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.

The perfect couple

One of the (offensive) pieces of advice often given to young (female) writers is this: marry rich. As someone who did happen to marry a man in a far more lucrative profession, I admit it’s entirely useful. But it’s also (a) blatantly unfair that society places so little monetary value on the arts, (b) not a situation to accept lightly, and (c) certainly not a valid career plan.

I DO have an opinion on the ideal match for a writer, though. Writers should marry extroverts.

Most of us spend hours a day communing with our notebooks or laptops, and blinking half-focussed owl eyes when another human being attempts to communicate. At writing workshops or conferences, the first half hour is often silent, as people file in one-by-one and pretend to busy themselves because they’re not sure how to begin conversations with strangers. It’s excruciating, really.

Far more than I value Min’s earning potential, I value his confidence. I can take him to an event, choose anyone in the room, and say, “I’d like to meet that person.” Within minutes, Min’s introduced us, cracked a few semi-inappropriate jokes, and made everyone feel comfortable.

I had coffee with Deborah Hodge last week, and we talked about this phenomenon. She, too, married an extrovert. We agreed that not only do you benefit from extroverts in social situations, you also learn from them. Having lived with gregarious husbands, we’re both more likely to introduce ourselves to strangers and reach out during those silent, awkward moments. (Still working on the inappropriate joke part.)

So there it is. Marry rich if you want to. But it’s better to marry an extravert.

(While I’m talking about Deborah Hodge, you MUST read Rescuing the Children. With a box of tissues close at hand. It’s a poignant and thoughtful book about a time and place where families made choices now difficult to imagine.)

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The Serendipity debrief

You will be happy to know I was dressed appropriately at Serendipity this weekend. Well, mainly because Norma Charles caught me just as I was entering. She suggested that I rearrange my name tag so that my name faced out, and then she untucked my sweater from the back of my pants. (You thought I was joking about my inability to dress myself, didn’t you?)

Because 50 Burning Questions won the Information Book Award (thank you, Roundtables!) I talked about non-fiction for a while at the beginning of the day. And I was very, very happy to have spoken first because the next speakers were so mind-blowingly poignant and funny and wise that I would have been much too intimidated to speak afterwards.

The theme of the day was Year of the Dragon: Asian Themes for Young Canadian Readers. Paul Yee, author of Money Boy (a copy of which is now on my beside table) talked about embracing one’s own personal identity, past and present. Editors Marjorie Coughlan and Corinne Robson talked about Paper Tigers, an amazing website. Allen Say, with a lovely combination of gravity and dry wit, told stories from Drawing from Memory that made everybody cry. In the afternoon, Lisa Yee talked about contemporary fiction in which ethnicity is a factor, not a focus.

Looking for a quiet corner to eat my lunch, I found myself in a side room with Norma Charles, Jacquie Pearce, Ellen Schwartz, Beryl Young, Irene N. Watts, and Deborah Hodge. We had a lovely hour eating sandwiches and talking books, and I felt honoured to be in such company.

Oh. And I learned some Bollywood dancing. Yup. About three minutes after I leaned over to Shannon Ozirny and whispered, “maybe we should move back, in case they ask for volunteers,” we were on the stage. It’s even on video. But I’m not telling where.

Abuzz…

It’s been an exciting week around here! So exciting that in the last two days I’ve shattered (and I mean shattered) a glass container on our front walk, and smashed a drinking glass in the sink. I haven’t broken this many dishes since I was pregnant. (And no, I am most definitely not!)

Part of the reason I’m all aflutter is this: 50 Burning Questions has won the Information Book Award, presented by the Children’s Literature Roundtables of Canada. The honour book is Fatty Legs, by fellow Annick authors Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.

We had some stiff competition, including Deborah Hodge’s Up We Grow! A Year in the Life of a Small, Local Farm — one of the most gorgeous books on my personal shelves this season.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to smash more glasses.