Friday, December 30, 2011

Like I Need Another Project

But this is a short one! A project to celebrate (or perhaps, mark, is the better word) my half-century on this planet.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ampersand Love

Ah, I love a beautiful ampersand. I can't decide which one on this link I love more though, the tattoo, the eye chart or the book cover?

The Great Sci/Why Giveaway

Want a chance to win a children's science book? Head on over to the Sci/Why blog — a blog hosted by a group of Canadian writers of science books for children — and take the quiz.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bat in Hat

Last year I received a very interesting gift and it spurred the start of a new Christmas tradition around here:

Yup, that's a bat in a "hat" on the top of our tree.

It's a very cool bat puppet that my sweet sister got me last Christmas. (By artist Susan Cain of Hornby Island.) The hat is actually a sock I knit for one of my girls when they were little. It makes a good stand-in for a Santa hat.

So what's on the top of your tree this year?

PS This is the beauty that the bat replaced.

What do you think? Did we make the right decision?

(Apologies for the poor quality of the photos. I have a new camera and am too impatient to read the instructions.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Kids Need Books (and many don't have them)

This is a pretty startling report from the UK.

So I learn with despair of the latest findings from the National Literacy Trust which show that a third of all children – nearly four million – do not own a single book.

It's a simple thing we can all try to do something about. (One easy idea that we started at our local school -- where I suspect this issue is a reality for some children -- is to set up a bookshelf near the front door of the school. We ask people to drop off gently-used children's books. The children can take a book if they'd like. What they do with it then is up to them. They could keep it, return it, share it with someone else. It doesn't matter.)

Monday, December 12, 2011

A New Year, A New Cover

I'm excited to finally be able to share this, the cover of my forthcoming book: Long Beach Wild. You can find out more here. The release date is April 2012. Details on launches and parties coming soon!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

YES and KNOW on Sale

Yes, I am biased here, having been Managing Editor of KNOW for six years, but they are wonderful magazines. And a bargain at full price, but here is your chance to get YES Mag or KNOW (or both!) at 40% off.

For the first time in 15 years, the publisher is having sale. A big sale! Until November 23, you can save 40% on a subscription! Learn more here. Act fact. It might be another 15 years before the next sale.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Red Cedar Shortlist 2011-12

Congratulations to all those on the Red Cedar Award shortlist, especially to my best bud Jude Isabella for her book, Hoaxed: Fakes and Mistakes in the World of Science.

If you know some young people who live to read, consider starting a Red Cedar club. This is a kids' choice award and the books are always stellar.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Slice Me Some Truth, Baby

Congratulations to my prof. from UBC, Luanne Armstrong, for the launch of Slice Me Some Truth, published by Wolsak and Wynn. If you're in Vancouver tomorrow evening, check it out!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Project Bookmark

I love this idea. Great work, Miranda. I know you've been working hard on it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Know any Young Aspiring Writers?

Then here's a contest to check out.

Mini Review

Here's a mini review of my latest children's book, Motion, Magnets and More. A mini-mention, but these days, a few lines (and a hot link) is better than no mention at all!

Oh, wait. Here's another one.

Obviously I need to do some Googling.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mapping Banned Books

I love maps, but I don't love the fact that people ban books. In honor (?) of Banned Books Week, here is an interesting - and interactive - map that shows books that were banned or challenged in the US. (Sadly, no similar map for Canada, but we're not immune to the practice!)Click on the balloons to find the info. behind each of the challenges.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Celebrate Science! - Round Two

The first Celebrate Science, held last year at the Beatty Musuem was so successful that it's time for round two. Here are the details:

You are cordially invited to attend Celebrate Science. Please register at the UBC student rate of $20.00. All proceeds support the work of the Canadian Children’s Book Centre .

Celebrate Science! A Festival of BC Science Writers for Kids and Teens takes place in the wonderful Beaty Biodiversity Museum at the University of British Columbia on September 24, 2011 (8:30-12:30 p.m.) A fundraiser in support of the work of the Canadian Children's Book Centre, this science extravaganza will appeal to teachers, teacher-librarians, student teachers, public librarians, child care workers and parents.

The half-day program (8:30 am to 12:30 pm) will feature talented Canadian writers and illustrators whose books and passion for science spans all ages. They'll explore scientific topics with the audience and highlight a wide range of books available for youth. The keynote speaker is Dr. Jeanette Whitton, Environmental biologist and Co-Director, Beaty Biodiversity Museum. Featured scientists include Dr. Wayne Maddison, the spider guy; Dr. Amanda Vincent, Project Seahorse researcher and Dr. Eric Taylor, UBC Fish Collection.

Science writers from the Children's Writers and Illustrators of BC (CWILL BC) presenting their books will be: Fiona Bayrock, Tanya Kyi, Shar Levine & Leslie Johnstone, Cynthia Nicolson, Barry Shell, and Jim Wiese. There will be a science book fair and sales with a 10% discount for attendees.

To register online go to

Online registration closes September 22, 2011—space is limited so register today!
Thanks for supporting this fundraiser for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Realities of Writing

The very talented artist Patricia Storms put up a great post on her blog that got me thinking.

People have a lot of assumptions about writers and illustrators and we're not doing ourselves any favours by not addressing them head on. So, for the curious, here are some realities about trying to make your living as a writer. (I can't speak for being an illustrator, but there are many similarities.)

1. Yes, getting published is very exciting and something that so many people strive for, but it does not mean we are rich. [See below.]

2. On average, writers receive royalties anywhere from 5% (for a picture book, for instance, since royalties are split with the illustrator) to 10%. Let's do the math. If the book costs $10, the author is actually receiving between 50 cents and $1. [See 1.]

3. Very few writers actually receive the "six figure advances" you sometimes hear about. Some receive $0. Others a few hundred or a few thousand. This varies, of course, but it is not "free money." These are "advances against royalties." In theory the publisher is advancing you monies they project that the book will safely recoup. Once it is published the writer makes $0 until that royalty advance is paid out. [See 1.]

4. Other than a few free copies (about 10, say) writers have to buy their own books. Yes, we get them at the same discount as a bookseller (40% off retail), but we don't have an endless supply of our own books without forking over cash.

5. When people demand cheap books [or cheap anything, frankly] someone is getting screwed. Like those big box discounts? It's because big box stores demand a very hefty discount (perhaps as much as 55%) while the "mom and pop" bookstore down the street can only get 40%. Writers, illustrators and publishers are also making less. [See 2. This means we might only make 30 cents for each sale! Whoopee! See 1.]

6. Writers often have to pay for things you might assume a publisher would cover. This includes purchasing photographs, paying for illustrations (maps, for instance), creating a website, organizing a tour, etc.

7. More and more, writers and illustrators are expected to take on publicity and marketing themselves. Very few books and authors get "tours" and big budget marketing plans. I have received a whopping total of $100 for travel over my 20 years as a published writer. (From publishers that is. I have received support from programs such as the Canadian Book Centre's Book Week and other festivals.)

8. Most writers and illustrators have to do other work to continue. While I have been a full-time writer and editor for many years, I work on many different things — textbooks, interpretive centre media, government documents, and the like. I love the variety, but it's not an easy go. Like Patricia, I have often had thoughts of throwing in the towel to become a waitress. I published my first book in 1991 and have published over 30 books. [See 1.]

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Neighbourhood Book Exchange

If I was handy with a hammer and nails, I would make one of these. Isn't it lovely? I helped get something similar going at the elementary school — where we have a little bookcase of books available for children to borrow for a few days or forever, but it's not nearly as funky as this.

Telling a Story, Stitch by Stitch

I have a thing for fabric and textiles. I'm not sure where it came from, but whenever I am trolling through thrift shops or yard sales, it is the fabric, needlework, and such that catches my eye. So I was in heaven over the last two weeks as I travelled through Nova Scotia as I took a short vacation and delivered Daughter A to university. So many lovely quilts and, oh, the rugs. I don't have room for a quilt or the cash for the rug I would have loved, but I certainly took time to look over them and appreciate the work. And I thought about the stories, because they all have one. Perhaps it was just a record of a place captured hook-by-hook in wool or there are the stories of who a quilt was made for or why a particular fabric was chosen. But the hand-stitched work that will be forever etched in my memory, is the four panel story of Fort Anne, that greeted me as I walked in the historic site's visitor centre. Here are two of the four panels. [Photo from here.]
This beauty was four floor-to-ceiling panels high. The Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry was designed by Kyoko Grenier-Sago, who then painted the work onto the needlepoint canvas. It took 100 volunteers over 3 million stitches to create this beauty — the story of Fort Anne. If you find yourself in Annapolis Royal, you must go see it for yourself. (Or, you can take a virtual tour of the site, which was fabulous and a must-see for all Canadians. So much of our early settlement history started here.)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Go, Margaret, Go

Margaret Atwood and friends are taking on the Ford Brothers. Love it. Hmmm, who would I choose as a lunch partner? Hard decision. Perhaps Jeremy Tankard; he might doodle something wonderful on the napkin. More here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Lane Anderson Award Finalists

The shortlists have been announced for the Lane Anderson Award for science writing. Congratulations to the finalists.

Jane Yolen's Tea Party

I adore Jane Yolen and her work and I find this very frightening. I guess I could laugh it all off, but something nasty, perhaps sinister?, seems afoot in our neighbour to the south and I find it deeply unsettling.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Stories in Scraps

My goodness. I hardly know what to say about these and the stories behind them, except that I want to learn more and I want to visit this place one day.

[Thanks for Wild Muse and Cafe Cartolina for their links.]

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Library Love

Libraries are under attack in Toronto at the moment. (Well, they are under attack in many places, but Toronto is the latest Canadian victim that I know of.) To counter the lack of vision, we can celebrate a bit by looking at these beauties.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A New Book!

Well, sort of. Motions, Magnets and More is a compilation of the four books in my Primary Physical Sciences series that I completed a few years ago. It has been repackaged by my publisher in one handy-dandy volume and should be available asap. In the interim, I am very stoked that Kirkus Reviews has decided to take a peek. And here's what they had to say. I'll let you read the full review if you so wish, but here are my two favourite sections:

Mason has crafted what could easily be adopted by primary classrooms as their sole physical-science textbook.

Gathering in one place the physical-science concepts typically presented to primary children, this is ideal for the youngest scientists and explorers, a worthy addition to school and library collections.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Self-Promo for Writers

Today, with all of the social media options available and with marketing budgets shrinking at publishing houses, marketing is falling more and more to writers. This is likely overkill for most of us, but author Jenny Blake has shared her spreadsheet for self-promo. Almost exhausting to look at (and think about), but certainly lots of ideas and options for every writer, self-published or not.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Random Sunday

I've been busy with several writing projects - a new children's book, the last details on the Tofino walking tour, and finally finalizing the details on a book I affectionately call The Long Suffering Beach Book, but I've been trolling the Net as per usual too, and here are a few links I've been meaning to share.

Three new takes on the alphabet book.

Recently bought to satisfy the wannabe field naturalist in my nature, at least voyeuristically.

Incredible images from plastic cups, repeated words, plastic dolls.

My absolute favourite new go to website. (With the best name.)

Another new favourite, New to Nature.

Look what you can do with 35,000 staples.

Ten things I should really try to do.

Thoughts on darkness in YA fiction from writer Jocelyn Shipley.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Canadian Children's Book Centre Shortlist Announced

Congratulations to all of those Canadian writers and illustrators on the CCBC's shortlist.

(But an especially huge whoot whoot to my friend, fellow Clayqout Sound writer and local lightkeeper (!), Caroline Woodward for her wonderful picture book, Singing Away the Dark, which is short-listed for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award.)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A New Book: 18 Meditations on Chesterman Beach

I have a new little book out. This is published through Postelsia Press and it is a beautifully hand bound chapbook of an essay on Chesterman Beach that I starting working on about four years ago.

You can find out more here.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Typewriters of the Literati

There's something about the clackity-clack of a typewriter. It's nostalgic, but I seem to recall having to really whack the keys of the old style models. It probably hurt. Good therapy perhaps?

I dropped French to take typing, so I'm a pretty good typist and know my way around the keyboard (but I really wish I knew French too), but I'm glad our current keyboards are quiet and don't require carbon copies (actual ones), White-Out, and re-typing a new version every time you make a mistake.

Here are some writers and their typewriters. I do love my grandmother's though.

Friday, June 03, 2011


I have a soft spot, not to mention a substantial section of my office library, devoted to dictionaries.

I am the sort of person that thinks giving a good dictionary as a wedding or birthday gift is a good idea. I know this skews my personality firmly towards "nerd," but I'm okay with that.

The photo above isn't showing all of them. I have my beloved COD and a whomping huge old copy of The Concise English Dictionary right beside my desk, ready to access at all times. I have two dictionaries for children, which helps at the magazine when I am trying to simply explain terms for young people. They are also great for phonetics.

I use the science dictionaries all the time, and the etymology dictionary, too. I picked up the Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms in university; it's essential reading for any biologist, especially students trying to remember all those phyla. If you understand what echinoderm breaks down to, it's much easier to file it away forever.

Some are just quirky. Gould's Pocket Pronouncing Medical Dictionary? Because you never know when you need to define edeoptosis (a prolapse of the genitals). Wet Coast Words? Because nothing says British Columbian by understanding the origin of skookum. (And nothing says Islander, than using "up island.")

You never know where these dictionaries will lead. The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics, helped me craft this.

When I troll the second-hand stores, I am always looking out for unusual dictionaries. I picked up four new ones this past week.

I'm not sure quite why I got this one, but it did come in handy as I was reading The Hare with the Amber Eyes, the latest choice of our book club, with its netsuke, vitrines, and bibelots. (It's a great read, by the way.)

And this find was perfect because I've decided that I am going to try and wade through The Bible. My understanding of religion is, frankly, pathetic, and I'm going to try and rectify that over the next while. A conversion is not imminent, however. This dictionary was immediately useful as I tried to figure out what an "unclean animal" was and why only one male and one female of the unclean animals were allowed on the ark, while seven of each "clean" animal were permitted passage.

I don't see any immediate use for this, but for $2 it can take up space on the shelf for awhile.

And then I found this little gem.

I couldn't resist. It is totally falling apart and someone has attempted to stitch the linen covers together. Plus it is the size of about 3 1/2 matchboxes and cost me a loonie.

So what is your favourite dictionary?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My First Published Work

Although I am trying to reform, I am a bit of a pack rat. But, in my defense, I think I come by that honestly. My father is an archivist and my mother, well, she keeps the best things. I was just home for a few days and I promised my soon-to-graduate daughter, A, that I would find my high school grad photos. Well, lo and behold, I also found two of my first attempts at writing, which were published in the Doncaster Gazette (or something like that; I can't find the original student publication although I'm sure it's stored away somewhere). So here, for your reading pleasure (or not), is my first story, The Story of a Elephant and a Canary.

As you can probably tell, we must have been studying Aesop's Fables in my grade one class (with my beloved Miss Little and her beautiful mini beehive). I think this must have been a riff on Androcles and the Lion (or maybe it was The Lion and the Mouse?)You can see how I sort of forget half way through and change the elephant to a lion? Where was the editor? Anyhow, this cracks me up every time I read it.

Here is Miss Little and her circa mid-1960s not-quite-as-much-as-a-beehive-as-I-thought:

And here is moi in the same era:

Friday, May 27, 2011

Atwood on Librarians

In this blog I often go on about librarians and how integral they are to schools and communities. Today, I'll let Margaret Atwood have her say.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kwisitis Interpretive Centre

Over the past few years I've had the pleasure of doing some writing, research and editing work for the newly redesigned interpretive centre for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. The Wickaninnish Interpretive Centre is being re-named and has re-opened as the Kwisitis Interpretive Centre. The overall design of the centre was done by Donald Gunn, along with park staff of course, and the panels were designed "in house" at Parks Canada by Shouresh Jalili and Guy Parsons. Here are a few of the panels I worked on. This was a great project to work on and the first one that was trilingual — English, French, and Nuu-chah-nulth.

I will post some more photos of the exhibits after the grand opening, which will happen in a few weeks. For now, here is a brief blurb about re-design.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Canadian Science Writers Unite!

A group of science writers who write for children have joined together to start a blog. You can find it here. I did my first post today. Hope you enjoy it and keep checking back. There is a slew of writers in the line up, getting ready to post.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Letter to the Tooth Fairy

Once upon a time, I wrote the tooth fairy and she answered.

It is very faded, so this is what it says (with spelling intact):

Dear fairy cod
you draw a Picture
of yourself and
your name.
From Adrienne

your name [The tooth fairy wrote "Twinkle" in this space.]

picture [with arrow pointing down]

The tooth fairy drew a self-portrait in red crayon.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Canadian Books For International Women's Day

A belated post, but every day can be International Women's Day can't it? I asked some of my writing colleagues for their recommendations of books written by Canadian authors that feature strong female characters. Here are some of their responses with links.

Sydell Waxman has two titles for young reachers: Changing the Pattern: The Story of Emily Stowe
(Illustrated by Linda Potts).
When Emily Stowe was born in 1831, every girl's future was limited to housework and child care. Women were not allowed into universities. They were not allowed to vote. Yet, Emily Stowe became Canada's first woman school principal, the first woman to practise medicine in Canada and a fighter for women's rights. How did she do it? Recommended for grades 4-8.


Believing in Books: The Story of Lillian Helena Smith
Every time you walk into the children's section of your local library, you should be thanking Lillian H. Smith. When Lillian was young, libraries had reading rooms with signs that often said, "No children or dogs allowed." Yet, Lillian H. Smith became Canada's first children's librarian and set up one the best collections of fine children's books in our country. How did she convince people that children's books matter? How did she choose "good" children's books? Recommended for grades 4-8.

The Trouble with Dilly by Rachna Gilmore (Grades 3 and up).
Dilly is strong, feisty, scatty and wildly imaginative, and plays hockey in a mixed team. Here's a review from CM.

And here's a picture book from Rachna: Catching Time.
When Sara's family can't find time to take her to the park, she sets about trying to catch some time for them all.

Marthe Jocelyn's Scribbling Women: True Tales from Astonishing Lives. Here is a blurb from Gillian O'Reilly, a fan of this title: "It's about women who were writers but not the ones we usually think about. It includes a woman transported to Australia in the early 1800s, a wonderful African explorer (you should see the photo of her in her bonnet), the 10th century Japanese courtier Sei Shonagon, a crusading American journalist who disguised herself as a mentally ill patient to expose New York treatments in the early 1900s, and Ada Blackjack, an Inuit woman who was part of a polar expedition. And more... It's a great read"

From Margriet Ruurs there is a novel, Me & Martha Black. Protagonist Melanie wanders through the history of the Yukon, with Martha Black - who became the second woman in Parliament - as her guide.

lian goodall's Singing Towards the Future: The Story of Portia White, tells the story of this Nova Scotian contralto.
(ages 11 and up)

From editors, Jocelyn Shipley and Deb Loughead, Cleavage: Breakaway Fiction for Real Girls, a book of stories about teens and their moms and body images issues. This title made the ALA's 2010 Amelia Bloomer Project List.

For an emotionally strong character that must overcome incredible personal challenges, look to Cheryl Rainfield's Scars. "Kendra must face her past and stop hurting herself--before it's too late...." Scars was a finalist for the Governor General Literary Award.

And here are two titles from Frieda Wishinsky:

Make It Fair!, which is #15 in the Canadian Flyer Adventure Series. This title features a great Canadian female: Nellie McClung. "Can Emily and Matt help suffragette Nellie McClung in the fight for women's rights? In Make It Fair! Emily and Matt land in Premier Rodmond Roblin's office in Winnipeg in 1914 and discover Nellie McClung confronting the Manitoban politician on the issue of women's rights.

Manya's Dream: A Story Of Marie Curie introduces the life of this two-time Nobel Prize winner (for physics and chemistry, no less) to younger readers. Here's a review.

And, finally*, I'd like to mention Elizabeth MacLeod, who has written a number of biographies about inspiring women, including Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Marie Curie. And, of course, she also wrote, The Kids Book of Great Canadian Women!

*Finally for now. Please send along any other titles you'd like to suggest.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

BC Book Prizes Announced

Congratulations to all those BC writers nominated for BC Book Prizes, but especially to Deborah Hodge, John Vaillant and Maggie deVries, who is nominated twice!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

How to Yarn Bomb a House

Sadly, I had to miss the yarn bombing event at Joy Kogawa House, but writer Jacquie Pearce was there. Here's her recap of the day.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

What's In Your Notebook?

So worth a watch. Just have tissues nearby. (This is a documentary from CBC's The Passionate Eye. Below is part one of five. All are available on YouTube.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Resource Link's Best of 2010

If you're looking for some new Canadian resources for children for your library, classroom or home this list is a great place to begin your search.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Never Know When (and How) Opportunity Will Come

I love this story. It's one of those serendipitous events where some nice things happened to a hard-working person (in this case, the artist Patricia Storms) and those good things happened in a circuitous way. Patricia says it best, so I'll leave it to her, but just in case you aren't tuned into the kid-litosphere, it involved Martin Amis, some snarky, tossed off words, a London paper, and a maelstrom (mael-Storm?) of drawing that included, amongst others, The Cat in the Hat, Madeline, and a few wild things.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Room of My Own (2)

Okay, the second wall. My office is such a mess (an organized one, mind you) that I have been putting off posting this, but here I am; the truth of it all. This is my second desk, where I usually shift when I want to spread things out (ahem, once the surface is cleared as much as possible) or write by hand. It is also where I dump my junk when I come into the office.

When we had our house renovation done (which is when I got a real office and not just a corner in another room) we added these cubbies as an after-thought. I am so glad the carpenter suggested them. Some of them are specifically kept to file the papers and books I need for a specific project —

Others are kept for little vignettes because, well, I'm a bit of a pack-rat and like any self-respecting pack-rat, I like pretty and interesting things.

(The cubbies also are a great surface for sticky notes, something that breed in my office environment.)

The Golden Book of Biology is my gem. I love it, because I love Charlie Harper's art (plus, I'm a biologist) so I was delighted to find out it was worth a bit of cash. Only when I am absolutely desperate will I part with it. (Or maybe not.) Other things here are two hearts (one in stone, one in wood) carved by men (well, boys, actually) other than my husband (see note above about pack-rat-itis), rarely used lipstick, round stones I love, ear phones, iPod, etc. and a great little change purse that says, "old enough to know better...young enough to give a rat's ass." (Apologies to any young ears.)

Monday, February 07, 2011

Vancouver Legacy Books

To celebrate Vancouver's 125th birthday, ten classic books about Vancouver are being republished. You can find the details here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Room of My Own (1)

Besides, "How old are you?" or "How much money do you make?" (favourites of younger audiences), one of the most common questions I get asked is "Where do you work?" (Or, "What is your writing routine?")

Routine? I guess I have one, but since I do other things than just write books, it depends at bit on what is going on. Generally (read: on the best of days!) I try to rise fairly early, about 5 or 5:30. I am a morning person, so can easily get a cup of coffee and get right down to work. That's when I do my most creative work. By mid-morning I switch over to editing or research and by mid-afternoon I'm usually down to paying bills and sorting piles. I try to fit in some sort of exercise in between it all - yoga or some light weights, a walk, or a bit of time on my "tread desk." (More on that coming soon.) This schedule, such as it is, goes to hell when I have a looming deadline. Then, I work when I can, including evenings and weekends.

As to where I work, I am lucky to have a room of my own. It is frequently overflowing with piles of papers and books, but there is a semblance of organization and is possibly my favourite room in the house. (I do love my work, but it's good to shut the door at the end of the day.) I thought you might want to take a peek, so I'll be posting pictures of various angles. I did not clean up before pressing the shutter. (That is probably more than apparent.) First up:

This is my "filing system" for a very large project I've been working on for several years. I had huge amounts of research to organize and this is only a part of it. I originally had piles all over my office floor, then finally hauled this old bookshelf out of the shed and put it to good use. This photo was taken when I was finally finished (as finally as I can be for the moment; there are lots of edits to do) so I was sorting and cleaning. Each shelf once had three piles about the size of the one in the lower right corner. I've now squeezed them in to five bankers boxes. The two large flower paintings (one only partially visible) done by Daughters A and P. The smaller one is a thrift store find. I have another large flower painting from Daughter A to add to the wall.

(By the way, the little book you can see on the top shelf in the upper left, is The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin as a BOARD BOOK, which I find hilarious. Honestly, what baby would care less? And I would love to see parents trying to explain it all to their wee one. (And having written quite a bit about evolution, I can't imagine that someone would think condensing it in to five pictures was an easy thing to do.) The book is one of a series of four board books, "Children's Condensed Classics." I also have Shakepeare's All the World's a Stage and Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in board book version!)

On the top shelf is my grandmother's old Underwood typewriter. It is just so beautiful and so heavy. I could build some serious biceps by bench pressing it! I love having it nearby and will have to track down from tape so I can actually use it.

New Resource for Reluctant Readers

Do you have a young reluctant reader in your house? If so, you might want to check out this new youth literacy website, developed by YA author, Pam Withers. The site includes interviews with middle grade and young adult authors and well as book reviews.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Yarn Bombing at Joy Kogawa House

Having just dusted off my knitting needles in a big way, with the resolution to finish up all of the half-completed projects I have around here, I would love be able to attend this event! I've also just learned to crochet and am looking for a second project so I can remember what I just learned. Perhaps a pink posie is in order?

Help writing blossom at Historic Joy Kogawa House! Join Leanne Prain and Mandy Moore, co-authors of the book Yarn Bombing: The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti (Arsenal Pulp Press), as we cover the Joy Kogawa cherry tree in hundreds of knitted blossoms.

You are invited to come and knit or crochet pink cherry blossoms to help cover this historic tree, whose story is told in Joy Kogawa's Naomi's Tree, a picture book about friendship. Knitters and crocheters of all levels are welcome to attend these FREE events.

Join our community knit-in at the Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver, on:

Saturday, February 5, 2 to 3:30pm

Or help to stitch all of the cherry blossoms into place at Historic Joy Kogawa House on:

Sunday, March 6, 2 to 3:30pm

Leanne and Mandy will entertain stitchers with daring tales of yarn bombing feats from around the world, books will be available for sale and signing, and refreshments will be served. Yarn and needles will be provided; however, donations of pink yarn are appreciated!

Can't make it to the event? Mail in your knitted or crocheted cherry blossoms to be added to the tree, as follows:

Historic Joy Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Avenue
Vancouver, B.C. V6P 2N4

Or drop your blossoms in the covered bin you'll find just down the steps from the sidewalk in front of the house at 1450 West 64th Avenue. Submissions will be accepted up until March 1, 2011. All cherry blossoms should be made out of pink yarn. Patterns to use are available here.

For more information see our Facebook page or visit here.

Ann-Marie Metten
Executive Director

Historic Joy Kogawa House
1450 West 64th Avenue
Vancouver, BC V6P 2N4
Telephone 604-263-6586

Please send mail to:
8107 Cartier Street
Vancouver, BC V6P 4T6

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Happy Literacy Day!

Did you know it is Family Literacy Day? Perfect. Just what I need - a very good excuse for dropping everything to read for a bit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is Your Blackberry Working?

This reminds me of a cartoon I saw years ago with a duck holding a mallet above his computer. The caption read, "Hit any key."

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Two Great Vancouver Events

If you live in or near Vancouver, there are two great events to check out in the next few months. The first is Authorfest, which takes place February 1 from 4 to 5:30. Come meet the writers Deborah Hodge, Ellen Schwartz, Robert Heidbreder and Shar Levine.
(The Event is at WOOD 2 (Woodward Instructional Resources Centre-IRC), 2194 Health Sciences Mall.)

The other is Serendipity, which is also at UBC on February 26 from 8 to 3:30. This year's theme is graphic novels and these are the presenters:

Gene Yang: author of American Born Chinese (winner of the Printz Award) and the forthcoming Level Up
Raina Telgemeier: author of Smile (an ALA Notable Book for 2011)
Matt Holm: co-creator of Babymouse (the most checked out kids title at NYPL)
Aaaron Renier: author of The Unsinkable Walker Bean (and Spiralbound)
Jason Shiga: author of Meanwhile (an ALA Notable Book for 2011)

Early bird registration closes on February 1. To register, go here.

For details, on both events, visit the blog of the Vancouver Children's Literature Roundtable.

What's On Your Bookshelves?

When I pick up a home design magazine and find a bookshelf in the picture, you can find me holding the magazine sideways as I scrutinize what is on the shelves. And I am mildly suspicious of homes without bookshelves. Personally, I can't imagine. We have one (at least) in every room in the house except the bathroom (and there is a basket there, of course). I know some people think I'm nuts, but we love reading around here and, well, I am a writer so if writers don't support other writers by buying their books, then there's not a lot of hope.

So you can imagine my delight when I came across this time waster.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Book Craft

Sometimes, books have met the end of their life as something to be read. Especially mass-market paperbacks, unless they have a precious lineage or are heavily annotated or have some other reason for occupying real-estate on your shelves. But, a craft with said book might have some appeal. I still have a Rolodex, which is currently exploding with cards and needs an overhaul. This is probably not a solution for me, but it's pretty to look at. (If you like books, of course). This is from Andrea Rodgers, via Cafe Cartolina.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's the Longest Word in the World?

Combining my love of science and words, this post from NPR.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Great Deal for KNOW and YES Mags

I am totally biased here, especially since I edit KNOW, but this is a great deal for Group On members anywhere in Canada or the US.

Congratulations, Dennis Foon!

This just in via CWILL-BC - BC YA writer, Dennis Foon's screenplay for the film, Life, Above All is nominated for an Academy Award. Fabulous news; congratulations, Dennis Foon! More here.

Books are Better Than Hockey

It must be true if the Globe and Mail says so!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TD National Reading Summit II (Vancouver option)

For anyone in Vancouver interested in literacy and reading, you might want to take in a live webcast of the TD National Reading Summit II: Toward a Nation of Readers. It is sponsored by UBC's School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and Education Library.

It will be held:

Thursday January 20, 2011 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Friday January 21st, 2011, 9:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

Dodson Room, Room 302, Chapman Learning Commons I.K. Barber Learning Centre,
1961 East Mall, University of British Columbia

It is a free event and no registration necessary.

Here is blurb on the even from UBC's Jo-Anne Naslund:
In 2008, a group of concerned librarians, parent activists, authors, booksellers, teachers, publishers and corporate leaders came together with a common goal that of developing a national reading strategy for Canada. As a first step a National Reading Summit was launched in Toronto and plans made for a second summit in Montreal, January 2011 and for a third in Vancouver in 2012.

The first National Reading Summit examined reading on an international level and explored the link between reading and engaged citizenship. This year's summit in Montreal will raise several questions. How are we supporting a culture of reading? What works? What doesn't, and where do we go from here?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Rules for Writers

Having just submitted a manuscript that has been about five years in the making—two and a bit intensely so—this was a refreshing read and timely arrival in my IN box. (Thanks greg b.)

These "rules" totally go against every prescription for writing success you'll hear as a young writer from all quarters: the conformity-driven MFA system, the publishing industry's hype-machine, successful writers who act either like prima donnas or untouchable mystics, the marketing experts who seek to impose advertising rules on the writing product. Overpaid editors, illiterate agents, arrogant gatekeepers, and stupid reviewers want you to bargain away your soul for a pittance -- the bids in the market escalate downward, a reverse auction where you compete with the lowest of the low to be acknowledged as an entity that counts.

Aiming for the lowest of the low...

New Year, New Website

It was time for an overhaul of my website (at least something could get overhauled for the new year). You can find it here. I needed something that covered all of the kinds of work that I do, not just writing books for children. Comments welcome! Thanks to PYFO web design for such a great job.

(PS The link to the site should go to a blue site with a large moon snail. If you get the site with a picture of me on it, refresh your browser. I keep getting to the old site first, but I think it must be because of "cookies." Please let me know if you get the old site.)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

AAAS Science Book Awards

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) had just announced the titles of the children and young-adult books honoured in 2010. Check it out here. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot is on my "to read" list.

Profile of ... Me!

The Children's Writers and Illustrators of BC has a regular feature readBC where BC writers and illustrators are profiled. It is my turn. You can read the Q & A here. Check out the other writers too! I'm still waiting for my call from Pippi Longstocking.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On living creatively...

Don't worry, this isn't going to be a new year's resolution post. Well, not really. As I friend of mine said, "I don't resolute." (I don't believe resolute is a verb, but I like it!) Rather than resolution, I like the word often used in yoga: intention. I have several intentions for this day, this week, maybe this year, but the one I'll share here is to live more creatively. Yes, I already have a pretty creative life — I am a writer with a lot of flexibility in my days and life. I realize how privileged and lucky I am. What I'm talking about though is pushing my boundaries, not playing it so safe. I could learn a lot from daughter P. That girl is creative. She cooks without recipes, sews without patterns, and plays the piano without music. I should do that more. Live with a little fear of failure. I'm working on it. I actually started late last year with a painting course. I learned a lot about technique and such, but I learned more about myself. I really had to let go and just assume that it wouldn't work out. In the end, this painting did "work out," (a subjective term if there ever was one) but a few I've tried since haven't so much. That's okay. There's always gesso and a new clean canvas.

On the point of creativity, I really enjoyed this blog post — an interview with the artist, cartoonist, writer, etc. Lynda Barry. I love this quote:

When What It Is came out, Amazon didn’t know how to categorize it, so they categorized it as science fiction, which was so boss. If I was going to write a science fiction story, this is such a good one — a culture that shames people out of doing the very thing that will give them new neurons. If you draw a chicken on a piece of paper, there’s going to be some interesting neural activity — but people are too scared to draw a chicken, even if they’re just gonna throw it away. What the hell is that? When did that happen?

For 2011, I resolute to draw more chickens. How about you?

Monday, January 03, 2011

Aldana's Order of Canada

Congratulations to Patsy Aldana, publisher of Groundwood Books, on being named a member of the Order of Canada.