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.


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


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.

Reading, writing, and absolutely no arithmetic

I’m a one-project-at-a-time kinda girl, but for the past couple weeks, I’ve been working on so many different things, my head is spinning. I have:


  • Booked presentations in West Van for November, Maple Ridge for December, and Richmond for February. (I haven’t been this popular since I had a free French-fry connection in high school. I hope all these people don’t expect me to wear my clothes right-side-out and speak in complete sentences.)
  • Finished an index for Extreme Battlefields, then reviewed said index once someone with a logical mind fixed it.

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  • Written a chapter of my newest non-fiction manuscript. (Only two left to go — hurray!)
  • Revised my novel. And… um… switched the gender of the protagonist. I didn’t mention that plan to my agent. Do you think she’ll notice?

One of these days, I’m even going to shower. Because it’s always good to have goals.

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.)

Personal professional

I had dinner with my friend Mark recently, who teaches grade five. He mentioned that when teaching a unit about blogs, he used me as an example of someone who blends personal and professional stories.

“Do I?” I said.

And of course I do, but I’ve never thought much about it because the line between personal and professional in my life is rather blurry. The things I’m musing about in my non-writing time end up in my written work, and the social events I attend are often writing-related. All very confusing.

Yesterday, I went to Granville Island for the Vancouver Writers Fest preview. There, Artistic Director Hal Wake announced the line-up of writers coming to town in October. It was a room filled (packed!) with book lovers, half of them marking and circling on their advance reading lists. You could tell they were waiting for the introductions to end so they could start page-turning.

I also got a little hint about my own role in October’s festival, which gives me four months to get nervous. To prepare, that is. In a personal/professional way.

Kind words

I went with a few of the Dirty Girls last night to see a Steven Galloway and Miriam Toews reading. Both writers were humble and insightful and quite wickedly funny. I was already looking forward to reading their new books, and now I’m twice as impatient.


My favourite moment of the evening, though, was a comment from the audience. A woman near the front of the room stood and talked about how much she loved Gabriel García Márquez, and how she’d always wanted to visit the Columbian towns where he’d “sprinkled his magic.”

I have to admit that at this point I thought perhaps she was a crazy person who was going to monopolize the question period with unrelated topics, but she continued…

She said that as someone from southern Manitoba, it was touching and inspiring to see Miriam Toews sprinkle familiar towns with that same kind of magic, and she was so grateful to the writer for doing so.


It was such a heartfelt and poignant tribute, especially so because Miriam Toews shows both the light and the dark sides of communities, which can’t always be comfortable for the people who live there.

I think the writer had tears in her eyes.

It was an altogether wonderful evening. Tanya Trafford, thank you for the tickets. I’m sorry you couldn’t get time off work. But there’s a little something on it’s way to you in the mail…

Happy writing and reading, everyone!

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.