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Sue Farrell Holler

Mailing her homework to her great-grandfather was a Grade 4 assignment gone bad. But as with many mistakes, it had a good ending: the failed project set Sue on a path of writing every day as she accumulated more than 100 penpals throughout North America.

That habit led her to a career in journalism where she learned to ask questions, listen attentively, and write the type of articles people keep in scrapbooks.

Originally from Cape Breton Island and now living in northern Alberta, Sue writes for children of all ages – from preschool to young adult.

Her YA novel, Cold White Sun, was a 2019 finalist for a Governor General’s Award for literature for young people – text.

It’s the story of a child refugee who flees Ethiopia and arrives in Calgary confused, frightened and very alone. Kirkus Reviews called it an “emotionally gripping work of fiction…A profound, heartbreaking narrative filled with loss, confusion, displacement, and longing.”

Additionally, her titles include the middle grade novel Lacey and the African Grandmothers that’s set on a First Nation’s reserve, and two picture books that are set in rural towns. All of her books are based on true stories.

A journalist by profession, her books acknowledge our critical need for human connection. Sue believes fervently in the power of stories to connect us, one to the other. She believes we must tell our stories and listen to the stories of others.

Sue also writes for adults. Her work as a feature writer and newspaper columnist has appeared in local, regional and national publications.

For more information: www.suefarrellholler.com 

Phone number:
c/o Writers' Union of Canada

Publications

Cold White Sun. Groundwood Books, 2019
Lacey & the African Grandmothers. Second Story, 2009
To the Pool with Mama. Annick Press, 2000
To the Post Office with Mama. Annick Press, 1994

Awards

Governor General's Award Finalist for Cold White Sun, 2019
Rocky Mountain Book Awards, Finalist for Lacey & the African Grandmothers, 2011
Exporting Alberta Award, Cdn Authors' Assn, Honourable Mention for Lacey & the African Grandmothers, 2010
Year’s Best 2010, Resource Links for Lacey & the African Grandmothers, 2010
Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” Award for To the Pool with Mama, 2000
“Year’s Best 2000,” Resource Links for To the Pool with Mama, 2000
Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” Award for To the Post Office with Mama, 1995
Eligible for National Public Readings Program :
Yes

WITS

Presentation Description

Perseverance, hope and love in action are the hallmarks of Sue Farrell Holler’s work. An experienced presenter and workshop leader, her sessions are interactive, engaging and designed to get kids excited about reading, writing, and telling stories.

Sue uses props and digital photos to give a sense of the real people and places behind her stories. Whether it’s a group of Kindergarten kids sitting on the floor or senior high kids in a workshop, she always reads to the audience because, really, what’s better than having someone read you a story?

Grades K-3 – Picture books – RAVEN, RABBIT, DEER

Virtual session – 30 minutes

 “Raven, Rabbit, Deer” is Sue’s newest picture book. This session includes a reading of the story about a child and his grandfather going for a woodland walk in which they greet the animals in English and in Ojibwemowin. Sue supplements the images in the book with photographs from one of her daily walks that show how animal tracks look in real life and discusses other ways to identify what animals might be hiding.

Curricular links

  • Social studies – community, field trips, nature, FNMI
  • Language arts – creating stories from real life, listening, reading
  • Health – Empathy and understanding

Grades K-3 – Picture books - TO the POST OFFICE with MAMA/TO the POOL with MAMA

Virtual session – 30 minutes

With a combination of storytelling and reading from her picture books Sue brings students a message of perseverance and following your heart. “To the Post Office with Mama” and “To the Pool with Mama” are both set in rural Alberta.

Interspersed with reading her stories aloud, Sue talks about becoming a writer and her mother’s unfailing belief and encouragement.

If requested, for a Grade 3 class, she will read a section of “Lacey” which is set on the Siksika First Nation, rather than read a second picture book.

Curricular links

  • Social studies – community, mapping, field trips, FNMI
  • Science – using the senses
  • Language arts – creating stories, listening, reading, looking for visual clues

Grades 4-6 – LACEY & the AFRICAN GRANDMOTHERS

Virtual session – 40 minutes

Set on the Siksika First Nation east of Calgary, “Lacey and the African Grandmothers” is based on the true story of a Blackfoot girl who uses her ingenuity and talents to help African women who are raising AIDS orphans.

This is a story of forgiveness and hope and a strong introduction to First Nations’ culture. In addition to reading from her work, Sue will show photos of the real people and the real place behind the novel to aid discussion of what she learned while researching the story.

Curricular links

  • Social studies –community, social justice, social action, globalization (global community), FNMI
  • Language arts – oral storytelling, creating stories from real life, listening, reading
  • Health – Empathy and understanding

 

Grades 7-9 – Cold White Sun

Virtual session – 40 minutes

Empathy, understanding and seeking about us what is the same – rather than what is different – are the messages behind this session. Everyone has a story and sometimes the best thing we can do is listen and learn and find out what we have in common.

Based on a true story, Sue’s YA novel, “Cold White Sun,” tells of a teenage refugee from Ethiopia who arrives in Calgary one cold spring evening. He is disoriented, alone and has no resources. Based on extensive research and intense interviews, this is an emotionally-charged novel that details Tesfaye’s life in Ethiopia, his eventual escape, and what happens to him in Canada. "Cold White Sun" was a 2019 finalist for a Governor-General's literary award.

As well as talking about the development and writing of this book, Sue uses photographs and an interactive and fun oral multiple choice quiz, “How much do you know about Africa?” to teach students and help them move beyond the stereotypes of what they think Africa – and particularly Ethiopia – is like.

Curricular links

  • Social studies –social justice, globalization (global community), politics, Africa/Ethiopia, refugees
  • Language arts –creating fiction from real life events, writing, listening, reading
  • Health – Empathy and understanding

 

Grades 10-12 & Adult – COLD WHITE SUN

Virtual session – 60 minutes

The research and writing of “Cold White Sun”-- Sue's novel based on a true story -- is the focus of this session in which Sue talks about how her awareness of Africa and the plight of refugees grew as she interviewed, researched and wrote about one refugee. This YA novel opened her eyes to her own culture and some of the difficulties newcomers face. "Cold White Sun" was a 2019 finalist for a Governor-General's literary award.

As well as talking about the development and writing of this book, Sue uses photographs and an interactive and fun oral multiple choice quiz, “How much do you know about Africa?” to teach students and help them move beyond the stereotypes of what they think Africa – and particularly Ethiopia – is like.

With broad experience as a journalist and author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, Sue is happy to respond to audience Q&A’s about “how-to” and careers in the literary arts.

Not every writer wants to be a novelist, but students who can write well need never be out of a job. If there is enough student interest, she will tailor a session specific to careers in writing – highlighting some jobs that students may not have considered.

Curricular links:

  • Social studies –social justice, globalization (global community), political science, Africa/Ethiopia, refugees
  • Language arts –creating fiction from real life events, writing, listening, reading
  • Health – empathy and understanding
  • CTS – careers in the literary arts

 

The Basics – All grades to adult

Virtual session – 15 minutes

Available to all grade levels and to adult audiences this is a bare bones basic Q & A session. It is best suited to a class that has read/studied one of her books, book clubs and those with a defined interest in writing.

There is no formal presentation. This is strictly a Q&A opportunity.

Queries, pricing and availability: info@suefarrellholler.com 

 

Presentation Length:
1 hour
Genre:
Children's Literature
Grades:
K-3, 4-6, 7-9, 10-12
Audience size:
Maximum 75
Workshop Description:

Writing Workshops – Grade 5-Adult

Students who say they “can’t write” or “hate to write” tend to prove themselves wrong in Sue’s writing workshops, surprising themselves and fellow students.

Especially relevant to Grade 6 students preparing for provincial achievement tests and high school students facing English exams that include creative writing, Sue leads hands-on workshops designed to get students developing plots quickly and writing with intensity and creativity.

Sessions in journalism are also available. www.suefarrellholler.com

 

Northern OAC WITS:
No
One session:
$$250
Two sessions:
$$500
Three sessions:
$$750
Four sessions:
$$900
One session:
$$250
Two sessions:
$$500
Three sessions:
$$750
Four sessions:
$$900
GST:
GST applicable