Monday, January 28, 2008

A Cold, Cold Night...

...with promise of little better in the morning. My car was an ice cube this morning, and we missed the school bus due to taking so long to get the doors opened and the thing warmed up.

And then I heard on CBC that it was -50 with the windchill in Calgary today...suddenly minus 4 didn't seem so bad, somehow.

(The raspberries are now a lusciously jammed and jarred reminder of last summer...)

Safely tucked inside away from the cold with my still crepuscular computer, I have been busily focused on behind-the-scenes activity for the 2008 version of the Surrey International Writers' Conference. The Board of Directors meets tomorrow for the first time this year, and all kinds of derring-do is to be expected. Invitation acceptances are coming in from all over the globe, and I am almost to the point of sending out a mailing list update. If you want to keep up with the latest, make sure to hie on over to and sign up. (If you hate being on a listserv, then you can read all the latest missives under the News & Notes section.)

I've also been spending a bit of energy communing with DEADLINE, but more on that another time.

And finally, a word on the decrepit piece of furniture pictured. It forms but one part of a master plan to rejuvinate the most well-worn (and heavily used) room in the house. (This is the job that is currently standing between me and my new computer, so it can't be finished soon enough.)

Here's a little game I offer as a respite from a cold, winter day. Delve into the interior of a couch that is about to be hauled off for reupholstering. If the couch is over two decades old, all the more fun. Dig deep into the recesses at the sides, the seams at the back. Forget all the bonus money you'll come up with -- a mere trifle.

No -- I challenge you to count the number of pieces of cutlery you find. See if you can beat my record. One old couch = 9 pieces of cutlery -- 1 knife (butter), 5 forks (one salad, the rest dinner) and 3 spoons (all teaspoons). Also one chopstick, but as I'm pretty sure it was being used as a Harry Potter wand a few years back, it doesn't up the cutlery count.
This disgusting moment brought to you by two proud teenagers, who have spent their lives amassing treasures deep inside the dark reaches of the comfy couch. Now head off and look inside your own...if you dare.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


My computer continues to drive me crazy. My wireless only works for the single wired computer in the house, my server is freezing or crashing several times a day, as is my email. All will be well soon enough, but for now the frustration is mounting. That aside, there's lots to report, so on with it.

First, in weather news (for a writing blog, I have a remarkable number of people who tune in just to check out the weather and environmental conditions here on the Wild West Coast...) -- flash snowstorms are ravaging the city and region this weekend. Bizarre pockets of snow all around the Lower Mainland -- a foot in Burnaby, for example, while the sun shone in Howe Sound. A firetruck rolled in Maple Ridge yesterday, according to the CBC website. This struck fear into my heart -- what happened to all the firemen? I didn't hear of any fatalities, but still -- if it's that snowy, stay home if you can. This after a week of sunshine, and the most remarkable full moon that hung in the sky well into the morning for a couple of days. This first picture is a shot of the moon, shining through the trees around 7 am. Not a great shot -- hard to pick up the contrast. But when I mess with the colour saturation a bit -- a better sense of what it looked like emerges.

Okay, so the sky wasn't really that colour, but the moon was truly beautiful, peering through the branches...

Next up, just heard of the advent of a new conference for children's and Y/A writers to be held in Calgary this year.
The Kaleidoscope Conference ( ) will be held November 6- 8, 2008.

From the site: "The Kaleidoscope Conference celebrates literature created for children and young adults and the interpretation of this literature through media, performance and illustration. This celebration aims to heighten the awareness and appreciation of the creative processes through interaction with authors, illustrators, publishers, producers and performers. "

Looks kinda cool -- check it out!

And speaking of kinda cool -- this just in over the weekend:

Canadian author (and my buddy) Marsha Skrypuch has just been given notice that she has been awarded the Order of Princess Olha, class III by Victor Yushchenko, President of Ukraine. According to the announcement, the state awards of Ukraine are the highest form of civilian honour of for outstanding achievements in development of economy, science, culture, social sphere, defense of Motherland, protection of man's constitutional rights and freedoms, state building and public activity, for other services before Ukraine.

In further researching this, I was struck by the incredible life of the award's bestower, Viktor Yuschenko. The survivor of a dastardly (and likely politically motivated poisoning) AND being hit by lightning whilst mountain climbing, remains on active duty as the President of the Ukraine.
Marsha's award (pictured above) is specifically to honour women for distinguished services in state, production, public, scientific, educational, cultural, charity and other spheres of public activity.

An incredible honour.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Man For All Seasons

Just in from the final preview of this terrific play, put on by Pacific Theatre and Midnight Theatre Collective.

It's a must-see if you are in the Vancouver area during its January 24 - February 23 run.

More details tomorrow -- check out


Monday, January 21, 2008

Bright News for a Sunny Day

The sun is shining today in Vancouver, and that is reason enough for a lift in spirits. Let's ignore the latest stock market news and turn to something interesting, shall we?

Now that the new year is well underway, things are getting rolling for 2008 in the Lower Mainland writing community. A number of upcoming events are out there for the picking -- here's a sampling for you to think about today. Have a look to see which might strike your fancy...

The Vancouver Children's Literary Roundtable has a couple of exciting events coming up:

Authorfest on Wednesday, February 5th, 2008 will be a celebration of local writing talent in the form of four local writers who will discuss their craft.

Also, the Roundtable's annual Serendipity event this year celebrates First Nations writers and artists, and will take place at the First Nations Longhouse on Saturday, February 23.

Find out more information on both by checking out the VCLR's website at:

Canada's Blogging and Social Media Conference

Also on the 22nd and 23rd, Northern Voice will take wing once more -- a very cool blogging and social media event at UBC for the fourth year in a row. It's taking place at UBC in the Forestry Centre. For more details, check out

An embarrassment of riches to help pass a dreary February in Vancouver for those who like to read, write AND blog. Take your pick.

In other news, I'd like to send out a big thank you to the Richmond Teacher Librarian Association for hosting writers James McCann, Pam Withers and myself at their meeting this month. It was great to get a chance to talk with this terrific group and spread the word about CWILL as an organization and the writers and illustrators who make their living in this province.

Special congratulations go out to Pam Withers, as her final novel of the 'Take it to the Extreme' series is hot off the press. MOUNTAINBOARD MANIACS is (remarkably!) prolific Pam's 13th novel, and as adrenaline-filled as all the rest. You can find out about all of Pam's books at

Watched STARDUST this weekend with my girl, when she wasn't racking up new swim times at the Hyack Ice Breaker meet. LOVED this movie -- a sweet fairy tale with a stellar cast. It managed to have more than a little originality, and culminated in a happy ending that wasn't cloying. Very true to Neil Gaiman's story (in no small part due, I'm sure, to the fact he was one of the producers. SO satisfying to see a writer able to take on that role when his story moves to the screen...)

Highly recommended.


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Shocking News from Raincoast Books

Just heard that Raincoast Books will be closing down the publishing arm of their business to "focus on the core business of distribution and wholesaling". I can't seem to pull the press release off the website, but the link to the CBC story is here:

This truly does feel like the amputation of an arm -- or many arms, in the form of Canadian writers who have been published by this fine company for many years. I remember when Raincoast picked up the Canadian rights to an obscure little novel from the UK about a boy wizard. I know the success of Harry Potter meant a great deal financially to Raincoast, and from that success (and others) sprang a truly wonderful opportunity for Canadian voices to be heard.

Raincoast is laying the blame at the feet of the strong Canadian dollar and the resulting implications for the publishing industry here. I know many authors and illustrators whose back-lists stand to be lost with this closure. A terrible situation.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Creative Writing Weekend

As a most excellent way to end last week, I got to spend a couple of days with a bunch of really creative minds -- the kids of CWC -- Creative Writing for Children. This group, run by the esteemed Joon Park, regularly meet to practice their creative writing skills. Twice a year they get together for an intensive camp, with writers and drama teachers to help add a spark to the process. I joined the group last summer in Abbotsford, and last week we met again, this time at Simon Fraser University. My groups spent two days learning how to flesh out a character and how to become 'setting magicians', finding a way to work setting into a story so it advances the plot and enhances the reading experience. I had a wonderful time.

In other news -- I just heard from the inimitable Janet Reid of the FinePrint Agency in New York (one of the pre-eminent agents who attended the Surrey International Writers' Conference this year) that she has signed a new client from among the 2007 SiWC conference attendees. Janet's blog can be found here: (Always a great read -- Janet is one of the wittiest bloggers I know...)

The writer she signed is Susan Adrian. You can check out HER blog at
I'm sending my fond wishes to both for a writer-agent marriage made in heaven!

And speaking of Surrey...
Now that the new year is here, things are stirring on the SiWC front. More on that soon.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Ringing in the New Year... the dark.

We lost power at about 10 pm, New Year's Eve, with less than a half a scene left to watch in the marvellous Canadian zombie movie FIDO. BC Hydro called it a 'fade-out', but the power clicked off and stayed that way for a little more than two hours.

Enough to enjoy an atmospheric, fireplace and candle-lit entry into 2008.

It was lovely.

Onto things bookish...

Here's a terrific interview posted by Mark Blevis on his 'Just One More Book' site, with BC authors and illustrators Lee Edward Fodi, Kirsti Wakelin and James McCann.

And finally...

I send out to you my fond hopes for the happiest of upcoming years. May you find the time to read your favourite books, conspire with your dearest compatriots and if you are inclined to put pen to paper, may the words that fall onto the page form themselves, with a touch of magic (and a dash of whimsy) into nothing less than a best-seller of epic proportions.