Saturday, December 04, 2010

Books of the Month Club December 2010

It's been a long few months of very little reading, not enough writing, and too much work.

And with a move pending, things won't change for a while. But the to-read pile beside my bed (the only place I read these days) is slowly diminishing, and here are a few of what I've been dipping into lately.

By Nightfall by Michael Cunningham
I admit to being baffled by this one. I loved The Hours, but this story of a couple adapting to the arrival of a trouble younger brother left me cold, albeit quite fascinated by the glimpse into the New York art world.

Plain Kate by Eric Bow
I was entranced by this adroit mixture of folklore, fantasy, history... and the cat Taggles who leapt off the page as nimbly as any cat I've every run across in fiction. Definitely a keeper.

Father of the Rain by Lily King
A novel about a a girl's (and later woman's) troubled relationship with her alcoholic father. Beautifully written. Heartbreaking and amusing in turns.

The Music Room by William Fiennes
A very moving account of the author's brother's lifelong struggle with epilspsy and the subsequent brain damage that affect his personality and behaviour, but not the attachment between the troubled boy and man and his loving family. Moving and understated. And transluscent language.

Stephen Fair by Tim Wynne Jones
I've loved all other TWJ's books I've read. Despite three efforts I could not get into this one, so set it aside. I'd hate anyone to think they ever had to get to the end of one of my books, and I suspect TWJ feels the same. But I will continue to watch for more from this fine writer.

The Other Family by Joanna Trollope
When I grow up I want to write 'family' novels that are a cross between those by Trollope and Anna Quinlen. This is Joanna Trollope's latest, and I'm ready to reread her earlier ones.

The Seas by Samantha Hunt
In the mood for mermaids as the release date of virtual writing buddy Helene Boudreau's new tween novel REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS approached, I picked this book up at random, purely from the blurb on the cover. Stunning is all I can say. Mesmerising writing. I've ordered a copy for myself. (I rarely buy books until I know I will want to read them again), but Helene's book will soon join it on my bookshelf.

Death Benefits by Sarah N. Harvey
I love Sarah's work, and not just because she was the editor on my first three books from Orca Book Publishers. In this YA novel, Royce ends up as part-time caregiver to his cantankerous grandfather, a retired cellist, and in the process learns a lot about aging, himself, and the connections between generations. Pitch perfect.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
Atkinson's writing is layered and fluid, her plots intriguing and her characters compelling. Especially MC retired detective Jackson Brodie.

STILL TO READ on my bedside pile
The Choir and A Village Affair, both by Joanna Trolloppe
Room by Emma Donahugh
Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel
Soloman's Oak by Jo-Anne Mapson
Planet of Slums by Mike Davis (Research for my WIP The Paper House)
When Will There be Good News? by Kate Atkinson

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Contest - win a book

Christmas Contest

If you'd like to win a copy of the limited edition A STAR IN THE WATER - the sequel to MEETING MISS 405 - or SILVER RAIN, it's as easy as 1-2-3.

1. Send me an email to

2. Tell me which book you'd hope to receive. Include your mailing address so I can send you the book if your name is drawn as the winner.

3. Hit Send and keep your fingers crossed.

To hedge your bets, you can also let me know if you're buying one of my books to give as a gift this Christmas, and I'll happily send you an autographed bookmark to slip inside as a suprise for the recipient. Just email me at, with your mailing address, and I'll put it in the mail to you right away.

Bookdraw date: December 15 - in time to get the books to the winners by Christmas.

Good luck.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

SILVER RAIN book launch

To use a totally inappropritae metaphor, SILVER RAIN was launched yesterday on a tide of good wishes from friends, work colleagues, writing peers, readers, longstanding friends and new and walk-in vistors. Now we'll see how well the winds carry it from booksellers' hands to readers.

The lovely venue of the White Rock Arthur Murray Dance studio awaits
the audience.

Grant O'Kane was very generous in providing the venue, helping set up and take down, and being such a gracious and generous host.

Maggie of Vancouver Kidsbooks South Surrey store checks out the 'competition'

Every story begins with and belongs to one particular person. I need a picture in my head of who I am writing about.

The image of Elsie Miller that I carried with me as I wrote this book came from a photo I found in the book 'Children of the Depression'.

Note Elsie's hat - featured prominently in the story.

Elsie Ramberg, a friend of 30 years, came from Osoyoos.

So I was able to personally give her a copy of the book that is dedicated to her, and whose main character bears her name.

Reading an excerpt

Dancing as it should be - for pleasure, not for exploitation as it was during dance marathons of the Dirty Thirties - conveyed in SILVER RAIN.
Grant arranged for two demos by dancers who tangoed and cha cha'd around the gleaming studio.

Pam Rai's 'girls'.
Pam, her daughters and niece have come to all three of my launches.

The Term SILVER RAIN refers to coins thrown down by the audience at a dance marathon, in response to a pair of dancers taking a featured turn on the floor.
The day before the launch I was thrilled to receive a lumpy package in the mail - Leslie at Orca had made three dozen Silver Rain buttons - replicas of the 1931 dimes shown on the cover of the book. I'm wearing a 'head' and 'tail' dime button in the picture here. The rest were snapped up by launch participants, who also enjoyed other swag - including sets of jacks (Elsie plays 'five stones' with her friend Ruth Cohen in the book.)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Notes from a Bad Blogger

View of The Needles from Tennyson Down headland, Isle of Wight (IOW)

The south coast between Freshwater and Ventnor
68 miles of coastal paths, more than 500 public footpaths all over the 150+-square mile Island - a walker's paradise.

Life, work, travels, family.... how they do cut into the time a person could spend blogging.

Very busy times right now with final edits on my spring 2011 book (BEYOND REPAIR), a recent acceptance of another book for Orca Book Publishing for 2011 THE WRONG BUS, laundry accumulated while we were in the UK for the past three weeks, Saturday's launch of SILVER RAIN, and next week's visit to Vancouver Island for library visits during the Cowichan Book Splash.

Without all the electronic tools that many people use to keep connected (only outgoing calls on my cellphone, and too many thumbs for texting, no iPod, iPad, pdf (no, that's not it, but you know what I mean,) any blogging/Twittering or Faceboooking I do is with my bum on my seat sitting at my desk.
When I could/should be writing.

But no excuses.I'm glad that the wired world allows me to stay in touch with many people with limited effort, and for their interest here are a couple of pics from our recent visit to the Isle of Wight - a glorious place to spend a week walking and exploring.

We didn't really need a compass to find our way - this taken enroute across Tennyson Down towards the headland overlooking the Needles.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Silver Rain Grab Bag

Suitcases feature in my novel SILVER RAIN. Who knows if Father took one when he left the family. But Elsie sees mother pack hers and is deeply suspicious of what goes inside it. And she and Scoop carry Mother's suitcase and Uncle Dannell's duffel home as the story ends.

So when I went looking for something to carry books and notebooks and bandannas and bookmarks and jacks, etc. in for school and library visits, I went looking for a suitcase.

Not sure of the era of the one I did find, but it met several criteria. It is leather covered. It has intact handles and clasps that work. And it doesn't smell.

So I brought it home and fixed it up with a facsimile luggage label with my name, etc., copies of the covers of my three kids' books - with SILVER RAIN taking up much of the lid - and a smattering of dimes.

I filled it with books, bookmarks, little cowboy notebooks (KNUCKLES), bandannas (KNUCKLES), jacks (SILVER RAIN). All I need now are a few rolls of gum drops, a calligraphy pad and some pens (MEETING MISS 405) and I'm all set for a visit to a summer day camp program tomorrow, and other school and library visits.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Old Friends, new books to read

Yesterday I enjoyed presenting SILVER RAIN to reps and booksellers at the second of two authors breakfast that made up part of this week's Vancouver Book Fair, hosted by the Western Book Reps Association.

I was one of four authors presenting today: Robert J. Wiersema, John Gould, Robert Bateman and myself.

I was thrilled to see John on the same program. I first met him many years ago in the days of the BC Festival of the Arts' otherwords program, where my group's mentor in Prince George was the late Paul Quarrington. A couple of years later I volunteered at the Festival in its final year, when it was held at Kwantlen University College in Surrey.
Not only have I admired John's organizing skills and considerable forbearance when surrounded by flocks of insecure writers, but I have been a huge fan of his short short fictions - his first book The Kingdom of Heaven, and the later Giuller-nimiated Kilter. These days, John is still based in Victora, teaching part time at UVIC and working with the Malahat Review. But I expect his time in the next few months will be taken up with promoting his new novel Seven Good Reasons Not to be Good.

I did manage to scarf a copy on the pile in the middle of my table at the breakfast, and was hooked from the first page.

I'm chagrined to admit that I did not know Robert Wiersma's work until today. But I now have ordered a copy of his first book Before I Wake and will definitely keep an eye our for his forthcoming Bedtime Story.

Who doesn't know Robert Bateman's work? He gave a nice introduction to his forthcoming book Robert Bateman - New Works, and is a relaxed and congenial speaker, and managed to maintain the theme establisehd by Robert W as the first speaker - hair dryers.... it's a long story, but it's always nice to have a unifying theme to hang one's presentation on.

John and I agree that after a book's written, revisiting it, especially at the request of an editor or an audience who need a synopsis, is a little like trying to reclaim a dream that's already slipping away. I, like so many writers, start at the beginning and go on to the end and only when the thing's written do I go back and see what's on the page. Anf fix what needs fixing, move what needs moving, and change what I have to make the story hang together.
I did my best in outlining the basic story of SILVER RAIN, including some context about its main themes and who might enjoy it. And I was just very glad have the chance of presenting it directly to the wonderful folks who are able to 'handsell' our work to customers and readers.

Came home to a request to present at the upcoming Sept. 26 Vancouver Word on the Street.
Although I hate to say 'No', I had no choice this time. I will be in the UK September 16 - October 8, and within two weeks of getting back head off to Vancouver Island for the Cowichan Booksplash, with a book launch of SILVER RAIN somewhere in between the two.

This year may be the first of many I haven't been present - as exhibitor, presenter, or participant - at the annual Surrey International Writers' Conference. I do have to put in some time that month at my 'real job' from time to time!

But I'm still open to any invitations that come my way in November and December.
Bring 'em on!

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Books of the Month Club - July 2010

August 1, 2011
Big news this month is that Orca Book Publishers has picked up STALKER to be published spring 2011 in their Currents series. Busy at work with various grant deadlines, and prospect research for our new Kensington Prairie Childcare Centre (based on the Emilio Reggio model) that opens Jan 2011. And at home trying to tie up a couple of WIPs prior to getting stuck into some personal arts grant applications that I need to file before we head out to the UK on Sept. 16.
One of my bookcases, July 2010
Chocolate Lily Award (and one remaining chocolate) top shelf left, KM = Knuckles McGraw on third, and on the shelf between them, a pic of my dad Bill Peterson taken in Spain (left) and me on the top of Mount Sinai (right)
Email me a pic or two of your bookshelves and I'll post a collage at some point -

Selected titles from my reading this month:
Clementine by Sarah Pennypacker (Y)
Hilarious, quirky and outspoken Clementine is the kind of character I wish I'd invented, if I could do funny.

Escape From War: My Side of the Story by James Riordan (Y)
A story about WWII from two children's perspectives. I read it because my WIP Cuckoo's Nest is set in wartime London (WW1 in my case.) A good enough read but nothing too compelling.

Firegirl by Tony Abbott (YA)
An important book about disfigurement and kids' reaction to it.

In Zodiac Light by Robert Edrich (A)
For some reason, I'm facinated by novels set in insane asylums of the past.

No Moon by Irene Watts (Y)
Irene is a fellow BC children's writer with some impressive titles under her belt. And I'm always facinated by the way different authors approach the same historical topic - in this case the sinking of the Titanic.
Picturing Canada: a history of Canadian children's illustrating and publishing by Gail Edwards and Judy Satman (A)
This is a tome, to be sure, and an academi survey, but compelling and informative.
Plastic by Sarah N. Harvey (Y)
One boy's efforts to have an impact on the exploitation of young women undergoing plastic surgery. Funny, too. Sarah has been my editor at Orca for my first three books, and I'm fortunate to have the support of such an awesome writer.

Private Life by Jane Smiley (A)
When/if I can extricate myself from the hypnotic voice in the this novel, I'll try to step back and figure out how Smiley conveys so much so well.

A Reed Shaken by the Wind: Travels Among the Marsh Arabs of Iraq by Gavin Maxwell (A)
Best known for his wonderful RING OF BRIGHT WATER, Gavin Maxwell was one of two Gavins (the other is Gavin Young) who traveled in the Marshes with Wilfred Thesiger. One of them Thesiger enjoyed spending time with; the other he said whined the whole time (can't remember which was which). But I've recently used books by all three of these men as research sources for my WIP ESCAPE FROM THE MARSHES, and Maxwell's book I must have read a dozen times in the past forty years.
On my shelf for August reading
The Unfinished Angel by Sharon Creech
Why the Whales Came by Michale Morpurgo
Esacpe From Shangi-La by Michael Morpurgo
The Locked Garden by Gloria Whelan
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
New Handbook for Storytellers by Carolyn Feller Bauer
The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Cordelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume

Books of the month club - June 2010

One of my bookshelves July 2010

I don't read as much as I'd like. The time I can find to keep up on all the wonderful books that are being published / promoted / recommended / required research reading is done in bed -early in the morning with my first cup of tea while my husband is at the gym, and in the evening before I put the lights out.

Not enough to keep up, but just enough to feel like I'm honouring a lifetime passion for reading and the wonderful, useful and interesting work put out by writers all over the world.

On the left you'll see a column of my list of Best Books for the current month, as I think to add them.

Here in the main section of my blog I'll be posting each previous month's list, with some general comments - hardly reviews - of some of them.

My notes might include: what prompted me to pick up the book, whether I ended up buying a copy (I have to be pretty selective about what I buy, but as a library staffer and advocate, borrowing can be as good as buying, and I do very often make recommendations for library purchases, which can result in them buying more copies than they might otherwise), other general comments that occur to me, without necessariky launching into anything that might be called a review.

(Y) after a title indicates a book for younger readers. (A) that it's an adult book.

Do add a comment if you have anything to say about any of the books noted here.

My list for June 2010

My Dad's a Birdman by David Almond (Y)
Almond's Skellig is what I consider to be perhaps one of the best and most resonant kids' books - indeed any book - I've ever read. Anything else he writes is fair game to me.

Rex Zero -King of Nothing by Tim Wynne-Jones (Y)
This one I picked up after enjoying the first one Rex Zero and the End of the World and enjoying it immensely.

A Thousand Never Evers by Shana Burg (Y)
The cover called to me when I saw the book on the new book display at the library. Set in the American South.

The Field Guide to Fields: hidden treasures of meadows, prairies and pastures by Bill Laws (A)
Again, a cover that prompted me to pick it up. A beautiful design of the entire book that encouraged me to read it, and the wonderful breadth of scope of the topic-and a germ of content that I'll use as the basis of a kids' story-was what motivated to buy a copy to keep for myself. Also, on discovering author Bill Laws is the editor of a magazine for UK Travellers (what used to be called gypsies), it renewed my interest in them, as they are now, and as they were in the past in both Europe and England.

The Frozen Thames by Helen Humphreys (A)
A very nice format. An enticing subject - small essays about each of the 40 times the Thames has frozen. And again, this one also provided a germ that I plucked from the many stories, which now forms the basis of my new WIP The Sparrow Thief. I bought this one, too.

Winner of the National Book Award by Jincy Willett (A)
Grabbed this one off a library Book Sale because of its title. Glad I did as I'd not heard of it before. Compelling voice and lively and distinctive storytelling.

The Brambles by Eliza Minot (A)
I love a good family story. This is one.

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff (Y)
I hate to say it now, but can't remember why I chose it or what it's about. Just goes to show you how bad my memory is - no comment on the book itself, I don't think.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Toronto, May 2010 - the full story

Now I've had the chance to sit back and reflect...

I enjoyed a truly wonderful trip to Toronto in May to visit schools and libraries, and to participate in the Silver Birch Express portion of OLA Festival of Trees event, in which my first children's book MEETING MISS 405 was a nominee.

Too little time/energy to blog on the road. But here are the highlights.

The Bond Place Hotel, just around the corner from Dundas Square (the wanna-be Times Square that is quite wonderful in its garishness and lively street life) was the perfect place to be based. Despite facility renovations and an overcrowded breakfast room, the hotel had everything I needed (including a TV, with 24 channels of nothing worth watching - I get excited when I see a TV as I don't have one at home - and close enough to everything downtown a person could possibly want.

I’d originally planned to stay at a student budget hotel, but opted for a conventional accommodations so I could take advantage of door-to-door Airport Express service - I was packing around stacks of books, bookmarks and presentation materials - and in-room wi-fi.

And so on my first night I ventured out for a late dinner at Johnny Rocket’s hamburger joint in Dundas Square – authentic surroundings, loud music, ketchup served in a smiley face on my plate (the food itself hardly bears discussing).

Next day was relatively leisurely, with a visit to Forest Hill Library on Eglinton. Which meant I got to ride the subway, then walk miles along this main thoroughfare, exploring the various neighbourhoods – working class apartment buildings for a few blocks, then lovely homes on treed for a few more, funky stores – for a couple of hours before I made my presentations to about four classes of students from Oriole Drive School.

Not everyone had read my book, but the students, teachers and accompanying parents were attentive and responsive, and I got to air out my told creation story and the information I would present in one form or another for the next few days.

Next morning I ventured down to Union Square station at an ungodly hour for the bus ride out to Milton, where I was scheduled to spend the day at E.W. Foster Public School. I’d hoped for the GO train (Loved trains all my life, and rarely get to travel on anything other than Skytrain in Vancouver, which isn’t the same thing.) But the GO takes on the identity of a train only on incoming journeys into TO in the mornings and outgoing at the end of the day. As I was travelling against the traffic, I enjoyed a relaxing bus ride through the outskirts of TO and into the country.

Had a fine time at the school - and a very busy day. A keynote to almost the entire school started with a few moments of ‘supercontcentratedness’ a la Miss Stella (MEETING MISS 405), a brief discussion of the origin of story as a way to share information and explore the world, then the telling of the creation story Why The Tides Ebb and Flow (Joan Bowden’s version, now out of print.) Then the questions. And what great questions they were about MM405, writing in general, etc. etc.

Loved the questions, and as always, there was not enough time to answer them all.

Then lunch of pizza and cake with selected students who hosted more of the day's presenters (an Olympic hockey player, RCMP Officer, a WW11 veteran, and Silver Birch Nonfiction nominee Larry Verstraete).

Later I presented two workshops to groups of about 20 children on the ‘5Ws and How’ of storytelling, and demonstrated how to make insta-book Story Starters from one sheet of paper. The closest to magic I'll ever come. Most of children were highly engaged by the folding, cutting and the Voila! moment when the paper unfolded into a book. And each came up with the skeleton of a story to pass on to someone else, in the way stories are passed on from teller to listener to teller, and change as they go.

My presentations were part of a full day of literacy activities at the school, a day that was rounded off by A Great Amazing Book Race. Did I want to stay? (Staff could deliver me back to the bus station anytime I wanted.) Of course I stayed!

The kids dashed from station to station, at each one a specific Silver Birch-nominated book was displayed, along with a question and activity which each team had to respond to, get their checklist signed, then move on to the next station. I had no idea what game this was based on, but it was a wonderfully engaging interactive session for everyone, including me! Just wished I'd had the forethought to have my camera on me, as no one else was taking pics, this was the first time the school had offered this activity, and it did create lots of enthusiastic responses from the students.

The next day started with a similar bus ride, this time traveling slightly in a more easterly direction (or maybe it was westerly, I’d have to check my map) to Brisbane Public School in Erin (pic).
My host was the welcoming and warm Carrie Coote who had brought along a basket of refreshments in case our energies flagged, and delivered me to the school where she is both well-known and appreciated as a volunteer and occasional supply teacher and Silver Birch planner extraordinaire.

We took over the library for much of the day, and I presented to two large groups of children, mixing and matching from my presentation bag. Again a highlight was the dialogue that developed after the more formal part of the session, the questions, the answers, the jokes and kidding... how could I have forgotten how much energy I get from being surrounded by crowds of kids. I started the day with a raging headache, it was still there when I got back on the bus. But in between... I was just too busy and enchanted by the day’s company to notice.

And so to Thursday. The Festival of Trees festivities at Harbour Front.

Telling Why the Tides Ebb and Flow to a standing room only audience

How to describe the energy, excitement and enthusiasm of crowds of children racing back and forth between tents for presentations and autographs sessions with Taiko drummers setting the driving pace of the day from a central stage.

I presented my 'history of storytelling' to about 100 children, teachers and adults, and was then swamped with requests for autographs, until I could finally pull away and head for my official autograph station. Here the line-up was endless, the air was cool and damp, but the mood was by turns impatient and festive, celebratory and anxious.

Would each child get her or his book autographed before the session ended? They did.
Would I write what they wanted me to inscribe on their book? Not always. My hand would not have held out.
Would I sign even if they'd not read my book or voted for me? Of course.
(I loved the little confessional moments when children confided they had loved Cary Fagan's book better than mine.... Why hadn't I included drawings and notes in mine like in 'Dear Toni'?... They might read my next book....)

After an hour and a quarter, during which time no child would lend me his or her socks but many proffered popcorn, sips of hot chocolate, and I was hugged and grinned at for many cameras, I snuck off to the green room to grab a snack and wait for the awards ceremony.

Rachel held the sign with my name. Sydney practiced the speech with which she'd introduce me as the nominees lined up in the darkness of backstage waiting to be introduced. Then the twelve nominees were led on stage.

And there, before us, stretched a sea of faces, and Lake Ontario beyond. Children waved and cheered, they displayed banners, held high their favourite nominated books.

My presenter Sydney and sign holder Rachel
Every writer was greeted by a wave of applause, each young presenter showed amazing poise and skill (some balancing on tip toes to reach the mic) as they introduced their designated author.

We shivered and shook in a row. Excitement. Cold and damp. Rock star treatment. We all bathed in its glow.

The Honourable Mentions were announced to thundering applause. Then The Winner ... Dear Toni by Cyndi Sand-Eveland. Jubilant applause from the audience, and all the other contenders. Exclamations and Congratulations. Hugs for our sign bearers and presenters.

And the winner is... (Note fan in back holding up a copy of Dear Toni)

And we were released, back to the crowds of children, parents and children still milling around the grounds, sharing the last of the day's snacks, retrieving lost rainwear, then trooping to buses lined up along the sidewalk.

The Festival of Trees for 2010 was over. And next morning, so was my first visit to Toronto.
But with any luck, I may have the chance to do it all over again. And even if not, those memories will stay with me for a very long time.

My heartfelt thanks to all the wonderful students, teachers, parents and Festival volunteers and staff who made me feel so welcome during my visit to Ontario.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toronto highlights #1 - Monday

Travel reading: Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh
Library booksale copy... so I don't have to worry about leaving it on the subway or packing it home with me.

Untroubled flight and arrival in TO yesterday. Unpacked and settled into my room, and twelve hours later have yet to discover what I forgot to bring along with me. But I will. .. okay, yes. A mug. Styrofoam cup in the hotel room with the mini coffee pot will necessitate a stop somewhere today to pick up a cheap mug as I refuse to use that other stuff.

So desperate for food when I got here - only packaged snacks are exorbitant prices on my AC flight, and I left Vancouver at lunchtime and arrived here long after TO suppertime - that I ate at the first place I could find in Dundas Square after settling into my hotel. A retro diner, lots of atmosphere - red vinyl banquettes, chrome tables, black and white checkerboard floor, tabletop jukeboxes, and fifties/sixties/music (my style) VERY loud. The chips were lousy, the hamburger was wonderful - fresh made actually tasted of meat, and ketchup was served squirted onto a white plate in the shape of a smiley face.

We don't have TV at home so I settled in to channel surf in my room. I knew there was a reason I don't have TV - nothing that I wanted to watch. So I did a couple more runthroughs of the story I plan to tell at my 'keynote' session at EW Foster school on Tuesday, and slept.

Woken at 2:30 by a helicopter circling downtown - then slept again until 5:30 to the usual city noises, a hum of traffic, sirens, the sound of construction equipement, revving engines, all at a comfortable remove from my 15th floor room.

After breakfast, for which I will try the downstairs restaurant - open mornings only right now during renovations - I'll head out to test the subway, which I will ride out to my library gig with time to check out the neighbourhood around Forest Hill library. Later, supper with the sister of an old friend.

An easy day before a full one tomorrow which has a very early start.

But first - another test of the accomodations - I'm headed for the shower.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Silver Rain cover preview

Big excitement this week to get a preview of the cover of SILVER RAIN (Fall 2010, Orca Book Publishers.)
I'm thrilled with it. Esp. as it comes nowhere near the idea of what I thought it might look like, but does, to me convey both the period and something of the theme of the book.
Kudos to Teresa at Orca for the concept and the execution.
Prepping to pack

During the six years I was at boarding school, I packed and unpacked my trunk three times a year - at my grandmother's house in Cornwall, at my other grandmother's and uncle's in Sussex, or at 'home' in Iraq, where we spent many holidays with my parents.

Everything was marked with little cotton name tags, embroidered in red. My name was inked into the elastic strap of my brown felt school hat and etched into my hockey stick. My tuck box had my name inside written on a piece of sticking plaster... not a single unidentified object was allowed out of my trunk at school, and as soon as I'd unpacked wherever was 'home' for the particular holiday, everything was soon spread across the whole house to be gathered up at the end of the holiday, tried on, replaced at Roberts department store in Truro if necessary, then repacked.
Ever since, I've enjoyed traveling light. Ideally, with only enough baggage that will fit in the overhead cabin of the plane, thus allowing me quick exit into whichever city I've flown in to.

Tomorrow I'm traveling to Toronto to visit schools and libraries and participate in the Forest of Reading award festivities at Harbourfront. (Meeting Miss 405 is a nominee in the Silver Birch Express category).
And this time I'm taking books. Enough to give away during my presentations, or present to school libraries for whatever contest they might choose to run. One or two in case I want to give any away to people I meet en route. At least a couple to incidentally have on hand if anyone asks any kind of question that provides an opening, and a chance to show off my wares.
So I'll be checking my bag this time - and just hoping it comes within whatever baggage allowance prevails. I haven't yet figured out what to take clothes-wise. Will have to decide later tonight.

But this time, after I leave my the hotel where I'll be staying for five days, I'll have to make sure I take everything with me. As there will not be a single name tag on anything I might leave behind.
I will be blogging from TO. I'm as curious as anyone to know how this trip will shape up. My first promoting my books - in this case MEETING MISS 405 - our of province.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chow Time

Maggie B, Vancouver Kidsbooks bookseller extraordinaire listens intently
It doesn't seem to matter whether it's a family reunion, office potluck, or book launch, wherever there's food there's usually someone asking, "Can I have that recipe?"

So it was on Saturday at the launch of THE BALLAD OF KNUCKLES McGRAW.

I always figure that whenever you throw a party, there should be food. So for this event I planned cowboy treats:
Wagon Wheels - is it just me or are they much smaller these days than they used to be?
Baked beans - not home made, I but cooked up 'a mess of beans' about ten cans, heated at home in a cast iron pan, carried them to the venue swaddled in a towel, then decanted into a tureen borrowed from a work colleague.
'Cowboy whisky' - iced tea
Corn crackers - sweet and savoury.
The sweet ones were quite easy - Cornmeal & Lemon Crisps from a recipe that's been languishing in my kitchen notebook for about fifteen years. It was not so easy to find savoury ones, so I ended up using a recipe for the topping of a chili pot pie that the kids used to like - which in tru ranch tradition I've renamed 'Triple C Treats' - for Cowboys and cowgirls, cheese and corn.

So, herewith for those who asked, are the recipes. And a few pics from the event.

'Triple C' Treats
Heat oven to 425 degrees
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup coarsely grated strong cheddar cheese
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup coarse grind black pepper
1 tsp mustard powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large egg
3 tblsp milk
Paprika for dusting
Combine the dry ingredients
Combine the wet ingredients, beating the egg to blend with milk and oil
Add wet to dry, mix well by hand until well blended
Knead of floured board until smooth.
Roll to 1/4 inch
Cut in circles or strips
Place on pan with silcone liner
Bake 10-12 mins @ 425 degrees
Dust with paprika

Literary Guide Dog in training - Orca (which also happens to be the name of my publisher!)

Cornmeal & Lemon Crisps
Heat oven to 350 degrees
1/2 lb butter at room temp
1 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1. tsp. fresh grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
Beat butter and sugar together until smooth.
Add egg yolks and lemon peel. Mix until well blended
Mix in flour and cornmeal and blend well.
Wrap in plastic or wax and chill 3-4 hours
Roll out to 1/8"
Cut in circles
Dust with sugar
Place on greased pan or lined with silicone liner
Bake 350 degrees for 8-10 mins
You're never too young to attend a book launch - my grandson Cooper, 4 months
They came. They listened. They ate, They bought books. I'm happy.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Is all news good news?

Today I spent part of the day at work drafting a marketing style guide.

Under P for Proofreading, I suggested that someone not involved with the original work be recruited to proofread any document intended for public consumption - esp. details such as dates, times, names...

It's happened to us all - we spend hours on writing a report, news release, grant application, and under the stress of deadlines send it out. A few hours later, next day, next week, when we prepare to file the document we catch the one error we wish we hadn't missed.

I know too well that cringing feeling you get when you spot the mistake, after it's too late to correct it.

Today returning from our after-supper walk we picked up the local paper from the lobby of our building.

An article about my book and the April 10 launch - complete with pic - is on page 3. Page 3! Anyone who knows newspapers knows page three is where you want to be.

The picture is not too bad... another point in the paper's favour.

I read the article... despite the fact that the paper's interest was generated by a News Release that I submitted and a copy of the book that I sent the reporter - my name is spelled wrong. Not horribly wrong, but enough to me to shrink just a little. Petersen. Peterson. What's the diff?

Then I note a misquote. Not only in the body of the article, but also used as a pullout underneath the photo.

What I KNOW I said was, 'I don't write light commercial fiction.' What the paper has me saying is, 'I don't like light commercial fiction.'

A subtle difference, perhaps. But enough of a difference to make me cringe.

(I like lots of commercial fiction. And if it was easier to write, I might even give it a try!)

Any publicity is better than no publicity. Right?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Two in the hand

A bumper crop of books arrived this week... plus a boxful of bookmarks to help promote them.

THE BALLAD OF KNUCKLES McGRAW is a Young Reader for children ages six to nine, published by Orca Book Publishers.

I'm busy practising my lassoing in time for the cowboy-themed launch on Saturday, April 10. (Doesn't matter how many times I write it, that word 'lassoing' just looks wrong.)

A STAR IN THE WATER is the special limited edition sequel to MEETING MISS 405. 25 copies will be available exclusively as door and contest prize for readings, events, and for my website contest.

I'll be publishing STAR in e-book format later this spring, with all proceeds from the $5 download price going to the organization Libraries Without Borders, which brings libraries to small communities overseas.

(A percentage of author royalties from MEETING MISS 405 benefit Surrey Public Library's Legacy Fund, and royalties from KNUCKLES go to Alexandra Neighbourhood House.)

More information about the launch, the FREE storytelling workshop that follows, and the contest is posted at my website

Monday, March 08, 2010

And the ladies of the club

Today is International Women's Day.

Dundern Press Tweeted the question, who's your Canadian heroine?

I was able to answer than in a heartbeat: June Callwood. Writer, social activist, and someone I had the chance to meet twice, and who I might 'credit' for one of the of speeding tickets I've ever received.

I was driving her to the airport after a conference presentation, quite caught up in her description of her recent passion of hangliding - she was into her seventies, by then. (And I remember was wearing a gorgeous yellow suit - though what that has to do with much, I couldn't tell you.)

A cop pulled us over, told me I'd been doing 80 when I should have been doing a lot less, then sent us up to Departures so I could drop JC off, where he then proceeded to write my ticket.

"Was that June Callwood?" he asked me, scribbling away.

"No," I said, wishing to deny him the opportunity to tell the story of his brush with celebrity once he got back to the station house or donut shop of wherever cops congregate. I mean, I was not going to pay $80 for the pleasure of increasing his status!

"Mmm," he said, still writing up the ticket. "I read that article about her in Saturday Night. And was pretty disgusted about that bad time they gave her over the Jessie's Place situation."

This was a young guy, a cop. The last person I'd have thought would have heard of her, read SN... How's that for prejudice?

I did relent. "Okay. I'm sorry. That was her," I said. "I was just being mean."

He grinned. "My wife will be thrilled when I tell her. 'f I'd known, it might have saved you a ticket," he said as he handed it to me, and ducked back into his cruiser.

Footnote: a few weeks later I got a note from her, voicing her regret about the ticket - but not offering to split the cost, I noted.

My other Canadian heroes might include:
The BC journalist Ma Murray
Beryl Smeeton
Carole Wahl - you won't know her, but she was my mentor and 'guru' and I miss her still. She's been gone about five years.
Author Jean Little
The Famous Five...

Maybe I'll think of more later. But I know these are all women I admire for their convictions, and work that made a difference to so many Canadians - men and women alike.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Love that fan mail

Today in my email Inbox:

Subject: Letter to Lois Paterson

Hi my name is < > I I live in Toronto Iive < > and the school I go to is < >.
I am 8 years old and I am in grade three.
I loved the book meeting miss 405 that you wrote.
It was awesome,and fantastic.
I loved that Tansy did not know that the lady whow took care of her was a great writer.
The most funny part for me was that each time someone would say and stuff Tansy would say "And stuff".
I love your books they are mighty awesome I wish I could read another one of your books
Wish I could see you in person.

From: EP

'Mighty awesome'... now there's a compliment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Knuckles launch - menu suggestions, anyone?

Love Orca's slugline for this book.
'Home on the Range' is more than just a song.

The launch is scheduled.
Venue booked.
Poster almost done.
Ten dozen bandanas bought.
Booksetter confirmed.

Now, any suggestions of what to add to the refreshments menu, given that the event will have a cowboy theme (wear your cowboy hats and spurs!)

So far - Wagon Wheels and cornbread are on my list.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


I've now moved postings about eating and cooking, at home and 'abroad' to their own blog at

I hope to see you there.

Comment! Suggest! Become a follower!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010


These days we spend a lot of time shopping, reading labels, trying to find the balance between local and organic, cheap and nourishing. So I've added a new Page to this blog. Check it out. It's call Shop - Cook - Eat - Share and from time to time I'll include musings on one or more of those categories.
My first post is on cranberries and borscht. Maybe the my next one should be on Velvet Cake, if we're going with the ruby red theme... too late, promptly added a quick one on my favourite cookbooks, and a nod to my sister's cakemaking efforts.

'Stephen - Judith - Lois'
When she was calling one of us, my mother made it sound like one name.

Monday, January 11, 2010

MEETING MISS 405... continued

I'll be publishing A STAR THE WATER, the companion book to MEETING MISS 405 this spring.

Kids love feeling like insiders, being the first to preview a book by a well-known author, or being only one of a few who have a copy of something special.

So STAR will be published in a very limited edition, and will only be available to students, readers, and school and public libraries where I do author visits, readings, presentations or workshops in 2010, with a couple of copies designated for contests at my website.

We're just in the editing stage right now - the book was written a few years ago, and needs a fresh look - and we'll also be designing the book format and cover soon.

I hope A STAR IN THE WATER will be off the press by the time I present an Off the Page reading this spring - this FREE event offered to a local school is funded through the Federation of BC Writers. (If you know of a local school (Lower Mainland of BC, preferably Surrey area) who might enjoy a visit, please pass this info. on to them, or have them contact me at

I'll also have copies of A STAR IN THE WATER with me when I visit Ontario in May to celebrate the Forest of Reading festivities, for which MM405 is nominated in the Silver Birch Express category.

Meanwhile, information about how to win a copy of STAR will be posted on the Contest page of my website as it becomes available.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Cover for Knuckles McGraw

I was thrilled to see that once again artist Peter Ferguson created the cover for my upcoming book, THE BALLAD OF KNUCKLES McGRAW.

This second Young Reader for Orca Book Publishers is due out April 2010. Meanwhile the publisher will soon be distributing ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies) to teachers, librarians, reviewers and booksellers.

In the next few months I expect to begin edits on ELSIE AND THE SILVER RAIN, a midgrade novel set in Vancouver in the Depression, scheduled for publication fall 2010.

And, as usual, I have lots of other projects in the works.

Stay tuned.