Sunday, October 25, 2009


Life is good. My confidence has been renewed.

I knew--and I told the people closest to me that this would happen--somewhere, someday, someone would take a chance with this story.

The writing life is a series of ups and downs, and right now mine is on a high. Ivy lives! It's all happening very quickly. Within three days of his request for the complete manuscript, the editorial director telephoned to say he'd like to do my book. In the spring of 2010!

And as soon as the contract discussion was out of the way, he needed material about my book for the publisher's spring catalogue, which was almost ready to go to the printer. Could I come up with a 150-word blurb for the back cover, a 50-word biography and some ideas about what I envisioned for the cover of the book? The following morning would be perfect. Of course, I could do it!

I loved writing this novel like no other. In the early days it seemed to write itself. Ivy Chalmers, my main character, has lived in my head since 2007 when I first began to scribble my way towards a new story. I just let Ivy (and Charlie) go where they wanted, until I finally had to rein them in. When I began to see the direction the story was taking, I ditched some scenes, rearranged and rewrote others, tightened the story and tried to reinforce the theme. Then it was time to test the waters.

The story is set in Toronto and rural Ontario, and it takes place during the Great Depression. Ivy lives with her mother, Frannie, who dreams of becoming a famous actress. The two read fairy tales and engage in games of "make believe" to get them through the hard times. When Ivy is 12, Frannie decides to take off for New York City to make a name for herself on the stage. She sends Ivy to live with her grandmother, someone she has never even met. In spite of the grandmother's conviction the Frannie has abandoned her, Ivy is confident that her mother will return. Frannie's games of "let's pretend" have not prepared Ivy for life with her no-nonsense grandmother.

The book is called Growing Up Ivy. I hope you will watch for it. It is to be available in the spring of 2010.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Wilma's Wish

Exactly one year ago, our writers' group lost one of our members. It hasn't been the same since. Wilma was the one who kept us on track, encouraged us to "soldier on" whenever one of us felt the sting of rejection.

The successful author of seven children's novels, as well as numerous short stories and a radio play, Wilma had had her share of rejections, but she never let anyone be discouraged for long. It was "pass the Kleenex" and get right on with the writing.

"History with a mystery" was how Wilma E. Alexander described her fiction. As was our custom at meetings, Wilma read novel number eight, Finding Silver, to us, chapter by chapter over the months, looking for suggestions and hearing how it sounded read aloud. We listened and made our comments. We all loved it.

Wilma had a wonderful sense of story. She and I used to toss around, half-jokingly, the idea of collaborating on something one day. My books are character-driven; I spend a great deal of time developing characters and letting them decide where we're going. On the other hand, Wilma had this wonderful ability to weave the most intriguing plots.

She had completed this eighth novel for young readers and was shopping it around to various publishers when she became ill. Before we knew it, she was gone. Her final wish, according to her husband, Jim, was that he publish Finding Silver himself.

This week, Wilma's wish came true, and Jim accepted delivery of Wilma's last novel from the printer. He had taken great care in selecting a publisher and in arranging for editing and proof- reading of the manuscript. Only another writer can appreciate what a labour of love this was.

The finished book looks most professional. Wilma would be proud. Besides the fascinating story inside, the book is attractively designed with an eye-catching cover. It is well-bound and has a reader-friendly typeface that will appeal to children.

Thanks to Jim Alexander's generosity, every school and library in a wide area will receive copies of Finding Silver at no charge. Any proceeds from further sales of the book will go directly to the Canadian Cancer Society, in Wilma's memory.

Soldier on, fellow writers.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Essential Notebook

I cannot be without my notebook. It's as important to me as my wallet and the pen that I carry in my purse. Over the years I have filled many of these small, black books with my jottings. Take this morning, for instance.

I had to take my car in to the garage for its scheduled oil change, and while I waited, I perused my current notebook. In between story ideas, I found bits and pieces that I'd written while sitting in other waiting rooms. There were also notes I'd scribbled while travelling on the train or while "killing time" in parking lots.

I always strive to be on time for things and consequently, I sometimes arrive too early for a presentation. When that happens, I'll find the farthest corner of the parking lot and open my notebook. I'll write down my expectations for the day, the things I see around me, where I am with the story I'm working on at home, anything, until a more reasonable arrival time has come.

Maybe this habit of mine of being too early is how my brain schedules some writing time into an otherwise too-busy-to-write day.

Write on.