That line from Thursday’s Storm jumped at me because it fed right into my new novel, Of Sea and Seed, which is centered around the 1929 Newfoundland tsunami. My gratitude to Darrell knows no bounds for my work sits squarely on the shoulders of his research: his creative nonfiction account of the nameless hurricane that hit Placentia Bay on August 25, 1927 comes straight from the hearts and souls of the victims’ families.
Thursday’s Storm When the crew of the fishing schooner Annie Healy left their home port of Fox Harbour, Placentia Bay, on Wednesday, August 17, 1927, no one could have imagined what fate held in store for them. Times were hard in Newfoundland that year. On shore, wives of the crew were often worked to exhaustion, even more so while their men were at sea. Most had lost parents, siblings, or children to tuberculosis. Each family had at least one tragic story. But when a hurricane struck Placentia Bay on August 25 of that year, a tragedy unlike any they had lived through would unite these people in ways untold. Now, eighty-six years later, the full story of the ill-fated vessel and her crew is told for the first time. The closeness of the crew and their families, and how they worked together to ensure their little community survived, is relived through the memories of children of the crew, stories passed down from their mothers, and reports from the last men to see the schooner afloat.
As a native of Placentia, I grabbed this book on Kindle to sneak a glimpse at the lives of those who came before. Then I bought a print copy for my father who remembers the event and the people affected by it.
As an author of a novel set in that era and area, I gobbled up Duke’s details about life at home and on the sea, details that engage the senses and plank the reader down, right there
in the kitchen, where “…a round, cast iron pot shivers, its cover clanking like mad from a fit of dancing hot water inside.”
in the garden, where one must lift “… the clothesline as high as possible out of the reach of the sheep that think nothing of standing on their hind legs and eating a shirt or pair of pants.”
in the fields, where “Long black rats scurry through the wet grass.”
on the wharf, where “Empty barrels for bait are rolled up splintery wooden planks and onto the deck…” and
on the schooner, where “Darkness creeps in from every corner of the earth as the Annie Healy cuts through the black water…”
Darrell Duke’s talents are not limited to the written word. He is a musician who first penned this as a song, The Annie Healy; next came a play, and then this book. Thursday’s Storm is a stirring depiction of lives dependent upon, and devastated by, the sea which (and Darrell said it best) “stops for nothing.”
Many thanks, Darrell!
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Looking for writing/marketing tips? Here are my Top Twitter picks for May, 2015:
Recently, I watched, then tweeted about SHOWRUNNERS: THE ART OF RUNNING A TV SHOW (Don’t usually include my own tweets here, but I was blown away by the amount of work these writers do! This show is available on Netflix and is well worth the watch!)
The Book Nook
A while back, I shared my designated working place in a post called My Write Space. Now I am sharing my designated place to read. From humble beginnings as a child when I hid beneath the covers with a flashlight to cherish my books, I have graduated to the perfect reading space. Ta dah! It includes:
A buttery soft chair, swivel, rocker-recliner.
A sculptured side table which I am sure is the envy of all avid readers. (It’s mine: eat your heart out!)
A storage bench which holds treasured books that used to be stacked on the dresser, the night stand, the floor.
A lush throw, the color of sea foam, a perfect match for the scheme of the room.
A discreetly-covered armchair caddy which holds so many crucial comforts: reading glasses, notebook, post-its, Kindle, pens.
The Book Choices With reading, as with most things, I plan ahead; I prefer to have a stack of books at the ready as the lack of same prompts me to use the BUY button on my Kindle far too often. I prefer print copy and usually borrow the book first; if I love it, I buy it. I read more fiction than nonfiction (most nonfiction choices are about the art of writing.) I choose fiction based on author, content, style, sometimes even the cover. I search for Giller winners and Booker winners and Pulitzer winners and Indie BRAG winners. I also seek recommendations from Goodreads. But my favorite way of meeting a new book is word-of-mouth.
Thank you, Shirley from Tai Chi who suggested My Reading Life . In it, author Pat Conroy listed the books that influenced his writing (if you want to know what those were, check out this Pinterest Board by Liz Whittaker.) I am now reading a book from his list, Look Homeward, Angel which I first borrowed. Then I bought it from The Book Man. From Shirley also came The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber, one of my favorite books of all time.
Thank you to the staff of the aforementioned Book Man: Sara for White Oleander by Janet Fitch, David for The Timetraveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Linda forThe Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. (If you are an avid reader, you will love this video-gone-viral parody by The Book Man: All About Them Books.)
Thank you to critique partner, Mary, for The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. What a surprise and a connection it created last spring when I went via float plane Victoria to meet up with my sister and three nieces, and discovered we had all read and loved that same book.
Thank you to former fearless writing group leader, Ken, for literary novel Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks and suspense novel, The Neighbor by Lisa Gardner. I refer to the former when I need a lesson in historical fiction and to the latter when I want to create just the right mood for a dark scene.
Thank you, Jeannette who, in email response to my post Favorite Reads of 2014, suggested Room by Emma Donaghue. That one haunted me and jumped onto my favorite list for 2015.
Thank you, Paula, for your comment on that same post, wherein you recommended Still Life with Breadcrumbs by Anna Quindlen. I have since read another of Quindlen’s novels and am seeking more.
Thank you to a long-time friend, Gini, for a long-time-ago mention of The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. This was a powerful story that stayed with me for a long time, but also a Masterclass in writing: each family member had a point of view and each voice was remarkably distinct.
Thank you Margaret at Tai Chi, for Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. And thank you for warning me that it is challenging and it’s worth if you stick with it. I have since read everything that Kate Atkinson has written.
I am always seeking a great read and a good excuse to spend time in my Book Nook. Any reading suggestions? Please send them along in comments or by email.
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My Valentine and I have been married for eons. During that time, all of our vows– to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to share with you in love, through sickness and in health– have come into play. A roller coaster, at times, as are all relationships, but we are still standing, strong.
Here are some of my favorite lines for Valentines:
A heart well worth winning, and well won. A heart that, once won, goes through fire and water for the winner, and never changes, and is never daunted. ~ Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend
You are my heart, my life, my one and only thought. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The White Company
He stepped down, trying not to look long at her, as if she were the sun, yet he saw her, like the sun, even without looking. ~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. ~Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness. ~ John Keats, A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever
He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest. ~ W.H. Auden, Stop All the Clocks
I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love. ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera
Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. ~ Robert Browning, Rabbi Ben Ezra
Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage. ~ Lao Tzu
The problems of your past are your business; the problems of your future are my privilege. ~ John Watson to Mary Watson in Sherlock
My best to you,
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I originally come from the island of Newfoundland but right now I’m coming to you from the island of my sofa. I have the flu and, due to my husband’s medical history and resulting weakened immune system (detailed in Olympic Hope), I have placed myself here, in solitary confinement, with only tea, books, and tablet as companions. A good place from which to comment on my favorite reads of 2014.
Here are the books that I found inspiring, compelling, challenging, or truly entertaining this past year:
The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak Set in Nazi Germany with Death as narrator. A young girl, through the theft of books and with the aid of her foster father, develops a passion for reading which sustains her through the reign of Hitler. This novel is classified as YA but its power and eloquence defy such limitation. Searing. Grim. Indelible.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriageby Ann Patchett This memoir contains a collection of previously published articles (NY Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s) about love, friendship, work, art. Clean, clear language. Honest. From the soul. Inspirational.
Larry’s Partyby Carol Shields Set from 1977-1997. A fumbling man discovers his love of mazes and finds his way to self through his labyrinth of a life. Quiet. Arresting. Realistic.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby MaryAnn Shaffer & Annie Barrows This epistolary novel is set on the Channel Islands during WWII. A tribute to book lovers, it details the journey of a cast of courageous book club members whose island is occupied by the Nazi regime. Nostalgic. Enchanting. Inspiring.
419by Will Ferguson (2012 Giller Prize Winner) A literary thriller set in Canada and Nigeria, this is a woman’s crusade to find the man she deems responsible for the downfall and death of her father. (The term 419 is a code for Nigerian email scams.) Taut. Intriguing. Educational.
After Thisby Alice McDermott An apt portrayal of the reality of life in an Irish Catholic American family. Lyrical. Engaging. Poignant.
All the Light We Cannot Seeby Anthony Doerr Set in France during WWII, this novel has two surprising protagonists, one a blind girl, one a Nazi soldier. The beauty in this lies in the author’s ability to create sympathy for the young soldier and to help the reader see through use of sound. (A must read for any writer seeking to improve sense of sound in writing.) Ambitious. Authentic. Riveting.
Behind the Scenes at the Museumby Kate Atkinson Atkinson’s first novel, this exquisitely-written piece details , from conception onward, the life of Ruby who takes us into the world of her quirky British family. Complex. Funny. Heartbreaking.
My favorite book of the year? I must cite two from the above list: 419for the education I received (until I read this, I would have assumed 419 to be an area code, no more) and The Book Thieffor its innovation, power, and simplicity. (In case you noticed… yes, I am currently reading a lot of WWII fiction: my work-in-progress, Book II of a trilogy, is set during that era.)
And now… I’m looking for some good reads while I remain quarantined on the couch, Kindle at the ready. Any suggestions?
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I love to enter short story contests (see previous post: Why Enter Story Contests?) In my 2014 goals, I listed that I would enter a few. (One done in January, one in October. Yay!) I enter to learn, not to win. I enter for the fun and for the feeling of accomplishment that the marathon of the novel does not provide.
Here is an entry that did manage to land second place this year:
Bittersweet memories float past, memories of emerging from the womb, hoping to fly, flailing like a nestling, disillusioned by gravity. Childhood slips by in a blur of fairy stories and bluebirds and magic carpets and angels’ wings. Deeds of derring-do slide in: toppling from tree branches, leaping from monkey bars, jumping from a second-floor balcony. Echoes of painful cries ring out as I recall dropping like Icarus to broken bones and harsh reality.
Footfall (not free flight) was to be my transportation.
Grounded, literally, yet one day I fluttered with hope when I spotted a skein of Canada Geese scissoring the sky. Hope is the thing with feathers, Dickinson’s apposite metaphor, instantly flitted in. I stared at my bony arms which were peppered with freckles and wisps of hair, nary a feather in sight. Juxtaposed with tears of frustration was dissolution of hope. Knowing that I could never soar with birds, I shelved the dream and faced the future, determined to live my life to the fullest.
Love tapped on my door and I ushered it in.
Marriage followed and, with it, the free flowing joy of motherhood.
Never planned for divorce, but there it was and there I was.
On my own.
Quickly, so as not to dissolve in a puddle of loneliness, I found a platonic partner with whom I happily shared more than two decades of living expenses, childrearing, and world travels.
Retirement years loomed, yet I, still committed to living large, never gave them, nor money, a thought.
“Save for your golden years,” warned my adult daughter, “else you’ll end up residing in my den.”
“The truth of the matter,” I replied, “is that life is short and I intend to experience all the joys of this earth, and that I will continue to travel until…”
“Until death do you part this mortal coil?” she grinned.
Vibrations shook me momentarily, a cold shiver passing through.
Was it really days later, after a minor surgical procedure, that doctors told me I had mere hours left? X-rays confirmed their diagnosis and soon I was gone, my body cremated, my ashes residing in an urn, in my daughter’s den, just as she had predicted.
Yes, my earthbound life was over and my loving daughter, knowing my deepest desire, chose a blustery day, this very day, to fling my ashes into the wind. Zillions of tiny particles, the remains of me, now sweep through the air like a murmuration of starlings, joyous, soaring, and I, after a lifetime of longing, am airborne at last.
The above story was written in January for an Alphabet Acrostic contest. The opening, “Airborne at last,” was given. The criteria? “Complete your story in 26 sentences, each beginning with words in the sequence of the English alphabet.”
The learning? I have entered this contest before, each time loving the experience of reading the dictionary to search for words. (Yes, X is limiting, but there are ways around it.) The fun? Love it! (This particular contest is available annually throughThe Brucedale Press. The sixteenth annual Alphabet Acrostic contest will be announced sometime this month (October, 2014.) Check their website!
*The Thing with Feathers was first published by The Brucedale Press in The Leaf #34, Spring 2014.
My questions for you: Did you notice as you read the story that I was progressing through the alphabet? If not, did you go back to check? 🙂
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The information came to me recently via email from Colleen Rush, Education Coordinator with the Chilliwack Hospice Society. Inspired bythe book,The End of Your Life Book Club, Colleen created an event to raise awareness about World Hospice & Palliative Care Day. Her idea? The Book Lovers’ Bucket List Event, to be held at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. until noon.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:
read a lot and write a lot. ~ Stephen King
I do both.
What follows are some of my favorite opening lines.
Can you name the titles of the books?
(See answers below!)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
“As a boy, I dreamed of fishing before I went, and went fishing before I caught anything, and knew fishermen before I became one.”
“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”
“Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.”
“Riding up the winding road of St. Agnes Cemetery in the back of the rattling old truck, Francis Phelan became aware that the dead, even more than the living, settled down in neighborhoods.”
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was 14 when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”
“Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before.”
“It happens that I am going through a period of great unhappiness and loss just now. All my life I’ve heard people speak of finding themselves in acute pain, bankrupt in spirit and body, but I’ve never understood what they meant.”
“They’re all dead now.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
Back When We Were Grownupsby Anne Tyler (2001)
The Go-Betweenby L. P. Hartley (1953)
Lines in the Water by David Adams Richards (1998)
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005)
Her Fearful Symmetryby Audrey Niffenegger (2009)
Ironweed by William Kennedy (1979)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002)
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (2002)
Unlessby Carol Shields (2002)
Fall On Your Knees by Anne-Marie McDonald (1996)
A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens (1859)
If you have any favorite opening lines, please share. Would love to read them! Might even read the whole book!
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Little did I know when I grumbled over precious time spent getting my novel onto the shelves of a local food chain that the effort would result in a magical evening in the company of avid readers. I was invited to a meeting of the Book Travellers, an octet of women whose group demeanor is a combination of the delicacy of porcelain and the strength of spider silk, women who have woven friendship into a book club that has endured two decades.
The Book Travellers are so named because each member returns from every trip with souvenir bookmarks for the group. The group chooses their books a year in advance, at a sleepover, in a cabin, on a nearby lake, each June. Through their meticulous ‘bookkeeper’, they keep track of every meeting (attendance, books read, and comments) and have done so since 1998.
They take turns hosting the event and, during my visit, they appeared to be as comfortable in their host’s home as they would be in their own. (author note: a wonderfully infectious state of ease.)
Our evening began with tea and dessert and progressed to discussion of my novel and books in general.
Elizabeth made Lemon Pavlova. Delicious!
Personal details slid through book talk, information about connections made through vocation—librarian, teacher, nurse, accountant—and avocation—curling, volunteering, walking, travelling. There were snippets with giggles about surprise birthday jaunts and fragments with sighs about thoughtful memorial gifts.
Overall, a delightful evening in the company of readers, one which served not only to deepen my fervor for reading but also to re-ignite my passion for telling stories. More importantly, I experienced a surprising gift: the joy of being in the presence of unmatched strength and vitality. Truly Canada’s Steel Magnolias.
And so, to: Elizabeth, Bonnie, Judy, Randi, Nancy, Magda, Leona, and Kathy, I express my heartfelt thanks.
My best to all of you, always,
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P. S. Dear Writers, Marketing can be a pain in the posterior: In my case, it took five trips to the store, several forms that had to be filled, trashed, replaced, filled again and edited; it also took a few emails to the wrong people before finding the right people. I was left wondering if time-consuming grunt details are worth it. They are. Do it.