In August 2015, I had the inspiration to write a sequel to my picture book Malaika's Costume which will be coming out in Spring 2016 by Groundwood Books. The sequel was an idea that came to me by surprise and it had been percolating in my mind for a few weeks. That August, I sat down and wrote a sequel to the story in one sitting with pagination. I sent it off to my publisher shortly thereafter and I also prepared it to read to my writing critique group. After, I heard their feedback, it donned on me. I needed to go to Quebec City, where my story takes place, to see firsthand what my character was experiencing. And although I knew that I had to go to Quebec City in the winter, I didn't yet know how I was going to go. Financially it was a difficult time and so with a little asking around, I was told about the Ontario Arts Council Writers' Reserve Grant. (One of the wonderful things we have in Canada are our arts grants which are available at the national, provincial, and municipal levels.) For this particular grant, I applied to ten different publishers with the hopes that at least one would recommend me for the grant. I had prayed about this a lot as I was so close to the January 30th deadline (it started on September 2014 and I hoped that there was at least some money left in the reserve). Also, I was not sure if I qualified as a professional writer but thanks to the poem I had published in TDOT Griots: An Anthology of Toronto's Black Storytellers in 2004, my article in Canadian Childrens' Book News in Fall 2014, and the three books I had/have under publishing contract, I found out that I did qualify as a professional writer. (YAY!!!!! How do you like them apples?)
Thanks to the recommendation by Kids Can Press, one of the ten, I found out in February that I got the OAC grant. It came a little later than I anticipated as I wanted to attend the Quebec Carnaval but I realized, in fact, that the grant would allow me to do a lot of background research in Quebec City, conduct interviews, and fill in some holes and correct things in my story. (What writers call world building.) Besides, let's face it. Who wants to give up the opportunity to visit, learn, and experience a UNESCO World Heritage site for five days? This wasn't my first Quebec City visit. I had visited Quebec City about 15 years ago. My very first visit was on a school trip in Grade 7. En plus, la visite m'a donné une opportunité de pratiquer mon français. Formidable! Besides being a very enjoyable trip, it was quite productive. I visited three schools, attended a cultural event and local African- and Caribbean-owned businesses, interviewed some very interested participants, toured neighbourhoods, lodged in two communities, saw historic sites, took home resources and publications that will enrich my knowledge, and ate lots of food, C'est délicieux! I also took over one hundred photos over the days to get a feel for the buildings and the neighbourhoods. Here is a sampling of my trip.