Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Also the next Vanna White

I'm gonna be a prize girl.

Like, I am going to show off prizes at an auction. My hope is to elicit at least a few "oohs" (I'd love some "ahhhs" but I mean, I'm not sure I'm at that level yet).

You see my lovely bud Lesley, and her lovely friend Caitlin Sweet, often work with the fine folks of the Sunburst Awards for Canadian Literature of the Fantastic. And every year at Ad Astra, a fantasy convention held here in Toronto, they hold an auction to raise money for said awards.

So I was asked to be a prize girl and really how could I say no? Okay, in retrospect probably pretty easily but it's too late now and I'm kinda looking forward to it.

Anyway if you are going to be in the city and attending Ad Astra, please come check it out. The auction is on Saturday (March 3rd) and there are some really awesome prizes actually. Here's the link to more info on the subject (and if you feel like getting into an absurdist loop, you can then click on the link there back to this page and just keep going and going and going and going . . . ): Sunburst Awards Auction

Monday, February 26, 2007

The Next JK Rowling

If you are a children's book author. If you are a fantasy author. If you are an author. Chances are you have had someone tell you after you've told them you write, "Oh cool! So then that means you'll be the next JK Rowling!"

Which is very sweet and supportive and totally and completely not possible, as what made JK Rowling the first JK Rowling was the very fact that no one expected her to be JK Rowling (that along with writing an amazing story that everyone wanted to read).

Also I think with all the arts, the only way to successfully navigate yourself through the mire of self-indulgence and isolation and flakiness that somehow makes it acceptable to write a blog with a the phrase "navigate yourself through the mire of self-indulgence and isolation", that comes with being an "artist", is to have a realistic outlook and understanding of the business. To note that the JK Rowlings of the world are the exception that proves the rule, and not the gold standard.

Nonetheless . . .

I would like to inform you all that I am well on my way to being the next JK Rowling.

Not only is my British/Canadian publication date of August 6th a mere two weeks after the final Harry Potter is released (I am so excited and yet depressed at the thought that Deathly Hallows will be the bitter end, thank goodness we still have a few movies to go), but I officially now have two different titles for my first book (you will recall her first book had the titles: Philosopher Stone/Sorcerer Stone).

I happen to like both of my titles, and feel like I am getting the best of all worlds with this decision. They are:

UK/Commonwealth - Alex and the Wigpowder Treasure

USA - Alex and the Ironic Gentleman

I appreciate this may be ever so slightly confusing for you, but I will endeavor to keep the matter as clear as possible (you may have noticed I have changed my link to the synopsis of the book to accommodate this new development).

And now to celebrate two titles, I think we should take some already existing children's book titles and give them secondary ones ie:

Alice in Wonderland aka The Rabbit Hole
Peter Pan aka The Boy Who Never Grew Up
Winnie The Pooh aka The Bear with the Strange Name

Anyone else have other ones? Possibly slightly funnier?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

There's always something to add!

Hey all! As ever, thanks for all your comments and stuff. I'm glad people enjoyed my little lecture series (watch out Al Gore . . . I never ever ever thought that would be something I would have said even in jest, dude.)

And just when you think it is safe to go back into the water . . .

Orion asked an interesting question and I was hoping, after of course I wax philosophical on the issue, whether people would add their own two cents. She asked what part of my book I read. Or read. Hmm . . .that was meant to highlight two different tenses there, wow isn't the English language amazing? Nevertheless one is meant to be present, the other past. You decide which is which.

Anyway . . .

I actually did a fair bit of research online before reading anything, and having now also gone twice to see Guy Gavriel Kay read and talk about what to choose to read, I have come to this conclusion:

Read something that doesn't take a lot of set up. That is, you aren't sitting there for twenty minutes explaining everything that led up until the bit you are sharing.

And next, read the funny bit.

This I can understand because no matter how beautiful and emotionally poignant your book can be, an audience member will find it hard enough to get interested in an excerpted section of your story, as well as having to get used to being read to, without having to emotionally invest herself in the character. It's a lot of work for fifteen/twenty minutes. I think also it is unlikely there are any books that don't have lighter moments to be found. And personally, everyone loves a good laugh.

I remember going to the JK Rowling, Stephen King and John Irving reading in NY. Now the former two had major groupies present, and while Mr. Irving was known to the crowd he did not get the loudest applause when introduced. But he read very well. And he was so funny. A lot had to do with the piece he chose to read, a lot with the delivery, but it was hilarious and brilliant and at the end of his reading he got the loudest applause out of all three the whole night.

Anyway, taking this in mind I found myself choosing to read two consecutive chapters early on. But not from right at the beginning because the mention of pirates doesn't happen until several chapters in, and I wanted the kids to know this was a book about pirates.

The first chapter I read was about some of my bad guys. It's a funny passage and also really gives a sense as to the mood of the book, that my story is just as much about the weird characters as the plot itself. And bad guys are awesome.

The next chapter I read went back to our protagonist and was very expository. It's basically one character telling the story of the Wigpowder treasure to another character. I read this because it ended with a cliffhanger (always leave 'em wanting more!), and it also gave a general sense of what the story was to be about, in essence, a treasure hunt.

I really feel like I chose the best two chapters because I got to both give a sense of tone as well as plot. And I did have them laughing aloud at parts, so I guess it was also funny.

I had to do a bit more setup than I wanted, especially because the end of the expository chapter finishes with a sort of "dum dum dum" line that you can only really appreciate if you know one minor fact from earlier on. And it is really hard to drop in a minor fact when you are summing up the general "what's happened so far" part of the book. It is even harder to drop in a minor fact that you don't want the audience to focus on, but I think I did it okay.

So that is what I chose to read (and that was whatever tense that was).

Now then, time for the rest of you to chime in, what bits do you read when you do? And what do you think as an audience member makes the perfect reading?

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Un

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Deux

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Trois

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tips on reading aloud - Part Trois

Okay so I have to apologise for not having posted sooner. It's been one heck of a week but I am pleased to announce that I have an acting agent! It is very exciting to me, and I really think she is just lovely. So yay!

And now onto today's lesson boys and girls.


The first thing when preparing to read aloud is, practice. I say practice darn you! Yes, know what you are going to read, and then, heck, read it. Aloud. Using some of the techniques you see fit mentioned in the two other parts of this series. If you can find someone who is willing to be read to, then read to that person. They can tell you if you are too quiet, too fast, or just too fabulous for words.

It is really important to keep pace in mind when reading. This is something I really suck at. I talk fast. Very fast. And I also read fast. I have had to teach myself over my many years as a drama major to slow down. So, yes, don't read fast. At the same time, don't go too slow. I mean, seriously, let's not bore people here. Ideally you want a nice steady pace, but one that speeds up and slows down ever so slightly depending on what you are reading. Please . . . don't . . . read . . . everything . . . in . . . a . . . monotonous . . . pattern. You also want to enunciate your words clearly. Often when we reach the end of a sentence, our voice sort of fades away. Remember to read right through to the end of the line. If you can't find a friend to listen, then tape yourself and listen to yourself.

Next, dress well. Just think about it. You don't need to wear a suit and tie, but people appreciate it when someone has put in the effort. Especially kids. They are probably the most style conscious people on earth.

Now as for taking the space. It would be great if you could find out ahead of time what sort of room you will be reading in. Will it be a classroom, a boardroom, a gym, an auditorium? Will you have a microphone, and will it be on a stand, will it be hand held, will it be like a Madonna one you wear over your ear (if it is one of these, please resist the temptation to start singing "Like a Prayer")? This is important so you know how loud you need to be. In a smaller space, obviously you don't need to worry about projection as much. Bigger space . . . well then you do. And a microphone? Ah man. Then you have to quieter, but enunciate uber clearly, and make sure you know whether you will have to stand or sit at it, because that can change your whole delivery.

Also, remember that unless the space is designed for theatre, it is likely to have the strangest acoustics. And that the more people you have in a room, the more your voice is absorbed. The same goes for a room that has a lot of carpeting and padded walls. So even if the room is smaller, if it is packed to the ceiling, and let's be honest if it is one of your readings chances are it will be, you still have to project your voice.

Another reason for knowing what sort of room you will be in is that it affects the way you "take the space." To "Take the Space" is a term in theatre which basically describes you as the actor walking out on stage and commanding the attention of everyone in the audience as well as your fellow actors. You don't sort of shuffle on apologetically, no you come into the room like you own it!

So if you are walking out onto a stage, or into a gym, or any other large room with several hundred people watching you, make sure they notice you. This doesn't mean cartwheeling in . . . although . . . But it does mean walking in with confidence, good posture, and a big smile on your face. I know that a big audience is scary, but take the time as you enter and sit to really look at it. To see individual faces and examine it from the very front to the very back. You don't need to launch into your reading immediately. Don't be worried if you think you are uninteresting just looking at all of them, they will be very pleased to have you notice that they are there. It will make them feel special. Make yourself comfortable, don't rush, don't worry. Use the time you have to enter as an opportunity to calm your nerves. Take a good few deep breaths. Seriously. Don't rush it. (I mean let's not milk it either people, be reasonable about the whole thing. It's just that so often we just start things without breathing or thinking. Please breathe and think. Please.)

But . . . if the room is small. If you only have twenty audience people sitting there, well then you can establish a much more intimate informal environment. You can make the audience feel like they are a part of something special, it's just you and them. Enter the room more casually, give a friendly wave or something. I'd say try to notice everyone when you enter, have a good look at all of them. Oddly though this sounds intimidating, when you actually look at the people you are reading to and realise that they are excited to be there and supportive of you, and are just people after all, it can calm you down as well. Make an intimate reading special because of its intimacy. Oh and also breathe and think here too.

Now, when you are reading of course you are going to do all those things I've already talked about, but here's one more thing. During your practicing reading aloud before the big day, practice looking up from the book as well. Choose some moments, some individual lines you think you could memorise, and then look up. An audience will respond so much more to an author who is engaged with them, who remembers and cares that they exist, as opposed to a reader who just puts his nose in his book and forgets all about them. Like I said a few posts ago, it's hard to keep attention when reading. It's just you, talking, with little to no movement (though I think if you can make a gesture with your hand every now and then it would be a good idea). Look up to make sure they are with you. Pause if you have to. Genuinely keep track of whether or not they are paying you any attention, and are following along with the story.

And when you finish the reading, have a moment of quiet. Then smile again, and look up at your audience from your book. And thank them for being such a good audience.

Now the thing is, stuff might not go perfectly. You may lose your audience's focus and no matter what you do you can't get it back. You may trip walking out on stage. You may stutter over a word or two. And you know what. . . who cares? Don't let it get to you. It's one reading. It's meant to be fun. For you. For the audience.

As Douglas Adams wrote: Don't panic.

And that concludes our class on reading aloud. I hope it was somewhat useful, or at least entertaining. I'm really enjoying reading other people's techniques in the comments section, so please keep 'em coming. I think we could all use as much help and support as we can get!

There's Always Something to Add

(previous: Tips on Reading Aloud - Part Deux)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Tips on reading aloud - Part Deux

Okay so now that we have dealt with the flaky emotional stuff, let's have a look at my cheat sheet.

Cheat Sheet

It's pretty straightforward actually. When reading aloud, follow the punctuation. Seriously.

I suddenly understood this technique by reading Mamet. Here's a playwright who insists you read what is written on the page, including the ellipses. And when you do, well it is amazing how much it sounds like you know what you are doing.

So here is the thing. Read the text like it is music, notes on a page. There are rules for how we speak and different notes we hit when we arrive at different punctuation points.

When we have a question mark, we go up in pitch at the end of the sentence. When we have a period, we go down lower and stop. And with a comma, we pause and stay on the same note.

It seems so obvious, but I swear this totally helps. I am quite good at what are called "cold reads" in auditions which is when an auditioner gives you a script to read right then and there without practice. And this is simply because I read what is in front of me.

Sometimes you can trip yourself up, you are reading away and so sure that this sentence is about to end and you are going down in pitch when suddenly you see a comma. Well you see the comma and even in that instant you can instead of going down to a lower pitch, stay on the same one as the word before that. If however you can't stay on the pitch and find you've read the sentence as if you've hit a period when really you still have a list with many commas ahead of you, cheat. Make every item in the list sound like its own sentence.

When it comes to ellipses or dashes indicating that the thought has trailed off . . .

or been interrupted -

don't cut off the end of the word. Say the whole word and just stop . . . and then pick up where you left off. Often people in trying to emulate the sound of normal speech like to add a little something to their ellipses. They like to do something like this:

Instead of reading "How about we go to the park . . . no never mind"
They read "How about we go to the pa . . . mmm no never mind"

There is nothing super wrong with this, but it is weak. You are adding things that were never necessary in the text in the first place.

Okay so maybe this isn't the revelation you were hoping for. But this really works. And it may read as super obvious, but it does take a bit of practice to get it. Start with listening to how people talk and see that they actually do do what I wrote about. Then try it out yourself. At first it will sound a bit like you are singing, but eventually you'll get used to it.

And if all this gets a bit too confusing, then just go back to the thought, "Just read the text. Just read what is on the page, nothing more, nothing less."

It really works.


(If any of you guys have specific questions or I am not being particularly clear in these posts, it's really tricky to explain this stuff I am finding, so I may be muddling everything up, please don't hesitate to ask)

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Trois

(previous: Tips on Reading Aloud Part Un)

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Tips on reading aloud - Part Un

Okay. So like I always say, take what I write with a grain of salt. Take most things you read on the internet with a grain of salt. But I did really want to write about this, so I thought I would devote a few posts to the subject.

This first one will be quite actory talking about motivations and stuff. The next will be more technical, how to read what is on the page, speed, enunciation etc. And the last will be on presentation, how to present yourself to a room full of people. So now that you know, you can skip this post and go to your favourite one later on, or read ahead. You've been warned! Dum dum dum!!


When reading aloud you seriously do not want to bore your audience. This is tricky because being told a story is sort of connected with bed time and stuff and so often listeners will close their eyes and things. You may not be boring them, but tough to know otherwise. None the less, you must simply do all you think that you can do to entertain them. Remember it is about them, not you, when you are reading aloud. Otherwise why are you doing it?

So you must. . . act.

Scary I know. You don't need to get up and dance around, though I bet they would enjoy that, but you do need to deliver your text with panache, and dare I say it, feeling.

Now don't be frightened off by the idea of creating emotions in what you are reading. You yourself do not need to get emotional. In fact I have always considered acting a very logical exercise. Audiences watch an actor on stage and think that because they are seeing emotions brought vividly to life, that it must be an emotionally overwhelming process. Well it is. Of course it is.

But it also isn't. Otherwise how could we do it over and over, night after night (also you must know I do not come from the method school of acting, so what I am sharing with you are my opinions only, please do not consider anything I say as an absolute - or I'll get in trouble).

Why is it logical? Well there are reasons behind emotions, motivations, even if the reason is that the motivation is unreasonable. Often times people react as we would expect them to. They cry when they are sad and laugh when they are happy. But . . . more often than not, you'll find that people may laugh when they are sad and cry when they are happy. And this to me, though seeming not, is still rather logical. Not the actual emotional responses, but the analysis of emotional responses. I can understand logically why someone would cry when they are very happy. It could be that they never thought that anything so wonderful could happen to them, maybe they think they are unworthy of good things.

Another example: If someone just snaps out of the blue, chances are they aren't just snapping out of the blue, but rather have a wee bit of pent up anger just waiting to explode.

Now then, if you are the author of the book you are reading (and I am kind of writing this for those of you who are). You are lucky. You wrote the book. So you understand the logic behind the motivations of the characters. You know that your main character is frightened of snails but can't tell his mother because she is an expert french chef. Go with it my friend. Seriously don't be scared. Yell when a character is angry because everyone always makes fun of them, laugh when they finally win a contest. I'd say avoid crying because crying usually comes across as self indulgent, but you can lower your voice, make it softer, when the character is sad that no one likes him.

Read the lines logically. How would YOU feel if that was you speaking? The "magic if" is what Stanislavsky called it. If I was this character, how would I feel?

Above all do not, I repeat do not, just use this advice for the dialogue in your book. If the MS is in the first person, well then it is super easy. Read the descriptive text as if you are the one telling the story, the very first time anyone has told this story. Get excited when exciting things happen, and resigned when you think about your character's unlucky lot in life.

If the book is third person things get trickier. Third person limited, do as with first person. Even though you are reading different pronouns, pretend you are reading "I" as opposed to "he/she".

If the book is third person with multiple points of view? Well then you got an even harder task. You've got to step into each character's head each time you switch. So first you are Sally all nervous about her date. Then you are Ben, arrogant because all women love him. Then you are Doug the mailman, tired of his long day at work. You can do it. You really can.

Oh and you really don't need to do different voices if you don't feel up to the challenge. Your book is already written in a way so that people will know who you are talking about. And if you are using the proper motivations and emotions with each character, then the audience will know who is who easily.

I know, I know. Sounds a bit flaky, but remember this is the "acting" post. I wanted to touch on motivations, and the "magic if", and remind people that descriptive text must be just as emotive as dialogue.

Tomorrow I will give you guys some tangible straightforward techniques, kind of like a cheat sheet for faking emotion. It's really cool. Trust me.

Tips on Reading Aloud Part Deux

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Baby Got Back!

I'm baaaaack!

Yes I know how you must have all missed me so! I actually did miss blogging truth be told. Though it is also nice to have a break from all things internet. Of course that meant I had many an email to catch up on when I got back. The best being that my book has now sold to France! Ooh la la! So super exciting! And again, major thanks to Lucie and Julia who make the whole thing happen. You guys are amazing.

So I know you are all just dying to read about my trip to the big apple. So without further delay.. . let's launch into it!

I flew into NY with my lovely friend Lesley, whom I have mentioned oh, a few times on here . . .

. . . on Friday morning and we dropped our stuff at the Crowne Plaza at the United Nations (can I just say what an amazing hotel, and the cheapest we found online, definitely check it out the next time you all go). Then we parted ways, Lesley went to meet with her agent (which went spectacularly well I am told, and which I have no doubt she has regaled, or shall be regailing on her blog, so check it out) and I to meet with my exciting artist pen pal, Peter Brown.

We had never met, and I always get nervous about those sorts of things, but we got on swimmingly, had some surprisingly good Thai food, and went to a coffee shop for dessert. We were the only people there who were actually sitting with each other. It looked like the sort of place people go to to do work, or write, or whatever. I felt bad for speaking loudly, like it was a library or something. Anyway, had a great time with Pete and have decided to stay friends with him (wow, won't he be honoured).

Once Lesley and I met up again we went out for dinner with two of her friends who were in town preparing for their move to the great city. They most generously took us out for meat. I mean it. We went to this Brazilian restaurant where they give you these coasters, on one side it is red, the other is green. When your coaster is on green, then waiters come up to you with various meats on sticks. And you must take it. You simply must. Because it is so darn delicious.

After the amazing dinner, it was time for bed. I think the meat kept Leslie awake, but I slept rather soundly (having woken up at 4am that morning and gone non-stop).

Next day we were tourists. We went to the National Library (some of you may remember it from "Ghost Busters". Others from "The Day After Tomorrow").

It's simply gorgeous. And just reaffirms my thoughts that no matter how technologically savvy the writing world becomes, or how much e-books flourish, they will never do away with the good old fashioned book. The writing world is inherently romantic. And so are writers. And readers.

Then we walked up 5th Avenue to the park and Lesley wanted to go for a carriage ride, and being the classy dames we are we chose the most sophisticated of transports. White with purple feathers. And a poor white horse who's hooves had been painted in sparkly purple paint. It was fun. But seriously cold.

Then we went to the Tavern on the Green and it felt like going for lunch inside a birthday cake.

Except for the corridor that led you to the dining room, which was like a funhouse hall of mirrors.

And then we met for drinks two friends of Lesley's whom we had happened to meet on the flight over. One is a book seller here in Toronto, and the author also a children's book author. They were both coming to NY to go to the SCBWI conference, an unfortunate acronym, but much fun to say once you practice it enough times. So we hung out with them, and I have to say it was fascinating listening to Kris, the book seller, talk about her job. She speaks with such knowledge and passion. Really cool to see a completely different perspective on the industry.

Then Lesley went home first thing Sunday morning and I moved on to my friend Jenny's place in Williamsburg with my friend Carrie who had got in from Boston the previous night. We had many a reunion, and went for dinner at Jenny's bar where we hung out with some of my fellow LAMDA grads. This is also the part of the adventure where the tourist half ends and the hanging out with the locals half starts. Hence no more pictures. Seriously. I just stopped taking them when Sunday happened. Which was kind of stupid and weird. Ah well.

Carrie and I moved onto "Don't tell mama's", a piano bar where unemployed and employed Broadway actors get up and sing for fun. A small cozy place, where everyone knew each other. It was much fun. Then it was time for bed.

Finally on my last day, I bid farewell to Carrie and went to meet my American editor, Rob Weisbach, at Miramax Books (though it will soon become Weinstein Books). It was so great. Rob is such a happy guy, and has so much energy. In fact everyone there just seemed to be bubbling over with it. We talked a lot about the book, well okay, that's all we really talked about obviously, and it looks like it will be coming out in October in the States, just so ya'll know. And then they showed me the cover which I just love! And eventually I will write more on the subject and show you all as well, but I would like to wait until I get my UK one as well, for which I am just dying to see!

And finally Jenny and I went to a reading that night of a screenplay. Jenny got to do some networking, and I got to do some bragging about the book, and we all just had so much fun. And had sorbet made of champagne.

And that was it. Flew in this morning, just in the nick of time before the storm hits that everyone is going on about.

Just want to do a shout out to Jenny and her housemates Daria and Kaitlin for putting me up, and putting up with me, and of course the lovely Carrie who I wish I'd see more often, and the amazing Lesley with whom I just got to be the best tourist ever, and in her usual Lesley self managed to introduce me to yet more fabulous interesting people.

And of course shout out to New York city itself. I know you might not hear it that often from people, but I love you man. You could even say, I heart you.

(congrats to the readers who made it to the end of this tale . . . your cheque's in the mail. And by "in the mail" I mean sitting on my desk, firmly in my cheque book)

Thursday, February 08, 2007

If I can make it there . . .

Sorry all for not posting much this week. I needed to focus on my editing, but I am very happy to say that I am finally finished, so it was worth being separated from all you lovely people! Well almost worth it.

And I'm afraid that this will be the last entry until Tuesday. I thought maybe on Tuesday I'd take Orion up on her offer and write a little bit about reading in public. While I haven't had a lot of experience yet at it (in fact that entry last week was my only time), I am an actor. As such I have had to do many a "cold read" as they are called, which is where you go to an audition and they give you the script then and there to read cold. I also have a lot of experience working with kids and getting and keeping their attention, as well as disciplining them (grr I'm mean . . . no I didn't believe it either). And of course, as ever, you can take what I say with a grain of salt.

As for the reason I am not going to be blogging again till next Tuesday, I am going to New York tomorrow morning and I am much looking forward to it! I get to see my friends and the city and I get to meet my American editor, Rob, with whom I've only chatted on the phone and who seems just so lovely!

I will fill you in on the whole trip when I get back. Well not on the whole trip, as that might be boring to you. But the cool neat things that happened. Or if it is a miserable time, which I highly doubt, you shall then hear my tale of woe.

Until Tuesday then my lovelies, ciao! I shall miss you all immeasurably!

Who knows how will all will survive till then!

Monday, February 05, 2007

But baby . . .

It is bitterly cold outside. The wind is howling, the snow is swirling. And I had to wait twenty minutes for the streetcar to arrive (I think there is something morally wrong with that in this sort of weather when the government is making cold advisory warnings etc) .

I am now inside. I plan on having some tea before continuing to read through my MS with a fine toothed comb (a process I am enjoying FAR more than the edits which I finally finished).

So share with me some of your warm thoughts. What do you do on days like today? I want the coziest of stories, involving the likes of roaring fires and thick blankets.

And now if you don't mind, I think I'll put the kettle on.

Friday, February 02, 2007

On Reading Aloud

I had a great day yesterday. Let me tell you about it.

My aunt works as a librarian at an elementary school here in Toronto, and she had organised all these events to celebrate Literacy Week this week. She had devoted one day to having guest readers come in and read a book to a class and she asked me if I would be interested. And I thought what better chance to use small children as guinea pigs!

So I went to the school and brought along two chapters of my book. I was quite nervous. I would be reading twice, once to a class of grade 6's and once to a class of grade 7's. And personally I consider those grades notoriously tricky. You see they have strong opinions at that age. They're people by then. And if they don't like you, they'll let you know.

I was escorted around the school by two of the grade 7 girls who were totally awesome. They asked me questions about the book and writing and stuff. And then they would introduce me to the class, reading out this mini-speech my aunt had prepared for them. And then there I was, on my own, in front of the class. All eyes on me.

Must win them over. So, first off I criticized them for the mild applause they gave me after the intro was over. I mean seriously. I demand whooping and whistles thank you very much. So we tried it out again. Second time, much better. Then I told them a little about the book so they would understand the chapters I was reading. And then I said that what I figured would make the most sense was after I finished reading chapter 3 they should all sit there in quiet reflection for a few moments. Possibly they could say something like, "Dude" or "Woah", while stroking their chins. And then, of course, I requested that after I read chapter 4, they would cheer in that uproarious fashion like last time. I also asked that at least someone shout out, "That was the best reading ever!"

And then . . . I read.

And it was a really different experience I don't mind telling you. I'm so used to acting and moving around and keeping people's attention by being silly. But sitting there reading for 15 minutes (with, granted, a lovely moment of quiet reflection between chapters) made me nervous. I did act things out a bit. In chapter 3 there are quite a few physical descriptions, so I would point to my head, or nose, or whatever was being described. In chapter 4 I actually did accents. Which I wasn't sure I could pull off. Still, watching some of them cross their arms on their desks, and resting their heads on top, it made me a little nervous I don't mind telling you.

But it was all good. I got some great laughs from the kids, which was so awesome, and a total relief. And after I read to the grade 7's I even took some questions from the class. Or really the three boys who kept raising their hands over and over. And the teacher. They asked me how many chapters the book was, and they also asked if it would be made into a movie. And since they also knew I was an actress from the intro, asked what I had been in. I hope I didn't disappoint them by saying, "Mostly theatre."

At the end, I got my applause, and after some cajoling a chorus of, "That was the best reading ever!" And I feel that the whole thing was a great success. They were all very attentive, and as I left, one kid said that I was a very good reader. And it was SO nice to hear that, because it was my first time.

My mommy came too and sat in the back. She also said I did a good job. Though I read a bit fast. Which was predictable. Of course she was immensely proud of how I handled the students, having been a teacher herself for years and now a teacher of teachers (both my parents are now teachers of teachers, and my dad had to call me to congratulate me on my work with the kids that night too. The things that teacher parents take pride in).

And that was my day! My aunt sent me an email this morning saying that the teachers of both classes thought I did a great job, and that the kids had a great time and they all want to buy the book! Yay! That's at least 40 books sold! Watch out JK Rowling!

I really hope I can go back in the fall once the book is officially out. That would be super neat.

I had a really good time.


Thanks again to Lisa for such a great visit and for everyone coming to hang out yesterday! I think my first hosting gig went pretty darn well, if I do say so myself. Which I do.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Guest blogger Lisa Clark - author of Think Pink, is here!

Ladies and Gents! Allow me to introduce you to the lovely Lisa Clark, author of “Think Pink”.

Lisa Clark is a freelance writer, youth market consultant and Mizz magazine’s life coach. Having always lived her life with a distinctly girly hue, Lisa thinks seeing the world through a very cool pair of oversized, pink-tinted shades is a more than do-able way to live life, and is obsessed with Hollywood starlets, all things pink and slinky-hipped dream boys. As always don’t forget to check out her website: Pink World

And now over to the lovely Lisa to answer some of your questions!

How did you get started in the industry, and what first steps should someone take, who wants to write freelance or their first book?

Writing books and freelancing is all about ideas, persistence and perseverance - I write freelance for many of the teen titles here in the UK but I'm only as good as my next pitch, so for me, it's all about the ideas. I made a lot of contacts just by checking the mastheads of my favourite magazines and emailing the features editor. I then made a real effort to maintain contact with them all - not in a stalker-girl way, well...maybe a little... I'd send feature ideas all the time hoping one of them would stick, I'd ask advice, then eventually a fab teen magazine called J17 took me on as an intern and the rest, as they say, is history!

Book wise, write a killer proposal. Obviously, it helps to have a great idea but unless you can get someone to love it as much as you, it ain't gonna happen!

What should one do as far as promotion, once they've broken in?

Geez, this is a toughie... as this is my first book, I'm still learning but I do know that you have to be a bit of a book pimp and not afraid to toot your own horn - especially if it's your first book and your publisher doesn't have a huge-ass, Harry Potter style budget. A website/blog is an essential although, a blog is totally addictive and can hoover-suck your time, but it's a great way to build an audience, and will give them a you-fix between books.

What does she feel are good, authentic, accessible sources for YA fiction writers to be able to understand the teenage mind best? E.g., is Cosmo Girl really worthwhile reading? Any non-fic books (sounds like yours might be a good one to pick up!)?

Going back to the horn tootin', my book, "Think Pink" is a great insight for getting an idea of what's going on for teens right now, as well as the fabulous-o accompanying website: www.pink-world.co.uk that has contributions not only from the author, but from readers too! Reading the material your audience reads definitely helps and visiting the sites they visit too - for example, I hang out on Myspace quite a lot, chatting with my readers who tell me what they're diggin' and what's going on for them - again major time suckage but well, worth it!

Describe your 'average' writing day

Any writing day involves chocolate and green tea - mmmm! I'm total waster after 6pm so I get up early to make sure I can fit everything in! Since new year, I've also been doing a mornin beach walk, well, except for when it's raining, I'm not that hardcore! Writing wise - it's the whole 'getting started bit' I'm not so good at and will do anything to avoid it, like checkin' emails - obsessively, going on Myspace, writing my blog, buying new music off itunes - when I do start though, I put on my huge shut-out-the-world headphones, and if I'm writing books I'll have put together some inspir-o tunes that remind me of my characters to get me into the Think Pink zone - if I'm writing features I'll just put Radio 1 on - I always leave features to the last minute, no matter how much time an ed-type gives me, rest assured I'll be doing it the night before!

How did the 'Think Pink' series come about?

I'm an agony aunt for teen magazine, Mizz and get a scary amount of letters from girls who think life is major-league sucky. Low self-esteem, making new friends, hatin' on their bodies or boy trouble - there were issues that were coming up time and time again for these girls. I'd started work on a fiction series about a kooky clique called The Pink Ladies who found a pair of pink-tinted shades and their life significantly changed for the better, and after checking out the 'life guide' material that was currently available for girls, which seemed a little bit dry and dullsville, I thought it would be a great idea to try and combine the two - so I did.

Why do you think so many teenagers have such low self-esteem?

I think the non-stop images of so-called perfection teens are being fed on a daily basis just isn't healthy. It encourages constant comparisons and bad body talk, which is why Think Pink is about providing girls with the tools they need to know that girls in magazines are airbrushed, that popstars have an entire entourage of people whose entire job it is to make them look pretty and most importantly, that it's really cool to like what you've got...

Do you conduct research by talking to young people before you write the guides?

I do, I've been a youth worker for 7 years, so I'm really aware of the issues young people are facing but the Pink Ladies, the fab girls that sign up to my mailing list, are always answering questionnaires, providing voxpops, and attending workshops so I'm constantly checking what works for them!

What was your path into writing - did you train as a journalist?

I did a degree in media & culture and got involved in setting up a magazine for young people in the city where I lived. The magazine trained young people in journalism, I did writing workshops while writing features for the magazine and then just started the pitching process to my fave magazines, it's taken 'til now, 8 years on, to actually be doing it all as a career though!

Why did you set up the workshops and how do you run them - what do you hope girls will get out of them?

I set up the workshops, which are completely fun and informal, to get girls talking to each other about the issues that are effecting them, too often they'll hide their insecurities by bad mouthin' each other. The workshops provide tools and techniques to make sure they leave the session feeling feisty, fun, fearless and fabulous!

Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?

Think Pink is the most exciting project ever as there are so many possibilities! I've just edited book 2, "Beauty*licious" - which is all about being beautiful inside and out, there are more go-for-it guides in the pipeline, there are the fiction ideas too and I really want to host Think Pink summer camps - I'm obsesso 'bout the idea!

What are your short term and long term writing aims?

I'm only just starting out, so there is still so much to do - I'm dizzy with excitement about it all! I just want to continue to write material that girls love, it's simple as that really. Books were so important to me as a girl and really shaped who I am today, so if I can help one girl to dig what she sees in the mirror because of something I've written - happy, happy days.

When my 13YO daughter tells me about how none of the cool people at school even know she exists, what do I say?

The main task here is to help her to start liking who she is right now and letting her know that liking herself and all the things that make her totally YOU-nique, don't depend on getting the 'cool kids' approval. Try to find out why she thinks these so-called 'cool' kids are quite so cool and why it matters to be liked by them, the next step is to let her know that she's fabulous on a regular basis – just the way she is!

Do you think Portsmouth with qualify for the UEFA cup this season?
[Lisa writes for a paper in Portsmouth]

I live a five minute walk from the football ground, yet I can tell you nada about whether they could qualify for the UEFA cup (what is that anyway?) I know they play in blue though and there's a cute one called Matt Taylor!

And there you have it folks! Lisa, it’s been lovely having you over here at The Temp, The Actress and The Writer (confusingly also known as ididntchoosethis.blogspot.com)! I wish you all the success with the book, and where can I get a pair of those glasses by the way?

Big round of applause! (And there was much cheering, and rose petals thrown out to computer screens across the planet!)