Saturday, December 31, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays!

I’ve always loved Ella Fitzgerald but, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been listening to her even more this year because the main character in my YA novel adores her. 

At this time of the year, those old songs, sung by Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and Ella Fitzgerald, always put me in a holiday mood.  I'd like to share one of my favourites from the album, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas. I've tried everything to have this embedded within my blog but the link might only take you over to youtube.  Here is Ella singing "The Secret of Christmas."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Over the last several weeks, I have been working hard to meet a few deadlines so I have had to set my blog on the back burner. I hope to establish a blogging schedule this month because I really enjoy connecting with other writers through these posts and the posts of other bloggers. I’m wondering how all of you do it. How do you juggle the demands of life, work, and writing, and still manage to squeeze in time for blogging? Do you find that a blogging schedule helps?

I have been so immersed in my writing projects that when I do pop up and out of the world of words it really does feel like I am coming up for air. Just recently I emerged and realized that all of the books that I’d taken out of the library for research are overdue. When you have twenty-two books on loan, it doesn’t take long for the fines to be outrageous! I renewed all of them but I am left with a hefty fine. Oh, the guilt. Is it okay to think of library fines as a kind of good donation to the library? Having cards for two different library systems just complicates everything! I set up my accounts so that I would receive email notifications when my books are due. For some reason, I didn’t receive a notification for these books. That’s not an excuse. Maybe I should write down the due dates in my day planner.  Do any of you know of a way to ensure that books are returned by or renewed before the due date?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

It's Platform-Building Time!

I just signed up for the "Third Writers' Platform Building Campaign" over at Rach Writes!
It sounds like a great way to connect with other writers so I hope you'll join us for all the fun.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Does music inspire your writing?

I have been researching the anatomy, behavior, and habits of cows for a nonfiction project I am working on. There are so many things to love about these animals but one fact really caught my attention - cows like music! Some farmers play music to help cows relax. It has me wondering what a cow’s playlist might be. Do they have preferences? Do they enjoy some styles more than others?

This is such a contrast to something else I discovered last week – a study suggesting that teens who listen to too much music are at a higher risk for developing depression than teens who do not. The same study found that teens who read books, on the other hand, decreased their risks for developing depression. This is great news for readers! But what about young music-lovers? Growing up, I loved to read and listen to music for long hours. Music was a great escape for me and I usually walked away from a listening session feeling invigorated. Or relaxed, just like the cows.

While writing my YA novel set in a music school, I’ve been listening to a lot of Bach, Chopin, Ravel, and Debussy. My protagonist also loves jazz so my office has been filled with the beautiful voices of Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. It really sets the mood while writing relevant scenes.

             Do you listen to music while you write? Does it inspire the process?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Poetry Friday: Forest Walk

School is not over until the end of June but last night we opened our calendar to the July and August pages to pen in our summer plans.

I can almost taste the fresh watermelon and icy lemonade we'll enjoy on shaded porches. I'm dreaming of our Lake Huron adventures and our long forest walks at Lemoine's Point.

But I have to wait. For now, "Forest Walk" by Kristine O'Connell George is bringing me one step closer to summer.

Forest Walk
by Kristine O'Connell George

I'm practicing my
       see-all, know-all
       float-like-fog ...

Read the full poem here.

Poetry Roundup is at my juicy little universe.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

I Tried to Like it

I received an eReader as a gift several weeks ago. I wish I could say that I love it but I cannot.

I can say a few good things about it:

1. It has relieved the dull ache I get in my bad wrist (broke it while on a kickboxing ‘date’ years ago). It is so light and I can hold it or rest it up against something.

2. Downloading books is so simple. I can get a new book at any time of day or night and in any kind of weather.

3. The e-books cost less than the hard copy versions.

4. Books are stored inside the little gadget instead of cluttering my office shelves. (I did a book purge a few years back and vowed then to sell or donate most of the books I buy in order to keep my office manageable.)

5. It is easy on the eyes – unlike my computer screen.

6. There must be environmental benefits. I wonder what size of carbon footprint an eReader leaves behind.

Although I have tried, I just cannot love this gadget. I prefer hard copy books. Here’s why:

1. Without the ability to turn physical pages, or flip back to a page I have read, or see in my left hand how much I have read, my memory is being challenged. Sure, I can push a button back to the last page or any of the pages I have read, but I cannot ‘see’ where that page lies physically with respect to the whole (although it is noted that the book is 85% read, for example). I am realizing how much this act of turning physical pages serves as a memory tool for me. With each page that I turn, it’s as if I store in my muscle memory, roughly ‘where’ something happened within the story. When reading a regular book, it’s easy to look back and find something I want to revisit. It’s almost as if my hands know where to look in the bulk of pages on the left side. When I have to click back to find something, I feel lost. I have no idea how far back something happened. I don’t know if other readers are in the habit of looking back within a book as they are reading it and I’m not sure how aware I was that I enjoyed looking back as often as I do until this habit was made problematic through the eReader experience. I am just beginning to understand the relationship between how well I remember a story and the physical act of turning pages.

2. It has happened just once so far, but my eReader froze and I was unable to click to the next page. It took a good 5 minutes to get it working again.

3. An eReader runs out of batteries. This is obvious but I didn’t anticipate the inconvenience of having to wait until it was charged to read my book again. Then there is the whole issue of forgetting to re-charge, night after night.

4. I can’t flag my pages with sticky notes! I’m forced to use the notebook that I keep beside my bed to jot down sentences or the numbers of pages that I love. (If there is some way of doing this electronically and you know how to do it, please let me know). I cannot write in my book. Or fold pages that I like.

5. If you are sensitive to scents, as I am, you might notice that your hands smell plastic after holding the eReader.

6. I haven’t looked into this but since there are various text size options, and each option impacts how many words are on a page, I wonder how difficult it would be to refer to page numbers when discussing books with others who have hard copy versions of the book, or have eReaders with a different text size setting than the setting I have.Maybe there is a way around this.

My overall feeling is that the eReader will now be passed on to other family members. I’m interested to see what their reactions will be. My fourteen-year-old is excited to try it out. I know that I will continue to borrow regular books from the library and buy books from the bookstore occasionally. I see myself making use of this new device from time to time – when a terrible snowstorm hits, I’m on the last chapter of a book, and I can’t get out to the library. With just a click, I’ll be able to purchase and download a book at the online store – as long as there is no power outage.
What are your thoughts on eReaders? Love them? Hate them?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Writing for Children Competition

There is still a little time left to enter the Writing for Children Competition.
Details below or visit The Writers' Union of Canada for more information.
$1,500 Prize

Entry Fee: $15 per entry, cheque or money order made payable to The Writers' Union of Canada.

Deadline: April 24.

- Entries of the winner and finalists will be submitted to three publishers of children's books for consideration.

Eligible Writers
- Canadian citizens or landed immigrants
- All writers who have not been published by a commercial or university press in book format, in any genre, and who do not have a contract with a book publisher

Eligible Entries
- Any writing for children up to 1,500 words, English language
- Not previously published in any format
- Multiple submissions are welcome

How to Submit Entries
- Typed, double-spaced, with pages numbered, on plain 8.5'' x 11'' paper, not stapled. Do not send entries that have only a few sentences per page; they will not be eligible.
- Submissions are accepted by hardcopy only.
- A separate cover letter with full name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and number of pages of entry. Please type name of entrant and title of entry on each numbered page.

Manuscripts will not be returned.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Happy Poetry Month!

I am kicking off Poetry Month by visiting Poetry Friday posts. Round up is at The Poem Farm.

I am also going to head over and buy a PoetryTagTime ebook. (It's only 99 cents!)

Monday, March 21, 2011


The Kidlit4Japan Auction began today at 9 AM EDT. This is such a great way for the kid's lit community to come together and provide some aid for the victims of the recent Sendai earthquake and tsunami. To see how it all works, please visit Children's Authors & Illustrators for Japan.

Monday, March 7, 2011

More Writers First Aid

I just finished reading More Writers First Aid: Getting the Writing Done by Kristi Holl. The timing is perfect. The end of February(and “February’s Writing Blues”) couldn’t be shrugged off faster than with this motivating book. It’s March now – spring is just around the corner and I’ve started the month off on the right foot, thanks to Kristi’s book filled to the brim with helpful tips on getting the most out of a writing life.

I’m working on developing some of the good habits discussed in the book. For example, I’m practicing ‘mindfulness’ in my approach to my work. I’m using Kristi’s tips on time management, organization, prioritizing, and goal-setting. Kristi also covers the emotional side of writing, focusing on how to tap into positive thinking in response to dealing with fear and guilt. She offers practical strategies to deal with rejections and setbacks.

Kristi is like a writer’s very own life coach. Through More Writers First Aid, Kristi offers loads of wisdom based on her years of experience as a successful author who has also faced many of the same career and life challenges that all writers face in one way or another.

To learn more about More Writers First Aid: Getting the Writing Done, click here.

To visit the Amazon Kindle page, click here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Back to School

Last week, I attended my daughter’s high school orientation evening. The thought of my daughter going off to high school next fall had been hard for me to imagine (or believe!), but after walking through the halls and speaking to her future teachers, the reality of it is now starting to sink in.

Some of the things I imagined would happen during the orientation:

1) I’d gain a better understanding of the physical    layout of the school;
2) We’d walk away knowing how to help our daughter choose courses for next year;
3) My daughter would not want to take the tour with her parents, but with her friends.

What I hadn’t imagined happening:

1) My husband and I would have fun taking the tour on our own with Group Six while our daughter was off with Group One;
2) We would stray a little from the group and end up getting lost, feeling like two teenagers late for class (more than once!);
3) I’d gain the “particular perspective” that I did on how much high school has changed since I was there.

I imagined gaining “a” perspective on how things have changed, but I obviously hadn't imagined all the concrete details that I witnessed that evening.

There’s a big difference between imagining high school and actually being there. The experience not only brought more to life for me in terms of my own memories, but it also exposed me to how much things have changed. Of course, I knew things had changed before I set foot into the building, but being there gave me a glimpse into just how things have changed.

It made me think of the high school scenes in my WIP and it broadened what I had in my imagination, offering a fuller perspective. It also made me think about other settings within my novel. Many scenes take place at a music academy, others at a bookstore, a cafĂ©, a restaurant. Some of these places are so fresh in my imagination, yet after attending the high school event, I am inspired to go and sit in similar settings around town, with pen and paper in hand and my characters in mind, to see what new insights might arise in “experiencing” what all along has been “all in my head’- even those places that I think I know so well.

Do you have school scenes in your current projects? If you don’t have a daughter or son in school, have other events brought you back there? Reunions? A nieces recital? Volunteer work? Do you step out of your head and into real settings, similar to the ones in your stories?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day

Between this view

and this one

and the sounds of everyone home for a snow day, I feel more like snuggling up with a book and a cup of hot tea than working today.

What keeps you going on a day like this?

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Perfect Equation

Today I am thinking about those early inspirations that sparked in me a love of words and a desire to write. In elementary school I loved books by Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Farley Mowat. By high school, I was inspired by Margaret Atwood, J.D. Salinger, and Albert Camus. In my first year of university, I took a course called British and American Poetry and Fiction. My favourite unit focused on the Imagists, a group of poets (between 1912 and 1917) who strived for clarity and exactness in trying to capture single images in as few words as possible. I have probably read Ezra Pound’s poem, “In a Station of the Metro” over a hundred times since taking that class. Every time I return to it, I am as inspired as I was the first time I read it:

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Pound shared some of his thoughts behind the creation of this poem:

“Three years ago in Paris I got out of a "metro" train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child’s face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion. And that evening, as I went home along the Rue Raynouard, I was still trying and I found, suddenly, the expression. I do not mean that I found words, but there came an equation . . . not in speech, but in little splotches of colour.” (Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir 1916; London: New Directions, 1960): 86-89).

The idea of an ‘equation’ makes me think about how language, when referring to emotion or image, is a kind of translation. But Pound is speaking about ‘equation’ here. These words = this emotion. Getting that equation right, is where all the work lies. The poet cannot rest until the perfect equation of words is found.

Or sometimes it is sudden. “I was still trying and I found, suddenly, the expression .” I love how Pound used the word ‘suddenly’ and how he was able to cut through all the excess in language to see the ‘splotches of colour’ that perfectly equated with the image or emotion he experienced earlier in the day.

What are the poems or books you return to again and again for inspiration?

Poetry Friday Roundup is here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Poetry Speaks Who I Am

Throughout this week, I have been reading and listening to the poems included in Poetry Speaks Who I Am. As I wrote out the title in the previous sentence just now, I realized that I have been reading or saying the title in my mind as “who AM i?” - a possible theme in the lives of the intended audience, as it was for me when I was a teen. Poetry Speaks Who I Am is the perfect companion to the teen asking “Who am I?”- answers to this question made even more possible by the invitation on the back of the book: “dive in – find the one you love, the one that makes you angry, the one that makes you laugh, the one that knocks the wind out of you, and add your own inside the book.” If, after the 136 pages of poetry, the reader is inspired by the beauty, honesty and grit, there are twelve sheets left blank to scribble out poems of her/his own.

I would have loved a book like this when I was a tween/teen. In “A Note from the Publisher” on page xi, Dominique Raccah writes: “we seem to skip from great poetry books for young children directly to adult poetry. And yet, it’s at your age that poetry can rock your soul because these poets are talking about all the things that you’re feeling and feeling deeply.” The poems touch on every emotion a tween/teen might be experiencing: fear, courage, hope, regret, love, loss, confidence, insecurity, sadness, joy. William Shakespeare, Maya Angelou, Christina Rossetti, Nikki Giovanni, Langston Hughes and Naomi Shihab Nye are just some of the poets who come together in this collection speaking directly, it seems, to the hearts and minds of young adults.

The words of poets from the past and the present can be read AND heard. I have not mentioned the best part – the book comes with a CD! Most of the tracks feature poets reading their own work. Listening to the voices adds a depth of experience that I think teens will appreciate.

I’m excited to pass it over to my daughter, now in grade eight. But not yet, I’m still listening.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am
Editor: Elise Paschen
Series Editor: Dominique Raccah
Sourcebooks, 2010

Poetry Friday Roundup is at A Teaching Life .

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Stepping it up!

If you practice yoga you might be familiar with ‘chair pose.’ It works the leg and arm muscles, engages the diaphragm, and stimulates the heart.

As a writer, I’m in 'chair pose' all day. I’m pretty sure it’s doing nothing more for my body than straining my neck and making my foot go numb. It can’t be good.

Santa is smart. He knew when he gave me the notebooks and planners that I’d be spending a huge amount of time writing. I think that’s why he also put a pedometer under the tree for me. Actually, I’ve wanted this amazing little gadget (currently attached to pant pocket) for a long time. It has confirmed what I already know – I need to walk more. Anyone who sits at a computer or desk for hours and hours will probably agree with me that after a long day of work, the body just doesn’t feel as good as it should.

This year I plan to step it up. According to the information pamphlet that came with the pedometer, I should be aiming to take 10,000 steps a day. I consider myself a physically fit person but I was shocked when I found out that my 20 minute cardio routine only amounted to about 1,500 steps! The yoga that I also enjoy, though healthy, does not really add much to my step count - nor does the light weight-lifting. So I’m doing everything I can to get my number up there. I haven’t hit 10, 000 yet but I’m working on it. Now when I break for tea during my work day, I walk around as much as possible while I wait for the water to boil. I’m running more errands, taking the ‘long way’ to get there, and when one of my family members needs something upstairs, I’m the first to say, “I’ll get it!”

I miss those walks to and from school every day but I’m not as enthusiastic about walking in the cold as I used to be. Yesterday the temperature outside was -6. Today the sidewalks are iced over with freezing rain. I keep imagining myself mall-walking – no ice to slip on and no need for several layers of clothing. When I'm done, I can reward myself at the book store and tea shop.

How do you strike a balance between sitting and moving?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Plot Wall

In my last post I described the date book and notebooks I’ll be using throughout the year to keep my writing and life organized. Are my characters now demanding date books of their own? As I write my YA novel, I am discovering that my characters need something to keep their plans/goals organized. Instead of rushing off to get each of my main characters a stylish date book, I am experimenting with a plot wall.

I’ve summarized each chapter I’ve written so far, scene-by-scene, on index cards. I also use a little sticky note tracking system so that I can easily find things when I need them. Spreading the cards across the wall like this is revealing to me once again that I am a visual learner/thinker. I love to take breaks from writing my novel, turn away from my computer screen and see everything all at once on my plot wall. That shift, from all-in-the-head to all-out-there-on-the–wall, is refreshing and keeps me on track.

How do you keep your plot organized?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

I think Santa knows just how much I love to be organized in work and in life. He left a few things under the tree that are going to help me stay organized, focused and inspired in 2011.

This set includes 12 individual diary/planner notebooks - one for each month! My January notebook is open on my desk and will be the first thing I look at in my office every morning. I love the full page for each day of the month.

The hard cover case holds the 12 notebooks. Each notebook is numbered and spines can also be identified by month using adhesive labels.

I am going to use the large ruled notebook for my novel scribbles. The smaller soft journals will be filled with poetry.

Can't live without a date book! Mimi helps by holding my page

- and warming up my chair.

Happy New Year!