On Monday I did a favour.

I spent a day storytelling at an Islamic summer camp.

I wonder if it would have gone differently if I hadn’t received, a few nights before, an email announcing the visit of a self-published Muslim author who was getting the ‘royal’ treatment.

It is so true that familiarity breeds contempt.

I come from this Muslim community. People see me attend taraweeh prayers in Ramadan. Some of them even went to Hajj with me.

Why would they announce that I’m coming to do something in the community?

I told myself to suck it up, and not expect anything. After all, I was doing this fee sabee lillah (that’s Arabic and it roughly means ‘for the sake of God’).

Muslim kids are generally a rowdy bunch.

They’re not well socialized in a summer camp or maybe the counsellors just didn’t have a good grip on them, or maybe they just don’t know how to behave during performances. During the first presentation with the 7 – 9 year olds I had several boys keep interrupting my presentation with questions. Not putting up their hands, not waiting for me to answer, talking over each other, etc.

It was annoying.

The best tactic I’ve found to make kids behave is actually to point out the children who are behaving. Find one kid who’s sitting cross-legged and quietly and make an example of them. Immediately all the kids will do the same. Works fantastically!

Actually it was a teacher who gave me this tip, so I used it. Sure enough, the kids all sat up with their hands in their lap and quieted down–for about three minutes.


Well, I got through it. They loved the stories, and it was on to the younger ones the 5 – 6 year olds, who are usually a lot more challenging.

Except for one instance where two of the boys got up and started chasing each other around the room for a few moments, that session went by with less interruptions.

It was the oldest group, though that were the best! I did my ESL to Author presentation for them, it deals with bullying and suicide and oh they were perfect!

And then, as I was leaving, I thought I’d pop into the office to say goodbye to the adminstrators. One of the junior counsellors said to me, “You know, usually when teachers tell stories, I find it pretty boring. But you were actually interesting.”

What I should have done was just smile and say, “Thank you.”

But I was just so surprised that he thought I was a teacher. So I said, “Well I am a professional storyteller.” And I added, “I do get paid for this.”

I know, I know. Not very gracious!

I was hot and tired, and the building was stuffy because there was no air-conditioning, and I just wanted to get out of there.

I turned to the head guy and told him about my teacher guides on my website saying that the counsellors could use them to play off of the things I had covered in my sessions.

Then someone asked me if I was a teacher.

“No, I’m an author.”


I couldn’t resist. I told them about  Big Red Lollipop being chosen by the New York Times as one of the ten best picture books of the year and it winning both American awards for best picture book writing (I wasn’t sure they’d understand the term ‘text’).

“Oh.” Was all they said.

And I said salams and walked out.

Looking back it was definitely diva-ish behaviour! And I regret it.

Note to self–don’t let your accomplishments get to your head. If people don’t know who the heck you are, don’t get offended–even if you’re doing them a favour. And even if they made an email announcement about a self-published author who is virtually unknown in the mainstream but they didn’t even know that you are an author–don’t take it personally!

And looking at all the stuff I’m into this summer, the screenwriting and the sequel, things I’ve never attempted before, I feel like I’m going through some growth pains.

I’m definitely out of my comfort zone artistically.

It’s such a challenge.

And I wonder if the fact that, for the first time in the thirteen years of my publishing career, I’m actually quite busy in the summer, is any indication that I’m heading into a new phase in my development.

Tomorrow I have to go to a literary festival in Saskatchewan.

I’ll be staying at a spa in Moose Jaw. Hey that rhymes!

I’m tired just thinking of it.

But maybe it’ll be nice to get away.

Soak in the healing waters of the spa.

Not sure if I’ll be blogging while I’m gone.

I should be back on Sunday evening, insha Allah.

Over and out.