News and Interviews

May 2019 writer-in-residence Alisha Sevigny on Conservation, Editing, & Dancing Her Heart Out

Alisha Sevigny

Even though winter seems to be stubbornly holding on, we're excited to get in a summer frame of mind with our May 2019 writer-in-residence, Alisha Sevigny, author of the irresistible young adult novel, Summer Constellations (Kids Can Press).

In Summer Constellations, Julia finds herself in a turmoil of change and uncertainty. Her younger brother has recovered from a difficult illness, but his treatment has left her single mom nearly bankrupt, putting their beloved family campground in jeopardy. When a wealthy developer begins pressuring Julia's mother to sell, Julia is heartbroken - but when she discovers that her budding summer romance is with none other than the developer's son, things get really confusing. Love, home, and family are all pulling Julia in different directions, and as long summer days and warm nights stretch out, they can't hide the fact that big changes are coming.

Summer Constellations is a perfect read to get you in the mood for warmer days, and we're so excited to welcome Alisha, a former literary agent, to Open Book as part of our team for the month of May. To kick things off, she tackled our Dirty Dozen challenge, where we ask authors to share 12 unexpected facts about themselves.

She tells us about how her childhood inspired the environmentally-focused themes of her books, how a whirlwind romance defied the odds (and then some), and why you might not want her to hold your passport but will definitely want to hit up a dance party with her. 

Get to know Alisha here, and stay tuned for her original posts all month on our writer-in-residence page!

  1. I grew up in a remote and otherworldly temperate rainforest where rare spirit bears roam. This has instilled a deep appreciation and love of nature and my first two books, Kissing Frogs and Summer Constellations, feature conservationist themes.
  2. I’m an adventurous sort and moved across the country with a guy after knowing him only a few weeks (this kind of semi-annoying romantic streak helps if you write in this genre). We moved to Japan a couple months after that and then backpacked around Southeast Asia. We will be married ten years this August.
  3. While backpacking through Indonesia, we visited Bukit Lawang, a tiny place on the edge of the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, where they rehabilitate orangutans and release them back into the jungle. Looking into the eyes of an orangutan in the wild is an incredibly humbling experience. They are gentle, beautiful creatures who are losing their homes to deforestation and palm oil plantations. Palm oil is in everything – check your products and make it comes from sustainable sources! 
  4. I kidnapped a man sleeping in his car in an empty parking lot in Japan and made him take me through a McDonalds' drive-through. They wouldn’t serve me on my bike and I desperately craved an Ebi (shrimp) fillet. Long story.
  5. One of the bonuses of having children (and being Canadian!) is that you may be able to swing doing some of your parental leave in another country. I started writing my first book in Panama, where it is set, and my second in Mexico. Next up is (hopefully!) Egypt, where my upcoming middle grade series takes place (albeit approximately 3500 years ago). There’s something about experiencing setting IRL that lends a certain authenticity... 
  6. I lose my purse and keys frequently and have left passports in a restaurant in Mexico, a truck-stop in Thailand, and, less glamorously, on the TTC in Toronto. Though I miraculously got them back each time, I no longer let myself carry the passports, for obvious reasons.
  7. I love crystals and reading tarot cards at events, both which I got into when researching my latest YA novel. There are crystals scattered all over my home and desk/writing area and usually a piece of citrine or black tourmaline in my bra.  
  8. I also love hot yoga and am a certified teacher, as well as teach Yin yoga. Hot yoga is my go-to therapy, along with the aforementioned crystals and meditation. All three help creativity and managing the stresses that comes with the writing profession (and life in general).
  9. I dance like an unhinged maniac and my favourite place to do so is on elevated surfaces. I have fallen off speakers multiple times (though this becomes less of an issue as I age. Slightly.) 
  10. I get my love of storytelling from my grandfather, a colourful east coaster who hitchhiked across Canada, from Digby, NS to Victoria, BC jumping boxcar trains. His family was so poor that his eldest sister used to make her siblings sit on/against all the holes in the floor/walls when a date came to pick her up. He, too, danced like a maniac. 
  11. I am a terrible copy editor but LOVE substantive editing (except when it’s my own work). This was my favourite part about being a literary agent. That and all my lovely, crazy, writer clients who (whom? See!) I totally get, now that I’m on the other side.
  12. In emergencies, I have been known to floss my teeth with my hair. I am also a bit of an over-sharer, which I get from my mother. Whenever she visits Toronto, she tells everyone she meets her entire life story in the span of thirty seconds. It’s a small-town thing *shrugs. 

Alisha Sevigny is the author of YA novels, Summer Constellations, (winner of CCBC Best Books for Kids & Teens 2018), and Kissing Frogs. Her historical adventure series, Secrets of the Sands, launches January 2020 with The Lost Scroll of the Physician. She holds a degree in professional writing and sociology from the University of Victoria, is a film school graduate, former literary agent, hot yoga lover and avid traveller. Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, she lives in Toronto with her family. You can follow her on social media @alishasevigny.

Buy the Book

Summer Constellations

Julia Ducharme is ready for a fresh start. Her little brother has finally recovered from a serious illness, and now she just wants to enjoy peak season at the campground her family owns. Maybe this will be the year her annual summer fling with Dan Schaeffer becomes something more?

But her summer dreams are quickly shattered. First, Dan arrives for vacation with a new girlfriend in tow, and then Julia discovers this may be her last summer in the only home she's ever known.