I got the news today, oh boy…

about where I’m going for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre Book Week next spring! I’m Ontario bound, and happy to be. Now hoping I can see the Kids in Cambridge…

I spent time last week, thinking through my presentations, and putting together final touches…and am so looking forward to it. May 5-18.

EIGHT years

Just before my friend Katy moved to the UK eight years ago, she came over one evening with boxes of plants she’d dug up from her garden. Some of these plants were from her grandfather’s wonderful garden in Victoria. One of these plants was a peony. Together, we put the plants into my garden, with the idea that when she and her family returned from the UK, two years later, she’d dig them back up and put them in her new garden…wherever that would be.

The peony never bloomed. When she did move back, I told her. Katy said they can take up to seven years after a move to bloom. (So moving is traumatic…) Katy is a third generation–or more–green thumb gardener. I am a second generation no-thumbs gardener (although my grandma had a knack for veg). Last summer was seven years. How many times I’ve looked at that peony, right in the outside edge of my half-circle right-by-the-front-of-the-house garden and wondered about just digging it up and being done with it.

Last week I realized that there was actually a small, round bud on the end of the tallest stem. No! And several days ago, it opened. EIGHT years. One past the max. Late bloomer. Like me. I’ve always been one of those.

You’re supposed to hit your writing stride, your strongest years as a writer, in your fifties, they say. Here I come!

Oh, and I’m an idiot. The no-thumbs thing?! I had no idea peonies smell like roses. A rose by some other name is a peony! Here it is: (wish you could smell)

How could I have ever thought to tear out the green scraggly stuff?

Best Practice

Questions around learning and teaching are always close to me. It’s true that if I had to choose between being a full-time writer and a full-time teacher, I would choose writing without a lot of thought. Without any thought; but not without regret. In my life, there’s a three-strand braid (I specify because I know there are others, and what’s more, given my history, I can do them) of learning, teaching, writing. (And learning is always a part of writing. But a two strand braid gives you nothing, unless you spend half a day twisting it into shape.)

My mind still muddles through all I’ve learned in the past three–at times, painful–years of learning about teaching and our education system. Phrases come to me…or more accurately: reactions to phrases throw me at times. Here’s one: Best Practice. You’ll hear teachers and teachers of teachers use this. It means “this is a principle of teaching that has come to be because after many years it has proven to be THE most effective way of doing _______.” And implicit: therefore, YOU should do it this way. It is, after all, Best Practice.

Now is it because I have a wandery mind, or because I’m a gemini, or ____who knows_____ that I resist the word “should?” Or I’m stubborn, stupid, and simply don’t get it?

Best Practice means that there is a preferred way. It was made very clear to me during the two practica I endured that while I was told I could develop my own path to teaching, REALLY there was Best Practice and I’d best practice it.

But I always return to this idea, from biology, that diversity is healthy for all life forms…and now even the lives of thoughts. So if I find myself gravitating to the notion that there is only one way, am I not choking or bludgeoning, or at least kicking aside, other ways? Even if I, ultimately, can choose only one way to actually DO something, might I consider others? Or create mental alloys from considering combinations? Won’t diversity of thought work best in a world where each student is at the very least just a bit different from another, and another?

Best Practice or Mental Alloys.

June newsletter

This is it: the final of twelve issues to complete the first year of putting this together. I do so enjoy doing this…though notice how it’s affected my blog output…hmm… I also edit the newsletter for SCBWI Western Canada (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators) as well as head the newsletter committee for the BCHLA (BC Home Learners Association), so newsletters seem to be a point where I’m useful.

This issue features another ex-student, Michelle Superle, and her new work of fiction, BLACK DOG DREAM DOG. It’s so exciting to see these new works…and even more so to read them. I’ve read BDDD to myself, and now to my son. A terrific read, indeed! And beautifully created by Tradewind Books. The cover colour, and the illustrations throughout are just so warming.

And again, the newsletter shares a writer’s space. If you are a writer, and would like to share your own working space in this way, please email me and let me know!

Dr. Michelle Superle, author of Black Dog Dream Dog, and her own big black dog, Horatio…

Go to www.writerswebworkshop.com, and check out the “newsletter” area for the latest!

A book review from a reader!

Thank you, Nancy Halder!   I spotted this in Canada’s wonderful What If? Magazine. Check it out at at www.whatifmagazine.com. It’s “Canada’s Creative Teen Magazine.”

If you would like a sample copy of What If?, U.S. and Canadian customers send $12 by cheque or money order for our latest issue. Overseas customers please send $17 in Canadian funds to:

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N1G 2V9

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Title: Molly’s Cue

Publisher: Coteau Books

Reviewed by: Nancy Halder

Molly Gumley has always wanted to be an actor.

Molly’s grandmother (simply called her Grand) had told her wonderful stories about what it’s like to be on stage performing, and the excitement of living it.  Now, with her Grand having passed away, her influence and the feeling of having Grand on stage with her is what gives Molly the courage to act on stage.

However, just before her audition for her high school play, her world crashes down as Uncle Early reveals the truth about her grandmother.  Molly doesn’t feel Grand’s presence anymore and she can’t bring herself to act.  She finds her passion and dream of being on stage turns into her worst fear.  Molly’s Cue is the journey of Molly finding herself again in the world she wants to live in.

The plot progresses quickly and keeps the readers wondering how Molly will figure out a different way to deal with her stage frights.  Also, readers can relate to her situation, because overcoming the obstacles to reach our dreams are something we all face in life.  The characters are very realistic and the author has added humour throughout the story which made the novel more enjoyable.

Although the subject matter of the story is very captivating and realistic, I wouldn’t recommend it to older teens.  However, I would definitely recommend Molly’s Cue to preteens and younger teens as a great book that shows them how to overcome obstacles in their later teen years.

Book Launch

Last night. At Ardea Books, West 4th Ave. For Michael Christie’s first published: The Beggar’s Garden. First line, first story: They sent the wrong paramedic, one I’d never met before.

Most fun: getting those emails from folks I’ve worked with…the “Hey, guess what!?”

Second most fun: the book launches. Just to see their faces. Nothing like having your first book in hand. And this one’s a winner… check out www.michaelchristie.net

The Beggar's Garden