Notes From the Road


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.

Packing Up

A friend of mine just left for a month in Italy. Barb packed everything she needed for four weeks in her carry on. She wasn’t austere about it either. She took scarves and jewelry to change up her outfits, an extra set of glasses and even a replacement glass eye in case the one she wears meets – I don’t know – some kind of shattering end. She took a second pair of shoes and a couple of books, but she left all her electronics and any extras at home. She is on vacation, in the true sense of the word.

I used to be pretty good at traveling light too. I remember once packing everything I needed for four months in Europe into a small duffel bag. Seeing my friend’s bag brought back memories of minimalist travel. There’s a real freedom that comes from traveling unencumbered by stuff.

IMG_20150422_165232I’m heading off at the end of next week to tour for TD Canadian Children’s Book Week and I am packing a load. In fact, organizers are billeting me for the first night and I feel like emailing an apology to my hosts before I arrive (I’d also like to ask if they have a hair dryer I can borrow for that first morning but I’m too embarrassed. Anybody viewing my large suitcase and substantial carry on would swear I’m bringing an entire salon with me).

In fact, much of what I’m bringing is material I take into schools. I’ll be talking to almost nine hundred students over five days and I take props. As well as reading from my books and talking about where my ideas come from, I pull out character bags and I show them what the editing process is like with a marked-up manuscript. I’m lucky enough to have rough sketches from some of the illustrators I’ve been paired up with too, and a set of color separations to show them how a book goes together, so those go into the mix as well.

It’s going to be a whirlwind week and a lot of fun. Since I’ll give away my books on the last day of the tour, I’m be traveling much lighter on the way home.  At least that’s the plan.

However, I am stopping for a few days in Manitoba to see my dad. And there’s a great deli on Portage Avenue called De Luca’s . . . a wonderful bakery called Gunn’s . . . and I could use another bag or two of wild rice for the cupboard.

So no guarantees.