The magic of brooms: my new writing project

The magic of brooms: my new writing project

I’ve been working on a new project, which I can’t say too much about yet, but it’s a middle-grade fantasy book that involves brooms.

Most people think of brooms and fantasy and they automatically think Harry Potter, or, at the very least of some witch or magic-maker flying across the sky . . . but I want to approach the subject differently.

Don’t get me wrong—I love all the broom flying that happens in fantasy books like Harry Potter, The Worst Witch, Discworld or the newer Apprentice Witch series by James Nicol. My wife and I even purposely planned a vacation around spending a day at Alnwick Castle in England, where they filmed the broom flying scenes for the Harry Potter films. We took broom flying lessons there (and failed!).

Broom flying at Alnwick Castle

brooms

marcie_broomtraining

lef_flying_long

l&m&bottomley

But you may not know that, aside from potential flight capabilities, brooms have other magical associations in common folklore. Some of these are to do with marriage, such as a newly-wed couple jumping or stepping over a broom while holding hands to invite good luck into their home. There is also the idea that brooms can sweep away trouble or bad spirits. The overall theme is the idea of luck or success.

It’s that element of magic that I am drawing upon in my new book.

My interest in brooms far predates my lackluster attempt at joining at quidditch team. My grandfather used to make his own brooms. He grew the broomcorn, harvested it, then fastened the stalk to handles. In fact, I still have one of his brooms, made over forty years ago.

My grandfather’s broom

Grandpa's Broom

Maybe that’s why I have always noticed brooms in my travels. I see them everywhere. I’ll be strolling along and notice one perched, almost slyly, against a street pole, a park bench, a temple wall. And they are old-school brooms with often crude handles and natural straw bristles. Every time I see these brooms, I always feel that they have been up to something, something just a little bit out of the ordinary.

A few years ago, I started photographing the brooms. I never knew quite why, except my rule as an author is this: If something interests me, I record it. It doesn’t matter if I know exactly why something interests me, I just capture the detail, the moment, with my camera and/or notebook, and then let things percolate . . .

Broom at Ta Som temple, Cambodia

ta_som_broom

Street broom, Hanoi, Vietnam

broom_hanoi

Park broom, Qibao neighborhood, Shanghai, China

Qibao - lonely broom.jpg

I percolated on this idea for a long time, and was busy working on other thing, like my Zoone series. But the time came this summer to finally begin developing this idea in earnest. Part of that process means doing some research and I’m particularly lucky, because I just so happen to have a traditional broom-maker in my neighborhood.

Researching brooms

So, one crisp fall day, I headed to the Granville Island Broom Co. and peppered Mary, one of the owners, about the tradition of broom making and watched her process. It’s somewhat mesmerizing and a lot more complicated than I originally imagined.

granivelleislandbroom-sign

granvilleislandbroom_brooms-manzanita

granvilleislandbroom-braiding

granvilleislandbroom-marriagebroom

granvillesilandbroom-whisks

Granville Island Broom Co. sells and ships all over the world, and it’s no wonder—their brooms are works of art.

Here’s a photo of the broom I bought, which has a handle fashioned from manzanita wood:

spellsweep_broom_with_manzanita_handle.jpg

I’ll just say, for the record, that my infant son also loves Granville Island Broom Co. I mean it is a pretty enchanting place!

These days, I’m working in earnest, outlining, writing, rewriting. As I said above, my intention is to focus on brooms for what they are intended to do: sweeping. Sound mundane? Just remember, folklore says that brooms are for sweeping away bad fortune or evil spirits. Or, if you prefer, magic . . .

 

Life on Planet Marce: Ghosts Could Still Get Us

Life on Planet Marce

Since my wife are traveling in the United Kingdom, we decided to do an on-location podcast.

Episode 7: Ghosts Could Still Get Us

Episode 7 of our podcast features our ongoing conversation about ghosts, but after we had visited a haunted pub in the city of York, and taken a “ghost hunt” tour.

The Golden Fleece pub is reputedly one of the most haunted places in York and was even featured on the British television show “Most Haunted.” So we were determined to visit it to see if it could enlighten our ongoing arguments about ghosts.

There are many newspaper clippings decorating the pub, chronicling the history of ghostly visits to the place. Marcie enjoyed the little sign post on the door.

marcie_ghostfleecepub

I was more enamored with the customer sitting at the bar. It seemed like he had been there a while, so I thought he could tell me a story or two. But he turned out to be a rather empty bloke.

goldenfleece_bar

The entire episode isn’t about ghosts, though. We also talk about how inspiring it is to visit in such an important place in the history of literary and theatrical arts. You can listen to the episode at the link above, or subscribe to us on iTunes.

Life on Planet Marce: Ghosts Could Get Us

Life on Planet Marce

After a hiatus, I’ve finally posted the latest episode of the podcast I do with my wife, Life on Planet Marce.

Episode 6: Ghosts Could Get Us

In this episode we talk about our busy spring, writing and traveling (me) and acting (Marcie).

Then, for some reason, we end up arguing about ghosts, which is sparked by the story Marcie tells of the time she “felt” a ghost in our suite in Italy. Here’s the photo of our lovely honeymoon suite:

vernazzaroom

Doesn’t look very spectral, if you ask me.

In any case, if you listen to the podcast, you’ll certainly hear my long rant. I’m pretty famous for my rants, and, honestly, I think Marcie just gets a lot of  amusement out of poking the bear . . .

By the way, if you enjoy what we do on this podcast, please subscribe. (In either case, we’ll keep arguing . . . but you just might miss some of the good stuff!)

Life on Planet Marce: Losing our Way

Life on Planet MarceI’ve just posted the latest episode of Life on Planet Marce, the podcast my wife and I have started to chronicle  life as a married couple working in the arts. We actually recorded this episode in the car while being lost on the way back from our friend’s house.

While we try to find our way home, we talk about some of our biggest artistic achievements of 2014 and argue over who is the most like Sherlock Holmes. I discuss the inspiration I discovered during our trip to Europe . . . here’s a picture to go with the episode: me in front of a very cool window at the Louvre.

Lee at Louvre

Introducing Life on Planet Marce

Life on Planet MarceAnyone who has met my lovely wife Marcie knows that she is beautiful, kind, talented . . . and quirky! After a lot of pestering from some of our friends, we decided to start a podcast that will try to capture her personality, as well as our ongoing discussions about the highs and lows of working in the arts. Since Marcie is an actress and voice-over actress, I’m an author and illustrator, and we both do a lot of specialized arts-education, we feel we have a lot to talk about.

We hope that people find our podcast humorous, fun, and a bit informative. Two episodes are currently posted and we’ll be adding more soon.

Please check it out at lifeonplanetmarce.podomatic.com and consider subscribing on iTunes.

Authors Like Us – Sarah Prineas

Authors Like Us

Sarah PrineasAuthors Like Us is back, and we’re starting Season 2 with a bang! We are so thrilled to present an interview with fantasy author Sarah Prineas, creator of The Magic Thief series.

I’ve taught The Magic Thief to several classes, so I was particularly interested in gaining insight into Sarah’s creative process and to discover just what makes her tick!

The Magic ThiefYou can listen to the podcast at the Authors Like Us web page, or subscribe for free on iTunes (please do!).

And stay tuned for some of our other great Season 2 shows, featuring the likes of Frieda Wishinsky and Vikki Van Sickle.

The Force is strong with me

But origami is not:

My origami Darth Paper

Today I had the wonderful experience of having breakfast with my podcast partner James McCann and Tom Angleberger, the author of The Origami Yoda books.

Tom is in my backyard to celebrate his new book Darth Paper Strikes Back and since we’ve previously connected with Tom to interview him for Authors Like Us, we seized the opportunity to geek it up over pancakes and bacon.

Little did I know that the wise and all-knowing Tom was going to put us to work, teaching James and I how to construct our very own origami Darth Papers. Tom is so effervescent that he actually soon had the waitress and the patrons in the neigbouring booth clamoring to see what was going on.

I have to say that my Darth Paper looks more like he lost a fight with a paper towel. But on the plus side, I was able to make the folds without lighting the restaurant on fire (yes, I am that clumsy; it could happen).

Here’s a photo of the three of us. Look closely and you will see the groovy retro Star Wars record tote box that Tom uses to house all of his origami supplies.

James, Lee, and Tom.

Look, there’s no two ways about it. If you ever get a chance to attend one of Tom’s events—then do it! He’s a wonderful person and his love for origami (and Star Wars) simply oozes out of him.

He’s appearing TODAY for Kidsbooks in Vancouver. Snap up those last tickets and go. And may the Force be with you. Always.

Authors Like Us ~ back, we are!

Authors Like UsAfter a six-month hiatus, Authors Like Us is back! We should be doing some new interviews in the coming months, but in the meantime, here are some goodies that we’ve had waiting in the queue.

Episode 22 features a chat with Canadian author Helaine Becker, who helped spearhead a book drive to bring attention to the closures of libraries in California.

The Strange Case of Origami YodaEpisode 23 is a regular fan-boy-fest as we get our geek on with author Tom Angleberger, the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda.

I take my Yoda pretty seriously, so it was quite a thrill to do this interview. I’ve taught this book to several classes—as a matter of fact, the last time was just a few weeks ago.

One of my students (Ryan) not only produced a fantastic origami Yoda, but a marvellous Darth Paper as well!

 

Star Wars origami.

Fold or fold not . . . there is no try

I’ve continued to geek it up with my students in recent classes with more Origami Yodas, so I decided to post some more photos of the most recent creations of my favourite Jedi Master. These of course, are based on wonderful book by Tom Angleberger, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which I’ve been continuing to teach to all the kids in my creative writing classes.

Origami Yoda.

Origami Yoda.

Origami Yoda.

Origami Yoda.

One of the wonderful outcomes is that Tom Angleberger himself commented on this very blog about my students’ Yodas. Since then we exchanged a few emails and, just yesterday, James McCann and I interviewed Tom for the Authors Like Us podcast. The interview won’t be ready for posting until January, but it will be worth the wait. Half way through the interview, James’s dog (Conan) jumped up on the coach, where my laptop was open, and stepped on my keyboard—hitting the exact key to play the Star Wars theme song. I kid you not.

Well, I could go on and on about this interview and how much of a joy it was to talk to a fellow Star Wars lover, but I’ll save it all for when we post the interview.

Coming up this weekend is my second annual Yoda Yulefest party. Can’t wait!