Monday, December 28, 2009

How I performed a Christmas Miracle (and what it did to me)

Short version: Facebook. Kijiji. Empathy. And perseverance.

The long version goes like this:

As regular readers of this blog (ha! there aren't any...but I digress) already know, my cat, Oliver-Henry, has been missing since July, 2009. Despite the naysayers who tell me to "give it up," I continue to search for him. He disappeared in Kitchener, but in August I had a dream that he was in Hamilton. So sometimes, I check the classified ads in Hamilton for "found cats" just to reassure myself that he's not there, waiting for me to track him down.

One day, at the beginning of December, I saw the following ad (names are changed to protect privacy):

We had a cat- male/neutered brown tabby brought into our clinic. He was found on Queen Victoria Avenue in Hamilton. He has a microchip which is registered to a "Mary" and "Bob" Smith who live here in Hamilton, but we cannot locate them as she did not update their information through the microchip company. We learned through the microchip company that his name is "Sam"If you have any information or know a person named "Mary" with a cat named Sam, please contact us at Pet Vet Eastside"

Okay - I didn't TOTALLY change the names - the last name WAS Smith. And there are a lot of Smiths in Hamilton.

And clearly, the cat isn't mine. But I thought about how sad it was that this cat had been found, and his family didn't know. And then it occurred to me that maybe his family were Facebook users. So I searched, and came up with several possible "Mary" and "Bob" Smiths in Hamilton. Then I started sending them messages, asking if they'd lost a cat named Sam.

It took until December 23rd, but then, finally, in my inbox, was this reply from "Mary":

"Hi , I have only been on Facebook once before and just happened to go on this a.m. and saw this message about Sam. I truly thought I would never hear of or see him again. "

By the time I saw the message, she'd already contacted the vet's office, and was awaiting the return phone call with Sam's whereabouts.

The good news of their reunion got me all mixed up inside, and by the time my poor husband got home from the grocery store I was sobbing over the sink. I was crying because I was so happy to be a part of "Mary" and Sam's reunion. And because I was jealous.

I'm still jealous. But I'm proud, too. And I have renewed faith in the mysterious workings of the universe.

Monday, December 21, 2009

50 ways life has changed in the last 10 years

Love this article from The Toronto Star!

50 ways life has changed in the last 10 years -

Some of my fave changes:
- digital photos (once upon a time, you crossed your fingers and hoped you had the shot. Now, you can get a second chance to capture that perfect moment)
- GPS (how cool to have your very own map reader, even when you're traveling alone)
- IPods (okay - mine is a no-name MP3 player, but still. I am old enough to remember painstakingly making mixed cassette tapes out of vinyl LPs, and then endlessly fast forwarding/rewinding to find the song you wanted...)

My "not-so-faves"
- reality television (I know it dates me, but I just don't get the appeal...)
- crocs (I am NOT so old that I will wear plastic shoes...)

And, my least fave of all:
- HELICOPTER PARENTING (described in the article as parents who hover, like helicoptors). I know, I know: I don't have kids, a dog isn't the same thing, I can't possibly understand. But here's what I do know: many of my friends have spent the past decade in hover mode. I know people who wouldn't let their child's grandparents, aunts or uncles babysit, even for an hour or so. People who homeschooled because they were afraid to let their children out of their sight. Stay at home mothers with nannies because they can't handle the IVF brood they've bred (no, it's not Kate Gosselin). People who don't want their teenagers to have weekend jobs because it ties them down. And you know what? I miss those friends, and I feel sorry for their children. Remember the feeling of independence you had the first time you took your bike down the street without your parents? Or the way you looked forward to your favorite babysitter, because it was almost like having a friend over, and it was cool that the "big kids" were hanging out with you? My part time jobs taught me not just about finances (eg. were those cute earrings really worth two hours over a deep fryer?) but also about time management (still had to get those essays in!), cooperation, tolerance, responsibility, disappointment and perseverance. Helicoptor children don't get these moments of independence, nor the pride that comes from knowing they did something on their own.

At school this last decade, I have seen a real increase in kids who are afraid to try anything they won't succeed in, who give up the minute that something becomes difficult, and who label all challenges as "boring". I am all for doing things well, and thoroughly, and to the best of your ability. But surely, part of being a good parent is raising confident, competent children? Larry Wingett agrees. He's got a new book, called Your Kids are Your Own Fault: A Guide for Raising Responsible, Productive Adults. I think, after a decade of indulgence, that his timing is perfect. I wish him much success.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

If Santa wrote YA

Santa Claus is a busy guy. Every December, he makes mounds of toys and delivers them on a tight schedule to children all over the world. It’s a multi-tasking feat that only the most dedicated (read: craziest) of people could pull off. And for a YA author, it's a required skill.

As writers, we, like Santa, are often trying to finish projects on deadline even as we are marketing previous work and thinking about the next book. Some of us still have “day jobs,” as well. So why do we do it? Because we love it. Writing is part of who we are, just as generosity is the essence of Santa Claus.

Which leads me into the issue of family and friends. Santa couldn’t pull off his amazing feats of festivity without an amazing “inner circle”. Mrs. Claus, surely, knows that sometimes Santa’s going to be too busy to hang out with her, and other times, he’s going to be so weary that he needs nothing more than a shoulder to lean on. But she’s okay with that, because she loves him, and she honors his work. Lucky Santa already has the sympathetic support system an author needs.

Santa’s got the perfect space for writing, too. He’s way up North, where door-to-door salespeople don’t bother to stop, and he can’t sneak off to the local coffee shop “for a couple of minutes”. He’s got breathtaking scenery for inspirational walks, but it never gets so warm outside that he ends up lazing the day away in the backyard by the pool. Instead, he can set himself up by a cozy fire, with a mug of homemade hot chocolate (‘cuz we all need a little sugar and caffeine to keep us going).

And it won’t be a problem if that mug of hot chocolate needs a cookie – or twelve – to dunk in it. As an author, working from home, stress-eating happens (in my case, at a rate of about .1 pounds per page). Especially if an editor is seeking many, many new chapters, ASAP. But Santa’s comfortable with his body image. He’ll be okay if his inspiration shows up on a plate (and around his middle) in the form of Peppermint Cocoa Marshmallow Perfection.

Santa’s not really one to seek the limelight anyway. Sure, he gets invited to a lot of parades and holiday parties, and he’s happy to go, but only because it makes his fans happy. He doesn’t do it for the personal accolades. Just as an author sends her work out into the world, hoping it speaks to someone, and stands on its own, so does Santa toil quietly, often in isolation, hoping his work makes people happy.

And boy – does he know how to make people happy! Santa makes the kind of happy that people remember for the rest of their lives. (A feat every author dreams of). How hard could it actually be for him, if he took up writing, to please his editor, publisher, audience and critics alike? He’s already been giving the perfect gifts to the pickiest of people for centuries. Santa knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good – so surely, he knows what adolescents would like to read.

Which, when it comes right down to it, is the ultimate reason Santa why should write YA. Nobody understands children the way Santa does. And as children become young adults, and begin to question everything around them – including the future, their own self worth and (gasp!) the very existence of the magic that is Santa Claus, they need quality literature. Santa makes us want to believe, even as we question. Great YA authors do it, too.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Advantages of being a woman???

Twenty years ago today, Marc Lepine entered the École Polytechnique in Montreal and shot and killed the following women:

Geneviève Bergeron (born 1968), civil engineering student
Hélène Colgan (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Nathalie Croteau (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Barbara Daigneault (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Anne-Marie Edward (born 1968), chemical engineering student
Maud Haviernick (born 1960), materials engineering student
Maryse Laganière (born 1964), budget clerk in the École Polytechnique's finance department
Maryse Leclair (born 1966), materials engineering student
Anne-Marie Lemay (born 1967), mechanical engineering student
Sonia Pelletier (born 1961), mechanical engineering student
Michèle Richard (born 1968), materials engineering student
Annie St-Arneault (born 1966), mechanical engineering student
Annie Turcotte (born 1969), materials engineering student
Barbara Klucznik-Widajewicz (born 1958), nursing student

I didn't attend École Polytechnique, and I wasn't an engineering student. But at the time of the shooting, I was a university student, I was a woman, I was a feminist, and for me, that day was as horrifically memorable and life-altering as the events of September 11, 2001.

The "Montreal Massacre" was the first school shooting in Canada, and most of us just didn't believe that that kind of thing happened here. But it was also very different from so many of the mass shootings we hear about even today. For one thing, Marc Lepine did not personally know any of his victims. He did not attend the school with them. It wasn't a simple case of someone being bullied to the point where it was intolerable, or having a personal issue with someone and innocent bystanders getting in the way - it was a deliberate, premeditated attack on an entire gender. Women.

Marc Lepine separated male students from female, and targeted women exclusively during his rampage. His suicide note said he hated feminists,

"for seeking social changes that "retain the advantages of being women [...]
while trying to grab those of the men."

Because he targeted women, December 6th has become (in Canada), a national day of mourning for all female victims of all violent men.

But when we talk about Marc Lepine as a symbol of violence against women, we usually do so because he targeted women. I think it might be more important to remember that Lepine himself witnessed - and was a victim of -- domestic violence while growing up. Statistics clearly prove that "75% of boys who witness domestic violence have been found to have demonstrable behavioral problems". So maybe it's more fitting to see Marc Lepine as a symbol of violence against women because he was also a victim of it, and the violence he witnessed and experienced in his own home as a child (probably) contributed to the deaths of fourteen others.

Domestic and dating violence are so much more than "private" problems. They are big issues, with far-reaching implications.

I would never presume to lump an entire gender together the way Lepine did, by declaring that all men are evil. But twenty years after the massacre, most cases of domestic and dating violence continue to be perpetrated by men (the ones who do have problems) against women.

So much for the "advantages" of being a woman.

More information on the Montreal Massacre:

More information on Domestic Violence

For more information on feminism:,,694923,00.html.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Still writing books, still blogging in my head...

I know, I know. It doesn't count if you can't read it onscreen. Kind of like that proverbial tree falling in the forest. But then again, I have no followers (sigh) so maybe it's okay that I only blog regularly in my brain?

In case anyone cares, here comes another supersized blog to make up for...umm...the lack of November postings.

1. I'm still looking for Oliver-Henry! Some people have hinted that they think I should give up, because he has been gone for almost four months. But I keep watching all the classified ads for the area in which he got lost, and people are STILL posting ads like this: "Found cat needs a home. A cat has been living under my deck since May but I can't keep it because I already have a cat and they don't get along. I would like to find a home for it now that the weather is getting colder." Oliver-Henry was a barn cat before I started spoiling him, and he has good survival instincts. And, as the great Dr. Seuss said in McElligot's Pool: "if such a thing could be it certainly would be." And that's why I think that I'm not such a fool, as I sit and I surf on my internet tool(bar).

2. Meanwhile, I continue to dream about him, every night. I had a really weird thing happen last week, though, where in the middle of the dream, I stopped and said to myself: "Wait a minute. Every night I dream that I found him, and every morning I wake up and it's not true. So am I actually dreaming this?" Sadly (or interestingly?) My dreaming self convinced my dreaming self that I actually WAS awake. But I wasn't. Does that make any sense????

3. Professionally, I am working on revisions of book number four, Maybe Never, Maybe Now. It's the sequel to Painting Caitlyn. It took me a long time to get started on it, because I am not, in general, a lover of sequels. (Confession: although I adored the originals, I couldn't finish Love, Stargirl, and I haven't made it past New Moon). I know that it unusual, but I grew up on Judy Blume and Lois Lowry's stand-alone novels, and sometimes revisiting a character I loved is a little bit like running into the guys I adored in high school now that we're forty: many of them are pudgy and wrinkly and not nearly as interesting as they used to seem, which taints the original memories a little bit.

Anyway, I felt very protective of "Caitlyn," and thus found it really difficult to begin writing about her again. I am THRILLED to say, however, that once I invited her back, she had a lot to share, and I think I managed to stay true to her in every way. My editor seems to agree, as I have (happily) not been asked to do any major re-writing - it's mostly just shortening sentences here and there. (Which, as you can see fromt he above, tends to be an issue for me!).

So here's the other cool thing about it: Maybe Never, Maybe Now will be out in the fall, along with Definitely Not Camelot, which is the sequel to Posing as Ashley. Ashley narrates DNC, and Caitlyn narrates MNMN, and each book has it's own plot, and can stand alone without the other - but the two books take place during the same time period, with the characters in different locations, each telling about what's happened to them. It's kind of like a she said/she said thing, with the stories intersecting here and there as the girls communicate with each other via telephone and email. More to follow on this as I am allowed to share.

4. I saw the movie Amelia a little while ago, and I have to say I was disappointed in the way they portrayed the main character. I get that they wanted to show Amelia Earhart's independence and rebellion against societal expectations by showing her refusal to either be loyal or demand loyalty in her marriage, but it really just ended up making her husband look like a long-suffering good guy. The truth is, HE was married when they got together, and they totally avoided mentioning that. Apparently, women who sleep around are still newsworthy, but boys will be boys. Sheesh.

5. Moonlight, Lace and Mayhem has revamped their blog. The guest blog I did for them in August on Nine Ways Writing YA Mirrors my Adolescence can now be found here. (And yes, it was a HUGE thrill to be in the virtual company of authors like Susan Beth Pfeffer, who I read when I actually was an adolescent, along with Jay Asher and Sara Zarr, who are, like, the A to Z of great YA right now!!!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Hooray - with apologies to the Berenstein Bears

Hooray! Hooray! I'm on my way! I finished the draft of book four today!

And now, on to report cards...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Tale of Two Islands

You wouldn't know it to look in the archives, but I actually blog every day. In my mind. In fact, I'm almost always "blogging" as I'm walking the dog, or trying to get to sleep - but clearly, if I don't actually get the ideas out of my head (brilliant or dull as they might be) and post them here, they don't really count.

Sometimes, I need time to think and arrange before I type (my first book, Painting Caitlyn, actually rolled around inside my head for YEARS before I finally started pulling it together as text), but usually, it's just distraction and procrastination that keep me from doing it. And so, an entry about the distractions that occurred between August and October.

1. Obviously, Oliver Henry
I am still looking for my cat (see preceeding post). All of the free surfing time I can find goes to perusing Craig's List, Kijiji, and random Google searches for "Found Cats" in Kitchener, Ontario.

2. Actual (not imaginary) deadlines

(Drumroll, please) Book three, Definitely Not Camelot is finished. It even has a cover, but I'm not sure whether or not I'm allowed to share that yet, so we'll save it for a future post. Book four, Maybe Never, Maybe Now is "in process" (ie. I'm stalling on it right now by catching up on blogging!!!) and will be finished very, very soon.

Okay - so enough of the numbered lists of excuses. Here's the coolest thing that's happened lately: I turned FORTY!!! Woo hoo! Now, I know it's unusual to cheer about turning forty, because it makes me sound really, really, old. I do. And I worry - just a tiny bit - that the number itself could be a "turn-off" to my YA audience. But here's the thing: my maternal grandmother died from cancer at 45. She had just one biological child (my dad), and he died from cancer at 46. I am his only biological child, and I've already had cancer (thyroid, when I was 28 - yet another subject for another day). I could worry about what genetic horrors may be lying in wait for me over the next few years, but instead, I'm celebrating that I've made it this far. And that the journey, for the most part, has been positive. In the middle of August, I invited several friends to join me for a weekend at my cottage on Thorah Island, in celebration of "The Twenty-Fourth Anniversary of Our Sixteenth Birthdays", but before arriving, I asked each of them to email me with one thing they know now (in their forties) that they wish they'd known then (in their teens). Some of them have been my friends since high school. One was my first roomate in university. And one of them is now a co-worker. Here is some of our collective wisdom:

  • Theresa wishes she'd known how short "forever" is.
  • Karen wishes she'd known that forty isn't really that old
  • Colleen says that great legs will eventually sag, too.
  • And Andrea said "You only live once. Take more chances."
  • Me, I just wish I'd understood that even though my breasts were small, they went beautifully with my flat stomach.

This is a picture I took just before we got in the boat to go to Thorah Island for my girls' retreat:

And this is the view from the dock that weekend:

Anyway, we ate chips and sat in the sun and swam in the lake and walked around the island and got caught up on each other's lives, and it made me feel happy and young and mature all at the same time. (oh yeah - and in the spirit of taking more chances, I drove the boat. Exhilarating!)

And then, at the end of September, when I had my REAL birthday, I finally got to fulfil a dream of mine and go to Pelee Island. I've wanted to go there for years, because of the monarch butterfly migration that happens there around the weekend of my birthday. Unfortunately, the butterflies didn't know I was coming, and departed early this year. Despite the definite lack of butterflies, I had an amazing time. My husband had booked us in at the best B&B on the island and we hiked and toured the winery and walked on the beach and had dinner with two other couples who were also staying there. The only sucky part was when I threw up (repeatedly) in the back of his plane on the way home. But then, the first time I did that, I was twenty, and we weren't even dating yet. So in a way, that made me feel kind of young, too.

This is the view of our B&B as we arrived at Pelee Island.
This is the view from the B&B:

And THIS (another drumroll, please!) is what FORTY looks like, without make-up, early in the morning at the end of the party:

(I wish I'd known, at sixteen, that I didn't need make-up to be beautiful) HOORAY!!!!!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guest Blog Appearance!

Hey guys - switch over to where I am the guest author blogger today!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Hunt for Oliver Henry

Hi All - I got off track on my book deadline (yikes!) last week because I have been DESPERATELY searching for Oliver-Henry, my new little kitty friend who snuck out on my mom while she was kitty-sitting. He is deaf, and my mom lives two hours away, both of which make finding him quite a bit trickier, but I have taken (I think) some very creative steps towards "getting the word out", and I remain hopeful that he WILL return. He is quite a special little guy: started life as a barn cat, got stepped on by a cow (major injuries, no veterinary care, but he pulled through), started sneaking into the farmhouse because hey, it's safer in there! Started getting tossed out of the farmhouse - by the tail - into the pine tree. Continued sneaking in, continued getting tossed. Was "saved" by the farmer's daughter-in-law (my friend Colleen!) and delivered to me in May.Here's the thing: my husband has never really bonded with any of our cats. He tried with Sacha, but she'd decided years before I met him that she really didn't like anyone except me. He sort of tried with Sam, but Sam was already 16 when he moved in, and he woke us up A LOT at night, which made it kind of hard for them to get along. But Oliver-Henry (O'Henry) played it differently, and climbed right up onto my husband's lap every chance he got. He also quickly learned to hang around on my desk while I write. Unfortunately, as a former barn cat, he needed neutering, and I was advised to wait until six weeks after he'd had his final set of now he's at large in Kitchener-Waterloo with testicles, and that may mean that he's a long, long way from where he started out. It also means that in a few weeks time, there may be many more chocolate brown/black kitties in Kitchener-Waterloo looking for homes. And that sucks. Because I have been brutally reminded this past few wees that animal shelters and rescue groups are full, full, full. In KW, they stay at the Humane Society for only 72 hours before going out for adoption. I walked through one day (but mostly my mom's been doing it for me) and there were so, so many cats who were in the middle of that 72 hour period - all lovely, all needing their people to come and get them out. But their people weren't there, and if my heart hadn't already been broken and heavy from the loss of O'Henry, it would have broken there. So even though I know I said it already in Posing as Ashley, please hear me out again, and get your pets spayed or neutered (I really was going to - really - he had an appointment booked). Even if you happen to find homes for all the kittens, that's a bunch of homes that are no longer available to the thousands of adult cats who already need homes. And just in case you're thinking kittens are more fun, here's Ten Reasons to Adopt an Older Cat.And if you happen to be in the Kitchener/Waterloo/Cambridge area, keep an eye out for O'Henry.Meanwhile, as I said, I am behind on my deadlines, and feeling unprofessional about it. But sometimes it's more important to be unprofessional than uncaring.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Originally posted at LiveJournal May. 2nd, 2009 at 5:42 PM

I’ve been playing with Anagram generators online recently. They’re all over the internet: all you have to do is type “anagram finder” into the search engine of your choice (but I like for lots of choice and custome options, or for a quick blurb) and voila! you can rearrange the letters of anything you want into cool little sayings.

There are lots of famous examples of amazingly coincidental anagrams, like “Dormitory”, which can be rearranged into “Dirty room” or “George Bush”, which anagrams to “He bugs Gore,” but sometimes, it’s more fun to research things that are personal to you, and to your life.

For example:

My name, Kimberly Peters, can be anagrammed to: “Berserk, yet limp” – and some days, when I’m so overwhelmed with things I have to do that I’m paralyzed into inaction, that’s a pretty good description!

And my second book, “Posing as Ashley”, anagrams to: “A sylph agonises”, which, if you’ve read it, is also kind of fitting.But it never would have occurred to me that "Principle Gibson" would have all the same letters as "So brain clipping".

Try it, then send me your results!

Body Image Week

Originally posted on LiveJournal Apr. 26th, 2009 at 10:21 AM

It’s Body Image Week over at My Favorite Author, and back in my world, where I’m the Health teacher for grades 7 and 8, it’s the beginning of our “Growth and Development” unit. Yup – that’s “Puberty and Reproduction” or, as the students like to call it, “Sex Ed”.

Many teachers dread this unit, and while some leave it until the very last few days of the school year and then rush through in the most clinical way possible, or others “run out of time” and don’t cover it at all, I think it’s the most important information our students receive. And they know it! There is nothing else I teach – Visual Arts and Physical Education included -- that garners me such an engaged, attentive audience.

Why do I think it’s so important? Because everyone goes through puberty. You can live your whole life perfectly well without ever learning another language. There are people in the world who have never picked up a basketball, or a paintbrush or even – yes - a book. So while languages and physical education, and visual arts enhance our lives, they aren’t universal experiences like growth and development. Even if you live completely isolated in the most remote jungle in the world, you’re going to grow pubic hair and breasts and you’re going to have questions about it and you’re going to feel differently about yourself and other people after that happens.

The reality for the students I teach is that they don’t live in isolation. So even before their bodies start to change, they are bombarded every day with make-over programs telling them to surgically enhance their breasts. Spammers tell them their penises can be enlarged.

Infomercials recommend getting “ripped”. The porn they download shows adult bodies waxed and plucked as smooth as a pre-pubescent child. And even if they manage to avoid all of the expectations of the rest of the world, sometimes all it takes is one little “joke”, made by a sibling about the size of their hips, to send them off on a lifetime of body-image angst.

So I doubt that they believe me, their Health teacher, as I read to them from textbooks and curriculum documents that say pubic hair can be thick or sparse or heart shaped or diamond shaped, because a lot of them are probably already thinking they just want it off, and even if they don’t think that already, some of them will have partners who ask them to remove it, because that’s what they've seen and that's what they expect. And I don’t know if I can actually influence my students in any way when I explain to them that “size doesn’t matter”, because penises and breasts can do their jobs regardless of how big or small they are.

But I try. Because I hope that someday they will be emotionally strong enough to recognize that real human beings can be lumpy and hairy and natural and physically “flawed” and still be completely wonderful and loveable.

Yummy Inspiration/Food for Thought

Originally posted on LiveJournal Apr. 19th, 2009 at 9:22 PM

My current favourite writer's aid? The recipe conversion calculator at where I can enter the original recipe for a dessert like the one below and reduce its quantity to .25% -- enough for a snack, but not an entire pan full for me to eat all alone while my pilot husband is away!(Now, I need to do a bunch of crunches, because reduced quantity or not, I can't look like the girl on that book cover if I keep making desserts!)

Apple Caramel Pudding Cake for One or Two (original quantities in brackets)
1/4 cup flour (1 cup)
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar (2/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon bkg powder (2 teaspoons)
1/4 teaspoon lemon rind (1 teaspoons)
1/8 teaspoon salt (1/2 teaspoons)
1/8 teaspoon ginger (1/2 teaspoons)
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon (1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons apple (2 1/2 cup)
2 tablespoons milk (1/2 cup)

(Mix above ingredients and place in a French Onion Soup bowl, or similar sized baking dish)

1/2 cup boiling water (2 cup)
1/4 cup brown sugar (1 cup)
1 1/2 teaspoons butter (2 tablespoons)

Mix topping ingredients together and pour over batter, but DO NOT STIR. Bake about 40 minutes at 350. (Original recipe needs an hour).

Why “I” Narrate my Novels

Originally posted on LiveJournal Mar. 26th, 2009 at 8:00 PM

On March 2, author Dawn_Metcalf blogged about the first person narrative, and how she often finds that “The ‘I’s and ‘me’s and ‘my’s stand out like flares on the page; too noticeable, presumptive and commanding.“

I’ve been thinking about her point of view ever since – mostly because it is so different from my own.

Part of what I love about a well-written book is the way it can draw me into the story, and make me feel like I’m a part of it. I’m a people person, and I love getting to know a story’s characters. When the narration happens in the first person, it’s almost as if I am sitting down with the protagonist, and he or she is telling me what happened to them. Rather than commanding, I find it endearing. They want me know all about them – how they feel, how they act, why they make the choices they make. I am a confidant - they trust me with their story! And something about that implied trust makes me care all the more about what happened – it helps me invest in the character, and in the story.

I learned about the omniscient point of view as most people do, in high school. It was explained to me that its power comes from its ability to report, objectively, on everything: and yet although it knows everything, it always leaves me with more questions. Who is actually telling this story? Why? How is that they know everything? Why should I care? I mean, if a character (through first person narration) confides in me that she felt embarrassed or ashamed, I get that – the person telling his or her own story knows how they felt at that particular time – and I can empathize, because they are revealing their innermost thoughts. But when an omniscient narrator tells me that she felt that way, I want to ask them how they know! Were they spying on the character? Did they read her diaries? How can they also know what the guy down the street was thinking? It makes me sort of crazy.

I have read many, many wonderful books with omniscient narration. But the ones that stay with me, the characters I adore, are the ones let me in, and sit me down, and let me get to know them on a close, personal level. And isn’t that what we also love most about a good blog?

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Playing with Barbie™

Originally posted on LiveJournal Mar. 10th, 2009 at 11:48 PM

OOPS! Thought I'd posted this weeks ago, when it actually WAS Barbie's birthday - but I just came in to post again and discovered it as a saved draft. Clearly, I don't have the hang of this yet. Surprise - two posts in one day!

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Playing with Barbie™
(on the occasion of her 50th birthday)

Blonde doesn’t mean dumb.
Sexy doesn’t have to be slutty.
Independent doesn’t mean lonely.
Childless doesn’t mean unfulfilled.
You can be anything you want. Even an astronaut.
You don’t have stay in a job that doesn’t make you happy. If you’re tired of being an astronaut, you can be a dentist. Or a rockstar. Or a teacher. Or a cowgirl.
Work hard.
Play harder.
Friends are important, and….
Men are wonderful, but…
You don’t need anyone to make you happy.
You are not doomed to a life of failure just because your parents may be physically or emotionally absent.
Be confident.
Be adventurous.
Save your money until you can treat yourself to a great car, condo, pony, purse, or puppy, because you deserve it.
The right clothes can make any occasion special.
Don’t share things you can’t afford to lose.
The wrong haircut can haunt you forever.
Think twice before getting a marker moustache. Or a tattoo. Some things just can’t be undone.
Nobody is going to clean up the mess you made, except you.
We don't all look like Sweet Sixteen Barbie™ when we turn sixteen. Or ever. But life goes on.
Everyone is imperfect when they are naked.
Imagination is everything.

Self-Censorship and YA Literature

Originally Posted on LiveJournal Feb. 26th, 2009 at 9:43 PM

Okay, so it's been WEEKS since I decided to do this thing called blogging, and then panicked, and never came back. Why? Censorship, mostly. Self censorship. (Which, I guess, is better than self-centeredness, but I digress). I was worried about confusing Americans with spellings like "colour" and "neighbour"...then someone commented that most Americans would know I wasn't an idiot (I'm paraphrasing), because if they have half a brain, they'd recognize it as legitimate spellings...which made me worry that I'd offended Americans by suggesting they weren't sophisticated enough to pick up on the cultural variation. I also worry about revealing too much of my private self (because once I start wrtiing, I just can't stop!) and accidentally saying something about my students that will get me fired (because teaching is my day job - hi kids!!!!). Hence, I haven't done a thing here. Today, though, I got the nudge I needed, in the form of an email and conversation with our school librarian. The email was all about CENSORSHIP.
School Library Journal recently ran an article about librarians, and how they often act as their own censors when choosing material they deem appropriate for children and young adults. You can read the article here if you are interested, but it was the last two paragraphs that really struck me: “Librarians need to remember that it’s not their job to impose their own ideologies on the kids they serve or to parent or protect them, Scales says. And even though schools are required to act in loco parentis—Latin for ‘in place of parent’—the doctrine only applies to school librarians when it comes to the safety and health of their students, not when it comes to censorship, she adds.'You won’t ever make a difference if you don’t step out of the box,” she says. “And we can make a difference to children. Who knows? That very book that you thought was inappropriate may be the one that turns a child in the direction that he needs to be going or that gives a child quiet hope about a situation.’”
Ironically, it was our school librarian who first alerted me to the article. Less than twenty-four hours later, however, he mentioned to me that he has $4000 to spend on new books for our school library, Kindergarten through grade eight. I got excited, because I’d just loaned him two of my current YA favourites – Sweethearts, by Sara Zarr, and Twisted, by Laurie Halse Anderson. “You’re going to get Sweethearts and Twisted, right?” I asked, breathless with anticipation of cool book talks with fiction-loving grade eight students. “I don’t know…” he said. “They aren’t as good as your book…” (I think he’s wrong, but yay) “…and anyway, the older kids don’t read, so I don’t want to spend the money there.” HELLOOO???? What’s wrong with this picture??? Everything, everything, we know about literacy says kids need engaging material. My books (Painting Caitlyn and Posing as Ashley) are never on the shelf in our school library– they are ALWAYS signed out. I know a lot of that is just because I am their French teacher, and it is waaaay cool to read the words “breast” and “sex” when – OMG – your teacher wrote it!!! But YALSA also chose Painting Caitlyn as a Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers, so I like to believe that the books have some merit on their own, apart from the students’ personal connections to the author. The fact that they are always signed out proves that by putting quality material, chosen by teen advisory groups, in the library, we can make them readers . Our librarian doesn’t want to spend money on the older kids because they don’t read….but what are they supposed to read if we don’t spend money on them? And why doesn’t our librarian see that giving up on YA readers is one of the most insidious forms of censorship there is?