Felting in progress

My daughter attended the VPL’s Writing and Book Camp last week.

One of her favourite sessions was a needle-felting workshop with Holman Wang, co-creator of the Cozy Classics. Within 48 hours, she’d collected the supplies, trained her brother, and populated the house with fuzzy characters.

There’s now a book (albeit a slightly blurry book) in progress. This is one of my son’s contributions:

DSCN0806

There’s also a 12-word Return of the Jedi Epic Yarn on its way to my nephew for his birthday.

Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 12.26.43 PM

This camp would be my favourite ever if I could disguise myself as a tween and attend. Do you think my daughter would object if I tried that next year?

The Inside Story

Its that time of year: the annual CWILL BC panel about creating children’s books is coming soon to the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library. It’s a great event, always packed, and FREE!

The panelists this year are wise and experienced folks. So if you’ve ever considered writing or illustrating for children, here’s the event for you:

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 2.53.25 PM

More info here!

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…”

IMG_0583

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.

IMG_0582

Here’s her lovely plaque:

IMG_0581

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.

Where DO puppies come from?

The phone rang on Saturday afternoon, while we were all sitting around the kitchen table finishing our lunches.

My husband glanced at call display. “Vancouver Public Library,” he said. Since it was obviously not for him, he made no move to answer.

Meanwhile, I was thinking, “I’m sure my books aren’t that overdue.”

My daughter said, “It’s probably TWAG.”

And my son said, “Maybe they want to give us a puppy.”

So that was a complete family portrait, all in one moment.

As it turned out, my daughter was right. It was the library’s Tween Advisory Group (TWAG), calling to ask if she’d like to go to Kidsbooks with them to help choose new library books.

How awesome was that?

(Also, thank God it wasn’t a puppy.)

Hearing voices

I’m talking to myself this morning, practicing to be part of YA: The Trilogy at the Central Branch of the Vancouver Public Library tomorrow. There’s a whole slew of local YA writers presenting and reading, including Sara Leach, Carrie Mac, Melanie Jackson, and current VPL writer-in-resident Gabrielle Prendergast.

In the afternoon session, I get to talk about taking non-fiction “outside the box.” But mostly, this morning, I’m thinking about my first presentation, which must fit under the category “What IS Young Adult Literature and Why Should I Read/Write It?” My plan is to talk about voice and how it stems partly from place, then read a little from both Anywhere But Here and my newest work-in-progress.

I have 10 minutes or less in each session to be funny or enlightening or both. Totally doable, right? (Don’t answer that.)

I read an amazing YA novel over the weekend, which is part of what has me mulling about voice. The book is Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern, and one of the protagonists is Amy, a girl with cerebral palsy. Because Amy is bright, and has spent much of her life with adult aides, there’s a wonderful adult quality to her thoughts. One of my favourite scenes in the entire book is one in which she points out to fellow student Sanjay that his talk of “conquests” may actually be a problem in the girl department.

saywhatyouwill

Amy is struggling with all the emotions every other teen faces, and so, despite her educated and adult thoughts, she still agonizes about clothes and kissing and her big crush — all in maybe even a younger-than-teen way. The two sides of Amy make her an entirely unique character.

But enough about Amy. Let’s go back to talking about me, and how I’m going to ensure I sound like an adult at the podium tomorrow. How does one pronounce “pedantic” anyway? Did you know I had an argument with an urban planner last week about whether one was supposed to pronounce detritus as “dee-tree-us” or “dee-trite-us”? The urban planner won.

You see why my solo practicing is necessary…

Feel free to stop by and say hi at YA: The Trilogy! And tell me if I pronounce things wrong.

CWILL BC Panel

For those of you who have a children’s book lurking in a drawer or in the depths of your hard drive, the annual CWILL BC panel at the Vancouver Public Library is coming up on Monday, March 10.

I attended this evening years ago as a newbie writer, and I had the pleasure of participating on the panel last year. It’s always a fun night of great questions and generously shared advice. Personally, I think the panelists are particularly wonderful this year. Check it out:

11443855173_1d1f8b0269_z

Q & A time: agents

I had a fantastic time at the VPL‘s Getting Started in Children’s Books panel last night. I thought I’d spend time on the blog this week answering some of the most popular questions.

Question of the day:
Do you have an agent? How did you find her?

I have an amazing agent — Patricia Ocampo of TLA. She’s both kind and (very) funny along with having those other useful agenting skills of business and editing acumen.

I’m somewhat new to this world; Patricia and I started working together in November 2011. But, I have to say, I LOVE having an agent. For the following reasons:

1. You know when you get a rejection, and your husband or best friend or mom tells you it’s totally unfair, and your book SO deserves to be published, and the editor is obviously blind? And that feels great, but you know that your husband/friend/mom is saying these things mostly out of overwhelming love for you? Well, an agent says many of the same things, but from a place of actual literary knowledge.

2. I hate talking about money. I would rather talk about death, zombies, or the apocalypse. Suddenly, I don’t have to talk about money anymore! I just send Patricia a little note when I finish an edit, and she says, “Great. I’ll send off an invoice.” How awesome is that?

3. Writing is an isolating business, and it is so, so nice to feel as if I have a partner in this venture. Someone who can say, “let’s argue that point,” or “no, drop it, you’re being neurotic.” Someone to provide an objective opinion on pretty much everything. Other than whether my clothes match. I’m still on my own there.

All this, of course, goes along with the obvious agent bonuses of (a) often getting an extra edit before your manuscript goes to publishers, (b) having access to larger and international publishers, and (c) having much more negotiating power.

So, is getting an agent crazy-hard? Yes. But is it worth it, if you can find one? A resounding yes from me.