Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Guest Author: Jill Murray

I have a special guest on my blog today, the talented author and presenter, Jill Murray. Welcome Jill! You are the first guest I've had on my blog, and I'm delighted that you agreed to join me here and be interviewed.

Jill is the author of two YA novels: the critically acclaimed Break On Through (, and the brand new Rhythm & Blues (, both published by Doubleday Canada. In 2010, Jill created Y-Eh net, a blog tour for Canadian kid lit authors. That's how the two of us met, in fact. You can find out lots more about Jill at

Now, let's get on with our interview!

Peggy: In my latest YA novel, Growing Up Ivy, (Dundurn, June 2010), young Ivy Chalmers loves to write. Abandoned by her mother, struggling to connect with her father, and thwarted by her uncompromising grandmother, Ivy often turns to her writing as therapy. Is writing every therapeutic for you?

Jill: I'm not a big writing-as-therapy writer. In fact, I've even written things into books and not noticed how they related to my own life until years later when someone pointed them out to me. I approach writing more like a big puzzle-invention-experiment-exercise. It feels like it's good for my brain in the same way solving word problems can be, and when it's going well, it feels nice to be SO clever. But I don't journal and I'm not a writer who needs to vent or "let it all out" on paper. Hey, it takes all kinds to fill a library, right?

Peggy: Very true!

Peggy: Before Ivy's actress mother leaves, hoping to find success on the stage in New York, the two live rich imaginary lives, peopled by the characters from classic fairy tales and literature. Discovering a library near her grandmother's home is a dream come true for Ivy. How big a part did the availability of books and the pleasure of reading play in your growing up years?

Jill: Books were huuuge in my childhood. My mother taught my brother and me to read before we could even hold utensils, and I can't remember there ever being a week we didn't go to the library together and come home with two big stacks of books. Just the smell of a library can take me back to my early childhood in a way few things can.

Peggy: What do you like to read today?

Jill: Today I have to have something to read at all times. If there are no books I'll even read takeout menus and the backs of cleaning products if I'm stranded waiting for something. I read a lot of YA and non-fiction, with some grown-up literary fiction mixed in.

Peggy: As they move from one dismal rooming house to the next, engaging in "make believe," Ivy's mother lets the girl choose an imaginary setting for their latest home. Will it be Shangri-La? The land of Oz? Crusoe's desert island? Where in the world of fiction would you go, if you could?

Jill: I want to shrink down to palm size and run with The Borrowers, behind the wainscoting.

Peggy: When she comes to live with her grandmother, Maud's front porch becomes Ivy's favourite place for writing. Mine is my kitchen table. Where in particular do you do most of your writing?

Jill: I do most of my writing in cafes. I love cafes. As a teenager I used to imagine myself working in cafes all day, and now I often do. Some dreams are more easily achieved than others.

Peggy: Very true, Jill! Now, one final question before I let you go. Ivy's first short story is rejected by Maclean's magazine, which in the 1930s used to publish several fiction pieces in each issue. What advice would you give the young writer to keep her from giving up?

Jill: I think the aspiring teenaged writer should take advantage of teenhood to read as much as possible and try writing every outlandish creative thing that crosses her mind. I'd even suggest experimenting with producing web sites and zines and shows.

For me, the best part of being a teenager was the limitless possibility of a life not-yet-written. Everyone should take full advantage of that feeling before adult expectations start to creep in and cramp your style. Publishing can definitely fall into that second category, And all the creative skills I developed as a creatively-out-of-control teen serve me really well today.

Peggy: Excellent advice for today's young writers, Jill. Thank you for being my guest here today and answering my questions. Continued good luck with your fabulous writing!

Jill: Thanks so much for hosting me on your blog!
Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 17, 2010

Par for the Course

It seems to be a fact of life that when we have a lull in activities we immediately rush in to fill it. And then suddenly, deadlines loom and panic sets in. At least that's how it is for me.

A month or two ago the work on Growing Up Ivy was coming to an end, the latest novel was having its necessary "jell" time in the drawer, and summer and outdoor chores seemed a long way off. So what do I do? I join a weekly study group at my church and enroll in an online college course on understanding literature.

But now, as publicity for Growing Up Ivy ramps up, I have a list of interview questions from several sources requiring intelligent answers, and I have reading to do and assignments to submit, and the novel-in-progress is calling to me. Forget that the windows haven't been cleaned since last fall, and there are seedlings waiting to set out into the garden. I start to feel the familiar anxiety.

I have to remind myself that t'was ever thus. It'll all sort itself out in the end.
In the meantime, write on!
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, May 6, 2010

More Photos from M.K. Rawlings's Home

Here I am on the front porch steps of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's home.

This gives you an idea of the tropical growth surrounding the home.

A tranquil scene of Cross Creek.
Posted by Picasa

On the Trail of the Novelist. Part II

My visit to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's home at Cross Creek, in Florida, was a highlight of our recent holiday. After a long drive, in and out of sudden drenching rain showers, we came quite unexpectedly upon the grounds, hidden away on a heavily forested road.

The property is part of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and although well-kept, the surroundings are very natural. Three people were sitting quietly fishing in the creek beyond a plank dock. At the gate, a tour bus was loading passengers, ready to leave.

Although we arrived on a day when the house itself was closed to the public, the very amiable guide welcomed us onto the grounds and told us the things we would be able to see. He even encouraged us to peek though the windows of Rawlings's house.

It seemed as if every time we had a question, he appeared, crossing our path to feed rose petals to the baby ducklings or to rake out the chicken coop. The heart of Rawlings's farm was her citrus grove, and there are still a few orange trees around. Besides her large Cracker-style house, there is also a barn, a kitchen garden, a tenant house, and a yellow, 1940 Oldsmobile parked in the breezeway.

I was fascinated to see Rawlings's typewriter on the table in her screened-in front porch. This was where she wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Yearling. The heavy vegetation -- lush trees draped with Spanish moss, orange trees and palms -- was varied and I took several pictures before I left. There was an atmosphere of tranquility about the place. I came away feeling very calm and more connected to the author than ever.
Posted by Picasa