I’m Still Here!

I can’t believe I haven’t made it onto my blog for so long, but I’m finally here. Seems time just keeps skipping by more and more quickly the older I get!

We bought a family cottage in the Haliburton, Ontario area a couple of weeks ago, and we’ve already spent five days there, most of them without running water… But I already love the beautiful lake-rich area, the friendly people we’ve met so far, and the cozy cottage. The previous owner is 94 now, and with his late wife, he built the Viceroy home in 1975. He planted many hardwood trees around the property which are quite big and shady now, and he left just about everything in the cottage, so other than fully winterizing it, there’s not much for us to do but enjoy when we’re there! I’m hoping it’ll be a place where we can watch Ada and Noelle grow up – they’ll no doubt think it’s our house since I expect we’ll see more of them there than here in Nova Scotia.

I had kind of a big book week this week. Tuesday night Red Deer Press hosted a historical fiction Zoom launch for Christine Welldon’s new middle-grade novel, Knight of the Rails, and my new picture book Anna Maria & Maestro Vivaldi, with stunning art by Francois Thisdale. It was so great to finally meet Francois, who I’ve gotten to know through a lengthy set of emails as he was working on the art for this book. I’ve admired his work for years, and his passion and enthusiasm for his art is inspiring. I’m very grateful to have had an opportunity to create a book with him. Plus, he regularly bikes 35 kms a day as part of his artistic process (6,000 kms total in 2022) I’ve also gotten to know new Red Deer Press editor Bev Brenna through email, and it was wonderful to meet her, sort of in person. Thanks to friends and family who tuned into the Zoom launch, including baby Noelle, the youngest-ever participant on a Red Deer Zoom launch😊 Giant thanks to everybody on the Red Deer Press/ Fitzhenry & Whiteside team, including former editor Peter Carver and former publisher, Richard Dionne, who acquired this book back in 2019.

If you didn’t make the launch, but you’re interested in hearing how both the words and art evolved for this book, here’s the link. Our bit starts at about the 23 minute mark:


Passcode: .v7F7$z1 (note there’s a period in front of the “v”)

I spent two mornings this week at Coldbrook School (the wall outside the office above), visiting grades primary to two classes, and I completely enjoyed talking about writing and being with kids again (I wore a mask as much as possible since everybody is coughing these days). Thank you to all the young writers who shared their energy, dreams, grandparent poems, and guessing games with me. A special shout-out to Mrs. MacLean’s grade 2 class, my first audience for Anna Maria & Maestro Vivaldi – they listened so closely, and I loved your energy for the guessing game activity. Hope to see you again! There are so many teachers, educational assistants and students absent with various viruses these days – even though they’re tired, the adults in the building keep the school ship afloat – not an easy task at the best of times. Thank you!

Hope you’re settling in for the winter and enjoying spending time doing things you love with people you love – cheers!


Happy 2022! (better late than never)

After finally getting to finish my highly-personal, and exciting, dedication for ANNA MARIA & MAESTRO VIVALDI (Red Deer Press, 2022, art by the amazing Francois Thisdale, whose work I’ve admired for years), I’m taking some time to reflect on November and December. We were in Ontario for those two months, back and forth between Kingston (a very easy city to live in/get around) and Toronto, spending time with Shannon & Peter, Liam & Rachel as they awaited their first babies.

Ada Jane (AJ) Vooys (named after my late mum and Peter’s Grandma Jane) arrived on November 22nd, on what would have been my parents’ 64th wedding anniversary, and Noelle Clara Coates arrived on December 21st, the first day of winter. Sadly, I can’t show you pictures as their parents have wisely decided to keep them off social media, but I’m completely in love with both of these sweet little girls. It’s early days, but it already seems they may have very different personalities – who knows? I’m just so grateful for their safe arrivals – thanks to their Mamas who did the hard work of growing them!

They’re so beautiful, snuggly, soft, sweet, cute – all the baby adjectives, and I loved them from the moment I met them (or possibly before they were born), something that kind of surprised me. I loved my own kids from the moment they were conceived, I think, but I didn’t know it would be the same for grandbabies. Best of all is watching their sleepy parents love them, too, as they figure out this parenting thing. Both couples will be such great parents, and they’re all taking a teamwork approach, supporting each other, exchanging bleary-eyed smiles, even across poopy diaper changes, with Vaseline-slathered hands😊

Both AJ and Noelle are lucky little girls to have the parents they do, and I am so looking forward to being part of their life stories as they unfold, chapter-by-chapter (diaper-by-diaper)! Fortunately, my almost-forgotten baby-holding skills kicked in immediately – there’s nothing like that new baby smell and warmth to send a new grandma into raptures.

Meanwhile, back home in Wolfville, I’m still making masks – I stopped counting ages ago, but it’s well over 5,000. Lots of snowy days to work on my illustrating, too. Hope you’re able to tune out Omicron for the most part, and that you’re vaccinated, boosted, and finding your way through this endless pandemic.

Obituary Advice, and other bits

Years ago, I developed a habit of reading the Nova Scotia obituaries every day. This morning, this little gem caught my eye.

“I think it’s important that each of us wring out of every day whatever we can. Play the game full out, and don’t leave anything on the table. Decide what you want from this month and go for it. This month is going by no matter what we decide to do, so take a few minutes and write down all the things you want to accomplish this month and attack the list.”  (with thanks to the late Michael Crosby)

Farewell to the Lazy Loon = sad Charlie…

Since we sold the cottage just over a month ago, I’ve been following Mr. Crosby’s advice and keeping very busy with daily lists, getting ready to be away for a couple of months in Ontario awaiting the arrival of our first two grandbabies😊 I’m still sewing masks, plus kitchen towels and mug rugs in addition to my soul smiles greeting cards and books, all of which I sell at the Wolfville Farm Market Store. Stockpiling for the two months of Christmas has kept me extra busy, although most days I feel like I’m rushing to cram all the stuff I want to do in to each day. Since the heart attack I had when I was 47, I’ve lived my life with gusto – we never know what lurks around the corner, so make hay while the sun shines!

I have a picture book coming out from Red Deer Press in 2022, Anna Maria & Maestro Vivaldi, which will be illustrated by the wonderfully talented Francois Thisdale, an artist whose work I’ve admired for years. Beverly Brenna is the new editor at Red Deer, and she’s been lovely to work with on this project.

And a little plug for my friend Laura Best’s new book from Nimbus Publishing, A Sure Cure for Witchcraft – I really loved this fairytale-feeling book about soul friends connecting across the centuries. If you have middle grade readers in your life who are fans of Gail Carson Levine’s books (like Ella Enchanted), I think this book would be right up their alley.

Excellent book – pretty good friend, too:)

Fall has given us beautiful, warm weather and sunshine here in Nova Scotia. Hope things are going well in your corner, and that you and yours are vaccinated and staying safe! I think we’re close to having 85% of eligible Canadians vaccinated now – yay us!

THE HERMIT – the film! And some good news…

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days making a book trailer for THE HERMIT. I used Animoto, which was new for me, but I have to say it’s a nice program (once I figured it out, roughly). And I got to include my late grandparents, Nana and Gramps Mingo in a YouTube video:)

Here’s the link to the two-minute trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19vC0aFDBdc.

I’ve been continuing to play with art, but I did work on the first edit of my forthcoming picture book with Red Deer Press, tentatively “Anna Maria & Maestro Vivaldi” due out in 2022. The wonderfully talented Francois Thisdale is doing the art for this one, which I’m pretty excited about.

I recently had some great news for THE HERMIT – it’s one of five finalists for the IODE Violet Downey Book Award, for the best Canadian book for readers 13 and under – two of the other finalists are also finalists for the 2021 Governor General’s Literary Awards, so my novel is in good company. I’m reading the other books, and so far I’ve read BANKSY (Tanya Lloyd Kyi, MY PINE ISLAND HOME (Polly Horvath) and SARA AND THE SEARCH FOR NORMAL (Wesley King) – they’re all very different and really excellent. Next up is THE BARREN GROUNDS (David A. Robertston). I have absolutely no hope of winning, but I’m happy my novel, from a relatively tiny, indie publisher (Nimbus Publishing) in Nova Scotia has gotten some recognition nationally:)

Hope you’re enjoying spring – it’s arrived a little early here in NS, and I hope all of you will get to see your people sometime before summer ends – I’ve had one shot of AZ, and I have to say I’m hoping for something else for the second shot now that AZ has been paused across Canada. The good news is the roll-out has been faster than expected – now we just have to persuade everybody to book an appointment. Cheers!