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Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I read. I write. I walk. My MG debut novel, THE KULAK'S DAUGHTER (BTP, Fall, 2009) is based on my mom's childhood in the former USSR during Stalin's rule. “Sometimes if there’s a book you really want to read, you have to write it yourself.” Ann Patchett

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

My dad painted this when he returned from five years in a Soviet POW camp.  He'd been a Luftwaffe pilot during WWll, later ending up on the Eastern Front with the Military Police.

Remembrance Day's become more complicated for me over the years.  Robert Fisk's article in the Belfast Telegraph, most closely mirrors my changing attitude. Bottom line:  war is wrong.


And in case you don't read the whole article, here's a clip from his conclusion:  "The poppies were there to remind us of our duty to kill more human beings."

Sunday, November 3, 2013


My dogs and I have walked these fields and stopped by this pond countless times. It's part of our neighbourhood, part of our routine. I never stop being in awe of the colours, of the timelessness of nature.

But change is in the air, and I'm not referring to the coming winter.
This area will soon be destroyed so that a new development can take its place.
Soon the pond, the woods, and the farmer's field will become houses for families. This is not a bad thing. It just is. And so I wanted to post these photos to remind me of my meanderings when this pond is replaced with a new neighbourhood called Ridgeway South

South of the Harte Trail

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Seems I meandered a bit off the blogging trail in the last year. Well, I'm back, back to meandering and musing.  Nothing earth-shattering to report. No new book contract.  I'm still hobbling along in that general direction, though.  In my case, I guess it's a long and winding trail full of potholes, and various other little detours. But, I'm still on it and have met some wonderful fellow travelers. It's a journey, not a destination—a lifestyle. And like that philosophical tree that falls in the forest, I will continue to write, whether someone reads my words...or not.

A book I've been reading is called When the Gods are Silent by Mikhail Soloviev. I've got the German translation which I found in my father's book collection. It's a well-used book, taped up with a tattered homemade cover, and filled with pencil markings and notes which I assume are my dad's. I love the idea of reading a book he once read. I can still see him sitting at the kitchen table with his mug of instant Nescafe coffee, and a piece of homemade raisin cake, head immersed in a book.

This book was published in 1953. (Originally in Russian.)  It's an amazing narrative that follows a main character and his family through the Bolshevik revolution up until the end of World War 2.  As I read I have to keep googling places, people and events. It's an eye-opening look at how communism attracted the Russians and then became their worst enemy. I can't find any information about the author, Mikhail Soloviev. If anyone can guide me to some, I'd be grateful.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


When I heard about the meteor crash in central Russia I was immediately curious about where it was. Ural Mountains? Okay, I know where those are. Chelyabinsk? Near Kurgan? I went to my map of Russia, and sure enough, it's the same place that I pinpointed years ago. My mom spent a couple of years in a prisoner of war camp there. Helping the Soviets with some major project. It was all quite vague. What she did remember was the hunger, the cold and always, the bugs.

Chelyabinsk. Google it. It's set in a heavily industrialized area. Miserably cold in the winter, just like here in Winnipeg. Mom became the Starosta in her camp barrack--possibly because she could speak both German and Russian. The all-women labour camp had to supply coal for one of the factories there. Chelyabinsk was a major tank and tractor producing facility. It's nickname once was Tankograd. The area is considered the most polluted place on earth. In a Globe and Mail article, a teacher is quoted as saying, "The city is a place where people always seem bitter with one another."

There's another Chelyabinsk. It's hidden underneath the ground and called Chelyabinsk -40.  It was the first Soviet plutonium production complex. Construction for this underground nuclear facility began in 1945. Could my mother have been helping build this complex?

She shared the odd story about her experiences. It's where she learned to kill a crow with a stone so that she'd have some meat to eat. It's where she lost all her hair from some herbal remedy she took when she was sick. It's where she watched a friend burn and then roll in the snow, becoming a human ice cube in the process. Mom said, "she went crazy after that." It's where she helped sober up a campguard so that he'd be presentable to his superiors. It's also where Mom spent a memorable Christmas Eve in a freezing cold barn. I'll have to share that poignant story sometime. Chelyabinsk. I finally know how to spell it. I wonder what Mom would say, now that the whole world knows where it is. She'd probably shrug her shoulders. It was a place she wanted to forget.

Mom got to leave Chelyabinsk in 1947. By then she was quite ill and the Soviets figured they'd get no more labour out of her.

This meteor crash just might enlighten the rest of the world about Chelyabink's history.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembering Day

Today was once my Uncle August’s birthday. ‘cept he died and stopped counting birthdays. My mom says he came home (Kreuzberg, East Prussia) to visit on his 21st birthday – November 11, 1943 – and disappeared soon after – missing in action for Hitler’s lost cause.  I don’t know where he’s buried. Somewhere on the Eastern front, I suppose. Thanks to the internet - his name exists - even if his body was never found. Check here for the stats on his birth and death.  His name is listed at a Russian memorial site called Sologubovka - near St. Petersburg. 

I’m baking a Streuselkuchen (crumb cake) today – in August’s memory. 

My friend, Sara, has just published a book, Jimmy Muir from Trois Rivieresabout another young man's war death. He was a fighter pilot  – and was once her mother’s boyfriend. This is a poignant, sad, love story and a well-researched tribute to a young man who was fighting other young men – like my Uncle August.  Jimmy’s buried in Belgium, far from his home. 

Twenty-something and dead. Lives unlived.  I’d like to think that if both had lived, they might have become friends here in Canada where people could start over.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Marsha Skrypuch tagged me in a post and here's my response to her questions about the
Next Big Thing I'm working on.  Check out her blog for her next project. That woman is
amazing. PLUS - she has links to other authors' works-in-progress that sound very interesting!

What is the working title of your book?
Morton Magic

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A twelve-year-old girl goes camping with her boring family and has a
ghostly adventure.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
There’s a place on Lake Winnipeg, near Gimli, that our family liked to visit called Camp Morton.  Back in the 1930s it was a children’s camp and some of the original buildings still stand. So all I had to do was use my imagination, like the protagonist of the story, and the ghost was ready and willing to share. I’m not sure if it works, (my writer insecurity is on high), but I did have a lot of fun imagining this ghostly tale.

What genre does your book fall under?
Middle grade contemporary mystery

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Tough question.  I see so few movies.  The protagonist is the opposite of Hermione (Emma Watson) - and that’s the only kids’ movie I can recall.  A female version of Ron Weasely (Rupert Grint) might work.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Is there no third choice? I’m hoping for a publisher – but am not trying the agent route.

What other books would you compare to within your genre?
I’m thinking maybe Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do series. I got to know Barrie when I was a member of the Class of 2k8 – an online marketing group that I had to drop out of when my book was delayed. I read all Barrie’s books. She’s a very funny writer. Light-hearted mystery.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired to write this story because I’d written The Kulak’s Daughter about something that happened in the 1930s in another part of the world, and I was fascinated with the idea of children living here – attending a camp that wasn’t a gulag (labour camp) – and the idea grew from there. Also, my own children (now young adults) inspired the story. Childhood is so fleeting and the story is about how dangerous it can be to hold onto the past.

What else about the book might pique a reader’s interest?
This story is Made-in-Manitoba. There’s much to explore right here.

I’ve just finished a re-write of  Morton Magic from a third-person, to a first-person story. There have definitely been some challenges in doing this, because I have to limit everything to the protagonist’s point of view. No room for an omniscient narrator. I hope it works. Now I’m going to review the story again with a copy of Martha Alderson’s The Plot Whisperer as my guide. I find that book very helpful, because plot is my weak spot.

After this mystery-break, I’m looking forward to applying The Plot Whisperer to my East Prussian Princess – the sequel to The Kulak’s Daughter.  It’s a story very dear to me because it’s fictionalizes my mother’s life.  Morton Magic was just a way to procrastinate.

Thanks again, Marsha, for asking!

Monday, September 17, 2012