December 21, 2012

'Conservator' writing

At work, part of my job is to write articles for Conservator, the Ducks Unlimited Canada (DUC) member magazine. Not everything that makes it into the print edition of the magazine is posted online, but you can click here to read one of the articles I've written this year.

To see the rest, you should become a DUC member!

December 15, 2012


The following poem was written from a beach chair while on my honeymoon in Cuba. I couldn't get over the incredible contrasts I noticed throughout the country, and attempted to write something that would accurately capture what I experienced during our week on this unique Caribbean island. 

A seaside resort,
a plethora of hospitality,
a hundred people basking in warmth
under shaded huts and palm trees.

A decrepit shack,
a street of gates,
an aging horse tied to a fence
frantically trying to find a meal.

A smiling server,
a wealth of tips,
a hundred staff catering to the
rich tourists' every whim.

A military uniform,
a limbless beggar,
a fading population of heart-
hardened Cubans trying to survive.

This is a country of contrasts.
Of those who come to escape,
and those who long to run away.

It is a country of wealth,
of poverty,
of communist ideals mixed with
sea, sun and endless struggle.

A rich man,
a poor man,
an endless surge of people
longing for something better
than what they have today.

August 7, 2012

Details for the guest book

It has been a million years since I've posted to this blog, and oversight that hasn't gone unnoticed by my friends and followers. In an effort to kick start what used to be my favourite creative outlet, I thought I'd post a few short stories I wrote for my mom over the weekend for our wedding guest book. She wanted to know the basics, including how Jeff and I met and when the proposal happened. I hope you enjoy...

Our first date:
Our first official date can best be described as "casual." Jeff needed a study break (he had an exam the next day), but only had a limited amount of time to grab dinner. He called me and asked if I'd like to go for pizza, making it VERY clear from the beginning that he would be returning to the library after we ate. According to Jeff: "I had been a very poor student in that class - and needed to study hard for a test the next day - but Amanda was too good to pass up." We ate, we talked and we've been together ever since.

How we met:
We first met working together at RONA. We talked a bit on random occasions, but neither of us took the initiative and made a move. Finally, I decided enough was enough. I walked up to Jeff - who was standing behind his desk with another coworker - handed him my phone number, told him to call me and walked away. Behind me, the coworker turned to Jeff and said: "Wow. It's really that easy?"

Who said 'I love you' first:
After much consideration, Jeff and I agreed that we have absolutely no idea when we said I love you or who said it first. As a result, we've decided that we loved each other right from the beginning.

The proposal:
Jeff took me to King's Park, a place where we've spent countless hours over the years. I brought a book; he brought his guitar. We ventured deep into the woods along the riverbank, searching for a spot to sit by the water. Then, when we finally got settled, Jeff pulled out his guitar and played softly while I talked about the new book I wanted to write.

I talked, and talked, and talked and talked some more. I had no idea that Jeff was waiting for me to stop talking so he could propose. Finally, realizing that I wasn't planning to shut up anytime soon, he stopped playing abruptly reached into his guitar case and swiveled around on one knee with the ring box in his hands. I screamed, HE talked, and here we are!

February 27, 2012

Obituary for Herbert Ralph Schultz - my beloved father-in-law

Herb died peacefully on December 26, 2011, after a short but intense encounter with non-smoker’s lung cancer. Herb was predeceased by both his sister Lorna and his first wife Anne. He is survived and will be eternally missed by his loving wife Jan, adoring sons Jeffrey (fiancĂ©e Amanda) and Dalton, siblings Alma, Eileen, Linda, August and Doris and their families, as well as countless relatives and friends.

Herb was raised on a farm in Niverville, Manitoba. After graduating from high school, he moved to Winnipeg where he studied geography at both the undergraduate and master’s levels. Upon graduation from the University of Winnipeg, Herb began a series of career positions with the Government of Canada, including the Department of Regional Industrial Expansion. He then joined the civilian end of the Canadian Military as Deputy Chief of Staff of Civilian Personnel. His work with the Government of Canada frequently took him throughout Canada’s north and to Ottawa, where he maintained many friendships.

After retiring, Herb continued to remain busy, and became a consultant and administrator for the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada. He volunteered with Epiphany Lutheran Church, as well as shared church maintenance duties with Jeffrey. Herb was the team leader of a group of sandbaggers who worked tirelessly to save a home during the flood of 1997. One of his more explosive retirement pastimes was his position as a pyro-technician, where Herb and his cohorts would put together elaborate and colourful fireworks displays for various celebrations.

Herb deep in conversation with our friend Ty at my book launch - March 2011.

Herb met and married Jan in 1979. Throughout their life together, Herb and Jan shared many hobbies, including cross country skiing, gardening, ballroom dancing and relaxing at their trailer at Spruce Sands, Gimli. They belonged for years to a dinner club, which taught them the art of cooking gourmet meals. Herb was also a devoted father, and spent as much time as possible with both of his sons.

Throughout his life, Herb was both an avid builder and outdoorsman. Some of his more notable projects included a five-level tree house in the backyard for the boys, a walnut china cabinet, and a huge storage house and large woodbox that completed the setting for the nightly backyard fires he would share year-round with family and friends.

A large part of Herb’s life was his farm, located near Rossburn, Manitoba. Throughout the years, Herb, Jan and the boys often escaped to the farm to garden, swim, canoe, golf, bike, hike, sit around campfires, shoot targets with shotguns, watch “Lonesome Dove” on VHS and build additions to the house. They would also spend time with their wonderful neighbours and life-long friends Orest and Zelma Salyn, their son Tom (Jeffrey’s godfather), daughters Suzanne and Wanda and their families, as well as all the Maryniuk’s.

A memorial service to honour Herb’s life will be held at 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, March 10 at Epiphany Lutheran Church, 200 Dalhousie Drive, Winnipeg, with Pastor Stacy Moroz officiating. Herb’s ashes were previously interred at a private family service on January 14. Donations, should you wish, can be sent to the Manitoba Forestry Association.

Below is the book launch video for my debut novel, Pieces. Herb is it it - just scan for the good-looking man in the leather jacket (same outfit as above).

February 26, 2012

‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell

Spoiler alert: Some plot points are given away in this blog post.

For Christmas, I asked for a few novels that I have always wanted to read, yet have never gotten around to for one reason or another. One of the gifts I received was a copy of Gone with the Wind. As an avid writer and reader, it almost seemed like I was doing the literary community a disservice by not reading this incredibly popular novel, so I picked it up for the first time a few weeks ago.

Gone with the Wind is long. My copy was more than 1400 pages, and that doesn’t take into account the small, small print that fills each page in tiny, tiny lines. If you’re looking for an easy, weekend afternoon read, do NOT pick up this novel. It will take you a few weeks to get through – if not longer.

I managed to finish Gone with the Wind in under a week. I became engrossed with both the plot line and the characters. The “heroine” of the novel – Scarlett O’Hara – is the most evil, manipulative and unsympathetic character I think I’ve ever come into contact with in a novel. Everything she does is to advance her own self, and she marries three times for either money, or revenge.

Even though Scarlett does do a number of heroic things throughout the novel – such as delivering her sister-in-law’s baby while the city of Atlanta is being ravaged by war, or continue working her late parents plantation despite the fact that enemy soldiers keep tearing it down – there is always an ulterior motive for every action.
The original cover of the novel. It was published in 1936 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1937 - not bad for her first full-length book...

Rhett Butler – the man who infamously “chased Scarlett for twelve years” – is one of her love interests throughout the novel. The two do eventually marry, even though Scarlett made it quite clear that she didn’t love him when she said yes. Their relationships is tumultuous at best, and one can’t help but feel sorry for Butler. Scarlett plays him just like she plays everyone else, and by the end of the novel he finally had enough.

If I were Rhett, I would have left Scarlett to her own devices early in the novel and tried instead to find myself a nice girl who actually appreciated me. But, it wouldn’t be much of a love story then, would it?

I did some research about Gone with the Wind before I started reading it. In America, the novel is the second most-read book after the bible. Margaret Mitchell became instantly famous when it was published, and her popularity increased even further a few years later when a feature film of the same name came out in 1939.

If you are one of the people who have avoided Gone with the Wind in the past due to its size, I urge you to give it a try. The novel isn’t for everyone, but if you like reading about war, love, turbulent times and broken hearts it is definitely a novel for you.

February 21, 2012

Hello KOBO

When the eReader first came out, I was completely opposed to even looking at one. How dare companies try to create an electronic device that people will choose over a traditional, print book? There was NO WAY I would ever consider an eReader, and I quickly put the whole concept of them out of my mind.

Then, I landed a job as the publicist for the Winnipeg International Writers Festival last summer. I was going on a trip to Toronto, so my boss handed me the festival eReader that everyone uses when they travel. It was already loaded with copies of at least ten novels, which meant that I didn’t have to lug around a pile of books in my luggage.

I grudgingly accepted the device, and went merrily on my way.

While I hate to admit it, the eReader made my trip so much easier. I was still able to read at my own rate – which is very quickly, if you’re curious – but I didn’t have to deal with the hassle of carrying around multiple books. Slowly, I was beginning to see why so many people were falling in love with the eReader.

When I returned to Winnipeg, I decided to do more research about eReader’s. I discovered that books are cheap if you buy them for your device, and you can sync all of your electronics. This means that I can read a book across my eReader, smart phone AND iPod. It will remember the spot I left off on, and will update automatically when I log into my account.

It is an intuitive system that is both easy to use and addictive. No wonder so many people love eReaders.

Then, I discovered the touch screen KOBO eReader with wifi – and I was hooked. I had finally given in, and for Christmas my fiancĂ© bought me exactly the eReader I wanted. Within an hour of opening it, I had already downloaded as many public domain classics as I could find. Then, I moved onto the new releases.

I’ve had my eReader for a few months now, and I absolutely love it. I still read traditional print books, and buy them just as often as I used to. Even though I have a new, electronic device, I won’t give up on print entirely.

February 20, 2012

Say love with a song

For the last few months, Jeff and I had been trying to decide on the first dance song for our wedding.

Initially, we thought it made sense to go with Do You Remember by Jack Johnson:

Then, we started thinking about This Year's Love by David Gray (I can play it on the piano really well, but it's a bit too low for me to sing...):

And then, finally, we heard Crazy Love by Harry Manx performed live at the Centennial Concert Hall yesterday. And we were sold:

I can't wait to dance to it with Jeff! Seven months, and I'll be married...