I love going to the Telling Tales Festival held at Westfield Heritage Centre. This year due to a conflict and also the weather, my daughter and I were there briefly.
The only author we saw speak was Eric Walters, which is OK, because he is a favourite of my daughter and me. Walters graciously stood out in the rain while the audience took cover on the stage.
Before the presentation on the “Forest of Reading” stage, I had noticed that there was a poster for a new initiative called “I Read Canadian Day”. Walters started his talk with mentioning this event. The first time this will be celebrated is February 19, 2020. Bravo!
Walters also talked about his recent books including “Fourth Dimension” and “Broken Strings”, co-written with Kathy Kacer. But it was his third book, a picture book called “Light a Candle” co-written with Tanzanian native Godfrey Nkongolo that I was most interested to hear about. Tanzania is where my father was born, and it has a special place in my heart.
In Nkongolo’s bio, it states that “One of his passions is to promote African thought and show the world that although the widely known story of Africa is one of despair, Africa also has a message of hope.”
The story follows young Ngama, who is in the stage between child and man. His father, the chief of the Chagga people, and a group of men from the tribe are going to climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in order to light the Uhuru (freedom) torch. Julius Nyerere had become president of a now independent Tanzania, and he made a request to light a candle at the top of the mountain, something he had spoken about doing before he became president. Ngama is told that he is not old enough, but he follows the men anyway and witnesses and then joins in the lighting of the torch. It’s a touching story, written in both English and Swahili.
Have you got any tales to tell from the Festival? Or any new picture book choices to share?
I have never been to the Eden Mills Writer’s Festival before, despite the close proximity of the event. This year I won tickets though, so it was the perfect opportunity to check it out.
The opening night was fabulous! Both Marina Endicott and Guy Gavriel Kay read excerpts from their latest novels. After Endicott read the key scene in her novel, “The Difference”, I wanted to rush right home and devour it. Alas, although I won that novel and GGK’s, “A Brightness Long Ago”, I have yet to achieve that goal. But soon enough!
Both writers were witty and engaging. I particularly enjoyed GGK’s answer to a question about writing process. He said that he doesn’t like giving writing advice, because writers are looking for a key. There is no key: everyone has their own way. Do you know whether or not a person has outlined a novel or not when you are reading it, he asked. That gave me a lot to think about.
I participated in a “Writing for Children” workshop on Saturday. The facilitator was Marie-Louise Gay, who is most famous for the “Stella” series. Gay’s goal in the workshop was to help us see how children see the world. Gay said that she never puts messages in the books that she writes. Instead, she wants to promote the pleasure of reading and the discovery of things. She pointed out that in fact it is only adults who are interested in what message a book has, never the children. More to think about!
Eden Mills is a beautiful little town, and most of the festival’s venues are outdoors. Some are even held in residents’ backyards!
We stuck mainly to “Jenny’s Place”, which is the children’s area.
The first speaker we saw was Mireille Messier, who talked about her books that aren’t even out yet (but will be soon), “Treasure” and “Sergeant Billy: The True Story of the Goat Who Went to War”. I was surprised when Messier told the audience that “Treasure” is entirely in dialogue. When I first started studying picture book writing, we were told that this was a big no no! Hmmmm…Perhaps the trend is changing.
We also got to listen to Kevin Sylvester, Jess Keating, and Eden Mills writer Janet Wilson. Sylvester entertained with his three drawing tips. Keating, whom I saw last year at “Telling Tales”, which is next week, did a wonderful science based talk with lots of audience participation. Wilson tugged at our hearts with her presentation on her book “Our Future: How Kids are Taking Action”.
I bought Jess Keating’s latest book, “Elements of Genius: Nikki Tesla and the Ferret-Proof Death Ray” for my daughter. While writing my daughter’s name, she accidentally spelled it wrong, but without hesitation turned the mistake into a little rabbit drawing. A genius move!
I will definitely go again to this gem of a festival.
Have you ever been to the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival? What stories do you have to tell?
Today I want to pick your brain about collections and collecting things. Do you collect objects, and if so, what do you collect? What do the objects in those collections mean to you?
I opened up my “cabinet of curiosities” to you in past posts. However, this is a bit different. By a collection, I mean a focus on collecting more than one object of the same type.
The people in my family and social circle collect (or have collected) everything from coins to old cookbooks to stamps to bird objects to rooster/chicken objects to depression era glass to coasters to plates.
So what’s in your personal museum? I have had many collections over the years.
Growing up I collected horses. I had about 30 horse statues—that was a lot back then—and many books and pictures and related paraphernalia. The truth is that I loved the representations of horses more than the actual horses themselves, the real horse being more intimidating. I don’t have most of these items from my childhood horse collection anymore, but I have acquired a horse or two (or three) over the years. Apparently horses are symbolic of freedom.
As I grew up, my collections changed. For a while I collected frogs. Now here’s the thing when people notice that you are collecting something: they start buying it for you as gifts. So I ended up with a lot of frogs. Then I stopped collecting frogs. So now the conundrum: what do I do with all the frogs that I no longer collected? And why, at one point did I desire so much to surround myself with frogs and then later outgrow them? Whatever they represented to me was something I outgrew.
I have also had collections started for me. I was gifted a spoon one year, and for some reason that started a spoon collection. I ended up with a rack for hanging my spoons and several more spoons. For many years I left one space empty, in case someone gifted me another spoon, because I never wanted to start a new rack. Recently I thought that I might as well finish it—most people don’t know about this spoon collection, so who’s going to give me one anymore—and I almost bought another spoon to fill that final space. What stopped me? Well something did, and when I got home I realized that I had already filled that spot with my parents’ special sugar spoon. <Phew> Saved!
The other collection I had started for me was one of eggs. I still remember getting my first egg, from a family friend up in northern Ontario. What do eggs represent? I have read different interpretations: creation, perfection, fertility…This is another collection that I still have, but when my German relatives visited last year, I put them away, and I have never put them out again. Perhaps, since it’s been over a year, it’s something I have also outgrown. Or perhaps I just need to declutter something else to make space for that collection.
I have many other objects that I don’t really consider a collection, such as my teapots, as there are not enough of them to consider them to be a collection. Or maybe it’s just that they are scattered everywhere, and I don’t realize I have enough of them to make a collection, because I have never seen them together. At what point does something officially become a collection? Is there a number? Anyway, I do love tea, and I admit that I always have too many types of tea because I love to try new types. Perhaps I should start inviting more people over to share my tea. Or maybe I should start a tea exchange group, where we could exchange the teas we only wanted to try and then got stuck with, because we really didn’t like them after we tried them.
For a while I collected semi precious stones, but this interest has faded as well. They are still scattered around my house, though, and I do continue to wear them as jewellery. I feel very connected to the earth, and this represents that aspect of it.
Do you collect odd things? One thing I always wondered about is the collection of banana stickers that we have on the back of one of our cupboards, the one that holds our cookbooks. I have no idea who started it, one of my brothers, but which one and why is the question. However, it’s actually neat.
Not all the stickers come from bananas. I can see ones that are from mangoes, oranges, and even spaghetti squash. I also see that in the last few years my daughter has added several, mostly from movie tie ins. It’s interesting to see some of the slogans used over the years, such as “The Perfect Stocking Stuffer” and “The World’s Perfect Food” from Chiquita. I see there’s even one from the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.
I discovered that our collection is no where near the largest banana sticker collection in the world. That’s over 7000! Apparently there have even been conventions for banana sticker collectors. There’s even a banana label catalogue!
Do you have a collection of objects that is a little bit more odd? Here is a photoessay of some examples, such as pine cones and pop cans, I came across. As well, the video at the top of the post shows some of the stranger collections, including the largest banana sticker collection.
So what’s going to eventually happen to your collection? Are you going to pass it onto someone else? Apparently millennials have no desire to collect things—they prefer instead to collect experiences—so most children are not happy to inherit their parents’ stuff. If you are a millennial reading this, what are your thoughts? I am wondering what will happen to all the photo albums that have accumulated over the years. Do you have photo albums? One of my most precious objects is my childhood photo album, and it is one of the top things on my list when I play the game “if your house was burning, what 10/20 things would you take out of it”. Now with new technology a lot of people collect their photos on their computer or online. I admit that I stopped putting together photo albums. My most recent photos are all on a device, but perhaps I should curate them. They are a big mess! I do have one form of social media where I share photos, and that is Facebook. I accumulate pictures there, and the pictures I accumulate are almost all of my travels, one of my favourite things to do. It makes me happy to see them again when they pop up as memories. It’s even better than my souvenirs, which I rarely look at.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about collections in general but particularly about your own collections and what they mean to you.
I am excited that I have had my drabble published in the book “donkey drabbles”. The book is a fundraiser for the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.
But what is a drabble, you might be asking yourself? It is “a short work of prose of one hundred words in length”. The founder of the donkey sanctuary, Sandra Pady, got the idea from the Wilfried Laurier University book of drabbles, published for Laurier’s centennial. I also have a drabble in that book. What can I say? I love to write really short stories.
Today was the book launch, an informal but fun occasion. I took my daughter as my guest, as she is the subject of my story called “magic”. I got to talk with founder, Sandra Pady. Stay tuned. There may be something else special writing wise coming out of that meeting.
My daughter and I are both long time supporters of the donkey sanctuary. We go there regularly, and we have also sponsored donkeys in the past few years. If you are ever in Guelph, I highly recommend a visit.
Right now the books are only available for purchase in their gift store. Hopefully you can soon buy one online. Update: They are now online. Click here to check it out.
Do you have any good news to share? I’d love to hear about it.
In this fascinating article about books and their impact on our lives, the author notes: “Seeing someone’s books offers a glimpse of who they are and what they value. It also makes for good ice-breaker conversation. Some people like to snoop through medicine cabinets, but that only gives you insight into a person’s physical well-being. The books tell a tale about the person’s mind.”
After reading the article, I decided that I would examine some of my bookshelves and see what they said about me. Most of my books are scattered everywhere, with no real order to them, but there are a few with themes to them. It’s obvious I love guided journals, judging by the corner of one shelf they hold. I also have another two shelves of picture books, reflecting my efforts to write one myself. And I have more than one bookshelf that holds my writing books.
I took pictures of some of my other bookshelves.
This shelf holds a tiny selection of some of the books that have been significant to me over the years. I have had many of them for a very long time, and I still keep them, even though I haven’t read any of them for a while.
This shelf has titles that are newer to me, and some of them I haven’t read (half of them actually, the ones on the left. The two on the very left are old ones my mom had read, and which I am loathe to let go.) Do you also love having unread books on your bookshelves, savouring the anticipation?
On this shelf, most of the books are ones that I have partially read. Some of them I am nibbling in bits and pieces, and others I have temporarily put to the side, to be taken up at a different time. That is, except for the “Phoebe and her Unicorn” books on the left, which make me laugh out loud and are just as good as “Calvin and Hobbes”. They are worth rereading any time you are feeling blue. Or anytime at all actually.
This is just a snapshot, as I have many other bookshelves I could show you. What do these books say about me? Well, let’s see, I have several books about grief, several set in different cultures, three memoirs, some books about spirituality, a book about trees, and some children’s books. What do you think that says about me? I can tell you that grief certainly has touched my life, especially surrounding my parents’ deaths, and books helped me cope. Also, I am always trying to find out more about my mom, as she died when I was fairly young. One of my favourite things to do is to travel, and if I can’t be travelling, then at least I can be reading about life in other cultures. I am certainly curious about other peoples’ lives. Although I don’t belong to an organized religion, spirituality is an important part of my life. I love to be out in nature. Finally, I still enjoy reading children’s books, and I often think I have a childlike sense of curiosity.
This shelf is in my daughter’s room, and on it is some of my favourites I kept for her, hoping that she would read them. She has read the first three of the “Anne of Green Gables” series; in fact, I read the first one to her, which was a bit of a mouthful, but which I still thoroughly enjoyed doing. “Charlotte’s Web” is a book that she read at school, and she has read the graphic novel version of “A Wrinkle in Time”. The rest will have to wait until she is a little older. My daughter actually attempted to read “Pride and Prejudice”, which surprised me, but admitted that it was too challenging for her age.
So do you have an ideal shelf? Mine would be a combination of some of the books you see in the pictures, with a few additions, such as “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” and “The Artist’s Way”. Perhaps I should actually make a shelf with just my favourite books. It would be comforting in times of trouble to look at them, I think, a form of “bibliotherapy”.
So what’s on your bookshelves? I’d love if you’d leave me a comment.
This has been a recent favourite. During these lazy summer days, my daughter and I have been working through at least one exercise per day.
The results are often hilarious, but they also make you think. For example, one exercise we did had us try to come up with a new idea to make a bank more attractive to its customers. We chose a random word from one of the charts at the back of the book, and we had to come up with ideas based on that word. The word we chose just happened to be “crab”. Ideas ranged from serving crab to customers to painting the walls a crab colour to dressing up the tellers in crab costumes. What do you think? What idea would you suggest?
Another day we decided to write a short story. The word we chose as our setting was “croissant”. I actually thought that the story I ended up writing, with a bit of tweaking, would make a good picture book.
2. “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon
This book turns self promotion into a fun and doable activity. Ten principles include “share something small every day” and “teach what you know”.
I had several takeaways from this book. For example, Kleon dispels the “lone genius” myth, and instead talks about “scenius”, a term borrowed from Brian Eno, where great ideas are birthed from a group of people. Kleon notes: “Being a valuable part of a scenius is not necessarily how smart or talented you are, but about what you have to contribute—the ideas you share, the quality of connections you make, and the conversations you start.” Furthermore, “The Internet is basically a bunch of sceniuses connected together…” So, go ahead, find your scenius today.
3. “The Art of Noticing” by Rob Walker
I have recently become interested in looking at the world from different points of view. This all started with the book “On Looking” by Alexandra Horowitz in which the author takes a walk with 10 different experts to see how they observe the world. Horowitz touches on the phenomenon of how once you become attuned to something you suddenly start seeing it everywhere. I can attest to this personally. I recently took a “wild edibles” course, and now I see them everywhere: in my own backyard (who knew?), on the side of the road…
There are several fantastic exercises in Walker’s book, and many are easy to do, such as “Change your route”. This means simply to change your route to a common destination. My husband is good at this. He loves to drive different ways, not like me who prefers to get to the destination via the same route, not being the fondest of long car rides. However, I appreciate when my husband does this. I actually get more excited about driving when he changes the route, as I discover new things around every corner.
Another exercise we did as a family was “Take a long walk through an unfamiliar part of town”. During our walk, we explored some new to us neighbourhoods, and then checked out a couple of schools. Behind one of the schools was a path we had never been on. Suddenly we discovered a bird viewing platform with some hawks nesting on it! How could I not know that there was a platform so close?
What creativity books have you discovered that you recommend?
Have you ever heard the term “cabinet of curiosity”? Precursors to museums, they were collections of objects, often rare and eclectic, displayed in rooms or cabinets. These objects could be natural or manmade.
My husband often calls our house “a museum”, so I think a cabinet of curiosity accurately describes my object collection.
Inspired by my last blog post on objects, one of my friends wrote about one of her objects and about generational trauma. It is really a powerful post, and to read it, you can click here.
Also I read an interesting article about how by going to an estate sale, you can build a picture of the deceased through their objects. “And if you remove yourself from the picture, the stuff you surround yourself with tells a story about you. It is a physical autobiography you write by living,” the author notes. To read the full article, click here.
In my last blog post I talked about my family objects. This one is going to be about personal objects instead.
Personal objects are a bit different than family objects, or at least family of origin objects. They have a slightly different meaning, as you bought them yourself or they were gifted to you personally. Sometimes with family objects you have no idea where they came from, and you don’t know the meaning something holds for a person. I discovered the latter if I tried to get rid of something from my father’s collection. “You can’t get rid of that, because…,” he would protest. Well, at least then I would find out the history behind the object
Here are three of my personal objects that have significant meaning to me:
The Wooden Horse
The last time my mom went to her homeland, Germany, before she passed away, she brought me back this wooden horse on wheels. I didn’t think much about it. She simply told me that my uncle, her younger brother, had made it. I only met my uncle a handful of times, and I don’t know much about him, except that he was an accomplished carpenter. She knew that I loved horses, so she must have figured that I would be the best recipient for this particular piece.
The horse took on more meaning when my cousin, my mother’s youngest sister’s son, visited from Germany last summer. I had it on display in the room where his sons were staying. He asked me where I got it. I told him the story, that my mother had brought it back to me from Germany. He told me that it looked exactly like the one he used to play with when he was a boy. In fact, he was sure it was the same one.
Wow! Had he not visited, I would have never known that bit of family history, a piece that connected us even more.
2. The Cat Necklace
When I was dating my future husband, he asked me to pick out something as a gift from him from The Museum store. After considering all the items in the store, I settled on this cat necklace.
He later told me that he was very touched that I had considered his financial situation and picked out the least expensive item in the store. (In fact, he asked me to pick out something else too. And I did, a watch, but I don’t even know if I still have it. It was less meaningful for me.) I don’t think that I was consciously considering his financial situation, but I generally am fairly frugal when it comes to paying for objects, especially when it comes to other people’s money. But let’s face it: I love cats! Yes, that was probably the main motivating factor. Anyway, it still indicated that we were compatible, consciously or not.
I don’t wear this anymore, as it has a little bell in it (and that would prevent me from sneaking up on family members—yes they do complain about it! But please don’t tell them that they could bell Linda with the cat…). The necklace hangs in the living room as a reminder of our early years.
3. The Chinese tea pots
I love drinking tea. I also love tea pots. I collected a few when I lived in China.
These tea pots are made from special clay. The interesting thing is that they will absorb the flavour of the tea that is made in them, so it is advisable to stick with one type of tea for every teapot.
I have given more than one friend one of these teapots. I also gave one tea pot per table away at my wedding.
These tea pots come in so many different shapes and sizes! The possibilities are endless. Check these ones out. The one in the middle that has a dragon on the front has a phoenix on the back. The dragon and phoenix represent the emperor and empress.
I would love to hear about your personal objects.
Bonus: If you simply cannot get enough of objects and their history, then read further.
I have been skimming the book “A history of the World in 100 objects” by Neil MacGregor. The book describes the significance of certain objects to human history, beginning with 2 000 000 BC up to 2010. I was particularly interested in which object he chose to represent our most recent history.
MacGregor mentioned several objects that had been considered, including an object from Antarctica, a cooking implement, and the smartphone. In the end, a solar-powered lamp was chosen. The lamp was chosen for several reasons. For example, “Solar panels circumvent the need for massively expensive infrastructure…” and “As this low-cost, clean, green technology is made available to greater numbers, it could bring enormous opportunities to the poorest people in the world.”
What do you think? Would you have chosen a different object?