What's it all about?


I wrote my first thank you letter in either grade one or two. An aunt in England used to send me a book every Christmas, wrapped in brown paper and tied with thin cotton string. We didn’t have a lot of relatives and she was the only one who sent presents, so my gratitude was heartfelt.

Word count: 329   Reading time: 1-2 minutes

I never did meet this great aunt, this sister of someone married to someone related to my father. She was a stranger in a faraway land and I studied her neat handwriting and wondered at the magic that connected us. The annual event of her gift spurred a tradition that became a lifelong habit of letter writing.

This habit peaked when I moved to Australia in 1987. In those pre e-mail days in Melbourne and Sydney, I wrote 8 to 10 letters a week. Which leads me to wonder, why did I write so profusely? I’ll let Anne Lamott answer that: [I] was desperate to communicate, to edify or entertain, to preserve moments of grace or joy or transcendence, to make real or imagined moments come alive.  (Bird by Bird)

Long before written language evolved, people sought to record their stories, first in cave paintings and then, 10,000 years later, in petroglyphs.

Laying down our stories has been a part of human psyche for a long time. Maybe we do this because of the reasons articulated by Natalie Goldberg in Writing Down the Bones, “[…] the secret ego truth is I want to live eternally and I want my people to live forever. I hurt at our impermanence, at the passing of time. […] I write out of hurt and how to make hurt okay; how to make myself strong and come home and it may be the only real home I’ll ever have.”

What are your memories of your earliest writing? What drives you to keep writing now? Do you know young people and what do you do to encourage their literacy?


Painting of a bison in the cave of Altamira photo by: Ramessos

Is it better to give than receive?


From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life. Arthur Ashe.

Word count: 378    Reading time: 1-2 minutes

Consider Ashe's philosophy in view of the fact that February 14th is International Book Giving Day. While this campaign primarily aims to get more books into the hands of children, giving a book to an adult isn’t a bad idea either.

Reasons to participate:

  • If children develop a reading habit from an early age, who knows what might happen. They could become lifetime readers.
  • Giving is good for the soul. It forces us to look outside ourselves, to think about others.
  • Books are inexpensive gifts. In fact you don’t have to buy a new book for this special day; take one from your shelves or buy one cheaply at a second-hand store. The cost can be as low as you want to make it.
  • Books are easy to wrap.
  • If you decide to buy, you get to hang around a bookshop. Is there a better place to pass time? If you’re buying, please consider the One Book Pledge.
  • Books are gifts that stay with a person for an entire lifetime.
  • Both readers and writers benefit from the gift of books. After all, who are writers without readers?

Don’t know any children? Maybe you could speak to your local librarian and see if there are books the library cannot afford that you could donate. Maybe you could leave a book on a bus, in a waiting room, or at the local rec centre.

What books to buy? I’ve added my ideas to those from blogger North Wind:

  • Determine your reader’s interests. Fiction? Non fiction? Favourite genres?
  • What format do they prefer: e-books or paper and ink? Graphic novels or traditional?
  • How well developed is their vocabulary?
  • Check out goodreads for reviews and feedback.

When you give someone a book, you don’t give him paper, ink, and glue. You give him the possibility of a whole new life. Christopher Morley. That doesn’t mean you can’t still give them a chocolate heart also. It is Valentine’s Day after all.

Is there a better gift than a book? When you select a book for a friend, how do you choose which one?