Original Book Reviews, Recommendations and Discussions

My writing – photo books and poetry

I am co-author and designer of more than twenty self-published books, including poetry collections, travel books and reference books on mining operations in Alaska, Colombia, Brazil and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. I enjoy designing photo books using the beautiful photo taken by M.F. O’Brien on his travels, and I like to accompany these with poetry or narrative. Producing these keeps my powers of observation and curation sharp and helps me to improve the quality of my photography , writing and designs over time.

Click on the book titles to read the Blurb bookshow versions online.

The latest addition is:
To the Volcano
Hardcover, large size
ISBN: 978-1-32-069909-9
May 2015
cover1On a trip across the border, in July 2014, to go and see Mount St. Helens in Washington State, United States, we took close to 1000 photos.

The book of the trip, To the Volcano, was published on Blurb this month. I wrote poems to accompany M.F. O’Brien’s impressive photos. Read the poems here.

All the poems in this book, with the exception of Roundel, are written in the form of the “tanka”, one of the major genres of Japanese literature, but are also written in English.

The book was designed using Blurb’s BookWright software.

3 Cities South

ISBN: 9781320825917
March 2015

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.03.03 PMIn December 2014, we traveled for business from Vancouver, Canada, to Auckland, New Zealand, then to Perth, Australia, stayed a week, flew back to Auckland, and from there we flew to Christchurch, stayed a week, flew back to Auckland, drove to Rotorua, stayed a day, drove back to Auckland, and flew back to Vancouver. And then stayed home a weekend and drove east to Calgary, Alberta, stayed a weekend, and drove back to Vancouver. Let’s just say we were slightly jet-lagged by the end of all of that. The main destination was Christchurch, and we flew Air New Zealand there and back. Good airline. Not so good with departing on time. We saw a lot of Fremantle, a town close to Perth, Australia, and a lot of Christchurch. Rotorua we saw briefly. Each city has its own character, and so we called this book 3 Cities South, because we flew south, from deepest winter in Canada to mid-summer in Australia and New Zealand.

The book was designed using Blurb’s BookWright software, released in May 2014.

Up North and Back 
October 2013
Cover_Up North and BackWhen we recently went on our Summer road trip, I confess to feeling a bit melancholy. So many of the little towns we passed through looked as if they had been hit by the recession, deserted and run down. There were also magnificent museums and scenic views, but all the same, I could not ditch the feeling that times were hard in those back-of-beyond places. Some were still bravely trying to create jobs and pulling the tourists, others had just given up. The result: poetry and poems about the road east to Fernie, north to Edmonton and Prince George, and south home, via Lillooet, about 3,200 km over 12 days. Here’s a link to the poetry in the book.

This book, like all the ones published before, was designed using Blurb’s BookSmart software.

I got me a Bike
August 2013
Cover_I got me a bikeThis book is the story of many middle-aged women like me on a quest to get fit and lose weight. I never thought it would lead me to being a crazy cyclist, like some of my buddies (whom I used to sneer at). This is the story in photos (more than 160 of them), taken all along my regular route with a sometimes pretty shaky, hand-held Sony Cybershot. In the last thirty days I’ve cycled more than 440 km, which is not bad for a creaky, overweight 51-year old. Cycling has been a relevation. Each trip, the horizon unfolds, one delightful picture after the other, different every day. I always end up whistling and singing just because I’m so happy on my bike, riding this route, every turn and bump and corner like an old friend that calls to me saying “Hi, it’s you again. Welcome.”

Deep in Snow
February 2013
Cover_Deep in snowPhotos of skiing at Revelstoke, British Columbia, in Winter. We like Revelstoke. It’s about 7 hours’ drive from Coquitlam, via Highway 1, north from Mission to Kamloops, then east through Salmon Arm and winding passes to the town next to the railway.

We like it because it’s a real, working town. It doesn’t have many aspirations to glamour.

Down-town, where the old railway houses, like little wooden jewellery boxes, sit propped up in the snow, the heart of Revelstoke will always beat just as it has done for centuries. And we, the visitors, will pass on through, leaving nothing but ski tracks in the snow.

The Glory That was Winter
December 2012
Cover_The Glory that was WinterBritish Columbia, Canada, in the depth of Winter. More than 2,310 km in 9 days. From Coquitlam, BC, to Revelstoke, BC, to Calgary, EB, to Field, BE, to Kimberley, BC, to Keremeos, BC (by accident), back to Coquitlam, BC.

There’s something to be said for black and white photography when shooting snowy landscapes. The photos by M.F. O’Brien look especially striking in a large format hard cover book.

Some photos are in colour, but even so, it was so cold, dark and snowy that even the colour photos look like black and white. Only the blobs of street lights, neon signs, lights in a house, red berries or a blue tint to the snow. It was a real cold winter. We got snowed in at Keremeos, and lay in bed listening to the wind howling around the little motel and watching the ice forming around the windows.

A Shades-of-Blue Summer
December 2012

Cover_A Shades-of-blue Summer 2June and July 2012 in British Columbia, Canada, +- 2,855 km in 15 days. Canada is beautiful, in the way that classical art and unspoilt nature are beautiful. The tagline for British Columbia is “Beautiful British Columbia” – and that’s no overstatement. The roads are in good shape and unwind to reveal one spectacular vista after the other. It is, frankly, jaw-dropping. There are no squatter camps, no dust, no dirt and pollution, none of the yellow-brown, battered landscapes of South Africa that we were born into. In Summer this region is a symphony in shades of blue: the mountains tower craggily in shades of intense Prussian blue edged with blue-white snow, the forests are hundreds of shades of teal and emerald, the rivers are an amazing shade of icy turquoise and mint, and the lakes are deepest aquamarine shot through with cobalt. We saw gorgeous scenery, passed through small towns and big cities, visited a wolf sanctuary, saw a museum full of antique nickelodeons, visited a centre dedicated to just one bear, and ate at a few interesting local diners. I wonder if Canadians realise how fortunate they are to be able to live here and call this place home.

The Hope Chest
The Hope Chest – Die Bruidskis | The History of the Schreuder Family of Namaqualand from 1848 to 2003 | November 2012
November 2012, ISBN: 978-0-9919415-0-6

Cover_Hope Chest(Afrikaans with English translations and notes, extensive documentary addenda. The complete book can be viewed as a website.

This book is the record of my attempts to unravel the lineage of my mother’s family. It all started when I asked my mother, “Where does this chest, that I’ve been dragging along with me from house to house, come from?” My mother Martha Catharina le Roux, born Schreuder, then told me the story of my ancestors as she remembered it. The Schreuders were farmers from the Namaqualand region of the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. The matrilineal ancestors of the Schreuders were the Engelbrecht family, and before them, the Auret family. The patrilineal line of decent is a straight line from the earliest Schreuder of whom we have record, Albertus Johannes Compion Schreuder, born in 1868.

The history of the Schreuders and their ancestors is also that of the Afrikaner farmer in South Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The themes of patriarchal lifestyle and, concomitantly, the ties to family farms and ownership of property carried from father to son over generations, are also those of the Afrikaners who populated the furthest expanses of the country. As is clear, with the passing of the years, many of the children born in the latter half of the 20th century no longer farm, and many have left the country altogether. Along with the loss of land, culture and certain characteristics, there is now also the loss of language, not only in the Schreuder family but also in the country. In “The Go-Between”, LP Hartley famously wrote, “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there”. The same can be said of our family’s history.

I had thought initially that I would redesign what was a simple set of notes. It ended up being a sometimes disturbing rediscovery of not only childhood but of my nationality and my language. Adding to the poignancy of the process of producing the book is the fact that I wrote it after having emigrated from South Africa to Canada and have left behind me, literally and figuratively, all of what I write about.

Earlier publications

Red Planet – A Geologist’s View of AngloGold Ashanti’s mine, AGA Mineração, Brazil, both surface and underground
(ISBN: 978-0-9919415-6-8)
Love and the Sea – Photos and poetry by two authors, M. Bijman and M.F. O’Brien
(ISBN: 978-0-9919415-8-2)
Feels like Wuthering Heights – Photos of The Grove, UK, and the ghostly images from Wuthering Heights
(ISBN: 978-0-9919415-5-1)
South in Summer  – Photos of the Western Cape, South Africa, in Summer
(ISBN: 978-1-927783-03-0)
CONGO – AngloGold Ashanti’s Monhbwalu Mine in the DRC
(ISBN: 978-0-9919415-7-5)
Paris, this October – Photos of Paris, France, from a pedestrian’s perspective, with poetry by classical French poets
(ISBN: 978-1-927783-02-3)
Monte.Vide.Eu – Photos of mining in Colombia, with poetry by classical Colombian poets
(ISBN: 978-1-927783-01-6)
Magnificent Russia – Photos of Russia, from Moscow in the West to Kamchatka in the East (2010)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s