Kindness In Colleagues

I am delighted to share this double-layered story of kindness. I call it double-layered because the author of the story, Sylvia McNicoll, is also extremely kind.

First, a bit about Sylvia.

Sylvia and her 2019 Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Fiction

Sylvia is the award-winning author of over 35 books for children. In addition to being a full-time author, Sylvia teaches writing at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. She’s also a devoted grandmother to her nine grandchildren. One would think that between writing, teaching and helping with her grandchildren, Sylvia wouldn’t have time for much else, but somehow, she finds time to help other authors, including me.

Sylvia & her grandson spending time on the ice.

Sylvia worked tirelessly, lobbying for the rights of Canadian authors to earn a fair living from their writing. She was among those who lead the charge to protect an author’s copyright by preventing educational institutions from photocopying a book without having to compensate the writer. Unfortunately, this battle continues.

This year, Sylvia is once again a champion for Canadian authors. She helped create an initiative called ‘I Read Canadian’ to promote and encourage everyone to read books by Canadian authors. With the help of her son, Sylvia arranged for numerous authors, myself included, to be videoed while reading from our books and talking about matters that are important to us.

As an introvert, this was completely out of my comfort zone. Sylvia knew this and she made a great effort to help me relax. Knowing I love animals, she brought her dog Mortie along to my session. Thanks to Sylvia and Mortie, I got through it and was able to read the first page of my young adult novel and talk about diversity in publishing. ‘I Read Canadian’ takes place during the month of February 2020.

Sylvia and Mortie

Knowing how busy Sylvia is, I was incredibly happy when she agreed to share a story of kindness with me. And then I was over-the-top excited when I discovered it was about Rob Laidlaw.

Rob Laidlaw is an author, but I knew of him first as the founder of Zoocheck. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international wildlife protection charity, established in 1984. Its mandate is to protect the interests and well-being of wild-animals.

As an animal lover and author, I am delighted to share this story about another animal lover and author—Rob Laidlaw.

Thank you, Sylvia for taking time out of your hectic schedule to write this story.

Without further ado, here it is . . .


Kindness in Colleagues

by Sylvia McNicoll

We often joke that it’s a bunny-eat-bunny world out in the world of kids’ lit, but as a children’s writer in Canada I’m lucky to experience great kindness every day.

I ask people for their expertise and assistance in sharing information about their lives and jobs as research for my novels, and they help without any question of compensation. I get support from agents, publishers, bookstore people, teachers, librarians and colleagues in sharing my finished work with the public. People share their happy comments about how my stories make a difference to their kids. Writing friends come out en masse to book award celebrations to support me.

Recently, however, I was on the other side of the bookshelf in terms of looking for that perfect book for a child. At Christmas I have two extra birthdays to buy for and a lot of people to feed. No one gifts a writer with more time.

So it was with intense anxiety that I approached a bookstore associate and asked for a book on bats. “Non-fiction, for kids, something Canadian.” The clerk led me to an American title for adults which he admitted was quite boring but did give out a lot of bat facts. Not exactly what I had in mind.

At home, I googled for a Canadian book for children and as I did, something jogged my memory about a bat book that won the Silver Birch (an award for children’s books written for ages 8-12). I tracked down Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw. I visited the Chapters website only to find it would be re-released in February, but my granddaughter’s 11th birthday fell on December 25th.

Normally I might beg the publisher to hunt through their bookshelves for a leftover copy of the earlier edition but it was that time of year where everyone was off on holidays. As a desperate measure I emailed Rob from his website. I’d met him back in 2012 at a book launch for his novel, No Shelter Here, Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs. However, I didn’t think that one meeting would mean I’d get a quick response. It’s a busy time of year and Rob is executive director of Zoocheck Canada, a wildlife protection organization. I sighed heavily, not expecting a reply.

He answered almost immediately! Not only did he have copies of Bat Citizens but he said I could pick one up from him anytime from his home. I would have happily driven to North York but then I remembered the delight another child had when I sent a novel addressed to them special delivery.

I asked Rob if he could brave the pre-Christmas post office and send the book to my granddaughter Jadzia by overnight express.

Jadzia happily displaying her book-specially delivered by the author, Rob Laidlaw

He agreed. I can only imagine the lineup he endured when he mailed it that night. He also enclosed a book called Cat Champions. How could he have known that Jadzia’s been a cat since the moment she could purr?  Both books arrived in plenty of time to delight the birthday girl. Thank you, Rob Laidlaw.

For more information about Sylvia, her books, and all the other things she’s up to, please go to her website:

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