Category Archives: Books

Books on writing

Celebrating Our Exhibitions, Fairs & Rodeo Roots

Even though the Calgary Stampede, Edmonton’s Klondike Days and Winnipeg’s Red River Ex have ended for the year, it is the season for stampede and exhibition-style competition and fun. On the horizon is Regina Buffalo Days (July 30-Aug 3), but countless stampedes, rodeos and summer fairs draw crowds until fall. Of course, those are followed by other equally great community events.

In my mind, it is a season to thank and celebrate competitors, volunteers and others who make these events happen. Not surprisingly, I plan to do it with books and writing. My book, Awed, Amused and Alarmed is based on the history of fairs, rodeos and exhibitions. In fact, I always considered such events as some of the most important popular culture highlights in the West. Today’s events are fascinating to the crowds and rewarding to competitors. But it takes hard work to make them happen.


Need gifts? Get two for the price of one.

So, this is my way of saying thanks. For anyone who helps organize such events, competes in them or works with the dozens of volunteers needed for success, I am offering a special price for Awed, Amused and Alarmed. Go to my website and purchase one copy, and I’ll mail you an extra for the same price. The concept is similar to Buy 1, Get 1 Free; or Two for the Price of One. You can request as many as you wish, but order a specific number, and I’ll add your free copies to the package (eg. order 2, I’ll send 4, but you will pay for 2). I will even cover any extra shipping due to the added weight.

My special applies only to Awed, Amused & Alarmed, and you have to order through my website and pay with Paypal. The only other option is to email me with your order, and we will discuss payment and delivery. As well, this special ends October 1. Obviously, trust is important. I trust that you are buying them for organizers, participants and volunteers involved in our wonderful community events. And, when you place your order for the books on my website and pay with Paypal, you have to trust that I=ll mail you the number that you ordered plus the extra books. You can order other titles at the same time, but you will receive extra copies only for Awed, Amused & Alarmed.

It’s important to say thanks and to share the fascinating history of our events. Come back next week, and you will see an excerpt from the book, both for your enjoyment and to encourage you to say thanks and share out history.

Photo Blogs: Past and Future

In my blogs regarding photos, what’s in store for 2012? As mentioned in an earlier post, my photography strengths are not related to cameras, computer photo programs and other technological concerns. Nor am I likely to write in detail about the art of photography even though I love discovering and studying great photos. However, I do have some knowledge about what makes a publishable photo and what you should think about in order to achieve reasonable quality for the published image. So, I’ll consider those topics, especially in the context of using photos to augment text or enhance publications. Also, some photos work as a means of conveying our history. As a result, I’ll discuss how we can “see” our history through photos.  And at some point, I’ll note photo sources and issues related to acquiring and publishing images. Since photo can also inspire writing, there is yet another possible topic.

In fact, I might feature a particular theme throughout a specific month. That theme could be based on a topic of international interest, such as International Women’s Day, or on a topic particularly relevant to you, as readers, or to me during the year.

As co-author of this book, I was pleased it included both colour and black and white photos as illustrations.

Many of the photos will be black and white ones from earlier times, but some will be contemporary. And sometimes my photo blog could even cover an event, which I believe will inspire photo buffs.

In studying my statistics, I found it interesting that the blog with the best hit rate last year was the one in which I talked about glass negatives. What does that tell me? There are many of us interested in the history of photography! Also, perhaps others own glass negatives and wonder how to have them “developed.” So, I will write more about such early photographic technology.

Whatever my text, I plan to post more actual photographs. Over the last month or two, for various reasons, I did not post many photos. To some extent, that related to understanding and protecting copyright, and that, too, is an important future topic. But, my intention is to keep the text in the photo blogs even shorter than my target of 400 words for other posts. And that’s today’s 368 words.

Book Buying Season

With Christmas nearing, Shirlee Smith Matheson and I decided to introduce some of our books in the next few blogs. Both of us have written and published regional history, but rather than summarize content, we will share highlights during the writing of those books. We’ll treat one book each per week with the exception of December 5 when poet Bob Stallworthy is my guest blogger.

Our books are available through trade publishers and bookstores. However, the easiest way to purchase them is directly from us by email or through our websites: www.wordandhistory or

 Sharing the Good Timesby Faye Reineberg Holt (Detselig, 2000).

For this book, I focused on the positive experiences and memories of prairie women. I had read countless books on their hardships, and I knew those hardships were real. But, I believed that most women also had found many things that were rewarding and joyful in their lives. So, I wrote about such women and included photos reflecting those experiences.

Tall and dignified-looking, Eunice (Dunny) Robertson Hanna had been a teaching colleague, and I clearly remember interviewing her. At her Calgary home, we studied old photographs and talked about her 1942 enlistment in the army and her military service. Becoming a training officer for the Canadian Women’s Army Corp (CWAC), she served at Vermilion, Alberta. As we talked, she laughed as she recalled amusements enjoyed by herself and other women during their off-duty hours. Then, she became teary, remembering friends who had died during the war.  I was fortunate to have worked with Dunny, to have attended ballets and luncheons with her for years, and to have included her and other fine women in the book. Women’s stories are filled with hardships, but, women have also enjoyed good times. So I hope you will discover those stories in my book or the books of others.

Young Blood of the Peace by Shirlee Smith Matheson (Detselig, 1991)

While living inHudson’sHope,BC, and being known as “a writer” I often received local requests to write everything from birthday poems to personal résumés. It still came as a surprise, however, to receive a call from a Catholic Sister of St. Joseph, Sister Gemma, who frankly informed me that a group of people had been discussing the career of Father Jungbluth (locally known as Father Youngblood), the Oblate priest who served four local churches in Moberly Lake (First Nations), Kelly Lake (Metis), Chetwynd (a mixed congregation) and Hudson’s Hope (mostly white).  “He has lived an interesting life,” announced Sister Gemma, “and we have decided that you should write a book about him.”   

“But . .. ” I stammered, “I don’t even know him!”

“So meet him!” was the instant response.

“But . . . he’s a Catholic priest – and I’m not Catholic.”

“We know that,” she said patiently, as if speaking to a child. And then she added a statement that changed my life.  “But you’re a writer – and writers can write about anyone!”

And so that evening I went for a walk in the snowstorm– similar to the snowy walk taken by Pierre Trudeau while he made his big decision on whether to take on the challenge of becoming Canada’s Prime Minister — and decided to take on the challenge of writing about a man I had never met, who embraced a faith, and lived a lifestyle, quite different from mine, to see what might happen. 

I met him, and went on to travel with him one day a week for three years to get his story, and those of the First Nations people who comprised his parishioners.  The result is Youngblood of the Peace, a book now in its second edition. And further, I went on to write a stage play based on the book, which was produced at the Fringe Festival inEdmonton. 

Father Jungbluth and I remained close friends until his passing. And that’s the story of my – and Pierre’s – big challenge, successfully met.

Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society Celebrates

This year, The Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society is celebrating its 30th year of inspiring writers. Fortunate to have been involved most of those years, I’ve seen members go from tentatively sharing their work to publishing poetry, short stories, essays, plays and books—sometimes many, many books!

So, we have much to celebrate. We have offered countless writing workshops, readings, manuscript reading services and writer-in-residence consultations. Occasionally, we feature well-known writers as speakers, and we initiate special projects such as the anthology The Alexandra Reader, published in 2006 to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and the upcoming anthology Freshwater Pearls will celebrate our 30th anniversary. As well, we keep in touch through our newsletter Alexandra Musings and have our own library, website ( and office.

Why am I such a loyal supporter? I love the fact that we are open to those writing in many different genres. I love that we welcome people from wide-ranging age groups and backgrounds. Our instructors—many of whom have become well-known locally, provincially and even nationally—have truly been able to foster new and emerging writers because we keep numbers low in workshops, usually under eight for a round table format but slightly larger for Saturday workshops.

Our members are dedicated, and they have offered countless volunteer hours to make our organization and projects successful. As well, we have always found ways to support the publishing goals of so many in our membership. Originally, Freefall was a journal in which our own writers were given preference although we welcomed submissions from any where in the country. Now, it has a life of its own, but with our upcoming anthology and newsletter, we continue to publish!

Yet, there is even more to being part of local writing groups such as Alexandra Writers. So many writers, me included, have found great friends there, and they truly understand writers’ goals and issues. Whether we are just starting out or are well on our way, we benefit from contact with others who understand the writing life. Some want to write as a hobby; others want careers as writer. All know what it means to have our heads full of ideas, images and scenes that we want to capture for others to read.; and all face the same challenges of blank screens and waiting keyboards.

 As a result, instructors, fellow students and associates do become our best friends. At other times, we might not see each other for long periods, but those connections have played important roles in our development as writers, readers and people who love writing.  So, what a pleasure it would be on September 21 to see some of old friends, new friends, fellow students, instructors, and others who have supported the AWCS throughout our 30 years. In fact, a special thanks goes to the Rosa Foundation and Alberta Foundation for the Arts for the funding that has made our programs and this celebration possible.

During the big event planned for Wednesday, September 21, we will launch Freshwater Pearls,  an anthology of writing from some of the hundreds of writers associated over past years with the society. And, of course, we will feature readings from some of those writers. So, come and share an evening of great food, conversation and music with us. Doors open at 6:30 pm, and formal celebrations begin at 7:00 at the Alexandra Centre Dance Hall, 922 – 9th Street S.E. Calgary. To RSVP, email by September 15. Admission by donation.