All posts by tanya58

Early summer nights dream at All Saints performance

March 17, 2018

The artistically multi-talented people on Salt Spring Island go for extravaganza when it comes to the Arts:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, June 14, 2000

Early summer nights dream at All Saints performance

by Tanya Lester

Prepare for an Elizabethan event that will be a delight to all the senses next weekend at All Saints by-the-Sea.

Through music, dance and readings, Shakespeare will be celebrated in Dances & Delights. His play excerpts to featured in the event include Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, Hamlet, Macbeth and Richard III.

For the eyes, the banquet will be centred on Lottie Devindisch’s group of dancers dressed in flowing gowns of purple, white and royal green with golden trim. A credit to constume designer Judith Bennett.

Even in early dress rehearsal last week, Devindisch’s creative magic as the mad Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet was as strong as her muscular dancer’s legs.

She and the others: Tamsin Gilbert, Gale Hingston, Sue Newman (with her whimsical smile), Yarrow Sheehan and Jill Smith display a romping, lightness of foot in harmony with the magic of any Midsummer Night’s Dream.

These dancers will blend nicely with a garden’s worth of fragrant flowers from the St. Mary’s, St. Mark’s aMisnd All Saints church guilds for an aromatherapy experience that will waft from the church’s sanctuary to the audience occupying every pew….

The Bard’s inspiring poetry has been woven together for the occasion with narrative successfully penned in blank verse by Joyce Ditzler. She, along with John Edwards, selected all the readings for the occasion.

Charles Hingston, Caitlin Brownrigg, Margaret Jardine, Derek Emmerson and Ann Stuart lend rich intonations and dramatic flare to Shakespearean lines.

A climax for the ears will be reached by vocal sensations Betty Rothwell and Alan Robertson. Both have the artistic finesse of singing their pieces with a theatrical and harmonious freshness.

Mischa Linser, who has demonstrated dramatic achievement in his roles for Salt Spring Centre School productions, will also lend his vocal chords to the occasion.\

Caitlin Brownrigg will raise her voice in song as well.

Music will abound from Thomas Evdokimoff’s guitar, Barry Valentine’s organ and Janet Davies’ flute.

During intermission, performers and audience alike will savour the arrangements for the palate offered by Rita Robertson and Inez Farr. Strawberries dipped in cream and brown sugar as well as shortbread are hinted to be among these delights.

All is being brought together under the magical direction of Margaret Jardine who has ridden at the helm of many among the best of Salt Spring’s theatrical adventures….


To read more of the posts in this eclectic blog of writings by and about Tanya Lester, go to and

Tanya also wrote four books that have been published: Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters, and Women Rights/Writes. The first two titles can be purchased from the author or from  All four titles are in library systems including the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

Tanya has worked for many years as a psychic counsellor who specializing in tea leaf reading, tarot, psychic channeling, mediumship and gypsy card reading. For more go to her web at and/or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. You can book an accurate reading with her by texting/calling her at 250-538-0086 or emailing






A matter of life and death

March 13, 2018

It has just occurred to me that maybe writing a lot of book reviews has helped me read books in a deeper way.

Certainly life and death is a deep matter for me. When I get to one of my chi gong exercises throughout the day — the one in which I extend my body from the deep inner earth into flying through heaven — I feel ecstasy with the buoyant idea of flying through the upper universe.

The following is a book review that made me realize while life is always nearby so is death:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wedsnesday, April 25, 2000

A matter of life and death

Winter Still by Peter Levitt , Salt Spring Island: (m)Other Tongue Press, 2007, 20 pp.

Review by Tanya Lester

Winter Still by Peter Levitt consists of 10 narrative poems about that still place between breathing in and breathing out.

It is about that place where life joins death and turns once more into life. A deep and sacred theme is being addressed in this book. In the poem Pale Shadow, an eagle plunges into Cusheon Lake and kills a duck. The predator tries to rise with its kill but cannot:

The killer/and killed had become one body/and the weight wed them where them where they were…/Finally the eagle began to row/he arched his great wings forward/ into the lake and pulled against / death’s enormous weight. 

Towards the poem’s end, Levitt makes, what might seem to some, an unbelievable connection between two opposites:

I hold the image of the eagle’s/kill no different from the first time I saw/my children bathed in the birthing blood that helped to keep them/alive….

Yet I know this to be true. When my friend James died, I had a dream. In it, he was covered with afterbirth. I felt elated by the knowledge that he lived again.

Another poem, called A Translation in Winter, states:

My wife dreamed the face of our son/two years before he finally came,/and it was four more before she looked/cross the room as he played…/That’s the face of the boy I saw in my dream…

So, if death turns to life, why do we mourn those who are dead to us?

A Translation in Winter continues:

I reach for the phone because/the worried love in my mother’s/face calls as it used to do. Or/ my father’s deep voice saying/ the syllables of my name…/to hear it once more./A losing game now that they’re gone.

We mourn those who are dead to us because they are dead to us. Life is hard but them we need to keep things in perspective. In Within Within, Levitt writes:

Bearing/sorrow in silence/or holding our happiness/for the world/are just plum twigs/bearing snow.

These are beautiful lines whether you understand what they mean or not. Beautiful lines like Levitt describing walking through the forest:

tentative as a new lover, my hands/leading me branch by branch

Or, when he compares the eagle’s wings flapping to a “sound like feathered oars.”

If I say reading Winter Still is a matter of life and death, you might say I am just a melodramatic supporter of poetry. Or you could accuse me of being irreverent. Something I have learned from reading poetry.

In Within Within, Levitt writes:

So take it easy./Have a Cuban cigar…/and four kisses/one on each cheek.


To read more posts in this blog of Tanya’s eclectic writings, go to and

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters as well as Women Rights/Writes. The first two titles can be purchased from the author or All of the titles are in the Legislative Library of Manitoba and other library systems.

To find out what Tanya does at the time of this post entry, go to or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Google. To get a tea leaf reading, tarot, psychic channeling, mediumship or gypsy card reading from her, contact her by calling or texting 250-538-0086 or emailing



secret conversations – Cecile Brisebois Guillemot

March 11, 2018

I just recently reconnected with Cecile Brisebois Guillemot. She texted me reminding me of years ago in Winnipeg, I sat at her kitchen table and did a tea leaf reading for her predicting that she would be living surrounded by islands.

Turns out she has been living on different Gulf Islands and on Vancouver Island.

She is doing a lot of visual art now. Here is a review I did of her poetry in the days when both of us were still living in Winnipeg:


Volume 22 Number 1

secret conversations – Cecile Brisebois Guillemot. (Moonprint Press, 1994)

Review by Tanya Lester

The secret conversations in this poetry chapbook are between a woman and her child during the transitional period that runs from late pregnancy to the emergence of a newborn baby.

But the conversations are between the poet and anyone who opens herself or himself to the natural beauty of gestation and the spiritual power of mother/baby bonding.

Cecile Guillemot begins her narrative long poem with:

in spring

the river heaves

sighs stretches

it winter skin

pushed up by

swelling warm liquid

“Yes,” I respond. Pregnancy is as bold and beautiful as the swollen Red River in spring. It is part of a magnificent recurring cycle. It does not make our bodies ugly and undesirable. Guillemot helps me see the beauty in each of us regardless of the shape and size of our bodies.

The poet underlines the power a pregnant woman can exert when she makes a pact with her fetus:

when it’s time for you

to join me in my arms

I don’t want to be

shaved and drugged

with a light in my eyes

and a white cotton screen

blocking my view as you

are pulled through my wounds

I don’t want that

|I won’t have that

These are not the words of a sentimental expectant mother but those of an assertive woman ready to stand up to the patriarchal medical system. I believe this is far from an attempt to “smother” anyone with “a huge, soft pillow” as stated by one reviewer of secret conversations. But that reviewer’s comments underline the courage it takes to share with poetry readers the intimate bond that can develop between a mother and her fetus/baby.

Besides, considering all her water imagery, this poet’s thoughts seem to have been far from being on a pillow in a warm, dry bed. Guillemot herself jokes:

after my baby is born

my mother and sister

will give me a shower

a baby shower of course

no water involved

When I had my baby, I made it clear I wanted to opt out of this afternoon of “pinwheel sandwiches/filled with egg or tuna salad/brownies/nanaimo bars” and (horror of horrors) bows stuck onto a funny hat they would expect me to wear. I would have appreciated receiving this chapbook, though, and I intend to give it to friends with newborns.

I want to pass on secret conversations because, despite the cold hospital setting (“how you flinched/when the cold electrodes/were taped to your back”), the poet’s perceptive intelligence honours the spiritual union and power of the mother and child in the birth process.

By its middle, the chapbook’s tone returns to a serious one when the baby is whisked away from his mother’s arms (“in my arms skin to skin/you uncurl wet and warm”) to intensive      care for no apparent reason. The mother/ child bond is tested and strengthens during the crisis:

I place my hand on your back


I know you’re strong


let’s show them

you open your eyes

look into mine

breathe deeper



the nurse comes over

reads some dials says

he’s doing much better than

just 10 minutes ago

This is therapeutic touch, without naming it, and touching for me as the reader. Guillemot goes on into a fairytale world:

I sat on the edge of a bed

a queen on her throne

you crowned little prince

your body pushed out of mine

at once you became

the star of our lives

and our greatest interruption

Yes, it is a fairytale world but the poet knows there are problems here, too. She grieves giving up her job and dreams about not having to the answer the cry of a child in the middle of the night, although she often does enjoy giving:

we lay on the couch

like lovers

you have drunk all you want

from my breasts

Here, Guillemot might have got it backwards. Maybe lovers enjoy the sensual feel of breasts so much because it subconsciously reminds them of the nurturing they got or longed for as babies.

Regardless, Guillemot successfully develops the up and down rhythms of a new mother’s experiences and those of a long poem. I would suggest reading it over more than once, because as is often true with many poems, I found I gained deeper insight into Guillemot’s work each time I read it.

I also developed appreciation of her cover design. (To date, she has had her hand in all five designs for the Moonprint Press chapbooks.) At first, I was bewildered by the small illustration of a baby’s face and the partial head of the mother, in conversation with her child, bordered, but still seemingly lost in a sea of white space. Then, I realized my feelings indicated a strength in the art: I felt how mother and baby can feel as they ban or bond together in the hospitals impersonal antiseptic white.

In secret conversations, Guillemot has extended personal birth stories out of the livingroom, beyond the birthing networks and into the poetry section of bookstores. After all, having a baby, for those who make this choice, is an art.


To read more posts in Tanya’s blog of widely eclectic thematic writings, go to and

Tanya’s books are: Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters as well as Women Rights/Writes. The first two titles can be purchased from Tanya or   All titles are available at the Legislative Library of Manitoba and in other library systems.

Tanya has worked as a psychic counsellor for a couple of decades now and specializing in tea leaf reading and tarot as well as psychic channelling, mediumship and gypsy card reading. She is also a reiki master — and instills this energy into her readings — and a fulltime housesitter. Her web site is and she has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. To book a reading, you can text or call Tanya at 2505380086 or email her at



Phoenix’s Chocolate Factory offers tasty (nutritious?) treat

March 10, 2018

When I lived on Salt Spring Island — and I have no reason to believe that things have changed in this regard: there were all kinds of adult and children’s theatre productions. This is probably one of the key reasons that ArtSpring was established.

With ArtSpring came the opportunity, of course, for budding thespians of very young ages having the experience of acting on a standard theatre stage (as opposed to one in a school auditorium or community hall which is just not quite as glamourous and without the ambiance of a professional stage).

The following is my review of one of these children’s presentation on the ‘grown up’ stage:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, November 24, 1999

Phoenix’s Chocolate Factory offers tasty (nutritious?) treat

by Tanya Lester

Phoenix Elementary School students do not put on a play.

They experience it.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, held last Wednesday and Thursday, is the only performance I have been to at ArtSpring in which I looked forward to the intermission even though I was enjoying the show.

Who could resist the little green Oompa-Loompas (except my cynical 12-year-old son) or the red-and-black squirrels that hung out in the nut room?

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a theatrical adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

The plot was difficult to follow at times because the nervous, excited actors occasionally talked a bit fast and forgot their lines.

As told by the storyteller, played by Ezra Gilson in a deadpan style that reminded me of Charlie Brown, I think the storyline goes something like this: A girl (not Dahl’s male character) named Charlie Bucket (Halley Gilson) and her family, which consisted…of the cutest little grandparents you could ever lay your eyes on portrayed by Roshann Cornwall, Cora Muellner, Gabriella Mitchell and Kailee Budd), are so poor they are starving with only one bed to sleep in.

The solution to the Bucket family’s problems is connected with Charlie’s ability to obtain a golden bar that serves as an entrance key into the chocolate factory.

Charlie, of course, was not the only one wanting to gain entrance. Any number of wealthy folk with their spoiled kids desired an “in”. This menage was the most wonderful display of children in grown-up’s dress-up clothes that has ever graced the ArtSpring stage.

Patrice Bowler did a fine job of being a spoiled brat extraordinaire in her role as Veruca Salt, even to the point of laying down on the stage while she kicked her hands and feet. Bowler’s timing was great.

Elsbet Krayenhoff was also very appealing as a child gum fanatic.

The story continued with the group led in a tour of the factory by none other than the owner, Willie Wonka, played by Raven Derr. For part of the tour, the spectacular group rode in a very stylish pink sort of Viking boat.

The audience went along for the ride and we got a glimpse into a fantastic chocolate factory where the pipes looked like candysticks and a river of chocolate flowed.

There were many rooms where the delicious ingredients to the making of chocolate candy were housed. These included the cream room, the whip room and, of course, the chocolate room.

This leads me back to the intermission and ArtSpring’s multi-purpose room. It was there that the Phoenix Elementary School students had on display ( as they did last spring for their Robin Hood play) the visual art they had created while exploring different aspects of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

What an experience it was to be drawn into their experience of the play!

A quilt with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory emblazoned across it and created by the students hung near the entrance. On the walls were big, bold finger paintings of the play’s characters. The tables were laden with Plasticine mounts of the sets and contraptions like the candy machines in the play’s set.

This is the way to learn and to grow. The most wonderful thing about it is that, as far as I could see, the students all had so much fun doing it.

The energy in ArtSpring was electrifying. There was something about it all that made me think of how young people throughout the century, and before, have always dressed up and staged plays for adults. Virginia Woolf would have approved.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a tasty pre-Christmas treat.

And, oh yes, Willie Wonka invited Charlie and her family to live in the chocolate factory, alleviating their starvation.

Could this mean that chocolate is nutritious, after all?


To read more posts in this eclectic range of writings by and about Tanya Lester, go to and

Tanya’s books are Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader, Friends I Never Knew, Dreams and Tricksters as well as Women Rights/Writes. The first two titles listed can be purchased from the author or from  All of the books are available in some library systems.

Tanya has works for over two decades as a psychic counsellor specializing in tea leaf reading, tarot, psychic channeling and some mediumship, gypsy card reading, etc. She is also a reiki master and a fulltime housesitter. To make an appointment with her, text or call 250-538-0086 or email:   To find out more go to her web at or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google.




Tourism booming on friendly Penders, claim businesses

February 14, 2000

My experience with living on, visiting and housesitting on many of the Gulf Islands on the west coast Canada has made me realize that winter life and even winter lifestyle is quite different from summer life and a summer life style.

One thing, for sure, is Gulf Islanders experience lean economic times in the winters and, although they do not always welcome tourists in the summer, they do welcome tourism dollars:

Gulf Islands Driftwood – Pender Islands Edition

Wednesday, August 23, 2000

Tourism booming on friendly Penders, claim businesses

by Tanya Lester

Accommodations businesses report that tourism is busier than ever on the Penders this summer and they chalk it up to a strong American dollar, hospitable islanders and nicer weather.

At the Inn on Pender Island, owner Dave Dryer said he is “busy as a bird dog.” Last years was a decent year while this year is fantastic, he said, with July’s business surpassing that of last August which is traditionally the best month. July and September are usually the second best months.

Room bookings are up 40 per cent, Dryer said. He keeps thinking the bubble will burst but bookings are already looking good for September. Restaurant business is also good.

Dryer is checking in more people from farther away in the United States including California, North Carolina and Texas. There are more Albertans over last year while people form BC still make up the bulk of his guests. He always gets some Germans each year and there was also an Italian visitor this season.

The better weather earlier on in the summer was a factor as was the strong US dollar, Dryer said.

The only fly in the ointment has been some snags for tourists coming from Nanaimo who found they were out of luck if they did make a reservation for the ferry.

Penny Tomlin-Skillen of Sahhali Serenity Oceanfront Bed and Breakfast told the Penders Edition that 70 per cent of her guests are Americans this year. The strong US dollar is enticing them across the border and into the Gulf Islands.

Once here, Tomlin-Skillen said, the tourists appreciate the great food at local restaurants, the first-class kayaking and the “good-hearted people of Pender.”

Tomlim-Skillen has several stories about the residents going the extra mile for visitors. One man repaired a jeep’s roof rack, used for carrying a kayak, at no charge. Another rescued a man who in trouble in a kayak on the water.

American guests have the highest praise for local doctors when they require medical assistance, said Tomlin-Skillen.  They appreciate how effective and efficient the physicians are.

In another case, someone who experienced a stroke was impressed with the ambulance crew.

Several commented about how the work of local artisans has diversified, said Tomlin-Skillen.

She also felt another factor contributing to booming business is the warmer sunnier weather over last summer.

Barry Lynd at Beauty Rest by the Sea Bed and Breakfast also finds business is up over last year.

He said his bed and breakfast seems to attract retired and professional people including the man who owns and underwater motel in Florida. They spend a day looking around the islands and then tend to want to sit outdoors and relax, taking in the ocean traffic.

He said a lot of Albertans have visited this summer as well as tourists from the Lower Mainland and the Pacific Northwest.

Surprisingly, he has had a number of guests from Vancouver Island.

Lynd figures that after they pass by the Gulf Islands on the ferries to Vancouver a few times, they are enticed to come and visit.

Some of his visitors have bought property on the Penders, including a family from Singapore. Tomlin-Skillen has had the same experience with guests from England, Texas and Langley purchasing homes here.

Other businesses not specializing in accommodations are finding visitor impact not as significant.

Business is fair at the Galloping Moon Gallery according to Bob Culmer.

Culmer said the threat of BC Ferries workers going on strike earlier in the season put a damper on people’s plans to come to the islands.

Malcolm Armstrong of Armstrong Artists’ Studio indicated he is doing reasonably well. He said the studio, which he has operated for 13 years, used to do better before studio numbers increased on the Penders.

“There are probably more people coming to Pender but not in proportion with the studio numbers,” he said.

Shirley LePers of the Lions Club’s Visitor Info Centre estimates the number of tourists was up 25 per cent in July as compared to an-all time low last year which left figures at 30 per cent less than other years.

There is no question that 95 percent of visitors who seek information from the info centre kiosk are from other parts of BC, she said.

Next in numbers is Washington State followed by Alberta and then the Prairies, with a smattering from Europe and Asia.

They almost always want a map and want to know where the walking trails, beaches and craft stores are. LePers added that the Saturday markets are also popular.

Most come with accommodations already booked, said LePers.

The info cenre is volunteer-run with two students — one from May to September and another from July to August — employed there for the summer.


To read more posts on this blog of eclectic stories and other writings by and about Tanya, go to and

Tanya’s books are available in some library systems and Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader and Friends I Never Knew can be purchased from the author or on  Her other titles are Women Rights/Writes and Dreams and Tricksters.

Tanya now works as an intuitive counsellor who specializers in tea leaf reading, tarot, psychic channeling, gypsy card reading and mediumship. She is also a Reiki master and fulltime housesitter. For more on her services go to her website at   She also has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google and is an Align member. You can also contact her directly by texting or calling 2505380086 or emailing



New Directions: four books by Manitoba women….final post continued from last 3 posts

February, 11, 2008

Prairie Fire

Vol. VII, No. 3

New Directions: four books by Manitoba women

by Margaret Clarke

…..continued from last three posts…

Creating the life, the identity, through an act of imagination is central to No Fixed Admission, in which Jacqui Smyth writes of that moment in a woman’s life when coming to an understanding of the two people who created her becomes essential knowledge for her own survival. The protaganist, Alice, like Wonderland’s disoriented heroine, has fallen into that all too likely “hole” of modern life, the death of a male-female love relationship. To understand what has lead her to this failure, Alice spends some time with her father, who long ago separated from her mother. This leads to a series of recollections that bring her to a measure of peace and acceptance.

To summarize Smyth’s “story” in this narrative fashion is to not do justice to her technique. Smyth brings a poet’s love of the finely polished image to her first “novel” ( in length and organization more a series of prose poems) which consists of a series of penetrating, imagistic glimpses into Alice’s past. Each discreet glimpse comes to the reader as a cross between a dream and a suddenly recollected moment that arrives purely to the mind when prodded by some seemingly insignificant sensory detail, like “white kid gloves”, or the memory of the “smell of onions frying in a skillet.”

Smyth not only gives us the vivid recreation of one woman’s memory world. but allows that woman to become the rememberer of several people’s stories, of three generations of living. We not only see Alice recreates herself by remembering her mother and father, but how they too become more whole for the reader because of Alice’s memories of their parents, her grandparents. The purpose of all this remembering is to give the individual a firm center so that “when people change we hold on tight to a perfect memory.”

But Smyth’s characters are not disembodied voices weaving memory in isolation from others. A mother and daughter work their way through a liquor cabinet while resurrecting their pasts. A typical post mortem between father and daughter is framed by the daughter’s sensibility which moves from the mundane, to the sensual to the imagistic and toward the philosophical:

Ran out of cigarettes, smoked my father’s Exports, a haze of

dragon smoke, and now my throat aches. He cried whiskey tears

for old loves, his mother, my mother. His stale breath makes me

feel so old makes me feel tired. I can only nod, yes, yes, and my

elbows slide onto the arborite table. I look at him with swollen

eyes and he pushes my bangs off my forehead and whispers,

Lorna, Lorna, But I’m not Lorna, I’m Alice and the sun is an orange

ball of wool dancing in the sky. Heredity is the sliding blue vein.

The reader dependant on the temporality of novelistic style may find herself occasionally impatient with Smyth’s prose poems, but the brief seventy-four page text has a gathering force which gives an intimate knowledge of the protaganist’s world. Perhaps Smyth’s editors might have helped her amend passages where her desire for simple, clear images leads her to use too many similarly constructed short declarative sentences, but these are only occasional and are offset by the very real accomplishment of the book, which is to take us into a world in which identity is created by an act of the imagination. The many beloved “others” of the past are remade in the present consciousness of the individual. Thus identity is dependent on relationship, not ego consciobouusness.

I don’t wish to end this brief look at these four works with facile generalizations about the “direction” of women writing in Manitoba today. Each of these women has her own direction. Each book offers the reader a separate experience. Kamboureli’s book has the special power of the autobiographical persona, in which writer, narrator, and main character are the same person, and exert the full impact of the three-in-one personality of the reader. Anyone who is a reader of autobiography will understand the immediacy and intimacy such accounts produce. Lester’s book offers one of the first unabashedly feminist collections that has been published in Manitoba, and as such may mark a new (and long overdue) direction for women writing. Shields’s short stories give those of us who followed the progress of her work the satisfaction of seeing an important Manitoba writer enter a new phase of accomplishment. Smyth offers us a formal experiment in the novel that bridges distance between prose and poetry. Yet, whatever their individual achievements may be, these writers share a common concern about identity, relationships with others, and the place of imagination. The pleasure of their texts arises from both their similar concerns and their contrasting modes of presentation. Moving from Kamboureli to Lester, to Shields to Smyth is to experience both the continuity and variety in recent Manitoba women’s writing.


Tanya Lester, author of Dreams and Tricksters included in is review, has been a practicing intuitive reader, specializing in tea leaf reading and tarot, for over 20 years now. She is also a Reiki master and fulltime housesitter. Her website at explores her work in greater detail. She also has pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google as well being a member of Align. To book her services, text or call her at 2505380086 or email her at

To read more posts in this eclectic blog of a variety of writing on many themes and interests, go to and

Tanya’s books are available in some library systems and the last two titles listed here can be purchased from her or from  The titles of them are: Dreams and Tricksters, Women Rights/Writes, Friends I Never Knew and Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader. 


continued from last post…New Directions: four books by Manitoba women

February 10, 2018

This post is a continuation of the lo ast two posts.

I realize I did not input the last paragraph of the part of the book review that refers to my book, Dreams and Tricksters, so I will begin this post with the last paragraph pertaining to my book and continue from there.

This is a big, important part of the review because it examines a book by Carol Shields. Yes, I am in the company of that Carol Shields. The Governor General, Pulitzer Prize, Booker Prize winning author who lived in Winnipeg at the time that this book review was written and went on to spend the last years of her life in Victoria.

I remember running in to her in the washroom at the Winnipeg Art Gallery during a writing event. “Hello,” I said, thinking her face looked very familiar.

“Do I know you?,” she asked.

It was later that it dawned on me she was the Carol Shields. If I had remembered who that familiar face was in time, I would have liked to have said, “No but I know who you are.”

In those days, I guess she was still hoping for some privacy as this was pre-Booker Prize winning days. When she did win that award, I remember a writer and English professor from University of Manitoba confiding in me how, when they had a celebration honouring her, it brought together all the many factions of the city’s writing community.

A rare occasion, indeed.

Anyway, let’s continue on….

Prairie Fire

Volume VII, No. 3

New Directions: four books by Manitoba women

by Margaret Clarke

continued from last two posts…

I doubt however that there are very many editors in a position to get a book-length fiction about social-activist women published. Sadly, I think most editors would want the writer to betray her feminist philosophical basis in favour of a smoother surface to her stories. For writers like Lester, self-publishing may be the only viable route at present.

Whatever instinct led Carol Shields to collect her previously published short fiction (two thirds of the titles have appeared elsewhere) in Various Miracles, was certainly a good one. In these short stories, some of them almost personal essays, Shields’s two vigorous talents come together: her ability to enliven characters who live in their relationships more than their egos (often without their conscious knowledge), and her keen but gentle irony in her recent books. Perhaps “Mrs. Turner Cutting the Grass” is the best illustration of the strength of the collection. The opening sentence, “Oh, Mrs. Turner is a sight cutting the grass on a hot afternoon in June!” invites us into Shields’s ironic vision of an old woman who is more the “subject” than the main character of the several stories within a story that follow.

One story is the heavily ironic “long poem” of a university writer who, after seeing Mrs. Turner touring Japan with her sisters, writes a scathingly humourous piece featuring Mrs. Turner’s “pink pantsuit” and “grapefruity buttocks.” The undergraduates are predictably blown away with hilarity. Another story is the ironic narrator’s who reveals, while making light of all adversities, the courage and the optimism with which Mrs. Turner has faced her sometimes difficult life, while never giving way to bitterness. Mrs. Turner is a victim who manages to get the better of a bad system by luck, good health, and her ability to outlive a kindly husband. Reading between the lines, or just below the surface, we find various perspectives. For the male poet of rare sensibility, she is all that is mundane and laughable in our world. For her neighbours she is the unenlightened queen of pesticides. For the teenagers walking past her lawn as she mows in shorts, she is beneath contempt. For some of us Mrs. Turner may well be a heroine. All views are valid in Shields’s world. The special miracle of the writer’s craft is to give us Mrs. Turner in all her prismatic glory, making her the “rare ornament” she truly is.vo

Shields prefaces her book with Emily Dickenson’s instruction to “tell all the truth but tell it slant.” This slant allows for some devastating undercutting of prescribed viewpoints in fiction. “Flitting Behaviour, ” her story of the prototypical le best-selling (but still literary) novelist, portrays the man not from the position of his greatness but as he appears as nurse to his wife, who while dying of cancer, is withdrawing the strength on which the novelist’s talent nourished itself. Moving from the writer’s view to the viewpoint of her female editor, Shields shows how the writer’s need for sustenance has already switched his loyalties to a new source while the man himself continues his last ministrations to his wife.

Many of Shields’s stories are about writer figures, and about their relation to the feminine. The “adbridger” in “Accidents,” carefully abridges reality in order to protect her wife’s feelings (or is it to keep her wife’s feeling for himself alone?). In “Sailors Lost at Sea,” the daughter of a mother who is also a poet, scoffs at her mother’s sentimentality, while beginning to experience some of the magic of her mother’s feeling for place. In “Poaching,” two writer figures drive around England picking up hitch-hikers and pumping them for their stories.

As well, there are stories that show the sweetness and bitterness of the life choices women find, often to their surprise, they have made. In “Taking the Train”, “Fragility,” and “Others,” Shields creates a world in which the female doesn’t so much choose her life directions but, with the aid of imagination, makes the best of what life has chosen for her. My favorite illustration of this principle is “The Journal,” in which a middle-class wife recreates the very ordinary events of a European adventure, and the not so bon mots of her husband, in the much more lovely words of her diary. After a night of sexual ecstacy, the diarist, trained in the literary conventions of what is correct to record in one’s travel journal, comments only that “H. and I slept well.” In many ways Various Miracles says that given the confining nature of life, men and women, but especially women, get the lives their imaginations create for them…. to be continued…


To read more posts in this blog of eclectic witings by and about Tanya Lester, go to and

Besides Dreams and Tricksters, Tanya also wrote Women Rights/Writes, Friends I Never Knew and Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader. These books are available in some library systems. Dreams and Confessions can be bought from the author or from

Tanya has worked for over two decades as a tea leaf reader and tarot reader. She is also a Reiki master and a fulltime housesitter. Her web site is  Her pages are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. To book a reading or arrange for a housesit,  text or call her at 2505380086 or email: