Monday, March 31, 2008

Green Earth Book Awards 2008

Heading off to the USA to pick up my prize for The Light-Bearer's Daughter. This will be loads of fun as there is a book festival, awards ceremony, author breakfast, school visit, and lots more besides. I am really looking forward to meeting the other prize winners - authors, illustrators, and environmentalists - as well as the organisers, students, and everyone else involved. Salisbury University has a beautiful campus. Will take some pics while I am there. Here's the Green Earth Book Award T-shirt. Love the polar bear! (Does he like my book because the word 'bear' is in the title?) The artwork is by Jeremiah Trammell who illustrated Winston of Churchill (yes, that is Churchill, Manitoba) - "One Bear's Battle Against Global Warming" - written by Jean Davies Okimoto and published by Sasquatch Press. They won the Children's Fiction category. For more information on the awards and the other winners go to:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Life Imitates Art - Magic!

Here's something amazing a writer friend alerted me to: look at what they found deep in a lake in the Haliburton region of Ontario! What we are looking at, of course, is a dolmen, known portal to Faerie. Those of you who have read The Book of Dreams (I don't want to do a spoiler for those who haven't yet) are aware that I ask the question whether or not there is fairy magic in Canada. Well, guess what. Haliburton is not far from Creemore (a major setting in my book. Twilight Zone music.) And here's another stunning surprise. They are pretty certain this is not a glacial erratic yet there is no evidence that it has been constructed by humans. So, who put it there, eh? Here's the link if you want to read more about it:

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Makanan Malaysia

Here's a link to Aiyah Nonya's blog: This is a cooking blog by a young Malaysian woman living in Singapore. She shows pictures of what she cooks and bakes and also gives the recipes. I am definitely going to try some of these. Mostly, however, I just like looking at the pictures and salivating, while reading about her efforts along with everyone else's comments. Baik-lah, Aiyah, dan yum! Of course I am popping this post into Bookmark because it is pertinent to my one (so far) realistic novel set in Malaysia. My Blue Country is out of print, but you can get it secondhand in various places (try a search). This also reflects on my new book, People of the Great Journey, as one of the characters is a Malaysian woman. Hmm, maybe she'll whip up a feast for everyone. (See how scenes happen when you are writing a book?)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Performing Poetry

Forgot to blog the poetry gig I did for the launch of dear friend Frank Golden's book In Daily Accord, at the Burren College of Art in County Clare. We had a full house in the theatre/ lecture room and it was a terrific night. Images of Frank's paintings and sketches were projected onto a giant screen behind us as, dressed in black, Frank, I, and poet John Doorty read about a hundred three-line poems, weaving our voices in and out of each other and finally finishing together in a chorus. Throughout the performance, underpinning it like a stream, was a musical piece composed by Andrew Collins. Have to say I loved being on stage and realized that I must - yes, must - get going on my stand-up comedienne career. I'm still writing pieces but need to get my show on the road. Summertime, I'm thinking, when Finn has finished her exams. So here are two pics of that time: a castle tower at the Burren College of Art and me on the beach called Bishop's Quarter. I love the West. Can't wait to move back there.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The High King

I'm always surprised at the degree to which people don't notice that I describe Finvarra, High King of Faerie, as 'dark as the night.' Fairies are all different colours - even more so than human beings - black, white, brown, green, yellow, purple, red etc. I had a few images for my king including a Balinese dancer I saw in a film which inspired the dance scene at the bonfire; but here is my chief image: one of the most beautiful Irishmen ever born, Phil Lynnott. And there beside him in a sparkly vest could be Midir. (But that's NOT Findabhair dancing completely out of step with the music, Jaze.) Now I'm also posting this video because Whiskey in the Jar is THE song everyone sings in the pub on St Patrick's Day when they are all lashed!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Rumah Nor

Here's a short film about the Iban and Dayak people's struggle to protect their lands against logging companies in Borneo. Some scenes in my realistic teen novel, My Blue Country, are set in the same area as these longhouses, around Sebu and Bintulu. Indeed, a lot of this looks familiar to me and I think I drank tuak and ate sticky rice in bamboo with these very people! (My book is based on my year-long participation in Canada World Youth/Jeunesse Canada Monde 1972-73.) And I remember dancing to the gongs the way the Tuai Rumah (Headman) dances at the end of the film. I wish these people well. Surely there is no question here as to who is right and who is wrong; but will right prevail? This is also research for my new book as one of my characters, Penny Li Jauh, a Baba-Nonya woman from Malacca, is married to an Iban man. (I've got the whole world in this book.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More Light-Bearer Country

I promised I would post photos of the Sunday hike through the Glendasan Valley, up the back and over the top of Camaderry, then down into Glendalough; all territory Dana would have traversed with her wolf companion before meeting St Kevin in Gleann Dá Loch, the Vale of the Two Lakes. It's wild and ever-changing land with big boulders, scree slopes, bog and bog pools, forests of Scots pine and oak, and the rich green valley of Glendalough. From left to right that's Ben and Maureen on the rocks and then Ger, me, and Mike on the summit of Camaderry.

It wasn't an easy hike for me as I had been up dancing and partying till all hours the night before (you can't hoot with the owls by night and fly with the eagles by day, as we used to say in the Navy). I led from the rear all the way. Here's me apparently alone on the boggy summit of Camaderry. Better still, look at that gorgeous stag up on the ridge. He stood there for ages so we could admire him.

As can only happen in Ireland, we got all four seasons on this hike. It began with early spring at the beginning, green and muddy, then we got a bit of winter as it started to snow in the lee of the mountain (like being in a snow globe, that's me in the little pic). There was a hint of summer at one point as the sun made us all strip off our jumpers, then a taste of autumn in the shade of the forest at the end of the trail, crunching on old brown oak leaves. Ye can't beat Ireland for the weather, I tell ye.

And at last the way got easy as we headed downwards. In the distance, we could see the round tower of the monastic settlement of St Kevin's Glendalough. Crossing our path, not boggles, but two pretty Japanese students who were visiting the site. As Dana reflects in the book, after she returns from visiting the hermit-saint in the past, "Fifteen hundred years later, people still came to Kevin!" (Photos by Ger Blake and Mike McGovern)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bivouac with Kerouac

It's a grey cloud-shrouded day and there's a berry-red cheery turf fire in the grate and me lying on the sofa with a big alpaca-wool wrap around me as I read Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums (always years late to read what everyone else is singing about, but better late than never). I should be posting pictures of the five and a half hour hike over Camaderry's muddily drear then snow-shaken four-seasoned Wicklow mountainback I traversed Sunday (Light-Bearer country) after a wild bonfire-lit and fairy-light lit open-air shack of a mountainy party with hundreds of people and a live band playing reggae and ska as we danced into the small hours of the morning the bloody night before! Swollen feet and sore limbs and aching shoulders trudged those rocky fir-laden slopes and black boggy flats wondering if I could and would endure, but I did enjoy the conversation about the re-introduction of the red kite and the question of God's existence, and the warm coffee in a flask with cheese sandwiches sweetened by Maureen's pecan pie. Then yesterday I was drinking butter tea with Tibetans in a grassy church yard near the Chinese Embassy under the benevolent eye of Our Lady's statue, soaking wet from the lash of rain but happy to be exercising democracy at its best, that is, free assembly and freedom to dissent against injustice and tyranny. So I'm still recovering from all that life-living activity with no energy to sort through everyone's photographs -mine, Ger's, and Mike's. Another day's work. And yes indeed I am being influenced by the rhythms and themes of Mr Kerouac's fine book though his attitude towards women is nothing short of abominable: we be humans too, Jack, seeking enlightenment in the great nothingness and emptiness of this world's samsara!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Music to My Ears

Martin Springett, friend and writer/illustrator/ musician extraordinaire, has added music to his site, including compositions he wrote inspired by two of my books, The Hunter's Moon and The Light-Bearer's Daughter. These were pieces he played, accompanied by his beautiful floutist daughters Miriam and Rebecca, for the Celtic Studies Society at the University of Toronto; when he and I did a gig there in November 2006. (There's a blog about it in the archives.) Then we did it all again a year later, November 2007, at Victoria College, U of T, for the annual CANSCAIP conference at which I was the key-note speaker. (That's in an archive too, I believe.) If you want to have a listen - and also to view Martin's magical artwork - go here: (Photo: Hilary Springett)

Monday, March 03, 2008

WAR on Critics

There’s this bizarre tradition – I’m sure the critics invented it – where writers are not supposed to respond to bad reviews or negative criticism. It’s just ‘not done.’ We’d be seen as tacky or inappropriate or ridiculous or whatever. Maybe we are meant to be above it all? Nonsense. We’re human and we’re being attacked, for godsake. (And if we’re Irish and being attacked, where’s me hurley stick, there’s heads to be broken!) Look, everyone else gets to defend themselves. It's a basic right. I’ve always wanted to start a journal called WAR – Writers Against Reviews. Writers could send in their favourite horrible review and proceed to tear it to shreds with all the creative genius and biting sarcasm they have in their arsenal. Rebuttal with butt. And the less literary and more personal the writer gets about it, the more interesting it would be. Example: Anne Enright, who won the Booker Award for her amazing novel The Gathering, was attacked by an Irish Times critic on the very day of the announcement of her award. She, of course, could not respond to this enemy action with the obvious riposte: "I've just won the Booker. You have published how many award-winning books? What? None? Who, I ask you, is The Winner here and who, The Loser?" And of course writers can never, God forbid, respond to their child critics online on One children’s writer told me he has to sit on his hands to stop himself from writing back, "Oh yeah? Well you suck too, kid, and at least I can spell!" Here’s what I have promised myself. As soon as I turn seventy, I am going to become one of those batty old battle-axes who says exactly what she wants to say, whenever she wants to say it, and hang the consequences. Yeah, I know I'm already edging in that direction, but believe me I hold myself back. Wait till I really get going. Woo-hoo. Fun times ahead.