Happy *real* Canada Day – and a Canada-related update

July 1st means only one thing – Canada Day! I come from Ottawa, where Canada Day is celebrated in a BIG way, with everyone wearing red and white… if you don’t believe me, check out my photo from last year when I spent Canada Day in my hometown!

It does feel fitting to write this post today, though, considering it’s going to be all about my recent trip! And what an epic trip it was…

The cottage... so inspiring.

The cottage… so inspiring.

First of all, I was able to go back to my old high school, Immaculata, to talk to the grade 7 & 8 students about The Oathbreaker’s Shadow. It was a beautiful summer day, the last week of school, the day before the trip to the local waterpark… but somehow, the students managed to be the perfect audience: attentive and interested, with loads of great questions at the end. It was also a blast to chat to some of my old teachers again, and to wander the halls where I spent many hours… my nose in a book, most likely.

Also while I was in Ottawa, I did a grand tour of several Ottawa bookstores, meeting booksellers and customers, which was so much fun! Cheers to Eduardo, a teen at Chapters Pinecrest who actually fistpumped when he got a signed copy – that made my day times a million. I ended the week with an event at the wonderful Kaleidoscope Books in Ottawa. It was lovely to chat to the booksellers there, and to sign a few books for some really special fans. 

Signing books at Kaleidoscope Book Store in Ottawa

Signing books at Kaleidoscope Book Store in Ottawa

Then it was onwards to Hamilton, where I spent a couple of days with my beautiful and talented friend MF Miller, who is mum to the most gorgeous baby. I showered him with board books (Chu’s Day and The Tiger Who Came To Tea) and I marvelled at how much he had grown! They grow so quickly!

The wonderful MF Miller and the gorgeous baby Felix read Chu's Day

The wonderful MF Miller and the gorgeous baby Felix read Chu’s Day

My time in Toronto was beyond wonderful. I met up with fellow Lucky 13s Amanda Sun (INK) and Eve Silver (RUSH) (HOW did I not get a picture of that?!) for lunch, where we talked non-stop about publishing, books, gaming, Japan, and all number of things… we then went around to ambush Indigo Eaton Centre and the World’s Biggest Book Store, so they ended up with loads of our signed books!

Eve & Amanda's books

Eve & Amanda’s books

Have I mentioned how amazing the Chapters support has been? Stacks of books, all nice and prominent on the tables. It’s super encouraging, and I definitely love Canadian booksellers!

That day, Amanda and I also popped up to see Wattpad, who have to work in one of the most creative offices I’ve ever seen. They have a huge open plan layout, with offices decorated by genre, and a table tennis table instead of a boardroom table! It was nice to see all the praise and love that Wattpad has received scrawled over the walls, and to meet the team behind the vibrant website. If you haven’t added me on Wattpad yet, please do so!

Me and Amanda at Wattpad

Me and Amanda at Wattpad

Toronto was a whirlwind – interviews, stock signings, bookseller lunches, book launches coffees – oh yeah, and a bit of shopping! I attended the Chizine fall book launch, where I met the lovely Peter Halasz, Sandra Kasturi, Madeline Ashby and many more. I hit up my old haunt (now in a new location) Bakka Phoenix, where it was surreal to see my book on the shelf. It was great to meet up again with Chandra from Indigo over delicious Soma hot chocolate, to discuss writing, Twitter, and the wonder of Neil Gaiman. She gave me this AMAZING ‘Hey Girl‘ notebook… how could you not be inspired by this?!

Random House CA also set up a blogger meet-up, which I hosted alongside the awesome Teresa Toten. I read her book about a group of OCD teens The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B with a completely open mind – it’s not my normal kind of read, I’m more of an action-adventure fantasy/dystopian girl! But I absolutely fell head over heels for Adam, the ‘unlikely’ hero, and his growing relationship with fellow-OCD sufferer Robyn. By the last page, I had tears in my eyes – not because it was sad, but because I had grown so tied to the characters that it was emotional to let them go. Such is the power of a great read.

Toronto Bloggers with me and Teresa!

Toronto Bloggers with me and Teresa!

That was an awesome event – I really really love meeting readers, and bloggers are the most voracious kind! A put some names to blogs by meeting many of the bloggers who helped host my Canadian blog tour, and one of them (the lovely Christa!) gave me this amazing Oathbreaker-themed bookmark. Now *that* is awesome.

My Oathbreaker-themed bookmark!

My Oathbreaker-themed bookmark!

My final day included a power lunch with one of my literary heros – Guy Gavriel Kay (I also have the privilege of working on his books in the UK – his latest, River of Stars, coming out in mid-July in the UK). In the Museum Tavern (you should go for the excellent drinks and beautiful copper ceiling), we talked the state of publishing, the state of bookselling, and the state of the drinks (superb). It was an inspiring meal, and cut far too short by my dashing off to my final event in Guelph!

It was a good thing we left when we did – the 1 hour journey turned into a 3-hour trek by thundering rain and long weekend traffic. Thankfully we arrived at The Bookshelf just in time… if you have the chance to visit Guelph, make sure you check out The Bookshelf! Not just a bookstore, it’s a coffee shop, cinema and bar – a true cultural hub for the city. The event was short and sweet, and there should be video of it up soon! Big thanks to my high school friend Jacob and his partner Marcus for making the trip, and to Derek Silver – a fellow Toronto author, who came out to support.

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Then just like that, it was over! It was a great trip, and I couldn’t have asked for a better reception for the book in its home country. Go Canada!

 

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Blog hiatus officially over!

Apologies to followers of the blog for the lack of posts, but I promise there has been a good reason for it!

For the past two weeks, I have been road-tripping around my home country, Canada, starting in Halifax, Nova Scotia and ending in Ottawa, Ontario (with a quick loop via Toronto and Niagara Falls thrown in for good measure!) It’s always a great feeling to go back home, and it was even better to be able to show my friends around some truly beautiful parts of the country. The weather was hot but not too hot – we missed the 45C heatwave, thank god! – and we covered about 4,400km in total.

But enough from me – how about some pictures, I hear you ask? Take a look…

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It’s Over; I’m Home

17 countries. 259 days. Thousands of miles. 67 blog posts. 56 books. 1 stolen wallet. A million new friends. And I’m finally home.

 

I’m writing this from my place in Toronto with only a vague shimmer of a realization of what has happened to me over the past nine months. I have sat down to write this final entry so many times and yet… nothing. Even now I’m fighting the urge to put down the pen and turn on the TV or pour another cup of tea. It’s funny how quickly you settle back down into “life.”

 

The future is uncertain. Maybe that’s the reason I’m so against closing up this past. And although once again I’m going to find myself on the move – to the UK in the fall – there’s no ticket showing me where I’m going to end up and that’s disconcerting. But I am the eternal optimist.

 

I think no matter how much they try to deny it, all travellers are optimists. Only an optimist could stand on the side of the road and know that the next bus, bike, pick-up truck or car will take them to their next destination. Only optimists go alone to the middle of nowhere knowing they are sure to meet a kindred spirit in a bar to stave off the loneliness of “far from home.” Only an optimist can be sure that the very last dollar in their bank account is worth spending on yet another bus ride to yet another place. You have to know it will all work out alright, or else you wouldn’t have left in the first place.

 

Looking back over Sarah and my travel blogs is hilarious – it’s amazing what has changed and what has stayed the same. Team J-A-S broke up early on.  At least half of my original packing list got trashed in Africa and had to be replaced in Australia. We not only made it to the Aussie Open but scored incredible seats. My first reference to Lofty is as “a friend from Stray bus.”  The most useful item I brought with me turned out to be my sarong.

 

One thing I did get right is that this trip changed my life. One thing I got wrong is that this was a “once in a lifetime.” I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve caught the bug! Travel will always be high on my priority list. South America calls, as does China, Japan, the Middle East and most accessibly, Europe. Is that the whole world yet?

 

My favourite country was New Zealand, followed closely by Zimbabwe (just don’t get me started on Mugabe). My favourite city was Cape Town, then Melbourne. The best island was Zanzibar. The best beach Matai Bay in northern NZ. The best dive in Fiji. The most relaxing moment? A tie between gliding through the Okavango Delta in a makoro and having a Thai massage on Chaweng beach. Finally, the scariest moments: standing on the edge of Bloukrans Bridge, rolling a car outside Brisbane and approaching the bone-filled stupa at the Cheung-Ek Killing Fields.

 

I learned so much – how to scuba dive, how to survive in the desert, how to surf, how to sky dive, how to make a killer tom yum gai soup, what to do if a lion/rhino/elephant starts to charge you. The Oasis tour in Africa was fantastic and I made so many friends for life. I would recommend it to anyone. For that matter, I would recommend travelling to everyone.

 

Compared to the hundreds of travellers I met on my trip, it’s not as if I had a more exciting itinerary than anyone; tried harder to get off the beaten track; visited more remote islands and exotic places; felt more alive or been closer to death. Most of them are still going and I am back home. But that’s the beauty of it. I know how accessible the world is, now. It can happen for anyone. It could happen for you, if it’s what you truly want to do.

 

Final words of travel wisdom? Trek towels stink. Exchange books at secondhand stores. Never refuse an invitation. Remember that – just as rules are made to be broken – plans are made to be changed.

 

Always use the hostel kitchen. You never know who you might meet.

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