Friday, March 16, 2018

The Spring Issue Has Bloomed

Although my Field Notes column, and thus my first book, got its start in a newspaper, there's something about a magazine. Even in these e-reader, online publishing times, there's something about a magazine. And I'm delighted to be back as a magazine columnist, particularly in At Home On the North Shore, which features writers, photographers, homeowners and artisans of the north shore of Nova Scotia.

One of the newspaper columns I never got around to writing was called "The Lost Art of Browsing" and perhaps I will devote a future AH Field Notes column to that idea. I just don't understand how online shopping can be more fulfilling than shopping in person; more convenient and cheaper, maybe, but what is lost when everything that comes to us comes via a screen and a click?

I thought of this last night while watching a news story about Toys R Us stores closing in the United States. The story ran with video of children in the store picking out toys.
Hello? Did anyone else catch what that means? I LOVED going to the local toy store or the toy department at our local (yet relatively small) department store when I was a kid and looking at all the toys before choosing the one toy I could take home with me. 
Sadly, a Dollarama toy run isn't the same as spending an hour in The Toy Shoppe.

Which is not a digression, as much as it appears to be! I can hold the spring issue of the magazine in my hands. I can send a copy to my best friend in Ontario. I can leave it lying on the coffee table. It will last forever. We can go to the farmers' market and meet the growers and bakers and creators. We can talk with the woman who owns the clothing store or the bookstore or the shoe store; we can be remembered when we show up the next time. Humans are a tactile, face-to-face species; we are denying ourselves so much essential interaction by limiting ourselves to computers.
People says, "Everything lasts forever on the internet," but that's not true. Things get lost on the internet, things get forgotten. A book, a magazine, a toy lasts forever -- but more importantly, so does the memory of the experience.
Like the memory of my father coming home with two stuffed animals for his two daughters -- an unexpected treat when money was tight -- that he chose himself while standing in a toy store and walked home with one under each arm.

To subscribe, call Lorraine at 902-485-1990, Ext. 1435 (Advocate Media)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Writing Workshop in May

Click on the picture to enlarge it and be able to read the words.

I'm delighted to be co-presenting this writing workshop with Marjorie Simmins, an accomplished writer and teacher. This one-day workshop at the Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash has become an annual event for her, and this year, she's invited me to share my experience with and my advice for facing fears and making space for truth and joy.

Having participated in Marjorie's 2015 workshop, I highly recommend this day. I came away with not one but TWO breakthroughs -- one of which I'll be sharing during the workshop. If you want to become inspired and motivated and encouraged -- empowered! -- this is the place to be. 

The workshop takes place on Saturday, May 26 beginning at 10 am in Pugwash, Nova Scotia.
The cost is $150, all in, and that includes the opportunity for either Marjorie or me to read 10 pages of a manuscript prior to the workshop (consider that a professional editor - like Marjorie - would charge $150 for that task so great deal!).

There are accomodations available in Pugwash (at the Thinkers Lodge and at a B&B) if you want to come up the night before, and I can't help myself: I'll be bringing my famous heart-shaped oatcakes for tea/coffee breaks!
For more information, contact Marjorie at mls @
Please register early because we are only offering 12 spaces.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

International Women's Day 2018

This is the fifth year for the International Women's Day event in Oxford, NS, so we're making it a celebration (if only the weather cooperates!). While I'm the planning committee, I also participate in the event by having a conversation with a local woman with an inspiring story to tell.
Here's a look back...

2014: Alia Kamarreddine shared her experience of coming to Canada as a 19 year old newlywed unable to speak any English. She talked about being a female business owner in the area. She now plays a key role in helping new immigrants (arriving through  the refugee program) settle into our community.

2015: Rosemary Donkin spoke of the challenges of raising a family and working when she went back to school to become a nurse. I remember best her story about doing her homework during hockey practices and 4H events!

2016: Trish Stewart shared her experience as the first female mayor of Oxford. Afterwards, we realized we didn't talk about the scrutiny women's clothes and hair get, and the pressure to wear new outfits all the time.

2017: This was a panel on women's friendships featuring lifelong friends Marilyn Williams and Janice Varner, and mother-daughter duo Haillie and Janelle Tattrie. This fabulous photograph is courtesy of Dave Matheson at the Citizen-Record newspaper.

2018: This year, I'm "in conversation with" Estella Rushton, who is 93 years young, and she'll be sharing an "equal pay for equal work" experience and as well as a few tips to staying young at heart.

(Estella loves to read, and I noticed Field Notes on the bookshelf but I was so caught up our pre-event interview, I forgot to take her picture holding my book!)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

This Is Us

Even though I'd written 2200 words, above my goal for today, I couldn't figure out how to end the chapter I was writing so I decided a walk was needed.
What an utterly gorgeous day! Blue sky and sunshine and crispy cold. Just enough wind to blow the stale, sticky thoughts out of my mind, which is exactly what my creative brain needed in order to do its subconscious thing and figured out how the chapter should wrap up.
The dog and I followed the sound of a chain saw across the field and into the plantation and found my Nova Scotia country boy in his happy place.
Arriving with a thermos of chai tea, I made it even happier.
"I love being in the woods," he said, draining his mug; then he stepped away and became one with his environment.
The dog and I carried on and said hello to the invisible beavers.
I never did figure out how to finish the chapter but really, getting out of my chair for a walk in the woods on a perfect winter's day was a far greater accomplishment.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Chinese New Year ~ The Year of the Dog

Stella, 2006

I hadn't heard of Chinese New Year, and the yearly designations (like rooster, ox and dog), until I lived in Vancouver, where there is a large Chinese community. Then I became friends with a couple who celebrated it and my sister's family started celebrating it thirteen years ago because their eldest daughter is Chinese, so I don't feel I'm co-opting another culture's new year celebration too much once every twelve years.

Being born in 1970, this is my year: the Year of the Dog. According to the website,, "Women born in the Dog year are very cautious. They are indifferent towards people they don’t like, and don’t trust easily. But once they do, it’s permanent. They are intensely protective of their friends and family. They are genial and independent. They love outdoor activities and being in nature. However, they are also hard workers and don’t give up until they succeed. Security and a stable income are her requirements for a career."

The last time it was Year of the Dog in the Chinese chart was 2006. I remember this because I bought a "Year of the Dog" mug at the pet store in Cobourg (I still have it but it's packed away somewhere). My divorce had been granted a few months earlier, so I was finally done with all that and looking forward to my first year as truly free, but at the same time, we'd moved my father into a nursing home. It was a busy year, taking care of Dad on a daily basis, and I struggled a bit with depression around my 36th birthday. Then my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Then my friend Diana was diagnosed with cancer. 2006 was getting pretty shitty. A brief respite on the east coast would provide some mental and emotional respite.
That's when I met my Nova Scotia country boy, a blind date that changed my life (and Stella's). That was 2006, the Year of the Dog. High and lows are what life is all about -- as they say, it's not what happens to you but how you respond to what happens. 2006 was a life-changing year for me.

I'm sure if I thought about it, I could come up with other non-Year of the Dog years that were life-changing but can't help it: 2006 is a stand out. The reverberations from that simple decision to say yes to a blind date rolled right into 2016.

So the Year of the Dog has rolled around again and it will be interesting to see if 2018 provides a life-changing experience. I'm hoping this year isn't as hard on the heart as 2006 was -- up until something happened to heal my heart -- but I also know that's how life goes: it's always a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly. But I wonder if it's safe to anticipate one amazing experience?

But just in case... also from that website: "It’s the Chinese tradition to wear red underwear every day during their zodiac year. Dogs can try this to ward off the bad luck."

Sunday, February 11, 2018

This Time Last Year

Freezing rain this morning means church was cancelled, which really disappointed both my mother, who was filling in as our music leader, and myself since SUNDAY IS THE ONE DAY A WEEK WE DRESS UP AND LEAVE THE HOUSE.
Seriously. This winter, my mother decided to go on an "austerity plan" since she was spending too much money on "impulse purchases", and that means no random shopping sprees to fill a day. I decided to write a novel in less than three months, which has also become a much-needed austerity plan for me as well. We don't need anymore stuff; we need me to publish another book!

Actually, I do leave the house -- I go for walks around the fields and through the woods. But I no longer leave the property. Every day I write.
This is why winter is awesome. I'm am not that person standing at the window, waving my fist and shouting, "Enough of the snow, already!" I'm standing at the window, this winter in particular, wondering where all the snow has gone!
Whether it's snowing or raining, this was the perfect time for this novel to drop into my head, although I keep wishing I'd discovered this work ethic years ago. I don't, however, think I was ready, as a writer and a person, to produce something like this until now.

Wondering what I was doing on this day last year, I found this photo from our breakfast at Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown. We've been trying to do this again but despite our best intentions, we haven't made it back. Perhaps we'll make the 90-minute trip to celebrate when I finish the first draft of this novel. SMF pancakes and beans will be a nice break from French toast and yogurt.

By the way, on Monday, I'll reach 50,000 words. And I love this story. The first draft is a piece crap, that's to be expected and no point in believing otherwise, but I feel like it's a good piece of crap; so much to work with and I can't wait to get this framework completed so I can go deeper into it and fill out the details. Just this morning, I met a delightful new character who is fun to write.
So, time to get back to her.