WordPress Discoveries

Are you a “Visual” blog post creator? or a “Text” creator?

I’m not normally involved with the HTML text in my posts. I usually click on the “Visual” tab and just let WordPress take care of the rest.

But I’ve been wanting to find an easy way to display all, or most, of my posts on one page, like I saw another blogger do.

So I was all set to slog through manually creating links for a page showing all my posts, but then I found out that WordPress can do it automatically! Pretty exciting.

After much searching, this video, and this website convinced me that WordPress plug-ins can do some pretty amazing things with content. So I followed the instructions to the new world of plugins, searched for just the right one, and clicked to install it, and…

Oopsy daisies!

Surprise! The WordPress plan I have doesn’t include plugins. Sigh.

Back to the interesting but more complicated websites I ran across, that explained how to use shortcode. This one was irresistibly simple, leading me to the Display Posts shortcode. And this one had a neat variation with grids. This one helped me choose parameters.

And as a bonus, they kind of tied in to the online HTML course I took a couple months ago! What fun!

So enough researching, it was time to try it. I experimented with the shortcode on a new page, then saved the draft, clicked “Preview” to see if it worked, and it didn’t. I made a change and repeated the process. It took me about 5 tries to figure out that the example that I pasted onto my page…

[bracket]display-posts category=”fishing,hiking”[bracket]

…couldn’t possibly work because I don’t have Fishing or Hiking Categories! (Ha ha, that’s what I get for thinking I’m so clever.) Things went much better after I put in my own categories, like Book Responses. (But I still haven’t figured out the grids.)

So… here is the first of my new pages, My Book Reviews.  More of the same will follow.

I hope you find it useful to discover an interesting book or two!  Happy reading!

Update on Calgary’s Used Book Sales (and two Used Book Stores)

This is an update on the CBC Calgary READS Big Book Sale. They had hoped to hold the sale in September, but will now have to postpone it until next year.  They are in great need of support, as their website says…

We currently have multiple, no contact, volunteer opportunities such as Porch Pick Ups, Delivery of Book Bags, Little Free Library fill ups and Community Book Drops. If you have an interest in participating, please email us at info@calgaryreads.com for more details.

The health, safety and well-being of our volunteers, employees and customers is our top priority and we are following the lead of Canadian public health authorities during this challenging time. Due to the current challenges of COVID-19, our Big Book Sale is postponed.  We are planning to hold the Big Book Sale next year… as soon as we know more, you will too. Your willingness to support us with your time and energy is deeply appreciated.  If you have any questions please contact us at: info@calgaryreads.com

Also, as I posted in May, RESET Society postponed their book sale to next year, but you can still give some needed support here.

“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.

This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this timehttps://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/;

 

And just a note…if you are looking for brick-and-mortar used book stores….

My two favorites are back in business!  I have visited Fair’s Fair and Better Books and Bibles in the past month, and I know they would love all the business they can get.  Treat yourself!

I hope that you are well and safe.  We will get through this, and I believe there will be good things that result from this pandemic–let’s watch and see.   God bless you!

I leave you with a photo from my old, old Junior Instructor that always makes me smile…

Writing to Senior Pen Pals

Ah, the joys of writing!

And today I am referring to literally WRITING, handwriting, using pen or paper–not typing. I have found handwriting or printing one of the best ways for me to create and record my thoughts.

But here I want to focus on sending snail-mail letters to people as a way to connect and keep in touch.

Coincidentally, today I received a thank you message from a dear friend who just received my card in the mail. I’d commented that I felt closer to her sending a physical card than emailing or texting, and she agreed wholeheartedly.

Also coincidentally, today I read an article by one of my favorite bloggers who writes about the joys and opportunities of handwriting and sending snail mail. Barb at ritewhileucan.com is full of creative ideas and has a heart for brightening up someone’s day with a card or letter. She just posted about an opportunity to be a pen pal with a senior in a care centre, who are especially lonely because of lockdowns. I am looking into to adding one of these dear ones to my snail mail pen pal list. Thanks, Barb!

Interested?

Go to Rite While U Can and see more precious smiling faces of men and women with their written notes to potential pen pals!

There are also many other similar initiatives catching on around the world, in Canada, the U.K., Australia, to name a few. Check out these news stories!

Caring and Connecting Pen Pal Initiative, Canada

A Nova Scotia University Initiative

Kind-hearted Australians writing Letters to the Elderly

Sending Support Throughout the U.S.

You may be inspired to pen a letter or send a card to one of your loved ones, or one of the seniors at a website. If so, I hope you’ll post a comment about it below!

image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/@shkrabaanthony

Freedom with Writing

Are you, like me, dusting off some stories or manuscripts that have been filed away for a few years? If so, you probably want to find homes for them.

Or, you might be looking for periodicals that are in need of exactly the kind of articles you write.

 

 

Let me tell you about a website I recent discovered, Freedom with Writing.

Most of the online resources I’ve found focus on either non-fiction or fiction, but Freedom with Writing focuses on both, which I like. It’s free and couldn’t be simpler: they send you emails with valuable links to writing opportunities. Apparently, they have been going since 1999!

I can never just “scan” their emails, like I can many others. They are full of meaty information all the time. On top of that, the format is an absolute joy: clean, clear, simple, to the point, giving you in a glance exactly the information you are looking for.

Take their home page, for example. It looks similar to many other websites offering to help you find success. But once you start clicking on their links, you can tell they put in a lot of time and energy into digging up valuable information and passing it on to you.

 

 

They also lend a helping hand to newbies like me with various straightforward, useful articles, such as how to send in your proposal, or helping you understand the realities of the freelance life.

Here is an example of two entries I found today while browsing the information under “95 Technology and Science Blogs, Magazines, and Websites that Pay Writers”  on their home page.

The following is a list of 95 technology publishers that accept pitches directly from freelance writers, and pay for the writing they publish. Payment rates in this area tend to be higher than some other categories; blog posts for a programming site are often in the $200 to $500 range. If you’re not sure how to approach these publishers, then be sure to watch this free webinar.

And here are a couple from today’s “24 Free Writing Contests & Cash Grants (Up to $30,000)”, also on their home page.

 

Today, I STRUCK GOLD!  35 Themed Calls for Submissions (Non-fiction, essays, etc.)  This article is what inspired me to write this blog post. It is right up my alley!

Now, I tend to be overly trusting, so these days I scan reviews of EVERYTHING. I was happy to see that there are many others who agree with my positive reaction to Freedom with Writing. Here are a few:

Alex Tucker, Medium.com, and Make Money Online.

If you check out Freedom with Writing, let me know what you think!

Have fun dusting and getting your creative works out there!

 

[“laptop-and-diary-on-table-in-garden-4559527” photo courtesy of Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels;

Gold photo courtesy of  James St. John at Flickr : “Gold-quartz hydrothermal vein (16 to 1 Mine, Allegheny County, California, USA)” ]

Notes of Encouragement while wandering in the Park

Two things happened recently, one good, and the other… also ultimately good.

The first is that the winter weather finally left, and it’s spring! That is definitely a good thing.

The second is that I was recently laid off from my teaching job. It felt bad at first. But if you believe as I do that God makes all things work together for good for those who love Him, it will turn out for the better. It will be exciting to see how things go!

Anyway, it certainly has its advantages in the short term:

 

 

The combination of these two things has brought about a wonderful change to my schedule. Now that I don’t have to rush around weekday mornings to prepare for–and drive to–work, I can go on early morning walks to the park!

Ahhh. When the sky is clear, I love to grab my camera, and walk a block to the urban park near my home, Fish Creek Park.  It is referred to as one of the largest urban parks in all of Canada, and here it is considered one of the BEST.

First, let me share with you some of the sweet messages of encouragement some very talented artists have created and shared since mid-March. These adorn one of the paths I take when I want the best chance of seeing wild animals.

 

 

 

Notice that not all of these have written messages, word messages. Some are merely pictures. Yet those still convey a message, don’t they?

And I think we’d agree that all give a message of hope and happiness, a warm feeling that yes, “every little thing gonna be alright”.

I hope these made you feel that way, too!

Next, let me share with you a few of the other joys of the morning walks from the past few weeks, mostly birds. More good vibes!

 

Goose and gosling

 

Mallard

 

Morning dew

 

Woodpecker

 

Smiling tree trunk, ha ha!

 

Bald eagle hunting

 

Pelican taking off

 

Yellow-rumped warbler?

 

It is my sincere hope that all of you are well and safe, and that you were able to take a few deep breaths of peace, joy and nature from these photos and messages.  God bless!

Calgary spring used book sales – the 2020 version

UPDATED ON MAY 31, 2020    

At this time of year, I usually post information to help you plan for the Calgary’s biggest and best used book sales, but this year things are (obviously) a bit different…

 

RESET Calgary usually holds the first used book sale at the Crossroads Market. Here is the note on their website:

“We have made the decision to postpone the 18th Annual Book Drive & Sale. We are truly sorry that the Book Drive & Sale will not be able to move forward in the spring as in previous years, but we are feeling excited about the possibilities for this event next year.

This is an extremely important fundraiser for our agency as it provides over 12% of our revenue and we thank you for your considering supporting RESET Society in other ways during this time: https://resetcalgary.ca/how-you-can-help/”

The Calgary READS sale is usually at the Calgary Curling Club, and they are planning their used book sale for the fall of 2020. BUT in the meantime, they need your donations of new and “like-new” CHILDREN’S books NOW. 

“If you are able to donate “gently used” children’s books, please contact us at info@calgaryreads.com and we will provide instructions on how to donate.”

 

And for those who just can’t wait for the in-person used book sales, you can still shop online. Although the following do not offer as many incredible deals as RESET and Calgary READS will offer, here are some used book stores to get you started:

Calgary’s Fair’s Fair used bookstore updated their webpage: Our Inglewood store will be OPEN to the Public effective THURSDAY, MAY 14th 10:00 am – 4:00 pm – 7 DAYS A WEEK“.

Calgary’s Better Books and Bibles (new and used Christian books) has posted this notice on their website: We are opening our doors again on Saturday May 30th! Our hours will remain the same (10-2) but will increase if business calls for it. We are very excited to see all of you again!” https://www.betterbooksandbibles.com/

AbeBooks, founded in Victoria, B.C., Canada, now worldwide, has a page for searching for books with free shipping to Canada.

Better World Books has free shipping to Canada, and has several deals happening now. As their website says, “Every time you purchase a book on betterworldbooks.com, we donate a book to someone in need.”

Powell’s Books is included in my list because it is near and dear to my heart. This “City of Books” was established in 1971 and is also one of the top attractions in the city of Portland. In the two hours I had allotted to explore it in 2007, I only made it through about a third of this unique store.

Happy reading to all!

 

Wishing you all health, safety, sanity, and patience as we get through this time!

Life is still beautiful. Consider yourself hugged.

 

[Warm appreciation to photographer Artem Beliaikin for the “Pile of Books” image!]

For your viewing pleasure: “First Novel”, a NFB film

I hope all of you authors and aspiring authors out there will get a chuckle from this 1958 film. I did, and as a writer I also found it encouraging.

First-novel_18516_XL_bAvVY9B

Actor Len Birman as the author in “First Novel”

While researching video viewing options online, I ran across many sources of entertainment and education (see below), including the National Film Board of Canada. I decided to check out this vintage work because it was about the writing life.

This 30-minute film, “First Novel“, dramatizes the struggles of a novelist. In spite of the excitement of finding a publisher for his book, he gets a reality check from the editor, a visit from a college buddy who wants help to write his own story, and neighbors gossiping about the faithful wife who goes off to work everyday while her bum of a husband “doesn’t work”. And of course he battles self-doubt, and the ever-present worry about the lack of money coming in (look Ma, no pension!).

It has the feel of a 1950s film or television show, wholesome and rather endearing. The author and his wife are being pulled by the typical dilemma of a writer, or any other artist: practicality, or “writing what you want to write and letting the money take care of itself”.

While I watched it, I tried to figure out the purpose of the film. Was it to encourage Canadian authors? (Or discourage them?) I kept waiting for someone to break into the story and say something profound to the would-be-authors in the viewing audience.

The script was co-written by the well-known award-winning Canadian author Mordecai Richler, no doubt inspired by some of his own experiences. “First Novel” also stars Len Birman as the author in one of his first screen appearances.

…And about those other online viewing options, here are a few gems that caught my eye:

PBS: News Hour, and Exploring Antarctica’s Threatened Glaciers.

Open Culture – “The best free cultural and educational media on the web” : watch Cary Grant in the classic comedy “His Girl Friday“, or listen to  Albert Einstein read The Common Language of Science .

Internet Archive – “A non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more”: a weather report from 1974, “The Day of the Killer Tornadoes” (not Tomatoes)

…and speaking of weather, I love the Weather Channel videos, like Let the Weather Come to You, or Rescuing a Moose. Or not so weather-related videos, like Chris Hadfield’s Guide to Self-Isolation.

Pluto TV: All Aboard (train trips in Norway, Spain, wherever–I can’t take my eyes off the screen)

YouTube: Classic movies

and, of course, YouTube: Kitten Academy Live Stream, just purr fun!

Happy Watching!

 

Happy Leap Day! Leap Year in Literature

Just for fun, since it only comes once every four years, I decided to look around for Leap Year-related literature. I was pleasantly surprised at what I found!

The Pirates of Penzance

Having a birthday on February 29th makes you a “leapling”, and sometimes one birthday every four years can get you in trouble!

This is a comic opera that premiered in New York City on 31 December 1879, and is still being performed 140 years later!  Here are some lines from The Pirates of Penzance, or The Slave of Duty, by W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan.

For some ridiculous reason, to which, however, I’ve’no desire to be disloyal,
Some person in authority, I don’t know who, very likely the Astronomer Royal,
Has decided that, although for such a beastly month as February, twenty-eight

days as a rule are plenty,
One year in every four his days shall be reckoned as nine-and-twenty.
Through some singular coincidence — I shouldn’t be surprised if were owing

to the agency of an ill-natured fairy —
You are the victim of this clumsy arrangement, having been born in leap-year,

on the twenty-ninth of February.
And so, by a simple arithmetical process, you’ll easily discover,
That though you’ve lived twenty-one years, yet, if we go by birthdays, you’re
only five and a little bit over !

You can read the entire work here.  I was fortunate enough to see a performance of this in 1981 in San Diego, but at the time I didn’t know enough about it to appreciate its fame and longevity!

Humorous short stories and plays

Tradition said that men should do the asking when it comes to becoming engaged to marry, but during a leap year, a woman was “allowed” to propose marraige. This topic inspired plenty of writers around the turn of the 19th century!

A 1907 short story by John Kendrick Bangs called “The Genial Idiot Discusses Leap Year” appears in The Wit and Humor of America, Volume X of X. You can read this volume here. It is full of surprises, laughter and we can see from the standpoint of 2020 that we’ve come a long way, baby!

The Misses Pringle’s Leap Year: a Comedy in Two Acts, by Amaryllis V. Lord, is a 1912 play which also centers around this theme of women having the “privilege” of proposing marriage–in this case, it is the bachelor parson! You can find it at Amazon and at Forgotten Books.  Here is a blurb about it advertised in another book:

THE MISSES PRINGLES’ LEAP YEAR

A Comedy in Two Acts by Amaryllis V. Lord
Ten females and the apparition of a man. Costumes, modern ; scenery,
unimportant. Plays half an hour. The Misses Barbara, Priscilla and
Betsy Pringle, while scorning matrimony in public, have a secret inclina-
tion toward it, and taking advantage of leap year, each, without the
knowledge of the others, proposes by letter to Deacon Smith with sur-
prising results. Very easy and amusing, requiring no scenery and but
little rehearsing. Price, 7cents

And here is one more, an 1885 play I found on Hathi Trust, called Leap-Year: a Comedy in Four Acts for Nine Characters, by Susa S. Vance. The entire play can be downloaded here. Who knew that Leap Years would inspire so many humorous stories?

I even ran across a lovely 1913 Leap Year song that has the sweetest lyrics!

 

 

 

From this century….

Here’s a cute Tigger and Pooh book called Leap Day, read aloud on You Tube.

Leopold’s Long Awaited Leap Year Birthday is also worth watching. And there are plenty more at LeapYearDay.com where they have gathered together loads of “LEAPIFIED BOOKS.”

For the science side of things, you might want to check out my post from 2016 or this fascinating article !

 

Happy Leap Day!

Valentine’s Day Toss-up: Something old, something new

With all the romance novels out there, it’s hard to know where the good quality reads are.

So here are some recommendations of clean, well-written romance novels I’ve read over the past couple years.

Some are set in past history, others are set in present day, and one is both!

Calgary Zoo Conservatory - Valentine's Day 2020

 

Falling for June

by Ryan Winfield (2015)

This is a sweet story about a foreclosure clerk Elliot who meets David Hadley, an elderly man living as a hermit in rural Washington State. David needs Elliot’s help to fulfill a promise to his wife June, whom he met in his fifties at the top of a 70 story building. A unique, beautiful love story.

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Fair Game

by Elizabeth White (2007)

A classic example of me falling for the cover, but this time the image delivered what it promised! Humor, excellent writing, good plot, wholesome values and witty dialogue. Jana wants the land for wildlife rescue and Grant wants it for hunting. But God knows even stubborn enemies sometimes fall in love…

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Vinegar Girl

by Anne Tyler (2016)

I read this voraciously, as I do all of her books. The introverted 28-year-old devoted daughter of a brilliant microbiologist is asked to do her father a very big favor in order to help bring all of his years of research to a successful conclusion. Brilliant fun, good-hearted book!

Vinegar Girl

 

The Grand Sophy

by Georgette Heyer (1950)

Sophy is a free-spirited young woman who has been left alone far too much by her ever-traveling father, much to the consternation of proper society. A typical Georgette Heyer heroine, this one is shockingly direct and audacious. While he is overseas for an indefinite period of time, she is sent to live with stuffy relatives. They certainly don’t want her there and they look down their noses at her, but she is a take-charge gal and sets out to solve the many problems in the bedeviled family. Along the way, however, she stirs up some new problems. You can’t guess how it’s going to finish until the very end of the breathtaking roller coaster ride, in the last few pages. The version I read was 403 pages, but I didn’t want it to end. It lived up to its high rating as one of the greatest written by this best-selling author of 57 books.

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Love Letter

by Rachel Hauck (2018)

In this excellent split-time novel, a love letter is found by someone in the twenty-first century who is related to the writer of the eighteenth century love letter. It switches from authentic depictions of characters, relationships and historical events in 1780 South Carolina, to intertwined storylines in present day Los Angeles. The characters are realistic, with fallible personalities and struggles with faith. Brilliant storytelling, and suspense as the author flips back and forth between the two time periods and the two couples, make it a fascinating read!

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I hope you’ll share your favorite Valentine’s Day reads in the comments section below!

Happy Valentine’s Day reading!

Calgary Zoo - Zoo Lights

Unsung heroes in Canadian History

I grew up in the U.S. in a predominantly white neighborhood during the sixties and seventies. My city’s school system began forced busing when I was eleven years old, just as I was leaving elementary school and preparing to start junior high. It was a controversy that sparked violence and unrest.

From a social media group established for our 40 year high school reunion, I know that many people of all races suffered from this mandatory integration. Personally, aside from a couple minor incidents, my memories of that time are good.

I enjoyed meeting new friends of all races, and grew in my respect toward my non-white classmates. I am sure that the forced busing policy accomplished some of its goals to intermix blacks and whites successfully.

(If you’re interested, here are two articles I saved from the city newspaper in the early 1970s. One covers a sit-in protest by students, and another shows a more peaceful option for trying to find common ground among different races.)

So did that experience influence the writing of my third book? You decide.

Last year I was pleased to write another educational book intended for the Canadian school curriculum. It turned out to be my favorite so far!

This is the first biographical work I’ve done, and I so enjoyed discovering many unsung heroes!  It was nearly impossible to choose which to include in the book, but I am so happy with how the book turned out. I especially love the many full-sized photos.

Some of the heroes included are:

Rose Fortune, Viola Desmond, Addie Aylestock,

Oscar Peterson, Willie O’Ree, Portia White,

Drake, Phylicia George, and Eugenia Duodo.

I hope you’ll be curious enough to look up these great Canadians!

Black History in Canada is a series of educational books published by Beech Street books. My book is entitled Famous Black Canadians and intended for students in grades 4 through 6.

 

For any teachers out there, you can find the series at Beech Street Books‘ website and order from there, or from Amazon .