Author Archives: Heather

A former community newspaper reporter, editor and Agriculture Canada communications officer, Heather Leask Armstrong is a high school librarian and free-lance writer. She has had articles and columns published in The Farmers Independent Weekly, The Western Producer, The Carman Valley Leader, Cottage Magazine, and Canadian Homestead. Her poetry and short stories have appeared in The Collective Consciousness Journal. She currently has the enviable job of being surrounded by books as the librarian at her former high school. She lives in Sanford, Manitoba by the river with a nice screened-in porch on the deck where she can read and write.

Reading and Watching Jane

Just watched the movie “Becoming Jane”. I rented it after deciding to take home all of Jane Austen’s books from my library over the summer to read. Not sure why I haven’t read them before, but, if you’re looking for inspiration to read these classics, watching the movie might just do the trick.  I’ve had several students check out Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility after watching the movies. The DVD releases of “Becoming Jane” and “The Jane Austen Book Club” have prompted interest in Austen’s other works as well.

Becoming Jane“Becoming Jane” takes a semi-biographical look at Jane Austen’s beginnings as a writer during a time when it was unheard of for a woman to “live by her pen” and women were expected to marry for money rather than love. The bonus features on the DVD reveal that the story depicted in the movie  is an embellishment of Jane’s real life.  However, Jane did actually meet and fall in love with a man with the same name as the male lead. Anne Hathaway plays Jane and as a self-proclaimed Austen fan apparently does an excellent job of capturing the real author’s character. The supporting cast and beautiful sets and costumes also make the film well worth watching. The story gives insight into how Austen gathered the themes for her novels and, well, to say much more would be to say too much.

“The Jane Austen Book Club” is a modern-day film about a book club made up of  a recently separated mother, her close female friends, her daughter and a younger man recently introduced to their circle who previously only read sci-fi/fantasy books. Having just started reading Jane Austen and being a sci-fi/fantasy reader myself, I enjoyed watching the male character’s growing appreciation of Jane Austen’s works over the course of the movie. The underlying relationship plots interwoven with details about the relationship woes of Austen’s characters made it a fun popcorn movie while inspiring viewers to consider reading all six of Austen’s novels and other works.  At least it inspired me.  So, back to reading… oh, Mr. Darcy, how could you?

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants…” advises author.

pollan3In Defence of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto by Michael Pollan is a welcome and long-overdue addition to the myriad of books available on food issues. Its greatest appeal will be to those people who are tired of trying to explain why they don’t drink pop, why they spend a lot of time in the grocery store reading labels on food products, and why they cook “from scratch” instead of using food that comes in boxes.

These people, like me, will like this book because it will let them know that they were right all along – – that the longer the list of ingredients on a food product the further it is away from being real food, and, the more likely it will make them or their children still hungry minutes after eating it, or, worse, tired, irritable, or sick.

A journalist who first examined food issues in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Pollan in this, his latest book, puts the Western diet under a microscope, discovering that “food has been replaced by nutrients and common sense by confusion”. Delving deeper into the history of “nutritionism” and the industrialization of eating, Pollan attempts to explain why Western society, with supposedly the means and knowledge to eat well and thrive, somehow isn’t.

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World’s Longest Ice Skating Chain in Winnipeg?


Guinness still has to officially verify the record, however, 1,400-1,500 people showed up at the Forks today to participate in the Winnipeg record attempt for the longest ice skating chain in the world. More information here.

GuinessWorldRecords2008The most popular reference books in my school library are the Guinness World Records annual books showcasing photos and information about a variety of world records established or surpassed in the years leading up to the book’s publication. The 2008 book, with a shiny red foil cover and glow-in-the-dark features, examined sports records, epic endeavours, incredible stunts, environmental records, inspirational people, consumer technology and entertainment, animal records, and, perhaps the most fun and easily participated in types of records, those for mass participation.    

If you live within driving or skating distance of Winnipeg and have a free afternoon Moday February 18 (our province’s first official Louis Riel Day), you’ll have your own chance to be part of such a record – – The World’s Longest Ice Skating Chain. 

The record is currently held by a group of 200 school children in Mexico City, who seen here, achieved the feat in January of this year.With promotion from Winnipeg’s Hot 103 radio station, organizer of Winnipeg’s attempt, Dean Koshelanyk, hopes to secure the record for our city. It only seems fitting as Winnipeg’s skating trail at the Forks recently beat out Ottawa’s Rideau Canal for if not the biggest, at least the longest outdoor rink.

To participate and be counted as part of the record, you need to register between 12:30 and 2:10. Registration forms can be downloaded here but you still need to present them on-site. The line up on the ice starts at 2 p.m. with the event starting promptly at 2:30. You must have skates, be able to skate forward and stop and hold onto the person in front of you while skating for a full 3 minutes.  Find more information here.

Turning older or the “ultimate answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything…”

hitchhiker's-guide-to-the-galaxy-coverAt a crossroads in my life on a number of issues, I was thinking today that getting older doesn’t necessarily coincide with getting wiser. How do you determine if you’re on the right track after years of pursuing, as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series author Douglas Adams aptly put it, the “ultimate answer to the great question of life, the universe and everything”? And, do you really want or need to know the answer at all?   I guess I’m not that old, but, I’m not that young any more either. In fact, in two days my age will reach a certain number, which, if you are an Adams fan, you will recognize as the actual answer to “the great question of life, the universe and everything”, at least as calculated by super computer Deep Thought.

After spending seven and a half million years calculating the ultimate answer, Deep Thought muses that perhaps the question was a little too broad.

I guess in the pursuit of the ultimate answer to “life, the universe and everything” I agree with Slartibartfast, who tells Hitchhiker anti-hero Arthur Dent:

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Title announced for next book in Eragon series

BRISINGRChristopher Paolini has released the title of the next book in the Inheritance series which began with the popular Eragon. In announcing the title on his website, Paolini explains:

“Brisingr is an Old Norse word for “fire.” As you may remember, in Eragon, Brom uses the word brisingr to start a fire. This is the first time Eragon hears an ancient language word, a word of magic. Later, when Eragon is cornered by Urgals in Yazuac, he shouts “Brisingr!” to great effect (see Eragon—chapters “Revelation at Yazuac” and “Admonishments”).”

Despite the announcement of the title, anxious readers still have to wait until Sept. 2008 for the next installment in the series and even longer for the recently announced fourth book. For more information visit

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