Silence Speaks

This is a guest post by my ten-year-old daughter, Silence. (She would rather add book reviews to her own blog, but that has been ix-nayed for a few more years.) These are her thoughts about A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius, by Stacey Matson. Stacey is a member of my writing group, and Silence found her book at the school library. I’ll let my daughter take it from here…

Enter self-confident, smart, 13-year-old Arthur Bean. Moving can be hard, especially after losing your mom, but Arthur is ready.

On his first day at school, he decided that by the end of the school year, he will have both won the school’s writing contest, and convinced his secret crush Kennedy that he is the one for her.

You’ll laugh at Arthur’s attempts at tutoring popular by not-very-bright Robbie. The two begin as enemies, but slowly become closer in this funny and unusual story.

I rate this book 5 out of 5, and would recommend it to anyone who needs a good laugh.


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It was all the fault of last night’s stinky fish. I went to take the garbage out early this morning, but I had to turn off our alarm before opening the front door.

I tried to turn it off. It didn’t work. I tried again. It didn’t work. It seems I was punching the buttons downstairs at exactly the same time Min was punching them upstairs.

We eventually got the alarm off and proceeded to shower.

And then the police turned up.

The first line of my novel, Truth, is “The police are at my door at 3 a.m.”

Well, two plainclothes police officers were at my door at 7 a.m. this morning. Apparently, in all our button fumbling, we managed to type a duress code into our alarm. So they thought we might have been held at gunpoint or something.

But no, we were just idiots.

So embarrassing.

The police refrained from calling us bad names, they went along their way to fight actual crime, and Min and I took our red faces upstairs to make breakfast.

I think next, we’ll build a safe room.

And then lock ourselves in.


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On the need for tough coaches

I was watching my son’s soccer game yesterday. He plays on some afternoons with a coach whose website says simply “I am the best coach in Vancouver.”

He is certainly the most entertaining coach in Vancouver. He has a strong Eastern European accent, and he’s read none of this decade’s child-rearing manuals. So he yells things like, “Push, boys. Push. He is not going to break. Use your elbows. Oooh… penalty shot. But good job. Next time, little push.”

At the end, he gives out cookies. But only to the winners.

Strangely, my son loves these soccer games. He leaves the field red-cheeked and exhausted, and recounting every one of his moves and passes and goals. And he’s certainly improving under the onslaught.

Which is all making me think that maybe I need a Slovakian writing coach. Someone to stand behind my desk and yell, “Get going, Tanya. Vat are you doing, vasting time vith zis Tvitter? Focus!”

Min’s quite good at accents. Maybe I’ll have him make me a recording.

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On the Tour Bus

In just a few short weeks, I set sail (on a plane) for Ontario, as part of TD Children’s Book Week. I am beyond excited. I have prepared my presentations, stocked the freezer with food so my family doesn’t starve while I’m gone, and even bought a few new, publicly acceptable items of clothing.

I fly into Toronto, then Lee Edward Fodi and I drive to St. Catherines to meet Kari-Lynn Winters for a day-long literacy festival.

After that, I speak at schools and libraries in Pelham and Mississauga before jetting off to Ottawa for four more days of presentations.

We are not going to discuss here how many times I am going to (a) misplace my hotel key, (b) wear my clothes backwards, or (c) get lost. No. Because we are focussing on how amazing it’s going to be to meet hundreds of kids who love books.

There’s a Book Week interview with me here. And if you want to know more about the tour in general, check out the website. It’s an amazing program, and I’m feeling thoroughly honoured to be a part of it all.

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I just scrolled through my last month of Twitter posts to make sure I haven’t been sounding like an embittered wench.

Well, yes, now that you’ve asked. I am an embittered wench. But I’m pretty sure the Twitter rules for children’s writers read: “Wench-ish-ness must be kept to a minimum at all times.”

Thankfully, there are no such rules for blogs.

(Just kidding.)

(Sort of.)

Prompting my wench-ish-ness: the delays, delays, and more delays to school seismic upgrades in Vancouver. What kind of society puts its most vulnerable citizens in its least safe buildings? As I may have mentioned here before, I’m the chair of the seismic committee at my kids’ school, but lately that position has felt a lot like shouting into a black hole.

I am going to take up meditation, so the frustration doesn’t kill me. I’m also going to drink lots of peppermint tea, say long prayers, and read books with happy endings, before writing any more blog posts. As my mom used to say: “Come back once you’ve had an attitude adjustment, young lady.”

Hmmm… I could think of a few politicians who could take that advice.

Oops. Peppermint tea. STAT.

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Where DO puppies come from?

The phone rang on Saturday afternoon, while we were all sitting around the kitchen table finishing our lunches.

My husband glanced at call display. “Vancouver Public Library,” he said. Since it was obviously not for him, he made no move to answer.

Meanwhile, I was thinking, “I’m sure my books aren’t that overdue.”

My daughter said, “It’s probably TWAG.”

And my son said, “Maybe they want to give us a puppy.”

So that was a complete family portrait, all in one moment.

As it turned out, my daughter was right. It was the library’s Tween Advisory Group (TWAG), calling to ask if she’d like to go to Kidsbooks with them to help choose new library books.

How awesome was that?

(Also, thank God it wasn’t a puppy.)

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Leopard print and literature

My daughter is part of an eight-week writing program this spring, an enrichment class offered through the school board.

My husband has a few doubts about this program. Partly because in order to get her there, one of us has to schlep across town while the other picks up our son at the regular school. And also because he’s a little worried our daughter will grow into a goth poet and we’ll have to get a place with a basement suite because she’ll never be able to pay her own rent.

But… she was SO excited on the first morning. You’d think we were taking her to a candy store for the day.

At three o’clock, I went to pick her up. I was chatting with a few moms I’d never met before, standing outside the closed classroom door. Then it burst open. The first one out was my daughter. She was wearing:

– polka-dotted pants
– a lime-green fuzzy sweater
– a leopard-print jacket with a faux-fur hood
– sequinned ankle boots
– a giant smile

It was quite something. All the moms’ heads tracked her as she bounded toward me.

And I thought two things. First, she is never going to be a goth poet in outfits like that. And second, she is so brimming with confidence that if she did decide to become one, there would be no way to stop her.

The class is making me wonder one thing, though…. Why do we reward reading and writing so generously in school, and then so little in life?

As soon as I come up with an answer for that one, I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of investing in some sparkly ankle boots.

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Earrings to change the world

I was looking for earrings this morning, so I did what I do every time I look for earrings: I pull the drawer from my jewellery box, dump out the three massive pairs that block everything else, and then find the tiny pair I want to wear.

It occurred to me (five or ten years after it should have) that I could take the three massive pairs out of my jewelry box, and then I wouldn’t have to dump them every time I wanted to find something.

Why do I even have these pairs? Granted, they’re lovely. Giant silver hoops, twisted silver knots, and black-and-white shells. I have worn the hoops for short periods, and the other pairs not at all.

But here’s the thing: I would like to wear these earrings. I would like to be the type of person who can comfortably wear glitzy look-at-me jewelry.

I’m just not.

BUT, maybe I could be. You know, when I turn 65 and become a raging granny.

With that in mind, I have not moved the earrings. I have left them in their highly inconvenient home. Because, you never know…

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Harried. Or Hair-ied.

My car didn’t start.

It was 11:55 and I was supposed to be at a hair appointment at noon. The salon wasn’t far away, but it was outside walking distance, and definitely outside 5-minute walking distance.

I ran back into the house, rummaged through my son’s desk until I found enough change to take the bus, ran the three blocks to the bus stop, and found the 44 Express waiting for me.

Two stops later, I got off the bus and jogged the final four blocks to my appointment.

I was less than 10 minutes late, which I thought was quite an accomplishment. But then my hairdresser — a rather adorable ex-professional-rugby-player-turned-stylist — started running his hands through my hair discussing options, and my head was all sweaty. Ick.

The moral of this story: stop writing five minutes earlier in future.

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On responsible journalism

I read this story, in The Atlantic, about the California drought. And I read this one about the water crisis in Brazil.

Let me summarize them here, so you don’t have to read them. They say, basically: “running out of water, dire situation, drought, thirst, emergency, apocalypse.”

Well, they don’t actually say that last word, but that’s what I got from the articles.

I have two suggestions to make for this sort of journalism. First, it should come with a warning button. Or three.

“You’ve just clicked on ‘California Drought.’ Are you sure you want to read this article?”

If you click “yes,” it says: “REALLY sure?”

If you click “yes” again, it says, “What about your family? How are they going to feel about you reading this article? Please have an independent family member click ‘yes’ before proceeding.”

Once you get through all that, if you choose to actually read, the article should be required to end with three things you can do to fix the situation. “Please stop eating broccoli, stop flushing all toilets, and contact your local representative today.”

Would that help? I’m not sure. I just know that I should have thought more before I clicked. Also, aaaaaack apocalypse.

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