Festivus

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.

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

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

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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.

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

Kind words

I went with a few of the Dirty Girls last night to see a Steven Galloway and Miriam Toews reading. Both writers were humble and insightful and quite wickedly funny. I was already looking forward to reading their new books, and now I’m twice as impatient.

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My favourite moment of the evening, though, was a comment from the audience. A woman near the front of the room stood and talked about how much she loved Gabriel García Márquez, and how she’d always wanted to visit the Columbian towns where he’d “sprinkled his magic.”

I have to admit that at this point I thought perhaps she was a crazy person who was going to monopolize the question period with unrelated topics, but she continued…

She said that as someone from southern Manitoba, it was touching and inspiring to see Miriam Toews sprinkle familiar towns with that same kind of magic, and she was so grateful to the writer for doing so.

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It was such a heartfelt and poignant tribute, especially so because Miriam Toews shows both the light and the dark sides of communities, which can’t always be comfortable for the people who live there.

I think the writer had tears in her eyes.

It was an altogether wonderful evening. Tanya Trafford, thank you for the tickets. I’m sorry you couldn’t get time off work. But there’s a little something on it’s way to you in the mail…

Happy writing and reading, everyone!

Teenfest

On May 10th, I get to discover my inner roar at Teenfest Vancouver, where Eileen Cook and I are participating in a panel discussion about girl empowerment.

I finished Eileen’s latest book on the weekend, Year of Mistaken Discoveries. It’s about a girl who gets blindsided by tragedy, and goes in search of her birth mother as a possible antidote. (I am ridiculously horrible at summarizing plots. This is sort of what the book was about. There was also friendship, romance, ambition, and emotional daring. How can I stuff all that into one sentence?)

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I thought it was Eileen’s best book yet, full of unexpected truths. And as I can tell that Eileen will have plenty to say on our panel, I am now off to get in touch with my empowered side.

Books and zombies

I had a fantastic afternoon at Strathcona Elementary yesterday, where I spoke to two groups of thoroughly enthusiastic students. They had some suggestions for my next non-fiction topic:

1. The apocalypse.

2. Dumb ways the world might end.

3. Zombies.

(Are you seeing a theme here? Well, wait until you hear the fourth suggestion…)

4. Hamsters.

Unfortunately, I  had coffee with a virologist last weekend and he assured me that there is absolutely zero possibility of a  virus turning humans into flesh-eating monsters. So, there will be no non-fiction zombie apocalypse project. But maybe a zombie hamster chapter book? Hmmmm….

A big thank you to the staff and students at Strathcona for making me feel so welcome!

Show and tell

Happy World Read Aloud Day! I’m off to celebrate with students at Strathcona Elementary School, with my bag of props in tow. It’s a crazy collection, so I thought I’d share the list of what I generally bring to school presentations:

  • several pairs of underwear (and no, they’re not because I pee my pants);
  • a pirate coin;
  • red stickers to represent blood;
  • a cowboy hat;
  • a necktie;
  • a baseball bat; and,
  • more stories than I can possibly tell in one afternoon.

I wish you all a happy day of reading and sharing!

CWILL BC Panel

For those of you who have a children’s book lurking in a drawer or in the depths of your hard drive, the annual CWILL BC panel at the Vancouver Public Library is coming up on Monday, March 10.

I attended this evening years ago as a newbie writer, and I had the pleasure of participating on the panel last year. It’s always a fun night of great questions and generously shared advice. Personally, I think the panelists are particularly wonderful this year. Check it out:

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The Quiet Volume

I went with friends to a Push Festival event at the library last week, called The Quiet Volume. Two at a time, we donned headphones and were led to a table on the third floor, in the midst of sleeping students and eccentric researchers and one man devouring something from a paper bag. (When I described this to Min, he asked if they were actors. But no, they were the regular library denizens.)

I have to admit, I was partly impressed by the work and partly frustrated by it. The voice whispering/echoing in my ears kept instructing me to read enticing little parts of various books, before wrenching my attention to something new. At times, it read aloud to me from my page. At times, I would glance to the side to find it was reading my companion’s page instead of mine!

It wasn’t until the hours and days afterwards that I grew REALLY impressed. Because the experience raised all sorts of questions about how much control one has as a writer, and how many different experiences are possible as a reader.

As for those few tantalizing pages, I snapped a shot of the book covers, just so I could track them down and read them in their entirety!

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Live on stage (kinda)

I’m busy preparing for tomorrow’s trip to Citadel Middle School, where I’m giving three workshops on Storytelling Techniques in Non-Fiction. Which sounds rather boring, but actually means that I get to:

1. Tell my dad’s logging stories. (He tells them better, but I do what I can. And it’s not a fair comparison, because he gets to drink beer while telling.)

2. Hear crazy stories from students. (Last time I gave this workshop, I learned about imaginary bears in White Rock and solo flights by a sixteen-year-old.)

3. Hang out with the amazing Eileen Cook, Denise Jaden, and C.C. Humphries. (How cool is that?)

The logging stories? Well, you’ll have to book a workshop to hear them, or fly to California and ask the man himself. All I’m saying is: there’s an ice-bridge.

And Dad lived to tell the tale.

Reading daze

I spent a lovely Friday evening with the members of the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable. There was cheese, there was wine, there were amazing information books to celebrate. And there was book talk.

If you ever want to feel inferior about your level of reading, you should definitely hang out with these folks. At one point, I was part of a conversation that went like this:

ON MY LEFT: Have you read blah blah and blah blah? I thought they were fantastic.

ON MY RIGHT: But not as good as blah blah said they were. And what about blah blah?

ON MY LEFT: Wonderful. Reminded me of the old movie version of blah blah.

ON MY RIGHT: And there’s blah blah, which I loved almost as much as Bomb.

ME: I’ve read Bomb! I read Bomb! Yes. I read that one!

ON MY LEFT: What do you think of that sort of non-fiction in literary style, like blah blah?

ON MY RIGHT: Oh yes, and blah blah.

Confused? So was I. An entire ten-minute conversation, and I recognized the name of one book.

Fortunately, the members of the Roundtable are gracious as well as knowledgable, and they pretended not to notice my complete empty-headedness. Not only that, they actually let me speak afterwards, on whatever topic I chose.

In preparation for this, I had taken all the things I’d been mulling about for weeks — tiger parenting, the economic value of the arts, inspirational people in history, the value of work ethic, and even one of my dad’s logging stories — and strung it all together in a way that turned out (to my surprise) somewhat coherent.

There is nothing like an evening with thinkers and writers and readers to send you home inspired to think and write and read.

Thanks, Roundtable!

This is my brain on the spin cycle

Ten years ago, I came out of the bathroom holding a plastic stick with two little pink stripes on it, and Min flopped down on the bed looking as if… well, as if his world were about to permanently change. The first words he managed were: “we get to go to Disneyland.”

Last week, we finally went to Disneyland! We have been thoroughly spun, shaken, and stirred by every kind of ride, play, and event imaginable and it was fantastic. It was everything we hoped it would be, ten years ago.

But now it’s back to real life. And a mountain of laundry. As in, the Matterhorn of laundry.

Between loads, I’m talking to myself. Not only because I lost my mind somewhere along the Indiana Jones track, but also because I need to practice for tonight’s presentation to the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable. I’m talking about economics, tiger dads, and whether or not to encourage my child to be a writer. (You can probably guess my eventual answer to that one, but I won’t spoil it here.)

They have promised me wine. Which may help me forget the laundry.

One other note: the day before I left, Denise Jaden visited my blog with some fantastic tips for fast fiction. In the frenzy of packing, I did a terrible job promoting her post. If you missed it, please check it out!