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!

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!

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!

 

Holiday Gems

One of the joys of the holiday is settling down

after all the energetic activities

to read inspired holiday fiction.

 

You are no doubt familiar with some of the well-known holiday books and short stories…

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol…     The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson…

Eugene Field’s The First Christmas Tree…          O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi…

A Visit from St. Nicholas   (‘Twas the night before Christmas) by Clement Clarke Moore…

And, of course, the sacred Bible accounts of the first Christmas.

 

Well, here are some gems that I’ve recently discovered.

They are not as well known, perhaps, but are some of the most beautiful holiday stories I’ve read!

Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck

A farm boy works so hard, only to see disappointment in his father’s eyes, until one Christmas he overhears his parents’ conversation and learns what Dad really thinks of him.

 

My Christmas Miracle by Taylor Caldwell

A true story of the lowest point of her life

 

A Christmas Inspiration” by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Fun-loving young women living together in a boarding house take notice of one of their quirky, quiet neighbors.

 

A Gift from the Heart” by Norman Vincent Peale

The true story of a young Swiss girl employed by a wealthy American family and her Christmas surprise.

 

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien (1976)

A collection of letters the author wrote from 1920 to 1943 to his children “from Father Christmas”.

 

and, my VERY favorite,

The Man at the Gate of the World by W.E. Cule

The Magi Caspar’s quest to find the Saviour of the World, and his obedience to the call to stand at the Gate of the World—in the city of Damascus—and wash the feet of weary travelers.

Most of these I found during the past few weeks of reading these two books:

A Classic Christmas, and The Fireside Book of Christmas Stories.

 

For more selections

Here is American Literature’s beautiful collection of Christmas Stories, and

(I can’t resist!) Linus’s version of the first Christmas.

 

Wishing you many peaceful, happy hours of reading, and

A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020!

 

Discovering Ralph Connor

In July of 2009, I went for a hike in our nearby Rockies. It was on Grotto Mountain, an expansive mountain that fills the landscape east of the mountain town of Canmore, Alberta, one of my favorite towns in Alberta.

Here is a photo I took from the trail on Grotto Mountain, looking south….

….and another looking west at a group of peaks called The Three Sisters:

After hiking I went into Canmore and took some pictures of the town, including this one:

… and I loved it so much, I used it for my Gravatar!

Okay, that’s all to set up the fact that I love the area around Canmore.

While on another hike this past summer, I’d met someone who recommended a tour of the Canmore Mines, so I thought I’d get some information about it, to plan a visit.

Well, one online rabbit-trail led to another, and soon I was on a webpage and map of Historic Sites in Canmore. Good! More things to see when I go there the next time!  Included was this note:

Ralph Connor United Church, a little farther down 8th Street, was built in 1890 and is now a Provincial Historic Site. The church is named for its first reverend, Charles Gordon, who used the pen name Ralph Connor for the 35 books he authored.

Hmm, never heard of him.

Did it say he wrote books?!

With the description, I was surprised to see a photograph almost identical to my photo of the mountains behind the church:

Wow, that’s “my church”, now I’m interested! So who is this obscure author Ralph Connor, and what kind of novels did he write?

It turns out that from 1890 to 1893 he served as a missionary in the Northwest Territories (including what is now Alberta, which didn’t become a province until 1905) before moving to Manitoba.

Okay, now I’m really interested. Here is more detail of Rev. Charles Gordon’s fascinating background in a section from an excellent archived article in Maclean’s magazine November 15,1953:

He was Canada’s most prolific bestseller at the turn of the 19th century!  So why haven’t I heard of him before?

Probably because a preacher-author in the early 1900s writing about hard-drinking lumbermen in Canada being moved to prayer couldn’t have much of a following.

Wrong.  The same Maclean’s article says:

“From Calcutta to New York… five million copies… Canada’s all-time best-selling novelist” ?!  And in the United States police were called out to control crowds attending lectures he gave… President Woodrow Wilson admired his books and Henry Ford, as Connor’s luncheon host, sent a servant to his library to get a pile of them for the author to autograph.

That was then, in about 1900.

Yet, even now, he is included in the Canadian Encyclopedia’s article about best selling English books in Canada. I have found his novels in hardcover at a local bookstore, available at my library, and at Amazon and other booksellers online, including gutenberg.org.

This October 15, 1959 article and photo in the Glengarry Ont newspaper honors Ralph Connor, as well as this very moving account written in 2016 about the Reverend Charles Gordon as a Chaplain in World War I.

In 1921 a silent movie was made of his book Sky Pilot , starring Colleen Moore (who was a popular silent movie star).

I’m currently reading his book Black Rock: A Tale of the Selkirks , which is written about the Canmore area. It only took me a few sentences to understand why his books have been so popular–excellent writing, brilliant dialogue and inspiring, gripping plots!

Today I went back to my original 2009 photo and zoomed in on the sign in front of the church.  Sure enough, there it is, “Ralph Connor”. I had never noticed the sign, I was only looking at how beautiful it was to have the mountains in the background of the church steeple.

Now I look forward to visiting the church on my next drive to Canmore, knowing the history of Reverend Charles Gordon who built the first church in that town (which is still going strong after 125 years!), and through the lifelike “sermons” in his novels, became famous as author Ralph Connor.

Am I the only one who hadn’t heard of Ralph Connor? Have you read any of his books? If so, let me know what your favorites are! If not, I hope you have a look at one of his novels and let me know what you think!

Canada’s National Indigenous Peoples Day – June 21

As part of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation work with its aboriginal peoples, we are celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day today!

In my area of Calgary there are events well worth attending at Fort Calgary and Canmore to honor our First Nations, Metis and Inuit people.

National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21

There are plenty of resources for teachers and children here:

The story of Claire and her Grandfather is designed to enhance young people’s awareness of some of the many contributions and inventions by Aboriginal people.  In addition to the text, there is also an online audio story.

 

Coloring pages abound!  …..like this one:

 

Here is more information on National Indigenous Peoples Day, and a video of making fry bread.

 

I’m proud of our country for this initiative!

An easy way to marvel at the night sky

… or the early morning sky, in my case.

For almost a week I have noticed a extra-bright light in the still-dark southeast sky before I go to work. At first I thought it was an airplane; it’s not uncommon for me to stand out on my balcony and see a brilliant light in the sky heading toward me until it is almost overhead, and then turning north to the airport.

But this one just sat there, blazing. Was it a comet? I didn’t remember hearing about a comet, but was curious so I Googled it. I landed on Time and Date’s  “Planets Visible in the Night Sky” .  There on the The Interactive Night Sky Map you can see what the night sky looks like–at this very moment, at your exact location. And there was my bright light and the crescent moon exactly where I saw them.

The Interactive Night Sky Map

The luminous orb turned out to be my old friend, Venus, “the morning star” whom I’ve long admired. But I still didn’t know why it seemed so much brighter than usual.

I got my answer on EarthSky.org:

Venus is brightest in our sky around the time it passes between us and the sun. Astronomers call this its “greatest illuminated extent”. In 2018, Venus will reach its greatest illuminated extent in the morning sky on December 1 or 2, 2018. You can read more about it here.

PikWizard

And also, by coincidence, it turns out that right now there is a comet we can see! Wirtanen, the last comet of 2018, will be visible throughout December. In my area, the best time to see it is from about 7:30 to 9:45 PM.

 

Ah, the sky!

Such joy to the eye!

In you we can see

Eternity

 

Seek the one who fashions the Pleiades and Orion, who turns the deep darkness into morning, who darkens day into night, who calls out to the waters of the sea, pouring them out onto the surface of the earth: the LORD is his name. (Amos 5:8)

 

Image at PikWizard is licensed under CC0

Stumbling upon Don Quixote in a German Palace

When I posted my thoughts about the classic novel, Don Quixote, I never dreamed that within one week I would see 17th and 18th century artistic renderings of the story on the walls of a palace!

On our summer trip to Germany, my friend and I decided to go to the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin. This palace was built by Elector Friederich III in 1699 as a summer palace for his wife Sophie Charlotte.

In one of the first rooms we walked through, I noticed the scene in a tapestry–the tell-tale helmet on one tall slim character and the round character on a donkey–could this be Don Quixote and Sancho Panza? Yes!

Made in Paris, the tapestries were presented to Prince Henry, the brother of Friedrich the Great, as a gift from Louise the XVI of France. Imagine! This book, written by Don Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra in 1605, was so popular that 18th-century artists created huge paintings and tapestries to depict the scenes, and kings gave them to other kings as presents.

 

History of the Don Quixote tapestries from an information plaque in the palace

 

 

And a glorious painting filled the ceiling, showing the windmills Don Quixote imagined to be giants…

To the best of my ability (typing in the correct letters into Google Translate), the French text curving under the ceiling mural translates in English to “Don Quixote led by madness to be a wandering knight.”

What a strange and thrilling experience to see that the author (1605), the artists (tapestries 1763-1784) and all of us today were all reading the same book!

One note about the palace, and something that made me proud to be German. The palace — like so many cities and churches and palaces all over Germany — was severely damaged in World War II, and rebuilt starting in the 1950’s. Thank you, Germany, for that determination and devotion to restoring the breathtaking beauty in art, music, architecture and gardens throughout your land!

Summer Reads–Don’t Miss the Greatest Books

If you’re looking for some summer reads, may I recommend this list?

The Greatest Books

If you haven’t already discovered some of these, you don’t want to miss out on some excellent literature.

Many years ago I found a similar list. With a goal of reading one or two from the list each year, I started with some books that I thought I could stomach: romances by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte, My Antonia by Willa Cather, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (only because it was very thin).

All of them were fascinating. Who knew?

Then I got brave and read some that looked endlessly boring and painfully long–The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes–only to be pleasantly surprised at how easy they were to read and how hard to put down (Don Quixote made me laugh out loud!).

It gave me a feeling of satisfaction to check them off the list one-by-one. I also noticed that a sense of camaraderie with other readers of classics as I started to understand cultural references to these stories.

Soon I discovered an online classic book club through my public library. One of them sent the first three chapters of a classic novel by email at the beginning of each month. That was do-able, and I found more authors I liked.

That was the beginning.

These led me to lesser-known old books, and the best books I’ve ever read (hence, my posts!). This is how I began collecting old books at book sales, and my experience has shown that I can trust most books written more than fifty years ago to be a quality read.

I no longer carry that list in my purse because my “list” is now on my shelves, each awaiting its turn–as time allows!

And here is a list for classic children’s books.

What are your favorites on the list? Or if you aren’t yet into the classics, how about taking the challenge?  One or two from the list each year?

Happy reading this summer!

My appreciation to the following for open source images:

http://thegreatestbooks.org/

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Great_Books.jpg

https://pixabay.com/en/book-teacup-nature-summer-reading-2388213/