25th Trillium Award

At the Desk: Eric Walters

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For each book a reader eagerly opens, there's a writer who's spent countless hours researching, organizing, writing and rewriting. The place where all this happens is unique to every writer, and we love nothing more than to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the site where it all happens! In Open Book?s At The Desk series, writers tell us about their creative processes and the workspaces that inspire them.

Eric Walters is one of the most engaged authors in the country. In addition to writing and visiting schools, he travels extensively and has founded Creation of Hope, a program for Kenyan orphans. Not surprisingly, he has very little time to spend at his desk.

Eric's latest YA novel, Power Play (HarperCollins Canada), tells the story of the disturbing relationship between a young hockey star and his predatory coach. This important and challenging book, which concludes with an afterward by former NHL hockey star Sheldon Kennedy, has been described as Eric's "most moving and provocative story to date."


At the Desk, by Eric Walters

I have an office — I swear I do. It?s in the basement, behind a door that?s hardly ever open. In there are not one, but two, separate desks. I know for a fact that I have written at one of them (the other is piled high with papers to be sorted) but I don?t exactly remember when. My writing is often about the things I?m doing and the best time to write is when I?m doing them.

In 2010 I was in Tunisia with the Impossible2Possible program run by Ray Zahab. Ray is a pretty amazing guy who has run the entire Sarah Desert — averaging 80 km a day for 111 days. I was there along with a lot of high performance athletes doing a desert crossing. My high performance days are limited to high performance writing days, but I did cover over 150 km of the trek on foot. While I was walking, I was thinking and writing a book called Just Deserts, about a young man having to cross the desert. I wrote the scene where my character is lost in the Sahara Desert when I got separated from the support crew and had to wait for them to find me. I think it has a certain realism to it.

In 2011 I was writing a book, Between Heaven and Earth (as part of the Seven Series), about a young man who has to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to sprinkle his grandfather?s ashes as part of his last requests. Of course I decided I needed to climb the mountain. The first 80 or so pages, until he starts the climb, I wrote before I started climbing. The rest I began to write as I started up the mountain. The scenery, the smells, the food, the toilets, all wove themselves into my story. I made a decision as I was climbing that if I couldn?t reach the summit then neither would my character. On the fifth day we reached the summit. That was the physically most demanding day of my life. It was a wonderful, rich, rewarding, moving experience. I will also never write another story that involves a character climbing anything higher than a step-ladder.

I helped found a program for orphans in Kenya called Creation of Hope. (I?m in Kenya every summer to help run things and it?s never far from my heart or thoughts. I was troubled by the political violence that engulfed the country after the 2007 elections and decided to write about it. I wanted to retrace the steps that my character would take in walking across the country, so in the summer of 2012 I walked 150 km accompanied by four young Canadians and four of our orphans — along with two Special Forces police officers. From the Internal Displaced Camps, across the Mara, up to the top of the Rift Valley, to Nairobi, through the biggest slum in East Africa, along the Mombasa Highway and up to Kikima in the Mbooni District. My pad and pen were with me the whole way. The story just exploded as I walked in the shoes of my character and the things I saw were the things that he saw. The story — well, it practically wrote itself.

Where do I write? Where is my office? Wherever I am.

Eric Walters is the author of 36 books. He has received many awards and nominations for his work, including the Silver Birch, Blue Heron, Red Maple and Snow Willow children?s choice awards, the Ruth Schwartz Award and the UNESCO honourable mention. An elementary schoolteacher, soccer and basketball coach, as well as a crisis social worker, Eric Walters lives with his wife and three children in Mississauga. To find out more about Eric and his Creation of Hope project, visit his website.

For more information about Power Play please visit the HarperCollins Canada website.

Buy this book at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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