Promoting the Manitoba Writers’ Guild

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This past weekend was very busy for me! Both Friday and Saturday, I manned a table at two very different events to promote the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and next Friday I will do the same at ComicCon, for which I am very excited!

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On Friday, my cohort, Jodi Carmichael (author of Spaghetti Is NOT a Finger Food) and I talked to English Teachers attending the annual SAGE conference. We also shamelessly promoted our books! (By the way, next spring she will be launching her teen novel, Forever Julia, so stay tuned for that book launch.) During the conference, we had one person renew her lapsed membership and sold one of our Writer’s Blocks – our infamous fundraising gimmick. I sold 2 of my books (Jody sold most of the ones she’d brought with her!) and I  gave away all but one of my business cards, so I’m hoping to be asked into many classrooms during this school year.

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On Saturday, fellow board member, Donna Besel, and I attended the Mamingwey Burn Survivor Conference. On the table, we had a sign I created that read, “Everyone has a story. Let the Guild help you tell it.”, which became our theme for the conference. We took turns popping in to the conference room to listen to what some of the survivors had gone through and how they courageously chose the difficult road to recovery, ‘turning their demons into diamonds’, which was the conference theme for this year.

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Those of you who have been following this blog for the last couple of years will recall me telling you my brother-in-law’s story and how he came to live with us after he was badly burned when his van caught fire. The organizers of the conference asked him to talk about his ordeal on a panel with three other survivors. He told his story with his usual wry sense of humour, knowing that laughter is the best medicine.

Donna had been asked to give a talk and was prepared to get everyone started with writing exercises, but she had no idea how many people she would be speaking to – over 80! She thought that only those who really wanted to write about their experience would be in attendance. While she was a little nervous at the change in expectations, she took it in stride and had many compliments about her workshop. Many attendees were interested in our programming and we gave away a lot of brochures and a few membership forms.

This coming Friday, I look forward to rubbing shoulders with celebrity guests and authors at ComiCon. It should be a blast. As another fundraiser/promotional gimmick for this event, we are creating a Colouring book with sketches of Manitoba Authors with which the attendees should be familiar – and if they are NOT familiar with them, they will be by the time they colour in all the faces! We at the Guild are trying hard to promote our many local writers of all genres.

Oh, and one last tidbit of information! By Friday, my writers group and I are hoping to have our chapbook, In The Woods, published in e-format so it will be available on-line, as well as sell hard copies at ComicCon. As soon as the e-version is available, I will pass along the details.

So, how was YOUR weekend?

Having fun with the Manitoba Writers’ Guild

I’ve had a few exciting times related to the Guild over the past few weeks. First, we had our Annual General Meeting where they officially announced my position as one of the VPs and new head of the Resource Development Committee. Apart from the business side of the meeting, we had a lovely luncheon and got to watch the movie In the Wake of the Flood, chronicling Margaret Atwood’s book tour following the launch of Year of the Flood.

Last Friday, two fellow Guild members and I manned a table at the annual SAGE conference for teachers, EAs and library technicians. We got to talk to a lot of people about our writing programs and showed them a small array of books written by local YA authors. It was amazing how few people were aware how many Manitoba writers there really are – and these are teachers and librarians! I have a long list of email addresses where I will send my long list of local YA authors and their books, as well as the local publishers who produce Young Adult fiction. I even sold 5 of my books at the event. Bonus! 🙂

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Yesterday, I manned another table for the Writer’s Guild at C4 (Central Canada Comic Con). I had a blast! I loved working with fellow Guild member and poet, Kyla. She was so ‘into’ Dr. Who, so we had lots to chat about when we weren’t talking to writers looking for info about our programming. We also spelled each other off so we could go check out the other vendors. I headed upstairs to Artist Alley where I ran into Samantha Beiko selling her book The Lake and the Library. I missed seeing Chadwick Ginther, author of Thunder Road and his recently launched sequel, Tombstone Blues, which I will be reading and reviewing soon. Walking a little further, up against the far wall, was a huge lineup of stars. Beginning in the order of how they are listed on the website, there was:

Ron Perlman (Beauty & the Beast, Blade II, Pacific Rim) – at least his booth was set up, even if he wasn’t actually there, yet.
Jason David Frank (Power Rangers)
Bill Goldberg (World Champion Wrestler)
James Marsters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Smallville, Torchwood)
Tony Amendola (Jaffa master Bra’tac in Stargate)
Aaron Ashmore (Warehouse 13, Smallville, Veronica Mars)
Michael Benyaer (Voice of Bob on Reboot, & guest starred in The Mentalist, 24, Castle, NCIS etc)
Bruce Boxleitner (Babylon 5, Tron, Scarecrow & Mrs. King)
Avery Brooks (Commander Sisko on Star Trek Deep Space 9)
Malcolm Denare (John Carpenter’s Christine, Godzilla)
Yaya Han (costume designer, model & cosplay entertainer)
Brendan Hunter (mainly a Voice Actor for many games/cartoons)
Walter Koenig (Chekov on Star Trek, Bester on Babylon 5)
Robert Duncan McNeill (Start Trek Voyager)
Dave Prowse (Darth Vader, although James Earl Jones did the voice)
Chris Sarandon (Princess Bride, Child’s Play, Fright Night)
Laura Vandervoot (Supergirl on Smallville, ‘V’ the most recent series)

When I saw one particular actor there, I hurried downstairs to grab my wallet. With heart all aflutter, I stood in line and stammered out a request to get his autograph. Bruce Boxleitner was as personable as I hoped he would be. I hemmed and hawed about which photo I wanted him to autograph but finally chose his Babylon 5 pose. He has aged quite gracefully and his dimpled smile made me blush. I really should have splurged, paid the extra $10, and got my photo taken with him, but what a fangirl moment! 😀

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Another great moment was when one young attendee came up to me when she saw my books displayed. She said she’d read Whithershins and loved it! She even dragged over a friend and told her about it! I was thrilled that she’d read it, liked it and was recommending it to others. 🙂

The folks at the table next to us were flogging their horror film, Dark4Rest, filmed here in Manitoba with local-grown actors, director, etc. so I bought one of their calendars to help them out, even though I’m not really a horror fan. That shouldn’t stop you from checking out their website. They even have a Dark4Rest ‘teaser’.

There was also a local company with a working 3-D printer, which was really cool. Both Kyla and I were escorted over to their table and shown what their company could do. The most fascinating article on the table that was made with the printer was a miniature replica of our tour guide’s head! Apparently, Asset-Works offers tours of their facility every Tuesday. They are a non-profit workshop providing access to fabrication equipment, support and knowledge for entrepreneurs.

At the end of the day, and in keeping with the theme of our day, I bought two pairs of Dr. Who socks from a vender around the corner from our table. The black pair had a T.A.R.D.I.S. on them, the grey pair had red Daleks. They are a little big in the foot part and the stitching of the designs makes them a bit tight in the rise. Oh, well, I will wear them anyway!

C4 is on again tomorrow, for those in town who want to check out all the fun. If you aren’t able to go in person, there are (and probably will be) more pictures of our wonderful Guild volunteers and members on our Facebook page. Click here to see all the shenanigans. 🙂

September in Review

Whew! It’s been quite a month, leaving me little time to pop around to people’s blogs, for which I apologize! As for my own blog, in case any of you were wondering where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, lately, let me bring you up to date.

The first of the month, we attended the backyard wedding of our close friends’ son. During the week that followed, I met with a friend (Sept. 3rd) before she headed off to Europe for the next six months, did a little photo editing for a retiree’s album (Sept. 5th) and attended my writers group meeting(Sept. 7th). In between events that week, I was dropping by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild to sort out their neglected library.

The following week, Hubby decided to replace the Master Cylinder in my car after I told him my brakes seemed to be getting a little mushy. I didn’t expect him to pull it out the day after I mentioned it (Sept. 9th), but he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance to actually replace it. His ankle (that he sprained a couple of weeks previously during the barn raising) was causing him pain and he decided to wait until it felt better to finish the job. While I waited for my car to be operational, I read The Fault In Our Stars and started writing my review of it, which I will post soon. It brought up a lot of memories, as I knew it would.

My niece set her wedding date for 2 p.m. Friday the 13th. As luck would have it, that was the exact time Hubby, The Estimator, needed to submit a tender for work and couldn’t drive me to the ceremony. I was frustrated because I had hoped to get my hair cut and nails done but, with no vehicle, I could not get where I needed to go without a long bus ride with several transfers. I attempted to do my own nails, trying to be patient between coats of polish so they’d dry properly. They turned out okay, but definitely not as good as a professional would have done. My daughter offered to pick me up and take me to the wedding, but that would have entailed her heading across town, in the opposite direction, to pick me up, then back across town to the wedding. Since I’d also wanted to get a dress for the reception, I decided to take the bus to the mall to find something suitable. Hopping on another bus and, after transferring downtown, I got to the right stop and walked the couple of blocks to Fort Gibralter, a re-creation of an historic site, set during the time of the fur trade in the early 1800s. In hind sight, I should have let Daughter bring me to the ceremony. They went to the wrong place and missed the ceremony completely! Good thing I’d brought the video camera and shot the entire thing for her and her dad to watch later.

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The reception was in ‘the haunted hotel’, what my niece calls the historic Fort Garry Hotel. It resembles a small castle and is over 100 years old. There is reported to be spirits roaming its halls and sharing rooms with guests. Niece was hoping to see one on their wedding night, but I believe she was disappointed!

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This picture of the Fort Garry Hotel is from the Wikimedia archive and linked to the hotel’s website, in case any of you thought it might be a good place to stay, if you ever visit Winnipeg.

Okay, on with the month. The day following the wedding (Sept. 14th), Hubby decided to put in the newly purchased, refurbished Master Cylinder in my car. He called me out to the garage to help because the location of the MC was tight and my hands are half the size of his. We struggled for about an hour to get the nuts over the bolts that hold it in place and another half hour to tighten everything. Then we bled the brakes. During the whole process, I realized to my dismay, that brake fluid would make great nail polish remover! 😦

Everything seemed fine – until I went to drive it on Monday (Sept. 16th)! The brake pedal only went halfway to the floor and it took all the pressure I could muster to get the darn car to stop! Something was obviously still wrong with the brakes. Hubby thought it was just a matter of having the MC bled better as well as the brakes on each wheel, a job that required a lift and a more able-bodied person to do it. He said I should take it to the local auto-body shop where our friend’s son worked, so on the Wednesday (Sept. 18th), I did. Wednesday evening, Hubby had to drive me to a meeting of the Resource and Development committee for the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and pick me up after the meeting ended because it’s a little scary downtown at night and I didn’t want to stand at a bus stop.

Thursday, Sept. 19th, the shop bled each wheel’s brakes but, in the process, noticed that the hoses to the two rear brakes were crimped. They felt they should be replaced as that might have been the reason the brakes were locking up. When that didn’t solve the problem, they informed me that it might be the Booster behind the MC. I authorized them to take it apart to see if there was something wrong with it. They found a crack and said they would order me a new one, which should be available Friday (Sept. 20th) in the morning. By mid-afternoon, I was getting impatient because my Creative Gathering was about to start and I still had no car to get me out of town to the place where it was to be held. At 3:30 they finally called and said the place that had promised to send them a new Booster did not actually have one in stock and would have to have one shipped in for an additional cost of at least $100 – and no other parts store in the city had one for my old clunker! They suggested they could send it out to be refurbished but it wouldn’t be ready for the weekend.

In utter despair, I posted my car troubles on Facebook. Almost immediately, the step-mom of the mechanic messaged me that she wouldn’t need her car for the weekend so I could borrow it. What a lifesaver! I thanked her profusely and, as soon as Hubby got home from work, which is usually an hour earlier on Fridays than any other day of the week, I started loading up the truck with all my crafting supplies. We arrived on her doorstep, expecting to see her, but her hubby opened the door with a confused look on his face. She apparently had not told him about the situation and there we were, expecting a vehicle. Since she was still at work and would not be home for at least another hour, he kindly offered me his beautiful new Camry Hybrid. What a lovely car to drive! Hubby told me not to get too comfortable with it, though. We cannot afford a brand new car like that!

I finally made it all the way out to Friedensfeld for the Creative Gathering. I was an hour and a half late arriving, but knew I had until midnight to get some crafting done, as well as the next day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Shortly after I arrived, dinner was ready – a scrumptious lasagna with a Caesar salad and garlic bread. For these gatherings, the food is almost as important as the creative process! The photo below, taken by the owner of The Scrapbook Cottage and organizer of this twice-a-year event, features the venue after everyone left Friday night. Each table held 4 scrappers plus all their stuff. The tables were placed end-to-end with an aisle down the middle. I estimate there were about 130 crafters and eight or more helpers/cooks/servers – quite a big group! In the top right-hand corner is the stage and right in front of it is where my sisters-in-law and I sat.

Photo: That's all for tonight folks- see you in the morning:)!!

During each Gathering, one can attend classes on card-making, scrapbook layouts and other crafty things. There are also many sketch challenges where we are given a basic layout and an example, then we run with it. I made 8 Christmas cards, a thank-you card for my car lender, and a birthday card for my brother using the challenge sketches as a guide. (Photos to be revealed on a Crafty Wednesday, coming soon. 🙂 ) All-in-all, it is a fun event and gives participants the opportunity to concentrate on their craft and get inspiration from their fellow crafters. I was so happy that I had the opportunity to go, thanks to my dear friends. 🙂

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As much as I enjoyed my crafting event, it meant missing the opening ceremonies of Thin Air, Winnipeg’s International Writing Festival. I wasn’t too disappointed because I knew I had signed up to drive authors to and from the airport as well as to the various events around town and out-of-town. On Sunday afternoon (Sept. 22nd), Hubby drove me down to the Hospitality Suite at the Inn at the Forks, where the festival was being coordinated and I had to tell them I couldn’t accept my Monday driving assignment because my car was under repair. Fortunately, they were able to find a replacement. Late Monday afternoon (Sept. 23rd), I did get my car back and, in the evening, was able to drive myself downtown to ArtSpace so I could attend a board meeting of the Writer’s Guild.

On Tuesday morning (Sept. 24th), I picked up two authors from the airport and drove them to the hotel. I stayed around The Forks so I could help out with the School Stage performance at the MTYP (Manitoba Theatre for Young People).

After the School Stage performance, I went to the Millenium Library, the largest one in the city, to await the arrival of Jan Andrews, who wrote The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley. (You may remember my review and interview. If not, click on the links.) As a result of the car fiasco, I had been unable to see her other readings. It was lovely to meet with her in person.

Wednesday morning (Sept. 25th), as I was driving another author to The Forks from the airport, I stepped on the brake pedal . . . and it went straight to the floor! I was glad I had left plenty of room between me and the car in front of me, which allowed enough time for the car to actually stop. What a heart-pounding moment! I tried to keep calm and prayed that the car would stop each time I needed it to and that we would get to the hotel in one piece. I don’t think the author knew the danger he was in, as I tried to keep the conversation light and not focus on the not-stopping part of our drive. Once I was parked in the parkade, I called Hubby & told him what had just happened. He said I should call the shop that had ‘fixed’ my car. I called and we arranged for a towing company to bring the car back to them, at their expense, and they’d see what went wrong. I hung around The Forks, helped out with another School Stage performance and waited for the tow truck to arrive. It was kind of sad to see the old beater being hauled away like that.

I went up to the Hospitality Suite to wait for Hubby to pick me up after work. Shortly before he arrived, the shop called to inform me they’d found one of the gaskets, connecting the hose to one of the back brakes they had recently installed, was faulty and had cracked, leaking so much brake fluid that the pressure was reduced to almost zero. They replaced it and were about to take it for a test drive. Believing that the car would be ready by the time we got there, Hubby & I wove through rush-hour traffic and got to the shop in record time. The mechanic was still out testing the brakes when we got there. The guy at the front desk was surprised to see us, but he let us wait until the car came back to see what the verdict was. He also asked if I needed my car the next day. I informed him that I was scheduled to drive to two out-of-town locations and really needed the car to be ready. He was worried about sending me out on the highway in a car with brakes that had been acting up, so he got permission from the company’s owner to give me a rental car for the day. That would give them time to re-test the brakes and make sure everything was finally in working order. Hubby suggested, since they were keeping the car anyway, that they evaluate the condition of the emergency brake. That is something that will corrode if not used often, and since I have never needed to use it, they agreed to check it. The rental car was a lovely, fairly new, Volkswagon. Again, Hubby warned me not to get too attached to the vehicle!

Thursday morning (Sept. 26th), I was up bright and early, at The Forks just after 8 a.m. The author I was to drive was in terrible shape. He’d been up since 4 a.m. with a migraine and had been physically ill several times. He grabbed some oatmeal to go, hoping it would settle his stomach. I loaded his guitar into the trunk and off we went. We chatted a little at first, then he reclined his seat and I left him in silence to recover from his massive headache and nausea. It would normally have been only a 30 minute drive out to East Selkirk. I had printed out a Google map of the school’s location and had driven that particular bit of highway often, as it was the main route to our cottage. Once I turned off the highway, though, we ran into trouble. I didn’t realize there were two turn-offs to E. Selkirk and I had turned too soon. Using logic and a fairly good sense of direction, I’m proud to say, we finally arrived. It was a good thing we had allowed plenty of time to get there! By the time we arrived, the author had recovered enough to give an animated presentation of his poetry and got the young audience to participate by repeating parts of some poems and singing the chorus of one of his songs.

On the way back to town, my phone rang. The shop was calling to inform me they can no longer get a replacement for one of the three hoses to the emergency brake. I told them to just put everything back together. Since I never use it, anyway, there was no point to fixing it. We carried on in my wonderful rental car. The author asked me questions about the area’s history to which I happily answered to the best of my ability. I am always excited to present the town at its best. I dropped him off and grabbed some lunch before meeting my next ‘fare’.

Où est Tat Tsang? - NATHALIE FERRARI - JEAN MORIN

I found Nathalie Ferraris to be a wonderful French children’s author from Montreal. Nathalie was delighted that the students had read one of her books, Où est Tat-Tsang, about a fish – a treasured family pet – that went missing. The students had written summaries in French and they were posted on bulletin boards, one in the hall outside the library, the other in the classroom. The students were ecstatic to have the author in their class. They asked a multitude of questions, received autographed bookmarks, and had their pictures taken with her. It was such an enjoyable afternoon! 🙂

I regretted having to take the rental car back at the end of the day, but my car was supposedly all put back together and in working condition. The drive home was uneventful. Early Friday morning (Sept. 27th), I prepared and placed a pork roast into the slow cooker, headed for The Forks and drove another author to the airport. Back at The Forks, I grabbed some lunch before driving Nathalie to another French Immersion school out-of-town. The car performed admirably.

After the session, I drove her back to The Forks where she was to await her ride to the airport. I rushed home to finish making a thank-you dinner for the car-lenders. We ate dinner and played some Canasta. We girls won by a small margin then they headed home. I collapsed in my chair, ignoring the stack of dirty dishes. Hubby & I watched a bit of TV, then I fell asleep. Hubby woke me on his way to bed, so I dragged my butt off the chair and went to bed, too.

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Chez Sophie sur le pont is the structure sticking off to the right of the bridge in this photo (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday morning (Sept. 28th) was a cool, wet autumn day. I hurried out to meet Hubby’s cousins for brunch at Chez Sophie sur le pont. You may recall my foodie post regarding this fine French bistro. I had been to the one on Avenue de la Cathedrale and had expressed my desire to try the one on the Provencher Bridge (sur le pont), so was very excited that it had been chosen as the location of our next Cousins Brunch. The food was just as delicious as the other restaurant and I was happy to recommend the sandwich I had previously tried. This time I tried the croque monsieur au saumon fumé, a sandwich with smoked salmon, swiss cheese, onions and béchamel (a creamy sauce) and then the whole sandwich is encased in cheese and broiled. YUM! The soup du Jour was cream of carrot. While my one sister-in-law was not impressed, I thought it was delicious, although I think I liked the cream of sweet potato soup better.

I stayed for about an hour and a half, enjoying the company, but I had somewhere else I needed to be. I expressed my regrets and ‘flew’ down to the Park Theatre on Osborne to catch the last portion of the Thin Air Volunteer Appreciation Lunch. While I didn’t eat – I was still stuffed from my other lunch – I was able to chat with the other volunteers I had seen while working the School Stage events and in the Hospitality Suite. When it was over, I whipped around to my friends’ house to drop off the ticket I had purchased for the Stroke Recovery Association’s fundraising dinner. Hubby wasn’t interested in attending and since I had neglected him so much during that whirlwind week of volunteering, I thought it best to just stay home, for a pleasant change of pace. We caught up on some of the TV series premiers that had occurred during the week and went to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday afternoon (Sept. 29th), I aimed for McNally Robinson Booksellers to attend a meeting of TWUC (The Writers Union of Canada). The Chairperson, Dorris Heffron, was in town and wanted to meet the members of the Prairie chapter of the organization. She discussed the history of the Union and what benefits were available, in case we were unaware of them. We actually did get a few people out to the meeting who were thinking of joining, so I hope we encouraged them to become members. After the meeting, our Chair needed a ride to a restaurant that was sort of my way home, so I gave her a lift. After this past week, I think I should get my chauffeur’s license!

Finally, on Monday (Sept. 30th), the last day of this unbelievably busy month, I spent the morning writing out this update. In the afternoon, I sorted, folded, and put away the clean laundry I had been neglecting. That evening, I volunteered to sell tickets at the door to a Guild event called In Dialogue. Poets Sue Goyett and Sarah Klassen read from their repertoire of work. I’ll go into more detail at another time, as this post is already too long!

Now you know just how hectic the past month has been. So, what did YOU do in September?

Crafty Wednesday – another thank-you card and a history lesson

Sorry it’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve done a crafty post. In my last couple of Crafty Wednesdays I showed you some of the thank-you cards that I made for the Manitoba Writers’ Guild‘s fundraising event Words In The Flesh. If you’d like to see photos of our celebrity readers, head over to the Writer’s Guild Facebook page, here. And here is a taste of what the readings were like:

If you liked Don’ Percy’s rendition of ‘The Cremation of Sam Magee’, you might also like to see Chris Reid (a local radio personality), who read from ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, and a local writer’s reading of the children’s book ‘Jelly Belly’ (my favourite Canadian poetry book for kids).

I still have one more of my thank-you cards that I haven’t shown you, yet, so I will do that today. I chose this one to give to the Riel Gentlemen’s Choir, our musical portion of the evening. If you ever have the chance to hear these incredibly talented young men sing a capella, please do so. Since Riel was a leader in the Métis ‘rebellion’, I thought this was the most appropriate thank-you card to give to them.

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A Red River cart and teepee with the Métis flag.

This card has a plain white card stock base (half a sheet of 8-1/2″ x 11″). I brushed the edges with navy blue ink using a rough sponge. The next layer is navy blue card stock, cut 1/2″ smaller than the base. The next layer is a blue flower print paper cut 1/2″ smaller than the navy layer. I cut out a rectangle that was about 1/4″ larger than the photo. I attached the photo to the base with Sookwang double-sided tape. As a final touch, I added the piece of ribbon after fraying one edge. I added the ‘buckle’ to make it look like a belt, because the Métis Voyageurs wore colourful red sashes. While my ribbon doesn’t exactly have the arrow pattern, I thought it was the closest I had at hand to represent the ‘Ceinture Fléchée’ or arrow-patterned belt.

Ceinture Fléchée

The photo on the card was taken last September at the ‘Arrival Ceremony’ celebrating the 200th anniversary of the arrival of the first settlers to the Red River area. The current Earl of Douglas was present to commemorate this historic event.

The settlers were poor crofters brought over from Scotland by Lord Selkirk when their land was taken from them. Thomas Douglas, the fifth Earl of Selkirk, had already arranged for a group of settlers to create a colony on Prince Edward Island and established another colony at Baldoon near Lake St. Clair in Upper Canada. When he and his brother-in-law acquired controlling interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company, he set his sights on establishing a colony in the Red River area. He received a grant of 116,000 acres of land along the Red River valley to which he distributed among the settlers. This created harsh feelings among members of the rival Northwest Trading Company, which resulted in a bit of sabotage, culminating in the conflict known as the Battle at Seven Oaks.

In other news, here in Winnipeg is the annual Festival du Voyageur, a week-long series of events celebrating the city’s history, particularly the Métis culture. Many of the events are held at our historic Fort Gibralter, which pre-dates my favourite locale, Lower Fort Garry. The existing fort is a recreation of the one that stood on the east side of the Red River, a trading post for the Northwest Company, the original post for hunters and traders in the Red River area.

Although today’s Crafty Wednesday is more of a history lesson than a crafty post, I hope you enjoyed it. 🙂

Crafty Wednesday – more thank-you cards

I did a few more thank-you cards for our Words In The Flesh participants. For those of you who may have missed last week’s post, this Friday (February 1st), the Manitoba Writer’s Guild will be hosting a fundraiser at which we have asked local personalities to read a brief selection of our choosing.  There will also be music provided by The Riel Gentleman, a local band. It’s shaping up to be a fun event, so if you happen to be in the neighourhood and want to join us, contact me for tickets, or pick them up at McNally Robinson Booksellers – only $20 each!

Okay, on with the crafty stuff! 🙂

Thank-you Caboose

photo taken at the Mennonite Heritage Village in Steinbach, Manitoba

Thank-you Ross House

photo of Ross House Museum, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Thank-you windmill

photo of the windmill at the Mennonite Heritage Village, Steinbach, Manitoba

Each card has a photo taken at historic sites in Manitoba, approximately 2″ x 3-1/2″. The first two cards were embossed with the Cuttlebug and ‘Victoria’ embossing folder. The stamped images on the Ross House card were from the ‘Rue des Fleur’ set from Stampin’ Up.

The tulips in front of the Windmill were stamped using a two ink process. I used ‘Ink Spots’ from Stampin’ Up, beginning with the red for the blossoms and then the green on the stems and leaves before stamping it on shiny paper. I cut around them and used pop-ups to raise them on the page.

Guild appreciation

made by & photo ID

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like the previous cards, they all have the same note of appreciation on a background of paper coordinated with the front of the cards. On the back is my ‘made by’ logo and a note about the photo.

I hope the recipients all appreciate the cards as much as we appreciate their participation. 🙂

Crafty Thursday

Sorry, folks! I was too busy playing with Grandson yesterday to post about my crafting over the past week. We had a wonderful time, although the little guy will not sit still for more than a minute – literally! Even when he’s at the table eating, he does not have a motionless moment. I don’t remember my kids being quite that active, but then, I was a lot younger with a lot more energy than I have these days! There were a few extra-cute things he did that I’d like to share before we get on with things. One was the way he used the fireplace bellows as a guitar while he sang along, ‘strumming’ the brass decoration on the front of it. I think we managed to catch him in the act with the video camera, but he’d stop or turn away whenever he saw it in our hands. Another thing was his reaction to the cat’s laser pointer. If we brought the light close to his toes, he’d back away, obviously a little nervous about what the red ‘bug’ might do to his foot! Finally, he got up the nerve to ‘catch’ the dot with his hands. We’d turn off the light and say, “Yay, all gone!” He looked so proud of himself. 🙂

Okay, enough about the Grandson and on with the crafts. 🙂

Next Friday, the Manitoba Writers’ Guild is holding a fundraising event called Words In The Flesh. We’ve lined up a variety of local personalities to come and read for a few minutes. Not anything that the members have written, for the most part, but we’ve come up with a few selected passages that should amuse the audiences, like bits from ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’, children’s books, naughty parts from Carol Shields’ book ‘Larry’s Party’, etc. We also have a band lined up to play during intermission. It’s going to be very entertaining and we hope this event will draw attention to the writing community, maybe getting us a few new members in the process.

So, what does that have to do with today’s craft? Well, I volunteered to make the thank-you cards for the participants, incorporating local scenes into their design. I have made five of them, so far, with another five (at least) to go.

berries at MHV

Picture of rain dripping off berries, taken at the Mennonite Heritage Village

flowers at MHV

Picture of flowers taken at the Mennonite Heritage Village

Big House thank-you

Picture of the Big House at Lower Fort Garry

Skinner's thank-you

Picture of Skinner’s Restaurant at Lockport, Manitoba

St Andrews thank-you

St. Andrew’s Church on the Red River, Manitoba

Inside, I have created the thank-you part . . .

Guild appreciation

. . . and on the back, I have my ‘made by’ tag and identify what the picture is and where it was taken.

made by & photo ID

Each card is unique, as you can see, but they all have a base card of cream card stock. Each card’s dimensions are 5-1/2″ x 4-1/4″. I’ve used one of Cuttlebug‘s Fancy Frames to cut out a section for the photos to peek through. For others I’ve simply cut out a window the size I needed. I’ve embellished some with buttons, ribbon, brick-a-brack, and twine. On one I added a stamped, heat-embossed rose painted with my shiny paints. On another, I stamped flowers and stems, then glued on some Flower Soft flocking. There’s no limit to what can be done, depending on your store of embellishments and paper selections. 🙂

If you happen to be in Winnipeg on Friday, February 1st, around 7 p.m. and would like to join us for our literary event, Words In The Flesh, you can pick up your tickets at the McNally Robinson Booksellers at Grant Park Shopping Centre or contact a member of The Manitoba Writers’ Guild (call me!). We’re hoping it will be successful enough to make this an annual event. 🙂

Sunday Interview #26 – Colleen Nelson

Today, I’d like to introduce you to fellow Great Plains author, Colleen Nelson. I reviewed her first YA novel, Tori By Design, in Friday’s post. Please put your hands together and welcome Colleen. (Clap, clap! Whoot, whoot!)

Colleen Nelson

Welcome to my blog, Colleen! Please tell my readers al little about yourself.

Thanks for the opportunity to be on your blog, Susan! It’s great to see other writers making an effort to reach readers and writers through social media. 

I am the mother of two boys, and the step-mom to three kids ages 19-25. I taught junior high for ten years before going on a very extended maternity leave and now I teach preschool and write. I spend a lot of my time doing volunteer work for my community centre (I am the president at Tuxedo Community Centre) and my son’s school. I love to travel, sew and read.

What made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was on maternity leave with my first son, James, I decided to take a class through the Manitoba Writers Guild called ‘Writing for Children’ with Margaret Shaw-McKinnon. I need to keep my brain active, but was house-bound with my infant son. Writing became a great outlet to be creative and provided focus to my day. As soon as James went down for a nap, I found my way to the computer and spent a few blissful hours lost in my head with characters…instead of doing laundry or the dishes! I guess you could say, writing started as more of a hobby than a career.

Tori By Design

That’s kind of how it started for me, too…and who wants to do laundry or the dishes when you could be writing, right? 🙂

What gave you the idea for Tori By Design?

My husband’s work is based in New York, so we have an apartment in NYC and I’ve spent a lot of time living there. For a while, I took a leave from teaching to move out there. During that time, I volunteered at an Upper East Side private school. It was there that I started to wonder what a girl from Winnipeg would experience if she moved to NYC. 

I also love fashion, so I wrote Tori as a wanna-be fashion designer because NYC is the perfect place for a girl who loves clothes to live.

That is so cool! 🙂

How did you create the character of Tori?

Tori is a composite of two special girls in my life: my step-daughters, Sacha and Chloe, and a little bit of me. Watching my step-daughters go through their adolescence and teaching junior high school students, gave me different perspectives on what it is like to be a teenager these days. Tori has a lot of great characteristics, but she is also self-centered. Every character needs her flaw, right? My editor, Anita Daher, really helped to draw out Tori’s character arc and develop her into a well-rounded character.

Anita is such a great editor, isn’t she? She really knows how to bring out the best in our work. 🙂

Your descriptions of New York make your readers feel as if they are right there. I understand you lived there for a while. Please tell us about your experience in The Big Apple.

I absolutely LOVE NYC! It is my second home and I know the city very well. NYC has a pulse and pace that is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. Tokyo and London come close, but they don’t have the same aggression and forge-ahead attitude that you find in NYC. Living there, I worked as a docent at two museums, went to Broadway shows, lived in a tiny, crummy apartment, took the subway and discovered what makes the city so great. I love that each neighborhood has its own distinct character, from cobble stone streets in SOHO to the brownstones of the Upper West Side, no two areas are the same. The restaurants, shopping and access to cultural instituions means there is never ‘nothing to do’. The big buildings and sights get old fast and I always tell friends who visit to explore the neighborhoods to really get a sense of the city. Eat at a diner, shop at boutiques, visit the small museums and talk to people. New Yorkers are so friendly, helpful and proud of their city.

Sounds like a fantastic experience. You are very lucky! 🙂

I understand you are working on a new novel. Would you like to give my readers a sneak peek or are you superstitious about discussing a Work In Progress?

I have three in the works. “The Fall” is out in March and is about four boys and the tragic accident that shapes their lives. It is geared towards an older teen audience than ‘Tori by Design’ and is a gritty reflection of how boys deal with grief. I am very excited about it and can’t wait to have it launched!

The other two books, one is with a publisher as we speak, but I haven’t heard feedback yet, is about a small, conservative Manitoba town and the secrets that its townspeople have kept hidden for decades. As the main character and a boy from a nearby reserve begin to discover the truth, they realize that the secrets that have kept them apart, are the very things drawing them closer together.

I’ve only completed a first draft of the fourth book, but it is about a girl who seeks refuge at her aunt’s cottage after a troubled upbringing. It deals with the complex relationships women have with each other, mother to mother, mother to daughter, sister to sister. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on it this winter.

Wow! Sounds like you’ve been pretty busy – and will be busy for awhile! They all have great story lines and I can’t wait to read them! 🙂

Now, for something a little more fun – what is your favourite comfort food?

A steaming cup of strong coffee in my favouite mug is the most comforting! But chocolate is a close second! Especially chewy chocolate chip cookies!

Yum! Me, too! 🙂

What is your workspace like? (Feel free to include a photo, if you like)

I’m too embarrassed to include a photo of my messy, cramped work area. I don’t do well with an empty desk (empty desk-empty mind?) so I make sure there’s always a few piles of papers, hand lotion, a couple of library books, pens, pencils, my calendar and some photos strewn around me. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing: I work best when it’s cluttered, or it’s cluttered because I’m working…

That sounds very much like my workplace! lol

Who is your favourite Young Adult author?

Tough one. I read a lot but, I have to say, I have a lot of respect for William Bell because his books were able to draw in boys who weren’t inclined to read. I think that young adult male audience is the toughest one to crack. His books ‘Stones’ and ‘Blue Helmet’ were popular books with the boys when I taught.

You’re right about how difficult it is drawing the teen boys to reading. I’ll have to check out his books. 🙂

Are there any social media sites you’d like to share with us?

I have to admit, I am brutal at updating things. I have a blog at http://colleennelson.blogspot.com but it’s turned into an info site for people going to NYC, more than anything about my writing. For “The Fall”, I’ve started to put together  a blog with links to articles and forums about how teens deal with traumatic events. I will send you the link when I get it started.

I am also on Facebook at colleennelson547/

Do you have any last words before we close?

Thanks again for this opportunity. I know doing the blog takes time away from your own writing, but you are providing a great way for authors to connect with their audience. It’s been a pleasure!

Glad you enjoyed the experience. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Colleen, and may your book sales be many. 🙂

Literary Manitoba

Symposium on Manitoba Writing

For those of you worried that I had dropped off the end of the Earth, or went on a Space Safari, or I’m lying on my death bed, I assure you I am very much alive on this solid plane of existence/on this planet  – although I am a little tired and overwhelmed by the literary world. As I mentioned in my last post a week ago, I’d be going to the Symposium on Manitoba Writing this week. It has been a little bit of a whirlwind trying to take in as many of our literary speakers as possible while still preparing and presenting a panel of my own.

File:Parliamentwinnipeg manitoba.jpg

The Symposium kicked off on Wednesday evening with a screening of ‘Tramp at the Door’ and a talk about Lise Gaboury-Diallo, a local French Canadian who has been an important literary mentor to the Francophone population here, having written a number of critical papers, short stories and poetry. She teaches at the Université de Saint-Boniface here in Winnipeg in the Départment d’études françaises, de langues et de littératures. For those of you who are not familiar with Canada’s bilingual history, Manitoba has a strong duality of languages and culture with many French communities in the province and in Winnipeg. Most of the first white folk that set foot on the prairies were French hunters and trappers and their language and culture has been painstakingly preserved here with French immersion schools along with dual-track schools and all Elementary schools are introduced to the language. Of the thirteen main publishers in Manitoba two of them are Francophone publishers; Les éditions du blé and Les éditions du plaines. Most of this morning’s panels and readings will be about French writing and spoken in French, so I have taken the morning off (since I only married into a French family and am not fluent in the language!) in order to catch you up on my activities since Wednesday.

Instead of taking in the French film screening and talk, I went to the airport to pick up my co-panelist, Julie Burtinshaw, a fellow YA author, who flew in from Vancouver. I brought her to her Bed-and-Breakfast to check in, then we headed downtown to grab something to eat at the Free Press Cafe where we stayed to listen to seven ‘Under 30’ young people read their work.

Winnipeg News Cafe

The cafe is a unique little place in the heart of Winnipeg, right down the street from Artspace, where the Manitoba Writers’ Guild office and other art-related spaces are located. The Free Press cafe is owned and operated by our largest local newspaper chain and provides a live-stream variety of programs, hosting events like town halls, mini-concerts, book readings and more. It’s also a good place to meet the journalists, as they rotate in a variety of editors, beat writers and columnists week to week. They also feature culinary delights by the local restauranteur Domenic Amatuzio. I had the Manitoba Club sandwich accompanied with their house salad – both were wonderful. Julie said the Portobello mushroom sandwich was equally delicious! After we ate, we were delighted to hear the prose and poetry of Joshua Whitehead, Joann DeCosse, Adrian Werner, Bronwynn Jerritt Enns, Andrew Eastman Carlyn Shellenberg, and Michelle Elrich. Make a note of their names as I am sure one day, you will hear their names spoken in literary circles and say, I remember reading about them back in May 2012!

Thursday morning I arose early, bubbling with excitement thinking about the day’s activities. I picked Julie up at her BnB and we headed out to the Canadian Mennonite University. The university is a two-building campus linking the old with the new. The main campus is set in what used to be the School for the Deaf, built in 1921. It was the perfect setting to house the literary symposium, bringing to mind images of castles with huge libraries.

The day’s events began in ‘The Great Hall’. Writers’ Guild members greeted us at the door where we registered, grabbed a coffee (or tea) and a homemade muffin or two before the Opening Ceremonies. Victor Enns, co-founder of the Guild began by introducing us to ’30 Manitoba Remarkable Books’ as selected by website visitors. Both books of poetry and novels were included in the list with such memorable authors as Carol Shields, Margaret Laurence, Miriam Toews, Robert Kroetsch, Jake MacDonald, David Bergen and Sandra Birdsell, just to name a few. If you are interested in learning all the books that made it onto the list, let me know and I will post the list at a later date.

Following Victor was a panel on publishing featuring David Arnason (editor of Turnstone Press), Anne Molgat, (director of Les éditions du blé), Jared Bland (managing editor of House of Anansi Press) and Joan Thomas (frequent contributing reviewer to the The Globe & Mail as well as award winning author of Reading By Lightning & Curiosity). They discussed the current state of publishing and what they thought was in store for the future. Anne described how the industry is moving away from the Big Publishing Houses and writers were relying on the smaller houses to get their work published. David suggested that being published was a means for authors to get ‘authentication’ for their work, ‘like a PhD for writers’, which I suppose is true in some ways but that opinion negates the struggle of hard-working writers who choose to go the self-publishing, or e-publishing route. In my opinion, their words are no less important than those of traditionally published authors. One point that was brought up was the fact that the smaller publishers of Manitoba seem to be thriving while others in Canada are struggling. Could this be due to the incredible writing community and the support of our provincial government? I think that may be the case. I had the chance to speak with writers from other provinces who don’t have an organization like our Writers Guild (with the exception of Saskatchewan’s Guild on which ours was based) that supports, encourages and educates writers.

One problem they brought up  was that with the smaller publishing houses, there is a lack of marketing budget leaving the writer with the task of promoting their own work. Suggestions such as using social media – blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc – was a good way to promote yourself. Book trailers and author-promoting videos on YouTube were good to create a ‘buzz’ about your writing. Here in Manitoba, McNally Robinson Booksellers does a fantastic job of supporting book-signings and book launches, puts prairie writers in their own section, which makes it easy to find local writing, and places our new books in prominent places. It has even brought in an in-store printing machine that can almost instantly print books in their library of on-demand titles. Of course, the publishers did not mention this new technology. I just thought I’d put that out there in support of such a great friend to the Manitoba writers. 🙂

Next on the Thursday agenda was a panel of Mennonite writing with David Elias, Maurice Mierau and Hildi Froese-Tiessen, a special session entitled Writing from the Margins – Farm, Forest,  Frontier with Fisher Lavell, Donna Besel and Sharon Arksey, and Readings by Chandra Mayor, Melissa Steele, and Lori Cayer. Since I couldn’t be in three places at once, I had a difficult decision to make. I chose to attend Writing from the Margins and was thoroughly entertained by the three women from rural Manitoba with their wonderful stories and personal histories. Those living on the fringes of urban life or in extremely remote areas have a difficult time being taken seriously as writers because they are nowhere near where all the literary ‘action’ is, but their stories still need to be told. For more information on all the speakers I’ve mentioned, please check out the Symposium information page here, which includes a brief bio of each one.

Lunches and dinners were included in the price of registration and were cheerfully provided by the cafeteria staff in the new building of the CMU. Although it was a bit of a walk, especially if you had a physical challenge like arthritis or torn tendons in an ankle as in the case of my co-panelist, it was a pleasant distraction from sitting and listening for several hours at a time. The varied menus included lasagna, bison stew and bannock, vegetarian sweet and sour meatballs with rice, and garlic sausage and salad. Then it was back to a literary fare.

First thing Thursday afternoon, Keynote speaker Marta Dvorak discussed how Manitoba writers and artists ‘are fine illustrations of an imaginative continuum on a planetary scale’. It was a scholarly account of her impressions of our literary history and culture. Afterwards, presenters read their papers on Poetry, Robert Steed, Urban Winnipeg and the Writing Community. By this time, Julie was feeling a little jet-lagged so we skipped out on the afternoon sessions and took in the used book sale instead. I picked up a half-dozen books that I hope will help in my future historical research, then I drove Julie to her BnB to relax before taking in the evening readings by David Bergen, Meira Cook, Struan Sinclair, Joan Thomas and Sarah Klassen.

I think I will end here. There are still some people I’d like to hear read this afternoon, and I might take in the finale tonight, a Cabaret evening at the West End Cultural Centre. On top of all that I have 80 emails to take in, mostly your blog posts that I have been neglecting because of all this literary activity. (Sorry about that!) Tomorrow, I’ll talk about Friday’s sessions, which includes my panel.

I hope everyone is having a great weekend, so far! 🙂