More Gifts of the Season

Gold-giftHappy holidays everyone!  Winter solstice is almost here. Soon it’ll be Christmas and then it’ll be time to turn the calendar on another year.  Over the next while, many of us will gather with friends and family to celebrate with music, food, laughter and gifts. Last week I shared some of the memorable writing-related gifts I’ve received  . . . and a few other authors added their memories too.  Today, another ten authors tell us about their favorite writing-related gifts.

Monique Polak: “My best writing gift ever is a little blue glass statue of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant-headed god. My dear friend and fellow children’s author Rina Singh gave me the statue many years ago when I was trying and trying to sell my first manuscripts — and not succeeding. Rina explained that Ganesh is believed to help people overcome obstacles. The little statue worked for me — I finally sold my first manuscript and have gone on to publish 13 more. (It also helped, I think, that I didn’t give up along the way.)”      Monique Polak is the author of So Much it Hurts (Orca Book Publishers) Rina Singh is the author of Guru Nanak (Groundwood).

Ann Walsh: “When I was writing my first novel (Your Time, My Time) at the kitchen table on a noisy manual typewriter, my oldest daughter would come home from school and demand to see the new pages. Later, I hired her to proof-read the manuscript, paying $.25 for every mistake she found. As I recall, we argued over a lot of commas.

When the book was finally published, she was in high school. One night I woke in the small hours to the sound of weeping. A teen-aged daughter crying in the middle of the night is a sound no mother ever wants to hear. Before I even reached her bedroom, dozens of dreadful scenarios had flashed through my mind.

“Katie, what’s wrong? What happened? Are you all right?”

She was clutching a copy of Your Time, My Time and a handful of kleenex. “It’s so sad, Mum.”

Even though she had helped birth the book and knew it almost as well as I did, it moved her to tears. A writing gift beyond price.”  Ann Walsh is the author of Whatever (Ronsdale Press)

IMG_2539Joan Marie Galat:   “I often write about the stars but I also seem to be trying to reach them!  My favourite writing-related gift is a pair of stilt-walking pants, sewn by a friend. Since learning how to walk on stilts (which increases my height to more than eight feet), I plan to use my new skill to encourage reading and writing. These alphabet-themed pants, made from a duvet cover, form part of my costume as I prepare to promote the theme: Stand Up for Literacy! “   Joan Marie Galat’s latest title is the award-winning The Discovery of Longitude  (Pelican Publishing Company)

Eileen Kernaghan: “My favourite writing gift was the typewriter my parents gave me as a Christmas present when I was eleven. As soon as I’d mastered a two-fingered keyboard technique I sent a children’s story to the Vancouver Sun, which to everyone’s astonishment was accepted. Then, since my long-term ambition was to be a journalist, I became the Grindrod stringer for the weekly Enderby Commoner (the masthead said “covers the valley like the dew”). My assignment was to report the births, deaths, anniversaries, out of town visitors and other important local events in our farming village, pop. 600.  I was too shy at twelve to interview people, so my mother did the actual research — having a party line helped — and I wrote it all up. I never did learn touch typing, but as far as writing was concerned, I never looked back.”  Eileen Kernaghan is the author of the YA historical fantasy Sophie, in Shadow (Thistledown April 2014).

Kent Rees: “In a word, the best writing gift I have ever received was inspiration.”  Kent Rees is the author of Molly Withers and the Golden Tree (

Ellen S. Jaffe: “The best writing gift I ever received was the funds from my parents to attend Breadloaf Writers Conference in Vermont in 1964, when I was 19; I grew up in New York and was attending college in Masschusetts.

My application to Breadloaf was accepted and my family made it possible for me to go. I can’t remember the cost, though I’m sure it was substantially lower (more than 50%) than today’s fees.  Being surrounded and mentored by well-known writers, and getting to know published writing “fellows” as well as younger people like myself, helped me begin to feel like a writer and to be “naked in public,” although I had been writing stories and poems since childhood. I have continued on that path, winding my way and sometimes getting lost temporarily, for almost 50 years.” Ellen S. Jaffe is the author of Skinny-Dipping with the Muse, (Guernica, spring 2014)

Silvana Goldemberg: “Beside the little gift of writing I got from my writer mom, my writing gift came from destiny: the ONLY time I won a draw in my life it was in grade 5 and the prize was a box with a Parker fountain pen. Since then, I haven’t stopped writing.”  Silvana Goldemberg is the author of many books in Spanish and “Victoria” (Tradewind, 2013) is her first book in English.

Marilyn Helmer: “Early in my writing career, our local newspaper held a short story contest. At that point, the few short stories and poems I had submitted to children’s magazines had met with little success. My dream of becoming a published author was looking bleak. So why not try writing a short story for adults? To my surprise and delight, my story, “Home For the Holidays”, won first prize – a brand new home computer system. Not only did the computer with its various programs and software make the writing process so much easier, it was the incentive I needed to renew my determination to be a published author. I have realized that dream many times over and can honestly say that that computer was definitely the best writing gift I ever received.” Marilyn Helmer is the author of The Great Garage Sale and Pirate Island Treasure (Orca)

Dani Collins: “My favorite gift was a whiteboard from my husband. (4 x 5’) I caught him on my lunch hour trying to buy wine glasses for my birthday, but we already had a set that I liked. I said I’d really prefer a whiteboard. We walked across the street to the store and it was hanging on my office wall when I got home from work. LOVE IT.” Dani Collins is the author of More Than a Convenient Marriage? December Harlequin Presents.

Ellen Schwartz:  “The best writing gift I ever received was the gift of time. I’ve always found it hard to get down to work on a book at home. Kids, laundry, phone, other writing work (read: paying work), husband, dog… Several years ago, our friends James and Lynn Hill, said, “Why don’t you go up to our place in Whistler? We’re hardly ever there. You could have the place to yourself.” So I did. Fearfully, with trepidation. Because: What if, after all those years of complaining about how I couldn’t concentrate at home, now that I had peace and solitude, I couldn’t write? I needn’t have worried. I got up to the townhouse, unpacked the coffee and the wine, propped my writing clipboard on my lap – and wrote. And wrote. For years, not just the Hills but other generous friends have given me the use of their homes while they’re away, and I’ve written most of my last ten books in these getaways. Now, later in my career, I’m trying something new: writing at home. And you know what? I can do it. (But I’d rather be in Whistler.)”  Ellen Schwartz is the author of   The Case of the Missing Deed (Tundra; winner of the 2013 Rocky Mountain Book Award)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everybody!

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