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?

 

 

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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.

First Post of 2018

New Year’s Day is one of my favourite days throughout the year. It’s a day of hope. 365 days of wondrous possibilities ahead and that means anything, anything is possible. I was going to write a post about some of the lessons I learned in the past year but that soon had me bored. Life is filled with lessons, always has been. If we’re lucky we recognize some of those lessons for what they are and move along. So I wanted to keep this first post of 2018 short, maybe share with you a bit of wisdom that came to me before Christmas in way of an email called “Note from the Universe.” There were three things that came in the email and I loved each one of them. I hope you do too.

  1. Give thanks that your life is exactly as it is.
  2. Decide that 2018 will be the happiest year of your life yet.
  3. Every day, follow your heart and instincts down new paths. 

I wish you all the very best that life brings your way. I hope you meet all the challenges ahead with a sense of wonder and determination, and maybe you’ll keep these three things in mind as you go forward.

Happy New Year!

Thank You Post

As a child I was brought up to say, “Thank you.” It was an important word. I can actually remember being prompted by my mum whenever someone gave me something when I was very small. (Just in case I would forget.) Over the years, it became so ingrained in me that it’s become a natural thing, but more than just saying the word is the meaning behind it. The feeling of gratitude is actually pretty awesome and it brings me so much joy. I love this quote by Rumi that goes like this: If you say only one prayer, make it, Thank You. 

I believe these words and so I’ve decided to make this a thank you post from me to all of you.

This year has been an amazing year for me as a writer. I have so much to be thankful for—big and small. First and foremost are my husband, children and grandchildren who support me through all of this. They listen to me talk about writing and books and publishing and never once tell me to quiet down, even when I know I’m repeating myself and talking about things that aren’t nearly as relevant to them as they are to me.

I also have some amazing friends, some are writers and others aren’t but, regardless, they’re with me every step of the way during this writing journey I’m on. I wish you all could have been to the book launch of Cammie Takes Flight. You’d have seen the work that went into preparing for it. My community, my friends and family are amazing. And I was so very gratefully to everyone who was able to help out, and for those who came to wish me well or helped in any way. I know I’ve said it many times but “Thank you” bears repeating over and over.

Thanks to all those who have bought my books, read my books, borrowed my books from the library; and to those who took the time to rate or review my books on GoodReads and Amazon or any other site. And thanks to those who emailed or phoned or wrote or told me in person that they enjoyed reading about Cammie’s latest adventure. To be truthful many people will tell you they read your book but many never tell you if they liked it. That is why it is such a joy to hear when someone tells you they enjoyed the book you spent years working on. A writer invests so much time into their craft. It’s not simply a matter of whipping up a story and having the words all fall into place. It’s special to hear praise for your work and something writers never take for granted.

Thank you to those who offered word of encouragement, who shared my book posts on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media site or told others about my book the old-fashioned way. Thank you to my publisher for investing in me and my stories and for helping Cammie find a readership. Thank you to the editors who have worked with me over the years. I’ve been very fortunate. A big thank you to the Ontario Library Association for nominating Cammie for the 2018 Silver Birch Award.  That was a pretty sweet moment when a call came all the way from Ontario to tell me the news. I was kind of at a loss for words, which maybe isn’t a good thing for a writer.

Most of all I say thank you to The Powers That Be for allowing me the freedom to explore life through the written word, to create stories, and to have the opportunity to share what I’ve written with the rest of the world.

So as 2017 winds down for this writer, I look forward to what lies ahead in 2018 with a big old “Thank You” ahead of time.

 

Looking a Little Like Christmas

It seems like forever since I’ve taken time to blog. In my own defense, it’s been a busy few months. Luckily, things are slowing down at work and I can start preparing for Christmas. Whew! A lot to do in a little time. I considered giving everyone on my Christmas list a copy of Cammie Takes Flight but they all have copies, and wouldn’t that have been easy? Speaking of Cammie, I made a discovery today while at The Inside Story in Greenwood. I picked up a copy of Best Books for Kids and Teens 2017  put out by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre and found out that Cammie was on that list. It also had a red star, which I found out means, “titles of exceptional caliber.” That is why it was also included in their Holiday reading list 2017. I’ve got to say, that feels like quite an honour and I’m very excited for Cammie. But as excited as I am about this, I’ve got to get real about Christmas. Less than two weeks and I still haven’t finished my shopping.

Each year, I try not to stress out too much about it. Christmas will come and go, as it always does, and somehow I’ll be ready. I’m creeping through the shopping and sometime this weekend I’ll do some baking. The tree will one day be decorated, it will, it will. Maybe the elves will chip in.

What I cherish most about Christmas is having the kids and grandkids home. Seriously, that’s all the gift I need. And I don’t even want to say “all the gift” because it’s a wonderful gift as memories and moments are created. These are the things that last, the things that never get old and never break. And this year, if the stars line up just right, Santa will make it to my house in East Dalhousie. So as much as I might enjoy a white Christmas, I’ll be glad if the weather cooperated and Miss Charlotte can hang put her stocking under our tree.

I’m looking forward to all that awaits me in 2018. Lots of family time and, who knows, maybe 2018 will be the year I sign that million dollar book contract. Wish me luck on that, people!

What are your plans for Christmas this year?

Last Call for the Urban Pumpkin

For those who have been anxiously awaiting news about the final weight of the urban pumpkin –and  I’m fairly confident in saying there’s at least two of you out there—I’m happy to report that the son’s  urban pumpkin finally made it out of the planter box about a week ago, weighing in at 285 lbs. I believe that’s about eighty pounds more than his first attempt last year (which technically means, if we were tallying first year pumpkins, the country pumpkin would have won.)

But hold your horses…

Let’s not start celebrating quite yet. We’re not comparing first year pumpkins. That was just me being, well, me…  *sigh*

SO the real truth is the country pumpkin lost out. I’m OK with that. For with every contest there must be a winner and a loser, otherwise the word “contest” would not be used. Still, there’s nothing wrong with a little friendly competition among family members, is there?

 

So, here’s the final pic the son sent of the Urban Pumpkin. Notice how the son used some props for decorative purposes for the season.

 

Thus end’s this year’s saga of the great pumpkin growing contest.  Already we’re gearing up  and making plans for next year’s pumpkin patch. Only about seven or eight months from now!

Oh and Happy Halloween!

Silver Birch Nomination for Cammie

Today, the exciting news came that Cammie Takes Flight has been nominated for a 2018 Silver Birch Award.. I can’t begin to put into words what this means to me to know that Cammie will be read by thousands of children in grades 3-6. Congratulations to all the other nominees. So great to know that Cammie is in such excellent company.

This link HERE will take you to the list of the other nominees.

I’ll post a bit later about this wonderful reading program called the Forest of Reading which is run by the Ontario Library Association (OLA), and what it’s all about. Right now, I’m going to try and get my head out of the clouds.

This is a very good thing!

Ode to a Giant Pumpkin?

Alas, it finally had to happen. Frost hit the pumpkin patch while I was away at the FogLit Festival in New Brunswick last weekend Maybe I should have mentioned this in the last post, but I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. I needed time. To his credit, Hubby did his best to try and save her, he really did. He covered her lovingly with blankets but her vines were too massive. It went down to -1 that night. I feared the worst. There was a crispness in the air when days before we were waking to +18 or more degrees. I’d been hoping for a few more weeks of growth as the son’s urban pumpkin has been granted. But nights are generally cooler in East Dalhousie.

And so you can’t lament forever. There will come another year and, hopefully, we’ve learned a bit about growing giant pumpkins and can apply that knowledge to next year’s crop. We are pleased with our first-time effort. It’s the largest pumpkin this garden has ever seen. But there comes a problem with growing big pumpkins, the kind of problem no one warns you about back in the beginning. How the heck do you move it? Too big to roll.

Now, here’s how you move a really big pumpkin East Dalhousie style.

While we were moving this monster, there came a new development from the urban pumpkin camp, something we weren’t prepared for. The son is really out to win this. First this came; chocolate face and all.

Then this: Things were getting serious.

I mean how can two middle-aged pumpkin growers complete with this? So we countered in the only way we could. Not quite so cute, but the son’s not getting away that easily, thinking weren’t not going to notice the size of the pumpkin with all that cuteness sitting on top of it.

Of course our pumpkin looks smaller. Look how much bigger we are then the twins! This seems totally unfair to me–just saying.

So how much does the Country Pumpkin weigh? To the best of our calculation she’s tipping the scale at 235lbs.  As for the Urban Pumpkin that has yet to be determined as I’m sure the son delights in the fact that his urban garden has thus far avoided the frost. The competition continues….

I will report the final weight of the Urban Pumpkin once the frost finally settles in Lower Sackville.

Have a happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone!

FogLit Festival

The FogLit Festival in St. John made for some lasting memories. The drive was long and we made a few very short stops along the way there. It was over 500 klms one way. Here we are just coming into the city.

It was exciting to finally see the sign for St. John especially since I’d never been there before. Of course, I’ve never been much of anywhere as most of you know!

We stayed at the Delta. Here’s a few shots taken from the room. This one over-looks St. John Harbour.

 

There is always time for some silliness. I mean, why not? Can’t work all the time, right? That’s just boring. Just an observation here: These things are not made for short people. I was standing on my toes when this photo was shot.

  This guy seems a little lonely so I stopped for a chat. Everyone has a story. However, I quickly found out he was a man of few words.

We attended a poetry event Friday night at the Kent Theatre featuring Kathy Mac. Emily Nilsen and Clyde A. Wray. It always nice to support fellow writers/poets. After all, it is all about the written word. Enjoyed a delicious breakfast at Cora’s the next morning.

Now that’s a hungry man’s breakfast.  lol. My French Toast and bacon kept me going all day, thank you!

My event was planned for East Point Indigo. I have to say Miranda and her staff were so welcoming and friendly. I can’t say enough good things about them. I got to talk about my book and that’s always fun. And one woman who bought a book for her  children though she and her mother might enjoy reading it as well.  So that’s always encouraging. OK, I still can’t get over that breakfast!

We drove straight home, no stopping along the way. It was good to finally make it home.And I was especially proud of the fact that I could actually get out of the vehicle after sitting there for over 500 klms.

Next post will be my final pumpkin report for this year. So if you were following me along this summer with my pumpkin adventure you’ll find out exactly what happened to ..to…Gee I didn’t even giver her a name. I will take suggestions in the comment section or on Facebook and maybe we can come up with a fitting name for her…or him.

 

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