Reading Canadian

Tomorrow is the inaugural I Read Canadian Day, an event designed to bring attention to and celebrate Canadian books for young people. Let’s broaden out and support ALL Canadian books and authors, even those written for adults.

For information on the I Read Canadian program for children and teens, go here:

If you’re looking for a good read by a Canadian author, check out this list from Booknet Canada. You’ll find fiction and non-fiction, and some juvenile titles too. 

https://www.booknetcanada.ca/blog/2017/6/13/150-bestselling-books-by-canadian-authors

Happy Reading!

My February Reads

I’m away from home dealing with some heavy family business, and I’m staying in a city not known for being winter-friendly. How can you put friendly in the same sentence with minus thirty temperatures? On a positive note, however, a good book can take your mind off the frigid weather outside. Here’s what I’m reading this month:

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

Lands of Lost Borders: Out of Bounds on the Silk Road by Kate Harris

Rice, Noodle, Fish by Matt Goulding

Books read to date in 2020: 13

Bending Instead of Breaking

I recently came across a saying attributed to Confucius: ‘The green reed which bends in the wind is stronger than the mighty oak that breaks in the storm.’

It made me think of resilience. A few days after I saw the quote, I had a coffee date with a writer friend. We’ve been friends for decades. We’ve been writing for decades too, both as traditionally published and self-published authors. As we sipped our coffee and discussed the current ups and downs of the industry, she mentioned she was thinking of approaching a small publisher for her next novel. I’m going with Crwth Press, also a small publisher, for my next YA No Right Thing which will be out in April.

With the rules of publishing constantly changing, our ability to adapt and cope is constantly being tested too. And one of the best ways to survive is to develop resilience.

Resilience can be hard to put into words. Ask five people what it is and you’ll probably get five different answers. Even dictionary definitions vary. At its core, however, resilience is the ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or misfortune. Coping with stress (be that good or bad stress) in a positive way is known as resilience. One definition even said that resilience is developed through discomfort, to being exposed to experiences that push or challenge us in a variety of ways.

Well, publishing is made up of experiences that push and challenge us on a regular basis.  With that in mind, here are a few tips to help develop resilience.

Remember why you write. Think less about the outcome and embrace the joy of getting words on paper. If you’ve lost that joy, how can you get it back? Maybe you need to fill the well by reading books or stories that spark your creative urge. Focusing on why you write in the first place can keep you writing when you hit a speed bump.

Have good boundaries. We all know the importance of having good boundaries with others, but boundaries extend to social media too. Many writers rely on social media to promote their work and to say engaged with others. How does social media make you feel? Is it helping or hurting you? Do a check in and see if the people/media you interact with leave you feeling energized or depleted. Set boundaries where you need to.

Consider possibilities. We write to get published, at least most of us do. And we have dreams and goals, or we should. But don’t be afraid to think out of the box or try a route previously untraveled. Thinking about potentials – playing ‘what if’ with your writing career – can sometimes lead to surprising opportunities.

Change the narrative. I don’t like the ‘put on the rose-colored glasses’ and ‘things happen for a reason’ mentality. As far as I’m concerned, a rejection is a rejection is a rejection. But sometimes reframing a situation can help. Perhaps the rejections are helping you develop the toughness and drive you need to survive in this industry. Perhaps they’re pointing you in a new direction. Accepting and cultivating a positive approach can help us change the narrative.

Develop social networks. Writers work in isolation by necessity. Many of us are introverts by nature. That’s not a bad thing. We need alone time to incubate our stories and get them written. But we need people too. Find your peeps. They don’t have to be writers. They need to be people who get you, who support you, and who encourage you to be your best self. In an ideal world, they need to be people who also model resilience. People who know how to bend instead of break . . . and who can help you learn to do the same thing.

My January Reads

We had a snow week not long ago. Okay, maybe not an entire snow week but we had three days of snow, followed by several more days of sleet, making the roads treacherous. Team Sheltie was limited to one midday walk, and only if temperatures rose enough to make sure the roads were free of ice. Considering what the rest of Canada goes through most winters, and especially the blizzard that hit Newfoundland this year, we are lucky. We get just enough bad winter weather to justify cutting back on work and curling up by the fire with a book. Here’s what I’m reading this week.

Maid by Stephanie Land

Life & Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins

The Wedding Guest by Jonathan Kellerman

Books read to date in 2020: 5

A Sneak Peek

A few days ago, I received the final cover and page proofs for NO RIGHT THING, my first YA novel with Crwth Press. This is such an exciting stage. My story now looks like a real book with a lovely font, justified type and elegant scene breaks. But we’re not quite there yet. Page proofs are just that – pages that need to be proofread. And it’s not a time to rush or get sloppy. Each page has to be read very carefully to catch those tiny mistakes: a forgotten period, text that doesn’t flow, maybe a missed hyphen or italics where they shouldn’t be. I’ve found all of that and more and I’m only a little over half way through the book. I’ll be reading methodically over the next few days to make sure everything is perfect for April’s publication date. Meanwhile, here’s a first peek at the lovely cover.

And a New Year Begins . . .

I’m a little late to the ‘Happy New Year’ party but I’m here with enthusiasm, does that count?  I hope the opening chapter of your 2020 was happy/peaceful/celebratory (pick one, or pick all three). Mostly I hope it began optimistically.  

January is a time of fresh starts, new beginnings. It’s a time when many of us make resolutions. And some of us resolve to make no resolutions at all. I’m normally in the latter camp. I’m goal focused – I love to set goals and look ahead with optimism – but I’m not so much for resolutions. Only something about this year feels different, and I feel compelled to set some writerly resolutions.

This year I will:

  1. Measure productivity, not results. We’re a results-oriented culture. Most businesses measure success by results and many writers do too. We often count the number of books or articles we publish in a given year, or the amount of money we make from our efforts. But some things are out of our control. This year I will concentrate on my daily productivity and worry less about results.

2. Listen more and talk less. What are your thoughts on that?

3. Set realistic goals. Life has demanded a lot from me over the last few years. I’ve been meat paste in the sandwich generation of life and it has played hell with my output. Unfortunately, I don’t see it changing any time soon. Nevertheless, I will set goals and do my best to reach them.   

4. Practice kindness. It goes without saying, right? But I’m not always kind to myself. Someone told me recently we should treat ourselves as we would treat a best friend. I think that’s important, and it’s especially helpful when life demands much of us. Or when we’re struggling to reach #3 (see above).

5. Treat that 1st draft as a precious baby. Don’t judge or criticize. Hold a protective, tender space; know it will grow and evolve but right now it needs acceptance and nurturing.

6. Find a new-to-me author. Or three. Or six. Read someone new. Read out of my comfort zone. Read and read some more.  

7. And number seven. Ah, 7. Did you know that in numerology number 7 combines the hardworking number 4 with the mystical and creative number 3. Seven is associated with luck, intuition, inner wisdom and magic. It’s prominent in ancient cultures (there were seven wonders of the world) and it has held significance in virtually every major religion. So, it seems fitting to end with a resolution to make personal renewal a priority this year, however that looks like in any given day or week. Hard work is good. Hard work combined with intuition, inner wisdom and personal renewal is better. In fact, I’d call it an unbeatable combination.

Happy New Year and happy reading.

Merry Christmas!

I’m wishing you peace, love and joy this holiday season. I’ll be taking a few weeks to celebrate with family and friends, and I hope you’ll be relaxing and celebrating too. The blog will resume in January.

Before signing off, I’ll leave you with a quick, homemade goodie recipe. If you love butter tarts but you’re pressed for time, whip up a batch of butter tart squares in the microwave.  These freeze well too. Simply cool, cut into squares and pop them into the freezer until you need them. They’ll thaw while you brew the coffee!

Microwave Butter Tart Squares

Butter a 9 by 9 microwave safe pan and set aside.

For the base:

½ cup butter

2 tablespoons icing sugar

1 cup white all-purpose flour

Combine flour and icing sugar. Melt butter and mix into dry ingredients. Press into your greased pan. Microwave 3 mins at power level 8 for a high wattage microwave; 4 – 6 minutes at power level 8 for lower wattage machines. The base will be firm but not cracked when it’s done. Remove and set aside.

For the top:

¼ cup butter, melted

1 ½ cups brown sugar

2 – 3 large eggs (I use 3)

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ cup raisins or walnuts (optional)

In a medium-sized bowl, combine butter, sugar, eggs, vinegar and vanilla. Beat with a hand mixer for 2 – 3 minutes, or until well combined. Fold in nuts or raisins if desired. Pour over base. Microwave 3 – 4 minutes at power level eight for a high wattage microwave; 4 – 6 minutes at power level eight for lower wattage machines. The filling should be set but have a slight jiggle when you shake the pan. It will also look a little frothy. You can chill and eat the squares at this point but they look more appealing if you slide the pan under a hot broiler for 1 – 2 minutes in order to brown. Watch closely; they turn brown very quickly!   

The Gift of Reading, Take Two

Today’s blog continues on last week’s theme of asking other writers to recommend gift books for friends and family. If you missed last week’s recommendations, you’ll find them here. https://lauralangston.com/the-gift-of-reading/

This week, the focus is on fiction for young and old. It’s an eclectic mix: two middle grade recommendations, a YA free verse novel, and fiction for adults ranging from romance and crime to historical and humor.  As I mentioned last week, be sure to check out the bios and books of the authors who are offering suggestions. Many of their titles are ideal for gift giving as well.

Sylvia McNicoll: Bright Shining Moment by Deb Lougheed (Second Story Press). Perfect for a family read aloud before or after Christmas, Bright Shining Moment is a heartwarming story about old timey hard times when the people who seemed the poorest in material things turn out to be the richest in love. Francois Tisdale’s beautiful cover illustration evokes warm seasonal feelings. Ages 8 – 12.

Sylvia McNicoll’s latest book is The Diamond Mistake Mystery (Dundurn Press) sylviamcnicoll.com

Lee Edward Fodi: Finding Cooper by Stacey Matson (Scholastic). A mystery inspired by the real-life story of D.B Cooper, a famous skyjacker who escaped with a load of cash in 1971. Fodi loved the story because it’s set in the Pacific Northwest and has a lot of humor and heart. Ages 9 – 12.

Lee Edward Fodi’s latest book is The Secret of Zoone (https://www.leefodi.com/books/secret_of_zoone.html)

Darlene Foster: Baggage by Wendy Phillips (Coteau Books) One of the best YA novels Foster has read in a long time, Baggage is the story of a mysterious young African man who speaks no English and turns up abandoned at the Vancouver airport. Written in free verse, this contemporary and timely novel highlights the efforts over several months of three teens and two adults to overturn the government decision to deport him. Ages 13 and up.

Darlene Foster’s most recent release is Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action. http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

Charis Cotter: One for the Rock by Kevin Major (Breakwater Books). A Newfoundland murder mystery with a flawed but likeable detective, this clever story keeps you guessing until the end.  Cotter is a murder mystery aficionado and says Major hits all the high notes of a whodunnit with charm and humor.

Charis Cotter’s latest book is The Ghost Road, also set in Newfoundland.  http://chariscotter.ca/index.php/books/ghost-road/

Liz Walker: Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Broadway Books). A single woman dives headlong from a ferry into Lake Champlain to rescue a child, and then must figure out what to do with him. A blend of mystery, women’s fiction and romance, Walker found the book so gripping she didn’t want to put it down.

Visit Liz Walker’s website here: www.lizwalkerwords.com

Barbara McDonell: Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (Vintage Canada). Offbeat and charming, this novel features an opinionated tortoise named Winnifred and Audrey, a quirky heroine appropriately nicknamed Oddly. Her perspective (and the perspective of her pet tortoise Winnifred) are laugh-out-loud funny, even as the story deals with Audrey’s difficulty to accept the unexpected demise of her beloved father who raised her alone. A light-hearted read where the heroine applies the rules of the board game Clue to deal with many of life’s quandaries.

Barbara McDonell is the author of The Clutter Queen Spills: Insider Secrets Divulged in Three Simple Steps   https://amzn.to/36bfBTO

Rachel Goldsworthy: News of the World by Paulette Jiles (William Morrow) Set in post-Civil War Texas, this is the story of 71-year-old Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd and his unlikely ward, a 10-year-old girl rescued by the U.S. Army after being captured by Kiowa. Kidd reluctantly agrees to transport the child safely back to her family. Goldsworthy called the novel a page turner and said as soon as she finished it, she searched out another novel by the same author.

Rachel Goldworth’s latest read is Green Spirits, a Corsair’s Cove Companion short story. https://rachelgoldsworthy.com

 

The Gift of Reading

For me, the holidays aren’t the same if I don’t have a new book to read. I always made sure my kids got a new book for Christmas, and even now, as adults, they look forward to the tradition.

But it can be difficult to know what book to give. With that in mind, I asked some writer friends to recommend a few titles. You’ll find their picks here over the next few weeks. And don’t stop at their recommendations. Check out their bios and their own books too. Many of those are ideal for gift giving as well! This week, several non-fiction recommendations, one board book for little ones, and a French YA novel.

Fiona McQuarrie: Swim Through the Darkness: My Search for Craig Smith and the Mystery of Maitreya Kali by Mike Stax (Feral House). Part biography, part detective story, and part pop culture history, Swim Through the Darkness chronicles the author’s 15-year quest to find Craig Smith – a clean-cut ’60s musician who became a “psychedelic messiah,” released a legendary self-funded double album, and then disappeared. It’s an epic story, and it’s thoroughly engaging and poignant.

Fiona McQuarrie is the author of Song Book: 21 Songs From 10 Years (1964-74) (New Haven Publishing). https://writingonmusic.com/song-book-the-book/

Lea Tassie: The Green New Deal and Climate Change by Lynne Balzer (Faraday Science Institute/Kindle edition). This is an excellent and clear explanation of the scientific concepts about climate change, by a science teacher. Over the past couple of years, I’ve read reams of articles on the subject, so can say with confidence that Balzer nails all the facts.

Lea Tassie is the author of Two Shakes of a Lamb’s Tail. For more information, check her website: http://leatassiewriter.com

Karen Hibbard: Mary: Who Wrote Frankenstein, written by Linda Bailey; illustrations by Julia Sarda (Penguin/Random House).  This atmospheric picture book is the inspiring story of the young woman who wrote one of the greatest horror novels ever written, and one of the first works of science fiction. For ages 5 – 8.

Karen Hibbard is the illustrator of Nimoshom and His Bus, written by Penny M. Thomas (Portage and Main Press). Visit Karen’s website at  karenhibbard.ca

Marjorie Gann: HERE babies, THERE babies, written by Nancy Cohen; illustrated by Carmen Mok (Nimbus). A wonderful board book for parents or young ones expecting a new addition to the family. Bouncy rhyming verse accompanies boldly coloured paintings; combined, they give young ones lots to talk about. Suitable to about age 4.

Marjorie Gann is the author of Speak a Word for Freedom: Women against Slavery (Tunda/Penguin Random House 2015) Her website:  www.gannwillen.com

Monique Polak: Félines by Stéphane Servant (Rouergue). In this un-put-downable book, set in the not too distant future, teenage girls around the world begin to develop feline characteristics. The shape of their eyes changes, their skin turns to fur, and they can sense the feelings of others. Fearing this “mutation,” the authorities try to control and confine the girls. But les félines are not about to let that happen.

Monique Polak’s most recent titles are Room for One More (Kar-Ben) and The Taste of Rain (Orca Book Publishers). Find her at: www.moniquepolak.com

Next week, more fiction titles for all ages and tastes.