In the trees!

I’m absolutely thrilled to have DNA Detective nominated for a Red Maple Award this year. Part of the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading, the Red Maple is a reader’s choice award for kids in grades seven and eight.

DNA Cover

I’m personally glad I’m not one of those kids, because it’s going to be impossible to choose. Other books on the list include Pride by Robin Stevenson, Child Soldier by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys, and Vanished by Elizabeth McLeod (which is currently topping my list of books I wish I’d written).


Congrats to all the other nominees, and a huge thanks to the Ontario Library Association!

On vikings and the management of expectations

I took my son to see Rick Riordan yesterday.

Rick Riordan seems like a lovely man, and Kidsbooks did a fabulous job of the event. It was held in the Hellenic Hall (which maybe should have been the Nordic Hall for the occasion) and it was packed to the gills.


My son was SO excited. I can’t properly explain how excited he was. And that, I think, was part of the problem. Because it was a vaguely unsatisfying evening. Which made me think about kids, expectations, celebrity, and the problems with balancing the three.

My son is a super-fan. But he’s also nine and was one of the youngest at the event. So he was thrilled to be pointed toward a free T-shirt table, then crushed to find the T-shirts in adult sizes. And he practically dislocated his arms clapping and cheering when a sword-fighting Viking emerged from the wings and ran around the auditorium. Then he was seriously confused when the Viking took off his wig and turned out to be a thin, bald man.

“Is that him?” he asked me repeatedly, comparing the bald Viking to the author picture on the back flap of The Hammer of Thor.

No, as it turned out. The Viking was a publicist, who — after neglecting to introduce himself — proceeded to give prizes to kids who tried to answer questions such as: How many weeks has Percy Jackson been on the bestseller list? How many countries have rights to Rick Riordan books? How many copies of Uncle Rick’s books have been printed?

The publicist had a strange idea of what might interest young readers.


When the real Rick Riordan finally emerged, he was warm, engaging, and funny. But he spent about twenty minutes on a slideshow which was basically an advertisement for the books released in 2016 and those coming in 2017. Again, my son waved his arms frantically trying to ask a question during the Q&A portion of the evening, but of course only a dozen of the hundreds of kids in the room gained their 30 seconds at the microphone.


Then the event was over, and we all went home.

I was thinking this morning about what would have had to happen for my son to be as ecstatic at the end of the evening as he was at the beginning. First, that sword-waving Viking would have had to be sent to Ragnarok. (Sorry, publicist.) And Rick Riordan would have had to personally shake my son’s hand, look into his devoted little eyes, and say “I’m so glad you love my books.”

I admit, that’s probably unreasonable.

So then I thought about what I expect when I go to see my favourite authors speak. I know I’m not going to get personal interaction. But I go to hear them reading in their own voices. I go hoping to hear wisdom — words that will keep me thinking in the days to come. And I go for inspiration. When I leave, I want to feel eager to start work on my own stories.

Both the overprotective mom and the writer inside me would have liked all those things for my son.

But he went home clutching his signed copy of the new Magnus Chase book, and he read well past bedtime. So maybe he’ll find his wisdom and inspiration in the pages, instead of the performance.

For the record, his question was going to be: “How do you come up with all those amazing chapter titles? They’re my favourite part.”


Word of mouth

This is a friend’s account of a conversation between her 10-year-old daughter and Christianne of Christianne’s Lyceum.

Daughter: There’s a mom at my school who’s a writer. You should invite her.

Christianne: What’s her name?

Daughter: I don’t know, but she’s my best friend’s sister’s best friend’s mom and she’s really good.

As it turns out, I’ve spoken at Christianne’s (amazing) book clubs a few times. And I’m hiring the daughter as my new Director of Marketing… just as soon as she learns my name.


We spent the weekend on Vancouver Island, visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and nephews in their new home.

People from Vancouver probably shouldn’t be allowed to travel. It stirs up house-envy. Halfway through the weekend I decided my life would be significantly happier if I had just one more kitchen drawer, and would probably be perfect if I had a pantry.

Outside the kitchen, though, it was a lovely weekend. We went beach combing and mini-golfing, and stopped for lunch in Coombs. On Sunday morning, we visited the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association, which was amazing. There were all sorts of recovering birds and rescued creatures, including this guy:


And, temporarily, this guy:


The association rescued eight bear cubs and released them last year.

We returned on the ferry yesterday afternoon, so it’s back to rehabilitating words for me this morning, with no bears in sight. But I did just send off a book idea which included bears. Does that count?

Also, I’m entering my own rehabilitation re: the kitchen pantry issue. It’s a twelve-step program.

Quilt shop

My mom makes the most amazing quilts for my kids. Over the years there have been quilts with baby ducks, with fairies that actually sparkled, with circus animals, and with trucks. There’s a hanging quilt for Christmas, and a Halloween one with a witch that we’re pretty sure was modelled upon Auntie Sandy (sorry, Sandy).

This is my personal favourite. Behind every buttoned door hides a different monster.



I’m not sure what my mom thinks happens to these quilts when she replaces them. I should probably be framing them. But instead, they’re folded and stacked on my daughter’s window seat or on my son’s closet shelf. And from there, they make their way into all sorts of projects. They have served as:

Fort walls
Picnic blankets
Treehouse ceilings
Yoga mats
Nerf gun targets
Sliding surfaces
Crash landing pads
Electonics workshop carpeting

If I were a picture-book writer, I’d have to create The Secret Life of Quilts.

Eyes and Spies

My next book has made its appearance on Amazon, so thought I’d post a picture of the cover. Eyes and Spies is all about surveillance and privacy, on-line and in real life. It focuses on three questions: Who’s watching, and why? Where is the line between public and private? How can we keep our secrets to ourselves?

The stories are drawn from kid and teen life, though that didn’t stop them from scaring me. (The computers in my house now feature masking tape over their webcams.)

There’s still a long way to go before the book appears in the world next spring, but I’m very excited to have the cover (with cool and creepy art by the amazing Belle Wuthrich) making its first appearance!


Feast for the First Hour of Writing

I have an old cookbook by Karen Barnaby called Screamingly Good Food. I keep it because I love how the book is arranged by seasonal celebrations. Fall features not only a Thanksgiving menu, but also feasts for the first sweater, the last tomato, and the twelfth day of rain.


I’m writing on my laptop in the kitchen, the only room in the house not overflowing with laundry piles or nine-year-old boys. School was held for an hour this morning; full schedule begins tomorrow.

Which means that (as much as I loved summer) I will soon be celebrating all the wonderful things about fall. I’ll have my own personal feast for the first cup of afternoon tea, the first crackling of the heating vents, and the first batch of pumpkin muffins.

And, of course, I’ll be celebrating the return of writing time. By June, my six hours of quiet will be flying by. But in September, when I’ve been entertaining and shuttling and refereeing all summer, they seem like an eternity of silence.

Only 20 hours to go.

Barf-fest 2016

We went to the PNE yesterday. By the time we headed home, my daughter was curled into a small ball and looking rather more green than her usual beige. But she wasn’t too sick to rhyme. This is what we heard from the backseat:

Hellevator, Atmosfear,
crazy pirate boat.
Nothing did me in until
the giant root beer float.


Felting in progress

My daughter attended the VPL’s Writing and Book Camp last week.

One of her favourite sessions was a needle-felting workshop with Holman Wang, co-creator of the Cozy Classics. Within 48 hours, she’d collected the supplies, trained her brother, and populated the house with fuzzy characters.

There’s now a book (albeit a slightly blurry book) in progress. This is one of my son’s contributions:


There’s also a 12-word Return of the Jedi Epic Yarn on its way to my nephew for his birthday.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.26.43 PM

This camp would be my favourite ever if I could disguise myself as a tween and attend. Do you think my daughter would object if I tried that next year?