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.

 

 

 

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!

giving thanksautumn-mountain-ash-yellow-leaves-natural-berry-hd

in gold and

red glory the

mountain ash greeted you this

morning as you tripped down the

stairs breathless with

designs of the

day as if all that

mattered were your

errant heart with its

arrhythmic timing and the

frantic pace of

living through ticking

ticking time except

that the mountain ash stopped you

and your eyes filled with

wonder at its

fractal gilt leaves and

bobbing red berries

in autumn’s

gold-plated

light

© 2015 Gail Sidonie Sobat

Another beautiful thanksgiving poem by Joy Harjo, “Perhaps the World Ends Here.”

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

I Should be in ChainsKathy Fisher – Fisher experiments with sound – weaving audio, be it live music or ghost voices, in and around her poetry. She is a wordsmith, research lawyer, documentarian, biographer, oral historian and explorer, and always creates with attention to the ear and eye.

Writer’s Quote:Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” – Alice Walker, American author (b. 1944)

Writing Tips:  On writing a gratitude journal or keeping a gratitude list (excellent fodder for other writing):

1. Hand-write your gratitude list. The kinesthetic experience of actually writing is valuable for several reasons: First, the physical act helps imprint the feeling of gratitude at the cellular level. Also, since it is a slower process than typing, writing by hand provides more time for contemplation, which makes for a more thoughtful list.

2. Set a realistic goal. Avoid immediate collapse by starting off with a reasonable number of items. If you set out to enumerate some insane number like 50, you’ll end up including stuff that not even the most zealous gratitude junkie would list. Better to limit yourself to one good reason than to dredge up sludge from a too-deep well.

3. Fake it, if necessary. Don’t worry about actually feeling grateful for anything, especially if during your formative years you confused gloom with sophistication. Until you are consistently inclined to see the glass as half full, act ‘as if.’ In other words, start by pretending that you are an authentically grateful person and write down what this alter ego is thankful for. If even this feels like too much of a stretch, maybe you’re getting stuck on semantics. Instead of calling yours a gratitude list, title it “Hey, it could be worse” and take it from there.

from Utne

Writing Prompt:  Think about a troublesome person in your life and craft a piece about why you are grateful for that individual.

 

A Writer’s Education

Liberal-Arts2There’s an old joke that many of my writer friends know well:

A neurosurgeon and a writer are introduced at a party, and the neurosurgeon hovers near the writer, “So what do you do?”

“I’m a writer.” Warily, she takes a sip of her wine.  “And you?”

“I’m a neurosurgeon, but when I retire I think I am going to take up writing.”

“Funny”, the writer drains her glass, “when I retire I was thinking of taking up neurosurgery.”

The truth is that I’ve been writing since I was a child, as have most writers I know.  And, like so many writers, I have spent thousands of dollars and many, many years on my education.  As would any neurosurgeon.

For those who adhere to the 10,000-hour rule, while this blog in no way means to discourage you, it’s important to note that recent years have seen disclaimers and caveats to Anders Ericsson’s original study (see Time and BBC News).

While I do believe in practice, when it comes to a writer’s education, I am a passionate advocate of a liberal arts education. I applaud Alan Wildeman’s recent Globe and Mail article, “We ignore liberal arts at our peril.” Wildeman writes, “as a multicultural country playing in the global arena, Canada needs a citizenry that learns and studies human differences, social behaviours and cultural traditions. It needs a citizenry that encourages respect for human rights, and encourages artistic creation and appreciation of the arts. The humanities and social sciences engage in these intersections and contribute to what makes us human.” If one wants to be a writer, a liberal arts degree is one of the best preparations: “with its focus on the broad spectrum of human endeavour…. to ensure that our self-reflections are broad…and that we do not forget the importance of enlightenment and reason.” Above all, a liberal arts education forces one to read and read widely, often difficult texts that make one think hard and critically. I cannot stress how important this is to the craft of writing.

If one has not had the benefit of a liberal arts degree (and even if one has), then if one wants to write, there’s a good deal of book larnin’ to do – and not just the kind that offers to help you sell and market and write your novel or poetry. Reading. Taking liberal arts courses. Engaging in critical thinking. Challenging comfortable assumptions. Reading the masters. Reading. Reading. Reading. (The Importance of Reading)

Or try neurosurgery instead.

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

Santa RosaWendy McGrath “What is real when seen through the eyes of a child? When does the harshness of reality transform idyllic memories? The young narrator…seeks the answers to these questions as she tries to make sense of the disintegration of her parents’ marriage—a process echoed by the slow disintegration of their neighbourhood. In subtle poetic prose, Wendy McGrath evokes afternoons at the fair captured in overexposed photographs, and a family’s disquieting day at the beach as moments that exist apart from time, in a place where every sense is heightened, and where every memory is sharpened as if in a lucid dream where understanding lies just beyond reach.”

Writing Quote: “I quickly saw the immense power of a liberal education. For me, the most important use of it is that it teaches you how to write. In my first year in college, I took an English composition course. My teacher, an elderly Englishman with a sharp wit and an even sharper red pencil, was tough. Now I know I’m supposed to say that a liberal education teaches you to think but thinking and writing are inextricably intertwined. When I begin to write, I realize that my “thoughts” are usually a jumble of half-baked, incoherent impulses strung together with gaping logical holes between them. Whether you’re a novelist, a businessman, a marketing consultant or a historian, writing forces you to make choices and it brings clarity and order to your ideas.” – Fareed Zakaria, Indian-born American journalist and author, host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS (b. 1964)

Writing Tips:  “Reading before writing… becomes a way of conversing with other writers.”- Stephanie Vanderslice   “You must try to know everything that has ever been written that is worth remembering and you must keep up with what your contemporaries are doing.” – Richard Bausch

Writing Prompt: Inviting __________________ to dinner. (e.g. Shakespeare, your favourite author, Tommy Douglas, Lady Gaga, etc.)

Funke-y Self-Publishing – Is it for You?

pink-typewriter1-1Sooooo… best-selling children’s author, Cornelia Funke, has created her own publishing company, in essence, turning to sophisticated self-publishing strategies to gain creative control over her work.  In a Publisher’s Weekly article, Funke “cites creative differences with her U.S. publisher [Little, Brown],” as the motive behind her decision.  Not only did she see her Reckless series as better suited for ages 14 and older (and she argued with her publishers about pigeonholing her for younger readers for seven years), Funke was adamant that her first chapter remain where it was and her ending remain as it was.  Also intending to publish her backlist through the newly minted Breathing Books, her arguments for this bold move make such good sense:  “I want to be a sailboat so I can fit into other places. If I have to figure this out myself, good! I feel I’m at a time in my career when I can afford to do this, and where I can say, as long as I cover my costs, I’m fine. I have many traditional publishers in Europe, Asia, and South America who still earn me money. And I can finally be a storyteller for all ages.”

What a fine example of why self-publishing or, in Funke’s case, taking the publishing bull by the horns is such a fine new model.  One can’t help but admire her and, for those who write, hope to emulate her.  But, of course, I must offer a caveat.  Cornelia Funke has sold 20 million copies of her traditionally published books worldwide.  (The very article that I cite above was shared 1.4k times in but two days; Facebook cites 19,733 likes for her author page and she has thousands of Twitter followers.)  She is adored and loved and followed and tweeted about on a daily basis. Her audience is loyal and eagerly awaiting, so there is every likelihood that this new venture will prove a resounding success (and if it is not, she will not starve in her Beverly Hills home).

Those who want to self-publish are seldom as well-placed as Funke.  So necessary to successful self-publishing are the co-joined investments of time and money in order to create a professional product, market and sell it. If you don’t have Funke’s resources or a similar fan base, the road to a self-published bestseller is hard, indeed.

As writer Hugh Howie shares in Publisher’s Weekly, “successful authors work their butts off either way. There is no such thing as a lazy successful author. With a publisher or not, the author will be expected to market themselves. They will do interviews and go on grueling book tours, or they will be asked to write blog posts, to read and blurb other books from the publisher, and so on. Both sets of authors will be expected to engage with their readers on Twitter and Facebook. They will do signings at bookstores, or they will sit at craft fairs. The ones who eke out even a part-time living will outwork their colleagues who don’t. Forty hours of writing on top of a full-time job and caring for a family is the norm.”

Phew!

But hats off to Cornelia Funke for her derring-do!  I wonder if the same might be accomplished with a handful of intrepid and audacious CanLit authors who’d link arms and create an independent publishing company for publishing their own books.  It’s been tried to some success before…

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

Food for the GodsKaren Dudley   “Dudley has quite elegantly and creatively taken a classic Greek myth and woven it into something unique. The base idea of taking Pelops, someone who had been served up as food for the gods, and making him into a chef, is brilliant. It is the ultimate source of all of the conflict in the story….The author’s love for mythology is apparent in this story, through simply defining it as a fantasy does not do it justice. It is equal parts mystery and comedy, not to mention being raucous thanks to a certain pair of gods who are just trying to help.” – Winnipeg Review

Writing Quote: “The good news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself. The bad news about self publishing is you get to do everything yourself.” – Lori Lesko, self-published American author

Writing Tips:  “If you have market aspirations for your book, buy your own ISBN (International Standard Book Number) and create your own publishing company.”

Writing Prompt: “Empathy is first of all an act of imagination, a storyteller’s art, and then a way of traveling from here to there. What is it like to be the old man silenced by the stroke, the young man facing the executioner, the woman walking across the border, the child on the rollercoaster…?” from Rebecca Solnit’s The Faraway Nearby

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

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!

Come for coffee!

Join Gail Sidonie Sobat for Java Jive!

Saturday, May 9th at the Fort Saskatchewan Public Library from 1 pm – 3 pm.

Have a chin wag over a cuppa.  Feel free to ask Gail questions about the writing craft, her work, writing markets, the industry…even your fortune or help with your love life!

Looking forward to meeting and connecting. And drinking coffee (as a coffee addict).

javadrivedrawing

 

I love coffee; I love tea

I love the java jive, and it loves me!

(“Java Jive” by Milton Drake and Ben Oakland)

Hear it performed here by  Manhattan Transfer

Drawing by Gary S. Bennett

Writing Quote:  “I don’t really like coffee…but I don’t really like it when my head hits my desk when I fall asleep, either.” – Brian Andreas, American writer, painter, sculptor, publisher (b. 1956)
Writing Tip: “What is it about coffee shops that kick start a writer’s muse? I first tried hauling my laptop to my local java hut after reading Natalie Goldberg’s books…. Usually, I need absolute quiet to write, but oddly, I’ve discovered I love to write in coffee shops. I think the reason is that there is always a drama taking place. Not just one drama, but many tiny scenes from many different lives….Try to pick a new coffee shop every time. Different venues offer different clientele and different clientele are involved in different dramas. People and drama are what we write about.” – Nancy Warren, Canadian romance writer (b. 1959)

Writing Prompt:  Go to your favourite coffee shop or café.  Subtly eavesdrop on a conversation while waiting in line or listening to people at another table. Use one of the lines as your story/poem starter.

Writing-Related Article: “Did Balzac Really Drink 50 Cups of Coffee?”

Natasha’s Sessions for November

November 1 ~ NaNoWriMo Launch – Stanley Milner Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

Join me and Omar Mouellum for a fun night of writing games, prizes, and tips and tricks to help you celebrate National Novel Writing Month — writing a book in a month!

November 5 ~ NaNoWriMo  Writing –  Strathcona County Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

Join Natasha Deen for a fun night of writing games, prizes, and tips and tricks to help you celebrate National Novel Writing Month — writing a book in a month!

November 6 ~ NaNoWriMo  Writing –  Fort Saskatchewan Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

Join Natasha Deen for a fun night of writing games, prizes, and tips and tricks to help you celebrate National Novel Writing Month — writing a book in a month!

November 12 ~ NaNoWriMo  Writing –  St. Albert Public Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

Join Natasha Deen for a fun night of writing games, prizes, and tips and tricks to help you celebrate National Novel Writing Month — writing a book in a month!

November 13 ~ DIY Publishing – Fort Saskatchewan Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

Agencies are now publishing authors as well as representing them, publishing houses are closing their doors.  In the current volatile climate of the writing industry, is it better to publish independently or should you go the traditional route? Join Writer in Residence Natasha Deen for a discussion of traditional and non-traditional publishing options, and find the one that suits you best.

November 14 ~ Leduc Writing Workshop, 7:00-8:30 PM

Join Writer in Residence Natasha Deen for a fun, relaxed night of how to survive and thrive in the writing industry.

November 16 – 17~ Pure Speculation Conference – Ramada Inn

Currently in our eighth year, PURE SPECULATION is a friendly little SF&F festival in Edmonton, AB, Canada held every fall. We give the geeks of Edmonton a chance to celebrate their passion with a weekend packed with authors, panels, merchants, costumes, games, and demonstrations.

November 19 ~ Tell Me a Story – Fort Saskatchewan Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

So, you want to write a novel, and you know…well, you know there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end, but that’s about it. Join Writer in Residence Natasha Deen as she breaks down the story format, genre writing, and what (if any) formula exists for writing the next great book.

November 26 ~ Character Development – Fort Saskatchewan Library 7:00 – 8:30 PM

Readers will forgive many things, from mediocre description to patchwork plots, but they don’t forgive forgettable, boring characters. Join Writer in Residence Natasha Deen and learn not only how to create realistic, interesting characters but find out how knowing character construction can help you find your own happy ending.

November 27 ~ Then the Craziest Thing Happened! – Fort Saskatchewan Library, 7:00-8:30 PM

Plot, it’s the engine that drives your story, it’s the stuff that leaves your reader on the edge of their seat (or forgetting about their train stop!), but how do you create that compelling outline? Join Writer in Residence Natasha Deen and learn simple techniques for plotting your story and painless ways to get from the beginning to end.

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