Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hubbard Glacier a sight to behold

When I wrote about Alaska's Hubbard Glacier in January, I hadn't seen it. Now I have. The left picture was taken less than a mile offshore, in near ideal weather. It shows the blue ice, dense and ancient, which is now exposed. Chunks  drop away as the glacier calves. The surrounding ocean is full of ice pieces. However, these do not qualify as true icebergs unless they are 5 metres across. Smaller lumps of ice are classed by size into bergy bits and growlers, so named for the grinding sound they make against the hulls of ships.
According to NASA's Earth Observatory, this enormous expanse of ice, 9.6 m across, 122 km long and 90 m high, runs counter to the worldwide trend of receding glaciers. Hubbard is advancing. In 1986 and again in 2002, glacial ice temporarily blocked the entrance to Russell Fjord. 

Named after Gardiner Greene Hubbard, an American philanthropist who was the first to preside over the National Geographic Society, this enormous river of ice flows from the St. Elias range into Disenchantment Bay (so named by George Vancouver, when he found it did not lead to the Northwest Passage). The bay opens off Yakutat  Bay in Alaska, and the range lies at the top of the Alaska Panhandle, close to the Arctic Circle, where British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska meet.

The glacier begins at Canada's tallest mountain, Mount Logan, 5959 metres high, which lies in Kluane National Park in the St. Elias range, Yukon Territory. This peak and its taller Alaskan neighbour Mount McKinlay are the highest mountains in North America.

Early hydrangeas create late summer mood

These hydrangeas beside the Newton Library have already achieved a state of full bloom. In our area this type of hydrangea normally blooms in late July or August. These are flowering in June.

This is part of a larger pattern. The summer flowering crocosmias are nearly over, and the Hidcote lavender is ready to harvest. Two varities of fragrant daphnes in the garden are on their second flowering of the year. Most of the lilies and all the irises are done, and the honeysuckle vine finished a long time ago.

Strawberry season came early, the third week of May. Raspberries are already in full production, and cherries too. June, usually quite rainy in our area, has been bone dry. In this heat wave, we can feel our earth warming.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Historic Osgoode Hall and the U of T

Behind its spiked iron fence, Osgoode Hall is bleached by morning sunlight. Now part of York University, this is the home of the Upper Canada Law Society, established in 1797, a full seventy years before Canada became a nation.

This building has a checkered past. Begun in 1829 and named after Upper Canada's first chief justice, William Osgoode, the original east wing accommodated students and lawyers as well as courts and offices. For six years after the Rebellion of 1837, it housed troops.

Between 1844 and 1860, Osgoode Hall was added to and remodelled, then redesigned and rebuilt. Today not only is it a treasured heritage building and one of the nation's finest examples of Victorian Classical architecture, it's name is a symbol of the law in English Canada.

The University of Toronto also predates the country. It was established as King's College in 1827 by a charter from King George IV of England, and only later became known as the U of T, as it is often called. Alumnae include Stephen Leacock, Lester B. Pearson, Adrienne Clarkson, Tak W. Mak and Roberta Bondar.

This respected university possesses campuses in Mississauga and Scarborough as well as Toronto. In summer when there is space available for non-students, I love staying at the convenient downtown Chestnut Residence, surrounded by reminders of Toronto's fascinating past.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Toronto Islands -- a perfect place on a summer's day

This fountain near the ferry slip on Centre Island was a welcome sight after a long hot stroll from the dock at Ward's Island along the boardwalk that overlooks the lake.

In atmosphere, the Toronto Islands are a world away from downtown, though physically, they are very close by.

Ward's Island is characterized by lawns, gardens, nature trails, ducks and delightfully quirky summer houses like the ones shown.

Life is quiet here. Motor vehicles are scarce, but dogs and bicycles park outside the outdoor cafe. One side faces Lake Ontario; the other overlooks downtown.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Toronto then and now -- Harbour Commission

Like other historic waterfront buildings, this one now stands cheek by jowl with enormous high rises, and more are coming, as the cranes indicate.

The Toronto Harbour Commission was created by Parliament in 1911 to manage and improve the waterfront.

Ninety years later, in 2001, the Toronto Port Authority was formed. It still operates out of the same building.

Ports Toronto owns and operates Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, which is soon to have an access tunnel opened to the island for easier access. Named after the famous World War I flying ace, Billy Bishop is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

Meanwhile, the occupants of the green and idyllic Ward's Island nearby are opposed to the plan to allow larger planes to land here.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Downtown Toronto then and now: Union Station

Along with the Royal York, Union Station once constituted the heart of the city, dominating the waterfront skyline. Dwarfed over time by huge new skyscrapers, the venerable building fell gradually into a genteel shabbiness.

It remains the centre of Toronto's transit systems. From here buses, streetcars, subway trains and GO commuter trains arrive and depart. A short streetcar ride from Union is the Jack Layton Ferry Terminal. Boats from here go to the Toronto Islands, a green oasis a few minutes ride and a world away from downtown noise and bustle.

Today Union Station is undergoing an enormous upgrade. Now that the new UP Union-Pearson express trains have begun to run, the airport is only a 25-minute ride from downtown, regardless of traffic conditions.

Old meets new where the route to the UP Train from the subway stop crosses the station concourse. The stone legend beneath the Skywalk sign reads Canadian National Railways.

The view below shows the building as it was in 1927, newly open to serve the CNR and the Grand Trunk Railway.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Canwrite! Awards Gala gathering in Orillia addressed by James Bartleman

Keynote speaker at the CAA Awards Gala James Bartleman signs a book for Connie, a member who travelled from Montreal by train for Canwrite!

An Officer of the Order of Canada and the recipient of many awards including more than a dozen honorary degrees, this remarkable humanitarian, a former diplomat, represented Canada in many countries.

Between 2002 and 2007, Bartleman was the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario. A member of the Rama Chippewa First Nation, he was inspired by books when quite young.

He established a series of summer reading camps to inspire children from remote communities, commenting, "The northern half of Ontario still has no roads." 

This remarkable project involved creating a book club that undertook the responsibility of ensuring that every child living in a fly-in community received a book. He "shamed" 12 universities and 4 colleges into hosting the reading camps and got the army to help with delivery. More than a million donated books were collected for this initiative, and 300 university students ran the camps for elementary school children from 87 communities. No book was wasted, and Frontier College has carried on with the camps since.

Canada's failure to provide social justice for her native peoples constitutes "one of the great unfinished pieces of our country," says Bartleman. The problem is that "no government will get elected on a platform of justice for natives. We need a sea change in social attitudes."

Mr. Bartleman was a humorous and inspiring speaker, well fitted to address Canadian Authors members and award winners. Even the famous local figure Stephen Leacock featured in the speaker's anecdotes. The lakeside home of this great Canadian humourist, who died in 1944, is now a musuem in Orillia. James Bartleman's grandmother was Leacock's cook, and Leacock saved the life of Bartleman's father's on the lake at Muskoka in 1946.

Along with his other accomplishments, Bartleman is an author of both fiction and non-fiction books.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Editor Agent panelists Craig Pyette and Patricia Ocampo

Post panel conversation between Toronto editor Craig Pyette and agent Patricia Ocampo: she is being distracted by another question.

Craig Pyette, senior editor at Knopf Random House, gave a workshop on getting published. He demonstrated effective opening paragraphs of some well known novels and discussed finding appropriate "comps." This term refers to books that are similar to yours, which are helpful in identifying your audience. An ideal comp needs to be substantially similar to your own work, and no more than ten years old.

Patricia Ocampo is with Penguin Random House Canada where she works as part of a team that acquires, prepares and publicizes children's books.

Part of the charm of this conference was the fact that it was small. That meant we had many chances for conversations with the workshop presenters. I had the good fortune to chat with Craig and Patricia over dinner, One thing I learned that evening was that Patricia grew up in Surrey and went to the same elementary school as my daughter!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Writing Circles at CAA

With Sue Reynolds, writing circle facilitator.

The recent CAA Canwrite! 2015 conference included three writing circles. The two I attended were both fun and inspiring. Ruth E. Walker led one and Sue Reynolds facilitated the other.

Sue is a psychologist and counsellor as well as being a poet, creative non-fiction writer and the author of an award-winning YA novel.

I find that writing circles have a kind of ceremonial magic that causes participants to write things that surprise them. Sharing, though optional, is always interesting.

The diversity of work produced is quite simply amazing.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Canwrite! 2015 Conference Master Class with Anthony de Sa

As well as being a brilliant writer of fiction, Toronto's Anthony de Sa is a born teacher who teaches high school and gives writing workshops.

His collection of short stories, Barnacle Love, was nominated for the Giller in 2008, and the novel Kicking the Sky was shortlisted for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards.

Last week before the Canwrite! conference officially opened, we had a lot of fun in de Sa's lively workshop. Our first task was to use a significant object to tap into the senses. "The least used in description is the sense of smell," he told us, although it is powerfully evocative.

We used a group process to create fascinating story lines, creating lists and selecting short powerful words of description to knock out cliches.

"Trust where your writing is going," our teacher advised. "There is an organic way of developing stories...Things happen when you don't expect it," and sometimes "the story writes itself."

Mr. de Sa also emceed at the CAA Literary Awards Gala. A charming host, he was formally dressed a white shirt and tie, tuxedo jacket and bluejeans.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

David Madden: evoking sensory images by implication

Image from amazon

"A writer for all genres," his blog calls him. David Madden, teacher, novelist and short story writer, is now Professor Emeritus after vacating the Robert Penn Warren chair in Creative Writing at Louisiana State University.

"Your reader expects to see, hear, touch, smell and taste...A cluster of sensory experiences may not be as effective in a given context as...a single sense. 'Fires on the dry mountain slopes surrounding the town had been smoldering for days.' We can see that, but we can also smell it... No other sense is as difficult to stimulate in fiction as smell. But senses are more sharply stimulated by implication than by direct attempts..'John entered the room, followed by a man who had to stoop.'"

Stephen Leacock Museum a must-see in Orillia

Before Canwrite! in Orillia last week, I visited the Stephen Leacock Museum with fellow CAA member Jean Kay. We were directed to the house from the nearby museum office, and told that the student guide would give us a tour.

We approached  through a garden full of lilacs and peonies, and heard piano music pouring through the open window onto the verandah. Autumn, our docent, was a music student from Laurier University.

She rose from the piano to give us an interesting and detailed tour, telling of the sad death of Mrs. Leacock before the house was complete, and about their son's neurological illness. She also gave us fresh summer apples.

Above left, Jean Kay's head can be seen in the mirror as she studies something on the scullery wall. On the right, I face the main house from the garden path leading to the lake house.

 This lakeside home was another writing place. Below are his his main writing desk, his narrow bed, and a whimsical replica of his fictional pleasure boat, the Mariposa Belle, which later became a real one.

Such are the old-fashioned charms of Stephen Leacock's rambling summer home on the shore of Lake Simcoe.

The house also contains a large library of his works, and many other books considered important at the time.

The extensive collections of books by writers like Churchill and Gibbon may look odd to us now, but Leacock died back in 1944.

The house also contains a tribute to Terry Fallis, most recent winner of the Leacock Medal for Humour.

Friday, June 19, 2015

David Madden weighs in on distance

Image from Daily Bulldog

"Have you not yet achieved the proper distance between yourself and your material?
Do you comment thematically by intruding as the author to editorialize upon the narrative?
Revision poses the question of whether you should expand or lessen the distance between you and the character and/or your reader.
For instance, if the point of view is third person central intelligence, it follows logically that any word, phrase or sentence that reveals your own attitudes, especially negative ones, about the point of view character should be cut, because the purpose of that point of view is to limit yourself entirely to the perceptions of that character." (32-3)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Madden: more on point of view

Image from The Read on WNC

The choice of which point of view to use for a particular story is not a casual decision, says Madden. By trying different points of view you learn which one the story requires.

"The point of view you employ should express something in itself. It should not seem to the reader to have been arbitrarily chosen, or chosen as the easiest one for you to use. Your choice should be, in every way, so effective that the reader feels it is the only possible choice, the inevitable choice." (37)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Point of view choices: David Madden

Image from Amazon

Originally published in 1988, David Madden's practical handbook was reissued in 2002. Here is his advice on making the right decision about what point of view your story needs.

"To test the first-draft point of view on paper, identify the scene in your story that is giving you the most trouble. Try rewriting the scene from two other points of view.

If the draft is third person, avoid simply transposing "she" to "I." Imagine the possibilities posed by each point of view; explore the possibility of using multiple point of view techniques. You may see clearly that point of view is a mode of discovery; you may find the true emotive and thematic centre of your story." (27)

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Ernest Hemingway: prose is architecture

Image from nobelprize.org

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration," said Hemingway, "and the baroque is over." His own style was without ornament.

He also decided, as "a good and severe discipline" to write one story about each thing he knew. This may be the original source of the dictum to "Write what you know." Yet to slavishly follow this much misunderstood "advice" would deprive the world of a great deal of imaginative work. In his 1960 introduction to A Moveable Feast, Hemingway hints at the blurry line between fact and fiction:

"If the reader prefers, this book may be regarded as fiction. But there is always the chance that such a book may throw some light on what has been written as fact."

Hemingway was a slow writer who said this: "I did not know how I would ever write anything as long as a novel. It often took me a full morning of work to write a paragraph."

Hemingway's advice for writing can be found here.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hemingway talks about writing in A Moveable Feast

Image from amazon

"I always worked until I had something done and I always stopped when I knew what was going to happen next. That way I could be sure of going on the next day. But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going,...I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, 'Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to write is one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.' So finally I would write one true sentence and then go on from there.
I learned not to think about anything I was writing from the time I stopped writing until I started again. That way my subconscious would be working on it...I would read so I would not think about my work...Going down the stairs when I had worked well was a wonderful feeling..."

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Animals on the Mountain

A marmot guards his burrow and a deer grazes in front of someone's home.

But wait -- what kinds of bears are these?


Friday, June 12, 2015


The winding descent from Panorama to the village of Invermere is steep and narrow shouldered. At the higher elevations, it follows the burbling green water of Toby Creek. Then suddenly, around a corner, the valley and the lake spread before the driver.

Unfortunately, there is no pullout before the lower reaches of the mountain. Thus this picture shows only a faint glimmer of the lake that spreads below. 
Left: Along the valley that follows the beginnings of the Columbia River, a strange DNA shaped cloud formation rises out of the Purcell Mountains. The Rockies flank the opposite side of this remote and quiet paradise.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Toby Creek and Panorama -- natural and man made beauty

At Panorama, the Greywolf Golf Course blends in with the natural beauty of the mountain top, adding a human aspect to the views from the hiking trail that leads from the upper village down past Toby Creek.