Eyes and Spies

My next book has made its appearance on Amazon, so thought I’d post a picture of the cover. Eyes and Spies is all about surveillance and privacy, on-line and in real life. It focuses on three questions: Who’s watching, and why? Where is the line between public and private? How can we keep our secrets to ourselves?

The stories are drawn from kid and teen life, though that didn’t stop them from scaring me. (The computers in my house now feature masking tape over their webcams.)

There’s still a long way to go before the book appears in the world next spring, but I’m very excited to have the cover (with cool and creepy art by the amazing Belle Wuthrich) making its first appearance!

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Feast for the First Hour of Writing

I have an old cookbook by Karen Barnaby called Screamingly Good Food. I keep it because I love how the book is arranged by seasonal celebrations. Fall features not only a Thanksgiving menu, but also feasts for the first sweater, the last tomato, and the twelfth day of rain.

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I’m writing on my laptop in the kitchen, the only room in the house not overflowing with laundry piles or nine-year-old boys. School was held for an hour this morning; full schedule begins tomorrow.

Which means that (as much as I loved summer) I will soon be celebrating all the wonderful things about fall. I’ll have my own personal feast for the first cup of afternoon tea, the first crackling of the heating vents, and the first batch of pumpkin muffins.

And, of course, I’ll be celebrating the return of writing time. By June, my six hours of quiet will be flying by. But in September, when I’ve been entertaining and shuttling and refereeing all summer, they seem like an eternity of silence.

Only 20 hours to go.

Mistakes. Plus perspective.

I’ve been learning to play tennis, something I’ve decided is less a sport and more an exercise in frustration tolerance. The problem is this: most points end when someone makes a mistake. Since I’m the beginner, that “someone” is usually me. And I HATE making mistakes! Who invented a sport all about failure?

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The book I’m working on right now is also something new to me — a creative non-fiction project that’s wandered across the line into historical fiction. I’ve just completed a major rewrite and I have a feeling there are plenty more editing changes to come. (Did I mention that I hate messing up?)

I’m telling myself that it’s impossible to learn without doing things wrong a few times. And I’m remembering the words of one of my first bosses, writer and editor Robin Rivers. As we stared at a printed, hardcover photography book that was missing one important, highly noticeable line of text, she said: “Well at least we’re not neurosurgeons. No one dies when we screw up.”

So true. At least I’m not a neurosurgeon. Or a magician.

Laundry day

We writers tend to see stories everywhere, but I’m guessing anyone could build a tale with the items I just pulled from my son’s pockets.

* Three candy wrappers
* One slingshot
* One rock
* One wad of bloody tissues

Why do I even bother asking my kids what they’ve done with their days? I should check their pockets first.

Quiet space

I spent last weekend on Mayne Island, as part of a CWILL BC writers retreat hosted by Pam Withers.

I had a lovely bed and breakfast room overlooking the bay, and who could not write, surrounded by scenes like this?

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I finished a big revision while I was there, but as the wise Ellen Schwartz said, “it’s a writers retreat, not a writing retreat.” That meant long walks, reading, and wildlife-watching were all allowable activities. We even had a chance to hear excerpts of others’ works in progress. (And I now have 11 new books I’m looking forward to reading.)

Maggie de Vries led a great session about point of view, and how specificity contributes to the immersion of the reader. You know when you read passages, in your own books or those of others, and there are things that just seem wrong? Now I know why.

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This is Jenny Watson, Ellen Schwartz, Stacey Matson, and me, walking in the rain with the talented Karen Hibbard (whose photo I’ve blatantly stolen.)

It was a wonderful getaway, and timed perfectly. School ends next week, so there won’t be much writing time in my immediate future!

Mailbox goodies

These arrived yesterday:

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They’re Korean editions of The Lowdown on Denim and I can’t stop flipping through the pages. It’s so fun/strange to see a book which I wrote (apparently), but can’t read.

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I love these sorts of mailbox surprises. I often envy those highly organized writers who track their hours worked, or their royalty due dates, or their rate per word. I know I should probably try to become more like them.

On the other hand, there’s great joy in opening the mailbox and finding an unexpected cheque, or a forgotten proof, or, say, a Korean book about blue jeans.

And why ruin a good surprise for the sake of a little organization?

And more news!

There’s a rule about blogs. One is supposed to offer interesting and entertaining content, and not talk about oneself all the time. But I have so much exciting news this week!

I’ve just signed a contract with Groundwood Books for a young adult novel, to be published in Fall 2017.* And can I say that I was already thrilled to be working with Groundwood even before they won Best Children’s Publisher of the Year in Bologna?

Next news: The Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada have shortlisted DNA Detective for the 2016 Information Book Award. Woohoo! There are many other stellar books on the list, including Annick’s Urban Tribes, by Mary Beth Leatherdale and Lisa Charleyboy, Groundwood’s West Coast Wild by Deborah Hodge, and Kids Can’s Child Soldier, by Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine. Plus lots more fodder for my to-read list!

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* Sooooooo far away. Aaaaaaaaaaah. How will I last that long? People say their books are like their babies. Having had both, I can tell you that books take a LOT longer to birth.

Sea monsters

It’s a Kootenay right of passage. You wobble up on your waterskis and maybe make it across the wake for the first time. Just as you’re congratulating yourself, you tumble spectacularly into the waves. Then you forget to let go of the rope, get water up your nose, and surface with your hair plastered so thoroughly across your face you worry you might suffocate. You wait, hyperventilating, while the boat chugs away from you to rescue the ski that went flying.

Just as you’re left behind, bobbing alone in the ocean-sized lake, your dad calls, “Don’t let the sturgeons get your toes!”

I am not alone in this. Kootenay-raised children gather in church basements all around the world to discuss their lingering fears of giant fish.

And check out the news I’m taking to my next meeting: Kogopogo.

(For the record, these fish are important, as are the efforts being made to rescue the species. But good luck thinking about ecology as you tread water.)

Leave a comment below if you’d like to join my support group.