My Happy Heart

Cover Democracy

Two things to make a children’s writer happy–seeing a new book for the first time and spending time with children who write. I got to do both of those things recently. A few days ago my editor handed me the advance reading copy of So Much for Democracy, my juvenile novel set in Ghana in 1979, which is coming out in the spring, and today, I spent the morning listening to grade 6 and 7 students at Central Middle School read their stories. These kids have been working on their stories all term, and now have a whole series of great characters, settings and plots they’re working with. I was so impressed and inspired to hear their words and see their hard work and dedication. Way to go Central kids!

Found art

On a visit to a local beach we stumbled across this beautiful stone picture. It really made me think about where we find art and how we can use the things around us to build it. I’m going to try and make some art out of the things I find in my garden.


Summer Fun

West coast merman washed up on the beach at Sombrio.
West coast merman washed up on the beach at Sombrio.

My son and I spent a lovely day at Sombrio beach on Monday. We came across this merman. He seemed to be sleeping, but his breath was strong, and his heart pulsed on his chest. I’d like to write a story about him some day. Thanks Rowan, for pointing him out to me.

Norwegian Books!

The Norwegian version of Out of Season has arrived. Strange and exciting to see it with a different cover and title. In Norwegian it’s called Maia in Trouble (I think that’s how you translate it!).
Maia in trouble smallest version

My friends Michelle Mulder, and Alex Van Tol, both authors of amazing books for kids, have tagged me in The Next Big Thing Blog Tour. You can check out their blog posts and find out what they’re working on, and here’s some info about what I have been working on.

What is the working title of your book?
Hmmm… the working title is So Much For Democracy, but I don’t like that. Too many words. I’m searching for something punchier.

What genre does the book fall under?

Juvenile Fiction, though I hope it will appeal to older audiences too, since it’s a story about family and culture and life.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I’ve wanted to write this book for many years, but it’s taken me this long to figure out how. When I was 11, my family moved to Ghana and lived there for a couple of years, so I spent my early teens in Accra. In many ways my life was just like it was for my friends back home. We went to school, quarreled with our siblings, did homework, and hung out. But there were also many things that were different. Some of the differences were simple things, like having pythons for class pets, but other things were bigger, more important, like learning how to deal with the poverty we saw around us and how to cope with the strong military presence in the country. There were illnesses we’d never heard of, and sometimes limited access to clean drinking water and electricity, and in 1979, there was a coup. These are the things I wanted to explore in my story.

How long did it take to write the first draft of the story.

The first draft took only a few weeks, but it was terrible. Terrible. The next draft took longer and was much better. Yes, I learned my lesson.

What else about your book might pique your reader’s interest?

Other than a teacher who carries a python in her pocket? Well, the story’s really about a Canadian girl’s struggle to find her way living in a new land as her mother takes away more and more of her freedoms and the world around her becomes more and more dangerous.

That’s it from me. Now I’m tagging writer Laurie Elmquist. Check out what’s she’s working on.

Beginnings and Endings

I’ve been thinking about beginnings and endings, how hard they work. I mean, think of all the things beginnings do. A good beginning hints at truths to come, tells us about the characters we’re about to meet, sets the mood of the story, and gives information, at least a little bit. Phew, how tiring. And then there’s endings. What makes a good one? An element of surprise? A sigh of relief? A good cry? Jack Hodgins says good endings are found not created. Maybe that’s true. And maybe that’s true of beginnings too. So that’s what I’m aiming for. You?

Out of Season

Out of Season arrived in the mail today. Do writers ever get used to that? Having a postie knock on the door and hand them a pile of new books? I hope not, because I love the thrill. This short, high-interest novel for middle school readers is all about sea otters, poachers and brave kids. It’s a wild ride. Hope you enjoy kayaking.

Ode to Village Life

I love living in a village. Have I said that before? It’s an addiction, actually. We’ve tried to move away, but it never happens, Cook Street Village has its hooks into us. Take today, for example. When I came home this evening, my son was waiting for me. He wanted to know if we could go into the village so he could get some food that he could cook for dinner. What mother in her right mind would say no to that? So we walked to the butcher and bought some meat, then down to the specialty food store for tomato sauce, then across the street to the baker for some bread. Sure, we could have gone to the grocery store and got it all there, but at the grocery store no one would have greeted us by name or given us samples to try, or asked how we liked the stuff we bought the other day.

My son and I agreed we’d watch a DVD tonight, so we crossed back across the street and ran into the video store. That took a long time, because we chatted with friends also looking for DVDs, then went to the till for a recommendation, then compared a couple of titles to see which we’d prefer.

It was later than we planned by the time we got home, but so what? It’s Friday night, we’ve got a good meal planned and a movie to watch. It’s all so commonplace and simple, I know, but it brings me joy.

Liking my own writing

How great it is to enjoy your own writing. Reading a passage and saying to yourself, hey that captures the idea well, I can feel the movement of the water under the surf board, the sting of salt water in their eyes. I can’t say this happens too often to me, so I’m delighted that it’s happening now.
I’m preparing a newly completed manuscript to send to an editor. I say completed, but you writers out there know that completed is a relative term when it comes to writing, but I’ve promised myself this is the last time I’m reading this manuscript. Like many writers I know, I could tinker forever. It’s not perfect, but it’s never going to be, and hey, I’m enjoying it, so it must be okay. Mustn’t it?