The crazy, frantic, very busy, no-space life

We took the kids to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day yesterday. They liked it, but I loved it. I thought it was hilarious. Even before the family got to the day in question, I was already scheduling their activities in my head.

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So they have a driver’s test, a prom, a school play, a birthday party, a book launch, and a job interview… all tomorrow?

I found it so funny because that sort of scheduling actually happens. Sometimes our family calendar has to be expanded to fit the entire, giant Mac screen, just because there are so many items on each day. Colour coded, of course. Stop at the bank (Min), car shopping with a friend (Min), buy groceries (me), phone meeting (me), buy new leggings before evening event (me), make dinner before noon because there’s no time after (me), cross-country practice (both kids, drop off by me, pick up by Min), followed by soccer practice (Min and one kid), with dinner in between (everyone), then evening work event (me). Yikes!

Sometimes, it’s best to look only one hour ahead on the calendar. And often, it’s best not to look at the calendar at all until at least an hour of writing is done.

Most days don’t fall apart. Most of them run just fine, without nearly the vehicle damage experienced in the movie.

But watching that fictional family cope yesterday made me think… maybe when cities are creating emergency response teams, they shouldn’t bother with the firefighters and paramedics. Maybe they should go right for the parents.

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Book love at the Lyceum

I spent yesterday evening at Christianne’s Lyceum, chatting with the Novel Knickers book club about When the Worst Happens.

First of all, if you’ve never been to the Lyceum, you must go. It’s a book-lover’s dream. A library downstairs, good tea, snacks (more on those later), and a loft filled with people who have gathered for a few hours specifically to talk about reading.

Last night’s topic was survival. This meant I had to complete Christianne’s crossword puzzle of survival answers from my own book (I failed miserably), and also illustrate, Pictionary-style, the word “cannibalism.” That part, I did quite well.


Yes, I’ll be illustrating all my own books from now on.

Next, there was a snack, which a volunteer had created based on the book! Unfortunately, most of the foods in When the Worst Happens are things like bat blood and maggots. So she decided upon foods one might dream about while in a survival situation. (A rather good idea, no?) If there are any other writers out there hoping to one day attend a Lyceum event, I would suggest writing appealing snacks into your manuscript.

And finally, there was a craft! Yes, a make-your-own survival chart. If you’ve read the book, you’ll recognize these as David Parkins’ “I’m cool and collected,” and “Yikes! I’m frozen,” and “PANIC!!!” survivor icons.


A huge thank you to all the book clubbers who made my evening at the Lyceum so interesting and so much fun.

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In the trees!

I’m very excited to announced that 50 Body Questions has been nominated for a 2015 Silver Birch Award. These are readers’ choice awards voted on by Ontario students… which makes me even MORE excited about my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour to Ontario schools next May.


In the meantime, big congrats to the other writers and illustrators on the Silver Birch non-fiction list, including Michelle Mulder for Every Last Drop, Stephen Shapiro for It’s a Feudal, Feudal World, and Helene Becker for Zoobots!


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Happy belated Thanksgiving, all! I’m back at my desk in a slightly rounder state, having stuffed myself with turkey and pumpkin pie all weekend.

I’m sure it will burn off, though — I have a busy few weeks ahead of me! Tomorrow evening, I’m meeting the Novel Knickers at Christianne’s Lyceum, to talk extreme survival. On Monday, I head down to the Annick offices for a reception, where I will pretend to be more intelligent than I actually am. I’m attending a Writers Fest event, just for fun. Then having a writer friend for dinner, and going for drinks with my writer’s group, and attending the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association conference dinner.

Whew! After the school strike and 13 weeks of being home with my kids, it feels like I’ve finally turned back into a real writer. Though now that I’ve looked at this schedule, I’d better find some time for the actual writing…

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How Shani Mootoo got me married

I just picked up Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab from the library. And it’s reminded me that Shani Mootoo may well be responsible for my marriage.


Min and I met at a couple large-group events. We had dinner a couple times. Then he began inviting me to sports events.

Beach volleyball?
I have no idea how to play volleyball. There should have been public service announcements at my high school saying, “you must learn volleyball now or your social life will be forever stunted.” But there weren’t. So no, I would not be playing volleyball on a beach.

Um… can you play soccer with your arms over your head, ducking whenever the ball passes by? I think not.

I was getting worried by this time, so I went to at least watch the ultimate game. Min’s friend Glenn walked up and grabbed his water bottle. “I’ve drank two of these today and I’ve only pissed once,” he said. I began to worry about this entire situation.

When I complained about the issue at work, my friend Robin said, “You know what? You should take him to a poetry reading.”

Aha! This was a fantastic idea. If I was going to spend time far outside my comfort zone, then Min should have to spend time outside his, right?

I got a Georgia Straight and looked up the literary events for the week. No poetry, but a presentation by three women at the Vancouver Public Library, all speaking about weaving immigrant voices into their work.

We went.

We listened.

We laughed… a lot.

As I remember, there was much talk about overprotective mothers, and Min could relate. He loved it. He even made friends with another writer in the row behind ours.

As for me? I sat there beaming, because I’d found a guy willing to sit through a literary reading. AND, he’d paid for dinner. I decided to overlook the sports thing.

I can’t remember who the other two speakers were. But thank you, Shani Mootoo.

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Grandma wisdom

My son and I flew to Edmonton on the weekend for my grandma’s 90th birthday party. She had a fall recently and is still a bit bruised, but that didn’t stop her from partying it up. She outlasted me by at least an hour, and I hear they started cleaning up the room around her.


After ninety years and two long-term relationships, four kids, several foster babies, multiple businesses, nine grandkids, and thirteen great-grandkids, there’s not a lot that phases my grandma. She has the same bemused, off-hand way of discussing everything.

On her home-care help:
“How’s she going to find the sugar if she doesn’t take the blinking lid off the sugar bowl?”

On her nephew’s gender identity:
“Oh yes, he goes by Lisa now.”

On having a New Year’s baby:
“All the doctors were drunk.”

On her accomplishments:
“Well, of all my children and grandchildren, there’s none of them in jail. I can be proud of that.”

Personally, I think she has a wee bit more to be proud of than our lack of incarceration. And here’s hoping I’ve inherited some of her genes.

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Jangling change

Alright, break time’s over.

During my high school years, I waitressed at my parents’ restaurant. My dad would walk around the place either whistling or jangling the change in his pocket.

When we chattering waitresses teased him about it one day, he said a past boss of his had passed the strategy along. Check on your employees often, but always let them know you’re coming. They start working faster, without any confrontation.

He’s tricky, my dad.

Yesterday was the kids’ first full day back at school and my first full writing day. So, I did exactly one hour of work and then I went shopping.

Productive, no?

But now I hear the jingling and the whistling in my head. Time to get back to work! Strange how I learned all my productivity lessons more than two decades ago, while serving burgers.

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What it’s really like inside my brain

1. The strike is over! Schools are opening on Monday. Glory, hallelujah!

2. I’m going to drop my kids off at school, and then I’m going to drink coffee in silence, and write, and finish reading A Tale for the Time Being, and have a pedicure, and call my mom and have an actual conversation. That could be all in Day One. Days, glorious days of writing are stretching into my future.

3. Am I a bad mother for feeling this way? Kids need education, right? It’s good for them to go back to school. Yup, not just good for me. Good for them as well.

4. Unless there’s an earthquake. Oh my goodness, what if there’s an earthquake? Then they’ll be crushed beneath falling bricks, all because I wanted to drink coffee by myself. I am the most selfish person ever to exist on the earth.

5. I should homeschool.

6. Then I would go insane.

7. It may be too late for that particular worry.

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A non-writing accomplishment

Apples, from our own backyard. We planted a little apple tree two summers ago, and this is the first time it’s offered significant fruit. It’s a columnar tree, with barely any branches.


If it had branches, I’d be tempted to climb to the top and chain myself there, just for some quiet time!

Instead, I’m going to gorge on apple crisp.

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