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Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into Action

Wednesday, March 28, 2007
If you've been trying to get your hands on a copy of Dr. Fraser Mustard's lastest report (Early Years Study 2: Putting Science into Action), but you've been having trouble accessing his website due to online traffic jams, keep trying. I was finally able to download a copy this morning. There's a lot of material to get through: 150+ pages of fascinating data about children and brain development as well as more innovative thinking about what types of policy initiatives might best meet the needs of Canadian children during the crucial early years.

We'll be talking about this document for a long time, but let's hope that this document stimulates a lot more than that: let's hope it stimulates the kind of action that is in the best interest of Canadian chlidren.

Related:
Council for Early Child Development

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| posted by Ann D @ 10:56 AM

FAQ: How Do I Get My First Book Published? The Start of a FAQ on Getting Published and Writing Your First Book

Tuesday, March 27, 2007
Patrick had some questions about getting started as a writer. (See his comment in the last thread.) I've been meaning to start compiling a Writing FAQ for a while, so I thought I'd use Patrick's questions as a starting point. Here is my initial stab at answering some of the most frequently asked questions about writing and book publishing.

HOW DO I GET STARTED AS A WRITER?

By putting pen to paper and writing -- and then writing some more. Expect to throw out a lot of the stuff you write and for the throw-out-to-keep ratio to increase rather than decrease the longer you have been writing. I can spend an entire writing and end up trashing everything I've written on a particular day. My suck-o-meter is much more sensitive and more tuned into my unique style than it was when I launched my writing career in Grade 3. At that stage, it was all about the volume -- using more foolscap paper than the other kids in the class. Now I tend to be more interested in economy of words or a unique turn of phrase or getting through at least some of the items on yesterday's to do list.

DO YOU HAVE TO WRITE FOR MAGAZINES OR NEWSPAPERS BEFORE YOU WRITE YOUR FIRST BOOK?

Yes and no. (Writing is a wonderfully ambiguous profession, as you've no doubt gathered by now.) It's helpful to have some publishing credits under your belt because this gives you some industry credibility and it can help to convince a book publisher that you're a marketable author (those magazines that you've contributed in the past might be interested in writing about your new book -- or not!); but it's certainly not mandatory.

Here's the most important rule to bear in mind every time someone tells you a rule about book publishing. Rules were meant to be broken (particularly "rules" like clauses in standard book publishing contracts, which were made to be negotiated, rewritten, or spit on).

HOW DO I PITCH MY BOOK TO A PUBLISHER?

It really depends what type of book you want to write.

If you're writing fiction (or poetry), you should write the entire book first, make it as spectacular as you can possibly make it (perhaps with input from a writing group, a professional editor, or some other trusted person/entity), and then start shopping it around to publishers. Some publishers will want to see the entire book right away. Others will prefer to receive a letter letting them know your book is available for exclusive (or semi-exclusive) viewings before you send the manuscript. The rationale? Their mailrooms or editorial assistants may be endanger of collapsing under the weight of all those unsolicited manuscripts or their lawyers might be rendered mad by manuscript-induced insomnia, while pondering all the lawsuits that could result, should one of their other authors bring out a book that bears an eerie resemblance to the concept that you just pitched to their house. ("Two sci-fi vampire political romance trilogies pitched to the same acquisitions editor in the same month? I think not!")

If you're pitching a non-fiction book idea, you want to write a book proposal rather than the entire book. You don't want to spend months -- if not years -- of your life crafting your masterpiece, only to find out that another publishing company is bringing out a guide to surviving the hell that is high school written by (oh noooooooo!) the bully who made your high school years unbearable. You want to get the contract signed upfront so that the sales force can be pitching your book while you're writing it. ("Think Heathers, but set in Mississauga.")

CAN I PITCH MY BOOK BY PHONE OR OVER COFFEE OR DRINKS WITH AN EDITOR?

Sure, if your name is Britney, Paris, or [insert celebrity name here]. The rest of us have to resort to boring old-fashioned things called book proposals and sample chapters. (See Michael Larsen's excellent book How to Write a Book Proposal for the ultimate how-to guide on both.) Basically, you want to give your acquisitions editor the tools she needs to make the best possible case for your book when she goes in front of the toughest crowd you can imagine: the publishing board (an in-house group of representatives from the editorial, sales, marketing, and publicity departments; a motley meeting of minds that's carefully balanced between cynics and optimists so as to avoid throwing the delicate book publishing ecosystem out of whack).

Your book proposal and sample chapter(s) will give the editor and the publishing board a feel for what it is you're proposing to write, how that book will be unique in the marketplace, your marketability as an author, and now many copies you and the publisher are likely to be able to sell as a publishing team.

Note that word "team" very carefully. If you're not too keen on flogging your book in front of a room of people -- to say nothing of on national TV -- you may want to rethink this author thing right now. Contrary to popular belief, books don't jump off the bookstore shelves on their own. A lot of publisher-and-author sweat-equity is involved in spreading the world about those books. (Which publisher you choose and how much money they have to invest into marketing your books will determine the author-publisher/publisher-author sweat ratio.)

One other thing: it's important to research the house rules of various publishing companies before you make your pitch. Read publishing market guides (The Writers' Market and The Canadian Writer's Market, for example) and then take the time to make a quick phone call to find out or verify the name of the editor who accepts over-the-transom submissions. That way, you can obey the number one commandment of manuscript submission: "Thou shall not address thy unsolicited manuscript to the current acquisitions editor's editorial predecessor." Getting the acquisitions editor's name wrong may seem like a minor detail (and, frankly, in the real world, it is a small detail), but editors are sticklers for details. That's why they became editors, after all.

- Ann Douglas

For the truly obsessive: a few hundred of my favorite writing/publishing/author links. Note: you'll find more in the sidebar of this blog.

del.icio.us / anndouglas / writing
del.icio.us / anndouglas / authors
del.icio.us / anndouglas / author interviews
del.icio.us / anndouglas / authorly advice
del.icio.us / anndouglas / publishing


[a work in progress]

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| posted by Ann D @ 3:16 PM

A Mannequin for all Seasons

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Mannequin for all Seasons
Originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.

This Mannequin in a plumbing store in downtown Lakefield, Ontario, has a wardrobe that changes with the seasons. She tends to look particularly chic around Canada Day (July 1st). I'm going to do my best to keep up with her ever-changing looks during the months ahead.

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| posted by Ann D @ 2:13 PM

Lakefield, Ontario: Moms in a Nuttshell


Moms in a Nuttshell
Originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.

Feel like you could use some coffee and some pampering? All you have to do is head to the Nutshell Next Door coffee shop in Lakefield on one of the next few Monday evenings (March 26, April 9, April 23 from 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm; see poster for further details). What a great way to connect moms in a small town. Why not borrow this idea and get something similar happening in your neighbourhood?

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| posted by Ann D @ 12:04 PM

Oprah on Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Death

Oprah is currently seeking guests to share their stories about miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.

Here's the call for guests from Oprah's website.

As Richard K. Olsen of the National Stillbirth Society noted in an email message, alerting stillbirth parents to Oprah's call for guests, having Oprah do a show on this issue could make a huge difference in raising awareness of what it means to experience the death of a baby.

I'm reminded of one of the key things I was taught during the RTS training I received through Perinatal Bereavement Services Ontario (PBSO): "It's not the length of the gestation, it's the extent of the attachment."

If we can get that message out to people who are unsure what to say to bereaved parents -- teach people that a pre-pregnancy loss can be as devastating to some parents as the death of a newborn because what is lost are all the dreams and hopes that were invested in that child by everyone who loved that child -- they will instinctively know what to say and what not to say, and avoid wounding parents who are at their most vulnerable.

Spread the word.

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| posted by Ann D @ 11:06 AM

Political Birth

Saturday, March 24, 2007
We're into the final week of the campaign -- and things have gotten a bit ugly, as I suppose these things do. I say "suppose" because I'm still a newbie to the world of politics, and working on this campaign has been a real eye-opener for me.

Someone may have tried to tell me what this would be like ahead of time, but either I didn't hear or I didn't understand what they were talking about.

This feels a bit like political postpartum, but the "birth" hasn't occurred yet.

I need to breathe, focus my energy, and get ready for the week ahead. Anyone know where I can sign up for political childbirth classes?

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| posted by Ann D @ 1:17 PM

Where's the Ref?

Friday, March 23, 2007
Don't you hate it when you discover late in the game that not everyone is playing by the same rules -- or the rules that you agreed on at the start of the game?

When I'm feeling really mad I want there to be some uber referee who holds the other players accountable -- who produces some Gigantic Playbook of Life and says -- "Hey, these are the rules, kids, and you're not playing fair. Smarten up or you're out of the game."

Of course, life doesn't work like that. Expecting the best of people is a pretty good strategy most of the time, but sometimes the Lucy in your life moves your football and you end up getting flipped on your back like Charlie Brown. And there's never a ref when you need one.

Or at least some days it feels that way.

Good grief.

Related:
Charlie Brown and Snoopy on TV

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| posted by Ann D @ 5:34 PM

Rx for fun: Spontaneity

Friday, March 16, 2007
I managed to get away for two days last week with a writer friend from Montreal. I'm talking about a girlfriends' getaway with no kids. I haven't managed to pull that off since my 40th birthday (unless, of course, you count Sisterfest -- the annual getaway that my sisters and I plan each year*). Anyway, my friend Kathe and I headed to Kingston for a few days of shopping (we found our coolest treasures in nearby Westport); wining and dining; and almost non-stop coffee and conversation.

We were able to find a very comfortable and reasonably priced ($120/night) bed and breakfast place in Kingston called The Painted Lady Inn.

The secret to making this getaway work was the fact that we didn't plan it. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I've discovered over the years that planning never works, given all the crazy variables in my life.

My new Rx for fun: spontaneity.


* We're still trying to schedule 2006's getaway because the other sisters have been insanely busy at work and/or giving birth. I think this means we have to have a double-length Sisterfest in 2007. Or two Sisterfests.

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| posted by Ann D @ 2:06 PM

A Word Quilt

Thursday, March 08, 2007
word quilt
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


Related:
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
International Women's Day
Statistics Canada: Women in Canada
Womennet.ca
Status Report
One Woman. One Blog. My other blog. (For more links related to women and social change; and a blurb about the meaning of my word quilt.)

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| posted by Ann D @ 10:37 AM

Don't Walk! (Do Cartwheels or Dance to Celebrate This Very Cool Thing)

Wednesday, March 07, 2007
Isn't this cool?

What's amazing is that I never even thought about the fact that walk signals are male (or at least they were until now).

But now that I know it's possible to have walk signals that alternate between male and female figures (and for no additional cost), I say let's make these male/female walk signals the new norm.

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| posted by Ann D @ 5:41 PM

British Journalist Describes "Toxic Wife Syndrome"

"Unless you marry an equal who is going to pay her own way, you will end up with a lazy, indulgent, over-pampered slug," warns British journalist Tara Winter Wilson, who is on a mission to inform men about the perils of "Toxic Wife Syndrome".

Her views remind me of some advice I uncovered in a 1931 issue of Chatelaine while researching my book Canuck Chicks and Maple Leaf Mamas:

"Some women feel that by merely saying 'I will' they have earned free board and lodging for the rest of their natural lives," wrote E.G. in the pages of Chatelaine. "They fasten like barnacles on a wage-earning man and take everything he has without giving anything in exchange."

Amazing how some stereotypes never go out of fashion.

Related:
Don't fall for this deadly honey trap

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| posted by Ann D @ 5:11 PM

Scrapbook: A Gift From My Friend Joanne


Scrapbook: A Gift From My Friend Joanne
Originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.

My friend Joanne sent me this mini-scrapbook that's overflowing with girlfriend-wisdom and good thoughts.

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| posted by Ann D @ 12:26 PM

The Back Cover of the Scrapbook From Joanne


The Back Cover of the Scrapbook From Joanne
Originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.

The tag reads "This 'paper bag' album has little pockets to fill with favourite recipes, photos, drawings or tiny gifts to give away. (Pssst...it's also a fun literacy activity to do with the family.)" Joanne is so creative.

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| posted by Ann D @ 11:52 AM

MUBAR Mail


MUBAR Mail
Originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.

How cool to be on the receiving end of MUBAR mail. Jen knows I love anything retro and fun -- and almost anything about parenting. (I generally take a pass at sanctimonious and preachy parenting books, unless they're 100 years old, in which case I scoop them up by the armful.)

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| posted by Ann D @ 11:48 AM

The Gift of Marla


Marla Mania
Originally uploaded by Ann Douglas.

The last time I got together with Marla, she gave me a gift bag overflowing with goodies -- a book holder, an apple green book cover, a magnet that declares "I am only as strong as the coffee I drink and the hairspray I use," a green flower that looks like an ice cream cone, "a" stationary, a magnet that says "follow your bliss," an Anne Taintor book (I'm Becoming My Mother), and flourescent page markers. Marla has a gift for finding the perfect gift(s) for people, but the best gift of all is the gift of spending time with Marla. I plan to do that soon.

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| posted by Ann D @ 11:46 AM

The Perfect Motherhood Experience is Not for Sale

Friday, March 02, 2007
Janina Stajic, a freelance writer, mother, and community activist, has written a really compelling article entitled The Big Corporate Motherhood Conspiracy. "Retailers have created a new trend and are selling yet another a myth: the problem- and pain-free motherhood," she writes. "Too bad reality doesn't measure up."

I totally agree with her take on parenting advice books that "[promise] to put the reader on the fast track toward their fantasy motherhood experience." Heck, books in that particular parenting book tradition are what led me to want to write pregnancy and parenting books in the first place.

Fortunately, there are so many more choices on the bookstore shelves than there were even five years ago -- fabulous momoirs (motherhood memoirs); anthologies of motherhood writing; and parenting/mothering guides that provide a realistic take on life after baby. And then, of course, there's the Web -- the easiest way to get tapped into life on Planet Moms, with all its blogs, e-zines, social networking spaces, websites, and other places/spaces were moms meet up to exchange information and support one another.

Of course, the sheer volume of information (motherlode?) can be a problem in and of itself, but at least it's out there and accessible. And the information doesn't all have to adhere to a single party line, like the motherhood advice books of yesteryear (although parenting advice books have been coming under increased scrutiny by medical authorities and other interested parties as of late, with some of the major US medical associations reviewing parenting books so that doctors will know what their patients are reading; and formal studies being conducted on the quality of the information in various parenting books).

Suddenly, a lot of people are very interested in maintaining control over parents' minds and parents' pocketbooks. It's nice to be popular, but really.

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| posted by Ann D @ 1:37 PM

A Toy Story

Thursday, March 01, 2007
No one expects companies to be perfect, but parents do expect them to respond quickly, act ethically, and err on the side of caution when a problem is discovered -- particularly when the health and safety of babies and toddlers is concerned.

While I don't have enough spare money in my legal fun-money fund to comment specifically on this case (which I found about via this article), the powers that be at big companies would do well to remember that it takes a long time to gain parents' trust and even longer to rebuild that trust once it has been damaged, particularly if there have been other problems in the past.

And if appeals to decency and ethics don't strike a chord with the CEO crowd, they might do well to remember that a damaged brand is a devalued brand.

Money talks.

Related:
Fisher-Price Fined $975,000 for Failing to Report a Serious Choking, Aspiration Hazard with a Popular Children’s Toy
CPSC Fines Cosco/Safety 1st $1.75 Million for Failing to Report Product Defects: Largest fine against children's product manufacturer in CPSC's history
CPSC Fines Fisher-Price $1.1 Million for Not Reporting Defective Power Wheels: Largest fine against a toy firm in CPSC's history
Indiana Company [Peg Perego USA Inc] To Pay $150,000 Fine For Failure To Report Ride-On Toy Defects

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| posted by Ann D @ 8:02 PM