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?