It was a brief interaction with a young girl one summer that seeded the beginnings of "Mel Tulley's" character. In the weeks that followed  I wrote this poem. During the writing of A Tinfoil Sky I would occasionally revisit this poem, and by doing this I would find that I was able to rekindle the emotion that I felt that day. Both the name of the girl and the street are fictional. Composing a poem response to a novel is one of the suggestions in my novel study for A Tinfoil Sky. I'd love to read the poems you come up with!

Inspiration poem for the character of Mel Tulley


It's amazing to me that almost five years after Dear Toni, was published that I am still hearing from kids who are enjoying the story. I love that Gene, Toni, Winn, and The Fly all continue to live on through the reading and imaginations of people from all over the world. Wow! And now with A Tinfoil Sky published, I know that some of you are getting to know Mel. She is definitely someone worth knowing! At least that is how I feel. She inspires me!

This is one of the most fantastic aspects of being an author.  Why, you ask. Well, for most of the time you are writing you are alone with these characters; their personalities and their experiences are slowly taking form. Then, all of a sudden, they  take on a life of their own and  the next thing you know they are telling you the story, and before you know it the story is finished. The characters (which  feel like real people) are soon to be in the hands of readers, both discovering and being discovered. 

 "A story and its characters are nothing more than simple keystrokes inked to a page. It is the reader who breathes life into the characters, allowing them to truly live." A quote from A Tinfoil Sky acknowledgements

Of course this is not only the case for my books, it's for all stories, all characters. I just love the idea of characters from a book all resting on the page.  I can imagine their growing anticipation when the book is lifted from the shelf, perused, and then clutched in the arms of the potential reader.  

Perhaps the next time you are in a library, or investigating a shelf of books in a bookstore, think about those characters. Think about the idea of bringing them to life. Think about  getting to know them and traveling somewhere, maybe even to a different time and place. And then think about going there, all of you, together.

Wishing you a wonderful year of reading–and writing!


To everyone who has encouraged me in this writing endeavor, thank you. This encouragement has taken many forms and been delivered by many different people. You are students in schools I have visited,  students who attended Wordfest, and you are the students in the classes where I work. You are people who have read, questioned, and at times challenged me in my work. You are reviewers who have taken the time to read and thoughtfully respond. You are book sellers and you are book buyers. You are teachers, librarians, friends, and the crew at Mint Literary Agency. You are the people I see on a bustling December as I walk downtown, and you are my family. You are the people who inspire my life and my work; people who face hardship and unfairness with hope, courage, and kindness.                  

Thank you, each of you!

May your lives be filled with joy, 


Some where along the way someone, or something, or some situation catches my attention. It's in moments like these that all my stories begin.  Rarely do I know where these stories will end. What I have found fascinating is how an aspect of the story, that seems significant to me, might go unnoticed by the reader. This has definitely happened in A Tinfoil Sky. On one hand it might be seen as a failure on my part and on the other hand a success. 

So, here is the challenge.  If you are one of those people who have read, or are presently reading A Tinfoil Sky, I challenge you to read this story looking for more than the fact that Mel is, at times, homeless or that she is poor. There is something else that is very subtle that happens, or could be believed by some to have happened, in the story. See if you can figure it out. If you think you have solved this mystery, email me and tell me what you think it is that others are missing. I'll collect all the correct answers and draw for a signed copy of A Tinfoil Sky on February 14th, 2013.

Why February 14th?   I'll write about that next time, in the meantime get reading!

I am often asked  where I get my ideas from, or where I get my inspiration, or how I came up with a character or the plot in the story.

Last night I had the pleasure of having dinner with two octogenarians. They had recently traveled to Nelson from Toronto to visit their daughter, one of my dearest friends. I couldn't help but notice how both of them were so full of life. Here they were, their third day in Nelson, after flying more than halfway across the country to Kelowna where they rented a car, drove over at least one mountain pass, walked to and from their hotel to her house numerous times, attended a film premier, watched at least one soccer practice, and it was 10 pm and they were still completely engaged in our lengthy dinner party conversation, with enough energy to make plans for the next day's adventures. Ah, to be eighty plus years old and so  alive! That has always been a dream of mine. As my own energy dwindled I just couldn't stop myself from asking: What was their secret? Their answer was really quite simple. They have remained curious.  

Same goes for writing and I suppose the same goes for life!


Hello to all of the Silver Birch readers in Ontario! I wonder how many of you know that you have one of the most amazing Reader's Choice programs in Canada, and perhaps the world. It's really quite mind boggling that over 250 000 students participate in the Forest of Reading Program each year! Whew! 

But no matter where you are from I'd love to hear from any of you who are reading  A Tinfoil Sky, ( or Dear Toni for that matter) and answer any questions you might have. I also have a novel study available that I am happy to send out for teachers or students. If any of you would like to share poems, responses to the novel study questions, or activities you or your class become involved in as a result of reading A Tinfoil Sky, I'll see what I can do to get a tab up, very soon hopefully,  for a Reader's Page.  

Thank you to all the volunteers, organizers, and staff at the Wordfest 2012 and Summit Salon offices. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Calgary and Banff. A thank you, as well, to the teachers who brought me to their schools at St. Sebastian, St. Catherine,  and St. Rita Elementary Schools.  In addition the audience members at the Vertigo Theatre, who came from numerous schools, were fabulous.  I am especially grateful to First Calgary Financial Book Rapport for supporting these readings. And lastly, thanks to ALL of you for your well thought through questions and your willingness to participate in the events. I hope that I was able to inspire each of you in your enjoyment of reading and writing as much as you inspired me! 

I am absolutely thrilled to learn of the Silver Birch nomination for A Tinfoil Sky! To be involved, for a second time, with the OLA Forest of Reading program  is a dream come true. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now let the reading begin! 

Hello to all the students in my sister's sixth grade class at the Fox Creek School in Fox Creek, Alberta. I hear you  are reading A Tinfoil Sky. Ms. Sand has promised me that you'll be sharing your thoughts, so  I'm looking forward to reading them!

For those of you  who are reading this post, but not familiar with Fox Creek,  I can tell you that fall is a spectacular time of year in this part of Northern Alberta. Although there isn't the brilliant reds that we see in some parts of BC and the eastern provinces of Canada, in Northern Alberta you will see every possible shade of yellow during this time of year. There is a unique smell that fills the forest in the fall, and the collective sound of poplar leaves, pushed about by the wind as they cling to the tips of branches for their last few moments before  spiraling to the ground. Perhaps there has been a frost and the remaining mosquitoes and black flies are done. Mornings are cool, the sun bright, the sky blue, the wind ever present.  


Today I was working in a grade eight class and ended up sitting next to a young man who was quick to tell me that he couldn't write, just wasn't any good at it. And true enough if I were to judge his ability to write by the words that were actually down on the page I would have agreed with him. His page was blank, and the reason he'd attracted my attention in the first place was the manner in which he was using an electric fan to sharpen his pencil. (Don't try this at home, it really doesn't work that well!)

Fortunately, I know myself that getting going can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. Today, in his case, he'd been given a prompt,  the same prompt given to all of the eighth grade English classes.  The prompt went something along these lines- How do you believe you will be remembered by the school community when you leave this school? 

I made him a deal, if he'd speak the words I'd write them down. As long as he kept talking and thinking about the prompt, I'd keep writing.The piece of writing was not to be marked for punctuation. 

And so we began. Within a couple of sentences I realized that this young guy had a wonderful ability to hold the concept of the prompt in his head and tell me what he felt he brought to the school. It was a very good piece of writing. Some parts were humourous, other parts were thought provoking, and overall it was inspiring. Some of you may be wondering what made it such a good piece of writing. For me it was the way in which he put himself on the page. He shared the basic truths of what it was that represented his three years in the school. There weren't any phenomenal vocabulary choices, nor had he been a standout student or athlete. He was, I suspect, a pretty ordinary kid. But the truth is that ordinary people do have something to say, and they do often think quite deeply, and they do have opinions and ideas, but we often think that unless we are fantastic at something that we aren't any good all.