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.