Archives for category: Canadian Writer
NF Northrop Frye Statue

Professor Northrop Frye Statue at Victoria College, University of Toronto invites you to sit and have a chat.

“Attending a university for several years is potentially the greatest experience to be ordinarily had in life.”
Alma mater (meaning a nourishing or abounding mother): in taking one’s first degree there’s a genuine rite of passage, an acceptance of a new motherhood in which the maternal spirit is one of companionship rather then protectiveness or externalized authority.”
“Genuine education starts with the passive knowledge of elementary reading and writing and then tries to transform this passivity into an activity, reading with discrimination and writing with articulateness.”
“The ‘basics’ are not bodies of knowledge they are skills, and the cultivating of a skill takes lifelong practice and repetition.”
“Without this background of practice and repetition, one may be able to read and write and still be functionally illiterate.”
“The university is a community in which the intellect and the imagination have a continually functional place and so gives us a sense of what human life could be like if these qualities were always functional in it.”
“What knowledge of the future we have, or think we have, we glean from a study of the past.”
“The book becomes a focus of a community and may come to mean, simultaneously, any number of things to any number of people.”
“Canada is a good training ground for the detachment, without withdrawal, that the university gives, because it is a secondary and necessarily observant country.”

The View from Here‘, Selected Essays by Northrop Frye 1974-1988

https://www.amazon.ca/Myth-Metaphor-Selected-1974-1988-Northrop/dp/0813913691

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keepsake In September 1967 I was a stay-at-home wife and mom with a six-year old son and two baby daughters.

Our kids were not my major problem, however. Nor were our means of support and security. My husband had taken a job as a patent examiner with the Government of Canada. His starting salary was $8,000 per year, with annual increases promised and monthly deductions for income tax, health insurance, public service union dues and a  pension.  I could cook, sew, clean, garden, manage  and be thrifty.

Not One Moment to Sit Down and Write
My big concern was that I didn’t have a moment in my day to sit and write down what I was doing and thinking. My passion was to record and pass things on. What I was doing was important and should not be forgotten.  How could I capture my fleeting thoughts on these lonely days…

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Canada's First Nations third edition cover

Storyteller of the Ages painted by Ojibway shaman Norval Morrisseau depicts the eloquent, sinewy tongue that bound the people together.

Homo sapiens sapiens (doubly wise man) began to arrive in North and South America some time after his origin 50,000 years ago. When the first contacts arrived from the Old World to the New they found people living patterns of life that had evolved over tens of thousands of years. In her book, Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding People from Earliest Times, Olive Dickason detects values that popped up among them in spite of hundreds of thousands of different locations, family groups, languages, climates and settings. Major assumptions gave them a framework to live in that met social and individual needs; we can speak of an American civilization in the same sense as of a European civilization.

1. Sharing

  • The people, whether mobile or sedentary, emphasized the group as well as the self. Land, like air and water, was for the benefit of everyone and so was communally owned.

2. Culture & Storytelling

  • Cultural knowledge  was the property of those ‘in the know‘, a jealously guarded privilege selectively passed on through the generations. Their history was passed on orally by storytellers.

3. Egalitarianism

  • They were egalitarian to the extent allowed by their sexual division of labor and responsibility. (An offshoot, in French Canada, was that this prevented celibacy. A consequence of clearly defined roles was a major factor in the harmony inside certain encampments.)

4. Consensus

  • The leaders’ role was to represent the common will; not only were they not equipped to use force; they would have quickly lost their positions if they had tried. This lent extreme importance to eloquence, the power to persuade; a chief’s authority was in his tongue’s end. The centrality of ‘the word’ was signaled by the importance of keeping it, once given.

5. Giving

  • Goods were accumulated to be given away on ceremonial occasions. The value of goods was appreciated but prestige was more important than the accumulation of wealth as such. Acquiring goods required generosity, among other virtues. Gifts were a social and diplomatic obligation. They were essential for sealing agreements and alliances with other people. Without gifts, negotiations were not even possible. Treaties, once agreed on, were not regarded as self-sustaining. To be kept alive, they needed to be fed every once in a while by ceremonial exchanges.

6. Humor

  • Humor was one of the first characteristics to be reported of New World peoples. It was highly valued; they highly approved of anything that provoked laughter. They rejoiced when they had an abundance, even of articles of little value. They had to know how to keep their spirits up in the face of starvation.

7. Hospitality

  • They all observed the law of hospitality, the violation of which was considered a crime. It could be carried to the point of self-impoverishment.

8. Unity

  • Belief in the unity of all living things was central to Amerindian and Inuit myths. The unity of the universe (although filled with powers of various types and importance) meant that all living beings were related — indeed were ‘people,’ some of whom were human — and had minds.

9. Harmony

  • Of utmost importance was harmony, the maintenance of which was by no means automatic. Peaceful co-operation could be shattered by violent confrontations with malevolent, destructive powers.

10. Trickiness

  • The demands of life could make it necessary to break the rules; hence the importance in Native legend and myth of the trickster, who could be an individual but could also be an aspect of the Creator or world force.

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Native people were so noisy on Canada’s Parliament Hill last July 1st Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t kick off 150th birthday celebrations until after he visited their protest teepee and assured them they are at the top of his agenda. The Hill symbolizes land never ceded by Native people and a million other grievances. The newly amplified native voice springs from Olive Patricia Dickason’s seminal book that gives them their history and identity. Canada’s First Nations: A History of Founding Peoples From Earliest Times was my summer reading project but it will take me until the end of this sesquicentennial year to finish.

  • I met Olive 60 years ago when she was Women’s Editor of the Toronto Globe & Mail and I called on her in my job as public relations officer for the
    Metropolitan Toronto YMCA and National Council of YMCAs.
  • In 1998 we ran into each other in the cafeteria of the National Library & Archives building in Ottawa and lunched together. She told me about her early life “living off the land” in northern Manitoba and gave me good advice for the book I was writing.
  • Her father  Frank Leonard Williamson, an emigrant from the UK, was a successful business man in Winnipeg until he lost his money in the Great Depression. He moved his wife and two girls Olive and Alice to his one remaining asset, a bush property in the inter lakes region.
  • Their Métis mother Phoebe Philomena Côté taught them how to trap, fish, hunt and gather. She was descended from an aboriginal woman and a Frenchman who settled in Canada in 1634. With shining eyes, Olive fondly recalled those long walks up and down to check the traplines in all weather. She felt very lucky to have lived such a free, outdoor life in her adolescent years.
  • The survival skills she learned enabled her to succeed in later life: assess each situation as it arises, use common sense, be realistic, don’t give up nor play games. 
  • A Scottish remittance man, a classical scholar, lived along the same trapline and let Olive borrow his books and newspapers, including current issues of the Times of London. She read them all and they had discussions on the ideas of Plato and Marx; otherwise she completed grade ten in correspondence courses.
  •  When Olive was 17 years old, she left the bush to further her education. She met Athol Murray, the priest who was setting up Notre Dame Academy (affiliated with the University of Ottawa) in Wilcox, Saskatchewan.
  • He asked her what she wanted to do and she said, “Go to university but I have no money.” He said, “Don’t worry about that.” She finished high school and graduated with a BA in philosophy and French in 1943.
  • She got a job as a reporter for the Leader-Post in Regina, covered women’s and aboriginal issues and decided to aim to become a women’s editor in the male-dominated field. She did not find out about her Métis heritage until her mother introduced her to her relatives in the area.
  • She became passionate about learning more Canadian aboriginal history and was very upset to discover nothing was written about it in books. One day she would right that wrong.
  • Olive built her career while simultaneously supporting her three daughters from a failed marriage. She was a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press, Women’s Editor of the Montreal Gazette and then Women’s Editor of the Toronto Globe & Mail.
  • In 1967 she became Chief of Information Services at the National Gallery in Ottawa, so I sometimes saw her at monthly meetings of the Media Club. Her first book, Indian Arts in Canada, won three design-concept awards; then she switched to academia.
  • At age 52 she got an MA at U of O despite resistance to the idea of studying in a field of history that didn’t exist because no one had done it before; aboriginals had only an oral tradition. Professor Cornelius Jaenan from Belgium was the only one willing to be her advisor.
  • He suggested she narrow her thesis topic to Louisburg and the Indians: A Study in Imperial Race Relations 1713-1760. He was able to get the Smithsonian Institution’s native American anthropologist/historian Wilcomb Washburn to adjudicate her work.
  • U of O now accepted Olive to complete a PhD in Canadian Aboriginal History (the field she had invented), which she did in 1977. That same year her earlier thesis was revised and published under the title of The Myth of the Savage and the Beginnings of French Colonization in the Americas to great academic and popular acclaim. 
  • Next she combined writing a series of books with her growing career as a history professor at the U of O and the University of Alberta. She became a full professor of history there in 1985 and stayed until 1992, two years past the mandatory retirement age which she had challenged in the courts, saying it violated the Province’s code of individual rights.
  • She won at the lower level but lost in the Supreme Court of Canada. The university made arrangements to give her temporary appointments to fill in for absent professors so she could stay long enough to finish her book, Canada’s First Nations.
  • Her meticulous research included visiting the Paris Archives to look at  mounds of paper resources of transactions and letters. She spent a year at the Newberry Library in Chicago on a Senior Rockefeller Fellowship, consulting scores of professional experts from other institutions related to Amerindians’ history.
  • She attended three important conferences organized by First Nations’ people in Canada. The treasured, signed Oxford University Press third edition copy I have came out in 2002 but I had no idea she was such a celebrity when she came to a humble heritage fashion show at our church that year with a mutual Media Club friend.
  • The last time I saw her before she died at age 90 in 2011 was at an 2006 exhibition of Norval Morrisseau’s paintings at the National Gallery. It was the first time this Olive-sensitized country had given an aboriginal artist his own show. She used one of his paintings, Storyteller of the Ages, on the cover of the third edition of her book. It was a privilege to view the show with her and chat on the way home in our car.
  • She still loved to walk in the fresh air and, I hope, relish her success. Her textbook, A Concise History of Canada’s First Nations, is in all Canadian high schools and her works are on university curricula all over the world.
  • She was awarded an Order of Canada, Lifetime Aboriginal Achievement Award and received many honorary degrees. Most of all she was a supremely intelligent, beautiful human being who linked all the citizens of our country to its long-neglected ancient history.

The day we ate lunch together she told me the family history I was writing would be a better book if I actually went to see the Indian reservation in northern Manitoba where my parents lived in the late 1920’s. In her spirit, and the spirit of the people who have always lived there, I will still try to find a way of doing that. I’m sure Olive could have.  I’ll walk along a winter trapline in her memory. When I come home I’ll be able to right a wrong and do justice to the first nation people whom I portrayed only through secondhand sources.

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

 

Being the editor and co-owner of a community newspaper with a man of great guts, ability and integrity was life on the top of the world in Quebec’s exciting eighties. The inimitable Art Mantell passed away on Aug. 24 four years ago.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/journalist-art-mantell-loved-to-cover-human-drama/article13806669/

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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!

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

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!

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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

margwrong

Authors often bemoan their lack of marketing ability. If you do go out to sell your books, just don’t act like a bumbling disoriented fool like me in this pic. I had a bad first hour at the Byward Market in Ottawa. Once I sat down behind the bright red tablecloth, arranged my most attractive wares, smiled and pivoted my head so I was ready for all comers, I had five hours of fun, sociability and sales. Here’s my advice to help  you get off to a faster start than I did:

  • Don’t be shy.
  • Don’t climb out of your booth.
  • Don’t look at your feet.
  • Don’t put your hand in your pocket
  • Don’t let your hat slide down over your eyes.
  • Don’t pose like a peddler of religious propaganda.
  • Don’t look in the other direction if someone is approaching.
  • Don’t just sit, making phone calls and looking as if you didn’t care if nothing happened either.

I’ll be back selling my three books A Book of Kells, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church at the Byward Market Tuesday, Aug. 2 and Wednesday, Aug.3 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and would be delighted to see you if you can drop by!

Happy Reading, Writing & Selling from Cozybookbasics

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rabbitskinphoto

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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