I want to tell you about an amazing event that occurs every summer in Calgary. Before you scream "Yee haw!" and scramble to find your cowboy hat, let me assure you I'm not referring to the Stampede.
From August 11th to the 13th, 750 readers, writers, artists and publishers come together to celebrate the written word. While there is much socializing to be had, a significant portion of the weekend is spent in various learning opportunities. Which, let me nerd out on you for a minute, I LOVE!
If you are attending When Words Collide you can catch me Friday, August 11th on the following panels:
Humour: Anything Goes
Authors who deal in humour discuss the rewards and dangers of publishing humorous fiction.
Social Responsibility and Artists
Not every writer feels compelled towards including social responsibility in their craft, but for some it is a foundational part of their work. Join us as our panel discusses how artists play a role in fostering positive social change and why that role is vitally important.
What's your opinion?
I'm curious what your thoughts are on these two topics.
• Do you have favourite authors who use humour effectively to engage readers and move the storyline forward?
• When does humour, in your opinion, go to far?
•Do you see a role for writers in addressing and bringing attention to social issues?
• Are there authors you particularly admire who do a good job of balancing story and social justice?
Summer is a great time to read! I always imagine myself outdoors with a cider at my side and a book in my hand. Such a false image as I'm usually chased back indoors by wasps, the heat, or the glare off my screen or page.
In truth, this summer you can likely find me curled up in bed or on the couch. The cider will likely be replaced by Bengal Spice tea or maybe a nice Malbec, and that's okay because I'm sure to be enjoying a fab book or two.
My reading plans this summer include:
1. Room by Emma Donoghue. I had a chance to hear Emma speak at a WordFest event in Calgary this spring. She was amazingly funny and awesome and I've heard nothing but good things about Room, so can't wait.
2. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. 'Ove' has been on my To Read list for a long time, but I've now made the commitment as my partner in the Sweeter Reads Goodreads Book Club has suggested it to me. Again, can't wait to read this story which has been super loved by so many. Have you read it? What did you think of it?
3. The Broken Ones by Danielle L. Jensen. Now come on, who doesn't want to read this prequel? It's being released tomorrow, on my birthday (oh ya, it's a big one that starts with a four and ends with a giant goose egg) and I can't wait to immerse myself back into the world of Trollus.
And how about you? What do you plan to read this summer and please do confess: are you an innie or an outie when it comes to reading? I promise not to judge as long as you don't 😉.
I'll be traveling to Peace River Country later this month, although it won't be in a purple car!
If you happen to be near Prairie Mall in Grande Prairie on Saturday, April 22nd, please stop and say hello! I'll be at the Coles signing books, chatting with readers and generally looking forward to meeting some of my northern neighbours.
I’m at that stage of motherhood where everything seems to be the last time. With my eldest turning (gasp!) double-digits and my youngest believing she doesn’t need help with choosing her clothes, putting her hair up or painting her nails (double gasp! That's new carpet!) it’s clear we are in the midst of a momentous family transition.
Gone are the days of diapers and even spray parks and sidewalk chalk are starting to take a backseat. We are in a solid school-concerts-and-science-fairs-BFFs-and-sleepovers time of life. Is it just me, or is being a parent pretty much a combination of "I’m exhausted as hell yet I don’t want this time to end?"
So, when my youngest made me a lovely MOM necklace this weekend, I knew that it might be the last one. Can there really be many more upside-down W’s masquerading as M’s in the bead bag for me? Sadly, I don't think so. And so this necklace will be cherished and kept sacred for those days my daughters spend more time away from us than with us.
In honour of my excellent years mothering two beautiful young women, I am sharing two of our favourite mother-daughter picture book recommendations.
Mama Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse has amazing art inspired by the Inuit culture. I love how it captures a mother’s enduring love through even the most frustrating of days. The illustrator is Barbara Lavallee.
The second, Someday by Alison McGhee has beautiful, clean writing to go with beautiful, clean illustrations. I can’t read it without my heart squeezing. The illustrator is Peter H. Reynolds.
I wanted to send a quick shout out to the Calgary Public Library for carrying Out of Play.
There is something absolutely thrilling about knowing my book baby will be sitting alongside thousands of other books, just waiting to be taken home and read. Not only is the library a magical place filled with hidden treasures, you can now drink coffee in there. I know! How great is that? They've not quite gotten around to wine, but a girl can dream :)
I've borrowed all kinds of print books from the library, but it was just recently our family discovered AUDIO BOOKS! And yes, they are worth 'ALL CAPS' status. If you disagree, then perhaps you've not travelled any great distance with children in your car.
The best thing about audio books (aside from reduced levels of sibling conflict) was everyone in the car enjoyed them--from ages six to forty. Again, how great is that? Here are three family-friendly audio-treasures we borrowed from the Calgary Public Library, all of which we enjoyed immensely.
1. Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
This was my children's first taste of audio books and I can't say who loved it more: the kids or their dad. It's the first in a series and kept us going on a rather long journey to the west coast and back. Five stars, hands down, for humour, adventure, and interesting characters.
2. Al Capone Does My Shirts
This is actually the second in a series, and our family listened to them out of order. What is SPECTACULAR about these books is very authentic character development of the main character's sister, Natalie. Natalie is a person with autism, living in 1930s USA. I highly recommend this series for children who enjoy mysteries and for parents who want to explore the themes of inclusion and diversity as a family unit.
3. An Important Message from the Vinyl Café
Okay, so fun! The Vinyl Café series is Canadiana storytelling at it's ultimate. Stuart McLean is my hero.
All of these titles are available in print and audio at the Calgary Public Library and bookstores. Further, they are all series which is great for those who love to follow a set of characters from one story to the next.
This Saturday I'll be hanging out at Indigo Signal Hill in Calgary, Alberta. I'll be there for two reasons:
1. Yes, you guessed right: I'm selling copies of my book, Out of Play. Okay, let's just be honest for a second: Are you one of those people who avoid eye contact and walk by those author tables as quickly as possible? I'll let you in on a secret: that's me sometimes too! So thank goodness I'm there for a second reason, right?
2. I'm collecting funny ideas for future stories and I hope you can help me! As you may have already guessed, Out of Play is about a relationship suffering from a humorous issue layered over something a heck of a lot more serious. The humorous issue: a husband's love of role-play games which involve dressing up as a warrior and battling with friends on the weekends. (Sound fun? I think so, but his wife doesn't). And the serious issue, you ask? You'll need to read Out of Play to find out!
Currently I'm looking for new ideas that might spark relationship drama in future stories. Unfortunately, I'm short something funny and I know one of you must have an experience that would help get the ball rolling.
So if you happen to find yourself near the Signal Hill Indigo on Saturday, drop by and write down a funny anecdote on my story scroll. The winning idea may just show up in a future short story or novel, and you'll receive a lovely little Indigo gift card for your trouble.
On November 27th, exactly one month after the online release of Out of Play, we celebrated my book-baby's birth with family and friends and wine. The Smith was our gracious host, and Owls Nest Books were kind enough to be onsite and sell copies.
Thank you to everyone who could make it, and for those who sent well wishes. You support was appreciated.
Yes, the big day is around the corner. It’s that wonderful time of year where we squeeze as much spending into as little time as possible.
I know. It’s not supposed to be about the gifts. It’s about time with loved ones, celebrating another year gone by, welcoming new life and hope for the future. It’s about giving to others—oops! There it is. Giving. Which means gifts.
For all of you who have managed to defy social norms, and are not conforming to the commercial version of Christmas, I applaud you (I’m also completely jealous). For those of you, like me, entrenched in unhealthy patterns of purchasing love (shoot! I meant to say: entrenched in cultural expectations of giving) it is time to cram all that commercial buying in.
Be forewarned, cram-shopping inevitably results in some “what the hell was she thinking?” purchases. But as a long-term Christmas Cram Shopper, I’ve advice to share. And so, without further nursing of the mulled wine, I give you this:
The Top 10 Worst Gifts Ever*
10. An Emoji Pillow. I don’t care what your kids say: no one needs an emoji pillow. I don’t even know if that is a chocolate chip or a bowel movement. Regardless, it is not needed in plush.
9. A purse made from an old pair of jeans. Yes. I’ve received one of these. But I say unto you: do not let the craft market craze blind you! If the jeans were not good enough for someone’s rear-end, they are not good enough to be made into a purse.
8. If your [former] sister-in-law goes on and on and on about not having Christmas decorations, take a moment to consider the reason she doesn’t have seasonal décor. Could it be she hates Christmas decorations? Yes. It might be hard to believe, but there are people like that. So no matter how cute Santa’s mittens on a clothesline seem, (I swear, they were super cute!) save your hard-earned money and know that you are suffering from craft market craze.
7. Any item with a person’s holiday inspired name on it. I know, it seems awesome. It has their name on it, right? But I guaren-flipping-tee you, a person whose given name is JOY already owns several dozen items (hand towels, candlesticks, ceramic vases, pillows) with their name on it. I’m sure the same is true for HOPE, GRACE and FAITH. So please. Move. On.
6. Anything living. Pets are lifetime commitments and it’s unfair to give one to a person who might not want to be responsible for an animal. The same goes for lice. It’s unfair and makes a very bad gift.
5. All toys that have become popular in the last four months simply because the manufacturer can afford a commercial during children’s prime-time television. Likely I’ve already bought it and its gathering dust after an epic two days of usage. You are welcome to our robot dog/pottery wheel that can’t turn under the weight of clay/hatching egg with animal inside.
4. Clothes that are a size too small because you couldn’t bring yourself to buy the larger size. If you are worried about buying a large or an xl or whatever, then just don’t buy clothing. Clothing is sexy when it fits. Even for moms.
3. A Costco/Sam's Club size jar of Nutella. I don’t know why my sister bought it, but no jar of food should last 10 years.
2. Yes, politicians sometimes have funny hair. And it might seem a funny gag gift to buy that wig / t-shirt / coffee mug with the funny hair on it. But let us be clear: misogyny is not a gag. It is a bad gift.
1. Clothing for dogs. Why? Because they are animals. Animals do not need clothing. They need things to gnaw on.
What does that leave you? Love. You should buy love. And kindness. And what does that look like? It looks like a gift card.
It looks like a book! (er…also wine. It also looks like wine).
Merry Christmas and happy shopping.
* opinions are my own.
Wow, this is kind of cool.
Because free, fun, fiction--60 freaking romantic comedy titles and maybe even a kindle fire.
You should enter. You should definitely enter.
Me? I'd love to, but I'm disqualified because one of those fun fiction titles is Out of Play. Another one of those titles is Better Off Without Him by Dee Ernst, which I'm currently reading myself.
You've got one week before the contest closes, so go for it! Enter right here: bit.ly/romantic-com. And remember, the clock strikes midnight on November 14th, so don't put it off too long.
Good luck, folks, and May the odds be every in your favour! (shoot, wrong genre, but you get it).
Before I considered myself a writer, I knew I was a reader. I've always loved books, especially the ones that keep you up at night, desperate to know what happens but also not wanting the story to end.
And now the most amazing thing has been happening: I've been finding my 9 year old reading by flashlight way past bedtime. Its a tough choice. Do you insist on lights-out or do you nurture the reading bug?
I've decided on the sweet middle road. I've been going with "5 more minutes, then I'm taking that flashlight with me."
As a way of giving back to the reading community, 10 copies of Out of Play are up for grabs this month through Goodreads. Winners will receive a signed paperback but they'll need to provide their own flashlight.
What's an Unblog?
I've been told that blogs need to be updated regularly and consistently. So let's be clear: this is not a blog.