Category Archives: Writing

10 Tips For Sharpening Your Writing Tools

The following tips have been gleaned from professionals and the following books. “Writing Down the Bones” by Natalie Goldberg. “Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott. On Writing Well by William Zinser. “On Writing” by Stephen King. “Painless Writing” by Jeffrey Strausser. “Painless Writing” is filled with exercises and easy to pick up tips.
 Develop a respect for words. Be curious about their shades of meaning. Play with them.
 Words are the only tools you will be given so learn to use them well. Make the thesaurus and online search engines your best friends.
 Words to avoid: Too, relevant, senior citizen, myself, upcoming, notables, great, hopefully, I think, honestly (or worse “to be perfectly honest”), amazing (vastly overused), suddenly. On the tool bar, click ‘find’ to see if you’ve overused a word, Type a word in and replace it if it feels worn out. Examples of overuse: and, so, that, if, really.
 My favorite expression from “Writing Down the Bones” is to make mud pies on the page. Don’t edit as you write; it interrupts your creative juices. Edit later.
 Stick to one tense. Don’t mix your tenses. If you start in first person, stick to it.
 Don’t mix your tone. If you’re chatty, keep it. If you’re speaking as the expert such as a travel guide, keep it. Don’t switch back and forth or if you are going to, tell the reader at the beginning. When introducing my RV Canada travel books I tell people they are a combination of our stories, other people’s stories and resources.
 Advice from Mike McCardell, reporter for Global BC TV: A powerful title is only 4 words. If you can say it in 100 words don’t ramble on for 500. Using action verbs keeps it tight.
 Before you start writing ask yourself:
* In what capacity am I addressing the reader?
* What corner of the topic will I cover? I can’t cover it all.
* What tense will I use?
* What is my style, chatty or formal?
* What attitude am I taking? Involved, amused, critical?
* What one point do I really want to make?
* What point do I want to leave in the reader’s mind?
 From Toastmasters on writing speeches I learned that my story should cover the 4 H’s: Head/grabs their attention at the beginning, and makes them think. The lead is another term for it. It captures the reader’s attention and forces them to keep reading. Leave hard details till later in the story. Heart/ makes them feel something. If we don’t reach our readers hearts, we’ve missed out. Humour/ makes them smile. Hit/ leave them with something to think about. The ending is as important as the lead so your reader doesn’t go away feeling unsatisfied.
 Stephen King sums it all up in two words, “Writers write.” They don’t just talk about it. They don’t just read about it. They don’t just attend seminars. They write.

Raise The Bar

It’s taken years of education, experimenting, networking and just plain getting out there to bring me to where I am today as an author and free-lance writer. But I’m not satisfied with the level of success I’ve achieved. I want more. Do you? Are you willing to raise the bar on your expectations in order to get there? If you’re a life-time student, and writer who wants more,  then you’ll benefit from what Freelance Writers Den has to offer. I’ve gained valuable insights from their newsletters and now they are running a contest. In it we can win one year free in the Writers Den, mentoring and more. As I raise the bar on my freelance career to boost it over the top, I know what Linda and Carol are offering to the winning entries is exactly what I need.

Twitter, Facebook and Hootsuite?

If you’re from my over 60 generation you know how “twitterpated” all this social media can make you. I attended the BC Association of Travel Writers symposium in Vancouver, followed by the Travel and Words conference in Port Townsend for tow days. What started with Owen Clark, founder of showing us the advantages of linking our sites up to Hootsuite, continued on with Julie Ferguson of Beacon Literary Services, telling the importance of sharing the love instead of selling. Hoot what? Are we owls? My brain was on overload by the time we headed across the border to my next banquet of knowledge.

I’d paid an extra $20 to have Colleen Wright, owner of Response Interactive to evaluate my web site. It was the best $20 ever spent! Did you know that the title on your main page shouldn’t be over 65 characters for optimal search engines finding you? Came home and fixed that right away.

It’s an exciting though sometimes mind boggling task but it goes to prove that we are never too old to learn how to “hoot our own horns.”

Get Started Travel Writing

Get Started Travel Writing

Have you ever dreamed of travelling on someone else’s dime and writing articles that actually pay? We all start out small, maybe writing for free until we build up our portfolio but we must  get to the point when we know our writing has to have a monetary value.  This  interview in the newsletter gives us some simple tips on how to get started.

 Interview taken by permission from: The Right Way to Travel newsletter Sept.3/10. For the whole story and more fascinating opportunities go to:

TRWTT: What was your article about?

GINNY: I started on the island finale of the trip because it looked
more manageable. I thought I could finish it faster and get my byline.
The safari part of the trip was so mind-blowing and overwhelming that
I told myself I would “save it for later.”

Word to the wise: keep up with your writing, because before you know
it, you’re off on another trip and the commitments and deadlines start
to pile up.

TRWTT: How and where did you get it published?

GINNY: I got published in It was unpaid, but it was my
first thrilling byline. And I’ve been hooked ever since.

TRWTT: Besides building credibility and getting published, did you get
any expenses paid, or were you able to get special rates and deals as
a travel writer?

GINNY: Not on that trip. But I have on others I’ve written about. I
usually travel everywhere for at least half-price, with many side
trips and excursions tossed in for free.

TRWTT: How do you go about securing discounted travel and perks?

GINNY: I often start the barter process with an e-mail to a manager,
telling him or her about an upcoming “Travel Writer Visit.” I am quite
direct in asking whether they offer special rates for travel
journalists, and I mention an interest in a place/event/excursion of
theirs. Sometimes that’s enough to do the trick, but only if you try
not to travel during peak seasons.

I have to say, another “perk” of all of this is that my husband has
become a very good photographer, and we work in great partnership to
get the travel writing done. It’s terrific to have someone fun to
share these adventures with.

 TRWTT: Do you have any tips for someone who’d like to get started
writing travel articles?

GINNY: Sure. My number one tip is the best tip I’ve received — to
start locally and write about something you know, in your own
backyard. One article I wrote was about New Glarus, Wisconsin,
“America’s Little Switzerland,” where I have been going for 20 years.

It got published in German Life — a very beautiful, glossy magazine
— and was distributed in nine countries.

My second tip is: Don’t over-direct your writing. When you’re getting
started on a new article, it’s important to just start writing, let it
flow, then go back and finesse.

Tip 3: Skip the flowery adjectives and power your story through the use
of verbs with muscle. I believe that’s one of Jennifer Stevens’

Tip 4: Just ask. You won’t get a discount or an article
published if you don’t put yourself out there and ask for what you

TRWTT: Where are you off to next?

GINNY: I plan on going to Ecuador — into the Amazon Rainforest and
then to the Galapagos Islands. I really love wildlife and nature and
this looks to be a dream trip.

If Ginny can do so you can you. I went on my first “fam” / familiarization tour this year, all expenses paid to Dawson City, Yukon. Yukon Tourism treated the three of us travel writers like royalty. From it I have contacts for more articles, contacts for my book launch up there next summer, and a better idea how this works and what is expected. I want more!

Midnight Dome, Dawson City


Happy writing and raising the bar on your own expectations!


YES You Can Make Money Writing!

Besides publishing books my goal was to get paid for writing magazine articles. But first I did my time. I wrote for local papers for free to get exposed and used to the tighter style of writing and meeting a deadline. The first time I was published in Our Canada, a national glossy magazine, even though it was unpaid I was thrilled. What I got out of it was book sales, a free subscription and a place to stay in Ontario. Being an RV writer, I started with RV Times also for free. Writing a series on our cross-Canada trips sold books, and created a fan base which continues to this day.

 I couldn’t join BC Association of Travel Writers unless I sold at least two articles per year because this is an organization of professionals. The first year I scrimped to sell two. But by the next year Snowbirds & RV Travel found me and paid for the 10 part series about our 2009 northern trip.

 This year after the BCATW gala, an invitation went out for three travel writers to go to Dawson City, Yukon all expenses paid. Yahoo!! I finally felt like I belonged among the other professional travel writers. No more writing for free, or at least minimally and only under special circumstances like for Powell River Living.

 Those four days in Dawson was the pinnacle of my travel writing career. I was treated like royalty by tourism and business people alike. Three of us were wined and dined, toured around, given gifts and taken to the Commissioners Ball. The 1898 style ball is formal with dresses being specially designed starting at $2,000. Do I ever have stories! I did my homework ahead of time, contacting the seamstress, the commissioner’s office and an editor for a Yukon magazine.In the photo below with my two other travel writer friends  at the Commissions Ball. If you can make out the little feather headpieces we’re wearing they were gifts from our Yukon Tourism host. Oh the perks!

Commisioners Ball

 Could you earn an income with your stories or enjoy what are called “fam tours”/ familiarization tours put on by tourism …YES You Can! Haven’t started yet? Start writing for free in local magazines to build up a portfolio of clips/tear sheets. Set a goal for when you’ll start selling stories. Writing is a job and we deserve to get paid just the same as the ad person does. Among the professionals, it’s a sore point when writers give their work away because it makes it harder for the rest of us to find editors that will pay. Start small, learn as you go, attend workshops, pick the brain of experienced magazine writers, study articles in magazines for content and structure.

 The Powell River Tourism project is the perfect place for locals to get their feet wet… or is that their computers working? Believe in yourself and your writing and you’ll go far. YES You Can Make Money Writing and have fun in the process! For the guidelines to this project go the Powell River Writers Conference site and the latest newsletter:

Published Articles by Barb

Archived and current articles published in magazines are available at:

Snowbirds & RV Travel

A series about our 2009 northern trip started June/July 2009 and continued for the  following months: Aug/Sept/09, Oct/Nov/09, Dec/Jan/10, and Feb/Mar/10. Click on the month and “turn the pages” until you arrive at the article. Stay tuned for April/May/10 issue.

RV Times

Although previous 2007/2008 articles may not be in their archives, the latest one for Jan/Feb/10 titled “20 Must-Do’s in Northern BC, Yukon and the Northwest Territories” is online. Go to articles and issue #133 Jan/Feb/10.

Part 5 in a series published in RV Times free magazine 2007.

Crossing Canada Selling Books, Driftwood and Brandied Blackberry Sauce

Going Home: Manitoba to BC

Barb and Dave Rees left their home in Powell River, BC, May 26, 2007 on a working holiday, taking Barb’s book RV Canada On A Dime And A Dream on a cross-Canada tour. Their working holiday took them to farmer’s markets from coast to coast, travelling in their temperamental van named “Boo” pulling a 27-ft.trailer.

Segment 1

Good looking cowboys, bucking broncos and the announcer yelling, “He’s holding on, no he’s off!” The stands erupted with cheers at the Double “B” Beausejour Rodeo.

On Sept.6 I’d cheered “Manitoba! Only three provinces till home!” We took #12 south to Steinbach heading for the next market at 4:00 p.m.

A Mennonite market with lots of fresh produce and shoppers chiefly interested in produce meant one book was sold. A kindly couple gave us a jar of honey to sweeten our day.

The next morning at the library we searched online for a rodeo, and found Beausejour Rodeo who accepted us with three days free dry camping.

We left Steinbach in a windstorm, heading north to Beausejour. Because we took the “scenic route”… known as getting lost, we found the Great Woods Park and Campground where we dumped and filled our water. The Beausejour sani-dump is behind the rodeo grounds.

And that’s how an old Calgary Stampede girl like me came to be surrounded by cowboys, horse trailers, and cowgirls. Next to us a couple groomed 2000 lb. Percherons.

The farmer’s market was inside a big chilly barn. A $2. pancake breakfast started the day with families in cowboy hats discussing livestock problems. At 10:00 a.m these hardy folks held a big parade with floats, horses, clowns and antique tractors with antique drivers.

At the market we realized people weren’t there to spend money. They were there to see a rodeo so once the rodeo started that was the end of any sales. By then our neighbors, Ron and Maxine the fudge makers had moved outside and invited us to put a few of our things on their stall. Suddenly my Dad’s rodeo photos from the 70’s attracted the cowboy’s. One said, “They aren’t going to believe I found these after all this time. Do you have one of my grandpa Harry Dodginghorse?” When I asked Dad he laughed, “I often covered the rodeos he was at.” Soon we had a crowd of cowboys sorting through photos and an hour later we’d sold 22 pictures. The finale to our day was the sky exploding with fireworks and our neighbor letting us plug into his generator.

The next day we moved everything outside with the fudge-makers. In the flow of traffic we talked to many people and watched the rodeo too. I tried my hand at taking bucking bronco pictures while the announcer kibitzed with the clown. We had so much fun, met new friends, and sold Dad’s photographs. By 5:30 p.m we left for Winnipeg. Following the perimeter road took us around Winnipeg to Portage la Prairie. West of Portage on the Trans Canada is a Flying Jtruck stop, a good place for RV’ers.

Our first stop in Portage was the dump station. We settled into the line-up and then watched the guy ahead of us grab the ‘potable water’ hose and use it to rinse his black water hose. Yuk! When we pulled up we were all shaking our heads, so I got bleach from the others to disinfect the hose. Lesson: Carry a spray bottle of bleach water or spray can of Clorox to disinfect the water hose before using.

We found the Wal-Mart mall on the highway devoid of other RV’ers and settled in for a peaceful night. Not! It sits in between four train tracks! But we had a very relaxing evening reminiscing about our gypsy adventures.

.Next morning a spectacular sunrise spread gold’s and mauves over Wal-Mart. There I stood in the lot in my old blue housecoat taking pictures. After breakfast we fueled up before we visited Island Park and our favourite trees. “I’m back,” I said to the ‘elephant feet’ trees whose character I fell in love with four years ago.

The Brandon Tourism office is off the Trans Canada in the Riverbank Discovery Centre. Lois told us about the cement igloo outside called the “ecodome” built from sandbags by university students as a demo emergency hut.

By then the winds were fiercer than ever so we took cover at Meadowlark Campground and RV Park. We enjoyed being set up with all the amenities and WIF for $27 …including Oprah!

9/11 – I always wake on the anniversary of this date thinking about the terrorism which changed the world forever. I sat in my safe little home remembering. No one knows when our loved ones will be taken away.

First stop was the new Wal-Mart for a spray can of Clorox. , then #10 South. After vast expanses of ripe sunflowers, we hit Souris and didn’t stop at the agate pit this time. We were so thrilled at “Welcome to Saskatchewan” we opened a package of Twizzlers to celebrate! In Carlyle, our friend Judy was glad to see us and interrupted her work to put tea and coffee on so we could catch up.

Later we settled at the Weyburn Wal-Mart located on the west end of town between the #1 highway and a train track, but fairly quiet. While taking a sunset picture I paused to remember those who never saw another sunset after 9/11.

Sept.12 and off to the Weyburn Pubic Library to collect our email. A one ton 13’2” diameter wheel celebrating their history hangs on the library wall.

Ogema, a little farm town has a camp ground so we pulled in for lunch and the sani-dump. It offers all the services but the water tastes awful. We’ve learned to taste the water before we fill up the tanks with ghastly water.

I started calculating how much we saved by making Dave’s coffee. Every morning I’d make a thermos of coffee for the day. We reckoned we saved close to $1000 towards Boo’s fuel.

In January 2007 CBC radio interviewed me about my book. In Mackenzie people heard it and told their friends Diane and Grant who searched CBC archives and emailed about the book. We became good “e-buddies.” Then they moved to Mankota in southern Saskatchewan so that’s where we were headed to see Diane in the hospital.

Turning at Lafleche we were heading for Mankota in another wind storm. Suddenly over a rise on this very narrow farm road loomed a combine machine with its arms extended the width of the road. Dave tried getting over but there was no where to go. I sat frozen watching this monster coming straight for us. “He’s going to hit us,” I whisper. At the last second he swerves and misses’ us by inches. My heart’s pounding and Dave says, “That would have made a good picture.”

Later at the hospital we meet our friends. “Imagine you coming all this way to see me”. Dave and I felt like we’d known them for years.

We head north for Swift Current and our next market. Swift Current with 2374 annual hours of sunshine has grown up. They now have a new Wal-Mart mall, but we head up to the Wheatland mall where the market will be held the next day. Soon we were parked at the back of the mall overlooking the valley in what became “our spot” four years ago.

The wind rocked the trailer all night long. After breakfast we set up in the mall among Hutterites with many tables of produce. I watched a lady walk towards us and point at the poster for Dad’s rodeo pictures. “ I know this man. He’s my brother-in-law.” I just stood stunned, “You do?” As my mind raced to think who was related to Fred Kobsted, I blurted, “Who are you?” “I’m Shirley Millis,” she said. It hit me. She was my Mom’s brothers ex-wife …he died years ago. I walked around the table and put my arms around her in tears. “I’m Dorothy’s daughter, Barbara.” Then we both cried. What a beautiful gift to meet an aunt I never knew and find out I had a cousin close by. Shirley lives in Prince Albert and was down visiting her brother adding to the chances of our meeting.

Sales weren’t great but I had enlightening conversations with the Hutterite women from the Main Centre Colony. Without TV, radio, computers or divorce they are happy. If you want to meet the locals and get a feel for the area, sell at farmers or flea markets, and it helps with gas. Shirley brought her daughter Kathy over who invited us to dinner.

Sept. 14: We enjoyed tea and coffee in bed looking at the map of Canada with our highlighted route. Imagine how much we would have missed if we hadn’t dared to live the dream?

I took my prescriptions to Wal-Mart to be filled, something we can’t do in Ontario or Quebec without going to a clinic. It’s a good idea to stock up and keep the empty bottle when you do need the order filled because of all the information.

At the end of the day we went to my cousin’s ranch at Success. Her husband Rick, says that their ranch of 900 acres is nothing by Saskatchewan standards. A sunset drive after dinner gave me great pictures of an owl and a sunset that seemed to last forever.

Sept.15: Around us Hutterites joke with customers, old timer’s slap each other on shoulders, children vie for attention. The best part was Diane and Grant coming up from Mankota to have dinner with us. After they left, the wind died down so we could sit outside listening to meadowlarks sing and enjoy the valley view.

A.L William’s said, “We perform best when we have a crusade because it adds meaning and purpose to life. Crusaders have inner strength, and carry on when others quit.” Our trips are crusades not just tours because we inspire others to follow their dreams no matter their circumstances.

Whispering Winds

The latest article found in the autumn/09 issue 011 was from our northern trip up the Dempster Highway.

RV Canada With Boo the Menopausal Van:Sample Chapter

Just one of 21 chapters about our adventures while crossing Canada in a cranky van called “Boo the Menopausal Van.” The last three chapters are valuable resources for travellers.

Chapter 5: Ontario (ON)

Water, Water Everywhere
Welcome to the biggest province on our trek and the one with the biggest heart! Even with gas funds in meager supply, we have faith in our sales here. This happens to be the land of thousands of lakes, moose, muskeg, trees, fishing, and chip trucks and, of course, French Fries. There’re so many lakes a map of Ontario looks like Swiss cheese. It’s a recreational paradise. Our first stop occurs at the provincial tourism office at the border, to share Powell River information.
A giant muskie welcomes visitors from the west to Kenora (pop.16, 500) on Lake of the Woods. Past the lake, dotted with 14,000 islands and a 65,000 mile shoreline, Hwy. #17 takes us right downtown. We stop at the tourism office (Ch. 21) to distribute information and get fresh water, then cross the street to a Husky station where we use the sani-dump. They have a beautiful walk along the waterfront with many unique gift shops. The downside of Kenora is the many “no overnight camping signs” throughout the town which makes RV’ers like us feel like not stopping at all.
From there we head south on #71, The Kings Highway, also called the Heenan Hwy., to Fort Frances. It was blasted through some of the most formidable rock in Canada. It opened in 1936 between Kenora and Fort Francis, named after Peter Heenan, born in Ireland. He came to Kenora in 1902 where he served as a Liberal Labour member until 1943. We have him to thank for the Old Age Pension Act in 1927.
This is one of the most scenic drives we’ve been on in Ontario. With few semi-trucks bullying us down the highway, we enjoy a peaceful drive on smooth highway. The only problem seems to be the lack of pull-offs. We stop at Sioux Narrows for a walk down to the lake. They have an interesting gift store with totem pole. Nestor Falls in the heart of the Canadian Shield also rests on the edge of the lake that teems with fish. Cabins nestle along the water and make us wish we were stopping, but we want to be in Fort Francis tonight.
Out of the blue we drive through a little community called Finland with farmland and few trees, all quite different from the lakeshore drive. We turn east on #11, through more farmland and stop at Canada’s smallest church in Emo. This minute 8’x10’ chapel was built in 1935 by a blacksmith, but a fire in 1973 consumed the church. The cross fell inward but didn’t burn so they rebuilt the church.
After a long day of driving we look forward to camping at Wal-Mart in Fort Frances. As we pull in I sigh, “Home at last,” certain we were done for the day. Not! We try to be respectful campers by going in and asking permission. We’re told a bylaw prohibits camping in Wal-Mart but they’re sympathetic and give us directions to where they thought we could park at Pither’s Point by Rainy River. The only campground in town ($30) on the other side of the train tracks from Pither’s Point sits half empty in the middle of tourist season. Exhausted, we stop in a very pretty spot, but the beauty doesn’t make up for the tracks above our heads just before they cross the bridge.
June 20: Trains terrorize me all night with their screeching and groaning. At 3:30 a.m. the third one since we arrived bumps along grinding metal for 20 minutes, and at 5:00, 6:00 and at 8:00. I want to scream! What a sleepless night while in typical husband mode Dave sleeps like a baby. Oh, and throw in a thunderstorm. So why were we camped here when I swore in the last book I would never camp by tracks again? Because we’re hiding out from those who might kick us out. As soon as Dave is up, we move into town and park by the side of the lake to salvage our day. After breakfast I sit on a bench overlooking the lake. Diamonds glitter on the water reminding me there must be a shining lesson in this experience.
Lesson #13: Take bad experiences and chew them over like a cow does its cud, bring them back up for the useful parts, expel the rest and move on to greener pastures.
With new resolve I journal my intent for the day: To create income opportunities, to spread inspiration instead of complaining, to live in the moment with joy and childlike wonder, and appreciate Dave.
The town sits beside Rainy River with many historical things to see so we walk around creating good memories to erase the bad ones. The area depends on a pulp mill presently working on an $84.3 million project. We stop at the Chamber (Ch. 21) and find out RV’ers stop at Wal-Mart all the time, at their own risk. If we’d known, we wouldn’t have asked and maybe we would have slept. We do notice there are no signs in the Safeway lot, so use your own discretion.
The Museum tour costs $2 for seniors and provides us insight into the area. In 1731, Fort St. Pierre was built at the south end of the lake. The Rainy Lake Post, operated by Hudson’s Bay Company and renamed Fort Francis in 1830, honours Lady Frances Ramsay Simpson.
Refreshed, we leave town over a high bridge, the Noden Causeway, crossing Rainy Lake, eventually climbing to Rainy Lake lookout. On the road I entertain myself with their imaginative place names: Red Gut Bay, Ottertail Road, Seine River, Blue Lantern, Pair-a-Dice Road, and Crilly, to name a few.

By 4:00 p.m. we arrive at the information centre (Ch. 21) at the highway junction to Atikokan. When we explain to Nicole and Morgan that we’re selling our way across Canada and need to sell in the area, they get on the phone. By the time we leave they’d received permission for us to sell in town. Turning up #11B we end up in Atikokan, The Canoeing Capital of Canada, (pop. 3,500), or as they say, “We are the little town that could.” They’ve survived mine shut-downs, logging crises but still hang onto their spirit and pride. Only 43 km. away lies Quetico Provincial Park, a world renowned wilderness park. Canoes are displayed around town inviting people to experience many canoeing opportunities. Atikokan in Ojibwa means “dry Caribou bone.”
At city hall, helpful staff members say, “Anywhere on municipal property, no charge.” Now that’s hospitality! We stop for the night by the side of an industrial strip and no train tracks. The only noise being the distant hum of the mill. I watch a steady stream of people going to work; people with bills to pay, families to raise, dreams to live. Hopefully they view their work as a means to an end and not a replacement for making their dreams come true. We know from experience that it’s easier to stay in a safe rut than take a risk. Sure gas money is tight, but I believe in miracles. Yesterday, Bud our house-sitter had to leave for work in Vancouver, yet out of love still deposited $200 in our account. That’s the miracle! At this point, 4,929 km. from home, we want to rest. Gas has cost us $1615 so far with sales covering most of it.
June 21: Happy first day of summer Ontario! Four years ago today we left on this same epic journey without knowing what to expect. Don’t know which is worse, ignorance or knowing. By 10:30 a.m. our tables are set up in the sun on the main street. Right away we sell a jar of sauce. A guy on a bike admires our goods but says he’s broke so I give him a Power Rock. He peddles away smiling; small reward for us ‘paying it forward.’  We love small town Ontario where the roads are rough and the people friendly.
We happily wave at people and tell our story to passers-by. “Oooh, look at that.” I point at a 1934 yellow International truck as it pulls up in front. We have to talk to the driver and take pictures. By 12:30 we’ve had a fun, relaxing morning and made $19. That’s $19 more gas money than we had when we woke up. After gassing up Boo, we head for Thunder Bay, 203 km. away.
Happy RV’ing for us means smooth highways, few truckers, rolling scenery dotted with lakes, and masses of wild flowers along the road. That changes when we come upon resurfacing, so for miles Boo slogs her way through loose gravel pulling the old grey mare that bucks along behind. We pass the Atlantic Watershed Point where all waters now run south to the Atlantic. Once again, picnic sites and rest stops are scarce as hen’s teeth. Unless you’re prepared to go off the highway some miles to a lake, there are few spots. After we’re on the road for two hours without stopping, I get cranky. Just like a kid, I need to get out and play.
Third time zone passed at 4:10 p.m.! Only three to go until Newfoundland. Finally, in desperation, we pull off in a pulp load check area to stretch our legs. Black flies immediately smell blood and attack, ending our walk. At the junction of #11 and #17 East to Thunder Bay it becomes #102, MOM’s Way (but changes back later to 11 and 17). No, it doesn’t have anything to do with mom’s escaping down the road, although maybe that’s a thought. It stands for Manitoba, Ontario, Minnesota tourist route. At the junction we choose #102 the shorter route to Thunder Bay. Once again we’re on familiar road with the familiar stream of semis. But now we’re running out of gas so we pull into the first gas station before Thunder Bay.
Welcome to Thunder Bay (pop.110, 000), one of our favourite places in Ontario. It’s the beginning of the 100 km. Terry Fox Courage Highway. We stop first at the Delaney Arena behind the Soroptimist International Friendship Garden to empty our tanks. (Ch. 21). Then, four years after our last trip, we pull into our friend’s yard. No searching for a place to bed down for five days. Nice!  Thunder Bay lies alongside Lake Superior, the largest fresh-water lake in the world. We always feel like we’ve come home when we sit besides its vastness.
June 22: Old friends at Victoriaville Mall market warmly welcome us back. Torsti Landvik, the new coordinator, buys a book right away because of the write-up about their markets.  Joanne Barrie, the past coordinator, is dealing with the sudden loss of her husband who had a heart attack while gardening. She hugs us, bringing all of us to tears. We need to live our dreams before it’s too late. No one knows when that day will come.
Lesson #14: Don’t wait until everything lines up perfectly before making your dreams come true. All of the lights will never be green. Life is fragile no matter our age or health. What dreams have you put on hold?
Our table faces the mall door so the constant stream of people sees us right away. This mall, beside a resource centre, means many of those down on their luck hang out here, but we’ve had the best talks! A chatty fellow we met in 2003 tells all his friends about our work. Another guy talks about our rocks and offers to bring us a special one. Across from us, Isabelle, an 89-year-old flower/produce seller, looks a little more bent over than she was, but her spirit remains high. People count on her fabulous bouquets of flowers for bargain prices. By the end of the day we made $155. Joanne convinced the vendors and the mall to allow them to sell Wednesday instead of Tuesday in order to maximize our sales since pension cheques will be in then. Good ole Thunder Bay folks come through for us again!
We finish our day in our little home with me curled up in a lot of pain. In the middle of the night, I’m up and taking pills, I’m grateful we’re travelling in our RV. Imagine what this would be like staying in other peoples homes. At least we’re in our own space. The cost of fuel is still the cheapest part of RV’ing.
June 22: In Thunder Bay we have the opportunity to sell at several different locations in one week; one of them being Wilson St. Market. It’s too early in the season for the produce sellers consequently buyers are few, but we sit in the sun with Torsti working on our crafts and visiting. People tell us we should be at the CLE market because there’s lots of produce but we’d decided the $55 cost was prohibitive. By noon we’ve only made $15, so maybe CLE would have been a better bet.
Lesson #15: When selling, choose high traffic areas even if it costs more. Do your research ahead of time instead of wasting hours sitting around for a couple dollars.
Afterward we head for Fort William and the 30th birthday of their Franco-Festival. Last time we couldn’t afford the tickets to get into the fort, but this time it’s free!
Lesson #16: Check out the local holidays, festivals, parks etc., either at the tourism office or online. There are many free or by donation events.
Fort William was the hub of the fur trade in 1815 as voyageurs brought their furs from the west and traded for goods from the east. At Rendevous in July there could be up to 1,000 people in the fort, but that dropped to 30 in the winter. With guides in period costume, we take a walk back in time as they play out their roles.
Historical trivia anyone? Beaver top-hats, from matted beaver down, were made without glue or stitching. The hat was so solid a child could sit on it without ruining it. The hatters used mercury in the process and eventually went mad. Thus the saying, “Mad as a hatter.” People in England believed that pale skin was more beautiful so they made slits by their ears and put leeches on them to suck their blood. Yuk! The extent people will go to for vanity’s sake hasn’t changed much through the centuries.
Back at home, the Tocheri’s are in from their cabin so we visit. It hardly seems like four years has passed. That evening a thunderstorm scares me, but not Susan who is thrilled by the display. As a child, her dad would gather the kids on the porch, make hot chocolate and, unafraid, they’d watch storms. I, on the other hand, was told every bad thing that could happen in a storm. “Stay away from windows, off the phone, out of water, stay in inside.” The litany of fear-based information succeeded in instilling a terror which I am working on calming. We hear about a tornado touching down east of Winnipeg at 400 km. an hour. That could have been us, but once again we are ahead of it.
June 24: Soggy Sunday and 948 km. to Sudbury, which will take about $350 in gas and 2 ½ days to get to.  We have $263 and faith our sales will come through. But for today, we’ll enjoy a lay-about day before the market tomorrow. In spite of the rain we appreciate a leisurely breakfast and game of cards. In fact, we don’t poke our noses out till noon when we head down to the waterfront for a walk. Thunder Bay has sister cities in the USA, Finland, Italy, Japan, Ghana, Singapore and Taiwan. A beautiful pathway along Lake Superior in a park-like setting gives us a chance to unwind. Just up from it stands the old 1905 railway station which evolved into a restaurant/gift shop. Strolling around there we meet up with a cute little Terrypoo puppy walking his family, Keith and Julie. Patting and oohing over him, we talk with them on the walk.
We sit on rocks and munch on fresh pineapple while watching the sailing club circle a capsized sailboat and get it upright. Lake Superior is the largest fresh-water lake by surface area in the world, covering 31,700 sq. mi. being 350 mi. long by 160 mi. wide. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island would fit into it. No wonder I feel like I’m sitting by the ocean. There’s a Circle Tour covering 1,300 miles around Superior down into the states. We’ve added it to our wish list.
Back at home with the Tocheri’s, we relax in their yard while Bruce, a generous, great cook, barbeques for us. He makes sure we are stocked up with veggies and herbs before we leave.
June 25: We wake to brilliant sun streaming in, and no thunderstorms! Without a market to sell at, we stay put all day showering, lining up markets, Dave beading. We find a Toastmasters club to visit, and clean up emails from the comfort of our trailer thanks to WIFI in the area. I’d assumed there wasn’t any WIFI, and found it by accident.
Lesson #17: Don’t assume WIFI connection’s are only at regular sites like libraries and internet cafés. Try it anywhere: a mall, outside a casino or hotel, at a truck stop.
June 26: My least favorite way to start the day: with thunder rumbling and lightening flashing so I crawl closer to Dave. My knight in shining armor will protect me. But I can be brave. I get up to unplug my computer, make tea and sit writing by myself during a thunderstorm. I keep reminding myself that life is all about “facing the fear and doing it anyway.” The storms pass and the birds are singing. We can learn from them. Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?
At noon we meet upstairs over the International Tea House with Heart of the Harbour Toastmasters Dave, Mike, Joanna, and Tony. We help set up, and I take on roles of evaluating, invocation and toasting. They’re effusive in saying we inspire them, but it works both ways. Their big attitude with a little group was symbolic of what Toastmaster clubs do all over the world. There are five clubs in the area, based out of Minneapolis.
In 2003 we’d run out of gas in Thunder Bay. By knocking on doors we met a wonderful couple who helped Dave find gas for the motorhome. This year we drive around until we find the area again and surprise them by knocking on their door. We meet John and Jan Pomfrey again and give them a book as a gift. Then off to give Boo $100 of gas @ $1.11 and Canadian Tire bucks before hooking up the trailer to dump the tanks.
That evening another big thunderstorm hits. I watch the TV in horror as they forecast severe thunderstorms, hail and tornadoes heading our way. EEK! Big chicken me cringes while Susan says how serene the storm seems. Is she nuts I wonder as lightening strikes and knocks the power out? I can’t say I am disappointed when the storm moves on and we can have our usual fashionably late dinner with them. Bruce has been simmering meat balls in sauce all day….mmm! We love our ‘extended family.’

>>>to be continued when you purchase the book.

Toastmasters Improves Authors

You are the leader you’re looking for. Billy Jean King

I’ve been a member of Sunshine Speakers Toastmasters for almost eight years. It has changed my life in so many ways: increased confidence, better communication and leadership skills, and given me the courage to believe in myself so I can make my dreams come true.

But nowhere is it more valuable than in my life as an author. I know that writers typically would rather hide away in their room and write instead of standing in front of people talking. When the presenters at last year’s Festival of Writers both told the participants they should join Toastmasters, you could see the fear on many of their faces. Yet from that one brave lady/Donna who is serious about her writing took the plunge and joined. She gave an amazing first speech(Ice Breaker) last week.

If an author is going to sell their books to other than their friends and family then sooner or later they will be required to make a clear, passionate speech about their book. And I don’t mean just stand at the front with your head down and drone on reading page after page . . . boring! I’d rather eat glass than suffer through such a presentation. That’s where Toastmasters come in. I know I wouldn’t be speaking in front of hundreds of people milling around at an RV show were it not for Toastmasters. Yet for the third time that’s what I’ll be doing Mar.19-22 at the Chilliwack Humdinger RV Show, twice a day. Everytime I’m talking about my books, I give thanks to all I’ve learned from Toastmasters.

A side benefit is the warm circle you find yourself in where you can promote your book. I gave a speech last week about our trip to Newfoundland, using my latest book as background. I know I will have sales from it.

Bottom line: If you’re uncomfortable speaking in front of people or  reading your story or book, you need Toastmasters. It’s a friendly, safe and fun environment to grow up in. Check out: www.toastmasters.orgfor a list of clubs near you. And check out our fun club in Powerll River, BC:

Is Self-Publishing For You?

Have you dreamed of seeing your writing in book form?Does it seem so very far away? We’ve moved past the old stigma that said the only way to be a “real” author was to send out your manuscript endlessly until someone somewhere decided you were good enough to publish. Those days are gone as we’ve moved into the era of quick, quality digitally printed works.

This is my third self-published book in seven years so I figure I’ve learned a thing or two about the process. But let me tell you right off the bat: It’s NOT for the faint-at-heart or the uncommitted or the lazy. If this describes you, stick to writing for pleasure . . . nothing wrong with that. But if you’re willing to leap off the cliff of dreams coming true and have the faith you will grow your wings on the way down, then read on.

My first book “Lessons From the Potholes of Life”:I knew nothing about publishing and little about how to lay out a book so I hired a local desk-top publisher to do the whole thing. All I had to do was type and give him ideas and he made it look pretty. I didn’t know I needed an editor. I thought he did that . . . wrong! Although people loved the book, there are many errors in it and it wasn’t cheap to produce. But the worst was finding out he never kept the files. Now it’s out of print, I have no files from which to produce another printing . . .grrr!

Lesson #1: Always use an editor to clean it up after you’ve had several people read it for you. Always keep your files. You own them, not the person you hired.

Lesson #2: Shop around for the best publisher or print on demand company. Ask other authors for their experiences.

My second book “RV Canada On A Dime And A Dream:” By this time I decided I needed to learn how to format my own book , really self publish, which I did using onlyMicrosoft Word. I hired someone for the cover design and had the manuscript proof read before going to an editor. I produced a professional looking book that sold well in a niche market.

Lesson #3:Unless you have Photo shop or some other fancy program, hire a cover designer. It’s the first thing people see and can make or break a sale.

Lesson #4:Find your niche and work  it. Because I’m an RVer and speaker, I found my niche at RV shows and writing for RVers.

My latest book “RV Canada With Boo the Menopausal Van:”I’ve progressed to being able to layout photos in the book. I found a great editor, Lewis Mattox online because I joined Linkedin site. I networked with anyone I could talk to so I found an old school chum, Ole Neilson who does cover design.  In my writer’s group Susan Litke, a wonderful illustrator did the cartoon for the cover. Because I was looking for the best price for printing I met Craig at Island Blue Print who gave me a fabulous price, excellent service and quick turn around time.

Lesson #5: Network everywhere and all the time. Join a writer’s group. Go to writers’ festivals. You never know where your support or business link will come from. Hand out cards everywhere, and keep cards for referrals.

Lesson#6: Both RV books are 6×9″ , 240 pages and under 500 grams so they fit through the mail slot that keeps them under the parcel post rate. They ship for $2.78 anywhere in Canada. That would be closer to $8 if they were over. Besides it keeps the overall price down so I can sell them for $20, a breaking point where people don’t have to think too hard about purchasing.

Lesson #7:Once you start on the manuscript, set yourself a timeline with set dates to reach for. Without a goal date, you could wander around the forest of procrastination and fear forever. I set myself a time line that worked back from when we wanted to leave(June 1) on the book tour. I knew I had to have the rough draft of the book done before Christmas08 and I did. The result? My book will be launched Mar.19 at the Chilliwack RV Show, a full two months ahead of schedule. To be out from under the stress in a short period of time feels soo great!

Can you produce your own book? Of course you can if you really, really want to make your dream come true.