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

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).



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?”

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.



Build-a-Book (for poets)

This is going to be a GREAT event, I can already tell. In collaboration with the Edmonton Poetry Festival, we are putting on a practical chapbook-making soiree for poets in the MakerSpace at the Stanley A. Milner library.

Build-A-Book (for poets)

Have you ever thought of compiling some of your poems into a chapbook? Learn how with fellow poets at a practical book-making course in the Edmonton Public Library’s Makerspace. In this free, collaborative seminar, participants will learn how to self-publish their work using the EPL’s state-of-the-art Espresso Book Machine. Watch the book-making process first-hand during the session as we publish a slim anthology of participants’ poems. Participants will also have a chance to read some of their work.

Registration required. Submit your poem for inclusion in our anthology by April 16th to the Writer-In-Residence, Elizabeth Withey. Email

Register HERE: Build-A-Book

This Sunday March 29…let’s talk historical writing, memoir, journalism

If you’re intrigued by the research that comes with historical writing, memoir, and journalism, consider attending this free event on Sunday afternoon with Edmonton’s Historian Laureate, Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, pictured below.

Not Just the Facts: Spinning Stories from History, Memoir, and Journalism

EPL Writer-In-Residence Elizabeth Withey sits down for a fireside chat with Historian Laureate Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail, author of Polar Winds and For the Love of Flying, to discuss their wide-ranging experiences of researching and writing nonfiction. From interviews to oral histories, personal essay to popular history, they will share tips and tricks and a lot of hard-won knowledge. This will be followed by a short private tour of the Heritage Reading Room.

When Sunday, March 29, 2015 2pm
Where Stanley A. Milner Library (Program Room – main floor, west of MakerSpace)

Steam Your Punk – World Building for SpecFic


Steampunk, Fantasy and Sword—or Light Sabre—Play

March 10, 2015 | 7:00 – 8:30 pm | Strathcona County Library

World building is serious stuff to the writers of speculative fiction (SF). Just think of the likes of J.R.R. Tolkien or Ursula K. Le Guin, who spent years dreaming up their respective fictional worlds of Middle Earth and Earthsea, replete with characters, languages, flora, fauna, varying cultures, ideologies and religions. Whether you’ve a penchant for dystopic zombies, otherworldly hell-fiends or steam-run vampire automatons, come examine the essential toolkit for fantasy world building.


Bio pic_KerriKerri Campbell

Kerri Campbell is an aspiring fantasy writer living in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She’s a graduate from the Applied Bachelor of Communications and Professional Writing at MacEwan University, and is currently working towards a second degree in Bachelor of Communication Studies, also from MacEwan University. When she can, Kerri volunteers with YouthWrite®, a camp for kids who love to write…just about anything©, where she helped design and edit YouthWrite’s 2013 and 2014 magazine anthologies. For fun, Kerri daydreams and builds worlds for her stories. After all, reality is overrated.

Natasha Retribution CropNatasha Deen

Literacy advocate and author, Natasha Deen and her family moved to Canada to escape the racial violence and political unrest of Guyana, South America.  Often the only mixed-race child in the class, Natasha’s childhood experiences come through in her work. Her books mix action with humour and the power of self, and feature strong female and male characters. She is published in a variety of genres and has written for children, teens, and adults. In 2013, she was the inaugural Regional Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Library Federation.

Tyler EnfieldTyler Enfield

Tyler Enfield is the award-winning author of the Wrush novel series, as well as the upcoming teen-novel, Madder Carmine, due out October 1, 2015. Tyler is also writer/director of the interactive film Invisible Worlds, produced by the National Film Board, and part of the Rasterverse team, which is developing a six-episode animation series. His photography show, Ghosts of Jerusalem, is on exhibition at the Enfield Gallery.

Cathlpw1989een Rootsaert

Cathleen Rootsaert is an award-winning playwright and improviser who moved into the world of game writing. She has worked with EA/BioWare in Edmonton since 2008 where she wrote for Star Wars: The Old Republic, Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3.  Aside from producing her own work, she has written for many of Edmonton’s theatres, CBC-Radio and CBC-TV, and she is a regular improviser and director at Die-Nasty, the improvised soap opera and a member of Hey Ladies! the improvised live talk show series.


Writing Quote: “I never write exercises, but sometimes I write poems which fail and call them exercises.” – Robert Frost, poet (1874-1963)

Writing Tip:   For each of the characters in a story you are currently writing, create a “fact sheet” in which you list as much as you know about the character.  Begin with obvious facts like gender and age, then go on to include such info as a favourite TV program, attitude to self, long-range goals.  Find out how far you can go before you begin to discover aspects of your characters that remain unknown to you.  Search through the known facts for clues to the unknown. – from A Passion for Narrative by Jack Hodgins

Writing Prompt: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

Read more:  Best First Lines of Novels

AUTHORPALOOZA #3 – Join me and three other great writers!

On March 11, 2015, it’s AUTHORPALOOZA #3, featuring Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries Writer in Residence, Gail Sidonie Sobat, apocalyptic novelist Eileen Bell, crime novelist SG Wong,  and zombie novelist Cunnamedraig DiLouie!

It’s a live talk-show, with U of A Writer in Residence, Minister Faust, interviewing four authors for 15 minutes each on the craft and the business of writing. If you’re a writer and want to get ahead, or if you just loving writing, COME ON OUT!

And if you’re a spoken word performer, stick around for the $200 IN PRIZES that the great folks at Devaney’s Irish Pub will be handing out!

AUTHORPALOOZA & Open Stage             Devaney’s Irish Pub                                                                                                    11113 – 87 Avenue, Edmonton                                                                          Wednesday, March 11, 7 – 9 p.m.

The Big Speakeasy – This Saturday!

Gail will not be in her office Tuesday or Wednesday of this week as she is busily preparing for the Big Speakeasy in honour of Freedom to Read Week, on Saturday, February 28 at 7 pm at Strathcona County Library!

Join us and be dazzled by these fantastic artists and our special guest, Leah Lewis, as we collectively celebrate our freedom to read:


     Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.14.45 AMKarla Anderson

In 2005, Karla Anderson hit the world stage when her song “What Else Can I Do?” was given a prime spot on the National Television show “Joan of Arcadia”. Her debut recording,“ The Embassy Sessions,” was released in the summer of 2005, hit the top of the charts wherever it was played, and earned her the Best New/Emerging Artist at the Canadian Folk Music Awards in Dec of 2005 and a nomination for a Western Canadian Music Awards “Outstanding Roots Recording” October 22, 2006. Her sophomore recording “Brand New Day” was released in November 2009, to equally rave reviews. Karla was part of the all-star line-up featured at the 2008 International Leonard Cohen Festival and has been featured on CBC Television several times as well.

anderson_smallTimothy J. Anderson

Timothy Anderson’s work spans opera to science fiction to comedy to health care. With a fistful of university degrees and certificates (ask him!), Timothy sees story potential everywhere. In addition to a long list of publications, productions and prizes, he was writer in residence with the Canadian Opera Company, won the BookTelevision 3-Day Novel Contest, edited for The Books Collective, was a publisher with River Books, and had a stage/concert career. He teaches at YouthWrite®, MacEwan University and the University of Alberta and continues to frequently perform and direct.

Minister_Faust_-_mediumMalcolm Azania aka Minister Faust

Minister Faust is a novelist, print/radio/television journalist, blogger, sketch comedy writer, video game writer, playwright, and poet. He also taught high school and junior high English literature and composition for a decade. The critically-acclaimed author of The Alchemists of Kush and the Kindred Award-winning and Philip K. Dick runner-up Shrinking the Heroes, Minister Faust first achieved literary accolades for his debut novel, The Coyote Kings, which was shortlisted for the Locus Best First Novel, Philip K. Dick, and Compton-Crook awards. Minister Faust is currently finishing his politically satirical War & Mir trilogy, and will be focusing on screenplays and graphic novels during his tenure as writer in residence at the U of A.

Natasha Retribution CropNatasha Deen

Literacy advocate and author, Natasha Deen and her family moved to Canada to escape the racial violence and political unrest of Guyana, South America.  Often the only mixed-race child in the class, Natasha’s childhood experiences come through in her work. Her books mix action with humour and the power of self, and feature strong female and male characters. She is published in a variety of genres and has written for children, teens, and adults. In 2013, she was the inaugural Regional Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Library Federation.

1926905_10152233587814116_103656239_nGeoffrey McMaster

A video producer, news writer and editor at the University of Alberta, Geoff McMaster is 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.

Thomas TrofimukThomas Trofimuk

Thomas Trofimuk is an Edmonton writer who writes poetry, short-fiction, and novels. He has published three novels: The 52nd PoemDoubting Yourself to the Bone, and Waiting for Columbus. His books have garnered critical praise and he has won The Georges Bugnet Alberta Literary Award and The City of Edmonton Book Prize, twice each. He is one of the founders of the Raving Poets and is also a musician. If you want to meet him, he’s that funny looking guy over there, at the edge of the Speakeasy, watching and listening to everything you do and say.

lizpic1Elizabeth Withey

Elizabeth Withey will call the Edmonton Public Library home for 2015. A staff writer for the Edmonton Journal for nearly 11 years, her work has also appeared in newspapers across Canada, well as in magazines and literary journals including Alberta Views, Geist, Eighteen Bridges, Room and Avenue Magazine. Withey grew up in Saskatchewan and has a master’s degree from the University of Oxford. She studied writing at the University of Victoria before moving to Edmonton in 2004. Aside from being an award winning writer, Withey is an advanced yoga practitioner and certified ashtanga instructor, and is also fluent in German, French and Spanish.

SpyderSpyder Yardley-Jones

Spyder Yardley-Jones is an international artist whose shows have caused controversy with his thought-provoking images.  Spyder has been teaching cartooning and illustration for a decade as Artist in Residence through the Edmonton Welsh Society in Edmonton schools. Formerly an educator at the Art Gallery of Alberta, he now instructs through MacEwan University’s Continuing Education program.  Spyder illustrated the picture book, In the Graveyard and the graphic novel, Jamie’s Got a Gun, and has been a YouthWrite® instructor for 19 years. In addition to all of this, Spyder works as a preparator, installing shows at the Art Gallery of Alberta.


Writing Quote: “One must be ruthless with one’s own writing or someone else will be.” – John Berryman, poet (1914-1972)

Writing Tip:   Look and listen. Watch people, eavesdrop, and ask “innocent” questions. Be an observer.  You never know who might end up in your novel.

Writing Prompt: Mrs. Golightly was a shy person…

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.