Archives for category: Books

reunionphoto

  • “Our school is older than Confederation! Come back for the 160th Reunion!,” said the email from the Weston Collegiate Alumni Foundation, and I was impressed. I  hadn’t been there since the school’s Centennial in 1957. I thought they had forgotten me in return.
  • Orlando Martini, a 1952 graduate, past-president and founder of the WCAF, was the mysterious link. He said he would meet us in the Tea Room if we went. That sounded perfect. A classmate living in New York State had loaned him her copy of my book containing memories of Weston Collegiate. He had been a year behind my husband Tom in engineering at the University of Toronto, so he knew him by name.
  • Two old classmates had contacted me recently so Fate too was urging me to reconnect. Unfortunately, I lost Ann West Hudec’s phone number and didn’t know her whereabouts so couldn’t reach her. As for Nancy Mackay Cunningham, she would be away on a trip this month. When I googled for Peter W. Barker and his wife Anne Coleman Barker from our gang I found his obituary. Sadly, I left a memory message on the funeral home website.
  • My hitherto unread copy of “One Hundred Years. A Retrospect 1857-1957. Weston Grammar School to Weston Collegiate & Vocational School” by Dora E. Wattie, M.A. verifies I was there. The book reminds us how big and complicated a job is the educating of our young. It lists the names of slews of dedicated people — caretakers, students, volunteers, teachers, board members, trustees, donors, etc.– who pulled together to give the school its spirit of friendship, co-operation and community. How hard our teachers worked to help their students mature and succeed! Dozens of activities were enabled by staff who volunteered countless extra hours. Ms Wattie gives others credit but never mentions her own role.
  • Suddenly my name appears at the top of page 101 and I burst out laughing. (Be careful what you wish for when you think you want to be remembered or  famous!) It reads, “Frequently it is the accidents that make a student play memorable … “Margaret Kell will remember the authentic blow she struck at the station window as the “Ghost Train” roared through the station, so authentic that splintered glass sent blood streaming down her arm.” Now I recalled why I liked Ms Wattie; she was the producer of the Drama Club’s annual play, as well as being our history teacher.
  • When we arrived for the reunion on Oct. 14 I felt thrilled to step out of the car onto the sod where the Schomberg/Kleinburg/Woodbridge/Thistletown bus stopped during 1947-50. I was dismayed to see no sign of Anne Coleman’s parents’ bungalow across the street where our gang partied and played pool after Saturday night movies. The vocational wing and original school have been replaced by a  structure 100 years younger, a big improvement.
  • Inside the entrance, the odor of chlorine from a swimming pool was new but the corridor walls were crammed as ever. An honor guard of class pictures, lists of Ontario Scholarship winners’ names, photos of governors general awarding Orders of Canada to outstanding alumni, and glassed cabinets full of sports trophies and cups, with colorful pennants above, ushered us all the way along to the registration desk. The school still brags about Weston Ironmen’s Toronto District football championship victory over East York Seniors in 1950.
  • The student band blared out the finale of its stirring welcome as we entered the Memory Hall/Pub (auditorium.) A long central buffet table amid hundreds of people buzzing over colorful snacks and drinks made the atmosphere festive. We got right into the nitty gritty of “Hi”, “When did you graduate?” and “Who did you know?” At the mere mention of a name one alumnus feinted a faint. The pile of pictures on the memorabilia table grew. I found Charles Snider, a gymnast from my year
  • Tom and I retreated to a round table in the adjoining Tea Room (staff room) to wait for the kettle to boil and  Orlando to come.  Meanwhile we looked at the new history book,  “The Past Fifty Years 1957 to 2007. The Tradition Continues. Weston Grammar School to Weston Collegiate Institute 1857-2007” edited by Dr. Wesley Turner. Orlando had been inspired to organize this project after he interviewed Dora Wattie 20 years ago.
  • By now I was feeling very much at home, like being with family. Books are my passion; I soaked up fascinating local history, biographies of pioneers in mining, medicine, water treatment and other fields and pictures of young people doing what I once did. I made discoveries and got to know my old self and environment better. What great luck to have gone to a school so extraordinary at preserving its traditions!
  • Alumni and former teachers who dropped by our table after Orlando came were a fairly homogenous-looking group with surnames we’d heard before. It didn’t take long to find connections around the people we knew and experiences we shared.
  • Today’s students at WCI were born in 80 different countries of the world. Enrollment now is 850 instead of 1100. No one has to be bussed in because more high schools have been builtThe hosts and servers poured our cups and served yummy baking were neat, pleasant, helpful and friendly. They didn’t carry cellphones; the school doesn’t provide WiFi for them. In my day girls had to wear white shirt blouses with black tunics and stockings. Now they seemed to wear a casual assortment of black skirts or pants, white or beige tops and loose gray cardigans.
  • Prachi Dalai, Aryana Singh and Miduran Murugathasan received 2016 WCAF Orlando Martini awards for leadership, citizenship and extracurricular activities. Debbie Dada has been admitted to Yale University to major in global affairs.
  • In the WCAF’s 160th Anniversary issue some bright grade 12 and 13 students answer questions from a peer about their high school experience and what advice they’d give other students. They show self-confidence and a broad view far beyond what we had before the ‘Me-Generation’ came along. I’m sure  recent migrations and upheavals have them mature earlier.
  • They appreciate how older students befriended and welcomed when they started. They passionately believe they and every other person is unique, with great potential.  They say that if  you have a problem, such as depression or physical health, take care of it first. Don’t worry so much about others’ think. Getting top marks can wait if you feel you’re not at  your best. Participating in extracurricular clubs helped them change and reach goals. One student remembered a moment of just standing around outside the school door with friends looking at the sunset, feeling they had nothing to fear. All was well.
  • “How could Weston possibly get better? With you!”  writes Joshua Brooke in the current issue of “West Press”, the student newspaper. He was rallying his fellow students to take part in Hallowe’en and other Fall activities. My only question is, “Are we oldies ready to absorb these students into a truly multicultural society and let them take the lead?”
  • After coming home from the reunion, I phoned Squibb’s, the bookstore in Weston where I bought textbooks, to inquire about a book signing. The proprietor said they did not have space but if a book interested them they might co-operate in a presentation about it organized by the Weston Historical Society. The key person to contact would be Mary Lou Caskey Ashbourne, and she gave me her email address and phone number.
  • You guessed it! Mary Lou sat in front of me in grade 12 in 1948, although it seems like yesterday. We began to get caught up over the phone and will be getting together soon. You’ll be first to know if there’s to be a presentation.

A school reunion can be rejuvenating, even if you go only once in a lifetime.

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orieloucks.jpg.fcaf306d

Loucks’ heart was amongst the trees. Minden (ON) Times photo and cutline.

With scientific precision, superb literacy, brilliant intellect, fatherly tact and noble modesty, Dr. Orie Loucks http://www.mindentimes.ca/remembering-orie-loucks begins his family’s story by advising us how to approach the awesome task. Loucks was an esteemed scientist, author and conservationist.

1. Family history must be more than births, marriages and deaths. It needs to tell who the people are and why they came to the places where we find them.
2. We should learn what concerns drove them from one home place to another, in poverty or wealth.
3. We should also try to learn what are the values and interests of the family line that continue from one generation to the next. We may find family values that are evident over four or five hundred years.
4. One must wonder whether character traits, and not just physical resemblance, may have been carried along. Did the qualities that led to stubborn persistence on early Huguenot faith traditions continue until certain family leaders supported the British in the American Revolutionary war, and does it still continue today?
5. Great changes in circumstances faced by nearly every generation should be seen as a critical influence on each family’s life. Through all the change, we can expect to see continuity of family character.

6. This report tries to highlight both the ups and downs of each generation’s prospects. The record suggests the family aspired to be fair and just and try to make the world a better place in the future. Each one adapted and then practiced what they learned or believed in from the former generations.
7. Relevant history was passed down in 2010 at the 300th reunion of Laux/Loucks family members of the 1710 Palatine refugee migration. It not only added depth to the historical record, but also family relationships across generations were sustained, along with evidence of the continuity of physical appearance. Many participants at the reunion were struck by the resemblance that continues in males of the family, the square face, the strong though not prominent nose, and the firm but often dimpled chin.

8. Looking for the source of the surname revealed it spanned languages such as Spanish, French, Latin and Occitan, according to David Loux, author of part I, chapter 2 of the book. Different spellings in English are all pronounced the same way.
9. Other sources he consulted were the French armorial coat-of arms; dictionaries to give meanings of the name, maps to show localities, mountain ranges and lakes named du Laux, du Loux, Lau or Loucks. Pronunciation research was done into Occitan (they spoke this patois every day but used Latin for business and diplomacy.)
10. Finding out the influence of historical context on this family’s fortunes was crucial. The major social upheavals that impacted them, for better or worse, were the Crusades starting in 1096, the Albigensian ‘Crusade’ (persecution) two centuries later, and the religious wars that mobilized French society from the 10th to 17th centuries. France had no separation of church and state and Roman Catholicism was the state-sponsored religion. French reformers
(Huguenots) were driven into a major exodus.

“As minor nobility, some du Laux families would have held Huguenot church services in their homes. They would have fought alongside other families in defense of their religious cause and, as identifiable nobility, their homes would have been at risk for being ravaged and burned. The du Laux name turned up in Wiesbaden, Germany and from there they migrated to the United States.”

To find out more about Surviving 4 Migrations: The Loucks of Haliburton or to purchase a copy, please click on http://www.lulu.com/ca/en/shop/orie-loucks/surviving-four-migrations-the-loucks-of-haliburton/paperback/product-20163703.html

It is described as “A history of the Loucks family: France to Germany, to New York State, and Ontario from the 1620’s to the present.” pp. 280

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

orieloucks.jpg.fcaf306d

“Loucks’ heart was amongst the trees.” Photo and cutline courtesy of Minden (ON) Times.

With scientific precision, superb literacy, brilliant intellect, fatherly tact and noble modesty, Dr. Orie Loucks http://www.mindentimes.ca/remembering-orie-loucks begins his family’s story by advising us how to approach the awesome task.

1.Family history must be more than births, marriages and deaths. It needs to tell who the people are and why they came to the places where we find them.
2. We should learn what concerns drove them from one home place to another, in poverty or wealth.
3. We should also try to learn what are the values and interests of the family line that continue from one generation to the next. We may find family values that are evident over four or five hundred years.
4. One must wonder whether character traits, and not just physical resemblance, may have been carried along. Did the qualities that led to stubborn persistence on early Huguenot faith traditions continue until certain family leaders supported the British in the American Revolutionary war, and does it still continue today?
5. Great changes in circumstances faced by nearly every generation should be seen as a critical influence on each family’s life. Through all the change, we can expect to see continuity of family character.

6. This report tries to highlight both the ups and downs of each generation’s prospects. The record suggests the family aspired to be fair and just and try to make the world a better place in the future. Each one adapted and then practiced what they learned or believed in from the former generations.
7. Relevant history was passed down in 2010 at the 300th reunion of Laux/Loucks family members of the 1710 Palatine refugee migration. It not only added depth to the historical record, but also family relationships across generations were sustained, along with evidence of the continuity of physical appearance. Many participants at the reunion were struck by the resemblance that continues in males of the family, the square face, the strong though not prominent nose, and the firm but often dimpled chin.

8. Looking for the source of the surname revealed it spanned languages such as Spanish, French, Latin and Occitan, according to David Loux, author of part I, chapter 2 of the book. Different spellings in English are all pronounced the same way.
9. Other sources he consulted were the French armorial coat-of arms; dictionaries to give meanings of the name, maps to show localities, mountain ranges and lakes named du Laux, du Loux, Lau or Loucks. Pronunciation research was done into Occitan (they spoke this patois every day but used Latin for business and diplomacy.)
10. Finding out the influence of historical context on this family’s fortunes was crucial. The major social upheavals that impacted them, for better or worse, were the Crusades starting in 1096,  the Albigensian ‘Crusade’ (persecution) two centuries later, and the religious wars that mobilized French society from the 10th to 17th centuries. France had no separation of church and state and Roman Catholicism was the state-sponsored religion. French reformers
(Huguenots) were driven into a major exodus.

“As minor nobility, some du Laux families would have held Huguenot church services in their homes. They would have fought alongside other families in defense of their religious cause and, as identifiable nobility, their homes would have been at risk for being ravaged and burned. The du Laux name turned up in Wiesbaden, Germany and from there they migrated to the United States.”

To find out more about Surviving 4 Migrations: The Loucks of Haliburton or to purchase a copy, please click on http://www.lulu.com/ca/en/shop/orie-loucks/surviving-four-migrations-the-loucks-of-haliburton/paperback/product-20163703.html

It is described as “A history of the Loucks family: France to Germany, to New York State, and Ontario from the 1620’s to the present.” pp. 280

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

 

IMG_0868

“Thank you,” said the i-phone-clutching prospective customer, then moved on.

Near the end of Thursday’s stint as an Ottawa Byward Market author with no books sold, I crossed the street to ask the Crazy Moose souvenir shop to take some on consignment. The manager, a man of statistics, said no, reading was down 50% to 80% and, if it was true my booth had sold eight books in two stints 10 days apart, then that was the way to do it. I felt buoyed up and ready to fight. I had to stay put in the war between paper and digital to keep reading alive! 

On my own since my two selling buddies had left, I figured I would complete the day my way, relying on eye contact, not just waiting for a customer to appear.  Here’s what I did before I sold two books and was able to call my day a trumpian success, considering the state of our universe:

  • Stood tall inside my booth to be conspicuous
  • Smiled and relaxed
  • Got into the mood of happy shopping, sesquicentennial celebrating and traveling
  • Controled my grooving to the music rocking the square as I scanned the passing crowd for intelligent faces
  • Rejected those eating ice cream cones or $5 stuffed potato halves that might mess up my books
  • Skipped those preoccupied with their own devices
  • Trusted my eyes to focus on someone who was compatible in some way with me, my writing and my readers (real and imagined)
  • When my gaze was returned, I lifted my eyebrows cordially and tilted my head back a bit as an invitation to them to come over.

Fate ridiculed me by making me oblivious to a woman who sneaked up to look at one of my cookbooks I had left littering the other author’s table at my side. She didn’t have $15 so I lowered the price to $10 and the sale made us both happy.

Then I saw a bent-over, gray-haired woman purposefully propelling herself and her full bag with the aid of a deluxe cane towards her parked car. As she passed by I caught her eye.  She lifted her face to convey a respectful, smiling nod to literacy. I said boldly and clearly to her disappearing back, “I have a very good book for you” and she indicated she would return.

She asked me to tell her about my book and we quickly found common ground.  We both appreciated writing with carefully chosen words, criticism and looking at issues like the residential school tragedies from all sides. She complimented me on my New York Times newsprint dress and wondered if it also came in French. She translates English into French for the federal government.

By the time she bought the book and I signed it we were friends. She was Paule (pronounced “Pole”) and I was “Margo” (with a handwritten note giving the name of a chanteur who wrote a song by that title).

To me that was selling books at its best: two persons, strangers only seconds ago, making a pact to keep reading stuff on paper alive.

Happy Reading, Writing and Bookselling!

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

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IMG_0868

“Thank-you!” says the i-phone clutching prospect and moves on

With more than half of my Thursday stint at the author corner in Ottawa’s Byward Market expired and no books sold, I felt blue. My husband and the author beside me left. The manager of the Crazy Moose souvenir shop across the street was not daft enough to take my books on consignment, even  when I told him I had sold eight in two stints over the past ten days. “Nobody reads anymore,” he said. “If you’ve sold that many books in your booth then that’s the way to do it.” The conflict of the Twilight of the Gods of paper and digital is on and every author and bookseller feels it in the pocket.

On my own as the most aggressive of our selling trio, I figured I would complete the day my way, relying on eye contact as well as waiting for a customer to appear.  Here’s what I did before I sold two books and was able to call my day a trumpian success, considering the state of our universe:

  • Stood tall inside my booth to be conspicuous
  • Smiled and relaxed
  • Got into the mood of happy shopping, sesquicentennial celebrating and traveling
  • Controled my grooving to the music rocking the square as I scanned the passing crowd for intelligent faces
  • Rejected those eating ice cream cones or $5 stuffed potato halves that might mess up my books
  • Skipped those preoccupied with their own devices
  • Trusted my eyes to focus on someone who was compatible in some way with me, my writing and my readers (real and imagined)
  • When my gaze was returned, I lifted my eyebrows cordially and tilted my head back a bit as an invitation to them to come over 

Fate ridiculed me by making me oblivious to a woman who sneaked up to look at one of my cookbooks I had left littering the other author’s table at my side. She didn’t have $15 so I lowered the price to $10 and the sale made us both happy.

Then I saw a bent-over, gray-haired woman purposefully propelling herself and her full bag with the aid of a deluxe cane towards her parked car. As she passed by I caught her eye.  She lifted her face to convey a respectful, smiling nod to literacy. I said boldly and clearly to her disappearing back, “I have a very good book for you” and she indicated she would return.

She asked me to tell her about my book and we quickly found common ground.  We both appreciated writing with carefully chosen words, criticism and looking at issues like the residential school tragedies from all sides. She complimented me on my New York Times newsprint dress and wondered if it also came in French. She translates English into French for the federal government. By the time she bought the book and I signed it we were friends. She was Paule (pronounced “Pole”) and I was “Margo” (with a handwritten note giving the name of a chanteur who wrote a song by that title).

To me that was selling books at its best: two persons, strangers only seconds ago, making a pact to keep reading stuff on paper alive.

Happy Reading, Writing and Bookselling!

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

http://www.margaretvirany.com

Victoria_College

This fairy tale castle of a university has a text engraved over its entrance (left). Pretty vines at times obscure it but make a lasting picture to hang in a home to inspire kids.

A child made cozy with books from the earliest age will do well at school and live a good life. This is true and vital especially  in the midst of the electronic revolution. Here are six cues to help make old-fashioned happiness come to your young ones:

  1. Post a beautiful picture, not just a framed text, containing a good book quote that is meaningful to you on a prominent wall in your home.
  2. Tell a circle of children a classic story relevant to them. Then have them each draw a picture of it.
  3. Give them each a colorful sticker to decorate their work as a seal of approval so they’ll be proud of it.
  4. Read a story to a child at night so she or he relaxes and falls asleep peacefully. Do not allow electronic phones, i-pods, etc. in the bedroom.
  5. Build a bookcase out of  boards and bricks someone else is discarding if you have no other way of getting one. It adds color, can hold things and even divide areas.
  6. Fill it with enticing books bought cheaply at community sales. Let the books’ spines expose their titles and their cover graphics excite curiosity. If they are good books, they will find takers.

My Particular Story

What set me up to writing this blog post was news received on Palm Sunday that our church is headed for closure because of indebtedness. For me it is a loss of literature and I will fight not to let that happen. 

When our congregation started nearly two centuries ago, the one book that needed to be taught to a child as early as possible was the Bible. At age four in 1937 I recall emerging from Sunday nursery school into the spring air feeling happy and confident. My story picture had a singing robin on it. I too was one with nature. God saw the little sparrow fall and counted every hair on my head. We were both that important!

When I learned to read I made out the words, “The Truth Shall Make You Free”, not quite hidden by vines clinging around the imposing door of Victoria College at the University of Toronto in a picture hanging in our front hall. 

That pretty much explains the path my life took. God really went up in my estimation when I learned the text was biblical. He had nothing to fear from my intelligence, my curiosity, my independence, my desire to be free, read, study and write to my heart’s content. In fact, that’s what He wanted. Somehow I had no trouble growing into the habit of metaphorical thinking. The spirit of love and creation would always be the strength inside, ahead of, around and behind me — even if churches close and we have to regroup around family and more literary ways.

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

Enhancing-ImagesIt is one thing to have your blog flashed across the earth on the world wide web and another to have someone actually read it. Cozybookbasics has reached a peak of attracting readers in 95 countries of the world, enough to turn the WordPress Stats map orange with delight all over. Come with me to celebrate and see what trips any blog post may be able to take. The link shows the colorful flags of my readers’ countries:

https://wordpress.com/stats/day/countryviews/cozybookbasics.wordpress.com?startDate=2017-03-29&sum
marize=1&num=-1

Gray patches in the Middle East and Central Africa still challenge my blog’s universal presence as a reminder of passionate love for written creatures.

Two Observations and Tips

I’d love to know what magic search word lit up a single reader living in each of  Cameroon, Costa Rica, Albania, the Ivory Coast, Honduras, Brunei, Puerto Rico, Azerbaijan, Myanmar, Qatar, Venzuela, Moldova, Kuwait, Haiti, Mauritius, Kenya, Afghanistan, Barbados, Papua New Guinea and Egypt. Thanks for their initiative. It’s worth spending time on a careful choice of tags; I usually have ten or twelve.

It’s good for a blog to have an all-inclusive title. I used ‘cozybookbasics’ to write two posts — one on ‘How we Fell in Love, Built a Canoe and Got a House’ and one on ‘How to Build a Canoe the Aboriginal Way.’ A freelanced article on the latter topic started our home-based business on top of our journalistic careers. This blog post is our most successful, attracting over a thousand readers. Most of them live in 15 former USSR countries. The blog is shared on wooden boat building sites in the Russian and Polish languages. It was written in short cutlines underneath pictures so was easy to translate.

  • If you are a WordPress blogger, here’s how to get your map:
  • Click on My Sites at the left top of your edit page
  • Click on Years at the right of the top line
  • Scroll down and click on Countries on the right
  • Click on All Time at the right of the top line
  • If you are not yet a WordPress blogger, look on Google to find out how to become one. I found it free and easy to arrange.

Voilà! Smile and admire your own collection of big numbers and trophy flags — even if, like me, you’re still near the beginning of becoming a truly global blogger.

Happy Reading & Writing

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Kells Pasture

It’s Cozy

  • Stay for a week in a thatched-roof cottage near Waterford, where Vikings set foot
  • Watch Irish Sea fishers catch seafood to replenish what you’re eating for lunch
  • Imagine impish fairies hiding outside your door, coating the postcards you’re sending home with magical whimsy
  • Breathe in the smell of wild flowers, the bog, and pervasive, mystifying mist

It Has A Book . . .

  • Take a copy of your family memoir, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, to the Mayor of Kells. Have faith that  “A book always finds its own readers”
  • Look at stone ruins, graves and gates adorned with Celtic art, and the refuge to which monks fled from a bloody Viking raid to pen what’s now known as The Book of Kells
  • Deposit a copy of your book for reference at Trinity College Library, Dublin, resting place of the original manuscript
  • Hope that, along with an explanatory letter, your book will be cataloged as a legitimate addition to the long and quaint path of Kells memorabilia

It’s Basic

  • Search out Ireland’s soul. Pick up a rental car at  Dublin Airport early Saturday and count on luck to survive driving on the left side into the city.
  • Stop at a central café to ‘people watch’; read the daily paper to get a handle on the pulse of the times and the place
  • After walking around and sightseeing, have a beer at the James Joyce pub. Try to grasp what he was up to with writing Ulysses, The Dubliners and Finnegan’s Wake
  • Attend a music-only sung service at Christ Church on Sunday. This Celtic church was erected in the 11th century; the choir dates back 400 years.
  • Spend a day motoring out to the Ring of Kerry on the south coast to see magnificent scenery.

It’s Irish

  • Indulge your Irish genes by telling local people your great-grandparents were poor tenant farmers in Armagh County who emigrated to America in 1850 to find a better existence
  • Go to a concert of Irish dancing in the spirit of your grandmother who expected everybody to ‘step around’ fast to do the work of the farm
  • Be careful whom you tell your grandparents’ name was Campbell; old clan warfare hatreds still run deep
  • Spend what you can on souvenirs, such as linen and lace, and take all the pictures you can to keep your visit alive and help the Irish economy

This  blog complicates the  mystery of why anyone would write a family memoir entitled  A Book of Kells, Growing Up in an Ego Void. (Our surname was Kell and I was a preacher’s kid. There’s some doubt over whether our family originated in a community of ninth century monks).

Margaret Kell Virany, lang & lit lover, Norrie Frye note-taker, journalist, editor, autho

 http://www.cozybookbasics.com

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

A couple whose lasting love started because of an infernal war.

Here’s what I did in this bold enterprise of writing about my family. I  hope my experience may be helpful to you too.

To present my parents’ life story and my growing-up story I hit upon two ways. First, I could combine the stories of two generations — but only if I could find a beginning, middle and end for a structure around a unifying theme.

  • It couldn’t just be that they were born and died and did something fantastic as a climax near the end. I had important things to say about their effect on me as I grew up. I saw flaws in their relationship.
  • The central theme I wanted get at was one of ego. Altruism is without a doubt the greatest virtue. But babies need to suck in, see and exercise a healthy dose of ego joy in order to become competent, confident, caring adults.
  • My solution was to frame the book as a psychological detective story/family biography. I began by saying I was on a search for my parents’ lost egos. One question I wanted to figure out was why my mother denied my father one of her chocolates the week before he died, even though he begged for it.
  • That way I could keep the reader in suspense and also make the book an honest critique. That’s my way as a nonfiction writer.
  • The title was easy because our family name was KellThe Book of Kells is the famous ninth century manuscript that illuminates the gospels. I point out my parents and ancestors aimed to do that too, by the way they lived.41khlscocglSecond, I could write the book just as an inspiring love story — the quintessential Canadian romance. This approach might appeal more to a different group of readers. 
  • Like the first book, it contains excerpts from my parents’ love letters but the theme is a tribute to my mother’s courage and my parents’ idealism.
  • I tossed out the subtitle and included a dozen authentic pictures of my mother’s adventures instead.
  • The title comes from a hazardous five-day trek on a cariole toboggan made by my mother, my father and an aboriginal guide. The temperature dipped to 30-below-zero. If there was no one to take them in, they slept outside. She had to get to the hospital for her baby to be born.
  • Digital technology made it easy for me to do this. Both books are published under our V&V logo but printed on demand and distributed by CreateSpace (originally called BookSurge.)
  • Revisions are quick and simple to make. Then I order just the number of  books I think I can sell at bookstores, fairs, shopping malls, reunions, book clubs, seniors’ residences, libraries, book clubs, etc.
  • Most customers have a definite preference for which printed edition they want for themselves or as a gift.
  • I take my i-pad with me and can download an e-version of either book if that is what a customer prefers.

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www.margaretvirany.com

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Credit: Library & Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1982-124

Lucky me. I’ll be selling my books and displaying aboriginal artifacts this Sunday afternoon at a site once inhabited by the tribe who greeted the pilgrims on the Atlantic shore. No. The above picture is not a Currier & Ives Christmas card. It is a steel engraving by William H. Barlett famously published in Canadian Scenery Illustrated in 1842. As in the picture,  people will be gathering at the Lake Deschenes bend in the Ottawa River to be warmed and refreshed amid the nostalgic aura of dormer windows, conjoint staircases and veranda vistas.

  • The event this time (Dec. 4) is a light show and artisans’ sale after the Santa Claus parade down Main Street and the Christmas Bazaar at the British Hotel.
  • The Kitchi Sibi Anishinabeg first inhabited this site thousands of years ago. Chief Tessouat was a busy commercial middleman in the years of the fur trade. Champlain and his voyageur explorers rested at this pleasant spot in 1613. They thought they had found a route to China but at least were the first to get as far as Lake Huron. Charles Symmes from Woburn, MA built the Inn in 1831 and helped his uncle Philemon Wright found the townsite. Pioneer settlers made their way to Aylmer from Montreal by stage  coach and stayed overnight before continuing their journey. This was the landing place for busy steamboat traffic.
  • When we moved to Aylmer in 1976 we built a sailboat (from a kit) and berthed it at the Marina (above). One day after sailing I saw one of our municipal councilors, Denise Friend, charge across the parking lot to accost some gentlemen stepping out of a black limousine. They were officials of the Quebec government and had a purse to spend on heritage projects. Soon news came that the historic Inn reduced to rubble after being used as a flea market and consumed by a fire was to be restored. It re-opened in a good imitation of its former glory in 1978.
  • Today it is a Museum with fine exhibits as well as being a heritage gem of the Outaouais region. It will always be at the heart of the townsfolk of the Aylmer sector of the city of Gatineau. That’s why my books, indigenous artifacts and I will be smiling so happily from the inn-side this Sunday. The artifacts I have include a birch-bark basket, two birch-bark trivets, an ermine hat and scarf set and a pair of embroidered moccasin slippers. They’re from my parents’ days as missionaries on the Cree reservation at Oxford House, MN in the roaring twenties. Their story is told in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.
  • Merry pre-Christmas season to you too!

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