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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.

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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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1. Keep your eye on the ‘events’ calendar in newspapers and online if you are an indie author of a nonfiction paperback book. This genre sells best person-to-person. It doesn’t sell as well as fiction does in e-book form. My income tax figures show I made 80% of my money selling books on the ground from September to December and perhaps you are the same. March is the time to start making phone contacts for another successful year.
2. Go back to your 2016 phoning lists. You may have missed some events because you were too late calling. I just phoned about one such event planned for late September each year and discovered the registration opens April 1st.
3. Many cultural organizations have annual conferences with book tables authors can rent. This is a new venue for me to try this year and I’m very excited about it. Last year I missed out on selling to the West Quebecers and members of the British Isles Family History Society but I won’t make the same mistake in 2017!
4. Even if you go into book stores for signings, it is still seasonal. You have to go when they are busiest. There’s fierce competition between authors to get one of those good spots. I was missing a receipt for my income tax return so, just now, I phoned the bookstore where I had sold nine books to get it. I took the opportunity to arrange to sell my books there again on the Saturday before Mother’s Day in May.
5. The store clerk put a bee in my bonnet by asking, “Do you really think it’s worth it? I mean, if you have already been here?” I must try to get into some bookstores where I failed before, not always the same ones. However, last time I was in her store I sold to every person I tried to persuade, except one, and I’ll try my best to do that again.

I remain optimistic. I’ll let you know. There are many wonderful readers out there and I hope you’ll have the joy of meeting and selling to them, just as I do year after year!

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It was much cozier in my breakfast nook on the other side of the kitchen window this week. Today the icicles shriveled in the sunlight and the overweight snow load slid off the roof. It’s time for the spring thaw and a white flag of surrender from winter. Going skiing today.

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waltwashpost

http://www.observer-reporter.com/20170127/peters_student_honored_for_lifesaving_cpr_on_friend

Heroes don’t exist everywhere, everyday but they can spring up anywhere, anytime. One of them could even be  you. Eighteen hundred grade-ten students learned this lesson last week at a joyous assembly in a Pittsburgh school auditorium. Two of their classmates, 15-year-old Parker and Walter, had played real-life roles of  survivor and hero in a fateful disastrous instant in October.

The Fateful Event

  • The two best friends were sitting side by side on a bleacher in the local skate park on a Saturday morning. Suddenly Parker turned to Walter and said, “My heart stopped.” When he dropped his phone and collapsed onto the concrete below Walter knew he wasn’t joking.
  • He screamed his head off for help from bystanders and a call was made to 911. Walter told the dispatcher Parker’s nose and lips were blue and the dispatcher said he needed CPR right away. Walter said, “I can do that. I learned it in health class last year.”
  • For 10 minutes he gave Parker CPR and kept talking to him until the police and emergency workers arrived and took over. With Parker on a stretcher and Walter in a panic, the ambulance carried them off.
  • En route Walter phoned his father who rushed to join him at the hospital. Parker was induced into a coma and airlifted to a trauma center. Walter wanted to go with his friend but a nurse convinced him he had done all he could. His father dropped him off at his mother’s to find consolation.
  • With the help of surgery to attach an AED (automated electronic defibrillator), and rest, Parker recovered and was back at school within weeks. His heart is strong; the cause of his cardiac arrest is unknown. He looks forward to resuming playing soccer.

The Commendation

  • Emergency workers and police at the scene and doctors and nurses at the hospital showered praise on Walter for his presence of mind under pressure and trying circumstances.
  • Teacher John Valvala who had taught him CPR was “thrilled” by what Walter had done, thanked and congratulated him.
  • The chief of the Allegheny County Police department saw this as a chance to show heart and strengthen community. It could be used to inspire other teenagers to play the important bystander role which is as vital as any other to a patient’s survival.
  • He announced in January that Walter would receive a Citizen Service Award. The commendation ceremony would be at the school in co-operation with everyone else who had been involved.
  • This event would attract the attention of the community through the media. It was a rare opportunity to put the police in a good light, pointing out what people do that is right, not just what they do that is wrong.
  • The St. Clair hospital announced it would give Walter a Health Hero Award at the same ceremony.

The Heroic Drama & Inspiration

  • It was an exceedingly happy, inspiring occasion. A roar of thunderous applause and cheers went up from the student body and family members as police and doctors presented the awards and shoulder patches.
  • Parker and Walter modestly thanked everyone else, from friends to GoFund donors, in their speeches.
  • Audience happiness got noisier with each inspiring speech aimed at them. It was deafening when the three personal wellness (health) teachers were called up on stage.
  • Police superintendent Coleman McDonough said Walter’s extraordinary act “changed his life forever and changed all of us. One person who is here wouldn’t be.”
  • “It is important for all of you to see one of your peers being honored. It was a service rendered to the citizens of the county. His actions are a credit to himself and all citizens,” McDonough said.
  • Surgeon Kevin Friend said he had been inspired to go into medicine after a classmate saved his life by applying the Heimlich maneuver. He choked on a hot dog he was eating while exerting himself as the anchor man in a school tug of war contest. Ironically, up until then he didn’t like the boy who saved  him  — they had a crush on the same girl.
  • Assistant principal Lesnett got the last round of applause as he challenged the students to  “Be alert. A moment can make a difference. You can make a difference. Don’t just let things happen.”

Follow-up for Walter

  • I had a front seat at this milestone event for our family. We have been fractured by divorce proceedings for four years. This proud happy occasion brought both sides together unexpectedly.
  • Stepbrother Derek joked with brother Robert (both older than Walter), “You and I are just ‘the other brothers’ now”.
  • Father Leslie said, “I think I deserve a little bit of the credit here. I always told my boys to listen to what their teachers said.”
  • Two years ago Walter started an entertaining YouTube channel of videos about “whatever interests me.” It has a growing following among his peers. His ambition is to become an actor or film director. He is a good enough student to take any direction he chooses.  But, most of all, he wants to  make people laugh.
  • Thank you, Walter. You have succeeded.

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Marty 2

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

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

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 unified structure.

  • 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 him  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 their 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 they prefer.

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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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photo 2My parents lived the quintessential Canadian dream with their focus on immortality. They took snapshots at significant moments and left them behind with names, dates and locations on the back. They kept diaries, and wrote journals on special trips. My mother locked their love letters and birth certificates up in a metal keepsake box. They were both well educated; my father got an MA in history with Lester Pearson as a tutor. Because I had a BA in English Language & Literature, after our parents died my sisters delegated me to make a book out of our family.

  • The bare facts of their story are that Kay and Jack were an English girl and a Canadian boy; he joined the Navy in world war one in 1916 and was sent overseas to the Portsmouth barracks. Her high school sweetheart had got cholera while fighting in France and died at age 19. She enrolled in the London School of Medicine for Women to become a doctor but dropped out because of a nervous breakdown. Kay and Jack met when her father, a municipal councilor commended by the Prince of Wales for helping veterans, invited colonial servicemen home for tea.
    Her sister wrote to Jack for nine years on behalf of the family but then married and moved to Australia, so Kay took over the correspondence. She was 25 and thought she was going to be an old maid but her letter was perfectly timed.
  • Jack had finished studying theology at the University of Toronto and was going up to Oxford House, MN as a United Church of Canada minister to the Swampy Cree. The job came with a house and he yearned for a wife to keep him company but so far it was a hard sell. No Toronto co-ed seemed interested. He proposed to Kay and she asked him to come over so she could have another look at him. They just had six days and she said it would be too risky. He got her to agree not to make her answer final for a year during which they would write to each other.
  • Jack pulled out all the stops; he really wanted Kay; she was such an exceptional, smart person with a warm heart and an adventurous streak. Canada and the United Church, not himself, were his best selling points. This beautiful, exotic semi-nomadic settlement beckoned with brisk air, splashing waves, colourful leaves, good-looking childlike faces, gold-panning, delicious moose nose and a cosy wood-burning hearth. Enormous potential for her to do good lay among these folk desperately in need of an intelligent, well intentioned person’s interest in them. The merger behind the United Church was attracting worldwide attention as an example of tolerance. The future was full of promise; she was well equipped for whatever lay ahead so need not fear a thing. If only he had her he would be in seventh heaven.
  • She asked him to come over again and this time they got married almost the minute after she made up her mind; they flew over the English Channel to Paris for a 24-hour honeymoon before he had to hustle back 5,000 miles to work. She packed up, said goodbye to everything and everyone she had ever known and joined him in the spring. She met his family on their farm in Cookstown, Ontario and was welcomed by his friends at a reception in Toronto before they went up to the reserve 600 miles northeast of Winnipeg by train, steamboat and canoe. They lived with the Indians, as they were then called by government, helping, teaching, laughing, sharing and exchanging cultural habits, forming attachments and etching indelible experiences both sad and happy upon their hearts. Their first child was born after a five-day, 120-mile trek to hospital at 30 degrees below zero on a cariole (big toboggan for special occasions and people) in January, 1929.
  • They left the reserve in June, 1931 and became an ordinary Ontario United Church minister’s family in Nakina, where a second daughter was born, Lemonville, where a third daughter was born, Fairbank (Toronto), Cochrane, Thistletown (Toronto), Durham and Flesherton. They retired in Owen Sound in 1966 and lived there until Jack died in Kay’s arms in 1988 and she passed away in 1990. They had been married for more than 60 years and left nine grandchildren.
    Kay and Jack had little in common to start a lifelong marriage except that both were avid readers. They were familiar with biblical texts they applied to daily life. They identified with the heroines and heroes of the same classical books and had faith they would succeed if they lived accordingly, doing the right thing towards each other and everyone else in the world.
  • What Inspired Me to Do This Creative Work
    As retired editor and co-owner of my community newspaper in Aylmer, Quebec, in 1996 I took my mother’s keepsake box to a grade four classr on Heritage Day. We sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor and I began reading to them from a journal my mother wrote seventy years before as she was riding up the fur trade route to Oxford House, MN in a canoe. I told the children if they wrote something in a journal today, it would become heritage for children of the future.
  • Then I passed a page of the handwriting around the circle and pointed out that my mother had made a note in the margin saying the splotches were made by drips from the paddle. Involuntarily, I choked up and almost added a tear of my own to the page. The children were all staring at me with their eyes wide open and the teacher, a friend who wrote a column in my newspaper, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Margaret, you have to write a book.” That was the magic moment I decided to jump in and do it. For the kids. For these kids and all kids everywhere so they will know their heritage.
  • Actually I had been more or less assigned by my older sisters to write a family history but now I went about it with passion. I would do my best to make my parents immortal and please my favorite professor, Northrop Frye. Most of the content was on hand but I had to research an amazing number of facts, maps etc. to make the story absolutely reliable. It was a labor of love, an exercise of my abilities and skills, a challenge I couldn’t resist, an important project for my retirement years.

(I submitted the above as a brief to the Canadian Heritage consultation on Canadian culture and creativity on Nov. 24, 2016)

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fryenotespic

In my chosen state of reclusive writing, I’m happy when the odd bit of help manages to penetrate my cozy computer sphere. This week it came in this collection of Northrop (“rhymes with doorstop,” author Robert Denham noted) Frye’s Lectures. The mailman had propped the “fat tome” (the same) against my front door since I didn’t hear the bell. The book includes eight sets of my notes because I used shorthand in order to capture every precious word when I attended Frye’s classes.  I grabbed the 700-page work of art and flopped into my armchair to be with my mental master again. 

A Critical Moment

My favorite course was Greek & Latin Literature (called Literary Criticism as a chapter title) which Frye sneaked in as an extra for our fourth-year class. We were only vaguely aware he was writing Anatomy of Criticism, a book to complete Artistotle’s unfinished Poetics, at the time. He didn’t ever lecture on or refer to his own scholarly activities in front of us. In 45 years of Frye scholarship, Denham had never heard of this course until I sent him my notes.

Background

Aristotle (b. 338 B.C.) was a biologist who loved to dissect and analyse. The undefined works by Euripedes (e.g. Medea) and Sophocles (e.g.Oedipus Rex) as well as Aristophanes (e.g. The Frogs) came under his scrutiny. Aristotle might be called the first literary critic, Frye said, and it was very serious work. The people were being swayed by this new form of entertainment; the hold of the old Gods on them had been slipping. Plato, the philosopher and social moralist born in 428 B.C, first noticed it and said non laudatory, non patriotic ‘poetry’ should be banned. The concept of ‘prose’ did not yet exist. Aristotle wanted to get to the roots of what literature was.

Availability

  • The book is for sale at Cambridge Scholar Publishing in the UK at an introductory 50% off. The Amazon price is not one normal readers can afford, but, as Denham says, it is a lot less than one would pay in university fees for such an education.  Frye never wrote down any of his lectures — not even a plan for them. Student notes are the main source of what he said, except for one video and recordings of public speeches he gave.

Tidbit Quotes of Aristotle’s Tragedy-Writing Advice

(I doubt you haven’t heard these ‘rules’ before but even after 2500 years they bear repeating time and again. They continue to inspire me as a writer.)

  • The plot is complicated up to a certain stage and then begins to unravel. This is brought about by the reversal of the intention. A deed done in all good faith produces the opposite result of what was intended
  • The tragic hero is a model of saintliness, never a bad man. He goes from good fortune to bad fortune because of some mistake.
  • The fault has to be something in a man which is very intelligible, very excusable, but yet not wholly justifiable

(N.B. I’ve included these sexist comments in the hope they are making you laugh!)

  • A character should be good, i.e. in the sense of useful. There’s goodness in everybody, even in a woman or a slave
  • The character must be appropriate. A woman must not be represented as manly or brave or clever

(Frye interrupted with his sense of humor, so we never got bored)

  • The character should have resemblance; Aristotle compares it to a painting but doesn’t say whether it should be like a real person or have certain godlike qualities
  • The character should be consistent. (Frye adds, “If you introduce an inconsistent character, keep him inconsistent all through”)
  • Keep everything in the character according to the law of necessity and probability

(I hope the following piece of advice from Aristotle’s heart moves you as it does me.)

  • Use your imagination––picture yourself in the audience, writing your own play. Try to enter into the feelings. Act out the part of your characters, even with the proper gestures. Unless you are able to enter into the feelings of the person you are putting before people you will never be successful in it.

Happy Summer Reading and Writing!

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