Author Archives: Suzanne Costigan

A Minute of Time with Melinda Friesen

Mindi author pic

I asked Melinda the following two questions:

What was the last book you finished? Would you recommend it?

Sadly, the last few novels I’ve read have been mediocre. I have nothing new to recommend.

 

Of all the books you’ve written (published or not yet) which is your favourite?

My favorite of the books I’ve written is Solar. It took a long time to find a publisher, but finally, finally I have. Can’t wait to share this one!

Please connect with Melinda:

Twitter: @MelindaFriesen
Instagram: @MelindaFriesen
Pinterest: @MelindaFriesen
Website: melindafriesen.com

Bio:
Melinda Friesen authored the sci-fi/dystopian, One Bright Future series. Enslavement, book one in the series, was released in 2014 from Rebelight Publishing Inc., and its sequel, Subversion was released in 2016. EnEnslavement Subversionslavement has been shortlisted for a Saskatchewan Young Readers Choice Snow Willow Award and was nominated for a Sunburst Award. She also co-wrote The High-Maintenance Ladies of the Zombie Apocalypse [for adult audiences.] Her short stories have placed in numerous contests and have appeared in the Forging Freedom II Anthology, Freefall Magazine, and the Metro News.

The importance of my morning yoga!

frog-1109792_1280I learned much over the last three weeks while I dealt with a severe ear infection. Due to fluid moving around in my ear, it was quite painful and I couldn’t move my head around or down towards the floor, or even lie down for that matter without some sort of pain. So, my regular workout routine became nul and void. No yoga, no gym. I did continue to walk the dogs two miles each day, until it snowed again… (I’m a total suck when it comes to the cold, but so are my dogs.)

For the first several days I was still able to maintain watching my diet and spent a lot of time sleeping. After the first round of meds did nothing, I started my second round of stronger meds and noticed that by then it had been 10 days where my schedule was kyboshed and slowly, my healthy eating habits had diminished. Not completely, but slowly it became easier to make a quick processed food supper or it was too much effort to cut veggies for a salad. My calorie intake on My Fitness Pal was rising, slowly – not a lot, but enough to notice my good habits slipping. And most importantly my blood sugar readings moved up a number or two. All small changes, but significant to me. I had experienced so much success that this was bothering me greatly.  And a note of interest – my last blood tests with my doctor showed ALL of my numbers in the normal range, plus I’m down forty pounds. I was so proud of myself, this was not the time to get sick. All my work has my diabetes under control, all within four months of diagnosis. So, seeing those numbers change on my daily tests, even though they were small, sent up a red flag.

Being true to my analytical self, I looked at the scope of what was going on. I couldn’t do my usual workout, but why was I struggling to stick to my diet decisions. I determined that my morning yoga was the key.

pavilion-1660462_1280My usual routine being the following:

  • get up
  • get the boys off to school
  • do 35 minutes of yoga
  • drink a raw vegan smoothie
  • work
  • creative raw vegan salad for lunch
  • work
  • workout at gym
  • work
  • make supper (based around salad)
  • walk the dogs with the boys
  • bedtime for them
  • write
  • unwind with Netflix
  • bedtime for me and repeat… somewhat.

But the all important key was starting my day with yoga – it created my mindset for the rest of the day. Even if I didn’t feel like doing my yoga, on those days I picked a slightly easier flow, but I still did it. And always, always, I was ready to face my day, I felt good, my mind was clear, focused and I could go on. But that 35 minutes set me up for my success for the day. Without it, evidently, frog-1109789_1280complacency nudged in.

With my ear 95% better, yesterday morning I woke up, got the boys off to school, completed 35 mins of yoga, made a smoothie, and got on about my day. Today, the same, but this afternoon I’m looking forward to getting back to the gym. And just like that, my mood is better, my day is brighter, I’m focused and ready.

I understand that at times I’m going to get hit with an illness and that will disrupt my routine, but this was a real eye-opener into how important my morning fitness routine is to maintaining my overall well being.

A Minute of Time with Deborah Froese

deb-edit-6-x-6-2016-11-24I asked children’s author, editor, fellow Anita Factor member, and friend, Deborah Froese, what book she’s finished reading lately and would she recommend it?

I recently completed Middlemarcha novel set in late 19th century England. It wasn’t an easy read—the English of that time almost feels like a different language—but it fascinated me. Through a cast of deep and diverse characters, each flawed and perfectly human, the small community of Middlemarch comes to life. Vivid detail and loads of commentary about the time period fill the pages and prove that not much has changed about human relationships since then. Love, lust, deception, intrigue, hopes and dreams, and even murder, wind through webs of gossip and the confinement of society’s expectations.

Image result for middlemarch eliotMary Ann Evans wrote Middlemarch under the male pen name George Eliot so that she would be taken more seriously. Her writing is brilliant, but her long and complex read—it’s over 800 pages—isn’t for the faint of heart!

 

Deb Mr Jacobsons Window

Please connect with Deborah:
Twitter: @DeborahFroese
Instagram: @deborahfroese
Website/Blog: www.deborahfroese.com

Deborah Froese is the author and illustrator of
Mr. Jacobson’s Window [Peanut Butter Press].

A Minute of Time with Jodi Carmichael

jodi author picAward-winning author and good friend, Jodi Carmichael, spent almost two years living abroad in England with her family and recently returned to Canada.

What was your favourite part of living in England? What was it like to learn to drive there?

How is that even possible to answer. There was so much that I loved; the people, the architecture, the proximity to mainland Europe, but I suppose what really moved me was the history. You can walk down streets that once were travelled by Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Agatha Christie, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and I could go on and on. For a writer, exploring England is like traveling the road to Mecca.

Finished reading anything worth recommending lately?

Image result for blackthorn keyI just finished, The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands. It is a fast paced historical mystery that I had a hard time putting down. It had everything a reader could want; secret codes, thrilling action, history, science, and well developed characters. Set in 1665 London, we follow the adventures of Christopher Rowe an apothecary’s apprentice as he cracks codes and opens secret doors, while solving a conspiracy that reaches far beyond the walls of Blackthorn Apothecary. This novel was aimed at middle graders, but anyone who likes a well written mystery with historical and scientific accuracy, and a good number of explosions, would love this book.

Please connect with Jodi:

Website: www.jodicarmichael.com
Twitter: @Jodi_Carmichael
Facebook: Jodi Carmichael
Instagram: Jodi Carmichael

Bio:
Image result for forever julia book cover
Jodi writes for kids and teens of all ages and is the award-winning author of young adult novel, Forever Julia and chapter book, Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food. She is currently working on an action packed middle grade novel that is full of mystery, clairvoyance, and double agents.

A paradigm shift in thinking about “books for boys.”

I’ve been paying attention to what it means when we say “books for boys.” As authors and conference attendees we hear the following:

  • There is a shortage of books for boys.
  • Boys are more reluctant readers than girls.
  • Due to number 2 above, publishers lean towards “books for girls” for better sales.
  • If we don’t capture a boy’s attention within the first 5 pages, they’ll put the book down. Girls will read to the end, hoping the book gets better.

What makes a book a “boy” book?

statue-1641760_1280I came up with an answer recently that really bothered me A LOT – adults. Parents, teachers, librarians place judgement and the first and foremost reason for a selecting a book is the main character. Is our protagonist a boy or a girl? And this is the determination of who should read a book. . .  really? Is that where most (not all, but most) of the weight is put on determining what we feed our kids to read?

For the most part a girl will read both “boy” and “girl” books, girls are considered more open minded. Or, is it that boys are considered un-boylike if they read a book with a female protagonist?

My son, age 19, read my book, Empty Cup, for his grade 12 choice reading project last year. Empty Cup would be considered a “girl book” due to the protagonist being a girl. But when I consider the social issues addressed in the book, shouldn’t boys be enlightened also? Anyway, at the time when he read it, my son said that he liked my book . . .yes, I realize I’m his mom. . .

Recently, I chatted with him about how he felt reading Empty Cup. Excluding the fact that I’m his mom, is it a book he’d read or recommend to his male friends. He said sure. Kids today read whatever they want, it doesn’t matter who the main character is. Basically, kids aren’t judged for exercising their individuality, because it’s cool to be different. So his answer confirmed my thinking that adults place too much judgement on what would be appropriate for boys.

Gabe Red Stone CoverConsidered my friend Gabriele Goldstone’s historical novel series. Red Stone and Broken Stone are set during Stalin’s Russia and Hitler’s Germany and tell the story of Katya, the main character based on her mother and the true events that happened to her during that time. These books should absolutely be read by both girls and boys as they tell an important story from history in Gabe’s beautiful prose.

Image result for chanda's secretsWhat about Allan Stratton’s books? Several of his stories have a female protagonist – Chanda’s Secrets and Leslie’s Journal for example. Both books very appropriate for boy readers.

Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series – each book has a main female lead character, but the series is appropriate for both boys and girls.

Also consider the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins, loved by many girls and boys.

Image result for night gardenerThe Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier has a female protagonist, the best middle grade horror… sorry, let’s go with “thriller,” I have ever read! Totally recommend for both boys and girls.

And of course the list goes on…

I’d like to ask you to really think about your book recommendations and consider the pre-judgements you make when you recommend them. What are you basing your opinion on? Is it a valid judgement? Could you make the recommendation differently? Scrutinize why you feel the way you do about the recommendation with regard to boy readers.

pamatkik-1036044_1920

I was recently participating in a reading with a teen writers workshop and a boy in the class said he read “anything but romance.” I don’t think boys are as picky as we adults: parents, teachers, librarians — make them out to be. We haven’t given them a chance. We’ve been too quick to judge. Our boys are more open-minded than we give them credit for, and we need to take this into account with our book recommendations. Its time for a shift!

 

photo credits: pixabay.com

A Minute of Time with Pat Trottier

pat-trottierI have asked friend, author, and fellow Anita Factory member, Pat, the following two questions:

What inspires you?

Watching people giving their utmost to make a difference in others’ lives. The weekend Free Press highlighted Grant Park high school students, living with cognitive and physical disabilities, preparing for their January performance, The Little Mermaid.

These talented students present two musicals every year with the support of their amazing teachers, educational assistants and peers who work with students to pick the best play, to practicing their parts and sewing beautiful costumes to highlight each student’s performance gift. This extraordinary community has eight years and 16 shows under its belt. http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/special/goodnews/soul-music-416354724.html

Image result for all the light we cannot seeRead anything lately you’d like to recommend?

After reading All The Light We Cannot See [by Anthony Doerr], I would definitely recommend this book as a great read. It’s a masterfully crafted story of two children growing up in different worlds and how their lives become entwined and impact each other. This is one of my all- time favourites!

Please connect with Pat:

Website: Pat Trottier Books
Twitter: @PatPattrott

pat-relationships-comp-d

 

Bio:

Pat Trottier, M.Ed., has been actively involved in education in Winnipeg, Manitoba, for more than thirty years. Pat has worked with students in the early, middle, and senior years as a teacher, resource specialist, and administrator. Her extensive support of students in and outside of the classroom includes leading volunteer programs, preparing students for the work force, student council leadership, and helping parents with issues around child development and study skills. She recognizes the important role of physical activity and has coordinated a girl’s hockey team and Irish dancing classes. Committed to the professional development of teachers, Pat has been involved in developing a writing curriculum with early year’s teachers and an award-winning video, “To Do The Same Thing.”

As an author, Pat self-published The Other “R” in Education: Relationships in 2014 and this fall, 2016 published Relationships Make The Difference for Pembroke Publishers.

TED Talks Recommendations 4

Image result for ted talks

I am loving TED Talks, so many brilliant ideas. And it’s still helping me get through my cardio workouts. Over the past several weeks, I’ve been able to boost my time from 15 minutes to 40 minutes, all thanks to TED! I now watch two to three talks per workout.

Here’s my recommendations:

What are animals thinking and feeling? – Carl Safina
Heartfelt animal feelings.

The power of introverts – Susan Cain
Enlightening and thought provoking.

The happy secret to better work – Shawn Achor
Positive psychology. I love the speakers that use humour. 🙂

A Minute of Time with Gabriele Goldstone

gabe-photoI have asked friend, fellow Anita Factor writng group member, and historical fiction author, Gabriele Goldstone, two questions:

You recently said these beautiful words — “I love my life since retirement.” What’s the best part?

Best part about retirement? Two things…time and energy. When I was working, time was measured, chopped up into little pieces, regimented. A day couldn’t happen without a clock.

Now I can focus on what I’m doing, not when I’m doing it. The other thing, probably more important, is energy. I was running low. And I’ve learned that if you don’t take care of yourself, there’s nothing left for you to give to others.

Mostly, what I love about retirement is the time to putter. Just to go slow and smell the roses.

Image result for A Second Coming: Canadian Migration FictionFinished reading anything worth recommending lately?

I finished reading “A Second Coming: Canadian Migration Fiction” (ed by Donald F. Mulcahy and published by Guernica, 2016.) It’s a potpourri of immigrant stories. I hadn’t read short stories in a while and enjoyed them.

Please connect with Gabriele:
Website/Blog: gabrielegoldstone.blogspot.ca
Twitter: @gabegoldstone

 

Bio:
Gabe Red Stone Cover

 

Gabe considers herself an explorer (reader), a gardener (writer), and a muller (as in mulling things over, preferably while walking). After years of rushing about madly, she’s embracing a slower, simpler life.

 

 

broken_stone_fcover

 

 

Gabriele has two books published  in her Katya’s Stone series [Rebelight Publishing Inc.]. The series is middle grade (ages 9 to senior have enjoyed this series) historical fiction based on the true events that happened to her mother during WWII. Click book images for links to Amazon.ca:

 

 

TED Talks Recommendations 3

Image result for ted talks

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve watched several TED Talks while doing my cardio workout.

Here’s three that I’d recommend:

Art that Craves Your Attention – Aparna Rao
Original eye-catching art that you have to look at. Light and humourous.

The Paradox of Choice – Barry Schwartz
Does more choice really equal freedom?

Is Religion Good or Bad? (This is a Trick Question) – Kwame Anthony Appiah
Looking at the idea of religion from different points of view.

 

 

 

A Minute of Time with Larry Verstraete

0af604035b5121092813cda8ad865055_sThis time around I asked fellow Anita Factor writing group member, Larry, the following two questions:

What inspired you to write your first book?

I was enrolled in a correspondence writing course at the time.  For our third assignment, we were asked to write an article for a children’s magazine.  I figured lightning would be a fascinating subject for kids.  While doing research on the topic, I encountered a story about a weird demonstration conducted by Benjamin Franklin in 1750 that involved zapping a turkey with a powerful jolt of electricity.  Things didn’t go as planned.  Franklin accidentally touched one of the connections and was sent flying.  The loud bang and flash of light produced by the discharge reminded him of lightning. The experience led him to his most famous and dangerous experiment two years later – launching a kite in a thunderstorm to test the properties of lightning.

Image result for accidental discoveries verstraeteRight off, I realized that I’d found writer’s gold – a true story so odd and fascinating that properly told, it practically guaranteed the reader’s attention. I abandoned my earlier subject –  lightning – and wrote about Franklin and the turkey instead. Then, as I worked on my course assignments, I wrote other science stories with similar mixes where mishaps, mistakes, and unusual circumstances ultimately led to major breakthroughs. By the end of the course, I had a sizeable collection – enough for a decent book. Scholastic published the manuscript under the title The Serendipity Effect. Years later, it was revised and reissued under its present title: Accidental Discoveries: From Laughing Gas to Dynamite.

What are you reading now?

Image result for The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings that Sell by Paula MunierRight now, I am reading a reference book called The Writer’s Guide to Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings that Sell by Paula Munier, a top literary agent.  The book covers much more than just the first chapter, but also what should happen after the beginning.  Munier writes with clarity and wit, and she includes numerous examples drawn from a swath of genres.  On every page, I find insider tips and valuable information.  I’d recommend this book to everyone who writes fiction whether they be novices or seasoned veterans.

Please connect with Larry:

Website/Blog: The Footloose Writer
Facebook: @larry.verstraete.author
Twitter: @VerstraeteLarry
Instagram: @larryvrstraete
Pinterest: @Larryverstraete
LinkedIn: Larry Verstraete
Goodreads: Larry Verstraete

Bio:
Larry Verstraete began writing for youngsters while he was still teaching.  He is the award-winning author of 16 non-fiction books for young people and one middle grade novel.  His most recent release is ‘Dinosaurs’ of the Deep: Discover Prehistoric Marine Life (Turnstone Press, 2016), a book about the Western Interior Seaway and its exotic creatures. Larry is a frequent visitor to schools where he shares his enthusiasm for reading and writing with students, teachers and parents.