Writer in Residence Finale

It’s the grand finale party for the 2016 Writer in Residence program!

Thu Dec 15  7-9 pm
Strathcona County Council Chambers, 401 Festival Lane, Sherwood Park (Map)

Join Marty Chan and Wayne Arthurson to celebrate the local literary scene. Everyone
in attendance will be placed on a team to compete in:

  • A trivia contest
  • A game of charades, and
  • Pictionary with a real live illustrator!

Here’s the fun part: The games will all relate to books written by local authors.

In between, enjoy some beverages and appetizers!

You’ll also get to meet the 2017 Writers in Residence and find out what they have planned
for the coming year.

Full details here!

Please let us know you are coming by RSVP

All the World’s a Stage

With only a week to go before my playwriting workshop, I thought I’d share a few thoughts about writing for theatre. Playwriting is a transferrable skill that has served my career well as I jumped from stage to radio to television to fiction.

In crafting a play, I learned the importance of developing characters through actions rather than through exposition. The immediacy of theatre forced me always to look for conflict in a story. Finally, I realized dialogue is a wonderful tool to reveal character, advance plot, and create pace.

When I began as a writer, I thought dialogue was merely the act of characters talking about themselves and what happened in the story.

Dialogue can do more. Dialogue can be a lie that hides our true feelings. Imagine those awkward situations when you’re talking to a boss and you pretend to support her new management ideas or when you’re on a blind date and you awkwardly laugh at your companion’s lame joke. The subtext is where the real drama happens and can inject drama into an apparent mundane conversation about fishing.

When I see blocks of text jammed into the mouth of a character in a novel, I must admit I dread the idea of meeting the author because I fear I’ll be sitting quietly while they drone on about themselves. In real life, conversations require two people to participate. It’s a dance where everyone tries to lead and people do step on toes. I love when dialogue is jagged and invites us to engage. I feel like I can learn more about characters in how they respond to each other. What they don’t say is just as important as what they do say.

Just listen to a conversation on a bus and you’ll see how rich and alive dialogue can be. I think any writer who wants to craft authentic dialogue only needs to listen to the conversations that unfold around her. We can learn about the relationship between two speakers based on whether they speak formally or casually. We might know the level of person’s education from their vocabulary choices. We might even guess their attitude about the topic based on whether or not they gush in long speeches or if they clip their sentences. All we need to do is listen.

If you’re curious about how to write good dialogue, I recommend the best exercise is to eavesdrop on conversations. You’ll be amazed at how much you can pick up. Once you get a sense of voice, remember that good dialogue is active. We often say things because we have an agenda. Think about your character’s objective when you make them speak. What do they want from the listener? How are they going to convince the other person to give them what they want? And how obvious are they going to be about what they want?

If you want more playwriting tips, please register for my bootcamp on Saturday, Feb. 6.

Greetings from Marty Chan

Happy New Year!

I’m excited to serve as the regional writer in residence. My home base will be the Strathcona County Library until the end of April, and I can’t wait to meet the writers in this community. Already, I’ve met the amazing staff at the library, and I’ve learned where they’ve stashed all the snacks. Trust me; writers need snacks. Always.

Writers also need a community. We spend most of our writing hours holed up in a basement office or hidden in the quiet corner of a coffee shop or library. Sometimes, we feel as if our only companions are the cats that splay across our keyboards when we’re trying to work. When we go out, we can’t talk to Muggles about our works in progress, because we fear our co-workers will scurry away at the mere mention of “writer’s block.” It’s a relief when we stumble across another member of our tribe–someone who understands character arcs, plot holes, weak climaxes, and Oxford commas.

I invite you to let your cats sleep on your keyboards for one afternoon. Join me on Saturday, January 16 for my official kickoff. Not only will you hear about the exciting programs I have planned, but you’ll also learn about resources that can help writers. I’ve invited people from the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, the Canadian Authors Association, and the Writers Guild of Alberta to talk about what they can do to help writers.

If that isn’t enough, I’ve added one more guest to the roster. Paul Matwychuk of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts will talk about grants that can give writers the time they need to work on their manuscripts. The timing is perfect because the next AFA deadline is February 1.

The Meet & Greet & Book Swap promises to be a fun afternoon filled with great information for writers of all levels and genres. Bring a book to swap so you can share your love of reading and kickstart a conversation with a fellow writer. Make 2016 be the year you take the first step to fulfilling your dream of becoming a full-time writer. But leave your cat at home.

 

 

 

Wine and Words – You’re Invited!

wine_and_words_inviteLiz Withey and I are delighted to host this evening featuring the words of four of our 2015 clients and the music of ALL(most)JAZZ!

Hope you can join us!

PLEASE NOTE – I AM NO LONGER ACCEPTING MANUSCRIPTS.

This week’s great un-/ undersung CanLit title worth checking out:

The Hunter and the Wild Girl Pauline Holdstock In 19th century France, a deep gorge in a small village divides two people: a feral girl living in the forest and a lonely hunter, forever scarred by a terrible accident. When they meet, they form an unlikely bond and their lives forever change. A moving book about friendship, connection and freedom. (Just listed as one of CBC’s 2015 Best Books.)

Writing Quote: “A writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.”—Eugene Ionesco, Romanian-French playwright (1909-1994)

Writing Tips:  “During my very early writing, certainly before I’d published, I began to learn characters will come alive if you back the f*** off. It was exciting, and even a little terrifying. If you allow them to do what they’re going to do, think and feel what they’re going to think and feel, things start to happen on their own. It’s a beautiful and exciting alchemy. And all these years later, that’s the thrill I write to get: to feel things start to happen on their own.

So I’ve learned over the years to free-fall into what’s happening. What happens then is, you start writing something you don’t even really want to write about. Things start to happen under your pencil that you don’t want to happen, or don’t understand. But that’s when the work starts to have a beating heart.”—Andre Dubus III

Writing Prompt: In “Mermaids and Matryoshkas: The Secret Life of a Poetic Sequence” by Sandra Beasley in the November/December issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Matthea Harvey talks about “harvesting words from the dictionary… to create the vocabulary bank for new poems.” Grab a dictionary, flip through it, and put your finger down on a random page. Record the word you land on and go to the next page and write down the word that appears at the same spot, repeating until you have accumulated a vocabulary bank to work from. Write a poem by constructing surprising associations, perhaps thinking of familiar words in an unexpected way, or drawing a personal connection to a new term. (http://www.pw.org/writing-prompts-exercises)

Don’t Miss the Chance to Meet 8 of Edmonton’s 11 WIRs!

For those of you who may not know it, Edmonton (and area) has an embarrassment of riches in the form of ELEVEN writers in residence.  And so to celebrate and collaborate and to share our words in convivial fashion, Fred Stenson and I invite you to this event featuring eight of the WIRs (presented by YouthWrite®):

writers-in-residence-webAn Evening with Edmonton’s Writers in Residence!                                         Monday, November 30th from 7 pm – 10 pm                                               Yellowhead Brewery – 10229 105 Street  

Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1492888224347604/ to RSVP to this invitation.                                                                       

Join Fred Stenson (U of A Writer in Residence) and Gail Sidonie Sobat (Metro Edmonton Federation of LIbraries Writer in Residence) as they host an evening of readings from Edmonton’s incredible array of writers in residence! Listen to and learn from Fred and Gail and these other fine experts:
Elizabeth Withey – EPL Writer in Residence
Steven Ross Smith – CAA Writer in Residence
Kimmy Beach – forthcoming CAA Coach in Residence
Suzanne Harris – CAA Coach in Residence
Nicole Moeller – Workshop West’s Playwright in Residence
Theodore Fox – Latitude 53 Gallery Writer in Residence

Cash Bar – featuring Yellowhead’s fantastic brews ($6.25 pints, $6.25 hi balls, $7.25 red/white wine, $2 pop/juice)

$2 From every beer goes to YouthWrite! www.youthwrite.com

PLEASE NOTE – I AM NO LONGER ACCEPTING MANUSCRIPTS.

This week’s great un-/ undersung CanLit title worth checking out:

AfterallLee Kvern  At a dinner party, Beth—36, single, and working overtime—impulsively announces that she’s going to spend a night on Vancouver’s mean streets in commiseration of the homeless. Unexpectedly, her hosts’ son Mason whispers in his mother’s ear that he wants to go with her. Mason’s parents, good limousine liberals that they are, reluctantly allow him to go. Disaster, of course, ensues. “Lee Kvern’s spirited, funny and poignant first novella Afterall takes us for one night into the plush world of Vancouver’s Kitsilano in a kind of literary equivalent of Martin Scorsese’s Soho nightmare film, After Hours.” – VueWeekly

Writing Quote: ““The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.”
Philip Roth, American novelist (b. 1933)

Writing Tips:  “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.”—Virginia Woolf

Writing Prompt: “I remember my own childhood vividly…I knew terrible things.  But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew them.  It would scare them.” – Maurice Sendak   Consider this statement and Virginia Woolf’s writing tip (above), and respond.

Writers in Residence Event – Monday, November 30th

For those of you who may not know it, Edmonton (and area) has an embarrassment of riches in the form of ELEVEN writers in residence.  And so to celebrate and collaborate and to share our words in convivial fashion, Fred Stenson and I invite you to this event featuring eight of the WIRs (presented by YouthWrite®):

writers-in-residence-webAn Evening with Edmonton’s Writers in Residence!                                         Monday, November 30th from 7 pm – 10 pm                                               Yellowhead Brewery – 10229 105 Street  

Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/1492888224347604/ to RSVP to this invitation.                                                                       

Join Fred Stenson (U of A Writer in Residence) and Gail Sidonie Sobat (Metro Edmonton Federation of LIbraries Writer in Residence) as they host an evening of readings from Edmonton’s incredible array of writers in residence! Listen to and learn from Fred and Gail and these other fine experts:
Elizabeth Withey – EPL Writer in Residence
Steven Ross Smith – CAA Writer in Residence
Kimmy Beach – forthcoming CAA Coach in Residence
Suzanne Harris – CAA Coach in Residence
Nicole Moeller – Workshop West’s Playwright in Residence
Theodore Fox – Latitude 53 Gallery Writer in Residence

Cash Bar – featuring Yellowhead’s fantastic brews ($6.25 pints, $6.25 hi balls, $7.25 red/white wine, $2 pop/juice)

$2 From every beer goes to YouthWrite! www.youthwrite.com

PLEASE NOTE – I CAN NOT ACCEPT MANUSCRIPTS AFTER NOVEMBER 23, 2016.

This week’s great un-/ undersung CanLit title worth checking out:

AfterallLee Kvern  At a dinner party, Beth—36, single, and working overtime—impulsively announces that she’s going to spend a night on Vancouver’s mean streets in commiseration of the homeless. Unexpectedly, her hosts’ son Mason whispers in his mother’s ear that he wants to go with her. Mason’s parents, good limousine liberals that they are, reluctantly allow him to go. Disaster, of course, ensues. “Lee Kvern’s spirited, funny and poignant first novella Afterall takes us for one night into the plush world of Vancouver’s Kitsilano in a kind of literary equivalent of Martin Scorsese’s Soho nightmare film, After Hours.” – VueWeekly

Writing Quote: “Half my life is an act of revision.” – John Irving, American novelist and screenwriter (b. 1942)

Writing Tips:  “Write drunk, edit sober.” – Ernest Hemingway

Writing Prompt: This week prompted a number of responses in the vein of “Not in my name.”  Here’s one 2014 video for reference, but there are others.  Think about this statement and respond in writing to the video or, if you prefer, about what you would not permit “in your name.”

No Magic Elixir & BookBiz News

Delightful to be in the city of St. Ast-albert-placelbert ensconced in Douglas Cardinal’s beautiful building that houses the St. Albert Public Library.  I have a room with a view on the second floor.  Come by for a chin wag!

Just thought I’d share some articles on the elusive mystery of a bestseller.  Statisticians and computer analysts have spent many an academic career trying to chart just exactly what makes for a successful novel by tracking the algorithms of sentences and titles. The Guardian, one of UK’s most respected publications, offers these two stories:

But it seems there is no magic elixir to what constitutes a bestseller. Doggedness and hard work, though, seem to count for much. It’s also good to love words and writing them. Often.

In other bookish news, you’ve likely heard that e-book technology allows publishers to track the number of pages actually read on an e-book reader:

Of course, this lead to the inevitable “pay by pages actually read” model that Amazon (and likely others) will adopt:

Can you hear self-published authors everywhere offering up a collective groan? Sheesh!  Could the business of writing be even more fraught with uncertainty and challenge?

But here’s some good news!  Writing is actually good for you!  Of course, we writers have always known this, but now there is an actual study cited in Rachel Grate’s article, “Science Shows Something Surprising About People Who Love to Write.” Writing is good for the mind, the liver (unless you’re a F. Scott Fitzgerald), helps ease the effects of asthma and high blood pressure, and may even release dopamine and allow one to sleep better.

Writing Quote: “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” – Jack London, novelist & journalist (1876-1916)

Writing Tip:  “Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” – Neil Gaiman, author (b. 1960)

Writing Prompt:
writing_pull1

Farewell, Fort Saskatchewan…

11694269So it’s so long, but not goodbye.  I’ve made some lovely friends here in the Fort.  And I want to send out a special thank you to the wonderful staff of the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library, especially Stacey Wenger and David Larsen.  It’s been a truly enjoyable time here with all of you.

YouthWrite will consume me for the next two weeks, but I’ll don my WIR motley again on July 13th at St. Albert Public Library.  You can reach me there at regionalwir@gmail.com, but I’ll be incommunicado until then.

Happy summer all!

Happy birthday, Yann Martel!

Writing Quote: “If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.”- Yann Martel, Canadian novelist (b. 1963)

Writing Tip:  “If you write genre fiction, you follow the rules, and you have to follow them because readers expect that. The strength and weakness, I suppose, of literary fiction is that it has no such conventions. A great literary work can be completely, completely unpredictable. Which can sometimes make them very hard to read, but it gives them a great originality. Writers have to decide where they stand in that continuum of genre-driven fiction to literary fiction, and you can do that only by playing by the rules, and then breaking the rules and seeing where you’re comfortable. Any writer will be happy and good only if they know what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. You have to play around until you find something you’re comfortable with.” – Yann Martel

Writing Prompt: “It is true that those we meet can change us, sometimes so profoundly that we are not the same afterwards, even unto our names.” – Yann Martel   Respond!

You’re Invited to Songs of Innocence & Experience

Please join me and friends in an exploration of poetry and song this Tuesday, June 16 at 7 pm at Fort Saskatchewan Library

SonBlake_sie_covergs of Innocence and Experience:  Explore the connections between rhythm and rhyme, poetry and song. Join Gail (who’s also a professional singer) and special musical guests, Angela Flatekval, Kevin McCann and Geoff McMaster, to talk about how these forms are interconnected, and how poets and songwriters can inform and enrich each other’s writing practice and performance. Plus, learn how you can record and edit your own songs using the library’s Music Creation Station.

 

Unknown-1Angela Flatekval has led a vast and varied creative life.  From choirs and cheerleading in high school to the Arthur Murray years to Theatre Arts at Grant MacEwan to working with local companies (such as The Mayfield and Workshop West) to founding, producing and performing with the independent theatre company The Unconscious Collective through to now parenting and working with the wee-est of artists as a Kindermusik educator, expression through movement, music and physicality is first nature to her.

 

UnknownKevin McCann grew up in Edmonton where he was immersed in music and theatre, attended Victoria School, and after graduation, the Canadian College of Performing Arts in Victoria, BC. Kevin loves music, and during his school years received training in classical guitar, piano and voice. He’s had many wonderful experiences, from competing in local music festivals to singing “Bring Him Home” with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra. Kevin is an avid reader, and has been inhaling fantasy novels since he knew they existed.

1926905_10152233587814116_103656239_nGeoffrey McMaster is a video producer, news writer and editor at the University of Alberta, and a jack of many trades. A university brat, he holds a number of English degrees (specializing in American and African American literature) as well as a degree in journalism from Ryerson. He has been a university professor and an instructor at YouthWrite®. As a freelance video director, he works closely with Jeff Allen Productions, Inc. While non-fiction in-depth pieces and video documentaries are his forté, he is also a photographer and an accomplished musician.

Writing Quote:  “Social media is a giant distraction to the ultimate aim, which is honing your craft as a songwriter. There are people who are exceptional at it, however, and if you can do both things, then that’s fantastic, but if you are a writer, the time is better spent on a clever lyric than a clever tweet.” Bryan Adams, Canadian singer songwriter (born 1959)
Writing Tip: Check out this blog: The poetry of songwriting: 10 top writing tips from howtowritebetter.net

Song Writing Prompt:   Title:  “Playing with Matches”  Run with it, songsmiths!

April is all about poetry (and song) pilgrimages…

Yes, indeed!  As Chaucer himself, said:1414477077

Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote

The droghte of March hath perced to the roote

And bathed every veyne in swich licour,

Of which vertu engendred is the flour;

Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth

Inspired hath in every holt and heeth

The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne

Hath in the Ram his halfe cours yronne,

And smale foweles maken melodye,

That slepen al the nyght with open eye-

(So priketh hem Nature in hir corages);

Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages

And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes

To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;

And specially from every shires ende

Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,

The hooly blisful martir for to seke

That hem hath holpen, whan that they were seeke.

Prologue, Canterbury Tales

 

Please join me and friends in a poetry pilgrimage this week.

Tuesday, April 14 at 7 pm at Strathcona County Library

SonBlake_sie_covergs of Innocence and Experience:  In celebration of National Poetry Month, explore the connections between rhythm and rhyme, poetry and song. Join Gail (who’s also a professional singer) and special musical guests, Angela Flatekval, Kevin McCann and Geoff McMaster, to talk about how these forms are interconnected, and how poets and songwriters can inform and enrich each other’s writing practice and performance.

 

Saturday, April 18th at 7 pm at Strathcona County Library

9th Annual Evening of Poetry:  As a continuation of our National Poetry Month celebrations, join us for an evening of poetry, featuring readings from Writer in Residence, Gail Sidonie Sobat, Mark Kozub (The Alberta Beatnik) and Mary Pinkoski (Edmonton’s Poet Laureate). The evening will also include an open mic session for those who are interested in sharing their own work. Wine and cheese will be served. Note: this is an adult-only program.

Purchase tickets at the Check Out Desk or at the door, $5 each.

mark-polaroid-2Mary+Pinkoski+-+web
Mark Kozub                                               Mary Pinkoski
Writing Quote:  “I consider myself a poet first and a musician second.  I live like a poet and I’ll die like a poet.” – Bob Dylan, American poet/ musician (born 1941)
Writing Tip: “Nothing’s wrong with rhyming poetry. Some people… really enjoy it. It’s wonderful to read good rhymes, and challenging to write them. I like to use rhyme to surprise readers by emphasizing interestingly paired words.  That said, many people put together predictable, Hallmark-style rhymes (usually paired with forced meter) and flood poetry contests and magazines with them. Publishers get annoyed (I’ve even seen some specify “no rhyming” in their submission guidelines).” – writersbeat.com

Writing Prompt:  Find an unpublished poem of yours that you haven’t looked at in years. Randomly choose three lines from the poem. Write a completely different poem using those lines.