Sunday 30 June 2013

Make Way for Ducklings

It was on this day in 2003 that children's author and illustrator Robert McCloskey passed away.  Author and illustrator of eight books and illustrator of twelve, he was best known for his tale Make Way for Ducklings.  Here is a classic case of art imitating life.

Robert McCloskey received a scholarship in 1932 to attend the George Vesper Art School.  Every day on his way to school he would walk past the Boston Public Garden and gaze at a family of ducklings waddling along in single file.  One day he brought along his sketchbook and charcoal and started to draw the ducklings, their quack-quacks drowning out the honks of the cars in Boston's nearby traffic circles.

Mr. McCloskey became so engrossed with these ducklings, that he decided to purchase his own.  He brought home six ducks and tried to observe their habits.  Frustrated that they would not sit still for a minute, he actually plied them with wine to get them to slow down!

Robert completed his art school studies and moved to New York City to further study his craft.  Four years later, he returned to Boston.  When he walked by the Public Garden, he noticed that the family of ducks had created a traffic jam.  A police officer had stopped traffic to let them pass.  Here were the roots of his story.

He started writing a tale of a pair of mallards who nest on an island in Boston's Charles River.  Mama Duck decides to swim across the river with her ducklings in tow.  Slowly, they make their way across busy Boston, to the consternation of the motorists, until they settle in the Public Garden.

Make Way for Ducklings was published in 1941.  It received the Caldecott Prize in 1942.  Mr. McCloskey went on to pen several other books including Blueberries for Sal, based on his wife and daughter going blueberry picking in Maine.

Morton Schindel filmed a short documentary on McCloskey's work, featuring the famous sketchbook with the ducklings, in 1964.  Make Way for Ducklings went on to be a bestseller; at the time of McCloskey's death it had sold two million copies.

In 1987, a statue of the Mama Duck and her eight ducklings was placed in Boston Public Garden in gratitude for the book which helped put it on the map.  Visitors to the park can almost imagine a young artist sitting on a bench sketching, oblivious to everything but his subjects.

Photo of Make Way for Ducklings sculpture in Boston's Public Garden -

Saturday 29 June 2013

Tour de France Turns 100

Lance Armstrong wins his first Tour de France circa 1999 courtesy

As dozens of cyclists line up today to complete the 100th Tour de France, one cyclist will be in their shadow.  It's American Lance Armstrong.  He performed the impossible by winning the tour not once but seven times.  In the past year, however, his titles have been stripped from him due to accusations of doping.  According to Mr. Armstrong, you can't win the Tour de France without doping.  What a sad commentary on modern day sports.

I have mixed emotions about the scandal.  On the one hand, it would be easy to condemn Lance Armstrong and say that he is a liar and a cheat.  What about all of the cyclists who did it honestly?

On the other hand, I think of all that he has done for cancer patients.  I think of the fact that he survived not one, but two cancers (testicular and brain).  I think of the surgeries he underwent.  I think of the chemo he endured.  I think of the book he wrote telling of his gruelling trial.  I think of how he didn't feel sorry for himself.  Of how he got right back on the bike and started riding again.  Of how he trained day in and day out to qualify for the Tour de France.  Of how he knew the route like the back of his hand.  Of how he cycled down the Champs-Elysees in 1999, smiling ear to ear.  Of how he stood at the top of the podium.  And of how he came back again and again and again.

I think of his brave stance.  I think of how, despite doctors telling him he might not survive, of how he not only lived, but lived strong.  I think of how he started LiveStrong to support other struggling with cancer.  I think of those he inspired to fight this dreaded disease.  I think of those he inspired to get right back on the bike -- to never give up hope.

So while I don't condone using drugs, I am afraid that the world with forget all the good that Lance Armstrong has done.  I still consider him a brave man and a good human being.  May we remember him for what he has done right, on and off the bike.

Friday 28 June 2013

Paula Deen's Dilemma

I don't agree with anyone using the N-word, White or Black.  I don't agree with anyone looking down on anyone else because of the colour of their skin.  

That being said, I don't agree with witch hunts either.  I read last night on the Internet that twelve sponsors were planning to drop Paula Deen because of the N-word controversy.  While yesterday they were ready to sign on the dotted line, today they are dropping her like a hot potato.  Even her latest book publisher is ready to rip up their contract.  Does one word wipe out all of the good things Paula Deen has done?

Paula, raised in Georgia, met and married a man and had two sons.  Her husband walked out on her when her boys were young and left her to pick up the pieces.  On an outing one day, Paula was held at gunpoint.  Fortunately she was not injured physically but mentally she was:  she developped agoraphobia and was not able to leave the house.  

One place she felt safe was the kitchen.  She started cooking at home using the Southern recipes her grandmother taught her to make.  That was when she hatched the idea to open a catering company for the businessmen of Savannah, Georgia.  With only $200 to her name after the divorce, she had little to work with.  How would she deliver the food?  She employed her two sons who took tasty sandwiches to the businessmen downtown at lunch time.  Paula quickly built a name for herself and "The Bag Lady" grew.

Too big to work from home now, she opened up a lunch counter at a local hotel.  Once again, she drew a large clientele who appreciated her tasty cooking.  

In 1991, Paula decided to open a full-fledged restaurant.  Her tables were soon filled with a regular clientele.  She cooked up a storm in the kitchen and soon trained her sons to be chefs as well (hence the name, The Lady & Sons).  By 1999, USA Today declared Paula's food as "The International Meal of the Year".

She wrote her first cookbook, but couldn't find a publisher so she printed it herself.  Copies of the book sat in her restaurant collecting dust.  But then one day a New York editor just happened to walk by and the rest is history (see my post "A New York Minute in a Savannah Storm" at  She has written multiple cookbooks since that first title.  

Television beckoned and the effervescent Paula was ready for the task.  She hosted not one but at least two cooking shows.  She launched a magazine in 2005 called Cooking with Paula Deen.

While divorce was a true test of her character, three years ago she was thrown another curve ball when she was diagnosed with diabetes.  Meeting it head on, she lost a lot of weight and decided to focus on healthy cooking.  

Just when life seemed to be returning to normal, Paula was back in the spotlight, but in a negative way.  I just hope that people remember her for not just what she did wrong, but for what she did right.  She has overcome many obstacles in her life.  She doesn't give up.  Don't give up this time, Paula!

Note:  For more information on Paula Deen, read her memoir It Ain't All About the Cookin' (2007).

Thursday 27 June 2013

Picture Book Trends

Here are some new trends in picture books for 2013:

1.  Universal and timeless themes sell.

2.  Picture books are getting shorter since parents and/or children are getting busier and busier.

3.  Quirky, sophisticated artwork is in demand.

4.  Folktales and fairy tales are predicted to make a comeback.

5.  With the implementation of the Common Core Standards in the United States, there will be a resurgence of picture books for school age children.  The following genres will be in demand:  non-fiction, narrative non-fiction, fiction with a non-fiction link and fiction with non-fiction back matter (biography, glossary).


According to Scholastic, here are some timely topics in picture books:

1.  Bullying

2.  Science Fiction

3.  Intriguing Non-Fiction

4.  Novels-in-Cartoons

5.  Kid Lit on the Screen

6.  War

7.  Tough Girls

8.  Survival Stories

9.  Diversity

10.  Nature Runs Amok


Wednesday 26 June 2013

Molten Lava Cakes

(Paula Deen)

6 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
2 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons orange liqueur

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Grease 6 (6-ounce) custard cups. Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture. Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla and orange liqueur. Divide the batter evenly among the custard cups. Place in the oven and bake for 14 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny. Run a knife around the edges to loosen and invert onto dessert plates.

Read more at:

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Jacqueline's Art Gallery

Here is Jacqueline's Grade 3 & 4 Art from the years 2011 to 2013.

Green & Blue Butterfly (chalk pastels)

Robo 2000 (pencil crayons)

Hungry Pigeon (pastels)

Sunflower (wax resistance)

Poppy (sketch)

Butterfly (pastels)

Kaleidoscope (marker)

Inspired by Van Gogh's Sunflowers (crayons).

Christmas Present (tissue paper)

Monday 24 June 2013

An Angel Among Us

Today I visited my sister Lisa at the nursing home.  I thought I would surprise her with an unexpected visit.  However, when I got to the nursing home, she wasn't there.  It turns out she went shopping with her friend Christine and would not be back until 2:30 pm.  Given the distance I had driven, I wasn't about to turn around and drive right back home.  I decided to kill time until Lisa returned.

I went downstairs to the lunch counter and sat down at a table.  As I sipped my soup, I struck up a conversation with the man behind the counter.  He talked about his three sons and about his eight grandchildren.  He said that he loves them so much!  And they love him.  They want to be with him all the time.  He has "dates" with each of them where he lets them pick the activity.

The more I talked to him, the more I realized he was a Christian.  He mentioned his church, Queensway Cathedral, in Mississauga.  Rob and I attended a Michael W. Smith concert there last Spring.  He mentioned that he worked with youth at the juvenile prison.  He said that what was lacking in most of those youth's lives was the love/attention of their parents.  He mentioned that he leads a discussion group at the nursing home of which Lisa is a member.

At that point, I stood up from the table and approached the counter.  I asked him for a favour:  "Will you pray for Lisa and her family?"  (This past winter I had been very concerned about them and felt an increasing sense of despair.)  He said:  "Yes.  But be careful about what you ask for because prayer is powerful!"  I wholeheartedly agreed with his statement.  I know from experience.  Because the last time I visited Lisa, in late April, I had prayed in the garden with her, her pastor, and members of my prayer group.  We prayed that Lisa and her family would be surrounded by Christ's love.

And that prayer has been answered.  That man behind the counter is an angel.  He is an angel sent by God to do His work.  Thank you, God, for your angels!  God bless you, Richard!


 "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways."  (Psalm 91:11)

Sunday 23 June 2013

Revisiting My Manuscript

My son Thomas cleaned up the desktop on my laptop and it is working much better.  The other day, I looked at a couple of older versions of my manuscript I'm Just a Home Child.  After taking a long break from my story, upon re-reading it I've decided that one of my earlier versions is superior to my most current one.  While my current version is structured as a day in the life of Daisy Blay, my older version divides itself between industrial Victorian London and rural Ontario.  Whereas my current version focusses only on Daisy, my older version highlights the sister-brother relationship through dialogue.  Whereas my current version is "short", my older version is long.  

My task is to combine the two versions, keeping the most valuable parts from each.  I feel that it is vital to leave in the Victorian London section to give readers a sense of how destitute Daisy was.  I also feel I need to leave in the sister-brother relationship, one that is put on hold for five years, but is renewed.  I also feel like I need to leave in the introduction which features Daisy in the kitchen with her granddaughter baking butter tarts.  The location is Niagara Falls, a city known by both Canadians and Americans alike.  If I want to cater to the American market, I need to keep this paragraph.  I do like my appeal to the five senses in the second version.  I also like the timeline.  If only I could condense my older version just a bit more.   Back to the drawing board I go.   

Saturday 22 June 2013

All Quiet on the Western Front

" All quiet on the western front" said the Kaiser's communique from Berlin circa 1916.  But what it did not talk about were the sounds coming from the trenches:  the moans of the injured soldiers, the incessant blast of the guns, the ear splitting boom of the bombs, the shouts of the superiors, the squeals of the warhorses, the squeaks of the rats, the drip-drip of the rain.

War is anything but quiet.  War is loud.  And war is horror.  Erich Maria Remarque, born on June 22, 1898, drives this point home in his book All Quiet on the Western Front.  Originally penned in German under the title "Im Westen Nichts Neues", the book sold 1.2 million copies in Germany alone in its first year.  It went on to be translated into 25 languages.

Image courtesy

According to the New York Times, Mr. Remarque, whose parents relocated from France to the Rhineland, had the "power to move people by words".  His book focusses on a boy named Paul Baumer not yet out of high school who signs up for the war effort at 18.  The innocent boy turns into a man far too quickly after he experiences war in the trenches.

"We are not youth any longer.  We don't want to take the world by storm.  We are fleeing from ourselves, from our life.  We were eighteen and had begun to love life and the world; and we had to shoot it to pieces."

Scene during the book burning in Berlin's Opera Square. Berlin, Germany, May 10, 1933.

Book burning of All Quiet on the Western Front at University of Berlin in 1933 courtesy

While the book was well received by the public, it was not well received by the Nazis.  Copies of the book were burned in a huge bonfire at Berlin University in May of 1933.  The Nazis claimed that the book "displayed treachery toward German soldiers of the World War".  This was the same regime that sent World War I veterans to concentration camps (like Otto Frank) and to the gas chambers less than ten years later just because they were Jewish!

Made into a Hollywood movie in 1930, Joseph Goebbels was reported to have entered a German theatre and thrown stench bombs and let loose white mice to sabotage the screening.  Weeks later, the picture was banned in Germany.

Image courtesy 

In 1938, the Nazis went so far as to deprive Erich Remarque of his German citizenship.  The author retreated to Porto Rocco and continued to write.  While his book was banned in Germany,  his words would continue to be printed.  His message would continue to be heard -- his message that despite the horror of war, man is not extinguishable, and that "not even Hitler can quench the spark".

Photo of Erich Maria Remarque courtesy

Friday 21 June 2013

Gone Reading

Here are ten bestselling non-fiction books to enjoy this summer:

1.  Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

2.  The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)

3.  The Tipping Point (Malcolm Gladwell)

4.  Cotton Tenants (James Agee)

5.  The Girls of Atomic City:  The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II (Denise    Kiernan)

6.  Surprised  by Oxford (Carolyn Weber)

7.  Dear Deb (Margaret Terry)

8.  Seabiscuit (Laura Hillenbrand)

9.  The Last Lecture (Randy Pausch)

10.  It Happened in Italy (Elizabeth Bettina)

Thursday 20 June 2013

The Renaissance Center: Architectural Marvel or Crime Scene?

Detroit Skyline with Renaissance Center on right courtesy

Rob and I did our courting along the Detroit River in Windsor in 1990.  As we strolled, we were treated to a beautiful view of the Detroit skyline with its "piece de resistance", the Renaissance Center.  We were in Windsor attending Teacher’s College at the time.  Rob was so worried that he would get a placement at a school in Detroit, known for its rough neighbourhoods.  He sketched the scenario out for me in a series of cartoons.

Day 1 – Teach:  Kiss your briefcase goodbye.
Day 2 – Teach:  Kiss your K-Car goodbye.
Day 3 – Teach:  Kiss your life goodbye (with a picture of Rob’s body at the bottom of the Detroit River). 

We used to get a good laugh out of those cartoons.  Little did we know what might be hidden in and around those waters.  

Jimmy Hoffa courtesy

My Dad, who used to visit the Renaissance Center when he worked for Ford,  just told me today that they think they have found where Mafioso Jimmy Hoffa is buried:  underneath the Renaissance Centre!  Jimmy Hoffa, a Mafia bigwig, disappeared in July of 1975 after eating at a surburban Detroit restaurant.  He was declared legally dead but his body was never found.  It turns out that a Detroit chauffeur named Marvin Elkind who used to work for Hoffa talked about a conversation that took place in Detroit about 10 years after Jimmy’s disappearance.  As the chauffeur walked past the Renaissance Center with a Mafia kingpin and his associates, the Mafioso pointed to its  massive foundation and said:  “Say good morning to Jimmy Hoffa, boys.” 

Building the Renaissance Center circa 1975 courtesy

The Renaissance Center, a cluster of buildings, was Ford's World Headquarters at the time.  Henry Ford II announced plans to build it in 1971.  The site was excavated in 1972.  And the Building #1's foundation was laid in 1975, the same year Jimmy Hoffa disappeared.  Apparently there was a real rush to get the foundation poured.  All construction workers were ordered to the site to pour the concrete.  And as we know, these workers were related to the teamsters, whose former boss was Jimmy Hoffa.  And you know what happens if the Mafia turns on its own.    

The Ford Motor Company decided to sell the Renaissance Center to General Motors in 1996.  But the mystery remains. Is Jimmy Hoffa buried under the building that dominates the Detroit Skyline?  Is he resting right across the river from where Rob and I used to stroll?  We may never know.

P.S.  Rob, of course, never did teach in Detroit given that he was pursuing an Ontario Teaching Certificate at a Canadian university.  He did teach at a rough school, though, called Prince of Wales, but it was located in Windsor, Ontario.  He did live to tell the tale.

Sources:  Norm Tufts

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Dear Deb

"I kept writing.  She was too sick to eat, but not too sick to read.  Deb's illness gave me the chance to press my face against the window of my life, and what I saw was startling -- I saw miracles that had been waiting for me to give them a voice."

Margaret Terry's voice comes through loud and clear in her new book Dear Deb:  A Woman with Cancer, a Friend with Secrets, and the Letters That Become Their Miracle.  Margaret met a woman named Deb years ago at her church.  Deb was diagnosed with terminal cancer and Margaret decided to write her letters each day via e-mail.  One hundred letters in total were written and 55 were chosen for the book since Deb was 55 years old when she passed away. 

Margaret, whom I just met at the Christian Writer's Conference in Guelph, is a warm, sweet, sincere woman.  That warmth and sincerity comes across in her letters.  Her account of growing up in Hamilton, Ontario brings me back to my childhood:  she grew up on the mountain; she used to take trips downtown to Woolworth's.  

While there were many happy times in her childhood, there were also sad times.  Her mother struggled with mental illness and her father finally left, starting a long estrangement between father and daughter.  

Alternating with her chapters about childhood in Ontario are her chapters about adulthood in Minnesota.  At first a happily married woman with two healthy children, Margaret's world falls apart when her husband announces he wants a divorce.  We learn of her terrible loneliness as she suffers the loss of her marriage.  We also learn of her return to the church, prompted by her son's friend.  One of the pastors invites her to lunch, a warm lady who says:  "I love you, Margaret.  But God loves you more."  And we learn of her trips to Rooney Lake, a sanctuary for her and her boys.  

Years pass and Margaret becomes a cruise line employee for awhile, visiting the Holy Land among other destinations.  But she misses Minnesota.  A twist happens when she meets a man, gets engaged, and then cancels the wedding.  She finds herself back in Canada where she is reunited with her estranged father.  

It is in Ontario that she must face another trial:  her son is addicted to drugs.  What a powerful chapter she writes about accompanying her son to an addiction centre to get well!  Her son thinks his mistakes are too big to be forgiven; but Margaret shares something from her past to show that she, like all of us, is fallible.  

"I want you to know that if my illness inspired you to write these stories, it was worth it."  These are the words that Deb spoke to Margaret the last time they talked.  While I would never wish cancer on anyone, I do know that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28).  And this is the message that Margaret wants to tell us as she weaves her life story.  Thank you, Margaret, for sharing!

Woolworth's in Hamilton, Ontario courtesy

Tuesday 18 June 2013

The Artist's Way

About five years ago I read a book called The Artist's Way:  A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.  A self-published book that went on to become one of the top 100 self-help books of all time, it talks about how to overcome writer's block and how to nurture our creativity.

Ms. Cameron recommends two strategies to achieve this goal:  first, write three pages of stream of consciousness daily, called the "morning pages".  There is no right or wrong way to do morning pages.  This is an attempt to rid the mind of the garbage lingering inside your mind:  frustration, guilt, anger, fear; your to-do list for today.  

Second, set and keep an artist's date with yourself once a week; go somewhere you feel alive to nurture your creativity like a trip to the zoo, art gallery, museum, bookstore; a walk in the woods; plant a garden; go cloud watching.  The artist's date is an attempt to "fire up the imagination".  Julia's book is not just for writers but also for painters, musicians, playwrights and actors.  Here are ten quotes from The Artist's Way.

1.  God is an artist.  So are we.  And we can cooperate with each other. Our creative dreams and longings do come from a divine source, not from the human ego.

2.  Leap and the net will appear.

3.  Serious art is born from serious play.

4.  Creativity -- like human life itself -- begins in darkness.

5.  The perfectionist writes, paints, creates with one eye on her audience.  Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results.

6.  Fear is what blocks an artist.  The fear of not being good enough.  The fear of not finishing.  The fear of failure and success.  The fear of beginning at all.

7.  A painting is never finished.  It simply stops in interesting places.  A book is never finished, but at a certain point you stop writing and go on to the next thing.  a film is never cut perfectly, but at a certain point you let go and call it done.  That is a normal part of creativity -- letting go.

8.  Creativity flourishes when we have a sense of safety and self-acceptance.  We must learn to place our inner artists with safe companions.  Toxic playmates can capsize our artist's growth.  Not surprisingly, the most poisonous playmates for us as recovering creatives are people whose creativity is still blocked.  Our recovery threatens them.

9.  Creativity occurs in the moment.  And in the moment we are timeless.

10.  The capacity for delight is the gift of paying attention.

Note:  Here is a link with 101 Artist's Dates:

Monday 17 June 2013

The Pen is the Tongue of the Mind

When my husband Rob was writing his thesis in the latter half of the 1990's, he did so on the computer.  He was grateful to have the Internet at his fingertips, giving him access to European documents that he would have otherwise taken months to find.  He managed to finish his PhD in five years; without the computer it would have taken much longer.  His adviser used to tell him about another PhD student who used to type his thesis on the computer, then put the stack of papers into the freezer to store them just in case there was a fire.  Of course, if you go back far enough, doctoral students used to write their theses with a pen and paper.

While there are obvious benefits to writing on a computer, we miss something in the writing process when we do not write by hand.  I brought my laptop to the Christian Writer's Conference last week.  However, early on it started acting up and I purchased a thick pad of paper to write on instead.  There is something about the feeling you get when you write with a pen and paper.  It brought me back to my university days when I used to hastily write everything down that my French professors said; somehow I was able to print neatly and review it later for the exam.

Rob talks about a record store owner in London, Ontario who years ago used to say that records were far superior to C.D.'s (he called records "freshly squeezed" while C.D.'s were processed).  Rob couldn't understand why he would say this, given all the pops and crackles one heard while listening to a record.  Isn't it ironic, though, that records have made a big comeback in recent years, long after the London store owner voiced his opinion?  

Will pen and paper make a similar comeback?  Do writers get something from writing manually that they don't get from writing electronically?  There is something comforting about writing by hand.  Maybe it lends creativity to the process.  According to Horace:  "The pen is the tongue of the mind."  Maybe it lends a personal aspect to the writing.  After all, each person's handwriting is unique.  I know when I receive a handwritten letter (not very often) it seems much more personal than a typewritten one.

While I will continue to write my picture book on the computer, I will cherish my handwritten pieces of writing.  And next year when I return to the Writer's Conference, I will bring my pad with me.  At least I know it won't give me technical difficulties!

Sunday 16 June 2013

My Dad's Hands

My Dad's hands are strong and masculine.  He has long thick fingers which lend themselves well to playing the piano.  His wide flat fingernails have perma-dirt trapped underneath them due to his years of working on the car.  But I always knew I was safe in those hands.  I always knew they would protect me.  Here is a poem about a father's hands.  Happy Father's Day, Dad!  I love you!

Bedtime came, we were settling down,
I was holding one of my lads.
As I grasped him so tight, I saw a strange sight:
My hands. . .they looked like my dad's!
I remember them well, those old gnarled hooks,
there was always a cracked nail or two.
And thanks to a hammer that strayed from its mark,
his thumb was a beautiful blue!
They were rough, I remember, incredibly tough,
as strong as a carpenter's vice.
But holding a scared little boy at night,
they seemed to me awfully nice!
The sight of those hands - how impressive it was
in the eyes of his little boy.
Other dads' hands were cleaner, it seemed
(the effects of their office employ).
I gave little thought in my formative years
of the reason for Dad's raspy mitts:
The love in the toil, the dirt and the oil,
rusty plumbing that gave those hands fits!
Thinking back, misty-eyed, and thinking ahead,
when one day my time is done.
The torch of love in my own wrinkled hands
will pass on to the hands of my son.
I don't mind the bruises, the scars here and there
or the hammer that just seemed to slip.
I want most of all when my son takes my hand,
to feel that love lies in the grip.

David Kettler

Saturday 15 June 2013

If At First You Don't Succeed...

I just found out about two weeks ago that my picture book manuscript was turned down.  This is rejection #4.  So, back to the drawing board I go.  What strategy should I adopt this time?  Should I sit down and write version #26?  Or should I immediately resubmit the manuscript?  Or maybe I should do both?

Once again, perseverance is the name of the game.  I had to be willing to work on it until opportunity knocks.  Should I start from scratch?  Should I simply tweak it?  Should I rewrite it for the British market since the first half of the story takes place in Britain?  Or should I rewrite it for the American market which is much larger than the Canadian one?

Americans seem to have a much greater sense of history and my story is a historical one.  Think about Americana and several images pop into your head:  Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Charles Lindbergh, Norman Rockwell.  Think about Canadiana and you have to pause.  The images are slow to come to you:  Sir John A. McDonald, Laura Secord, the Dionne Quintuplets, etc.  The images are few and far between.

There is no manual to follow when seeking a publisher.  Yes, each publisher has guidelines.  But it's not just a matter of following guidelines.  It's also about making connections, about being in the right place at the right time, about not just what you know but who you know.

What about the genre?  Should I adapt the story book to a chapter book as some experts have suggested?  Or should I go with my first love, picture books?  Young children need to know about history, not just pre-teens and teens.  The Canadian book market already has chapter books about the home children, but no picture books to my knowledge.

Sixteen years ago I was told by my general practitioner that I would never find a healthy baby to adopt.  I took great joy when I walked into her office the next year with a bouncing baby boy.  Naysayers say that I will never get my picture book published.  I hope to sell it to them one day.

As Karen Ball said at our Write! Canada this weekend:  Be persistent.  Be patient.  Be plugged in.  I know God will show me the way.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  (James 1:5)

Thursday 13 June 2013

I am a Writer

I am a writer.  They are four little words.  In the past three days I have heard them several times.  It takes a long time for those words to sink in.  For even though I blog everyday, even though I have written 60 poems (four of which are published), even though I have 12 published articles to my name, even though I have written a picture book (yet to be published), I still find it hard to believe I am a writer.

I am a writer.  As I gathered at Write! Canada 2013 this weekend, those four words were on my mind.  I dined with other writers.  I shared a dorm with other writers.  I attended workshops with other writers.  I sat under the trees and chatted with other writers.  I browsed for books in the bookstore with other writers.  I stayed up until midnight munching on Smart Corn and laughing myself silly with other writers.  

I am a writer.  You know the old saying:  "Fake it until you make it."  Maybe if I say those four words enough times, they will start to ring true.  I need to write them down on a giant sticky note.  I need to post them on my fridge.  I need to remind myself every day.  

I am a writer.  I am a poet, a blogger, a journalist, an aspiring picture book author.  While the genre may change, the message is still the same.  God has called me to write.  He has inspired me to write.  He has breathed the words into me.  God has called me to write and that is what I will do -- not for the money, not for the fame, not for the prestige.  I will write to share my story, a story that only I can tell.  And next summer I will return to Write! Canada to say those four sweet words once again:  "I am a writer."

Wednesday 12 June 2013

And They're Off!

Here are the top ten racehorses in history according to PBS.

1.  Man O' War (won 20 races out of 21 starts)

2.  Secretariat (16/21)

3.  Citation (32/45)

4.  Kelso (39/63)

5.  War Admiral (21/26)

6.  Seabiscuit (33/39)

7.  Count Fleet (16/21)

8.  Dr. Fager (18/22)

9.  Affirmed (22/29)

10.  Sir Barton (13/31)