Yesterday my editor emailed me that my new book, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, has received a starred review from Booklist! The review will be in Booklist's March 15th issue but since Random House Kids tweeted about it I figure I'm okay to mention the star and this quote from the review: “A more genuine representation of teen life would be hard to find.” Thank you, Booklist! That made my day. May 25th still feels like a long time off but seeing that wonderful review made the upcoming release feel more real.
The Lighter Side of Life and Death
In other book news, I Know It's Over is now out in Bulgaria and I'm eagerly awaiting my author copies. Dying to see what they've done with the cover and would love to hear from any Bulgarians who have read the book!

I've been continuing to watch lots of the Olympic coverage (am really going to miss them once they're over) and have to say how terrific it's been to see what an amazing Winter Games this has turned into for Canadian women! Thirteen of our seventeen medals so far have been won by women. Figure skater Joannie Rochette is not only a wonder, but a study in courage, giving her all even in the midst of fresh grief. My heart ached watching her long program last night and I don't think there'll be a more meaningful medal won in these games.

I've blogged about Johnny Weir a couple of times recently:

Stay Gold, Johnny Winter Games

and would be remiss not to mention the supreme grace and candor with which he's handled the intolerant and idiotic remarks by sportcasters Alain Goldberg and Claude Mailhot:

Weir has an inner light—a grace, strength of character and egalitarian beliefs which are an inspiration to us all (the people who would praise him for his individuality and the ones who would mock him for it).
“I think masculinity and femininity, it's something that's very old fashioned. There's a whole new generation of people that aren't defined by their sex or their race or by who they like to sleep with. I think as a person you know what your values are and what you believe in and I think that's the most important thing.”

I couldn't agree more. Ahh, Johnny Weir, you are glorious!

Shame on the two Canadian sportcasters (Alain Goldberg and Claude Mailhot) who made homophobic remarks about figure skater Johnny Weir on French-language sports channel RDS last Tuesday and Thursday. The duo later offered an on-air apology and the sports channel gave the following statement: “All discriminatory statements, or those appearing discriminatory, have neither a place in society nor in media.”

So, yes, there's been an apology but that doesn't erase the ugliness of the words or their impact, not strictly on Johnny Weir who seems tough enough to take it (although I wish he didn't have to be) but cumulatively on the other boys and girls out there who might take societal gender policing messages to heart and be less daring, less themselves because to be true to oneself so often seems to mean facing off against a world of intolerance.

When Access Hollywood's guest correspondent Dorothy Hamill read the small-minded comments to Weir he responded by saying, “Every little boy should be so lucky as to turn into me.” Agreed. We should all be as unafraid to be our genuine selves as Johnny Weir is!

I love, love in this clip from his TV show Be Good Johnny Weir, his advice to a young female skater having trouble with her jump that, "I was a taller girl too once and I had to learn to be comfortable with having longer arms, longer legs, everything."

You don't have to be good, Johnny, but stay brave. Stay gold!
olympic mittensMy red and white Olympic mittens are looking a bit out of sorts these days—they've been mucked up, come out of a velcro encounter worse for wear, were spun in the washing machine and then the dryer only to subsequently be attacked by prickly wooden splinters (from clutching a rally sign while being on protest with me). As a result, they're battered and fuzzy as hell but I still love them and they still keep my hands warm. I actually have a pristine new replacement pair lying in wait but I don't know...somehow I haven't been able to put the old mittens aside. Maybe when the Winter Games are over I won't feel quite so sentimental about them and will finally go through with the switch over.

Speaking of the Olympics, congrats to our newest gold medalist Jon Montgomery for his awesome performance in skeleton on Friday! This is one of the events I tend to wince while watching. You gotta be fearless to hurtle yourself down a track like that, head first on the smallest of sleds. Could hardly be more terrifying if Freddy Krueger, Michael Myers and Jigsaw were chasing you down the track.

The zip line over Robson Street is closer to my speed. I'm hoping it stays up post-Olympics because I'd love to ride it the next time I'm in Vancouver. Check out the fun:

And I'm including some Johnny Weir love here (a 2009 performance to Poker Face at Festa on Ice) because I'm with the folks who think he was underscored in the men's figure skating final. Don't let the judges get you down, Johnny. You rocked!

Finally, I'm a bit disappointed about the U.S. hockey win yesterday but tip my hat to Ryan Miller. Good luck to Team Canada on Tuesday!
With the 2010 Winter Olympics about to get under way in Vancouver I want to send out a big welcome to the Irish team—PJ Barron, Aoife Hoey, Claire Bergin, Leona Byrne, Patrick Shannon, Kirsty McGarry and Shane O’Connor! Go n'eiri an t-adh leat!

My best wishes to both the Irish and Canadian teams. I count myself as extremely lucky to feel at home in two beautiful countries.

I discovered the below Cyndi Lauper & Lady Gaga coolness via Antonia Zerbisias's Broadsides blog at The Toronto Star. They've teamed up (along with MAC) to help try to stop the spread of HIV, especially in women. As Cyndi Lauper mentions here, women 17-24 and 39-60 have the highest rates of new infection.

My favourite part starts at 5:57 where Lady Gaga gets serious about condom usage. The potential risk of unsafe sex is just too high. Neither age, nor youth nor passion will protect you from HIV. And it's important to note that, “Biologically women are twice more likely to become infected with HIV through unprotected heterosexual intercourse than men.”
There's been much controversy lately about CBS's decision to air an anti-choice commercial from Focus on the Family during the Super Bowl tomorrow. While CBS has no problem with an anti-choice message being promoted on their air-waves (hell, they even helped craft the ad!) they nixed a commercial for gay dating site ManCrunch.

CBS says the ManCrunch ad didn't meet network standards. Two consenting adults kissing in a not particularly racy way doesn't meet network standards? Isn't that the key ingredient that soap operas are made of? In fact, CBS made television history in 2007 when their soap As the World Turns became the first to broadcast a kiss between two men on daytime network TV—and then the first to show a male couple post-coital.

So what happened to progress, CBS? Oh, what an ugly mess of intolerance and paternalism!

But here's a commercial that's message I can totally get behind—check out professional football player Sean James and Olympic gold medalist Al Joyner speaking up about “trusting women with their own choices” in response to the upcoming anti-choice Super Bowl ad.

Some abortion stats & info:

* “Legal restrictions on abortion do not affect its incidence. For example, the abortion rate is 29 in Africa, where abortion is illegal in many circumstances in most countries, and it is 28 in Europe, where abortion is generally permitted on broad grounds. The lowest rates in the world are in Western and Northern Europe, where abortion is accessible with few restrictions.”

* “Nearly half of pregnancies among American women are unintended, and four in 10 of these are terminated by abortion.”

* “Where abortion is legal and permitted on broad grounds, it is generally safe, and where it is illegal in many circumstances, it is often unsafe. For example, in South Africa, the incidence of infection resulting from abortion decreased by 52% after the abortion law was liberalized in 1996.”

* “A broad cross section of U.S. women have abortions:
—56% of women having abortions are in their 20s
—61% have one or more children
—67% have never married
—57% are economically disadvantaged
—88% live in a metropolitan area
—78% report a religious affiliation”

“An estimated 20 million unsafe abortions occurred in 2003, 97% of these in developing regions...Nearly half of all induced abortions are unsafe, putting the lives and health of women at major risk. Each year, about 70,000 women die due to unsafe abortion and an additional five million suffer permanent or temporary disability.”

Read yet more abortion facts from the * Guttmacher Institute.

Read sex ed site Scarleteen's article * Abortion—what it is, how it happens, what it feels like, how to deal—in plain type.
Yes, the very first Lighter Side of Life and Death giveaway is happening at the Teen Reads Too blog where I'm hanging out today! Stop by to say hi and get entered. I'll be dropping in throughout the day to respond to comments and questions.

* Visit with C.K. Kelly Martin

In totally unrelated news I'm jealous of the folks who are going to the last night of Blue Rodeo's three night run at Toronto's Massey Hall tonight. I was at last night's show (and am therefore pretty sleepy today) but I still want MORE so I guess it's time to stick on their latest album, The Things We Left Behind.

No clips from last night's show yet but here's one of their classics, Lost Together, from the February 2nd Massey concert:

And I gotta say that I've always loved that Greg Keelor's such a romantic (just as much as Jim) but in this somehow simultaneously world-weary yet totally guileless way that gives us lyrics like:

“In your eyes I see that perfect world/I hope that doesn't sound too weird.”

Check out Jim Cuddy's February 2nd radio interview where he talks about gigging and specifically about playing Massey Hall:

Enjoy the concert tonight, fellow BR fans!
According to Punxsutawney Phil and Wiarton Willie we're in for six more weeks of winter. This should come as good news for the Vancouver Winter Olympics— in the Vancouver area they've been scrambling to import snow due to a dearth of it so far. Import snow—quite a bizarre concept, isn't it? Especially for the Great White North.

So anyway, I'll be thinking snowy thoughts for Vancouver while simultaneously hoping that the Greater Toronto Area stays dry for the most part. Some mild temperatures would be nice too because yes, I'm a wimp, always the first person in the room to feel a draft and throw on a sweater or hoodie! As I type this I'm wearing my big Beatles hoodie, in fact.

You can check out a brand new interview with my hoodie wearing self over at The Compulsive Reader today. There's information about my upcoming book, The Lighter Side of Life and Death, and my previous two novels, plus a little rant about cynicism (hate it, hate it!). Many thanks to Tirzah for her thoughtful questions!

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