Friday, February 27, 2009

Magnificent Mary!

Mary Casanova was another amazing author on our program in Phoenix. I hadn't met her before, but was charmed by her books — some 25 of them, including award-winning novels and picture books. Many of her books have a wilderness theme, no doubt influenced by her living on the Minnesota-Canadian border. 

I was intrigued by her question: "When does a picture book become poetry?" And, in fact, her picture books read like poetry. I especially enjoyed hearing about two books: "Utterly Otter Day" and "One-Dog Canoe." 

Mary has a masterful way with written language, and each word in her picture books was carefully chosen to give the maximum impact in meaning and sound. She also exhibits a delightful sense of humour that I really enjoyed. If you'd like to read more about Mary, check out her website here.

I'll be posting about our other panel members over the next few days. Check back soon. 


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Marvellous Margriet!

Our symposium in Phoenix turned out to be an amazing celebration of books and literacy. Everyone in the room was clearly a keen champion of kids and reading. I can't imagine meeting a more dedicated group of people anywhere! 

For the next few posts, I'm going to feature a single author from the symposium and tell you a little bit about her books. Today, I'll start with Margriet Ruurs, who may be the biggest champion of literacy that I've ever met. Margriet organized the day and lined up the 5 authors and 1 teacher of the year to speak. She coordinated us all, and put our slideshows on her computer, then acted as MC for the day-long workshop. She was an incredible trouble-shooter (both with the technology and in any other little glitches that popped up) and a tirelessly optimistic host. I told her she was a force of nature. And she was!

Margriet has written some 25 books for children, many of them about nature and fictional animals, and she travels the world, speaking at reading conferences, schools and libraries. Wherever she goes, she carries her message of the importance of reading. Tomorrow, she is on her way to China and Burma for 5 weeks to speak at international schools. In addition to writing and speaking, she has created a global book exchange program, as well as coordinating book donations for needy schools around the globe. 

One of my favourite books by Margriet is called, "My Librarian is a Camel: How Books are Brought to Children Around the World." In essence, it's a photo essay that shows mobile libraries in remote parts of the world. These libraries move from place to place in remarkable ways: by bus, boat, elephant, donkey and more! These unusual libraries are often the only way that people in remote areas such as in Thailand, Mongolia or Azerbaijan can access books. I really wish I had written that book! I also really wish I'd seen those libraries. (Do you detect a note of professional jealousy? :-)

I've got a lot to learn from Margriet: fearless traveller, bold optimist, and the best darn promoter of literacy that she is.

If you'd like to find about more about Margriet and her books, please check her website here.

Check back soon to hear about the other authors at our symposium. Cheers!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Symposium Handouts

This note is for those of you who attended our symposium at the Phoenix IRA last Saturday (and anyone else who's interested). 

When we ran out of my printed handouts on writing & publishing, and curriculum activities to accompany my books, I promised to email copies to anyone who wished them. I spent this afternoon sending these out, but alas, some of the emails have bounced back. If you are someone who is hoping to receive a copy of the handouts and didn't, please email me and I will get them to you ASAP. Send your message to:

More to come on the conference soon. 


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Phoenix Highlights

I'm back from Phoenix, which I'm pleased to report, was a sensational experience! Over the next few days, I'll jot down some detailed thoughts about the weekend conference (and will post some photos), but for now, I'll list a few highlights. 


* Meeting the amazing folks in our audience: dedicated literacy specialists, teachers and reading coaches from all over North America. I couldn't imagine a more passionate, committed group of reading enthusiasts anywhere. 

* Hearing the other authors on the program talk about their books. Wow! They were inspiring.

* Feeling the warm sun on my waterlogged Vancouver skin


* Phoenix folks were wearing sweaters and jackets. They thought it was cold!

* Hearing the Phoenix radio announcer say that in the chilly Canadian city that Obama visited (Ottawa), people ice-skate to work.

* Picking an orange growing in a tree outside my hotel.

I'll post again in the next day or two, with more thoughts on the conference, but for now I'd like to send a heartfelt thank you to the wonderful folks who attended our symposium, and shared their thoughts on teaching, children's books and their love for reading. Thank you, thank you!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Phoenix Bound!

My Keynote presentation is finished, my bathing suit is bought, my bags are (almost) packed, and my passport is at the ready. I'm flying to sunny Phoenix tomorrow to speak at the International Reading Association conference with my pals and fellow authors, Linda Bailey and Margriet Ruurs. (See my earlier post here to refresh your memory.) Wish us luck!

I'll post a full report on my return. :-)


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Waiter Rant

I spent the weekend reading Waiter Rant: Thanks for the Tip — Confessions of a Cynical Waiter, and wondering which type of restaurant customer I am. Judging by this book, there are almost no good customers (including me!). I'll never ask to switch tables again. This book was a fun read, and a revealing one (possibly more revealing than you'd ever want it to be). I had trouble putting it down.

It began as a blog, written by an anonymous, disgruntled waiter working at a New York fine dining restaurant, and quickly gathered a following. An agent who happened to read the blog, offered to represent the waiter (Steve Dublanica) and between the two of them, they ended up with an instant New York Times Bestseller. Now there's a good reason to blog!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Phoenix Reading Conference

Winter weather getting you down? Consider flying to sunny Phoenix, Arizona for the International Reading Association conference, Feb. 21-25. I'll be there with local authors, Linda Bailey and Margriet Ruurs. We're part of a team presenting a day-long symposium titled: 

Spinning Multiple Genres Into Classroom Gold: Writers of fiction, poetry and nonfiction share their expertise, while the 2007 Teacher of the Year weaves their books together with practical classroom writing activities. (See our listing here, under Institute 8.)

I am busily preparing my presentation these days, and getting very familiar with Keynote (the Mac version of PowerPoint). It seems that nothing I ever do is quick. Sigh. But I'm learning a lot, and enjoying the creative part of structuring a presentation with multiple images.

Besides that, I'm bathing suit shopping. No easy task, either. :-)

Sunny weather, here I come!