Author Archives: Shelley Hrdlitschka

Sold out!

Thank you to all my friends and family who supported us at our recent book launch! All 100 books were sold with 20 more names on a wait list for more books to arrive. 50% of the royalties are going to the Grizzly Bear Foundation to protect bears so this is a big win for all!

Book signing on Grouse Mt., home of Coola and Grinder

Book launch!

I’m very excited about this! It’s been a multi-year journey to get to this point. Thank you to Heritage House for publishing this book about two special bears and helping us spread the word about the need to conserve wilderness habitat for all bears.

Promotional material: With co-author Rae, standing in Coola and Grinder’s original den.

Messy First Draft

It’s done, that messy first draft of my first full length novel for an adult audience. I’ve lost track of when I began the journey, it was at least 3 years ago, probably more.  Now I’m smoothing the rough edges, massaging it, trying to get a sense of whether it works as a whole and is not just a bunch of disconnected scenes. Does it even reveal the story I set out to tell?

When it’s as polished as I can make it I’ll ask for feedback from my writing critique group. Their responses will likely give me more to think about, probably resulting in additional rewriting. And that’s when the really challenging part begins; finding an agent and/or a publisher. My connections are in the world of children’s literature. This is a whole new arena.

Running just below the surface is that inner battle I constantly face – is this the best use of my time? Of my life? Will this book even see the light of day, and if it does, will reading it engage, entertain and be thought-provoking for its intended audience?

The following  passage from a book titled Birds Art Life by Kyo Maclear expresses this self-doubt perfectly.

“He was, at the very least, familiar with the feeling that making art – funny art, beautiful art, tender art, boring art, fierce art, humble art, lofty art, existential art, “political” art (or, in my case, art about the trials of making art) – was a fairly limited and potentially narcissistic thing to be doing with one’s time on a fucked-up planet.”

Well said Kyo.  But what kind of a world would it be without art? Even humble art.  As writers we have to believe that our stories do make a difference. That we do have something to say that is worth reading.  And with that in mind I’ll go back to cleaning up that messy first draft.

On becoming Mother-of-the-Bride

At any given time we can each describe ourselves with a number of different labels. In my life I was first called daughter, sister and niece. Then I became friend, student, girlfriend, fiancé, teacher, wife, aunt, mother, author. Now I can add one more, at least for a short time: mother-of-the-bride.

Danny and Dani’s engagement photo

Mother-of-the-bride. What is my role in my daughter’s wedding preparations? At one time a wedding was an event where the parents of the bride (and lesser so the groom) threw a party to invite their friends to celebrate in the marriage of their daughter.  Now brides and grooms have taken over the planning and the tendency is to throw themselves a celebration, possibly with some help from the parents. This change probably came about when couples began choosing to live together before marrying – often for years – so the wedding is more of a formality, a chance for the couple to declare their love and intention to remain together, always. They’ve already created a home and life together which is different than it once was. As the mother-of-the-bride I look forward to the parties, the planning, the preparation  (I surprised myself by embracing the wedding dress shopping!) but my role has certainly become more of a background player than it would have been in years gone by.

Although I love celebrating birthdays and book launches for my friends I have never been one to enjoy them for myself. I  feel uncomfortable when the focus is all on me. However, a Unitarian minister I respect once explained why he always celebrated his birthday – and all other occasions – in a big way. As he said, there is so much tragedy and sadness in the world that when there’s an occasion to celebrate, he likes to do so with a splash. It makes good sense.


So I’m looking forward to celebrating Dani and Danny as they make this important commitment to each other and become a new family. It’s  a wonderful reason to dress up, celebrate and dance the night away.

And then, in the morning, I’ll exchange the label mother-of-the-bride to mother-in-law and I’ll wear the label proudly.

Photo credits: Cara Lee Hrdlitschka

 

 

Flushing Away Our Forests: The Issue With Tissue

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“Only when the last tree has died and the last river been poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money.”

–Cree Indian Proverb

So many of our shopping choices are ones we make by habit. We continue to buy the same products simply because they’re the ones we’ve always bought, or because they’re on sale. We don’t stop to consider whether we could be making better choices.

Take something as simple and common as toilet paper. Did you know the average American (and probably Canadian) uses almost three rolls of toilet paper per week? According to the Vancouver Sun (February 26, 2019) the majority of toilet paper (and tissue and paper towel) comes from virgin fibre pulp from Canada’s old boreal forests. This is to meet the demand of us consumers who want the softest, most absorbent tissue we can get. (A number of really cute commercials spring to mind.) These manufacturers do not use recycled materials or alternative fibres and this comes at the expense of our forests

There are, in fact, less well known tissue manufacturers that use recycled materials or sustainable bamboo and sugarcane instead of pulp from trees

Bamboo tissue (with sugarcane fibres) are 100% free of all wood fibre. They are biodegradable. And they are soft.

Trees are essential to our existence. They  provide oxygen and clean air for us to breathe and help moderate our climate.  When trees are re-planted it can take several decades  to reach full maturity. Bamboo, on the other hand, grows quickly and produces 35% more oxygen than trees. 

Switching to a different paper product is just one small change we can all make to ensure the survival of our forests.

Consistent, Persistent & Insistent

In the research I’ve been doing on trans youth, I’ve discovered that one of the ways professionals recognize a transgender child is if they have been consistent, persistent and (possibly) insistent on their cross-gender identification.

This list of rhyming words came back to me predawn this morning as I lay in bed dealing with my wide-awake cat. (Jim has dubbed her ‘Cat Annoyance’). She has a very sweet nature, is loving and affectionate, but not at appropriate times!

Too early every day she starts to head-butt, purr loudly and clamour all over me.

You slept all day yesterday,” I growl at her. “It’s my turn to sleep now .” I drop her to the floor, but she consistently, persistently and insistently jumps back up and starts the routine again. If I lock her out of my room she cries (yup, you guessed it ) consistently, persistently and insistently at the door.

It’s a good list of words, helpful for gender therapists and trans youth. It’s also very descriptive of my cat.

Has anyone found a solution to  silence an early-waking cat? (And no, please don’t suggest I get up earlier!)

 

A Disconnect: Pelts vs Pets

My newspaper is open on the table in front of me. On the left page is a story about  trappers  bemoaning the fact that there is a general decline in their target species, whether it be beaver, mink or bobcat. “The price for lynx pelt – about $70.00 – is “disappointing” considering the amount of work required to catch and process the animal,” the article says.

It continues. “Fur remains popular with increasingly affluent buyers from Russia and in China – the fur industry there is worth $22 billion – but the vagaries of fashion and waning economic growth in those nations have depressed prices for pelts for the past several years.”

On the facing page is a human interest story about a puppy whose face was severely damaged by corrosive acid thrown at him in his homeland of Iran. He was rescued and put up for adoption, hopefully “by someone in North America who could afford the care” and surgeries it required. A Vancouver woman did adopt him, she set up a GoFundMe page and raised over $7,000.00 to pay for the veternarian costs.

What is wrong with this picture? One animal is considered a ‘pet’ and thousands of dollars are spent to keep it alive. Another animal is seen as a pelt for someone to wear, so it is only valuable dead. There is a huge disconnect here.

I, of course, am on the side of the animal. Wearing pelts for fashion seems ridiculous in this day and age.  I saw a mink coat valued at $40,000 in a Vancouver store last weekend.  I wonder if the person who would buy such a coat might also be carrying a small dog under her arm.

Yes, a serious disconnect.

(Quotes were taken from the Vancouver Sun, January 28, 2019.

Fahrenheit 11-10 – Classic Michael Moore

Using shock tactics, brilliant editing and disturbing material, Michael Moore once again sheds light on some very alarming events happening south of the Canadian border. Although a lot of it may not be ‘new news’ to the viewer, the events are spun in a way that makes them seem even more frightening than ever. The opening scenes – which give background info on the last American election, as well as the scenes portraying the hideous contaminated water situation  in Flint, Michigan  – will stick with me for some time. Emma Gonzalez’s powerful speech at the anti-gun rally was another poignant moment in the film. My only complaint would be that there were so many different stories that the movie lost focus, and the way it was edited – sensationalizing certain events – made me feel somewhat manipulated.

I do appreciate and respect Michael Moore’s work. He puts himself out there, shedding light on some ugly truths in a way that will be accessible to so many.

I wonder what future generations will make of such a film? Of such events?

 

Look ma, no tailpipe!

It’s 2019 and I’ve turned over a ‘blue Leaf’.  Nissan Leaf that is. I’ve made the leap to electric. Zero emissions. The electricians are in the garage right now, installing the correct hardware (220 volts.)  The car salesperson assured me that the “range anxiety” new electric car owners experience would dissipate in just 24 hours. It will take some time to get used to plugging it in each day, but I won’t be watching  gas prices anymore. What will take the most getting used to is the larger sized body. My little red Smart car (Ladybug) was so easy to parallel park and maneuver in tight spaces. Suddenly I feel like I’m driving a mini van again. But it drives so smoothly, so quietly. So far I’m loving everything about it, especially the no emissions part.

I think I’ll name it ‘Dragonfly’ as they symbolizes change, transformation, and adaptability.

Fitting, no?

Favourite books of 2018

It was a good reading year. I read 37 books for personal pleasure, research, or for one of my 3 bookclubs. I ‘assessed’ (which mostly means ‘read’) another 137 books as a committee member for the Governor General Literary Award for Young People’s Literature.

There were a lot of excellent books, but, looking back, the most memorable books of the year for me are these seven books for young people and one novel for adults.

Young People:

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and her Monster by Jonathan Auxier. This is a stand-out book for readers of all ages and the winner of this year’s Governor General’s Literary Award for Young People. Sweep is the story of a girl and her monster.  These two outcasts carve out a life together – saving one another in the process.  A multi-layered masterpiece.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis. This story has huge heart, is funny and painful. Curtis is a master storyteller.

Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith. Told in free verse, this is a poignant story of healing for a troubled young boy and his eccentric Grandmother. Stunningly beautiful.

Dodger Boy by Sarah Ellis. This story of a Vancouver Quaker family in 1970 covers a vast number of themes from draft-dodging, coming of age, friendship and censorship. Ellis has a gentle hand and nothing comes across didactic or preachy. The conversations between the various characters are lovely and insightful. It’s a smart novel without being pretentious.

No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen. This story also has huge heart. It explores homelessness in Vancouver. Mom and Felix live in a van. Things go from bad to worse because of Mom’s behaviour. The story is funny and poignant. The pacing and writing are excellent.

Louisianna’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo. DiCamillo is truly a master of the genre. As with her other books, in this one she puts her young protagonist in a very difficult situation but the story is told sensitively with a light hand and humour.

Miles to Go by Beryl Young. This tender story is compulsively readable. Set in the ’40’s two prairie girls have very different lives but they cling to their friendship despite the obstacles. I was moved to tears by the loss one of the girls endured. Heartwarming.

Adult:

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel. Witty and wise, this is a big-hearted novel about a family with a transgender child. Sensitively written and often funny.