The Wikipedia challenge

Here’s a little part of my Saturday presentation which brought some good comments and questions.

Non-fiction has changed in the last decade. Ten years ago, I could say “I want to write a book about famous fires” and six months later, Voila.

Today, there’s a teensy little problem:

You can look up fire on here and find everything you ever wanted to know, and more. There is absolutely no need to buy a book.

So, a non-fiction book today has to have a concept. Something to make it fun. Something that will make kids choose to read paper instead of screen.

It has to have 50 silly questions. Or, it has to have cartoons. Or, in the case of my new book, about blood, it has to have a side-story told in graphic novel form, about a boy slowly drawn into a society of vampires.

It has to have something.

Wikipedia limits us. We can’t create a simple collection of facts. Wikipedia challenges us, as writers, to do more, and do better.

And it also frees us. Because all the facts are here, at the click of a mouse. We don’t have to give our readers all the information. If they’re interested, they can look it up. We just have to hook them. We have to convince them that fire is way more interesting than they ever would have guessed, looking at a list of facts.

Emerging, briefly, from the hermit hovel

Someone once told me that a hermit used to live on Lynn Peak, in North Vancouver. And that is exactly where I am planning to move after I finish this week’s not one, but TWO presentations. I’m speaking to intermediate students tomorrow, and to the folks at Serendipity on Saturday.

Let’s all pause to remember that last time I gave an author presentation, I was wearing my sweater inside-out. And then let’s pray.

This could be dangerous

My February calendar is booking up faster than a socialite’s dance card. Well, okay, I have three engagements. But for someone who doesn’t usually leave her neighbourhood, that’s a lot!

  • On February 2nd, I’m introducing Robert Heidbreder at UBC’s Authorfest. I don’t actually know Robert Heidbreder, and I may be making up his entire introduction (I wonder if he remembers that mud wrestling stage of his career?), but my daughter is such a big Don’t Eat Spiders fan that I had to say yes to this event.
  • On February 23rd, I’m speaking to two groups of students at Dr. R.E. McKechnie School. It’s always good to have the opportunity to warp young minds.
  • On February 25th, I’m speaking at Serendipity. I have 20 or 30 minutes to divulge everything I know about making non-fiction interesting to kids. And, I’m going to use Keynote for the first time. Because I’m crazy like that.

You will notice that I’m sounding quite cheerful about these impending public speaking engagements. That’s because they’re all still safely in the future. I find that full panic strikes about 72 hours prior. You can check back with me then.