Early Release! Summer on Fire is now available as an e-book!

As of right now, you can now purchase Summer on Fire in the MuseItUp Bookstore! It will soon be available in most ebook stores, including Amazon. The print version will be out before the end of the month. For those of you with eReaders (or laptops or iPhones or Androids, etc), you can read it first!

Just click on the cover below and you will be taken to my publisher’s bookstore:

Summer on Fire by Kevin Craig

Release Day is Nigh – Ramblings-I wanna be a Paperback Writer…

Today is the day before my first published novel hits the market. As of tomorrow, I will feel free to finally call myself an AUTHOR. Tomorrow, I’m going to listen to Paperback Writer by the Beatles…and I’m going to remember the 7-year-old me thinking how cool it would be to sing that song and mean it. Yes…a lifelong dream is about to be fulfilled.

Thank God my dream wasn’t to keep a face in the jar by the door. I mean, that’s how much the Beatles influenced my early years. But I was wise…wise enough to go with the dream that made more sense to me at the time, even though it also seemed like the biggest impossibility in the universe. Me, an author. At 6 or 7, it seemed ludicrous to even imagine it. But imagine it, I did.

I wrote Summer on Fire in 2003-4. At the time, I was working simultaneously on two novels. I thought the other one, also a young adult title, was going to be the first one out of the gate. I was so excited over it. But it turned out it was more a ‘novel’ about me. Chasing Empty…I still love the title of that one. It’s a novel about a group of teens struggling to survive the 80s punk scene in one piece. It’s almost finished, too. And I think it has just the right amount of grit and reality in it to appeal to the young male reader. I’m just not sure of its overall appeal. I’m still considering a major overhaul on it before I go about attempting to find a home for it. I like to aim for an overall appeal in my YA writing. I am of the belief that some books can be enjoyed by both boys and girls. A YA title can have a target gender, but it shouldn’t be suitable only for that gender. And I’m sure I made the mistake of writing Chasing Empty only with the male reader in mind. But I’m working on correcting that mistake. (-:

If you’ve been following my blog, you don’t have to be reminded that Summer on Fire comes out tomorrow. In my excitement, I may have mentioned it once or twice.

In the meantime (I know you’re watching the clock…counting down the hours before you can get a copy of Summer on Fire!), a little about what’s in the hopper.

My contemporary Young Adult/Paranormal crossover is currently with my agent. As she searches for the proper home for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN, I will be heading up to Huntsville (July 15-18) for the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon. This will be my fourth marathon. I cannot wait to get up there and start writing. I’m having all these crazy ideas battling to be the one I choose when the starting pistol goes off on the 15th! I can’t wait to see which idea I run with.

My other 3 Muskoka Marathon novels have been huge successes as far as the marathon goes—Sebastian’s Poet and The Reasons won Best Adult Novel Awards in 2007 and 2008 & Half Dead and Fully Broken won the Best Young Adult Novel Award in 2010—none of them have seen publication yet. But I’m not giving up on any of them. I’m not a confident writer…I don’t think the publishing world owes me a living. For me, it’s always about making my work better, and then making it better. And then I go through the submission process. It’s all process. I can talk myself out of self-evaluating my work, by just seeing every step as part of the process.

My main concern today is for the baby that’s going to drop into the world. It’s hard to believe it’s leaving the womb. It’s been an extremely long gestation period. I really fell in love with these characters. Not only the three main friends, either. Zach, Jeff and Arnie are awesome guys. Each has their own unique qualities that would have had me happily hanging out with them in my teen years. But some of the less main characters (I don’t even want to call them minor, because to me they seem anything but minor), like feisty Ms. Halverton and Zach’s sister Sherry, are also real to me. I think most small communities has a Ms. Halverton character…someone the kids—and the adults—gawk at in wonder as she goes about her daily eccentric life in complete oblivion to what people are thinking about her. She originally appeared in Chapter 2 and was never to be heard of again. Thanks to my WIP (Works In Progress) critique group, Ms. Halverton now appears throughout the novel. With their help, I even fleshed out Zach’s troublemaking older sister & Jeff’s delinquent older brother. Sometimes a writer has to listen to the reader. I’m positive my critique group made Summer on Fire so much better than the original draft.

If you’re writing in a bubble, make today the day you take a needle to it. Pop the bubble. It’s really important to find a community of people whose opinions you can trust. That community need only be two people in size. Beta switch for a writer friend. It’s extremely hard to see your own weaknesses, just as it’s extremely hard to see your own strengths. With help, you can polish your manuscript to a higher shine prior to sending it off for consideration. Once you go that step, you don’t really get a second chance. So you want your first impression to be your best impression. My critique group was eight people strong. They were always kind in making suggestions for improvement in my manuscript…they always respected it (and me). Getting outside help is probably one of the best things you can do for yourself and your novel. Critique partners will tell you what isn’t working. More often than not, the person passing on your manuscript will not give you any feedback other to say it’s not what they’re looking for. A rejection doesn’t mean your manuscript is bad. It could simply mean it’s not right for the place you submitted it to. I’d rather be criticized for stumbling points in my work, than receive a blind NO THANK YOU. You can’t grow with a rejection alone. Sure, having a few under your belt makes you stronger. They’re even helpful. But without the all important feedback, you’ll never know the value of your manuscript. So, get the feedback first.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to jump around a bit more. Paperback Writer is on a Repeat loop just now. It sounds like they’re playing my song!

Summer on Fire

Click on my book above to be taken to the Muse Bookstore, where you will be able to purchase Summer on Fire as of July 1st, 2011!

Back to Africa – When Reality Becomes Fiction

I’ve been working on a new project lately. I say new, but what I mean is old. With a new twist. In 2007 I wrote a short novel called Sebastian’s Poet. I have to be honest, I’m dead critical of all my writing. I don’t usually see good in my words. And when I do, I immediately begin to feel guilty about it. And then Sebastian’s Poet happened.

I wrote SP during my first Muskoka Novel Marathon. I did the 48 hour session that year, and it totally emotionally exhausted me. I LIVED that story as I wrote it. It was pure catharsis. As I wrote down the entire last chapter, I was holding back tears…and occasionally wiping them. That chapter was very lively with celebration. My main character, Sebastian (Sebby) was just home from France with his new caregiver, Teal. Teal was taking to the stage with Gordon Lightfoot and the crowd was going crazy. That chapter was the sweet sigh after my denouement. It made me feel higher than a kite in autumn.

I can’t tell you how many times I went back to SP to try to expand upon it. It was only 42K words when done. I loved it, but I tried extremely hard to find a good home for it. To no avail. Having had other successes that I didn’t believe in as much as I believe in SP, I never really understood how this one kept getting rejected.

Nairobi SkylineThe Beautiful Staircase at the Nairobi National Museum

Well, then I went toAfrica. Kenya, to be exact. The second I touched down inNairobi, a kernel of an idea came to me. I thought, “Teal is here.” And that feeling never truly left me. As a writer, you have to listen to those urges and feelings that speak to you. Well, I do, anyway. I can’t ignore the voices in my head. And the loudest one was telling me Teal came to Africa…to die.

Rift Valley – KenyaGetting a Giraffe Kiss in Kenya!
Safari vehicles chasing the elusive cheetah!
A Lion in the Mara – Masai Mara, Kenya

Teal Landen was my main character’s idol and, eventually, caregiver. The story was set in the Beaches district of Toronto in the 70s-80s. But my mind kept telling me there was something missing. Then it hit me, the story begins inAfrica…in 2009. Teal is escaping the limelight to deal with cancer…and the uncertain future before him. But not only does he escape the limelight, he hides away from Sebby and his brother Renee. And that’s where I get to find out what kind of adults Sebby and Renee eventually became. I have them tracking Teal to a tiny little island off the coast ofKenya. Lamu…the place I fell so in love with, I had its coordinates tattooed on my back. (-:

Taking a dhow ride in the waters off of Lamu Island.
Manda Duty Free – Manda Airport, Kenya
The beautiful baobab tree!The Mangrove Super-Highway on the way to Takwa Ruins

Writers have to pay attention. When they travel, they need to listen to the places that speak to them. I’ve been to other places, but none have screamed that they wanted to become a part of my fictional world likeKenyahas. So, I went back toAfrica…in my imagination. I placed three of my all-time favourite characters of my own fiction into the beautiful setting I fell in love with. Teal disappeared off the face of the earth and my boys set out to bring him home.

A Dhow Sail – Lamu, Kenya

Use what you have. And when you’re finished with it, use it again. There is a whole universe in our memories. The places we’ve been, the people we’ve met, the events we’ve witnessed. Everything is up for grabs. Nothing is sacred. I knew, as soon as my feet touched the tarmac in Nairobi, I would return to Kenya. I knew it would become a setting for my future fiction, and I knew I would one day return in person. It’s in my heart. And now, it holds a place in Sebby’s heart too. And I have Teal to thank for that. He spoke to me in that deep burned out folksinger’s voice of his. As I was staring in wild wonder at my new surroundings, jet-lagged and nervous, I heard him say, “I’ve come back to Africa!” And being his creator, I had to make it so. I had to listen until he told me what happened to him in that land. And when I listened, it just all fell into place. Sebastian’s Poet wasn’t finished yet.

The End.

YA Novel – Summer On Fire – Available July 1st!

My young adult novel, Summer on Fire will be available July 1st. As well as being available at most ebook sites, including Amazon, it will be sold directly from my publisher’s website. If you are interested in reading Summer on Fire, please visit MUSEITUP PUBLISHING to purchase a copy. Here’s a link: SUMMER ON FIRE AT MUSEITUP PUBLISHING Price is $5.50 for the ebook.

The back cover blurb:

Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout?

Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect—none other than Jeff’s older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell—the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence.

But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach’s annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from eminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.

Summer on Fire by Kevin Craig

I hope to have a book launch announcement soon for the print version of the book. When the details are worked out, I will announce it here. Until then, please enjoy the ebook on your ereader of choice! Mine is Kobo. (-;

Don’t forget to enter the contest I’m holding. I’m giving away 3 signed print copies of Summer on Fire. You have to enter by July 1st, though. Prize includes shipping. Click here to be directed to the book giveaway post: WIN A COPY OF SUMMER ON FIRE

If you pick up a copy, please let me know what you think!

 

Enjoy!

June 25th is Save Bookstores Day – Celebrate Your Local Independent Brick & Mortar!

SAVE BOOKSTORES!

You can click on the link above to go to the Facebook Event page for Save Bookstores. When I first heard about the event, I thought there might be a website dedicated to making this event a yearly celebration–and judging by the search hits my blog has received on the topic since my first post, I imagine everybody assumed there would be a central website–but I could not find one. I did manage to find the Facebook event.

If you participated today, by buying books at your local independent bookstore, I hope you consider leaving a comment here to let everybody know the name of your favourite independent store…and what you like about them, and perhaps a memory or two you can share about your store. I would love to hear about the events–big or small–that were created to celebrate this day.

Having asked you to share, I’ll share a bit about what happened at my favourite bookstore this morning. I put the call out a couple of weeks ago about June 25th…and created a Facebook Event page for the BLUE HERON BOOKS SWARM. Blue Heron is a beautiful independent bookstore in Uxbridge, Ontario. And like most booksellers, Blue Heron’s owner, Shelley Macbeth, is passionate about books. She is also a huge supporter of the arts in this region. I am quite sure Blue Heron does NOT need saving…but, in the spirit of the day, it–like other bookstores–needs APPRECIATION. We need to show the love we hold for these sacred places we love to visit. If you’re an avid reader, you know what I’m talking about. Entering a bookstore takes your breath away a little bit. It’s a rush to be surrounded by all those unread books.

Let’s take a little look at Blue Heron Books, which was swarmed today by people who love the fact that it’s there…that it’s bricks and mortar holds an inviting and enchanting world just waiting for them to enter.

What SAVE BOOKSTORES event would be complete without CAKE! Thank you, Blue Heron, for such a great (and great tasting) cake! A great surprise.

After looking at these random shots of Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario, I think you can get a better understanding of why so many people love this independent. At one point today, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor, looking through the stack of books I was pondering, while petting the beautiful Margaret…a four legged friend of Blue Heron Books. I had this moment of complete contentment.

Margaret – owner of the awesome Rich & Dorothea Helms!

(I just had to share the Margaret love. She’s quite the star of our refrigerator.)

Books I picked up today:

From the Cottage Porch (an anthology)

Irma Voth by Miriam Toews

Alexandria of Africa by Eric Walters

Love You Forever by Robert Munsch

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton

Judy Moody Was in the Mood, Judy Moody Gets Famous & Judy Moody Saves the World – by Megan McDonald

Your turn. Tell us what you bought on your Save Bookstores outing. Tell us why you love the store you love. Share your bookstore stories…

Things and Stuff – Oh, and a Poll on Novel Titles

Another one of those posts where I couldn’t really pick one specific topic. There’s a lot of those lately.

My favourite living poet is going to be Turning Leaves this fall. In my imagination, he is constantly turning leaves. His poetry is playful and heart-stabbing and funny and vein-ripping. I really don’t think there’s anyone out there quite like him. He has a way of making a satisfying turmoil of my emotions. I guess I like his stuff so much because I like rollercoasters. Ooh! Which makes me think of this:

I love that scene in Parenthood where the dazed grandmother goes off on a tangent and accidentally spills the most eloquent life advice. Me thinks she’s wiser–and more alert–than she lets on.

Where was I? Yes. BARRY DEMPSTER. If you ever get a chance to read his work, DO SO. And even better, if you ever get an opportunity to listen to Barry read his work…DO SO. His delivery is exquisite. Kind of takes your breath away.

And speaking of taking one’s breath away, the fall kind of does that. The changing leaves, the dying of the light, the promise of hibernation and new life. Some people see Autumn as the beginning of the end…but I always thought it was when things are most alive. You can virtually hear nature screaming in Autumn. It shrills on, begging you to remember the vibrancy of life. It is not dying…it is showing you that nothing dies. The burning trees–bright with oranges and reds and yellows–they’re not going quietly. Fall has always been a time of new beginnings for me.

A great way to celebrate a new beginning would be to throw oneself wholly into something one loves. Fall is a time to chase your passions. Which brings me back to Barry Dempster (Why do I always take the long way around things?). If you’re a writer wanting to develop your craft on a deeper level, you really should check out TURNING LEAVES Where else can you have a fireside discussion with one of Canada’s greatest poets? I’m guessing nowhere…but I didn’t really do the research. Being held at FIRESIDE INN at the FERN RESORT on beautiful Lake Couchiching in the Muskokas (just under 2 hours from Toronto), the Turning Leaves writing retreat is taking place October 28th – 30th. Not only does it have the amazing Ruth E. Walker & Gwynn Scheltema facilitating its writing workshops, but you also get the chance to pick the brain of the humble poet, Dempster. And his is a good brain to pick…he is a prominent figure in the Canadian Publishing industry. You just have to read his website bio in the link provided above to know that he has a wealth of information to share with retreat attendees. And his generosity is overwhelming. The folks at WRITESCAPE could not have picked a better person for this unique fireside chat opportunity. I would be extremely surprised if this retreat doesn’t sell out quickly.

Pssst. Now would be a GREAT time to TURN YOUR LEAVES

Okay. See. I really do jump around. I began this post with the intention of starting a poll. A poll on what? Absolutely not anything to do with leaves or fall or killer poets born with the gift of the golden voice.

The poll is for the title of my as yet unwritten Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. Every year before I begin the 72-hour novel writing marathon, I write the title of my novel at the top of the word document and I save the empty file. I always try to pick a title that is going to inject me with ideas when that infamous gate bell tolls. Here are the titles of my previous novels, and the ideas that came from them:

2007 – Sebastian’s Poet – I thought this: A boy who tries to navigate an adult world, surrounded by adults who can’t navigate a straight line. GO!

2008 – The Reasons – I thought this: Cool family name…dysfunctional family. Rape. Mental illness…and a boy who tries to navigate an adult world, surrounded by adults who can’t navigate a straight line. GO!

2010 – Half Dead & Fully Broken – I thought this: twins – one dies, the other lives. The broken one lives and struggles to survive half broken. His brother was the spine of the unit of two. GO!

So there you have it. For the 2011 marathon I have 3 titles vying for my creative attention. I have a favourite right now, but it’s not the same favourite I had yesterday. (-:

So there you have it. A poll. If you can take a second to let me know if any of these three titles speaks to you, that would be great. I’m just curious, really. If it helps, my novel will be a Young Adult.

And, just a reminder…you can still enter the contest to win 1 of 3 copies of my upcoming Young Adult novel – SUMMER ON FIRE. Click the book cover below to go to the post that has all the extremely easy entry details:

Summer on Fire by Kevin Craig

Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David – You CAN Go Back – Rediscover the Wonder

When I was seven–way back in 1973-I was already deeply addicted to music. I loved lyrics, I loved the sound, the rhythm…it had me. I knew my entire life would be surrounded by music. And I loved singing along to my favourite songs. Music was almost as important to me as books. Almost! In fact, I even worked in a record store at the time. Yes…I was a child labourer. And I wasn’t raised in the third world, either. I grew up in Toronto. In 1973, I found myself living next door to a place called Target Tape & Records. It was in the Baycrest area. I worked there most days, and I was paid in record albums. Vinyl record albums. The coolest thing. I still remember ripping off that plastic and taking a big whiff of the vinyl inside. To this day, it excites me to think about that moment when you first open an album!

Music was in my soul, and I listened to it every single day. The Beatles were kicking it for me in the early 70s…all the glitter and rock and reggae was kicking it too, but the Beatles…something about the lyrics resonated with my love of words. I was digesting every book I could get my hands on, while listening to every album I could get my hands on.

Enter the misunderstood lyrics. I sang my heart out whenever ACROSS THE UNIVERSE came out. And you know what? I KNEW the lyrics couldn’t possibly be Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David. Why would the Beatles sing about my brother? Why would they not make sense? Actually, quite a lot of their stuff didn’t quite make sense to me in their experimental phase. But I’m almost positive it made sense to them–to somebody. Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David, on the other hand, couldn’t possibly make sense to anyone. But that was okay. It was the process of singing, connecting with the music and the words (right or wrong) that I was addicted to. I was happy to substitute whatever the hell they were saying with my own variation…just so long as I could sing along with the song.

That, to me, was what it was like to be a kid. The kid who could happily sing such words as Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David, was also the kid who could believe that a girl could turn into a blueberry; that a boy could get zapped into a TV; that an Indian Prince could be so insolent as to build his castle with chocolate when he lives in the hottest country in the world.

I remember that little boy believing all of those things…I remember the wonder I felt as I read the amazing books around me. Green eggs? Sure! Boys stranded on an island, going crazy and fighting over a conch for the power to control each other? Why not? Giants discovering an island of little people? A giant peach! All these things and more were mine. And they were mine to the extent that I wanted to ADD to them. I wanted my imagination to contribute to the world that these creations came from…a world of nothing but thought. I could do this. After all, I could sit and sing along to the Beatles. Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David.

It was all about wonder. Wonder in song, wonder in words.

Are you writing for children, tweens or teens? Don’t forget to go back! You can inject yourself with the wonder you felt as a child by RE-READING those books you loved back then. When I feel myself slipping too far into the adult world, I sure as heck don’t start singing  “Jai guru deva om” (which are the actual lyrics in ACROSS THE UNIVERSE!). No way. Why would I want to do that. I pick up a book I first caressed when I was seven or eight and I slip into that mindset. I allow myself to read it the way I first read it. I sing Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David.

You have to let yourself slip away to remember what it was like to be a kid or a teenager. You have to allow those experiences to come back to you. The best way for me to do that is to read those old books; books that have since gone through another generation. To this day, I still have the copy of CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY I had when I was a little boy. I still feel like that boy when I pick the book up and read it. In fact, reading it helps me to remember the boy who wanted to write a story as good (Imagine being brazen enough to think you could write a book on a par with Roald Dahl! Only a child could have that kind of confidence.) …so that he could make other boys slip into an unreal world where wonderful things can and do happen. A world where you could even eat the dishes.

Put your pen or laptop down every now and then. Sit for a minute and recall that child you were, long ago. What books did that child read? If you don’t still have beat up, faded and falling apart copies of those books…you can read them for free. There is a way! Just go to your local library. They’re still there. Find the books you loved way back then and slip back into them. Before you know it, you’ll be remembering things you thought you forgot forever. You’ll be that little boy or girl who had imagination enough to think they too could write a book and share it with the world!

Find that inner child…it’ll make you a better writer.

♪ ♫ Jag Ooh Ooh Ooh, David ♪ ♫

Enjoy this fabtastic version of Across the Universe, by Rufus Wainwright:

Muskoka Novel Marathon – Writers Supporting Readers! July, 2011

It’s almost time again for one of my favourite yearly writing projects. The Muskoka Novel Marathon! It’s coming. In 25 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes and 10 seconds…at last check! I love the site’s countdown clock. It sends a thrill down my spine every time I look in on it. I am SUCH A GEEK!

The marathon is an exciting event for writers, disguised as a fund-raiser. Actually, it well and truly IS a fund-raiser…but the value you get out of attending the marathon, from a writer’s perspective, is so concrete…one often forgets that it is benefiting anyone other than themselves.

But the Muskoka Novel Marathon is a WONDERFUL fund-raising event. Billed as WRITERS HELPING READERS, the marathon supports the Muskoka Literacy Council. Each year, between twenty and thirty writers gather together inHuntsville,Ontariofor 72 hours…and they each write a novel over the course of a single weekend. But before they arrive, each writer collects pledges for the fund-raising aspect of the event. All funds go to the literacy council, and those who sponsor the writers get a warm fuzzy feeling…they are helping people fight illiteracy. It’s a rather large battle…the fight against illiteracy. Writers, perhaps more than any other group in society, understand the value of the written word. They are often the second line of defense against illiteracy…the first being those who work tirelessly with the illiterate and reading impaired to improve their life skills so that they can, in turn, improve their very lives.

For this reason alone, the Muskoka Novel Marathon is a wonderful—and much needed—event. Society must stand together in the fight against such unnecessary social imbalances as illiteracy. By giving the Muskoka Literacy Council a helping hand in this way, the writers involved with this project are, in a very real way, paying it forward…each of us has a deep intense love for the written word. The word has given us so much joy…so much pleasure. We play in a field of words whenever we can, we get lost in the beauty each word possesses. We can’t imagine being lost in that field, without any sort of map to help guide our way—looking about and not knowing the richness that words have to offer us. To think of those struggling in that field…lost and scared and alone, stumbling through the chaos of the written word without understanding its meaning…it’s unbearable to even imagine. So pay it forward, we will. The marathon is all about WRITERS HELPING READERS. We’re so grateful that the people working tirelessly for the Muskoka Literacy Council are able to enrich the lives of those living in that cloud of illiteracy.

The other aspect of the marathon is how truly valuable it is to us as writers. It truly is a writing retreat. Not only are we frantically writing our way through the weekend in the hopes of having a finished novel to show for it in the end, but we are also communicating. We are sharing secrets and truths about our individual writing lives. We have aLOTof fun. There is a LOT of hilarity…especially in the middle of the night when you are struggling to stay awake and the giddiness has taken over and there is no way you can prevent yourself from being foolish, even if you wanted to. We sit. We write. We take communion in ourselves and in each other. We learn. We struggle. We laugh. We cry.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon, in my humble opinion, is a rite of passage for writers. It is a BIC event (Bum In Chair). It is a calling to our sense of dedication as writers. I often hear, “You’d have to be crazy to give up an entire summer weekend to put yourself through a three-day sleepless ordeal like that!” No. We’re not crazy. We’re taking a stand—against illiteracy and for dedication to our craft.

Okay…yeah. And I guess, technically, we could be considered a little bit crazy. But if writing a novel over the course of a weekend is crazy, than I don’t want to be un-crazy.

If you would like to help take a stand against illiteracy, you could sponsor me in this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon. All donations over $10 are tax deductible. The Muskoka Literacy Council is a registered charity. You can contact me at kevintcraig @ hotmail dot com. I would be able to take your donation through Paypal…or, I can give you the information needed to send a cheque. All donations would be greatly appreciated. Together, we can wipe out illiteracy. I truly believe that!

This year’s Marathon goal is to raise $10,000.00 for the council. With your help, we can meet that goal!

Don’t forget to enter to win 1 of 3 copies of my new YA novel, SUMMER ON FIRE! Click the book cover below for details:

Summer on Fire, by Kevin Craig

Cohen Once Told Me – Fight Against the Clay Pots!

Leonard Cohen once told me things. Not directly, of course, but through song. When he sings, though, he sings directly to the listener. He stops the heart long enough for you to hear the things he tells you. “There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.” (From ANTHEM, from the album THE FUTURE, 1992) Maybe these are the truest words that a writer should hear and embrace into their life. The pain that we endure in life…the struggles, the denials, the slights and blights and fights and jabs—these are the things that wake us, that make us listen. Every crack we endure is testament to the light. Open your heart to the cracks, accept them, and you will have the light. Living our lives…every detail—good and bad—is a good way to embrace the emotions you will need to write a story others will want to read. When Cohen tells me things, I listen.

“Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin, dance me through the panic ‘til I’m gathered safely in, lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove.” (From DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE, from the album VARIOUS POSITIONS, 1984) Find the muse who resides inside of you. Dance with the muse. Accept that YOU have the power to create your words—you wait for nobody else to do it for you. The creativity comes from within, not from some non-existent muse you wait for…don’t panic. Dance. The words will come.

“From bitter searching of the heart, quickened with passion and with pain, we rise to play a greater part.” (From Villanelle For Our Time, from the album DEAR HEATHER, 2004) After you write, write more. And when you finish writing, write more. Sometimes Cohen tells me to keep on trucking. Keep searching, keep struggling, keep digging. The more we reach into that deep well to find our passions and pain—those things that make us tune in and forget that we are WRITER, those things that allow us to be simply WRITING—the more we will connect to the words we write. The more we connect to the words we write, the more the reader will connect to our words they read. Go deep…and rise to play a greater part!

“He would never learn the names of the trees he passed, he’d never learn anything, he’d always confront a lazy mystery.” (From BEAUTIFUL LOSERS, a novel, 1966) When I read that line, I said, “Yes, yes, yes!” I don’t know what it is about me, but I don’t know anything. I live the lazy mystery. I sometimes fret over not knowing simple things about everything around me. But the poet inside me says, “forget about it”. To not know the concrete information about the world around you helps you to see it more brightly. Still, I sometimes feel like the blind. There is good and bad in being fully in the know AND being fully ignorant. Just, whatever you do…take notice of the world around you. As a writer, you are reflecting it back to your reader. Either reflect it through intellectual channels or emotional ones. If you don’t know the name of the tree, you better write a hell of a description about the way its leaves caress the sky!

Leonard Cohen tells me always, not directly, but through songs and words, to never lose youth. Stay forever gold, if you can. A writer is to listen and record with the ears and eyes of a child. “Seven to eleven is a huge chunk of life, full of dulling and forgetting. It is fabled that we slowly lose the gift of speech with animals, that birds no longer visit our windowsills to converse. As our eyes grow accustomed to sight they armour themselves against wonder. Flowers once the size of pine trees, return to clay pots. Even terror diminishes. The giants and giantesses of the nursery shrink to crabby teachers and human fathers.” (From THE FAVOURITE GAME, a novel, 1963) Don’t allow those flowers to shrink, your terror to diminish, the birds to stop conversing. For the love of God, please, whatever you do, do not allow your vision to grow accustomed to the wonder. When you sit down to write, remember the childlike wonder you once had…embrace it fully before you begin to reach inside. Be a child when you play in the field of words. Children don’t have as many rules, they are not as rigid…they allow what to be to be. A child doesn’t harness in his muse, her creativity, his editor, her suspension of disbelief. Just do yourself a favour and do not bring your baggage with you, when you sit to write your words. Fight against the clay pots!

These words, and all the other words that Cohen gives us, mean something different to each reader, to each listener. It doesn’t matter what they meant to you…that they may mean something completely different. What matters is that we let Leonard Cohen tell us things, not directly, of course…but through song and word. This concludes this sermon on the man who sometimes tells me things.

Enjoy the Cohen tune below, and enjoy your Saturday.

A wonderful live recording on YOUTUBE of Cohen singing my favourite Cohen song – ANTHEM.

 

Don’t forget to enter to win one of three signed copies of SUMMER ON FIRE!

June 25th is SAVE BOOKSTORES DAY! Come out to BLUE HERON BOOKS!

Thanks to the Andrea Brown Literacy Agency we now have a date on the calendar to celebrate the brick and mortar bookstore. This is not to say we should not celebrate our wonderful local bookstores every day…but to have a special day to acknowledge your favourite bookstore…that is every book geek’s biggest dream! We spend hours walking the aisles of our bookstores, caressing the colourful spines in our favourite sections. You know how it is…your blood beats faster when you open that door and take in the whiff and wonder of the imagination in the concrete form!

We can now mark JUNE 25th on our calendars as the one day where it is imperative to visit your local book buyer. Visit the other 364 days, if you can…but you MUST MUST MUST visit on June 25th. This is the day where we support the stores we love to call our own. You know how it is. All us book geeks have our OWN stores, right. There are only two weeks left before this year’s SAVE BOOKSTORES DAY! I can’t wait to swarm MY bookstore.

So what bookstore will I be supporting on this special day? My favourite one…even though I very seldom get a chance to make it to the store. BLUE HERON BOOKS! Thankfully, the store’s owner is tireless in being active in the writing community of which I am a part! Shelley Macbeth is present with her books (I like to think of it as Blue Heron being a travelling bookstore!) at every WCDR BREAKFAST MEETING and she is also an INTEGRAL part of the ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE! Not only is she and her crew there on the day of the conference–selling books–but she is also a non-stop resource for the conference. Her connections in the book industry are tremendous! And she is incredibly generous with those contacts. Shelley has helped procure numerous sponsors and speakers and readers for the conference. She is a GODSEND to the entire arts community of Durham Region.

I haven’t been to the actual store too many times, but I make sure to buy books from the travelling bookstore! On June 25th, I’ll be making the drive to Uxbridge to support Blue Heron. And I hope that I’ve spread the word about SAVE BOOKSTORES DAY far and wide enough that there is literally a swarm of people at the store that day. It would really make my day if the store becomes too crowded to get down its aisles! Imagine seeing a line-up OUTSIDE your favourite bookstore! Wouldn’t THAT be something!

If you are in (OR NEAR!) the Durham Region, why not make the trip to beautiful Uxbridge on June 25th…show your support for a bookstore that is really like no other bookstore. BLUE HERON BOOKS is an active and integral part of the Durham Region community. What better way to say thank you for all that support, than to buy a book or two or three or four on SAVE BOOKSTORES DAY!

Come to the BLUE HERON BOOK SWARM! Saturday June 25th, 2011 @ 9am-11am (If you can’t get out to the store quite that early…just get there sometime during the day. They will be open all day and it is a Saturday.) Why did I choose to call it a swarm? Because I imagine a swarm being all encompassing and my hope is that Blue Heron is full during the swarm to the point of looking like an epic beehive of activity. I’m a book geek. All book geeks want the world to revolve around books. Maybe on June 25th, this will happen at Blue Heron! Here’s hoping!

Blue Heron Books

Click on the CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF GREAT BOOKS picture above to be taken to Blue Heron’s website. If you are unable to make the trip to the store on Saturday, June 25th…please keep in mind that you can still show your support by ordering online. You COULD order online any of the 365 days of the year, if you wish. (-:

Please help me show support to Blue Heron. Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. See you at the store on the 25th!

CBC BOOKS gave Blue Heron the Spotlight as one of Canada’s Favourite Independent Bookstores. Read all about it here.

Here’s a link to the place page for Blue Heron Books. Click it for directions and other info.

The Swarm has a facebook event page. If you are heading to Blue Heron on the 25th, please consider clicking ATTENDING on the event page: BLUE HERON BOOKSTORE SWARM FACEBOOK EVENT

Blue Heron Books makes its presence known at the Ontario Writers’ Conference!