Coloured Leaves, Monarch Butterflies and a New Contract

Although we technically have another three weeks until fall arrives, I can feel summer slowly slipping away. I enjoy the cool evenings and warm days of August, always have. It reminds me of those early days of school when I was young, settling into a new classroom with a new teacher; eager for another school year to get underway. This evening I found a hint of fall I wanted to share with you, not that I’m wishing time away, even though fall is my favourite season. I recall reading somewhere that these trees that turn colour in August were called Judas trees because they betray you into thinking summer is over. Now, this might not be an exact quote (as a matter of fact I’m sure it isn’t) but it gives you a bit of an idea of where the name came from.

These past few weeks I’ve been seeing a lot of monarchs, not something I remember seeing a lot of over the years. I managed to get a few snapshots but they don’t sit still for long. I’ve also seen a number of toads this summer which seems significant as, again, I haven’t seen hardly any in many years.

I was surprised to realize that I hadn’t written a blog post since July 1st—not that I was meaning to take a break. Summer is a busy time for all of us.  There never seems to be enough time.

This summer I spent time catching up with some school friends; one friend I hadn’t seen since high school. We shared a lot of laughs and tried to catch up on the past forty years. Obviously, we didn’t cover everything, but hopefully we will over time. We’ve also been spending some time with Miss Charlotte and Levi who are vising this week.

Sorry to report that we didn’t grow any giant pumpkins this summer, just lots of ordinary pumpkins, Zucchinis and squash.

I’ve not been getting as much writing done as I’d like this summer, but hoping to soon buckle down and start working on my next book again. I’ve actually been working on it long before Cammie Takes Flight was published and I’m to the point where a lot of the dots are starting to fill in. At least I know where the story is going in my own mind. Now to transfer it onto paper or should I say computer file?

Also this happened over summer, but before you get too anxious, the publishing date is Spring 2020, so it’s still a long ways off. Expecting that edits will get underway next winter. I know this seems far into the future but, trust me, it’s not really when you’re talking about the publishing industry. I’m very excited about this story as I originally wrote it maybe twenty years ago as a short story but kept adding to it and tweaking it off and on through the years. The story was inspired by a friend of mine and I’ll let you know more as we get closer to publication. You’ll have it forgotten by then anyway..lol.

So there’s a bit of what’s been going on in my world this summer. I hope you’re enjoying what is left of this gorgeous weather.

 

 

 

 

 

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A Canada Day Shout-out: Some Summer Reads For “Young Readers”

It’s been awhile since I gave a shout-out to some fellow authors by sharing with my readers some of the great Canadian books that are out there for readers, young and old. I thought it was high time I did something about that.  And since it’s the Canada Day weekend, what better way to celebrate than giving a shout-out to some Canadian books? While the title of the post suggests that these books are for young readers I know many older readers who enjoy reading books for the younger set. I happen to fall into that category.

This list contains some of the books I’ve read recently and really enjoyed, and a few that are on my summer reading list. You do have a summer reading list–don’t you?

I hope you’ll keep in mind that a good book is a good book regardless of the intended market. So it you’re not inclined to read books aimed for young readers, I suggest you consider giving some of these a try because a good book really is a good book. Hey, I already said that!

Talking to the Moon: A new middle grade novel by Jan L. Coates. I’m  really looking forward to reading this one. My Dalhousie friends will remember Jan as our author-in-shining armor who pitched in and helped Jeff sell books at my book launch, and helped save the day!

Deep roots. Last year in Social Studies, Miss Matattall got us to draw our family trees. Mine was the only one with no roots and just one full branch for me, plus a half branch for Moonbeam. Because maybe she’s already dead, and that’s why she didn’t come back to get me.

Katie Dupuis Pearson wants to find her real mother; her only clues are her Lavender Lady, a piece of amethyst, and a bookmark from Lunenburg. While spending a month in lovely Lunenburg with her foster mother, Katie makes friends with estranged sisters, Aggie and Jessie Langille. Katie becomes fascinated by stories about their ancestor, Catherine Marguerite Langille, one of the original Foreign Protestant Lunenburg settlers in 1753. Like Katie, Catherine was friends with the Moon. Like Katie, Catherine was uprooted, forced to transplant herself. Will Katie find her own roots buried deep within the Lunenburg soil?

Halifax Time Travelling Tune by Jan L. Coates. This year, Jan has not only one book but two coming out. I’ll be picking up a copy for my grand kids as well as myself!

Grandma closed the piano lid. “I love singing those old tunes with you.
I wish you could have seen the Halifax I once knew.”

This dreamy and whimsical story follows a young child who travels back in time to 1950s Halifax with a whimsical tune. Follow the pair through Point Pleasant Park, the Public Gardens, Spring Garden Road, Citadel Hill, and other historic Halifax landmarks, showing off all the sights and sounds of the city. With lively text from Governor General’s Literary Award finalist Jan Coates and vivid illustrations of mid-century Halifax by Marijke Simons, A Halifax Time-Travelling Tune is bound to conjure more than a few bedtime sing-a-longs.

Camped Out by Daphne Greer. This book has been nominated for the 2019 Hackmatack Award. It’s the sequel to Daphne’s earlier book, Maxed Out. And is definitely on my summer reading list.

Max knows his mom can’t afford to send him to summer camp. But he really, really wants to go. He needs a break from looking after his autistic brother, Duncan. And from his mom’s new boyfriend. He is surprised when his mom says that he can go after all. But there’s a catch. There are spots available at the camp for families with special needs. A grant would cover Duncan’s fees, and Max could attend at no charge. If he goes as Duncan’s escort.

This is the second story featuring Max and Duncan after Maxed Out. 

Here so Far Away by Hadley Dyer. I was anxiously awaiting the release of this book and I wasn’t disappointed. Really, really enjoyed it. It actually stayed with me for a time afterward. Just couldn’t shake it. Valley people might be interested to know that Hadley is a former West Kings student.

George Warren (real name: Frances, but nobody calls her that) is well aware that she’s sometimes too tough for her own good. She didn’t mean to make the hot new guy cry—twice. And maybe she shouldn’t have hit the school’s mean girl in the face. George’s loyalty and impulsiveness are what her friends love about her—they know she’s got their backs.

On the cusp of her senior year, though, everything starts to change: a fight with her best friend puts an irreparable rift in George’s social circle, George’s father can no longer work as a police officer, and the family’s financial problems threaten her dream of going away for college. The year is turning out nothing like what George envisioned, but unfortunately, life’s a bad writer.

Then George meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name and her talent for sarcastic banter. In him, she—the queen of catch-and-release—has finally found someone she wants to hold on to, when lately it seems like she’s only been pushing people away. And with him, she falls hard and recklessly in love in ways she never thought herself capable. In short, it’s the year George nearly loses everything, including herself, in secret and utterly alone. 

With brilliant humor and heartbreaking truth, award-winning author Hadley Dyer tells a story of finding love—and the road back from unthinkable loss.

Missing Mike by Shari Green. Shari’s novels are in verse which makes them unique especially to anyone who isn’t familiar with Verse novels. I met Shari at the Festival of Trees in May. Her book Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess was also a nominee for the Silver Birch along with Cammie Takes Flight. I knew Shari previously through blogging and I have to say she was just as nice in person. This book is on my TBR list. I can hardly wait. Check out her other books.

He’s a rescue, a mutt. Maybe there’s a little golden retriever in him, although he’s not exactly pretty. He’s had a run-in with coyotes and he’s missing an eye. But Mike is eleven-year-old Cara Donovan’s dog, and they love each other absolutely. Usually her pet follows Cara everywhere, but on the day the family first smells smoke in the air, Mike becomes anxious. Pine Grove is in the path of a wildfire, and the family is ordered to evacuate. In the ensuing chaos, Mike runs off. And then the unthinkable happens; there is no time to search for Mike. They are forced to leave him behind.

Shocked and devastated, Cara watches helplessly as the family drives through a nightmare, with burning debris falling from the sky and wild animals fleeing for their lives. Once in the city far from the burn zone, the Donovans are housed with a volunteer host family. Jewel, the hosts’ daughter, is nice, but Cara can only think about what she may have lost. What will happen if nothing is left? But as she reflects on what “home” means to her, Cara knows only one thing. She is not going to lose Mike. She will do what it takes to find him, even if it means going back to Pine Grove on her own.
With her signature style combining simplicity and lyricism, the author of Root Beer Candy and Other Miracles and Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess tells an uplifting story of love and loss. And she shows how one girl’s stressful journey eventually leads her to an unexpected place, and a new definition of home.

The Goodbye Girls by Lisa Harrington. I first met Lisa at the launch for A Maritime Christmas and shortly before her book Rattled was published. I’ve also added this book to my summer reading list. I’m going to be a busy reader!

The students at Lizzie’s high school are notoriously terrible at breakups. Forget awkward conversations—they’re dumping each other via text. Inspired by the terrible breakups around her, sixteen-year-old Lizzie, strapped for cash and itching to go on the school’s band trip to NYC, teams up with her best friend, Willa, to create a genius business: personalized gift baskets—breakup baskets—sent from dumper to dumpee. The Goodbye Girls operate in secret, and business is booming. But it’s not long before someone begins sabotaging The Goodbye Girls, sending impossibly cruel baskets to seemingly random targets, undermining everything Lizzie and Willa have built and jeopardizing their anonymity. Soon family, friendship, and a budding romance are on the line. Will Lizzie end up saying goodbye to the business for good?

So here you have some Canadian books to consider on this Canada Day weekend.  I hope you’ll check some of them out, either for yourself or perhaps a young reader on your gift-giving list. It’s never too early to start thinking of Christmas, or is it?

Please feel free to give your own shout-out to any Canadian books that are on your summer reading list in the comment section below? It’s always always fun to share titles with others. 

Happy Canada Day. Enjoy the long weekend!

Persistence

You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.
Octavia Butler

I love this quote that I recently stumbled across. In the past I have shared this same sentiment about writing because it’s SO true.

When we first start writing we think we’re so much better than we really are. This is understandable since we’re so eager to unleash the creativity that’s been pent up inside us, sometimes for years.  In the beginning, we love all the words we put down, all those flowery sentences we deem so very important to all great works of fiction. And make no mistake, ours IS great, maybe THE greatest.  We smother our run-on sentences with adverbs and adjectives while searching for meaningful ten syllable words that we think makes our writing infectious, and certainly makes us sound….educated and sophisticated. You know, the way an author is supposed to sound. People simply will not be able to resist reading our work. (Wait until this comes across some editor’s desk! Won’t they be surprised!)

Turns out “infectious” is just another word for BORING, but boring to everyone except the author—funny how that works. We’ve been told that “describing words” are needed—and  plenty of them. Don’t just write simple sentences; make them come alive by describing them in detail…fine detail. Who cares about an actual plot when you’ve got a bunch of descriptive words and sentences to read?  Simple sentences show a lack of imagination and no one, but no one, wants to be accused of that. I remember this advice from my elementary school days when I was first discovering the power of words, when good writing amounted to writing with a lot of these aforementioned “describing words.” It takes a lot of imagination to come up with some of them when you’re nine or ten. I mean, how many words can you use to describe say, a blade of grass or a sunbeam that is SO detrimental to the story you’re crafting?

What is sometimes hard for people to understand is that the more you write the better your writing becomes. Just like anything else you’re learning. Authors don’t just sit down and write a story that immediately gets published. We write, and rewrite and rewrite some more. And once we’re convinced the story is as good as we can get it, we write and rewrite again. And then, when it’s finally accepted for publication we work with an editor who will squeeze even more out of this story that was finished a long time ago.

The story is not truly completed until we’re holding that book in our hands. But what’s this with all the writing and rewriting, you might ask? As anxious as we might be to see our story in book form every revision, every rewrite, all that extra buffing we do to the story only improves it. I promise.

I honestly believe that I became a published author because I refused to give up. Okay, so I did give up, many times. I screamed in frustration and vowed to never touch a keyboard again. But once the tantrum was over, I was right back at it. Like an addiction, I just couldn’t stop.  

So, to all the unpublished writers out there, I hope you can take heart in knowing that as you continue along in your writing journey, each story you write, each paragraph or even sentence, your writing improves. And if you’re writing is crap in the beginning you’ll know, so long as you never give up,  you’re one step closer to improving. And, by the time you are finally published, you will have learned the value of persistence. 

Laura Takes Flight (The Best Version)

As some of you already know the Festival of Trees, big award ceremony for the Silver Birch, is held every year at the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto. Last week I ventured into the big scary city for the event. Needless to say, Toronto is a bit bigger than East Dalhousie which has a population of a few hundred.

The day was busy and the ceremony lots of fun. While there were different categories: Sliver Birch Express, Silver Birch non-fiction, etc, I’ll just mention that the winner in my category was Alex Lyttle for his book From Ant to Eagle—a big congratulations to him.

Of course for the rest of us getting the nomination really did make us all winners. Yay! It really was an honour and a privilege to be nominated.

Here we all are up on stage. It was a little chilly with the cool breeze at the water front but we were warned ahead of time to be prepared for the weather. It was fun to meet some of the other authors nominated in my category. I’ve already read many of the books.

But  hold on a moment: there’s a version to the festival, the “Best” version that I wanted to share with you, the unedited verion. So while I was of doing my author thing for the week I shared a few highlights with the son who came up with his version of what REALLY happened at the ceremony. Now this he posted in our family chat on FB so no one else got to see it.

So what you should know is that I took a little tumble in the underground parking after the ceremony was all over. I blame the new glasses as they’ve made me feel a bit off all week. Not to worry though, I skinned my knee a bit but other than that I was ok.
However, when I signed into Facebook a few days later I was met with the Son’s version of events as he related them to his sisters.

Mom didn’t win the award and to top it off she walked out on stage, fell and skinned her knee. Knew there would have to be a racket!

Omg. Did she really? It’s those new glasses!

That’s what she said, the new glasses. Rolled around on stage, knocked over the microphone, pulled a tablecloth on her way down and ripped all the books off the table. Can’t wait to get all the juicy details

Stormed off in a rage, I suppose.

Now I don’t know what to believe! lol Did she really fall?!

Oh yeah, skun her knee up like a little kid on a playground

Okay, so there you have it, the BEST version of my adventures in Toronto at the Festival of Trees. Needless to say I got quite a chuckle out of it as my writer’s mind pictured the Son’s version while reading it. But of course the celebration wasn’t that eventful. Thank goodness. Leave it to the son to spice up the events for his sisters and his dear old mom!

I wanted to make this post short as it was a long week, we got home late, and I’m plenty tired at the moment. But just wanted to sign in to let you know I made it to Toronto and back. Now it’s time to go back to the real world and off to work tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week!

Mail System Error

Since having a book nominated for the Silver Birch Award I’ve been receiving emails and even letters from young readers. I have to admit it’s kind of nice. I enjoy answering their questions. This weekend I received an email from a young girl, Nichole. And after spending some time crafting an appropriate response to her questions, and feeling kind of good about it, I hit *send.* But wait! My email came back. Those nasty Mail System Error emails… Seems as though there must have been a mistake in the email address. So Nichole, if you’re reading this try sending me your email address again. Ok. I figure this is a long shot but what’s an author to do? I hope the young reader is not disappointed. When any reader reaches out to me I always respond. I think it’s the least an author can do. And Nichole had some very nice things to say about Cammie.

The Festival of Trees is a week away. The winners in each category will be announced. As you can imagine it’s an exciting time for all the nominees! But truthfully, we’re all winners. Having this nomination has been absolutely amazing.

I think I’m safe in saying that spring is here. Flowers are blooming, the grass is green. A few nights ago we had a visit from some four-legged beings that gobbled down Miss Charlotte’s tulips. We were quite disappointed as Miss Charlotte was only one when she helped plant them and it’s something we look forward to seeing each spring. Nasty deer. Last week we were in an area with so many mayflowers you could smell their delicious aroma in the air. We picked a few to bring home. Such beautiful deep pink colours.

The ticks are here! The ticks are here! Or rather, the ticks have landed.. which is kind of the way we talk around here. No explanation needed to those of us who understand the local jargon. While I’m well used to what we here call wood ticks, I’m not much of a fan the deer ticks, namely the ones that could carry lyme disease. Five hours waiting to see a doctor at the walk-in- clinic the other week and I’ve kind of had my fill. I normally wouldn’t have gone in but when I tried to remove it , it didn’t all come out. I certainly didn’t want a nasty infection resulting from it. I’ve got things to do! The doctor also gave me an antibiotic pill (One dose) and asked me if I knew what to watch out for. Sure do doc. I’m happy to report, so far so good.

I found this tree to be a bit strange and so I snapped a photo last week. I decided to share it with you all just for the heck of it. While you might look at it and see an old stump, I see what once was a tree with character. It is now an amputee.  I’m sure it was quite something in its day. Lots of limbs that I’m trying to imagine being cut off, wondering exactly how they did it. I would have liked to have climbed up and had a photo of myself, tree-hugger that I am, with my head sticking out of the top. But alas, there was no dang way I was going to try and climb that on my own. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it.

I’m trying to get used to my first pair of progressive lenses. It’s challenging. While they assured me I’d get used to them, I’ve talked to some people who didn’t. Time will tell. I’m trying to remain optimistic.

With all this great weather coming our way, it’ll soon be time to plant. Will the Bests grow any giant pumpkins this year? Guess you’ll have to keep checking my blog to find out. Please don’t lose sleep over it, though.

Now that spring has arrived I’ve started a few new writing projects. It’s what happens when spring arrives I guess. Granted, it’s not always easy to keep your butt in the chair when the sun is shining and nature is begging you to come out and play. But progress can be made even by writing a paragraph or two a day.

How about you, are you working on anything special this spring? I’d like to hear about it.

Another Blast of Winter in Spring

Winter just doesn’t seem to want to go away this year. Here in East Dalhousie we were blessed with about 10 cm of snow last night. Some of it melted during the afternoon, and the eaves are still dripping. That said, we’ve been told to expect another 15 cm overnight. I’m not sure what will happen to the tulips in our garden that suddenly burst through the ground late last week, but I’m hoping they’ re hardy enough to survive this next blast of winter weather this spring. But this is not unusual for spring, nor is our complaints that winter just doesn’t want to give up. Still, with each warm day we’re granted, hope stirs inside us. That’s the one thing about hope. It seems no matter how many times we’re disappointed with the outcome of something, we remain hopeful that next time the results we’re looking for will finally show up.

It’s like that when writing a book. Most times it takes several attempts before I end up with the results I want. Some authors write many drafts before they declare the story completed. I tend to edit and revise as I go along, and often never get a first draft completely written out so I have no idea how many drafts I go through. Back when I was writing Flying with a Broken Wing I became dissatisfied with the story and even stopped working on it, so sure I was that it was never going to amount to anything, let alone anything publishable. So I took a break from it and went back to it many months later filled with new hope that this time I was going to make it to the end. And I did!

I actually started the book I’m working on now about the same time that I started Cammie Takes Flight, and while Cammie’s been a book now for nearly a year, that other book is still waiting for me. I don’t expect I’ll ever be a fast writer. Many times I feel as though the story is struggling to find me. Sometimes there’s a lot of static in the way. But when the lines finally become clear, sentences and paragraphs begin to fall into place. That’s when I know for sure the story I’m working on will not get abandoned along the wayside.

And while I’m hopeful that spring will soon be here to stay, there is definitely no guarantee. Just as there is no guarantee that the story I’m presently working on will make it into book form. Still, amidst the struggles and frustration, I try to remain hopeful. It may not always be possible. I sometimes fall into a rut and become discouraged even with three published books and over forty published short stories. I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in this. We all become discouraged from time to time. But it’s our ability to pick ourselves up time and time again, to find that small bit of hope and run with it as fast as we can, that is responsible for all the accomplishments we achieve in life.

I’ll leave you with this quote that I find particularly inspiring. Maybe you will, too.

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope. Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Spring, Writing and Book Launch Photos

Time has certainly been flying by this winter or I should say spring? I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last wrote a blog post. Here we are near the end of March. While the last time I wrote about how warm and unwinter-like the weather for February was, as we get closer to spring, winter decided to remind us that we needn’t start looking for crocuses and daffodils just yet. But that’s life, isn’t it? Just when we start feeling comfortable about the state of things, thinking maybe we have it all figured out, the rules change on us. In a way, it’s for our own good. I believe we all need for life to challenge us from time to time otherwise we stop growing and expanding as human beings, learning new things and having new experiences. A.K.A BORING.

I’ve been busy juggling a few stories these past few months, carrying on a love/hate relationship with them. I guess it’s why I juggle in the first place. As soon as I start hating one story, I switch to the other. Sometimes one of the stories will stick in my head and follow me around, sometimes even haunting my dreams or else coming to me late at night. The stories are so different from one another and maybe that’s a good thing. Writing is finding that balance and not sinking into a rut. So, I’ll keep juggling so long as these two stories dictate. Seems it’s rarely the writer who’s in charge of the story anyway.

I finally got around to posting some launch photos. You’ll find them HERE but also under the Cammie Takes Flight tab. There were so many photos taken  that day, I couldn’t possible post them all. I just picked out a few. Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of them.

Easter is in a few days, and although we have plenty of snow here in East Dalhousie, it’s melting away quickly. Today was absolutely gorgeous. Hopefully, it won’t be too many weeks before we see those crocuses and daffodils.

Happy Easter! Oh, and a shout-out to my friend, Gail, whose birthday is today. I’ve been calling but the line’s been busy. Hope you’re reading this and are having a stupendous day!

Spring in February

This winter has seemed suspiciously more like spring than winter. Just last week I was working outside all afternoon without a jacket. That shouldn’t be happening. I did have a pullover on over my shirt but still… it’s February. And again, today felt more like an April day. I was tempted to go out and look for signs of crocuses because you just never know. We have had a bit of snow off and on but nothing like we had two or three years ago, thank goodness. This photo speaks volumes of what that winter was like. We did get to enjoy a fair amount of snowshoeing that year so it made it much more enjoyable. Kind of an if-you-can’t-bet-em-join-em attitude I suppose and it really did help. However, as nice as it is to have spring nipping at out heels, I’m trying not to have a false sense of security about this. There is still plenty of time for winter to kick in.

I’ve added a bit about the Ideal Maternity Home on my blog HERE. It’s under The Cammie Takes Flight tab. I think I mentioned in an earlier post that I was planning to do this. While this is a story known to many in Nova Scotia it might not be as well known in other parts. There is plenty of information out there about the home, but I do have a photo I took of the monument the survivors placed in East Chester a number of years back. The whole story surrounding the home is a sad one, yet it is part of our local history. I’m planning to add additional links to this post for anyone looking for more information. There have also been several books written on the subject.

Also, Cammie Takes Flight is now available through the CELA library. YAY!  This library is for people with print disabilities and the books are in audio. I’m quite please about this for obvious reasons. I say it seems quite fitting that the book is available for people who are visually impaired like Cammie.

Presently, I’m in the process of writing a synopsis for a story that may or may not be finished. I say it that way as one never knows when something will suddenly seem out of place and you wake in the middle of the night to declare that you need to make more changes even though you’ve already written “The end” several times over a two year period. I now know enough about writing to understand that “the end” doesn’t really come about until you’re holding that book in your hands. Only then is it too late to make changes.

Oh yes, and I’ve been knitting again. Well, knitting and unraveling and knitting again. But I’m still getting there. It’s no different than writing. Kind of a one step forward two steps back, but luckily it doesn’t last forever. Eventually you do reach your goal.

And lastly, I’ve received a number of emails from young readers this past while and I have to say it’s always nice to hear from those who’ve read Cammie’s story. It reminded me that I also have some authors to email whose books I’ve read and enjoyed. While it takes only a few minutes a little author appreciation means so much to an author.

How is your February going? Has the weather been a little interesting where you are?

 

 

Everyone’s Aunt Alma

While doing up a Valentine card to mail to my granddaughter who happens to live in another province, I smiled as I remembered how much she enjoys getting mail and of the photos my daughter often sends over email showing her excitement when an envelope or package arrives in the mailbox for her. I am so glad that, at the age of seven, she has long ago learned the special connection we share with others through a hand-written letter. It truly is something precious.

I think we all enjoy getting mail, not the bills and junk mail that are an inevitable part of life, but a real letter from a real person who took the time out of their day to let you know they were thinking of you. While letters, cards and parcels hold a certain appeal for most of us, I think it’s true especially when you’re a child. Nothing can replace the magic of having those cherished cards and hand-written letters arrive in the mailbox. While many people send virtual cards they’re just not the same.

I remember as a very small child the cards that arrived for my sisters and brother at Easter and Christmas. I particularly remember the cards that arrived one Easter. I loved the little bunnies, the bright yellow chicks and coloured Easter eggs on the front of the cards. Another special part of the cards we received were the envelopes themselves as my sisters and I were addressed as Miss and my brother as Master. This was the first time I was aware that these salutations existed. At a time when us siblings were always referred to as, “and Family”  I can’t begin to describe how delightful it felt to discover that I was a Miss and not just an appendage that followed my parent’s name on an envelope. I was one and unique. I was a Miss. Now that was something to be proud ofI was perhaps four at the time and I can assure you I felt quite special.

Seems terribly old-fashioned now, although I will admit to tacking the Miss onto my granddaughter’s mail when I address it. I guess old habits die hard

The cards were from a woman we knew only as Aunt Alma. If I go back even further in my memory, I can remember her sitting in our living room and visiting with the grown-ups. She was married to my mother’s Uncle Fred. That made her my Great-Aunt Alma, although I only ever called her Aunt Alma.

A few years back I came in possession of some articles that had been written about Aunt Alma in the local paper. One was from 1987. According to the article, she not only wrote a weekly column about the comings and goings in good old E. Dalhousie, but she was an avid letter-writer. Of course, I knew about Aunt Alma’s column, everyone did. We all sent her articles from time to time to see our names and events in print. Marriages, births, funerals, card parties, the community fair—there was always something for Aunt Alma to write about. Even the announcement that so-and-so “motored” to Bridgewater or the Valley “on business” was news-worthy enough to make it into her column. Events usually ended up with “a good time was had by all.” These things were standard in any good community column just ask those of us who remember.

In 1992 Aunt Alma was profiled yet again in the same local paper under a section called, “Seniors in Action.” She was 93 at that time and still very much “in action.” The photo in the paper is the same one I used for this blog post. (Sorry about the quality.) At that time she’d been writing her column for over fifty years—fifty years, can you imagine? That’s a whole lot of writing and reporting of news, what some might say a life time. The article stated that she kept herself busy by writing letters, sending birthday, anniversary, sympathy and get well cards, which isn’t a surprise to anyone who knew her, certainly not to me. Obviously, she understood not only the importance of sending letters and cards, but the magic of being on the receiving end. She also loved getting mail.

I found it interesting that her parents ran the Dale Post Office at one time and that she helped out. She said she regretted not keeping some of the stamps. From the articles I read, it seems to me she was always someone who valued getting and receiving mail. Back then, many rural post offices were run out of people’s homes especially in small communities. There were once three post offices in East Dalhousie. Remarkable, when you think of how few people there were and still are. Of course life was different back then and a few miles down the road was a much farther distance than it is today. I now live in what was once the Dale Post Office years after the time when Aunt Alma’s parent’s would have operated it from their home. A different house of course, but I happen to think that’s a neat little coincidence.

What I learned about Aunt Alma in later life was that not only was she my Aunt Alma, she was everyone else’s Aunt Alma too–people I wasn’t related to; some I knew, others I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I live in a small community where everyone knows everybody or is in some way related if you were to go back far enough and trace through all those branches on family trees. I’m sure there were many people who called her Alma but she will always be Aunt Alma to me.

I often think about the little cards she sent to us in the mail when we were children, her way perhaps of instilling her love of receiving mail to the generations after her, and while I’d like to imagine that we were somehow special to her in a way that no other children on the planet were, I’m almost positive in my assumption that many young children in East Dalhousie and far beyond were blessed at one time or another to receive a card from dear sweet Aunt Alma.

Working My Way Through Winter

With Cammie being nominated for the Silver Birch Award, meaning that a lot of kids will be reading the book, I decided to create a post about the Halifax School for the Blind in case anyone was interested in knowing a bit more about it since it’s  also where the book is set. I’ve already shared this post on Facebook a week ago. You can find it by hovering over the Cammie Takes Flight tab at the top of my blog it should drop down and from there you click on it. Or you can follow the link HERE. The post explains how I used some of stories my mother and stepfather told me about their experience at the school when writing the book. This doesn’t mean the events in the book were real, of course not, it just means these experiences inspired me to create a fictitious story. Being able to add real details only adds to a story’s authenticity. That doesn’t mean a writer can’t also take certain liberties when writing as well. That’s the beauty of writing fiction.

I’m also planning to add some information on the Ideal Maternity Home in the future. Five years ago, when I first started writing the book, I went out to the spot where the maternity home used to stand. As mentioned in the back of the book, there’s a monument there to mark the place, and I did take some photos. It burned in the sixties. As sad and tragic as what the story about the home is it is a part of our history here in Nova Scotia and something I’m exploring further as I work on my next book.

Now that Christmas is behind us, and we’re making our way through winter, I’ve been able to devote more time to reading and writing. I’ve also more time to think and daydream. A lot of thinking goes into any book and something that can be done while doing housework or other mundane activities. What could be better? A writer doesn’t just sit down at the keyboard and watch the words materialize like magic. We spend as much time plotting a story as we do writing and rewriting. Some chapters take more time than others, some paragraphs for that matter, as we smooth out the writing and find that flow that makes our words sound effortless. Believe me, some first drafts can be pretty choppy. But that’s the part I like, pulling out the wrinkles, finding the right placement for a sentence or even word. Yes, it can be that exact.

I won’t lie. It’s easy to become discouraged, no matter how many books you have published or how many great reviews your work receives. Writing is challenging. It’s a solitary activity. Sometimes it can get lonely. Thankfully, we have our characters for company. So here I am, again, working my way through winter, keeping my head down and concentrating on the finish line.

Until next time.

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