schoolwork, from warm socks and snacks (for those who didn’t eat breakfast) to counseling.
          She (Carrie Gelson, far left above) wrote a letter to the local newspaper, and the message went viral. She began receiving everything from monetary to food donations. A longtime children’s author who read Gelson's letter, Irene Watts (, urged local children’s authors to donate books. When I received that suggestion, I (far right above) immediately dispatched a box of books to Gelson and her colleague Andrea Wilks (middle of photo) at Admiral Seymour Elementary in Vancouver, Canada.
          This is part of what Keen Readers is about, donating books to needy schools across North America. Through internet research, we target schools in needy communities, and then not only deliver a box of books, but deliver an additional handful of books autographed by authors to go to each of the students in that school who have a Big Brother or Big Sister. We hope they’ll read the books together, and we hope it’ll inspire more volunteers to step forward to serve as reading buddies.
          The gift bag in the picture holds five books for the Little Brothers and Sisters at Admiral Seymour. These are books personally donated by children’s authors (see our Author Heroes page:
          The big box of books Keen Readers handed over came originally from a special collection of books by children’s authors of British Columbia, Canada that sat at the University of British Columbia. When UBC disbanded the collection and tried to turn it over to the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of BC (, CWILL BC voted to turn it over to Keen Readers instead, knowing we’d find a needy school for them.
          Well, we’ve found that school, thanks to one person (Gelson) who took the time to write a letter, one person (Watts) who made the suggestion, the members of CWILL BC who handed them over, and all those who support Keen Readers. That’s the power of one (plus one plus one plus one…)
Gelson’s original letter:
Article on response to Gelson’s letter