Pit Pony

nov Dec 2012 674When I learned that Joyce Barkhouse’s wonderful novel, “Pit Pony,” had been made into a picture book, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy for Miss Charlotte. But then, when I discovered Janet Barkhouse (who co-authored the book with her mother, Joyce) was going to read from the book at the Biscuit Eater in Mahone Bay, I knew Miss Charlotte would be getting a signed copy for Christmas. While Miss Charlotte might be a bit young to fully appreciate the significance her very own author-signed booked, I’m sure in a few years she will really treasure it. I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have the opportunity to meet so many talented local authors in my journey. And did I mention I’m collecting photos for a scrapbook I hope to share with Miss Charlotte one day?

I’ve got to tell you all, this book is a total delight. Janet did a wonderful job of condensing the text from the original noval to fit a picture book format, and Sydney Smith’s illustrations are simply gorgeous. Janet said her mother didn’t get to see the picture book, (she passed away last February), but she knows she would be very pleased with the finished product.

While Janet and I live in the general vicinity, and have attended several of the same events, we’d never been introduced. So I was most excited and pleased to meet her. She’s a delight. (Oh, and did I mention that Margaret Atwood is her cousin? Yup that’s right..Kind of cool I’d say.)Not only that, her mother, Joyce, received the Order of Canada back in 2009. You can read about it here if you’d like. A very talented family.

If you ever have the opportunity to hear Janet read, please, please go. Seriously, I could have listened to her all afternoon.

Janet Barkhouse

Just a thought as you search about for that perfect Christmas gift this year, why not consider the gift of a book? I’m sure many of you already have.

Tagged!! Now to Face the Music.

Last week Darlene Foster caught up to me in a game of tag.

Now, I’m going to post the rules just because I intend to break them. Not only that, making up eleven questions and tagging eleven unsuspecting bloggers seems like too much work for this gal, and hey, I’ve got a novel idea in my head. You read about it in my last post….Letting go. Remember?

The Tag rules:

1. You must post the rules!

2. Answer the questions and then create eleven new questions to ask the people you’ve tagged.

3. Tag eleven people and link to them.

4. Let them know you’ve tagged them.

I thought I’d answer Darlene’s questions just to be a good sport, plus it gave me something to blog about.

So here goes:

Do you use a bookmark or will any old bit of paper do? I should be saying bookmarks because I have oodles of Bitter, Sweet bookmarks given to me by my publisher at the time of the launch, but truth be told, more times than not I grab anything for a bookmark, bits of paper a piece of yarn. Heck I’d use a twist tie if I had to.

What new books are you most excited to read this year? A few book I’m looking forward to reading this year are: Revenge of the Lobster Lover by facebook friend Hilary MacLoud and Buried but not Dead by BC writer/blogger Joylene Butler. I’m also anxious to get at Margaret Atwood’s Year of the Flood.

Favourite season? Fall has to be my favourite. I love the coloured leaves and the crispness in the air. If ever a season inspired me to write I’d say it was fall. Not only that, it’s the only season with an alias. Fall a.k.a. autumn but don’t tell the other seasons.

If money were not an issue, what present would you give yourself? A maid. Of course to go along with this maid I’d be looking for a much larger home. I mean, why not? Money’s no object, right? If someone else is doing the cleaning I’m all for it and as for the bigger house I wouldn’t want one of my employees to become bored while under my roof.

Do you buy second-hand books, new books or both? If it has a cover and pages, heck if it has pages, I’ll buy it. I’m a book packrat. Still, there are worse things in this world. At least I’m not hoarding something totally useless like plastic shopping bags or empty toilet paper tubes.

Early bird or night owl? I think I have a split birdsonality. I tend to be consistently inconsistent when it comes to sleep. If I had things my way I wouldn’t sleep at all. I mean what a waste of eight hours. Think of all the images I could be pinning, all the status updates I could be writing, and all the blogs I could be commenting on.

Do you like to read a specific genre? If so, what genre is it? I just like reading. I do read a lot of books for kids. Makes sense since I write books for kids, but if I’m reading big people books I tend to gravitate towards literary novels.

Who is your favourite literary character of all time? My favourite literary character of all time? I’ve got to go with my gut here and say Goldie Locks. Maybe it’s the golden locks, maybe because she barged into a bear’s house without giving a care, or maybe, just maybe it’s because I dressed up like Goldie Locks when I was a kid and hauled my teddy bears in a little wagon in the East Dalhousie parade on fair day.

Physical books, E-books or audio books? Are you kidding? I’m so old fashion I’d be reading tablets if they were still around.

If your life was made into a movie, who would you like to play you? I thought about this for awhile and decided on Danny DeVito of course he’d have to put on a wig and maybe lose a little weight, but he’s funny (and I like funny) and he’s just the right height. On second thought if he’s unable or unwilling to lose weight I’d be willing to increase my consumption of Mars bar to at least meet him half way cause I’m fair like that.

Cat person or dog person? Cat. I miss our kitty who disappeared last summer. Sometimes I imagine he’ll show up out of the blue to surprise me. Not sure we’ll replace him. He wasn’t a very smart kitty, but he was really loveable.

So there ya go. Eleven things about me that will make your life so much richer. Now because I’m sparing you the agony of being tagged and following the rules I think it’s only fair that you answer one of these questions. How about this one: if your life was made into a movie, who would you like to play you?

Dinner at Eight, Dead by Nine

This year marks the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. I’m betting, like me, you didn’t know that little bit of information. 95 years… Wow!

Some of the students from New Germany Rural High school will be going on a class trip this year to Vimy Ridge, and in an effort to raise funds for the trip they put on a dinner theatre at the Legion hall last evening.

The play, Dinner at Eight, Dead by Nine, was written and performed by the students, and I have to say they did an excellent job. You’ve got to love the ingenuity of a group of teenagers who want to go across the Atlantic to visit the graves of fallen soldiers. For many of them, I’m sure, this will be the trip of a lifetime.

While it seems that East Dalhousie loves a good dinner theatre (I swear at least half the community took in the event) most proved to be a little camera shy.

See what I mean? Maybe it was the threat of ending up on my blog that caused these reactions. People, don’t you know you look sillier this way then if you just let me take your photo? Ah well. This is more entertaining.

Here I am having my photo taken to prove that I won’t dissolve into oblivion when the flash goes off.See that E. Dalhousie. Yeah I look weird, but do you really care? It’s hard to look natural with a mouth full of roast beef.

Now, I’ve got to mention the meal roast beef, which was delicious. My compliments to the chef or is that chefs?

Let’s not forget dessert, goodness gracious we can’t forget to mention the dessert. While a chocolate brownie with ice cream and chocolate sauce isn’t a substitute for a Mars, it does come in a close second.

Sorry, no photos of the actors, there were just too many heads in the way, and what with me being vertically challenged and all. You do understand don’t’ you? You’ll have to take my word on it that the show was entertainingly amusing. An excellent job.

So there you have the highlights of Dinner at Eight, Dead by Nine. Sometimes it’s nice for a writer to just sit back and be entertained by someone else’s words for a change..

That’s Me—Writer Groupie!

My name is Laura Best and I am a writer groupie.

I never knew this before, but apparently there IS a word for what’s ailing me( if you call it ailing) —- “writer groupie.” And doesn’t that sound totally lame? I mean anything with the word groupie attached to it. Makes you sound so…so… I don’t know…desperate.

I discovered this tidbit over at Fitch Happens. Sheree wrote that even though she’s a writer, she’s a reader first. She spoke about how precious her signed copies of books are. She openly admitted to sniffing the ink on the page. She was not ashamed.

Let me be straight about this: I have NEVER sniffed ink.(Not that I believe that ink sniffing is wrong , mind you, or even beneath me. If you’re an ink-sniffer that’s perfectly fine by me.) I’m not even sure that ink gives off an odor, not from your regular run-of-the-mill ballpoint at any rate, but who am I to argue?

The truth is, the thought never crossed my mind….. I’m just not a sniffer by nature unless it’s something that is sniffable– flowers, skin products, perfume, spices—you get my drift. My daughter is a sniffer. Whenever she opens a gift she smells it regardless of what it is. Got it from her grandmother on her father’s side. It’s a family joke or, quite possibly, a tradition. We sit around and watch each Christmas, and yes, she does it every time. Does this mean we’re strange?

Nope. I’m definitely not an ink sniffer….Yet now the thought is there, isn’t it? I do have signed books, you know.

I could deny the word— writer groupie, and yet I think the signs are there…..I show up at book signing, have my picture snapped with various authors all in hopes of creating this scrapbook for Miss Charlotte. I love meeting other authors and chatting with them. I flock to where authors are hanging out. AND I have photos to go along with my signed books from: Syr Ruus, Jan Coates, JoAnn Yhard, Helene Boudreau, Margaret Atwood, Budge Wilson, Steve Vernon, Jill MacLean, Sheree Fitch, Star Dobson, … I’m sure there are more that I’m forgetting at the moment of writing this, and there will be more in the future.

I remember when I was off signing copies of my novel. A few people came prepared to get photos so I guess I’m not the only one. It was actually kind of cool to think that someone wanted their photo snapped with me. I mean me, really. I wonder at this moment how Margaret Atwood feels, she’s probably in more scrapbooks and photo albums than any other Canadian writer.

Still, there are worse things in life I suspect. I won’t bother naming them at the moment.. I’ll just curl up on the sofa with my photos and books and resists the urge to sniff ink.

Be honest, are you a writer groupie? Do you have signed copies of books from authors that you would never part with? Have you ever sniffed the ink on a page?

Atwood Gives Bitter, Sweet the Nod

“Aren’t you the author of Bitter, Sweet?”

I turn around; a strange feeling comes over me, as I come face to face with Margaret Atwood. She’s a tiny woman, with a spark in her eyes, and a faint look of amusement on her face.

“Yes, I am,” I say feeling shy. I keep my words to a minimum. I don’t want to come off sounding like a gushing fool. But look at that, I never in a million years thought I’d be recognized by Margaret Atwood. I wanted to die!!!!!!

“You’re book is lovely, simply lovely,” she adds.

Nice piece of fiction that was, huh? Okay, so it was nice to daydream for a few seconds, and as Margaret Atwood said last evening, fiction writers do make up lies…. Still, it was kind of fun to pretend even if I giggled all the way through writing it.

Now for the real story.

Tuesday evening was the Champagne and Sunset with Margaret Atwood event at the Best Western. We arrived early and went into the conference room to look around.

All these books, written by Margaret Atwood; pretty impressive I’d say. This didn’t include all of her published works, mind you. I noticed a few titles were not present.

Yes, there was champagne, and the “maritime snacks” that were promised did not disappoint B or I–bacon wrapped scallops, salmon and cream cheese, quiche, to name a few. I was in heaven.

Before the event began, we stood in awe as we noticed Margaret circulating the room. She stopped right beside us, and said hello. I of course took the opportunity to tell her about the our kids having given us the tickets as a gift—like she’d remember that story the next day, but hey, you only get one shot, right?

One gentleman asked her how old she was when she wrote her first novel. She politely replied six or seven, and that it was a novel about an ant.
“There were a lot of plot problems,” she said, with a small grin. You’ve got to love her sense of humour.

Later, she took the podium, delighted us with some wonderful stories about how her father and mother met, and who all in Nova Scotia is related to her. Nope, I’m afraid no Best’s in that family tree. We were also treated to a reading before it was time to have our books signed.

The line was long. We didn’t make our way to the back of the line immediately, but stayed on the sidelines as I was hoping to get some more photos. At one point she motioned for someone, anyone, in our direction to come over, and no one made a move. I had no idea what she wanted but thought I’m going to find out. Turned out, two women wanted their photo taken with Margaret, and she wanted someone to snap the picture. Hey, that was the least I could do.

Finally, it was my turn. B was determined to get some clear shots. All evening I was having difficulty finding the right setting on my camera. Many of the shots I took in the dim light didn’t turn out. So he asked if she minded if he took some photos of the two of us. He snapped three to make sure he’d at least get one good one.

Upon reflection, I’m thinking I should have asked for her email address so that I could send her a copy. Do you think she would have fallen for that one? Nah, probably not.

So that’s it. A great evening with lots of pictures that definitely won’t get deleted off the camera before I have time to make copies.

Sunset and Champagne

Margaret Atwood is coming to the Best Western in Bridgewater on the 23rd. I had a conversation with my daughter a few weeks ago where I remember saying that, although I’d like to go, I didn’t think I’d pay $100 dollars for a ticket. Now that also includes a signed book, “The Year of the Flood,” and the money is going to support the South Shore Library—a good cause and yet I could think of many more things to do with that money.

So today, my middle daughter a.k.a Grub (don’t ask because no one in the family even remembers where the name came from) surprised B and I with two tickets to see Margaret Atwood. The tickets say, “Sunset and Champagne with Margaret Atwood.” Sweet! My three wonderful kids chipped in for the tickets—a birthday present for B and I; maybe Christmas too. It also came with a poem that I won’t post on account of the fact that when Margaret Atwood reads this post she might be insulted. (Okay, so that’s a joke.)

We’d been to the Pearl Theatre in Lunenburg a few years back to see her, which had ended up being one of those family stories when the photos I had taken of Margaret and I got deleted from my camera. Poof! Gone! No proof that I was actually there. No one took the blame. I ‘ve had my suspicions but….. The truth is, had I learned how to remove photos from my camera it never would have happened.

So on August 23, B and I will be chatting it up with Margaret Atwood. Hopefully, I’ll have photos to share.

So thanks, Mel, Grub, Skippy! You really are the Best kids!

Meanwhile @ the Lunenburg Library

I had a great time reading at Library in Lunenburg today. I was excited to see an announcement about my reading on the library door when I arrived.

Doesn’t take much to make me happy.

Okay, so Margaret Atwood didn’t show up. I know, I know, maybe I should have tweeted her earlier in week, reminder her that I came to the Pearl Theatre when she was in Lunenburg, and was one of the few people who actually had a copy of “The Tent” that evening since there was a mix-up with the publisher and the books hadn’t arrived. She’s a busy lady; I figured I’d have to jog her memory. I’m pretty sure she’d have been there if only she had known. After all, I’m one of her “T-Pals.” Don’t I deserve some perks?

Maybe as she reads this post, she’ll drop a comment. I can always hope, right?

In a relaxed atmosphere, I read from my book. After the reading, we chatted about the book and I answered questions. See Margaret, you missed your chance. I would have answered any question you asked.

But look who did showed up. It was Syr Ruus, author of Love Songs Of Immanuel Taggart. Have I mentioned I love that book?

Okay, so my husband bribed her with a free bookmark if she’d hold up a copy of my book for a photo. Amazing what people will do for a bookmark. Isn’t it?  It’s a good thing Syr is so good-natured.

So that was my afternoon. Lunenburg is one of Nova Scotia’s most historical and, might I add, beautiful seaside towns.

I’m already planning my next trip.

I’ll catch you next time, Margaret.

Word on the Street

I found out today that I will be reading an excerpt from “Bitter, Sweet” at the Word on the Street in Halifax on September 27th. I don’t mind admitting that it sort of threw me for a loop when I received the email. Sure, I had blindly replied “yes” when asked if I wanted to “participate” in the festival, naively thinking that I’d be there to promote my book, perhaps nod and smile at passersby— after all my book’s not out yet. What the heck am I going to read from? I guess I should have figured out that “participate” actually meant read but I’m not always so good at reading between the lines.

Of course my mind ran like wild fire for about a half hour after reading the email. I even phoned my sister to ask if there was possibly something wrong with me for not knowing exactly what was expected of me. There must have been something I missed in the email. “You will be reading at 1:30 at the kids and young adult stage.” Good news! According to my sister, the email was in fact vague. Nothing wrong with me—at least according to her. Perhaps a mistake had been made, I thought. She checked the schedule on line. Sure enough there I was,  Laura Best/ “Bitter, Sweet”

So I quickly emailed another author whose book is also coming out this fall with Nimbus to see if she is reading and guess what? She’s also reading from her yet to be published book.  Luckily, she was able to put things into perspective for me. She’s as much in the dark about this as I am but figures that we will be told later what to expect. I immediately felt as though I had found a kindred spirit, even began to dream that  there were others just like us out there somewhere—dazed and confused and wishing for a little more clarity. We first time authors are understandably naive. Didn’t help that neither of us had even attended the festival before.

I’ve read my work on several occasions in public but I like to have plenty of preparation. I want to know exactly how each word needs to be said, when and where to put emphasis. A lot of people assume that when you’re standing in front of a crowd that you’re nervous because you feel self-conscious about your looks or how you’re dressed. That’s never been my issue. For me it’s being able to read smoothly and clearly, to read in a way that will interest others, to make eye contact with the audience and not lose my place. I find it a bit nerve-wracking if I’m being honest. I suppose most people do. But this is all part of the territory.

A few years ago my husband and I went to Lunenburg to a Margaret Atwood reading when “The Tent” first came out.. On the way home he said, “That will be you some day reading in front of a crowd.” I really appreciated his support but didn’t dream that “some day” would come so quickly. Wish me luck on the 27th and hopefully by the time I get to the festival I’ll know exactly what I’m doing.

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