Friday, December 31, 2010

Oops - now I have to do another supersized post!

(Ahem). So many things to write about. So little time to sit down and do so.




Logically, I should save my topics (or pre-write them) and post more regularly. But someof them are "timely", and realistically, I just don't know if I'll get around to doing them individually anyway. So this post will be both eclectic and lengthy. Grab a snack. But don't whine to me about gaining "three pounds". Three pounds is nothing. Three pounds is just eat some fibre and away you go. And when you are clearly at a healthy weight, complaining about "three pounds" I don't know what to say because a) you may just be looking for validation but b) if I DO think you've gained too much weight you're either going to make me a liar (no - really - you look great!) or a big meany (yeah, those pants do actually make you look kind of chunky). And c) it makes me think you're a bit of a meany because - seriously - I need to lose quite a few more than three pounds and if you are being that harsh with yourself, I can only imagine what you are thinking about me. (You can deny it, and I can even believe it's possible that you're not directing your judgment to me, because we're usually harder on ourselves than on others, but remember: I am a WRITER. I will IMAGINE your internal dialogue and PUT WORDS INTO YOUR MOUTH if you give me reason to do so. I'm not saying you shouldn't be proactive and lose that three pounds before it breeds into twenty...I'm just saying pretend you are French and deal with it quietly.




And speaking of breeding and multiplying...remember Me, The Cat Lady? The saga continues. I have't seen my neighbour's black and white cat (identified in the post as "Sylvester") since summertime. I did ask my neighbour about him, because I was worried...and he said Sylvester was "at the neighbour's". Then he got into his car and drove away. Fast forward to the beginning of wintery weather - the grey and white one (identified as "Tweety") is cold. He has nothing to eat. He is hanging out in the driveway under our boat. He begins sneaking in. Majik loves him. They snuggle up together in the basement. Often. I leave a note for my neighbour saying "he's over here a lot - come get him". I hear nothing. I don't want to be accused of stealing him...but he likes it here. A lot. I don't think of it as cat burglering when he's free to come and go at will. And when he's just next door. And when his "family" (can you call them that, if they ignore him???) has been notified of his whereabouts. "Tweety" doesn't make sense as a name without Sylvester around. I'm calling him "Merlin" now. It keeps up with the magic imagery, and it's also a type of airplane. Even the cat-resistors in the house (yes, that includes Spencer) love him. So one year after Majik joined me (happy anniverary little guy!) I have gone from cat-less to cat-blessed. How cool is that?



Other stuff going on around here:



I went skiing the other night, just before Christmas, by myself. I'm very comfortable by myself, and when I'm doing anything even remotely athletic, I actually prefer it, because I can do things at my own pace. I especially love going at night because it's never crowded, and it becomes almost meditative for me as I glide down the hills, or float up on the chair lift. The other night, they were making snow, which added to the ethereal feel. Here's a picture:





And, speaking of Christmas, we did something different this year and STAYED HOME on Christmas Eve. Wow. Loved it. Woke up rested and not feeling grinchy on Christmas Day. Must do it again. Watched It's a Wonderful Life, which I have seen before, but only once. Thought it was kind of funny that, had the Jimmy Steward character never been born, the whole town would have fallen to ruin, men would have been jailbirds, alcoholics, poverty-stricken and homeless but the worst fate they could come up with for the woman who was his wife was that, without him, she would have been "an old-maid librarian". HA! I'm trying to re-frame it, and look at it from the point of view that she would have missed out on having love in her life, which would be tragic for anyone, but still, it's funny. And it says a lot about the era in which the movie was produced.





My favourite gift was this, from my husband:

It's a framed compilation of all of my book covers (including the French version of Painting Caitlyn). So cool. Thank you, Lobster Press, for coordinating the colours to look great together!

And speaking of Lobster Press, I see from their website that their "Grim Hill" series is about to become an animated television series. Jealous.

Are you still reading? Thanks! Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Holiday Newsletter...

Where did November go? Why didn't I post? I don't exactly know...

Same thing happened to 2010 (and, to be honest, pretty much every decade since 1989).

Which leads me to today's hot topic: the holiday newsletter.

This is the time of year when magazines, bloggers, sitcoms and even comic strips are criticizing the holiday newsletters that some people send in their Christmas cards.

I, for one, am not going to take it anymore. I'm going to shout it out into the blogosphere: I LOVE HOLIDAY NEWSLETTERS!

And, yes, I write them, too.

I love catching up with my busy friends' lives via their holiday letters. I adore hearing about the great things happening in their families, and I don't consider it "braggy" for someone to share happy news, because I am happy FOR THEM. (Your kid made the honour roll? AWESOME! You finally took that tropical vacation? Hooray! More people should do that, because it's good for your health, and good for relationships, and actually makes the world economy go round...)

It means so much more to me to read a letter than to just open a card with a generic signature, because it reconnects me with the people who sent it.

Yes, it would be better to spend face to face time with people. Yes, the telephone is always an option. But timezones and schedules are often hard to sync, and even when calls happen, it's impossible to say everything.

So I'll probably be sending my own newsletter again, complete as always with pics of the dog and cat in funny Santa hats, because I don't have any kids to include. Some of the people I send it to might think it's hokey, or braggy when I say I published two books this year, but I hope that the people who care about me will delight in my good fortune as I delight in theirs.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On Friendship

I've been thinking a lot about friendship lately. Partly, I think, because of my recent visit to my former high school, and reunion with some university pals. Then, someone posted a comment about my books saying that they love books about friendship. And when I was doing the TRT Book Club interview, and thinking about how we all write about certain themes, I realized that friendship is one of my themes.

You know how some people spend their whole lives looking for that one perfect romantic partner, because they've read all the romances and seen all the movies about how it's supposed to be? And then the real people - the ones who burp and have messy hair and leave their dirty socks lying around - never seem to measure up to the Handsome Prince on a white horse that Person Number One imagined in their dreams?

I think I've spent a lot of my life suffering from that same kind of delusion - only instead of looking for the Handsome Prince/Romance, I've spent a lot of time in search of The BFF (Best Friend Forever).

Don't get me wrong: I have some amazing friends. Amazing. People who let me cry all over them for months on end when I needed to. People who let me call them out of the blue when they haven't heard from me in months, and are totally there for me anyway. People who have celebrated birthdays with me since we were nine years old. People who honoured me first by choosing me as a maid of honour, and then again by letting me do it a second time when their first marriage didn't "take". People who make me laugh and make me smarter and make me feel good about myself.

But just as happens with romances, I've had my "break-ups", too. Sometimes it's circumstantial, but other times, there has been no explanation, and they have simply disappeared, leaving me with that "it's not you, it's me..." feelling that always makes you think it really is you.

Which it may be. Because maybe I've got my own "intimacy issues". While part of me thinks I want that BFF who will there for me every day -- and who will want me to be there for her - another part of me - a part that I think is more authentically me - doesn't always want that kind of pressure. (I know, I know - if it's true friendship, it shouldn't feel like pressure, right?)

I love having time to myself! I get crabby when it doesn't happen. Ask my husband. Or my sister. Or my mom. Or anyone who has ever spent more than six hours straight with me. Even if we're doing something "fun".

Apparently, it started early. My mom tells me that even when I was very young, my sister would play and play and play with other children, while I would hang out for a bit, then quietly remove myself, go into my room, and just be.

I'm still like that. I enjoy hanging out with other people. I adore good conversation. But I need time alone too much to give all I have to any one "best" friend.

Instead, I have many, have had many, and hope to have many yet to come.

And in the meantime, I'll keep writing about friendship. And maybe I'll learn something about it along the way.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Me, the Crocodile Hunter

Sometimes, my last-minute costumes are the biggest success. I raided my husband's closet for most of this...added a net for humour (not showing) and stuffed the pockets with some crocodile puppets I use at school. The costume was so effective, I even "caught" a child-sized croc, pictured here but airbrushed as I didn't ask her family for permission to post on the internet. Got a ton of compliments!


Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Yippee!

1. Another excellent review for Maybe Never, Maybe Now. Page Turner's Blog calls it a "fantastic follow-up to Painting Caitlyn" and "a wonderful read".

2. My book trailer took third place in the October contest over at You Gotta Read Videos.

3. Tomorrow is Halloween at school! (but no costume yet...)


4. Here is the picture of me and my friends at our alumni dinner!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Meet me over at TRTBlogspot!

I'm the "guest" at the Teens Read Too blog today! Come see me there, and maybe win a prize!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Back to the Future!

Okay - so as promised, more info on the high school/university visits the other day!


On Friday, I went back to Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute. It's the high school I attended, and I haven't been back since I graduated in 1988. I went to play "alumni author", read to the group of girls who gave up their lunch hour to come meet me, and then chatted up the Writer's Craft class in the exact classroom that was my first homeroom. SO FUN! Back when I was taking Writer's Craft, we were promised an extra 3% on our grades if we could get published - in any form - during the year. I wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper complaining about some really rude, denigrating jokes about women and was THRILLED when I got my name in print. Not, as it turned out, because of the 3%, which didn't really excite me all that much, but because someone thought something I'd written was worth putting in print. (You have to bear with me and understand that this was WAAAY before the internet, blogging opportunities, etc. People had to actually pick up pens to write things, and you were really "high-tech" if you had an electric typewriter).
Anyway, it seems that not a lot has changed, physically, in that building. Some pics:


A mural that was painted (not by me) during my time there, and remains today:







One of these lockers is the last one I ever had. Still know what the combination was, and remember clearly that Mike Raletic's locker was on my right, and Christa Ptatschek's locker was on my left, but couldn't pick the actual locker out of the line-up (sniff!):





A locker decorated for someone's birthday, just as we used to do, and described in my book Painting Caitlyn:







After the high school visit, I headed over to the University of Waterloo for the 50th anniversary of it's Faculty of Arts, where I sat with some of the smartest women I know. My friend Wendi, Executive Director of the Foodbank of Waterloo Region. Theresa (my first roomate!) works for Kraft Foods, and is partially responsible for hilarity like this bit on chocolate. And the ever effervescent Sandy is now perfectly positioned as a Twitter goddess (@sassygirlcanada) and communications expert for Research In Motion (yes, the Blackberry people). I don't see them often. But when I do, it's super fun. And since this was an alumni event, we were younger than almost everyone else, easily making us still the hottest girls in the place! (will post pics of us when I get copies of the ones the photographer took).




Finally, here's what the high school and the university had in common:



THEY BOTH GAVE ME FANCY CHOCOLATE!!!






Sunday, October 24, 2010

Around the world in Five Short Days...(at least, that's what it felt like)

Last week was crazy. I keep saying I have to cut that out, 'cuz it's my own fault if I'm busy, but it was FUN crazy. I'll try to make the basic explanation quick (but you know I love to type)...

Monday: Art History night at the Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery with my friend Joanne.
Tuesday: Agility Class at Paus n' Train with my dog. Here is a brief video showing how much he loves it:

video



Wednesday: At school until 6 p.m. getting ready for two days of supply teachers.
Thursday: Teaching other teachers at the Board Office until 3 p.m., then back to the Beaverton Public Library for an author appearance at 4 p.m., followed by a meeting with parents about a school trip at 7 p.m., and a trip to Kitchener at 9 p.m.
Friday: Two author type thing-ys at Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute (the high school I attended!) followed by dinner with longtime university pals Wendi, Theresa and Sandy at the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Arts 50th Anniversary Event .

More on the high school/university flashbacks (with pics) tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caitlyn's finding her voice!

Even with the new books out, the old ones live on. Page Turner's Blog just reviewed Painting Caitlyn. I can hardly believe that it's been four years since it was first released, but am so thrilled that it continues to touch people. My favourite part of the review was this: "marvelous". I also love that the website is highliting domestic abuse for the entire month of October, and the reviewer went out of her way to highlight Ten Warning Signs of Abuse. Marvelous!

Tomorrow: The Beaverton Public Library, 4 p.m.

Friday: My former high school, Cameron Heights Collegiate, in Kitchener, ON.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Release Day!!!!




Dinner with friends, too much food/wine/champagne/baklava.

Need to sleep.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Two days until release, and another solid review...

Thank you to CM Magazine for the following kind words about Definitely Not Camelot:

"Like Caitlyn from Peters' other books, Ashley is a very relatable teen...the author does a commendable job of portraying the wide range of emotions that a teen who is faced with a parent's serious illness might experience...she also adeptly captures the high school environment in which rumours and jealousies and misunderstandings can all lead to a situation in which a young person quickly feels like s/he is losing control. Whether readers have read the preceding book Posing as Ashley, or are meeting her for the first time, they will most certainly enjoy the experience."

Monday, October 11, 2010

MNMN on You Gotta Read Videos!

Okay - so again, I'm a bit behind...partly due to some surgery in the family that required my presence, and partly due to "the cold that wouldn't die", which I've been fighting since the first week of September. Started in my throat. Went to my sinuses. Sat there for three weeks. Hopped back down my throat, slid into my lungs...has basically left me a hacking, disgusting mess. And all I want to do is sleep.

But I musn't sleep, because there is so much great book news happening! For one thing, the trailer for Maybe Never, Maybe Now , is on You Gotta Read Videos this month. Visit! Vote for it! Watch some other trailers and find something else that's good to read! (but still vote for me!).

Happy Thanksgiving, my fellow Canadians!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Download a chapter for free! Yay!

Hi all - Maybe Never, Maybe Now and Definitely Not Camelot are out in less than two weeks! Yay!

Amazon is still listing their author as simply "Kimberly Peters", and therefore not cross-referencing with their award winning predecessors, Painting Caitlyn and Posing as Ashley. Boo!

Lobster Press is offering you the chance to download a free first chapter RIGHT NOW! Yay!

I'm still sick with a bad cold. Boo.

Maybe Never Maybe Now got some good reviews! Yay!

I just found out my website had a bad link, and wasn't directing everyone to all of my books. Boo.

It's fixed now. Yay!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Things that creep me out...

I'm not afraid of spiders. They don't bother me - although they can be kind of tickly on bare skin - and their webs are beautiful. Arachnaphobia is something I've never understood. Snakes don't bug me much, either. Bears? More scared of me than I of them. Likewise wolves. So what do I worry about when I'm out walking my dog? Finding a body. A dead, decaying, corpse. Or a fresh one. Either way, the idea freaks me out. And unlike the attack of the killer spider (seriously, how often have you heard of THAT happening in Canada?), dog walkers find dead bodies all the time. It's a disgusting fact of life, but a) dog walkers are out in the same kind of sideroad/brush/field/forested/watery areas that appeal to killers who need to dump bodies and b) dogs just love to roll in dead stuff.


Granted, I am a writer, and I do have an active imagination. Still, you can imagine where my mind went when I ran into this lovely find this afternoon....






Monday, September 13, 2010

Some Things are Worth the Time...

I was back at school officially for seven work days, only four of which I had to teach, and already I have come down with a brutal head cold. Sore throat, plugged ears, painful sinuses (sini? what's the plural there?), the whole works.

I don't even feel like reading. Which, for me, means I'm pretty messed up. And I ended up watching more television this weekend than I normally would for this time of year, when the weather is still okay and I am busy with back to work stuff and the new shows aren't on yet anyway.

And over and over, I kept seeing this stupid commercial for mashed potatoes. Except they aren't actually mashed yet. They are just potatoes. And they have their own commercial.

Because, according to the ad, "who has time to make mashed potatoes?"

Umm, I would think pretty much anyone who can figure out that a ten pound bag of potatoes for $2.49 is a much better deal than one bowl of potatoes for $2.99 on sale with a coupon (yes, I just Googled a grocery store flyer to make sure my facts were correct).

I'm not naming the product, because I don't want to get in trouble for my disparaging attitude, but their name implies purity of product. And the ingredients list says potatoes and sodium phosphate (whose first definition FYI is "used as a laxative to cleanse the bowels"). Mmmm. Yummy.

The rationale for this product is that nobody has time for all the washing, peeling and cutting. By purchasing the new kind "home-made" potatoes and simply adding your own ingredients after you've steamed them in the microwave, you can mash them yourself.

Honestly, I thinkn it would slow down my dinner preparations MORE to find the bag in the freezer and microwave it than to rinse four potatoes, peel them, and drop them into a pot of water. but apparently I've been doing it wrong all these years, because I don't scrub vigorously when i know I'm peeling. And I don't do a bunch of cutting when i know I'm mashing. Silly me.

We all have places where we cut corners. I do love "no boil" lasagna noodles, because I can't detect a difference, and they save a couple of major steps. And pancake mix that just needs water probably has a lot of weird ingredients, but can be pretty awesome when you are camping and don't want to waste cooler space on milk, eggs, and oil.

Other things, to me, are worth spending extra time on. Like homemade macaroni and cheese. Or hanging my laundry outside: it smells better, the fabric lasts longer, I use less energy, and it gets me outside at least a couple of times, even on days when I'm doing housework. Still<> And maybe the real reason they are so pressed for time is that instead of putting a roast in the slowecooker or oven ahead of time (total prep time if you add a half cup of water: 2 minutes) and boiling their potatoes on the stove top, they're waiting for the microwave to finish one dish so they can put the second one in before running out to get a payday loan because their roast beef dinner cost $15.00 without leftovers instead of $9.99 with enough left over for another dinner and a couple of lunches.

it's almost enough to make me wish I was teaching math again. Someone has to.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

(Sigh)

Summer's over and I've got Poison Ivy again.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Contemplation

There is a message on my answering machine from an internationally recognized radio and television personality. I won't say who, because I'd like to protect their privacy, but I will acknowledge that this person cottages just across the street from me, and that 9 out of 10 of my friends would immediately recognize the voice if I replayed the message for them.



The message is about the Georgina Arts Centre and Gallery's Dinah Christie Celebrity Challenge. The Celebrity Challenge is a fundraiser for children's art programs at the gallery, which raises money by auctioning off small paintings by celebrities.



I am not a celebrity. Certainly, not like my neighbour. But the gallery is nearby and a few years ago when they were initiating the idea, and my first book had just been published, a friend nominated me as a bit of a local celebrity. They were desperate, I got in.



Anyway, this year I asked my oh-so-much-more-famous neighbour to participate. And the response on my answering machine is "thank you, but no - I haven't got an artistic bone in my body and it would just cause me too much angst."



Angst? Angst??? How could this simple thing cause angst? I wondered. All you have to do is paint a picture...

(This is my 2010 submission. It's called "Contemplation," and you can buy it at the auction this Saturday night, August 21st, at the auction described above.)




All you have to do is paint a picture.


And yet. And yet if it was a celebrity softball tournament, I wouldn't consider it for a second. I can't catch flying objects, and I barely run fast enough to catch a cold! I don't do sports. My neighbour doesn't do art.


All of which got me thinking about a conversation I had with my aunt a few weeks ago. I was telling her about a friend of mine who, back in high school, had marks that averaged in the 90's, held a part time job, and still always made time for other people. (Later, she skipped her master's degree and went straight into a doctoral program, giving birth to her first child while preparing her doctoral thesis because - what the heck - she was off anyway!) "I think that's one of the things I really liked best about her," I explained. "She just does all these great things and makes it look easy, but I never have the sense that she's bragging or putting anyone else down," I said to my aunt.


"Although," I admitted, "sometimes I feel really pathetic in comparison. Like when I called to tell her I'd been accepted into teacher's college, and found out that she had just accepted a job as a univerity professor. I just don't personally feel that I can ever measure up to her."


"You know," my aunt said gently, "there are probably people who look at you, and the fact that you work full time and teach other teachers for the school board and write books, and think you're pretty accomplished, too."


She may be right, but I hadn't thought about it that way, because I -- like many people -- tend to compare myself to others who seem more accomplished, and focus on what I haven't yet achieved. It's probably okay to think that way if it keeps me humble or drives me try new things, but maybe we all need to believe in ourselves, and our abilities, a little more often.


Friday, August 6, 2010

When is a book no longer yours?

I did an author appearance last week at a summer school class (hi girls!) and one of the questions that came up - as it often does - was "how do you pick the titles for your books?" In explaining that I have (thus far) been extremely lucky, and had the full support of my editor on all of my titles, we then got into a discussion about the editorial process, and the types of changes that happen throughout. My experiences with editing have ranged from the painless (Can we change "my parents will kill me" to "I'll be grounded for life"?) to gut-wrenching (No. Because of x, y and z, you absolutely can not include that plot element)...and, I suspect from reading other author's blogs that my experiences are not unique. And yet, the girls at summer school were - as most people outside of the publishing industry tend to be - absolutely SHOCKED that ANYONE besides an author should get any say in what gets written. Even when I got my first contract, I didn't yet understand that like a close friend who will be totally honest when you shop for bathing suits, a brilliant editor (and I have had them) will point out all of the opportunities for improvement, as well as the things that are already strong. Authors tend to get the credit for successful books, but good editors go a long way towards getting them there.

And then, there are ghost writers. The other night I was in a large chain bookstore in downtown Toronto, and found myself beside a huge line-up of book buyers all waiting for the "author" to sign their purchases. I put "author" in quotes because the person whose name appeared on the book - the person who was doing the autographs -- is actually the former drummer of a very popular 80's rock band. (Yes, I have their greatest hits, no, I'm not naming names). And maybe he did write his own memoirs - Jimmy Buffet has actually carved out quite a nice little fiction empire for himself - but I'll be honest: I wondered. Did this guy actually sit down at a keyboard and TYPE? Or did he do some interviews, and just approve the copy that came back to him? Is he still the author, if it's his life story but he didn't write a word? And more importantly, if it's a compelling story, does anybody actually care? Last January, The New York Times published this fascinating piece about author James Patterson's stable of ghost writers. And I've been thinking about it ever since. Then, today, I read this little blurb about creativity, which suggests, of all things, that group brainstorming DOES NOT WORK, and the theory that it does was actually disproved in 1958!!! So take that, army of ghost writers - James Patterson might be richer, but I can be more creative without you!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Swimming at sunset

Me, a pool noodle, a warm night, and the sun setting over the lake.

Summer really doesn't get any better than this.


Unless there's chocolate.












Look! I caught a sunset!

Book trailer for Maybe Never, Maybe Now

Watch this space for a contest related to this trailer!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hEYoVpmH5p4

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Write Like...

I Write like Lewis Carroll!

...or, at least, I did in my earler blog post "Me, the Cat Lady", which was the sample text I inserted HERE, on the "I Write Like..." text analyzer.

But when I insert the edited opening paragraphs of my new novel, Maybe Never, Maybe Now I write like J. K. Rowling.

The opening paragraphs of Definitely Not Camelot link me to Vladimir Nabokov (whom I only know of through the old Police song, "Don't Stand so Close to Me" in which Sting sings: "It's no use/he sees her/he starts to shake and cough/just like the/old man in/that book by Nabokov."

And a paragraph I wrote for the first draft Definitely Not Camelot - a paragraph my editor cut - apparently resembles the style of Stephen King.

Huh.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Me, the Frog Lady




...and this afternoon, I have nine froglets in total peeking up at me out of the pond. These three were very cozy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Me, the Cat Lady



Oliver-Henry (missing since July 26, 2009)

Majik (adopted through Toronto Cat Rescue, December 30, 2009)

Oscar (my mom's cat, who often visits, brought to me as a stray kitten in August, 1995)


The neighbour's cat. I call him Sylvester. Isn't his goatee great?

The neighbour's other cat. I call him Tweety. He is a polydactyl, with extra toes.


So it has been 366 days since Oliver-Henry disappeared from my mom's backyard in Kitchener, Ontario, during a light rainfall, after slipping out of her back door. As many of you know, I searched for him desperately, and grieved his loss powerfully. But little by little, I've had to let go. Among the things I tried:

- Kijiji, Craigslist, and other internet classified ads
- begging for his return on Facebook, on my website, and on television when I appeared on What's Your Point? in December
- a Google alert that searched the internet every day for blogs and other postings for "found cats", and then sent that information to my inbox. I can now say, after a year of reading the results, that Michigan and Las Vegas sure have a lot of homelss kitties!
- hand delivering 1000 flyers to homes in my mom's neighbourhood
- asking employees of two of Kitchener's biggest employers (RIM and Manulife) to watch for him
- using regular mail to send colour posters and descriptions to every veterinarian's office in Kitchener-Waterloo
- enlisting the help of the local KW cat rescue organizations
- having my mom visit the Humane Society every other day for six months (after three days in the HS, the pound act says they can be put down or adopted out, so you have to check frequently. I hadn't been aware of this before).
- writing to several local churches, asking them to post his info in their bulletins-- offering author readings and rewards to nearby schools if they would share his description with their students
- maintaining a list of rescue organizations both in and outside KW and checking it regularly for updates

Despite all of my efforts, I did not find him. And that pisses me off! But I do feel that I made every reasonable effort, so although I will probably still be unable to stop myself from popping into Kijiji every once in a while, today I cancelled the Google alerts.


And it wasn't in vain. I do feel that I tried (no more goldfish-type dreams over this loss). I reunited a few other cats with their families, just by cross-referncing "lost cat" ads in one place with "found cat" ads in others. And also by searching someone out on Facebook. I experienced small-world coincidences, such as when I was contacted with a possible lead by author Marianne Paul, who I had never met, but who lives in my mom's neighbourhood and coincidentally had done an author reading one time with my fellow Lobster Press author, Christina Kilbourne.

And I got Majik (aka The Great Catsby)into my life.

When Oliver-Henry went missing, I kept saying that when the time was right, a new cat would come into my life. Lately, I've also been "parenting" several others. My neighbour decided in May that he would let his cats out. He then began using his house more as a cottage, and as far as I can tell, he is home only on Saturday nights. The rest of the time, his cats live in and around my garage. He does seem to leave a bowl of food out on Sunday afternoons, but the squirrels, raccons and skunks clean it out pretty quickly. I didn't start feeding "Sylvester" and "Tweety" (as I call them) until they began tearing open my garbage bags, but now they (and another, seemingly feral cat who won't let me near him) come regularly to dine. Add to that Taz, the cat from down the street, and my mom's cat, Oscar, who is visiting, and one would think that it would be cat-fight city out in my driveway, but so far, everyone seems to get along just beautifully, and I often find them sitting out there contentedly, together.

I've always loved cats. When I nine, I spent a week on my aunt's farm. First place I went every morning was out to the barn to feed the barn cats, even though most of them were wild and untouchable.

Before that, I'd fostered a batch of kittens with their mama cat, whom I'd found out in the woods while raspberry picking one summer.

I like to think that what goes around comes around, and if I love and take care of Majik, plus the brood outside, someone, somewhere, is loving and taking care of Oliver-Henry.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why Jon Bon Jovi is my Edward Cullen

1. The dazzling smile.
2. The superhuman powers (he can get 40,000 fans to sing, wave their arms, or freeze to listen in total silence, without saying a word).
3. He's been around forever, yet...
4. He doesn't seem to age
5. He has a way with words. ("You wanna make a memory..." Wow. So simple. And so much more romantic than most of the propositions I've heard over the years. )
6. He's loyal. Jon Bon Jovi -- one of the biggest rock stars ever -- is still married to his high school sweetheart. And I think that's the true appeal of both Edward and Jon - everyone wants to believe that there is one person out there who will be devoted to them forever.

Thanks to Samantha for this great site with footage of the July 21st concert at Rogers Centre in Toronto!

http://www.youtube.com/user/fictionmistress#p/u/0/jBmjloLLzyU

Memorables

I'm listening to news of the Tour de France on the radio today, and remembering the race five years ago, when I just happened to be in Paris, and spontaneously decided to spend the afternoon watching the last laps. I'm not much of a sports fan, and I'd never watched the race on television before (nor have I since). But there is something about sharing a live experience with a crowd that just makes it special. Other once-in-a-lifetimes crowd things that come to mind include Rick Hansen's Man in Motion Tour, when I was in grade twelve, and getting up at five in the morning -- while at camp almost thirty years ago this week -- to watch the wedding of Lady Diana Spencer and Prince Charles. Back then, we didn't have CNN or YouTube or Yahoo to run repeats all day, so it was get up early with everyone else, or miss it altogether. And even though I wasn't actually at the wedding (though I was at Rick Hansen's Kitchener stop), there was something about watching it together, with everyone else from the camp, that made it more special.

I think that's why people still go to concerts. This week, I had the privilege of seeing Bon Jovi at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Yes, I could have purchased a couple of their CD's for the ticket price I paid, and yes, the sound quality would have been better, and yes, I mostly watched the big screen anyway even though he was right there in front of me, but none of that would have given me that shared moment that comes from being at a live concert. When you are in a stadium, you just can't help but scream, and whistle, and stamp your feet along with everyone else. (Especially when JBJ flashes those pearly whites...but that's another blog post.)

Books aren't like that. Books are, by their very nature, solitary pursuits. But when you meet someone else who's been touched by a great story the way you have, and you connect over the shared enjoyment of it, a little bit of that shared elation shines through.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hold Onto Sixteen, as Long as You Can....

Above: a lyric from John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane"...because I saw him in concert this week at Casino Rama! I'd been hoping, for a long time, to one day see him perform live (how long you ask? well, I can still remember when he was JOHNNY COUGAR..before I was sixteen!). And the tickets were still kind of expensive (mostly because Casino Rama shows generally run about 75 minutes, tops - they want people to go back out and gamble). But I was prepared to possibly be disappointed (yes, I'm a pessimist) because Mellencamp is almost sixty, because fifteen years ago, when I saw Rod Stewart--who would have only been about forty, the age I am now--he pulled out a stool, put on glasses, and read song lyrics like an old man. Ouch. Mellencamp, I am happy to report, did not disappoint. He sang. He danced. He chatted us up. He swore. He's obviously got the "hold onto sixteen" thing down.

Things I did this week to hold onto sixteen:
- went swimming in the lake
- went hot-tubbing with friends
- went to a Mellencamp concert!
- read a YA novel (Somewhere in Blue)
- ate chocolate syrup right out of the jar
- firmed up plans for the next concert: Bon Jovi!
- stayed up as late as I wanted and slept in the next day

Things I did this week that did not make me feel sixteen:
- shopped for a new bathing suit
- had my physical and was told that I now need regular mammograms, as I am over forty
- tried to be my own "hand model" for a Maybe Never, Maybe Now book trailer and realized that my hands just looked too...old. Older than a sixteen year old's, anyway. Had to recruit a friend's daughter, who was perfect with bitten fingernails and chipped blue polish.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

LiveAid, 25 Years Later

The media was (were?) buzzing today with reminders that it is the twenty-fifth anniversary of Live Aid. At the time, it was introduced as my generation's Woodstock. And maybe it wasn't for everyone, for me, I think that was true.

I hadn't actually planned on watching it, but somehow, I ended up turning on the television right near the beginning. I thought maybe I'd just watch until Madonna's performance, as she was my favourite at the time, but I got hooked. It's hard, now, to explain the impact of that concert, because so many things are culturally different. Back in 1985, VCRs were still relatively new, on-screen programming hadn't yet been invented, and taping things was complicated. TiVo and Personal TV were years and years in the future, as were endless internet replays. So if we wanted to watch something, we usually just did it in the moment. The offshoot of that was akin to something that many Canadians felt again this past February, during the men's gold medal hockey game: unity. Somehow, just knowing that so many others were sharing a live event with you - even if you were watching it alone - made you feel as if you were part of something huge.

Nowadays, it is common for performers to raise money through collaborative efforts. But in 1985, Band Aid and Live Aid were unique.

Five years ago I met someone who told me he'd just purchased the Live Aid DVDs. I reminisced about watching it live, seeing Madonna for the first time with auburn hair, and how it had influenced me. He had similar memories, and they joined us together with a common bond, twenty years later.

How cool is that?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lessons from the Blackout of 2003

It was hot this week. Super hot. And I had a lot of things to do: gardening, staining furniture, housework. But I also had a lot of things I wanted to do: reading, writing, painting. Often, I get caught up in the "shoulds", thinking that if I get them out of the way, I'll have time later for the "want tos"...but I never really do get through the "shoulds", and the "want tos" lose out.

Seven years ago, (plus a month), in similarly brutal heat, Ontario suffered from a massive blackout. For three days, the power was out. I couldn't vacuum...or power wash...or do any of the chores that were on my list. It wasn't wasted time, though, because I read books! Guilt free - without feeling like I should be doing something else. I swam -- for hours on end (It was hot! And I couldn't do any chores!). I wrote (with a pen!). I painted. It was one of the best "vacations" I'd ever had.

I remembered the joy of that time this week, in the heat, and I swam a lot. And I read. And I wrote - a little bit - for fun, not for work. It's going to be super hot again this week. Maybe the universe is trying to tell me something.

Monday, June 21, 2010

...and sometimes, it seems as if I'm slacking off...


It's a sad irony that when I have the most stuff to blog about, I have the least amount of time to do so.

The solution? Another super-sized, multi-topic ramble, I suppose!

What I've been up to/thinking about/not blogging about during the last month:


1. My First 5K Run

Yes - I actually DID it! If you read my earlier posts about coaching a Girls on the Run group at school, you've likely been waiting breathlessly for news of my promised 5K. After ten weeks of training with the students, we headed to Downsview Park in Toronto on June 6th for the celebration run/walk. My personal goal had been to run the entire way. I didn't run fast, but I did jog without stopping. Except for those places along the post thunderstorm/totally under construction track where the mud got so deep that we could only pass through single file without losing out shoes and socks in the goop. In those places, I stood in line, like everyone else.


2. Hansel et Gretel, en musique


As if the coaching/run wasn't enough, (remember: my idea of fun is reading a book) I just mounted the coolest show ever with my grade seven students. "Hansel et Gretel en Musique" is an entirely original French musical version of the Hansel and Gretel story. "But, why?" you ask. "Because they are a super class, with many students who like to sing. Because I like to keep French class interesting and different. Because it turns out my inner Weird Al Yankovic was crying to be set free, and it turns out I can rhyme in two languages.

I painted a gingerbread house, then (quite by chance) ended up at a couple of yard sales where I got patio lanterns (light up gumdrops) and giant candy canes to finish it off. I made cardboard trees. And I turned songs like "Sweet Caroline" into funny show tunes like "Maison Sucree". I'd already talked the students into it when I heard about funding available through the Ontario Ministry of Education to "support increased opportunities for students in all FSL [French as a Second Language] programs to improve and apply, through clear educational objectives, their oral communication skills. The aim is to encourage students to pursue the study of French when it is no longer compulsory for their program." So perfect! We got the funding, I booked a school bus, and last Friday we took our show "on the road" to four area schools. "My kids" were amazing. I am so proud of them, for taking on this challenge, and believing in themselves! And I'll try to post a picture, if I can get permission from parents...


3. SEVEC

Still on the language teaching side of my life, I'm getting ready to book another SEVEC exchange for the 2010/2011 school year. Fundraising is already under way.


4. Spring
(Sigh) Yes, I know today is the first official day of summer. But I've been busy, okay? (See above). So busy. And my garden keeps growing, and the cottage is under renovation (an updated septic system so I don't have to worry about polluting the lake! Hooray! A dishwasher because I have a real septic system - hooray, hooray!). Some pics:

The woodlot beside my mail box (part of why I love living here!):







The roses and lilacs beside my house


5. Report Cards


'Nuff said.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sometimes, I get it right

My cousin Amanda posted this beautiful photo essay the other day on her blog, pondering how one knows when one is a good parent, and concluding, through her daughter's actions, that she must be doing something right.

I've often considered the same question in different contexts: how do I know whther or not I'm a good writer? For me, it's not about the number of books I sell, the awards I win, or even the great reviews. The real proof, for me, is in hearing about the positive impact my writing has had on readers. I've heard from girls who found the strength to end abusive relationships after reading Painting Caitlyn . I've heard from grown women who say they sobbed all the way through, because they recognized so much of their own history in the novel. Once, I even heard from a boy who had purchased the book for his sister, because he feared for her safety. Those are the stories that tell me I've touched someone's life. That's what tells me I've done a good job.

And today, I had one of those teacher moments (or maybe, it was a human being moment?). A student I once taught knocked unexpectedly on my door. She's almost seventeen now, and, through family circumstances that were completely beyond her control, living on her own. This kid - because yes, from where I sit, she is still a kid - has been through more personal tragedy and betrayal than anyone should ever experience, at any age. Enough *crap* to send any adult over the edge. I don't know if I can say she's thriving, but she's coping. She's still in school. She's drug-free. She's volunteering. And she's hoping to go to university. She's on her way to thriving.

And she stopped by to thank me for what seemed to me to be some very small things I contributed to her life. The thing is, to her, they weren't small. They mattered. They made a difference in her life. And she makes a difference in the world. Imagine the difference I can make now by putting in a conscious, consistent effort!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's ALIVE!

The town, that is. Here in Canada, we're having Victoria Day Weekend - the first long weekend of the summer season.

Traditionally, it's the weekend when we can finally plant our gardens without fear of frost, but many people also use it as a chance to get away. I have lots of fond memories of this weekend, including a trip to the beach with my friends during my senior year, a weekend at the cottage with the family of my first serious boyfriend, and one weekend where I was double-booked, spending time both at one friend's cottage, and on another's boat.

Now, as an adult, I have chosen to live in "cottage country", and I see the holiday weekend in a whole new way. Last night, as the sun began to set, the main intersection in town (still, blessedly, a traffic-light free four-way stop) had more teens than usual standing on the corner. The cars driving by had canoes and kayaks on top, or boat trailers behind them. Ice cream signs appeared in front of the businesses in town, and many stayed open late for what will now be their "summer hours". Lights came on in the cottages around my home, the scent of lilacs mingled with phlox and lily-of-the-valley and BBQ'd steak, and people came outside, tolerant of the first mosquitoes, because suddenly, it feels like summer, and the town is alive.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Titles

Okay - I admit it. I go one step beyond Googling myself. I get Google alerts to tell me when someone has mentioned one of my books (or a found cat....)on the internet. Mostly, it's vanity, to see where I show up. Officially, though, it's so I don't miss out on a favorable review.

Last week Painting Caitlyn was mentioned in a blog

The author was discussing titles, and what a turn-off bad ones can be, and said:

For example, I was looking on Amazon the other day and came across a young adult book titled, Painting Caitlyn. Did I want to click on this book and read more about it? Absolutely not. I don't want to paint Caitlyn or even learn how to.


Although her opening question "How do authors come up with titles" was probably rhetorical, I couldn't resist replying. Click on the links to see thread.

Friday, April 30, 2010

“I know that you can do the impossible”


I got approved for life insurance this week!

And April was cancer month. Or so said the National Cancer Society.

What do these two random items have in common? My thyroid. Because it was eleven years ago this week that I had the first of two surgeries for thyroid cancer. And while that's something to celebrate, it's also been eleven years since anyone has agreed to insure me. Every time I've tried for insurance, someone reads my health history form, sees the "cancer" box checked off, and rejects me. I've been told that I can't even donate blood. But this time was different. This time, I got a second letter, with a more detailed questionnaire, wanting to know about the type of cancer I'd had (Thyroid, papillary), size of tumor (2+ cm), stage (II), and treatment (surgery x2 plus radioactive iodine). And then finally after all these years, someone somewhere deemed me insurable. They believed in me.

I wish I could say that I'd always believed in myself, but there aren't a lot of cancer success stories out there. Or, at least, there haven't been in my own experience.

My father died of cancer in his early forties, as did his mother, so yes, I suspected that I'd need to be watchful when I got to that age. What I didn't know was that it would hit me so much earlier - at 28. The writer in me likens it to the final fairy in Sleeping Beauty. You know, the one who says she can't remove the curse of the evil fairy, but she can soften it a bit, by making it 100 years of slumber instead of instant death? I see my cancer kind of like that - as if it was, genetically, perhaps inevitable. But also as if someone (okay - my dad) was watching out for me, and trying to soften it a bit, by making it happen while I was young and otherwise healthy, and by making it one of the least deadly cancers.

My doctors all called it a "good" cancer, because of its excellent long term survival/cure rates when caught early, but I refuse to to describe any cancer as "good". Young or not, treatable or not, cancer is terrifying. And I didn't know, for a long time, whether I had the physical and emotional strength to get through it. But because I had my surgery in late April, and the final pathology report (aka official cancer diagnosis) in early May, the plastic grocery bags they were giving out that year right after I got the news were still left over from "cancer month", and they all said "Cancer Can be Beaten". Up until that time, I hadn't actually known many people who'd proven that. And honestly, today, I still don't. But I tore a bag open, stuck it on my fridge, and I left it there for months, through another surgery, through radioactive iodine treatment, and through the time I just felt awful because I'd lost the gland that controls everything in body, and the replacement hormones just didn't seem to be helping. And every time I looked at that bag, I felt a little bit of hope.

Today that bag is in the front of a scrap book I made during that awful period, along with pictures of all of the flower arrangements that I received, and every single "Get Well" card. Individually, they were all powerful. But together, they were tangible proof that other people believed in me when I couldn't do it myself.

Now that I've been approved for life insurance, I have proof that finally, eleven years later, the statistics believe in me, too.

Terry Fox said "I know that you can do the impossible". Breaking the family curse once felt impossible. But maybe I just did it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The times they are a changin'

Summer, 1983: Madonna bursts onto the music scene. I am just about to turn fourteen. Video is a brand new medium, and she uses it to her advantage, wearing edgy clothes that appeal to teen girls who want to be like her, and teen boys who want to date her. Parents, spurred on by the media, start freaking out. Then comes the "Like a Virgin" album.

It was LIKE a virgin, people. It wasn't a song about losing your virginity - it was a song about feeling as if everything is new.

I made it through the wilderness
somehow I made it through
didn't know how lost I was
until I found you


Like a virgin was a SIMILE, but most people didn't listen carefully enough to get that. I got it. I saw her as someone who was courageous, and went for what she wanted. And I've still got my "Virgin Tour 2005" T-shirt to prove it.

April 2010: Glee runs an "all Madonna" episode, using music from each decade of her career. They call her "empowered" and "empowering". They said she was a strong female role model.

So, what happened? Did she prove herself over the years through her staying power and constant reinvention? Did people start listening more carefully? Did anything really change? Does she just look tame now in comparison to today's video stars? Or are the "they" who are declaring her a role model just middle aged people like me who grew up with her?

Monday, April 12, 2010

The covers are coming! The covers are coming!



I am delighted to share with you the covers for my forthcoming (and hopefully long awaited?) books, Definitely Not Camelot (sequel to Posing as Ashley), and Maybe Never, Maybe Now (sequel to Painting Caitlyn). Huge thanks to the goddess Tammy Desnoyers at Lobster Press for these gorgeous covers!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Autograph worthy?

We had an author at school the other day. He arrived during what is normally the grade 4/5 French period, so I had to take the students down to the gymnasium, and as we were about to line up, they all started grabbing pieces of paper out of the scrap bin. "Why are you bringing paper to the gym?" I asked. "We want his autograph," they told me. "Because he's an author." I had to laugh, because to them, I'm their French teacher, which makes me so not autograph worthy...and yet, the very next day, I was off to Maxwell Heights Secondary School in Oshawa to be (tah dah!) their guest author.

It was a great audience, including members of their "Girl's Group" and "Creativity Club". They asked good questions about writing and inspiration. And many of them hung around after for autographed bookmarks. (No scrap paper for my fans!) As always, I was touched and humbled to hear from so many readers who said that weren't in the habit of picking up novels, but who, after picking up Painting Caitlyn, said they couldn't put it down until they'd finished. But the story that touched me the most was this: one girl said she'd loved the book, and taken it home to her mother, who was now reading with her. After the students had left, her teacher told me that this is a girl who has rarely had any sustained interactions with her mother - let alone positive ones. But they have connected through this story. That's the transformative power of books. The autographed bookmark might not last - but I hope she has the good memories of this time with her mother forever.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

...and life goes on...

Ever since my last post, about the sudden, premature death of my friend James Effer, I've been trying to figure out how to keep blogging. What can I write now that won't seem trivial? Self-involved? Pointless? Maybe nothing. But even though it feels - when something like this happens - as though everything should stop, it doesn't.

As a staff, we all went to school the day after we'd heard the news, and cried together in the staff room. Then the bell rang, and we had to tell the students. From then on, the rest of the week felt very unreal, and dream-like.

I spent two nights going through eight years of archived school photos, looking for pictures of Jim. It wasn't easy - because usually, he was our photographer. But I enjoyed the pictures, and felt a small burst of satisfaction every time I found one where we'd caught him for a change. It made me feel useful during a time when it feels like there is so little one can do. Then, on Wednesday night, I pulled an "all-nighter" getting a memorial slideshow ready for our students. At ten o'clock, I had the basics together, and probably could have burned it to DVD. But the music didn't line up the way I wanted, and I was hoping to add a few more photos. So I kept working. At midnight, I discovered a problem with my Windows Media Player, which I needed to convert some music for the show...I spent a long time mucking around with it, and then finally turned everything off, re-booted, and all was well. By 3 a.m. I'd hit that point where the adrenaline kicks in, and I couldn't have slept if I'd wanted to. I was creating something. I wanted it to be perfect. I wished I'd had more time to record voiceovers with the students who worked with Jim, but I reminded myself that what I had (no rehearsal, one take!) was authentic, and that counts for something, too. At 5:30 a.m. I put a disc into the computer and prayed that all would burn properly. At 5:45 I went to bed, and at 7:00a.m. I got up again.

The DVD burned properly, and I set up the data projector at school just the way Jim showed me. But I wanted a cable to connect the sound through the gym speakers, and nobody, at first, knew where the cable was, or how it worked. Made us miss Jim a little bit more, and wonder what other "soft knowledge" we'd be looking for without him.

I have never seen our students so solemn and respectful as they were that day. A teacher who told me she never cries - not even for her own father's funeral - said the tribute I'd made brought her to tears. My principal took my hand and said it had been perfect.

I will make copies for Jim's family. But I haven't done so yet.

We had a funeral to attend that afternoon. Then, because nobody felt quite ready to go home yet, we went out together as a staff. I needed a break from the sadness, and I couldn't do the DVDs that night anyway, as I had prepare for a conference the next day...

Life goes on. Forever altered, but still - thankfully - it goes on.

Our school pictures will be missing something now. So will our staff.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Little Perspective


Rainbow Over Beaverton Public School
by James Effer

I was all set to post about March Break - how great the weather was, how my sinuses are still inflamed and making me headachy, and how many things I have to do once I get back to school.

And then I got a phonecall saying that one of my colleagues has died.

James (Jim) Effer worked with me for eight years. He took the author portrait on my website, and here, on this blog. And he did it for free, because that's just the kind of guy he was. He actually LIKED helping people, and the pleasure he got from that showed on his face when you thanked him.

Jim had just returned from a week in the Dominican Republic when he collapsed. I hope it was a good holiday for him, and for his family. I hope they won't be traumatized by having been there, and not being able to help.

I was only fifteen when my own dad died. And while I would never wish cancer on anyone, I am grateful that I had time to prepare myself, and say good-bye. When the time came, as bad as it was to lose him, I was actually relieved to see his suffering end. I live with the sadness of not having him in my life, but I don't have any regrets about things that were unsaid, and in that, I am lucky.

Just last night - perhaps while Jim was passing on - my husband and I were talking about events that happened ten years ago. "We're getting old fast!" he said. And, as is my habit, I reminded him that "the alternative is worse", using the examples of his brother-in-law, who died at 34, and my dad, who didn't make it out of his forties, where I am now.

I meant it when I said it, but I mean it more today, because Jim's last gift to me was a fresh perspective on making the most of the time you've got.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why I Read "Why Cats Paint"


Wow - I'm turning into a devotee of Travis Jonker's "100 Scope Notes" blog!

His latest post included a number of links which he admitted might have been crazy to amass...but when I saw the picture of - Why Cats Paint, as a link to "Literary Oddities", I began to wonder if maybe I'm the oddity,because I own - and adore - it.

The general hypothesis of the book is that cats sometimes deliberately create art. So when my kitten, Nutmeg, tipped over the coffee cup of red Georgia sand that I kept on my bookshelf when I was a child, and then swept it back up into a perfectly neat pile, maybe it was art, and the sweeping didn't actually have anything to do with the fact that he peed in it first. That dead mouse I once found on the couch just before the company arrived? An installation by Sacha Cat. The scratch marks on a sofa? "Upholstery Art" that "represents the first stage of their artistic growth" as they explore non-traditional mediums.

Yeah, my husband never bought that one, either.

But honestly, books, cats and art all together? Anyone who knows me knows it's perfect. And when I pulled the book out to photograph it for this post, Majik/The Great Catsby seemed to agree.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Celebrations and Book Spine Poetry - My Entry

First, a celebration - Maybe Never, Maybe Now, (which was starting to feel like a really ironic title) WENT TO PRODUCTION TODAY!!! Hooray! This means I can't tinker with it anymore, and (drumroll please) it WILL be out as scheduled this fall, with its companion novel, Definitely Not Camelot [huge sigh of relief growing into giggles of excitement].

I'm feeling very Zen tonight, as I spent the day on the slopes in the sunshine. Most of the day, anyway. Part of it I spent alone in the car, singing along with my Glee CD, with the sunroof open. And just after lunch, I found a lovely Muskoka chair beside the chalet, and I settled in comfortably in the sunshine with my MP3 player, my sunglasses, and a big smile on my face. The rest of the time, I soared down slopes of slushy snow. So I returned from my Wednesday night yoga class completely ready to "write" book spine poetry.

Here's my first poem:


Just in case you can't make some of it out, it says:

Your Many Faces
Speak
The Language of Goldfish
Awake and Dreaming
Negotiating with the Dead
In Summer Light
As I Lay Dying
Somewhere off the Coast of Maine

What does it mean? It means that tonight, I'm Zen.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Book Spine Poetry

Okay - a two for one posting tonight, since this stupid flu, the report cards and my edits have kept me away so much in recent weeks. Also because I just found this awesome fun Book Spine Poetyry challenge at 100 Scope Notes and entries have to be submitted by Thursday!

Beginnings, Middles, and Endings

Beginnings:
- March Break (in two days!)
- ski season! (hear me out). Despite my ski pass at Snow Valley, I've only made it out ONCE all season. Lack of snow, lack of time. But tomorrow is ski day at school, so I'm headed out to Horseshoe Valley for the day. In 10 degree Celsius weather - which is, like, ridiculously warm, and will make the snow mushy, but whatever. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the beginning of the season for me, and I can make up for lost time during March Break. I only learned to ski five years ago, so I feel like I need to make up for lost time!
- Term 3 at school - busy with extracurriculars, but usually easier than second term because the days are long and the end is in sight
- serious book promotions on my end, in anticipation of my *TWO* new releases for fall.

Middles:
- the week (tomorrow is Wednesday)

Endings
- (I hope) the flu virus that has been hanging on inside my bocy for almost three weeks. Sinus involvement. Chest congestion. Body aches. Fatigue. Loss of appetite. Not the H1N1, because I got vaccinated for that. Stubborn, though.
- Term 2 at school - report cards go home on Thursday.
- Book edits (for now). I thought they were done in December, but then they came back at me, hard and furious, in February. Simultaneously with the flu and the report cards (see above). But tomorrow, I believe, all will go to production, and I can sit back, and think about the next books.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Let me tell you about today's specials...

Oops - sorry. I'm not sure there are any. I've been noticing it for awhile now - especially at school - and it makes me sad.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines "special" in the following way:

Special (adjective)
1. distinguised by some unusual quality; especially; being in some way superior
2. held in particular esteem
3. a) readily distinguishable from others in the same category
b) of, relating to, or constituting a species
4. being other than the usual
5. designed for a particular purpose or occasion

So what's the problem? Here, in North America, in 2010, people have so many things and experiences available to them that nothing seems "special" to them anymore.

A few examples:
1. When I was a child, pop and chips were special, because we only ever had them when a babysitter came over, or at a birthday party. Now, most of my students bring them in their lunch on a daily basis. Eating in restaurants was another treat for my childhood self, because we rarely did it. But I have nieces and nephews and students and even adult friends who do it all the time - restaurants have become the norm for them
2. Movies! Without VCRs or DVDs, we used to wait all year for the Christmas season, when classics like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang would come on T.V. And then we'd watch them. Carefully. Because they were special, and we didn't know when we'd get to see them again. Now, (I've noticed) even when someone says they LOVE a movie, they talk all the way through it. They get up. They wander around. And I think it's because they've seen it before, and will again, and...so what?
3. Even favourite songs used to be something we waited for the on radio...then bought the 45 or LP, which we carefully transferred onto a cassette tape with other favourite songs. Now, at the push of a few buttons, you can have any song you want, at any time. Even without buying it.

The thing is, I LOVE pop and chips, and restaurants and movies and MP3's. I'm not criticizing them AT ALL. But I wonder if part of my love of them is that they are still, in some ways, novel to me. And I worry about the kids who are growing up without novelty, because what do they have to look forward to?

Then again, maybe novelty is subjective, and homecooked meals and playing outside will be "special" for this generation.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Apparently, my problems are all in my head...

Yesterday, I attended Coach's Training for Girls on the Run, which I am coordinating at school this spring. I agreed not because of the running aspect (exercise - yuck!) but because I was told that it is a self-esteem program for girls. Since most of my self-esteem issues over the years came about as a result of failed athletic pursuits, the idea of achieving self-esteem through running is pretty intriguing.


And what I discovered during the day was this: my self-esteem is actually pretty healthy!


One of the things they asked us to do was fill out three labels with the names of body parts that, given the chance, we'd like to change.


Everyone else started writing frantically - hips, butt, thighs, chin, nose...Once, I would have had a lot of things to write, too. But yesterday, I didn't. (Yes, my stomach is bigger than it ever has been or probably should be, but that is something that I CAN change - and will, as I run this 5k with the girls in the program) so I didn't think it counted. And I've always loved my nose...


So what did I come up with? Ears, because yesterday, I had an earache from a cold. Throat, because the same cold was giving me a sore throat. And thyroid, because I lost my thyroid to cancer eleven years ago, and the rest of my body is affected by that every single day.

How amazing to be at a place in my life where all of my body image issues revolve around health - vs. looks - but don't yet include constipation, cataracts, or incontinence!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Not a Fairytale Ending

Today, someone I once knew well was convicted of several serious crimes. Even twenty-two years ago, there were clues - arrogance, a sense of entitlement, ambition that smelled like greed. So I can't honestly say that I was surprised by the news.

But there were good things about this person, too. Things like intelligence, generosity, and ambition that was boundless.

The prosecutor said a lot of people had been hurt. The jury returned a guilty verdict. I don't doubt that it was the right decision.

But I'm inexplicably sad about this turn of events, and I find myself crying now as I type. If this was a book, I could have redeemed the villain at the end, or, at the very least, rejoiced in the triumph of good over evil. But I don't like this ending at all.

Monday, February 15, 2010

He's my inspiration

No disrespect to my husband, but I do have another significant other: our Lollie-pup (Lab/Collie cross), Spencer. And a lot of my best writing ideas seem to happen not while I'm parked in front of the keyboard, but when I give myself permission to take a break, stop thinking about the problem, and head outside for a walk with my favourite little doggy-dude. What is it about picking up dog poop that helps me write? E-How, suggests that
"when we feel good, our senses heighten, and we can be at our best creatively".
and while the poop scooping itself doesn't actually make me "feel good", being outside and seeing Spencer enjoy himself really does. (I mean, seriously - who can feel stressed when they're looking at a wiggly bum with a waggly tail? Who?) Watch this video of Spencer enjoying himself outside and tell me it doesn't make you smile!


video
Furthermore,
"overscheduling is an enemy of creativity."
The physical act of walking probably helps, too. In 2005, Creativity Research Journal published a study suggesting that
"aerobic exercise may positively impact creative potential, and that these effects may extend for some period of time,"
That's why Spencer is such a creative inspiration. He makes me get off my butt, and move. I'd like to be the type of person who just gets up and exercises because it's "fun" or "good for them". I know they exist, because I live with one. But, as stated in my January 27, 2010 blog entry, that is not me. I'd choose a dozen things over deliberate exercise. But I'd choose almost nothing over my pets.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Olympic aspirations...

Just took a break from revisions to see the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympic Games hosted by my own country of Canada.

What was with the mini-length fur coats and bare legs on the sign bearers as each country's athletes entered the stadium? Do Canadian women really need to play the sexy card when we are HOSTING THE OLYMPICS FOR THE WORLD?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Spencer makes me happy during a week of over-extension and Editorial Hell


Spencer thinks the cats - and my books - have had entirely too much attention in this blog. And so, as I caffenate for another long weekend of Editorial Hell (much of it self-inflicted, as I failed to read some small print...), a picture of my favourite doglet. (Taken this afternoon, with my new Blackberry. I didn't think I needed a new gadget, but I have to admit - kind of handy to have a camera!) Honestly, if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have made it outside on this beautiful February afternoon. It's not a great shot of him, but it gives you some idea of how bouncy and delighted he was to go out on the frozen lake. Seeing him frolic in the snow is just one of the many ways that he makes me happy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Highs and Lows of School Trips

A picture from the trip:


...and a story to explain last week's comment about adult geeks vs. child geeks on school trips.

My first school trip was in January the year I was in grade 8. I went to a big school, with several grade 8 classes, so there was no way that the whole school could travel at the same time. Unfortunately, my best friends were not in my class, and their trip was scheduled for the beginning of the week, while mine was at the end. Consequently, I ended up rooming with another girl in my class who was immature in a "I'm thirteen but I still like playing Barbies with my ten year old brother" kind of way. Now, lest that sound judgmental, let me explain about my own situation. I was tall and awkward. I was the smart kid. I was not terribly interested in guys, or fashion, or wearing make-up. Maybe you could say that I was immature, too.

So we arrive at the outdoor education centre and discover that there are not enough rooms on the girls floor, and too many on the boys. Guess which girls got put downstairs? Yup. The ones the teachers trusted. I get that. I got it even then. No way would I have put the flirty impulsive ones down there. But still. It felt humiliating -- not as if the teachers were saying "we trust you" -- as if they were saying "you're not desirable to the guys". Ouch.

Predictably, the flirty impulsive girls tried to use me and my roomate, inventing lame excuses to "visit" our room.

I got through it. And you know what? By the time I got chosen as one of six students from our school to go on a Quebec trip five months later, one of the two boys who'd been selected – realizing that I didn't know the other three girls who were going -- said "Don't worry, Kim - you can hang out with me and Mike." I did hang out with Duncan and Mike. But I also got to know Cindy, Wendy and Andrea, (who you read about earlier in A Tale of Two Islands).

So why do I always remember the perceived humiliation of the winter trip, and not the triumph of Quebec?

Maybe because new research shows that
"Your brain preferentially scans for, registers, stores, recalls, and reacts to unpleasant experiences; it's like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones. Consequently, even when positive experiences outnumber negative ones, the pile of negative...memories naturally grows faster."
.

Too bad. Because my students spent way more time on the ropes challenges, the hiking, the campfire, and the games than calling each other "flat", but no matter how much fun everything else was, the name calling is probably what two of them will remember most.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Remembering my Dad

Today marks my mother's 73rd birthday. Hooray! It's also the twenty-fifth anniversary of my father's death. Sigh. I can type that fairly unemotionally because it's been so long, and I am practised. Apart from the first anniversary, I think maybe the weirdest one was ten years ago, when I realized I had lived as much of my life without a father as I had with one. I've just been building on the "without" side (and will continue to do so) ever since. But still - a quarter of a century. Wow.

Yes - I do think about how things might be different if he was alive today. He loved technology, and I believe that he would be crazy for digital photos and MP3 players and computing in general. It's safe to say that he'd still be eco-conscious (he was a pioneer in that area) but I hope he'd be a little bit more financially relaxed, and he'd spring for the good seats at the symphony, rather than waiting for intermission to move down in vacant ones closer to the front. Best of all, I'm pretty sure he'd still be super proud of me. I don't have him anymore, but I do have that.