At the Vancouver Writers Fest

The people at the Vancouver Writers Fest are just plain awesome. When I arrived at the Dockside Hotel on Granville Island this morning, Hal Wake hugged me. Someone handed me a bag of swag. I talked election news with Susin Nielsen. A lovely woman named Kathryn was assigned to shepherd me from place to place in case I fell into a writerly daze and walked off a dock. A sound guy rewired my microphone so I could flit around the stage.

I would like to live permanently in a state of writers-festishness.

I had two presentations today. I talked about DNA Detective with a big crowd at the Waterfront Theatre, including Liisa House and her enthusiastic grade sevens from Edith Cavell.

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And a second presentation in conjunction with the downright incredible Michel Chikwanine and librarian extraordinare Shannon Ozirny.

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Thank you to all the Writers Fest staff and volunteers who do such a wonderful job, and to the ever-smiling crew at Kidsbooks who put plenty of survival stories in plenty of new hands today. You’re all my favourites ever.

Vancouver Writers Fest!!!

Let me apologize now for the three exclamation marks in the title of this post. But… the Vancouver Writers Fest!!! (Oops… did it again. Sorry.)

I’m so excited to be a part of the festival this year. And, as the catalogue has just arrived in my mailbox, it must be time to share a little news about my presentations.

DNA Detective
Wednesday, October 21, 10 – 11:15 a.m.
In this DNA Detective talk for students in grades 5 through 8, I tell stories about the deranged and obsessed people who figured out how DNA actually works. (One of them drank hydrochloric acid.) We explore the wild and wacky side of DNA mishaps, cloning, and woolly-mammoth reconstruction, consider the pros and cons of glowing goldfish, and wonder how Icelanders avoid marrying their cousins.

Against All Odds
Wednesday, October 21, 1 – 2:30 p.m.
This is a panel discussion with Michel Chikwanine, moderated by Shannon Ozirny. Michel was kidnapped by rebel Congolese soldiers when he was five, taken to the jungle, and trained as a child soldier. I am… providing comic relief? Because the closest I’ve come to a survival situation was Metrotown Mall on Boxing Day. BUT, I did write When the Worst Happens, which is all about how our body and brain handle crisis situations, how to control panic and take action, and how to survive just about anything. Except maybe rebel Congolese soldiers. (I may simply stare at Michel in awe during this hour. But you can join me.)

There are many more events that I’m dying to attend, so hopefully I’ll see you on Granville Island in October! (There. I’m down to one exclamation mark. How sedate of me.)

Summer readers

I had a wonderful visit yesterday afternoon with the Summer Reading Club at the West Vancouver Memorial Library. And wow! I always enjoy speaking to kids, but kids who choose to spend a sunny summer afternoon at a book talk instead of at the beach, two blocks away? Well, they’re a whole other level of awesome.

I also got to visit with librarian extraordinaire and fellow bhangra dancer Shannon Ozirny, who said that when she heard this year’s reading club theme of “strange but true,” she immediately thought of me.

A compliment? I choose to think so.

Thanks for having me, Shannon, and thanks to the West Van summer reading club kids!

(Incidentally, my own kids picked up their medals at the Kits library branch yesterday, after reading for at least 15 minutes a day for 50 days. But would you believe that in West Van they have a medal ceremony in September? And the MAYOR attends? I wish we could do as they do in Katroo!)

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.