New at Canadian Bookshelf: late nights, deadlines, and piracy

When you graduate from wanting to working, you say, 'I am going to flesh out this idea and write the whole thing down, and rewrite it, and rewrite it again, and rewrite it unendingly, and I'll have no real assurance of when it'll be good enough, but at some point I'll pitch it to someone who will decide if I'm delusional or not.'

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A 'rollicking, rowdy hoot of a book'...

Some books are written to be read aloud to an audience of children, and The Dread Crew definitely fits into this category. A rollicking, rowdy hoot of a book ... there are identifiable characters for both boys and girls, and humor akin to Roald Dahl at his most satirically anti-establishment.

Illustrations are detailed and lovingly rendered, but the humorous, evocative language creates its own word pictures. The Dread Crew's very words echo Goldman’s The Princess Bride. Purchase multiple copies of this book because demand will be strong, and I’ll be very surprised if it doesn’t end up in the round of honors books at the end of the year.

~ Lois Rubin Gross (Children's Literature)


a certifiable signing

Somehow it felt like graffiti to sign my name to the inside sheet of a book. My scrawl, for a while my whole name (which felt odd), then relaxed into my proper signature (not terribly legible, which felt odd). It needed to be made official. Something along the lines of THIS IS NOT GRAFFITI.

I began inserting a card into each book, more calling card than business. A bookmark, whenever I had a stack at home. And then the rubber stamp.

Here's the new one. I love the ka-chunk of it, the unpredictable ink, sometimes thick and bleeding, other times faint and interrupted.


faith in scrawl


I went to tear out a sheet for a grocery list and found the birth of a Dread Crew scene, written while curled up on the high side of a starboard tack because for a while, I had to write everywhere. So I did. I brought that notebook to waiting rooms, on long drives, on the boat.

These days I feel like a second book is downright implausible. This scrawl, both far and close to what became printed text, is proof that it's not.

'Tardy but enthusiastic': the Sweet Juniper read


"What is it I loved about this world Kate created? It bears some resemblance, I imagine, to the craggy, windswept place she actually inhabits on the Atlantic coast. But what makes this world new is seeing it from the perspective of a boy still young enough to see possibilities his parents might long have written off. There are still pirates in Nova Scotia. They roam the barely-lit edges of his world but he has proof. It's a world filled with secret documents, maps, and mysterious totems. In other words, Kate has made a world where there is still adventure in the woods...

...See, these pirates are profane. They are the grossest pirates you will ever meet, and your kids will love them. Trust me. They fart and smell like outdated French cheeses and their behavior is more uncouth than any character's you will encounter between Robert Louis Stevenson and Roald Dahl. And their overall disgustingness is lovingly etched by Halifax native Sydney Smith who has a particular talent with stink lines, buzzing flies, warts, wrinkles, and glowering faces. Kids love stories about any creatures more poorly behaved than themselves, and the pirates of the backwoods will not disappoint even the most unruly jackanape under your roof."

~ James Griffioen of Sweet Juniper (the complete review lives here)


Atlantic Author Day, and getting back to Missy

It's been quiet over here. Quiet in my head, too. Writing has largely been shuffled aside for the past month or so, and we know already that Missy's not one to wait patiently. More on that in a moment.

Well into the summer and fall, a new season of signings and readings and bookish events begins. Tomorrow I'm all over Halifax and Dartmouth, appearing at bookstores as a part of Atlantic Author Day. Catch me at the following locations tomorrow, Saturday, June 26, 2010:

10:00 - 11:00 AM -- Chapters Mic Mac Mall

11:15 - 12:15 PM -- Tattletales Bookstore, downtown Dartmouth

1:00 - 2:00 PM -- Chapters Bayers Lake

3:00 - 4:00 PM -- Woozles, downtown Halifax

I'm excited to be chatting with readers again. And I've finally given in to signing books with my actual signature rather than writing out my full name. It's a bit loopy and unintelligible. But writing my name makes me feel like I'm doodling on a social studies binder in grade seven. So if you've got a copy of The Dread Crew (or if you'd like one if the gorgeous new softcovers with the new Glossary of Terms), and you're not averse to loopy scrawls, show up tomorrow. I'd love to meet you.


The next book turns its attention to Missy, you might already know. She travels the world and meets new and strange pirate crews, and becomes a spy herself, and encounters a mystery -- in that order. We'll still have Dreads, and Eric and Joe feature too. The deadline for her manuscript is this coming November, and up until a month ago, I was in the thick of it. I'd written one-quarter of the book, by measure of word count -- though I don't write in a linear way, and so those words hop and jump all over the story. But still. I was chugging along the underground of London, England... among the tall grasses of the prairies... in the Chief's office at the union's eastern seaboard headquarters... and way up in the northern forest around Hudson Bay.


Penelope actually said the first two of three. She transmitted the third psychically.

I can feel Missy tapping on my shoulder. She agrees with Penelope, and she wants me to start writing again on July 1. And so I'll follow her, back up into the sky.



A small but determined chirp

On November 9, 2009, we headed downtown for the book launch. By Christmas the books were in hands and on shelves and holiday season readings were wrapped up. Before too long it felt like it was over. I released a book once and sheer terror and nerves to the point of being peeled raw and then ... just ... quiet.

It was a great quiet. The publishers' warehouse sold out in three months. You can't get a better quiet than that. Not that it was a million-book first edition. But still. It was a great quiet.

But with no books left to sell, and with store inventories scattered at best, we were in a holding pattern until spring. Until the second edition -- an expanded softcover -- would replenish supply and mark the beginning of broader distribution.

I'd been thinking of The Spring like some distant, ethereal thing. Which is always is in a Nova Scotian January. But the other day someone asked When should I post my review? and I said You can wait a while, like, say... and I looked down at the calendar. It was the end of March. Jan-Feb-Mar- - - April.



April 17, to be exact. The ink is drying right this second.

And so it all starts up again. Readings and workshops, school visits and signings. And somewhere, in the middle of all of that plus lego-play and client work, the finishing of the second book -- the manuscript for which is due in November. Can I do this again? A small voice chirps back yep! from underneath an unceremonious pile of debris thrown there in the last flurry.

I'd almost forgotten. I have a book, and it's about pirates. Pirates in the woods.

Yes, and all over again.


He likes it: he really, really likes it

"My heart stopped, and I looked away before I was spotted, before my attention brought any sort of self-consciousness to the scene upon which I had stumbled. I had gotten this book for Graham. He had said, upon receiving it 'Oh, cool,' and redirected what small part of his attention he had used to respond to me back to whatever he was doing- much more interesting. Obviously.

But here he was, sitting at the kitchen table with his usual shades-of-tan dinner and...wait, what's that in his hand? OH NO! It's the DREAD CREW! There he sat, happily smacking his lips, eating his pizza with ketchup or chicken nuggets or similarly kid-approved meal item, patently unaware of anything but the grubby, swarthy, gnarly, brazen adventures unfolding on the projector-screen just behind his eyes.

Look Mom, he's reading the pirate book!

I know, he hasn't put it down. He loves it.

(beams with victory and delight)


'Hey Alex!'

'Hey Graham.'

"Do you know what my favorite part of 'The Pirates of the Backwoods' was?"

(Oh no, he's already finished it, and I'm not even half way done! He's going to spoil it! Make him STOP!!) Errr...what? (holds breath)

'The honey lessons. Like, the undiscovered joys of occasional bathing. Huh huh huh.'

(Whew! Already read that part. The irony, however, is not lost on me. Maybe you could take a lesson or two from Joe yourself; Eh, Mr My-Hair-Only-Looks-Cool-If-It-Hasn't-Been-Washed-For-A-Week? Undiscovered joys of bathing indeed!)"


The Dread Crew reaches Scotland, 'entrances'

"The Dread Crew is a children's book, but like all the best children's books, that means that adults can ostensibly buy it for someone else and read it themselves on the sly.

The book as a whole was.. I find it hard to pinpoint the correct word. 'Entrancing' is closest. It's the kind of book that, as a child, I loved: a clever and resourceful child (that would be me, of course) discovers that behind the facade of normal life, strange and wonderful things not only exist, but thrive, and are there for the discovering. Kate's unique, startlingly original turns of phrase, her vividly quirky descriptions and most of all her sly, earthy humour are all there. With pirates! How can you resist?"

Loth of The Gym Isn't Working lives in Nova Scotia's motherland. Read her review here. Thank you, Loth, for the lovely feedback and for getting your copy of the book properly dented and scruffy, as it should be.