Category Archives: Writing

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

Learning How To Write Historical Fiction

I just finished reading three novels written for young people. Each one is historical. Since I am writing a novel set in 1907 I was eager to get  insight into how to best craft a story set in the past.

the_gentle_falcon_coverThe Gentle Falcon by Hilda Lewis takes place in the 1300s and tells the story of Isabella Clinton a girl chosen to be a special companion to the French child bride of England’s King Richard II. The book starts off in an interesting way as we meet Isabella and learn about her life and the adventure she is about to begin. However the middle section of the book seems too bent on getting in all the historical details of Richard II’s life. It took the focus off the main character too much. Reading The Gentle Falcon reminded me that story and character development is more important than covering all the historical facts.

when_you_reach_meThe second novel I read was When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stein. It is a Newberry Medal winner set in 1979. The book is about a New York girl named Miranda and her life at school, home and in her neighbourhood. She is trying to figure out who is sending mysterious letters to her. From reading this book I learned it is much harder to write a novel set just decades ago than a novel set more than a hundred years ago. Because many things in 1979 were  similar to the present it is harder to establish the unique historical context of the story. I think the author might have included more references to things unique to the 70’s.  It reminded me to check every detail of my manuscript to be sure I don’t have references that are too generic or modern and plenty that are unique to 1907.

tucson-jo-national-book-award-finalistThe third novel I read was Tuscon Jo by Carol Matas. It is set in the 1880s in Arizona and is a fictional account of the family life of one of Tuscon’s first mayors. We really get to know our main character Jo, the mayor’s daughter very well. The real mayor whose life inspired the story was Jewish and Jewish faith and culture is given lots of emphasis in the story. I found out later that the book’s publisher specializes in Judaic literature. I learned you sometimes have to write your story in a way that will bring it to the attention of a certain publisher. In an afterword Carol Matas said she moved some of the events around in time to make the story better. It is important to remember when you write historical fiction that you can do that. 

Other posts……

Lesson Not Required

Winnie the Pooh is from Winnipeg

Book Pilfering


Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Writing

Should I Be More Real and Messy and Honest?

“Your post was FANTASTIC!  I loved it.”  One of my readers responded to my blog Real and Messy and Honest with those words. He told me people get far more enjoyment from reading stories about how things went wrong than they do from reading stories that include lots of details about how great and interesting and enjoyable everything turned out to be. The post Real and Messy and Honest was certainly the most popular thing I have written in a long time, garnering many views and comments.

snow-stormMy cousin Carol said this was my funniest post yet. My cousin Fred took time to write a humorous personal reflection on Facebook about each thing that had gone wrong for us. His funny responses ended with a link to the Monty Python video of the song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from the movie Life of Brian.

Reader Lori says my post was recognizable and real and she is well aware no one has a perfect life, but she still appreciates writers who highlight the positive.  Anita, who started following my blog when we holidayed in Costa Rica says while my blogs always have lots of great facts and pictures this post provided a change she loved. She suggested it is good to try and see the humour in the messy side of life.

Other readers said they appreciated me exposing the underbelly of my life. It proved I was real.  Fellow writer Dora said she had loved my honest messy blog post but she also likes the usual cheer in my posts. My highschool friend Sandee reminded me that good things can fit into the mess of life too and my friend Arlene said my positive energy lifts her spirits so I should put a smile back on my face and keep looking at the positive side of life. A former pastor of mine thanked me for sharing and said it can be a good at times to recognize the messiness in our own lives and those of others. Many readers said the post had resonated with them because they have had very similar days to mine. One of my former teaching colleagues said the post made her laugh out loud because it was so familiar.

marylou hiking quail trailFellow writer Suzanne told me not to pay heed to people who criticize me for being too positive.   According to Suzanne looking for a silver lining is a gift to be admired not a fault. She loves my positivity and is glad all my posts aren’t written like Real and Messy and Honest.  It would offer far too depressing an outlook on life.

One of my faithful readers Ruth said she was glad I wrote about the downside of my day. It made her laugh and realize that she and her husband aren’t alone in having heated discussions sometimes when they travel. She said she truly enjoys all my positive and enlightening posts but this realistic post was a great way to begin the year of 2017.

Heather Plett the life coach who inspired the post by asking her followers to write a real, messy and honest report about a day in their lives told me I had done a good job of completing the assigned task.

The response to this post made me think I do need to try and write my posts in a more humourous fashion and not be afraid to write about conflict or negative things at times.  It also made me realize I shouldn’t change the way I write too much because most people who follow my blog do so because they like it’s positive tone and direction.

Writing Real and Messy and Honest certainly got a lot of response from my readers, response that has given me lots to think about.

Other posts………

What Are People Saying?

An Attitude of Gratitude

Higher Ground

Leave a comment

Filed under Reflections, Writing

Why Do Pigs Bark and Other Questions

One thing I am enjoying about our time away from home here in Arizona is that it gives me space to work on the middle grade novel I am writing.  Since the novel in set in 1907 I often have to look up facts and answers to questions .  Here’s some neat stuff I’ve learned.

When pigs are in danger they bark.  They squeal when they are happy and bark when they are scared.

The most common names for girls in 1907  were Mary, Margaret, Helen and Anna followed closely by Ruth and Dorothy, my mother’s name.

barn at farm b and bMost barns were red in the early 1900s and the reason why is because farmers often added ferrous oxide, or rust, to the linseed oil they used to paint their barns. Rust was plentiful on farms and acted as a poison to many fungi, including mold and moss, which were known to grow on barns. These fungi could trap moisture in the wood, increasing decay so getting rid of it was important.397px-theodore_roosevelt_-_nara_-_298098 Teddy Roosevelt was the American President and in 1907 he was signing what came to be known as the Gentlemen’s Agreement with Japan. Large numbers of Japanese people were immigrating to the United States as laborers and in San Francisco the school board had begun to create segregated schools for Japanese children. This angered the Japanese. So they signed an agreement saying they would limit the number of people they gave passports to for American immigration purposes and in return President Roosevelt promised to end racial segregation in San Francisco schools.

windmillA ‘sack and back’ boy was someone who worked in a flour mill carrying sacks of flour on his back and the biggest problem in mills in the early 1900s was rodents like mice and rats. Many millers in small communities also served as the town blacksmith.

A couple of women in my writing group are posting the number of words they write each day on their novels.  I have set my own little goal of 500 words.  I am not achieving that everyday but in my first week in Arizona I have written a whole chapter.  Doing all the research takes extra time and sometimes I get so engrossed in it I don’t do much writing but it sure is interesting.  

Other posts……

Writer or Palaeontologist ?

Look It Up and Learn

Why Do I Keep Doing This? 


1 Comment

Filed under Writing

Who’s Right My Husband or Me?

breakfast at feast marylou and daveI love my husband dearly but one thing  he does which I don’t find too endearing is to correct my grammar . Most of the time I have to be honest, he is right and I am wrong. For example I used to differentiate between my two sons by calling one the youngest and the other the oldest. Dave pointed out this mistake enough times I don’t make it anymore. Since we only have two sons the correct way of referring to them is ‘the younger’ and ‘the older’.
Another correction he makes is when I use the word adaption. He thinks it should be adaptation. When he corrected me on it yet again last week in front of friends I decided I’d finally look it up to see who is right.
What I found is  the two words have become interchangeable.
Wiki -E How says that most dictionaries claim the two words adapt and adaptation are synonyms and either may be used correctly. I checked to see if this was true and the Oxford Dictionary and Mirriam Webster confirmed it.
On a site called Daily Writing Tips they say although adaptation is the preferred spelling, adaption is in common use among English speakers in Canada, Australia, the UK, and the USA.
The site The Grammarist says the two words are different forms of the same word and they share the same meaning.
Just to be fair however The Washington Post and New York Times style guides still say adaptation is correct as do The Guardian and The Observer guides.
So could it be we are both right?

Other posts………..


My Movie Debut

You’re Killing Me

1 Comment

Filed under Writing

A Quick Five

My friend Kelly who lives in Chicago has taken a block of time off from her regular job to focus on writing and publishing a novel.  I am so excited for her!  It was something I always dreamed of doing when I was younger but I’ve waited till now to actually get serious about writing fiction. Kelly has started a blog to chronicle the experience of writing her novel.  One section of that blog is called Writers Quick Five and in it Kelly asks writers five questions about their writing experience. I was so pleased that Kelly invited me to answer her quick five questions about writing and featured me on her blog.  You can read what Kelly wrote about me here.  It is often good to stop and reflect on what is important when you are a writer and Kelly’s questions helped me do that, so I am grateful to her. 

Here are Dave and me sitting across from Kelly and her husband Aaron at a Quiz Night we used to go to together in Hong Kong.

Here are Dave and me sitting across from Kelly and her husband Aaron at a Quiz Night we used to go to together in Hong Kong.

I got to know Kelly in Hong Kong when we were both working at the same school.

Enjoying Chicago style pizza at Kelly's home

Enjoying Chicago style pizza at Kelly’s home

Five years ago we went to visit Kelly and her family in Chicago.  We hope they will make a visit to Winnipeg someday. 

Other posts………..

Chicago Hong Kong 

The Writing Life

What Makes A Best Seller? 

Back in Chicken Soup

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing

So Excited

canscaip-logoThe official announcement came out this morning.  A manuscript for a picture book I submitted to a competition for new children’s authors in Canada was one of four finalists from among hundreds of entries. I am so excited!  I submitted to the contest last year and although my manuscript made it to the final jury I didn’t crack the top four list.  So I edited the story again and again trying to follow all the advice the contest judges had provided, and submitted it to this year’s contest.  And I was a finalist.  The really wonderful thing about being in the top four is that my manuscript will now be given to three Canadian publishers – Annick Press, Kids Can Press and Scholastic Canada for their consideration and I will receive feedback from their editors about how to improve my manuscript. Since these publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts the only way  for me to have them read my story was to be a finalist in this contest. 

I first wrote my story as an assignment in a writing course three and a half years ago and since then have been refining it and changing it constantly to improve it.  I read somewhere that if a picture book gets published it usually takes from five to six years, so I am on the road.  

I owe HUGE thanks to my friend and former Winnipeg Art Gallery colleague Perry Nodelman who gave me such helpful feedback on my manuscript and was the one who suggested I enter my story in this contest, and to the members of The Anita Factor, my writers’ group who have listened to my story many times and offered such wise advice. 

Other posts…….

Writing For Children- Not As Easy As I Thought

Picture Books Have Changed

Talk About Being In Good Company


1 Comment

Filed under Writing