A Good Home, Arts, Libraries, Myrtle The Purple Turtle, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group

A Busy Week and Purple Fingernails

Accepting a blogger friend’s challenge, I painted my nails purple to attend the Festival of the Arts in Cobourg, Ontario last weekend.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Purple Nails

Of course, my friend won the challenge hands-down (hands-up?) because in this picture below, she’s also wearing a purple shirt! 

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Mandy and Purple Nails

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I’m a volunteer with the Festival and it was a great success! Painters, photographers, authors, actors, musicians and others shared their talents with enthusiastic audiences.

Blog Photo - Festival Marie-Lynn playing guitar

Blog Photo - Pat Calder Stall at Festival

Blog Photo - Festival Mandy Bing paintings

Blog Photo - Festival Book Fair

Blog Photo - Festival Sharon Ramsay Curtis

Blog Photo - Festival Kim aubrey reading

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival Performers

Blog Photo - SOTH Festival gifts for Chairs
Above 6 photos by Hamlin Grange

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In the photo just above, publisher Jennifer Bogart(right) and I are presenting gifts to Felicity Sidnell Reid (left) and Susan Statham (2nd from right), the hard-working co-chairs of the Festival’s organizing committee.  

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It’s also been a great ‘Myrtle week’.  I dropped into A Different Booklist  – one of Toronto’s best-known book stores. Owners Itah and Miguel introduced me to customers Shay Lin (holding a copy of Myrtle), an international student from China, and Qing, her mother.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Friends at A Different Booklist

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Earlier, CBC Radio interviewed daughter Lauren and me about Myrtle. Metro Morning host Matt Galloway and his team were terrific. They pre-interviewed us, and, when we arrived, made us welcome. Then they talked us through the journey the interview would take.

Blog Photo - Myrtle Interview by Matt Galloway

They were so kind, I suspected that someone in the team must have read An Honest House, which describes my struggles with PTSD, cognitive difficulties and pain following a car accident. So I asked producer Morgan Passi.

Imagine my delight to discover that this is just the way they operate!

Blog Photo - Myrtle interview by Wei Chen

Next, Lauren and I were skilfully interviewed by the wonderful host of Ontario Morning, Wei Chen. She greeted us warmly, made us feel entirely at home and the interview began. 

Bravo, CBC Radio!

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A few days ago, Seattle’s Allen J. Mears posted on Facebook a photo of his daughters, Megan, 8, and Hailey, 6, with Myrtle. I loved it! Thanks to the Mears family for allowing me to share it here.

Blog Photo - Myrtle with Megan and Hailey

I love  photos of children reading Myrtle, courtesy of kind parents and grandparents.

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to 2 daughters

In these photos, Ashly Dixon in Wisconsin is reading Myrtle to her daughters Denali, 9, Anika, 6, and son Vincent, 2, while their father Damien takes the photos. 

Blog Photo - Myrtle being read to children by Ashly

Ashly says they all love the book, including the brilliant illustrations and Myrtle’s “message of acceptance and knowing one’s self-worth” .

Thanks, Dixon family. 

And don’t you just love the pyjamas?

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Carl Randall, a veteran marathon runner, did something unusual to spread the word about Myrtle.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Carl at Brunswick County PL

He and his wife Jackie have brought Myrtle to libraries in various cities — including New York, where he recently ran the marathon.

Blog Photo - Myrtle held by Carl at NYPL 2

Thanks, Carl and Jackie! 

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Finally, Kev Cooper – blogger, book reviewer, author and musician — has made Myrtle “Book of the Month” on his website, Books & Music.  Wow, Kev! Thank you!

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A Good Home, Artists, Arts, Canadian Art, Spirit of the Hills - Arts Group, Writers

Felicity Sidnell Reid — Arts Multi-tasker

I don’t go out much. But I recently got ‘volun-told’ to help my artists’ group.  You can blame Felicity Sidnell Reid.  I joke that she twisted my arm — most graciously.

Blog Photo - Felicity and granddaughter
Felicity and her grandaughter

An author and radio interviewer, Felicity is always involved in the arts.

She and her husband John moved from big-city Toronto to Northumberland County 20 years ago.

SOTH - Patricia Calder Farm Country

“I love the country,” she says. “And I love the atmosphere of a small village. I feel more relaxed here.”

Felicity lives in “a small house on a large lot with a stream that runs year-round.”

Blog Photo - Felicity garden

Blog photo - Felicity pet

Blog Photo - Felicity Creek

Blog Photo - Felicity Book Cover

Her book, Alone: A Winter in the Woods was published in 2015 by Hidden Brook Press. Skilfully written and illustrated, it’s a survival story about a teenager left alone to look after his family’s cabin and livestock in 1797 while his father fetches the other family members from abroad.

Felicity also chairs the 50-member writers’ group within Spirit of the Hills arts association (SOTH).  That’s how I met her.

Blog Photo - Felicity Sidnell Reid

Welcoming and kind, she took my sometimes-strange speech and always-strange walk in stride, and made me feel at home at my first meeting. 

The monthly breakfast-meeting is supportive, fun and opinionated. As chair, Felicity sets the tone.

“I love chairing the writers’ group,” Felicity says. “Although one might want to shut oneself up in an attic sometimes — to escape from all the email and phone calls – it’s a great bunch of people. And a lot of fun.”

Blog Photo - Felicity and authors-at-book-reading-spirit-of-the-hills

“Doesn’t it sometimes feel like you’re herding cats?” I ask. “How can you be so unflappable and gracious with us all the time?”

Felicity laughs.

“I taught high school for years,” she says. “You have to be unflappable. I’m not sure how gracious I am, but I’ve noticed that if you are, people tend to be gracious back.”

Blog Photo - Felicity and Gwynn

The writers’ group is productive. It initiated a literary radio show – hosted by Felicity and author Gwynn Scheltema – and a Festival of the Arts, being held November 3 and 4.  All of SOTH is involved.

SOTH’s membership includes writers, artisans, musicians, performers and a variety of painters and other visual artists. They come from as far away as Toronto to the west and Kingston to the east.

SOTH - Patricia Calder Red Barn

But most, like Felicity, live in Northumberland County, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

SOTH - Patricia Calder-View of Rice Lake

“Driving through the countryside is always exciting because the hills themselves are so lovely,” Felicity notes. “There’s invariably another incredible view, maybe of a small lake or of Lake Ontario, or the next pretty town, or more hills covered with forest or farms, fields and animals.”

SOTH - Patricia Calder Horse Photo - 2 paints

The Festival will be held in lakeside Cobourg, one of Canada’s most beautiful  towns.

SOTH - Marie-Lynne College St Photo
Credit: M-L Hammond
Blog Photo - SOTH Reva Nelson Marina shot
Credit: R. Nelson

“We wanted to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday but, more importantly, the creativity and diversity of the arts in this region.”

Felicity and SOTH president Susan Statham are co-chairing the Festival.  It includes arts competitions, a musical play, a concert and book launch, a book fair and art show, a panel discussion and exciting workshops.

Blog Photo - Felicity and Authors - photo credit Northumberland News
Credit: Northumberlandnews.com

“What do you hope it’ll do for Northumberland?” I ask her.

“Northumberland, like most places in Canada, is always changing,” Felicity replies. “It becomes more diverse and interesting because of change. We all profit from this. And the influx of artists in the last 30 years has led to increased vibrancy and innovation in the artistic community.

Blog Photo - SOTH Mandy Bing Painting1
Painting by Mandy Bing

“I hope our programme will engage people from our many communities. We want to appeal to young and old, those who have lived all their lives in this area as well as newcomers.”

SOTH - Rene Schmidt The Beacon drop in centre
Credit: Rene Schmidt

Although some Northumberland arts organizations recently folded, SOTH remains strong.

“An Ontario Arts Council study (June 2017) encouraged us. It reported that 90% of those surveyed agree that an active local arts scene helps make a community a better place to live and 97% agree that engaging children in the arts is important to their overall development.” 

As for my involvement? A year ago, Felicity invited me to join the Festival committee.  Committee members feel privileged to help, as does she.

“I love working with others and building a team, so conceiving and planning the festival have been exciting and very fulfilling.”

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Special thanks to Patricia Calder for photos 2, 10, 11 and 12.

A Good Home, Film and TV Awards

When Things Come Full Circle

I left part of my heart in South Africa.

How could I not? One of the defining times of my life and career came in the early 1990’s when my CBC boss, Les Lawrence, asked me to lead a project. It was to help South African radio and TV journalists prepare for their post-apartheid role as journalists in a newly democratic country. 

Sylvia Vollenhoven was one of those senior S. African journalists.

Sylvia and Madiba

Brilliant, tough-minded and gifted, Sylvia blazed quite a trail before and since the Canadian workshops. She worked as a television host-interviewer and executive producer at the South African Broadcasting Corporation,  then established her own production company, VIA-Vision in Africa.

Tim Knight was born in England, raised in S. Africa, but became an Emmy-winning producer, then executive producer and lead trainer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC).

blog-photo-tim-when-i-first-met-him

Blog Photo - Tim and S. African journalists

Tim broke his self-imposed exile in Canada to lead several of the CBC’s S. African workshops. Through this initiative, he met Sylvia.

“Tim was one of the first TV Trainers I encountered as we prepared to ‘hijack’ the SABC and turn it into a public broadcaster,” Sylvia says.

Two years ago, Tim decided to return to S. Africa permanently and practice his skills as a journalist and trainer there. I was both glad for Tim and devastated. Tim, over the years, had been my own trainer, mentor, book editor and friend. As if recognizing my heartbreak, Tim spent his last week in Canada at my family’s home.

blog-photo-verandah-tim

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Life sometimes takes wondrous turns.

Back in  S. Africa, Tim started work with the production company of his former trainee, Sylvia Vollenhoven. There, he became a producer, writer, trainer  — and conscience.

“Please take good care of Tim,” I’d asked Sylvia when Tim first returned to S. Africa. But anyone who has worked with Tim knows he can be infuriating at times, as he pushes you unrelentingly to find the heart of the story. It was no different for Sylvia and her team.

“Some days we were tempted to walk away from his rigorous questioning and unflinching commitment to the demands of the story. But it is extremely inspiring to work with Tim, especially because he brings an outside perspective to the unfolding South African story… a narrative that has become almost part of his DNA by now. We are very fortunate that he has made South Africa his home.”

Blog on Sylvia  Tim 2016

Last week, Sylvia contacted me with great news: A VIA film has been nominated for one of S. Africa’s highest honours in film and television. The film, Emo Adams – Tall, Dark and Afrikaans received two nominations and Sylvia, Director and Executive producer, credits Tim’s contributions.

Blog on Tim and Silvia Emo Adams_3  Photo by Retha Ferguson

The story is about an outstanding S. African performer, Emo Adams.

The experience was special for Sylvia – her son, Ryan Lee Seddon, a cinematographer, and partner Basil Appollis and Tim were all part of the team.

Blog on Tim and Silvia Emo Onstage Spotlight_01672.jpeg

“Tim helped us move from a good concept, through a challenging process (punishing deadlines & modest budgets) to a potentially award winning story. 

“The credits list him as Script Editor. But as usual he played the role of Mentor, Devil’s Advocate and Story Coach.

“I think it is so amazing that things have come full circle. This is the first time that Tim and I have worked together.”

There are many ways of coming home.

Bravo to everyone involved with this production and my best wishes.