Sunday, June 27, 2010

Staying Healthy

You may already know that Ernest Hemingway used to stand to do his writing. That could explain the raised typewriter in the photograph.

Lately, I've heard it said that sitting for long periods of time has adverse effects on one's health. That could be bad news for us writers. Maybe Hemingway was ahead of his time. I know of several Canadian writers who have recently invested in treadmill desks, which allow them to write and walk at the same time.

Personally, I try to get up from my chair and move around, after about an hour of sitting at my desk. And recently I've even tried standing while I write.

At first, I had trouble finding a place that was the right height for me to work at. A podium would be perfect, if I had such a thing. But I've since discovered that the pass-through between our dining room and kitchen works just as well, and it has a wide enough surface that I can spread out my work. So, I'm alternating now between sitting and standing.

I know I'm not getting the exercise I would if I were walking, but a brisk walk is part of my daily regime anyway. And I prefer to do that outdoors.

Write on!
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's Here!

Here it is, folks, Growing Up Ivy. And here's what it's all about.

It is 1931. Ivy Chalmers is almost thirteen, living in Toronto with her mother Frannie, an amateur actress. When Frannie abandons her for the New York City stage, Ivy goes to live in the town of Larkin, with the grandmother she has never met.

Ivy truly believes that her mother will one day return.

But in the meantime, her long-lost father shows up. Instead of being the fairy-tale Prince she has always imagined, the man is an illiterate peddler. He arrives with an old grey horse and a wagon filled with shoes for sale. When he agrees to take Ivy with him, she starts to unravel some of her family's secrets. Not the least of which is her connection to Charlie Bayliss, the boy she finds herself increasingly attracted to.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

How to Get Noticed

Could the young woman in the photograph be reading a review of your lastest book?

We had a special guest speaker at our Writers' Breakfast this morning. Debbie de Groot is someone who makes her living as a professional publicist. Needless to say, for a writers' group, publicity is a very hot topic, and our guest was well-peppered with questions. We all wanted to know the secret to getting our books noticed by the media, in order to reach our intended readers.

There are over 300,000 books published in Canada every year. If that's not mind-boggling enough, just imagine all those authors trying to get attention, counting on the media to get the word out.

It would be too expensive for most of us to go out and hire a publicist. To give us an idea of what a publisher might budget for publicity, Debbie told us it's about one dollar per copy. For a print run of 3000 copies, the publicity budget would be around 3000 dollars.

So what can an author do to increase her chances of getting an interview, or an article written about her book? Debbie says we need first to decide who our reader is. Is it a 14-year-old girl, a middle-aged woman who loves to quilt? What is her demographic? Then, we have to decide how best to reach her. There are four major channels of communication: TV, radio, print, and online.

The most important thing for us as writers to decide is what it is that we want to tell the reader about this book of ours. And we need to be able to do it in 30 seconds. Any longer, Debbie says, and the reader has lost interest.

So, that's my homework for the weekend. What can I say, in 30 seconds, that will make someone so eager to read Growing Up Ivy, that they will go out and buy a copy?

Till next time.
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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Imagine This

Readers of this blog (April 30, 2010) will know that there's a rum bar and grill on Sanibel Island in Florida that is named for Doc Ford, the protagonist in the popular novels by Randy Wayne White. Sanibel also happens to be the setting of several of these novels. Fans of White's books can drop in to the bar and grill, have a meal or a drink and pretend that the man at the table in the window is Doc Ford, in the flesh.

It's a cute idea. It's been done before (think Green Gables in Cavendish, PEI, or Rick's Cafe in Casablanca), but still, it leads me to imagine what businesses one might find in Larkin, Ontario, the setting of my new novel, Growing Up Ivy.

Let me give you a bit of the background. The last time we met Ivy and Charlie and Albert, it was 1934 and they were still in their teens.

Albert Coon, Charlie Bayliss's best friend from the old days, took over Coon's Grocery from his parents after WWII. His biggest competitor, Stickles' General Store, went out of business when old Mr. Stickle died, and shortly afterwards, the building became the home of Alva Chalmers' Shoe Emporium, named for a man who had, for a time, peddled shoes. He was the father of Ivy Chalmers, who has for many years been the editor and publisher of the Larkin Herald.

For a while, someone in town tried to run caravan tours under Alva Chalmers's name, but with the increase in traffic on the area roads it soon became too dangerous for the horses, and his daughter insisted that the business cease operations.

Outside of town, they finally put in flood lights at the Larkin Ball Park, home of the famous Townies and Farmers. The biggest and most coveted trophy presented to the champion softball team each year is the Bayliss Repair and Radio Shop cup.

You may still find, about halfway down Arthur Road in Larkin, on the street next to the tracks, a narrow house of grey clapboard called Maud's Place. There's a hand printed sign on the gate that advertises free range eggs for sale and pure strawberry jam, made from berries handpicked at Elders' berry farm.

I do hope to meet you there soon.
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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

What Did You Read as a Teen?

What did you read when you were a young teen?

Because my new novel, Growing Up Ivy, is meant for readers of that age, the interviewer's question was a valid one. I had to stop and think about my answer for a while, though. After all, it's been a very long time! (As witness the black and white photo above!)

But I do remember that by the time I'd reached my early teens, I'd read my way through the Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Cherry Ames series.

My taste in reading in those years was very much influenced by the books I was studying in school. I loved Moonfleet, by British author J. Meade Falkner, and was so intrigued by Cue for Treason that I went looking for everything else that Geoffrey Trease had written.

I'd fallen in love with Anne of Green Gables back when our teacher read it aloud to our Grade Six class in Winnipeg. Afterwards, I read all the other "Anne" books in sequence. Grade Nine "Eng Lit." introduced me to Whiteoaks of Jalna by Mazo de la Roche. I still can't understand why that particular book, from the middle of a series of sixteen, was chosen. But it did lead me to explore the other novels by this Canadian author. It came as a shock to me then that my mother had also read the "Jalna" books. Oliver Twist, which I studied in Grade Ten, fuelled my lifelong appetite for the works of Charles Dickens.

In those days, most of the books in my personal library had been gifts from my parents on birthdays and for Christmas. My dad, who was from England, chose British authors for me: Kenneth Grahame and Arthur Ransome (whose books I loved), as well as Jane Austen (whose books I found rather rough going). And of course I read what every other curious teenager was reading in 1957, Grace Metalious's Peyton Place, even if I did have to hide it under the mattress!

Happy summer reading!
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