The Year of the Red Jellybean

The Year of the Red Jellybean

Vivian coined the term to describe 2009. In late October 2008, our agent was doing wonderful work with Erin’s novel, Plain Kate. There had been significant interest from a number of houses and we were, frankly, flabbergasted by the results. At the same time, the 2008 American Election campaign was winding down, and it was looking good for an Obama victory. Grandma Rosemarie was visiting, and she had made us Obama supporters since before his landmark victory in the Iowa primary that previous January, so we were excited.

Finally, on Wednesday, November 5, the day after Obama’s victory, the negotiations around Plain Kate were finishing up, with a deal that we could not possibly have imagined just weeks before. We were looking ahead to a few years, at least, where we could support ourselves on our writing.

Vivian, who had only just turned three, didn’t really understand what was going on, and Grandma Rosemarie and Erin tried to explain it as we sat for lunch in a Molly Blooms, saying “the world is a better place today, and it’s going to get better. Your and your parents can get everything they want out of their life.” To which Vivian replied, “Can all my jellybeans be red?”

We laughed, and when Erin relayed the story to her writing friends, Susan Fish obliged by buying Vivian a big box of red jellybeans.

Things haven’t quite worked out as well as we would have liked in the realm of American politics, though there’s still time to turn things around. For the rest of it, though, 2009 has been a good, if sometimes scary year, as Erin and I embarked on the path of supporting ourselves with our writing. Erin completed another rewrite of Plain Kate for Arthur A. Levine, and the book is due for release on September 1, 2010, and there’s already a decent buzz around it. Moreover, Plain Kate and The Dream King’s Daughter won Ontario Arts Council Works in Progress grants, much to our surprise and delight. I’ve added three non-fiction books to my own portfolio and I now have an agent working on getting The Night Girl out to prospective publishers in Canada and the United States.

This was the year of Nora turning one, of Vivian going off to junior kindergarten and turning four. I look back, now at Vivian’s baby pictures and can hardly believe that I’m looking at the same child. Vivian is now taking swimming lessons and ballet classes, and we hold conversations. It’s not quite what I expected, but she is everything I’d ever hoped for in a child and more. Much more, in fact. I’m constantly surprised that I’m raising a kid that seems to have had three times the energy I had at her age.

And as for Nora, she may be a more content toddler, but she’s not willing just to stand in her sister’s shadow. She’s developing quite a pair of lungs on her own, and is pushing back when her sister pushes her away. We have to intervene like King Solomon on more than one occasion but, truthfully, I do like it that Nora stands her ground.

We travelled a lot this year. We visited Toronto several times, and headed out to Iowa and Nebraska for six weeks in the summer, and another two weeks over Christmas. I took Vivian on a train ride with me to Ottawa where we launched The Young City with some very dear friends. There were a couple of trips to Chicago, including one where we had our passports and computers stolen, but we still managed to have a good time in that city. We’ve had Grandpa Michael and Grandma Rosemarie visit, as well as Grandpa Wendell and Grandma Judy. Along with Grandpa Eric and Grandma Pat, we’re very glad that Vivian and Nora’s growth is being witnessed by so many grandparents.

And we’ve had new arrivals to, including Dan’s sister Lisa’s child, Micaela Lee-Ann Flynn, born on November 18. Nora and Vivian met their cousins, including Gwynneth, who is only a few hours older than Nora. So, as you can see, there is lots to look forward to in 2010 and in the years to come.

So, overall, I think that 2009 was a good year. Like any other year, there are things that I wish had gone differently, and the future is still as uncertain as ever, but we still have many reasons to remain optimistic — eager, even, as work gears up to launch Erin’s Plain Kate. I’m looking forward to seeing that book in the wild; I have my fingers crossed, and I have a good feeling about the whole thing. I also have my fingers crossed with The Night Girl and The Dream King’s Daughter, though I have frustratingly little news to tell, and probably won’t for a few weeks yet.

Even politically, there is reason for optimism. Yes, the economy is shaky, and our leaders continue to disappoint us, but there also have been improvements. Toronto continues to move forward in becoming a better, more livable city, and my own home town in the Region of Waterloo may soon be building an LRT. We may be losing manufacturing jobs, but high tech is replacing them. Good change does happen. It happens frustratingly slowly, and only with constant effort, but it does take place. As always, the only sure fire way to fail to succeed is to not to try at all.

Finally, I’m still blogging, even though I sometimes find myself unable to keep up the pace that I used to. I admit to tiring of the political discussions of late, especially with how polarized the Canadian political blogosphere has come in some respects, but just as I start to think of this blog as a chore, along comes something which sparks my interest enough to write. So, as I look ahead towards this blog’s eighth anniversary, I’m confident that I’ll make it, though I may (I hope) be writing more about writing, young adult books, childrearing and transit than about political processes and strategies. But we’ll see. Much as I try to leave the political blogosphere, it keeps dragging me back in.

Happy New Year to my friends and family. Thanks to everyone for making 2009 as good as it was, and here’s hoping that good things continue into 2010.


  • When the firefighter visiting her class asked what the smoke alarm meant, Vivian said: “It means the burgers are done!” And what should you do? “You should hit it with a broom. And they you can eat!”

  • To my parents, on surprising morning discoveries: “Mommy and Daddy don’t sleep in pyjamas! They sleep naked! And very close together.”

  • To Erin, when she told her the quarter she had just found was treasure: “Oh, MOm. It’s just a big moose and a picture of the queen.”

  • To the world at large, after sledding into a bush: “Wow! It’s a good thing we didn’t hurted ourselves. Let’s do it again!”

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