Tall Wanderers


Beth_portrait _2use_sm

February 2008

Welcome to my newsletter! Thanks to everyone who responded to my last one, and to those of you who have asked to receive it.


Azuba is the working title of my new novel, which now has a publishing date of April, 2009. In this newsletter, I’ve been taking you along with me on this journey of getting a novel finished, edited, and into the bookstores. When I last wrote, I had just started a new draft, in which I was revising from my editor’s notes. I was still going up to my cabin in the woods. Now, my walk to work is going upstairs and closing myself into my office. Here’s our house.


I’ve just finished this draft, about 500 pages. In this go-round, I’ve made some shifts in chronology, fleshed out minor characters, added some new characters, and made sure that I’ve take the reader deeply into the inner lives of the main characters.

In the next stage, my editor Angelika Glover will make sure all the novel’s elements are working: gripping story-line, strong underlying theme, robust characters, and proper pacing. Some (or all!) of these things will be tweaked. That will constitute yet another draft.

Here’s a picture of my desk.

-b's office 70

While I wait for Angelika to do her work, I will be going off to the Notre-Dame de l’Assomption Abbey in Rogersville, NB. This is a cloistered monastery with a guest-house that welcomes writers. I’ll be meeting Nova Scotian author Anne Simpson (look for her wonderful new novel, “Falling”), going to some of the liturgical hours, and writing. I grew up as a Quaker, so this will be a fascinating experience. I’ll tell you about it.


This is almost like the winters of old: one snow storm coming on the heels of the last. Our house feels like a lodge at a ski area, with cross-country skis propped against the wall behind the wood stove, and wooden racks hung with wet mittens, hats, and socks. The birds and animals are more visible, birds brilliant against the sparkling snow, animals making lovely blue-shadowed tracks. One cold afternoon, as Peter and I skiied in falling snow, miraculously, it seemed, a rare bald eagle appeared in the grey, flake-filled sky. It circled over us, great wings beating, flying low over the pond. We’ve seen moose, glooming like tall wanderers on the dirt road. A bob cat bounded across the road and vanished beneath the snow-laden branches of the spruce trees. A fox trotted on the icy crust at the pasture’s edge. And we’ve been graced with uncommon visitors: huge flocks of pine grosbeaks (vivid red), tiny redpolls with pinkish-red breasts, and, most dramatically, the taiga-dwelling Northern Shrike, an imperious, hawk-like creature known as “the Butcher Bird” for its habit of impaling its kills (rodents and small birds) on thorns and barbs!

FEb 2008 newsletter



The “climate change project” is what I call our own efforts to reduce our carbon footprint (see previous newsletters.) (LINK) Now we’re working on heating our own water with a wood cookstove and solar panels. We found a Waterford Stanley cast iron kitchen range in Maine, had it shipped here, and are in the process of restoring it. Then we’ll install a system where, if there’s not sunshine to heat the water , we can fire up the woodstove.

I am heartened by the growing number of citizen action groups concerned with the environment. Here in Sussex, I’m involved with starting a local chapter of our provincial Conservation Council. We will be able to work on issues specific to our community, while having access to the resources of a parent organization. And as for community itself, that lively interchange between people sharing a common landscape, whether it be a valley like ours, or a Toronto street: here in Markhamville, the valley women are stretching a quilt at the “cookhouse” across from the United Church. Once a week, we will fire up the wood stove, and get together to quilt. We’ll raffle off the quilt and use the money to keep our little country church alive. After researching Azuba, which takes place not only on a 19th century sailing ship, but also in a New Brunswick coastal village, this communal effort makes me feel connected to the past, and to a new vision of the future.

Here is a link to an article about climate change issues that I recently had published in the Toronto Star. (LINK)


Last November, I visited with a wonderful group of readers in Fort Myers, Florida. All were in their 80’s, and inspired me with their energy and enthusiasm for life. I love to visit with readers,whether it be a book club, or a meeting around a kitchen table.

This year, Peter and I are going to the Arctic in September, for a 10 day expedition on the M/V Orlova. Geologists, botanists, artists, and historians will be on-board. It is a part of our country we have longed dreamed of visiting.We have embarked on a reading program to prepare.


All I can say is….they’re buried under 3’ of snow, and I’m ordering my seeds. But here’s a photo to warm your hearts, and fill you with the hope of the earth’s miraculous rebirth.



Thank you so much for writing to me. Warmest best wishes to you all,