Thursday, February 28, 2008

Van Tech Shout Out

Tonight I'm sending out a big thank you to Vancouver Tech Secondary School for hosting my visit there yesterday. I got to speak with around 60 Grade 8's, and a better audience I could not have asked for. This is the second time I've had a chance to talk to a group at Van Tech for Literacy Week, and special thanks go out to librarian Margaret O'Brien for her (somewhat hoarse, but nonetheless warm) welcome. Best wishes to Margaret and n for a speedy recovery from laryngitis!
The school is home to around 1700 students and is currently undergoing a seismic upgrade. Last year the library was displaced to a tiny, dark cave. But Margaret and her crew are back in the large space again, with all the stacks safely strutted into place, and I had a fine time regaling the group with the mystery and mayhem of the 14th century.
Tomorrow I am off to St. George's School in Vancouver -- a busy week for presentations.
And finally, in a sad note for the DogBlog -- a friend of mine lost her beloved dachshund Gus this week, to kidney failure. Gus was a digger and
a snuffler and as well-loved a family member as any canine could hope to be. So this picture of a joyful Silas is for Diana and Sam and the rest of their family, in memory of their beloved Gus.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Just finished a BIG project that has been weighing on me for far too long.
I have a whole pile of bloggable material just waiting to upload, and I'll get to some of it tomorrow.
For now, here's a note for all aspiring writers for young people out there -- straight from the Writers' Union of Canada:
12th Annual Writing for Children Competition
$1,500 PRIZE

The Writers’ Union of Canada is pleased to announce that submissions are being accepted until April 24, 2008, for the 2008 WRITING FOR CHILDREN COMPETITION. The winning entry will be the best Canadian children’s story of 1,500 words in the English language, written by an unpublished author.

$1,500 for the winning entry and the entries of the winner and finalists will be submitted to three Canadian children’s publishers.
We are proud to announce that Damien Fière, Jacqueline Guest, and Tim Wynne-Jones will serve as the jury.

This competition is open to all Canadian citizens and landed immigrants who have not been published in book format in any genre and who do not have a contract with a book publisher. Original and unpublished (English language) fiction or nonfiction.

Entries should be typed or computer-printed, double-spaced, and numbered on 8.5 x 11 paper, not stapled.
Computer disks, CDs, e-mails, or faxes will not be accepted.
Include a separate cover letter with title of story, full name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and number of pages of entry.
Please type the name of entrant and the title of entry on each numbered page. This is not a blind competition.
Make cheque or money order payable to The Writers' Union of Canada. Multiple entries can be submitted together and fees can be added and paid with one cheque or money order, $15 per submission.
Entries must be postmarked by APRIL 24, 2008 to be eligible.
Mail entries to: WFC Competition, The Writers’ Union of Canada, 90 Richmond Street East, Suite 200, Toronto, ON M5C 1P1.

Results will be posted at Manuscripts will not be returned.
A note on my new pup's name -- I've just recently been reminded that the albino villain (and just why was he an _albino_ villain, anyway?) in the daVinci Code was named Silas.
My dog, however, was named not for a cardboard bad guy or even for Silas Mariner, in fact, but for Silas Ermineskin, a character from WP Kinsella's wonderful stories. Kinsella is perhaps more renowned for his baseball stories (including Shoeless Joe, which emerged on celluloid as the wonderful Field of Dreams), but my favourites were always the ones set on the Ermineskin Reserve, including 'Dance Me Outside'. Kinsella has stopped writing these days, but his stories live on.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Writers Who Blog ....and Once

Northern Voice 2008 continues to be an inspiration for me, so tonight, a quick shout out to all the members of CWILL BC -- authors AND illustrators who take the time to reach out through the internet and blog to (and for) their fans. Check out these amazing blogs:

Fiona Bayrock -----------------

Julie Burtinshaw --------------

Diane Haynes ------------------

Shelley Hrdlitschka ------------

Eileen Kernaghan -------------

Tanya Kyi -------------------------

James McCann ----------------

Victoria Miles -------------------

Jacqueline Pearce --------------

Nikki Tate ------------------------

Meg Tilly --------------------------

Kirsti Wakelin has 2 blogs!

and -----------------------------------


In other news, the song from ONCE, a tiny Irish movie that was my favourite flick of 2007, just won the Oscar for best song. Now, it was up against a whole load of Disney schlock, but still -- justice was served, and I am celebrating. If you haven't seen the movie yet, I recommend it. A small, gentle film with a beautiful message that isn't preachy, and one of the best endings I have seen to a movie in years. I loved it.


Saturday, February 23, 2008

Sayonara Moose...

Canada's Blogging and Social Media Conference

The Moose is no longer loose, but penned up inside his computer for another year. Northern Voice 2008 is history, but from all accounts (including my own) it was a marvellous success.

I had a great time on the 'Authors Who Blog' panel today, if only because all the folks who really know what they are doing out there in the ether very politely made room for those of us who have just dipped a toe in the blogging pool. I had a gas chatting with the other panellists, and send a big shout out to Monique Trottier for a job absolutely well done.

This conference served to show me that there is a whole culture out there of which I know only a fraction of a fractile. But it was kinda cool, and I had a lot of fun scraping up whatever orts of knowledge I could comprehend.

As a result I missed Serendipty for another year, though, and it sounds like it was a terrific event. First Nations theme this year, and as the reviews trickle in, it seems like everyone had fun. Big cheers to the Vancouver Children's Roundtable for another successful event.

I have two school events lined up for this week, but will update later...I'm sorely in need of a little recovery time.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Northern Voice ROCKS!

Spent a couple of hours at the Northern Voice blogging and social networking conference this afternoon. Had a TOTAL blast. Way more things to see and do than I had time to take in. The conference itself was held on that rarest of things -- a sunny day in Terminal City, in the Forestry Services building on campus UBC.

I arrived at lunch time, and inside was a hive of activity. Never have I seen so many MacBooks in one place. This was a collection of geeks, loud and proud, and I felt immediately right at home.

This is a shot of the Bloedel Atrium, a sort of central gathering place where bloggers could do their thing amongst a madding crowd all enjoying the same.

The day was a mixture of planning and spontaneity. Internet Boot Camp was scheduled, with classes such as Blogging 101 and Podcasting 101, but the organizers also chose the brilliant tactic of putting the conference back into the hands of the conference-goers. Near the registration desk, giant sheets were pinned to the wall, which filled with delegate-fuelled events that were added to the mix.
I managed to catch a session on photography, another on increasing blog traffic and search engine optimization and a teeny bit of discussion on Wordpress. (I was very sad to have to leave that session early, as I truly abhor blogging on Wordpress -- our CWILL BC blog is there -- but I know this is because I haven't taken the time to master the basics.
More tomorrow -- I'll be sitting on the 'Authors Who Blog' panel and madly trying to absorb all the knowledge I can from the massive brainpower the conference has magnetically drawn.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Fog...

Rolled across the Sound in a most beautiful way today. Luckily we are high enough on the mountain to be above it, to enjoy one last day of sunshine before the rain settles in again.

Last night's event at the VPL was very successful. All the seats were full in the audience -- many folks present to gain a little insight into the publishing process. Members of CWILL BC -- Alison Acheson, Elizabeth Shefrin, David Ward, Diane Haynes, Julie Burtinshaw and myself (ably moderated by Ellen Schwartz) did our level best to answer all questions lobbed in our direction.

That's Elizabeth and Alison, above, collecting their thoughts prior to speaking. And another shot -- not as good -- of the speakers panel just before things got going.

A reminder to anyone in attendance who had a question or two that may have gone unanswered -- feel free to email me at and I'll do my best to fill in the blanks for you.

And finally, a couple of happy dogs on the beach at Ambleside yesterday...


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reading Break

..and the sun came out today!

Had a great visit this weekend with James McCann's CWC class. I stepped into his shoes for the afternoon on Saturday, and his students and I had an in-depth look through Ms. Zephyr's Notebook. We debated which character in the story was the most interesting and had an in-book scavenger hunt, among other things. The lesson was a near-disaster when the teacher (moi) got lost, but the class and their parents were wonderful, sympathetic and ready to stay a little later to make up for the tardy tutor.

Thanks to all for the warm welcome!

Tomorrow night at 7 pm brings the 'Getting Published' panel to the Alice McKay room in the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library. I'll be there with authors Ellen Schwartz, Alison Acheson, David Ward, Diane Haynes, Julie Burtinshaw and Elizabeth Shefrin. We'll be talking a bit about our own experiences getting published and answering questions from the audience. Co-sponsored by CWILL BC and the Vancouver Public Library. Hope to see you there.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Snowy Nostalgia

Took this shot last week. The snow is gone now, but I loved the look of it against this old long washed-ashore beach stump. (The tiny lump on the beach in the middle of the shot is a much-hunched and fluffed Blue Heron.)

Many years ago, I sat on this beach, leaned against this enormous driftwood and wrote one of the first scenes for the book that would become SEEDS OF TIME.

This was Delaney's hiding place, his home on the beach, until he took Darrell under his paw and things changed for both of them, forever. When she crawled inside the hollow log and placed her ear against the sea-smoothed surface, the sense of beating drums, smoking fires and salt on her tongue ... all came from this place. I sat with my old Shadow dog on the beach at Ambleside and wrote the scene. Before Seamus and before Silas there was Shady-boy -- the anti-Delaney.

We all miss him, still.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

(m)Öthêr Tøñgué Press moves forward

Just got a note this morning from Mona Fertig, long time propriator of
(m)Öthêr Tøñgué Press. Seems that the company has decided to move up from its practice of producing finely-wrought chapbooks and into the trade publication scene. They plan to publish two books in 2008, two in 2009 and three in 2010. Subject matter appears to be in the Arts & Literary vein.

All the best to this new BC endeavour!

For more details, check out the website at


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Local Writers Go International...

My buddies, author (and CWILL BC Prez) James McCann

and author-illustrator Lee Edward Fodi

are off to Korea tomorrow, for a week or so.
They'll be teaching a Creating Writing for Children (CWC) winter camp in Seoul, under the auspices of Joon Park, head of the CWC organization.
I'm hoping they'll blog the trip, so we can keep up with their adventures.

Have a great time, guys!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Prose Positive

A fabulous new blog from a warm and creative writer, Deb Anderson. She's reviewing books, talking about writing and sharing her wisdom.

A rare find.

Check it out at

My software is not cooperating right now, but when I can I'll put up the image of a new banner I'm having made...

More soon when I can get this thing to work.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Just Heard...

Canada's Blogging and Social Media Conference

...from Monique Trottier, my link to this year's Northern Voice Conference. Monique will be moderating the panel I'll be on, and she sent me a list of the other Writer/Bloggers with whom I'll be sharing the table. Here's a summary of the bios...

Crawford Kilian: Published author of 20 books and hundreds of articles and columns. His books include novels, textbooks, children's books, regional history and political issues. Crawford's writing appears online in several places.

Meg Tilly: Author and film actress. Her two adult novels are Singing Songs and Gemma. Her first YA novel, Porcupine, was published by Tundra in September 2007. Some of her better known films include, The Big Chill and Agnes of God, for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Oscar.

Pete McCormack: Writer and director of documentaries, feature films and novels. He wrote and directed the award-winning, Kevin Spacey-narrated Uganda Rising and the Pierce Brosnan-narrated Hope in the Time of AIDS. He's written, directed and produced several feature films, two novels, including the Stephen Leacock-nominated Understanding Ken and Shelby, and he recently recorded his third CD.

Robert Wiersema: Writer and events coordinator at Bolen Books. He recently published his first novel, Before I Wake, which became a national bestseller and was named a Book of the Year by the Globe and Mail and National Post. His published work includes columns in several Canadian dailies.

Monique Trottier: Former internet marketing manager of Raincoast Books. I am a web strategist and developer with Boxcar Marketing (formerly named Work Industries). I spearheaded the online marketing of Harry Potter, as well as developed the first Canadian-publisher podcast and blog series. I speak regularly at publishing conferences on online marketing, social networking, and blogging. I'm currently writing two training modules on online marketing for Cultural Human Resources Canada. I keep a regular blog on books, publishing and technology, which I started in April 2005.

An amazing group -- I feel very humbled to be in their company.

The conference itself looks to be marvellous -- check it out at


Speaking of blogs, my friend, writer Amy Dupire Jones has started up her own blog. You can find her at

Amy is a hot-topic YA writer, whose never met a controversial story she won't tackle or a chocolate she won't enjoy. And yes, she is just as cute in person as her avatar.

Give her blog a read!


And finally -- Seamus is enjoying life as a big brother these days. He's teaching his new sibling everything he knows. Wrestling, playing -- it's enough to wear a dog (or two ) out.

That should be a good thing.



Until I remembered that for every cause...

There is usually an effect:


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Interested in Getting Published?

Have I got a panel for you.

On Monday,February 18th, 2008 at 7 pm, the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library (co-sponsored by CWILL BC) is hosting a 'Getting Published' panel, loaded with local children's and YA authors. I'll be joining Alison Acheson, Julie Burtinshaw, Diane Haynes, Ellen Schwartz, Elizabeth Shefrin and David Ward and the discussion (and Q&A) will centre on getting books for children and teens published.

Present company excepted, this is a whole lotta brain-power in one room, so if you have questions about writing for kids in Canada, the Alice McKay Room is the place to be on the Monday after Valentine's Day.

If you are interested, you can contact the library at for more details. Hope to see you there!


In puppy news, Silas is getting under the skin of big brother Seamus. There is some serious discipline being laid down by my previously passive puppy onto the hardly repentant interloper. I've never heard Seamus growl before...
Silas is slowly learning his place at the bottom of the dog ladder, but spends most of his time bounding around, just happy to be alive. Today he chased a ping pong ball around the kitchen for more than an hour. At this moment, he is totally unconscious at my feet -- too tired to even curl up beside his golden idol, Seamus.

Oh, and it's snowing again. I think I've figured it the last storm, the house was picked up and blown 3000 km east, and I actually live in Ontario now.


Sunday, February 03, 2008


Had a momentary lapse in judgement this weekend...

His name is Silas.

He has ears like the Flying Nun.

Fur like a golden retreiver (crimped behind the ears and soft and wavy down the spine).

A freckled front paw.

A white tuft on his tail.

A slightly startled canine brother.

And a pretty cushy new life.


Friday, February 01, 2008

Celebrate Black History Month in Vancouver!

At the Seasonal Event for the Canadian Authors Association, Vancouver Branch last December, I had the opportunity to sit with a most amazing and engaging woman. Her name is Ugette Ebony Johnson, and she is the brains and the energy behind The Vancouver Pan African Film Festival.

Ugette is a woman with a passion. In 2007, she threw all her resources into creating the remarkable achievement of the first Vancouver Pan African Film Festival. Now she has turned her attention to celebrating Black History Month with a remarkable film and arts festival.

Looking for something EXTREMELY cool to do this weekend?
Check this out:

You are invited!
Travelling Pan African Film & Arts Festival African Heritage/Black History Month 2008, showcasing contemporary issues and expressions of the world's African/"Black" Diaspora for a Canadian audience.

A Canadian Heritage Celebration through Dialogue & Art
Officially proclaimed by the Province of British Columbia as "Black History Month"
VPAFF TPAFF Event Co-presented by Shadbolt Centre for the Arts
6450 Deer Lake Avenue, Burnaby
(near City Hall see for map)

11:00am - 11:00pm

Breath Control: The History of the Human Beat Box (everything you need to know about beat boxing)
When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts (Social Justice)
The Origins of AIDS (Social Justice)
Wormhead, Canadian Premiere (Youth & anti-bullying, anti-racism/African Animation)

Afrikan World Civilizations (African Achievements)
Destiny Found: BC's Early Black Settlers, Ralph Taylor
What is Pan Africanism? Albert Smith
Door Prize
Cabaret Pavilion (featuring Vancouver's raw and seasoned talent)
Contact us to find out how to bring TPAFF to your event:
See full Program:

The Vancouver Pan African Film & Arts Festival aims to inspire contemplation through its programs. We wish to engage our audience in dialogue - inter-cultural dialogue - towards community solidarity primarily through film and art. Our mandate encompasses the commitment to present films of historical and political intrigue that reflect the moral dilemmas of our times under the segment "Human Rights Conscience." We wish to showcase a broad range of creative artworks by Africans in the global Diaspora, and we invite you to "Cast Yourself!" under the protective shade of the majestic Baobab tree!

Executive Director & Producer
Ms. U. E. Johnson