About

Carol Harrison B.Ed. is a storyteller, speaker, writer, teacher,and facilitator who loves to share from her heart one on one or with any size of group.

You can reach Carol via:
email: carol@carolscorer.ca
phone: 306 230 5808

twitter: @CarolHarrison6

Recent Posts

Spring

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Spring arrived in March according to the calendar. However, here in Saskatchewan the spring season often does not truly arrive until late April or into May. The temperatures today, the green in the grass and a few early flowers poking their valiant heads through the winter debris show me that spring is finally here. I enjoy the time of emerging new life – the shades of green, the tiny leaves starting to fill out bare tree branches, and birds singing early in the morning outside my window. Many people are itching to get into their yards and gardens, to prepare for a new growing season. I, however, am not a gardener.

My mother and her mother before her knew how to coax large quantities of vegetables out of even a tiny plot of land. They both loved to add flowers to their yards and gardens, enjoying the rich colours and attracting bees to help pollinate plants.
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My oldest daughter enjoys time in her garden, starting plants early in her house, and trying new varieties. Occasionally the new variety is actually a heritage seed. I think the gardening gene skipped my generation, leaving me to listen to the plans of others, reminisce about my mother’s garden and maybe in a few months enjoy the fruits of other people’s labours.

Yet spring is a time of renewal. A time when the winter is over and trees and plants can once again grow. Flowers, even dandelions, add touches of colour for us to enjoy after the drabness of winter.

Are you a gardener? Do you enjoy starting seeds in your home as winter draws to a close? Do you enjoy the feel of the dirt beneath your feet and on your hands? Or are you like me – enjoying what others plant, watching nature dress in spring colours and birds build their nests?

Whatever you enjoy, take time to contemplate this season of renewal and new life.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever book

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Chicken Soup for the Soul released their latest compilation of 101 short stories in the book Best Mom Ever. It landed on store shelves March 21, 2017 but my copies arrived ten days ago. I love the cover of this book with its spring like colors and the title of the book is in raised lettering.

I have a story in this book titled The Sewing Machine. My mother spent many hours at her Singer sewing machine creating wonderful clothes, blankets and beautiful Barbie doll clothes for me to play with. As I reminisced about my mother while writing this short story, I realized how blessed I have been. My mother showed her love for family by how she cared for us – not just the practical like meals prepared, blankets sewn and quilted to keep us warm and clothes for me to wear. She went beyond the practical and offered me a wardrobe for my doll that made my friends jealous. As a young teen she helped make dresser scarves (back when they were in fashion) and throw pillows to dress up my room.

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Writing stories about family, my growing up years and life with our family gives me opportunities to take a trip down memory lane. I have the chance to share them with my children and grandchildren and by writing them down they will be here long after I am unable to still tell them. Occasionally one of my stories gets bought and published like this story about my mom and the sewing she did out of necessity and love.

When I let my family and friends know the book had arrived, my oldest two daughters responded with, “Cool we get a book for Christmas.” My son asked if he had to wait for Christmas. The tradition I started with my first published work was to give a copy of it to my adult children for Christmas. Obviously they still enjoy receiving my published writing.

What memories have you shared with your family and friends? Have you written any of the stories down? Have you had the experience of holding a book in your hand in which one of your stories has been published? I am still amazed when a book arrives or a magazine publishes one of my pieces of writing. Maybe the computer is like my sewing machine as I create stories and write reminisces to give to my family.

Coincidence or Divine Appointments?

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We had spent the day in Moose Jaw, SK at a provincial horse event where our youngest daughter, Amee, helped in the stalls with CK Horse Horizons team. Amee’s love of horses was relatively new and she relished the time of learning and hanging out with horse people. With Saskatoon almost in sight, a passing half ton truck flung a stone which smashed against the windshield on the driver’s side. It hit with such force we all thought it would come right through the glass, shattering the windshield.

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We discussed whether to stop at the glass shop on our way home or take a chance the huge chip would not spread overnight and we could get it fixed tomorrow. We chose to stop on our way home. The shop had time to work on it before they closed.

The waiting room was almost empty – only one other lady occupied it. As much as we tried not to eavesdrop on her phone conversation, it became apparent she was negotiating the sale of one of her horses. Her attire suggested a very sheik cowgirl. It fascinated me to think that we were on our way home from a horse event and now shared the waiting room with a cowgirl selling a horse.

We began visiting once she completed her call and discovered she owned a guest ranch outside the city. She raised and trained horses, had guests come from around the world and trained coaches and trainers of horses. Our fascinating conversation drew to a close when both of our cars were ready.

As we exited the building, still chatting and saying our goodbyes, we also exchanged business cards. She looked at mine which reads Carol Harrison: Speaker & Author and asked me what I spoke and wrote about. I shared a bit about my love of storytelling. She grew excited and told me to contact her since she had been praying for God to send a writer into her life to help her edit workshop material and letters.

A serious stone chip in our windshield forced us to stop at the glass shop where we met Mable who had been one hour late arriving for her appointment because she honestly thought it was at the later time. Was this a coincidence or a divine appointment.

Merriam Webster dictionary defines coincidence as events that happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected.

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A Divine Appointment is defined as a meeting with another person that has been specifically and unmistakably ordained by God

It took me almost six weeks to phone Mable and set up an appointment to meet at her ranch to see if we could have a good working relationship. By then she had looked at my website and read the first couple blog posts I had written. I choose to believe, as does Mable, that coincidences don’t really happen but Divine appointments do, when we least expect them. I have helped her with editing, sat in a workshop to learn more about what she does and we chat often on the phone. We feel a strong connection and a developing friendship all because of a meeting at the shop to repair broken glass.

Do you have stories of these types of appointments? What happened?

Using the Five Senses In Writing

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Since I began writing a few years ago, one piece of advice I have heard and read many times is that writers need to show not tell to engage their audiences. How do I show and not simply retell a scene? Beth Goobie, an award winning author of twenty-four published books said during a workshop, “When you are writing, thinking is feeling. If you are stuck in your head you’ll be telling instead of being in your story. To do that you need to incorporate all the senses.”

In other words our head tells the story and our body – our senses – shows the story, allowing readers to be in the story with our characters. How well do I incorporate sight hearing taste, touch, smell and also kinetics – movement into my writing? I find it easy to think about what I want my readers to see and possibly hear, but how often do I incorporate smells which is the sense with the strongest connection to memories?

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When I pull out an old photo like this one of my mom, printed in February 1960 and likely taken at Christmas 1959, my memories are pulled to the forefront. I remember her standing at the stove. I visualize her with a dress and an apron working hard to finish the meal we would soon enjoy. It brings to mind the taste of her food, the fragrant aromas that filled the kitchen and wafted throughout the house, tantalizing our tastebuds. But when I write about the memories of my mother in the kitchen, I need to describe what I want the readers to see, hear, taste, smell and touch.

One suggestion Beth offered at the workshop was to write the words taste. . . smell . . . hearing. . . sight. . . touch across the top of the page as a reminder to be in the story and not just think about it. We practiced writing for twenty to thirty minutes highlighting just three senses taste, smell and hearing. This short story could be anything we chose from a memory relived to fiction. We shared some of our rough work before moving on to more writing where we highlighted touch and sight. This time she had a variety of objects. We chose two and incorporated them into the piece we worked on. We could see the objects, handle them to feel their texture.

One final exercise consisted of multiple parts. First she asked us to list ten items that we owned which had a significance or importance to us. Once we completed our list she asked us to pick one item and describe it physically. In the third section of this exercise we needed to write about the emotional meaning of this particular object. Once this section was completed we moved on to writing a step by step description of how we use the object. Finally we needed to use all the portions, the item, description, emotional meaning and how to use it and give the object to a fictional character in a short article or story. It could not be autobiographical.

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I found this a daunting task, especially the last part because the object I picked were the ornamental china shoes which had once belonged to my grandmother. I have used the story as a devotional. I have used it as an illustration when I speak and have blogged about them so how could I now pretend they belonged to someone else. It stretched me out of my comfort zone and while that can feel overwhelming at times, it adds to my skill set.

As a writer, do you struggle with adding enough about the senses so you show the story and not simply tell it? As a reader do you notice how much the author pulls you into the story with the senses?
I know this workshop reminded me of the importance of being in the story – living it again or jumping into my imagination and dreaming about what I see, hear, smell, taste and touch in this world I am creating on paper.

How Writing Makes You Feel?

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I attended a workshop for writers this past Saturday and answering the question, “How does writing make you feel?” was the first writing exercise.

I looked at the blank lines of the paper in front of me, my pen clutched in my fingers, poised to write – what? I looked around the room and saw some writers busy scratching marks onto their paper. Others, like myself, sat and contemplated for a few seconds or even minutes.
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Let me clarify a couple of things. On the best of days I struggle to come up with an answer to this question. Secondly, writing as an exercise, in a room full of people, intimidates me for some reason and I wondered how I could best describe my feelings about writing that afternoon. Once we finished the timed writing exercise we were asked to pick out one word that summed up our feelings. One word from the scribbles on my page – what one word summed it up?

I have had several days to reflect on my answer and one word to describe the feelings. Conflicted comes to mind since my feelings about writing vary, sometimes within a day. Sometimes the blank page stares back at me, daring me to mar its pristine condition with black marks strung together to make words. At these times other things call me away and procrastination about writing takes priority.

Other times I can not wait to dump racing thoughts from my mind. Ideas tumble over each other, begging for release and my fingers fly across the keys faster than I can put pen to paper.

The other word that comes to mind, now that I have had time to digest information and wrack my brain for the feelings writing gives me would be capture. I have this desire, this interest, this passion to capture stories and ideas. At times I capture the stories of older generations. Some days it is my family stories and the experiences we have had such as life in Northern Saskatchewan in the mid 1970’s. Sometimes I grab for the ideas that these stories generate and they become fodder for fiction stories based on some reality of family life.

Capturing stories helps preserve them for future generations. It helps me learn lessons gleaned from the experiences and insight of my ancestors. These stories may help someone else. Therefore, whether I am writing the stories or telling them, the feeling is one of an urgency to share them with others.

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If you are a writer, how does writing make you feel? What words capture these feelings? If you are a reader, how do the stories make you feel?

Finding My Voice

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Give yourself permission to believe in the validity of your own narrative – Bill Zinsser

This quote made me stop and think. Can I honestly say that I believe in the validity of my message? I speak on topics of inclusion – I believe this is important, valid and necessary to share so others will have knowledge to help them overcome the fear of the unknown. I speak on having hope in spite of and during tough times. This topic touches the lives of everyone at some point. Sharing stories of hope helps offer comfort and a flicker of hope to others who are less far along the path than I am. Yes this is a valid message! I share tips to help others improve communication skills – a necessary and valid message as well. I have stories that have touched the lives of others in positive, meaningful ways. Yes I believe the messages I have are valid.

But I am working on finding my voice, my style as a storyteller, both written and oral to give the messages. My previous blog post mentioned how I have been reading various books and styles as research which is great but I am not these writers and my style, my voice needs to be my own.

I listen to others give speeches, presentations, sermons. I know what I like and what detracts from the presentation. I learn from each encounter. Webinars, conferences and books on writing and speaking give many suggestions to write the best seller, market your work and get speaking gigs. Yet simply copying others will not help me be myself and use the abilities and gifts I have to the best they can be.

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We each need to study, learn and grow in whatever area we work in, are gifted in and enjoy. Yet we need to be authentic above all. For me this means accepting who I am and what God has gifted me to do and realize it does not have to and should not look like someone else.

This battle continues in my life. I need to make sure I do not simply procrastinate instead of trying something new, embracing the stories and sharing them with others. If I hide them inside myself, no one else will hear them, enjoy them or maybe even have them speak to them where they are at that moment. I believe I have found my voice. I just need to keep using it and know that it is uniquely me.

How about you? Have you given yourself permission about the validity of your messages? Have you found your voice, your style to accomplish the telling?

Writing Research – reading various genres and styles of writing

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I love reading. I have enjoyed reading and stories as long as I can remember. However I, like many people, have my favourite genre, authors and style of writing which I prefer. Historical fiction, a simple mystery or a bit of romance and a big easy chair to curl up in gives me enjoyment. This enjoyable, light reading does not preclude deeper reading during study times whether this entails Bible reading, study books and articles.

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My husband challenged me – seems to be a lot of challenging me happening these days – to read other styles of writing, other genres and authors as a way of doing research to help me in my own writing. What works in the book? How does the author add twists to the plot? Does the book flow and keep my attention and how did they accomplish this task? How about the characters in the book? Were they believable?

The first book he handed me to read – purely for the research aspect of it and not whether I might enjoy it, happened to have made it to the New York Times Best Seller list. I only needed to take a small step out of my comfort zone since this book was historical fiction. I found I actually enjoyed the story and probably will read more by this author.

The next few books, also on the New York Times Best Seller list over the years proved vastly different than what I normally pick up for easy reading and yet I learned from each one I read. There were ideas to jot down about what I liked, what I wished had not been in the book – often language – and lessons I gleaned from the exercise. Now I just need to make sure I don’t lose the scraps of paper I wrote notes on – time to start a commonplace book – reference in a previous blog.

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Research for writing involves a variety of things. One of them is reading widely and often. Sometimes this means taking up a challenge and stepping out of your comfort zone which may end up pleasantly surprising you.

What is your favourite genre to read? Have any writers taken on a challenge of reading outside their comfort zone as a way to research? No matter what, why or where you read – just read and enjoy.

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Traditional Family Recipes & Their Stories

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Mouths water as we smell our favourite cookies baking. The first bite into a still warm, soft chocolate chip cookie or a melt in your mouth short bread done to perfection creates a taste sensation we do not easily forget. Everyone has a favourite recipe, possibly passed down from generation to generation or maybe a newer recipe tried and family approved. Family recipes come with their own stories.

This recipe, handwritten by my grandmother, is not one I have made often but the recipe brings fond memories of watching my grandmother make a large batch, carefully making rolls of the dough which she stored in wax paper and froze. If company or family dropped in unexpectedly she was prepared in a few minutes with home-made, fresh from the oven tasty cookies. By far her favourite treat, always in the deep freeze, ready to be thawed and eaten were her butter tarts. The flaky crust fell apart on touch and the looks of the tart would not win any baking championship except for the taste. Yet it is this recipe done in her own handwriting on this folded paper which evokes strong memories of the woman I called grandma.

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My mother baked delicious cakes, cookies and pies. She usually had two tins of cookies in the pantry all the time, two of the family favourites. One tin held Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and the other she filled with shortbread cookies. Rarely did anyone go to the cupboard and find the tins empty. I inherited all her hand written recipes when she passed away but I do not keep the tins full like she did. Her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies always turned out perfectly – never too crumbly, never under or over baked and always delicious.

My youngest daughter, as an older toddler, had a limited vocabulary due to a stroke she had at birth. Often we had to guess at what she wanted. One day my mother asked her if she wanted a cookie. A huge smile and a nod of Amee’s head let grandma know a cookie sounded good. My mom asked her granddaughter, “What kind of cookie do you want?”
Without any hesitation Amee replied, “Stripes.”

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Her answer perplexed both of us. She kept repeating her request for stripes. My mom grabbed both tins of cookies from the shelf and opened them. Amee took a shortbread and said, “Stripes.” We burst out laughing as we studied the cookies. Mom always rolled the dough in small balls and pushed them down with a fork – making it look like the cookie had stripes running across the top.

Amee took her grandmother’s recipe and learned to make stripes. My mom’s handwritten recipe card became almost unreadable from so much use. Amee made a new recipe card with her printing on it.

Three generations of special women in my life and I have a handwritten recipe from each of them. These remind me of stories, of family tradition and give me a sample of their handwriting too.

What favourite family recipe do you have? Is it handwritten in a book, on a card or simply made so often it is committed to memory? Do you share the stories that go with the recipe?

Inspiration

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Inspiration for writing, telling stories, preserving family memories or anecdotes for speaking can come from unexpected sources. It may be something we hear or see, questions we are asked or things we read. A few years ago I picked up this book, The Story Jar by Robin Lee Hatcher and Deborah Bedford published by Hendrickson Publishers c.2011. The title intrigued me. In this post I want to share a bit from the Story behind The Story Jar written by Robin Lee Hatcher for this I believe may give all of us some inspiration for storytelling and preserving family stories.

Robin writes that she received a story jar as a thank you gift after a speaking engagement. This small Mason jar had been fancied up with a pretty handkerchief covering the lid. The jar had been filled with many odds and ends. In her case it contained a Gerber baby spoon, an earring, an empty thread spindle, a colorful pen, several buttons and more.

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is the significance of an old jar, fancied up with cloth and full of odds and ends? She goes on to say that the idea is to start a writer’s imagination playing, helping them to wonder who owned the items, what was the person like and what significance did that object have for them? To me this idea sounded interesting.

I don’t think you need to be a writer or a professional storyteller to want a story jar. I agree with Robin’s assessment in this area. It could be a way to preserve small family memorabilia. In this case an entire story was written which has a story jar in it.

At a one day writers’ conference I helped plan, we took this idea and filled a jar with odds and ends and placed it in the middle of the table. It became not only a decoration but part of a writing exercise where attendee’s could let their imaginations run wild for a few minutes and come up with a paragraph about one of the items in the jar that caught their attention. I believe it works best if someone else fills the jar. That way you have no preconceived ideas or memories of any item.

As a writer and storyteller I am always looking for inspiration, something that catches my attention and makes me remember something from my own life or forces me to ask questions and play a game of “what-if”. The story jar idea likely resonates with the pak rat part of my personality where I like to keep little things others might throw away. They need a home. Why not an old jar, a pretty box or other container.

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What would you throw into a story jar to give someone else? Have you ever received a story jar? I hope this sparks your imagination and gives you an opportunity to think of places you get inspiration.

Day 2 of the Great Canadian Giveaway contest

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I am thrilled to be a contributing author to the 7 Days of Great Canadian Giveaway running February 6 – 12, 2017. This is a fantastic opportunity for you to win an amazing prize package by outstanding Canadian Christian authors and recording artists. Please note: Canadian citizens living in Canada only qualify for this promotion each and every day.
Each and every day during the contest duration, two prize packages will be posted at http://sallymeadows.com/blog. For each day you comment on the blog AND click on the link to go to the author’s FB page, you will be entered into both prize packages for that day. You can enter any time during the contest period for any or all of the days. Contest runs from 8:00 am CST February 6, 2017 to 10:00 pm February 12, 2017. Entries submitted prior or after that time period are ineligible for the giveaways. For complete contest rules, please go to the event page at https://www.facebook.com/events/614924578714278/.

I am delighted to welcome you to my blog. Today, Tuesday February 7, 2017, my prize package is one you have the opportunity to win by commenting on Sally’s blog – https://sallymeadows.com/blog/blog/day-two-7-days-of-great-canadian-giveaways and comment on this blog post as well – to do that simply hit the word comment and then post your comment.

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Anyone who posts on my blog during the week of this contest, Feb 6-12, 2017 can purchase a copy of Amee’s Story for $12.00,shipping included and/or a package with all my speaking information and $10.00 off any booking for a speaking engagement. Please note this is not a requirement to win the giveaway prize package but a separate offer. You can also email me for more information – carol@carolscorner.ca

Thanks for visiting my blog. I hope you will return and read other posts. Good luck, this week, in the Great Canadian Giveaway.