For three years I was the writer in residence with the Toronto District School Board. I worked on many projects, one of which involved having hundreds and hundreds of students become active readers in the writing of a book called Catboy. Each week they were given twenty pages of the book on which they provided me with feedback—what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they wanted changed—and I looked at this feedback to shape the next section. This went on for ten weeks.
One of those students providing feedback was a young fifth-grade reluctant reader named Jaime. In fact, through my process of changing things, Jaime actually became a character in the book. Both Jaime and her mother said that her involvement in this project inspired her to become not only a reader but also more involved in school. Music to the ears of any writer—and former teacher!
As well as looking for feedback from readers, I also regularly seek out experts. It’s so important to get the facts right when writing fiction. This expert could be a historian, scientist, animal expert, engineer, pilot, a person related to my character, or even a survivalist. 90 Days of Different is about a teenage girl who becomes actively involved in social media as she undertakes new adventures. I knew I would be looking for an expert who could provide feedback—but instead that expert came looking for me.
Jaime contacted me by email, saying she wanted to know if there was potential for her to get involved in the process of crafting a book. She wondered if there was anything I was working on that would fit. I discussed the potential—and uniqueness—of this book with her and her mother. Jaime responded by crafting a five-page project proposal that was nothing short of spectacular. This was something that was student driven, personalized and would allow her to be part of this project while fulfilling a secondary school Interdisciplinary Studies Program. She proposed not just providing feedback for the story but also becoming an active part of the whole social media component of this book.
You need to know a little bit about Jaime. She is bright, confident and slightly stubborn. Confident was important. To make this project work, she was going to become part of a team at Orca led by Kennedy Cullen. Jaime needed to be confident enough to ask questions, take direction, pursue independent actions and speak out when she thought things needed to be changed. I certainly didn’t need to worry about any of these—especially the speaking-out and independent-action parts! From the first meeting with Orca staff, Jaime was able to take on the roles she was assigned.
Jaime provided feedback for the story itself—suggesting “differents,” providing a critical eye and offering her insights. But her role became much, much more. Under the leadership of Kennedy, Jaime took on the primary task of finding the online material for the adventures of Sophie. She crafted a course-required Project Charter and then applied it to creatively capture and communicate the adventures of Sophie. In fact, many of the pictures—none of which show Sophie’s face—are actually of Jaime doing the differents. In addition, she wrote many of the tweets, Instagram captions and blog posts “written” by Sophie. Anytime you notice a small JPXD at the bottom of an entry, it was written by Jaime.
Every book is the product of more than just the author who is listed on the cover. It is a partnership between writer and editor. This book involved more than a partnership. It was a team, and one of the most important members of this team was Jaime.
Jaime, thanks for thinking differently.
—Eric Walters, author of 90 Days of Different
For more about Jaime’s work on the social media component of 90 Days of Different, you can read Trevor MacKenzie’s interview with Jaime on his blog: https://trevmackenzie.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/interview-with-an-amazing-teenager/
And finally, on behalf of Orca Book Publishers, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to Jaime for the work she has done with this project. Having never taken on a marketing campaign quite like it, this was a learning experience for everyone on the team and Jaime’s contribution made it truly special. We would not have been able to accomplish what we have without Jaime’s excitement and determination. It has been a wonderful experience to work with a young woman who is so passionate and ambitious, and we are looking forward to seeing what her bright future holds.