Posts Tagged ‘appearances’

Adventures in author signings

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Hello, friends. This past weekend, I went to Belleville to meet E. K. Johnston. She and I have been friendly on Twitter for a few years, and I became a raving fan of hers as soon as I read her debut novel, The Story of Owen. The Story of Owen, which is shortlisted for an LA Times Book Award, is about dragon slayers in small-town Ontario. It is hilarious and heartbreaking and sly and insane in all the best ways, and it’s also about music, storytelling, and courage. Can you tell that I adore it and its sequel, Prairie Fire? So when Kate asked if I wanted to do a signing, I shrieked, “YESSSSSSS!” and hied myself to Belleville, Ontario.

Erin Bow, Y S Lee, E K Johnston

Ali, who manages the Chapters bookstore in Belleville, was so well organized. She had all our books set up on a stand-alone rack, flanked with tables and chairs. She had an array of pens. She had alerted her staff, some of whom came in on their day off to say hello. The whole afternoon was an object lesson in How to Host Signings.

And you know who came as a last-minute surprise guest? ERIN BOW, that’s who!

Erin Bow, Y S Lee, E K Johnston

From left to right: Erin, me, Kate (photo by Ali of Chapters Belleville)

Erin’s debut novel, Plain Kate, won the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award; her second novel, Sorrow’s Knot, won the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Erin is also a physicist-turned-poet. (Nope, not intimidating AT ALL.) And her beautiful, merciless novels make me weep until I’m soggy. I love them, and I aspire one day to write as well as she does.

So this was going to be a quick, celebratory blog post about the wonderful afternoon we had, the books we sold, the fascinating people we met (including a woman called Linda who hand-feeds cougars), and how much I learned from Erin and Kate about the Art of the Signing. They were funny, generous and gracious, and I want to be more like them.

And then, just today, I spotted a blog post by Kate:

Last Saturday, I went to a really excellent book event. It required driving for 6 hours, and I would totally do it again.The bookstore was that great.

I had one truly nauseating encounter. I don’t want to dwell on it, because I don’t want it to overshadow an otherwise wonderful day, but at the same time, I am not willing to shrug it off.

WHAT? I had to click to make sure it was the same event I was at. And then I remembered the start of this conversation, reported by Kate:

A man approached the table. “You wrote these books?” he said. “Tell me about them.” So I did. I launched into my pitch, and got about halfway through. Then he held up his hand. “I’m going to stop you there,” he said. “I don’t read books. I just like to talk to people who do, because I don’t understand how they work.”

Right after he declared, “I don’t read books”, I (Ying) made a joke: “Yet here you are!” I said, loudly, gesturing at the books all around us. He ignored me, and I listened for only a couple of seconds longer before turning away. I left the scene because I’m not in the habit of cultivating the boastful, the non-readers. Neither do I listen attentively to those who ignore me.

After reading Kate’s post, however, I really wish I’d stayed in the conversation. This is what happened next:

Somehow, I ended up telling the guy that I am an archaeologist. “Why aren’t you out digging holes?” he asked. I don’t tell him that archaeologists don’t dig holes. I don’t tell him that it’s still too cold for real field work. I don’t tell him I’m not that kind of archaeologist. No, he’d made me angry, so I waved my education in his face, and told him that I have a masters in forensic archaeology and crime scene investigation.

“That’s kind of gross, eh?” he said. “Yes,” I said. Because sometimes it is.

“Well, I wouldn’t date you,” he said.

We could spend a very long time enumerating the problems with that statement, with the illogical turn the dialogue took. I won’t do it here, because Kate has already done so.

What I want to add is that I’ve now learned something else: when someone instantly flags himself as an attention-seeker (as this person did straightaway), I need to keep half an ear on the conversation. I need to stay present, as a conversational ally.

I know Kate doesn’t need protecting. She handled herself with professional sangfroid – so much so that I didn’t realize what had gone down until I read about it on the internet. But I could have jumped in. Things I could and should have said, as a semi-bystander:

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“That was inappropriate.”

“You need to leave now.”

I’m going to remember this incident. I’m going to practise those lines. And I’m going to lovingly teach every young person in my life that a) the world is not about them, and b) the golden rule.

I’m sorry I didn’t have your back there, Kate. Next time, I will.

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Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Hello, friends. This past weekend, a Kingston-based group of children’s authors got together to sign books at our local Chapters. We were five: Leanne Lieberman, Jill Bryant, Mary Alice Downie, Ann-Maureen Owens, and me. Fellow author Christine Fader very generously took photos, rallied troops, handed out bookmarks, and was her ebullient self. Here’s one of Christine’s photos of us getting set up and waiting for our public. (I used that phrase entirely facetiously. If I ever refer to “my public” in earnest, please do something drastic to get my attention.) Isn’t the store lovely? It was a great antidote to a windy, rainy afternoon.

Here are Jill, Mary Alice, and Ann-Maureen with some of their books.

Leanne and I, with our YA novels. We had terrific support from store staff, who ordered books in advance, created signs, made announcements, and generally welcomed us with real warmth. Thank you!

This was the first time I’d done a signing without a reading, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What I didn’t count on was a woman who approached us, looking both eager and hesitant. She paused, shyly, and I said hello. “Oh!” She rushed the table. “I’ve been looking for you. Are these the Chicken Soup books?”

I tried not to laugh. I helped her to find the Chicken Soup books. And I realized that I’ve finally had my classic author moment of being mistaken for somebody much, much, much more widely read. It was genuinely funny to me, and it felt like a rite of passage. I maintain, however, that I do not resemble Jack Canfield in the slightest.

It was a good afternoon, hanging out fellow writers. And I did, in fact, sign a book or two of my own.

I now have another appearance to announce: the Calgary Public Library has invited me to give a pair of readings on November 28, 2013.

Reading 1:
Crowfoot Library 

8665 Nose Hill Drive

11-12:30 p.m.
Reading 2:
Village Square Library

2623 56 St NE

2 – 3 p.m.

I’m so excited to go to Calgary for the very first time. I hope you’ll spread the word, and to see some of you there!

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Thursday, September 19th, 2013

I’ve been a very sloppy blogger recently, and for that I sincerely apologize. I didn’t mean to fall into an every-other-week pattern, and I realize it’s Thursday today. I have a specific plan to improve (I’ve blocked out a blogging session each Monday evening) and I hope my weekly post will become a joyful habit, rather than something I cringe to realize that I’ve missed once again.

But I’m here now to talk to you about fermentation! The jars below contain tomato seeds from some of the varieties we grew this summer. This is the first year we’ve tried saving tomato seeds, but our friends Crista and Mike assure us that it’s straightforward. Basically, we choose the ripest, most beautiful specimen possible, scoop out the goo (technical term) and seeds, and put them in a jar. We top it up with a little water – about half as much water as there was goo, by volume – cover it and let it sit. When a thin layer of greyish-white mould grows on top of the water, we drain off the liquid and rinse, rinse, rinse. Then we dry the tomato seeds on a plate on that same sunny window-sill.

Looks like a mad science experiment, don’t you think?

But it’s not just tomato seeds we’ve been fermenting around here. Firstly, I’ve begun work on the New Book and it’s scaring the pants off me, in a good way. (No, I haven’t begun writing horror. I can’t even read horror. I tried reading Andrew Pyper’s The Killing Circle this summer and had to stop, I was so terrified. And then I had nightmares.) But the New Book is completely different from what I’ve written before: new setting, new time period, first-person instead of third-person, two narrators instead of one… I’m not sure I can do it, and it’s freaking me out, but I adore the challenge.

Another thing that’s fermenting is a visit to Calgary in November, about which I’m so excited. On November 28th, I’ll be reading at two branches of the Calgary Public Library! I’ll post times and locations as soon as I know the details.

And finally, my lovely UK editor just sent me a draft cover for Walker Books’ edition of Rivals in the City. I’m not allowed to share it yet, because it’s still being discussed and refined. But I can tell you that it’s gorgeous…

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Crime Scene 2012

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Hello, friends! I had an absolutely splendid time this past weekend at Scene of the Crime, and thought I’d share what I could with you. I had a great “handler” at the festival (basically, a person assigned to make sure the visiting author is supplied with coffee and doesn’t get lost), a Wolfe Islander named Kristina, but I forgot to ask her to take some photos while I was reading & panelling, so mea culpa for the absence of pics.

Scene of the Crime has a perfect setting: Wolfe Island. Wolfe is the largest of the Thousand Islands, it’s a gorgeous ferry-ride from Kingston (excitingly remote!), and it’s the kind of island where everybody knows everybody and everything is connected. All ten authors stayed at the same B&B. YOU GUYS. Could someone please write a cozy, locked-room mystery featuring ten mystery writers in a rural B&B? Thank you.

When I asked organizer Violette Malan how many people she was expecting, she waved her hand and said, “Craploads. Actually, we’re at capacity. We never turn anyone away, but we can only guarantee meals for 100.” This is the genius thing about SotC: it’s small, it’s friendly, and there’s zero room for pretension. I got to chat – really chat – with readers. I learned that some bookclubs do road trips together (hello, Jane and the Stratfordians!). Another reader & writer (hi, Susan!) taught me the finer points of church hall dinners (tip: snag your pie at the beginning of the meal. You get the best selection, plus you can go back for seconds while looking all innocent). And, speaking of church-lady dinners, we were so very well fed. I’m in awe of the SotC Board and volunteers, who worked incredibly hard and made everything look so very easy. Thank you for inviting me!

My fellow authors at SotC were Thomas Rendell Curran, who writes detective fiction set in pre-Confederation Newfoundland – a setting that, as he says, completely justifies description of the weather in a novel’s opening; D. J. McIntosh, author of The Witch of Babylon, who offered the most succinct writing advice I’ve heard in some time: on the first page of your crime novel, “avoid boredom”; and John Moss, who writes the Quin & Morgan series set in Toronto, and who is fascinating on the subjects of old limestone houses, swans, and beekeeping.

Then there were the ladies. Not just any ladies, but the Ladies Killing Circle. They crack jokes. They wonder – very seriously – whether there is enough wine. And they represent, among other things, two decades of crime fiction written by Canadian women. When accepting their Grant Allen Award for contributions to Canadian crime writing, member Vicki Cameron explained that in the early 1990s, it was incredibly difficult for women writers of crime fiction to be taken seriously, let alone get published. So the LKC (which began as a critique group) called for submissions and edited their own anthology, also called The Ladies Killing Circle. This wasn’t vanity publishing: stories from each of their seven anthologies have won mystery-writing awards. And they’ve launched the careers of a number of Canadian writers, as a result.

The Ladies are vicious in name only; you couldn’t find a more welcoming, generous, congenial group of authors. And they’ve inspired me to work at building my own writing community. In fact, that’s one of my goals for this fall.

So that was my Scene of the Crime 2012. What are you up to, in the dwindling weeks of August?

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At the Scene of the Crime

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Hello, friends! I’m so excited about this week. Tomorrow, I’ll be skyping with a group of YA readers in Prescott, Arizona. And this weekend, I’m appearing at the Scene of the Crime Mystery Festival on Wolfe Island, Ontario. I’ll be there with DJ McIntosh, John Moss, and Thomas Rendell Curran, as well as the deliciously named Ladies Killing Circle.

I love Scene of the Crime. It’s friendly, informal, and it includes a church-ladies’ dinner that usually ends with pie. The first time I went, I was an aspiring writer and I went at the encouragement of my friend Jay Ridler. I met – gasp! – Real Live Authors, who were approachable and funny, and with whom we all went for drinks afterwards. So I’m especially thrilled to be going back this year as one of the authors. I will do my best to be as engaging and welcoming as they all were to me. If you’re in the Kingston area, please come! It’ll be delightful.

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On performance

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Yesterday, my almost-four-year-old had a birthday celebration at his preschool, to which his whole family was invited. It was absolutely beautiful: thoughtful, focused, loving, and joyful. And yes, I wept. But I’m more interested in my son’s response, which was an intense blend of pride, excitement, the need to control his own surge of emotions, and stage fright. It’s all completely logical, and it would probably have been odd had his response been more straightforward. But it made me think about author appearances and public performance.

I was an extremely shy, introverted child. (Yes, this is Author Cliché No. 2, second only to “I always wanted to write”. But being a cliché doesn’t make it less true.) I preferred to play alone, or with one good friend. Changing schools – especially midway through the school year – made me dry-heave with anxiety. I consistently, seriously, contemplated breaking my hand, on purpose, before piano recitals. And let’s not even discuss public speaking.

Actually, yes, let’s. Because I detested it. I’d work hard researching a topic, writing a script and memorizing it, and practice delivering it to an empty room. And then, on the day itself, I’d go hot-and-cold-and-dizzy with nerves, and blast through the entire speech in 30 seconds of unintelligible, warp-speed muttering. What a complete waste of time.

Or was it? Because I now have an introvert’s dream job. And yet I regularly stand before small and large groups of people and read to them, talk to them, answer questions, and generally do what my husband calls “the Y. S. Lee Show”. And it’s fine. More than fine: it’s fun. Occasionally, it’s even inspiring.

I’m so far removed from the kid who, in Grade 1, hid in the cloakroom at recess because I was the new kid. And I don’t think it’s because I had an overnight personality change. I think it’s because of all the practice: public speaking assignments, changing schools several times, and working as a university professor. When you are forced to do something, over and over again, you adapt. Hone techniques. And rehearse a show of confidence that, eventually, becomes very real.

I’m still definitely an introvert. I love working at home. I don’t miss having colleagues (if I want chit-chat, there’s always Twitter!). And too much noise, for too long, makes me flee the scene. But I hadn’t thought about how much I’ve changed until I saw the blend of expressions on my little-big boy’s face yesterday.

How about you: are you an introvert, an extrovert, or that rare (and possibly mythical) balanced creature? How do you deal with author appearances or other public speaking gigs?

Interviews are a different kind of performance, and I had such a fun time with Trisha of the YA YA YAs when she interviewed me as part of her Summer Blog Blast Tour. Do you like night soil jokes? If so, you’ll love Trisha’s questions as much as I did!

Trisha’s also written a really lovely appreciation for the Agency novels that’s gone straight to my head. Obviously, I adore her taste in books!

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A women’s detective agency? Why?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Hello, friends! I’m guest-blogging this week at Bites, where Donna asked me why I chose to write about a women’s detective agency in Victorian London. The short answer? I love bright and shiny anachronisms. The longer answer is here.

And did you know that this coming week, May 5 – May 12, is Canadian Children’s Book Week? In celebration of children’s books, my friends at Young Kingston have organized a group signing at Novel Idea Books on Sunday, May 6. I’ll be there from 3 to 4 with the award-winning Ann-Maureen Owens. Hope to see you there!

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The Traitor is coming!

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Hello friends! It’s been a busy week. I was at Kingston WritersFest on Thursday, where Adwoa Badoe and I read and talked about our books. Adwoa’s first YA novel is called Between Sisters and it’s about 16-year-old Gloria, who goes to work as a maid in modern-day Ghana. You can’t really get further, geographically and culturally, from the Agency, but our terrific moderator, Susan Olding, led us through a lively conversation about social pressures, personal expectations, imperialism, our protagonists’ characters, and our writing process. She bridged the two worlds of the novels beautifully. I loved the really thoughtful audience questions, especially from Beth and Clara (hi!).

with Susan Olding and Adwoa Badoe; photo by Bernard Clark


photo by Bernard Clark

I also stopped in at Lethbridge, AB’s first-ever Word on the Street festival and chatted with readers there about the link between research and writing. Good times.

I’m reading Claire Tomalin’s Austen bio, Jane Austen: A Life, at every stolen moment and absolutely adoring it. It’s not just that I’m an Austenphile; Tomalin is such a wise, sympathetic, subtly observant biographer and she makes me think about things anew. For example, she really challenges my opinion of Sense and Sensibility, until now my least favourite of Austen’s novels. Tomalin argues that S&S is a debate connected to the politics of the 1790s, and that Austen’s characterizations of Elinor and Marianne are much subtler than I’d previously thought. I’m determined to re-read it, now, and see if I agree.

And finally, I have an official North American publication date for The Traitor in the Tunnel! February 28, 2012 is the Big Day. Huzzah!

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Autumn’s here

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

My name is Y. S. Lee and I’ve been a sloppy blogger all summer long. Now that it’s late September, it is time to change my inconsistent ways. Starting this week, I’ll return to my weekly blogging schedule and post something each Wednesday. Promise.

What’s up with me?

As a reader:

My husband just gave me a copy of this book.

If you know how I feel about Claire Tomalin and Jane Austen, you will know that I am over the moon and can’t wait to rip into it (figuratively, figuratively). But he outdid himself this time, because he gave me this edition:

Did you hear my scream of delight? I’m torn between sleeping with it under my pillow, locking it away under archival conditions, and reading it in one sitting while children scream and my life crumbles around me. Ahem.

As a writer:

Tomorrow, I’m appearing at Kingston WritersFest with YA author Adwoa Badoe. We’ll be reading and talking to memoirist Susan Olding on the subject of “Life Lessons”. This is my first literary festival as an author, rather than as reader and fan, and I’ve been looking forward to this for ages!

I’ll also be skyping in to Lethbridge, AB’s Word on the Street festival this Sunday. I’m very excited for this, too, and glad that I’ll never know how big my head looks on a projection screen. If you happen to see it, don’t tell me, okay?

As a human being:

My three-year-old’s been singing his favourite fall song, Hawksley Workman‘s “Autumn’s Here”, without consideration for parental feelings of musical satiety. The child is merciless, so I’ve decided to inflict it on you, too. This link takes you to a superlong live rendition.

How are you all? What are you up to? What did I miss, while I was not really here over the summer?

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Just a snippet

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

Hi, friends. I forgot to bring my camera to Mississauga. This is the story of my life. Fortunately, one of my readers, Shann, remembered, and so I get to share this moment with you. Thank you, Shann, and to Oscar C. who took the photo.

And thank you to everyone who came and asked such fun and interesting questions! I had a lovely time, and hope you did, too.

P.S. I remembered the 4th bodily humour (from our conversation about Renaissance medicine, remember?): phlegm. Glamourous, glamourous phlegm.



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