Thursday, October 29, 2009

Happy Hallowe'en!

It's dark and rainy. The wind is blowing. The leaves are falling. It's getting very spooky out there.

Happy Hallowe'en to all the little ghosts and goblins!

Have fun! Be safe!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Prairie Horizons Conference

I've been meaning to write about this conference ever since I returned home from Saskatchewan in September, but life and writing seems to have gotten in the way.

CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers) has a prairie gathering every two years, and this year was my first time to attend. I was a little nervous, attending on my own, but as I have always heard, prairie people are amazingly friendly, and I had a wonderful time!

The conference was held over a weekend at a conference retreat centre (St. Michael's) in Lumsden, in the beautiful Qu'Appelle Valley. It was summer weather (31˚C) and lovely. There were probably 50 attendees in total, and many (but not all) were published. The best part of the weekend for me was listening to the Open Mic night, where anyone could take 5 minutes to read or perform their work. I loved hearing the variety of writing, including fantasy, picture books, song lyrics and poetry. (I think I may have been one of the few nonfiction writers in the crowd.) What a talented group they were!

My favourite performance of the night was hearing a song, composed and sung, by Saskatchewan high school teacher, Sheena Koops. She had a beautiful voice, a delicate guitar strumming style, and a polished performance. What impressed me most was her ability to put all of those qualities together with her writing talent, into a song that made a big impact on everyone. It was called, "I Remember You, Grandpa" and it was the story of Sheena's two grandfathers during the time of the Second World War. One grandfather was a pacifist and the other was a soldier. Sheena's song is the story of how she loved them both, and how she came to terms with her own feelings about war, in light of a complicated family history. In the end, she celebrated both her grandfathers, and was able to make sense of a tricky issue. I was impressed! It's a song that should be heard at every Remembrance Day ceremony.

I'm hoping Sheena will record her song. For now, she has been performing it for folks like us, and at her local farmer's market. I wish her great success, with both her writing and musical ventures.

For your viewing pleasure, I'm posting a photo of Sheena and I at the conference. :-)

I encourage every children's writer and illustrator to get on a plane to Regina in September 2011 for the next Canscaip Prairie Conference. It was a memorable weekend for me, and one I hope to repeat again and again.


Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Governor General's Award Nomination!

Congratulations to my dear friend and fellow author, Shelley Hrdlitschka, for her nomination for Canada's most prestigious literary award--the Governor General's Award for Literature in the Children and Youth Category. Wow! That is a wonderful achievement. Her nominated book, Sister Wife, tells the heart-wrenching story of a teenage girl living in a restrictive polygamous community, and the choices she must make for her future.

I've been friends with Shelley for a long time and I know how hard she works and also how talented she is. If there's anyone who deserves this nomination, it's her! Hooray!

If you haven't read the book, go straight to your local library or bookstore. It's a book well worth reading.

Congratulations, Shelley! Fingers crossed. :-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

I Love Summer, I Love Fall (I think)

I love summer heat, I love summer sun, I wish it could always be summer. But it can't (at least not here in the northern hemisphere), so I try to love fall, too.

Fall is book season. And that makes it one great season to love. I've been to several book events already this month, but my favourite so far was the book launch at Vancouver Kidsbooks the other night, where my two talented pals, Beryl Young and Norma Charles, were launching their new books.

Beryl's book, Charlie: A Home Child's Life in Canada, is the true and poignant story of her Dad, who came to Canada as a Bernardo Boy.

Norma's Book, Chasing a Star, is the story of young Sophie La Grange who is dying to meet Barbara Ann Scott, the famous Canadian figure skater.

It was a real treat to hear both authors talk passionately about their books, and it was fun to be part of the audience.

Check out their books for some great fall reading. Soon, you'll love fall, too!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moose Jaw Photos

Returning to Moose Jaw, the place of my birth, was a wonderful time of travelling back into family reminiscences. I didn't grow up in Moose Jaw, and was only a small child there, but I had a strong sense (while strolling the city) of remembering places that were important to my family. I took photos of some of these places for my parents, and now offer a few to you. The photo above is the home where I was born, and the place where I lived with my parents and older sister. (We lived on the top floor and there are family photos of us, sitting together on the front steps.)

This is Crescent Park, a lovely green space in the centre of the city, where my parents played as children, and so did I. The public library building sits in this beautiful park.

Here are the ducks at Crescent Park. My parents tell me that graceful, white swans also used to nest and swim here.

Here's the Moose Jaw Public Library -- a place of enormous importance in our family. Books have always played a huge part in our lives, and I like to think this is where it all began. Although I have no memory of it, it's fun to imagine my parents and grandparents walking up these stairs into the library, perusing the books, then leaving the library with arms loaded, in eager anticipation of the wonderful reading they were about to do.

While at the library, I stopped in to meet Arwen Rudolph, the current children's librarian. She is fortunate to have a huge, beautiful space for her books, and it was one of the nicest children's libraries I have ever seen. I loved thinking that, in no small measure, this was the place that gave me my start.