Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Signs you have a reading addiction

They say the art of letter writing is dead. Well, I've been writing letters to my least favourite season. 


Here are a couple of recent ones: 


Dear Winter: You suck. Just saying. 


Dear Winter: I'm just not that into you. In fact, I'm so over you. If you haven't packed up your flakes and left by the end of the day, they will be shovelled into a pile at the end of the walk. 


Okay, you get it - I'm hating winter right now. Except for the fact that you can use the weather as an excuse to curl up in a big soft chair, cup of tea in reach, with an animal companion on your lap and read ... read ... read! 


Hello, my name is Jan and I'm addicted to reading. If you're reading this blog you're probably addicted to reading as well.


I was talking about reading addictions with a similarly inflicted friend. She's been accused of having to read each and every night before being able to get to sleep. 


Excerpt from my email to her:
It’s a shame that your addiction to books is so sever that you need a shot of a couple of chapters each night before bed to help you sleep. Maybe you can adopt a more social acceptable way to fall asleep and take drugs or drink until you slip into a stupor! LOL
She is afraid that her reading addiction is hereditary. 


An excerpt from her email ... 


I'm afraid my addiction is now affecting my child....A chapter a night of Dead Frog on the Porch since she met you.  We "shot" Chapter 10 tonight.....I'm afraid I'll start finding books in her backpack....telltale paper cuts on her hands....her teachers will send home notes about her trying to read in class....egad....and the dreaded day that I hear that she is reading at lunch or recess....LOL


Definite cause for concern. 


Here are other ways to tell that you are addicted to reading:


- you carry a book with you at all times lest there be a break in the action we call life;


- you will only buy a purse if it is big enough to fit a standard sized book (or your kindle);


- you crack open a vampire novel during a break at a business meeting;


- relatives ask you to join the party at family functions and you have to put your book away; 


- you break out into a panic/sweat when you discover, on the bus, that you don't have a book in your book bag and you actually have to look outside and observe life until you get to work;


- you go to NY for five days, bring three books and buy more there;


- Paris, London, NY, Tokyo, small town on the bald butt prairies - first thing you do is look for a book store. 


- you keep buying books even though your to-be-read shelf is heaving like mine;


Elvis perches on the next book I will read on my to-be-read shelf
- even your animal companions have started reading!

You know I can't read with out my glasses!
Cosmo - awesome kat companion to my friend Ruth and her son Graeme!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

It must be book launch season!

There are a few distinct seasons in Canada - Fall: ushered in by Thanksgiving with awesome amounts of turkey, stuffing and the near famous Skor Cheesecake my niece and I make! 
Well, that went fast! 

My demented halloween cat! 
That is followed quickly by halloween at which time I affix my demented halloween cat decoration to the side of my house and my small neighbours show up on my step and ask if I have any sidewalk chalk decorating needs that they can fulfill.  
Then the leaves begin to fall and as the nights grow longer and your facebook events tab is filled up with events you know it is the start of another season in Canada: book launch season! 

Here is a recent snap of my to be read shelf (don't show them the other shelf where you started a pile of books you've borrowed from your y/a author friends Jan and don't talk about the books you continue to take out of the library!) You'll see lots of titles written by my local writing peeps and many more. 
Heaving with words ... to be read! 

Which is why I instituted the rule that I can't buy more books unless they are written by my friends (or are for research purposes). Said rule has been broken countless times since -- baby steps.  

Well, I have no shortage of friends who write books so there is no fear of that shelf being clear for a long time! 

Here's a short list of my writing peeps launches coming up, in this, the Canadian season of book launches.   



First on the docket is Chris Turner's collection of literary non-fiction essays: How to Breathe Underwater. Wednesday October 8th, 6 pm - 9 pm, Shelf Life Books 1302-4th Street SW.  



Second on the docket is Lori Hahnel's launch of her new novel After You've Gone (Thistledown Press). It's Thursday October 9th from 7-9:30 at Memorial Park Library 12th Ave @ 2 st. SW Calgary. There will be musical guests and refreshments (that's writer code for wine!). 

Let's hear it for some pretty stellar cover designs!

And of course I can't forget my children's author/illustrator peeps!

The Young Alberta Book Society is having a Smorgasbook (substitute books for food and you get where they are going with this)!



Smorgasbook!

A Buffet of Youth Literature

Join the young Alberta Book Society for a showcase of ten new children's and YA books by Albertan authors.

November 12, 2014
Book sales start at 6:30, the showcase presentation starts at 7pm. 

Whitemud Crossing Library Theatre, 4211-106 St. NW Edmonton
Attendance is free. Donations gratefully accepted at the door.

Marty Chan, Natasha Deen, Carolyn Fisher, Joan Galat, Georgia Graham, Larry Loyie, Lorna Schultz Nicholson, Diane Mae Robinson, Jim Sellers, and Karen Spafford-Fitz will be presenting their new works. Copies will be available for sale.

Solid line up of writers and illustrators of books in a wide range of genres and age groups. 

Are you thinking what I'm thinking? Christmas shopping made easy! 

Plus too many launches to list here - check the events page of your local independent book store for more launches! Coming to a book store near you!

And next time, leave a slice of cheese cake for me, eh! Jeez!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Keys to being a successful writer

There's a lot of talk on the internet about how to become a successful writer. Nothing new here: butt-in-chair time, steely determination and persistence, ongoing craft development, and a social media presence are some of the elements needed.

But I'm going to tell you the other things you need to become a successful writer:

1) Warm socks and a cup of tea. Because let's face it, if you're toes are cold then nothing is going to get written and if you're parched it will be hard to summon up any empathy for your protag;










2) an editor that will shred your prose with razor sharp acuity;
But Stubby I liked that adverb! 

3) A second editor that will make you work through distractions and force you to see through the cat hair to the essence of your story;
Get off the key board Sprite 



4) Licorice. Just because it's licorice;




5) The other essential food group for writers and lots of it;



6) A little irony to throw at the life of a writer; and

I like my irony with a side of cheese!
7) great, supportive writing friends to share the irony of the writing life!

Raise a glass of irony to a supportive writing community! 

I've certainly found a supportive writing community here through the Young Alberta Book Society, the Writers' Guild of Alberta, and internationally through the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Book launch season is coming up, support your local and international writing peeps!

And now that you know how to be a successful writer -- go forth and write! 

Forsooth, is this a cup of tea I see before me? 


Warm and milky, just the way I like it! 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

How a cookie is like a plot



In grade four I had a spelling book that had a recipe for Thumbprint cookies. What’s a spelling book? And why didn’t you just use spell check? you ask.

Hold on, let me get my Roy Rodgers & Dale Evans lunch box, time travel back to grade four and answer that question. Clearly, spell check, and the world wide interwebz hadn’t yet been invented by aliens.                                                                          

Why my spelling book had a cookie recipe is an even better question.  

So, the assignment was to go home and make Thumbprint cookies. What’s a Thumbprint cookie? It’s a cookie that you press a thumbprint into (hand sanitizer wasn't invented either!) and then fill the resulting crater with jam. My big sis and I made the cookies.

Nice story Jan, how does this relate to writing?

Hold on, stick with me, just need to finish this cookie that I got at Lena’s Italian Market.

Every kid made the cookies from the same recipe but they were all different. 

Just like the plot of a book. 

All books need a plot and plot devices, but you can take the same story idea, give it to five different authors and you’ll have five different stories. 

So, write the story you want to write – it is unique to you. Don’t write what you think is popular right now in the market – unless you want to write that.

And don’t read spelling books looking for cookie recipes.    

Monday, June 30, 2014

Oh, Oh Canada!


Chateau Lake Louise Canada Day 2012
Yes, it's that time of year again when Canadians en mass have a barbeque, drink beer and discuss what makes them Canadian - yes, July 1st is Canada Day! 


Time to show some of my favourite representations of Canadian identity through the symbols of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Captain of the Starship Enterprise and, of course, beer and mountains


Join me for a walk down Canadian identity lane:


First the Canadian Please song (song & video produced by Julia Bentley & Andrew Gunadie) where they accuse you of wanting to be a Canadian... please!  



Canadians take credit for many things, the invention of basketball, insulin and Captain James T. Kirk. William Shatner gives a nod to his spoken word past with this rendition of O Canada. 




Here's Oh ... Canada by Classified (they take a poke at those lame awesome Heritage Moments, then they go all rap - Oh, Oh Canada!).  




And finally what anthropological analysis of Canadian identity would be complete without identifying ourselves in juxtaposition to a dominant society (read: what makes us Canadian is that we're different from Americans)! 


I Am Canadian! (yes, I am!)




Enjoy Canada Day everyone, eh!?

Sidewalk chalk art by neighbours Clare & Thomas!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Be the egg encrusted fork!


Writing a novel is like doing the dishes. 

Just when you think they’re done, just when the last of the grimy sudsy water gets sucked down the drain, just when you’ve wiped dry your water logged hands – someone shows up with an egg encrusted fork they found in the basement. You can either choose to ignore it or you stop up the sink, run the water, get some suds going, plunge your prune-like hands in, and start all over again. 

A manuscript is like that. It’s never done until it’s between two covers. 

While you’re still doing the dishes, writing the novel – you be the egg encrusted fork to your writing. 

That problem that you know is there, but want to ignore - that's the last fork.  

Don’t just put it in the sink and forget about. You pick off that egg with your nail, scrub it with the little scrunchy-wash pad thingy, and wipe it clean. 

Sure you feel like leaving it in the sink, for next time, for someone else to clean up. Like a member of your critique group. Like the agent or editor you don’t yet have. 

No one is going to get the gunk out between the prongs of your manuscript but you.

Be the egg encrusted fork to your writing. 

Just when you think your manuscript is done, put your mechanical pencil on the line and apply everything you’ve learned in every book, in every workshop, and in every blue pencil session. 

Apply what you’re learned about tension on every page, showing – not telling, realistic dialogue, flawed, yet human characters, plot, setting, pacing, grammar, and scrub - scrub until we the reader, not only don’t see any encrusted egg, we never knew it was there.

That’s your job as a writer. 

Doing the dishes … get someone else to do them!   

  

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Unicorns, Rainbows, & Cupcakes or Where I get my inspiration!


Maybe it's because I write middle-grade mysteries about scientists creating giant frogs (Dead Frog on the Porch) or a slightly crazed-Scottish-Shakespeare-quoting owner of the bird sanctuary who's killing birds (Dead Bird through the Cat Door). 

But as a writer, the question I get asked most often is: 'where do you get your inspiration?'

Once asked this question I usual gaze skywards searching for a double rainbow and mumble something about unicorns, rainbows, and cupcakes. 

Or I give the cliched answer that I draw inspiration from everything around me. Which isn't really a cliche if you think about it. 

Is it just me? 

Am I surrounded by weird, unusual and unique things or do I just notice them? 

Take this for example. It's a sign at the local electronic recycling place. 

Seriously people, you can't recycle your children!
So, what does this even mean? No recycling of children - that's pretty clear. But microwaves are excepted - so if you put your child in the microwave, they'll make an exception and you'll be able to recycle them?! Maybe they mean microwaves are 'accepted.' 

As I unsurreptitiously took the photo the manager asked if I needed any help. (No, but clearly you do if people are dropping off their kids to be recycled). I told him that I was taking a picture of the sign because it was funny. He assured me that it was true and that kids climb into the recycling bin. Then I tried to clarify the 'accepted'/'excepted' issue and he told me he didn't know anything about that. 

Tru dat.    

Then we have my newest pet - no care and feeding - you just have to squeeze it until it's head (or other body parts) threaten to explode. My nephew, knowing how quirky I am, knew it would be the perfect Christmas present. 

Purple Squishy Dude

Who wouldn't be inspired by this purple squishy dude who I can squeeze, stretch out and manipulate to my tactile heart's content!  

He loves my books! 

And he glows in the dark!
Okay, get a load of this sign at a local pet store: 


Okay, walk me through this. You're sitting at home with your favourite boa constrictor, you figure she needs a little outing and you think, I know, let's go to the pet store. So, you wrap her around your shoulders like a reptile stole, you hop in the car and head out. 

Really?! People! Behave! 

Final one. On the window of a local hamburger restaurant:

Hmmmmm bacon! 
This one is self-explanatory. I guess I won't be applying since I'm a cat person and probably a flake as well! 

Inspiration is everywhere - you just have to notice it! 

Unicorns, rainbows, and cupcakes!