CM Magazine recommends Blow!

      “In talking about drugs, Lundgren approaches the subject from a bystander’s perspective so as to tacitly help teens envision how they might be able to assist friends who are caught in similar situations. Lundgren demonstrates a deft hand as she ensnares the reader in her characters’ plights.”

      “In Blow, Lundgren features cultures not often seen in young adult literature, namely Filipino and Vietnamese Canadians. Lundgren is to be commended for portraying Asians within a contemporary context rather than in stereotypical ideals. Her writing shines as she portrays the complexities of racism through Meringue’s relationship with Jeff.”

Read the whole review here

Parasitical

Writing is parasitical because it feeds off a host.  It needs to have  content.  It either tells a story or addresses a topic.  Sure, there are the modernist and avant-garde poets like Gertrude Stein who explore language for its sound and texture rather than its meaning.  Or lyric prose writers like Elizabeth Smart, who insisted that “the love affair was with the language”  when she wrote By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept.

But most of us write about something.   Even fiction writers, who make stuff up, need material.  This makes me a bit sad, as though writing isn’t a stand-alone passion, like music, or dance.  I’ve always envied musicians the ability to lose themselves in sound.  As for dance, I do it partly because it’s an end in itself.  Audiences may look for narrative, but it’s not always there, and in forms of dance that aren’t performance oriented (like 5 Rhythms), even less so.

So what does this mean for fiction writers?  Most of us “write what we know.”  But what happens after we’ve cannibalized our own lives?

We go in search of new topics.   Take surfing.  It’s something I know next to nothing about.  But it fascinates me, partly because I live on the coast and am awed by the ocean every day.  Partly because it’s one of those activities that grabs people by the hair and turns them into devotees.  It’s an end in itself.  Yes, it’s about riding waves of energy and being in the moment.  For Canadian surfers, it’s also about wetsuits, cold weather,  and surfer’s ear. (Afterwards, it might even be about peeling off the wetsuit and warming up beside a wood stove made from a propane tank in the back of a camper van.)  But it’s not about anything outside itself the way writing is.  Surfers surf.   Period.

On the one hand, I have surf envy.  On the other hand, I’m lucky because as a writer I have an excuse to research anything that interests me.   A reason to ask strangers probing questions about what matters to them the most.  An obligation to constantly expand my life to meet the demands of my work.

Surf lessons?  Sign me up.

 

 

 

Goodreads Giveaway

The Giveaway draw for a free copy of Leap at Goodreads is now completed. An astonishing 2065 (two thousand and sixty-five!) people entered the draw, and three personally signed copies will soon be on their way to the winners–just as soon as I can get down to a post office, where I’ll seal the envelopes and lick the stamps myself.

Thank you so much to each and every one of you for taking the time to express interest in my book. It’s little things like clicking “Enter to win” on a giveaway that add up to let authors know that the time we spend scrawling notes, talking out loud, drawing plot diagrams and ripping them up, drafting and revising and revising again, finally hitting our stride, fingers tapping the keys, drinking tea, breaking dates, missing sleep, forgetting to water the plants, living on air–that finally, all of that effort and even sacrifice sometimes amounts to a finished book that reaches a receptive audience. This makes it all worthwhile. I mean that.

To the 2062 people who didn’t win a copy of Leap, I really hope you’ll find a way to beg, borrow, or steal (okay, maybe not steal) a copy to read. If that’s not possible, watch my YouTube trailer a few times, using your visual literacy skills to read into the images. That’ll give you the gist of it. In the meantime, the thought of you wonderful, curious book-loving people is inspiring me to keep working on my next books. Keep in touch!

Know Your Audience

Jane on dock

I love this picture of my friend Jane reading Leap on a lakeside dock in Ontario. For one thing, Jane looks just like the girl in my trailer! (So blonde and pretty! But smart. Very very smart. And nice. Really super nice.) For another thing, my character Natalie really wants to go to Ontario with her sister to visit her Dad, but doesn’t get to. She envies that her sister gets to hang out at a lakeside cabin–like Jane is doing here. Plus, one of Natalie’s own scary but fun experiences takes place on a wooden dock that juts out into a lake–just like this one does.

And actually, this is the first picture I’ve seen of anyone reading any of my books, ever. And, I tell you, it’s really motivating. I mean, you often hear that you have to Know Your Audience. But it can be hard to imagine readers when you’re typing away at the keyboard, alone in your office (except for the cat who keeps daintily picking her way across the keys). So now, when I want to Visualize my Ideal Reader, I can just look at this picture of my dear friend Jane. Recommended for writers everywhere.

Reading at the Kamloops Library

Reading at the Kamloops Library

The last stop on my book tour was a kind of homecoming. When I was Writer-in-Residence at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC, Canada–a semi-arid desert region of the BC Interior–I wrote the first draft of the novel that became Leap.  When I recently arrived at the North Kamloops branch of the public library, I was greeted by an excited librarian who informed me that my audience was waiting, and some of them had already read my book.  On her heels came two photojournalists with intimidatingly large and professional-looking cameras:  one was from The Daily and one from the Omega, TRU’s student newspaper.  Mike Davies, the student journalist, kindly sent me these photos.  In the photo below, you can see some of the teen book club members.

These girls were a joy to talk to: one was into dance, one was into music, and one was into sports. All of them were into reading. Two other girls came to the reading–still in costume from a dress rehearsal for their year-end dance recital.

Journalist Mike Davies also interviewed me and wrote an article based on our talk. You can read it here:

Get Over Yourself: An Author\'s Advice to Writers

Nikki Tate Talks About Leap and Chance to Dance for You

I was thrilled that Leap was featured on CBC Radio’s All Points West program. In her show “Teen Titles and Tate,” YA and children’s author Nikki Tate reviews and recommends books. In the following talk, she pairs Leap with Chance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat.

Click on the link below to have a listen!

Teen Books on Dance

Rehearsing with Brandy Baybutt

Writers work in isolation most of the time. In contrast, the opportunity to collaborate, both in the creative process and in performance, has always drawn me to the performing arts. This week, I’ve had a chance to do just that. Brandy Baybutt, a professional dancer and experienced improviser who teaches at Lynda Raino Dance School, agreed to collaborate with me in presenting an excerpt from my novel Leap. This Sunday, May 22, at 4 p.m., the two of us perform in Lynda Raino Dance School’s student show at the Royal Theatre.

This week, we booked rehearsal time and got down to work. Initially, I thought that I would read while Brandy danced, but once we got into the studio, the process flowed in a different direction. Physical images and impulses surfaced for both of us, and we realized that we wanted to establish more of a connection on stage. The novel excerpt that we’re using describes the involvement between a performer and an audience member. Brandy pointed out that spectators experience a kind of kinesthetic identification with athletes and dancers. So, when, as reader/viewer, I get swept onto my feet, I bring that visceral response to life. The result is a loosely structured improvisation that interweaves words and movement, text and reader, dancer and viewer. The VoiceThreads clip below (which uses pre-existing images of Brandy) gives you a little taste; come to the Royal Theatre at 4 p.m. next Sunday to experience the whole piece live!

Collaboration with Brandy has been particularly gratifying for me because many years ago, when I taught English at the University of Victoria, Brandy was a student in my summer course on Poetry & Drama. When given the choice between an analytical essay and an essay on how she would stage a play, Brandy picked the latter option. Her innovative dramatization, titled “Oedipus the King Under My Control,” was so impressive that I kept it as a model to show future students. (And just as I leave my writer role to dance in the piece, it’s only fair that Brandy leaves her dancer role to contribute words to this blog post.) Her plans for the Greek chorus are particularly notable: “When certain lines are delivered by the main characters, specific chorus members respond by interacting with other chorus members through dance. … I could have one member deliver the line ‘terror shakes my heart.’ During the delivery of this line, another member could come behind the person speaking, grab their head by covering it with their hands, and pull back on their head to express the terror being felt.”

Here, Brandy describes the integral link between gesture and emotion that–in my opinion–accounts for much of the power of contemporary dance. In her work with me, Brandy doesn’t interpret the words literally; rather, she animates and embodies the verbal score. I’m honoured to perform with such an accomplished dance artist, and excited to see what happens in our improvisation on Sunday.

Sex and the YA Novel

Today I am happy to be a guest blogger at “Peeking Between the Pages.”

Please check out my post on “Sex and the YA Novel.” In it I talk about Judy Blume, dirty bits, and why taboos backfire. You can also enter for another chance to win a free copy of the novel!

Forethought

I have a confession to make:  both times I’ve had the delightful task of titling a novel, I didn’t conduct a search to see whether or not my choice had been claimed.

After I published Touched, a friend asked me if I’d checked, and was dumbfounded when I said no. “Are you crazy? That would be the first thing I’d do!”  Spit flew from his lips.  “You want to be original! What good is it if someone else has already taken your title?”

I wiped my cheek and shrugged. Touched was the ideal title for my first novel, for a host of reasons.  If someone had already used it for another book, it would have a totally different connotation. I was content to share.

Still flushed with indignation, my friend shook his head.  It was clear that my artistic integrity was dissolving right in front his eyes.

Well. It turns out that Leap is quite a popular title.  The Greater Victoria Public Library alone holds four other Leaps, one of them a YA novel published quite recently.  Two further books are called The Leap.

Then there are the 167 other titles that contain the word “leap” or its cognates.

As I said, a popular title.

And this time I’m convinced.  It’s still the right title for this book.  But,  next time, I’ll do my research.

(On the up side, there are an unprecedented SIX copies of Leap on order, and a thrilling FIVE advance holds. Thank you thank you thank you for all your interest and support, Victorians!)

11:11

For the past couple of weeks, my eye has continually been drawn to the digital clock in the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen at 11:11—a.m. or p.m., you can often find me here, so I have two chances a day to notice it.

Years ago, a shaggy-haired bass player named Travis told me that he and his wife set their watches to beep at 11:11. Wherever they were, whatever they were doing, they would pause and think of each other. (Travis toured a lot.) As for me, I’ve used this same computer with its digital clock for years, but 11:11 has jumped out at me only for the past couple of weeks.

Then last week, for the first time in years, I read poetry at two different open mics. On Thursday night—at the young, hip, spoken word artists’ open mic—I lined up and snagged spot #11 (out of 12). And the very next night—at the older, seasoned, lyric poets’ open mic—I arrived to find that 10 spots were already taken. Again, I was #11.

As you can see, 11:11 manifested itself. I went from noticing 11:11 to—well, being 11,11.

So naturally, I had to Google “significance of seeing 11:11.” I don’t subscribe to numerology, but I read some interesting things: Namely, digital code activates human DNA.  My consciousness may be evolving to a higher plane. Synchronicities will abound. I’m not a physical being taking a spiritual journey, but a spirit having a physical experience.

A spirit having a physical experience: if you find a more compelling and concise description of human life, let me know.

But on a personal level, I would say that my 11:11 incidents have coincided with changes I’m undergoing as I go public with my second book, give readings, and start this blog.  It’s unsettling but exciting: I just hope my spiraling DNA is up to the challenge.