Loving the View

I am currently house-sitting and this is my amazing view. Early retirement allows me to travel within my province to new places that I can explore. Early retirement also gives me the opportunity to build more of my second career – writing! And with a view like this, I am inspired!

On Wednesday, I offered an introductory session of GETTING STARTED WITH WRITING through Parkinsons Society of BC and will be spending time with participants of the session over the next three weeks. I am looking forward to the exchange of learning that happens during writing workshops!

Today I am editing book two of my fantasy trilogy while also spending time editing a prequel for an author of MG/YA science fiction. Then tomorrow I will spend twelve hours with folks from around the globe as we write poetry to prompts every hour, during the half-marathon of the Poetry Marathon 2022. I am extremely honoured this year to not only be participating, but to also be selected as the editor of the half-marathon poems that will be included in the anthology. I will be supporting poets alongside the full marathon editor, Ofuma Agali.

National Poetry Month

Poetry forms with words from previous CV2 2-Day Poem Contests…

The following poem is a NONET I wrote during the Poetry Marathon last year and it appears in The Poetry Marathon Anthology, edited by Cynthia Hernandez. A nonet’s first line is NINE syllables long, the next line is eight syllables long, with each subsequent line having one less syllable.

ODE TO SIGNS

Cancer caused me to take stock of my

soul: discover what was missing –

gave myself permission to

dream in poetry. See

my life in stanzas –

rhyming couplets.

Lyrical

love of

words.

(Cristy Watson, 2021)

Locked Up

Thank you for this thoughtful review, Isaiah! I am coming up on three years since this book was first released and I am feeling rather nostalgic for the story and main character, Kevin. So, I thought I would repost your blog. Thank you again for all you did to help get these books into the hands of the young people for whom they are written. Happy 2022!

MI Book Reviews

“When he was fifteen, Kevin took a car for a joyride and got in an accident that seriously injured a pedestrian. Known inside juvenile detention as Strider, he has spent more than two years incarcerated, and has learned the hard way how to survive inside. Strider keeps his head down and continues his schoolwork, and another inmate called Wired gives Strider protection from the gangs in exchange for ?loans? of money and helping Wired cheat on tests. When his parole officer suggests that he apply for early parole, Strider realizes that it would be hard for him to survive on the outside. All the kids he knew have moved on without him, and he has nothing to return to but life with his father since his mother left them.

When Strider sees Wired’s sister Larkyn come to visit her brother, he is very attracted to her. Maybe with someone like…

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Shelter – Homelessness in Our Community

Author Interview with LOIS PETERSON

I remember back in 2009, being invited to participate in a writer’s group with Lois Peterson. Together, with other wonderful writers, we workshopped both of our books, Benched and Beyond Repair, which were released in early 2011, as part of the Orca Currents. Later that year, my second novel, Living Rough was released; a fictional account of a homeless youth living with his Dad in a tent. I did a fair deal of research for Living Rough back in 2010, and I remember in one chapter my main character, Poe, was in Social Studies when a student mentioned that over 200,000 people could be homeless in Canada on any given night. 

Can you share with us how you researched for Shelter – Homelessness in Our Community, a new release in the Orca Think series for middle-grade readers? How have things changed in the past ten years in Canada? 

I did have the advantage of having a bit of an ‘insider’s view’ when I started this book, as I was working for a homeless shelter in Nanaimo at the time. That said, to fully understand the issue in both Canada and the US I still had to immerse myself in the topic, reading studies, reports, following news items, staying in touch with what many organizations working with people affected by homelessness were doing ‘on the ground’. Luckily, there are a lot of resources out there – most notably, the Homeless Hub website of the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, which was invaluable during my research. www.homelesshub.ca

And no. I don’t think the homelessness situation has changed… in fact it may be worse with more poverty, less affordable housing everywhere and many complex issues still being unaddressed, despite the efforts of so many people and organizations trying to help.

This is your ninth book with Orca Publishers, and it is your first non-fiction title. How did preparing to write this book differ from writing your works of fiction?  

This took much longer than most of my fiction… I had to document sources of everything I learned, search for multiple sources to verify some of the facts, follow leads without always knowing where I would end up, interview a number of people, and work really hard to ensure I covered the topic from a number of perspectives. I had to ‘get out of my own head’, which is where I spend much of my time when I’m working on fiction – although as you know, some research is often involved to ground fiction in fact. 

What drew you to writing about this important topic? 

Working in community services in the homeless sector, I had come to understand how much misinformation there is about the causes and effects of homelessness. As children get much of their information – and many opinions – from the adults in their lives, I wanted to give them insights and facts to learn more, form their own opinions, and develop empathy for people whose lives might be very different than their own. 

Taryn Gee did the wonderful artwork and illustrations for this book. Can you comment on how that process works – do you have an opportunity to work together and talk about your visions for the pictures?

I did see ‘roughs’ of some of Taryn Gee’s sketches early in the process, but there was no collaboration as such. It was quite thrilling to see how her vision of what the book might look like was revealed as I saw drafts of the finished book quite late in the process. The one thing I get the most comments about from readers is the cover image, which I feel is very powerful.

Congratulations on becoming one of the all-stars for Canadian Children’s Book Week, 2022. What advice do you have for authors applying next year? 

This will actually be ‘only’ my second time touring during The Children’s Book Centre Book Week. I toured Southern Saskatchewan in 2013, but this tour will be online rather than in person. 

I don’t think there’s a science in applying successfully. But I do think it’s a good idea to talk about outcomes in applications – what you hope students will gain from your presentations – just as much as you describe what you will actually do in the workshops. Also, make sure not to miss the application deadline which is usually in mid-October! #CCBCBookWeek2022

What are you planning to write next? I also know you are painting – will that factor into any upcoming stories? 

Some days I have trouble deciding between writing and painting!

As always, I have a number of fiction works on the go. In fact, just last night I got a new idea for a picture book while watching a TV quiz show. But currently, I am putting together a proposal for another midgrade nonfiction book – this one is about creativity.  Something that has always been a big part of my life, one way or another, and something that I think is vital to our development as human beings in a challenging and changing world.

Thank you, Lois Peterson, for sharing your thoughts with our readers! We look forward to enjoying your new book. 

Thanks, Cristy. I always enjoyed having the opportunity of sharing our writing journeys. You can follow Lois Peterson on social mediahttp://loispetersonwriter.cahttps://www.facebook.com/LPwordshttps://twitter.com/lpwords

RETIREMENT

I had a tough year, like so many others. Mine started in early March 2020, before the lockdown, where I ended up in Emergency with a blood pressure spike that was scary. I ended up on medication but had complications with the medication and now just had it changed again for the fourth time – it’s been a long haul.

I had planned to retire in two years but decided to put my health first and take early retirement. I have been teaching for 30 years and have loved working with students as part of a multi-disciplinary team in day-treatment facilities and as a District Teacher of a Behaviour Class, as well as building my own program (FOCUS) and then finishing my career facilitating Peace Circles with entire classes. Before retirement I can say that I taught in/supported all schools but three in the Langley School District and before that worked in Kamloops, Burnaby, San Francisco, and Calgary. I worked alongside amazing people over my career and I am thankful to so many.

I will miss this vocation – I wanted to be a teacher from about the age of four and now I am going to focus on building my writing career and connections. I have books two to complete in both a fantasy trilogy and an adventure trilogy (aimed at middle-grade to lower YA). That ought to keep me busy! And I recently completed the 2-day Poem Contest (CV2 Magazine) where I wrote a poem in 48 hours and had to include the ten words they provided. This past weekend I completed the Poetry Marathon (half) where I wrote twelve poems to twelve prompts in twelve hours. The first prompt was so fitting for my retirement, I decided to include it here:

2021 Poetry Marathon

Prompt One: Write a poem about something ending. It could be a relationship, a stage in life, or the apocalypse. The details are up to you!

The Stars are Waiting

Not a door closing but

steps further away

Not steps further away but

in a different direction

Not steps in a different 

direction but 

New steps, full of vigor

carrying thirty years

of children with me –

their laughter, joy, and sorrow

Their curiosity and 

wide-eyed wonder

Their innocence and will

to believe in things, unseen

Their ability to forgive and

care just as fully as before…

Their upside-down grins –

hanging from the monkey-bars

Their antics and giggles

when no-one is watching

Their antics and giggles

when everyone is watching

Their rush to comfort when

friends are down

and their love of everything new

Everything is no longer new

but my steps

New is what I’ll search for as I

take in my surroundings, seeing more –

New is stillness on the forest path; the 

unturned stone of the future

New is learning to hop-skip on the beach again –

the invitation of the ocean’s swell

New is sitting in a tree reading 

a book of poetry by Maya Angelou

New is building a garden big enough to house

hundreds of peace stones; gifts, accumulated

New is baking up a storm for doors

once again, flung wide

New is flinging doors open-wide

arms, too – hearts singing

Being the kite

wafting in the wind

             the stars are waiting

Almost time…

On Saturday, June 26th, I will once again participate in the Poetry Marathon. This will be my fifth year doing the half-marathon, where I receive a prompt in my inbox every hour. Participants do not have to write to the prompt, but that is the whole reason I enter the contest: to challenge myself to create something from a prompt in one hour. Of course, there are times when the clock is seconds away from becoming the next hour and I am scrambling to post my poem in time. So far, I have managed twelve poems in twelve hours to twelve prompts and earned the coveted certificate.

To prepare for the contest, I typically use the random prompt generator on the website in the days and weeks leading up to the Poetry Marathon and create practice poems. Here is a pantoum I wrote recently:

This Year

this year of virtual embraces, cold and distant touches –
invisible ripples along the flesh; blank boxes with but a name,
providing some warmth against the wracking wind
… a brief lifeline to the outside world

invisible ripples along the flesh; blank boxes with but a name,
amiable enough this hollow discourse
… a brief lifeline to the outside world
to stead us until life resumes

amiable enough this hollow discourse
this year of virtual embraces, cold and distant touches –
to stead us until life resumes
providing some warmth against the wracking wind

Finally, I have snacks on hand like granola, nuts and this year, freshly baked banana bread. I may need to pop out for a Strawberry Açai at some point during the day – maybe when I go for my scheduled for smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-the contest second vaccine!

Good luck to all the contestants and especially the brave ones doing the Full Poetry Marathon of twenty-four hours. Maybe I will be brave next year!

National Poetry Month… done!

At the close of National Poetry Month 2020, I am happy with my participation in events and writing! What did I do?

I participated in two ZOOM sessions of poetry hosted by Bill Arnott and heard participants reading from as far as Australia. A wonderful way to spend two afternoons!

I also joined the Poet’s Corner for a fabulous evening of readings! So many talented local poets!

I also learned about ‘The Art of Fresh Imagery in Poetry’ from Meghan Stirling, hosted by Jacob Jans and Authors Publish. There were over 260 people watching and they were participating from all over the world. Great inspiration for editing one of my poems! Thank you for the support.

And… I participated in the CV-2 2-Day-Poem Contest where the 10 words were: palm, embank, sheer, wrest, lacuna, whizzed, runny, mustard, balter, and nubivagant. I know, you are thinking that the stumbling blocks for creativity were nubivagant and balter. But, I am so glad I had ‘The Child’ to keep me calm while writing for 48 hours to produce a poem, as it was actually whizzed and runny that caused me grief. According to a twitter poll on the weekend of the contest, runny was considered the hardest word.

I also applied for a position to edit a poetry anthology. No word on that one, yet. But I am ever hopeful! I also am a participant in a Facebook group called the Quarter Crazy Marathon set up by folks who participate in the Poetry Marathon so we can prepare for the gruelling event in June! This month, I learned about a new form from them called the NONET. Even though National Poetry Month is over, I have plenty of ideas to work with in the coming months, including trying my hand at this new form!

It’s National Poetry Month

Warning – these poetic undertakings are not for the faint of heart!

During April, I typically sign-up for the CV2 -2-Day Poem Contest and prior to the dates of writing, I check out the previous winning poems from 2003-2020. Like me, you will find great reads and tons of inspiration! In April, I also typically begin watching for news and updates for the June POETRY MARATHON. You may enter the Half-Marathon, like me, and write 12 poems in 12 hours, or if you have the poetic stamina, why not push yourself and go for the full marathon: 24 poems in 24 hours. Maybe you would like to just peruse the poems on the site or try your hand at a new form? On the right-hand side of the Poetry Marathon main page, you will find a RANDOM PROMPT generator – a wonderful way to challenge yourself and find new forms.

Here is a list of some of the form poems the POETRY MARATHON contest has challenged poets with over the past several years:

A GOLDEN SHOVEL – Where the poet chooses a title or favourite line of a poem/piece of prose and uses each word in the lines of the poem as the end word (keeping the original order). It is important to credit the original author. Here is a great example from the League of Canadian Poets.

THE SEVENLING- a full description and example can be found here: SEVENLING.

THE BOP – again a fun, but challenging form. For more information check this poetic form out here: BOP.

EKPHRASTIC POETRY – In short – a vivid description of a work of art. Check out the Poetry Foundation for a full description of this form and poetic example.

THE PANTOUM – The pantoum is a form of poetry similar to a villanelle in that there are repeating lines throughout the poem. It is composed of a series of quatrains; the second and fourth lines of each stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next. For more on this form check out this brilliant poem featured on the League of Canadian Poets site.

I am off to try one or two poems as practice for the BIG EVENTS! Happy NATIONAL POETRY MONTH to all!

Book Birthdays!

It is a new thing to celebrate book birthdays – throwing a party to welcome your novel into the world. I guess if we do that as a new tradition it follows that books will have successive birthdays, just like us!

As with any birthday party, it is a good idea to have the whole family join in! Sadly, LOCKED UP and ROOM 555 weren’t around for the photo op!

So, today I celebrate two book birthdays. BENCHED just turned TEN! Since BENCHED was my first ‘baby’ I was nervous about how it would be received by the world and of course, how I would nurture it so it could grow. I was a novice, and like any new parent, spent many nights awake, wishing and hoping for it to thrive. I guess I shouldn’t have worried. After ten years, this middle-grade novel still brings me a little pocket change in royalties. I often get messages from teachers and youth in different parts of the world – recently, I was contacted by a teacher in New York asking if I had accompanying lesson plans. Orca Book Publishers creates lesson plans for most of their books and to access the one for BENCHED, click here: http://www.orcabook.com/Assets/PDFs/Guides/benched.pdf I still receive notes from young people saying it is the first novel they were able to complete – the reason I wrote this book. As this novel falls into the hi-lo category, or as I like to call them, accessible books, it is a quick read for avid book lovers and one that all readers can manage. A bit more about hi-lo fiction can be found here: https://blog.orcabook.com/author-feature-cristy-watson/

It is also a book birthday for CUTTER BOY. Originally titled, EDGE OF GREY, this book just turned FIVE! Interestingly, it was also a first for me as an author. It was the first book published with Lorimer and I now have three more books with their SIDESTREETS series, also a hi-lo category for YA: http://www.lorimer.ca/childrens/Contributor/3474/Cristy-Watson.html I have had many young people connect with me over this book – how it clicked with them, how it spoke to them, and how it helped them understand themselves and others. It covers a tough topic, and all of my books with Lorimer look at realistic issues facing teens today. If you read this book, be aware that it can trigger folks who are struggling with mental health issues and do remember to reach out for help and support: https://cmha.ca/documents/talking-to-teens-about-mental-health

BENCHED and CUTTER BOY thank you for celebrating their book birthdays this January. Authors – do your books have an upcoming birthday? Feel free to share with me in the comments section!

Words to Describe “Locked Up”

This book came out in January 2019 and time has flown since then. I was able to donate copies of all my books to a juvenile prison in the United States thanks to the brilliant Isaiah Roby, who cares deeply for the youth in these situations. I heard back from the prison librarian that the books were getting youth talking: a debate ensued about the back story for the mom in Cutter Boy, and one youth realized he needed to reach out to his dad after reading Dead to Me. Hearing this compels me to write more novels!

Today, while checking the internet, this popped up on my feed. It’s from the Delaware County District Library. I appreciate their choice of words for the book’s appeal:

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