Archive for July, 2009


Book Review: ‘Sabriel’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Sabriel – Garth Nix (YA/Fantasy)

I’m so glad I took the recommendation to read this… and I’m also very glad I pushed through the first 50 pages! I’ll be honest, I was around page 45 and thinking “I really hope this picks up soon… why don’t I like it yet?!?!”, but just a few more pages in and I was hooked. It was entertaining, unique, and for the most part, well crafted. For the most part.

Nix obviously did his world building first, then placed his characters and story inside… because he neglects to explain how things work, and acts like the reader already knows the rules. Well, we don’t, and it would have been nice to have a little rundown. Even a cliche monologue to tell us the rules. Anything. Really!

Fortunately, after page 50 or so, you get used to it and just figure it’ll all work out in the end. It kinda does, and kinda doesn’t, but the story is still very good and leaves you wanting more. I’ll be searching out the next two books in the series, and hope that Nix takes the time to explain more (any?) world rules as the books progress.

With that warning in place: I definitely recommend this book. Let’s face it, with a female necromancer as the lead character, how can you possibly pass it up?

Rating: 3.5 coffees out of 5

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Write!Canada: Day 3 (Finally!)

   Posted by: Faith    in Write!Canada

Yes, I’ve been slacking at getting this up… here we are, nearly 3 weeks later and I still haven’t pushed past the daily summaries and delved into the pile of things I learned. Oh well. Not like this blog is going anywhere, so without further ado…

  • 9:30-10:30amContinuing Class (Part 5 of 6)

Good information, good discussion, and some great ideas. Memories of the continuing class still blur together, but I have everything typed out on my laptop. Which, I should add, was incredibly useful to have with me instead of trying to write it all down by hand.

  • 11:00amWorkshop C: Five Critical Things You Must Do With New Media

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with this one, and I admit, I chose it because it sounded better than the other things on the list during this time slot. I figured it would probably end up as one of two things: outdated (or just wrong) information, or the pompous ramblings of some tech-savvy youngster. Mercifully, it was neither, and I came away pleasantly surprised. There really wasn’t much that I didn’t already know, but the people around me were learning quite a bit (judging by the facial expressions and questions asked). I suppose you could say I was affirmed in what I’m already doing, and encouraged to do even more with new media.

The woman leading this session was Denyse O’Leary, a Toronto-based journalist who has written extensively on evolution vs. intelligent design, neuroscience and faith, and other scientific topics. She wasn’t the best speaker in terms of grabbing one’s attention, but I gained an enormous amount of respect for this woman as she related to us all the things she’s done to build her own platform in the industry, and how she’s embraced changing technology quickly with each step. I thought, “my goodness, there are so few people of her generation that are as open and willing to changes in technology… she is such a leader in this area!” Not only that, but I plan to track down her books and subscribe to a few of her blogs. A female journalist covering scientific topics intelligently, who embraces new media? Here’s someone to look up to and respect.

  • 11:45amAppointment with Mags Storey

I had to leave the workshop a bit early to head to my second 15-minute appointment, but it turned out that Mags got tied up at the session she was in and arrived late to our meeting (and the one before). The girl ahead of me took my appointment time since she’d missed hers completely, and we decided that I’d track Mags down later for ours. No problem! I headed back to the end of the workshop and finished that off.

I came back around 12:20 or so, and Mags was still hanging around the appointment area, so I was able to sit down with her then. What can I say? Mags is dynamic, personable, and tells it like it is. She’ll talk to you straight (…or maybe just if she thinks you can handle it :) ?) and lays down what it means to call yourself “a writer”. I’d made the appointment with her because I was looking for some encouragement and direction (and a wonderful lady named Kim, who I met on the first day, suggested I talk to Mags for it), so she went through a summarized version of the talk she’d given the day before in her own workshop (which I certainly would have enjoyed more than the one I was in… sigh).

They started closing up the bookstore as we chatted, and that was when we realized that lunch had started and Mags hadn’t cleared out her room yet (which was supposed to be done before lunch). So, we continued our conversation while Mags packed up her stuff, and then I helped her cart it off to the car. Can’t say I started the weekend planning to be a valet, but I really didn’t mind. During our talk, Mags offered to read my manuscript when I’m ready to let it go… and after talking with her, I felt better about my first completed piece of work being a chick lit novel. That doesn’t mean I think it’s any good (and boy, does it need a lot of work), but the fact is that I wrote it, I finished it, and I now have something that I wrote to work with. How many people go through their lives saying “I’ve always wanted to write a book”, and yet never make time to actually do it? Well, I did. Hah. 80,000 words (approximately) worth of book, and guess what? That was me. I wrote it. It might be crap, but at least I wrote it.

And that was the essence of our discussion. I definitely respect Mags – she’s a very real kind of Christian, and I saw a lot of myself and how I approach being a Christian in her. Plus, she grew up in the Middle East. How awesome is that? *wistful sigh* I really do think I left a part of me (no, not in the organ harvesting way) on that side of the world. I can’t believe it’s only been 4 years since I was there… wow. A lot can happen in 4 years. BUT, I’m getting off track, so I’ll move on now…

  • 12:45pmLunch

Alright, so I didn’t actually get there until well after 1pm, but there was still some food left at the table I found with a vacant seat (full of mostly middle-aged men… the majority of which were professors from Tyndale and/or pastors… honest, I just grabbed the first open seat I found and then tried not to act surprised when I realized where I’d ended up… I wonder if it worked, I wish there was a hidden camera so you could have seen my face!… haha).

  • 2:00pmContinuing Class (Part 6 of 6)

Our final session with Valerie! We finished off the material she’d planned to teach, and left some time for people to stand and share what they’d been working on over the weekend. I was thinking about sharing… seriously considering it… and if there had been time for one more, I would have shot my hand up. Seriously! I’m not just saying that. I had the document open and was reading it through & making corrections as we talked about the last person’s work (but participating at the same time, I can multi-task, so please don’t be offended if it was you!). I was surprised and delighted by the quality of work that was presented, though it became very clear, very quickly, that most of the people there needed to work on their presentation skills.

When you’re writing for children, inevitably you’re going to be reading your story out loud. Not all kids reading picture books can actually read, and as an author, you’d better be scheduling story readings at libraries, book clubs, mom & tot groups, etc, and if you can’t present your story in a dynamic way to those kids, you’re going to lose them very quickly. Your voice needs to be vibrant, colorful, entertaining, and bring your story to life, just like the pictures that accompany it.

But, that was just my own observation. Maybe I’ll write something on authors as speakers sometime in the future…

  • 3:30pmPlenary Session with Ray Wiseman: “Adversity Sharpens Your Pencil”

Ray Wiseman was a great speaker… very entertaining, and refused to let us take notes so that we’d simply listen & absorb what we were hearing. Unfortunately, people absorb information differently, and I need to take notes while I listen to a speaker or else my brain will wander off (yes, even if I doodle instead), so I took some notes anyway. So there. But honestly, he was a great speaker and had some excellent things to share. Here’s the blurb about his talk in the registration package:

“Ray’s journey as a writer has followed a circuitous route. He will show how seemingly random events have coalesced to change him from a dyslexic dropout in the past, to a journalist and author in the present, his life attuned for future adventures. Sometimes our greatest strengths as writers come from life’s discord, hardships, and errors.”

After Ray finished speaking, people were able to share some of the good things that had happened to them this weekend and what the conference meant to them, which was followed by draws for door prizes… and I won $25 for Chapters/! Whoo-hoo! Talk about a great way to end the conference.

I wasn’t able to stick around and say goodbye to anyone (it seemed like most people were eager to get home anyway), as I had to perform in a show that evening and needed to rush to rehearsal, but all things considered, it was a good day.

And So…

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Was it exhausting? You bet. Would I go back next year? Without hesitation.

I met a lot of people. I learned a lot of new things. I was encouraged and affirmed in my calling. I made some great contacts, and let’s not forget, had some great food. There were a few disappointing spots, but in all, they didn’t tarnish the weekend’s shine.

Another bonus: 13/15 of my one sheets were picked up, as well as a number of business cards. Does that mean anything? Not really. Mostly, it means people thought my write-up was interesting enough to want to learn a bit more about me, but there are no guarantees that it will turn into additional work (unless you do need content for your website… in which case, contact me!). The simple truth is that my name is out there. In a miniscule, insignificant way at the moment, but it’s out there.

It may have also helped that I chose to wear clothing that stood out all weekend, so that I could be easily recognized as “that young girl from the one-sheets”. I have no idea if it worked, but hey, at least I got plenty of compliments on my outfits! LOL. I figure it’s just “part of my platform”.

And now, to make good use of the things I learned.

I have a long journey ahead of me… but at least I know where I’m going.

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Book Review: ‘The Graveyard Book’

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman (Children’s Fiction… hah)

Let me start by saying: everyone in my town must be crazy, because I got this from the library and there isn’t even a waiting list. What?!? So strange. But anyhow, did anyone else see Gaiman talk about this book on the Colbert Report? Gaiman is incredibly quick witted, and the interview was quite funny… he held his own against Colbert, and it’s definitely worth checking out! It certainly improved my level of respect for the man: he can speak well AND write well!

But, back to the book. So much has been said about this book that I feel there’s little I can add, other than to go ahead and recommend it. There were a few occasions when the events of specific chapters seemed a bit random (but they were still very entertaining!) and I wonder if that’s the influence of the Jungle Book coming through, perhaps those were chapters that were modeled after Kipling’s work? After reading this, I think I will track down a copy of the Jungle Books and read them, as I suspect they’ll be very worthwhile and nothing like the Disney film (as great as it is!).

I wouldn’t say that the Graveyard Book is necessarily great reading for children on their own, but you know what? Children need more healthy fear in their lives, because sheltering them suppresses imagination… if I had a kid, I’d probably read this book with them and talk about it together.

In the end, it was a fun read with great writing, from an author who refuses to cater to the “norm” of today’s children’s fiction. I read it all yesterday afternoon, without a break – so when you pick this one up, be sure to give yourself a nice chunk of time to sit and enjoy it!

Rating: 4 coffees out of 5

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Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot – Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer (YA)

I always enjoy Wrede’s writing, and this book was no exception. It was one of those books that I’d been eyeing for years, but for some reason never had a chance to purchase… so when it was sitting blatantly on the shelf at the library, I figured it was time to give it a go. It’s actually a slower read than it looks – or at least it was for me – and I think that may be because it’s written in Victorian-style language. But that just means it’s a good book to savor, not blast through!

It’s written in letter-style, between two young ladies, and apparently (as stated by the authors in the back of the book) the book came about after Wrede and Stevermer actually just decided to play “The Letter Game” and write letters in character to each other for awhile. Then, when they later sat back and talked about things, they realized they had a book… and so they polished the letters up and the rest is history! I thought that was very interesting: a book that wasn’t intended as a book… I’ll be honest, I think it shows in just a few spots where the story dragged a little, but I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking this up. There are two more books after this one, and I’ve got them on the list to find the next time I’m at the library (or, let’s be honest, a bookstore). A worthwhile read!

Rating: 3.5 coffees out of 5

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