Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book signings and sightings

I've heard of book signing sessions where you're lucky if even your mother shows up and you sell more than a couple of books.

Well, my mother is too far away (but I'd know she'd have been there in a shot if she could ). But there was a nice steady flow of interested people this afternoon when I spent a couple of hours at my local branch of the independent booksellers Black Bond Books.

And sold 14 copies - 11 more than the store initially had on hand. Luckily I was able to send a flare up to my husband who was able to rush over with a bagfull. (The store had had more copies, but had sold more prior to the signing than they'd expected.)

Some familiar faces came out to support me, plus a few writing students I hadn't seen for years, someone from a nonprofit I volunteered with years ago, and many total strangers who took home books for the kids and elementary school teachers in their lives.

My biggest thrill - when a woman asked me to sign a copy for her neice Breezy. Wasn't she thrilled when I told her that's the name of one of the characters in the book I'm currently working on - The Ballad of Knuckles McGraw.

Came home quite 'chuffed' by the afternoon's work, to find a post on the online kidlit listserve I participate in, directing me to a review of MM405 in CM (Canadian Materials), in which reviewer Claire Perrin says, " There are several storylines and themes that are skillfully intertwined in this novel....In spite of the somewhat complicated themes of loneliness and discrimination, the physical presentation of the book and the uncomplicated vocabulary make the book readable for the 8-11 year old reader. It is written in the first person, adding to the novel’s readability." Check out the full review here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You've got mail!

I wonder if, with even two - five - eight books, authors still get a thrill from hearing from kids after school presentations.

I got such a kick when I got home today to find a thick wad of letters from students at Windermere Elementary, where I visited just a few weeks ago.

Some were illustrated. Some talked about Meeting Miss 405, while others mentioned the story that I retold from the one created by the kids in my storytelling workshop a week earlier.

And I'm a sucker for flattery. Who can resist when someone tells them, 'There's so many cool things about you"?

So thanks to Billy, Braden, Skylar, Katie, Liam,Marissa, Leah (who closed her letter with "Warm milk and cookies from Leah"), Emily, Kaleigh, Daniel, Barry, Raspmason, Langdon, Bythom, Simon, Bobby, Hailey, Lucas, Shannon, Emmett, Vita, and Tyler for their lovely letter.
(I hope I read everyone's name right.)
And to all those who asked, "Are you going to write another book?" my answer is, "You bet I am. And when it gets published, you will be the first to know!"

Monday, November 17, 2008

A lion and a cupcake

A highlight of my book launch day on November 1 was the morning storytelling workshop for kids.

12 enthusiastic youngsters drew, acted out being lions and cupcakes, brainstormed, and collectively came up with The Chronicles of Kendra, the Lion, and PLOP!

(It took a vote to come up with the title!)

It was thrilling to see the kids so engaged and enthusiastic, full of great ideas, but willing to consider everyone else's suggestions, too.

Everyone contributed in their own way, and two ambitious friends Amrit and Preeti kept track of the story as it developed, went home and transcribed their notes, then came up with a typed and illustrated story that is now posted on my website here.

Amrit's mom has been carrying it around in her car for the past few days, and earlier this evening we finally connected so that at last I could see what they had created.

Take a look, and celebrate the creative energies of Surrey kids.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Home again, home again

Home last night, after a short flight from Calgary.

Energized by all the wonderful presentations and ideas drifting around at the Kaleidoscope Conference. Most inspiring were those by Jack Zipes whose approach to storytelling as a way to build community and expand children's confidence in themselves and their own stories has given me lots of think about and work on as I present to children and develop workshop ideas. His work inspires me to go beyond the 'mere' act of writing for children, to looking for new ways to engage them in my work, and their own.

Michael Morpurgo is well-known in the UK - where he held the position of Children's Laureate for two years and has published more than 20 books - less so perhaps on this side of the pond. His animated presentations, his humanity and humour brought his own stories alive in both the keynote speech at the event banquet, and his Saturday afternoon presentation. I went away humming with ideas and the pressing need to get back to work! And a copy of his book War Horse, which I devoured in just a couple of sittings.


Other presentations were amusing, insightful, and entertaining. Most enjoyable perhaps as mere entertainment were those by JanetStevens (one word, as her readers refer to her) as she created a new character in front of our eyes, keeping up an informative and engaging patter as she did so.

Do I really have to wait another four years until the next Kaleidoscope?
As soon as the date is set, you can be sure I'll be signing up.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Road trip - Day Six: Kaleidoscope

Kaleidoscope Children's Literature Conference 9

More than 700 librarians, teachers, teacher-librarians, authors and illustrators and children's lit experts are gathered to talk about and celebrate Canadian Children's Literature.

Last night Ron Job gave a wide ranging presentation about the achievements and challenges of the children's literature field in Canada today. Great visuals, a few self=deprecating jokes, lots of 'Jobian Moments' - all in something for everyone to think about as the conference-proper starts today with a whole host of presentations by an impressive list of authors and illustrators.

Can't wait to get at it. And wonder how long I will last. The Calgary HI hostel is handy -and cheaper than the big hotels around the conference centre. But noisy. So with about four hours sleep I will have to work hard to stay alert to get the full benefit of the expertise and experience at hand.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

On the Road - Day 5: Blog and Launch promo


Thrilled today to note that Orca mentioned my book launch and this blog on its website.


I'm packed and ready for the three-hour drive to Calgary. Bright skies, crisp and cool with views all around. We'll be making lots of stops for pics, I bet!


Kaleidoscope next!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

On the Road - Day 4


LP with Principal Jill Jensen and Windermere Elementary students

Hectic day with a morning presentation to 95 elementary school students in the morning and two large groups of Grade 11s and 12s in the afternoon.

Lots of participation from various children in the morning, plus some good questions about MM405 and the whole writing process.
It's a small school with a close feeling, and in front of the gym a large mural demonstrating the school motto 'Where Children Soar'. Each child had painted a child on the landscape of Windermere Lake, and a few were keen to show me 'their' flowers and make sure I IDd the species correctly.

Two classes are reading the book, which is most heartening. I tried not to give too much away in my readings!

The afternoon groups were attentive for the most part, contributed to the discussion and were willing to talk about their work, some of which they'd brought along with them.

The teachers suggested that it's good that they hear from 'real' authors so they have a wider sense of what's involved in good writing.

A couple asked to follow up with me on their work, and the contest I'd pitched to them.

I'll be pulling together some contest guidelines once I get home, and look forward to seeing what they come up with.

A good day. Tiring. But energizing at the same time, in a way.

So now dinner and a trip to Radium for a swim and soak before heading to Kaleidoscope in Calgary. I look forward to just hanging out and having some down time, too.

The Rockies enroute to Calgary


On the Road - Days 3 & 4


Left: Dave's Book Bar, Invermere

Enjoyed the day wandering around Invermere. Coffee at Gerry's Gelato (I hear Gerry is a mayoral candidate in the upcoming municipal election), popped into Dave's Book Bar to let them know I was in town. What a wonderland hidden behind the rather utilitarian storefront. Books, of course, and interestingly and well arranged and displayed. Furniture, gifts, cards, stationary supplies, magazines, lottery tickets, cigarettes even. In a lovely mellow environment with a very living room feeling to it.

Got a warm welcome from manager/oner Mary Lou who told me about the store's history, that it had recently been renovated, and it is up for sale. So of course, I had to buy a lottery ticket. A bookstore in Invermere! I could live with that.

Under a light dusting of snow I poked around town, into the gallery, a craft shot, a department store, then... the local thrift store. And it's going out of business sale. I did not come away empty handed!
Lunch at the Blue Dog Cafe - GREAT soup, lovely salad, a good visit with my traveling companion and quick hello to a few of her friends who dropped by to welcome her back to town.

Then to Invermere Library where I met the librarians, gave them a copy of MM405 for their collections, talked about the ins and outs of the BC Onecard system, their new circ. system, the old cell in the back of the library that will lose its bunks soon, but will retain the bars.

Left" Librarian Liz in the library cel with a copy of MM405

This must be the only library in BC with its own cell - in Canada, perhaps.


ttendance at the book signing at Dave's Book Bar would have been disappointing were it not for the enthusiasm of those who did make it ("We're reading your book in school!" said Justin. Sweet words!), the kindness of staff, the attentiveness of those who were there.

Left: Justin: 'We're reading your book in school!"

I did a little shopping there, too. So glad to bring in some revenue to the store, and will certainly send anyone I know to be visiting the area to the store. It's one of the nicest I've been in.

Today will be busy. A visit to Windermere Elementary - 95 students in one go, I'm told. And my storytelling presentation 'Brought to you today by the letter W' was refined during a rather sleepless night. This afternoon I'm presenting two creative writing workshops to a class of Grade 11s and one of Grade 12s at David Thompson Secondary. And will offer them a writing challenge, with the prize for the best piece a gift certificate to - where else? - Dave's Book Bar.

I'll report back on how they take to the topic!


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

On the Road - Days 1 & 2


Pictures to be added later
Day One
Surrey to Revelstoke
Rained until Kamloops, but made such good time we decided to keep going as far as Revelstoke.
    Easy driving and just getting dark as we arrived in R. First hotel we tried takes dogs, so Eileen, my driver friend, Nugget and I checked in and soon headed out for supper at the nearby Denny's.  
   Words cannot describe the awful meal we ate there - or the extreme Uriah Heap obsequiousness of the server.  
    The following morning had a quick breakfast in Revelstoke (avoiding Denny's), and I would not like to lay all the blame there, but I swear the salad was loaded with sulphites so I spent the day enroute paying the price and looking at the passing scenery enroute to Invermere through a pounding headache.  But it was well worth struggling from the car from time to time - mountains at our elbow, snowy peaks in the distance, the gorgeous contrast of the ox-bow rivers of the Columbia valley winding through ochre coloured marshes.  
   Arrived in Invermere mid-afternoon, and after spending the proper and seemly time with our host Alison, I retired to 'the red room' and slept soundly, waking only to eat some squash soup, yoghurt and cracker, and then retired again for a good ten hours sleep.
Tomorrow: Book signing at Dave's Book Bar in Invermere at 3:30.