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
Portfolio
Project
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.

Resolutions

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.

“Best of” lists from Silence and Violence

Silence (13) sent me an impromptu list of her own top reads of 2017:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
A World Without You by Beth Revis
Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith
Alex and Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Then I asked Violence (11) for his list. Here’s what he said:

Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan
and… anything by Rick Riordan

Now, if you’re an author and you happen to be thinking, “I published a book in 2017. I wish they’d chosen my book,” I’ll just remind you here that I, too, released books in 2017, and those books were not chosen by my children. But they’re good kids in other ways.

Happy reading!

Happy New Year!

I made it to 75 books read in 2017, in the nick of time. Thank goodness I was chaperoning a teen sleepover for New Year’s Eve or I wouldn’t have finished those final chapters.

Is it just me, or do middle grade novels encompass more wisdom than all other books put together? I read some wonderful ones last year, including Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubraker Bradley. My friend Rachelle Delaney published The Bonaventure Adventures, which made me want to run away to the circus immediately. Another favourite in this category was The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, which squeezed my heart and tickled my science brain at the same time.

In the young adult realm, both Wildman by J.C. Geiger and Nina Berkhout’s The Mosaic had characters that hung around in my head long after I finished reading. (Plus those books have the best covers ever.) One of my last books of the year was one of my most fun reads: Moxie, by Jennifer Mathieu, which also earned my daughter’s adoration.

I read so many fantastic nonfiction books in 2017 it’s excruciating to choose. None of them are new… just new to me. The funniest, and least appropriate, was What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman. I also loved the memoirs Beyond the Pale by Emily Urquhart and This is Not My Life by Diane Schoemperien.

Now it’s onwards to 2018! I’ve already started Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart, which has me holding my breath all the way through.

Happy reading everyone! Let me know what your favourites were last year, so I can put them on my new list…

Silence speaks

You know how I steal books from my children to feed my own reading habit? Well, the tables have turned. I scored a copy of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu at last month’s ALAN workshop. My daughter Silence stole the book from my end table, read it in a single day, and then raved about it again and again until I finally told her to write a review. So, courtesy of my book-thieving child:

Sick and tired of the ongoing sexual harassment at her Texas high school, Vivian (Viv) Carter, who has, until now, always been a rule follower, decides she’s had enough. She’s done with the football players and their sexist comments and t-shirt slogans, and the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge these and the many other problems going on right under their noses.

Inspired by her mother, once a rebellious warrior for equality, Viv starts an anonymous zine called Moxie, encouraging girls to “fight back.” Many other girls soon join in, and the hallways quickly become a battlefield of warrior Moxie girls who aren’t going to put up with this lack of respect anymore. Backed up by best friend Claudia, spunky girl Lucy, and new guy Seth, Viv won’t stop until girls receive the justice they deserve.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone 12+. An amazing story that gets you hooked by the first chapter, this is one of my favourite books ever. It almost makes me wish there was more sexism at my school so I could be a Moxie girl and go fight back! Just kidding. But really though, everyone, READ IT!!! It’s so good.

Byeee,
Silence