My sister Janet tagged me earlier this week. I’ve decided to use her challenge to “play along” with her as an opportunity to write about some of the things I’ve only thought about blogging about this month.
1. Perhaps a children’s writer should not admit to this, but for years I’ve felt rather “bah humbug” about Christmas. It’s a complicated season for blended families blessed with kids and grandkids and other family members each with his or her own hopes and expectations of what Christmas should be. This year has felt less complicated, maybe we’re finally getting the hang of what’s do-able and what isn’t, and I have found myself enjoying all the colourful lights as I walk the streets of our new neighbourhood. Who knows, I might not even grumble as I don my silly paper hat at the dinner table this December 25th.
2. I am one of the lucky few who have seen a portrait recently created by Irma Coucill that will soon be seen by thousands. Irma has done portraits of every American president, every Canadian prime minister (including 80+ of Pierre Trudeau), all the players in the Hockey Hall of Fame, and many others.
This week I had the pleasure, thanks to mutual friend Mary Macchiusi, of having tea with her. (I’ve written about Mary in an earlier posting.) After tea, Irma took us up to her studio and showed us her recently completed portrait of soon-to-be president Barack Obama. A fine portrait of a fine man!
3. Last month our dog, while walking on leash, was attacked by a dog that unbeknownst to its owner had escaped its yard. It was a vicious attack and despite assurances from the owners that they’ll do all they can to ensure this doesn’t happen again, we will not walk down their street as long as that dog still lives there.
The dangerous dog is much loved by its family, which includes young children, so we understand their hopes that, with professional help, her aggressive behaviour can be curtailed. But our hope is that the owners will decide before too long (and before another attack happens; our dog wasn’t the first) that a less “protective” animal would make a better pet for their family to love.
4. There’s a windowless room in the basement of our house. It sounds pretty unappealing, I know, but it’s a room I anticipate using with great pleasure, now that most of our “settling in” activity has been done. It’s a room where messes can be made and left without interfering (in a practical or aesthetic sense) with anything else that might be going on in the house.
We’ve been using it this week as a “Santa’s workshop” (where Christmas presents get wrapped), and in the new year I plan to dust off my pencils and pastels and use the space as a kind of “artist’s studio”.
If I come up with a masterpiece, perhaps I’ll post it to my blog!
5. The novel I am working on (and hope to complete in 2009) has five point-of-view characters. I’m having a great time discovering their individual stories and how they overlap. An interview with another writer that I read recently reminded me that the other challenge I’m facing – although the narratives are third person – is finding each character’s individual voice. I’m getting there!
6. I first left Ontario in 1968 when I traveled to Quebec as part of three-day exchange of French and English speaking high school students. I next left my home province when I traveled to Manitoba for Book Week in 1983. Since then I’ve had the privilege of visiting every province and territory in Canada. I ‘ve also traveled as an author to the States and to England.
My comfort zone for travel will be considerably stretched in 2009 if plans afoot bear fruit. IBBY-Canada has invited me to take part in a program being planned in conjunction with CODE (that’s the International Board on Books for Young People and the Canadian Organization for Development in Education) in . . . Liberia! (I quickly learned on receiving the invitation this week that Liberia is a country in western Africa.) After having to have my arm twisted before agreeing to a visit with Peter’s relatives in South Africa, I may be going to Africa twice in one winter!
7. Because a “Janet” got me started on this posting, my last “thing about me” is the fact that I’ve enjoyed spending time with 3 Janets in the past week – baking Christmas cookies with my sister Janet, having lunch at the Mono Cliffs Inn with writer and literacy consultant Janet Lee Stinson (I’ve written about her in an earlier blog posting), and chatting at a party with Janet nee Hoyle. Janet #3 works as an assistant to the real estate agent Jennie Stanhope, who sold our house this year and found us a new one. Jennie also hosted the party where Janet #3 and I discovered that our lives have followed remarkably similar paths. We were both students at Vincent Massey Collegiate in the late sixties and we both attended Christ the King Anglican Church and youth group activities there. And yet somehow we did not know each other then. We both have birthdays in April (one year apart). We both have sons born in 1975 who are married and daughters born in 1978 who are not. Since I have VMCI yearbooks and Janet doesn’t, I will someday soon be paying a visit to the Rockwood Royal Lepage office, so we can both enjoy a good chuckle over how we have changed. But probably not in today’s blizzard.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to anyone who has managed to read this far!