Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The Internet Rabbit Hole: Mary Borgstrom Rediscovered

... One feature that I do enjoy about the internet is the ease of 'cross-pollination.' An idea or interest ricochets into another idea or interest and then, ZOOM - in you go ... 

Here's a recent example: - I was flipping around YouTube one evening looking for some light 'reality' entertainment and stumbled onto 'Curiosity Inc' - an amateur antique vlogger's channel from Edmonton, Alberta. Videos are shot by the ever-inquisitive owner, Alex Archbold, in GoPro and hand-held. It looked interesting enough and I started to watch 'Part 1' of the 'Potter's House' ... I soon became entranced. It is one of those hand-held 'reality shows' you watch in a kind of suspended disbelief - 'how could anyone ever live like that?!' - WHY? Because this antique vlogger had been invited to review the contents of a century-old HOARDERS home.

After a single session of 'casing the joint', Alex immediately put in an offer to buy more than just the contents of the house, he bought the entire property. And thus begins a spontaneous YouTube series of 20+ episodes devoted to the renovation of the Potter's House. As the episodes unfurl and the work crew start to sort through the myriad piles of 'stuff', it becomes increasingly apparent that this jam-packed house belonged to no ordinary hoarder ...

Samples of Mary Borgstrom's wares up for auction 
It was, in fact, the boarded-up, run-down, mice-infested home of a now forgotten Canadian potter, Mary Borgstrom. 

Very active from the 50s to late 1980s, Mary's ramshackle house had become a repository of her life's work as well as a kind of shrine to passing decades. (She evidently did not throw out ANYTHING from that century-old house.)

So, who was Mary Borgstrom?

The YouTube series withholds the hoarder's name for quite awhile but eventually begins to pay her homage. When her name is finally revealed, I immediately did a 'Google search' and stumbled on an art site at Concordia University in Quebec, Canada, to learn more. 

And that website, the Canadian Women's Art History Initiative,  just explodes with information about obscure women artists from all across Canada. Intriguing ephemera from galleries, dealers and from artist's estates make it a fascinating portal ... Do spend some time there, snoop about and re-discover old/new talent. There are so many gifted and engaging Canadian female artists, pre-internet, who, like Mary, have slid into obscurity, and it really is a national embarrassment that they have.

Mary Borgstrom is a very good example of one such gifted woman of talent who just faded away ... so much so that her own family were quite prepared to 'auction off' whatever remaining artifacts of hers that they had ... Her well-lived life, (she died in April of 2019 at 102), and her legacy have been rescued, in more ways than one, by a hap-hazard discovery by a treasure-seeking vlogger ...Thank Goodness for Serendipity! 

Without this vlogger posting his discovery, and his subsequent 'on-line' renovation of the Potter House on YouTube, (Curiosity Inc, now has over 225K+ subscribers), and without the ease of Google Search and the vast on-line repository of the internet, I too would never have known anything about this seemingly obscure Canadian potter, Mary Borgstrom. 

Mary Borgstrom Signature 
Her pottery is now back in circulation, and even the CBC 'wrote her up' this past year. 

She now has her own dedicated Wikipedia page.

Continued 'google' searches provide ready excellent examples of her work. In short, Mary has been digitized!

Good on You Alex and family of Curiosity Inc  for spotting and resurrecting a bona-fide national treasure.

... and so goes the internet rabbit hole ...

Monday, December 9, 2019

Wonderful Read of TRILLIUM by actor Jens Hansen

It's proving very tough to find a good reader to do an audio version of my latest novel, TRILLIUM.
It needs someone with a 'good ear' as well as an expressive & dexterous acting 'voice'.

I thought I'd found the right person after hearing a 5-minute sample by local actor Jens Hansen. But, as so often happens, he's not available to do the entire work. So, back to the audio-drawing board!

In the meantime, enjoy this short clip from the start of the novel. I did the intro and he took it from there ... What do YOU think? - Like it? Loathe it? - Want to hear more? - Thoughts welcome! 


Soundcloud - 5 minute read of TRILLIUM - by Jens Hansen 
Consider reading it aloud yourself: TRILLIUM by MLHolton

Thursday, November 14, 2019

'Magic Hour' by MLHolton, at BAYSCAPES, Toronto

I have donated one of my older paintings - 'MAGIC HOUR, Georgian Bay' - 
to the annual fundraising auction for the Georgian Bay Land Trust - BAYSCAPES.
'Magic Hour, Georgian Bay' by MLHolton, , 24" sq, acrylic on plywood, framed
Auction Date: FRIDAY, Nov. 22nd, 7-11pm.
Location: ARTSCAPE, Wychwood Barns, 
601 Christie Street, Toronto

Join the Georgian Bay Land Trust on November 22nd for BAYSCAPES! 
This annual fundraiser brings the Georgian Bay community together 
for a Fun Night of art, entertainment & friendly bidding
---  in support of wilderness conservation on Georgian Bay. 

Enjoy complimentary food and drink courtesy of some of Georgian Bay’s favourite suppliers. 
Bid on fantastic bay-themed art, items, and experiences in the live and silent auctions. 

Live music! Horsey-do-overs ;)! 
Plenty of Art and Fascinating Bay people! 
I've donated this piece for a Great Cause! Get thee there!

Update: By all accounts a superb event!
Photos generously supplied by GBLT of 'Magic Hour, Georgian Bay' by MLHolton - in situ ....

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Short-listed for 26th Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award! TRILLIUM by MLHolton

So excited to announce that my third novel, TRILLIUM - by yours truly, MLHolton - has been short-listed for the 26th Annual Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards in 2019! How thrilling!

Narrowed down from a large field of diverse fiction titles, three works are now in the running to WIN!   (Wouldn't it be amazing to win again - after a hiatus of 20 years - when I won for my second novel, The Gilded Beaver by Anonymous ?!?)

Yeah! Come On! TRILLIUM!

Ebook or Paperback
'The Hamilton Arts Council Literary Awards recognizes published books of literary excellence, written by authors residing in Hamilton. This year, we're celebrating the 26th Anniversary of our Hamilton Literary Awards!

Prizes will be awarded in all four of the following categories: Poetry, Non-fiction, Fiction and the Kerry Schooley Book Award for the book that is the most evocative of Hamilton.'

Please join a cadre of talented authors -
- hobnob with other like-minded readers -
or  - just hang out - at this well-known
*!Gala Literary Event!* 
 MONDAY, December 9th, 7-10pm 

UPDATE: And the runner-up is ....TRILLIUM by MLHolton!  - wink-wink :)
Congratulations to ALL writers who partook in the 26th Hamilton Literary Awards! 

Monday, November 4, 2019

Double Whammy! Author Interview & Another Solid Book Review of TRILLIUM

... Always fun when the stars align and two bright comets fire over my hemisphere at the same time ...

I have been very fortunate to have two solid writers engage with my latest novel, TRILLIUM, over the past few days. Marian Thorpe, a writer of riveting historical fiction, expressed interest to do a follow-up on her prior 4-STAR book review with an author's interview ... She supplied the questions and I answered with some never-before-revealed details about the writing of TRILLIUM ...

Write YOUR review on Amazon!
You can read it here:

Marian Thorpe Website - filled with novel excerpts, short fiction and poetry 
Likewise, an internationally well-known wine blogger and wine aficionado from beautiful British Colombia, Karl Kliparchuk(Twitter handle @mywinepal ), left his known sphere of oenology and entered the MLH orbit of fiction ...

Overall, he very much enjoyed TRILLIUM - as a story. He did take me to task, in private, on a few of the finer points of the evolutionary history of icewine ... No fault there. I gently reminded him that this was, first and foremost, a work of #fiction.  

Read his generous 'gift-giving' review directed at the wine-loving book-reading community here:  http://mywinepal.com/2019/11/04/book-review-trillium-by-m-l-holton/

Follow @mywinepal for insight in all things WINE ... 

Plus, MLH UPDATE: I have almost finished the FIRST YEAR OF PROMOTION for TRILLIUM and will soon be heading off into new territory to experience and explore. There are two more reviews coming in this year, then that's it!

31 reviews, interviews & media shout-outs since Jan, 2019! 
Not too shabby for a little #canlit #indie #title - #eh? 

Friday, October 18, 2019

Preliminary Painting - by Margaret Lindsay Holton

Preliminary - by MLHolton (2017) 
It's always fascinating to see which piece of art a client prefers

In 2017, I did the adjacent work, on some scrap paper, exploring a new brush technique on a fixed colour palette ...

I very much liked the 'cross-hatch' effect on this particular colour field and did a short series of landscapes to amplify my evolving discoveries.

A visiting client saw the effort, including this preliminary piece.

I was super delighted that he instantly bought it, then and there, unmounted and unframed. Bit of a surprise to me, but that's really how it goes sometimes. People just like what they like! - It really is that simple. - mlholton

The Hunt .... exploring and enjoying the bold palette  ... by MLHolton
... final effort in that series ... 'Sunset Thru the Trees' by MLHolton
Preliminary Painting - by MLHolton - SOLD
(NB: there's some colour distortion in this client supplied photo repro)

Monday, October 7, 2019


2019 Poster for @THERAWF 
In new historical fiction, TRILLIUM, by Canadian artist and author, Margaret Lindsay Holton, character Johnny Di Angelo, a rough-and-tumble farm boy from the Beamsville area, mingles with the landed gentry at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. 

The mix of low-brow country and high-brow city folk is unprecedented at this near century-old event. Black tie attendees are as bewitched as the barnyard crowd during the world-renown horse carriage and dog shows. The international jumper class is one of the highlights of the fair. Johnny is there, dressed in his new black tie, on the arm of a stunning socialite ... With his canny intuition, Johnny knows that the after-show 'mix & mingle' in the exclusive Tanbark Club is all about business and new connections. His aim is to grow the TRILLIUM brand and he soon gets to work ...

Read more! TRILLIUM - #ebook or #paperback -
In CANADA: https://www.amazon.ca/Trillium-Margaret-Lindsay-Holton/dp/0992127289

In AMERICA: https://www.amazon.com/Trillium-Margaret-Lindsay-Holton/dp/0992127289

The Royal offers soooo much! 
WATCH MORE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=V5fPtY9PMuQ

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Another 4-Star Book Review & An Author Interview!

Pinot Noir - Veraison - Beamsville, Ontario, Canada
The summer winds down and sun-loving grapes mature through #veraison ... 

I was delighted by a recent 4**** STAR review of TRILLIUM by Canadian novelist Marian Thorpe that appeared on Goodreads and the American Amazon book site - all the more because Marian is currently roaming around the backwaters of Asia Minor in search of snow leopards. She managed to post the review before she disappeared into the hinterland without WIFI access. We pray for her safe return!

I am always intrigued by what an author 'takes away' from reading TRILLIUM - especially when aware of the critic's background.  - "Marian Thorpe is a writer currently living and working in Guelph, [Ontario, Canada.] Originally from Southern Ontario in Essex County, Marian was born to British-immigrant parents and grew up thinking of the United Kingdom as a second home. Her father instilled an early love of British history and Roman-British history informed much of the fictional work of Marian's series."  So, Marian is second-gen Canadian. This fact does seem to shape her interest and interpretation of TRILLIUM.  

Excerpts from her critique follow:  
‘A sweeping, multi-generational, multi-family saga, TRILLIUM tells the story of the European settlement and development of the Canadian lands bordering #LakeOntario, the Niagara peninsula in particular. ...
For readers interested in the details of this area, from the names of personalities behind towns such as #Beamsville, or the vagaries of technological advances that left #Ancaster and #Dundas as sleepy towns compared to #Hamilton’s industrial bustle ..., Trillium is a wealth of detail and research framing the fortunes of three fictional families. ... Characters are to some extent place-holders establishing the foci and purpose of the three families. .... the same could be said of other sweeping tales, such as London and Sarum by Edward Rutherford. ..  As TRILLIUM approaches the modern day ... the three families entwine ... and focus shifts to personalities. The tone of the narrative changes ...The themes become more adult ... with the author reflecting .. on the increasing freedom and changing behavior of the post WWII years.
It is obvious that the author knows the #geography and #history of the #Niagara peninsula well. ... Her deeply appreciative eye shines through. Recommend for anyone wishing to better understand the long European settlement history of this area ... 4****STAR - Marian Thorpe
John Howard's Vineyard of Distinction
As a counter-balance to her somewhat distanced review, I am adding a slightly different tangent to this post of a recently released 'author interview' conducted by Vincent Lowry.  
In it, I explain how the idea of TRILLIUM came to be and what, generally, I hoped to accomplish through this new literary work. 
Yes, I did intend to focus on local history and farming life. But more importantly, I wanted to get at some inalienable facts about Family. 
I hoped to demonstrate, through fiction, how blood, genes, and general familial temperament are passed on through basic biology. I wanted to convincingly show how certain familial - and biological - characteristics manifest through generations ... 
When people say, "oh, you are just like your distant Aunt Marge and/or Uncle Bob", there's very good scientific reason for those pronouncements. It is basic science. We are a composite of what came before us. We all carry the genetic DNA of our ancestors. Farmers who breed livestock and graft vineyards understand these fundamentals very well.  The author interview can be found here : - https://eauthorresource.wordpress.com/2019/09/11/interview-with-ml-holton-author-of-trillium/

TRILLIUM by M.L.Holton 
(available as an ebook or trade paperback) 
via Amazon's Canadian & American sites. 

Helicopter buzzes over bucolic vineyard, Beamsville, Ontario  - Photo by MLHolton 

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Writers must Write what they want to Read ...

Thrilled by this up-coming review of my third novel, TRILLIUM, from author & book blogger, Lina Hansen of #Germany. 

Excerpt follows:

Original and unique ... an epic saga of three families spanning generations … that grows as organically as the peach trees in Tom’s orchard. … I certainly enjoyed being transported back into a world where the horseshoe falls were not besieged by tourism but were still a thundering miracle in a wondrous wilderness. I enjoyed reading about the struggles of the first Europeans and their interactions with the original dwellers of this land. … Holton … gives us a narrative that is as unrushed and serene as a slow-flowing river. ... Steeped in … a keen love for nature and lovingly viewed with the eye of an artist … paints settings with words and shows us a place long lost in time. … I trusted the author to bring it all to a satisfactory conclusion … she did not disappoint … could well have been the Canadian version of “Outlander” … magic in the words.- Goodreads: 4 starLina Hansen, August 15th, 2019 

Link to her site coming soon! (She also very kindly sent a personal note: 
- " .... readers should find this novel, it deserves to be read."

Thank You Lina! 
UPDATE: Lina's blog LINK

Enjoy a #IndieAugust late #SummerRead set in #Niagara #winecountry 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Another RAVE Book Review of TRILLIUM

Wow. It is always gratifying - but also very humbling - when a book reviewer assesses the merits of one's work.  Rachel More, writing for Hamilton's Arts & Letters Magazine had some thought-filled things to say recently about TRILLIUM ...

' Margaret Lindsay Holton’s TRILLIUM 

Trillium by Margaret Lindsay Holton is a book that is steeped in both geography and history. A very specific, very localized geography and history. Trillium chronicles the history of the Niagara Peninsula and European settlement and development here.

From the first sentence - “Clinging tightly to the huge boulder half way down the falls Tom watched the water cascade past him into the churning gorge below” - it is clear that landscape and natural power loom large (oftentimes literally) over the lives of Holton’s characters. And well it should.

The founding myth of settler Canada is that of a country literally hewn from forest and granite and transformed into a paradise – one of the ‘breadbaskets of the world’ and a fertile and productive region for wine. That this is a myth cannot be overstated. The last 10 years have seen a radical shift in how we talk about the colonial period and the white men and women who came here from Europe and transmogrified the land to suit themselves at the expense of the non-white men and women who were already here. In a post-Truth and Reconciliation society perhaps Holton’s most surprising literary choice is the lack of racial tension which characterizes the opening section of Trillium.

Young Tom Hartford, a British soldier in what would come to be known (to Anglo-Canadians at least) as the French & Indian War, is a model 18th-century man. His best friend is the Iroquois trader Maakadegaagwan, known as Maaka, and the most problematic thought that Tom has is that he would prefer to marry a white woman “He would prefer to take a wife from his own kind, preferably with a woman who could read and write and teach their children.” Later, when Maaka’s customs make Tom’s new (Scottish) wife uncomfortable, Tom assures her that “Maaka was the best there ever could be”. He continues to defend his friendship with Maaka in the face of increasing community pressure to segregate from the indigenous people. Eventually though, Maaka stops coming around and Tom cheerfully accepts this as he cheerfully accepts almost everything else that happens.

But just as Canadian history doesn’t end with the English victory at the Plains of Abraham, Trillium doesn’t end with Tom Hartford peacefully living out his days on his Twenty Mile Creek peach farm.

Holton’s mandate is wide-ranging and no sooner has the story of Tom Hartford, the first, drawn to a close than she introduces us to another young man, aspiring to a better life, awestruck by the majesty of his new country.

Francesco Di Angelo arrives in Hamilton from Sicily by merchant steamer in 1835. His first view of the city highlights a rapidly-changing Canada, juxtaposing “the bustling shoreline” with the “escarpment-protected port at the end of this long freshwater open lake”.

The meaning is clear: this is a natural setting for the ingenuity and industry of human beings and the land will reward those who adapt to and exploit it most judiciously. Francesco is one of those who will profit by the land, at least in this era, because his love of growing things makes him a natural fit as a picker on the Hartford farm (now owned by Tom’s grandson, Tom Hartford III). “To him this wasn’t work, it was play. It was soil. It was home. His hands became chaffed from dirt and his fingernails became permanently blackened with grit. He dug in deeper. He didn’t mind. He could feel the sun on his back and hear the birds in the orchards. He could literally see the fruit of his own labour. In September, he ate two perfect peaches from the first tree he had picked.” Despite his lack of English, Franco is embraced by the thoroughly Anglo Hartfords in the first of many intersections between characters throughout the centuries.

Holton’s book does indeed span centuries. Words like ‘panoramic’ or ‘multi-generational’ or even ‘saga’ would apply. It is to her credit that she has looked at the history and demographics of wine country and seen fertile ground (pun intended) for the kind of sprawling family-history story made famous by authors like Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez; though Holton’s novel doesn’t feature the kind of precious magical realism that also typifies those writers. Instead, her magic is more prosaic, but no less effective.

The opening section of Trillium, “Seeds”, introduces both Tom, the first, and Franco Di Angelo as well as a third young man with big dreams. Paddy O’Sullivan’s ambitions lead him down a far different path than either of the others, with him becoming a ‘swell’ and most likely a petty criminal as well as a shrewd and corrupt businessman (he will eventually become involved with Hartford Fruit Farm through a shady land deal that sees Tom’s descendants leasing land that Paddy has acquired).

Tom, Franco, and Paddy are the seeds that Holton grows her story from and, like grapevines, that story grows strong and wild. The Hartford, Di Angelo, and O’Sullivan family’s fates are inextricably intertwined all the way up to the end of the 20th century and the novel does not lack for dramatic events.

In fact, all of the plot described so far covers less than a quarter of Trillium. The magic is that Holton never confuses the reader (even with multiple characters named, say, Tom Hartford) and she never loses the sense of the terrain being a character as much as any of the humans.

As I wrote in the beginning of this review, this is a novel in which history and geography are the twin engines driving the story forward. Trillium could not be set anywhere but the Niagara peninsula. This specificity is a strength, as is Holton’s gift for capturing each historical period in detail without losing sense of the larger whole.

As Trillium so aptly demonstrates even familiar territory can contain multitudes worth examining. Her Southern Ontario tale is full of intriguing characters with stories to tell and they are lucky to be the products of a well-seasoned teller of tales. TRILLIUM is well worth the attention of anyone who lives in the Niagara peninsula - and anyone who doesn’t but still likes quality historical fiction.'

--- Book Review by Rachel More, for H&L Magazine. Published July 20th, 2019.

Wonderful, no? 

However, More's review is not without some criticism from me ... I believe she failed to 'round out' the manner in which I did include the current plight of the indigenous people in Canada. She failed to mention how I tied up the beginning of the novel to the end with the re-introduction of a 'snapshot' of the general perspective, circa 2001, from both the native and non-native points of view. I did this in a subtle way, (as an internet-exploring activity played out in a house full of university students), to remind the readers that 'settler' history - Canadian history - is, in fact, built on top of the pre-existing human history within North America ... In other words, contrary to her critique, I was very aware from the onset that, (even though this work is NOT a novel about the native tribes of Canada), I could not ignore the 'framework' of history that has shaped our young nation and its people.

I also think her opening assumption that all interactions between colonialists and the native peoples would have been necessarily fractious is off-the-mark. Historically, that is simply not the case. (The continental fur trade would never have happened if it had been.) More to the point, and worthy of greater thought and deliberation, is the whole IDEA of 'land ownership' that lies, like the good soil beneath our feet, beneath this tale ...

Land ownership remains the greatest bone of contention between the government of Canada and the First Nations tribal groups. Dominion of the land - including all rights and access above-and-below ground - will continue to be one of on-going strife between the two competing governing cultures if some sort of genuine and acceptable agreement cannot be achieved. There is no question that the historical wounds are deep and the generational scars omnipresent. But, obviously, no progress can or will be made as long as this on-going issue remains framed as one between 'winners and losers', or 'the dominant and the subordinate'.

If PEACE is desired, a new linguistic paradigm is very much needed.

For my point of view, and for what it is worth, nothing is ever really just 'black or white' in love or war - and that includes humanity's multifaceted evolution and diverse multicultural history. If we are to survive at all as a species on this planet, we have ALL got to rethink a LOT about our engagement with the natural world as well as our interactions with all species on this amazing twirling globe.