Saturday 23 September 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Odette Barr of New Brunswick, Canada.


I had the pleasure of meeting Odette at the GMRD Book Fair this past April.

Always with a warm smile, it was a pleasure to meet her.

She has kindly accepted my invitation to be our guest this week.


Odette has chosen to feature the latest installment of her middle grade adventure series, Follow the Goose Butt to... This time, it is Prince Edward Island. Odette is co-author and illustrator for the series.



Odette Barr is a retired teacher who enjoys many hobbies and interests. She has drawn, painted and created art as long as she can remember. Although Odette has always enjoyed writing (mainly nature-themed nonfiction), she only discovered her love of writing children’s fiction in 2014. Odette is a former interpretive naturalist with the Canadian Wildlife Service and Parks Canada—she takes great delight in wandering through natural habitats and is constantly awestruck by the wonders of the natural world. Much of her writing is inspired by nature.

Odette is co-author and illustrator for the Camelia Airheart children’s adventure series: Follow the Goose Butt to Prince Edward Island (Acorn Press, Fall 2023), Follow the Goose Butt to Nova Scotia (Chocolate River, 2018) and Follow the Goose Butt, Camelia Airheart! (Chocolate River, 2016). She and her co-authors also wrote a picture book, Take Off to Tantramar (Chocolate River, 2017), which was the winner of that year’s Alice Kitts Memorial Award for Excellence in Children’s Writing at the NB Book Awards. Odette placed second in the 2019 Pottersfield Prize for Creative Nonfiction, resulting in the publication of her memoir, Teaching at the Top of the World (Pottersfield, 2020), which documents a decade of teaching Inuit students in the territory of Nunavut.

Odette and her partner, YoAnne, share their idyllic lives with a 5-yr-old standard poodle, in a cedar log home on the Northumberland Strait shore.



Working Title: Camelia is never at the head of the flock. She has a faulty GPS—goose positioning system—and she is easily distracted. This means she gets lost...a lot! Therefore, Camelia’s beak is always supposed to be as close as possible to the back end of the goose in front of her. The title for each of the middle grade chapter books reflects this reality : Follow the Goose Butt, Camelia Airheart!; Follow the Goose Butt to Nova Scotia; and Follow the Goose Butt to Prince Edward Island.



Synopsis: Follow the Goose Butt to Prince Edward Island is the third book in the Camelia Airheart adventure series. In the first book of the series, we follow the loveable young Canada goose throughout her New Brunswick adventures after she loses track of her flock one spring on the way home to Branta Bog. In book two, Camelia travels throughout Nova Scotia with her Aunt Tillie, a reporter for the CGBC (Canada Goose Broadcasting Corporation), and finds herself in all sorts of predicaments after losing sight of her aunt on more than one occasion! In Follow the Goose Butt to Prince Edward Island, Camelia’s adventures continue as she ends up circumnavigating the coastline of the pastoral island. While attending a Gathering of the Geese in Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick, Camelia flies over the Confederation Bridge to help Billy the blue jay find his way back to the red island. Despite being easily distracted, having difficulties with directions and much trouble with landings, Camelia manages to explore the Island’s coastline and she meets many new friends throughout her travels. Whether it is golfing with Gilbert the great blue heron, discovering sands that sing with Josie the jellyfish, or causing chaos at Green Gables, Camelia has an exciting time and learns many important life lessons along the way. Most importantly, she discovers that her goose positioning system may not be as faulty as she has always believed!



The Story Behind the Story: Odette writes the Camelia Airheart stories with co-authors, Colleen Landry and Beth Weatherbee. The character of Camelia Airheart came about in June of 2014 while Odette, Colleen and Beth travelled together at the end of the school year to a “Born to Read” information session in Saint John. All three were full-time NB teachers at the time. All three women were interested in writing for young people, and Odette was also interested in doing illustration work for children’s books. As they brainstormed story ideas in the car they came up with an iconic Canadian animal (the Canada goose) that loved to fly and discover new places, yet had no sense of direction and was easily distracted. Ironically, the three teachers got hopelessly lost in Saint John trying to find the library in Market Square. Eventually they got to where they needed to be. Odette, Colleen and Beth had such fun dreaming up Camelia they decided to write the story together.


Read an Excerpt below.



Visit Odette’s FB page HERE.



A couple questions before you go, Odette:

Scribbler: Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?

Odette: I am fortunate to have an idyllic setting in which to write. I live in a beautiful log home on the edge of the Northumberland Strait near Cap-Pelé, New Brunswick. My desk and laptop are situated on the second-floor loft overlooking the great room and several large windows that face the sea. I draw my energy and serenity from nature. The forest and bird-life I see from my back windows, the swaying trees viewed in the side windows, and the rolling waves (or drifting ice cakes...season-dependent!) out front help ground me when I need to look away from the page for a mental break.

When writing Camelia Airheart stories with my co-authors, we take turns meeting at each other’s place to do the writing. We generally create our stories via 3-hour sessions of a nonstop cacophony of chatter, singing and theatrical performances that almost always involves food and (ahem!) wine.

Conversely, when writing my own stories, I require absolute quiet. I love music but I also love to sing and if I know the lyrics (which I almost always do...) I cannot help but sing along! I have tried listening to instrumental and classical music at times but I end up turning it off eventually. My writing desk is always neat to begin with but a collection of notes on bits of scrap paper and post-its appear soon thereafter. Any mug of coffee I set on my desk gets ignored—once I start writing I am focused for at least 3 hours. I force myself up after that to stretch my legs. It’s a good thing my body tells me I have to head back down the stairs and take a long “movement” break!



Scribbler: What’s next for Odette Barr, the Author?

Odette: I have a few projects started but the one that I am most keen on at the moment is a young adult novel. It is a coming-of-age story that follows a feisty young Scottish immigrant to Canada through her early years, aged 7 through 19. Morag McEwin is fiercely proud of her Scottish roots and considers her parents’ decision to emigrate to Canada as a temporary one. She thinks of the first few years in this new country as a prolonged vacation and documents her Canadian experiences of ‘fitting in’ through the writing of a story journal. Morag intends to delight her friends and extended family with these stories when she returns to her highland home in the Hillfoots. Morag possesses a strong sense of self. She knows who she is and what she wants...or, at the very least, what she doesn’t want! She comes to the realization that she likes girls a lot more than boys, for one thing! And, much to her surprise, she develops a strong affection for her new Canadian home. In fact, she doesn’t recall when she stopped dreaming of returning to Scotland. The novel ends as Morag finishes her first year at university. She is happy and hopeful and ready to embrace whatever it is that life presents to her.



Excerpt: Follow the Goose Butt to Prince Edward Island:


“...Camelia waddled towards Green Gables. No one really paid attention to the Canada goose on the grass. No one really paid attention to the goose walking through the gate. However, when the goose butted ahead of everyone in line and sauntered through the front door, people really paid attention. And they really, really paid attention when the goose beelined for the parlour, shouting, “Anne! I’m your kindred spirit…where are you?” Of course, all they heard was honk, honk, honk, honk, honk!

Half flying, half jumping around, Camelia wreaked havoc from one room to the next. She toppled the fern from the piano in the parlour. She skidded across the dining room table, sending all the china teacups to the floor with a crash. She clipped the kitchen lamp with her wings, leaving it swaying wildly in her wake. She knocked several bottles of raspberry cordial off the pantry shelf.

Everyone was aghast. People yelled, babies cried, and some pushed and shoved their way out of the house. It was bedlam! Someone grabbed the broom from behind the fireplace and attempted to shoo the Canada goose away. Books tumbled from shelves, pictures flew off walls, and chairs landed where they fell. Last but not least, a straw hat with braids was swept from its owner and…guess what? It landed directly on Camelia’s head. Of course, tourists were busy snapping pictures of this strange event. Nothing like this had ever happened at Green Gables!

Camelia headed for the stairs. She flew up to the second floor and found herself in the bedroom of Anne Shirley herself...”




Thank you for being our guest this week, Odette. Wishing you continued success with your stories. 


And a BIG thank you to our visitors and readers.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

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