Only in Canada…

We had some proud Canadian moments while on our annual writing retreat in Port Joli last week. While on a working holiday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Sophie Grégoire Trudeau paid a visit to Keji Seaside, part of Kejimkujik National Park, and we got to meet them (and take lots of pictures.)

the security cavalcade appears

 

Since the house we were renting is owned by Americans, there was nary a Canadian flag to be found. Being creative types, we concocted one from a Rubbermaid lid, a towel and a red paper napkin.

 

 

 

 

 

JT (as we like to call him) and Sophie chatted with the Parks Canada people and two women of the First Nations, then hiked down to the beach, possibly the most beautiful in all of Nova Scotia. A small group of us went along for the stroll (plus a few dozen security people and paparazzi).

 

 

 

 

 

On the beach, he approached us to shake hands and exchange pleasantries (he’s taller in real life than I’d thought and has a super-firm handshake), and we got to chat with Sophie for about 10 minutes while he talked to the Parks Canada people. She’s not only naturally beautiful, but very warm and friendly, including asking what we’d written when she found out we’re writers. I was sure to mention THE KING OF KEJI, wishing I had a copy on hand to give her kids.

Back at the house we were renting, we sat by the roadside to wave as the stream of black vehicles rolled past. We didn’t think much of it when a guy jogged past – we’d seen him on the beach and assumed he lived up the road. Then we looked again, and the PM was right behind him! “Nice to see you again ladies,” he said as he jogged past (in very colourful shorts), a female security person and two RCMP officers on bikes flanking him. I couldn’t help but point out our flag and tell him we’d made it (like he couldn’t tell…). Sadly, we couldn’t collect ourselves enough to get a picture. Only in Canada (and on an extremely rural NS road). Gave us lots to giggle about on the final evening of our retreat!

With Sophie Gregoire Trudeau

Celebrating Girls and Women

My little town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, is having its own version of the Women’s March on Washington tomorrow, with participants, as one voice, reading Maya Angelou’s poem, “Phenomenal Woman.” (Performed so beautifully by Ruthie Foster in this video.)

The basic principle behind the March is that:

“Women’s rights are human rights, regardless of a woman’s race, ethnicity, religion, immigration status, sexual identity, gender expression, economic status, age or disability.”

I got to hang out with young people yesterday, one of my favourite parts of being a writer. The diversity of Toronto city schools is inspiring, and it was great to see and hear the many vibrant, engaged and engaging, girls in those classes – the future. Rise up and stay strong! Let your voices be heard!

A town isn’t a town without a bookstore

“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”

Neil Gaiman

People-watching for a couple of hours in a small-town bookshop, like Wolfville’s The Box of Delights, box-of-delightsis always an interesting way to pass the time. My mum owned a mostly-used bookstore for the last 25 years of her life. She was passionate about The Book Nook, aptly named since it’s pretty small. In response to a request, Mum could always put her finger on any book on her crowded shelves. In these days of online shopping, MumI’m happy to see that people still want that kind of personal service in choosing books. As an author, I sure appreciate booksellers hand-selling my books!

This time of year, bookshop customers come with lists, some taking off their coats and spending an hour or more carefully choosing gifts. Brushing her fingers across an embossed cover, one woman smiled, telling me how books are a tactile experience for her. Reading on an e-reader or laptop just isn’t the same experience as holding a book, looking at its cover each time you open it, carefully placing a bookmark each time you close it. I most often have two or three books on the go at once, scattered around the house. Somehow books on an e-reader seem more disposable to me, and I’m more likely to abandon an e-book part-way through.

When I travel, I do like to have library books downloaded to my laptop, just because it’s easier. A market share analysis shows that sales of e-books published by the big 5 (Random House, etc) have plummeted from close to 40% in early 2014 to close to 20% in early 2016. http://authorearnings.com/report/february-2016-author-earnings-report/ The only group showing an increase in e-book sales during that two-year period is indie publishers.

It’s a tough go for independent bookstores today, with the big guys selling the season’s most popular titles for $15, when the usual retail price is $30+.  In this increasingly competitive bookselling world, choosing to shop at indies is the only way we can help ensure their survival. The best kind of people work in bookshops, and in a town of 4,000 (plus 4,000 university students), we’re so lucky to have The Box of Delights on Main Street as a community gathering place for booklovers. Thank you Hilary, Mitzi, and all!

Thanks for being with me on my blog this year; happy holidays and a healthy, contented 2017 to all of you!

Free Stuff That Makes Me Smile

I’ve been making a conscious effort to be thankful these days, maybe because Thanksgiving’s coming (and both kids and partners will be home!); here are some of the free things that have brightened my days lately:

*Walking through the woods, really paying attention, marvelling that the ingredients to grow such massive trees are all contained within tiny acorns, pinecones and prickly horse chestnuts.summer-2010-005

*The excited little love whimpers Charlie makes when we pick her up from the kennel.

2015-01-07-19-22-20 charles-finding-us-in-the-car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Sun lace on the ground tatted by sunlight dappling through the trees.

*Surfing Kijiji, an endless 24/7 online yard sale.

*Weekly visits to the library and walking out with hours and hours of reading enjoyment in my bag.

The Wolfville Library

The Wolfville Library

*Browsing the racks/shelves at used clothing/junk stores like Guy’s Frenchy’s, Value Village (said with a French accent) and Goodwill. This is not usually free as I often find some bit of treasure to take home.

*The Canadian health care system. Okay, I realize we pay for it through our taxes, but it is nice to seek medical attention without worrying about how you’re going to pay for it.

*Hiking and biking trails, especially the parks, TransCanada Trail system and Rails to Trails here in Nova Scotia.

2014-10-02-14-26-54

*The salty smell of the sea and the shushing of the surf, beachglass, sunsets, shells and beach art, like this:

img_4258

*Google with all its blogs, YouTube videos and how-to sites – the answer is always on there somewhere if you spend enough time looking… Here’s one of creative illustrator Sydney Smith (transplanted Nova Scotian) doing an illustration for GRANT AND TILLIE GO WALKING (by Monica Kulling) – fascinating!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dwpwc6NU3Ew  Again, this isn’t exactly free, but almost…

What’s been brightening your days lately? Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Turkey Day!p1010677img_3579

ANNE MURRAY AND ME!

Anne signing

Like a lot of girls growing up in 1960s Nova Scotia, I idolized Anne Murray and admired her effortless, pure singing voice. The idea that a young woman who grew up just down the highway from me could become an international singing sensation boggled my mind. I’ve always liked to sing and I could sing along to a lot of Anne’s songs, but I was crazy-shy and had no aspirations about following in her footsteps. But when I set out to write The Power of Harmony, about a girl who does want to be a famous singer, I had to include Anne. And I did, including setting the story in her coal-mining hometown of Springhill, NS.

After the book came out in 2013, I mailed Anne a copy, and she responded by email, thanking me. She also tweeted about the book during Canadian Children’s Book Week in 2015, reaffirming my belief in her being a down-home, thoughtful, genuine person, despite her fame.Anne July 30, 2016

Finally this weekend, I got to meet Anne, at her annual meet-and-greet at the Anne Murray Centre in Springhill. By the time Shannon and I arrived, she’d been smiling for over five straight hours, but she seemed genuinely happy that I’d stopped by, and she remembered the book (she didn’t, however, say she’d read it (yet), but that’s okay:) She’s 71 now, and she looks fantastic, as you can see! I got her to sign a copy of my novel for me – possibly it’s the only one-of-a-kind autographed item I’ll ever own.8ee011c0-6e82-4308-bbf7-ef4ee3e106af

How about you? Ever met anybody famous? Were they as nice and personable as Anne?

Family love – and Ollie takes flight!

Generally, I get a little nervous for book launches – you never know who will be able to make it, if anybody! This time around, I had my entire family to help out, and it was wonderful! Don, Liam and Shannon cooked up a Mothers’ Day/Book Launch surprise for me, and the kids flew in from Toronto for a gloriously perfect three-day weekend. There’s no better gift – if your kids live away, you know what I mean!

13199419_10154767233504186_676542386_o

Bachman’s Beach, Lunenburg County, NS -having both Liam and Shannon show up on a surprise visit from Toronto – best Mothers’ Day gift ever! Thanks, Don!

13214436_10154767234974186_2145263091_o

Dock in – check! Liam and Charlie.

And, thanks to The Box of Delights Bookshop, friends and family, SKY PIG is officially launched, and Ollie has taken flight. It’s really fun to read this book aloud, but I need to work on my piggy snorting…

P1010553

Door prize, courtesy of daughter Shannon, who was also photographer.

P1010536

Friend, neighbour, and on book launch days – craft lady and publicity manager, Karen – she’s the best!

P1010541

Piggy cookies – it got easier after I’d decorated the first few dozen – they were a hit!

P1010549

I don’t know too many people with small children these days, but I’m grateful to the keen parents who bring their kids to book launches.

SkyPig_LookInside_1

Here’s Ollie (and Jack)!

Thank you to everybody who supports me, as both a writer and a human being – after having a new book out for four consecutive years, I’m starting to feel a little guilty asking people to come out and help me celebrate – but it truly means a lot to me when you do, both in person or in spirit through sending along your good wishes. I hope you have a good friend, like Ollie’s boy, Jack, to help make ALL your dreams come true!

The King of Keji – Launched!

P1000620I have to say launches are super anxiety-producing for me. Asking people to come out and celebrate me isn’t my favorite thing to do, but it’s part of this writing gig, I guess. Here are a few pics – huge thanks to EVERYBODY (especially people who don’t have a particular interest in kids’ books:) who came out to show their support – big shout-out to my friend and neighbor, Karen Duncan (about to retire from teaching) for helping the enthusiastic kids have fun making their crowns – I owe you! P1000665

 

 

And thanks to everybody at Nimbus Publishing (publicist Emily MacKinnon pictured here with Patsy and me) for the book, The Box of Delights Bookshop (yeah Indies!) for hosting, and to illustrator Patsy MacKinnon for the beautiful paintings!

To the parents, grandparents, friends, aunts and uncles, etc. who encourage and nurture a love of books in the young people in their lives – you’re the best!P1000651
image002P1000638image001 (2) - Copy