Monday, March 30, 2009

Burning the Midnight Oil

For many years, I rose early and did my best writing of the day in the morning hours, but life seems to have have turned upside down. Now my most productive writing time is at night, when the house is quiet and the phone rarely rings. I used to marvel at the stories of so many writers who worked at night, and couldn't imagine how they kept their eyes open, let alone found the right words for the page. Now, I've turned into one of those writers, busily working while everyone sleeps. Shh....

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Straddling Time Zones

These days, I've been thinking a lot about how writers work, and how we perpetually inhabit multiple time zones: the past, present and future. To keep ourselves working, we must always be imagining and proposing new projects to our publishers (the future). We are also busily researching, writing and working hard on a current writing project (the present). And finally, we are enthusiastically promoting recently released books that appear new to our reading audience, but actually feel old to us — possibly written up to two years ago (the past). What's it like straddling the time zones? Exciting, rewarding, hectic, and a little bit crazy. But that's the nature of the job, and I wouldn't trade it for anything!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Research, Glorious Research!

I'm deep in research mode, which is one of my favourite parts of writing a book. These days I'm spending a lot of time "dreaming" about what my new book will look like, playing (in my mind) with different formats and voices, and digging into research in the various wonderful ways that the book requires. And fortunately for moi, this new book idea requires me (beyond reading books) to go on field trips, visit markets, watch things grow, and cook and eat delicious local food. I feel my waistline expanding as I type. :-)

This is the first time I've been able to combine my three big interests — books, kids, and cooking — into a single, tantalizing project. What could be more fun than that?!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Phoenix Photo

Here's a photo of some of us from the Phoenix IRA (International Reading Association). Beginning from the left are three authors: Mary Casanova, Margriet Ruurs, and moi, and one of our most enthusiastic audience members, Monica Scarborough. 

This photo was snapped the day after our symposium, when we were signing books in the giant book hall. (Thus, our lovely yellow nametags, allowing us into the hall.) Obviously, we weren't working too hard signing books at the time. :-) It was great fun to have a chance to hobnob with one another. Thanks to Monica for initiating the photo session!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Clever kc dyer!

My blogging pal and fellow author, kc dyer, has a brand new book titled A Walk Through a Window. 

She's also got a very clever promotion going, where her main character, Darby Christopher, interviews mystery authors on her own Darby Speaks blog

Today, I was the mystery author. Go here to read my interview. For a fun read, check back through all of the interviews of mystery authors, and for even more fun, why not attend kc's launch at Kidsbooks in Edgemont Village. (See poster above for details.)

Congratulations, kc! It's a great promotion!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Maywood School's Best Questions Ever!

When I was at Maywood School this week, the students asked me some of the best, most thoughtful questions I've ever been asked. Below is a sampling of what they asked (with my answers in parentheses). Above is more lovely art from the Maywood School hallways.

Which do you prefer: writing or teaching? (I loved being a teacher, and planned to be a teacher forever. I was very surprised to find out that I also really liked writing. Today, I love to write, but I still feel like I'm teaching through my books.)

When you are out in public, do people recognize you? (No.) 

What is your favourite genre to read? (I read everything: fiction and nonfiction — written for adults, kids, and everyone in between. These days I'm very partial to teen fiction.)

Who is your favourite author? (I was stumped by that one. I kept thinking of Emily Bronte, Daphne Du Maurier, and other favourite authors from my past, and then flipping forward to Siobhan Dowd and Sherman Alexie, favourite authors of my present — but I couldn't get the words out. It was like fast-forwarding through a movie of my book-reading life.)

Do you know any famous authors? (I know quite a few children's authors from our local writers and illustrators group: Cwill BC. Most of my friends these days are children's book writers.)

What is your greatest achievement? (Being able to combine my love for kids and my love for books into one great job: that of being a children's book writer.)

What inspires you? (I'm not sure I gave the best answer. I should have said: Great kids like you!)

How much does it cost a publisher to create a book? (About $50,000 a book.)

How can the publisher earn that money back? (It's hard; they have to sell a lot of copies. Also, no one — except for JK Rowling — makes very much money when creating books. There are so many people involved in making a book who need to be paid: the author, illustrator, editor, page designer, art director, copy editor, printer, and so on. People don't write books to make a lot of money. They do it because they love it.)

If you weren't a writer, what would you be? (A baker. I love to cook, especially to make homemade jam and pies. My secret dream is to bake pies to sell at the local farmer's market.)

Have you travelled to other places in the world? (Yes, I love to travel, and have been to a few other countries, including: Mexico, USA, England, and China. There's lots more I'd still like to visit.)

Would you like to write about them? (Yes!)

When you were my age (Grade 7), did you think you would become an author? (No, I had no idea, but I did know that I loved to read. Now that I'm an adult, I realize that kids who love to read often become writers.)

Is writing a good career? (Absolutely! You don't earn a lot, but there are many other rewards — especially — getting to do what you love to do!)

What advice can you give to someone of my age (Grade 7) who wants to be a writer? (Keep writing. Write about things that interest you and matter to you. Keep reading. Read as much as you can, and you will learn a lot about how to put words together. Find places to publish your writing, such as online magazines and websites for young people. The author, Margriet Ruurs, has a website called Kids Write, where kids can send their work and have it posted online. Good luck!)

Wow! What great questions. Thank you to the Maywood Community School intermediate students for really making me think. You made my day (and week, and year)! :-) 

I hope to see you again soon.

Cheers! Deborah

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Maywood Community School

I'd like to send a sincere thank you to Brenda Hain, librarian extraordinaire, and to all the staff and students at Maywood Community School in Burnaby. I spent the last couple of days in
Brenda's library, meeting her intermediate students, and talking about books. It was an amazing time! Thank you to everyone for your kind welcome, and your great enthusiasm. You have a very special school.

I loved the art on your school walls! The mural shown above is a tree formed from the hand prints of all the students in the school. The tree trunk is composed of prints of the students' forearms. The tree is representative of the feeling of the school — that everyone is included and important.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Joyful Jan!

We've reached the final installment in my Phoenix profile series. 

Introducing... Jan Keese, Iowa Teacher of the Year for 2007! 

Jan is a 3rd Grade teacher with enormous passion and dedication. She is so passionate, in fact, that she received the top teacher award for her state, and had the great honour of going to the White House to receive her award from the President of the United States. (Jan's on the right.)

Jan spent the fall using our books in her classroom, and creating writing and literacy activities to accompany them. She brought stacks of writing projects from her students, and shared her results with the assembled audience. We were so impressed!

If you'd like to read about the Teacher of the Year program, go here. If you'd like to be moved by the power of an excellent teacher, check out Jan's video called "Why I Teach" here. Get out your hanky!

That wraps up my series, unless there are any audience members who'd like to send me their photos of the day. If so, I'll post them on this blog if you email them to me.

Thanks for reading! Cheers!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Lively Linda!

Linda Bailey was a key member of our Phoenix symposium, and she is the clever, funny author of picture books, novels and nonfiction, all of which have enormous "kid-appeal." These days, she is probably best known for her Stanley books, the stories about the goofy canine named Stanley, who has a series of funfilled adventures with his doggy pals. The photo here shows Linda with her golden retriever, Sophie, the real-life dog who was the inspiration for Stanley.

Linda and I have been friends for a long time, and I have had the great privilege of having had a ringside seat to her active imagination and creative process, as she worked through her many books. In addition, she was the one, so many years ago, who first urged me to send a manuscript to a publisher. I might never have been brave enough to do that without her encouragement. Thank you, Linda! :-)

Linda's most recent Stanley book, Stanley's Beauty Contest, is newly on the bookstore shelves. I urge you to seek it out. And, if you'd like to find out more about Linda and her charming books, please check her website here.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ticket to the IRA...

I'm taking a brief interlude in my profiles of presenters from the Phoenix symposium to explain how we all got to go to the IRA conference last weekend. 

Margriet Ruurs had the excellent idea of proposing our symposium day to the IRA selection committee, and then asked us all if we'd be willing to participate. (Wasn't she brave?!!!) Once Margriet's proposal was accepted, there was a flurry of activity as the 6 of us prepared slide-show presentations for the day.

Some of us were able to get some financial support from our publishers to attend (a big thank you to Kids Can Press and Tundra Books!), but most of us flew on our own airline points, paid for our own hotels and spoke for free. Why would we do this? Times are tough in the publishing biz, and it's really up to authors and illustrators to do a lot of their own promotion these days. Margriet, clever woman that she is, saw a great opportunity for us to share our books with an audience of amazing literacy specialists and reading teachers. 

It was a wonderful day, and I am thrilled to have taken part, and would do so again in a heartbeat. If you're an author, and keen to go to the IRA, do what Margriet did. Send in a proposal, and get speaking!

For all of you dedicated, reading enthusiasts who were in the audience: It was a real treat to meet you! Thanks so much for kindly (and enthusiastically!) spending the day with us.

Check back soon for the final two profiles: Lively Linda (Bailey) and Joyful Jan (Keese).

So long for now!

Sensational Sara!

Sara Holbrook was the engaging, talented poet in our group at the Phoenix IRA. She performed her poems throughout the day, with tremendous energy and finesse. I was touched by her sensitivity to difficult issues in children's lives, and the way she is able to teach kids to use poetry in a powerful way to express themselves. 

As well as being a marvellous poet, she is a gifted educator, and was able to lead us through a fascinating (and fun!) poetry writing exercise. To find out more about Sara and her clever poems, please check her website here. Some of her poetry collections are titled, The Dog Ate My Homework, Am I Naturally This Crazy, and I Never Said I Wasn't Difficult.

It was a pleasure and privilege to meet Sara and see her perform her poetry. She really inspired me!

More about our other symposium partners to come soon. Cheers!