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Charis Cotter

Photo: Andrew Johnson 2019

Charis Cotter is an award-winning children’s author who grew up beside a cemetery and has been living with ghosts ever since. She studied English in university and went to drama school in London, England. Now she lives at the end of a road by the ocean in Newfoundland, where the landscape and plentiful supply of ghosts inspire her work.

Her first book, Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919–1939, won the 2005 Toronto Heritage Award. Since then, Charis has written books about kings, queens, child prodigies, famous authors and ghosts. Her spooky, suspenseful novels—The Swallow: A Ghost Story, The Painting and The Ghost Road—have won awards and enthusiastic reviews. Her picture book, The Ferryland Visitor: A mysterious tale, is based on a true ghost story experienced by Newfoundland artist Gerry Squires and his family when they lived at an abandoned lighthouse in the 1970s.

Charis’s third novel, The Ghost Road, won the Bruneau Family Children’s/YA Literature Award in 2020 (Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards).

Charis has worked in schools and libraries across Canada, using drama and storytelling to bring her books to life. She has taken her performances of Newfoundland ghost stories from Pouch Cove to Bonavista, and from Florida to Vancouver Island. Over the years, Charis has been encouraging Newfoundland children to collect traditional ghost stories from their communities. She has published two books of these ghost stories, written and illustrated by the students.

In 2020 Charis had two new books released: Screech! Ghost Stories from Old Newfoundland and Footsteps in Bay de Verde: A Mysterious Tale. Her fourth novel, The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story, was released in August 2021 by Tundra Books (Penguin Random House).

An editor with twenty-five years’ experience helping writers bring their books to life, Charis works as a writing coach for writers of fiction, non-fiction, children’s books and young adult fiction.

Phone number:
c/o Writers' Union of Canada


The Dollhouse: A Ghost Story. Tundra Books, 2021
Footsteps in Bay de Verde: A Mysterious Tale, illustrated by Jenny Dwyer. Running the Goat Books & Broadsides, 2020
Screech! Ghost Stories from Old Newfoundland, artwork by Genevieve Simms. Nimbus, 2020
The Ghost Road. Tundra Books, 2018
The Painting. Tundra Books, 2017
The Ghosts of Southwest Arm. Baccalieu Books, 2017
The Ferryland Visitor: A Mysterious Tale. Running the Goat Books and Broadsides, 2016
The Swallow: A Ghost Story. Tundra Books, 2014
The Ghosts of Baccalieu. Baccalieu Books, 2013
A World Full of Ghosts. Annick Press, 2009
Born to Write. Annick Press, 2008
Wonder Kids: The Remarkable Lives of Nine Child Prodigies. Annick Press, 2008
Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs. Annick Press, 2007
Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919-1939. Firefly Books, 2004


Bruneau Family Children’s/YA Literature Award, Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards for The Ghost Road, 2020
Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award for The Painting, 2019
Ann Connor Brimer Award for Canadian Children's Fiction for The Painting, 2018
Honour Book, Silver Birch Award for The Swallow: A Ghost Story, 2016
IODE Violet Downey Book Award for The Swallow: A Ghost Story, 2015
Finalist, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction for Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors, 2010
Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence for Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919-1939, 2005
Eligible for National Public Readings Program :


Presentation Length:
1.5 hours
Children's Fiction
4 to 6
Audience size:
Workshop Description:

Imagine the Bones: A Ghost Story Writing Workshop

Charis Cotter is an actor and storyteller as well as an author, and she uses those skills to engage students in a lively, interactive workshop. She leads them through a series of exercises that illustrate the power of the imagination. Students learn visualization techniques to boost their comprehension when reading and writing, and she demonstrates the basic structure (the “bones”) of a ghost story. By the end of the session, students will have created their very own story, which they can develop further as either a piece of writing or an oral presentation.

First, she does a dramatization from her novel, The Swallow: A Ghost Story, while the students close their eyes. Then they talk what they saw and experienced during the performance. This leads to a conversation about the role of the imagination and visualization in listening, reading and writing.

Next, Charis discusses the basic elements that form the structure of a ghost story: Suspense—Climax — Atmosphere—Repetition—Explanation—Details (S.C.A.R.E.D.) She uses examples to demonstrate how each element works to make the narrative more effective (i.e.: scary!) and shares some technical tricks. Then she leads students in visualization exercises to create each element of their own ghost story. When the “bones” of the stories are complete, everyone tells their story to a partner.

At the end of the presentation, Charis tell a Newfoundland ghost story, asking the students to identify the structural elements they have just learned. Then she introduces her other books and answers questions.

Northern OAC WITS:
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GST applicable