Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Praise of Reading (and Writing)

I have been an avid reader for most of my life and have found so much comfort and solace in books. Reading was always a favourite activity and one I could count on when life took its inevitable difficult turns. Books taught me a lot about the world and other people. They gave me hope and satisfied my curiosity. Books were very good friends.

Little did I realize, when I was younger, that avid readers often become writers. That's what I always tell students in the schools that I visit. Then I ask the group, "Who likes to read?" I invariably find keen readers (like my younger self) who love nothing more than to immerse themselves in a book. I tell them that they may become writers someday. The children are always thrilled.

I am frequentlly asked by other adults about how to break into writing, and how to get a manuscript published. My advice always begins with a suggestion to read. Read widely and read voraciously; read in the genres you wish to be published in and read other ones, too. When you are reading, you are learning about the ways that words can be strung together and what makes a compelling story. You are discovering how to create a memorable book. You might need to read hundreds or thousands of books before you are ready to write one. (Most people don't want to hear this; they want a faster road to publication.)

But getting published is not a speedy process. It can take years and years. You've got to love reading and writing more than the idea of getting published. And not everyone does.

I had a fall some months ago and have been on a long, slow recuperation from a concussion. In the early days, I wasn't supposed to read or write. It was very tough to give up those activities. The months have passed and I am thrilled to be back to reading several books in a week, and also polishing a manuscript to submit.

Reading and writing: what wonderful pastimes! So happy to have them as an integral part of my life.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Spring Break!


Today marks the beginning of Spring Break in BC. Children and teachers have earned a well-deserved hiatus from their studies and will now enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating couple of weeks. 

The weather in our part of the world is cooperating for the young holiday-ers. We have a lovely spring sun overhead and bright flowers blooming. In my neighbourhood, there are beautiful purple crocuses and sparkling white snow drops. The grass is turning from winter brown to green. And the robins are chirping! 

I like to think that spring is the hopeful season, one that takes us out of the doldrums of winter and makes us feel alive and vibrant again.

If you are on holidays, have a wonderful time! Enjoy your days with the children in your life and take a few moments to look at nature together and observe the delightful, hopeful signs of spring.

(Apologies to those across the country who are still in throes of winter. Come for a visit!)

Cheers!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Interested in Writing Kids' Books?


It's that time of year again!

If you are interested in writing or illustrating books for children, and are in the Vancouver area, you might like to attend the annual "Getting Started in Children's Books" panel. It will be held at the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library on March 10. Panel members are published authors and illustrators who tell their story of how they got published and then answer audience questions about the publishing process. It is always an inspiring and informative night. I highly recommend it!

Check out this link for more details, or see the poster above.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Serendipity 2014


If you are in the Vancouver area, and interested in the future of children's book publishing, you might want to mark March 8 on your calendar. This date is the annual conference, Serendipity, hosted by the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable. It is always an inspiring event. In fact, it was at this conference many years ago where I first decided I might try my hand at writing a book for children. That's how inspiring it is!

This year's conference, held at UBC, is titled "Children's Literature in a Digital Age" and has a program of speakers who will talk about their own books and also what they see on the horizon in terms of social media, apps for children and electronic publishing. Lots for us to learn!

One of the best books for kids I read last year was called Better Nate Than Ever, and guess what? The book's author, Tim Federle, will be speaking at Serendipity. Very exciting!

So get your registration in and get ready to be inspired. See you there!



Monday, January 6, 2014

Happy New Year!



Here we are at the beginning of a brand new year. Happy 2014!

It's good to think of the promise and fresh start this annual occasion brings.

Some people are keen to make resolutions and I am often one of them. But in recent times, my goals have been simple: to read more and write more. And that is what I hope to do again this year. (Maybe travel a bit too.)

To those of you (hello teachers and students!) who have returned to school after the holidays, good luck! I remember from my teaching days how much vital learning takes place between January and June.

As we embark on this shiny New Year, I wish you health, happiness and many good books to read!

Cheers!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Happy Holidays!


The days are short, the air is chilly, and school is closed for the winter break. Now is the time of year when many of us gather with family and friends to eat, drink and be merry.

I send you best wishes for the holiday season. May you have a warm and wonderful time, and many good books to read!

(The lovely image above is from a Unicef card.)

See you in 2014. Cheers!


Monday, November 25, 2013

Writing the West Coast...


It's a wonderful thing to live on the west coast of Canada and I recently wrote a book for kids saying so. It won't be published for another year — the illustrator is just working her magic now.

Earlier this fall, Karen (the illustrator) and I went on a lovely research trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island. She is from the Toronto area and hadn't seen the amazing landscapes we have out here in the wild west. I wanted to show it all to her, so we spent the better part of a week hiking through the rainforest, taking long beach walks and doing what kids really love to do — search every nook and cranny of the beach to find interesting sea creatures.

Here are a few photos of our trip: Karen in front of a gigantic 800 year old tree; Karen on the beach photographing the sky; and a few other pictures you might enjoy.

Now I am working really hard trying to think of a good writing excuse to go back! Hmm... there must be some facts I need to check.

If you ever get a chance, come out to visit the Pacific Rim region of Vancouver Island. I promise — you won't be disappointed. And who knows? You may even write your own book!