More Information on Books and School Visits

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

And Two Makes it Real

"The only thing harder than getting your first book published, is getting your second book published."

I heard that ages ago, long before my first book was complete, years before it was even published. Once I began submitting manuscripts to editors and agents, I thought of that saying and grumbled, "I'd love to have that worry."

The reality of it hit me like a concrete wall of self-doubt as I started the submission process all over again with my second novel. The "no's"  arrived by post and email and those same feelings I had in my early days of writing descended, coupled with a new worry...

What if I was a one hit wonder?

What if Spaghetti was a fluke? A bit of good luck? Was it possible all I had in my was one good story?

My normally positive attitude was almost flattened. Almost.

The reason I was able to continue submitting, revising, and rewriting was because I made a few very smart decisions a few years ago. (I make many ridiculous decisions on an ongoing basis, so when my choices work out, they're quite a whoopdeedoo to me.)

The first brilliant thing I did was take a writing workshop led by Anita Daher. Not only did I learn more about writing in those eight weeks than I had in the previous eight years, Anita became my first writing mentor and a great friend. And to boot,  I met the most amazing circle of writers.

That's when I made my second most stupendous decision. I stuck with those talented women and we formed a writing group - a sisterhood of sorts. Seven years later, "The Anita Factor" is still together, meeting every second Thursday at McNally's, supporting each other through the dark hours of self doubt and celebrating each other's glory days of publications and award nominations.

Sheldon Oberman
The second wise move I made was to apply for The Sheldon Oberman Mentorship Program run through The Manitoba Writers' Guild. When I was accepted, I had no idea that I would be fortunate enough to be paired with Carolyn Gray, then Executive Director of The Guild and incredible playwright. Under her guidance, I ditched fourteen of my darling chapters, replacing them with better written, faster paced scenes that actually contained plot! Yes, plot peeps. Every story needs one.

The final thing I did was listen to my inner voice. The voice that sometimes is hard to hear over the busyness of daily life. The voice that gets pushed to the bottom of my to-do list of laundry, work, and kids' soccer practices.The voice that knows me best.

I think it may be my ego. Or id. Or conscience? 
(Yes, that is a Finding Nemo reference. Of course.)

I'm not a student of Karma, or meditation, or Disney movies, so I'm not sure what it is called. But, whatever it is, that little voice that knows both my wildest dreams and worst fears, said to me long ago, "You can't stop writing, so don't ever try, sister." 

Even though that wee voice has whispered, chanted, and even shouted those words, for over a decade now, I have tried to stop writing. On occasion. But only when it all seemed too hard, the rejection hurt too much. However, abstaining from writing, not losing myself in the story-worlds of my imagination, hurt even more.

So, I've stopped the stopping and I just kept on writing. because only if you're writing and polishing your words can the good stuff happen, like having my second book, Forever Julia, picked up by Great Plains Publications in 2015. And man, two published books is the perfect way to squash self-doubt.

In fact, it makes me wonder what three books would feel like...

             Forever Writing

Thursday, 30 March 2017

No ghosts, goblins, or scary witches. At least not anymore...

Nervous. Excited. Hopeful.

Triple the feels today.

I've been working on two picture books for sometime now and this morning I submitted one of them to a publisher.

SQUEEEE!  (I actually whispered my joyous scream, as my children are sleeping and it's never good to wake teenagers before 11 am during spring break.)

Strangely enough, the waiting time between submission and response is one of my favourite stages in the writing process. It's full of promise and wild fantasies. What if they adore my book?  What if they think it is the next BIG thing? What if they give me a 6 figure 4 figure advance? (Sometimes even fantasies are a bit ridiculous.)

Possibly even stranger is that I never rarely think negatively. No gloom and doom as I wait. It's not that I don't know there are zero guarantees in publishing and that receiving rejections are part of the game. I just choose not to dwell on that part. No need to ruin my bliss with reality.

So now, NOT a Halloween Book, is out there; looking for a publishing home. 
And I am enjoying the ride.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Spies, Code Breaking, Secret Missions, Clairvoyance? Yes, Please!

When cousins, Ford, Ellie and Gavin, discover their great-grandfather was a rogue World War 2 spymaster, they must outrun MI6 and the CIA through the streets of Paris, relying on their wits and Ford’s newfound clairvoyant skills to unlock Great-Granddad’s spy secrets buried in the past. Great-Granddad hid something important to the war effort and these agencies want it back! Family of Spies, is a middle grade novel inspired by my Rhodes Scholar grandfather and his still sealed World War 2 records. He was a pilot with the R.C.A.F. and family lore of code breaking, secret missions, connections to Bletchley Park, and links to Canada’s top spy, William Stephenson fueled my imagination when writing this story.

This is the manuscript I finished while we lived in Hertford, England. I typed the final words while movers packed everything around me.
Hit my deadline with no time to spare!
Once back in Winnipeg, the revisions began. Darlings were killed, scenes rewritten again and again, sentences tightened, character arcs strengthened and now two months later, I journey down the path to publication. My upcoming days and weeks will be filled with writing engaging hooks, synopses, and queries in search of a home for Family of Spies.

Wish me luck!

Monday, 7 November 2016

The Year of Yes

Yes, please. Yes, thank you. Yes, of course.
Our move overseas was full of changes and challenges for our family, not all of them fun. Some moments were downright unpleasant. 
However, rather than run naked through the cobble-stoned streets of England like a lunatic, I decided to challenge myself to try anything and everything that came my way while over here. 
(That is correct. Those were my only two options; Wild Nudity or Never Uttering No.)

I am now coming up to the 18 month anniversary of "Saying Yes", whenever possible, and so far all opportunities have proven possible. I've been pushed over, above, and beyond my comfort zone. This has been nerve wracking, nauseating, and exhilarating all at the same time. Who knew adrenaline could be such a rush. I know, lame, but sometimes you have to "say yes" to lame. See what I did there? 

So, this is me, doing something I never thought I'd ever get the chance to do. I got to be a reporter; not once, but twice.

I practiced head nods for this bit. Such dedication.
Here is my first interview and foray into the world of journalism. (That would be extremely small "j" journalism, as I have zero training, and truthfully the CBC will not be calling anytime soon.) In this video I speak to Karen Delahay, one of the founders of Hertford's leading visual arts venue; Courtyard Arts.

In my second Courtyard Arts interview I met the talented artist, Paul Hiles. His work illustrates his love of London and showcases his affection for 1950s/60s culture and style. His house was an homage to everything Mod.

I could have lived the rest of my days, quite happily in this kitchen.
My extreme gratitude goes to Courtyard Arts for saying "yes" to me conducting these interviews and to Dr. Mike Howarth for having faith in me to pull them off. He is a video wizard and was somehow able to edit out my mad-blinking affliction. 

If you are looking to get connected to the art scene in Hertford, England, follow this link to Courtyard Arts.

If you need anything to do with video, get in touch with Dr. Mike Howarth here: MHMVR

And finally, if you are considering your own, "Year of Yes"
I highly recommend reading Amy Poehler's book, 
Yes Please
Inspirational and hilarious. How could you say, no?

Buy it!

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Forever Julia wins McNally Robinson Book Awards for Young People (older categor)

In fact the road was a lot like this,
minus the mountains & the arid landscape.
Otherwise identical, but metaphorical.

It's been a long and winding road, back to this blog!

Apparently moving to another county across an ocean is sort of a big deal. Sometimes it even interrupts your life, even if you are not an organized type A personality. It seems a transatlantic relocation will put a bit of a kink in your everyday goings on.

Go figure.

Sunrise over our Pier in Ponemah.
(The Drew snapped this photo!)

Now we are back to the cottage in Ponemah, Manitoba for the summer, where I get to complete my middle grade novel; Ford and Ellie: Family of Spies along the shores of Lake Winnipeg.

While in England I had the extreme honour of receiving two nominations for Manitoba Book Awards; The John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer and the McNally Robinson Book Awards for Young People (older category). The first award went to the talented Chantal Fiola, but I won a Manitoba Book Award for Forever Julia

                              Crazy, right? 
Super bad image, but that signature doesn't lie!
Much Happy Dancing was done.
Come August 30th we head back to our final year in England with full and heavy hearts. Our Winnipeg and lake-time fun with our friends and family will fuel us for further adventures in Europe and carry us back to our new friends and dear family in England.

How can it be, that in 12 short months we now find ourselves stretched between two countries, thousands of miles apart? If only the Concord would come out of retirement and fly to Winnipeg every four months, life would be sublime.

Hmmm. There may be a story in there...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

How to Write a Synopsis in 4 to 6 Easy-ish Steps

1. Procrastinate. Be sure to leave it until either the night before the deadline - at the very earliest - or better yet, push it off to the due date. 

2a. Make sure you are working in a room with a large clock that tick-tocks* down the seconds so loudly that you no longer hear your inner voice ranting, "Why do I always do this!" *Added bonus: annoying sounds are guaranteed to diminish all creative thought. Perfect.

Snip snip here, and a snip snip there...
2b. Include every last detail of your book, carelessly disregarding the finely worded request for a succinct double-spaced one page synopsis. Why? So later, when time is purposely working against you and you re-read the submission instructions, you can torture yourself with the trimming, snipping, and deleting of all your little darlins'. 

3. Throw a temper tantrum. This will make you feel extremely liberated for 30 seconds.Then return to your computer and rage-type out the following synopsis:

Once upon a time, there was this person, who wanted something really, really badly, but big trouble happened and it got really, really hard, but this person never gave up and they saved the day and lived happily ever after. 
The End

3. Part 2 - Pour yourself a beverage. Pots of coffee work for me, but you may prefer a tall glass(es) of Shiraz/Chardonnay/Bourbon/Vodka. I do not judge. Now delete each word as typed above.

4.Take 3 to 5 deep breaths, careful not to hold them too long or you may pass out. Especially if you are pulling an Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, or Edgar Allen Poe. Most likely absinthe and yoga breathing don't mix well.

5. Now, write out as simply as possible a very loose outline. Then add a few key details. Do not forget to include how the story ends. This is no time for clever hooks and mysterious innuendos. A publisher or editor needs to see the story arc.

6. Let your latest synopsis draft sit and simmer for awhile, but not too long as you are tight for time. (Please see item 1.) 

Who would miss one teeny egg?
How to spend those precious hours until you begin further edits?

Take up macrame. Craft a scarf, an extremely stretchy dog leash, or a groovy pocket square for your favourite suit sporting guy. Everything old is new again. 

Dig into the Easter chocolate your children have not-so-carefully hidden in their bedrooms.

Or write a blog post about it.

Happy Synopsis Writing!

Friday, 11 March 2016

What is Your Theme Song?

By the light of the silvery moon...
While listening to classical music on the drive home this morning - Claude Debussy's Claire de Lune to be exact - I had this funny sort of thought. 

Normally while driving, fresh writing ideas come to me or my current character's dialogue chatters on in my head. But today as I raced down the back roads of Hertfordshire, I began thinking about the composer of the beautiful music that flooded through my car.

Who was this Debussy?

Mozart, Quartet in C

How did he "think" up these songs? Did he hear the music in his head as he walked about town, like writers hear their characters' conversations? When Debussy showered, did great trills and crescendos crash down upon him, like words and passages do for me?

What would it be like to have music as great as Mozart, Beethoven, and Debussy lilt through your mind and carry you through each and every day?

I have often used music to set the tone for writing. Some characters I create prefer AC/DC, others The Weekend. Some, I feel even have a theme song that become synonymous with who they are. Music helps my creativity. 

I have now arrived home and have Claire de Lune cranked on my laptop. Its haunting melody surrounds me as I tackle the next scene in Ford and Ellie

Moon Fever on my brain.
How will Debussy's music shape my next passage?

Imagine, if you were the one to make music that others enjoy and use to help fuel their creative endeavours. Both current and classical music is often used in television and film as a movie's score and I then wondered further, "Was there one specific song that Debussy would have considered the score to his life? Did he have a theme song?"

My theme song changes quite regularly. Currently, it is Chumbawamba's Tub Thumping (I Get Knocked Down). Not because the lyrics are awe-inspiring or incredibly meaningful, but the energy of the song lifts my spirits and pumps me up.

What is your theme song?

Monday, 16 November 2015

Canada's Bullying Awareness Week

Why not pick up a copy?

I am very proud and extremely honoured that Forever Julia has been included in the 49th Shelf's list of Young Adult titles that deal with bullying. 

If you haven't read many Canadian authors, this is a great place to start. You may be surprised by the breadth and depth of talent found north of the 49th parallel.
And a sincere thank you to Colleen Nelson who compiled this list. Colleen is an award winning author of Young Adult fiction who is getting our teens reading and talking about tough issues.

"Canada's Bullying Awareness Week runs November 15-21, this year with the theme, "Stand Up to Bullying." The focus of Bullying Awareness Week is not about influencing the actions of others, but rather about understanding what we as individuals and community members can do to address the problem of bullying. And one thing that parents, teachers and librarians can do is make the following books, selected by award-winning YA author Colleen Nelson, available to the young people in their lives.

These are stories that can empower readers to "stand up to bullying" once and for all. "

*Colleen Nelson is an award-winning writer and teacher in Winnipeg. Although she was lured by the bright lights of Japan and New York City, she returned to the Prairies where she and her husband are raising their two sons. Finding Hope is her fourth YA book.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Forever Julia Wins Bronze Moonbeam Award!

Happy Dancing in my English Garden!

Thrilled to learn that Forever Julia won a Bronze Moonbeam Award in the category of Young Adult Fiction - Mature Issues 2015.

And by lucky coincidence The Drew has the day off, so we will wander into town for a latte and sticky bun to celebrate.

Thanks again to Great Plains Teen Fiction for seeing the importance of Julia's story, providing outstanding editorial suggestions, and designing a book cover that still takes my breath away.

Look what arrived today!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Picture Book Magic

Stories like soup need some simmer time.
A new book is in the works. 

This time it's a picture book and I've been mulling it over since 2008. Yes, 7 years does seem a bit lengthy, but sometimes that's what happens with stories. Like a good soup, they need time to simmer to reach perfection, for all the ingredients; story arc, characters, text, and voice to blend together into a rich literary meal. At least that is the intention.

If only I could draw like this...

Today I began working on the dummy book, which is a rough mock up of a picture book, including illustrations.

You didn't know I was also an artist? 

That may be due to the fact that I can only draw stick people, with wobbly arms and knobbly knees. However, even stick people will help me "see" how my text can work with illustrations and where I need to "say" more or less and how the story flows from one page to the next. The words I write must allow the artist to use their imagination to complement and supplement the text.

Fewer words allow the illustrator more freedom.

In order to do this I have printed out, A Cat is Better Than No Pet at All, spacing the text on each page as I envision the story to flow.
Now I have a very good visual of how the book will look and can make the necessary edits. And a lovely paper carpet for my kitchen.

Dummy picture book layout found on

I used a dummy format that Debbi Ohi graciously shared on her website, She is the renowned author and illustrator of Naked, I'm Bored, and Where are my Books? Visit her site here for more incredible writing tips.

My goal is to have a submission ready manuscript, minus any actual artwork, by the end of October. 
This seems achievable as long as I keep to my writing schedule and unplug from all things bright and shiny (read: The Internet.)

Wish me luck as I do love a good cat meme...

Friday, 24 July 2015

Clan Carmichael's Family Travel Blog has Begun!

The View from Hillview

The next step in our journey has begun! Follow along over at our family blog, The View from Hillview, to see our adventure unfold.

We are the right side of the house, with the red garage.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Look out England! The Carmichaels are Invading!

The Carmichaels are moving to England. 

Yup, we are taking the plunge, making the leap, soaring into the wide blue yonder...however you phrase it we are embarking on a two year long family adventure, starting...TODAY!

Late this afternoon we will board a plane to London to begin our search for houses and schools. Luckily, my step-mom and step-dad, (long, long story which is its own blog post) have a house in High Wycombe and have offered to take the girls for the house hunting portion so we don't have to drag the girls through dozens of homes.

THAT would be an excruciating experience that no English agent would survive.

The Royal Chase Hotel
Our Home Base for the next 10 days
Please send good vibes to the girls as they enter new schools and friendships. 
This will be an empowering and world expanding opportunity for them, yet stressful at the same time.

Cheerio, pip pip and all that rot!
(Just getting my English on.)

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Book Signing at McNally's May 23rd!

Quite excited to return to McNally Robinson Booksellers this Saturday from 2-4pm for a book signing. If you missed my launch, this is a perfect time to come and get a book signed. 

I will be sitting to the left of the cash desk, with a bunch of balloons, a pile of books, and possibly in need of coffee and a hug. 

Leaving Winnipeg and the most amazing bookstore a writer could want for a two year European Adventure is bittersweet, peeps.

Hope to see you on Saturday.

I do believe this is a good likeness of me at
our first football game.
Yes, I will be THAT fan.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Humble Bundle n' Spaghetti! Mmm, Mmm, Good Cause!
Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food, Partners with Humble Bundle to Promote
Children's Literacy and Celebrate Children's Book Week!

I am super excited, and really quite proud, that 
Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food has been included in 
Humble Bundle's first ever kids focused book bundle.

What is Humble Bundle?

Humble Bundle bundles together titles of like genre books, comics, and games for sale and ALL proceeds go to charity.

With the Humble Kids Comics Bundle, readers pay what they like for the entire collection. The total value for ebooks in this bundle is over $200!

What charities can I choose?

With Spaghetti's package, purchasers choose a charity of choice between Every Child a Reader (, or The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (

Be sure to get your bundle by May 13 and please help spread the word. 

Check out Humble Bundle Here: Take me to Humble Bundle!

I almost forgot! 

Humble Bundle, The Children's Book Council, Little Pickle Press, and Spaghetti, and their efforts to support children's literacy caught the eye of Publisher's Weekly.

Check out the Publisher's Weekly article here: Publisher's Weekly

Together we can help get books into the hands of ALL children!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Reluctant Reader No More - Thanks to J.K. Rowling & Chris Colfer!

Thanks to J.K. Rowling​'s Harry Potter Series, my 10 year old has turned the page in her reading confidence and ability. The magic found in Rowling's books has transformed how my daughter views herself as a reader. 

When her best buddy suggested she read The Wishing Spell, the first book in The Land of Stories Series, by Chris Colfer, she hesitated. It is a big 400 page book, with few pictures to break up the text, but she was on a reading high, thanks to Harry, Hermione, and Ron. As she gingerly opened the book, she immediately fell in love with Colfer's imaginary world.

Highly recommend this series!
Now, I often find her at 10:00pm, well after bedtime, secretly reading, because she is "at a good part" and has to see what happens next. To her, every scene in The Wishing Spell is  "a good part." 

The reader in me is thrilled to have a fellow book lover in the house, the mom in me is proud that my once struggling reader is now ranked above grade level, and the writer in me knows what a feat it is to write a book full of "good parts" and no slow, boring sections.

Thanks Chris Colfer for sharing your imagination with millions of kids. Please keep writing.  My daughter never wants this series to end.