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TToT: Back Home In Ontario Edition, #CFB #Organize #Empowerment #10Thankful

“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.”

—Jonathan Swift

I have been away for a few weeks, most recently in British Columbia and before that, I guess I couldn’t seem to organize my thankfuls, but a visit to the ocean is good for a little perspective.

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Caption: Sitting with my group, by the lighthouse, at the end of the breakwater in Victoria.

http://www.cfb.ca/programs-and-activities

Speaking of, “Organize” was the theme of the 2018 convention for the Canadian Federation of the Blind, in Victoria, BC.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for capable airline pilots.

I’ve probably flown ten times or so in my life. Every one of those times, I hold my breath as the plane speeds down the runway, takes off, and lands again later on. I get nervous, clench my hands into fists, and then try to just go with it.

Through all that, through every bump and jostle of turbulence, I am grateful to feel that there must be a super capable person in charge of flying that aircraft.

This time, flying across Canada and back, was no different.

I’m thankful for a mostly accessible place to stay.

The hotel was a lovely one, with braille in the elevators, marking each floor as you stepped out, all except braille or other tactile numbers on the room doors.

The guy at the desk when we checked in even thought, without us having to suggest it, to stick a piece of tape on each ID key card.

By the end of five nights staying there, I started to feel at home. It was wonderful. I walked around the lobby and the floors with relative ease, even with the drunk group on my floor the one night.

“Blind woman coming,” one of them announced, the loudest of them all. “Stay to the right.” This I already knew.

I couldn’t resist turning back to him, as I walked right to my room door and went to pull my card out, to inform him that my name was Kerry and to: “have a good night.”

I’m thankful for a writer with a car.

A friend of some heard I wanted to visit a few specific places during my Victoria stay and generously offered to drive.

We took cabs otherwise. I did a lot of walking as it was. I appreciated the ride.

On the first leg of that driving, we got to know each other and I discovered she is a writer too. After that, we had plenty to talk about.

I’m thankful for the breakwater.

Up until recently, this long walkway sticking out into the sea, with the lighthouse at its end, had no railings. It wasn’t quite so safe when you couldn’t see.

Now it had railings and I could walk out into the water. I was in heaven out there, as windy as the day was. I never wanted to come back in.

I’m thankful for a welcoming tour of an historic bookstore.

MUNRO’S Books

My new writer friend knew the manager and we were greeted warmly and given some in depth backstory about the building and the owner, who once was married to Alice Munro and is famous for that union.

I’m thankful for a comfortable and also stimulating day of discussion, listening, and new friendship.

http://www.cfb.ca/programs-and-activities/conventions

It was the largest group for its convention. We from Ontario were celebrated and welcomed guests in attendance for the first time.

There were talks and discussions throughout the day on Saturday, making it a long one, but oh so worth it.

Being in a room where almost everyone is without sight, there was help and understanding assistance from everyone, from where to find an available seat or to feeling free to speak one’s mind. We didn’t always agree on every issue (universal design, accessibility, guide dog issues, career search, disability awareness), but we all were there to listen to each other.

We even had a few special visiting guest speakers: one was an expert on advocacy from University of Victoria and the other on social media trends.

I’m thankful for compassionate and passionate sighted allies and their ideas.

As nice as it is to join together as those living as blind Canadians, as essential and important, it’s good to be able to share with understanding people with sight too.

The writer/driver and her partner were there, along with a university student film maker, to capture the day’s events and they decided to interview some of us, for development of a possible short documentary called Listening To Blind Canadians.

In her car, she told us how she knew one of the women from the CFB and their parents had found companionship with each other in their later years. She didn’t seem to be fascinated by blindness in any artificial kind of way, like we were some sideshow to her. Just that she wanted to be there, as a friend and ally, to bridge the gap and promote a wider understanding through shared humanity.

I’m thankful for helpful people during travel.

From the BC Ferry Service employees, who helped us on and off and to comfortable seats to many public transit (Sky Train) workers who helped us find the next train, the right one.

We decided to do a ferry ride to the mainland and back, in one day. We went to check out Vancouver and meet up with my brother’s friend for lunch.

We did mostly traveling though, met another blind person on the bus and traveled part of our way with him, and yet I even got to walk into the water of the Pacific.

Even one of the fellow CFB members, also attending the convention, was a big help. He was around and free to go along with us, knew the city of Vancouver pretty well and had lots of practice riding those trains.

I’m thankful for delicious salads on my travels.

It was greens, seeds, cucumber, a sort of sweet vinaigrette, and the freshest little cherry tomatoes.

Mmm.

Last time I found a delicious salad like that, I was in Whitehorse, Yukon.

I’m thankful for those who came before.

We were able to travel on buses and trains independently, knowing our stop was coming up, all because of an automated announcement of streets. I take this sort of thing for granted, but it wasn’t always the case. There were people who demanded that service and had to fight for it.

I met the CFB treasurer, who was born in the UK, who wrote a book
The Politics of Blindness
and then I finally managed to read that book.

Here’s to the beauty of Canada’s west coast and to organization, to truly make a change.

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TToT: Riding the Waves of Life – Jub Jub and Jibber-Jabber, #10Thankful

“Oh, I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end. I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend, but I always thought that I’d see you again.”

Fire and Rain – James Taylor

I keep thinking I’m starting to feel better, but then I change my mind.

I haven’t been feeling all that well for a while now, for a long while now, and so when you add that to a week like the one I just had, it’s left me feeling a bit off.

This time of year is a difficult one, for family, for those I love, for several reasons.

On a week such as this, I suppose that’s when I need the 10 Things of Thankful most of all.

Because, even as I thought all this, I realized I was still able to come up with a list of ten things to be grateful for..

TEN THINGS OF THANKFUL

For the unpredictability of the waves.

We enjoyed a late afternoon visit to Lake Erie. The water was rougher than we were expecting. I was upset about this at first, but it’s like life.

Sure, at first it leaves you feeling nervous and the motion of the waves can cause you to feel off balance.

But you can make an effort to make the best of that. I did. We did. Sometimes, you don’t really have any other choice.

I let each wave knock me around as it might. I tried to anticipate which wave would be the biggest, by the sound it made, but it often ended up being the loud ones that produced the least amount of force when they physically washed over me.

It was the silent one that snuck up on me, the one that seemed least intimidating, and that’s the one that forcefully slammed into me, knocking me sideways and off my feet.

That my nephew had so much fun playing in them.

He was smart enough to realize he had his mother and grandmother right there with him, for safety, but that he could still enjoy himself.

He was nervous at first, but once he saw how much fun the waves could be, he didn’t allow a bit of water to spoil things.

His pure shrieks of bliss made me realize the importance of relaxing and letting loose so I could enjoy the experience too.

For a peaceful moment on the beach.

Once I’d started to dry off by the gradually setting sun, the other three went back in once more, but I chose to stay on shore.

I sat and listened to the waves, to my nephew’s laughter, the sounds of other families, the cries of the seagulls.

Being by the lake, by Lake Erie, is a highly tranquil and peaceful feeling, and I know I’m not the only one to feel that way.

For the fun I had with the other members of my writing group.

We told stories about the crazy things our pets do. We talked about summer and about the weather. We made tea, without the group leader who usually does it. We even managed to find everything, even with the absence of her direction.

It was another one of those days when I dreaded going, as it was the hottest day of the month so far and I was already slow and sluggish from the humidity, but once I was there I was glad I hadn’t chosen to stay at home.

For the short story I came up with at said group this week.

It was a case of already having a setting and basic character outlines picked out. Someone had put both ideas in my head. I came up with the details, the dialogue, and filled in the blanks from there.

I took this week’s mystery object, a knitted and stuffed panda and knitted panda hat to go along with it, and I incorporated both those things into the story.

The basic idea is my first person narrator, who likes to go grocery shopping in the middle of the night, but not for lack of interesting characters to share a store with while doing it.

I think it might be one of the short stories I read out loud on a future podcast episode.

Being in this writing group has really helped me with writing fiction, which is the area I’d most wanted to work on. I get ideas and inspirations from things we talk about and from listening to the creativity of the other members in the group. It’s the best thing I’ve done for my writing in a long long time.

That amongst all the violence that happened this week, like any other around the world, my family were all safe.

I was nearly rendered speechless and definitely feeling heartsick by it all, like the terrorist attacks in Turkey, Bangladesh, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia in the weeks before last.

It just keeps on happening, but I am lucky I don’t need to be in constant fear for my loved ones. I know many aren’t so lucky.

For kissing.

This week, every July 6th, it’s International Kissing Day.

For chocolate and days set aside to celebrate it.

First came kissing. Next comes chocolate.

🙂

This week was also World Chocolate Day.

Enough said. I never need a day to get me to eat chocolate.

For persistence, which I know is a family trait for many in mine.

We hit a last minute snag on releasing the podcast, which I am sure people are growing tired of hearing me talk about, as it should have been up by now.

Well, snag nearly overcome. I attribute my brother’s persistence as being the reason you can expect the first episode of Ketchup On Pancakes to be out by the next TToT. But don’t take my word for it. I wouldn’t blame you if you were growing tired of my word.

😉

I tend to give up on things, especially things involving computers and technology, which is why I am glad my brother keeps working on something, in most cases, until he figures it out.

I know that sort of strong will is a quality a lot of my family members possess, more so than me.

For brilliant Canadian female writing.

Happy Birthday to Alice Munro!!!

She won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. She is from this province of Ontario. Her home is next to another one of the Great Lakes, Lake Huron. She has had a long career as a short story writer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYXG9rG0Jf0

link The complexity of things – the things within things – just seems to be endless. I mean nothing is easy, nothing is simple.

—Alice Munro

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TToT: Faith and a Spinster’s Gratitude List – Harvest Moon, #10Thankful

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
–L.M. Montgomery

In the books, Anne Shirley believed, for a long time, that she would end up an old maid or spinster, instead she got her happy, storybook ending. Montgomery almost ended up one herself, but she still ended up unhappily. I sometimes fear the same will happen to me, either one, but it could always be worse.

10 THINGS OF THANKFUL

It’s been a strange week. Goodbye September and a beautiful September it was, but I do love my Octobers.

I’ve just been thinking a lot lately, as September has bled into October. It seems that big things are happening to people, from my past. This has made me remember certain things from days gone by.

R. E. S. C. U. E.

Catchy, catchy song.

🙂

Do you remember Disney’s The Rescuers, a highly underrated Disney film in my opinion with arguably one of the nastiest female villains, the sweetest little cartoon orphan, and two brave and adorable mice?

Someone’s Waiting For You – The Rescuers Soundtrack

I have been thinking about how my ex became a father for the first time last month. Also, an old friend’s younger brother just got married; not to mention, that’s the second one, little brother of a friend, to do that this week.

I remember that little boy, at three years of age, and how I used to lift him up and twirl him around and around as a game. It’s a strange feeling to remember him that way, then be brought back to reality, to realize he is not that tiny child anymore.

It made me search out a few movies from my childhood, on NetFlix: Homeward Bound (The Incredible Journey) and The Rescuers. Major doses of nostalgia for sure.

The Journey – The Rescuers Soundtrack

Life is a journey and this week’s journey, for me, starts off with an apology.

“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

Montgomery was right, as usual.

Ten Things of Thankful:

First thing’s first…

For forgiveness.

I’d ended last week on a bit of a sour note, with my lack of appreciation for a friend’s generous hostessing of me in Toronto.

Well, I made sure not to go to bed without apologizing of course, but I wasn’t certain she’d fully accepted my apology.

In the morning we talked about it again and she assured me there were no hard feelings, that she doesn’t let little things get to her like that.

I appreciated her saying so because it wasn’t so little really. I am grateful and thankful for the ability for other people to forgive because I would hate to leave things in a negative state, with anybody, if I can help it. I know many relationships are severed everyday because insensitive things are often said, anger is thrust at others, and apologies aren’t given when they should be. I know, firsthand, just how hard it can be to apologize, as more and more time slips by. Either you are afraid they won’t accept it or they will make you feel even worse than you already do. It can be hard to take that leap, but so worth it and a giant relief when all is said and done.

For giant book fairs.

wots_imag4880_towncrierprincess_yes-2015-10-4-00-11.jpg

wotskkwithposterimag4900_yes-2015-10-4-00-11.jpg

I attended my very first

Word on the Street, Toronto.

This was just like those book fairs, back when I was in school, always held in the library. Well, it was exactly like that, only much bigger and better.

For the bookish version of my rockstar/groupie moment.

wots_kkdoug_imag4888_yes-2015-10-4-00-11.jpg

He is Canadian publishing royalty. Honestly, if I’d known who I was standing next to, when we were first introduced, I would have been a lot more intimidated.

He has published Alice Munro and a couple past Canadian prime ministers and I listened to his witty and insightful reading and then we chased him all over the place, before finding where copies of his new book were being sold. I was totally over-the-moon ;-), about his inscription in my book:

“To Kerry. From one writer to another. Best, Doug Gibson.”

“All photos taken by Glenda MacDonald)

@glenda_macd on Twitter

For a relaxing lunch by the waterfront.

This began with a humorous and entertaining waiter, and it continued with some excellent discussion with my friend about writing, a cool and refreshing glass of sangria, the most delicious salad I’ve ever tasted (full of kale, walnuts, and chickpeas), and a wasp landing on me at some point during it all.

Okay, so that last one wasn’t the great part, but it’s even worse to be there with a writer who uses words like “burrowing” to describe the wasp’s movements on my skin. She can’t help it. It’s the writer in her.

For the magic of a super moon/eclipse, even if I didn’t get to see it live.

Harvest Moon – Neil Young

I wonder what I’ll be doing, what my life will be like, in the year 2033 – the date of the next super moon, lunar eclipse.

I know there seem to be a lot of these lately, or several variations, but the moon is endlessly fascinating and I will never grow tired of any of it. Is there anything more romantic, more inspiring, more beautiful than the moon?

I was on the eleventh floor of an apartment building, in the middle of the city of Toronto that night, but I did see a great shot on the news the next day. I am able to see the moon, in the sky, when it is full and bright enough. From everything I know about the super moon, I would definitely have seen it if I’d been in the position to look for it. On the screen I saw the bright outline and the dark centre of the eclipse. Don’t think I could see that if I were outside.

I am thankful I can see the moon at all.

Here is a post from a blogger and Fellow Canadian with some shots of the night before.

Close enough.

For an unexpected and a highly lovely dinner out with a friend.

I discovered I had some extra time, a free evening in Toronto, and decided to invite an old friend out for $5 Margarita night at

El Rincon Mexicano Restaurant.

I would happily recommend this place. We ate an authentic Mexican meal, out on their covered patio with the orange walls and sombreros.

For the ride home I nearly got to ride in style, in a Mercedes. Instead we rode, less in style and more what felt like being in a clown car or video game actually.

🙂

Fun just the same. It was one of those smart cars. Very bumpy.

My friend had a membership to one of those car sharing services, offered in big cities, for people who it makes no sense to have a vehicle of their own, but for whom a car can sometimes be necessary or simply handy to have, as an option in a pinch.

For making it home from the big city, safe and sound…eventually.

🙂

I missed my ride in Toronto. Oops. It happens.

I was supposed to have help to locate my correct bus, but I waited and waited and the guy never showed up and before I knew it, it was too late.

These situations are annoying, for sure, but they’re ones to be thankful and grateful for because they help me, force me really, to become a better and more independent traveler. I figured it out, late yes, but I got home in the end, both tired and invigorated.

For the chance to officially celebrate the birth and the arrival, of a beautiful little girl. I think it is nice to have the baby shower after the baby is a part of our lives.

She’s five months old now, but it was nice to celebrate with that little girl’s mother, their family and a few friends and I am proud to be one of them, maybe even a bit of both, in some small way.

It was just nice to fit in, to blend in, and to feel like a part of the group. I had the perfect seat, one of those high bar stools at the kitchen island. This allowed me to spin my chair around, from the kitchen to the living room, depending on where people were at the time.

I felt like just one of the gathering and I didn’t feel like I was in a place I was all that unfamiliar with. The gathering wasn’t too big or too small, but just big enough. There were snacks, punch (both with vodka and without), and ice cream cake.

For a friend I’ve known for enough time, many years, that I am just “Kerry” to her. She doesn’t treat me any different or make me feel like I don’t belong or that I am any different than anyone else. I feel at home with her and with her family.

She understands me and would defend me to most anyone, in most any situation or circumstance.

She is a mother now, but she isn’t someone who would make me feel any different because I am not one myself. I value her for all these things.

The guest of honour at this particular party wasn’t feeling very well, but part of it could have been all those different faces and voices. I understand how intimidating a group of people can be. I thought this song was an appropriate fit for her day, for the occasion.

It’s My Party and I’ll Cry If I Want To.

The shower was held on a day, most appropriately, of showers – rain showers and wind that nearly blew me over and that’s October for you.

Tomorrow Is Another Day – The Rescuers Soundtrack

Life is a journey and tomorrow is another day. I appreciate the reminders of these facts.

I was watching a documentary about Georgian times and there was a lot of talk about what it was like to be a spinster during that period.

I suppose I would be considered a spinster: over thirty, single, and childless. I can’t pretend that new babies born and weddings of those more than five years younger than me don’t make things difficult sometimes, but that’s why I am here to find the silver linings, why I am writing down my TToT, and why the following quote from The Rescuers meant so much to me on this particular week, even more than most…

Faith is a bluebird, we see from afar. It’s for real and as sure as the first evening star, you can’t touch it, or buy it, or wrap it up tight, but it’s there just the same, making things turn out right.

–Rufus the Cat.

Another one of my favourite characters from the movie, one who always reminded me of my grandfather, and wisest one of them all.

Whether it’s love, the moon, or a bluebird, I know what it’s like to believe that these things exist, even if I can’t actually see them or feel them at every moment. This is what faith is and what having faith means.

Sincerely,
Spinster at Thirty-one

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Fiction Friday, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Interviews, TGIF, Writing

Not My Interview With Robert Munsch

Hi Kerry:

Thank you for writing. I am sorry but Mr. Munsch is not available for
interviews. He had a stroke a couple of years ago and more recently a heart
attack. He is no longer visiting schools, touring or doing interviews. He
is concentrating on his over 200 unpublished stories.

I have copied below an interview he did. I hope it answers some of your
questions.

***

Lunch with Munsch

Canada’s most beloved children’s writer goes nuts with story-telling but
takes kids seriously

by Barb Williamson

Journal Staff Writer

Edmonton

When Robert Munsch tells a story, kids listen.

Perhaps it’s the animation in his face or his booming voice or the way he
waves his arms wildly to illustrate a point.

Munsch has kids captivated.  At 54 he has sold over 30 million children’s
stories.  About 20,000 letters from fans reach him in Guelph, Ontario every
year.

Munsch made a stop in Edmonton last week on tour to promote his latest
book, Up, Up, Down, a story about a girl named Anna who loves to climb.

Set all expectations aside when sitting down for lunch with Munsch.  His
best-seller status has not turned him into a snob. What you see is who he
is, not who he pretends to be.  Mild-mannered and soft-spoken, Munsch is
surprisingly the exact opposite of his boisterous stage persona.

He smiles a lot.

Sitting down to lunch, he begs the waitress for black coffee and orders a
tropical fruit plate with two croissants.  It comes with banana bread.  No
complaints from Munsch.

Throughout the interview he is honest and direct, and most refreshing,
seemingly untouched by his success.

*What were you like as a kid?*

There were nine kids.  I was in the middle. There was no individuality.  And
I was a kind of very smiley nutcase.  The older kids had all the sane
family roles.  I guess I tried to be a clown.

*What intrigues you most about children?*

Kids are so new.  They’re so open-ended.  I can look at a kid and wonder
what they’ll be. The job of children is to be professionally appealing to
adults.  That’s how they get what they need.

*Tell me how Up, Up, Down came about.*

This is an old story that started in 1978 as just a finger play with
two-year-olds.  I gradually turned it into a book for older kids.

*What’s the best way to read to a child?*

People do it a lot of different ways and they’re all right.  But I have a
few general rules.  If the book isn’t working, say “The end” and get
another one.  Feel free to change the text.  That’s what I do when I tell
stories. Reading can be an interactive game.  It can be more than just
decoding the text.

*What do kids really want in stories?*

They want to be able to identify.  To kids there’s only one character in a
story and that’s themselves.

*Is there anything you won’t write?*

I won’t write stuff that kids don’t like.  A lot of kids’ books are
actually adult books in disguise.

*How do you define your success?*

I guess sales or recognition or something like that.  One of the nice
things about audiences of little children is they’re not impressed by my
reputation.  They don’t care.  Here’s a man who’s going to tell stories.  If
they like the stories they’ll be nice and if they don’t like the stories
they’ll be brats. Their impression is not filtered through some idea of
reputation, which it might be with adults.  They’re sort of like, what has
he done for me in the last five seconds?

*What’s the best thing about being a writer?*

Being able to construct my own life.  It gives me a lot of freedom.

*When people ask you how to become a writer, how do you answer that
question?*

When people say I want to be a writer, the first thing I say is get a
job.  First
get a job, make sure you’ve got a job to make money.  Adults will say,
“Well, I’ve decided to become a writer” and I’ll say “Well, what have you
written?”   They say, “Well I haven’t written anything yet but I’ve decided
to become a writer.” There’s something wrong with that.

*Do you still climb trees?*

I still climb trees.  I take my dog on walks out in the country.  There’s a
couple of really big white pine trees.  First I have to climb up a spruce
tree, go across at about 10 m up, then I climb a white pine tree so I get
really high and deathly scared because the tree is swaying in the wind.
Yes, I still climb.  I’m the only 54-year-old I know that still climbs
trees.

*What did you do before you wrote children’s stories?*

In high school I was a dweeb who just read.  I went off to study to be a
Catholic priest for seven years.  That didn’t work massively.  I left that
job, moved to Ontario, went into day care because I wanted a year off to
figure out what to do with my life.  I thought, “What could I do with a
degree in philosophy?” But I decided I liked day care.

*How did you become an author?*

I started telling stories in day care because it was just something I was
good at.  I actually started, and this is what I still do, I make up
stories in front of kids and see how they do.  In day care I was making up
one story new every day and then they’d ask for one old one.  So the kids
were a filter.  A lot of my first books were in my head in day care but I
didn’t know they were books.  I thought they were just stories.

*You have a reputation as an amazing storyteller.  Where does that talent
come from?*

I don’t know.  I used to think anybody could do it. Then I tried teaching
it to people and I found out they couldn’t do it.  I’m not sure where it
comes from.  Maybe a little bit that I’m a bit of an obsessive compulsive
manic depressive who goes nuts with stories.

*What’s your favourite colour?*

Black, because nobody else has the favourite colour black.

*What’s your favourite food?*

Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot chicken wings or Indonesian coconut and lemongrass
soup.

*Favourite book?*

Of mine?  I Have To Go.  I also love The Cypresses Believe in God, by Jose
Maria Gironella.

*What kind of dreams do you have?*

I have a lot of dreams where I’ve lost something and I’m trying to find it
and I can’t.  It’s just sort of those panic sort of dreams.

*What are you most scared of?*

Getting burned.  Flames.  I love fires and I like to build fires but I’m
deathly afraid of getting burned.

*What do you find most comforting?*

Pancakes with real maple syrup.  That’s my big comfort food. I make my own
pancakes from scratch with real maple syrup and black coffee and the world
is just fine.

*Why do you write children’s stories?*

I don’t know.  Why are carpenters carpenters?  Because it’s something
they’re good at.  I’m good at this.  Why not do something I’m good at
instead of something I’m lousy at?

*Do you have children?*

I have three kids: Julie who was the kid in David’s Father AND Makeup Mess,
Andrew who is the kid in Andrew’s Loose Tooth; and Tyya who is the kid in
Something Good. All three of my kids are in the book Finding Christmas.

*And what kind of a father are you?*

I was lucky because I didn’t have a regular job by the time my kids were
growing up.  My kids just got used to the idea that daddy was always around
to play with or to come and talk.  I really liked having kids.

*Do you consider yourself a big kid?*

No, I just take kids seriously.  If you look at my books they’re mostly
about apparently trivial situations.  They’re everyday events in kids’
lives.

*What was your favourite book as a child?*

The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss.  The little kid kept
getting in trouble no matter what he did. That seemed to be my role in my
family.

***

On this Fiction Friday I decided, if I couldn’t get an interview with the man himself, I’d at least share one done by someone who had.

🙂

I have sent email requests for interviews to three writers since I started this blog: Alice Munro, Jean Little, and Robert Munsch.

Thanks to:

Sharon Bruder, Assistant

I at least received a response back this time.

http://robertmunsch.com)

Looking forward to hearing more about some of the 200 previously unfinished stories, mentioned above.

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Uncategorized

Post Breakup: How I Survived The First Six Months

“Always remember that when a man goes out of the room, he leaves everything in it behind … when a woman goes out she carries everything that happened in the room along with her.”

Alice Munro, too Much Happiness

Just Breathe: Keep Breathing
Six things I’ve used to help get through.

I gravitate towards song lyrics which expressly tell me to breathe, right there in the song, over and over again. I literally need this reminder, at least once a day. In addition, I have found six more things that have made the months just a little more bearable, six techniques, one for each month I have found myself single once more and just trying to move on. I like symmetry and so here are six things, one for each month so far.

1.
Family and Friends.

Where would I have been in those initial first days, when I was in a fog of denial and disbelief, if I hadn’t had my siblings to rant to.

From my oldest brother’s calm wisdom, to my sister’s been-there advice, to my younger brother’s patience as I railed in anger. A reminder that I was not alone with a single unexpected delivery of flowers from a friend. The comfort from my parents and their unwavering support and love. I would be nowhere without these people. Nowhere!

2.
Music.

There are only so many times a girl can hear John Legend’s hit song All of Me and not want to throw something. This is where these soulful ladies came in.

Of course there’s no shortage of weepy breakup songs out there. I found the ones that spoke to me. How could I ever have gotten through the feelings of anger and loss without such artistes as Ingrid Michaelson, Lily Allen, and

Lana Del Ray’s “Summertime Sadness?.

These women’s strong voices were just what I needed to push through the heartbreak and make sense of the nonsensical.

3.
Animals.

I had a dog already, but my family were surprised, to-say-the-least, when one day out-of-the-blue I announced I was getting a kitten. Was I crazy, they demanded? Did I really want this or was I simply making a rash decision that I would regret later, when I realized all the responsibility?

What they didn’t understand was that I needed something. I needed to feel loved and be able to give love in return. Dobby and Lumos gave me something to get up for in the morning, because I knew someone or something needed me.

4.
Chocolate.

Because…come on!

5.
Writing.

Whether it was my rambling release of anger I directed toward the end of the life I thought I had and toward the one who hurt me or the catharsis of writing just because I love it and it keeps me sane. I was able to filter what I wanted or needed to say in any particular moment, by saving the really harsh stuff for a private journal. This was a friend’s idea, (see Number 1).

Or my blog, where I could express myself in a more constructive and appropriate way. I would have been lost without both. Just hope I never switch the two accidentally.

🙂

6.
Being surrounded by the memories every day.

This last one might sound strange, given all that advice out there to burn absolutely every item of his so you don’t have to look at it and be reminded. Well, that’s a little tough, considering I am living there still, in my house, the house we lived in together.

He packed up all his clothes and computers and left. Wherever he is, he is able to not have to look at the memories all the time, but this is my house and I wake up and go to bed surrounded by the things we did and had and the images are unavoidable. Sure, I could have moved and run from all of it, but that just wasn’t practical.

I did little things to deal with the in-your-face reality of my situation, such as sleeping in another room that wasn’t ours. I still can’t sleep in our bed, but I know (with a little help from a new set of sheets and pillows) that I will reclaim the master bedroom as my own. By staying behind I am forced to confront the past every day and to let it make me strong again.

I reclaim a spot on the couch or a shelf in the bathroom and I take back my power. The ghosts of the relationship linger, sure, but I face them and I grow from that and keep moving forward.

Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten. Eleven. Twelve months and a year.

After six months I am doing my very best, by finding all the things that make life bearable, that make life better.

These last six months have been some of the hardest of my life, but they have also been some of the most character-building.

Who knows what the next six months and beyond will bring, but I hope within that time I will continue, no matter how fast or slow, to heal.

We don’t get to choose how fast we recover from heartbreak and move on with life, but I will continue to focus on myself and on doing what’s right for me.

How long did it take you to get over heartbreak? What are some of the things you used to cope? What music do you listen to when dealing with life’s struggles?

Ingrid Michaelson, Keep Breathing, Youtube

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Book Reviews, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Writing

Review of Interference by Michelle Berry

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Today I am pleased to welcome to the blog, author of short stories and novels, Michelle Berry. She is here to promote her latest, Interference, published this month by ECW Press, and I was honoured when she agreed to also let me interview her about her books, this one in particular, and about writing. I knew I could use this opportunity to learn something about writing from an expert in her field.

***

1. Did you always want to be an author? Did you write as a child? I grew up in a house full of literature and art. My mother is an artist, my father is a now-retired English Professor. So I always wrote. I didn’t know I wanted to be a writer. It was just part of me. Part of who I am. I wrote a lot as a child — journals, diaries, stories, even novels. My father and I wrote (and I also illustrated) a children’s book called, “Sailing the Deep Blue Sea” when I was about five years old. It’s quite catchy.

2. What was your first break in your writing career? I would say the first “break” was when Turnstone Press accepted my first short story collection. I was about 7 months pregnant AT the time and thought I’d given birth that second as I jumped up and down screaming. I first published in high school, though (a high school anthology called, “Unicorns Be” )— so that was my first publication. And before Turnstone Press I did publish in quite a few literary magazines (“Perhaps?”, “Blood & Aphorisms,” “The Malahat Review,” etc), so I got a lot of “first breaks.”

3. How do you handle the rejection that goes along with being a writer? I’m still trying to handle it. There is always rejection. Always. No matter how much you publish, how famous you are, how well-received you are, etc.. I’m sure Alice Munro still writes stories that need editing and aren’t immediately loved the minute they are finished. Maybe. I think. I handle rejection by getting first really sad and mournful (“No one loves me,” “I’ll never write again.”), but then I suddenly become angry (“What do they know anyway?”) and that’s what fuels the desire to keep writing, that’s what fuels the work, that’s what makes me a better writer. Writing is all about rejection and loneliness. I tell my students this, but they don’t believe me. They think it’s all chocolates and feather boas.

4. Where did the idea for this novel come from? It creeped up on me. It’s loosely based on quite a few things in my life. My daughter was the same age as Becky and Rachel (characters) when I was writing it, there is a big tree across the street from me, the school had sent home a letter saying that someone was stalking children in the neighborhood, I do play women’s house league hockey, my husband and a friend were going through cancer and treatment, etc.. But it’s one of those things where I combined all that was going on and heightened it, morphed it, faded it, played with it. I wrote around it and through it. Created a story. Used my imagination.

5. What is your daily writing routine? Lately I’ve been teaching so much (I teach online at U of T, online at Humber College and in-class at Trent University), that I don’t have much of a routine. But I usually try for an hour or so a day of good writing — or at least one or two days a week. Last year I rented an office for six months downtown and I would teach Monday to Wednesday and then do nothing but write for eight hours a day Thursday and Friday. It was wonderful.

6. Which character from Interference is most like you? Which one is least like you? Most like me: Maria (sadly, I don’t want to be like her — but she has all my faults — a bad back, kind of ornery to her husband (sorry!), clean freak, worried all the time). Least like me: Dayton (stylish, beautiful, but damaged). Although, to be truly honest, all of the women are a mesh of me — Trish’s behavior when she ducks behind the couch when there is a knock at the door (me!), Claire’s thoughts on death, on cancer. Even Ralph wandering through the snow in his slippers — he has a bit of my melancholy.

7. What is your experience with the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council? I’ve had a few grants over the years. They do a wonderful service. I’ve been on juries for them. Love them both.

8. I have seen a lot of debate on what makes someone an author and when to call them a writer. Do you see a difference in the two and when would you say it’s appropriate to use either one? Yes, I’ve been hearing a bit about that lately too. I’m not sure what I think. I always thought of myself as both author and writer and used the terms interchangeably. But I think “author” is becoming a hoity-toity thing to be these days (not sure I agree with that). I don’t know. I’m both, I guess. I am the author of books that I have written and the writer of books that I have authored. How’s that?

9. How would you define literary fiction as a genre? Good question. My students never seem to understand what literary fiction is — to me it’s fiction that leaves more to your imagination than any other genre writing does. So things aren’t explained and told and shown with such detail. It is subtle and intelligent and often has underlying meaning all through. But it can also be fun and wild — it doesn’t have to be stodgy at all. I consider my fiction to be literary. I don’t go into detail about scenery and appearances. I don’t tell you that a character is feeling blue (I hope), I try instead to show it through how that character moves and talks and acts. I try to give the reader a scene or situation he/she can interpret in his/her own way.

10. Community is the setting of this novel. What sort of neighbourhood did you grow up in and did that come into your writing of this fictitious neighborhood? This is more my neighborhood now rather than the neighborhood I grew up in. It’s an amalgamation of the street I live on presently and of the neighbors and community around me now. Sort of. But it’s fiction.

11. What does the photo album with the circus postcards in main character Tom’s childhood basement illustrate about Tom and his character or the themes of this book? I debated having actual “freak” photographs in the book. But it didn’t work (too costly to do and might seem gimmicky). Tom learns a lot about appearance and about how we all see the world through those postcards and his interest in them. I guess I was trying to say that we all judge all the time, we have our own opinions and views — but we aren’t always right. There are many sides to every issue. People we think are scary because of their appearance, might not be the scary ones. They might be the good ones. Tom sort of sees this by the end of the book — the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover.”

  1. You teach writing and have had success with short story collections and novels. What would you say to anyone hoping to have a career as an author? Don’t do it! No, just kidding. It’s an infuriating business as you are always scrambling to find freelance or teaching work in order to pay for the time you need to write the book. Because of this you never have time to actually write. But I guess the two best pieces of advice I can give are:1. Be a reader. Read all the time. Read the kinds of books you want to write. And think about how they are written and why they were written and what they do for you. And then write. And, 2, write because you have to. Don’t write to get published or “be famous” or — hilariously — “to be rich.” You might as well decide to be a famous actress at the same time. Write because your story is important to you, because it’s all you can do not to write. Because you need to write more than anything. And then get a paying job!

***

I thought “Interference” refreshingly unique (letters and emails sprinkled throughout), starting with a letter home from the school to the parents. Throughout the novel more letters and emails are sent and received. A Cease and Desist order from Build-A-Bear Workshop and the women’s hockey team announcements. There are angry and threatening messages from one spouse to another. A question is posed by a son to his parents about the past. A short correspondence takes place to the director of the men’s shelter and one to a woman who volunteers for an organization driving cancer patients to their appointments.

Michelle Berry’s “Interference” is what good literary fiction should be, a gripping contemporary literary fiction story which forces the reader to think about the deeper questions in life and the things that ultimately interfere with the status quo.

She poses these questions in terms such as: “We’re all a little strange. We’re all different.”

“Life is not fair; life and death.”

“It’s good to have something to look forward to.” This line really did sum things up nicely for me.

I pondered all these things as I was introduced to the people and the families living in and around the neighbourhood of Parkville.

On Edgewood Drive the story opens. A man and his wife rake leaves on an autumn day, while their twelve-year-old daughter plays basketball with the neighbour girl across the street. Berry puts us directly in the mind and thoughts of Tom and his prejudices are laid bare almost immediately when a stranger with a hideous scar across his face wanders into the yard, offering to help rake.

Tom is influenced strongly by being a husband, a father, and a son and has seemingly forgotten himself in the process. I was automatically drawn in by Tom’s memory of an old album full of faded postcards of circus freaks, high up on a shelf in his grandfather’s basement. Does this memory mean anything more or is it simply an example of the sort of judgement that goes on by people against others who are different, in neighbourhoods and towns everywhere?

The man with the terribly disfigured face. The creepy bald man in the brown suit. The still stranger in the dark hoodie watching the schoolyard that only Tom’s daughter Becky has seen. The teenaged boy sitting up in the stands every Wednesday evening who watches the women’s hockey league play. The slow boy who acts inappropriately and hangs around the playground at the school after hours.

Pedophile rings and child porn. Someone is stocking around backyards and peering in windows. Kidnapping and cancer scares. The unpredictable and spurned husband who could show up at anytime.

I see it as the kids vs. the adults in a way. Children vs. adults. Men vs. women. Husbands vs. wives. Each group has their own battles, issues, and things going on that they don’t or can’t necessarily talk to anyone else about.

The women of the neighbourhood interact different with one another during their Wednesday night games and in the dressing room than they do off the ice and during their interactions in their homes and with their spouses, children, and next door neighbours, back on Edgewood Drive.

Just off this idyllic street the ones on the fringe peer in on suburbia and can’t help looking in on what they could have had and probably never will. I was constantly on edge to see who would survive through the winter unscathed.

Michelle Berry provides a glimpse into all kinds of people and she leaves me to wonder how things aren’t always what they seem at first glance. I wanted the residents of Parkville to learn something about their neighbours, themselves, and those different, but no less deserving of a little understanding and acceptance and I came away from reading this novel having learned something about those things myself.
That, to me, is the mark of a well-thought-out and touching view of humanity wrapped up in a well-crafted literary fictional package.

***

Interference Blog Tour Schedule:

Monday, August 4: Laurie’s Not the Worst

Wednesday, August 6th: Obscure CanLit Mama

Thursday, August 7th: Cozy Up With a Good Read

Friday, August 8th: Feisty Little Woman

***

I want to thank Michelle B and Michelle M for giving me a chance to take part in the blog tour.
Michelle Berry’s Interference is published this month by ECW Press, Toronto. Check it out

Here,

or

on Amazon.

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Special Occasions, Travel Tuesday

Oh Canada

Today is Canada’s 147th Birthday and so I wanted to celebrate by bragging about why I love my country. I don’t usually brag about anything, but Canada is worth it to me.

Okay, so I don’t like maple syrup or poutine, (yes, I realize this could get me kicked out). There are, however, plenty of things I do love in their stead. Here are just ten.

1. My Oma and Opa chose Canada and they came here and worked hard to make a new life. They raised a good family and that is how I came to be here at all. I love that they were welcomed here and that they were given the chances to make all this possible. They were proud to be Canadians and to raise their family here and I am proud because of them.

2. I love our flag. The red and white always made such a bright contrast for a visually impaired person like myself. Maybe my favourite colour is red because of this and my earliest memories of the main symbol of our nation.

3. I love the music Canada has produced. I love artists such as: Sarah McLachlan, Jann Arden, Neil Young, Bryan Adams, Chantal Kreviazuk, Diana Krall, Joni Mitchell, Blue Rodeo, and Alanis Morisette. These musicians represent Canada with their beautiful voices, their moving lyrics, and their distinct sounds. I love them for making me smile, making me cry, and for helping me deal with the hard things in life.

4. I love the literature of my country. I love brilliant writers such as: Lucy Maud Montgomery, Margaret Atwood, and Alice Munro. When Alice won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature I was so very proud and I felt honoured to be a woman, a Canadian, and an aspiring writer.

5. I love the land itself. I love how vast and sweeping it is. I love all the open space and our Canadian north. I love how we value nature and all its natural resources. I love the Great Lakes and the St. Laurence River and the oceans surrounding us. I love the Prairies, the Rockies – from the lush forests to the expansive Arctic .

6. I love the places I’ve traveled and the ones I have yet to explore. I love Niagara and its power which awes me every single time I stand at the railing overlooking the Falls. I love Toronto (Ontario’s capital) for its acceptance of all humans (coming off of 2014’s World Pride celebrations) and for the mixture of cultures and countries it houses all in one city. I love the Maritimes out on our east coast and Vancouver Island out on our west. I love having a little piece of another language and culture right in the middle of all the English-speaking provinces. Quebec is where I received my beloved guide dog all those years ago. I hope to see as much of Canada in the years to come as I possibly can.

7. I love the pride Canadians have in this country and as a result, in themselves. Despite the things the rest of the world think about us and the stereotypes that exist; it is true we are kind and welcoming, for the most part, and are known for it all around the world. We do come off quiet and reserved in contrast with some other countries, but as a quiet and reserved person I feel I am living in the right place. In fact, in my opinion these qualities are highly under-rated. We may not treated our native peoples properly over the years, but it is because of them that Canada is what it is today. I hope we are on the way to making it right and to righting the wrongs of our past. We disagree about the environment, politics, and when it comes to Canada’s role in foreign matters and militarily. Sure we have our problems and don’t always agree. We are by no means perfect but these disagreements just make for a successful democracy.

8. I love how this pride extends to our sports teams. Again, I could get kicked out for admitting I am not quite as enamoured with the game of hockey as the rest of the country, but I do love the image of a backyard or pond rink in winter. I have good memories of Saturdays at the arena with my family or late night roaming an empty one with my siblings while my father played. My brother loved playing hockey in his youth and my father loved being a part of a team as goalie. My family are not Leaf fans or any other Canadian team in particular, but what hockey means to our fellow Canadians it means to us too.

9. I prefer baseball over hockey. I love The Toronto Bluejays and no…I am not just saying this because they happened to win today of all days. I remember sitting tight between my father and brother in our basement, on the couch when Joe Carter scored the home runs to win the 1992 and 1993 World Series and I could hear the pride in their voices as they cheered. The Bluejays are our only team here and we have high hopes for them making the playoffs this year. Going to a game at the Sky dome is an experience in fun and an atmosphere of high energy and enthusiasm.

10. And last but certainly not least, I love the health care we are lucky enough to have here. Again, many could voice their complaints and sure nothing is perfect, but I know of what I speak. I am proud of innovators such as: Dr. Frederick Banting and Tommy Douglas for insulin and universal health care. I know nothing in life is completely free, but after all the surgeries, hospital stays, and medicines my brother and I have needed over the years I am thankful for the universal health care we have. I would feel forever guilt-ridden if I had caused my family to end up hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt for the care I required. Not all countries around the world would have payed for all the care me and my brother received over the years and my family would be so far in debt if we weren’t living in Canada.

So there are just ten reasons why I love being Canadian. I will now enjoy a wonderful firework display from the comfort of my front porch with my nephew and be thankful I live where I do and enjoy the freedom and the beauty I enjoy.

Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canadians today and I want to wish my neighbours to the south an early Happy Fourth of July. We all need to be grateful for the blessings we have and celebrate our countries and how lucky we truly are to live where we live.

What are you most thankful for where you live?

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