My Town Monday and the Fifa 2010 World Cup of Soccer - the Winnipeg Connection

No, my town, Winnipeg, doesn't have one of our fine athletes playing for one of the national teams over in South Africa. Some day though, we will, because we have a thriving youth soccer scene.

But we have two thrilling connections, none-the-less.

The first is Hector Vergara who is one of the refs. Hector actually went to the same high school as me - albeit a decade later. At a soccer awards banquet I once heard him deliver a soul-inspiring talk about how hard work can make dreams come true. He's an awesome example of this. Born in Chile, he's now officiating at his third world cup - which is quite an achievement. Being a ref at a soccer game is a very tough job. And it's the kind of job that only gets noticed when you mess up. So congrats to Hector, you make Winnipeg proud. He worked the Portugal/Brazil game last Friday and more games will depend on the evaluation of that game. It's a tough, tough field.

Winnipeg’s Hector Vergara is thrilled to be reffing at his third World Cup.
(Photo from the Associated Press Archives)

Then there's another quiet, mostly unnoticed, but extremely important Winnipeg connection to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. I'll give you a clue: it's green. No, not the Portugal jerseys. It's the grass. The grass seed was supplied by a local Winnipeg company called Pickseed Canada. Read more about it here.

Soccer Ball On The Grass

So, go teams, go. No matter who you're cheering for (I was thrilled with Germany's Sunday win over England) remember that my town of Winnipeg is right in there, supporting them all!

My Town Monday - The Harte Trail

I’m going to try following and participating in the ‘My Town Monday’ blog by Travis Erwin. While I don’t live in a high profile place like San Diego or NYC , I shall try to prove that my town is every bit as interesting. I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba – pop. about 700,000. It’s a place where currently there are way more mosquitoes than humans (excuse me while I swat, scratch, and temporarily go mad).

Let me start off close to home on the Harte Trail. It’s 6.5 kilometers long (about 3 miles). This former CP Rail line (built in 1894) is part of the Trans Canada Trail. My dog and I explore it on an almost daily basis. There’s no motorized traffic allowed on the trail and this makes it a calm escape from city life.

This morning’s sensory delights included: seeing five or six deer munching in a brilliant yellow canola field, hearing frogs croak their little lungs out, tasting the first ripening Saskatoon berries, feeling the sweet south wind in the open areas, and smelling the delicate scent of the pink wild roses. (I think that includes all five senses!) There’s always something new on this trail as it cuts through a farmer's field, prairie grasses and trees, which include aspen, Siberian elm, chokecherries, and also Saskatoon bushes.

Because of the heavy rains this spring, mallard ducks continue to hang out in puddles that normally dry out. Sometimes I hear woodpeckers loudly knocking on wood, and there’s often a rabbit scurrying across the trail. (This is where I must hold tight to that leash!)

Joggers, bike riders, and dog walkers all use the trail. Exercising in a natural setting on an historic trail, which is part of a national trail system, makes ‘my town’ a great place. If you ever do decide to trek across Canada, via foot or bike, make sure you stop by. We can watch a prairie sunset together. Just don’t forget the bug repellent!*

*Or hike/bike in the fall - when it's bug-free and even more perfect!

plum lesson

I planted a tree this week and learned a lesson that I'd like to share about writing. You see, about six years ago I planted a plum tree. I could already imagine all the plum jam and plum wine that I'd be serving to my family and friends. Trouble was, the beautiful plum tree grew and grew and flowered beautifully each spring. But there was no fruit. So, taking some friendly advice, I went out and bought a second plum tree. Cute little thing that became littler that first winter when our new dog pretended he was a deer and chewed it down. But I was patient. (After all, I'm a writer, patience is one of our defining qualities.)

But it turns out that this cute, little, chewed up plum tree will never bear fruit in my yard. Why? It's the wrong kind of plum tree. It's a cherry plum and my other tree is a European plum and the two don't cross-pollinate. So now I've dug out the cherry plum and put in a European plum (same but different than my first one - a very important point) and now I am again filled with hope. Someday I will have two trees giving me fresh plums, cellars full of wine, and juicy jams.

The writing connection? Writing has to find the right publisher to produce. Sending your work to the wrong place will result in no book. I'm giving my little outcast plum tree to another gardener. May it happily produce plums in the right yard. Of course, all fruit trees need bees to do the cross-pollination work - in the same way, perhaps, that authors need agents - those hardworking networkers of the publishing world.

I better stop right now and get writing.

More historical fiction

Have I ever mentioned that I love historical fiction?

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a New York Times Bestseller and needs no promotion from me. The book is written with two points of view. One is that of a young Jewish child - set in 1940s France. The other view is that of a contemporary American woman married to a French man. I love this technique of two narrators, but it is a complicated approach that needs a skilled writer. Maybe someday, I'd like to try it. I'm going to watch out for this type of writing. Suggestions welcomed.

The other recently read book is Best Friends Forever by Beverly Patt. It's for kids. Again this is a war story. (Why, does that horrible war continue to interest us so much?) It also has two points of view. The publisher, Marshall Cavendish, has done an amazing job with the layout. The book imitates a scrapbook filled with mementos and photos that a young girl collects over the course of a year or so. Letters between the two adolescent girls move the story forward. When one girl is sent to a Japanese detention camp, both struggle to understand why. Their friendship endures and grows. There's a bibliography at the back to continue researching this topic.

Historical fiction is for all age groups. It's a great way to try and understand the incomprehensible. By fictionalizing the past, it becomes personable. I think this is what attracts the readers. Don't we all want to get inside the heads of the people who lived, because of the quirks of time, out-of-the-ordinary lives?

I got to meet Claire and Monte Montgomery at the NBN booth during Book Expo. They're also signed with Blooming Tree. Their upcoming book, Marvin Invents Music, arrived in ARC (advance review copy) form just in time for their BookExpo signing. It was fun watching them see their new arrival for the first time. Marvin Invents Music has a great cover that exudes the same dynamic energy that vibrates out of Claire and Monte Montgomery. It was good to meet them and I wish them much success.

Here's a photo of them with their agent, Leslie Kaufmann.

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