Talk Time is a weekly online TV talk show co-hosted by Shawna Randolph and Sean Burke. Together they, along with guests, cover a variety of topics, from pop culture to healthy living. This series introduces the team. Today, meet panelist Marty Chan.
Marty is a children’s author and playwright. In 2016 the Alberta Foundation for the Arts named Marty one of the most 25 influential artists in Alberta over the last 25 years. He’s written picture books, funny kids’ books, young adult adventure novels, and plays for adults. He is best known for the Marty Chan Mystery Series and the thrilling YA novel, Haunted Hospital. You can find Marty online as well as on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.
Have you always been a writer? How and when did you get started on this journey?
My high school language arts teacher sparked my passion for writing. He gave my grade eleven class a simple assignment: describe how you’d redecorate your bedroom if you won the lottery and had a million dollars. I was a lazy kid, so I redesigned my room to put my bed on an elevator that could lower to levels with all the activities I wanted to do. One level had a big screen TV and all my favourite movies. Another had a food court with my favourite restaurants. The final level had a private swimming pool. When I handed in the assignment, my teacher gave it back to me a few weeks later and told me I should become a writer.
What are some of the contributing factors to your success?
As a kids’ author and playwright, my asset is an understanding of performance. When I do a live or virtual presentation, I treat the session as a show with an opening act, some unexpected plot twists, and a thrilling climax. While the sessions are all about inspiring a love of reading in kids, how I do it is what sets me apart. I combine storytelling with stage magic and improv to keep the kids on their toes. With my virtual sessions, I also use tech effects, animation, and audience participation to get the kids pumped up.
What is your greatest challenge, at the moment?
The pandemic has hit my industry hard. Part of what kids’ authors do is go into schools to promote a love of reading and get kids excited about their books. I’ve had to pivot in a way that my virtual visits can parallel my live sessions in inspiring a love of literacy among students. With the pandemic putting a lot of kids behind in reading levels, my goal to inspire kids to read becomes all the more critical. This combined with shrinking school budgets means I’m looking for literacy champions to help instill in kids a love of reading and writing.
What do you love the most about what you do?
Nothing beats the moment of watching the kid who says they hate reading run to the library counter to take out your book at the end of an author visit!
What do you love about the publishing and writing community? How can these communities support you better?
The great thing about the arts scene in Edmonton is how supportive everyone is of each other. I love being in a community where people are so willing to lend a hand and give advice. While I see great organizations like Telus, the Edmonton Oilers’ Community Foundation, EPCOR, and Cenovus become champions for the arts, I wish we had more people in the business community reach out and support the arts, especially when it comes to kids’ fiction. Inspiring a kid to be a lifelong reader is going to pay dividends for society.