Phew! and Jacqueline Woodson!!

Inspiration/motivation...My last visits were in Port Moody at Heritage Mountain Elementary yesterday. Beautiful school, with amazing bulletin board displays and attentive kids who were keen to participate.

K/1 project in progress

K/1 project in progress

Coffee break!

Coffee break!

Angie (librarian, resource teacher, track coach) who coordinated my visit, was incredibly organized, including offering the coffee break snack in the pic.

When I was finished, I had to bolt and drive into downtown Vancouver to return the rental car. Vancouver isn’t nearly as intimidating for driving as I expected, but of course I was going downtown while everybody else was leaving. I did have to spiral down underground 7 floors to return the car…

I’m renting an apartment for the weekend, and my childhood best friend, Brenda, is coming over from Calgary! It’s going to be sunny and 25 degrees, so who knows what we’ll get up to…

View from the apartment

View from the apartment

Last night I had dinner with some Vancouver children’s writers: Maggie de Vries, Carrie Mac, Stacey Mattson and Kali George – and then we went to hear Jacqueline Woodson (BROWN GIRL DREAMING) read/speak as organized by the Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable. She spoke about the necessity of kids’ books being both mirrors for kids, and also windows – they need to see themselves reflected, but also have an opportunity to see into worlds outside their experience. I chatted with her briefly after, and she signed my copy of BROWN GIRL DREAMING (which has three stickers on the cover – Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King winner and National Book Award winner). P1000591She was super friendly, but tired from speaking to kids all day (uh-huh!), wanted to know my full name and graciously wrote: “So psyched for your words in the world!”

What a week! And so my first TD Book Week tour is officially over. I had no idea it would be so much fun! And I only got lost twice (ten minutes each time). But really it was all about the kids I met – some final words from one of them. Thanks for touring with me!

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Hero at the 7-11!

P1000562Despite my meticulous planning via Google Maps, I got lost driving from Surrey into Vancouver yesterday. All of a sudden the 91N became the 91W, so I exited and pulled into a 7-11 to see if they might have a map. Response: “We used to carry maps, but they didn’t sell.” So, I really should have gotten a GPS with the rental car, and I really should have a data plan on my phone. Anyway, the guy was so kind, and looked up the school on his phone, and it turned out I was only an easy 20-minute (non-highway) drive away:) He couldn’t possibly realize how much stress he saved me! It’s a weird feeling being someplace you’ve never been before without a map.

St. Andrews School is a neighborhood Catholic School, and I spent an hour with a grade 4/5 group, and also a 2/3 group. They had so many great questions, we ran out of time. The Librarian, Monica Lowe, and the Principal, Marian McDermott, were both super welcoming, making sure I had all that I needed, including bakery cookies at recess:) I signed about 50 autographs for the grade 2/3 students, which always makes me laugh.

Last night, I had a delicious 3-hour dinner at The Boathouse Restaurant on the water in Port Moody with Faizel Laher, my editor at Caramel Tree Readers. P1000567We’ve now done 15 books together, and it was wonderful to meet in person. He’s a lovely, gracious (and very tall, as I found out) man, and we could have talked a lot longer, but I was tired.

So, I’ve just sharpened my 144 golf pencils for the last time as I head out to Heritage Mountain Elementary here in beautiful Port Moody. Then, the drive back in to Vancouver…P1000558

 

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400 Excited Children!

P1000549I spent all of today at Khalsa Primary School in Surrey, visiting with four groups of K/1 students – each group had about 100 kids! And they were so much fun! For many of them, Punjabi is the language spoken in the home, and I wore a head scarf all day (see pic) “to show respect.” It was surprisingly comfortable, and I didn’t have to keep pushing my hair out of my eyes all day:) The teachers and children were all lovely – respectful, engaged, funny and friendly. And they gave me two beautiful cards which most of the kids had signed, a sweet flower arrangement, and a box of chocolates! Thank you so much for inviting me!P1000548

Yesterday I spent the morning with the students of Southridge and H.T. Thrift Schools (at the Semiahmoo Branch of the Surrey Libraries; thank you to Ginny who hosted my visit). We packed about 60 kids and a dozen parents into a pretty small room, but it seemed like they all enjoyed themselves. Energy plus!P1000536

In the afternoon I met with grades 4 – 7 students at the tiny Port Kells Branch of the library. There were about 40 of them, and I honestly think it was the best school visit I’ve ever had. They had amazing energy, and after I read a few pages from A HARE IN THE ELEPHANT’S TRUNK, one boy blurted out, “That was so awesome!” Words to warm a writer’s heart:) Thank you, Kai, and thank you Carolyn who coordinated all my visits to the Surrey Libraries, and to Judi who hosted my Port Kells visit. I had a delicious dinner at Wendell’s Bookstore in Fort Langley yesterday – a sweet little town of about 3500 people – I felt right at home there!

Tonight I’m hoping I’m so exhausted that I’ll sleep for at least 6 hours in a row – bracing myself for the drives into Vancouver and Port Coquitlam tomorrow… Good night! And to all the teachers, librarians, parents and kids I’ve met – thank you from the bottom of my heart for making me feel so welcome 6,000 kilometers away from home!

 

 

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Librarians, Kids and Books, Oh Yes!

I met lots of enthusiastic and energetic readers/writers today – grades 5/6 students at the Cloverdale Branch and grades 2/3 students at the Newton Branch of the Surrey Libraries. Highlights included the girl who, in her sensory writing, described a cat’s  tongue as sounding “slurpy,” the grade 5 girl who told me she regularly reads 600-page books in three days, the boy who showed me the comic character he created, the grade 2 student who described my sensory writing game as “charades with words,” and two of the friendliest librarians around – my hosts for the day, Lucy and Mehj – thank you so much! Thanks also to the parent who took some pictures for me, and to all the parents and teachers who did the 30-minute walk with the students from the schools to the libraries. Unfortunately, I don’t have the name of the actual schools, but I had so much fun talking about books and writing with all of you! In fact, I went half an hour overtime with the older group who were keen to share their writing, but wanted me to read it aloud for them… remember being 11?P1000509P1000516

I include my grade 2 class picture in my PowerPoint to illustrate the fact that the kids you know when you’re young affect your life forever after – I can remember all my grade 2 classmates’ names except for a couple, even though I haven’t seen most of them in decades. Some of those kids (or at least some of their behaviors) made it into The Power of Harmony. The moral of the story – be nice when you’re young (or old) so people will have fond memories of you:)

And finally, I took a drive out to White Rock for dinner and found these two plump gulls waiting for the rain. My big wish now is that tonight my brain will adjust for the four-hour time change and won’t think it’s time to wake up at 2:00 am like it did last night!P1000532

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TD Canadian Children’s Book Week – Beautiful British Columbia!

It still tickles me that you can leave your home in Wolfville, NS at 5:30 am and be in Vancouver, BC at 11:30 am (including the four-hour time difference, of course) – but still, that’s pretty fast to go coast to coast – about 6,000 kilometers if you were driving, which thankfully I wasn’t. But I did successfully navigate the rental car out of the Vancouver airport to Surrey – thanks to the Avis guy and Yahoo maps.

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I’d forgotten how amazing the mountains are! I worked at Waterton Park in southern Alberta in 1981, and haven’t seen a mountain since, I don’t believe. I’m kind of smitten, and I’m so busy staring at them that I fear I might go off the road!! I did pull over to take the pic on the right (click on it to get the full effect), and the one below is the view from the hotel. The guy who owned the barns was giving me a funny look so I tried to explain to him that I was just taking a picture of the mountains between his barns.

So I haven’t even met any kids yet, but the fun begins tomorrow. It’s full-on summer here, too – saw some lilacs today and lots of rhododendrons. All the trees are in full leaf, too. So far, so good… Thanks for tuning in! And thank you TD and the Canadian Children’s Book Centre (CCBC)!P1000499P1000503

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Performance tips, please…

I just received my itinerary for TD Book Week – I’ll have 14 presentations in the Lower Mainland area of British Columbia in 4.5 days. Yikes! They haven’t told me all my audience sizes/ages, yet, but in four of the visits I’ll be presenting to groups of 100+ students – ALL of them in grades K/1! I can’t believe one school has that many students of that age.

I’m looking for tips, so I won’t look like this…images

I’ll create a PPT specifically for this age group, and I’ll scan Rainbows in the Dark so they can all see the illustrations, but I’d like to have some fun, crowd-control, type of things to pull out of my back pocket, if necessary. Any teachers or writers out there have any ideas they’d like to share?  If only I could play guitar and sing, or maybe tap dance…

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Revisiting a Children’s Lit class – 35 years later…

I had a chance to visit a Canadian Children’s Literature class yesterday at Acadia University. I took a Kids’ Lit class at Acadia back in 1980; a specifically Canadian course didn’t exist then. As I told the students yesterday, we couldn’t have had an author in to visit the class because the people who wrote the books we studied were all long-dead:) I totally loved seeing so many copies of The Power of Harmony in one room, and I’m honoured that the professor thought my book worthy of inclusion in her course. Thank you, Andrea!

I had fun putting together a PPT I thought uni-age students would be interested in. Here are a few clips:
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The title page of a picture book I did for Children’s Lit in 1980 – I think my drawing skills were at their peak on this project. The story is pretty bad, but I remember labouring over the project for hours on end. I had no aspirations of writing for kids at that time, so it’s funny I held onto the book for all these years.

 

 

Image used to demonstrate one advantage of being a writer – you can wear whatever you like. Usually for me, it’s PJs, but the fur coat and hat are always an option, I suppose. Especially with the snowy winter we’ve been enjoying in Nova Scotia this year:(

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A pic from 1963, used to illustrate “killing off your darlings” (in the writerly sense) – my sister, Nance, didn’t make it into the final version of The Power of Harmony, but Cheeky (who I wish I’d kept so I could take him with me on school visits) has a cameo.

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And a picture I keep on my bulletin board, given to me during a school visit a few years ago. I love it for so many reasons – because I’m a pig fan, because she wrote that I was her “favrit other,” and because she also mentions that everybody says she’s a great artist. My favorite part of yesterday’s class was when a quiet young woman at the back came up to me at the end and almost whispered to me, “I really liked the book.”

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When I was a student, I was absolutely petrified when called upon to speak in class and avoided it when possible. Writing is such a solitary activity most of the time, but because of my writing, I’ve had to learn to speak in public. I still find it hard to articulate thoughtful answers to questions a lot of the time, but I’m better than I used to be at thinking on my feet, as they say. Happy last four weeks of winter!

 

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