Sunday, November 25, 2007

CCBC Tour - Saskatchewan 2007

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Thanks are due to the wonderful folks at the Canadian Children's Book Centre and all the volunteers, teachers, and librarians at libraries and schools all over central Saskatchewan for helping to organize such a wonderful Book Week tour! With my snazzy little red car, I tootled from town to town, visiting with students and chatting about books. Such a tough life! Even better, was able to share some of the Legends of King Arthur at a couple of schools, which made for a great change of pace!

Driving around across the wide open spaces of the region, I was reminded just how much I love the prairie landsape. So much so, I've bookmarked several 'Land for Sale' websites. How much would my horses love all that space to roam? How much would I love all that space to roam? Any rural communities out there who would like to adopt an author in residence, get in touch. About my only requirement is that the nearest town have a coffee shop and a library branch. And I suppose I would also need to be within an hour of a decent airport (don't like those teeny weeny planes too much) so I could head out and tour some of the other cool places in our amazing country!

Go Rourghriders!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Lovely Review - No Bazoongas in Sight!

This great review was posted over on the site... Note to self: Make sure these guys get sent copies of the two new books!

Celebrate Children's Book Week

... with a few of these great ideas from the Tough City Writer's blog (Friday November 16th post).
Add your own ideas to the list via the comments box...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Globe and Mail Follow-up Story

Author pleased after Sask. school drops book ban


November 15, 2007

Victoria -- A children's author is delighted that a Saskatchewan elementary school has reversed a decision to ban one of her books.

Nikki Tate had protested against a decision by the librarian at Elizabeth Elementary in Kindersley to bar Trouble on Tarragon Island, a novel for readers aged 8-13. The librarian had complained to the publisher about inappropriate scenes of bullying, one of which included the use of the word "bazoongas" to describe part of the female anatomy.

Ms. Tate's book has been nominated for a Diamond Willow Award, a prestigious prize voted on by young readers.

The book's publisher, Sono Nis Press of Winlaw, B.C., will continue to honour its offer of a free copy to every elementary pupil in Kindersley who requests one. The offer was made last week as a protest against the ban.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Quill and Quire - Blog Department

The following post from Quill Blog: Daily updates from the blog division of Quill & Quire, Canada’s magazine of book news and reviews

Kindersley school reverses ban on book

According to a release from Sono Nis Press, author Nikki Tate was relieved to learn that Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, which had previously banned her children’s book Trouble on Tarragon Island, has reversed its decision and “un-banned” it after a new school principal re-evaluated the content.

Sono Nis told Q&Q Omni this summer that the book had been deemed a problem because it contains a scene of bullying and because the bullying includes words that may be offensive to women.

Tate’s book, the third in her Tarragon Island series about protagonist Heather Blake, depicts a battle in Blake’s B.C. community over clear-cut logging. Blake’s grandmother joins an anti-logging activist group, and poses naked with them for a calendar, embarrassing her granddaughter. At the beginning of the book’s first chapter, several boys in Blake’s school taunt her about her grandmother’s breasts, calling them “bazoongas” and cupping melon-shaped areas around their chests.

The scene, Tate told Q&Q Omni, “sets up the central conflict of the book, which is asking the question, ‘when you step outside the rules of society … what is the impact on your community and on your family?’” Tate said the description shows the pain experienced by Heather as a result of the bullying. “It’s pretty obvious these kids aren’t being held up as an example of fine behaviour,” she said.

Elizabeth School administrators now seem to have come around to seeing it that way too.

Trouble on Tarragon Island has been nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan, and Tate is participating in a TD Canadian Children’s Book Week tour in the province this month. As a part of the tour, she had planned to give away copies of her book to elementary students in Kindersley, and she says she will still go ahead with the give-away now that the ban has been reversed. She will sign copies of the book and chat with students at an informal event at the Kindersley Mall on Nov. 19.

Article in today's Times Colonist

CAP: Nikki Tate’s Tarragon Island series focus on the typical preteen tribulations.

Victoria writer’s book restored to school library shelf

— Times Colonist staff
A truce has been declared in the Battle of the Bazoongas.

Last summer, Victoria children’s author Nikki Tate cried censorship when a Saskatchewan elementary school teacher-librarian banned her novel, Trouble on Tarragon Island.

At issue was the book’s reference to “bazoongas” as a slang word for breasts.

The librarian also expressed concern over the issue of bullying in the story, and speculated that children might read the bullying scene and use it as a template to harass fellow students.

Now Chris Oscar, the new principal of Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Sask., has reversed an earlier decision to ban Trouble on Tarragon Island.

“I’m so happy to hear that the school has reconsidered,” said Tate. “The book should never have been removed [from the library] in the first place.”

The move is a relief for Tate’s publisher, Sono Nis, for another reason: Trouble on Tarragon Island has been nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan.

The judges are school children, who vote on which of several books they like best. If a book isn’t available in school libraries, it’s chance of getting the children’s nod is diminished. “It’s great to know that students will have access to the book through their school library,” Tate says.

Other school libraries across North America have carried the book without complaint.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Latest on The Great Bazoongas Caper

Well, right after this article ran in the Globe & Mail, I received a phonecall from As it Happens (CBC news and current events program). We were all set to record an interview when the CBC learned that Elizabeth School has reversed its position on the appropriateness of Trouble on Tarragon Island for the school library. The new principal, Chris Oscar, was instrumental in having the book go through a review process, the end result of which was to put the book back out on the library shelves. This is, of course, great news and a huge relief to know that cooler heads have prevailed in Kindersley! Many thanks to Tom Hawthorn and all the other members of the media who have so diligently followed this story. I suspect that if we had simply accepted the decision and said nothing, the book would still be gathering dust in some dark corner 'safe' from curious children.

Author protests book ban over phrase 'generous bazoongas'


Special to The Globe and Mail

November 13, 2007

VICTORIA -- Children's author Nikki Tate is taking her bazoongas to Saskatchewan.

The Victoria writer will be giving away copies of Trouble on Tarragon Island, a work of fiction banned at Elizabeth Elementary in Kindersley, Sask.

The publisher learned of the ban this summer after school librarian Debbie Wagner called to complain about scenes of bullying, one of which includes the use of the word bazoongas to describe part of female anatomy. "I feel so strongly that what's happened there is wrong," Ms. Tate said yesterday. "My message to the students is, 'If you want to read this book, here it is.' " The novel will be available free to any elementary pupil in Kindersley who requests the title. The public library in the town of 4,500 is helping with the give-away program (the Kindersley branch carries a single copy of the title, which is currently checked out). The combined student populations of Elizabeth and Westberry elementary schools is nearly 600.

The book was released in 2005 by Sono Nis Press of Winlaw, B.C. The publisher describes it as a work of juvenile fiction appropriate for ages 8 to 13. The book was one of nine nominated for a Diamond Willow Award in Saskatchewan, a reader's choice prize for works suitable for Grades 4 to 6. However, the ban prevents children at Elizabeth Elementary from having classroom access to the title. Voting by pupils ends next February.

The free copies will be distributed at a book signing to be held at the Kindersley Mall on Monday.

Trouble on Tarragon Island is the third in the series set on a fictional Gulf Island in British Columbia. It features a 13-year-old girl named Heather Blake who wrestles with her feelings about her grandmother's behaviour, which includes breaking the law to protest against clear-cut logging.

When the grandmother poses for a nude calendar as a fundraising gimmick, the girl becomes the target of schoolyard taunts.

"What they say about my grandmother is true," the girl says. "She does have generous bazoongas, and all of Tarragon Island has seen them."

Ms. Tate said she chose bazoongas over other more common but ruder slang terms.

"I was looking for something a little humorous without being obscene," she said. "The language that is used by children in schools can be quite foul."

Nikki Tate is the pen name of Nicole Tate-Stratton, a prolific 45-year-old author whose most recent release is a biography of Karen Brain, a horse rider who overcame a broken back in a riding accident to win bronze medals at the 2004 Paralympic Games.

By coincidence, the author learned of the Tarragon Island ban after having already agreed to take part in a sponsored author's tour, including a visit to a Grade 2 class at Elizabeth Elementary next week.

She will be reading from her picture book Grandparents' Day, which is based on a true story about her grandmother surviving a snake bite in the jungles of Brazil. She encourages students to use the tales told by their friends and family as inspiration for their own storytelling.

Neither the school librarian nor the principal could be reached for comment yesterday.

Ms. Tate will be touring Saskatchewan as part of the TD Canadian Children's Book Week. Vancouver writer Dan Bar-el will also be on tour in the province, while British Columbia children will be visited by Teresa Toten of Toronto, Edo van Belkom of Brampton, Ont., and the illustrator Ron Broda, of Sarnia, Ont.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lovely Article in the Times Colonist

What a great article to find in today's Times Colonist! Written by Barbara Julian, it talks about our launch at Greenhawk a few weeks ago. I'm not sure if the link (above) to the story works, but you can read it here without the formatting and photo.

Horsewomen share their passion

Barbara Julian
Times Colonist

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Author, Author: Riders and writers Julie White and Nikki Tate flank medal-winning equestrian Karen Brain, whose story is the subject of Tate's book.

Double Take: Karen Brain's Olympic Journey, by Nikki Tate; Sono Nis Press; 143 pages plus Glossary and Index; $12.95

High Fences, by Julie White; Sono Nis Press; 190 pages, $9.95

- - -

Horses are responsible for turning a lot of kids into readers. Kids who catch the riding bug will devour any reading material with a horse in it, whether novels, Pony Club manuals, histories of breeds or horsemanship magazines. The canon of literary horse classics is familiar even to non-riders -- Black Beauty, National Velvet, Walter Farley's Black Stallion series, Marguerite Henry's histories -- and every year several B.C. writers add titles to the list.

Nikki Tate, already known to horse-loving youth for her StableMates series, has written for the general reader a new biography of local-born Olympic rider Karen Brain. This book recently shared a launch party with Armstrong horse breeder and author Julie White. White's story for eight- to 11-year-olds, High Fences, features characters introduced in her earlier novel The Secret Pony.

The launch for these two titles took place in an equestrian supplies store in Brentwood. The powerful smell of saddle leather greeted attendees the moment they opened the door -- a familiar smell to riders but especially evocative for those of us who connect the sport with our youth.

The horsewomen-authors sat signing books at a table among an array of horse care commodities as specialized as are health and beauty products for humans: natural body wash, "ultra fire" vitamins, and "Quietex Powder" read some of the labels.

"It just seemed logical to have the book launch in a tack shop," says Nikki Tate. Now no one remembers who first had the idea -- Glynis, the owner of Greenhawk Supplies, or the authors, who are also her customers -- but there was an excitable buzz among the kids and adults in attendance because they all agree that the next best thing after a horse is a book about a horse. As Holden Caulfield says in Catcher in the Rye (comparing horses to cars), "a horse is at least human."

That horse raising and riding is an art and a lifestyle as well as a sport is reflected in these two books. High Fences contains detail about equine physiology and daily life in the stable, as well as the relationships among the horse and human characters that make up the story. Julie White, whose husband is an ex-jockey and daughter a certified racing trainer, got the details from a life spent with horses.

"The characters come from kids I knew as a child," she says.

Her young heroine Faye suffers the anguish of having Robin, her beloved partner in the show ring, sold out of financial necessity. That loss was a high fence to clear indeed, but whenever she is in the jumping ring Faye forgets everything but the horse she is riding and the competition at hand. "Faye's world narrowed to the sand-covered ring cluttered with brightly coloured obstacles," and so does the reader's, which is the whole point of this short novel for the 10-year-old dreaming of a show jumping career.

Olympic rider Karen Brain was once just such a 10-year-old, but one of the few who did get to the top of the equestrian world. Through drive, sacrifice, hard work and help from the best coaches at top training stables (the names Mark Phillips and Gatcombe Park in England may be familiar even to the non-rider), she progressed through gruelling qualifying shows until she and her horse Double Take made the World Equestrian Games in Rome in 1998. Then the turning point occurred. Brain broke her back in a riding accident, and her next several years were spent in a long rehabilitation program. With characteristic determination, Karen recovered the ability to walk and to ride, and eventually qualified for the Canadian Para-Equestrian Team which in 2004 went to the Athens Paralympic Games, where she won two bronze medals.

As a horsewoman herself, Tate knew Karen Brain before Brain's accident, but it was while visiting her in the hospital that Tate's storyteller's instinct went on high alert. She could "smell" the story bubbling up as the iron-willed champion rebounded from what had seemed like an irrevocable setback.

Nikki Tate's fluid prose takes us through the story at an easy canter, describing in detail the world of top equestrianship against which Brain's ascent, and then disastrous reversal of fortune, took place. Brain's recovery and re-dedication to ambition as a paralympian was a "double take" of another kind. Tate's account also shows us the world of international horse show bureaucracy, the costs of training and flying horses around the world, and the disturbing extent to which they too suffer pain and injury as they train to the max.

Brain wrote the introduction to Double Take. "I honestly do consider myself one of the luckiest people I know," she writes. "I have been blessed with a great family, great friends, and several great horses, and it is because of all of them that I have lived a rich life."

At Greenhawk tack shop and other venues where Tate's book was introduced, Brain delivered inspiring words to young riders which she echoes in her introduction: start now to create the memories for your own biography "by daring to live out your most heartfelt fantasies. If you can dream it, you can do it!"

At the Greenhawk store book launch, Brain's two bronze medals from Athens were on display beside the freshly printed copies of High Fences and Double Take, which looked right at home among the saddles, bridles and bags of "oat cuisine" also displayed for sale. Outside, the fall dusk was closing in and all over the Saanich Peninsula horses were being brought from hoof-churned fields into cosy barns.

Every young horse-loving, book-loving girl knows the special pleasure of reading under a tree in a field while your horse munches grass beside you: "down time" for both of you. Certain books find their way into the barn and look more at home there than in a library.

These two will be among those that belong where hay bales serve as shelves and hoof picks double as bookmarks, and where their equine subjects munch and stomp and blow their steamy breath across the stalls.

Barbara Julian is a Victoria writer who as a girl read nothing that wasn't about horses
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Double Take - Mini Documentary

This link is supposed to take you to the mini documentary about Karen and her quest for Olympic gold...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Busy Times!

Just because there hasn't been a whole lot of posting action going on here doesn't meant there hasn't been a whole lot going on here... In fact, when too much starts happening in the real world, silence falls over blog-land. Facebook doesn't help, of course. The highlights include: the week-long megalaunch of Double Take: Karen Brain's Olympic Journey. Karen and I spoke to hundreds of students at a bunch of schools (the talks continue - we have several more during the next few weeks...) and also took part in a couple of panels. One was about Living the Dream (what does it mean to live a dream life? what are the challenges/the delights?) - another focussed on the joys of publishing with a small (but mighty!) press like Sono Nis. We also enjoyed a spectacular launch hosted by Greenhawk - many, many people came... many, many books were sold... many children's crafts were made... much cake and coffee consumed... A good time was had by all!

The vet came out to our place last week - and $1400 later (and, yes, that would be in beefy Canadian funds!!) everyone has been vaccinated, wormed, palpated, ultrasounded, filed, sedated, irrigated, prodded, and extracted. They should all be good for another year. Touch wood. Saved the gnarly old teeth we had to pull from good old Emma's ancient mouth. How that pony keeps going, I don't know. I am now soaking her hay to soften it up and she's consuming (proportionately) more soft foods like soaked beet and soy pulp and softened senior horse pellets.

Travel plans are being finalized for my Saskatchewan tour. And, yes, I will be going to Kindersley! Who knew that a trip to Kindersley could elicit excited squeals!

More on that as departure day draws closer!

These days I've been alternating listening to novels (most recently, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) on my Ipod while I muck out the paddocks... with studying Italian lessons. I've been wandering around with my manure fork repeating Italian phrases to the horses and cats and squirrels and ravens and eagles and bunnies and goats and the dog and anyone else who might care to listen... This, of course, in preparation for our trip to Bologna (children's book fair) and Tuscany (recovery from the book fair) at the end of March.

Dani is still making noises about organizing a mini-tour in Japan after I get back from Italy and I have applied for a writing residency next fall in Tasmania... Better make sure my passport is in good shape!

But before I go anywhere, several writing deadlines loom... and I've got some reading to do prior to serving on the BC Arts Council grant jury... and a course description to write for a class I'm teaching in the spring at Malaspina. And stuff. Which, taken collectively, is why I haven't been blogging much of late.

Oh, and I nearly forgot - samples (one hard cover, one soft) of Behind the Scenes: The Racehorse are en route from Toronto as I type! The full shipment should arrive at HQ during the third week of November... Which is all very exciting! Can't wait to see how the finished books look!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Big Excitement!

Lots of excitement around here as final preparations are made for the big book launch! If you are anywhere near the Greenhawk Store in Brentwood Bay, stop by on Saturday, October 20th between 4:30 and 6:30pm. Hope to see you there!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Come One, Come All - Book Launch Alert!

One of the coolest things about wearing multiple hats in the publishing world is that I get to be involved with such a range of events and activities. This launch promises to be amazing! Reviews of Sylvia's and Ron's WOTS performance this past weekend in Vancouver were great. Hope to see you there! Read on for more details...

Sylvia Olsen Celebrates Stories With Deep Cultural Roots and Universal Appeal

When Sylvia Olsen launches Which Way Should I Go? at the Mary Winspear Centre on Sunday, October 21st don't be surprised to find her dancing, and not just because she's happy to have another book out. The dance, and the story it tells (which Sylvia has captured in her picture book), have a deeper message to share. Inspired by a family story told to traditional First Nations teacher, Ron Martin, Olsen's picture book is based on a favourite tale from his childhood.

Martin remembers loving the song originally shared by his grandparents. "This song reminds us that everything in life is a choice," Martin says. "In every waking moment of our lives we should be aware that everything that we are doing in the moment is a choice. That is why we sing and dance and then pause. That is when we ask ourselves, 'Which way should I go?' We can stay in bed, or we can get up. We can listen or not listen. We can be angry or not angry. Everything is a choice." Olsen and Martin will perform the song and dance together at the Mary Winspear Centre where Which Way Should I Go? will be at the heart of this celebration of story-sharing. Olsen and Martin will talk about how they transformed song and memory into the written word before signing copies of the book illustrated by Kasia Charko. Children will have a number of activities to try and older attendees can learn more about Ron's background by watching the film, Salt Water People. Some of Kasia Charko's original artwork will be on display and master wool-worker, May Sam (whose likeness and knitting was featured in Olsen's earlier picture book, Yetsa's Sweater) will be on hand to demonstrate spinning techniques while she weaves stories and chats with visitors. Snacks, contests, and displays will round out the afternoon's activities. Families may find themselves inspired to create and honour shared stories of their own.

Both Sylvia Olsen and Ron Martin are all about stories. "I love storytelling," Olsen says. "I tell stories about the things I know, the people I meet, and the faces I see every day." As a traditional teacher, Ron Martin has been telling stories in his community (Tla-o-qui-aht people of Opitsaht near Tofino) for many years. What a stroke of genius to pair up these two powerful tale-tellers to create a unique picture book which speaks to readers of all ages. Publisher, Diane Morriss of Sono Nis Press was drawn to the simple but profound message in this story about a boy who loses his grandmother and must then find a way to cope and move forward. "Through traditional storytelling and a song his grandmother taught him, the Nuu-chah-nulth boy learns that everything in life is a choice. It's a very special story," Morriss says.

The big launch on October 21st will be the final event in a weeklong series of presentations in Vancouver Island schools and community venues.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Cybils Are Back!

Thank you, thank you Cybils organizers. I had a fabulous time last year on the picture book judging panel and am just thrilled you have chosen me again! Click the link above to see who the other panelists are (and to check out their blogs...) And now, I must be patient... though it will be hard. I can't wait to see this year's crop of nominees! And for those of you who are reading this and who also blog, rush over to the Cybils website and nominate your favourite children's book titles. As a matter of fact, I don't think you even need to be a blogger yourself to submit a suggestion - so if you have read something you think is great, be prepared to send in your nominations starting October 1.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Cafe Fairfield - Wacky Families Panel

With apologies for not posting this earlier (I've been trapped in a parallel universe, which is what happens when one is called upon to do jury duty...)

You are invited to share music, readings, food and laughs at:


September 23rd
1 – 4 p.m.
1335 Thurlow Road

1 p.m. Mural unveiled – meet artist Caroline Stengl
1:45 p.m.: Nancy Swartz will read from: Stories of Secular Humans

Authors Dede Crane, Nelly Kazenbroot, Karen Rivers and Nikki Tate
will hold a panel discussion with questions & answers on “Wacky Relatives and How They Get Into Books”

Book sales of signed copies by KIDS IN PRINT

Food by “YUM”

Welcome back to the GREEN ONIONS BAND

More information: 592 9340 or 382 4604

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Could you say that, please?

Have trouble pronouncing author names like JON SCIESZKA? Here's a great article from the Horn Book Review to help you navigate the tricky, tricky world of pronouncing names you've only ever seen on book covers. (There's a reason I chose to write children's books using the name 'Nikki Tate.' :)

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Cybils are Back!

Any kid-lit bloggers out there? The Cybils are gearing up for another round of judging and need bloggers to serve on selection panels and as judges. This is a great organization and worthy of your time, if you feel so inclined. Last year I was fortunate enough to be selected as a judge in the picture book (fiction) category and was delighted when one of my favourite books (Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt) came out on top. I've applied again this year and my fingers are crossed that I'll be selected: the discussion about the nominated books was great, the mix of books was interesting (included a couple I had never even heard of), and my fellow judges not just knowledgeable and passionate about the subject, but lots of fun, too. So, if you have a little time and if you are a kid-lit blogger (or if you know someone who is), head on over to for more information.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Trials and Tribulations of Maureen Johnson

At least YA author Maureen Johnson gets a special shelf... The best quote in the whole article is this one...
“Promoting righteousness, like having this book taken from everybody, is a step in the right direction.”

TC Article by Barbara Julian

This ran in the TC today...

Fiction Shows Youth Two Aspects of Activism

Barbara Julian
Times Colonist

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Scientists and activists aren't the only people working to protect old-growth forests. Many nature-loving writers use fiction to plead for the forest. From Farley Mowat in the 1960s to Diane Carmel Leger today (Who's In Maxine's Tree?), they have opened to youthful readers a world of species, habitats and the threats that endanger them.

One such is Nikki Tate, whose novel Trouble on Tarragon Island depicts a family struggling with both sides of the logging debate on an imaginary Gulf Island. When a grandmother poses nude for a conservation calendar, it is her adolescent granddaughter Heather who suffers embarrassment.

Tate shows us the taunting Heather experiences from boys at school as a result of having a "calendar girl" grandma. We hear and see it clearly -- too clearly for Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Sask., which recently decided that the scene offended their anti-bullying policy. They elected to ban Trouble On Tarragon Island from the school library because the characters display bullying behaviour and show disrespect toward the elderly by using slang terms for Grandma's sagging breasts.

Author and publisher are dismayed that some educators have decided to keep the book from its intended readers. Lost in the censorship debate is the logging issue that the plot is built around. "I couldn't have imagined anyone getting concerned about the word "bazoonga," says Tate. More important, she had supposed, are questions she raises about environmental activism: "What is the impact on your family of being an activist? What is the price you pay?"

Teachers could use the book to discuss, as well as bullying, ecology and the lengths to which anti-logging protesters sometimes go. Originally, creating nude calendars had some shock value in focusing attention on a cause, but now they are a staple of fundraising. For Elizabeth School staff, it seems that the shock is still the point. Does this suggest that they agree with the reaction of the boys who insult Heather's grandmother? Something here is being shoved out of sight, and probably not only the commonplace of adolescent bullying.

Putting critical language into the mouths of her adolescents, Tate presents us with a situation of sexist ageism and makes us think about our own aversion to what physically we will all become -- if we live long enough. We will become as gnarled and battered as those old trees about which some people care so much. For those who do care, it is astonishing that teachers would ignore the conservation debate in Tate's story, preferring to fiddle with bullying-prevention policy while ancient forests burn.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Dahlia - Closeup

Dahlia - Closeup, originally uploaded by nikki_tate.

Glendale Gardens in Victoria hosted the annual Art in the Gardens event this afternoon. And, yes, some of the artwork was great - but nothing beats the colour, forms, design, patterns, miraculous essence of what Mother Nature paints on her canvas! This is one of the dozens of varieties of dahlias on display in the Dahlia Trial Garden. Makes me want to run out and plant dahlias everywhere!

Dad Gone Mad

Prepping for Harry Potter festivities, Dad did a series of experiments involving food colouring, small fans, dry ice, dish soap, and magic spells... Good thing we grew that screen of trees between us and the neighbours or he might well have been hauled off by Ministry of Magic officials!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Fire, Fire Burning Bright

Helicopters are buzzing up and down the Slocan Valley as I type this... a 600 hectare fire is burning just outside Slocan City, about 20 km south of Winlaw. Diane and I kayaked on Slocan Lake today, putting in at Slocan City and then paddling down the lake until we were nearly opposite the fire on the bluffs across the way. Had a great view of the helicopters dipping their gigantic water buckets in the lake and then flying off to drop the water on the fire. Also stopped to see some very cool pictographs on the rock walls right along the side of the lake. All in all, a perfect way to spend a hot summer day! (though, of course, we have our fingers crossed that the fire will soon be extinquished...)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

It's All About Harry!

Sorry about the silence in blog-land. Distracted at the moment by Harry preparations - and can't go into too much detail because, you know, Ministry of Magic officials might zap me for revealing state secrets... Soon, soon it will all be over, children the world over will bury their noses in the book, and we will all enjoy a few hours of well-deserved peace and quiet!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Globe and Mail Article

Not sure if this link will work - but if it does, here's the full text of Wednesday's Globe and Mail article...

A Teacher-Librarian's Perspective

Stew Savard, a teacher-librarian on Vancouver Island, comments on the Saskatchewan situation...

My initial thought, having been a T/L a at the Elementary, Middle and High School levels, is that the T/L's decision in this case is wrong. I would have bought the book, and placed it in the different elementary libraries in which I was building a collection.

Building a collection isn't about finding pabulum for students and managing their thinking based on that pabulum. That is the worst form of censorship. Bullying happens in every school. Pretending it doesn't happen, by eliminating all references to it, is the worst form of denial. Denial of the hurt caused by bullies, allows both the hurt to continue and grow and allows adults and students to not learn how to confront bullies and help them to change.

The reason T/Ls collect both entertaining and challenging books is so that students can learn from the "fictional" responses of others. There are some books that I do not buy for my library. I use two tests, in the Middle School, where I am at right now. The first involves violence and whether or not it is gratuitous. "Hate You" by Graham McNamee contains violence. The violence isn’t gratuitous. It supports the story. Issues facing children and young teens are faced. Lessons are learned. The second test involves the use of sexual imagery. We don’t buy books with descriptions of sex. Romance! Well that is another story entirely. The characters can “swap spit,” as I describe it (usually with a grimace on my face), but that is where a reasonable line can be drawn at upper elementary and middle schools. Students need to learn how to manage their emotions and how better than from the mistakes of others.

I’ve enjoyed the Tarragon Island series. More to the point, almost all of the students I talked with, who have read this series, have enjoyed it. They like the humour and they like the lessons contained within your writing: don’t judge others by first impressions, have the courage to be true to yourself, and learn from the positive and negative actions of others.

It seems particularly ironic that the lessons you write about have been missed in this case. It also seems ironic that the school closed off an opportunity to deal with inappropriate language and with the malicious ways that language is often used in our culture.

My hope is, that after a summer of thought, the Librarian chooses to reconsider the decision and then deals with the broader topics raised in this series. (Slipping the book back on the shelves, without using the material to teach a lesson, would be a shame.)
Stew Savard

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

CBC Radio Interview

In case you missed it, here's the link to All Points West hosted by Jo-Ann Roberts. On the book club page is the link to the chat we had about Trouble on Tarragon Island.

I would cut and paste the fabulous Globe and Mail article by Tom Hawthorn, but though I may be subversive and a threat to the purity of young minds, I'm not a law-breaker. The Globe has a pretty clear policy about posting their articles on other websites... Though, if someone else sees a copy lying around the web somewhere, I suppose I could link to that.... Otherwise, if you are really desperate and want to read it, you'll have to go to the Globe and Mail online, search for Nikki Tate, and then purchase a copy. Globe subscribers may play by different rules - not sure about that.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Photo Shoot

I can't believe how hot it was today! Not exactly ideal for taking photos (can you say sweat stains?) - but the most talented Globe and Mail photographer, Deddeda Stemler put up with the heat, a most uncooperative horse, allergies, and blinding sun coming from just the wrong angle to come up with a really cool series of photos! That's what you get when you send a pro to do the job! Here's a sample...
Visit Deddeda's website by clicking here ...

Monday, July 09, 2007

So Many Supportive Messages!

Thank you to all who have sent such thoughtful and supportive messages re. the book banning incident in Saskatchewan. Here is a lovely one from Gillian O'Reilly of the Canadian Children's Book Centre:

It’s a real shame that children in Kindersley are being denied access to Nikki Tate's Trouble on Tarragon Island. It was chosen for the Willow Awards list by knowledgeable professionals who felt the book had much to offer young readers.

Kids who read this section of the book will recognize the truths in it – that adult actions can embarrass children and that other mean and hostile kids can exploit that embarrassment. But this section is a very small part of the book. In the bigger picture, Trouble on Tarragon Island explores environmental issues, intergenerational relationships, the creativity involved in writing and other media – all within an entertaining story that kids can relate to.

Gillian O'Reilly, Editor
Canadian Children's Book News

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Edmonton Journal - Commentary

Edmonton Journal, Sunday July 8th, 2007


Using the term "bazoongas" to refer to a distinctly feminine anatomical feature is a major faux pas in Kindersley, Sask., where a local elementary school librarian banned the Canadian book Trouble on Tarragon Island for containing language too bawdy for elementary schoolers. While it is true that the term is still likely a few years away from the pages of the Concise Oxford English Reference Dictionary, one really must question whether, in this case, the quest to insulate youths from such forms of linguistic turpitude is being taken to the extreme.

Indeed, one has to wonder whether it is wise to shelter kids from such language that, while suggestive and a little funny sounding, is hardly profane. More than ever, English is a constantly evolving idiom and young people are its main drivers. Considering some of the terms being bandied about in the new male-oriented "brocabulary" -- the "dude-isms" that pass for male bonding and are ubiquitous on TV, radio and the Internet -- chances are bazoongas isn't going to register very high on the Richter scale of bad words.

While various online discussion groups debate the issues raised by the librarian's decision to keep Trouble on Tarragon Island off the shelves and out of the hands of children, others choose to focus on other terms I might have used in lieu of the dreaded word, 'bazoongas'. My favourite alternative so far is 'bodacious tatas.' Yes, I can just hear those words being flung about the halls of a school in my neighbourhood - not!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Prairie Fire or Teapot Tempest? You Decide

Book by Victoria children's author sets off a bit of a Prairie fire

Adrian Chamberlain
Times Colonist

Friday, July 06, 2007

Battle of the bazoongas? Or merely a tempest in a D-Cup?

A popular Victoria children's author is crying censorship after a southwestern Saskatchewan school banned her novel, Trouble on Tarragon Island.

At issue is the book's reference to "bazoongas" as a slang word for breasts. The librarian who pulled the novel at Elizabeth School in Kindersley, Sask., also objected to a mention of "saggy" breasts and a description of a bullying incident.

"I certainly view this as censorship," said Nikki Tate, 45, an award-winning writer of novels for young people. "I deliberately stayed away from crude language."

Wayne Parohl, principal of Elizabeth School before retiring a few weeks ago, said he does not view the withholding of the book as censorship. He said librarian Debbie Wagner originally ordered the novel, but subsequently deemed it inappropriate for younger readers at the school, spanning kindergarten to Grade 7.

The book will be handed over to the high school in Kindersley, a western Saskatchewan town with a population of 4,500, said Parohl.

He said a major fuss is being made over a minor incident.

"I suppose if you claim your book is censored, it makes it more salable. I don't know. It must be a slow news day."

Winlaw-based Sono Nis Press published Trouble on Tarragon Island, which has sold almost 3,000 copies since its 2005 release and is nominated for three book awards. Publisher Diane Morriss said she was surprised to receive a phone call from Wagner informing her Tate's book would be pulled.

Other school libraries across North America have carried it without complaint.

The Saskatchewan librarian -- who could not be reached for comment yesterday -- particularly objected to a description of bullying, said Morriss.

"She said they have zero tolerance for that kind of behaviour at the school, and by letting the kids read it, they're giving support to that kind of action. That's censorship to me," said Morriss.

The vice-president for CWILL B.C., a provincial organization for children's book writers and illustrators, said the incident is a tempest in a teapot. However, kc dyer added that she considers the book ban to be censorship and overkill on the librarian's part.

Dyer said Tate -- who's past chairwoman of the Victoria Children's Literature Roundtable and was twice voted Victoria's favourite children's author -- is an excellent writer highly regarded within the writing community. Trouble on Tarragon Island deals with the subject of bullying "using language that's fairly mild compared to what's heard in the schoolyard," she said.

The book is about a girl who is horrified when her grandmother joins Ladies of the Forest, a radical protest group aiming to save old-growth trees.

Their lobbying efforts include posing for semi-nude photos that appear in a calendar. These images attract taunts from schoolboys who use the word "bazoongas."

The heroine, Heather Blake, thinks: "What they say about my grandmother is true. She does have generous bazoongas, and all of Tarragon Island has seen them."

Trouble on Tarragon Island is nominated for a Willow Award, with winners being voted upon by young readers in Saskatchewan. It is also nominated for a Chocolate Lily Award and a Red Cedar Book Award.
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

News Travels Fast - All the Way to Maine!

Even though it sounds like my books are somewhat hard to find in Maine, this diligent librarian is standing up for Trouble on Tarragon Island! Thank you, Leila -

Quill and Quire Weighs In on Book Controversy

And this just in from Quill and Quire...

Bullying scene gets kids’ book banned from school library
by Megan Grittani-Livingston

July 6, 2007: A school librarian in Kindersley, Saskatchewan, has removed children’s author Nikki Tate’s novel Trouble on Tarragon Island from shelves because it contains a scene of bullying, which the school does not permit, and because the bullying includes words that may be offensive to women.

Librarian Debbie Wagner of Kindersley’s Elizabeth School contacted Tate’s publisher, Victoria-based Sono Nis Press, last week to protest the cover’s recommendation of the book for children ages 8 to 13. According to Diane Morriss, Sono Nis president and publisher, Wagner felt that readers of that age are too young for the book, that insults calling an older woman’s breasts “bazoongas” and melon-shaped were inappropriate, and that similar instances of rude teasing would not be permitted in the school and thus should not be in the library.

Tate’s book, the third in her Tarragon Island series about protagonist Heather Blake, depicts a battle in Blake’s B.C. community over clear-cut logging. Blake’s grandmother joins an anti-logging activist group, and poses naked with them for a calendar, embarrassing her granddaughter. At the beginning of the book’s first chapter, several boys in Blake’s school taunt her about her grandmother’s breasts, calling them “bazoongas” and cupping melon-shaped areas around their chests.

The scene, Tate told Q&Q Omni, “sets up the central conflict of the book, which is asking the question, ‘when you step outside the rules of society … what is the impact on your community and on your family?’” Tate said the description shows the pain experienced by Heather as a result of the bullying. “It’s pretty obvious these kids aren’t being held up as an example of fine behaviour,” she said.

Both Tate and Morriss said they were very surprised by the decision at Elizabeth School, which has 287 students in kindergarten to Grade 7. Morriss said that the scene raised no alarm bells during the editing and publishing process, and that several editors, readers, and librarians who have contacted her about the removal of Tate’s book have said they are also “very surprised that [Wagner and her library committee] would have pulled it from their library.”

According to Tate, who spoke with Elizabeth School principal Wayne Parohl after she heard about the decision, the school’s administration is standing behind Wagner. Parohl, who retired at the end of the 2006-07 school year and will be replaced by Chris Oscar, could not be reached by press time, nor could school staff be reached at the school as they are all on summer holidays. But Tate said Parohl told her the book would not be available to students, even if they asked for it as part of their participation in the provincial Saskatchewan Young Readers’ Choice Willow Awards.

The Willow Awards are given to books nominated by a committee for each of three age groups, then chosen by student votes. Trouble on Tarragon Island is one of 10 books competing in the middle age group, the Diamond Willow category for children in Grades 4 to 6. Morriss said she submitted the book for the oldest group, for readers in Grades 7 and 8, but she said the organizers felt it was more appropriate for the younger bracket. Wagner herself is a director-at-large for the award’s 2007-08 board of directors.

Morriss said she plans to argue against the removal. However, Tate said she isn’t sure they have any options, because the decision was the librarian’s own for her collection – not based on any parental challenge – and therefore was not accompanied by a formal process that can be reviewed or contested.

The pair has faced such questions before, when several schools and libraries took offense to a book in one of Tate’s earlier Sono Nis series, the horseback-riding StableMates chronicles, which included a positive description of a character who practiced Wicca. While nothing came of those actions and challenges, Morriss said she wants to see how the Elizabeth School decision plays out. “I’m interested in seeing the repercussions,” she said. “I certainly hope they will reconsider.”

Star Phoenix Article About Trouble on Tarragon Island Controversy

Publisher defends Tate novel
'Bazoongas' reference concerns school librarian
James Wood, of The StarPhoenix
Published: Thursday, July 05, 2007

REGINA -- References to bullying, breasts and the word "bazoongas" have made a children's book nominated for a Saskatchewan award too hot to handle for a southwestern Saskatchewan school.

British Columbia-based publishing company Sono Nis Press says that Trouble on Tarragon Island, a novel by author Nikki Tate, has been censored by Elizabeth School, a kindergarten to Grade 7 school in Kindersley.

Publisher Diane Morriss said the school's librarian objected to a scene where the young heroine is teased about her activist grandmother posing semi-nude in a calendar, with taunts about her grandmother's saggy breasts, or "baz-oongas."

She said the librarian was offended and felt it was not appropriate for the book's recommended readers between the ages of eight to 14.

Morriss said she's bewildered by the situation, saying this is the first objection that has been made to the book.

"It's been nominated for three awards . . . Everyone else that's worked on the book, the editors and proofreaders, they're all extremely surprised too and they felt it was an overreaction to the scene in the book," she said in an interview.

"I think they've made something out of nothing on this issue. I really don't get it."

Morriss said the book's language is tame compared to what would likely be used in real life and could have been a catalyst for discussion about issues such as bullying.

Wayne Parohl, who was principal of Elizabeth School before retiring at the end of the school year, doesn't agree with the publishing company calling it censorship, saying it's common practice for books to be vetted by school librarians before they are made available to students.

In this case, the book was screened and was found to be not suitable for addition to Elizabeth School's library because of the language used in the bullying scene in question, he said.

"Do you work from the assumption that everything that is published automatically is guaranteed a spot in a school library until it's removed? And then if something doesn't make it on the shelves you call it censorship?" said Parohl.

He said the book would be appropriate for older students and would be passed along to the high school in Kindersley.

The book has been nominated for a Willow Award, a Saskatchewan book award that is chosen by young readers.

Morriss said Kindersley schoolchildren who want to vote in the contest won't be able to read Trouble on Tarragon Island unless they purchase the book.

Among the Willow Award sponsors are The StarPhoenix, Regina Leader-Post and the provincial government's SaskSmart Initiative.

jwood@sp. canwest .com

© The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon) 2007

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Happy Canada Day!

Wow! What a Weekend!

I must say that being in Ottawa for the Canada Day weekend is pretty damned cool! And even more so when one gets to hang out with Canada's finest - the RCMP Musical Ride. Just to prove I wasn't just another Parliament Hill gawker, here's a shot that could only be taken if one has friends in high places...

Yup, taken from inside one of the trucks that haul the musical ride horses across the nation and back! More photos and commentary to come soon, I hope. I'm having a bit of a panic attack at the moment relating to Double Take, which is still whipping back and forth through the ethers during the editing process. And, of course, there's still the matter of the mounting media frenzy relating to the Great Book Banning... and I have to go pick up my horses from Bodicea... and maybe unpack... and pull my weight on the Harry Potter Party Planning Committee... and get those CBRA book reviews in ... and stuff. Ack. So fun writing about my amazing experiences over the past week in Ottawa will have to wait. But meanwhile, in case any of the fine men and women in red serge trot through here, a heartfelt thank-you for all your time and consideration while we poked our cameras and noses into your lives.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Future Musical Ride Horses?

Could either of these two adorable foals someday become members of the musical ride? Only time will tell... but meanwhile, how much fun am I having researching this new book project? Yesterday spent the day at the RCMP breeding farm west of Ottawa... and today hung out with ride trainers, ride members, new recruits, and about 96 horses in residence at the stables in Ottawa. How cool is this job of mine, I ask you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Censor is Alive and Well and Living in Saskatchewan

This just in from Sono Nis Press, publisher of Trouble on Tarragon Island...

A librarian at a school in Saskatchewan called to complain about the age level listing for Trouble on Tarragon Island. She said the committee for their school library feels the book is not sensitive to aging women in its reference to saggy breasts and using the word 'bazoongas.' In particular, the librarian and her committee members are offended by page 11 - line 14, which refers to a boy cupping his hands in a certain way making reference to breasts, etc. The school has zero tolerance for that sort of behaviour and the librarian feels that by allowing students to read about it, the school is giving support to totally unacceptable behaviour. The solution, in this school anyway, is to pull the book from the school library. The librarian went on to say that the book should not be listed as appropriate reading material for young readers.

The school principal agrees that such behaviour is unacceptable and supported the librarian's decision to refuse access to the book through the library. Even if a child specifically requests the book, he or she will not be able to take it out on loan from the library. Not that the school is forbidding children to purchase a copy. The nearest bookstore is a mere 200 kilometers away in Saskatoon, so real keeners can, presumably, hop on their bicycles and tootle to the big city to find a copy.

All this is rather interesting since the book seems to have found many fans among the critics (it's nominated for a Red Cedar Award, a Chocolate Lily Award, and a Saskatchewan Willow Award and has had a number of very positive reviews in the media...) Note that even children who are participating in the Willow Award reading program will not be allowed to take the book out of the library, though the principal assured me in a phone conversation that the children will be given the full title of the book. Whew - that's a relief!

As for the complaint, well, I hardly think that mentioning a negative behaviour in a book condones that negative behaviour. Otherwise, children would never be allowed to read a book about the Holocaust, drug abuse, less than perfect parents, divorce, war, or a whole slew of other less-than-perfect examples of human nature. Do I condone the behaviour my characters exhibit in the challenged part of the book? Of course not - any Grade Five reader will understand that those boys were the bad guys at that point in the story.

What is the message I hoped to share about older women? That they are feisty, powerful, amazing women willing to take on the powers that be in order to stand up for their beliefs. And, yes, sometimes, the most strident among us cause (often inadvertently) some degree of consternation to our relatives. That's life. And isn't the role of fiction to hold up a mirror to what goes on in the world so we can examine what happens from another perspective? Granted, you have to read beyond the first few pages to figure all that out, but it seems young readers haven't had a problem staying interested in the story until the end of the book.

Not that the children in this particular school will be allowed to think for themselves and debate the merits of the grandmother's tactics or the boys' reactions, or the issues surrounding Old Growth Forests... Someone else, apparently, has decided to do the thinking for them. Poor kids.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Surely Not!

What astounded me when I visited was not that the circulating story about this mother tiger nursing a littler of piglets to help her overcome depression was an urban legend (obviously I had my doubts or I wouldn't have visited Snopes!), but that the photo is real! Yes, those really are piglets dressed in tiger skin outfits nursing from a tiger... but they live in the Sriracha Tiger Zoo in Chonburi, Thailand (and not California as was reported in the forwarded email I received) where, apparently, such species mixing and matching goes on regularly as a way of entertaining and amusing zoo visitors. Click here to read the full story...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Facebook - What Gives?

So what the heck is going on over in Facebook-land? A huge explosion of activity, that's what! It seems like everyone is Facebooking these days - yes, me too. This how I found out that KC Dyer has been to Wyoming and wants to go to Pakistan, that Harper Collins Canada is giving away frontlist titles they hope will generate lots of Facebook chit-chat, and that more than 30,000 people have joined the 'You Know You're From BC When...' group! If you are reading this and have not jumped aboard, come on over and join the fun!

In other news, Double Take (Karen Brain's biography) is entering the final phase of the writing process. The past days have been a blur of scanning, entering captions, emailing back and forth with Karen and her mother (who is a saint!) to identify people in photographs as well as give appropriate credit to various photographers, and making changes to the manuscript. Meanwhile, the designer is working on the project (using the penultimate draft) and the second editor (Dawn Loewen) is working away with a red pen. I'll get the edited version back soon and will then make a final (more or less) round of changes before the designer starts finalizing things. Suddenly, this train is moving very fast and I'm getting a little dizzy - and worried that I'll miss something important!

To make matters just a little more stressful, Joan Larson and I are also gearing up to head to Ottawa next week to research a book we are working on together. I'll blog more about that from on the road, but needless to say, my imminent departure is ratcheting up the stress levels as I try to get things finished up on the Double Take front!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Trouble on Tarragon Island Nominated!

Exciting news!
Check out this list of nominees for the Red Cedar Book Award! Very, very exciting!
Red Cedar 2007 / 2008
Fiction Nominees

* Andrews, Jan. Winter of Peril: the Newfoundland Diary of Sophie Loveridge. Markham: Scholastic Canada, 2005.
* Grant, Vicki. Quid Pro Quo. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2005.
* Heneghan, James, and McBay, Bruce; illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. Nannycatch Chronicles. Vancouver: Tradewind Books, 2005.
* Horvath, Polly. The Vacation. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2005.
* Korman, Gordon. Chasing the Falconers: On the Run #1. Markham: Scholastic Canada, 2005.
* Little, Jean. Somebody Else’s Summer. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2005.
* Mitchell, Jack. The Roman Conspiracy. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2005.
* Nyoka, Gail. Mella and the N’anga: An African Tale. Toronto: Sumach Press, 2005.
* Oppel, Kenneth. Skybreaker. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2005.
* Porter, Pamela. The Crazy Man. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2005.
* Scrimger, Richard. From Charlie’s Point of View: A Mystery. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2005.
* Silberberg, Alan. Pond Scum. Bolton, ON: Fenn, 2005.
*Tate, Nikki. Trouble on Tarragon Island. Winlaw: Sono Nis Press, 2005
* Watts, Irene. Flower. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2005.

Congratulations to all the nominees! Hope to see you all at the big award ceremony next year!

Spring Launch Event in Vancouver

This is from the CWILL-BC website... A great event, by the sound of it. So, for all of you who are close enough to attend... don't miss this chance to stock up on summer reading!

Saturday, June 9th, between 1 and 3, hie yourself off to the Alice McKay room in the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

There you will find all the new material you need for a summer of wonderful reading. More than 30 authors and illustrators will be presenting their latest works. Blackberry Books will be on site, so you can pick up a new book or six from your favourite BC authors and illustrators.

These will include: Alison Acheson, Dan Bar-el, Dianna Bonder, Vivien Bowers, Della Burford, Kristin Butcher, Linda DeMeulemeester, Maggie de Vries, kc dyer, Lee Edward Födi, Dennis Foon, Diane Haynes, James Heneghan, Melanie Jackson, Heather Kellerhals-Stewart, Cora Lee, Shar Levine, Ainslie Manson, Adrienne Mason, James McCann, Victoria Miles, Max Newhouse, Cynthia Nugent, Jacqueline Pearce, Louise Phillips, Ellen Schwartz, Sima Elizabeth Shefrin, Shannon Stewart, Tiffany Stone, Joan Betty Stuchner, Diane Tullson, Kari-Lynn Winters & Pam Withers.

This event is sponsored by CWILL BC, Blackberry Books, The Vancouver Public Library and Pandora’s Collective, with support from ING Direct and Purdy’s Chocolate.

Each author or illustrator will have a table — so come out and meet your favourites! There will be treats and activities galore.

There will also be a PASSPORT table, where all attendees can collect a passport. If you collect autographs from ten or more presenters around the room, you can tear off a tab at the bottom of the passport and be eligible for a PRIZE! (Plus you get to keep the autographs…)

Bonnie Nish and Sita Carboni of Pandora’s Collective have graciously offered to help by emceeing this event. Each author and illustrator will get a brief chance to showcase his or her latest books.

There will be three presentation ’sets’ – one for each age group: Picture Books, Middle Grade/Chapter books, Young Adult/Teen books. In between sets, activity will take place at the tables, books can be bought, autographs can be obtained. Activities around the room will resume between the presentations, giving the authors a chance to sign their books etc.

Come and join us for a couple of hours of great book collecting fun — June 9th at the Vancouver Public Library.

~kc dyer

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Iago - Horse Seducer

Here's Iago - my horse whispering cat...

This is how she plays the game... First, she saunters up to Ringo and stands under his nose until he massages her back. She strolls back and forth until her back has been thoroughly rubbed, sometimes twining around between his front legs. Then, she flops down on the ground and invites Ringo to nibble on her tummy. When she's had enough of that she rolls over in the dirt so he can lip her on both sides... Every now and then she gets up and moves a few feet away. She lies down again, gives him her 'come here, big boy' look, and waits. Sure enough, he follows and begins the grooming process again. If he gets too rough, she swats him across the face or grabs his muzzle with all four paws. This goes on for ages, particularly on warm, sunny days when she's feeling particularly affectionate. Ringo is unable to resist her charms and will follow her from end to end of the paddock and back again just to have a chance to bury his nose in her soft fur!

... and when she's had enough, Iago hops up and runs away!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Lest You Think I Was Joking...

Here's a photo taken on the way home from Cranbrook. Same crazy little plane - only difference, the captain's name was Mike.

New Author Photo?

Ah, yes - another fine moment in the life of a storyteller! This taken earlier today at Parkland Middle School during a performance in the library... Yikes!

Freakish Hand!

I am not quite sure what I was doing when this photo was taken during my presentation yesterday at Laurie School, but since my back is to the audience I was probably either ascending or descending a cliff during a performance of The Marriage of Sir Gawain. Despite the strange elongation of my digits during the show, a good time was had by all. A big thanks to the teacher-librarians of Cranbrook who arranged this trip - it's been great! Not a blizzard in sight, either!
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Sunday, May 27, 2007

10 Things One Does Without

... when flying with a really small airline.

1. baggage handler (on the tarmac, outside the plane in Vancouver, handed my bag to Craig, the guy who I thought was doing double duty as a flight attendant... turns out Craig was actually the co-pilot, doing triple duty as flight attendant AND baggage handler...)
2. flight attendant (see above)
Even if I had been absolutely desperate for a drink of water during the flight, there was NO WAY!!!! I was going to yell up to the cockpit, "Hey, Craig! Can you bring me a decaf?" Shoehorning himself into the copilot seat had involved some spectacular yogic contortions and it didn't seem like a good idea to ask him to repeat the maneuver in reverse while we tootled along somewhere high above the Rocky Mountains. He could easily have kicked the 'down' button. Or the pilot.
3. food service (see above. Not even a help yourself candy basket.)
4. tray tables (not that this was a big worry since there was no food)
5. head room
When Craig welcomed me aboard he warned me to watch my head as I passed through the door. I did and foolishly straightened up once through and promply cracked my head on the ceiling. Had to walk folded in half until I found an empty seat because another thing we did without was,
6. assigned seats.
It was a scramble for who got to sit beside the emergency exit. The big guy (a bear hunter?) won.
7. Overhead compartments.
It was a good thing that Craig was willing to take my carry-on bag because there was nowhere to stow it in in the cabin. And, a good thing I am very short because my laptop bag and purse took up every available inch under the seat in front of me.
8. Last names
Toward the end of the flight, Craig announced, "On behalf of me, Jamie, and Pacific Coastal Airlines, welcome to Cranbrook."
Jamie? You mean Capatain Someone-or-other? Jamie? Mind you, Jamie and Craig were pretty chatty during the flight, a fact I was able to determine because I could see them due to the lack of a
9. door
leading to the cockpit. Now that was a first for me since 911. I didn't think they made planes like that any more!
10. Best part of flying in a teeny, weeny plane with about a dozen seats is that nobody can sit beside you in the seat-aisle-seat configuration. So no worries about inappropriate conversations or unpleasant odours or crawling over a sleeping seatmate to try to get to the bathroom. Though Craig never mentioned an on-board loo... Nah. Surely not?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Cheam Students Rock!

What a welcome I received from students in Chilliwack! Cheam Elementary students had gone all out and decorated the walls with fabulous posters and artwork! Amazing! I'll post more on the blog when I have a little more time - I just wish I'd been able to photograph every one of the students' wonderful drawings!

This scene from No Cafes in Narnia was inspired by a real life incident that took place in a boatyard in Florida. My mother drove around the corner just a little too fast and ran right into the pointy end of a forklift. The accident poked out one headlight and skewered the grille of the car! Fortunately, the forks weren't a little higher or Mom might have been decapitated! Like most of the embarrassing or slightly dangerous things that have ever happened to members of my family, this one wound up in a book. Like Dani says, I really don't know how to make anything up!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The 911 Habit!

I sure hope I don't have to call 911 every time I set out on a book tour! Remember the freakish blizzards, the flipped over truck and the bladder panic near Skookumchuk? Well today, this! Just as I was cruising along the Trans Canada Highway heading for Chilliwack (where I will be doing school presentations over the next couple of days) I saw a big semi-trailer just ahead pulling over on the shoulder... not a big deal, except as I was passing him I noticed the driver jump out of his cab looking a bit panicky. And for good reason, flames were licking the dash, the seat... I pulled over as fast as I could, grabbed my cell phone and called in the request for a fire truck, and by the time I had run back toward the accident, realized I had a camera in the truck, retrieved the camera, and run back to the fire, the whole tractor trailer cab was engulfed in flames!

It wasn't long before traffic was snarled for miles, emergency vehicles swooped in from all directions... rumours flew from bystander to bystander - the most thrilling being that the truck had two full tanks of gas that could blow any minute... I would have got closer if it hadn't been for that piece of information! As it was, I couldn't get any really great photos of all the drama, though I did snap a few while I was waiting to see how big the bang would be if those tanks blew... Alas, the firefighters were efficient and before long the excitement was over.

I have a very, very slow internet connection here in the hotel, so I'm probably not going to be able to post any more photos tonight... but once I get home I'll pop up a few more.
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Small Explosion

... note the debris whizzing past the firefighter...

"Did you see that? Missed me by that much..."

"Clean-up on Aisle Nine!"

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Should I Be Worried?

There wasn't much left of the cab when all was said and done!
If I were the jittery type, I might consider cancelling my bookings and heading for high ground. After I checked into the hotel I jogged across the street to the huge supermarket to grab a sandwich and it was like I had arrived in a pre-apocalyptic planning session. EVERYONE was talking about bottled water and candles and flashlights and batteries and how the power could be out for four or five weeks and how were they going to eat all the food in their freezers before it all melted...

I arrived at the till with my sandwich and juice boxes in hand and the woman in front of me, making polite conversation asked, "So do you think it's going to flood?"

At which point the penny dropped. "Ahh... flood - yes, that could happen." There has been a LOT of snow in the mountains and it's feared that if we have a fast, hot spring, the whole Fraser Valley could find itself under water.

The young girl at the till said, "It's going to be bad. The worst ever, they say. Do you have a lot of stuff in your freezer?"

To which I replied, "Ahhh... not too much." I didn't add that since I had arrived in town, was on a book tour, and my phone has 911 programmed into the speed dial, that perhaps we should all vacate the premises immediately.

"Well good luck," she added as I picked up my bag and left. Good grief! What was I thinking, leaving home? At least all I have to worry about there is The Big One (as in - earthquake)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

BC Book Prizes Gala Dinner

Well that was exciting! It's not every night that one is invited over to the Queen's place for dinner! Government House is the perfect venue for the BC Book Prize Gala dinner - and the Queen's representative in British Columbia (the Honorable Iona Campanolo, PM, CM, OBC) a gracious host for the evening's festivities. Many members of the BC literati were present and the room was electric with anticipation (and hunger pangs) as the awards were presented by the likes of Ted Harrison, Pamela Porter, and Carla Funk. William Deverell was a fine Master of Ceremonies and Patrick Lane a worthy recipient of the Lietenant Governor's Award for Literary Excellence.

It was positively nerve-wracking to be sitting at the Sono Nis table while the nominees were read out for the Bill Duthie Booksellers' Choice Award. Yetsa's Sweater was nominated (Yetsa, Joan Larson, and Sylvia Olsen were all on hand...) but alas, had the misfortune of being pitted against David Suzuki's autobiography (the winner). Katherine Gordon's Made to Measure was nominated for the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize. I have never seen a smile so huge as the one that lit up Katherine's face when her name was read out as the winner! What a thrill to be part of it all!

While it is unusual to be wined and dined in a hall with light fixtures like this one,

the strangest moment must have been when we all had to stand and raise our glasses to the Queen herself. Reminded me of my days in elementary school when we all had to sing God Save the Queen on a regular basis.

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners! (here's a link to the complete list)

Friday, April 27, 2007

Meet My Daemon!

If you loved Pullman's The Golden Compass as much as I did, you probably wondered what your deamon might be like... Could I resist visiting this website to find out what mine might look like? Nope! After answering a few questions, I met my daemon, a lovely red fox called Arkadion. Now, wherever I go, I'll imagine him trotting along in the tall grasses at the side of the road, just out of sight but never far away. I just hope he doesn't startle the horses or I'll find myself launched into orbit again. My lovely mare, Bonny took exception to my request to pop over some crosspoles the other day and kicked her heels skyward upon landing on the far side of the jump. I didn't have a chance! After soaring through the air, I landed (miraculously unhurt!) in the soft footing and watched her leap and buck across the ring, stirrups flying, head tossing. She cantered over to her good friend, Belle (a dapple grey mare and her neighbour when she stays up at Bodicea), nuzzled her buddy's neck, heaved a huge sigh, and was reasonably perfect after that. A good thing too. I am reaching that certain age where I can't be expected to bounce and roll the way I once did in my rubbery youth. Ah, horses. Gotta' love 'em!

This is what we should have looked like...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Behind the Scenes...

... with Diane Morriss of Sono Nis Press. Click on the title above to listen to a really interesting interview with publisher Diane Morriss. It's quite enlightening to hear her take on everything from backlist titles to dealing with the chain bookstores...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Caution! Sharp Knife Ahead!

Note to self: when testing the new (very sharp) cheese knife, keep your mousing fingertip well away from the (very sharp) tip of the blade. Failure to do so will result in throbbing discomfort with each mouse click, double click, or depression of the J, H, U, I, M or N keys on the keyboard... oh, apparently that list should also include the letter Y. DOH! The cheese (some German Gorgonzola variety) was tasty, though!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Now That's a Book Launch!

How often does an author see a lineup like this...

leading to a venue like Government House in Victoria, BC? Hundreds of people came to get a rare peek inside Government House today during a 50th anniversary celebration (in 1957 Government House burnt down and was subsequently rebuilt). What a brilliant day to launch the book, Government House by Rosemary Neering (with photographs by Tony Owen).

Congratulations to all involved with the production of this lovely book!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Thistle Begs to Be Groomed

Thistle, originally uploaded by nikki_tate.

I was out and about today, taking some reference photos for Joan Larson (who is hard at work on the new StableMates covers...) and stopped by Bodicea to take a few shots of their paddocks and outbuildings. Thistle was showing off, stealing the brush and tossing it around! He may be the size of a full-grown horse (though he is only just a yearling) but he has the playful attitude of a baby! A Clydesdale, he is going to be huge, but meanwhile, he's about as cute as a thousand pound creature can be!