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.”

Some thoughts on Remembrance Day

Missing in ActionTat 

the telegram came

I fell to my knees

my sister says

I don’t remember any of it

something bone china

in me cracked

like the set you sent me for Christmas

from England

now I can no longer pour hot tea

into that translucent cup

STOP

I bought dresses

went to dances

wept nights empty

watched day dawn

dashed to the dress shop

half-believed another telegram

would one day arrive

STOP

Previous telegram mistake

STOP

Private Marcel injured but alive

STOP

Discovered disoriented but well

Returning May 1944

STOP

Sends his love

STOP

No such message ever arrives

I carry on this smalltown existence

shopping selling

eating dancing

weeping grieving

living

STOP

 

from How the Light is Spent (Wintergreen Press 2013)  ©Gail Sidonie Sobat

Some interesting articles to consider this Remembrance Day: 

 

YouthWrite® Turns Twenty: 

If you don’t already know, YouthWrite® is a camp for young writers and has been a passion of mine for 20 years.  Over two decades, I’ve seen difference it makes in the lives of the thousands of kids who have attended. Please consider donating and to passing the word about our campaign. We have some fun perks!  So past participants (or parents of YouthWriters, past or present) of YouthWrite or JustWrite, consider making a young writer’s dream come true by donating to our Indiegogo Campaign. We need your support to keep our writing camps going in perpetuity!                           Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 8.54.09 AMhttps://www.indiegogo.com/projects/youthwrite-s-roaring-20th-birthday/x/156479#/

 

 

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

The Perilous Realm Series: The Shadow of Malabron, The Fathomless Fire, The Tree of StoryThomas Wharton – Wharton’s trilogy tells the story of a boy from our world who stumbles upon the Perilous Realm, the world that stories come from. With a group of friends that includes a girl with the power to shape stories, and a talking wolf who might turn out to be a bloodthirsty killer, the boy must struggle against a single dark and powerful Story that threatens to consume all others. Protagonist Will “he (and Wharton, for that matter) absolutely revels in the magic of the Realm.” – (Globe & Mail)

 

Writing Quote: “My own feeling is that civilization ended in World War I, and we’re still trying to recover from that,” he said. “Much of the blame is the malarkey that artists have created to glorify war, which as we all know, is nonsense, and a good deal worse than that — romantic pictures of battle, and of the dead and men in uniform and all that. And I did not want to have that story told again.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr., American author (1922-2007)

Writing Tips:  “Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Writing Prompt: “Start as close to the end as possible.” – Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

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.

 

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!