TD Canadian Children’s Book Week started with a bit of a jolt when I arrived at my first presentation in beautiful Elora, Ontario to find my audience waiting! A communication mix up between two librarians resulted in two grade three classes arriving half an hour early for my talk. Luckily, they were happy to wait while I set up and it meant I had more time to get to my second presentation in Guelph later that day.
I’m in Waterloo today where I’m talking to grades five and six students at two local libraries. This morning’s talk is about writing Hot New Thing. This afternoon, I’ll focus on Lesia’s Dream.
I’m off to present in New Hamburg and then Stratford tomorrow before driving to Woodstock where I’ll spend the night. Friday, I’ll speak to students in that community before driving back to Waterloo where I’ll drop the rental car and catch a bus to Toronto.
Highlights from the road so far: when talking about how story ideas often come from real life events, one grade three student told us how his father had been shot in the knee with a rifle. A neighbor did it, the student said. By accident, of course. But there was tons of blood and everybody was scared, except the family dog didn’t mind because he actually finds the smell of blood appealing. It was just the opportunity I needed to talk about how conflict – in this case, a shooting – can impact everybody (even dogs) differently. After the session ended, the teacher quietly informed me that the ‘real life’ rifle shooting incident the student spoke about was all fiction. She knows the family. It never happened. Given the range of details in the student’s ‘real life’ event, I suspect I was listening to a future writer.
It’s a real honor to be picked to tour. I must thank the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for coordinating the week, as well as all the teachers and librarians who have greeted me so warmly in every community. I’ve really enjoyed the chance to get out from behind my desk and talk about books and writing to so many excited students.
There was a visual posted on Facebook last week. You know the kind – some of them are funny, others are motivational, a few are designed to drag you out of your writing cave to comment. This was one of the latter. It was a quote by Kurt Vonnegut and it read:
“Swoopers write a story quickly, higgledy-piggledy, crinkum-crankum, any which way. Then they go over it again painstakingly, fixing everything that is just plain awful or doesn’t work. Bashers go one sentence at a time, getting it exactly right before they go on to the next. When they’re done, they’re done.”
People commented, declaring themselves in one camp or another, either a swooper or a basher. I came to the party a day or so late, and without much time to spare, but I quickly popped in to declare myself a swoopsher. Tongue in cheek? Not really.
Honestly, I’m a hybrid. I pretty much write both ways.
I wrote Exit Point and Hot New Thing in one quick spurt, not really stopping until I had that first draft done. Only then did I go back to revise. I swooped out the first three or four chapters of The Art of getting Stared At too and I was on a real roll, only to slow down and bash out a good part of the middle before I did a little swoop-bashing at the end.
For me, it varies book by book. Deadline by deadline. And by what’s going on in my life at the time. My writing process is exceptionally fluid. That’s not a good thing or bad thing. It’s simply my thing. It is the way it is. More important than my actual process, is my acceptance of it. Though it would be nice to fall firmly in one camp or another, if I get down on myself because I don’t, or if I try to force myself into taking an approach that doesn’t feel right, I am doomed.
My name is Laura. I’m a swoopsher. And I’m okay with that.
Tomorrow, I’m heading across the pond to Vancouver where I’ll be joining a number of other authors at a BCTLA gala. Given the prolonged BC teachers’ strike, there was some doubt as to whether the BC Teachers and Librarians would hold their annual conference this year, but the event is going ahead and Thursday’s dinner is being held at Granville Island. It’s a lovely opportunity for me to put on my LBD, slip into some heels, and come out of my cave for a bit of socializing. And if the opportunity presents itself, naturally I’ll be talking up The Art of Getting Stared At as well as Hot New Thing.
Should I feel inclined, there are a number of other ‘bookish’ events happening in Vancouver at the same time. There’s the Vancouver Writers’ Festival https://www.writersfest.bc.ca/ also being held at Granville Island October 21- October 26. Organizers have put together a great line up with something for everyone including a much anticipated appearance by Ann-Marie MacDonald which has people buzzing.
Out in Surrey, the acclaimed Surrey International Writers’ Conference will be underway y. http://www.siwc.ca/ Given the high calibre of writers, editors and agents who present, I’ve wanted to attend this event for years. Maybe this time I’ll actually make it!
But – there’s also a new exhibit about China’s Forbidden City opening at the Vancouver Art Gallery. http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/exhibit_forbiddencity.html It’s calling out to me.
I suspect the next few days will be busy ones!
I’m busy writing a speech for tomorrow’s book launch sponsored by Orca Book Publishers. If you’re in the Victoria area, join us at Munro’s Books at 7:30 on Wednesday, May 21st as we formally introduce our spring book titles. I’ll be there talking about Hot New Thing. Joining me will be John Wilson, Kristin Butcher, Sara Cassidy, Kari Jones, Michelle Mulder and Sean Rodman.
Drop by, enjoy a snack, and get a book signed. We’d love to see you!