The last few days have been.

I feel completely and utterly wrung out, like I don’t want to do a single thing even when I’ve got tons of stuff to do.

My nephew was with me last week. He was en route to a new job overseas. What a wonderful time we had together! But that said, it’s exhausting!

Basically since Thursday it’s been non-stop, non-stop, and before that it was really busy too.

And yet things happened that I wanted to share.

The artist residency in the library has been going very well!

One of the ladies in the Your Life as a Picture Book, session said, quite rightly, that six hours was not enough! We’d need more time! So she’s going to be coming on Monday afternoons when I’m in residence and the other lady will retake the workshop when I run it for adults in the evenings in October, insha Allah.

The Get the Bully Off Your Back Workshop on Saturday afternoons has been eye-opening.

I designed an exercise to show the kids that they need to be gentle with themselves.

I got them all, including their parents to sit in a large circle. I gave them index cards and told them to write what they liked/admired most about their best friend, and then to write something that bothered or annoyed them about their best friend.

Then on the back of the card I asked them to write what their friend would say they admired most about them and then what bothered them about them.

They shared this with the group.

Then I asked them, “So how would you tell your best friend to fix what bothers you about them?”

One of the kids said how she’d gently tell her to do this, don’t do that, etc. etc.

I said, “Exactly! You wouldn’t say to your best friend: “You’re so disgusting! You’re like a big piece of dirt! Why do  you do so and so!” And they all started laughing.

Then I asked the kids who was the closest to them, who was the best friend they could ever have? Some said their parents. I said, “No, more than your parents. Who cares about you the very most?” One said, “My brother.” I said, “No, more than your brother or sister.”

And then they said, “Myself.”

That’s right.

“You should be your own best friend. Just like you would be gentle to tell your friend what they needed to change to fix themselves, you should be even more gentle on yourself.”

Be honest, but don’t ever beat yourself up.

And then I talked about how we all tend to do that. And I told them how just last night I had eaten some cookies I really didn’t want to eat, and I tell myself, “You’re so disgusting! You’re so dumb! Why’d you eat those cookies!? etc.”

You should have seen the little lights go on in their eyes.

Afterwards I gave the kids more index cards to write down a question for me that I hadn’t addressed already so I could address it in the third session. And the questions they came up with…Gee, it feels like I’ll need another three weeks to answer them! What they’re really trying to do is *understand* bullying. And isn’t that something society has been trying to do for millennia? To understand why some people choose to be cruel and inhuman to others?

I think this Saturday’s final session will be a long discussion.

And then, lo and behold, yesterday at the Telling Tales Festival, I meet the parents of an old bully of mine. They had been our neighbors. They heard I was going to be there and came up to me to say hello.

It was surreal.

They seemed so nice! And yet, at the end of the conversation the father says, “Oh yeah, we remember that your older sister and … used to get into it sometimes.”

That was the extent of their acknowledgement that their son used to pick on us so that we were scared to even go outside.


And when I asked them if they were going to stay for my presentation, a non-committal, “Maybe for a bit”, and then they left.

It was fascinating!

So then I started doing my schtick, read from King for a Day but it was hard because my eyes couldn’t focus properly with the glasses with the progressive lenses I was wearing and I don’t know the story well enough to just ‘tell’ it like I usually do. And afterwards I did my Big Red Lollipop version

Oh what a hit!

Started with a small group! By the time I was done, there were close to eighty or even a hundred people listening! You know how the audience can trickle in! Well they ended up almost selling out of Big Red Lollipop, I think there were two left!

And the volunteer who introduced me told me that I had been fabulous, ‘the best presenter in the whole day’! Wow!

Got to meet a lady from who’d processed my application for a grant program. She told me she was so excited to receive my application. She loved my work!

And I thought wow, I had worked so hard to get that application in on time, diligently providing all the paperwork they asked for. She said it had been a hard decision.

And then later there was one of those schmooze events, where we presenters could hobnob with the sponsors and organizers of the festival and I got to meet two very interesting people who ran a marketing business called Muse Marketing. They had done a wonderful job promoting the festival! I mean the turnout topped 7000 people!

They were SO interesting! I told them about an author I’d met in Wisconsin who’d informed us that she’d paid $10,000 to a publicist to market her and all she’d gotten in return was an interview in a local paper.

And how I’d paid about $150 to an online firm and gotten a professional looking press release that was sent out to all kinds of media, and as a result I’d received a profile on CBC National and a piece in the Toronto Star as well as Arab News, etc.

We talked and I got to pick their brains!

I told them about my experience with hecklers at the L.A. SCBWI conference, and the gentleman told me that I should view the experience positively!

He said it was the ‘balance’. Here I’d received the accolades and the high of doing a wonderful job in my acceptance speech for the Golden Kite award and the negative anonymous email I received was balance.

It was the ‘bitter’ to the ‘sweet’.

And he said I should see it as an accomplishment! “You earned a heckler!”

I couldn’t help laughing! I’d never thought of it in that way before!

And one of the most interesting things the lady said to me was that I should market myself in terms of where I want to be, not where I am currently. And she asked me where I saw myself. I told her I want to be world famous, like J.K. Rowling or Neil Gaiman, and she said then that’s what I needed to focus myself on in terms of marketing.

I’m definitely working on it.

And she also said that I’d done well by changing my pitch to focus on the newsworthiness of the announcement. To the Canadian media I pitched it as I was the only Canadian woman on the New York Public Library list of 100 greatest children’s books in the last 100 years.

To South Asian media I pitched I was the only author of Pakistani origin, and to the Arab News I pitched I was the only Muslim on it.

All in all it was a fabulous experience!

It’s so lovely meeting new and interesting people!!!