Shelf-Love: Vikki VanSickle | Penguin Random House Canada

Shelf-Love: Vikki VanSickle


Walking into Vikki VanSickle’s home is like stepping inside a story book. Around every corner there’s something to look at, something to admire. Vikki is not only the author of the beloved If I Had a Gryphon and many other books for children and teens, she’s also the head of marketing for our Young Readers program, and a former bookseller too. 

With a history in publishing and writing like Vikki’s, it’s no surprise that her library is as diverse as it is enviable. On one shelf, you’ll find recent releases from authors like John Green and Elan Mastai, and on another vintage classics that Vikki has been collecting for years. We couldn’t have been luckier to have been invited inside Vikki’s Toronto apartment to learn more about where she writes, what she collects, and of course, which of her many books are her favourites.

When you sit down to write, what are the most important things that you need to have around you?

Good lighting and hot tea. The cat is a bonus!

Your workspace is full of interesting books and trinkets. Can you tell us about some of the extra special ones?

All of my trinkets are special to me for one reason or another. I have a hand-embroidered canvas featuring an illustration from one of my favourite books (How to Paint the Portrait of a Bird by Jacques Prevert, illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein) that a friend made for me, a cast iron cat with wings that reminds me of Ursula Leguin’s classic book Catwings, a four-leaf clover I found as a teenager, and a bouquet of paper flowers from my friend’s wedding.

Do you mostly write on your laptop or in a notebook?

I do all my early brainstorming, thinking and planning by hand. I switch to my laptop when I’m ready to start writing. Most of my work is in first-person and the early stages are me channeling that voice, and I find it easier to keep up when I’m typing.

How often do you write?

It depends on where I am in the process. When I’m in the middle of something I write almost every day, but most of my writing is done in snippets of time, maybe three or four times a week, for an hour or two.

You have a very adorable cat named Barb. What’s her role in the writing process?

Barb has the important job of keeping me warm while I write. She also encourages me to take breaks by sitting on my keyboard or knocking my pen from my hands.

What are your favourite things to drink and snack on while writing?

Tea, tea, and more tea. I don’t eat much while writing, but I find chocolate is very helpful in the ruminating and brainstorming phase.

How do you organize the books on your shelves?

I don’t really have an organized shelving system. My books range in size and so it’s more a matter of “does it fit?” than anything else. My picture books are all in one section and about 75% of my adult fiction is together, but other than that it’s a free for all!

What were some of your favourite books as a child?
I was a deeply devoted Nancy Drew fan, I loved the Babysitter’s Club, Anne of Green Gables, and one of my all-time favourite books was (and still is) The Giver by Lois Lowry.

Which books in your collection would you read over and over again?

I often return to some of my favourite picture books when I’m stuck, frustrated, or in need of a little inspiration. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base, and Tales from Outer Suburbia by Sean Tan never fail to cheer me up.

Is there one book you recommend every book lover should have in their collection?

Books are so personal. I don’t believe there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ title. Instead I would encourage people to keep a copy of one of their favourite childhood books as a reminder of the time when they first fell in love with reading.

If I Had a Gryphon
Written by Vikki VanSickle; Illustrated by Cale Atkinson;