Friday, May 31, 2013

Special Guest Diana Cranstoun, Two Weeks of WWII Food Rations

I've written before on the vibrant writing community that is in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I met today's special blog guest Diana Cranstoun when I joined Alberta Romance Writers' Association (ARWA) four years ago. She is a joy and an inspiration. I am honored to call her friend and to have her as a guest on my blog today! 

For those interested in World War II, you are in good company, as that is of particular interest to Diana, the main topic she writes about, and what prompted her to earlier this month eat only WWII food rations. For more information on Diana, visit her at

Please welcome Diana Cranstoun:

Firstly, many thanks for inviting me to guest blog on your site, Sarah.  I’m very excited about it!  As to what to write about...

Although I grew up in Glasgow 20 years after the Second World War ended, it’s not really surprising that particular war has always fascinated me.  On my daily walk to school I passed several gardens that still had air-raid shelters in them. When my history teacher asked my class how many of our fathers had been at Dunkirk, at least a dozen hands (including my own) shot into the air. And although the rebuilt stonework was fairly well matched, it was obvious where a landmine had taken out a tenement building on the street where my mother was born. 

The soldier/sailor/airman’s experience of those years is well documented, but those of the women they left behind, not so much. Perhaps that’s what was in the back of my mind when I decided to limit myself to wartime rations for a two week period.  What must it have been like trying to feed your family during that time?  (BTW, rationing in Britain continued until 1954, nine years after the war ended.)

Weekly allowance of rationed food for a British adult during WWII.
Photo by Diana Cranstoun

The weekly allowance of rationed food for a British adult consisted of: 8oz meat, 4oz ham or bacon, 2oz butter, 2oz cheese, 4oz margarine, 4oz cooking fat, 3 pints milk, 8oz sugar, 1lb jam every 2 months, 2oz tea, 1 egg, 3oz sweets.  Bread and vegetables (locally produced/in season) were not rationed and formed the basis of the diet.  Certain tinned foods were available on a points system. Although proteins e.g. eggs were rationed, that didn’t mean they were always available.

The first week was a challenge trying to juggle everything so I didn’t run out of rations, but by the second week I was starting to get the hang of it, and I learned a lot from the experience.  Preparation and cooking from scratch every day was very time consuming.  I had the luxury of a fridge, microwave and being able to buy all my groceries in one trip to the shops, but that wasn’t the case for the women during the war. Even harder if you were holding down a full-time job as well.

But perhaps the greatest thing I got out of the experience were the memories my aunt supplied.  She was a child during the war and had some unexpected tales to tell. 

One story I remembered my mother telling me, and which has always stuck in my head, was her experience during the Clydebank Blitz.  She was a young mother of a six month-old baby at the time. The night of the blitz, my grandmother gathered the whole family onto mattresses in the hall as the bombs fell. If they were going to die, they would die together.  (This was about half a mile away from the landmine mentioned above.)

My aunt, eleven years of age at the time, remembers the event differently.   We all gathered in the ‘safest’ place in the house but I several times made an excuse to go to the bathroom so I could see the searchlights and the glow of the fires. Ah the resilience of youth!

Oh yes, and then there was her story of the pheasant . . . !

Friday, May 10, 2013

Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction Workshop, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Last Saturday I attended the Calgary association of Romance Writers of America's Spring 2013 workshop featuring Donald Maass, Writing 21st Century Fiction. What an incredible, intensive day, with absolutely lovely people. The workshop included hands-on writing that really cracked open another several layers of the writer inside. I'm still processing and analyzing all the information (get your geek on!). It was an excellent workshop.

CaRWA hosted the workshop in Redwood Meadows, a small, scenic community south of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and writers from different local writing communities, including ARWA, IFWA, and WWC, attended. It is always inspiring being in a room full of writers and Alberta has a vibrant writing community!

Breaks were enjoyed outside in the best weather we've seen this spring so far. You know when the sun warms up the spruce needles and everything even smells great? That's what Saturday was like, gorgeous!

Donald Maass and Sarah Kades, CaRWA Spring 2013 Workshop.
I first heard of Mr. Maass four years ago.  My first novella was out with Amira Press and I knew I loved this whole writing thing, but that I had a lot to learn!  I joined a local writing group, ARWA, and a name kept popping up, Donald Maass. Everyone spoke so highly of this dude and I was encouraged to check out his books and see him speak if I ever got the chance. So I did.

It truly was a great day, with great people. I learned A LOT, busted past some writing comfort walls I didn't know were there, and reinforced some essential, core beliefs about writing and myself.

Storytelling is part of us. It always has been. It is cool to be part of that.

Thank you CaRWA for the opportunity and Mr. Donald Maass for coming. ;)

Happy Writing, Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Workshop: Writing Sexual Tension, Heightening Your Readers' Satisfaction

Pre-Festival Workshop

Writing Sexual Tension, Heightening Your Readers' Satisfaction

In this three-hour workshop, ARWA's Sarah Kades and Lorraine Paton introduce techniques for creating believable sexual tension between characters by exploring the use of sensuality, emotions, and more. Come, learn how to satisfy your readers, and be emboldened.
Workshop will take place on Friday, August 9th at the Carriage House Inn from 9 AM - 12 PM, just prior to the festival.
You can register for this workshop at, or you can make out a cheque for $10 to "Alberta Romance Writers' Association" and mail it prior to July 31, 2013 to:
Alberta Romance Writers' Association
c/o When Words Collide
c/o The Sentry Box
1835-10th Ave SW,
Calgary, Alberta
T3C 0K2 Canada
Note: This workshop is presented by ARWA for the low, low registration fee of $10 and is made possible through an agreement with When Words Collide.