History and its Ripples

Who in their right mind would suggest to a publisher that they wanted to write a book called A History of Just About Everything?? Not me or Frieda Wishinsky, my co-author for a book by that very title that was published this fall.

When we proposed to Kids Can Press that we write a book about the most important happenings of the 20th century, our editor came back to us with the idea that we should expand our proposal. And we agreed — although there were times in the process when writing all the “180 Events, People and Inventions That Changed the World” (that’s the book’s subtitle) seemed rather overwhelming.

Horsing Around

Yesterday I spent the afternoon at the Annick Press office, choosing photos for my book about horses that will be published in 2015 (title still to be determined). I wrote about horses in Why Do Horses Have Manes? but this new book uses the focus of horses to look at important events in world history. Kids can read about famous steeds ranging from Bucephalus (Alexander the Great’s horse) to Sea Biscuit (the Great Depression’s amazing race horse — go to to watch him beat War Admiral). The manuscript also includes the story of the Pony Express, pit ponies (the little horses that helped workers mine coal and minerals) and North America’s mustangs.

Oh, Those Fabulous, Furry Felines

At this time of year, our cat Cosimo is either stretched out on my desk under my desk lamp, curled up on a heating grate, snuggled under a duvet or lounging on a laptop. Anyone who knows me is likely amazed that I have waited this long to post a blog about cats.

As Mark Twain said, “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” Edward Gorey explained, “Books. Cats. Life is good.” and my friend Karen, who is a wonderful writer, editor and grammarian, would agree wholeheartedly (while rubbing her cat Stanley’s speckled belly).

It Takes Two

For most of my books I’ve been the sole author. But I was also the ghost writer on one, and I’ve written two books (Everything But the Kitchen Sink and A History of Just About Everything) with Frieda Wishinsky — we’re now working on a third. (Perhaps we’ll have to make sure it has the word “Everything” in the middle of the title so we can create a trilogy!)

I’m not sure how other writing duos work, but Frieda and I often say that we work together by NOT working together. We create an outline for the book together, with lots of backing and forthing, but once the editor approves the outline, we split up the writing and work completely separately.

The Slush Pile

If you’re part of the publishing industry, then the title to this posting probably made you shudder. If you’re not in the business, then you need to know that the slush pile is the huge stack of unsolicited manuscripts — also known as “unsoliciteds” — that are sent to every publishing company in hopes the publisher will publish them

Brigitte and Book Trailers

It was Brigitte Waisberg, Marketing Manager at Annick Press, who got me involved with blogging at Open Book Toronto. Thanks to her and to Clelia Scala, Open Book’s Executive Director, I’ve made it through a week of blogging — thanks also to all the people who have sent me comments.

Usually when I get an e-mail from Brigitte, it’s to send me reviews of my books. However on Friday she sent me the link about some of Annick’s most recent non-fiction books, including one I wrote called Bones Never Lie.

A Sad Day

Perhaps many of us will always remember where we were yesterday when we heard that Nelson Mandela had “gone home.” As President Obama said, “We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.”

Sadly, today is the anniversary of two tragedies in Canadian history. In 1989, the Montreal Massacre horrified Canadians. And almost 100 years ago today, the world’s greatest man-made explosion to that time took place in Halifax harbour.

The Case for Procrastination

One of the projects I’m working on right now is a picture book that will be published in Fall 2014 by Kids Can Press. The subject is a Toronto Police Force horse named Bunny, who was one of 18 horses chosen from the Force to go to Europe and serve in World War I. Bunny and his rider faced many dangers — they were even on the battlefield the first time poison gas was used in the war. But of all of those 18 horses, Bunny was the only one still alive at the end of World War I.

Finding Your Community

I hope everyone has recovered from your Telescope Day (see my December 3 post) celebrations yesterday! I had to curtail mine this year because in addition to working on a number of manuscripts, yesterday was the deadline for me to submit copy for the section I edit of the CANSCAIP News.

CANSCAIP stands for Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers ( and pronounced CAN-scape). This organization supports and promotes children’s literature, but perhaps even more importantly, it supports and promotes children’s authors, illustrators and performers.

Creativity: Tribulations, Trilogies (and Telescopes)

Thanks to everyone who sent me comments about yesterday’s post. Who knew there are so many Ringo fans out there?!

The hurry and hustle of December can make it hard to be creative, and often writers have a lot of projects that have to be finished before year end. But I think many non-writers try to be more creative in both their personal lives and careers. It’s very satisfying to create something, or solve a problem in a new way. And as work and home budgets are reduced, creativity can be even more important.

Here are a few methods I use to increase my creativity and blast through writer’s block:

Look at the Problem Another Way

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