Tsundoku: The practice of buying more books than you can read


Doku: reading

Tsun: to pile up

Tsundoku: the piling up of reading things

I know people who have wardrobes full of beautiful clothes, kitchens stocked with polished cookware, living rooms decked out in elegant, matching furniture and artwork. In their tidy closets they have racks lined with rows of exquisite shoes, just the right ones for every occasion. As much as I might like to have these things, that’s not what’s in my home. Nope. In my home I have bookshelves groaning under stacks of books. More books than I’ll ever get around to reading. Dusty books.  New books. Old books. Children’s books. Novels. Non-fiction. Memoir. Classics. Textbooks.

Many of these books are library books.  They will have to be returned before they’re read even though I renew them as often as I’m allowed. The problem is,  as well as being a master of tsundoku, I’m also a voracious reader of book reviews. I keep a journal of titles that I MUST someday read, so when I see them at  bookstores or at the library I ‘acquire’ them and add them to the stacks.

And I do read – as much as I can. But there is never going to be enough time to read all the books I’ve accumulated.

There are worse things to practice than tsundoku. I could be hoarding  a collection of troll dolls or dead house plants. But I may have found a solution for my unruly collection: the Little Free Library.

Little Free Library.

Slowly I’ve been weeding through the stacks of books that I own and finding ones that I feel I can part with. I keep a bag of them in my car and whenever I pass a Little Free Library I drop a few off. (The hard part is resisting the urge to also bring a few more home.) Maybe someday I’ll  have  tidy, book free coffee and bedside tables  and organized, uncluttered shelves. And nice shoes.

And then again, maybe not.

“Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity.” A. Edward Newton, author, publisher, and collector of 10,000 books.

Image credit :http://mocomi.com/tsundoku/

A Love Letter to My Writing Critique Group

My dear, dear writing critique group,

How long have we been meeting like this? Twenty years? More? It’s time to reflect on our relationship.

It wasn’t love at first sight for us. Oh no.  We were wary of each other and had to build a certain level of trust. Sharing writing is like baring your soul, and you can’t do that when you don’t t know whether the other might reach in and rip out your heart. Your guts. Or worse! Your oh-so-perfectly crafted story.

But slowly the trust developed, we were gentle with each other, yet honest. We became each other’s sounding boards, first readers, and finally – (drum roll here) – the great aunties of each other’s new books. We’ve become dependent on the fresh perspective a second and third set of eyes can reveal.

We’ve helped each other fine-tune our stories by asking the questions that have shed light on plot holes and missing character motivation. We’ve spotted cliches and repeated words. I would never show my work to a publisher before first hearing back from you.

My dear writing critique group, you have been there for me when I needed propping up, when I needed a push to keep going and, most importantly, when I needed constructive feedback. You were there to celebrate book contracts and new releases. You understand this longing to write, to create fiction that we hope has meaning and will find an audience.

Our critique group has grown from being one of merely professional relationships to one of  close friendships. We share the highs and lows of our lives with each other, and watch how personal growth influences our work. We understand that our books are not memoirs but are shaped by the challenges and joys in our lives. Our writing critique group gives us the sense that what we do matters, that we are not alone.

Thank you, my beloved critique group, for being there with me through the twenty years of my writing career. I know I would never have been offered publishing contracts without you helping me mold my stories into something readable. Baring my soul, and my writing, has become so much easier.

With gratitude and love,




Little Free Library

“Take a book, share a book.”

I remember the day I stumbled across this Little Free Library. It was the first one I’d ever seen. It stands in a yard a few neighbourhoods away from my own, but one that I can easily walk to. I thought it was absolutely charming although, perhaps, poorly named. (Aren’t all libraries free?) Anyway, I immediately began ‘taking and sharing’. Often I leave copies of my own titles.

I learned this week that Todd Bol – founder of Little Free Library – has passed away. He started the trend in 2009 with the first Little Free Library in his own front yard. Before his death  last week there were 75,000 Little Free Libraries worldwide. I expect this number is modest as people are creating their own designs, with wonderful results.

Before his death, Bol said, “If I may be so bold, I’m the most successful person I know because I stimulate 54 million books to be read and neighbours to talk to each other. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the very definition of success.”

I absolutely agree!



Sneak Preview

This is the front cover of our soon-to-be published book. (Heritage House, Spring 2019) It’s the story of grizzly bears Coola and Grinder who live at the Refuge for Endangered Wildlife on Grouse Mountain. It explains how they came to be there and what we have learned from studying their behaviour. Linda Sharp’s illustrations, including this one, are breathtaking! I can’t wait to share this with all those locals and tourists who love these bears.


Lost Boy Metaphors

My very dear friend Sue Gordon always gives me a symbolic gift to celebrate the launch of each of my books. Here is the one she made for Lost Boy. It is metaphorical on 3 levels.

  1. The boy has no ‘face’ as he is lost.
  2. He hits ‘rock bottom’ in the story. (He is made of rocks)
  3. He’s in the shape of an inuksuk, which are featured in the story.

Isn’t she clever?

Here is the shelf in my office with many of the other ‘new book gifts’ she’s given to me.

She is the creative one! And I am blessed with her friendship.


It may have been a soggy Vancouver afternoon, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of my friends and family who turned out to help me launch Lost Boy.

Thank you to those who could make it and to Word Vancouver for inviting me to speak at this wonderful festival that celebrates reading and writing.

What the??? Is that man with the hat in the front row SLEEPING during my reading?? 🙂




Coming soon…

New book!  New genre!


Young Grinder

Young Coola

It’s always so exciting to sign a book contract. This one is something entirely different for me –  a non-fiction, illustated children’s book celebrating the lives of the two bears, Coola and Grinder,  who live at the Wildlife Refuge on Grouse Mountain. It describes how they came to live on the mountain as small cubs, why they can never be released and what we have learned about grizzly bears from studying their behaviour. I wrote it with Rae Schidlo and it will be illustrated by Linda Sharp.  It is coming out in the spring of 2019, right about the time the two bears come out of hibernation. How is that for good timing?

Coola and Grinder coming out of hibernation together.


Rae and I wrote this book because we both volunteered at the Wildlife Refuge and developed a passion for these bears. They are magnificent creatures, their story is fascinating, and we felt it should be shared. Proceeds from book sales will be turned over to the Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge.

I can’t wait to see the finished book!

Thank you Heritage House for agreeing to publish this story.













Photo credit of adult bears: Devin Manky

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

I thought of this famous quote when I was a passenger in a car in India, our driver weaving through the mad jumble of rickshaws, pedicabs, cows, motorbikes (with entire families clinging to them), tuk tuks, herds of goats, bicycles, pedestrians and other vehicles. Our North American rules-of-the-road were not adhered to there. I was amazed that it all seemed to flow anyway, even though it looked and felt so chaotic. Each day I thought might be my last, especially  on the highways where truck drivers seemed to take such risks when passing other vehicles. I had to cover my eyes many times as  freight trucks barrelled down on us, switching to the other lane at the last second…

I’m thinking of this quote  again as I prepare for a cycling trip that will take us across Prince Edward Island. This will be a full week of doing something every day that scares me.  I signed on to the trip as I thought this would be a great way to see a part of Canada I’ve never visited. Apparently the route is mostly gravel pathways, and relatively flat. Trouble is, although I ride bikes occasionally, I am not a cyclist, and 60 kilometre days may be a stretch for me. I’m not a spring chicken. It seemed like such a good idea eight months ago.

I’m beginning to prepare  in earnest now, with less than a month before the trip begins. Doubts and fears are creeping in. Will I be the lone cyclist at the back of the pack each day? Will I need to find other transportation to get me to each day’s destination? Will the bicycle seat be comfy???

If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.

And we want to continuing growing, don’t we?

I think I’m up for the challenge, comfy bike seat or not.