The Frame-Up

June 5th 2018

The Frame-Up - Bookcover

The comfort of books

The recent events in Paris remind that, as much as we can take comfort in one another, we can often find comfort in our favourite books as well.

So often, these so-called ‘comfort books’ are the books of our childhood or a book we read at a particularly happy time in our life.

When my mother was dying, I read the last three books in the Betsy-Tacy series again. The Ray Family saw me through that difficult time, providing comfort in a way I am not sure I could have found as easily from talking with another person (since when I wasn’t with my mother I was blubbering in a bathroom stall!).

betsy tacy


Years later, on the last afternoon of his life, I read my father Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales. This book has a melancholia to it for sure, but its beautiful story was exactly what I needed, and what I thought he might benefit from, and honestly, I can’t think of a better person to read you out of this life than Thomas.

dyka thomas

My children still want to dig out their old Christmas books, despite having become technically adults, and the comfort they get from a William Joyce story or one of our favourites, An Apple Tree Christmas, cannot be overstated.

applesanta calls

This time of year, I crave Little Women. In the summer I will be thinking of Anne of Green Gables.  I feel a hankering to read the Harry Potter Series again.

harrpy potter

We can set aside the world for a few hours when we re-read one of our favourites, and when that favourite falls into the category of a comfort book, well, we are able to release a bit of the stress that pursues us.

I would love to know your comfort books! Do share!


A Post about Plunging Into Your Writing

I am currently in the process of “doing” NaNoWriMo, revising a Young Adult Novel, and thinking about starting revisions to a middle grade novel that needs a lot of work.

And then there is blogging, and tweeting, Facebook, and most important of all, reading!

It is enough to make my head spin.

Add in wonderful articles that if I would take the time to read them, could make me a MUCH better writer.

What I have discovered, in this year leading up to the publication of my debut novel, is that what I need to focus on is writing (and reading).  Especially now, before I begin promoting my book, visiting schools, and all of the rest of the things that accompany a book’s publication.

I had a revelation this past week, when I discovered how careful planning in advance and a really kick-ass idea  could make NaNoWriMo and revisions feel, well thrilling.

I marvelled at how much easier it was than the YA I am revising (and revising). How the words fairly tripped off my tongue and out through the tips of my fingertips. “Maybe,” I thought, “I am getting better at this.”

Perhaps. But I am also in the phase of revisions that feel like a slog, where I feel as if all the good parts (in my mind) that got jettisoned away have left me rewriting practically the whole second half of the novel and at times grimacing as I do so.



The picture above is done by one of my favourite children’s book illustrators (and a Canadian to boot!) Debbie Ridpath Ohi. As soon as I saw it I knew I needed to include it because it is SOOOO true!

On the other hand, the new novel is shiny and fresh and fun.

It turns out I need a lot of drafts to get a good novel. I envy those people who turn something wonderful out in three or four drafts. I suspect this book will have 8 or 9 drafts before I dare send it to my agent.

But NaNoWriMo reminds me of the thrill I felt when I wrote the first draft of this book back in 2013 during that year’s NaNoWriMo. It had seemed shiny and fresh then, too.

The thing is to get it down and then work, work, work it until you have molded it into something that stays with you after you’re done.

At times I worry that this is the novel that gets packed away in a drawer forever. At other times, I know that with enough elbow grease and imagination, it can be something wonderful.

It has been an interesting experience, writing two projects at once, but it has also been rewarding, and it has reminded me that perhaps I ought always have a couple of projects on the go at once!

How’s your writing coming these days?




Are you NaNoWriMo’ing this year?



National November Writing Month is my new favourite time of year.  For thirty days each November, writers from around the world come together to write a minimum of 50,000 words – the average length of a children’s novel and a good first crack at adult fiction.

I love NaNoWriMo because of the inherent motivation of the task.  While I am a dedicated writer, the accountability inherent in NaNoWriMo – the daily tracking of words counts, checking in with your buddies, the enthusiasm of the NaNoWriMo staff – make me more likely to hit my daily targets.

In preparation for NaNoWriMo this year, I have been building my outline with Kristen Kieffer’s The Pre-Write Project, which basically helps writers build their story bible in advance.  It has been an amazing resource to get me thinking!

Now that I have my bible complete, between now and Sunday and I will do a preliminary plot planner using the techniques I’ve learned from Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer.

For the first time, I will be entering NaNoWriMo without completely pantsing it. The book I am embarking on is complex and will require a tremendous amount of research, but getting the bones done during NaNoWriMo will make a huge difference!

For some reason, when I search my user handle on the NaNoWriMo page I come up empty, so if you’d like to become buddies, drop me a line here and I will find you!


Best New Web Site for Writers!

Hi everyone!

Sorry I have been missing in action. Took a trip and then returned to revisions, revisions, revisions, and am just now getting back on track!

me waiting for takoh

Me in Paris. Good excuse, huh?


I had planned on writing a completely different post this morning, but then I realized I had important information to share with you all, information that could make your life oh-so-much-easier!


I have been a huge fan of the talent behind this website – Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi – and a devoted follower of their wonderful blog Writers Helping Writers.

I’ve bought their wonderful Thesauruses (SO HELPFUL!) and pored over their advice, all of which has helped me more than I can truly articulate.

Now they’ve teamed up with Lee Powell to create an online reference library for writers. For a small subscription fee (annual or monthly) you have access to tremendous resources that continue to be updated regularly:

  • 11 (!) different kinds of thesauruses from emotion to symbolism to weather for heaven’s sake.  You want to know how a character might react under stress? It’s here! How would you describe frost to your reader, stagnation, coming of age, the list is endless!
  • An idea generator to get those creative juices flowing and help you look at your idea in a different way
  • tons of templates and worksheets that you can either print off or work with online and save right on the site.

The tagline for One Stop for Writers is “Elevate Your Storytelling” and it is certainly that, although I would add “Dig yourself out of that hole you’ve dug your characters and plot into”.

Honestly, I have only been working with this site for the past few days and I wonder how I survived without it. It is easy to use and best of all, the content will keep expanding!

God bless Angela, Becca, and Lee!

Keep Writing!



How do you choose what you read?

I am always interested in why people are reading what they read.

Are you choosing because of buzz? The New York Times Book Review or Kirkus?


'Read any good book reviews lately?'

‘Read any good book reviews lately?’


A friend’s recommendation?


Dog writes a review: 'A sublime book, I devoured it in one sitting ...'

Dog writes a review: ‘A sublime book, I devoured it in one sitting …’


Bestsellers? Award winners?

All of the above?

I divide my reading into several categories:

  • I’ve read a review and am completely intrigued!
  • Making my writing better.  I’m working my way backwards through all of the Newbery and Caldecott Medal books – you might as well learn from the best!
  • A friend has told me the book is fantastic.
  • The librarian told me to give it a try! (never underestimate good booksellers and librarians!)

I usually have two or three books on the go at any one time: a non-fiction book, a children’s book and an adult book. I read at minimum 40 to 50 pages a day, unless the book is a page-turner and then I will do 100-200 a day!

What’s next on my to-read pile?

H is for Hawk



A couple of children books: Artemis Fowl, Circus Mirandus.

And am holding my breath for Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert!



How about you? What are you reading these days and what made you choose it?

Happy reading and writing!





Are you the voracious reader?

One of the great joys I have now that I am a writer is that reading is part of my job. An absolute requirement in fact!  While I read across all genres, I am paying particular emphasis on middle grade, young adult and picture books, as those are the genres I’m writing in right now and reading really good work can only make mine better.

One thing I have discovered about myself is that as soon as I discover an other I like – Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Neil Gaiman – I read everything I can get my hands on by them.  EVERYTHING.

I am like a kid in the candy store, until I have read it all and then look around hungrily for the next big thing.  My obsession right now is Patricia Wrede.  She is amazing, wonderful and brilliant.  Her voice is true and her character’s voices are spot on.

Patricia Wrede_B&W

After making my way through the Enchanted Forest series I am now into her Magic Barrier books. Sadly, I will soon be through them, too, and turning my attention to the next great wonderful thing.

I also tend to read more than one book at a time. I am reading David McCullough’s biography of Harry Truman as well as a book by the late Wayne Dyer. Next on my list is H is for Hawk.

Thank goodness for Goodreads, where I can organize it all, as well as create lists of books I want to read next. It is a never-ending list, that’s for sure. If you want to connect on Goodreads, you can find me at – I’d love that.

So are you an author devourer like me or do you spread yourself all over the place? I’d love to know!

I expect to start working with my editor in the next few weeks – can’t wait to share what the process is like with you all!

Does everyone know everyone on twitter but me?

I’m new to the twitter game. I’m new to the writing game, if truth be told.

But now that I am on twitter, I have come to one conclusion: everyone knows everyone on twitter and they are all wittier than me!

It reminds me of Mindy Kaling’s book:



I don’t know about you, but life is a series of experiences where we are “the newbie”.  That is never truer than we start a new school, transition to a new career, move to a new city.

It feels like everyone knows everyone. They have their inside jokes.  They seem whip-smart, super-thin (how would I even KNOW that? All I see is 144 characters for heaven’s sake!).  Oh and they know how to attach things into their tweets. Witty things.

Oh I’ll get there. Perhaps someday I’ll be just like them. It is, after all, simply a matter of meeting people and getting to know them.

And Twitter does give you such amazing access.

There is something cool about being about to tweet my favourite author(s) and tell them how much I love their book(s).  Although I tried that with Virginia Woolf and she didn’t write back.

In the meantime, as a Sociologist, I cannot help but be fascinated by the world of twitter and how people use it (they use it a LOT!)

What about you – do you have your twitter tribe?



“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
William Faulkner

Some writers hate revisions. Some love them.

I think I am somewhere in between.

I recently got feedback from my beta readers. Not all of the comments were consistent, but they were consistent in that they helped me realize that a lot was not working with my Work in Progress.

Rather than being daunted, I felt recharged.

I have spent the last few days re-imagining the plot, coming up with ways to make things both simpler and more satisfying. I am excited again!

And there is rewriting in my future, considerable rewriting. But in the end, I want my book to be the best book it can be. I owe my readers nothing less.

But why is it that we writers so often need an independent person(s) to jog us into this serious revision phase? I don’t know about you, but I so often need that kick in the butt to take my book to the next level!

What makes a page-turner?

"And that's what I call a page turner."

“And that’s what I call a page turner.”


I have been thinking about this topic a lot lately, since my work-in-progress is not yet a page turner (well it is in places, but not all the places, sigh…).

I’m sure you are like me and you read incessantly. Certainly reading makes you a better writer, but so does thinking about the approach you will take with YOUR story.

Will you be cheeky? Will you be the anonymous tale-teller? Will you tell your tale in such a way that there is a sliver of the sinister? First person, third person? There is so much to think about.

The concept and the characters have to draw us in. You can have the best concept in the world, but if the characters don’t make us want to walk a mile in their shoes, don’t make us care what happens to them, well we may find ourselves completely uninterested.

If the characters are amazing and the plot is dull, we wish someone could just scoop them up and put them in another book!

It’s all about the balance, isn’t it? The elusive balance. When you read it, you feel it, even if you can’t quite articulate it what makes it work.

I was able to devour hundreds of pages of The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, but her earlier book, The Secret History, left me cold.


I cared what happened to Theo in The Goldfinch, I wanted him to make it. If you ask me the names of the characters in The Secret History, I couldn’t tell you. It was an intriguing plot, but I didn’t love any of the characters enough to love the book.

For sure this is why Harry Potter has struck such a chord. Rowling has pulled off the near impossible: she makes us care about all of the characters, both within the arc of each book and within the arc of all seven books in the series. It is masterful and something we ought all aspire to.


And no, I am not going to torture my Work in Progress until I am convinced that it belongs in the pantheon of The Goldfinch or Harry Potter, but I am going to work at it until I am convinced I have done all I can to make my readers desperate to turn the next page!

How about  you? What makes a book a page-turner for you?

Feedback from your Beta Readers


Early on in my writing process, I was scared to show anyone anything.

There is so much blood, sweat, and tears poured into those early drafts and our poor egos can feel quite battered when one of our early readers doesn’t love it as much as we do or has some suggestions that makes perfectly good sense but makes us cringe because we know how much work will be required to get it done.

I no longer feel like that.

I currently have six beta readers (early readers) who read my work. They come at the work from different perspectives and expertise and I benefit from that.

Part of the reason that I no longer feel as defensive is that I no longer share until I have gotten to a point where I feel that a) the book is well written (you don’t want to waste your beta readers’ time); and b) I need to know where the issues are before I do the last revision.

I recently sent my YA Fantasy out to my beta readers and am starting to get back feedback. I will wait for all of the feedback before I decide what does or does not need changing, but the feedback I’ve gotten to date has been helpful and positive, even if the reader didn’t love all of the book.  Since I am writing in a completely new genre, this feedback is especially helpful to me.

I want to write the best books I can. The whole point of beta readers is that they help us realize where we are failing to make our point, where our characters are not well drawn and where we are inconsistent or dull.

The fact that people are willing to take the time to read a book that is obviously a work in progress is a real gift and blessing, and I am grateful for my beta readers  and their patience.

In the end, my book will be all the better for the thoughtful critique . I want the final version of my books to have characters people love and plots that draw them in and keep them drawn in.

It is impossible to do that unless you get feedback from others.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.
– Benjamin Franklin





Writing is Just the Beginning OR (mis)Adventures in Technology

Okay, so a few weeks ago, I got my revamped website up and running. Wonderful. All is good.


Except there are extra goodies I want to offer here. Enter technology. I am in the middle of making my first video.

It is a humbling experience.  Who knew my curly hair could look that wacky? Have I always had the strange look in my eyes? (oh wait, that’s the look of fear…)


The Horror!


Finally got the video done and now am in the throes of learning how to upload it to YouTube and to this website.

Here’s what I know for sure:

  • writing a book is hard work
  • getting your book published feels almost impossible at times
  • Learning everything else – videos, social media, tech stuff – that seems to be really kicking my butt.

Back to watch more of the Easy Author Marketing videos I recently purchased on

Oh, and then I might take a walk around the block.  I think I need a break!

How about you? How are you doing learning all the other stuff that a writer should know today?

World Building

I am in the middle of writing a Young Adult Fantasy. This is a stretch for me – well everything is a stretch for me when it comes to writing – but one I am working hard to master.

While most of my novel takes place in the contemporary world, there are a couple of forays elsewhere, in other worlds. And the sequel will mostly take place elsewhere. And those ‘elsewheres’ needed rules, geography, and history.  Not easy, but I am learning.

The Queen of World Building in my mind is J.K. Rowling, but Philip Pullman is a close second. Both created worlds that felt as real or more real than the one in which we live.

Let me add a third: S.E. Grove.

Golden Specific

I just finished reading the second book in The MapMakers Trilogy and it is stunning. The detail is amazing and you truly feel that this is another world that you’ve discovered.  S.E. Grove, a trained historian, deftly weaves mundane details with political, historical and geographical details that make the book come alive. This book, and the one before, The Glass Sentence, are must-reads, especially for writers who are interested in learning how to be master world-builders. It doesn’t get much better than this!

Of course, now I must go back to do ANOTHER revision because she has inspired me so much…. Of course, that’s what good writers do, don’t they?



I have a dirty secret: I hate grammar!

Somehow, despite being an avid reader, and probably one of the best English students in whatever school I was in, I somehow managed to sneak through the system without truly learning what a gerund was, a dangling participle, a clause. Am I the only one?

To remedy the situation, I have turned to Lynn Truss and E.B White.

Eats Shoots & Leaves


Truss is particularly helpful, being the newer book, and thus perhaps more relevant to today’s writer, but E.B. has his place.

For example, it is hard not to love a teacher who, when discussing -ize says “Do not coin verbs by adding this tempting suffix.”

And really, one does have to trust the author of Charlotte’s Web, who wrote in such a glorious, albeit Spartan, shed overlooking the ocean and without the benefit of being able to check the internet to see what one’s friends ate for lunch  or discover the latest cat video. Really, he had it tough, right?


E_B_ WHITE-240

Hmm.  It’s tempting to want to writerize in just the same way….

How about you? Any grammar horror stories?


Listening to the muse, even when you don’t want to…

When I first began to write, I often rushed through my work. In fact, I am embarrassed at how quick I was to believe that my work was done and that to revise and revise was simply denying my soon-to-be discovered fans the opportunity to see my work as soon as possible.

I learned. I am not embarrassed to say that It’s a Mystery, Pig-Face! went through 11 drafts, at least 4 of which were major revisions. I would read something helpful in a book or online and I would realize what I didn’t know and then go back and fix it.  I had an editor look at the book and give me suggestions. My wonderful agent Lauren had other changes. When I start working with my editor at Sky Pony Press, Alison Weiss, the book will get better again.

Revision Cartoon


But here’s the thing: I KNEW the book wasn’t 100% the best work I could do when I sent it out. Early on, I could blame that on complete lack of experience; now I would be mortified to send it before I felt I had done everything I could do.

I am currently finishing draft 6 of my YA fantasy. I finally feel that I am ready for my beta readers to read it and give me feedback. Had I sent it earlier I would have been insulting them by wasting their time because I knew it still needed work. And while I am sure that there will be more changes/suggestions from them, I am at a place where I feel I am getting close to the end and I can really use their help.

Early on, I couldn’t understand why my writing wasn’t up to par with other writing in my genre.  As I have matured as a writer, and written almost full-time for the last year and half, I have realized that it is in the revisions, it is through killing my darlings and wonderful overly-long paragraphs of no use to the plot, that the book begins to form itself.

I listen to the muse. And I think of the children who will buy my book.  They deserve my best efforts. For me, I guess, that means a LOT of revision and rethinking!  When the muse tells me to dig a little deeper, I dig!

The Night Gardener

From time to time, I want to share some really good books I’ve been reading.  Today is one of those days.  The Night Gardener, by Jonathan Auxier, is a spine-tingling suspense story for kids. Part horror story, part fairy tale, this is a real page-turner that cannot be put down – we MUST discover what’s going to happen to Molly and Kip and we have to find out the truth about The Night Gardener.

Picture of the Night Gardener's cover

Auxier, who was a finalist for a Govenor General’s Award for this book, builds a complete and wonderful world full of characters we come to love!  A real gem and I agree that it is destined to become a classic! I highly recommend it to all parents and teachers!

Book Deal Announcement and Why Teachers Matter

I promise not to talk much about my book for a long while, but can’t help but be excited about the announcement yesterday about my book.

I got lots of nice congratulatory messages, but you know which one meant the most? The one from my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Garnett.

I literally assaulted Mrs. Garnett with my poetry and my stories when I was in her class.  I think of how excited I was about writing and how she always seemed so excited about it, too.  If you don’t think a teacher can make all the difference in someone’s life, I would have to beg to differ.  Mrs. Garnett’s enthusiasm for me and all her students changed my life.

I kind of think all the congratulatory love I got yesterday belongs to her, too… Thank you Mrs. Garnett!


Why you should dare to dream

Three years ago, if someone had told me that I would

  • quit my job
  • begin writing full-time after having not written at all for many years
  • actually land my first book deal

I would have been convinced they were mad.

All three of those things have happened.

For many years I tended the flame of my dream to write for children and young adults. I was pretty certain it would be a dream unfulfilled. But the universe has a way of shouting in your ear in strange and wonderful ways and when you don’t listen, sometimes it knocks you upside the head.P1000524

But here’s the thing: I actually did those three things, though I’m not recommending you quit your job (and you certainly don’t have to in order to be published!)

In the coming months, I’ll take you on my journey to publication. And I’ll share all of the good information I’ve learned along the way so you can take the same journey if you wish to.

We’ll talk about books and writing and fear and happiness and anything else you want to talk about.

Mostly, I want to provide followers to this website with a slice of my life and a great big dollop of hope.

Let’s do this thing!

Author of Children's Literature