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!

 

A Good Home, Books, Preserves

Women of Substance – Author Anne Van Burek’s family

Anne Nenarokoff-Van Burek is the kind of woman I’d like to be when I grow up.  The kind of woman who, in addition to being talented at her profession,  knows how to cook, bake, make delicious preserves AND grow orchids!

Blog Photo - Anne et cusine

I’ve tasted Anne’s “poires au vinaigre” – pears with spices — and it’s addictive.

Blog Photo - Annes Preserves

The woman has flair. Anne knows how to arrange flowers, art and furniture in a room (something which challenges me greatly).

Blog Photo - Bouquet -Jardin

Her home is decorated simply and elegantly – in that French way of combining new stuff with old stuff and still have it all look lovely.

Blog Photo - Salle a manger

Anne is as much at home in Paris as she is in Toronto.

Blog Photo - Salon chez Anne

She has a great relationship with her son and her husband.  And as if all that weren’t enough, Anne teaches French, writes for the theatre and has written an intriguing memoir.

Blog Photo - Book Cover

Ariadne’s Thread: The Women in My Family is  a refreshing read.  It tells the story of the remarkable women in Anne’s family, all of whom were born in Russia before the 1917 revolution. They escaped to France, where, Anne says, “they had to adapt to a life radically different from what they had known. When their world collapsed, they could either collapse with it, or reinvent themselves.”

Blog Photo - Ariadne's Thread 1

The women came from a privileged background.  In Paris, they still had their upper-class manners and traditions, but their income and social standing were both drastically reduced. It was a harsh change and one that could have broken their spirits. They chose to survive instead.

From these women – Anne’s grandmother, aunts and her mother – Anne learned values which have guided her own life: “resilience in adversity, self-reliance, frugality”.

I’ve read this book twice. I gobbled it up the first time –  then read it again, more slowly.

I love it for the characters: Anne’s grandmother, aunts (so different from each other), and her mother. And I love it for the small details (such as Anne’s unmanageable reddish hair when she was a girl, and her teacher’s face and neck, among many other skillful descriptions).

Anne's Father and Aunts
Anne’s Father and Aunts

Canada’s story is sometimes described as “a story of immigration”.  All of us have roots – close roots or distant ones – in another part of the world.  Some of those immigrants came seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children.  Some families gave up luxury to gain freedom.  They fled war, revolution, oppression – leaving their privileged lifestyles, loved ones and precious belongings behind.

Whatever our history, wherever our roots, the stories we Canadians tell are often infused with dreams, sacrifice and faith in a better tomorrow.

By examining the lives of the women in her family, Anne’s book offers “clues for a better future”.

Anne Nenarakoff-Van Burek

“If we want a better world,” she says, “we could do worse than turn to a few old-fashioned values and work at putting them into practice. The book is a tribute to the precious heritage I received from people who lived and loved fully, and for whom everyday life was a celebration. I hope they will inspire many.”

Blog Photo - Inka

Ariadne’s Thread: The Women in My Family is available on Friesen Press, amazon and through most booksellers worldwide. You can buy the book in English or in a bilingual version (French and English). Below are the ISBN numbers:

  • 978-1-897018-53-8 is the bi-lingual version
  • 978-1-4602-0721-5 (Hardcover, English)
  • 978-1-4602-0719-2 (Softcover, English)

One last thing:   did I mention that Anne also embroiders?  That’s her work on the book cover.

A talented woman and an interesting book.

Colour Photos by John Van Burek.

A Good Home, Authors, Book lovers, Books, Following your dreams, Great books, Great Prices on Books

YOU LEARN SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY

Thanks to everyone who reads my blog posts, and/or has read my book, A Good Home. It matters!

A few weeks ago, A Good Home stood at #33 in Women’s Biographies, and #85 in Biographies and Memoirs overall on amazon.ca.  Welcome news indeed – especially for a book produced by a small publisher on a very small promotion budget.

But just as my book was speeding up the ranks of all books on amazon.ca (the primary link on all my Christmas promos), I learned a painful lesson: in the book business, you can’t take anything for granted. The online bookseller ran out of stock. It posted an advisory telling buyers that the book would not be shipped to them till after Christmas.  I contacted amazon.ca over and over – and watched my book’s ranking slide down the charts. Not surprisingly, buyers wanted the book before Christmas.

All this happened just days after I’d  cancelled all public book events (doctor’s orders) and stayed home to rest.

Today, Amazon has finally  fixed the problem, and both it and Chapters Indigo are selling A Good Home at a great price this week. My great thanks to Chapters Indigo.ca who ordered enough stock, and whose service to buyers of A Good Home has been terrific.

But time’s running out for people to buy their Christmas gifts.  So, I’m asking your help: could you please a) consider buying the book as a gift and b) forward the link to this post to your networks? 

A GOOD HOME: A Great Gift. A Great Price.

A Good Home - A memoir by Cynthia Reyes
A Good Home – A memoir by Cynthia Reyes

Please click on these links for great deals:

Chapters Indigo

Amazon  (Canada)

amazon.com

The book is also available on amazon.co.uk., barnesandnoble.com and other online booksellers. If A Good Home makes it to the bestseller list, it will be thanks to you and others who buy it.

HUGE THANKS TO YOU, AND MY BEST WISHES.

REVIEWS OF A GOOD HOME

 A Good Home has attracted great reviews, including these:

Anne Day, Company of Women:

“This is a beautifully-written book that demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit and the power of faith and love.”

Susan Marjetti, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation:

“Read 14 books this summer. Most memorable? A Good Home, by Toronto’s Cynthia Reyes. An enriching and lasting experience.”

Gail Scala, Writer and Gardener:

“From her childhood home in the hills of Jamaica to the various country-like settings in Toronto and surrounding areas, Reyes bares her soul as she describes each home in loving detail while she searches to find meaning and significance in the path her life leads her on. Her homes and the gardens that surround them are described in exquisite detail and they take on personalities of their own as they become her sanctuary, her prison or her saviour. A wonderful piece of work that resonates a long time after you close the cover.

Jacqui Denomme, London Public Library:

“As exciting as fiction but even more so because these stories are real and true, unique and universal at the same time. I found myself wanting to tell everyone to read this charming and beautifully written book.

For more informationcynthia.reyes@rogers.com or visit: www.csreyes.wordpress.com/agoodhome/

Cynthia.