Squeaky Wheels is a Winner!

I’m so excited to report that my mother/daughter travel memoir was named Best Novel/Biography in the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Awards! (See details below!)

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Global, July 15, 2016 – Half the World Holdings, a women-focused investment platform, Friday announced Laurie Petrou as the winner of the inaugural Half the World Global Literati Award 2016. The prestigious international award recognizes unpublished work that reflects the complexity of women’s lives, and has at their heart a central female protagonist.
The winning submission, ‘Sister of Mine’, is a psychological thriller that explores themes of loyalty, betrayal and debt through the lives of two sisters bound by a knot of secrecy. Author Laurie Petrou is an associate professor of The RTA School of Media, Ryerson University, Toronto.

“The judges rewarded the taut writing of a compulsive page-turner which explores the complex relationship between two sisters with a damaging secret. Our shortlist plays with the themes of adventure and courage, dignity and struggle, with characters motivated by an overarching sense of love” explained Caroline Bowler, representative for Half the World Holdings. “We are moved to see this award embraced by all walks of life, from all over the world. This represents a very real desire to recognize women at the center of our cultural lives.”
Along with the top prize, there were also category and People’s Choice award winners, each collecting US$1,000. Suzanne Kamata, based in Japan, collected top prize in the novel category. Her teenage daughter, Lilia, was born deaf and affected by cerebral palsy but this hasn’t dinted her sense of adventure and thirst for exploration. Suzanne’s honest and raw biography ‘Squeaky Wheels’ describes a mother’s love to open up the world to her child.

Danna Petersen-Deeprose, a student at McGill University Montreal, collected the short story prize for her work ‘Looking for Lost Girl’, which describes the journey of a woman in her mid-twenties looking for the courage to start her own life. Top screenwriter Lisa Hagen has two old ladies plot their escape from a retirement home in ‘Dancing on the Elephant.’ The two friends explore the big questions in life; what is my legacy and why am I even here? Friendship was also the key theme for the People’s Choice award, decided by thousands of votes from the general public. Eventual winner was LA-based Jude Roth whose screenplay ‘Plan B’ tells of 3 women and the bonds that carry them when the chips are really down.

The Half the World Global Literati Award was set up in response to 2015 research from author Nicola Griffith, which identified that the majority of the significant literary prizes are awarded to works written from a male perspective. The award is set to return in spring 2017.

Statistics about the Half the World Global Literati Award 2016.
• 59 countries including Eritrea, Iran, Azerbaijan, Mexico, Trinidad & Tobago
• 45.5 percent submissions are novels, 36.5 percent short stories, 18 percent screenplays

• Drama the most popular genre, topping novels & screenplays and a close second for short stories. Literary Fiction was the second most popular with Romance in third. Erotica comprised of less than 5 percent of all entrants.
• Majority of the short list are female (82.5 percent) vs male (17.5 percent)

About Half the World Holdings
Half the World Holdings, which was launched by Blackrun Ventures in March 2016, is a global investment platform in companies for whom women are the end-consumer. The
Half the World platform provides the capital, advisory and international networks needed to develop and scale these ventures globally. Blackrun and Half the World Holdings partners come from the worlds of private equity, investment banking, multinational businesses and entrepreneurship, with offices in Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, Sydney and Singapore.
For more information, please visit http://halftheworld.media.

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Squeaky Wheels is on the Shortlist! Please vote!

I have some exciting news! My mother-daughter travel memoir Squeaky Wheels, a celebration of accessibility, art, girl power, and Paris (among other things) has been named a finalist for the Half the World Global Literati Award. I’m thrilled to find my book in the company of so many great projects from all over the world! While the judges deliberate, popular voting will decide the People’s Choice Award. So click here and please vote!

Review of PEKING TO PARIS by Dina Bennett

Peking to Paris: Life and Love on a Short Drive Around Half the World by Dina Bennett

 

When Dina Bennett’s French-born husband Bernard first proposes that they sign up for the Peking to Paris Motor Challenge, she is less than enthusiastic. The road rally, which was to take place in 2007, would be a duplication of a similar car race organized a hundred years before along the Silk Route by Italy’s Prince Borghese. In that first race, five cars set out from Peking, as it was then called, to “prove that man and machine could … go anywhere, that borders between countries were irrelevant.” And here’s the kicker: in the spirit of the first race, the rally organizers only permit those driving vintage cars to take part. Dina and Bernard, who live on a ranch in Colorado, do not own such a car, and even if they did, she tends to suffer from motion sickness. Also, she is introverted, and doesn’t want to deal with the hundreds of other participants. But she also has an adventurous side which pleads, “It’ll be wild, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Consider it this way: two years from now, would you rather be driving through amazing Mongolia, or fixing a barbed wire fence?” Plus, Bernard is keen to go. So she says “yes.”

 

In addition to having been married for over twenty years, Dina and Bernard ran a software firm together, and later sold it to take up cattle ranching. They clearly get along well. According to Dina, however, the preparation for the road rally and the race itself put their marriage to the test. They buy a 1941 Lasalle, which they name “Roxanne,” and spend the next several months making it rally-ready. The car will have to travel 7,800 miles through the Gobi desert and Russian potholes, and service stations will be few and far between. Bernard assembles a team of mechanics, and Dina tracks down spare parts. However, as the months slip by, they discover that “the mechanics assigned to strip Roxanne to her chassis are more interested in drinking and dreaming than in rebuilding her.” The ensuing tension causes a bit of marital discord, which Dina recounts in less than a paragraph:

 

Bernard explodes. “You’re not doing anything,” he rages at me. “Why don’t you do something so I don’t have to do it all!” He shoves me aside and storms out of the house. He’s never said anything that could wound me so deeply. At the same time, I know he’s right. What happened to the woman he married twenty years ago, the one who seized every opportunity to learn something new, no matter how foreign that something might be?”

 

When the car is finally ready, they ship it off to Beijing. Once they arrive in the city themselves, Dina proves to be the more adventurous eater, ordering the mysterious “crispy duck parts” from a restaurant menu while her companions stick to the tried and true Peking duck. And it is Dina who wants to mingle with the locals and learn about other cultures, while Bernard is all about the driving.

 

As a reader, I, too, wanted to learn more about the people and customs along the way Unfortunately, once the race begins, there are few opportunities for sightseeing. Although we get glimpses of “maroon-robed monks in Crocs” and Bactrian camels, like Dina, we “have to be satisfied with…limited interaction with the Mongolian camp staff and random village mechanics.”

 

Much of the drama in this book comes from the various automotive breakdowns along the way. Although Dina alludes to fights with her husband, we don’t get to see or hear them. I’m assuming that the author is protecting her husband’s privacy and insuring that she stays married, however, I would have liked a little more tension. The couple seems a bit too companionable. Did they really get along as well as she portrays while being in a car together over almost 8,000 miles? Well, maybe.

 

The parts I liked best were when Dina has a chance to meet the natives, like when she ends up watching “Pinocchio” with the wife of a Siberian mechanic, or when she and Bernard go off course and attend a performance of the Bolshoi ballet. Dina’s writing style is lively and engaging, and she makes an enjoyable armchair traveling companion. Although I doubt that I will ever embark upon such a journey with my own husband, I was glad to go along on the ride with this intrepid pair.

 

My MFA

For the past two years, I’ve been working on an MFA in Creative Writing through the Optional Residency Program at the University of British Columbia. It’s been challenging and exhilarating, especially since during that time I also started my first full-time job in fifteen years, and launched a new novel. I’ve now finished my course work. I still have to complete a dissertation, but I can see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. I took some classes in subjects that I wasn’t quite comfortable with, such as poetry. I’m so pleased to present a couple of poems that I produced in that workshop and revised with feedback from my classmates, many of them well-published poets.

Here are “Night at the Theater” and “1.5 Kilometers from Ground Zero.”

 

 

10 YA Novels Involving Travel in Europe

Two things that I love – travel in Europe, and YA novels. Here are ten books that include both:

1. Small Damages by Beth Kephart

A high-achieving teen, who winds up pregnant, is sent by her mother to Seville to secretly have her baby and give it up for adoption, but she starts to have other ideas.

2. Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Thanks to her time-traveler boyfriend Bennet, Anna gets to go to Italy, Thailand and other fun places without even trying.

3. The White  Bicycle by Beverley Brenna

Taylor Jane Simon, a teen with Asperger’s Syndrome goes to the South of France with her Mom.

5. Instructions for a Broken Heart by Kim Culbertson

A high school drama club goes to Italy! Gelato! A hot guy named Giacomo! Romance! Plus, great writing!

6. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Sort of like that movie Before Sunset, but in Paris, with an American high school student and a Dutch guy.

7. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

A fun romance set in an international school in Paris. But you probably already know about this one…

8. Flirting in Italian by Lauren Henderson

Art! Italy! Hot Italian guys!

9. Westminster Abby by Micol Ostow

From the Students Across the Seven Seas series, feauturing teens on foreign study. American Abby goes to London!

10. Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible by Suzanne Kamata

Paris! Art! Manga! My YA debut!

Anything you’d like to add to this list?

 

A Few Thoughts About Aprons

Souvenir stalls around the world tend to offer more or less the same things – T-shirts, mugs, keychains, and snow globes. But on my recent visits to Paris, I noticed something new – just about every vendor offered a selection of aprons embellished with Parisian motifs. No doubt these aprons are a nod to France’s world class cuisine, but I have another theory of how they came to be so widely sold.

Paris is full of Japanese tourists. Japanese visitors, as everyone in the tourist trade must know by now, are more or less obligated to buy gifts for all of their friends, family, and colleagues back home. (For the record, I gave all of my neighbors packages of French cookies. I brought my sister-in-law macarons the first time, and chocolates from Aoki Sadaharu’s shop the second.) And Japanese women wear aprons.

As far as I can tell, Japanese housewives wear aprons all day long. In movies and picture books, they are always wearing aprons. I imagine they don one as soon as they get up in the morning. And at the grocery store, there is often a woman shopping in her apron. As an American brought up to be a career woman, one who would split housework with her husband, I associate aprons with 1950s-style submissiveness. I occasionally put one on when I’m baking, because I have a tendency to wipe my hands on my clothes, but I would never wear one in public.

Years ago, when I was about to get married, some of my adult English language conversation students threw a bridal shower for me. I was appalled to find that many of them had given me aprons.

Nevertheless, they have been out to use. They actually come in quite handy. Every time there is a school event, it seems mothers are required to wear aprons. My kids do a lot of cooking at school, too, and these occasions require aprons.

I actually bought an apron at a tourist stall near Notre Dame…for my sister-in-law. I thought about getting one for my husband, too, since he is now our chief breakfast-maker and does most of the cooking on the weekends. And maybe I could have gotten one for my son, who is a grill-meister in training. But I only had so much space in my suitcase.

I’m planning on looking for a manly apron at the shopping mall near my house. What do you think the odds are of finding an apron for a guy in the most conservative corner of Japan?

 

 

 

 

Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible – The Book Blog Tour!

May 15th
Wintry Words >> Excerpt

Bookwyrming Thoughts >> Guest Post
May 16th
Sab The Book Eater >> Review
Must Read Faster >> Review
May 17th
Lola’s Reviews >> Review
Carti nemuritoare >> Review
Books and Insomnia  >> Excerpt
Alexa Loves Books  >> Review
May 20th
Cherie Reads >> Review
Bookworm’s Multiverse >> Interview
Moosubi Reviews! >> Excerpt
May 21st
JennReneeRead >>  Review
Mythical Books >> Excerpt
Word Spelunking >> Review + Interview
Alice Marvels >> Review
May 22nd
Reader Girls >> Review + Interview
lilybloombooks >>  Review
May 23rd
Curling Up With A Good Book >>  Guest Post
May 24th
Tumbling In Books >> Review
Nazish Reads >> Review
Total Book Geek >> Review
Mother/Gamer/Writer >> Review
Froggarita’s Bookcase >> Interview
May 27th
Book Adoration >> Review
Reviewing Shelf  >> Review
Teen Blurb >> Review + Guest Post