WRITER’S BLOG

 

This is a new venture for me, as my site has been used primarily for displaying art up to now. The publication of my new non-fiction book “Your Turn To Find The Hammer” now in the Kindle e-book format means a “Writer’s Blog” will be more appropriate to handle any social media comments or discussion.

https://www.amazon.ca/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=node%3D2980423011&field-keywords=Your+Turn+To+Find+The+Hammer&rh=n%3A2980423011%2Ck%3AYour+Turn+To+Find+The+Hammer

Mind you, few readers ever contact writers (when did you last do that?), but in this age of social media and ease of sending messages back and forth, this tradition is changing. I will use this blog with occasional entries, just to keep my hand in, so to speak.

 

 

 

July, 2018

At my advanced age the death of old friends is inevitable, so is the shock that comes my way and the acknowledgement that my long and lucky life is winding down. The Judeo Christian tradition has each person endowed with a soul, and comforts the living with the thought that the soul lives on beyond physical death to some sort of existence on the other side. Some cultures open a window so the soul can escape. Others comfort the living with elaborate ceremonies to bury the body with certain earthly possessions thought to be of use in an after life. All seek to help take away the shock and finality of death.

As a non-believer, I sometimes envy those whose faith is so strong that it helps answer complex questions with simple answers. It’s God’s will. He/she has gone to a better place. Rest in peace.

I can’t answer the question: why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Look up at the night sky and wonder. In cosmic terms the human species has been in existence a very short time, and will no doubt become extinct and written off as an experiment that ultimately failed. To propose that the human soul lives on in some other form is a natural form of denial. For me, when my life ends – that’s it. I can’t know if I’m right or wrong, so I must live my life to the best of my ability, knowing that some small part of me does, in fact, live on, as my genes are passed along to other generations.

June, 2018

The Blue Mountains Writers’ Group I help found in 2017 is planning an anthology of our best efforts, to be published this Fall, and I volunteered to do a pen and ink and wash drawing of The Heritage Depot at Craigleith. Although the Blue Mountains are our base, the Depot is our home.

Down the years Craigleith Station has changed owners and purpose. When the last train pulled out of the station in the 1960s, the building fell into disuse and was once a weekend cottage, and then a popular restaurant name The Depot. In July 2001, The Town of Blue Mountains, with the support of the Craigleith Heritage Committee and Blue Mountains Watershed Trust Foundation, purchased the Depot. On September 21, 2008, the Craigleith Heritage Depot opened its doors as a community heritage interpretation centre and tourism office.

Our meetings are held here twice a month, and at each session, we are challenged to write a specific assignment. Each is read out and critiqued with the author technically “away from the table” on the grounds that writer and reader rarely meet. Then the author “comes back to the table” to discuss the reviews. One assignment was to write an imaginary newspaper report on the depot. Here is my submission:

The Ghosts of Heritage Depot

Toronto man claims he saw the ghosts of Heritage Depot

 

 

Toronto resident Arnold Simoni, 74, planned an early morning hike with some friends along the railway path at the Craigleith Heritage Depot but felt unwell as they set out. He told his friends he would rest up at the depot and join them later. He found his way to the passenger bench on the old railway platform and used his rucksack as a pillow. It was a quiet Sunday morning and he felt relaxed. “As I lay there I heard a train whistle,” he said, “and then the rumble of an approaching train. It seemed to stop right in front of me.”

Simoni claims he could smell the hot oil and steam as the train clanked to a stop, with doors opening and closing, a guard shouting, and throngs of people seemed to pass by him. Then the guard blew his whistle and the train seemed to fade into the distance.

“I sat up with a start,” says Simoni,”and thought I must have been dreaming, but then I saw this little girl dressed in Victorian clothes just standing there, smiling at me. It scared the hell out of me. We both just stared at each other and she didn’t say a word, but held out her hand. I reached out to touch her and ask who she was, but she seemed to fade away into the lilac bushes.”

Curator Andrea Wilson says there is no official record of ghosts at Heritage Depot, but Simoni’s experience doesn’t surprise her.

“There is a lot of history at the Heritage Depot,” she explains, “but any ghosts here are friendly ones as this has always been a joyful place. When I work late and on my own, I often feel a presence around me and every historic building has its own sounds, creaks and groans.”

Who was the little girl?

She points out that no tragedy took place at Craigleith, and visitors were usually on happy trips: from family visits to ski trips and visits to when the building was once a popular restaurant. “As for that little girl Mr. Simoni saw, well, this was a home for past station masters and their families. Maybe she was greeting him as she would have greeted all those people from the past?”

That past goes back to the 1880s when the Craigleith Heritage Depot was called Craigleith Station, and the Northern Railway operated five trains a day. In 1882, the Northern Railway company was purchased by the Grand Trunk Railway and the Craigleith station building was constructed. Two children were born at Craigleith Station when the families of the stationmaster lived there. Phillis Gertrude Wilson (no relation to Andrea Wilson, current Curator) was born in 1909, and Hellen Speck Gibson in 1922.

“If you believe in ghosts,” says Curator Andrea Wilson,” Phillis Gertrude is the most likely candidate for the little girl Mr. Simoni thought he saw. She would be the right age. A nice friendly ghost keeping up the tradition of joyful occasions.”

 Heritage Depot evolves

Down the years Craigleith Station has changed owners and purpose. When the last train pulled out of the station in the 1960s, the building fell into disuse and was once a weekend cottage, and then a popular restaurant name The Depot. In July 2001, The Town of Blue Mountains, with the support of the Craigleith Heritage Committee and Blue Mountains Watershed Trust Foundation, purchased the Depot. On September 21, 2008, the Craigleith Heritage Depot opened its doors as a community heritage interpretation centre and tourism office.

Arnold Simoni came back to Heritage Depot to some research on who the little girl might be. “Now I know her name,” he says,” the next time I see her, I’ll call her Gertie and see what happens!”

Ghosts or not, visitors are always welcome at Craigleith Heritage Depot. There is no charge but donations are always welcome. The hours are: Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday 12:00 Noon to 5:00 pm. Wednesday, 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm Saturday 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. Closed Mondays.

April, 2018

Much of March and the beginning of April looked like this in Collingwood, Ontario, the Canadian town in which I live. Great for the ski and snowboarding crowd, but quite dangerous for the senior crowd – and at 91, I’m about as senior as they come! I got my four-wheel scooter out of storage, but managed only one trip before being totally snowed in again.

 

 

 

 

 

I received the first royalty statement from Amazon Kindle eBooks, and it appears I sold three copies! I never expected to sell many copies so I’m not exactly devastated. I published the book because I could, and to get it out there in case future historians might be searching for material about the early 1950s, and for my great-grand children. It was a good make-work project for much of 2017, and I have no regrets,

Our Blue Mountain Writers’ Group re-organized itself in early April, and author Kirsty Stevenson, http://www.kirsto.ca/  will chair future sessions. Kirsty was one of the founding members when I helped create the group in January of 2017. I stepped away from the group to research and write my book during much of 2017, and on my return, we decided it was time for younger leadership. Kirsty is a fireball of energy and enthusiasm and we’ve set the path to bring our group back to its original statement of intent.

This is a proposal for the creation of a writers’ group where people can come together in a non-competitive atmosphere to increase their knowledge of writing techniques, subject matter, pacing, and creative inspiration. This course does not assist writers in finding publishers, although manuscript preparation and presentation will be discussed.

Plans are in hand to produce our first Anthology of assignment projects, and to organize a public reading at our Thornbury library to showcase local writing talent.

February 2018

Publishing industry’s business plan is broken

When I had my first non-fiction book published in 1968, it was a simpler time in Canada. I had been fired from my job as Marketing Manager, New Product Development at Salada Foods, in a corporate purge just before Kellogg’s took them over. I would have been fired anyway, as I had almost completed what would become “The Plot To Make You Buy” McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1968, an expose of what I thought was the exploitation of consumers through a wide range of tactics commonly used in the days before consumer regulations took hold in the late 1960s.

I had plenty of time to complete my manuscript as I made up my mind to try my hand at becoming a professional freelance writer. What happened was sheer luck and good timing, although I had no control over either. I sent the unsolicited manuscript to two publishers, one of which was McGraw-Hill Ryerson. Within days someone phoned and told me they “loved my book and people all around the office were reading bits of it.” Would I please come in and talk about it. A contract was offered, along with a small advance, and I was on my way.

Nothing like that could possibly happen today, which is why my latest book “Your Turn To Find The Hammer” has been published as a Kindle e-reader edition. Publishers refuse to accept unsolicited manuscripts unless you have an agent. You cannot get an agent unless you have been recently published – a perfect “Catch 22” dilemma.

The so-called “dead tree” editions present publishers with enormous economic risks, so their reluctance to take gambles is understandable. Everyone is looking for the next J.K Rowling and Harry Potter. Their socio-economic target group is literally dying off, as millennials and those coming along behind them, read less and less, and get their news and creative materials online through streaming services and various e-reading companies. Amazon is eating their lunch as margins fall and reliance on blockbuster projects means younger writers find it harder and harder to gain a foothold. The publishing industry has increasingly merged into a few powerful corporations whose fiduciary responsibility is to its shareholders, as it should be in our current economic system, and solutions are hard to suggest. Government subsidies are hardly the answer, although advocates try to make the point that “culture” is not a commodity like any other. I have no solutions. We are in a time of dramatic changes to our dominant social paradigm, and Amazon Kindle e-reader editions are one solution. Stay tuned.

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