Sunday, March 27, 2011

High Priestess of Procrastination and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Writers are know for the lengths they will go to procrastinate and avoid writing. I was indulging in some pretty high level procrastination techniques yesterday to avoid doing my taxes. Let me clarify that for you dear bloggowers. I don't do my taxes, I have the proverbial 'tax guy' who does them. I compile the receipts because he doesn't want a canvas bag full of loose receipts in three different currencies (due to all the exciting conferences I travelled to last year). 

I hereby present to you, my loyal bloggowers, the list of activities I engaged in to avoid compiling my taxes. You can peruse them as I crown myself the High Priestess of Procrastination. 

  • took delivery of a dresser to replace the one with the slats separating (darn you reclaimed Siberian wood);
  • went out in a snowstorm to take the Christmas wreath off the side of the house and replace it with a spring/Easter themed wreath (get the irony there?!);
  • put in a load of laundry;
  • watched a documentary about Moammar Gadhafi (Note to self: good decision Jan, back in the 1990s, not to name your cat Meow-mar Katafi); 
  • cleaned out two years worth of old heating bills from my filing cabinet; 
  • went on line to register to get heating bills electronically (you're welcome earth day);
  • answered emails and was on facebook and twitter until my eye balls froze in place;
  • opened six months worth of mail (Note to self: Seriously!)
  • dug an inordinate amount of old wax out of a candle holder and lit some candles (you're welcome earth day);  
  • threw out a couple of years worth of Christmas and birthday cards that were still on display - because they were funny (now everyone can stop bugging me about that);
  • did my dishes; 
  • made a grilled cheese sandwich;
  • forgot about the load of laundry; and
  • ate the grilled cheese sandwich (which totally rocked).  

Then I finally got down to compiling my receipts. While it took a while to compile the receipts I have for expenses related to my writing life, I know that it will take far less time to compile the receipts for revenue related to my writing life. Ha, more irony!

Here are a couple of cool videos to watch if you are indulging in procrastination or avoidance behaviour today. 

The first one is about the end of publishing (*yawn*)!

The next one is a flash mob - you know I'm a sucker for flash mobs. It's a flash mob with a message of hope shot in Toronto's Eaton Centre. 


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cupcakes, O Canada, basketball and cats taking over the world

This blog post is all about me bragging ...

On myself for my crazy mad icing skillz - yes, I iced a dozen of these ice-cream cone cupcakes for my friend's daughter's birthday. 
Yum. Pizza looks good too! 
Me bragging on my niece who sang O Canada at the opening and closing ceremonies for a girls hockey tournament. The crowds went wild at the end. She blogs at Tiny Canadian

And me bragging on my nephew who defied gravity and flew through the air to get a hole in one sink this basket.  

Way to go!
Oh, and if you thought for a moment that you could stop be vigilant about cats taking over the world - watch this video. Sure they look like they are asleep curled up on your favourite chair but they are really planning world domination.  We're talking gangs of cats bloggowers! 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

What an ugly purple bathroom reveals about your character

This is a picture of my friend Lyle's bathroom. 

It's purple. 

It's ugly. 

It's an ugly purple bathroom. 

I'm not trash talking his bathroom behind his back. He sent me the picture with this preamble:

Unfortunately, the picture does not do it justice.  The walls are actually a darker purple than what they appear and the non-matching tub is lighter than it appears.  However, I do think it contrasts nicely with the almond sink and toilet and the yellow backsplash surround of the tub.

Why am I telling you all of this and what does it have to do with character development? So many times we describe what a character has no choice about - blue eyes, height, hair colour (okay, maybe we have a choice about that). Instead, describe the characteristics that a character does have choice about - what clothes they wear, possessions they treasure, what they buy, and how they decorate their house. 

The purple bathroom wasn't Lyle's choice. What does it tell us about the character who owned the house before Lyle? What does it tell us about Lyle's choice to keep the purple bathroom? What do your characters' choices reveal about them? Why do I keep asking questions? What does it reveal about my character that I ask a friend to send me a picture of his ugly purple bathrooms and then write a blog post about it? 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Vampires, book shelves and interviews

Judith reading at the Writers Guild of Alberta
Book Lovers Christmas Sale
Judith Graves writes young adult novels to die for. She lives in northern Alberta. It is so far north the forests are filled with paranormal beings - like wolven, not to be confused with werewolves, and vampires who stay awake in the daytime - who knew! She's created the Skinned Series. The first novel in the series, Under My Skin, is currently available.  

Here's a bit about it:

All her parents wanted was for Eryn to live a normal life...

Redgrave had its share of monsters before Eryn moved to town. Mauled pets, missing children. The Delacroix family is taking the blame, but Eryn knows the truth. Something stalks the night. Wade, the police chief's son and Redgrave High's resident hottie, warns her the Delacroix are dangerous. But then so is Eryn--in fact, she's lethal.

But she can't help falling for one of the Delacroix boys, dark, brooding--human Alec. And then her world falls apart. A normal life? Now that's the real fairytale.

I read it curled up in this

It's a great read for young adults. I loved the voice and spunkiness of the protag Eryn. I don't read a lot of vampire books, and I learned a lot about paranormal activity (it's all around us people - be scared, be very scared). My niece took it home to read and will give it to her friend to read (do I sense a word-of-mouth thing happening here!) I love that it is set in northern Alberta and includes Aboriginal myths and stories. It's an all round great read. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot, there are cool graphic images throughout the book. 

Second Skin is Judith's second book and it will come out in the fall. Since my second book Dead Bird through the Cat Door is already out, she interviewed me about what it's like having your second book come out. She'll post the interview Monday on her blog.  

Pop over and read it. I tried to be erudite (note to self: look up the definition of erudite) and I told Judith that she can edit out the part where I can't figure out if she's a woven or a vampire. 

While you give the blog post a read. I'm going to grab something off the wisdom tree bookshelf and read ...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Adapting school presentations or Braille is cool!

Shenaaz Nanji is a long time writer friend, critique partner and a member of the Kensington Writers' Group. She also gave me a great back of the book cover quote for Dead Frog on the Porch and coined the phrase: It's Nancy Drew for the ipod generation. 

Oh, did I forget to mention that she was a Governor General award finalist in 2008 for her young adult novel Child of Dandelions - which pits two teenaged friends on opposite sides of Idi Amin's expulsion of Indian nationals from Uganda. For my bloggowers outside of Canada - the GG is one of the most prestigious literary awards we have here in Canada. Shenaaz is also humble and doesn't like me bragging about her, so I'll stop now. 

She recently did a series of school visits during Literacy Days for Low Vision and Braille Readers/Writers at the Vision Resource Centre in Calgary. I thought it would be interesting to see how she adapted her presentation for her audience. 

She presented stories from her book Indian Tales, and brought drums to increase the auditory content of her presentation

Here's her guest blog post. It starts off like a police report and then goes from there ... 

Author: Shenaaz Nanji
Story: The Drummer Boy from Indian Tales (Barefoot Books
Where: The Vision Resource Centre in Calgary
Theme: Folktales
Verdict: Exciting, Empowering, Enriching. Braille is cool.

Kindergarten to Grade 12 students from different schools in Calgary met at the Vision Resource Centre. They came with infectious smiles, backpacks, canes, and Electronic Braille Readers.

Aha moments:
The centre was hooked up by video conference to the centre in Edmonton so all visually impaired students from Edmonton participated. The medium facilitated face to face interaction of the Calgary and Edmonton students. The children realized there were not alone in facing their unique challenges.

Each student introduced himself/herself and spoke clearly.                                

The teacher introduced the title of the session: "How the Elephant Got It’s Tail."
She went on to say “Of course, we do not have tails, do we?”
One of them said “I do. But the other type. T A L E," he spelled it out loud.

It was interesting to hear their views. They wanted Braille signs inside Elevators, Outside Washroom, on menus in Restaurants. They wanted Braille in Libraries, Book Stores, Drug stores, Toy stores.  They want more Braille books in libraries and signs on the major streets. They wondered: Why are there no Braille signs on videogames, CD’s or on any appliances at home? To my astonishment I realized that even with vision I made mistakes like bursting into the men’s washroom twice.                                                                                       

The climax was when I read "The Drummer Boy" while the students followed the story in Braille. The teacher had the story transcribed into Braille. The printed copies of the story were distributed to each student. As I read along the story, the students followed it word by word, their hands rustling over paper, with great anticipation and trepidation as to what the Drummer Boy would do now. Would he get the drum? It was especially thrilling when everyone chimed in the chorus with such enthusiasm while two children beat the drums.  

Time to workshop. I read them the beginning and middle of "A Thirsty Crow." Students came up with different endings to the story. Laughter, Surprise and Fun!  

Oops moments:

I mispronounced the name of an eight year old student. Boy! She spoke up.

During the reading of my Crow story. I began: “Now you’ve all have seen a crow...” Oops!         

The session ended with presenting me "The Drummer Boy" in Braille. A student showed me how to read Braille. It was tough and a slow process. Got to use both hands and scan line by line, a process called traction. Before I left a student ran up to me. I asked her if she had a question and she gave me a hug. What a warm goodbye on a cold wintry day.