Tuesdays at Starbucks – Editing THE REASONS

I’ve been spending about an hour a week–every Tuesday–editing my 2008 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel. It’s called THE REASONS. The Reasons are a dysfunctional family going through, well, a particularly dysfunctional period. It’s a first person story told in two voices. The voices alternate with every chapter. There is Tobias Reason, who is a child trying to keep his family together and sane, and there is Maggie Reason, who does everything in her power to destroy all of Tobias’s efforts. Maggie is crazy and Tobias is trying to save her.

I thought I would share a short excerpt from Chapter two here tonight. I am at Starbucks now…going through this chapter ONCE again. Anyway, this is an excerpt from the middle of the chapter. Maggie has to face the music with Tobias after snapping.

Yesterday I removed the stuffing from the living room couch. It was just a pull in the fabric to begin with, a tiny thread that caught my eye. Part of me screamed, don’t touch it! But I had to. My compulsion to rip that bastard apart, and take out its lungs, won over.

As the air around me filled with the ancient exhaust of those crumbling couch guts—as I breathed it in and it became a part of me—I knew I had gone too far. My hands worked without me, shredding and tearing and pulling—and screaming. If hands can scream. I tasted the staleness of what I released into the air and felt the torture inflicted on my hands as I did it. But I couldn’t leave it alone. I could not stop tearing it apart.

There was nothing left but material, a wood frame and a roomful of shredded foam by the time Tobias came home. I see now that it was a crazy thing to do. Christ, I saw it then. But knowing crazy and choosing not to do crazy are two entirely different animals.

“What the fuck is going on here?”

This novel is almost ready for submission. I have to stop polishing it! I get into these cycles where I can’t leave anything alone. My spidey-senses are telling me that it’s time to let this one go.

Until Next Tuesday, Starbucks!

Ten Years of Community & Growth – WCDR

It’s official. I’ve been taking writing seriously now for TEN WHOLE YEARS! I found it extremely hard to believe this fact. During the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION January Breakfast Meeting, I was presented with a certificate of appreciation for being a member in good standing for 10 years. I was shocked when they called my name. I had no idea ten years had gone by since I first found the courage to admit to myself (and others) that I was a writer. When I mailed in my membership form to the WCDR I thought for sure they would send it back to me with a gruff little note on it stating something about them only allowing REAL writers to join their exclusive club. I was CERTAIN of it, in fact.

I stayed away from the organization’s events for the first few months. I was too afraid of being turned away at the door. What is it about some writers who just can’t seem to accept the fact that ANYONE can write. All you need is the desire to do so. I didn’t believe that was true. I imagined myself infiltrating this writing organization. I had to sneak into one of their events…unnoticed and unassuming. So…after several months of seeing their Breakfast Meetings being promoted in the local newspaper, I finally gained the courage to register. I would show up and if they grilled me too badly and discovered that I wasn’t a REAL writer, I would just quietly slither away and disappear into the dark crevice from which I had come.

It didn’t happen. I was immediately accepted. I was sat down with some newbies and some veterans. Everybody was so nice and inviting. I FOUND MY COMMUNITY!

When I returned to my seat last month with my certificate, I first experienced a bit of sadness. 10 years. On the trip back from the front of the room I kind of took an inventory of the accomplishments I made in those 10 years. It was a bit of a mood crusher at first.

Then I thought, “Shut the hell up!” I no longer want to listen to that negative voice that makes me miss out in the good things. Had I listened to that voice 10 years ago, I would not have found the friends I made through the WCDR. I would not have had the awesome experiences I had through WCDR events and networking. My life is RICHER because of this organization. I’m proud to be a member. They have helped me as a writer and as a person. I couldn’t imagine not being a member.

A community is as good as its people. There are so many beautiful people in the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION. I encourage anybody in the area to take the plunge. You will thank me. I thank myself all the time for finally gaining the courage to take those first steps. Walking into this writing community was one of the best things I’ve ever done. So, at this 10th anniversary of my membership, I say to myself, “many happy returns!”


They have sister organizations too! If you’re in YORK REGION or SIMCOE COUNTY, check them out at WCYR or WCSC

365 Days = 100 Books – Yeah, Right!

So, I gave myself an impossible goal for 2012. Read 100 books. I am the world’s SLOWEST reader. I’m not really sure how to get that validated, but I know it has to be a fact. I still recall my then 12 year-old son surpassing me in reading speed…and feeling the frustration. He’s not even very much of a reader! I have so many books on my TBR list…and I just keep adding to it. BUT it takes me forever to read a book. It’s SO frustrating! This year, I committed myself to reading 100 titles. I figure, this way I will try harder (I hate failing)…so I may even get 30 or 40 read. We’ll see. I’m going to be updating this post along the way with titles. I’m off to an okay start. It’s January 12th and I have 2 books under my belt! Yes…this is me TRYING.

  1. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – Jonathan Safran Foer (P)
  2. Taking Lessons from Ernest – Trish Stewart (P)
  3. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak (e)
  4. The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (e)
  5. The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes (e)
  6. Men in My Town – Keith Smith (e)
  7. Ashfall – Mike Mullin (e)
  8. Catching Jordan – Miranda Kenneally (e)
  9. Gone, Gone, Gone – Hannah Moskowitz (e)
  10. Winged Acoustic – Tanja Begonja (e) DO NOT BUY THIS BOOK!
  11. Mexican Whiteboy – Matt de la Peña (e)
  12. What a Boy Wants – Nyrae Dawn (e)
  13. White Horse – Alex Adams (e)
  14. Not Yet – Wayson Choy (p) (re-read)
  15. We Were Here – Matt de la Peña (e)
  16. What a Boy Wants – Nyrae Dawn (e)
  17. What a Boy Needs – Nyrae Dawn (e)
  18. Voiceless – Caroline Wissing (e)
  19. Boy21 – Matthew Quick (e)
  20. Looking For Alaska – John Green (e)
  21. Velveteen – Daniel Marks (e-Arc)
  22. The Perfect Order of Things – David Gilmour (PH)
  23. The Name of the Star – Maureen Johnson (e)
  24. Bumbling Into Body Hair – Everett Maroon (e)
  25. Boy Toy – Barry Lyga (e)
  26. Small Medium at Large – Joanne Levy (e)
  27. Where Things Come Back – John Corey Whaley (e)
  28. Lemon – Cordelia Strube (e)
  29. Parallel Visions – Cheryl Rainfield (e)
  30. Ink Me – Richard Scrimger (e)
  31. Silver Linings Playbook – Matthew Quick (e)
  32. Code Name Verity – Elizabeth Wein (e)
  33. Sometimes It Happens – Lauren Barnholdt (e)
  34. I Will Save You – Matt De La Peña (e)
  35. Stealing Parker – Miranda Kenneally (e)
  36. Normalesh – Margaret Lesh (e)
  37. Under the Moon – Deborah Kerbel
  38. When the Only Light is Fire – Saeed Jones

PP = Print Paperback

PH = Print Hardcover

e = eBook

A = Audio

(When I review a book that I’ve read, I will link to the review in the book’s title.)


I will be on hand at the NORTH YORK CENTRAL LIBRARY AUDITORIUM on Monday January 30th to sign copies of SUMMER ON FIRE. I, together with a ‘tough’ group of authors, will be joining in on the fight against Alzheimer’s! My reason for being there will be in support of my grandmother, who was taken by Alzheimer’s several years ago. My very first published piece was in the GLOBE & MAIL Facts & Arguments column…and it was about my grandmother and Alzheimer’s. It was later featured on the Canadian Alzheimer’s Association’s website.

Please come out to support this event. It is near and dear to me. I’m hoping for a great turn out. There will be a lot of authors there…your purchases will help make it successful!

Thanks in advance…and see you there!

Authors Fight Alzheimer’s

Book Signing Fundraiser 

 Monday January 30th, 2012, 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.

North York Central Library Auditorium

5120 Yonge Street, Toronto

Please Attend…

The Authors Fight Alzheimer’s book signing fundraiser, the first of its kind, is an event put together by Canadian authors and publishers in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society. Authors of various genres will be present to sign their books with the proceeds going to fight Alzheimer’s disease. The theme Read…Think…Remember is to promote keeping the mind active through reading, an important defense against the disease.

Author Attendees (as of December 18th):

MuseItUp Publishing – Joanne Elder, Sandra Clarke, Kevin Craig, Nancy Bell, Helene Prevost

Double Dragon Publishing – Deron Douglas, Anne Grobbo

Chizine Publishing – Doug Smith (two-time Aurora Award winner), Caitlin Sweet

Dragon Moon Press – Erik Buchanan, Jessica Frey

Dark Dragon Publishing – Karen Dales

Crime Writers of Canada – Melodie Campbell, Rick Blechta, Joan Boswell, Alison Bruce, Sheila Dalton, Alex Markman

The Writers Community of York Region – Malcolm Watts, Heather Lambert

And – I.J. Schecter, Peter Dennis, Mark Pezzelato.

Guest Speaker – Dr. Sandra Black, Director, LC Campbell Cognitive Neurology Research Unit, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Professor, department of medicine (neurology), University of Toronto

Thanks to Deron Douglas for publishing a commemorative book for this event.

Authors interested in participating in the event or for more information

please contact the Event Organizer:

Joanne Elder   jelder1@rogers.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Borden, Ladner, Gervais LLP

MuseItUp Publishing, Sunrise of Aurora, Edward Street Bistro

BE HERE NOW – “There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.”

I actually made more than one resolution this year. The first will be as hard to carry out as the second.

#1 – Read 100 novels in 2012 – I will keep you posted on this one. So far, I’m still on my first one. Looks like I might have inadvertently picked a big one. Oops. I’m getting there, though.

#2 – Live in the moment. Or, as Baba Ram Dass says, BE HERE NOW. I spent a lot of last year living in the past. It was out of necessity, but it was tiring. So, 2012 is going to be a year of living in the moment…and maybe even a bit in the future.

But before I start chasing my second resolution, I wanted to share a bit about my upcoming novel, SEBASTIAN’S POET. A bit about the novel and a bit about the journey to and away from it. (-;

Sebastian was the result of my very first MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON, which was in 2007. I’m very proud to say that it was awarded the 2007 Muskoka Novel Marathon BEST ADULT NOVEL award. I wrote it in 48 hours…48 hours in which I did not sleep. It was the one and only marathon I participated in where I actually didn’t sleep. I wrote like crazy. When I arrived, I still had no story to tell…but once I sat down and started writing, I was 100% compelled to get the story out in full before the weekend was over. And I actually did it. I couldn’t believe it!

The real story was in the awakening I seemed to have through the experience of NOT sleeping. At first I was just exhausted. But eventually I hit this wall where I was invincible…or, rather, my fingers were invincible. And they were connected to a subconscious part of me that I had never tapped into before. It was exhilarating.

I take no credit for SEBASTIAN’S POET. It was one of those experiences where I was plugged in. It just ‘happened’. I know it sounds crazy when people say that…but that is exactly how I feel about this novel. Please don’t cringe when I say that I was only the conduit on this one. It is also, though, the novel I am most proud of. I’m thrilled that MUSA PUBLISHING picked it up (It will be published in April, 2012)!

Anyway, before I travel into the now and the future, I want to leave you with a poem I wrote after I travelled from MUSKOKA to HALIBURTON immediately after finishing the 48 hours marathon. Please keep in mind that I just got up from writing a novel in 2 days. My head was wool and I was open to the universe. I was listening NON-STOP to LEONARD COHEN during the marathon and during the drive from Muskoka to Haliburton. He was forever entwined in the SEBASTIAN’S POET story. So much so, that I later asked for and received permission to use a line as an epigraph to the novel. The line is the one I used in the title of this post. The line is from the song ANTHEM…an amazing and beautiful song that was a huge part of the marathon weekend.

So, this poem was written just before I passed out. On the journey from Muskoka to Haliburton I had deer jump into the road in front of me in Muskoka and I had bears surround my car on the road that snakes along beside Elephant Lake in Haliburton.

Needless to say, the whole weekend—from the first word of my novel, to turning off the engine of the car at the cottage in Haliburton—was something of a religious experience. Not God and higher being religious experience…but a TOTALLY TAPPED IN TO THE UNIVERSE religious experience. It was phenomenal. If you ever get a chance to take part in a novel writing marathon…I suggest you do it.

So, now that I babbled on and on, here is the poem:

After the Marathon

As winter whips its winds to frenzy
I am reminded of that time-
forty thousand words in my head
screaming white freedom
inside my withering mind.

And after the marathon,
the tears of no more words,
my insolent venting of could have-
might have beens. And the exhaustion,
like melting ice on pregnant lips,
a scream inside an empty car
with nobody else to hear.

When I thought the oddity over-
passing from Muskoka to Haliburton
with Cohen on my lips-
two deer arrive,
linger long enough to catch my eye,
to stop my hurling car,
to say, “I see you. You are real.”
And tears again. To find yourself
when you are lost; a figment
behind an endless stream of words.

After the deer, when Hallelujah
has played and the light of day declines,
I pray, one hundred-thirty pages
strewn like wild wind across the cluttered dash,
and here am I… stopped again-
a wild bear on hind legs,
pawing the slowly gloaming air.

Stopped, I wonder the wonder,
breathe to say, “I’ve been here too.”
And in the rear-view… three more,
mother, babies dawdling behind the car.
And the bear, as if he knows my head
and where it’s at, he paws again,
lifts his massive claws to night and speaks.

These are the things that I have left,
the shaking memories of a whirlwind journey took.
And forty thousand words inside my lonely head
was not enough. A bear to stand and scream
is what it took to leave it all behind,
the vent, the Cohen din inside the tremulous mind,
and most of all, the words that could have been.

So that’s it. You will notice that I tried to write it from a future place…from the winter after the marathon. I felt that I needed distance to get the experience right…even if it was a fake distance…a tacked on distance of words.

So, now…I will turn my back on the past for awhile and start 2012 with my feet firmly planted in the HERE AND NOW. Enjoy this year now.

“You’re standing on a bridge, watching yourself go by.” ~ Ram Dass