Member Profile

Charis Cotter

Photo: Colin Warner 2013

Charis Cotter grew up in a small house in downtown Toronto beside the Necropolis cemetery. She always loved books and reading, and when she was eight her favourite present was a box full of second-hand Bobbsey Twin books her mother found at a thrift store. She trained as an actor in London England, and Toronto, and had a number of interesting jobs along the way, including the role of a murderer on a mystery train across Canada and a very ladylike position handwriting invitations in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite in Queen’s Park, Toronto. After several years as an actor, Charis moved into publishing, where she worked as a freelance editor and writer.

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 gothic novel, The Swallow: A Ghost Story, won the IODE Violet Downey Book Award and the Silver Birch Honour Award, and was a finalist for the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards. The Ferryland Visitor: A Mysterious Tale, with artwork by renowned Newfoundland artist Gerald L. Squires, is based on a true ghost story experienced by Squires and his family when they lived at an abandoned lighthouse in the 1970s.

Charis has worked extensively in schools and libraries across Canada, using drama and storytelling to bring her books to life. Her fascination with ghosts has led her to many far corners of Newfoundland, looking for ghost stories. In 2013 she worked with children at Tricon Elementary in Bay de Verde to create and publish The Ghosts of Baccalieu, a book of local ghost stories collected by the students from their community. In 2017 she published The Ghosts of Southwest Arm, written and illustrated by the students of Southwest Arm Academy in Little’s Heart’s Ease.

A storyteller as well as an actor, she has entertained children and adults from St. John’s NL to Seaside, Florida with her one-woman show of Newfoundland ghost stories, “Haunted Newfoundland: Ghost Stories from the Rock.”

Charis continues to do writing workshops and storytelling at schools, community centres and book festivals. Her next novel, The Painting, will be published by Tundra Books in 2017.

She lives in Newfoundland on a quiet road beside the ocean, in a small house near two old cemeteries.

Phone number:
c/o Writers' Union of Canada

Publications

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

Awards

Finalist, Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards, Children's/YA Literature Award for The Swallow: A Ghost Story, 2016
Honour Book, Silver Birch Award for The Swallow: A Ghost Story, 2016
Finalist, Diamond Willow Award, Red Cedar Award, Rocky Mountain Book Award, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award for The Swallow: A Ghost Story, 2016
IODE Violet Downey Book Award for The Swallow: A Ghost Story, 2015
World Storytelling Honor Award for Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors, 2011
Finalist, Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction for Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors, 2010
Finalist, Rocky Mountain Book Award, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award for Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors, 2010-2011
VOYA Nonfiction Honor List for Born to Write: The Remarkable LIves of Six Famous Authors, 2010
Honor Title, World Storytelling Award for Wonder Kids: The Remarkable Lives of Nine Child Prodigies, 2009
Finalist, Silver Birch Award, Red Cedar Book Award, Rocky Mountain Book Award, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award for Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs, 2008-2010
Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence for Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919-1939, 2005
Eligible for National Public Readings Program :
Yes

WITS

Presentation Length:
1.5 hours
Genre:
Children's Fiction
Grades:
4 to 6
Audience size:
60
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.

www.chariscotter.ca

Northern OAC WITS:
No
One session:
$300
Two sessions:
$575
Three sessions:
$850
Four sessions:
$1150
One session:
$200
Two sessions:
$475
Three sessions:
$700
Four sessions:
$1000
GST:
GST applicable