My Wheelhouse, My Bailiwick…

In which I ask the question,
In which I ask the question, “Is a bailiwick forever?” Writing by the dock of the bay…

Imagine going through a life without finding your passion. Or worse, imagine finding it and then turning your back on it. Some people just coast through life without finding their ultimate bailiwick…what they were intended to be doing while surfing this mortal coil. Others, they find their wheelhouse…they live there for a number of years and then ennui sets in and one day they wake up and think, ‘why bother?’

I’m at the why bother stage at the moment. And it conjures up a great despondency to be there. But first, I have to admit to myself that I actually have a wheelhouse/bailiwick. In order to do so, in and of itself, brings forth a great discomfiture. To say that my wheelhouse/bailiwick is writing is to possibly imply that I think I’m good at it.

I never once thought I was good at it. I thought I skated through it like a wrecking ball in a glass menagerie. I always thought, ‘I don’t care if I’m the worst writer on the face of the universe…I like doing it and you’re not going to tell me I can’t do it. So there. Shut it.’ So, no…I don’t use wheelhouse/bailiwick in the way that suggests I excel at this thing called writing. I use the terms to suggest that writing is the garden in which I find myself the most comfort. When I sit in writing, I am myself. Which of itself is quite frightening…because aren’t writers of fiction basically liars, chameleons, charlatans? We tell stories. We fantasize. We live anywhere but here.

bail·i·wick ˈbāləˌwik/ noun

noun: bailiwick; noun: one’s bailiwick; plural noun: one’s bailiwicks; plural noun: bailiwicks

1. one’s sphere of operations or particular area of interest.
“you never give the presentations—that’s my bailiwick”
2. Law – the district or jurisdiction of a bailie or bailiff.
wheel·house ˈ(h)wēlˌhous/ noun
noun: wheelhouse; plural noun: wheelhouses

1. a part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel.

2. Baseball – the part of a batter’s strike zone most likely to produce a home run.

My bailiwick is my field of interest? I can live with that. It’s not threatening, boisterous, lofty. It’s just, “I’m doing this thing that interests me. Whatever.” My wheelhouse, however, sounds like I’m suggesting that writing is something I’m good at. When I am in the wheelhouse of writing, I’m knocking it out of the park? Um…no. I’m just not. I’ve never been in the strike zone. If anything, I could possibly maybe be a base-hitter. Is that a thing? That guy who can sometimes maybe just hit the ball enough to drag his ass to the first base and hope that somebody else brings him home? So, yeah. Maybe I can take the wheelhouse thing off the table. One less thing to worry about.

But that bailiwick thing…it’s not really an evasively egocentric term. I can deal.

The thing is…for almost a year now, I really can’t shake the notion that it hasn’t really interested me a whole lot. Do I put it aside? Do I dare laugh at the gods who said, “Find comfort in this thing. Do it and you shall feel the vast empty pit of nothingness before you heal over like a scab on a wound and you shall be free. Do it now and be free.”

Maybe I only needed a bailiwick until I felt free. Maybe I’m free. Maybe I wrote myself to freedom and now I can put the words down and walk away a free man.

Maybe those six or seven un-finished manuscripts laughing madly at me every day can be taken to the back forty and buried under the hopeful art canvases of my youth. Oh god. Art, no matter how much I wanted it to be, was NOT my wheelhouse.

These days I’ve been picturing my life without writing in it. Not hard to do when I’m not actually writing anyway. But it’s always there as an option still. The old a writer is always writing even when they’re not writing thing is actually a thing. It’s real. But what if I release the title and stop the writing when I’m not writing treadmill once and for all?

Would the gods really care? Maybe you can laugh in the face of your interests. Surely it’s not the same as laughing in the face of your gifts. Another interest will come along. Right?

I’m so madly frustrated. There is a great gnashing of teeth and stamping of feet. When the sun is setting on a day you want never to end there is nothing to do but watch as the sky turns to pink and the scent of the evening flowers mist the air around you. You watch as the sun melts into the horizon and you think, ‘Time waits for no man. Ah…there it was. The perfect day. Lost forever.’

But then…as I watch the sun setting on this bailiwick of mine, I think too of the words of one of my broken heroes. Dylan Thomas.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

WCDR Words of the Season – Tuesday, April 28th in Pickering, Ontario…

It’s that time again! The WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION is hosting another Words of the Season at The Bear (A Firkin Pub)!

Date: Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: The Bear (A Firkin Pub) located at 1294 Kingston Road, Pickering (Liverpool and Kingston Road).

Admission: Free! Food and drink are available for purchase.

I will be one of the readers…and I’ll be reading from one of my novels. I have not yet decided whether or not I will be reading from a work in progress or from a published novel, but it’s always great to have the opportunity to read! And at a WCDR event, there is always a captive audience.

There will be several WCDR members reading…with a variety of styles, voices, and genres. The focus is on words…how they are delivered is yet to be determined. If you come, don’t be surprised if you hear singing. (-:

If you enjoy words, drop in and enjoy the readings. The more the merrier…

WCDR WEBSITE If you don’t know about this organization, you really should make it your business to do so.

I will leave you with a pic of one of the readers from the most recent WOTS events…Mel Cober…

Book Signing at AVID READER MAGAZINE & BOOKS – May 2nd for Authors for Indies

authors-for-indies1This coming Saturday is the day to get thee to your local independent bookstore!

I will be at THE AVID READER MAGAZINES & BOOKS in Cobourg, Ontario.

wpid-img_20141027_064513.jpg

I’ll be signing my books and promoting 5 of my favourite books – From NOON to 2PM.avidThere will be copies of both of my latest young adult novels available! BURN BABY BURN BABY and HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN.

img_20150310_162230If you are in the area, I’d love to see you! If not…make sure to visit your local indi-bookstore on SATURDAY MAY 2nd! This is a cross-country event…a day to celebrate the bookstore!

The schedule for authors appearing at Avid Reader on Saturday is as follows:

Like AVID READER MAGAZINES & BOOKS on FACEBOOK!

Learn all about the day at AUTHORS FOR INDIES!

Follow the celebration on Twitter:

Authors For Indies Twitter Handle: @Authors4Indies

And Hashtag your part in the festivities with #Authors4Indies

Let’s show Canadian Independent Bookstores how much we love them!

Ontario Writers’ Conference – A Season to Witness

This image was stolen from the Instagram account of Mel Cober. This is me attributing the photo to her.
This image was stolen from the Instagram account of Mel Cober. This is me attributing the photo to her. This is OWC Workshop Facilitator Andrew Borkowski and I reading dialogue together that I wrote during his workshop…

This past weekend, I attended the Ontario Writers’ Conference at Deer Creek Golf & Banquet Facility in Ajax, Ontario. The theme this year was WRITER AS WITNESS. Oddly, this was a subject I covered in my most recent (and upcoming) WCDR Wordweaver newsletter article. I am feeling a heavy weight of late. That weight being the responsibility the writer has to bear witness to the life around them…to echo it forward for others to examine. It could not have been a more fitting and timely theme for me.

My first experience with the theme came Friday afternoon when I arrived at Deer Creek for the Masterclass with Richard Scarsbrook. It was subtle at first. I suppose it was simply in the act of showing up. One cannot bear witness if one does not show up. I felt this overwhelming spirit within me, growing as the day went on. I was in the place I knew I needed to be. I had surrounded myself with the people I knew I needed to surround myself with. My people.

After the Masterclass, and a quick meal, came the Friday evening FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS event.  I was immediately reunited with my friend and mentor, Wayson Choy. As we embraced and began to talk, I realized something. I had been keeping Wayson at arms length throughout the years. For no other reason than because I had put him on a pedestal. He is a beacon in the Canadian literary landscape. So in admiring him, I had not allowed us to connect on a deeper level.

When Wayson said, “I’m sitting with you! Come on, where should we sit?” I knew the pedestal between us was unnecessary. This lovely man who had always presented himself with a heart wide open wanted to chat with me. And, of course, I wanted to chat with him. He’s a fascinating and interesting man. And, like nobody else…he listens. He is a writer who fully understands and embraces this year’s OWC theme. Mr. Choy bears witness every day.

After a lovely evening of authors at the festival, I was eager with anticipation for Saturday to arrive. The full day conference! And it began with a bang for me. I was a Manuscript Mentor this year. I had meetings with three different writers, where they presented me with three pages from their works in progress and I offered feedback and advice. And each piece had a unique and exciting voice. I was well pleased to be able to bear witness to their words. It must be an incredibly difficult thing to do…to present yourself to a stranger and entrust your work to them at a vulnerable time when you’re in a new and unfamiliar setting. It was an absolute pleasure to read their words.

From there, I went on to a workshop with Andrew Borkowski. I first met Andrew when he and I were both doing a reading at McLaughlin Literary Festival at McLaughlin House in Oshawa, Ontario…way back in 2011. I was taken with his reading…not only were the words amazing, but the delivery of them was flawless. I was on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Writers’ Conference at the time…and I struck up a conversation with Andrew about the possibility of him doing a workshop at the conference. All the board members had their antennae up back in those days…scouting talent for our beautiful new baby. Andrew fit the bill flawlessly.

Andrew has been with the OWC ever since. He consistently delivers amazing workshops for the organization. He has become a favourite of the conference attendees, myself included. This year, he wowed us with a workshop on DIALOGUE. It was informative and hands-on. I even got to read aloud a piece I wrote during the class, with Andrew taking on one of the two roles in the conversation. The workshop truly ignited the writer in me. I felt ready to bear witness…

I attended two other workshops… a short-story workshop by another conference favourite– Gwynn Scheltema. I left that one ready to submit my shorts! Gwynn is one of the writing instructors with WRITESCAPE.CA The other, from the lecture series, was with literary agent Olga Filina of The Rights Factory. I really loved her talk on all things YA and MG markets. I found it both informative and entertaining. Three for three!

Wayson Choy and I, from a previous year at the OWC...
Wayson Choy and I, from a previous year at the OWC…
The Incomparable Wayson Choy!
The Incomparable Wayson Choy! OWC2014

Add in the amazing buffet lunch (the best meal yet out of all the years I attended the conference), a great luncheon speaker in Linden MacIntyre and an equally wonderful closing speaker in Paula Todd…and it was an out-of-the-park success this year. Both Linden and Paula were edgy, hard-hitting and thematically on-course. Add in the prizes, the always fantastic emcee DOROTHEA HELMS, and, of course, the annual message of hope, love, praise, and inspiration by the Honorary Patron himself, Wayson Choy, and you have a perfect celebration of words.

And if all those things were not enough to make my day a magical one, I also had the company of friends. Old ones, new ones, close ones…some from near, some from far. Every year I find myself saying, “This was the best year yet!” But it was, it really was. I was open to this one so much, so ready to bear witness. Thanks to the organizing committee of the OWC for making this year so incredibly special. And thank you for allowing me to be a small part of it by taking me on as Manuscript Mentor…it was an honour and a joy.

See you next year!