Not your typical book club

Over the Christmas holidays, while lounging at my in-laws’ home in Northern California, I saw a Facebook post about the Amnesty International Book Club. Intrigued, I clicked on the link and quickly signed up to go “beyond the book.”

How could I not sign up? Reading and social activism are two activities that define me. Books have shaped my beliefs, guided my decisions and made me question myself and others. Protest marches, letter-writing campaigns, volunteer work have helped me put my thoughts into action. Both continuously remind me that the personal is always political.

The Amnesty International Book Club is reading A Recipe for Bees in January and February, a beautiful book written by the talented Canadian writer Gail Anderson-Dargatz. Writer Alan Bradley, author of the Flavia de Luce mystery series, who recommended the book, writes:

A Recipe for Bees grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and tossed me, as if I were a sack of grain, back to another time and another place—or two other times, to be perfectly honest.

Bradley provides discussion questions to consider as does Amnesty International. The latter also suggests an action that each member of the book club can take to, well, go beyond the book. It asks us to read the report We are not Animals to be Hunted or Sold – Violence and Discrimination against People with Albinism in Malawi and then call on the President of Malawi to protect people with albinism.

In March, the book club will read Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of the hit television series Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Want to join me?

Pssst…You can find the book club in all your favourite social media hangouts. Look for Amnesty International Book Club on Facebook,  @AmnestyReads on twitter, @AmnestyBookClub on Instagram and and join its discussion group on


25 Rejection Letters to Famous Authors

Has rejection got you down? You’re in good company. Check out this blog post by Kristen Twardowski to read stinging rejection letters sent to (now) famous authors. My favourite is #22.

Kristen Twardowski


I’ve mentioned before that to be a writer is to be rejected, but how have famous authors really been treated by the publishing industry? I’ve tracked down several excerpts from rejection letters to well-known authors and shared them below. Some of them are hysterical. Others are horrifying. But all of them offer a brief peek into the realm of publishing.

Rejection Letter Excerpts

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1. “You’d have a decent book if you’d get rid of that Gatsby Character.” – to F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

2. “Stick to teaching.” – to Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

3. “We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.” -to Stephen King, Carrie

4. “I rack my brains why a chap should need thirty pages to describe how he turns over in bed before going to sleep.” – to…

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Let the music play v.2

I co-facilitate a group that discusses concepts like invitation, blessing and creation from a Unitarian Universalist perspective. As I prepared for these discussions, I found myself compiling soundtracks, which isn’t surprising. Listening to music is, for me, a spiritual experience. When I listen to music, especially live performances, I enter a liminal space. I feel connected. At one.

The songs listed below explore what I do and do not believe, and why. They remind me of times when I accepted an invitation or received a blessing, like friendship, support, tough love. They also remind me to move through the world with more rhythm, more grace, more humour. They make up a highly subjective and somewhat quirky list of “soul” music.

These songs encompass the full spectrum of belief and disbelief. From theism to atheism. They also span different music genres: Americana, cabaret, folk, jazz, pop. Wherever you stand on the spiritual (or music) spectrum, I hope you find something here that makes your feet tap and  your heart sing.


Soul Matters

  1. “I love you and Buddha too” by Mason Jennings
  2. “Jesus are you real” by Mason Jennings
  3. “Teen for God” by Dar Williams
  4. “Take me to church” by Sinead O’Connor
  5. “Dear God” by XTC
  6. “Holy Now” by Peter Mayer
  7. “Church of the earth” by Peter Mayer




  1. “Life’s what you make it” by Graham Colton
  2. “Once a day” by Michael Franti & Spearhead
  3. “Save the children” by Gil Scott-Heron
  4. “Go where the love is” by Edie Brickell
  5. “As cool as I am” by Dar Williams
  6. “Spirit” by Amos Lee
  7. “Nobody asks” by Peter Mayer



  1. “Blessed” by Lucinda Williams
  2. “Blessed to be a witness” by Ben Harper
  3. “Good to be alive today” by Michael Franti & Spearhead
  4. “Kind & Generous” by Natalie Merchant
  5. “If  you ain’t got love” by Mason Jennings
  6. “Child of Nature” by Mason Jennings
  7. “I do not want what I have not got” by Sinead O’Connor
  8. “The Valley” by k.d. lang
  9. “My life” by John Boutte
  10. “I think I’ll call it morning” by Gil Scott Heron
  11. “What a wonderful world” by Louis Armstrong
  12. “Thank you” by Bonnie Raitt


Letting Go

  1. “Surrender and certainty” by Sarah McLachlan
  2. “Throw it away” by Abbey Lincoln
  3. “Here comes the sun” by Nina Simone
  4. “Let in Be” by The Beatles
  5. “Let it go” by Donavon Frankenreiter
  6. “Let it go” by Luba
  7. “Letting go” by Steffany Gretzinger
  8. “Bird on a wire” by Jennifer Warnes
  9. “Forever young” by Rhiannon Giddens & Bon Iver
  10. “Let it go” by Pentatonix



  1. “Waiting on the world to change” by John Mayer
  2. “There will be time” by Mumford & Sons
  3. “River” by Leon Bridges
  4. “Redemption song” by Macy Gray
  5. “I find it hard to say (Rebel)” by Ms. Lauryn Hill
  6. “Over the rainbow/What a wonderful world” by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
  7. “Watershed” by the Indigo Girls
  8. “The ones we couldn’t be” by Bonnie Raitt
  9. “Calling all angels” by k.d. lang & Jane Siberry
  10. “Joy” by Tracey Thorn
  11. “Maybe this Christmas” by Tracey Thorn


Creation: Bringing something new into being

  1. “My favourite distraction” by Coral Egan
  2. “Sing” by Annie Lennox
  3. “Mushaboom” by Feist
  4. “Apron strings” by Everything but the Girl
  5. “The night I heard Caruso sing” by Everything but the Girl
  6. “Anthem” by Patricia O’Callaghan
  7. “Pi” by Kate Bush and Ann Sofie von Otter
  8. “Turbulent indigo” by Joni Mitchell

Tell me: What songs would you add to these lists?

A Movement Needs A Song by Esther Nelson

On the eve of Martin Luther King day, I wrote about the power of music to shatter us. I was thinking about the role that music played in the civil rights movement and discussed the genesis of Duke Ellington’s song “Come Sunday” during those turbulent days. 

A few days later, I stumbled across this guest post by Esther Nelson on the feminismandreligion blog. It reminded me of Duke Ellington and of Emma Goldman, who said: “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution”. 

esther-nelsonI’m back in Las Cruces, New Mexico, spending the break between semesters in the spot where I plan to eventually retire.  When I was here last summer (2016), I visited the Unitarian Universalist Church so decided to join the people gathered there on Christmas Day.  Not many showed up—about twenty or so.  The service was abbreviated. The emphasis was on singing Christmas carols from the hymnal.  Unitarian Universalists, it appears, love to sing.

Inside the bulletin on a separate sheet of paper, Catherine Massey, the Director of Music, wrote an essay titled “Sunday Music Notes.”  She asks, “How can music help us respond to the needs around us?” She listed several ways we can benefit from singing and chanting. One way is calming the self, enabling us to better cope with life’s struggles. Singing can also bring comfort to the sick and/or dying as well as to their families. She…

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Rejection #1. 99 to go.


Yippee! I got my first rejection of 2017 and it’s a beauty. Thanks **** Books.

Not sure why I’m celebrating? Check out 100 Rejections.

Wanna be a travel blogger? Check out this quiz from Rama Arya’s blog.

Ever wonder how you fare as a travel blogger? Recently I designed an online assessment tool on travel blogging for one of the organizations I partner with. It is a simple quiz. 11 questions. But it helps one figure out where one stands. Are you a wannabe, could be, or should be travel blogger? Please […]

via are you a wannabe, could be, or should be travel blogger? — rama arya’s blog

First Book Publication: Keep at it and you will succeed —— guest blog post by Erica Goss

I found this blog post by Erica Goss on Trish Hopkinson’s blog, A Selfish Poet. It reminded me why I decided to court rejection in 2017. 

Night Court, a poetry collection by Erica Goss, is the winner of the 2016 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. The collection will be published in the summer of 2017. When I received the news that…

Source: First Book Publication: Keep at it and you will succeed —— guest blog post by Erica Goss

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