Charis Cotter

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Charis Cotter

Author, Storyteller
Western Bay, NL

IODE Violet Downey Book Award (Winner, 2015)

Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence (Winner, 2005)

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children's Non-Fiction (Short-listed, 2010)

Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award (Short-listed, 2011)

Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award (Short-listed, 2009)

Rocky Mountain Book Award (Short-listed, 2011)

Rocky Mountain Book Award (Short-listed, 2009)

Honor Title World Storytelling Award (2009)

Red Cedar Book Award (Short-listed, 2010)

VOYA Nonfiction Honor List (2011)

Silver Birch Award (Short-listed, 2008)

IRA Children's and Young Adult Notable Book (2008)

World Storytelling Honor Award (Winner, 2011)


Intermediate Fiction (Ages 10-14), Non-fiction


Charis Cotter is a writer, editor and storyteller living in Newfoundland. She grew up in Cabbagetown and Parkdale in downtown Toronto. After taking a degree in English at Glendon College, York University, she went on to study acting at The Drama Studio in London, England. After several years as an actor, she  moved into publishing, where she has been working as a freelance editor and writer for more than 20 years.

In 2005 Charis won the Heritage Toronto Award of Excellence for her book, Toronto Between the Wars: Life in the City 1919–1939. Since then she has written several critically acclaimed children’s books, including a series of biographies about extraordinary children and an illustrated book about international ghosts. Born to Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors was a finalist for the 2010 Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-fiction.

Charis first toured schools as an actor in a Young People’s Theatre production of W. O. Mitchell’s Jake and the Kid. Her favourite part of the show was interacting with the students during the question period after the play. Today Charis is known for her lively school presentations, based on her books. She has toured Canada from coast to coast, entertaining children with her alter egos: Queen Elizabeth II (complete with gown, crown and royal attitude) and the Scottish Silky Ghost, who dusts everything in sight, including children. Her fascination with ghosts has led her to many far corners of Newfoundland, looking for ghost stories.

In 2013 Charis founded her own publishing company, Baccalieu Books, to publish The Ghosts of Baccalieu. She created this book with the students from Tricon Elementary School in Bay de Verde, with funding from ArtsSmarts.* Students contributed drawings and traditional ghost stories collected from the community. Charis has sold The Ghosts of Baccalieu to libraries, bookstores and the general public, with a portion of the revenue going back to Tricon Elementary.

Charis continues to do ghost storytelling workshops at schools, community centres and book festivals. She reviews children’s books for the National Reading Campaign, Quill and Quire and The Canadian Children’s Book News.

The Swallow: A Ghost Story, will be published by Tundra Books (Random House) in September 2014. This spooky gothic novel, set in Cabbagetown, Toronto, in the 1960s, is partially based on Charis’s childhood experiences living behind a cemetery. The German translation rights have been purchased by cbjVerlag/Random House Germany, who will publish it as Das Unsichtbare Mädchen (The Invisible Girl).

The school presentation for The Swallow features a theatrical performance of an excerpt from the book and a ghost-story writing workshop. Charis will be touring Newfoundland and Ontario schools with this presentation in 2014–2015.


*ArtsSmarts is sponsored by the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council and the Department of Education through the Cultural Connections Strategy.

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Original, Entertaining and Educational Presentations

Charis has toured schools and libraries from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Victoria, British Columbia with her original, entertaining presentations. She uses costume, props, drama and games to present her books. Students learn about history, ghosts, different cultural beliefs, writing and the power of the imagination.

Selling books

Charis sends a book order form to the school before each presentation so that parents can pre-order autographed copies of her books.

Presentation type: Reading

Recommended levels: Primary (1-3), Junior (4-6), Intermediate (7-8)

Fees: To be discussed

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Imagination and the Ghost Story

Curriculum Connections

Language Arts

The Presentation

Charis presents her book, The Swallow: A Ghost Story, with a dramatic reading, a discussion about the power of imagination and a workshop about how to write a ghost story.

Charis asks the students to close their eyes and keep them shut as she does a dramatic “radio” reading from The Swallow, followed by a discussion about what they saw and experienced during the performance. This leads to a conversation about the role of the imagination in listening, reading and writing. Charis will talk about writers using their imaginations to transform their experience into their books, using examples from her book: Born To Write: The Remarkable Lives of Six Famous Authors.

Then students learn the three basic elements of ghost stories (setting, suspense and climax) and each student will begin to write their own ghost story. At the end of the presentation they will the bones of an original ghost story, which they can work on further in class or on their own.

Finally, Charis turns down the lights and tells a Newfoundland ghost story, asking the students to listen for the basic elements they have been working with. Then she will answer questions about writing, imagination and ghosts.


Presentation type: Workshop

Recommended levels: Junior (4-6), Intermediate (7-8)

Fees: To be discussed

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The Ghosts of Baccalieu and Beyond

Curriculum Connections

Halloween — Heritage ­— Language Arts — Social Studies — Multicultural Studies

The Presentation

Charis presents her books A World Full of Ghosts and The Ghosts of Baccalieu to students in an interactive, entertaining session in which the children meet a “real” ghost, learn about ghostly traditions in different cultures, and hear some spine-tingling Newfoundland ghost stories. 

The delightful Silky Ghost from Scotland “appears” and dusts everything in sight, including children, as she talks about  the nature of ghosts. After about ten minutes, she “disappears” and Charis engages the audience in a game of Ghost Ball with a haunted globe as she explores the ghostly traditions in her book, A World Full of Ghosts. She shows how Newfoundland ghosts are connected to international ghosts with examples from The Ghosts of Baccalieu, a book she created with the students at Tricon Elementary in Bay de Verde, using traditional stories drawn from the community. After each story, the students are asked to rate it on the Scariness Scale with a show of hands for One Skull (a little scary), Two Skulls (scary) or Three Skulls (very scary).

Then Charis turns down the lights and advises the children to sit a little closer to their friends while she tells ghost stories from Newfoundland. At the end of the presentation, Charis spends a few minutes introducing her other books and answering students’ question about ghosts and writing. 

Presentation type: Reading

Recommended levels: Primary (1-3), Junior (4-6)

Fees: To be discussed

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Rule Your School!

Curriculum Connections

History — Heritage — Language Arts — Queen Victoria Day

The Presentation

Charis introduces her book Kids Who Rule: The Remarkable Lives of Five Child Monarchs with a lively, engaging presentation in which the students meet the Queen, learn how to greet royalty, and play a rollicking quiz game based on the lives of the five child rulers.

Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II — complete with gown, crown and royal attitude — makes a splendid entrance and teaches the children the proper way to bow, curtsey and kowtow to a ruler. She introduces them to the concept of the divine right of kings and reminisces about her coronation.  Then she returns to Buckingham Palace and Charis divides the group into five teams to play Rule Your School: a dynamic trivia game based on the lives of the five child monarchs. The children learn some startling facts: King Tut was buried with 145 pairs of underwear, Emperor Puyi had his own special colour that no one else was allowed to wear, and Queen Christina wasn’t allowed to drink water — only beer.

With lots of cheering and good-nature competition the game concludes with the lightning round, and the winning team enjoys a few moments of celebrity while the other children bow, curtsey and kowtow to them. Charis does a dramatic reading from the book, then answers questions about writing and child rulers.

Presentation type: Reading

Recommended levels: Primary (1-3), Junior (4-6)

Fees: To be discussed