Saturday, December 24, 2011

recipe for tourtiere

I take my recipe from a book called Food--a la canadienne.  It's very simple:  You need 1 lb of ground pork (or turkey).  Some recipes suggest half pork and half turkey or veal--just not hamburger!  Then chop 1/4 cup onion, mix with the meat and add a dash of salt, a dash of pepper, 1/4 tsp savory, dash ground cloves, and mix it all together.  Simmer in a little water (about 1/4 cup) and include a small bay leaf (break the leaf in half to release the flavour).  Continue simmering about 20 minutes, stirring once in a while.  Remove the bay leaf halves, cool the meat, skimming off excess fat. 
For the pie crusts, I'm lazy.  I just buy the frozen ones.  Fill one 9" pie crust with the meat mixture, and cover with a second pie crust, seal the edges with a dab of water and press down with fork tines.  Cut a couple of steam vents in the top crust.  Bake at 425 f degrees until the top is golden brown (half an hour).  It should serve 6 people, if you have some vegetables to go with it, unless your family is like mine, and you're lucky if it will serve four.  I make two of them, so people can have seconds. 
This is a traditional French Canadian meal to be served after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

Christmas 2011

It's Christmas Eve, early afternoon.  We have no tree, no decorations besides our Advent candles, and have no plans to prepare for tomorrow besides go to church this evening.  And I, for one, like it this way.  I suspect the rest of my family would like to see things the way they were years ago: house decorated inside and out, Xmas music playing, lights twinkling, presents wrapped and heaped under the tree.  Christmas Eve, I would have baked a tourtiere, and maybe some shortbread, bought Xmas cake, and had stockings all stuffed so that when our family (kids, their spouses, grandkids) would come over after midnight Mass, we'd open stockings and feast until wee hours.  Then, most would stay overnight and we'd do the usual present thing and brunch, etc., on Christmas morning--burning the wrappings in the fireplace, trying not to set the house on fire.
Now, even the fireplace is sealed up to avoid heat going up the chimney, and to avoid burning the place down with burning paper.  Our kids have their own Christmases in their own homes in their own ways, and our house is quiet.  One concession:  this afternoon I plan to make tourtiere again--that's all.  It will be our supper when we get home from church.  We're going to the 8pm service at the cathedral.  That will be our Christmas this year.  Peaceful and filled with quiet joy.  May your Christmas be just the way you want it.

My current project: MURDER IN THE MANSE (#1)

I'm working on a murder mystery, a young adult novel.  People who give advice about what a writer should post about in her blog, say that it's a good idea to tell about the characters in her novel--their backstories, maybe.  So, I thought I'd start with the backstory of the victim in the book I'm calling Murder in the Manse.  I was going to start with the victim, but I think I'll tell about the protagonist first.  Her name is Crystal, and she's 14 years old.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

an article about me

It's not often that I get to read an article about myself, but in the current issue of the newsletter for the Dept. of Linguistics at UBC, there is one.  (You have to scroll down to page 12.)  There are a couple of minor inaccuracies, but nothing serious.  It's not easy to take notes during a conversation and get everything 100%, but Dr. Penelope Bacsfalvi did as good a job as any.  (I hope I spelled her name correctly, it's hard to read such small print.)  Then, as the articles says you can find links to some of my publications in this blog, I've added the four that are in children's magazines:  "Vancouver at Hand" in FACES, I think that was May 2002; "Henry Kelsey, Boy Explorer" in FACES in 2003, maybe; and "A Tale of Three Rivers" in FACES in 2004.  Also in 2004 was "The Pink Bits" a board game published in CALLIOPE.  These magazines are all Cobblestone Publications.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

advice 13

Hyatt promised a "baker's dozen" items to blog about, so here's the last one:  Blog about lessons learned along the journey to publication & success as a novelist.  What have I learned about writing?  about publishing? marketing?  about myself? 
About writing:  so many books have been written on this subject alone, I can hardly do justice to it--even just what I've learned.  I started writing when I was very young, and learned from many people and books and courses and attempts and critique groups and conferences, etc., etc., etc.  The most important piece of advice I could offer is that learning to write as a professional requires study and practice.  Margaret Atwood was quoted as responding to someone who commented that he thought he would take up writing when he retired.  She said she thought that when she retired she'd take up brain surgery.  Professional writers are exactly that: professional--and didn't get there by thinking it was a hobby.
What have I learned about publishing?  Not enough.  It seems to change faster than the weather.  Same goes for marketing.  I just wish I had something to market.
About myself?  I have more stamina than I thought.  I am willing to learn and to work.  I can't quit!  I guess I'm addicted, but it's the best addiction there is because it hurts no one--not even myself.

advice 12

Hyatt talks about emotional challenges, and suggests readers would be interested in seeing the real person behind the pen (or computer screen).  He says to blog about times when the author has felt inadequate, stuck, overwhelmed, disppointed, and how these feelings were dealt with.  That's a lot like the advice 11, obstacles.  Feeling inadequate comes all the time.  I read other books in the genres that interest me, and I say I could do that--but deeper down I doubt it.  So I read more, study more, write more, and keep trying to do better.  Stuck--that's like "writer's block", I guess.  I discussed that in advice 11.  Overwhelmed?  I can only imagine that that's more likely to come with success, and the publisher wants the author to come up with another book right away, oh--and by the way--how about doing this, that, and the other to market the book, and maybe do a few revisions to make the book a few hundred words shorter or longer or whatever!  Oh, and could you add a little more humour here and there?  (like it's salt and pepper).  I'd definitely feel overwhelmed then, and would be seeking advice from Michael Hyatt's followers.  How to deal with disappointment?  First cry, then get angry, then eat candy (or better still, go to the gym and beat the *** out of the disappointing event), then start a new project.  When you're feeling better, go back and improve the work that brought the disappointment and make it better and send it out again.

advice 11

Hyatt thinks that readers, and maybe other writers, too, would be interested in learning what obstacles an author faces in the process of writing a novel.  What are the challenges?  How does it feel to be rejected?  How to keep going when you feel like quitting--and how to deal with writer's block or getting negative review.  Well let's look at that list.  The obstacles I face are more to do with home and family than anything else.  I'd love to have an office where I could close the door and put a do-not-disturb sign on the knob, and have everyone in the household recognize and respect that I genuinely do not want to be disturbed.  And that this is IMPORTANT.  Then, too, by the same token, I need to respect my own time more, and exercise more self-discipline so that I really earn the respect I crave.
As for being rejected, the best advice is to remember that it is the story as it is that is being rejected, not the author personally.  The thing to do is to improve the work and move on to the next publisher.  I've been doing that for several years with Angels in the Flames, so I know what I'm talking about here.
Keeping going when you feel like quitting.  I haven't been there yet.  I never feel like quitting.  I'm definitely not a quitter. 
Writer's block?  That's a terrible excuse for not writing.  I just work on a different part of the story until something gives me an idea for the spot I had to leave alone for a while.  I interview the characters.  I revisit (physically if possible, or in my imagination) the setting of the story--drawing a map of the area, describing it for myself in all the most vivid details I can muster. I list possible directions, playing "what if"....  As for a negative review--in a critique group or in suite 101, I simply consider the source:  If the reviewer knows more about the subject than I do, then I'll give it serious consideration. If not, then I consider the intent of the reviewer--Is the person trying to be helpful or destructive.  If helpful, I'll look again at the work.  If destructive, I do my best to ignore it.  Of course, I get my feelings hurt, but I get over it.

advice 10

I guess Hyatt has exhausted all the interview ideas, because now he moves on to suggesting that authors might offer advice to other authors in their blogs.  Offering tips on coming up with the "right" story, getting an agent and meeting deadlines.  I could use that advice, myself.  As for meeting deadlines, I've done that with magazine articles and, of course, with university papers and even as a teacher returning corrected essays.  I'm good at that.  I work better when I know someone is waiting to get something from me and wants it, not just asap, but NOW.

advice 9

Hyatt suggests that marketers would make good interviewees, asking them what it's like to market fiction compared with marketing nonfiction.  What makes it fun (is it fun?) and what makes it challenging?  I'd add what makes it worthwhile--not just financial rewards but other sorts of rewards for selling children's literature.

advice 8

Hyatt also suggests interviewing the editor of my book.  I'll be happy to do that whenever I get an editor.  I suppose an agent would be good, too.  When I get one.  If I get one.  The question to ask these valuable people is:  "What is it like to work with an author?"  Oh, boy!   I bet there are some fascinating stories there! 

advice 7

Hyatt says: Interview other novelists, especially in the genre I am writing for.  That would be those who write fiction or nonfiction for middle grade and young adults. 
I know lots of blogging authors do this, but I haven't tried it because I don't think anyone would find this particular blog a good place to showcase their work.  After all, although lots of people tell me they've read my blog--almost no one ever adds a comment or "follows" it.  I'd need a bigger audience before I could entice any successful novelist to spend valuable time on my interview.  So.....if you're interested in seeing others being interviewed here, please leave a nice comment saying so.  And follow!  Please. Thank you.

advice 6

Hyatt suggests interviewing the characters in the book. I do that all the time while I'm writing the book.  Sometimes, I think the character should act or react in a certain way, but I'm not sure if that's what he/she would really do.  So I ask him/her.  Okay, so I'm having imaginary conversations.  What did you think novelists do all the time?

advice 5

Interview self:  Hyatt says that authors who have been interviewed by professionals are often annoyed that the interviewer didn't ask the right questions.  Hmmm.  He suggests that the author's blog could suggest some questions that ought to be asked.  I need to read more interviews to see how they might be improved, especially if anyone were to interview me.  Can't imagine what they'd ask!

advice 4

Now this is more interesting for me:  Hyatt suggests doing something like "director's notes" on your DVD of a movie.  Tell why I started with this scene--now that's a good one because it's always tricky to decide exactly where to start.  Some editors want you to start "in media res" (or is that "in res media"?)--in the middle of the action with no introductory scenes at all.  Other editors want you to start with the ordinary.  We discussed this dilemma at our last writers' critiquing group.  We decided it really depended on what the story was, and how it could begin differently.  Other "director's notes": what scenes were deleted and why.  Oh, I have many versions of my novels.  I came across an old file of Angels in the Flames the other day, and it had a whole list of scenes I'd forgotten all about.  Then there are the scenes that were added to improve the book--heck, I added about half a dozen totally new chapters last time I revised that novel because the editor wanted to know what the brother was doing while the girl was on her mission.  Yes, I think those chapters did improve the book, even though the editor later decided not to publish any more books for that age group.  That hurt me, but the advice did help the book. 

advice 3

Hyatt suggests blogging about "behind-the-scenes" in a novelist's life.  Oh, how I'd love to see myself as a novelist!  But for this Hyatt suggests telling how it felt to land an agent and what it's like to see the book in print and hold a copy of it in your hands.  I'll let you know when that happens to me, other than in my favourite fantasies!

advice 2

Hyatt's second idea is to blog about the backstory of the novel.  That's something I could definitely do, especially for the novel I'm currently working on because I wrote it all out, all 50,000 (plus) words of it for NANOWRIMO in 2009.  This novel begins almost exactly where the nano novel ended.  That was fun to do, and very helpful when I need to know more about characters that were featured in it that are going to come up in this current novel.  More of that later.  Right now, I'm just looking at Hyatt's list.  To see backstories of my novels, check the label: backstories.

advice 1

Michael Hyatt's blogging advice, via Kristi Holl's excerpts from her book Writer's First Aid, sent via the list I get from the Institute of Children's Writers---long way around for a short cut.  Hyatt give 13 ideas for novelists to use in their blogs.  The first is to blog excerpts from my novel.  I'd love to do that, but won't until I have one actually published.  Logically, Hyatt recommends that the excerpt conclude with a link so the reader can buy the book.  I'm tempted to give an excerpt from one of my unpublished novels, but as there's a strong likelihood it would be revised and possibly changed in the revision, there isn't much point.  However... see "advice 2"

Sunday, November 27, 2011

pick myself off, dust myself off, and start all over again

Not quite all over again--I have reviewed Angels in the Flames, and tweeked it, as I always do, but not started all over again as I have done on one or two other occasions.  No.  Just a bit of tweeking and yesterday I sent it off to three more Canadian publishers: Annick Press, Groundwood, and Kids Can Press, all in Toronto. I started off with western Canadian publishers, seeing as how the story is set in Vancouver.  Then moved eastward.  I don't like simultaneous submissions, but I thought I'd try it once more and hope for the best.  So, once more typing with crossed fingers.  I also have an article at BC Parent News, and am waiting to hear from them. And my play is with the artistic director at Christ Church Cathedral; I hope something comes of that, too.  So: three irons in the fire.  Someone once said that to be a successful writer, you need to have twelve irons in the fire.  I guess it will be a long time before I'm a "successful" writer.  For now, I'm just a struggling writer, like gazillions of others.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

another disappointment

I got another rejection letter today.  Dundurn didn't find my historical novel right for them.  Okay.  I'm glad they were quick to respond.  I really hate waiting!  (Doesn't everyone?)  But also just don't like to send out simultaneous submissions.  I may have to change my tune on that.  Anyway, I have two more publishers on my list: Kids Can Press and Annick Press.  KCP says they accept sim subs if identified, and Annick doesn't mention sim subs in their guidelines.  Hmm.  What to do!  I'll have to print out sample chapters of Angels in the Flames and write up fresh cover letters and see what happens.  Can't have that ms sitting around here doing nothing.  I wonder if I should do another rewrite. 
Meanwhile, I'm working on a young adult murder mystery.  I read that Dahl (can't spell his first name without looking it up) used to give himself a year to write a book.  I've been working on the YA novel since last May, and hope to have it all "down" by the end of December and then spend the next few months, to May 2012, to get it ready to send out.  I have the outlines done for two sequels, so I'll start the next one as soon as the first is sent out. 
Seriously thinking about getting an agent.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Franciscan Chapter

Just a little envious of my husband right now.  He's attending a meeting of the TSSF chapter, at Little Portion Friary, in New York.

New Look

What do you think of the new look of this blog?  I thought I'd try it out.  Please do leave comments!

October update

It's a busy life that I lead--or so it seems to me.  First and foremost, I need to update the news about my novel, Angels in the Flames:  I did send it to Dundurn, and notified Coteau that I had done so.  I guess my gmail isn't as quick as it should be, because I should have received the notification that the manuscript was in the mail, rejected.  However, Nik Burton kindly emailed me back and said that the decision had been made before they had been told about the simultaneous submission.  So, as it stands, the novel is only with Dundurn although they've been told it's a sim-sub.  I'm planning to send it to another publisher as soon as I can.
Meanwhile, I've been in touch with the artistic director at Christ Church Cathedral, and she has agreed to look at my play, The Wolf and the Saint: The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi as Told by the Wolf of Gubbio.  All I have to do is put it together in an email and send it off to her.  Odd how such a "simple" task can grow into a big job.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

what to do?

Angels in the Flames has been with Coteau Books for a year now, and still no word except responses to my enquiries concerning status.  Not yet read, I think.  Oh dear!  The slush pile?  Well, I have a list of half a dozen more Canadian publishers, and I could send it off to them.  Coteau said it's okay to sim.sub as long as I let them know.  I'll do that, of course.  However, I'm thinking of trying an agent again.  No luck last time (a few years ago, but I think that was for a different project, and I know it wasn't with the agent I have in mind). 
So, I have to prepare the manuscript once again for another journey.  Meanwhile, I keep hoping and writing, and so on.  Writing the book is only a fraction of the work that getting getting it published is.  Still, it's worth pursuing, I suppose.  If only for the experience.  Can't quit now.  I'm in too deep.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

1st half of August 2011

I can't believe that it's been almost two months since I posted in this blog!  I was reading some old emails, clearing out my inbox, and came across one from someone who said he was an "avid reader" of my blog.  Poor soul!  How bored he must be to see the same thing every time he looks in.  He probably isn't so "avid" a reader now.
If, however, you are one who just pops in once in a while to see if I've added anything, then you won't be too disappointed--I hope.
The fact is that I've been busy working on a novel that I started a long time ago.  I first started it when I entered the "24 hour novel" challenge several years ago.  I booked into a motel and wrote for hours and hours and came up with something that vaguely resembled a novel.  I entered it, but of course never heard anything because people who enter that challenge regularly know how to write a novel in 24 hours.  I guess. 
So, in 2009 when I embarked on the NANOWRIMO challenge, I used the same characters and setting for that.  And in 30 days I had written 50,000 words that also resembled a novel--considerably better than the first, but still needing a lot of work before it could really be anything worth reading. 
Now, I've changed the main character and fiddled around with the other characters, and am slowly but surely developing what I hope will be a decent young adult murder mystery. 
So that's why you haven't seen anything new in this blog.  I'll try to keep you updated on how the mystery comes along. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trinity Sunday

Yesterday was Trinity Sunday.  It was interesting to listen to the clergy, in the children's talk and in the sermon, try to clarify the theology of the Trinity.  There was reference to St. Patrick's famous example of the shamrock, which has three parts but is one leaf.  There was a dance where three people stand in a "circle" facing outwards with hands joined, and turn around--three dancers but unity in the dance.  There was a quote (from where, I don't know) that said in the heart of the Trinity, God laughed and gave birth to Jesus; in the heart of the Trinity, Jesus laughed and gave birth to the Holy Spirit; in the heart of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit laughed and gave birth to us all.  I'm not sure how that defines the Trinity.  I have two other attempts that I like:  The first is the egg.  The shell (Jesus) is broken to reveal the white (Holy Spirit) and the yolk (Creator God).  The shell is visible.  The white nourishes.  The yolk is the source of life.  Three parts of the egg, but only one egg.  My second attempt at defining the Trinitarian understanding of God is the human being.  God created "man" in his own likeness (male and female); if you watch a dying person in an emergency ward (on TV, if you like) you'll see the doctors first try to revive the person with CPR--heart massage and blowing air into the lungs.  But when a flat line appears on the monitor and shows the person is brain dead, it is all over.  When I cross myself, I am reminded of these three necessities of life: touch my head, ("God the father"), touch my heart ("God's body, Jesus, his son"), touch my shoulders--or better my breast above my lungs ("God the Holy Spirit")--yet I am one person, just as God is one God.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Each year in May, my husband and I go on retreat to Rivendell Christian Retreat Centre on Bowen Island, a one hour journey from our home, by car and ferry.  It is a Franciscan duty to go on retreat at least once a year.  We choose this time of year because it honours the memory of our grandson who drowned on May 22, 2005.  Part of the time,we spend in silence, but it is usually not a "silent retreat".  Rivendell is a lovely place, on an island with mountains and tall evergreen trees.  The building has several places to sit and be quiet.  No TV.  No phones (although I confess to bringing my iPhone and checking email once a day).  However, I also use my iPhone to take pictures, and I have them here now.  They are of Hawthorne Room, which houses the tiny library.  Guests are invited to light a fire and read in the room or take a book to another room to read.  I found Hawthorne a comfortable place to write my journal, or read or knit in the peaceful hours of the early morning. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Pictures from Jerusalem

Bringing to mind Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
The stones Jesus walked on, as he made his way to Golgotha carrying his cross.

The Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was lain after his crucifixion, and from where he rose on the third day.

Holy Saturday

Last Thursday was Maundy Thursday, and the service at the Cathedral was remarkable on so many levels.  In addition to the usual readings and the concluding ceremony of stripping the altar, there were three extraordinary features:  First, in addition to the customary washing of the feet, the Cathedral took it beyond the usual symbolic gesture of washing the feet of only a few representatives from the congregation.  Usually, the excuse for doing that is that it is less time-consuming than including everyone.  Well, at the Cathedral, where there were probably well over a hundred people, everyone who wished to be included was welcomed to come forward.  The chancel area behind the altar had two rows of chairs with a kneeler in front of each chair and one of the servers standing by. People lined up at either side of the altar to be conducted to a chair.  One person knelt on the kneeler (a low cushioned stool) and washed one foot of the one on the chair.  Then, the one on the chair knelt and washed one foot of the next person who came to occupy the chair.  So it went on, so that after having your foot washed, you washed the next person's foot.  At each chair, there was a lovely ceramic bowl for the foot to rest over, and the server poured the water (tepid, not cold) over the foot and the foot-washer washed the foot.  Then the server provided a big white fluffy towel for the foot-washer to dry the other person's foot. The basin was emptied after each person's washing and the towels were fresh and clean. It was done slowly and reverently.  I would say that most of the congregation participated. 
The second extraordinary feature was the preacher.  He was the Bishop of Galilee, from Nazareth.  My friend had the privilege of washing the foot of the man from Galilee! 
The third extraordinary feature--at least new to my experience but not unique to the Cathedral, I'm told, was that after the altar had been stripped (to the singing of Psalm 22), the Dean and the Archdeacon proceeded to wash the altar carefully and reverently and thoroughly. 
As is the custom of the Anglican church (and other denominations, no doubt) people left the building in silence.  This is Day One of the Triduum: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday & Easter Sunday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fridays in Lent

Today is the Friday before Palm Sunday, a Day of Penitence for Franciscans around the world.  Counting Good Friday, there are seven Fridays in Lent, today is the sixth--six being an imperfect number because it is one short of seven, the perfect number. 
Today, in preparation for next Friday, I sought out (via Google) the booklet I bought in Jerusalem last year.  I have the booklet "someplace safe", which means I'll come across it in a very logical place but when I'm not looking for it.  That happens to me all the time.  But I knew it was online, and here it is: the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.  This is the way I prayed the Stations of the Cross with Franciscans in Jerusalem one Friday afternoon.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday morning stories

When it's someone in their 90s, we can accept their death more easily.  It is still sad.  We still mourn them because we miss them.  But when it's a young person who dies, it's harder to accept.  As Christians, we usually don't allow ourselves to get angry with God.  Yet, when we read the psalms, we find that some very holy people got angry with our Creator quite a lot. Even Jesus, from the cross borrowed words from Psalm 22 to express his anguish and anger: My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?
When my grandson drowned I got angry with God.  Derek was 22 years old.  He died on his sister's 19th birthday.  His father, my eldest son, was dying of cancer. It wasn't fair.  And then, adding insult to injury, the Gospel reading the next Sunday had something to do with Jesus saving a young person from death.  I was so upset that I can't even remember which story it was.  Maybe it was the centurian's child.  Or the girl, to whom Jesus said, "Talitha cum,"  or "Little girl, get up."  Whichever story it was, when I heard it I was outraged.  Why save that child and not my grandson?  I don't know.  God alone knows the answers to these questions.  Death of a loved one is not always easy to accept.
The stories we told after lunch at St. Thomas today were not like the one about my grandson.  Most of the people there knew about that already.  Our stories were more light-hearted.  For example:  I think it was Gertrude Stein who, on her deathbed, was moaning, "What is the answer?  What is the answer?"  And then, finally, she sat up and with her last breath said, "What's the question?"
I think I know the question. 
But one more story:  The priest told this one:  Oscar Wilde was not a rich man when he died.  In fact, the room that he was lying in was dingy and dark.  As he lay on his bed, facing the ugly old wallpaper, he used his last breath to quip: "One of has got to go!"

Wednesday morning after Mass

On Wednesday mornings, we go to Mass at St. Thomas Anglican Church.  On the first Wednesday of the month, we have lunch together.  We take turns making and bringing the soup, buns, and maybe some cookies.
There are between ten and fifteen of us, as a rule.  Conversation tends to be rather lively. Or maybe that's not the right word for today's conversation which, for some reason or another, turned to the subject of death.
Yes, I know.  You come here for all the fun topics, right?  Like how much I love the season of Lent--all that self-sacrificing and penance.
I guess it started because the Gospel reading for this coming Sunday is the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  As all but two or three of us are up in our 70s and 80s, maybe we have a different take on the end of life on this earth.  Anyway, the subject came up about the last moments on earth, especially last words.  Here are some of the stories:
My own story was one about my grandmother.  I wasn't there, so I can't swear to its accuracy, but this is how I remember it being told to me:
My grandmother, age 94 or 95, had been in and out of a sort of coma for some time.  But every morning my uncle went into her room and opened the curtains.  One morning, he was doing that when Grandma suddenly sat up.  He said good morning and asked her how she was.  She said she was fine, but then looked down at her nightie and seemed sad.  "What's wrong?" my uncle asked. 
"Nothing," she said, "but I see I'm wearing my pink nightie."
"Would you like to change?" he asked, and called in my aunt to help her.
When she had changed into her nice new white nightie and had her hair brushed, Grandma smiled and said,"Well, I'm sure God wouldn't mind my pink nightie, but I think he'll like my white one better."  And with that she lay down and died.
I want to go like that!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Stations of the Cross for children

Here's a simple yet meaningful way for children (or those of us who refuse to grow up) to walk the via dolorosa.  As I viewed this series of meditations, I remembered the two weeks I spent at station 3 of the via dolorosa last year.  I remember each of the stations, how it felt to walk with the Franciscans on my last Friday in Jerusalem.  It's hard to hold back the tears. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

just had to add it

Hope you enjoy the teacher video as much as I do.  I watch it over and over!  Makes you proud to be a teacher, doesn't it?  If you aren't a teacher, you probably have a skill or something worth passing on to others, so teach a class or write a textbook or a novel that brings to life a valuable truth.  St. Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the Gospel.  Use words if necessary."  There are many ways to be a teacher.  Be a good one.  Make a difference!

Taylor Mali on what teachers make

Monday, March 14, 2011

forty days and forty nights

Lent is my favourite time of year.  I know it's crazy.  Most people dislike it because of the tradition of giving up things we like to do or eat or whatever.  I've given up chocolate and coffee and alcohol in the past.  But I don't usually have enough of any of these things to make it any sort of penance.  This year, I've given up playing solitaire on the computer.  OUCH!  I really have to slap my fingers hard.  It's how I get through reading boring emails. 
Lent is more about preparing for Easter.  This time last year, we were in England.  It was our last few days of a six-week trip, two weeks of which had been spent in the Holy Land. 
the view from the tram taking us up Temptation Mountain
Going through the check-out to leave Tel Aviv on February 16th, (an experience more arduous than entering Israel) my suitcase was scanned. "Did you go to the Dead Sea?" the Israeli woman asked me.  "Yes," I said.  "Did you get any mud from the bottom of the Dead Sea?"  "Yes," I said.  "Did you scoop it out yourself or did you buy it?"  "I bought it."  "Where?  What was the name of the shop?" she asked.  "Temptation Mountain," I said.  Temptation mountain, where Jesus spent the forty days and forty nights remembered each Lent.  I'll try and post the pictures here.
It's hard to photograph this place.  You can see it is desolate desert and mountainous.  There is a Greek Orthodox monastery near the top.  Long difficult climb from where the tram stops, leads to the small cave where it is said that Jesus slept for those forty nights.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

book reviewing tips

Now that I've written a few book reviews, I feel I should share some tips I've found for writing them.  So far the only reviews I've published have been on Suite 101, which has word limitations, no fewer than 400 and no more than 1000.  Some of the reviews I've done, I've felt should have been shorter and so I've padded them, others could have gone on longer and I've had to cut out parts I would have preferred to leave in.  Anyway, click on the links and see what others have to say as to how this job should be done.  I like what the Los Angeles Valley College link has to say about there being "no right way" to do it.  Still, I find it useful to see what others suggest and go from there.  Writing book reviews is an excellent way to see what editors and publishers look for when reading my manuscripts. 

Monday, March 7, 2011

reading the SideStreet series published by Lorimer

I was able to get two SideStreet books from the library: New Blood by Peter McPhee, and Final Takedown by Brent R. Sherrard.  I've finished Sherrard's book.  Really good.  Quite different from other books I've read.  I've just started the other book, and it's different again, so far.  Very edgy, both of them.  Could I write one?  Don't know.  I'll give it a try.  Right now I'm working on two other novels and have other projects on the back burners, too.  Coteau still has Angels, and Baker has the play.  Slow going on Suite 101 right now, but that's okay.  Squidoo is on hold, too.  Can't do everything all at once.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

book reviewing Matilda cont'd

I finally finished my book review of Matilda, and got it published in Suite 101 after a few technical glitches with their new system up uploading images.  Got it done, though.  And so, here it is: Matilda, by Roald Dahl.

Friday, February 25, 2011

book reviewing

Now I'm working on a book review of Roald Dahl's Matilda.  It's the best children's book I've read in a long time.  I'm not much of a fan of Roald Dahl's, but I visited his home in England in 2008.  It's a museum now, with rooms for children to do activities with their teachers, etc.  A great place to take children.  There's the chair he sat in while he wrote his books.  It's quite comfortable-looking, I guess, but not my style.  It has a board across the front to be used as a desk.  He used to tell children there were wolves in his little writing cabin, so they wouldn't peek inside or come to bother him while he was writing. 

The History and Meaning of Irish Claddagh Rings

In 1991, we visited Ireland and I bought myself a Claddagh ring at Blarney Castle.  I hinted broadly to my husband that he ought to buy it for me, but all he said was, "If you want it, why don't you buy it?"  So I did.  Now I find out that it's "bad luck" to buy a Claddagh ring for yourself.  Oh well.  Too late now.  I've been wearing it for twenty years!  While we were in Ireland, I looked for a nice little concise booklet that would tell me the meaning of the ring.  But all I could find was a big thick book on the subject, and I didn't want to tote that around in my luggage.  So, here's some of the information I was looking for way back then.

The History and Meaning of Irish Claddagh Rings

Thursday, February 17, 2011


We've never done much with birthdays in our family.  When the children were little--really little--we had parties with games and prizes and cakes with candles.  But by the time they turned ten, it was all over.  I'm not sure our youngest child ever had a birthday party, now that I think about it.  Maybe he did.  As for gifts, they were always minimal if they existed at all.  A card--maybe, but probably not.  How could a card really express what I felt?  If it said that the child was special, what did that say about the others?  Weren't they all special?  What if one card was better for one child than for another later in the year?  Would they compare and feel that one was loved more than the other?  No, birthdays are acknowledged with a hug and the phrase "Happy Birthday" and that's it.  For those who live far apart, then a phone call will have to say it--even if it's just a message on the answering machine.  It's just to say, "I'm glad you were born." 
Today was my husband's birthday.  We all said Happy Birthday, and hugged him. Last week one of our sons "celebrated" his birthday, and got the same good wishes.  Yesterday was my eldest son's birthday, but he is no longer with us, having died of cancer in 2005.  We "celebrated" his birthday with the same sentiment: We're glad he was born and we miss him.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

another suite 101 article

Lately I've been writing book reviews for Suite 101.  So far I've reviewed these:  St. Francis and the Nativity, Honey Cake, Compost Stew, Nannycatch, & The Tree Suitcase.  All are children's books, of course.  I wrote the last one yesterday.  

Saturday, February 5, 2011

the play

Yesterday, at long last, I mailed off a query letter with sample pages of The Wolf and the Saint, The Life of St. Francis of Assisi as Told by The Wolf of Gubbio.  I sent it to Baker's Plays in New York.

this time last year

I think it was February 4th that we went to Bethlehem and Hebron.  Elsewhere on this blog you'll find entries about that--with pictures.  I could look up in my journal exactly where we were on the 5th, 6th, and so on.  But I won't.  It really doesn't matter that I celebrate these life-changing events on the right dates.  The ads from the Israelis inviting people to come as tourists promise that "you'll never be the same" and it's true.  If you are a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, I don't see how seeing, experiencing the Holy Land can leave you unchanged. 
One of the important places we visited was Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

this time last year

This time last year I was in Heathrow Airport, waiting to board a plane to Israel.  Having left Vancouver on the evening of February 1st, and arriving in Tel Aviv early morning of February 3rd, we lost February 2, 2010 altogether. :))

Thursday, January 20, 2011

UBC Farm 3

The main task of the morning was to select about twenty vegetables they wanted in their garden. It was important first of all, to establish where north was, so the tall plants would go there and not block out the sun that would come mainly from the south.  There was also the issue of the good and bad companions, and economy of space.  For the latter consideration, the children arranged the rows of roots to alternate with rows of leafy vegetables.  Plants that would not mature until late in the season were best at one end of the garden so as not to be in the way of weeding, harvesting and replanting throughout the spring. And those that tended to spread out, such as pumpkins or cucumbers should have corners to allow them to expand as they needed.  Using a large piece of white graph paper, and strips of coloured paper (1" width of paper= 4" width of garden row) the children mapped out their garden bed.  (The colours corresponded to the type of vegetable: red=roots; orange=squash; yellow=onion; green=leafy; blue=cabbage; black=legumes; white=herbs; pink=flowers.)  This is how their map turned out.

UBC Farm 2

At the school this morning, the farm friends had a reintroduction session, and a rundown of what the kids were to be able to do.  The kids showed up and were raring to go.  (Grade 5 & 6)  We had a scrabble-type game, first, as a warm up.  Each group had an envelope with little squares of coloured paper with letters on them.  The kids had to sort the letters into colour groups and arrange the letters to make words.  The words were, of course, vegetables.  The colours had meanings, too, though: red was for root vegetables, orange for cucurbitaceae (squash family), yellow for the allium (onion) family, green for leafy greens, blue for brassicaceae (cabbage family), black for peas and beans, white for herbs, and pink for flowers. 

UBC Farm 1

Today was the fourth farm visit for the 2010-11 school year.  It was at the elementary school, where the children hosted us (the "farm friends" who volunteer to work with them).  The previous visits were at the farm, harvesting what the summer school children had planted, then cleaning up the beds and preparing them for the winter.  That meant being sure all the weeds were out, and only the plants that would likely survive the winter were left in the bed.  Then lots of compost was added, cardboard sheets lain over top and held down with branches.  That was back in October. 
Today, a snowy January day, we met at the school and went over the list of vegetables the children wanted to plant in their gardens this year.  These particular children had done this before in previous years, so were old hands at it.  Also, their teacher had reviewed all the things they needed to know, such as which plants are good companions and which aren't.  (For example, don't plant cauliflower next to potato.  But beans would be good companions for either one, so beans could possibly be planted between potatoes and cauliflower.) be continued...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

two suite 101 articles

Today I posted a couple of articles in suite 101--one article, really I guess, but part one and part two because the maximum word length is 1000 words, and I had trouble keeping it under 2000.  They are about learning Braille in a way that I hope would be fun for kids who have blind friends, or who are losing their sight.   Anyway, here they are: part one and : part two
I hope that works all right.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

spiritual direction

Rule # 9 of my Franciscan Rule of Life deals with obedience.  So, obedient to my rule, I visited Sister Monica for spiritual direction.  It's always refreshing to have this hour with her.  I love being a Franciscan!

library visit

Yesterday I got an electronic reminder to pick up a book I'd requested from the Vancouver Public Library.  I'd forgotten I'd ordered it, because it's the second in the millennium trilogy by Stieg Larrsen: The Girl Who Played with Fire.   While checking it out, I commented to the woman at the desk that I hadn't yet read the first book, because the waiting list is so long at the library.  She advised me to go to the section that has mystery books in paperback, and look under L.  I did, and lo and behold there was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  So now I have these two humungous books to read in just a few weeks.  Meanwhile, I'm still in the process of printing out that never-to-be-done-with play, and reading juvenile books, and writing articles for Suite 101 and Squidoo and a YA novel for Lorimer before they forget about me.  With all this reading and writing to do, when am I ever to get any exercise?!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

book reviews

I posted a couple of book reviews today, one in Suite 101 and one in Squidoo.  It sounds better than it is, because both reviews, although different from each other, were of the same book.  The length and slant of each was different.  In Suite 101, it had to be longer, so I told more about the events in the story than I did for Squidoo.  In that second one, it was mostly about the characters and little about the story itself.  I'll post the links here, so you can see what I mean.  Click here to see The Squidoo lens and the Suite 101 article .

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2010 in review

I know.  I never keep resolutions, and neither does anyone else that I know.  However, it's interesting to look back and see what my goals were and whether or not I actually achieved any.  And what goals I want to achieve this year. 
Apparently in 2009 I had some that were worth setting for 2010.  I even had some measures of success.  The health one, diet and exercise, is the toughest of all because I hate "going for a walk" unless I have some place to go.  And if I have some place to go, then taking the car seems the logical thing to do.  Gotta change that somehow because I really am overweight and need to take better care of myself.
Resolutions: Music--I wanted to practise the organ daily in 2009.  Didn't do it.  So for 2010, I aimed for weekly.  Didn't do it.  Maybe once in a while in 2011?  That might be achievable.
Reading--I wanted to track it and keep notes.  I have started that, but this year I want to do it on my blog.  Yes.  Right here.  I wanted to finish the last two books of Harry Potter--did that, and saw the first part of the last book movie a couple of weeks ago. Can't wait for the next one!  Will be so sorry to be finished them, though.  Wanted to reread Anne of Green Gables.  Did that.  And, read kcdyer's Mrs. Zephyr's Notebook.  Still reading the Anne Perry mysteries as relaxation reading.  Writing:  didn't do nanowrimo this year (it "would be nice to do") but instead I attempted Script Frenzy and my play, The Wolf and the Saint, was the result.  My historical juvenile novel bounced back again so slowly that I thought it was just chucked out of the slushpile.  Not so.  That publisher, Lorimer, wrote me a very nice letter suggesting I write something for their young adult readers.  I've been working on a couple of ideas for that, but it's been very slow going.  That novel is now with Coteau Books in Saskatchewan.  Still typing with crossed fingers!  Articles published have been in suite 101 and squidoo.  Some progress there, I guess.

writing the play

I did it.  I finally figured out how to make the distinctive headers for each scene while having the pagination continue throughout the document.  I just have to fool the computer into thinking that when I tell it to start the pagination at the number it would have started at if continuing, then it goes well.  As for the needs of other play publishers, who want each act to start at page one, I do the same thing.  The big trick is to watch the tabs in the menu that want to "link to previous section".  No thanks.  Don't do that.  Now, all I need is ink in the printer so I can send the play out to those who want hard copies.  I can send the email copies any time now, I guess.  One more task to complete: take care of the "widows & orphans" in the dialogues so that the actors know where their lines continue on the next page, and where they don't.  All this fiddling!