Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Scotland in Canada?

Ottawa, I have visited you 5 times. 1983, 1991, 1999, 2009,and 2015. I love that you remain the staid old lady, not much change, unlike Toronto, the NYC of Canada! The skyscrapers that have taken over Toronto city, changed its skyline and the traffic is horrendous. Yet the green places abound, the Lake Shore drive is a pleasure. But back to my favorite city in Canada, Ottawa. I have seen it in the depths of winter when the Rideau River is frozen over and people are skating on it. The Ice Festival near the Parliament buildings is  a spectacular sight, unforgettable! In summer, the city envelops one with its warmth, the sun shine makes up for the dreich winter months of snow and ice. Spring, yes I have been twice in May and again, Ottawa never disappoints. The Tulip Festival and Writer's Festival are held during spring. I did attend the Writer's Festival in 2009. A small but well organised Festival that brings in local talent and famous Canadian writers too. 


The Tulip Festival in May 2009, was superb but the tulips were in bud when I went there early, this year I was able to see them at their best, blooming marvellous! "The Canadian Tulip Festival is a celebration founded on international friendship with the 1945 presentation of 100,000 tulip bulbs from Princess Juliana of the Netherlands to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, given in appreciation of the safe haven that members of Holland’s exiled royal family received during World War II in Ottawa and in recognition of the role which Canadian troops played in the liberation of the Netherlands."

 How wonderful to celebrate that gesture every year, so one never forgets!
There was a carnival atmosphere, whole families out for the day and enjoying the bright sunshine.

But what excites me about Canada is the familiar yet different aspect of the country. Coming from Glasgow, Scotland, I am reminded by every street name, town name of the origins of this country. Wiki:  "Scottish Canadians are people of Scottish descent or heritage living in Canada. As the third-largest ethnic group in Canada and among the first to settle in Canada, Scottish people have made a large impact on Canadian culture since colonial times." 


No, I'm not forgetting the First Nation People's too and some cities do have the names still. My very short poem pays homage to them. 

Ancient Land

The land of the bison, moose and bear in pristine beauty
Thundering rivers, azure lakes lapping and rippling on shores,
Maple trees spreading sweetness and splendoured shade
Bounteous nature sacred to the First Nation Peoples
This ancient land whispers its secrets to man, every season.

But Glasgow, Renfrew, Aberdeen, Perth, Dundee, Houston, almost all the towns and cities of Scotland have a connection here. Names that are so familiar that one feels at home. Then you look at the achievements of this great country and marvel at the Scots of yore who made it happen and feel a sense of pride.

The other wonderful aspect of my trip to North America is to witness how the very successful Indians of my own heritage have contributed to this country. Canadian immigration rules were changed to allow more skilled people to arrive since 1967. The skilled arrived in droves and have settled and contributed to this country. Toronto is said to be the most diverse city in the world and live harmoniously. Just as the Scots arrived centuries ago, the Indians are doing the same, building a secure and prosperous future. 
Finally a wonderful website that helps me as a writer to know Canada better, 100 Canadian novels : 

Of course none of this could have happened without my sweet lil sister who lives in Ottawa and makes my trips there a real treat! This time she took me up to Val Morin, in the Laurentian Mountains to see an Indian Temple and a Yoga Ashram. It was perfect bliss, a spot so beautiful that one feels drawn to nature. I am truly blessed. Thank you dear sister.




Monday, 11 May 2015

Daily Word Count






I saw a useful article in a tweet about ' The Daily Word Counts of  39 Famous Authors'. It ranged from a modest 500 by Ian McEwan and Graham Green to a mind boggling 10,000 words by a Michael Crichton! Most writers had given a 'doable' 600- 3000 words. To cultivate that habit of writing daily is admirable and effective. It is a discipline. Very often it is easier to say that I don't feel like it, I have writer's block, but to be a writer I think it is important to develop this habit. How do I fare?

I wish I could say I do it without fail, but it is not as easy as it sounds. I do write but may not be the novel, could be a poem, or jotting down ideas. Writing a novel is what gets you into that habit. Leaving a plot line  hanging is a great way to make you get back to the computer. On a good day I could write a 1000 words or more, often it is more like 400- 600. Again when travelling or at weekends I do little and I don't feel guilty. To me family and other aspects of life are equally important. So sometimes I can go for a long time without writing what I want to write. This article certainly made me sit up and get inspired to make a habit of writing everyday again.

How about you?

The link to the article: http://writerswrite.co.za/the-daily-word-counts-of-39-famous-authors-1

Friday, 8 May 2015

Writing on holiday!


Well, as someone said, writers are never really on holiday! Thoughts, ideas, story themes keep appearing and there is so much you want to put down on paper. This week I met some lovely local writers in the local B&N bookstore. They were having a meeting on Novel Development. Author Barbara Early who has published a series 'The Bridal Bouquet Shop  Mysteries' under the pseudonym Beverly Allen was giving a talk on crafting techniques for new writers. She was joined by Lynn Wallace-Lee the coordinator of a website Basics2Bylines. Org, an excellent source for new writers. Katie Murdoch, the other writer has submitted a Ms for a new mystery novel and hopes to hear from the publisher by May 11 th! Ken Swiatek was the other writer in the group, I got to know. They were critiquing each other's work after the break, but I could not stay for that part of the meeting. They were a very warm and welcoming group and I'm sure I'll keep in touch with them.  It is so good to meet with fellow writers anywhere in the world. Their interest in the Scottish Lit scene is always thought provoking.



In the next few days  I was taken to a rather arty part of Buffalo city, Elmwood by a friend. Another creative person, who is  into producing films and writing scripts, it was a good outing and a meeting of minds.

The General Election in UK results kept me up late last night. Exciting new times for Scotland. Here's to the future!




Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Multi- cultural Buffalo NY



The warm weather in Buffalo has been a lovely treat after the cold and wet of Glasgow. What a difference a bit of sunshine makes to lift the spirits up! It must be so much more for the locals after that awful snow-dumped winter of 2014! But this city and its people are resilient, as soon as the sun is out the city wakes up to the summer chimes. The Canalside is all spruced up and ready for the summer tourists and locals festivals.


 I am getting into a rhythm of reading, writing and enjoying family time. I started with 'The Girl on the Train' by Paula Hawkins, a  real page turner. I was transported to scenes off a train window, like the London commuter in the book. It was perfect holiday reading. Simple but well structured novel, worth a read.


The news media are all about the police brutality and  racism all over the country. Here in Buffalo I find that the races are living in harmony. I was so impressed with Amherst where I stay, that I did a bit of research into the different races living in the city. As always history is fascinating. I may spend all my time learning something new about this place. The ancestries are interesting : "The top 5 largest ancestries include German (13.6%), Irish (12.2%), Italian (11.7%), Polish (11.7%), and English (4.0%). Buffalo has very sizable populations of Irish, Italian, Polish, German, Jewish, Greek, Arab, African-American, Indian, Macedonian, and Puerto Rican descent. Major ethnic neighborhoods still exist but they changed significantly."( Wiki) The University attracts a huge number of international students. This has made Amherst, in particular, a wonderful melting pot.  My poem reflects that. 

 Melting Pot
 
The colours of the mosaic glimmer in the sun
Blue pieces against the bright reds and oranges,
A tiled beauty that catches the eye, to look again
The platter enhances the tasty food on offer
A table laden with ethnic bites, a tempting fare.
 
Smiles from the crowd, a melting pot of races
Or is it still a salad bowl, together and apart?
The German, Irish, Polish, Italian and English
Mix with alacrity with African American, Arab
Indian, Chinese, a veritable United Nations
 
Ancestry, history, fused together with work and toil
New beginnings for the incoming young and old
 Forming a new city, forging interests, diversity at its best,
 While retaining their roots, culture, language and heritage
 A commingling, heading towards a harmonious future.
 

I hope you enjoy reading the poem. There is constant awareness of the lack of diverse voices in mainstream literature, hope small contributions, like this poem,  however modest, will be the first few steps in redressing the balance. 

Of course my own work, the two novels and set of short stories is always available from Amazon. I had a great review recently by a committee member of Weegie Wednesdays, Layla Blackwell for my second novel Bombay Baby. Here's a link.  Please read it here: http://phoenixandthethistle.co.uk/?page_id=221





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