Monument to Stalin - in 2010!

Doesn't seem possible, but it's a fact - a monument to Stalin will be put up in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Zaporozhie in time for this May's Victory Day. Another monument is planned for Kiev. Is time moving backwards?

Recipe for Disaster

I'm reading the other authors shortlisted for McNally Robinson Book of the Year for Young People Award. I'd read Eva Wiseman's Puppet when it came out last year. I read all her books - because they're historical fiction and because they are so good. I would give Puppet the best chance to win (but then, I'm not done reading all the nominated books yet).

Now I've just finished Maureen Fergus's nominated book Recipe for Disaster. I approached it with a critical mind, looking for weaknesses because, of course, her book is competing against mine. And I admit, at first, I felt a teensy bit comfortable. But the book just kept getting better and better, and by the time I was done, I was feeling pretty insecure. Not only is Recipe for Disaster super funny, it's also very well written, and has a main character who matures in a subtle but believable way. I'd compare the writing to Barry Summie's I So Don't Do Mysteries series.

There were several times I laughed out loud. What really stands out are the verbs. Francie, the main character, is so full of energy she just moves the action along. During the last half of the book I started checking off those verbs. Here's a sampling: sprinted, screeching, tumbled, clomped, whizzing, plunged, leaping, dazzled, hustled, burst ... you get the picture. The book is full of action. And I think it's got everything a young adult (middle grade) reader wants in a book.

It's also very visual and I could just see this as a movie.

Recipe for Disaster is a great read, and considering my own book is anything but fun, I so enjoyed laughing along with Francie as she tries to be successful in that dangerous period of life called the teen age.

I'm honored to be on the same shortlist! One more book to read.

face of ukraine

This is from a letter by Alex Brzhezitskyy reporting on Ukraine's "Woman's Day"(March 8th) - an annual day to recognize women and their struggles in former Soviet bloc countries and around the world.

"If someone asks what Ukraine is, I would not hesitate to say that it's an old village lady sitting on the bench near her house. On her face you can see years of hard - not rewarded labor on the collective farms - loss of her husband, worries about her children and at the time always welcoming and friendly ready to share humble food from her kitchen garden."

In Canada, our old women sit inside. I'm reminded of my recent visit to a seniors' place. They, too, have humble pride. Hmm. Humble pride - aren't those opposites?

Book Burning

The newly elected pro-Russian government in Ukraine just had a book burning. What did they burn? History books - books that demonize the Soviets and glorify Ukrainians. It's frightening to think that in 2010 the truth about the past is still seen as threatening. No wonder the old people that survived the gulag, the Holodomor, and World War II are so broken in spirit. The experiences of their youth are still considered figments of their imagination.


So thrilled to announce that The Kulak's Daughter is on the Manitoba Book Awards shortlist for Young People (Older Category) Book of the Year Award. Pinch me! The winner will be announced at the end of April at a Gala event that I wanted to attend last year, but then felt too intimidated. It's okay if I don't win, truly - just being nominated gives me my confidence back.

Old Folks

I went to a seniors' place yesterday and gave a book talk. It was wonderful to connect with the mostly women there. It's funny, but I see them so much like the young girls they used to be. It's a fact that women live longer than men - and so many live alone. It's touching to see how they still care about the same things they cared about when they were young - about their hair, their clothes, cake, and their friends. The important things!

A couple of women wanted to show me their apartments. They are so proud of them, and rightfully so. They're filled with beautiful things - photos of the gorgeous grandchildren, handmade crafts, and everything is in its place. I used to cringe when I saw such perfection, but now I recognize the decades that led to this small apartment - and how having a tiny place of one's own is so important. Life is hard work for most of us, and old age can be so lonely.

The women I talked to had similar backgrounds to my mother - displaced refugees from WWII. They came in the 1950s by the boatload. And now they finally have time to remember.

I guess Neil Young sang it best.

Book Expo America

Looks like I'm going to Book Expo in NYC in May. That's one place that's never been on my radar, but I figure why turn down an opportunity like this. Might never come again. I'm more of a camping kind of person and usually avoid the city life, but I gather NYC is more of a state of mind than an actual geographical space. Also, I have to pay my own way, but I'm used to that.

At BEA I'll have a whole hour to sign books - now I just have to figure out how to make people notice me and The Kulak's Daughter. I do believe in my story and must give it any opportunity for attention that's reasonably available. I'll be at the National Book Network booth on Wednesday, May 26th at 11 a.m. Please come and visit. I'm sure I'll post about this again.

Oh, and any tips on NYC or BEA will sure be appreciated.

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