Tag Archives: children's writing

Six Degrees: From “The End of the Affair to Five Little Indians”

It’s time again for Six Degrees. So I did take out this month’s starting book, “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene, from the library, intending to read it, but my good intentions fell flat.

“Becoming Mrs. Lewis” by Patti Callahan
This is the first book—one that I just finished reading—that popped into my head when I learned what the starting book was in this month’s chain, mainly because Mrs. Lewis aka Joy Davidman’s first husband had a string of affairs during their toxic marriage. But while I was reading the book, I discovered another connection: one of Davidman’s doctors was Graham Greene’s brother, and she tells the story about how she had just finished reading “The End of the Affair” when he examined her, and how she discussed the literary London world with Dr. Greene. “Becoming Mrs. Lewis” is a slow burn romance with a lot of philosophy and theology thrown in. One of my favourite recent reads!

“Once Upon a Wardrobe” by Patti Callahan
I am looking forward to reading this book written by the same author. I sat in on a webinar last Thursday during which Callahan talked about the book and about how the main theme is “Where do stories come from?” The story centres around sibling relationships including the main character siblings Megs and George, and real life siblings C.S. (or Jack) and his brother Warnie. Of course, this leads into the four siblings who also star in the next book.

This is what my book cover looks like.

“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
Those siblings are Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy. This book is one of my favourite childhood reads, which is why I love reading about C.S. Lewis’ life so much.

The next book is quite the departure from the C.S. Lewis writings and that book is:

“Everyone Knows Your Mother is a Witch” by Rivka Galchen
In the previous book in the chain the fictional White Witch is the character from the title, but in this book the witch is actually a historical figure, Katharina Kepler, mother of Imperial Mathematician Johannes Kepler. I’ve long wanted to read this story, and it was actually long listed for Canada Reads, but alas it did not make the short list.

“We Two Alone” by Jack Wang
Also long listed but not short listed for Canada Reads, it’s another book on my TBR list. I was fortunate to attend a webinar hosted by The Fold a few weeks ago during which Wang taught about holding attention in a short story, and it was an amazing lecture. Wang is talented! Set on five continents, the book is about the Chinese immigrant experience and spans a century.

“Five Little Indians” by Michelle Good
This is a book that did make the Canada Reads short list. Will it win? It stands a good chance, as the book about five residential school survivors coming to terms with their past has already won awards including the 2020 Governor General’s Literary Award for fiction, and it will be adapted into a series, but we won’t know the winner until the end of the month.

In the first half of the chain I concentrated on C.S. Lewis and his life and writings, and in the second half I wrote about long listed Canada Reads contenders. That’s the fun of this challenge: you never know where it will take you.

Hope to see you next month again when we start with “Our Wives Under the Sea” by Julia Armfield.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees of Separation: From “Beezus and Ramona” to “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”

I missed last month’s Six Degrees, because I was so busy. This time I’m even busier, but somehow in the midst of all the craziness I sat down and cobbled together a list. I found it so soothing—like making a puzzle to take your mind off things. I persevered despite having to finish up my final assignment yesterday for my first horticultural therapy course—almost 50 pages—and having to do my pre course assignments for my next course this afternoon. 

This month we are starting with “Beezus and Ramona” by Beverly Clearly. 

From Goodreads:

“Nine-year-old Beezus Quimby has her hands full with her little sister, Ramona. Sure, other people have little sisters that bother them sometimes, but is there anyone in the world like Ramona? Whether she’s taking one bite out of every apple in a box or secretly inviting 15 other 4-year-olds to the house for a party, Ramona is always making trouble–and getting all the attention. Every big sister can relate to the trials and tribulations Beezus must endure. Old enough to be expected to take responsibility for her little sister, yet young enough to be mortified by every embarrassing plight the precocious preschooler gets them into, Beezus is constantly struggling with her mixed-up feelings about the exasperating Ramona.”

I almost reread the book, as it’s been so long since I read “Beezus and Ramona”, but instead I decided to go in a different direction.

“A Girl from Yamhill” by Beverly Clearly

Instead I started to read this book, the first of Clearly’s two memoirs. I can see where some of her Ramona stories come from. I didn’t know that you can even trip chickens, but that was one of Clearly’s adventures as a young girl. I was also surprised to read that she struggled in school. 

“My Own Two Feet” by Beverly Clearly

After I am finished reading the first memoir, I plan on reading this book, the second of Clearly’s two memoirs, which deals with her life from her college years to publication of her first book, which was “Henry Huggins”.

“Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids” by Elizabeth Haidle

This graphic novel tells the stories of authors such as Maya Angelou, Gene Luen Yang, and C.S. Lewis when they were kids. It’s an interesting read for both kids and adults.

“A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis

Speaking of C.S. Lewis, this is the book that he wrote after his wife died. It’s one that comforted me after my mother’s death.

“The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis

This though is my favourite of all of Lewis’ books, and it is the book that started my love affair with reading. I still remember sitting in my grade 3 classroom on the carpet in the back corner, enthralled as my favourite teacher read us the book in chunks. It rivals my other childhood favourite “Anne of Green Gables”, which I have put on more than one previous Six Degrees list, for number of times I’ve read a book.

“The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis

If I were to be asked my top three in the Narnia series, I would have to say that the first and last books round out my list. So why then this choice? Well this is another case of a character annoying the other characters in the book—cousin Eustace Scrubb who plagues Lucy and Edmund. Also Reepicheep, one of my favourite minor characters, plays a bigger role in this book. I even like saying the name!

So there you have it, my journey through this month’s books ending on a voyage. I hope that you have enjoyed it, and I hope that you will read some of the other posts of this fun challenge.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Valentine’s Day Memories (Valentiny 2021)

It’s time for the Valentiny writing contest! This year’s contest:

“…since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels brave!” Click here to read more.

Valentine’s Day Memories

Melissa peered into the room. She looked down at the Valentine’s Day card she had made for Nana. She didn’t want to give it to a nana who didn’t remember her. 

She crept into the room. 

Nana smiled at her. “Well hello there.”

Melissa’s heart leapt. Nana had remembered her.

“Who might you be, young lady?”

Her heart crashed down again. She took a step forward. “I made this for you, Nana.” She handed her the heart.

Nana took the card and clapped her hands. “For me? What a thoughtful child.”

“Yes, Nana.”

Melissa dashed out of the room and curled up in a chair, sobbing.

A strange sound made her look up. A cart full of roses had stopped in front of her. Melissa sobbed again. Melissa and Nana’s favourite thing to do had been working in Nana’s rose garden.

“You look like you could use a rose.” A man pushing the cart handed her one.

Melissa tiptoed to Nana’s room. She hesitated at the door but then stepped in.

“I brought you a rose, Nana.”

Nana clapped her hands again. “How thoughtful, young lady.”

Nana breathed the scent of the roses in, frowned, and then smiled. “Thank you…Melissa.”

Melissa grinned and hugged Nana. “You’re welcome, Nana. Happy Valentine’s Day.”

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Holiday Contest 2020: Planting Smiles

It’s time for the Holiday Contest!

This year’s guidelines: “Write a children’s holiday story (children here defined as age 12 and under) about a Holiday Helper!…Your story may be poetry or prose, silly or serious or sweet, religious or not, based on Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year’s or whatever you celebrate during the Holiday Season, but is not to exceed 250 words…”

Today’s the last day to enter, so you still have some time. Click here to read the rest of the guidelines or to access the link to read the stories. 

Planting Smiles

Maria tugged on Mommy’s arm sleeve. “Do we have to do this, Mommy?”

Mommy smiled at Maria. “You’ll see why.”

Maria and her mommy were at their local senior’s home. Maria looked at the plants on their cart. She didn’t see why they were delivering plants to the seniors. They didn’t know anyone here.

Maria hopped from foot to foot. “What do I do?”

“Why don’t you push the cart?” asked Mommy.

She could do that. She leaned all her weight onto the cart, and they set off.

Mommy knocked on the first door. “Come in,” said a quivering voice.

Maria swallowed. “Mommy, I’m scared.”

Mommy grabbed Maria’s hand and squeezed it. They entered. An old woman sat in a wheelchair, hunched over, frowning. 

“Merry Christmas. Happy holidays,” said Mommy. She handed the old woman a plant. 

The woman looked up at them and a smile crossed her face. “Thank you.”

They left the room and went to the next. This time an old woman clapped her hands at the gift. “Oh, I Iove plants. Thank you so much.”

Next was an old man. He grunted at them, but Maria saw a twinkle in his eye as he put his plant on his nightstand. He chuckled as they left the room.

“Mommy?” asked Maria. “Can you push the cart while I hand out the plants?”

Mommy smiled. “Yes, let’s do that.”

Maria knocked at the next door. “Merry Christmas. Happy holidays.” The next smile enveloped her like a warm hug.

I hope you enjoyed my story. Wishing you much peace this holiday season.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Update: I’m thrilled that I got “honourable mention” for this story!

Six Degrees: From “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” to “Dearly”

It’s time again for the monthly “Six Degrees” challenge hosted by Kate from Books are My Favourite and Best. This month we are starting with “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.” Did you know it is the 50th anniversary of the book? Wow! The book is one of my favourite childhood books. Have you read it? It is considered controversial—and has even been banned—for its talk of periods. 

This is what my beloved copy looked like.

For those of you who have never read the story, here is part of the introduction from Goodreads:

“Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.”

My first link is “What the Dog Saw” by Malcolm Gladwell. What? you might be thinking. How would that link? Specifically, I am talking about the essay called “John Rock’s Error (What the inventor of the birth control pill didn’t know about women’s health)”, which I think that all those who are having periods—and all those who love them—should read. Gladwell has other essays in the book that I also found fascinating, such as “True Colors (Hair dye and the hidden history of postwar America)”.

From there I am making the connection to “The Slow Moon Climbs” by Susan P. Mattern.

From period matters to lack of period matters. There tend to be a lack of good menopause books. This one comes highly recommended, and I had intended to read it this year, but it’s one for my 2021 Mount TBR challenge. The book is a comprehensive look at menopause from prehistory to today. Historian Mattern takes us on a journey in which she discusses how the way we look at menopause today is incorrect.

Now I will connect to “The Dangerous Old Woman” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. This is a book that I’ve been listening to a bit at a time. The gifted storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estés is more famous for another book, but I am choosing this book, because it is six stories and commentaries about the “old wise woman” archetype, in which the author writes about a different way to look at aging.

Speaking of storytelling, this is one of the spiritual endeavours that Anne Boksma experiences in her book “My Year of Living Spiritually”, which she wrote about her year long quest at age 55 to become more spiritual. I wrote about the book in last week’s blog post.

Another gifted storyteller, poet Rupi Kaur’s latest book is “home body”. Kaur is never afraid to talk about blood or women’s blood. In fact, click here if you wish to see her period picture that went viral. In this book, my favourite section is “rest” although my favourite poem is from the “awake” section. It begins:

“give me laugh lines and wrinkles

i want proof of the jokes we shared”

My final link is to “Dearly” by Margaret Atwood, who was a poet before she was a writer. “Dearly” is Atwood’s latest collection of poems, and the collection contains poems about a wide variety of topics including aging. Click here if you want to hear her reading the title poem “Dearly” as well as hear the background behind it. I’ve not read the book, but I’ve listened to a webinar in which Atwood has talked about the book and read some of her poems, and I am really looking forward to reading “Dearly”.

So what’s the connection here? Both Blume and Atwood (most famous for “A Handmaid’s Tale”) are authors who are not afraid to tackle controversial subjects including menstruation. They like to tell it like it is, and we are the better for it.

Be sure to check out some of the other chains where you’re sure to discover some book that piques your interest. I’m in the middle of reading one of the books I discovered last month.

Maybe you’ll join us next month? Click here to read the guidelines.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: From “The Turn of the Screw” to “Anne of Green Gables”

It’s time again for the monthly “Six Degrees” challenge.

This month we are starting with “The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James.

From Goodreads:

“A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.”

Even reading what this book is about left me shivering. I don’t read books like this (anymore) because the older I get the less I like to be freaked out by books. I guess the events of real life freak me out so much that I prefer to read something more soothing. This book though did immediately remind me of one book I read a couple of years back that also made me shiver and that is:

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” by Ransom Riggs

I regretted beginning this book, but I so wanted to find out what happened—it’s really well written—that I persisted despite shivering a lot. When I was near the end of the book I realized that it was setting up to be a sequel. Well anyway suffice to say the words that came out of my mouth I will not repeat here. And no I have never read the sequels or seen the movie.

From Goodreads:

“A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience.”

“Cujo” by Stephen King

This is another book that made me shiver and that I read a long time ago before I gave up reading books that freak me out. I made the mistake of reading this late at night in a hotel room while by myself. After I turned the lights out…Well anyway, don’t make that mistake.

From Goodreads:

“Cujo is a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, the best friend Brett Camber has ever had. One day Cujo chases a rabbit into a bolt-hole—a cave inhabited by sick bats. What happens to Cujo, how he becomes a horrifying vortex inexorably drawing in all the people around him makes for one of the most heart-stopping novels Stephen King has written.”

“On Writing” by Stephen King

Let’s get a less shivery now and link with the writer of Cujo and his memoir and craft book, which I really enjoyed, especially as a lot of his advice is similar to what I believe. Huh. Who knew?

One of my favourite quotes:

“Your schedule—in at about the same time every day, out when your thousand words are on paper or disk—exists in order to habituate yourself, to make yourself ready to dream just as you make yourself ready to sleep by going to bed at roughly the same time each night and following the same ritual as you go. In both writing and sleeping, we learn to be physically still at the same time we are encouraging our minds to unlock from the humdrum rational thinking of our daytime lives.”

“The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr

I have been studying memoir and personal essay writing, and this is one book that is said to be a “must read”. I do highly recommend it.

Karr writes “hearing each other’s stories actually raises our levels of the feel-good oxytocin”. No wonder memoirs are so popular. She also writes “Each great memoir lives or dies based 100 percent on voice”. Not sure how to tackle that often elusive voice issue? Karr does a good job of it in this book.

“Smitten by Giraffe: My Life as a Citizen Scientist” by Anne Innis Dagg

Speaking of memoir, I didn’t manage to mention one zoologist whom I admire in last month’s list and whom is worth mentioning, a Canadian zoologist called Anne Innis Dagg who studied giraffes. I have actually met and interviewed Anne Innis Dagg, as she is a former professor at University of Waterloo. So glad that she is finally getting her due after the documentary about her life called “The Woman Who Loves Giraffes” debuted.

From Goodreads:

“When Anne Innis saw her first giraffe at the age of three, she was smitten. She knew she had to learn more about this marvelous animal. Twenty years later, now a trained zoologist, she set off alone to Africa to study the behaviour of giraffe in the wild…Dagg was continually frustrated in her efforts to secure a position as a tenured professor despite her many publications and exemplary teaching record. Finally she opted instead to pursue her research as an independent “citizen scientist,” while working part-time as an academic advisor.”

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

My much read copy

I’m linking the author’s first name to the first name of one of my favourite characters from one of my favourite childhood books. I love this book so much that I actually did the Anne of Green Gables tour on PEI with my bestie for my 50th birthday.

I always assume everyone knows and loves this book as much as I do, but for those who don’t here’s an introduction from Goodreads:

“As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage?”

So what’s the connection with the first and last book? The last book isn’t really shivery—not like the first book shivery—except maybe for Anne when she lets her imagination run away from her during her walk in the “haunted wood”. We walked through the inspiration for the haunted wood on our tour, but it wasn’t at all scary—actually really pleasant—but perhaps that would be a different case at night.

My critique partner Bev pointed out that the first and last books are both classics. Thanks Bev! Don’t know how I let that slip by.

So there you have it, my rather eclectic list for this month’s Six Degrees challenge.

Do you want to participate? Click here for the specifics. Next month is wild card month!

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Favourites (List 7)

1. Articles: Five part interview series on The Tyee beginning with “Talking with the Botanist Who Talks to Trees”

The whole five part series of this interview with Diana Beresford-Kroeger is worth a read.

Click here to be directed to part one.

One of my favourite quotes comes from the third article:

“What happens to me when I’m asked to write about a species of trees — I’ll go out to that species and ask the tree to help me,” says Beresford-Kroeger.

“Invariably, I will sit down by the tree in total silence and go and enter into the silence of the tree. That is kind of like a prayer, and the tree understands that you are making that prayer.

“And then you come back inside, and you’d be surprised what kind of extraordinary language you can muster to describe that tree. It is like the tree gives you a box of paints, and, somewhat like Georgia O’Keefe or Emily Carr, you paint the colour of the words the way the tree has directed you to do.”

I often wonder if our Linden tree is a mother tree. I do feel protected when I sit under this tree.

2. Documentary: Judi Dench: My Passion for Trees

Here’s another thing to love about Judi Dench: she’s passionate about trees. Watch her over a course of a year discover a lot of things about the trees she loves including being able to listen to the inner workings of one via a tree “stethoscope”. Every time a close friend or relative dies, she plants a tree in their memory, and we get to visit that grove of trees.

Click here to access a trailer.

3. Children’s Books: “The Top 10 Fastest” series by Sherry Howard

Disclosure: I won these books for completing the Mix ’n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge, and I’m glad that I did.

I received three of the series: land animals, sea animals, and birds. The photographs are stunning and the word play is beautiful. There is a section at the beginning of the book on how best to use the books (before and after reading) as well as back matter with questions. Definitions are scattered throughout.

Not only did I learn which creatures were the fastest but also I discovered some creatures I had never heard of before. My favourite of the three books is the birds volume. 

The other three books are about the fastest machines: boats, cars, and planes.

4. Writing Craft Book: “The Art of Memoir” by Mary Karr

If you are thinking about writing a memoir, then reach for this book first.

Written by the author of “The Liars’ Club” who also is an award winning teacher of the subject, this book is full of awesome tips as well as a quiz as to whether or not you should be writing a one. Memoirs are popular right now, and Karr shares that “hearing each other’s stories actually raises our levels of the feel-good oxytocin”.

I like this book, because it’s more than an instructive text on memoir.  I picked up a lot I can use in real life, such as “…blame makes deep compassion impossible, and in spiritual terms…only compassion can bring about deep healing” and “getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle”.

5. Website: Masterpiece Generator Site

Whether or not you are looking for a fun break from your writing or are actually needing some help with, for example, a name, this site has you covered. It’s a bit like “Mad Libs” where it will write a tongue in cheek blurb for your latest book idea or create a fairy tale plot for you or even write you a poem.

Do you have any recent favourites to share?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler