Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Musical dog enjoys choir practice

Last night, this doggie fan of choral music added a few yips to the chorus. He had his human hold him so he could receive the admiration of the singers during break.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Seems the Zamboni cut itself

Spring is not quite here yet, but the last pile of snow in the parking lot of the Newton Library is well camouflaged by dirt.

At the back of the North Surrey Rec Centre, the snow scraped off the rink by the Zamboni was pristine -- except for the mysterious red stuff.

What happened? Maybe all that scraping gave the Zamboni an owie, and it bled onto the snow it was removing. Hope Zambo has health insurance, and got prompt maintenance.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Fountain Filled with Blood by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Image from Julia Spencer-Fleming

Like In the Bleak Midwinter, this mystery portrays life in the small town of Miller's Kill, New York. Sparks fly between married police chief Russ Van Alstyne and Episcopalian priest Claire Fegusson, and the author serves up plenty of bons mots and double entendre.

The image suggested by the title sounds off putting and gory, but the line is unrelated to the plot. It's from a hymn about redemption by William Cowper, an English poet who died in 1800.

Claire is ex-military, and she was past the the first flush of youth before receiving her priestly calling. In this book, she drinks enough cocktails to make her tiddly. She also gets to fly a helicopter.

Fortunately, three or four kir royales aren't enough to take away the sharpness of this unusual woman's mind. Nor does the attempt to sabotage the chopper she's about to take up on a rescue mission succeed quite as well as the saboteur had hoped.

In the final scene, Russ and Claire walk borrowed dogs, using every ounce of self-control to keep their hands off each other. Suggesting they go back, he comments, "There's a storm coming."

Yes there is. A perfect storm of mysteries by an author who has put her unique stamp on the genre. Reverend Claire encourages her congregation to stand against injustice in their church and their town. In the same way, her creator, Julia Spencer-Fleming, uses ordinary good folk to fight the prejudice, controversy and violence of contemporary America, creating plots that are courageous, intelligent and believable.

Monday, March 13, 2017

A powerful storytelling voice has left us: Rest in Peace, Richard Wagamese

Image from cbc

It's mysterious how often the people who have endured the greatest suffering are the ones who learn to be the most loving, and give the greatest gifts to the world. We've just lost such a man, one of Canada's most amazing storytellers.

Richard Wagamese survived childhood in a residential school, periods of addiction and homelessness, and alienation from his son.

Before completing his 61 years on earth, he faced his darkest memories, eschewed bitterness and developed the loving wisdom to advise, "Walk gently on the earth and do no harm."

I first heard Richard Wagamese in 2010 at CanWrite! in Victoria. With the most minimal prompts from the audience, he created and shared a spellbinding oral story. Since then I have been inspired by his books and I've posted a number of times about his work.

Something Wagamese often said: in the end, all we are is our stories. As Wagamese's character Saul Indian Horse tells us, "If we want to live at peace with ourselves," we must tell them.

And when our last tale is told, "We become eternal by being held in memory's loving arms." As you are held, from this day forward, Richard Wagamese.

A recent Shelagh Rogers interview with Richard Wagamese is here.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Southbank in Surrey - the season approaches

Southbank 2016 at Surrey City Centre Library

Today the information session for Southbank 2017 took place on campus at SFU Surrey. Now entering its sixth year, this Creative Writing summer intensive is a great place for writers to meet, work and create community.

Along with colleagues Claire de Boer and Renee Sarojini Saklikar, Surrey's first Poet Laureate, I'm proud and grateful to have been a Southbank writing mentor from the beginning. Looking forward to a great summer of writing.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Simon Choa Johnston speaks to Canadian Authors Vancouver

Image from

Last evening, Canadian Authors-Metro Vancouver hosted Simon Johnston. Known in the Vancouver area and across Canada as an award winning playwright and artistic director, he recently retired from the theatre to become a novelist.

Choa Johnston's first novel, The House of Wives, made the Globe and Mail bestseller list a week after being published in summer 2016. Now in its second printing, the book is also selling well in India and Hong Kong, where the story is set.

A truly fascinating aspect of this historical saga is its basis in the author's family history. A Sephardic Jewish ancestor made a fortune in Calcutta when the opium trade was at its height. His second marriage in Hong Kong became a family secret.

From childhood, Simon carried questions about his forbears. After his mother's death, among her ephemera, he found the beginnings of a compelling trail of clues. While researching this, he felt a strong impulse to tell the family saga as fiction, and had a hunch about how to make that work.

Simon Choa Johnston was a delightful presenter. The audience of Canadian Authors members and guests enjoyed every aspect of the talk, from his description of his research to his spontaneous forays into theatrical humour.

When I read this book last August, I blogged about it here.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jax the wrinkle dog awaits his shampoo at the salon

Sue, Jax's human, has a home salon. Every day, he watches her doing people's hair.

He knows that the first part of the ritual is to sit in the special chair by the sink and get a nice shampoo.

All the ladies get it, so why not him too? The way to make it happen, he figures, is to get up in the chair.

"Okay Mum. Ready when you are. Just glancing out the window here, and keeping an eye on the cat."

But Sue just shakes her head, remarking to a client, "He thinks he's human too."

Just so you know, Jax. It could be a long wait.