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?

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…

Word Vancouver

It’s almost September! My calendar is a mess of kids’ activities and parent meetings and, in a pale yellow colour that seems to disappear amidst the family chaos, my own book events.

I’m thinking of changing my colour to fuchsia.

In case you’d like to mark your own calendars, in fuchsia or otherwise, I’m doing two events as part of Word Vancouver.

At 6:30 pm on Friday, September 22nd, I’m reading from Shadow Warrior at Christianne’s Lyceum as part of a Heroics and Heart evening. Rachelle Delaney and Kallie George are also reading. AND… here’s the best part… you can wear your pyjamas. I know! All book events should occur in pyjamas. Why don’t more people think of this?

At 2:30 pm on Sunday, September 24th, I’m talking Eyes and Spies in the south plaza of the downtown Vancouver Public Library. (I don’t actually know where the south plaza is, but hopefully we’ll all figure it out and end up there together. It can’t be that hard, right?)

Come and bring friends and fuzzy slippers! (To either event. I won’t judge.) I’d love to have friendly faces in the audience.

Uninvited guests

I was having an idyllic writers’ group meeting in the backyard with Kallie George, Rachelle Delaney, Stacey Matson, and Christy Goerzen. Once the wine was poured and the fruit crisps passed, Rachelle got up to snap this photo.

We discussed picture books. All was well in the world.

Until I saw movement from the corner of my eye.

“Uh… guys? There’s a skunk in the yard.”

But it was fairly benign. When we made noise, it waddled along the fence until it could duck into the neighbour’s yard.

Then its friend arrived. This one wandered all the way around the pond and headed toward us. When  we made noise, it raised its tail. It took a few more steps forward.

With great squealing, snatching of laptops, and scattering of chairs, we sprinted en masse toward the house.

For the record, if there’s ever a track meet for children’s writers, Kallie George is a sure winner in the 100-meter dash.

Running away to the circus

Why Rachelle Delaney is smarter than me:

First, she wrote books set in Moscow and Prague, and therefore had to travel Europe for research purposes. Then, she wrote a book about a circus school, and took trapeze and parkour lessons.

Why on earth am I setting my books deep in the forest in the middle of the Kootenays?

This is entirely bad planning on my part.

But back to Rachelle. Min, Silence, Violence, and I went to her Wednesday night book launch for The Bonaventure Adventures. The Book Warehouse on Main did a wonderful job of hosting. Rachelle was funny and smart as she told us all about her parkour-lesson bruises (at least I only get mosquito bites on my research trips), and the book is fabulous.


I hope L’École Nationale de Cirque has extra lesson spaces for those of us about to launch our own aerial acts…

My new imaginary pet

My writer friend Kallie George will soon be releasing the first book in her Magical Animal Adoption Series, and she’s just launched a new website. It’s the most adorable thing ever. I took the quiz and it turns out that I’m a suitable host for either winged horses or griffyns. (Maybe they like clean bathrooms and freshly ironed linens?)

maaa

Once again, this website makes me think I should re-examine my writing choices. My friend Rachelle sets her books in Moscow and Prague, then she gets to go on “research” trips.

Where do I set my books? The Kootenays.

Now Kallie gets a magical animal website. What kind of website quiz could I create? Hmmm… a “would you eat maggots to survive” version? It’s not quite the same!

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Housework and hazard pay

1. Housework
We are still all about the ADLs around here. Min needs to test ten volunteers, doing two household tasks each. I’m pretty sure this was a trick to get me to clean the bathroom and iron his shirts. I’ll have you know that I am officially, objectively capable of both those tasks, though I lost points for (a) leaving the rag drawer open and (b) propping the ironing board with my chin while I adjusted my grip.

I would like to write the ADLs people to argue that ironing is in fact NOT a necessary activity of daily life. Unfortunately, I was only asked to take the test, not to write the test.

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2. Hazard Pay
If no one hears from me for the rest of the week, it’s because I’m hanging out with my one-year-old nephew. He is a funny, happy little guy. But holy busy, batman! How in the world did I write when I had toddlers in the house? Apparently, multi-tasking is no longer one of my ADLs. Wish me luck!

Circus Dogs review

Through intense buttering-up of Rachelle Delaney, my daughter recently got her paws on advance proofs of The Circus Dogs of Prague. You may remember that she wallpapered her room last year with posters of the dogs from the Metro Dogs of Moscow. Well, she loved Circus Dogs even more. But I’ll let her tell it in her own words:

Join Pie, Robert, Beatrix, and of course JR, on a trip to Prague with George and his new girlfriend Nadya. At first, JR loves Prague. Cake, Parks, Treats. But then he sees them. Cats. Worse, Nadya has adopted a stray cat! ‘Kisa’ is nothing but trouble. At least, that’s what the dogs thought. But when Nadya’s brother’s circus is going out of business, is it possible that Kisa could save the day? Read The Circus Dogs of Prague to find out.

This book was awesome! I loved how Kisa was kind of unpredictable and sometimes, she was just so nice. Sometimes, she was just trouble!

There you have it. An advance review from JR’s biggest fan.

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Writers Fest-ing

I have never, ever been to the Vancouver Writers Fest. Until now.

Isn’t that horrible? Not only am I a writer and an avid reader, I also live FIVE MINUTES AWAY from Granville Island, where the Writers Fest takes place.

I am very ashamed of myself.

Fortunately, I am rectifying the situation this year with not one, but two events. Yesterday afternoon I sprung my daughter from school and we went to see Rachelle Delaney, Meg Tilly, and Cary Fagan at Mystery, Adventure, and Lies. All three were spectacular.

We are already a household of Rachelle Delaney fans, of course, but we enjoyed watching the hundred or so other groupies in the audience ask question after question after question about The Metro Dogs of Moscow.

Cary Fagan read a hilariously twisted first chapter (think children’s version of The Family Fang), and Meg Tilly read/acted a story about the tooth fairy, a baseball glove, and poo. She’s a writer who knows her MG audience!

Tonight I’m hoping to have just as good a time as I leave my daughter behind and head out with some fellow writers to see Fantasy@Six with Maureen Johnson and Maggie Stiefvater. My expectations are high, after yesterday afternoon, though I have a feeling there will be less talk about poo.