Exciting news! My short story, Robin Hood of the Prairies, will be published in 2020 as part of an anthology, in book form and online, by Frontenac House. The anthology is the brainchild of Poet Laureate of Calgary, Sheri-D Wilson. More information on launch dates and where the anthology can be purchased, in the near future.
I often get asked, why write children’s books instead of adult fiction?
It’s an easy answer – I grew up over the last (ahem) 30+ years, and found out it’s great to be independent, make my own decisions, chart my own path and all that. Yes, but it’s also more serious and demanding and – well, less fun. Sure, adults have fun and most teens seem to be in a big hurry to grow up. But now I’m going in the other direction – down. Back to my childhood I guess.
Why? Another easy answer – I want to laugh more, real belly-laughter, tears in your eyes, gasping for breath laughs. I want that lightness in my chest that feels like I could run forever or fly into the wild blue yonder or turn somersaults in the fresh green grass or pretty much do whatever I want to do! I want to tell stories that make someone spew milk out their nose or giggle themselves silly.
And kids know how to do this best! So my current WIP is a humorous Picture Book. And selfishly, I think it’s more for me than anyone else. Well – yes, I want readers too. So more here in this blog when I have news to share.
First, an apology for letting nearly two years go by without posting. Life took a terrible toll on me two years ago as my husband of nearly 40 years died in an airplane crash. Less than two weeks prior to that, my mother had passed away – gently, while holding my sister’s hand. She was nearly 101 years old, so she had lived an amazing, long life. I miss her still, but believe she’s now at eternal rest and, hopefully, reunited with my dad.
Losing a dear loved one far too soon is indescribably difficult, so I won’t say anything more here, other than to recognize I needed the past two plus years to regroup, to grieve, and to contemplate the purpose and meaning of life. One lesson I’ve learned is that equilibrium/peace of mind is a temporary state of being, and that we must embrace all the deviations and obstacles that delay our achieving it. As others before me have said, with the bitter comes the sweet, with the night comes the dawn, with the dark comes the light.
With the support and love of family and friends, I’ve been able to re-engage with writing. I’m starting to query publishers for my next YA novel, which (ironically) deals with grief. I hope my next blog post will be an announcement that I’ve found the right home for “AFTER MATT”. As a teaser, here’s my pitch from #PitMad that attracted a publisher’s attention recently:
“Teenage girl grieving her brother’s shooting death must choose between caregiving her PTSD mother or joining the sport she believes will save them all, biathlon. FALL FOR ANYTHING x WINTER OLYMPICS”.
I’ve presented The Art of Rebellion at three book clubs so far, and it’s been a tremendous experience. Always thinking of myself as hating public speaking, it turns out I love to talk about books – er, my book in particular. A new facet of my self-image has emerged.
This fall, I present at three more book clubs and can’t wait to do so. The responses and questions I get are always so interesting and make me think about how once a book goes out into the world, it’s the reader’s book, not mine.
So thank you, all you book clubbers! You are awesome and really lift me up!!
Prairie dogs are an exceptionally social and intelligent animal, yet so few know about them. I discovered much about their complex social behaviours, extensive language of vocalizations and much, much more as I researched them for my middle-grade book, DIRT WARRIORS. Curious about these charming prairie creatures? I hope to share more about them, and my book, in upcoming blog posts.
Think “Watership Down” meets the Prairies…
This past November, my husband and I travelled to Paris to present a copy of The Art of Rebellion to the Director of the library archives of the Louvre Museum. At the same time, we took some photos of the locations in the book, and shot some videos as well, to share with readers our love of the beautiful city of Paris.
Naturally, one of our first stops was at the Louvre, to revisit the Wedding Feast at Cana, by Veronese, The Bather by Ingres, and Madame Pompadour by de la Tour. I stood by the Wedding Feast to give you an idea of its immense scale. I could imagine Gabbi’s reaction to seeing these masterpieces for the first time.
We stopped and watched several artists, copyists, as they worked at their easels in the museum, and goofed around when I spotted Michelangelo’s The Dying Slave.
Another day was spent at L’Orangerie to visit Monet’s Water Lilies installation, and a half day at the Musee d’Orsay, where much of the Impressionists work is displayed, including this one by Auguste Renoir. It is titled The Swing, and was painted in the gardens of what is now the Musee de Montmartre.
We spent a full day wandering in Montmartre, visiting the Place du Tertre, climbing the 300 steps to the Sacre Coeur basilica, strolling down rue Gabrielle and rue Cortot, visiting the Moulin de la Galette and Eglise Saint-Pierre, just as Gabbi and Babette would have done. Although the landscape and views have changed considerably, locals have tried to maintain nineteenth century Montmartre much as it was.
Naturally, we ate out and enjoyed the joie de vivre of Paris, strolling the night Christmas markets, sipping French wines, shopping and sampling food from around the world.
I hope you enjoyed this visual hop through Paris on the heels of my heroine, Gabrielle de Villiers.
The French Book Worm recently reviewed The Art of Rebellion, in The Good Life France, an English language magazine about all things French. The review said the novel is a “beautiful story set in France in 1900…through her storytelling she has given the lucky reader not only a wonderful tale but a glimpse into what life was like in the early 1900s”.
When a friend emailed me to say my book had hit Number 6 on the Bestselling Fiction list of our local newspaper, the Calgary Herald, I was a bit stunned. I ran out to buy a copy of the paper, and had to open it to the Books section before I believed her. Sure enough, there was my name in the newspaper in proximity to literary heavyweights like J.K. Rowling and Kristin Hannah (The Nightingale is on my bedside table).
After I got over the initial excitement of being on the list, I realized why it meant so much to me. The reason I write is mostly to express my creativity – telling stories by playing around with words, plot and characters. It’s fun. Or I probably wouldn’t do it. But when I take time to really dig deeper into why I pursued publication, I realized it wasn’t for fame (too fleeting and superficial) or for money (impossible to make money at this gig!). It was so that my stories would reach a greater audience than just family and friends.
Discovering my book on the bestselling list means I’ve reached a broader audience. That’s where the lasting satisfaction lies – knowing there are readers out there willing to be taken on Gabbi’s adventures – for better and for worse. Mostly for worse, because that’s what makes stories, after all.
So thank you to all those people who purchased The Art of Rebellion, and are reading it. Welcome to my world. (Ed.note – The Art of Rebellion has appeared on the Calgary Herald bestseller list four times in 2016, most recently at #5.).
The wise saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child…” but when it comes to launching a book, I believe this also applies. It certainly did for mine.
I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of those who worked behind the scenes to prepare the food, the decorations, the house and yard, and those who worked diligently and joyfully during the launch party evening.
I’m also grateful to family and friends who came to the launch, listened to my readings and even bought some books. And, especially, a huge thank you to the team of wonderful authors/editors/artists/marketers at Rebelight Publishing, who took a chance on my story, envisioning it to be a published novel! Thanks to Deborah Froese, Suzanne Costigan, Melanie Matheson and Melinda Friesen.
Now for the “villagers” behind The Art of Rebellion – in order of mug shots below…Maureen Boudreault, Dave Loader; Lucas Johnson; Lanice Jones; Rona Fluney; Joyce Sunada; Sandy Kemmet; Maryse & Peter Doner; Barb Lawrence; Diane Standing; Guy Sunada; Carole Atkinson; Inge Leahy; Vicki Keller; Stella Ehrler (who donated the book launch cake, created by her daughter Alix); Mark Moss and my amazing husband,Reyn Johnson; Eric Norrie; Connie Takken; Ellen Sidorsky; Jane Senda (not present but present in spirit through her gift of The Art of Rebellion aprons and tote bags).