Category Archives: Childhood

A Top Ten List From A Top Notch Speaker

You can make a difference with your book!  I attended the Packaging Your Imagination conference for children’s writers and illustrators in Toronto on the weekend.  One of our inspirational keynote speakers was Ruth Ohi the illustrator of some 60 children’s books and the author of two dozen more.  She wanted us to know books can truly make a difference to children.  They can put kids in a happy comfortable place and make them understand that their ideas matter. Books can help children feel respected and good about themselves. 

Ruth shows us some of the stages in creating a page in one of her  books

Ruth also gave us plenty of great advice about writing and illustrating books for children.  I think however that her ideas could apply to anyone who is tackling a creative project. Here’s a top ten list I compiled from her talk. 

  1. Take chances
  2. You must care deeply about what you are doing
  3. When you are stalled in the creative process do something physical like going for a walk or cleaning your house. You get your best ideas when you aren’t thinking too hard. Sometimes it also helps to change up your venue. Ruth likes to leave home and go and write and draw in libraries. 
  4. You don’t have to be perfect and amazing all the time. 
  5. Get used to rejection. Even a successful author like Ruth gets tons of rejections. 
  6. Don’t throw anything out.  Little sketches, little bits of writing, notes you’ve made may prove valuable later on. 
  7. It helps to have a partner who is supportive.  Ruth’s husband is her rock, her touchstone and her inspiration. 
  8. You often have to do a pile of awful stuff before you get to the good stuff. 
  9. Don’t get overwhelmed by social media – find time to create. 
  10. Make sure you are having fun. That’s what it’s all about. 

Ruth was so full of energy and excitement and enthusiasm about being a writer and illustrator and the whole creative process that entails. She was the perfect person to kick off the conference. 

Other posts……… 

Helping Children Become Writers

Learning From Judy Blume

Why Do Pigs Bark and Other Questions

 

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Attending A School Named For An Explorer

sisters at sir john franklin schoolLooking through some old slides to prepare a visual presentation for my father’s 90th birthday I found this photo of my sister and me outside Sir John Franklin School where we were both students for the 1960-1961 school year.  I was in grade two and my sister was in kindergarten. 

johnfranklinschool1

The Manitoba Historical Society website provides this image of the school. It was built by Sutherland Construction Company for $52,000. It was designed by a local architect named J.N. Semmens. The school welcomed its first students in the fall of 1921 and in October was named after the famous Arctic explorer Sir. John Franklin.  The original school only had five classrooms but additions were made in 1934 and 1951.  In June of 1987 the school was closed and the building demolished in 1991. 

grade two class sir john franklin school 1960-1961 school year

Grade Two Class Sir John Franklin School – 1960-1961 school year- Teacher Miss L. Ushey- I’m on the far left in the back row right beside the principal Miss Hannah Fisher.

I found both the principal and teacher in my second grade class photo listed on the Manitoba Historical website.  The principal who is standing right beside me is Hannah Eleanor Fisher.  According to the history page about her she was born in North Dakota in 1901 and moved to a small Manitoba town called Neelin about 200 km. south of Winnipeg as a small child.  She taught in both rural and city schools before becoming a principal.  She served at Sir John Franklin from 1954-1961. She never married and spent some time in England as an exchange teacher. She died in Winnipeg at age 95. I couldn’t find any additional information about my teacher Miss L. Ushey. My two best friends in grade two were April and Catherine.  I can still pick them out in the class photo. 

house on beaverbrook street

With my aunt, my sister, and my brother on the front yard of our house on Beaverbrook Street 

We lived on Beaverbrook Street when I attended Sir John Franklin and one day when I came home from school for lunch a car had careened off the street and driven right into the livingroom of the house next door to us. Other vivid memories of my grade two year are running back home one day because I encountered a big dog on my way to school.  I got 7+7 wrong on a math test and remember being upset that I missed such a simple question. 

I only went to Sir John Franklin for one year.  My primary education took place in four different schools.  I’d like to learn more about them all. 

Other posts…….

Hopeful Diversity- A School Classroom Very Different From Mine

My Mom Starts School

The Old Schoolhouse

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Oh To Be A Kid At the Fringe Festival

marylou working at the fringeOn Friday and Saturday I worked in the Winnipeg Art Gallery tent at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. The kids section of the festival is set up just beside Old Market Square.  What a fun place it is to be.  snakes and ladders at the fringeThere are expert face painters on hand and there is a giant snakes and ladders game.  four square at the fringeYou can play four-square, hang out and read books in the Winnipeg Public Library space or do a little movement and dancing and drama with talented and entertaining instructors.  fringe for kidsThere are all kinds of tossing games to play and of course you can visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery tent and make some art.  On Friday we made paper bag puppets and on Saturday the children were doing water-color paintings.  One little girl did ten paintings in a row all so creative and colorful.  It was great fun getting to know the children and helping them with their art.  self portrait at the fringeOn Saturday my colleague Marion made a water-color painting of me.  

Marion my colleague from France

Marion is from France but has been working at the Winnipeg Art Gallery for the last four months.  In a few days she heads off to the Yukon on the next leg of her Canadian adventure  I will miss her.  

tossing games at the fringeI had never visited the children’s area of the Fringe Festival before.  I am glad I got to work there and see all the kids have such a great time.  

Other posts……..

Two Artists

Olympus Inspired Art

A Children’s Masterpiece

 

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She Persisted

she persistedI’ve just added She Persisted Around the World to our church library.  The book written by Chelsea Clinton and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger tells the stories of thirteen women from around the world who persisted despite all kinds of barriers placed in their way.  marie curieSome of the women are familiar like Marie Curie twice awarded the Noble Prize for her discovery of two new scientific elements. She persisted despite the fact she had to leave her home country to study.  j.k. rowlingAnother familiar woman is English author J.K. Rowling who persisted in writing her award winning series of Harry Potter books despite being rejected by dozens of publishers.  caroline hershelOther women featured in the book are not so familiar like Caroline Hershel an astronomer who discovered two planets.  She persisted in studying astronomy even though her parents thought she should try to get a job as a servant.  Sissi lima do amorAnother woman I hadn’t heard about before was Sissi Luna do Amor one of the first women to play soccer professionally in Brazil.  She persisted even though she got in trouble for wanting to play because she was a girl.  viola desmondThere is even a section in the book about Canada’s own Viola Desmond who persisted in retaining her seat in the “white” section of a movie theater even though she was black. 

Elizabeth_Warren_2016“She Persisted”  is the famous phrase directed at American Senator Elizabeth Warren when she insisted on reading a letter from Coretta Scott King to the Senate as a way to defend her objection to the appointment of Jeff Sessions as Attorney General.  Sessions had an abysmal record on civil rights which had previously prevented him from being appointed as a federal court judge.  The Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell called for a vote to silence Senator Warren. He said he had no choice because she wouldn’t listen to him. “She persisted” he said and kept reading the letter. The phrase “she persisted” has quickly come to refer to women’s persistence in breaking barriers despite being silenced or ignored. 

kate sheppard

Kate Sheppard who persisted in getting the vote for women in New Zealand.

There are so many interesting women profiled in She Persisted Around the World and they come from every continent and every area of endeavor.  I think the book will be an inspiration for everyone who reads it and not just children, but adult as well.

Other posts……….. 

 

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A Photo That Brings Back Memories

I found this photo in my parents’ collection.  I must be only three or four years old.  The truck behind me is my grandfather’s grain truck.  I loved riding in that truck.  I can remember going to the grain elevator with my Grandpa and sitting in the cab  while the truck was hoisted way up high in the elevator, and the back of the truck tilted back to dump the grain in the bin way below. 

grandpa's truckI remember my mother telling me that this photo was taken one time when Grandpa had come into Winnipeg and I was driving back to my grandparents home in Gnadenthal with him to spend a few days on my grandparents’ farm.  I don’t have lots of memories of being on the farm when I was as small as I am in the photo but I can remember stays there when I was a bit older

and Grandma taught me how to embroider

and I helped her wash dishes at the sink in the low counter especially built to accommodate my grandmother’s short stature

and trying to work the pedal on Grandma’s old sewing machine

and combing Grandma’s nearly waist length hair

and Grandma showing me how split pea pods open with my fingernail

and my Grandma cutting my Grandfather’s food up for him before he ate

and the clock on the sideboard that chimed every hour

and my Grandpa telling me stories about their life in Ukraine before the revolution

and praying Segne Vater before we ate

and listening to funeral announcements with Grandma on the local radio station

and Grandpa putting gravy on his cake before eating it

and walking down the dirt path in the village to the store with Grandma

and going gopher shooting with Grandpa

and the smell of the slop pail for the pigs under Grandma’s sink

and the clean tea towel Grandma draped over the cream separator

and the fawn Grandpa once found beside its dead mother and brought home to the barn

and the outdoor biffy

and the stray cats

and the wind in the Russian olive trees around the front yard

and the colorful flowers Grandma planted around her house

A picture is worth a thousand memories.

Other posts………

Family Picture

I Held You Before Your Mother Did

My Grandmother’s Childhood

 

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Play Is the Highest Form of Research

I took a picture of this fabulous quote from Albert Einstein in the children’s play area in the Saskatoon airport and then looked for photos I had that might illustrate it. “Play is the highest form of research.”

Our son playing in a fort he built under the diningroom table

Kids playing on tree branches in Laos

tea party outside marylou

My sister and I playing tea party at our grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan

inukshuk by children

Inukshuks built by children playing with blocks at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

school boys in vietnam

Boys playing on sand hills in Vietnam

children's art clay face

The result of kids playing with plasticene at the Winnipeg Art Gallery

Boys playing in a stream in Bali

Our son playing with a telescope he built

Children playing with a skipping rope on their floating home in Halong Bay Vietnam

Boys in Delhi India playing ball

Our son playing with a beaver puppet at Lower Fort Garry

My Mom and her sisters playing with their dolls

Playing dress up with my cousins on my grandparents’ farmyard in Gnadenthal, Manitoba

Other posts………

Stopping By Woods- A Children’s Masterpiece

Helping Children Become Writers

Amazing Kids

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Family of Spies

family of spies“You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”   That quote from the Bible was the theme of a  commencement address given at a Virgina college last week by recently fired American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  Tillerson warned that when leaders lie and people accept those lies, it won’t be long before freedom is lost.  

jodi book launch

I attended the launch of Jodi Carmichael’s book Family of Spies 

Interestingly that same Bible verse about truth and freedom appears a number of times in a new novel for middle grade readers by Winnipeg author Jodi Carmichael. Much of the story in her Family of Spies is set in 1944 just before the end of World War II.  The action happens during a period of time when Hitler is trying to conceal the truth and make the German people accept his alternate reality.  

edward crawford

 Jodi’s grandfather who inspired her book

Jodi’s inspiration for the book grew out of the fact that the records detailing her grandfather Edward Crawford’s service in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II remain sealed to this day. Why? Could he have been a spy? In her book Jodi imagines that three of Edward’s great-grandchildren have arrived in Paris on a family vacation. They have a suitcase of their great grandfather’s belongings and hatch a plan to try to figure out the mystery surrounding his military service. 

war medals family of spies

Jodi’s grandfather’s military service medals

I attended the launch of Jodi’s book at the end of April and she had some of her grandfather’s memorabilia on display, including his war medals and a photograph of him after the Newfoundland native was named a Rhodes Scholar. 

cookies jodi's launch

The cookies served at the book launch for Family of Spies featured the Eiffel Tower.

Jodi wrote Family of Spies while living in Europe so she was able to visit the important sites in Paris where the action in her novel takes place. That  ‘feet on the ground’ research is evident in her vivid descriptions of French landmarks. 

As Jodi’s heroes Ford, Ellie and Gavin explore Paris, trying to discover the truth about their great grandfather’s past, they also discover some truths about themselves and their relationships with one another. I really liked that about the book. 

jodi signing her book

Jodi signs books for her fans

Jodi is a member of the children’s writers group I meet with twice a month. I have just finished the first draft of a novel based on an event in my own grandfather’s life.  Jodi’s success with  Family of Spies gives me a tiny bit of hope that I may be able to get my novel published as well. Jodi is a successful writer and I so appreciate her willingness to share her expertise with our writing group.  You can find out more about Jodi and the other books she has published on her website. 

Other posts……..

A Glamorous Night For Manitoba Writing

The Cube

Who Do Family Stories Belong To?

 

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