Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man

I made the best deal a few months ago. I gave Norma Charles a copy of Prince of Pot. In return, I received a copy of Runner: Harry Jerome, World’s Fastest Man, personally delivered to my door last week.

I couldn’t put it down! As befits a book about a runner, the story is non-stop action. It begins with a flood in Harry’s original hometown of St. Boniface, Manitoba, follows him to the baseball, soccer, and track fields of North Vancouver, and ends with a sprint for gold in Jamaica. The book also has a wonderful foreword about Norma’s personal connection to Harry Jerome and back matter about the interviews and research she conducted before writing the story.

I loved it, from start to finish (line). Even better, my son has agreed to read it. Usually, he restricts himself to reading and rereading Rick Riordan titles, so this is a major concession for him.

Norma, congratulations on a wonderful book and on a well-deserved BC Book Prize nomination!

Quotes and Kleenex

My daughter’s been home sick for the last two days, so she’s been reading up a storm. She’s come out with some pithy comments along the way, including:

About John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: “Why would you write a romantic novel, and give your character a completely romantic name like Augustus, and then have people call him Gus? Gus is NOT romantic at all.”

About parents: “Writers have to be really creative to get rid of parents. Either they kill them, or they make the main characters sixteen or seventeen and super independent. In this book I’m reading [Since You’ve Been Gone, by Morgan Matson], the parents are screenwriters and they get really into new projects and then only leave the living room every forty-eight hours to see if their kids are alive.”

About embossed covers: “I love textured books. I wish they were a person, so I could marry them.”

And that’s the word from the sickbed. You’re welcome.


Ah, Family Day. When you bond with your offspring and discover what they really think of you. And your career choices.

I was sitting at one end of a restaurant table last weekend, happily sipping my drink, while my daughter and her auntie chatted at the other end of the table. This is what I overheard:

Silence: Auntie Moe, there’s a Take Your Child to Work Day when I’m in grade nine. Can I come to work with you?

Auntie Moe: Sure.

Silence: Oh, good! Because Daddy’s work has confidentiality issues, and I don’t want to stay home and watch Grey’s Anatomy all day with Mommy.

That’s when my drink went up my nose.

To Hope and back again

I spent the last week on a whirlwind tour of the Fraser Valley, thanks to the Fraser Valley Regional Library, Reading Link Challenge, and a lot of gracious and highly organized teachers and librarians. (If anyone at the United Nations is reading this, you should immediately hire Rachel Burke. She’ll get those humanitarian aid deliveries organized faster than you can say “Read, Learn, Play.”)

(Thank you to Maple Ridge librarian Sally Gwyn for the photo!)

With my books in tow, I went to Maple Ridge, Chilliwack, Langley, Yarrow, Hope, Mission, Port Coquitlam, and Delta. I presented to groups of 30 and groups of 150. I told strange scientist tales from DNA Detective and underwear-outside-clothes stories from 50 Underwear Questions.

I collected lots of favourite moments from along the way, like when one small boy stayed behind to say very shyly “you’re funny and I like books.” Or when kids at Coquihalla Elementary in Hope kept saying “Hi, Ms. Deb,” to the visiting librarian in their hallway, and it turned out she’s known them all since their days at toddler story hour. I think the happiest kids to see me were those from Maple Ridge Environmental School, who spend tons of their time outdoors. It was torrentially raining that day, and my presentation is 100 percent monsoon-free.

Thank you to all the libraries and schools that so kindly hosted me, and all the students who perfected their dramatic death scenes and their explosion sound effects. I had an amazing time!

The Perfect Pitch

Friends Rachelle Delaney, Stacey Matson, and I are giving a class about pitches and submissions, on Saturday, April 21st, as part of Ink Well Vancouver.

We’ve done some brainstorming and we have WAY TOO MUCH information, but we’re going to pack it into three fun hours at Kits Neighbourhood House. There will be games of the actually fun and non-embarrassing kind, and there will be writing of the practical type, and there will be yogic dance.

Wait, scratch that. No yogic dance.

Pitch writing is interesting because it used to be done more by emerging authors, those looking for their “home” publishing houses. But now, writers are working with multiple publishers at once, and on multiple platforms. That means more pitches for everyone. So, whether you’re an emerging writer or an established one, you should join us.

Plus, it’s fun to talk about writing. What better way to spend a Saturday morning?

Going up?

For her business class, Silence had to prepare an elevator pitch.

“Practice on me,” I suggested.

She launched into her product description. And she went on. And on.

“I think an elevator pitch is supposed to be short,” I said. “You imagine you’ve met a potential investor in an elevator, and you have only a few minutes to describe your idea.”

“Oh, I know,” she said. “But my elevator’s going to the 22nd floor.”

Brainstorming detritus

Sometimes when I’m walking or grocery shopping or waiting in line, I’m struck by a string of book ideas. So either I jot these on scraps of paper which I immediately lose, or I write them in my phone then forget ever to look at them again.

Here’s a sample note from 2016, which I’ve just rediscovered. If you’ve read Prince of Pot, you’ll recognize some names.

Failure of imagination
Paint the bus
Half woods, half city, bear, bear rug. No, couldn’t paint bear rug, hazel lives forever. Drive to Vancouver, see what comes.

Isaac needs to find his own path, make his own decisions, follow his own art.

Doesn’t send portfolio?

Walt has a brother who’s an artist?

Walt left family behind. Had to follow what he believed.

Reference letter from Mr. Pires (who also left his family behind?)

About two of these things happened in the final book. Don’t worry, the bear rug wasn’t one of them.

What not to read before bed

I’ve been reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and it’s fascinating. I now know all sorts of wacky things about sleep, such as: your muscles are paralyzed during R.E.M. sleep so you don’t act out your dreams; early sleep researchers spent months deep in a cave trying to learn how circadian rhythms work; and if doctors zap your head in the exact same rhythm as your brain’s natural electrical impulses, you’ll achieve deeper sleep.

This would be an excellent book to have read when I was sixteen. Back then, my dad liked to book me for a 6 a.m. waitressing shifts (his way of trying to get me home before midnight). I could have explained to him that adolescents don’t produce melatonin until later in the evening, and yet need more sleep than adults, and therefore sleeping in on Saturday mornings was basically required.

That would have been good.

What’s not so good: reading the book as a semi-wrinkly person. Now, instead of lying in bed at 4 a.m. wishing I could go back to sleep, I lie there knowing I’m increasing my chances of cancer and Alzheimer’s, reducing my next day resistance to viruses, increasing my chances of emotional meltdowns, making myself less attractive by the minute…

Sometimes it’s possible to know too much.

There must be an upcoming chapter on how to actually sleep better. Otherwise, I’m going to sign up for zapping.

My recessive genes

My kids and I look nothing alike, which causes some interesting situations. A few weeks ago, I told a sales clerk at Ivivva that I was waiting for my daughter, who was in the change room. The clerk shook her head (because Silence was one of two Asian girls trying on clothes) until I said, “Really, she’s in there. She just doesn’t look like me.”

Silence finds these events funny and/or annoying, depending on her mood. But she’s certainly aware of our genetic differences.

Last weekend, our whole family gathered at a rental house in Palm Desert to celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday. Or at least, my mom and dad gathered with my sister’s family to celebrate. The Kyi clan kept getting locked out of the gated community because our security code didn’t work.

At one point, my husband decided to boost Violence over the fence so he could run and ring the doorbell at the rental house. Silence and I remained in the car.

“What are we going to do if they get in trouble?” she asked me.

“Pretend we don’t know them.”

“Easy for you to say. You look nothing like them.”

So true, and something that may be useful if I start a life of crime. In the meantime, Silence will have to focus on the positives.


Usually, I write between 9 am, when my kids go to school, and noon, when my brain expires. But I have trouble saying no, and so other things creep into my schedule. When that happens, I shift my writing time to the afternoons.

Have you ever noticed that in the afternoons, things like grocery shopping, Twitter, and examining one’s pores seem somehow urgent? Much more urgent than, say, creating a plot?

I’ve resolved to do a better job of protecting my mornings. I will focus. Commit. Produce reams of fabulous writing.

Except that this week, I have a volunteer commitment on Tuesday morning and a possible tennis match on Thursday morning.

But I’m totally going to focus, starting next week.

Or the week after.