On the adorable-times-infinity scale

The trailer for Clover’s Luck by Kallie George is pretty much the cutest thing ever. AND, it just happens to be narrated by my daughter.

Once you’ve finished watching, you can head to the Magical Animal Adoption Agency website and take the quiz to discover what kind of animal you might wish to adopt. (I’m getting a sea serpent or a hippocampus. Do you think Min will mind?)

Then, you can join me at Kallie’s launch party on February 12th at 6:30 pm, at Kidsbooks Vancouver.

Kallie is one of the smartest writers I know, and her books manage to be sweet and deep at the same time. I’m so excited to see Clover’s Luck released into the big, wide world!

The Quizzards of Oz

Well, our author team managed (barely!) to hold our own against some brilliant middle-grade readers at Vancouver’s inaugural Kids Lit Quiz on Friday. The only category in which they trumped us: Harry Potter trivia.

(Do you know the librarian’s name at Hogwarts? Because we didn’t, but they all did!)

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Posing with my teammates, Lee Edward Fodi, Kallie George, and Stacey Matson, in Little Flower Academy’s gorgeous library.

While we were there, we had a fascinating chat with Quizmaster and Kids Lit Quiz founder Wayne Mills. Wayne is a professor in New Zealand and by the sounds of it, he spends half his year travelling around the world organizing and hosting quiz events.

The sign at the front of the room proclaimed: “Welcome to the sport of reading.” Wayne pointed out that we spend all of our time in school helping those who are struggling with reading, and very little time celebrating those who are great. Meanwhile, there are fairs for the science kids and tournaments for the sports kids and nothing at all — especially no team events — for the literary kids.

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Quizmaster Wayne Mills with Stacey.

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Me trying to butter up judge Rob Bittner. (And to continue that trend, you should read his blog if you don’t already.)

This is a team event to trump all others. The winners in Vancouver (congratulations, Southridge!) will travel to Toronto for the nationals, and the winners at the nationals will travel to New England somewhere. I didn’t catch all the details, but I did hear “try their hand at throwing harpoons, to see how they would have faired in the days of Herman Melville.” How cool is that?

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I am officially a Kids Lit Quiz fan. But I wish I were 11, so I could try for the trophy.

Likely not smarter than a fifth grader

I’m off to Little Flower Academy today to compete against middle-grade students in B.C.’s inaugural Kids’ Lit Quiz. It’s a competition held in countries all over the world, and popular for the past few years in eastern Canada.

Here’s part of what it says on the website:

In the style of popular learning competitions like the Scripps Spelling Bee, Kids’ Lit Quiz is a highly spirited and intense team event for students around the world.

Are you a KLQ Quiz Whiz?

Who had two nasty aunts called Spiker and Sponge?

Who owned a faithful dog named Snowy?

But here’s the problem: I don’t know the answer to either of those questions!

My resident middle-grade expert, Silence, has been schooling me all week in Rick Riordan facts. I have retained none of them. In fact, I was complaining about this on the phone to my publisher, and she and I couldn’t even agree on how to pronounce his last name.

I may be in trouble.

Fortunately, I will have three trusty team members by my side. Stacey Matson, Kallie George, and Lee Edward Fodi are joining me on this little adventure and they are all dazzlingly brilliant AND just plain fun to hang out with.

We have named our writers’ team The Quizzards of Oz. Let’s just hope no one peeks behind the curtain.

Drama

I was signed up for a CWILL BC master class on screenwriting on Saturday. Not because I have any plans to start scripting movies, but because (a) it’s always wonderful to sit around a table for an afternoon and talk writing (b) writer and master class instructor Elizabeth Stewart is lovely, as is her new novel, Blue Gold, and (c) screenwriters have a flare for tension and drama, which are not usually my strong suits.

As it turned out, though, my Saturday was chock full of drama. We took the kids for flu shots and not one, but BOTH of our little creatures went down in pale, shaking heaps on the drug store floor. There was throwing up and shivering and chest pain and overall, we were not the poster family for happy immunization.

We got them home, eventually, and they recovered fairly quickly. But by that time, I was significantly late for the workshop. I arrived at the UBC building to find the door locked, so had to call someone’s cell phone and interrupt the whole class with my entry.

Fortunately for me, the second half of the workshop was both interesting and entertaining. And then I went home… and Min set the stove on fire.

Because you know that movie I saw a few weeks ago? Well, sometimes real life days fall apart the same way.

This morning, I’m waiting for the stove repairman to arrive. After that, hopefully it’s onwards to a drama-free week!

Blue dot, green dot

Min and I went to see David Suzuki’s Blue Dot Tour at its final stop in Vancouver on Sunday night. It was pretty amazing. How often does one get to see the Bare Naked Ladies dancing on stage with Neil Young, Feist, Chantal Kreviazuk, and David Suzuki? It felt like a cross between an evangelical revival and the Vancouver Folk Fest.

Margaret Atwood appeared for a brief time via Skype, and a brief time is all Margaret Atwood ever needs to be inspiring. Along with her words on hope and the possibility of saving things, she said something along the lines of: “people like me are asked to say these things because we’re self-supporting artists, and therefore have no jobs, and therefore cannot be fired.”

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We got home much too geared-up to sleep. But then we spent Monday afternoon in the woods, because Robert Bateman had told us we should. And he was right.

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Hearing voices

I’m talking to myself this morning, practicing to be part of YA: The Trilogy at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library tomorrow. There’s a whole slew of local YA writers presenting and reading, including Sara Leach, Carrie Mac, Melanie Jackson, and current VPL writer-in-resident Gabrielle Prendergast.

In the afternoon session, I get to talk about taking non-fiction “outside the box.” But mostly, this morning, I’m thinking about my first presentation, which must fit under the category “What IS Young Adult Literature and Why Should I Read/Write It?” My plan is to talk about voice and how it stems partly from place, then read a little from both Anywhere But Here and my newest work-in-progress.

I have 10 minutes or less in each session to be funny or enlightening or both. Totally doable, right? (Don’t answer that.)

I read an amazing YA novel over the weekend, which is part of what has me mulling about voice. The book is Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern, and one of the protagonists is Amy, a girl with cerebral palsy. Because Amy is bright, and has spent much of her life with adult aides, there’s a wonderful adult quality to her thoughts. One of my favourite scenes in the entire book is one in which she points out to fellow student Sanjay that his talk of “conquests” may actually be a problem in the girl department.

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Amy is struggling with all the emotions every other teen faces, and so, despite her educated and adult thoughts, she still agonizes about clothes and kissing and her big crush — all in maybe even a younger-than-teen way. The two sides of Amy make her an entirely unique character.

But enough about Amy. Let’s go back to talking about me, and how I’m going to ensure I sound like an adult at the podium tomorrow. How does one pronounce “pedantic” anyway? Did you know I had an argument with an urban planner last week about whether one was supposed to pronounce detritus as “dee-tree-us” or “dee-trite-us”? The urban planner won.

You see why my solo practicing is necessary…

Feel free to stop by and say hi at YA: The Trilogy! And tell me if I pronounce things wrong.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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