I have always been envious of sentences. You know the ones. The kind that stops you in your tracks. You back up and start the sentence from the beginning. You read it again and then again. These sentences attack your senses like a painting by Gustav Klimt or like one of Auguste Rodin’s sculptures. You ask yourself “How is that humanly possible to put all those incidental bits together and come up with such a breathtakingly amazing collection of words?”

I’m not one of those writers whose sentences inspire that sort of awe. When I reread my sentences I wonder why the muddle, why do I always invert my ideas, why can’t I simplify…elegance, Sylvia, the most elegant way to say it is always the best. Why do I always bury myself in words and then have to dig myself out?

But I realized when I was very young that I could tell a good story. I loved telling stories. I loved listening to stories. Life is a story. So here I am. 

Twenty-two years ago I decided I should write my stories down. But I’d never written. I’d never wanted to write. I didn’t like reading. I liked stories. Not reading and writing. But, with my sister-in-law, Diane Harris from Stz’uminus First Nation, I had collected a huge archive of first-hand stories from former Kuper Island Residential School students and we had told them that we would write them so people would hear them. It was a heavy burden. Finally I “had” to do it. So I did. Diane Morris, from Sono Nis Press, published No Time to Say Goodbye…my first book.

Over the past few decades, I’ve taught myself to write with my editors, my guides. I’ve learned to love reading stories. I’ve learned how to write better sentences (sort of). And I’ve learned to love writing. I can’t get through a day without it. If Malcolm Gladwell is right, that after 10,000 hours of doing something you should know how to do it…then I should know something about writing, but I still can’t write those sentences…the ones that stop me in my tracks. Someday maybe.

Published

Neekah's Knitting Needles
 Sono Nis Press (2019)
Sylvia Olsen with Odelia Smith
Life Cycle of a Lie
Sono Nis Press (2015)
Knitting Stories 
Sono Nis Press (2014)
Molly's Promise
Orca Book Publishers (2013)
Sebastian Sasquatch
Sono Nis Press (2013)
Working With Wool
Sono Nis Press (2010)
A Different Game
Orca Book Publishers (2010)
Murphy and Mousetrap
Orca Book Publishers (2010)
Counting on Hope
Sono Nis Press (2009)
Middle Row
Orca Book Publishers (2008)
Which Way Should I Go
Sono Nis Press (2007)
Sylvia Olsen with Ron Martin
Yetsa's Sweater
Sono Nis Press (2006)
Just Ask Us
Sono Nis Press (2005)
Yellow Line
Orca Book Publishers (2005)
White Girl
Sono Nis Press (2004)
Catching Spring
Orca Book Publishers (2004)
The Girl with a Baby
Sono Nis Press (2003)
No Time to Say Goodbye
Sono Nis Press (2001)
Sylvia Olsen with Rita Morris and Ann Sam

Awards & Reviews

AWARDS
2011
WINNER
Lieutenant-Governor’s Medal 
for Historical Writing
Working With Wool
NOMINEE
Roderick Haig-Brown 
Regional Prize
Working With Wool
City of Victoria Butler Prize
Working With Wool
George Ryga Award 
for Social Awareness in Literature
Working With Wool
Silver Birch Award
A Different Game
2010
WINNER
Bolen Books 
Children’s Book Prize
Counting on Hope
NOMINEE
Sheila A. Egoff 
Children’s Literature Prize
Counting on Hope
2009 
WINNER
First Nation 
Community Read
Which Way Should I Go
2007
NOMINEE
Shining Willow Award
Yetsa's Sweater
BC Booksellers’ Choice Award
Yetsa's Sweater
Chocolate Lily Award
Yetsa's Sweater
Silver Birch Express
Yetsa's Sweater
Stellar Award: 
The Teen Readers’ Choice Award of BC
Just Ask Us
2006
NOMINEE
The White Raven’s 
list of outstanding international books 
for children and young adults
Yellow Line
Chocolate Lily Award 
Catching Spring 
Red Cedar Award
Catching Spring 
SYRCA Diamond Willow Award
Murphy and Mousetrap
2005
NOMINEE
Sheila A. Egoff 
Children's Literature Prize 
White Girl
Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice 
Snow Willow Award
White Girl
The Stellar Award: 
The Teen Readers’ Choice Award of BC
The Girl with a Baby
SYRCA Diamond Willow Award
Catching Spring
2004
NOMINEE
Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice 
Snow Willow Award
The Girl with a Baby
2003
NOMINEE
Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice 
Snow Willow Award
No Time to Say Goodbye
2002
NOMINEE
Adopted by the 
BC Teachers' Federation
No Time to Say Goodbye
REVIEWS