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.
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