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Gracie video coming soon

Author Heather Conn had a lot of fun in March doing a book reading at Woods Showcase in Gibsons, BC. Hubby Frank came along as the puppet meister and the duo entertained about a dozen kids and adults. One lucky volunteer in the front row got to ring the bells on an orange goldfish percussion instrument every time that Heather read Gracie’s line “Gotta go, gotta go, I’m a goldfish on the go.”

The event was videotaped and will be available on this website and on the Gracie’s Got a Secret Facebook page. Watch for it soon.

Budding authors in Seattle

Donna in Seattle

While in Seattle recently for a conference, I introduced Gracie to seven-year-old Donna, who was staying at my hotel with her family. She and her brother were using the computers provided in the lobby. They both said that they wanted to become writers, so I encouraged them to write down their ideas in a notebook so that they wouldn’t forget them.

They kept asking me: “Are you a real writer?” I insisted that I was. They seemed incredulous, as if they could never meet such a person in the flesh. I felt like a rock star. It was great to hear them rattle off ideas for characters and to share in their enthusiasm. They wanted to know all about getting a book published and were excited at the prospect. I didn’t want to explain the stack of rejection letters that I had received.

Who knows? Maybe one or both of them will be an author some day.

Gracie, meet Grace

I recently received a lovely note from Grace McCarthy, former B.C. cabinet minister, after she had read Gracie’s Got a Secret. I had spontaneously decided to give her a copy of the book, about her namesake, after speaking to her in a dentist’s office. (You can read more about our encounter on Here’s what she said:

“Your book, Gracie’s Got a Secret is so great. I’ve read it right through, and love the message. It is truly inspiring. Many thanks. Do hope our paths will cross again. . . with all good wishes as you continue to inspire.”

I’m touched by her thoughtful thanks. In this era of digital media, it’s still wonderful to receive a personalized card and hand-written message. Thank you, Grace.

Gracie, meet Dorothy the Goldfish

Goldfish sure get around. Every week, I keep learning about new goldfish worlds. Somebody told me about Dorothy the Goldfish, who appears on Elmo’s World. Remember “Tickle Me” Elmo from Sesame Street? Of course, I had to check this out on YouTube.

I found Elmo hugging Dorothy’s fishbowl and sharing his love with her in the short video “Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays.” “Cute” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

As a neophyte filmmaker, Elmo creates a mini-movie of Dorothy in her bowl, complete with wavy, hand-held camera angles, called “Dorothy in Water.”

The best one is the creature-filled world that Dorothy imagines from inside her goldfish bowl. The alligator and elephant in the song “Tickle Me Land” aren’t nearly as sweet as Lillian’s Mopey and Nellie, though.

I still like Gracie’s world much better. Am I biased? Yup.

Gracie needs no dolphin training techniques

Curious to find other goldfish books on the Internet, I recently came across some wacky and intriguing titles in a variety of genres:

  • The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish
  • Do Goldfish Gallop?
  • Molly the Goldfish Fairy
  • Memoirs of a Goldfish
  • How to Bury a Goldfish: and other ceremonies and celebrations for everyday life
  • Punky Dunk and the Goldfish
  • Goldie the Goldfish (some people have called my character “Goldie” by mistake)
  • My Cat Is In Love With the Goldfish
  • The Two-Thousand Pound Goldfish
  • The Giant Goldfish Robbery
  • Why Goldfish Never Die and so on.

My favourite was the title How to Train Goldfish Using Dolphin Training Techniques by C. Scott Johnson. Gracie doesn’t need such education — after all, she can fly.Ā  In Hollywood, they use wranglers (trainers/handlers) for every creature from horses to maggots, so maybe they even have them for goldfish. I’d love to meet one. Can’t imagine a real goldfish twirling a ball on its nose, can you?

“There is a magic in a book for children. Your book has this magic too”

After receiving a copy of Gracie’s Got a Secret for his birthday, my uncle Don, in his mid-80s, sent me a typed letter. Here’s what he wrote:

“A long time, more than 80 years ago, Hart family [my mother’s side] had a children’s book. It was a marvelous book. It was created by your grandmother’s best friend and roommate while she attended classes at Mac Hall [at the University of Guelph, Ont., Canada]. The book did not seem to be anything very special. It started with a 5 cent “HUGE” scribbler, the kind little children took to school to write out their lessons. (These were tough times, money was scarce.) As I remember, all the printing and drawing was done with pencils and wax crayons.

“I don’t remember if the material used was conventional as in ‘Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was white as snow”

Or was it all original verses with the pictured colored? Some of it was certainly original. ‘And the Swallermareezeres that swallered themselves.’

“I can’t remember the rest. That much was certainly original. It was my favourite and I heard it every night. . . It’s strange, but that is the only thing that I remember from the whole book . . .

“The old scribbler gradually fell apart from all of the little hands that wanted to hold it. It was sort of like shuffling a deck of cards to get all of the pages back in place.

“There is magic in a book for children. Your book has this magic too. . .”

Love, Uncle Don

Grandparents promote reading with Gracie

This past weekend, while selling my Gracie books at Sunnycrest Mall in Gibsons, BC, I had many heart-warming conversations with grandparents. (I was part of the Christmas Craft Fair, the featured writer of Woods Showcase.) They told me how much they enjoyed sharing the act of reading with their grandchildren and witnessing the youngsters’ pleasure in discovering words, language, and storytelling.

This gave me renewed hope that the intimate act of sharing a book aloud will not die in this era of ebooks and Kindles. It also reminded me of how much I enjoyed having my mom read aloud to me when I was young. That’s how I learned to love books. I think that might have sparked my desire to become a writer.

I was surprised how many grandparents bought a book for their grandchild who was only a few months old. One grandmother even bought a book for her unborn grandchild! One doting grandfather bought the book to keep at home when his four grandkids visit; I signed the book to all of them, as he requested.

When a mother asked me to sign the book for her daughter Gracie, I shared a story about my niece Elizabeth. As a young tot, she was thrilled when my sister read her Robert Munch’s The Paperbag Princess because the name of the main character was Elizabeth. What a thrill for a child to have the same name as a book’s hero. I hope that my book gives the little girl Gracie similar pleasure.

Overall, I heard and experienced how much parents and grandparents can love their little ones. That, too, gives me hope for humanity.

Thanks to everyone who bought my book and to The Local for a wonderful review.

Gracie’s swimming through Skype

A friend of mine just told me this morning that he’s been reading my book on Skype to his “honorary granddaughter” in Gatineau, Que. Here’s what he had to say:

“She gets her face right up to the camera on her end while I read, then I show her the pictures of Gracie as I go through the book. I put the book close to the camera so that she can see Gracie and her compadres. If I wiggle the book a bit, it seems like Gracie is swimming.

“Now, whenever I connect to Fatoumata, she demands that I pull out Gracie. Since Fatou is only two, I have to shorten your words to keep her attention. She just loves Gracie and this is giving us a wonderful way to stay connected to Fatou and her mom, Julia. You had better get busy cranking out another book so that I will have something to go to when Fatou finally wants more.”

What a wonderful way to connect with a child who’s living far away. I still remember many illustrated books that my mother read to me when I was young. Storytelling is a gift to all ages.

Gracie’s travelling!

My Gracie book has been out for a few weeks now, and so far, someone has bought a copy for a friend in Australia. Another friend will be taking the book to Cuba with her and leaving it there to help locals learn English. My husband has taken her to Massachusetts and she’ll be in a pediatrician office on the east coast. I’m delighted to know that Gracie is expanding her reach beyond British Columbia and Canada.

If you end up taking or sending Gracie to another country, please let me know. I’d love to hear about it. Or send me a photo of you or your friend with the book there and I’ll post it on the site. Thanks.

What’s Gracie’s secret?

This past weekend, Gracie had her public debut at the Sunshine Coast Arts Crawl. It was fun to do some mini-readings at The Gumboot Cafe, as part of The Writers’ Hub event. I read the first few pages of the book, stopping when Gracie met a mysterious voice in the dark. I enjoyed introducing Gracie to young and old who stopped at my display table. The young ones particularly liked the Gracie puppet that I had on hand. (To find out more about The Writers’ Hub and to see photos of the event, check out my blog post.)

I also got a chance to see the delightful storytelling show put on at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre by two talented local performers, John Conway (“The Green Man”) and Jean-Pierre Makosso. About 40 youngsters and their parents sat on the floor inside the semi-circular room, which had been transformed into an ancient forest with a giant tree in the centre. The two playful storytellers engaged the crowd with interactive tales, sound effects, and hand gestures, inviting children from the audience to pretend they were animals such as a giraffe, elephant, and monkey. The message of the two stories was that tiny seeds grow into something wonderful, and that before taking down a tree, you need to ask permission, because trees are made up of many kings, queens, princes and princesses. This show was a wonderful treat as part of the Sunshine Coast Arts Crawl.

I look forward to seeing and hearing John read aloud Gracie’s Got a Secret for my Nov. 26 book launch at the Sunshine Coast Arts Centre in Sechelt. For more details, see my Events page.