A-R International: Marty Chan

Marty Chan
Authors-Readers International


Inspired to pursue creative writing by his high school English teacher, Marty has been a professional writer for over 25 years. He writes books, stage plays, radio dramas, television scripts and humour articles, and his career has taken him around the world from New York to Los Angeles to Galway to Beijing.

From 1994 to 2000, Marty was a regular contributor to CBC Radio with his weekly commentary series, The Dim Sum Diaries. Later, this series was adapted into a half-hour television program (The Orange Seed Myth) which won a Gold Medal for Best Television Pilot at the Charleston World Film and Television Festival.

Marty’s first young adult novel, The Mystery of the Frozen Brains, is a hit with young readers across Canada. Resource Links magazine listed it as one of the BEST BOOKS OF 2004 for grades 3 to 6. Another three books in the Marty Chan Mystery Series followed, including The Mystery of the Graffiti Ghoul, which won the 2007 Diamond Willow Award. In 2014, his steampunk fantasy book, Demon Gate, received nominations for best young adult novel from the High Plains Book Awards as well as the Aurora Awards.

Marty has served as a writer in residence at the library systems in Edmonton, Strathcona County, Fort Saskatchewan, and St. Albert. He was the Citadel Theatre’s first playwright in residence. In 2016, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts named Marty one of the 25 most influential artists in Alberta.

Marty lives and works in Edmonton with his wife, Michelle. When he’s not writing, Marty dabbles in his other passions: learning stage magic and playing video games.

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I was promoting Alberta authors at library conferences when I first began promoting Marty Chan’s books. I finally met him in person at one of those conferences, and was fortunate to see him in action, speaking to children about reading and writing. He’s very enthusiastic and gets the kids really super-charged excited about books! Marty Chan shared some of his experiences on Facebook recently when he was a writer-in-residence at an Edmonton school for a few of weeks. He gave me permission to share some of those anecdotes here:

Day 1 of a three-week residency at an elementary school. Wow, I forgot how much energy I have to bring into a workshop. Ten sessions in a day. I think I might have to ease up on any writing work I had planned for January. Such a reality check when I plan an agenda full of writing projects and speaking engagements and then realize I don’t have the energy of my 20-year-old self.

I was pretty tired this morning for my residency presentations until kids started to run up to me to show off their stories. Wow! I’ve never seen so many kids excited about writing. It was infectious.

Day 2 of my residency. A trio of Chinese kids ran up to me at the start of the session and asked, “Are you Chinese?” When I told them I was, they high-fived each other and cheered. Representation matters.

If you thought you had a rough start to the week, imagine dodging a flying shoe from a third grader having a meltdown in the middle of their classroom. Then imagine being the kid’s teacher for the rest of the day. Then imagine being that upset kid. Bet your Monday doesn’t look so bad now, does it?

Week 2 of my residency at an Edmonton school. I’m testing out my new workshop for division 2. So far, so good. I’m hoping it will ignite some great stories. They are a chatty bunch, so they should have no shortage of things to write about.

Today’s chaos brought to you by the elementary kid who wondered what would happen if he pulled the fire alarm.

Day 1 of a residency started with a third grader who was so upset that his routine had been changed that he threw a shoe at me. He was removed from the class during my workshops. Last day of the residency, the same boy sat in the doorway of the classroom just so he could hear me tell a story. I’ll take that as progress.

And here’s a great video made about Marty Chan, his books, and his magic tricks!

Marty Chan is a very busy guy, and in high demand for his workshops, school visits, and the general encouragement he gives kids to join him in his love of reading and for telling stories! And he still continues to write and publish his own books. It’s a pleasure knowing and promoting an author like this who gives so much more back to readers … and then some! Thanks, Marty!

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Kung Fu Master

Everyone assumes that because he’s Chinese, Jon Wong must be good at math and science and a first-class nerd. No matter how hard he tries, he can’t seem to shake the stereotypes. After a kung fu action movie, Jon and his best buddy pretend to be martial-arts warriors. Word soon spreads that Jon is a kung fu master, and the kids begin to treat him differently. Rather than correct the mistake, Jon plays up the role and basks in the positive attention from his classmates. But when the school bully challenges him to prove his skills, Jon must figure out a way to somehow keep his status as the cool kid. Without getting pulverized.

What Marty Chan is working on now: “My next book is Haunted Hospital, an Orca book for reluctant reading teens. It’s about a group of teenagers who dare themselves to explore an abandoned hospital to find out if there are really ghosts in the building. As for stage magic, I’m currently developing Chinese folktales that blend storytelling with stage magic and improv.”

For more information about Marty Chan, his books, writing, school visits, and magic tricks, please see his website.

Marty Chan has been a guest on Reading Recommendations twice previously: May 2015 and Nov. 2015.

3 responses

  1. Very interesting guy – laughed at his adventures in elementary school (I hope he knows how important it is authors go into schools – and how much impact he has on those kids)
    his new folktales project sounds cool, too. Totally timeless and universal – and how much fun!

  2. That video clip is hilarious!! I’m sure the kids just love him.

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