So this year not only did I have the honour of appearing on Cynthia Leitich Smith's superb writing blog Cynsations -- now I learn that I Know It's Over was mentioned as one of the Cynsations highlights of 2008 along with fantastic books like the dead and the gone, The Adoration of Jenna Fox and Living Dead Girl. Fellow Blue-Boarders Melissa Marr, Linda Joy Singleton and Varian Johnson also made the list. Congrats, everybody!

Cynsational Books of 2008

That happy news has me in an exceedingly good mood as I prepare to greet 2009. I've also seen a few more reviews of I Know It's Over around the Internet lately:

Teen Book Review
* Liv's Book Reviews
(where I was interviewed earlier this year)
Stop, Drop & Read!

During the holidays I've been getting some Wii hours in—chauffering passengers around London, performing surgeries in Alaska and directing my now ragged looking castaway Sim T.J. to bone up on survival skills. I was addicted to the Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman documentary Long Way Round when it aired here a couple of years ago and now I'm just as addicted to Long Way Down, watching Ewan and Charley ride their motorbikes from Scotland straight through to Africa. If all this makes me sound like a couch potato maybe I shouldn't mention how many laughs Summer Heights High has given me lately. But Chris Lilley is a comic genius! If you haven't been introduced to Mr. G, Ja'mie and Jonah yet do yourself a favour and tune in:

Finally, we've had a ridiculous amount of snow in the Toronto area this December and sure it looks pretty if you can stay inside and stare at it but unfortunately it's not so easy to get around in. If you find yourself bummed out by the snow and cold this winter I highly recommend the Glasvegas tune A Snowflake Fell (and it felt like a kiss) which I suspect will go a long way in keeping romantic ideas about snow alive.

A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss):

Recently I was holidayifying my website &  MySpace and couldn't resist creating my own Christmas version of the cover for I Know It's Over. The book starts on Christmas Eve, when Sasha drops by to break the news to Nick, and takes place mostly over the holidays so when the season rolls around I can't help but think about him. I actually wrote many of the Christmas scenes during the season several years back and it still seems a little unreal to me that the book's now out in the world.
I Know It's Over

If you haven't read the novel yet this is how Nick's Christmas Eve goes:

i know it's over

The first time
Sasha lay spread across my bed, I felt like the world had changed. She was wearing cutoff jean shorts and a plain white T-shirt, not the tiny, cropped kind lots of girls wear—Sasha never wears that kind of stuff. "So it has to be my rules," she repeated, propping her head up and peering steadily into my eyes. I stared at her long, tan legs and thought: Don't screw this up now, Nick. 

"Your rules," I agreed, and I didn't screw it up, not then anyway. We went on like that for nearly five months, stretching her rules, rewriting them together, until she told me we were getting too serious, that I was too much of a distraction and she had her whole future to think about.

"I want to worry about school," she said, crossing her arms and frowning like only Sasha can—like the world was coming to an end. "Not about trying to get on the pill."

Now I know she was wrong about the world, though—either wrong or early—because I can live without Sasha. The past month has proven that. But I don't know how to deal with what she's telling me now. 

"Say something," she says urgently, grabbing my arm and squeezing hard. "Don't do this to me, Nick."

I glance up the driveway towards my house, at the icicle lights everyone but my mom continually forgets to switch on, and wrench my arm away. Dad will be here to pick me up in less than an hour. Christmas at his place with Bridgette—that was my big problem until thirty seconds ago.

"Nick," Sasha repeats. Snow is falling on her hair and she's wearing the leather gloves her mom bought her at the end of October. She still looks beautiful to me, or at least I know she would if I could feel anything.

I run a hand through my snow-crowned hair and say,"This has to be a mistake." It's what everybody says and now I know why.

"Don't you think I checked?" Her hands close into fists. "You think I'd come over here to tell you if I didn't know for sure?"

"I don't know what you'd do, Sasha." I squint in her direction. The sky is filled with white as bright as sunshine. "I don't know you anymore, remember?"

Sasha laughs like she hates me. She turns in the direction of the road and stands there, motionless. She's prepared to wait, to become some kind of ice princess at the edge of my lawn. Not a nice fairy tale—the pregnant ex-girlfriend—but then I guess most of them aren't. Not in the beginning anyway. I glance at the dark hair spilling down the back of Sasha's coat and shiver. My heart stopped beating at the beginning of this more

There's also an interview with me newly up at Teens Read Too and sometime early in the new year I'll unveil the brand new official paperback cover of I Know It's Over.

But back to Christmas Eve...sometimes the holidays are great and sometimes not so much, for one reason or another. The pressure to be cheerful can be intense; it can seem as though there's no place to hide and just feel whatever it is you're truly feeling. If that's you this year I hope you can find some peace and quiet until it all blows over. Financially this year has proved to be a hard one for lots of people and hopefully those of us who can give will push a little deeper into our pockets and be supportive in other ways small and large.

If you're like me, you can get needlessly cranky waiting in long mall lines or getting stuck behind the slowest possible shopper at the supermarket when all you want to do is grab the peanut butter from the shelf behind her/him so you can chuck it into your cart and get the heck out of there. And you may notice that other folks, possibly also in a hurry to grab their peanut butter, aren't always as polite as they could be. Sometimes they're downright rude and scowly, which is no fun but at times like that I try to remember that I have no idea what anybody I encounter might be going through in their life. They could have lost someone close to them, been downsized or otherwise be going through tough times. Unfortunately, lots and lots of people are going through tough times these days and I know I, for one, need to remember that and be patient and kind. Not just during the holiday season, of course, but on a day to day basis. That's what this holiday is really all about anyway, right?
There's been so much economic doom and gloom lately that at times it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook but this great 1989 Canadian song by Tom Cochrane, Paul Hyde and Murray McLauchlan is filled with hope and light. This is exactly what I'm hoping for everyone in the coming year:

Let The Good Guys Win

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Blogger Reviewer X is having a very special week of massive giveaways, book reviews, interviews and author guest posts. Visiting authors will be blogging about things like body image, women's rights and other issues that acutely affect girls. Fourteen authors are stopping by in all (me included!).

Today Suzanne Supplee (author of Artichoke's Heart) writes about having a healthy relationship with your body and Stephanie Kuehnert (author of I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone) blogs about the double standard the "slut" label represents.

Thanks Steph for putting together this wonderful week! You can check out a description of this week's activities' here or browse Girl Week's table of contents to get a detailed breakdown of what's currently up.

***Update December 16th***

My guest blog "Women Need Choice" is now up on Reviewer X's blog. You can also win a copy of I Know It's Over there and here's how.

“Now that April's here” the Robert Browning poem goes but I happen to think the sentiment is true at any time. When Christmas decorations are lighting up London, certainly. And when I have birthday tickets to Billy Bragg at the Shepherds Bush Empire, well, most definitely.

So Paddy and I ran off to London for three nights to celebrate my birthday. We did the London Eye, British Museum, Oxford Street, dropped in to the bookstores on Charing Cross Road, hopped on and off the tube and tromped all over London, making the most of our brief time in town. I got to meet up with my fantastic agent in person for the first time at a café on Piccadilly and had the best possible time ever watching Billy Bragg play for a hometown audience.

I've lost count of how many times I've seen Billy play over the years (I can be more specific about the last time I saw him gig in London — the summer of 1990!) but there's something about hearing a sea of English accents sing along to his tunes that just can't be matched elsewhere. I swear I got happy chills when the audience sang out, “Whoops there goes another pint of beer” with their noticeably British inflection.

If you are falling, I'll put out my hands -Billy Bragg, The Milkman of Human Kindness

We were sitting in the balcony so most of my photos didn't turn out very well but you can check out some good ones here and scroll down to the bottom of my post for the full setlist as well as some YouTube clips recorded on the night (the sound's pretty muffled and the video's fuzzy but I was happy to find them).

I've actually been back for a couple of days now but was due straight back into the day job so didn't have a chance to post earlier (you better believe I'll be crashing on the weekend!). Between my hours there and the general busyness of the season there likely won't be many blog entries from me over the next while. For the moment I'll just say I'm still very much in London headspace, going about my daily life with a Billy Bragg soundtrack playing in my head, hoping that the heady post-trip vibes won't wear off in a hurry...

Me, London W8, December 7, 2008

Piccadilly Circus, December 8, 2008

Big Ben, December 7, 2008

Houses of Parliament & The Thames, December 7, 2008

Houses of Parliament & The Thames, December 7, 2008

Harrods, December 7, 2008

From Trafalgar Square, December 8, 2008

Trafalgar Square, December 8, 2008

London, December 10, 2008

Haunted London Walk, December 7,  2008

Marble Arch Station, December 2008

Shepherds Bush Empire, December 8, 2008

Billy Bragg & Otis Gibbs Shepherds Bush Empire, December 8, 2008

Billy Bragg, Shepherds Bush Empire, December 8, 2008

Billy Bragg, A New England,
Shepherds Bush Empire, December 8th 2008:

Billy & Kate Nash,
Shepherds Bush Empire, December 8th 2008:

Intro to No Power Without Accountability,
Shepherds Bush Empire, December 8th 2008:

Billy Bragg Setlist: Shepherds Bush Empire,
December 8th 2008

This Guitar Says Sorry
To Have and To Have Not
Farm Boy
Greetings to the New Brunette
I Ain't Got No Home
Must I Paint you a Picture
The World Turned Upside Down
Sin City (with Otis Gibbs)
The Milkman of Human Kindkness
Mr Love & Justice
Accident Waiting to Happen
I Keep Faith
There is Power in a Union
Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards

Encore 1

A Change is Gonna Come
Walk Away Renee (with Badly Drawn Bloke)
Levi Stubbs Tears

Encore 2

Give Him a Great Big Kiss (Shangri-las song, with Kate Nash)
A New England
I'm going to be incommunicado for the next week or so (more details when I'm back online!) but in the meantime I'm honoured to be on Cynsations, talking to Cynthia Leitich Smith about I Know It's Over, my Luke Skywalker complex and writing in general.

I've been reading Cynthia's blog and website for forever and can't believe I actually get to appear there! It took some of the sting out of yesterday's proroguement. To tell you the truth I don't think I'd even heard the word “prorogue” up until a few days ago. What it basically means is discontinuing a session of Parliament, in this case so Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper could avoid a confidence vote which he would've lost, toppling his minority Conservative government.

Now that our Governor General has granted Harper's request to prorogue we won't see any action on the Canadian economy until Parliament resumes again on January 26th. Seven weeks of nada. Will the job losses stop mounting in the interim or will the economy somehow magically right itself? Nope and nope.

No wonder the CBC coverage on Wednesday night made Parliament look like Mordor! Sigh.
Canadian Parliament is feeling more like Mordor these days.

Before my break here I should also mention that Kate has a very nice review of I Know It's Over up on her blog Book Nymph.

Back soon. Thanks again, Cynthia and keep the faith, Canadians!

I Know It's OverAmazing news! Kirkus Reviews has listed I Know It's Over as one of the Best Young Adult Books of 2008.

I can't wait to see what else is on the list! I'll add a link when one's available but in the meantime, thank you, Kirkus!

***Update December 4th***

Here's the direct link to the Kirkus Reviews Special Issue pdf: The Best Young-Adult Books of 2008.
;Liberal-NDP coalition with BQ support
Who says Canadian politics are boring?

In fact, the CBC says this ongoing story, the possibility of a coalition government replacing a Conservative minority one, has driven more traffic to their site than any other news item ever.

We're definitely interested. And confused. And the economy's crying for serious attention now—not in March or the end of January. Our politicians need to get it together and remember real people's lives are being affected by their decisions, or lack of.

With the Conservatives backed into a corner I suppose we can expect more pooping puffin and illegal taping of telephone conversation antics on their part. But what Canadians really need from their government right now is partnership and decisive action. We need politicians at the helm who are willing to acknowledge how big this current financial crisis is. We need politicians who will dedicate themselves to working towards solutions together. Three out of four of our major political parties appear to be willing to do this.

Stay tuned...

Today I'm appearing on the extremely cool Author2Author blog (thanks, Kate!), answering the question, “What are you most thankful for in your writing life?”

Author2Author are having a holiday giveaway week as a thank you to their readers - giving away five different novels. Anyone who comments on today's post has a chance to win a copy of I Know It's Over. Be sure to check in throughout the week for more giveaways!
Stephen Harper as Santa Claus, still  trying to wield the Jedi Mind trick.For a few seconds following our October federal election, which resulted in Stephen Harper winning a stronger minority government, I wondered if maybe, just maybe Harper might actually put some effort into trying to work with the other political parties rather than simply attempting to bulldoze them.

It could be that my feelings had something to do with the statement Stephen made the day after the October 14th election: “My commitment to the opposition leaders is to try and find some common ground to move the Parliament forward productively because I know that nobody wants to talk about another election right now.”

Then the world economy collapsed and I hoped again that Harper would rise above his dictatorial tendencies and, you know, concentrate on throwing out a helping hand to Canadians suffering during the current financial crisis.

But nope, same ol' Steve-o with a murky shadow agenda constantly at hand. Yesterday I received an email from the Green Party explaining that the Tories were expected to announce the cutting of public subsidies to all federal political parties. Later in the day they indeed made such an announcement.

Cutting the subsidies would effectively gut the opposition parties, who are far more dependent on them than the Conservative party.” So no serious economic stimulus plan from the Tories in sight yet but big aspirations of crippling their opposition. The news triggered meetings between the Liberals, New Democrats and Bloc Quebecois, who are discussing the possibility of forming a coalition government and in the meantime the Conservatives have backed away from their “controversial proposal to end public subsidies of political parties in an upcoming confidence vote on the fall fiscal update.”

Prime Minister Harper, I'm sure, would like us to see him as Santa Claus (benevolent and generous of spirit) for nixing the anti-democratic proposal but notice his gloved hands in the above photo, still trying desperately to conjure the Jedi Mind trick which he hopes could place the entire nation under his thought control. Well, it might just be too late to stop that non-confidence motion now. For once, the opposition aren't taking Harper's oppressive tactics sitting down.

See, the thing is, Stephen, mind games aren't going to create any new jobs and help us weather this raging economic storm. Somehow, even now that the government's on the verge of being toppled, I doubt you're anywhere close to understanding that.

Hunters and Collectors - Throw Your Arms Around MeIf you listened to much popular music during the 80's you'll likely remember this amazing Hunters and Collectors tune from its 1986 release. And if you're Australian, I believe it was almost considered an unofficial national anthem.

In my opinion Throw Your Arms Around Me remains one of the best love songs ever recorded. Over the years, I keep coming back to it and yesterday I got completely waylaid, watching and listening to various versions of the song.

If you've never heard it, trust me, you want to and if it's been awhile, well, you definitely want to listen again and if, like me, you've been listening on and off for years, well then I don't need to explain myself at all, do I?

Hunters and Collectors original:

Hunters and Collectors (slow version):

Joss Stone and Paul Dempsey cover, live

Neil Finn cover:

Pearl Jam cover:

Paul McDermott, Richard Fidler, and choir (song starts @ 40 second mark):

Out of the Blue (Oxford all-male acappella group) cover:

Finn brothers in Sydney

Mark Seymour solo on Aussie TV, March, 2008 (song starts @ 1:13)

Luka Bloom Cover

You can also download Canadian singer-songwriter Allison Crowe's cover for free here
There are new reviews up for I Know It's Over if you want to check them out:

Reviewer X
The Page Flipper
S. Krishna's Books

Thank you, Steph, Chelsea, Tina and S. Krishna! So far November is shaping up to be a great month, despite the chill in the air.
A lesbian couple—Jane Currie and her partner, Anji Dimitriou—were attacked outside a school in Oshawa as they waited amongst other parents ten days ago.
"Which one of you two 'men' spoke to my kid? F------ dyke. Lesbians," (the assailant) said, spitting in Dimitriou's face. As she wiped her face, eyes closed, he punched her on the cheek and wound up again, slamming her backward into her truck. As Currie ran toward him, she remembers him shouting, "F------ dyke bitches," and punched her on the cheekbone so hard the skin burst apart, blood splattering.
So much hate. And why? What does Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou's love take from anyone.

Many people that would never dream of inflicting such violence still think it's okay to stand in the way of gay marriage. Proposition 8. California. 52% of voters approved a state ballot to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

Keith Olbermann's impassioned speech on Proposition 8 and love sums up my feelings with the utmost eloquence:

Yes. This is what it comes down to. People standing against love. Olbermann's heartfelt words flashed me back to an article on Jamaican gay activist Gareth Henry (this past year's Pride Toronto international grand marshal) I read last summer.

The Toronto Star piece mentions that to avoid dealing with his homosexuality, Gareth immersed himself in church life while growing up in Kingston.
But one sermon about the evils of homosexuality left him wondering, "What about the love? I had never heard the pastor talk about the love we have, the love we need."
What about the love?

What about declaring to the world that you want to share your life with the person you love and being allowed to call that sharing what heterosexuals call it? What about feeling that your love is respected as being as precious and wonderful as anyone else's?

What about the love?
What about the love?
What about the love?

Last winter I blogged about the rampant sexual harassment (and even assault) being aimed at girls in Ontario high schools. After four years of fighting for a Women and Gender studies course the fantastic Miss G_Project has succeeded in getting a pilot WGS course into high schools across Ontario.

The course “will benefit students of all genders and sexes, helping them dissect and then shed confining gender constructions. The course also has important implications for violence prevention.”

The founding members of the Miss_G Project (four Western University students) and those that banded with them in their campaign to fight, “the problems of sexism, homophobia, racism, classism and ablism that we had found so disturbing and disheartening in high school,” show what unwavering dedication can accomplish. This is a message to us all not to stand for bullying or harassment of any kind, to come together and stand against oppression in all its forms. Thanks for being such an inspiration, Miss_G!

Violence against women is an enormous problem around the globe. Approximately 1 in 3 women will suffer abuse and violence in her lifetime. UNIFEM are currently seeking 1 million signatures for the Say No to Violence Against Women campaign. If you want to take a stand against violence and for human rights sign the petition at any of the following places:

MySpace saynotoviolence

Facebook saynotoviolence

by November 24th. “On November 25, UNIFEM and Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman will present these signatures to the UN Secretary General.”

You can also grab a widget for your own social networking site:

SayNotoviolence widget

And while we're on the subject of activism, yesterday I learned via RedMum that Ireland has announced their intention to scrap a cervical cancer vaccine program to vaccinate twelve year old girls against the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer. Ireland has a dire record when it comes to cervical cancer deaths (in this country of just over 4 million people it kills approximately 70 women a year) and only recently began a national screening program. Below Health Minister Mary Harney basically states that Ireland currently doesn't have the money to do it all. If you want to let her know that the health of Ireland's young women is a priority to you check out Ray Darcy's page on Today FM where you can email her directly or sign this petition to restore the cervical cancer vaccination program in Ireland.

Worldwide cervical cancer kills more than 273,000 women each year. In 2006, there were 949 deaths from cervical cancer in the UK. In 2004 3,850 women in the U.S. died from the disease.

There have been no serious adverse reactions to the HPV vaccine reported in Canada. The vaccine offers almost complete protection against the two types that account for 70% of cervical cancers” which means it's important to continue getting regular pap smears to check for that other 30%!

***Update November 12th***

If you're in the Dublin area and want to attend this weekend's demonstration:

Defend Women's Health Rally: Save Cervical Cancer Services for Girls and Women.
Saturday, 15th November @ 2PM at the Spire, O'Connell Street.

I had some exceptionally good news last week! I Know It's Over has been nominated for the 2009 ALA Best Books For Young Adults list. It was also nominated for the 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Leaders list at the end of April so as you can imagine I'm over the moon and keeping everything crossed. So many amazing books have been nominated for these lists that I'm thrilled I Know It's Over is in consideration.

To top it all off I discovered that Becky of Becky's Book Reviews has a wonderful review of I Know It's Over up on her blog along with a spotlight on me. Thank you, Becky! If I get any happier I'll be hanging out on the ceiling.

To say the election of Senator Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States is an inspiration to people around the world feels like an understatement. Today I believe anything is possible. We can save the environment, tyranny can be toppled, wrongs righted. Today we turn away from cynicism and towards hope and action.

Last night history was made. Today we celebrate.

Lately my thoughts have been increasingly with my neighbours to the south as they approach election day. Our own recent election was a disappointment, but not an unexpected one. I'm hoping the U.S. does better. In fact, around the globe we're pretty much all hoping U.S. voters do the right thing this time around. “Gallup Polls conducted in 70 countries from May to September 2008 reveal widespread international support for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama over Republican Sen. John McCain in the U.S. presidential election.” You can check out the details here.

To be honest, at this point my suspense has reached such a fevered pitch that it's difficult to think about anything else; I can hardly imagine the tension those of you in the States must be dealing with. But staying positive is the key to getting through these next few days, right?

So in hope and anticipation that the world will be celebrating the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States on November 4th:

The Times They Are A-Changin', Tracy Chapman

Here Comes The Sun, George Harrison

One Lonely Degree prizesI hope everybody had a sugary-fantastic Halloween and I want to thank everyone who entered the One Lonely Degree advance reader copy contest!
Denise wins the One Lonely Degree prize pack, which includes: a signed advance reader copy of One Lonely Degree, a 12"x18" 1LD poster, a 1LD mousepad and the 2006 greatest hits CD ("A Decade") of main character Finn's favourite band, Our Lady Peace.

Congrats, Denise! I'll be emailing you for a mailing address later today.

* The contest question was: Finn considers this guy, “the most beautiful of all the Beautiful Boys and that's not just a physical thing.” Who is the lead singer of Our Lady Peace?

* Answer: Raine Maida.

May 26th, One Lonely Degree's release date, feels like ages away but in the meantime here's the trailer, which I've now added to my website also:

1LD jacket photograph © 2009 by Tracy Kahn
And in keeping with the holiday here are some of my favourite supernatural themed music videos.

I Want You, Cabaret Voltaire: Freaky

What's A Girl To Do, Bat For Lashes: Eerie

Weighty Ghost, Wintersleep: Sweet

Eye of The Tiger, Dean Winchester, Supernatural: Funny

Come To Daddy, Aphex Twin: Seriously Disturbing

Night Terror, Laura Marling: Creepy

I'm actually in the middle of a nonfiction book called How To Hunt Ghosts (by Joshua P. Warren). The writer's a ghost hunter himself and mentions that more ghost encounters seem to take place during cold, dry months—the time of year when there's also more static electricity. There's a theory that ghosts use electrical charges to manifest.

This means that in an attempt to maintain a respectful distance from ghosts I will not only avoid living in old houses (or other places where people have died) but that I will keep my living space filled with abundant amounts of moisture. If I come up with any other ghost-avoidance tips I'll pass them on. If you want to achieve the opposite, of course, you can always invert said advice but you'll probably end up with a lot of {ouch} electric shocks.

Happy Halloween
Kelsey put a review of I Know It's Over up on her blog Reading Keeps You Sane yesterday. Today she's posted an interview with me where she asks, amongst other things, about my upcoming books and the story behind the cover. Thanks, Kelsey!

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney SummersIt's no secret that I've been looking forward to reading Courtney Summer's soon to be released YA novel, Cracked Up to Be. The first two chapters, posted on her website, made me tense. And not being able to continue on to chapters three, four, etc. and discover what had gone so terribly wrong in eighteen-year-old Parker's life that all she wants is to be left alone, cranked that tension up another several notches.

But I'm a-okay now. Having been lucky enough to win an advance reader copy, I spent the majority of yesterday on my couch, devouring Cracked Up to Be.

Parker Hadley, with a barbed wisecrack for every occasion, isn't an easy character to like but you'll like her anyway and so does Jake, the new
guy at school, and Chris, her ex. In many ways Parker's keen intelligence makes hiding her pain easier. She's always been a perfectionist—and as such is extremely hard on other people but Parker reserves the harshest judgment for herself. You'll have to wait until near the end of the novel to find out what the worst thing she's ever done is and that state of constant stress and expectation makes for speedy reading. I'm not going to drop any spoilers but I will say that Cracked Up to Be is completely absorbing and believable.

Courtney Summers is an extremely talented writer, determined to explore difficult truths and complex characters and relationships. Her first novel is a pointed reminder that we may not know the heavy things some of those closest to us could be carrying around with them.

Cracked Up to Be is everything I hoped it would be and I think Parker, with her bottomless yearning to be the best, would be very pleased with an ending which refuses to simplify her situation.

I'm very much looking forward to Courtney's second novel.

At ten o'clock this morning the temperature was minus one Celsius in Toronto. Today, of course, is October 22nd. To give you an idea what a seasonal temperature should be, the city's average October temperature is 9.5 degrees. Yesterday, just north of the city, “commuters faced gusts of wind bringing snow and slush-like conditions on Hwy. 400.”

It just ain't right. What happened to fall? What happened to last week's gorgeous weather (below)?

There was some good news for the city yesterday, however. A study on global cities ranked Toronto fourth in the world for culture. London, Paris and New York are the top three, so we're in some damn fine company. Having enjoyed numerous theatrical productions and various festivals around the city this year, I can't say this comes as any kind of shock but Toronto should take a well-deserved bow.

While it gets colder and colder and the trees shed all their leaves and snow piles up on lawns, roadways and sidewalks, I'm going to try to keep my mind on what a wonderful place this is for cuisine, theatre, music, etc—all things that can be enjoyed from the warmth of indoors.
I picked up the rest of the stuff for the One Lonely Degree contest today. The mousepad is so cool that I had to order one for myself.

I'm only eighty-five pages into Boy Toy (by Barry Lyga) and it's already obvious this is a must-read. If you're a fan of contemporary YA and haven't picked it up yet, you really should try to get your hands on a copy. Yep, I'm throwing caution to the wind and recommending it based on a stellar first eighty-five pages.

With the Canadian election finished with, I also want to send out a video to Stephane Dion. If you're in Canada you already know the way the election played out, with the Liberal party losing a hell of a lot of support and Harper back in power with a bulkier minority. So far Liberal leader Stephane Dion hasn't said he'll resign, and I personally don't have a problem with him (and find it unfortunate that many voters can't get past image to look at sincerity and principles), but Canadians have sent him a clear message with their ballots. Sorry, Stephane, but you've been locked out.

“And I've been locked out
And I know we're through
But I can't begin to face up to the truth”

Locked Out, Crowded House

Time to face up to that truth.

There's a new interview with me up at Liv's Book Reviews and she asks a bunch of really interesting, quirky questions. Comment on the post at Liv's blog with your answer to "Rain or Shine" to win a copy of I Know It's Over!

Being Canadian, I'm especially proud to announce that I Know It's Over received a glowing 4 out of 4 star review in the October 10th issue of the Canadian review journal, CM Magazine. The review reveals a fair amount of plot so if you want to dive into the book fresh you might want to wait until afterwards to check it out. But I can tell you, that review has had me smiling to myself all day.

My week is off to a tremendous start as I won a copy of Cracked Up To Be in Courtney Summers' Last Lazy Galley Giveaway! I never win anything and I've been dying to read this since I tore through the first two chapters on her site. Not only do I get an early look at the book—I'll have my very own copy of Cracked Up To Be with the original (now a collector's edition) cover. How cool is that!

In other good news the trailer for I Know It's Over is up at where you can rate it. After the One Lonely Degree advance reader copy contest closes I'll be posting the trailer for One Lonely Degree (which is ready and waiting) on my website too.

I just got through voting voting in the Canadian federal election and if, like me, you're hoping that voters will block Stephen Harper from a majority (indeed, keep him away from the Prime Minister's office entirely!) it's going to be a looooong, suspenseful day.

If you haven't voted yet and are still undecided you should consider what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has to say in his new book Hot, Flat and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution--and How It Can Renew America.
“The ability to design, build, and export green technologies for producing clean electrons, clean water, clean air, and healthy and abundant food is going to be the currency of power in the Energy-Climate Era – not the only one, but right up there with computers, microchips, information technologies, and planes and tanks.”
Doing nothing to safeguard the environment means being left behind in the dust (and smog). “Some see that now,” Friedman declares. “Others will see it soon. Eventually, it will be obvious to us all.”

The problem is we don't have time for the stragglers to catch up to reality and if enough of them don't get with the program TODAY, they'll be holding the entire nation back. Remember, we have a choice and we're making it for everyone. Vote for the planet. Vote for anyone but Harper. You can enter your postal code at to learn which party in your riding will keep Harper out.

I know this is pretty much what I've been saying every second day lately but the battle's not over until election day on October 14th. Ideologically I disagree with Prime Minister Harper on, oh, pretty much every front but, like a lot of people, my biggest concern these days is the environment. What do we have without it?

Stephen Harper continually says real change will be too costly—but it's not hard to see that refusing to protect our environment will cost us much more in the long run.

At the end of September The Toronto Star printed an article that explained that although Stephen Harper believes Canadians have become more conservative in the past 20 years, evidence doesn't back that view up.

It seems Canadian ideals are as strong as ever and that Canadians list a good quality of life, a strong health care-system and low incidence of child poverty as things they want for the nation. Unfortunately, over the years Canadians “have been convinced that their values will not or cannot find their way into public policy.” We think we can't change what politicians and the media have decided the national agenda should be, which is incredibly sad.

It's hard to have faith when we see the things we believe in continually ignored but resigning ourselves to that fate is giving up on democracy. This is still a free country. We do have a choice and several Canadian artists including K-OS, Ed Robertson from Barenaked Ladies, Jason Collett of Broken Social Scene, Sarah Harmer, Ben Kowalewicz of Billy Talent and Adam Gontier of Three Days Grace, have banded together to remind us of that.

Together they've recorded a song they're calling the "Stop Harper" anthem. The song "You Have a Choice" can be downloaded at Avaaz. ca and “hopes to draw attention to an online campaign aimed at persuading Canadians to help the environment by voting for the candidate in their riding most likely to defeat a Conservative opponent.”

One of my favourite lines is the following snarky one that references Harper's early common man sweater campaign commercials. “We can change things/For the better/Not just dressing it up with a sweater.”
And you know you have a choice
If you don't then it's already happened
Only takes one moment, rejoyce
If you don't then it's gone like the wind

—You Have A Choice

Please, vote for the Canada you want on Tuesday. Not the one you think you have to make do with.
One Lonely Degree
I just received a few advance reader copies of One Lonely Degree. Part of me would love to hold on to them all forever but at the same time I'm so excited that I can't resist having another contest! The book's release date isn't until May 26th so this is a real sneak peak.

1 One Lonely Degree prize pack will be randomly awarded. The prize pack includes: a signed advance reader copy of One Lonely Degree, a 12"x18" 1LD poster, a 1LD mousepad and the 2006 greatest hits CD (" A Decade") of main character Finn's favourite band, Our Lady Peace.

To enter email me with your name, the subject line “1LD ARC Contest” and the answer to the following super-easy question by midnight on October 31st.

* Finn considers this guy, “the most beautiful of all the Beautiful Boys and that's not just a physical thing.” Who is the lead singer of Our Lady Peace?

Draw date is November 1st!

Good luck everybody!

Our Lady Peace frontman

1LD jacket photograph © 2009 by Tracy Kahn
Emperor Harper's mind trick powers are failing him. Stephen Harper's approval has continued to drop in the polls, a sure sign his Jedi mind trick power has been failing him as Canadians refuse to believe that there's nothing to worry about as far as the economy's concerned.

If Harper lands back in minority power, as is appearing likely, he'll no doubt blame any failures to counter economic woes on his lack of power. Damn the opposition parties and their wacky concerns about the Canadian economy, food regulations, saving the evironment and the importance of the arts!

However, even if Harper never realizes his dream of a majority and his planned Death Star remains unbuilt; we'll always have the below action figure to remind us of Prime Minister Harper's 2008 election campaign. In one hand he carries the Canadian flag, the other is poised to lull us into a false sense of security as he tries desperately to conjure his waning Jedi mind trick magic.

Election 08 Harper available at toy stores across Canada.

* Election 08 Harper contains lead paint, which could be hazardous to children, and trace amounts of listeria, which may cause stomach and intestinal problems. You may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and vomiting, tiredness, and diarrhea.
Election 08 Darth Harper action figure
Last week I stopped in to visit I Know It's Over in several local bookstores, signing whatever copies they had on hand. It felt kind of like visiting a pet store in that I wanted to scoop all the copies of I Know It's Over up and bring them home with me. They just looked so cute but helpless surrounded by all those other books on the shelves, the copies of I Know It's Over huddled together for warmth and companionship like puppies.

Monday morning FedEx showed up with advance reader copies of One Lonely Degree and again, my instinct was to keep them all here, where I know they'll have a good home. Are you supposed to get this attached to your own books? I mean really...

But just look at the jacket and maybe you'll see what I mean. Not only do I want to keep them all but I want it to be late June again—warm enough for sunscreen, swimming pools and Creamsicles.

One Lonely Degree jacket

Of course I already promised an advance reader copy of One Lonely Degree to the winner of the I Know It's Over contest so I'll be sending that out tomorrow. And since that means I can't keep them all anyway I might as well give another copy away, right?

So I'm going to have the details for a brand new contest up here on Friday and in the meantime I've put the first two chapters of One Lonely Degree up on my website. Hope you like them!
jacket photograph © 2009 by Tracy Kahn
So says the headline of the Toronto Star this morning. The Canadian Press Harris-Decima rolling poll puts the the Tories at 35% support as of yesterday. Here's how the rest of the support breaks down: Liberals - 22%, NDP - 20%, Green Party - 13% and Bloc Quebecois - 9%. Apparently the French and English leadership debates have taken a slight toll on Conservative support. Hmm, I can't think what the debates would've revealed about Tory leader Stephen Harper that isn't already common knowledge. Maybe he would've gotten more mileage from his deadpan expression and abject denial combo if he was wearing one of his trademark sweaters and snuggling a kitten.

Sith Lord Harper, Elizabeth May and Jack Layton  on Thursday's English language leadership debate,

Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson says the poll also “shows that women in particular are drifting from the Liberal column for the NDP and the Greens.”

With our environment and economy hanging in the balance the stakes are sky high this time around. In the words of Green Party leader Elizabeth May, “Vote with what you believe in, vote with your heart. And demand better of your politicians, because you don't deserve what you've got.”

Jedis Layton and May.
I'm not going to be watching the Biden-Palin debate tonight as the Canadian leadership debate's on at the same time. However, if you have a vote in the American election, here's yet another reason not to vote for the McCain-Palin combo—Palin's support for the practice of shooting wolves from a low flying plane. Hell, that's not even hunting! It's barbaric cruelty.

Have a look at the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund video for more details:

I've encountered a few things I want to pass on lately. Starting with the book stuff:

The Dead and the Gone* 1) When I finished reading Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer last spring I wanted to press it into the hands of everyone over the age of twelve and insist that they read it. If an asteroid hit earth changing the moon's orbit and sending life on earth into chaos I'm sure Life As We Knew It and its companion book The Dead and the Gone are exactly how life would unfold for countless American families.

I wish more adults would venture into the teen section of their local bookstores or libraries because both these young adult books have the potential to appeal to a much broader age range than their place on the shelf would suggest. Susan Beth Pfeffer doesn't sugarcoat the terrifying struggle to survive in a world without electricity and sunlight. The tension will have you speeding through page after page. In fact, when I neared the end of The Dead and The Gone, while at the car dealership waiting for a car tune up this past weekend, I had to blink back tears and struggle to hold myself together.

It's not that there's no hope in Life As We Knew It or The Dead and The Gone, but what there is, is extremely hard won. Reading these books is an experience you won't forget. Congrats to Susan for hitting The New York Times bestseller list with the paperback for Life As We Knew It!

* 2) Courtney Summers' first two chapters of Cracked Up To Be are now up at her website and once you take a peek at what Parker's up to, the curiosity rapidly snowballs. I'm betting you'll be hooked and need to read the rest come December when Courtney's book arrives in stores.

* 3) David Yoo's new book, Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before, is out today. I'm looking forward to checking it out—and not just because both our titles have links to Smiths songs! Have a look at the trailer.

* 4) Online magazine Teen Scene have their first ever sex issue available daily through October 10th. Even if you're not having sex yet, or not even thinking about having sex, it's always good to be informed.

* 5) I've been coming back to this YouTube video of Swedish duo First Aid Kit covering the Fleet Foxes tune Tiger Mountain Peasant Song all week. It's strangely haunting...ageless...

And here's Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold playing Tiger Mountain Peasant Song at London's ULU in June.

* 6) I got a chance to see Michael Winterbottom's latest release, Genova, at the The Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks ago and loved it. Colin Firth plays Joe, a man who decides to spend a year in Italy with his two daughters after his wife dies in a car accident. While the youngest daughter has constant visions of her mother, the older discovers Italian boys and bitterly keeps a heartbreaking secret about her younger sister. The movie's by turns eerie, contemplative and aching. I've never seen Firth better and the two girls playing his daughters are absolutely wonderful too. THINKFilm has acquired the North American rights and Metrodome snapped up the U.K. and Irish ones so eventually it should appear in a theatre near you.
Support the First Amendment, Read a Banned BookSeptember 27th marks the beginning of the 27th annual Banned Books Week in the United States (in Canada a similar event called Freedom To Read happens February 22 - 28, 2009). This yearly American Library Association event “celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.”

In 2007 the ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) received 420 reports of book challenges (“A challenge is defined as a formal, written complaint, filed with a library or school.”) but while public libraries, schools and school libraries report challenges, the majority of them go unreported.

Below you'll find a list of the most challenged books of 2007, a list which was topped, for two years in a row, by a “children’s book about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg.” Obviously some people find that idea objectionable and would like to impose those objections on others but most of us firmly believe our choice of reading material should be left in our own hands, thanks!

The 10 Most Challenged Books of 2007 (info from the ALA website)

 1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson/Peter Parnell
Reasons: Anti-Ethnic, Sexism, Homosexuality, Anti-Family, Religious Viewpoint, Unsuited to Age Group

 2. “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Violence

 3. “Olive’s Ocean,” by Kevin Henkes
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

 4. “The Golden Compass,” by Philip Pullman
Reasons: Religious Viewpoint

 5. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
Reasons: Racism

 6. “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language

 7. “TTYL,” by Lauren Myracle
Reasons: Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

 8. “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou
Reasons: Sexually ExplicitThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

 9. “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris
Reasons: Sex Education, Sexually Explicit

 10. “The Perks of Being A Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
Reasons: Homosexuality, Sexually Explicit, Offensive Language, Unsuited to Age Group

So what can do we do to fight censorship? The ALA offers advice here. The National Coalition Against Censorship has a toolkit for dealing with censorship in schools up at their website. Random House is featuring a First Amendment First-Aid Kit which includes a list of strategies for battling book challenges, a sample letter to media to raise awareness when censorship issues arise and more.

To celebrate BBW you might want to exercise your intellectual freedom by reading a frequently challenged book like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, A Wrinkle in Time, Native Son, Annie on my Mind or Cujo. Yup, you might be surprised what you find on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 list!

“Don't join the book burners. Don't think you're going to conceal faults by concealing evidence that they ever existed. Don't be afraid to go in your library and read every book.”
—Dwight D. Eisenhower
I'm excited to report that reviews for I Know It's Over are up at Teens Read Too (and Teens Read Too reviewer Breanna's own site B is for Books), The Ya Ya Yas, propernoun dot net, Just Blinded Book Reviews and The Denver Post!

Listening to soulless Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper diss “the arts” put me in a pretty foul mood yesterday. But a couple of things have me back in reasonably good form today:

1) Margaret Atwood's article in The Globe and Mail: To be creative is, in fact, Canadian. Mr. Harper is wrong: There's more to the arts than a bunch of rich people at galas whining about their grants.

2) Watching David Letterman tear a strip off John McCain for canceling his appearance on The Late Show, pointing out that McCain lied about his reasons for ditching the show as Dave discovers that at the very moment McCain should be in the Late Show studio he's being interviewed by Katie Couric, just three blocks away at the CBS News center.

You can read about the Letterman-McCain story on the New York Times Politics blog or Nikky Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily.

And I'll end on some of Margaret's words of wisdom:
Mr. Harper's idea of an ordinary person is that of an envious hater without a scrap of artistic talent or creativity or curiosity, and no appreciation for anything that's attractive or beautiful. My idea of an ordinary person is quite different...I suggest that considering the huge amount of energy we spend on creative activity, to be creative is “ordinary.” It is an age-long and normal human characteristic: All children are born creative. It's the lack of any appreciation of these activities that is not ordinary. Mr. Harper has demonstrated that he has no knowledge of, or respect for, the capacities and interests of “ordinary people.” He's the “niche interest.” Not us.
Well, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't care about arts funding, that much was clear when his government slashed 45 million dollars in arts funding. Just in case we missed that particular message then, here it is again:

"I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people at, you know, a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren't high enough, when they know those subsidies have actually gone up – I'm not sure that's something that resonates with ordinary people," Harper said in Saskatoon, where he was campaigning for the Oct. 14 election.
NDP leader Jack Layton pointed out that, “Most art production in this country is done with very few resources, by people who live on very low wages or receive very little renumeration at all for their work.”

Liberal leader Stephane Dion also refuted Harper's suggestion that artists are privileged, stating that their average wage is $23,000 a year. “Most of them need to rent their suit and beautiful dresses at these galas," he said. “We have a great arts and culture industry. We need to protect its freedom. This man wants to censor our movies.”

Since when does $23,000 a year and a rented suit or dress constitute privilege in this country? It looks like Yann Martel's efforts to enlighten Prime Minister Harper by sending him a book every fortnight have failed. Don't feel too bad, Yann. It was just never gonna happen. Stephen Harper, ordinary citizen that he is, shrugs off his suit (a suit he no doubt owns, by the way) when gets home, turns on the TV and avoids all the channels that would mess with his views. Lots of Fox News on his screen, I'm guessing...

If Canadians want to drop Stephen a line here's his contact info. Of course, that literacy stuff (being able to spell out words and organize your thoughts into sentences and paragraphs) might just be for the elite now. You can always wait and send our current Prime Minister your own special message by voting for someone else on October 14th.

Having taken off his day-wear suit, Stephen Harper settles down for a night of TV watching, common man style.
Today I have the honour of sharing a book release day with Bob Dylan and Daria Snadowsky. The lyrics for Dylan's 1974 song Forever Young have been illustrated as a hardcover children's picture book and Daria's YA novel Anatomy of a Boyfriend is now available in paperback.

I'm also happy to announce the winners of the I Know It's Over contest. I received 60 entries in total and would like to thank you all for entering! As I posted on September 10th, since the participation level was so high I decided to throw in two second prizes of a signed copy each.

Bunny B wins the I Know It's Over prize pack: a signed copy of I Know It's Over, a 12"x18" IKIO poster, her choice of a courier or tote bag, a Magic 8 Ball and an advance reader copy of One Lonely Degree (when it becomes available in October).

Tasha Samborski and Diana Dang both win signed copies of I Know It's Over.

* The context question was "What's the first song on the I Know It's Over soundtrack/playlist?"

* Answer: 10 Days Late by Third Eye Blind.

Since the contest focused on the first song on the I Know It's Over playlist it seems only right to close it with the final song, Times Like These by the Foo Fighters...

Not long ago I devoted a blog entry to raving about The Airborne Toxic Event. Their debut album's everything I would've hoped and even now that it's in my possession I can't stop watching the video clip of this haunting extended acoustic version of Innocence on a daily basis. It's completely mesmirizing in its passion and anguish. Damn it breaks my heart each and every time and I keep going back for more. This is the power of music—emotionally it can take you to an entirely different place than you were the moment before a given song started.

At the Toronto film festival last week one of the director's, during a Q &;A, referred to film as “the most powerful medium we have at the moment” but I'm not so sure that's true. Every time I hear Working Class Hero I want to rail against the stupidity of our culture, a society that we allow to keep us “doped with religion, sex and TV.” Listening to Neil Young's Heart of Gold plugs me instantly in to a feeling of bottomless longing. Nina Simone's Ain't Got No/I Got Life sparks my lust for life and Billy Bragg's A Lover Sings floods me with all the awed sensations of first love.

Maybe I'm out shopping, sitting on a crowded subway car or in front of my computer in my pajamas—it doesn't matter, if the song works I go where it leads me. Many of us live our lives to music in a way we don't to other art forms. Three minutes and we're worlds away. Music is so much a part of our society that it would seem strange to me, as a writer, not to reference that. This is the reason I like to have playlists for my books. Some of the songs I may not even personally like—and the character may not like either, but they're part of his/her world.

The entire playlist for I Know It's Over can be found here but with the book coming out next Tuesday I thought I'd feature some of the songs that I either associate with the book or refer to during it.

1. 10 Days Late (Third Eye Blind)
This is the song that inspired I Know It's Over. I found it both emotionally affecting and intriguing and wanted to know how the story unfolded after he'd heard about the pregnancy. This is still a story we haven't heard from the male point of view as often.

2. Feel It in The Air (Beanie Sigel)
Nick blares Beanie Sigel after he hears the news from Sasha, wanting to escape the reality of the moment. But the song itself is filled with expectation, a feeling of impending change. 

 3. There She Goes (The La's)
So, yeah, we've all heard this song's about heroin but it still sounds like a song about that person who blows your mind too, the girl/guy you're amazed by although you maybe don't even know them that well yet. 

6. The Scientist (Coldplay)

“Nobody said it was easy/No one ever said it would be so hard.” This strikes me as a hopeful, sweet and sad song all at the same time. Things aren't where you want them to be with the relationship...but maybe they could be.

9. Get The Party Started (Pink)
Nick isn't exactly thrilled about the idea of going to Lindsay's Halloween party— and not too impressed by the music when he gets there, but it does offer other bonuses.

 13. Lose Yourself (Eminem) 

This is a total powerhouse song, and maybe not the best thing to listen to if your emotions are already on a rampage. 

  18. Sometimes Wanna Die (Joydrop)
This song is the one I associate most strongly with the book. A lot of the lyrics seem to echo exactly what Nick is feeling throughout I Know It's Over. I originally heard this song long before I ever thought of writing I Know It's Over but now I can't hear it without thinking about Nick. This song just aches. Aches and rocks. Personally, I love it.

20. Landslide ( The Dixie Chicks)

I'm a big fan of both renditions of this bittersweet song—the Stevie Nicks original and the Dixie Chicks cover. Wisdom and change, wistfully delivered in each version.

I Know It's Over aside, If you haven't had a look at that Innocence video clip yet I can't recommend it highly enough—and keep your eyes on Airborne Toxic Event's lead singer/guitarist Mikel Jollett. The guy has his guts wrapped around this song in a way I haven't seen in I don't know how long. Believe me, this is an album you want in your collection.

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