Review of David Usher’s Let the Elephants Run (book review)

book reviews
words on a page: breathe
Photo from inside of his book

To: Fong: Your book review is coming soon! I shouldn’t have waited because now it’s not so fresh in my mind.

Fav musical artists

As I mentioned in a post or two, David Usher has been one of my favourite musical artists since I was about 18 years old. Yes, I did wait in line for a couple of CD signings! But I was not the crazy screaming type.

Multi-talented

His music has been playing in the background over the years, but for a few years, I didn’t really follow his career too closely. Recently, I decided to Google him and what did I find out? He is so super-talented – he does not only write songs, sing and play guitar -he wrote a book; developed/developing some AI; is involved with Amnesty International; gives presentations (can’t say I am 100% sure what he talks about- but does it really matter? He’s got my attention).

Let the Elephants Run

When I found out he wrote a book about unleashing/unlocking creativity, I knew I had to pick up a copy. So Tuesday night I began reading. Cover to cover took me just under two hours.

Here are my comments:

  1. The actual book: it feels really solid when holding it and it’s a good size for easy reading. Very eye-catching.
  2. Pages: loved the rich texture and page thickness- the feel underneath my fingers.
  3. Content: Really inspiring. Love the creativeness of the book itself. The pages are colourful and you can have fun looking for the pink text (like the pink elephant running around) throughout the book and little black elephant on the bottom of all pages. You might even find some ants…There are many interesting concepts David writes about like structure of society; how we are born creative, but lose some of our creativity as we get older mainly because of structure and rules. Our society tries to make everyone conform, but we need to think outside the box; and how the creative aspect is only about 5% of the work and the rest is just hard work and good business planning.

I learned a few things:

  1. School systems were set up a certain way to basically train people to sit for long hours in factories. I never really thought about this before, but now it makes sense.

2) The difference between a commercial book and a non-commercial book. I struggled with understanding this when I first started working on my own books – even a publisher contact that I knew tried to explain this to me about five times (but I still didn’t get it because her explanation was a bit weak). So thanks David for helping me to understand this.

3) It is A-OK to write in a lovely book. David encourages that you just jot down notes all over. His book is like a workbook with steps to understand yourself, your business plan and how to bring back your creative side.

4) Momentum. It is important to just scribble down anything even if you can’t focus on a written piece. My momentum slowed for my novel, but then I started just to write down random thoughts like David suggests, and sure enough, my groove is back!

In this thing called life – don’t think, just pick up a copy of his book (FYI -I don’t get any commission lol) and see if you can release your creative self again. You can buy at Chapters in-store and online.

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Life through the eyes of a person

Life
true or false

The answer to my true or false: ALL TRUE. But of course for #4, he wasn’t a criminal at the time we dated. I only found out years later.

Synapses are going wild!

It’s crazy when ideas start buzzing around in your brain and you want to jot everything down as quickly as you can before you forget. It’s like the dream that you enjoyed so much and when you wake up in the middle of the night, you tell yourself that you will remember because it’s so memorable- but guess what? Most of the time you will forget! This happens to me all the time. I have these super-detailed movie worthy dreams, but I forget them by the morning. Sometimes I force myself to roll out of bed and write them down. So when I do, by the time I read my notes in the morning – I’m like What the Hell? I can’t work with that!

Busy five years

The past five years has been really crazy for me – my father’s stroke, the birth of my third child just after my dad’s stroke, getting a dog (for my daughter), writing and illustrating three childrens’ books (My Great Canadian Adventures, Winter Moose Visits Montreal and Winter Moose Visits Alberta), doing book readings and book events, become vegan…

I have been a bit busy trying to promote myself, while working on two other books (a novel and a vegan cookbook) and working a full-time job – but I would not trade it for anything else.

Heart jumping

When I was doing my book reading this past Tuesday (yes, I had to take part of the afternoon off my day-job), my heart jumped (nervousness) when I saw the gym filling up with kids. Not only that – they were there to listen to ME! Yikes! I had done a few other in-class readings but with about 20 kids at a time. This time, my event was in the gym with about eighty kids and I had to speak using a microphone.

Confession: I have only ever spoken into a mic once before – and that was at my book launch last July. I was really scared then. But when I took that mic, I realized that this public speaking thing is not so bad. It was all in my head. So, I told the kids that never in a million years would I have pictured myself standing there in front of them. I was the most shy kid ever in school. I used to hide behind my parents legs when people would talk to me!

Just grab the moment

In many of the Taiwanese drama shows (I watch on Netflix), they show a person walking let’s say past a loved one who is with another man, then they rewind and show them walking in the same spot again. This symbolizes the loss of a chance. We cannot rewind time. If you have an opportunity (could be for work, meeting someone new, learning a new craft or trying a new exercise program) – just grab the moment, because it may not come again.

I believe in cosmic forces or being on the same wavelength as someone. Like the anti-social lady I keep running to in the office washroom (I blogged about her already). Like it or not, our bladders are synchronized!

Generally speaking, I believe that people come into our lives at certain times for a reason. So don’t be shy to say hello to that person next to you. I have met so many people in my life adventure that have stayed with me.

One of my favourite memories is from my early twenties. I was really down and feeling trapped because I was dating this really possessive guy and couldn’t seem to shake him. Then I got a stage (like being a shadow at a company) position at this interior design company. Pearl worked there and took me under her wing (and became a friend). We went on-site to this company they were doing some work for. Anyway, I met this guy Justin (a quick handshake, an exchange of a few words) and had a vibe. Later when we were back at Pearl’s office she told me that he asked for my number. Of course I said yes right away. She warned me he was a ‘bad-boy’ – but I took my chances. Taking this chance is one of the best things that I ever did. I thought he was the most positive and happy person in the world. He really loved life, talked excitedly about his family and friends and made every moment count. His passion for life influenced me to totally change my outlook on life. Even though we parted ways, I will always keep him in mind. So, Justin – if you ever happen to stumble on this post, thank you for being there!

In this thing called life – Life is not static. Change is inevitable. Grab the moment when it comes as it may not come again.

Chapters Book Events

Events/Shows

Well, we have concluded our two Chapters book events (Newmarket and Markham) this past couple of Saturdays.

Thank you so much to Chapters Newmarket and Markham for having us, and all of those who came out to support us.

It was really great chatting with everyone at Chapters. One lady told me it was really inspiring that we could do what we do within time constraints. We get this comment often. As usual, when people ask how I do it with a full-time job, three kids, a dog and parents that need help, the answer is quite simple – “passion is a driver”. I have this passion that is like fire in my blood and needs to escape.

Tomorrow, I am scheduled for an elementary school book reading. I love sharing my message about anti-bullying, self-love and my love for Canada. As well, we will discuss our role in our changing environment. Immediate action must be taken to help our environment before it’s too late.

***If you or someone you know is interested in having me host a local (Greater Toronto Area) book reading event in their childrens’ school please ask them to complete the contact form at www.CanadianAdventureBooksbyMonica.com

I am also available to host a small group session about self-publishing for adults.


In this thing called life, we have to do what it takes to help others and the world. Cheers!


Matthew Good 2019 Solo Acoustic Tour

Events/Shows
  • matt good vip tag

Matthew Good’s concert took place last Saturday, March 9, 2019 at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts in Richmond Hill.

Let’s just say…

IT WAS ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!

VIP pass

My daughter ended up joining me for the VIP sound check and concert. It was my first meet and greet ever, so I had no idea what to expect. In my mind, I thought that you would get to mingle with the artist. But apparently, because we had a group of sixteen people we could not have individuals photos (just a group shot pictured above) and only able to have a Q & A session where each person would have a chance to ask Matt a question. What shocked me most is that people were so calm! I mean – the kid in me – wanting to scream I LOVE YOU MATT! YOU ARE TOTALLY AWESOME!!! But going with the mood at the meet, I just told him the quick story about my sister falling badly and cancelling her flight from Calgary to Toronto, and thanked him for singing to me for the past 20 or so years. My question was: What is your continued source of inspiration over the years?

His answer was basically, that there was none. His analogy was like taking footsteps in the snow. Every step you take, you just know there will be more.

Los Alamos

Even though I am a huge fan, I apparently haven’t listened to so many of his songs. I will have to buy Chaotic Neutral album – Los Alamos (see YouTube video below) is my new fav. The song is so haunting and beautiful at the same time. It is now my bedtime song. I have trouble falling asleep because my brain is so wired – but then I just listen to Matt’s soothing voice…

Just take a listen, close your eyes and feel the music. Check him out on Instagram @matthewgoodgram

Poesy

Poesy, a Canadian female singer/song writer, was the opening act for Matthew Good. I have never heard her music before, but always nice to be exposed to new music – especially Canadian talent.

Her voice is powerful, deep and sultry. It was cool that she did not wear shoes on stage. I can’t say I really “felt” her music. I closed my eyes and just listened to her voice hoping it would give me the chills – but it didn’t. The music was just kind of there -if you know what I mean. But she is Canadian!

The other side of the counter

Life
sketch of cash register for handbook

So, it is quite funny…After I posted about The Ultimate Cashiers’ Handbook, I had a nightmare that night. I already had trouble sleeping that night so when I finally fell asleep at 5am, I dreamt that I decided to go to my parents’ old store and do some cleaning while the store was closed. I was about to start when suddenly someone opened the door and a huge flood of customers came in. There was three line ups all the way down the aisles to the back of the store.

One guy was tired of waiting for his six pack of beer so he stole the beer and ran out. I decided to chase him but as a result, the lines got longer. Then I was serving a customer who wanted to pay by debit. In real life, I left the store at the time debit machines became popular, so in my dream I had no idea how to operate it.

Of course the line up got longer… I was so stressed and couldn’t understand how everyone got in. At about 7am, I jerked awake because my heart was beating so fast. Imagine…two hours of suffering in my sleep!

In this thing called life, our subconscious plays a big role in our stress – so wishing you good dream-free sleeps.

Matthew Good – Solo Acoustic Tour March 9, 2019

Events/Shows
23 day countdown matthew good
This is a re-post from my July 2018 book launch countdown.

How excited am I?

I cannot express my excitement enough…Matthew Good will be playing tomorrow night, Saturday, March 9th at the Richmond Centre for the Performing Arts. I scored some VIP tix, so I get to meet him! Right below are pics from his Massey Hall performance last March.

Shortly after I saw him (Our Lady Peace and Matthew Good Tour) last March, I saw that he would be playing at the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts just minutes away from my house. Should I go again? I asked myself since I just saw him. Well, YES! He is SO close to home that I could not miss him. It turns out that this time, he is playing just his acoustic guitar. Can’t wait!

Based on his Instagram post, he will be playing Strange Days (one of my favs), Fated, Los Alamos and others. Instagram @matthewgoodgram

Strange Days

Weapon

This is one of my new favs. So soulful…the voice of an angel.

Matthew Good

Did you know he is totally awesome?! He is Canadian (WOO HOO!), writes most if not all his own songs, plays guitar and sings. He is also an advocate for Mental Health Awareness, as he struggles with his own bipolar disorder/depression. Check out his Ted Talk below:

His Music

His songs are absolutely beautiful, rockin’ and often pack a punch with the underlying social commentary. He writes and sings about war, guns, life, etc. My five year olds’ fav song from his album Something Like a Storm is Bad Guys Win.

Inspiration

His music has been with me and inspired me for over 20 years. I lucked out about 20 years ago, when my sister’s friend could not attend his concert – so she offered me that ticket. I still remember seeing him in concert at the Metropolis in Montreal. It was so amazing up close and personal. Love ya Matt!

Interview with author, C Fong Hsiung

Interviews
photo of author Fong Hsiung
Photo credit: C Fong Hsiung

C Fong Hsiung is the author of Picture Bride and recently launched her new book titled, New Land Same Sky (Publisher: Mawenzi House).  You can check her out online at www.FongHsiung.com.  

I purchased both of Fong’s books at her recent book launch. I just finished reading Picture Bride and have lots of wonderful things to say about it.  Check out my upcoming post for a review of Picture Bride.

Old friends

I met Fong for the first time through a mutual friend. We connected instantly – just like an old friend. The three of us enjoyed a conversation-filled lunch, chatting about my upcoming book launch and Fong’s as well. Considering I never met Fong before, I thought it was really nice that she was interested in going to my book launch.  Recently, the three of us met up for dinner and discovered that the three of us are both in September AND we each have three kids! How interesting is that?

I am so lucky to have an opportunity to interview her on this blog.

ME: Fong, as many people ask me, “Where do you find the time to write?”. I ask you the same thing.  You are an accounting and systems consultant, and you lead spinning, and yoga and meditation classes.

FONG: There’s a saying, and I’m paraphrasing as I don’t know who said this. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I wrote my first novel while I was working full-time as VP of Business Processes and Systems. I wrote at every opportunity—on vacation, on my commutes to and from the office, every evening, and just about anywhere I could open and balance my laptop. Driving was how I used to commute to work, and then in 2010 I switched to public transit so I could write more. By March 2017, I’d quit my full-time job and finished my second novel. I started my third. But then a year later, I started consulting. As a result, my third novel has taken a backseat lately. What I’m finding out now is that when I had a steady routine I knew exactly when I would write. But now that I have flexibility, the writing is suffering because my work time is leaking into my writing time. I’m procrastinating more. So now I’m waking up at 5 AM to write for three hours before anything gets in the way. After that, I go to the gym and then later, I start working on my consulting projects.

ME: How did you begin your writing journey?  Writing is quite different from the accounting field!

FONG: Left brain versus right brain stuff. I’ve always liked to write, but I fell into accounting when I was floundering and looking for my first job in my early twenties. Once I started down the accounting path I couldn’t stop, and I built a career out of it. Still, the urge to write never left. I actually started a website during the nineties. I wanted a place to showcase my stories about the Indian Hakka community. The site is now probably in a cyberspace blackhole! Then I tried to write a novel, an earlier version of Picture Bride. It was awkward and didn’t read like any novel I have read. I borrowed a book from the library to learn how to write, but the book was dense and I gave up. The year I turned fifty was when a sense of urgency took over. I had to write and I needed help. I was browsing the net one Sunday and happened upon an online writing school. Before the day ended I had signed up, and that’s how it all started.

ME: Was it difficult to find a publisher to take on your book?

FONG: Once I started my writing journey, I devoured books, magazines, online articles, online courses, and anything connected with writing and publishing. I was prepared for lots of rejections. Still, after being rejected a few times I decided to explore the assisted self-publishing model. Halfway down that path, I received an email from TSAR Publications, now rebranded Mawenzi House. They were interested in my book. I had sent my manuscript to them several months before and had assumed that silence meant rejection. Now, not only did Mawenzi House publish my first book but they’ve also published my second book.

ME: Where do you get your inspiration?

FONG: I wish I could be more dramatic and say that inspiration hits like a bolt of lightning. But no, it’s really quite mundane. I sit in front of my computer and I start typing. I’ve learned that if I write enough, something will come out of it. When I follow a train of thoughts as I often do when I’m typing random stuff, it is inevitable that ideas will formulate. With my first book, the idea had been percolating in my head for a long time. With my second book, it was just my random typing and the resulting ideas. I’m struggling with my third one right now. Every time I travel, I bring my laptop with me and keep my story outline handy. The change of scenery often brings new ideas. When that happens, I update the outline, and then edit, re-write scenes or add new ones.

ME:  When I interviewed Toronto Star’s, Tony Wong, I asked what happens when you get writer’s block?  He eats junk food.  How do you tackle writer’s block?

FONG: If I eat junk food every time I encounter writer’s block, you’d need a crane to lift me off my chair. Thankfully I’ve developed a less weight-enhancing way to lift the block. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to type anything on my computer without regard for the content. I consider it a warmup to exercise my writing muscles. If I get my fingers moving, my brain will catch up eventually…hopefully sooner rather than later.

ME: What are your upcoming projects?

FONG: I’m writing my third novel. The working title is Learning Dangerously. It’s a somewhat cynical view of the corporate world following a young man’s experience at his first job. I have another novel in my back pocket. It’s going to be loosely based on my parents’ lives.

ME: Thank you so much for your inspiration and time! And best of luck on your third novel. For me, inspiration actually hits me like lightning! Ideas are always floating in my head, but I need that bolt of electricity to hit (i.e. creating of that first sentence in the book) to get the ball rolling. The “hook” came to me while I was driving on my way to pick up my son last week. I am now on page 7 of my book, and ideas are following freely.

In this thing called life, one needs to go with the flow and ride it.

90-day vegan

On becoming vegan, our environment

Well, today I celebrate 90 days as a vegan. I am still alive and kickin’. I have thanked the animal that was unnecessarily killed to give me a pair of leather winter boots – but to honour the animal that was sacrificed, I wore them all the way up to the time the snow started to seep through. There will be no more leather for this gal.

Consuming meat, by-products, and animal secretions are unnecessary and cruel to animals. Just think – that crispy bacon is from a gorgeous pig that was born and raised in a confined crate his/her whole life, then slaughtered ruthlessly. Born to die. Because of us.

Lots of information out there!

With the wealth of information out there (just Google vegan recipes), you can learn to eat the right foods to keep your body healthy without the meat.

No food shortages here!

So, it’s true – I have not lost any weight since I stopped eating meat! I have been experimenting with recipes for my upcoming plant-based cookbook. So eating more desserts doesn’t help – but it’s for the cookbook – a good cause right?

There is no shortage of delish food that we can make/eat to fuel our bodies.

Pictured below from top left to bottom right: Black bean mushroom burger with potato wedges, Korean-style rice cakes with kimchi, steamed asparagus on tofu with black beans, banana chocolate chip cake and bean thread glass noodle with veg coconut green curry.

In this thing called life, I have learned to experiment more with food recipes. This makes meal planning slightly more exciting… Cheers to healthy eating, good health and cruelty-free living.

The Ultimate Cashiers’ Handbook

Life

This post is dedicated to CPG and all cashiers out there. Love you!

sketch of cash register for handbook
This is a sketch I did for a handbook created by me an my cashier friend (will call her CPG) in October 2000.

First of all, hello!

Hope everything has been good with you. Good health is #1…

Between submitting my final print approval for Winter Moose Visits Alberta yesterday and preparing for my Chapters book events (scheduled for March 16, 2019 at Chapters Newmarket (Davis Dr/Yonge St) and March 23, 2019 at Chapters Markham (Highway 7/Woodbine), I found some time and more importantly – inspiration to write again.

If you follow me on Instagram (@moning_to_ya), you will know that I have always wanted to write a novel. Actually, I began a novel about ten years ago and made it to about page 35. It is a suspense novel. I often have nightmares that make good movie ideas – so whenever I have those dreams, I expand on my book with that material. Maybe I will convert it to a short story one day.

Brewing ideas

Ideas were brewing for the past half-year or so about an idea for a novel. But last Friday, I was driving and suddenly came up with my opening line. This is the start of a novel. As I mentioned in my Instagram post – how does one work on a plant-based cookbook and a novel at the same time? Well, it could be a recipe for disaster! Stay tuned for more from me…

The Ultimate Cashiers’ Handbook

Every so often I come across my hard cover book that I used to begin writing The Ultimate Cashiers’ Handbook (UCH). I think it is entertaining and cute, so I wanted to share it with you. I am now using the book to draft my current novel.

Some background

My parents owned a depanneur (convenience store) in Montreal for about 20 years. Needless to say, I was a cashier (initially against my will) at a very young age. My older sister Juliann began even before me. She started the moment she could see above the counter. I hated being a cashier, but as I grew older, I learned how to make the most of my job and even learned to enjoy it. For example, I challenged myself to be the quickest “change-giver” (pre-debit/credit days) and bag-packer you ever saw! Chatting with our regular customers became enjoyable. You have to know that I was the most shy kid ever (think: hiding behind my dad’s legs and looking away when spoken to), so working at my parents’ store helped me get over some shyness.

UCH began when my parents hired a girl about my age, I’ll call her “CPG”. We hit it off right away and filled the quiet periods between customers with great conversation. Don’t like to say, but we liked to complain about the nasty customers and laughed about the different ‘type’ of people that we met at work. Just for fun, we came up with a few ‘types’ and noted them. I worked on the actual writing part – so I am free to share this without CPG’s permission.

Here is the opening page of The UCH (I haven’t changed anything):

“Throughout the years, we have worked hard to maintain our images in the public eye. Working as a cashier is definitely a task that few wish to establish and experience, yet, cashiers are all around us. Often, cashiers are taken for granted. Actually, it is more accurate to say that cashiers are almost ALWAYS taken for granted. We are expected to be friendly, polite, fast and patient – while we are treated as mediocre, under-educated “service providers”. Our experience as cashiers has given us the opportunity to see the world in a whole new light. And, we are certain that our experiences are shared by others in similar circumstances. Now, if you have never had a chance to stand behind the counter, you certainly have “mingled” with cashiers (both good and bad) that you have taken notice of. Perhaps, you can even gain insight into the world of cashiers with the assistance of this handbook. As for all the cashiers in the world…CHEERS!”

We decided on a few types of people, but did not write anymore.

Fast forward 2019…

Because I found this very amusing, I have decided to finish it up quickly. Below are three of the actual sketches that I did in year 2000. The centre one shows the people with bad tempers.

Here are a few types of customers that we came up with:

  1. The ?!#@!? people. These are the customers who are always in a bad mood. No matter what.
  2. The love affair. These are the customers that use the store as a dating service. A married man approached me for some design consult (BTW – my first passion is kitchen design) because he was interested in me. I got the short end of the stick for my consult – because I was paid in “pearl-necklace from Tiffany’s” currently. Yikes!
  3. The private affair. These are the people who like to share everything with you, including details about their skin allergies, etc.
  4. The sleazes. These are the guys who look you up and down with their beady eyes, but don’t say anything.
  5. The “No gusta…lo siento” people. BTW – we were also learning Spanish together. This category is for people that we simply didn’t like (for whatever reason).
  6. “I am not exactly sure what language I speak” person. These are customers who didn’t speak to us at all. We already spoke to them in French and English, but they never responded and gave you a blank stare instead.
  7. “I like my chips in one piece” person. These are customers with odd demands. Bad news.
  8. The “Wow – you speak after all” people. These are the people who go from never speaking to speaking.
  9. The “May I stare” people. There are just people who stare at you. Weirdos.
  10. The “Umm…like, like, I will pick my own scratch tickets…like, ok?” people. There are always people that want to stick hand into things.
  11. The “I apologize…my hand doesn’t reach far enough to put the money in your hand. Therefore, I have to throw it across the counter” people. These are people who don’t have basic manners to hand you the money. Instead they put all their coins on the counter closer to them. This probably won’t happen as much today with the debit/credit machines…
  12. The thief. This is an obvious one. It’s the people that tuck wine into their jackets and take off. No worth your own life to chase those people.
  13. The “Guess what? I know your exact order” people. These are the predictable people. Everyday, the same newspaper and cigarettes, etc.
  14. The “I don’t need a bag” people. After you have packed all their bags, they say they don’t need a bag. Note: I worked at the store in the pre-reuseable bag days.

The End.

I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed reminiscing and writing it!

In this thing called life, you gotta do what you love…