Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Christmas poem by Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) is famous for novels like Far From the Madding Crowd, Tess of the D'urbervilles,  The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Jude the Obscure. The latter was so controversial that he gave up writing novels and turned to poetry. Below is is poem, "The Oxen":

Christmas Eve and twelve of the clock,
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve
"Come, see the oxen kneel,"

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Bazaar Event!


"People are looking for inexpensive things for Christmas," one of our contact persons emailed us in advance of the bazaar, "so don't be disappointed if you don't sell a painting."
Her words proved to be true. Even so, as an "outside vendor" at the annual City View United Church Snowflake Bazaar on November 15th, Roger made a small profit, and gained something even more valuable - publicity for his paintings. The notecards with pictures of his paintings proved to be popular.

I took along a few copies of some of my books, those for which he provided the cover design - Illusions Die; Memories Stick, An Amethyst Remembrance; Spelling Bee and of course, the most recent, The Songcatcher and Me - and sold a copy of Spelling Bee.

Roger was given a pegboard on which to display his paintings, and ample table space for his notecards and small framed photographs of some of his works. We had the pleasure of being situated in the "Sunshine Room" of the church with two other painters and a photographer, all of whom are accomplished artists and friendly people. Last year when we were at the bazaar with just my books, we found the event well organized, and it was again this year. The organizers provided plenty of information beforehand, and allowed exhibitors to come in and set up their tables on the Friday afternoon and evening before the bazaar.  The event was well attended by interesting people, including a fellow fan of The Sopranos.

The Sunshine Room got warm, with the morning sun pouring through the high windows. I removed my scarf, then my vest (not a vest in the sense of "chemise", but "bolero"). Eventually one of the other artists, possibly apprehensive that I would go further, took a long hook and opened the windows.

All in all, we enjoyed the six hours we spent there. I had plenty of time to shop, and came home with some finds. At the book sales/fairs we've attended in the past, we've often eaten up the profits in the form of junk food, but not this time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Getting published

My  review of A World Elsewhere, by Sigrid MacRae, published in Compulsive Reader, may be accessed via the link below.

Also, my short story, "Patreesha - 1957" appears in The Writing Spiral: Learning as a Writer (Sunshine in a Jar Publishing, )As the title indicates, this non-fiction book is about an approach to creative writing, and my story, a work of fiction, appears with some non-fiction stories and poems to illustrate aspects of the "writing spiral" approach.  The ISBN is 978-0-9809444-2-2  Copies may be purchased from the author/compiler/editor, Jessica Outram,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Deer pictures taken at Fitzroy Park

Two weeks ago, Roger and I went to Fitzroy Park for the second time this fall. Fitzroy Park is near the village of Fitzroy Harbour, on the Ottawa River.

We were fortunate in coming upon six deer eating leaves about thirty feet away from us. Roger had the presence of mind to take pictures and these six are the best of the many he took. The deer were visible to us but the sunlight shining through the leaves is very effective in helping them conceal theselves.

They didn't approach us, but were not afraid of us.

Two of my recent book reviews

Recently I had book reviews published in the online magazine Compulsive Reader. The links are below. The first book was Vivien Shotwell's Vienna Nocturne. The second is Alex Marwood's The Killer Next Door.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Visit to Fitzroy Park

On Thursday Roger and I went to Fitzroy Park, an Ottawa River provincial park not far from Ottawa and just outside the village of Fitzroy Harbour. We used to go there quite often but this was our first visit this year. Below are some pictures we took there. 

Also below is a poem "The Fair Park of Fitzroy", which I wrote some years ago in response to a challenge from a friend to write a poem  like W.B. Yeats's "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." So here is my  homage to, or parody of, Yeats's poem:

by Ruth Latta

Let's get out the car, dear, and go to Fitzroy Park
and sit at a picnic table, beneath a maple tree.
We'll take a lunch from Subway; oh it will be a lark,
to dine with wasp and bumblebee.

And we shall have some peace there, some peace to sit and write
At least we will in springtime, before the campers come.
True, there is a season, when blackflies love to bite
and evenings of mosquito hum.

Let's gas up the Ford, Hon, in spite of all these things.
The air is clear and pure there, and free of gasoline.
Wind whispers in the tree tops and song birds sing - 
 I need the scent of evergreen.

Friday, August 22, 2014

A L.M. Montgomery pilgrimage

(c) Ruth Latta, 2014


Many Canadian women, and Canadian writers, read Anne of Green Gables and other novels by Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Some years ago a girlhood dream came true for me when I visited Prince Edward Island and toured Green Gables, the tangible creation of the fictional home of Montgomery's best known character. Unfortunately, for many Montgomery fans, distance makes a trip to P.E.I. an infrequent pleasure.

Montgomery devotees in central Canada, however, can make a literary pilgrimage to Leaskdale, Ontario, a village north of Uxbridge, where "Maud" Montgomery moved as a bride in  1911 and lived for fifteen years. Her husband, the Rev. Ewan Macdonald, had been called to the ministry of St. Paul's Presbyterian Church there. In Leaskdale, Montgomery's sons were born, and there she wrote 11 of her 22 books.

This past August 10, 2014, when my husband and I were driving north of Toronto, we made an impulse detour in the direction of Uxbridge to find the Montgomery historic sites in Leaskdale. The verdant hills and woods were as beautiful as those described in Montgomery's novels. On reaching Leaskdale, we spotted the church on our left, where the signage indicated that there were tours, teas and theatrical performances based on Maud's Leaskdale years - but not on Monday. I quietly resolved to be content with having my picture taken on the church steps. Then, as we drove slowly down the hill I glimpsed on the opposite side a gracious old house with a blue and gold historic site plaque on the lawn.

As we were approaching to take a picture, a young woman planting some perennials along the fence got up and greeted us.
"Hello. Are you local people, or from far away?" she inquired.
"From Ottawa."
"Would you like a guided tour of the house," she asked. "It's closed on Mondays, but I have my key."
"Wonderful!" I exclaimed.

Clearly she was a "kindred spirit", to use one of Maud's terms. We followed her into the front hall where a portrait of "Maud", in her thirties, hung above the guest book. Our guide's keen interest in Montgomery was apparent as she toured us through the house. She showed us the study, where Maud wrote, and recounted what I knew from Montgomery's published journals, that her little boys used to push notes and flowers under the door to get her attention when they were supposed to be in the care of the hired girl, allowing their mother to do her writing uninterrupted. All the rooms have been carefully recreated as to period details and layout. A photo shows Maud seated in the kitchen, and there, in the same location, a chair is positioned so that a visitor can sit in her place.

Although most of the furnishings were not used by the  Montgomery/Macdonald family, they are "of the period" and show a dedication to detail.  Two china dogs in the parlour remind us of Maud's china dogs, Gog and Magog, which she wrote of in her journals and used in one of her novels. A white crocheted bedspread upstairs was lovingly created in recent times in the same pattern as one that Maud made.

In the upstairs sewing room, our guide turned to the window, indicated the landscape of rolling hills, and said, "That's Rainbow Valley." Rainbow Valley, one of Montgomery's novels, is set in P.E.I., but it is very likely that Maud used a beauty spot of Leaskdale, where she was living when she wrote this novel, as inspiration for her setting. In a letter she described the village as "a very pretty country place - would be almost as pretty as Cavendish if it had the sea."

Montgomery is a novelist of the "sunshine school"; her books encouraged loving kindness and favour happy endings. The charm of her Leaskdale home and of our guide made our impulse visit a very "Maud" experience. Someday we'll return, first checking the website of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario to see what events are scheduled. For further information, contact or phone 905-862-0808

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Arborealis; A Canadian Anthology of Poetry, was published this summer by the Ontario Poetry Society. Its International Standard Book Number is 978-1-897497-99-9 and it is available from
 The Ontario Poetry Society, 710-65 Spring Garden Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M2N 6H9

I was thrilled to have two poems in this collection, and here they are:

by Ruth Latta

It went beyond a little lovers' spat.
He cursed his girlfriend in the crowded bar.
I couldn't just ignore abuse like that.

Some sleazeball who was drunk on his Labatt
We all could see that he had gone too far.
It went beyond a little lovers' spat.

"Girl, go on home before he knocks you flat."
It wasn't that I felt the need to spar.
I couldn't just ignore abuse like that.

"I wouldn't use these words on dog or cat."
Such vileness cannot help but leave a scar.
It went beyond a little lovers' spat.

"You can do better than this slimy rat.
Why don't you leave, just go out to the car."
I couldn't just ignore abuse like that.

"Swing at me and I'll squash you like a gnat.
You ought to be ashamed of what you are."
It went beyond a little lovers' spat.
I couldn't just ignore abuse like that.


by Ruth Latta

Out here in our garden, our tiny back yard,
I sit with my work left undone.
Alone with the flowers - for people are hard,
I let my feet warm in the sun.

Though late in October, quite near Hallowe'en,
the day is unusually fine.
Long winter confines us before the big screen
but Indian summer's divine.

One friend cancelled out, or it just slipped her mind.
Another, afraid it would rain.
A third sent an email, or really, a whine,
"Poor me," is her constant refrain.

A lady bird beetle, a fat bumblebee
fly past me on currents of air,
as leaves flutter down from the red maple tree
the wind seizes strands of my hair.

I take disappointment and give it a shove.
Balloon-like, it rises on high,
like the white milkweed parachutes floating  above
or the vaguest jet stream in the sky.

One Evening in Paris

The book review, below, is the latest that I have written and published in the online magazine of book reviews, Compulsive Reader (current issue.)

One Evening in Paris,
by Nicolas Barreau
(New York, St.Martin's Griffin, 2014, 978-1-250-04312-2)

translated from French by Bill McCann

reviewed by Ruth Latta

One Evening in Paris, French author Nicolas Barreau's second novel, is a sweet romantic novel in which the owner of a small art cinema is "catapulted into the greatest adventure of [his] life."

Alain Bonnard, 39, inherited the Cinema Paradis, an historic movie theatre, from his uncle. Raised on the films of Cocteau, Truffault, Malle, and others, he was glad to leave his boring but lucrative business career in plumbing fixtures for something more satisfying. His cinema is his work of art; he restored the building and he forbids popcorn or any of the other features found in modern cineplexes. He takes an interest in his clientele and invents dramatic backstories for them. Late Wednesday nights he shows romantic films as part of his "Les Amours de Paradis" film series, which draws a full house.

One Wednesday night regular is a pretty blonde woman who always sits in the 17th row. Alain finally summons up the nerve to find out her name (Melanie) and ask her out, and they establish an immediate rapport in a bistro after the movie. Melanie says it must be wonderful to own a "dream factory" like the Cinema Paradis, and that she always goes there when she's "looking for love". Her only family, she says, is an aunt in Brittany, whom she is going to visit for a week. Though single, she wears a distinctive gold ring with raised pink gold roses, which was her mother's. When Alain walks her home, they promise to meet at the cinema the following Wednesday.

"We won't lose each other," she says - but they do.

The following day, Alain finds a tender love letter she left for him at the cinema, and shares his happiness with his buddy, Robert, a womanizing astrophysicist. Robert is astonished that Alain failed to get Melanie's telephone number. Then a "weedy little man in a trenchcoat" with an American accent, turns up with the well-known movie star, Solene Avril, to talk to Alain after he closes up the cinema on Friday night.  The weedy man is Allan Wood, an American film director, looking for an historic art cinema in which to shoot a movie about a woman finding a long lost love in Paris.

Confident that he will meet Melanie the following Wednesday, Alain enjoys getting to know these famous visitors in famous Paris restaurants and bars, and learns something of their personal stories. Allan Wood has an estranged grown-up daughter in Paris. Solene reveals in a private conversation with Alain that she was born in humble circumstances in Paris and, when young, ran away to California with a young American. Once she got into the movies, she provided money for her parents to take the first holiday of their lives, which ended in a fatal car accident on their way to St. Tropez. Solene subtly flirts with Alain, but he finally tells her that "it's not the right moment," and mentions that a woman has recently come into his life.

The paparazzi descend, and soon there are media reports not only that Cinema Paradis has been chosen for the filming of Allan Wood's new movie, but also that Alain is Solene's latest lover. He receives congratulations and a boost in business, but, much to Alain's disappointment, Melanie does not show up at the cinema on Wednesday night as she promised.

One Evening in Paris takes twists and turns like a mystery novel as Alain, helped by Robert and his new film-industry friends, try to find his Melanie. Two other Melanies turn up, but not the right one.

Barreau's novel has some coincidences that strain credulity. Also, the occasional sentence is vague, perhaps due to translation, as in the statement that "a good film...worked with [people] in the difficult task of being." In general, though, One Evening in Paris is fun and full of life. The Paris landmarks and locations will attract anyone who has been there.The narrator/central character, Alain, is the sort of romantic, sensitive man that many women readers wish they could meet in real life, and the other main characters are fully rounded. "Allan Wood" - does his name sound familiar? - is a warm person with no apparent neuroses.

The discussion of film elevates the novel above and beyond category romance. Alain's Uncle Bernard liked films that "had an idea... moved people...[and] gave them a dream to take with them" - all elements necessary for a good story, whether on film or in print. Through Alain, Nicolas Barreau lists the "golden rules" of good film comedy: "a chase is better than a conversation"; "a bedroom is better than a living room", and "an arrival is better than a departure." Barreau uses these storytelling principles to good effect in One Evening in Paris.

Film buffs will like the list of the twenty-five movies about love that were part of Alain's  Wednesday night series at the Cinema Paradis. The list three of my favourites: Casablanca, Room with a View and Pride and Prejudice. Readers who liked Woody Allen's movie Midnight in Paris, will enjoy Barreau's novel, One Evening in Paris.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

I'm enjoying your book immensely

A couple of weeks ago, Ottawa poet Sylvia Adams and I got together for lunch to discuss writing, and I gave her a copy of my new young adult novel, The Songcatcher and Me (Ottawa, Baico,  Later, Sylvia emailed me and wrote, "I'm enjoying your book immensely, seeing the hand of a pro  here, with just the right amount of tension between characters and the constant motivation to keep turning the pages."

Praise from any reader is wonderful, and it is especially gratifying when it comes from a wordsmith and master of her craft like Sylvia.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

review of Elizabeth Gilbert's The Signature of All Things

My review of  The Signature of All Things , by Elizabeth Gilbert, published a few days ago in Compulsive Reader, may be read at:

Also, my review of Moon of the Goddess, a young adult novel by Cathy Hird, appeared in Canadian Materials (an online magazine) on Friday, June 20, 2014

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Strangeness of Strangers

Recently my husband and I had experiences which made us feel annoyed, yet well-mannered and well-organized.

The other day we were part of a group which goes out to lunch a couple of times a month, and, after lunch, listens to a guest speaker. We are new to the group, and the people in it whom we had met before were at the far end of a long table. Four men were present among  seventeen or eighteen women.  We were introducing ourselves to the people around us when a woman and her husband seated themselves and she proclaimed loudly, "I'm so glad to see all the men here!"

My jaw dropped. While I love my husband, I have never been one of these women who thinks that she is nothing without a man, nor do I find men's conversation necessarily more interesting than women's.  I recognize that this group exists because a lot of older women who are widowed or single like to get out for an interesting lunch, and I felt that her comment was disrespectful of them. I wanted to say, "But didn't you come in here with a date? How many men do you want?" (Her husband was beside her, large as life) But I refrained.

A few days later, my husband and I went to a City of Ottawa building  to pay the taxes. I browsed in the Friends of the Library bookshop while he went across the hall and joined the queue. About twenty minutes later he joined me, with steam coming out of his ears.

Two clerks were serving clients, and one was occupied with a woman who couldn't speak either official language. She appeared to be paying taxes on more than one house and wanted to pay with small bills. She was in the process of counting out her money, and then the clerk had to count the bills again. There appeared to be a disagreement about the count. Also, she kept waving pieces of paper at him and talking at him, which threw him off the count and made him have to start over.

The other clerk was occupied by a man who was also there to pay his taxes. He received a number of phone calls on his cell, which required that proceedings had to grind to a halt while he had his conversations. After his taxes were paid he had a question about a fax he had sent to City Hall. He didn't know if it had come to this particular office or not, but he wanted them to check. After about ten minutes they found his fax, which was many pages long. Then he wanted the clerk to check the pages to see that they were all there.

A third clerk opened a new line for my husband. The one dealing with the fax couldn't handle the man's questions about it so he brought it to the third clerk and they managed to mix the fax pages with my husband's tax bill pages.

At that point my husband indicated his displeasure by praying aloud.  The clerk he was dealing with looked sympathetic and urged my husband to make a complaint to the City.The trouble is, a complaint to the City would do no good, because the problem lay, not in the clerks, who were doing their best, but in these members of the public who were behaving in a peculiar way.

We left, marvelling over the strangeness of strangers.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Acrostic Stories

Earier this year, The Brucedale Press of Port Elgin, ON, held an acrostic story contest. The story was to be 26 sentences long. Each sentence was to begin with a letter of the alphabet; that is, the first sentence with A, the second with B, and so  on. The first sentence had to begin, "Airborne at last..."

I was  runner up in this contest with a story called "A Lovely Family Visit" which is soon to be published in The Brucedale Press's magazine, The Leaf. Because it is as yet unpublished, but promised to them,  I don't think I can legally publish it on my blog. However, I can publish the other story I entered, which I thought was better, but which did not make it into the finals. Below is this second, unsuccessful entry, "How We Fell in Love."

(c) Ruth Latta

Airborne at last, the flu virus gleefully looked for a warm, moist target. Belinda walked through the fast food restaurant into the cough of an elderly man who had a sore throat and felt stuffed-up, but had decided that a morning stroll in the crisp air and a coffee and an English muffin might clear his head.

Characteristically, Belinda had good intentions about getting the flu shot, but just hadn't gotten around to it, and kept telling herself, "I'm young and healthy, so I won't catch it." Down her nasal passages and throat the virus penetrated and latched on.  Expertly, Belinda balanced her coffee as she walked the block to the TV station where she was a receptionist, hoping anchorman Zach Carter would pause at her desk and chat. Formal and ultra-efficient on the outside, she turned to marshmallow whenever he walked by.

"Got something for you," announced the UPS man, presenting her with a cardboard box addressed to Zach. Heart pumping, she signed for it, and after stashing it in her foot well, she resolved to bring it to Zach's dressing room after he had finished the noon hour news broadcast.

In his dressing room, Zach was applying his make-up and feeling hung-over and exhausted. Just as Mom used to say, too many late nights in the bars would wreck his looks and his health.

"Kind of bloodshot," he murmured, squirting drops into his eyes. Looking for someone special wasn't as much fun as it used to be. Mom would say that bars were the wrong place to look.

Now, heading to the anchor desk, he stole a glance at the lovely ice-maiden in Reception, and wished - he wasn't quite sure what. Overall, the noon news program went smoothly, but left him drained. Plopping down on the sofa in his dressing room for a nap might be a good idea.

Quickly and silently, Belinda stepped into Zach's office with the parcel, and, finding him snoring on his sofa, she was seized with frustrated desire. Risking awakening him and looking like a fool, she bent and kissed his half-open mouth.

Since Zach was moving in and out of sleep, he thought at first that he was just dreaming that a goddess was in his dressing room kissing him. Though he'd been scared to approach Belinda, worried that she'd turn him down, he realized, as he lay there feigning sleep, that she was attracted to him, and he would have reached up and embraced her, had he not been so tired and had she not darted out of the room so quickly.

"Utterly irresponsible not to get the flu shot!" muttered Belinda's mother as she nursed her penitent daughter with aspirin, echinacea, chicken soup and every other remedy she could think of.  Vitamin-C-stuffed and feeling better, Belinda returned to work the morning of the first big snowstorm of the winter, which Zach, looking wan, covered in detail on the news.

When she was back home that evening and was heating some soup for supper, she started feeling lonely and sorry for herself. Xylophone sounds, however, made her pick up her ringing phone, and who should be on the line but Zach Carter, asking her to let him crash on her sofa, because he was too sick to brave the drifts and drive back to his apartment.

Young love bloomed over the next few days, as Zach received tender nursing care in a bed so soft, yet so exciting, that he never wanted to leave it.

"Zach,"  Belinda would say in years to come, "tell the story of how we fell in love, the year we both forgot the flu shot."

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kim Goldberg's "The Sacred Cow of Editing."

British Columbia author Kim Goldberg has written a must-read article in the Winter 2014 issue of Write, the publication of The Writers' Union of Canada.  To be honest, I had not heard of Kim Goldberg until I read this article, and as soon as I did, I used a search engine to find her contact information and wrote to her to congratulate her.

"The Sacred Cow of Editing" is the title of her article. Goldberg points out that, out of all the creative arts, only in the literary arts are creators made to feel that they need a second opinion (that of an editor) before going public with their creation.  She writes, "I would far rather look back on and live with my own weaknesses in my work than with someone else's poor choices that I allowed to be imposed..."

Goldberg believes  writers should do whatever they feels comfortable doing to achieve and realize their vision. In some cases, that may mean hiring a proofreader. In other instances, it may mean going for a walk and musing about what one wants to achieve.

Goldberg concludes with some thoughts about becoming philosophically at ease with one's work, and having a sense of wholeness or completeness within oneself without needing to seek the opinion of others as to whether one's work is good.  She expresses it better than I have and I urge you to read her article.

I have thirty-five years of experience in getting published and being paid for my writing. Recently I offered to do some book reviewing free of charge in order to publicize my latest novel, The Songcatcher and Me, in the byline. I had a book review column for Forever Young Ottawa for fifteen years (before it folded) and now have reviews published frequently in Compulsive Reader, Canadian Materials, and the CCPA Monitor - evidence that I am not ignorant of the art of reviewing.  I found that the editors of the two new publications who had "accepted" me as a reviewer were fond of futzing around with writers' work for no good reason.  Consequently, I qui, and at present am reviewing for the three publications mentioned above.

I receive the newsletter of a writers' organization (not TWUC) which is offering a course on editing. For $75, aspiring authors are invited to a workshop in which, according to the leader, "we are going to hack each other's work apart."

Buyer, beware!

Friday, March 21, 2014

My review of Olivia Chow's "My Journey"

Today my review of Olivia Chow's memoir My Journey, appeared in Compulsive Reader. The link is below:

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

my book club and other things

Winter and flu have been keeping me busy, and here it is March. Yesterday was an exciting day for me. I pulled myself together and attended my book club at the library where we discussed Alice Munro's Dear Life.  Generally, the other attendees liked the collection of short stories, which I had recommended, though we all agreed that we didn't much like the "postmodern" stories. In these, the reader is led  to focus on an interesting character and situation, and then moves on to another, with the emotional and intellectual commitment we made to the first interesting character/situation  subordinate in importance to another plot twist.

 But only two of  the stories were like that. Most of the stories were about women who felt so desperate to break out of  their situation that they did dangerous things, like falling in love with a cold, nasty man, or running away from a domestic situation, out of the frying pan, into the fire, or putting up with dishonesty in a lover. My favourite was "Dolly", about an older couple whose relationship is threatened, or seems to be, by a door-to- door cosmetics saleswoman who turns out to be an old acquaintance. It is a hoot.

Since Alice Munro recently won the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was timely that we read her latest book.  Let's hope it's not her last.

While ill, I read several good books, including Olivia Chow's My Journey,  Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings, and Isabelle Allende's Maya's Notebook.

A poem of mine was published in Open Heart 8: Anthology of Canadian Poetry (Beret Days Press), 2014 ISBN 978-1-897497-94-4  Here it is:

Vincent Comes to the National Gallery
by Ruth Latta

We stroll past meadows, lavender,
white almonds on a turquoise sky,
sunflowers - close and personal -
and poppies graced by butterflies.

A workman's pair of beat-up boots,
two lovers on a forest stroll,
a large old woman in a field
and sheaves of wheat in yellow gold.

In this exhibit, no cafe,
no cornfield crows, no "Starry Night" -
too valuable to go on loan -
but we, in awe, say, "That's all right."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Earth Writes (poem)

My poem, "Earth Writes", is published  in Dream Network Journal,  Page 1, Winter 2013,
ISSN 1054-6707, Moab, UT

Three books from Annick Press

A couple of days ago I received three children's books from Annick Press ( They are:

What Can You Do With Only One Shoe?: Reuse, Recycle, Reinvent,
(Paperback $9.95 ISBN: 978-1-55451-642-1)
Written by Simon and Sheryl Shapiro
Illustrated by Francis Blake

The Nutmeg Princess (Paperback $9.95 ISBN: 978-1-55451-599-8)
Written by Richardo Keens-Douglas
Illustrated by Annouchka Galouchko


Not My Girl (Paperback $9.95 ISBN: 978-1-55451-624-7)
Written by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard

Not My Girl is the fourth book by Margaret Pokiak Fenton about being separated, as a young Inuit child, from her home and family, to attend a residential school. The others are Fatty Legs, A Stranger at Home, and When I Was Eight (Margaret's story adapted for a younger audience.) Not My Girl is a sequel to When I Was Eight.

Pokiak-Fenton's books are an important contribution to the discussion of the harm done to aboriginal people by the residential school system. Not My Girl shows Margaret, at ten, returning home to the Arctic and being greeted with her mother's angry reaction, "Not my girl!" Margaret looks different than when she left two years earlier and has also forgotten her language, customs and traditional foods. Gradually Margaret relearns the old ways, with the support of her father, and in the end, develops a skill that reconciles her with her mother.

The illustrations in Not My Girl are gorgeous, and so are those by Annouchka Galouchko in The Nutmeg Princess:A modern fable from the Isle of Spice. First published in 1992, this is a new edition of Richardo Keens-Douglas's fable about friendship and unselfishness set in Grenada. Aglo and Petal are two young friends who are fascinated by Petite Mama, an eccentric older woman who lives up on a mountain, gardening. Petite Mama is the only person to have seen the legendary Nutmeg Princess, a beautiful girl who sits on a raft in the middle of the lake, humming her song.  An adventure and a rescue follow, along with a vision of the princess, who seems somehow to be one with  Petite Mama, and who says, "If you believe in yourself all things are possible."

Not My Girl and The Nutmeg Princess are written for kids ages 6 to 9. What Can You Do With Only One Shoe is supposed to be for readers 5 to 8, but to my mind, it's a book for grownups. The subtitle is "Don't throw it out! Reinvent it!" but only two of them, the old shoe planter and the jean purse, are within the capabilities of children of that age range. The book shows clever ways that adults (including many professional artists) have turned trash into treasure, such as Frank Hoppe's "Car bed from the V8 Hotel" and the guitar which looks as if it has been made from two tuna cans, "Repurposed Guitar" courtesy of Landfill Harmonic.

An adult handyman could have fun making a seat from half of a boat, or a planter out of an old toilet, but some of the suggestions seem potentially dangerous for children, such as the "Garden Fork Folding Table" by Natalie Sampson. The "Repurposed Ambulance", made into a play shelter in a playground, looks amusing and functional, but might encourage five to eight year olds to play in any old car. The poems by authors Simon and Sheryl Shapiro are clever, but the book should be marketed as an amusing book for "kids of all ages."

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Review of "The Songcatcher and Me" in "Apartment613"

 Alejandro Bustos reviewed my novel, The Songcatcher and Me, in Apartment 613, online. To read the review, click on the link, below: