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. :-)