Writing group participation is a big part of my writing practice. I’m in three writing groups right now, and while it’s a lot of work to prepare so many critiques each month, it’s been a benefit to me personally as well as in my writing.
As well as giving and receiving valuable feedback on works-in-progress, I’ve been lucky to have developed a sense of camaraderie with group members in all three. For example, we’ve traveled to conferences, gone on writing retreats for the weekend, and even set up retreats just for one day, to get away from the distractions of home and concentrate on writing.
Most recently, one of my writing groups went on a tour of Government House, a local tourist attraction, ending in a half-day writing retreat.
Our guide Michelle on the player piano - M E Powell
After coffee, we started the morning with a guided tour from staff member Michelle, who graciously showed us around the facility.
Opened in 1891, Government House was already serving as home for the Lieutenant-Governor of the Northwest Territories when Saskatchewan became a province in 1905, under Lt.-Gov. Amédée Forget. It was designed by architect Thomas Fuller, and many more details of the history are available on the website.
Haunted mirror - spooky! - M E Powell
This particular group has members who write science fiction, fantasy, horror, and similar genres. So of course, we were interested in the stories of hauntings at Government House.
One story involves this “haunted mirror” upstairs that seems to show something moving behind the viewer – even when nothing is! Spooky.
(Too bad you can’t really see the effect in the still photo.)
One lump or two? - M E Powell
Although we were told that many of the original furnishings were thrown out on the front lawn in 1945, a restoration project has resulted in many antiques similar to the originals being used in the displays, so the flavor of the experience is truly vintage.
Like this upstairs tea party, for example.
We toured the facility for about an hour, but we were also anxious to get down to work on our writing. Michelle led us back to where we had begun the morning, in the Conservatory.
Conservatory - M E Powell
This 1929 addition boasts original metal framing – along with the kind of sunshine and warmth that made it the perfect place for a January writing retreat in Saskatchewan!
Writing group retreats have a lot to offer, including the space and time to work, and the chance to gain a new perspective in unusual surroundings.
Have you ever gone on a writing retreat in your local area or city? Please leave a comment and share your experience.
We all know the best way to encourage literacy in our children is to read to them, and with them. There’s a special joy in sharing stories at bedtime – especially during the month of December.
There are so many wonderful children’s books to choose from, but everyone’s taste differs, so it’s difficult to recommend choices. For what it’s worth, here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order):
Kevin Major (Creative Commons)
The House of Wooden Santas by Kevin Major – When I was a child, we received colorful Advent calendars each year from family friends in England. With 24 chapters, each introducing a unique wooden Santa, this book became a special kind of advent calendar for my son and I to share – a chapter a night through the month of December – during his early school years. The story is gripping, and as a special touch, the illustrative photos show real wooden Santas, carved by Nova Scotian woodcarver Imelda George.
Emma’s Cold Day by Margriet Ruurs – Poor Emma the hen is freezing out in the barn, so she sets out in search of a way to stay warm. Where she ends up amuses her farm family almost as much as the readers. I’ve read this book one-on-one and to groups of children in the library, and Emma is always a hit at this time of year.
Gingerbreadman by Scrangie (Creative Commons)
The Gingerbread Man – with variations. This classic folktale is one of my perennial favorites, especially for preschool programs. I usually start by telling the original tale with felt cut-outs, add in a few variations for spice, and then bring out the gingerbread and icing for some hands-on cookie decorating fun. There are many illustrated versions of the Gingerbread Man. Here are a few variations worth checking out:
The Gingerbread Girl by Lisa Campbell Ernst The Gingerbread Cowboy by Janet Squires Gingerbread Baby, or Gingerbread Friends, by Jan Brett Previously by Allan Ahlberg & Bruce Ingman Can’t Catch Me by John & Ann Hassett
Of course, there are many more wonderful books to read with and to children at this time of year. What are some of your favorites?