Tag Archives: poetry

Six Degrees of Separation: From “How to do Nothing” to “In the Palm of Your Hand”

I first heard of the Six Degrees of Separation challenge last month from my critique and book club partner Bev. Thanks Bev! It sounded like so much fun, especially because there are so many possible connections to make, that I decided to participate this month.

The challenge is hosted monthly by Kate at booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

The rules summarized from the website:

“On the first Saturday of every month, a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. Readers and bloggers are invited to join in by creating their own ‘chain’ leading from the selected book.”

“Join in by posting your own six degrees chain on your blog and adding the link in the Linky section (or comments) of each month’s post. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your chain in the comments section. You can also check out links to posts on Twitter using the hashtag #6Degrees.”

Here is my “six degrees of connection”.

The book that starts it this month: “How to do Nothing” by Jenny Odell

I’ve not yet read this book, but I’ve wanted to for a long time. I’ve currently placed it on hold at my local library.

From my library’s website: “A galvanizing critique of the forces vying for our attention–and our personal information–that redefines what we think of as productivity, reconnects us with the environment, and reveals all that we’ve been too distracted to see about ourselves and our world. Nothing is harder to do these days than nothing. But in a world where our value is determined by our 24/7 data productivity. doing nothing may be our most important form of resistance. So argues artist and critic Jenny Odell in this field guide to doing nothing (at least as capitalism defines it).”

When I was a child, I had the ability to do nothing—and it was one of my favourite things to do—but I have found that it has waned over time. I am currently rediscovering this skill. And yes, it’s become a skill, the ability to resist all the calls of you to be doing “something”, especially something productive.

I’ve been doing a lot of reconnecting to the environment lately. Bee balm, from one of my nature walks

“The Art of Noticing” by Rob Walker

This is one of my favourite books, and I’ve done several of the exercises from it.

This book “will help you to rediscover your sense of joy and to notice what really matters”. For me that is sometimes doing nothing, which is where I made this first connection.

“The Art of Bev Doolittle” by Bev Doolittle

I focussed on the word art, and I thought of another of my favourite books. I love Doolittle’s pictures, as they are all puzzles. Trying to figure out what is camouflaged in each picture is pure joy.

“Sneaky Art: Crafty Surprises to Hide in Plain Sight” by Marthe Jocelyn

Continuing to focus on the word “art”, I chose this next book. I won this book, and I have actually done several of the activities in it. The art installations are meant to be displayed publicly.

I know that one of the art installations my daughter and I did brought great joy to a neighbour in a much needed time. 

“Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature” by Betsy Bird, Julie Danielson, and Peter D. Sieruta

Here I connected “wild” to “sneaky”. It’s a book that is on my TBR list, and hopefully I can read it as part of the Mount TBR challenge.

From the book jacket: “…this book chronicles some of the feuds and fights of the children’s book world, reveals some of the errors and secret messages found in children’s books, and brings contemporary illumination to the fuzzy-bunny world we think we know.”

“Poemcrazy: Freeing Your Life with Words” by Susan G. Wooldridge

“Crazy” connected to “wild”. This is also one of my favourite books, and I have done several exercises from it. 

From the get go, the book is magical. Consider the opening paragraph: “Poems arrive. They hide in feelings and images, in weeds and delivery vans, daring us to notice and give them form with our words. They take us to an invisible world where light and dark, inside and outside meet.”

“In the Palm of Your Hand: The Poet’s Portable Workshop” by Steve Kowit

Which takes me to the last book, related by the theme of poetry.

I forget who recommended this textbook to me as one of the best guides about creating poetry.

From the back cover: “If you long to create poetry…that is magical and moving, this is the book you’ve been looking for. In the Palm of Your Hand offers inspiring guidance for poets at every stage of the creative journey. It is a book about shaping your memories and passions, your pleasures, obsessions, dreams, secrets, and sorrows into the poems you always wanted to write.”

Another magical book.

Well, there you have it, my journey from “How to do Nothing” to “In the Palm of Your Hand”. Thanks for joining me. Hope you are able to go to the original blog post and check out some of the other entries, which are sure to be just as compelling.

Like this challenge? Maybe you’ll join in next month.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Word Jar

Do you keep a list of your favourite words? I first heard of this idea from Karen Benke in her book “Rip the Page”.

In the book “Journal Sparks” by Emily K. Neuburger, I decided to try the “Tiny Poems” exercise. In one variation Neuberger suggests that you use a word jar filled with your favourite words. Perfect. I printed out and cut up a list of some of my favourite words and then made a word jar.

Then Neuberger recommends you draw 1-3 words and write a poem between 2-30 words using those randomly drawn words.

Here is one I came up with using the words “sparrow” and “rasp” in a 16 word poem:

Sore throated sparrow

Rasped through the notes in his repertoire

Attracting the “wrong sort” of bird.

I choose most of my favourite words based on their sounds, not their meaning. For example, I love to say the word “broth”, and the word “tumble” almost always finds its way into any story I write.

What about you? What are some of your favourite words?

Bonus: If you want to get your kids thinking about their favourite words early, I recommend the book “The Word Collector”. To learn more about this book, watch this video of author Peter H Reynolds talking about his book. The book is also a great read for the young at heart.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Favourites (List 5)

These are some of the things that have been making me smile lately.

Article: “What’s behind Japan’s moss obsession?”

It’s an older article but still relevant. I could use a moss ball right about now.

Challenge: Donna Eden’s 28-Day Joy Challenge

You’ll learn all about the “Triple energy smoothie” and “Radiant circuits”. Click here to watch day 1.

TV program: “Forage”

Learn how to forage and cook with Anishinaabe chef Shawn Adler. I’m definitely going to try some of his recipes including sumac sun tea.

Recipe: Radish Greens

Apparently, according to this article, radish greens are actually more nutritious than the radishes themselves. The recipe is a delicious way to eat them.


Poetry: Jacqueline Suskin and The Poem Store

I took part in Suskin’s free five day course via Commune, and I learned a lot from her approach. Watching her pound out her poems on her typewriter is fascinating! I wish I could do on demand poems.

You can watch her Tedx Talk by clicking here.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

What Do You Want to Take with You?

There has been such a focus on what we are going to do after isolation ends. However, during the height of Covid-19’s isolation, I came across this thought: What do I want to take with me from this experience? It’s not the usual focus, but it’s one we should all consider as things start to open up.

Here’s a list poem that I made:

10 Things I Want to Take Away from Covid-19’s Isolation

-the question: “Do I really need it?”; “Do I really need this grocery item or smoothie?”

my kindness jar, developed during Covid-19

-my new morning routine: every morning I spend the first 1/2 hour doing something for myself

-learning about the impact we really have on our planet in real time, eg, a drop in CO2 levels

-my reconnection with my garden and plants

-better use of my time, eg., do I really need to go shopping so often

-gratitude for life’s little things, such as speaking over the fence to a neighbour

-getting more involved in my daughter’s education, eg., the chance to see what she is really learning and even learn along with her

-appreciation for people I usually take for granted

-the desire to change, and the motivation to continue to do so

What about you? What’s on your list?

My wisteria

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Journalling Techniques: List Poems

Are you tired of journalling, but you still want to keep a record of everyday events? I find that list poems are an effective break. They’re fun, they’re easy, they’re flexible.
What are list poems? A list poem is simply a list written after a prompt.
I first learned about list poems from Karen Benke’s fantastic book called “Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing”.

Here is one that I wrote this week:

Things I never thought I’d do
Accidentally buy five kilograms of bananas instead of five bananas through online ordering
Take up sewing again and actually enjoy it, especially because it used to make me cry
Become hooked on TV baking shows
Play more than one round of “Plants vs. Zombies”
Do a happy dance when I discovered a source of parchment paper

Now that I have written the list down, I can either leave it as it is or go into greater detail at a later time or even right after. I might write about the banana incident: how it happened and the fact that I wondered if the staff at the supermarket I ordered it from thought I was hoarding bananas. Did they start buying more bananas themselves? Also, what did we do with so many bananas? We did make a lot of oat bread (with banana in it) and pancakes. (For the pancakes, combine 2 beaten eggs with one mashed banana and fry. Yum!)

Here is another recent list poem:

Five ways my life has changed during Covid-19
The only time I go out is to take a walk or sit in my yard
I only shop one time a week, and this is done online
I spend much more time with my daughter, who is schooling at home
I give people a wide berth when I meet them during my walk
My vocabulary has changed to include such terms as “social isolation”

Even though you may not feel it, being grateful is important at this time. My family has developed the habit of saying what we are grateful for before we eat, but sometimes I also write list poems about gratitude, such as the following one.

Ten things I am grateful for today (May 6, 2020)
The group of yellow tulips I saw on my walk this morning
The now once a week groceries we got yesterday, filling our fridge up again
The consideration of people on my walks who always make sure we are far enough apart
Thoughtful and thought provoking personal essays
That my garden continues to bloom with spring flowers
That birds are building a nest in the backyard box that my husband repaired
The beef and tomato soup that my husband made for lunch, and especially the coloured carrots
That I worked on a story today that I’ve been wanting to write for a long time
That the writing world is so generous at this time with freebies
An honest discussion with my daughter

A feast for the eyes: my grape hyacinths

Tip: If you are looking for a great book about gratitude, read “The Gratitude Diaries” by Janice Kaplan.

I’d love to hear one thing you are grateful for. Please leave me a comment below.

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Five Favourites (List 4)

These are all things that are bringing me joy these days.

1. Poem

April is poetry month, and I would be rather amiss if I didn’t include one of my favourite poems. This visual poem is absolutely stunning, and it gave me a well needed break as I immersed myself in it.

2. TV Shows

“Back in Time for Dinner” (Canada, 1940s-1990s)

The idea is that the food we ate and the way we ate it helped change the course of history. 

The series really is a fascinating examination of food history, but it also sheds light on fashion, leisure time, gender roles, etc. 

There also is a very fun Christmas episode. 

Were you a teen in the 1980s like me? If so what is familiar to you from this video? 

The big hair, Walkmans, those beads that you would put on safety pins and then the pins would go on your shoes…Do you remember? It’s neat that Hal and Joanne from “Body Break” show up in this episode to lead the family through exercise classes, which are aerobics for the girls (I did that a lot!) and weight lifting for the boys. 

There are many of the “Back in Time” series, and we also watched “Further Back in Time for Dinner”, this time with a British family. See how they cope during the WWI in this episode. It includes using a hay oven!

Now we are watching “Back in Time for Winter”, set in northern Ontario. I must say that I like watching the Canadian versions more, probably just because I can relate better to the culture.

3. Movie/Documentary

“Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power” 

I really admire Margaret Atwood. I have seen her lecture and have also taken her “Masterclass”. I watched this gem of a documentary about Atwood’s life and her books on CBC Gems. The documentary includes a lot about her most famous book, “A Handmaid’s Tale”.

I was particularly touched about how well she took care of her husband, Graeme Gibson, who had dementia at the end of his life.

(As an aside, Atwood has the most fantastic scarfs!)

4. Article

This article gives great journaling tips about journaling in the time of upheavals.

For example:

“Remember that a journal or diary can look like anything.

Photos, texts, receipts, calendar invites, memes, tweets, articles, playlists, emails…these are all excellent records of what is happening in your life right now.”

5. Children’s Book Readaloud

“Storytime with Dr. Jane”

One of the people I most admire is Jane Goodall, whom I have seen lecture more than once, and here she reads her book “Chimpanzee Family”. She even demonstrates how the chimps communicate in this video!

She adds book readings periodically, and her latest read is “Elephant Family”.

You can also download a free copy of one of the books.

What are some recent favourites bringing you joy?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

This Week in Canadian Reads (January 2020)

The inaugural “I Read Canadian Day” is just over a month away, on February 19, 2020. Are you planning on participating? Although this day is geared towards young Canadians reading Canadian books, I think Canadians of all ages should be encouraged to participate. What do you think?

Here are a few books for all ages I have read recently that you might like to read on that day.

Picture Books


“Lines, Bars and Circles: how William Playfair Invented Graphs” by Helaine Becker; Illustrated by Marie-ève Tremblay

I never really thought about it, but I guess someone had to invent graphs. Becker does a good job of describing Playfair’s journey to the invention while interspersing it with historical goings on.


“My Winter City” by James Gladstone; Pictures by Gary Clement

In this poem, a boy and his dad and dog have some winter fun.

This year we have had a really mild winter, so we haven’t got much “winter fun” in this year. Still, I can relate to many of the scenes in the book.

Middle Grade

“A Royal Guide to Monster Slaying” by Kelley Armstrong

You might not realize that Kelley Armstrong has a new middle grade series, and this one, the first book, debuted in 2019.

12 year old Rowan is set to be queen, and her twin brother Rhydd is supposed to be the Royal Monster Hunter. Neither twin, however, enjoys their role. When an accident switches things up, it is up to Rowan to prove herself. The book is full of imaginary creatures, such as jackalopes, gryphons, and pegasi. 

I am looking forward to book 2 of this series, set to be launched in June 2020, and am hoping it’s as good as the first.

You can take this quiz, if you are interested in Armstrong’s books, but not sure where to start.

Graphic Novels

“The Adventures of Superhero Girl” by Faith Erin Hicks; colours by Cris Peter

I have been a fan of Faith Erin Hicks ever since I read her middle grade trilogy “The Nameless City”. Though “The Adventures of Superhero Girl” is a little bit of an older read (first published in 2013), I highly recommend it. It’s laugh out loud funny, and I appreciate that it’s set in Canada. Check out “The League of Villainous Canadian Stereotypes”! 

Young Adult

“The Move” by Lori Wolf-Heffner is the first in the “Between Worlds” series.  According to an article on Wolf-Heffner’s website, “Between Worlds” is “…a series of books combining her family history in Europe after WWI and the life of a young dance student in Kitchener today…”

I met Wolf-Heffner at a workshop in December 2019, and I was intrigued when she talked about her family’s history. I am enjoying the dual storyline of one main character who is moving to present day Kitchener, a city I am very familiar with, and another who is living after WWI in a small town in Hungary that is about to be handed over to Romania. Can you imagine?

Adult (Memoir)

“My Father, Fortune-tellers, and Me” by Eufemia Fantetti

I first saw the author of this memoir talk at Wild Writers Literary Festival in November 2019, and I knew I wanted to read the book. Fantetti is the daughter of southern Italian immigrants, and her mother has been diagnosed with schizophrenia and her father clinical depression. Because of this, Fantetti has had to live with the effects of her adverse childhood experiences. The book is never too heavy though. It is as funny as it is heartbreaking.

Poetry (Young Adult, Adult)

“When You Ask Me Where I’m Going” by Jasmin Kaur

As the first poem about skin made me cry—this is something I would be excited about too—I knew it was going to be a book that resonated with me. Watch this video for an example of one of Kaur’s poems.

Do you have a Canadian book that you would like to add to my list?

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2020 Linda Schueler

Wild Writers Literary Festival 2019

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

“Facing Your Fear of Poetry”

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

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

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

“Ten Tips for Writing Great Creative Nonfiction”

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

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

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

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

“Self-Care for Writers 101”

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

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

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

Shoe’s Sunday Stories

@Copyright 2019 Linda Schueler