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June 2008

Summer break

My dear blogging buddies,

I went for a walk with Karen and as always we talked about our kids and summer vacation and dogs and writing and blogging and what-not.  And somewhere around three quarters of the way through our walk, Karen asked me if I was going to take the summer off from blogging.  A summer vacation. 

I was gob-smacked.  What an idea.  I hadn’t even considered that.  Was it possible?  Could I?  I did take that week off when I was away with Jenny.  But a whole summer?  And in the second breath…why not?  Friday, Will writes his last exam, and then school is out, he is off.  My daughter is on summer break from her Masters Program.  And think of all the writing I’d get done on my manuscript without the excuse of blogging to gobble up my writing time. 

I’ve thought about it and thought about it and I’ve decided, yes!  I am going to take the summer off and will be back in September when school starts.  September 3rd. 

I hope all of you have a wonderful Summer, full of fresh squeezed lemonade and BBQ’s and fishing in the lake and wading in the ocean.  And for me I am hoping I get a huge hunk of my new manuscript completed and that I get to spend good time with my kids and Don and eat lots of yummy foods and not gain any weight!

Lots of love, Meg xo




oatmeal cookie update

Today has been a lovely day.  My writing went relatively smoothly.  Which is always cause to celebrate.  Then I met up with Gayle Friesen.  We went for a gargantuan walk, even though it was raining, sometimes a little bit harder than others, but we didn’t care.  We just walked and talked and walked and walked.  And it was really fun. 

And remember the blog I wrote about how I’d met her at the BC Book Prizes Soiree and said I liked her.  Well, I never would have guessed that a short two months later we would have found each other’s contact info sort of accidentally through a mutual friend and that we would have actually gotten together.  And yes, I know it might seem like I am name dropping, by saying her whole name because she is an award winning author and all, but really that’s not the reason I do it. 

The reason I write both the first and last name whenever one of my stories or references has to do with an author friend, is because quite a lot of people come to visit my site, and I figure, who knows.  Maybe the next time one of my blog readers are in a bookstore, they might pick up one of my friend’s titles, and that is not a bad thing.  Because most of the children and young adult writers out there are earning a pittance compared to any other job.  If you count the hours we spend at our computers, the months and years it takes to write a book.  And then if you look at what kind of advances most Canadian childrens authors get paid, you’d laugh.  Because seriously, broken down to an hourly salary, an average author would earn far less than the average Joe flipping hamburgers at a fast food joint.

So, that is why, whenever an author friend is a happy part of my day, I mention their full name.  Not because I am bragging and saying “Oh, look at my fancy literary friends,” but because that is what I feel is important for us as authors to try to do. 

Speaking of which… for those of you who are old-time-officialmegtilly.com readers, remember when I did that guest blogging thing on The Debutantes Ball, with author deb. Danielle Younge-Ullman.  Well this week end she attended her first Book Expo Canada.  And her publisher, Penguin, printed out 100 advanced reading copies of her first novel, Falling Under, and they ran out!  People grabbed those babies up like hotcakes.  Whoohooo, go Danielle!

Wow.  I just read back over what I’ve written and I went way off topic.

I wanted to tell you about the new futzing I did with the Oatmeal cookie recipe. 

-I cut the white sugar down from 3/4 a cup to 1/2.  The cookies were starting to taste a little too sweet for me.
- And then I minced up 3/4 a cup of pecans.  I chopped it up quite small.  You could also just zap them in a blender for around 10 seconds and it would do the trick, I just like using the old-fashioned chopping board and large knife because it’s the way I do things and besides, there is less clean-up. 
-then I swapped out the raisins for 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Everything else I did the same.

It tastes really good.  Like a not-so-sweet chocolate chip cookie with a really satisfying texture and taste.  You’re kids won’t like them as much as Toll House chocolate chip cookies though, because they aren’t as sweet.  This is more of a modification for my adult cookie eaters.

I’m off to eat another cookie.  Bye!




Summer fruit

This is my favorite time of the year for food, with all the local summer fruits appearing in the stores.  It gives me such a feeling of abundance.  Even as a kid, because we lived in the country and there were huckleberries and blackberries and we knew where the wild strawberries patches were, and boy were they good.  Tiny little morsels of happiness.  It was like all the flavor of a huge enormous strawberry was packed into a little tiny one around the size of the littlest fingernail on my ten year old hands.  All the flavor and more.  There was a delicacy and perfume and subtlety that is missing from the big ones.  Even the organic large ones don’t hold a candle to those tiny fragile miracles of goodness dancing in our mouths.  And then the cherries would get ripe.  The dark red ones that would stain our faces and fingers and then the Queen Ann’s that didn’t look nearly as sweet but oh my!

Oops.  Don just walked into my writing room looking tired and said he was going to go to bed.  And as much fun as I am having wandering around in my summer fruit memories, I know I’ll have an even better time snuggling and chatting with Don.

Sweet dreams everyone.




Another early morning

Hello,

I woke up at 3:28 a.m.  Couldn’t sleep.  Finally around 4:30, I got up.  The birds trilling.  They are so enthusiastic in the morning.  Reminds me of when my children were young.  Five, five-thirty in the morning, the singing would start.  Ready for cuddles, food, interaction.  Me, bleary eyed from short sleep.  Tired, but how could my heart help but be filled with love, gazing into their little sunflower faces. 

Funny though.  Thinking back on those times.  When I was longing for the luxury of a full night’s sleep.  And now, I could have that sleep, if only my body would cooperate. 

Why does the whole children growing up and leaving home have to coincide with menopause?  I always thought it was odd planning on who-ever-was-in-charge’s part.  To have us go through the emotional, hormonal and physical “change of life” at the same time our teenagers are dealing with crazed hormonal changes of there own.  If who-ever-it-is-who-is-in-charge was forward thinking, shouldn’t they have staggered these two events?  So that when our children are casting their you-are-dog-poop-under-my-shoe looks at us, we weren’t suffering with hot flashes, sleepless nights and wild hormonal and emotional swings ourselves.  Wouldn’t it have been kinder to everyone involved if the phase of live we were experiencing at the time when our teenagers hit full bloom, was a Yoda type one?  Plenty of sleep, a peaceful zen-like approach to all challenges, a body that looks better than it ever did. 

Wouldn’t that make more sense?

(Not that Will is casting me those kinds of looks at the moment.  But I am no fool.  I’ve raised two other children who have grown and left home.  I know what is coming.  It’s not a matter of if but when.)




A busy day

Don and I decided it was high time we picked up the mail.  OH MY GOD!  There was a ton!  Not only that, one was an express package from Orca Books with the copy edits that I was supposed to read over and make (minor) changes if desired.  All to be done by June 13th.  Gack!  Today is June 13th and I just opened the thing.  We went straight home, admiring the Advance Reading Copies of First Time on the way. 

I really like the section Andrew used on the back cover.  Very nice.  Smart. 

We got home, I worked like a madman.  Luckily it’s a hi/low book so there were only 108 pages to plow through and the manuscript was pretty clean. 

Then I called Andrew and we went over my requested changes, and he (delightful man) agreed to all of them. 

So, I did manage to get it done by deadline time, but it was a close thing.

On another good front, my editor/publisher, Kathy Lowinger, (who did Porcupine) is going to publish my next novel.  Yay!  And the even better news is…she likes it pretty much the way it is.  Only a few little tweaks and it is off to the printers.  She didn’t like the title, however.  (Try and Stop Me) And wants me to try to come up with another. 

Titles are hard. 

Tonight, I go to the CWILL party, to celebrate another year, and to thank K.C. Dyer and James McCann for serving as our President and Vice President.  What an awful lot of work they did.  I really don’t know how they managed.  Not to mention that both of them have books coming out by the bucket load. 

That’s about it for now.  I’m not even going to glance sideways at the enormous pile of the other stuff (i.e. mail) that we picked up as well.  That will have to wait until tomorrow.  After I have settled down and pounded out at least a paragraph or two of my new manuscript that may-or-may-not-become-a-book.

Bye for now.




This is a quickie

Yesterday, we decided to do an impromptu road trip and off we went.  Just got back.  Had so much fun. 

We are going to bed now, because we are all tuckered out, but before I do, I have to tell you the exciting news.  We swung by Bolen Books (one of my very favorite bookstores) and guess what?!  When I cruised by the Young Adult section, there was Porcupine…but get this…it had a STAFF PICKS sticker on it!  Eeeeee!  My book was a staff picks.  Please excuse me for gloating dear reader, but I simply cannot help myself.  And besides, this might be the only time in my entire writing career that I will have a staff picks book, so I am going to enjoy every last drop of it! Staff pick…staff pick…staff pick…(This is me singing)  Staff pick…staff pick…staff pick…(I’d be dancing too, but then I wouldn’t be able to type.) 

Actually… sorry guys, but dancing wins out!  Will write more tomorrow.  Sweet dreams.  And super specially good dreams to the wonderful, and very insightful, staff member of Bolen Books that picked my Porcupine!  xo




Ah…the writing life

Here I am, living the romantic life of a writer.  Surrounded by stacks of books and paper and too much dust.  My writing room is always the least tidy of the house.  I think it’s because when I come in here, the last thing I want to think about is straightening it up. 

The only time my writing room is clean and everything is neat and organized is when I have finished one project and have nothing on the go and not a single scrap of an idea or the tiniest morsel of a story in my head.  That is the only time my writing room looks like anything approaching decent.

Anyway, we have a workman in the house, so I cloistered Molly in my room.  I gave her a large “beef chew” to chew on.  It will be gone within an hour or two. 

You know, I never really stopped to consider what the “beef chew” was made of until a couple of Christmases ago.  I can’t remember whether it was Becky or Emily that dropped the beef-chew-bomb, but which ever one it was, the other one confirmed.  At first I didn’t believe them with their laughing faces, but as I thought about it, I realized they were right.  Especially if you actually look at the hacked off thing closely.  It definitely is.  Our dogs go through quite a few of them, so I’ve been privy to a lot of different sections of the “beef chew” and there are certain ones that it is very clear what part of the bull p___s it is.  Very.

I wonder if the pet store owners have a good old laugh about it, lying in bed with their spouses. 

Some of the “beef chews are wrapped in plastic, but some are not.  I prefer to buy whatever I can without plastic, because of the effects on the environment, but I have to say, when I grab several of these babies in my hands, if I allow my mind to go there, I do feel a little bit odd.  I slap those dead bull p____s on the counter and try to think about how happy my dogs will be. 

Well, enough of that, what I started to say, before I got sidetracked, was, I gave Molly a beef chew to keep her content and distracted until the workman leaves, but my God do these things stink!  I’ve got the window open wide.  It’s a rather cold day, but having the window shut is just not an option because my room is full of the stench.  It’s sort of like a meaty fart smell.  I don’t particularly like it. 

I guess, now that I think on that last sentence that most people aren’t jumping up and down right now, saying, “Let me at it.  Whooeee!  Meaty fart smell, bring it on!’

Okay, I really better go.  This is not what I would call one of my more admirably tasteful blogs.  Better leave now, go pound away at my manuscript before I get off on any other undesirable topics. 

Heh…heh…As I wrote that sentence a bunch of undesirable topics went prancing through my mind. 




Good morning bloggers

I’m back from my jaunt to the island. 

Now, you know how I blogged on Friday about all the things I had to do before I went charging out the door.  Well, when we got into the car, I felt quite smug that I had managed to do everything, with a couple of minutes to spare.  It wasn’t until we were soaring down the highway at a good clip, that I realized that maybe, just maybe, I had forgotten a thing or two. 

See, I had thrown, not one, but two pairs of perfectly good, stand-in-front-of-a-group-of-people-and-blather-about-my-books pants, tops.  I remembered to bring a good-for-me-horrifying-to-Jenny pair of shoes.  I felt quite pleased that I had remembered this item, because the last time I had a fancy outing when I was there, Lee’s birthday and the bookstores anniversary, I brought a very nice outfit, but I had forgotten to bring shoes and had to dig up a grotty pair of sandals out of the dust ladened closet of our cabin, shake them off and wear them.  Would have been fine, except it was the dead of winter and pouring buckets of rain.

What I realized I had forgotten to fling into my recyclable grocery bag, was undergarments. 

Not so bad, some of you might be thinking.  Who would know?  Go commando. 

Fine, I understand your thinking.  However, going commando on the bottom half is one thing.  Going commando on the top, after nursing three children, is quite another! 

And yes, I did have a bra on at the time.  But it was one of those bras that no sane woman would ever admit to having.  It was an old faithful, that should have been discarded years ago, that practically covers the body from the collar bone all the way down to the bottom of the ribs.  No, under-wire.  Very comfortable, great to write in.  Very ugly, and unless one is wearing a blouse that has no dip what-so-ever, one is fine.

Unfortunately, the two tops that I had packed, both dipped quite fetchingly.

I felt a slight jolt of panic but then I soothed myself with a “Never mind, Meg.  I am sure you will have some old bra that won’t be a complete embarrassment, stuffed into one of the drawers up at the cabin. 

Well…Let me just put it this way, any bra that has been left at the cabin to molder, is there for a reason. 

Luckily, there were underwear.  But the bra situation was a little more dire.  There was one, and only one that fit and did not show.

Where this bra came from?  I have no idea.  I can’t imagine ever buying such a thing.  But I must have, because there it was.  There were two of them actually.  A black one and a flesh colored one.  I am certain neither one had ever been worn.  The tags were off, but they had that stiff gleam of the untried.  I must have had a moment of insanity when Don and I first got together and raced out to the store to buy something remotely female, had no idea about bra styles anymore, since it had been years and years since I’d last purchased one, and ended up with these mis-guided mistakes.

They had a built in under pad, under-wire (which is something I totally avoid)  They were stiff and unyielding.  How unyielding I would discover later.  I was just relieved when I found the black one because even though it made my boobs look ridiculously zaftig.  It was relatively invisible under my shirt.

It wasn’t until we got into the car to go to the event and I went to strap in, that I had my first inkling that I shouldn’t be feeling quite so pleased.  As my arm went across my chest it was like banging into a semi-solid object.  No give, no squish.  More like banging up against a super-large cardboard egg carton.  Slightly thinner than an egg cartoon though because as more pressure was exerted, the damn bra cup would sort of pop and invert, like it was hollow!  Never mind that I am not only filling whatever the under pad is not, but I am spilling out of it like a merry milkmaid.  The darn cups are making a hollow knock sound and inverting!

Anyway, wouldn’t you know it, there was a lot of hugging when I arrived.  I made sure not to look anyone in the face after a hug, so I wouldn’t see the rather surprised expression on their faces, like…is she wearing falsies?

I love reading at this store.  Weird bra and all.  Seonaid was there and Lee brought her grand-daughter Olivia (who is a writer as well) and cookies.  Her grand-son was there but he was too young to stay for the reading and so he and his grand-daddy went for a walk.  There were so many friendly faces.  Some that I knew and some that I didn’t.  It was a different Q&A than I usually have, most of the questions were writerly ones.

After the reading, there was the usual signing of books and Lee gave me a beautiful journal.  But of course, this is the island, so nothing is the usual, and this did not prove to be the exception to the rule.  Mario came.  Mario is one of those people that you’ve never met before, but the minute you look into his face, you feel like you have known each other for a very long time.  Anyway, as well as the pink copy of Porcupine, that he is reading on his breaks at the construction site, and roaring at his co-workers (I put the roaring part in, because it amused me.  Mario doesn’t seem like the roaring type.) “Don’t laugh.  It’s a good book!”  Anyway, that story alone, made my heart happy.  But then, even better, he went out to his truck and brought back this long wooden instrument for me to sign.  That’s not the good part though, the good part is that after I signed it, we asked him if he would play a little bit and he did, and I have to tell you, this didgeridoo thing, when he blows into it, it’s low rumble, goes right through you.  It’s a real good feeling.

So, even though I had a very uncomfortable and odd cone collapsing bra, I had a wonderful time, and should probably quit blogging and go work on my manuscript so that some day I can have another book published and come back to read at this bookstore again.




Yikes!

I’m way behind time.  We leave in 40 minutes and I still have to throw some things in a bag.  Save what I was working on today, pack it up, with a laptop and that little information stick thing.  I also have to cook the rest of the cookie dough for on the road deliciousness and a zillion other things.

So, have a great weekend everybody!  The sun finally forced it’s way through all that rain, Karen and I had a lovely walk, Will is drumming downstairs and I can feel my chair in my writing room vibrate with all the exuberance.  Spring feels like it has arrived.  I’m off!




Spring Hatching

I just found out that Karen (K.C. Dyer) is going to be my table partner at the CWILL Spring Hatching, next weekend.  Yay!  That will be fun.  Now I’ll have somebody cozy to chat with when there is a lull.  I wonder if she’s going to want to do something special with our table.  I was just planning to bring a stack of books and a pen.  She has a fancy sign that unrolls and has a stand and it looks very eye-catching.  But I’m not very good at presentational stuff.  I’ve heard that the authors and illustrators go all out with decorations, and I am going early to help Kathy Shoemaker ( a very talented illustrator, and a nice lady to boot) decorate.  But I can do that kind of thing, where someone else has the artistic vision and they just point me in a direction with a stapler or a hunk of flowers or a stack of chairs and tells me what to do.  But to envision how to make it look festive and come together, not my strong suit. 

I could decorate our table like a birthday party, with streamers and balloons, but neither one of us has a Birthday Book coming out.  As a matter of fact, we both write for Young Adult, so a celebratory birthday theme might scare away the very people we want to attract.  However, if we did do a party theme, then I’d have an excuse to have a nice stash of candy for us to nibble on, to pass the day.

Hmm…maybe I better stick with my stack of books, post-it notes and a pen plan. 

Anyway, Karen and I are scheduled to go for a walk tomorrow, the weather permitting, because it has been raining here like it thinks it’s Fall.  And if we do brave the weather, I’m sure we’ll figure out something good. 

And if you do come to our Spring Hatching, even if our table is boring, we are not, and there will be plenty of fanciful tables for you to admire.

This weekend I’m going to be away.  Doing a reading and puttering around at a place where I don’t have Internet.  So, I’ll blog tomorrow, but probably not again until Sunday night or Monday morning. 

Have a great weekend everybody!




Hello

Just had a nice conversation with my daughter on the phone.  There is a raccoon making a nest in the wall by her bed.  It is very noisy.  I hope they catch it before it scratches it’s way through the wall.  Raccoons can be pretty grouchy, and my daughter has two cats and a large dog, so it would be a clawing, yowling, fur-flying jamboree.  Not to mention, all the scratching and scraping noises must make it hard to sleep. 

I am sitting on the sofa, right now, next to Don.  He is watching game six of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  I am blogging to you and nibbling on playoff popcorn.  Detroit is leading 1-0 but Pittsburgh has a power play.  Uh..oh… I just heard “Crosby is hurt and he is coming off.”  This is not good for the Penguins.  Hopefully, it’s only a bloody nose or something. 

I’m not looking up.  I don’t want to see.  I hate it when people get hurt. 

As a matter of fact, maybe I’ve showed enough wifely support and will go upstairs and pick away at some more of my manuscript.  Bye for now.




a rainy evening chat

I don’t have much to say.  It’s been raining pretty non-stop today.  Have just been puttering around eating fudge, sipping tea and writing.  It’s going slow, but forward, so I’m feeling relatively content. 

I can’t believe that Will is in his last week of grade 11 classes.  After that, a week of exams.  Then he’s off for summer vacation and Don and I will have to get used to a quieter house.  Grade 12 next year.  Where does the time go? 

If I get to live to be 72, then I am already 2/3’s of the way through my life. 

I guess that’s the overall thing that is on my mind.  Am I using my time wisely.  Wanting to make sure I am not squandering the days. 

For a while it made me want to lock myself in my room and write like a woman possessed.  But I seem to be backing away a bit.  Releasing the tight grip.  I don’t know if this is a good thing or a bad thing or if it is neither.  But, I want to make sure that I don’t forget to leave myself some leisure time.  Daydreaming time.  Wandering around the house and yard time.  Making fudge time.  (By the way, the fudge was very good.  We will probably finish up the last of it by mid-day tomorrow.)  I want to make sure that I am allowing balance to be present in my life, not always having to accomplish and strive to be more, better, write deeper. 

In twenty years from now, my movies won’t be playing on cable anymore.  Most of them you can’t even rent in the video stores.  Video itself is getting phased out.  In twenty years from now, none of the bookstores will be selling my books, no matter how much people love them today.  And the libraries will have cleared them from their shelves to make way for new books, by new writers, or the better old ones. 

So, how do I want to spend my time.  How much do I have left?  Will I be able to let go gracefully when my time comes, or will I be terrified and fighting and scratching and clinging on for dear life.  And what happens to me when I’m gone?  What happens to the person I’ve worked so hard to uncover?  Does it all just disappear?  Does ones essence linger on?  Is there awareness after one passes?  Or is it nothing?  Just gone?  Will my children know how much I loved them?  Or will they be sad, but relieved as well?  Have I been a good mother?  If so, will I continue to be one?  If not, why?  It’s not for lack of trying.  But maybe all that trying and love is crippling, stifling?  I don’t know.  I just hope my children know, now and forever, that they are loved.  Will always be loved, whether I am with them or not.

Now, this is the interesting thing about blogging.  I never would have guessed that this was what was going to come out when I sat down to say hello.  I figured I’d chat a little about this and that.  A couple of sentences and then sign off.  Oh well, up it goes.  Have a good night everybody. 




Finally

After four days of being stuck and trying to plow my way through, I finally figured out what it was that was hanging me up. 

I started to take it down a wrong path, the writing was fine, connected in it’s own way, but it wasn’t where it was supposed to go.  It was incorrect for that particular character’s journey and the manuscript on the whole.  If I had continued in that direction, the whole flavor would have been changed.  And so everything ground to a halt.  It didn’t matter, over the next several days, how many times, or from which angle I tried to approach the next piece, nothing seemed right. 

I was starting to feel quite frustrated and in a great deal of doubt about continuing with this project, but then this morning, it’s like the fog lifted and I realized that I’d have to go back and rewrite, repair the last two segments and that that was what was making the next section so impossible.  And I did.  And it worked.

I am so relieved.  I’ve decided to make a delicious batch of fudge to celebrate.




Go Phil!

I just got this email from my sister and I thought I would share the news!

Phil just made the final table of the first event of the
world series of poker (which will be televised in the fall)  If you
want to follow along as it happens go to cardplayer.com, click on Pot
Limit 10,00 world championship live updates.  Phil is number 4 in chip
counts He has a real good shot at winning his first bracelet!

Yay Phil!  The family is rooting for you.  For those of you who don’t know, Phil is my sister, Jennifer’s boyfriend, and they have been together long enough and happily enough that Phil qualifies as part of the family.  Phil (Laak) is also known to the poker world as “The Unabomber.”  He is a kick-ass professional poker player and a super nice guy.  He came to Vancouver a little while back for the titanic battle of the robots versus the humans and every time Phil and his partner would play a hand the robot guys would punch in a bunch more data into the robots.  And it was an epic battle but Phil and his partner walked away the heroes.  It was close, but they did it.  The humans triumphed over the robots.  And then we all went out for Chinese food and conversation and it was fun

Anyway, Phil, we know you have the skill and the c_____s and the rest of it is in the hands of the Poker Gods and we all have our fingers crossed that the cards go your way.