Some Really Good (under appreciated) Canadian Books…Part One

Some books get all the street cred. They win awards and hoopla. Their authors are invited every-which-where and are added to lists (CanLit, writers-to-watch, top 100, etc.).

However, like musicians and artists (in all disciplines), there are those writers and books that escape notice for whatever reason. The authors aren’t in the right circles or the right time and place or they simply miss out on luck. No denying there is a lot of luck involved in getting noticed as an artist of any stripe in this world.

I think about my numerous friends in the arts, too many of whom are devastatingly talented but heartbreakingly unrecognized or under-recognized. I’d like to take this and the nextreally-good-literature-is-seldom-appreciated-in-its-own-day-the-best-authors-die-poor-the-bad-ones-make-money-its-always-been-like-that-walter-moers blog to recognize just a few of these fine people and their fine titles. In fact, this week, CBC stole my blog idea and created this list: 12 Underrated Canadian Novels.   But here’s mine– cultivated with a little help from my friends–of summer reading suggestions (with brief annotations) for under-read Can Lit*:

The Next Margaret – Janice MacDonald   “The very first Randy Craig Mystery was published in 1994 and is the ‘lost book’ of the series. We first meet Miranda ‘Randy’ Craig as she returns to grad school to do an MA in English literature at the University of Alberta focusing on novelist Margaret Athers, a reportedly  reclusive figure who can only be contacted through her publisher. But all is not as it seems. Soon, Randy must use her literary deductive skills to prove that the Department of English is harbouring a killer.”

Doubting Yourself to the Bone – Thomas Trofimuk  “A story about the nature of grief, about what it means to be a parent in the face of great sorrow, the idea of re-invented love and hope. Set in Paris and a small town in the Canadian Rockies, the novel is propelled forward by a horrific car crash that reverberates for the victim’s husband and daughters….this story serpentines through the labyrinth of grief and pain as the victim’s husband wrestles with the question, was the car crash an accident or intentional?”

The Betrayal – Henry Kreisel  “This swift philosophical thriller explores the role of North Americans as witnesses to global history. With rich allusions to Joseph Conrad The Betrayal traces the effects of the Holocaust to Edmonton, Alberta, an unlikely spot for a moral showdown–or so one would at first think. A classic of contemporary Canadian literature.” – Goodreads

Allegra – Shelley Hrdslitschka  “[An] absorbing exploration of contemporary teen life…Hrdlitschka (Sister Wife) realistically depicts teenage emotional turmoil as Allegra’s growing obsession with Mr. Rocchelli combines with despair at her parents’ separation and the ups and downs of her new friendships. The main characters’ devotion to the arts enriches the drama.” – Publishers Weekly

Road Tripping – Conni Massing  “Every summer for the past 10 years, Conni Massing and a gaggle of her theatre friends have embarked on raucous road trips throughout their home province of Alberta….Massing’s funny, compelling, and educational account of these trips….may even inspire a bit of envy on the part of her readers. How can people have so much fun, one wonders, with so little? How do people make a pit stop for beef jerky an adventure?….Her love letter to her home province, is both funny and inspiring.” Quill & Quire

Delusion Road – Don Aker   “A taut, gripping murder mystery thriller… a page-turner that will leave readers both breathlessly cheering for the protagonists and eager to (re)experience the Bay of Fundy’s shoreline and all its rocky, majestic East Coast splendour. Aker excels is in his storytelling, creating vividly believable scenarios rife with razor-sharp tension, all wrapped up in an edgy, realistic portrayal of loyalty, the lies we tell, and the strength of the human spirit.” National Reading Campaign

A Wake for the Dreamland – Laurel Deedrick-Mayne  Friends William, Robert, & Annie are on the cusp of adulthood while the world is on the brink of war. Every arena of their lives is infiltrated by the war, from the home front to the underground of queer London to the bloody battlefields of Italy. Even in the aftermath, these friends fight their own inner battles: to have faith in their right to love and be loved, to honour their promises and ultimately find their way “home.” 

Ghost Messages – Jacqueline Guest  In pursuit of stolen treasure in 1865 Ireland, 13-year-old Ailish winds up trapped on the Great Eastern as it sails! The vessel’s mission is to lay the fi rst undersea telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. On the journey, Ailish, disguised as a boy tries to track down the hiding place of her father’s treasure. With her trademark storytelling skills, Jacqueline Guest has fashioned a nail-biter of an historical seafaring action adventure.

Instruments of Surrender – Christine Wiesenthal  In this poetry collection, “Wiesenthal reveal[s her] mastery of craft and mature sensibilities. [She is an] excavator of past and present: … mining the uncertain terrain of childhood and youth, the hazardous surfaces of adult experience…[who] sees the wide world and record[s her] knowledge of its brutality. [She] write[s] of paternal betrayal with the same unsettling frankness they bring to day-to-day events.” – Antigonish Review

Gwen – Carolyn Pogue   Not only is Gwen a fantastic historical source with its references to Yonge Street, the St. Lawrence River and national heroes including Miss Pauline Johnson and Joseph Brant, it’s also a captivating story of a young girl determined to pursue her dreams and traverse new lands. Gwen is young, but her sensibilities and optimistic character are bound to evoke emotions from all age groups.

You Haven’t Changed a Bit – Astrid Blodgett Edmonton-based Astrid Blodgett’s debut story collection is a complex and darkly tinged look into the lives of troubled characters and the traumatic, life-altering events of their lives.“You Haven’t Changed a Bit” has the complexity and texture you’d expect from a well-established short fiction writer. The fact that this is a debut collection is a remarkable achievement and should convince you to keep an eye out for more of Blodgett’s work.

Finton Moon – Gerard Collins  Set in the fictional town of Darwin, NFL, Collins “build[s] his themes: of cruelty and malice, intolerance of every kind, violence, poverty, repression, and the pain of growing up, especially in the closed and claustrophobic environment of Darwin. But it’s not all to do with struggling against the cramped and insular confines of a small town. In the context of growing up, the book is about friendship; the obligations of familial and romantic love; and the hard, but often thrilling journey of self-discovery.” The Western Star

Part Two – Next Week!

(And thanks to all who suggested The Book of Mary by me!  Shucks.)

* You’ll note a decidedly Edmonton/ Albertan bias, but that’s just fine.


Writing Quote: “Even to be a famous author in America is no piece of cake. There are no screaming lines of fans waiting hours for the new release, no instant recognition that accords respect, no government funding for the arts to speak of and a risky living to be made at best. And for the other writers, it’s a struggle that only a passion for stories and books, bred early and deep, can sustain.” –

Writing Tips:  There’s a saying in publishing that the moment you spot a trend, it’s too late to join it. By the time you finish writing something you think will be popular because it’s popular now, that ship will have largely sailed. – Writer’s Digest

Writing Prompt: ‘Shh! Hear that?’ ‘I didn’t hear anything.’ ‘That’s right. That’s the sound of your own oblivion.’





More Marketing Info for Writers

This is an update on my January 27th marketing post.

And a wee note: Gail will not be in her office on Thursday, May 28th.

As a follow-up to my workshop of last week, I thought I’d share some additional resources  about markets.

Strong recommendations:  mood-writing

  • always check out any website (a dead link likely means a defunct journal)
  • always check out the backlist to ensure that your piece is aligned with the sort of work the journal/ magazine/ e-zine publishes
  • READ the journal and consider subscribing (supporting literary mags is good karma!)
  • more generally, you should be READING all the time, especially in your chosen genre
  • check out this site (and Google others like it) for advice on some disreputable publishers:  “Contests and Services to Avoid” or this from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

General Manuscript Submission Tips:

Beware of any publisher who offers to publish your poem or story for money.  Can you smell the stink?  Something is rotten!  Publishers pay you for your work, not the other way around.

  1. That said, modest entry fees for a competition are not unusual, and may range from $5 to $50, depending on the calibre of the competition and the prizes offered.
  2. Always check out the website of any publisher, magazine, or journal.  Make sure that what you’ve written truly fits the “call for submission” requirements before you submit.  READ the magazine or journal first to see if your work matches the style and content.
  3. Follow submission guidelines meticulously.  Editors are busy people.  If your manuscript is messy, error-ridden, or incorrectly formatted, it’s likely to be filed in “recycle” also known as “rejected.”
  4. Use an easily readable font.  Size 12 – no bigger, no smaller. Double space.  Use 1 to 1.5 inch margins on all four sides of the page.  Print single-sided on white paper.
  5. Don’t send an electronic copy to a journal that ONLY accepts snailmail.
  6. If you send via snailmail, you may be asked to include a SASE (stamped and self-addressed envelope) or International Reply Coupon (IRC) for return of your manuscript.
  7. For Pete’s sake, for the love of Mike, PROOFREAD!!!
  8. Don’t pester the editors.  Read the submission guidelines for response times.  Many publishers, unfortunately, only reply to those writers whose work they are intending to publish.
  9. Never send original work or artwork.  Make a copy or keep your originals in a cloud storage like Dropbox.  Keep your originals safe at home, both electronic and hard copies!

If your work is rejected, take heart.  There are other publishers out there. Do consider editorial suggestions, but remember you are the author of your own story.  In the end, you are the arbiter of your own words.  Tinker or rework and send out your manuscript again.  And again.  And again.

TEN (Markets and Resources): 

  1. Places for Writers:  “[places for writers] helps writers find homes for their work. Our goal is to help you write more and get your writing published. Since 1997 [places for writers] has featured submission calls and contests for publications in Canada and around the world: from independent presses to large well-established journals, from blogs and web journals to print magazines with wide distribution.”
  2. Quick Brown Fox: “Brian Henry’s Quick Brown Fox – Creative Writing Courses and Workshops and other great stuff for writers.”
  3. Broken Pencil:  “Since 1995, we have been a mega-zine dedicated exclusively to exploring independent creative action. Published four times a year, each issue of Broken Pencil features reviews of hundreds of zines and small press books, plus comics, excerpts from the best of the underground press, interviews, original fiction and commentary on all aspects of the indie arts. From the hilarious to the perverse, Broken Pencil challenges conformity and demands attention.”
  4. The Puritan: “The Puritan: Frontiers of New English is an online, quarterly publication based in Toronto, Ontario, committed to publishing the best in new fiction, poetry, interviews, essays, and reviews. The Puritan seeks, above all, a pioneering literature—work that pushes boundaries, or sees boundaries as unstable, or lines to be re-drawn.”
  5. paperplates: “a literary quarterly published in Toronto….[that publishes] short personal essays, reminiscences, and travel accounts…. short stories, one-act plays, musical scores, poems short and long, extended travel pieces, formal essays, interviews, and reminiscences…. reviews, mostly of books.”
  6. forget magazine:  “What we are really after: what we are really after in this publication is the publishing of material that is ignored in the mainstream press and the even the independent news. Anything that has reason and passion. And more stuff that is Canadian than not.”
  7. Joyland: “is a literary magazine that selects fiction and essays regionally. Our editors work with stories and excerpts by authors connected to locales across North America.”
  8. Stone Soup: “the print magazine written and illustrated by young writers and artists. It is the leading publisher of creative writing by children ages 8 to 13.”
  9. “is a community of young writers, both new and experienced, dedicated to improving our writing.”
  10. Predators and Editors: “was founded in July 1997 by Dave Kuzminski as a resource and a simple compendium for the serious writer, composer, game designer, or artist to consult for information, regardless of genre.”

TEN More: 

  1. Room Magazine:  “Canada’s oldest literary journal by and about women…. showcases fiction, poetry, reviews, art work, interviews and profiles about the female experience. Many of our contributors are at the beginning of their writing careers, looking for an opportunity to get published for the first time. Some later go on to great acclaim. Room is a space where women can speak, connect, and showcase their creativity. Each quarter we publish original, thought-provoking works that reflect women’s strength, sensuality, vulnerability, and wit.”
  2. Glass Buffalo:  is a literary magazine in search of mythic power. We’re collecting the words and stories of emerging writers at the University of Alberta in order to cultivate a creative literary community.”
  3. Whetstone Magazine: “is a biannual literary magazine managed by student-enthusiasts at the University of Lethbridge with occasional help from members of the English Department. Originally established in 1971, Whetstone was revived in September 2009 and aims to attract writers from southern Alberta and the prairies. Whetstone accepts original works of prose, poetry, photography, and graphic design from students, scholars, and members of the general public.”
  4. The Fiddlehead: “is Canada’s longest living literary journal — now in its 70th year of publication, The Fiddlehead is published four times a year at the University of New Brunswick….[and] is known as a WHO’S WHO in Can. Lit. Many — now well-known — writers have found their first home in our pages, and they, as well as some of our editors and assistants, have gone on to win awards and prizes across the country and around the world. Do not look at this journal as old! It is experienced; wise enough to recognize excellence; always looking for freshness and surprise.
  5. Antigonish Review: “is a quarterly literary journal published by St. Francis Xavier University. The Review features poetry, fiction, reviews and critical articles from all parts of Canada, the US and overseas, using original graphics to enliven the format. For forty years, The Antigonish Review has consistently published fine poetry and prose by emerging — and established — writers. Their writing would not have been as readily available had it not been for the efforts of this review. Many young writers have been given a start here.
  6. The Capilano Review: “has a long history of publishing new and established Canadian writers and artists who are experimenting with or expanding the boundaries of conventional forms and contexts. International writers and artists appear in our pages too. Founded in North Vancouver in 1972 by Pierre Coupey, the magazine continues its original mandate to publish the literary and visual arts side by side.The print edition of TCR is published three times a year. A pdf version is available for purchase simultaneously. Our website features a free e-magazine called ti-TCR | a web folio, also published three times a year.”
  7. The Malahat Review“established in 1967 by University of Victoria English, is among Canada’s leading literary journals. Published quarterly, it features contemporary Canadian and international works of poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction as well as reviews of recently published Canadian poetry, fiction, and literary nonfiction. On occasion, it also publishes interviews, essays, and issues on a single theme or author.”
  8. Event: “in its 42nd year of publication, is an award-winning, internationally recognized literary magazine that publishes fiction, poetry, non-fiction and book reviews by emerging and established writers three times a year…our pages strive to reflect the diversity of the reading and writing communities we serve. Our publication acts as a stepping-stone for writers, many of whom go on to win literary prizes, receive artist grants, and get published elsewhere after having been first published in our pages. We have published many of Canada’s most distinguished writers both before and after they gained national or international recognition, and continue to support gifted new and emerging writers. The majority of our content remains unsolicited and we consistently provide advice and critique to emerging writers. It is our goal to support and encourage a thriving literary community locally, provincially and nationally, while maintaining our presence in North America and abroad.”
  9. Grain Magazine: “the journal of eclectic writing, is a literary quarterly that publishes engaging, diverse, and challenging writing and art by some of the best Canadian and international writers and artists. Every issue features superb new writing from both developing and established writers. Each issue also highlights the unique artwork of a different visual artist. Grain has garnered national and international recognition for its distinctive, cutting-edge content and design.”
  10. Prism International: “is a quarterly magazine out of Vancouver, British Columbia, whose mandate is to publish the best in contemporary writing and translation from Canada and around the world. The mandate of the magazine’s website is to provide a supplement to the print edition that connects readers with the literary community through author interviews, book reviews, news about Canadian writing and publishing events, and other information of interest to our readers, many of whom are writers themselves.Though best known for its fiction and poetry, PRISM does not neglect the other literary arts. Creative non-fiction, drama and translation are regular features.”

And for more helpful info, visit Magazine Awards.

Writing Quotes:

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

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”—Stephen King, American author (b. 1947)

Writing Tip:
  “Don’t panic. Midway through writing a novel, I have regularly experienced moments of bowel-curdling terror, as I contemplate the drivel on the screen before me and see beyond it, in quick succession, the derisive reviews, the friends’ embarrassment, the failing career, the dwindling income, the repossessed house, the divorce . . . Working doggedly on through crises like these, however, has always got me there in the end. Leaving the desk for a while can help. Talking the problem through can help me recall what I was trying to achieve before I got stuck. Going for a long walk almost always gets me thinking about my manuscript in a slightly new way. And if all else fails, there’s prayer. St Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers, has often helped me out in a crisis. If you want to spread your net more widely, you could try appealing to Calliope, the muse of epic poetry, too.” — Sarah Waters, Welsh novelist (b. 1966)

Writing Prompt:  Put on a favourite or a random piece of music (preferably with no words or in a language you do not understand) and allow your pen to play or your fingers to click away freely and with abandon.  Explore the unexpected places the music takes you. If one piece of music doesn’t work, try another.

Have fun!  There are no rules here.  Treat this as an exercise or a beginning or a departure.

Happy birthday, Will!

shakes_bday_2009People often ask me to name writers who have influenced or informed my writing.  Hands down, that writer is Shakespeare. At last count, I’ve read 2/3 of his plays (all of the tragedies, most of the comedies, and a number of the histories) and all of his sonnets – some of these works multiple times, as I’ve taught many of them.  The bard’s words and rhythms infuse my own.  On several occasions, I’ve stolen directly from him:

  • a title as in A Winter’s Tale
  • lines of poetry (“by the pricking of my thumbs/ something wicked this way comes” and “’tis now the witching time of night” which I borrowed for In the Graveyard)
  • quoted lines used by characters such as Anise in Gravity Journal, who, as she cuts, cites Lady Macbeth’s famous lament:

    What hands are here? Ha! they pluck out mine eyes.                                             Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood                                                         Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather                                                    The multitudinous seas incarnadine                                                                      Making the green one red.     (Macbeth, II.ii.56-60)

I am an ardent fan. I marvel at his genius. I’d like to invite him to dinner or for a pint (my treat). But alack, he has “shuffled off this mortal coil” and “the rest is silence.”

You may find this interactive widget from Oxford English Dictionaries a lark!




Or you may find Stephen Marche’s book, How Shakespeare Changed Everything, enlightening (here’s a short overview.)




All jests aside, I do believe that reading Shakespeare makes one a better poet.  So often I am astonished by the number of poets who do not read poetry, the number of aspiring authors who do not read prose, the number of people who read neither.  Quite simply, as you no doubt know because you are reading this blog, a writer reads.  Widely.  Often. Across genres.

Today on Shakespeare’s birthday, in this month of poetry, it’s important we remember that poets in many places are revered and have been advocates for freedom, for the people, for social justice.  Some have been blacklisted or censored; some have been tortured or murdered. Why is that? Because a poet’s pen has power.

Today I remember these…
Ken Saro-Wiwa
Pablo Neruda
Victor Jara
Thomas McGrath
Langston Hughes
Pete Seeger
Dorothy Parker
Anna Akhmatova
Susana Chávez Castillo
Nadia Anjuman
Liu Xia
San San Nweh
and so many others…

Writing Quote:  “I keep reminding people that an editorial in rhyme is not a song. A good song makes you laugh, it makes you cry, it makes you think.” – Pete Seeger, American folksinger and activist (1919-2014)
Writing Tip: “If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.” – Dorothy Parker, American poet, short story writer, essayist (1893-1967)

Writing Prompt:  Take the lyrics to a popular song and rearrange them into Shakespearean sonnet.


  • Rhyme Scheme: ABAB/CDCD/EFEF/GG
  • Each line shoudl be 10 syllables long or 5 feet in length (pentameter)
  • The first two quatrains should be a question and then 7 lines of potential answers/reasonings
  • The third quatrain should be a twist
  • Include a rhyming couplet at the end that summarizes the sonnet as a whole


How much moola does a Canadian writer make?

Well, that’s a question, along with two others involving my age and my weight, that I always hesitate to answer.  Make-Money-Writing


I can say honestly that as a writer I certainly do not make the 2010 average for female Canadians.

But I make a living by augmenting my writing with other work, and I have a very rich life.  I travel extensively to tour or to work as a writer in residence.  Being an author has taken me back and forth across Canada and Canada’s North, to a number of states, across the pond to Helsinki, Finland; Bern, Switzerland; Istanbul, Turkey; and farther east to Hanoi, Vietnam and Doha, Qatar.  There have been many, many moments in my teaching and presenting career on which one cannot place a price tag.  I have been delighted and awestruck and humbled by encounters with readers, fans and eager younger and older writers.

WillWriteForFoodIt is, however, nice to eat.  I highly recommend such a practice.  Have you seen the price of food these days?

Others have weighed in on the reality of the Canadian author’s income.  Lesley Kenny’s excellent article, “Canadian Fiction Writers’ Average Income: reality cheque please!” (alas, in the officially defunct Descant magazine) is one such example. Even self-published authors have it tough as Alison Flood soberly notes in her Guardian article“Stop the press: half of self published authors earn less than $500.”  And in an earlier blog, I cited Camilla Gibb’s honest, if depressing, account, “The more you write, the less you make,” from a recent issue of the Globe and Mail.

All of this is glum stuff.  But I assure you there are creative ways to make a living as a writer.  Here are some ideas:

i.  Find another something to do to pay the bills.  Maybe you are a good copywriter, editor, blogger, social media writer, proofreader, event planner, publicist, newsletter editor…  Perhaps you write a mean brochure or a cookbook or textbook… Spread your wings and branch out with your writing, perhaps even as a freelancer.

of course, this may necessitate that you

ii.  Get another degree or diploma to complement (not consume) your life as a writer.  You might consider marketing and communications (MacEwan and U of A have some excellent programs), teaching, ESL teaching, or training in technical/ scientific writing.

iii. Pitch your writing to magazines – small, larger, largest, print and online.  Get some publication credits and make a few bucks on the side.

iv.  Once you have some publication cred, you’ll be eligible to apply for grants.  Apply for grants!  Learn how to write them and then write them well.  Submit!  Grants may be a lottery, but you don’t receive if you don’t try.  (Some sources to tap:  Alberta Foundation for the Arts, any Emerging Artists’ grants – at creative writing colleges or provincial organizations, Edmonton Arts Council).

v. Get paid when your work is photocopied or in library circulation.  Any Canadian who has published anything (even if it’s just a one-page article in a local paper) can apply to be a creator through Access copyright, or any Canadian who has a book in a Canadian library is eligible for Public Lending Right dollars (based on the number of “hits” of your book in libraries searched by the PLRC).  As Anna Humphrey wisely espouses about Access Copyright: “once a year, using a formula which, very roughly speaking, involves the number of pages you’ve published, relative to the number of pages other creators have published, divided by the total amount of money they collected, they send you a cheque. Is it a lot of money? No, not really. But depending on how extensively you’ve published, you can generally expect at least $100-$200 or more a year and that, my friend, is a lot more than you were getting before you knew about this. So go to their website today. Join! It’s free.”

vi.  Get paid for presenting.  Check out what others are charging according to their experience and numbers of books published, and then charge a presentation or workshop fee, according to your level of expertise and profile as an author.  Register with an organization like Authors Booking Service.  For more detail, see Anna Humphrey’s excellent blog, “101 Ways to Make Money as a Canadian Writer.

vii.  Put on an event(s).  Invite other artists, musicians, writers to participate.  Charge a modest fee.  Share the door.  Build a profile.  Have a ton of fun!

So yes, there are lots of naysayers and doomsdayers out there.  On my dark days, I crawl into the fetal position and bemoan the state of Canadian publishing and the perils of poverty as an author in this country.

But we have agency.  We have choice.

We could throw up our hands in despair or we could place them at the keyboard and keep writing.  That is what I choose to do.


If you have any wise ideas for making a living as a writer, please share!


Writing Quote: “There’s no money in poetry, but then there’s no poetry in money either.” – Robert Graves, poet and novelist (1895-1985)

Writing Tip:  Put aside thoughts of fame and fortune.  As Michael Crichton famously said, “when you start to think, Will this sell?, that’s death.”  Focus on the writing, writing, writing!

Writing Prompt:  Write a poem using three of the following words: euphoria, susurration, bruise, opine.



Score! Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady talk on March 11

I’m delighted to inform you that the 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize winner Lynn Coady has agreed to do a reading/Q&A at EPL’s central branch, Stanley A. Milner library, on March 11. Here are the details. Hope to see you there!LC

Life After The Giller
In November 2013, Edmonton author Lynn Coady won the Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short story collection, Hellgoing. What’s life been like since for the novelist, journalist, and newly minted screenwriter? Join Coady for a Q&A with Elizabeth Withey, the Edmonton Public Library’s Writer In Residence. Coady will also read from Hellgoing.

When: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 7 p.m.
Where: Stanley A. Milner Library Program Room (next to the MakerSpace)
Cost: This is a free event. No registration is required.

Come On Baby, Light My Fire!

The weaAdam-and-Eve-e1346079003542ther outside may be frightful, but this workshop, Come On Baby, Light My Fire!,will hopefully keep you warm!  Join me this Tuesday at 7 pm at Strathcona County Library.

In the spirit of the season of love, the hot topic is desire. After all, sex and death are two of the greatest inextricably linked themes in literature. Desire is the key to how it all starts, and presumably leads to the end. Find out how this tension works in stories by the masters, and how to make it sizzle in your own.

Wrap-up/Kick off

It’s a sort of sad/happy occasion at the downtown library this coming December 11th, a pass-the-torch ceremony culminating in the announcement of two brand new Writers-in-Residence for the Edmonton Metro Libraries Federation.

But between saying good-by to the many wonderful writers I’ve met over the year, is an opportunity to hear the words of folks who have used our creative service in the last 12 months. My colleague Jason Norman and I have invited various “writers on the cusp of awesome” to share their work and their experience of working through the deconstruction of text with a trained professional. It’s not always easy and it’s not always pretty, but the results will be evidenced in some staggering readings.

Jason and I will also read, sharing a portion of the manuscripts we’ve been working on this last year in the lovely solitude of the libraries.

And, the best thing of all, an opportunity to be on the ground  when two new writers –with new energy, new ideas and new visions are introduced to the city and outlying communities. Writers Take Wing!

Come say good-bye. Come celebrate!

You’re Invited!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

7:00-8:30 p.m.
Stanley A. Milner Library, Edmonton Room
7 Churchill Square

I hope that you all can make it to this event. It is very exciting for me to be able to introduce some of the great people I had the chance to work with this year.It will also give me a chance to say thanks to you all for supporting my ideas and programs throughout the year and to the EPL for giving me this wonderful opportunity. I will miss this job dearly but I’m not done yet. There is still lots to do and there are a lot of people to help. I look forward to seeing you on the 11th to celebrate a busy and productive year and to help me welcome the next batch of lucky WIRs for 2015.


World Cup of Literature: Group E

Group E is made up of Switzerland, France, Ecuador, and Honduras. Here are the books that will be representing them:

Switzerland: Hermann Hesse, “Steppenwolf

France: Victor Hugo, “Les Miserables

Ecuador: Jorge Enrique Adoum, “Between Marx and a Naked Woman”

Honduras: Eduardo Bahr, “The War Story”

What is the deal with this group? I have no idea. Did you know that before Les Miserables was a movie it was also a musical? And before that it was also a book, did you know that? It is the classic tale of heroism, betrayal and redemption at a turning point in France’s history. The book has very little singing though.

Hermann Hesse is a former German turned Swiss citizen. He was a novelist, poet, and philosopher. Steppenwolf is a blend of eastern mysticism and western culture. It is Hesse’s most celebrated book and it looks like a wild ride. Let me know if you’ve read this one before.

Did you know that Jorge Enrique Adoum was Pablo Neruda’s personal secretary for two years in Chile? I didn’t know that before I looked it up on Wikipedia. Adoum’s novel, translated as “Between Marx and the Naked Woman” won the top literary prize in Mexico, which was the first time it was ever awarded to a foreigner. The novel was also made into a film in 1996 and was nominated for several Spanish language film awards around the world.

Finally there is Honduras. Little is known about Eduardo Bahr’s novel “The War Story” except that it is about the conflict between Honduras and El Salvador in 1969. He seems like a cool guy but Honduras beat Canada in qualifying last year and I’m still upset about it so I won’t say anything more.

My soccer picks: France, Switzerland

My literature picks: France, Ecuador


Diamonds in the rough


I’m from the Northwest Territories, the diamond capital of Canada. I don’t have a lot of diamonds, and, at this stage of the game, don’t really desire any. I do, however, know that writing, laying down that first awkward draft, is much like mining, bringing up to the surface the unlovely bits that, with spit and polish, revision, are gems.

I speak a lot about the reptilian brain, the subconscious that dictates the words, memories and ideas we chose when facing the blank page. We decide unknowingly and sometimes in the spur of the moment what to write and we learn about why we chose that particular word/image/idea in the act of revision.

I tell my students and clients there are gemstones in their writing and I don’t say this lightly. It’s work to get something on the page but you can’t fall in love with the unfinished rock, the chunk of text that surrounds the yet-to-be revealed diamond. The shale, the granite, the grey powder must be chipped away, the stone manipulated, tumbled, refined and then polished and polished again. It’s there. You have chosen to write about something for a certain reason and it may be a reason that is unclear to you. Trust the process. Mine your image, find the beauty beneath what first appears and  keep working it. As in all things, the light, the meaning, the reason for the writing will appear and dear writing friends, in has the potential to be very, very bright.