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July 31, 2018
WOTS is coming up fast…but just not fast enough! So we’re joining the Dufferin Grove Farmers’ Market with The Word On The Street Pop-Up! We sat down with Sylv Chiang, who will be joining us to read at the event.
Be sure to join us there on August 2!
WOTS: In Tournament Trouble, you dig deep into video games. What kind of games do you love, and what made you want to write about gaming?
Sylv Chiang: Since I’m a teacher, I wanted to write something for those kids in my classes who say they don’t like to read. I personally think they just haven’t met the right book.
A lot of kids love gaming, so when Jaden appeared in an assignment I did for a writing class, I thought this talented young gamer was a character worth exploring.
I did play some Street Fighter and even attended several tournaments (as a spectator) to research the Cross Ups series. I also consulted a lot of gamers along the way to make sure the gaming sequences in the novel rang true.
WOTS: Tell us a bit about your process. How did you start writing? Do you have any favourite stories about when you were just starting out?
SC: I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was six years old, but I got a bit sidetracked along the way. I became a teacher and read a lot, both with my students and on my own. I love middle grade fiction, and I still had that childhood goal to be a writer. So I took the Writing for Children class at George Brown College and I haven’t stopped since.
My process is still evolving. I wrote Tournament Trouble without any planning. It was fun figuring out the plot as I went. Some parts were just as much a surprise for me as they are for the reader. For the second and third books in the Cross Ups series I did more planning because of deadlines.
WOTS: In the acknowledgements, you note that you wrote this book for your students. What did you want them to take away from this book, and eventually the series?
SC: I want every child to find books that speak to them and make them love reading. Cross Ups is about more than video games, it’s about kids figuring out how to deal with their problems.
I hope that the stories will make kids think about friendship and family and what values are important to them. For example, Tournament Trouble raises the question, when is it okay to lie, or withhold the truth?
WOTS: What are your favourite places to write? Any quirky must-haves when it comes to sitting down and writing out your experiences?
SC: Thank goodness for laptops. I write all around my house, in coffee shops, at the library, at other people’s houses, in the car, etc. What I need is the right state of mind and a chunk of uninterrupted time – not always easy things to get. A deadline really helps.
WOTS: What would you say to a writer who’s just starting out? What one thing do you think it’s crucial to know?
SC: For me the most helpful thing has been connecting with other writers. Writing classes were a great starting point. Then I found the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) and started attending their monthly meetings.
There’s something very comforting about being around other writers—they think it’s normal that I have characters in my head telling me to write their stories. Finally, I found my critique group and they really helped me raise my writing level. I would suggest new writers find a way to network with other writers.
WOTS: Tournament Trouble hosts a great, diverse cast of characters! How did they come to you, and who was your favourite to write?
SC: I didn’t sit down and create a cast of characters; they all kind of appeared on their own. Jaden and his sister Melanie showed up first in a writing assignment. She was teasing him while he played video games. When I wrote chapter one of Tournament Trouble, Kn1ght_Rage sent a mysterious message and I spent most of the novel trying to figure out who he was.
Jaden’s best friend Cali showed up on his porch and his goofy friends were just there when he got to math class. I’m really happy that Cross Ups has become a series because I get to spend more time with these characters. There’s something I love about each of them. Please don’t ask me to pick a favourite!