Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

Sending you my best west coast wishes for a happy and healthy 2016. May your year be full of family and friends — and many good books to read!


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Holidays!

I love this image of children around the world holding hands. (It is from the Unicef calendar.) What a lovely sentiment — one full of promise and hope.

The holiday season is upon us and, in my part of the world, school closes tomorrow for the winter break. (I can hear the children cheering from here.)

As the festivities get underway, I wish you a very happy time with family and friends, and a promising, hopeful start to the New Year!


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What a Party!

I was in Toronto last weekend taking part in a celebration of fall titles from Groundwood Books. And what an amazing weekend it was!

The event took place at the Koffler Centre of the Arts, a venue that had a lovely vintage-style theatre, with plush red seats and excellent lighting. Children and families, and booklovers from the Toronto area turned up to hear readings from the authors and watch the talented illustrators draw.

Following each reading, the children were invited to move to the centre’s cafĂ© and common area to create a book-related craft. I saw wonderful masks to complement Danielle Daniel’s book Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox and charming farm scenes to accompany Grant and Tillie Go Walking by Monica Kulling and Sydney Smith. There were also pirate hats to go with the story Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff. For my book, West Coast Wild, the children made glittering jellyfish with long waving tendrils cut out of ribbon.

There were yummy snacks, mugs of coffee and tea, and a congenial feeling all around as parents chatted and children played. Authors, illustrators and booklovers from near and far got to know one another. It couldn’t have been a better afternoon. :-)

Many thanks to Groundwood Books for hosting such a successful and enjoyable event!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's a Party!

My lovely and amazing publisher, Groundwood Books, has kindly invited me to Toronto in a few weeks (Nov. 21) to talk to children about my new book West Coast Wild. It's bound to be a fun afternoon, with a lively group of Groundwood authors and illustrators showing their latest works, and leading delightful craft activities that are theme-related to the books. (Would you like to make a sparkling jellyfish?)

If you are in the area, please join us! Check out the poster above for all the details. 

Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Vancouver Writers Fest

Last week, we Vancouverites celebrated books in a big way at the Vancouver Writers Fest. It was an amazing program with many talented authors.

An event I enjoyed so much was titled, Belonging, featuring memoir authors: Brian Brett, Charles Demers, Camilla Gibb and Micheal V. Smith. The theme as noted in the program was, “All sorrows can be born if you put them into a story or tell a story about them,” Isak Dinesen.

The authors each read a moving passage from their book and then spoke about events in their lives that had inspired their work. Their words, both print and spoken, were eloquent.

Much tragedy had been overcome or at least put into perspective through the penning of these books. Ultimately, there was a message of hope and love and moving forward.

It was an inspiring afternoon and one I won’t soon forget.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Thank you, Teacher-Librarians!

I am working on a presentation for the BC Teacher-Librarian Association conference that takes place next week. As I prepare my slide-show, I've been thinking about my gratitude to librarians and the valuable work they do. Such a noble calling!

Much of the great learning that happens in schools is a result of the dedication and enthusiasm of the librarians who support students and their classroom projects with a librarian's wide knowledge of books and finely-honed research skills.

Sadly, funding for school libraries has dropped dramatically in recent times and most school libraries do not have a full-time librarian. Some schools have no librarian at all and the library is run by clerical staff or parent volunteers instead.

Meanwhile, many librarians have returned to classroom teaching or they shuttle back and forth between two or three schools, trying to keep all the libraries in their care up-to-date and functioning. An impossible task, I'd say.

So, in this lead up to the conference, I'd like to say an enormous thank you to the teacher-librarians of this world. You have my total support and appreciation. I know that your work is crucial to the development of literacy and the ongoing success of kids in school. I am very grateful.

See you next week!

Friday, October 2, 2015

In Praise of Story Time

When I was a teacher, I might have held the record for the longest daily story time in my school. Every afternoon, right after lunch, the students and I enjoyed book after book and were always reluctant to move on to the next activity on the program.

I was told by the teacher-librarian that I was the most frequent visitor to the school's library and, as was true in my life outside of my teaching job, I was often found in the hallways struggling under the weight of a staggering armload of books.

Why? I love books and reading. This fascination with the printed word began in the early days of my childhood and has continued until today.

Now that I am no longer teaching, I read stacks of books to the small children in my family, carrying on a wonderful tradition that began with my parents and grandparents (and likely beyond).

All this to say, let's read more to our children. Let's make story time in schools one of the most important features of the day. Let's choose a wide variety of books: long, short, old, new, wordless, poetic, books with heart, books with humour and books that celebrate who we are, in both fiction and nonfiction.

A great story is a gift to a child. One that can last a lifetime.

Let's get reading.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Behind the Scenes... A New Book

Not being a "centre-stage" kind of gal, I am feeling a bit shy about this, but here goes.

Today, my lovely publisher, Groundwood Books, has posted a guest blog by moi that is a behind-the-scenes look at how my new book West Coast Wild was created. You can read about my "Thelma and Louise" style trip to the far west coast of Vancouver Island with the amazing (and fun!) illustrator, Karen Reczuch.

Here's the link: Groundwood Guest Post.

Hope you enjoy it.

(Going back into hiding now.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Back to School!

It is September and in my part of the world, today is the first school day of the year. I'm thinking about all the children and teachers who are gathering in their classrooms, full of enthusiasm and good cheer.

My friend, Margriet Ruurs, has written a wonderful book called School Days Around the World. The charming image above of students arm-in-arm is from the book and created by illustrator, Alice Feagan.

As a writer and speaker, Margriet has travelled around the world, visiting many countries and presenting in dozens of international schools. She has friends everywhere! And she knows what school is like in a myriad of places.

To find out more about schools in other parts of the world, I recommend picking up a copy of her book and sharing it with the young children in your life.

And if you are back at school this fall, I send my very best wishes for a happy and productive year!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Thank you, Munro's Books!

Imagine my surprise (and delight!) upon checking into my Facebook page and seeing a lovely post from Munro's Books — the iconic bookstore in Victoria, BC and one of my favourite bookstores in the world.

Here's what I saw:

"We just adore this gorgeous coastal picture book from Groundwood Books. Filled with stunning art and descriptions of our flora and fauna, this alphabet book makes us feel lucky to live here."

Thank you so much, Munro's Books! I feel lucky to live here too. I hope to visit your wonderful bookstore soon.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

My "Staycation" Summer

For the most part, I've had a "staycation" kind of summer (who invented that word anyway???). Other than a trip to the west coast of Vancouver Island in early July, I have been firmly planted at home.

It's not that I didn't want to go somewhere — I would have happily visited Haida Gwaii, the Great Bear Rainforest, Desolation Sound, the Saskatchewan prairies where I was born, or even Newfoundland! All of these places have great appeal for me.

It's just that the sun was shining brightly in our fair city, the sidewalk patios by the ocean were inviting, the garden was in full bloom, and visitors were arriving in town to see us. So, it became a summer at home.

Added to the list of reasons to stay put were a series of small but necessary projects including: updating my website, writing a teacher's guide for my latest book and re-organizing my computer's filing system.

But there is satisfaction in getting these jobs done and looking forward to the fall where I will spend most of my time (I hope) writing something new. I have cleared the decks! No excuses now.

And with thanks to my dad, who is also a writer, here are two great quotes. The first is from C.S. Forester, who penned The African Queen and many other titles. He said, "A man who writes for a living does not have to go anywhere in particular, and he could rarely afford to if he wanted."

And the second quote (again via my dad) is from William Faulkner, the Nobel Prize winning author and stay-at-home writer, who said, "I have travelled far in the town of Oxford, Mississippi."

As I've discovered over the years, we writers can easily wander in our imaginations. No need to book a trip anywhere!


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Festival Fun (Looking ahead!)

The program to the Vancouver Writer's Fest arrived in my mailbox last week and it has been fun looking through the wealth of festival offerings. Lots of great authors are coming to town to wow us with their new books. It's exciting!

And from our very own city, are some wonderful authors too. Congrats to my friend and colleague Tanya Kyi! You can read about her festival events here.

I'm a festival member and one of the benefits of membership (a bargain at $25 a year) is being able to buy tickets before they are released for general purchase.

The pages of my program are now flagged with a zillion brightly coloured sticky notes marking the sessions that interest me most. The difficult next step is to narrow down these choices into something more manageable. Help!

(Member tickets go on sale on Sept. 1. Tickets for the public's purchase on Sept. 8.)

The festival is in late October, so it's a long wait — but it is entertaining to contemplate the fall readings schedule as we amble through the remainder of this hot, dry west coast summer. (Where is the rain???)


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Dreaming of Rain

Here on the west coast, we live in a rainforest, and are used to rain of every variety: from a fine mist to gentle showers, or from a steady sprinkle to pelting cloudbursts, and even torrential monsoon-like downpours in the long days of winter.

Why do we love the rain? Our trees and plants grow thick and green. Our gardens flourish. We taste the moisture in the air. It just seems right.

So how are we feeling with a three-month drought? Days and days of no rain? It feels very strange indeed.

Our lawns and gardens are brown. The air is dry. We get up in the morning and scan the sky for gray clouds and a sign of rain. There are none to be found.

I used to think it would be wonderful to live in a place like California where the sun always shines. I'm not so sure anymore.

I love the rain. I miss the rain. I hope to see some soon.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

West Coast Inspiration...

I'm just back from a family holiday on the far west coast of Vancouver Island (the subject of my new book). As you can see from the sunset photo above, it is a stunning area. I feel fortunate to be able to visit the region every year.

We spent a lot of time beachcombing and exploring tidepools with the small children in our family. It is thrilling to watch them discover all the amazing marine creatures that the shoreline has to offer: brilliant sea stars, pink and green anemones, scurrying crabs, clinging limpets, tiny fish and kelp of every description.

To me, the west coast is always a place of writing inspiration. When I walk down the beautiful stretch of beach, and hear the crashing waves and see the vast expanse of sea and sky, I begin to think that anything is possible. And that is exactly what a writer needs to believe.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Beautiful Art!

I am fortunate to be able to visit the far west coast of Canada almost every summer. It is a glorious place! So amazing, in fact, that I wrote a book celebrating the area.

If you haven't visited the west coast, but you are intrigued by it, here are a couple of beautiful scenes from West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet. They are painted by the talented Karen Reczuch.

Enjoy! (And consider making the trek.)

Saturday, June 13, 2015

A Year Later...

Where did the year go? I took what I thought was a short break from regular blog writing and to my astonishment, an entire year has past!

What brings me back? I'm happy to say I have a new book on the horizon. West Coast Wild: A Nature Alphabet is a celebration of nature on the glorious Pacific west coast — a place I have been exploring for more than 40 years, first as a teenager, then as a university student, later as a mom with young kids and now with my adult children and their little ones. I feel as though I've gone full circle with this magnificent place. Decades of beachcombing!

There will be more book news to announce soon and some previews of the lovely art, by the wonderful illustrator, Karen Rezcuch.

Back soon! (In less than a year — I promise.)