Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Some Thoughts on Writer's Block

I have found that what I call joyful writing is a key to releasing writer's block.

To get past the fear of the blank page you begin to write for the sheer joy of it — for no one but yourself — the way you used to write, back in a time when all your dreams were ahead of you and nothing was standing in your way.

Write about something you're passionate about, something you wished you had done, an adventure you wished you had taken. And don't stop writing because what you are writing is not the truth. That immediately puts on the brakes. Don't listen to the voice that says, "It didn't happen that way." Write it your way, and it becomes your truth.

Rediscover the pleasure of putting words on the page, with no thought of where those words are going, or of who will read them. They belong to you. Those words are moving you closer to the day when you are writing again.

Relax and let it happen.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What Would Laura Wear?

Costumes have never been "my thing." I've never been a big fan of Hallowe'en either (except for the leftover candies). But when my book Laura Secord, Heroine of The War of 1812 came out this spring,  I thought I'd make a costume that I could wear for readings and presentations to promote the book.

The only thing I had to go on when I decided to make a Laura Secord costume was what her daughter Harriet told author Sarah Anne Curzon in 1891. Harriet was James' and Laura's third daughter, and at the age of ten, the only one who saw her mother leave the house at dawn the day of her walk to warn Lieutenant Fitzgibbon. "She had on house slippers and a flowered print gown; I think it was brown, with orange flowers on it," Harriet remembered all those years later.

My dress is cream-coloured cotton, with tiny blue flowers on it. In an earlier life it had been a tablecloth, one I'd made myself years ago. The dress has an empire waistline, popular in the Regency period, and the long skirt, which is slightly longer and fuller in the back, is fully lined. For this dress I used Simplicity costume pattern 4055. The only thing I changed was the length of the sleeves, making them elbow length.

The shawl and mob cap were made from another Simplicity pattern, 3723.

It is more likely that on that hot day — June 22, 1813 — Laura wore a sunbonnet. I chose something that I could make myself, a mob cap or duster, which is what women wore everyday at home in those days.

I would have preferred not to wear a hat, but it seems to complete the outfit.

I'm including this picture because it shows what I wore on my feet. They are black, ballerina-style slippers, and after spending a whole weekend, June 1–3, wearing them at the Spencerville Mill Bicentennial Heritage Fair, I can say they worked very well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Mary Pickford Party

On Monday, May 28, 2012, I was honoured to be part of a Mary Pickford Party at the Cobourg Public Library. Besides reading from my book, Mary Pickford, Canada's Silent Siren, America's Sweetheart, and talking about Mary's life and amazing career, I saw for the first time, Stella Maris, one of Mary's silent films.

This is a view of the large crowd that attended the event. Record numbers, I'm told.

Julie Maynard (left) of The Avid Reader book store in Cobourg ran the book table, and I was there to sign copies during the break for refreshments.

All the treats that afternoon, baked by some talented and generous volunteers, were prepared from recipes that were popular during the 1920s.

 Pauline Janitch, tireless volunteer at the Cobourg Public Library, welcomed the audience to a special edition of the regular Monday afternoon at the Movies event. Pauline was the driving force behind this successful event and did most of the planning and publicity.

I was introduced by Charmaine Lindsay, CEO of the CPL.  Chris Worsnop, Chair of the Vintage Film Festival, which co-sponsored the event, introduced us to the film we viewed that afternoon, Stella Maris, made in 1918. It was one of Mary Pickford's most highly-acclaimed silent movies. It was excellent, with Mary playing dual roles in what turned out to be a gripping story.

My thanks to everyone concerned. It was a memorable party.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Laura Secord: What Happened Next?

A view of the back of the Secord homestead, Queenston, Ontario.

The story continues from last week's blog.

The press picked up the story of the prince's reward for Laura Secord's bravery, and in 1861 Niagara resident, Emma Currie, read those newspaper accounts.

Who was this woman, Laura Ingersoll Secord, and why had Emma Currie never heard the story of her heroism?

When the Woman's Literary Club was formed in St. Catharines in 1892, twenty-four years after Laura's death, Emma Currie, as its founder, wrote a paper to be delivered at the opening. The subject of her address was Laura Secord.

With further research, Currie's paper became a book that was published in 1900. The Story of Laura Secord and Canadian Reminiscences to this day remains a respected source of expert information.

If Laura Secord, at the age of eighty-five, had not been so determined to have her name included on a list of veterans of the War of 1812 that was to be presented to the visiting Prince of Wales, and if his subsequent gift had gone unnoticed by the press, the public might have continued to be unaware of the heroine who had lived among them for so many years.