By Bromley Chamberlain
Jacqueline Guest writes books for young readers to help ignite their imagination and fuel their love for reading.
Guest spoke at Rimbey Elementary School (RES) on Nov. 2 to students in grades 4 through 6.
With a focus on Canada’s history Guest tries to excite young readers about history. Guest shows off her passion while talking about her books as well as props which she brought along for the presentation. After Guest is finished talking and showing how Native life used to be and, a few kids were already asking to read her books.
“My dream job was to be a writer, but in those days, the Fifties, I thought you had to come from some place exotic like Toronto or New York,” Guest said. “I have since discovered that writers come from everywhere. They can come from small towns in Alberta, they can come from the cities and that’s what I try to teach.”
Guest believes that more kids should be interested in reading, and hopes they will discover the wealth of knowledge within a library.
Libraries are a wealth of knowledge, if you know where to look, and who to ask. Watching a movie is similar to reading a book if the reader has a vivid imagination.
“I meet some really neat people by being a writer, and a lot of them are librarians. I find librarians are fascinating people,” Guest said.
Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, is Guest’s favorite author, and has been since she was young.
“To me, you can read Mark Twain from the cradle to the grave,” Guest said. “He is not only talented, funny but handsome as well. If I could only get him to give up that cigar, I’d be a happy person.”
Everyone has favorite authors and to readers, a newly published book is like gold. When you find a book you love, it’s hard to put it down. Reading a good book, is like watching a movie, only the readers get to imagine exactly what everything looks like.
“That’s because the author took that time to make the movie happen,” Guest explained.
Guest followed her dream job after she was laid off from her day job, and when her husband, the love of her life, persuaded her to get her work published.
“I didn’t think I was good enough, and then I finally sent a book out to an agent in Edmonton,” Guest said. “She promptly wrote me back and wrote ‘this is garbage, but you can write.’ She said she wanted me to write another book, and to promise never to read a Sweet Valley High book again.”
She thought that’s what teen books were all about but she soon found her passion.
“That’s the beauty of being a writer. I can choose the topics that excite me and that I want to write about,” said Guest. “I get excited about the projects and I try to pass on this excitement on to kids.”
The Native way of life
Guest spoke with the students about what they would be learning shortly in their social studies class. Since she is from a Métis background, she was discussed fur trading and sashes. She also featured hobo signs, and explained what they mean. She didn’t go into detail on the items, because the idea was to make the students want to read her books to find out.
She thinks that possibilities start with reading, and that reading is a very important part of growing up.
“It all starts the same way,” said Guest. “Reading has always been important to me and I want kids to understand that there is still magic in reading. It’s up to them to find that magic. They have to march into the library and open a book.”
If a student is interested in becoming a writer Guest tries to tell them that anything is possible, and if you start reading now, your dream may one day come true.
“It’s good to have kids know that there are options out there and their writing career doesn’t have to start and end with their language arts essay,” she said. “I think it’s important that kids know they can have anything they want and it starts in school with reading.”
When kids ask Guest what her favorite book is, she is lost for words. “I have to tell them, ‘Each book is unique, they are like my kids. There is something special about them, or I wouldn’t have invested a year of my life writing them.’”