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Visiting the Anne Frank House

The Anne Frank House is at 263 Prinsengrachton along this street that runs parallel to the canal.

A few months ago, in preparation for a trip to Amsterdam and a planned visit to the Anne Frank House, I read Anne’s The Diary of a Young Girl.  I blogged about my reactions to the book then.  I noted too, that my wife, Jo, and I had tried to visit the Anne Frank House on a previous visit to Amsterdam. We had not expected block-long line-ups to get in, and rather than spend the better part of a day in line, we opted to visit one the city’s many museums instead. 

This time, we secured tickets online well ahead of our visit.  We also purchased tickets to an optional 30-minute information session given prior to the start of the tour.

Sarah’s timeline that compares events in WW II to the Frank family’s reactions to oppression

Sarah, our presenter, used a timeline to show key points about the rise of Nazism in Germany, the factors that contributed to antisemitism, and the plight of Jews, gays, people of color, and others who were oppressed during Hitler’s time in power. Sarah used the same timeline to show how the Frank family responded to these conditions. She traced their move from Germany to Amsterdam when oppression deepened.  She traced their move from the house in Amsterdam where they first lived, to the house at 263 Prinsengrachton where they sought refuge after the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1942.

Later, we were given audio devices for the tour of the house.  Cameras were banned and while that was initially a disappointment, it kept crowds moving and focused.  We wound through various levels of the house, up steep stairs, through the passageway hidden by a bookcase that led to the secret annex that housed 9 people for 2 years, including 4 members of the Frank family.

A model of the house as it was in World War II. The secret annex is at the upper right at the back of the structure.

At every turn, excerpts from Anne’s diary were on display. Voices of actors in the audio guide – or in some cases, the voices of actual survivors – added another layer of information and authenticity to the experience.  Photographs of the rooms’ interiors as they were used during the two-year period were mounted on walls.  Display cases featured books, papers and implements used by the Franks and others. 

Moving through the house, I was reminded of many passages I had read in the book. What Anne expressed in words became hauntingly real. The rooms were small.  The staircases were narrow and tight.  The blinds were drawn, mimicking the way they needed to be in order to prevent light from escaping and revealing the hiding place to Nazis patrolling the streets. The bathroom, which could only be used in the evenings when workers in the floors below were gone, was small and sparsely furnished. With every creak of the floorboards, I felt some of the same fears of detection that Anne had expressed in her diary.   

One of Anne’s diaries

Perhaps the most moving segment of the tour was saved to the end.  In a meeting space, a video played on a continuous loop. Dignitaries and celebrities from Nelson Mandela to Stephen Spielberg, as well as ordinary visitors like ourselves spoke about the impact of Anne Frank’s words.

Also featured were friends and acquaintances from Anne’s life, many of them survivors themselves.  Among others, we heard from Hanneli Elizabeth Pick-Goslar, who attended Sixth Public Montessori School with Anne in Amsterdam, and Miep Gies who hid the diaries until they could be returned to Otto Frank, the only member of the Frank family to survive.

The new exterior of the Anne Frank House & Foundation

The exterior of the Anne Frank complex looks very different than when we saw it on our first visit to Amsterdam. The building next to the original house is now part of the Anne Frank Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to education and the eradication of racism, bigotry and prejudice in all its forms.  The new wing houses an extensive library, meeting rooms, and a cafeteria.

From our tour and the session before it, I learned much about the conditions leading up to the war that I didn’t know before. I didn’t know, for example, that Germany bore the weight of retribution after World War I, or how those escalating payments sent the German economy into a tailspin.  I learned more about how Hitler seized the moment to blame the Jews for the country’s economic woes.  He preached a message of false hope to desperate Germans that essentially said, elect me, rid the world of Jews, gays, gypsies and others on the fringes of society, and things will improve.

So much of what happened before and during World War II sounded eerily familiar. The rise of white supremacy. Leaders promising better futures by stoking fear and pointing blame at pockets of society. Oppressed people on the run, seeking refuge in new countries, but blocked at every turn. 

Isn’t this much the same today as then?

 

Vertical, Horizontal and Other Writing Habits

Early in my writing career, I discovered Perkins. Life was complicated then. I was a full-time teacher with a young family and hardly a minute to spare. To add writing to the mix meant that I had to squeeze an extra hour or two from an already crowded day, so I started getting up earlier than normal, well before the rest of the family. 

Each day for the first week of my new routine, I woke up at 5:30, brewed a pot of coffee, then slipped into an empty room that I had converted into a makeshift work space. The house was quiet, the air still, and there were many distractions that seemed more compelling than writing. For an hour and a half, I stared bleary-eyed at the computer screen, stalled before even starting.

Wherever I go, my day pretty much begins this way

For a change of venue one morning, I headed to a nearby Perkins restaurant. There the tables were large, the coffee hot and plentiful, and the restaurant was mostly deserted, save for five grizzly men, all retired I assumed, who had gathered to debate politics and life’s sad state. I chose a table near a window far from them, and was soon lost in a caffeine-fueled world of my own.  With the comforting hum of voices in the background and with few distractions to impede my progress, I made headway for the first time.

Since then, I’ve started my mornings in much the same way. The setting changes, but the pattern doesn’t.  Seven days a week, even on vacations, I walk, bike or drive to the first of my daily writing stations – a cozy cafe or inviting restaurant. 

My routine isn’t for everyone, but most productive writers had some habit or other than jump-starts the process or keeps the pages flowing.  For example, American poet Sylvia Plath started her writing day early, up at 4 a.m. and writing feverishly until her children demanded attention. John O’Hara, on the other hand, wrote between midnight and 7 a.m. and then crawled into bed for the rest of the day.

For others, it was water that beckoned the muse. Benjamin Franklin liked to write while immersed in the bathtub. So did Ann Landers, the famous columnist, Edmond Rostand, the French playwright, and Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita. I am not sure how they kept their pages dry, but for them it worked.

Truman Capote wrote best in motel rooms and called himself ‘a horizontal writer’. Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson wrote lying down, too. Not so for Lewis Carroll, Thomas Wolfe, and Ernest Hemingway who all wrote standing up.

Virginia Wolfe wrote in a converted basement billiards room, surrounded by old files and stacks of books. J.K.Rowling famously wrote large portions of Harry Potter aboard a train, soothed by clattering wheels and swaying cars. Stephen King, one of the most prolific of writers, works at the same desk every morning, surrounded by familiar writing tools, keeping butt in the chair until he reaches his target of 10 pages.

On the hunt for coffee in Venice, Italy. No matter where I am, I try to find a quiet cafe or coffee shop to begin my writing day.

It seems to me that one secret to a successful writing career is not that we all have the same habit, but that we have habits of some kind that work for us – a place, a time, a favourite pen, a comfortable chair. Habit can induce consistency, offset writer’s block and lead to productivity, be it a paragraph a day or Stephen’s King’s enviable 10 pages.

What’s your writing habit?

 

Where Do You Get Your Ideas?

“Where do you get your ideas?”

Kids are naturally curious and I get this question a lot when I visit schools and libraries.  Usually, I fumble through the answer by giving examples:


Case Files: 40 Murders & Mysteries Solved by Science

A newspaper article in a weekend edition explained how a forensic study of a single strand of Beethoven’s hair provided insights into the cause of the composer’s mysterious death.   What other cases from the past has modern science solved? I wondered.

 

 


Survivors: True Death-Defying Escapes

Years ago, my wife, two young children & I wandered off a mountain trail and spent several panic-filled hours trying to find our way back.  We succeeded but the experience led to questions:  How do others escape life-threatening experiences? What do they do to survive?

 

 


At the Edge: True Death-Defying Escapes

In 2006, Andrew Brash, a Calgary teacher, came to town to talk about his Mount Everest climb, In his presentation, Brash described his team’s rescue of Lincoln Hall, an Australian climber given up for dead by others in Everest’s Death Zone.  To rescue Hall, an act that Brash felt was the morally correct choice, he had to abandon his own climb.   In Brash’s story, I found a theme: With the clock ticking, when faced with death or loss, what choices do you have?  What action would you take?

 


Surviving the Hindenburg

I was looking for a story about a fire to include in Case Files.  The Hindenburg’s tragic end came to mind, but the science behind the fire didn’t fit the theme of the book.  The story of Werner Franz’s remarkable escape stuck, though. I had to know more and his  story became another book.

 


Coop the Great

I had been thinking about writing a non-fiction book about dogs, but the plan changed when I spotted a dachshund and his owner on a hike up a steep mountain.  It seemed like a monumental challenge for such a small dog.  All the way, I thought about the dog and wondered how he was coping.  That encounter gave birth to a story idea of a fictional dachshund who faces his own challenges and rises above them.

 

Usually, after a few examples, my young audience gets the drift of my answer: Ideas are everywhere.  You just have to be open to finding them. Be curious.  Ask questions.

It’s a pretty simple answer.  But really, what is the source of inspiration?  Is there a way to jump start the creative process?   Why do some people have a surplus of ideas while others have difficulty coming up with one?

In his web article, Where Do Ideas Come From? Dustin Wax describes two schools of thought about where ideas originate.  He calls one the “artist as antenna’.  Here ideas free float waiting for someone to pick them up, the same way a radio antenna picks up signals when tuned to the proper frequency. 

The second school of thought maintains that ideas are the product of hard work and concentration.  For writers, it means this:  Throw words on a page, think long and hard, keep your nose to the grindstone, and write, write and behold, ideas will surface.

On a hike down Central Trail in Riding Mountain National Park, I discovered these concrete structures. They were all that remained of a POW camp that once stood on the site. Even though I didn’t know it then, the POW camp would play an essential role in a later novel – Missing in Paradise. Ideas are everywhere.

Looking back at my own experiences, I can see both of these schools of thought at work. Simple as it might seem, the answer I give my young audiences is probably an apt one.  Ideas come to those who are prepared to find them, to those who are curious, who pay attention, and keep plugging away even during dry spells when it seems hopeless. 

My Writing Career Started in a Barbershop

Like many people, I can picture exactly where I was and what I was doing at key moments in my life. Neil Armstrong’s famous step on the moon – sitting in my then girlfriend’s living room, watching the live broadcast on TV with her parents. The Berlin Wall coming down – in my car, hearing about it on a radio broadcast. The collapse of the Twin Towers – in the school library over the lunch hour, horrified as I watched events unfold on TV with other teachers.

I can also tell you exactly when and where I was when my writing career really started. I was in a barbershop waiting for a haircut after a busy day of teaching 6th graders.

There were a handful of other people in the shop all waiting their turn. With time to kill, I browsed through a stack of magazines on a coffee table. I flipped through pages, scanned articles, then stopped when I came to a full-page advertisement headed by this line:  We’re looking for people to write children’s books.

The ad had been placed by The Institute of Children’s Literature in Reading, Connecticut to promote a correspondence course the Institute offered. According to the ad, anyone who qualified and completed the course would be equipped with at least one polished item to publishers by the end of the program.

To this day, I don’t know why I was so intrigued by the ad. Perhaps because I had been such an enthusiastic reader my whole life. Perhaps because I taught children and had two young kids of my own, and figured this would be just an extension of my daily existence. Perhaps because I loved the bond fostered between readers sharing books, and wanted to create something that would have the same results.

I suspect it was all of these.  At any rate, I decided to give it a go.

The course involved a series of mailed-out assignments that covered a range of different writing forms and topics. When I completed an assignment, I mailed it to one of the Institute’s authors to be critiqued, then moved on to the next one.

The first few assignments were heavy on fiction, but three or four assignments into the program, I received a different kind of assignment. Write an article for a children’s magazine.

This was non-fiction, and not the kind of writing I envisioned for myself. But I latched on to a subject that I discovered by chance. It fascinated me so much that I continued to research and write about it even as I worked on the rest of the assignments. By the time, I had finished the course I had an almost complete manuscript and I was fully hooked on writing for youngsters.

I am fond of saying that my writing career began in a barbershop which is not far from the truth, and that a serendipitous discovery of an ad in a magazine lead to my first published book which is not far from the truth either. It seems fitting, too, that the topic for the book was also discovered quite by chance, and that my first book was titled most appropriately The Serendipity Effect.

You can read more about my jump-start into writing and the creation of The Serendipity Effect at About Larry

MYRCA’s Big Reveal

The crowd waits
Monday, May 6, 2019 – 7 pm   McNally Robinson’s Booksellers, Winnipeg

Teachers, librarians, parents and kids fill the atrium. I am there, too. We are all waiting for the same thing. The big MYRCA reveal. What books have been selected for the 2020 Manitoba Young Readers Choice Award reading list?

Prizes line the table, all ready for the many draws

MYRCA was established by the Manitoba School Library Association in 1990 to mark the International Year of Literacy. For the past 29 years, students across the province in grades 4 to 9 have been offered a slate of short-listed Canadian novels to read, discuss and assess. In early April, students who have read a minimum of 3 titles vote for their favourite. Votes are collected, tabulated, and when the dust settles a MYRCA winner and two Honor Book winners are announced.

Sundogs on display

As it stands now, MYRCA offers two lists of nominated titles: MYRCA Sundogs for grades 4-6. MYRCA Northern Reflections for grades 7-9. But back to McNally Robinsons. The moment. The big reveal. The Sundogs first. Lucky me, Coop the Great is a nominated title. I’ve known for a while, but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. It’s a relief to have it public now.

Nancy Chappell-Pollack & Colleen Nelson introduce their book,Pulse Point, a Northern Reflections nominee
Heather Smith talks about Ebb & Flow, her nominated novel in the Northern Reflections category
Its my turn to introduce Coop the Great

There are 10 books on the Sundogs shortlist and another 10 on the Northern Reflections list. Congratulations to all the nominees. I’m thrilled to be in such great company. Even more thrilled that kids across the province will be reading about Coop.

It was an exciting evening for all who attended. The teachers, librarians and devoted others who head the MYRCA program made it special. Thanks to all who attended or contributed time and resources to launch another MYRCA year.  Let the reading begin! 

More information about MYRCA can be found on the MYRCA website

MYRCA 2020 Sundogs
MYRCA 2020 Northern Reflections

The Write Stuff Festivals

Along with other local writers, I was lucky enough to participate in a couple of writing festivals this week. It takes a lot of drive and initiative to organize school-wide events like this and in both cases, they ran without a hitch. At least, that was my limited perspective as one of the drop-in presenters.  

The sessions offered were as varied as the writers and the genres they represented  The festival at St. George ran almost a month, with authors of youth material visiting students from K to Grade 8.  Daniel McIntyre’s The Write Stuff Conference ran over the course of a single busy day. From journalists, to scriptwriters, to film makers, to authors of non-fiction and fiction, The Write Stuff offered a buffet of writing approaches and talent for Grade 11 students who attended.  

Hats off to Lisa Ferguson at St.George School and Benjamin Paul at Daniel McIntyre Collegiate, master teachers and organizers, who extended the invitations and ensured students were pumped and ready for us. Thanks everyone. I had a grand time.

The House at 19 Barteljorisstraat

Reading about the Secret Annex in Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl reminded of another secret hiding place I once visited and had written about in Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible. Like the Annex, this hiding place was well disguised and like the Annex, it harbored refugees targeted during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in World War II.

Here is a recount of a post I wrote in 2015 after my visit to 19 Barteljorisstraat.


Waiting outside the green door for the tour to begin

From the street, 19 Barteljorisstraat in the Haarlem district just outside of Amsterdam looks ordinary enough.  A shop on the main floor, living quarters above, the same configuration as dozens of other buildings along the busy, cobbled street.  Little outside hints of the story of courage inside, one that I read and wrote about, and that has lingered ever since.

The Ten Boom watch shop with living quarters above

On a recent trip to Amsterdam, I wrangled a day out a tight schedule and convinced my wife to accompany me on a group tour of the house.  Along with twenty others, we waited at a dark green door in the alley way until our guide ushered us inside and up a flight of stairs into what was once a living room.  After setting the scene for what we would see later, she guided us up a tight, winding staircase to a small room at the top of the house. Free of furnishings now, the room looked much like the exterior of the building.  Ordinary.  Hardly the stage for a courageous story.  Yet that’s exactly what occurred in this plain looking space.

20150808_121238_HDR
Winding, narrow stairs connect small rooms.

During World War II, when the Netherlands was occupied by Nazi Germany, forty-eight-year-old Corrie ten Boom, her sister Bessie and their father, Caspar, lived and worked at 19 Barteljorisstraat.  They ran a watch shop on the main floor and lived above. Risking death, the ten Booms harboured Jews and other refugees, hiding them until safer quarters could be found. Keeping the operation secret from the Gestapo was difficult, and each day the threat of a raid grew stronger.

View from the upper storey

To hide their ‘guests’, the ten Booms and members of the Dutch resistance constructed a false wall in the room at the top of the stairs.  Over a period of 6 days, ‘customers’ flowed in and out of the watch shop carrying cleverly disguised items – hammers, trowels, bricks or mortar — tucked inside briefcases, boxes or rolled-up newspapers. Working unnoticed, they constructed a brick wall across the rear of the bedroom to create a secret room — a hiding place for ‘guests’  should the Gestapo come calling.

The space behind the false wall

To supply oxygen, workers rigged up a ventilation system. They made the new wall look as old as others in the house, and installed a bookcase on the left side of it.  A sliding panel, 60 centimetres by 60 centimetres in the bottom of a storage cabinet became a hidden door. Because it was constructed out of brick, the wall absorbed sounds and hid the hollowness behind.

Our guide shows the hiding place

For a year and a half, the ten Booms harboured refugees and lived dangerous double lives while Nazi security tightened.  Then in February 1944, the Gestapo showed up at the house.  With just seconds to spare, six ‘guests’ squirreled into the hiding place, dropped the sliding panel, and stood shoulder to shoulder while soldiers searched the house.  Convinced that Jews were present somewhere, a sentry was posted outside.

The sliding panel below the bookcase

After 47 hours confined in the tight space, the ‘guests’ escaped, but Corrie and her family were not so fortunate.  Arrested and interrogated, they were confined to prison cells and detainment centres in Holland and Germany.  Bessie died and so did her father, but Corrie lived through the experience. After the war, she co-wrote The Hiding Place, a book about the secret room, and she toured the world spreading messages of forgiveness and renewal until her death in 1983 at the age of 91.

Corrie ten Boom
DSC06254
The Hiding Place has been translated into many languages and published numerous times.

Today, the ten Boom watch shop on the ground floor is still operational, though different owners now run it.  The upper floors are a museum, and the brick wall in the small room at the top has been opened so that visitors can see the tight space behind, and marvel, as I did, at the courage it took to defy the enemy patrolling the streets outside.

For the full story or details about the house, check the official website of the Corrie ten Boom Museum or read Behind the Brick Wall in Life or Death: Surviving the Impossible.

 

Book Review: The Diary of a Young Girl

Recently, in preparation for a possible trip to Amsterdam in the Fall, I read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl. I was hoping to learn more about the Nazi occupation of World War II, the Holocaust, and the Secret Annex – now a museum – where thirteen-year-old Anne Frank and seven others hid for many months before their capture on the morning of August 4, 1944.

Anne Frank called her diary Kitty and she began each entry with Dear Kitty, just as one might do when writing a very personal letter to a friend. And personal, the diary is. From June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944, Anne wrote about joys and sorrows, friends and enemies, wartime victories and defeats, the onset of puberty, plight of the Jews, hopes and dreams, and the daily challenges of living in a tight space with 7 others. She wrote volumes about the conditions in the Secret Annex, sharing information about everything from the moldy potatoes that were a daily staple to the buckets that replaced the toilet she and the others were not allowed to use.

Whenever someone comes in from outside, with the wind in their clothes and the cold on their cheeks, I feel like burying my head under the blankets to keep from thinking, “When will we be allowed to breathe fresh air again?”
Friday, December 24, 1943

Did Anne expect millions of people would one day read her very private account? Not exactly. According to the Foreword, Anne hoped to publish a book based on her diary when the war ended. To that end, she began rewriting and editing her Version A diary, changing text, adding and deleting passages, to create a Version B diary. When Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only survivor of the eight confined to the Secret Annex, decided to go public with it, he handpicked passages from both diaries to create a more sanitized Version C. He omitted details that he considered too personal or that might sully the reputations of Anne and the others.

Relationships here in the Annex are getting worse all the time. We don’t dare open our mouths at mealtime (except to slip in in a bite of food) because no matter what we say, someone is bound to resent it or take it the wrong way.
Thursday, September 16, 1943

Since its release in 1953, Version C of The Diary of a Young Girl has been read by millions. I read the most recent edition, however, which is a compilation of the three versions and the most complete and consequently, the most personal, too.

The tragedy of World War II became very real when I viewed it through this thirteen-year-old’s perspective. Anne Frank was a blatantly honest and gifted writer, and it is the world’s loss that she died in a concentration camp just before the war ended. She had a wicked sense of humour and despite the seriousness of the subject matter, I chuckled at her clever and often cynical descriptions. At the same time, I found myself hurrying through mundane passages and flinching when I reached others that just seemed too intimate to read. At those moments, I felt like an intruder, peeping into Anne’s personal life without her explicit permission.

I sometimes wonder if anyone will ever understand what I mean, if anyone will ever overlook my ingratitude and not worry about whether or not I’m Jewish and merely see me  as a teenager badly in need of some good plain fun.  I don\’ know, and I wouldn’t be able to talk about it with anyone, since I’m sure I’d start to cry.
Friday, December 24, 1943

Standing outside The Anne Frank House on our first visit. Unfortunately, we never thought to secure tickets.
Crowds line the street waiting to enter The Anne Frank House

On my fall trip to Amsterdam, I hope to visit The Anne Frank House. It will be my second attempt to see the interior of the Secret Annex where Anne and the others lived. On a previous trip, my wife and I failed to secure tickets in advance and could not enter. Having read The Diary of a Young Girl has made me even more curious and I will not make the same mistake again.

Tonight the guns have been banging away so much that I’ve already had to gather up my belongings four times.  Today I packed a suitcase with all the stuff I’d need in case we had to flee, but as Mother correctly noted, “Where would you go?”
Saturday, May 1, 1943

 

 

Reading and Writing with Rae

Over the holiday period, my son and his family from Seattle stayed with us. It was relaxed visit and fortunately the weather was mild enough that we could enjoy winter activities. Because they live in a region where snow is a rarity, our six-year-old granddaughter, Raeghan, was thrilled. She made snow angels, skated at the Forks, tobogganed down hills, built a snowman, and tossed snowballs at her parents.

Long ago, when Rae was just beginning to speak, she started calling me Bumpa. I think she was aiming for ‘Grandpa’, but came out with Bumpa instead. The name stuck. Bumpa I became and Bumpa I still am to her. (Later, we discovered that Rae was on to something. My parents immigrated from Belgium and in Flemish, grandfather is Bompa so Rae’s ‘Bumpa’ is perfect!)

Reading to Rae, 2015

Rae is in grade 1. Her parents – both book lovers – have been reading to her since she was only a few months old, and they’ve passed on their love of books and stories to their daughter. Rae loves all kinds of books – fiction and non-fiction – and with each visit, I see remarkable changes in her reading abilities. She uses many strategies to decode words and has a never-give-up attitude that carries her through difficult passages.

On this visit, Rae wanted to write her own book. She started by telling the story of How the Unicorn Meets the Wolf  to her dad. He created a storyboard with panels representing each page of the book. They folded paper to make a booklet, and Rae began to transpose the story she’d created, allowing room for illustrations that she would complete later.

Rae’s story had all the elements: a main character – Winter, the unicorn; a secondary character – the wolf; conflict, rising action, climax and resolution.  There were touches of drama and adventure, and even humour.

When I showed her that we could create her book on the computer, Rae quickly shifted gears. Using Publisher, we shared the experience of typing out the words. It was slow going for Rae who hunted and pecked out the letters, but she giggled often and loved seeing her creation come to life. I showed her how to capitalize letters, add punctuation to sentences, insert quotations for dialogue, shift between lines and use other tools of the writing trade.

The whole process of putting words on the pages took several hours. Later Rae spent more time illustrating her story. The end result was a book she could call her own, and a satisfying experience for the 3 generations of contributors to the project – Rae, Dad and Bumpa.

Golden Writing Moments of 2018

Looking over photos from 2018 made me realize how many special moments I enjoyed as a writer throughout the year. In no particular order here are eight Golden Writing Moments of 2018:

Golden Writing Moment #1 – In May, I spent two days as a volunteer driver during Canadian Children’s Book Week. On one of those days, I drove visiting author Rina Singh to Morris where she presented to a group of children at the Morris Library. Rina and I had lots to talk about on the drive. We covered many topics, but writing was at the top of the list. I was in a bit of a writing slump, but at the end of the day I couldn’t wait to write. Thanks Rina Singh!

 

Golden Moment #2. While in Arizona, Jo & I heard about the Wiener Dog races. Held annually as a fundraiser, dachshunds race against each other in different categories. Having just finished Coop the Great, we had to go, of course. Dachshund owners are an enthusiastic bunch and I never realized until then how many different varieties of dachshunds there are. We had a blast!

 

Golden Moment of 2018 #3. Great Plains Publications was at the top of my submission list for Coop the Great so I was thrilled when they agreed to publish the book.

 

Golden Writing Moment of 2018 #4 – Early in November, Jo & I drove to the town of Altona, Manitoba to watch Coop the Great roll off the presses at the Friesens plant. Friesens employs many in town, and it is a huge operation spread over several buildings.  It was a thrill to see the book come alive, and the folks at Friesens were accommodating in every way.

The story of Coop the Great centers around a dog who has been adopted and rejected multiple times. For the launch, I wanted to focus in part on the service shelters provide. I visited D’Arcy’s Animal Rescue Centre and met D’Arcy Johnston, the founder, and D’Arcy’s canine ambassador, Darnold (Darn Arnold). D’Arcy agreed right away to speak at the launch and as bonus he said he would bring Darnold. This is my Golden Writing Moment of 2018 #5.

 

Golden Writing Moment of 2018 #6 – At a time when everything I wrote seemed to be mush, this meme popped up on Facebook. The message carried me over hurdles that seemed monumental at the time. Writing is not like brain surgery. More like sculpting a lump of clay.

 

Golden Writing Moment of 2018 #7 – On a visit with my granddaughter to McNally Robinson Booksellers, Winnipeg’s premier independent bookstore, we found a copy of G is for Golden Boy: A Manitoba Alphabet on display. My granddaughter lives far away and this was our first visit to the store together, and the first time I could show her where those books grandpa writes actually go.

 

To wrap it up, here is Golden Writing Moment of 2018 #8 – the launch of Coop the Great. You never know with launches who, if anyone, will show up. For Coop, the atrium at McNally Robinson Booksellers was full. When I looked over the crowd, I saw familiar faces from many different circles – family, friends, fellow teachers, fellow writers, even a few from the restaurant where I write each morning. Thank you to all who came and made this a golden moment.Thank you to those who purchased the book. Thank you to those who read it and shared their reactions.

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