My recessive genes

My kids and I look nothing alike, which causes some interesting situations. A few weeks ago, I told a sales clerk at Ivivva that I was waiting for my daughter, who was in the change room. The clerk shook her head (because Silence was one of two Asian girls trying on clothes) until I said, “Really, she’s in there. She just doesn’t look like me.”

Silence finds these events funny and/or annoying, depending on her mood. But she’s certainly aware of our genetic differences.

Last weekend, our whole family gathered at a rental house in Palm Desert to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday. Or at least, my mom and dad gathered with my sister’s family to celebrate. The Kyi clan kept getting locked out of the gated community because our security code didn’t work.

At one point, my husband decided to boost Violence over the fence so he could run and ring the doorbell at the rental house. Silence and I remained in the car.

“What are we going to do if they get in trouble?” she asked me.

“Pretend we don’t know them.”

“Easy for you to say. You look nothing like them.”

So true, and something that may be useful if I start a life of crime. In the meantime, Silence will have to focus on the positives.

Resolutions

Usually, I write between 9 am, when my kids go to school, and noon, when my brain expires. But I have trouble saying no, and so other things creep into my schedule. When that happens, I shift my writing time to the afternoons.

Have you ever noticed that in the afternoons, things like grocery shopping, Twitter, and examining one’s pores seem somehow urgent? Much more urgent than, say, creating a plot?

I’ve resolved to do a better job of protecting my mornings. I will focus. Commit. Produce reams of fabulous writing.

Except that this week, I have a volunteer commitment on Tuesday morning and a possible tennis match on Thursday morning.

But I’m totally going to focus, starting next week.

Or the week after.

“Best of” lists from Silence and Violence

Silence (13) sent me an impromptu list of her own top reads of 2017:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A World Without You by Beth Revis
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Then I asked Violence (11) for his list. Here’s what he said:

Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
and… anything by Rick Riordan

Now, if you’re an author and you happen to be thinking, “I published a book in 2017. I wish they’d chosen my book,” I’ll just remind you here that I, too, released books in 2017, and those books were not chosen by my children. But they’re good kids in other ways.

Happy reading!

Happy New Year!

I made it to 75 books read in 2017, in the nick of time. Thank goodness I was chaperoning a teen sleepover for New Year’s Eve or I wouldn’t have finished those final chapters.

Is it just me, or do middle grade novels encompass more wisdom than all other books put together? I read some wonderful ones last year, including Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubraker Bradley. My friend Rachelle Delaney published The Bonaventure Adventures, which made me want to run away to the circus immediately. Another favourite in this category was The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, which squeezed my heart and tickled my science brain at the same time.

In the young adult realm, both Wildman by J.C. Geiger and Nina Berkhout’s The Mosaic had characters that hung around in my head long after I finished reading. (Plus those books have the best covers ever.) One of my last books of the year was one of my most fun reads: Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu, which also earned my daughter’s adoration.

I read so many fantastic nonfiction books in 2017 it’s excruciating to choose. None of them are new… just new to me. The funniest, and least appropriate, was What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman. I also loved the memoirs Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart and This is Not My Life by Diane Schoemperien.

Now it’s onwards to 2018! I’ve already started Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, which has me holding my breath all the way through.

Happy reading everyone! Let me know what your favourites were last year, so I can put them on my new list…

Silence speaks

You know how I steal books from my children to feed my own reading habit? Well, the tables have turned. I scored a copy of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu at last month’s ALAN workshop. My daughter Silence stole the book from my end table, read it in a single day, and then raved about it again and again until I finally told her to write a review. So, courtesy of my book-thieving child:

Sick and tired of the ongoing sexual harassment at her Texas high school, Vivian (Viv) Carter, who has, until now, always been a rule follower, decides she’s had enough. She’s done with the football players and their sexist comments and t-shirt slogans, and the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge these and the many other problems going on right under their noses.

Inspired by her mother, once a rebellious warrior for equality, Viv starts an anonymous zine called Moxie, encouraging girls to “fight back.” Many other girls soon join in, and the hallways quickly become a battlefield of warrior Moxie girls who aren’t going to put up with this lack of respect anymore. Backed up by best friend Claudia, spunky girl Lucy, and new guy Seth, Viv won’t stop until girls receive the justice they deserve.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone 12+. An amazing story that gets you hooked by the first chapter, this is one of my favourite books ever. It almost makes me wish there was more sexism at my school so I could be a Moxie girl and go fight back! Just kidding. But really though, everyone, READ IT!!! It’s so good.

Byeee,
Silence

The ALAN workshop

Guys, I’ve found it. Nirvana for book-lovers. It’s called the ALAN Workshop, it was held this year in St. Louis, and I was invited to speak about Prince of Pot on a panel with the shockingly clever and wise Jennifer E. Smith, J.C. Geiger, and Shanetia Clark.

I’m quite sure I was incoherent, but who can blame me? LOOK at the size of this room:

There are 500 teachers at the workshop, all of whom receive a giant box of curated books, which they sort and re-sort in mysterious ways as the day progresses. Plus they seem to know everyone and everything related to YA literature.

But it’s impossible to be nervous (well, almost impossible), because everyone there is (a) incredibly nice and (b) incredibly happy. I met a teacher from Florida outside the convention centre who said, “Isn’t this amazing? I’m so glad I’m an English teacher and not a math teacher. This is so much better than a math convention!”

It was awesome. I want very badly to go back. Or maybe to live permanently amidst those stacks of books.

On a side note, St. Louis itself was also full of wonderful surprises, a few of which are here:

And, best of all:

Thank you, ALAN, for inviting me, and Groundwood Books for sending me!

Introducing Ink Well Vancouver

Today’s launch day! I’ve been working with two of my favourite people, Rachelle Delaney and Stacey Matson, on a new community for children’s writers and aspiring writers. It’s called Ink Well Vancouver. We have lots more plans for the future, but our very first offering is a six-week workshop.

It’s going to look just like this, except indoors and in January.

I would love, love, love if you would sign up to join us. There’s nothing better than an evening spent talking about writing and children’s books, and it’s even better when it’s with awesome people. Sign up is here!

Wildman

I’ve just finished Wildman, by j.c. geiger, and it’s excellent.

It’s about a teenage boy named Lance, who’s about to graduate as class valedictorian and head off to business school. Then his car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, and he finds himself wrapped up in a society of small-town teens, most of them lost in their own unique ways.

As the days pass, Lance gets increasingly urgent calls from his mom and his girlfriend, but finds himself unable to leave this new place, where he can be and do almost anything… pull a knife on someone, jump a train, sleep with an artist…

And while you can predict from the very first pages that Lance isn’t going back, the story takes all sorts of unexpected turns.

There are plenty of themes in Wildman — choosing your own path for the future, navigating family expectations, balancing art dreams with practical life demands — that overlap with the ideas in Prince of Pot. Which is all particularly convenient because J.C. Geiger and I are speaking on a panel together this month in St. Louis, as part of the ALAN Workshop for the NCTE (the National Council of Teachers of English).

Hopefully my plane doesn’t break down along the way, leaving me stranded in the backwoods. If it does, I’m totally jumping a train.

Reconnecting

I’ve discovered the ideal way to reconnect. You write a young adult novel set in your hometown, and then you include situations that your high-school friends recognize.

The Creston Valley Advance published an article a few weeks ago about Prince of Pot. Since then, I’ve received messages from someone who remembers particular hot tub incidents, a man who — twenty-five years ago — served as the Tic Tac repository in a Twin Bays truth-or-dare game, and a friend who may have once “borrowed” a car from the local dealership. The keys had been left inside, and that was all the excuse she needed.

(The funniest part of all this? My beta readers had so many questions about the truck-theft scene. Mainly, they thought it unrealistic that a dealership would leave keys in a vehicle overnight. Which just goes to show that those beta readers didn’t grow up in small towns. And that fact is stranger than fiction, always.)

I’m so glad I had wonderful, wild, daring, loving friends to get me through high school… and friends who will still read my books, all these years later!

Hindsight is at least 20/30

I’ve been asked a few times how Prince of Pot came to be. Well, it’s not autobiographical and I wasn’t raised on a grow-op. But the question has made me think about all the connections that do exist between Isaac’s life and mine.

I’m on the Groundwood blog here, talking magazine headlines and inspiration.

And I’m at Open Book Toronto here, talking broken hearts and broken swing sets. And, of course, bears.