Sarah Harvey

Sarah Harvey

Victoria, BC

Deadly (Orca Book Publishers, 2013)

Three Little Words (Orca Book Publishers, 2012)


Sarah was born in Chicago, Illinois, a city of which she has no recollection, having left at the tender age of six months. Her Canadian father and mother lived in Chicago for six years while her father completed his residency in neurosurgery and her mother had three children. As soon as he was done, the family hightailed it back to the Canada where they settled on the west coast. Sarah&;s childhood was spent hiding from her older brothers, daydreaming and reading. After graduating early from highschool (acceleration was thought to be a good idea in those days) Sarah went to university for one year and then left Victoria to live on a converted fishboat, where she did macrame and embroidery in inadequate light, made heavy bread in a tiny oven and discovered that it is impossible to make a good living digging clams. To this day, she will not eat bivalves.

Sarah eventually married, had two children (one is now a musician, the other is a psychotherapist) and returned to university. She graduated exactly twenty years after she first started as a teenager, thus confirming her mother&;s opinion that she was a late bloomer. One of the first courses she took was on children&;s literature, and her Honour&;s thesis was on a topic in Canadian children&;s literature (the first such thesis allowed at her university). Instead of doing graduate work, Sarah took a job at the university in the bookstore (the children needed orthodontic work) and stayed there for fifteen years as the trade book buyer. During that time, she became a book reviewer and columnist, writing regularly for the Globe and Mail, the Edmonton Journal and Quill & Quire. It was only after she met and was mentored by Carol Shields (who lived in the house Sarah grew up in--it&;s a lovely story) that it occurred to Sarah to write for children. Her first book, Puppies on Board, came out in 2005, the year she left the university to become an editor at Orca Book Publishers.

Sarah has been a writer and children’s book editor for over eight years now. A bad day for Sarah is a day when she has nothing enthralling to read. Fortunately, that very rarely happens. She no longer has to hide from her brothers, but she still daydreams a lot (just not at work!) and reads all the time. She agrees with Joyce Carol Oates that,“Novels begin, not on the page, but in meditation and daydreaming—in thinking, not writing.”

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Sarah does a variety of types of presentations, from the more traditional “book talk” to hands-on writing workshops. Questions and discussion are encouraged in all sessions. Please note, Sarah’s presentations are designed for Grades 9-12, due to the mature content of her teen books. Sarah’s picture books are only briefly mentioned in her presentations.


This Writer’s Life follow’s Sarah’s writing path from reader and bookseller to reviewer and writer. She discusses what inspired her to write her first piece of fiction, why her first attempt at writing a novel was not a success and how she balances writing and editing.

Start at the Very Beginning focuses on the unanswerable (yet often-asked) question, “Where do you get your ideas?” Using her books as examples, Sarah talks about how the ideas for her books came to her and how she develops an idea into a finished book.

Inspiration or Imitation? delves into the murky area of using personal experience (the author’s or somebody else’s) as the basis for a character or situation. Drawing on her experience as an editor as well as a writer, Sarah discusses the many ways “real” life can cross over into fiction.

A Place in My Heart is a about the importance of place or setting in a novel, Focusing primarily on Three Little Words, Sarah reveals her personal connections to places in the book and discusses the absolute necessity of placing characters in a vivid and evocative setting.

Workshop Ideas/Exercises:(class size--under 20) Students must be willing to discuss and share their work. At least two exercises per hour-long session.

Begin with the End Students will be given a sentence with which they must end a very short story involving at least two characters. Discussion will centre around how knowing the final words of a story inspired them/annoyed them/puzzled them.

I’m sorry, but A dialogue exercise done in pairs, without discussion. Beginning with the phrase “I’m sorry, but,” partners write alternation lines of dialogue and develop the relationship between two speakers, defining the conflict and revealing character.

What’s In Your Bag? An exercise in character development, based on describing what a character from one of the previous exercises has in his/her purse, backpack or pockets.

Whose Head are You In? A Point of View exercise using photographs. Write for 10 minutes in first person from the POV of one character, then switch to the other and write in third person.

Presentation type: Workshop

Recommended levels: High school (9-12)