Aubrey Davis - Author
I always loved to read. As a boy I had a passion for myths, bible stories, science fiction and Mad magazine. My neighbor was a writer for CBC. Maybe I caught the writing bug from him. I loved to write funny stories. My Grade six teacher liked them. But my Grade eight teacher hated them. So I stopped writing creatively until I was 42.
In 1970, I traveled across Europe and North Africa and discovered a remarkable collection of traditional Teaching stories by Afghan writer Idries Shah. These bottomless tales puzzled, shocked and delighted me. They helped me see the world and myself in fresh, new ways. They made me think like I'd never thought before.
In 1980, I began to tell them, first to my own children, then at weekly gatherings in Toronto. Later I told stories on radio and television, and in schools, libraries and festivals across North America. I created an oral language program for developmentally disabled children. I taught them language through story. They taught me how to tell and write simply and dramatically.
One day I was invited to tell a Chanukah tale to a large and very young audience. I couldn't find a story I liked. In desperation I wrote one myself. The children loved it and so did Kids Can Press. That's how Bone Button Borscht was born.
Over the years, I've worked as a logger, farmer, salesman and teacher. Now I write and tell stories.
Of my four published books, my latest, Bagels for Benny, has won may awards including the Sydney Taylor Award and the Canadian Jewish Book Awards Children's Literature Prize. I have also written the screenplay for Sheldon Cohen's animated film, The Three Wishes. A forthcoming title, A Hen for Izzy Pippik, will be published in 2010.
Where do you live now?
When did you start writing?
When I was nine years old. I started writing professionally in 1993.
How did you get involved with children's books?
Through storytelling. I started storytelling to adult audiences and at the same time I was teaching mentally handicapped children. I wondered if there would be a way to tell stories for those with limited language abilities. So I had to make my stories simple, repetitious and interesting. Out of this history and this process came the children's books.
What is your next project?
I'm working on a story about a princess and a bear cub. I don't know if it will become a book, though.
Do you have any pets?
Cody the cat.
What is your favorite hobby?
What was your training or schooling?
B.A. from University of Toronto (first pre-med, then arts, mostly psychology); B.Ed. (Faculty of Education, Western University); M.Ed. (Adult Education, Human Resources, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)).
Do you have any tips for young creators?
Read and read and read. Write and write and write.
What is your favorite book?
Knowing How to Know by Idries Shah.
What is your favorite movie?
You are a storyteller as well as a writer. What are the differences between writing stories for children and telling them?
When I tell a story I can make words loud, soft, fast, slow, squeaky, gruff. I can pause. I can watch the children and see how they respond. When I write, I look only at a page or a computer screen. I am far away from the children. But a book can be taken home and read whenever a child wants. A publisher produces many copies of this book, so the stories reach more children. I think storytelling and writing are both valuable. The storytelling helps my writing. I think the writing helps my storytelling.
What is the thing you like the most about creating kids' books?
I like the adventure and the thinking. I like using my imagination, my common sense and my logic. I like it when the room disappears and I disappear into the story. I like it when I play with the words and find the right ones to say what I want. I like reading and telling the finished story to children so I can actually see their reactions.
How do you create your stories?
Most of what I've written comes from folk tales. I tell and retell these stories to children. I watch the children react and I listen to the story as I tell it. The story changes and changes again. If I like the story, I will write, rewrite and rewrite. Each time I do this I find better ways to tell the story. Sometimes this happens quickly. Often it takes a long time.
What's your greatest childhood memory?
I once hit the winning home run in a baseball game.
What is your favorite animal?
What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a fireman.
What is the weirdest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I picked worms once. I was loaded into a windowless truck and driven out to a golf course at ten PM. I was very slow. I was cold. My back hurt. And the worms were slimy. I picked worms until 2 AM., then quit. I've only quit two jobs in my life. That was one of them. Telling stories to special needs children is definitely my most interesting job.
Do you have any special secrets or insights about one of your books or characters?
Yes. I still don't understand Bone Button Borscht. People think that Bone Button Borscht is about poor villagers learning to help one another. The story means more. But it takes more time, more living and more thinking to find what else is there.