Overheard

Conversation between two 12-year-olds:

Girl A: Where are you going to be a neurosurgeon?

Girl B: Probably Los Angeles. They’re well known for pediatrics.

Girl A: But then you’ll have to charge people.

Girl B: What?

Girl A: In the United States, people have to pay for health care.

Girl B: Oh no! That’s so sad!

Girl A: Sorry to ruin your future.

Birthday tales

Last weekend, we packed the car and headed to Creston for my dad’s 70th birthday. He’s one of those people who takes one look at his wrapped birthday presents and knows exactly what they are. But this year, thanks to the combined efforts of my family, my sister’s family, a few friends, and my very sneaky mom, we managed to surprise him.

Exhibit A: My dad, surprised.

But half an hour later, he was back in his usual element.

Exhibit B: Telling us how he accidentally left my brother-in-law in the middle of Kootenay Lake.

You will note that, while I tell my stories on paper instead of before crowds of people, I do come by the tendency honestly.

Happy birthday, Dad!

Running away to the circus

Why Rachelle Delaney is smarter than me:

First, she wrote books set in Moscow and Prague, and therefore had to travel Europe for research purposes. Then, she wrote a book about a circus school, and took trapeze and parkour lessons.

Why on earth am I setting my books deep in the forest in the middle of the Kootenays?

This is entirely bad planning on my part.

But back to Rachelle. Min, Silence, Violence, and I went to her Wednesday night book launch for The Bonaventure Adventures. The Book Warehouse on Main did a wonderful job of hosting. Rachelle was funny and smart as she told us all about her parkour-lesson bruises (at least I only get mosquito bites on my research trips), and the book is fabulous.


I hope L’École Nationale de Cirque has extra lesson spaces for those of us about to launch our own aerial acts…

The spill-all edition

I am terrible at keeping secrets. I tell you this not so you’ll keep from me your pregnancy and job interview news (though you probably should), but so you’ll understand how painful it was for me to keep THIS a secret for the six years weeks it took to sign the contracts.

I wrote a middle-grade novel! And someone liked it!

Titles sometimes change, but at this moment the book is called THE CAMPAIGN. It’s the story of one 12-year-old girl’s plan to get her own cell phone. (And if there was a 12-year-old girl in my house this year who happened to be lobbying for a phone, that was a complete coincidence.)

It’s going to come out with Tundra Books in 2019. Which seems like a long time from now, but at least I can talk about it until then!

The Red Cedars

I went to the Red Cedar Awards Gala on Saturday. This is a student-choice award (the very best kind). About 100 kids from across the province were in attendance, along with their teachers and librarians. Some of my favourite authors were also there. In the photo below, you’ll see Linda Bailey (Seven Dead Pirates), Janet Whyte (Shot in the Dark), Robin Stevenson (The Summer We Saved the Bees), Jordan Stratford (The Case of the Missing Moonstone), Sharon Jennings (Connecting Dots), Jennifer Mook-Sang (Speechless), Merrie-Ellen Wilcox (What’s the Buzz), and me.

It never matters who wins a student-choice award. The reward is in the nomination — knowing hundreds of kids will read your book (DNA Detective, in this case), discuss with friends, and vote. But I did think it was funny that my daughter, when scoping out the competition, said, “Mom, it’s too bad you’re up against that animal rescue book.”

And alas, she was right!

A big congratulations to Julia Coey, who won the Red Cedar information book prize this year with Animal Hospital.

Note to self: add baby chipmunks to all future books.

My accidental ninja book

I have a book coming out this fall which I wrote completely by accident.

About a year ago, I sent Annick a proposal for a companion book to Extreme Battlefields. The new idea was called Alone at War, and featured behind-enemy-lines stories of spies and saboteurs.

Annick didn’t love the collection, but asked me to create a non-fiction book from one of the proposed chapters — the story of Mochizuki Chiyome, a female ninja-trainer in 16th-century Japan.

So I wrote that book. Then Annick said, “there isn’t enough information here.” Which was entirely true because, you know, 16th century. There were lots of sentences which began, “Historians think this might have happened…” Or, “Perhaps, at this point…”

We decided to fill in the blanks and create a historical fiction piece.

Perfect!

Except that I had never written historical fiction before. Turns out it’s hard! It took a few drafts to get the right balance between fact and action. (My lovely editor, Paula Ayer, should probably have her name on the cover and should definitely win some sort of medal for patience.)

The finished book is a hybrid. There’s a warlord named Takeda Shingen, definitely a real guy. Then there’s Chiyome, probably real. And there’s a village girl named Aki, who’s entirely a figment of my imagination.

When melded together, their tales are full of action, with enough twists to impress even Violence, who recently read the proofs and gave the story a rare two thumbs up.

And that’s how I accidentally wrote a book about ninjas.

Silence speaks

The following is a review contributed by my 12-year-old daughter, who chose her own pen name long ago, but is generally not at all silent. Enjoy!

Hi All!

Silence here. Just read Calvin by Martine Leavitt. Absolutely fantastic book about a seventeen-year-old boy named Calvin who was coincidentally born on the day that publishing of Calvin and Hobbes ceased. As a young child, he was given a stuffed toy named Hobbes, and now, at seventeen, diagnosed with schizophrenia, Calvin is seeing Hobbes again, and he is not happy about it.

Calvin lives on the Canadian side of Lake Erie, and Bill Watterson, the author of Calvin and Hobbes, lives on the American side. Accompanied by his friend Susie, and, of course, Hobbes, Calvin comes up with a plan to trek across Lake Erie, and see if Bill Watterson himself can make the hallucinatory Hobbes disappear.

Want to hear the ending? Read it!

A well-written, wonderful story that is a total must read, Calvin is great for older tweens and up.

My one complaint? A very misleading cover that was not to my taste at all. I’d heard of the book before, but the cover threw me off until my mom read it and told me I should read it too.

It’s 100 percent worth ignoring the cover and reading this book, though. It’s so good!!!

Literary tourism and fried bananas

We went to Disneyland recently. The week before the trip, I bought our park tickets and made a rough daily itinerary. Then I got busy.

Silence picked up my list and read: Tuesday—Beach.

“What beach are we going to?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Pick one.”

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Silence is a super-fan of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel-Frederick. (Direct quote: “Heather Vogel-Frederick is a literary genius.”)

Silence has read the books multiple times; she’s listened to the audio books multiple times; she’s corresponded with the author; she’s memorized the middle names of all the characters. Thus, on our Tuesday away, we ended up renting a car and driving to Newport Beach. But not so we could see the beach. No, so we could find the tiny ferry terminal that would take us to Balboa Island, home of our (fictional) friend Cassidy Sloane, and birthplace of frozen bananas.

We spent the entire day driving, hunting for ferry, riding ferry, walking island, finding said bananas, and then doing it all in reverse, but it was a lovely, sunny day and Silence was very, very happy. (Violence wasn’t complaining about a day in search of chocolate-dipped treats, either.)

All in all, it was much more successful than our second “literary” tourism moment of the trip, which was a turn on the Harry Potter 4D ride at Universal Studios. That one left me sitting on a park bench with my head between my knees while the kids enjoyed their butter beers without me.