For Eric Walters, it all began in 1993 when he was teaching a Grade 5 class. His students were reluctant readers and writers, and he began to write to encourage them to become more involved in literature. His first novel, Stand Your Ground, was created for this class. Since then, Eric has exploded onto the children’s and young adult book scene. Over the past two decades he has published 104 more novels and picture books with eight more scheduled in the coming years. Eric's novels have been enthusiastically received by children and young adults and critically acclaimed by teachers, reviewers and parents. His novels have won more than 100 awards. He is a three-time winner of the Ontario Library Association Silver Birch Award, and four-time winner of the Red Maple Award. Eric has an international following with readers clamouring for his books and the opportunity to see him speak. His latest book, Don't Stand So Close to Me, is meant to to provide context, information and hope for people all over the world affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Here is TVO TeachOntario In Conversation with Eric Walters
1) How did you start writing? Do you have any anecdotes about when you were just starting out?
I started writing for my class. I was teaching a grade 5 class that seemed to be very good at three things - lunch, recess and physical education. They didn't seem to like reading or writing. I wrote my first book, Stand Your Ground, for them. Chapter by chapter, as I wrote, I read the chapters to them. The story was set in our school, Vista Heights, there was a soccer theme in the book because we play soccer, a number of characters in the book were based on students in my class, and the teacher is named Mr. Roberts - my middle name is Robert. I simply wrote it for my class to encourage them to become better readers and writers. At the end of the year the group of the boys came up to me and said, 'You know, Mr. Walters, your book is not as bad as most of the garbage we're forced to read' - for them that was a real compliment - 'why don't you try to get it published.' I sent it off to 6 publishers, 5 rejected me and one accepted. I'd written a book but I wasn't a writer, I was a teacher. Next year, first day of class the students asked me 'what are you going to write this year'. Maybe I was a teacher and a writer.
2) What books are you reading at the moment?
I'm continually reading. I just finished reading three YA novels and I'm also reading journals and research articles about neurological functioning, CRISPRs, and genetic alterations for research for a book.
3) How are you holding up during these times?
I'm into adaptation, but I think we all have been impacted. My normal school year involves presenting to over 100,000 students across North America. For the past 5 months I've been 'hibernating' at my cottage, writing, watching nature and spending time with my wife. The bubbles have opened up and I've been blessed to spend time with my children and grandchildren again.
4) What/who inspires you today?
I have more ideas than I have time despite the fact I have more time than I've ever had in my life. I've just finished a book co-written with a friend, edited a YA novel, and have four books coming out this fall. In addition I'm working with another friend on a co-write and trying to find time to get back into a novel called Crime Writer - it's about a children's writer who is actually an international assassin - not autobiographical.
5) Where did you find your inspiration for your latest book Don’t Stand So Close to Me just released during the COVID-19 era?
I received more than a hundred emails from teachers and young readers asking if I was going to write a book about COVID-19. I kept saying no. Then I realized that so many young people were anxious, upset and uncertain. I thought I could write a book that would provide context to what everybody was going through, to offer information, and provide hope.
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