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.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth
Principal
Storytelling Communications
www.elizabethshih.com

++++++++

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

—>STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:
” ‘I’ before ‘e’: A spelling rule to forget!”

–>SHOP NEWS
—>ABOUT US

++++++++

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
covers!

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 . . . . 


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.

++++++++

SHOP NEWS:

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 gentooexpressions.myportfolio.com.

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!

++++++++

ABOUT US:

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 (www.elizabethshih.com).

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

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).

STAY IN TOUCH:

Follow us on Twitter (X)

Become a Facebook fan (Meta)

Subscribe to my blog

Contact us

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:

“EVOLVING FROM VIOLENT LANGUAGE”

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.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

Principal

Storytelling Communications

www.elizabethshih.com

++++++++

IN THIS ISSUE:

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

STORYTELLERS’ CORNER:

A Local “Advent Miracle” Story 

SHOP NEWS

ABOUT US

++++++++

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 . . . . 

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!

++++++++

SHOP NEWS:

 

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!

 

ABOUT US:

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 (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).

Published by www.storytellingcommunications.ca – 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 “Snopes.com” 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!

++++++++

Postscript:

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!

 

What can AI teach us about how we learn language? Some preliminary answers from “The Economist”

November 2023 Vol 5 Issue 11

Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):

Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Linguistic Storytelling

Let me teach you to tell your story!

Welcome Mid-November, 2023!

As I prepare this issue of “Tell Your Story Newsletter,” Saskatoon continues to experience mild, but very grey, weather. Photos from the local TV news remind us that at this time, three and six years ago, we were inundated with snow!

 

By contrast, this year, fluffy white flakes descended only in late October and on November 9th; and snow on the latter date melted by midday. Bare ground in November creates such ambivalence for Saskatchewanians: while we know we need moisture for next year’s crops, the lack of snow and ice makes our daily activities so much easier.

 

This month, I was delighted to find photos (or descriptions) on social media of Hallowe’en hijinks! Parish Nurse extraordinaire, Laura Van Loon, dressed as a pirate, according to strict specifications provided by her grandchildren;. . . . Tech expert and community developer, Katrina German, appeared on X  as a cheerful red tomato, for a lucky 13th year! . . . . Marketing guru (and another community developer), Sara Wheelwright, appeared on Facebook as a very convincing female vampire! . . . Due to a deadline here, my paltry contribution to the festivities was to shun the candy bowl at my local gym, telling myself others needed the chocolate more than I did! (Note to self: please try to plan ahead for a costume in 2024!)

 

But such fun aside, has the mild start to winter 2023/24 felt significant to you, as we approached Remembrance Day? I know that the grey, mostly calm, skies and warmth (no need of heavy parkas or boots) have allowed me to reflect more consciously on the news of our world’s many conflict zones, the tragic loss of human life, and even our daily worries over escalating costs of living. Reflect–but not despair.

 

Readers, have you gone inward during these recent, grey  weeks, to “level-up” your emotions, as we observed Remembrance Day, again?

Turning inward to do some of this emotional work can liberate us to turn outward, again, with new hope.

No, the bombing in Ukraine and Gaza (to name only two hotspots) has not stopped, as we all want it to. But “levelling up” from despair to a calmer state of awareness, has enabled me to find at least provisional peace, as I teach, write and communicate with others.  I wish you, good readers, the same kind of peace, well deserved, even in these troubled times.

This month, in “Article One,” I share some insights from a recent newsletter of “The Economist,” on what Artificial Intelligence (AI) can teach us about how we learn language.

In “Storyteller’s Corner,” I cite the Merriam-Webster dictionary for “part two” of their posting of “bookish words for book lovers” of all varieties (continuing from last month’s issue).

In “Shop News,” I’m delighted to feature as “Entrepreneur of the Month,” Adele Paul, of “52 North.” Hailing from Saskatoon, Adele has both written and designed marketing and communications materials across multiple sectors, and has also honed her skills through studies at Centennial College (Toronto). Please visit the links shared in her promotion, to better appreciate her gifts and expertise.

And as the last six-and-a-half weeks of 2023 draw to a close, notwithstanding the conflicts around us, may each of us continue to cultivate peace, compassion and kindness for each other–to “let peace begin with us,” before moving outward.

Then, in the words our African newcomers, we will be able “to stay blessed.”

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

Principal

Storytelling Communications

www.elizabethshih.com

++++++++

IN THIS ISSUE:

–>ARTICLE 1: What can AI teach us about how we learn language? Some answers from “The Economist”

–> STORYTELLER’S CORNER: Five more words for book-loving readers (from Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

–>SHOP NEWS

–>ABOUT US

++++++++

Article OneWhat can AI teach us about how we learn language? Some answers from staff writers at “The Economist”

Last spring, several staff writers of the “language learning” newsletter produced by “The Economist,” adopting the collective name of “Johnson” (after Samuel Johnson, the great 18th century man-of-letters), wrote this about AI: “ChatGPT raises questions about how humans acquire language.” In the piece, the writers argue that AI developers and users have “reignited a debate over the ideas of Noam Chomsky,” who at age 94, remains the world’s best-known linguist to dismiss AI in popular media.

“Johnson” writers cite the much-touted victory of “Deep Blue,” a chess computer, over world chess champion, Garry Kasparov, in 1997, as a watershed moment in the development of AI.

The victory of AI in that match also caused many to fear that machines were triumphing over humankind. In the 26 years since that fateful match, AI has developed by leaps and bounds. But none of those advancements, “Johnson” says, have “captured the public imagination” the same way as that chess match—until now.

What’s changed?

Computers are now able to use “something that we consider our defining ability” (“Johnson” says)—language, itself.

ChatGPT, the best-known of AI’s large language models (LLMS) can produce what appears to be outstanding human writing. But cultural critics have been debating “what the machines are actually doing internally; what it is that humans, in turn, do when they speak”; and in academia, what is the validity of Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theories, in relation to AI.

Among Chomsky’s well-established insights are his belief that “human language is different in kind (not just degree of expressiveness) from all other kinds of communication” (“Johnson”). Therefore, Chomsky contends even the most diverse human languages bear more similarity to each other than they do to computer code or to the chatter of animals. Chomsky has frequently said that a visitor from outer space would say that “all humans speak the same language, with surface variation.”

Another of Chomsky’s most notable theories is that the ease and speed with which young children learn their native languages reflect a “predisposition for language [that] is built into the human brain.” Children astonish us by their capacity to learn languages until about age 12, despite the inaccurate and intermittent words and sounds they hear when they are young. Chomsky has argued that AI cannot match (much less outdo) that.

But, as “Johnson” writers observe, plenty of linguists disagree with Chomsky and are adopting the capacities of LLMS to communicate, in rebuttal to his theories.

Basic linguistics tell us (as “Johnson” says) that grammar has a “hierarchical, nested structure involving units within other units. Words form phrases, which form clauses, which form sentences, etc.” Chomsky theorizes that humans “merge” or glue together “smaller units . . . to form larger ones that can then be operated on further (and so on).”

He and at least some of his followers have argued that AI cannot think or use language in this kind of cognitive processing, as humans do, and that LLMS function only by predicting “the next word in a string of words.”

But as the “Johnson” writers say, we don’t yet know enough about AI to understand what LLMS “think.” The “programming and training data” of commercial LLMS (e.g. ChatGPT) are “proprietary. And not even the programmers know exactly what is going on inside.” AI is not at all a level playing field of functioning or influence.

But when linguists have tested LLMS’ knowledge, the models “seem to learn nested, hierarchical grammatical structures, even though they are exposed to only linear input—i.e. strings of text.”  LLMS pick up new words and discern parts of speech.

An earlier form of LLMS, GPT-3, was trained on about 1,000 times the data that a 10-year-old child is exposed to, suggesting that children do have an “inborn tendency to grammar, making [children] far more proficient than any LLM.” But in other experiments, LLMs trained on only the text that children are exposed to, have shown that computers can use even “rare grammar.”

The “Johnson” writers report, however, that when other researchers trained an LLM on only the words children hear, the LLM performs far worse than children. So Chomsky’s theory that the human brain is “built for language” cannot be too easily displaced.

Both camps of linguists (pro- and anti-Chomsky) are implementing LLMS to argue their theories; “Johnson” concludes that if Chomsky’s theories are to survive AI, “his camp will have to put up a stronger defense” than they have, thus far.

What do you think will happen if/when LLMS surpass our human capacities to speak and write?

And now it’s your turn: Do you think that AI threatens our acquisition of language?

What opportunities and threats should we identify and act on? And what action would could we take?

Please write in; I’d be delighted to hear from you.

++++++++

STORYTELLER’s CORNER . . . . 

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

This month: Five more words for book-loving readers

This month, I share a final five of 11 words that describe “bookish” and book-loving readers, as compiled in a recent blog posting of the American dictionary, Merriam-Webster. (The last issue of TYSN featured the first six.)

 

If you can’t think of any occasion when you could use the following words, why not have some fun by trying them out, in your daily parlance?

 

(7) “Omnilegent”: Formed from two Latin parts (“omnis” meaning “all,” and “legere” meaning “to read”), this word refers to someone who reads (or has read) everything—that is, someone known for encyclopedic reading.  For example, “a book by the usage specialist Bryan Garner (of Garner’s Modern English Usage), will allow even the most omnilegent to learn new words.”

 

(8) “Bookery”: An alternate word for a bookstore. Its ending (the “—ery”) adds the meaning of a “place of doing, keeping, producing or selling,” to the noun, “book.” For example, “I spent a fascinating afternoon in our local bookery, Peryton Books, unearthing titles that will make the best Christmas gifts for my family.”

 

(9) “Bibliokept”: A person who steals books. For example, “The charismatic collector of rare manuscripts turned out to be nothing more than a bibliokept.”

 

(10) “Bibliotaph”: Formed from the French “biblio,” meaning books, and the Greek word “taphos,” meaning tomb, this word refers to a person who hides away or hoards books. For example, “Among the artists in the community existed a bibliotaph who retained so many  overdue books that he deprived common library readers from their reading rights.”

 

(11) “Bouquiniste”: A term given to a dealer in second-hand books. This word comes from the French “bouqin” (meaning “old book”) and the ending of  “–iste.” For example, “When visiting Europe, readers should allow time to meet bouquinistes, often eccentric characters who sell used books, posters and memorabilia.”

 

With these five book-related words, Merriam-Webster lightheartedly concludes its blog posting on “11 Bookish Words for Book Lovers.”

 

Will you use one or two of these terms when conversing with colleagues or friends? 

Please share your words, stories, riddles and jokes on language. I’d be delighted to use them in another issue!

++++++++

SHOP NEWS:

Featuring Entrepreneur of the month: Adele Paul, of “52 North: Professional Writing and Design”

Adele Paul is a Saskatoon-based freelance writer and designer who is another member of my collaborative writers’ group, “Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable.”

She joined our group in 2018 and is November’s  “Entrepreneur of the Month.”

Adele writes of her business, “52 North: Professional Writing and Design: “Idylwyld. Meewasin. Spadina. If you have a story to tell, and you have no doubt as to the pronunciation of these words, you are in the right place!”

Adele says that she “knows, loves, and lives in Saskatoon.” Her passion is helping local people and businesses develop beautifully written and designed communications that stand out from their competitors.

Her mission is to bring the stories of Saskatoon people and brands “to the wonderful people who call this city home: Whether it is a feature story for the University of Saskatchewan, a jazzed-up guide for Nutrien Wonderhub, or web content for a local business,’ ” Adele writes, “my  goal is to uncover the voice of your brand and to use it to deliver content that is meaningful to our community.”

After almost ten years of working in education, Adele decided to repurpose her skills into freelance writing. She began as an editor at Family Fun Saskatoon Inc. where she was pivotal in building the brand from the ground up.

Over the course of her five years there, she was lucky enough to combine the three loves of her life: family, writing, and her hometown of Saskatoon.

In the years since then, she has honed her craft and expanded her writing pursuits to include magazine writing, content creation, social media management, graphic design, ad copy, and web design.

In April 2021, she completed the Post-Graduate Communications—Professional Writing program at Centennial College in Toronto. There she dug “deeply into the art and science of successful communication in our digital age.”

In that program, Adele expanded her portfolio to include technical communications, plain language, policy and procedure writing, and visual design.

To talk projects with Adele about learn more about her services, you can find her at “52 North.”

+++++

And in other spaces and places . . . .

A change of pace for me this month included taking in a concert by Canada’s Celtic songwriter, adapter, and singer, Loreena McKennitt, with my colleague and friend, Martha Fergusson. Thank you to my family, for the gift of my ticket–an early Christmas present!

McKennitt, who hails from Morden, Manitoba, sang once before in Saskatoon, nearly 30 years ago, at The Broadway Theatre. Since it was late April “final exam” time at the U of S, I missed that concert, to my great disappointment.

A friend who did attend, however, spoke warmly about McKennitt’s exquisite voice and her adaptation of Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shalott.”

 

But the friend spoke of being disappointed that the singer “said nothing between the pieces,” by way of stories and banter.

 

By contrast, during last Saturday’s concert, McKennitt shared vivid, humourous stories that reflected her international research of Celtic history and culture, her 30 years of experience as a performer in Inner Mongolia, Latin America, much of Europe (e.g. Royal Albert Hall, before royalty), the US (Carnegie Hall) and beyond. 

 

“The Visit,” McKennitt’s breakout album from the early 1990s, was well “revisited” last Saturday, as we heard live those familiar, enchanting melodies embodied in Loreena’s hauntingly lyrical voice. 

 

Named in 2014 as an Honourary Colonel in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), a uniformed McKennitt also sang our National Anthem at Saskatoon’s Remembrance Day service, several hours before taking to the stage for her own concert.

 

McKennitt continues to live her aesthetic and community values by reading deeply, purchasing, renovating and now directing the Falstaff Family Centre in Stratford, ON, which offers programming pertaining to the Arts.

 

Her many international awards include The Order of Canada, Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals, and the rank of “Knight of the National Order of Arts and Letters” by The Republic of France. 

 

But when performed live, in particular, Loreena McKennitt’s music transports her listeners’ minds, so that both my friend Martha and I floated home, afterward.

++++++++

A deep thank you to the Board and staff of Luther Heights Intermediate Care Home, which my elderly mother now calls home.

 

It takes time for seniors to adapt to new surroundings and to make friends with whom to share conversation and activities. But Luther’s staff have been caring and supportive, earning my gratitude and that of many other families, too.

 

My visits during the past three weeks, including some moments spent with other residents, have reminded me of how many seniors in our communities could benefit from receiving more visits.

 

Do you have a contact who lives in a care facility, these days? Could you make time to visit them, even if just for 30 minutes, to brighten their day with some conversation and diversion? There are puzzles to be done, adult colouring books to colour, chair yoga and more to do!

 

So many beautiful souls languish in care homes. It takes as little as a half-hour visit for seniors’ neurological functioning to benefit—including memory and mood.

 ++++++++

Ten years ago, along with fellow freelancers Asheigh Mattern and Julie Barnes, whom I’d met at a local International Association of Business Communicators’ event (IABC), I co-founded “Saskatoon Freelancers’ Roundtable,” a writers’ group that continues to flourish, today. We invite new members but equally encourage other creatives to start their own groups.

 For more information about our group and what we do, please read our collectively written articles in the “Writers Ask” section, forthcoming in the next (quarterly) issue of the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild magazine, “Freelance.” 

 

Co-authors include Julie, Ashleigh, Ashlyn George and Adele Paul—all blazers of diverse writerly trails in SK and beyond.

 

There are always new ideas, experiences and businesses to promote and discuss.

Please write me to share your stories.

But for now, this is a wrap for mid-November!

++++++++

ABOUT US:

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 to Canada to secure better jobs by improving their language skills; I help small- and medium-sized businesses to close more sales by communicating more effectively; and I help major companies to tell their legacy stories.

Interested in learning more? Please contact me through my CASL-compliant website (www.elizabethshih.com).

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

Please visit my website for more information (www.storytellingcommunications.ca).