Once upon a time, three little raccoons named Carter, Lisa, and Rocky decided to play hide and go seek. “Don’t go too far and come back at 7:30pm for supper,” said their mom.
They ran out into the sunny day to look for their friends, Rebecca and Bob. They found their friends in a wheat field. “Do you want to play hide and seek with us?” asked Carter. “For sure!” Rebecca’s whiskers shook with excitement.
The five raccoons ran to a street with lots of trees. Carter counted to twenty while his friends hid. Rocky went to hide in a large trash can. Bob, Lisa and Rebecca scampered to a sewer opening. They crawled in between the grill, wriggling and squashing their fury bodies to get inside. Then they waited. “Oh my gosh, what a great hiding place”, said Lisa. They waited half hour before they realized that their hiding spot was so good, no one could find them! It was starting to get dark.
“We have to get out of here,” said Bob, who was afraid. They tried to get out of the sewer but they were stuck! The little raccoons began to cry. It was almost time for dinner – it was 7:15pm.
Meanwhile, Rocky and Carter went to their moms and told them what happened. Then the mommies came to help search for them. They found them at the sewer, crying. The mommies hooked the raccoons under their arms and pulled them out.
They all went home and ate supper together. Then they went to bed.
The cool thing about this story isn’t just the story itself, but that readers get a chance to see some of the editing process that the grade Twos did in order to make their story the best it could be. (The highlighted words were discussed/changed so that the most descriptive one was used).
As a reader, I really appreciate it when writers take their time and work hard to give me an amazing story–thanks so much, Grade Twos!
Omar Mouallem’s profile of Richard Van Camp on the cover of Quill & Quire (Nov. ’12)
Writer Richard Van Camp is known for his fast-paced stories that funnel complicated characters through often disturbing trials so quickly you’re catching your breath on the last page.
It made sense then to give him only a few words to answer big questions about his writing process. Here’s a small glimpse inside his Strathcona office.
Come toAbbottsfield’s Edmonton Public Library on Jan. 27 at 1:30pm (free event) to meet the First Nations author and find out how he’s managed to complete 12 books, from children’s literature and comic books, since his debut novel, The Lesser Blessed, in 1996. I’ll be asking him tons of questions, including what it was like to see Law & Order’s Benjamin Bratt embody one of his characters in the film adaptation of The Lesser Blessed.
What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
I focus on tours, reading, mentoring and business.
How do you reward yourself for writing well?
I sell my books.
Any exercises for getting into your character’s psyche?
One hot, summer day a superhero hamster named Jamie flew to China. She had to save a hat store from a super villain named Jack. He liked to look fancy and he had one hundred heads. So Jack liked to wear all kinds of hats. He loved top hats and DC hats and cowboy hats. Plus, he liked money. So he was going to steal the store’s hats and money. Cha-ching!
Jamie landed on the busy street in the town. She ran into the crowded store and grabbed Jack by his short, chubby arm. She lifted him above her head and said, “Stop stealing!”
“Mwahahahaha!” laughed Jack. “It’s you who should surrender or die!” Then he pulled the freeze ray from his jacket pocket and turned her to ice!
Jack climbed down and chipped away the ice by Jamie’s pocket. Then he reached inside and stole one of her special, super-power-giving carrots. This carrot was orange with a million black glittering lines on it. Plus, it made a high boing-boing noise.
Jamie used her laser vision to bore a hole in the ice and zapped the carrot from his fingers. Then she used her lasers to free herself. Jamie grabbed for the carrot, but Jack got it first. But then Jack dropped it! Jamie grabbed the carrot and devoured it!
“You know,” said Jack. “I am never going to win, so I may as well join you.”
“I don’t want to fight you either. You’ll be my side-kick and I’ll be your master.”
Then Jamie gave Jack a super-power-giving carrot and he never stole again.
Want to set your inner poet free? Then read this excellent post by Alexis Kienlen and join the Abbottsfield Library at 7:30 p.m. Monday, January 14, 2013 when they host Edmonton’s Poet Laurette, Anna Marie Sewell.
From Alexis: Here are some things you can do to help take you from scribbled notebook pages to published book.
1. Read. Start reading literary journals (things like Prairie Fire, Arc or Filling Station), and poetry books by Canadian authors. Find out what kinds of books are getting published. Learn about the various poetry book publishers and the kind of work and people they publish. Read something different, like works by ancient Chinese or Indian poets. Read the classics. Read contemporary poets from other countries.
2. Go to poetry readings. Support your fellow poets, and talk with those who are in the same space as you, both geographically and developmentally. Watch people give readings and see how they do it. Learn from the masters and find out what works for you. Take classes and workshops if you can. Break your mind open. Create a community of friends who love words.
3. Start submitting to literary journals and enter contests. Join the Writers Guild of Alberta or other poetry organizations and watch for contest calls. Check placesforwriters.com and find out where you can send your work. Publishers are more willing to look at you if your work has been published in other venues, if you’ve already contributed your voice. It may take a long time, but it will help you in the long run if you get yourself published in literary journals before you approach a traditional publisher.
4. Create suites of poems. Good poetry collections are not birds’ nests of found material. Poetry collections have narrative threads and longer ideas that span the entire book or collection. You can try breaking your book into chunks. I wrote my second book, “13”, by writing the sections individually, taking care to make sure that the major themes were woven throughout the book.
5. Send it out to publishers. Follow the instructions on their website and make sure that you’re bending to their rules and guidelines. Let them know you are serious. Act like a pro, even if you might not feel like it.
6. Wait. And try to forget that your little not-yet book is out in the world. Keep working and send it out again. Keep working on steps one through four. Play, learn, write and don’t ever forget that you are doing important work.
Alexis Kienlen is the author of two collections of poetry “She dreams in red” and “13”. She is also a journalist, books columnist and has taught creative writing to teens for the past two summers. Learn more about her at www.alexiskienlen.com
Make your sweetie an “Instant Book” for Valentine’s Day with bookmaker Matt Prins. We’ll provide the instructions and supplies, you provide the stories inside.
Matt Prins is a former editor and writer for COLORS. The artist’s collection of personal, handcrafted stories just hit 300. You can read them, as well as those by guest Instant Book-makers from around the globe, at Instant Books Are Your Future.
Feb. 10 at 1:30pm @ Mill Woods Branch / Free and no registration required — just drop in!
Due to the large amount of one-on-one mentoring requests, I’m changing my office hours to be consistent and accessible to drop-ins.
Previously, I was taking meetings by appointment, however, you can now find me at the Stanley Milner Library (second floor) from 12-6pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, it’s still best to email or call ahead (780.496.5999), to ensure I’m not out with another client and because the nature of my work often takes me out of the office. — Omar
Looking for a good book to read in January? Check out what SAPL librarians are reading this month!
The 100 year old man who climbed out the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson & Jerusalem: chronicles from the Holy City (a graphic novel) by Guy Delisle & Happiness Economics by Shari Lapena & Ru by Kim Thuy ~ Luise, Adult Services, St. Albert
The One and Only Ivan ~ Katherine Applegate ~ Barb, Children’s Services, St. Albert
How to talk about books you haven’t read ~Pierre Bayard ~ Geoff, Teens & Adult Services, St. Albert
True Grime ~Natasha Deen ~ Michelle, Adult Services, St. Albert
Divergent~Veronica Roth ~ Michelle, Adult Services, St. Albert
On the Road~Jack Kerouac ~ Michelle, Adult Services, St. Albert
Casual Vacancy – J.K. Rowling ~ Heather, Public Services, St. Albert and Julie, Communications, St. Albert
Madame Tussaud – Michelle Moran ~Heather, Public Services, St. Albert
Christmas Time in the City: An Edmonton Journal Holiday Anthology – Edmonton Journal ~ Heather, Public Services, St. Albert
Dovekeepers – Alice Hoffmann ~ Heather, Public Services, St. Albert
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn ~ Rhonda, Office Manager, St. Albert
The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt yesterday, The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson ~ Shelley, Communications & Fund Development Assistant
The Headmaster’s Wager~ Vincent Lam, Janice, Adult Services, St. Albert
The Complete Guide to Chi-Gung ~ Daniel Reid ~ Peter, Technical Support Services, St. Albert
The Emperor of Paris~C.S. Richardson ~ Anne, Children’s Services, St. Albert
Five days into my residency, I didn’t expect that I’d be getting my feet wet by sticking them in my mouth. But that’s what happened.
Yes, I called books “clutter” in the Edmonton Journal last week and deserved to be razzed for it, just as the Mighty Myrna Kostash did a second ago when we collided in the Stanley Milner library elevator. “It’s the writer in residence,” she quipped to the guy beside me, “the one that called books ‘clutter.’”
Clutter, it would seem, is the only non-permissible C-word in the literary community.
Though I was trying to be provocative and stir a public discussion about the future of physical books, I’m certainly embarrassed for the ineloquence and flippantness with which it tumbled from my mouth. More than anything, I regret its present tense.
It’s the library of the future that will have to deal with the reality of material literature in a nonmaterial world. But it’s something thelibraries of today are preparing for as their role in communities change. EPL, for one, has led the charge in Canada and has emphasized not just its electronic circulation (eBooks, streaming music and the like) but its community outreach.
Following EPL, the new Surrey, BC library has de-emphasized books. In Michael Harris’s Walrus essay, “Stacked,” he takes note of some peculiar observations of the new bibliotheque:
“Scaling the vast helix of white that swirls around the library’s central atrium, I accosted a staffer who was preoccupied with asking children to please take off their shoes before jumping on the furniture. When I despaired at the measly number of books in the literature section, she explained, with diplomatic care, that I was missing the point. …
“Libraries like Surrey’s City Centre are right to do away with their stacks; the need for the books they have been collecting over the past few centuries has diminished. The culprit is all around us: that nebulous Cloud, the virtual place where movies, music, and books come from when you download them. It includes web-based email like Gmail and services like Google Docs or YouSendIt, and it replaces physical media with free-floating content. But as books go the way of clay tablets and papyrus scrolls, libraries are thriving.”
The library of today — and certainly of tomorrow — is one that offers a free public space and community events in a world that’s increasingly private and costly. Newcomers arrive to learn how to navigate the murky waters of immigration and seniors come to figure out this darn Facebook thingy. While others still come for the Jane Austen book club meetings, I can’t help but wonder if the Jane Austen groups of tomorrow will recite not from a worn paperback but off their tablets and eReaders.
There is, however, strong belief that while the digital revolution eviscerated CDs, DVDs, newsprint and possibly soon magazines, books are too resilient — too ingrained in society — to be gobbled up byte by byte.
Wayne Arthurson, winner of the EPL’s 2012 Readers’ Choice Award, sent me a persuasive article from the Washington Post titled “Don’t Burn Your Books—Print Is Here to Stay.”
In it, reporter Nicholas Carr analyzes not just the growth and decline of eBook and eReader sales, but the trends within. “How attached are Americans to old-fashioned books?” asks Carr.
“Just look at the results of a Pew Research Center survey released last month. The report showed that the percentage of adults who have read an e-book rose modestly over the past year, from 16% to 23%. But it also revealed that fully 89% of regular book readers said that they had read at least one printed book during the preceding 12 months. Only 30% reported reading even a single e-book in the past year.”
He concludes not just that the rise of the electronic publishing industry is tapering off, but that the highest sales are among what we call “airport novels” — the Tom Clancys and Dan Browns, and many shades of 50 Shades of Grey.
“Screen reading seems particularly well-suited to the kind of light entertainments that have traditionally been sold in supermarkets and airports as mass-market paperbacks. These are, by design, the most disposable of books.”
This is probably true of adult spending habits, but the future of books doesn’t rely on a generation that was educated on paper. It depends on the generation in classrooms today. And these classrooms are increasingly digital.
Every October during Read-in Week, I’m invited by my friend, poet Nick Reilly, to share a favourite book with his class. Each year, I read something off paper (indeed, I’m in transition between paper and electronic) to kids whose desks are conspicuously absent of it. Instead, I’m seeing more individual laptops and tablets connected to school-wide WiFi.
It wouldn’t be radical to think that it’s a matter of time before every Canadian student works off a tablet. (The value of teaching cursive writing, for example, has been of debate for years because, compared to the click of keys, it’s been dethroned as the most efficient writing method.) So it’s reasonable to also believe that text books and appointment reading will also be downloaded into their electronic notebooks.
When this is the reality — and I predict that’s a decade away — we will have a generation of people more familiar with books you click than those you flip. How that will inform their purchasing decisions when they’re old enough for an allowance, then wage, then salary, is obvious.
Whether this is a boon to literature or its breaking point is yet to be written. But to those who fear eBooks (and, with it, more self-publishing) will degrade the quality of literature, I ask them to consider the quality of music over the last decade. Has it gotten worse? I would argue that it’s as strong as it’s been since the 1960s and ’70s. Somehow, removing the various handlers of artists — the A&Rs, the HMVs — has actually made more experimental and, overall, better musicians (think post-Napster geniuses OK Go, Arcade Fire and Kendrick Lamar).
Record stores, it would seem, were never as good a taste-maker as the Internet. Will the fate of literature be as lucky?