Important Books in my Life

I’ve been having fun thinking of seven books that have been influential in my life, yet another Face Book tagging game. I’m sure there could have been others, but these are the ones that came to my mind first.

the book I re-read at least once a year, while occasionally wishing I was Kate DiCamillo (because she’s funny, wise, and such a good writer of middle grade novels)

one of the few “adult” novels I’ve read a few times (although I’ve never wished to be John Irving:)

the picture book that made me wonder if I couldn’t try writing my own picture books

one of my favorites from childhood; this is the 1958 edition I still have, although it was printed a couple of years before my birth. I’ve been sewing for a lot of my adult life, and maybe this story had something to do with that, and my obsession with making something of nothing.

during my English degree, I began noticing that certain authors were really good. I do wish Dickens had been a little less wordy, since all his books take a very long time to read, but I admire his artistry.

I got to live for a month in iconic Canadian artist Doris McCarthy’s Scarborough Bluffs home, Fool’s Paradise, in 2015, and I decided to start playing around with art the following year. I continue to seek  a publisher for a young person’s book about this amazing, gutsy, forthright woman, who was ahead of her time in a lot of ways.

and the novel that really set my course for the ten years since it was first published. Inspired by a man I know, this story of the Lost Boys of Sudan took almost five years to research and write; not sure I have that kind of energy for a writing project anymore, but if the right topic comes my way, who knows?

Thoughts? What books have been influential in your life? Like me, I’m sure you’re all doing more reading during these Covid times (and more Netflix watching, but that’s another topic…) Cheers!

Masks, Grandparents, and Tragedy: Nova Scotia in the Times of Covid

I’ve been making masks, about 50/day for the past ten days, and raising lots of money for the Food Bank. I know many kids get a good chunk of their nutrition at school, when there is school, and I wanted to find a way to help them. I didn’t know the demand would be so great, and I suppose before long it will become mandatory to wear a mask whenever we’re out in public, buying groceries, etc. Oh, well. It’s good busy work during these strange times. Friends donated lots of sheets and t-shirts, which I’m ripping up for the ear loops as there’s a worldwide elastic shortage, not surprisingly.

 

The other day, I found myself dipping into my rag bag for mask-makings, and ended up using some pieces of sheets that I’m pretty sure my grandparents gave us for a wedding gift 33 years ago. It was from Nana and Gramps Mingo that I learned to sew. Nana had a turquoise Singer sewing machine, and I remember her patiently showing me how to thread it, etc., and how thrilled I was with the idea that you could actually make something useful from a sheet of fabric. I’ve always loved visiting fabric stores, looking at the array of prints, and for 15 years, before I got into the crazy writing business, I made toddlers’ clothing, cuddle duds, which gave me a chance to stay home with my kids. I wonder what Nana and Gramps, who were born in the first decade of the 20th century, would think of our Covid-infested world. Maybe they’d like the idea that the entire world has slowed down and become quieter, since they’d no doubt find our usual hectic pace a bit odd. I’m sure they did lots of scavenging during the Great Depression, another time when nothing went to waste. They were composting before composting was even a thing.

And one week ago, Nova Scotia was attacked violently and senselessly by a fiend impersonating an RCMP officer, driving a fully-marked car and wearing a uniform. Twenty-three innocent people lost their lives; countless family members, friends and community people are left devastated; all of this in very rural parts of our tiny province, areas previously most well-known for their peaceful, quiet beauty and friendly people. So many children and grandchildren left without parents and grandparents; there are no words for their kind of sadness. Support and messages of hope have flooded in from around the world, and Nova Scotians stand strong and united, but this is not the way those precious lives were supposed to end.(poignant art: Bruce MacKinnon,THE CHRONICLE HERALD)

Nature, Picasso and other ramblings…

  1. As we’re all trying to keep up with the COVID-19 news, I’ve been spending lots of time by the ocean. I’ve been thinking about Nature, the essential part of our world we have so little control over. I wonder what lessons we’ll all take away from this pandemic. Will we travel less? Buy more locally-produced goods? Feel more or less friendly towards people around the world?

2. Totally unconnected, but I love this, sadly, very true Picasso quote:

3. And on the topic of nature, a little video produced by RUNNING THE GOAT PRESS, the publisher of DANCING WITH DAISY:

4. Otherwise, I’ve been taking a few pictures here on beautiful Saint Simons Island, Georgia (as we begin to prepare ourselves that we may have to leave early… Charlie would be devastated. But of course, there are worse things that could happen.)

Thanks for putting up with my rambling. Stay safe out there, and stock up on soap!

 

I READ CANADIAN DAY, February 19, 2020

Hope everybody finds 15 minutes (or more) this Wednesday (or any day) to read a Canadian-authored book! I’ll be visiting  the elementary school in my hometown of Wolfville, Nova Scotia tomorrow and sharing this little guy with the primary and grade one students.

And some recent comments that made me smile, in the “kids-say-the-darndest-things” way:

*10-year-old boy: “That (RAINBOWS IN THE DARK, 2005) was my favorite book when I was in nursery school. I used to ask them to read it to us every day. And I was so excited when I got to school and found it in the library.” And then his grandmother bought a copy for another grandchild:)

*Teacher: “Are you Jan L. Coates? Two of my grade 7 students just read TALKING to THE MOON, and they said it was amazing. I can’t wait to read it.”

*Student (age 11): “I’m writing a book. When you’re writing, does your own story ever make you cry?”

Me (enthusiastically): “That’s my goal in life!”

Another student (age 13): “That’s because you have empathy for your character. She’s a real person to you.”

Happy reading!

Welcome 2020!

Some people have been posting grand lists of their decade of accomplishments as 2019 ended. Well, this isn’t one of those lists. But it is a list – a reminder to myself of some things that I’m grateful for as 2020 begins:

  1. My people: two sons and two daughters – Liam & Rachel; Shannon &Peter; husband Don and sister Nance, and one fur person, Golden Retriever Charlie. They are my heart, my life, my soul. Period.
  2. Health, mobility and well-being.
  3. My writing colleagues and my true-blue friends, the ones who show up at my launches and read my books even if they’re not interested😊 Without them, I wouldn’t get to wake up each morning (well, most mornings), eager to get to whatever tasks/pleasures await me.
  4. My newly-discovered passion for illustrating. Who knew?
  5. Readers, and everyone who connects books and readers (librarians, publishers, booksellers, teachers, parents, etc.) If no one reads a book, does it really exist?
  6. The great outdoors. After breaking my wrist six weeks ago, I’ve missed being in the woods, on my bike, and near the water. I’m looking forward to getting back after saying goodbye to my purple cast later this week.
  7. Sunshine and clean air.
  8. Smiling people who go out of their way to be pleasant and helpful.
  9. Peace.
  10. Young people who are our future.

Thank you for being part of my 2019. I hope your 2020 will be a year full of possibilities, contentment, creativity, good health and magic for you and yours!

Fun with art

I’m obsessed with learning to illustrate lately, and I’ve been selling my “cuddle cards” for the past year or so at Stirling’s, a local farm market. I used a quote by Mark Twain for my most recent illustration, above:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you DID NOT DO,

than by the ones you DID DO. Explore, Dream, Discover!

Matching words and images is so much fun! I was that kid who gave up on art in about grade four when I realized lots of other kids were better “drawers” than I was. I’m so happy I decided to heed Mark Twain’s advice, take the plunge, and pick it up again (about 50 years later). This summer, I published my first book that has my name on the cover as both author and illustrator, KARISSA & FELIX. The quality of this JPEG isn’t very good, I fear… But I’m pretty proud of the book, and I hope it will help some kids find hope after a great loss. I do still have a lot to learn about illustrating, but I’m enjoying the process. If you’d like to buy a copy (or 10), I have several boxes in my writing room…