Category Archives: Writing

I Love Cutting

I love cutting my writing down to size. Much of the writing I do must be a certain length.  Whether I’m writing my newspaper column, a reflection for a devotional series, a lesson for a curriculum contract or a submission for a writing contest, I often need to cut my writing down to a specific number of words. I love that challenge! 

When I write my newspaper column I  just write everything down I want to say without concern for the number of words.  I have a six hundred word column limit and sometimes my first draft is 800 or even 1200 words.  So I start the process of going through my column paragraph by paragraph. Sometimes I cut whole paragraphs. Then I cut sentences within the paragraphs.  Next I cut sentences down to size or rearrange the order of their words.  How can I say the same thing more succinctly? 

It always amazes me how I can cut a piece of writing in half without sacrificing meaning.  

I admit many of my blog posts could be ‘cut down to size’ too.  Often I write them in too much of a hurry. For some of my blog posts I need to confess as Mark Twain is purported to have said………”I apologize for writing such a long letter.  I didn’t have time to write a shorter one. “

Other posts……..

Why Do You Keep Doing This? 

Mystery Sentences



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11,000 Views for Mother’s Day

A post called What Does Your Mother Do?  featuring an article I wrote for the magazine The Daughters of Sarah in 1988 is the most popular one ever on this blog.  It has been viewed more than 11,000 times since I published it for Mother’s Day in 2012.  

Illustration by Bridget Bernardi age seven for an article I wrote for The Daughters of Sarah magazine

Another popular Mothers Day post has been Mothers at the Met. It includes photographs of paintings and sculptures of mothers which I took when I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt 1899

One year my Mothers Day blog post showcased all the kitschy Mothers Day items I found for sale while I was volunteering at a Thrift Shop.

In 2015 I wrote the post Missing My Mom about how a song called Wanting Memories by Ysaye Barnwell made me think about my own mother on Mothers Day. 

Photographed in 1954 – me and my mother

Last year I wrote about a family visit to Leamington Ontario on Mothers Day. We all gathered at my sister-in-law and brother-in-laws home for a Mothers Day party. We didn’t know it then but that visit to Leamington would be the last time we would see Dave’s father who died on June 6.

Dave takes his Dad for a walk on our Mothers Day visit to Leamington last year.

This year 2017 we are spending Mothers Day in Saskatoon Saskatchewan for the first birthday celebration of our youngest grandson. This morning will also be his child dedication in church.

Happy Mothers Day!

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A Glamourous Night For Manitoba Writing

manitoba book awards programI attended the Manitoba Book Awards on Saturday.  It is an annual event organized by the Manitoba Writers Guild. I have been a member of the guild ever since I moved to Winnipeg six years ago.  It was through the guild I heard about Vast Imaginations the first children’s writers’ group I joined in Winnipeg.  The friends I made there helped me find my way into The Anita Factor a collective of talented and published children’s authors who have been mentoring me in my quest to learn the fine art of writing picture books and novels for young people.  So I was delighted to be able to attend the Manitoba Book Awards last Saturday with members of The Anita Factor.  

at the manitoba book awards (1)

Here I am with some of the members of my writing group The Anita Factor. Larry on the far right is a former Manitoba book award winner, Jodi was a Manitoba book award nominee last year and Pat who is standing next to me just published a book with Pembroke Publishers.

This was the first year the event was held in the elegant Fort Garry Hotel and it was a first class evening in every way.  

centerpieces manitoba book awards

These creative candleholders spotlighted the names of previous Manitoba Book Award winners.

It featured great musical entertainment, professional Winnipeg broadcasters Terry MacLeod and Lara Rae as hosts, a delicious meal expertly served, good wine, and polished and articulate presenters that included last year’s Book of The Year winner Wab Kinew and Rochelle Squires the Manitoba Minister of Sports, Culture and Heritage. We each received a complimentary copy of the latest issue of Walrus Magazine.  They  were one of the offical sponsors of the evening.  That chocolate book in the corner is real and oh so deliciously decadent.   Each attendee received one  from the talented chocolatier Constance Popp

tell them it was mozartAfter the meal I bought Angeline Schellenberg’s book of poetry Tell Them It Was Mozart at the table set up by McNally Robinson Book Sellers.  Angeline’s debut into the literary world garnered her three awards on Saturday night and I consumed her moving book of poems in one fell swoop on Sunday morning. I want to go back and read them all again. 

manitoba book awards 2 (1)It was great to see Manitoba authors celebrated.  Kudos to my fellow Anita Factor member Melanie Matheson who is the executive director of the Manitoba Writers Guild and Ellen MacDonald the guild’s event coordinator who did such a fantastic job organizing the evening. I’m already looking forward to next year’s awards night. 

Other posts……..

Not One Book Launch But Three

So Excited

Writer or Palaeontologist?


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Filed under Books, Winnipeg, Writing

Getting To Know Emma Donoghue in Person

Emma was interviewed at McNally Robinson Booksellers by Winnipeg International Writer’s Festival Director Charlene Diehl

Emma Donoghue’s latest book is set in a Toronto mansion with thirty- two rooms. The house is inhabited by two sets of gay parents, seven children named after trees, a frightened cat, inquisitive rat, crippled parrot and three-legged dog.

You might know Emma as the author of Room. She also wrote the Oscar nominated screenplay for the movie based on the novel. I had the pleasure of hearing her interviewed at Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson Book Sellers last week.

Emma, the author of several successful adult novels is currently promoting a new project, a book for children called The Lotterys Plus One. Emma wants to show readers just how diverse families can be and The Lotterys Plus One certainly does that. The four parents in the novel come from India, Jamaica, Scotland and the Mohawk Nation. Many of the seven children are adopted. One has attention deficit disorder, another a physical disability, and a third gender identity issues.

Striking illustrations like this one by Caroline Hadilaksono help readers sort out all the characters in The Lotterys Plus One. 

The children are all home schooled and the parents don’t work because long ago they found a winning lottery ticket that left them financially set for life. Things are ticking along as normally as can be expected in this unusual household until a grandfather moves in because he is suffering from dementia. How will the family cope with this cantankerous newcomer?

We learned quite a bit about Emma’s personal and family life from her talk with Charlene Diehl

Author Emma Donoghue grew up in a large Catholic family in Dublin Ireland but now lives in London, Ontario where she parents two children with her partner Chris. Emma told us she used some of her own parenting experiences in The Lotterys Plus One. For example the children in the novel get head lice, something that has happened several times to Emma’s children. Emma says when her children do something funny or interesting she will ask them, “Can I use that for one of my book characters?”

I was curious how Emma had found the switch from writing for adults to writing for children. She says writing for children is much harder. It took her six years to write The Lotterys Plus One. She is a busy woman with as many as ten writing projects on the go at once, short stories, poetry, novels, screenplays and children’s books. She collects ideas for all ten projects in separate files on her phone. She finds inspiration everywhere and making notes in her phone is the handiest way to keep a record of things as soon as she sees or experiences them. Later she transfers these files to her computer.

Emma answers questions from the audience

After Emma’s interview the audience had a chance to ask her questions. One young girl said she wanted her mother to write books too and asked Emma if she could teach her Mom how to write a book. Emma said, “Everyone has a book in them. Your Mom does too. She just needs the time and space to write it.”

Another audience member said she had never seen the movie Room because there was no way it could compare to the book. Emma said she loves the movie version of Room. She thinks the director did a marvelous job with her story.

I asked her what books she had read as a child and she said pretty much anything but did mention Jane Austen, Enid Blyton and C.S. Lewis. She said she had loved fairy tales.

My friend Wendy getting her copy The Lotterys Plus One signed by Emma Donoghue

Her new book is a bit of a modern fairy tale and I think Emma knows that, but she also hopes the diverse family in The Lotterys Plus One will help her readers realize it can be enriching and positive to have an open mind about what  we consider to be “ideal” when it comes to family life.

Other posts………

Writing For Children- Not As Easy As I Thought

Writer or Palaeontologist?

Chocogasm Course at McNally Robinson Booksellers

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Filed under Books, Canada, Childhood, Writing

Readers Have Lots to Say!

Here’s some comments my recent blog posts have garnered on various social media.

Erwin one of my most faithful readers commented that my grandson’s portrait of me is an excellent likeness. 

Lynn thought my brother had died when she read the title of my post about going hiking with him. She was relieved to discover that wasn’t the case. 

After Rob read Rubbing Mr. Eaton’s Foot he told me he had recently walked by the statue at the MTS Centre and rubbed Mr. Eaton’s foot.   Esther said during her childhood her family met at the clock at Eatons when they were shopping because there were always too many people at Mr. Eaton’s statue. 

Bonny read the post about my mother’s sayings and recalled what a kind, gentle and patient woman my mother had been.

Heather cried after reading my post about the little boy from Iraq.  She says he represents the best of the human experience.

Lorraine said the photo of my grandmother doing laundry on the back porch brought back memories of her mother doing the same thing.

Mitch always tells his granddaughter that most people in the world are good, they just make bad choices. After reading my post about acid attacks in India he thinks he may have to revise his statement. 

Fran told me that Anish Kapoor the artist whose work I saw in Phoenix had created one of the warming huts on Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River skating trail.

After reading my post about Agatha Christie writing Murder on the Orient Express in Aleppo my brother-in-law John recalled his own visit to Aleppo. “I stopped in Aleppo on my train ride from Ankara to Damascus. The men I met on the train took me to a spa for a little bean soup and a hot bath. I remember taking advantage of the occasion and washed some clothes in the marble vats.”

Arlene said she is often the recipient of grammar corrections from her husband just like the ones I wrote about in a post. 

After reading about my icy walk to work Elsie commented she had fallen on the ice that same day but thankfully only her pride had been hurt. 

Patty appreciates my blog even more because I was vulnerable enough to share a poem that helped me during a sad experience in my life. 

As a trained architectural technologist Ruth was very interested in the post about the blueprints for my grandparents’ house in Drake Saskatchewan. She scrolled through the post many times looking for details in the drawings.  

Nicole one of my art gallery colleagues informed me the reason a Lawren Harris painting I wrote about was missing from the Winnipeg Art Gallery is because it is on loan to the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg, Ontario. 

“Amen” MaryAnn commented after reading my post about Member of Parliament Ted Falk. 

Some of my posts about the American election prompted one American reader to write “I’ve been very troubled by the justifications I’ve heard from people for a Trump vote. To me, it was simply unconscionable to promote a person of such low moral, personal, and professional character for what is arguably the most powerful and influential role in the world. How could I look my child in the eye and say “Yes, I helped elect him, but don’t ever talk or treat people the way he does”? 

Alison thinks artist Wanda Koop would love to know that a young viewer called her paintings on display at the Winnipeg Art Gallery portscapes.

My cousin Al added some additional information to my post about the conscientious objector wall in Winkler, Manitoba. “The Conscientious Objectors Memorial Wall has one brick for each of the COs. There are intentionally no names on the bricks. However, the bricklayer’s father was a conscientious objector so when he laid the wall, he inscribed his father’s name on one brick and laid it with the name to the inside, invisible to all visitors but meaningful to him.”

Suzanne was so inspired by the Artists In Action post she said she’d like to organize something similar. 

One reader wondered if the most meaningful days might be ones when you are at rest, at peace with yourself and you meditate to clear your mind. This was suggested as a contrast to the busy list I included in my post about meaningful days.  I think they could be right!

There have been so many more comments and I am grateful for each and everyone.  Responses from my readers are a big reason I keep on writing.  Thanks so much to all of you. 


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Filed under Reflections, Writing

Gone With the Wind, Goals and A Manitoba Blizzard

I led the last meeting of our children’s writers’ group The Anita Factor .  I decided we’d spend some time writing answers to a series of questions that would help us reflect on our own reading and writing experiences. As we shared our responses we learned more about each other.   Here’s how I answered three of the questions.

What is a book that made you cry?

I cried buckets when I read Gone With the Wind.  I was about thirteen at the time and happened to be at a particularly sad part of the book during a private concert my mother was hosting.  One of her good friends, a composer and musician was debuting a new piano work and Mom had invited a livingroom full of women to serve as her audience for the premiere. Mom had prepared all these lovely tea sandwiches and dainties to serve after the performance and I was to help her serve them. I was up in my room reading Gone With the Wind and crying during the concert so when Mom came to get me to help her serve the food my face was red and splotchy and my eyes swollen from crying.  I had become just a puddle reading about all that Civil War devastation. Mom took one look at me and told me to just keep on reading.  She would serve the guests herself. 

What would literary success look like to you? 

After I retired from teaching I set myself a goal of having a fiction piece published because up to that point I had only had things like newspaper columns, magazine articles, curriculums, meditations, travel pieces and essays published.  I achieved my first goal when a short story I had written was published in Rhubarb magazine. Now I have set myself a goal of having two children’s books published. I’d like to publish a picture book and a middle grade novel.  If I achieve that goal I will feel like I’ve been successful.  I have ideas for other writing projects I’d like to try but for now the children’s books are my goal.

What is the first piece of writing you ever had published?

The first piece of writing I ever had published was a story I wrote in grade five after we’d had a major blizzard in Manitoba.  I wrote about how the storm had effected our town. My fifth grade teacher Mr. Klassen thought my piece was so good he submitted it to the local paper and they printed it.  My Mom cut out the article, created a background out of wrapping paper and framed it for me.  I still have it in that same frame. 

Other posts…….

I’ve Been A Newspaper Columnist For Decades

In Chicken Soup Again

Writing For Children- Not as Easy As I Thought

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A Chance To Write

Here are two writing opportunities I’d like to take part in. The first comes up in just a week or so.  It’s a course being offered by Rebelight a Winnipeg publishing company. The course targets teen writers.  I know some authors who have published with Rebelight and they would be great mentors for those just entering the field.  If I was a teen I’d love to take this course.  As a high school English teacher I discovered first hand how developing writing skills and gaining confidence as a writer can inspire and empower teens.  Writing gives kids a voice. If I had a teenager I would certainly be encouraging them to try this course. You can get more information about the workshop here

I recently entered a contest to win free tution for a writing course at Book House on Pelee Island.  I’d love to be able to attend one of these session, first of all because my husband’s family has many connections with Pelee Island.  Two generations have spent a considerable number of years living on the island. But attending the workshop would also provide an amazing opportunity to work on a variety of writing projects while receiving professional advice.  I’ve known for a long time that writer Margaret Atwood had property on Pelee Island. It’s great to see she is being so generous about using it to encourage other writers.  You can learn more about the workshop here

Other posts………

A Quick Five

Why Pigs Bark 

I’m So Excited

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