Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Last Word (a 50-word biography)

 The Last Word

Pregnant Paris doctor flees Nazis.

Landlady: Someday you speaking English. Then you being a lady.

Crossword puzzles become her English lessons.

Toronto medical school head: Stay home. Be a mother.

Accepted two years later.

"You actually passed. And your English is so good!"

"It should be. I memorized your textbook."

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Writing Mentors


Until recently, I always thought that a writing mentor was a result of lucky happenstance. Someone who gave useful advice or who helped you connect with the right person or market, sprinkling fairy dust on one's writing journey.

It didn't occur to me that you could seek out a mentor, as some people now do in Twitter pitch sessions. You just had to be lucky and hope someone would sprinkle fairy dust in your direction.

I've had four such incredible people in my life.

1. Rita Fromkess 

was the wife of a movie producer and an assistant producer. I met her in August 1970 in London's Dorchester Hotel when everyone was stuck in the lobby during a sudden downpour. We started talking and I told her that I was in university and wanted to be a drama critic. She gave me some tips on what to see in London and in Florence. She said that her husband was producing the movie, "The Last of Sheila." She said she wanted me to see it and write her to tell her what I thought of it. She gave me self-confidence in my ability to write. 

2. Barbara West

was an editor at Chatelaine magazine. My future mother-in-law was her doctor and insisted that I give her a call to get writing tips. Ms. West was kind enough to talk to me about Chatelaine and what kind of articles it used. I sent her a few queries but never hit the Chatelaine sweet spot. However, after rejecting my query about James Houston, she told me exactly which market would accept it: enRoute. She was right.

3. James Houston

was the author/artist/screenwriter/glass designer/discoverer of Inuit sculpture and printmaking who was the subject of my cover story for enRoute. He took a chance on a novice journalist and let me interview him on speculation. (I didn't have a market yet when he was in town for his Glass Art Gallery show opening.) I will always be grateful to him. And to Janak Khendry, the owner of the gallery who arranged the interview.

4. The woman at Italian Night

M and I went to an Italian Night sponsored by the church of our friends in the fall of 2008. (We just liked Italy and our friends suggested that we might have fun.) Although we were the only Jewish people there, everyone made us feel welcome. The Italian food was delicious, of course, and we enjoyed the entertainment. Sitting at our table was a couple whose son was an author of children's books. The woman told me the name of the publisher and I recognized it. I'm still kicking myself that I didn't bring my business cards with me for this purely social occasion. 

After we left early to feed and walk Echo, I researched her son. He had written some high quality non-fiction children's books. And he had an agent. A Canadian agent. It hadn't occurred to me that there were any Canadian agents who might handle children's authors. Soon after, I sent a query to a Canadian agent and was successful.

From my mentors, I learned that market and publishing information is always changing and it's important to keep up-to date. Talking to complete strangers, while scary, can be rewarding. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected sources. Act self-confident before you actually are.

Also, never go anywhere without your business cards (or your book's bookmarks)!

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Still Crazy...

 (about each other)

...After All These (30) Years!

You Are The Sunshine Of My Life

Friday, May 12, 2023

Therapy for Tulipexia*

*Starved for tulips

because, like me, you lack a tulip garden?

Here are a few cures I'm using currently.

1. Look at photos of tulips of the past, saved on my phone or the computer.

2. Watch videos and photos on the Twitter feed of Keukenhof, the world's largest spring garden, located near Amsterdam. It's a delight and the next best thing to visiting there. Hurry; the season ends on May 14.


3. A lovely relaxation video, Flying Over Netherlands, which is accompanied by music. Instant happiness for tulip appreciators.

Flying Over Netherlands 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Gordon Lightfoot

 I was sad to read that Gordon Lightfoot passed away yesterday.

My first concert was a Gordon Lightfoot performance at Massey Hall in November 1968. He seemed as though he belonged on that stage. He used to perform there every November, his birthday month. For a while in the 70s, my favourite singer alternated between him and Stevie Wonder.

Gordie wrote some of Canada's best songs, which included folk, rock, and ballads. He had a unique style and a great voice (the latter was unlike someone he was often compared to, Bob Dylan). The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) commissioned him to write something in honour of Canada's centennial in 1967. He wrote Canadian Railroad Trilogy, which he had to research. A superb piece of historical writing.

Canadian Railroad Trilogy

What's my favourite Lightfoot song? It's too hard too choose just one. 

Here's another possibility that perhaps isn't as well known, Christian Island, an ode to his sailboat and to summers at the cottage.


Saturday, April 15, 2023

The Mayoral Election: A Modest Proposal

 Due to a sudden resignation of John Tory, Toronto's former mayor, there's another municipal election coming up in June.

With no incumbent, it's an open field for candidates.

Today's Toronto Star stated that there are now

46 candidates...and counting!

Enough is enough! 

I propose that they

- cut off the number of candidates when they reach 52,

- put the list in alphabetical order,

- call off the election,


- let each candidate be mayor for one week a year.