As a writer, photographer, teacher and actress, I love presenting my life and my books in words and pictures to audiences of any age and temperament. As my sister often says, rolling her eyes. “It all started when she was four.” During my childhood, my English grandmother paid for my elocution lessons and had me entertain the customers who came to her tea shop in Fremantle, Western Australia. This background helped me survive the later challenges of trying to teach my first class of macho male high school students speak like the Queen – Cockney primary kids thrown out of various seven-to-eleven plus classes in London’s East End where my school was wedged between two factories like a sandwich, and rioting Portuguese immigrants in the West End.
Later in Montreal as an immigrant myself, my next school fired the Off Broadway producer it paid to put on the school play for district-wide competition and made me, a staff member teaching history and English, the producer instead.
When I reached Vancouver, I got onto the substitute teacher list by teaching French using high school French learned in Perth, Western Australia, a city so remote that it scarcely needed to offer French. With its high Italian population, it should have taught Italian instead.
However, French got me noticed and my next job for the Vancouver School Board was the Major Work Class, a group of eight-year-olds specially selected for their brains and potential leadership qualities. See Love Affair with a Cougar for that story.
I thank my Aussie upbringing and education as well as my grandmother’s genes and sense of adventure for surviving the challenges of my teaching career. They also helped me survive live television audiences in Canada when I was upstaged by such animal companions as a gibbon that lifted my wig during the interview, sprang onto the back of the cameraman and rode his camera around the floor, a raccoon that slurped down a bucket of crayfish on the host’s desk, demolished the fruit display then scampered off camera, and a coatimundi who used his sharp little claws to re-comb the hostess’s glamorous coiffure.
As a teacher, I couldn’t compete with the eagles, falcons, seals, sea lions, cougars, bears or a pesky macaw that I brought to my classrooms in Canada, so I made the animals our curriculum. You can read what the class audiences thought of all this in the poems and stories the kids wrote in my first four animal books. Mind you, the teachers and principals had different reactions. Well known writer Pierre Berton once told me, “Lyn, it doesn’t matter what people say about you, as long as they remember you.”
“Lyn’s ability to rivet an audience, be it 30 or 300, is legendary.”“Being a former teacher, Lyn quickly established a rapport with the children and sustained their interest at a high peak.”“You kept our ordinarily short-attention-spanned students spellbound for the entire hour of your talk. That is quite an accomplishment, believe me.”“I have taught for 30 years and by far this is the most stimulating presentation I have attended.”“Lyn was a teacher ahead of her time. Oh, what fun we had! And we learned something too.”
If you want to know read more of “What People Say About Lyn Hancock” and my presentations, click here.
My Most Popular Presentations
1. BOOKS BEGIN IN BACKYARDS: READING AND WRITING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
(Illustrated by “There’s a Seal in my Sleeping Bag”, “There’s a Raccoon in my Parka”, “Love Affair with a Cougar”, “An Ape Came out of my Hatbox”, “Gypsy in the Classroom”)
- There’s A Raccoon In My Parka
- Love Affair With A Cougar
- An Ape Came Out Of My Hatbox
- Gypsy In The Classroom
Read and write about what fascinates you, what you are close to, what you are passionate about. You don’t have to go to the moon to find something to communicate. Fascination can be found in your own backyard. I found my first inspiration for stories in my Vancouver backyard – literally- with seals and eagles, seabirds and cougars.
Later, I found wild animals, even wild people, in the rest of Canada, the rest of the world. If you find something fascinating, you want to tell someone about it – in a diary, a letter or a book.
Who wouldn’t want to tell someone about such adventures as sitting at the top of a rainforest tree in an eagle’s nest for nine hours with two eagles on your lap, or catching and banding a swimming bald eagle, or hatching eggs of murres and puffins under your sweater at the top of a cliff on a remote seabird island, or sharing a bed with four cougars and one husband, or sharing your classroom for a year with an ape?
If you invite me to your group, I’ll show you dramatic slides and video footage of my experiences with animals on the coast of British Columbia, the original diary pages I wrote while sitting in an eagle nest, the first writing I ever did for a book, three pages of tattered type written yellow paper describing my terror when four cougars came through my bedroom window, the scientific journals my students wrote while caring for a gibbon ape in our classroom, the poems and stories students published in their school newspapers and magazines, and what reporters wrote when they visited us. I will show you how they all contributed to the writing of my first four animal books. You will learn how books come to be from creation to promotion, from the Idea to the Bookshelf and Beyond.
You will learn about Science, Language Arts, Social Studies and a whole lot more. In particular, I will inspire you to write your own stories about your own personal experiences. In the workshops that follow the main presentation, I answer your questions, we discuss the writing life, and start a writing project.
Perhaps you will imagine what happened in the three weeks that Sam the Seal was lost along the freeway in Oregon on our trip to Disneyland. We know that he was taken to jail by two teenagers who decided to become marine biologists after he jumped into their fishnet and we know that David and I picked him up from the zoo on our way back from Disneyland much to the consternation of a pair of lions, but what happened to Sam on the other days? Use my story to write your story. Or perhaps start a science project on bald eagles. You don’t have to climb into an eagle nest to learn about eagles as David and I did, you can see live streaming videos of what eagles do between March and July from your own computer at https://www.hancockwildlife.org
2. LET A RACCOON TEACH YOU TO READ, WRITE AND DRAW
(Illustrated by Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon)
“Just seeing the cover illustration will cause potential readers to fall in love with Tabasco and immediately want to get into the book’s contents…it is highly recommended.” (Dave Jenkinson, CM Magazine Volume XII Number 20 . . . .June 9, 2006).
I begin this presentation by reading from the original first draft of Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon which was first written on a typewriter in the year 1980 when the raccoon and I shared an apartment in Burnaby while we attended Simon Fraser University (yes, Tabasco went to classes with me and she was the mascot of the English Department which put her picture in its calendar).
The book begins with me smuggling Tabasco across Canada on 17 airplane flights and you can decide if this is a good lead or hook to whet readers’ appetites for the rest of the story. Starting a story with a good hook is my first piece of advice to help you improve your own stories.
In my presentation, I don’t reveal everything you want to know i.e. how DID I get away with smuggling a raccoon across Canada on airplanes and in hotels and restaurants, but I read excerpts from the book and show pictures of our life together as we drive around BC, Alberta, and Washington on camping trips… as Tabasco pesters the apple pickers when we live in an Okanagan orchard, as we hang our Christmas presents on tree branches over a frozen river, as we….that’s enough, you can read more of our adventures in the book.
Here’s something unique. I show you the way Loraine Kemp, my awesome illustrator, and I work together as a team through the whole book. Authors and illustrators usually work separately. Not us. Loraine got a whole school, Anne McClymont Elementary in Kelowna, to pose for the photos she uses as a step to her illustrations. Even the principal posed for one of the characters in the book. Everything is real in Tabasco’s book.
So, through a PowerPoint presentation, interesting stories, and displays of photos, letters, interviews, diaries, original artwork, and other research materials, I show the various stages in the life of this book.
In the workshops, I answer questions and discuss the writing process. Using examples from my book, evocative pictures, and illustrations, and articles written about Tabasco by other writers, I help you write your own story e.g. describe the raccoon having an adventure with you or making a mess in a place of your choosing, perhaps your bedroom, perhaps on a space ship to Mars. as I write from my own backyard, so can you.
Like many writers, I sometimes have what we call Writers’ Block and we just can’t think of what to put on that blank page or empty screen. Just in case it happens to you too, we warm up first with some practice. We learn about hooking the reader in the first sentence, writing graphically using similes, metaphors, active verbs, the six senses, accurate details, and realistic dialogue, then we check we have an arresting beginning, a detailed middle, and a satisfying ending. We read our stories to each other to check that what we write is understood by our readers – and listeners. We read them aloud. Always read your stories aloud to yourself and then to someone else. You’ll be amazed to find that what you think you wrote isn’t necessarily so! Tabasco and I want to help your language arts program after our presentation so you can download a 10-page activity booklet Some Things to Think About as you Read Tabasco the Saucy Raccoon. It contains questions, topics for research and discussion, links to the science and language arts curriculum, and a practical explanation of the writing and illustration process.
And get this! I give prizes for the best-illustrated stories from students that are inspired by my books. Just send them to me by email or snail mail and include your name, address, age and school.
If you give me permission, I will publish the best on this website. The kids who played with Tabasco called her Dr. Goesinta the Dentist because with those dainty raccoon fingers she was always poking and probing into corners and crevices like a dentist prize into teeth.
3. NORTHERN ANIMALS, NORTHERN PEOPLE
(Illustrated by Nunavut, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Winging it in the North, The Mighty Mackenzie and selected articles published in major newspapers and magazines such as the Globe and Mail, Canadian Geographic, Nature Canada, Above and Beyond, and Up Here.)
- Northwest Territories
- Northwest Territories: Last Frontier
- Alaska Highway: Road to Adventure
I’ve been lucky enough to live and travel for more than 25 years across the whole of the northernmost part of Canada, almost as far north as the North Pole. We call this huge chunk of land North of Sixty, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. I wrote the first book on Nunavut before it actually became Nunavut. Look for it in your school library.
I have always been interested in life at the edge. I was born near the South Pole, so perhaps that’s why I’m interested in the North Pole. I went to the far north for the first time after my husband David Hancock asked me to be the first woman to cross the Northwest Passage in a tiny rubber boat. At that time in the 1960s only two other boats had succeeded in getting through the ice of the Northwest Passage. They were ships, much bigger boats than ours. David abandoned the expedition but I stayed in the North and loved it.
In my northern slide presentation you will learn about some of the northern animals that I have encountered personally – caribou, polar bear, grizzlies, arctic fox, muskox, beluga whales, walrus – and the northern peoples – Dene, Metis and Inuit – who hunted and used them for food, clothing, tools, weapons, boats, homes, arts and crafts. You will also meet some of my special northern friends and family.
Come with me when I am chased by a grizzly, stalk a polar bear as it hunts, kills and eats a walrus pup, when an arctic fox stalks me when I picnic on an ice floe with my Inuit neighbors during a walrus hunt and eat a walrus stew dinner laced with intestines, when I camp with Inuit sculptors as they carve legendary life-sized characters out of a marble beach when I overheat my seal-oil soapstone lamp and nearly melt my snow house, when as the only southern girl in an Inuit village of total winter darkness, I hang Christmas lights on a passing iceberg, eat a nightly Christmas dinner of the raw seal, frozen char, the semi-digested contents of a caribou and the blubber of a whale, then dance all night. Northern peoples use various parts of animals for many useful things. I bring one animal part to my presentation and ask you to guess what it is! Only two people have ever known the answer. You can find it in my book Winging it in the North.
In the workshops that follow the presentation, we may try on arctic clothing, play with animal packing dolls, play Inuit games, role-play jobs, interview pretends characters, write letters to my Dene, Metis, and Inuit families or do whatever you think will help you learn more about this amazing part of Canada. You will see why life at the top of the world is a magical place.
4. FAMILY STORIES, PIONEER STORIES
(Illustrated by The Ring: Memories of a Metis Grandmother, the pioneer love story of Sam and Jane Livingston).
Who’d have thought that an animal and an animal book An Ape Came out of my Hatbox would lead to a history book? Gypsy, an orphan gibbon ape in my grade six classroom at Monterey School in Victoria led me to the family of two of my students who asked me to help them write their family history. The unusual ring on father Dennis’s finger would become the title. His wife Marion would write the first draft.
My two students’ great grandfather was Sam Livingston, a charismatic Irish immigrant, an explorer, gold prospector, buffalo hunter, fur trader and early farmer. While Grandfather Sam rode and walked across the American prairie to join the California Gold Rush, Grandmother Jane, a Metis girl of 16 from the Red River Colony rode a Red River ox cart across the Canadian prairie. Both were seeking freedom to live life the way they wanted so headed west.
Sam and Jane met at Fort Victoria near Fort Edmonton and were married. They had 14 children. Jane grew the vegetables, fished and hunted, dried the meat, tanned the hides, sewed and decorated the family’s clothes and moccasins with beads and porcupine quills, and did many other chores in her busy days. Our aim in writing this book was to draw attention to the contributions of women, especially First Nations and Metis women, to the history of Canada. We learn a lot about explorers in our schools but not often do we hear about their wives. Grandmother Jane’s memories help to restore the balance.
Just as Grandmother Jane tells Dennis how she used to live on the Canadian prairie and my English grandmother told me how she emigrated to Western Australia at the turn of the last century and what pioneer life was like Down Under, so do I hope that you will ask your elders the story of your own families. I ask people who come to my presentations to bring something from home like the ring that Grandmother Jane gave to her grandson Dennis – perhaps a diary, a letter, a slipper, a piece of jewellery, a photo, a story. Start looking. Start talking. Start writing your own book.
My PowerPoint presentation covers all the steps in the writing process from the initial motivation (meeting the family and seeing the ring), to the research (40 years of it including my travels across Canada following the tracks of Sam and Jane), to deciding which way to tell the story (a conversation between a grandmother and her grandson) and what to emphasize (importance of Metis women), to the significance of the story and characters in what we see around us today (the Howse and Livingston names on landmarks and landscapes), to selected adventures of the main characters – exploring, gold prospecting, fur trading, buffalo hunting and processing, early farming – to how the magic of reading a book led to Sam and Jane’s lost grandson finding his true family after 64 years, and Jane’s Metis descendants camping in the Rockies at Howse Mountain in 2010 to celebrate the 200 year centennial of Jane’s grandfather Joseph Howse being the first HBC man to cross the Rockies and set up a trading post west of the mountains. We finish with Jim, another grandson, singing and playing his guitar to a song which begins, This computer world we’re living in is moving much too fast, we’re so busy with the present that we’ve forgotten our past.
I will adapt my narration, reading of excerpts and choice of slides to the age of the audience. The workshops include questions, discussion of what the audience thinks important or what links to their social studies curriculum and PLOs (prescribed learning outcomes) and sharing of class family stories. Marion and I have prepared activity booklets on the research and the writing of The Ring but they are not ready for distribution yet. Input from teachers is welcomed. Displays include photos, original letters, recipes and other artifacts from the 1800s, Metis arts and crafts, Metis music and dance (from my Metis friends in the Northwest Territories),and Metis food such as bannock and dried buffalo meat.
Equipment You Will Need for My Presentations
- Digital projector connected to a laptop, trolley and extension cord. I supply the thumb drive/flash drive or DVD. Please discuss.
- Screen or white wall for viewing Power Point slide presentation
- Large free standing tack board (for displaying photos, newspaper articles and posters), 2 tables for display materials, and a couple of easels if presentation requires transportation by plane
- Microphone and speakers if the presentation is in the gym and if you think it necessary.
- Students should have pen and paper and questions or stories for small group sessions.
All subject to discussion and negotiation.
Option A: Half Day Program
– $500 (travel expenses may be waived) plus HST (where applicable) (R114758378)Includes:- One hour-long large group slide presentation- One or two small group discussions or writing workshops- Book sale and signing
Option B: Full Day Program
– $750 (travel expenses may be waived) plus HST (where applicable) (R114758378)Includes:- One or two hour-long large group presentations- Two to four small group discussions or writing workshops- Book sale and signing
Option C: 60-90 Minute Program
– $350 plus HST (where applicable) (R114758378) One-hour long presentation, half an hour discussion, any size, no workshops
PLEASE FILL IN THE CONTACT FORM BELOW FOR MORE INFORMATION.