Category Archives: Writing

We Never Stop Talking

One member of our writers group had just returned from a trip to Holland and he brought chocolates from Amsterdam for us to enjoy. Each chocolate wrapper featured a Van Gogh masterpiece.  

The talking never stopped! Last week the children’s writers group I belong to gathered at my home. Normally we meet at McNally Robinson Booksellers but the audience for a popular book launch was expected to flood McNally’s last Thursday so I invited the group to my condo instead.
Three members were missing but that didn’t stop the rest of us from having a great time exchanging personal news, reading pieces of our writing for the group to critique and sharing plans for upcoming writing projects we have just started or are envisioning. We discussed an article that provides statistics on the state of children’s writing in North America. It included facts and figures about the success and efforts of those of us who write for a young audience. We had a lively debate about the article’s findings.  

After the evening was over I thought about why I love my writers group so much. 

Jodi one of the members of my writing group signs books at the launch of her novel Family of Spies

My writers group inspires me. Hearing about the successful publishing track record of some members motivates me to keep trying to get one of my manuscripts published.

Larry who is a member of my writers’ group signs a copy of his latest novel Coop the Great for Mindi, another member of our writing group

My group makes me more accountable. I want to have writing to share every time we meet and that often gives me the push I need to make time for children’s writing in my sometimes hectic schedule filled with other writing assignments I’ve accepted.

At the Manitoba Book Awards with members of my writers’ group. Several members of our group had been nominated for awards.

I know I’ve become a much better writer because of the critiques I’ve received from my group. Recently I was getting ready to submit a manuscript to a publisher. My submission needed to include a query letter, biographical statement and synopsis. For two months I read those documents at each writers group meeting and each time my writing friends helped me improve them, till they were finally at a stage where I was ready to submit them.

Gabriele another member of writers group signs copies of her novel Broken Stone at her McNally’s launch

My writers group gives me confidence. Their praise and encouragement keep me believing that someday I too will get a manuscript published.
And finally, my group provides entertainment and friendship. Before we sat down at my dining room table last Thursday to ‘get down to business’ so to speak, there was time for a lively chat about our families, activities, travels and life challenges.

My writing group at our Christmas party last year

I realize my writers’ group enriches both my personal and writing life and I am so grateful for that!

Other posts………..

In Good Company

Family of Spies

A Writing Inheritance From My Grandparents

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Beer, Baseball and Literature- An Eclectic Evening

Guests visiting before the literary readings began

On Friday my husband Dave hosted a kind of literary soiree/beer tasting at our house. The theme was beer and baseball. Dave is the organizer of a bi-weekly beer club here in Winnipeg that visits a different brewpub in the city each time they meet. He invited the members of that club and their partners, plus a variety of other friends, to come to our house for a beer and baseball literary night.

Dave had done some decorating for the party- a series of photos of him playing ball taken by sports reporter Terry Frey- his award when his ball team was admitted to the Manitoba Baseball Hall of Fame and a sculpture of him as ballplayer by a former colleague Jack Tait

Dave has been a ballplayer since he was about four years old and continues to play ball at age 67, but I think part of the reason the evening’s theme included baseball was because a World Series game between the Houston Astros and Washington Nationals was being aired Friday night and Dave had it on in the background although the sound was muted during the party.

Dave chats with Andrew Unger one of the guest readers 

Five people shared pieces of their writing during the evening.  Roger Groening who has published the book Knuckleball, Andrew Unger who is the author of the blog The Daily Bonnet, Erin Unger who writes the blog MennoToba, our friend Mitch Toews whose short stories have been published in all kinds of different journals, anthologies and literary magazines and finally me.  Not everyone’s readings revolved around beer and baseball but a few did, including mine. 

Reading a chapter from my novel to the group

In between the readings, each of the fellows from the beer club who were in attendance introduced a special beer they had brought along for everyone to taste. Each explained why that particular beer had been chosen. The party went on till after midnight and I think folks had an interesting time meeting new people and hearing the readers share their writing.  After each reader’s presentation, the audience could ask questions. Some of the stories shared were humorous, some were sad, and some a little of both.

One guest had brought cheese from Wisconsin in the shape of a beer mug for us to sample

Dave provided snacks, one guest had brought delicious homemade cookies, another some interesting cheese and Dave topped off the evening with chocolate-covered treats from a famous Winnipeg ice cream parlour Sargeant Sundae.  

I think maybe the word I’d use to describe the whole evening would be eclectic. 

Other posts……….

Proestry

I’m on Mennotoba

 The Daily Bonnet Just Made Us Famous

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Creation Care and the Bible

This past week a set of reflections I wrote connecting environmental stewardship with seven different passages from the Bible was featured in the Menno Media publication Rejoice.

I used a description of a sculpture from the Winnipeg Art Gallery collection to reflect on how a previous generation handled an environmental disaster during the Dust Bowl. I linked it to the story of Elijah during a drought in his country. 

I talked about how my high school students and I learned some valuable lessons about the importance of caring for the environment when we visited the country of Borneo together. I compared it to the way Timothy learned valuable lessons from his mother and grandmother to get him through tough times. 

I recalled a Consumption Sabbath event I had attended in Winnipeg a number of years ago and remarked how it reminded me of a parable that Jesus told about two housebuilders and the admonition Jesus included to not only hear advice but to act on it. 

I described how a prayer ritual at a baby naming ceremony on the Hopi First Nation made me rethink our stewardship of the earth. I connected that with a story in Deuteronomy about people bringing their produce as offerings or gifts to the Creator. 

A reflection about the environmental causes of vision loss was linked to the story of blind Bartimaeus.  

I used a passage from a Psalm to illustrate the importance of preserving the songbird population which is in dangerous decline.

I rounded out the week’s writings by listing all the positive things I see being done right here in Winnipeg to respect creation. That was inspired by the passage in Philippians 4 that encourages us to look for things to praise. 

If you are interested in ordering the entire book which features Scripture passages and reflections on the theme of God’s Earth for each day in September, October and November, you can do so here.

Writing and researching the series reinforced my belief that it is imperative for people of faith around the world to work together to help address the current climate crisis. 

Other posts………

Connecting with Rejoice

A Week in Rejoice

 

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What Are People Saying?

It has been almost seven months since I have done a post cataloging responses I’ve received on my blog. So here are some that might be of interest. Mary who is one of my most faithful blog readers was intrigued by my post on Warli art.  She used the technique to make a birthday card for her grandson. 

Probably my most popular post in the last while is the one I did about my husband transporting a pineapple crisp on the back of his bicycle.  My great-niece Isabella and her grandma, my sister-in-law Shirley, told me that after they read the post about the pineapple crisp they were inspired to make a peach crisp.  My Auntie Mildred read the post about my grandmother’s honeymoon journal and told me she remembered my grandparents as wonderful, sweet people who were such fun. 

When I did a post about A Men Working sign wondering why it didn’t include women, my friend Millie said it was because women don’t need a sign to let people know when they are working. 

My post about Thin Places prompted a blog reader named Dean to write that his thin place is Tsawwassen British Columbia. 

My cousin-in-law Joanne could identify with the post about my Dad and my aunt spending time together.  She said she and her three sisters are very close.  They get together all the time and help and support one another. 

My former colleague Perry who lives in Halifax now liked my post about Peanut Park in Winnipeg. When he and his wife were first married they lived right across from the park. 

I got quite a few responses to my post on the word Yeet.’  My friend Jennifer who lives in Hong Kong said her pre-teen has been using the word and she’s glad now she knows what it means. A former teaching colleague said she had learned the word from her students.  An art gallery colleague who considers herself a linguist said she was surprised she’d never heard the word.  My friend Heather said her teenagers just roll their eyes when she tries to use ‘yeet.’

Billboard created by a woman’s rights group in the Niagara area of Ontario

Probably no post in recent months had as many likes and shares and comments as the one I wrote called Pro-Life or Anti Woman.  Abortion is clearly a topic that people feel very strongly about. Interestingly that post led to me meeting with a woman who identifies as being pro-life and we talked about all the things we had in common. I wrote a post about that too. 

My post about Miriam Toews and her relationship with her hometown received plenty of responses and was shared on many different sites. One Facebook responder suggested we put up a sign in Steinbach honoring Miriam Toews, but writer Armin Wiebe reminded him that it took ten years after Margaret Laurence’s death for her hometown of Neepawa to honor her in any way. 

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog and especially those readers who take the time to write comments.  I appreciate them all. 

 

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What A Delight!

The time just flew by!   On Friday I had a delightful morning chatting with Donna Janke, another Winnipeg blogger.  Donna has a blog called Destinations, Detours and Dreams where she writes about the places she has been on her travels and also about interesting sites to visit right here in Winnipeg and Manitoba.  I’ve been reading Donna’s blog for quite some time now and so it was great to meet with her for a couple of hours over breakfast and compare notes on our blogging experiences.  I love the look of Donna’s blog and so many people take an interest in it and make comments about her posts.  I was glad to have the opportunity to ‘pick her brain’ for ideas about blog design, photography, social media connections, and increasing readership. Donna has attended several conferences for travel bloggers. I have never been to a blogging conference. That’s something that might be fun to do in the future.

Donna and I both grew up in small Manitoba towns.  We both love to travel and journal about our experiences.  We both have an interest in a variety of writing genres. I am exploring writing for children, and Donna dabbles in mystery writing.  We have both had articles published in magazines and newspapers. We have both spent time living in Arizona for part of the year. We both have traveled with our sisters.  We both are officially retired. We both love learning new things.  We are both mothers. We both blog.  Kindred spirits? 

One of the things I love about writing my blog is that it has provided connections to all kinds of new and interesting people. I don’t get to meet most of them in person, so the fact that this time I did, was just delightful. 

Other posts……..

A Fascinating Conversation in A Tiny Wine Shop in Lisbon

Meeting a Boat Tracker

Calculator Conversation

Meeting Wayan From Eat Pray Love

 

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Prosetry

On Saturday night our friends Jan and Mitch hosted a Prosetry evening on the waterfront of their beautiful Jessica Lake cottage. Prosetry is a mixture of prose and poetry and that’s what was on the menu for our literary evening by the shore.  Guests were invited to share something they had written be it music lyrics, poems, short stories or essays. We had all brought along our munchies, beverages of choice and lawn chairs and we settled in around a fire that provided warmth as the evening air chilled.  The view was magnificent. Our friend Mitch, who has devoted much of his time during his retirement to penning short stories which he has published widely, opened the evening welcoming us all there. Our friend Don read some wonderful poems.  I’d heard Don read his comedic essays before, but these poems were something completely different. I found them touching and insightful. Our friend Hans is a prolific blogger and I have learned a great deal from his instructional online meanderings. But on this evening he shared an essay he’d written on how passions can enrich our lives.  He talked about his own passions as well as those of people he has met, including one man whose passion is the study of moths. It was so inspiring. Appropriately for the evening, my husband Dave had written a song about the joys and sorrows of being a writer. As usual Dave’s humor and rich bass voice engaged his audience.  Although I am primarily a newspaper columnist, magazine article writer, and blogger I too strayed from my usual writing genre and shared a short story I had written loosely based on several incidents from the 60s that happened at our own family’s lakeside cottage. Our friend Mitch read a poignant and beautifully written story about a man who fashions a toboggan race course for his young son. Other folks took to the mike to share poems and stories sent to Mitch by writers he has connected with online. My two favorites were the reflections of a 104-year-old woman on her birthday read thoughtfully and engagingly by my friend Irene and a poem about a gooseberry that my friend Chris read in a most sultry and suggestive way. Some people had to leave early for their drive back to the city but since Dave and I were staying the night at the cottage we were part of the group that gathered around the fire for conversation.  We were serenaded by John who had a cadre of songs in his repertoire that kept us entertained in the moonlight. There are already rumors of a similar evening happening next year.  Maybe you’d like to be part of it. 

Other posts………

Writers All Around

A Carol for the Sunrise

Reading Aloud to Teens

 

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Top Ten Pieces of Writing Advice From David Robertson

David Robertson writes everything! I recently read an opinion piece he’d written for the CBC. Several weeks ago I attended a workshop where he explained how he writes his graphic novels.  David is the author of a biography of Helen Betty Osborne and in 2017 his children’s picture book When We Were Alone won a Governor General’s Literary Award.  The latest novel in his young adult trilogy The Reckoners just hit bookstands and in 2014 he released an adult novel called The Evolution of AliceListening to writer David Robertson talk about the projects he’s completed and the current projects he has in the works at the recent CANSCAIP Saskatchewan Horizons conference was a little overwhelming. How does he do it all?  And don’t forget he has five children. Then there are all the speaking engagements and school visits and ……… he still has a full-time job besides all of that.  And did I mention I recently started following Dave on social media where he has a prolific presence? 

Dave was part of the Vision and Voice panel at the CANSCAIP conference along with Arthur Slade and Miriam Korner

At the conference, we heard Dave speak three times.  He was part of a Vision and Voice panel, he was interviewed by children’s writer Alice Kuipers and he presented the keynote address.  

Dave gives his keynote address.

We learned a lot about Dave and his family, during those sessions but he also gave us some great advice to help us with our writing. I’ve pulled out things he said in his various presentations at the conference and compiled them into my own top ten list.  

1.  Serious writers work on their writing regularly.  It’s a  habit. They schedule a time to write into every day. They put it on their calendar like it’s an important meeting they must attend. 

2. Writing new stuff should take up about 20% of your time. Editing, revising, going through your works in progress line by line will take about 80% of your time. Your first draft is just a big blob of clay that you will constantly shape and reshape. You will never think you have edited and revised enough, but eventually, the book will have to go to publication.  

3. It can be helpful to establish a quota for yourself.  You might set a goal to write 1250 words a day on a new project and edit two chapters a day of a work in progress. 

4. Read widely. The more kinds of books you read the easier it will be for you to find your own voice. You can integrate the style of the writers you read into your own work. 

5.  When you are determining what you want to write ask yourself  …..What’s been done?  What hasn’t been done? What gaps are there in writing for children that I might fill? 

6. Write across the genres. Writing different kinds of children’s literature- picture books, graphic novels, middle-grade novels, early reader books, autobiographies, poetry- helps you develop all kinds of new skills as a writer.  It gets you out of your comfort zone.

7. Give thought to what you want to accomplish with your work. Always write from a place of passion. What is it you want to do to change the world? 

8.  Don’t forget to be good to yourself. Writing can be mentally and physically exhausting.

9. Although you may have to write in all kinds of places to get your work done, have a familiar home base for your writing. You might want to pick certain music to play, set the mood with a certain kind of lighting, or even wear certain clothes to write. 

10. Stories never die. They come to life as soon as they leave our mouths. The stories you write should encourage kids to tell their own stories. Stories are our life!

Dave is interviewed by Alice Kuipers

This is just my list- but hearing Dave tell the stories that illustrated each of the points he made was so engaging and interesting.  You can order a video that shows him doing that here. 

Other posts………

Writing that Heals

Timing and Luck

Vision and Voice

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