Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable group writes SK Writers’ Guild articles, “Ask a Freelancer”

Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable Group

Pictured in this photo are the five most active members of Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable Group, a vibrant writers’ group which has met monthly since 2013. (We’re now celebrating our 11th year and meet monthly at Saskatoon’s HomeQuarter Coffeehouse & Bakery!)


Pictured (left-to-right) are members Ashlyn George, Ashleigh Mattern, Elizabeth Shih, Adele Paul and Julie Barnes. (Photo credit: Ashlyn George)

Our group shares business insights, writing tips, resources and much more, over a latte or cappuccino, every month. We’re a collegial and congenial group!  Since last fall (2023) and continuing until this summer (2024), we have applied our 50+ years of collective experience to  respond to “Ask a Freelancer,” a series in the quarterly magazine of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild (SWG) .

Last fall, we responded to the questions of “How do I find freelance writing clients?” and “How do I best pitch my stories?” Currently, we’re compiling our responses to address March’s topic: “What resources should freelance writers use?”

If you’re a new or aspiring freelancer in the business writing world, why not subscribe to the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild magazine, and read our contributions? Or you can drop me a line to join our next meeting!

What does your library mean to you? Some answers in the mid-January issue of TYSN

January 2024 Vol 6 Issue 1

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Storytelling
Let me teach you to tell your story!

Welcome Mid-January 2024!

After having an unusually mild and “brown Christmas” with next to no snowfall, Saskatchewan has made up for lost time! On January 10th, a deep cold-front descended on us, bringing extreme temperatures and wind chills (some nearing -50 degrees Celsius). And, like most Canadians, we Saskatchewanians loooove to discuss (i.e. complain about) our wintry weather!

One of the best ways to endure Prairie winters and windchills, as I know you know, too, is to read (or re-read) wonderful books from the local library (or, even better: your own). So in “Article One” this month, I visit an article from Freya Howarth that asks what a library can mean to you, as its reader.

In addition to suggesting that we become conscious curators of our own library holdings (hardcopy and online), Howarth recommends nine very sensible steps to keep, use, and prune our libraries to allow the best access possible.

In “Storytellers’ Corner,” this month, I visit an oft-cited but only confusing rule for spelling in English that is better off forgotten. And “Shop News” chronicles some of my recent activities,  after I introduce a new “Entrepreneur of the Month”– designer and photographer, Tara Kalyn, of “Gentoo Expressions.” What does Tara’s business name mean? Read on, to find out!

What are you doing, good readers, to keep your minds and bodies warm this winter? When the weather moderates this week, I’ll watch for skiers and snowshoers on the trails near where I live. (Meantime, thank heavens for indoor treadmills!) I’m also reading theory for teaching English as
a Second Language, and am preparing my books for another tax season . . . .

And on the food front, what have you been cooking? . . . . I’ve fired up my kitchen with family staples like hearty Asian stew and zesty Italian spaghetti, both filled with plenty of seasoned ground chicken and whole wheat noodles for fortification!

While Ol’ Man Winter again breaths his hoary breath on us this month, I hope that good books, films, exercise and soulful food will keep you well, good readers. After all, as many of my neighbours are fond of saying, “Winter’s already more than half-way over!”

Wishing you all the best for the first month of 2024.

Storytelling Communications


—>ARTICLE 1: ” ‘An escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir’: What does your library mean to you (with Freya Howarth)”

” ‘I’ before ‘e’: A spelling rule to forget!”



Article One: “An escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir”: What
does your personal library mean to you (with Freya Howarth)?

In a recent article in the online journal, “Psyche,” writer Freya Howarth refers to an earlier decade in her life when she worked in various libraries or bookshops (“bookstores” in North America).
She recalls meeting many people who cared deeply about the books they were reading and plenty who also valued the idea of a library, itself: “that wild, sprawling and chaotic—or, perhaps, methodical, logical and organized—thing that emerges through the accumulation of books over time.”

At the dawn of a new year, many of us may avoid “resolutions” that seldom last, anyway, butfind ourselves decluttering and reorganizing our belongings. What separates our libraries from cluttered rooms of books, Howarth says, is “the considered process of curation.” A public library will hire a librarian to order and organize a collection that meets the needs of the local community.

By contrast, Howarth writes, is your “personal library,” that serves only you, and makes you both its reader and librarian.

Some writers (obsessively) organize their libraries alphabetically by title or author, or by the antiquated Dewy Decimal System. Others want to group books thematically or historically.  Howarth reports that Argentinian-Canadian novelist and essayist, Alberto Manguel, collected 35K books that forced him to buy an old house in France to store them!

Twenty-five years ago, I remember hearing a story of a theology student at a prominent Canadian university in the 1950s who obsessively organized the books (by author’s surnames) that he’d borrowed from the college library. One weekend, his peers thought they’d get the better of him while he travelled elsewhere, by reorganizing his library, according to the colours of their

Most academics, teachers and researchers build up a library over many years, one book at a time. As the years march on, Howarth notes, we take a broader view of our collections, assessing what titles we’ve added and why.

She says that a personal library may be “an escape, a sanctuary, a place of pleasure, a memoir.” She likens a “well-tended library” to “a landscape, with its valley of crime novels, its peaks of reference texts, its shores of memoirs.” The collection of these titles becomes “part of something greater . . . something with emergent properties, something totally unique to you.”

If you, good readers, have long ago formed your own libraries, Australian public librarian, Meaghan Dew, says the aim should not be to build what you think your library “should be,” but instead, a library “that you are actually going to use and appreciate.” And that, one hopes, on a regular basis.

It can be helpful to consider what functions you have in mind for your library: A personal collection may (i) house your personal and professional memories, allowing you to “revisit ideas and feelings,” and to help you “enjoy the pleasures of rereading”; (ii) provide a research tool, which offers you new ideas; (iii) become a source of “various pleasures” such as inspiration,
escapism, entertainment, etc.

The major paradox of a contemporary library, Howarth says, is that it aspires to be huge (in these Internet and AI-driven times), but also selective, setting boundaries around a “seemingly limitless sea of content.” You can focus on a single volume in your collection, while stepping away from the noise and distraction of online reading.

Our personal libraries are autobiographical, she writes, with some of their value inhering in their ability to help “shape your personal identity and intellectual pathways, changing and growing with you.” Reading and collecting favourite books help to form our identities, since “certain
books become personal touchstones for [your] values and interests.”

Libraries serve folks from all walks of life. I have built some of my collection around my work as a copywriter (e.g. with titles by Steve Slaunwhite, Michael Katz, Ed Gandia, Nick Usborne, Bob Bly, David Ogilvy and more). I still have many volumes from my years as a student of English literature, that I regularly return to. And most recently, I’ve added standard texts for teaching English as a Second Language (ESL), in the effort to teach newcomers most effectively.

Mentor and friend, Monica Kreuger, an expert on entrepreneurship, has spoken of working during her high school years in the local public library and frequenting bookmobiles, most summers, by bicycle. She has since collected and pruned a significant library for the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (both online and in hard copy). Most recently, she has donned that
familiar librarian’s hat, by happily curating collections for many buyers, when selling the huge library of her late brother, in yard-sale settings.

As we age, libraries can become burdensome. They cause us to worry when we learn we must protect our books from damage and decay, or to pack them to move, sell, or give away. We must, Howarth writes, “prune strategically,” keeping only the titles we actually need and want through the journeys of our lives.

By controlling a library’s size, we make it more manageable and more rewarding for ourselves and other readers.

Have you seen that photo that has circulated (for shock value) over social media in recent years (circa 1979), of psychologist, Jean Piaget, sitting (almost buried), by thousands-upon-thousands of books, newspapers and other printed materials? (If not, try to “Google” it—the photo is
copyrighted to prevent publication.) Piaget has effectively became a hoarder, never pruning his library. Howarth says we can only prevent this by becoming “more conscious” of our work as our own librarians.

When the library is yours, it won’t look the same as anyone else’s. It could include glossy magazines as diverse as “Architectural Digest” and “Victoria”; or a many-year subscription to The Guardian or The New York Times newspapers; or audiobook recordings of contemporary crime novels; or recipe books from lesser known times and cultures, and so on.

But regardless, in order to keep and use our libraries optimally, Howarth recommends these nine (9) common steps:
(1) “Take stock” of your collection, considering what you’ve acquired over time and how those titles reflect your reading tastes and interests. Which ideas and topics do you find likely to explore further, and which ones, not?
(2) Categorize books generally as “fiction,” versus “non-fiction,” history, philosophy, crime fiction, memoir, etc., like the sections in an old-fashioned library or bookstore.

Consider the categories that have many subcategories (e.g. “medieval history,” and “French history,” etc.), since they will indicate to you that “they represent an area, genre or topic that you’re especially interested in.” Those topics will guide you when you acquire and organize the books.

(3) Decide which titles to keep and which to sell/give away. Having assessed your collection for what value it holds for you (e.g. informational, sentimental or other), you’ll recognize when you’ve outgrown or moved beyond many titles. Do this strategic pruning occasionally, to clarify what your interests are, and to make space for new and pertinent titles.

One helpful strategy, Howarth advises, to first sort books into “read” versus” unread” piles and discern whether you want to re-read any titles (so “keep” them); books that you didn’t understand at the time and might want to try again later (“keep”); books that you enjoyed once but haven’t stayed with you and that you wouldn’t buy today (“sell/donate”); books you gave up,
part-way through, and have no interest in restarting (“sell/donate”).

When assessing the unread books, consider whether you just haven’t found the time for a title (likely “keep”), or you would buy again if you lost your own copy (“keep”), or if you can see it has value, but you no longer work in the subject (“sell/donate”).

Howarth observes that some books may be especially lovely as objects or as books emotionally connected to a particular time, place person or memory, and so are “likely worth hanging on to,”
even if you’re unsure when you’ll find the time to (re-)read them.

And she shares that “It’s OK to hang on to some ‘maybes’ for a while. Sometimes, you’ll rediscover a book years later and be glad you kept it.”

(4) You may want to collect a shelf or bookcase of certain titles that have “an enduring place in your own reading life.” These favourite titles may “affirm your tastes” or be “comfort-reads” that you might return to when life is hard.

(5) If you do add more books to your library (because you presumably have decades of reading ahead of you and are not retiring and downsizing your home), consider acquiring titles that speak to each other, or to your already existing titles. For instance, if you enjoy Simone de Beauvoir’s memoirs, then your library could grow by collecting some of the novels that the
philosopher refers to in her account of her childhood and adolescence (e.g. Louisa May Alcott, George Eliot, etc.).

Howarth rightly says that “from a single author or a single book, infinite reading pathways [can] open to you.” You will begin to find that you are curating collections of classic and contemporary titles that are thematically or historically related (e.g. Charles Darwin, Rachel Carson and Andrew Wulf, etc.)

Howarth says that the websites “Five Books” and “Goodreads” can provide reading lists tailored to be either very specific or broad.

(6) Make friends with a local bookseller (such as at “Turning the Tide”) to learn of titles relevant to your collection or that you haven’t yet read (and may love).

(7) Find a book club with like-minded readers, “whose tastes overlap with yours.” You may find these people on “Goodreads” or through your local arts’ community.

(8) Locate a book reviewer (possibly from an internationally reputable publication) whose tastes are similar to yours (see sources above).

(9) Read about books: Look at the history and background of a book you’re considering buying. Howarth says the website “Book Marks” (run by the online magazine, Literary Hub) collects book reviews from different sources and assigns “a cumulative rating” for each book.

Howarth makes other suggestions that are less advisable, in my view, such as “signing up for a book subscription service,” that will send you a selected book each month. I think you’d do better to talk to a librarian or experienced bookseller, so that your acquisitions will be tailored to your interests.

Also, I wouldn’t recommend (as Howarth does) to “pick up a book on the street,” in Saskatoon’s “neighbourhood library” boxes or on the city bus. These books are seldom clean and may carry dreaded bedbugs or other pests that you want to avoid!

But two final suggestions from Howarth are great—(i) to create a simple notebook of your holdings (so you can find it to consult yourself or to loan titles to friends); and, possibly, (ii) to annotate your books in pencil, on their blank closing pages, with a few chosen words and page numbers, to
remember what was interesting in each volume. If/when you return to the book, those notes will save you time.

Howarth concludes that despite all of this organization, libraries can “grow a bit wild over time,” because many books defy easy categorization: “A library should be a little bit chaotic and contradictory. . . . A library of perfect harmony would be a rather boring and uninspiring place.”

Meantime, consider visiting reliable used bookstores in Saskatoon, notably, Westgate Books (8th and Louise Streets) and, especially, Peryton Books (408th 20th St. West), to sell back titles of interest to their owners/managers.

Although you will be paid less money to resell former titles, at least those titles will more likely be read, second-hand, than if they collect dust on your shelves.

And finally, some books and literary adaptations pertaining to bookstores and libraries that are fixtures in my library (or on my “To acquire” list) are The Bookshop (novel by Penelope Fitzgerald) and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows), both of which raise urgent questions on issues of democratic thought, the
stewardship of knowledge over generations, and lasting ties that connect us as humans.

Both also have uncommonly good film adaptations that may spur you on to even more intensive thought.

And now it’s your turn: Do you agree with Howarth’s ideas of how to organize and use your personal library? Please write in and share.



STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, Stories, Riddles and Jokes on Writing and Editing . . .

This month: ” ‘I’ before ‘e’: A spelling rule to forget!”

There are many spelling rules that writers and editors of English have cited over the centuries, such as how and when to add suffixes to words, when an “e” is silent, how to make suffixes plural, and so on.

Readers often struggle to remember the correct spelling of words when multiple vowels are involved. Years of the repetitive process of editing (our own and others’ work), in addition to the aging of our brains, can sometimes wreak havoc with our ability to remember to spell words correctly.

Some writers develop rules to try to facilitate better recall, but often those rules backfire.

One such case, is a rule that I encourage my English language students to FORGET is the rule of “ ‘I’ before ‘e,’ except after ‘c.’” This rule has so many exceptions that it’s worse than useless–it’s downright confusing.

American “Grammar Girl,” Mignon Fogarty, has cited these exceptions that are not governed by that rule:

Ancient         Species           Feisty      Neither      Weird

Glacier          Sufficient       Kaleidoscope   Seize   Science

Being               Leisure          Sovereignty   Society

Caffeine          Neighbour      Vein

There’s seldom a better way to learn spelling in English than simply to read a good deal and from many sources. If you are a newcomer learning English, you may also want to keep a vocabulary/spelling list, which you can review instead of always consulting your dictionary for a word’s meaning.

What other commonplace spelling or grammatical rules are inaccurate and useless to you? Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.



Featuring Entrepreneur of the Month: Meet Tara Kalyn, from “Gentoo Expressions!” 

I’m pleased to introduce to my readers, Tara Kalyn, a Saskatoon-based freelance graphic designer and photographer.

Tara’s business name is “Gentoo Expressions” (an explanation of which follows below.)

Tara (pronounced “Terra”) has, in total, over 25 years of experience in the print industry and graduated in 1999 from the Visual Communications program at Medicine Hat College.

Tara has worked on various design projects for clients including Jolene Watson, Chickenlip Consulting Corp., and DBreckner Printing Services. She also contributes stock photography to Pexels and Stockimo (for which freelance writers like me are grateful!).

Her passion for photography began when she received her first camera, as a child. In 2024, she plans to expand Gentoo Expressions’ photographic services to include studio photography.

Tara enjoys working on projects that challenge her abilities and allow her to experiment to bring her clients’ vision to life. “Even after so many years,” she says, “there’s always more I can learn, and I love that.”

To view Tara’s work and contact her about design or photography projects, please visit

When asked to explain her business name, Tara says that “expressions” refers to the artistic aspect of graphic design and photography. And “Gentoo” is her favourite species of penguin, whose resilience allows it to survive in some of the planet’s harshest conditions.

She adds: “Gentoos are the fastest swimmers of all penguins, and in my opinion, the most beautiful, with their striking black and white colouration and bright orange beaks and feet.”

“In my work,” as Tara details, “I aspire to be adaptable to my clients’ needs and to work effectively and efficiently, completing projects within the agreed upon timeframe. Helping people express their ideas is my goal. The name ‘Gentoo Expressions’ is meant to convey those aspirations.”

Please visit Tara’s online portfolio and contact her for your next design or photographic project!


Special thanks this month also go to Professor Emeritus, Robert (Bob) Calder and writer Paula Jane Remlinger for sharing two enjoyable visits over the past couple of months, including coffee, dessert and thoughtful conversation.

Bob will soon launch his latest book—film adaptations of W. Somerset Maugham (stay tuned for the dates of the McNally Robinson launch). He also will shortly release his own memoir of writing over the last five decades, while a member of our local English Department. There, he influenced the reading practices and selections of both Paula Jane and me (in the mid-90s), along with hundreds of other students. He was also recently awarded an “Alumni of Distinction” Award by the University of Saskatchewan.


I’m grateful, too, this month, to mentor and friend, Monica Kreuger, for sharing entrepreneurial conversation that (prior to Christmas) included her recommendation of the popular Netflix TV (hospital) series, “New Amsterdam.” Its stories appeal to me by offering some hope for the deeply troubled healthcare system of Saskatchewan (and beyond).

Similar thanks go out to other friends for sharing  Netflix/library  recommendations that I viewed through the holidays, including the “Bank of Dave,” (for most of us, troubled by our late capitalist banking system); and “The Lost King” (based on the true story of how a brave woman  found the remains of  King Richard the Third and worked to restore the monarch’s identity and reputation, after misrepresentation by Tudor period writers, including Shakespeare.  (Thank you to Dani VanDriel and Lesley-Anne McLeod, respectively.)


And “thank you” goes to my French student, who has introduced me to French crooners of past decades, from Edith Piaf (whose work I knew only a little) to Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour and Yves Montand.

As a regular patron of the Arts, Eliane has also informed me of the work of Canadian-born contralto, Marie-Nicole Lemieux, who has won the admiration and respect of operatic audiences across Europe. Lemieux is a household name in Quebec, but less known in English speaking Canada, which should be remedied!


And a final thanks this month to ESL teacher, mentor and colleague, Steve Cavan, who has shared some  insights on accent reduction for English language students, for which I’m (as ever) very grateful.

I hope that the currently oppressive winter will be the last Steve has to spend in Saskatchewan, as he anticipates semi-retirement in sunny Southern Italy!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help Canadian newcomers land better jobs by improving their language skills and I help small-businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!

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Rethinking Violent Language (with Anna Taylor)

A couple of months ago, a meme called “Evolving from Violent Language” by Anna Taylor, was posted on Facebook (Meta), and last winter, on Twitter (X).

Taylor is a communications director and “diversity, equity and inclusion champion” at the American technology company, Phenomenex.

Leaders of democratic countries which value freedom of speech usually do not want to prescribe what language their citizens “should” use, in boardrooms, classrooms, offices, newspapers and other contexts (both on- and off-line).

But in recent times of mis- or dis-information, lies and so-called “fake news” (much courtesy of politicians of the right and those inspired by them), we have seen an intensification of violence in the  language we use to converse routinely, across many disciplines.

Violent vocabulary has developed from both of the last century’s World Wars, and the many other, deadly conflict zones that have transpired since them (e.g. Vietnam, the Middle East, the Balkans, Sudan, Ukraine, etc.)

Consider Taylor’s meme, below:


INSTEAD OF . . .                                                     TRY THIS . . .

We’re going to pull the trigger  


We’re going to launch


I’ll take a stab at [it]  

I’ll take the first pass at [it]


Did we jump the  gun? Did we start too soon?
I’ll bite the bullet I won’t avoid it any longer
That’ll kill two birds with one stone That’ll feed two birds with one scone
What’s the deadline? What’s the due date?
We have to pick our battles We have to choose our opportunities
Can you shoot me an email? Can you send me an email?
That was overkill That was a bit excessive
I bombed the presentation I didn’t do my best
Let’s just roll with the punches Let’s just move forward
We can soften the blow by . . . We can make it a little easier by . . .
I’m going to take a shot in the dark I’m going to take a guess
That’s not a bad idea That’s a good idea
Let’s not beat a dead horse Let’s not focus on that anymore
I was blown away by her presentation I was impressed by her presentation
I was kicking around an idea I was thinking through an idea
He’s a straight shooter in meetings He’s pretty direct in meetings

Even these, apparently innocuous, idioms (left-hand column) can evoke violence that is not empathetic, or forward-looking. Over watercoolers and in boardrooms, we tend to inflate in alarmist ways the tone of our speech, which then dwarfs the value of the ideas under discussion.

As a teacher of the English language and as an experienced business communicator, I know that inflammatory use of language can desensitize its readers or listeners, through its exaggerated tone.

The language of the left-hand column (above) presents its ideas as shocking,  toxic, excessive and open to garrulity.  In so doing, we lose the thinking (logic), discretion, reasonableness and privacy that many of us still value in communication.

Not surprisingly, Anna Taylor’s meme has met opposition (including plenty of racist, sexist and ad hominem comments) from others who invest in such “violent language.” Challenging one form of linguistic violence can beget another, as a response.

As humans, we are always already limited by what literary critic and theorist Fredric Jameson called “The Prison-house of Language.” But in these chaotic and conflict-filled times, democratic speakers and writers, including Taylor and all of us, still have the autonomy to reflect on, critique and remake some of the “prison’s” most distorted and confining bars.

And given that internationally, these days, politicans who favour violence succeed in election (or-re-election),  we need to think, now more than ever, about the violent ways we (mis)represent the truths of our world–and , in so doing, mistreat each other.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote: “Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but, far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

And now it’s your turn: What inflammatory use of language have you observed recently? Do you counter it and how?

Feeling the Christmas blues? Some solutions in the mid-December issue of TYSN


December 2023 Vol 5 Issue 12

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial & Linguistic Storytelling

Let me teach you to tell your story!

WELCOME Mid-December, 2023!

In contrast to last year, when winter started early (with snow that stayed in November), this year, we’ve had next to no snow and very few days of temperatures below -10 or 15 degrees Celcius!

However, even though a “brown Christmas” may be on the horizon and cause us worry for future drought, there is much to enjoy and be grateful for, as we prepare for Hanukkah, Advent, Christmas and other holidays, this season.

Through the “Advent Appeal” program in my church, we have continued our annual practice of collecting clothing, warm blankets, food and hygiene supplies on behalf of the city’s homeless and at-risk people.

This month’s “Storyteller’s Corner” returns us to an “Advent Miracle” that one of my church’s organizers witnessed four years ago, but which reminds us that small acts of kindness can have a miraculous effect on others.

In spite of the soaring inflation at our grocery stores, gas stations and the empty shelves of staples often blamed on “Covid,” I hope that you, good reader, have warm, safe and stable homes, not just this season, but throughout the year. 

And if you (like me) are so blessed, please do consider donating to those who lack basic necessities, whether through your “office pool,” the Salvation Army Kettle Campaign, or similar work done by your faith or neighbourhood communities. 

Since our global community has now entered its fourth Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s seasons in the grip of the Coronavirus, as well as other respiratory infections, this year will not be a “ho-ho-ho” holiday time for many. Our hospitals are teeming with infections, and medical tests and timely treatment have been delayed for many by months or even years. Our medical specialists and workers, too, are facing unprecedented levels of burnout, along with the collapse of our healthcare system.

So in this last issue of the year, “Article One” revisits “Coping with Christmas,” a publication of the American Hospice Foundation (AHF). Coping may be the “new normal,” in these expensive, late Covid days.

For those of us who care for others on a daily basis and/or who face complex health problems ourselves, the AHF reminds us to be aware of our own emotional needs and  avoid burnout.

Despite the challenges that fill the daily news, I hope, good readers, that you’ll find at least a little time to enjoy the final days of this year, giving thanks for the family, friends, mentors and clients who grace our lives.

May you find peace this holiday season; and good health, happiness and prosperity in 2024.




Storytelling Communications



ARTICLE 1: Feeling the Christmas Blues? Here are Some Solutions . . . .


A Local “Advent Miracle” Story 




Article One: Feeling the Christmas (or Holiday) Blues? Here are Some Solutions . . . 

For many of us, even if we have been blessed to enjoy  Advent, Christmas, Hanukkah or other spiritual traditions at this time of year, the holiday season can be painful.

The pain may come from to the loss of a loved one, a job, separation from a “significant other,” health or financial difficulties, the excessive pressure to buy and give, and so on. The so-called “holiday season” can in reality be anything but “ho-ho-ho.”

This holiday survival guide, written originally by the American Hospice Foundation, offers some ideas that may help us as we plan (or choose not to plan) holiday festivities. Please read on and share with others who may need this. And know you are not alone and that it is not only fine, but best, if you can live through the holiday season on your own terms.

Christmas or Holiday cards (choose one like these):

1. Mail as usual, or email to save on stationery and postage

2. Shorten your list

3. Include a Christmas letter that you’ve written

4. Skip it this year

Christmas or Holiday music (choose one like these):

1. Enjoy as usual

2. Shop early, to avoid Christmas music

3. Avoid turning the radio on

4. Listen to the music and allow yourself to feel sad (or to cry)

Decorations (choose one like these):

1. Decorate as usual

2. Let others do it

3. Choose not to have decorations

4. Have a special decoration for a loved one, who may have died or left

5. Modify your decorations

6. Make changes, such as putting up an artificial tree

7. Ask for help from others

Shopping (choose one like these):

1. Shop as usual

2. Shop early

3. Make your gifts by hand

4. Make a list of gifts to buy

5. Shop online

6. Ask for help wrapping gifts

7. Shop with a friend

8. Give cash

9. Give baked goods

10. Ask for help

11. Go giftless and (if possible) make a donation to charity

Traditions (choose one like these):



1. Keep the old traditions

2. Don’t attend Christmas parties

3. Open gifts on the usual day

4. Attend a worship service

5. Attend a totally different place of worship

6. Visit the cemetery

7. Attend Christmas or holiday parties

8. Go to an entirely new place

9. Open gifts at another time

10. Do not attend a worship service

11. Light a special candle to honour your loved one

12. Bake the usual foods

13. Modify your baking and cooking, to save money

14. Buy the usual foods

15. Spent quiet time alone, in meditation or relaxation

Christmas or Holiday Dinner (choose one like these):



1. Prepare as usual

2. Invite friends over

3. Eat in a different location of the house

4. Go out to dinner, possibly with someone else who is alone

5. Eat alone, while listening to favourite music

6. Change the time of dinner

7. Have a buffet/potluck and share the clean-up, after

8. Ask for help

Post-Christmas and New Year’s Day (choose one like these):

1. Spend the days as usual

2. Avoid New Year’s parties

3. Spend time with only a few friends

4. Write in a journal about your hopes for the next year

5. Go out of town

6. Host a New Year’s Party

7. Go to a movie, watch a movie on a streaming service or even borrow one from the library

8. Go to bed early and feel refreshed the next morning for the new year ahead

And now it’s your turn: Does the Christmas, Hanukkah or holiday season present challenges and pain for you? Please consider some of the above options you have to experience the holidays on your own terms.

And remember that crisis counselling is available 24/7, at number 9-8-8. 



STORYTELLERS’ CORNER: Words, Stories and Riddles  on Writing and Editing . . .

This Month, a Story: A Local “Advent Miracle”  

A couple of years ago,  Alan, a friend and colleague in my faith community, shared a remarkable story of how our church’s seasonal gift donations benefited a downtown charity that helps victims of abuse and homelessness.

He says: “One spring I went into the [church] parlour and noticed that the Advent gifts still sat where we’d left them, last December, since the office of the recipient agency was never open. I had phoned, left messages and visited in person multiple times, only to find the office closed.”

He continues: “As I was driving past one day, the following spring, I decided to give it one last chance and showed up to the agency, just after lunch. They were open!

It was obvious that the staff had just come from a meeting. One of the folk there came over and asked me what I wanted. I told her that I was from the church and had some very belated Advent gifts for them.

She looked confused when I said gifts, but when I said that the gifts consisted of toiletries and other items, it changed to surprise. She asked how many, and I told her that the trunk of my car was full. Again, there was a look of surprise on her face. She spoke with the director and then went into the back and got a small cart. We then went down the car and loaded it up. It was a small cart, so I carried the extra packages that didn’t fit.

When we got back to the office, she took the items into the back and the director came over and thanked me profusely. She told me that the topic of conversation at the meeting they’d just finished was how they were going to find toiletries to fill packages for some of their clients. They had a few items, but not nearly enough, and there wasn’t money in the budget to purchase more. They left the meeting wondering how they’d find the remaining items, and that was when I walked in!

We called it Christmas in June! We could have delivered the gifts the prior December, when other churches were doing the same and when the need was largely met. But by delivering them in the spring, we met a great need at a time when others had stopped giving.

We can put this down to coincidence or fate or luck. I look at it as an Advent miracle and a sign that our Higher Power is alive, well and living among us.”

And now it’s your turn: Have holiday activities of years past surprised you with any small miracles? Please write in and I’ll share your stories in a future issue!




Heartfelt thanks go out in this final issue of 2023 to friends, colleagues, followers and mentors who enable me to facilitate language (ESL) classes; who respond to my blog postings and monthly newsletter; who have coached or encouraged me to achieve greater clarity in my entrepreneurial goals; and who have lightened some of the weight of elderly caregiving that I regularly carry.

With apologies to anyone whose name I temporarily forget, here are some of the truly beautiful people who grace my professional and personal lives:

Chief Visionary Officer, mentor and friend, Monica Kreuger, and the amazing team at the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship (PSE); English and ESL teacher, extraordinaire, Steve Cavan;  Saskatchewan’s best entrepreneurial coach (and PSE facilitator), Deanna Litz, of  Powerful Nature Coaching & Consulting, Inc.; (Extraordinary) Minister of Word and Sacrament, Rev. Roberto De Sandoli of St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church; Amazing writer and AI specialist, Ashleigh Mattern (of Vireo Productions), and the equally amazing Julie Barnes (of Julie Barnes Creative Services) for co-leading the monthly writers’ group that we pioneered, more than 10 years ago.  Fellow writers, including both Ashleigh and Julie, along with Merle (Massie) McGowan, Adele Paul, Ashlyn George and Tara Kalyn, who keep pushing the envelope as they write (and publish) their remarkable work.

Thanks are also due to Kanchan Manek and the Manek family of the Raj Manek Mentorship Program, who since 1998 have provided monthly seminars and facilitated mentoring relationships between junior entrepreneurs and seasoned mentors on the Prairies; and to fellow alumni of the PSE’s startSMART program, including Christina Cherneskey, Megan Kent, Barry Frain,  Malvina Rapko, amongst others.

Thanks also go to my students, including newcomers to Saskatoon, and a citizen in France, whose conversation and studies vivify my life.

At a time when senior care in our province is in a collapse by underfunding, and when many special (private) care homes offer inadequate support at high costs, the properties of Luther Care in Saskatoon provide a bulwark from the storm.

As we look back over the past year, while losses and disappointments have been challenging, the support of the above people and organizations have given me much to be grateful for: Merci beaucoup, mes amies!



Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.

Effective January 1, 2019, I rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I now help newcomers and economic immigrants to Canada to secure better jobs; I help SMEs (small- and medium-sized enterprises) close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website.

After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss services with you!

Please visit my website for more information (

Published by – Storytelling Communications, 541 Fifth Ave. North. Saskatoon, SK, Canada. S7K 5Z9 Copyright © 2023.


Three “words of the year” for 2023

With a new year now just around the corner, this is the time in December when analyses and “round- ups” for the preceding 12 months fill our news feed.

And it’s no different in the worlds of language and writing, where reporters count the dominance of certain words in the public’s online dictionary searches. Three that I read about since December began are (i) the American Merriam-Webster Dictionary (often used by newcomer ESL students), (ii) the Oxford English Dictionary (OED to all English majors, past, present and future), and (iii) the Cambridge Dictionary.

Recently Merriam-Webster Dictionary announced that their “word of the year” is “authentic.” Most years this term has a “high-volume lookup.” But searches for “authentic” “substantially increased in 2023, driven by stories and conversations about AI, celebrity culture, identity and social media.” Company writers say that “authenticity” is a “desirable quality,” but also “hard to define and subject to debate,” so readers and writers regularly search for its formal definition.

Some inauthentic words or phrases used in workplace emails, as aired on Consumer News and Business Channel (CNBC)’s “Make It” program, include these:

–“Not sure if you saw my last email”

–“Per our conversation”

–“I hope this message finds you well”

–A regular closing salutation, like “warmly,” “best,” or “sincerely.”

Merriam-Webster adds that “ ‘authenticity’ can be a double-edged sword. Trying too hard to be natural or relatable often seems fake.”


In the offices of the Oxford English Dictionary we find an equally, if not more, “viral” word for 2023: “rizz,,” from usage examined of more than 22 billion English words.

“Rizz,” lexicographers say, is a short form of “charisma,” which refers to “someone’s ability to attract another person through style, charm or attractiveness.” “Rizz” is frequently used to refer to “the ability to attract a romantic . . . partner,” and can be used as a verb (“to rizz up” someone means to “seduce” or, as the Brits say, to“chat them up”).

The word “rizz” arose from internet culture, such as YouTube and social media, and particularly caught on when British actor Tom Holland referred self-deprecatingly to having “no rizz whatsoever.” Lexicologists estimated a “15-fold increase” in searches over the past year and see no sign of abating.

Caspar Grathwohl, president of Oxford Languages, says that one reason “rizz” is moving into mainstream use is that “it’s just fun to say. . . . When it comes off your tongue, there’s a little bit of joy that comes with it.”


The offices of the Cambridge Dictionary reported that “hallucinate” has been its word of 2023.

Tapping into large language models (LLMs) as tools to harness the power of AI, writers have found that LLMs can draft “plausible prose,” but it contains made-up facts, thereby “hallucinat[ing] in a confident and sometimes believable manner.”

AI can, therefore, hallucinate “false information.”

Cambridge lexicographers note that the verb “hallucinate” denotes “to seem to see, hear, feel, or smell something that does not exist, usually because of a health condition or because you have taken a drug.”

To add to that definition, they write: “When an artificial intelligence hallucinates (i.e. a computer system that has some of the qualities that the human brain has, such as the ability to produce language in a way that seems human), it produces false information” (my emphasis).

What worries readers and writers is not only that AI hallucinations sometimes appear foolish and lack sense. But the hallucinations can also appear “entirely plausible—even while being factually inaccurate or ultimately illogical.”

AI hallucinations have resulted in the citing of fictitious cases in court (in the US) and when Google was producing its promotional video for Bard, the AI tool erred about the “James Webb Space Telescope.”

“Hallucinations” therefore remind readers and writers, says Wedalyun Nichols, Cambridge Dictionary’s Publishing Manager, that we still need “to bring [our] critical thinking skills to the use of these tools. AIs are fantastic at churning through huge amounts of data to extract specific information and consolidate it. But the more original you ask them to be, the likelier they are to go astray.

At their best, LLMS can only be as reliable as their training data. Human expertise is arguably more important—and sought after—than ever, to create the authoritative and up-to-date information that LLMs can be trained on.” As rumours, propaganda or “fake news,” false information has been with us for years.

University of Cambridge’s AI ethicist, Dr. Henry Shevlin, writes that “as this decade progresses,  . . . our  psychological vocabulary will be further extended to encompass the strange abilities of the new intelligences we’re creating.”

It’s the AI (not the user) that is hallucinating, and we tend to anthropomorphize technology as having human attributes, including the lapse into hallucinations.

Engineers and scholars across the world are working to limit AI hallucinations by grounding, “ cross-checking the outputs of LLM with “reliable sources and web searchers. Visiting “” can be an eye-opener.


Generations ago, theorist Fredric Jameson referred to “the prison-house of language,” whereby we are always already hindered in our efforts to achieve self-expression and meaning, by the limitations of language. AI intensifies Jameson’s argument!


With another New Year just around the corner, these  are three, international degree influence “top words” for the preceding year. These three dictionaries weigh in on the influence of each term on our culture and community.

Which, if any, of these three words strikes you as paramount for 2023: “authentic,” “rizz” or “hallucination?” And why?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to discuss further with you!



If lexicography appeals to you (and you haven’t yet found the following title), please read Pippa Williams’ moving novel, The Dictionary of Lost Words. Williams explores in Britain of the 1910s, the significance of under-represented words (often describing and used by women) in shaping the country’s culture. The book has been the feature of many book clubs, nation-wide. But if you’ve missed it, I highly recommend you borrow or buy a copy!