Skeletons in my closet

When I was in Ottawa a couple weeks ago, I noticed something in the hotel breakfast room. There were a lot of women there who knew how to dress appropriately for work. They wore nicely creased pants or pencil skirts, blouses that had obviously been ironed and/or dry cleaned, blazers, and lovely shoes. So many lovely pairs of shoes!

I, on the other hand, wore one of my two pairs of somewhat presentable dress pants (though one pair is a little short), usually with a top I had tried and failed to iron properly, and shoes that fit my orthotics.

How did I manage to hit 40 without learning to dress myself?

I’ve pinpointed a few problems:

1. I can wear the same clothes over and over again while typing, and when dropping my kids at school, or while grocery shopping, and no one cares. This is not motivating.

2. I like having clothes, but I don’t like buying clothes. After a few minutes in a store, I usually start thinking about sweatshops. (Damn you, Blue Jean Book. Why did I write you?) But ethically made clothes all seem to be (a) ridiculously expensive and (b) designed for long and lean people. Are all environmentalists/social activists tall, and fond of draping?

3. My one arthritic toe. Probably this entire clothing crisis can be traced to my big toe.

So, these are the problems. I have yet to think of solutions. Probably, I will slide back into my typing/school drop-off/grocery shopping routines, wearing the same pair of cut-offs and the same rotation of tops, and gradually forget there is a world where people own blazers and lovely shoes.

Until then, if you see me in a clothing store, feel free to offer advice. Or call search and rescue. Whichever seems appropriate.

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Freelance funnies

I came across The Story Board’s list of “Freelance Funnies” this morning, and I’ve been giggling to myself ever since.

In my own list:

1. The time I misused the property of the government office where I was working in order to fax my edits on a newspaper piece. The piece happened to be about female genital mutilation, and — unbeknownst to me — one of the pages didn’t go through. Remember how when a fax failed, the machine would print just the first few lines of the page? Well, those lines weren’t the best ones to have excerpted. The executive director found the partial page, assumed someone was dealing in child porn, and went on a manhunt among the law students in the office. Until I realized, in horror, what she’d found and what she’d thought. I had to ‘fess up. It was rather excruciating.

2. The time a Vancouver Sun photographer came to snap my portrait. He asked if he could shoot me in my studio. (Do people really have studios?) Then he asked if he could take my picture surrounded by my reference books. (Do people really keep their own stock of reference books?) Eventually he snapped me with my baby in the background, and I appeared in the Sun holding my new book, smiling, and appearing to completely ignore the crying child in the bouncy seat.

3. The time I was talking oh-so-professionally on the phone to my publisher when my son started projectile vomiting in the living room. I shouted “got to go!” and hung up on her. I’m pretty sure that’s not in the “how to land a contract” guide book.

The way my life goes, I’ll have more to add to this list very soon.

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Violence Speaks

My daughter was going to review The Enchanted Egg, the second book in Kallie George’s Magical Animal Adoption Agency series. In fact, Kallie gave her an advance reading copy just for that purpose. But Violence stole the book from Silence’s room before she’d had a chance to read it. (Yeesh. Who would steal a book from a child’s room?) Well, since he stole the book, he’s the one who will be reviewing this week. Here are Violence’s thoughts on The Enchanted Egg:

In this story there’s a new egg in the agency that hasn’t hatched yet. Clover and Mr. Jams still don’t know exactly what kind it is, but they are taking care of it anyway. One day when Mr. Jams has left to save another animal, Clover wakes up to find that the egg has cracked open, but where is the animal? Will Clover find the animal before Mr. Jams comes back?

I think this book is great because of all the animals. The fire salamanders are my favourites, but I don’t think my mom would let me have a fire salamander.

5/5 stars

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I’m back!

I arrived in Vancouver on Saturday night, but it’s taken me this long to put my introverted brain back together after all of that travel.

It was a VERY fun trip, and there’s something to be said for having groups of people applaud for you every two to three hours. (Do you think I could convince my family to do the same?)

I’m wrapping up a few remaining tasks — expense sheets and invoices and FAN MAIL! How awesome is that? It’s like applause that I get to keep.


Soon, I’d better get back to the grind. I have a sneaky suspicion there’s a book I’m supposed to be writing…

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The perfect Mother’s Day gift

I saw a blog suggestion this week that we should all buy our moms a copy of I’ll Love You Forever for Mother’s Day.


Now I like a good Robert Munsch tale as much as the next girl, and admittedly, the book is very sweet. But do NOT buy your mom a copy unless you want her to (a) cry and (b) throw up in her mouth before even tasting her first bite of her Mother’s Day French-toast-in-bed.

I spent all week travelling Ontario and talking to kids — hundreds of kids — about people who have taken risks and overcome obstacles to change the world. Some of those people were explosion-obsessed scientists. Some of them were teen activists. Some of them were moms.

None of them climbed through their children’s windows late at night. They had other things to do!

So if you’re going to buy your mother a book, buy her a biography of Lois Gibbs or Emily Jennings Stowe or Elizabeth May. Buy her a novel by Lynn Coady or Margaret Atwood or Angie Abdou.

At the very least, write her a card that says:

Thank you, Mom, for showing me how to run a business, how to make great friends, how to offer help to a neighbour in need, how to build community, balance a cheque book, adhere to a budget and a schedule, work hard, drink wine, bake muffins, build a mean campfire, and yes… take care of children.

Thank you for NOT crawling through my bedroom window.

I’ll love you forever not only for being a great mom, but also for being a great woman.

And let’s hope our kids will love us for the same.

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Exploring Ottawa

I visited the Parliament Buildings today, and the Canadian War Museum. But as I’ve followed my GPS from one part of Ottawa to the next for various school presentations, I’ve also ended up wandering through all sorts of interesting neighborhoods.

I had lunch in the sort of place that would happen if Vancouver’s Fraser Street hooked up with Commercial and had a baby: phô and iced coffee right next door to a trattoria. Nearby was this place:


It was a juxtaposition of gourmet pizzeria, nail spa, and tactical defence base. I was a little worried that I might get shot while taking this photo, but I couldn’t resist.

I’ve learned that there are many more bilingual people in Ottawa than in Vancouver. This has put a damper on my eavesdropping habits. I tried all through lunch, and all I got was that the people next to me were talking about something red. (I’ve retained words like “porquois” and “avec” but no nouns, apparently.)

I’ve also learned that Ottawa folk are abnormally patient. I’ve been driving around all week like a confused snail, and not a single person has honked at me.

Overall, for its combination of cultural mash-ups and extreme patience, with a lot of lovely green space thrown in (I’m writing this in a corner park), I have to give Ottawa two big thumbs up.

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On to Ottawa…

Whew… what a whirlwind! I gave two presentations in Pelham on Monday, then travelled by car, bus, train, and my own foot-power to Mississaugua. There, I gave three presentations in less than three hours at Allan A. Martin Senior Public School, and now I’m at the airport on my way to Ottawa.

So far, I’ve said two somewhat inappropriate things to large groups of people. While wearing a microphone. There should probably be some sort of psychological test which helps the Canadian Children’s Book Centre decide if authors have a filter before hiring us. But apparently there’s not, so here I am explaining to kids what my last name means if they say it ever-so-slightly wrong in Burmese. (It has four letters and begins with an “s.”)

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In my defence, the librarian asked. (She’s lovely, as are the other teachers at Allan A. Martin. You can find them on Twitter at @mjwheelerali and @@AllanAMartinPS.)

Also, photos shouldn’t be allowed during my presentations because they’re always excruciatingly embarrassing. But, as sharing tends to make things less embarrassing and more funny, here I am wearing my underwear outside my pants.

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Apparently, in Ontario, everyone wears their underwear inside their pants? This would have been helpful to know before my school visits.

It’s off to Ottawa now, where I will attempt to be more appropriate in public. I’m thinking chances are slim…

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The TD Book Week Tour Thus Far…

1. Lee Edward Fodi and I got lost in the Toronto airport parking lot.

2. We crashed with Kari-Lynn Winters in St. Catherines, then headed to Spring Into Reading, a literacy festival in Niagara. The whole show was orchestrated by the Ontario Literacy Association, and the kids were wonderful — fun, engaged, and willing to try their hands at anything. Even dangerous survival situations…



3. Lee and I got lost in the Best Buy parking lot. This could have become a theme except…

4. Lee was eaten by a giant T-Rex.


5. Finally, for a little extra awesomeness, Niagara Falls.


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Special delivery

Look what arrived at my door yesterday! It came just in time for me to show it off at a writer’s group meeting, and just in time to get packed in my Ontario bag.

These copies arrived by mail. The rest are still on a ship somewhere, crossing the Pacific. But I can’t wait for them to arrive, mostly so everyone can experience illustrator Lil Crump’s sense of humour. Wait until you see how she’s transformed DNA scientists into rock stars…


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To-do list

The good news: last week’s presentation to my daughter’s class went very well. I forgot to wear my giving-a-presentation-deodorant instead of my mineral salts, so the teacher now thinks I’m an abnormally sweaty person, but other than that, I was very happy.

Now, onto the next stage of my TD Children’s Book Week preparations: panic.

I hemmed a pair of pants last night. I counted to make sure I have eight presentable shirts. (I do, barely.) I’ve printed all my presentations and gathered most of my props. I now have to:

* buy a supply of energy bars
* find some stick-on moustaches (apparently these are a seasonal item?)
* organize one more afternoon of childcare for while I’m gone


* finish a big edit, half of which arrived on Friday and half of which lands today


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