We remember you … Maya Angelou

Today we lost one of literature’s most endearing, inspiring, brilliant leaders, Maya Angelou.

She was known for many things – actress, director, producer, teacher, activist, but perhaps what set her apart was her brilliant contribution to the world of literature as a poet and writer. In her autobiography, “Caged Bird”, Maya Angelou challenged the common structure of writing by producing work that her editor, Robert Loomis called, “high art”.

In honour of her life and the inspiration she has left with us, I’d like to share some of her words. They will continue to enlighten us in her passing.

Words mean more than what is set down on paper.
It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.


If you don’t like something, change it.
If you can’t change it, change your attitude.


I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.


My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept the love in return.


Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.


There is no greater agony than bearing
an untold story inside you.


Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.


We may encounter many defeats
but we must not be defeated.


If you have only one smile in you
give it to the people you love.

If you find it in your heart to care for somebody else,
you will have succeeded.


Life loves the liver of it.

Rest in peace Maya.

Great article remembering Maya Angelou by Jian Ghomeshi


Words on a Limb Interviews Lisa Dalrymple

Lisa Dalrymple has lived with chickens in South Korea, a cat in Scotland, swam with sharks and a gecko (in her shower) in Thailand, swam and fished for piranha in the Amazon River – but she has never EVER shared a home with a polar bear. Between all her adventures, she’s also made some time to write several inspiring children’s books, including the award winning Skink on the Brink.

She lives with her husband in Fergus, Ontario, Canada. They have three energetic and imaginative kids who it would be only right to credit as co-creators of many of her children’s stories.

Skink on the Brink won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Canada 2014 and has also been nominated for a Rainforest of Reading award in Grenada. A Moose Goes A’Mummering, her next book, is due to be released in October 2014.

We caught up with busy Lisa, if only to put her under our Author’s Spotlight. Let me tell you, we enjoyed it. Here’s Lisa!

About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, so I don’t actually recall a time before I knew it was something I wanted to do. I do, however, recall the first time I submitted to a publisher. I was twelve and it was a middle-grade adventure story à la Nancy Drew or Trixie Beldon. I sent it to Grolier, the encyclopedia people, to ask if they would be interested in considering it for publication. Needless to say, they weren’t. (However, they did send me a very nice rejection letter.)

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
As a reader and as a writer I go through phases. I often get so involved in another writer’s world that I find myself starting to write in a similar manner. I have to remind myself to step away in order to find my own voice again. Even then, there continue to be times when I hear in my own writing the influence of writers I’ve previously (and still) adore, like Margaret Laurence or Daphne Marlatt–or even as far back as Roger Hargreaves (of Mr. Men fame.)

When and where do you prefer to write?
At the risk of sounding like a difficult artist, I do need complete silence, with no distractions, in order to be able to write. As luck would have it, we live in an old house, with poor insulation and 3 incredibly energetic (read: loud) children. Needless to say, I just have to write whenever and wherever I can find a moment–which isn’t really often enough. As luck would also have it, however, I do tend to be able to write in just about any physical location. I actually have an old shelf, pulled from a bookcase, which journeys with me from room to room–to front porch, to front seat of our van, to anywhere else that I may be able to hide, curled up with my laptop on my knees.
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When I Get Older …

GravatarHappy Monday everyone.  Last week my wonderful OISE student, Ms. P., began a unit in my Kindergarten class about Community Helpers.  I was inspired by all the books and dialogue so I wrote a poem about it – When I Get Older.  This week students will have a chance to reflect on the various roles and write about what they’d like to do when they are older.  Feel free to download a copy of the poem (link or image below). The follow-up writing piece is included. Have a wonderful week.

~ Lora

When I get older
When I Get Older

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When I Get Older by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

My Favourites – May 2014

GravatarMy recent visits to the library and bookstores have revealed a bountiful selection of rich children’s literature. I put together a list of some of my favourites. I hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Please feel free to comment below each title and share your thoughts and opinions. Have a great weekend everyone.

The Most Magnificent ThingReaders pick
by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press

Award-winning author and illustrator Ashley Spires has created a charming picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. The girl has a wonderful idea. “She is going to make the most MAGNIFICENT thing! She knows just how it will look. She knows just how it will work. All she has to do is make it, and she makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” But making her magnificent thing is anything but easy, and the girl tries and fails, repeatedly. Eventually, the girl gets really, really mad. She is so mad, in fact, that she quits. But after her dog convinces her to take a walk, she comes back to her project with renewed enthusiasm and manages to get it just right. For the early grades’ exploration of character education, this funny book offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. The girl’s frustration and anger are vividly depicted in the detailed art, and the story offers good options for dealing honestly with these feelings, while at the same time reassuring children that it’s okay to make mistakes. The clever use of verbs in groups of threes is both fun and functional, offering opportunities for wonderful vocabulary enrichment. The girl doesn’t just “make” her magnificent thing — she “tinkers and hammers and measures,” she “smoothes and wrenches and fiddles,” she “twists and tweaks and fastens.” These precise action words are likely to fire up the imaginations of youngsters eager to create their own inventions and is a great tie-in to learning about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

Whimsy’s Heavy ThingsReaders pick

by Julie Kraulis
Tundra Books

Whimsy’s heavy things are weighing her down. She tries to sweep them under the rug, but she trips over them. She tries to put them in a tree, but they fall on her. She even tries to sail them out to sea, but they always come back. Eventually Whimsy decides to deal with the heavy things one at a time… and a surprising thing happens. With exquisite illustrations and delightfully simple text, Whimsy’s Heavy Things is a sweet story about changing the things that weigh us down into the things that lift us up. Continue reading

Artists on a Limb – Shades of Perfection

GravatarHello and welcome to our newest feature, Artists on a Limb.

On occasion we will post some art pieces and invite you to write a caption that captures the essence of the image. 

Thank you Carl for capturing our first Words on Art.

girl in tree-Recovered

I wake.  

Slowly I turn over in bed hoping to catch
a glimpse of the centre of my world.
She is not there.
For a nanosecond, dread overcomes me
as dark memories of a similar nightmare
run through my mind.
But just as quickly, the fear vanishes
as I see your bare back stretched
in front of the villa’s bay window.
I take a mental picture.

The sun is shining, almost through you.
The curtains are swaying in the breeze,
enveloping you as if reading my mind.
Your hair is calm beneath an elegant sombrero.
Interesting shadows hit your body in odd places,
calling attention to all your shades of perfection.
I drink it all in, enjoying every moment.
As always, you sense me around you
and I see a smile break.

Here is our next art piece.  Let’s get creative.  Send in your captions, writing pieces, poems, to wordsonalimb@bell.net.  The selected entry will be posted in our next Words on Art feature.


Sad girl

Have a great week!


Creative Commons License
Shades of Perfection by Lora Rozler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Words on a Limb Interviews Pollyanna Darling

Pollyanna Darling began writing short stories, cartoon strips and poetry at age four and has a passionate love of high quality literature for children and young adults. She has four boisterous children (all boys) and lives on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Back in the mists of time, Pollyanna was vigorously dissuaded from writing by a well-meaning careers officer. She dabbled in diverse and curious jobs before deciding that writing had her by the heart and wasn’t going to let go. Her intuitive life coaching work led to the publication of her first book in 2011, a self-help guide for adults: The Relationship Revelation, which won gold in the the Living Now Book Awards (USA) in 2012.

Pollyanna has since discovered that writing for children offers many opportunities for fun, mischief and magic. After a two year creative process with Victorian artist Kirsty Chalmers, she completed and published Heartwood (2013): a hand-illustrated, first chapter book for kids who are beginning to read independently.

Words on a Limb had a chance to sit with Pollyanna and learn her story.

About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
I learned to read at 2 years old as my mother was very passionate about education. By the time I turned 9, I’d read all the children’s books I could lay my hands on, and began on the walls of adult books that lined our house. I have loved words for as long as I can remember – their power to hurt, to heal, to ignite imagination, to take the reader deep. I began creating poetry, short stories and
cartoon strips as soon as I could write. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer, but I was talked out of it by a well-meaning careers officer – too many writers, can’t make a living etc etc. I know now (regardless of income), that if you ignore the internal drive to create, life becomes flat and meaningless.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
As a child I loved the Narnia series and I devoured ghost stories, but I distinctly remember discovering Fear of Flying by Erica Jong, a book I sneaked from the shelf when I was 12. In those startling pages I found the edgy, fascinating world of feminist literature. My own writing has been influenced both by the heroic hope of the great children’s writers and the holistic world view of feminist writers. I also love the majestic Russian story-tellers (like Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) and the magical realism of Marquez and others.

When and where do you prefer to write?
As a mother of four, time can be a scarce commodity, so I seize the opportunities that arise. I have learned to be self-disciplined around this, it’s too easy to fritter away the time I could spend writing. If a couple of hours loom, I jump on them! My favourite place to write is my bed, but I feel wickedly indulgent doing that, so move around the house – my office, a table on the verandah gazing out at cows, or a cafe in town.
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Words on a Limb Interviews Karen Autio

Karen-Autio-AuthorKaren Autio is the author of a trilogy of historical novels for young readers. She writes about events in Canada’s history that haven’t had much attention: the sinking of the Empress of Ireland, tuberculosis and living in a sanatorium; spies, sabotage and internment during the First World War.

Karen also focuses on the value of family stories and heritage. When her Finnish-Canadian grandmother gave her a silver spoon and told her its tale, Karen had no idea it would lead her into a whole novel’s worth of words. She learned that her grandmother’s Finnish friends had members of their family from Port Arthur who died in the wreck of the Empress of Ireland. Karen researched the steamship and wove the ship’s story into fictional Saara’s life in SECOND WATCH.

About writing …

When did you first realize you wanted to become a writer?
While I enjoyed writing and illustrating stories as a kid and thought I’d be a children’s book illustrator when I grew up, I followed a different path in university, studying computer science. A few years after graduating, I took a course on children’s books and chose to write a story as my final project. That was my first inkling that I wanted to become a writer, but it wasn’t until 1998 that I realized I wanted to devote my time, energy, and creativity to writing for young readers.

What book(s) has most influenced your writing?
The Dr. Seuss Beginner’s Dictionary played an important role in turning me into a lover of words. Julie Lawson’s historical novel Goldstone about Swedish immigrants in the early 1900s in British Columbia was an inspirational model for me as I was writing my first historical novel called Second Watch about Finnish immigrants in 1914 Port Arthur, Ontario, and their involvement with the sinking of the Empress of Ireland steamship. A book about the writing process that I frequently reread is Take Joy: A Book for Writers by Jane Yolen.

When and where do you prefer to write?
Morning is my best time to write, although I’ve been found writing late into the night when a deadline is looming. I prefer quiet. I filled a spiral notebook while writing Second Watch and wrote scenes out of order. Writing Saara’s Passage and Sabotage was entirely different. I wrote both in a linear fashion from a detailed outline directly on my computer.
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Interview with Aubrey Davis

GravatarHello everyone. A couple of weeks ago I reached out to one of my favourite Canadian authors, the incomparable Aubrey Davis, who I met many years ago when he was kind enough to autograph a copy of Bagels From Benny for my kids. I asked if we could connect and learn about his journey as a writer. When we got news that he was available, we set up some time and had a chat with Mr. Davis. Here is his story. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed bringing it to you.

I’m Mauricio, managing editor at WOAL, and I had the unique privilege of spending some moments with one of Canada’s most cherished story-tellers and children’s authors. A world traveler, he has mastered the gift of recounting timeless traditional tales in both the oral and written disciplines for a modern day audience. We had a chance to reflect on writing, culture, books, movies, the state of the education but most indulging of all, to me, the distinct art of story-telling. He joined us via Skype from sunny downtown Toronto, on of all days, Mother’s Day.

Welcome Mr. Davis. We know early on you began your career as a story-teller, what inspired you to become a writer?

It began when I was a kid, I was 9 years old and I lived next door to a writer. I never spoke to him about his writing, nor did I see any of his writing, I just lived next door to him. One day I woke up and felt, I want to be a writer too. I kind of caught it like a cold. So I bugged my mom for a typewriter, and a great big Webster’s Dictionary and I started to write.

What I loved to write back then was funny things. I really loved humour. I was a fan of Mad Magazine and the Bible. I was a religious kid on my own, not through my parents. And I just kept writing funny things until grade 8.

Who were some of your champions supporting you early on? And what happened in Grade 8?

I think it was when I was a kid, my 6th grade teacher. I noticed all the other kids got their stories handed back to them and I was the only one that didn’t get a story back. I didn’t know what was going on. He read my story to the whole class, with tears of laughter running down his cheeks. And I thought “Oh, this is nice”. I loved to write in school.

I had a grade 8 teacher that wrote, “There’s nothing worse than humour poorly done”. That shut me down, and I didn’t write again until I was I was about 40 and I came into story-telling.

How did teaching shape your writing? Continue reading

Set to Self-Destruct in 5, 4, 3, 2…


Type, type, type, look up, repeat…

Take a walk through a mall and look around. Sit in a movie theatre and observe. Go to a restaurant and watch.  What do you notice?

A mother multitasking, pushing a screeching baby in a stroller while trying to keep up with her phone.

A frustrated man commands, “Turn off your phone,” to someone yapping away in the peak of a movie.

A couple sitting across from each other at a restaurant, hands extended across the table, but not holding hands – holding their phones.


Is it just me or have we lost touch with life? Continue reading