seniors’ lunch in St. Ann’s Bay

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So almost three weeks ago I went to read my short story “Night Swimmer” at a Seniors’ Lunch. There is a community hall and church in St. Ann’s Bay that holds weekly lunches for seniors in the area, and they have a guest speaker each week. I agreed to fill 40 minutes by first reading the story, which takes 15 minutes, and then talking about this blog and reading a few of my favourite posts.

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(As I was taking this selfie, while waiting at the Englishtown Ferry, a man was walking in front of me. “Are you taking my picture?” He said. “No,” I said, “I’m taking my own photo.” Not sure which one is more awkward, really.)

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The food is nutritious as well as being super tasty. Here is a blog post from last November by lunch volunteer and writer, Susan Zettell, on her own blog, explaining how the program gets funded, who makes the food, and why it’s so great for the community.

seniorslunch05 seniorslunch06 seniorslunch07 seniorslunch08 seniorslunch09 seniorslunch10 seniorslunch11 seniorslunch12 seniorslunch13The posts I read aloud were my first post ever on this blog, my post with my advice to high school graduates, and my post about realizing I am living my dreams and what dreams I have for the future. I also answered a few questions from the audience about blogging, like “is privacy a concern?” and “do you edit your posts?” (Yes, definitely, and most of the time.)

It was a really special day, getting to take the day off school, drive over to St. Ann’s and read for the gathered folks, and then sit and eat great food, and chat with everyone after. It’s a very special place. (Here is another post from almost two years ago about taking a drive through St. Ann’s. As you’ll see, I took awkward selfies then, too!)

Also, last fall I took a hike on the Red Islands Trail, which starts and ends in the parking lot of the church where I went for the Seniors Lunch.

Posted in Active living, Community, Day to Day Life, Towns + communities, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

book report / 2


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So it turns out, deciding to share each book I’m reading on Instagram (complete with a hashtag, #leahreads2014), and then to write about them in groups of three on my blog, is making me inspired to read more. At the beginning of the year when I set my “four simple goals”, I didn’t choose “read more books” as part of it, but sometimes things just come along and make sense, so you keep doing them. I was already an avid reader, but that extra step of sharing the books I’m reading online, and then reporting on them, is making me more committed than I was.

I don’t have an e-reader and although I’ve heard good things from some people about them (mainly, that they’re great for travelling), I’m both too poor to afford one, and also just not that interested in them. I guess I feel like, why fix what’s not broken? Paper books have always been just fine with me. And as so many aspects of my life are increasingly moved online, from banking to schoolwork, to communicating with friends, I relish having something to “interface with” that is just paper and ink. No swiping, no links, no tabs. No possible distractions popping up or tempting me. Plain and simple. Turn each page. Read the words. Repeat.

Although, I’ve never actually tried an e-reader, so maybe I’ll change my mind when I do.

Also, I’ve had some people comment on how fast I’m reading. I am a fast reader, it’s true, but I’ll tell you my secret: I have a boyfriend who doesn’t like to talk. When we are together in the evenings, we sit on the sofa and watch television. We’ll talk a little bit about our day, but mostly we just sit and do our own thing. He plays a video game on his phone or watches TV. I’ll watch TV too, but especially if its sports, I’ll turn so I’m facing away from it, get his feet on my lap so I can rub them, and curl up with my book. At first it was hard to tune out the television, but I’ve gotten better at it. So I get about an hour or more of reading almost every night, this way.

And depending on how much I love the book, I’ll read at breakfast too, or in bed before turning out the light.

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So after my last book report, I started in on White Oleander, by Janet Fitch. My friend Jacquie had loaned me this book a year ago, saying she thought I would like the lyrical language used in it. I read the synopsis — a girl in foster care because her mother murdered someone — and thought it would be too dark and depressing for me. So it stayed on my night table-bureau-thingie for a year. I’d look at it and think, “I should probably return that to Jacquie, I’m never going to read it.”

I’m not sure what happened to change my mind. Maybe because I was on a roll with reading, and had just finished “The Interestings” by Meg Wolitzer, which was a book I’d also thought wouldn’t interest me, but did. So I gave White Oleander a try. And because I had shared the photo of it on social media, I felt I didn’t want to give up halfway through. I wanted to finish it.

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So, it wasn’t my favourite book. I’ll say that. It describes the difficulties of being a young woman in foster care, moving from home to home, sometimes taken advantage of. Ultimately the main character overcomes the shit in her life and she becomes strong within herself. But some of the scenes were like witnessing a car crash. But, White Oleander was very well written, and had some beautiful images and passages. It made me think about what art is, and entertainment, and why we read books. Do we read them for pure entertainment, or should we brace ourselves for some unpleasantness, and discomfort, so that we can learn through the story? Experience the sensation at a distance, inoculate ourselves in a way, like taking a flu shot?

I borrowed it from a friend but it is also available through the Cape Breton Regional Library.

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. After White Oleander I needed some laughs. I had been wanting to read this book since a while, even though I don’t follow the blog that spawned it. (I’ve checked it out, but I only follow a few blogs on the daily, and the why and wherefore of which ones is a topic for another post!) I love reading books by bloggers (go figure) and memoirs are one of my favourite genres, especially by modern ladies that I can really relate to.

This book was quite funny, as the author is super insightful into herself, her neuroses, her anxieties. It’s about life as a lady in modern times, including her relationship with her husband (mismatched and chaotic, yet loving – I can relate!), the jobs she’s had in HR, her poor rural upbringing with a nutty taxidermist father, her pregnancies and various illnesses including mental ones.

Reading this book in big chunks is a little overwhelming, as it feels a bit like the author is yelling at you, she’s a person who (at least on paper) talks and talks and talks. It’s overwhelming at times. But it’s funny stuff, and really, we all have these running monologues in our heads. So it’s very relatable.

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And the endpaper is super cute.

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The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt was loaned to me by my friend Marion. The image at the top of this blog post is the first page of it. It is written in a languorous tongue, and it made me think in such a way as though I were in that time as well. Fire, horses, biscuits, saloons, baths that cost thirty-five cents, new hats and shirts, a travel overland encountering a witch, prospectors, hotel proprietors, and duelling gunmen…the narrator is a wry and sensitive man who wants to find love and maybe quit being an assassin, but he and his brother are hired for a job and he’ll see it through.

I liked the short chapters, the look into a time past, and found it a dusty sort of romance, spare and uncomplicated. Precise. I say romance although there is very little actual man-and-woman lovey-dovey stuff, but more a romance for a time past. Mind you, the story is also graphic and violent at times, but it only made me squirm a little. (And I usually turn away from the screen if a movie or show is showing violence.)

Oh and the book cover design? Probably one of the best I’ve ever seen. (I can’t leave that out!)

More soon, but if you want to see the books I’m reading as I’m reading them, follow me on Instagram.

Now back to my homework, and hopefully I can get outside today too, the sun is beautiful on the snow! And tomorrow of course is Super Bowl Sunday, and I’m looking forward to taking the day “off” schoolwork, sleeping in, and eating lots of bad things like chicken wings and egg rolls. Have a fantastic weekend!

Posted in For Fun, Leah's thoughts | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

livestreaming a talk about Slow Money

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Last night there was a talk in Sydney that sounded great. However, I really wanted to be at home after a long day at school. I love community events, yes, but like everyone, I have a limit on how much I can talk to other humans. When, in the course of a day, I reach that limit, then talking to people, and listening to them talk to me, goes from “enriching and enjoyable” to “resentment-inducing”. I’ve worked in customer service pretty much my whole working life, so I’m practiced at seeming happy to interact even when I’m tired, but it is still definitely work, and if I can avoid it, and be home in comfy pants instead, I’ll choose that.

So, no talk for me. Except, the people who put on the talk had the bright idea to stream it live over the Internet! So that’s how I came to be cooking supper while keeping one ear on the talk (and trying not to drop any food on my laptop). The keynote speaker was Woody Tasch, an American who wrote a book called “Inquiries into the Nature of Slow Money: Investing as if Food, Farms, and Fertility Mattered,” and who, as a result, accidentally started the Slow Money movement.

I’ll admit that along with my limit on talking to other humans, I also have a limit on listening to dreary facts about the current environmental and financial crises. That limit is pretty low, to be honest. I might have burnt out on the issues in my early twenties when I was a more earnest, activist-y type of person. So I was a bit hesitant to spend some of my evening downtime listening to Mr. Tasch, but to his credit he didn’t spend too much time on the “shit”, as I like to call it. (The “shit” is the facts that a lot of us are used to hearing, about how our system is broken, we’re addicted to oil, climate change is happening, et cetera. I’m definitely not denying that this is all true. I’m just saying, it brings me down and I can only spend a small portion of my mental energy on thinking about it.)

His approach was realistic. So that naturally includes some “shit,” just to sort of make sure we’re all on the same page. But he talked mainly about the real, practical and cool things that Slow Money chapters all over the USA are doing to bring money “back down to earth.” To make money actually do good things in communities, and support local food and local economy.

The thing he said that stuck with me was something along the lines of, “Restoring our economy, it’s like renovating a house. It’s possible to take something that is in disrepair, and restore it so it works better, instead of just destroying it entirely.” It gave me hope and it made me feel good, to see this talk happening in my community.

You can watch the whole evening here, including the musical act before the keynote speaker, and the panel discussion after. Or you can watch a little bit. Until you reach your own personal limit. 🙂

Posted in Business ideas, Community, Day to Day Life, Education, Food + agriculture, Leah's thoughts, Sustainability | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

links loved

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On a midwinter Saturday, I walked for two hours, from our house to downtown North Sydney, and back. I returned two library books, and picked up two new ones. I stopped in to the Canton Restaurant to talk to my friend June. I took some pictures (which I may share at a later date). I didn’t check Facebook from 5 pm yesterday til just now (4 pm). It was a good absence and gave me the feeling that I had my “head back”.

Here are some things I’ve seen lately that I thought I’d share. I haven’t done a “Links Loved” post in a while but my blog heroine Elise is doing them once a week now and it’s inspiring me to do the same.

This whole album by Coral Egan is my current work soundtrack. (You can hear the whole thing at the link.) But especially the song “Razor Love.”

Naturally Active Victoria County posts a bunch of stuff every day about being active outdoors in Victoria County. A good resource if you’re interested in that stuff.

I’ve only skimmed this blog but it sounds like a neat one: Rise Above Life.

A comprehensive, practical and thoughtful guide to unplugging from the Internet/social media periodically.

My dear friend Kate lives on a farm in Middle River and in this most-recent post on her new blog she writes about walking a mile in her husband’s gum boots, when the animals get loose. She’s funny and wise, a great story-teller.

I printed out this image that I pinned and stuck it above my desk.

You may have heard this already but The Band Perry are coming to Cape Breton in May! I love this song by them, “Better Dig Two.” You can find out more about Nashville Nor’East at their website here.

I loved this list of tips by the gals at A Beautiful Mess on productivity. It’s helpful for anyone but especially self-employed people or people who work from home.

One of my American cousins is the super-talented Maile Wilson, who recently launched Daily Epiphanie, an inspiring web-magazine of photography, travel and lifestyle content.

Have a great rest of your weekend! I’m looking forward to pancakes on Sunday morning, more schoolwork, and some laziness too.

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content with less content

content1 content2Some days I am “content hungry,” and troll Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest like a cow seeking out rich grass to chew and chew.

Other days I am “content full,” and all the content I want is outside of screens: the sky, the air, the trees.

Top: view from an staircase at NSCC. That’s the big indoor soccer dome at CBU behind the trees. It always looks a spaceship to me. Bottom: View of the highway between Sydney and North Sydney, as I drive home each afternoon.

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risk takers: jenni welsh

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I’m starting a new interview series on the blog. I’m feeling “poised” these days, on the edge of whatever will come after I graduate in the spring from my two-year design program at NSCC. (A job? Where? My own business? But how? Et cetera.) All of this change is bringing to my attention the fact of risk. Risk is part of life, it’s possible wherever you are in your life, but it comes to the forefront when you’re at a cross-roads. And then you wonder to yourself, should you take a risk? What does it mean to strike out into the unknown, try a new thing? I’m often quite scared of taking risks, and feel anxiety just like everyone else.

So this is a selfish series, really. It’s for me, it’s to inspire me and remind me that risks can be exciting, they can bring growth and beauty. That everyone goes through it, and that you have to go through it to get something worthwhile. So I’m going to be reaching out to people who’ve taken risks and done interesting things. (That’s everyone.) And I hope it brings you some of that inspiration too.

First in the series: a rad photographer and videographer who I met almost two years ago (what?!) at the Youth Social Enterprise Boot Camp at CBU, where I was a keynote speaker and she was a participant. I hope her poetic, thoughtful and smart words encourage you like they have me.

1) Name, age, where you live?

My name is Jenni Welsh, and I am 27 years old.

I was born and raised in Palmerston Ontario, a small used-to-be railroad town , population 2.581.

After graduating high school in 2005, I traveled Canada from coast to coast, rarely settling in one place for more than a few weeks.

In 2007 a series of events led me to Cape Breton Island. From the first moment I stepped over the causeway I have been completely captivated. I have been living in Sydney for the past seven years, and though I have entertained the idea, I have no intention of leaving.

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2) What is (or are) your passion(s)?

It’s challenging for me to isolate one passion, but aside from the people in my life, and living room dance parties, my longest standing passion is my ever growing infatuation with videography.

White balance, exposure, composition, the way that the light sprays through the lens illuminates a subject in an honest light.

It’s intimate and revealing.

I love the feeling of being totally engaged in moments and how they are being perceived. Sometimes I feel like my perspective on the happenings of right now, is how I express myself artistically.

As if my camera and I are freestyle dance partners gracefully flowing through time as the seconds pass by.

Maybe I am making this sound more whimsical than it is, but what I mean to say is that I love finding the truth in movements and sound and sharing those moments with other people.

With that being said, though I have always had an affinity for video production from as far back as I can remember, it wasn’t until years after I laid down roots on Cape Breton Island that I uncovered another passion; community development, more specifically, collaboration.

My recent work with Caper Radio provided me with the opportunity to connect these passions together in ways that I couldn’t really foresee.

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3) Do you take risks in business, in life? What are they?

Risk: the hazard or chance of loss.

The short answer is yes, very much so.

There was a time when I associated risk with recklessness but I have since strayed from this belief.

It is very difficult for me to answer this question in a roundabout way, so bear with me while I take the long way around.

I consider myself to be somewhat of a ‘conundrum’ in comparison to my peers.

I happened to stumble recklessly into Cape Breton in my late teens, at a time when a lot of people my age whom are from here were leaving to pursue other opportunities.

With the beginnings of a skill set in video production, I went to community college in Sydney, and had an amazing mentor and teacher take me under his wing. Within a year, I landed a job working for a television station, with benefits, and a retirement plan. I was even a part of a workers union. (I know right?)

Outside of my job in television, I was immersing myself in Cape Breton’s local music community, attending shows every opportunity I could, and even learning to play the guitar myself. I was absolutely fascinated with the music, and I made a lot of new friends rather quickly. I realized early on, that one magical part about the arts community in Cape Breton is that everyone is interconnected and supportive of each other’s creative endeavours. We live in a close knit community, and you will often discover many overlapping layers that I feel strengthen the inner core of Cape Breton, which is clearly a mecca of musical and artistic talent that lives and breathes in almost everyone who touches ground here. This realization prompted my desire to integrate myself into this community.

In hindsight, I realize my first job here was a pretty awesome position to land in Cape Breton Island at the age of twenty, and I definitely took this for granted. But, at the time, there was something that wasn’t quite igniting my passion. It wasn’t the job or the Island, but the lack of connection that that job had to the Island.

That element of integration and community that I was unknowingly seeking, was not being satisfied. Though I was extremely grateful for the opportunity, and I developed many skills, my lack of passion really showed in my work ethic, and the amount of myself that I gave to my work. I often felt stagnant, and disconnected from my community and peers.

The first and biggest ‘risk’ I took was blindly leaving a comfortable secure position in my field, to work independently with Caper Radio on projects that had no real financial stability. In fact, since then, I have never had any security in this sense, but I have realized that this comes with the territory of being a young person dedicated to living in Cape Breton.

I just learned this the backwards inside out way.

4) How has taking risks paid off for you? What good things have they brought to you, that you are grateful for?

To be forward: I see the risk that I took, to be less of a risk, and more of a responsibility to myself and to the contribution to my community.

I don’t believe in moral absolution, and I realize that this is way out in left field, but I strongly believe that when you have a skill set and there are social needs that align with your skill set, it is then your responsibility as a member of that community/society to offer up your skill set, regardless of how it will ‘pay off’ or propel you forward as an individual. (This is easier said than done and I realize it borders on idealism, but I do try to live out my life this way.)

I have also learned through trial and error, that when you work really hard, and you are dedicated, and team oriented, with social goals in mind, that opportunities will present themselves to you to propel your work forward, so long as you are open to them.

Since branching out and taking a leap into the ‘financial unknown’, Cape Breton has provided me with numerous opportunities to grow, both internally, in my career, and otherwise. (Too many oat cakes.) In all seriousness, the pay off for my time spent working in the arts community in Cape Breton is unmeasurable.

I owe most of my optimism to Caper Radio; the staff, local business and musicians that support the ever changing station. This is the first taste of real collaboration that I ever had, and definitely changed my entire perspective on the meaning of ‘work’. I have realized that I have an innate need to be a part of a team, to collaborate with other people by sharing creative energy and fostering ideas into action. Caper radio inspired this realization.

I have since had the opportunity to work with many talented and amazing artists in the community, and developed supportive relationships with others in the industry.

Outside of the relations built with the staff at Caper Radio, I have had some amazing mentorship opportunities outside of the station, the most recent being a one year internship with Celtic Colours. This provided me with opportunity to dive deep into the roots of Cape Bretons culture, and work with some of the brightest minds I have ever had the pleasure of crossing paths with.

I have developed confidence in myself and my skills, I have learned to become a leader, and I have learned the value of hard work.

I don’t have a substantial savings account, I don’t really own anything of value to anyone but myself, and I am content with the fact that this will probably never change. It’s amazing what creativity will allow you to do with limited resources and shoe string budgets.

I guess the greatest pay off for me would be coming to the realization that time is the only thing that I have to lose.

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5) Have you ever felt discouraged, unconfident, or unsure of what you’re doing? What do you do when that happens? (Think of this, too, as advice for others who might feel that way.)

I never feel discouraged, says no one ever.

I think every human has probably experienced these types of feelings in all varieties and sizes. I often battle with my own insecurities, and uncertainty is a feeling that I am very familiar with. Its not always a whimsical, ‘sprinkled with fairy dust’ scenario like I tend to make things sound when I am reflecting.

I have struggled a lot with my confidence. I have bit off more than I can chew and have had to ask for help to dig myself out. I have watched my friends come and go, and come and go again, and that is never easy. But hey, sometimes you have to be bold enough to feed the need to explore other horizon lines in order to fully appreciate the perspective that the place you are rooted in offers.

Sometimes you leave home, and never come back because you find a groove somewhere else that suits you perfectly.

Yes, since living in Cape Breton I have made mistakes, and the repercussions are discouraging. But, over time you learn how to turn those mistakes into stepping stones, even if you are not sure where those stepping stones will lead.

Fail forward, so to speak.

Even when I am uncertain of where the direction I am going in my own life, or even where my next pay check is going to come from, the people I surround myself with can always be relied upon to replenish a sense of purpose. ‘Your contribution is meaningful and important.’

That is the beauty of community and collaboration; you are all working towards the same goals, so even when you feel down, you are still moving forward.

My biggest takeaway is this:

A person can be content living anywhere, but its the people that we surround ourselves with that make the happy happen. That’s exactly what Cape Breton has done for me. This island has a certain magnetic pull that grounds the souls of my shoes and keeps me here, and for that I am grateful.

website/portfolio: http://jenniwelsh.tumblr.com

 

Posted in Art, Community, Q+A, Women + kids, Work | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

book report

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The last three books I read were Anne Murray’s “All of Me,” Lisa Scottoline’s “Meet Me At Emotional Baggage Claim” and Meg Wolitzer’s “The Interestings.” All of these books I borrowed from the Cape Breton Regional Library.

I like how Elise Blaha Cripe (who is pretty much my hugest blog inspiration) does book reports from time to time, and I want to start doing that too. Plus I’m reading anyway! I’ve been a huge reader since I was a kid, and there have only ever been short, very busy periods of time in my life when I haven’t had a book on the go. Even now that I’m in school and busy with that, I find reading so important. It’s such a good way to change things up, get away from my daily routine, and relax. If I think I don’t have time in my daily life for reading, I need to re-evaluate!

When it comes to choosing reading material, I mainly go with what appeals to me, which could be a novel, short stories, an autobiography or non-fiction. I love humorous essays, and I love “feel good” books, although I lose interest if its a cookie-cutter book and it’s too “fantasy.” (Everyone’s rich, everyone’s gorgeous, sort of thing.) I love browsing in the library shelves, taking books out, reading the jackets. Most of the time I put them right back – especially if the subject seems dull or worse, depressing. (There are so many books about horrible things! Why is that?) Stories about people facing enormous, awful hardships, or stories about war or the Holocaust don’t tend to make it onto my night table. But, I’ll take other things into account too, like the reviews, and if someone has recommended the book to me. Right now I’m reading “White Oleander,” which I wouldn’t have picked up on my own, but a good friend sang its praises, so I’m giving it a shot. (I’ll write about that book in a future post.)

So anyway. I could talk about books all day, like e-readers versus real books, and using libraries, and all that. So I’ll move on. Here are the three books I read last:

“All Of Me,” by Anne Murray with Michael Posner. I was born in 1984, and I grew up knowing only a little bit about Anne Murray. I knew she was a singer, that she was from Nova Scotia, and that she sang “Snowbird”. I didn’t know much else about her career or music. This past year I read some autobiographies and realized I really like them, that they don’t have to be just a dull re-telling of facts about an individual’s life. This book, which is in the North Sydney library branch, and which was often propped up on a shelf, on display, looked interesting but it wasn’t until December that I decided it was time to read it. It was quite good! At first it felt like a random collection of memories, from Anne’s childhood. But as the story continued and she described her early career, and how she got started in music, and all the things that she went through and how she got to be such a household name in Canada and the United States, I was captivated. Her voice is human, down-to-earth, despite the amazing fame she’s had. Not to spoil the ending, but she basically feels that above all, family is the most important thing in life. Her story also taught me that to be a woman and have a long, creative career is tough and there will be times you doubt yourself.

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“Meet Me At Emotional Baggage Claim,” by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. I had picked up another book of essays by murder-mystery author Lisa Scottoline on a whim, because it looked funny. (Remember, I like humorous essays.) I read it (it was “My Third Husband Will Be A Dog”) and laughed and was entertained. So when I find an author I like, I look up what other books the library has by them, and place them on hold. (You can read about how to do that in this post from last year by librarian Erin Phillips!) This one was similar to her other book, it’s a compilation of their column “Chick Wit” for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Definitely goofy but also heart-warming, and above all, a relaxing read.

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“The Interestings,” by Meg Wolitzer. This one I put on hold because the girls at A Beautiful Mess (another one of my favourite blogs) chose it as their first book-club pick. I knew nothing about it or the author, but I do love Elsie and Emma, so I immediately looked it up and put it on hold. (I’m impulsive like that.) And to be honest, the description of the story didn’t grab me, it wasn’t one I would have seen in a library browsing session and thought, “Yup! Gotta read it!” It’s about a group of teenagers who meet in an arts camp in the 1970s, and follows them throughout their lives into the present day. But it’s good to be pushed out of my comfort zone, from time to time. So I read it. And loved it. It was beautifully written, but also so interesting as a mirror held up to the last forty years of our culture. Looking at all that’s happened to us, to the world as we know it, and how it has had an impact on ordinary lives. Fame, envy, love, marriage – these were the strongest themes, for me.

So what do you like to read? Any recommendations for what I ought to read next?

Posted in For Fun, Leah's thoughts | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment