Not a prison

Child's drawing of a prison yard with a helicopter overhead.

Dear Mason,

At first, I thought you’d drawn a prison, and I admired your attention to detail. Look at that surveillance helicopter! That watch tower! That razor wire! Then I read your letter, and it turns out, you hadn’t drawn a prison at all, but rather the secret military facility known as Area 51, which is rumoured to house aliens from outer space. So, that’s cool.

This reminds me of how we often see something and jump to conclusions, when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. When that happens, there is unusually something fascinating behind the misperception, something to explore and write about.

That said, as we move into 2024 with artificial intelligence used to make up stories, attacks on news organizations and social media spiralling ever downward, if it is revealed that there really are aliens held in Area 51, I would no longer be surprised.

Happy reading. Stay safe.

Jessica

The Moon has water

Child's drawing of Earth and the Moon with an astronaut

Dear Evan,

I really appreciate the wonderful details you’ve added to your drawing, including Neil Armstrong’s footprints on the Moon’s dusty surface. Isn’t it fun to know that those footprints are still there, undisturbed, even though it has been over fifty years since the first astronauts landed?

I learned that water has been discovered on the Moon’s south pole. Imagine that! I wondered if it would taste exactly the same as here. So I googled it. It turns out that the water on Mars is predicted to be very salty. There is no word yet on the Moon, but chances are it wouldn’t be pure enough to drink. Chemicals from the Moon’s surface along with meteoroids that have slammed into it are likely mixed in with lunar H2O.

All that to say, there’s no place like home. Stay well, and happy reading.

Jessica

Full cast

Child's drawing of a cast of characters for a proposed novel

Dear Penny,

I’m convinced you’ll be the next author under 30 in Canada. You’ve already developed a fine cast of characters. I appreciate the dramatic labels you’ve assigned them.

When looking for a publisher, it is best to find one that has produced books similar to the one you have written. You can do that by doing some research at your library. Your librarian might also be able to help if you describe the type of book you are looking for. Then it is a matter of seeing who publishes those books on their copyright page and writing to them about your story. That’s exactly how I got started.

I wish you the best. Happy reading and writing!

Cheers,

Jessica

P.S. I don’t work at a fancy-pants hotel either.

Click!

Child's drawing of a photograph of time spent with dad

Dear Noa,

Thank you so much for sharing a happy memory of the time you and your dad spent working on a project together. I love how you’ve captured that happy time with your drawing of a photograph of that moment. I hope you still have the butterfly you made. Sometimes, it is difficult to sort through and decide which moments will matter over the long run, and which ones turn out to be not important, even forgettable.

I say, hang on to happy memories because they will serve you the best especially during periods of uncertainty.

Stay well, and happy reading,

Jessica

Pet clinic

Child's drawing of a pet clinic with three vets

Dear Claire,

I think there must be plenty of great story ideas that come from pet clinics. I recently took my dog Ivy for her booster shots, and let me tell you! She couldn’t wait for that chapter to be over. She spent the whole time cowering behind me, her stubby tail wedged between her legs. And what was really heartbreaking was that the vet was being so kind, getting down on the floor and cooing to Ivy, even offering really tasty treats.

Ivy wanted none of it. No gold sticker for Ivy. I’m certain I’ll use this scene in a future novel.

Stay well and happy reading,

Jessica

Extra bright Mars

Child's drawing of the planet Mars with a Canadian flag and a rocket.

Dear Henrik,

Thank you so much for your gorgeous drawing of Mars. I’m thinking about Mars today because tonight, Earth will move in its orbit to line up with Mars and the Sun, forming a straight line, with Earth in the middle.

As a result, Mars will look bigger, brighter and redder from Earth. Also, Mars won’t get this close to Earth again until 2035! Pretty special!

If it is a clear night where you live, and you happen to have a telescope, you might even see Mars’ polar icecaps. Mars will be rising from the east as the Sun sets.

Alas, it is pouring today where I live, which means that clouds will block my view. The only red I’m going to see are the sodden leaves clinging to the maple tree in my backyard.

There’s always next year.

Stay well, and happy reading,

Jessica