Archives for category: Canadian Writer

via Convenient Solution to an Inconvenient Problem


Friendly Fire

Guest blog by Thomas Virany
We were watching CNN at about five p. m. on Thursday, when we heard a loud boom and everything went off. TV, stove, furnace, etc. Oh, well, that happens here sometimes.

But the power didn’t come back on, and I went to see what happened. A friendly Hydro guy came to our house and told me that there would be no power for awhile. How long, oh, maybe two or three hours. Pas de problèmes, as they say here.

He also told me not to go into the backyard, because a hydro pole had fallen and dragged all the wires down. And some more may fall. He asked me to turn off the main switch to prevent damage when the power came back on.

As the house was getting cold, I made a fire in our non-polluting stove we had bought to match our home-made furniture in 2006 instead of a fireplace. We ate what we had, some left-over spareribs, potato chips, fruit, etc. We boiled water on the stove for tea and sat by the fire, as an old (84 and 87) retired couple should.

Meantime, the ground floor and some upstairs bedrooms were warming up nicely. The two-three hours turned into all night. I kept feeding the stove wood. Even after going to bed, I got more wood from outside every two-three hours.  In the morning, still no power but the house was warm.

mar1-blackout3.jpgWe got into our 2003 Prius hybrid car and went out for a wonderful breakfast. We called our children on our ipads and told them, then went home. No power, but a wonderful warm house and I continued adding wood. Lots. We again went out, this time for lunch and more talk with our children on Skype and Facetime.

Back home, we removed the grate off the top and roasted some chestnuts in the stove’s steel pan. Still no electricity, but lots of hydro trucks. School next door closed.

Just about suppertime, the electricity came back on
and we went back to our normal life. TV, cooking, telephone,
etc. Other than some expense of money, we got through
the day conveniently, thanks to the stove and car.

Mar.2018blackout2We felt independent of the government; only deprived of some usual
services for awhile. Pas de problèmes.

Happy Reading by Flashlight & Fire from Cozybookbasics!

How did you cope with a blackout? Please leave a comment; we’d love to hear about it.


memorialgardenIt’s hard to be optimistic these days so I look to Voltaire who said at the end of his book, Candide, “We must cultivate our gardens.” After examining all the religious and philosophical explanations of the “best possible world” he adopted a farmer role model’s rational, hard-working, practical path.

  • In northern climes we cling to the prospect of Spring to cheer ourselves up. Everywhere, north and south, we look to children symbolically as our gardens, as the hope for a new and better world.
  • The slain children of Stoneman Douglas high school are our hope for the future. They are buried now, as seeds in a garden.
  • My gardening successes are modest. I planted a herb garden with a geranium in the middle of it. The important thing was that it grew on the bus-stop corner of my front lot.
  • Federal government employees rushing to get on the bus to work dropped their cigarette butts there. The sidewalk plow spattered it with small gravel stones on its way by in winter. The dandelions, plantain and crabgrass that love bad soil and neglectful gardeners had a field day.
  • So for a year I covered it with newspapers weighted down with rocks. Eventually new soil appeared.
  • Someone stole the bloom from the geranium the day after I planted it but I consoled myself thinking it was a young lad seeking to please his girlfriend. I pruned the plant. He had left two buds and the plant revived and carried on.
  • Then I planted parsley and chives so the commuters could have a healthy snack and so could anyone else who wanted to pinch something.
  • Seed catalogs arrive in the mail at this time of year in Canada. Farmers and gardeners plan their cultivating while the blizzards roar outside.
  • Political, grievous events like the Stoneman Douglas epic tragedy render us hopeless but we have to look ahead to building something good that will help others in our open little spaces.
    Let us all turn burial plots into gardens and cultivate them in the name of the fallen heroes!

Would you like to grow a memorial garden? What will it look like? Please write your comments in the box below.

Happy Seed-catalog Reading from Cozybookbasics!

'How to Be Happy' course attracts 25% of PhD students at Yale University, Jan. 2018

Happiness students attend Prof. Laurie Santos’ class at Yale University. NYT photo.

 Yale University PhD students who say they are “anxious, stressed, unhappy and numb” get seven points of daily advice (below) from Positive-Psychology  professor Laurie Santos’ How to Be Happy course. In an interview (New York Times, 26/01/2018) she says they have been seeking mental health counselling at near crisis-level.  “They became that way in order to focus on their work, the next step, the next accomplishment.”

Professor Laurie Santos' course in How to Be Happy attracted one-quarter of the students taking PhDs at Yale University in January, 2018

Professor Laurie Santos, Yale University photo

Her course advises:

1. Meditate for 10 minutes a day

2. Get eight hours of sleep

3. Do something calm

4. Think of five things you are grateful for

5. Perform an act of kindness

6. Form new social connections

7. Don’t procrastinate

  • “The students want to change, be happier themselves and change the culture here on campus,” Santos says. “It is not easy. It is the hardest class at Yale. To see real change in their life habits, students have to hold themselves accountable each day. It takes practise but it lasts forever.
  • “Three things students usually equate with life satisfaction (high grades, prestigious internship, good job) don’t increase happiness at all. Intuitions about what will make us happy are totally wrong (e.g. winning a
  • “If they take the advice to heart it will change our culture in a big way. If we see good habits, things like students showing more gratitude, procrastinating less, increasing social connections, we’re actually seeding change in the school’s culture.
  • “In high school they had to deprioritize happiness to gain admission, and adopt harmful life habits that have led to the mental health crisis we’re seeing at places like Yale. They had to do things that made themselves really unhappy in order to get there.”
  • The Field of Positive Psychology & Behavioral Change does not focus on what goes wrong but on the characteristics that make human beings flourish. To critics who say it is just an easy A, she points out:

1. The course is relaxed, low pressure

2. Social pressure attached to taking it with friends pushes students to work hard without provoking anxiety about grades

3. She encourages them to take it pass/fail so they won’t be anxious. She doesn’t monitor assignments

4. The course ends with a discussion of treatment efficacy. Did the therapy actually work? Every student must complete a Hack Yo’self Project.

5. It is not easy. It is the hardest class at Yale. It takes practise but it lasts

6. To see real change in their life habits, students have to hold themselves accountable each day.

Happiness courses began at ivy league colleges after Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi published Flow: the Psychology of Optimal Experience, a seminal work in the field of positive psychology, in 1990. People were “happiest,” he found, when they were able to spend their work or their leisure — ideally both — fully engaged in what they were doing, to the extent that they actually lost track of time, or forgot to eat. Whatever people did that gave them the best sense of happiness usually involved being challenged enough to stretch their skills, keep them totally engaged, and unaware of the rest of the world.

The How to Be Happy course will not be offered next Fall because the classes of other professors have emptied and they are unhappy.

What do you think of this course? The comment box below is for you to use. The blog post is just a start so we can talk about what hits  you.

Happy family-value reading & writing from Cozy Book Basics!

A tiny 2-inch pop-up Valentine, circa 1920

A tiny 2-inch pop-up Valentine, circa 1920 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Come with Kathleen as a Valentine’s treat

Because her story is so sweet.

Kathleen was a British high school girl in 1917 when her father brought a Canadian sailor home for tea. The suspenseful excitement of falling in love, marrying and then living amongst the Swampy Cree in Canada’s northern wilderness is captured in Kathleen’s Cariole Ride: A True Love Story from over the Ocean and in the Bush after WWI. Their daughter’s loving book takes you deeply inside the raw emotions of their own letters. The highlight of their (and their foetus’) adventures was a five-day sub-zero winter trek and a difficult birth.

Final Proof of a paperback edited with phone help from Createspace

Final Proof of a paperback edited with phone help from Createspace

Remember! A book makes a heartwarming, non-fattening, long-lasting gift for Valentine’s Day. It’s a joy for me to meet and chat with people in the friendly, creative atmosphere of the Russell Flea Market on Sat., Feb. 10th, while signing copies. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could join us?

Does this story remind you of an event in your family’s history? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comment box.

Thank you for dropping by Cozy Book Basics. You may find other stories you like by clicking above on ‘Home’ and scrolling down to browse through the archives. My writing grew out of a paradoxical parsonage childhood being nurtured by incongruous parents. To find out more, follow this Amazon link to A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void,  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church. Please join me on Goodreads or check out my personal author page also.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics!

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Journalism vets and student figure out what's becoming of journalism

From left, Anita Murray, Patrick Langston, Gabrielle Van Looyen, Russell Mills and Joe Banks

Veteran journalists in Ottawa Saturday looked for ways to fix the urgent ‘news desert’ where readers are stranded. Last fall Postmedia Network Canada Corp. and Torstar Corp. swapped 37 community newspapers and four free commuter papers – and then shut most of them. Low advertising income has killed others, and the government won’t help. They can’t go back to an old business model and the advertising industry has troubles, too. Absentee chain-store owners, not the shop keepers on Main Street now make the buying decisions.

Revenue, Content and Awareness
“Some start-ups succeed,” Algonquin College journalism professor Joe Banks told the panel of four and audience of 20 hosted by the Media Club. Assuming you have no external sources of revenue, here’s his formula for “How to Make a Print- & Online-Newspaper without Breaking the Bank‘:
1. A staff of you, at least to start, or volunteers
2. Understanding of your readership
3. No office overhead (just your cell phone, your home and your car)
4. Locally provided content, freelancers (paid for at fair market rate of 25 cents a word or more depending on experience), or contributors (members of charitable organizations)
5. Revenues strictly from subscriptions, local advertising, Google AdSense. Display advertising service requires sales staff, unless web-based
6. Design templates found for free online
7. Adobe Creative Suite (includes In Design, Photoshop) and a Content Management System as tools
Ryerson University in Toronto is mapping the ‘desert.’ Although Post and Torstar said they would close only those papers competing with existing papers, the wide area of West Carleton, for example, has none.

Veteran journalists discuss how to fix 'news deserts' in Canadian communities with no newspapers

From left, Miss Gower; panelists Glen Glower, Patrick Langston and Theresa Fritz

Panelist Glen Gower is owner/editor of (pop. 26,807), an independent news and information source that attracts 20,000 visitors monthly. Its mission is to focus on the people who care about the community. He started it as a blog running two or three articles a week Unlike a print newspaper, it never runs out of space. FaceBook posts his good visual material and content prominently. But he says, “You have to be in their face” around town so I put up posters, particularly in the ‘hub,’ a local coffee shop.” He put $1,000 into the site and buys sponsored keywords on Google to get advertising.

2018 Predictions: More Social Media, Audio & Uncertainty

“You can’t ignore FaceBook,” said panelist Anita Murray, a career journalist at the Ottawa Citizen for 25 years. She and Patrick Langston, a freelancer at the Citizen and for a number of magazines, invested $50,000 in building and designing an Online website, All Things Home, a process that took a year. “We post daily to our FB page and find their ads cheap ($10.)” But they also rent a booth at the Home Show and are trusted members of their community. “We wouldn’t get big construction company advertisements without a sophisticated website but we also get in the door to talk to builders and suppliers who know us and where we live,” panelist Langston said.

“If you’re too lazy to read the paper, we will read it for you” is the FB etc. promo for Carleton University’s one-hour radio show and pod casts that have started coming out at the same time as the campus newspaper The Charlatan. The show has hosts, a narrative, guests, music and background analysis, senior student and Media Club award winner Gabrielle Van Looyen told the group.

Banks said FB no longer runs news and social media can be dangerous. Journalists must be careful not to libel anyone; the insurance is expensive. In his village, a man posted an accusation about a neighbour with whom he’d been feuding. Banks told him to take it down but it was too late. People worried they were no longer safe. Banks looked up statistics proving Osgoode was the safest place anywhere and posted them with the message that there was no danger.

Tossed out of her position as managing editor of 11 Metroland community newspapers in Almonte, Arnprior, Vanier, etc., with a staff of 21, Theresa Fritz is surviving by freelancing but still is passionate about community newspapers. She thinks you can survive if you have a local connection with a local business (in contrast to distributing flyers.) She thinks a proposed venture for a chain of four papers to be brought out twice a month has dim prospects. “People have an expectation of what they’ll get. What is their long-term viability? How do you ask people to pay for something you’ve been giving away?”

New Models as the Way out of Media Mistrust. Who’s going to save society?

Why not have a community radio station? Create a community hub. Libraries are starting to lose their way but could play a new role. In Weare, New Hampshire, the people approached the librarian after its newspaper closed. Mike Sullivan responded to the people who came, all of them interested in the community. He became a podcaster so they could stay connected with it.

Whom can you trust?
Seventy-three per cent of Canadians trust their media, in contrast to only 47% of Americans. 78% of Flippinos and 77% of Cambodians are also very trusting of their newspapers. Align yourself with the community association. They have infrastructures you can build on.

What builds trust?

“At a community newspaper you get involved in a whole bunch of stuff, all the things that don’t involve you personally but are going on. If you are seen at them, it builds trust in people, said Fritz. They know where you live and will call you at home. You become their best friend and a hand to hold. You can go out, walk the streets and see pictures of people you know in the newspaper. If you see 200 people, they see you too. One man who went to the strawberry social and got his picture in the paper told me, “I mailed it home and now I feel like part of this

Lay-offs hurt journalism itself. The Ottawa Citizen used to employ 200 newsmen and is now down to 50. That’s that many fewer journalists out being seen with their families in the community.

Murray: Does the buzz you get from seeing someone you know’s picture in the paper build trust? Does it transfer to the Web?

What is the ideal sized community for a newspaper?
Banks: I suspect trust in the media is more rural than urban. Urban people have much more media to consume. Rural people go more for tradition and urbanites more for what’s new.

Student: I think you’re saying people have less trust in bigger media.

Banks: I think a population of 400 – 150,000 has the right mix for the distribution of the product.

Prospects for Unemployed Journalists

Banks: Young journalists are in huge demand from corporations to work as social media co-ordinators and analysts. They are offered twice as much as they would get as journalists.

Regrets (in Jest) but Resolve

Banks, looking at Russell Mills, his former boss and publisher of the Ottawa Citizen when the Internet was formed: “You should have grabbed the Internet. You could have but the journalists were too afraid of change to do it at the time. Then we would still be in control of the news. Right now we are losing young graduates to corporate non-journalist jobs and veteran journalists to abrupt unemployment.”

Murray: But don’t forget, websites will always need news-gatherers too.


Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics!





A fellow Scot will steal the limelight from Donald Trump on Jan. 25. Celebrations of the 259th birthday of beloved poet Robert Burns are set to take place worldwide. His Rights of Woman supported the first suffragettes. Abraham Lincoln, Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson were fans. Burns is extremely popular in China; his work resembles their traditional poetry. To A Mouse (below) and Auld Lang Syne are two of his most popular creations. 


Piping in the Haggis on Burns Night                                                  BBC.CO.UK

To A Mouse
(Whilst ploughing on a November day, Burns ruined the nest of a field mouse. He ponders why the creature runs away in such terror)

Oh, tiny timorous forlorn beast,
Oh why the panic in your breast ?
You need not dart away in haste
To some corn-rick
I’d never run and chase thee,
With murdering stick.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor earth-born companion,
And fellow mortal.

I do not doubt you have to thieve;
What then? Poor beastie you must live;
One ear of corn that’s scarcely missed
Is small enough:
I’ll share with you all this year’s grist,
Without rebuff.

Thy wee bit housie too in ruin,
Its fragile walls the winds have strewn,
And you’ve nothing new to build a new one,
Of grasses green;
And bleak December winds ensuing,
Both cold and keen.

You saw the fields laid bare and waste,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cosy there beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash; the cruel ploughman crushed
Thy little cell.

Your wee bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Had cost thee many a weary nibble.
Now you’re turned out for all thy trouble
Of house and home
To bear the winter’s sleety drizzle,
And hoar frost cold.

But, mousie, thou art not alane,
In proving foresight may be in vain,
The best laid schemes of mice and men,
Go oft astray,
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
To rend our day.

Still thou art blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches thee,
But, oh, I backward cast my eye
On prospects drear,
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear.

(courtesy of Robert Burns Country)

Happy Reading & Writing from CozyBookBasics!


Stevie Szabad, Author

Camp Follower One Army Brat’s Story by Michele Sabad has been out for a couple of months. Enough people have been reading it that I’m getting some feedback, and I’m pretty pleased with the response so far. In addition to the verbal comments, I’ve had written reviews on both Amazon and in various publications that are very encouraging (see for more).

Other military brats of course appreciate the veracity of the details, the vernacular, the fondness of the memories of a unique culture that they shared with the author. The sheer number of places lived brings up stories of their own childhoods that are wonderful to remember and share. (“I lived there! Did you know so-and-so?”) It is fun to see how one of their compatriots turned out after the military life; we all ended up in diverse places and careers, none of us having had that civilian common…

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Bragging Rights, Fun & Games
Cochrane, ON, located at the transition point between subarctic and humid continental climate zones, is a happy place, proud of its cold winters. I lived there from 1941 to 1946 and remember them vividly.

  • The railway junction and District seat didn’t have a weather station; radio reports lumped us in with Timmins, 30 miles to the west. We adopted the bragging rights of Iroquois Falls, 30 miles to the south. A temperature of – 58.3 C ( – 72.9 F) there on Jan. 23, 1935 was the lowest  in Ontario and fifth lowest in Canada.
  • The sun shone and the snow was dry, white and deep. It crunched like crazy when you walked on it but you didn’t just walk. For variety you held your foot out and ran it back and forth to uncover or form ice so you could zip along faster. All was safe and silent on the residential streets.
  • We girls lay on our backs in the snow and ‘flew’ with our outspread arms and legs flapping up and down to leave the impression of an angel. The trick was to try to jump back up on both feet at once without leaving any exit marks.
  • To play tag, we first made a ‘pie’ in the snow by running around behind each other in single file to make a huge circle. Then we bisected and quartered the pie to make paths where we could chase and catch each other. If you lost balance and made a footprint in the unbroken snow, you were “out”.
  • The arena was the busiest place in town, full of would-be hockey stars and figure skaters. Men on curling teams wore jackets that looked like Hudson’s Bay blankets.

Cochrane 001School, Frozen Noses & a Calamity

My sister, Enid, attacked my sister, Tanis, with a snowball but she was a survivor. School was never once closed because of the weather; if we’d had snow days no one could have got any kind of education.

  • After we made it to school on a terribly cold day, we stayed in the lobby to inspect each other’s faces for signs of frostbite. If you saw a white spot on someone’s nose, ear or cheek, you massaged it gently with an open palm until it became red again, a sign that circulation had been restored.
  • The Principal, Mr. Marwick, stood at the door glancing outside to see who still hadn’t arrived. He kept his finger on the electric bell and didn’t press it until the last straggler was in.
  • One cold day Tanis was hurrying to school along the curve in the road, keeping close to the 15-foot slope down to the frozen lake on her right. She heard bells, a clatter, pounding hooves and a “Neigh-h-h” behind her and realized she’d better get out of the way fast. It was good she and her friend, Mimi Duranceau, were Cochrane High School’s championship tumbling team.
  • The empty flatbed the horse was pulling jackknifed and went over the slope, scooping up and dispersing everything in its path as the terrified horse galloped by. Mr. Marwick saw the drama and yelled, “That kid! She must be dead! It’s Tanis!”
  • My big sister did not die but she suffered from a concussion. She had flown through the air of her own accord and managed to tumble right down the snowy slope without getting whacked by the fast-moving ‘tram’. cochrane3World War Two & Our Stars 
  • The boys fought off the Germans and Japanese with BB guns in hand-made snow forts. We were all sober, patriotic participants in the effort to achieve Victory. Food, soap and gas were rationed; we bought war savings stamps and volunteered to do errands for the Red Cross.
  • All the high school boys belonged to the cadet corps and drilled daily along the peninsula where the school was located. You can be sure Tim Horton, the future NHL player and donut-chain namesake is marching in this platoon. Another notable native son, Don McKinnon O.C., is there too. He discovered the Hemlo Lake site where three major gold mines are located. Michael Barnes wrote a book about him called “The Scholarly Prospector.”
  • Incidentally, Enid was Timmy’s girlfriend and got to use his stick on the girls’ hockey team.


Main Street’s Winter Wonderland
Main Street turned into a fun place in winter. Three fires — in 1910, 1911 and 1916 — had burned it down and each time it was rebuilt with the two sides farther apart. This was so the flames could not hop from one side to another.

  • The plows had to clear it as if it were two streets, and leave a big snow bank in the center. It was always fun to cross over , especially when the bank became more than 10 feet tall. A polished, shiny, icy track formed from the heat of pedestrian traffic. The paths became steps on the way up and slippery slides on the way down.
  • There were no cars (only delivery horses pulling trams) to run into.
  • No one even tried to keep a car running in winter, except travelling salesmen who parked in front of the hotels on Albert Street opposite the railway station. Family cars were put up on wooden blocks in garages or sheds with their wheels removed. A lot of ‘snowbirds’ drove south instead.


Intrepid Parents, Fashion & Climate

  • My parents were very good sports about the Cochrane winters and never let them be an excuse for not going out of doors for a brisk walk, visit or church service.
  • The right hats helped them survive and enjoy the winter weather. Father bought a fur cap especially for Cochrane. Mother’s unique cadet-style hat was custom-made from ermine pelts by a Cochrane tailor. (That is another story which I tell in A Book of Kells.)
  • Mother always stated a good cloth (wool) coat was as warm as a fur one. Synthetic fabrics did not exist in those days. She never wore pants but was delighted to discover cotton ‘over-stockings’ which she could pull up over her silk ones.
  • The exhilaration continues. The average Cochrane temperature from Dec., 2016 to Feb., 2017 was – 22.6 C  ( – 8.7 F) and the record low was – 47 C ( – 52.6 F).

Happy Reading & Writing from CozyBookBasics!






These ten blog posts and eight pix were tops on Cozybookbasics in 2017. A total of 1577 readers from 67 countries clicked for 2454 views. Fifty-five years ago an expert freelancer advised me ‘how-to’ stories were popular and he sure was right!


#2 How Not to Sell Books at the Market. I interviewed the writer/humorist Greg Clark (Birdseye Centre) when I was a high school student. He said, “The only person a writer can make fun of is himself.”


#1 How to Build  a Canoe the Aboriginal Way. My husband Tom sold this story to Mechanics Illustrated in 1970 but they did not publish it. Its time has come. It is particularly popular in Canada, US, Russia, Poland, Belarus and other former SSRs.

campfollower cover

#4 Michele and I paired up for the launch of her first book. She was the army brat and I was the preacher’s kid. We sold our books at $20 each or $30 for the two. Both of us felt we did better by being part of a duo.


#10 How to Sell Books in the Digital/Paper Change. Tom and I took the pictures of each other. A faithful photographer is a must for a writer.


#6 How I Wrote a Letter and Got a Wall. My blog roams far and wide but always come back to roost on the core themes of writing and love. In this guest post, Tom celebrates the 50th anniversary of an important achievement in his engineering career.


#5 How I Sold Books at the Market. The weather started out bad on my birthday. Still, I bet myself I could sell enough books to treat my grandchildren to a picnic and play under the stars on the banks of the Rideau that night.


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#9 Civilized, Simple Thanksgiving Suggestion for Gun Debate. My father was a gunner in WWI but the only weapon of mass destruction we had in our house was a fly swatter.


#3 How We Fell in Love, Built a Canoe and Got a House. Someone in the world is at this moment building a canoe according to Tom’s design. It brings a dream of freedom to life.

I thought a picture was necessary for every post but that’s not so. Two of them made it to the top ten without one. They are #7 “My Brazen Attempts to Write a Classic” and #8 “Reading Classic Books Will Teach Your Children the Sky’s the Limit” My Home page, a scroll-down archive, scored 543 views.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozybookbasics!