A Good Home, Art, Artists, Arts, Canadian life, Creative Writing, Poetry

Home Is Where The Art Is

 

So — you think your dwelling is too small? Try living on a boat.

Margaret Mair and husband Richard live on their boat “Into The Blue”.  Margaret also paints and writes her poetry there. And produces her blog.

Margaret's Boat

“The space is very compact, and set up for both living and sailing”, she says. “That means having to think about everything we bring on board: it must be something we need (that includes art supplies, for me) and can store securely.”

Some people have a room to create their art. Margaret has “a corner”.

Margaret's Corner on her boat

There are advantages. She and Richard have traveled widely, from Canada to the US, the Caribbean, and elsewhere.

“We can cast off our boat and move, go exploring or visiting and know that we have our own comfortable place to stay.  Anyone who lives on a boat lives very close to nature. We have an intimate relationship with the weather: when the wind blows hard the boat rocks and creaks and the ropes groan; when the sun shines the water sparkles; ripples on the water gurgle against the hull of the boat.”

Margaret's Painting of Boat on Beach

Margaret’s poems and pictures  often reflect her close relationship with the sea:

It calls, the sea,
To the restless boat
Uncomfortably cotched
On a sandy shore,
Longing for
Rocking waves
And cooling current
And the feel
Of wake moving
Singingly along
Her planked hull….

Acrylic on canvasboard; 20 x 16

Margaret started writing poetry as a teenager. She started painting in her forties, first learning to draw and work with colour – chalk pastels. 

“I worked my way through chalk pastels to experimenting with other media until I arrived at the medium I most frequently use, acrylics.”

Margaret Mair's painting - We are Islands

“It took a friend’s introduction to SPARK  in 2011 to make me think most deeply about how paintings and poetry could work together. I did not really start creating my own melding of the two until quite recently – January 2014.”

Many poems and pictures followed, as you can see on her blog.

Her pieces often evoke powerful responses.

“Everyone responds in their own way, and finds the thing or things that speak to them and their experience.

“I gave my mother a piece that hung on her wall until she died, a first iteration of my Tree of Life, much larger and more delicate. One day while I was visiting I watched a young girl stand silently in front of it for a long time, just looking. That was one of my favorite responses.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a few final words about home:

“I have learned that what you bring to a place is as important as the place itself. Keep it reasonably clean and relatively tidy, as cool on the hot days and as warm on the cold ones as you can (we’ve lived in some drafty places), put your favorite pictures on the wall and fill the bookshelves with your books and magazines and pieces of art, let music fill the rooms, make space to do the things that are important to you, and love the people who share it with you.”

Brava, Margaret.

All photos by Margaret Mair. Artworks copyrighted.

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A Good Home, APTN, Artist, Canada, Canadians, Country Living, Couples, Creative Writing, Docudrama, Flowers, Home, Home Decor, Homecoming, Interior Design, Joyful Moments, Life Challenges, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Maple Woods, Nature, Rex Deverell, Rita Deverell, Rita Shelton Deverell, Trees, Vision TV, Women leaders, Women's Studies, Writers

At Home with Rita Deverell

For many years, Rita Shelton Deverell wanted to produce a docudrama about a remarkable woman. But other careers got in the way. Blog Photo - Rita at PodiumThe actor, playwright and docudrama-maker has also worked as a TV presenter and head of current affairs for Vision TV, the Canadian network she co-founded; news director (mentoring her successor) at APTN, the Aboriginal People’s TV Network; professor of journalism and women’s studies in  two Canadian universities;

Her achievements earned her a place in the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest honour.

At last, Rita is writing the docudrama screenplay about Florence James.  She’s writing it at her country home in the ‘Sugar Bush’, outside Toronto.Blog Photo - Back Deck and Chairs “We bought the country place 22 years ago when our son graduated from high school. Thereafter we started to rent apartments in Toronto.  There have been five Toronto apartments in 22 years (plus two in Winnipeg, and one in Halifax where I worked three-year stints). The ‘Sugar Bush’ house remains home throughout these moves and always welcomes us.” Blog Photo - Rita Living Room closer Like Rita, Florence James found a productive life and award-winning career in Canada.  Rita came to Canada from Texas as a young woman, but Florence came here past age 60, after some terrible events.

“‘McCarthy and the Old Woman’ is about a feisty, resilient real-life heroine who lost everything because of the communist witch-hunts in the USA.  Florence James was blacklisted and bankrupted.  She survived the loss of her money, reputation, life’s work, her home and the death of her husband.”

The planning, creative thinking and writing for the docudrama are taking place here. Two writers live here. Rita’s husband Rex is a well-known playwright. Each has an office on the house’s lower level.Blog Photo - Rita Dining Room “Sometimes I write and plan in longhand at the drum table. But I have to get the feeling that I’m ‘going to work’. Rex has never gone to an office, so I have to keep his joke-telling self away from my work space.” Blog Photo - Desk Rita’s homes – country and city – are beautifully designed – by her.  They are bright, comfortable, unpretentious places, where history, art, houseplants and flowers mix. Many objects were passed down from Rex and Rita’s parents. Blog Photo - Rit's Small table “Every place in the large five-area living space is for my favourite leisure time activity, reading detective fiction. Blog Photo - Rita in CountryEntrance “We have lots of family pieces by now: the drum table was my mother’s. Blog Photo - Rita Drum Table in Sun Nook “The small desk and dining room table were Rex’s mother’s. The rocking chair was Rex’s grandfather’s, though not upholstered in leopard print. Blog Photo - Living room side shot “Outside, the yellow Muskoka chair is really the place I love to sit and dream and have nothing to do.” Blog Photo - Front Deck and Chair “I’m a home addict. The trivial side is I love to look at houses, read the real estate ads all the time, adore interior decorating, and can be cheered up by having a design idea.

“The important thing though is I’m an introvert, and actually draw my energy by starting each day from home base. That’s a place where my life is ordered, feels controllable, and beautiful. Then I can go out into the world and deal better with the dis-ordered, un-controllable, and sometimes ugly.”

Recently, another of Rita’s projects was launched to positive reviews.  It’s a multimedia, educational kit called ‘Women, Contemporary Aboriginal Issues and Resistance’. Free and downloadable, it includes a DVD:

http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/research/centresandinstitutes/IWGSJ/Events/ToolKit.aspx

Photos by Rex Deverell.

A Good Home, Book Editor, Book lovers, Books, Canadians, CBC Television, Creative Writing, Life Challenges, Mentoring Writers, South Africa, South African Journalism Training, Tim KNight, Writers

A Terrific Writer-Editor

Tim Knight is a brilliant writer.  

Blog Photo - Tim Knight CU

He’s an Emmy-winning documentary-maker.

Ladeda
On location: “Inside Noah’s Ark”

And writing coach.

Luckily for me, he’s also an excellent editor.  

I know this because he taught me to write for television and edited many of my stories.

And because when I came up with the crazy idea of producing a book  — at the worst time in my life — Tim calmly agreed to be my editor.

It was not a job for the faint of heart.

I first met Tim just before my graduation from journalism school. Tim Knight, head of TV Journalism Training for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was already a legend. He interviewed me for the best job a TV Journalism graduate could land: an apprenticeship with the CBC’s prestigious trainee reporter program.

Blog Photo - Tim when I first met him

Each year, CBC TV picked the top 6 students from journalism schools across Canada. That year, I became one of the six. But my journalism professor wasn’t pleased. I was a Canadian citizen, but one who’d come to Canada from Jamaica. He argued that the job should go to a real Canadian. 

Tim overrode his objections and I got the job.

Tim’s been looking out for me ever since.  Not that I gave him much choice.

I sought Tim’s advice before every career move. Producer-director. Executive producer. And when Tim decided to leave the CBC to write his first book,  he recommended that I replace him as head of CBC TV’s journalism training.  His word carried so much weight that the job was offered and I took it.

Blog Photo - Tim's book

We worked together to train South African journalists at the end of apartheid.  For us Canadians, this was a remarkably moving experience.

Blog Photo - Tim and S. African journalists

Blog Photo - Tim and Madiba

Years later, I had a car accident.

In ‘Type A’ style, I thought I could return to work soon.

Not so.

Something happened to Tim when he realized the full extent of my physical, intellectual and emotional states post-accident. His cool manner slipped: he was worried about me.

Tim became one of the few people who knew just how bad things were. He’d watched me struggle — to write, speak, think.

He must have been surprised when, years later, I said I was producing a book and wanted him to edit it. Not that he showed it.

“Send me the manuscript,” he said.

I did.

“This book could be great,” he replied. “Not just good, but great.  It needs more work.”

More work! I was already exhausted.  How much more work?

Some chapters were excellent, Tim said. Some would need substantial work. But he would help me.

It was not easy for anyone to help me back then. Blog Photo - Tim, wearing hat Sometimes, Tim had to stop our conversations abruptly. I’d start stuttering badly again, lose track of what was being said to me, but refuse to admit I was in trouble.  

His voice would become very firm.  “Cynthia, we’ll talk again later.” Tim never babied me, which was important. No matter how unwell I was, I always sensed when people were trying to baby me, and I didn’t like it.

Mostly, Tim said, I needed to make the music consistent throughout the book.

The music?

The music.  The storytelling.  The rhythm, the pace, the cadence of the writing. And so we went to work, to create the music in every chapter. agoodhome_cynthiareyes

**

Every good writer needs a good editor. Considering the shape I was in, I especially needed a good editor.

Tim not only edited my first book, he also edited my second.

What a blessing to work with such an excellent editor, trainer and communicator.

Thank you, Tim.

A Good Home, Book lovers, Books, Canadians, Creative Writing, Following your dreams, Home, Mentoring Writers, Non-fiction writing, Reading, Writers, Writing workshops

At Home with Author Donna Kay Kakonge

Canadian Donna Kay Kakonge is a prolific author whose range includes memoirs, how-to books, academic tomes and others.

Blog Photo - Donna Book 4

She’s published dozens of books.

Blog Photo - Donna Book2

Donna also paints, teaches creative writing, and has just completed her Ph.D.

Blog Photo - Donna Book 3

She makes the time to support other authors – especially first-time authors and those who are independently published. She mentors them, lines up readings for them, and shares her own experience.

“If you know you want to write, if you really, really know that you do …. new writers of all ages…then just do it! Write! Make sure you do. And coupled with this you MUST make sure that you also read. Imagine a musician that does not listen to music. This would be laughable. You must read in order to write.”

Donna also runs Creative Writing Workshops. The next one is at the Toronto Public Library in June.

She does this in her spare time. She has a full time job with Mobilman Management Inc.

Blog Photo - Donna LR2

Much of Donna’s writing in the past ten years has been done in her downtown Toronto apartment , “900 square feet with a washer and dryer included”. Her home is filled with paintings – some of which she did herself.

The apartment is home.

“I love my home. I didn’t show my bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, laundry area or my home office, but they are also lovely. I feel very lucky to have this place.”

It’s home not just because her possessions are there, not just because this is where she writes her books, but because her family and friends live on the same street.

“My sister and my nieces live across the street. I have a friend from my undergrad days who lives down the street. My father lives next door. He’s been living in this area since 1981 and owns seven houses in this area.”

Donna likes her street because it’s “quiet and safe”.  Because it’s centrally located and has several  grocery stores in the area.  And because almost everybody knows everybody. Most of the neighbours know each other.

Blog Photo - Donna living room

“What a lot of people don’t always think about is that it truly can take a long time to make a place feel like home. Even though I’ve grown up in this neighbourhood since 1981  — and went through a period of time where I was moving in and out of this neighbourhood — I have traveled and lived enough in other areas of Toronto to learn to truly, truly appreciate my home. I feel excessively fortunate!”

So much so that Donna says she doesn’t plan to move – ever.

“I have finally found my home – and it’s right in the city where I was raised – imagine that!”

MORE ABOUT DONNA’S BOOKS

Donna’s latest book was published in March of 2014, under the title:

Young Black Women in Toronto High Schools: Portraits of Family, School and Community Involvement in Developing Goals and Aspirations

Her books are in both of Canada’s official languages, English and French. Among the titles available in French:

Comment Écrire Non-Fiction Créative (How to Write Creative Non-fiction)

Qu’est-il arrivé à l’Afro (What Happened to the Afro)

Comment à parler Crazy People (How To Talk To Crazy People)

All are available on Amazon, or through Donna’s website at: http://www.donnakakonge.com

Thanks to Donna for the photos of her home.