St. Peter’s Abbey: Day Four

St. Peter’s Abbey is oldest Benedictine monastery in Canada. It was founded in 1903. In the early pictures, there is a distinct lack of trees, but over the years the Brothers have created a green oasis in the middle of the sweeping prairie. I have not done much outdoor exploring though. I enjoy the greenery mostly from my window and that’s because this whole area is tick-infested and I don’t want one of those creepy parasites digging into my flesh. When I do walk, I stick to the gravel roads, which are apparently safe from creepy crawlies. There are always surprises on residencies, but this was one I could have missed.

A great surprise was discovering that my Old friend Art Slade was here for three days giving a workshop on writing YA fiction. All of us enjoyed talking to and teasing Art. I love reconnecting with writers, especially those who write in the same genre!

Last night, Father D gave us a tour of the Abbey, including the college, and the cellars. I’ve posted a picture of him below. The Abbey is always on the lookout for fresh Monks. Male, over eighteen, Catholic, Find out information here. I can actually see a lot of advantages to being a monk, of which I won’t list at the moment. Of course, I don’t qualify on so many levels, but others will.

All of this peace has given me some much needed time to reflect on loss and love and out of that I’ve remember that the pain never outshines the love. Not in the end. Love is too strong. We won’t ever replace our Kitty Moffat, but one day we will all be strong enough to bring another four legged friend into our lives.

Just not yet. But a friend said to me, “Pets are temporary. They are given to us for a short period of time. During this time, they need a home and love, just like anyone else. That’s what we give to them and we get so much more back.” So, if you are suffering the loss of your four-legged friend, close the door for as long as you need, but keep it unlocked!

Yikes, metaphors… that’s what happens at a writing residency.

I’ve been working hard on new ideas, researching those ideas and getting about a thousand words a day down on the page. Not all good words, mind you, but I’m forcing myself to do what I always tell new writers to do. I’m showing up at the page EVERY morning. Something great will come out of all of this work, I know.

One of the poets asked me what it felt like for a West Coaster to be way out here in the prairie. I replied, “I feel safe and protected like I’m in the middle of a soft, King-sized bed and no matter how much I roll around, I can’t fall off the edge.”

Saskatchewan is like that. Our nearest village is Muenster, a five minute walk up the road. The abbey is surrounded by huge farms; fields of purple and yellow and green and gold. The nearest town, where there is liquor store (which we all care about), is Humboldt. Humboldt is a city recovering from terrible tragedy, filled with warm and friendly people.

The Brothers and Fathers here at St. Peters’s were and continue to play a large part in their acceptance of the bus crash that took so many young lives from this area.

Next time, I hope I get to tell you about the wind.

 

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St. Peter’s Abbey 2019

This is a very brief posting, but more to follow over the next week.

Quite a few years ago, I spent a couple of weeks in Muenster, Saskatchewan at a writing colony at St. Peter’s Abbey. At that time, I made incredible progress on the book I was working on and I met a handful of Canadian writers, some of whom I am still in touch with.

Now, late into the hot, languid days of July, I’ve returned. It’s been an impossibly difficult week, since we had to euthanize our Kitty Moffat last Sunday (July 20, 2910) and the anticipation I’d been feeling for my week at St. Pete’s all but disappeared when Kitty’s eyes closed for the last time. But now that I’m here, in my monastic white room with its narrow single bed and windows looking out at grove of maple trees dancing in the warm Saskatchewan wind, I think that being here and surrounded by quiet and nature is exactly what I need.

I sent my last book out to a publisher a few months ago and I am patiently awaiting word. I’d hoped to have heard by now, so that I could work on editing, but alas, nothing. I can only hope that in the next few days, I’ll find something to write about.

Otherwise, I’ll have lots of time to reflect under the wide prairie sky. For that, I am thankful.

Kitty Taking it EasyLove.

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You are invited to a special one night encore screening of THIS MOUNTAIN LIFE in Vancouver.

Hi movie lovers out there. There are still some tickets left for Demand Film tonight and I think it’s going to be a fascinating show, especially if you love the mountains. Start time is 7pm tonight at International Village, downtown Vancouver. Follow this link for more information. Demand Films This Mountain Life.

Oops, just checked again and Sold Out. There are some other great movies coming though, so still check out the website.

 

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Applications for Residencies at Historic Joy Kogawa House

Residencies at Historic Joy Kogawa House
The Historic Joy Kogawa House is seeking applications for residencies in 2020. The House aims to offer a voice and space for representatives from groups that may experience barriers or feel marginalized within mainstream society; writers whose work resonates with these aims are strongly encouraged to apply. Deadline: February 28. Learn more.

This is such an amazing opportunity for a Canadian writer. The Joy Kogawa House does so much for the literary scene in Vancouver and residents will benefit from the peaceful space to create as well as the opportunity to get to know local writers. I have held book launches here, as have many of my writing colleagues and friends and I’ve attended many readings so can attest to it being a very special part of Vancouver.

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Saying Good-bye to London: Hard-hitting Novel Likely to Evoke Strong Responses

A great review makes for a great day! My publisher, Second Story Press, forwarded me this strong review from Resource Links, (Connecting Classrooms, libraries and Canadian Learning Resources).

BURTINSHAW, Julie

Saying Good-bye to London

Second Story Press, 2017. 262p. Gr. 8- 10. 978-1-77260-029-2. Pbk. $12.95

Saying Good-bye to London is a hard-hitting yet sensitively written novel about teen pregnancy, told primarily from the perspective of fifteen-year-old Francis, a quiet boy whose first romance leads to a baby, an adoption, and a rapid transition to the responsibilities of adult life.

The novel spans a little more than a year. Francis meets Sawyer, their relationship blooms, and within a few months they’ve bro- ken up over the news of Sawyer’s pregnancy. When Francis first learns that Sawyer is pregnant, he reacts very, very badly. It is only through the persistent direction of his friends that he starts to change his attitude. As such, readers are invited to grow with Francis – and with Sawyer. Although most of the time read- ers experience the story through Francis’s eyes, now and then the author lets readers slip into Sawyer’s point of view, as well as that of various other characters, lending a much broader view to the unfolding events. The plot never drags; the narration is direct and matter of fact, and it communicates without becoming preachy, a tone books about teen pregnancy sometimes adopt.

At its core, however, Saying Good-bye to London is a novel about fathers. Sawyer’s best friend, Jack, is homeless because his abusive father has thrown him out for being gay. At the same time, Francis’s best friend, Kevin, is living through the death of his father, who has been an important figure in Francis’s life. Francis and Sawyer both have complex relationships with their own fathers. Though boys may be reluctant to read a book apparently about pregnancy, this one offers some deep thinking about what it means to be a good man, what it means to be a father (rather than just a “sperm donor,” as Sawyer crisply comments), what it means to be a good partner.

This novel is likely to evoke strong responses. It would make an excellent selection for a teen reading group or as an independent novel study in grade nine or ten. Readers are sure to have opinions about Sawyer’s choice to have the baby, the process of private adoption, the couple selected to adopt baby London, and Francis’s treatment of Sawyer. Layers of complexity in the text will encourage conversation and reflection, and there are numerous themes readers can evaluate against their own morals and ethics. Saying Good-bye to London is a rewarding book on many levels.

Thematic Links: Pregnancy; Adoption; Families; Fathers; Vancouver

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Buy it on Amazon or order from you local bookstore!

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Review Booklist Saying Goodbye to London

I am really pleased with this review from Booklist for my latest book Saying Goodbye to London (Second Story Press)

Shy Francis is so stunned when Sawyer asks him to dance that he can’t not accept. “I think we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other,” she predicts near the end of the evening, and, sure enough, their lives take a sudden shift. But the throes of new romance evolve when Sawyer gets pregnant. The shock of the pregnancy—and the fear, anger, and trauma it introduces into the lives of the two teens—is the gut-wrenching center of the story. How do Francis and Sawyer tell their parents, and what are their options? After an anguished phase, life begins to come together. With the help of their parents and a remarkable pair of friends who are dealing with individual struggles as well, the two put together a plan that feels right and begin to select adoptive parents for London, the baby daughter on the way. Burtinshaw’s close look at teen pregnancy and other life crises mostly avoids a moralistic slant, effectively focusing instead on pulling through tough times. — Anne O’Malley

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New Book: Saying Goodbye to London Review

I’m thrilled to share the first review on the Advance Copy of my new book Saying Goodbye to London. (Second Story Press) My fellow writers will know the work involved in seeing a new book coming to life! I’m beaming all over 🙂

Check it out here: CM: Canadian Review of Materials and can be found in the most recent issue, Volume XXIII, No. 17 which is located at

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