Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Open Letters to my Grandchildren # 1: A Different Kind of Substance Abuse

It's everywhere -- talk of substance abuse. Which makes sense since addiction is a serious problem.

But that's not what I want to talk to you about right now. Today, I want to talk about the prodigal son's particular kind of, "substance abuse."

The prodigal son, as you probably know, pestered his dad to give him his inheritance early. He didn't want to wait for his father to die to get what he figured was coming to him.

Once you know the story, you might think it would have been a good idea for his dad to tell him, "No way!" But that's not what happened.

What did happen, as the Bible tells us, was that the son went off and had himself one big long party. (If you don't know what happened next, check it out in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 15, verses 11-32.)

What interests me, and what I want to talk to you about today, is the way the son's actions are described. There's actually not a whole lot of description, although it's easy to imagine what he was up to. What we do find, is this phrase:

he "wasted his substance with riotous living."

(This is from the King James Version of the Bible -- other translations word things a little differently, and may be easier for you to understand, but this is the phrase I'd like you to remember - always.)

He wasted:

Prodigal didn't use what he'd been given the way he should have. He more or less threw it away. He got no real value out of it. That's often the case when something comes too easily. A person often values what they work for more than what they're given.

his substance:

Now this is the phrase that interests me the most, and the one I am asking you to really, really, think about. At first glance, it's easy to think this just means he wasted the inheritance his father had given him. But it goes far beyond that.

Substance, if you look it up, is described as what a thing is made up of. So, yes, the son wasted the substance of what he'd been given -- whatever money and other valuables he had. But there's more to it. Because he also wasted his personal substance.

He threw away his personal qualities, the gifts God gave him. He trashed his own character, his honour and it was worthless. Except, it wasn't. It was more valuable than anything else he had.

with riotous living.

This doesn't need a lot of explanation. He was having himself good time. At least, he thought he was. (He also thought he was popular, until his circumstances changed and everyone disappeared.) I wonder how many regrets he had while he was eating pig slop and living in poverty. 

You're smart enough to draw your own conclusions on whether this so-called good time was worth the cost. Because everything has a price.

And finally, why all of this matters to each of you.

As you make your way through life you will have to make a lot of decisions. They won't all involve money and material values, but almost everything you do will involve your personal value. Who you are. How you treat others. How you treat yourself -- your mind and your body. 

Don't waste your substance. 

My love,


Monday, March 14, 2016

Rain Shadow

Bethany knows that she is special.

She doesn't learn things as easily as her classmates do and that sometimes makes them mean to her. They call her names -- including the really "bad" name. Even her mom and her sister Mira say unkind things at times. But Bethany has friends like her neighbour Mrs. Goldsborough as well as happy times with Daddy when he gets home from work. And now, Mira has promised to protect her from the bullies when the new school year begins.

Then tragedy strikes, tearing Bethany's world apart in way she could never have imagined, and she starts to wonder if there will ever be a place that feels like home again.
* * * * *
I have chosen to return to the fictitious setting of Junction, Manitoba (setting for The Glory Wind) in this story.
* * * * *  
Please support independent bookstores, whenever possible. 

  Select Awards and Reviews for Rain Shadow: 

Shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association 2015 Book of the Year for Children.

Silver Birch Fiction Honour title Award 2016.

Shortlisted for the 2016 Ann Connor Brimer Award. 

Shortlisted for the 2016 Diamond Willow Award. 

Shortlisted for the 2017 Rocky Mountain Book Award 

Rain Shadow has been reviewed by:

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The Glory Wind

How it happened.

The news was just on in the background that evening - I was in the other room, and only caught a snatch of a story that probably lasted less than half a minute.  It made no particular impression, but the next day it had created the beginning of an idea that would bloom into The Glory Wind.  And this is often how it is.

About the story.

Luke Haliwell must come to terms with the prejudices of his 1940's prairie town when Gracie Moor and her mother move in next door.  Gracie is unlike anyone Luke has ever known, but when the town discovers that Gracie's mother is hiding a shameful secret, Luke learns that friendship can come at a great cost.

Published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside, this story is in bookstores now.

I loved writing The Glory Wind.  I hope you will love it too.

News Updates for The Glory Wind

Winner of the 2011 Geoffrey Bilson Historical Fiction for Young People Award

Winner of the 2011 Ann Connor Brimer Award

Winner of the Bronze Medal in the
2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Canadian Regional

Shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association
2011 Children's Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the 2011 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award

Shortlisted for the 2012 OLA Silver Birch Fiction Award

Ontario Library Association Best Bets List for 2010


A few reviews of The Glory Wind:

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Random Acts

In the haze of a food-induced stupor, Zoey Dalton and her best friends Bean and Jenna make a pledge to begin performing random acts of kindness—anonymously. Their previous track record for good deeds is pretty much a flat line, so anything they do to help others is bound to be an improvement.

Or is it?

What if the random acts of kindness are unwanted and misunderstood? What if, instead of spreading joy and good will, the trio’s actions stir up trouble, wreak havoc and maybe even cause bodily harm?

That, of course, would be a different story.

This story, in fact.

News Updates for Random Acts!

Random Acts was one of ten titles selected for the 2016 All-Star Reading Challenge
kicked off by DeMar DeRozan!

Random Acts has been reviewed in:

Monday, March 7, 2016


It never stops being thrilling - seeing a new book for the first time. I'm especially excited about this one - it's the first time I've written a novel that has stories within the main story. Loved my main character -- loved all the characters, actually, and the way everything came together thanks to excellent advice from my editor, Christie Harkin.

About the story:

Adam's summer is off to a disappointing start. His so-called "best friend" has bailed on him, choosing to stay behind to care for a sick dog, instead of joining Adam and his family at the seaside campground as planned. Adam is furious with Billy for abandoning him, impatient with his mother for her artistic obsessions, and embarrassed by his dad's lame attempts at being funny. At least an ever-changing cast of new summer friends proves to be an entertaining distraction: Joey, the shoe-thief with the cute sister; the mischievous Linden twins; enigmatic Nevin; and Ethan, the adventurer. But it is Theo, the blind gentleman up on the hill, with his magical stories of driftwood, who helps Adam to see the true nature of friendship.

A middle grade novel.

Updates for Driftwood

Shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association 2014 Book of the Year for Children

Shortlisted for the 2015 Rocky Mountain Book Award

Shortlisted for the 2016 Hackmatack Award

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Down Here

It's all about what you see. 

Young Jamie loves to build things, and sees these creations as wonders.
Unfortunately, Mom's viewpoint is not the same. 
To Mom, it's all a huge MESS!

Down Here Reviews:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My Twice-Written Governor General's Nominee

“There are rules for what I’ve done.  
Specific punishments for 
crimes against friendship.”

Laren Olivier knows the rules, but her attraction to a friend’s ex-boyfriend is strong.  She tells herself that if only they can keep their romance a secret, no one will get hurt.  But Laren is not the only one with something to hide.

Thus begins a year long journey through secrets, lies, exposures and betrayals.  Somehow, Laren must find a way to reconcile who she is with what she’s done.  At the same time, she finds herself struggling with a discovery so shocking it rocks the very foundation of her world.  

This, my 21st published book, was written twice.  The first version was prose, but, I was not entirely satisfied with the voice.  Eventually, and with the blessing of my longsuffering editor, Christie Harkin, I tackled it again, only this time in a free verse format.  

I would like to acknowledge, with sincere thanks, the support of Canada Council, which made it possible for me to complete this project. 

Reviews and Awards!

Shortlisted for the 2013 Governor General's Awards in the Children's Text category.
Shortlisted for the 2013 - 2014 Red Maple Award
Shortlisted for the 2014-2015 Snow Willow Award
Winner of the 2013 Word Guild Award in the Juvenile Category
Horn Book Outstanding Selection 
OLA Best Bets 2013: Young Adult Fiction

Review: CM Magazine