Tag Archives: Memoir

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Goodreads:

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

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

“A Girl from Yamhill” by Beverly Clearly

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

“My Own Two Feet” by Beverly Clearly

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

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

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

“A Grief Observed” by C.S. Lewis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2021 Linda Schueler

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

WOW! Women On Writing Tour of “But First, Rumi”

Book Summary

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

But First, Rumi is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

Book Review

Because I am a cat lover and also because I have suffered a mystery illness in the past, I was curious about this memoir.

The story is slow to start, but once it picked up in chapter 3, I found myself looking forward to reading the next chapter of the book, wondering what was going to happen to stray cat Rumi. Although Ramaswami mentioned her mysterious illness a few times, there is little focus on this part of her life. Instead she concentrated on her relationship with the cat, Rumi. I found this approach to be refreshing.

I love travelling and learning about other cultures, especially ones I have little knowledge of, and this includes the author’s home country of Oman. I found myself learning a lot, whether Ramaswami describes the environment—“The world around me looked a light shade of orange owing to tiny sand particles that were always suspended in a desert. Growing up I had happily assumed that daytimes appeared the same everywhere…”—or the very different to me (and I am sure to many North Americans) views on cats and pet ownership in Oman.

The memoir is peppered throughout with gentle words of wisdom, such as “There is a fine line between being prepared to act quickly if the worst were to happen and to continually expect the worst to happen and allow that feeling to weigh you down.” Each chapter also begins with a quote by the poet Rumi. I enjoyed learning along with the author her discoveries about life. I even learned something more about cat behaviour! Not being a lover of olives, I never knew the attraction cats had to them.

The book ends with a thoughtful discussion about the state of the cats in Oman and what action could be taken to improve their living conditions.

I highly recommend this eye opening memoir.

Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

About the Author, Chitra Ramaswami

Chitra Ramaswami was born and raised in the Middle East by Indian parents, and her childhood was spent reading every book she could lay her hands on or writing stories and lines of poetry. As a result of traveling the world extensively and being a natural linguist, she is an amalgamation of many cultures and tastes and is constantly looking for the next experience she can immerse herself in. When she isn’t writing, Chitra rides horses, climbs mountains and is a passionate advocate for the Omani Mau/ street cat. She currently lives in New York with her husband and a very spoiled cat and hamster duo. 

Find her online at:

Author’s website: https://cramaswami.com/ 

Shoe’s Seeds & Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler