Thursday, December 20, 2007

Grr. . . I mean . . .ROAR!


So I have been awarded twice 'The Roar for Powerful Words Award' from The Shamless Lions Writing Circle. Once by Catherine J Gardner over at The Poisoned Apple, and once by LindaBudz over at Just Like A Nut.

First I want to say thank you so much to the both of you, it is a genuine honour. And next, as the rules dictate, but also because it is an awesome thing to do, I shall now award some fellow writers.

Drum roll please . . .


Holly Kennedy - not just because she is a fellow canuck, but because her blog has kept me sane on the craziest days. Holly is able to find humour in the most trying situations (namely being a professional writer while raising kids - some of the stories about her kids make you cry they are so funny), and shares what it is like to be a writer in a unique and profound way.

Miss Erin - there is nothing "only" about being a teenager. This fab blogger has not one, but two blogs, both based on her passions: books and acting. She posts regularly and with well observed and wise insights. She reviews everything, and also has regular guest bloggers. Truly an industry in and of herself!

Dawn Rotarangi - the sad news is this lovely blogger (and author) is bowing out of the blogosphere. The good news is you can still read her archived entries on her blog. This kiwi is down to earth, quirky and sweet. Learn all about her writing journey, also the tales of a day in the life (which include working at a gas station, breeding puppies, and working with calves. . . ).

Patricia Wood - author of the wonderful novel Lottery. What makes her blog special is not only her willingness to share every step of the way in her writing journey, but her incredible photographs (yes I know this is an award for writing, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words . . . ) that perfectly illustrate her posts. Part philosophical contemplation, part day in the life of - this blog is definitely worth checking out! (also for all the contests!)

Hick Chick - and another canuck, what can I say, I'm loyal. Hick Chick is unbelievably entertaining and draws quite a crowd to her blog. Her posts vary between observations on daily life, to her journey as a writer (okay so I know that's a common theme in my list . . .). What makes her unique is her wry humour and her virtual parties! (make sure you go to her post on Hallowe'en, you'd be hard pressed to find a better Jack Sparrow than Johnny Depp himself).





Friday, December 14, 2007

Magical Realism

What I am most proud of about my book, aside from the fact that I actually, you know, wrote a book, is that it doesn't easily fit into any one genre. Heck it isn't even necessarily Middle Grade, my American publishers say it's Young Adult.

It's adventure. It's comedy. It's pathetic (in the true sense of the word in that it contains pathos). It's a pirate adventure. It's also a modern day Alice in Wonderland story. It's about about teachers. And a big plot point hinges on correct grammar usage.

And no one seems to mind any of this, which is just lovely.

But there is one thing that can sometimes confuse, one thing that I get called upon to clarify most often, and that is . . .

Is it fantasy?

It's a good question.

On the one hand no. It takes place in our world where movies are made, people drive cars, and use laptops. Where kids go to school and face the same grade system as any kid today. Everyone talks with a modern vernacular and syntax. And existing countries are referenced, such as France and Spain (in the next book they go to China).

And on the other hand, yes. We have a talking octopus, tall ships, art deco party trains stuck in time loops, and pirates that are most definitely from a time gone by.

So what the heck is up with that? Alex doesn't go through any portal. Her world is unusual from the start. Even her local police station has a two way mirror put in the wrong way. Yet her world is also our world and our world simply does not obey the same rules as hers. And yet, wait a minute, it does.

This is where your head explodes and I make a tick in my notebook, "Sigh I lose more good readers that way . . . "

Well friends ponder no longer! There is a genre for our confusing tome. And it is . . .

Magical Realism! (echo echo echo . . . - I once had a lovely calculus teacher who when he'd introduce a new concept he'd say, "And now for some Trigonometry, echo echo echo . . ." I really liked that. So now I do it too. Though not in reference to math.)

What is magical realism you ask?

Okay that's a way too long answer really to make. Needless to say it is a very complicated genre and is usually associated with much more literary works (and usually, for some reason, Latin Americans - ie Alejo Carpentier, Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo, Carlos Fuentes, and Gabriel García Márquez). But I shall endeavor to explain it to you all using the tried and tested technique of cutting and pasting other people's explanations. So get ready for some fun intellectual stuff folks!

First we start with a very nice article written by a one Lindsay Moore (which is you are interested in learning more about this genre please click on the link, it's very well written and clear to follow) which states:

A literary mode rather than a distinguishable genre, magical realism aims to seize the paradox of the union of opposites. . . Magical realism is characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality. Magical realism differs from pure fantasy primarily because it is set in a normal, modern world with authentic descriptions of humans and society. According to Angel Flores, magical realism involves the fusion of the real and the fantastic, or as he claims, "an amalgamation of realism and fantasy".

Moore then offers a list of some of the elements found in magical realism, most of which seem to perfectly describe Alex - the one listed that I think is not quite right is Hybridity, though even there I do think Alex may even have something in common with it still, but the rest are perfect:

Irony Regarding Author’s Perspective—The writer must have ironic distance from the magical world view for the realism not to be compromised.

Authorial Reticence—Authorial reticence refers to the lack of clear opinions about the accuracy of events and the credibility of the world views expressed by the characters in the text. This technique promotes acceptance in magical realism. In magical realism, the simple act of explaining the supernatural would eradicate its position of equality regarding a person’s conventional view of reality. Because it would then be less valid, the supernatural world would be discarded as false testimony.

The Supernatural and Natural—In magical realism, the supernatural is not displayed as questionable. While the reader realizes that the rational and irrational are opposite and conflicting polarities, they are not disconcerted because the supernatural is integrated within the norms of perception of the narrator and characters in the fictional world.



Then we move onto Wikipedia for a slightly more straightforward explanation:

The characters' reactions to the 'inexplicable' is key to the definition of Magic-Realism: inexplicable phenomena occur in extremely mundane circumstances and the character(s) tend to not respond adequately (or at all) to the supernatural or magic nature of the event. On the contrary, they often treat the magical event as an annoyance, a setback, or an unwanted obligation. . . Indeed, this blase response to the supernatural is what distinguishes Magic Realism from other more traditional representations of magical phenomena in narrative fiction. It is also what gives Magic-Realism its characteristically ironic and humorous quality.


Now the thing is, I have done that thing with the cutting and the pasting to show how magical realism totally works for my book. This means I have left out the bits from another article where the author, Bruce Holland Rogers, explains that magical realism is very literary serious fiction and never escapist. My book is clearly escapist. And I do see where he is coming from, the roots of magical realism are to show something quite profound. As Rogers puts it in his definition of "serious fiction":

Serious fiction helps us to name our world and see our place in it. It conveys or explores truth. . . magical realism is always serious, never escapist, because it is trying to convey the reality of one or several worldviews that actually exist, or have existed. Magical realism is a kind of realism, but one different from the realism that most of our culture now experiences.

There is therefore a lot more to the genre than what my children's novel is doing. But I nonetheless strongly believe that Alex belongs in the category. Aside from being able to check off almost all the qualities listed to distinguish a magical realist novel, I do think the book is trying to convey a worldview that actually exists, to explore and comment on this worldview. Before I did any extensive research on this subject, I had always called my book a satire for children. I always saw it as a social commentary on the way our world functions. Alex is basically the only child in the novel and it is her experience of the adult world that I was keen to explore.

At any rate, I do define Alex as magical realism for all the obvious reasons (and by "obvious" I mean for those who have read the book, I apologise to those of you who have not for not giving clear examples, but I didn't want to give too much away and thus ruin the story for anyone just in case). And I find it very exciting that I can fit my book so well into such a distinguished genre. I would never attempt to hold myself up to some of the greats who are mentioned, but every genre has a great in it, and we can't allow that to mean we can't join the club just because we aren't as fabulous (or as Franck in the remake of Father of the Bride would say, "Faboolos!").

So there you go. Thus ends today's lecture. I do hope you found it interesting, learned a little something new perhaps? Personally I think the genre is completely fascinating (obviously)!


_________________________________________________________
On a different note, I am very excited to announce that Alex is going to be featured with a dozen other titles this Saturday morning (ie tomorrow) on the CBS Early Show!

The president of The Book Report network (www.bookreporter.com) is going on the show to talk about books that you *should* know about this holiday season if you don’t already. The segment is airing at 7:40am.

So if you aren't partying till the wee hours tonight, and can get up early enough, why not check it out! (here's hoping that they don't cut to commercial just as they get to my book: "And now, for the pirate in all of us, Alex and the . . . " "I'm afraid I have to cut you off there as we need to go to break! Thank you so much for coming on, I'm sure we'll all want these books under our trees come Christmas!" lol!)
___________________________________________


Sources for post on Magical Realism:

Moore, Lesley. Magical Realism
Rogers, Bruce Holland. What is Magical Realism Really?
Wikipedia. Magical Realism

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Backstage

I thought I would write a little about the world backstage during the run of a show, seeing as I am also The Actress in The Temp, The Actress and The Writer.

I just thought it could be kind of interesting. Since our Macbeth is performed to highschool students, I often wonder what they think of us. If they think we must be as formal as Shakespeare's text, or as dry (granted I don't find Shakespeare formal or dry at all, and I think the company - Tempest Theatre - does a brilliant job in making Shakespeare fun and exciting, still I imagine the stigma attached with Shakespeare can prejudice an audience member, despite what is going on on stage.)

Because backstage has got to be one of the silliest places anywhere.

You know what it's like. You have to keep quiet for whatever reason, and the second you have to keep quiet you turn into a 5 yearold, whispering and giggling. Well that's what it is like backstage. Now, compound that with certain actors who treat the company more like a hockey team, and you get many a fart joke and actual expulsion of smelly air, silly dances, and oh the fun to be had with kilts.

Sometimes people are simply reading the paper or books. Sometimes they are playing video games on the computer.

But these are all in the calm moments.

Suddenly there is a flurry of activity, lighting quick costume changes, swords need to be picked up, a shield falls noisily to the ground. In other words, chaos.

For example, aside from third witch, I was also playing "Gentlewoman" to Lady Macbeth. I was in many scenes with Lesley (who played Lady M), just standing quietly behind her and then exiting with her. Then the two of us would rush backstage so I could help her change costumes. It really was in a way like I was her gentlewoman.

Then of course there are the few actors who may forget they are in a scene. This time round one actor returned to the backstage area after having just finished a scene and was chatting with us, when an arm from the wings reached out and grabbed him, "You're on right now!" The actor ran for it into the wings, and then casually walked onto the stage as if nothing had happened.

My favourite things that go on, of course, are the things that happen on stage itself. The things that the audience has no idea is happening. In large group scenes, usually someone is trying to make someone else laugh. The banquet scene just before intermission for our Macbeth is pretty silly. Several of the guys on stage are wearing wigs to hide their identity and they just look utterly ridiculous. Doesn't help that they also make faces at each other, and quiet jokes while sitting at the table.

Another example occurs at the end of the scene where everyone discovers the king Duncan has been killed, as I was helping Lady M off stage (she had just "fainted"), Macbeth would whisper something to her than me. Something different each time. Once he asked me for my character's email. (After thinking about it backstage I decided my it would be gentlewoman@inverness.com.)

Personally though, in this past run, the weirdest thing that happened to me was during a rather quiet scene in Act 1. I'd had a cold all week, and was now at the stage where all you can do is cough. So whenever I was on stage and had no lines, I'd be sucking on a Halls just in case.

Well we come to a scene where Macbeth and Lady M are talking with Banquo, and I and Seyton are standing in the background as servants with no lines. The other actors are standing in front of us acting their hearts out, and suddenly I feel a tickle in my throat. I do a quiet clearing of my throat, hoping that that will do the trick. Suddenly I feel the compulsion to cough. One of those horrible and uncontrollable coughs that will probably turn into a bit of a coughing fit. So I think about it for less than a moment. And then, with a slight bow of my head, I calmly turn and walk off stage right in the middle of the scene.

And then run for backstage where I proceed to hack up a lung.

Of course nothing was really ruined by my early exit, though the actors were surprised to notice I was no longer on the stage when they turned to look at me. And in fact the few people we knew in the audience couldn't even remember the moment of my exit.

But that's the world of acting. Constant chaos, and unpredictable crazyness backstage and on, while all the time maintaining an illusion of sanity and grace for the audience.

It's bloody brilliant!



The dressing rooms downstairs.


The boys enjoying their wigs.


Macbeth (Jonathan Llyr) getting his chain mail fixed. And his makeup touched up.


The rest of the cast sitting on the stairs backstage waiting while the show is going on.



The noble rebels who hope to usurp Macbeth.


Macbeth's unfortunate army. No wonder he loses.


Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Don't they just look like figures on top of a wedding cake? Two crazy, power hungry, bloodthirsty figures on top of a wedding cake?

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Lovely Review

I have some more entertaining, or at least what I consider entertaining, and artsy, or at least what I consider artsy, pictures of Macbeth, along with a nice behind the scenes description of what it's like to be in a play (for those of you who may not know) to post here. But right now I wanted to post a truly lovely review of Alex from the Canadian Materials Magazine website. By now I'm sure you all know my appreciation of well written reviews (not simply when they are good towards Alex, but rather when you can see real talent behind the writing itself), and this is definitely one of them. Maybe I should start a review site reviewing reviews!

(And yes I acknowledge that I am a little unfair to well written negative reviews in not posting them, nor praising the talent behind them - and there is most definitely talent to be seen in some of them too - but I mean . . . this is my blog after all, and I like the positive stuff!)

So here is the lovely review by
Caitlin Berry: Alex review

Monday, December 03, 2007

The first of many tales!

And now I shall tell the tale of the Texas Book Festival (Nov 3 - 4). Finally. After all this time.

It was awesome! But you are going to have to forgive me, I forgot my camera for this trip. I do have a few photos courtesy of others, but not as many as I would have liked. Sorry.

Anyway.

I arrived in Austin and was picked up by this lovely woman named Charlotte in one of the biggest white cars I have ever seen. Seriously. Very very big. Now I'm not doing this whole, everything in Texas is bigger thing, Austin didn't come across as stereotypical Texas at all and I have to say I was a bit disappointed to have only seen one cowboy hat my whole visit. But this car, it was huge. Anywhere it would have been huge.

Where was I?

Ah yes. I was driven to the hotel and soon after I met up with Katie Finch (publicity with Weinstein Books and a very lovely lady) to go to this party in honour of the festival hosted by Eddie Safady in his private home.


OMG. This guy's home (and it is this particular event that makes me very sad I didn't have my camera with me). This is a guy who decided he'd like to live in downtown Austin, and so converted a building on one of the main streets into his private residence. The place is three stories tall. Has a rooftop patio complete with an infinity pool. He'd opened up the whole house so that we walked through his bedroom and bathroom and went through his drawers (just kidding folks, just kidding - his drawers were locked . . . again just kidding! Didn't even try to snoop, I'm a good girl!). All the rooms were just stunning. Absolutely stunning, the whole place. And there's a wall on the bottom floor lit by fluorescent pink lights.

So no pictures of its amazingness. I do however have a lovely photo taken on his patio of me, three lovely librarians who helped organise several of the events (
Alison O'Reilly, Nichole Chagnon and Michelle Beebower), as well as authors Perry Moore, and April Lurie:



So the house was packed, and considering it was a big house, that's saying something. I got to meet Padma Lakshmi who is another author with Weinstein Books (Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet), as well as the utterly gorgeous model/actress/host of Top Chef (and ex-Mrs. Rushdie). She was very sweet, but we didn't get to chat long as I was being taken away to participate in one of the events for the festival which was called "Not For Required Reading" and took place at this awesome movie theatre where they bring you food and drinks and stuff to your seats.

I was on the panel with a number of other authors:

(Right to Left: Jacques Couvillon, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Perry Moore, Neal Shusterman, April Lurie, Me, Brian Yansky, and Sherman Alexie. photo courtesy of Oops . . . Wrong Cookie)

First we went down the panel and talked a bit about ourselves and then read from our books. I wasn't expecting to read from my book, and I couldn't think of a bit short enough so that when they got to me I said that I was unprepared and so I was just going to open my book and read whatever page was in front of me. It turned out okay.

Then we were asked some very silly questions (ie Coke or Dr. Pepper?). And then we signed books.

I had arranged to meet my friend Sean, who I went to LAMDA with and who now lives in Austin with his wife, for drinks after. And it was so cool to see him again! It's so weird how several years can pass, but it can feel like nothing at all.

The next day I met up with Katie again and we went to watch
Carl Bernstein give a talk about his new biography about Hilary Clinton, very interesting. Then it was my turn, and I joined April Lurie and Cynthia Leitich Smith again for our "Tough Girls" panel. The room was packed and it was so cool because the whole event took place in the capitol building so our panel was located in a room that I am sure judges or something usually use because we were sitting at this curved desk with these little microphones and I felt like I was in some 1950's movie and doing something . . . political. But I wasn't.

The panel went well and I got to talk about children's books to adults, which is very refreshing as there is a lot to say about the nature of writing children's books that isn't necessarily directed towards kids (not to say that talking about it with kids isn't great as well, just different).

After the panel we signed some books in the tent and then that was it. Katie and I went to the airport, hung out a bit, and then went our separate ways.

The whole weekend was just lovely. The weather I am told was unseasonably warm (and by that I mean hot), so I got to wear my summer dresses one last time. The festival was so well organised, I got emails weeks in advance prepping me for the panels I was to do, and once I was there everything worked like clockwork. And Austin itself is just such a lovely city.
It's a very arsty town, and the people are just so warm and lovely.

A really fab trip.

Just wish I had pictures of it.

Sigh.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Prelude

I am almost back in the blogosphere. Not tonight though because I am pooped.

However I just had to share . . . drum roll please . . . .

Timothy and the Dragon's Gate is finished!

Okay, finished is a relative term. I still have to do edits with my editors and stuff, but as of last night I have emailed off the manuscript to my agent and editors and I am thrilled.

Seriously.

Wasn't sure I had it in me. I've been working on this book for almost a year now. It's been on my mind longer than that. Heck, I even had the stereotypical sleepless nights because of it.

And it's finished.

Sort of.

Relatively.

And I am pooped.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Rehearsal Pics

I'm so sorry I'm not posting these days. The deadline for Timothy draws near and rehearsals for Macbeth have gone into overtime (I play Third Witch and Gentlewoman) as we open on Wednesday. But I thought I would post some pics I took at Thursday's rehearsal, 'cause, I dunno, I think they're cool and interesting. Since I took them, none are of me (except for the last one where I am queen of the streetcar. It was weird, four of us caught the streetcar home that night, and no one was on it, and no one boarded it later on. It was our streetcar. So of course we took pictures).

Enjoy!



Several of the cast preparing for fight call.


Lucy our fabulously glamorous stage manager.


John (our Macbeth) standing under a viking poster. Total accident, but awesome photo op.


Some of the lads prepare for battle!


Watching other people fight.


Chris also watching other people fight.


Casey preparing to be a witch.


Lesley (our Lady Macbeth - and writing buddy whom I've mentioned often here and have posted pictures of from our adventures in New York) reads a letter from her hubby [that would be Macbeth].


Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan the King to her home. She's going to have him killed a few scenes later. Naughty.


Actors resting and waiting for their scenes.


Macbeth unsure he wants to kill Duncan. Lady Macbeth assuring him he does.


Empty streetcar photos. John, Peter and Lesley - posing for an album cover.


Me as queen of the streetcar with my flunkies - John and Peter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another brief visit with some news

Not that anyone has asked, but I have imagined that some people may wonder why I keep the Temp part of "The Temp, The Actress and The Writer". I haven't temped in over a year. Seems silly. Well. One reason is because temping was a part of my life and had a lot to do with both my acting and writing careers, so it doesn't feel quite right doing away with it.

Also it is really tough finding a good title. And "The Temp, The Actress and The Writer" is a good title.

And on that note. . . . and brilliant segue . . . . I would like to announce that I have a title for my next book (or at least the American title, it may yet change in the UK) . . . ready for it . . .

Timothy and the Dragon's Gate.

I like it very much.


_______________________________________________

Next bit of news. I will be speaking at the monthly breakfast held by The Writer's Circle of Durham Region this Saturday. Here is all the info if anyone is interested.


Lastly can I say that I really miss you guys? - and I have much to share (Hallowe'en stories, pictures and of course the tale of the Texas Book Festival). But I simply have to focus on the writing right now. I hope to be with you all very very soon though!

Big sloppy kisses!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Texas Book Festival

Okay okay okay, pretend I'm not here . . .

I just popped back to let people know that this coming weekend (Nov 3 - 4) I'll be at the Texas Book Festival. It looks to be a lot of fun, and if anyone is in the vicinity, well I would just love to meet you!

Anyway here are the details (and now I vanish once more into the ether . . . .oooooooooooooo):

Not for Required Reading

Date: Saturday, November 3, 2007
Time: 7:30pm - 9:00pm
Location: Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar (1120 S. Lamar)

Featuring: Sherman Alexie, Jacques Couvillon, Adrienne Kress (that's me!!!!), April Lurie, Perry Moore, Neal Shusterman, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Brian Yansky

This goes beyond your average reading assignment. The Festival and the Alamo Drafthouse present an exclusive literary event where you can meet some of today's hottest young adult authors, who will be asked random questions by the emcees - no long panel discussions at this event. B&N gift cards will be given away, as well as Drafthouse passes. $10 tickets (which can then be exchanged for $10 of food and drink at the event) are available.


and . . .


Tough Girls

Date: Sunday, November 4, 2007
Time: 1:30 - 2:30
Location: Capitol Extension Room E2.012

Featuring: Cynthia Leitich Smith, April Lurie and Adrienne Kress (me again!!) - moderated by Julie Lake

Girl power is here to stay, which is good because life as a teenager is difficult: These authors' new books all have confident but vulnerable adolescent protagonists who have to do battle with mafia thugs, vicious pirates, and even more vicious vampires.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I must leave you all for a time!

And I am sorry as ever to do it, especially now that I have met so many of you in the comments section of the post below (thank you so much for indulging me everyone, it was really cool).

But I am drawing near, very near, to my deadline for book 2 and I really need to focus all writing energy on that. So it will probably be two weeks, or so before we meet again, but trust me I will be thinking of you all often!

Big sloppy kisses!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

As the Caterpillar said . . .


I saw this on another blog a couple months back and after a few people introduced themselves in the comments section in the last post, I thought it could be a cool idea.

By using my lovely Statcounter, I know there are more of you out there than usually comment. Now I know it isn't international de-lurking month (or was it week, day?) but I have always been a very curious person, as well as someone who really likes meeting new people, so I thought, if you all didn't mind, that maybe you could come out of the shadows, just for this post. You are not obligated to comment all the time or even ever again (as I can imagine that pressure could be there once you have commented once), but just this once . . . could be neat.


So who are you (as the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland would ask)? Do you write and if so what? Anything else that we would find amusing, interesting, or scratch our chins in contemplation over?
Come on my lovely readers . . . step into the light . . .

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Really Special Day

So yesterday was that book launch/reading/signing thingy for Alex at Indigo at Yorkdale that I was telling you all about and it was pretty darn amazing.

My mom and dad basically organised the whole thing, aside from a few mentions here, a mass email and an invite on Facebook, I did basically nothing. They had made postcards, and invited all their friends and extended family. You know, you invite 50 people in the hopes 10 will actually come, that sort of thing?

But what happens when almost everyone you invite shows up?

But back to the start of the tale.

My mom picked me up from my place and we drove up to Yorkdale Mall for around 1pm. For those not in the know, Yorkdale Mall is one of the biggest in the city, and slightly outside of downtown so there is a massive parking lot surrounding it. And on the weekends, the place is packed. Like unbelievably so. It's sort of hard to describe just how packed. Anyway, this matters to the tale later on.

We went up to the children's book section of the Indigo to meet with Wendy who is in charge of the section as well as doing these book launch things. She's done quite a few in the past (in fact almost exactly a year ago we'd been to the book launch of a friend Rona Arato's book Ice Cream Town, and Wendy had helped organised that one as well), and is extremely enthusiastic. I had actually met her at the Scholastic dinner and had a lovely chat.

So with the help of many other fine Indigo staff, along with my aunt Betty who showed up soon after with veggies and dip, and Denise from Scholastic (who even brought me a pen to sign books with), we set up the food and coffee tables and chairs, and the sound system. People were slowly arriving (my good friend Lisa's mother Sabrina arrived early and helped us set out the cupcakes in a very artistic manner). And they just sort of kept coming. And coming. And suddenly I went from, "Eh this is all old hat by now, I've done many readings already" to complete terror as the numbers grew. Fortunately it was a very loving crowd, consisting mostly entirely of family and friends. But it was still pretty overwhelming.

Just before things got started two of my friends showed up dressed as pirates. Let me tell you, I live a strange life that I can have friends who happen to be in the neighbourhood dressed as pirates call me and ask if they should stop by. Of course I said yes (one of them, Scott, had been with me at Word on the Street, the other, Adrianna, added a nice feminine quality. Well as feminine as a pirate can be really . . .)!

Eventually it got to a point where we just had to get things started or people would start to get restless so I signalled Wendy and she gave me just a lovely introduction. Then my pirates carried me over to the table where I began my reading. Silly thing, started talking at the mic, thanking everyone for coming and got completely overwhelmed and started to cry. I was so not expecting that, but when you are staring out at a crowd of people who are all there because they want to show their support, friends, family (all my grandparents and their siblings and their children and cousins and and . . . ), along with several Scholastic folks, well it's a little hard not to feel a bit overcome.

Nonetheless I recovered I think rather admirably, and did my reading.

Afterwards I signed books for I think an hour, the line was long and I had to chat a bit with everyone, as I knew almost all of them. It was a bit too bad that I couldn't talk and hang with them for longer, but I still think the whole thing worked out really well.

As things were clearing out, one of my friends mentioned that two of my friends had been driving around the parking lot for half an hour (told you it was packed) which was why they were late and so I stuck around to wait for them. They showed up as we were cleaning up and I was so grateful that despite it all they still came. So they gave me a high five, we chatted for a few minutes, and then they left. What a way for them to spend a Sunday afternoon!

And then it was over, an hour and a half after it had begun. That's what people call a whirlwind!

Special thanks to everyone at Indigo, you guys were amazing and so helpful! The Scholastic folks, Denise who helped set up, and all the others who showed up just to show their support! All my friends and family, and of course my mom and dad, but (daddy I'm sorry) especially my mom, who really did organise everything - coordinating everything with Scholastic and meeting with Wendy, not to mention getting all the food and decorations, it really was her party! Thank you so much!

Also, I wanted to add that I got to meet Heidi the hick and her hicklettes and it was AWESOME! I love the blogosphere. And can I tell you that it is very odd she likes to hide her face like that because it is a very pretty face and should be shared with the world. Anyway, Heidi, it was great to meet you!

And last but not least, to the Ironic Gentleman, thank you very much for the flowers and survival kit. It was a complete surprise when Wendy presented me with them! (though I really am dying to know who you actually are, so PLEASE tell me!)



It was a pretty darn good day.

And now. . . pictures!!


My friend Ashley showing you all the food table.


My lovely focus group, Heather, Wendy and Harry.


A section of the crowd all paying rapt attention to my amazing reading.


Me rapt-ing my amazing audience.


Me signing and feeling rather overwhelmed.


Me and Wendy (from Indigo) and my two fab pirates!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Political Rant

Yes politics and religion, best not to talk about in polite company, and an odd thing to find discussed on a blog devoted to acting and writing. But I have been feeling very strongly about a recent vote we had here in Ontario and just had to share my opinion with y'all.

I hope you don't mind the digression.

On Wednesday we had a provincial election (we elect Premiers here in Canada). But that isn't really what has got me a bit peeved. What has got me a bit peeved, is that at the same time as we were electing a party to run the province, we were having a referendum. And this is what gets to me, because this referendum was incredibly mismanaged.

First off, very few people knew there was a referendum happening in the first place. I've heard people say things like, "And then there was this extra piece of paper . . . "

And Second, people really did not understand the issue. Which is understandable because watch me try to explain it to you now. The referendum was a vote for whether or not we should change the current way we elect members of parliament. The new version was called MMP: Mixed Member Proportional.

Let's have Wikipedia explain what that is:

"In this system, a voter casts two votes - one for a candidate (or 'local member') and one for a political party. The local member is elected in a first-past-the-post style election and represents the electoral district, while the political party vote determines, in conjunction with the number of elected local members belonging to each party, how many list members a party receives. A list member is a candidate on an ordered list that a party issues before the election; if the MMP formula determines that a party can have more seats than it won locally, it receives a "top up" number of list seats. Under this new system, the Legislature would have 129 seats: 90 local members (70% of the Legislature) and 39 list members (30% of the Legislature)."

Basically there are two ways you can vote (okay I am sure there are more, but for my purposes . . . ) One is you vote for the person you vote for, and whoever gets the most votes wins. Makes sense. This is called "First Past the Post".

BUT, what is John Smith gets 51 votes, and Annie Doe gets 49? Well yes John Smith technically won the election but almost half the population wanted Annie. And then what if in other ridings the same thing happens, and occasionally Annie's party wins some seats, but not as many as John, so that it is still possible that in the end, Annie could have actually had MORE votes than John despite his win.

The "Popular vote" decides the election by actual number of votes cast per party and in such a case, Annie would have won.

The MMP new way of voting would have combined the two ways of voting.

Okay, so there are pros and cons and I have seen sites devoted to why you shouldn't vote for MMP and why you should. I'm not saying MMP is the answer or even what people had to vote for.

My point: Very few people knew there was a referendum, and those that did, didn't understand what the heck the question was about. I know of people who went into the booth, looked at the question and went, "Well I don't know what all this is about, I guess let's just keep it as is" and that was why they voted the way they did.

This was the first referendum Ontario had had in 83 years!! And no one understood, or cared, or even knew about it!

And I put the blame on the media (sure they are an easy target but hear me out). I know every detail of Britney's custody battle, but darn it if even I can explain the MMP thing clearly (and I understand it!)! They tried, there were some television ads that told people to go to a website to read about it (yeah . . . right . . . people are going to do that . . . ), but the MMP thing should have been there all the time, being shoved down our throats so we were getting sick of the topic. Instead . . . well instead it was barely a blip on the radar.

So we get a really pathetic referendum. Yes on the surface: the people voted no. But that isn't what happened. The people voted "I don't know" or "what are you talking about?"

And that's just sad.

Political rant over.

Thank you.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And yet more links . . .

Okay so I'm just showing off now, but in case any of you are interested:

I was interviewed by Allie Boniface over at her blog: Allie's Musings

Also I mentioned how in St. Louis I did a radio interview with the head of the Big Read by phone, well I found the link here. It is around twenty minutes long so be warned . . . .

And now I am getting ready to do a reading at Rosedale Heights again. I really enjoyed my first time back in February, the kids were really supportive. Fingers crossed it's just as great thing time!

Monday, October 08, 2007

And the Adventure continues . . .

Okay. So the whirlwind which was this extra long week has finally come to a close. Not that there still isn't quite a bit coming up in the near future, but man, I have to say, I'm pooped.

Also it isn't exactly like this extra long week was particularly painful. It was, dare I say it, down right pleasant, and as always there is much to share. So, let's get sharing!

The week continued with Wednesday, many weeks do tend continue this way, nonetheless . . . Wednesday evening was the Scholastic Canada dinner at the Gardiner Museum (a ridiculously convenient location for me to get to). It was really lovely, and I got to meet many another author and bookseller. But the highlight for me would have to be getting to chat with Gordon Korman. I loved his books growing up, and when I was little could not get over the fact he was first published by Scholastic at 12. We spoke a bit, can't really remember about what as my internal dialogue was, "I'm talking to Gordon Korman, I'm talking to Gordon Korman, OMG I am talking to Gordon Korman!" And then he signed a copy of his latest book, Schooled, for me, and then . . . tee hee . . . I signed a copy of mine for his kids!

Then I flew out the next day to St Louis Missouri to attend the Big Read Festival.

Toronto being consumed by a thick fog off Lake Ontario. Cool huh?

St Louis was hot. And I was told, unseasonably so (though as I write this Toronto is having its hottest Thanksgiving on record, so I guess it is happening everywhere). I spent the first night hanging out in my room, and then going to bed early as I was visiting schools the next day.

The next day proved to be even hotter, and I was very proud of myself that I had packed so well for the trip - that is summer dresses etc. So I met this lovely woman, Lisa from Left Bank Books who was going to be driving me to my first location, down in the lobby and she informed me that we had to wait for Peter Brown. Now for those of you who have read a lot of this blog, you will remember that Pete is my artist pen pal from New York who is the author and illustrator of the Chowder book series (his latest, The Fabulous Bouncing Chowder just came out). I knew he was going to be at the festival, but I didn't know when I'd see him so it was so cool that we were being driven around together.

We drove to Pete's school first, dropped him off, and then continued to Central Elementary where I got to speak to a gym full of kids. I spoke. I read. We did a Q and A, and it was really fun. The kids were very enthusiastic, as were the teachers (one of them had been reading my book to his class, which was so cool!).

I was supposed to do a radio interview next, but the person who was supposed to pick me up got lost and then ran out of time so had to go to the interview without me. But fear not, the amazing Lisa managed to still get me on the air via telephone. Now it is rather difficult to do a radio interview by telephone. You have no idea if they can hear you, if they want you to stop talking . . . really odd. But I think it went well, and it was pretty fun!

Then I was picked up by a Big Read volunteer Lauren, and we went for lunch, and then she drove me over to Maplewood-Richmond Heights Elementary, where I had to do three presentations in a row. I was concerned how overwhelming the experience might be, but the kids were so enthusiastic, and really sweet, and they all wanted my autograph (yes some rock stars sign certain body parts, I sign backpacks). I wound up having a wonderful time.

Then I was driven back to the hotel by one of the teachers and I just lay on my bed in utter exhaustion. Pete, his girlfriend Vinnetta, and I had considered going site seeing in the afternoon, but it turned out that he too had had a heck of a day so instead we agreed we'd just go for dinner. We went to this really great tapas restaurant called Bar-celona, get it get it? We showed up around 6:30pm and got a seat on the patio. We must have come just at the right time because maybe half an hour later the place was packed and there was a long line waiting to get in. It was such a nice night, the sort of night you totally forget about the weather because it is the perfect temperature.

Pete and Vinnetta at the tapas bar.

We parted ways a couple of hours later, Pete was doing his thing at the Big Read at 9am so he needed to crash, and I watched some tv in my room and went to bed.

I had to check out of the hotel at noon, so I stored my bag in the lobby and went for a brief meander around the Big Read, saw Dorothy Hamill talk in one of the tents, and then met up with the other two authors - Sharon Shinn and Vicki Grove - who were on the Girl Power Hour panel at 2pm with me. I was nervous because I had no idea what I was going to talk about but fortunately neither did Sharon or Vicki. We chatted a bit, figured out a game plan, and then were introduced. We each talked and read for 15 minutes, and then answered questions.

Then it was off to the airport for a long trip home by way of Charlotte and a slightly uncomfortable taxi ride back to my apartment where the driver informed me that this was his first day back after three years. You see he had gotten into a head on collision and spent 3 months in a wheel chair and still got anxiety attacks. Yes it is impressive how well he recovered, and really horrible what happened to him . . . but I don't really think I need to know those particular details of the driver who is navigating his way along the newly slicked roads from the storm that just passed.

But I made it home safely, and have lived to blog about the tale here today.
_____________________________________________________

Just a reminder that this coming Sunday (October 14th) at 2pm, I am doing a book launch/signing/reading thing at Indigo at Yorkdale Mall here in Toronto.

Also I apologise for the lack of me on Etalk. I keep getting bumped so I can't really tell you when I'll be on. However that interview I did for Space, while it hasn't aired on TV yet, you can listen to some of it on the Space Podcast here - just scroll forward just past the halfway mark (though you can listen to the whole thing, the Space podcasts are pretty cool).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I've been a busy girl!

And rather remiss at posting! But I am sure you will all forgive me once I share with you the details of the week I am having right now.

The week actually started on Friday for me when I was flown out to Providence Rhode Island for the NEBA Trade Show. The plane I was in - 18 seats. Yes. One row of nine seats, an aisle, and another row of nine seats. And no flight attendants so that the co-pilot announced: "If it's too cold or too warm or anything, just knock on the door and let us know!"

Oh and also propellers attached to the wings that were so loud you really couldn't talk to anyone.

The whole plane. I was sitting in row one. This is it folks.


And the view from my seat. The cockpit. Yup, I was practically flying the plane myself.

Anyway, I get into Rhode Island, and a driver is waiting for me holding a sign with my name. He was a really nice guy, used to be a prison guard, and we had a lovely chat. Then I arrived at the hotel, had some room service and then went to the trade show to sign books.

I'd been slotted in for 2:30pm and while I didn't have a huge line like the other authors next to me, I signed consistently for the full half hour. It was fun, and the people I met were really nice.

Then I went back to my hotel and continued to watch the America's Next Top Model marathon I had been watching over lunch (and by marathon I mean a marathon of episodes from a few seasons back, not a marathon with models running or anything, though I think that could be quite amusing, especially if they were doing it in high fashion. And heels.). Then I got ready for dinner with some bookbuyers etc.

Artsy picture of me in my hotel room.

I met Katie and Camille (from Weinstein Books) along with Vincent (Vincent Lam, a fellow author who I talked about back at the BEA thing, he won the Giller, the big book award here in Canada, and is now being published by Weinstein in the states), and we all walked over to the restaurant. We sort of stood around waiting for people to show, and then when they did we had a really lovely time. Amazing food, and everyone was chatty (though I have to say when I started on about Shakespeare, I kind of took over the conversation for a while. Gave a bit of a lecture really - ah well).

Then the next morning Vincent and I flew home (he's from Toronto too) together, in the SAME PLANE (same pilot and everything). And my parents drove us both home from the airport (my parents really like giving rides to people).

NEXT

The next day was Word on the Street, a book festival that happens in Toronto once a year that takes over an area of downtown by the university.

My name on the list of authors reading!

I was doing a reading at 5:30pm, which is right at the end of the day and I was worried I wouldn't have an audience. So I had asked some of my friends if they would mind dressing as pirates and wrangling an audience together. My friends really like being pirates. They have their own costumes, and weapons and did their job brilliantly well!

But before the reading I met up with my publicist girl person Jessica at the Scholastic booth and she showed me to the VIP section for authors (yes. I know. VIP. Me.). Which is when she had to go back to work so I was all alone feeling silly, and finally just had to jump in the midst of a group of guys who were standing chatting right next to me. They were all very nice, two of them are artists (of the graphic novel variety) and gave me a copy of each of their books - Infinite Kung Fu by Kagan McLeod, and Monster Cops by Chip Zdarsky. I have to say after a quick perusal of the books, the gents are pretty darn talented.

Then I met up with Sherri Vanderveen, author of Belle Falls (and someone I had met on AW) and her friend who is also an author. We chatted about writing, and the crazy world that is our industry, and had a really lovely time. Then I had to go meet my pirates (who had been roaming about the event promoting my reading - darling boys) and go to the Children's Reading Tent.

My pirates totally pulled through for me. When I sat down there weren't that many people there, but my pirates had gone off to do a sword fight and then bring the kids over to me, and they totally did! So I was thrilled that I actually had kids to read to and not just my family (who also turned up and of course it was great that they did, but I mean . . . you want the kids, that's after all for whom the book was written!).

I did the reading, I think it went very well, and then signed a few books. And then that was it. And I was pooped.

NEXT

THEN . . . . yesterday I had two TV interviews. And I was terrified. Yes I am an actress, but playing yourself is really different and scary. Also I had never done a TV interview before, so I was worried I'd just go on, or talk to fast or . . . Anyway, in the end they both went well (I mean, I had a good time, I have no idea what the finished product looks like or anything) and if any of you guys are in the vicinity check out ETalk on CTV at 7pm tomorrow (Wednesday), and SPACE sometime next week (the podcast should be up sooner - I'll link to it when the time comes).

I'm not sure if I am brave enough to watch them myself though.

ALSO

MY BOOK OFFICIALLY CAME OUT IN CANADA YESTERDAY!!!! And yes there is something anti-climactic about it seeing as I've seen it in the bookstores for a week now, and have signed many of the copies, but it's still pretty darn cool. So there were some celebratory drinks last night as well.

So that's what I've been up to so far!

Tomorrow I am going to a dinner at the Gardiner Museum hosted by Scholastic, and then on Thursday I fly out to St Louis Missouri for the Big Read Festival. So you see, I truly am a busy girl! And I hope you can forgive my poor blogging habits of late!

xoxox