Friday, 24 April 2015

Forever Julia Launched!

Forever Julia Launched! 
What an event and what a night.
All those happy, smiling faces of family and friends staring back at me!

You have my thanks. 

Mom decorated our Prairie Ink table in colours to
 match the book cover.
Of course.

Chef Geoff and I, giddy as fools.

This is truly Cake Art.

The night started with dinner in Prairie Ink restaurant where I was surprised by this book cake. All due to my mom and Pastry Chef Geoff.

It looked too good to eat, but we still found a way to gobble it up!

Suzanne and Mel; two of The Anitas.

My dear work peeps. xo

This was my smile for 3 days prior and 3 days following
the launch. (My face still hurts.)

The original "Anita", mentor and friend.

Karen McKim of Macdonald Youth Services

Lady Gray. I adore you.
My Forever Julia Dramatuge.

Cross eyed excitement.

"I want this moment to last...forever!"

Standing room only!

Week two, going strong;
thanks to the support of Winnipeg Readers!

Forever Julia at #1 out of the gate!

Again, my thanks for your continued support. 
See you again for the launch of...

Ford and Ellie: Family of Spies

(I just have to finish writing it!)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Organization vs Chaos: Creative Minds Unite

It is good to be different. It makes us each unique and stand out from the crowd.

I knew that my brain was like a swirling mass of thoughts, ideas, and never complete to-do lists, but never have I had the chance to "see" how my brains sorts and categorizes things so visually.

Until yesterday.

For 4 solid hours my dear pal and incredibly talented children's book writer and artisan, Christina Janz and I crafted buttons onto my soon to be stale-dated book marks for my book launch this Thursday.

(Yes. I am Scottish to the core and the thought of wasting those book marks was driving me squirrely.)
What a genius idea!

And like all my great ideas, it came to me at 2 a.m. a few weeks ago.

Button those suckers up, just like the book cover, I thought. 

Genius! Unique! One of a kind! 

Then my old pallie Monsieur Procrastination moved into our spare bedroom and stayed until mid day Sunday, when I packed his briefcase and released him into the Park out front.

This is when the reality of my sewing ability came crashing head on into my grandiose Buttoned Book Mark plan

9 down, only 91 to go. Captain, we have a problem...
One hour in, and 9 book marks later, I knew I had a problem, so I did what all self respecting authors do, I posted my troubles on Facebook, looking for a laugh and hoping for insights on how to increase my production time. 

What I didn't expect was an offer of help!
Best Invention Ever.

And thank goodness for Christina and her natural artistic talent and her deft use of a needle! And to boot, she introduced me to this fantastic little gizmo that threads your needle for you! What a gift for a 45 year old who is one prescription away from purchasing progressive glasses!

Once we had completed our sweat shop fun crafting morning, I noticed something peculiar as I began counting bookmarks. I started with Christina's pile, and blazed through her beautifully fanned out collection. Then I looked at my share. It was a tad bit more difficult to count as it appeared my side of the table been hit by a wind storm. Needles, button bags, and bent paper clips littered my chaotic pile.

"Look!" I said. "This is the perfect visual of our minds. Your bookmarks are a picture of organization, mine are a frenetic chaotic minefield!" 

Or something to that effect.

Yet, both of us are creative souls with imaginations we feed with writing, reading, and long hours spent day-dreaming up new worlds filled with "what-if" scenarios.

Three cheers for differences! 
And organization! 
And of course to chaos, who runs my creative mind! 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

All Aboard the Blog Book Tour for Forever Julia!

Yup, it is that time again! Time to ride the information super highway to promote my latest book, Forever Julia.

Launching at 7:00pm this Thursday in The Atrium at 
I'll be appearing around the globe on various bloggers websites near and far from 
April 27th to May 10th!

What?! Never been on a BBT? 
I'll be posting my "itinerary" next week so you can take a peak and see what the hullabaloo is all about!

Friday, 10 April 2015

Blast Off to the Forever Julia Book Launch!

Thrilled to see this end cap!
Look out world! Forever Julia is launching next week at McNally Robinson Booksellers! 

There will be a wee introduction, a quick reading, chardonnay and Shiraz on hand, and even McNally's most famous Imperial cookies! Somehow they will work their magic and morph my book cover into a yummy treat.

Forever Julia hanging out with
Empty Cup and Enslavement!
Go Anitas, Go!

Now remember, peeps, Forever Julia is a far cry from Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food. Forever Julia is intended for audiences aged 13/14+, but your children are welcome to attend and hang with my girls, who will be model citizens enjoying every facet of the evening, sitting quietly, with ankles crossed, in the audience.

Or they will run like feral children through the store, acting like McNally's was built for their entertainment alone.  

My money is on the wild animal option.

I am donating $1 from every book sold at McNally's from April 16th to May 7th to Macdonald Youth Services. Macdonald Youth Services will be on hand at the launch to share information about the important work they do with at risk youth in Winnipeg. Please consider MYS, if you are looking for a new charity to support. The boys and girls they support are our neighbours and our community members, who desperately need love, kindness, guidance, and compassion. 

Hope to see you on Thursday, April 16th at 7:00pm 
in the Atrium of McNally Robinson Booksellers!
(1120 Grant Avenue)

Monday, 30 March 2015

Writing 35,000 Feet in the Air

Writing Supplies Ready
I'm getting ready to go on holiday and since I am an excellent over packer, I have no fears I will be in need of anything. What I did double and triple check, though were my writing supplies.

  • New writing notebook. Check. 
  • Chapter outline & last 20 pages of Ford & Ellie. Check, check. 
  • Five pens, a highlighter, and pink sharpie. Check, check, and double check.

I can hardly wait for the flight - 8 hours of uninterrupted writing time. Of course I have both kids outfitted with books, movies, and drawing supplies. Hopefully The Drew can keep himself occupied until we get to The Dominican Republic.

Hmm, maybe a quick stop at Shopper's for Wired Magazine would be a good idea.

Must guard this time wisely... 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

FriesenPress - Best Field Trip. Ever.

What a way to be welcomed! And what a way to make your guests feel important.

Last week, the girls, my step-mom and I hopped in Lexie and crawled along the ice-covered highway to FriesenPress in Altona, Manitoba to see Forever Julia fly off the presses!

Best Field Trip. Ever.

My 14 year old was the official photographer and she did an outstanding job. My job was to take copious notes about each station in the printing plant.
Outstanding Work, Daughter!


I did not do such an outstanding job. 

Apparently it is 100% impossible to keep focused on note taking when you see your book chapters zoom by on a bigger than your 10-year-old roll of paper. See Exhibit A.

Therefore, notes were not in aplenty. One could say there was no unnecessary use of paper. Yes, or one could admit there were, in fact, exactly zero notes taken.

Instead see Exhibit B for my visual summary of the printing process.

The machine below is the Commander 240 and it prints, folds, slices, and dices your manuscript into book form. It is like the Slap Chop for writers.

It may possibly be more than one machine, linked together by some magical force similar to electricity, but I cannot be sure of that because I lost track of those details when I saw my Chapter 31; "Signs and boobs, and thigh-high boots. Oh my." - rush past me on that massive conveyor belt. (Plus, I had long since forgotten to take notes. See Exhibit A for a refresher.)

All I know for sure is when you look at this photo montage, you should begin at number 1 and finish at 7. I think.

Exhibit B
Our tour guide and one of Friesens' account managers, Aaron, made the trip absolutely unforgettable when he gave us the metal book plate for the cover of Forever Julia over coffee and cookies. Yes, I said cookies. Can you imagine this happening with any other printer?

The whole experience made me as wide-as-the-prairies, Manitoba proud. Yes, I went there. I referenced the prairies.

My thanks to FriesenPress. You are a class, Manitoban, act!

Monday, 9 February 2015

Devious Mind in Need of a Poker Face

All I can say is, "WOW!"

This is the Forever Julia kit Great Plains Teen Fiction sends to book reviewers, journalists, book bloggers, and librarians. My pal, co-worker, and Pembina Trails School Division's Educational Media/Library Consultant, Heather Eby brought the kit to work today so I could hold the Advanced Reading Copy. (Heather has a very fancy title because she is a literary queen, reading more books a year than anyone I know. Yes, that's right; she's a librarian's librarian.)

Holding the printed copy of Forever Julia was such a thrilling moment, I overheated and nearly slipped into delirium, taking every ounce of my constraint not to slip this ARC into my purse and slink away. 
Yup, I contemplated stealing my own book. I am devious that way.
However, since I have zero poker face, I wouldn't have gotten far, plus I kept walking around the school like this:

Worst thief. Ever.

Next step:

Book Launch at 7:00 pm on April 16th at 
McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Hope to see you there!
Yes, there will be wine. And books. And excitement. 
And possibly balloon animals.

(Okay, no balloon animals, but for sure wine
& a bookstore full of excitement.)

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Forever Julia ARC has Arrived!

EEEEEK!!!! Chapter by Chapter has the very first Advance Readers Copy of Forever Julia right this very moment! I haven't even held one! Doesn't it look nice? And shiny...I guess that's how they do ARCs. I actually have no clue. lol I wonder what the ink smells like...

Monday, 2 February 2015

Why Write for Kids & Teens?

Writing for kids, ain't as simple as it sounds.Writt
As I get ready to launch my second book and first young adult novel, I am fielding a series of questions, that have been asked of me before. 

They go a little like this:

"Why do you stick with this kid stuff? You're pretty good, so why don't you step up your game and write for adults. You do realize there is a much bigger market for adult fiction? Are you too scared it will be too hard?"

Notice, how it is almost a stream of consciousness where the questioner can't imagine why I do what I do.

I find it strange and usually quite entertaining, how honest people feel they can be, when you are in the arts. 

Unless I am feeling a bit hormonal. Or over-tired. Or it's Wednesday.

Then I have an inner seething moment while I grit-smile and nod my head in rhythm to their great epiphany of how I should begin my writing career do-over. It is all I can do to restrain my fists of fury and punch them in the throat. 

Whoa, there! Before your shock-bulging eyes seriously gross me out, you have to admit there are some people you would like to punch in the throat. You probably don't have to think too hard to picture their face. Or their throat. If no one pops to mind, you are a saint, and all hale you. You are FANTASTIC. And you get a gold star for being the BEST. For the rest of us lowly scum, read on...

The thing is, I would NEVER come up to a teacher and say, "Hey, you know, you're pretty good at this math, maybe you should kick it up a notch, return to university and become an architect. Really go for the big leagues instead of sticking with this kid stuff."

And why? Because, teachers rock. Obviously. 

But also, and more importantly, what they do matters and it is much harder than it looks. 

I have examined them up close, and they are a talented, brave lot, who have alien-like amounts of patience. Just sayin' some kids are pretty darn rude. 

But not your kid. Your kid is perfection. A joy to teach. Never speaks out of turn or lips off. And has likely never burped the alphabet. Backwards. (At least not in your presence.) My offspring can do that while in a handstand, in both English and French. They are multi-talented, biligual rule breakers. 

So here's the deal with us writers of "kidlit"; whether that be picture books, early readers, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, or graphic novels. We don't write for this audience because it is easy. We write because that is what we are meant to do. The readers matter to us. Their lives, their hopes, their fears, their dreams matter to us in a way that may not be found in writers of adult fiction. Of course, I don't know that for sure, because my muse lies with the under 18 crowd. 

And who knows, maybe one day, I will take the leap into adulthood and write for grown ups.

But I sure hope it's not for a long, long time.

Writers, looking to get inspired? Readers, want more deets on this "kidslit" deal?

Please read this excerpt from Kate Messner's poem. Follow this link to read it in its entirety:

What Happened to Your Book Today
by Kate Messner (Copyright 2011)
"Somewhere, a teenager who thought she was alone
Opened your pages and discovered she’s not.
And somewhere, somebody who thought about giving up
will keep on trying,
keep on hoping.
Because of that book you wrote."

Friday, 16 January 2015

Ready, Set, Print!

This is it.

This is how my book would look if it fell to the pavement, open and face up, from the Penthouse Suite of Trump Towers.

It takes a team of people to polish a manuscript so it is ready for a reading audience.
Here are my thank you's:

Relish Design you have blown my mind. Thank you for creating a book cover that I am honoured to say is mine.
Thank you Great Plains Teen Fiction, for keeping the door open for me by asking me to rework my original submission.
Thank you Catharina de Bakker, my editor, for providing wisdom and guidance as I revised further.
Thank you to my mentor and friend, Carolyn Gray, for your insight and for helping me uncover Julia's real story squirrelled away in the back story.
Thank you to my writing group, The Anitas. I am so proud of all our accomplishments and how we continue to support each other. 
You are my writing family.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Excavating Gems from the Great & Vast Internet - a.k.a. Research

Research. I adore it and I often get lost in it.

Sometimes I excavate gems from the great and vast Internet. Gems, I say. Pearls. Diamonds. Rubies. You get what I'm saying?

Today I was piecing together back story, character arcs, and answering annoying little issues like; how can that scene happen if  X, Y, and Zee are missing, and plot points A through W are built on shaky ground?

No, not shaky ground, but swamp land. Murky, stinking, and bug infested swamp land.

This afternoon, however, I cleaned up most of my alphabetized issues and found some pretty cool locales for an important and creepy scene.

Here is a section of what I wrote today. 
(Remember these are first draft words, and they aren't fully creepafied yet, so keep that in mind and try not to rewrite it as you go. This may prove impossible for my writing pals. I apologize.)

Chapter 12 or 13 or possibly 34
Next Day/Next week
They meet the psychic - Clarice

“Are you sure we’re at the right place?” Ford asked. 
He checked the GPS on his phone, then considered the crumbling building that towered in front of him. Chunks of the stone steps had fallen away and dark green vines climbed the outside walls and across the windows on the first three floors. The rain gutters hung low, like a line of loosely strewn ancient Christmas lights.
“Of course. I am never wrong,” Ellie replied, but her voice quivered when she spoke. Ford stared at her. “Well, rarely,” she admitted.
“I sure hope today isn't one of your rarely wrong days. This place is creepy.”
Ellie took a deep breath and exhaled it fast, squaring her shoulders.
“It is just an old building. There is nothing to be afraid of. Paris is old. It is full of old buildings. This is just another old building, that you find. In Paris.”
Ellie’s nattering did nothing to ease Ford’s mounting sense of unease. She only rambled when she was nervous, which was atypical for his normally confident, fearless cousin.
“Nothing to fear, but fear itself, right?” Ford said, wiping his now sweating hands on his t-shirt.
“Exactly,” Ellie agreed and pushed on the black iron wrought gate. It screeched open, scraping a layer of moss off the cobble stone walkway. She dusted her fingers on her jeans and marched toward the front door. Ford followed, looking back at the ridge of earth that mounded at the bottom of the gate. When was the last time someone had used that gate?
“Hopefully Clarice isn't as scary as this building.”

End Scene.
(Remember this is a first draft. If you did rewrite it, send it to me.
I have a deadline after all.)

Here is the photo I later found on Pinterest. This building is so very similar to the one I pictured in my mind. An old apartment covered in vines, with a gate, just like this one, but older and creakier. This building's front steps are nicely maintained and the windows are newish, yet the resemblance is unreal.

(Of course this is New York not Paris and it is new world not old world old, but still.)

I LOVE when this happens. 
Kinda' creepy. Sorta' karma. Just plain cool.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Step 1,052 Complete! Forever Julia is off to Layout!

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say it takes a community to support a writer.

Now, on the cusp of the publication of my second book, I am quite sure it takes 3 to 33 years, 385 pots of coffee, and 1,064 steps to publish a book. 

That's right, I have zero conclusive evidence, actual facts, or statistics to back that up. Call it a hunch, if you will. Or hyperbole. Whatever floats your boat, canoe, or catamaran.

All I know is that sometime in January I will load up Lexy with my family, including the dog, and head down to Altona to watch Forever Julia fly off Friesen's printing press. My mom is sure to scrapbook this milestone in my literary career. This is the only proven fact I have.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Books for Reluctant Readers - A Wrinkle in Time

Reluctant Readers

What exactly does that mean?

On the surface it seems simple to answer: kids struggling to read.

But why is reading more difficult for these children?

"Reluctant readers" may struggle with concentration, word recognition, dyslexia, working memory deficiencies, or other challenges. Reading clinicians and child psychologists have terminology that groups kids in meaningful ways for classroom and resource teachers.

I am not a reading specialist, so I can't provide any advice on diagnosis, treatment, or clinicians. I am an author of children's literature, a mother, and an enthusiastic and extremely vocal book nerd.

I have a reluctant reader. Getting her past simple two and three letter words was a hurdle, until we found highly illustrated early readers, chapter books, and graphic novels. That was two years ago. She is now on a reading roll!

Today I begin my series on books for kids struggling to read. 

Some of the books will resonate with your child or student, others will not. Just like any reader. Just like your own personal reading tastes.

Here is my first recommended title:

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

I kid you not, there is a graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time and before you leap from your chair, spilling tea across your key board and wail about the plight of the future of children's literature, let me ask you a few quick questions.

  • How many 10 year olds do you know that have read the original book? 
  • How many 10 year-olds have you had a meaningful discussion (over a bowl of honey nut cheerios on a Wednesday morning before school) about that famous first line; "It was a dark and stormy night"? 
  • Can you imagine having this conversation with a child struggling to read?

I can, and have. It was thrilling, for us both.

She was surprised to learn that Madeleine L'Enlge coined that phrase, which has now become cliche. This graphic novel encouraged my youngest to search out other over used lines when she reads, engaging her critical mind. We discussed the author, her impact on modern literature, and her wild imagination. All before 8 am.

Where can you get this book? Your library, local bookstore such as McNally Robinson Booksellers, or Amazon.

10 year old rating: 5 Stars

“Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” 
― Maya Angelou

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Edits, Revisions, Rewrites. Fun.

Not sure why I thought I was done editing Forever Julia. Maybe because this summer I strengthened Julia's relationship with her boyfriend, tweaked her interactions with her best friend Annika, and merged two characters into one new, uber dude?


More likely it is because I am often a completely unrealistic dreamer. Somehow I thought I would skip merrily over the copy editing step.

Ou est copy editing you wonder?

It is the joyful line by line analysis of every single sentence.

I wish I could say this news filled my heart with a joy only writers can feel. Even more, I wished I Happy Danced around my laptop. I do love a Happy Dance. But I would be lying.

Sort of.

I do want Forever Julia to be the best book I've written, thus far. I want readers to pick it up and think,

"This is the BEST BOOK EVER, I need to read more of Jodi Carmichael's works!" 

But there is this tiny and almost impossible to hear voice, sucking its thumb and hiding behind my left rib cage*, whining,

"Come on. When is this ever going to be done?!"

Thankfully, I am a grown mature woman. I am married, with two children, and a healthy mortgage so sadly it must be true.
Naturally, I can shut up that whiny voice - fast. 

I only need to get myself in writing mode complete with fuzzy slippers, a pot of coffee, and half a pan of Nanaimo Bar. 
(Who am I kidding. I'll eat the entire tray.)

Nanaimo Bars at the ready.
(New York Slice for my American Pals.)

*That is right, that whining voice hides behind my left rib cage. This is also where one of my lungs went to recover after I played that extremely exhausting parents vs kids soccer game. Apparently it is a good place to chill.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

SAGE - Here I Come!

My check list has begun for the MTS SAGE 2014: Special Area Groups of Educators Conference on October 24th. 

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food books to sell. Check.
Spaghetti book marks and Lesson Plans: Check.
Stuffed Charlie Dog: Check.

Forever Julia book marks: Half a check. (In process.)

Stoked to be manning The Manitoba Writers' Guild table with friend and fellow author, Susan Rocan.

Wish us luck as we promote the Guild's resources, fellow Manitoba writers, and ourselves, too!