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.)