Category Archives: Writing

What Are People Saying?

I have been getting a fair number of comments on my recent blog posts. I thought I’d share some of my reader’s responses with you.

dave bargains with sellers in a saigon marketA teacher responded to my post What Is Your Body Saying? with this comment. I talk about body language a lot with my middle years girls; it’s important they know the power of that form of communication and how it can help or hinder. Eye rolls, turning away, standing in a closed and unwelcome circle….I find the power of non-verbal communication so fascinating! Thanks for the interesting article.

mary barkmanOne of Mary Barkman’s daughters wrote to tell me how much she appreciated my post She Persisted about the contributions her mother had made to the founding of the library in Steinbach. She learned some new things about her mother’s important role. 

confessional booth at the Vatican

My husband Dave in front of a confessional booth at the Vatican

A reader said the kind of public corporate confession in this post is just an admission we are all human.  She remarked that personal confessions with people who are important to us are what is really tough.  Another reader said that sometimes when a corporate confession is being read in his church he looks around and thinks to himself ‘ this confession doesn’t really apply to anyone here.’  

Three-Billboards-Outside-Ebbing-Missouri-filmA reader in Florida wasn’t sure he agreed with my review of the movie Three Billboards Outside  Ebbing Missouri. He said, I saw a tremendous amount of grace and forgiveness in this movie, made all the more profound by the intense anger, frustration, brutality and despair of the characters. I found it to be deeply truthful and even hopeful.

Pitaloosie and Aqsatunnguaq

Watercolor by Pitaloosie Saila

A faithful daily blog reader encouraged me not to stop using ’empty adjectives’ completely since they provide emotional context. 

anneken jans

Etching of Anneken Jans handing over her baby by Jan Luiken from the Martyrs Mirror, 1685

A reader in Hawaii commented on my essay Is It Wrong to Die For Your Faith  .    He said it raised fascinating questions and is consistent with what he believes about life and faith. 

When I posted about our new European style bedding several readers sent messages to tell me they had been sleeping like this for years.  One reader from British Columbia said it was the perfect solution to her and her husband’s different sleeping styles. 

Upstairs Bedroom by Margruite Krahn

I was honored Erin Unger referred to my post Mennonite Floor Art on her popular mennotoba blog.

When I wrote about how Jagmeet Singh the new leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and I both talk with our hands a former colleague who lives in Hong Kong said..Your animated manner of speaking, both with words and gestures, are what make you an engaging conversationalist, MaryLou!  My cousin in Saskatchewan told me he had recently been in Ottawa and had met Jagmeet Singh. 

A reader from Dahahran commented on one of my posts about a fishing village in Iceland we visited. She said her own family hailed originally from a Norwegian fishing village not too far away. 



A reader from Minneapolis liked yesterday’s post about King David’s mother. She said we need more archetypal strong women…whether Jewish or Gentile, Muslim or Hindi..

I sincerely appreciate the hundreds of people who take the time to read my blog each day.  

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Empty Adjectives

Don’t use so many empty adjectives.  I was going through an old journal I kept during the time my younger son was a communications student at university. He was taking writing and journalism courses so I asked him to read a number of my newspaper columns and give me some advice on how I could improve my writing.  One of his suggestions was that I needed to get rid of the empty adjectives in my pieces.  

I guess I didn’t take my son’s advice too seriously because on rereading his words a decade later I still had no idea what empty adjectives were.  I decided it was probably time to find out. After a little internet research I discovered empty adjectives are describing words that add a friendlier softer tone to sentences but do not add any meaningful content. Research says women are more prone to using empty adjectives than men. 

Armed with my new knowledge about ’empty adjectives’ I  looked back at my recent blog posts and sure enough it didn’t take me long to find some empty adjectives.  

We had delightful eggnog cheesecake. That’s how I described the dessert at a Christmas get together with my friends in a recent blog.  Delightful is an empty adjective.  I could have used more specific adjectives like creamy or spicy or chocolate -topped. They would have told you more about my cheesecake unlike the empty adjective delightful. 

Pitaloosie and Aqsatunnguaq – a watercolor by Pitaloosie Saila

There is a sad story behind this gorgeous watercolor of Pitaloosie and her sister. I used that sentence in a blog post describing a painting by Inuit artist Pitaloosie Saila.  Gorgeous is an empty adjective.  I could have used more specific adjectives like poignant, child-like or colorful.  They would have told you more about the artwork unlike the empty adjective gorgeous. 

My son was right!  I do use empty adjectives.  I am going to try to cure myself of that habit.  If you discover an empty adjective in my blog posts please do let me know. 

Other posts………

It is Beginning To Feel Like Christmas

A Very Personal Story

Who’s Right? My Husband or Me? 



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I’m on mennotoba

Andrew Bergman is the author and host of the popular and humorous  site The Daily Bonnet.  Recently Andrew and his partner Erin have started another site called mennotoba.  It features stories about all things Mennonite in our province but from a more serious and less satirical perspective than The Daily Bonnet.  On Tuesday I was featured on the site answering questions about my travels, Manitoba and my career as a writer.  The questions were excellent and really made me think. 

You can check out my interview here.

 Other posts……..

One of My Photographs is in the Supreme Court Building in London

In A Cinematography Textbook

My First Published Piece of Fiction

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So Much Hard Work

It wasn’t just a dream that came true.  

Wednesday I had nothing on my calendar so I ‘binge- watched’ the remaining episodes of Jane the Virgin on Netflix.  In the final episode Jane an aspiring author is with her friend Rafael. He sees an advertisement listing new books about to be published. One is Jane’s.  Rafael tells Jane her dream of becoming a famous author has finally come true.   She reminds him getting her book published wasn’t some magical “dream that came true.”  It took years and years of hard work.  Indeed the sixty-four episodes of the show trace her difficult path to becoming a published writer.

Jane suffers from writers’ block.

It involved writing three different books, agreeing to lots of compromise with editors, financial hardship, attending workshops, being part of a writers group, turning down a teaching position to focus on writing, getting a graduate degree in creative writing, learning to balance her personal life with her writing, finding the right mentors, serendipitous connections, altering ideals, overcoming writers’ block, rewriting, editing, taking chances and networking. 

Jane with her writers’ group

I was happy to see the series did not sugar coat just how hard it is to get a book published these days. It also illustrated just how hard it is to sell a book even when it has been published.  Jane’s graduate school mentor shows Jane closets full of her published books that never sold because they weren’t marketed aggressively enough.  She tells Jane she must do whatever it takes to sell herself and her books.  

Jane promoting her book at a book fair

There is much about the series Jane the Virgin that is more like a fairy tale or a soap opera and very unrealistic, but the way it portrays just how hard it is to become a successful published author is very realistic indeed!

Other posts……….

Autumn is the Perfect Time for Writing

I’m So Excited

Why Do You Keep Doing This?

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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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