Saturday, December 31, 2016

6 things you need to write a book

Do your New Year’s resolutions include writing a book or getting started on writing one? Good ideas in this article: .

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Marguerite's story in YesterCanada

MARGUERITE AND THE QUEST FOR A NEW FRENCH KINGDOM is one of 30 stories in my new book YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure. It starts like this:
It was a sunny spring day in 1542. Marguerite de la
Roche, a dark-haired girl in her teens, stood on the deck
of her uncle's ship. Her heart pounded with excitement
as she watched the coast of France fade into the distance.
She turned to face the blue expanse of sky and
ocean. Seagulls squealed and soared overhead. The air
was filled with the smell of salt water and tarred rope.
What an adventure! She was going to the New World.
What would she find there? She'd heard stories of
the hardships suffered by those who had tried to start
settlements on those distant western shores. But she'd
also heard about the New World's beauty and riches.
Its waters were full of fish. Its forests abounded with
wildlife such as beaver, fox, and bear. Precious metals
might be hidden in its rocks. The French explorer
Jacques Cartier had seen Aboriginal people using knives
made of copper.
The possibility of finding copper and perhaps even
gold and diamonds was one reason for the voyage her
uncle was undertaking. The other reason was his desire
to claim territory for France.
King Francis had chosen Marguerite's uncle, a
nobleman commonly known as Roberval, to act as his
representative in the New World. The king had given
Roberval a fleet of ships and commissioned him to set
up a French kingdom in the western lands. Marguerite
was delighted that her uncle had taken her along on his
exciting expedition.
As she gazed across the waves, her long dark hair
streaming behind her, she became aware that someone
was watching her. Out of the corner of her eye, she
caught the admiring look of a handsome young sailor
who was standing near by, coiling up an anchor rope.
Marguerite blushed and lowered her eyes. Then she
turned and darted away.
You can read more of this story in the book YesterCanada. Ask for it in a bookstore or library. Or order online from:
​-Chapters Indigo 
-The publisher, Borealis Press

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

OTHER VOICES: Tony Blenman's memoir reviewed by Elma Schemenauer

Tony Blenman has heard conflicting voices all his life. As a child in Barbados, he sometimes received positive guidance from adults. Sometimes he didn't since his family was troubled by alcoholism, infidelity, and physical and sexual abuse.


Tony often felt caught between positive and negative voices, from family members as well as friends. However, he seemed to have a God-given tendency to choose good over bad. For example, he says, "I tended to tell truth even if I was going to get in trouble for it."


A great-aunt's Christian beliefs influenced Tony, and by the time he was a teenager, he was travelling with a friend ministering the Gospel. A few years later he decided to attend Northwest Bible College in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. A couple of his friends also decided to attend this college. Tony's friends received their visas. He didn't.


Disappointment depressed him to the point where he stopped attending church and reading his Bible. Thankfully, he finally listened to more positive voices and returned to his Christian faith. Not long afterwards, his visa came through and he received permission to go to Canada.


Having learned that Canada was cold, Tony tried to prepare himself by cranking down the air conditioning in the laboratory where he worked. However, when he arrived in Edmonton in 1969, he discovered that even extreme air conditioning couldn't match that city's cold weather.


The young newcomer also suffered from coldness of a different kind, racism. He tells of being invited for an interview regarding a position in a church. When he arrived, the board members were surprised at the colour of his skin. They had expected him to be German based on his last name. The board went ahead with the interview anyway, but didn't seem to take it seriously and didn't hire him.


Despite the extensive Biblical and theological education Tony acquired, he was never able to obtain more than a temporary ministry in a church. He also wasn't given the opportunity to fulfill his dream of becoming a Bible College teacher.


Evidently part of the problem was his skin colour and the fact that he was in an inter-racial marriage, having married a white Canadian he had met in Edmonton. Another part was the fact that his wife had had a child by another man before marrying Tony.


He was disheartened at not being able to work in Christian ministry. However, he eventually found another way to help people. He began working in a treatment facility for children and youth with behavioural problems. Regarding one client he counseled, he says, "I recognized the voice he was listening to in his very young life. I drew from experience and told him...not to listen anymore to an inner voice of defeatism."


Later Tony studied social work and began counseling men and women who had parenting and spousal issues. He ended up spending twenty years as a clinical social worker with his own business, encouraging people to listen to constructive voices.


I enjoyed the vivid details about Barbados in Tony's book. I could picture the yams, molasses, and fields of sugar cane, and hear the church bells ringing.


Tony remembers many details of his life at age five. This resonates with me since I also remember a lot from when I was that age. In fact, my early life in a very different place, the Saskatchewan prairie, helped inspire my 1940s-era Mennonite novel Consider the Sunflowers.


Since I'm originally a prairie chicken, I was interested in Tony's impression of that part of Canada. He says he "didn't know the actual meaning of a prairie" till he travelled from Edmonton to visit relatives in Hamilton, Ontario. As he crossed Alberta and Saskatchewan, he finally "understood what a prairie province was all about." Flat as far as the eye could see.


I like that. In fact, I like this whole book. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in memoir, the West Indies, Christian faith, immigrant experiences in Canada and the United States, and overcoming obstacles in life.


The book is available online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chapters Indigo. Published: March 30, 2016 Publisher: FriesenPress  Language: English, ISBN - 10:1460285506  ISBN - 13:9781460285503



Monday, December 19, 2016

Can you write a lyric essay by the end of March?

Lyric essay-writers & potential lyric-essay-writers: Here’s an interesting opportunity:


Thursday, December 15, 2016

guidance on writing 101-words stories or other short fiction

Looking for guidance on writing 101-word stories or other short short fiction? Pamelyn Casto has a good article here:

Sunflowers bloom in Prairies North, the magazine of Saskatchewan

My 1940s Saskatchewan Mennonite novel Consider the Sunflowers is reviewed in Prairies North, the magazine of Saskatchewan, Winter 2016 issue. The same issue features the article “Saskatchewan’s strong women of settlement.” It includes Elizabeth Schinold, who settled in my hometown, Elbow, in 1907.

Consider the Sunflowers

Rating: 3.5 of 5

Author Elma Schemenauer

Publisher Borealis Press Ltd

Genre Historical Fiction

Release Date January 1, 2015

ISBN 0888875754

Review by Lionel Hughes

Rural women enjoyed many of the benefits from modernization but increased urbanization created new complications. Author Elma Schemenauer has explored the new realities facing women like her mother in her fictional book Consider the Sunflowers .

“My mother Agatha often talked about the differences between her life before and after marriage,” says Schemenauer. “She had worked in Saskatoon and Vancouver as a young woman during the Depression of the 1930s. A lot of single Mennonite women worked in cities during those years, sending money home to their parents and siblings on the farms.

“Agatha enjoyed city life but felt lonesome for her boyfriend back in their small Mennonite community near Elbow and Loreburn, about halfway between Saskatoon and Regina. Eventually she returned, marrying him in 1940. However, she always missed city life, while my father loved farming and the wide-open spaces of the Prairies.”

From the historical foundation of her mother’s life, Schemenauer imagines different, but entirely plausible outcomes for women like her mother. “My characters Tina and Frank live on a farm 12 miles east of Dayspring, Saskatchewan based on my parents’ farm 12 miles east of Elbow. Tina realizes that Frank will never move to a city, so she tries to convince him to move closer to Dayspring.” He refuses.

“I was a child in the 1940s so I personally witnessed the situation [of the times]. I saw it play out in the lives of my Mennonite mother, grandmothers, aunts, great aunts, and neighbours. I have vivid memories of those years and drew on those. In the Mennonite culture I grew up in, marriage is seen as a reflection of Christ, the bridegroom’s loving relationship with his bride, the Church. The family is defined as a man and a woman and their children, a communion of persons committed to sharing self-giving love. Mennonites, being human, don’t always live up to these high ideals. However, I believe that having such ideals helps them navigate difficulty in relationships.”

Where Schemenauer’s personal experiences ran out, she did what every good writer does.

“My personal impressions weren’t wide-ranging enough and they were those of a child, not an adult. So I supplemented them with information from other sources. For example, I interviewed Mennonite relatives and acquaintances. I visited Mennonite museums and communities. I read autobiographies, family histories, community histories, and general historical works. I enjoy such research and continue it to this day.”



Tuesday, December 13, 2016

101-word story: contest

This contest looks interesting. Deadline Dec 21. Can you write a good 101-word story between now and then?


Sunday, December 11, 2016

short story contest: On the Premises

Free short-story contest from On the Premises.


4) Short Story Contest #29

We're launching a new, full-length short story contest! The premise is:


The word "space" has multiple literal meanings and can work as a noun or a verb, and it has multiple metaphorical meanings as well. There's outer space, inner space, emotional space ("I need my space!"), etc. Your challenge: Write a creative, compelling, well-crafted story between 1,000 and 5,000 words long in which the idea of "space" plays an important role. You may interpret "space" any way you want, as long as your readers can figure out how you're using it. For instance, it's not enough to set a story in an empty warehouse just because empty warehouses have a lot of space--the space has to be an important part of the story.

GENRE RULES: No children's fiction, no exploitative sex, no over-the-top grossout horror, and no stories that are obvious parodies of existing fictional worlds or characters created by other authors.

One entry per author. No fee for entering.

Deadline: THURSDAY, March 2, 2017, 11:59 PM Eastern Time. This one ends on a THURSDAY, not a Friday!

Hyphenated Words: If the hyphenated word is generally considered a single word, it counts as one word. (Like "twenty-five" or "jack-o-lantern.") Otherwise each part of the hyphenated word counts separately.

Prizes: $220 for first, $160 for second, $120 for third, $60 for honorable mentions. We will publish between one and three honorable mentions. To submit, go to the following website and follow the instructions.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Slavomir Almajan's review of YesterCanada

The wise, kind Slavomir Almajan posted a review of my book YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure on his blog FROM THE ROOFTOPS. You can see it at the following website. Watch for snow falling on his rooftops.


Friday, December 2, 2016

new book, YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure

I'm thrilled to announce that my newest book, YesterCanada: Historical Tales of Mystery and Adventure, is available online from Amazon, Chapters Indigo, or the publisher, Borealis Press of Ottawa. Or ask in a store or library. YesterCanada presents 30 historical tales spanning this great land & the centuries from the 1200s to the 1900s. Here are a few of the mysteries you'll find in its pages: Where in the icy Arctic is the lost Vancouver-based ship Baychimo? Who rang the chapel bell in Tadoussac, Quebec one foggy April night in 1782? Why did a Minnesota farmer abandon his farm, walk to Saskatchewan, & build an ocean-going ship far from any ocean?


In YesterCanada you'll also meet adventurers like Ontario's daring Lady Agnes, pious Nova Scotia pioneers, Alberta's ill-fated gold-seekers, & the Manitoba Cree chief who gave his life for the woman he loved. YesterCanada is a 248-page paperback with 30 illustrations & a bibliography, ISBN 978-0-88887-650-8, $19.95. More information at .