Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Puddle Art

Puddle art only happens twice a year: in late fall and in early spring, and is at its best when there isn't much snow but instead mild days and cold nights.
Some tap trees for syrup at this time of year. I go searching for masterpieces.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Communities Are Strengthened By Telling Their Own Stories

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 by Sara Jewell.

If we don’t tell our stories, who will?

That’s the question being asked by authors and publishers around Nova Scotia as they watch the province’s once-viable film industry collapse.
Worried that cuts to funding will send the publishing industry into the same tail spin, the Atlantic Publishers Marketing Association has launched a new awareness campaign called “Books Start Here”. I attended the official launch in Halifax a couple of weeks ago not only because a Nova Scotia publisher is releasing my first book in October but also because the best way to learn about Nova Scotia’s culture and history is to read stories by the people who live here.
Seven authors, ranging from the well-known and internationally acclaimed to the newly published, spent their three minutes at the podium relating how a small publisher in Nova Scotia made all the difference to their writing career; for most, just like me, it was a Nova Scotia publisher who launched their career.
The sole publisher to speak was Andrew Steeves of Gaspereau Press. He told the crowd that “writing is an activity that simmers away in the background but if it disappears, there will be something missing”.
Janice Landry, who has published two books with Pottersfield Press, wrapped up the speeches with a call to action: “Write your MLA,” she said. So...

Dear Terry Farrell,
I am writing to express my support for the current funding for Nova Scotia’s publishing industry.
In October, my first book will be published with Nimbus. It is a collection of essays about living in rural Nova Scotia that both celebrates this way of life and laments what we are losing as our rural areas empty and close up. This is not the kind of book a publisher in Toronto is looking for which means regional publishers are essential. Who will share the story of a young boy growing up along the River Philip in the fifties and sixties? Who will share the story of the couple from Buffalo who chose to move to Wallace Bay for their retirement? Who will share the story of how a writer from Ontario dreamed of becoming a Nova Scotia country girl because she hung around a dairy farm in Pugwash when she was a teenager?
Culture is just as important as business. Books are just as important as vineyards. Reading is just as important as computing. Yet if the rug of support is pulled out from under the collective feet of our publishing industry, the industry will suffer and the culture we know and cherish as Nova Scotia will be threatened.

Who will tell our stories if we don’t?

It’s like our lighthouses, Mr. Farrell. Unique to coastal areas, lighthouses should be prime tourist attractions as icons of Maritime culture yet both the federal and provincial governments have failed to recognize this and maintain our lighthouses. Please don’t allow this to happen to our publishing industry. Nova Scotians deserve to tell their unique stories, Nova Scotians deserve to read their stories in print, and Nova Scotia culture deserves to be preserved in books.
Author and poet Sylvia Hamilton closed the “Books Start Here” campaign launch on February 4 with these words: “We needs books like we need fertile ground for growing our food.”
I hope the residents of Cumberland County, who include several published authors, can count on your full and tenacious support of the Nova Scotia publishing industry.
With thanks,
Sara Jewell

And dare I say, it’s up to us, the residents and voters of Nova Scotia, to buy these local books (and community newspapers) if we want to keep telling our stories.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Dog Days of Winter

This dog does not like the cold. When we let her out in the morning, or in a snowstorm, she races out to the yard, piddles and poops, then races back to the door and if it doesn't open immediately, she paws at it like a guy with an axe is coming up the stairs behind her.
Yet say, "Let's go for a walk," and she's out the door like a shot, tearing across the yard through the snow like she's a Husky on a long-distance pull.
For a dog whose thin layer of fur and bare belly is totally unsuited for deep snow and deep cold, she doesn't seem to notice when she's racing through the tree plantation or around the field. To be honest, I don't know if the Chilly Dog coat makes a difference to her or not. It makes me feel better, though; it doesn't seem right to send a naked dog out into the snow and wind.
It's a good thing she demands these adventures. With three jobs on the go right now -- book manuscript (two weeks till due!), weekly church services, and a mid-March deadline for a Master degree application (now that's bad timing!) -- I'm doing far too much sitting these cold, winter days. It's an easy habit to get into, when relaxing becomes lying on the bed reading a book and taking a brain break means watching television instead of heading outside for a walk. A habit that's bad for the back and neck, and bad for the butt. So having a dog that doesn't mind the snow and cold means I don't get to mind it either.
And every time we return from a snowshoe around the property, even if it's just 20 minutes, I feel 100 percent better. Like I knew I would.

Friday, February 05, 2016

My First Pre-Author Event

This campaign launched last evening in Halifax with some amazing and inspiring authors expressing their passion their homegrown publishers, many of whom launched the careers of these writers. Sheree Fitch, Stephen Kimber, Janice Landry, Michael de Adder, Sylvia Hamilton, Lesley Crewes, Emma Fitzgerald, Frank MacDonald and Andrew Steeves all spoke uniquely and eloquently about WHY regional publishers are important.
In some form or another, they all said, "Our stories deserve to be shared."
The Big Publishers aren't interested; regional publishers are essential to getting regional stories -- Nova Scotia stories -- shared around the world. 

I wasn't taking notes -- and I should have been, I always take notes, why didn't I take notes -- but Sylvia Hamilton, who is a poet and an author, said, "We need books like we need fertile ground for growing our food."  She spoke near the end and I couldn't stand it anymore; I wrote that one down.
Andrew Steeves, who runs Gaspereau Press, told us to write to our MLAs and tell them how much our Nova Scotia stories matter to us so I'm going to make that the topic of my next Field Notes column.
Most of the speakers were well-known and established Nova Scotia authors, but for Emma Fitzgerald, a first-time author illustrator. Her three-minute speech should be packaged and sent to every English and Art teacher in the province to be played in their classrooms so that students know what is possible.

And I was so very, very tempted to run up to the microphone -- to be that person who rushes the stage -- and tell everyone that I have a book coming out with Nimbus in October and that I'm telling stories about rural Nova Scotia that deserve to be shared -- not just stories about me but stories about the people who live here in Cumberland County. I wanted to say that getting published with a regional publisher was my Plan B, was my stepping stone to getting my memoir published with a Big Publisher.
But as I stood in that crowd at the Maritime Museum in downtown Halifax, as I stood there between my editor and the art director, both of whom are going to make my book the best it can be, I realized that maybe my Plan B is really my Plan A.
That maybe this was the plan all along.
And maybe next year, that's the story I'll tell when I'm the first-time author standing up there giving a three-minute speech on why we need our Nova Scotia book publishers.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Photographer's Eye Finds Beauty in Winter

As published in the Citizen-Record newspaper on Wednesday, February 3, 2016, by Sara Jewell.

There’s a lot of complaining this time of year about the weather, about snow and ice, the cold, about storms and wind. And yet there are plenty of people for whom winter truly is a wonderland: those who snowshoe and ski, those who snowmobile and ice fish, and those who take pictures.
Really? Who takes pictures in the winter when everything is white-washed by snow?

“I love being out in the winter,” Pugwash photographer Fred Horton told me. “Winter is a whole other season. It’s the stillness, the silence when you’re snowshoeing or skiing.”
I’d stopped in at Fred’s gallery on Durham Street a few weeks ago and during the course of our conversation, Fred had said to me, “I love going to the beach in the winter. The sounds and smells are the same as summer but it’s a completely different world.”
 The idea stuck with me because few of us venture to the beach in the winter, few of us see the potential and the beauty in ice and snow like Fred does.
“One of my first experiences of winter on the beach was at the Bay of Fundy,” Fred says. “We camped down there and I remember walking there at night in the moonlight; it was freezing cold, and the waves were rolling in. The sound of the ocean was the sound of summer but it was like we were in another world.”

Fred’s interest in photography began when he was a teenager. While growing up in Riverview, New Brunswick, he started out hiking with friends but when they grew bored of it, Fred says he had two choices: go with them, or go by himself.
“At first, it was quite scary to be on my own because I had never been in the woods alone; I’d always been with other people,” he remembers. “Suddenly, there are sounds and all kinds of things going on that you don’t recognize so it took awhile to adjust to that, to being in nature.”
Everything changed when Fred began carrying a Kodak Instamatic camera with him. Having inherited an artistic eye from his mother, who is a painter, Fred discovered that what he saw with his eye could be recorded on film.
“Photography came naturally from being out in nature,” he explains. “It was just a natural flow because I was seeing the beauty and the camera capturing it.”

Fred moved to Pugwash in 1990 with his wife, Marilyn, and bought the big house next to the post office because it had enough space for him to open a main-floor gallery for his photographs.
Fred says his favourite time of year is fall-into-winter, when everything freezes up but the snow hasn’t come yet. Some of his most striking photographs, which he now prints on canvas, are of natural objects, such as leaves, frozen in ice.
“I love that kind of thing. Walking over ice and looking down. It’s like a fantasy world. When you photograph it, it looks like a painting,” he explains.

So while everyone else is glued to the television or to the computer, wondering when the next storm is due to hit, Fred is looking out the window and longing for it.
“People freak out about an ice storm,” he says, “but of course, I’m out there.”

Monday, February 01, 2016

Over the Fields and Through the Woods

I'm taking a wee break from posting on this blog. The Field Notes book -- all 40 completed essays -- are due at the end of the month. 29 days! So I want to concentrate completely on the editing and revising of these essays. This is such important work -- life-changing work -- so I want to immerse myself completely in it.
Right now, I'm feeling okay about everything; I haven't hit the "this sucks, I suck, the whole world sucks" phase yet, and I don't feel panicked about getting everything done on time. Hopefully, neither of those crises occurs but the more activities I can scale back on temporarily, the better. So I'll take a break from the pressure of writing on this blog and put all my creative energy into the essays.
My bi-weekly Field Notes column will be posted here every other Wednesday and any irresistible tidbit that demands to be shared, but nothing more regular than that.
By the time spring arrives, I'll be back.
Don't hesitate to get in touch, though, through Facebook or email (via the Contact Me button). I'm not going very far...if I'm not in my office, I'll be snowshoeing over the fields and through the woods.