This is how a non-fiction project usually works: I create a proposal, including an outline and sample chapter(s), a publisher accepts the proposal, and then I write the book.
This is how a fiction project usually works: I secretly write something which may or may not turn out to be a book. If it reaches a somewhat book-like stage, I show it to my writing group, then my agent. If they agree that it might resemble a book, then the manuscript is submitted to a publisher.
These are both good systems. I’m comfortable with them.
But this year, something changed. This year, I signed a contract for a middle-grade novel which was NOT YET WRITTEN. This is theoretically a good thing. It means that a publisher trusts that I’m capable of producing a viable manuscript.
BUT WHAT IF THEY’RE WRONG??
I am now at the stage of writing something which may or may not turn out to be a book, except that it darned well better turn out to be a book, because CONTRACT.
I’m finding this somewhat frightening. Scratch that. I’m finding this Exorcist-level frightening.
My manuscript may turn out to be a bookmark. Or a potato.
How many words do I need for a potato?
I stopped by Kidsbooks last night, where Kallie George and Sara Gillingham were launching their latest picture books.
Here’s Kallie reading from The Doll Hospital, which Sara illustrated with a limited palate that makes it look both richly saturated and adorably retro. It’s a gorgeous book.
And here’s Sara playing guessing games with Boats Are Busy.
So much fun! (Why don’t I write picture books? Why do I write about pot and surveillance and teen pregnancy? Picture books are so much prettier!)
The following is my 13-year-old daughter’s review of Rachelle Delaney‘s Clara Voyant. I’ve read it, too, and Silence is right. It’s brilliant! But I’ll let her tell you…
Hey all! Silence here! Just finished reading Rachelle Delaney’s newest masterpiece, Clara Voyant. One of my favourites so far this year!
The story follows Clara, a sixth-grader who’s just moved to a new school. Far away from her beloved grandmother, Clara is sceptical about her new neighbourhood from the moment she arrives. With a marketplace full of future-seers and mystics, it’s right up her mother’s alley, but far from her own interests. Arriving at her new school, though, Clara is hopeful, especially after joining the newspaper. She’s excited to become a journalist. Things don’t go as planned, however, and rather than breaking news, Clara ends up with… the horoscopes? Her mother is delighted, her best friend insists it will be great, but Clara knows it will be awful. Then, things get worse. Because what happens when Clara’s horoscopes start to come true?
This was a super awesome book, and I highly recommend it for anyone aged 8-12 looking for a fun read with a great main character. 5 stars!!!
I hereby present my one marketable job skill:
At dinner the other night, Silence was bragging about the 50 words a minute she’d logged in business class, while Violence argued that his hunt-and-peck method was impressively fast. Neither of them seemed to believe me when I said I could type more than 80 words per minute.
And I still might not have bothered to take an actual test EXCEPT that I have a rather blank resume. A few years ago, I made a friend in human resources promise to get me a real job if I ever needed one.
“Sure. You’ll just have to pass a typing test,” she said.
The kids’ typing efforts (or lack thereof) reminded me of my future job prospects, and I decided to see if I’d survive in the job market.
Now that my future is safe, I’m going back to writing. And, um… professional-grade procrastinating.
Waiting in the optometrist’s office with my son, I picked up a Reader’s Digest.
Drama In Real Life: Buried Alive by a Blizzard!
As a kid, I read whatever I could get my hands on. That included trashy romances, dragon adventures from the school library, my grandfather’s Time-Life series about aliens, my other grandfather’s James Herriot Yorkshire vet collection, my parent’s school leftovers, boxes of randomness that my dad brought home from auctions, and the entire rack of kids-with-rare-illnesses books at the public library.
But sitting in the optometrist’s office and holding this Reader’s Digest in my hands, I realized these were what I read most. They came home from the grocery store with the milk and eggs and were just as much a staple in our house.
There’s probably a direct connection between Drama in Real Life stories and this:
It seems I’m all about the drama, even decades later.
The following is my 13-year-old daughter’s rave review of Jennifer Niven‘s All the Bright Places:
When Theodore Finch, a teen struggling with bipolar disorder, meets Violet, a girl who blames herself for her sister’s death, on a rooftop, they’re both thinking the same thing. For Finch, it’s love at first sight, and not only does he coax Violet down, he also portrays her as the heroine of the story, claiming she rescued him.
Violet is grateful, but doesn’t really want anything more to do with social outcast Finch. Then, through work on a project that takes them all over their town, Violet and Finch come to find what Finch always knew to be true… they are perfect for each other. But with Finch sinking deeper into his condition, and Violet still going over everything she could have done to save her sister, is their love enough to save them?
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is sad and beautiful, heartwarming and heartbreaking. A wonderful book for 13+.
Do you think if you lived with a scene like this for long enough, you’d forget it was there? You’d stumble to your coffee maker in the morning and ignore the windows?
I spent a few days on the Sunshine Coast last week, recharging and sneaking some writing time. After six days, I was definitely not done with the view. Not even my tepid photography skills could ruin it.
I hope you all had an equally relaxing Easter. I’ve been reading Startle and Illuminate and, as the juggling of real life begins again, I’ve resolved to take some advice from Carol Shields:
Time is not cruel. Given the good luck of a long healthy life, as most of us have, we have plenty. Plenty of time. We have time to try our new selves. Time to experiment. Time to dream and drift. Time even to waste. Fallow time. Shallow time.
We’ll have good years and bad years. And we can afford both. Every hour will not be filled with meaning and accomplishment as the world measures such things but there will be compensating hours so rich, so full, so humanly satisfying that we will become partners with time and not victims of it.
As it happens, Carol Shields didn’t have a particularly long life, but she did raise five children and win the Pulitzer Prize and a Governor General’s Award. I think she did alright with the time she had.
I made the best deal a few months ago. I gave Norma Charles a copy of Prince of Pot. In return, I received a copy of Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man, personally delivered to my door last week.
I couldn’t put it down! As befits a book about a runner, the story is non-stop action. It begins with a flood in Harry’s original hometown of St. Boniface, Manitoba, follows him to the baseball, soccer, and track fields of North Vancouver, and ends with a sprint for gold in Jamaica. The book also has a wonderful foreword about Norma’s personal connection to Harry Jerome and back matter about the interviews and research she conducted before writing the story.
I loved it, from start to finish (line). Even better, my son has agreed to read it. Usually, he restricts himself to reading and rereading Rick Riordan titles, so this is a major concession for him.
Norma, congratulations on a wonderful book and on a well-deserved BC Book Prize nomination!
My daughter’s been home sick for the last two days, so she’s been reading up a storm. She’s come out with some pithy comments along the way, including:
About John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “Why would you write a romantic novel, and give your character a completely romantic name like Augustus, and then have people call him Gus? Gus is NOT romantic at all.”
About parents: “Writers have to be really creative to get rid of parents. Either they kill them, or they make the main characters sixteen or seventeen and super independent. In this book I’m reading [Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson], the parents are screenwriters and they get really into new projects and then only leave the living room every forty-eight hours to see if their kids are alive.”
About embossed covers: “I love textured books. I wish they were a person, so I could marry them.”
And that’s the word from the sickbed. You’re welcome.
Ah, Family Day. When you bond with your offspring and discover what they really think of you. And your career choices.
I was sitting at one end of a restaurant table last weekend, happily sipping my drink, while my daughter and her auntie chatted at the other end of the table. This is what I overheard:
Silence: Auntie Moe, there’s a Take Your Child to Work Day when I’m in grade nine. Can I come to work with you?
Auntie Moe: Sure.
Silence: Oh, good! Because Daddy’s work has confidentiality issues, and I don’t want to stay home and watch Grey’s Anatomy all day with Mommy.
That’s when my drink went up my nose.