Laura BestLaura Best lives in East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia. Her first YA novel, “Bitter, Sweet” was short listed for The Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. The author of over forty short stories, her work has been published in literary magazines and anthologies across Canada.  Flying With a Broken Wing, is her second YA novel and was published last September.

The story’s main character, Cammie Deveau, begings life with a few strikes against her. She’s visually impaired, abandoned by her mother at birth, and her father was a casualty of the Second World War. If all that isn’t enough, she’s being raised by her bootlegging aunt.

When Cammie learns about a school for blind and visually impaired children she becomes convinced a new life is waiting for her in Halifax, but how will she ever convince her aunt to let her go? With the help of her best friend, they devise a plan to blow up the local moonshiner’s still. But Cammie has not managed to change her luck, and things get worse than she ever imagined.

How did Flying With a Broken Wing come into being?

Flying book coverFor a very long time I wanted to write a story with a visually impaired protagonist. My mother is visually impaired, and so I was inspired to create a character that had visual problems as well. My mother taught me very early on that we work with what life gives us and make the best of the circumstances we have. If we want things to change in our lives we find a way to do it and that’s exactly what Cammie Deveau sets out to do in Flying With a Broken Wing.

So the book began with the idea of a strong, visually impaired character who dreams of having a brand new life. When I started writing this book, I had no idea why this young girl was so determined to change her life. I knew there would have to be special circumstances that would warrant this deep desire other than her eyesight. Luckily, Cammie was quite forthcoming with all that information. Cammie loves to tell a good story! Once I started writing, she filled in all the blank spaces. She was such a joy to write.

Tell me about the writing process. 

For me, the writing process usually begins with a vague idea of where the story will begin and where it will end. I then allow my characters the freedom to develop as I write, and the story slowly unfolds as I go. I tend to do very little planning ahead of time. Occasionally I have a certain scenes or situations in mind that I want to take place within the story, but I never know exactly how it will turn out until I’m actually writing it.

Laura's mumWhat is the biggest challenge of writing novels for young adult readers? 

Perhaps the biggest challenge in writing for this audience is taking that step back in time to when I was a child, remembering the things that were important to me, and how I viewed the world. I want the stories I write to be believable and real for anyone who reads them. Since I like to write in first person I often describe my writing as playing “make-believe.” I become the characters I write about. I feel their hopes and fears, their determination. They often have conversations with each other in my head as I work through the dialogue.

Laura Best's mumInsights or tips for aspiring writers?

If I had any tips it would probably be to find a story you want to tell and make it your own. Write about what’s important to you. Don’t just write to be published, but write to fill that deep desire to express yourself through the written word. Don’t give up. You might not get the story right the first time, but if it’s a story worth writing it should be a story worth rewriting—again and again if necessary.

Laura Best's mumPS  the third photo is of Laura’s mother (on the right) and two of her friends taken back in 1955 when she worked in the kitchen at the DawsonMemorialHospital in Bridgewater. She was about eighteen at the time. Laura finds the photo inspiring as it represents her mother’s determination to meet life head on, knowing that the limitations we face in life are the ones we set for ourselves.

Laura welcomes questions about her novels and the writing life, so feel free to post questions!



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laptopJoin me for a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of day to figure out where you want to take your freelance business, and how you are going to get there–in both the periodical/online world, the corporate world, and other worlds where you can capitalize on your interests and expertise. Time will also be spent on the business end of things, including how to monitor what your time is worth,  how to track story ideas/client lists, and how to manage your work flow.

Date: Saturday Jan. 11
Time: 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Place: WFNS, 1113 Marginal Road, Halifax
Fee: $135 inc. HST

Contact me a for a workshop outline at

PS … tattoo and messy desk not pre-requisites!

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Mike Parker head shotTwenty four years ago Mike Parker submitted his first manuscript, Guides of the Northwoods: Hunting & Fishing Tales from Nova Scotia, to Doubleday Canada Publishing Group. In a rejection letter dated August 30th, Editor Jill Lambert took the time to add, “P.S. I really did enjoy this manuscript; I thought it was well written and interesting. I’m sorry it’s just not right for our list.”

After researching other publishers, Parker zeroed in on Nimbus Publishing, walked in one morning, and dropped off the same manuscript. The next day he received a call to say it was accepted.  Fifteen books later, Parker is now doing presentations and giving readings based on his latest tome, Into the Deep Unknown: Land of the Tent Dwellers.

How does a historical non-fiction writer capture—and keep—the attention of readers?

I believe the key to writing non-fiction is to write about what interests you, the author—because if the author isn’t into it, the reader won’t be. I go into the research phase of every book without knowing much of anything about the topic other than it interests me, and I want to find out more. Then I try to pass that on to the reader. Thomas Raddall and Pierre Burton are two of my favourite non-fiction writers. Although I don’t put myself in their class (nor do I copy any particular style), I do try to write in such a way the reader remains conscious, and their eyes don’t glaze over.

Mike Parker book coverYou clearly enjoy the thrill of the hunt—for information that is. Paint us a picture. 

While preparing my latest manuscript, Into the Deep Unknown, I really wanted to have a photo or two of Eddie Breck, one of the many characters in my book. I contacted Linda Miller, whose parents were former managers at Milford House where Eddie Breck used to stay. She suggested I contact Tim Coggeshall from the U.S. (a long-time guest at Milford House), whose wife’s grandfather just happened to be Eddie Breck. Sure enough,  Tim Coggeshall—now in his 90’s—had several photos of Breck and the guides; some dated back to the 1890’s. Coggeshall agreed to bring them to Milford House that summer. When I saw them my heart pounded. I scanned photos for nine hours!

Have you ever discovered a “find” after-the-fact? And, if so, then what?

As soon as Into the Deep Unknown hit the stands, I met the granddaughter of Charles (the Strong) Charleton—who also appears in the book. She said to me, “We have a box of old photos the American sports used to send.”  Lo and behold, the box included scores of photos of the old guides, guests at Milford House, and even a rare signed photo of Albert Bigelow Payne who penned The Tent Dwellers over 100 years ago. Although it would have been great to have some of them in the book, it’s never too late to make use of them. So I’ve put them up on Milford House’s Facebook page, titled “Land of the Tent Dwellers—Images From the Past.” By doing so, I hope the public will not only have access to these photos, but that some can also be identified.

If memory serves, you talked about retirement … but rumour has it you’re onto book number 16? 

Mike Parker 1Well now, it’s like this. The last photo you see here was taken by Ralph Harris (1883-1958), a Bear River merchant and professional photographer who produced thousands of pictures throughout Digby and AnnapolisCounties, turning many of them into postcards.  Ralph’s vast collection was lost in an early 1970s fire which destroyed several buildings in Bear River including his one-time store where the negatives and images had been kept in the second floor studio since his death in 1958.

This past summer, Ralph’s niece contacted me and, when I went to visit her, she pulled out hundreds of negatives and prints she had been holding onto since the fire—the majority of which have never been published or seen the light of day since they were taken nearly a century ago. Talk about a treasure trove!

This past November, I was granted permission by the family to publish a book focusing on Bear River as seen through the camera lens of Ralph Harris. Pottersfield Press has agreed to publish the book (Spring 2015) which I envision featuring 300 of Ralph’s images.  I am really excited about it, as the material is rich and original. If folks would like to know more about what I do, please connect to this site:

Stay tuned folks! And feel free to send some questions in the comment section (click “comments” under the title) for Mike to answer. He’d love to have a conversation with you.




Doreen PendgracsThis past July, Doreen Pendgracs launched Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate whereby the author invites readers to join her on a sensuous, taste-tempting journey of chocolate discovery. Aside from getting insider information about chocolate from various countries in Europe, Doreen explores topics such as how and where cacao becomes chocolate; various personalities of chocolate;  health benefits of chocolate; “chocogasms” and how to pair wine with chocolate—to name a few. Here we go … take it away Doreen!

Whatever possessed you to write a book about Chocolate?

I’ve always loved fine chocolate and loved to travel. The idea of writing a book that marries these two passions seemed like a good fit for me. Plus, I have a fascination with interesting people who are passionate about what they do. I’ve found chocolate makers to be among the most passionate people on the planet.

Where has your research taken you?

Peruvian women are responsible for cutting open the cocoa pods and removing the cocoa beans; generally the men of the community do the harvest.

Peruvian women are responsible for cutting open the cocoa pods and removing the cocoa beans; generally the men of the community do the harvest.

To 12 countries so far. I’ve done detailed profiles of chocolatiers and chocolate makers in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Holland, Italy, Spain, and the UK. These profiles are of people I have met and spent time with (for the most part.)

I also visited cacao-growong regions in Peru, Ecuador, and St. Lucia. And I have interviewed many chocolatiers/chocolate makers in Canada and the US.

What’s the most surprising thing you learned about chocolate?

How healthy it is, when it’s in its pure, natural state. I did a fairly comprehensive chapter about the health benefits of chocolate and learned that many myths are untrue. Chocolate is not bad for your skin or teeth if you are eating pure, dark chocolate of 70% cocoa or higher.  Chocolate contains many feel-good chemicals and actually has cannabinoid receptors that are similar to the THC found in marijuana. No wonder you can get giddy and feel high when eating several pieces of pure dark chocolate.

I understand you have more than one volume in mind. What’s next?

I had no idea as to the magnitude of this project, when I went on the first Chocolatour to Europe in the fall of 2009. I soon realized it would be an impossible task to try and cover the world in one swoop, so I opted to divide the planet geographically.

La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers in the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, is a terrific place to explore the best of Belgian chocolate.

La Maison des Maitres Chocolatiers in the Grand Place of Brussels, Belgium, is a terrific place to explore the best of Belgian chocolate.

The first volume that was released mid-July focuses on the best (prepared) chocolate of Europe and the UK, with an additional chapter highlighting three growing regions. The second volume will focus on the Americas and the Caribbean, and the third volume will take in Asia, Africa, India, the Middle East, Australia and New Zealand. I still have a lot of travelling to do for that! And then once the three volumes have been published, I will update and combine them into one mega-volume. That should take me until about 2018.

OK chocolate lovers out there … bring on the questions!

Meanwhile, check out the cover of Doreen’s book in yesterday’s post. And, for regular insights and recommendations about the wide world of chocolate, visit Doreen’s blog titled Chocolate Travel Diversions.

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Pendgracs-Chocolatour-CoverHappy to let readers know that this bi-weekly series resumes tomorrow.  First guest is Doreen Pendgracs who will be talking about her new book, “Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate.”  Her book is delicious … and her interview promises to be yummy as well.

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Saturday, October 26, Haviland Club in Charlottetown, PEI.

This workshop is suitable for both newly-minted freelance writers and seasoned journalists who want to expand their portfolio. Aside from exploring magazine and corporate writing opportunities, participants will also pick up tips on managing the business end of things from how to negotiate and figure out what your time is worth, to how to manage work flow and keep track of things.

AM session: Expanding your freelance portfolio

  • Writing opportunities in the magazine world + hidden markets (trade journals and niche publications)
    • analyzing periodicals
    • queries that work
    • finding different angles for same topic or subject
  • Writing opportunities in the corporate world
    • review sample advertorials, ads, brochures, newsletters etc.
    • how to find clients
    • how to partner with other professionals to offer full-meal deal (translation services, graphic design etc.) to corporate clients

PM session: Becoming business savvy as a freelance writer

  • Organizing your workflow
  • How to figure out what you time is worth and if you are making money (or not) on assignments or projects
  • How to keep track of things: using query/client tracker, sending invoices, tracking invoices/payments etc.
  • Dealing with non payment issues: filing a judgment in Small Claims Court and how best to prepare
  • When is the right time to register for HST? Pro’s and con’s
  • Negotiating tips
  • Marketing tools (portfolio, website or blog, testimonials, business cards, etc.)
  • Networking tips

Workshop fee is $125


For information or to register, contact me at




Stacey Russell from Fredericton Tourism replies to Twitter inquiries.

Stacey Russell from Fredericton Tourism replies to Twitter inquiries.

I keep falling in love. With Fredericton. Sounds schmaltzy maybe, but there you have it. One of the reasons is that it’s so hip and savvy. To demonstrate this, I just wrote an article about how Fredericton’s new “Twisitor Centre” is making headlines. As it happens, I just joined the 21st Century and bought an iPhone. Having a blast learning how to tweet. (Well, if truth be known, I’ve wanted to pitch it in the river a few times but I can’t stand the thought of a phone being smarter than I am. So, I’ve decided to conquer the bloody thing.)

Anyway, back to the Twisitor Centre–it’s the first in Atlantic Canada. I wrote a wee story for Travel + Escape about this. Check it out here.


PEI sunflower field card (2)Heading to PEI this summer and will be delivering a MEMOIR WRITING WORKSHOP on Saturday, August 3rd from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

WHERE: Argyle Shore Community Hall (7654 Route 19 – between the TransCanada Highway and the Bonshaw Road, about 25 min. from Charlottetown).

Fee: $90

Want more information? Workshop outline? Email me at

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Birchdale thumbWell now. Time sure does fly when you’re having fun. Or, when you are in such a spin you don’t know which way is up. Or down.

Mercifully, I’ve come out on the other side … and seem to have most of my marbles intact.

Have also been canoeing of late. Great trip with dear friends into Birchdale and the Barrio system, one of my favourite places on earth. We’ve had days and days of rain here in Nova Scotia … weeks of the wet stuff actually, so I was ecstatic when the sun came out on Day 1 of our 4-day wilderness trip last weekend. It lasted for three solid days.

Mind you, we had an interesting thunder storm with rain showers on on return paddle, Day 4, so we pulled ashore on a wee beach, quickly set up a small tarp, hauled out our thermoses of tea and proceeded to tell yarns until the storm passed.IMG_0281 (2)

Now planning a wilderness women’s trip into Great Barren Lake. But first, need to pay attention to a few deadlines. Reminds me of a quote by David Adams:  “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they go by.”


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OK. In my last post I bellyached about how I was away so much that it interfered with my having time to write any posts.

I signed off by saying, “No more excuses.”

I lied.

I got pneumonia. Yep. Just like getting run over by a train. Knocked me silly and put me out of commission for a few weeks. But the good news is that I finally got rid of those nasty bugs that took over for a bit. Hello again to living, working, and just plain being able to breathe again! Mind you, I’m playing serious, very serious catch up. Big time. Once again, aiming to see daylight by month’s end.

Meanwhile, here’s a photo essay I did for Life As A Human about a memorable encounter I had in Vietnam titled “Gifts from Hanoi.”

Carmen and I also wrote some stories about Thailand for Travel + Escape. I’ve imbedded the links into the names of the stories.


Glimpses from Thailand ~

1. Elephants for Beginners

2. The Stories of Thailand’s Temples

3. The Art of the Coverup

4. The Opium Gardens of Thailand

5. 10 Must-see Festivals in Thailand

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