Not perfect scans, but still having fun learning to illustrate and designing greeting cards (and writing, of course)…
In August of 2015, thanks to Doris McCarthy and Ontario Heritage Trust, I got to be the first writer-in-residence for the entire month at Fool’s Paradise, former home of iconic Canadian artist, Doris McCarthy. During that month, living in the space she’d so lovingly crafted over her lifetime, I became fascinated with all things Doris, and set about writing her story for young readers. She was a woman ahead of her time in so many ways, determined to succeed in what was largely a man’s world in the 1930s and 1940s. For Doris, nothing was impossible, and anything was possible. Alongside a 40-year teaching career, she spent her life creating 6,000 works of art, telling Canada’s story, sharing her joy and love for life and the wild.
This past November, I was asked to present at a McCarthy Symposium hosted by the McCarthy Gallery, University of Toronto, Scarborough. I worked for weeks putting together a PowerPoint presentation to go along with my lyrical version of Doris’s life story. Along with the other eleven presenters, I was happy to meet some of the significant people in Doris’s life, including her long-time agent, Lynn Wynick, and two daughters of Doris’s dearest friend, Marjorie Beer Woods. At the end of the symposium, the five of us who had been artists-in-residence at Fool’s Paradise had a panel discussion about living in that magical space, which was super interesting; all of us felt Doris’s spirit which is still strongly present in her home.
There are painfully few books for young readers on the subject of Canadian artists, especially female Canadian artists. So far, I haven’t found a publisher willing to take on the project, but, like Doris, I’m determined, and will continue reworking the manuscript, and revisiting her life, until somebody says yes. Wish me luck!
I’ve been doing a few school author visits this month, as well as mentoring some young writers, and I’ve been musing…
- Small rural schools are a lovely thing; with fewer than 200 students, every adult in the building knows the kids, and that makes it an easier environment in which to be a kid, I’m pretty sure. Class sizes are typically smaller, and it just feels more like family than the bigger schools. It’s sad that as a cost-saving thing, school boards are amalgamating such small schools, leading to longer bus rides for kids and what must be overwhelming crowds for a lot of kids who value their personal space.
- Kids are aware of the scary, addictive nature of the internet. While visiting one middle school, a girl approached me after my presentation, seeking my advice on how to avoid being sucked into the Google vortex while trying to write a story. On the spot, the only advice I could give was to use Google as a reward – say, after you’ve written a couple of pages, allow yourself a few minutes of internet time. Amazing that she’s so self-aware at age 12.
- Kids want to be good and want to learn. At that same school, three students approached me as they were leaving (on their own initiative) and apologized for their misbehavior (which I hadn’t even noticed since it was a large group), explaining that they’ve been diagnosed with ADHD.
- Calling out students who are inattentive, by mentioning they’ve made themselves outstanding by being the only one in the room without a “listening face” as I call it, is effective. Probably makes me some enemies, but maybe they’ll learn something about being polite, rather than trying to drag others off-task with them. I’m always happy to put on my teacher hat when required:)
- The absence of school librarians is noticeable. The middle school above (500 students) does have a librarian, and the library is so well-used, especially at lunchtime, partially as a quieter refuge from the noisy cafeteria. One school I visited has a parent volunteer to supplement the few allotted librarian hours, which is awesome. The good thing is, most kids do have a public library card (and hopefully have somebody to take them to the library occasionally…)
- Couldn’t resist adding this gem from today: A student told me about a friend of hers who keeps a list of lines for picking up girls (they’re 12). The one that made me laugh out loud: Getting out a pocket mirror, showing the to-be-wooed girl her face in it, and asking: “Does your father know you stole the stars from the sky and put them in your eyes?” You can’t make that stuff up!
- Kids are the best, and I’m so happy I get to write books for young readers. Sharing in their enthusiasm and energy for life is a real treat.
- Shout-out to Linda Hudson of the Writers Federation of Nova Scotia who makes these school visits possible through their Writers in the Schools (WITS) program, and to all the adults who make the time to arrange for authors to visit. But mostly, thank you to the students who show up (for the most part) with their “listening faces.”
And I couldn’t resist putting in a few wedding pics from Shannon and Peter’s October 20th country wedding at Peter’s home. Such a wonderful day; my heart was/is full!
Thanks for reading – other than a near-death experience involving me having to slam our rental car into reverse on a twisty mountain road as we came upon an 18-wheeler fully in our lane (to navigate the hairpin turn), we had a great trip!
I had three book launches last month and a few bookstore signings; they were lots of fun, and I so appreciate people coming out to show their support when I have a new book (or two this year). As you’ll see in the short video clip, Tom Chapin really made my Lunenburg Launch (hosted by the Lunenburg Library now located in the old Academy) special, and I got to sing along on the line from his tune “Family Tree” that I included in TALKING TO THE MOON – “You’re probably my cousin, and the whole world is our kin.” We started September with Don’s 60th birthday party/house concert. And that about sums up my summer!
40th high school reunion (Truro, Nova Scotia) – over 200 people!
Two new books and three launches in August – too busy! (Tom Chapin (who provided the soundtrack to my kids’ growing-up years and is the late Harry’s brother) is going to sing his song, “Family Tree” (which appears in Talking to the Moon) at one of them!)
Hope you’re all surviving the humidity and enjoying summer!