Archives for posts with tag: Margaret Kell Virany

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

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

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

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

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

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

When I first met her, the organizer of the Byward marketing team told me she is a ‘Kell’ on her mother’s side. I was able to tell her that, in fact, we are second cousins twice removed. That was my final sale of the day.  It is a good omen for my much-anticipated return stints at the Byward Market on August 2 and 3.

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

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

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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Eating

The Spring Supper fills the church hall to overflowing for two sittings. Roast turkey with all the trimmings is the main dish, with members bringing them already cooked from home.

Roast Turkey

“It is all in the preparation.

“The turkey is washed clean and dried. The giblets are
removed and cooked in water, eaten at leisure, and as a base
for the gravy.

“The bird is stuffed at both ends with the dressing (see below),
sealed up with metal pins and placed on a rack in the roasting
pan. The turkey is covered in a thin layer of olive oil-based
margarine, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

“Place it in the oven with water in the roasting pan and no
cover for the first 30-45 minutes; then cover and cook for the
desired length of time (until the legs are very loose). Remove
cover again for the last 15 minutes until golden brown.”

Turkey Dressing

“Fresh and/or stale bread is left out for a couple of hours
before tearing and crumbling by hand. A mix of brown and
white bread is always good. Always make more than you think
you will need.

“Chop two or three good-sized onions, as well as two or three
garlic buds. Add to bread.

“Mix together the usual blending of spices which is never the
same but always the same – marjoram, sage, poultry
seasoning, celery salt, sea salt and pepper. How much? you
ask. Until it smells good and looks right and darkens the
bread. Then add a small quantity of olive oil and some
margarine until all the bread is slightly moist. That’s as good
as it gets for describing quantities for any of the ingredients.

“As stated above, stuff the bird fairly tightly and let the
cooking begin!”

Rev. Steve Lawson

Turkey Gravy

“Have Steve remove the turkey from the roasting pan. Place
roasting pan on stove on medium-high heat.

“In Tupperware Quick Shake container (or glass jar with tight
lid) vigorously mix together 1 cup flour with 2 cups cold water.

“Slowly pour into pan with drippings and mix with a wire
whisk until it begins to thicken. As it thickens, slowly add
water. Alternately stir and add liquid, maintaining the desired
consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.”

 

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Definition of reclude http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/reclude

 

shalott7

“She left the web, she left the loom …”

Inspired by the mysterious Lady of Shalott who sat in her tower and wove her tapestry while looking into a mirror reflecting real life, I am going into seclusion to give my muse a chance to produce. http://www.pathguy.com/shalott.htm

In the sonnet by Alfred, Lord Tennyson the people of Camelot can hear the beautiful lady singing her song. She can’t go out and her mirror will crack if she looks out the window. http://www.gradesaver.com/tennysons-poems/study-guide/summary-the-lady-of-shalott

Critic Harold Bloom’s analysis is that the mirror’s cracking symbolizes the end of the lady’s artistic abilities. “The end of artistic isolation leads to the death of creativity. The artist’s intense loneliness is absolutely necessary, for all great art demands solitude and silent reflection.”

This blog is home to 158 posts which have been viewed by 4,733 visitors from 110 countries of the world. Now is time for me to take a pause and give birth to a novel on the theme of the love that powers a long-term marriage.

Thank-you to everyone who reads my blog. When I come back, I will have new writing experiences to tell you about. In the meantime, please rely on the search terms to bring you a re-read of any of the posts already written.

Happy Reading & Writing from Cozybookbasics

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Leaving Texarkana in heavy rain, we passed Clinton’s birthplace of Hope on a good highway with a wide median and sloped shoulders. The car interior was soaked from leakage beside the straps of our ski rack. The temperature fell to 34° at high elevation and slush slowed our speed to 60 mph. I wrote, “Pickup truck off the road righted by emergency crew. Another car and pickup off road on the other side.  Forty mph, puddle splash, no visibility, terrible potholes, can’t see to pass or when we’re passed. Worse than we ever get in Canada. Road not recently plowed or ever salted. Trucks exiting for inspection helps.”

  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We pass a lot of vehicles, then are plummeted with slush by a passing truck. Tom has to memorize the road ahead in case he loses visibility. A car is off on the left. We straddle lanes because of hard slush ruts. Heavy traffic both ways. Can’t switch lanes without almost losing control. We’re probably the only car with snow tires. Two cars off on left; two off on right. Managed to switch from left to middle lane. Car off on right. Going 16 mph, road very slushy. Rain splotches haven’t let up at all. Car off on left.
  • Exited I–30 at 1 p.m. In Little Rock. Whew! Tom not sleepy because he had to concentrate so hard on the driving. Four inches of snow on roofs of local cars. Clinton Library and Museum, in fact the whole town, closed. Kids tobogganing beside the Arkansas R., which is full of open water. We had a nice lunch of panini at the Community Bakery and Deli.
  • Back on I–40 at 3 p.m. in heavy rain and traffic. Tom sets wipers on fast when passing trucks so he can see. Car in ditch on right, still 34°. Car off on left. Up to 52 mph. No slush on road, then it started building up again. Trees, flat fields – the sort of landscape we’re used to near home, with far-apart farm homes. Scattered towns. All signing and hwy barriers look like ours.
  • The camera’s drying out (I dropped it in a puddle when getting out of the car). Fog. Big transport off in median. Passed a plow. Slush and ice on bridges. Temperature 36°, heavy traffic. Tom keeps two wheels on the pavement (not the slush). Car off on the left has been pulled out by now. 70 mph, than slowed to 45 mph. Lots of tracks in snowy median. Double lane line-up, mostly trucks, from more than 50 miles west of Memphis. Three cars off on left. Trees by roadside flooded. Slush makes big racket hitting underside of our car. Car off on left. Foggy again.
  • Farm homes are mostly bungalows and many are prefabs. It has poured without let-up all day since we got up. Maybe we are traveling with the storm system from the west (El Nino). Up to 66 mph. Arrived at Memphis at 6:30 p.m. It’s beautiful!
  • At the downtown Comfort Inn we got a room on the 11thfloor with a view of the bridge over the Mississippi. It is an architectural marvel, with three high, graceful arches all lit up at night and a ‘Welcome’ sign on it. We were enchanted to look down on the marina basin, the boats going under the bridge and the street car lines going parallel to the shore, complete with swing barricades.

Beale St Memphis 1.jpgWe walked out in slush (not raining now) to eat at Blues City Café on Beale St. Their special platter, which they let us share, was a fabulous rack of pork ribs, deep-fried catfish, red potatoes, beans and coleslaw. Got ride back on trolley with talkative driver and one other friendly passenger who was flying to Chicago the next day, whee an even worse storm was predicted.

Tues., Feb. 9: Memphis, Nashville, & Knoxville, TN

  • Big churches, court buildings in downtown Memphis. We left town on a clear I–40, seeing many tracks on the median. Tom says tow-truckers in this area must make a fortune. Usual rural winter landscape and mixed forest but many trees are down, perhaps from an ice storm. Few cars, lots of trucks, some SUVs. One pickup off road on right. We’re wearing ski jackets and boots again. Crawled along for an hour before getting to Nashville – another car off the road.
  • In Nashville downtown parking arrangements were inhospitable but we got to the tourist center and walked over to see the Ryman Auditorium (called the Carnegie Hall of the south because Caruso once sang there). We ate dinner at Jack’s Bar B Q (pork shoulder on a bun, corn, cinnamon apples) on the Main Street, which has guitar sculptures, wall frescoes and blaring country music. We admired the Andrew Jackson memorabilia, guns and movie star pix.

Nashville 2.jpgWe drove over to Centennial Park and photographed the full-scale replica of the Parthenon and young Canada geese in the river.

  • Nashville 1.jpgThe city has 800 churches, publishes more bibles than any other place and is known as the ‘Buckle of the Bible Belt’. Still, we didn’t see any religious slogans posted, as in Texas.
  • En route to Knoxville I drove through a snow squall and high wind over a mountain range but our mileage picked up when the wind was in our back. We saw rolling hills, green and forested. Tom was at the wheel when we drove over the Appalachians at night with a 4-degree downhill grade and big trucks at our side. The lights of the city of Harriman shone far below us on the right. It was 30° at the high elevation and 36° at the low. We changed from central to eastern time. Incidentally, Fort Knox (where the U.S. gold supply is stocked) is near here.
  • The beautiful swimming pool at our hotel was too cold to use. We had an exceptionally fine dinner at Puleo’s Grille (crab cake, steak and a side dish of mushrooms in burgundy sauce.)

Lexington Transylvania U.jpgWhat’s in a name? Why is the building in this picture called Transylvania University?

Wed., Feb. 10: Knoxville, TN to  Lexington, KY to Cincinnati and Oxford, OH

  • We left Knoxville in a strong northwest headwind, with gusts up to 50 mph in high mountain elevations. We passed a big white cross on a hill, just like one we had seen yesterday. A tree had fallen partly onto the road. We passed the road to Dogpatch Center.
  • Half way to Lexington at 70 mph on a good road we met big gusts and snow flurries. Tracks across the median did not inspire confidence, nor did a pickup truck in the ditch on the right. We lost a hub cap in a pothole as we drove by straight-cut majestic roadside rock cliffs on both sides, like steppes. A hawk or eagle flew overhead. We were disappointed to see no horses, only fences. They say in Lexington the horses are treated better than the people so maybe they were all indoors.
  • We passed by the opera, old Victorian mansions and office buildings. We stopped at the University of Kentucky student hangout, Tolly-Ho, for lunch and bought some postcards in the campus bookstore. Finally we saw some horses grazing outside Lexington. I drove on at 60 mph in a 70 mph zone because of the high winds. Somewhere along the way we lost another one of the hub caps we had bought at El Centro and were very proud of.
  • Cincinnati is beautiful but we just drove through to get to longtime friends Orie and Bernie’s house in Oxford around 6 p.m. They had had lots of snow. She served us a wonderful home-cooked dinner,we stayed the night and had breakfast with them.

Thurs., Feb. 11: Oxford and Columbus, OH to Pittsburgh, PA

  • In Columbus we got to the Museum of Modern Art’s tuck shop just before it closed at 3 p.m. and were happy to eat a sandwich of ham, salami and Swiss cheese on rye and drink orange juice. No time to look at pictures, and the admission would have been costly. We had a date to help get ready for a Valentine’s party.
  • We arrived at our son’s house in Pittsburgh around 8 p.m. after having had supper at a very modern McDonalds in Washington, PA and  a scenic drive over rolling hills. They had had a tremendous amount of snow but were happy to see us, and vice versa.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fri., Feb. 12: Pittsburgh, PA

  • We went out to buy last-minute items for the party and pigged out on a chocolate strawberry filled with liqueur. Then we went out again, to stay out of the way of the cleaning woman, and had coffee and sweets at Starbucks while reading the New York Times. When my daughter-in-law came home early from work to start cooking I helped her. Tom spent hours shoveling the driveway and doing chores while our son was at work.
  • We took our grandsons out for lunch at McDonald’s. About 50 people, adults and children, came to the party (pictured below with our grandsons on the right.) It was a huge success.

Pittsburgh 2.jpgSun., Feb. 14, Day 29 Pittsburgh, PA to Ottawa, ON

  • We were sad to find that Plainville Restaurant in Cicero had closed permanently. Instead, we ate at Denny’s. The weather was good and we reached Ottawa just before midnight.
  • So little snow had fallen, we didn’t even  have to clear the driveway. The plants survived our absence and we are very happy that this major dream trip turned out so well. We did everything we wanted to do on schedule, had wonderful visits with our friends and relatives and have lots of stories and pictures to share with our friends. Driving under winter conditions focuses the mind so I think that was good mental exercise for us indeed. It is nice to be able to see everyone at home.
  • 100,290 miles on the chronometer! We had traveled exactly 10,000 miles in 29 days.

Happy Reading & Traveling from Cozy Book Basics and Bliss on Wheels!

We are octogenarian writers who like to travel by car and share our adventures. We hope you enjoyed our notes and pictures of this cross-continent road trip as much as we enjoyed it on wheels six years ago. 

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martycat

Marty is a very intelligent cat. Anyone can see that.

Sometimes real things happen that are very mysterious.  You can call it extrasensory perception (ESP), if  you like. When my mother Kathleen Kell, a very intelligent woman,  heard these family stories she just said, “I wonder,” with a faraway twinkle in her eyes. They’re from the lives of the characters in A Book of Kells and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

A Grieving Sailor in a Lucky Port

As 19-year-old Jack Kell left for war in 1916, his tearful father told him he would never see him again. Six months later, Jack got the sad news aboard ship in the English Channel, where he was manning guns and minesweeping, that his father had died. An apple tree limb he sat on broke; he lurched forward and a sharp tip pierced his lung. Kind souls consoled Jack at Portsmouth Methodist Chapel’s Christmas At Home for servicemen, where fatherly Walter Ward also invited him for tea with his wife and family.

A Nervous Mother-to-Be with Good Instincts

Pregnant Kathleen Ward Kell felt a little nervous her first Christmas in Canada in 1928. She told husband Jack she thought it would be best for their baby to be born in a hospital, not a teepee on the isolated reservation where they were missionaries. Her instincts were right. Even the trained nurse and doctor were challenged.

reindeer

Only startled wild creatures saw the threesome of man, woman and guide pass by in an ingenious, unconventional fashion

It was well worth having made the 180-mile trek that startled only wild creatures as a threesome of man, woman and guide passed by in an ingenious fashion rigged up by Jack.

A Midnight Summons to Duty

One winter night in 1936 Rev. J.A.C. Kell, in a Toronto duplex doubling as a parsonage, woke with a jolt. His mother was calling — she had no phone on the farm — and summoning him. Jack woke Kathleen; they bundled the three little girls up and into their 1929 Ford. His brother Clifton had never recovered from war wounds but, this past Xmas, had got up off the sick couch to give the girls a one-horse, open sleigh ride. From afar, Jack saw the porch light on and his mother’s silhouette at the window confirming him in his worst fears. Now she had only Jack left out of her four men.

A Doomed Captain’s Last SOS

On Nov. 19, 1941, His Majesty’s Australian Ship HMAS Sydney was mutually destructively engaged with the German cruiser Kormoran and lost with all 645 crew members on board. As he went down in the South China Sea, Capt. Joe Burnett sent a mental message to his wife saying he loved her. Enid Ward Burnett got it, and then the official, tragic news. The Toronto Star knocked on Kathleen’s door to ask for her brother-in law’s picture. She sent a Xmas parcel to her bereaved sister, niece and nephews who carried on heroically.

Reader Mary Groome of Wakefield, QC writes, “Thank you so much for writing Kathleen’s Cariole Ride. I enjoyed the history and the examples of courage and love these people exhibited.”

Season’s Greetings & Happy Reading from CozyBookBasics!

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HandWhen my parents had their sixtieth wedding anniversary in 1987, I thought they must be sad to be celebrating their last big occasion before certain death. Later I wrote A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, which ends dramatically with what was really stressing them. Happily, my husband and I have now reached that milestone. We were conspicuous co-eds 60 years ago when he gave me a ring made from a loose diamond smuggled out in a sponge from Hungary. We were so much
in love we paraded around from one end of the campus to the other with our arms around each other’s waist.

In those days behavior codes were strong and he was not the type to force himself upon a sheltered Protestant girl who was president of a girls’ residence nicknamed ‘The Bastion of Virginity’. We agreed we would keep sex to the area “from the collar up” for the nine months of our engagement. That did not prevent him from educating the novice on the basis of his year of field work in Rome while waiting for a visa to Canada. He was not allowed to work or go to school so he did what healthy, energetic, attractive, idle young people naturally do.

With our anniversary coming up on Sept. 10, we once again find ourselves conspicuous. At the sailing club’s lobster party we were accosted by a beautiful young blonde psychologist out on her first date with a French Canadian dynamo. She conducts life-success classes for companies and wanted to know our secret. She loved the way we sat together, ate together and treated each other tenderly. She wanted to see us walking, holding hands. She said we reminded her of her grandmother who had always had faith in her to succeed but she hadn’t done it the traditional marriage way; she was a single mother of a six-year-old girl. She wanted to come to our home and visit us so we invited her.

On a trip around America we dropped into a restaurant in Virginia where my husband lined up cafeteria-style and brought the food for both of us. I thanked him as always, with manners and respect. A lone woman at the opposite table moved over to join us. “Today’s men aren’t made that way”, she said, “they don’t treat women with courtesy”. She congratulated me on having such a nice man. “Who are you? Where do you come from? I never had a boyfriend like that. My life didn’t work out”. “We’re so sorry,” we said and hugged her. “We wish you all the very best.”

As a celebration, I invite you to take a look, or another look, at A Book of Kells which readers tell me ends poignantly and dramatically. Strains mount during such a long relationship. The couple looks back and compares what happened to what they had dreamed and vowed would happen 60 years ago. Just as falling in love with the right person can happen in a flash, so can forgiving and finding happiness if the couple have been true to themselves.

A diamond stone has carat, cut and color. But most of all it must have clarity to make the “inclusions” or inner, natural characteristics shine through the outer “blemishes”. Only then does it glitter and become fabulously valuable.

With divorce, free love and new lifestyles all around us, I’ve decided not just to grab our certificate of congratulations from the Queen of England and relax. I want to reveal secrets and add to the clarity of what really goes on inside this brilliant phenomenon of lasting marriage.

Snatches from my new novel about the adventures of a couple with coincidental resemblances to my husband and me will pop up in this blog as the long process begins and needs your encouragement.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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A Canadian Pacific Railway freight eastbound o...

A Canadian Pacific Railway freight eastbound over the Stoney Creek Bridge, British Columbia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is easy to assume that Linda Kay’s book The Sweet Sixteen is about women’s rights. Instead, it is about camaraderie. The 16 journalists on board the luxurious, private coach provided to take them to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO bonded closely. However, they did not all agree, for example, that it would be a good thing if women got the vote.

Although they led lives different from the traditional pattern, the 16 were unanimous in believing the role of the housewife and mother was sacrosanct as the underpinning of society. In their writings for newspapers, magazines and religious publications, they used pen names and became revered as fountains of sound advice and views.
The housewife was commander-in-chief in  the areas of  child-raising, morals, education, health, charity, the arts and much more. If well informed, she  could influence her man’s decisions on political and economic issues. Beneath the facade of home, family, cooking, fashion and etiquette was a social theme of facilitation, empowerment and national sentiment. 
Col. Ham, the first public relations man for the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), was aware these working journalists had big jobs to do. A reason for granting their request for a free trip, a perk routinely granted to male journalists, was the CPR’s aim to populate Canada’s western and northern expanses. What better way to influence a major family move than to get the message out to the housewives?
After the Fair, when the women had formed their club and made Ham honorary president, the CPR underwrote travel expenses and free rail tours of the northwest for delegates to the CWPC triennial conference.
The personal lives of many of the 16 were difficult and fell well short of ideal. If Kay had chosen to, she could have highlighted juicy morsels, such as Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King’s mutual feelings  for one of the 16. But this is a work of scholarly discipline, research and fact.
This club lives on today, under the name of the Media Club of Ottawa. It has retained its original basis of a bonding of women who want to improve their writing craft and see the working  journalist as having a literary function and a role to play in building a good society.
As a member, I was present at a meeting in 2003 where a professional facilitator was present to ask each person’s views. His role was to nudge us to the sensible, inevitable decision that the time had come to fold. Instead he found this club still had a strong will to live and attract younger members working in the new media.
We celebrated our centennial in 2004 with an offstage re-enactment of the trip to St Louis at the National Arts Centre. Linda Kay, Chair and Associate Professor of the Journalism Faculty of Concordia University, attended and was inspired to write The Sweet Sixteen
It is a fascinating account of the accomplishments of extraordinary women and I hope it will not be the only  book Kay writes on the subject. The last of the 16 died in 1963, and the club has preserved a  mound of archives since then. A sequel about more extraordinary lives is waiting to be written.

Thank you for dropping in. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Author’s tips are offered by word and writing advice by example.

If you can, come to Prose in the Park, Ottawa’s major new literary festival, on June 6. I’ll be at the welcoming desk in Parkdale Park, Hintonburg from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is free. See yo

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

 
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This bouqet is a hug of appreciation to all who are mentioned or can insinuate themselves into the situations expressed in this blog.

This bouquet is for all who are mentioned or can insinuate themselves into the situations expressed in this blog.

Long-ago in the thirties, children were brought up differently from today. On Mother’s Day we wore a red carnation if our mother was alive and a white carnation if she was dead. My sisters and I looked around in church to see who wore white and tried to imagine the dread of being in their shoes.

  • We go to flowers for consolation or celebration. They always seem to know what emotions are in each person’s heart. Human beings aren’t so good at identifying with other’s feelings.
  • As an adult, I sent my mother flowers each Mother’s Day because I knew she loved to get them. For as long as they linger they bring happiness and you can preserve their beauty in photos.
  • My tangled relationship with my mother motivated me to start writing at age 69. At a very early age, my ego got hurt by the way she introduced me when we had company, and so I stopped letting her give me hugs. Instead, whenever she tried I just pushed her away without a word. She had no idea what, if anything, was wrong. Victorian reticence ruled mothers in those days and psychologists had not yet been invented (Who needed them? We had English literature instead.)
  • Mother thought my personality made me behave as I did but, nevertheless, she tried to improve the situation. She noticed that I liked to play with hair and that suited her because any kind of brushing and fiddling with her head soothed her migraine headaches. So, instead of an afternoon nap, she would relax with head back and eyes shut in the chesterfield chair (an old-fashioned couch set) while I went to work with an arsenal of combs, brushes, bobby pins, clips, rubber bands, barrettes, ribbons and rags.
  • During these spells we touched each other, at least, and she didn’t have to deal with an obstreperous child. I was in command and usefully occupied. I hated her grey, short, straight hair anchored with a big metal bobby pin. I wished I could turn her into a beauty, with long red hair and permanent waves, like the mothers in knitting magazines.
  • Flash forward to Spring, 2015. A comment from a new reader of the family memoir I wrote arrived from out of the blue on the “About” page on this blog. The comment says, “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys.” It really thrilled me — past the thrill that penetrates an author at any sign of attention. It made me understand what I had done, especially if you substitute ‘Memoirs’ for ‘Memories’ and look at ‘broken toys’ as a metaphor for the hairdressing game as therapy.
  • When I reached middle-age, I felt an urgency to make peace with my mother and get at the roots of what still made me cry in church. A dramatic moment which I record in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void finally happened when I was 47 and she was 80.
  • My new reader John W. Bienko went on to say, “Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.”

I’m proud of my book for having earned this compliment all on its own and I thank Mr. Bienko for sending the message.

Thank you for dropping in. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Author’s tips are offered by word and writing advice by example.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!  http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany www.margaretvirany.com

My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

My father wore a Canadian sailor suit and my mother wore her English high school lab coat when they met in the middle of WWI and preserved love letters we can now read.

Patricia Zick of  Author-Wednesday interviews Margaret Kell Virany whose books include A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, the love story of an English young woman and a Canadian young man set during World War I. Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is set during the same time period.

Q. How do you envision yourself in this role of writing romantic historical books based on your life and that of your parents?

A. Lover of life, language and literature. Note-taker, journalist, editor, author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. The act of being a witness, a record-keeper, a storyteller, and the one who remembers has always excited me.  I feel like I am part of a wider community. My ideal is to help others “see eternity in a grain of sand” (William Blake) and gain access to the best truth we have. As the historian, Sallustius said in 4 A.D, “What happened is what always happens.”

Q. I love that. It’s very poetic, which is very fitting based on your style of writing. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

A. Yes. Love is my theme. It comes in various specialties: the romantic love of a young couple, parental love, filial love, family bonds, charity, love for other human beings, and the all-embracing divine love brought to earth and presented as an ideal by the Gospels. For me, it was a personal pilgrimage of going home to my parents after finding their love letters had been left in a keepsake box, surely for some purpose.

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Kathleen Ward let her lover sail home after he came back to court her after WWI. Later they married and their daughter wrote their story, based on love letters (A Book of Kells).

Q. What a wonderful and powerful perspective. Why has it been so important to explore this theme of love?

A. If people don’t get or give enough love they go searching for it, and a good book can be their voyage. When I was coming of age in the fifties, it was still a bit of an anomaly for a woman who had children to work outside the home. Women like my mother came out of a world, both deprived and romantic, that had untold, inestimable influence on the direction of children, husbands, and society. Such love practices inspired the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace, 19th century Indiana poet)

Q. That’s a perfect quote to express what you’ve done in your writing. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

A. “Virany’s account of their (her parents’) adventures … is riveting. (She) has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn’t flag.” From a review by Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times bestselling author.

Here's the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen's Cariole Ride.

Here’s the picture of my mother I used on the cover of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

Q. I’d be very proud of that review as well. Very nice and I’m sure rewarding. How did you choose the title, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void?

A. In my years spent studying English literature at the University of Toronto, I noticed certain things about classics. I wanted to do things that would identify my memoir as that category of book. Fortuitously my family name, Kell, is the same as that of the most famous manuscript of ancient western civilization, The Book of Kells. Millions of tourists go to look at it in Dublin each year, so it would have a familiar ring even for those who couldn’t pin it down. Beginning the title with “A Book of …” gave it a serious, nonfiction tone. My literary background also led me to load my title with words that had multiple meanings and associations which would give clues to the type of content inside. My parents lived their married life as if it were a book. There is an ancient concept of life being one’s “book of days.” For dates and events, I leaned on my parents’ daily diaries. The title could also refer to the Bible, the book that most guided my ancestors and parents. I hit the jackpot, I felt, when I disovered that the root of the name Kells was, according to some scholarship, a synonym for all Celts or Kelts, the dominant tribe who inhabited the region north of the Mediterranean Sea in 500 B.C. This was generic; anyone with a name with the Kell prefix is one of the tribe so the word should have wide appeal. Another meaning for “kell” was a hair net or covering and that was an appropriate symbol for my upbringing as a minister’s daughter. My title might make people think it was a family history, which it partly was, at least for the most recent four generations.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

It would be a long, lonely journey for my father from the white cliffs of Dover back to the Indian reserve in Oxford House, MB. But he was not one to give up hope too easily.

Q. That’s fascinating. I’m always interested in the creative process, so how did you decide to write this book?

A. I wanted to write it as a romantic novel while sticking rigorously to the facts as I knew them or was able to reconstruct them by careful logic. It should have a beginning, middle, climax and end but these should not be superimposed. They should emerge from what I could find out; the story must be allowed to tell itself. It was a test to see whether the literary structures I had been taught really worked. I had to discipline myself not to make things up. I already had on my hands a self-described knight and lady who had rubbed shoulders with real prime ministers and princes. They courted and treated each other accordingly. I did not have to manufacture their raw emotions because I had their seventy-two authentic love letters from the 1920s. I had been blessed by a bonanza in a keepsake box; I just had to call forth my muses to elicit it and do it justice.

Here is a beautiful quote I just received as a comment on my “About” page of my blog. “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko

Q. That is lovely. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Margaret. Yours is a unique story and one worth telling. Won’t you tell us  more about yourself?

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

Oceanbound to a Family Reunion in 1937 (illustration from A Book of Kells)

A. About Margaret Kell Virany: Born on a farm on the northern fringe of Toronto, I got a degree in English Language & Literature and married my Varsity heart throb. Early employment was at the Toronto Telegram, Maclean-Hunter and freelancing for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Star, and Montreal Gazette. My most fun jobs were as professional public relations secretary first of the Montreal YMCA and then of the Toronto YMCA, and as a program organizer of CBC-TV’s first live nationally televised conference The Real World of Woman (1961). Following a move to Canada’s capital region, I became editor/co-owner of the weekly newspaper in my home town of Aylmer, QC and had the busiest, best career of a lifetime. Upon discovering the keepsake box full of love letters, journals and photos my parents left, I published A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. It records my family’s lives and my uneasy coming of age as a minister’s daughter. Then I wrote Kathleen’s  ariole Ride recounting my parents’ transatlantic courtship and adventures living on a Cree reserve in the north. At the 2012 Centennial Conference honoring the literary critic, Northrop Frye, I learned that my notes of his lectures would be among those posted on the fryeblog, available for public download. This success brought me back to the day when I dropped out of college for a year and learned shorthand on my very first job, as a receptionist at the ‘Tely’.

Thank you for dropping in. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertaining. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Author’s tips are offered by word and writing advice by example.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics! http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany  www.margaretvirany.com