Saturday, July 24, 2010

Fiction Set in the Past

My latest novel for young readers, Growing Up Ivy, is labelled Historical Fiction by the publisher. But is it? Canadian author Joan Thomas, writing in Quill & Quire (July/August, 2010), suggests that a story like mine, (and her own two, by her own admission) is instead, "fiction set in the past."

According toThomas's article, Avrom Fleishman outlined, in the 1970s, certain criteria for historical fiction: that the story be set at least two generations prior to the writing of the book, and that it be about real people in history.

Ivy's story, set in the 1930s, would not make the cut by either count. Ivy Chalmers never lived, except in my imagination and, I hope, on the pages of the book. To tell her story, nonetheless, involved considerable research about life in Ontario during the Great Depression. But I think I like calling it "fiction set in the past." It's a term both of us can live with; Ivy and I.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Book Signing Success

We woke yesterday to thunder and the sound of heavy rain overflowing the eavestroughs. This is not something you want to hear on the day you're scheduled to do a book signing in the out of doors.

There's an old adage that goes: rain before 7; clear before 11. I tried to focus on that as I got ready to leave. And sure enough, by 9 a.m., a brief glimpse of sun, and there was not another drop of rain after that.

Yesterday was the first time I signed copies of Growing Up Ivy for the public. The signing went very well. So well, in fact, that the store ran out of copies, and we had to use some of my own stock that I'd brought with me (always a good idea, I have learned).

The only advertising we had was a no-cost announcement in the Community Events column on the back pages of the local newspaper the day before. The secret to our success was to coordinate the book signing with an event already taking place, one where we knew there'd be lots of people, people who had not left their wallets at home.

This weekend is the annual summer sidewalk sale in the city, so I was guaranteed a steady stream of people strolling by my table. I was also very lucky that the shop owner's wife sat with me under the sun umbrella, and she's a friendly, outgoing person. While I would say, "hi," to anyone looking in our direction, Kathy would say, "Good morning. How are you today?" and invite them to come and meet a local author. And a number of them did, and stayed to buy a book and have it signed.

I had a good time. It was vastly better than sitting alone at a table in a bookstore, watching customers try to avoid me, and hoping my family would soon show up.

I've decided that everyone should have someone like Kathy as part of their PR team.
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Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Joy of Poetry for Children

My father read poetry to us when we were little. Years later, I still hear his voice when I come across these old poems again.

Dad loved A Child's Garden of Verses, by Robert Louis Stevenson.

"How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do."

When our two youngest grandchildren were staying here a couple of weeks ago, they'd been looking for a bedtime story from among the children's books we keep in the spare room. To my delight, I found the oldest was reading to her younger brother from a book of poems by A.A. Milne.

"Whose book was this, Grandma?" Its pages now are quite thin and discoloured, and some long-ago child had scribbled on them.

How could I resist reading a poem or two, the same ones I'd read to their mother?

"They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace --
Christopher Robin went down with Alice.
Alice is marrying one of the guard.
'A soldier's life is terrible hard,'
Says Alice."

Or, my favourite:

"James James
Morrison Morrison
Weatherby George Dupree
Took great
Care of his Mother,
Though he was only three.
James James
Said to his Mother,
'Mother,' he said, said he;
'You must never go down to the end of the town, if
you don't go down with me.'"

How could you not share poetry with a child?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Feeding the Muse

It often feels as if I write in a vacuum, not getting any feedback, but not asking for any either. So every once in a while it's important for me to climb out from my desk and spend time in the company of other like-minded people.

One day last week I joined three other members of CANSCAIP (Canadian Society of Authors, Illustrators, and Performers) for a get-together over lunch. My companions were Martha Newbigging, a talented illustrator of numerous children's books; lian goodall, children's book reviewer, author, biographer and editor; and Colin Frizzell, author of two YA novels, a teacher of creative writing, poet and screenwriter.

I was only one one of the group who does not live in Prince Edward County. I feel a stong connection to it though, because I live practically next door, and because I worked for the Prince Edward County Library for many years.

Our lunch date was a fun occasion. Over veggie burgers at the Tall Poppy Cafe in the picturesque village of Wellington, we talked about our trials and triumphs, showed off our latest creations, shared our hopes for future projects, and persuaded our amiable waiter to take our picture.

I came home feeling energized and ready to get back to work. We'll do it again sometime soon. In the meantime, it's comforting to know the others are out there. I know I can count on their encouragement and support. And that works both ways.

Write on!

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