Friday, December 30, 2011

War Horse

Based on a novel by Michael Morpurgo, War Horse  traces the remarkable friendship between a horse named Joey and a young man called Albert, played by Jeremy Irvine. After taming and training Joey, Albert watches helplessly as the horse is sold to the British cavalry. The film follows the horse's extraordinary journey from the Devon countryside to the battlefields of France during World War I. Along the way, Joey changes and inspires the lives of British and German soldiers and a French farmer and his granddaughter. The story reaches its emotional climax in the heart of No Man's Land.

The cinematography is outstanding and definitely Oscar-worthy. Great family entertainment with many tear-jerking moments.

Watch the trailer.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Rooney Mara delivers an Oscar-worthy performance as Lisbeth Salander, the troubled young computer hacker in Stieg Larsson's trilogy. She combines forces with journalist Mikael Blomkvist, played by Daniel Craig, to investigate the forty-year old murder of Harriet, the niece of a frail and wealthy octogenarian played by Christopher Plummer.

Filled with action, violence and brutal sex scenes, this movie is not my usual fare. But the storyline is a compelling one and kept me enthralled for almost three hours.

Watch the trailer.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Poem


We, Angels and Mortals, Believers and Nonbelievers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves,
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation:
Peace, My Brother.
Peace, My Sister.
Peace, My Soul.

This is excerpt from the poem, Amazing Peace, that was read by Maya Angelou at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree (2005).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Published

My article, "Do-It-Yourself Career Counseling," appeared in yesterday's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read the article.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hugo

Based on Brian Selznick's best-selling novel, The Invention of Hugo Carbret, this movie tells the tale of an orphan boy who lives in the rafters of a Parisian train station. The boy played by Asa Butterfield spends his time winding clocks and working on reanimating an automaton he inherited from his late father. He steals spare parts from a shop run in the station by a stern older gentleman. Ben Kingsley delivers an excellent performance as Georges Melies, film magician turned shopkeeper. Sacha Baron Cohen adds humour with his performance as an socially awkward guard.

Director Martin Scorsese has skillfully used 3-D to provide us with an sense of being present in each of the scenes, especially those involving fantasy and magical elements. While I tend to stay away from 3-D movies, especially those involving action and violence, I appreciated Scorsese's use of the technology to create this film.  

A  wonderful family film, Hugo could easily become a holiday classic.

Watch the trailer.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

New Year's Eve

While this movie only got 1.5 stars in the Toronto Star, I enjoyed watching it yesterday. It stars everybody you can think of, including Ryan Seacrest and New York's Mayor Bloomberg.

Gary Marshall, who also directed Valentine's Day in 2010, provides us with a collection of vignettes in this light, entertaining movie. Hilary Swank oversees the ball drop on New Year's Eve in New York. Michelle Pfeiffer plays an uptight woman who has just quit her job and has an unique May-December relationship with Zac Efron. Ashton Kutcher and Lea Michele are stuck in an elevator for several hours. Sarah Jessica Parker deals with a rebellious daughter played by Abigail Breslin. Katherine Heigl is a bitter chef who reconnects with her ex-boyfriend played by Jon Bon Jovi.

Other actors and actresses include Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Matthew Broderick, Penny Marshall and Robert DeNiro.

A great holiday choice if you are looking for light fare sprinkled with feel-good moments.


Watch the trailer.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Celebrating Advent

My friend, Magda, sent me the link to this two-minute video that describes why we celebrate Advent.

I love watching it and rethinking the holiday season.

Enjoy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Published

My article "In the Thick of It" appears on the Canadian Newcomer website.

Read the article.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dinner with Writers Ink

Last night, I joined four other members of Writers Ink for our monthly dinner meeting at Symposium Restaurant.

Dennis Fitter shared his experiences at the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in New York City. I appreciate the handouts and information he passed on to us. I found the following advice from best-selling author, John Gilstrap very helpful:

I would say my success at getting an agent to ask for a partial manuscript was approximately 1000% better when I pitched my book in person than by query letter. I would strongly advise anyone looking for an agent to pitch them in person at a conference. Putting a face to a book gets the partial through much faster than if it's a query letter from someone the agent has never met.

I also enjoyed listening to Patricia Anderson talk about her misadventures in the Dominican Republic.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Annabel


 Last night, I met with The Bookshelf  Book Club to discuss Kathleen Winter's first novel, Annabel. We all enjoyed reading the book and agree that it should have won the Giller Prize last year.

Set in Labrador, Annabel is the story of a couple--Treadway and Jacinta-- who are not suited to each other and their child, Wayne, who is a a hermaphrodite. When Wayne was born, Jacinta  was tempted to do nothing and let child develop as both sexes, but she gave in to her husband's desire to raise a son. As Wayne matures, he shows more feminine tendencies and struggles with the female identity inside of him known as Annabel.

All of the characters in this book, including the minor ones outside the family, are well developed. Wayne is not the only character who struggles with identity issues. His best friend, Wally,struggles with her identity as a singer and Thomasina, his confidant, searches for her place in the world.

There are no easy answers or tidy solutions in this book. "Everyone is a snake shedding its skin," Thomasina tells Wayne. "We are different people through all our lives."


An excellent read, especially on cold, wintry days.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Forgotten Garden


Wednesday evening, a group of us gathered at the East Side branch of the Guelph Public Library to talk about Kate Norton's book, The Forgotten Garden.

Most of us enjoyed the book, while a few ladies had issues regarding the changing POV and time line. It was challenging to keep track of the three generations, but I liked the intricate layering of different times and places.

Norton skillfully weaves the theme of abandonment into the lives of Nell, Eliza and Cassandra. Easily classified as a love story with elements of mystery, The Forgotten Garden unwinds much like the fairy tales in Eliza's books.

An abandoned child on a ship bound to Australia...An orphan who is welcomed back into her mother's affluent family...Two cousins torn apart by a shocking secret. These are the elements of this enchanting and unforgettable book.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Published

My article, "Reducing Food Waste" appeared in yesterday's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read the article.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Healthy Choices Wellness Show

Yesterday, I spent most of the day at the Hampton Inns Hotel. I enjoyed meeting with vendors and holistic practitioners from Guelph and nearby communities. I also sat in on six workshops.

Some of the highlights...

From Spiritual Intuitive Kerrilynn Shellhorn
  • Peace is our ego's greatest enemy.
  • We have a misguided obligation to purpose. Purpose is not saving the whales or moving to Africa. Whatever we do with joy and passion is our purpose.
  • Stop. Think. Breathe.
  • Each morning, put your hand on your heart, take a deep breath and ask yourself: What does my spirit need today to feel joy? The answer you receive within five seconds comes from your heart space. 
From Holistic psychotherapist Tiffany Lazic
  • If we do not practice self care, we will not have enough physical energy.
  • When our lower chakras are blocked, we lack physical health and vitality.
  • When our upper chakras are blocked, we lack discernment. We do not listen to inner messages and guidance. We feel lost and do not know how to put ourselves out there. 
  • Heart chakra is the meeting place of the upper and lower chakras. Healing comes from the heart chakra.
  • Definition of perfectionism--A process by which we put a bar so high it is unattainable. This is a form of self-abuse.
From Psychologist Cecilie Lacey
  • If certain negative events and conflicts constantly appear in your life, ask yourself the following question: What part of me attracts this experience? You may be unconsciously attracting a victim experience. Meditate and pray on it.
  • At the level of your true self, you are perfect, but living in a less-than-perfect reality.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Published

 My article, "Designing Your Business Card," appears in today's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read the article.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

J. Edgar

A powerful movie directed by Clint Eastwood, J. Edgar opens the door to the secretive FBI director's closet.

Leonardo DiCaprio delivers an outstanding and convincing performance as Hoover evolves from an awkward young man under the control of his mother to a brooding and menacing public figure. J. Edgar Hoover worked under eight presidents and had a collection of secret files that were destroyed immediately after his death. It was not necessary to use two actors to portray Hoover over the forty-eight year span covered by the movie.  Heavy layers of latex and makeup were used to transform DiCaprio's baby cheeks into Hoover's bulldog jowls.

Eastwood succeeds in questioning Hoover's historical record while giving credence to the many rumours about cross-dressing and homosexuality.


Watch the trailer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Fireside Chat with Nicholas Ruddock

Last night, local author and doctor Nicholas Ruddock talked about his writing journey at the third in a series of fireside chats at the Guelph Public Library.

In his twenties, Ruddock took a year off to write, but found he had no ideas or inspiration. So, he completed his internship and spent the next thirty years or so practicing medicine in Newfoundland, Yukon, Montreal and Guelph. In 2002, he decided to start writing. At that time, he was "a writer without connections." Using Newfoundland as his base, he wrote poetry and a number of short stories. He has been published in The Dalhousie Review, The Antigonish Review, Fiddlehead, Prism International, Grain, sub-Terrain, Event and Exile. He also entered and won a number of contests, including the Journey Prize.

He wanted to publish a book of his short stories, but his agent suggested he write a novel instead. Using Toronto as his base, he wrote The Parabolist in seven months. He did not intend for the novel to be a thriller, but found himself writing about murder, rape and a police investigation. He sent the novel in installments to his agent. The final manuscript was sent to six publishers. Within 24 hours, Doubleday expressed interest. The book was out in the spring of 2010. He has written another novel which is being reviewed by Doubleday.

He offered the following tips to aspiring writers...
  • Enter contests before writing a novel. You need a track record in Canada before agents and publishers will take you on.
  • A sense of failure is continually present. Your work will be rejected. Rise above it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Three Authors

Last night, I enjoyed listening to three authors--Ami McKay, Wayne Johnston, Anita Rau Badami--at Norfolk United Church in downtown Guelph.

Ami McKay read from the prologue of her latest book, The Virgin Cure. This is McKay's followup novel to her highly successful debut, The Birth House. Set in New York City's Lower East Side during the 1870s, The Virgin Cure was inspired by McKay's great-great-grandmother, Dr. Sadie Fonda Macintosh, who practiced street medicine in the slums. McKay had intended to write the book in her grandmother's voice, but while writing, she began to hear the words of a very different character, a twelve year old girl named Moth.

Wayne Johnston's humour and Newfoundland roots were evident as he talked about his writing journey and his latest book, A World Elsewhere. Set in Manhattan and Rhode Island during the late nineteenth century, Johnston was inspired to write the book after a series of extended visits to George Vanderbilt's estate. Although Johnston draws upon the historical existence of the Vanderbilt family, A World Elsewhere is fiction.

Anita Rau Badami is one of my favourite authors. I have read many of her books and enjoyed listening to her read from her latest, Tell it to the Trees. She was inspired to write the book after visiting an Indian family in a small, isolated town in Northern British Columbia. There was tension in the home and one of rumours about the family stayed with Badami. Apparently, the older woman had locked her husband out during a cold winter night, and he had frozen to death. In Tell it to the Trees, the story begins with the discovery of a tenant's frozen body in the backyard of the Dharma family's isolated home.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Comforting Prayer

I found the following prayer in the December issue of Oprah.

Enjoy!

May today there be peace within.

May you trust God that
you are exactly where you are 
meant to be.

May you not forget the infinite
possibilities that are born of faith.

May you use those gifts that
you have received,
and pass on the love that has
been given to you.

May you be content knowing
you are a child of God.

Let this presence settle into
your bones and allow
your soul the freedom to sing,
dance, praise and love.

It is there for each and every
one of us.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

And Also Sharks

Last night, I visited another book club. This time, I was in for a special treat. Jessica Westhead, the author of And Also Sharks was also in attendance. Catalina Novoa, bookseller at The Bookshelf, had invited Jessica to the November meeting.

Nine of us listened as Jessica read from the title story. One of the ladies commented that Jessica's speaking voice and writing voice were one and the same. We all agreed. She brought the book to life and then proceeded to share her motivation for some of the stories in the collection.

While riding her bicycle in Toronto, she thought about shoplifting and wondered how she could take it to a whole new level. The result is "Coconut," In this piece, the protagonist progresses from shoplifting to abducting a baby from a stroller on a city sidewalk.

Jessica spoke at length about "Plant Lady." While working overtime at an earlier job, Jessica met a plant lady who reprimanded her for forgetting her name.

She based "The Healing Arts" on an actual encounter with a belligerent photographer at one of her husband's early photo shoots. There was no violence, but the incident stayed with her and she decided to stretch the drama in this short story.

The main characters in her stories can be considered misfits, outsiders or losers. Such characters are often disliked by their co-workers and experience discomfort in their long-term personal relationships. As I read through the stories, I found myself laughing at their quirks and, a few pages later, grieving or feeling embarrassed for them.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Tower Heist

LOL throughout the entire movie.

While the movie is based on the antics of Bernie Madoff, it is not a serious drama. Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy are comedic actors who deliver outstanding performances. Stiller plays the part of building manager Josh and Murphy is a local hoodlum Slide. Alan Alda captures the callousness of generic scammer, Arthur Shaw.

Parts of the movie are  farcical giving new meaning to the expression "a willing suspension of disbelief."

I recommend this movie--you will leave with a smile on your face.

Watch the trailer.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Liona Boyd in Guelph

Last night, I attended a Liona Boyd concert at the Village by the Arboretum. While it was described as a dress rehearsal or preview of her Ontario tour, we all enjoyed listening to the First Lady of Guitar sing, play and talk about her life.

We were surprised to learn that she had been diagnosed with Task Specific Focal Dystonia--an incurable neurological disease--in 2003. Years of repetitive guitar movements had caused her brain maps for the right hand fingers to lose their clarity. When she realize she could no longer perform to her own high standards, she left the concert stage. Needing an outlet for her creativity, she took up singing and began songwriting in 2004. Through retraining, she was able to pick up the guitar again. She is back on the concert stage and,with an accompanying guitarist, delighting her many fans with her performances.

Listen to her beautiful voice.

Friday, November 4, 2011

A Fireside Chat with Edeet Ravel

Last night, I joined about twenty people gathered around Edeet Ravel, the first author in the Guelph Public Library's Fireside Chat series.

Born in Israel and raised in Montreal, Edeet now makes Guelph her home. Her background is an impressive one: a PhD in Jewish Studies and a Masters in Creative Writing. Her teaching career spanned twenty years; she taught at McGill, Concordia and John Abbott College.

We were all fascinated by her writing journey. While she has been writing since age twelve, she did not submit her work until her forties. After writing 10,000 Lovers, she spent one hour on the Internet looking for U.K. publishing houses. She addressed twenty different envelopes and enclosed the first five pages of her novel in each one. She did not include a query letter or SASE. One editor responded, asking her to send her novel as an attachment. Two weeks later, the editor made an offer. In the past ten years, Edeet has released ten more books. Many of those books had been written previously; she edited and revamped them after 10,000 Lovers was released.

Edeet shared many tips and tidbits about the world of writing...
  • In Canada, small presses are supported by the Canada Council. They cannot take money from writers, and they are expected to publish seven books a year. 
  • You can send a manuscript to a Canadian publishing house--large and small--without an agent. Edeet does not recommend sending manuscripts to American agents.
  • Edeet relies on her own professional editor. She believes it is important to have get feedback from many readers and to ensure that the final draft is a polished one.
  • You must be excited about your book and want to work on it all the time. If not, give yourself permission to find another topic.
  • Do not be afraid to press Delete. When Edeet rewrote one of her books as Young Adult, only one sentence of the original book survived.
  • Self-published books are expensive and are not eligible for any prizes. Edeet recommends a traditional publisher.
  • Ambition is a big part of making it in the literary world. Publishing houses, especially small ones, expect you to handle your own promotion. How well you do depends upon your energy level, financial investment and motivation.
  • We are now in a male era. Books written by men are doing better than those written by women.
  • Novellas are very popular now.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Published in Spanish

As I was surfing the Internet, I discovered two of my articles had been translated into Spanish.

Check out the following articles: Como Preparar un Curriculum Tecnico and Como Tratar el Prurito Invernal.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dinner with Writers Ink

Last night, four of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant for our monthly dinner meeting. The conversation varied as we discussed literary agents, query letters, social networking, and NaNoWrMo.

I left inspired to continue writing and sending out more query letters.

Visit the blog for Writers Ink.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wellness Care not Sick Care for Baby Boomers

Brampton based chiropractor, Justine Blainey-Broker, delivered a high-energy presentation at the Better Living Boomer Show. She is enthusiastic and passionate about helping us become healthy and independent centenarians.

While I had heard some of the suggestions before, I found the following tips and statistics very interesting:
  • Each year, there are 7.5 million unnecessary surgeries in North America.
  • 75% of major illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer's are preventable if we make appropriate lifestyle changes.
  • In addition to a good quality multivitamin and essential oils, Dr. Blainey recommends we take the following: Vitamins C and D3, Calcium/Magnesium, CoQ10, and Glucosamine.
  • CoQ10 (Coenzyme Q10) helps with memory and stress. It can also delay the onset of Parkinson's Disease.
  • Buy grain-fed or free-range chicken and turkey.
  • If you do not get all your vegetable servings, consider using a juicer to make delicious juices. She recommended a combination of kale, banana and mango.
  • Arthritis is not a function of age. It is due mainly to lack of maintenance. Like cars, our bodies need to be driven and have regular maintenance checks. 
  • One in two women and one in eight men will suffer an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lives.
  • Be careful when taking anti-inflammatory medications. They can cause health problems with the gastro-intestinal system, liver and kidneys.

Monday, October 31, 2011

All About Bedroom Makeovers

Rebecca Webster and Dvira Ovadia from CityTV's Downright Domestic lifestyle show provided us with an impressive 30-minute bedroom makeover at the International Home Show. They went through the following ten steps:
  1. Wardrobe--A portable closet is a good solution for anyone who needs extra storage for clothing. It can be easily assembled and placed in a dorm room, cottage or master bedroom.
  2. Rug--Use an accent rug to warm up the room. Do not be afraid to put these rugs on top of wall-to-wall carpeting.
  3. Storage--Place a storage trunk or bench at the foot of the bed. Toss in extra pillows and clothes.
  4. Headboard--Upholster or create your own headboard. Think outside the box, especially in a child's room. At the show, Dvira and Rebecca drew in a headboard on a blackboard behind the bed. Two Euro pillows can also act as a headboard and anchor your bed.
  5. Bedding--This is a quick way to update any bedroom. Dvira highly recommends bedding-in-a-bag, which is inexpensive and comes with a pre-determined colour scheme. At the show, she used mauve bed sheets to pop up the neutral tone of the duvet cover. She added lots of pillows in pop colours. She advised: no more than two pop colours.
  6. Baskets--Scatter baskets and bins throughout the room. Toss in books, toys, and other knickknacks. 
  7. Chair--Dvira transformed a Parson chair using a slip cover. These covers come in all sizes and covers and help renew old furniture pieces.
  8. Accessories--These help personalize your space and make it feel fresh and innovative. Dvira suggested that we pair these items and position them throughout the room. Remember to add flowers. Check out Home Sense for ideas.
  9. Art--Do not neglect the walls. When the walls are bare, the room is not finished. Use original art or prints. If you have a large wall, pair up the prints. Make sure that the frames match.
  10. Lighting--Extra lamps will highlight the design. Dvira added a set of lamp shades on the night tables.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Triple Treat

I spent a jam-packed afternoon at the International Centre in Mississauga. Over 500 exhibitors showcased their products and services for three consumer shows: The International Home Show, the Interior Decorating Show, and the Better Living Boomer Show. I visited many of the booths and found myself contemplating a number of purchases--everything from delicious, low-fat apple straws to high-end patio furniture.I bought the apple straws and took pictures of the patio furniture.

I also found time to listen to a couple of entertaining and informative presentations: 10 Steps to a Bedroom Makeover and Wellness Care not Sick Care for Baby Boomers.

In the spring, I will make a point of going earlier in the day. I also discovered that Re-Admission slips are available at the cashiers. This slip allows you to re-enter the show on another day, free of charge.


Sixty-seven inches across--enough stretching room for me!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Still Alice


I accepted an invitation to another book club. Yesterday evening, I enjoyed meeting with the six other ladies in the Green Room at the Bookshelf Cafe.

While it had been a while since I read Still Alice, the storyline stayed with me. 

Alice Howland, a Harvard professor of linguistics, is having trouble remembering words and where she left certain items. At first, she dismisses these lapses, but she cannot ignore the situation when she forgets how to get home after her jog one fateful morning. She makes an appointment with a neurologist, who diagnoses her with Early Onset Alzheimer's Disease.

The book chronicles Alice's demise and her family's reaction as they struggle toward acceptance. While a few of the other book club members disapproved of  her husband's behaviour and some of his decisions, I could understand his rationale. John Howland knew his limitations and realized he couldn't handle the rapid progression of Alice's illness. That is typical of most families facing this frightening diagnosis and the aftermath. Each family member will react and respond differently. Not everyone can assume the role of primary caregiver.

I was inspired by Lisa Genova's story. After graduating with a Ph.D in neuroscience, her eighty-five-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. As Genova visited with her grandmother, she became fascinated with the progression of the illness. She wondered what it would be like when parts of the brain stopped functioning. She decided to meet people with Alzheimer's in the early stages, people who could still describe what it was like to have dementia. Their stories helped Lisa Genova create this compelling novel.

I highly recommend this book. All of us have been or will be impacted, in some way, by Alzheimer's Disease.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eternal on the Water


Last evening, a few of us met at the East Side branch of the Guelph Public Library to talk about Joseph Monninger's book, Eternal on the Water.

We all enjoyed reading this book which is similar to The Notebook by Nicholas Spark and one of my favourite movies, Love Story.

The theme is a familiar one: a woman dies too young and leaves behind a devastated soul mate. As the main characters, Mary Fury and Jonathon Cobb fall in love, they approach life with a sense of adventure. Their travels take them from the rugged wilderness of Maine to the exotic islands of Indonesia, Yellowstone National Park and Muir Woods.

While the first half of the book moves slowly, the pace picks up towards the end. The last chapter is a tear-jerker.

A great read...we're hoping someone will buy the film rights.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beating the Cold and Flu Season

Yesterday evening, I enjoyed the short but informative presentation delivered by naturopath Krista Vetter at the Westminster Branch of the Guelph Public Library.

She provided us with many easy-to-implement strategies for surviving the coming cold and flu season. While I had heard some of the suggestions before, I found the following tips and statistics very interesting:
  • Try the following stressbuster: Practice deep abdominal breathing for at least five minutes, two to three times daily.
  • Studies have shown that the time between 12 midnight and 5 a.m. is critical for effective, regenerative sleep.
  • A study published in Pediatrics found that children who took a specific strain of probiotics for six months had 72% less fevers, 62% less coughs, 58% less rhinorrhea, and 48% less duration of acquired illness. They also required 84% less antibiotics and were absent from group childcare settings 27% less than children who had not taken the probiotics.
  • When asked about specific probiotics, Krista recommended the SISU brand name, available at Zehrs and health food stores.
  • Zinc, vitamins A and C, thymus and mushroom extracts are all beneficial for boosting the immune system.
  • Krista highly recommends astralagus, an adaptagen, which helps the body adapt to internal and external stress. It can be taken on a long-term basis throughout the fall and winter to help prevent viral and bacterial illness.
  • She recommends the herbs, Echninachea, Goldenseal, Berberine and Oregano, to help combat acute illness on a short-term basis.
  • When asked about the flu shot, she commented that its risks are higher than its benefits. She reiterated that she is more interested in helping people build up their immune systems.
When you catch a cold...
  • Avoid dairy and citrus products. Both increase mucous production in the body.
  • Take a hot bath while drinking hot herbal tea to help sweat it out.
  • Take three drops of oil of oregano three times a day.
  • A neti pot and saline drops can help to decrease congestion.
  • Take megadoses of Vitamin C.
 Like other naturopaths, she highly recommends the Warming Sock Treatment. She calls it the magic sock treatment and uses it with babies and young children.Put a pair of cotton socks under cold water until soaking wet, ring out and climb onto bed, put socks on feet and cover with an extra pair of wools socks. Do not get out of bed until socks are dry in the morning.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Yoga

I signed up for Sunday evenings with yogini Erik Hay.

I enjoy the 90-minute classes and leave feeling calm and centered.

Namaste

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Revisiting Jeremy Tracey

Last evening, I drove to the Grand River branch of the Kitchener Public Library to hear Jeremy Tracey speak on Creating Change.

He based his very entertaining and interactive presentation on the five logic levels associated with NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming):

Level 1--Environment

Does your environment support the changes you want to make in your life? There was some discussion about friends, co-workers and family members who may not be too supportive. Jeremy shared one of his own experiences while working in Alberta. At that time, he was taking personal growth and development courses in the evening. During the day, he attempted to share his new knowledge about improving his lifestyle. While his co-workers were not receptive, his boss took him aside and commented: "It is very difficult to soar like an eagle when you are surrounded by turkeys."

Level 2--Action

Do your actions support your goal? Your actions express your priorities. If these actions are not congruent with your values, there needs to be a shift. Any negative comments about high achievers will block you from moving forward.

Level 3--Skills and Abilities

Do you have the necessary skills and abilities needed to move forward with your goals? If not, obtain these skills by hiring a coach, taking a course or reading an appropriate book.

Level 4--Beliefs

Do you believe in your goals? Jeremy referred to Robin Sharma, the author of The Leader Who Had No Title, who said, "Your beliefs are nothing more than thoughts you've repeated over and over again until they become self-fulfilling truths." Jeremy urged us to squash ANTS (automatic negative thoughts) by writing down the polar opposite and repeating it to ourselves. For example, "I don't have the time" could become "I have plenty of time to complete all my tasks." Great quote--"Let positive affirmations bathe your brain."

Level 5--Identity

What is your identity? Does it help or hinder the changes you want to make? This level is the most powerful one and can impact all preceding levels. According to Jeremy, it may be necessary to shift your identity before you can move forward.

Bonus Logic Level--Higher Purpose

What is the emotional payoff you will gain by reaching a particular goal? When you can find your "Why" you will find your "Way." Your higher purpose will drive you to make the necessary changes to get all the other levels in place.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Published

My article, "Growing More Brain on a Budget," appears in today's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

Read the article.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sundays for Writers

This afternoon, I joined Cindy Carroll and a few other members of Guelph Write Now and Writers Ink at Lucie's Bakery in south Guelph.

We discussed our respective writing journeys and shared loglines, pitches and query letters for our upcoming books.

We also enjoyed the delicious coffee, tea, bagels and wraps.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Ides of March

This movie is definitely George Clooney's baby. He is the director, producer and screenwriter. He also stars in the movie as Governor Mike Morris, one of the presidential candidates for the Democratic party. He is joined by Ryan Gosling who plays the part of Stephen Myers, the up-and-coming campaign press secretary.

The movie covers the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary. Idealistic Stephen Myers receives a crash course in dirty politics after accepting an invitation. Along the way, he also discovers a  personal secret that could jeopardize the entire campaign.

This political thriller is worth seeing. Watch the trailer.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Special Author Evening

Yesterday evening, I enjoyed listening to three best-selling authors--Linwood Barclay, Maureen Jennings, Peter Robinson--read at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library.

I was impressed by their storytelling abilities and, of course, their exceptional talent. Barclay and Robinson spoke about their early experiences on book tours, regaling us with some of their more embarrassing moments. Barclay read from The Accident; Jennings read from Season of Darkness; and Robinson read from Before the Poison.

Later, the authors commented on the following statement:  

Women are flocking from romance fiction to crime fiction.

Barclay believes that crime novels are plot driven, which contributes to their success and popularity. Jennings believes that crime novels are popular because their authors like to tie up all the loose ends and achieve closure. According to Robinson, crime writers are the best storytellers and know how to spin out the suspense.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

All About Horror

Last evening, I attended the Inspiring Screams: Horror Writing workshop at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library.

Writer and teacher Erik Mortenson provided two hours chock full of advice about the horror genre. While this is not my genre, or even one I would consider, I welcomed many of his suggestions and will try to incorporate them into my writing.

Food for thought...
  • Fear inspires the most action. 
  • Write about what scares you the most.
  • Effective horror stories gets under people's skins.
  • The unknown makes us feel uncomfortable.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Oktoberfest

Magda and I went to our first Oktoberfest.

The weather co-operated and record crowds were out in downtown Kitchener.

Friday, October 7, 2011

More about Steve Jobs

Author Carmine Gallo appeared on tonight's 20/20 to talk about the seven secrets to Steve Jobs' success.
  1. Do what you love. Don't settle. According to Jobs, passion is everything.
  2. Put a dent into the universe. Have a clear and concise vision of what you want to accomplish. You should be able to express it in less than 140 characters.
  3. Say No to 1000 things. Focus and reduce the clutter in your life.
  4. Kick-start your brain. When you try something new or change your routine, you increase the number of connections in your brain.
  5. Sell dreams not products.
  6. Create insanely great experiences.
  7. Master the message.
Watch the trailer.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Farewell to Steve Jobs

    I was saddened by the news.

    One of the most innovative leaders of our time died yesterday. His legacy is a far-reaching one, inspiring young and old alike to follow their dreams.In addition to changing our lives with innovative products, he has also left us many memorable words. Many parts of his commencement address to the class of 2005 at Sanford University have been quoted throughout the years.

    My favourite quotes...
    • Stay hungry, stay foolish.
    • Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.
    • You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
    • Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life.
    • Death is very likely the single best invention of life. It clears out the old to make way for the new.
    • You have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
    • I want to put a ding in the universe.
    Listen to Steve Jobs.

    Wednesday, October 5, 2011

    Dinner with Writers Ink

    Seven of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant to discuss our respective writing journeys and enjoy the wonderful food.

    I am interested to hear about the challenges faced by writers at different stages of the process. Some members are writing their first short story while others are trying to find agents.

    The conversation is a lively one and I leave inspired to continue writing.

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Published

    My book review of The Lost Deaf Children and Other Stories appears in today's Waterloo Record and Guelph Mercury.

    Read the review.

    Thursday, September 29, 2011

    Cutting for Stone


    I couldn't put this book down. Nor could the other members of the GPL book club.

    Author Abraham Verghese has undertaken a novel that is very broad and ambitious in scope. It sweeps from Asia, to Africa, to America, with the major parts in Ethiopia.

    It is the story of a brilliant surgeon and a Roman Catholic nun who give birth to twin sons, Marion and Shiva. Sister Mary Joseph Praise dies in childbirth and Dr. Thomas Stone abandons the children, leaving them to his colleagues to raise. An unlikely family is formed, giving new  meaning to the expression, "It takes a village to raise a child."

    Verghese weaves all the familiar themes--love, lust, betrayal, hope, commitment, dreams--into this compelling book.

    Wednesday, September 28, 2011

    Medical Benefits of Yoga

     A couple of years ago, I had a regular yoga practice. I felt myself becoming more limber and flexible with each passing day. Unfortunately, I have practiced less and less, especially during the past three months. When I heard about Tuesday's talk on the "Medical Benefits of Yoga" at the Guelph Public Library, I decided to attend.

    I was not disappointed.

    Dr. Alexander Audette delivered an interesting and informative presentation. He discussed the many benefits of yoga, which he considers the "finest therapeutic exercise in existence."

    Some interesting notes...
    •  The inversions regulate blood flood, increase metabolism and improve hypothalamic function. I also learned that the shoulder stand and "legs up the wall" are excellent poses for anyone with hypothyroidism. 
    • The balancing poses increase strength and cerebelar activity. I have the greatest difficulty with these poses, but am determined to master them.
    • Yoga poses should be held for five breaths (about 20 seconds). 
    • The Jala-Neti cleansing technique provides nasal irrigation--a help to anyone suffering from sinus problems and allergies.
    • Hot yoga is not a good idea for anyone who is not young and fit. Most of us are not acclimatized to the warmer temperatures and can experience problems when we lose electrolytes. 
    • Drink coconut water to replace the loss of electrolytes.
    • Once a week is not enough. Dr. Audette recommends three to four yoga sessions a week. He practices each day for 90 minutes.
    • Dr. Audette learned yoga from a book. He followed the 300-week course in Light on Yoga. He recommends Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health for beginners. Both books are written by Iyengar.
    • Final note--"Yoga poses should be mildly uncomfortable."
    I was inspired--next week I'll start up again!

      Tuesday, September 27, 2011

      Published

      My article, "A Money-Free Day," appeared in yesterday's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

      The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

      Read the article.

      Monday, September 26, 2011

      Word on the Street

      In the past, I have attended Word on the Street in Toronto. This year, I decided to cut back on the driving and go to Kitchener instead.

      I was not disappointed.

      In fact, I found the whole experience a pleasant and enjoyable one. In Kitchener, Word on the Street takes place in the heart of the city at Victoria Park. The tents and displays are well positioned and allow the visitors ample room and opportunity to travel between them.

      I spent most of my time in the CTV Authors Tent. I enjoyed listening to the following four authors:

      While I had read about the Hamilton doctor who wrote novels, this was my first opportunity to hear Ross Pennie read from three of his books. The specialist in infectious diseases gets up at 6:00 a.m. each day and writes for two hours. This is his "Me" time.  He writes 400 words a day and then heads to the hospital. He read from his memoir, The Unforgiving Tides, and two of his novels, Tainted and Tampered.

      I was impressed by Sarita Mandanna, the young woman who wrote Tiger Hills. Her debut novel has been described as the the Indian Gone with the Wind  crossed with The Thornbirds. I enjoyed hearing about her journey as a writer. While working as a private equity investor in New York, she wrote between the hours of 11:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m. It took her five years to write this epic novel based in Coorg, the Scotland of India.

      Trevor Cole is an entertaining speaker. The former radio copywriter and journalist, read from his novel, Practical Jean. He likes to likes to shine a light on dark subjects; in this case, he wrote about a well-intentioned murderess who targets her friends.

      Iain Reid is an new writer. In One Bird's Choice, he writes about food, family and growing up. In his late twenties, Reid returned to his parents' house. A temporary arrangement stretched into one year. In this memoir, he pokes fun at his parents and his new lifestyle.

      While visiting the other displays, I stopped at the Human Library Tent. The Kitchener Public Library featured a group of  real people who volunteered to share their stories. I spent some time visiting with the professional astrologer.

      Friday, September 23, 2011

      All About Emotional Eating

       Last night, I drove to the Country Hills branch of the Kitchener Public Library to hear holistic lifestyle coach, Jeremy Tracey, talk about emotional eating. The workshop was entitled "What's Eating You?"

      While I had heard much of the information before, I enjoyed listening to Jeremy's anecdotes and advice.

      Some of his tips...
      • Anyone who consumes large amounts of sugar--baked goods, soft drinks--probably has "sugar bugs" and needs a cleanse.
      • Drink more water. To find out how many ounces you need each day, divide your weight by two. For example, a woman who weighs 120 pounds needs 60 ounces of water--between seven  and eight glasses--a day.
      • Experiment with different foods. The average person eats only eight different foods.
      • Try the following mindful eating exercise. Put down your fork or spoon after each bite and chew the food completely.
      • Journal. Jeremy recommends we ask ourselves the following questions while journaling: What do you want to eat? Why do you want to eat it? How does it make you feel an hour later? 
      • Try Tai Chi. The gentle movements help the body release energy.
      Jeremy highly recommends the following books...

      Your Body's Many Cries for Water by F. Batmangheldj
      Healthy at 100 by John Robbins
      How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy by Paul Chek

      Thursday, September 22, 2011

      Advice from Douglas Smith

      He certainly delivered...two full hours of advice regarding short stories.

      Doug has sold 150 pieces of short fiction in 30 different countries. While he writes mainly science fiction, horror and fantasy, I picked up many tips about writing and selling my work. I was especially interested in his advice regarding foreign markets.  He has sold second rights to many of his pieces previously published in English. And the foreign country takes care of the translation. He makes it sound so easy, the mark of a consummate professional.

      I found it interesting that he never revises his work. If a piece doesn't sell, he keeps sending it out. His main advice: "Always have faith in your work. Find a good home, preferably one that pays professional rates (at least 5 cents a word).

      Visit Doug's website.

      Tuesday, September 20, 2011

      Boosting the Immune System

      Kitchener based naturopath, Dr. Michael Reid, has a thriving practice in the KW region and sees many clients who are not satisfied with conventional medicine. He commented that one out of every four clients has a medical doctor who will only treat one complaint at a time.

      Some interesting notes from last night's seminar at Grand River Library in Kitchener.
      • One teaspoon of sugar can depress the immune system by 50% for 24 hours. Substitute natural sugars such as honey or stevia.
      •  If you eat baked goods on a regular basis, you will will be more susceptible to germs and bacteria.
      • Eastern medicine recommends that we eat vegetables according to the seasons.  In the summer, we should be eating leafy greens and raw vegetables. In the winter, we should switch to root vegetables.
      • Treat adrenal fatigue with herbs, glandulars, and vitamins. Be aware that it may take anywhere for six months to two years to improve immune function.
      • At the very minimum, take Vitamins C and D and zinc.
      • To get rid of congestion, try the Warming Sock remedy. Dr. Reid swears by it. Soak a pair of cotton socks in cold water. Wring out all the water and put them on before you go to the bed. Cover them with a wool pair of socks. By the morning, the socks will be dry and your congestion will be gone.

      Sunday, September 18, 2011

      Visiting Eden Mills

      The weather cooperated and I felt inspired by the readings at the Eden Mills Writers' Festival. I especially enjoyed listening to  the following Canadian authors:

      While it wasn't the first time I heard Nino Ricci read, I still find him awe-inspiring. He read from the 20th anniversary edition of Lives of the Saints.

      Sylvia Tyson is the consummate performer. She delivered a well-choreographed reading from her book, Joyner's Dream, interspersed with a few of her songs. Definitely a class act!

      Johanna Skibsrud used this opportunity to launch her latest book, This Will be Difficult to Explain and Other Stories. While I didn't particularly like The Sentimentalists, I enjoyed listening to a short story from this collection. I will make a point of picking up her book.

      Hal NIedzviecki was a pleasant surprise. The Toronto writer read a short story based on a road trip he had taken with his parents.

      Wednesday, September 7, 2011

      Dinner with Writers Ink

      Last evening, five of us gathered at Symposium Restaurant for our monthly dinner meeting. The conversation was stimulating and we covered a wide range of topics--everything from editing to metaphysics. I enjoyed listening to Matt, a young writer, who read from his novel.

      I came away inspired and ready to resume my writing.

      Sunday, September 4, 2011

      The Debt

      Every secret comes with a price.

      This was clearly evident in the new thriller/political drama directed by John Madden. It was an exciting movie, full of crises and dramatic turns. I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat for most of the time.

      Helen Mirren delivers a spectacular performance as Rachel Singer, a former Mossad agent and Israeli national hero. She is restrained and obviously burdened by her past. Jessica Chastain delivers an equally compelling performance as the younger Rachel.

      The movie straddles two timelines: Israel in 1997 and East Berlin in 1965. Rachel teams up with fellow agents David (Sam Worthington) and Stefan (Marton Csokas) to track down Dieter Vogel (Jesper Christensen) a  Nazi war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkenau. The agents trap Vogel and plan to smuggle him out of Berlin to stand trial in Israel. All that changes on a fateful New Year's Eve and the agents make a decision that changes their lives forever.

      Definitely a must-see movie--you will rethink your definition of a hero.

      Watch the trailer.

      Wednesday, August 31, 2011

      Dinner with Guelph Write Now

      Last evening, I met with Cindy Carroll and seven other members of Guelph Write Now. The group is celebrating its second anniversary as a writing group.

      The conversation was lively and we covered many topics as we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Symposium Restaurant.

      Tuesday, August 30, 2011

      Published

      My book review of Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World by Lisa Bloom appears in today's edition of The Globe and Mail.

      Read the review.

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      The Tree of Life

      This film is unlike any other film I have seen. Even after discussing it afterward with a good friend, I am still not clear about some of its elements. It probably warrants a second viewing, but I think I will wait awhile.

      The film meanders around the subconscious of one character, who grows up to be Sean Penn. On the anniversary of his brother's death, he flashes back to his childhood in Waco, Texas.

      Watch the trailer.

      Sunday, August 28, 2011

      Revisiting Brian Henry

      Five years ago, I attended a few of Brian Henry's workshops. Yesterday, I drove to Woodstock for his workshop entitled, "How to Get Published." It was informative and interesting, definitely worth the drive.

      During the day-long workshop, Brian gave us many valuable insights and tips on getting published. Here a few of them:
      • To get published, you need any two of the following: good writing, luck or persistence.
      • Start small and write short stories, book reviews, and articles for online and print markets. 
      • Good writing involves endless rewriting.
      • While you can send your work directly to a publishing house, it is preferable to get an agent. Your manuscript will be taken more seriously.
      I enjoyed the hands-on sessions where we shared our query letters and story openings.I appreciated Brian's critique and will redo my letter.

      Brian will be facilitating this workshop in Guelph on Saturday, September 17th. Visit his blog for more details about all his workshops and courses.

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      Published

      My article, "Mastering the Art of Haggling," appears in today's edition of The Dollar Stretcher.

      The Dollar Stretcher is a group of publications dedicated to helping readers save time and money.

      Read the article.

      Sunday, August 21, 2011

      One Day

      I chose to ignore the critics and watch this movie.

      I was not disappointed.

      The movie traces the life of two protagonists, Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) over a 20-year period. After spending time together on the night of their college graduation, they agree to keep in touch on July 15th (St. Swithin's Day).

      The film alternates between England and France as Emma and Dexter have their career and relationship ups-and-downs. While Anne Hathaway's British accent was a bit contrived, she delivers an excellent performance as the bright and quirky Emma.

      The ending is unexpected. Bring Kleenex.

      Watch the trailer.

      Saturday, August 20, 2011

      Published

      My book review of Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West by Dorothy Wickenden appears in today's Guelph Mercury and Waterloo Record.

      Read the review.

      Saturday, August 13, 2011

      The Help

      It is definitely the best movie of the summer, possibly of the year.

      Based in Jackson, Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, The Help focuses on two black maids and the privileged white woman who sets them free. It closely follows the sensational bestseller (of the same name) written by Kathryn Stockett. The book was on the New York Bestseller List for 120 weeks.

      Four of the actresses could easily be contenders for the 2012 Oscars. Emma Stone captures the courage and passionate spirit of Skeeter, the young, educated white woman who is determined to expose the lives of colored maids. Viola Davis delivers a spectacular performance as Aibileen and Octavia Spencer plays the outspoken Minny. Bryce Dallas Howard plays the part of Hilly Hillbrook, the "godless" woman who is leader of the Junior League.

      On the lighter side...strains of bathroom humour run throughout the movie.

      When I read the book a few months ago, I couldn't put it down. This morning, I am still thinking about the movie I saw yesterday.

      I highly recommend the book and the movie.

      Watch the trailer.

      Friday, August 12, 2011

      Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

      Last night, I joined a few other women of the GPL book club at the Red Papaya restaurant in downtown Guelph. We gathered to eat and enjoy Thai food and discuss Helen Simonson's novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand.

      It was unanimous--we all enjoyed the book.

      It is a well-written debut novel based in Edgecombe St. Mary, a small village in the English countryside. Retired Major Pettigrew strikes up an unlikely friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani village shopkeeper. Brought together by a shared love of literature and the loss of their respective spouses, the Major and Mrs. Ali fall in love. They encounter  a number of subtle and not-so-subtle racist attitudes among their friends and relatives.

      I agree with one of the reviews that described the Major as "the perfect romantic hero for thinking women of a certain age."


      Thursday, August 4, 2011

      Published

      Today, I received the July issue of More of Our Canada.  My article, "A Little Maritime Healing," appears on pages 30 to 31 along with four pictures from my latest trip to Nova Scotia.

      I am including the first paragraph of my article:

      I finally made the connection: I am at my happiest and healthiest whenever I return from the eastern shores of Canada, and shortly after returning, I make my best decisions. I am convinced that some kind of magical spell has been cast over the landscapes and seascapes that make up Canada's Atlantic provinces.
         

      Sunday, July 24, 2011

      Friends With Benefits

      Very light summer fare.

      Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis have great on-screen chemistry as Dylan and Jamie in this raunchy romantic comedy. The plot centers around these two principal characters who have decided that long-term relationships are problematic and a waste of time. Instead, they opt for sex without baggage. Complications arise as the film alternates between New York and Los Angeles.

      Patricia Clarkson and Woody Harrelson provide comic effect with their supporting roles as Jamie's hippie mom and Dylan's unlikely mentor. Note: Harrelson plays the part of a gay sports editor.

      Less than two hours in length, the film moves quickly.

      Watch the trailer.

      Wednesday, July 20, 2011

      Inspired by Derek Foster

      Last evening, I joined a large group of Guelphites who had gathered at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library. We all hoped to glean valuable knowledge and advice from Derek Foster, one of Canada's youngest millionaires.

      This dynamic young man spent his twenties travelling around Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Asia. During that time he continually invested and, one day, he realized his investments had made him a millionaire. He retired at age 34 and wrote a number of national bestselling books about investing.

      In the hour-long presentation, he shared many of his strategies with us.
      • Do not invest in any stocks dependent upon the economy. For example, airlines and RIM. 
      • Select simple, recession proof stocks. Look for products that are used daily and dominated by few players. For example, Crest and Colgate are two dominant players in the toothpaste industry. 
      • Buy stocks that pay dividends.
      • Use a discount broker.
      • In his latest book, The Idiot Millionaire, Derek recommends over 40 stocks. 

        Thursday, July 14, 2011

        The Art of Racing in the Rain

        I love the summer book clubs. We meet at different restaurants in Guelph and discuss the month's selections over drinks and wonderful meals.

        Earlier this evening, ten of us gathered at the Red Papaya restaurant in downtown Guelph. After ordering a variety of Thai dishes, we discussed Garth Stein's entertaining novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain.

        We all agreed that the book is a delightful and uplifting read. It is a story of family, love, loyalty and hope told from the perspective of Enzo, the philosopher dog.  On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life and recalls all the experiences of the Swift family.

        I was very impressed with how Stein incorporated symbolism into the novel. He related the art of race car driving to living life with its many ups and downs.

        A great summer read for dog lovers and wannabe dog lovers of all ages.

        Wednesday, July 6, 2011

        Dinner with Writers Ink

        Last night, our group was a very small one. We discussed our respective writing journeys and plans for the future.

        We were all glad to hear that Dennis Fitter has completed the first draft of his novel and will be polishing it up in Mexico this summer. We look forward to hearing more about the editing and publishing process.

        As usual, the food was wonderful and we left inspired to continue writing.

        Saturday, July 2, 2011

        Larry Crowne

        I chose to ignore the critics who lambasted this movie in the reviews. I shook my head when I read Peter Howell's review in yesterday's Toronto Star. I do not agree with the following description:  "It's a movie of unbelievable characters, fake emotions and unearned resolutions, cynically pitched as a summer feel-good flick about coping with unemployment."

        When summer rolls around, I enjoy watching light, funny and feel-good movies. Larry Crowne delivers on all counts. The movie touches on many timely themes--unemployment, foreclosure of homes, and new beginnings. Unlike recent movies dealing with similar issues, Larry Crowne provides an uplifting and optimistic message.

        Tom Hanks plays the part of Larry Crowne, a 50something store employee who deals with his downsizing by returning to school. His teacher is played by Julia Roberts. Although the storyline is a predictable one, there are many humorous asides along the way.

        Watch the trailer.

        Thursday, June 30, 2011

        Book Club Night


        A few of us gathered at the East End branch to discuss this month's selection, The Book Thief. It was a different kind of book, one that I would not have picked up. Classified as Young Adult, it appeals to readers of all ages.

        Set in Nazi Germany, the book is narrated by Death, who tells the story of Liesel Meminger, her foster family and friends. A bit disconcerting at first, but I adapted to Death's voice. At times, he appeared almost human. I could easily visualize him holding souls in his hands and interacting with the newly dead.

        Unlike many other books of that period, the story is told from the German perspective. We see glimpses of the horror and bleakness of those days. But we also see many sparks of compassion and humanity among the poor German people living on Himmel Street in a small town outside of Munich.

        Liesel, the protagonist of the novel, has a growing need for books and resorts to stealing them. Illiterate at first, she learns to read and later starts writing, using a strong, powerful voice.

        Wednesday, June 29, 2011

        Thyroid Information

        Last evening, I attended a lecture at Country Hills Library in west Kitchener. The back lecture room was filled with over 50 men and women from the Guelph/KW area. Most of us are experiencing thyroid issues.

        Endocrinologist Dr. Terri Paul presented an informative and interesting talk on thyroid cancer. She discussed the different types of cancers and risk factors. She calmly assured us that dental x-rays and mammograms do not give enough radiation exposure to cause cancer. Also, the risk of dying from thyroid cancer is very low.

        Some interesting facts and statistics...
        • In 2011, 5700 new cases of thyroid cancer will be reported in Canada.
        • Ontario and New Brunswick are thyroid cancer hot spots. According to Dr. Paul, there is no apparent reason for this trend.
        • There has been a definite increase in thyroid cancer between 1993 and 2007. Among women aged 20 to 39, there has been a 10 percent increase. Dr. Paul attributes this increase to better imaging studies and CT scans.
        • Thyroid cancer is more common in males.
        Thanks to the Canadian Thyroid Foundation for organizing this event.

        Saturday, June 25, 2011

        Midnight in Paris

        I enjoyed watching this adult relationship drama.

        Owen Wilson plays the part of Gil Pender, a writer who is experiencing pre-wedding jitters. Director Woody Allen uses creative license to send him back to the Golden Age (1920s). There, he meets up with such literary and artistic greats as Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Kathy Bates delivers an outstanding performance as Stein. Carla Bruni appears briefly as a tour guide.

        While the film deals with the past as a real place, it gently underscores the limits of nostalgia.

        Watch the trailer.

        Thursday, June 23, 2011

        The Sound of Writing

        Last evening, I joined a small group of local writers at the eBar in downtown Guelph.

        We listened as three writers, two established and one up-and-coming, read from previously published short stories. I do not usually read dark fiction or urban fantasy, but it was good to get out of my comfort zone and listen to different types of stories.

        I enjoyed talking with two of the writers beforehand and hearing about their writing journeys.

        Doug Smith has written hundreds of short stories and has been described as "the finest short-story writer Canada and ever produced in the science fiction and fantasy genres."

        Marcy Italiano is a multi-talented woman who manages to squeeze in writing fiction and songs while raising  very active three-year-old twin boys.

        Andrea Shalay is an up-and-coming writer who excels in the art of storytelling.

        Thanks to Kevin Nunn for spearheading this reading series.

        Sunday, June 19, 2011

        The Hangover 2

        I enjoyed the original version of The Hangover. The antics of the four men at that bachelor party in Las Vegas are unforgettable.

        I agree with many of the critics who consider The Hangover 2 to be a darker, raunchier copy of the first installment. It is definitely not PG entertainment. But don't get me wrong. It is still worth seeing.

        Watch the trailer.

        Monday, June 13, 2011

        Sundays for Writers

        Yesterday, I spent the afternoon listening to Danielle Gavan talk about self-publishing and e-publishing at Lucie's Bakery in south Guelph. This dynamic, young author displayed her enthusiasm and expertise as she talked about her writing journey and how she achieved publishing success.

        I was overwhelmed by all the information--two hours chock full of advice and new terminology. I took  notes and will be following some of her suggestions.
        •  Visit the Savvy Authors website where you will find authors, editors, cover artists, agents, and publishers. A premium membership is $35/year.
        • Invest in a good editor. A reasonable fee for editing a book is $1 to $1.50 for every 300 words or $350 for an entire book.
        • Build a following and readership for your book. Create a Facebook page and a Twitter account. Start a blog and talk about what you are writing. Upload your book on Smashwords and invite readers to comment on it.
        Her advice can be summarized in one of her closing remarks, "Find your corner of the publishing world and work it!"

        Thanks to Cindy Carroll for organizing this event.

        Saturday, June 11, 2011

        One Act Festival

        Yesterday evening, I joined Cindy Carroll and her friends at the Guelph Little Theatre.

        I enjoyed watching the four performances that evening. I was impressed by two of the plays.

        Cindy's friend  Graham Freeman wrote and produced the play, Number One All Over Heaven. In a spoof of reality shows, a "devilishly handsome" host cross-examines the world's major religions: Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Atheism. Graham plans to write a sequel addressing  the other major religions.

        I also enjoyed watching Time Flies. Written by David Ives and directed by Greg Insley, this play follows the activities of two young  mayflies during their life span of only one day.

        Wednesday, June 8, 2011

        Dinner with Writers Ink

        Yesterday evening, ten of us met at Symposium Restaurant for our monthly dinner meeting. While a few of us are regulars, more local writers are joining us each month. The conversation is stimulating and the food is delicious.

         I look forward to the monthly get-togethers and always leave inspired and ready to resume my writing practice.

        Saturday, June 4, 2011

        Published

        My book review of Dreams of Joy appears in today's Guelph Mercury and Waterloo Record.

        Read the review.

        Sunday, May 22, 2011

        Bridesmaids

        I enjoyed the movie immensely. Although I didn't recognize any of the actors, they delivered excellent performances.  Kristen Wiig plays the part of Annie, a broke and down-on-her-luck maid of honor for her best friend, Lillian played by Maya Rudolph.

        The movie follows the escapades of the bride, her maid of honor and four other bridesmaids as they try on dresses, plan the bachelorette party, and attend the wedding. There are many hilarious moments involving food poisoning, fear of flying, and public meltdowns.

        Watch the trailer.

        Tuesday, May 17, 2011

        All About Homeopathy

        This evening, I attended a lecture presented by homeopath, Andrea Hauser. She talked about eating for an active lifestyle.

        She started by suggesting that we create a positive relationship with food and learn to eat with positive emotions. There is no point eating a healthy salad or meal in a state of anger or distress. The negative emotion will only negate the nutritional benefit of the food.

        Some of her suggestions include...
        • Add a dash of turmeric to olive oil.
        • Experiment with almond butter and other nut butters.
        • Visit the President's Choice website for quinoa recipes.
        • Add hemp seed hearts to soups, smoothies, salads, and oatmeal. These protein-rich seeds are also high in fibre and essential fatty acids.

        Sunday, May 15, 2011

        Sundays for Writers

        I enjoyed today's session with Cindy Carroll and the Guelph Write Now group. Eight of us participated in the Mystery Meet activity and discussed our writing. It may have been raining outside, but the mood inside Lucie's Bakery was upbeat and positive. Cindy informed us that she will be spending five days next week writing a screenplay for a Hollywood agent.

        Inspiring and encouraging news for all aspiring writers!

        Wednesday, May 4, 2011

        Dinner with Writers Ink

        Last night's dinner meeting was a successful one. We filled up an entire table at Symposium Restaurant--a first for Writers Ink!

        I enjoyed catching up with the regular members and meeting other writers in the Guelph area. The conversation was stimulating and many of us left inspired to start or finish a writing piece.

        Saturday, April 30, 2011

        Published

        My book review of A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider appears in today's Waterloo Record and Guelph Mercury.

        Read the review.

        Thursday, April 28, 2011

        A Literary Bargain

        This evening, I listened as two outstanding Canadian authors, Jamie Zeppa and Miriam Toews, read and discussed their books at Norfolk United Church in downtown Guelph.

        Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Jamie Zeppa decided to leave the comforts of home and go teach in Bhutan. In 1999, she wrote her memoir, Beyond the Sky and Earth, based on those years. This evening, she read from her latest book, Every Time We Say Goodbye, which contains elements from Zeppa's own life.

        Miriam Toews was born in a Mennonite community in Manitoba. Her books portray quirky characters in sad situations. One of her earlier books, A Complicated Kindness, won the 2004 Governor General's Literary Award and was a 2004 Giller Prize finalist. As she read from her latest book, Irma Voth, we all laughed at the comments and antics of her characters.

        Saturday, April 23, 2011

        Water For Elephants

        This movie deserves more than the two-star rating given by the Toronto Star.

        Based upon Sara Gruen's best-selling novel, the movie captures the highs and lows of the circus world during the Depression era.

        Robert Pattinson plays the part of Jacob, an orphaned veterinary student, who falls for Marilena, a beautiful circus performer played by Reese Witherspoon. Christoph Waltz plays circus ringleader, August, the jealous and sadistic husband of Marilena. And Tai plays the part of Rosie, a stubborn 53-year old elephant who has a drinking problem and responds only to Polish commands.

        Having read the book, I knew that some of the scenes would be violent. It was still shocking to watch as August abused the animals and his workers. Note: The film's animal cruelty is fake.

        Watch the trailer.   

        Tuesday, April 19, 2011

        Book Club Night

         
        Although the group was a small one, there was considerable discussion regarding The Elegance of the Hedgehog.  Most of us agreed that the first 100 pages or so dragged. The author devoted those pages to espousing a number of philosophical beliefs. I was not surprised to learn that Muriel Barberry was once a philosophy teacher. Also, philosophy is still a compulsory subject in France where this book sold over 1 million copies.

        I was intrigued by the stories of the two women in the book: Renee Michel, a 54-year old concierge and Paloma Josse, the precocious 12-year old daughter of one of the most bourgeois families in the building. Both women downplayed their intelligence and maintained very low profiles. All that changed with the arrival of Kakuro, a wealthy, cultured Japanese man who takes an interest in the two women. 

        I enjoyed reading the last two-thirds of the book and was saddened by the ending. I don't know if I would pick up another one of Muriel Barberry's books, but I would enjoy seeing the film adaptation of The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

        Monday, April 18, 2011

        Sundays for Writers

        I enjoyed yesterday's session with the Guelph Write Now group. The guest speaker was Sarah Totton who talked about the "rules" for becoming a professional author.  Sarah has compiled the following list using her own experience and suggestions from Robert A. Heinlein and Robert J. Sawyer.
        • Write.
        • Finish what you write.
        • Send out what you write.
        • Keep sending it out until it sells.
        • Keep writing new work.
        • Don't quit.
        Other suggestions from Sarah...
        • Treat writing like a job, not a hobby.
        • Schedule time and set deadlines.
        • Learn to work independently (not to external deadlines or peer pressure)
        • Always READ the market's submission guidelines.
        • Always FOLLOW the submission guidelines.
        • Use the following free online market lists: Ralan and Duotrope.
        • Buy US stamps from the Postmaster in any U.S. City. Sarah uses the following: Postmaster, Rockville MD 20850, USA.

        Wednesday, April 13, 2011

        Inspired by Marina Nemat

        She wanted to be a medical doctor, marry Prince Charming and live happily ever after. Her favorite television programs were The Donnie and Marie Osmond Show and Little House on the Prairie. She wore mini-skirts and danced to the music of the BeeGees.

        All this changed with the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran.

        In January of 1982, 16-year old Marina Nemat was arrested and imprisoned for her views against the revolution. She was tortured in the notorious Evin Prison, known for its atrocities against political inmates. She was sentenced to death, but survived after agreeing to marry a prison guard and convert to Islam.

        This is only the beginning of Marina's Nemat amazing story.

        Last night, I listened to her speak at St. George's Church in downtown Guelph. Poised and articulate, she described her life journey from a carefree teenage girl to political prisoner to best-selling author.

        She revealed many shocking details about her years in the Evin Prison. I was horrified to learn that the guards lashed the bare soles of her feet on a regular basis and that there was one bathroom for 300 girls. While she has been criticized for writing books filled with distortions, Marina states that she survived to tell the stories of all those girls who stood in the bathroom line.

        Marina considers herself to be a person of hope. She believes that hope is a choice you make despite the darkness. Hope speaks to the possibility that things will get better.

        When asked about her personal safety, Marina mentioned that she only advertises her readings locally and she never leaves her car in the driveway.

        Read her books: Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed.

        Thursday, April 7, 2011

        Meeting With Aspiring Writers

        Last night's workshop, Bursting the Myths of Publishing, with Sarah Totton was an interactive one.

        I was impressed and reassured by the following statistics...
        • J. K. Rowling received a $3,000 advance for her first Harry Potter novel. The publisher did not believe the book would sell too many copies.
        • A survey of 185 professional writers revealed that more than half of them got agents and sold their books without connections.
        I liked Sarah's tips...
        • American agents are in a better position to sell North American rights for your book.
        • Get a professional critique of your query letter before sending it out. Visit Evil Editor for a free critique.
        • Send out query letters to at least 100 agents for your current book. Send five query letters at a time. If you don't get a positive response, consider revising your letter.
        • While you are querying, start working on your next book.
        • Visit Predators and Editors to get a background check on all editors.
        • Get more information about self-publishing and e-publishing at J.R. Konrath's website and blog.

        Sunday, April 3, 2011

        The Lincoln Lawyer

        I enjoyed seeing Matthew McConaughey play the role of sleazy lawyer, Mick Haller, who conducts business from the back of his chauffeured Lincoln. His clientele includes bikers, drug dealers, rapists and killers.

        In The Lincoln Lawyer, Mick Haller is hired to defend a Beverly Hills playboy, Ryan Phillippe, accused of the attempted murder of a prostitute. The case takes a deadly turn and Haller finds himself caught between the interests of two clients. 

        The cast also includes Marisa Tomei who plays the part of Maggie Macpherson, a prosecutor and Haller's friendly ex-wife.

        Watch the trailer.

        Sunday, March 20, 2011

        Sundays for Writers

        This afternoon, I joined Cindy Carroll and a few other members of Guelph Write Now at Lucie's Bakery in south Guelph.

        Sue and I shared the first few pages of our novels. Cindy, Danielle and Matthew provided excellent suggestions and supported our fledgling works.

        I find these Sunday sessions very interesting and informative. I am learning more about ebooks and their future potential. I am hoping that Danielle will share more of her expertise and experiences with us at future meetings.

        We also enjoyed the delicious coffee, sandwiches and desserts.

        Saturday, March 19, 2011

        Published

        Today, my review of Butterfly's Child appears in the Waterloo Record and Guelph Mercury.

        Read my review.

        Saturday, March 5, 2011

        Spectacular Second Acts

        Whenever I experience writers' block, I like to read about other artistic souls who found new passions after age 50.

        Frank McCourt wrote Angela's Ashes at age 65. The novel won a Pulitzer Prize in 1997.

        Grandma Moses started painting at age 73.

        Laura Ingalls Wilder published the first book of the Little House on the Prairie series at age 65.

        Alfred Wallis took up painting at age 60.  He needed a hobby "for company" after the death of his wife. His paintings are part of the Tate collection.

        Wednesday, March 2, 2011

        Advice from Louise Penny

        Last summer, I discovered Louise Penny at Stratford's Celebrated Writers series.  Along with 200+ of her fans, I listened as she read from her latest novel and talked about the writing process. When asked about inspiration, she commented that she would have major problems if she waited for the muse to strike.

        Since that time, I have read all her novels based in the Eastern townships of Quebec. I also visit her blog each day. In today's entry, Louise describes her writing process as she starts her eighth novel.

        Here is an excerpt from that blog posting:

        But here we are! Just finished writing for the day. Always momentous - that first day. I had set a goal of 500 words. Ended up writing just over 900. Feels good. First go a little rough...but I read and re-read and smoothed. And now I like it. Will re-read it tomorrow before starting on the original writing for that day. I find it's important not to get caught up in editing, at least for me. I can smooth and polish and edit for days and weeks and months, ending up with the finest 1000 words you've ever read...but no closer to actually writing the book. For me, editing can be an escape - I can hide in it. Kidding myself I'm being useful, when all I'm doing is running on the spot. 

        Check out her blog

        Tuesday, March 1, 2011

        Dinner with Writers Ink

        I enjoy the monthly dinner meetings at Symposium Restaurant.

        Tonight, nine of us gathered to talk about writing, Mexico, Banff and our respective creative journeys. As usual, the conversation was lively and stimulating. I always come away inspired and ready to resume my writing.

        Visit the blog for Writers Ink.

        Thursday, February 24, 2011

        I Don't Want To Know

        In today's Toronto Star, Dr. Oz talks about a new brain scan that can spot buildup of plaque, that tangly stuff related to Alzheimer's Disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee has recommended its approval, but wants to ensure that all doctors and radiologists know how to interpret the scans.

        Many medical experts are discouraging consumers from taking the early-warning test. Dr. Oz disagrees--he believes that anyone over 50 with a family history of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's, should take the test.

        I meet all of these criteria, but I have decided not to take the test. Instead, I will follow the everyday health habits that Dr. Oz recommends:
        • Eat more salads, fish and fruit. 
        • Eat less butter, ice cream and red meat.
        • Take a brisk 30-minute walk each day.
        • Do not smoke and do not go near people who do.
        • Drink three to five small cups of coffee a day.
        • Drink in moderation--one drink a day for women and two for men.
        • Take a DHA supplement.

        Wednesday, February 23, 2011

        Listening to Maria Aragon

        The 10-year old Winnipeg native has been caught in a whirlwind. She is living proof that life can change on a dime.

        Last week, her sister, Rojuane, filmed Maria as she sang Lady Gaga's latest single, Born This Way. The day after, Lady Gaga tweeted a link of Maria's version to her millions of followers. She commented, "Can's stop crying watching this. This is why I make music. She is the future."

        Watch the video on youtube.

        Monday, February 21, 2011

        Movie Review--Unknown

        This Euro-thriller deserves more than 2.5 stars.

        Liam Neeson delivers an excellent performance as botanist, Dr. Martin Harris. His beautiful and mysterious wife is played by January Jones.

        After arriving at their hotel in Berlin, he realizes that he left his briefcase--with their passports--at the airport. When he hops in a cab and dashes back to retrieve it, a chain-reaction crash sends the car off a bridge into a river. The driver--an illegal immigrant played by Diane Kruger--saves him and runs off. When Martin awakes in a hospital four days later, he's told he has been in a coma and may experience selective amnesia. He returns to the hotel and discovers that his wife does not recognize him and another man is claiming to be the real Dr. Martin Harris.

        The rest of the film involves a number of car chases, Euro hoods lurking in the shadows, a few murders, and an encounter with a former Stasi agent.

        The storyline is a gripping one and I must admit I was totally unprepared for the twist in the movie.

        Watch the trailer.  

        Sunday, February 20, 2011

        Sundays for Writers

        The members of Guelph Write Now meet the third Sunday of each month at Lucie's Bakery in south Guelph. Their organizer, Cindy Carroll, invited the Writers Ink group to join them today.

        I accepted her invitation and enjoyed two stimulating hours with four other aspiring Guelph authors. We chatted and shared our writing experiences. Cindy provided us with four prompts and we wrote spontaneously. Afterward, we shared our stories and commented on each other's interpretation of the prompts.

        We also enjoyed the delicious coffee and desserts.

        Saturday, February 19, 2011

        Published

        Published...two weeks in a row!

        My review of The Lake of Dreams appears in today's Waterloo Record and Guelph Mercury.

        Read my review.