Like Netflix, but better

I love having my own personal pre-reader. My daughter gets stacks of books from the library and basically screens them for me.

Sometimes she tells me they’re not worth my time. Sometimes after the first few chapters, she says I should read it once she’s finished. Then by the end, she’s less enthused.

Occasionally, she plops a book onto my lap and says, “I’m taking this back to the library tomorrow but you have to read it. Tonight.”


Her latest recommendation: The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brusker Bradley. It’s the story of an abused girl in World War II London who’s evacuated to the countryside, and there finds the strength to reshape her own life. Plus ponies.

What else could one need?

(My son is also reading, but his recommendations are slightly different. Most recently, he said: “Do you know the fastest person to eat three eclairs took 18.02 seconds? We should try to beat that.”)

Not according to plan

1. It is raining. In July. Again. And yet, the drought last year was so disturbing I can’t fully commit to complaining about this year’s weather. How very un-Vancouverite of me.

2. My kid is puking. She came home from camp on Monday with a virus, and things took a turn for the worse this morning. On the bright side, my child is twelve and capable of grabbing her own bowl when required. I am reminded to be grateful for this by my sister’s Facebook post from earlier this week:

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.29.15 AM

3. My site has grown beyond its allowable size. I thought I found a way to search for images that weren’t being used, but ended up deleting my header photos. Which is unfortunate because I love those photos, but probably a good kick in the butt as well, since the same headers have been rotating for years now. I will now be taking new photos, and maybe deleting posts from (gasp) 2010. Change is good. I hope.

I think I’ll go read Pollyanna now. Does that book have a happy ending? I can’t remember…

Mistakes. Plus perspective.

I’ve been learning to play tennis, something I’ve decided is less a sport and more an exercise in frustration tolerance. The problem is this: most points end when someone makes a mistake. Since I’m the beginner, that “someone” is usually me. And I HATE making mistakes! Who invented a sport all about failure?


The book I’m working on right now is also something new to me — a creative non-fiction project that’s wandered across the line into historical fiction. I’ve just completed a major rewrite and I have a feeling there are plenty more editing changes to come. (Did I mention that I hate messing up?)

I’m telling myself that it’s impossible to learn without doing things wrong a few times. And I’m remembering the words of one of my first bosses, writer and editor Robin Rivers. As we stared at a printed, hardcover photography book that was missing one important, highly noticeable line of text, she said: “Well at least we’re not neurosurgeons. No one dies when we screw up.”

So true. At least I’m not a neurosurgeon. Or a magician.

Laundry day

We writers tend to see stories everywhere, but I’m guessing anyone could build a tale with the items I just pulled from my son’s pockets.

* Three candy wrappers
* One slingshot
* One rock
* One wad of bloody tissues

Why do I even bother asking my kids what they’ve done with their days? I should check their pockets first.

The crazy ride

Min dropped our recently-turned-12 daughter at the gates of the PNE on Friday and drove away. That seems crazy to me. How is she old enough to go on a roller coaster by herself? It was a youth group event, from 7 until midnight, but we picked her up at 9:30. She was so thrilled we’d let her go, she didn’t complain about the early pick-up.

Though we did have this conversation:

Me: What time are your friends staying ’til?

Her: Eleven.

Me: Eleven!!

Her: Their mom’s at a play until 10:30, so she couldn’t pick them up until 11 anyway.

Me: Next year you can stay until 9:35.

All this independence is a scary thing (for me), but I love this age. The kids are exploring so much on their own, Min and I have shifted away from being activity supervisors and towards something more like emergency crash-pad operators, or safe-house supervisors.

And so far, they still seem to like us. So far…

Quiet space

I spent last weekend on Mayne Island, as part of a CWILL BC writers retreat hosted by Pam Withers.

I had a lovely bed and breakfast room overlooking the bay, and who could not write, surrounded by scenes like this?


I finished a big revision while I was there, but as the wise Ellen Schwartz said, “it’s a writers retreat, not a writing retreat.” That meant long walks, reading, and wildlife-watching were all allowable activities. We even had a chance to hear excerpts of others’ works in progress. (And I now have 11 new books I’m looking forward to reading.)

Maggie de Vries led a great session about point of view, and how specificity contributes to the immersion of the reader. You know when you read passages, in your own books or those of others, and there are things that just seem wrong? Now I know why.


This is Jenny Watson, Ellen Schwartz, Stacey Matson, and me, walking in the rain with the talented Karen Hibbard (whose photo I’ve blatantly stolen.)

It was a wonderful getaway, and timed perfectly. School ends next week, so there won’t be much writing time in my immediate future!

In which I learn that I’ll be useless in the apocalypse

The whole family went to the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire on Sunday. It was incredible. There were robot-builders and drone-flyers, quilters and wool-spinners, rocket-ship launchers and jewelry crafters. There were people who made things in forges, and people who made things from moulted parrot feathers.

If zombies take over the Earth, these are the people you’ll want to know. (Okay, maybe not the parrot people.)

This is me with James McCann, who was manning the Richmond Public Library booth and creating the Eiffel Tower on a 3D printer (as one does).


Coincidentally, James has his own zombie apocalypse novel coming out in a couple weeks. Which I’m going to read for survival tips, as I’ve now confirmed that I have no useful skills once the power grid goes.

Packing trauma

My daughter and 80 other grade 6/7s just pulled away on a school bus, headed for three days at outdoors camp. She was so excited this morning, she didn’t even complain when I woke her up at 7 a.m.

She DID complain as we packed her bags last night, and I vetoed the pink jean shorts and the flowered tank top and added a toque and soccer pants (which are actually long johns but can only be called soccer pants in my daughter’s presence).

I showed her the weather forecast (thunderstorms) and gave her the “no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear” line, but they had little impact.

Eventually, I left the room to count to ten and hiss at Min: “She doesn’t care about being warm! She only cares about looking cute!”

Very calmly, he said: “You should call your dad right now and apologize for when you were 12.”

Dad (since today’s your birthday and all), I hereby apologize.

Graphic design flashbacks

My kids’ elementary school traditionally has a yearbook, and, in a moment of insanity, I volunteered to do this year’s layout.

I used to work as a professional graphic designer. TWELVE years ago.

Since then, the software has changed along with everything else. I watched quite a few YouTube tutorials along the way, creating this book, and I sent a couple confused emails to graphic designer friends. But somehow, the project has reached its final stages.

[Cue theme music from Jaws.]

Printing. This morning, I take the files to the printer and then hope, hope, hope that (a) they don’t say, “sorry, you’ll have to reformat the entire project,” (b) the colours don’t turn even more psychedelic than I planned and (c) I don’t have a stroke while waiting to see the proofs.

I swear, this is much more stressful than my actual work.

Cross your fingers for me!

Mailbox goodies

These arrived yesterday:


They’re Korean editions of The Lowdown on Denim and I can’t stop flipping through the pages. It’s so fun/strange to see a book which I wrote (apparently), but can’t read.


I love these sorts of mailbox surprises. I often envy those highly organized writers who track their hours worked, or their royalty due dates, or their rate per word. I know I should probably try to become more like them.

On the other hand, there’s great joy in opening the mailbox and finding an unexpected cheque, or a forgotten proof, or, say, a Korean book about blue jeans.

And why ruin a good surprise for the sake of a little organization?