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.

How to be a writer with kids

My daughter made me a “how to survive being a writer with kids” package for my birthday, and it’s brilliant. I think she should patent it and start mass-production immediately.

Not only does it have emergency goodies inside, such as a magazine and oatmeal cookies, it has the best coupons ever:

And my personal favourite:

It’s so nice that someone understands me.

Baby days

I looked after my two nephews, ages two and four, for the weekend. They are absolutely adorable, funny, and FULL of action.

As I collapsed on the bed at the end of Saturday, I said to my husband, “How did I do this for so many years? And how did I write books while doing it?”

He said, “Well, you didn’t really shower.”

Ah. Priorities.

Word Vancouver

It’s almost September! My calendar is a mess of kids’ activities and parent meetings and, in a pale yellow colour that seems to disappear amidst the family chaos, my own book events.

I’m thinking of changing my colour to fuchsia.

In case you’d like to mark your own calendars, in fuchsia or otherwise, I’m doing two events as part of Word Vancouver.

At 6:30 pm on Friday, September 22nd, I’m reading from Shadow Warrior at Christianne’s Lyceum as part of a Heroics and Heart evening. Rachelle Delaney and Kallie George are also reading. AND… here’s the best part… you can wear your pyjamas. I know! All book events should occur in pyjamas. Why don’t more people think of this?

At 2:30 pm on Sunday, September 24th, I’m talking Eyes and Spies in the south plaza of the downtown Vancouver Public Library. (I don’t actually know where the south plaza is, but hopefully we’ll all figure it out and end up there together. It can’t be that hard, right?)

Come and bring friends and fuzzy slippers! (To either event. I won’t judge.) I’d love to have friendly faces in the audience.

Uninvited guests

I was having an idyllic writers’ group meeting in the backyard with Kallie George, Rachelle Delaney, Stacey Matson, and Christy Goerzen. Once the wine was poured and the fruit crisps passed, Rachelle got up to snap this photo.

We discussed picture books. All was well in the world.

Until I saw movement from the corner of my eye.

“Uh… guys? There’s a skunk in the yard.”

But it was fairly benign. When we made noise, it waddled along the fence until it could duck into the neighbour’s yard.

Then its friend arrived. This one wandered all the way around the pond and headed toward us. When  we made noise, it raised its tail. It took a few more steps forward.

With great squealing, snatching of laptops, and scattering of chairs, we sprinted en masse toward the house.

For the record, if there’s ever a track meet for children’s writers, Kallie George is a sure winner in the 100-meter dash.