Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

dellis's blog

last entry

This will be my last entry for the Writer in Residence blog. It's been a good experience and I'm very lucky to have had this forum. Thanks to all who read the entries, and to all who support books and literature.

I spent the day in Waterloo and New Hamburg, at schools. Great kids, as usual. Really intelligent, thoughtful questions about the world, how it works, what their role in it can be. The teachers and principal do a lot to encourage such thinking and searching among their students.

Time to go. Thanks again.

Transition

With the military kids book almost put to bed - the last bits of fact checking and small additions going rapidly back and forth between the editor and me - I can spend the weekend on fiction, additions to a short story collection. I'm looking forward to it, even though fiction is harder for me than non-fiction. But the change will do me good.

Port Burwell

Just returned from a school visit to Port Burwell Public School, down by Lake Erie. What an enthusiastic bunch of kids, and the teachers work so hard with small budgets to give the students they best education they possibly can. The librarian is also the music teacher. He has no budget for books, so he has a band in his spare time. They give concerts to raise money for the school library. Pretty amazing. The whole staff is like that, and it's reflected in the students. They had tons of intelligent questions about politics and writing and social justice.

Camp Okutta

My neighbours are looking at summer camps for their kids. I saw a brochure in Port Dover for Camp Okutta and picked it up to take to them.

Billed as an adventure camp for kids 8-12, Camp Okutta's marketting tag is: 'What are your kids doing this summer? If they like video games, they'll love real weapons.'
Inside the brochure are cheerful drawings of pine trees and cabins, and AK-47s. And grenades. And land mines. The registration process is easy: 'We will collect your children when it suits us best. Openings come up when kids are injured or killed. We usually pick up new children on the way home from school so parents don't intervene and cause unnecessary bloodshed.'

theatre in Norfolk County

This was a big weekend for theatre in Norfolk County. There's a huge arts community down here, so many talented musicians, painters, actors, and dancers.
On Friday night I went to see the Vagina Monologues at the Lighthouse Theatre in Port Dover. This amazing play has been performed in 49 languages in over 119 countries. Money raised from the performances goes to projects to end violence against women and girls.
The production in Port Dover was great, with local women taking on the roles and looking like they were having a wonderful time.

Military kids

This evening I'll be sending the final bunch of changes off to my editor for the fall book, Off To War - interviews with children of American and Canadian military parents who are serving in Iraq or Afghanistan. It's been a long and interesting journey, this book. I'm a little frustrated because there are so many more stories out there, but the book has to be put to bed at some point. As it was, I did many more interviews than it was possible to include in the book. I whittled them down, then turned the whole mess over to Shelley Tanaka, my editor, to whittle them down further. Each time I'd re-read an interview, I'd remember the kid, and think about how important it is that their voice gets heard. Shelley can be more ruthless.

Literature For Life

The co-ordinator of Literature For Life contacted me the other day, and I was reminded of the incredible work they do. Based in Toronto, they engage teen and young mothers in literature circles. The women read books together and discuss them. Not a very complicated process, but by creating a safe space for these women to explore another side of themselves, they are opening up whole realms of possibilities for other things they could do. In addition, it increases the young mom's confidence with language, and with using language in creative, expressive ways with their own kids.

Iraqi children

A friend of mine who runs an art exchange project for Iraqi and American children forwarded a website with photos of how the war is affecting the kids over there. It's www.zonaeuropa.com/20040504_1.htm

It sickens me that we humans don't seem to get any smarter about this.

An Amazing Woman

An amazing woman came to our town this past weekend. Her name is Saidat, and she did a workshop at the Girls Power Camp, a weekend camp run by folks from Women's Services and the local mental health centre. Saidat's program 'combines music, movement, and motivation in a high-energy presentation about self-esteem and character development'. She uses hip-hop dancing and positive messages to pump the kids up with a sense of their own strength and capabilities.
She does anti-bullying workshops and leadership events with kids of all ages, going around to schools, getting them moving and thinking about how they treat themselves and each other. She believes 'each person needs to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions'.

shelter nights

Did a couple more night shifts at the shelter over the weekend. A local Lions Club had done a food drive for us, and the entranceway was piled high with pasta, cannned goods, cookies, all sorts of food. The shelves are bursting! Some of the food will be used right in the shelter, and some will be made into food-boxes to give to women as they are leaving to start their lives again in their own place. Every item means that hunger is staved off for them and their kids, for at least a little while. It's great being part of a small town - the town really gets behind the shelter and other local initiatives like the food bank and the free Christmas dinners - my Dad and I served at one last Christmas, and there were tons of volunteers for cooking and serving and clean-up.

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