Archives for category: Book of Kells

Brazenly, I decided to call my ordinary family’s history A Book of Kells after Ireland’s finest, famous relic of western civilization The Book of Kells. My sister, Tanis, agreed it should be “a story for all people of all time.” Our father (John Kell of a farming family) and mother deserved no less. Like the ninth century monks behind ‘The’ illuminated Gospel vellum, our parents practiced selfless Christian tenets, taking no credit themselves but leaving a record behind for the after life.

  • Brazenly, I thought of my genre as ‘true novel’ which defies the Oxford dictionary’s definition of the novel as being “fictitious prose.” Professor Northop Frye loved to tell his students that the Greek word “myth” simply means “story” and the English word “fictitious” is from the Latin word for “something made”. I wanted to relate as accurately and excitedly as possible what really happened in my parents’ lives so people would enjoy reading about it. That would make the book authentic and launch a voyage of self-discovery and learning as I wrote.
  • Brazenly, I decided all the names of people and places in my book would be real. My parents had been dead for over six years when I started to write it in 1996 but some names linked them to ongoing connections. I disciplined myself to do careful research and record my sources. If it was going to be a classic, it had to be able to stand up to scrutiny. If anyone objected or threatened to sue, my defence would be that I wrote the truth and could substantiate it. 
  • Brazenly, I bet myself I could find a beginning, middle, climax and ending in the appropriate places if I studied my parents’ diaries, letters, etc. thoroughly enough. I would not have to write fantasy, which I can’t. In fact, the bones of a novel were there and so was a theme: selfless love and redemption. I added the subtitle Growing Up in an Ego Void. Making myself my parents’ foil kept up the pace of the post-honeymoon story. Frye taught his students that the Bible (“the grammar of western civilization”) had two types of continuity. One was the chronological continuity of the Hebrew people’s history and the other was a cyclical continuity on the theme of redemption.
  • Brazenly, I took a chance on having BookSurge, a pioneer in the technology of print-on-demand digital publishing, publish my book in 2002. It cost only $299 so I still had $500 burning a hole in my pocket. I took advantage of an offer BookSurge made to hire New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Tanner Marsh, to review my manuscript prior to publication. She wrote a good, honest, favorable review from which I lifted a blurb to print on the back cover above her name and credentials.
  • Brazenly, I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany in 2003 and dropped by the exhibit booths of the Canadian publishers to try to interest them in my book. BookSurge had invited its authors and we accepted because we were already planning a trip to Hungary. The publishers gave me the curt nods and surprised looks a self-publishing interloper on these hallowed premises might have expected. One publisher told me my book “reeked of self-publishing” although he felt BookSurge had done an excellent job. He pointed out that I had used “by” before my name on the cover, had no logo on the spine, did not have a page for chapter titles and did not refer back to my sub-title inside the book. When I came home I fixed these deficiencies. Two publishers called me later in Canada; Saint Paul University seriously considered publishing it but chose a competing book instead. They said mine fell between target audiences; they suggested I look for a publisher on the basis of location.
  • Stubbornly, I have persisted as an independent author, selling everywhere possible, but have now decided to be more selective and financially savvy. Aiming to write a classic is not the same thing as aiming to write a bestseller. At the recent conference of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa I was able to peddle editing services as well as books. I got a booming endorsement from a past president, Glen Wright, who said, “This is a marvellous book. I just read it. I hope you sell all the copies you brought with you.” Other good places for me to sell in are seniors’ residences where nostalgic, romantic, true books like mine are popular. I’m optimistic about returning to Galeries Aylmer’s Foire Artisanale on Nov. 25th along with Santa Claus. I’ll share a table with Stevie Szabad who is launching her book about being an army brat. For the first time I will have a Square register with me so I can accept credit cards. 
  • Brazenly, if someone asks who my role model author and favorite book are I reply, “Anonymous, who wrote The Summoning of Everyman. This morality play is the first play Frye mentions in his course on Modern Drama. It was written in fifteenth century England and is still being performed today. I saw it performed by Ottawa’s Third Wall Theatre in the National Art Gallery outdoor amphitheatre in 2005. It is being performed in the Pershing Square Theatre in New York City this year. 
  • Modestly, I do not plan to leave instructions in my will to have a copy of my book stolen and buried under the sod for two months and twenty nights before it is retrieved and presented to a university to be displayed, similarly to The Book of Kells. I’m very content to keep on trying to share the story and hearing from wonderful readers from all over who comment and say they enjoyed it. Writing a family history is memory’s classic way to create a link to loved ones and times that have passed on to the after life.

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Public domain image of a page from The Book of Kells, courtesy of Wikipedia.

1. My father John Ambrose Campbell Kell once introduced himself to a stranger who asked if he was an aborted Irishman. The aborted (cut off) part is true. The name is more often a prefix than a surname.

2. Sixty-eight variations of the name are recorded in Cowlitz County, WA, US and the province of Ontario, Canada alone:
Kellaby, Kellachan, Kellackey, Kellahan, Kellam, Kellamaki, Kelland, Kellar, Kellard, Kellas, Kellatt, Kellawag, Kellawan, Kellaway, Kellebrew, Kelleby, Kelledjian, Kellers, Kellen, Kellenburg, Kellendonk, Kellep, Keller, Kellerher, Kellerhouse, Kellerman, Kellers, Kellery, Kelles, Kellesis, Kellessis, Kellestiine, Kellet, Kelleway, Kellewill, Kelley, Kellefeltz, Kellia, Kellie, Kellegan, Kellicutt, Kelliher, Kelling, Kellingbek, Kellinger, Kellington, Kellins, Kellio, Kellip, Kellison, Kellman, Kellner, Kello, Kellock, Kellogg, Kellond, Kellop, Kellough, Kellow, Kelloway, Kellows, Kellroy, Kells, Kellsey, Kellum, Kellway, Kelly, Kellys

3. It is not true every Kell is an Irishman, in spite of the famous relic at the University of Dublin, The Book of Kells. It is not the name of an Irish clan or tribe.

4. The Kell prefix comes from the Greek word, keltoi, which means Kelt or Celt. They were the “barbarians” (according to the Greeks) populating the land north of the Mediterranean Sea in ancient times.

5. Here are dictionary and encyclopedia meanings and etymology for “kell”:
English: The caul. That which covers or envelopes, like a caul; a net; a fold; a film. The cocoon or chrysalis of an insect. A kiln, kale, spring or river, trowel
Norse: a cauldron or kettle
Breton and Cornish (from Latin): testicle, cell of a prisoner or monk
Estonian (from Swedish): clock, bell
Hungarian: to be necessary, need to, must, be obligatory

6. Kells is a place name in the Rhineland of Germany and Ireland. As an Anglo Saxon surname it was first found in the county of Hampshire and then a hamlet in north Yorkshire, England. My father’s great grandfather came from there.

7. Second cousins of mine have done a great job on the family genealogy and farms. More research is on the way. A Farming Life (Life Stories — Memoir Writing) by William J. Kell and Farms of Innisfil (Innisfil Heritage Society) edited by William M. Kell are excellent resources. They recount the lives of the descendants of William and Mary Kell from Yorkshire who emigrated to Yonge Street, Ontario, north of Toronto, in 1850.

8. At our annual family reunion, co-president Dr. John Kell wore a “Book of Kells” T shirt. It is our rallying cry. It is the 9th century manuscript which preserves the elements of Western culture from architecture to zoology and has been the pride of Ireland since it was found buried in the mud there without its gold cover in 1868.

To sort out my identity and write about my parents I grabbed the whole bag of clues and ran with it. My family is a people whose achievements were illuminated and buried by a community of monks and who miraculously sprang up and became famous centuries later.

A trowel symbolizes the digging up of our book. Our strong Protestant faith protected us, like a caul or cocoon. The cell and testicle imagery represent the fertility of great uncle William who produced seven sons to continue the name. We work hard, aware that the clock is clicking and the bells will toll. My Hungarian husband was attracted to me because, in one of his native tongues, my name meant “I have to have Margaret”.

An upcoming event is the 23rd Annual BIFHSGO Family History Conference, September 29 – October 1 at Ben Franklin Place, 101 Centrepointe Drive, Ottawa, featuring England & Wales & Research Methodology. A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and I will be at the book table. We’re eager to share our communal story and interested in learning how other family scribes record their past.

Happy Reading, Writing & Family Story Telling from Cozybookbasics!

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Prospects for selling my book at the Byward Market in Ottawa when I arrived at 10 a.m. Wednesday looked as dim as the thunderstorm forecast. Still, I bet myself I could sell enough copies (five) in the next six hours to buy tickets for a big treat. I defied the skies to clear in time for a picnic with our granddaughters and their parents before watching the preview performance of theater under the stars on the banks of the Rideau River that night. mmarket.jpgWork crews carrying partitions, shopkeepers rushing with arms full to set up for the day, twosomes and threesomes speaking languages other than English brushed past. Where were my buyers?

  • The atmosphere enlivened at lunch time, with music and dancing in the adjacent square attracting a noisy, lively crowd. A quarrel between someone not quite in his right senses and a big truck disrupted the self improvement, creative atmosphere I was trying to inject.
  • A dreary-eyed, homeless man with his bundles and bags slouched up against the bricks, heritage plaque and sesquicentennial posters on the market building facing me. Where were my readers?

It was discouraging and my devoted hubby of 61 years decided I was crazy and he might as well abandon ship and go home.  While he hesitated, I was ready with my elevator pitch to summarize my book in two sentences.

  • Anyone drawn to the table for a closer look at my framed newspaper article headlined “Call of Love in the Wilderness” got it. An old toothless man mesmerized by a 1904 picture of my mother as a child in a sailor outfit stayed because he wanted to hear her full story.
  • With a cheery “Hi Margaret!” up strode author Stevie Szabad, eager to buy two of my books and pick up advice from someone she perceived as having accomplished things she wanted to do. We plotted to sell together at the Galeries Aylmer Christmas market. 

Hubby stayed when I reminded him I was there to get my parents’ exemplary story out, not just sell the product. A take-out lunch of chicken sandwiches and smoothies fortified us both. 

  • Then a ray of sunshine, a tourist from Vancouver, suddenly appeared. He wanted to know more about why I called my book “A Book of Kells” and gave me advice on genealogy. He bought a signed copy as a gift and souvenir of Canada’s 150th.
  • A particularly friendly face came to the table confidently and I was able to engage her in conversation. For the next twenty minutes Tom and I found we had much to share with her and vice versa. Gale O’Brien is a lovely, avid reader who lives in Britannia by the Ottawa river. She now owns one copy of A Book of Kells and one of  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride which I hope she will enjoy reading.
  • When Kelly Buell turned up because she had been following me online, Tom was getting the car because it was 4 p.m., time for us to pack up. Kelly and I chatted and hope to help each other in future as writers so often do.

When I first met the organizer of the Byward marketing team and showed her my book, she told me she is a ‘Kell’ on her mother’s side. I was able to inform lovely, competent Megan Sartori that we are second cousins twice removed. 

By the way, the outdoor performance in Strathcona Park was superb. My granddaughters, aged 10 to 16 were absolutely thrilled with The Amorous Servant by Carl Goldoni staged by Odyssey theater. Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed its humor and sensible advice for all ages, too.

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Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics until We Meet Again!


 

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A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void goes to the Byward Market July 19th to sell itself alongside other tempting produce rooted in Ontario farmland.

An Unlikely Pair

  • JACK Kell, an acronym, left the family soil in Cookstown, ON and sailed to the barracks of Portsmouth, England in crucial WWI year 1917. He was invited for tea at the home of genteel school girl Kathleen Ward who, 10 years later, left all she knew to marry him. They had kindled romantic love via handwritten transatlantic letters sent by surface mail and riddled with suspense.
  • She began being Canadian on a train from Montreal via Toronto and Cookstown to Winnipeg, then a steamship to Norway House, and  a canoe up to Oxford House where JACK evangelized the Swampy Cree as a United Church missionary.
  • They had faith and book knowledge in common, and dedication to building a better world in this beautiful peaceful country of optimism and opportunity. Both met challenges and experienced transportation and climate adventures no other person, white or native, ever dreamed up.

 

A Real Life Detective Story

  • In genre, A Book of Kells is a family history written as a novel and detective story. It sets out to solve the mysteries of the hero and heroine’s lost egos and why Kathleen wouldn’t give JACK one of her chocolates the week before he died even though he pleaded for it.

Please Come If You Can to the Authors’ Tent July 19th

  • I appreciate the Market’s help in my ongoing efforts to talk to people and find moments of connection and assimilation amid our individuality and multiculturalism. I’ll be in the pink at the author’s tent from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, July 19 and hope you will drop by and chat if by chance you can be out relaxing or shopping for healthy sustenance for body and soul.
  • The companion book Kathleen’s Cariole Ride differs from A Book of Kells in being written as a love story and tribute to a war bride’s bravery. It consists of  their early story plus 12 authentic pictures. I’ll also sell copies of my heritage cookbook Eating at Church.

Tip: A recent buyer was a man looking for a wedding present for an octogenarian couple. JACK and Kathleen’s combined life ends with him dying in her arms after they had spent almost 61 years together.

Happy Reading from CozyBookBasics!

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Marty 2

Posted by a merely human, loving, grateful, sorrowful admirer. You were too noble and beautiful to die so young.  Happy New Year to all furry friends and their two-legged owners. They humanize and socialize us too. (Achoo, achoo, I still love you.) Marty’s kind owner did not have him put down because of his incurable throat tumor but gave him a natural death, caressing him and laying his remains to rest under the snow.

Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Is it time for Celtic Swirls of Love to Replace Straight Roman Lines in Our Infrastructures?

In Copulating Cats and Holy Men: the Story of the Creation of the Book of Kells UK author Simon Worrall sees parallels to our times. He approaches “the most richly ornamented book ever created by man’s hand” as a riddle full of a series of visible clues.

It is a “holy comic strip,” a “beguiling Noah’s Ark of animals and birds that kick and flap and stamp, like the blue wolf that pads along a path of Latin script; or the moths that flit behind a curtain of braided ornamentation,” Worrall says. The monks saw in the cat an analogy to godhead.

Google’s doodle page used a Kells detail as a welcoming image for St. Patrick’s Day. Computer scientists and art historians digitalizing its pages for popular applications have posted their  video on YouTube.

By 791, A.D., Western civilization had been brought to the brink of destruction by barbarians and Vikings. Everything must be coded into a visual data bank and saved. One genius Irish artist had his fingertips on the entire repertoire of Celtic art and metal work. Another, a southerner, knew the art of the ancient Mediterranean world. Nine artists worked together.

It celebrates the facial expressions of love instead of power and preserves the continuity of European culture. After centuries of victimization, abuse, burial, romanticization, neglect and oblivion until it was miraculously stored at Trinity College, University of Dublin, the relic is being cast in a new role.

Worrall sums up, “The Greco-Roman world order and all that it brought us — straight roads, the subjugation of nature and other civilizations to our material will; cultural narcissism — is faltering. The new house of Europe, open from Manchester to Moscow, is the Celtic geography restored.”

Is the oldest, most tenacious of European cultures your  “in” look  too?

This blog post adds to the mystery of why anyone would entitle their family memoir A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. (Our surname was Kell and I grew up as a preacher’s kid. There’s some doubt over whether or not our family originated in a community of ninth century monks).

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The author stands on the grounds of the 6th century Abbey of Kells

You never know when you will make a connection. If channels for selling your book seem stale, why not search farther afield? I’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland, where the roots of my family memoir lie. This email from the Tourist Office in Kells (Meath County) Ireland was in my email box this morning:

Good afternoon Margaret,

Thank you so very much for the copy of your book you left at the tourist office here in Kells. It is our Bank Holiday on Monday, so we have a long lazy weekend. If the weather holds I intend to sit in the garden, with my feet up devouring every word therein.

I was intrigued as soon as I saw the cover as my father, his father and various ancestors all served in the Navy. So can’t wait to find out all about your father in particular.

I will email you next week and tell you how I got on. And I will pass the book around the staff and my friends in Kells.

 Thanks again, and very kind regards,

 Doreen Fitzsimons

Kells Tourist Office

I’m looking forward to corresponding with Doreen. She is an expert on all things connected with The Book of Kells and obviously, an extremely nice person.

This blog post adds to the mystery of why anyone would entitle their family memoir A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. (Our surname was Kell and I am a preacher’s kid. There’s some doubt over whether we originated in a community of ninth century monks.) 

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

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folio 124r

folio 124r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Book of Kells has exploded onto the digital stage and is challenging St. Patrick as an Irish icon.The St. Patrick’s Day  website of Trinity College, the University of Dublin announces that everyone may now experience the Book of Kells online, for free, in its new Digital Collections.

  • The Book of Kells for I-pad, released in December, 2012 is a top seller in Apple stores. Anyone can buy a copy of the priceless manuscript.

Early History  After St. Patrick established the first Christian mission in Ireland in the fifth century, Irish monasteries spread their spiritual and cultural influence far and wide.

  • Celtic monks living on the Isle of Iona created a 680-page manuscript of the Four Gospels (Latiin Vulgate version) early in the ninth century. At the same time, it codified their entire civilization.
  • The sacred Word of God had a gold cover and was designed to sit on the altar at the high holidays of the Christian year.
  • Vikings raided and savaged the monks’ colony; the surviving monks fled to Kells, County Meath in Ireland.
  • Thieves stole the book, ripped off its cover and buried it in a bog 1,000 years ago.
  • When found months later, the Annals of Ulster called it “the greatest relic of western civilization”.  No one challenges that description today.
  • The Roman Catholic church took it for safekeeping in the 16th century, then brought it to Dublin 100 years later.

The Art  Four extremely talented artists, one of them from the Mediterranean, worked together with 50 or so assistants, researchers believe.

  • The monks wrote on vellum prepared from the slaughter of 185 calves and used ten vibrant pigments, some from distant lands. A purple-brown-black ink was made from iron salts and local vegetable sources, such as oak apples (galls).
  • Mind-boggling in complexity and ornamentation, the book combines figures of humans, animals and mythical beasts with Celtic knot-work and interlace. Motifs swirl, letters evolve into pictures and pictures into letters.
  • Along with technical know-how and Christian iconography, the monks had fun. A letter M is two monks pulling each other’s beards; an  illustrated rhyme compares a writer choosing words to his cat chasing mice.
  • The lavish, intricate, minute, illuminated art and calligraphy overwhelm even the Holy Script.

Update  Since the mid 1800’s, the book has been on display, now bound into four volumes of 33 x 25-cm pages. It has some water damage, is extremely fragile and has lost substantial pigment. The folios bend or contract if the temperature changes the least bit, threatening adhesion of the colors.

  • In 1989 Facsimile-Verlag Lucern published a limited edition of 1480 copies (740 reserved for the British Isles). Two copies, valued at $18,000 each, were presented to Texas Christian University and Austin College in 1990.
  • In March 2012, 120 people came to a lecture on the Book of Kells at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT.  At the University of Dublin, Professor Roger Stalley debunked the idea that the book was created in quiet seclusion.
  • Simon Worrall published The Book of Kells: Copulating Cats and Holy Men, a highly entertaining, informative, short book, in 2012.
  • We traveled to Ireland in 2013. Check the ‘Home’ tab above to read the blogs and look at the pictures of the tower and graveyard we explored.
  • Hay Festival Kells, in County Meath, will return for a third edition in 2015, from 26 to 28 June.

The energy, wit and beauty of the pages carry a Saint Patrick’s Day message of  irrepressible joy into hearts, a living celebration of the culture and heritage of the Irish Celts.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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When you shower a new book writer with bouquets, you risk assisting at the birth of an infamous author‘s ego.

But praise and feedback are vital to a sensible author who learns to assemble them into a foundation for later sales.  Here are ways I’ve used for you to try too:

How to Make a Readers’ Comments List

1. Just say thank-you and smile until you have something in writing from someone you know who has read the book.

2. Don’t destroy any messages that come in from or via your first buyers. These will be from family, friends and others they lent their copies to.

3. Open a readers’ comments file in your computer. Enter all email messages and scans of letters that contain solid feedback.

4. Acknowledge all messages and include the phrase, Do you mind if I  quote you on that? People don’t mind, as long as they are quoted exactly and with no gaps. They are glad to be helpful and supportive. (If you absolutely must omit something in mid-sentence, insert three dots in its place:  “. . .”)

5. Delete salutations and personal sentences from entries, keeping the most articulate, focused excerpts. Here’s an example of the format I use:

“My flight out to CA was made all the more enjoyable because I read A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00440DQNA) on the way. I thought it was very well done – a very good read. It has real potential for a wider audience.” Chris Delmar, Westport, CT

Where to Distribute Your List Widely

6. Submit a few of the comments to your Amazon page, under Create a Review. This must be done by someone other than the author. The  review on amazon.ca is honestly entitled  ‘Comments Received Directly by Publisher‘.  These are serious, freely submitted opinions from legitimate sources.  For whatever reason, the writers were not able to send them in on their own. To take a look at what I’m referring to, click on this link and scroll down to the second review:

<a href=”//”>http://www.amazon.ca/product-reviews/0969914210/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt/191-8917817-4165524?ie=UTF8&amp;showViewpoints=1</a>

This review has been a placeholder until I received independent reviews.  Now I  can remove it, as I did the ones on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

7. Print out a copy of your list and bring it when selling at bazaars or book fairs. Browsers will enjoy its gossipy interest. No one wants to be the guinea pig buying the first book.

8. Open a comments page on your own website. Paste the list in and break it down into sections (e.g. year received, reader’s country) to make it easier to  read. This contributes to the aura that a lot is going on with your book.

9. Choose a snappy quote from your list to give your next book  promo, tweet or advertisement a relevant, authentic punch line.

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time reading this post. Please browse around and, if you like, write some comments.

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