WordVancouver 2019 Coming Soon!

Word+Vancouver+2019+Website+Banner+SquareIn just two weeks, from Tues., Sept. 24th to Sun. Sept. 29th, the annual WORDVancouver festival will be celebrating its 25th year here in Vancouver. This celebration of reading and writing will feature many author readings, exhibits, workshops, panel discussions, and all kinds of fun stuff.

I love this event because it has something to offer people of all ages and reading preferences. Poets, comic book authors, nonfiction writers, Indigenous authors, and many fiction authors, among others, will be there.

The biggest day is the final day, Sunday, where there will also be musical entertainment. This free, family-friendly event will be held both outdoor and indoors down at and around Vancouver’s main public library on Georgia St.

I’ll be helping volunteer at the Crime Writers of Canada table from 11:00 to 1:00 p.m. There will also be a panel discussion on Setting in Crime Fiction from 12:05 to 1:05 pm in the Montalbano Family Theatre, so if you’re a fan of crime writing, come by and check us out!

You can learn more about the festival’s schedule HERE

Hope to see you there!

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Celebrating International Literacy Day

tumblr_ma0chcq3dn1qedj2ho1_1280[1].pngFor those who don’t know, today is International Literacy Day. Created by UNESCO’s General Conference in 1966, the purpose of this event is to raise awareness of the important of literacy in communities around the globe.

According to one website, 16% of the world’s population, two thirds of them girls, are unable to read or write in their native language. While many programs are underway and doing great things to help, there’s still a long way to go. You can learn more HERE

There are plenty of things people can do to help promote literacy, but just helping someone with reading challenges is a huge and important step forward. When my kids were little, I spent many hours over the years reading to them. It’s one of the best things I ever did as a Mom.

This year’s theme is Literacy and Multilingualism. I work in the Linguistics department at a university here in Canada, and most of the people in my department speak at least two languages. Some speak four or five, and one professor far more than that! Three of our faculty members and others are working diligently to teach and record Indigenous languages, and to instruct other students on how to teach those languages before they are lost. It’s quite remarkable.

So, hats off to literacy and multilingualism, learning and communicating. No matter how technologically advanced we become, it doesn’t mean much if you can’t express and share your ideas with words.

Positive Takeaways From an Ugly Experience

The Latin Quarter, Paris, FranceIn ten years of book reviewing, now topping over 500 reviews, I have to say that it’s been a rewarding experience. I love reading and reviewing books. It’s amazing when I come across an author I’ve never heard of and find a story that I just love.

I read both famous and new, unknown authors. I read almost everything and draw on both self-published and traditionally published books. Basically, I choose whatever intrigues me on any given day. I also like to help and support other authors. So when I answered someone’s review request in the fall of 2016, I gave a balanced, honest review of a book that had some major grammatical, spelling, and typo flaws, but which also had a good plot and characters. I wound up giving it a 3-star interview on Amazon, (2-stars on Goodreads).

The author didn’t like my review and also wanted me to tell her where all the typos were. I told her about two of them and pointed out that it was her job to find the rest. That’s when she began ranting at me on Twitter. She emailed me a couple of times, but I didn’t respond. What was the point? I felt no need to defend or justify my review, and still don’t.

So imagine my surprise when I learned this past Sunday that she had posted a scathing rant on Facebook about me, warning her Friends about my “malicious” review. Oh yes, apparently, I was “stupid and ugly” too.

Honestly, I’d forgotten all about her because the review was posted well over two years ago. Clearly, she hadn’t forgotten about me. What happened next was what really shocked me. Within an hour of the woman’s post, I had 23 people who had called her on it, told her it was wrong to attack a reviewer, and who then asked to “Friend” me as a means of offering support, so I did. Many felt that the woman’s remarks were uncalled for and that I didn’t deserve this treatment.

My expanding social network is still expanding as I write this. More people know who I am, what I write, and that I approach my reviews with integrity. I could make a number of points about this experience, but I want to focus on two that are most important to me.

One: The writing community is filled with wonderful supportive people who will not put up with bullying, abusive behavior.

Two: Honesty and integrity not only matter, but are appreciated.

It does my heart good to know this, and I will continue writing reviews because I still enjoy it. I’m not afraid of the occasional unprofessional rant about my work, whether it’s over reviews, blogs, or my books. The positive feedback far outweighs the negative and for that I’m grateful.

To Succeed or Not—It’s More Complicated Than I Thought

search-for-success-intro-220x140[1]In an earlier blog, I wrote about the question of success for writers…what it means, how we define it, and I pretty much decided that it’s up to each of us to define our own measures of success. This often involves meeting goals, some that might have little to do with large royalty checks and tons of book sales.

Of course, the reality is that the world beyond our front door will judge us by our income, book sales, awards and prestigious reviews. Whether that matters is up to you, but apart from my own definitions and goals, I find the overall topic of success fascinating. So I was pretty excited to come across a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.

In this book, Gladwell makes it clear that the success achieved by Bill Gates and the Beatles, for example, is not just a matter of talent or IQ, but of cultural background, family and community support, opportunities seized upon (right time, right place) and decisions made. There’s also the matter of the extreme amount of practice put into mastering their skills.

Gladwell cites the famous study which suggested that it takes about 10,000 hours of practice to achieved the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert in anything. This goes for lawyers, rock stars, and writers, I expect.

It makes me wonder how many hours authors put into writing before publishing that first book (traditionally or through self-publishing), and if that practice is a sufficient foundation to reach multiple book publications and huge sales (whatever huge means). I’m just not sure that the 10,000 hour rule is all that straightforward.

For instance, if authors manage to put in 10,000 hours of writing practice before publishing that first book and landing a contract, is it enough experience to help them write the next two books that publishers often expect in quick succession? Will the authors have the mastery to produce the same quality of work that landed them a contract in the first place?

While Gladwell provides some intriguing anecdotes and stories, not all of the answers are there. He discusses the concept of failure as well, through the story of one of the most intelligent men in the world, yet very few people know who he is. It’s an insightful story.

I do think that Gladwell is spot on when he reveals that the super stars portrayed in his book are well aware that they didn’t get there alone. Again, this is also true for writers. If you’re interested in the topic of how success is created in some people and not in others, then I would definitely recommend this book.

Vacation’s Over, Now Back to Work

Vacations end all too soon, don’t they? We thoroughly enjoyed enough Puerto Vallarta sunshine (I used nearly a whole tube of sunscreen) and sleep (9 to 10 hours a night) to finally feel ready to face whatever this year brings.

Like pretty much everything in my life, I viewed this trip from a writer’s perspective. After all, most of us who love putting words on the page or screen, never stop thinking about writing even if at a subconscious level. We’re always coming up with new ideas and settings, mentally recording bits of dialogue or incidents, and I had plenty of time to do just that.

pool view, villa del mar, jan. 2019As you can imagine from this photo (the view’s from our balcony) I spent a fair bit of time observing people, sometimes from this patio or down by the poolside. Vacationers’ reading habits came as a bit of a surprise. Over half of the people reading by the poolside were holding paperback books. The majority of readers were 50 years and over. But many in the same age group, along with the younger generation, were also reading and/or scrolling through their phones. What surprised me most was the lack of Kindles and iPads there. I brought one paperback which I’d started reading before we left and then turned to my iPad for the rest of the trip.

patio view, villa del mar, jan. 2019This is the view of the other patio along the side of our corner suite. It was my quiet place to think and reflect and, yes do a little light editing for one hour a day. I also pondered writing goals and opportunities for the year. It might look idyllic but what you can’t see is the construction site just to the left, where workers were jackhammering and bulldozing to build a new hotel. Luckily, we weren’t in our room most of the day, and they didn’t work evenings or Sundays.

Lastly, and most importantly, this vacation was about family, creating new memories, jotting notes in my journal, and looking forward to the future. The shot below is of my husband and daughter, sharing a quiet moment. Actually, it’s quite momentous because my husband used to loathe the idea of putting his bare feet in the ocean, until this trip. He’s come a long way. Next time, he says he might actually try swimming in it. Baby steps, right?

elida and bark, playa de los muertos, jan. 2019So now I’m back to major edits, the day job, writing workshop facilitating, and more family stuff. Given that I’ve been on a leave of absence from the day job, it’s been a while since I’ve had a normal routine. But normal is okay. In fact, it’s just fine.

A Mini-Break To Start 2019 Off Right!

To wind up this three-month break from the day job, tending to family needs and other obligations, I’m excited to be heading off to sunny, warm Puerto Vallarta tomorrow. We’ll be joining my daughter and future son-in-law for fun, relaxation, and site-seeing.

This is my second trip to this wonderful city, but the first time we get to share the experience with family. It could be our last Mexico trip for a while, but who knows?

mexico, 2018The photo is a glimpse of the resort where I’ll be staying. I’m bringing lots of sunscreen and books on my iPad, and yes, a little light editing for those early mornings with coffee in hand, when the days feel fresh, creative, and promising.

I’ll also bring my laptop, but don’t guarantee that I’ll actually look at it too often. Those two-for-one happy hours and all that sun tend to sap my energy as the day goes on.

I won’t be blogging until the last week of January, when I’ll catch up with all of the great bloggers I follow. Until then, adiós!

Reading Goals This Year and Next

girl[1]Back in August, I blogged about my favorite reads so far this year. I had read 27 books at that point, but still had 23 to go to reach my reading goal of 50 books in 2018. By the time November rolled around, I was seriously behind in achieving that goal.

One book a week doesn’t sound like a lot, but with day jobs, family responsibilities, and daunting writing goals, it became more difficult as the year progressed.

Since I’ve been on a leave of absence from the day job, I’ve had more reading time. I also chose fiction that wasn’t 500 pages or more. Some of the nonfiction I read this year was pretty intense, and took a while to get through. So it’s not surprise that my favorite reads these past four months are all fiction:

. Force of Nature by Jane Harper

. Miami Requiem by J.B. Turner

. Judgment Road by Christine Feehan

. Trickster Draft by Eden Robinson

. The Watchmaker’s Daughter by C.J. Archer

. Land of Hidden Fires by Kirk Kjeldsen

. The Amulet Thief by Luanne Bennett

. Bound by Kirsten Weiss

Goodreads tells me that I’ve reached 98% of my reading goal, and as I’m just finishing another book, I’ll make my target, then jump right into my first nonfiction of the year, which is Judi Dench’s biography, And Furthermore.

It’s going to another great year of fiction and nonfiction reading, and the goal will be the same. I’ll be back at the day job in a month, and more challenges will be coming this year. Still, I can’t wait to discover new authors and different worlds.

A Happy New Year of reading to everyone!