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.

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?

mayne

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.

retreatgroup

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 people in the neighbourhood

Today I filled in for my lovely friend Stacey as a volunteer for the Writer’s Exchange. The organization works to get inner-city kids excited about reading and writing. This morning, the team was helping grade one and two students at Thunderbird Elementary start their own book about what they’d like to be when they grow up.

To kick off the project, the Writers Exchange hosted a mini job fair. I was there to represent the writers of the world. There was also a farmer, a flight attendant, a nurse, a police officer, two basketball players (maybe they only travel in pairs?), a magazine publisher, and a teacher. (There was no firefighter, much to the disappointment of the nurse.)

It was like being a real-life part of Sesame Street.

I think the police officer won the “coolest tools” contest, with the nurse a close second. And the flight attendant got bonus points because she had a miniature airplane with her. But the kids liked that I could write whatever and whenever I chose, and that the illustrator for my 50 Questions books got all his best ideas by putting a chicken on his head. (You were a hit, Ross!)

At the end of the morning, one of the little boys put his head down on the table and refused to leave the library. I felt the same way, really. I wanted to stay and talk to all the other volunteers. How does one become a farmer, anyway?

The dream conference

Imagine this: a children’s literature conference where Stacey Matson was teaching storytelling and Carrie Mac giving a keynote about heroes, villains, and geeks. James McCann was offering a workshop on story mapping, Maggie de Vries on scene construction, and Jeremy Tankard on turning pictures into stories. Denise Jaden, Grant Lawrence, and Pia Guerra were speaking and mentoring. Would you want to go?

Because I would TOTALLY sign up!

Except… I am not 11 to 16. Damn it.

All last week, my daughter ran off to the VPL’s Writing and Book Camp each day and came home raving about the cool people she’d met and the things she’d discovered.

Then, on Friday, she got up in front of 150 or so people and read an excerpt from her short story. Calmly, clearly, as if it were no big deal.

I am hanging somewhere between immensely proud and insanely jealous.

Silence Speaks

This is a guest post by my ten-year-old daughter, Silence. (She would rather add book reviews to her own blog, but that has been ix-nayed for a few more years.) These are her thoughts about A Year in the Life of a Total and Complete Genius, by Stacey Matson. Stacey is a member of my writing group, and Silence found her book at the school library. I’ll let my daughter take it from here…

Enter self-confident, smart, 13-year-old Arthur Bean. Moving can be hard, especially after losing your mom, but Arthur is ready.

On his first day at school, he decided that by the end of the school year, he will have both won the school’s writing contest, and convinced his secret crush Kennedy that he is the one for her.

You’ll laugh at Arthur’s attempts at tutoring popular by not-very-bright Robbie. The two begin as enemies, but slowly become closer in this funny and unusual story.

I rate this book 5 out of 5, and would recommend it to anyone who needs a good laugh.

genius