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.

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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.

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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?

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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