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Biography

Sue Farrell Holler 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, won the R. Ross Annett Award for children’s literature and the U.S.-based High Plains Book Award.

Additionally, her titles include the middle grade novel Lacey and the African Grandmothers that’s set on the Siksika First Nation and two picture books that are set in rural Alberta.

Her latest work is a picture book Raven, Rabbit, Deer.  Released in November 2020, it tells the story of a boy and his grandfather exploring nature. Written in English, it features words in the First Nation’s language of Ojibwemowin.

A journalist by profession, she writes books for children that acknowledge our critical need for human connection. All of her books are based on or inspired by true stories.

Her work for adults as a feature writer and newspaper columnist has appeared in local, regional and national publications. Her visual poem “Excerpts from a Journal” was featured in the 2020 “The Curve” exhibition and is now part of the permanent collection at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie.

suefarrellholler.com

info@suefarrellholler.com

Sue plans to be available for both in-person and virtual sessions in Fall 2022. Please check back in August for current fees.

Presentations

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.

Sue’s latest book, “Cold White Sun,” tells the story 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.

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” 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.

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

Writing Workshops – Grade 5-Adult

Virtual session – 60 minutes

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

Especially relevant to Grade 6 students preparing for PATs and Grade 11-12 students preparing for diploma exams, Sue leads hands-on workshops designed to get students developing plots quickly and writing with intensity and creativity.

Sessions in journalism and in creative writing are available.

Curricular links

  • Language arts –creating fiction from real life events, writing, listening, reading

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.

Presentation Fees

Please check back in August for current fees

Other Bits

    • Audience size negotiable
    • Creativity and flexibility are key. Sue will work with you to deliver the best combination of time/presentations to maximize student interaction and learning.
    • If you have an idea or combo that would better suit your students, don’t be afraid to ask.

Bibliography

Young Adult

Cold White Sun

Groundwood Books, Toronto, 2019

An emotionally gripping work of fiction…A profound, heartbreaking narrative filled with loss, confusion, displacement, and longing.” – Kirkus

  • Governor General’s Award, Young People’s Literature – Text, Finalist
  • R. Ross Annett Award for Children’s Literature, Alberta Literary Award
  • High Plains Book Award
  • Best Books for Teens 2019, Canadian Children’s Book Centre

Middle Grade

Lacey & the African Grandmothers

Second Story Press, Toronto, 2009

“A beautifully crafted and moving novel, affirming that the ordinary is extraordinary, that every moment is an important moment.” – Judges’ Comments, Canadian Authors’ Association

  • Rocky Mountain Book Awards, Finalist
  • Exporting Alberta Award, Canadian Author’s Association, Honourable Mention
  • Year’s Best 2010, Resource Links

Picture Books

Raven, Rabbit, Deer

Pajama Press, Toronto, 2020

“Holler’s story gains from the interplay of dimensions: the affectionate relationship between the boy and his grandfather, the growing vocabulary they share, and their slow-paced appreciation of the natural world.”   — Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

  • 2020 First and Best, Toronto Public Library

To the Pool with Mama

Annick Press, Toronto, 2000

“The language is so playful and the illustrations so amusing that the story is delightful to read.” 

– Q&Q

  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” Award
  • “Year’s Best 2000,” Resource Links

 

To the Post Office with Mama

Annick Press. Toronto, 1994

“…a haunting, deeply moving study of a toddler’s enthrallment by winter, and a mother’s love.” 

– Thomson News Service

  • Canadian Children’s Book Centre “Our Choice” Award

Reviews

“Older students had a chance to harness their own creativity by generating and fleshing out stories in a writing workshop, while the younger group enjoyed the vivid imagery, animated storytelling and attention-grabbing props used to escort their imaginations to the post office, the pool, and across the grasslands.”

M. Gillis, Library Coordinator

“Sue held a writers workshop for our Junior High students, and she did a fabulous job!…Many students were beyond excited to share their stories with me during and after the workshop. Sue was really able to beat the ‘writers block,’ through use of effective writing prompt, that complement the English class perfectly! I would highly recommend Sue for any literacy program.”

H. Hargreaves, Teacher

“Sue was able to connect with students, encourage them and help inspire them to take a risk, to write and share what they had written with others. The next day, and the following week, my grade 8 students would ask if we could forego our daily reading and to do some personal writing.”

C. Perry, Literacy Coordinator

“Mrs. Holler brought the writing process alive for my Grade 5 classroom students.  She demonstrated how the germ of an idea has been fostered into a beautiful book of shared compassion and culture…In bringing her skills as an author to my students, they have been exposed not only to strong values but to the depth of the creative writing process.”

C. Morin, Teacher

“The students were spellbound by Sue’s storytelling.”

E. Scharf, Library Assistant

“Sue Farrell Holler is a mesmerizing storyteller who captives her audience. She is able to impart to students the motivation, research, and perseverance necessary to become a master writer. Not many presenters are able to keep forty-five grade 6 students engaged for over an hour on a Friday afternoon, but she did! Amazing!”  

S. Hunke, Teacher

“As a JH science teacher, I’m always leery of the value of having guest speakers.  Will it be worth the lost curriculum time?  Sue engaged this age group and the students were excited for her presentation.  Even though I may have lost time from my science curriculum, the trade-off was well worth it!”

M. Weber, Teacher