The Shy Years

The Shy Yearsstock-footage-high-school-hallway-slow-zoom-slow-zoom-down-a-long-empty-high-school-hallway-lockers-lining

This article originally appeared in the 'Mothers and Babies' section of the Irish Independent back in April, in a special issue focusing on teenagers and parents. (You can find the original, virtually unscannable version in my scrapbook.) I went looking for a picture of me in the 'crayon' outfit, but could only find one vaguely mopey picture from 1986, below.  Read on...

If you're a parent of a teenager, you may have seen this happen: overnight a sunny, confident child becomes a withdrawn, self-conscious teenager - someone who will do anything to avoid calling attention to themselves, a shy person. What causes it and how can you bring that confidence back? I went through this myself as a kid and I don't have an answer. At the time, I was just as confused as anyone.


Smile!smile wallpaper 2-t2

This article originally appeared on, and now I'm putting it out to pasture here. It's me trying to be amusing on the subject of publicity and writers. During the process of composition, I'm pleased to say that I discovered the proper word for 'bat poo'. Read on:

Okay, let's suppose for a minute that you're not great with people. At school you were on your own a lot of the time, daydreaming, a step behind the others, stuck in a book. The other children laughed and pointed. You wiped your tearstained cheeks and ignored them. As an adult you're not one to work the room at a party. You're more frequently found in the corner pretending to be having a conversation on a kids' toy mobile, or with a houseplant. You neglect your social life, your housework, and basic hygiene. Lichen grows thickly on your back and shoulders. You answer the door to charity collectors in your long underwear, wielding a shotgun, and your best friend is a banana peel.

Perfect! Success in writing will soon be yours!


Throw Yourself at the Ground and Miss

Throw Yourself at the Ground and Miss

This article first appeared on the Canadian National Post blog a few weeks ago. Now I'm 4186249-toasted-bread-with-toaster-on-white-backgroundretiring it here. Read on:

"Why?" people ask me. Intrigued, baffled, smiling and shaking their heads. "A gay main character? A teenage boy? And for your first novel?"

Well, it's a good question. Why would a forty-ish straight woman choose to write a novel from the first-person point of view of a teenage boy in love with his best friend? Coming out novels are a whole genre in themselves, in fact there are probably thousands of them – the distinction here would be that this one's been written by someone who has no idea what she's talking about. So, yes, I asked myself the same thing many, many times. And I wish I could come up with an answer.


Notes from the Cinnamon Canada Tour

For this week's post I was planning on writing a nice long summary of my recent Canadian tour promoting Cinnamon Toast and the End of the World - with lots of advice, 'do's and 'don't's, and wise lessons for us all. But do you know what? After five cities and enough time zone switching to bewilder Dr. Who, I am a babbling wreck and can barely remember my own name. (Janis or something. Close enough.) So instead I'm going to present the final post from my time in Canada, also available on my short-term blog 'What Goes on Tour'. If you'd like to see the other tour posts, they are:

Here Goes         Edmonton         Calgary         Vancouver         Toronto

And of course, the last one, written on a plane and first posted, tearfully, at Pearson airport:

Nova Scotia - the End

Whew! Wednesday, May 22, was quite a day. At six am I was waking up in Toronto and halifax nsby 1 pm I was at the Chicken Burger in Bedford having lunch with my mother and my Aunt Judy. It was wonderful to be back in the Maritimes, even if all I could think about was grabbing a nap before the launch at the Company House in Halifax that night. But before I knew it, it was time to zip up the gold boots again and get moving. The launch was scheduled for 6 pm.


Rejected and Selected

Rejected and Selectedyes-no

I was recently asked to write a blurb about the road to getting published – setbacks, discouragement, the happy ending, and a nugget of advice for anyone out there trying themselves. As you can imagine, there was more than a blurb's worth involved. Here's the long version.

Last April I was milling around outside one of Trinity College Dublin's many impressive-looking stone buildings when my phone started to ring. 'Janet!' the voice at the other end greeted me, 'Bad news, I'm afraid...' I closed my eyes and waited. There'd been a number of these calls lately.


Role Models

Role Modelsdon music

'Write what you know.' We've all heard that, and most of us would agree that it makes good sense. It also might explain why so many fictional characters are writers – what kind of life do we know better? But it doesn't account for why such a percentage of these writer-characters are rich and successful, popular, gorgeous. I've seen fictional writers who are irresistible love magnets, writers who fight crime in their spare time, writers with super powers, writers with an active social life. None of this rings true to me, and after a while I feel inadequate, watching or reading about these superstars. No one's asked me to solve a local murder in years.

I suppose I can understand.


Run! Girl Germs!

Run! Girl Germs!2600114-child-s-drawing-of-herself

This post originally appeared on the fine writing and resource site,, and now I'm retiring it here. Read on...

Ten years ago I was teaching English at a private girls' high school in Tokyo. On a slow morning, I decided to try an experiment. 'Draw a person,' I said to my class of forty sixteen-year-olds, 'a human being.' I gave them two minutes, then walked around the class looking at the drawings. Now, this was a girls' high school with a girls' primary school joined to it. The principal was a woman and so were most of the staff. In fact, other than a handful of teachers, the janitor, and a few guys working in administration, there wasn't a man to be seen in a mile's radius.

But there were no female figures on my students' papers set out on their desks in front of them.

What does this mean? That I'm not very good at giving instructions? That I had a bunch of lazy students who didn't want to try drawing boobs or dresses or their figures? Or could it be possible that we tend to think of 'people' as gender-neutral or male and 'women' as something separate, a sub-group?

Well, why not? There's 'fiction' and 'women's fiction', isn't there?


Days in Motion

Days in Motioninto the mountains

This is an article I wrote for the Irish Daily Mail (March 23, 2013). I thought it would make a good blog post, especially as I've been thinking about Canada so much lately - because of the cross-country publicity tour I'm planning for May and of course the Canadian 80s song countdown, started today! If you'd like to see how the original article looked, just click here and scroll down. The picture to the right was taken by me, on the upper floor of the observation car on the train, over twenty years ago. (Yeep!) The photo to the lower left is just some filthy hippies. I don't know where it came from. Anyway, here's the article:

I'm Canadian, and the first thing you should know about my country is that it's big – in fact, you could get on a train in Halifax, Nova Scotia on the east coast and be travelling for five days before you'd reach Vancouver on the west. I know this because I've done it myself.

It was back in 1992.


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