Youth and young adult author Lesley Livingston had plenty of advice for budding writers in her presentations in Stettler this week, including the following: it doesn’t hurt to throw some attractive characters into the mix.
“You’re going to spend a lot of time with imaginary people in your head,” she said. “You might as well make some of them as attractive as possible, because otherwise, why bother?”
The quip was typical of the presentation by Livingston, a Toronto-based author and actress with 11 books to her name.
Livingston gave two presentations at the Stettler Performing Arts Centre to Grade 10 and 11 students from William E. Hay Composite High School on Tuesday, Oct. 7.
The visit was part of the Olson Memorial Celebration tour of central Alberta, held every two years, in which authors are invited to make presentations at schools and libraries in the region.
Livingston also visited Didsbury, Red Deer, Ponoka, Wetaskiwin and Camrose during the tour, which concluded on Tuesday. Her visit to Stettler was organized in part through the Stettler Public Library.
She said the tour has given her a chance to connect with readers she would otherwise never be able to meet, adding that the presentations are “usually pretty lively.”
Raised in Edmonton, Livingston has lived in Toronto for the past 25 years.
In addition to her career as a writer, she spent nearly two decades as a principal performer with Tempest Theatre Group. She was also featured on the Space Channel program Spacebar.
During her talks in Stettler, she gave students an overview of her written work, beginning with her debut series, the Wondrous Strange trilogy, published beginning in 2009.
The three books tell the story of Kelley Winslow, a stage actress in New York City who is plunged into the world of faeries following a mysterious encounter in Central Park.
Livingston read from the second book in the series, Darklight, and told students about the series’ origin. Her literary agent had encouraged her to try writing something with a supernatural element, following the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series.
She submitted a three-page sample, which attracted interest from HarperCollins, and soon afterward, with the completion of five chapters and a plot synopsis, she had a deal for two books, later extended to three.
The books have received acclaim and been nominated for several awards; the first, Wondrous Strange, won CLA Young Adult Book of the Year for 2010. They have also been optioned for TV, and Shaftesbury Films, the company responsible for the Murdoch Mysteries series, is working to pitch the project to American networks.
A second trilogy dubbed the Starling saga, set in the same universe, will be completed this December with the publication of the third book, Transcendent.
Livingston has also published three books in the Never series, following the adventures of a time traveller. She told students how she was forced to rewrite 50 pages in the final book in the series, after she discovered an error that would have made the first two books impossible.
“I have not altered the space-time continuum in any way that I’m aware of,” she said.
Finally, Livingston has co-authored two books in the Wiggins Weird series with Jonathan Llyr. The series, targeted at middle schoolers, follows two babysitters raised on the lot of an old drive-in theatre, and incorporate sections written like screenplays, accompanied by storyboards illustrated by Steven Burley.
The second book in the series, The Haunting of Heck House, was coincidentally launched the same day as Livingston’s presentations in Stettler.
She invited questions, saying she would answer anything except queries regarding the Toronto Maple Leafs, and shared about how she got her first book published, what inspires her characters, and her three cats.
Chris Langford, the school’s learning commons co-ordinator, said she thought Livingston’s presentation gave the students an example of someone who had tapped into her true skill and made a career out of it.
“What a dynamic, entertaining person,” she said. “It makes you aware how letting creativity flow uninhibited can pay off.”
For more information on Livingston and her work, visit www.lesleylivingston.com.