Thursday, April 28, 2011

Autographing arms, writing in cursive and frog jewellery: adventures in School and Book Club Visits

Now that I've survived the yearly over consumption of chocolate cycle: eat an inordinate amount of chocolate, observe out loud to no one in particular that you can't believe you ate that much chocolate, feel every moment of self loathing, once through self loathing stage you realize that chocolate will now be on sale and that you could eat a bit of something sweet - I can tell my bloggowers about two recent school visits and one book club visit at Monkeyshines Books.  

The two school visits were for the It's a Crime Not to Read literacy program which is a partnership between the Calgary Public Library, the Calgary Police Service, and Rotary. 

Highlights: I felt like a rock star when kids asked me to autograph their arms (c'est what?!). 

Lots of great questions such as:

Q: What's the best part of being an author?
A: Speaking to a group of kids who love reading and writing. 

Q: Do you write in cursive?
A: C'est what? (Before I answered this I had to cognitively time travel back to the 14th century to remember what cursive meant. With further authorial probing the boy revealed that he wasn't good at cursive and was afraid that he wouldn't be able to be a writer because he couldn't write cursive. I assured him that most writers use computers because their handwriting is rubbish and besides most writers are bad spellers and ain't so good with grammar either).

Q: Did you know you were foreshadowing?
A: Pretty much, that's kinda my job as a writer. 

As I sat there bejewelled in frog related bling I got this question: 
Q: Are you consciously aware that you're wearing frog jewellery? Do you do that naturally or is it part of your frog thing? 
A: Pretty much part of the whole frog thing. (Note to self: buy more frog jewellery). 

When I do school visits I give the children a writing exercise and if they feel comfortable they share what they wrote with the class. I received this email from one of the organizers of the It's a Crime not to Read school visit:

Hi Jan,

Thank you again for the great presentation. It is not easy to do in the gymnasium setting, but I noticed that the students were captivated by the excerpts that you read.  We have had several come into the library to place holds on Dead Bird Through the Cat Door and Dead Frog on the Porch. One of the boys who shared his story struggles with both reading and writing. We were all a little surprised not only that he shared, but that he had something to share. Thank you for inspiring him. I look forward to reading your next book.

Wipes tear from eye. No, thanks to all the kids who inspired me. 

And to end off this blog post on the continuing theme of awesome young people I wanted to share a link. At the book club I met 16 year old Emma Rouleau. She was there with her younger brother. She is the creator of amazing, original felt stuffed toys. She designs and creates each one and she's started her own company called Felt Original Toys. Check it out.   

One of Emma's felt original toys
I like this little guy: Kukyo

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Amazing Easter Chocolate Artistry

I love any holiday that involves eating the head off a chocolate bunny. While I'd like to start eating chocolate now, I've decided to limit my chocolate eating to the weekend so that I don't wake up Tuesday morning in a nest of tinfoil Easter egg wrappers with chocolate drool sliding down my chin. 

If you need a similar distraction from eating chocolate here's a video to watch. It's about an amazing chocolate sculptor in Spain who takes the chocolate Easter egg to the level of a high art form. You will never think of chocolate in the same way again after watching this video. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Literary Salon in the wilds of the rockies

The books of the authors and poet who read at the salon.
When you think of literary salons (not to be confused with saloons) you think berets, poets and absinthe. You also think time travel because literary salons were big (before they invented TV or the internet) in the 17th century in France. 

They are making a come back. I attended one last weekend at the home of author Barb Howard in her home nestled in the pine trees at the foot of the majestic rocky mountains. 

There be lotz of treez in Canada
Barb started hosting literary salons to expose Alberta authors and poets to readers who love books that you might not find in large bookstores overrun with books written by a dead Swedish guy

It was an informal gathering of about twenty five enthusiasts of the written word. There was wine, cheese and bread (the three food groups for writers) and readings by authors Lori Hahnel, Anne Sorbie and poet Tyler Perry

And there be cheez! 

It was a great way to discover new writers and a great way to expose the authors to a new audience, and maybe start a little word of mouth. 

So here's to literary salons! Think about starting one in a living room near you (she says raising a glass of absinthe!)  

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Deep in my Sasquatch writing cave

Dear Bloggowers, if you've been wondering where I've been lately, I've been deep in my Sasquatch writing cave preparing for some up coming presentations.   

I'll be presenting at the Calgary Young Writer's Conference (put on by the Calgary Board of Education) at the end of the month. Looking forward to spending the day with some super keen kids who are giving up their saturday to learn more about writing. 

It's a Crime not to Read asked me back again this year, so I'll be presenting in four schools. It's a great early literacy program that involves the Calgary Police, the Calgary Public Library, Calgary Board of Education, and Calgary Rotary.  

Then I'll be going into a high school to talk about what it's like having a career as a writer. 

Monkey Shines Book Store invited me to their final book club meeting of the year. It will have a year end book club party feel to it (cake for the youngings and wine for the oldins). 
That's Tuesday April 26th at 7 pm. There are still spots open - it's a kid and adult club where both read the books. We'll be discussing both Dead Frog on the Porch and Dead Bird through the Cat Door . 

And just in case I'm not spreading my self around enough - Deb Marshal of Just Deb blog fame will post, on Monday, an interview she did with me. She's a library lady and story teller who shares her passion for reading and writing books for children and young adults. And she's an all round positive person and enthusiastic supporter of the children's writing community. 

Phew ... time for a nap ...
This is a house made out of books. Wish it were my house.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Deep thoughts and hip checks

We all know the cardinal rule of writing - show don't tell. Show me the character through action and dialogue rather than tell me about the character. Show me the character's emotions and inner conflict all through action and dialogue. Yes, dear bloggowers, I know it's hard, I can hear you complaining: 'but why can't I just write pages and pages of description of the character and what he's thinking?' Writing is not for wimps, that's why. So let's move on....   

So how do you show 'thinking'? The stereotypical tapping of the forefinger on the temple while looking quizzical? Chewing on the nub of a pen? Elbows on the table and chin cupped in hand? 

How about this scenario that played out in my office.

Dude who works in a different office down the hall, stops dead in front of my office. The First Aid sign flapped in the non-existent breeze. Wearing a shirt that was allergic to an iron, and looking like it had been on his back through a three month back packing trip through India, he stooped over, leaned against the cubicle across the hall and held his head in his hands. 

Me (being an avid First Aider): Are you okay?

Him (looking like he was startled out of a blow to the head): Yeah. 

Me (Seriously, Dude!): What are you doing? 

Him: I just had a thought and was trying to figure out what to do with it.

Me: O...k...a...y. I thought you needed First Aid (I point to the sigh outside my door).

Wow! I've been accused of deep thinking but have never had a thought hip-check me to the boards (that's hockey lingo y'all). 

That's how you show thinking ...