Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holiday Books

On December 1st, my children started pestering me to get our boxes of holiday decorations out. I relented, mainly because I wanted to get at our collection of holiday books. One family favourite is Kevin Major's House of Wooden Santas. It begins 24 days before Christmas so we read the entry for a day every night until Christmas eve. Even though my children are older (well, not that old -- only 9 and 13), they still love to be read to.

My personal favourite is The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. It is very sentimental, but the story unfolds beautifully and the writing is so well paced and descriptive. I always choke up near the end.

I've asked my fellow writers at CWILL-BC and CANSCAIP for their holiday favourites. The ideas from BC writers will be listed on the CWILL blog. The CANSCAIP suggestions will be posted soon on their web site. I'll let you know when the latter are posted.

What are your favourites? Let me know and I'll post them here.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Canadian Children's Book Week

Thanks to all of the schools and libraries I visitied in Lindsay, Kirkfield, Woodville, Oshawa, Mississauga and Toronto. I had a wonderful, albeit very busy, time in Ontario during the Book Week tour. Also, thanks to the Canadian Children's Book Centre and Monica Winkler, organizer par excellence, for making the trip possible and for making it as smooth and hassle-free as possible! The Canadian Children's Book Centre does so many things for Canadian writers — if you love books and kids and the idea of keeping books about Canada by Canadians on library and bookstore shelves, please check them out and consider supporting them. You can find more at their website.

The trip had crazy weather "bookends." High winds and lots of rain (and, consequeqntly, no power for 36 hours) the days before I flew east and a west coast snowstorm when I arrived home. Still balmy in Ontario I understand. This morning it is snowing here, something we only see every few years. The kids are happy and I would be too if I didn't have to drive to Port Alberni, a town 110 or so km away with some narrow, twisty roads and a high pass. Maybe my daughter won't get her braces today afterall!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Off to Ontario!
I'm off to Ontario for Children's Book Week. I'm looking forward to visiting students, teachers and parents in Woodville, Lindsay, Oshawa, Mississauga, Hamilton, North York, Scarborough and Toronto. Phew! No doubt it will be a fun, but exhausting, week! I'll give a full report when I've recovered.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Silver Birch Nomination
I've just learned that my book Skunks, published spring 2006, is nominated for the Silver Birch award, in the Express category. It's been awhile since I've been nominated for this award, but from their web site it seems like they have quite the events planned around the ceremony. May consider a trip east for the ceremony (it's always so much fun) if I can swing some school visits too. All of the nominees can be found at the OLA site.

Latest Issue of KNOW
Issue 6 of KNOW is whizzing it's way across the country. This was another fun one (they are all to me) with a theme section on dogs. Lots of cute pups, which I hope kids will enjoy.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Stories and Music

It didn't occur to me until I came to write this post that two of the wonderful YA books I've recently read -- Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastien Bach and Magnifico -- both have similar threads running through them. The main protagonists are young girls (Hannah and Catharina in the former and Mariangela in the later) who have personal challenges but who also have music playing a central role in their lives. Hannah plays the violin and is struggling to learn a piece that was very important to her late mother and to her father (as well, as we learn, to other characters in the book), Catharina has a lovely singing voice, but it goes unnoticed -- as she feels she does -- to her father, Johann Sebastien Bach, and Mariangela would much rather play the piano than the accordion she is saddled with. They were both wonderful reads. I read Magnifico to my nine-year-old and she enjoyed it very much. (We particularly loved saying the name, Mariangela, out loud!) Author Victoria Miles captured the feeling of pre-WWII Vancouver and the challenges facing an immigrant family. Mariangela is a thoroughly likeable character, as are her spunky sisters. You can learn more about Magnifico here. It's a new book and I think it has a great future.

Hannah Waters and the Daughter of Johann Sebastien Bach by Barbara Nickel came out in 2005 and it quickly found itself on the short-list of many awards, including the Mr. Christie's Book Award, the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People and the Governor General's award. All of the attention is well-deserved. Read more here. Both books say they are targetted for children ages 11 and up, but I think Magnifico is fine for younger children, too.

Friday, September 29, 2006

CBC Visit
My friend Joanna Streetly and I were interviewed on CBC Radio this morning. They wanted to chat with two writers from Tofino. I was a tad nervous, but it turned out all right. I thought the interviewer's question about how could I write from Tofino was a tad silly. That's the beauty of writing, you can do it from anywhere! (But, I must say, having access to high-speed Internet and couriers can help a lot, too, at least for the kind of writing I do.) This picture is not a great one, but it shows a lot of things, including my newly bald husband taking the photo in the left of the frame. He had his head shaved on Sunday to raise money for cancer research. (In conjunction with the annual "Cops for Cancer" ride on Vancouver Island -- Tour de Rock.) Through the window you can see Joanna and I with Paul Vesey, as well as a few locals and the CBC banners, etc.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vulcans at the Lantern Festival
We held our annual lantern festival the other night at the Botanical Gardens. Fabulous setting, wonderful lanterns, from mermen to a huge shark (and surfer) to the solar system and beyond. I helped with the "Reuse, Recycle, Rejoice" area where we had lanterns made from tin cans, CDs, jars, pop cans and coffee cups (it was much more beautiful than it sounds). We dressed up this year, which was fun so I got to trot out my grandmother's Eastern Star gown (think wedding dress, but not) and my favourite spider broach. (Oh, and wings.) My daughter was a Vulcan or is that an elf? She was cute anyhow.

KNOW - Issue 5
Our latest issue is out. I just love the cover by Howie Woo -- such a talented fellow. With a theme like light and colour there was lots of material to choose from. Hard to believe I've been at this job for over a year now. It has just flown by.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Books to Indonesia

Just received my copies of Kelelawar, Linsang, and Burung Hantu. That's Bats, Otters and Owls to you! (Unless you speak Indonesian.) They're published by Elex Media, Indonesia. Wish I could post a cover for you, but I can't find them on the Web and the scanner isn't hooked up.

Here's how you say "Bats are animals that can fly, but they are not birds." - Keleawar adalah hewan yang bisa terbang, tapi mereka bukan burung.

"Kewl", as my big sis would say.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Nice Review of KNOW
Just by chance we learned of very nice review of KNOW in Canadian Materials last week. Made us happy campers in the office that day!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lu and Clancy go to the Czech Republic! The Rights department at Kids Can Press have been busy. Just found out that Lu and Clancy's Secret Codes will be printed in the Czech Republic; Move It! and Touch It! will be printed in Argentina (the publisher, Editorial Albatros, will hold the Spanish rights for all of Latin America); and Build It! and Change It! will be printed in French by Les editions Scholastic.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Issue 4 of KNOW is on the newstand (and whizzing to mailboxes across the country). Lots of summer fun in this issue. I think one of the best things about working on this magazine is the chance to "meet" so many wonderful (mostly Canadian) writers and illustrators. For a writer, a magazine every two months is also a nice "rush" (as opposed to a book every couple of years or so). Now...onto the next baby.

Cover image above by Remie Geoffroi.
After an enthusiatic start, life got in the way of blogging. Finally a free moment. Listening to Elizabeth MacLeod being interviewed on CBC right now about her new book, The Kids Book of Great Canadian Women, by Kids Can Press. Yeah, Liz! Always delighted to hear children's writers on the radio (and especially nice that it's my publisher, too).

In the latest issue of KNOW, I interviewed a wonderful photographer from Boston, Felice Frankel. She works with scientists to take photographs (or micrographs) of their work. They really are quite stunning and she was a wonderful person to interview. So enthusiastic and keen about her work and about sharing the wonders and beauty of science with others. If you have a moment I highly recommend you check out an online tour (podcast with visuals) of one of her shows, or a profile with photographs. Who knew that a drop of oil or a colony of yeast could be so lovely!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Last weekend was a time for eating -- it was the Tofino Food and Wine Festival, which was fabulous and very yummy. All of the local restaurants, and many BC wineries, set up in the lovely Tofino Botanical Gardens. It was the first sunny day in awhile and was just a great day visiting with friends, wandering through the gardens, sipping on some lovely wines and eating great food. Tres decadent. My favourite munchie was definitely the crispy wonton filled with shrimp and veggies from the restaurant Shelter.

This weekend it was pay back time for last weekend -- I was asked at the last minute to be on a relay team for the Edge-to-Edge marathon (relay version). The race was today and I ran the 4th leg (7.8 km). Felt pretty good and we did well, primarily because our last leg was "wheeled" by our friend Pam, who zipped along on her recumbent bike. Huge admiration for the marathoners who tackled this route -- there are a surprising number of hills given the relatively flat geography in this area.

No books to recommend about running, but, as far as food books go, I'd definitely recommend all of Ruth Reichl's books -- Tender At the Bone, Comfort Me With Apples, and Garlic & Sapphires. The triology recount her life from a young child thrown into the world of cooking (her mother had many challenges; she was a terrible cook but occasionally would throw dinner parties where she was known to give her guests food poisoning), through her time running a restaurant and living in a commune in Berkley, to being the New York Times restaurant critic. Reichl, who is now the editor of Gourmet, is a very funny writer and she's had a pretty interesting life. Good beach reading I think. Tender at the Bone was my favourite. Here's Reading Group Notes and a review from Salon, if you want to know more.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Can you spell dasyphyllous?
I've no idea what it means and probably couldn't spell it if asked, so congratulations are in order for 14-year-old Finola Hackett from Tofield, Alberta who placed second in the Scripps National Spelling Bee. (And all of the other, especially the Canadian, finalists!) I love words, but I would have been lost if I'd been asked to spell maieutic or koine, too. Off to find the dictionary... (If you're in doubt as to the excitement factor of spelling bees, check out the film Spellbound. At the end you could have heard the proverbial pin drop at our house, followed by the collective release of held breath.)

The Crazy Man
As any of you interested in children's lit. will know, The Crazy Man by Pamela Porter won this year's GG in the children's lit. category. I'd read a few reviews and decided to give it a read. My copy from the library arrived just as we were to go on a road trip so I read it to my family as we were driving. All of us, ages 9 to 52, were captivated by the story of Emaline and "the crazy man", Angus. The story is told in a prose poem, which was intriguing to me and new to my children, but it really worked. My husband, who once worked at a "mental" (a terrible name, I know, but that sentiment was fairly common I believe) and grew up in a town that could very well have been the one in the novel, said it captured the essence of small prairie town life in the '50s wonderfully. Emaline, Angus, the mother, father, Mei, the neighbours (who think the presence of the "crazy man" next door is a threat to their safety), ... every character is very believable and you've just got to love a character "who can speak meadowlark" and "see colors around people." After that weekend, I bought the book. It is one I know I will come back to time and again.

The Crazy Man is published by Groundwood Books.
Cover illustration above by Karine Daisay

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Welcome to my blog. Why "Tough City" you might ask? It's anyone's guess since the place where I live is neither tough, nor a city. Lots of people in town have ideas about how our home got this nickname, but I don't think anyone knows for sure. It's probably just a shortened version of our town's name, which is on an island in Canada. I'll leave it at that. If you've been here, you probably know where I'm talking about.

One thing in my blog's title that is true is that I'm a writer. I'm not sure what this blog will bring, but it will probably have something to do with writing and reading, and that thing called life that feeds into all that creativity. Or, if nothing else, it's a darn good place to procrastinate.