Born and raised in London, England, author Alice Kuipers has lived in Saskatoon for the past 15 years. Alice is the award-winning author of 10 books and she spent a year as Saskatoon Public Library’s Writer in Residence in 2010. She is also the mother of four children (three boys and one girl) ranging in age from three to eight. Her most recent young adult chapter book — Polly Diamond and the Magic Book — was published by Chronicle Books at the beginning of May.
Refined Saskatoon sat down with Alice to find out more about her writing and her life in Saskatoon.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Polly Diamond and the Magic Book?
A: When I was Writer in Residence and pregnant with my daughter, I was surrounded by books. I had the thought, “What if something magically made all these stories come true?” So Polly and her magical journey have actually been in the making for seven years. Since my daughter is now six and a half, she’s the perfect age for this book.
Q: The illustrations by Diana Toledano are so creative. How did those come about?
A: With a traditional publisher, book illustrations are done separately from the writing to allow the illustrator creative freedom. I love the vibrancy of Diana’s work. She really captured Polly’s energy and her enthusiasm for books and writing.
Q: You write for both children and adults. What makes a book specifically young adult?
A: I love writing for young adults because these are characters at an age where everything could still change. The characters are on the way to who they will become as adults. I also find as an author writing for children and young adults, I have lots of capacity of multiple projects. This suits me really well. Polly Diamond is intended for young readers just starting to read on their own. There is lots of action and new vocabulary is introduced and reinforced.
Q: You have lived in Saskatoon for quite some time. What are your favourite places?
A: For a place to write and have a coffee, you can usually find me at d'Lish by Tish Café or downtown at Citizen Cafe and Bakery. I work out at CrossFit BRIO (the Sutherland location) and I go to Sage Beauty Bar in Stonebridge for any special treatments. My hair is done by Cherrybomb Beauty Bar. This is a great city to live and work in, especially with all the outdoor spaces and activities for kids.
Q: Your partner, the acclaimed author Yann Martel, is also a busy writer. How do you spend your time together?
A: We set aside one night a week to go out — whether that’s dinner at The Hollows in Riversdale (their New York Sour is the best drink) or something casual like playing board games at King Me. We recently did virtual reality gaming at Deadlock Escape and it was really fun.
Q: What writing projects do you have in the works?
A: I have a non-fiction book coming out next year about Carley Allison, an amazing young woman from Ontario who passed away from a rare type of cancer. I also have a second young adult book featured Polly Diamond coming up. In it, Polly tries to make the school fair extra spectacular with her magic book.
Q: Do you have a recommendation for a current children’s book?
A: When We Were Alone written by David A. Robertson and illustrated by Julie Flett addresses the legacy of residential schools in a way that children can comprehend.
Q: And finally, what is your favourite Saskatoon book store?
A: McNally Robinson on 8th Street; they have been really supportive of my work over the years.
By Elizabeth Ireland