Priests in the Attic

The Official Blog for Elaine A. Small

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She’s Never Stopped Pursuing the Dream

For a woman who has worn many career hats, there only seemed to be two roles that truly fit Elaine Small….

Picture of Elaine

Turning a “sour” lemon into sweet lemonade!

DATE OF RELEASE: March, 2012

Life reset: Making lemonade from “a lemon”

TORONTO – When life takes a sour turn you can do one of two things—give up or meet the problem head on.

Elaine Small chose the latter and has met every challenge of life by reinventing herself and forging ahead with one of the most unique and successful career paths followed by a woman emerging into the workplace in the 60’s and continuing well into the 21st century.

Now the author of a best-selling book, Priests in the Attic—her seventh career change—she is again forging ahead with a “reset” on her early successful singing career to produce a new album.

Her particular challenge is to seniors who do not know how to put aside the issues and problems of the past and push themselves forward into new exciting lives by writing  their life—a form of healing past disappointments and fulfilling their life-long dreams and ambitions.

From her start in the health care field as an X-ray technician, she followed her dreams to become a professional singer and was soon a bona fide musical star singing with the likes of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, USA, the Maestro Lucio Agostini, Canada, the Johnny Gallant trio in Montreal, the Jimmy King trio in Winnipeg including the legendary Lennie Breau, and, along the way, sharing the stage with Gordon  Pinsent (Movie-The Rowdyman etc.) actress Mitzi Gaynor  and Harry Belafonte, among others.

As Elaine Steele, she was featured on many Canadian television and radio variety shows, also appearing at the Royal York and King Edward Hotel supper clubs in Toronto, the Ritz-Carlton Café in Montreal as well as the major supper clubs of the day in hotels across Canada and the Northern USA.

As her musical career and personal family demands clashed, she re-invented herself by entering the heady world of high-fashion, soon becoming a sought-after European fashion buyer for three of Toronto’s major fashion stores, including Holt Renfrew. As the travel demands of that career again created family problems she morphed into a Toronto real estate entrepreneur, building a portfolio of investment apartment properties in Toronto, before once again switching careers, this time,  to the hospitality business, including a motel, restaurant and historic B&B outside of Toronto. Each “life reset” was either precipitated by a major personal crisis or professional change/relocation. None defeated her.

Along the way she returned to college to finish her interrupted philosophy degree—but instead switched over to earn a Master’s degree in English from York University, picking up on a lifelong fascination and heartfelt interest in writing. The result was Priests in the Attic, her first book. More than a simple memoir, the book gives sparkling insights into the difficulties and challenges faced by career-minded women at a time when most women were expected to be the “June Cleaver-type” stay-at-home wives and mothers.

Priests in the Attic highlights Elaine Small’s life from her early childhood in Winnipeg, Manitoba, as the daughter of a founder and leader of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada, through her musical and broadcasting years and later into her many other interesting and challenging careers. But, as critics and readers alike note, it moves beyond a simple memoir into provocative and inspirational insights dealing with life issues experienced by all. One critic noted that the book is “unique in its ability to resonate with many segments of society,” adding that it “wears its forthright heart on its sleeve, whether describing joyful successes or dismal failures in careers, marriage, motherhood and self-discipline.”

But, really, who is Elaine? Well, let her book tell you:

“I’m everyone who has ever taken a breath and marveled at the wonder and miracle of life. I’m everyone who has discovered their own finitude and shuddered at the concept of one day, being no more. I’m everyone who has suffered the pain of loss, the torment of regret, the desolation of loneliness, a fear of the past and a fear of the future. I’m everyone, who, through an anguished cry for help, receives the possibility of a new beginning and a miracle of new life through God’s immeasurable grace and his greatest gift—infinite love, given and received. Who am I? I am one with you—and all of us have our own unique story to tell. This is mine.”

The stormy musical career and the challenges of marriage and career turned her thoughts to the deeper devout depths of her childhood and the renewed spiritual blossoming of her later years. These insights provide the spark that illuminates Priests in the Attic. One reader observed that the content was “So interesting and at the same time unexpectedly spiritual”.

Not one to just “say” but rather one who must “do”, Elaine Small is now resurrecting her music career with a planned studio session leading to the release of a new album in Spring/Summer, 2012.

Resetting your life after major life problems or challenges is never easy. But, as Priests in the Attic reveals for Elaine Small and for other “Elaine Smalls,” no matter what their age, such changes are not only doable, they can lead to infinitely richer and more meaningful lives. It is, as she says, “never too late to reset your life. Do it!”.—Elaine A Small

Contact:  Ph. 239 495-3030 (USA)–613 968-6720 (Canada)                                                  

Upcoming Appearances: South West Florida




Give Thanks for the Love in your Life…

Giving Thanks:

Where do you find yourself today? Yes, it’s just one week before the official Thanksgiving celebration day. But where are you today, at this very moment? Are you thankful; and, if so–for what…for whom?

Perhaps you are thankful for everything in your life: the joy of a new lover or life partner, happy children, healthy parents, a likable job, a budding career…the list goes on…. To this I say, Hallelujah!

But what if few or even none of these blessings are within your view? What if you are stumbling through your days, unable to see any future through the blur of your anguished tears? What if you are so strangled by loneliness and hopelessness that you are unable to move from your bed? What if you are so overcome with life’s struggles that you feel you cannot go on? Where to turn? Whom to call?

A Lover of God:

           I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.

          Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

—Bible; New King James Version: Psalm 116: 1-2

Yes, and so it was for me:

                                                                                   New York: Feisty, Fabled and Fabulous

Elaine Steele - Chanteuse

New York looks and sounds just as I’ve seen it and heard it in my dreams: a frenetic circus of dissonant noise emitting from narrow streetscapes; yellow cabs honking their way into the heart of the city; pale sunlight shadowed out by huge horizontal buildings and tall vertical heights; glass and steel gleaming over the ant colonies of people below. In awe, I crane my neck, and for the first few days, sleep is out of the question. There’s too much to see, too much to do and too much reality to avoid.

“But what are you planning to do?” my friend Eleanor finally asks after a few days in her apartment.

“Everything,” I reply out loud…. Everything that’s important to me, I murmur to myself. No, I didn’t visit the Empire State Building, the United Nations or the Statue of Liberty. I stayed in my own area, 150 West 58th Street, within walking distance of Broadway, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, Fifth Avenue and Macy‘s.

I’d started my New York sojourn in the fancy St. Moritz Hotel across from Central Park, upon the invitation of a rich Texan fan and his wife, but, after two days of high living as their guest, I moved down the accommodations ladder to my friend Eleanor’s place. Those first days with her were time enough to find my way around my part of New York: prowling the theatre district, searching out a trustworthy agent, inquiring about an “interested” coach and finding the best cafeterias at the lowest price. Within a week, sensing Eleanor‘s impatience, I agreeably moved a few doors down the street to a typical Manhattan brownstone with the compulsory New York doorman standing in the doorway, typical of the sixties, who was surprisingly friendly when I approached him.

Looking alright from the outside, inside the building bore witness to the hopeful hunters of show-biz fame and fortune who had frequented the premises and left, probably no less scarred than the peeling paint and stained wallpaper facing me now. Nope, I’m not going to be one of them, I thought, as I turned the worn brass key and stepped inside the room. Switching on the main light, I thankfully saw there was a window, which now cast a two-foot square of light on the bed. This will do, I thought, at least I’ll know day from night, and I can shut New York out or let her in, any time, depending on my mood. And so my love/hate affair with New York began….—Priests in the Attic (p. 75)

Repentance—the Place and Time:

                             St. Patrick’s Cathedral

A tear in every stitch

My dream of singing in Manhattan was close, within my grasp, but the price was too high. Still angry at my stupidity inletting things go as far as they did, more importantly, there was the recognition that my burning ambition was out of control. It had put me in real danger—both physically and morally. The stakes have gone up; I thought. I have to fold, but, where to go … what to do? “Show me the way,” I whispered.

Stumbling along Fifth Avenue, eyes blurred by stinging tears, I push my way through hordes of Saturday afternoon shoppers to find myself in front of St. Patrick‘s Cathedral. Distraught, looking for answers, I fumble my way up the broad steps to the huge oak door, fully expecting it to be closed. As I clutch at the worn brass handle, the formidable door swings open, and I step inside….Exhausted by the emotions of the week coupled with tears of confusion and  increasing self-doubt, I collapse in a front pew. Time passes….

Finally, my frustrated tears subside; I feel peaceful, safe in a place of stillness and serenity—another sphere. Transfixed, I want to stay within this realm forever. Falling into a prayer-like meditation, I silently ask for some direction, any direction away from the loneliness and guilt I am mired in. Silence….

Then a draft … ever so slight, followed by the merest whisper:

“Elaine”—I hear my name uttered softly in my ear, a light touch on my shoulder. “I will never leave you, nor forsake you. You’ll never be alone again.”

Opening my eyes, I looked around. I’d just heard the kindest words I’ll ever know, but from where, from whom? Although the candle-lit cathedral was still fairly dark, I could see that it was as empty as it had been when I first walked in. Immobilized, I contemplated the experience of the voice, the touch, and the promise. How long I sat, I do not remember….—Priests in the Attic (p. 85-86)

Redemption:  Amazing  Grace :

                    I have swept away your offences like a cloud,

                   your sins, like the morning mist.

                   Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

                                                      —NIV Bible: Isaiah 44:22

Go, G-ma, Go!

Elaine: Toronto, Royal York Hotel: c.1965

Go, g-ma, Go!

Unchained Melody

I’ve always loved this song—as a twenty-something, falling in and out of love; as a thirty –something, trying to find fame and fortune against great odds; as a forty-something, trying to have it all: husband, children and a demanding career; as a fifty-something, realizing all dreams die in the light of day, but there’s a new reality available with each dawn;  as a sixty-something: re-discovering the small intimate pleasures of life through family, grandchildren, a new love and continued challenges that add zest to life–finally allowing all five senses: sight, scent, sound, taste and touch to come alive to unexpected experiences and new bravado—because, in the end, “Who else cares?”

We Boomers/Zoomers have earned the right to finally be who we really are…that person we’ve lived with for over six decades—that person we’ve loved, hated, forgiven, been ashamed of, despised, neglected, abused, nursed, cared for, stood up for, been proud of, and finally liked! Yes, and here we are, now  free of our physical vanities and emotional restrictions, able to revisit our buried dreams now catapulted into center stage of our  emotional truth and needs—and what do I say? I say: go for it! Do the undo-able, follow your passions, see where they take you! Go, g-ma, go! I did…

Now, hear, and see me, onboard the Ocean Princess on our way from China to Japan last March…Not too bad for an unrehearsed singing appearance after many, many, many years. Amen!     Just click to view.

Word Guild Writing Award

Elaine A. Small accepts her Word Guild Writing Award


I’m happy to announce that my book, Priests in the Attic-a memoir,  is a Winner in the “Canadian Word Guild Writing Awards”–General Readership Category.

The presentation took place on Wednesday, June 15th, 2011, at World Vision, in Mississauga, Ontario. My heartfelt thanks go out to The Word Guild for recognition of my book and its particular message:

“Priests in the Attic was conceived and written on wings of reverie and prayer…”

“In essence, this  memoir is a story of  triumph over the ongoing conflict between spiritual  and worldly desires. In this way it is everyone’s story as we all fight the temptations of a crass, secular, world designed to lure us away from God’s purpose and his distinct plan for each one of us, while here on earth.”

The Word Guild Writing Awards 2011

Media Press Release – Elaine A. Small, June 1, 2011


Book Festival-Signing, Ft. Myers, FL.,2011

Belleville – Elaine A. Small, of Dundas Street in Belleville, has been shortlisted in a national writing competition for her inspirational memoir, Priests in the Attic. Small, born and raise d in Winnipeg, left home at twenty to pursue careers as an x-ray technician, professional singer, European fashion buyer (Eaton’s, Holt Renfrew, The Bay–Toronto), real estate agent/investor and a B&B operator of Tara Hall, Wellington, Ontario. A graduate of York University- BA Honours; MA, 2001- Small continues to write daily at her home in Belleville, while working on her new book, “Life Writing and the Power of Reverie.”

“There were seventeen priests at my father’s funeral.” So begins Small’s literary memoir, Priests in the Attic, an eclectic tale that starts in the crib and develops into a burning desire for stardom. In the telling, her memoir wears its forthright heart on her sleeve as it describes her early life as a minister’s daughter. Growing up in a family of ten (eight children) Small’s memoir follows her surging/stumbling progress through careers, loves, losses, joys and sorrows, in waves of emotion powered by reverie–the sudden infusion of joy, sadness or both–brought on by old memories.


Priests in the Attic is a finalist in the  “Book Category” of The Word Guild Canadian Writing Awards.

The winner will be announced on June 15 at a black-tie Awards Gala at World Vision’s headquarters in Mississauga, Ontario, to which the public is invited. The Gala is the premier event honouring the work of Canadian Christian writers. It will be hosted by British Columbian author and speaker, Grace Fox.

“I am incredibly excited to be shortlisted for this award,” Small said. “Many readers have told me that Priests in the Attic has inspired them to recall their own life challenges and finally accept their unique experiences and difficulties in juggling careers, hearth and home, during the evolving social issues of the 1960s and 1970s.”

The Word Guild, the organization that sponsors the awards, consists of nearly 400 writers and editors across Canada who write from a Christian perspective and publish work in a variety of genres.

All shortlisted Book Category finalists are in contention for the Grace Irwin Award. This is the second year for the $5,000 Award which will be presented to the best book entered in The Word Guild’s awards.

EMC Interview – Trenton, Canada

by Kate Everson

EMC Lifestyles – Quinte West – When Elaine Small was just a girl growing up in Winnipeg, she thought nothing of having several priests living upstairs. Her father was a minister and there was no seminary so the young men boarded with the family.

“I thought everyone had priests in the attic,” she says smiling.

Five years ago, she decided to make that the name of her book, a memoir of her life.

“It’s a metaphor,” she says. “A spiritual thread runs through my head.”

Elaine adds that the power of writing her life story was a healing process. Through a technique called reverie, she recalls not just facts but feelings associated with events. Memories triggered by the five senses bring back deep feelings and allow her to experience the emotional truth.

“It’s an amazing experience,” she said.

Elaine says by writing about personal events we can re-create them in our mind. We can correct the attitude and see it differently.

“We can re-right the story,” she says.

She adds that no one remembers a situation the same way. Each person has her own individual point of view.

For example, she recalls feeling terribly guilty over something that happened with her sister when she was young. But her sister has a totally different take on the same event.

“In retrospect, we are able to address events with humour,” Elaine said.

Elaine has changed the names of many of the people in her memoirs, but says the facts are true. She tells about her exciting life singing in nightclubs in Toronto in the 1960s, yet seeking somehow to regain her faith despite tumultuous times. The book is well-written and engages the reader in every page. Elaine studied writing for two years at Humber College taking correspondence and summer classes. Her book was published last October and she has already acquired a list of fans, including some from Wellington where she had a bed and breakfast for 15 years. She now lives in Belleville with her husband Richard.

Elaine will be reading excerpts and talking about the process of writing through reverie at a special event at the Quinte West Public Library on Saturday, June 25, at 2 p.m. in the multi-purpose room. She will also be signing copies of her book.

Priests in the Attic is also available at local bookstores, Greenley’s and Chapters in Belleville, as well as online at . Elaine is offering ten per cent of the profits of her book to the Alzheimer Society.

Boomers and Zoomers take note!

As a senior facing the most important risk for Alzheimer’s disease [advancing age] I am naturally drawn to all information regarding the risk factors of this age-related disease which will, by 2030, as the remaining Boomers turn 65, increase to 7.7 million in the USA alone–unless an effective therapy is discovered. It’s a fearful proposition, but, as my research has discovered, there is hope.

For those Boomers who are in the midst (over 65) of facing this disease that is linked to age, and those younger Zoomers (age 50) at risk through hereditary factors, there are additional health issues that play a role. Some of these are diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, smoking, high blood pressure and obesity.

Addressing these factors early in life may improve overall health, including brain health throughout life…and this last, brain health, is where my intrinsic interest in Alzheimer’s is leading me.

Alzheimer's disease attacks nerve cells (neurons) in several areas of the brain

–“Focus on Healthy Aging: Mount Sinai School of Medicine”

Baby Boomers-Medical Alert!


Yes, this issue has taken on the proportions of a medical epidemic!

Here I’m talking about the latest publicity regarding Alzheimer’s and all of the press regarding this dreaded disease. For my own interest I am now accumulating information, starting back in October of 2010 with a very informative cover story in Time magazine by Alice Park, titled: “Alzheimer’s Unlocked.” Here, the solitary and personal effect of this fearful disease is described in a manner that wakes readers up with a numbing blow–stopping us in our tracks with the realization that many of us, including me, have experienced some of these same symptoms and are perhaps, like me, now programmed on high alert.

As such, I’ve decided to delve further into this timely topic discussed in every public realm through a multitude of various venues including medical journals, magazines, web-sites and, in a very personal way, TV sites, such as Larry King’s show on CNN, Sunday, May 1st where various media stars including President Ronald Reagan’s son, Ron and Sargent Shriver’s daughter, Maria, discussed their personal experiences with their respective fathers’ Alzheimer’s affliction:

The Reagan family, 1960. Ronald Reagan, Ron, Nancy and Patti.

See an interesting and critical comment below, from the blog “Alzheimer Speaks”

To be clear, everyone has the right to make such a decision and I don’t begrudge Reagan his right to do so. However, he couched his decision against the backdrop that “there is no cure” and implied that it is therefore better “not to know” about the early presence of disease process. This is a myth we need to stop perpetrating and Larry King missed the opportunity to set the record straight.

Having said that, I also thought the show performed one major disservice to the public. There was much dramatic emphasis on the fact that Larry King and Ron Reagan visited the Cleveland Clinic to be evaluated for early signs of Alzheimer’s and Ron Reagan chose to forgo an evaluation based on his preference to remain “blissfully ignorant…. For more on this click

On my visit with you next week, there will be more information on this “scary, but need to know” disease. There, I will include comments from “Focus on Healthy Aging: Mount Sinai School of Medicine” and “Be Fit Over Fifty” plus other articles and blogs. Please tune in!

Memories of Elizabeth Taylor

Elaine à la Elizabeth Taylor c. 1965

Yes; today, like others world-wide, we, Boomer/Zoomers in particular, mourn the death of Elizabeth Taylor. In our day she was it...and we all wanted to look like her (see my rendition). And again, today, like so many other mourners, looking back on her life (and mine) I have a personal story to relate. It takes place in 1965, at the King Edward Sheraton Hotel, in Toronto, Canada.

I was performing at the “King Eddy” around the time when Liz Taylor and Richard Burton married each other for the second time. (Their first marriage lasted ten years.) They stayed over at the hotel on their way to Montreal (where the marriage vows were proclaimed) and I well remember the buzz of excitement that pervaded the hotel…and why not? Toronto, at that time, was not considered the “world-class city” as we know it today.

“Dressed to the nines,” in my stage make-up, my stiletto heels and my heavily beaded gown, I gingerly stepped onto the elevator to go down to the Oak Room, one of the two elegant supper clubs in the city at that time. (The other one, large enough to host stars of the day such as Tony Bennet and Peggy Lee was the Imperial Room at the Royal York Hotel.) As it happened, I shared the elevator with only one other person—a short stocky man who stared up at me as we slowly descended three floors before he loudly blurted out:

“Well…are you Elizabeth Taylor?” A pregnant pause followed as the elevator doors slowly opened….

“Not exactly,” I murmured over my shoulder as I took my leave, turning just in time to see his puckered, puzzled look. And that’s as close as he or I got to Elizabeth Taylor that day.

PS. I hope you’ve enjoyed this reverie and the “wannabe” picture above—now 45 years old!

Yes, I did see the real Elizabeth Taylor the next day; she was much shorter than expected—but absolutely stunning!