Pumpkin Grinner vs Jack o’lantern

We had a bit of a discussing going on facebook yesterday when I asked the question: Have you heard of a pumpkin grinner or are they just jack o’lanterns to you?

Some people were familiar with the term Pumpkin Grinner while others had never heard of it before. It varied within the provinces. While I grew up hearing the word pumpkin grinner, some in Nova Scotia were familiar with it, while others were not. I can’t even say it’s just a rural thing. While it seemed no city folks had heard of it, there were some from rural areas who hadn’t either.


While I might be inclined to say jack o’lantern or even Halloween pumpkin, I prefer to use the term pumpkin grinner.


Happy Halloween!



Just in time for Halloween, too! Here’s a look at the cover of Clary Croft’s new book, out from Nimbus this October. Clary Croft is a folklorist, writer, and entertainer. He is the author of several books, including Helen Creighton: Canada’s First Lady of Folklore, A Maritimer’s Miscellany, and Celebrate: The History and Folklore of Holidays in Nova Scotia. Clary lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Okay, so I totally got the bio from the Nimbus fall catalogue, but at least now ya know a bit about him.

Thursday night we attended a reading and talk by Clary at the Desbrisay Museum in Bridgewater. I was so taken by his speaking abilities that I even emailed my editor at Nimbus to say so. Seems like a silly thing to have done now, but I’ve got to say the man gives a good talk. He’s got a pretty good sense of humour, too. When asked if he learned any spells while researching this book, his answer was, “If I did do you think I’d still be bald headed?”

I’ve been interested in the topic of Witchcraft for a long time now. Lunenburg County is filled with stories of people who believed in witchcraft and I’m not talking about centuries ago, either. My grandmother actually believed that one of her neighbours was a witch, and would make my mum and her siblings wear dogwood crossed pinned to their undershirts whenever they had to walk past this woman’s house. To say this peaked my interest is an understatement. I only wish now my grandmother was alive so that I could ask her a few questions about some of her beliefs. But it seems these opportunities often slip through our fingertips, and far too often it is too late. Of course, to get this out of my system I did write an novel on the subject. So yes, you could say I was pretty excited to hear Clary speak the other night.

Witchcraft is in stores now and also available at Amazon.ca.


Where do all the really cool writers hang out when they’re in New Ross, Nova Scotia?

So maybe Jan Coates and I are only cool in our own minds, but we did have a pretty good time at Vittles the other afternoon.

I was asked earlier in the day what vittles meant by someone much younger than I. Okay, so I guess I’m just old (I still remember those episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies) or else I’m a red neck— or maybe, just maybe, a bit of both–because yes, I know what vittles means. Please tell me you know what Vittles means..

So what are the top five things that really “cool” writers talk about while at Vittles.

:5: Writing

4: Family

3: The treeing industry (If you’re in New Ross this time of the year, it’s all anyone talks about.)

2:the government, and all the ways they have of annoying writers.

1: A nacho loving squirrel with an affinity for guitar cases. (Sorry Jan, I couldn’t resist!) Dang it wish I had a picture of that squirrel!

I bet you thought that writing would be number one. Actually, it was writing and I’m just being silly. We discussed Jan’s new book, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk” as well as my own book, and what’s on the horizon for both of us. (All those things you’d expect writers to talk about.)

Here’s Jan outside Vittles. I promise, I was there too, but someone had to take the picture.

Thanks Jan for a lovely, silly afternoon.

An Alone Journey

“Anything we fully do is an alone journey”—Natalie Goldberg

My card making “skills” (if I dare use the word skills) are well known among my circle of friends. If my kids are reading this they’re having a good chuckle. The truth is, at a friends urging, I once made a card that shall we say….well, maybe we won’t say.

My oldest daughter wanted me to scan it and send her a copy. Not on your life! I’m sure that scanned imagine would have been plastered all over cyberspace. (I know my kids well!) For some reason I hid the darn thing. I have no idea where. Maybe it ended up being burned in the wood stove although, knowing me, it will resurface at some time or other, and we’ll have another round of laughs over it. I really don’t mind. If we can’t stand to laugh at ourselves once on awhile, then I say we’re too darn serious.

My friends make beautiful homemade cards that are simply gorgeous. It’s a treat just to be able to look at them. I, on the other hand, do not have the inclination to work at and hone my card-making “skills”—there’s that word again. Not to mention the fact that it would be very time consuming, I could never imagine myself sitting around with a group of people crafting homemade cards. I do not particularly like having others watch me while I work. So unless I could go off into a corner some place and hide…..But then, I wouldn’t be able to learn all the ins and outs of card-making, how to use the different gadgets that produce some of the most intricate cards I’ve ever seen. (My friends are really talented.)

In a way this reminds me of Natalie Goldberg’s quote. I do feel as though the time spent on our artistic endeavours is an “alone journey.”

Writing has always felt like such a solitary thing for me, and in many ways it is. Even if we are sharing our work along the way, we are the only ones who can actually write the story. Receiving input from others does not minimize the work that writers have to do all on their own. We are the only ones who can get inside that story and bring it fully to life. People might make suggestions, but in the end we do the work, choose the words, and construct the sentences. We write the story. We take our story on it’s own path, we walk with it, hold its hand and we don’t stop until we reach our final destination, and we do it alone.

I’ve mentioned before that until recently I’d never shared my WIP with anyone. I think it’s wonderful for those writers who have critique partners or writing groups to share their work with and bounce ideas off of. To have such people that you feel comfortable with sounds amazing. They all seem very brave to me. Call me chicken. I’d find that very difficult to do, although I suspect that after that initial plunge it would become easier as time goes on.

For the writers out there, do you agree that writing is an “alone journey?” And do you share your work with others along the way?

Canada Reads

I’m tickled pink that Bitter, Sweet made it on the CBC Canada Reads list for recommended daily reading for October 20, 2010…Yay!!!!!!!!!

You can check out the link right here if you don’t believe me!

To let you know what Canada Reads is about here’s some info straight from the Canada Reads site:

What is Canada Reads?
Canada Reads celebrates five Canadian books for three months online, at public events and on air. It all leads up to a debate hosted by Jian Ghomeshi.

In this annual title fight, five celebrity panelists defend their favourite work of Canadian fiction. One by one, books are voted off the list, until one panelist triumphs with the book for Canada to read this year.

They are looking for regular readers to submit recommendations to create the list of the Top 40 Essential Canadian Novels of the Decade. The list of top 40 will be announced on Oct 26th…that’s tomorrow!

So here’s to the top 40, whoever you may be.

Bitter, Sweet Anniversary

Today is the same kind of gorgeous fall day it was a year ago when my family and friends all came together for the launching of Bitter, Sweet on Sunday afternoon. A lot has taken place over the past year, release of the book in the US, some pretty super reviews of the book, shortlisting for the Bilson Award, not to mention having the book go into a second printing. The memory of all those positive vibes in the community centre that day continues to fill me with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all those who came together to help make this special, not only for me, but for the whole community of East Dalhousie.

Happy Anniversary, Bitter, Sweet!


Today I received a beautiful invitation from the Canadian Children’s Book Centre in Toronto. Can’t say how honoured I felt to be receiving one. Remember back in July when “Bitter, Sweet” was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award For Historical Fiction For Young People? Well that award will be handed out on November 9th along with a few others—-Marilyn Baille Picture Book Award, and Norma Fleck Award For Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction.

Just to know that my book has been shortlisted for one of these awards really is reward enough. 🙂 That may sound corny, but it’s so very true.

On November 9th you can bet I’ll be daydreaming about this wonderful celebration from home while those attending are sipping cocktails and eating d’oeuvres, and I will definitely be smiling when they announce the winner’s names. 🙂

Move Along…Move Along

We write it. We edit it. We polish it until it shines like spun gold. We protect it like a mother bear, but at some point we have to let go. We have to loosen our grip, put that story into an envelope, add postage, say a little prayer, and send it on its way.

Sending that manuscript out into the world is not much easier than sending our first born off to college. At least when our kids go off we hear from them on a regular basis. We find out if they’re eating properly, attending class regularly, and not partying too much during the week. (Okay so, I’m a bit deluded about the partying bit, but you get my drift.)When that manuscript leaves our fingers it is many, many months until we hear from it again. It could even be a year or *gasp* even two. (Yes, I did say two.) See why we writers are such an insecure bunch?

So now it’s gone. The house is quiet again. The merry sound of a keyboard slapping in the middle of the night has come to an abrupt halt. We mourn a little for those characters who have consumed our lives for so many months or years. It’s only natural to be a bit sad. We’ve finally come to the end. We’re standing in that empty house saying, “Now what?”

At this point the only thing we can do is take a deep breath and move on. Hopefully, another story has been prodding us, and with any luck we were smart enough to jot down some notes along the way while we’re facing the fact that we’re not likely to hear from our manuscript for a good long while.

There’s no point in becoming too emotionally wrapped up in the release of our manuscript. You know that saying “If you love something set it free….” Of course in this case we only want it to come back it it’s been accepted for publication and we’re working on edits. Right?

So back to the beginning of my post.—We write it. We edit it. We polish it until it shines like spun gold. We loosen our grip, send it on its way—

And then we move along.

It’s really our only option. Isn’t it?

Do you find it difficult to let go of your work and send it off into the big scary world on its own?

Success/Failure—How Do We Measure It?

Two things inspired me to write a post on failure— or should say success? The first one was a post over at Unleash The Flying Monkeys Failure is Not an Option; It’s a Necessity, where Leah dismisses the notion that “we must succeed or else,” and the other arrived in the form of a little inspirational note in my inbox which read:

The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel.”

I happen to agree with Leah in that failure is not the end of the world, nor is success a necessity for happiness. Her idea that many of us put ourselves under far too much pressure was spot on. We don’t want to end up sucking all the joy out of our lives which is exactly what can happen when we strive to reach certain goals and deadlines.

While Leah’s opinion is that failure isn’t the end of the world–which it isn’t– my little email message seemed to be saying that we should take a look at what success means. That got me thinking.

So, how does a writer measure success?

Some might say, that’s easy—publication is what all writers strive for, their way of measuring success, or perhaps the size of the advance they receive (not to mention royalty money, and possibly any awards that might come their way.)

I’m reminded of a post I wrote last November, So What’s it really about? that came about after a conversation with my daughter where I told her I didn’t want this experience of having a book published to be all about sales and money. I wanted to enjoy each precious moment, savour each pleasant memory along the way.

A writer’s life is filled with highs and lows. There is both disappointment and elation along the way. We feel disappointment when we receive yet another rejection and elation over some small bit of praise for our work.

But hopefully, as we create our stories we are doing it for the pure joy of it, and not for some measure of success that comes in the form of money or fame or awards. Hopefully, we are wrapped up in each word and syllable, sentence and paragraph that we put down on paper. Hopefully, as each day brings us further to an ending, we love the story we’re creating just as much at the end as we did in the very beginning. If there is no joy, no sense of fun, are we truly successful when and if that story is finally published?

How then, as writers, do we fail?

I thought about this question for a moment and the first thing that popped into my mind was quitting. For me, failure would come in the form of quitting. And then I wondered why would a writer quit? Failure to be published might be the answer. But if we quit, how can be sure that publication is not awaiting us further down the road? Lots of things to ponder.

We are often encouraged to set goals for ourselves and this can be helpful. It can motivate us to keep going or even serve as the catalyst to get us started. But what if we set a goal such as: I want to be published by a certain date and that date comes and goes. Are we then a failure for not reaching our goal by this self-imposed deadline?

I have occasionally set writing goals to help motivate myself, and only rarely do I set a deadline. Don’t get me wrong, for some writers deadlines are a way of life especially when an editor is waiting for you to get back to them with rewrites and all that other fun stuff. Missing such deadlines would not be wise. Earlier this year, I set a goal of having a first draft for another novel completed by the end of the summer. Guess what? Didn’t happen. Little did I know when I set this goal that I would become very busy with some revisions on a completely different story. Did I feel like a failure then for missing my deadline? Not for a moment. I felt like a complete success for bringing my revisions to a place where I am totally happy and confident with the story I was revising.

Sometimes we have to accept the fact that we don’t have control over everything. Sometimes we want to go in one direction while the Universe is guiding us someplace else. Sometimes we think we are ready when in fact we aren’t. But if we quit working at it I can guarantee this readiness will never find us, and yes we probably will feel like a failure.

So that’s lots to digest for one day. Thanks for making me think, Leah, and for inspiring me to write this very long-winded post…

As a writer what do you feel if your measure of success? Do you agree with the statement that “ The standard of success in life isn’t the things. It isn’t the money or the stuff — it is absolutely the amount of joy you feel?”

A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk

This Wednesday evening we attended the launching for Jan Coates’ new Young Adult Novel, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk” at St. Mary’s University in Halifax.

Here’s a bit about the novel. I haven’t read it yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

The novel was inspired by the real life experiences of a Sudanese boy named Jacob, who, with thousands of others, fled for his life and spent many months walking through deserts and crossing crocodile-infested rivers, only to spend years living in refugee camps. Many of these so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan died from starvation, attacks from wild animals, and war, but many. Like Jacob, survived. Through it all Jacob is guided by the memory of his mother, and her belief in education as the key to escaping the cycle of violence.”

After Jan’s reading, Jacob spoke to the audience. I don’t think as Canadian’s we fully appreciate all that we have in our lives. So much we take for granted.

Music was provided by a group known as Kojo. This definitely helped set the mood for the whole evening. They were terrific.

Royalties from the book will be shared with Jacob’s charity, Wadeng Wings of Hope (www.wadeng.org) which raises funds for children’s education in Southern Sudan. Check out the site, I’m sure you’ll be interested.

Here’s Jan and Jacob signing books. I just know the excitement Jan was feeling. It’s a wonderful feeling to finally have all your hard work pay off. The great people at Woozles were there to sell books and believe me a lot were sold!!!!

Congrats, Jan. I’m so very pleased for you 🙂

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