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.”

atwood

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.

forest

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.

saywhatyouwill

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.

cannibalism

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.

survivalicons

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.

50BQ

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!

Its-a-Feudal-Feudal-World

Gallivanting

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.

movingforwards

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.

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

Ultimate?
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!