EPL Writer in Residence events August – December

epl logoThough my counterpart Natasha Deen and I are on break until August 15, I’ve been busily plotting the last half of 2013’s writer in residence programming at EPL. I’m excited to announce them below. I hope you’ll find a few things that pique your interest and come out before my term is completed. Details are subject to change, so it’s best to bookmark this site for the future.

August 25th, 1:30 pm – Stanley Milner Library  – Writers’ Corner with Food & Drink Writers

Want to become part of the growing number of food writers? Thinking of starting a recipe blog? Or are you working on a cookbook? Find out how to capture flavours in words, review restaurants fairly and keep up with the food trends in this panel discussion with three of Edmonton’s top food writers, Mary Baily, Jennifer Cockrall-King and Tina Faiz.

Aug. 31-Sept. 1 (at the library), Sept. 2 online – Stanley Milner Library (Gallery) – The Open Book: A Very Public 3 Day Novel Writing Contest

The writer in residence needs your help! He’s trying the nearly impossible, writing a novel from scratch in 72 hours as part of the international 3-Day Novel Writing Contest, and he could use your encouragement and creativity. Find him in the gallery space of Stanley Milner library and drop your writing prompts or advice in the Writer’s Block Bucket or tweet them to #3daynovelWIR. You can also follow his progress on Tumblr and connect with him there.

September 29th, 1:30 pm – Stanley Milner Library – Writers’ Corner: My First Book with Michael Hingston and Thea Bowering

So you’ve completed your manuscript and now you have no idea what to do with it. Not long ago, these two Edmonton authors were in the same position, but in September they release their debut books. Find out how Michael Hingston, (The Dilettantesand Thea Bowering (Love at Last Sightnavigated the intimidating publishing world and nailed a book deal. We’ll talk about how they got their feet in the doors, stayed resilient and all the surprises along the way.

October 26, 10 am – Stanley Milner Library – Centennial Room – LitFest and EPL Presents Digital Tools for Nonfiction Writers 

Whether you’re writing for magazines or looking ahead to your next book, technology is your friend.

In this free seminar presented by LitFest, Canada’s only nonfiction festival, Omar Mouallem teaches nonfiction writers how to use social media to promote their stories and attract readers, research efficiently and fix their notes and interviews in a single window. As well, he explains how and why you should store your work in “the cloud,” track your queries in spreadsheets, and optimize your online presence. He’ll also demo sweet software to stamp out distractions and note-taking gadgets.

Join Omar for a workshop that is full of digital tips and tricks.

October 27, 2:00 pm – Stanley Milner Library – Writers’ Corner with Charlotte Gray

Charlotte Gray is one of Canada’s most respected and widely read historians. Her new book, The Massey Murder, combines a sensational story with in-depth understanding of the social tensions of a century ago. Join us for a great afternoon of readings and chat with Omar Mouallem.

All November long … NaNoWriMo!

If you’re participating in the (in)famous National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, there’s no better place to start than the Stanley Milner Library, where on November 1 Metro Library Foundation writers in residence, Omar Mouallem and Natasha Deen, are getting the party started with this fun event full of pep-talks and prizes.

And the party continues all month long at libraries across the Capital Region, where the writers in residence are holding weekly events to bring the NaNoWriMo community together and get the creative juices flowing. Hunker down with the Writer in Residence at your local library and work on your stories together. Each event includes fun writing prompts, challenges and prizes, and brings the writing community together for moral support as members embark on this daunting to task to complete a book from scratch in 30 days. Click here to learn more.

Nov. 1, 7pm – Stanley Milner Library with Natasha and Omar

All other NaNoWriMo writing sessions also begin at 7pm except for Nov. 30th event, which is from 3 to 5 pm.

Nov. 7 – Whitemud Crossing

Nov. 14 – Lois Hole

Nov. 21 – Castle Downs

Nov. 28 – Capilano

Nov. 30 @ 3 to 5 pm, Stanley Milner Library, 6th floor, room 7: with Natasha and Omar (closing night). The room is booked from 12 to 5, so you are free to come early if you’re looking for a quiet writing space.

November 24, 1:30 pm – Stanley Milner Library – Writers Corner: The Ins and Outs of Self-publishing with Marty Chan and Ethan Jones 

So you have a novel. Chances are you just finished it during NaNoWriMo. What are you going to do next? Before you send it off to literary agents and publishers, consider self-publishing. What was once frowned upon has become a common solution – even a publishing revolution. Join Omar Mouallem and two successfully self-published authors, Ethan Jones and Marty Chan, to find out why writers are going the independent route and what your options are. It’s not for everyone, but it might be for you.

December 9, 7:00 pm –  Woodcroft Branch – Which eReader is for Me?

Haven’t figured out what to put on your Christmas list or haven’t started shopping yet? The perfect gift might be an eReader. But with so many brands and so many models, how do you know which one is for you? Come to Woodcroft Library for some hands-on experience. Writer in Residence Omar Mouallem and Digital Literacy expert Holly Arnason will take you through the pros and cons of each device — and they’ll have lots available to try out.

December 29, 1:30pm – Stanley Milner Library – Writers’ Corner with the 2014 Writers in Residence  EVENT CANCELLED. A 2013 wrap-up and torch-passing party will be rescheduled.

Help send off 2013’s outgoing writers in residence, Omar Mouallem and Natasha Deen, and welcome the next successors. It’s a great chance to introduce yourself, preview 2014’s exciting programming, find out how they can help you, and let them know what you hope to see.


LitFest’s Summer Reading List

LitFest2013-ImageOnlyWondering what to take along on your summer vacation? Or maybe what to kick back with on the hammock during one of your many summer “sick days.”

The good people at LitFest, Canada’s only nonfiction book festival, have put together an awesome list of five must-read Canadian nonfiction books.

This year’s list is a diverse selection:


Don’t forget to Tweet and read! Tweet your review with #litfest13 to win tickets to LitFest.

Quote/Unquote: Wayne Arthurson on Edmonton as a Character

Wayne Arthurson receiving the inaugural Alberta Readers’ Choice Award

Anyone who has read either of Wayne Arthurson’s Leo Desroches mystery novels knows the presence of the city of Edmonton in his stories. It’s more than setting, more than exposition, but a character in itself.

Though our June 30th talk at the Stanley Milner Library (along with Janice McDonald of the Randy Craig series) is focused on the craft and business of mystery writing , I wanted to hear from Wayne about why he’s so transfixed by his hometown and why he made it so prominent in his book. Here’s what he had to say:

A year ago, I was fortunately placed on a panel with Ian Rankin, writer of the bestselling Rebus series. And at the panel, he said that when he wishes to learn about a culture or a place he knows nothing about, he reads the crime fiction from that area. Because through crime fiction, you truly get to see what a place is like, the side streets the tourism bureau doesn’t want you to see, the political shenanigans, the social structure, how things actually get done and how people actually feel and talk. You truly get to understand the foundation of a place.

I found that quite telling because if you read enough crime fiction, you realize that sense of place plays a major role in these novels. The setting isn’t just where the story takes place, it become almost another character, interacting with all the other characters, especially that main character, through its geography, weather, history, the social and political structure, and the people who live there.

And during the writing of my Leo Desroches novels (Fall From Grace and A Killing Winter), I worked hard to make the City of Edmonton a key part of the novel. And not just in the topography of where things are and where Leo walks when he goes home (because actually I did change a few things so people wouldn’t know which strip mall Leo goes to, stuff like that). But in the way sunlight is of a different wavelength of colour during the late fall, what kind of houses we have in our central neighbourhoods, and how easy it would be to kill someone just by leaving him out in the middle of nowhere when it’ s -30.

Sadly, I’ve been asked too many times why I set my novel in Edmonton, as if it was an odd thing to do. And my answer is simply: Where else would I set these novels? New York? Minneapolis? Toronto?

I know little of those cities so if I tried to put Leo there, he wouldn’t fit.  Leo belongs in Edmonton because it’s where I live, it’s the city I know and understand best.

Wayne Arthurson’s latest installment in the Leo Desroches series, A Killing Winter, is available now at Audrey’s books and, of course, your local library.

Join Wayne Arthurson, Janice MacDonald and me at the Stanley Milner library Sunday, June 30th at 1:30pm for a fun and insightful discussion on what makes good mystery writing.

The Ten Rules of (Golden Age) Detective Fiction

condemned cover

“Condemned to Repeat” now in stores

Leading up to June 30th’s Writers’ Corner on Mystery writing, I asked one of two panelists, Janice MacDonald (author of the Randy Craig Mysteries) for a list of common genre cliches.

Turns out, someone consecrated this list almost a hundred years ago during the Golden Age of detective fiction.

Ronald Knox, known to admirers like MacDonald as “Father Knox,” was a humorist literary critic and, of course, detective fiction author. He formed The Detective Fiction Decalogue in the preface of the anthology Best Detective Stories of 1928-1929.

“Father” Ronald Knox / Wikipedia

“While a lot of Father Knox’s ‘Decalogue of Detective Fiction’ have been challenged by very good writers,” says MacDonald, “there are good reasons behind every one of these.”

Join Janice MacDonald, Wayne Arthurson and me at the Stanley Milner library Sunday, June 30th at 1:30pm for a fun and insightful discussion on what makes good mystery writing. In the meantime, study the words of the Father.

Here are his 10 Commandments of Detective Fiction:

  1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
  9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

Mysterious World of Mystery Writing Revealed at Stanley Milner

Writers’ Corner with Mystery Novelists Janice MacDonald and Wayne Arthurson

Are you an aspiring mystery writer, or maybe just a crime book junkie? Learn more about the craft you love from two of Canada’s best in the genre, Janice MacDonald and Wayne Arthurson.

When June 30th, 1:30 pm
Where Stanley Milner Library
Cost Free
Register? Drop in – No registration required

Writer Janice MacDonald is best known for writing four novels featuring amateur sleuth Miranda “Randy” Craig. The Randy Craig Mysteries were the first detective series to be set in Edmonton. The latest installment, Hang Down Your Head, was published in 2011, and a fifth Randy Craig adventure is slated for release in May 2013.



Wayne Arthurson is the author of Fall From Grace, his debut novel that also won the inaugural Alberta Readers’ Choice Award from the Edmonton Public Library. His most recent book, A Killing Winter, is a sequel.

Edmonton Writer’s unBlock Group set to launch in Callingwood

New writing club in Edmonton. Contact Mansum Yau to get involved.

While most writing groups focus on editing members’ writing, the Edmonton Writer’s unBlock Group will not be doing any editing. Instead, this new group will focus on a variety of different writing activities or exercises such as writing prompts and flash fiction. Writers of different genres will be meeting once a month on a Wednesday evening at a café in the West End (Callingwood neighbourhood). At each meeting, time will be given for writing exercises followed by time to read one’s writing out loud if one wishes to for constructive feedback. The goal is to spark new ideas that you probably won’t get sitting in front of a blank piece of paper or blank computer screen at home by yourself.

I’m still learning a thing or two about pitching (and so can you at EPL)

I like to think of myself as a very good pitcher. If pitching magazine stories was baseball, I’d be batting .533 — which is kind of impossible (and also now a mixed metaphor).

I spend a lot of time on my pitches. I research for hours. I pre-interview subjects. I write first, second and third drafts. I line up my destined publications in a neat spreadsheet so the second it’s rejected I’m tweaking it and pitching it to the next editor.

But, you know, what? I’m still learning how to do it better.

I’ve always been a believer in following the writers’ guidelines of a magazine, which usually says to send your pitch to a general mailbox for submissions and submissions only. Now I’m learning that you should ignore this rule. (Follow the rest though, and don’t tell editors you heard this from me, please.)

There’s a certain magazine that I read religiously. Few publications in Canada can hold a candle to it, and I’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to pitch them no fewer than eight times in two years. I always followed its guidelines, plus I read the magazine, suggested a department, gave it a little headline, included samples of work. I even researched its competitors to see what they’ve written on the subjects. And then I sent it to the general mailbox and waited to hear back.

Every. Single. Time. A polite but probably automated rejection.

But two weeks ago I decided to fly direct — to an editor I’ve never met, with whom I’ve never corresponded and have no inroads.

Guess what? I got the assignment today.

Most surprising, it was on a pitch that I had sent the magazine before and that it had rejected. (I did tweak it to be more current though.)

So, the lesson? Don’t be intimidated to go straight to the source.

Find this and many more tips and tricks to successful magazine pitching on June 12 at EPL’s Riverbend Branch from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. The event is free.

Pitch Perfect

Entering the magazine industry starts with “pitching” editors. This may sound simple – and it is, if you take the time to understand the unwritten commandments of pitching and the science behind it. Know the audience and study the “book” are just a few, but how does one distill a thoughtful, lasting story into a couple of tight paragraphs that make the editor clamor for more.

Join WiR Omar Mouallem, former associate editor of Avenue and a National Magazine Awards finalist, for a seminar will get you one step closer to your favourite magazine.

June 12, 7 pm, Riverbend Branch

Free, Drop in – No registration required

Hardcopy!: Edmonton’s only zine fair

There are zine fairs across the world but none in Edmonton.


But lame no more?

Come out to Latitude 53 (102 Ave. and 106 St) this weekend to find out what’s happening in Edmonton’s underground publishing circuit.

Hardcopy: Edmonton Artist Book and Zine Fair is the first annual event of it’s kind in this region and has brought together more than 25 of Edmonton’s own artist book and zine makers for a show and sale. It is our endeavour to offer a community based platform for artists to come together, collaborate, sell their works while also providing a space to showcase the diversity of practices that exist.


Zine fairs exist all over the world as a way to help the public encounter the diversity of publications which often fall outside the scope of mainstream venues. Events like these showcase a host of innovative approaches being explored by artists and writers, and gives these alternative projects a voice. For artists and writers working within the community of small and/or independent presses, book guilds, artist run centres, and independent bookstores, zine fairs offer rich opportunities for connection and  collaboration. In response to an absence of book and zine fairs in Alberta, Hardcopy was formed.


The Ins and Outs of Travel Writing: Popular Misconceptions

Photo from The Writing Bar

Among journalists and writers, travel writing is probably the most desired and enviable job.

It sounds too good to be true – you board a plane, stay in swanky hotels, eat fantastic food, dine with celebrity chefs, go for a round of golf, climb a mountain, see a Picasso – and, you get paid for it?

The truth, of course, is not so simple. How do you tell the story of a place with limited room? And how do you tell it like it’s never been told before? How do you capture the essence of place? How do you illustrate culture and discovery in words?

And who, really, picks up the bill?

What to take with you and what to leave behind are the least of a travel writers’ worries, but luckily you’ll have the chance to hear from two of Edmonton’s finest, Judy Schultz, author and former Edmonton Journal travel editor, and Curtis Gillespie, author and semi-regular contributor to enRoute and WestworldJoin them May 26th at Stanley Milner at 2:30 pm for my next installment of the Writers’ Corner — all about travel writing.

In the meantime, let’s dispel a few misconceptions.

The magazine/newspaper/publisher will pay for all my expenses. It depends on the publisher. Some have the budget and others can only give you an assignment if you’re already headed there on your own to accomplish your personal adventure on your own dime (they should still pay you for the story, of course). Sometimes they cover some expenses, like accommodations and travel, but not others, like food. Many times they allow a third party to pay for your expenses, such as a marketing company working on behalf of the city or province/state you’re visiting (which comes with a host of ethical questions we’ll answer at the Writers’ Corner).

Once I’m there, I get to do what I want and go where I please. Simply not true. Travel assignments are often tightly scheduled and many are done as press junkets with several writers travelling and touring together. The itinerary is firm and often homogeneous for all of them. This can make finding a unique angle for your story very tough, and not to mention become an impediment on your personal space.

I’m going to Vienna, so I’ll just write about it. What about Vienna, exactly? The architecture, the food, the art? If so, what architecture, what food, what art? Vienna is not the story. It’s the destination. No self-respecting editor sends a writer somewhere without so much as a focus, so know your story before you get there.

All you need is curiosity and writing experience to be a travel writer. It’s a good start, but you also need expertise. Editors must be confident that writers will come back with a story as authoritative as it is adventurous, so write about what you know. If you’re a camping aficionado, write about great camping spots. If you’re a foodie, write about the boldest chefs. If you love to fish, then fish and tell us about it.

I have to travel to be a travel writer. Actually, you don’t. A lot of publications in Canada and the world are waiting for you to write about adventures that readers can back in your backyard. If you can write about your own city well, then that broadens your chances of getting sent outside of it, so consider your home a great place to start!

For more tips on travel writing, read these articles I gathered:

  • The Guardian: Tips For Travel Writing – “If you fancy entering this year’s travel writing competition, launching tomorrow in Saturday’s Guardian – or just want to improve your work – check out these handy tips from the Guardian Travel team.”
  • Journeywoman: 10 Terrific Travel Writing Tips – “Lori Beattie is the director of Artistic Adventures a company dedicated to teaching the art of documenting travel. As one journey woman to another, she shares her travel writing know-how…”
  • The Writing Bar – “How I became a travel writer”
  • The Matador Network: “How to become a travel writer (seriously)”
  • You can also complete Matador U, a  popular online education program dedicated to travel journalism.

Do you know a young storyteller?

The Edmonton Public Library, Edmonton Story Slam and I are collaborating on a fun storytelling event for teens on May 18 and 19, and I could use your help.

I am looking for young storytellers with a healthy sense of sportsmanship and enough confidence to speak in front of an audience in the name of Story Slam.

Story Slam, for those who don’t know, is a monthly event where people tell a compelling story before an audience and judges, and the person with the best tale under five minutes wins.

Edmonton Story Slam has been a staple of the local arts scene since 2008 but it’s never before been opened to youth. This special collaboration marks the first time teens have had the stage to tell the stories that matter to them.

In this two-day free event, I – the 2013 Story Slam champion — will teach them the craft and invite them back the next day for a public presentation of their stories and cash prizes. What’s great about story slam is that it’s all oral, so even if readers aren’t confident in their writing and reading, they can still dominate the stage with an engaging story.

Please encourage the young people you know – sons, daughters, cousins, neighbours, clients — to come to this event at the Strathcona branch (8331 – 104 St., 780-496-1828), held over May 18th (workshop) and 19th (public presentations). It is free, fun and, as I mentioned, there will be prizes.

And, please come out to the public presentation on May 19th.

If you have any questions or want to send my contact to someone who might participate, my email is omouallem@epl.ca and phone number 780-496-5999. Or, just forward this link: http://metrowir.com/2013/04/22/youth-story-slam/