Saturday, October 06, 2012

Choose Your Words Carefully--What Writers Discuss

A snail galloping through Bronte Creek
The other night at writers' group, I read a new scene from a story with the working title What the Dog Taught Me   This will make the fourth rewrite for this book and I should have it perfect by now.   In this scene a dog galloped.

One of my friendly colleagues suggested that horses galloped.  That to her it was a very horselike move.

Worf aka Brownie in my book has white socks which make him horselike too
I thought about this but then said that while it was a verb often reserved for horses, by allowing the dog to gallop it made him more horselike.  In point of fact the real dog I based the story on, always reminds me of a horse.  He has a horse brown smooth coat and when he's calm well, I feel like I'm patting an equine animal.

Do you like that verb?  Can you picture this big brown Australian cattle dog moving his legs in unison quickly off the ground like a horse?

Well, then this morning I took my dog to Bronte Creek where they have this great leash free hike and there in the path was a snail, his head all stretched out of his shell and I remembered a book I wrote called The Big Race.  The kids in it competed by playing baseball, reading for crocheted bookworm prizes and racing snails.  While doing research for this first chapter book, I learned that when snails move slowly, the verb used is creeping.  But when snails move quickly, and quick is relative, they gallop.

I used to tell my grade 2 and 3 audiences about this little known fact.  Then I would imitate the starting horn at the races and show some ceramic snails "galloping".  Ah memories!  Wish that book was still in print.

In any case I think it's easier to picture my fictional dog galloping.
Same colour as my fictional dog, this horse is not galloping though

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Ten+Top Secrets of a Great Launch

Lately I've been attending many birthday celebrations, lovely events, unique in that they are celebrating the birthday of a book.  Today on the celebration of my own birth, I attended Gillian Chan's launch of A Call to Battle, Scholastic Canada.  If you read nothing else on the war of 1812, you must read this young boy's diary of his experiences in the battles.  What is lovely about a book launch is you meet so many different authors. I decided to survey some to find out what tips they might offer to hosting such an event. 

 Tip 1  Rukshana Khan (author of Wanting Mor)   Don't have one! Use the money on a mailing list to a school.  Lest that sound too grumpy, other writers, Jo-Ellen Bogart for example, agreed that these events were fraught with anxiety (will anyone come?)and expense and that at the very least you shouldn't have a launch for each and every book.  Hard, books are children, which ones do you favour, which ones aren't allowed to have a party. 

 Tip 2  Gisela Sherman (author of Grave Danger) Use it as an opportunity to celebrate an achievement with friends and don't worry about sales. See already we have controversy.  Writers are just like that.  Being a party girl myself I agree with Gisela.  Who wants to do a mailing list?  Where are the cupcakes in that?

 Tip 3  Lena Coakley(Witchlanders)  Don't host your launch to coincide with the actual release date. Oh man that's a good one.  I would add don't plan one too far in advance.  You really need to have the books available.  Pub dates can be moving targets. Often books are late or held up somewhere. My latest Crush. Candy. Corpse was available two weeks in advance of the March 12 release date and to be safe I planned my launch for April 1.  By that time, curious friends and family could have bought their copies already.

Jennifer Maruno created a stunning display of Cherry Blossom Winter and cupcakes at a Different Drummer Book Store launch.

Tip 4 by Marsha Skrypuch(One Step at a Time) Don't marry your launch to a book store.  She launched her latest at a train station in Brantford.  I loved it.  Trains thundered in dramatically in between questions and readings. Jo Ellen Bogart (Big and Small, Room for All) noted her favourite launch was in a one room old school house in Toronto for a book called Jerimiah Learns to Read, very well attended she thought at least in part because it was on a Toronto subway line.

Tip 5 by Anne Gray (Healer's Touch) of course feels the opposite way.  Host your celebration in a lovely intimate bookstore like Bryan Prince in Hamilton the way Gillian Chan did or in A Different Drummer, the way Jennifer Maruno and I did.  That way your attendants can look at all the books while they're milling about.  I also think there's a possibility of a drift in audience coming and purchasing multiple copies too.

Gillian Chan dresses in authentic custom made clothing from the era circa 1912
Marsha Skrypuch brings tears to my eyes when she describes Tuyet's experiences as a Vietnamese orphan.
Tip 6  Jo Ellen Bogart says to invite your illustrator.  It helps if she's famous like Babara Reid (Picture a Tree). The illustrator then brings all her friends and family.  Some writers I know join with other authors to have larger launches for just this reason.  If you're an Ontario librarian, watch for the CANSCAIP Mass Book Launch to be held at the OLA Super Conference, Friday, February 1 noon till 2ish.

Tip 7 Me,  Use social media the way the dental receptionist uses her phone to remind you about your appointment.  Facebook and tweet the date, time location, etc. frequently, so your friends and family don't forget to come and also so you get more joiners.  I would print up a written invite for the luddites in your world.  Hard copy lingers on the fridge.

Tip 8 Me again.  Avail yourself of different listings.  CANSCAIP and Canadian Children's Book Centre have events pages.

Tip 9  Gillian Chan (A Call to Battle)  Okay she didn't tell me this directly but she thanked the Dundas Star on Facebook.  I will say approach your local newspaper to try to get some free publicity.  In a perfect world, they announce the event in advance, send a photographer and write up a piece about the event afterwards.  We're trying to create a buzz here people.  Everyone needs to read about your work at least three times in order to be nudged into buying.

Tip 10  Me again.  Supply some goodies.  They can link to what your characters ate in your book or just be your trademark cookie or square. Announce them on your various Twitters and Facebook invites.  Wine isn't necessary and requires all kinds of permits.  Have that at home later with your feet up.

Ten+ top secrets, where's the + you're asking?  Some pithy wisdom as a long time writer:  there are no secrets to a great launch.  So many wonderful ideas fail spectacularly due to the weather or a random parade or sale at a store nearby.  Try to have fun bringing your literary child into the world so that if everything falls flat at least you didn't strain yourself.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The literary experience Telling Tales Style

Captain Underpants fights bad educators everywhere.
 What I learned from Goodreads is that it's okay to read YA literature when you're not...well... a YA yourself.  I can tell by the people who select my own novel Crush. Candy. Corpse as a "to read".  They're at least old enough to wield a credit card, often in their thirtys +.

 That fact frees me to enjoy a Children's Literature Festival when I'm not on duty as a parent or performing/reading author.

Why does a writer go when they aren't paid?  To meet their friends.  I love bumping into all the writers I don't see on a regular basis.  Captain Underpants is not a writer and I haven't met Dav Pilkey or bought his latest yet but my grandson  Hunter and I have enjoyed his antics between pages so why not have my photo taken with him.
Deborah Ellis often writes about Afghanistan and serious socialist issues but I'm on a mystery kick so I bought her True Blue to see a different side of her. 
Deborah Ellis talking about Afghanistan
Norah McClintock explaining her title Close to the Heel
 Norah McClintock spoke about her contribution to Eric Walters' new series.  Close to the Heel is set in Iceland.  I was so impressed that she travelled to Iceleand to research the book.  (I doubt a Canadian advance would cover the airfare)  Still she told me later how beautiful Iceland was and I hope to enjoy the setting through the story, don't think I'll ever make it there.
Granddaughter Jadzia in rapture with the chicken

And even though I'm not on parent duty, a plus of Telling Tales is meeting my grownup kids and grandchildren.  I introduced Jennifer to Ruth Ohi who has a bunch of new Chicken Pig and Cow picture books out.  We're big fans.
These chickens seemed doglike in their enjoyment of being caressed and patted.

Besides meeting terrific authors in a very intimate setting, getting up close and personal with the livestock is always a lovely relaxing between reading thing to do at Westfield.  Farmhands are dressed from the long dress and bonnet days. 

Lovely fall sunshine and stopping at a market for fresh peaches and corn round off a perfect day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Access Copyright--Working for the survival of Canadian Culture

Most people's eyes glaze over when you start talking about copyright but not these 24 people.  From Thursday till Saturday, they devoted themselves to solving the issues behind the survival of our culture, namely the protection of intellectual property.  Currently Bill C11 and the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada jeopardize the blanket licence payments for the use of educational materials.   
While I'm not as passionate as some of them about copyright issues, I am passionate about writing and reading and education and opportunity for our young people.

I sympathise with teachers trying to get the best materials for their students in as quick and inexpensive a manner as possible.  I feel badly for university students whose tuition rates have gone up horrendously in the past short while.  University instructors and profs need to be able to offer quality course packs without spending weeks trying to get permissions.

But if a teacher pushes forth a young writing prodigy and tells me he or she will someday be a professional like me, I also feel bad.  Even if I donate back my Access Copyright cheque, which for my large body of works is sizeable, it won't solve the issue of there being no writing jobs for these students.  And for the university kids, right now there are many cultural jobs in the publishing industry that will continue to disappear if they insist on free content.

It may seem very fair to them now to have access to materials for free (and it's never free, it's at the publisher and creators' cost) but it won't be fair when they remain unemployed after they graduate.

Still enough doom and gloom, late this fall publishers and writers can expect a larger cheque than usual for one time and perhaps one time only.  These are the royalties collected from K to 12 (2005-09)previously held in trust pending the Supreme Court Ruling. There is still an outstanding legal dispute about 10% of these royalties.

Perhaps for one year struggling writers can pay some bills again.  Publishers can afford to hire some writers.  But that's how jobs in the arts work, one granting or funding period at a time, from one cheque to the next. Hand to mouth.

And I bet those artists will spend a good deal of their cheque buying more books. So this may be a double whammy.

Next year... well, I live with the hope Canadians will realize the value of good Canadian materials and books and willingly pay for them.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Tales from the Dog Walk--Bringing Up Beauty

While walking my Jackapoo Mortie, the other day, I wore my Dog Guide shirt, something I picked up as a souvenir when I was visiting an open house day as research for one of the Beauty books, Bringing Up Beauty, A Different Kind of Beauty, Beauty Returns.  My dog met a rescue dog from one of the first nations reserves and his owner Judy Appleby and I got talking.  She asked me whether I worked at DogGuides and I told her about writing those books.

Her jaw dropped and she said that it was as a result of reading Bringing Up Beauty her family fostered Grover, a successful guide dog.  It wasn't her two sons who had read the book, rather Judy herself read it after seeing a story on it in the newspaper.

She went on to say that Grover guided for seven years.  When he began suffering health issues, he needed to retire and her family took him back.  Coincidentally her son had been suffering from some kind of slump, a teen depression.  The dog and her son, spent long hours together just lying in front of the television, her son patting him.  After about three months both recovered.  She feels they healed each other.   I'm glad I wore the shirt that day.  

Friday, August 10, 2012

Treasure at my Local Library-Burlington Public Library Rocks

In between books can be a dismal state for a writer.  You know you have to rewrite soon and are just waiting for the critiques to roll in.  When these do come, you dive down into a further slump of inadequacy until you get excited by the changes that improve the story magically, right before your eyes.  Well, you agonize a lot over the changes too.  Add to my present state is a constant shuttle to Montreal to visit someone close who is terminal.
Simone at Brant Hills Library with the chocolate coin treasure box

But nothing in this world can't be improved by a good book. I asked my Facebook writers for Montreal based stories and The Hangman in the Mirror by Kate Cayley was recommended.  A 2011 publication, I had no faith in it being at bookstores, but my library had a copy.   Did I mention I was watching my grandchildren for the summer? I love Story Hour, although it's really just story half an hour. Still thirty minutes of reading bliss!  Off we went, five year old William and three year old Jadzia and I.
My grandaughter/kittycat/pirate with a library parrot puppet
Brant Hills Public Library is a short walk from our house and we met my eldest grandson's (Hunter) teacher and a bunch of his friends.   There's pingpong, foosball indoors in the community centre that houses the library, outside there's a skateboard park and tennis court.  So 11 year old Hunter joined us.

Joy of joy, the library held a pirate party after the stories.  Activities included walking a plank and landing into a blue beany chair( the ocean) working on a pirate puzzle, perusing some excellent pirate books, making a pirate hat, getting your face painted and watching a pirate cartoon, see the photo.

The Hangman in the Mirror was an excellent read!  Thank you to the librarians who helped me find it. The only copy had been misshelved.  But thank you to all the Burlington librarians and to the TD Summer Reading Programme that come up with such wonderful creative programming.  I had a blast at Pirate Day, I think the kids did too.  Cheered up I await my rewrite notices for What the Dog Showed Us.  But in the meantime I'll read another book I found on the "Of Note" display shelves of my local library.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Staircase Theatre: Harold in the Hammer

Live theatre and the room was filled with young as well as older audience.  I guess because the tickets are well priced $10 for adults, $8 for students, close to curtain time rush seating is free.  However, there were no seats left.  This show followed on the heels of the Hamilton Fringe Festival, the plays of which we attended had plenty of seats.  But again plenty of young people too.   How refreshing.

Scott Lloyod of Flint Improv Co, gave these actors lessons for six week culminating in this spectacle.
A Harold is a segment of an improv show.  The Hammer, I'm told, represents Hamilton.  So what happens is a leader from each group  HUGE Pimpin, Know Konsensus and JJJAWSS, talks to the audience introduces their members and then calls for a word to act as the theme of their performance.  My daughter Jen's group HUGE Pimpin got Canada's Wonderland, my suggestion actually.  I quite enjoyed how Jen turned into an five year old trying to be tall enough for a roller coaster.  Her fellow mom improvee, Becca, became Jen's Mom.  Becca and Jen have know each other since kindergarden.   The  over the top physicality as well as the adlibbing provide wonderful humour.

What a great romp!  But what I like most is that the arts provided enrichment for the participants as well as the audience.  I think the cast had fun preparing, it's therapy for moms usually stuck with kids and their demands all day. The audience had fun watching.  And all at a price competitive to the Silver Screen.

Perhaps we're entering a renaissance age.  Step away from your iPad and computer--not until you've checked what's on at Staircase Theatre. Or your own local theatre.  Then enjoy some live entertainment.