Tag Archives: creative nonfiction

June 2021 Bookish Resolutions

It’s hard to believe it’s July already.

June was a tough month for me. I’ve always felt that I’ve been operating in life with a smudged map, but this month I’ve felt like my map has completely blown away. So I’m trying to embrace a sit spot for a little bit of a think instead of rushing off on my next adventure. This is particularly challenging for impatient me.

When one of my critique partners sent me this blog post about goal setting, one particular line stood out to me: “Goals are amazing but unless our goals map to growth, we’re simply writing a to-do list.” Yes, that’s definitely what I feel like. I am checking off my to do list instead of growing, so I decided that I am going to revise my bookish resolutions to reflect growth.

That’s why this month’s blog post will contain not only my goals from June but also new goals.

Old goal: Read 24 books this year for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I’m certainly failing this challenge. None read this month.

New goal : I’m still going to pursue this challenge. At the end of the year, I may simply need to cull some of the books that I had hoped to read.

Old goal: Read 12 nature related books this year to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I could put “the river” by Helen Humphreys in either this category or the next. Whichever one, I love this book! 

Humphreys writes about a small part of the Napanee River where she has a waterside property. She writes about its history, what she has found there, the animals and plants there.

I do disagree with Humphreys’ belief that the river is indifferent to her despite her love for it. I believe if you love nature, it will love you back, just maybe not in a “human” way.

So many things to ponder, but I’ll leave you with a couple: 

“The British naturalist and writer Roger Deakin once said that watching a river is the same as watching a fire in the hearth. Both are moving and alive, and the feeling from watching both them is a similar one.”

and

“The river has pushed its banks many times. Does it have memory of this, or a reach beyond itself that it can feel, that it remembers? What does it feel its true size is? Does the river have a kind of consciousness?”

New goal: I’m still going to pursue this challenge.

Old goal: Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

“Bluets” by Maggie Nelson

I listened to this book in audio form, because that was the only way I could without buying it. I’ve never taken to audiobooks, and I still don’t appreciate them, despite the fact that one of my primary modes of learning is auditory. Perhaps I miss the tactile sensation of turning pages. Also, I don’t know how people can multitask when they are listening to an audiobook. If I do this then I am constantly stopping and rewinding, because I have missed something. Finally, I love to write down quotes of my favourite parts, and this is hard to do when you are listening to something.

Well anyway, I love the book. There are 240 prose poems all related to the colour blue. Apparently half of westerners’ favourite colour is blue, and that includes me, so I enjoyed all the snippets of blue information—such as learning about the “blue” people (Tuareg), and that indigo blue was originally the “devil’s dye” until it was made holy, and that the colour of the universe was accidentally declared as turquoise—interspersed with philosophy and poetry.

You can read more about it in this article:

New goal: I will continue with this goal.

Old goal: Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

My summer writing challenge, as set by my daughter, is to write a novel, but I confess we have slacked off lately. I need more motivation to do this.

New goal: Continue with this goal, but find a way to actually do this. Ideas?

Added goal: Read related literature. I need to figure out an actual number.

Old goal: Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week.

Favourites:

“Collectively Speaking” by Chelsey Clammer

So much to love in this essay, especially the term “a resilience of women”

One of my favourite quotes:

“As an editor, I hold people’s stories. As a trauma survivor, I help those stories find their voices. Because it’s the experiences I’ve had that guide me in encouraging other survivors to find a voice. It’s the editor in me that helps to shape that story into something tangible—something we can see. Read. I give feedback about specifics. The mechanics. But as a female trauma survivor, I hold. Help. It might look like I’m by myself, but I’m never alone. I’m holding people’s stories. Guiding, even, the therapeutic activity of crafting a voice for your experience. I’ve read about so much trauma—have seen the ways so many people have survived to tell the story of those who haven’t.”

“The Glass Sliver” by Robyn Fisher

I can totally relate to her experience.

Favourite quote:

“Sometimes, this whole caregiving thing does seem like a wilderness experience. I mean, you got your sandwich, your canteen, your first aid kit. You even got your map and compass. But you’ve never been on this trail before, it’s all new to you. And last night’s storm washed part of it away, so the map does not resemble the path anymore. You’re bushwhacking now, hoping you’re not too far off the trail, and the way will show itself soon.”

“Le Pen de Amazon” by Helen K. Hedrick

Hedrick writes an essay using a choice of words from the book she is reading. I love this idea!

“The Birds: June is for Juncos” by Leanne Ogasawara

“Until the pandemic, I had always considered myself to be a city person. I never thought much about ecological issues until I came back to the US in mid-life. To be sure, Japan was not perfect in terms of the environment–not by any means. But I think it is safe to say that in Japan nature is not held as “standing reserve.” Rather than seen merely as a resource to be used, nature and the seasons are something to which people in Japan strive to be attuned. Deep listening is an especially humbling act, as the ephemeral and transient quality of sound demands attention and focus.”

New goal: Add in some analysis. I will analyze what I like about two creative nonfiction essays per month, which I hope will inform my writing.

Old goal: Read 5 picture books per month

My favourites:

“I Talk Like a River” by Jordan Scott; illustrated by Sydney Smith

The main character is comforted when his father tells him that his stuttering is like talking like a river. Based on a true story.

“A Year of Everyday Wonders” by Cheryl B. Klein; pictures by Qin Leng

A year of firsts and a few seconds and some lasts.

“In a Garden” by Tim McCanna; illustrated by Aimée Sicuro

A rhyming picture book.

My favourite rhyme:

“In a garden

full of green

many moments 

go unseen.”

“A Thousand No’s” by DJ Corchin; pictures by Dan Dougherty

The main character gets a lot of “Nos” for her idea, so she asks for help.

New goal: Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

Old goal: Submit one story to a contest per season.

I submitted a poem and a creative nonfiction essay to The Fringe Literary Contest.

I submitted a creative nonfiction essay to the Amy MacRae award.

New goal: Continue with this goal.

Old goal: Attend one writing webinar per month.

“Outside” virtual book launch—Sean McCammon with Susanne Ruder (New Star Books)

New goal: I’m going to be flexible about this.

Old goal: Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I have been working on my American poetry course. 

New goal: I am going to be flexible about this.

Old goal: Attend a writing group session per week.

Now that it’s summer, one of my writing groups is only meeting every second week, so it may not be doable.

New goal: Meet when we can over the summer and revisit in September.

Old goal: Blog at least twice a month.

New goal: I will continue this.

Old goal: Weekly treasure:

New goal: I will continue this. It’s one of my favourites.

Challenges:

Old goal: HaikuForTwo

I wrote three this month.

New goal: Continue, as I love this.

New goal: I’m going to go back to doing something similar to the 100 day challenge where I break down some of the stuff I want to do on a daily basis. It helped me complete the German novel I wanted to read. Currently, I am reading a horticultural therapy related novel, two chapters a day.

It was good to reevaluate my goals and see what was working and what was not. How’s your goal setting going?

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

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May 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

It’s been a weird month weather wise. We’ve had heat warnings along with snow warnings! During this chaos, I’ve been busy with a couple courses including “Writing Nature Essays” and “Foundations for Practitioners of Horticultural Therapy”, both of which I really enjoyed and highly recommend.

Now I’m looking forward to a break where I can play more in my garden and do some more reading.

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

Alas, I didn’t do any this month!  I am looking forward to catching up over the next few months.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

“The Nature Fix” by Florence Williams

So much goodness in this book. It’s hard for me to pick just a couple of quotes to give you, because there is so much to share. 

Instead I will share this: 

“Distilling what I learned, I came up with a kind of ultrasimple coda: Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe.”

You can watch this video for a little bit more.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

Unbelievably I didn’t read any this month, but I am ahead in this category anyway.

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Done!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week.

Done! My favourites:

“Helping my mother clean out her closet, the year before she died” by Kandace Chapple 

I cannot imagine doing this!

Favourite quote:

“I couldn’t stand to clean out an entire closet, haul away my mother’s wardrobe while she still sat there, living and breathing. I wanted to hear my mother say this wasn’t happening. I wanted another summer with her under the crabapple tree and silver maple, where the branches had met above and grown together, cupping mother and daughter each season.”

“The Single Sentence” by Kandace Chapple

While writing an obituary, a single sentence Chapple writes about her mom changes her approach to parenting.

“Can You Tie My Shoe?” by Kris Martinez

Martinez writes how she chose alcohol over her life, but then decided on her life.

Favourite quote:

“…not every sixth grader knows how to tie her shoes. And we are not the only family who has been through a thing.

But thankfully, we survived.”

“Widow’s Walk” by Melissa Knox 

A stunning essay on grief!

“Shaping the Narrative” by Kelly Eden

In this braided essay, Eden compares her life to the essays she edits.

-Read 5 picture books per month

Done! My favourites:

“Different? Same!” By Heather Teckavec, illustrated by Pippa Curnick

Differences are shown in a group of animals but the group also always has something the same, e.g., they may all live in a different place but they also all have whiskers.

“The Hike” by Alison Farrell

Three friends go on a discovery hike. Lots of great labelled drawings too!

“Percy’s Museum” by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Carmen Mok

Percy moves an discovers that his new house just isn’t the same as his old house until he starts exploring his backyard.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I finally submitted my story to CANSCAIP’s Writing for Children Competition.

Also I am participating in the Mix ’n’ Match Mini Writing Challenge

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

“Love Your Mother Earth” with Diana Beresford-Kroeger (Toronto Storytelling Festival)

“Song of the Universe” with Diana Beresford-Kroeger (Toronto Storytelling Festival)

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I’m not doing well in this category at all.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

Done!

-Blog at least twice a month.

-Weekly treasure:

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote one using two words from “The Nature Fix”.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

April 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I read two: 

“Dear Scarlet: The Story of my Postpartum Depression” by Teresa Wong

and 

“Der Erste Tag Vom Rest Meines Lebens” by Lorenzo Marone

Click here to read about them.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I finally finished my first course, and with it my textbook written by Mitchell Hewson.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

I read three.

“the lost spells” by Robert Macfarlane; illustrated by Jackie Morris

This, a companion book to “The Lost Words”, is meant to be spoken aloud. The pictures are as gorgeous as the words. This is one book that I will buy as gifts for people.

Click here for a taste.

“If I Knew Then: Finding wisdom in failure and power in aging” by Jann Arden

I love this memoir. Arden writes like she is talking to you as a best friend, which makes it a pleasurable read. A lot of the book is about embracing your cronehood—something I wholeheartedly agree with—but also about Arden’s past as the daughter of an alcoholic father and an alcoholic herself.

Favourite quotes:

On her dad:

“I am starting to forgive him for being absent, even for being mad all the time. I realize now that he wasn’t mad at us kids or at Mom; he was mad at his own life. “

and

“Sometimes the devil you don’t know isn’t as bad as the devil you do know, and I will never let anybody tell me any different.”

“The Reason I Jump” by Naoki Higashida

A fascinating, much needed, and rather poetically written look into the mind of an autistic teenager, written by a 13 year old autistic boy.

As someone studying horticultural therapy, I appreciated the following passages:

“… our fondness for nature is, I think, a little bit different from everyone else’s. I’m guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often we’re ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts. 

“…nature is always there at hand to wrap us up, gently: glowing, swaying, bubbling, rustling…You might think that it’s not possible that nature could be a friend, not really. But human beings are part of the animal kingdom too, and perhaps us people with autism still have some leftover awareness of this, buried somewhere deep down.”

Higashida also writes his own stories, and I really love his story called “The Black Crow and the White Dove”. 

I had no idea that the book had been turned into a movie!

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Done!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Done!

Here are my favourites:

“We all have privilege to some degree. What we do with it matters.” by Taslim Jaffer

Favourite quote:

“As a brown Muslim woman, I have been the butt of jokes, the target of overtly racist comments and on the receiving end of microaggressions that prick like tiny needles but nonetheless leave scars. 

But I also go unseen in other situations. Like when I am fair enough to escape colourism or when my Muslim identity isn’t obvious because I don’t wear a hijab. Or, like in the case with the clerk casually referring to the “China virus,” I am not the racial group being targeted. 

In those circumstances, I am privileged enough to decide to say something or not.”

“I lost my mother. This is how I know when she’s with me” by Kandace Chapple

Do you have a sign from a departed loved one? When I see a feather, I associate it with my mom.

“The Covid-19 pandemic may be an opportunity to transform the way we live” by
David Suzuki

Favourite quote:

“In this moment of crisis, we should be asking what an economy is for, whether there are limits, how much is enough and whether we are happier with all this stuff.

Can we relearn what humanity has known since our very beginnings — that we live in a complex web of relationships in which our very survival and well-being depend upon clean air, water and soil, sunlight (photosynthesis) and the diversity of species of plants and animals that we share this planet with?

Can we establish a far more modest agenda for ourselves filled with reverence for the rest of creation?

Or will we celebrate the passing of the pandemic with an orgy of consumption and a drive to get back to the way things were before the crisis?”

“How Not to Get Kidnapped: a Suggestive Guide” by Meredith Town

I really enjoyed this hilarious essay.

“Gliding Toward the Sun, an Essay on Cross-Country Skiing” by Kandace Chapple

Favourite part:

“I skated two full strides and figured I was above water over my head. Few swam in these waters even in the hottest days of July because it would mean bringing out a souvenir leech between the toes. It was just as well. Lake Dubonnet is a lake’s lake—all business, no play. The shores housed a thick racket of brush and trees for birds and deer and coyote. The water bred mosquitoes and bluegill and bass. I loved the lake for its solitude. Not once had I come here to find I couldn’t hear the silence on the other side of the lake.”

-Read 5 picture books per month

Done!

My favourites:

“A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart” by Zetta Elliot; illustrated by Noa Denmon

A Black child explores his emotions over the year, and the emotions include joy, fear, anger, pride, and peace.

“Ten Ways to Hear Snow” by Cathy Camper; illustrated by Kenard Pak

On the way to her grandmother’s house to help make a meal, Lina discovers several different ways to listen to snow.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I am still working on my synopsis for the CANSCAIP contest.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

“Fresh Stories for a New World: Finding Your Stories Through a Practice of Side Writing” with Karen Krossing (SCBWI)

Natalie Goldberg on her new haiku book (Geneen Roth)

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

Alas, I did not do this.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I attended at least one per week, usually two.

-Blog at least twice a month.

I didn’t blog twice last month, but I have already blogged three times this month.

-Weekly treasure:

My tulip that looks like another flower

Challenges:

100 days

I have done it! I have completed reading my German book! Yay me.

Since the 100 days challenge is not over, I have started a new book written in German, but even after the challenge is done, I’m going to keep reading one book I really want to read but find intimidating using the just two pages a day method.

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two, one from “the lost spells” and the other from “The Reason I Jump”.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

March 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

Happy Easter!

It’s hard to believe March has come and gone. It was an unusual March this year: unseasonably warm and with no March Break for the kids, as it has been moved to April.

I completed most of my resolutions this month.

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I read one book from my TBR list, and it was an amazing one called “Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process”. Click here to read more about it.

If you want a sample of what the essays are like, click here.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I got part way through my book club book. It’s a huge collection of stories, which I am taking my time with.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

I read two memoirs:

“Girl in the Dark” by Anna Lyndsey

What would you do if you developed an insensitivity to all forms of light and had to spend all your time in a blacked-out room? Well, that’s what happened to Lyndsey, and you can read all about the highs and lows and the light and the dark in this fascinating memoir. 

Many doctors were puzzled by Lyndsey’s condition, and the memoir has garnered some controversy. You can read about these issues in this article.

I had wondered what happened to Lyndsey in recent years, as the memoir doesn’t end on a positive note with her cure. Fast forward to 2020, and Lyndsey finally got her diagnosis, which is Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It’s a condition she’ll always have to live with, but at least she knows more about how to manage it.

One of my favourite parts of the book is when she finally is able to go outside after a long period of time inside and experience rain again:

“From the crown of my hat to the toes of my boots, an indescribable thrill runs through me. I stand poised at the edge of the lawn, and my starved senses open to this delicious, half-forgotten joy…It is as though I am being kissed by the world, welcomed back to life.”

“Two Trees Make a Forest” by Jessica J. Lee

This 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction award winner and contender for Canada Reads 2021 (which did not win) is not your typical memoir, as it encompasses history, travel, and nature. This short video and this one will give you a taste, hopefully whetting your appetite to read the book.

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

A lot of my writing has been horticultural therapy related, but I also worked on my story that I wish to hand into the CANSCAIP competition as well as critiquing two stories per week.

Bonus:

Read this excellent story from one of my critique partners, which I got to see evolve.

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week.

I didn’t quite read three per week, falling short just a couple, mainly because my assignment for my horticultural therapy course was far more extensive than I thought it would be. Here are my favourites:

“As an immigrant, I wanted to understand Canada’s fascination with the Tragically Hip. This is what I found” by Lindsay Pereira

“What the Hip gave me, eventually, was a key to understanding not just a culture but a people. The band’s songs reflected the hopes and aspirations of city dwellers as well as small towners, recognising a commonality in this shared experience that I began to appreciate as an outsider. The people wearing “In Gord we Trust” T-shirts weren’t just fans; they were identifying themselves as members of a club that had used this music as a soundtrack to their lives.”

“Exit Wounds” by Sue Cann

A braided essay weaving together childhood and adult experiences.

-Read 5 picture books per month

Done. Here are my favourites:

“Terry Fox and me” by Mary Beth Leatherdale; illustrated by Milan Pavlović

Told from the perspective of Terry Fox’s best friend, the story is pre Marathon of Hope.

“Dorothea’s Eyes” by Barb Rosenstock; illustrated by Gérard DuBois

A picture book biography about photographer Dorothea Lange

“A Last Goodbye” by Elin Kelsey; illustrations by Soyeon Kim

A touching picture book about how animals express grief and take care of each other in the end stages of life

Bonus books:

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

This graphic biography about such writers as Maya Angelou, Gene Luen Yang, and Madeleine L’Engle is good for both kids and adults.

“Crows: Genius Birds” by Kyla Vanderklugt

I’ll never look at crows the same way again.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I submitted two:

Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse (TNQ)

This was my first time submitting a poem to a contest.

Rate Your Story Spring Writing Contest: Cooking Up Culture

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I attended two writing webinars:

An Evening with Diana Beresford-Kroeger (IRL)

Interview with Tui Sutherland

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I did a few ModPo lessons from Coursera.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I attended at least one per week, usually two.

-Blog at least twice a month.

Done

-Weekly treasure:

The only ice in my area remaining is on my backyard Linden tree

Challenges:

100 days

I still continue to read 2 pages of my German book a day, and I am getting close to being done! 

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two from the two memoirs I read, but I have yet to be brave enough to tweet them.

New self created challenge:

30 days of awe

Write down something awe inspiring or beautiful for 30 days.

I have loved doing this.

How was your March?

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: From Phosphorescence to The Nature Fix

It’s time once again for one of my favourite challenges! You can read the rules here for the Six Degrees Challenge as hosted by Kate from Books are my favourite and best.

This month we start with a book that I have not yet read, but I’ve had my eye on for a while: “Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark” by Julia Baird. Alas, it won’t be released until July, but it’s another thing to look forward to this summer.

From Goodreads:

“…when our world goes dark, when we’re overwhelmed by illness or heartbreak, loss or pain, how do we survive, stay alive or even bloom? In the muck and grit of a daily existence full of disappointments and a disturbing lack of control over many of the things that matter most – finite relationships, fragile health, fraying economies, a planet in peril – how do we find, nurture and carry our own inner, living light – a light to ward off the darkness?”

It seems a particularly appropriate book to read during these pandemic times.

“Book of Delights” by Ross Gay

From awe and wonder to delight.

I love this book! And even though not everything Gay writes about is delightful, it is still a delight to read the entries. Gay set out to write about a delight every day for a year, and although he didn’t manage to do it every day, he discovered a lot, including that the practice of doing so gave him “a kind of delight radar”. So the more he studied delight, the more delight there was to study. He also discovered that his delight grew the more he shared it.

“Light the Dark: Writers on Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process” edited by Joe Fassler

From delight to life changing.

Do you remember a passage of literature that changed your life? The book is based on Fassler’s series “By Heart”, in which he asked artists to choose a favourite passage from literature and explain its personal impact and why it matters. As Fassler writes in the preface, “…each contributor tells some version of the same story: I read something, and I wasn’t the same afterward.”

“Vesper Flights” by Helen Macdonald

From life changing to wonder of nature.

Macdonald hopes that this book of essays will work “a little like a Wunderkammer. It is full of strange things and it is concerned with the quality of wonder.” She already had me in the first essay when she writes about her experience of clucking to a falcon chick still in its egg and the chick calling back.

“Two Trees Make a Forest” by Jessica J. Lee

From the wonder of nature to a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan.

Having lived in China for a few years, I know a little bit about Taiwanese history as it relates to China, but this book introduced me to so much more. Written by an environmental historian, the memoir shows how “geographical forces are interlaced with our family stories.” Winner of the 2020 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction and a current contender in Canada Reads.

“The Well-Gardened Mind: The Restorative Power of Nature” by Sue Stuart-Smith

From a journey to the forest and flatlands of Taiwan to a journey to gardening and its benefits.

I’ve not read this one, but I am hoping that my book club picks it to read one month, as it would be fascinating to discuss this with like minded people. 

From Goodreads:

“A distinguished psychiatrist and avid gardener offers an inspiring and consoling work about the healing effects of gardening and its ability to decrease stress and foster mental well-being in our everyday lives.”

“The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative” by Florence Williams

From gardening and its benefits to connection to nature and its benefits.

I’ve started reading this, but again I am really hoping that the book will be one of my book club’s picks. The introduction already presents many startling facts. For example, “Mappiness” in a study discovered that it isn’t who you are with or what you are doing that is one of the biggest variables that makes you happy, but instead where you are. Being outdoors in all green or natural environments made study participants happier than being in urban environments.

So what’s the connection between the first and last books? Both deal with ways to weather the storms of life. In fact most of these books deal with that same subject.

I hope that you have enjoyed my journey this month. Next month we will start with 2020 Booker Prize Winner “Shuggie Bain” by Douglas Stuart.

I wish you many happy reading days.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

2021 Bookish Resolutions February Wrap-up

Is it the end of February? Already? Where does the time go?

I traditionally struggle with February, but this year the month felt somehow easier to bear, although it was not without its challenges including a couple of tumbles on the ice resulting in some swelling…Ouch! That’s not like me at all. I usually am steady on my feet on ice…Anyway, perhaps it was a signal to slow down and pay attention more, which I have been trying to do, but I guess I needed to be reminded. A painful reminder indeed. Why couldn’t a sticky note with this message have come fluttering down, landing gently on my forehead instead? Hmmm, this might be the plot of a new story. Messages from the sky!

Anyway, without further adieu, here’s my monthly wrap up.

-Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

I finished one book for this challenge—a book written by my uncle called “Africa Revisited”—so that puts me a bit behind, but I am reading a few other books from my TBR list. I am sure that I will catch up soon. Click here to read about the book.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I have the book for this month’s CHTA book club, which I have skimmed but not finished. Some more catch up to do.

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

Success! I read one memoir this month.

“this is not the end of me” by Dakshana Bascaramurty 

Bascaramurty documented friend Layton Reid’s dying and then eventual death of cancer. It’s refreshing to see more chapters of how his family is doing after his death.

Favourite quotes:

“would you like to learn the secret to taking on life’s most brutal obstacles?

here it is.

there is no secret. just keep moving, dummy. that’s it.”

and

“for better or worse there are days that just suck the good out of you. your spirit, your strength and your hope. and then there are days when the universe seems to rally around your cause when all prospects seem lost at that particular moment.”

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Done!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“After Amanda Gorman’s performance, I’m reminded that poetry has the power to ease a frantic mind” by Millie Morton

Favourite quote:

“Memorized lines of poetry can be retrieved anywhere and anytime, without a charged battery, even in the middle of a dark, sleepless night.”

“I Don’t Buy The Idea That Women Need To Enforce ‘Positive Rudeness’ To Succeed” by Janice Quirt

Favourite quote:

“The world needs compassionate people to lead, work, parent and contribute. I want to teach my kids that they don’t need to sell themselves short in life, but they have to be decent people. Being aggressive or yelling at people may sometimes provide short-term results, but such strategies do little to build long-term trust and loyalty. That’s as true in the corporate world as it was in kindergarten.

I desire to be heard, and I want my kids to be heard, but not at the expense of resorting to cruel tactics. I’m not suggesting that women bend to the whims of assertive men by placating with false niceties, because that won’t resolve anything. But I do think a cultural shift needs to occur, and I’m hoping a more kindness-forward approach, and not flexing to take up space, could benefit everyone involved.”

“Caught in my mental darkness, I don’t know if I can tough it out” by Scott Lear

Favourite quote:

“I also wonder if I have the courage to continue to expose myself in such a naked way. Is courage even the right word, or is it self-serving selfishness? I’m not thinking of the reader I’ve never met, but about my family, friends and colleagues. How will they feel when they read this? Will they feel guilty or mad I haven’t shared my feelings with them? Will they think I’m weak? I don’t want them to feel any of this.

There’s a lot of mental-health stories written after the fact. When someone’s standing at the top, looking down at the abyss they crawled out of. I find this helpful and inspiring. There’s far less written about being in that abyss. What it’s like to be in darkness. To be surrounded by people, yet feel alone. Perhaps it’s because it’s so painful bringing that emotion to the front. It’s easier to keep it inside and let it simmer. Or maybe I just haven’t bothered to look.”

“The Colors of My Life” by Jacqueline V. Carter

Carter writes about her experiences with colourism, which is not the same as racism but a form of prejudice based on skin colour.

“We Need To Calm The F&%$ Down About Parenting Teens” by Jeni Marinucci

Favourite quote:

“It’s about balance. If I freak out and make a huge deal out of a teen sleeping in until 1 p.m. on a Saturday, or spend all our driving time harping about that friend I don’t like or every meal becomes an inquisition over vegetable consumption, I’m raising the stakes AGAINST myself.”

-Read 5 picture books per month

Completed! 

My favourite:

“The Boy and the Gorilla” by Jackie Azua Kramer; illustrated by Cindy Derby

After his mother dies, a boy talks through his grief with an imaginary gorilla, which helps him connect to his father.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

I’m on fire in this category! I submitted to two contests. Although I didn’t win or place in either one, I now have a couple of stories I can play with.

Valentiny 2021

Click here for the results.

Fanexpo Flash Fiction Competition

Click here to read the winning stories.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I attended three, making up for the lack of webinars I attended last month.

“A Conversation with Dr. Robin Wall Kimmerer” hosted by UBC

So many fantastic takeaways from this webinar with the author of “Braiding Sweetgrass”, but my favourite is the response to what an educated person is:

“An educated person knows what their gifts are and how to put them into the world.”

“The Power of Hope: Using Psychological Theory to Help Our Hearts…and Our Writing” (WriteonCon)

diy MFA: My #1 Go-To Writing Technique

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I did not do that, although last month I did several.

-Attend a writing group session per week.

Done!

Blog at least twice a month.

Done!

-Weekly treasure:

The tree I sat on while I watched my husband and daughter tobogganing

Challenges:

NF Fest

I read all the posts, but I did not complete enough challenges to qualify for prizes. It’s not the point anyway. The posts are excellent, and I learned a lot.

100 days

100 days to work on a project of your choosing

I have been reading two pages a day of my German novel, and I am surprised and pleased at how much easier tackling a novel that you find intimidating is that way.

HaikuForTwo

I have done one haiku for this challenge.

New challenge:

30 Words

This is a challenge that has been revived. I’ve not posted my first one yet, but stay tuned…coming soon.

I also realize that if my guiding word for this year is Nurture, I need to set some goals to do that. You would think that would be an easy thing to do, but I don’t even notice I’m not doing it. Thus the message from the ice…

I hope that you have had a good February. Now we turn to March and thoughts of spring. Already I can hear the birds singing in the morning again. Bliss.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

January 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

It’s been a great start to my year.

 -Read 24 books for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.

This month I read “The Happiness of Pursuit” by Chris Guillebeau and “The Kindness Diaries” by Leon Logothetis. Click here to read my summaries of the books.

-Read 12 nature related books to enhance my horticultural therapy study.

I only read 1/3 of my book club selection for my CHTA book club meeting, so I’ll have to do some catching up. I did, however, read one other related book this month.

“Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community” by Richard Louv

-A huge selection of nature based activities for kids and/or adults and individuals and /or organizations to engage in

Favourite quote:

“The point isn’t that technology is bad for kids or the rest of us, but that daily, monthly, yearlong electronic immersion, without a force to balance it, can drain our ability to pay attention, to think clearly, to be productive and creative.”

-Read 12 books that are either memoir, poetry, or soul books.

I read one memoir.

“Field Notes From An Unintentional Birder” by Julia Zarankin

From the jacket cover: The book “…tells the story of finding meaning in mid-life through birds. The book follows the peregrinations of a narrator who learns more from birds than she ever anticipated, as she begins to realize that she herself is a migratory species…”

Favourite quote:

“What I love about birding isn’t so much the birds I see but the circumstances within which I see them. That seeing the birds allows me to reflect on my own life, to forgive myself for things I’ve done, or to understand how they might not have happened otherwise.”

I particularly liked the chapter called “Going Solo”, in which she observes “Birding was helping me develop affection for Toronto, the place I’d always wanted to flee, and that might have been the biggest surprise of all…The most unexpected fringe benefit of birding has been falling in love with my own city.” I can relate. Since I’ve started to learn horticultural therapy and really pay attention to my surroundings during my walks, the urge to flee has been lessened.

-Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Completed!

-Read 3 creative nonfiction essays a week. 

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“The Serviceberry: an Economy of Abundance” by Robin Wall Kimmerer

One of my favourite authors writes about different types of economies. It’s a longer read, but it’s worth it.

Favourite quote:

“I want to be part of a system in which wealth means having enough to share, and where the gratification of meeting your family needs is not poisoned by destroying that possibility for someone else. I want to live in a society where the currency of exchange is gratitude and the infinitely renewable resource of kindness, which multiplies every time it is shared rather than depreciating with use.”

“After my miscarriage, ‘hope’ isn’t what I needed to move forward” by Sarah Faye Bauer

The author writes about a different way of viewing hope, and it really made me think. 

Favourite quote:

“Chodron describes hope as the opposite of mindfulness. Hope “robs us of the present moment,” whereas mindfulness means, “being one with our experience, not dissociating, being right there when our hand touches the doorknob or the telephone rings or feelings of all kinds arise.”

Hope assumes a future time and place of stability. Chodron believes nothing is stable, ever. We are groundless. All we have is right now, just this very moment. This golden, terrible, elevating, horrifying, gigantic moment. And then, if we’re very lucky, another moment more.”

-Read 5 picture books a month.

Completed! Here are my favourites:

“Pirate Queen: A Story of Zheng Yi Sao” by Helaine Becker; illustrated by Liz Wong

Did you know that the most powerful pirate of all was actually a Chinese woman in the 18th century? Read about her in this book.

“Harlem Grown” by Tony Hillery; illustrated by Jessie Hartland

Written by the founder, this picture book is the story of how an urban farm transformed the neighbourhood kids and their families.

“The Great Realization” by Tomas Roberts; illustrated by Nomoco

The poem about 2020 that went viral is recreated in picture book form. Click here to view a reading.

Bonus book:

“Music for Tigers” by Michelle Kadarusman

Set in Tasmania, this chapter book explores the rumours that the Tasmanian Tiger—the last known captive one died in 1936—still exists. The main characters are neurodiverse.

-Submit one story to a contest per season.

This was a biggie for me. I entered the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest. I had 8 days to complete a maximum 2500 word story.

Luckily I came up with an idea right away with the genre of historical fiction, subject of a long journey, and character of surveyor.

This is the most challenging contest I have ever entered, but I am glad that I completed it.

-Attend one writing webinar per month.

I signed up for Jael Richardson’s launch of “Gutter Child”, but unfortunately missed it, so I will watch the recording when I can. That means watching two writing webinars in February.

-Work on one lesson of a writing course per month.

I did several lessons of “Write, Heal, Transform: a Magical Memoir Writing Course” from DailyOm. I have now completed the course. Yay me!

-Attend a writing group session per week.

I have done two a week.

-Blog at least twice a month.

This is my third blog post this month.

-Weekly treasure:

Looking up, up, up while laying down on our blanket during our winter picnic in Guelph.

Other Challenges:

Storystorm

Completed with 50 ideas!

New:

100 days

100 days to work on a project of your choosing starting today.

I chose to read 2 pages every day of the German novel I started 2 years ago, because, hey, it’ll motivate me to finish the novel ,and also I’ll spend some time on improving my German every day.

HaikuForTwo

I love this idea of taking two words from the current book that you are reading and creating a haiku poem from it. You can read more about it in this Storystorm post.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: from “Hamnet” to “off script: Living Out Loud”

It’s the first “Six Degrees” challenge of the year, and I am super excited to see where our book journeys will lead us this year.

For the first chain of 2021, we are going to start with “Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell. Alas, I am still waiting for the book from the library, so I’ll have to construct my chain based on the synopsis.

From Goodreads:

“Drawing on Maggie O’Farrell’s long-term fascination with the little-known story behind Shakespeare’s most enigmatic play, HAMNET is a luminous portrait of a marriage, at its heart the loss of a beloved child. 

Warwickshire in the 1580s. Agnes is a woman as feared as she is sought after for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.”

Let’s dive right in.

“Running on the Cracks” by Julia Donaldson

I also haven’t read this book, but I read recently that Donaldson, more know for children’s books such as “The Gruffalo”, also lost a son. His name was Hamish, and it is in this YA book that he is most present. I have put the book on my TBR list.

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

Another children’s book writer—“Mabel Murple” is her most famous book, and it’s a book that is delightful on the tongue—Fitch also lost a son. In this memoir in verse, Fitch writes movingly of the loss and of her reconstructed world. 

“Still: a Memoir of Loss, Love, and Motherhood” by Emma Hansen

On my list for my Mount TBR challenge, this book I acquired from one of the local little libraries is a memoir of one woman’s experience of something little talked about in our society: stillbirth.

“How to Pronounce Knife” by Souvankham Thammavongsa

This 2020 Giller award winning book of short stories pivots around the theme of loss of culture and values. All the main characters are from Laos, a country I’m not too familiar with, but I’m always interested to learn more about other countries and cultures. Favourite quote: “We lose each other, or the way we know each other gets lost”.

“How to Fly: In Ten Thousand Easy Lessons” by Barbara Kingsolver

Though the poems in this book, Kingsolver’s second book of poetry, have many themes, there are many that are threaded with a palpable sense of loss, especially in her section on ancestors. Kingsolver ends her poem about the death of her mother, with whom she had a challenging relationship, with “Here begins my life as no one’s bad daughter.”

“off script: Living Out Loud” by Marci Ien 

Rounding out the list is this book that I mentioned in last week’s blog post. Ien writes about the ups and downs of her career and her personal life, including several significant losses. 

I hope the theme of loss hasn’t gotten you down. As we look back on 2020, we have all experienced some sort of loss, and sometimes reading about others’ loss in some form or another helps us to cope. I hope that you find something to read from this list, and I hope you join us next month where we’ll start with “Redhead by the Side of the Road” by Anne Tyler.

That wraps up my first blog post in 2021! Happy New Year! Here’s to better times in 2021.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

2020 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

I have done it! I have completed my 2020 Bookish Resolutions!

This has been such a great experience, and I am going to do it again. My 2020 word is “focus”, and this challenge is one of the ways that has helped me to focus.

I am going to do the challenge again (even if it isn’t hosted at the same blog), but I am going to change what I’ll do every week based on what I hope to accomplish in 2021. This year, as well, I am using the templates to design your own challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy.

December Wrap-up

I completed my Mount TBR challenge for 2020 and have already planned Mount TBR for 2021.

-I read a couple of memoirs:

“The Lark and the Loon” by Rhiannon Gelston

Not strictly a memoir and definitely genre pushing. Read my review here.

“off script: Living Out Loud” by Marci Ien

I have long admired Marci Ien, and I loved this book about the highs and lows of her personal and professional life. The structure—a bunch of short stories—is one that I aspire to for my memoir.

Ien is now an MP, and I hope that she’ll write about that experience too.

Favourite quote:

“Fuelled by, I have to confess, a simmering resentment, I began posing the question myself in interviews—not to women but to men. After listing all their accomplishments, I’d say something like, ‘I notice you have four kids. How do you do all that and balance time with your family?’

I’d often be met with long pauses. With, say, ‘I’ve never been asked that before.’ And, sometimes, answers that were quite thoughtful. There are men out there who want to make sure they spend time with their families and are trying to do better on that front. But even these men were slightly taken aback. It wasn’t a question they were used to being asked.”

Watch this interview for more about the book.

-I wrote at least 250 words 5 days a week.

-I limited my social media time: 15 minutes maximum for Facebook and 15 minutes maximum for Twitter.

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

The Birthday Party” by Randi Evans

One of my talented classmates writes about arranging her 70th birthday party in Spain.

I need more people with ADHD in my life” by Brittany Penner

Favourite quote:

“I saw clearly the ways in which they lift my spirit and lighten my heart. They often recover from intense situations quicker than I can even process them. They constantly teach me the necessary art of adaptation to life’s various surprises. They remind me to loosen my grip on certain aspects of life because when those things are gone, acceptance is always less painful. There is always a tomorrow in their world. And if there’s no tomorrow, there’s still today and we might as well enjoy it.”

My Publishing Journey” by Phyllis L Humby

How Humby got not one but two books published.

Project Christmas: How I convinced my Persian parents to let me celebrate the holiday” by Azin Sadr

Favourite quote:

“The following Christmas, my parents bought a miniature tree that came up to my waist. I was so proud of it and decorated that thing like there was no tomorrow. That year, the best gift my parents gave me was keeping my light on: They knew that fostering my spirit was more important than any cultural distress they may have felt. I was not asking to be Christian, I was simply asking to be a part of the holiday spirit.”

“A first hand account from an Alberta ICU during Christmas” by Dr. Raiyan Chowdhury 

Favourite quote:

“I know Christmas and the holidays for all Canadians is going to be hard this year.

It’s especially sad in our unit.

Most Canadians know that while this year will be lonely, they will see their loved ones in person again and life will eventually return to normal.

That’s not the case for our COVID-19 patients and their loved ones.

For some in our unit, this will be their last Christmas together. I try to remember that as I power through one of the most difficult working weeks of my life.”

“One card, 50 years of greetings: the ultimate green Christmas tradition” by Lorna Krahulec Blake

I love the idea of sending a card back and forth for 50 years!

Bonus:

I had to share three poems by one of my classmates. They brought me to tears when he read them in class.

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

“The Library Bus” by Bahram Rahman; illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Set in Afghanistan. Pari becomes Mommy’s library helper on the library bus.

“A World of Mindfulness” by the Editors and Illustrators of Pajama Press

One of the better books about mindfulness.

“A Quiet Girl” by Peter Carnavas

Mary is a quiet girl, which allows her to hear things that nobody else hears.

“From Tree to Sea” by Shelley Moore Thomas; illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal 

What various elements of nature can show you about yourself. I like what the moon can show you the best: “…even when I change I am still me”.

“Violet Shrink” by Christine Baldacchino

In this book about anxiety acceptance, Violet doesn’t like going to parties, but her father keeps taking her to them, until they work out a compromise.

“Swift Fox All Along” by Rebecca Thomas; illustrated by Maya McKibbin

Based on the author’s story. Swift Fox starts to learn about her indigenous (Mi’kmaq) heritage.

Bonus books:

“Pretty Tricky: the Sneaky Ways Plants Survive” by Etta Kaner; illustrated by Ashley Barron

Quick change artists, exploding flowers, and seeds in disguise? What’s not to love about these plants that are masters of deception?

“The Vegetable Museum” by Michelle Mulder

For ages 9-12, this story revolves around an heirloom vegetable garden while tackling several issues of loss.

-I attended several writer’s events:

Interview with Vicky Metcalf award winner Marianne Dubuc (Writer’s Trust of Canada)

Interview with Matt Cohen award winner Dennis Lee (Writer’s Trust of Canada)

To access both of these interviews, click here.

Interview with Rupi Kaur (q)

To access this interview click here.

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.

Bad news though. I lost my object diary when my computer died. Let’s hope that it is retrievable. 

-Here is one of my weekly treasures:

Wishing everyone a better 2021.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

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