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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        Crush. Candy. Corpse by Sylvia McNicoll



          Crush. Candy. Corpse


          by Sylvia McNicoll



            Giveaway ends August 25, 2012.


            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.




      Enter to win

Monday, July 23, 2012

Typing "THE END" and the self-edit process

A lot of writers don't type "THE END" after finishing a first draft.  Ah, but it's so nice and dramatic.  So Hollywood.  And so I do, in all caps with spaces between the letters.  Some old school writers perhaps type - 30 -, a signal to the imagined printing staff that the machine has actually finished spewing out the book, that the printer has rolled out the last page.  But whatever the writer does, we all know it's just the beginning of a different process.

Lately we've all been rushing to Facebook to proclaim, hurray, just finished writing the first draft.  That's a new step in the process.  And then all our writing friends offer some congratulatory remarks which are great and needed to steel ourselves for the next stages which may involve "critiquing" or really telling the writer where she went wrong which can be a bit of a downer.

I left the book for the weekend. Today, step one was to reread the last chapter because I tend to rush the dramatic scenes much in the same way as I read:  I gulp the passages.  My first bitsy edit was to paint in more details to slow it down a bit.

Next, something new, I'm going to get Tara, the South African voice, to read the first chapter and last together.

In the past I've always read those chapters silently to myself.  I want to make sure I end the same book that I started, that somehow the beginning and end provide a good frame for a strong story.

After that, I reread the whole book, hopefully in as close to one sitting as life allows me. After another week or so of fidgeting with the manuscript, when I'm satisfied that there is consistency and continuity in character details and plot, and when I'm happy with my second coat of details, I need to forward it to a writing partner.  Usually Gisela Sherman (Grave Danger) or Lynda Simmons (Island Girl).  Depending on their response I rewrite and forward it the partner who hasn't read the first draft.

There are times when a book goes totally wrong along the way.  Then I rewrite and ask all kinds of different people to look at it.  I try to save young test readers for last.

So I guess I should really write:

                                    T H E   B E G I N N I N G

Sunday, July 15, 2012

When do you find time to write? Joanne Levy's Small Medium at Large Launch

Saturday, instead of writing, I enjoyed lunch with Wendy Whittingham, illustrator of Miss Wondergem's Dreadfully Dreadful Pie by Valerie Sherrard and then together we headed off to Joanne Levy's launch of Small Medium at Large at Bryan Prince's Book Store in Hamilton.

Try to spot all the famous writers in this audience.  I see Gillian Chan and Patricia Storms. Somewhere else milling about is Jocelyn Shipley and Lynda Simmons.   Wendy Whittingham's the one in the white shirt and long brown hair.  After the reading she wanted to ask Joanne some questions.  One of the most interesting was "When do you find time to write?"

Now the answer should be easy.  If you're a full time writer, no outside job to take you away, you just get up and write all day.

But the real truth is the person who stays at home inherits most of the household tasks, waiting for the repairman who doesn't show when he/she's supposed to and interrupts every two minutes when he/she does. Looking after the sick child or spouse or parent.  Feeding the family.  Cleaning up after the feed.  Walking the dog.  Putting the laundry away. Keeping the house in order.  Getting the car serviced.

Add to that your own personal maintenance program:  exercise, hygiene, doctor and dentist appointments.  

But let's face it, most people even if they don't write or work from home have to find away to do all this too.  So writers claim to struggle with all these time demands when they're off galavanting to their friends' book launches.

What writers really need to do if to find a solitude in which to write.  If you need total quiet, then you need to pack yourself off to the library where there's usually even free wireless.  If you need white noise, a hubbub that doesn't involve you, you can go to the coffee shop. A friend of mine likes to hide herself at her cottage for a few weeks to work full throttle near about the middle of a project.

My secret is that I'm an opportunist. (Oh yeah and I can ignore any of the afore mentioned time suckers,
house cleaning especially.)  I have the good fortune and focus to be able to write on planes, in cars and in short snatches of time, for example while waiting for supper to go up in flames.

So my advice to Wendy and all creators: steal the time.  Make a list of all the things you have to do and pick out which ones you will ignore until you have a couple of hours to write.  Switch this list around a bit so that if Monday you ignore your spouse, Tuesday you should ignore your kids or your mother, Wednesday you should forget about showering, dressing and your trip to the gym.  Thursday don't clean  the kitchen or make your bed (easily an hour there), Friday  don't cook, that can be your diet day since you neglected exercise on Wednesday.  Saturday head for your friend's book launch.  Sunday--that's your day of rest--you can fulfill all the other demands of your life and forget writing.

Good luck.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Ten+ Tips for a Successful Signing (YA Children's books)

I know what you're thinking, I'm not signing a board game.  It's Crush. Candy. Corpse plus my other backlist.

Let's first establish what a successful signing is.  Some bookstore managers tell me sales of 20 is what they hope for, some say 30.  Assuming a 10% royalty of retail price and a $15 book for ease of math, that means you would earn about $45 for a four hour appearance.  So we know success can't be measured in those numbers, it must be defined by the people you meet during the signing, hopefully kids who will love you forever.  Yes they will grow out of your books but they'll buy them for their kids. Or perhaps for nostalgia sake. Or because their house burnt down.  Teachers replace books because they've gone mouldy.  I've lived long enough to enjoy all of these kinds of repeat sales.  Educators, librarians and engaged parent and grandparents are also wonderful contacts to make.  But we're getting ahead of ourselves.  What kind of things do I do, and therefor you can too, to make sure you get at least those numbers the bookstore aims for?  Here's my ten top tips:

1)Engage in the new S & M for writers.  No not reading Shades of Grey, I mean posting on Facebook, Twitter and emailing all your friends who live in the area of the store you're signing at.

Let me take this opportunity to thank Andrea Wayne Von Koningslow, picture book illustrator and writer extraordinaire of How Do You Read to a Rabbit? and many more.  She showed up and bought books for herself and her daughters at my pre Canada Day signing in Yorkdale Mall.  Also she called out to passing eye-averting strangers.  "I'm buying three books of hers.  This is a fabulous writer."

2)Get your hair and nails done, buy a new outfit. (Yes Arthur, Shane, Eric, Ken, John even you)  Gives you the confidence to approach those complete eye-averting strangers ducking around you. This may also help counter the pre anxiety levels you experience thinking no one will even be in the store never mind anyone ducking around your table. I wish I'd tried nail decals.  They're a vaguely new and give you something to discuss with kids, besides your stories, so they can fall in like with you enough to buy the book.
Amazingly I can sign with no pen or hands!

3) Make or buy some treats.  No peanuts obviously.  My current favourite is  the Mars Bars Square, The recipe is on my Pinterest site.  While they are chocolatey and messy and, call for eight chocolate bars thereby denting that $45 profit, they help me get into shout out mode.  So instead of calling "Books for sale, signed by the author," I can say,  "Would you like to try a Mars Bars Square?"  Once I'm warmed up I can add,  "They're to promote my latest book.  Would you like me to tell you about it?"

4) Bring stuff to hand out, autographable stuff. Preferably with the image of one of your books but it could be a book mark from backlist, could be your business card with a white space to sign.  Those are good, actually, 'cause the reader can contact you after.  I bring literacy and writing talk tip sheets.  When your Mars Bars Squares run out you can call out to parents, "Would you like some tips to get your kids to read?"

5) Confirm with the bookstore contact several times that you are indeed coming along with the date and time.  Nothing funny about them totally forgetting.  Must have been hard on that one Chapters Store manager when I didn't show on the date they thought they had asked me.  Calling me on the day didn't help when I was in Vancouver.

6) Arrive early so you can check out the location of the latest reading must haves, either the stacks of Hunger Games or the various Shades of Grey.   The bathroom, you want to know where it is but so do all the eye-averting strangers.

7) Make sure you know the instore specials so you can promote your book with the "On Sale" feature of the day.   "If you buy a Canada Day mug, chocolate, card, etc, you get 20% off my book."

8)  Parents love to defer purchases.  "Lets just look around and then come back later."
"You bought the Hunger Games trilogy today, we can should come back another time for this book"  Develop a strategy to incur a sense of urgency in them, real estate agents are fabulous at this, and let me know when you've perfected it.  "If you buy one today, you'll get my autograph.  Teachers love when your kids do a book report on a Canadian author, and if they have a signed copy...well, guaranteed A+."  As I said, let me know if you find a better one.

9)  Get someone to take lots of photographs.  You can offer to email photos to the potential buyer, if
Jan Slerpe created this sketch from one of his wonderful photos.  His picture taking seemed to attract crowds too.
they sign a sheet with their email.

10) Believe that your book offers the best story for your target audience.  That tween carrying the Hunger Games or sadly the Shades of Grey trilogy can also read your novel and love it.  You just need  to coax them into buying it.  And that's why you're there.

And the +plus tip?  Find a way to enjoy yourself.  Bring your laptop and write--you know everyone loves to interrupt you while you're creating.

Good luck, we all need it.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Finding the desk in your messy office. A how-to guide.

Arthur Slade (author of Island Doom) inspired me.  Okay maybe he shamed me.  He posted photos of his treadmill desk and his lonely regular desk in a blog about the benefits of tread writing.  They both looked...tidy. I've been avoiding my treadmill and my office in general because the clutter in it has multiplied like tribbles. Only not as cute.

 I know I should probably appear on a reality tv show where they do an intervention.  And I've edited enough articles on organizing your home or hiring an organizer that I feel I should be an expert on this topic.

So I thought I'd break it down in manageable steps and I'll lay them out for you all in case you suffer from overwhelming mess too.  (I always thought every writer suffered from this disability till I saw Arthur's desk. ) Remembering that an organizer charges about $250 an hour and only stays for an hour at a time because most people can't endure more.  Here goes:

Cleaning the office.

Step 1  Take “before” photo.  Post it on Facebook, you know you can't back away from cleaning up then.

Step 2  Pick up all  paper and take it to recycling before the truck shows.  Even the huge card that says you are the best author in the world.  Even the newspaper that has that nice photo of you.  Really do you need three copies. And the origami crane, castle, octagon your biggest fan folded for you.

Distraction #1 Jackappoo Mortie decides I must be taking him for a walk since I'm heading outside to the blue box.  What can I do?  Half an hour later I'm back.

Distraction # 2  Oh, thats where that PLR form is.  I really have to update it with my latest novel crush.candy.corpse.  Public Lending Rights requires my ISN number.  But I have a hard cover and paper edition.  I must go on to the website to find out if I need to register both...oh, I missed the May deadline.  I make myself a note on my Icalandar to register next February.

Distraction #3 While I'm on the computer I check email, Facebook and Twitter.  For good measure I do a google search on crush. candy.corpse in case someone's said anything nice lately.  Someone did, I retweet.

Step 3  Take box of books to the cellar.  First I label the box, crush.  Will I forget that they're my books and look in some day for  orange pop?

Step 4  Collect all the Lego and put it in a box on another floor of the house.

Distraction # 4  Answer the phone and chat with author friend Estelle Salata (The Happy Journal of Tori Edwards) Make big plans for a writer lunch tomorrow. I deserve it, I'm working very hard today. An hour later I'm back.

Step 5  Sweep desk and floor.  Bonus!  I find pens and a pencil sharpener.

Distraction #5 I sharpen every pencil I can find and place it in my green jar against the eventuality of never finding that sharpener again.

Distraction #6  Sharpening pencils makes a person hungry!  I make a snack. Oh heck it's close enough to lunch.  I enjoy a turkey sandwich. "What?" Mortie barks.  "I want turkey too."  I feed the dog.

Step 6  An hour later:  Wash desk and floor with vinegar and water.  Dry desk.  It's starting to almost look good!
Step 7  Take "after" photo of desk.  True the whole office is not perfect yet.  You can't see all the author props piled up on top of the cupboard in this photo.  My spare brain, my rubber chicken, three dog stuffies, a snare pole, a tiger and an identicane.  Still it may never be this clean again and we must celebrate the steps along the way!  The floor looks like floor now too but it's not what we in the business call a real photo op. Just imagine dark brown parket with a tile missing.

Now the goal of this was to get up on the treadmill and write!  Instead (woof, woof) the mail carrier came and I filled out some addendum contracts on my luxuriously clean and spacey desk.  It was very nice. Then I walked to the postoffice to mail the contracts and by then I was so exhausted I sat at the dining room table where I almost always write and banged out 1,200 words.  Twelve hundred not some paltry one thousand words! 


Sunday, June 17, 2012

And the winner is...

Sarah Kim from Cleveland Elementary Public School in North Vancouver, B.C.
A while back ago, in desperation I drew my own courtroom sketch for my power point presentation on my new book.  My local librarian, Laura Williams, suggested taking an art class.  Does this answer the commonly asked author  question do you own illustrate your own books?  So for the last three author presentations of crush. candy. corpse I created a contest.  Draw a better courtroom scene than the author's rendition.  The winner gets...fame, fortune, all my appreciation and...drum autographed copy of crush.candy.corpse.   Why did I choose this drawing over all the others?  I love the eyes, there's a Japanese anime look about them.  The characters' expressions add a touch of humour.  Yes, yes, this drawing just made me smile.  Thank you Sarah!  The book will go out in the mail tomorrow.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Imagine in the Park- A different kind of success

Great props, all nicely displayed and labelled. We did have fun.

How do you prepare for a drop-in event - one that likely won't draw your demographic audience? I made Mars Bars Squares,brought a spare brain, always handy, a coffee bean necklace, some feathers, a rubber chicken,  three squawking stuffed birds, some sample books, my laptop, a blindfold, an identicane and a portable sound system.  Left my ego at home.
Not a Robert Munsch routine-I'm mugging my eldest daughter's favourite pose for my son in law.
At this point I should mention I was starting to get a sore throat.  The sound system I strapped on was a crutch.  I really never needed the volume. It rained and  the workshops and blue pencils we had envisioned turned into one on one writing chats with kids.   We were totally en-tented and the sound of the drops rattling on the canvas was very soothing.  Within minutes I'd sold my sample crush.candy.corpse.  I wasn't even trying or I would have bought more.

The laptop was a brilliant backup as I could open up any of my power point presentations complete with my book trailers and show them on an individual basis. I didn't draw blockbuster hundreds, but I talked with such neat kids. Showed them my "sensation stations" so they could think about using their five senses when writing.  And I spoke with their parents, handing out tip sheets I'd created on literacy.  One mother and daughter are definitely going to check out my favourite bookstore A Different Drummer.
Another Iranian boy returned a few minutes later to ask for some more writing tip.

Such a wonderful opportunity to talk about the excitement of writing with one child at a time.
I was sorry for the hard working arrangers  and volunteers of this festival that more kids didn't turn out.  But at the end of the day I felt such deep satisfaction.  And I couldn't have articulated why until I interviewed a writer, Jacqueline Guest, author of Outcasts of River Falls from Bragg Creek, Alberta this morning.  She talked about how writing isn't all about the crappy royalty cheques. (I chuckled at that one.)  It's about passing on the magic of reading.  That moment when you connect with a young reader and turn them on.  This festival gave me the opportunity to pass on my passion for writing.    I'd say I saw the magic wash over at least twenty young writers.  A pretty good number, I'd say.  Thank you to Patti Cannon and all the Imagine in the Park volunteers.  Pretty sure Ryan will save the world. Thanks also to the parents who took the time to give their kids this experience.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

SEEK School Campus

First they visited me, then I visited their campus--that's the Saturna Ecological Education Classrooom. The students were back at their own home base schools which is why the campus looks deserted.

 I like the chore list
 Not sure I could sleep this high up.

I hope to return sometime for a sleepover writing camp.  No wireless devices are allowed.  Guess I could live without wifi for three days.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

School Visit on Saturna Island

Canada Council through The Writers' Union of Canada funded my airfare to Vancouver in order to perform "National Readings" at Capilano and Lynn valley (Thank you, thank you) but we tacked on a trip to a fab writer Rachael Preston and she organized a random drive by author visit at Saturna Island School where the SEEC (Saturna Island Environmental Education Classroom) students dropped by from their unusual campus.
These kids, from anywhere in BC, opt to study for three days (and nights!) a week in a rainforest environment.  They cook for themselves, tidy, plant things, create and study environmental issues.

The Saturna School Building
Keen SEEK Learners

At this point they realize my friend Rachael is taking their photo with the same farmer as on screen

Feather similes

On this day they learned about writing process instead. On the fly, feather and paint chip simile creation as well as reading script drew some great volunteers.  For a change we had two young men play the parts of Sunny, usually a girl, and Cole.  Note the red hair extensions and coffee bean necklaces to help get the young man into character.

Very keen learners eager to read my work now.  Lots of fun.  Thanks to Rachael's organizing and Canada Council's funding some very engaged learners enjoyed something totally different.

Gender switching while reading a script

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Embracing Your Inner Douche

At the Writers' Union AGM for a talk on Promoting You Book-Tricks of the Trade,  here's Dorris Heffron and Richard Scrimger reading his bio together, she forgot her glasses.  The pearl of wisdom he shared?  Embrace your inner douche, be that guy you hate who says "Hey, buy my book."

Margriet Ruurs suggested that we think of all the markets for our books, non-traditional ones too, for example she sent her chicken picture book to the egg marketing board and encouraged them to host contests and give her books away.

Zoe Grams, publicist from Douglas McIntyre, shared some basic premises of a marketing platform. "Find the benefit for others."  What specific value does your book offer?

The workshop was entertaining as well as informative.  Hey writers, you all should have come to Vancouver this weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

crush.candy.corpse Draw Courtroom Scene Contest

Okay, this image answers the question do you illustrate your own books.

But photographs are not allowed in a trial so newspapers often use sketches.  Who would do the sketch for me? Photocopying one from a paper would violate copyright and besides there is no sketch that would give my details. I illustrated this one myself.

Now I'm asking my talented readers.  Submit a drawing of this scene (I recommend you read the first chapter to cue you, scroll down to an older post and you can read it here) and send me it postmarked no later that June 10th.  Address:  Sylvia  McNicoll 2646 Cavendish Drive, Burlington, Ontario, L7P 3V7.

You could win an autographed crush.candy.corpse if I use your drawing to replace my own in my presentation.  Make sure you give me your address so I can send your prize to you.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dream Readings at North Vancouver Library

All hail to Canada Council for funding these terrific opportunities for me to meet young readers at Lynn Valley Mail Library  and Parkgate Branch
Perhaps there was one dark and scary moment when I reached into my bag and found the connector to my old laptop instead of the one for my MacBook Air.  One moment when I thought oh great, no powerpoint to guide me through my talk.  Am I ever going to have to wing this presentation.  But then I took a breath and rummaged some more.  Of course I had packed the new connector too.
Explaining the concept of your brain as a toaster, what you put in will come out in your writing.  Note the spare brain in my hand.
Everything else about the  readings went perfectly.One of my new favourite librarians Alison Campbell gave me a fabulous intro and Ross Road ( I kept hearing students say Across the Road)  grade 6 and 7 students were so attentive and enthusiastic, the visit felt like a text book author visit, that shining example you hope for each time you step into a library, gym or auditorium.  I handing out parting gifts to the kids who volunteered, autographed postcards of the cover of crush. candy.corpse., suggesting they could sell them on Ebay.  During Q & A period, one enterprising young writer asked how much I thought they would go for.  I answered that if he could hold out till I won the Governor General Award or died, he could probably get more for it. He seemed to consider this answer seriously.  Another question had to do with my crow/legal clerk, eagle/judge and raven/lawyer simile in the courtroom scene opening. I had previously said that a brain was like a toaster.  See the image above.  The young writer asked me if I had drawn my similes from Edgar Allen Poe and told me he had compared lawyers to ravens and judges to eagles.  Wow.  I haven't read Poe since I was 19, maybe it had finally popped out of my brain like over toasted bread.

Using your passions in writing or perhaps the agony of the Q & A
Next we enjoyed a delicious lunch at The Bistro.  "We" included Norma Charles, author of many fine books most recently Run Marco Run, had driven me to the readings, taken these great photos.
New fans, I hope.  Note at least two male writers in the photo.
Afterwards we headed for Capilano Public Library with another 60 or so attendants.

Creating similes and metaphors using feathers, or just tickling yourself.
Again extremely attentive students, wildly enthusiastic volunteers--no one asked for quotes on Ebay prices for my autograph.  Who were some of the famous people I'd met? With seconds left, the final question was:  Who was my favourite author?  And the answer was...
Conducting my paint chip and feather simile orchestra.

New fans, great writing questions.

Norma Charles!  Thanks again to Canada Council.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Chapters Pointe Claire Signing

Thirty to forty books, that's what Deb Aubin says authors who do any kind of promotion usually sell at her high travel Pointe Claire Chapters.  In Ontario 20, I'm told, is a good figure. The gauntlet is laid.  
The glove thrown down.
I become obnoxious on Facebook and Twitter.  I post on my high school page. On CANSCAIP's group page.  On Montreal OuiCANSCAIP.  I send my old friends in Montreal emails. I make Mars Bars Squares.  At the very least you can eat your lonely sorrows away if it turns out no one shows.
No worries.

Monique Polak breezed in like paparazzi, snapping photos and interviewing everyone, creating a nice buzz.  As usual, I met great kids and other readers. A high school teacher who will share with colleagues from another three high schools. One of my best friends from high school, Rose Alyanakan came with her mom and daughter.  (It was Mother's Day)  I hadn't seen her since I was 16. I felt lonely for my own mother for a few moments. Other high school friends came.  Best friends from my previous corporate job visited.  A business writer stopped to chat about creating with words and intrigued bought a book herself.    The winning blockbuster figure? Twenty-nine.

Oh!  So close!  Happily every author knows that numbers don't tell the real story.  It was a complete success.