The Frame-Up

June 5th 2018

The Frame-Up - Bookcover

What if someone actually reads your book?

 

You knew this day would come, the day when someone you barely know (or who you know very well) reads your book.

So why does it feel so icky?

And yes, that’s my clinical term for the feeling I get now that people outside my book’s inner circle – my family, my agent, my critique partners, and my publishing house – are beginning to read my work.

And it’s about to get worse. Next month, Advanced Reader Copies of my book are going to make their way into the world, hopefully to build up interest in the big day.

The fact that more people are about to read It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! kind of makes me woozy.

 

via GIPHY

Seriously, I’ve worked on this book for YEARS.

I want it to be published, I really do.

But the thought of someone reading my book, a thing that is so personal to me, is a little overwhelming.

What if no one likes it? What if they like it too much? What if no one reads it?

 

via GIPHY

Well SOMEONE is going to read it, that’s for sure, and I will survive, but I am gobsmacked by how vulnerable this whole book publishing thing makes me feel.

It’s not like the job I had before becoming a full time writer wasn’t fraught with pressure, unreasonable timelines and incessant criticism – it was, in spades.

But this, this is personal.

via GIPHY

Okay, maybe not Sonny Corleone kind of personal, but personal like when someone sees your newborn baby – the baby you consider the most beautiful creature to have graced the planet – and gives you a mere nod and a simple “cute baby.”

 

via GIPHY

CUTE BABY?!

You’ve carried that baby for 9 months! It looks like you! It looks like your partner, your parent, an angel. And all you get is “cute baby” ?

It’s enough to make you tear your hair out.

And then imposter syndrome raises its ugly head.

Suddenly you wonder if perhaps you are the one person who gamed the system, who somehow slipped the worst manuscript ever past your agent while she was busy with more important clients and past your editor who accepted it while her eyes were bandaged following cataract surgery.

Somehow, you’ve gotten past everyone.

But your day of reckoning is coming.

 

via GIPHY

 

Okay, I may be slightly exaggerating here for entertainment purposes, but note that I’ve only underlined the word slightly in this sentence.

But here’s the good news: almost every writer feels like this.

Heck, almost everyone who has ever gotten a promotion feels like this.

If you’re not nervous, it probably means there is something seriously wrong with you, like you have perfect self-esteem or something. Which would be very tedious.

Yes, I’ll survive this, clinging to the kind words of friends and strangers like Rose clinging to that board in Titanic…

 

via GIPHY

…hoping that people do like my baby, but knowing that no matter what, there will be other babies to fret over in the future…

 

via GIPHY

This writing thing is a smashing occupation, huh?

 

Children’s Authors as Role Models

 

Do we want our favorite children’s authors to be role models for our children? Should they be?

 

I wasn’t planning on writing about this topic, and then Donovan Bailey retweeted me yesterday.

For those of you of a certain age or who aren’t from Canada, you might not have an idea who Donovan Bailey is. Bailey was the world’s fastest man in 1996, winning Olympic gold medals in the 100 meter and 4×100 meter relay in Atlanta. He also happens to be Canadian.

 

donovan bailey

 

But this was no ordinary record breaker, or run. Canada’s hearts had been broken by Ben Jonson four years prior. An entire nation had woken up in the middle of the night to watch him run and were overjoyed when he shattered the world record. Hours later, he was disqualified for doping. To say that Canada was disheartened and humiliated would be an understatement. We are a large country, but small in population, and every medal and medalist is cherished here.

So when Donovan Bailey won, and won clean, the country went mad. I tweeted about him watching our current phenom, Andre DeGrasse, the other night and Bailey retweeted me. I almost fell over with delight.

And that got me thinking. Potentially, that could happen to me someday. If my books sell. If people love them. If people follow me on Twitter or Facebook or whatever. Someone, some day, might like my work enough to almost fall over with delight if I retweeted them. It was kind of a strange thought, actually.

And then I wondered: “Is Donovan Bailey careful about what he tweets, says, writes?” Should I be more careful?

Let’s be clear about two things:

  1. I am not well known so this is purely a theoretical discussion: and
  2. I tend to admire authors’ works, and know very little about their personal lives, except in exceptional circumstances, like the fact that I know Neil Gaiman is married to a talented musician or that Stephen King lives in Maine.

Let’s take Kate diCamillo who I could fangirl about all day. She is an amazing ambassador for children’s literature and she does wonderful things. I know nothing about her personal life, nor should I. I don’t know her opinion about world event, politics, religion, or dogs. I believe she likes children.

But what if I knew she supported hateful ideologies? Would her spectacular storytelling trump even that? Would we all be okay with our favorite middle grade author saying atrocious things publicly? Swearing on twitter? Telling us how to vote?

Unlike writers who write exclusively for adults, the writer of children’s stories is, I think, under a bit more of a microscope. We want them to love children, cuddle puppies, and always be kind.

(for the record, I am firmly two of those three things, and kind about 80% of the time)

But the question is: must Kate BE those things if she wants to write for children?

I suspect that in almost every public event Kate diCamillo walks into, she is the center of attention: adored by her fans – young and old alike – admired by other writers, worshipped by those of us who wish they could string together a sentence like she does. It must be a burden. And yet, from all I’ve heard, she handles this burden with remarkable grace and kindness.

But I also notice in this world of social media, where authors are encouraged – nay, nudged firmly, in the direction of a strong social media presence – Kate DiCamillo is not on twitter and has only a Facebook author page. I’m not saying that’s right or wrong, but I do find it intriguing.

I don’t want to censor my thoughts or opinions – I like to be authentic and true – but Donovan Bailey has stuck with me for the last 24 hours.

David Walliams is a well-known British personality who now writes for children.

 

david Walliams

 

Should we care that he has been known to say some outrageous and inappropriate things on TV, some at a time of day his young readers might be watching?

Is there an extra burden to be careful about your public persona if you are writing for children?

I don’t know the answer to my own question, but I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!

 

 

 

Six Months to Publication! Time to Pre-Order The Book!

 

Holy Marks Street* Mania!

It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! comes out in 6 months!!!

 

Pig-Face Cover

* I grew up on Marks Street in St. Stephen and Tracy and Pig Face coincidentally live there, too

That probably seems like a long time to you, but it’ll pass in a blink of an eye for me!

But six months isn’t too early to pre-order the book!

Why pre-order?

Pre-orders are important because they become part of the first week sales of the book. If you order the book now, it will help boost the book’s initial sales, which in turn creates buzz. Buzz is important; buzz leads to interest and sales and potentially, more books!  More books are always good, don’t you think? I think yes, especially if they are books set in St. Stephen, New Brunswick, my hometown!

As well, if a lot of people pre-order It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!, the publisher is likely to increase its first run of the book and book sellers are more likely to order more copies from the publisher. More copies means more books sold.

Do I feel weird asking you to pre-order my book?

Nah.

I’m a first-time author. This book is a BIG deal to me and I’ve worked really hard on it!  And don’t you want to get in on the ground floor of a big dream? Thought so!

In the coming months I’ll have advanced copies to give away, and some other treats, but right now, you pre-ordering the book will make a huge difference!

Remember: WINTER IS COMING. February 7th, 2017 is coming faster than you think!

 

Oh heck, enjoy the summer, knowing you can curl up with Pig Face in February.

Think of pre-ordering as your Valentine to me and to Pig Face!

Hey wait – what a great Valentine’s Day present this book would make!

valentine

And for those of you who’ve already ordered: THANK YOU!

And for those of you who have read this shameless plug – THANK YOU!

Click on the links below to pre-order your copy today!

Amazon.com

Amazon.ca

Chapters

Barnes and Noble

IndieBound

Or ask your local bookstore to pre-order you a copy!

Go Pig Face!

Boy/Girl Friendships in Middle Grade Fiction

 

In fiction, it seems like it’s very hard for guys and girls to remain just friends. In YA, it’s practically unheard of.

And yet we would all agree that opposite sex friendships can be some of the most satisfying relationships a person can have.

Middle Grade fiction appears to be the last hurrah in the boy/girl friendship.

And even then, it’s hard for the kids to hang on:

“Where are you going anyway? To your boyfriend’s?” I clutched my bag tight and stood as tall as I could. “He’s not my boyfriend!” Kate laughed as she pushed past. “Right.” I stomped outside, cringing as the door banged shut. So much for my cover. Stupid sister. The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society, Janet Sumner Johnson.

 

 

PB&J

 

I thought of this a lot when I was writing It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! I wanted Tracy and Ralph to be BFF’s.

And I wanted not a whisper of attraction to dog that friendship.

When I was Tracy’s age I had several really close male friends, and their perspective on the world was invaluable to me.

 

 

Pig-Face Cover

 

This past weekend I read a really lovely book, The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone.

One of the most important plot points of the book is that the main character, Jeremy, has mostly girls as his best friends. At one point, he has to admit to himself that he kinds of likes it that way, not because he has crushes on the girls, but because he feels he can really talk to them and be himself.

I think that’s why boy/girl friendships at that age are so helpful to both parties.

Sometimes they allow us to break away from the pack and try on new identities, be more vulnerable.

 

Last boy at St. Ediths

 

A book which is coming out soon – September 6th, 2016, which also does a lovely job of exploring boy/girl friendships, is Howard Wallace, P.I.

 

howard wallace

 

Howard Wallace is a hard-boiled kid. Think Humphrey Bogart, think loner. Think a boy whose best friend is Big Blue his bike. But when Ivy insinuates herself into his detective agency and ultimately his life, Howard is forced to concede that having a friend is important, and having a friend who is a girl like Ivy is a bonus.

In all of the books I’ve noted above, including my own, the path to friendship can be rocky.

But Annie and Jason, Tracy and Ralph, Jeremy and Claudia, Howard and Ivy, would all agree that true friendship trumps all things and that it is possible for boys and girls to be friends without having a romantic backstory.

Other books that handle these friendships well:

  • Hook’s Revenge by Heidi Schulz
  • Harry Potter (for Harry and Hermione)
  • Wonder by R.J. Palacio
  • Sidney and Sydney by Michele Jakubowski
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L’Engle

I’d love to know what books you’d recommend with strong boy/girl friendships. Do share!

 

Does the inside of your house look anything like your favourite children’s book?

Normally in this space, I write about my writing or about books I’ve read.

Not this week.

This week we’re discussing another love of mine – home decor.

Lest you think I am some decorating maven, let me assure you: I am not. But I love my stuff and I love putting it together in unusual ways. But it wasn’t until I read the fabulous Lisa Borgnes Giramonti‘s decor book, Novel Interiors, a couple of years ago that I realized I may have been trying to re-assemble my favourite books, especially my favourite children’s books, into my decorating schemes.

 

novel interiors

 

The book can be described thusly:

For those who have ever lost themselves in the stylish worlds of novels like Sense and Sensibility, The Age of Innocence, Wuthering Heights, The Picture of Dorian Gray and countless others, this design book embraces the fantasy of time and place, showing you how to bring some of those elements into your own home.

 

And bless Lisa, she doesn’t just focus on adult literature.

Nope.

She throws in a little Anne of Green Gables here, a little Pippi Longstocking there.

 

I first discovered Lisa through her blog, A Bloomsbury Life, because I love all things Bloomsbury, but stayed for her cheekiness (take a look at her embroidered art work on her website and tell me you wouldn’t want to have some of that in YOUR house!) and her exquisite eye for all things beautiful and interesting. She is a kindred spirit in the best Anne sense of the world.

And this book is chock-a-block with wonderful ideas that you help you incorporate the feel, nay the atmosphere, of your favourite books.

 

LIsaBG

 

I pull the book out every couple of months; it is my version of taking the cure in some expensive Swiss spa. Recently, however, I started to look around my house and came to the conclusion that I was doing my own (albeit somewhat bargain basement) version of bringing a bit of my best loved children’s books into my home.

For example, the little desk in my bedroom is one I think Emily of New Moon would like very much:

 

desk

 

In the recess of the dormer-window she crouched–breathlessly she selected a letter-bill and extracted a lead-pencil from her pocket. An old sheet of cardboard served as a desk; she began to write feverishly.

 

The housecoat hanging on the door? Surely that’s something Rilla of Ingleside would wear..

 

housecoat

 

She would entertain Ken on the veranda—it would be moonlight—she would wear her white georgette dress and do her hair up—yes, she would—at least in a low knot at the nape of her neck. Mother couldn’t object to that, surely.

 

The giraffes definitely would feel at home with Pippi Longstocking and Dr. Seuss:

 

 

giraffe

 

 

But still, if it’s true, how can it be a lie?

 

 

The Scottie on the wall seems like something Emily of Deep Valley might have in her bedroom:

 

scottie

 

A house with nothing old in it seems – unseasoned. (Emily of Deep Valley)

 

 

 

 

The garden, in desperate need of a good weeding, is very Frances Hodgson Burnett’s Secret Garden:

 

 

P1020798 - Copy

 

Oh! the things which happened in that garden! If you have never had a garden you cannot understand, and if you have had a garden you will know that it would take a whole book to describe all that came to pass there. At first it seemed that green things would never cease pushing their way through the earth, in the grass, in the beds, even in the crevices of the walls.

 

 

How about you? Any nooks and crannies in your house that remind you of the books you loved as a child? I’d love to hear!

Wendy’s Brain on Pinterest

 

Are you using Pinterest?

 

pinit

 

 

I first started using Pinterest several years ago, mostly to “pin” images that I liked on the web, recipes I was probably never going to make, DIY projects that were more complex than I was capable of achieving with my decidedly non-crafty abilities.

Pinterest was my giant, disorganized, bulletin board.

It was fun, but strictly personal.

However, in the last year I have been reading more and more about how useful Pinterest can be to one’s business.

One of the first I came across was this article by Kimberley Grabas in her great Your Writer Platform website.

As soon I read this, I realized that my Pinterest board was sharing nothing about who I was as a writer, nor was it sharing who I really was as a person, although it would be pretty clear to anyone that I liked shoes, English cottage interiors, and cake.

Time to do something about that.

My first question was this:

What do I want people to learn about me from Pinterest?

In the end I wanted people to see the things that really interested me in life. (excepting politics, which I am wont to rave about too much anyway)

  • My writing
  • What I’m Reading
  • Articles and images about writing and reading
  • Things I think are beautiful
  • Books that have touched my life
  • Groups I’m part of – The Swanky 17s and The Sweet 16s (debut author groups for authors publishing their first YA and MG book)
  • Art
  • Places I’ve visited, want to visit
  • Decor (especially writer sheds because I want my husband to make me one in the woods!)
  • Clothes – hello? Did you think I would forget clothes and shoes?
  • Random things I like, like movies, George Clooney and John Adams (so sue me – I’m nothing if not eclectic!)

Really, to visit my Pinterest boards is to take a stroll through the roiling maelstrom that is the Wendy brain.

It ain’t dull, unless you dislike all of the things noted above.

 

brain

My brain would be divided into: writing, reading, writing, gardening, obscure facts about TV shows and movies, shoes, cooking, shoes, travel, shoes, and writing

 

My first step was to clean everything up. I can’t tell you how many individual boards I deleted. (um, I had TWO boards about bathrooms, which seems, well, kind of creepy, even to me)

I created a bunch of new boards. There are boards that link to my blog posts here and over at Middle Grade Minded. You can now see what books I’m reading this year. You can see my news. There’s a mood board for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

 

wendy

Try to find Wendy in this picture. The world does go full circle. Wore glasses till I was ten and then didn’t need them again until I was fifty… The fellow in the striped shirt was the inspiration for my first book.

 

Pinterest itself has a board dedicated to articles about how authors can use Pinterest more effectively.

Really, Pinterest is a useful tool for anyone wanting to promote themselves or their business.

Unlike other forms of social media, Pinterest is a visual Rolodex for all things captivating to its creator.

I’m on Instagram, too, but I only post my own pictures there. And Facebook is a whole other beast entirely. But I like Pinterest, because it’s a great way to capture and share information, sites, visuals, easily and simply. And you don’t have to follow all of someone’s boards.

Like a smorgasbord, you can pick or choose what you’d like to pop up on your Pinterest feed.

If you’re not using Pinterest, I highly recommend you do so. Or if you are like me, and you are using Pinterest haphazardly, I highly recommend you take a few hours to clean it up and make a conscious decision about how you want to use it.

Either way, you will reap the benefits.

Come visit me on Pinterest. Or share your Pinterest boards with me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Melissa Roske Interviews me!

 

wendymel

I’ve always wanted to answer The Proust Questionnaire!

Thanks to Author Melissa Roske, whose Middle Grade Novel Kat Greene Comes Clean debuts May 9, 2017, my dream came true.

Click here to take a gander and then stick around over there for the entertainment!

Thanks Melissa!  It was so much fun!!!

On Writing Every Day – Or Not

 

Stephen King, who is a man much smarter (and certainly more successful) than I, recommends that a writer write every day.

 

Stephen King

If memory serves, King only takes off Christmas Day (though I do like to imagine him sneaking away to the bathroom at some point during the present opening to jot down some creepy thought that percolated in his brain after opening a pair of plaid pajamas).

This dedication to writing explains why Stephen King has sold a bazillion books.

Stephen King has DISCIPLINE.

 

??????????

 

Lest you think I am a layabout, I must assure you, I am not.

I am a worker bee. Hitch me to a wagon and I’m there.

But unlike Mr. King, I can’t seem to write every single day, not unless I am full throttle in a project.

Then I am a writing fool.

 

writing fool

 

I finished writing my most recent book at the end of April. My agent has subbed it (more news to come on that front in the not-to-distant future). Meanwhile I am still working with Sky Pony to edit the book that will be published in February. So it’s not like I’m just hanging about or something.

Mostly though, I am thinking, thinking, thinking of what the next project will be.

Five or six ideas are swirling around my head, none of which have lodged themselves firmly into my brain.

 

book in you

 

If truth be told, I am missing the characters from my most recent book, so I am writing a short novella about one of them. It may never see the light of day, but it makes me happy.

And I’m writing blog posts. But I am not currently writing a BOOK

Last year, I plunged too quickly into a YA novel that was never fully thought-out. It was an exercise in humility. I wrote myself in many corners, mostly because I wasn’t sure what to do with everybody and the plot was too thin.

I took a couple of months off, thought and thought and thought and voila! the next idea came out of my head almost fully formed.

For me, right now, it seems that my creative process involves a lot of thinking and then planning and then, finally, writing.

I envy those who can do it differently. I envy Stephen King.

Perhaps with more experience I will be able to do that, too.

Until then, you will catch me in the corner, daydreaming…

 

daydreaming

Source: Huffington Post

How about you? Are you always writing?

And as a treat, how about some writing tips from Mr. King himself?

Reading – the best and least expensive writing course you can take

 

I have been thinking about reading – a lot.

This is probably because I just finished reading my 85th book of 2016.

Lest you think this is a brag, indulge me for a minute.

Author Stephen King famously touts the impact that reading has upon writing ability in his amazing book On Writing.

 

on-writing

 

He is famously quoted as saying:

 

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.

 

As a relative newbie to the writing world, I have taken as many classes as I can access and afford.

Sadly, sometimes taking courses is out of the question.

But reading good books never is.

I read voraciously, across all genres, making up for the lost time when my previous career only allowed me the luxury of reading 10-20 novels a year.

I read in my genres, Middle Grade and Young Adult, but I read picture books, adult literature, nonfiction.

 

reading1

 

I try hard to mix in classics.

Mostly what I focus on is excellence. If you’re not sure where to begin, begin with those books that have been winning awards.

Those awards are typically a sign of excellence in writing and illustration, and the more you read really good writing, the better your own writing will become. In fact, it can’t help but get better.

 

reading 2

 

In the last two and half years I’ve read almost 300 books. That’s countless hours of learning about voice, plot, structure, character development, concept, imagery.

Assuming that it took me at least 3 hours to get through these 300 books (um it didn’t. I see you Old Curiousity Shop, The Goldfinch, and The Luminaries) I’d have racked up close to 1000 hours of learnings that have bettered my writing.

I take my reading time VERY seriously and read a minimum of 50 pages a day, often more. I am famous for reading for long stretches of times in the bathtub (okay, I’m only famous for doing this at my house) and once dipped Sean Michael’s wonderful book Us Conductors in the water when I was enthralled with a particularly beautiful passage.

The most amazing thing about reading is that it is free. All you need is a library card. Librarians are standing by, waiting to give you wonderful suggestions about what to read next, what to read if you liked such-and-such, what to read when you want to laugh, cry, learn something new.

Read, read, read. Your writing will thank you. And so will your readers!

Want to know what I’m reading? Follow me on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14223581.Wendy_McLeod_MacKnight

 

Book Review: Save Me, Kurt Cobain by Jenny Manzer

 

save me kurt cobain

 

I knew from the very first line that Save Me, Kurt Cobain was going to a great book.

The day my mother walked away, the snowdrops had just appeared.

 

 

I mean seriously, right?

Haunted by the disappearance of her mother ten years ago, Nicola Cavan has been living a kind of half-life with with her father Verne in Victoria, B.C. She has exactly one friend, Obe, and the only delight she finds in life is through her music, especially the music of Nirvana.

And when a chance discovery leaves her with the impression that Kurt Cobain might actually be her biological father, Nico sets off on a journey of self-discovery that could get her the answers she wants – but at what cost?

This book is a mystery within a mystery, a series of random or non-random events nested inside one another that are masterfully brought together in both the characters and the plot until they bust open at the end.

All of it is masterfully achieved by the exquisite craftsmanship of Jenny Manzer, whose characters make us ache with things both said and unsaid, and through her use of imagery to help us see.

Nico is an astute, though jaded, observer of her world, and it is her observations that ground us in the truth of what it is like to be the little girl left behind:

I read more about it online and discovered that babies can’t hold on to their memories because of their underdeveloped limbic systems, as if their little brains are change purses with holes in the bottom.

 

I read that line on the plane coming back from Toronto recently and circled it. It’s on page six. I thought to myself “Holy cow, this is perfect”.

 

And then Jenny Manzer continued to deliver that perfection, page after page.

 

There is a purity to her writing, an economy to it, that allows us to really feel this story, and it is achingly beautiful.

I am not a fan of Nirvana, but by the time I finished the book, Nico (via Jenny) had so thoroughly and subtly indoctrinated me into the magic and philosophy of their music that I now feel compelled to download some onto my iPod.

A sign of a good book is when you learn things-factual and emotional-that stay with you once you close the cover.

I hope that someday Jenny revisits Nico. I’d like to meet her again in her twenties or thirties, when she’s had time to really process things. I’d like to think she’ll be happy. I’d like to think she’s a good mother to a couple of kids, the kind who talks to her kids, listens to them, and most of all, stays.

This book is beautiful a definitely gets five stars,

 

 

My First Author’s Panel!

 

It turns out I love to talk…

This is no surprise to someone who knows me well, but if I am being perfectly honest, I am less comfortable when it comes to talking about my writing. In fact, I often feel downright shy.

 

overcome-public-speaking-fears-600x900

This past weekend I had the chance to participate in a debut author’s panel at the Canadian Writer’s Summit.

I prepared my Q&As in advance and worried over them.

And then the panel started and I sort of kept to my notes, but sort of didn’t. Mostly I just talked to the 40+ people in the audience. I joked, I was serious, I was probably even confused once or twice.

And I had such a good time!

It helped that I was on a panel with four other authors, all of whom are amazing, talented women:

  • Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, author of Firsts
  • Catherine Lo, author of How it Ends
  • Jenny Manzer, author of Save me Kurt Cobain
  • Jennifer DiGiovanni, author of My Senior Year of Awesome
canwriters

 

We had such a good time and I think (hope) our audience appreciated our enthusiasm and information.

I’m ready for my next panel!

 

 

CCWWP Conference/Canadian Writer’s Summit

 

June 18, 2016: CCWWP Conference/Canadian Writer’s Summit at the Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, ON

Myself, along with fellow debut authors Jenny Manzer, Catherine Lo, Jennifer DiGiovanni, and Laurie Elizabeth Flynn will be discussing the new world of children’s literature and sharing our debut experiences. Our panel will be from 4:00 pm- 5:15 pm.

Hope to see you there!

Review: The Dinosaur Hunters by Patrick Samphire

 

The Dinosaur Hunters

 

Okay, so several weeks ago, my writing buddy Patrick Samphire asked if any of us would like to read his soon-to-be-released novella, The Dinosaur Hunters. 

I’m no fool! I put up my hand immediately.

You see, I was a fan of Patrick’s first novel, Secrets of the Dragon Tomb, and was already whining about having to wait an entire year until its sequel, The Emporer of Mars.

 

dragon tomb

 

 

The Emporer of Mars

 

Before I talk about The Dragon Hunters, I must share a dark secret. It had been nigh on many years since I’d read a book with even a twinge of science fiction about it.

But from the very first page, Patrick Samphire took me to a world that was both uniquely new and yet oh-so-familiar.

I could feel the baton being passed from HG Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs to Patrick, and man, does he run with it.

 

 

 

PRINCESS OF MARShg wells

 

Now, as a treat for fans of the first book, Patrick’s written a novella with new characters, but still set in the wonderful world of Mars he created so fantastically in his first book.

Boy, it does NOT disappoint. Only available digitally, this book is fun.

To quote the description:

Mystery, murder, and adventure on Mars…

Mars in 1815 is a world of wonders, from the hanging ballrooms of Tharsis City to the air forests of Patagonian Mars, and from the ice caves of Noachis Terra to the Great Wall of Cyclopia, beyond which dinosaurs still roam.

Sixteen-year-old Harriet George has never had the chance for an adventure. Now her older sister is determined to marry her off. Harriet can’t think of anything worse.

Meanwhile, her brother-in-law, Bertrand, has a problem. He’s never been much of a police inspector. As far as Harriet knows, Bertrand has never caught a criminal in his life. But now the famous jewel thief, the Glass Phantom, has come to Mars, and Bertrand has been given the job of tracking him down. If he fails, Bertrand will lose his job and the whole family will be ruined.

Harriet will not let that happen.

So she comes up with a plan: she will capture the Glass Phantom herself. Even if that mean that she and Bertrand have to follow the thief’s intended victim, the Countess von Krakendorff, on a dinosaur hunt in the perilous Martian wilderness. But there is far more going on in this expedition than mere robbery, and the dinosaurs are not the greatest danger.

If Harriet cannot solve the mystery, her family won’t just be ruined. She and Bertrand may not make it out of the wilderness alive.

The Dinosaur Hunters is a thrilling adventure set in the world of Secrets of the Dragon Tomb.

 

My thoughts:

Harriet is living a buttoned-up life in 1815, but she’ll not be stopped from having her adventures. But she will have to be twice as clever and three times as daring as everyone else, thanks to the reality of the being a lady living on Mars in 1815.

And one wonders how Bernard will fare in the future if Harriet isn’t always by his side.

If the plot is great fun, it is the descriptions and world-building that take this book over the top.

Samphire paints pictures for his readers.

Time and again this novella felt like watching a movie. I could see every thrilling detail, every aspect of what life in Mars was like in 1815. And I’m not going to lie: much as I expected to be most bowled over by the dinosaurs, it was the Great Wall of Cyclopia that had me enthralled.

You don’t need to have read Patrick’s first book to read this novella, but I believe you will want to when you finish this one.

Should you buy it?

Amazon wants to charge you $2.99 for this novella, beginning June 16th.

This is a bargain. You are entering the realm of a storyteller.  Patrick’s first book was recommended for children aged aged ten to fourteen years (though I swear adults will adore it) and this skews higher, but would also be loved the first book’s fans.

You can thank me later.

 

Elly MacKay: A Canadian Author and Illustrator you NEED to know about!

 

I stumbled across and adored Elly MacKay’s art work long before I even knew it was Elly MacKay’s.

A couple of years ago, I decided to create a vision board to help inspire me as I embarked on my new journey towards being a published author. I found a picture of a girl rowing a boat in a magazine and cut it out to use as an inspiration for myself. In other words: like the girl in the picture, I was going to get to my destination, but it was going to require a lot of hard work and take some time.

elly mackay

This is the picture and you can buy your own copy, or another print of Elly’s wonderful work at her Etsy shop. See below for the link. Note: all illustration here are from Elly’s website or Etsy store.

 

Later, I “met” Elly via SCWBI Canada East and was shocked to discover she was the illustrator of the picture that had provided me with so much comfort and inspiration.

 

Not only that, I discovered I had other examples of her work in my home: Elly has done the illustrations for Tundra Books’ version of the Anne of Green Gable series (and the Emily of New Moon Series) and I was so in love with them that I bought the set, even though I already had a complete set. Of course, one can never have too many sets of Anne lying around…

 

anne elly

In addition to being a talented illustrator, Elly is a wonderful picture book author as well:

 

Butterfly parkif you hold a seedHoldaSeed_cvr

 

I own them all and delight in the wonder she brings to her readers.

There is something exquisite and ethereal about her illustrations, even as the texts themselves are wonderful vignettes about the importance of exploring and loving the natural world around us.

For me, the most wonderful aspect of Elly’s work is the WAY she creates her illustrations. Each picture is a created world, layered illustrations that give the reader a sense of depth and of stepping into another world.

You can read about her process here, but you also need to see it on video:

 

Her worlds are so compelling you want to crawl right into them and live happily ever after, if only for a few hours.

Once you buy the books, you are probably going to want to buy a print, or two or three. You can do that at Elly’s Etsy Shop, Theater Clouds.

Then go visit her website. Elly’s books are available at Chapters, Amazon and at local bookstores!

Eventually, I will own every book Elly has written or illustrated, and maybe, just maybe, I will get lucky someday and she’ll collaborate with me.

In the meantime, I think she is one of the finest illustrators in the business and I love all of her work!

I’m pretty sure that now you do, too!

 

How to encourage your kids to keep reading this summer

 

Even a kid who loves school is thrilled when June, and the promise of an extended vacation, arrives.

I finished the creative writing enrichment program I was offering at Garden Creek School yesterday, and the kids were wild. Wild in a good way, in the way that kids get wild when the world is warm and the days are long and if they only stick out their tongue they could taste freedom in the air.

Just as important as a well-deserved break, coupled with the promise of regular time spent outdoors, is the need to keep kids reading during the summer.

Key to that is helping them find the right book at the local library or book store.

Here are a couple of sites with great suggestions to engage your kids. I’m sure you can find many more when you dig. I also recommend following @shelfietalk on twitter – there are always great suggestions there!

 10 ways to get kids reading this summer

Summer Reading by Reading Rockets

 

But now, with trumpets blaring…

via GIPHY

and bears dancing….

via GIPHY

 

I am happy to present….

Wendy’s Summer Reading List Suggestions!

I’d like to offer some suggestions of books I think your later elementary school/middle grade child would love. The first bunch are from debut authors whose books I have read and adored. And please note I have NOT divided these into boy and girl category. Books are books. ‘Nuff said.

Debut Authors:

 

Artifacts BFF charlie price counting thyme dontgetcaught eye of midnight hours of the bees Last boy at St. Ediths last fifth grade maypop midnight war mOMOTARO seventh grade swing sideways the lost celt P1020799 P1020807 - Copy - Copy P1020806 - Copy (2) P1020806 - Copy - Copy P1020799 The Last 5th grade Treasure at lure lake paper wishes PB&J dragons tombwarrendistance to homebounders

 

 

Fenway and Hattie Cover - Lo ResLizziesticks and stones

 

Other Books Your Kids Will Love

 

Georgebrown girlcircus m So B Itpenderwicks in spring Raymie Nightingale The Night GardenerBookedbetsy tacy beezusAnne GG

This list is by no means exhaustive, and believe me, I will keep adding to it. But these books, a mixture of old and new, will not disappoint!

 

Happy reading!

How Middle Grade Books Help Children Cope with Sucky Situations

 

“As Hagrid had said, what would come would come and he would have to meet it when it did.” ― J.K. Rowling Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

 

Childhood is not easy.

We often look back at it with wistful, nostalgic eyes, happy to remember the Christmases where we got exactly what we wanted, or as a time without bills to pay, work to do. A time without a care in the world.

Should we dig further we know that isn’t true. How many stomach aches did we have over tests, bullies, parental disagreements, friends who we were on the outs with?

I know I did. Much as I look back with fondness at my childhood, I can also remember the painful things, the things out of my control.

And for so many children, the ability to articulate fears, ask questions of clarification, simply does not happen because they lack the language and emotional ability to pose them.

Which is why they so desperately need books.

Stories where the main character is struggling with challenging situations can be a comforting way for children to know they’re not alone.

I’ve read lots of books this year that hit this mark to a T and would highly recommend them:

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

 

Raymie Nightingale

The description:

Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and (maybe) come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton; she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show-business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss, and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship — and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

My thoughts:

Raymie’s stress and desperation is both heartbreaking and heartwarming and there is no better storyteller than Kate DiCamillo. Raymie is a heroine for the ages.

 

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepabhan

 

paper wishes

The Description:

Ten-year-old Manami did not realize how peaceful her family’s life on Bainbridge Island was until the day it all changed. It’s 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and Manami and her family are Japanese American, which means that the government says they must leave their home by the sea and join other Japanese Americans at a prison camp in the desert. Manami is sad to go, but even worse is that they are going to have to give her and her grandfather’s dog, Yujiin, to a neighbor to take care of. Manami decides to sneak Yujiin under her coat and gets as far as the mainland before she is caught and forced to abandon Yujiin. She and her grandfather are devastated, but Manami clings to the hope that somehow Yujiin will find his way to the camp and make her family whole again. It isn’t until she finds a way to let go of her guilt that Manami can reclaim the piece of herself that she left behind and accept all that has happened to her family.

My thoughts:

Besides being beautifully written, Lois Sepabhan doesn’t sugar-coat the reality in which Manami finds herself, nor her misery and guilt at losing her beloved Yujiin. What she does do is show her readers that beauty and comfort exist in places both expected and unexpected, and that hope and dignity can never be taken from us.

 

Counting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

 

counting thyme

The Description:

When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

With equal parts heart and humor, Melanie Conklin’s debut is a courageous and charming story of love and family—and what it means to be counted.

My Thoughts:

Bad things happen to good families. And it’s okay to feel like things suck and to be frustrated and scared. Conklin allows Thyme to be a full-bodied character, not Miss Perfect , and we feel her misery and jealousy and frustration right along with her. Beautifully done.

 

There are so many more books I could rave about here (and will in future posts!) but thought it would be nice to highlight three that are perfect examples of how children’s literature can support and comfort in subtle, but substantial ways.

These are all 5 star books and will be treasured by the child who reads them!

I’d love to hear what books you’d recommend that would help a child coping with the pains of the reality.

Walking in my old footsteps

 

I went home this week.

Some things will never change. Some things will always be the same. Lean down your ear upon the earth and listen.

– Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again

 

P1060714

p.s. for those of you reading this on ipad – sorry for the horizontal images – it was my camera and flash and I haven’t been able to sort it out yet!

I’ve been in my old stomping grounds these last few days, taking some video footage to include in the book trailer for It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!

I haven’t lived in St. Stephen since 1977. Honestly, I hardly know and hardly recognize many of its citizens now. But if you ask me where I’m from, I will always say St. Stephen. And whenever I’m back I always feel welcomed.

And as much as I hold the people I grew up with close to my heart – most of them have long moved on to other places both seen and unseen – it is the land that I roamed that stays with me.

The railway tracks I walked again and again and again. Today I suppose we would call this a dangerous endeavor, but only two trains went by daily, so it hardly seemed fraught with peril, save my ongoing fear that the evil M brothers (neighborhood bullies) might be lurking in the bushes smoking.

The Big Rock we found one summer in the woods and visited religiously. It was all the more desirable as it required crossing Dennis Stream. The threat of water, the need for leaps of greatness, the civil engineering involved in building plank bridges or placing perilously large and unstable rocks just so, made going there an expedition and who doesn’t love an expedition?

When I began to write my book there was only one place where Tracy and Ralph could hold their secret meetings: The Big Rock.

 

P1060696

Up at the top. The rock is 10 feet high and 25 to 30 feet long; a great sleeping giant, and rocky remnant of the Appalachian Range perhaps.

 

Our route this time involved parking behind the mall and crossing the swampy, spongy ground to the forest beyond. My preteen bravado of walking (or scurrying) through the old junkyard at the far end of the gravel pit was replaced by the middle-aged me worrying about trespassing, though I think that next time (and there will a next time) I will just check in and ask for permission. Maybe they’ll buy a book.

Still there was a muscle memory to the walk across that field. I recognized those grassy humps immediately, the feel of them underfoot and how they kept me perpetually off-balance. I was thrilled to jump over the stream (even if I did get stuck once), and as I walked into the woods I felt such a profound sense of belonging somewhere, of knowing someplace, that it was overwhelming.

P1060700

At the top, remnants of a small fire remained, reminding me that we were not the first to find and use The Big Rock, nor the last.

P1060697

 

I stood on the top for quite awhile. In the distance I could hear the sound of traffic, the boom-boom-boom of the heavy equipment at the gravel pit. I was surprised at how close this small woods was to everything, but was reminded that we were only kids then and that a quarter of a mile into the woods made us feel like modern day Jacques Cartiers and Samuel de Champlains (who’d only lived a few miles up river).

The ghosts of my friends were everywhere. I saw the spot where I fell and split open my chin, refusing to go home to have it dealt with in case I missed some kind of excitement (a personality trait I have yet to drop). I have no idea how I sopped up the blood – leaves probably – and I still bear the scar on my chin today.

P1060699

The place where we began to climb up the rock and where I imagined Tracy and Ralph hiding the money they’d found. Sadly, we never found money…

I’ll spare you the wobbly video I took; I’m sure I got enough for the trailer.

Later, we stopped on my street and took some pictures. We scouted book launch locations. We took my nearly 92 year-old friend for lunch.

 

P1060688

 

The thing about going home is that, of course, everything is different.

I wanted to knock on doors, shout: “Here’s where I fell of my bike!”, “Here was Brown’s Corner Store”, “Mrs. Getchell made the best ginger snaps!”, “Alton had the best matchbox cars!”, “We played baseball and road hockey here”, “My dog Charlie liked to lie in the sun here”, “There’s where I cried over my first crush.”

I like to think that when my book is published local kids will easily find all of the spots in the book.

They’ll forge the stream, climb to the top of Big Rock, be positive that someone is spying on them, bicycle to get a Popsicle afterwards.

I can’t wait to meet those kids.

I’ll tell them to dream big, read like crazy, be thankful that they live where they’re living, if only for the beginning of their life.

And I’ll remind them how important it is to get outside, explore your world, have adventures.

Everything changes, but The Big Rock endures. I think it will be pleased to have a starring role in the book.

 

 

 

 

Guest Speaking at UNB!

 

So excited to be asked to speak at the following event, June 9th:

 

UNB Associated Alumnae Annual General Meeting
 Thursday, June 9 | 6 p.m. | Alumni Memorial Building

Register Now


Please join us at the annual general meeting of the UNB Associated Alumnae on Thursday, June 9 from 6 – 8 p.m. The meeting will be held in the President’s Room of the Alumni Memorial Building on the UNB Fredericton campus. We will be welcoming two-time UNB graduateWendy McLeod-MacKnight (BA’85, MA’89) as guest speaker.


Wendy McLeod MacKnight grew up in St. Stephen, New Brunswick with a library card as her prized possession. She completed her BA in Sociology in 1985 and her MA in Sociology in 1989. Over the course of her professional life, she’s taught Sociology at UNB and worked for the Government of New Brunswick, ending her public service career as Deputy Minister of the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. One day she woke up and decided it was time to pursue her life-long dream of writing books for children. Her debut novel, It’s a Mystery, Pig Face!, will be published by Sky Pony Press on Feb. 7, 2017. Any resemblance between the main character and the author is purely intentional.

Please join us to reconnect with fellow alumnae and meet new friends! Light refreshments will be served.

Please RSVP by June 2 via our event page, by email or phoning the Alumni Office at (506) 453-4847.

We look forward to seeing you on June 9.

Martine Stewart
President, UNB Associated Alumnae

Author of Children's Literature

×