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!

The Inside Story

Its that time of year: the annual CWILL BC panel about creating children’s books is coming soon to the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It’s a great event, always packed, and FREE!

The panelists this year are wise and experienced folks. So if you’ve ever considered writing or illustrating for children, here’s the event for you:

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More info here!

Readings and lights

I visited Graham Bruce Elementary School in East Van yesterday, as part of a Books for Me! literacy program. The students had been studying DNA, so I told stories from DNA Detective, but I’m pretty sure a few of those kids knew more than me. When I paused for questions, someone asked about the effects of gamma radiation. And I said something super-smart, like, “uh…”

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They were a great group. Many thanks to Books for Me! and librarian Dee Mochrie for setting up the event. (You can always tell when a school has a great teacher-librarian at the helm!)

Just before the presentation, I scooted down the street to see a certain plaque at Sunrise Park. This week, the Vancouver Public Library and CWILL BC launched a program called Reading Lights. They’ve posted images from B.C. children’s books on street lights all over the city.

Just as I drove up to see the image from Deborah Hodge‘s Watch Me Grow!, the sun came out.

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Here’s her lovely plaque:

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It’s so fun to see these little bits of literature become part of the city landscape. You can check for plaques in your own neighbourhood here.

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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Squee!

I spotted this display at Kidsbooks on the weekend. Well, actually, my kids spotted this display at Kidsbooks. Then all three of us spent quite a while squealing and jumping up and down in front of it. If this photo is blurry, it’s because my insides are still jumping.

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There is a rule in blogging: you’re not supposed to talk about yourself ALL the time. I’ve read that the maximum allowable is 25%. The rest of the time, you’re supposed to be useful to others.

Well, realistically, have I ever been useful?

To make matters worse, not only am I talking about myself here, I’m also navel-gazing on the CWILL blog today, as part of CWILL BC’s Starting Points series.

 

They think I know what I’m talking about…

Tonight I’m giving my SiWC presentation — The Changing Landscape of Children’s Books — to a group of writers and illustrators from CWILL BC. And while this is a more experienced group than my previous audience, meaning some of the graphic novel and app info will be better known, I still think many of us have a long way to go toward incorporating our knowledge of new markets into our book ideas and proposals.

Because publishers are facing tighter markets, and because we’re all exploring formats (formats so new there are really no “experts” to guide us), there are plenty of things we can explore when planning projects:

  • the competition: what similar books are doing well, and how is my book going to stand out?
  • new platforms: how easily could this book become an e-book, and what apps would tie in? What would the website design look like, and what contests would work?
  • connections: what related organizations, industry connections, or on-line communities could help this project succeed?
  • educational market: what are the curriculum tie-ins, what teacher’s guide can I design, and who are my contacts in the educational world?
  • personal branding: what sparkling personality traits do I have on display via Twitter, blog, newsletter, or traditional newspaper/magazine column, and how can I use those to draw a bigger audience for my book?

So that’s what I’m going to talk about tonight. Except, hopefully with more funny stuff thrown in.