Josephine's Dream Reading

Josephine's Dream Reading
Trying to look like Josephine Baker - and failing miserably!

Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls
Conquering the Beast

Friday, November 9, 2012

Details, details. But not too many.

I've been working on my historical novel about smugglers. I have to keep reminding myself that this is fiction, and not a history book (thank you Stephen King for reminding me). Authentic details - such as the price of oatmeal and bar soap - should not take centre stage. No one is interested in reading two pages describing how sheep are sheared, or how barrels are made. In the meantime I'm actually excited as I write, as if I'm the reader not the writer (well, I guess I'm both).
          I can't wait to find out what happens next?
          I love it.

Friday, October 26, 2012

News and Information

Great news. I just found out that an audio version of Can Hens Give Milk? is in the works.
Also - artists keep asking me how to get into the book illustration business. I'm not an artist, but I do know how this works and how it doesn't work.

Do not ask a writer to collaborate on a book unless you are both well known in the field. Publishers like to be in control and to match a writer with an illustrator.

Do go to the local library, or bookstore, and find this year's edition of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market.* See what each publisher wants, and how to submit samples of your work - and then go for it.

Do ask an illustrator for advice and tips.

*This is where the apostrophes are in some of the Google sites. It's a bit ambiguous, isn't it? I've settled on the above.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Word on the Street

Vancouver held WOTS downtown today around the central branch of the VPL. It was a good feeling to walk around in the sunshine and see books, publishers, writers, librarians, teachers and readers. An inspiring afternoon.
And it's also Sukkot, the Jewish thanksgiving/harvest festival. We can be thankful for food and books. It's all nourishment. My friend Pam lives in Malta and her village of Zejtun just celebrated an Olive Festival. Now and then we need to be grateful for all the good things we have.
Enjoy reading, writing and eating. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Stephen King?!

Well, yes. Imagine that. My writer/editor friend Cynthia Heinrichs suggested I might like Stephen King's book about writing: On Writing: a memoir of the craft it's called. Catchy title, you say. But he gets right to the point. I just started reading it because Cynthia's brilliant novel  Under the Mound is too heavy for me to carry on the bus if I want to shop and read. I actually laughed out loud! People on the bus ignored me, thank goodness. I'm only up to chapter one (there are three prefaces) but at this point I can say he's got my attention. His childhood memories are oddly like my own. And he's obviously making a point that your impressions and experiences colour your writing. In other words Pay Attention. Haven't I always said that?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thank You CCBC!

Can Hens Give Milk? has made the CCBC list of Best Books for Kids and Teens for Spring 2012. Thank you to the Canadian Children's Book Centre for this honour, Joe Weissmann for illustrating my story, and Orca Books for publishing it in 2011.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Art Inspires - and so does a walk in the park.

Yesterday I saw the Matisse (and others) exhibit at the VAG. It's from the Cone Sisters' collection in Baltimore. There were paintings and small bronzes, a few sketches and drawings and a lot of inspiration. Colour, texture, fun, joy, characters, nature. All these elements ought to be found in writing too. Can you feel the material, smell those flowers, taste that fruit? How does the cool water feel on your ankles as you step into that clear, yet dark pool ... ? Oh, wait a minute it's not a pool, it's a painting of a pool. But see how it shimmers? When you read a story do you feel that you are part of it? Can you smell the dinner cooking or feel the water as you wade into the sea? Are you walking or sitting or talking with the characters? When you write a story do you think others will feel as if they have stepped into the pages, into the story? If not, what's missing? What could you change or add that would make the story come alive?
I walked in the Van Dusen Gardens today. The lily ponds were like something Monet would paint. The gardens are crowded with wild flowers and 'tame' flowers, all colours mixed together, vibrant and fragrant. Fragile dragon flies, gossamer winged, flitted everywhere, but especially around the lily pads. Their slender red, blue and green bodies briefly hovered over open blooms then, sped away.
The splash of the fountain, the call of a bird, voices just around the corner chatting excitedly in a language I don't understand. Ah yes, it's tourist season.
I tuck it all away. It might come in useful one day. And if not, I still had two wonderful, summer days.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Writing, writing, always writing. Or reading.

I'm writing two sequels to a book that isn't actually out there yet. I love the characters so much that I want them to continue doing funny things and having adventures. But don't worry, I'm still working slowly on my graphic novel - and a couple of other things too.

I've been reading a grown up book - for a change - and loving it. It's the sequel (those sequels again!) to Blood Rain by Michael Dibdin. This is called And Then You Die. You know how I love murder mysteries. The sequel is an easier read, and it has more humour. The reader knows a lot of things that the main character doesn't know. He has trouble understanding English idioms (he only speaks Italian), but we don't, so we get the jokes. I'm really enjoying the book. And every book you read is somehow important for your writing. You'd be surprised at where you'll find a bit of inspiration. I even find it in movies and plays and snippets of conversation overheard on the bus.
Keep those eyes and ears open, fellow writers.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Washington Children's Choice Picture Book Award Nominee - Yippee!

I'm so proud to be on another short list (of 20, so it's not that short). Can Hens Give Milk? is being recognized a little south of here by our neighbours in Washington State.
Meanwhile, I'm doing my best to keep focus on my current projects. I hope all you writers out there are not letting the summer prevent you from working on your works in progress. Of course, in Vancouver we have had enough rainy days to keep me glued to the computer. I did venture out, one sunny day, to UBC library to borrow a book - research for one of my stories. I have to face the fact that my possible (probable) ADHD makes it difficult for me to focus on one manuscript at a time. But every day I work on something. Right now I'm having fun with two sequels to a story that's been accepted for publication. The publisher might not want the sequels, but I'm enjoying writing them.

I attended a graphic novel writing workshop last weekend, taught by excellent teacher, writer, illustrator, artist, Kathie Shoemaker. She was so inspiring that I'm transforming my dog detective story into a graphic novel. Not easy, but fun, challenging, and a good exercise. So, I'm pretty busy, and I hope you are too. Do you have a story that would work as a graphic novel? Give it a try.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Even if 'you are only as good as your next book' - it's nice to be remembered for past successes.

Can Hens Give Milk? has been nominated for next year's Chocolate Lily award. Even if I don't win it will be an opportunity to celebrate with friends and fellow nominees, and get our photos taken.
Honey Cake is on the summer reading list for Vancouver schools this year. I'm guessing it's just grade four.
     Have fun reading and writing this summer.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Grimm Re-Writes

I just saw the movie 'Mirror Mirror,' which of course is a re-telling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Dwarves?) I don't usually do re-tellings, and when I did them it was for storytelling on a t.v. show, not for publication in print. But I enjoy off beat or twisted and turned around versions of familiar folk and fairy tales. Maybe I'll give re-telling another shot one of these days. 'Mirror Mirror' pays homage to a number of different tales, and adds a few new twists (even a touch of Bollywood). Paying homage isn't the same as plagiarism, and the reminders of Red Riding Hood, Cinderella and even Alice in Wonderland, are subtle. Seeing the film reminded me that there are old stories out there which could be dusted off and re-arranged and seen from a different perspective. If you want to try a new exercise, take a favourite fairy tale and turn it around a little. See what happens.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Nanaimo Bookfest

I'm heading to Nanaimo on Thursday for the Bookfest. It's always wonderful to meet new readers and writers. Hope some of you will be there. Don't forget to say hi.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Word Counts

Or maybe it should be 'words count.' Either way, it seems that the more you write the smoother it all flows. Naturally, I'll be going back to edit - many times over. So far Pugman PI is 10,174 words and Emily Strikes is 23,564 words. Remember when you had to write 2,000 word essays and you'd wonder how you were going to write something so long? Eventually you realise that the challenge isn't getting enough words written, it's trying to keep within set guidelines that publishers give you.

Thursday, April 5, 2012


I flew to London and Malta this past March, and took along a little notebook and some pens. I know some people write detailed accounts of their day to day adventures, and I'm in awe of those who do that, but I only make notes, add a few amateur sketches(and I mean 'amateur')and when something inspires me with a story idea I scribble a paragraph or two and questions for myself.
Which works for you? Every writer has different ways of writing a journal or making story notes. You can find stories in the most unlikely or surprising places.
Meanwhile, back home, I'm waiting to hear if a publisher likes my second draft of a funny story - my dog story, the one I've been writing and re-writing for years. If she doesn't I'll try elsewhere. I'm also working hard on a longer, more serious historical novel. It's going to need a lot of work.
And then there is Harold the Hero. Looking for a publisher with a quirky sense of humour for that one.
I hope all you writers out there are working hard and feeling satisfied with what you've accomplished. Never give up.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Just to let you know, 'Can Hens Give Milk?' was on the shortlist of five books nominated by VEPVPA for 2012 (Vancouver Elementary School Principals and Vice Principals) I didn't win, but 'I Want To Go To The Moon,' did. Written by Tom Saunders it is also illustrated by my pal Cynthia Nugent and the honour to them both was well deserved.

'Can Hens Give Milk?' was also awarded an Honorable Mention on the OLA (Ontario Library Assoc.) Best Bets List for 2011.