Thursday, 21 June 2018

My acoustic guitar music goes on tour ...

The author at a coffee house at 16 years

Here are 3 new artist videos that use my guitar music:

Canoe Trip on the River Wye, England
Drone tour of St-Leon-le-Grand, Quebec
Lovely Fall trees 

In my non-author life, I play acoustic guitar.

I've played guitar most of my life. I started with a ukulele that someone thoughtfully gave me when I was nine. I begged my family for a guitar (my older brother had one, it seemed only fair), and when I was 12, I got a Sears guitar for Christmas. I played it until it bent in half (admittedly it wasn't a great instrument, more of a toy really).

For my 16th birthday, I got a truly wonderful instrument which I still have and record with even today: a solid body acoustic Yamaha dreadnought, mahogany top, made in Japan. Glorious deep voice, still. It's in the picture, above.

My first guitar album with
editor Allister Thompson, 2015
But before that, when I was 12, I started guitar lessons with the Sears toy guitar on Wednesday nights with Ursula Davidson, an amazing Russian woman who loved guitar and loved teaching kids how to play. Each student dropped a $2 bill in the jar at Ursula's feet, then sat in a circle and tuned (which usually took a long time). Then we played great old tunes, a new one each week, including some Monkees, Beatles, Jim Croce, even some America and CSNY.

It was perfect for me. Not too intense, no one-on-one unless I needed it, just learned some fun music every week and realized I really loved the instrument.

Ursula told my mother one spring night that I should go and audition for another guitar teacher because I had promise, and she couldn't teach me much more. So I did. I'll never forget how nervous I was auditioning for this man in a stern beard.

My second guitar album with
editor Allister Thompson, 2017
He assured me that I knew how to read music because my mother had assured him that I could. I assured him that I couldn't read music. He sighed. He said he didn't teach beginners anymore. Then he had me follow some complicated picking that he showed me quickly and I thought, sure, I can do that. I'm pretty sure I couldn't, and didn't, but he must have seen something in me because he told me to turn up for lessons the next week.

And that's how, at 13, I met my Julliard-trained guitar teacher. He patiently started at the beginning and taught me how to read music for classical guitar. He cajoled and bullied me, a fairly lazy student, into someone who could actually sight read reasonably well, and play acceptably. But I wasn't up to his standards, not really. He and I both knew that I was never going to play in Carnegie Hall. So at 16, I stopped lessons. But I never stopped playing.
2010, author and daughter doing our favourite things 

In fact, learning new songs and creating music of my own has been incredibly important to me my whole life. I've played with friends from university on a regular basis for almost 40 years now. I have a classical duet flute partner, and we practice regularly and play in public from time to time. And I also record music with my editor, Allister Thompson.

And people use the music in their videos to celebrate whatever it is they are doing in their lives. Honestly, that makes me so happy.

I think it would make Ursula Davidson happy too, and even my old Julliard-trained guitar teacher might say a quiet "well done." Or he might just be able to listen without wincing.

Thank you to them and to my musical friends, for the gift of music.

Here's a link to MORE VIDEOS using my music
More musical posts ON THIS BLOG

Monday, 18 June 2018

OCULUM at the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, June 20th

It's Official! I'm reading from my new middle-grade dystopia, OCULUM, for the first time at the Chiaroscuro Reading Series in June.

Where: The Round Venue, 152a Augusta Ave, Kensington Market (Toronto)

When: Wednesday, June 20, 8:00-11:59

Website & More Info: Chiaroscuro Reading Series

I'll be joining fellow dystopian authors Kate Blair and Adrienne Kress that night, so please join us for a wonderful evening of reading and contemplating the future of humanity. Hope to see you there!

Bakka/Phoenix Booksellers will sell books during the event.

Read the first reviews of OCULUM:
CM Magazine, Highly Recommended

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Children grow up into readers ...

... and if you're REALLY lucky, somewhere along the way you get to meet them!

Just did a whirlwind tour of Near North Schools in Ontario, and met some awesome kids yesterday. They gave me drawings, they listened while I read to them, they asked me questions ... and they grow up, too! The guys at left have been writing to me since Jake and the Giant Hand came out in 2014.

Yesterday, I finally got to meet them! We're all pretty happy as you can see, I'm also slightly astonished at how tall they are. But watching kids grow up into readers? As a children's author, it just doesn't get any better than this. Such a great visit, thank you for having me!

RIGHT: Reading is serious business! (someone just got his OWN copy)


Student art, including a NEW cover for Alex and the Other, a picture of what THE OTHER looks like (very ginger-bread-man-creepy), and a lovely Needles, the cat.

Thanks everyone, until we meet again!