Kootenays Tour: Day 1

I spent all day yesterday driving from Vancouver to Nelson, BC on the first day of the B.C. Book Prizes Kootenays book tour.  Bryan Pike and Kathryn Para picked me up at about 7:10 a.m. and we drove to Chilliwack for our first school visit.  Bryan is the tour organizer, driver, promoter, and the possessor of a great (and eclectic) music collection that provided the sound track to day 1 of our road trip.  Kathryn is the author of Lucky, one of the finalists for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. Both were lovely travel companions, who were extremely tolerant of my near-constant questions, peppered with the occasional anecdote about my children.  (What’s that?  What do you think that is? Hey, what are those mountains called?  Let me tell you something cute / smart that my child did the other day.)

I spent much of the day wishing my cell phone network extended throughout the province so I could ask my cell phone questions, and stop harassing my fellow travelers.  For instance, here are some questions that occurred to me:

  • Where exactly is Nelson?  Turns out it’s in the Western Kootenays, or (in terms that our friends to the south would understand) — just north of where Washington State meets Montana.  If we had driven straight it would have been about a nine hour drive.  With stops it took us about fourteen hours.
  • Why does Princeton, BC have so many motels and short term residences?  Does this have something to do with mining?  (Probably not – a brief Google search has suggested that Princeton’s main business is now the sawmill, so I’m guessing the motels and such cater to loggers.)
  • What are these mountains called that we’re driving through?  (The first bit were the Cascades.  Still not sure about the second bit, as Wikipedia claims that the Cascades end with Princeton, BC.)
  • Is it just me, or do the hillsides in the interior of BC, where the Okanagan meets the Kootenays look a lot like the green, tree-scattered, hillsides in the Settlers of Catan?  (Definitely yes.)
  • What’s that big smokestack surrounded by huge mounds of gravel?  It looked like a cross between a power plant and a cement factory.

In the course of the day we drove through forests, over mountains, past bits of deserts, rivers, creeks and frozen lakes.  We saw quite a few grazing animals, including sheep, cows, deer, and llamas.  Here’s a photo from the parking lot of the high school in Princeton where Kathryn presented.  (Kathryn has been presenting at the high schools, while I do the elementary or middle schools.)

The view from Princeton, BC

The view from Princeton, BC

Yesterday I presented at the Vermilion Forks Elementary School in Princeton, and the Bernard Elementary School in Chilliwack.  Here’s a photo Brian took of me with some of the students.

Ari & students, post presentation

Ari & students, post presentation

I had about a hundred students at each school events.  Both events were lively and enthusiastic and the students asked a ton of great questions.  Both were pretty big assemblies held in schools’ gyms, but somehow the acoustics worked – maybe because the students were good at listening to each other’s questions (and my answers) quietly.

I went to sleep last night still pondering some of their questions, in particular ‘what inspired me to be a writer?’  I get that question at every reading I do, and each time my answer changes.  Not because I’m a liar, but because there’s a lot of different true answers to the question.

Today, we will only do about 4 hours of driving, visiting schools in Nelson and Creston, before arriving in today’s destination of Fernie.  I’m going to try to post again tomorrow.

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A Princess Story Giveaway / Celebration

Okay, the title may be somewhat misleading.  What I mean is I want to celebrate The Path of Names‘ recent nomination for two awards, and the way I want to celebrate it is by giving away a silly retelling of Snow White I did a few years ago, back when I thought it was in my power to keep my eldest daughter from hearing the traditional version of princess stories.

First the awards.  I’m super excited to announce that in the past few weeks The Path of Names  has been nominated for both the Diamond Willow Award and the Sheila A Egoff Prize in Children’s Literature.  The Diamond Willow award is an award where lots of Saskatchewan school children read The Path of Names and (hopefully) vote on it to receive the Diamond Willow.  The Sheila A. Egoff Prize  is the BC book prize for children’s literature (and so, as far as I know, involves not even one Saskatchewan schoolchild.)

Now for the princess story giveaway.

I have two daughters, and over the last few years I’ve occasionally been called upon to tell the odd princess story.  However, as some of you may remember, the traditional princess story is sometimes a little… well … sexist.  Lookist.  Not too mention just gross.  (As in the scene in Snow White where the prince begs the dwarves to let him take home Snow White’s (apparently) dead body.  Just because she’s so beautiful.)

When my eldest daughter was younger and at the height of her princess preoccupation, I used to deal with this by simply changing the words of the stories.  Then, one day, a few hours before my mother was scheduled to babysit her, I realized my mother would read her the words to the Snow White story.  The real words.  Where Snow White is appreciated only for her beauty (rather than her juggling skill, as in my version.)  Where trees are frightening apparitions (rather than sad creatures who wish Snow White would teach them how to juggle.)  Where Snow White cooks and cleans for the dwarves (rather than juggling their cooking implements).

In short, I had to do something.  So I jotted down my version of “Snow White The Juggler,” printed it out and pasted it over the words in her story book.  From my current vantage point as the overemployed father of three, my main thought looking back, is ‘God, I used to have so much free time.’

In that spirit, I thought other harried parents may find the attached file useful.  Feel free to modify it as you wish.

The Story of Snow White the Juggler

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Talking the Talk(s)

November has been a busy month for me — I’ve done events for The Path of Names at six schools, one book store and one symposium at UBC’s Green College.  (All while teaching three courses, etc. etc.)

I finished up my November events today with a morning reading / interactive event with  the fourth graders at Vancouver Talmud Torah (part of Vancouver’s Jewish Book Festival).  The students were everything you want in your audience: smart, engaged, interested, and filled with good ideas.  So engaged, in fact, that I forgot to give out bookmarks at the end, as I was too busy trying to answer any remaining questions.  Doh!  If any VTT people read this, let me know and I will drop off a thwack of bookmarks with you.

The highlight for me, as usual, was when I got to the parts in my presentation where I asked, ‘what do you think was going on here? / what do you think will happen next?’   I love hearing what students  think is going to happen.  Either they’re pretty much on the money (in which case I  congratulate myself on doing a good job foreshadowing) or their suggestions are totally different than what actually happens (in which case I generally think, ‘you’re right — that would have been cool…’)

I’m writing this in part, because I told the students today that I sometimes show school groups pictures.  We didn’t have the computer projector today, and quite a few students seemed interested, so I promised I would post some of the pictures I would have shown.  Here are two:

Map final jpegaerial photo of camp

I usually put these up on the computer projector and then say, “This first picture is a map of Camp Arava in The Path of Names (drawn by the extremely talented Julie Esris).  This second picture is an aerial photo of the camp in Pennsylvania where I grew up.  Do you notice any similarities?”

Other pictures I post are very slightly different versions of the book’s cover, and some pictures of me as a kid at camp.  When I show students the picture below, I ask them to try guessing which camper is me.  I don’t think I look that different, but apparently I’m wrong.  What do you think?

KMBet 88

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The Best Writing Advice That No One Ever Listens To

It seems to me that you start getting a particular line of advice from a very early age.   Not just about writing, about everything:  focus on the process, not the outcome.

I remember a grade school teacher very early on instructing us, “Don’t ask each other what grade you got on the test, ask ‘what are you learning?'” The idea being, she wanted us more concerned with the learning process, and less concerned with the outcome.  Naturally, we ignored her, though maybe we kept our voices a little lower when we turned to each other after each test.

Similarly, when I was a kid playing soccer, my coach (like every kids’ soccer coach ever) told us something like:  ‘it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.’  Naturally, we ignored him, too.

I think there are at least two reasons this advice is so universally ignored:

a)      They obviously don’t really mean it.  If our math teacher didn’t want us to care about the grade we got on a test, why bother grading them? (Instead of just, say, telling us what we did right and what we did wrong on each question).  As far as playing soccer, honestly, if it’s just about how you play the game, why do people keep score?

b)   Even more importantly (as a reason to ignore this advice) is it’s so darn hard.  It’s so much easier to care about the outcome than to focus on the messy, painful, process.

The thing is, as a writer I’ve found that I have to dig up that stupid advice and listen to it.

It didn’t come up much before I published THE PATH OF NAMES.  I liked writing, so I wrote. The outcome…  Well, there wasn’t any outcome aside from the writing itself.  Sure, I occasionally published a short story, but the money and attention I got for that were so miniscule that they didn’t ripple my writing stride.

After publishing a novel, though, suddenly there were all these outcomes out there.  People were buying and reviewing my book. THE PATH OF NAMES has received generally good reviews, but not quite good enough for me (e.g. I haven’t been acclaimed the new genius of middle grade literature).  I got some attention for it, but not quite enough (e.g. I wasn’t immediately offered a three movie deal).  Worse, when I sat down to write my next book, I had a lingering concern about how people would receive my new work.  It didn’t exactly get in the way of writing. More precisely, it got in the way of enjoying writing.

So I have had to gently nudge myself back into focusing on the process, and not worrying about the outcome too much.

I’m not aiming to achieve the Buddhist ideal of detachment.  (Although, listen, that would be awesome.  Forget writing, people would come study at my feet.  I’d probably be on Oprah.  If Oprah still had a show.  Forget Oprah, I’d have my own talk show.   Yeah, and a line of magazines.  And look, here’s a picture of me standing on my head.  Could an unenlightened person do that?)


See, what I mean?   It’s hard to stay focused on the process.  But you pretty much have to try.  And you don’t necessarily have to stand on your head.  Though, I don’t know, it probably doesn’t hurt.

p.s.  Oprah fans — please understand I was just joking when I wrote ‘Forget Oprah.’    Never forget Oprah.

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My Next Startup

Rich, I’m going to be rich I tell you.

Not because of writing, at least not in the immediate future.  But I have come up with an idea that I’m pretty sure will make me a millionaire.

The University of Michigan recently released a study showing that the use of Facebook makes people depressed.  (Don’t cancel your FB account yet (if that’s even still possible) there are some problems with the study, see here.))  The researchers suggested that it’s depressing to see the great things your friends are doing when you’re sitting at home looking at Facebook.  The problem being that most FB posts aren’t about sitting at home alone looking at FB — they’re about ‘Great view of the Alps’ or ‘ ‘Check out this great view of the Great Wall of China as I rappel down something cool.’  Or, ‘look at my child doing something cute.’  etc.

One of the things which contributes to all this is the idea that we’re generally expected to present a positive side of ourselves online (with the exception of comments sections, which as far as I can tell, are where all the rage and hatred in our society are meant to be channeled.)

I ran into this recently when I wrote a guest post for my publisher’s website in part about the things I DON’T like in YA and MG fiction.  After seeing my post, they very gently and graciously suggested it might be better if I posted it on my own website, as they try to keep a more upbeat (which I read as ‘less embittered and filled with hate’) tone on their website. Instead they were kind enough to post a Q & A with me, which you can see here.

So here’s the suggestion which I believe will make me a millionaire:  a social networking site where you can only post sad events, or setbacks in your life.  Call it:  Sadface.

You get dumped?  Go online and you’ll see that one of your friends just got in a bike accident and broke their hand.  Flub a job interview, check out Sadface, and you’ll see that half a dozen of your friends have been unemployed for months longer than you.  Instead of updates, we’ll call them down-dates.  Instead of a like button, there’ll be a ‘I’m so sorry’ button.

Any venture capitalists out there, get in touch.


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July is over, and there’s very little trace

July is over and there’s very little trace

of it, though the Bastille fell on its face—

and August’s gotten orange, it will drop on

the edge of the world like a worm-eaten sun.

-Frank O’Hara

The other night, I was putting my daughter to bed and she asked me, “Why is it so dark?” She’d gotten used to the long summer evenings  we get up here past the 49th parallel.  But here it was, 8:30 and already mostly dark.  The leaves are falling, the ice cream truck’s tinny song has a little edge of desperation.  Somehow, the summer is almost over.

I had big plans for my blog this summer.  Just as a for example — I was going to blog every day for three weeks starting June 30.  (June 30 being the first day of camp in The Path of Names.)  The idea was that I would blog every day that The Path of Names has Dahlia at summer camp.  My blog entries would hilariously evoke the summer camp experience, interweaving with the events in The Path of Names.  I also had ideas about inviting my friends and readers to write about their summer camp memories, striking while the nostalgia was iron hot.

And here it is, August 19 and this is my first blog since (okay:  this is embarrassing) …  May 13.  More than three months.  In my defense, I’ve been busy.  Busy working on a new book. (Although not enough, never enough).  Busy chasing and being chased by my children.  Busy preparing for the fall semester of teaching.  Pretty much everything except blogging.

I did write two blog entries for other people.  One for the Nerdy Book Club (which you can find here) and one for the Scholastic ‘On Our Minds’ blog (which has yet to be posted.)

During my long silence, I’ve been reviewed by three of the big daily newspapers in Canada and most of the publishing industry’s review journals.  That has been super fun (and, okay, occasionally a little mystifying).  You can find a selected list on my website here.

Also very fun: I’ve received a bunch of pictures from my friends of their kids reading The Path of Names.  See below.  And, no, I can’t believe that my friends have kids that old, either.  Not when I’m barely turned thirty.  (Okay, thirty-five.  Thirty-seven max.)  Anyway, allegedly none of these were staged.   In that light, I’m especially a fan of the one taken in the super market.

P of N reader1 P of N reader2 P of N reader 3

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Events, Readings and Appearances (real life and online)


I read at the Vancouver launch of The Path of Names. (photo by John Goldsmith)

May 3 (online):  Elisabeth Dahl, author of Genie Wishes, interviews me for the Lucky 13 Blog.

May 8,  7 p.m.:  Vancouver Book Launch.  Hosted by KidsBooks in Vancouver at 3083 West Broadway.  (The above picture was taken at this event by John Goldsmith. You can find more pictures on John’s website, here.

May 15 (online):  I’m featured on the Society for Young Inklings blog.  There’s an interview with me, and a writing challenge I contributed.  (I adopted  the writing challenge from an exercise the author, Octavia Butler, gave to a workshop that I participated in when I was a young(er) inkling myself.

May 17 (online):  I’m featured on the Haunting of Orchid Forsythia website.  I answer questions like:  what’s the best part of writing?  what’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you at summer camp?

May 19 (online):  My editor, Cheryl Klein posts an interview with me on her blog here.

May 20 (online):  Tamera Wissinger, author of Gone Fishing, interviews me for the Smack Dab in the Middle Blog.

May 24 (online):  A guest post on the ‘I Like Books’ website.  Ari Goelman interviews Ari Goelman in the no-holds-barred interview event of the century.  Or at least of the midweek.  Find it here.

May 28, 7 p.m.:  A ‘Chat Up the Author’ event at Cafe V in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.   This one is cosponsored by Camp Galil (my old summer camp).  Thanks to Galil’s Ilana Goldfus and my friend, Ross Berkowitz, for helping to pull this together.  More information here.

May 29, 7 p.m.:  An event at the Upper Merion Township Library in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania – this was my library growing up.  I’m really looking forward to returning there with my own book.

June 3:  Two minutes to sell my book at an event sponsored by the Jewish Book Council in New York City.  The event has been described as speed dating for books.  I think the idea is like the guy is a book and the girl is a Jewish book festival.  Or maybe they’re both girls, but one isn’t sure about leaping into another relationship and hey, isn’t there more to life than romantic relationships?  While the other one is super keen but trying not to push too fast.  Or maybe they’re both guys, but one has mixed feelings about the whole institution of marriage, while the other — okay, okay.  You get the point.

June 4, 6-8 p.m.:   New York City book launch, sponsored by my publisher, Arthur A. Levine (Scholastic.)  This will be at Books of Wonder at 18 w. 18th Street (between 5th and 6th Avenues).   I am super excited to finally meet my editor, Cheryl Klein, in person.  Not to mention to see my New York people.

June 5, 2013, Early morning:  I do a reading at the New York City public school PS / IS 276.  Very excited for this — they’ve invited me to address their assembly of something like 150 kids.  (Thanks to my sister for arranging this!)

I’ll add details and new events as they become clear.  (There are a few events / interviews that are taking shape even now.  (I mean, depending on when you read this.  If you’ve discovered this file on a computer two hundred years in the future, as civilization lies in tatters around you, chances are there aren’t any additional interviews in the pipeline.))

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4 Days Until Publication!

Well, five in the U.S.  For some reason The Path of Names is coming out on April 30 in Canada and on May 1 in the U.S.

In the meantime, I’m keeping busy grading final exams, cleaning up after my sick babies, and posting the flier below, inviting people to my Vancouver book launch on May 8.

The good people at Scholastic Canada designed the invite on my behalf, and I love it.  Not least because it contains the phrase ‘An Evening With Ari Goelman.’  So by implication, I will be spending an evening out.   Unless the idea is I go to the bookstore and clean up after sick babies.

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The Path of Names gets a starred review from Booklist!

The Path of Names Cover

Yesterday I heard from my editor that The Path of Names got a starred review from the magazine Booklist.  Hurray!  Then, this morning I woke up to find that The Path of Names got a very nice, very intelligent review in The Quill and Quire, which is sort of the Canadian publishing industry’s version of Booklist or Publisher’s Weekly.  Neither of these reviews are posted on the Internet yet, so you’ll have to take my word for them at this point.  I’ll post links when they are made public / free.   That said, somehow a snippet of The Quill and Quire review has already made it onto  The Path of Names’ Amazon.com page.  Read it here.  (Scroll down to the editorial reviews section.)


So what’s the big deal?   As I understand it (based on my exhaustive research (by which I mean a four minute Google search carried out via cell phone)), there are a handful of  periodicals that cater to various segments of the publishing industry.   Booklist, for instance, particularly caters to librarians, the idea being that they’ll read the starred review and be more likely to order a copy of The Path of Names for their library.  The idea is that though these periodicals don’t have the biggest circulations, their readers are influential – book buyers for bookstores, librarians, reviewers for newspapers and bigger magazines, etc.  (Most of this information is cribbed from this ten-year-old Slate piece, but what are the chances anything has changed in the publishing industry in the last ten years?)  

Okay.  So that’s why this is a big deal.  The other reason it’s nice is, well… Come on.  It’s nice when anybody likes a story of mine.

The reviews are also an exciting sign that the publication date is almost upon us.  After I read the review in Q & Q, it occurred to me that at this point, nineteen days before The Path of Names’ release, my novel has already been read by a few dozen people. By my calculations, this is almost exactly a few dozen more people than will ever read any of my academic publications.

Speaking of the imminent launch of The Path of Names, I will post soon about my book launch events (in Vancouver and New York City), plus some additional events I’m doing in Philadelphia and maybe even Bethesda (I’m going to Bethesda for a teaching conference but may fit in some book events before or after.)  This next post will include the beautiful flier that the good people at Scholastic Canada produced for my Vancouver event.

Nineteen days left until publication…

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57 Days Left — THE PATH OF NAMES Has a Release Date!

 A few days ago my editor let me know that The Path of Names will be released on May 1, 2013!

That’s right.  Fifty seven days from now, my baby will be on the book shelves.  And I will say, “Mister, please climb down from there, it’s not safe.”  And I’ll pick him up and bring him into the kitchen to try interesting him in banging pots on the floor.  Meanwhile, my other baby will be taking her socks off.   And all the while, The Path of Names will be on sale in bookstores and websites everywhere.

As you can see, I’m a little giddy at the thought.  Given my lifelong love of bookstores and libraries, the idea that my book will be on the shelves with … like real books, seems wholly delightful to me.

This might be a good time to mention how to buy The Path of Names.  It already has an ISBN: 978-0545474306. With these 13 digits you can preorder from whatever online or real life book store you like.

At some point soon  I will put up information about my micro book tour of the East Coast.  I have a professional development conference for my day job in Washington D.C. at the end of May, and a book launch in NYC in early June.  In between, I’ll be doing some readings and classroom visits.  More details to follow!

The Path of Names Cover

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