Tuesday, February 23, 2010

No More Mass Market Crap, She Crows!

I love "the long tail." Now, at last, I can shop again.

I have pretty well given up shopping for pleasure. Not from any holier-than-thou-ness, but rather, from an utter disgust of what the market offers. It's just not fun anymore.

Guess what, retailers: one size really really really does not fit all. No, I don't want to buy summer clothes in the middle of winter in Canada - I need to replace my torn longjohns, and can't find any, thank you very much. And no again, I don't want yet another black sweater, especially one with spandex in it that accentuates every pooch and bulge. Or a lavender one either, even if some plebe in a fashion industry cubicle has decided it is this year's color. Lavender makes me look like I've been run over by pansies. Every year.

Don't even get me started on bathing suits. 

So "au revoir!" I said to the mall. "Arriverderci, Chinese-made shlock that's identical to the shlock I can buy  in Milan or Milwaukee." I'll keep my cash in my pocket and wear the same old stuff that's filled my closet for the last ten years.

But then, I met Etsy. Etsy, Etsy! You are my new best friend!

If you haven't met my pal Etsy yet, it's time for an introduction. Etsy is an online marketplace where makers of handmade goods can sell them directly to their customers. Like eBay, but for crafty stuff.

Suddenly, thanks to Etsy, I could find something unique. Something handmade that doesn't cost a fortune. Something quirky, with a style that matches my own. No more black spandex, whether I wanted it or not.

Goodbye mass market crap. Hello one-of-a-kind.

The Long Tail indeed.

So I bought a couple of scarves, just to test the waters. The first one is to go with my ancient hot pink patagonia parka, the one that has travelled twice to Nunuvut (tho I've only gone once.)

Here it is:

Now anyone who knows me knows that I like a) pink b) flowers. Isn't this just the ticket?

I bought a second scarf too - one to wear to schools when I do my author presentations. I'm considering pairing this one with a mustard yellow sweater. What do you think?

And what gal doesn't need a Duh-Vine handbag?

I got two.

I love love LOVE my new book handbag, made by "Retrograndma" in "sunny Saskatchewan." I can't wait to show it off at our next Torkidlit meeting!

My even more juvenile self couldn't resist a handbag made out of an old LP. Remember LPs? I chose one made from a Monkees album. It features a song that was popular with my college chums way back when in the now retro 80s: Take the Last Train to Clarksville. Ahh, Memories...

It occurs to me that in a few short years, my book purse will be a relic of a long-gone age, much as my LP purse already is. But for now, at least, it's just a darn cute accessory that suits my occupation and avocation. Bookworms, unite.

Now I do realize that my taste is not everyone's, and many readers may laugh when they see what I spent my hard earned loonies on. But that's exactly the point. I am not like everyone else. I am a one-off, and so are you.

While I understand the economics behind the mass market, I don't like it. I don't want it. I say no.

Instead, I will take my small stack of coins and hold onto them until they make a nice little monetary fortress. And then I will look for items that I want, not what someone else tells me I should want. I will deal with a supplier who is responsive to me (gee! they replied to my email! Take that, HP, whose printers I will never buy again). One who might even make a scarf to order for me (I'd like a black fringy one that looks like the illo of my dog Marley in some of my books).  And yes, I know I will still probably go to a big box store to buy printer paper, and to a department store to buy jeans or undies. But more and more,  I'm going to shop more extensively direct - via eBay, Etsy, and Farmer's Market. What about you?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Etymology of the term "hoser" - it's even funnier than you thought

I was writing the section on hockey slang for the Hilarious History of Hockey today, and came across a reference that was too good to be true. It claimed that the term "hoser" originated in the pre-Zamboni days, when losing teams had to hose down the ice after a game.

I giggled, then dug a little deeper to see if I could find the source. After all, my book has got to be funny, but it also has to be accurate.

A little on-line research took me to what I think is the source "document"  - in an absolutely hysterical video from 2003 featuring the iconic "Clark, the Canadian Goalie."

Here it is, for your viewing pleasure. Make sure you put down your brewskie before you watch, or you'll wind up spewing it across the room. Really.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

She's gone a little buggy...

But you all knew that already.

For the Silver Birch Awards, I was asked to create a short video about my nominated book, The Insecto-Files. My son, the aspiring film director, held the phone and shot the video. It's terribly embarrassing, if I had the capacity for embarrassment! But I don't. So enjoy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mad Scientist Explores MY Brain!

Last year, on a brilliantly sweaty summer day, I biked over to the Rotman Research Institute on Toronto's Bathurst Street. Not only is the Rotman Institute across the street from some of the best bagels in the city, but it is also home to cutting edge research in neuroscience and gerontology. My mission? A) to snag some great bagels and B) to volunteer as a study subject for some of their ongoing research projects.

I'm proud to say I have participated in two studies so far, and expect to volunteer again when my brain fits the criteria for another experiment.

Not everyone is keen to offer their noggins to science, mostly because its rough on the hair. For the EEG to work, you need to wear a cap that's filled with electroconductive gel. Also, if you work a regular day job, it's difficult to match your schedule with that of the labs'. But I'm not vain about my hair, and I can bugger off whenever I want to (or when deadlines allow). So for me, volunteering my brain is an easy to way contribute in a practical and necessary way to furthering the cause of science.

The importance of research studies conducted at the Rotman was driven home to me last night. I attended a panel discussion on the subject of women's brain health and Alzheimers that was sponsored by the Women of Baycrest. Dr. Jean Marmoreo and neuroscientist Dr. Tiffany Chow presented some of the latest research, and discussed strategies for reducing your risk for dementia.

You can watch the video of the panel discussion here.

The latest research can only happen if people are willing to volunteer for studies. Some are easy - you might only have to answer a questionaire. Others may take a few hours of your time. But I can tell you this for true - it's fun!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Very Literary Dog

We only have the very smartest dogs in our house. Pulis, aka Hungarian sheepdogs. Our first puli, Marley, is featured in Boredom Blasters in her very own comic strip. She was famous around here not only for her totally fab dreads, but for the time she ate the Thanksgiving turkey. Frozen.

Ella is our latest puli addition. At two, she is proving herself to be a very feisty young lady! It must be all the reading that has made her so "uppity," like her very uppity mom. A little education, you know, is a dangerous thing.

Ella always helps me turn the pages whenever I read, and is my constant companion when I write too. Don't be surprised if you find her influence in my work. There are "doolves" - half dog, half wolves, more intelligent than both - in my WIP. There are a few dog-related facts in The Hilarious History of Hockey too, which is due out from Scholastic Canada in the Fall. For example...did you know that at least one NHL player let their beloved pooch eat out of the Stanley Cup?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Haunted House Under Construction...

I just got a hold of the jpeg for my upcoming picture book, The Haunted House that Jack Built.
Isn't it cute????? Illustrator David Parkins did a fabulous job, inside and out.

I sent a copy to my sister, who's name happens to be Jackie. Her comment is that there was a typo on the cover, as the book really should be "...House that Jackie Built."

She thought her comment was way funnier than I did.

The story is of course a riff on the old Mother Goose folk poem/song/chant, updated and twisted mercilessly into a macabre tale for only the stout-hearted.

Ok, maybe you don't have to be quite that stout-hearted. You just need a good sense of humor and plenty of those little candy corns to stick out of your mouth like fangs.

This book will be out in August, just in time for the annual back to school Halloween merchandising blitz. Order now, I say, to avoid the rush :)

If you are interested in folklore, you can find the original words to the tale here:

Interestingly enough, this isn't the first time I've knocked off the traditional rhyme. In Mother Goose Unplucked,  there's a cartoony puzzle in which readers have to find all the things that are wrong with the very messed up house that Jack built. It was fun to put that book together, so you can expect more fractured fairy tall stuff from me in the future.

If you like fractured fairy tales, let me know your favorite!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Beat the Winter Blahs - Toddler Edition

Last month I was interviewed by the awesome Shelley White over at Parentdish. She wanted to know how I managed to survive the brutal Canadian winters when my kids were little. After I told her all about the Becker school of toddler management (its curriculum is very hands-off), I did share with her some of my tips from the days before my guys discovered World of Warcraft.  To read them, and find out other great indoor and outdoor play ideas, check out Shelley's article, How to Shake the Winter Blues.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Attention Librarians! Sixth Annual Mass Book Launch at OLA Superconference!


If you’re at Ontario Library Super Conference February 26, 2010 join CANSCAIP for our annual book launch.

CANSCAIP and the Ontario Library Association join together to present their sixth annual mass book launch Friday February 26, 2010 at Expo Stage in hall C in the Toronto Convention Centre during the OLA Super Conference from noon to 2:15. Twenty authors and illustrators will introduce their 2009 titles in entertaining five minute infomercials. Sylvia McNicoll, Book Launch Coordinator of CANSCAIP will act as emcee and official timer. Enjoy the personalities behind the creations as well as their behind-the-creation stories. Buy a raffle ticket to win some of these stories. Picture books, middle reader age as well as young adult novels will all be available on site for purchase and the authors and artists will happy to autograph them for your collection.

CANSCAIP is the Canadian Society of Authors, Illustrators and Performers, of which I am a proud member (and former member of the exec.) We not only network and provide info and support to each other, but host a fantastic conference on the business of children's writers, for beginners and pros, every autumn called Packaging Your Imagination.

The OLA, among its many notable projects, sponsors Ontario's amazing Forest of Reading program, which includes the Red Maple, Blue Spruce, Silver Birch and White Pine children's choice awards. I'm proud that my kooky bug book, The Insecto-Files has been nominated in the Silver Birch Non-Fiction category this year.

Because: Science!