And Speaking of Leonard Cohen…

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Leonard Cohen was in Toronto on Dec. 4th for the first of two concerts at ACC.

In 2007 I participated in my first MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON. At the time, I was so nervous about the simple act of declaring myself a writer. I spent 48hrs in a room in Huntsville, Ontario…WRITING. The novel I wrote during that weekend was called SEBASTIAN’S POET. Writing it was like an out of body experience. I fell asleep at the keyboard, I wandered, I hallucinated…you name it. I went in there with very little in the way of an idea. My inspiration was a man in a fedora. A man from Montreal who had a love for stringing words together. I knew my main character was going to be a broken child, and I knew a folksinger would be his salvation.

Leonard Cohen was the inspiration for that folksinger–who later became TEAL LANDEN. Teal is the guy who came into my main character’s life and gave it meaning. He was just a slob with a huge heart…a wanderer who discovered an empty couch in a spiritually empty home and decided to stay awhile.

For 48hrs I had Leonard Cohen songs playing in my head. And for 48hrs I lived the life of Sebastian Nelson. A life that spanned the 7 tumultuous years leading to 1980. Sebastian was a boy in the Beaches district of Toronto, Ontario…a boy who needed to belong to something, anything. When Teal Landen entered his life, there was a degree of instant salvation. He was heard. He was seen. Much like the way I felt heard when I first stumbled upon the music of Leonard Cohen.

So Cohen is a big part of who Landen became…or at least my imagined image of Cohen. It was fun writing that story, losing myself in Cohen’s music and seeing where the life of Sebastian Nelson would go.

You can read the story. It has since been published as the novella SEBASTIAN’S POET. The publisher is Musa Publishing in U.S.A. I was thrilled to find how much they believed in this story that came out of me rapid fire that long ago weekend. It’s amazing what can happen at these writing marathons, but what’s even more amazing is how they make you feel. Invincible and vulnerable and powerful and weak.

Sebastian's Poet
Sebastian’s Poet

You will notice that the epigraph in Sebastian’s Poet is a line from one of Cohen’s songs. “There is a crack in everything…that’s how the light gets in.” is a line that has buoyed me over the years. It’s from his song ANTHEM. I was thrilled when I was given permission to use it as the jumping off point of this little novel. (-:

(Oh! And look for a cameo in the last chapter. Gordon Lightfoot makes an appearance. It was fun putting words in his mouth! (-:)


Sebastian’s Poet at GOODREADS

Sebastian’s Poet at Amazon


Sebastian’s Poet at MUSA



Sometimes, when you’re a writer, you are approached by people who are dabbling in the medium. People who–how should I put this–shouldn’t be.

I was recently approached by someone who said they bought my book. Great. I hope they like it. I’m always happy to hear my books are being read…if somewhat nervous and ‘squiggy’ feeling. It’s not about the royalties. They either come or they don’t, right. It’s about someone reading my words and getting something out of them. So, I thanked him and told him I hope the book is a good experience for him. He’s a friend. I appreciated his support.

The thing is, he actually told me he’s not going to read it until I look at something he wrote.

Okay. WTF!

Why am I suddenly this person who has to read your work? It was almost a threat. He has my book…but it’s being held for ransom until I read his writings. Seems like a fair exchange, right?


I try to be nice to everybody who shows an interest in writing. I try to be supportive. I guide them to the best places on the web–and in meat space–where they can congregate with like-minded people and learn more about the craft…and frankly, celebrate the craft with their fellow worshipers. I volunteer on a Board of Directors for a writing conference in my area. I critique the work of fellow writers. I’m an active participant in my local writing community, the WCDR. I try to be approachable and helpful when writers contact me. Sometimes to my own detriment. But I do these things because I feel indebted to the community that has given so much to me. I always feel I have to give back to writing, since writing itself has given me innumerable gifts…simply in the act of allowing me to call myself a writer.

But what’s this bullshit?!

I knew–ladies and gentlemen–right away that I was in for an unpleasant experience. I can tell. Writers…we can tell. When people say, “Yeah…I’ve been thinking about writing a book…about all the wild stuff I’ve done. You know…a biography. I’ve done some pretty amazing things.” When people say things like that, instead of, “I want to write…I want to BE a WRITER”, you know you’re in for a little bit of a nightmare. What I don’t get is the way that these people feel justified in approaching us and throwing their handfuls of loose paper on us and asking, “Well? Is it good?”

I’ll tell you now…before you read any further…that this is a venting post. I’ve been saddled with a handful of loose paper with one-dimensional dreck scribbled upon it. I didn’t even say, “Yes…I’ll read your work.” It was just handed to me, with the assumption that I’ve been waiting for the masterpiece all of my life. Why do people feel okay with this? Foisting their ‘writing’ onto people like this?

So now I’m stuck with pages and pages of, ‘…and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened and then this happened.’ There is no flow, no voice, no grammatically correct sentences. For the love of fuck, there isn’t even attention to SPELLING! Does this person not have a word processor?!

I have to tell this person that his writing needs work. It’s not ready for the public eye. It will NEVER be ready for the public eye. He will never be a writer. Writing is something that is miles ahead of, “I have a story to tell.” Writing…when done well…is a state of grace. Not everyone with a story to tell becomes a writer. I’m so frustrated right now. I didn’t ask for this. I hate discouraging people. Even if they are bullies who foisted their work upon me. How do I deal with this person?

What gives these people the justification to do this? I don’t like awkward situations. Just sayin’…


I feel ‘small’ for talking about this…but I’m hoping other writers understand. I know we all get the, “Yeah! You’re a writer? What have I read of yours?” or the, “You write? How much do you make?” or the, “You write! How many books do you have out?” or many of the other questions non-writers ask writers. Sometimes you’re afraid to mention the fact you’re a writer in certain company…it’s like you can almost guess what some reactions will be. I can deal with this kind of thing. I just blow it off. Some non-writers think you’re not REALLY a writer until you have books out…and not just books in some cases, but books that they may in fact have read. Or, you’re not really a writer until you can afford to buy the second home from the staggeringly sickening royalty cheques coming your way. I can zone out this kind of noise. It’s the people who are not writers who think they can just throw some words together because everybody is dying to know the gritty and enlightening details of their wonderful life who make me insane. It’s the way they think they DESERVE and have a right to my time. Bottom line, though, is that I could have said NO. I was just cornered at the time…and I felt there was no way out. I guess the rant wasn’t quite over.

Time to face the music…

Leonard Cohen is in Toronto


In 2008, when Leonard Cohen arrived in Toronto, I wrote a celebratory poem. Before I share it here, I wanted to say a few words about Mr. Cohen’s return last night to the city of my dreams.

In ’08 I said, “I need to be at that concert. This may be his last tour!” I could still be right. Turns out he’s been touring ever since. He was a young man in ’08…a mere 74-years old. Now, at 78, Mr. Cohen is still delivering. This iconic legend of the Canadian stage can do no wrong!

Near the beginning of last night’s performance L. Cohen said, “I didn’t sing for fifteen years and now you can’t get rid of me.” The dear man has no idea how many loyal and prayerfully devoted fans he has. Nobody would ever in a million years want to get rid of him! He followed this with, “We might not see each other ever again. Tonight we’ll give you everything we’ve got!”

Then, he proceeded to do just that. He skipped, he danced, he swayed, he celebrated each and every person on the stage, behind the stage and in front of the stage…he did it all. His recital of the lyrics to A THOUSAND KISSES DEEP hushed the audience to the pin-drop point…and his leathery, yet beautifully charming voice went up like a prayer as he let the words drop like aves to the spellbound masses assembled at his feet.

Once again, his show was beautiful…from beginning to end. Leonard Cohen is a man who appreciates what he has. He values his words and his adorers. He values those who assemble with him to deliver his evening masses…from the technicians to the beautiful Sharon Robinson and the Webb sisters. I came home from last night’s concert LIFTED. Being in his soulful presence is an experience one can’t imagine until they’ve been there. The man who was born with the gift of a golden voice has new worshippers this morning. Well done, L. Cohen…well done!

And now…the poem I wrote upon Mr. Cohen’s last arrival to Toronto:


There’s a monster poet in town,
a laureate linguist, circus clown.
You can hear his heartbeat
in the city’s newfound heat,
the strum of bellows
in his liquid lungs, in flex.
I’ll take communion
within the milky thighs
of his every waking word,
take refuge in the spring
he calls to life
with his fervent golden voice.
There’s a God of light in town,
an ancient thread to beauty gone.
You can see his glow
above the night,
lift your hands into the bright,
and with nothing on your tongue
but a cold and broken hallelujah.

Last night’s SET LIST:

First Set

Dance Me to the End of Love

The Future

Bird on the Wire

Everybody Knows

Who by Fire


Ain’t No Cure for Love


Come Healing

In My Secret Life

A Thousand Kisses Deep (a recitation)

Different Sides


Second Set

Tower of Song


Waiting for the Miracle


I Can’t Forget

The Partisan

Feels So Good

Alexandra Leaving (Sharon Robinson)

I’m Your Man


Take This Waltz


So Long, Marianne

Going Home

First We Take Manhattan

If It Be Your Will (the Webb Sisters)

Closing Time

Stay well, Leonard. (-: