Wednesday, June 30, 2010

not so big news on Canada Day eve

So, almost 7:30 on the eve of Canada Day, our version of the US 4th of July.  Just finished working and my big plans for this holiday evening include: watching a home renovation show or two, reading a few hundred pages of The Girl Who Played With Fire, and drinking a couple of glasses of some lovely Chardonay.  Hopefully tomorrow we'll get a little sun and I can go for a bike ride to offset the calorie build-up from a full day of sitting on my butt at the computer working on a new novel,  Sad to say that I didn't even get very far.  7 hours of work netted me about 700 words...sometimes it just doesn't come.

Did have a really good conversation with my former editor, Ann Featherstone, who, after many years, has become a very good friend. We talked about books we've read, books we should be reading, and books we'll send to each other.  Of course, the frustrations of writing and of editing came up.  We both concluded that neither of us could leave the business even if we wanted's too wrapped up with who we are.

If you ever get a chance to work with the wonderful and very talented editor, Ann Featherstone, you are one lucky writer/illustrator.  She's awesome.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Hot Guys Reading

Just came across this "Hot Guys Reading" site passed on by a writer friend.  Check it out, and if you see any hot guys reading, snap a pic and email it on.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Strawberries & chocolate

Too full of chocolate covered strawberries to blog...ugh!

Friday, June 25, 2010

I'm a lovely sunny yellow but...

I'm a lovely sunny yellow but I have the disposition of a dark raincloud storming across the sky.  Actually, I'm literally yellow, and so is the floor of my new shed.  My puppy Ruby escaped though, thanks to much contorting on my part so that the entire can of stain did not spill on her.  Damned dogs getting underfoot when you're carrying an open paint can!  Of course she got to sit in the shade while I cleaned up the mess and acted dejected because I didn't want to throw the ball for her.

Now that I'm back from the paint store, I suppose I'd better get back outside since I've got three more sides of the shed to stain.  No reading for me today...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

welcome into the world Chloe Elise

I have a new grandniece, just minutes old.  I love how easy it is to connect with friends and family these days.  Welcome into the world Chloe Elise.  I can't wait to meet you and bring you lots and lots of books which your big sister Abby can help you read.  And of course, Abby will get her own "big girl" books.  Way to go D. & B.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

a day of reading

After a few days of working in the garden, I don't mean planting a few flowers.  I mean serious garden work involving taking out a tree blown down by a windstorm about 10 days ago.  Sadly, it took out about a quarter of my garden.  First I had to cut it all up into three foot pieces that would fit into my wheel barrow so that I could get it up a temporary ramp, across the deck, through the gate, and out front where I could dump it until the weekend when my neighbor will be around to loan me her truck. This took me the better part of a day since I no longer own a chain saw (yes, I have in the past been know to wield one). Then I had to dig out a stump, salvage the few plants that hadn't been trashed, and bring in 2 yards of topsoil, (about 40 trips with the wheel barrow), and then replant after a delightful trip to the nursery of course.

So, I figure after all this, I deserve a day off.  No writing, no gardening, no working at the shoe store.  Just a day of drinking tea, cracking the cover of one of the books in my gargantuan pile, and reading.  Of course I may check out a few of my fav blogs to see what's cooking, but otherwise, it's just a nice "stay in your pj's sort of reading day.   Lucky me.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Will Smith - Running & Reading (The Key to Life)

Oops.  Sorry, the video no longer seems to be available.  The message though is simple...The Key to life is running (keep your body fit) and reading (keep your mind fit).

Happy father's day to all you dad's out there.  Here's a pretty cool message from Will Smith's (it's from the 2005 Kid's Choice Award).  This guy must be one great dad.  My dad didn't make music or win awards, but he was a pretty good father.  He didn't have a chance to finish school before his own dad passed away.  So he quite school at the age of 13 to get a job and help support the family.  When I was growing up he worked six days a week so he didn't have much time for reading.  But if he were alive today, I'm pretty sure he'd agree with Will Smith's message. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Buy someone you love a picture book

I love picture books.  I bought someone I love Linda Bailey's book, Stanley's Party yesterday.  He was thrilled.  Share one of your favorite picture books with someone you love, and you'll put a smile on their face.  And remember, picture books can be for everyone.  You don't have to be in the target 3-7 age group to enjoy Linda's book.  As I said, it's one of my favorites.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

books and dreams

Ok, so last night I went to buy a wooden trellis, but it seems trellises are in demand these days, and everyone in town was out.  By everyone, I mean the non-trendy stores where I can afford to shop...hey, I'm an author...we don't make enough money to be trendy.  Anyways, my last resort was Home Depot, but, you guessed it, they were out too!

Just as I was about to leave they announced that the "Ladies Only How to Tile Workshop" was about to start.  I couldn't help thinking what a great book title that would make, probably written by someone like Alexander McCall Smith...but I digress.

I wandered over, sat down, was a given a free package full of helpful advice and product information, a folder to keep it all in and a free demonstration.  I was sucked in from the get go.  I just might be the next tilting queen, or not...

And how does this relate to books you might be asking.  I'm getting to that part, honest.  Sadly, I didn't come away with a trellis.  But, I did buy their book on tiling, and some sample tiles for my bathroom.  You might think that I've been roped in, and perhaps I have.  But, you won't be laughing when my sad little bathroom with peeling paint and a decrepit  heater gets transformed into something resembling the pretty pictures in my new book tiling book with gorgeous glass tiles and a heated tile floor.  At least that's the dream, and for the price of a book, and a few sample tiles, dreaming is pretty cheap, don't you think.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

): No free WIFI for us

Yesterday Starbucks announced that as of July 1st WIFI will be free in the US.  What about us here in Canada though?  All I can say is they won't be making me any soy lattes or london fogs until I get the same treatment as my friends in the US.  I guess I'll just have to do my writing at home for the time being.  Just imagine how much money I'll be saving!

Monday, June 14, 2010


An exciting new online kid's and ya book conference has just been announced by a couple of young enthusiastic writers.  They have scored some awesome presenters including my wonderful agent Suzie Townsend.  Registration for this August Conference isn't until July, but more news will be coming soon check the WriteOnCon site frequently.

WriteOnCon is an exciting online writer’s conference for children’s writers everywhere!
A team of seven: Jamie HarringtonElana JohnsonCasey McCormickShannon MessengerLisa and Laura Roecker, and Jen Stayrook started this project with a single goal: paying it forward. They'd all heard so many writers who wished they could attend a conference, but simply didn’t have the time or money. So they decided to bring a conference to them—a free online conference that anyone could attend in the convenience of their own homes. And so, WriteOnCon was born. (Rated MC-18: for main characters 18 and under.)  I love this part!!!

The response from industry professionals has been overwhelming (check out our awesome list of presenters) and more presenters names will be added as people confirm. In the meantime, they suggest you mark your calendar for August 10-12, and tell your friends so they can be here too. They're working hard to make this the best conference they can, and it’s going to be—EPIC!
Follow the link to their site and see what they have in store. And check back regularly for updates. You can also follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ripple Sketches& Kelly Light

The whole BP oil fiasco in the Gulf feels overwhelming, but a group of kid's book illustrators has decided to do something to help.  It began with illustrator Kelly Light putting up small sketches for small donations that go directly to  The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies and The International Bird Rescue Research Center.  

The image shown is a sample of what is available.

Kelly decided to put the word out to see if other illustrators were will to contribute.  The response was so overwhelming that Ripple Sketches was born. The way it works, is you make a direct donation to one of the above two charities to help animal victims of the oil spill and send Kelly the confirmation number and your address, and she'll send you a sketch. Way to go Kelly.

Victoria, BC is a smart place to live

Hey everyone, Victoria is a smart place to live.  No lie!  I read it in the Globe & Mail.  Here's the link.  Lifelong learning: why Victoria is top of the class.
Now if it would just stop raining...

Thursday, June 10, 2010


This afternoon I'm having tea with my friend Margaret.  I love Margaret, and everyone should be lucky enough to have a friend like her.  Margaret, who is coming up to 84, holds a book and tea salon on Thursday afternoons.  That's the time when the local bookseller and various other friends drop by for tea and to talk about books. Margaret is eclectic.  She reads everything from literary fiction, to mysteries, from history and historical fiction, to social commentary, from picture books to young adult literature.  The only thing she stays away from is war stories.  Having lived through World War II in her native Finland, Margaret figures she's had enough war for a lifetime.

Until she was 80, Margaret used to make the 1mile or so trek from her home to the bookstore just about every day of the week.  I know because one of my daughters worked there for three years, and the three years before that, my editor's daughter worked there.  The bookstore has changed hands 4 times over the last 20 or so years, but Margaret has been a constant.  She'd walk down the hill, all 4' 10" of her, have a chat about what she'd been reading or whether this or that reviewer was off his rocker or right on the money.  She'd buy a book, and then  her husband Earnst would drive down and pick her and take her home.   The walk back would have been just a little too much.  She'd go home, read the book, and be back the next day for another one.  Margaret is voracious.  She reads faster and retains more than I've ever been able to.

These days, the book store comes to Margaret because she isn't able to get out any more.  She has a big window overlooking the garden that Earnst tends so lovingly.  Her world is one of books and her husband's garden.  Amber, the book seller, brings along a bag of books for the week for Margaret to choose from.  It's almost like a party.  All those books at once.  What a treat!  Margaret keeps up on reviews on-line, and she's always happy to have recommendations from friends.   I can't tell you how many books I've read on Margaret's recommendation, nor can I tell you have many of Margaret's books are in my 'to be read pile'. She's always giving me books, and not just for me either.  Sometimes when I arrive, she'll have a book just for Ali, who isn't a sci-fi fan, but Margaret is sure she'll like this one because the "world building is outstanding".  Or that wiener dog book she found for Katie because she knows that Katie is ga ga over wiener dogs. Yep, Margaret is a gem.  Everyone deserves to have a friend like Margaret. I'm so lucky that I do.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2011 Chocolate Lily short-list announced

So, I keep getting asked about the short-list for the 2011 Chocolate Lily Book Award (a BC reader's choice award), and I haven't been able to find the info anywhere.  In desperation, I email the founder yesterday, and it just so happens that the list was announced this morning.  So stop bugging me you guys.  Here it is.

Picture Book Category  
Bradley McGogg the Very Fine Frog by Tim Beiser Illustrated by Rachel Berman (BC) Tundra Books
Viva Zapata by Emilie Smith (BC) and Margarita Kenefic Tejada   Illustrated by Stefan Czernecki (BC) Tradewind Books
Penelope and the Preposterous Birthday Party by Sheri Radford (BC)   Illustrated by Christine Tipp  Lobster Press
Fred and Pete at the Beach by Cynthia Nugent   Orca Book Publishers
On My Walk by Kari-Lynn Winters (BC when book was published) Illustrated by Christina Leist (BC) Tradewind Books
Bubble Homes and Fish Farts by Fiona Bayrock(BC)  Illustrated by Carolyn Conahan  Charlesbridge
Stanley’s Beauty Contest by Linda Bailey (BC) Illustrated by Bill Slavin Kids Can Press 
Chapter books for Grades 3 - 5 Category 
Goldfish Don’t Take Bubble Baths ( Abby and Tess Pet Sitters) by Trina Wiebe   Lobster Press
Whiteout by Becky Citra   Orca Young Readers
Zach & Zoe Bully and the Beagle by Kristin Butcher   James Lorimer & Co
After Peaches by Michelle Mulder   Orca Young Readers
Clay Man: The Golem of Prague by Irene Watts Illustrated by Kathryn Shoemaker   Tundra
The Sky Tree by P. K. Page Illustrated by Kristi Bridgeman   Oolichan Books
Novel Category (Grades 5 – 8)  
Venom by Nikki Tate   Orca Sports
The Ship of Lost Souls by Rachelle Delaney   Harper Trophy Canada
Bank Job by James Heneghan and Norma Charles   Orca Book Publishers
Simon Says Gold: Simon Whitfield’s Pursuit of Athletic Excellence by Simon Whitfield with Cleve Dheensaw   Orca Book Publishers
Counting on Hope by Sylvia Olsen  Sononis
The Giant Slayer by Iain Lawrence   Delacorte Press
Charlie: a Home Child’s Life in Canada by Beryl Young   Key Porter Books

Monday, June 07, 2010

Today's news

Today's news...Yesterday I bought paint to paint my bedroom.  Yeah!  I going from sunny yellow to the more sophisticated and about to be a gorgeous serene pale bluish green called Silver Mist.  Who comes up with these paint names and do they actually get paid? Hmmm...if they do, I just might consider a career change.  As it is, I won't start painting until after the work day since I'm back to editing my MIP today for my agent who insists that a little tweak here and another little tweak there will result is perfection.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Unhappy? Get yourself an iPhone.

md_horiz.jpgOk, I admit it, I'm procrastinating. It's raining outside so I won't be planting those pole beans or parsnips today so I told myself that it's time to do a little housework. I washed the dishes as a warm-up, and managed to vacuum the living room rug and clean the bathroom before running out of steam.  While I regroup, I thought I might fill you in on an interesting phenomenon I read about in Salon...the iPhone can make you happy.  According to a research project undertaken at Stanford University, 72 percent of students interviewed said that their iPhone made them happier.   Maybe my dissatisfaction with the day has nothing at all to do with the minuscule amount of housework that I've gotten done, or the fact that we've only had one sunny day in the last two weeks!   Maybe I just need an iPhone to make me happy!  Here's a link to the article, which, despite my flippant comment above, is actually quite good.

Friday, June 04, 2010

JK Rowling: The fringe benefits of failure | Video on

You may have seen this already post of JK Rowling at Harvard, but it's so cool, and after recently attending my youngest daughter's university graduation ceremony, I think it's worth watching and listening to again.  As an author she is amazing, but as a woman, mother, and fellow human being, she raises the bar for us all.

J.K. Rowling Speaks at Harvard Commencement from Harvard Magazine on Vimeo.

Librarians Do Gaga

I just came across this great Librarian video. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

In defense of librarians

Below is a letter that my friend and fellow author, Helaine Becker sent to the National Post re:  a derogatory comment about librarians.  It's such a great letter, that I want everyone to read it.   Yeah Helaine!  And if you think this letter is great, you can check out her books too.  You'll find a link to her website at the bottom of the page.  PS. Helaine is really really funny:)

Dear Mr. Gunter,

I was enjoying your analysis of Easy Rider in this morning's National Post
("Getting over Easy Rider, "June 2,2010) when I was caught short by this
sentence: "The teens who were prompted by its anti-establishment message to
pledge themselves to change the world are today school librarians and public
broadcasting technicians living in suburban bungalows, looking around the
next bend at pensionability and wondering whether to open a B&B in Niagara."

Yikes! There's a sweeping stereotype there! 

I know you were trying to humorously make a point about becoming the essence
of establishment self-focus. But clearly, you have not met many school
librarians, nor do you fully appreciate what they do every day. (I can't
speak for the broadcasting technicians.)

I am not a school librarian, but in my career as a writer of children's
literature, I have had the great privilege of meeting and spending time with
hundreds of school librarians across North America - from Nunavut to New
Brunswick, from the Jane-Finch Corridor in the GTA to the rural communities
of Manitoba, Alberta and Yukon; in Texas, California, New York and Lima
(Peru). Virtually every single one of the people I met are still honoring
that pledge to change the world.

Don't be fooled by the prim reading-glasses-on-chains cartoon image.
Teacher-librarians are true revolutionaries, trying to change and improve
society by empowering the most vulnerable members of society: children. 

Their working conditions: abysmal. 

Their weapon: literacy. 

Their opposition: entrenched bureaucracy that gives lip service to literacy
and equity, but shows its true colors by gutting schools of books and
trained staff. 

Meet, for example, Nina W., a school-librarian in the great State of
California who currently has responsibility for three inner city schools,
virtually no support from administration (when I visited with her two weeks
ago, nearly 600 teachers had just been let go and were engaged in costly and
divisive legal hearings instead of teaching in the classroom). Yet despite
being stretched nearly to the breaking point, Nina still managed to
administer a Reading is Fundamental book program for Kindergarten and grade
1 students, organize author visits to inspire hundreds of children, and
facilitate delivery of books to needy schools that were collected on an
independent book drive.

Or meet Fabienne T., who works in a remote Northern community. Her student
body contains a high number of kids who come to school hungry, tired and
unprepared to learn because of upheaval at home and in their community. For
these children, literacy is truly a foreign concept - their own culture did
not even have a written language 40 years ago! Many elders there are
actually suspicious of reading as a form of learning, since their own
educational system involved a more active approach, being out on the land.
Yet Fabienne cheerfully strides from school to school, bringing books and
enthusiasm and a desire to help improve the opportunities available to her
charges. Those opportunities will only open to them when they possess the
skills needed to "make it" in the contemporary world, so with her copies of
"Clifford the Big Red Dog" and "Twilight" in hand, Fabienne is truly
managing to change their worlds.

Or why not let me introduce you to Jenny E., who teaches in a tough primary
school in one of Toronto's most challenging neighborhoods. To see what she
has done with these old-too-soon kids is nothing short of miraculous, and
she's been doing it for more than 20 years, day in and day out (I'm sure the
number is higher than that, but I don't want to embarrass her!). 

The crisis facing school libraries today is an issue that has not yet
surfaced in the Canadian consciousness. Yet let me assure you, it is very
real, pervasive, and will have long-term consequences. Only a tiny
percentage of Canadian school libraries meet the minimal standards (Set by
the Canadian Library Association ) required to achieve learning objectives
in all curricular areas, not just literacy. 

A fully functional school library is the heart of a school, providing
necessary sustenance and support for teachers and students. It is at the
vanguard of "best practices," incorporating information literacy into school
culture, and it the avenue through which students learn how to do research,
analyze sources and interpret media messaging. 

School librarians are professionally committed to freedom of thought and
speech, and to the notion that teaching kids how to learn is the root of all
education. If that's not progressive, I don't know what is.

I know, I know, you didn't really mean to disparage school librarians -
yours was a throwaway comment designed for a laugh. But it perpetuated a
lie, and was a disservice to some of the most revolutionary members of our
society. But! Here's the good news! You can easily correct that disservice!

Let me suggest that, next Fall, you accompany me to some representative
school libraries in the GTA. Let me show you how we are letting down
Canadian students by underfunding our school libraries. Let me show you how
the mouth-noises that insist "we support literacy" are a lie when in fact
the school libraries in our country are short of books and staff.

On a personal note, it was in a school library that I first fell in love
with books. That early exposure and support has enabled me to live a full
and productive life as a literate citizen. 

When I speak to kids during my school presentations, I often ask them, "Why
are you learning how to read?" The typical response is, "so I can get a job
one day." "So I can get good grades." Or simply a shrug of shoulders - we
are made to read and write because the grownups want us to. 

I tell the kids that all of those answers are all acceptable ones, but are
not the best reasons. Do you really want to learn to read just so you can
grow up to become an obedient worker bee, or to boast a meaningless A on
meaningless report card? No.

No, The real reason you should want to learn how to Read well, Write well
and Speak well is because these are the tools that give you power - both the
power over your own life, and the power to persuade others to make
improvements to our world.

School librarians are bringing power to the people, every day. Please give
them their due. 


Helaine Becker

Follow me on twitter!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Cool Book Shelf

I don't really have any news today so I thought I'd make some up.  Here's my idea of the perfect book shelf.  Unfortunately, I need the floor to ceiling kind at my place to accommodate all the books!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What's Shaking The School: A Principal's Retrospective

For any of you former Margaret Jenkins students, parents, or teachers, retired elementary school principal Judy Bertram has just self published a book about her former principalship, What's Shaking The School. In my opinion, Judy was one of the best principals I've ever met. And, in my career as a teacher and author, as well as in my role as a parent, I've met quite a few! This is one self published book that I'll definitely be picking up. Click here order your copy.

Project ALA

It won't be long before the next big ALA kid's book gala where this year's Newbery and Caldecott Awards etc. will be presented. When doing a quick search, I came across this funny mash up of red carpet fashion. It involves "four days at ALA, three intrepid interviewers, two expensive video cameras & one $3.99 red bath mat (aka red carpet)". It's a virtual who's who of kid's books with Jon Scieszka (who was at the time the Children's Literary Ambassador, Betsy Bird, Roger Sutton (editor of The Horn Book)Laurie Halse Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, Linda Sue Park and John Green all making red carpet appearances. The fashionistas all agree that success is "all about the story". There are also a series of interviews as well if you want to check those out too. Enjoy!