Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy Holidays!

I wish you all a happy, festive holiday season!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Fall Writing...

Fall in Vancouver is an excellent time to be a writer. The skies are overcast, the rain falls and there is nowhere you'd rather be than hunkered down in your office, running your fingers across the keyboard.

I'm beginning to write a new book (one that I've been researching for a few months) and will be turning my full attention to this literary enterprise.

Blogging may be a little intermittent, as the book comes first. (But I'll squeak in a post when I can.)

Have a happy and productive fall, everyone.


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Winter Conference — Tempting!

When I opened up my email this morning, I found a notice for the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. SCBWI is the acronym for the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and they host fantastic conferences.

I attended the Winter Conference some years ago and learned a lot about the American children's book market. It's tempting to go again. Not only is it professionally a good thing to do, but you get to visit NEW YORK! I love that city.

If you're interested, check out the conference link here.

I will contemplate attending, but I have a busy schedule this year that includes a book deadline, a writer-in-residence assignment, and some travelling.

Think about it. New York! Books! Very tempting.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Beautiful Store!

I made my inaugural visit to Sitka Books & Art this morning, and I was wowed! It's a beautiful store, and I love the selection of books they are carrying. I could have bought a bookcase full. (I restrained myself and only took 4 books to the checkout counter.)

I will shop there regularly and do my best to keep them in business. Now it's your turn! If you live in Vancouver, go visit. Buy a book. Show them we're happy to have a wonderful independent bookstore back in our midst.

Sitka Books & Art: 2025 West 4th Ave.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Great News, Vancouver Booklovers!

Sitka Books and Art is Vancouver's newest independent bookstore and its doors are open now! City booklovers have been waiting all summer for this exciting event.

Stop by, browse their shelves and buy a book. Let's do our part to give them a great start. You can check out their website here, and also read about them on the Talon Books website here.

Sitka's address is: 2025 West 4th Ave, and they are open 7 days a week from 10 am - 6 pm.

Hooray! See you there.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Weekend Events

If you're looking for something literary to do this weekend, here are two events you might like to check out:

Celebrate Science: A BC Sciencefest at the brand-new Beaty Biodiversity Museum (home of the huge blue whale skeleton) at UBC. For details, go here.

And, the cross-Canada fall book celebration: Word on the Street. The program for Vancouver is here.

And where will I be this weekend? Speaking at both events. Hope to see you there!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Thank you, Whitehorse Teachers!

A huge thank you to Sara Tillet and Tanis Giczi, the amazing, energetic Whitehorse teachers who organized the Yukon Teacher's Conference I attended last week.

As one of the 16 visiting authors, I have to say it was one of the best conferences I've been to. It was so well organized and everyone we met exuded that legendary Yukon friendliness. I especially enjoyed meeting the Yukon teachers who attended my sessions. Hi to all of you!

In addition to the conference, here are some of my Whitehorse highlights:

• visiting the Takhini hotsprings on a beautiful sunny afternoon
• attending a reception at the McBride Museum that had a fascinating wildlife display of local animals (see the grizzly bear photo above)
• being served wine in a mason jar at the Klondike restaurant
• seeing the brilliant yellow, fall leaves on the aspen trees
• catching up with talented colleagues from across Canada
• going to the farmer's market and discovering some of the biggest potatoes I've ever seen. (Apparently, the long hours of daylight encourage them to grow to Paul Bunyan size.)
• spending a few afternoons in the bright, warm sun under a clear, blue sky
• experiencing summer temperatures by day; freezing temperatures by night
• flying to and from the Yukon on Air North: they feed you! and serve you delicious coffee that's been roasted in Whitehorse!
• I know there's more, lots more, but I'll stop here, and simply say: It was a great couple of days!

Thanks again, Tanis and Sara. It was a real treat to be there! I can hardly wait to come back.


Monday, September 13, 2010

Yukon Bound!

My presentation is ready and my bags are packed. I'm off to Whitehorse in a day or so to be a speaker at the Yukon Teacher's Conference.

If you'd like to see the line-up of speakers (lots of my hard-working colleagues), you can download the conference schedule here.

I'm really looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones — Yukoners are such friendly folks! — and being in midst of the beautiful Yukon scenery.

Last time I was in Whitehorse, I went to Kathleen Lake (see photo above) and thought it was possibly the most amazing wilderness I had ever encountered.

Rumour has it that we will be visiting Takhini Hot Springs on this trip. Exciting!

Back soon, with a full report.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Book I Wish I'd Written...

This will come as no surprise to my parents and brothers, but I am a HUGE fan of bubble gum. I spent an inordinate amount of time as a child chewing gum and blowing big pink bubbles. (My teeth have paid the price.)

You can imagine my excitement when I read about the new book, POP: The Invention of Bubble Gum by Meghan McCarthy. I will track down a copy to read ASAP. It's a book I really wish I had written (being somewhat of an expert on the topic).

When I first moved away from home and was teaching in a city away from my family, my Dad mailed me an entire tub of bubble gum to keep me company. What a guy!

Going to get the book now, and a package of Double Bubble. Chew, chew, blow, POP!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

First Day Back

School's in today for BC students and teachers. I'd like to wish all of you the best of luck. Have a happy, productive year!


Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 3!

It's Day 3 of the 3-Day Novel Contest, and as they say on the clever 3-Day website, today is fittingly titled, "Do or Die." For more details on how to get through Day 3, check out the Survival Guide section of their website here.

For all of you hunched over your keyboards, while the rest of us are drinking tea, scanning the newspaper and enjoying the last leisurely moments of our holiday weekend, we wish you much strength on the final leg of the contest. It's the literary home stretch.

You can do it! You're almost there! Congratulations!

We're impressed.


Saturday, September 4, 2010

3 Day Novel Contest

Sharpen your pencils! The Labour Day weekend is upon us and it's time, once again, for the 3 Day Novel Contest.

Although this is a contest I will likely never enter (can't write novels, don't write fast), I have such admiration for the writers who take part in this literary marathon. It requires talent, inspiration, dedication, stamina, nerves of steel and a lot of coffee.

Good luck to all the writers who are hunkered down with their computers this morning — especially my Dad, who had planned to start writing at 12:01 am — and may have stayed up all night getting his words on paper.

If you'd like to check on the progress of some of the writers, you can follow the twitter feed here.

We non-participating writers (who are slacking off this weekend) are very, very impressed. A novel in 72 hours! You 3 Day Novel folks all deserve a medal.

May the muse be with you!


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Dear George Clooney

If you are a fan of Susin Nielsen's writing, you are going to love her latest book, Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom. I just finished reading it and thought it was sensational!

It's the story of 12 year old Violet, whose father has run off to LA with a young, blond woman and started another family. Violet is miserable now that her father has seemingly traded in his old life for a new one. And since he left, Violet's mother has had a series of unfortunate boyfriends — the latest being Dudley Weiner. (Can you read that without laughing?) Violet spends much of the novel getting into trouble and coming up with crazy schemes to snag George Clooney, desperately hoping that he will replace Dudley in her mother's affections.

It's a very funny, tightly written novel with many great characters and touching moments of poignancy. There are also lots of wonderful Vancouver references. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

If you'd like to hear Susin Nielsen in person, she's having a launch at Kidsbooks in a couple of weeks. Is George Clooney going to make an appearance? You never know! Check out Susin's website here and launch information here.

Happy Reading!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Launch Thanks!

Thank you to all the kind folks who turned up at our launch last week. We know that many people are on holidays at this time of year, so it was extra-good of you to show up.

It's been a great August with many opportunities to talk about my new book, but as September approaches, it's time to get back to my regular work — which means less time talking to people and more time in front of the computer. I'm looking forward to starting the research on the next book and preparing my talks for some upcoming presentations. Suitably, the rain is back to keep me company as I work.

May you all have a happy long weekend! See you in September. (Isn't that a song?) And thank you for reading this blog. :-)


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You Grow Kid

Thank you to the wonderful folks at yoyomama for their review of Up We Grow! My daughter, the mother of young twin boys, is an avid reader of yoyomama — an online magazine "keeping moms on the go in the know." You can imagine how thrilled I was when they got in touch with me about the book. To read the review, You Grow Kid, go here. Thank you, yoyomama!

And thank you to Sheryl McKay of CBC Radio's North by Northwest for interviewing Brian Harris (photographer for Up We Grow!) and I on her recent show. To hear a podcast of the show, go here. (Our segment is a few minutes in. It runs for about 15 minutes.)

Finally, sincere thanks to you for continuing to read this little blog during the PR blitz. A return to regular programming coming soon. :-)


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Window!

I took my daughter to see the window at Kidsbooks (a display featuring my newest book) and she took this photo. Thanks to Kidsbooks for an amazing window!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Up We Grow! on CBC Radio

A big thank you to Sheryl McKay, host of CBC's show North by Northwest for interviewing photographer, Brian Harris, and I about our new book, Up We Grow! If you'd like to hear the interview, please tune in on Sunday morning (Aug. 22) just after the 7:30 am news.

If you'd like to listen at a different time, the show will be posted on the North by Northwest website as a podcast.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

Very soon, I promise, I will be posting about great books I've read or other writers' news, but for today, I am participating in one final act of shameless self-promotion. Here goes.

You are all invited to my first-ever book launch! (After 15 years of writing, this feels like a momentous event. :-) Please check out the invitation (above) and come to see me talk about my new book, Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm.

My personal guarantee: the food will be local, in season and good!

Hope to see you there.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Braving the Rain!

A big thank you to all the folks who bravely stepped out on a rainy Saturday morning to come to the Trout Lake Farmer's Market and stop by our table to pick up a copy of my new book, Up We Grow! It was great to meet you all!

I have long been a farmer's market shopper, but never before been a vendor. It was fascinating to arrive early in the morning and watch all the farmers set up their tables, unload their food and get ready for the rush of shoppers. It was such a congenial atmosphere! But, clearly, it's also so much work. It requires a real dedication to the cause of growing and selling local food.

Thanks again to everyone who stopped by! It was wonderful to chat with you. I hope to run into you at the market again. (Next time, I'll be there wandering the stalls and filling my cloth bag full of yummy, local veggies.)


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why a Bookstore Owner is an Author's Best Friend...

Wow! A big heartfelt thank you to Phyllis Simon and Kelly McKinnon, owners of Kidsbooks in Vancouver for this amazing window display!

Join us at Kidsbooks for a launch of my new book, Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm on Aug. 26 at 7 pm.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Glen Valley Farm and My New Book

In these beautiful summer days, I'm thinking about the farmers who are growing our food.

The ones I think about most often are the farmers at Glen Valley Organic Farm Cooperative in Abbotsford, BC. (See their photo above.) They are the folks I visited multiple times over the course of a year to write my newest book: Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm.

If you'd like to know more about sustainable farming and the Glen Valley farmers, check out their blog here. They are some of the nicest, hardest working people I know. A big thank you to Chris, Paige, Jeremy and everyone else at the farm! The goats!

And, if you're interested in hearing about how my book was written and seeing its beautiful photos (shot by Brian Harris), you might consider coming to our launch at the Trout Lake Farmer's Market on Aug. 7 at 10:30 am. We will be there for the entire market to chat and sign books.

If you can't make it to Trout Lake, come to Kidsbooks on W. Broadway on Aug. 26 for another launch. The time is: 7-9 pm and, besides a book talk, there will be local food and drink. Delicious! I promise!

Love to see you there!

P.S. If you can't make it to either launch and you'd like a copy of Up We Grow, ask for it at your local bookstore or check for it online.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Summer Bliss

I'm glad to report that we Vancouverites are basking in the beautiful sunshine. It came later than any of us wished, but now that it is here, we are blissful!

Lest you think I'm spending all my days in a lawn chair, sunglasses on, and book in hand, I will let you know that I'm wrapping up a book with one last photo shoot tomorrow, and then — hooray! — off to the printer it goes. It's a book on urban agriculture, and in order to keep my writing in rigourous, truthful shape, I'm tending to a backyard garden. The young children in my family are helping (!) me pick raspberries, peas and strawberries as they come ripe, and we are enjoying gobbling up these bites of summer.

When I do take a moment in my lawn chair (did I mention bliss?), I'm reading a lot of wonderful books. A great one that I just finished is called C'mon Papa: Dispatches from a Dad in the Dark by the talented Ryan Knighton. It's the story of how he copes with the challenges and joys of becoming a first time dad — a handful for anyone — but on top of the usual struggles, are those imposed by his visual impairment. He's legally blind. It's a compelling story, by turns poignant and sad, and then very, very funny. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll be very glad you read it. It's a masterful piece of work.

And that's my summer reading recommendation for today.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Excellent News!

Have you heard the news? A new independent bookstore is opening in Vancouver. Hooray! It's called Sitka Books and Art and is owned by the former manager of Duthie Books, Ria Bleumer. It's going to be located two blocks away from where Duthie's resided on 4th Ave. Read more about it here.

It's been a sad time for book lovers in this city ever since Duthie's (which had been in operation for 53 years) closed last February. For the past few months, I've been slinking around trying to fulfill my book needs by sneaking into Chapters and secretly ordering from Amazon online — but I never felt good about it. (It's hard having a rabid book habit.) I upped my book requests at the Vancouver Library, but the reading material didn't come fast and furious enough for my liking.

Of course, the wonderful Kidsbooks on West Broadway has a great (possibly the greatest) selection of children's books. I will always be loyal to them.

And now Sitka Books will provide me with an excellent place to find adult books. If the store is anywhere as good as Duthie's was, I will be very, very happy.

Congratulations, Ria! I can hardly wait for the opening.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Summer Reading

For those of us who read all year long, I always find it odd to hear about "summer reading." Personally, I like every season of reading. Give me more seasons and more books and I'd be very happy!

What am I reading this summer? I've just finished Another Kind of Cowboy by Susan Juby, which I loved. It was funny and poignant and extremely well written. Highly recommended!

I also recently read Swim The Fly by Don Calame, another YA novel, and one that made me laugh so hard and so often that my family believed I had a case of temporary insanity.

In preparation for my YA book club meeting in the fall, I am about to embark on three novels based on the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. The first, currently sitting on my desk, is Fairest by Newberry Honor Author, Gail Carson Levine. It looks intriguing and I can hardly wait to crack the cover.

Finally, I'm still reading up on food (my current nonfiction reading obsession) and two titles that I am halfway through are The Compassionate Carnivore: Or, How to Keep Animals Happy, Save Old MacDonald's Farm, Reduce Your Hoofprint, and Still Eat Meat by Catherine Friend. The other one is the latest book from celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain, titled, Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook. Hmm... two very different approaches to food and eating, but I'm up for the challenge!

I hope your summer reading looks promising. Feel free to send me any recommendations you may have. There's a lot of days left in the season.


Friday, July 2, 2010

Writing Inspiration...

In case you're wondering where I am next week, I'll be on the wild west coast (see above) getting my annual dose of writing inspiration. What could be better for a writer than miles and miles of beach to walk, and long hours for reading and contemplation?

Perhaps I should mention that my lovely, lively family is coming with me. There may not be quite as much reading and contemplating as I'm imagining. Aren't families grand? :-)

Happy Summer, everyone!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Choo Choo!

Thanks to my friend, Shaun, for taking this photo at Pier 21 in Halifax on his recent trip to the Maritimes. It's good to see my book is travelling around the country. All Aboard!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Martha in the Mirror

Renee Norman, is the talented author of a new book of poems titled, Martha in the Mirror. The subject of the poems is Martha Quest, the famous protagonist of Doris Lessing's books. Renee uses Martha in her poems to reflect upon motherhood, love and loss, and other female experiences.

Last week, I went to the launch for this book and am so pleased to have attended this event. It turned out to be one of the best launches I've been to. Not only did Renee read her poems, she invited 3 other poets to share their poems with the audience. We were able to close our eyes and spend an hour immersed in words, sounds and images.

I didn't know many people at the event, but my long-time publishing pal and children's poet, Robert Heidebreder, turned up. So we sat together and chatted about books and the publishing industry, and also about how much we loved poetry and how we seldom take the time to hear it.

I don't get to all the launches I'm invited to, but I will make a point of trying to attend more. What a great way to reflect on words and books, and toast the success of friends in the publishing world. Congratulations, Renee!


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Quiet on the Blog

I just noticed that my previous blog entry was weeks ago and wondered where the time went? Then I remembered...

Blog activity takes place in inverse proportion to book writing activity, and of late, book writing has been taking up a lot of my time. We are at the stage where we are writing cover copy and making small text adjustments to match the photos (also in final selection stage), and basically wrapping up all the tiny details before my most recent book heads off to the printer.

I love this stage because it's all about fine-tuning and getting the best possible book. (I much prefer it to the first draft stage, which is just HARD.) In this stage, it's exciting to see the work of previous months come to fruition. I also know it won't be long until I am holding the new book in my hands and that makes it all very exciting!

Back to the fine-tuning now. Wish me luck.


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Favourite Childhood Book

Several times in the last couple of weeks, I have been asked what my favourite book as a child was. Although I could easily answer: All of them! (because I was an avid reader who devoured almost everything to be had in book form), there are a couple of books that stand out.

One is a novel titled: The Nine Questions by Edward Fenton. I still have my copy of this wonderful book, given to me by my grandparents on my 10th birthday.

It's the story of Willie Boy who wakes up one morning and is told he must leave the old woman who has cared for him most of his life. She gives him an ancient watch, a tattered hunting cap, a tarnished silver whistle and a warm feather bag — items she has kept for him since he was brought to her door as an infant, years ago, by a frightened young woman.

The old woman tells him it is time for him to seek his father and his fortune in the Weaver's Country, far away. Willie Boy sets off on a journey that takes him through many magical and fantastical places, where he always encounters a dark and troubling underside. At each place, he faces an evil villan who changes identity throughout the story and relentlessly tries to take Willie Boy's possessions from him.

Willie Boy makes friends with lovely Gabriella and a group of kind animals who come to his rescue when he is in danger. They travel with him to a foreboding castle in Weaver's Country, where Willy Boy must answer the Interrogator's Nine Questions that will decide his fate.

Wow! What a great story. It's a compelling mix of magic, realism and suspense — a perfect book for a 10 year old avid reader. A big thank you to my grandparents, who always knew the right gifts to give me.

Now that I've taken the book off the shelf to look at, I plan to read it again. Fingers crossed the story has held up over time.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Literiffic Day

A big thank you to the students and staff, especially teacher-librarian Karen Ferguson, of Moody Middle School for inviting me to your fabulous Literiffic Day. It was good to meet you all and speak to audiences who clearly love books as much as I do.

Also presenting today were fellow authors, Glen Huser, Diane Tullson, and Dan Bar-el.

Thank you for the Moody Middle School coffee mug and pens, both of which will get extensive use in my office over the next few months. They are perfect gifts for a writer.

I would have loved to take part in your school-wide Jeopardy game today. It sounded like great fun.

Take care, have a wonderful summer and keep reading!


Sunday, May 23, 2010

No Moon

I've just finished reading No Moon, the latest novel from talented author, Irene Watts. It's the story of 16 year old Louisa Gardiner, employed as a nanny, who sails on the Titanic with her two young charges.

I won't tell you what happens but I can say that it is a lovely book with a well-told story and interesting historical detail. I know that Irene travelled to Halifax to visit the Maritime Museum and study the Titanic catastrophe. Her research clearly paid off — we learn a lot about the social order of the time and how this played out in who survived the sinking of the mammoth ship.

Even though it is a brand-new book, Irene has already received some excellent reviews, including a starred review in Quill and Quire. Well done, Irene!

If you're looking for a great read, pick up this book. I highly recommend it.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Sneak Preview!

I opened the mail today and found an advance copy of my newest book, due to hit the stores in August. Very exciting!

To research this book, I spent a year visiting an organic, cooperative farm in the Fraser Valley. Not only did I learn a lot about sustainable farming, I came to LOVE organic butter (something of an occupational hazard for a sedentary author).

A big thank you to Brian Harris, the wonderful photographer for this book! Check out his website here.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

More on Literacy for Life

The Literacy for Life Conference was inspiring!

The organizers, John Barton and Judy Ostrander, newly retired school principal and vice principal, gathered together an amazing group of people to share books and ideas on literacy. It was the fifth conference they have successfully organized.

About 4000 Saskatoon students and their teachers were invited to the university campus to hear authors speak. The organizers were excellent fundraisers and managed to get the wide support of their community and business leaders in order to host the conference. This allowed all the students to attend at no cost to themselves. Wow!

I was one of the authors kindly invited to speak, and was impressed by both the organization of this massive event, as well as the genuine enthusiasm and interest we encountered from all of our audiences.

Over the courses of two days, I did 8 presentations and each of my audiences probably held 250 students and teachers. Thank goodness, I had developed a slide-show presentation and was given a microphone. Otherwise, I would have been thoroughly intimidated! There was no need for nervousness, however. Every presentation I made was received with warmth and kindness. Thank you, Saskatoon students and teachers!

Also on the program were authors: Frieda Wishinsky, Marie Louise Gay, Marsha Skrypuch and 5 others, including illustrator, Bill Slavin. It was so much fun to spend time with the other presenters, and really learn from each other (and share lots of laughs).

Our hosts provided us with the legendary hospitality that the prairies are so famous for. We dined at a huge banquet, ate a catered dinner at one of the host's homes, and had a third dinner at a wonderful "Eaton's Catalogue House" on a farm just outside the city. This was a house that was ordered out of the catalogue in the early 1900s and shipped in pieces on the train. When it got to the farm, it had to be assembled. The house was still in excellent condition and we dined on farm-fresh food, including homemade bread and butter. Mmm...

As a gift to the presenters, each of us received two pieces of beautiful art from talented Saskatoon students. One of mine was a wonderful portrait of me with a huge smile, drawn by Samantha in Grade One. The second piece of art was a detailed etching of prairie grain elevator by Benjamin in Grade Six. They are gifts that will find a place of honour in my home. Thank you, Samantha and Benjamin!

I will remember this conference fondly. I was sad to leave the people, but glad to come home to the sunshine. Even though it is mid-May, it was snowing in Saskatchewan! :-)


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Saskatoon Students, Staff, Teachers and Organizers of the Literacy for Life Conference,

Thank you for an amazing week in your city! It was wonderful to be in the midst of your legendary prairie hospitality and to meet so many people who love books.

I could not have had a better time.

With my sincere thanks and best wishes,


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hello Saskatoon!

Dear Saskatoon Students,

I am really looking forward to seeing you next week at the Literacy For Life Conference in your wonderful city!

I'm busy this week getting my presentations ready and can hardly wait to talk to you about books, reading, wild animals and lots more. (For a preview, check out the wild animal sounds on the Kids Page of my website.)

When I fly into Saskatchewan, I love looking down at the long stretches of flat land, and seeing your big, beautiful sky. Did you know I was born in Moose Jaw? It's always exciting to return to my home province.

See you all very soon!


Sunday, April 25, 2010

BC Book Prizes: Congratulations All!

Last night, authors and booklovers gathered in Victoria to celebrate the best BC books of the past year.

Congratulations to all the winners and nominees! In the children's categories, Dean Griffiths with Frieda Wishinsky, and Carrie Mac were the winners of the illustrated prize and the novel prize respectively. Their books are: Maggie Can't Wait and The Gryphon Project. The other nominees in those categories are to be commended also.

I was especially pleased to see that the winner of the nonfiction prize was Lorna Crozier for her book, Small Beneath the Sky: A Prairie Memoir. It was one of the best books I read this year, and being from Saskatchewan myself, one that really spoke to me. (See an earlier post on this book.)

If you'd like to read the Victoria Times Colonist article on the events of the evening and winners in other categories, please see here. For more information on all the nominated titles, go here.

I wish I'd been able to attend the Gala. It's one of my favourite book events of the year. There's something very magical about being in a huge room full of authors and people who love books. If you've never attended, consider it for next year. It's a wonderful event.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Happy Earth Day!

To the small children playing in the parks,

feeling the warmth of the sun,

seeing the beauty of the blossoms,

and hearing the song of the birds,

Happy Earth Day!!!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Quick Hello

It may seem as though I have entirely forgotten that I have a blog, but the truth is I am working hard on two books at the moment. I am revising one and researching another. I am also keenly aware that I have a big presentation coming up in the near future that I need to prepare for.

So, the blog may seem quiet, but I haven't forgotten about it. Once I get the revision done (fingers crossed!), I will surface again.

To all of you who have been helping me in the research of my new book by sending me personal stories of your past, I am exceedingly grateful! Thank you so very much.

Back soon.


Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ethical Food Reading

I've written a couple of books recently that are about the weighty subjects of where our food comes and how to eat in an ethical and sustainable way, and it's been an interesting journey, both in a literary and culinary sense. Many of my food habits, so long taken for granted, have changed as a result of my research. So have some of my reading habits. I now stop off at Barbara Jo's Book to Cooks on a regular basis to find out what else I can consume (literarily) on the subject.

I just finished a fascinating book by Tara Austen Weaver titled, "The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat and Moral Crisis." Ms. Austen, who was raised as a strict vegetarian, is suffering from health problems and decides to try eating meat to see if her ailments can be cured. Her story is a first-person account of how she bridged the gap from vegetarian to carnivore. I won't give the ending away, or reveal what she concludes about her health, but I will tell you it is a rivetting read. Will you be eating meat by the end of it? That's for you to decide.

Highly recommended!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rural England

I took the weekend off from my research and went to visit family in the countryside, south of London. These are some photos from the area (East Sussex).

The buildings in the village I visited were made of brick and stone. Many of them were 200 or more years old. The fields that surrounded the village were serene and pastoral, and quite frankly, I felt as though I'd stepped back in time and into an episode of All Creatures Great and Small (the story of James Herriot, the vet).

A famous poet and novelist, Malcolm Lowry, spent his last days in this village, and the sign on the house shows his final home.

I loved the old church! We spent some time searching out family gravestones in the cemetery there.

It was most interesting to see England, the modern and historical, and the urban and rural. A rich experience, all in all.

Cheers! (Or should I say: Cheerio!)

London Photos

As promised, I'm posting a few photos from my recent trip. These London photos show the area around the South Bank, on the Thames, where my hotel was located. The day I arrived was sunny and spring-like, but the weather soon changed to rain and wind. (Note the light in the photos and guess which one was taken early in the trip.)

From my hotel room, I was able to look across the river and see the Parliament Buildings. I could hear the chimes of Big Ben every hour on the hour. And, one day, I took a boat ride along the Thames to Greenwich. Wonderful!

London is an amazing city to do research in. There are many museums and libraries full of historical information. My only regret is that these places are so far from home!

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Magnolia!

I'm back from my whirlwind trip to London and am pleased to say I got much accomplished, both in my research and in reconnecting with UK family members.

The jet lag is fading, thank goodness, and I am ready to leap into my regular life here, revising a manuscript and beginning work on a new book.

But, for today, we celebrate the wonders of the magnolia tree, especially this beautiful one that is in full bloom in my front yard. Once a year, we are treated to the splendour of its glorious blossoms and I was sad believing I would miss seeing it while in London. Imagine my delight at arriving home and finding this lovely scene! We will enjoy the tree's beauty for a few more days before the blossoms fall and cover the lawn like petals of snow.

Back soon with London photos.

Happy Spring!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

London Bound

As I mentioned earlier, I am departing on a trip to London in the next few days — a joint family holiday (to see English relatives) and research trip for an upcoming book. That means spending a lot of time in museums and libraries between enjoying a series of fun, family get-togethers. What could be better for a non-fiction writer?

My suitcase has been retrieved from the closet and I am debating which clothes to pack — difficult for 2 reasons: a) writers don't leave the house much and, therefore, are not usually the owners of a smashing wardrobe, and b) we are in the midst of a season change and I don't know whether to pack cold or warm weather clothes. But that is a minimal worry compared to the weighty task of picking out books for the plane.

Nine hours on a plane each way is a challenge for me. The only way I can manage to avoid a full-blown panic attack is to have a carry-on case full of books, and it has been my mission this week to find my reading material.

Collected thus far is: an 800 page YA novel titled, This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn (should keep me entertained for a few hours); The Butcher and the Vegetarian: One Woman's Romp Through a World of Men, Meat and Moral Crisis (I'm currently educating myself on issues related to ethical and sustainable eating, and my alternate career choice is to become a chef); The Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing (3rd career choice); and The Kindness of Strangers: Tales of Fate and Fortune on the Road (I may need some inspiration).

These are a start and I plan to add to my bibliographic arsenal over the remaining couple of days before I board the plane. If you have any further suggestions for me, please send them ASAP.

While I am very excited about my trip, I have one tiny note of regret. My huge, beautiful magnolia tree is full of blossoms that are almost ready to open. I will miss seeing the tree's glorious annual performance. Sigh. Life is full of complications.

But, I am London bound and excited! I will post again in early April when I'm back. Until then, adieu my friends.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Manuscript Finished

It's done! Signed, sealed and delivered.

Now, of course the waiting begins. And the self-doubt. Will anybody like it? Will my editor send it right back and say: "Try again." Ah well... the perplexing, complicated life of a writer. We love our work and we anguish over it.

What now? (besides waiting to hear) Clean my office, re-connect with my family and friends. And in a week: a trip to London. More about that later.

Until then, I hope you are having a happy and productive spring.


Thursday, March 4, 2010

All Quiet

All is quiet on the Olympic front. The music has gone, and so have the hundreds of thousands of visitors who lined our city streets. In many ways, I feel sad that the party is over.

On the other hand... I'm hunkered down in my office, where the only sounds I hear are the birds singing outside my window. I am hard at work putting the finishing touches on a manuscript that is due in a week. Quiet is good.

Will be back once the manuscript is done. For now, I bid you adieu.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Go Hailey!

It's not easy to work on my manuscript when the amazing and wonderful Olympic games are happening right here in my own city. The streets are full of international visitors and happy Canadians, and I know that at almost every minute, there's some exciting event I could be attending or watching on the screen.

From my office at night (including right now!), I can hear the festive music and fireworks that celebrate each day's big events. And today was a big event: The Canadian women's hockey team won the gold medal. Go Canada!

Hailey Wickenheiser, the team captain, was inspirational as always, and watching her reminded me of a great children's book about this talented hockey star. If there are kids in your life, it's a book worth picking up for them. Check out: Hailey Wickenheiser: Born to Play by Elizabeth Etue, published by Kids Can Press.

And now, it's back to work... Wish me luck. (Can you hear the music?)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Olympic Hightlights: One Writer's View

I'm looking out my office window at clear, blue skies and bright, beautiful sunshine. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was in Phoenix, Arizona rather than Vancouver, BC — home to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

Amidst the blooming crocuses and the robins singing in the trees, are 250,000 visitors from all around the world. And what wonderful visitors they are! Contrary to the hard-hitting media reports surfacing in London and other places, I'm pleased to report that from my vantage point, the city and the games all look pretty good!

I was downtown in the heart of Olympic celebrations the other night and felt as though I was in Times Square in New York. We rubbed shoulders with hundreds (thousands?) of happy and excited folks, and heard languages from all over the globe.

I also attended a women's hockey game and it was sensational: Sweden vs Switzerland (3-0 respectively) and had so much fun!

From what I've seen: people are happy; the sun is shining; transit is working well; and lots of fine young athletes are participating in the dream of a lifetime. What's not to like?

(Not to mention that our city of mountains and ocean is looking pretty stunning under the blue skies and bright sunshine.)

Some of my writer friends decided to go elsewhere for the duration of the games, and I understand their reasoning. At the moment, it's pretty tough to find the quiet and solitude you need to write your manuscript.

In spite of the buzz, however, I'm happy to report that I'm zipping along on my current manuscript. I'm trying to hunker down in quiet and solitude for at least a few hours a day. It seems to be working.

Go Canada!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Narrative Nonfiction

I've been reading a lot of narrative nonfiction lately, and enjoying it a great deal. There's a real art to telling true stories in a compelling way.

Two recent titles I've read are Hurry Down Sunshine: A Memoir by Michael Greenberg, and A Nurse's Story: Life, Death and In-Between in an Intensive Care Unit by Tilda Shalof.

Hurry Down Sunshine tells the extraordinary story of the summer when the author's fifteen year old daughter was struck with a mental illness and the psychological journey, including her hospitalization, that the two of them take. It's a fascinating, touching and well-told story.

A Nurse's Story is equally rivetting and full of the kind of information my mother, a nursing instructor, used to love to shock us with at the dinner table. (Maybe she wasn't trying to shock us, but we were shocked nonetheless. :-) In this book, I learned about the life and death decisions ICU nurses have to make every day.

Both books were helpful to me when the youngest member of our family was recently hospitalized with double pneumonia. I'm very happy to say he is now home and doing well, and we are grateful for the excellent medical care he received.

Thanks to these two books for helping me understand the important work that healthcare professionals perform on a daily basis.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Words To Ponder

I just read an excellent quote for writers I thought I'd share today. It is:

"We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives."

--Toni Morrison

Friday, January 29, 2010

Writing, Writing, Writing

I was worried after the holidays that I wasn't going to be able to find the words for a new nonfiction picture book I'm working on, but I'm pleased to report — the words are coming!

With every new book, I wonder: Will this be the last one I'm able to write? I don't take it for granted that the words will keep coming, and am very grateful when they actually show up.

I'm hunkered over my keyboard, letting the words come out. There's going to be interruptions soon — the Olympics are coming to Vancouver — and none of us have any idea how that's going to affect our daily lives. So, I am working hard now, and trying to get as much done as I can. Wish me luck!

For all of you other wordsmiths out there, I hope the words are flowing for you, too.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Farm City

I've just finished reading the fascinating account of an urban farmer, Novella Carpenter. Her book, Farm City: The Education of an Urban Farmer, tells the story of her experience growing vegetables and raising farm animals — bees, chickens, turkeys, rabbits and PIGS — on a vacant lot in a rough section of Oakland (she calls it the ghetto). It's an unusual and amazing story of how she creates a garden haven in a gritty urban centre. Even more amazing is how she and her boyfriend scavenge food for their pigs by raiding dumpsters in back alleys behind restaurants.

When farmers raise meat animals, you know there's more to it than tossing them food. You've got to be prepared to make the animals into meat, and that's what she does. Then she invites the neighbours over to feast on an astonishing array of food that she has raised and processed all on her own.

Aside from the vegetable growing (and writing about it), it's not a life I'd choose for myself, but the book provides lively reading and raises the question of why most of us are not doing more to create agriculture in the places where we live.

It's a good story, well told. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sad Day for Book Lovers

I am so sad to read the news today that Vancouver's longest-running, independent bookstore is closing up shop. Duthie Books is where my family has always bought books. They have been in business for some 50 years, providing Vancouverites with an excellent source of reading material. The staff was extremely knowledgeable and consistently helpful. It is a store that I will sorely miss.

I haved loved carrying my books in their cloth bag, which was decorated with the phrase, "Littera Scripta Manet," meaning, "the written word endures." I will continue to carry the bag and think fondly of all the books I have purchased from their store over years.

Thank you Duthie Books for many years of fine reading. I wish you and your staff all the best in the coming months and years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Garden

While sniffling through my annual post-holiday cold, and waiting for the Vitamin C to do its work, I passed a few afternoons last week catching up on my DVD watching. The best movie I saw was a documentary called The Garden. It's the story of North America's largest urban garden — 14 acres! — situated in South Central Los Angeles. It was both an inspiring and heart-wrenching story.

Inspiring because it told the true tale of a lush, beautiful garden created by local Latino residents following the L.A. riots of 1992. There were apple and papaya trees, corn, and almost every vegetable you can imagine. Families worked hard to grow their own food and feed themselves in the midst of a huge, sprawling urban centre. There were many scenes of multi-generational families lovingly tending this amazing garden oasis.

The story was also heart-wrenching because not everyone believed the garden should continue to exist. The film relates the struggle of the gardeners who try their hardest to hold on to the land, as the city, a developer, and a few shady characters do their best to destroy the garden and reclaim the space.

I won't give the ending away, but I will say that this is a documentary worth watching. If you have an interest in urban agriculture, or in the power of the human spirit, check out this film.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Children's Writers and Illustrators Market

Over the years, one of my most consistent January purchases has been the new edition of The Children's Writers and Illustrators Market, edited by Alice Pope. It is a wonderful resource for anyone writing books for kids. It includes articles about how to get published and information on hundreds of publishers and what they are looking for. In addition, there are profiles of new and established authors and illustrators.

One of our local authors, Fiona Bayrock, writes articles for this publication, and she kindly interviewed me and two other local writers, Melanie Jackson and Pam Withers, about our experiences in writing series for kids. If you'd like to read the text of this interview, you can pick up the January 2010 edition of the book (see page 117) or read it here on Pam's website. (I had planned to post it on my website, but Pam is clearly much more organized than I!) The title of the article is Writing Series: Three Authors Tell All.

A big thank you to Fiona for including me, and hello to Pam and Melanie, excellent writers all! To check out any of their websites, please click on their names above.


Sunday, January 3, 2010

A New Year Begins!

Happy New Year!

Here we are in 2010, a number that feels a bit science-fiction-y to me. I hope you've had a happy holiday time. I'm pleased to report that our celebrations (Christmas, New Year's and multiple family birthdays) went off without a hitch. We had a lovely time!

As a writer, of course, I look forward to getting back to my quieter life where I spend much of my day in solitude, reading, researching and writing. I will leap into the new year by writing a new book, and am looking forward to the challenges it presents.

I wish you all a happy, healthy and productive New Year. Thank you for kindly reading this little blog. I appreciate it. :-)