6 hours + 14 classes + 600 students + 6 grades + 8 sessions = 1 writer with raspy throat and headache, toting battered guitar in broken guitar case (broken in the cause of literacy!), tottering from St. Stephen Elementary School after talking about writing and reading from own books and singing the Libby Song and the Toby Song, all in the service of promoting Family Literacy Week.

(But, hey, teachers do it every day, and I did it for years as a teacher myself, and I’m not complaining, just wondering when and how I got so out of shape for it.)


At the same time as I’m feeling a tad battered, I’m also elated with the privilege and excitement and reward of spending the day in the company of kids bursting with energy and enthusiasm and curiosity.

Walking down the hallway between sessions I hear chatter from the cafeteria, students conversing in French with their teacher from a classroom, not a sound from the next classroom where it’s SSR time, subdued voices from the chess club meeting in the library, singing from the music room. It’s easy to become inured to the pleasure of experiencing the variety of all this learning going on when you’re in the thick of it on a daily basis, but as just a visitor these days I have time to savour it and to realise how much I feel at home in it.

Thank you, St. Stephen Elementary School.





When Life and Fiction Collide


I love it when real life and fictional life collide, one overlaying and intermingling with the other, so that what you read (or write) weaves a subtle passage through daily life.

Here’s an example: I recently came across this description (in slightly paraphrased form) of a top photographer at work: “He really could hyperfocus, for better or worse … When you hyperfocus, you forget everything else… I’d talk to him and you just couldn’t penetrate, he was so locked and loaded on what he was doing.”

Now it’d be fun – except I don’t have the resources or means to offer prizes – to have a competition: Name the recent work of fiction in which the three principal characters learn to attain this same hyperfocal state, although they describe it in different terms.

So no prizes – unless you count the thought of the beatific smile that would cross my face at each correct answer …

… And the correct answer would be my recent crossover novel, Colorland (Speaking Volumes Press), in which the three principal characters, Ridge, Isolde and Wenden, refer to the attainment of this real life hyperfocal state as Going to Colorland.

For me, it’s prize enough to come upon another parallel between life and fiction.