Monday, May 29, 2017

Almost Time to Get Outside

I love the rhythm of the seasons I have established since retiring from teaching when the rhythm was set in stone for me. Funny how I've pretty much adapted the same routine but with the gift of flexibility. From the day the teachers go back in late August or early September I go back to my office and follow a dedicated 3-4 day a week schedule of writing. I do allow writing related activities to usurp my writing time occasionally and also allow for family responsibilities, being a daughter of aging parents, a grandmother , wife and mother. Friendship sometimes requires interruptions as well. But I for the most part maintain a writing schedule that winds down at the end of May. Then I get outdoors. Some rainy days get me back inside but as June approaches I look forward to the great outdoors. I will get in the lake soon. I will allow the lake to give me the multitude of gifts it always has. I will swim often and kayak regularly. I plan on treating myself to a new kayak when my royalty cheque arrives this week. And the garden of course. It is time to get into the dirt. Before the girls arrive I plan to have everything planted and up and ready for the weeding and hoeing I so enjoy. I will don my bug suit and be outside. The lawn will be mowed regularly, giving me those wonderful moments of solitude while pushing my mower in circles, letting the noise and predictability allow me to spend time with my thoughts. I will sit on my back veranda and let summer fill me. The plan is to replace the railing on the front veranda and I hope to bring life to it when the railing is finished. The front veranda faces the surprisingly busy Waltons Lake Road. I look forward to choice of veranda, choosing the placement of sun , the desire for quiet privacy with chickens and dogs or active observation of neighbors, the cows in the pasture and lake goers. I have stated many times that our home changes with the seasons. In winter as I step off the veranda into deep snow and snowshoe to the top of the hill along a winding wood road it is a cabin in the woods with all the comforts of wood heat and cosiness. In summer it becomes our lake cottage even though the lake is not right outside the door. The lake defines our days of gardening and spending glorious time with our girls. What happens at the Lake stays at the lake. So today will be my last regular writing day and as we slide into June and into summer, it is time to get outside.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Birds of a Feather

This is a week of author related activities. It has been a busy few weeks of events connected to writing. I launched book six , went on a week long Hackmatack tour, had a WISP visit and did a bit of writing. I started back at the market and each Saturday brought lots of writing talk and lots of book sales. On Wednesday Cathy and I drove to Fredericton for the 2nd annual NB Book Awards. Lots of writers and supporters filled the room at Memorial Hall and celebrated writing and writers in New Brunswick. David Adams Richards in his understated brilliance gave a keynote address that inspired us all. Today I will head to the city and spend the weekend hanging out with writers and those of like minds at the WFNB's WordSpring event. I remember the first time I made myself attend such an event. I was still working hard to convince myself and others that I was a writer. That does become easier with each published book but as a rule we writers are introverted, cautious and full of self doubt. But something propels us to put ourselves onto the page and toss that caution to the wind. We gather to celebrate writing and writers but let's remember to be kind to one another. Let's congratulate award winners and short listed authors but let's make sure we celebrate and support all writers at every stage of the game. As a director on the board of WFNB I am pleased to play my part in that remembering that the real work takes place alone at our keyboards and in our notebooks. Claim your status as a writer, claim the credit your work deserves and claim the opportunity to share that passion with others.

Monday, May 22, 2017

A Book by its Cover

In the last two days I have received two posts from two readers sending me a picture of Maple Sugar Pie and a kind review after reading it or as they prepare to read it. The day before I got a lovely message from another reader who took comfort and pleasure in the shedding of tears the book brought to her . I know this doesn't mean its topping the New York best seller's list but the value of these posts and messages is huge to me. The other enjoyable part of seeing these in my Facebook feed is the chance to see the cover. I am so pleased with the cover. I love the coloring, the simplicity , the subtle references to family, food and memory. I love seeing Gladys. I love the crumbs, the white plate and silver cutlery, the pie in the corner and the tattered recipe. Yesterday I dug a tattered recipe out of my own collection. I considered re-writing my mother's Rhubarb Custard Pie recipe onto a new card but thought of how treasured her handwriting already has become and how more treasured it will be when she's gone. Oh how many rhubarb custard pies I have enjoyed at my mother's table. Yesterday I pulled a golden brown pie from my own oven and served it proudly to my Sunday supper crowd. What an honor to do so. The significance of the title Maple Sugar Pie does not become clear until the last few pages. I am not even sure how it evolved . I don't think I knew it from the start. What I did know was the value of food and memory , of food and connection, of food and love. So each time I see the cover pop up in my news feed I feel again the joy of writing the story and seeing it unfold and the joy of a cover that meshed that all together.

Monday, May 15, 2017

My Riches

"It all started with a kiss." This was Brianne's grandmother Nancy's response yesterday when I told her the large crowd gathering was her fault. She beamed the whole time her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren milled around her. We had a wonderful Mother's Day supper at Chapin and Bri's house last evening. It was so nice to see my daughter in law caught up in the excitement and stress of the first hosting of a large family event. We have all been in that same frenzy when we think every little detail matters when really the people who gather are not looking at dust or imperfections but enjoying the hospitality, good food and fun. I sat back and enjoyed every bit of it. Sitting beside Nancy I absorbed her pride and her joy in being in her granddaughter's new home. She kept saying "This is quite a house". And of course she was complimenting the structure ,the d├ęcor and the accomplishment but more than that she was giving voice to her joy that her granddaughter had a home built with love. At one point as the large crowd was swarming the island and dishing up their suppers I made reference to what a treat it was to just sit back when usually I was in the middle of providing Sunday supper." That is your riches" she said. How very true her words are. Above anything money can buy my riches lie in my loved ones and the moments we have together. Mother's Day with all the advertising, all the hype and pressure is often difficult for so many; those who have lost children, have longed for the gift of motherhood, those who no longer have their mothers and so many more. Just a day and sometimes a disappointment or sorrow when the key is of course to celebrate our relationships every day. Love your circle, hold each other up and claim your riches.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Back To Simonds

Yesterday I returned again to my old high school. Last year when I went it was a huge deal for me. I walked the hallway of my memory and visited the feelings of my high school years. Yesterday I felt no need to do that. I did however share with a new group of grade nines my high school experience and my feelings of failure, stupidity and defeat that defined my high school years. Much of that was my own fault but it also was the fault of a system that allowed me to under perform. I am so over that and so strongly believe in an individuals ability to achieve what others may deem impossible. What better group to preach that to than Grade nine kids. Last year I also battled the rampant cell phone presence and we addressed that before I came and there were no cell phones in sight.(not even mine)I had a wonderful two hour writing workshop with a quiet but yet responsive group of kids just bursting with thoughts, creativity and the passion to write. I saw myself in several of those kids and I hope they saw something of themselves in me. I took Lionel back for a visit and he and I told our Simonds High story. Funny how an old pillow still resonates so much of my 17 year old self. My friend Jane and I made a plan to have joint custody of Lionel and trade off every year so that we would always stay in touch. Lionel has lived with me for almost 43 years. He has been loved, played with, slept on, thrown around and ignored. His neck is floppy and he has very little stuffing still in his head. He is stained and missing buttons. He has small holes but still has his trusting expression. I could go on about the changes in me in the last 43 years but I will not. I will only say that again I stood in a classroom in my old high school as a retired teacher and a published author ,both things I dreamed about and believed impossible when I walked those halls as a student. In your face ghosts of defeat and failure!!!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Back From Hackmatack

Here I am on a Tuesday morning sitting in my office which is exactly where I want to be. Back from my Hackmatack tour I am ready to process that experience and my writing as this writing season winds down and comes to an end. Last year on this very day I sent the work of the last few months to my publisher. I was still revising and believing in the value of Maple Sugar Pie, hoping to see it take shape and to hold it in my hands. Reading those musings fills me with gratitude and the confidence that if I do the work, and believe in the work it takes shape in its proper time.Last week I was given the privilege of presenting in four schools as part of the Hackmatack Children's Choice Award 2017 .I traveled to the beautiful towns of Mahone Bay and Lunenberg. Chris Pottie was a wonderful host as she met me at Bayview Community School where her husband is principal. The kids were great! Chris then drove me to Bluenose Academy where presented to two groups. My favorite question there was 'What do you think makes a good book?' There I bought a book from the young author Breton Hayden. Her and her dad have written a delightful book titled Coffee Talk:Project Special Day. I look forward to giving that book to my son in law for Father's Day. Chris and I had a lovely lunch in Lunenberg and then stopped in to Lexicon Books. There I bought 'The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis'. I drove to Halifax in the fog, happy to arrive at the Lord Nelson Hotel and park, not having to drive again until I was on my way home. Tuesday night I had supper with my cousin Jan. Wednesday morning a cab took me to Aldernay Gate where I met Ashlee and she drove me to Upper Musquodoboit. I walked into the school of my dreams. Small student population, bright welcoming building, staff beaming with pride and the realization of the treasure these walls hold. The kids were absolutely delightful. The first group were P,1,2,3. I quickly learned their names and the time flew by. My favorite question in this group was 'Is your husband really scary?' There's a story behind that question. Scary in the nicest possible way is all I'll say. The next classroom held Libbie, Maggie, Chloe,Grace,Aubrey, Serena,Lily,Cameron,Tia,Colton and Keaton. If an author wants to feels appreciated go visit this class. They were thrilled to have an author come to visit. My favorite question here was' Can you read more?' Ashlee and I had a quick lunch and then made our way to Musquodoboit Valley Education Centre. The grade sixes from Upper Musquodoboit were visiting there for orientation and I met them first. Gavin, Connor,Jesse,Alex,Emma ,Mitchell,Carmen,Piper, Bria,Brianna, Ethan and their teacher Mrs. Barrett had read The Memory Chair and they were bursting with praise and questions. More kids filed in ,the group too large to learn all their names but Danaan and CJ introduced themselves. Danaan quickly showed herself to be the resident expert on The Memory Chair showing as much enthusiasm for the book as any author could hope for. Then the little kids came. I worried that I would not have enough energy for them as they didn't appear weary at all even though the school day was winding down. The 50 kids shared their energy with me and I gave it my all. They were bursting with questions. I would like to share all twenty of their great questions. They ranged from personal ones like "Do you have a dog or cat? and what are their names? to "Who is your publisher? , Do you write every day? What book are you writing next?' They showed genuine interest in the entire process making me believe reading, writing and books are in no danger of disappearing. So I have just hit the high points of my school visits and haven't even talked about the actual Hackmatack Awards Gala. I will save that for my next entry.I want to write today!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Maple Sugar Pie is Launched

After signing several books and welcoming many people I made my way to the front row . I sat beside Tammy and Liz and Sydney and Sarah, two excited girls that made me feel like a celebrity for sure. Rose Pitt graciously introduced me. She was warm and witty. Her kind words touched me deeply as did the humorous stories she told. It was the perfect opening and I am so grateful to her, to Gary, Barb and Robbie for bringing what they brought to the night. I read selected passages trying to provide a framework for the story without divulging too much. Lilah and Emma manned the laptop bringing up the three songs accompanying the text. It was perfect. I wanted to freeze the moments and the feeling in the room as 'I'll Take you Home Again Kathleen' and 'Oh My Papa' played. The final song 'Sh Boom Sh Boom' sealed the wonder of the evening. Burton had dropped hints of a surprise that would accompany that song and I was a bit afraid he might sing. I had hoped some people would get up and dance but that didn't happen. I am glad the real surprise Burton had up his sleeve didn't take place. The reading had mentioned the hall being so warm that men had taken off their shirts and woman had kicked off their shoes. Burton's plan had him and several young men in the crowd removing their shirts. That didn't happen.Beth closed, acknowledging Gladys on the cover and in the crowd. I was thrilled that Gladys was there. She even said she was able to hear most of it. Robbie and Calvin played another set and I signed more books . Butter tarts provided my Mrs. Dunster's and tea and coffee donated by Reed's Point Pub were enjoyed. The book launch fizzled out turning into our 40th anniversary celebration and the celebration of Ashlie's 26th birthday. The night was wonderful! A huge thank you to all who came out to help us celebrate and to all who helped to make the night happen. It will be hard to top my sixth launch. I am so very blessed!

So Much to Crow About

I am bursting to tell so much. It has been a busy and wonderful two weeks and I am just sitting down now to process it. I have of course journaled every day recounting in some detail the delightful aspects of each packed day but this is the first opportunity I've had to find the time to write a blog entry about any of it. I think I will write two separate entries. So here goes. Launch week: Where do I begin? I will hit the highlights. Monday the books arrived. What at times seemed like the impossible task of getting everything done and having the books be here for my launch day had been pulled off .The amazing Terrilee Bulger had done it. She had orchestrated the editing, designing , proofing and printing and I now held Maple Sugar Pie in my hands. Swimming, dress shopping and enjoying the movie 'Maudie' with my friend Kathy made Tuesday a perfect day. A quiet Wednesday allowed me to put everything in order. I planned my Hackmatack visits and firmed up my launch readings. Thursday began with the dentist. I then dropped off the Rav 4 and Ronnie put my summer tires on. Louisa and I went to 82 Moms. The calm before the storm so to speak because unbeknownst to me Burton had arranged the girls to accompany Megan home for the weekend. So my quiet Thursday evening was interrupted by two little girls quietly making their way into the living room to surprise Monkey. They were bursting with the excitement of the surprise! Friday was taken up with errands and a day at Quilt Sisters. Uncle Chapin and Aunt Bri came for supper and a game of dominoes enjoying the company of their two nieces. Saturday morning was the first market day and I stood proudly with my latest book selling 24 copies and talking to lots of people. I came home to quickly try to put the house in order before going to the Legion to set up. Bob Langford used his technical expertise to get all the audio ready for my readings. Joy, Cheryl and Sheldon arrived at the Legion to offer a hand but Bill, Mae and whoever else was there had it all under control. Then we went home to a potluck . It was wonderful. Lots of delicious food, friends and family and lots of kids running around. Livvie, the large brown pig meandered through the adoring crowd. ( except Fletcher who was terrified of her)Mo and Andreas brought their beautiful little family . I got a chance to hold six month old Grace which helped to calm me a bit. I was concerned the calming might make getting geared up for the launch difficult. I wasn't sure I could get my second wind. I considered going to the lake and jumping in. Paige said she would go with me but she would just watch. Emma took control and said " Just breathe Monkey" and I went to get ready without the help of a freezing cold dip in the lake.When Burton and I got to the Legion there were already lots of people there. Ken and Linda had picked Mom and Dad up. I had thought that maybe this launch would be too much for them but there they were beaming with pride again despite the venue and possibly the uncomfortable content in my sixth book. Robbie Pitt and Calvin Gilliland began playing guitar and singing and this was definitely the highlight of the night for me. As I signed books and talked to people I wanted so badly to just take in the music they so generously provided. You can see this entry is getting long and perhaps some have stopped reading. So with the echo of Robbie and Calvin's music in my ears I will close and begin again in my next entry.

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Wonderful Roller Coaster Ride

Ok, I am squeezing in a blog entry mainly for a chance to regroup , process and wind down before I wind back up again. I have never liked roller coasters. I like watching my brother in law Ronnie on one, as it is possibly the most entertaining thing to hear him scream, but I stay clear of them. But in comparison to this past weekend a roller coaster ride seems fitting and I was usually at the very top. Meg came home on Thursday which I expected but unexpectedly Burton arranged for Emma and Paige to come as well. They walked in the living room as quiet as mice and surprised Monkey. The hugging and expressions of joy went on for quite some time. Burton had said he had a few surprises up his sleeve. The first one had been getting Tony to fix our outside light. That may seem trivial to some but not to me. Meg was coming back after dark as she was meeting friends in the city for supper and I was thrilled that there would be a light on the veranda waiting for her. I tear up just thinking about it which probably means I am over tired. So the girls were the next surprise. Seeing he was still so excited about his surprises I began to worry about what was coming next. I feared it involved him singing to the musical parts of my planned readings. I started Saturday with my first market day of the season. It was wonderful. I sold 23 books and got to talk to lots of people. In retrospect I may have been better off staying home and conserving my talking energy but I managed to keep the reserves full enough to make it to 1:00 in the morning. Next we welcomed about 40 friends and family members to a pot luck at our house at suppertime. Tons of delicious food, lots of laughs and beautiful kids running around.( a beautiful big brown pig meandering through the yard as well) She was a bit hit with most of the kids. We had the unveiling and dedication of a sign ( Skip's Route) by our dear friend Skip. That is a long and hilarious story for another entry. Then Burton dropped his next surprise. Emma, Lilah and Burton carried the large hemlock slab across the yard and presented it to me. This slab which will later be made into a bench was artfully designed by my dear friend Crystal. She carved the names of each family member along with a loving moniker for each one. It was astounding and will long be a family treasure. Then came the book launch. It was truly amazing. I will take the time to write about it in more detail later but I must just say that over one hundred people came to the Legion and it couldn't have gone better. I have so many people to thank and acknowledge. Burton did not pull off his final surprise which I will also elaborate on later. Then we celebrated our 40th anniversary and Ashlie's 26th birthday. I am getting ready to leave for Nova Scotia for a week of Hackmatack Children's Choice Award readings and celebration. Another roller coaster and so for now with my feet firmly planted on the ground I will get myself ready while revelling in my full heart and my abundance of blessing.