“Optimists Die First” by Susin Nielsen

Optimists Die First is an excellent YA book. To cope with a family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Petula De Wilde sees danger around every corner from eating a hamburger to walking near a construction site.

In a mandatory art therapy class she, the fearful pessimist, meets a quirky group of teens who all have their burdens. Among these is Jacob the apparent optimist who seems so normal except for his prosthetic arm. This is a love story between Petula and Jacob that threatens to not be.

A wonderful tale with even more wonderful and believable characters. A must read.


Lisa’s War

I have read may of novels by Carol Matas over the years. They have all been good.  Lisa’s War jumped off the shelf at the library the other day and I read what I thought was a new one of hers. Good as usual, it is the simple but well told story of a Jewish girl who helps herself and others to escape the Nazi occupation in Denmark.

What I found particularly interesting was the Afterword. 

“Because of the courage and resourcefulness shown by the Danish people, both Jews and Gentiles, Denmark was one small bright corner in that terrible time. Of some 7,000 Danish Jews, only 474 were arrested and sent to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, while the rest escaped to the safety of neutral Sweden.

But this great escape could not have happened if the SS had succeeded in trapping families in their homes on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. That shameful plan was foiled by G.F. Duckwitz, the member of the German embassy staff who was in charge of shipping in Copenhagen. Duckwitz risked his own life, first by trying unsuccessfully to prevent the roundup and then by secretly passing on a warning.”

This is not a new book. It was published in 1987. Well written, it is an oldie but a goodie.



The Turing Machinists by ME Reid

I just read a YA book, called The Turing Machinists by ME Reid, about a group of autistic teens’ attempt to win a rock band competition. I thoroughly enjoyed it, largely because it seemed to capture the issues and speech patterns of autistic youth. A bonus was the inclusion of information about Turing himself, the brilliant mathematician and computer science pioneer.

But I am not sure the title worked for me.  On the other hand, at the moment I cannot think of a better one.

The One Hundred and breaking a writing rule

While I normally promote Canadiana, I just read Kass Morgan’s book “The 100″and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It is a fast paced, post nuclear war novel for young adults in which a small population of humans has survived for 300 years in large space ships away from the radiation. One hundred juvenile offenders are sent back to earth to test its habitability. How will these teens survive? What are the secrets that colour their lives?

But what I found most interesting was the structure. There is a rule in writing of not using too many flashbacks as they slow down forward momentum. This rule is thoroughly broken. In fact almost every chapter has a good sized flashback. But in this case the pace of the novel is so fast and the time frame so limited that the flashbacks serve to elongate the tension.

At the end of the novel I realized this had to be the first of a series. And yes, Google tells me there have been three others and a TV adaptation. Out of the loop, I am. Nevertheless it makes for a good read.

I wonder if the author continues with the same flashback structure and whether it works as well in future novels.



A Missed Month

Writing blog posts is not necessarily creative. At least not the way I want to be creative. I want to play music, write and do mental gymnastics with words.

In my terms, it has been a creative month. Lots of the above, even the necessity to parody songs which I find hugely fun and absorbing.

Better than that, I am also back to editing my manuscript. Being creative in other ways seems to enhance my writing.

So there.

A missed week

While I was sick last week I was reading a number of books, as usual, including Doidge’s The Brain’s Way of Healing and the Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski. Among them was also Let the Elephants Run by David Usher, a book about creativity. One of his suggestions is to “start messing with your patterns.” So I messed with my pattern. I did not write last Friday.

But Fridays keep coming around.

He also says that “creativity is an investment and like any investment there are risks and there are no guarantees. The only true guarantee is that if you don’t invest in your imagination you will not become more creative.” That reminds me that there are many ways of investing in my process and if I am not writing or actively researching I can still be investing. So there.

He has a formula to his creative process: curiosity, interest, exploration, ideas, collect, file, filter, experiment, moment of creative collision, work, ship it. I am half way through his exploration of these.

I have a hard copy of my current manuscript, ideas after interviewing a friend and great intentions to get out a final draft…and ship it. It is a plan.


Right now with my cold, I do not feel creative. Life has interfered with writing and somehow I have not gone into withdrawal. The cold again, I suppose. But fortunately the universe provided by coughing out a book from the library: Let the Elephants Run by David Usher, a book said to be about unlocking your creativity.

So there I was in the middle of last night, head stuffed up, propped on pillows, sleepless and reading. Much of it is a workbook, pushing readers to action and encouraging them to think about their own creativity differently. I am barely into it given my mental mush.

But since this is a blog about process, and my process is thin because of the thickness of my head at the moment, I will leave you with a quote:

“creativity is 95% work and discipline, and just 5 percent inspiration (p. 17).”

I am relieved. I can work and I can be disciplined. Just not now.

Authors for Indies

Tomorrow is Authors for Indies at your local independent bookstore. Unfortunately the two independent bookstores within an hour’s drive of me are not participating, one having burned down (the loss of Hooked on Books is huge for Penticton and for me personally), the other is involved in another project.

Independent bookstores support readers, authors and the whole community. Now go out and support them–tomorrow and every book purchasing day.

Life interferes with writing

Another week, another blog post on my writing process.

There are always up days and down days and inbetween days, so they say. This week, as far as writing goes, has included not just one down day but a whole week of them. No writing. None. Nada…. partly because of the death of a friend and the days before leading up to that time, partly because of rehearsals and dress rehearsals for our upcoming concert of Annelies, and partly because I am not sure that the behaviour of one of my characters matches the motivation.

As for writing, I know this up-and-down-ness can be part of the process. There are invariably doubts and interference…but really? This many?

Today the library for some unknown reason has spat out eight previously on hold books when I did not request them. Funnily, three relate to other manuscripts I have in mind. Is this a sign?