A Non-review and Giveaway: ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES

I don’t often review books because I don’t feel comfortable passing judgment, negative or positive, on someone else’s writing. When I do recommend a book, it’s because I’m particularly enthusiastic about it.

rootbeercandyandothermiracles_websiteI’m enthusiastic about ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, but you’re likely to think I’m biased because the author is my daughter, Shari Green, and that’s not true at all. Despite it being aimed at a middle-grade audience, I’ve read it twice and am likely to read it again. It’s that good. But since you probably still think I’m biased, I’ll just let you read other people’s reviews instead of reviewing it myself…

CM Magazine: “…a light-hearted yet evocative page-turner … Green’s writing is captivatingly visual, with seamless inclusions of figurative language … versatile as independent reading or as an engaging read-aloud.” 

School Library Journal: “Recommend this lovely and poignant novel to middle grade readers who enjoy coming-of-age stories.”

Canadian Children’s Book News: “Writing in verse, Green aptly captures the journey of a girl faced with her first real heartbreak—the likely dissolution of her family. Bailey’s openness to confronting her reality while still believing in the extraordinary adds to her charm, as does her growing realization that heartache affects many others in her life as well.”

 ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES is a verse novel but it’s not your typical metered and rhyming children’s book. You don’t think “poetry” as you read, only that the story streams vividly onto the pages, taking you into the Felicity Bay community where Bailey is spending a rather stressful summer.

It will come to pass
that a stranger from the sea
will change
everything.”

“The locals in Felicity Bay shake their heads at the ice cream man’s prophecy. “Crazy old Jasper,” they say. But Bailey isn’t so sure. She’s found something special down at the beach: a driftwood mermaid, a gift washed up from a storm. Could she be the stranger from the sea who has come to change everything? Bailey hopes so. Because this summer, she sure could use a miracle.”

hi-res-dPublished this fall by Pajama Press, RBCAOM is just the most recent of Shari’s successes. In 2010 she won first place in the Writing for YA category of the Surrey International Writers’ contest with her short story, IN LIEU OF A WARDROBE. After that she took some time to work on full length pieces and in October 2014 her YA novel FOLLOWING CHELSEA was published by Evernight Teen. In April 2015 Vine Leaves Press released FALLING FOR ALICE, a collection of five short stories by Shari and four other YA authors in celebration of the 150th anniversary of ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

Since then she’s had a very busy year.

  • September 2015 – TAKE ME TO THE SEA: an ocean-themed colouring book was published.
  • October 2015 – SANDBAGGING, a short story, won Honourable Mention in the SiWC writing contest.
  • January 2016 – CREATIVITEA: another colouring book was published, this one for tea lovers.
  • August 2016 – DOODLE SOUP: a “bit-of-everything” colouring collection was released.
  • October 12, 2016 – ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, her verse novel, was published by Pajama Press.

And, coming up next spring…

dsc00373None of this sounds like bragging, does it? No, of course not, but I admit to being thrilled for all her accomplishments, not the least of which was last month’s Special Achievement Award presented to Shari by the Surrey Board of Trade at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference.

If you’d like to know more about Shari, you could head for her blog or check out her Bio here.

This brings me to the giveaway (for Canada and the USA only, please). If you would like to have your name put into the puppy bowl (it’ll be clean; I promise!) for the chance to win a paperback copy of ROOT BEER CANDY AND OTHER MIRACLES, all you have to do is leave a comment below. I’ll be drawing the winner’s name at the end of day next Thursday, November 24th (Thanksgiving Day in the USA!), and announcing it here on the blog on Friday the 25th (just one month before Christmas!) 🙂

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Writing in Summer Solitude

Last spring author Debra Purdy Kong blogged about her need for solitude. She said, “scientific research has shown that creative people need solitude. An article in Quartz revealed what many of us writers have known for some time. Solitude has nothing to do with being bored or being lonely. In fact, it’s an essential component for any type of creativity.”

DSC09480The creative person’s desire for solitude isn’t limited to summer, but for many of us that’s the time we’re most likely to find some. School’s out. Organizations put their meetings on hiatus. Employees take their vacations. It’s the best time to escape … or, at least, that’s what we seem to think. Maybe we’re brainwashed to believe that, when we should really be looking for periods of solitude throughout the entire year — any time our well of inspiration is in need of replenishment.

A solitary stroll on an crisp fall morning or a snowy weekend evening might be all it takes to let fresh ideas break through what I call a cotton batten brain. A rainy day spent at the museum or art gallery does it for some, while others find refreshment pouring through shelves in a library or bookstore. Personally, I’d never turn down the opportunity to spend an hour in any season, sitting on a log at the beach or by the lake, emptying the mind to ready it for refilling.

My writerly sub-conscience needs that, but so too does my spirit. Solitude and stillness help me open myself to God and let peace and renewal seep in.

I saw this graphic on the (in)courage website recently with the words, “May you have the chance to be still, to hear His voice in the quiet spaces.” I’ve borrowed it to use here as a summertime reminder. I’ll be absent from the internet during portions of August as I focus on experiencing stillness and refreshment, and on redirecting my creative efforts. I hope you’ll make time to do the same.

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Happy Birthday, Wild Child!

Clipper-1

Maybe by referring to him as our “Wild Child” we have unconsciously been sending negative vibes that help perpetuate the cyclone-like behaviour. People often say that a Labrador’s brain doesn’t kick in until they are at least three years old. Some warn that it’s more like five or six years, while others admit sometimes it never does. Whatever the case, “Clipper”, our sweet natured but extremely bouncy Labrador Retriever, shows no indication of impending maturity. Of course, he’s only just reaching his first birthday this weekend (on May 15).

We should have named him “Tigger”. He really does bear a striking resemblance, right down to having what we’re sure is a built-in pogo stick.

 

He hasn’t been in a show ring yet. We’re hoping that by the time he gains enough maturity to be able to walk sedately on a lead, he’ll also have outgrown the assumption that anyone stooping down to touch him is extending an invitation to be licked and jumped upon, simultaneously.

Clipper-3

“Who, me??? But I have to show everyone how much I love them!!”

Fortunately, we love him, too. A lot. Otherwise he would have been shuffled out of here long ago.

I’m trying  to figure out a way to model one of my novel’s characters after him, but none of them is meant to have a Jekyll and Hyde personality.

Ah, well … Happy First Birthday, Clipper! No pogo stick for you, or lima beans, but maybe a piece (or two) of cheese and a new toy.

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The Intrusion of Real Life

Do you ever try to visualize what it would be like to live someone else’s life? Real life for some is a dream world for others.

There were days when I wondered if my life might have been different if I’d made different choices. The grass was greener, much greener where I envisioned I could be, and yet now, decades later, hindsight proves me wrong. Their colours might have seemed more appealing at the time, but the weeds and wildflowers grew just as abundantly in the grass on both sides of that fence. It was only my perspective that changed the view. I was exactly where God intended me to be.

Everyone’s life is filled with a lot of ordinariness, interrupted by occasional mountaintop and valley experiences.

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While I know perpetual tranquility would be boring, during times of upheaval and crisis I’m pretty sure most people wish life could be more serene.

I have family members who are currently wishing for less upheaval in their lives. What seemed like a simple plumbing-related flood upstairs in their home on December 9th resulted in damage also being done to several areas downstairs. The insurance and restoration companies were quick to tear out walls, ceiling and floors, to get drying underway. The repairs, however, are taking several weeks — which, when you are having to live somewhere else until the work is completed, is frustrating enough. When full weeks go by  and nobody comes to do any work, or when a carpenter arrives by himself, and puts in an unproductive day, working slowly while admitting he wants to get paid for as many hours as possible, it becomes downright maddening.

Almost eight full weeks have gone by, and it’s obvious there are more yet to come. Cold, hard “real” life continues to intrude on their daily existence as family members live out of suitcases and add extra commuting time to work and school schedules. It’s stressful for them, trying to carry on with all their normal activities under these abnormal circumstances. And yet they do it.

The thing is, they aren’t the only people who have to cope with the intrusion of the unexpected. I often read other author blogs and Facebook posts and note how their writers mention the impact of unexpected events, but they still manage to meet their writing, editing and publishing deadlines.

It’s a reality that we do what we have to. We compromise on the unimportant in order to give priority to the important. It’s a strange reality that no matter how challenged we may be by life, we always manage to make time for the things that are important to us. At least, it seems that way to me.

While the insurance company handles the paperwork at an unemotional distance, I hope my family members make it through this upheaval without any nervous breakdowns.

Have you experienced any inconvenient intrusions of “real life” and had to function around them? How did it work out for you?

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How many candles does it take?

He stood on tiptoes, peering at the Advent wreath, counting aloud. Then, “Okay, but if there are four Sundays on the way to Christmas, why are there five candles?”

Advent Candles

His sister had been trying to answer his questions, but with growing impatience she shrugged. “That’s the Jesus candle. Now c’mon … let’s go.” She reached for his shoulder to steer him away, but he ducked from her grasp.

“But Mom told me that one was the Jesus candle,” he said, pointing to the Christ candle which this day sat unused on the communion table pushed to one side of the chancel.

“Yeah, well, that’s the one we use every Sunday to remind people that Jesus is the light of the world. This one, um … this one is his birthday candle.”

“But birthday candles belong on cakes!”

“There’s cake downstairs, remember? If you want a piece we’d better hurry or there won’t be any left.”

“But why is the cake downstairs when the candle is up here?”

“Because Jesus wouldn’t like people to get cake crumbs on the church carpet. For pete’s sake, don’t you know anything?”

As she pushed him ahead of her down the aisle toward the doorway, I smiled at the memory of another little boy in a former church, and the endless questions that had kept a young minister fumbling for answers during a children’s story. There’s nothing more delightful and at the same time more frustrating than a child’s insatiable curiosity.

There’s also nothing more important than satisfying that curiosity, of offering truthful explanations geared to an appropriate level of understanding. In this situation I thought his sister did a remarkably good job. Don’t you?🙂

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Looking back in history (mine)

HectorB

Hector Borthwick

Across the small lake from our wee cabin in BC’s Cariboo country there is another cabin. That one is made of logs, is still in good shape but now rarely occupied. It’s no longer visible from the water; only a small float at the shoreline marks the path up to it from the lake.

The cabin was built over a two year period between 1935 and 1937 by a tall, lanky bachelor named Hector Borthwick. He built the foundation of rocks and used a saddle-and-notch method to stack the logs. To get the upper logs in place he rolled them up poles leaned against the side of the building. The roofing was fir shakes.

Hector had moved north from the lower mainland in 1933 to join his older brother, George, who was a trapper living on ranch land near ‘our’ lake. In 1935 George decided his children needed better education, and he traded the property with a man from North Vancouver, George Ruddy. The ranch changed hands through the years, and has been owned by the Pogues, Dave Madsen, Roy Wilcox, the Ainsworths, and most recently by Rick and Arlene Booker.

When his brother moved south, Hector took over the trapline and lived with George Ruddy while he built himself a lakeside cabin.

Many years later my parents purchased property on the opposite end of that lake, and somewhere around 1949-1950 Hector helped them build a cabin that for more than a decade we used on summer holidays and annual hunting trips. I remember my mother and I were responsible for stripping the bark off each log before the men levered it into place. At my young age I’m not sure how much help I really was, but I felt important!

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Our original cabin

Hector never married. His only companion for many years was a huge grey cat he called Buster (named after Buster Hamilton, a well known guide in the area). When winter set in Hector would shoot his annual meat supply. He hung the frozen moose or deer carcass in his shed and would saw off slabs for each night’s dinner — a steak for him and an equal-sized steak for Buster. (I did say Buster was huge, didn’t I?)

Hector was a quiet man. He wasn’t overly social, but he became a very good friend to my parents. He often provided a helping hand when they moved permanently to the Cariboo and built a year-round home on the lake. He even allowed himself to be talked into accompanying them on their one and only out-of-the-country vacation — a two week trip to Mexico.

Within the 190 acres of property my parents bought, there was a dilapidated log building that has always been known as Carnegie Hall … its original owner having been a man named Albert Carnegie. It became a convenient storage place for a ragtag collection of discarded items my father could never quite part with because “someday I might need it”. My mother doubted it contained anything of potential value, but it was surprising how often a needed length of rope, a set of chains, or a bit of baling wire was located just when required. Carnegie Hall saved many an hour-long trip out to the closest store. (In those days it was probably more like a two hour trip, each way!)

Carnegie Hall

Carnegie Hall (before it totally collapsed)

I wasn’t around to know either George Ruddy or Albert Carnegie while they lived in the vicinity of our lake, but I  recall stopping with my parents to visit them some years after they had moved away from the isolation and closer to ‘civilization’, although they still lived in a very rustic cabin. My whispered question about why their metal beds had each leg stuck in a coffee tin (or maybe it was a tobacco tin), was shushed until we were on the road again, when it was explained to me that the tins kept mice from climbing the legs onto the beds.

Albert-George

Albert Carnegie and George Ruddy

Hector continued to live at the lake, supplementing his trapping by occasionally going into the community of Forest Grove and helping with haying. That earned him $1.00 a day plus his board. He became a licensed big game guide in 1944, at a time when it paid a whopping $10.00 a day, with horses provided by the Forest Grove Lodge who made the arrangements with clients. In 1951 he also went to work as a faller, which earned him about $1.50 – $1.75 per hour, but after five years he returned to trapping and guiding, until 1963.

That’s when he became concerned about the impact of logging on the environment, and also reached the point where killing animals no longer felt right. His brother returned to retire on the lake and built a cluster of log buildings, but in 1969 Hector left to work for Cariboo Cedar Products in the town of Exeter. The following year he signed over the trapline to George.

Barely a week before he planned to retire from the Exeter sawmill, Hector suffered a devastating accident, losing portions of all his fingers on both hands. By then my parents had built a triplex on another piece of property they owned on the outskirts of 100 Mile House, and during Hector’s recovery he lived in a cabin on the back of that property. However, it was soon evident that he could no longer cope independently, and he moved to southern Vancouver Island to live out his years in comfort with one of George’s married sons.

In 1984 my husband was asked to officiate at his memorial service.

Hector Walter Borthwick
22 February 1915 – 19 October 1984 

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A lot of history and many memories have been stored up during the years we have been associated with this tiny sanctuary in the central Cariboo. Someone else owns my parents’ property now, but we’ve retained a few acres of our own — a little parcel across the creek where we’ve built our own cabin — and various branches of our family continue to make new memories for future generations to treasure.

Every so often I think about Hector and wonder if my parents would ever have discovered the out-of-the-way little lake if it hadn’t been for him. (Then again, conversations they had with a resident who happened to own a hardware store in 100 Mile House helped to send them in the right direction, so who knows — but that’s a story for a different blog post!)

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