The edge of YA

A friend told me that Millennials are having less sex because their parents are too open about it, and it no longer seems rebellious. This weekend, I started to worry that my children won’t have any secret books stuffed under their mattresses because their mother doesn’t adequately censor their reading material.

We are on that very precarious edge of middle-grade/young-adult in my house. When Silence casts a book aside, it’s often because she’s deemed it “inappropriate” — a judgement she makes more harshly than I do. (I’ve promised her she can read my YA novel, Prince of Pot, when it comes out this fall, but I have a feeling she’s going to put me on her censored list.)

Last week, we went to Susin Nielsen’s launch for Optimists Die First. Silence is a HUGE Susin Nielsen fan and she was already reading while in the line-up for autographs. But once we were home and she was halfway through, she stalked into the living room, cast the book down on the couch between Min and me, and said, “This is inappropriate.”

I looked at what she was reading. There is a fairly gentle make-out-session/fade-to-black sex scene in the middle of the book.

So, fine. It’s good that Silence is making her own decisions about what she’s ready to read.

There’s only one problem…. We got a signed copy of the book for one of Silence’s friends.

So, do we NOT give her the book? Do we give it to her and tell her not to read it for a few years? If we give it to her, do I have to email her parents? And why aren’t there parenting guidelines on Facebook for this sort of situation?

The upside: I now get to read the book myself. And it is hilarious. And wise. And oh-so-perfectly appropriate for me.

Mad as a hatter

It was a weekend of parties. We went to a school fundraiser and silent auction on Friday night. Then, on Saturday night, we simultaneously hosted a Mad Hatter-themed sleepover (Silence) and a men’s UFC night (Min). It was an extra-entertaining combination, since Silence had already decorated the house with Alice-in-Wonderland characters and posters, perfect for a blood-thirsty boxing night.

The men went home, and six additional girls joined us on Sunday for a Mad Hatter tea party, where the decorations made much more sense.

Oh, and in between all those parties, we hosted two 10-year-old boys for playdates. (They didn’t notice the theme at all, unless they were looking for extra nerf-gun targets.)

This morning, everyone has left the house. The kitchen is (mostly) clean again. I’ve started on the mountain of laundry. And, most importantly, I have a few open hours for writing. But I’m keeping some of the decorations up. Maybe forever.

DNA Detective at the Lyceum

I visited Christianne’s Lyceum last night to meet with the Chronicle Crusaders, a parent-child book club. Then I faced off against the readers on a DNA crossword puzzle (I lost), and tried my hand at genetics pictionary (thus demonstrating why I don’t illustrate my own books).

The Lyceum is truly an amazing place. It’s chock full of books and curiosities and it draws the loveliest readers of both grown-up and kid varieties. One of the kids asked how royalties worked, so we had a rather depressing conversation about how writers get paid, but honestly… I could have been born on a farm in the Ukraine, and spent my life telling stories to chickens. How blessed am I to find myself in the Lyceum loft instead, eating dragon fruit and talking dragon’s blood trees?

Thank you, Chronicle Crusaders, for a fantastic evening!

Sizing up Eyes and Spies

School Library Journal gave a lovely review to Eyes and Spies this month. You’ll find it here, if you scroll down to the non-fiction section. The reviewer wrote: “‘Valuable’ is an understatement. A timely read on surveillance and mass data collection for public and school libraries.”

YAY!

I received the link from Annick Press just as I was drowning in the depths of Bellis Fair Mall. I was there as part of the annual family shopping trip that drives me to existential crisis. (Not that other things don’t.) It was perfect timing for a happy surprise.

If you’re interested in privacy and surveillance issues, and you can’t wait the couple weeks until Eyes and Spies arrives on shelves, check out the podcast Note to Self. They’ve just wrapped up a six-episode series on privacy and it’s fascinating. Apparently phone calls are protected in the United States partly because of a gambler who used phone booths to place his bets, got caught, and then argued for his privacy rights. Who knew?

I might have to write a second edition.

Snowpocalypse

It was complete snowpocalypse in Vancouver this weekend. We broke all the weather records. I shovelled the driveway three times on Saturday. The final time was at 8 p.m. and by the time I finished the driveway, the sidewalk was covered again.

This all would have been fine and fun and lovely (it was pretty) except that I was right in the middle of Eric Walters’ Rule of Three trilogy. In those books, the world’s computers go off-line and civilization almost immediately breaks down.

This meant that by Sunday morning, I was classifying our neighbours by their snow-shovelling habits. Those people across the street? The ones from Toronto who should understand about clearing the sidewalks, but apparently don’t? I’m not sure they’ll be amenable to sharing food and resources. The guy in the green house, on the other hand, was across the road helping his neighbour clear a path for his car. He’s definitely on board the community “lifeboat.” And what about the mysterious good samaritan who shovelled a clear strip down both sides of the block before anyone else was awake? We’ll need to meet him.

I’ve finished the books, but Silence is now deep into the first instalment. We’re probably going shopping for canned food and chlorine tablets soon. As soon as the snow melts, at least.

From the edge of the handbasket

Along with the rest of the world, I’ve been watching Sauron at work south of the border. But while the United States government is setting new standards for hate, the American people are setting new standards for democracy. Here are a few things which give me hope:

Whenever the apocalypse seems nigh, I’m going to think about those librarians.

Oh, and there’s the one other side benefit of the US debacle. Now when I spout off about our BC government’s war on public education being the first step toward fascism, Min can no longer call me paranoid.

Bright sides.

Parenting with public embarrassment

Usually, it seems to bother my daughter that we look nothing alike. She gets tired of people asking if she’s adopted. But lately, she’s seeing the upside.

Silence: If you watch my tennis lesson, you have to stand by the door. You can’t sit on the bench by the court.

Me: You know what I thought would be nice? If I came to the sideline and absorbed the energy of the players and reflected that back to them in an interpretive dance. So they could really see the emotional aspects of their playing styles.

Silence: That’s fine. I’ll tell them you’re the blonde girl’s mom.

Eyes and Spies: the alternate subtitle list

My new book, Eyes and Spies, is now posted on the Annick website. It’s a book for tweens and teens about tracking, surveillance, and privacy.

This is one of the most interesting topics I’ve ever researched, and it’s occurred to me that we could have chosen a more pithy subtitle. Something like:

50 Reasons You Should Never Pick Your Nose in Front of Your Computer
Do You Really Want Your Dad to Find Pictures of Your Boobs Online?
Your Principal + A Webcam = Seriously Creepy
Swatting Kinda Sucks

I’ll have to suggest these for the second edition.

Last year in books: non-fiction

Thanks to a late-December bout of strep, I made it to 79 books last year. When I scanned back over the list, many of the titles that jumped out at me were non-fiction. So, in case you’d like to start 2017 with some brain fodder, here are a few of my top picks:

1. Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? by Timothy Caulfield

The title alone is enough reason to read this. But, should you need more, it’s a book about celebrity culture and how it influences our views on science. And it’s funny. Strangely, even as I was reading the debunking of Gwyneth Paltrow’s juice fasts, I was simultaneously thinking, “ooh… that sounds good” and even as I was learning about the zero research done on anti-aging creams, I was making a mental note to buy some. But Timothy Caulfield doesn’t judge. He simply warns that anyone promising to cleanse your adrenals is selling something.

2. Grunt by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is one of my favourite non-fiction writers and I happily read anything she writes, even if she happens to be writing about war and soldiers and technology. Who knew I would find myself interested in penis replacement surgery? This is the magic of Mary Roach.

3. The Empathy Exams, by Leslie Jamison

This is a beautifully written, thoughtful, wise collection of essays, and I could happily read the title essay again and again. The book is like that gem of a story collection you can’t wait to pass along to your friends, except these stories happen to be true.

4. North of Normal, by Cea Sunrise Person

I wrote about North of Normal when I read it last summer, and I’m still in love. You should read it no matter where you live, but if you happen to have spent any part of your childhood in the woods, you should read it today.

5. Symphony for the City of the Dead, by M.T. Anderson

This is supposed to be a young adult book and it’s really, really not. It’s a massive tome of Russian history and biography. But it is fascinating. As someone who admires obsession, I couldn’t help but marvel at composer Dmitri Shostakovich, who wrote and created throughout the Seige of Leningrad in 1943-44. The book itself must have been a work of obsession for the author. Who writes 464 pages about Russian history, for kids? I say definitely read this one… unless you’re 14 and want any hope of maintaining a normal social life.

Happy reading!