Barbara Nickel

Author Visits

Barbara has presented workshops and readings to young people in classrooms and libraries across Canada, from Newfoundland to the Yukon. Her presentations are highly energetic and interactive, whether students are trying on an 18th century wig or writing a poem inspired by Saint-Saëns’ Carnival of the Animals.

The types of presentations available, audience size and preferred grade-level are described below, and may be adapted to accommodate a wide range of age groups and venues.


In this interactive workshop-presentation, Barbara takes students inside her 2022 B.C. and Yukon Book Prizes-shortlisted novel, Dear Peter, Dear Ulla, with visual and aural cues to spark thinking about a critical time in history—the Second World War and “the deep pull of family and friendship, the cataclysmic effects of conflict and racism, and the immeasurable value of courage, hope, loyalty, and resilience…” (Review, Canadian Children’s Book News, Spring 2022).

Leaving lots of space for Q & A, Barbara will also lead students in a postcard writing activity focussing on succinct writing that uses imagery.

Teachers have the option of introducing Barbara to their students ahead of time with a website scavenger hunt activity. At the end of the session, students are given Dear Peter, Dear Ulla postcards compliments of Thistledown Press.

Target age group: Grades 4-7; Length: 45-60 minutes; Format: virtual or in-person

A Boy Asked the Wind Interactive Presentation

A boy asks the wind, “Where do you live?” and follows it around the world on a pounding, rollicking, sea-foaming adventure. Winds in the Canadian west, off the coast of Nicaragua, in Capetown and the Middle East are evoked with poetic text and muscular, powerful illustrations by Gillian Newland.

Slides, songs, sounds and maps are all key features of this new, interactive presentation of A Boy Asked the Wind. 

Grade Level Preferred: 2 – 5
Maximum Audience Size Preferred: 30 – 65

Video by Shaw TV of Barbara presenting and talking about A Boy Asked the Wind:

The Poet’s Tool Box

What tools do poets use to practice their craft? Students in this hands-on workshop will listen to poetry and discuss it, then try exercises designed to give them the nuts and bolts — from image and metaphor to rhythm, sound and where to break the lines in between — needed to write good poetry. An award-winning poet for adults and children, Barbara draws from her poetry book for children, From the Top of a Grain Elevator, as well as from current projects (including new eco-poems for kids) using a cross-curricular approach that explores a range of subjects including music, science, geography and physical education. This workshop can be adapted from a one-hour school visit to an artist residency focusing on a particular theme.

Barbara has taught in the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia, as well as other university programs, and draws on this experience to adapt The Poet’s Tool Box for high school/college/university/adult.

Grade Level Preferred: K – 12, adult
Maximum Audience Size Preferred: 30

My students loved having Ms. Nickel visit our class to teach us about poetry. She captivated the students’ imaginations through our school “Poetry for the Earth” project and encouraged them to express themselves through the art of poetry. Ms. Nickel is an inspiring artist who made poetry fun, exciting and meaningful to my students. It was wonderful to see how my students were transformed into budding poets through her beautiful examples, clear instruction and encouraging feedback. Thank you Ms. Nickel, I hope to have you back in my classroom again soon!

Ms. Katie Wilson, Grade 3 teacher, Yarrow Community School, Yarrow, B.C.

I couldn’t recommend Barbara Nickel more highly as a teacher for adults. Her intense concentration on whatever she is given to critique, her perceptiveness, diligence and thoroughness are extraordinary. Drawing on a wide, profound and intimate knowledge of poetry as well as her own remarkable gifts and skills, Barbara is an ideal reader: she strives to understand what one is trying to do, responding to one’s work straightforwardly but also with tact and sensitivity, covering the page with queries and comments that address every aspect of the art. A poet who draws on what is now a quite rare expertise in traditional form, Barbara is also no stranger to more experimental modes, having written brilliantly in both. With her accurate eye and flawless ear, she is a consistently meticulous, reliable and helpful guide, open to all kinds of genres and approaches. Whoever has a chance to work with an artist of her caliber — among other accomplishments, she is one of the best poets of her generation — would be very fortunate. 

Elise Partridge, award-winning poet, author of Fielder’s Choice (Vehicule Press), Chameleon Hours (Anansi), The Exiles’ Gallery (Anansi), and The If Borderlands: Collected Poems (New York Review Books)


Hands-On Historical Fiction (middle-grade novels)

Wigs, music, violins and mazes…enter the realm of historical fiction, where the past comes alive on the page and history is told in compelling stories. Barbara invites students into the historical settings of her novels for young people (soon-to-be-released The Mozart Girl and Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastian Bach), giving them a chance to hear and see aspects of life in the 18th century. Readings from one or both novels are integrated with discussion and questions, and a Q & A period follows on the writing and editing process. This presentation is particularly suited to music classes as well as language arts.

Grade Level Preferred: 4 – 7
Maximum Audience Size Preferred: 30 – 65


Barbara Nickel’s level of artistry, pedagogy and inspiration makes her an absolutely wonderful instructor for students of all ages and levels. The students were so inspired and excited by her presentation that at the end of the workshops, they were lined up to purchase signed copies of her books.

Angela Goddard, Strings Specialist, West Point Grey Academy, Vancouver, B.C.


Costs of an Author Visit

Each session is approximately 45-60 minutes, with more or less time depending on the age of the audience. The cost for each session is $300. The cost for two presentations in one day is $500. Fees are payable at the time of the visit.

A public library outside of B.C.’s Lower Mainland may want to consider applying for funding from the Canada Council for the Arts. This would fund Barbara’s reading fee as well as the cost of travel. Once this funding is received, schools in the area may want as well to arrange an author visit, so public libraries and schools can then collaborate on hosting Barbara for a visit.

Want to arrange an author visit? Just e-mail Barbara!

Interested in booking Barbara for more than a day? Learn more— Artist Residency.


Dear Peter, Dear Ulla has been selected as a finalist for the 2023/2024 Chocolate Lily Book Award. 

Barbara’s poem “Three-in-One,” originally published in Grain Magazine, has recently appeared in Best Canadian Poetry 2024  (Biblioasis) edited by Bardia Sinaee.

Check out Barbara’s 45-minute teaching video on Creating Believable Characters for the BC and Yukon Book Prizes’ In Class video library.

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla was a finalist for the 2022 Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People.

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla has been nominated for the 2023 Rocky Mountain Book Award (Alberta Young Readers Choice Award).

The Manitoba Young Readers Choice Awards (MYRCA) has nominated Dear Peter, Dear Ulla as a 2023 Northern Lights (Grades 7-9) finalist!

Essential Tremor reviewed in The Vancouver Sun. Read full review here.

Dear Peter, Dear Ulla is reviewed and “Highly Recommended” in CM (Canadian Review of Materials)! Read the full review here.

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Author Visits

Interested in booking Barbara to visit your school or library? Choose from a wide range of presentations, from poetry workshops to readings of historical fiction.

Learn More