CM Magazine—An Excellent Review

Yesterday was a wet and windy day here in Nova Scotia. We experienced a power outage but it’s our first one this winter, and I refuse to complain, even though we didn’t get our lights back until the wee hours of the morning.

So while I was sitting in the dark, there was a bit of excitement going on. My daughter called to say that CM Magazine had posted a review of “Bitter, Sweet” on their site. I’ll admit I was a bit nervous as I listened to her read it to me over the phone. Turns out it was a very good review. I was on cloud nine!

I also received an email from my editor, Caitlin Drake(who is now with Penguin) to let me know about the review, and Nimbus emailed to let me know the good news as well. CM magazine in read by a lot of librarians and teachers so it’s kind of a big deal. Sweet!

So if you want to read the review, I’ve added the link to CM Magazine.

Pretty exciting!

Something to Talk About

This week has been a busy one. Yesterday I spent the day out in the beautiful Annapolis Valley with two friends. We did some shopping, had lunch and spent the day laughing and being silly. Days like that usually remind me that I really need to get out more often. During the winter months I tend to live like a hermit. So thanks Judi and Bonnie for your gift of friendship. It means a lot to this hermit!

Of course a day out would hardly be complete for me without a trip to the bookstore. I had a pleasant surprise yesterday as we were entering the mall for the second time. I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for many years. She wanted to show me that she had just bought two copies of my book for her kids. So I ended up signing them for her. She asked me about a character in the book, if he was so and so, who would have lived in the community years ago. Apparently she had already read the book, and she and her sister were curious about it. I guess it caught me of guard because I never dreamed anyone would see any resemblance between my fictitious characters and real people. (The story happened years before I was born.) I assured her, I had made everyone up, but I thought it was interesting that it had kept them wondering and thinking. She was also curious as to who the “busybody” in the story was. Nothing wrong with having folks discussing your book, I say.

I’ve had many adults contact me to tell me they’ve read the book. It’s something that all authors appreciate hearing. Earlier this week, I received an email from a young adult who was reading the book—the first feedback from my target audience—so it seemed like a noteworthy event. I was thrilled! It was one of the signed copies I’d left behind at one of the bookstores I visited last fall, and was purchased as a Christmas gift.

So I’ll end this post with a thank you to those who take a moment to send along their thoughts on my book—young or old or in between. Your comments are a welcomed addition to any day!!

A short little post

Just a short little post with a tiny bit of news.

Today, I received word that the Nashwaak Review, a literary magazine in Fredericton, New Brunswick, will be publishing two of my short stories in an upcoming issue. One story I submitted just recently. It was one of the stories I recently dusted off and submitted. The other story I submitted a few years ago—Yes, that’s right a few years ago—-. I assumed it had not been accepted since I hadn’t received word one way or another.

There’s a very important lesson to be learned here and something to keep in mind:

When it comes to the publishing industry don’t assume anything…

You’ll be proven wrong every time.

In this case I was happy to have been wrong. But these surprises that spring up from time to time are always welcomed.

So that’s my little bit of news. Nothing earth shattering but a pleasant bit of news regardless.

Quote of the Day

It takes a long time to bring excellence to maturity

—            Publilius Syrus

I recently came across this quote and I thought what a wonderful reminder it is. I’m inclined to believe that anything worth having is also worth working for. Instant gratification often leaves us feeling empty inside. Deep down we all enjoy a good challenge. Well, most of us that is.

Looking back now, I can honesty say I’m elated that some of my earlier works did not end up published. It made me work all the harder to achieve my goal. In the beginning I told myself that not only did I want to be published but I also wanted to be the best that I could be. Some of my earlier works were NOT the best, even though at the time, I might have felt that way. (Who knows, maybe back then I did think I could simply “whip one up.”) I would never want to look back at my earlier efforts and cringe at the thought that others had read it. Thankfully, that isn’t the case.

In some respects I’m grateful for the way things have unfolded for me. Not only did it take time for my first book to be published but within that time I matured, not only as a writer but, as a person as well. Had my first book come out twenty years ago I’m sure I would have buckled under the pressure of readings and public appearances. I’m not going to say that it’s now a breeze but I can honestly say I like meeting the people who have bought my book. Heck, they don’t even have to buy my book. I still enjoying meeting them.

My hope is that this quote will remind everyone to have patience, patience, patience and remember that it does take a long time to bring excellence to maturity. This not only applies to writing but with anything in life.

Keep working at it, no matter what that it is, and I know you will eventually reach that excellence Publilius Syrus wrote about way back when.

Whipping One Up

“Can’t we just whip one up?” is one of the many inside jokes shared among the members of the Best family.

Let me explain:

When my son was in elementary school making a science fair project was optional. I always encouraged my kids to take part in these activities and usually they did. But one year my son decided he wasn’t going to do a science project and, although I was disappointed, I decided to respect his wishes.

The night before the science fair, literally at bedtime, he decided he should have worked on a project to enter for judging. When I told him there wasn’t enough time to do a project he asked quite innocently, “Can’t we just whip one up?”

That line has been used countless times over the years, and still brings  a giggle from us all from time to time.

I sometimes feel as though that’s the way some people feel about my work. They look at me with eager eyes and ask when the next book is coming. Now don’t get me wrong, I think their interest in my work is wonderful.  I’m happy that they’re waiting for “my next book” to come. It’s actually quite a compliment. But writing takes time, finding the right way to tell a story doesn’t always come easy. My first novel went along fairly smoothly. Getting into Pru’s head felt natural but that’s not always the case, and I loved Mama’s character, admired her even. If I was in her situation I hope I’d be as strong. No wonder the story seemed to write itself.

While I’m happy that so many people have asked about my next novel, I need to remind them that the first one has only been out a few months. So please, please be patient if  it takes me awhile to “whip” the next one up.

Are You a Closet Writer?

I find it amazing the number of people who have admitted to scribbling poetry and prose in journals then neatly tucking it away from the rest of the world. Maybe they’re afraid that others might think it’s a waste of their time or they’re worried that no one will ever think their work worthy of publication. Who knows? Whatever the case I’ve had many people tell me that they once wrote a story or else they write regularly, or their mother or daughter or sister or uncle writes stories, usually adding that they have no desire to see their work published. Yet it is obvious that they have a innate desire to write or else they wouldn’t even attempt it.

Many years ago I was one of those people who wrote in secret. I believe I actually felt embarrassed to admit that I enjoyed writing, and that I loved the way words flowed upon the page, the images they conjured up. The truth was, I couldn’t begin to imagine not writing something down on paper even though it seemed a frivolous indulgence and, something that I really didn’t have time for. To be honest it seemed impractical. Would it end up being a waste of my time if I was never able to see my work in print? Back then publication seemed like a pipe dream. How could I possibley become a published writer? I was just too ordinary. I didn’t have good enough ideas. No one would ever want to read something I had written. Or so I thought.

I’ll admit publication isn’t for everyone. It’s not an easy road to travel. And let’s face it, having your story out there in the world leaves it open not only to praise but to criticism as well. Praise is something every writer enjoys hearing. Heck, who wouldn’t? It’s like someone telling you that you have a cute baby.

I believe that we all have a creative side, and that we are born with a need to express this creativity. I’m not sure I know anyone who doesn’t create on some level. It certainly doesn’t have to take the form of writing. It can be knitting, sewing, scrap booking, painting, drawing, crafting, cooking, baking, gardening—-these are all ways of expressing our creative abilities. It’s an endless list. I find it curious that people will hide the fact that they are writing,but at the same time have no qualms showing off the latest sweater they knit or the scrapbook they put together for their grandchild. They send off homemade greeting cards without being the least bit self-conscious. So, why are these same people ashamed to admit they write? And why do we seem to place so much emphasis on words, worrying that they might not be good enough to share with others?

Like every craft, writing is something that we need to practice. The more we practice the better writers we become. Not only that, it needs to be our own, a story that no one else on the planet could write, from a perspective unique only to us. Pretty cool when you think of it like that!!

I sometimes wonder how many gifted writers are out there who are afraid to share what they do with the rest of us. How many scribble away in secret because they’re afraid they just aren’t good enough? And do they ever dream of what might have been if they only had the courage? I think one of the saddest things in life is allowing our dreams to die away to nothing because of fear. I think that’s why I always try to encourage other writers as best I can. We all deserve to have a dream.

So, what about you, are you now or have you ever been a closet writer? It’s confession time. Time to step out of the closet. Be brave. We won’t laugh…

The Letter

Two day before Christmas we were doing some renovations to the kitchen. I know…. sounds like an odd time to be renovating but we had just purchased a new stove for Christmas and the renovations were necessary.

The home we live in has a lot of history behind it. Not only was it built about ninety years ago, there was also a small room off the kitchen that served as the Dale Post Office. Yup, the same “Dale Post Office” mentioned in Bitter, Sweet.

Miraculously, while in the midst of all the renovations, we discovered a letter hidden in between the walls. The letter was in perfect shape, still in the original envelope with a 2 cent stamp affixed to it, and addressed to the previous owner. It had been written by one of her sons while he was a patient at a hospital in the United States eighty years ago.

I decided not to post the letter for privacy reasons but am adding some photos my daughter took the day the letter was discovered.

The gentleman we bought our house from, when we were first married, will be turning 100 this month and lived in the house as a boy. From time to time we drop in to visit him at the nursing home where he now lives. At 100 his mind is as sharp as a tack and he has many wonderful stories to tell. As you can imagine he has seen many changes in our community over the years and I swear he can recall each and every one. I love local history. I’m sure I’ve mentioned that before. I could sit for hours and listen to him. He’s a wonderful story-teller and our visits with him are always so pleasant.

During the holidays we dropped in to visit with him. He had company from the city that day and, although we didn’t want to interrupt their visit since they’d come from such a distance, they insisted we come in. We knew these people— since they had once lived in the community— all but the one lady whom we’d never met before. Awhile into our visit my husband told them about the letter we had found. To our surprise the lady spoke up and said it had been written by her father when he was a young man!

To make a long story short, I got her address that day and sent her the letter. She was so pleased to get it. In a little thank you note she wrote me later, she said that it was like getting a letter from the dead. He father had been very sick while a patient in that hospital and the doctors weren’t at all sure he would survive.

When I stop and think how odd it was that we’d find this letter a week before meeting the daughter of the man who had written it eighty years ago, I’m reminded that the world is filled with magical moments such as these. It was exciting to be able to send the letter back where it belonged and somehow it just feels right.

I love the way life throws these little “coincidences” our way. Although I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, and that life is not just a bunch of haphazard events, I’m always amazed when something like this happens.

So what’s your story? What odd thing has happened that made you sit up and notice? Do you believe in “coincidences” and “chance meetings”, or do you think life unfolds the way it is supposed to? I’m very curious, you know……

Some Things Just Don’t Change (and sometimes that’s a good thing.)

Some of us think of change as a bad thing because we like things to stay just the way they are. Some of us, however, look upon change as growth and the opportunity to enrich our lives. Sometimes the process of change is darn uncomfortable but once we finally get the end result we see that all the things that happened were indeed for our own good. It helped us become the people we are today. It’s just that sometimes the getting there sucks….plain and simple.

But some things never change and that’s what I’m posting about today. I wanted to share some photos taken from our library.

I hope you’re not claustrophobic!

It’s a bit small but it still holds plenty of books. What I’m most amazed about (and this will sound silly to most of you) is that I can go online and search for a title and have it delivered. And if I wanted to put in a request for my book? Well, they’d bring it along, too. (Maybe I’ll just stick to my own copy!!)

The bookmobile has been coming to E. Dalhousie for nearly forty years. For those of us with a love of reading we don’t have to go very far. Mind you, the bookmobile only makes a trip out from the Annapolis Valley once a month but there’s no limit on the amount of books you can sign out. Sometimes they’ll even send your request via Canada Post….How cool is that?

So, welcome to the library here in East Dalhousie!

May it remain unchanged for a very long time because books are a good thing…A very good thing.

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