Blog Archives

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

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

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
Twitter: @VerstraeteLarry
Instagram: @larryvrstraete
Pinterest: @Larryverstraete
LinkedIn: Larry Verstraete
Goodreads: Larry Verstraete

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.

A Minute of Time with Christina Albig

christina-author-picDiving right in to getting to know my fellow Anitas (& Anito!) better, I asked long time Anita Factor member, Christina, the following two questions:

You’re a new addition to a box of crayons. What colour would you be and why?

[I would be] a deep tomato red. I love the intensity and vibrancy of the color and how it’s full of life.tomatoes-892414_1280



Finished reading anything worth recommending lately?

The Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. This series is a middle grade fantasy that is unlike any fantasy I’ve ever read. Full of unique characters and concepts.

Please connect with Christina:

Website: Ink and Attic
Facebook: Christina Albig Janz
Instagram: Christina Albig Janz – see Christina’s cakes!

Christina likes the quirky and the queer, and enjoys trying to come up with characters and settings that fit in her writing. She writes for middle grade children.

A Minute of Time with Jodi Carmichael

jodi author pic

Award-winning author, Jodi Carmichael, is a fellow founding member of the Anita Factor writing group. She was the first of our group (with the members at the time) to be published with her middle grade novel, Spaghetti is Not a Finger Food (and other life lessons). We were all so excited for her!

Jodi is a spunky bundle of energy who is always excited about something writerly. She works hard at her craft (especially plotting cartoon-1817570_640) and writes wonderful stories with her natural brand of humour. I rarely see Jodi without a smile, so contagious.

I asked Jodi the following two questions:

What was the last book you finished? Would you recommend it?Image result for a monster calls book cover

The last book I read was, A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. It had me with the first line. “The Monster showed up just after midnight. As they do.” How could anyone not love this opening. I highly recommend it and don’t forget to read the note the author included about writing the novel. To me, this made this story all the more special.

Do you base your fictional characters on real people?

I don’t typically base my characters on real people, except when I do! What an answer. Until my most recent novel, my characters and their stories were complete fiction. The book I am now working on is loosely based on my Grandfather’s mysterious World War 2 years. His war records keep getting resealed, which made me wonder, why? What did he do that is still so top secret? From there, my imagination took flight.

Please connect with Jodi:

Twitter: @Jodi_Carmichael
Facebook: Jodi Carmichael
Instagram: Jodi Carmichael

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 Minute of Time with Christina Albig

christina-author-picChristina and I have known each other a long time. We were both members of the Vast Imaginations writing group, prior to the formation of the Anita Factor. Christina is one of the most creative people I know, not only does she have excellent story ideas, but she’s creative in everything in her life – from writing, to DIY home renos and decor, to arts and crafts, to drawing. And most recently cake decorating – all self-taught. Her creativity oozes from every cell. She’s simply amazing!

I asked Christina the following two questions:

What was the last book you read and you would you recommend it?Mistletoe and Murder (Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries, #5)

The last book I read was Murder and Mistletoe by Robin Stevens, a middle grade read, part of a series, about two girls who solve a murder at their school. An enjoyable read.

What do you think about when your alone in the car?

I drive a lot of highway miles, leaving me free to think unhindered. And after a few minutes my creative mind kicks in and I start to work on whatever project I happen to be working on at home. Sometimes that means trying to sort a way to tackle a DIY home project in the most feasible and efficient manner, or a craft project I want to do. [Pictured: Christina’s book lamp and hand-bound journals.]


But often my brain turns to a writing project I’m in the middle of and almost lazily mulls over different aspects of the story to come up with quirks and details of the piece that surprise me pleasantly. The things my muse comes up with aren’t necessarily things I can work into the story but help me learn my characters better or my setting, which affects my writing positively.

Please connect with Christina:

Website: Ink and Attic
Facebook: Christina Albig Janz
Instagram: Christina Albig Janz – see Christina’s cakes!

Christina likes the quirky and the queer, and enjoys trying to come up with characters and settings hat fit that in her writing. She writes for middle grade children

Keeping the Outside World Out

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the WorldI hear that writers often create soundtracks for their current work-in-progress. It helps to set the mood, get them in the zone, hear their characters speak to them.

I have been asked if I create soundtracks for my books, I do not.

However, I do write to music and it has to be a specific type – instrumental movie soundtracks. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

I wrote Empty Cup to the soundtrack for Master and Commander. I must have listened to that CD hundreds of times. And I still love it. Three-quarters of the way through the first track is the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard. But, I digress…

Image result for jurassic world soundtrackI always choose movie soundtrack music that is instrumental. I find the singing distracting when I’m trying to focus on words, but the music helps me zone out any other noise (headphones help too!) The music doesn’t need to reflect anything in my novel, it’s sole purpose is to keep the outside world out.

ThorI’m currently working on a middle grade fantasy novel and I’ve expanded my listening selection. My current CDs of choice are:

  • Master and Commander (always)
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Jurassic World
  • Thor

A Minute of Time with Gabriele Goldstone

Gabriele (Gabe) and I have been friends for about six years now. She was a fellow founding member of the Anita Factor writing group. Gabe’s commitment to a writing schedule and consistency is something I have long admired. At each Anita Factor meeting, we have time to read from our own writing for critique and Gabe is the one member who consistently has something to read at every meeting! And no, Gabe, it’s not “boring!” 😀

Isn’t this a gorgeous photo? I just love this one. gabe-photo

Anyway, I have asked Gabe two questions. One of them by now you’ll likely have noticed is consistent. What book did you last read and would you recommend it? I think it’s important to keep the word flowing about great books!

So, Gabe, which book was it?

“The last book I read was “Prussian Nights” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (translated from Russian to English by Robert Conquest). 1977.

“It’s a 100-page narrative poem abut the Soviet attack of East Prussia during the final months of 1945. I picked it up for three reasons.

  1. It’s Solzenitsyn.
  2. It’s set in the exact area and time that my mom attempted to flee the Soviets.
  3. It’s research for my own writing.

“Now that I’m finished, I embrace more than ever the horror of war and the humanity of the ‘enemy.’ I appreciate the truth of Buffy St. Marie’s song, Universal Soldier. So, yes, read it. Short and evocative!”

What are your ethics of writing about historical figures?

“I explore the lives of ‘little people.’ This gives me room to be flexible—after all, I’m writing fiction.  When it comes to famous figures, I rely on facts. When it comes to documented events, I turn to facts.  I do a lot of research to make my settings, my characters and their worlds as true-to-life as possible. However, my books are an interpretation and not memoir. But here’s a question…aren’t all memories interpretations?”

Please connect with Gabriele:
Twitter: @gabegoldstone

Gabriele has two books published  in her Katya’s Stone series [Rebelight Publishing Inc.]. The series is middle grade historical fiction based on the true events that happened to her mother during WWII. Click book images for links to

Gabe Red Stone Cover  broken_stone_fcover

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.


A Minute of Time with MaryLou Driedger


Today, I’m introducing you to my friend, MaryLou Driedger. MaryLou is one of the most fascinating women I have ever met and I truly admire her spirit. She has strength in the face of adversity that inspires me, especially with regard to views and rights of women. MaryLou is a member of The Anita Factor writing group.


I asked MaryLou the following two questions:

What is the funniest thing that happened to you laImage result for netflix detectoriststely?

“The thing that has made me laugh out loud in the last few weeks is a British television series on Netflix called detectorists. It follows the members of a metal detecting club in a small community. Great writing, great characters, great scenery and incredibly funny in a droll way.”

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

“Just finished reading Tuscon Jo by Carol Matas.  I chose it because it is by a Manitoba author and is set in Arizona where I am holidaying for a couple months. I would recommend it especially if you are writing historical fiction for middle graders set at the turn of the century in the United States. I am working on a novel like that right now.  I had never heard of Fictive Press who published the book. Found out they publish work with a Jewish influence. The main character in this story is from a Jewish family. Since I am also working on another middle grade story from Judaic history it might be a good place to send that manuscript once I have polished and enhanced it.”

Please connect with MaryLou:
Twitter: @madajobukaal
Facebook: @maryloudriedger
Instagram: @maryloudriedger
Blog: What’s Next

MaryLou Driedger is a newpaper columnist, art gallery tour guide and university student supervisor who lives in an old warehouse in downtown Winnipeg.  Her favorite role in life is being a grandmother. She loves to travel, read and blog and dreams of someday having one of the stories she writes for children published.



A Minute of Time with Deborah Froese

I’m fortunate to be surrounded by super special people. My writing group, The Anita Factor, is ten members of strong, closely knit friendships and I feel privileged to be a part of this group. I thought it might be fun to ask my fellow writers some questions, so developed a new blog theme called “A Minute of Time with [Name].” I’m interviewing each of them, two questions at a time. These posts will pop up often on my blog and should be fun, informative, insightful and, of course, creative!

deb-edit-6-x-6-2016-11-24Let me introduce you to Deborah Froese.

Deb (I get to call her Deb!) and I actually met several years ago… 17 years, I think, when I took my very first “Writing for Children and How to Get Published” course through Red River College. It was Deb’s first year teaching the program. We reconnected several years later and shortly after that she became a member of the Anita Factor.

I asked Deb these two questions:

Are you a hunter or a gatherer?

“That is a fantastic question! It depends upon the season. There are times when I gather up the folds of life and hold them close, and there are times when I step out to seize hold of something new.”

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

“The last book I finished was The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, an exquisitely written story about a bookseller who prescribes his patrons books for ailments of the heart and soul, but has trouble healing his own broken heart.”

Deb Mr Jacobsons Window

Please connect with Deborah:
Twitter: @DeborahFroese
Instagram: @deborahfroese

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