Lois Simmie is an author of children’s books, adult fiction, an historical true crime story, radio plays, and live theatre. She spent her youth in small towns, where her father was a grain elevator agent, and this background is reflected in many of her stories. She taught writing classes for many years, including workshops at the Saskatchewan Summer School of the Arts and sessions at the Canadian Authors Association conferences. Her works include They Shouldn’t Make You Promise That, The Secret Lives of Sargent John Wilson and the Mister Got To Go series. Her short story Red Shoes was adapted as a feature film, and the play Auntie’s Knitting a Baby, based on her book, was presented by 25th Street Theatre. Lois Simmie has won several awards recognising her achievements: the Saskatchewan Writers Guild’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Saskatchewan Book Award for Children’s Literature, and the Arthur Ellis Award.
We asked Lois how she first heard about Got To Go the cat and what inspired her to write the first book in this popular and enduring local trilogy…
The Got To Go books have brought so much joy to both Cynthia and me, and to our amazingly large and loving audience. Apparently the Sylvia Hotel receives 600 letters a year, give or take, and the manager answers them all.
My introduction to the Sylvia Hotel was when I worked there with children’s writer, Cora Taylor, editing her second children’s novel. Publication date was looming and Rob Sanders, publisher, put us up at the hotel and ordered us not to come out till we were finished. We had a great time. I had seen the big grey cat lying around on the lobby chairs while guests perched on less comfortable ones, and on the lobby and manager’s windowsills. Of course I love cats. I asked the receptionist the cat’s name and she said Got To Go.
I wrote the first Got To Go book that afternoon hoping as I wrote that Cora wasn’t in her room doing the same. I read her the story over breakfast. Tim Wynn Jones, editor at Red Deer Books, hardly changed a word.
Cynthia Nugent is a children’s book author/illustrator. She has published 14 books, two of which she wrote. Her books have been awarded the 2008 BC Achievement Award for Early Literacy, Picture Book Quarterly (UK) Best Book, the Alberta Book Industry Title of the Year, the Shining Willow, and have won the Chocolate Lily award three times. Her upcoming titles as author/illustrator are The Ducks of Nitobe Garden, and Kiddo (Tradewind Books). Cynthia has also had 25 solo exhibitions of paintings and automata. Her show of painted wooden interactive fairy tale pieces (Burnaby Art Gallery, 2003) turned out to be useful background for her MA thesis in Children’s Literature on interactivity in book apps. In 2012, she founded Rascal Media, which specializes in animated book trailers and picturebook apps. Currently nearing completion is the app The King’s Ears, adapted from the book by Katarina Jovanovich and Philippe Béhà (Tradewind Books, 2008).
We asked Cynthia Nugent about her relationship with the Sylvia Hotel, Got To Go’s adopted home…
Sylvia Hotel owner Jill Davies and manager Ross Dyck are extremely strong supporters of the trilogy. The hotel sells the book from the front desk. They receive a lot of fan letters, have purchased a number of the illustrations, and have hosted at least 6 lovely Mister Got to Go events.
The 27th annual City of Vancouver Book Award will be presented at the Mayor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre on November 12, 2015. The books on this year’s shortlist cover a range of genres: non-fiction, short stories, poetry, and a children’s book. The short-listed books create a street-level walk through our city to amplify our pride and understanding of the flawed and beautiful, young but wise city we inhabit.