Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A Fabulous First Visit

I had a great visit with a kindergarten class last Friday. Thanks Mrs Nichols and Mrs Kamachi! We read Let’s Go! We pretended to walk, canoe, gallop, sail, chug-chug-choo-choo, fly fast, and blast into space. We found the dog Scot Ritchie hid in his illustrations.

Here’s me. There are kids there, honestly. I’m checking on permission about showing pics of the kids but for now here it is cropped in tightly to show only me.

This was my first reading for Let’s Go! It’s been several years since I last did presentations to classes. I love four and five year olds! But I was struck once more by the realization that it’s not to my best advantage to ask open-ended questions to this age group. Unless, that is, I wanted to hear about last night’s dinner or the time when that dad’s car got stuck and they had to call in the tow truck and....

They were an excellent audience. The best moment was when, after I read the line "Iron steam ships chewed the miles of sea," one boy at the front looked pensive and said “Chewed?” That prompted a great talk about why I chose that word as opposed to another (sailed, crossed, traveled, etc.) and about the feeling I had hoped to invoke in readers when they came across that word. We all chewed on that for awhile. (Cool, it worked!!)

I hope they enjoyed our time together as much as I did. Thank you!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Tag, I'm It! Oh no!

Thanks to Rebecca for tagging me. I had no clue what this was until now. But I'm having fun reading blogs I've never read before. So now that I'm IT (ooh, don't I wish that actually made me as Fly as it sounds!!) I'm supposed to write five random things about myself. Hmmmm... here goes:

1. I absolutely love barbecue Fritos corn chips But don't even bother looking at that annoying nutritional analysis thing. It's just depressing.

2. I confess to liking The Bratz music CDs, especially "Forever Diamonds". But don't get me started about the rest of their merchandise.

3. I have not read a novel written for adults in over two years. There are too many good YA and MG novels waiting for me to read them.

4. I am terrified of writing a first draft. I will avoid a first draft for as long as possible. I am so in love with the story in my head that fear of the drek that will appear once I write it down keeps me performing mental gymnastics to trick myself into writing.

5. Once I stop the madness and get some semblance of drek down, once I have a first draft done, I actually like revising.

And now I get to tag up to five other bloggers by naming them here and by leaving a comment on their blog to tell them they're tagged. Um, well, I don't know five others...or at least not well enough to tag. But here are three terrific ladies who also blog and also write, and since I know them a little may they forgive me if this annoys them (:>). I'm going to tag Fiona Bayrock, Mary Bowman-Kruhm, and Deborah Jackson. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You Scream, so I Scream, and I’m Not Talking for Ice Cream

Here's something I’ve got to get off my chest because it’s been there awhile. I’ve read a lot of stories both published and unpublished (the “un” variety as a writing instructor for the Institute of Children's Literature for the past ten years, and as a children’s magazine editor in my previous life). From all that reading I have come to realize that I have some language usage pet peeves. One of those is screaming. Yes, screaming.

How, you might well ask, could I be peeved about screaming? It's like this: When a story character starts screaming in complete sentences I go off into a peevey little fit (warning: it’s not pretty).

Who screams in complete sentences? The technical dictionary definition might disagree but to me a scream is an inarticulate and high volume expression of complete terror or pain. How do you even spell that?


Nah, too tame. Only works in comics with a visual for the facial expression to get the right feel. To be honest I can’t even come up with a spelling for a scream. I’m a big fan of the obvious:

He screamed.

There you go. That’s all you need. Brief. Powerful. I think it conveys all you need to know.

So when I see something like this I want to scream:

“Get in here and put on some shoes or your socks are gonna turn black!” she screamed.

Okay, confession time. If you’ve ever procreated you’ve surely uttered a phrase similar to that at some point in your child-rearing career. But surely a better dialog tag would be:
yelled, or

Disagree? Think it has to be ‘scream’ because it needs to be a really forceful sentence and the woman is really, really mad? Imagine, then, that sentence uttered in a state of terror or pain or as a desperate last-ditch plea for salvation. Go on, imagine it. Here it is again:

“Get in here and put on some shoes or your socks are gonna turn black!” she screamed.

Now if in your story the effect you were going for really is some crazed and insane laundry-obsessed woman with spittle flying out of her mouth and maybe the suggestion of rabies about her, okay then. I concede. Go for it.

But if not may I humbly suggest:
yelled, or

I’m sure my man Roget could suggest a few dozen others. But then again that’s probably where the prolific use of scream in this way comes from in the first place, isn’t it? Thesaurus abuse! Thesaurus abuse!

So please, I beg you, save what little sanity I’ve got left. Save me from my peevey fits. If you’ve got to scream, scream with careful consideration, okay?

The English language...what a scream!

(What are your writing related pet peeves?)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Is Halloween Over Yet?

Perhaps I should finally face the fact that it's time to take down my Halloween decorations.

(He looks sort of festive with his cap of snow, though, don't you think?)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Word of the Week

Since last Thursday I have been unable to get one particular noun out of my head. That word, that noun, is:


Thursday I woke up to:

Snow. Serious Snow. Check this out:

Because of this Snow the kids had a Snow Day.

Friday we got more Snow.

Saturday I hid from the Snow inside a hockey arena. Sunday more hockey and--oh, get this--more Snow!

Monday, guess what? Snow. And another Snow Day for the kids. Got them to shovel some Snow.

Note abandoned Snow shovel above perched precariously on top of the Snow on top of the table. Note too that not much of the Snow was actually shovelled.

Today? Uh-huh, Snow.

It's all whitish in the background. Trust me. This is Snow. It is snowing in this picture.

What's in the forecast for tomorrow? Give you three guesses but you know you'd be right if you said SNOW!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Backyard Beaver (A Photo Essay)

This morning I went to buy some presents for my neices and nephew at The Book Case, a terrific bookstore in Huntsville, Ontario (go figure I'd buy books for my relatives--I hope they don't read this ;>). I got back in the house and looked out into the backyard. There was this weird scraggly blob of brown down on the ice. What the heck? This is what I saw:

So I threw my boots back on and crept back out the door. It was still there!

So I crept closer....

And closer...

And even closer...

And then...

It turned its head! Now I knew it was both alive and definitely a beaver. So I crept even closer...

And it was still there! It was probably thinking, "Can't a beaver gnaw on some sticks in peace?Why is this crazy lady sneaking up on me?" Then I tried to get even closer but I shoulda known because...

SPLASH! It'd had enough of me. It was outta there.

So I beat a hasty retreat myself cause I was freezing. (In all the excitement I had forgotten to put on my coat.)

A Cybil Nomination!!

Let's Go!: The Story of Getting from There to Here has a Cybil nomination! It's on the list of Nonfiction Picture books. Check out the other great books in the category.

And hey, while you're there, check out all the other excellent books in all the categories. Kudos to the Cybils team for spreading the word about good books!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pretty Patterns

Yesterday the weather warmed up just enough to melt things a little. I dislike these ping-pong temperatures, these wishy-washy is-it-winter? or is-it-not-winter? days. But this was truly amazing. Too bad I couldn't have taken the photo from directly above (alas, although I have been accused of being a space cadet I have not yet discovered how to defy gravity).

My photos don't do the sight justice. But take my word for it when I say it was like the ice/snow was impersonating the Wicked Witch of the West and wailing "I'm m-m-m-e-l-t-i-n-g!" Within half an hour of this moment all trace of snow was gone. Not likely it'll stay gone for long. I'm sure there'll be a sequel any day now.

Friday, November 23, 2007

My Morning

So you know you’re either

A. sleep deprived
B. way below your daily coffee quota
C. inhabiting the dimension of fictional characters and neglecting reality
D. all of the above

when this morning you

1. walk out your door,
2. get in your car and drive 20 km to your kids’ school,
3. walk down pretty much the entire length of the school’s tiled hallway to the breakfast club room where you volunteer

before you notice that you have a hunk of hockey tape stuck to your boot!!!!

Hunh, so that was the source of the odd ripping noise that accompanied my every step. Darn my son’s ever-growing hockey tape ball.


A Detour

Sometimes when I'm writing it seems like things magically come together. It's probably not magic but rather the fact that most of my brain is obsessed with a topic so I just find myself seeking it out wherever I happen to be.

Earlier this summer my family and I were out and about and we took a detour because a sign said pretty much: This way to covered bridge. We discovered this amazing historic site--a bridge built in 1881 in West Montrose. It's now one of the only covered bridges in Ontario and, according to the blue information sign, was built because horses much preferred to cross covered bridges since they weren't distracted or spooked by the sight of water down below their hooves. Pretty neat since Let's Go!: The Story of Getting from There to Here is all about transportation history.

But as if that wasn't enough, just after I took those photos I heard a clip-clopping that could only be horse's hooves. It was a surreal moment as I wondered briefly what century I had entered when I crossed the bridge. I watched and listened in awe as a horse and buggy trotted across the bridge and carried on down the road.

It almost seemed a shame that I had to drive away in a car. Almost....

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Down the Lane

This morning I was greeted by the first serious glimpse of winter. I love the look of this first snowfall. It's all so new. Here are the photos I took. It wasn't a sunny day but at least it's not all that cold.

A lane always seems to have so many possibilties. I grew up reading L.M. Montgomery who probably gave me my love of lanes. Anne (from Anne of Green Gables) was always imagining all sorts of magical things related to lanes. Kinda easy to see why.

Here is the lane earlier this fall.

I have to remind myself to wander down a lane every now and then. A story just might lurk beyond the next bend.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

As seen with my own eyes

Have you ever had a moment when you notice something so ordinary and yet so, oh...what's the word?
I had a moment like that recently. I was waiting for my daughters' tap class to finish and I was sipping a mighty excellent brew of Numi ginger tea (because I was way past my daily coffee quota). I glanced over at another mom and saw she had one of those cheese string single packets peeking jauntily out of the back pocket of her jeans, like it just belonged there, ready to be whipped out to fulfill its destiny at a moment's notice. Fascinating....but then again I was also suffering from a nasty head cold.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Creepy Tree

This tree is near the end of my driveway. I'm not a big fan of caterpillar nests, and actually they usually give me a serious case of the creeps. But this was spooky and beautiful and weird all in its own way.

They're gonna 'jack the car...you can see it in their eyes!

This is definitely not the best image quality. I had to take the snapshot quickly because they bounded off as soon as they saw me, which only convinced me they were up to no good. When I saw what I'd taken it struck me as kinda funny.

Okay, so it doesn't take much to amuse me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wherein I try to figure out what I'm doing

Here I am trying to figure out how to do this. Laugh if you must. I don't mind. It is rather weird to be putting my words out there like this. And possibly weirder that you want to read them. Nevertheless, I begin the adventure, and hope there are lots of laughs along the way.