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.