Tag Archives: Memoir

2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge: Book Review of “The Puzzler”

It’s hard to believe that we are almost at the end of the first month of 2023!
I am posting my first book review for the 2023 Nonfiction Reader Challenge—hosted by Book’d Out—called “The Puzzler” by A.J. Jacobs. Last year I read “The Year of Living Biblically” by the same author.


It’s hard to figure out how to categorize “The Puzzler”, which is a book not only about puzzles but also of puzzles. The book crosses genres with elements of memoir, history, and the arts in it.
Jacobs sets out to convince the reader that puzzles can help save the world. “If we see the world as a series of puzzles instead of a series of battles, we will come up with more and better solutions, and we need solutions more than ever,” the author notes in the introduction.
Even if you aren’t a puzzle fanatic, you will find plenty of interest in this book whether it’s learning about Kryptos at the CIA headquarters, Lewis Carroll’s obsession with the number 42, or the naughty riddles of the Exeter Book, which were composed by monks. Travel along with Jacobs as he represents Team USA at the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship, tackles the hardest corn maze in America, and participates in the MIT Mystery Hunt. Jacobs even tries his own hand at puzzle making but discovers that he is not cut out to be a puzzle maker.
If you do love puzzles, the book is chock full of puzzles including an original puzzle hunt at the back of the book designed by Greg Pliska. Or, if you are able to find the passcode in the introduction, you can go to The Puzzler website to solve 27 mind bending but fun puzzles.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book and, best of all, I’ll be able to go back and try to solve all the puzzles throughout the book.
What new to you nonfiction are you reading?

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2023 Linda Schueler

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WOW Blog Tour Stop: Review of “Rebirth”

Book Summary

When life is calling, often we need only the space and the support to remember our way. Sometimes we lean into our expansion, and sometimes we bolt from our greatness. The biggest shock is that big change happens in small choices. In Rebirth you will find real-life stories of people who made courageous leaps, inspiring you to make your own. It’s time to step out of line and back into the spiral of life—that’s where the alchemy is. This book fits right into the side pocket of your bag + your life to inspire you as you read others’ stories of how they listened and learned to make embodied changes in their own lives.

Review

I chose to review this book for this WOW blog tour, because I am currently in limbo—again—so I wanted to read something inspirational. Already the introduction this “mosaiced memoir” of Benton’s own rebirth caught my attention with the line “I have lived through the time of transition from ‘what is no longer’ to ‘what is becoming’ several times over.’ Oh, so I am not the only one who finds herself repeatedly in limbo.
Although Benton also writes in the introduction that not every chapter—which has a “guest star” as an example—will appeal to everyone, I found that there was wisdom in all chapters. However, I will focus on a couple of my favourites:
“Continuous Becoming”
Kim Murriera, a “Midwife of the Creative” says in this chapter, “When you hear that someone’s overarching theme matches your own, it helps you to realize life is not all about me and my traumas…Life is cyclic, and that is what I like to illuminate. There is a breathing in and a breathing out. There is a waxing and waning. There is happiness and there is sadness.” As well, Murreira notes, “We may realize, It’s not just me and my life; it’s how life is. We can settle into breathing into it with more calm and vitality and acceptance.”
Wisdom such as this underscored that I am just going through a temporary period of my life, and that “This too shall pass”, and I found this comforting.
“Trust Your Place”
In this chapter, David Newman, sacred mantra artist, singer-songwriter, and teacher says, “Consider how much noise is out there in the world on so many levels…Whatever aspect of mind that has been drilling or driving at a person, when that’s released…an opening takes place where healing happens. Now there are many ways that can happen, but mantra is a very powerful and ancient one.” Later Newman continues, “For me, mantra is the closest sound to silence.”
This chapter reminded me of the importance of taking breaks, and of silence, and it also made me more interested in learning more about Sanskrit and mantras.
You can listen to Newman’s mantras on Youtube.
My third favourite chapter (“Doubt and Grace”) I mentioned in my previous post for Nonfiction November, and if you want to read it, I direct you to that post.
That’s just a small taste of what’s available to you in the book. I hope that you take the time to slowly savour this book. I am sure that you will find something of comfort in “Rebirth”, and I am betting that it will be more than one thing.
You can stop by WOW’s blog to read an interview with Brenton and also to enter to win a copy of the book (enter by December 4).
Be sure that you stop by the other blogs to read what others have to say about “Rebirth”.

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November, Week 4

This week in Nonfiction November, we are looking at “worldview changers”. I’m going to suggest three books that I have read or been reading this year, but certainly my mindset has been changed by a vast plethora of books over the years.

“How to Make a Plant Love You” by Summer Rayne Oakes
This book is the latest in the books I have been reading over the past few years, which have given me a different view of the plant world. Focussed on the plants that we take into our homes, there is a practical exercise at the end of each chapter to help you understand your plants and plants in general more deeply. The book is scattered throughout with ideas that made me pause, such as ‘…one of the more common inquiries from aspirant urban plant owners is, “What plant is hard to kill?” I want to get there by positing a different question…Next time you go to a plant shop, or purchase a plant online, don’t just ask what plant you’d like to live with, but ask what plant would like to live with you.’

“Rebirth” by Kate Brenton
This is a book that I am going to be reviewing this weekend for a WOW blog tour, so be sure to stop by again, if my description piques your interest. Rebirth is Brenton’s “mosaiced memoir” of her own rebirth. Every chapter has a theme with an example of someone’s life journey. I was struck many times by key points in the book, such as “…the more we consume, the more bloated and extended away from ourselves we are. The modern pace leaves little time for digestion.” This to me was an appropriate metaphor of what is happening in our society. You wouldn’t eat food all day long and never allow it to digest, but many of us are doing that with information, including me. It’s a good reminder to sit with whatever you have recently read or seen or listened to, and allow yourself time to process it, instead of moving immediately onto the next thing.

“Native Wisdom for White Minds” by Anne Wilson Schaef
Written in 1996, this is a book that I picked up at a little library, which has a daily reading related to indigenous wisdom. I am mainly exposed to North American indigenous teachings, so it’s interesting to read perspectives from other indigenous cultures, such as Maori or Aborigine, and, interestingly, they tend to be similar. Some of the language is outdated in this book, but the concepts are not.

So another three books like my post from last week. I hope you’ll leave a comment about which of them you have read or which books that you would recommend to me.

See you next week for a wrap-up.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November 2022, Week 3

This week in Nonfiction November it’s “Stranger Than Fiction”. This week’s host is “Plucked from the Stacks”.

I’m starting with a recent book that my book club partner Bev and I just finished reading, and that’s “The Year of Living Biblically” by A.J. Jacobs. A.J. Jacobs is a master of doing personal quests and then writing about them. Jacobs’ books all seem to be in the line of “stranger than fiction”, and you might have read “Know-it-all” about Jacobs’ quest to read the entire Encyclopaedia Britannica, but I have not. However, I cannot wait to read Jacobs’ latest book, “The Puzzler”.

In the “Year of Living Biblically”, Jacobs decides to follow the bible as literally as possible—so long as it’s not dangerous—which includes following some of the most perplexing rules, such as not wearing mixed fibres. His journey takes him on some truly jaw dropping adventures, including wearing a white robe in public, which Jacobs discovers is a “polarizing garment”. I highly recommend this book, as it discusses biblical history and different takes on the bible from a wide range of Jewish and Christian faiths.

Our current book club read also has some jaw dropping moments, and I am sure many of you have already read “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls. Barely into this memoir, I am already shocked by the contents. Chapter 1 gives us a glimpse of Walls as an adult, as she avoids her mom who is rooting through a dumpster. In subsequent chapters, she sets herself on fire while cooking hot dogs at age 3 and learns how to handle her father’s gun at age 4. Truly a life I cannot imagine!

A book I am reading on my own is Emily Urquhart’s latest, “Ordinary Wonder Tales”. Urquhart had me hooked with the first line: “The year that I turned three I slept in a bedroom that was known to be haunted.” Urquhart is a folklorist, so she weaves folklore throughout her own stories, and the result is a beautiful patchwork of personal stories, folk stories, and history. Jaw dropping moments come in not only in the stories themselves, but also when we see how Urquhart is treated whether it is being shamed after relating her haunted story or during some perplexing medical encounters.

I leave you with three books, and hey! Three is supposed to be a satisfying number in literature.

What about you? Have you read any of these books? What nonfiction have you read this year that is stranger than fiction?

See you next week!

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Nonfiction November, Week 2

It’s time for week 2 of Nonfiction November, which is hosted this week by “What’s Nonfiction?”

This week we are concentrating on book pairings. I find pairing books to be a very challenging exercise, so it took me a while to come up with one. Next year I will be sure to think ahead and make pairings throughout the year.

If you loved “To Speak for the Trees” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger…

From Goodreads:

“When Diana Beresford-Kroeger–whose father was a member of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and whose mother was an O’Donoghue, one of the stronghold families who carried on the ancient Celtic traditions–was orphaned as a child, she could have been sent to the Magdalene Laundries. Instead, the O’Donoghue elders, most of them scholars and freehold farmers in the Lisheens valley in County Cork, took her under their wing. Diana became the last ward under the Brehon Law. Over the course of three summers, she was taught the ways of the Celtic triad of mind, body and soul. This included the philosophy of healing, the laws of the trees, Brehon wisdom and the Ogham alphabet, all of it rooted in a vision of nature that saw trees and forests as fundamental to human survival and spirituality.”

…then read “Pursuing Giraffe: a 1950s Adventure” by Anne Innis Dagg

From Goodreads:

“In the 1950s, Anne Innis Dagg was a young zoologist with a lifelong love of giraffes and a dream to study them in Africa. Based on her extensive journals and letters home, Pursuing Giraffe vividly chronicles Dagg’s realization of that dream and the year she spent studying and documenting giraffe behaviour. Her memoir captures her youthful enthusiasm for her journeys–from Zanzibar to Victoria Falls to Mount Kilimanjaro–as well as her naïveté about the complex social and political issues in Africa.”

I have connected these books in several different ways. Both women are pioneering scientists, both reside in Canada, and both have a lot to say about sexism in the field of science.

I had the pleasure of interviewing zoologist Anne Innis Dagg, who lives fairly close to me. That interview led to a picture book manuscript that made it all the way to acquisitions but ultimately was rejected. I was disappointed for myself but also for Innis Dagg, whose story had been long ignored.

So I was thrilled when years later a movie called “The Woman who Loves Giraffes” debuted, finally giving Innis Dagg the recognition that she deserves. More recently a picture book about Innis Dagg written by a more famous Canadian writer has been released, which I greeted with mixed feelings (and a few tears).

Innis Dagg also has a more recent memoir called “Smitten by Giraffe”, which is on my TBR list.

I admire both Beresford-Kroeger and Innis Dagg for their groundbreaking studies and feminist activism, and I recommend that you read about both.

Have you read either book? Do you have a related book you’d like to share? I love to read your comments.

See you next week.

Shoe’s Seeds and Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

Six Degrees: From “No One Is Talking About This” to “tiny beautiful things”

It’s been quite a few months since I last participated in the Six Degrees challenge. Although I love making the connections, some life obstacles got in the way of my participation. I’m glad to be back.

This month we start with a book I have not read called “No One Is Talking About This” by Patricia Lockwood.
From Goodreads:
“As this urgent, genre-defying book opens, a woman who has recently been elevated to prominence for her social media posts travels around the world to meet her adoring fans. She is overwhelmed by navigating the new language and etiquette of what she terms “the portal,” where she grapples with an unshakable conviction that a vast chorus of voices is now dictating her thoughts.
Fragmentary and omniscient, incisive and sincere, No One Is Talking About This is at once a love letter to the endless scroll and a profound, modern meditation on love, language, and human connection from a singular voice in American literature.”

“How to Break Up with your Phone” by Catherine Price
I thought of this nonfiction book—and its focus on the “endless scroll”—after I read the synopsis of Lockwood’s book. I am not sure I am so addicted to my phone that I need to read it.

“The Power of Fun” by Catherine Price
Written by the same author as the previous book, I wanted to read this nonfiction book, because I am enjoying reading the next book on this list so much.
From Goodreads:
“In this follow-up to her hit book, How to Break Up with Your Phone, Price makes the case that True Fun–which she defines as the magical confluence of playfulness, connection, and flow–will give us the fulfillment we so desperately seek.”

“Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness” by Ingrid Fetell Lee
I am right in the middle of the chapter on play in this book. From the get go, the nonfiction book grabbed me with a story about how simply putting a layer of vibrant orange paint on a historic old building in Tirana, Albania, started the journey to completely revitalizing a city! Several times I have paused in the book to do some further research on people like landscape designer Piet Oudolf, or places like the Integratron in California and the Reversible Destiny Lofts in Tokyo.

“Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes
A memoir in which Rhimes decides to say yes to a whole bunch of things that she said no to in the past, transforming and revitalizing her life. My favourite chapters are the one on motherhood and the one on marriage. Consider this quote: “You know what’s a bigger taboo than being fat? Not wanting to get married.” Agree, disagree?

“Becoming” by Michelle Obama
In this memoir, Obama writes about her time from childhood to after her husband’s presidency. I found Obama to be totally relatable. She grew up with lots of doubts and challenges, yet she continually questioned her assumptions and improved her approach to tackling life obstacles.

“tiny beautiful things” by Cheryl Strayed
Not memoir, but Sugar aka Cheryl Strayed uses a lot of her own personal stories (a bundle on a friend’s head, kittens trapped in a wall) to answer questions in this collection of letters addressed to “Dear Sugar” of the Rumpus. Sugar never sugarcoats her answers, but if she is criticizing in one sentence, she is encouraging in the next. I found myself learning a lot about how other people live, but I also found myself not feeling so alone when my own life was reflected in other letters.

All the books on this list except the first one are nonfiction, perhaps reflecting my reading style more than anything. But do the first and last books connect? It’s hard to compare, because I haven’t read the first book, but I can tell you that Strayed often writes about things that no one is talking about.

So those who participated this month: where did your journey take you? And those who didn’t participate, where would your journey take you? It’s so much fun to contemplate!

Next month we’ll start with “The End of the Affair” by Graham Greene. I hope to see you again.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories
@Copyright 2022 Linda Schueler

December 2021 Bookish Resolutions

I hope that you found some sort of peace and comfort during this holiday season. Although still challenging, my celebration this year was better than last year’s.
On this Boxing Day, I am posting my last “Bookish Resolutions” post:

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

Well at least I am wrapping up my year with two books that count towards this challenge.

“In-between Days” by Teva Harrison
I read Harrison’s book “Not One of These Poems Is About You”, and then I decided to read this book, her “hybrid graphic memoir” about living with incurable breast cancer. Harrison decided to write and draw her way through living with the disease, and this collection is the result. I didn’t find it to be a downer, but instead very raw and honest.

“The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations” by Oprah Winfrey
I bought this book for my husband a few years ago, and it has taken me that long to finish the book, dipping in and out of it over the years. It has a lot of goodness in it, and it is meant to be savoured. Maybe I just wanted to savour it for a very long time.
From the epilogue:
“…as long as you are asking the right questions of yourself, the answers will readily reveal themselves. Who do you want to be? How can you allow who you want to be to thrive in all aspects of your life?”

You can see my list from the whole year on my Mount TBR post.

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

None

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

“I Hope This Finds You Well” by Kate Baer
Baer makes erasure poems—turning the negative into positive—from comments she receives or things she reads on the internet. My favourite is “Re: My Daughter’s Struggles”.

“the untethered soul: the journey beyond yourself” by Michael A. Singer
A gift for my birthday, I found this book about inner peace and freedom very appealing. However, freeing myself is easier said than done. Luckily, the author himself states that this path takes a lifetime of work. I have the companion journal, and I will tackle it in the new year. I look forward to further insights.

“How to Avoid Making Art (Or Anything Else You Enjoy)” by Julia Cameron
Cameron nudges you in this graphic novel to remember the things that can stand in the way of you and your creative process. For example, “Talk about it so you don’t have to do it.”

“The Listening Path: Six Weeks to Deeper Creativity” by Julia Cameron
I’ve been trying to hone my listening skills, but a lot of the exercises Cameron suggests either I already do or are ones that do not appeal to me. Still the book did nudge me to remember to listen in different ways. Most important for me though was that the book brought me back to doing “Morning Pages” and “Artist’s Dates”.

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Not much writing done this month. Whenever I meditate though, I’ve been hearing the call to write again.

Read related literature to my novel writing.

Not done.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month.

“I Regret Telling My Mother Her Traditional Chinese Soup Was ‘Gross’” by Katharine Chan
I lived in China for three years, and it was very much a “food as medicine” culture. I enjoyed the reminder through this article, as the mother explains to her daughter the benefits of each food that was in the soup.

“How to Tell Your Mother She Can’t Go Home Again” by Heidi Croot
I was put in a similar position with my father, so this essay really resonated with me.

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

“Ten Cents a Pound” by Nhung N. Tran-Davies; illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
What I like about this book:
-the lyrical language
-the repetition and refrain
-the setting
-the theme: a mother explains to her daughter why she should be leaving her village for a better life
-the drawings: the closeups of hands and feet

“Natsumi’s Song of Summer” by Robert Paul Weston; illustrated by Misa Saburi
What I like:
-the sensory description
-the main character loves insects
-a cross cultural encounter
-the setting
-but especially that the book is written in a series of tankas (five lines and 31 syllables)

Bonus:
“Friends Forever” by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham
The third of a series, this is a graphic novel based on Hale’s life in grade eight. I can totally relate, especially the part about being thought too sensitive and hiding my feelings, and suffering with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. I wish I had had this book back then.

Submit one story to a contest per season.

I have already done this.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

Not many were offered this month.

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

No, I didn’t do this.

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I did this.

Blog at least twice a month.

Completed.

Weekly treasure:

One of the art installations in my city’s “Winter Illumination” exhibit

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two.

Well that wraps up my “Bookish Resolutions” for this year. Although I didn’t accomplish all what I wanted to this year, I am proud of what I did do.
As mentioned in last week’s blog post, my format will be different next year. See you in 2022.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories
@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

November 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

One of my favourite first lines in a book starts “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” The line from the Dickens classic goes on to continue with its incredible contrasts such as “…it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…” I am thinking about buying the shirt with this quote on it, as it sums up what 2021 was like for me…
I’d have to say that my life is on the upswing though. The wind is whispering of new beginnings and a new direction. I see the cracks of light as my seed starts to find its way out of the earth.
I’m not sure what my blog will look like next year, but it will be a different format. But for now, onward to my monthly report.

Here’s my wrap up for the month:

Read 24 books this year for the Mount TBR 2021 challenge.
I really have not been doing well in this challenge. I don’t believe I will be able to complete it this year.

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

I didn’t read any this month.

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

I did start reading more though, particularly in this category.

“Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say” by Kelly Corrigan
I thought I wasn’t going to like this when I started to read it, but the more I read the better I liked the book. Totally relatable and so many truths. I love the phrases that she is learning to say—I could use more of these phrases in my life—and my favourite chapter is “I love you”.
On the phrase “I love you”:
“The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying.
Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel.
The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again.”

“The Book of (Even More) Awesome” by Neil Pasricha
This was a score at a little library, and I brought it home intending to read it to cheer me up during my down times, but oddly it only made me feel good if I was already in a good mood. Also I found it was geared towards a certain audience. Still there was some good stuff in there like the chapters that begin with “The sound of water lapping against a dock” and “The sound of snow crunching under your boots”.

“Every day is a poem” by Jacqueline Suskin
This is a book I will be returning to again and again for sustenance. The book is filled with Suskin’s observations about poetry interwoven with her own poems. Several poetry writing exercises are included. Here’s a video of Suskin reading her stunning poem about her own poetic purpose.

“Sounds, Feelings, Thoughts: Seventy Poems by Wisława Szymborska”
Suggested by more than one person at the “How Three Women Use Science in Writing” webinar. This is a translated book of poems by the winner of the 1996 Nobel Prize for Literature. Some truly stunning poems here. My favourites include “There But For The Grace”, “The Terrorist, He Watches”, and “Life While You Wait”. Two of my other favourite poems from this book (“Utopia” and “The Joy of Writing”) can be read on this page along with three of her equally exquisite poems.
I would like to write a poem like the structure of her “Possibilities” poem, which begins every sentence with “I prefer…”, e.g., one line is “I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.” Me too, Ms. Szymborska, me too.

Bonus:

“moms” by young-shin ma
Though this graphic novel about a bunch of unconventional Korean moms, who are all in their mid-fifties, doesn’t technically fit into this category, I loved it so much that I’m giving it a mention. The author actually had his mom write down her memories of her and her friends’ lives and then based the book on them. The story is very complex yet still easy to follow.

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

I did work on my writing, including getting back to writing my novel, but not every day.

Read related literature to my novel writing.

Not so far.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month.

I have become fascinated by “hermit crab” essays, and so I am focusing on them.

“!Fast and Easy! A Short and Sweet Guide to Making a French-Canadian Favourite: Pâté Chinois” by Joni Cheung
A fantastic hermit crab essay. The structure is a recipe, which juxtaposes with a discussion of anti-Asian racism.

“What’s Missing Here? A Fragmentary, Lyric Essay About Fragmentary, Lyric Essays” by Julie Marie Wade
A couple of observations I appreciated:

“…the lyric essay asks you to do something even harder than noticing what’s there. The lyric essay asks you to notice what isn’t.”

and

“I think lyric essays should be catalogued with the mysteries.”

Bonus:

“Frances Hodgson Burnett Really Loved Gardens—Even Secret Ones” by Marta McDowell
I had to share this, because I found it so uplifting! An excerpt from McDowell’s book called “Unearthing the Secret Garden”.

Favourite quote:

“As long as one has a garden one has a future, and as long as one has a future one is alive.”

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

“We are Water Protectors” by Carole Lindstrom; Michaela Goade
-winner of the Caldecott Medal
What I like about this book:
-how water is seen through a spiritual lens
-personification: the black snake
-alliteration: “Tears like waterfalls stream down.”
-fabulous back matter
-eye catching floral motifs

“Kits, Cubs, and Calves: an Arctic Summer” by Suzie Napayok-Short; illustrated by Tamara Campeau
What I like about this book:
-it’s longer than a traditional picture book, making for a more satisfying taste of life in the Arctic
-the seamless weaving in of Inuktitut
-the glossary of Inuktitut
-modern day life is explored—they even have an underwater sound recorder
-secondary story of the beluga whales

Bonus:

“The Beatryce Prophecy” by Kate diCamillo; illustrated by Sophie Blackall
A lovely friendship story for ages 9+. This video sums it up beautifully.

Submit one story to a contest per season.

I’ve already done this.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

November is always a great month for writing webinars. I watched five this month!

“Quantum Physics, Biology, Genetics: How Three Women Use Science in Writing” (Wild Writers Literary Festival, hosted by Erin Bow)

“From Plants to Pages: Helen Humphreys on Field Studies” (Wild Writers Literary Festival)

“Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Trees as Participants in Theatre and Performance (University of Guelph Arboretum)
Megan de Roover is the inaugural writer in residence at the Arboretum. This article gives you a taste of what she talked about.

“The Dressmaker of Auschwitz—A Talk with Lucy Adlington” (Idea Exchange)

“Hiding the Mona Lisa—A Virtual Talk with Laura Morelli” (Idea Exchange)

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

I didn’t do this.

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I did this.

Blog at least twice a month.

I didn’t do this.

Weekly treasure:

I had fun using sage leaves to make these leaf prints.

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo
I wrote four.

100 day challenge:
I do this sporadically.

How have you been weathering 2021? I already have a couple of new things in the works for 2022 including our own version of “In my Backyard”, which I’ll be doing with my critique partner Bev, as well as participating in the “Kindred Readers Book Club” that she is co-facilitating. Stay tuned to read about these events next year.
Stay tuned also to read about what my “Word of the Year” will be in 2022. Have you chosen one?
Wishing you a peaceful, joyful, and harmonious holiday season.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories
@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

August 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

This was another challenging month for me with a lot of soul searching, but I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Here are my results:

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

“The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben

In my third attempt to read this book, I finally succeeded! I don’t know why I didn’t finish the first two times, because it really is a wonderful book. Perhaps I just got distracted? Anyway, to read more about my impressions of the book, see the entry below.

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

“The Hidden Life of Trees” by Peter Wohlleben 

This quote sums up the book and the feeling that you will leave with after reading it:

“When you know that trees experience pain and have memories and that tree parents live together with their children, then you no longer can just chop them down and disrupt their lives with large machines.”

I believe the book should be required reading material in school.

Apparently also there is a related movie.

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

“World of Wonders: In Praise of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, and Other Astonishments” by Aimee Nezhukumatathil

Written by a poet, Nezhukumatathil weaves her story into observations of nature. A delightful read!

Favourite quotes:

“And so, I ask: When is the last time you danced like a superb bird of paradise? I mean, when was the last time you really cut a rug, and did you mosh, bust a move, cavort, frisk, frolic, skip, prance, romp, gambol, jig, bound, leap, jump, spring, bob, hop, trip, or bounce?”

and

“It is this way with wonder: it takes a bit of patience, and it takes putting yourself in the right place at the right time. It requires that we be curious enough to forgo our small distractions in order to find the world.”

“Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku” by Natalie Goldberg

I started this when I was on vacation in July and finished it upon returning home. Part history, part travelogue, I really enjoyed journeying along with Goldberg. The book motivated me to write several haikus about what happened on my vacation, and I wrote them in the book, so the book has become a keepsake.

“The Comfort Book” by Matt Haig

I loved this book so much that I bought it after I read my library copy. So much deliciousness here!

Example:

“…one of the most common feelings among people was the feeling of not fitting in among people. The comfort, then, is the weird truth that in one sense we have most in common with others when we feel awkward and alone. Isolation is as universal as it gets.”

and

“I used to worry about fitting in until I realized the reason I didn’t fit in was because I didn’t want to.”

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

Very sporadic.

Read related literature to my novel writing.

No, I didn’t do this.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month. These are the two that I analyzed:

“My greatest pandemic discovery has been finding the wild in the city” by Andrea Curtis

What I like about this essay:

-Evocative language:

“We’ve also slipped down the side of steep embankments, threaded our way over boulders, passed ancient washed-out bridges, dodged storm water outtake pipes, graffitied underpasses and fjorded frozen streams.”

-Unexpected discoveries:

‘In his beautiful book about walking called The Old Ways, the British naturalist Robert Macfarlane calls unofficial urban paths, the ones trodden but not formally marked “desire lines.”’

-A thoughtful takeaway

“Hearing the voices from my family’s past 50 years later felt like coming home again” by Gayle Belsher

A couple of discoveries:

-The essay starts with a few facts.

-The essay mentions how the author’s journey links to the pandemic, which I am seeing is a common topic now in creative nonfiction essays.

Overall I am starting to see patterns, and I am going to try such techniques as peppering facts in my creative nonfiction essays.

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“This Pretty Planet” by Tom Chapin and John Forster; illustrated by Lee White

The book is based on a song, so it’s not a surprise that the text is musical. Short and sometimes rhyming text make it easy on the ear; the illustrations also make it easy on the eye.

Favourite part:

“You’re a garden

You’re a harbour

You’re a holy place.”

“Peace” by Baptiste Paul and Miranda Paul; illustrated by Esteli Meza

What I liked:

-beautiful and creative rhyming pairs, such as correctly/directly

-peace explained in a child friendly way: “Peace is pronouncing your friend’s name correctly

-animals are featured in the pictures, and the author’s note explains how peace also affects animals

Submit one story to a contest per season.

Not a good month: I got five rejections. However, I am planning on repurposing two of those stories.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

I didn’t do this.

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

I’ve been working my way through a course about marketing writing.

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I have dropped out of one of my critique groups due to scheduling conflicts. However, I still continue meeting with my first critique partner weekly.

Blog at least twice a month.

I’ve completed this task.

Weekly treasure:

The birds that have been coming to my bird feeder have provided a lot of comfort. How many sparrows can you see?

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote four!

100 day challenge

Read two chapters of a book a day. This works well for me, and I will continue it.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

July 2021 Bookish Resolutions Wrap-up

Admittedly summer always throws me off schedule. I forgot that last year in the midst of the “summer that wasn’t” due to the restrictions of Covid-19, our planned trip to Germany had to be cancelled and there was little to do until we discovered the beach in August, where we went once a week, which at least provided a mini respite from the sameness of it all.

The upside of that summer was that I was much more productive, or at least that’s how I remember it. This summer though, I seem to have fallen into the natural summer rhythm of spontaneity verging on chaos. 

We managed to have a one week socially distanced family cabin vacation up in the Muskokas. Bliss: swimming, hiking, kayaking, canoeing, even one session of archery. Not only that, but I was able to read like I haven’t read in a long time on rainy days. Alas, I lost that momentum when I returned home, due to a series of unexpected visits. Not that I am complaining, but the dizzying speed of reentry change sometimes has my head spinning.

Now on to how I did with my revamped resolutions. 

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

I read “The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger. See the next category for a description.

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

“The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Can Save Us” by Diana Beresford-Kroeger.

I don’t think that the title is accurate—more like “40 Ways Trees Play a Part in Our Lives” or something similar—but certainly the book is bursting with fascinating tree facts and stories. I read the book in short bursts, two chapters a day, following the pattern I used in the 100 day challenge. It works!

Quote:

“…most trees are not naturally solitary. They are community dwellers. The community for the tree is the forest. Inside the forest all mother trees get the greatest protection possible.”

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

I read this as part of a book study with one of my critique partners. Well researched and well written, the book is a delight to read. So many benefits of gardening and nature including even the use of them in trenches during WWI. Who knew? 

Quote:

“It is one thing for gardens to provide respite from war but quite another to create them in the very midst of it. Yet this is what happened during the long, drawn-out fighting on the Western Front. Pretty flowers may seem trivial when shells are dropping all around, but in that landscape of utmost devastation, the beauty of nature especially of flowers, provided a psychological lifeline in a way that nothing else could.”

I see parallels to this in these Covid-19 times, with there being an uptick in interest in gardening.

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

“H is for Hawk” by Helen Macdonald

I tried to read this before, but I never did finish it despite its luscious language. This time I took it slowly, reading about 5 chapters per week and then discussing them with my book club partner, and I am really glad that I did it that way. I think the book is meant to be savoured, lingering over the descriptions.

After her father passes away, Macdonald trains a goshawk. She intersperses her experiences with that of T.H. White, who also wrote a book about training a goshawk.

So much to love in this book, but I’ll leave you with this quote:

“Of all the lessons I’ve learned in my months with Mabel this is the greatest of all: that there is a world of things out there—rocks and trees and stones and grass and all the things that crawl and run and fly. They are all things in themselves, but we make them sensible to us by giving them meanings that shore up our own views of the world. In my time with Mabel I’ve learned how you feel more human once you have known, even in your own imagination, what it is like to be not.”

Work on my writing 15 minutes a day.

I didn’t do it every day, but I did work on my writing here and there. I did a lot of planning for my novel I am working on too.

Read related literature to my writing. (I need to figure out an actual number.)

No, I didn’t do this.

Analyze two creative nonfiction essays per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“The fashion industry’s ‘plus size’ label shames women to fit an unhealthy standard” by Laura Sang

What I liked:

-a doctor who treats eating disorders uses her own experience in having to wear plus sized clothes due to Covid weight gain to talk about the damage the fashion industry is doing

-a call to action, eye opening

“How does a book addict part with his collection?” by Arthur Chapman

-totally relatable

-intersperses personal experience with general experience

Overall, I enjoyed both, but nothing stood out for me.

Analyze what I like about two picture books per month.

These are the two that I analyzed:

“Wanted! Criminals of the Animal Kingdom” by Heather Tekavec; illustrated by Susan Batori

-I love the structure of this very humorous picture book; it makes it memorable. (Wanted for; criminal activity; rap sheet; FYI)

-Good beginning: “Creatures all over the world are turning to a life of crime, chaos and corruption.” 

-Everybody gets a cool, catchy name: Ms. Jagged Jaws, Copy Cat, Big Bad Mama

“Ocean Speaks” by Jess Keating; illustrated by Katie Hickey

What I like about it:

-First page grabs you right away: “The beach was a blanket of squishy, soft sand, and Marie wanted to feel it under her feet.” 

-Length of sentences: 

“Shoes off.

Socks off.”

-Great comparisons:

“The ocean stretched out before her, like a big blue mystery.”

“The waves were talking to her, whooshing up to her toes and sighing away again.”

-The power of threes: “forests and farmhouses, boulders and bird calls, wheat fields and waterfalls” 

-Plenty of alliteration: “plotting every point on paper”

Submit one story to a contest per season.

I have already done this.

Attend one writing webinar per month. (flexible)

Not done

Work on one lesson of a writing course per month. (flexible)

As a challenge from the library, I signed up for a course at LinkedIn Learning. It turned out to be facilitated by the writer of one of my favourite craft books, which is “Wired for Story”. Sweet!

Attend a writing group session per week. (flexible)

I met most weeks, but not every week.

Blog at least twice a month.

Not done.

Weekly treasure:

Doesn’t our campfire look like a starry sky?

Challenges:

HaikuForTwo

I wrote two.

100 day challenge:

Read two chapters of a book a day.

Done

How’s your summer been going? Do you feel like it’s been more like a “normal” summer? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment.

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler