Thursday, October 30, 2014

Inscribing

Please visit me at Inscribe Writers Online for today's post, which addresses the theme of writing and fear. And do not be afraid - be undaunted! ;)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Book Review: Master and Maid: the Charles Massey Murder

Author: Frank G. Jones
Publisher: Irwin, 1985

As the subtitle indicates, the book is a fictional retelling of the Charles Massey murder (unlike Charlotte Gray's book, which is true crime). Jones took this approach in order to flesh out 'things left off the public record [that might allow] the real story [to] emerge' (prologue).

Jones tells an interesting story fairly well. But there are times when he intrudes to give us an historical fact or to elaborate on something. This takes us out of the story and reminds us that we're reading one, instead of allowing us to be immersed in it. After reading Gray's well-researched and well-written account of the facts, I feel that Jones fails to do the accused or her lawyer justice. I'm also uncertain that he meets his objective of getting at the 'real story'.

Skip the novel and read Gray's book instead. No dry non-fiction, Gray is a skilled writer who brings history to life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: The Juliet Stories

Author: Carrie Snyder
Publisher: House of Anansi in Canada, 2012

A collection of short stories that reads more like a novel. Snyder writes beautifully and creates vivid pictures with words and unique turns of phrase. Reminded me very much of Timothy Findley's 'The Wars' - "these are like pictures - pay attention!" I can appreciate why this was nominated for a Governor General's award as the book skews to literary writing.

As I neared the end of the book, I found myself thinking, "Holy crap! Did Snyder set out to write a book that covered absolutely everything?!" I mean, we have political unrest (Sandanistas vs. Contras; Ronald Reagan era), danger, social justice issues, religion (grandparents are retired missionaries, plus Juliet's family stays with missionaries in Nicaragua), exotic travel, marital discord, infidelity, premarital sex, unplanned pregnancy, miscarriage, divorce, death, bullying, etc. That's a lot o' stuff! I was intrigued to learn that the author is not an outliner, but follows the flow of the story; also that after writing the first half of the book, she didn't initially know how to proceed with part two. That explains why there's a disconnect in the way the two halves sound and read. There is more confusion in the second part - varying points of view, for example, and difficulty figuring out how old Juliet is as each new story deals with a particular time in her life. But it's still worth sticking with the book for the exceptional writing.


I look forward to reading Girl Runner, Snyder's first actual novel, which has recently been nominated for the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize. You go, girl!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Bucket List Blog Hop

As I was thinking about what to include in this post, I found myself asking, "What's a bucket list, anyway?" Looking at the definition in my original post about this blog hop, I read, "it's a list of things that a person wants to see or do before they die or 'kick the bucket'". 

Does this mean I should incorporate items that I penned in my Pick Four "dream list"? Things like update my wardrobe, build deeper friendships, and be fit and healthy? More likely, I think, it means efforts that are a) fairly specific, b) can be accomplished in one fell swoop and c) are easily checked off when done.

With those guidelines in mind, I've divided my bucket list into several categories. Without further ado, here we go:

Career
  • publish at least one picture book
  • finish my novel and get it published
  • enter and win a writing contest
  • have a #1 best seller (hey, why not dream big?)
  • obtain a Master's, or equivalent, in Creative Writing
  • study under/be mentored by an accomplished (maybe even famous) author

Spiritual

People
  • meet in person friends I've made online or via snail mail: Debbie and Yoko
  • see, at least once more, friends who live at a distance : Armita, Libby, Patty, Pavlina
  • find and reconnect with friends from elementary school: Gillian and Susan 

Tasks
  • create scrapbooks for my kids
  • finish my son's baby book
  • organize my photos and catch up on my photo albums

Health and Fitness
  • lose five pounds
  • take a ballroom dancing class
  • learn krav maga

Practical
  • learn to knit
  • learn to crochet
  • learn to sew
  • learn to make jams, can and preserve

Travel
  • Sweden
  • United Kingdom (Northern Ireland again, but also England and Scotland)
  • Ireland (again)
  • Sifnos, Greece
  • Switzerland
  • L'Anse Aux Meadows and Gros Morne, Newfoundland
  • Vancouver Island
  • Bermuda
  • Cayman Islands
  • Colorado
  • Grand Canyon
  • Hawaii
  • Tennessee
  • Mackinac Island
The beauty of a bucket list is that it's not static - you can delete and add things continuously, as certain items are accomplished and as needs and perceptions change.

Now I look forward to visiting the blogs of others who signed up for the hop. And I look forward to hearing about your bucket list choices. Maybe we'll give each other ideas!

Time's a-wastin' - let's get cracking!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sandwiched 2

I last wrote a post with this title 6.5 years ago. Much has changed since then - we've gotten older and are at a different stage in life - but much remains the same. Life is still "too crazy" and too busy, and I'm still sandwiched between two generations. Don't get me wrong; I'm happy I still have all these people in my life; it just makes for big challenges in organizing my time and getting things done.

Even with just one child still at home - one pretty capable of looking after himself, at that - there is plenty on the domestic front to keep me occupied. Laundry, meal planning/prep/ execution, a little dusting, a little vacuuming, a little mopping... Sometimes a very little...
Then there's the carpool, taking said child to music lessons, picking him up from work, and getting him to youth group.

I'm thankful for my husband D who eases my load when and where he can and doesn't depend on me to always be the one getting supper ready or matching up his clean socks, etc. There's truth to the saying 'many hands make light work', even if it's just one extra set of hands.

I still work part-time, volunteer and belong to two writers' groups. And even though I'd hoped that the return to fall routines would mean the return to regular writing, you'll know (if you read my last post) that that hasn't happened. Even my hope of writing three blog posts a week hasn't happened; it's been 10 days since my last.

Life happens.

And something else has happened. My mom, who's been in her house for over 50 years, has decided it's time to declutter, downsize, and move. Think about how long you've been in your house/apartment and how much you've accumulated, then multiply that by however many times it takes to get to 50 years in one place. My mom is not a Quaker or a Shaker, so her surroundings are neither spare nor minimalist. It's too big a task for one and there's only me and D to come alongside. It sure motivates me to get my own house in order once we've taken care of hers!

If I'm not here much in the next little while, you'll know I'm keeping honestly active elsewhere. I hope you'll bear with me. And don't forget to check back Monday for my Bucket List post. I'm still committed to sharing!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Routines

There's something to be said for routines. While some people thrive on living life by the seat of their pants, not knowing what will happen next, most of us appreciate the security of a relatively stable life. Yes, life will sometimes throw us a curve ball, and things will happen that we have little to no control over, but having some kind of overall plan helps us plan our days and maximize our time.

I'd hoped that with my children's return to school and the normal routines of the academic year, I might get back to my normal writing schedule. Alas, it hasn't really happened so far this fall. I've found myself sidelined by the demands of work and housekeeping. Maybe it's an excuse, but I feel like I have to deal with the clutter and uncleanliness before I can resume writing. I know a lot of writers will say that the house will always be there, you can clean and declutter later, but I feel so overwhelmed and suffocated by it, that I feel it has to go now.

That being said, I do want to keep up a certain amount of blogging and connecting with readers. I just took a look at an old survey I conducted almost two years ago and saw that what my readers most wanted from me were articles about happiness, faith, health and fitness and writing. You also asked for book and movie reviews.  So those are the things I'm going to focus on in the coming days and weeks. And I'll try to post thrice each week. I hope that "routine" will satisfy us both.

As always, if you have any tips for balancing the family/writing/working life, I am most willing to learn from you!

Friday, October 3, 2014

World Smile Day

Photo credit: Senorhorst Jahnsen
As I was checking my e-mail this morning, my local photo developing store informed me that today is World Smile Day. World Smile Day?! What? I'd never heard of it.

A little digging and I discovered that the event was first instituted in 1999. Fifteen years later, I'm hearing about it for the first time. I can only conclude it hasn't been well-advertised.

The idea for the day came from Harvey Ball, creator of the Smiley (pictured at left). The Smiley is probably one of the world's most recognizable symbols, and the idea behind World Smile Day is to perform acts of kindness that make others smile throughout the day. (But why limit it to one day when you can perform acts of kindness regularly and make people smile all year long?!)

This has me thinking. What can I do today to make someone smile? Maybe this is a question I should ask myself each morning as the day gets underway. I should be more intentional about brightening the lives of others. This doesn't mean I have to be phoney (where would be the good in that?); it just means being more thoughtful. You know what I mean.

As for celebrating World Smiley Day, I've already started, without even knowing it. I gave my son $5 this morning so he could buy pizza for his lunch. That definitely made him smile and got him off to a happy start.

And here's something I hope will make you smile. We saw this when we went to the Tim Hawkins show in Grand Rapids earlier this year, and Tim's get-up reminds me of October due to his Oktoberfest costume:


If that doesn't cut it, try this one:



Hope at least one of those made you do more than grin; I hope they made you laugh. Now pay it forward and make someone smile today, maybe even as broadly as I am here!:

Smiley in NL
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