Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Retrospective

As the last minutes of 2008 tick away, I'm thinking about what a grand year it's been. I launched my new book series (Who Lives Here?), travelled to China (see photos below) and had the enormous pleasure of meeting my lovely twin grandbabies, born two weeks ago. I'm so grateful for it all! 

Happy New Year, everyone!

Here I am in Shanghai, on the famous river walkway, called the Bund.

Here's me with the Big Guy, who kindly invited me along on his conference trip to China. This was a shopping day at the Old Town Bazaar, Shanghai's version of Granville Island.

Here I am with Betsey from Boston, another conference attendee. Behind us is a view of the Huangpu River and downtown Shanghai (known as Pudong).

This photo was snapped in a beautiful park in a serene area of Shanghai, known as the French Concession. People come to the park to practice Tai Chi, and spend time among the lovely greenery.

A busy Shanghai shopping street called Nanjing Lu, similar to Vancouver's own Robson Street. There were huge crowds the day we strolled it. It's not an experience for the faint of heart!

This is People's Square, a large open area where Shanghai locals congregate, and listen to music or sit on benches and eat their lunch. The Shanghai Museum and Art Museum are near.

We were amazed to see this bamboo scaffolding on many buildings. Apparently, bamboo is an incredibly strong material. It seemed ingenius!

China is a wonderful place, and although I only saw a small bit of Shanghai, my appetite has been whetted for all things Asia. I can hardly wait to return. Maybe in 2009! :-)

Happy New Year! Health and happiness to you all!

Monday, December 29, 2008

8 Great Blogs of 2008!

I know I announced I'd be taking a blogging pause until 2009, but I'm breaking the hiatus, because my blogging buddy, kc dyer, has kindly invited me to be a guest on her blog. She's rounding up fellow bloggers to post their Lists of 8 for 2008. As a relatively new (and keen!) blogger, I thought I'd post my list of 8 Great Blogs that I've enjoyed over the past year. In no particular order, they are:

1. Alice's CWIM Blog
Alice Pope is the editor of the wonderfully informative Children's Writers and Illustrators Market, published annually.

2. Children's Book Biz News
Anastasia Suen is the talented author of 110 books, and the writer of a series of blogs. This one gives you up-to-date info on US editors, agents and books.

3. Miss Snark, the Literary Agent
Although this blog has gone "dark", you can read the archives which are full of funny and interesting anecdotes about submissions to a "snarky" literary agent and her amusing replies.

4. Fuse #8
Elizabeth Bird, Children and Youth Librarian at the New York Public Library, writes this blog on the School Library Journal site. It's full of timely info about new books and also has a long blog roll with links to numerous authors, editors and publishers.

5. Editorial Anonymous
This is the blog of an anonymous children's book editor, with entertaining anecdotes about the slush pile.

6. The Rejecter
"I don't hate you; I hate your query letter." is the tagline to this clever blog, written by an assistant to a literary agent.

7. INK: Interesting Nonfiction for Kids
Here, American authors take turns blogging about issues related to writing quality nonfiction books for kids.

This is the inspired and inspiring blog of my local writer's association: Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia. My blogging mentors can be found here: kc dyer, Kirsti Wakelin, Tanya Kyi and James McCann, to name a few. I also follow the blogs of talented local authors, Shelley Hrdlitschka, Jacqueline Pearce and Fiona Bayrock, all hard-working members of CWILL BC. Check the Cwill BC website to find links for them.

Warm thanks to kc dyer for inviting me to guest post on her blog!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Wishes!

I'd like to keep blogging over the next few weeks, but I'm beginning to see that with Christmas around the corner, helping out with the newborn grandbabies, and keeping my sidewalks free of snow, I'm simply going to be too busy. So, today for your viewing pleasure, I have posted a piece of Christmas art created by my talented niece, Alexandra.

I will say adieu until after the holidays. Warm thanks to everyone who has been kindly reading my blog over the past few months. I appreciate it so much!

See you in early January. Til then...

Happy Holidays to all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Twins!



I'm delighted to announce the birth (today!) of my precious grandsons: Jack and Finn, weighing 7 lbs 3 oz and 7 lbs 10 oz, respectively. They are beautiful little boys. We are over the moon!

I can hardly wait to write them a book!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Guest Blogger

Today, I'm the guest blogger on the CWILL BC website. If you'd like to check it out, please go here.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

To Do List...

In spite of my resolve to blog a minimum of twice a week, I find myself lagging behind. Lest you think that I'm lying on the couch, eating shortbread and watching old Christmas movies, I'd like to let you in on my To Do List. I started this list last summer so that I didn't forget any pressing work assignments that were pending. 

The list is divided into 2 sections: "To Do" and "Done." Each time I finish a task, I move it into the "Done" section. It gives me a lot of pleasure watching the Done section grow. There are such items as: get a new author photo, revise Savanna Animals manuscript, write cover copy for Forest Animals, proof the art for Desert Animals, critique a friend's story, update my school presentation, create a new bio for an upcoming speaking engagement, write a profile for Canscaip News, do my taxes, and on and on. All "Done." Wow! That feels good!

What's slightly troubling, however, is watching the growing number of items in my "To Do" section. Today, I see: develop a Power Point presentation, research 3 book ideas, write a proposal for one of them, create a sheet of Teacher's Tips to accompany my recent series, conduct an interview for a new book, write a current blog entry, and more... Every day I add to the list. 

I don't exactly feel like I'm running on a hamster wheel. I'm very grateful to have so many interesting things to occupy my time. But... there are times when I wonder if life was a little less daunting before I created the To Do List. Facing it each morning is like taking an invigorating dip in a very cold lake.

Just wondering...

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sneak Preview...

Here's a sneak preview of the cover for my newest book in the Who Lives Here? series, published by Kids Can Press. It's a spring release and will be in the stores in early February. Don't you love the little black-capped chickadees? They live all winter in our boreal forests, singing their cheerful songs. Amazingly, their feet and legs are strong enough to let them hang upside down on tree branches as they hunt for insects in the bark.

Pat Stephens is the series illustrator and Katie Gray is the series designer. They are the wonderfully talented duo who created this lovely cover. A big thank you to both! 


Sunday, November 30, 2008

Amazing Irish Books!

I recently read several YA novels that were simply amazing. They were sent to me in a lovely care package by Irish YA author, Jane Mitchell, whom I met in L.A. last summer. She and I have a great fondness for YA (young adult) novels, so we agreed to send each other a box of our country's favourite YA books. Receiving her box, was like an early, very exciting, Christmas present.

First, I read her novel: When Stars Stop Spinning, a book that won her country's Bisto Irish Book of the Year Award. It was the touching story of Tony, who lands in a rehabilitation hospital with severe head injuries after a joyriding accident, and how he makes friends with a gifted musician, Stephen, who is dying of a wasting disease. It was a lovely, moving story.

Next, I read: A Swift Pure Cry, by Siobhan Dowd, a gifted author who passed away from cancer after writing only 3 books, one being published posthumously. A Swift Pure Cry is the achingly beautiful telling of a tragic situation a young Irish girl finds herself in. The story is full of Irish references and expressions and is one of the best books I've read all year. I highly recommend it!

And, the third book from the Irish box, is Keeper by Mal Peet. It is a wonderful story of a poor, awkward South American boy who becomes the world's greatest goal keeper. The book is full of magic realism and vivid imagery, and is far more than simply a book about soccer. It was haunting and beautifully told.

More to come as I read through the rest of the books. It's been a fantastic reading experience!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Deep in Thought...

Lest you think I've been idle since my last post, I'll let you know that I've been busy writing, and mulling over ideas for three new books. Sorry for the long absence.

I finished the profile piece on Vivien Bowers for the CANSCAIP NEWS, and I was surprised by how long it took. I'm not accustomed to writing long articles, and was pleased to find out I could do it. I had three hours of interview tape that I transcribed and listened to a couple of times. Then it was a matter of figuring out what I wanted to say about Vivien and how to shape the story. I spent a week in solid writing and revising, but it's done, and the editor told me she loved it. That's a relief!

Now it's back to books, and I'm also pleased to report the ideas are coming fast and furious. I will begin to research each book idea and try to decide which one to tackle first. 

I've also been reading a lot, and as I mentioned before, will post some comments about some wonderful books I've recently finished. 

Finally, I've got some new Shanghai photos (taken by our friend who accompanied us on the trip) that I will post in the next day or so.

It's been a busy time. Back soon!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blogging pressure...

It's been a week since I posted, and I'm feeling the blogging pressure. :-)

The writers out there will know that fall is a busy time, and, believe it or not, my real writing is getting in the way of my blogging. Hmm... A modern problem, indeed.

I'm currently writing a profile for the CANSCAIP News (the quarterly newsletter of the Canadian Society of Children's Authors, Illustrators and Performers), on my friend and fellow nonfiction author, Vivien Bowers. It's fun to do, but at 2500 words, it's longer than most of my manuscripts. More daunting than that, is the fact that it will be read by an audience of talented, accomplished writers. So, I must get back to it. The pressure, the pressure!

Once I'm done, I'll post again — probably about 3 wonderful YA novels by Irish authors I've read recently. Hang on. I'll be back soon (I hope).

Until then...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hycroft Book Event

Wednesday, November 12 at 6:00 pm is the annual book "show & tell" for CWILL BC — Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia. This event is held at Hycroft, the lovely Shaughnessy heritage house that belongs to the Women's University Club. This year, 42 local authors will be speaking about their new books, and I'm grateful to be one of them. 

I'm presenting four titles in my new Who Lives Here? series — a set of books designed for 4-6 year old children, with beautiful illustrations by Pat Stephens. The books take a playful look at how animals' bodies and habits are suited to the place where they live.

If you'd like to see the range of talent and genres in our midst, please come and take part in this inspiring evening. 

Hope to see you there!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

SCBWI Afternoon

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon speaking to some of the talented folks in the local SCBWI chapter — Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I had been invited to speak by the new president, Ken Kilback, who is also a Kindergarten teacher in Burnaby. The group was comprised of children's writers (some new and others more experienced) and I was impressed
by their intelligence and committment, and delighted by their warmth. What a lovely group! Their morning speaker was kc dyer, whom the group raved about, and I will admit to some niggling worry that she was going to be a hard act to follow. :)

Thank you so much to Ken for inviting me and to everyone in the group for their thoughtful and appreciative participation in the afternoon. I know I'm going to see a lot of books coming from this group. Best of luck to you all!

Thanks also to my colleague kc dyer, accomplished YA author and organizer of the Surrey's Writers Festival, whose blog I follow regularly. It was kc who helped me figure out the world of blogging (I heard her speak about it a few years ago) by giving me lots of helpful tips. Check out her blog here.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fall, Beautiful Fall...

My neighbourhood is one of big, beautiful trees that are in full autumn colour. Here are a few glimpses of what I see when I take my daily walk. Lucky me!

Happy Fall, everyone!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Shanghai Photos

Here are a few final Shanghai photos.

This one shows the Shanghai Museum, where I saw exhibits of indigenous Chinese groups, beautiful sculptures, jade, bronze, furniture and art. The best part, though, was when an enthusiastic class of students rushed up to me to practise their English. That was so much fun! I wish that I had been able to speak more Chinese. 

The photo below shows the entrance to a traditional shopping area in Old Town. We visited here several times to view the local goods and crafts, and buy a few gifts. I picked up some aromatic jasmine tea that is simply delicious.

Here's me with a dragon at the Yuyuan Bazaar. It's the Shanghai version of Granville Island, with shopping, craftspeople and entertainers. We watched a talented jazz band perform here one afternoon.

Below are two wonderful temples I visited. They were solemn, quiet and lovely.

You can see the smoke from the burning incense.

Here's a group I toured with for a couple of days. We were women from many countries of the world, including China, Thailand, Africa, Philippines, Australia, Germany, Russian, USA and Canada. The photo was taken at the Confucian temple, where we learned about the profound and lasting influence of the philosopher, Confucius. We also saw the school where students spend years studying his teachings.

These brightly coloured tropical flowers were at the Shanghai Botanical Gardens.

Beautiful orchids! 

It's hard to believe I'm home. Shanghai was an amazing, vibrant, wonderful place and I'm so grateful I got to see it. I hope I can return some day. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Shanghai Tea House & Food

I'm posting a few more photos of our trip, if you don't mind.

The top one is of the Huxingting Tea House, where we spent a pleasant hour sipping Chinese tea and eating traditional snacks. The tea house is situated in the heart of Old Town, on an island in the middle of an ornamental lake. From the bridge that leads to the tea house, we watched big bright orange carp swimming in the lake.

The second photo shows the tea I drank — the traditional green variety, with very large leaves. It was a mouthful! It took practice, but I eventually learned how to drink loose tea without swallowing all of the leaves. By the end of the trip, I was quite accomplished.

The snacks that accompanied our tea are in the third photo, and included thousand-year eggs, salted almonds and gummy fruit candies possibly made from lichees.

We were lucky to eat many delicious meals in Shanghai, and began every day by eating breakfast at our hotel, where we could choose from Chinese or Western style dishes. I often ate duck, congee, thousand-year eggs, coconut in coconut milk and — best of all— Shanghai steamed buns, filled with all sorts of good things: barbecued pork, shrimp or red beans. Very tasty!

There were a few items on restaurant menus that I wish I had been brave enough to try, but will have to save for my next trip to China. They included: bullfrog, duck's lips, pig intestines and many other such delicacies. I know that my brother, who could best Anthony Bourdain in an eating contest, would gladly have sampled everything. He will be deeply disappointed in me, I'm sure. Next time!

And there will be a next time. I hope to return to China in the not-too-distant future and see Bejing and Xian, and other cities that have a long, distinguished history. Shanghai is like modern cities in Canada that are only a few hundred years old, while Bejing is more like historic cities in Europe, with their far-reaching past. 

I am very grateful to have had my first glimpse of China.

Monday, October 27, 2008

City of Contrasts

Shanghai is a city of contrasts: a heady blend of East and West, old and new, rich and poor, all bumping up against each other. I loved seeing the traditional Chinese temples and silk clothing mixed in amongst the modern highrises and trendy fashionistas. 

Shanghai is booming, as it gets ready for the World Expo in 2010. There's construction everywhere. Today, some 18 million people live in this huge city. They expect the numbers to rise to 71 million during Expo. Wow! That's a lot of people.

The first photo shows a street scene of Old Town, where vendors sell food and goods, such as tea, silk clothing, fish, pearls, and knock-off wallets. People here live in small apartment homes, close together. As we walked down this street, we saw children playing, a dog wandering, a man tending his homing pigeons and laundry drying on bamboo poles. We smelled savoury food cooking and heard a chorus of voices as people tended to their chores. And — at the same time we took photos of them — they took photos of us!

The second photo shows the skyline of modern Shanghai with its stunning highrises. The tallest building in the world stands here. Don't look down! We were tempted to go to the top of one of the tall buildings to get a bird's eye view of Shanghai, but, alas, my fear of heights overtook my curiosity.

The mix of Shanghai old and new was surprising to me, but it seemed to be harmonious and working well. Fascinating city! 

More to come soon...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back from Shanghai!

I had an amazing trip! Shanghai is a wonderful city and I'm thrilled I was able to get there. I'll be posting some of my impressions over the next week (as I get over my jet lag and my brain clears) but to begin, here are two photos. 

The top one is a view of the river promenade called the Bund (pronounced BUNT), which was minutes from my hotel. The walkway is on the Huangpu River, and many people stroll here every day. There are tourists, locals, street vendors and performers all jostling for space on the crowded path. From the Bund, you can look across the water and see some of the famous Shanghai highrises. It's a big, busy city that reminded me of New York in a lot of ways.

The second photo is of rush hour in Shanghai: on bikes! Many locals use bicycles or motorized scooters to get around. The photo doesn't begin to show the sea of bikes we encountered each evening at rush hour. They fill the streets! The Critical Mass organizers in Vancouver would be inspired.

More to come soon...

Monday, October 13, 2008

Shanghai Bound...

This is a quick note to say I'm leaving for Shanghai this week and will be away from my computer until the end of October. I'm accompanying my husband (aka "The Big Guy") to a conference, and am planning to research a new book (and sightsee!) while he's at meetings. I may try to post from China, but it remains to be seen if I am tech-savvy enough to accomplish that. Regardless, I hope to have lots of exciting things to report when I get back. Until then...


Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Books

I love fall book season! There are so many new titles I'm looking forward to reading. I've got two enticing fall releases sitting on my desk right now, but I haven't cracked the covers yet. I'm waiting to read them on a long plane trip I'm taking next week.

One is is a YA novel called Sister Wife, written by my good friend and talented author, Shelley Hrdlitschka. It's the story of an isolated rural community called Unity, where polygamy is the accepted way of life, and young girls are expected to marry much older husbands. There are three main characters (all girls) with varying points of view. I can hardly wait!

The second is an adult novel titled, What They Wanted, by Donna Morrisey, author of Sylvanus Now and other fine books. I loved Sylvanus Now, which was the story of a Newfoundland fishing village and a man who was desperate to hang on to the old ways. It was a deeply moving story, and this new one is a sequel to it. Apparently, some of the characters leave Newfoundland to work in the Alberta oilfields.

Canada is rich with stories, and I feel very fortunate to have two intriguing ones sitting on my desk. I'll wait until next week to begin them, but it's going to be hard.

Happy Reading, everyone!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Growing Appetites: A Wonderful Night!

Wow! What a night! I am so impressed by Merri Schwartz and the team of chefs, servers and local growers who put the Growing Appetites evening together. The food was even better than I'd imagined! Mmm... Some of the tastiest dishes were pumpkin canelloni, squash and chorizo soup, and roasted apple tortillas with honey cream cheese icecream.

I was touched by the generosity of all the people involved — the chefs who donated their time and energy to cook the food, the hardworking and extremely proficient servers, the local farmers and vinters who supplied the food and wine, and finally, the kind folks who paid for the tickets to attend the dinner, and also took part in the silent auction.

The best part (aside from the food) was seeing some of the charming young students of the Growing Chef's program. They bravely read out the menu for each course, and spoke a bit about being involved in the program. Fred Lee and Margaret Gallagher of the CBC, and MCs for the night, interviewed the kids with real tenderness. It was lovely to watch.

Consider attending next year's fundraiser, or perhaps volunteering your time in the classroom, helping kids to grow their own vegetables, and then cook with them.

I applaud Merri Schwartz and wish her continued success with this wonderful program! It was a privilege to be a part of it.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Growing Chefs!

Tomorrow night is the first, annual fundraising dinner for a wonderful new program called Growing Chefs! 

Merri Schwartz is a talented, young Vancouver pastry chef who creates the tasty desserts at Quattro on 4th and she's also the energetic founder of the Growing Chefs! program. She's organized local chefs to volunteer their time in Vancouver schools to teach children how to grow their own vegetables and then cook with them. She's a firm believer in sustainability and eating locally and, with this program, is educating kids to do the same. 

I've been a big fan of her program ever since I heard about it — being both a former primary teacher and a local food enthusiast — and I can hardly wait to go to the fundraiser tomorrow night. The feast, named Growing Appetites, will be held at the cooking school, Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts, and will feature the delicious food and wine of local farmers and vinters, prepared by the chefs of our city. Wow! My mouth is watering. If you'd like to read more about the event, go here. Check out the menu!

I'll let you know how the evening goes. Til then, I'm fasting... and counting down the hours...

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Word on the Street Recap

Here's a photo taken by local author, Jacqueline Pearce. As you can see, the sun was shining brightly on Sunday for our city's Word on the Street book bash. Library Square, in downtown Vancouver, was a sea of festival tents, with authors, illustrators, publishers and performers showing off their newest works.

There was a large and enthusiastic turnout of people, many of whom brought young children. Thanks to everyone who turned up to hear me speak in the Kids Tent about my new series, Who Lives Here? You were a wonderful audience! 

I remember when Word on the Street began, and it was small and had a few growing pains. Now, all evidence points to the fact that it has blossomed into a big, exciting literary event that truly celebrates books and their creators.

If you'd like to see more photos, please go here (from the Cwill BC blog — Children's Writers and Illustrators of British Columbia). It was a fantastic day and thrilling to catch up with many writing and illustrating colleagues I hadn't seen for awhile.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Word on the Street

Tomorrow is the big book celebration: Word on the Street, at Library Square in Vancouver. I'm speaking in the Kids Tent at 3:00 pm and would love to see you there! To find out more about the day's wonderful events, go here

Come along, stroll in the sunshine, check out all the authors and have a great day!


Friday, September 26, 2008

The 100 Mile Diet

I loved reading The 100 Mile Diet! What a sensational book!

Two Vancouver writers, Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, began a 1 year experiment to eat only food that had been grown and harvested within a hundred mile radius of their home. Little did they know how difficult this challenge would be. Their goals, which included both health and environmental benefits, were to create a strong connection with their food and the local farmers, ranchers, fishers and vintners who produced it. No rice, wheat, bananas, coffee, chocolate and many other foods we take for granted. Over the year, they lost weight, they argued and got the blues, but they never gave up.

To begin, they ate vast amounts of potatoes, but over time learned to add oysters, salmon, goat cheese, dandelion greens, asparagus, squash, berries, walnuts and more. As the months passed, they figured out how to grow and preserve many foods, and how to create a diet that was interesting, nutritionally sound and delicious! The book is divided into chapters by month and tasty recipes accompany each one, giving the readers a great starting point for beginning their own 100 mile diet.

This book, which began as a blog, has galvanized people across North America. Many, many people are now eating their own versions of the 100 mile diet, and finding out about foods that are produced in their own regions. You can find out who's doing this and what they're eating at the 100 Mile Diet website and blog, found here.

The authors suggest that we don't have to give up everything we're used to, but to take small steps, and maybe eat locally for one meal a day, or one day a week, or at least to be conscious of where our food comes and be more supportive of our local growers.

I've always been someone who made a point of buying local fruit and vegetables in season. I go to the farmer's market, I make my own jam and I freeze local fruit for winter consumption. I'm also a big supporter of local wineries. But, I've been guilty (far too often) of buying strawberries or asparagus in January, not thinking about how far they've come from and what the cost is to local growers, the environment and the nutritional value of the food. 

So, now that I've read this book, I'm going to take small steps and move further in the direction of local eating. I won't be perfect, but I will be better. 

Bon appetit!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Book Thief

As promised, here are my comments on The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, which I finished reading earlier this week.

The Book Thief is an ambitious book, with 550 pages of text, and is considered a YA (young adult or teen) novel. It is the story of Liesel, a young girl living with poor foster parents in a small town near Munich, during World War 2. Liesel's foster parents, who are not supporters of the Nazi regime, hide a Jewish man, Max, in their basement for several years. During the course of the story, Liesel collects stolen books and reads them to Max and to other community members as they huddle in basement shelters to escape the bombs. It is really a story about the power of words and books, and how they can be used for either good or evil. 

The narrator of the novel is Death, a character who follows Liesel's story as she ages from 9 to 14 years old.

My new book group discussed The Book Thief on Tuesday night and we were firmly divided into two camps. Half of the group loved the book and found it inspirational and beautifully written. The other half (me included) found it disturbing and dark. My reasons for finding it so, had to do with Death's voice, which often took a flippant tone in its descriptions of tragic events, set against the horrifying backdrop of the Holocaust. 

I think the author may have been using Death's voice to provide some distance from the horror — but in my mind, it made the painful experiences even more difficult. I didn't want to feel distant from the characters.

I know I'm in the minority with my opinion, judging from the glowing reviews and award nominations this book has received. It is narratively and stylistically very clever, but, for me, a troubling read. 

It was, however, a great title to discuss with the book group, most of whom are YA authors. They had a clear understanding of how challenging it would have been to write this book, and it was most interesting to hear them speak. 

If you'd like to read along with us, our next book for discussion is Life is Funny by E.R. Frank.

I'll sign off for now, but tomorrow will comment on The 100 Mile Diet — the other book I've just finished reading.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fall Books!

Apologies for not posting this past week, but I have an excellent excuse. It's fall book season and I am reading, reading, reading. Like the gardeners and farmers who are reaping their harvest at this time of year, I am gathering in the books and staying home to enjoy the literary bounty of the season. What am I reading? Three books at once...

I'm racing to finish The Book Thief (550 pages!) by Markus Zusak, in time for a new YA (young adult) book group that's having its first meeting on Tuesday. I'm 450 pages in, and it's been a marathon read. One hundred (dense) pages to go. I'll post my impressions once I'm finished. 

I was mid-way through two other books before I began The Book Thief, and I'm excited about getting back to them. They are both wonderful! One is the new Miriam Toews novel, called The Flying Troutmans, which has some of the best dialogue between siblings I've every read. It is authentic, painfully sad and comical, all at the same time. Toews (author of the Governor General's Award for A Complicated Kindness) has an amazing ability to juxtapose dark and funny, and make you feel like laughing and crying in the same breath.

The other book (which I'm reading a year after it was published) is The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon, Vancouver authors who began a one-year experiment to eat only food that had been grown within 100 miles of their home. It is truly amazing to read of their struggle to find enough to eat, and also enlightening to understand how this book has helped revolutionize our thinking about what we eat and where it comes from.

I'll post more about these books as I finish them, but for now, it's time to get back to The Book Thief. For all of you writers who have contributed so generously to the fall bounty of books, I send my sincere and grateful thanks.

Happy Reading, everyone! 

P.S. If you'd like to email with your fall book recommendations, I'll gladly post them. Send them to:


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our Southern Friends...

This weekend, I'm thinking about all the folks in the path of Hurricane Ike, as it bears down on Houston and other southern US cities. I'm especially thinking about my new friend, Ana Maria Rodriguez, who left Houston with her sons yesterday to seek shelter a few hours inland. I hear that up to 4 million people are without power today, and that the power company says it may take two to three weeks to have it restored. Tough times ahead, I'm sure.

Take care, all of you southerners. We wish you well and keep you in our thoughts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Feast of Fields!

Sunday was the annual celebration — Feast of Fields — of local chefs and wineries serving up food and drink, grown and harvested by local farmers and vintners. What a celebration! The sun was bright, the musicians were playing, and we wandered around the UBC farmland, wine glasses and linen napkins in hand, sipping and chewing the bounty of our region.

Highlights included fresh scallops, crab and salmon cooked up in a myriad of tasty variations; herb salad wrapped in piping hot flatbread; mouthwatering blackberry gelato; and quality wines from many of our Okanagan and Fraser Valley wineries — all offered by friendly, hardworking chefs from under big white tents. Mmm... It made me think I should write a cookbook. Watch for it in a year or so!

If you're interested in a West Coast organization that supports local food and farmers, check out the Farm Folk/City Folk website here. To see more about Feast of Fields, go here.


Saturday, September 6, 2008

Fall Review Season

Fall book season is upon us. For writers with new releases, it's a season we approach with trepidation. Many of us fluctuate wildly between states of eager anticipation and intense fretting, as we open up the newspaper or fire up the computer to see how our lovely new book is faring out there in the world. Some of us might even term this time of year, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Author Brad Meltzer has taken this matter into his own hands and transformed his not-so-kind reviews of the season into a very humourous video. It's a shining example of turning lemons into lemonade! Thanks to YA author, kc dyer, for posting it on her blog. Please check out Brad's video here.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Globe and Mail Review!

What a lovely surprise to open up the Books section of Saturday's Globe and Mail to see a review of my two newest books — Desert Animals and Wetland Animals — by Susan Perren, editor of Children's Books. 

In her review she says, "Habits as well as habitats, prey as well as predators, of hippopotamus and anaconda, mallard duck and moose, are presented in word and picture in an engaging and appropriate way for the books' intended audience." 

These books — the third and fourth in the Who Lives Here? series — are designed for children, ages 4-7. The books take a playful look at how animals' bodies and habits are suited to the place where they live. For more information on the series, please click here.

A big thank you to the talented illustrator, Pat Stephens, whose beautiful art graces these books.

Happy Labour Day, everyone!