Authors for Indies

Things that will probably happen at Black Bond Books in Ladner this Saturday, as I participate in Authors for Indies day:

1. They will find me curled in the back corner reading some irresistible book that I’ve found, and they will have to tell me to get back to work.

2. I will recommend Dan Bar-el’s Audrey (Cow) to adults looking for thrillers. Because really, everyone should read Audrey (Cow) and it IS suspenseful.

3. I will meet Ashley Spires and say something gushy, then excuse myself to go to the washroom and knock my head against the wall a few times.

If you would like to join me in any of these activities, I’m at Black Bond from 10 a.m. until noon. Stop by and say hello! Also, read Audrey (Cow).

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Notebook mysteries

Because my bedside table is overflowing, I decided to go through my full notebooks and then get rid of them (which is code for putting them in the crawlspace, because I find it impossible to part with notebooks).

Here’s what I discovered while flipping through the pages: my notebooks are crazy. There are grocery lists and PAC meeting notes, drafts of letters and story ideas, to-do lists, revision notes, prices for internet connections, bubble maps of title possibilities, strange doodles, words I can’t decipher, and something that reads “Three friends — The Furies — gay boyfriend.”

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WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? What if it was going to be something brilliant, and now it will be nothing because I failed to communicate to myself in complete sentences?

Also, there are pages and pages in these notebooks that I have no memory of writing. I don’t remember coming up with the ideas, or starting the stories, or ever being interested in the topics.

I’m pretty sure an alien secretly lives in my brain.

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And more news!

There’s a rule about blogs. One is supposed to offer interesting and entertaining content, and not talk about oneself all the time. But I have so much exciting news this week!

I’ve just signed a contract with Groundwood Books for a young adult novel, to be published in Fall 2017.* And can I say that I was already thrilled to be working with Groundwood even before they won Best Children’s Publisher of the Year in Bologna?

Next news: The Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada have shortlisted DNA Detective for the 2016 Information Book Award. Woohoo! There are many other stellar books on the list, including Annick’s Urban Tribes, by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Lisa Charleyboy, Groundwood’s West Coast Wild by Deborah Hodge, and Kids Can’s Child Soldier, by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine. Plus lots more fodder for my to-read list!

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* Sooooooo far away. Aaaaaaaaaaah. How will I last that long? People say their books are like their babies. Having had both, I can tell you that books take a LOT longer to birth.

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News flash

Two exciting things to report! First, I am thrilled to have DNA Detective shortlisted for the Science in Society Book Awards, presented by the Canadian Science Writers’ Association. You can see the entire shortlist here. If you share my level of science-book-geekitude, you will want to read all the books in both categories. Who can resist a science book called Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? (Is she, do you think?)

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Next in the news department: I’ll be spending the morning of Saturday, April 30th, at Black Bond Books in Ladner, as part of Authors for Indies day. I’ve always wanted to work in a bookstore, and this is my big chance. They’re even going to let me recommend books to random shoppers, which may prove dangerous for everyone involved.

Come and visit if you’re in the ‘hood!

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My Russian tour

I’ve been taking an accidental course in Russian history. I started with The Family Romanov by Candace Fleming. It’s all about the last tsar of Russia and his family, muddling their way through a quickly changing political world. The book is wonderfully written, sort of a sweeping family saga except tragically true.

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The Family Romanov served as the perfect appetizer for the what turned out to be the main course: Symphony for the City of the Dead, by M.T. Anderson. This is another (supposed) children’s book about Russian politics and history, all carefully woven around the life story of composer Dmitri Shostakovich.

Shostakovich was first loved by the Russian people, then targeted by the government and treated as a pariah, then loved once again. He survived the siege of Leningrad during World War II. The symphony he wrote while starving in his beloved city became an international symbol of hope and humanity.

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The book was fascinating. My only issue is… it’s about a billion pages long. And it’s about Russian history. Are kids really going to read it? I devoured every possible book as a kid, but I can’t see my 13-year-old self choosing this one. And my daughter, avid reader that she is, didn’t make it through the more palatable Family Romanov.

What makes a non-fiction book a kid’s non-fiction book? That’s what I’ve been wondering, in between marvelling at the machinations of Russian politics. The prose in Symphony for the City of the Dead is clear and compelling… but shouldn’t that be a mark of good adult non-fiction as well? Anderson doesn’t assume the reader has prior knowledge of history, geography, or politics, and he offers plenty of background information… but wouldn’t more adults read Russian history if that were the case in all non-fiction books?

I have no real answers to these questions, except to say that both kids and adults should be choosing more non-fiction and these books are a wonderful place to start (for adults) and an impressive challenge (for younger readers).

I’m off to continue my Russian education with Stalin’s Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan. I’ll let you know how I do with my transition to actual grown-up biography.

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Book 9-1-1

Homes in Vancouver are small. We don’t have endless space for bookshelves. And my husband doesn’t share my view that books make nice decorations on the kitchen counter, or that stacks of hardcovers can serve as perfectly good side tables.

The kids have shelves in their rooms, where books are stacked in double rows. I have a shelf in the family room similarly crammed, as well as a couple desk drawers, two bedside table drawers, and one stack beside my bedside table (which usually escapes spousal attention unless it teeters too high).

Still not enough. It never feels like enough, and I’m always having to give away books that I love.

Then, last night, a friend called with a book issue. Her son was sick. He’d been sleeping all afternoon but at 8:30 pm, was wide awake and looking for something to read. Unfortunately, he was right in the middle of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and they’d forgotten their copy in Whistler on the weekend. Could I help?

I was so pleased to turn on my flashlight, sneak past my sleeping son, and withdraw the hardcover from the back row of his top shelf.

Even in a space-aware state, I’m still the person to call in a literary emergency.

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Sea monsters

It’s a Kootenay right of passage. You wobble up on your waterskis and maybe make it across the wake for the first time. Just as you’re congratulating yourself, you tumble spectacularly into the waves. Then you forget to let go of the rope, get water up your nose, and surface with your hair plastered so thoroughly across your face you worry you might suffocate. You wait, hyperventilating, while the boat chugs away from you to rescue the ski that went flying.

Just as you’re left behind, bobbing alone in the ocean-sized lake, your dad calls, “Don’t let the sturgeons get your toes!”

I am not alone in this. Kootenay-raised children gather in church basements all around the world to discuss their lingering fears of giant fish.

And check out the news I’m taking to my next meeting: Kogopogo.

(For the record, these fish are important, as are the efforts being made to rescue the species. But good luck thinking about ecology as you tread water.)

Leave a comment below if you’d like to join my support group.

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