Glorious libraries


Ah! The glory of libraries. All of those books in one place. So much knowledge, so many stories. It is the dream of readers everywhere to possess a library anywhere near half as extensive as this. Many libraries lack an artistic flair in architecture.

This beautiful building however, so elegant in the afternoon sunshine, is the Vancouver Central Public Library. It has 7 floors of books. There is a First Peoples storyteller and a writer in residence, the staff are mobile, and will meet you on any floor. In the Children’s Library on the bottom floor, there’s a vibrant dragon hanging.

Imagination has taken flight in that external curving section; many movies have been filmed in the glassed in halls. It’s closed to the public, very sadly.

The sculpture at the front of the building also tickles my fancy.


I also have a soft spot for the State Library of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia. That beautiful building was founded in 1854, with the idea that it would be ‘the people’s university’. How wonderful is the altruism of that sentiment.  The La Trobe reading room (the one in the photograph below) celebrated her centenary this year.

Melbourne State Library; Melbourne Melbourne State Library; Melbourne

What I love about the State Library is that it has a wonderful collection of old books. It starts with some of the early illustrated books, mostly religious texts, and looks all the way up to pop culture covers and fiction. It also showcases drafts of famous works.

Each of these libraries has embraced more than just the printed word. There are interactive displays, such as games rooms and image galleries, and many activities to bring people into the library. They are attempting to place themselves at the centre of our communities, and I think this progressiveness is the way that libraries will retain their relevance. For the large role that they play in most lives and their availability to the economically or socially disadvantaged, I think it’s so important that we celebrate these gorgeous buildings and excellent organisations.

Which is your favourite library in those that you’ve encountered thus far and why?

An editor’s work is never done

So, I have another story from my night seeing Neil Gaiman. You might have read the first part here.

At the end of the talk, and at the beginning of the signing, I decided to sit in some empty seats at the very front of the auditorium reserved for Harper Collins editors, who I had seen leaving moments before. All I wanted was to take a photograph of Neil Gaiman as a memento for myself, and there I could get a clear view and shot with my iPhone without being in anybody’s way.

The assistants from the Vancouver Writer’s Festival, who were hosting the event, were coming around to offer a Post-It to people in the front rows, as Neil had decided to gift them extra signatures for waiting in the hot sun all afternoon. I declined, as I wasn’t one of the eligible. A woman had sat down next to me shortly before, and was directing them as to the way Neil liked the notes put into the books.

I struck up a conversation, asking how she knew. Had she been to many of Neil’s signings before? Turned out she was his editor. I only found out later that I was talking to Jennifer Brehl, Neil’s editor from New York, that he speaks highly about. She also has a few other titles than ‘Neil’s editor’: Senior Vice President, Executive Editor, and Director of Editorial Development of Morrow and Harper Voyager. I wish I’d known at the time, but I wonder if I would have taken a different tack. She wasn’t there to talk to me about work or even my work, after all.

We were chatting about Neil’s endless signings and how tired he gets from those days, picking up again and moving on the next day. She had been on the tour for the eastern parts of Canada with Neil; so Montreal, Toronto, etc. She helps out with the events; I heard and saw her helping with those getting signatures. You will even see in the picture I post, she is standing to Neil’s left and assisting. I can’t even imagine how she fits that in with the rest of her workload.

Many think an editor’s work is accepting a book and proceeding to edit it (and even that takes a lot more time than you might expect). But there’s many promotional engagements that you take part in for the people you edit, because if they succeed, so do you. I hadn’t thought that editors at Ms. Brehl’s level would have the time but the factors that drive good publishing are the same regardless of your other commitments.

So thank you chance, for allowing me just a moment to see what being a successful and tireless editor is about. I also hope that I have another chance to discuss work with Ms. Brehl again one day, and that we see this great team working together for a long time, with many more great novels to come.

Neil signing


Health update: Junk food will kill you.



Yesterday Vancouver was overrun… With zombies!

The annual Vancouver zombie walk was a huge success, with lots of varied and imaginative costumes. There was people of all age groups, from little babies (well-taken care of by Mama zombies of course) and small children, all the way up to adults with a few greys that worked well into their costumes. Families abounded, and boy, was there some of the cutest zombies I have ever seen! One pregnant zombie’s unholy offspring also sprung straight through the abdominal wall, not wishing to wait for birth.

20130817-20130817-IMG_1724Keeping an orderly shuffle, respecting red lights (for blood!) and the policemen volunteering with the event, the hoards of the undead made their way from the Vancouver library down Robson Street, veering left at Denman, and finally congregating at English Bay Beach, clearly unsure what to do at the water’s edge. Some of the shuffle were obviously a bit hungry, biting out at the bystanders, sending little Asian girls shrieking away. The eerie screams of some zombies set the scene for the apocalypse to come.

A few survivors struggled amidst the zombie throng, some prepared against the airborne threat with gas masks, or armed with (water) guns and (Nerf) darts. However, the survival of humanity seemed unlikely given how few stood against the rising tide.



Hats off to the dedicated people who participated yesterday. It was great fun even just to watch, and everyone was so happy to have their photograph taken.


Best bit about this woman’s costume? The limb dragging behind (sadly not pictured).
This person creeped me out by watching me for ages as they passed me. Good job on the creepy factor!


Which of the photographs was your favourite? Have you ever taken part in a zombie walk? What was it like?