Showing posts from 2014

A Package from IPFF HQ

Friday December 19, 2014

Mail is fun. Not so much bills, but real mail. Like, "hey, here's a big brown envelope with my name hand-printed on it" mail.
It's even more fun when inside said envelope are mementos from the International Pancake Film Festival. While, sadly, I could not travel to attend the premiere of "The Shrove Tuesday Speech" in Massachusetts last month, festival organizers made sure a little of the silliness came to me:

If you happen to be in Chicago next week, there's a repeat performance of the International Pancake Film Festival taking place this Monday December 22 at FLAT Gallery. There will also be Æbleskivers, which are apparently Danish pancake balls, which I didn't know were a thing, but now that I do know, I have added "eat an Ã†bleskiver" to my lifetime to-do list. If you're available to eat one in Chicago on Monday, please send me all the details

Monday's Event on Facebook:…

"The Shrove Tuesday Speech" at the International Pancake Film Festival

Tuesday Nov 04, 2014

Oh, you read that right. The International Pancake Film Festival.

I've written several times about my love of puppets, and have mentioned my love of lazy mornings. Those lazy mornings usually involve Steve making us crepes or cinnamon buns or yes, very large stacks of pancakes. So when I learned that not only was there was an annual film festival in Massachusetts that was dedicated to all things pancake but that this year, said film festival was particularly seeking animation or puppetry films, well... things happened.

Meet the star of "The Shrove Tuesday Speech", a simple Shakespeare-inspired video which will premiere at the 6th annual International Pancake Film Festival screening on Thursday November 13, 2014 at the The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Unfortunately I don't have the travel budget to pop over to Cambridge, and thus will have to miss my own film festival debut. But if you're in the area you should definitely go ch…

The True Payoff of 24 Hour Playwriting Contests

Sunday October 05, 2014

This weekend I took part in Pat the Dog Theatre Creation's annual 24-Hour Playwriting Contest. At 4 pm on Friday Pat the Dog sent out three prompt words that had to be included in the script and the 30 of us who pre-registered had 24 hours to write and submit a new play. This year's words were tattoo, dig, and butter.

I've read interviews with playwrights who enter these contests with a pretty solidly formed idea of what they're going to write about and then find a way to work the words in. I always do the exact opposite, not giving any thought to my play until the moment those words hit my inbox. On the one hand, that means I always end up with a fairly short one-act, but it also means it's a one-act that I never would have created otherwise.

Not surprisingly, my super-short, unplanned plays have never placed in the various time-based contests I've entered, but participation has paid off in other ways. The 2011 Pat the Dog Contest led t…

Why I Didn't Write a Novel This Weekend (A Post for Pam)

Monday September 01, 2014

This time last year, I was sleep-deprived and beginning to panic. That's because I was in the final 12 hours of my first 3-Day Novel Contest. A few days ago I received a comment on my 2013 3-Day Novel Contest Wrap-Up from Pam Bustin, a Canadian writer who's been doing the contest since 2008 and was wondering if I was going to be doing it again in 2014.

To answer that, let's just say I happily slept in this morning.


Actually, let's say a little more than that.

It took me years to sign up for my first 3-Day Novel Contest because for me, the Labour Day Weekend is usually family time. Last year was an anomaly, but if I had signed up this year it would have been a two-day contest at best.

But I considered doing it anyway. What really stopped me was an ongoing writing problem I have, which I even mentioned in the CBC interview I did about the 2013 3-Day Novel Contest:

That is the hand of one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. Written on his ha…

Interview with an Earth Ranger: Charlotte's Helping Bring Back the Wild

Friday July 4, 2014

I must have been around nine years old when I grabbed a coffee can and my friend from next door and, clutching a newspaper article about efforts to save the Peregrine falcon, went door-to-door seeking donations. I have no idea how much money we raised that day, but I do remember being intimidated by a barking dog and discouraged by some ill-tempered neighbours.
It's natural for kids to want to get involved in causes they care about, but sometimes it's rough going it alone. That's why I'm always excited to see ads for Bring Back the Wild, an ongoing campaign from the GTA-based organization Earth Rangers. By signing up with Bring Back the Wild online, kids can safely raise money and awareness to support animals who are threatened by habitat loss. Every year, Earth Rangers identifies four species that are in danger, providing information on the challenges the animal faces and how fundraising* can help. Kids can choose the animal they'd like to campa…

An Unfortunate Demonstration of Why Nature Education Matters (Sam Smith Bird Festival 2014)

Sunday May 25, 2014

For the most part, I was glad there were children between us and the snakes.

They weren't there in a human-shield kind of way - the snakes weren't dangerous and the kids weren't that coordinated anyway. When Steve and I first approached the Sciensational Sssnakes!! display at Saturday's Spring Bird Festival in Sam Smith Park, we were both pleased and disappointed by the size of the crowd. Pleased, because it was wonderful to see so many children interested in learning about the frog, turtles, and snakes that nature educator Jenny Pearce had on hand, but disappointed because it didn't seem like we were going to get a chance to personally reconnect with Ross, the Everglades rat snake Steve had so enjoyed hanging out with last year.

We watched the kids for a few minutes and I was impressed by how careful they were not to hurt the snakes, as per Pearce's instructions. Then Steve and I continued on, looking at displays from many wonderful organiz…

"Nature Break" featuring Squirrel and Owl

Monday April 21, 2014

I really enjoyed going to the TIFF Kids International Film Festival, but after more than a week straight spent inside dark theaters watching movies or inside bright theaters watching panel discussions, it was time to spend some time outside.

One of the first things I saw on today's nature jaunt was a red squirrel. I've seen them before in the park, but not very often and not for a long time, so this made for a great start.

Then there were many of the usual suspects for this time of year. A grackle took time to pose on a rock for me, I pestered a robin while he/she was in the bath, and the red-winged black birds were out in force:

I also saw Northern flickers, a night heron, plenty of tree swallows, a brown creeper, lots of ducks and geese and sparrows, and heard a woodpecker. It had been a very nice walk and I was ready to go home when a passing young couple noticed my camera and I heard the woman say "Tell her about the owl!"

And so they did.


2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Regret! (Spijt!)"

Sunday April 20, 2014

I was surprised yesterday when I heard that the Dutch film Regret! won the TIFF Kids Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film. I saw Regret! on the first weekend of TIFF Kids 2014, and it immediately became the first film I would name when people asked if I'd seen anything good. It's an incredibly well-made movie about bullying gone too far, with a nicely balanced script (adapted from a novel) and effortless performances from a cast of talented young actors.

The Story
David (Robin Boissevain) knows it isn't right that his mild and out-of-shape classmate Jochem (Stefan Collier) is the constant target of pranks and ridicule. But Sanne (Charlotte Bakker) and her small group of followers are unrelenting, even when David makes feeble attempts to intervene. David's crush Vera (Dorus Witte) does a better job of standing up for Jochem, but she becomes a target because of her friendship.

With no help coming from a teacher (Dave Mantel) who seems more i…

2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Felix"

Sunday April 20, 2014

This is another place-holder post to recommend "Felix" from South Africa, which won the TIFF Kids Festival Jury Award Ages 8-10  and so will get an additional screening tomorrow (Monday April 21)!  Of course I also recommend both of the other feature-length award winners that screen again on Monday, "Regret!" and "Side by Side". Take your pick - you can't lose!

Felix lives with his widowed mother and his two younger siblings in a lower-income community in South Africa. He dreams of being a jazz musician like his father, and his acceptance-with-scholarship to a private school seems set to offer new musical opportunities along with academic ones. But after losing her husband due to his hard-living musician's lifestyle, Felix's mother is distraught by her eldest son's dreams and makes Felix choose between exploring his talent and remaining part of the family.
Felix is a lively, energetic and colourful movie with heart. All…

2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Side by Side"

Sunday April 20, 2014

This is a place-holder post, as I'm heading out to do family Easter things shortly, but I want to recommend "Side by Side" from the UK, which won the TIFF Kids Festival Jury Award Ages 11-13  and so will get an additional screening tomorrow (Monday April 21)!  That said, I also recommend both of the other feature-length award winners which will screen on Monday, "Regret!" and "Felix". Take your pick - they're all great!

"Side by Side" is about a brother and sister whose lives are in upheaval and set out on a quest together across the Scottish countryside. Unlike many sibling relationships in kids movies (which are often either antagonistic or buddy-buddy/ying-yang/perfect-partner-crime-solving-duo), "Side by Side" offers a fun and realistic look at siblings who can at once love and hate each other. They are both baffled by the choices their sibling makes, and yet offer each other the best chance they have a…

Video: Peggy's Easter Song

Saturday April 19, 2014

Yes, I realize the Easter weekend has already started, but Peggy had a last-minute idea for a "When I'm Gone (Cups)" parody, and she wouldn't take no for an answer. So Steve and I helped her put this together late last night:

The Lyrics
"You've got your chocolate and your jelly beans
Your basket's filled with plastic straw
But before you eat your sweet Easter treats
Why don't you grab a chicken egg and start to draw?

Easter song, Easter song
I'm gonna sing my Easter song
That silly bunny has to wait
'Cause we've got eggs to decorate.
I'm gonna sing my Easter song.

Gather your family and hard-boil eggs
Then draw the wax design you please
You dunk it down in coloured dye
You let it soak then let it dry
You can buy gifts but you can't buy more memories.

Easter song, Easter song...
Can chickens sing an Easter song?
Can I sing or will I cluck?
Can I sing or just BUH-GUCK?
Well I already sang my Easter song!


2014 TIFF Kids Feature: "Giraffada"

Thursday April 10, 2014

The 2013 film Giraffada is the story of a giraffe-obsessed boy and his veterinarian father, who spend their days caring for plants, animals, and each other while living in the occupied West Bank.

Young Ziad (Ahmad Bayatra) doesn't fit in with other children, but he's lucky enough to have close contact with Rita and Brownie, the giraffes who live at the Qalqilya Zoo where his father Yacine (Saleh Bakri) is on staff. Yacine struggles to do what's best for his animal charges, constantly butting heads against a zoo manager who saves money by painting a donkey to look like a zebra, expecting bears to survive on carrots, and providing his vet with out-of-date medications.

When a nearby attack leads to tragedy inside the zoo, Yacine has to promise Ziad a miracle that he's not sure he can deliver. With the help of a French photo-journalist and an Israeli zoo vet, they challenge checkpoints and risk everything to give Rita a reason to live.

Considering i…

TIFF Kids 2014 Feature Documentary: "School of Babel"

Tuesday April 08, 2014

Directed by Julie Bertuccelli, School of Babel (La Cour de Babel) is a 2013 observational documentary from France. It focuses on one year in teacher Brigitte Cervoni's "reception class" ("une classe d’accueil") at La Grange-aux-Belles school in Paris.

The reception class serves as a landing ground and safe haven for students who have arrived in France with a limited (or completely absent) understanding of the language. The students are anywhere from 11 to 15 years old, but far more striking than the age range are the differences in their lives before they arrived in their new home. They come from all over the world - Northern Ireland, England, Chile, Brazil, Mauritania, China, Serbia, the Ukraine, and elsewhere. There are refugees and asylum seekers, a boy whose family moved for economic reasons and a girl who was sent away by her mother to escape oppression and abuse from her father's side of the family. One talented young cellist is…

It's the TIFF Kids Time of Year

Monday April 07, 2014

Assuming I don't sleepily smash my alarm clock to little bits, I'll be out the door nice and early tomorrow to get to the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the first morning of the 2014 TIFF Kids International Film Festival. Formerly known as Sprockets, TIFF Kids offers screenings and events for children and young teens, plus industry events for the people who work, study, or are trying to break into the world of kids media.

I attended the festival for the first time last year and was blown away by both the films and the sessions I attended - unfortunately my decision to register came at the last minute, so I didn't set aside time to prepare beforehand or blog after the fact. But this year my notebook and I are ready*, so expect a lot of posts about kids movies from around the world over the next two weeks.

Got kids? Got a whole class of kids? Just like movies that are made for kids? Check out for this year's full s…

A Too Long 3-Day Novel Wrap-Up, 6 Months Later

Tuesday April 1, 2014

(This blog post is epic, and probably only of interest to my mom. If you just want my 3-Day Novel Contest take-away tips for writers, you can skip down to the "Suggestions" section.)

Well, the shortlist for the 2013 3-Day Novel Contest is out and I'm not on it, which is what I was expecting.

I really like the story I started that weekend, but having read many of the winning 3-Day Novels over the past few years, I knew mine didn't have a chance of winning. It was too short, too scattered, and simply felt incomplete. If you haven't read any of those books, you should - it's astonishing what people have created in three days.* (I recommend In the Garden of Men. Or Socket. Or Struck. Or Snowmen, Heidegger Stairwell, The Convictions of Leonard of McKinley...).  I held out a small hope for an Honourable Mention/shortlisting (because hey, who knows, right?), but I always figured that was a long-shot as well.

So I was going to blog about what'…