Prov 17:22

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine... - Proverbs 17:22

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to Talk to Smart Women (and a cover reveal!)

This month, I enjoyed the privilege of speaking to our local chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women. They asked me to talk about my journey as a writer, which I’m always happy to do—even if feeling somewhat intimidated by the fact that I’ve never earned a degree and even the continuing education certificate I acquired didn’t occur until I was in my fifties. What could I possibly say to these smart women? Would they all be wearing grad gowns and mortarboards? Would I need to learn some high-falutin’ words before they could understand me? Should I make some up?

But then I learned that “any woman who supports the goals of CFUW” qualifies for membership, and that their goals include fostering education and lifelong learning and advocating for women’s equality and human rights. Among their local projects are a scholarship fund for deserving female high school grads and support of our local women’s shelter. Nothing I can’t get behind.

So I shared the things I’ve learned through writing and answered their intelligent questions as best I could. Since much of what I’ve learned is transferable to every area of life, I thought I’d share a little of what I told them here and you can apply it wherever it fits.

You don’t find the time, you make it.
I’ve heard many people say “I’m going to write a book some day when I have the time.” Good luck with that. We’re all given 24 hours a day and if something is really important to you, you’ll somehow make time for it. Two ways I made time for writing? Leaving a full-time job for a part-time one, and not having TV in our home.

Nothing worth having comes easy.
Two guests sit at a dinner. When the first reveals that he is a writer, the other says “I’m a surgeon, but I plan to write after I retire.” To which the writer replies, “What a coincidence! I plan to do surgery after I retire.”
Writing is hard work. Few, if any, write the next great novel without a ton of research, rewriting and revising. It doesn’t happen overnight. Even after my manuscript was contracted for publication, it went through three revisions, and it had been revised many times prior to that.

Perseverance and tenacity are a must.
Author Louis L’Amour said, “If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.”

I have found this especially true in cranking out a weekly column for the past five years. Deadlines arrive relentlessly, and the words never simply flow. They must be primed, often with words that will later be deleted.

Humility makes you strong in the long run.
Most writers take several years and receive hundreds of rejections before their first manuscript is accepted for publication. I began my first novel, The Silver Suitcase, in January of 2009 and it will be published in January of 2016. Along the way, I’ve learned that rejection and criticism hurt. But both of these, when done constructively and honestly, can teach you more than any book or course. Rather than wallow in despair, take these suggestions to heart and do something about it. Never stop being teachable.

Passion trumps all.
Some folks assume that writing is a great way to become rich, but I won’t be quitting my day job any time soon. Robert Benchley said, “The freelance writer is someone who is paid per piece or per word or perhaps.”

I write from a need to express myself, but also to use a gift given me by my Creator. I want to please him with what I write.

What gift has God given you? How do these lessons apply?

My first novel releases from Waterfall Press January 26, 2016!

Friday, November 13, 2015

A Glimpse Backstage

Around the same time as Arsenic and Old Lace made its debut in New York, Disney came out with the animated movie, Pinocchio. My favorite song from that soundtrack is “An Actor’s Life for Me.” The villain, Honest John, sings it to tempt the wooden boy into a caravan with these words:

An actor’s life for me!
Hi-Diddle-Dee-Doo, you sleep ‘til after two
You promenade with a big cigar
You tour the world in a private car
You dine on chicken and caviar
An actor’s life for me!”

Well, Pinocchio, I can’t say that’s been my experience exactly. 

As I write this, I’m sitting backstage at the William Glesby Centre. It’s an all-day technical rehearsal for Arsenic and Old Lace, which generally means a lot of sitting around and waiting, especially for those of us with smaller parts. But such is the price of stardom.

The set is almost complete. It’s the first time we’ve worked with the walls and doors, the lights, sound effects, and microphones. 

10:30 a.m. The cast members not currently on stage are enjoying the comfortable new furniture the Prairie Players recently purchased for the “green room.” Most stay engaged with some kind of electronic device. One is calmly reading. Some are pacing, still working on lines, or having their hair done, like me. Occasionally we make too much noise and get shushed by the stage manager, Myrna.

11:00. I’m summoned from the dressing room with my hair half done for a sound check. With a cast of 14, the check takes a long time. Something’s wrong with my mike, so they find me another and once it’s working, I return to my hairdresser, Maureen.

12:00. We’re in Act II and I’m testing out a pair of slippery bedroom slippers that look like the 1939 era. When I get in a tussle with the villain, (played by Tyrone Taylor) I lose one of the slippers—which is funny, but a little unnerving. After Tyrone throws me down the cellar stairs, he remains in character, grabs the slipper, and tosses it down the stairs after me. I put it back on. When I return to the stage through the cellar door and dash for my fiancĂ© (played by Kevin Hamm), into whose arms I am supposed to run, the slippers lose their grip on me and I nearly body slam poor Kevin right out the door. This is followed by a fit of giggles and I’m very glad this isn’t the actual show. We’ll find different slippers.

12:30 p.m. I am between scenes, so I find the salad I brought wedged under one of the bright make-up lights in the dressing room. The container feels warm. Uh oh. Good thing I didn’t bring ice cream.

1:00 p.m. It seems this play has been going on forever.

1:30 p.m. We finally reach the end and Stephanie walks us through the plan for our curtain call. It takes three tries, but we finally do it to her satisfaction. Preston Meier, who appears only in the first 15 minutes of the play, must wait around each night so he can take his bow with us. I can only imagine the mischief he’ll get into while he waits.

2:00 p.m. We run through the entire play without stopping. We’re to consider it “a show” which means we plow through no matter what happens. 

After curtain call, each of us is assigned a job for closing night. No hired help here! After taking our final bows, we’ll all need to pitch in to get our set down, furniture, props and costumes put away or carted off to wherever they belong.

4:30 p.m. We go our separate ways until tomorrow, tired but happy.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Did she or didn't she?

I know some folks think we should be content with the hair colour God gave us, but that ship sailed years ago. When I first started experimenting with my mousy hair in Grade Ten, my dad said, “If God wanted you to have blond hair, you’d have been born with it.” 

To that I replied, “If God wanted me to go around naked, I’d have been born that way.”

I was such a treat to raise.

Having red hair has been on my bucket list for years. After all, so many terrific redheads have graced our world. If you want to be known for comedy, red hair is a splendid idea. As a kid, I faithfully watched Red Skelton on a black and white TV. If his name hadn’t been “Red,” I’d have never known the source of his talent.

And who’s funnier than Lucille Ball or Carol Burnette or Conan O’Brien?

Important people in history who had red hair include Esau and King David from the Bible, Eric the Red, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Queen Elizabeth I of England. And speaking of royals, what about Prince Harry? Did you know Mark Twain, Sir Winston Churchill, and Vladimir Lenin all sported red hair?

In the music world, who could forget Geri Halliwell (a.k.a. Ginger Spice), Bernadette Peters, and Willie Nelson? Or one of my favorite artists, Vincent Van Gogh? 

The list of red-headed movie stars is inexhaustible, including Lindsay Lohan, Kate Winslet, and Nicole Kidman. 

In sports, we have Rusty Staub, Brian Campbell, and Heather Moyse. I had to Google those because … well… sports, shmorts.

Let’s not forget our favorite fictional characters like Little Orphan Annie and Charlie Brown’s little red-haired girl and Anne of Green Gables (“Red hair is my lifelong sorrow.”)

There’s something mysteriously attractive about a red-haired woman, isn’t there? Lucille Ball said, “Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.”

My reason for wanting red hair is not to be famous or to have some man fall in love with me, madly or otherwise. I just want to try it. Will it bring out the green flecks in my eyes which romance novelists always describe but which I’ve never actually seen on anyone, let alone myself? Will my personality change? Will I suddenly develop a quick temper? Will people call me “Carrots” or “Ginger” or “Woody Woodpecker?” Will I become as smart as my red-haired friend Gayle or as beautiful as her daughters Alison and Veronica, or as witty as my writing buddy, Michael? Will I need to start avoiding the sun?

I've been chicken to try it, but time is marching on. I knew if I waited too much longer, I might end up looking like Endora, the meddling mother-in-law from Bewitched.

But wait. There’s a play coming up. Elaine Harper, the character I portray, does not necessarily have red hair, but she certainly could. And if I dyed my hair red and it looked ridiculous, I could say “it’s just for a play.”


And besides, it’s only hair. 


Get your ticket now for the Prairie Players’ production of Arsenic and Old Lace at the William Glesby Centre November 11, 12, 13, and 14. The first two nights are the play only and the last two are dinner theatre. Call 204-239-4848 or stop by the Glesby Centre for tickets or more information. You can also buy tickets online at

Did it!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Two Tricks and Two Very Nice Treats

Has your October been liberally sprinkled with surprises like mine? Thankfully, the treats outweigh the tricks by far.

A Nasty Trick
A follow-up visit to my lung doc confirmed that the three-drug cocktail I’ve been taking for the past year has not yet succeeded in evicting the persistent atypical bacteria called MAC from my lungs. Do you think I should consult a bug exterminator instead?

Best Treat Ever!
Photo Credit: Let There Be Light Photography
On October 7, I flew to Calgary where I spent a glorious 11 days with my daughter, son-in-law, and their brand new son, Linus (my sweet babboo). I’ve never been one of those infant-crazy people who needs to hold a baby, any baby, every chance they find. But when they’re your own, that’s something else, isn’t it? I couldn’t get my fill of snuggling that little peanut and it tore my heart out to say good-bye. He, of course, took it all in stride.

It’s not difficult to make yourself useful in a household with a newborn, so between cuddles I prepared meals, folded laundry, and cleaned things—and still consider it one of the best vacations ever! I felt so blessed to observe Linus’s newborn photo shoot in progress, attend a baby shower at his mommy’s workplace, and hold him through his first church service.

And for my next trick...
Descending the stairs at my daughter’s house carrying a laundry basket in one hand and a ceramic cereal bowl in the other, my feet suddenly slipped. I felt my priceless, antique tailbone go “thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk” and heard the bowl shatter on the floor below.

“Mom?” I could hear the panic in Mindy’s voice, but needed to think hard before my tongue could respond.

“I’m OK,” I moaned. And I was, for the most part. The chiropractor who checked me over that afternoon agreed I’d done a number on myself. But no breaks or fractures—only scrapes, bruises, and humiliation. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that I wasn’t carrying the baby!

Another Special Treat
While in Calgary, I received word that Portage la Prairie’s City Council had nominated me for the Chamber of Commerce “Arts/Cultural Person of the Year” award and that two complimentary gala tickets awaited me back home.

Huh? Whatever for? I wondered. Oh well. I knew I wouldn’t win. “Always the bridesmaid” seems to have become my theme for anything the least bit competitive in recent years. But I thanked Council for the nomination, and Jon and I looked forward to a fancy dinner.

Lo and behold.

When it came time for the Arts/Cultural award, MC Preston Meier started reading a list of achievements that sounded suspiciously like some of my own shenanigans of the past 25 years. I began to sweat. Not so much about not having a speech prepared, but about whether I’d trip up the stairs at the front of the stage in my spikey high-heels.

If I had prepared an acceptance speech, I might have told the citizens of Portage la Prairie how truly blessed I feel to live in this community. How thankful I am for those who have mentored and encouraged me along my journey, and what a privilege it is to give back with the abilities God has granted. He gifted each of us uniquely, and there is no higher calling than to serve him and others in collaboration and harmony, bringing his kingdom a little closer to earth each time we do. I would have said thank you, Portage, for being the kind of community that is worth the investment of one’s life and art. God bless you!

I didn’t say all that. But at least I didn’t fall down.