Where is Joanna?

I am in Vancouver of all places! Last Tuesday, an email from my sister told of our Uncle Lewis’ passing. He was 98 and a finer gentleman never lived.

“You have missed a lot of funerals, weddings and other family events,” said Jorge, “You should attend this one!”

I felt so grateful for his understanding, and I quickly got in gear. I found myself in the friendly skies the very next day.

I will write more about my time here in a day or two… This is a full family day for me, but I would like to share something I read on one of my favorite writers’ blogs this morning. Nathan Bransford is a former literary agent who keeps his fingers on the keyboard. He has written several books, and like mine, his are available on Amazon.

I have written before about this “Catch 22” situation… here’s an excerpt of what Nathan has to say:

Read a book you love and want to let the author know how much you enjoyed their work?

Do it publicly. Write a review…

when writers hear directly from readers via email – yes, absolutely, those notes are deeply appreciated, but I’ve heard more than one writer say they are tempted to shout from the mountaintops, “PLEASE SAY THAT ON AMAZON.” …

You can read Nathan’s full post: here

Hopefully readers everywhere will hear the message and give us some feedback on the social media sites. It is so important.


How does you garden grow?

On Mother’s Day I took pictures in my garden… I don’t know the scientific names of all the plants, but I love their shapes and the way they light up in the sun.

A window to the sky
A window to the sky
The green wall
The green wall
Rosa Mexicana
Rosa Mexicana
A fig for you
A fig for you
Crown of Thorns
Crown of Thorns
Oo - la - la Lily
Oo – la – la Lily
Desert Rose
Desert Rose
Maggie's Orchid
Maggie’s Orchid
Feathered Orchid
Feathered Orchid
Beach Orchid
Beach Orchid


Try it on for Size

If you are around me for more than five minutes, you’ll learn that I am a writer. I am always happy talking about my works in progress, the memoir class I facilitate, this blog and the books I have published. Writing is a big part of my life.

Not everyone realizes that it is a relatively new creative pursuit for me. I only began to take it seriously in 2007. Prior to that I’d spent thirty years as a mom, teacher, cook, chauffeur, shopper, etc, etc…

I did not always dream of becoming a writer; when I was young I wanted to be an artist. I loved painting, and I told my father that I planned to apply to art school.

“No daughter of mine is going to die in some garret!” he thundered in reply.

You see, his own father had been a talented artist but he never made much money from selling his paintings. Dad did not want to see me meet the same fate.

So I quit. After high school I put away my brushes and oils. And that was it, until my son Carlos gave me an easel for Christmas in 2009. Attached to one of the legs I found a note:

Mom I think it’s time for you to take this up again…

It surprised me that even though I had not drawn in more than thirty years, I could still render a bit. I have not worked constantly at my drawing and painting, but over the past six years, I have improved little by little. As I did in my high school art class, I like to copy the masters. If you don’t have a model, art books are an option.

But I also like to add my own touches… I do this with recipes too. I like to improvise! Maybe one day I will discover my own “style”.

Once a week, Manuel Ontiveros, my art teacher, comes to my studio at TTT. He is a wonderful painter himself and has helped me regain a lot of the skills I lost during my three paintless decades

Today I finished a painting based on Claude Monet’s, Palazzo da Mula. I enjoyed working on this piece so much. The colors and the light make me feel peaceful and relaxed.

I don’t think we should listen when people say it isn’t possible to be creative and active as we age. If you think you’d like to write, paint, play the piano or whatever… why don’t you give yourself a gift, and try it on for size.

It doesn’t matter if you think your results are marvelous or mediocre, if you enjoy what you are learning and creating, it’s all good. MAY 12 2015 3

“Cinco de Mayo” and “Mei Vijfde”

In Mexico we’ve had the day off to commemorate Cinco de Mayo. Outside of the country, this “holiday” is often confused with Día de la Independencia on September 16.

Actually, victory of the Mexican army over the French forces on May 5, 1862 is the event that is remembered on Cinco de Mayo, (May 5th)

5 de Mayo: the Battle of Puebla
5 de Mayo: the Battle of Puebla

After the Mexican-American war ended, the country was so impoverished that President Benito Juaréz ordered a moratorium on the payment of international debt. In response, a well-armed French fleet attacked the port of Veracruz, driving President Juárez and his government into retreat. On May 5th, near Puebla, at the Mexican forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, 6,000 French soldiers engaged the much smaller and poorly equipped Mexican army of 2,000. Yet the Mexicans managed to decisively defeat the French, who at the time were considered “the premier army in the world.”

The victory significantly boosted the morale of the Mexican army and the Mexican people at large. Unfortunately for Mexico, the French rebounded and more devastating violence ensued. The sense of pride did not last for long.

The same date, May 5th , or Mei Vijfde, as it is called in The Netherlands commemorates a different struggle. During World War II, the Dutch were occupied by the Nazis. The final year was particularly brutal. Food, fuel and other basic necessities had become so scarce by 1945 that more than 20,000 people died of starvation.

The Allied troops entered the country early in 1945, and slogged their way towards Amsterdam. They formally liberated the city on May 5th, and the jubilant population came out in droves to greet them.

The Canadian army liberates Amsterdam
The Canadian army liberates Amsterdam

My father, John was one of those Canadian soldiers, and his cousin. Gisèle was one of the captive Dutch citizens. Until the end of the war, she hid her Jewish friends in a tiny apartment on the Herengracht, one of the main canals in Amsterdam. She risked everything to feed and protect them. Had they been found, they all would have been killed.

When Dad discovered his cousin and her friends, he took them food. She never forgot that.

In fact, the nation never forgot the Canadians’ actions during WW II. As a gesture of their appreciation, every year the Dutch monarchy sends thousands of tulip bulbs to Canada. They have been planted everywhere, and after seventy years, the tulips have multiplied. From north to south and east to west, Canada’s countryside is blanketed by the Dutch flowers.

Dutch tulips line Canada's parks and rodaways
Dutch tulips line Canada’s parks and roadways

I often reflect what a shame it is that peace has not gained such a firm foothold on our poor planet.

800 and counting…

This is my 800th blog post. I don’t know what you think, but I am kind-of blown away by that. So today, I give you, a few musings about my writing projects over the years.

I always liked writing but I had little time for long projects; I wrote a weekly column for The Mexico City News from 1980 – 1992, published a few travel pieces and wrote lots and lots of letters. In 2007, I decided to try something full length and to my surprise, people seemed to enjoy my self-published, Tomando Agua de Pozo. It was picked up by a publisher, I extensively edited it, and Magic Made in Mexico was born. I was a commercially published author. Heady stuff!

magicmadeinmexico11In 2010, at the San Miguel Writers’ Conference, I heard over and over again that a blog could help virtually unknown writers (like me) reach readers all over the globe. By that point, I had published the two books. The following year I would contribute to a volume of short stories, compiled by the Merida Writers Group, and my novel, The Woman Who Wanted the Moon would be published at the end of 2013.

OK – thought I – Let’s give this a shot!

My friend and fellow author, Dr Lorraine Bailie Bowie, had also recently finished her book, The Science of Finding Love that Lasts, and she too wanted to write a blog. We contacted our friend, Debi, a well-know blogger in Merida, and asked how we could get started. She graciously agreed to show us, and that afternoon, Writing From Merida was launched.

Having never been a person who keeps her opinions to herself, I twwtmcoverthumbloved blogging. I had found a medium where I could write about whatever struck my fancy. In my posts I have addressed LOTS of diverse topics, and over time, my blog has been accessed more than 450,000 times.

All those hits have not led to a lot of interest in my books, but I have gained experience. Writing From Merida has improved my overall writing – composing blog posts is an excellent writing exercise. However, it takes quite a bit of time out of my day, and so when I have a lot going on, the blog gets pushed to one side.

The three most popular posts I have written are:

¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe!

Illness or Death in Mexico

Hacienda Uayalcéh de Peón

ouryucatan-cover-206x300I find it odd that these three very different posts garnered so much attention. Who can tell what people will find interesting at any given time?

If you enjoy reading blogs, you will have noticed there are fewer than before. Facebook and other social media take less time and reach a wider audience; so many former bloggers now put their energy into a presence on these sites. I tried Facebook for a short time, but I wasn’t a fan. Nonetheless, when my new book is released this summer, I will probably return to Facebook as a way to promote it.

Social media is evolving all the time, and it is mind-boggling to me.

My first blog card
My first blog card

Yes, we have the means to reach hundreds of thousands of people, but the Kindle and other e-readers have made it hard for book stores to stay afloat.

Book stores are a dying breed and, as a reader and a writer, I mourn that. I know there are those who will disagree. In large cities, there are still some successful retailers. However, in smaller places, this is not the case.

But I digress…

Today, I want to thank everyone who reads Writing From Merida. I enjoy receiving your comments – I hope you’ll continue to follow.

Writing and Intercultural Living…


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