Catching my breath…

Whew! What a week!

I spent the first half at various writing-related events, such as a brilliant conversation between Elizabeth Stewart, Susin Nielsen, and Cory Doctorow at the Vancouver International Writers Festival.

That half of the week ended with a gala dinner celebrating the 75th anniversary of the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association. It was amazing — amazing! — to be surrounded by so much kidlit love. As fellow Vancouver writer Norma Charles wrote afterwards, “All these book lovers, they’re MY people.”

After that galavanting, I filled my Sexy Subaru with some of my closest friends and we drove up to Whistler for a girls’ weekend. I never talk as much or listen as well or laugh as hard as I do with these women. At one point, I had the same bite of apple cake in my mouth for a long, long time, because I was laughing so hard that swallowing would have been a choking hazard.

I may have to take my introvert self to a closet for a few days to recover, but I am so grateful to have such incredible professional and personal friends in my life. They all make me feel as if there’s plenty of hope for the world.

Book love at the Lyceum

I spent yesterday evening at Christianne’s Lyceum, chatting with the Novel Knickers book club about When the Worst Happens.

First of all, if you’ve never been to the Lyceum, you must go. It’s a book-lover’s dream. A library downstairs, good tea, snacks (more on those later), and a loft filled with people who have gathered for a few hours specifically to talk about reading.

Last night’s topic was survival. This meant I had to complete Christianne’s crossword puzzle of survival answers from my own book (I failed miserably), and also illustrate, Pictionary-style, the word “cannibalism.” That part, I did quite well.


Yes, I’ll be illustrating all my own books from now on.

Next, there was a snack, which a volunteer had created based on the book! Unfortunately, most of the foods in When the Worst Happens are things like bat blood and maggots. So she decided upon foods one might dream about while in a survival situation. (A rather good idea, no?) If there are any other writers out there hoping to one day attend a Lyceum event, I would suggest writing appealing snacks into your manuscript.

And finally, there was a craft! Yes, a make-your-own survival chart. If you’ve read the book, you’ll recognize these as David Parkins’ “I’m cool and collected,” and “Yikes! I’m frozen,” and “PANIC!!!” survivor icons.


A huge thank you to all the book clubbers who made my evening at the Lyceum so interesting and so much fun.

In the trees!

I’m very excited to announced that 50 Body Questions has been nominated for a 2015 Silver Birch Award. These are readers’ choice awards voted on by Ontario students… which makes me even MORE excited about my TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour to Ontario schools next May.


In the meantime, big congrats to the other writers and illustrators on the Silver Birch non-fiction list, including Michelle Mulder for Every Last Drop, Stephen Shapiro for It’s a Feudal, Feudal World, and Helene Becker for Zoobots!



Happy belated Thanksgiving, all! I’m back at my desk in a slightly rounder state, having stuffed myself with turkey and pumpkin pie all weekend.

I’m sure it will burn off, though — I have a busy few weeks ahead of me! Tomorrow evening, I’m meeting the Novel Knickers at Christianne’s Lyceum, to talk extreme survival. On Monday, I head down to the Annick offices for a reception, where I will pretend to be more intelligent than I actually am. I’m attending a Writers Fest event, just for fun. Then having a writer friend for dinner, and going for drinks with my writer’s group, and attending the BC Teacher-Librarians’ Association conference dinner.

Whew! After the school strike and 13 weeks of being home with my kids, it feels like I’ve finally turned back into a real writer. Though now that I’ve looked at this schedule, I’d better find some time for the actual writing…

How Shani Mootoo got me married

I just picked up Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab from the library. And it’s reminded me that Shani Mootoo may well be responsible for my marriage.


Min and I met at a couple large-group events. We had dinner a couple times. Then he began inviting me to sports events.

Beach volleyball?
I have no idea how to play volleyball. There should have been public service announcements at my high school saying, “you must learn volleyball now or your social life will be forever stunted.” But there weren’t. So no, I would not be playing volleyball on a beach.

Um… can you play soccer with your arms over your head, ducking whenever the ball passes by? I think not.

I was getting worried by this time, so I went to at least watch the ultimate game. Min’s friend Glenn walked up and grabbed his water bottle. “I’ve drank two of these today and I’ve only pissed once,” he said. I began to worry about this entire situation.

When I complained about the issue at work, my friend Robin said, “You know what? You should take him to a poetry reading.”

Aha! This was a fantastic idea. If I was going to spend time far outside my comfort zone, then Min should have to spend time outside his, right?

I got a Georgia Straight and looked up the literary events for the week. No poetry, but a presentation by three women at the Vancouver Public Library, all speaking about weaving immigrant voices into their work.

We went.

We listened.

We laughed… a lot.

As I remember, there was much talk about overprotective mothers, and Min could relate. He loved it. He even made friends with another writer in the row behind ours.

As for me? I sat there beaming, because I’d found a guy willing to sit through a literary reading. AND, he’d paid for dinner. I decided to overlook the sports thing.

I can’t remember who the other two speakers were. But thank you, Shani Mootoo.

In the news…

First of all, I’m going to Ontario for next May’s TD Canadian Children’s Book Week! That was my first choice of destinations, so I’m very excited to be heading east for a week.

And, while I’m sharing, there’s a lovely review of When the Worst Happens in Kirkus. It’s left me all a-flutter.

There’s a teetering pile of research material on my desk for my next non-fiction project. Maybe the kind words will inspire progress!

The poisonous side of biodiversity

I’m excited to announce that 50 Poisonous Questions is part of a new exhibit at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum. If you haven’t been to this newish UBC museum yet, it’s time. The place is spectacular… and not just because there’s a blue whale skeleton hanging in the atrium.

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The museum has worked all sorts of CWILL BC books into exhibits about backyard biodiversity. But, if you’re not feeling bookish, you can do what I do when I visit: spend an hour (or three) opening drawer after drawer of strange and unusual specimens.

Happy hunting!

Getting our culture on

We’ve been going culture crazy around here. In true Kyi style, of course, which means we’ve included an opening-day trip to Guardians of the Galaxy.

But let’s pretend I didn’t admit that, and move on to the high-brow events…

The kids and I went on a backstage tour of the Orpheum, my longtime favourite place, hosted by The BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.


It was fabulous. We tromped above the dome to see the cables, snuck below the seats to see the old-fashioned air conditioning system, and explored everything in between. We learned about the inside jokes painted on the ceiling, the cost-saving architectural plans of the owner (a small entrance on expensive Granville Street, then stairs to lead audiences across the alley to the main hall on less-expensive Seymour), and the crazy media stunts of the first manager. We even got to touch the 1920s silent-movie organ and hear the buttons for damsel-in-distress sound effects — train engine and whistle, of course. The tour was only open to kids over twelve, but the monkeys used their angelic faces and were allowed to tag along. Both of them loved the dome best of all.

Monkey Girl and I then headed out to see Love’s Labour’s Lost, as performed by Carousel Theatre’s Teen Shakespeare Program. The production was outside on Granville Island, so it was like getting a miniature, free version of Bard on the Beach.

I explained to Monkey Girl the trick about Shakespeare plays — pretend you understand what’s happening for the first ten minutes, and then gradually you’ll discover that you do understand. It seemed to work. She even knew there was trouble coming the moment the messenger was handed two identical envelopes. “Mommy, he’s going to switch the love letters!”

Finally, Min and I and our friends Steve and Rebecca snuck away from all of our kids and headed to the Vancouver Art Gallery for a look inside Douglas Coupland’s twisted brain. As certified Gen-Xers, we found plenty to marvel at and exclaim over. And we spent a fair amount of time wondering exactly what Douglas Coupland’s garage looked like. That man has collected a LOT of stuff.


I have plenty more thoughts on the exhibit, to come in a later post. In the meantime, if you’d like to see Rebecca’s gum, it’s a white piece just about the goatee on Douglas’s left side.

On the road to anywhere

I’m hightailing it out of town next May, as part of TD Canadian Children’s Book Week.

To where, you ask? I have no idea! They announced the roster of touring writers, illustrators, and storytellers yesterday, but they haven’t yet decided who is going where. All I know is I’ll be travelling to a province outside my own, and may be required to go by plane, train, bus, automobile, or other means. (Really. I think there was a form saying that…)

Needless to say, I’m very excited by all this. Is it too early to pack?


Eileen Cook and I spent Saturday afternoon at TeenFest Vancouver, where we talked about how to be a writer (answer: commitment with a side order of insanity) and hung out with the lovely ladies of Black Bond Books.


We resisted the urge to beat each other up in the sumo ring.


For quite a while, I thought there’d been an extraordinary number of head injuries. Then Eileen pointed out the film make-up booth.


There was also a teen talent show, featuring this girl in her light-up dress. If I’m ever invited to TeenFest again, I am definitely investing in light-up.


And that was TeenFest! Samantha, Gina, and Eileen — thanks for being great TeenFest company!