The Blues

Elementary school kids talking, playing, dancing the blues, as explained by Conan O’Brian.  I discovered this video through one of Sheryl McFarlane‘s tweets and laughed out loud, loving it. By chance, I saw it an hour after coming home from my Blues class. Now, there are a lot of things I could be bluesy about these days — like the November weather and a case of writer’s block — but my piano keyboard isn’t one of them. Nor is my fabulous piano teacher, Linda Gould, who is breaking me away from my classical training (Grade 9 First Class Honours, Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto) and teaching me to improvise. Jazz! Ragtime! Rock ‘n’ Roll! The Blues! My fingers and toes are lovin’ it, my whole weather-blue soul is lovin’ it. Haven’t quite loosened up enough to shed the classical “posture” but it’ll come, in time. What is it, 10,000 hours to get really good at something? Meanwhile, I stumble often, but play on. Not word by word or sentence by sentence, but note by note. Sharp by flat. Key by key. Blues by blues.

Love this quote by Duke Ellington: “I merely took the energy it takes to pout and wrote some blues.”

Song Sparrow on my waterfront walk — singing the blues away


A New Favourite Place

The other day my friend Kit Pearson and her gorgeous poodle Piper introduced me to Anderson Hill, a park in Oak Bay. We walked up through Garry oaks, wild roses and tall grass and were rewarded by superb views — especially to the east, where Mt. Baker was lit up as if on cue.

Kit’s book The Whole Truth recently won both the CLA and Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz  Awards. Congratulations!

The Sound of Kids Reading


Okay, so it isn’t really the sound of kids reading. It’s the sound of 1200 kids celebrating a love of reading, and it was captured by Rebecca Upjohn, one of the nine authors who attended Thunder Bay’s first Silver Birch Awards gala (“Silver Birch” being a category in the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program).

It wasn’t just in Thunder Bay that I met (and heard) kids who love to read. My touring schedule in April and May took me from Victoria to Yellowknife to Inuvik to Nanaimo to Toronto to Thunder Bay and back to Victoria, with quick trips home in between. The tour followed the usual pattern: readings in schools and libraries, presentations at festivals, autographing sessions at every possible opportunity. On a Sunday afternoon in Yellowknife, kids and their parents joined me at the Prince of Wales Museum to hear my presentation of Ghosts of the Titanic, an event that happened to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the ship’s sinking. In Nanaimo, BC, they turned out on a Saturday to attend readings at the 26th annual Vancouver Island Children’s BookFest. In Uxbridge, Ontario, close to 1000 kids lunched on lasagna and cookies while chatting with Silver Birch nominees. Young readers waited in long lines at Toronto’s Harbour Centre to have their books or “passports” autographed. 8000 kids! 1700 for the Silver Birch Fiction category alone!

Julie Lawson, David Skuy and Kevin Sylvester (in the chef’s hat)

My novel Ghosts of the Titanic was one of 10 titles nominated in the Silver Birch Fiction category. It didn’t win (The Undergrounders by David Skuy had that honour) but it did become an Honour Book, along with Kevin Sylvester’s Neil Flambé and the Aztec Abduction.) The best award (and I’m sure most authors agree) is in knowing that our books are out there being read.

A T-shirt I brought home from the Inuvik Centennial Public Library says, “It’s cool to read in the Arctic.” I think it’s cool to read anywhere. And it’s especially cool that thousands of kids feel the same.