A Good Home, Cold weather dreams of gardening, Garden

Ciaran’s Irish Garden

It’s February and a gardener’s thoughts turn to spring.

Not because we expect it any time soon – this is Ontario, Canada, after all — but because it’s at least another two months before flowers start popping up from the soil.

So – courtesy of Twitter — I head to Ciaran de Buitlear’s garden in the south of Ireland where flowers are already blooming.

Blog Photo - Ciaran garden - Hellebores spotted

In fact, Ciaran’s first crocus bloomed weeks ago, while we in the frozen north were enjoying snowdrifts, and I got a serious case of garden envy. 

Blog Story - Ciaran first Crocus - Spring has officially sprung

Then came the daffodils and hellebores.

Blog Story - Ciaran Daffodils blooming

Ciaran says he loves gardening in part because it’s “very different to the day job of working with databases in the cloud for large insurance companies.  I think gardening is very Zen.   It is like a meditation but without the stillness, and also gets you fit (and there are flowers).”

Blog Story - Ciaran Early Spring flowers

His love of gardening began in childhood.

“I gardened as a small child with my mother.  I only recalled this recently when I saw episodes of BBC ‘Gardeners World’ nearly 50 years old.  I remembered watching them with my parents as a small child.”  

Ciaran is passing on his garden love to his own children. While his partner Fiona “does not have green fingers”, sons Zack and Sam love to help out in the garden. 

Blog Story - Ciaran's son Zack will grow sunflowers, carrots etc

“They do weeding, grow plants from seed, like to make things out of wood for the garden.  Zack can spend hours in the garden helping me. Sam is 11 now and can get more stuck into computer games than the garden sometimes but he still does help from time to time.”

Blog Story - Ciaran and Fiona sons reading 

The family’s garden is not huge, but it’s prolific. Last fall alone, Ciaran planted 500 bulbs around this tree.

Blog Story - Ciaran garden - just planted 500 bulbs

He grows many favourite plants.

Blog Story - Ciaran ferns

“I love ferns — freshness, greenness, kind of other worldliness, they are so magnificent in spring.

Blog Story - Ciaran Japanese maples

“Japanese maples – they look great from up close and far away.  The leaf detail, different colours and textures of foliage, the way they act as foils for other plants.”

Pots are also filled with spring flowers:

Blog Story - Ciaran Spring flowers in 3 pots

And there’s a greenhouse to help protect tender plants till it’s time to put them out in the garden.

Blog Story - Ciaran Greenhouse 2

As gardeners know, it all takes work, but a garden is a gift that keeps on giving.

Blog Story - Ciaran and garden supplies

The hellebores are blooming in different colours.

Blog Photo - Ciaran garden - Hellebores deep red

But in the weeks ahead,  hosta will unfurl, hardy geranium will bloom, flowering vines will put on a  show, as will the roses in the de Buitlears’ garden.

“You can never have enough roses, all kinds (but not the ones you have to spray).  I treat them well, feed the soil with well-rotted manure every year. If they do not thrive, I yank them out (this rarely happens).  Long flowering season, lovely blooms, use as cut flowers, colours!

“Then there are coneflowers, rudbeckia, agapanthus, allium… I could go on and on and on…   I guess I am a plantaholic.”

Aren’t we all? Thanks for sharing your garden, Ciaran. It brightens up a northern gardener’s soul. 

 

 

Memoir-Writing, Teaching Writing

Birgit Ohm’s Book – One Way Ticket

My husband and I had the pleasure of attending a special book launch recently.

It was special because the author, Birgit Ohms, is one of my writing students.

Blog Photo - Birgit signs book1

Birgit’s book, One Way Ticket, begins when she is a teenager, leaving her family and homeland to study art abroad. Soon after, she meets her future husband, and embarks on a life of adventure, luxury — and trouble. 

Blog photo - Birgit books

We follow her from Europe to the USA and Canada, as she tries to reconcile her husband’s extravagant gestures and her quiet panic of knowing something is terribly wrong.  (I won’t reveal more here.)

Blog Photo - Birgit Book launch photo and name

A talented fashion artist and illustrator, Birgit wrote and illustrated a children’s book in earlier years, but this is her first book for adults.  Also interesting: English is not her first language, and she is physically disabled.  Birgit uses a wheelchair and her hands don’t work properly, but she writes on her iPad with a commitment and discipline that many writers lack. She inspires me.

Blog Photo - Birgit signs book closeup

I started coaching writers at BOAA — the Bowmanville Older Adults Association (for people 55 and older) a few years ago, and have learned that if a person can tell you a tale or a good joke, they can be taught to write. 

But one of the most interesting things about this work is the privilege of observing how each person’s writing develops.  Of the writers I’ve coached, everyone has a different style, a different approach to storytelling.

Memoir-writing requires all the skills needed to write a good book. But, in the right context, memoir-writing is also a means of reflection, healing and growth for the author. 

Blog Photo - Birgit and Isabel

It’s all been moving to witness. And Birgit’s book launch on Sunday was one of the highlights of this journey.

Blog Photo - Birgit Book launch - gathering 1

Birgit told me on Sunday that when she started my course, she would not have believed she’d be at her own book launch, signing her own book, 18 months later. But it took me only a short while to realize that she had the trifecta of attributes needed to write a book.

Blog Photo - Birgit's Book on Amazon

She reveals the world around her, and the world inside her, with an unfiltered honesty and impressive attention to the telling details. As a result, she draws you into a scene so skillfully, you feel you’re right there. Second, Birgit listens to criticism and uses it to improve her work. And third, she writes unceasingly, always turning in successive chapters on deadline. 

Blog Photo - Birgit Book luanch gathering 2

And now we celebrate Birgit’s triumph. All of us who have taken this journey with her – her family, friends, co-writers at BOAA and I, the teacher — are overjoyed for her.

Blog Photo - Birgit signs book 3

Congrats, Birgit!

 

Gardening & Marriage, Twigs in My Hair - A Gardening Memoir

A Garden and A Love Story

Will a marriage survive a partner who asks a flower fanatic: “Can you eat flowers?”

Writer Paula de Ronde reviews Twigs in My Hair – A Gardening Memoir

 

THE PROVIDER AND THE BEAUTIFIER

Photos courtesy of Hamlin Grange

Cynthia Reyes, author of A Good Home, An Honest House and co-author of the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series of children’s books, has now written Twigs in My Hair: A Gardening Memoir.

Anyone familiar with Cynthia’s previous books knows that the underlying theme is her love of home and family.  In Twigs in My Hair, she invites us to enter into her passion for gardens, her own and those of friends with whom she shared that passion.

Blog Photo - Tulip red and yellow CU

In writing that is almost lyrical at times, Cynthia takes us on a tour.  She is the guide that shows you how it is done.  Building a garden takes time and patience.  Cynthia is the artist, the earth is her canvas; Mother Nature is her helper, and sometimes not. 

Mama's Garden Pathway May 2015

The text is beautifully enhanced with the photography of Hamlin Grange, Cynthia’s husband.

Blog Photo - Garden 2018 Bee on Blue shrub

Cynthia painstakingly guides us through the creative process of making a beautiful welcome mat into her home.  She is the creative master of all things blooming while Hamlin, ever practical, tends the produce. 

Blog Photo - Late summer garden tomatoes

What a great combination: the provider and the beautifier.

Blog Photo - HG photo of Red Poppy

Twigs in My Hair: A Gardening Memoir,  is an analogy for life itself.  The garden evolves as the seasons do and as we do. 

The garden has late and reluctant bloomers as we humans do.  Will that wisteria ever bloom? 

The most lush and beautiful gardens require hard, sometimes backbreaking, work. But oh, what beauty results and how satisfying to see your efforts rewarded.   That is the same as in life itself.

Blog Photo - Crocus in Spring

The book is laced with Cynthia’s warmth and humour.  How do you get a fox to pee in a bottle?  Will a marriage survive a partner who asks a flower fanatic: “Can you eat flowers?”

I found something extra too.  As an accomplished author, Cynthia is able to say a lot with just a few apt words and phrases.   

Created with GIMP

 

This is a memoir that goes beyond the passion of two gardeners.  It is also shines a light on the love between two people who grow with their gardens into a deeper unity with each other, with their family and home.

~~

The photos above may be used only with the express written permission of Hamlin Grange.

~~

Paula de Ronde  loves books. After a career as a librarian, she now writes a blog — stories about her 51 year love with her husband Bert.

A Good Home, Author Interview, Authors

Taking Control – Stephanie Guerilus

I’d like you to meet American writer Stephanie Guerilus.

I enjoyed her articles online but didn’t know she was also a novelist till I came across her book cover. So, being a nosy person, I asked her some questions! 

Q1: Are novels your main form of writing?

As a journalist, I’m always writing and editing. It’s second nature at this point but my novels allow me the freedom to let my imagination soar.

In the era of “fake news”, I’m more aware than ever that credibility can easily be lost and so I try to always present the best possible work. 

Blog Photo - Stephanie Guerilus' book cover

Q2: What inspired this story?

I’m a big fan of Mariah Carey and so I decided to write a story about a biracial singer, Theresa Marie Jenkins. Aspects of my life began to form around that idea.

I’m a survivor of sexual abuse and I really wanted others who have experienced the same, especially girls and teenagers, to know that there’s no such thing as the perfect victim. Your body is yours alone.

Speaking of Mariah Carey, I was able to meet the elusive chanteuse and place Control in her hands. In the immortal words of Whitney Houston, that was a moment quite pleasing. I waited in the cold for almost six hours and was sick for almost two months later but I met her.

Blog Photo - Stephanie Guerilus - on meeting Mariah Carey

I’d love to meet Janet Jackson since her song Control inspired the title and overall theme of the novel. Reesa Jenkins is 17 years old, battling for control of her life and agency.

Q3: How did you become a writer and what do you hope readers will take away from your novel?

I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid. I had my dolls, notebook and would create stories for them. Sometimes, I’d spy on the arguments in the house and write a report on it as if I were Lois Lane on deadline. That same energy is present in my novel.

It may not be perfect and in many ways, I don’t even want it to be. You always struggle with your first baby and learn. I hope that each word written makes people think, not just about the plot but how it mirrors real life and if they can make a difference.

Q4: Is the protagonist at all like the younger you?

I sprinkled parts of my personality into the four central characters and fleshed them out.

Reesa is a dreamer, marches forward, ready to be a trailblazer and has that Aries fire in her. She’s a creative creature like I am.  Stephanie is woke, small but has the power of dynamite and is a writer. (Yeah, I blatantly put myself in the novel).

Candy is sweet and ready to be the first person to help out a friend. Chanté loves her gossip and is just trying to figure it out. 

Blog Photo - Stephanie Guerilus

Q5: What kind of writing or topics are you most passionate about?

I’m very passionate about marginalized communities being given a voice and (about) diversity in newsrooms. It’s important that stories of African Americans and other groups are told by those who have lived experiences.

It angers me to see women, especially Black women, cast aside in narratives. I’m one of the daughters of Ida B. Wells and have the blood of Haitians who fought for their independence. It’s just not in my spirit to not become animated when I see injustice unfolding. We’re not free until everyone is.

Q.6: What are your hopes and dreams as a writer?

I want to be able to know that I made an impact, that my words helped make a difference. Of course, I want to be a best selling author and create a literary empire that allows me a greater platform. Everyday, I’m working towards that goal.

For now, iron sharpens iron. Whatever I’ve been through has fortified me in this moment. There used to be a time I couldn’t even talk about my abuse, much less put that scar into words.

I’ve taken control of my own story.

~~

Brava, Stephanie! Thank you.

~~

To buy “Control” or learn more about Stephanie:

Paperback:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/198091592X

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07HYGFLV8

Website:  https://stephanieguerilus.com/

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/sguerilus/