Friday, September 28, 2012

REVIEW: The Night Wanderer

Today, I’m posting a YA book review to support the A More Diverse Universe Tour to raise awareness and celebrate People of Colour Speculative Fiction Authors. You can read more about this tour on the blog BookLust - Aarti’s site and see a list of all participants.
When my friend, Dale Lee Kwong, asked me if I planned to participate in the blog tour I thought, ok, here’s an opportunity to expand on my reading habits. So, because I’m Canadian, I decided to seek out a Canadian writer who might qualify. The YA list was small but when I saw that Canadian-Ojibway writer Drew Hayden Taylor wrote a teen book about a 350 year-old aboriginal vampire, I was in!
The book is called The Night Wanderer. It has a spirited and wry sixteen-year-old character named Tiffany and a weary, soul-seeking vampire named Pierre L’Errant who returns from Europe to his birthplace on what is now a First Nations reserve in Ontario. Three hundred and fifty years ago he was a curious, adventurous teen who left his land and family to cross the Atlantic with French fur traders. In France, he contracts an illness that should have killed him but by a twist of fate he’s bitten on the neck and he becomes a bloodthirsty vampire. But now he’s back – to save his soul, and in a strange way, to save Tiffany too.
Tiffany lives with her father, Keith, and Anishinabe grandmother, Granny Ruth, on the reserve. Her mother has abandoned the family and lives with a white man in another part of Canada. Tiffany has a white boyfriend, Tony, but when they’re out shopping he takes advantage of her tax-free status card. In a nutshell, Tiffany’s life is about as happy as a whole lot of other teenagers’ lives in North America: she lives in a town where nothing happens; her mother has abandoned her; her father is angry all the time; she fights with her boyfriend; she’s bullied; and she is failing History. But what Tiffany has that most teens don’t have is a father who rents out her room to a stranger who sleeps all day and wanders the land at night.
“Tiffany was close enough to smell the mustiness coming off the vertical green carpet. The first thing she noticed was that there was no light coming from the room. Only darkness. This in itself was not all that unusual, considering it was a windowless part of the basement. Still, it was an odd darkness, like the difference between Coke and diet Coke. It was … unusual. There was still no sound so she decided to chance it and take that peak. Why, she didn’t know. Her hand brushed the border of the carpeted door as she began to push it aside.” page 98, The Night Wanderer

The Night Wanderer is expertly written in a third person voice that tells the tale with a tense yet comic touch. Tiffany’s self-deprecating humor is a highlight that makes this character unforgettable. The vampire is formidable and admirable in his struggle to fight his hunger while he contemplates longingly the land of his birth. The gothic vampire myth is served well here by the Northern Canadian landscape. The land is dark and shadowy. There are noises in the forest. Animals scurrying. Twigs and branches breaking. Long roads and a deep lake. The reserve is a mysterious but not menacing place as it is home for both Tiffany and Pierre – two native Canadians who are struggling for clarity and expression of their true selves.

Taylor explores many themes in his 200 page novel: coming-of-age, prejudice, bullying, family, education, history, aboriginal language, and suicide. This isn’t a book for readers who expect a more traditional vampire tale with sexual overtones. Instead Hayden writes a smart tale about a smart teenage girl, an aging vampire, and what happens when they meet in the middle of a dark Canadian forest.

Drew Hayden Taylor is a well-known Canadian-Ojibway playwright, author, journalist, filmmaker, and stand-up comedian from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario. He is a writer who’s committed to educating the world about issues that impact the lives of Canada’s First Nations. The Night Wanderer, Taylor’s first teen novel, was published by Annick Press in 2007. Read more here
A little more ... here's an image of Edvard Munch's The Night Wanderer:  

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quinoa Chocolate Cake

Friends are often asking me for this recipe so I thought it would be easier just to put it up on my blog.  It's from the book "Quinoa" by Patricia Green and Carolyn Hemming (Whitecap) which I highly recommend for people who are gluten-intolerant.

2/3 cup white or golden quinoa

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The 22 Rules of Storytelling

from Pixar Storyboard Artist Emma Coats :

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what's interesting to you as an audience, not what's fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won't see what the story is actually about til you're at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You'll feel like you're losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it's not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you're stuck, make a list of what WOULDN'T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you've got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you'll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it's poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What's the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That's the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don't succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it's not working, let go and move on - it'll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d'you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can't just write ‘cool'. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What's the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Heart is a Muse

Nine things My Last Book Taught Me

I wrote this article last April for Hunger Mountain, the Vermont College of Fine Arts Journal of the Arts.

An excerpt:

"I see writers as caretakers: We hold complete worlds (real or imagined) in our palms. What fear! What joy! What mystery! And what responsibility. By writing Karma I learned something that my memoir, Lost, could not teach me. Lost pulled me into the muscle of my body where memories had to be re-experienced and grief needed to be faced. Even though loss is a universal experience, my story was personal. But writing Karma took me directly into the heart—and not just my heart, but the heart of a people, a culture, a nation, and the larger heart of humanity. Acts of murder targeted at religious or cultural groups are acts of violence against every human being. When writers choose to speak about injustice, whether it is genocide or bullying, they lift the world from their hands and heave it onto their shoulders."

To read the entire essay:

Friday, April 13, 2012

2012 Alberta Literary Award Shortlist

The Writers Guild of Alberta (WGA) has announced the finalists for the 2012 Alberta Literary Awards! The Alberta Literary Awards recognize and celebrate the highest standards of literary excellence from Alberta authors.

Awards jurors have deliberated 195 submissions to select 23 finalists in eight categories. Finalists represent extraordinary literary work written by Alberta authors and published in 2011.

See the full list here:

2012 Alberta Literary Awards Shortlist

Winners will be announced and awards presented at the Alberta Book Awards Gala on Saturday June 9, 2012 in conjunction with Book Publishers Association of Alberta’s (BPAA) Alberta Book Publishing Awards. The celebration will take place in Calgary alongside the WGA’s 2012 Writers Conference.

I am thrilled to announce that KARMA has been shortlisted for the R. Ross Annett Award for Children's Literature.

The two other books nominated are Jacqueline Guest's "Ghost Messages" and Barb Howard's "The Dewpoint Show". You can read more about these wonderful Alberta writers at their sites:

Barb Howard

Jacqueline Guest