Sunday, December 22, 2013

Outgoing: Patricia and Nichole

I decided not to stop at the collage and also did a little mail art on the envelopes being sent to these two.

Book and Writer Round-ups

This is, of course, the time of lists. Maria over at Brain Pickings (you must subscribe; really), is a master of these, so here are a few of her year-end round ups. Her website is the most interesting and worthwhile time sucker on the web IMHO. (If you've never been to the site, get yourself a cup of coffee and prepare to dive into the rabbit hole.)

Paper Typewriter by Jennifer Collier

The year's best books on writing and creativity. Lots of gems there, including Neil Gaiman's Make Good Art. "Whatever it is you're scared of doing, do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever."

And here's Maria's list for best children's books (illustrated and picture books), which includes the fabulous You Are Stardust by Canadian writer, Elin Kelsey. (The book also has an app version.)

The prolific (and very witty; you should also follow her), Elizabeth Bird over at Fuse #8 Productions, has compiled a list of 100 Magnificent Books for 2013.

Closer to home, the Canadian Chidlren's Book Centre has put together a list of great holiday reads by Canadian authors, illustrators and publishers.

Finally, British Columbia author Laura Langston, wrote a two part, Gifts of the Season, in which authors share the best gifts they've received. It's a must read for many reasons, but most of all if you have an aspiring writer in the house. Here is part one and part two.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Outgoing: Mail Art Call

Some morning fun - answering the mail art call from the International Union of Mail Artists. This one, from a Canadian, is Give Mail Carriers Work, a shout out to Canada Post's recent announcement about cuts to mail carriers in large centres (small towns, such as ours, have never had door-to-door service). In lieu of door-to-door service, these customers will now have to use "super boxes." I am somewhat ambivalent about that part of the news (although I do have nostalgic thoughts about it all and always thought that a postal carrier might have been a great career had I thought about it - you start early in the day, get your exercise while you work, deliver mail (yeah!) and have completed your work day fairly early), but I am concerned about the rising cost of postal rates, which are already ridiculous. A letter mailed in Canada will now be $1.00 (or 85 cents if you buy the stamps in packs). I'm not sure how much US (currently $1.10) or international (currently $1.85) letters will be, but it could cramp my style if postage become prohibitive. So, in an attempt to keep those mail carriers busy, here is my letter to Elaine. Not the wildest envelope, but I used a caribou stamp so thought I'd stay with the caribou theme.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Collages sent: Nichole and Patricia

These two are off to Nichole in Clifton, Virginia and Patricia in Amsterdam. More loose fun with these two. I stopped trying so hard.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Collages sent: Vickie and Jill

I have been trying to make a collage or two a day to send to my classmates in the collage course I was taking. I've been making them in batches, but my technique has been pretty fiddly and slow. I took photos of the first batch, but my camera and the lighting were pretty terrible so I won't clutter up the blog with them. Here are two of the six final collages.

In these two collages, I made a base layer of text (using a page from an old typewriter manual) and then did different patterns with a layer of gesso. When that was dry, I added paper and "ephemera" in black, white, red and yellow. These were my two favourites. They were whisked around the world - to Belgium, France, the US, and Canada.

Yesterday, I picked up Randel Plowman's (of A Collage A Day) The Collage Workbook, which has lots of great ideas. I made these two collages quickly, using his Layering 101 tips. I just found some papers I liked, trying to keep them in a similar palette, added a second layer with some tissue or other translucent papers, and then added a subject. It was interesting how there was serendipity in the end. In the first, for instance, the squares and rectangles were echoed pretty much by chance as was the positioning of MONOPOLY on the man's chin. After some fiddly days of collage making (between a lot of other things), these two were fun and relaxing. Perfect for the holidays. More to come. These are off to Vickie in Decatur, Georgia and Jill in Clare, South Australia.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Inspiration: the art of Rebecca Jewell

A few weeks ago I was in Victoria for a meeting and saw a notice for a show that intrigued me. It had birds in it, of course, which attracted me being the nature lover that I am. But this was a million miles away the ubiquitous "put a bird on it." British artist Rebecca Jewell has "put" exquisite birds on feathers.

Owl Headdress

Yes, those are real feathers with their fine, delicate quills. This incredible fact did not quite translate in the advertising copy for the exhibit at Alcheringa Gallery in Victoria, nor in the pictures I saw in a magazine, so I was floored when I actually saw the art in person.

Jewell is artist-in-residence at the British Museum. Imagine having the job of re-imagining the collection of the museum in her prints, paintings and other artwork. This video is a wonderful introduction to Rebecca and her work.

Rebecca Jewell: Artist and Printmaker from Rebecca Jewell on Vimeo.

Quill Pens and Inkpots

Here are the details on the exhibit. (Thank you to Rebecca, who graciously answered my email and gave me permission to post the images.)

Three for a Girl, 2013

So, if you're in Victoria over the holidays, take some time to visit this stunning exhibit. You won't be disappointed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Put a Bird, er Collage, On It

When I made this collage this morning, I couldn't help but think of the Put a Bird on It episode from Portlandia. I will try not to make a collage out of everything. Promise.

So here's the story. As I was cleaning my office, studio, piano room, junk catch-all place in my house, yesterday I decided the Rolodex had to go. As I was going through it though, I realized that all of those cards were a little bit of my history. I don't think I've even looked at it - and certainly haven't added a new card - for several years, but there were a few gems in there. (And clearly an attestation to my pack rat nature.) Much of what I found were old logos and cards from publishers and publishing contacts. The cards are a bit of a time capsule of my writing history. In fact, I still had the card from Mary Macchiusi at Pembroke Publishers, who published my first book, The Green Classoom, 23 years ago (is that really possible?). I think it was the original card she gave me 25+ years ago. I give Mary much of the credit for launching me as a writer back in the late 1980s. Honestly, I didn't know too much about the industry then. In fact, after The Green Classroom was published, in my enthusiasm I sent her a second manuscript for a book that was entirely unsuited for Pembroke Publishers (first rule of trying to get published - target your publisher wisely and don't waste peoples' time; okay, that was two rules). But Mary kindly passed the manuscript on to Kids Can Press and the rest, well, is pretty much history as Kids Can has published most of my books since. I had a few cards from Kids Can in the stack and you can see how the logo has changed. Also in the stack is a card from my beloved editor at Kids Can, and wonderful writer in her own right, Valerie Wyatt. (Her's is the Two Can Communications card, a company she started with her husband.) There's also a card from Linda Weigl at Weigl Educational Publishers where I did some of my first educational writing. Interestingly, there were no cards from McGraw-Hill Ryerson, whose educational division I wrote for for years. But perhaps it's not too surprising as our interactions were largely over the Internet. Other publishers are represented too. Some I've written for (Greystone, Orca and OwlKids*) and some I just had conversations with (Rocky Mountain Books and Tradewind). To round it off, a few cards from friends and colleagues I've worked with over the years.

Clearly I didn't give a lot of thought to composition of this collage, but the exercise did take me on a journey through my 25 years of writing history (I still can't quite get my head around that!).

*I've been meaning to write about a great four-book series (Sizing Up Winter, Sorting Through Spring, etc.) on math in nature that OwlKids released over the past two years. They're written by Lizann Flatt and are a fabulous resource for elementary-aged children. I helped out in a small way by writing the teacher's guides that went with the books. They're free and available by pdf. Here's one.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Goody Goody GIft Swap

So once I got my enthusiasm ramped up for saving (more) bits of paper and ephemera (essentially anything that can be glued down), I had to figure out ways to share my experiments. I quickly found Swap-Bot, which is still a bit of an experiment. We'll see how that goes and I'll report back. I've sent a few things out into the ether and am crossing my fingers I don't get anything too cutesy in return. (And if I do, that's okay too. I'll just cut it up.) I can't even recall how I got linked up with the Goody Goody Gift Swap, but I just finished my gift for my partner, a young mom in the US, who is training to be a herbalist and acupuncturist. I used a variety of patterned papers, pages from a small book in Chinese text (which I have no idea what it says), some royalty free images printed on velum, and images from a dictionary of gardening. Here's the result. It will be in the mail tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Adios, Movember

I don't participate (obviously) in Movember. We have sponsored others who have decided to grow a 'stache, but my husband is fully bearded and moustached, so I've not had the torture of snuggling up against an itchy, scratchy face with an "incoming" beard. Still, I had Movember on my mind, so I created this collage during the weekly art night date I have with a few friends.

Movember: not just for boys and elephants

This piece was created using a piece of a Polish map, a page from a book on shorthand, and various book and magazine images.

And, hey, I finally learned the definition of "portmanteau" by reading the definition of Movember on Wikipedia (linked above). A portmanteau word is simply, a "blend."  The other definition is a travelling bag for clothes, etc., especially of leather and opening into two equal parts. It is French in origin, from porter, to carry, and manteau, mantle. Yes, I'm an etymology geek.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

On Reviews (and more collage...)

Thanks, Canadian Materials and Gillian Richardson, for the very thorough review of Planet Ark. At a time where reviews and reviewers (especially of children's non-fiction) are short at best and otherwise almost non-existent, it is so wonderful to have a Canadian resource that takes the time to review books for young readers.

And I've been going through a lot of glue, matte medium and exacto blades around here. A few results:

King of the Nerves


Double Island

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Playing With Paint and Paper

For a variety of reasons I haven't been writing too much lately. Partly it's because of time (I work at an NGO; doing a job that brings me a great deal of satisfaction) and partly it's because writing a non-fiction book for adults, such as Long Beach Wild, is very (very) labour intensive and, well, I just need a break to re-charge. I have been exploring visual arts as a creative outlet a bit more though. I've painted and drawn here and there, taken the occasional course, dabbled in fits and starts. This round though, it seems to be sticking a bit more. I even feel brave enough to launch them into the Blogosphere for all (or whoever wanders by) to see.
Abstract Flowers
Creating these abstract flowers was fun and a very relaxing way to spend a bit of time on a drippy weekend. It is the result of an on-line tutorial by Carla Sonheim. She has other great tutorials and books you should check out. Lots of fun.

And it's been a little collage crazy here in my office since I've been taking an on-line course by Berlin-based artist, Stephanie Levy - 30 Days of Collage. I won't bore you with all of my creations, but here are a few. Some from the course and some created just because.
Exercise: warm colours
Exercise: use of fabric
Just because.  
Exercise: use of tape

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


John Steinbeck wrote, "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." If you replace the word ideas with "blogs" or "websites" or "Twitter accounts" you will realize the dilemma I've been in for the last year or so. I am slightly overloaded with social media and it has pretty much stifled me to complete inaction. The time away has been good, but I'm ready to jump back in so I'm re-setting and re-activating my online presence in, I hope, a slightly more strategic way.

Part of the dilemma is that I have a pretty partitioned life. I have the side of me that writes books for children, the part of me that writes books for adults, the part of me that writes for museums and interpretive centres, the part of me that is passionate about all things Tofino and west coast history, the part of me that has a small publishing company with an amazing friend and artist, Marion Syme, the part of me that dabbles in art (you probably don't know that person yet). Okay, you get the picture. O v e r e x t e n d e d.

So, I'm determined to get this house (er, houses; and virtual at that) in order so that I can continue with blogging and posting and tweeting without getting hung up with whether I'm posting in the right place. Some blogs I am just going to ditch - without anyone ever really knowing - but others I'm going keep active. It's probably silly to think I need to partition everything off so much. I am who I am. To some people, I'm a writer of science books for children, to others I know a little bit about the history of the west coast, to others I'm a bit publisher. It doesn't really matter. I'm all of those things. So let's get back at it. But first, just so we have a record of where everything is at present, here's the list. Amalgamations probably coming soon (but this site will stay active). My primary website. Postelsia Press, the little publishing house I run with Marion Syme. For all things Long Beach, visit here and for all things Tofino, check out The Heart of Tofino. My primary Twitter feed will be Tough City Writer and you can find me on Instagram under the handle, you guessed it, toughcitywriter.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Planet Ark Sets Sail

In 2013, I vow to post here more than once a year. Even once a month would significantly improve my recent record! I have a plan. We'll see how it goes. For now, I have a new book to share. Planet Ark: Preserving Earth's Biodiversity is (hopefully) in (or shipping to) a bookstore near you. There are already a few reviews in the ether. One from Kirkus Review, and a nice surprise - a starred review from Publishers Weekly. It's been a few years since I've written a book for children. This one was a nice departure from my usual "straight up" science books as, being more of a non-fiction picture book, it gave me some more scope to be a bit lyrical. And it was nice to be in a partnership with a very skilled artist, Margot Thompson who has illustrated other books for Kids Can Press as well (while also managing to be an exhibit designer at the Royal Ontario Museum!). More soon. Really.