Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

July 2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrapup

-I read one book for the Mount TBR challenge. Click here to read about it.

-I read one memoir this month.

“Rosalie Lightning” by Tom Hart

This is a memoir in graphic novel form about the unexpected loss of Hart’s daughter shortly before her second birthday. It was a challenging read for me, but then books about the death of a child always are.

For a preview, click here.

-I wrote well over 250 words five days a week.

-I limited my social media time.

-I read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week. Here are my favourites:

From the UN, a photo essay of pandemic pictures from around the world.

“Is it the end of travel as we know it? Should it be?” by David Gillett

Many people are musing about how travel will change after Covid-19. Gillett also addresses this issue.

Favourite quote:

“The potential for smaller and smarter crowds in the places I visit is welcome. But I need to look in the mirror and examine myself as well. What do I contribute when I travel? What do I take? Is there some balance to my explorations, something more meaningful than simply the online purchase of carbon offsets?”

Something we should all think about.

“I’m Black. I’m male. Give me the benefit of the doubt, please” by Daniel Reid Newall 

Newell writes about the racism he has experienced.

Favourite quote:

“At the end of the day, when you see my Black face, all I ask is to be given the benefit of the doubt. Treat me with kindness, dignity and respect, in any order. I think they call it being inclusive.”

“From now on, I am the weak link in pandemic chain letters” by Nancy Wood

I can totally relate to Wood’s essay, as I break chain letters too, because I don’t like imposing on others: 

Favourite quote:

‘Of the “thanks but no thanks” notes I received, one in particular resonated because it helped me clarify what I dislike about chains. “I hate to be a party pooper,” my friend wrote, “but I truly don’t do chain letters. … I hate imposing on others.”’

“I’m a visible minority in Toronto but didn’t feel like one until I wore a mask” by Ian Leung

Leung writes about the experience of wearing masks in Asia vs. wearing masks in Canada.

Favourite quote:

“In truth, wearing a mask is a sign of solidarity; its strength comes from numbers, from the collective action, from the many willing to take a small sacrifice and inconvenience for the well-being of strangers in an unsung and unheroic fashion.

Wearing a mask is not just a proven tactic to fight the spread of disease, it’s also a symbol: it shows the world that you care, both about yourself and those around you. I am wearing a mask now so one day we won’t have to.”

“Am I a ‘Karen’?” by Chelsea O’Byrne

O’Byrne muses if she is a Karen, which is “an entitled white woman who wants what she wants.” O’Byrne feels like she’s a Karen, even if she is fighting injustice.

The concept of a “Karen” has been examined in the news lately, and it one that I ponder too.

“People watching from my mother’s park bench” by Tamara Levine

My dad liked to people watch, and so I enjoyed reading this essay.

Levine buys her mother her own park bench on her 80th birthday, as people watching on benches is her favourite thing to do.

Favourite quote:

“It went like this: 1. Choose a particular passerby, pair or group. 2. Notice their expressions, their posture, their gestures. Take note of gender, age and so on. If they are talking, you listen for snippets of conversations. Listen for tone. Notice who talks more, who interrupts. 3. Invent a story of what is going on. If you’re with a co-conspirator, invent as you go along, each of you adding tidbits as the story unfolds. Facts are not required, just some keen observational skills and imagination.”

“What I read to my mother on her terrible, horrible, no good, very last day by Juanita Giles

As her mother lays dying of Covid-19, Giles reads her three children’s books over and over.

Favourite quote:

“I ended up choosing three books to take with me that second day: Todd Parr’s The Goodbye Book, and Kathryn Lasky’s Before I Was Your Mother. And of course, Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I figured those three books sort of ran the gamut for the day Momma and I were about to face, so I packed them along with my mask, my gown, my gloves, and my hand sanitizer, and tried to prepare myself.”

-I read 5 picture books per week. Here are my favourites:

“The Eagle Feather Story” written by Francois Prince and performed by Mark Barfoot; pictures from the community

I had the pleasure of being able to not only read but also listen to this interactive book in both English and the language of the Dakelh (Carrier) Peoples.

The eagle feather is sacred to the Dakelh Peoples, and those who have an eagle feather are to be respected. In this book, the eagle shows how feathers are earned, and gives feathers to several animals for their acts.

“Tanna’s Owl” by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley; illustrated by Yong Ling Kang

The book is based on Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley’s experience of raising an owl. Main character Tana raises Ukpik the owl after her father gives the owl to her. Owls are considered magical because they bring land and sea together.

“Encounter” by Brittany Luby; illustrated by Michaela Goade

Fisher and Sailor meet in 1534. Despite their differences, they are able to find common ground.

The book is  a reminder that Jacques Cartier and his crew were visitors when they arrived in North America, and there is a focus on Stadaconan knowledge.

“The Little Book of Big What-Ifs” by Renata Liwska

The book explores many different what-if questions, often opposites, e.g., “What if you can’t think of anything?” vs. “What if your imagination runs wild?”

“Sterling the Best Dog Ever” by Aidan Cassie

Sterling the dog wants a home, so he disguises himself as a fork, but when he sees the family eating with hands, Sterling figures that he needs to be something besides a fork.

I laughed through the entire book!

Bonus:

Click here to access an article that has a list of Canadian children’s writers who have shared readings of their books—some picture books, some not—online.

-I attended several writer’s events online.

“Three Things to Consider When Writing a Memoir” with Alison Wearing

This workshop is part of Eden Mills Writers Festival series of mini workshops.

Access that workshop as well as others by clicking here.

“Music for Tigers” with Michelle Kadarusman

This webinar is available until October 16. The book is a fictional book about helping surviving Tasmanian tigers. in reality, Tasmanian tigers have been declared extinct, yet there is a belief that some still survive.

This year Hillside Festival was free online the weekend of July 24-26.

I watched Evelyn Lau read poems from “Pineapple Express”, Joy Kogawa read an excerpt from “Obasan”, Chelene Knight read from her hybrid memoir “Dear Current Occupant”, Madhur Anand read from her half biography half memoir “This Red Line Goes Straight to your Heart”, and Karen Solie read from her book of poetry “Caiplie Caves”.

All of them impressed me and made me want to read their books. So far I have secured a copy of “Dear Current Occupant”, which I will write about in August’s wrapup.

-I spent at least one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

-I blogged one time a week, and I even wrote an extra blog post yesterday.

-I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

This month I focussed on my spoon collection.

Bonus: Sharing a picture of my snake’s tongue, blooming, which is a rare thing

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

June 2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrapup

-I read two books for the Mount TBR challenge this month. Click here to read about them.

-I read one non Mount TBR challenge memoir this month.

“You Won’t Always Be This Sad” by Sheree Fitch

One of my favourite children’s books is “Mabel Murple” by Sheree Fitch. Her wordplay tickles the tongue.

However, this book, a memoir in verse about the death of her son, has a completely different tone, although the wordplay also is tongue tickling.

One of my favourite quotes:

“…Of all the standard phrases I’ve heard the best is

in Finnish:

‘Otan osaa suruasi,”

which means ‘Let me carry a small piece of your pain.’”

Click here and here for more information about the book.

-I wrote over 250 words five days a week.

-I continue to limit my social media time.

-I read at least 5 creative nonfiction essays per week. Here are my favourites:

“I’m Writing” by Zalika Reid-Benta

The author reflects on how writing makes her feel fine during this pandemic.

Favourite quotes:

“That’s, really, the true order: I’m not writing because I’m fine, I’m fine because I’m writing.”

and

“I’ve had no moments of epiphany during my writing, no moments of sweet release, but without being consciously aware of it, writing has acted as a shelter from listlessness and potentially devastating anxiety, which allows me to feel fine, to feel more or less the same as I did before all of the uncertainty, and while that gift may be a quiet one, it’s one I am truly thankful for.”

Reid-Benta just won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award for her book “Frying Plantain”, which is on my TBR list.

Michael Enright’s Week 13 Covid-19 Personal Essay

Enright ponders the question whether the lockdown was worth it. He also writes about the differences in the north vs. the south.

Consider this:

“At last count, Brazil was registering 30,000 new confirmed cases a day. Russia and India, about 8,000 cases a day. All told, poorer countries account for three-quarters of the 100,000 new cases detected worldwide each day. And those numbers likely suggest an undercount.

Which means if we truly believe the cliché “We are all in this together,” richer countries should be planning huge humanitarian programs now, and looking at issues such as debt forgiveness and financial support.”

“Pondering Invisible Prisons While Living Under Lockdown” by Tara McGuire

Favourite quotes:

“I’ve been thinking of the imprisonments of addiction, disability and unemployment; of being limited in one way or another by gender, race, or poverty. I’ve been thinking of Indigenous people, born into a cultural confinement by virtue of a colonial system they didn’t ask for. I’ve been thinking of all the jails I could never see before because they weren’t pushing up against my own easy-street life. Now that my own freedom has been stripped away, replaced by time to think about it, to feel it, I see these imposed structures much more clearly. Now that I’m being inconvenienced by a lack of Lysol wipes and a shrinking RRSP.

I’ve been forced to look at myself — at how many freedoms I’ve always enjoyed but never really noticed, and certainly didn’t cherish. Invisible freedoms of affluence and education, food security and choice.”

and

“I hope I don’t get too preoccupied with the details of my own economic survival to see the walls, still standing, where they have always been, the invisible barriers that already, before COVID-19, imprisoned so many. I hope I remember that what was temporarily taken away from me, so many others never had to begin with.”

-I read 5 picture books per week. Here are my favourites:

“Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies” by Megan Lacera and Jorge Lacera

Mo, a zombie, loves to eat vegetables. He grows and cooks them secretly, because his parents don’t like veggies. Mo tries to figure out how to convince his parents to eat more vegetables. Mo also wonders if he actually is a zombie.

“Hello Neighbor! The Kind and Caring World of Mr. Rogers” by Matthew Cordell

This fabulous picture book biography details the journey of Fred Rogers from childhood to TV icon.

“What Grew in Larry’s Garden” by Laura Alary; illustrated by Kass Reich

Grace helps next door neighbour Larry in the garden. They are not just growing vegetables, but plants that Larry’s students give away accompanied by a letter in order to connect people. After a fence is built by neighbour casting a shadow over the plants, Grace has to figure out a solution.

The main character is based on a real person. Alary read an article about a disagreement over a fence and the book was born.

“You Matter” by Christian Robinson

My favourite line refers to the sun (and perhaps some people we know and love):

“Even if you are really gassy. You matter.”

“Just Like Me” by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

This is a lovely book of poetry for children. Two of my favourite poems are “The Day I Decided to Become Sunshine” and “All in Together Girls”.

“You and Me Both” by Mahtab Narsimham; illustrated by Lisa Cinar

Jamal and the main character like doing the same things, and they think they are twins despite the differences in skin colour.

You may have heard the true story in which two five year old boys, one black and one white, get the same haircut to fool their teacher. The author wrote the book after reading the story. Click here to read about the boys.

“Going Up” by Sherry Lee; illustrated by Charlene Chua

The main character is going to a party on the 10th floor; the elevator stops at every floor to pick up a diverse cast of characters.

Bonus: 

These are a couple of older picture books that I love.

“The Wakame Gatherers” by Holly Thompson; illustrated by Kazumi Wilds

Set in Japan, the main character is bicultural and biracial. She lives most of the year in Japan but spends her summers in Maine. When her gram from Maine comes to help with the wakame harvest, the main character worries about being the translator between her and her Japanese granny.

“Ron’s Big Mission” by Rose Blue and Corinne Naden; illustrated by Don Tate

This is a picture book biography of late astronaut Ron McNair, who at 9 demanded that he be allowed to take out library books just like others despite his skin colour.

Click here for more about this book.

-I attended several writer’s events.

“Writing Non-Fiction” with Jenny Heijun Wills

New to me this year is the gritLit Festival in Hamilton. I already am an admirer of the author’s book, so I was thrilled that I could participate in her workshop.

“Dangerous Liaisons: Women and Memoir”

This webinar is another wonderful offering by 85 Queen at the Kitchener Public Library in partnership with The New Quarterly.

The webinar was moderated by Kim Davids Mandar and the presenters were Susan Scott, Lamees Al Ethari, Emily Urquhart, and Carolina Echeverria.

Take a look here.

“Great Expectations”

This webinar, moderated by Karma Brown, was one of the offerings by Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, which has gone online this year.

The presenters were Rachel Matlow, Michelle Parise, and Alison Wearing.

EMWF has a great series of webinars online this year: fiction, nonfiction, poetry…: Click here to check out the listings. Maybe you’ll want to register for one or two.

If you are interested in memoir writing, Alison Wearing runs online courses, and you can access a free excerpt here.

Eufemia Fantetti’s “Writing Illness, Writing Wellness”

I have been a fan of Fantetti ever since I heard her speak at Wild Writers’ Festival last year.

Fantetti is working on expanding this workshop into a course.

During the webinar, one of the articles she recommended was “Put down the self-help books. Resilience is not a DIY endeavour”, which I found to be eye opening.

Favourite quote:

“When it comes to maintaining well-being and finding success, environments matter. In fact, they may matter just as much, and likely much more, than individual thoughts, feelings or behaviours. A positive attitude may be required to take advantage of opportunities as you find them, but no amount of positive thinking on its own is going to help you survive a natural disaster, a bad workplace or childhood abuse. Change your world first by finding the relationships that nurture you, the opportunities to use your talents and the places where you experience community and governmental support and social justice. Once you have these, your world will help you succeed more than you could ever help yourself.”

She also recommended this Covid-19 self care checklist by Yolande House.

-I spent at least one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

-I blogged one time a week.

-I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

May 2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrapup

Mount TBR challenge

I did read one book this month, but that puts me behind in the challenge. I have found that although I am writing a lot, I am not reading very much. I do have several books that I am near completing, so hopefully I will finish one or more soon. Plus I am now in a book club, which will help motivate me to read more. Click here to see what books for the challenge I have read so far this year.

-I read one memoir from the library this month:

“The Gratitude Diaries” by Janice Kaplan

Kaplan decides to spend a year embracing an attitude of gratitude, and seeks advice about gratitude from psychologists, academics, and philosophers. The book is divided into four seasons: winter (marriage, love, and family), spring (money, career, and the stuff we own), summer (gratitude and health), and autumn (coping, caring, and connecting). My favourite section is summer, the gratitude and health one, because I believe embracing gratitude has a significant impact on health.

Some of my favourite quotes from the book:

“It now turns out that the immune system may respond to emotions. Worry, anger, or fear send those same white blood cells out on patrol, and even though they don’t have anything specific to attack, they leave a trail of dangerous inflammation. Feeling gratitude could actually counter the effect…”

and

“The whole happiness movement drives me crazy because it’s so binary. Are you happy or not?” Linda <Stone> complained…”The real question should be—how can I appreciate this moment more? What feels good right now? There is always some positive in the moment that we can notice and appreciate.”

and

“Gratitude had changed me, and I suddenly had an image that gratitude could also transform the whole world. However dismal global events may be, looking for the bright spots allows us to survive and move on. Gratitude spreads quickly to other people. Charles Darwin believed that the societies with the most compassion are the best able to flourish. Acts of kindness are noticed, reciprocated, passed forward. If we put good into the world, maybe, just maybe, it starts to be returned.”

-I wrote more than 250 words five days a week.

I am writing a lot, though not as much about the pandemic like last month. 

-I am successfully limiting my social media. I no longer go on Sundays and sometimes even not on Saturdays.

-I read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.

Here are my favourites:

I’d be rather amiss if I didn’t mention my own essay called “Chain Reaction”. Click here to read it. 

Pandemic Journal: an Entry on Rejoicing at the Grocery Store” by Glynn Young

In this essay, a senior writes humorously about a trip to the grocery store during the pandemic.

This quote made me think:

“I wonder why the news media focus on the 1918 influenza epidemic but say nothing about 1957 or 1968.”

When your ‘to-do’ list is taking over your life, try a ‘to-don’t’ list” by Emelia Symington Fedy

The author tries to find out who she is if she doesn’t keep doing. 

Favourite quote: “I made a direct connection between my output and my right to be happy. That’s a lot of pressure.”

How my husband and I spent our final hours together” by Judith Pettersen 

The author writes a very touching essay about the final hours of her husband’s life.

Favourite quote:

“They gave my husband what he desperately wanted: the gift of a conscious parting, something not many terminal patients experience. They gave him dignity.”

Working in Long Term Care These Days is Breaking my Heart” by Monica Catto

One of the essays that adds to the conversation about the long term care situation in Ontario right now.

“Separation during Isolation” by Marcello di Cintio

The author separated from his wife in the beginning stages of Covid-19, when he anticipated a new life, but he is still waiting for it

Favourite quotes:

“There was something poetic, we agreed, about drinking our wedding champagne on the last day of our marriage. But once we took a sip we realized the champagne had soured. Too much time had passed. There was something poetic about this, too.”

and

“Ironies abound. One of the main reasons our marriage ended is because M and I stopped spending time together. Now, due to social distancing rules and the fact that our son is splitting time between our two houses, M is the only other person I can responsibly spend time with. Suddenly all we have is each other.”

“I’m giving MS the finger, but I admit, this disease has taught me resilience” by Sheri Astorino

The author writes about her life with MS.

-I read 5 picture books per week.

These are some of my favourites:

“Usha and the Stolen Sun” by Bree Galbraith; illustrated by Jose Bisaillon

The sun hadn’t shone for such a long time that only Usha’s grandmother remembers it. A big wall to block it out had been made by the people who made the rules. Usha sets off on a journey to find the wall herself and destroy it.

I Want to Be: A Gutsy Girl’s ABC by Farida Zaman

An ABC book with unusual, nontraditional occupations and their descriptions including ice sculptor, kite designer, quarry worker, ufologist, and zipline operator

“Double Bass Blues” by Andrea J. Loney; illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez

This is a 2020 Caldecott Honor Book.

This book has very few words but amazing pictures. The book chronicles the Nic’s journey home with the double bass and the obstacles he meets on the way. He takes those incidents and puts them into his music with his granddaddy’s band.

Going Down Home With Daddy by Kelly Starling Lyons; illustrated by Daniel Minter 

This is a 2020 Caldecott Honor Book. 

Lil Alan goes with his family to a reunion at his grandmother’s farm to celebrate their roots, but he doesn’t have anything to pay tribute. Ghanan symbols (Adrinka) are scattered throughout the book.

“Bear Came Along” Richard T. Morris, illustrated by LeUyen Pham

This is a 2020 Caldecott Honor Book. 

In this book about friendship, several animals have an adventure on the river together.

“From the Stars in the Sky to the Fish in the Sea” by Kai Cheng Thom; illustrated by Ching and Li 

In this book the main character, Miu Lan, questions why they have to be just one thing.

You can listen to the book on Julie’s Library.

“The Wise Owls” written by the Senate of Canada

This book is about how the senate came to be. Click here to read the full text. 

Bonus children’s book: “Can you hear the trees talking?” by Peter Wohlleben (ages 8-12), which is the young reader’s version of “The Hidden Life of Trees” 

I love how he makes tree life understandable for children, and I especially love the chapters like “What do tree children learn at school?”, “Do some trees prefer to be alone?” and “Are some trees brave?”. Wohlleben writes about fascinating concepts such as how forests make rain and how ants collect honeydew from aphids.

-Attend 12 writer’s events over the year, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.

This month I attended a lot online, as the literature community has been very generous.

-Lana Button’s Facebook Live supported by #canadaperforms. Button read her book “What if Bunny’s not a Bully”, but also discussed her own background, as well as her belief that bullying is a delicate topic. She discussed how children should not be labelled at such a young age and that they should be allowed to make mistakes.

-“Poetry and Porridge: Breakfast with “A Likkle Miss Lou” author Nadia L. Hohn, in celebration of April 2020 Poetry Month”. 

This talk was presented by A Different Booklist Cultural Centre

Hohn read the book, but also introduced us to Jamaican culture, including songs, food, and clothes.

-L. E. Carmichael, a former scientist, read part of her book “The Boreal Forest”. She also discussed the boreal forest, especially the animals in it and also her writing process. Fun fact: Carmichael’s favourite boreal forest animal, the star-nosed mole, is the only land based animal that can breathe underwater.

Virtual Book Launch of “Two Bicycles in Beijing” and “For Spacious Skies”

done through the Writing Barn along with Book People

“Two Bicycles in Beijing” introduced by author Teresa Robeson

I really enjoyed this talk, as the book is set in Beijing. Robeson talked about the book, as well as her family trip to China in 2013. She even showed slides!

Robeson mentioned that she is unsure how people will receive this book given today’s conditions, but hopes it helps with understanding and fostering unity.

“For Spacious Skies” introduced by author Nancy Churnin

This nonfiction book is written about Katharine Lee Bates, author of the “America the Beautiful” poem, who was born in 1859. Churnin has a related project for kids called “For Spacious Lines”.

Fold Poetry Webinar

This year the Festival of Literary Diversity (FOLD) was free online.

I loved this seminar, hosted by Canisia Lubrint and Billy-Ray Belcourt, as I was

exposed to a lot of poetry I would not normally have been, eg., Caribbean and Rwandan poems.

Another excellent Fold webinar was on Fractured Fairy Tales.

I particularly enjoyed the interesting discussion, moderated by Thea Lim, about fairy tales and whether they equip us for pandemics.

-Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

I’ve been working a lot on a journal I intend to give to my daughter.

-Blog one time a week except if I am on holidays. 

Feel free to read my previous blog posts.

-Write about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary per month.

I always leave this to last, but I learn so much in the process.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Kindness Jar (Isolation Version)

I have read about kindness jars, and last week I decided to try using one. There were several reasons for this including the fact that when you are isolating with people you often take them for granted, and you can sometimes forget to be kind to each other. Another reason is that you often forget to be kind to yourself.

I made several slips that we draw after lunch. So far it’s been a hit!

The only rules I made is that you cannot do the same thing two days in a row, and if you don’t want to do one, then you may put it back, but then you have to draw two more. We also have been a bit flexible, eg., on the days it was raining no one had to go birdwatching. The task was completed on a sunny day instead.

Below are the ones I put in my jar. Feel free to use any or make up whatever suits you and your current companions instead.

Suggestions for a Kindness Jar

Do a chore.

Give a member of your family a 5 minute massage.  

Ask someone to share an uplifting 5-15 minute video with you.

Send someone a picture of an animal.

Compliment someone.

Tell someone that you are proud of them for something.

Make someone a card.

Tell someone that you appreciate them and what for.

Draw or colour something for someone.

Make someone a healthy snack you think that they will like.

Ask someone to share part of their current favourite book with you.

Be kind to an animal.

Tell someone a joke.

Be kind to some plants; spend 15 minutes working in the garden.

Ask someone to share a current favourite song with you.

Ask someone what small kind thing you can do for them today.

Stretch for 10-15 minutes.

Spend 10-15 minutes birdwatching.

Spend 15 minutes in the backyard.

Spend 5-10 minutes meditating with someone else.

Ask someone about what they enjoying right now. Listen.

Make someone a cup of tea.

Spend 10-15 minutes writing a poem.

Be like my forget me nots.

I’d love to hear if you decide to do one yourself and what the results are. Or if you have already used a kindness jar, what other tasks did you put in there.

Bonus: My creative writing teacher posted my creative nonfiction essay on his blog. Yay! Click here to read it.

Another bonus: I am hoping that I can participate in all 7 weeks of Susanna Leonard Hill’s Eenie Meenie Miney Mini Writing Challenge. My first story is called “The Knight’s Princess”. 

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

April 2020 Wrapup

I am so glad that I put myself on a schedule at the beginning of the year, especially after listening to this podcast, which—amongst other things—talks about how putting ourselves on a schedule helps in a pandemic. Listen to the podcast for that information and also for a fascinating look at several topics including hoarding, xenophobia, different attitudes to social isolation, and mental health.

I didn’t complete any books for the Mount TBR challenge, but I am in the midst of reading several books at once, which I expect to complete over the next couple of months.

I read two memoirs this month, both of which I highly recommend. I consider myself lucky that I had taken a bunch of books out of the library before it closed, as now the earliest it will reopen is June 30.

“Heart Berries” by Terese Marie Mailhot is a book that I have been wanting to read for a long time. This award winning book is a series of letters written to her husband Casey. The indigenous author writes about her relationship with him, motherhood, her relationships to her mother and estranged father, and her mental illness.

Watch the video for an excerpt.

There is an interview at the back of the book, and this quote comes from it: “I was abused, and brilliant women are abused, often, and we write about it. People seem so resistant to let women write about these experiences, and they sometimes resent when the narrative sounds familiar.”

Also this interview sheds a little more light on the book.

“The Art of Vanishing” by Laura Smith

Smith investigates the disappearance of child novelist Barbara Newhall Follett while at the same time writing about modern marriage and its constraints. The author delves deeply into her own relationship and an experiment of open marriage.

A lot of this book resonated with me—being restless and a wanderer myself. For example, this quote really made me think: 

“This is one of the dilemmas of marriage: how can you stoke desire for the things that you already have? Domesticated love borne out over the years can disappoint with its myriad banalities. The once-prized person fades into the scenery of your life just as a new piece of furniture becomes another object in your living room.”

In this interview with Smith, the author admits that she is still looking for Barbara Newhall Follett, and she is looking forward to the time when her social security records will be make public, which is in about 15 years. 

I wrote well over 250 words five days a week, much of it, but certainly not all, pandemic related.

I continue to limit my time on social media. I also take a complete break from it on Sundays.

Here are my favourite creative nonfiction essays: 

“What the Gulf War taught me about Coronavirus” by Ayelet Tsabari

I attended a workshop that Tsabari held last year at Wild Writers, and her book is one that I am slowly working my way through.

In this personal essay, Tsabari writes about how during this pandemic she is trying to be like how her mom was during the Gulf War (her mother must have been afraid, but she never let it show). Consider this quote: “Parenting in a pandemic, it turns out, is very much like parenting in wartime: an exercise in not falling apart, feigning strength with the hope that it sticks. But instead, it is my daughter who unknowingly offers me solace. When I’m with her, dancing and making art, everything is well in the world—I’m the one who forgets.”

There are so many parts that resonated with me, such as: “What I learned from the Gulf War is that the only way to cope with the uncertainty is to accept it, to root ourselves firmly in the present, to live small. This also helps calm my anxiety…”

“From a social distance, there is comedy” by Tabatha Southey

Favourite quote: “A side effect of quarantine is the distortion of time. Time spent at home, unbroken by even a trip to grab that little finishing touch for dinner, moves slowly. Each day bleeds—no, bleeds is too violent for this kind of temporal acquiescence—cedes to the next, and yet as the occurrences around which many of us form our lives have been cancelled, one by one, events, those larger markers of time, have moved at a breakneck pace.” 

“Talk about the Curse” by Caroline Tanner

Tanner writes about her experience of her period growing up and of how women in other countries deal with their periods.

“Law & Yoga” by Jennifer Lauren

Lauren writes about how so many women after 40 are unhappy. She uses her own life as an example; I can relate to much of what she says in this article.

“Tongue-Tied: The Silent Struggle of Losing Your Native Language” by Kamal Al-Solayee 

Al-Solayee writes about language attrition and his own experience of it. He rejected his language and religion and purposely forgot it, but now he wishes to regain what he lost.

Right now with the library being closed, I am listening to picture books on Tumblebooks, which is currently free, but also some that are being offered on YouTube by various authors, such as by the Forest of Reading Blue Spruce nominees.

Here are my favourites:

“Clarence’s Big Secret” by Roy MacGregor and Christine MacGregor Cation; illustrated by Mathilde Cinq-Mars

This is a very inspirational nonfiction book.

Despite all the things he did, Clarence never learned how to read until just about the age of 100. He only told his wife, and she did everything until she passed away, and then he taught himself to read using junk mail. Eventually his daughter Doris discovered his secret and taught him more.

“Florence and Leon” by Simon Boulerice; illustrated by Delphie Côté-Lacroix

This book explores disabilities in a very unique way. The author illustrates Florence’s lung problems and Leon’s eye problems through the use of straws. It’s a good example of successfully using adult characters in a picture book. 

“Golden Threads” by Suzanne del Rizzo; illustrated by Miki Sato

This book is written from the perspective of a stuffed fox.

The stuffed fox’s home is in Japan with Emi and a gingko tree, but one day the fox is blown away in a storm. Kiko, who repairs the fox with golden thread, becomes the fox’s new playmate. 

“What Matters” by Alison Hughes; illustrated by Holly Hatam

A boy picks up a can on his walk and doesn’t realize the ripple effect he has made, making it better for so many animals and plants and the world in general.

“That’s Not Hockey” by Andrée Poulin; illustrated by Félix Girard 

This is a Forest of Reading Blue Spruce readaloud.

Who remembers the Heritage Minute about Jacques Plante, the unorthodox Montreal Canadiens goalie who was the first to wear a mask? Watch an extended version of the story below.

“Earthrise” by James Gladstone; illustrated by Christy Lundy

This nonfiction book, which was written for the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Apollo 8 mission, is the story behind the picture of the earth with a part of the moon. The creation of Earth Day was inspired by the photo.

“Emma’s Gems” by Anne Renaud; illustrated by Leanna Franson

This is another Forest of Reading Blue Spruce readaloud.

I absolutely love the concept of generosity gems, and I think it’s is something all ages can do. Watch the video to hear this lovely story.

Bonus:

If you are looking for a stunning novel for ages 11+, try “Refugee” by Alan Gratz.

I listened along with my daughter to the novel that her English teacher selected for their read this year. The story of three refugees from three different time periods (1938 Germany,1994 Cuba, 2015 Syria) are intertwined. Click here if you want to see if it is appropriate for your child.

Right now SCBWI is holding free webinars for its members, and I attended one this month. I sat in on the one with Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler called “How We Write Children’s Books and Why”. Who knew that the man who used to play “The Fonz” is now a prolific children’s book writer (partnered with Oliver) and a proud member of SCBWI?

I spent more than one hour a week writing in my guided journals.

I have blogged every Sunday.

I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

When my daughter and I were sewing, and in need of red thread, we pulled out my grandmother’s sewing box–which is now one of the objects in my diary–and it’s hard to believe that my daughter used her great grandmother’s thread for a sewing project.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

March 2020 Wrap Up

I have been reading a lot recently about how many creatives are feeling scattered and unproductive. It’s not a surprise considering that the situation we are facing with COVID-19 is new to everyone plus there is no knowledge of how long this situation will continue. Be gentle with yourself at this time.

I am glad that I made a schedule at the beginning of the year, because for the most part it’s what is keeping me going these days.

Here is what I did during March, despite the major obstacles:

You can click here to read what books I read for the Mount TBR challenge.

I read two memoirs from the library.

“Birds Art Life” by Kyo Maclear, which I blogged about in this post.

During a difficult time in her life, Maclear decided to start tagging along with a musician who watches birds. 

I feel a kinship to Maclear perhaps because she was raised similarly—an immigrant mother who was embarrassed by her lack of English fluency, for example. As well, she writes this about her father: “Prepare your mind for the worst, my father taught me, this is how you stay alive”. My father taught me the same philosophy. Maclear has a way of articulating so many things I think. 

I am going to buy this memoir and read it again and—something that I don’t normally do—put notes in the margins.

“My Grandfather Would Have Shot Me: A Black Woman Discovers Her Family’s Nazi Past” by Jennifer Teege and Nikola Sellmair

This memoir was not technically published within the last five years, but it is so good, I decided to include it. 

Teege, who is adopted, discovered that she is the granddaughter of Amon Goeth, whom many may know through his depiction by Ralph Fiennes in “Schindler’s List”. After her discovery Teege went on a search for her history including finding out more about her beloved grandmother and reuniting with her mother.

Sellmair wrote about Teege’s journey after doing her own interviews and research. Sellmair also included a lot of background information, such as what happened to the relatives of several very famous Nazis.

I wrote more than 250 words five days a week.

A lot of what I wrote was how my life has changed and continues to change since COVID-19 and social isolation.

Five days a week I will limit my social media: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

This was a challenge, and I didn’t always adhere to this outline, e.g., on the days when I needed to find out more about social isolation. I have cut back again, and, in fact, I am even going to spend some days like today social media free.

Read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.

These are my favourites:

“Still Life” by Georgina Blanchard

Blanchard writes about the stillborn birth of her son. She and her husband had to make the heartbreaking decision of whether or not to carry their child to term despite the risk of serious disability; in the end, she and her husband decided to “set him free”. Blanchard writes about when they found out, decision making, and the aftermath of support and sympathy.

“They Call Him a Ghost” by Emily Urquhart 

This essay is an excerpt from her book “Beyond the Pale”, which I am currently reading. Urquhart has a daughter with albinism, and in this chapter she writes how albinos are treated in Africa; specifically this is one story of what happened to a tween boy in Tanzania.

“After two decades on antidepressants, who am I?” by Emily Landau

Landau muses about her identity. Is it the same as it would be if she hadn’t grown up on antidepressants?

The Silent Spring of COVID-19” by Michael Enright

Some of my favourite lines: 

“It is the random inconsistency of the thing. It is nowhere and everywhere.” and  “From the blizzard of reports, here is what we know: essentially nothing.”

“Widespread contagion has become our greatest unifier” by Michael Enright 

Enright touches upon many truths regarding COVID-19: how hard it is not to touch our faces; how war analogies are used; how there are momentary splashes of colour.

“Life in Lockdown” by Laura Bain

Bain, a Canadian journalist, reflects on her current lockdown in Italy but also her previous ones in Turkey and Sudan.

Read 5 picture books per week.

These are my favourites:

“The Legendary Miss Lena Horne” by Carole Boston Weatherford; art by Elizabeth Zunon 

Weatherford writes about Lena Horne’s life from birth to old age. The pictures are as amazing as the text is.

“Straw” by Amy Krouse Rosenthal; illustrated by Scott Magoon

As the cover says, “First there was Spoon. Then came Chopsticks. And now the last…STRAW”.

Rosenthal is one of my favourite authors, and this book, published after her death, is as good as her others.

Straw always wants to be first until one day he gets brain freeze. Then one of his glassmates teaches Straw that some things need to be savoured. It’s chock full of the fun puns that Rosenthal did so well.

“Salma the Syrian Chef” by Danny Ramadan; art by Anna Bron 

I love this book!!

Salma and her mother are both from Syria, and Salma’s mother has lost her smile. Salma wants to make her mother laugh again, so she decides to make foul shami. She gets a little help from her friends from the Welcome Centre, who come from all around the world. 

The heartwarming book is set in Vancouver. 

“My Heart Fills With Happiness” by Monique Gray Smith; illustrated by Julie Flett

This book celebrates Indigenous culture, but all kids can relate to it. It was the TD Grade One Book Giveaway in 2019, and those lucky kids who received it got an edition with Cree as well as English or French.

“Be You” by Peter H. Reynolds

Reynolds is another of my favourite authors. Listen to him read the book in the video below.

“The Good Little Book” by Kyo Maclear; illustrated by Marion Arbona 

A boy finds the good little book, and they become companions, but then one day the boy loses the book. He searches for it, but when he cannot find it, eventually his heart is opened to other stories. When he sees the good little book with someone else, he lets it go, and he realizes that it stays in his heart.

Attend 12 writer’s events, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.

I attended three:

-Sally Armstrong’s talk on International Women’s Day at the Kitchener Public Library, which I blogged about here.

-“Voice: The Most Elusive Skill Every Memoirist Can Harness to Become a Better Writer” hosted by Brooke Warner and Linda Joy Myers

On May 1 Warner and Myers will be hosting a memoir event, which includes Elizabeth Gilbert.

-“Writing Through Tough Times” hosted by the Writing Barn

Several creatives gathered together and shared how they are coping with the current situation. It helped to listen to what others are feeling (as I mentioned, many are also feeling scattered and blocked) and to know that I am not alone.

Bonus: Did you know that SCBWI is hosting several free webinars? Click here for more information.

Bonus: I have been listening to Sheree Fitch’s podcast. Click here to access it.

Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

I have spent more time than that, as my daughter is currently home from school, so we work together on some of the prompts.

Blog one time a week except if I am on holidays.

Feel free to read some of my previous entries.

Write about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary per month.

I am learning a lot doing this.

Did you know that there is a Gerz beer stein library? Click here to access it.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

February 2020 Bookish Resolutions Challenge Wrap up

Yay! I completed all my bookish resolutions for February. Here are some of the highlights.

Click here for the books that I read for the Mount TBR challenge.

These are the memoirs I read this month:

“Nobody Ever Talks About Anything But the End” by Liz Levine

Levine writes about the death of her childhood love from cancer, as well as her younger sister by suicide.

The format is uniquely made in the form of the alphabet, and according to Levine, “My Alphabet isn’t a history of death. It’s a collection of things that make up death.” These things include topics such as condolences, death-iversary, goodbye, music, and nightmares.

“Year of No Clutter” by Eve O. Schaub 

Schaub attempts to declutter her “Hell Room”, the one that she hides from people, over the course of a year. The lessons she learns are: trust herself, keep less and use more, and be imperfect. In the end she realizes that what has changed, more so than the room, is herself.

I am also going to include the following two memoirs, although they technically don’t qualify according to the standards I set, as they are both more than five years old, but both are excellent and worth a mention. Both were recommended by friends.

“What the Psychic told the Pilgrim” by Jane Christmas

Christmas decides to walk the Camino for her 50th birthday along with a group of women, most of whom she barely knows. A psychic predicts the happenings in advance, including losing the other women and meeting a fair haired man.

“A Kiss Before You Go” by Danny Gregory

Gregory writes and illustrates in graphic novel form a touching account about the loss of his wife for about a year after her death.

I wrote 250 words five days a week.

I limited my time on social media.

I read more than five creative nonfiction essays a week. Here are my favourite creative nonfiction essays this month:

Depression, Part 2” by Allie Brosh of “Hyperbole and a Half” fame

An older blog post, but worthwhile reading as Brosh tries to explain what it is like to be depressed to people who have never experienced depression.

The Truth About Wanting to Die” by Anna Mehler Papeny

This is an excerpt from Mehler Papeny’s book “Hello I Want to Die Please Fix Me”. 

The Year I Lost my Voice” by Anne Fenn

Fenn loses her voice and discovers it is because her vocal cords are too tense. She discovers that she has lost her voice physically, because she has lost her voice metaphorically.

Fighting Symmetry” by Laurie Gogh

Gogh writes about how after his grandfather’s death, her son starts certain rituals, as he is trying to bring back his grandfather, and she realizes that he has OCD. This is an excerpt from the book “Stolen Child”.

I read far more than two picture books a week. Here are some of my favourite picture books:

“The Undefeated” by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This poem written to Alexander’s second daughter celebrating black lives won the 2019 Caledcott Medal, as well as a Newbery Honor and other awards.

“The Pencil” by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula, illustrated by Charlene Chua

When Anaana goes away, Ataata lets them do something that is not normally allowed: use Anaana’s pencil. The pencil brings so much joy, but also the lesson of using things wisely.

“Story Boat” by Kyo Maclear, pictures by Rashin Kheiriyeh

A family is fleeing their home, but the little girl and her brother use their imagination to help them get through their trip.

“Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution.” by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

This is a non fiction book about the Stonewall Uprising in Greenwich Village, which was when the LGBTQ+ movement changed.

“The Worst Book Ever” by Elise Gravel 

This book is not only fun for the kids, but also a good warning book for writers. Gravel shows mistakes that are commonly made in writing, e.g., dialogue not moving the story forward and using big words to appear smart.

I attended two writer’s events:

1. WriteOnCon webinar about Writer Self-Care, which I blogged about here.

2. Vocamus Press’ workshop “Building Poems From What’s Already Written” in which poet and academic Karen Houle showed us how she builds her poems using an object exercise. Vocamus Press hosts a series of free workshops at the Guelph Library every February. 

This was my favourite guided journal this month:

I kept up my blogging this month.

I wrote about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary.

I also decided to start studying again. Did you know that you can get some free “Great Courses” on Kanopy, which is often accessible through your library? The course that I have started working on is called “Becoming a Great Essayist”.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

January 2020 Wrapup

So how are you doing with your resolutions? I am proud that I have been able to keep up with mine.

Click here to read the results of my January 2020 Mount TBR Challenge.

Memoirs

Hey, hey, I read three memoirs this month, so I am already 1/4 of the way to the total number I wanted to read this year. I recommend all three, which are:

“The Long Hello: Memory, My Mother, and Me” by Cathie Borrie

Borrie intersperses stories of her growing up with her (then) current day of taking care of her mother with Alzheimer’s.

“Life Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA” by Amaryllis Fox

Fox writes about her life from her childhood through her life in the CIA through her resignation and her life after. I wouldn’t normally read a memoir like this, but I am glad that I did. It gave me a peek into a life that I could never imagine living.

“The Unwinding of the Miracle: a Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything that Comes After” by Julie Yip-Williams

Yip-Williams had stage 4 colon cancer when she started writing this book. She writes about living and dying with cancer, as well as her childhood in Vietnam where she was born blind. Especially touching is her letter to her children in chapter 2.

Writing 250 words five days a week

I far surpassed my word count, even on the week that I had tendonitis in my left arm, although that meant that I had to type one handed on some days. I got one story idea out of my writing, which I need to flesh out.

Five days a week I will limit my social media: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

I achieved this goal, and I found it to be very beneficial, although at times hard, because on the days that I was really tired, I found myself at first wanting to distract myself with social media. I have managed to break the habit, and now instead I look for something that really needs to be done, such as organizing my photo albums.

According to this article, you need down time to be creative anyway.

Read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.

I found this to be particularly eye opening. You really need to think about the creative part of your nonfiction essay, as magazines and editors are always looking for new ways a subject is tackled. 

I particularly enjoyed the first three winning pieces in WOW’s 2020 Q1 Contest. Click here to access the following essays:

“Bugs: When I knew it was time to leave him” by Meghan Beaudry 

Beaudry describes her marriage before and after her illness, and how being able to get rid of a bug meant independence.

“The Hole” by Kelley Allen 

The twist at the end shocked me.

“Zucchini Bread Keeps Away the Dead” by Julide J Kroeker

Kroeker describes various ways she could kill herself and then ultimately why she would not.

Read 2 picture books per week.

I read more than 2 picture books per week. These are my favourites:

“Ping” by Ani Castillo

This is a very philosophical book in which a ping represents you and a pong the other.

“Nine Months Before a Baby is Born” by Miranda Paul and Jason Chin

I especially recommend this to parents who are expecting a second child.

“It Began With a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way” by Kyo Maclear

How a Japanese girl who felt invisible in America introduced diversity in children’s books. “Babies”, published in 1963, became one of the first children’s books to introduce multiracial characters.

Attend 12 writer’s events, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.

WriteOnCon currently has free Showcase webinars, and I watched the one on critiques, which was presented by Olivia Hinebaugh.

Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

This was one of the most difficult goals to achieve, and I usually left it until the end of the week, but I did do it. My favourite journal was:

Blog one time a week except if I am on holidays.

Feel free to read my previous entries to confirm this.

Write about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary per month.

This also was a challenge, and I left it until later in the month.

One fascinating thing I learned about while doing my research was the former East German company Expertic, which I have some pieces from.

How did you do? If you are having troubles meeting your goals, it may be because you are having difficulty changing your habits, and this article explains why.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler 

2020 Bookish Resolutions Challenge

I normally don’t make New Year’s resolutions—I just make them any time of the year—but I am hoping that by participating in the “Bookish Resolutions Challenge”, it will help me with achieving some of my goals. I will schedule my time based on these resolutions/goals.

According to the post, “Bookish Resolutions Challenge is about setting New Year’s Resolutions for Reading, book blogging or Writing”. Also, “Sign Up is between now to February 28th, the challenge starts January 1st and ends December 31st 2020”. You can read more about it by clicking here.

This fits in with my guiding word, which is “focus”. I didn’t realize how scattered I was until recently. 

These are my resolutions:

-Besides participating in the Mount TBR challenge, where I plan to read 24 books from my TBR pile (2 per month), I am planning on reading 12 memoirs, (1 per month.) These memoirs will come from the library and will be new in 2020 or written in the last 5 years.

-I will write 250 words five days a week.

-Five days a week I will limit my social media: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

-Read 5 creative nonfiction essays per week.

-Read 5 picture books per week.

-Attend 12 writer’s events, whether these are workshops or writing circles or talks.

-Spend one hour a week working on one of my many guided journals.

A selection of my guided journals

-Blog one time a week except if I am on holidays.

-Write about 10 objects for my “Cabinet of Curiosities” object diary per month.

These resolutions are the minimum that I hope to achieve this year. Check back periodically to see how I am doing.

How about you? Have you made any resolutions? Do you have a guiding word?

January 2020 Wrapup

Success!

Wild Writers Literary Festival 2019

The Wild Writers Literary Festival is held once a year in Waterloo, Ontario. I enjoyed my first festival so much last year, I decided to attend again this year. This year I signed up for three workshops.

“Facing Your Fear of Poetry”

The facilitator, Sarah Tolmie, is an associate professor at University of Waterloo.

The workshop began with us breaking into groups of four in order to braid long ropes together. Although no one understood why we were doing this exercise, we had a lot of fun with it. You can see the results in the picture.

Afterwards we discovered that weaving together the braids was a metaphor for the process of creating poems. We then discussed what we had learned through the activity. For example, weaving together the strands made them connected, and, therefore, stronger. As well, you need to get the blood flowing to your brain in order to be able to create. So if you are ever sitting in front of a blank screen, then go out and do something, and, according to Tolmie, preferably something complicated.

“Ten Tips for Writing Great Creative Nonfiction”

This was my favourite workshop of all three. One reason is that I am starting to write more and more creative nonfiction.

The other is because the facilitator Ayelet Tsabari, author of a memoir in essays called “The Art of Leaving”, was very generous in sharing her tips to writing great creative nonfiction.

Tsabari began by saying that everybody has a story. (This is something I have always said. I really enjoy talking to people about their story as opposed to the latest TV shows or movies.) However, if you want to write great creative nonfiction, you need to tell your story well. Tsabari shared some tips about how to do so. She gave many great suggestions including discussing that often puzzling term called “Voice”, which she defined as your distinct personality, or what sets you apart from other writers. She also tackled the controversial issue of “show and tell”. According to Tsabari, you need to not only show but also tell; however, you need to know when to do each. In the picture you can read one of the author’s examples of showing from her own work.

A member of the “Creative Nonfiction Collective Society”, a national organization, gave a brief talk at the beginning of this workshop. The society will be announcing a contest soon, and they will host a conference in Toronto in May 2020.

“Self-Care for Writers 101”

This workshop was facilitated by Inkwell Workshops, a Toronto based organization.

A panel of writers discussed self-care for writers, which is a topic that needs to be addressed more often. For example, after writing, particularly on a difficult topic, you need to do something you enjoy. For me, that would mean taking a walk or chatting with a friend. How about you?

I am looking forward to next year’s Wild Writers Literary Festival. As well, I am considering entering the Creative Nonfiction Collective Society’s contest and may even attend their 2020 conference.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2019 Linda Schueler