FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS – The Ontario Writers’ Conference Gala Author Reading Event that is OPEN to the Public!

If you missed the boat on this year’s ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE, I can’t help you. It’s a fantastic event for writers. Incredible, even. And it gets better every year. Being so handy to Toronto, it’s an incredibly convenient writers’ conference for Ontarians to attend too. Not even just Ontarians, but anyone. It takes place in early May every year…so if you missed the registration deadline this year just don’t forget to mark your calendars with a reminder for next year’s conference.

The good news is–though you missed the conference boat–you can still make it onto the Festival of Authors boat! That boat doesn’t leave shore until the moment it begins on Friday, May 2nd (THAT’S THIS COMING FRIDAY!). Tickets for this gala reading festival are AVAILABLE AT THE DOOR!

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DETAILS:

WHERE: Deer Creek Golf & Banquet Facility, 2700 Audley Road North, Ajax, Ontario
DATE: Friday, May 2nd, 2014

TIME: 7pm-10pm

PRICE: $20

CLICK THIS LINK TO BUY TICKETS ONLINE THROUGH PAYPAL

All are welcome at this PUBLIC EVENT! The exciting evening features:

– entertaining interviews and inspiring author readings
– opportunities to mingle with Canadian and fellow writers, presses, lit magazines and publishing reps
– vote for the winner in our Story Starters Contest
– exciting prizes and much more!

All this in a café-style atmosphere with a cash bar and sweet endings.

Featuring a panel of wonderful authors, interviewed by our talented Master of Ceremonies, Ingrid Ruthig!

The lovely and talented writer and artist, INGRID RUTHIG, will be interviewing the festival’s reading authors this year. To find out more about Ingrid, you can visit her site here: INGRID RUTHIG – WRITER|EDITOR|ARTIST

This year’s reading authors are: CATHERINE BUSH, KAREN CONNELLY, and KATHRYN KUITENBROUWER

(Click on the names to visit each author’s personal site)

This is a not-to-be-missed literary event! Get your tickets ASAP…there will only be a limited amount available at the door!

 

Do You Clip Your Wings? (Killing Creativity with the Pursuit of Writing Right)

Somewhere along the path of discovering who we are as writers, I think we all might fall into the trap of THE WAY. THE WAY is the myth that there is an absolute way to write, to be a writer, to write a novel, to write a poem, to write a play, to write an article, etc…

There isn’t. Now is the time to surrender the fantasy. There is no way.

In other words, THERE IS NO SPOON.

Don't bend the spoon, Keanu. Realize that there is no spoon!
Don’t bend the spoon, Keanu. Realize that there is no spoon!

Today, I would like to release you from the myth that YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG.

If there is no way, there is no right way and there is no wrong way. As a writer, we need to find our own way. And not just look for a path and stay on it once we find it. We need to change the paths every time we pick up a pen, a quill or a keyboard. When we raise a piece of street chalk to write the great Canadian (or American) novel on the sidewalk, we need to approach the project like it’s the first time we wrote down a word. Believing–truly believing–that there is no way (no one way) is allowing yourself to approach every project as a child.

By this I mean…if you painstakingly outlined your last novel project down to the last scene and it worked for you, don’t assume you’re a plotter. There might be a frightened little pantser inside you just waiting to burst from his/her moorings. Allow that writer to break free. NO WAY means you might be a plotter one story and a pantser the next.

How about a list? I don’t think I’ve done one for a while.

Things Writers Should/Shouldn’t Do…and Why You Should Question Lists that Suggest Shoulds and Shouldn’ts

  1. You SHOULD never write like your favourite author. On one level, I fully understand this one. You shouldn’t ‘steal’ from another writer. But I don’t believe there is harm in emulating our idols. How many times have you read a book and thought, ‘Wow. This is so Kingish (Riceish, Dickensian, Shakespearean, Chabonish, etc).’ People do write like their idols. Our voices are influenced both by life experiences and the works we read and reread and reread. Nobody can write fully as somebody else. If you have a favourite author and you have soaked up all of their works over and over again…there are going to be crumbs of that author in the words that you write. Own it. It’s what influence does.
  2. For the love of God, don’t make absolute statements like, “I AM A PLOTTER.” As I said up-post, allow this decision to be reached anew with every single project you undergo. You will kill creativity if you forbid yourself to explore your options. It’s the book you want to write that should tell you which way to go…not a directive that some perhaps well-meaning person posted to the internet telling you you had to choose a way and stick to it. This goes for plotting/pantsing and writing with a pen as opposed to a keyboard and the Oxford comma and statements like, “Don’t start a novel with dialogue” and making sure your manuscript is in UK English instead of US English or US English instead of UK English and using two spaces after a period or one space after a period (okay…use ONE space after a period!). This goes for every little knit-picky detail that writers face every time they sit down to write. Hell, you don’t even have to sit down to write these days. That’s another decision you have to make. Stand at a treadmill desk or sit on a conventional chair. Just don’t go telling anyone–especially yourself–that you MUST use a treadmill desk to be a writer. Or that you must NOT use a treadmill desk to be a writer.
  3. You should NEVER write outside your genre or market! I call bullshit. Believe it or not, I’ve seen this advice. I’ve heard this advice. I actually believed it at one point. I told you we all fall victim to the absolutes found in the world of writing advice. I tried to stop myself from writing YA because I didn’t start with YA. How dare I switch to a different market! Guess what…I broke free. I wrote YA. And it was good.
  4. You should ALWAYS be on every form of social media in the universe. You should always promote yourself and write blog posts and tweet and Facebook and Youtube and Tumblr and everything else. Really?! These are necessary to every writer? No. No they are not. Sometimes they are even damaging to writers. If you feel you can use social media in a way that it will help you interact with readers and other writers, do so. But if you have nothing to say and you still say a lot, you might just put people off. Don’t be a writer who kills themselves through social media. It’s hard enough to be a writer. You don’t have to burn the bridges that could possibly be out there between you and your potential readers. There is no YOU MUST BE ACTIVE IN SOCIAL MEDIA law. You can be, but you don’t have to be. Less is more. And be careful about dissing other writers. Every writer is on a path. Who are we to question the path of another writer?
  5. DON’T EVER USE CLICHE. This one gets to me. I have purposely used cliche. Unapologetically. And I will continue to do so as I see fit. If we listened to the no cliche harpies we would have realized by now that every single thing in this universe and the closest three universes in the neighbourhood are ALL CLICHE. Give it a rest. Don’t overburden your work with cliche, but a little cliche goes a long way. You’re the boss of you, not anybody else.
  6. When writing a novel, NEVER GO OUTSIDE THE ACCEPTED CONSTRUCTS OF WHAT A NOVEL SHOULD LOOK LIKE. Scrap that advice. Totally. Utterly. Completely. Do what you want. Recreate the novel. Write in lists. Write in pictures. Write in footnotes. Write in emails. Write in texts. Explore the boundaries. And once you explore them, push them. Something isn’t right or wrong until it is accepted or rejected—repeatedly. Humans don’t like change just as much as we like change. We’re ornery. When told the world was flat, we listened. Thank God somebody fought that accepted construct. There are some pretty fascinating things going on with novels these days. Embrace the changes. Incorporate them into your own writing. Or—DON’T incorporate them.
  7. WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW. Shut up. I’ll write what I want to write. And you should too.
  8. You should ALWAYS edit on paper. OR You should ALWAYS edit on screen. OR You should always read your novel from back to front when editing. OR NEVER edit while you write. OR ALWAYS edit while you write. Find a way that works for you. BUT DON’T STICK TO IT. Like writing, editing should be something you explore with each project.

I think that’s enough. I’m not really in the list mood.

FOLLOWING ANY WRITING ADVICE RELIGIOUSLY IS A SURE-FIRE WAY TO CLIP YOUR WINGS.

Guess what, folks. There is NO yellow brick road. It’s a fancy. If you follow a certain path in writing (or in life), the only thing you will find at the end is the end. You will diligently walk the yellow bricks, thinking the world outside those bricks is filled with danger and missteps and wrongness. You will fill yourself with pride for having followed the path with precision. Then, at the end, you will discover that those who jumped off the yellow bricks and walked through the forest and swam across the river and climbed the mountains and forged their own way through OZ still arrived at the same destination as you. They arrived at THE END. But you can bet your bottom dollar they had more fun.

Yellow-brick-road-copy

Don’t be afraid. Listen to advice…sure. Read it all. But in the end–when push comes to shove–every single writer (and human being, for that matter) is ALONE. It’s not the destination. It’s the path. The long and winding road. Don’t be rigid. Throw away the advice that doesn’t work for you, and dip into the advice that does. But don’t live in the advice that works. Allow yourself the freedom to change your clothes at will. We are humans. We evolve. We are constantly changing. Be a writer who is fearless enough to always change. Or, stay the same.

 

 

 

Walter Mitty and the Technocolor Daydream

When James Thurber’s short story The Secret Life of Walter Mitty first appeared in The New Yorker on March 18th, 1939, I wonder if anybody knew how beautiful the remake of the original movie based on the short story would be. Considering that was just over 75 years ago, I’m guessing the answer is no. When I saw it in the theatre this past winter, though, I seriously thought they should have called the Ben Stiller (director and star of the film) movie Spectacular Spectacular. Naturally, that title was already taken by the ‘show’ that transpired on the stage of the Moulin Rouge cabaret house in Baz Luhrmann’s equally spectacular Moulin Rouge.

I hope I haven’t lost you yet.

Like New York, New York…in the sense that ‘everybody says it, so they had to name it twice’ (thank you for that slice of nice, Nina Hagen!)…The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was so spectacular, I have to say it twice. Spectacular, Spectacular!

Every once in a while I am but CONVINCED that a movie was made for me. These golden nuggets of purity that are just as cinematically beautiful as they are solidly written and acted seriously possess me with a greater need to write a story RIGHT. It is through MY PERFECT MOVIES that I am inspired to be a better writer.

  • The Royal Tenenbaums
  • Wonder Boys
  • Powder
  • Benny & Joon
  • The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  • Stand By Me
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • Breakfast Club
  • Reality Bites
  • Super8
  • To Kill a Mockingbird

NO. These are not perfect movies. They are MY PERFECT MOVIES. Think of the movies that hold you enthralled from the opening credits to the closing credits. The ones you watch again and again and never tire of watching.

My list may change from time to time. I know I will look at it later and think, ‘damn! Why didn’t I put this one or that one on the list!?’ As long as I can pick up one of these movies when I’m feeling drained and detached from my writing, all will be good. I don’t watch them to steal from them. I watch them to get that spark ignited. Just like a writer should always always READ, they should also always lose themselves in their favourite movies. There is much to be said for listening to excellent dialogue. While you’re doing it, you are organically learning how to write good dialogue. A writer, you must never forget, is ALWAYS LEARNING THE CRAFT OF WRITING.

Go spoil yourself. Sit down in front of what some call the idiot box…and watch a movie that will take you, momentarily, out of yourself. Might I suggest The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it’s endearing…charming…whimsical. Ben Stiller plays an excellent Walter Mitty, a man who wears a technocolor daydream like nobody’s business. When he reaches outside his daydreams and grabs hold of his life, magic ensues. It’s just one of those pretty little things that will leave you feeling giddy. Indulge yourself…

 

Birthdays and Balloons!

Today is my good friend’s birthday! Okay, so he’s more an acquaintance than a friend, really. Okay, so he’s more a mentor than a friend, really. Okay, so I never actually met him…but I feel as though I know him intimately.

Happy 450th Birthday, Sir William Shakespeare!

I love Shakespeare. I finally dipped into this love for one of my forthcoming YA novels. My main character, Francis Fripp, loves Shakespeare and can quote anything from the bard’s work because he spent the lion’s share of his childhood in the hospital recovering from burns he received to almost half of his body. While it was his father who set him on fire for playing with matches, his father’s kind sister gave him The Complete Works of Shakespeare to read during his recovery. So, I really got to give the old Shaky Pear the nod in Burn Baby. (-: Shaky Pear. That’s what we called him in high school.

Did you know that many of the phrases we use every single day come from the man? It’s true.

How many times do you say the following phrases? If you invoke them, you are invoking Shakespeare!

  • A wild goose chase
  • Give the devil his due
  • Wear your heart on your sleeve
  • Vanish into thin air
  • What the dickens
  • Knock knock! Who’s there?
  • For goodness sake

These are just a few of the good man’s many everyday phrases. He certainly has achieved world domination in the English language phrasebook.

Raise a glass for old William today. He has brought us much joy.

shakespeare1

Speaking of birthdays, don’t you just LOVE balloons! Wouldn’t you love for your job to be to sell cartoon balloons in town?! Couldn’t you just imagine yourself sitting on a porch swing somewhere blowing up balloons all day. Just letting them go and watching them fly!

After listening to Levon recently, I turned to my friend and said, “Wouldn’t that be the most awesome job in the world?! Selling balloons for a living.”

He said, “Der. That’s what you do. You play with words. You sell word balloons. You HAVE the awesome job. Dude, you’re living it.”

Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am. I get to do this thing I love to do. I play with words. I sit on the porch swing and watch them fly. I take a balloon and I go sailing.

Find your thing. Find your balloon. And when you do, enjoy the flight. You only live once.

 

Don’t forget to check out my novels on Amazon. BURN BABY and HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN will release in the Fall of this year, but there’s always SUMMER ON FIRE, THE REASONS and SEBASTIAN’S POET…if you want to check out something now.

A Writer’s To-Do List of Non-Writing Stuff That Will Help With Writing

All writers have time before and after (and in-between) writing time. How should we use that time? Better yet, how could we use that time in a way that may be useful to the B.I.C. (Bum In Chair) time we are afforded for our writing?

How about we make a short list?

  • READ MORE – This is the easiest thing a writer can do to assist their own writing skills. What you put in to reading, you get back tenfold as a writer. As your neurons are connecting in new and interesting ways with the stories you read on the page, so too is your imagination working in the background on your own creative avenues of adventure. Never underestimate the power that reading gives you as a writer.
  • RECOGNIZE THAT YOU ARE A PART OF A BIGGER FAMILY – It doesn’t matter what we write, writers have great opportunities to commune with one another in many interesting ways. Join writing circles, both in-person and online. Help other writers and accept help from other writers. There is SO much you can do. Host them on your blog, either in the form of a guest post or an interview. Offer to beta read their work. Be creative…if you can think of something that would benefit you, chances are it would benefit your fellow writer.
  • NOTE TO SELF – This sounds corny, but it helps. Really, it does. Leave yourself little post-it notes on your mirror. Today, I will write an amazing sentence! I will edit Chapter 16 today! Today I will finish my first draft! I am a great writer! I will be published! I am going to submit something today! An agent is going to ask me for a full! You get the picture. Write yourself positive affirmations about your writing, about your writing life…
  • VISIT THE HARD STUFF – We all skirt that place in our minds where we fear to tread. You know those demons you carry but dare not write about. Go there. Go to the deepest darkest place you can find inside of yourself…and when you come back from the journey, write from there! Be fearless. Your heart has a story to tell. Listen to it. Be authentic.
  • GO FOR A WALK – Yes. A walk. It’s simple. ♪♫Put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking across the flo-o-or. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.♪♫ Do silent meditation walks through the forest. Walk downtown and listen to the traffic. Walk downtown and listen to music screaming in your headphones as you drown out the traffic. It doesn’t matter how you do it…a walk is a fantastic thing for a writer to take. Your mind forgets the niggling day to day things when you’re out for a brisk walk…it’s free to wander. You can get it working for you in writerly ways.
  • TAKE YOUR SHIT SERIOUSLY – Write out goals for yourself. This is a bit like the post-it notes, but the mind is a terrible enemy of the heart. We have to repeatedly poke it to get it to do what we want it to do sometimes. Once your goals are on paper, see to it that you achieve them. You’re the only one standing in your way. Nobody else is going to give a shit if you succeed or fail. Do it for you. 200 words a day times 365 days is 73,000 words. Break your goals down into manageable bites if need be. I just showed you an example of this with a goal to write a novel in 1 year. Seems like a hell of a hard thing to do—write a novel in a year. Then you break it down into 200 words a day and you can’t imagine not being able to write a measly 200 words in one day. 200 words is nothing, right? This bullet point alone is almost 200 words. Do this many words every day for a year and you have yourself a novel. Treat your writing like it’s important—like your shit matters. Because it does. It’s yours. It’s the result of your creativity. That’s golden.
  • SERIOUSLY, CHILLAX – Writing is fun. Writing is allowing your creative side to do cartwheels across the floor. Writing is liberating your inner-child to sing at the top of his/her voice in the library where quietude is mandatory. Writing is using every colour in the crayon box to colour in your horse, just because you want to. Don’t, for the love of god and all things holy, make it a chore. When you feel that writing is becoming a chore, step away from it. You’re doing it wrong. Go read some poetry—maybe Shel Silverstein or Dr. Seuss. Don’t be serious. But be serious.
  • FIND WAYS TO LEAVE YOUR COMFORT ZONE – Yes. Do it. Book yourself at an open mic event. Or get your own audience of friends and peers and read aloud from your work in front of them. Get yourself into a writing commitment with a seriously scarey deadline. Offer to teach a workshop at your local library. Do something that will put you out on a limb without a paddle, or up a river without a parachute. Make yourself breathless with fear.
  • TAKE INTERESTING COURSES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH WRITING BUT LOADS TO DO WITH CREATIVITY – You must have other interests? Macrame? Underwater Basket-Weaving? Photography? Stained-Glass Window Design? Theatre Arts & Drama? Oil Painting? Finger Painting? Bamboo Carving? Glass Blowing? Totem Pole Carving? All these things feed the creative monster inside. Learning new skills also gives you more to write about.

The 9th Annual InspiraTO Ten-Minute Play Festival!

It’s almost that time of the year again. The Alumnae Theatre is about to come to life, thanks to Dominik Loncar and his 9th Annual InspiraTO Festival!

My PERFECT TIMING 2013 Festival actors...
My PERFECT TIMING 2013 Festival actors (Jennifer Gillespie & Liam Doherty).

Last year, I was fortunate enough to get one of the Playwright Mentoring spots with the festival. Dominik coached and mentored six recipients of this mentoring fellowship, and we each had a play in the festival (mine was PERFECT TIMING). When the call went out for plays to be performed in the neighbourhood surrounding the theatre, I jumped at the opportunity. So I actually had two plays in the festival (the second was WALK-INS WELCOME and it took place at a neighbourhood salon). It was an amazing experience and I learned invaluable lessons from Dominik, my dramaturge, my director, and my actors. I was able to be a part of each step of the process. Amazing stuff!

PT

This year, I hope to attend as an audience member. The festival takes place May 29th – June 7th. I am just getting back from my Camino walk in Spain at this time, so barring any unforeseen circumstances I will be able to catch some of the plays near the end of the festival.

I suggest you take in this festival. It is filled with incredible talent…a real NOT-TO-BE-MISSED event. I was able to take in every play last year, and they were all fantastic.

The Alumnae - Home to the 2014 InspiraTO Festival!
The Alumnae – Home to the 2014 InspiraTO Festival!

Some of the details:

  • This year’s festival is to showcase 21 ten-minute plays – 12 from the playwriting contest, one artistic director’s play and 9 from the new playwriting academy (this academy has sprung from last year’s mentorship spots – the brainchild of Dominik Loncar)
  • There will also be site-specific plays (plays that take place in venues around the neighbourhood of the theatre)
  • The festival runs from May 29th – June 7th
  • Ticket sales will soon be announced – This is a hot ticket item, so get your tickets early!

 

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE PLAYWRITING ACADEMY

HEAD OVER TO THE INSPIRATO WEBSITE TO READ ALL ABOUT IT

A video of Dominik Loncar and Lumir Hladik discussing the InspiraTO Festival:

Soak up the Creativity at Poetry Sanctuary Days!

This past Sunday, I had a rebirth of sorts. Of the poetic kind. My relationship with poetry has always been dismissive, at best. I kind of use poetry, actually. I’ve always seen it as a sort of calisthenic exercise to lube up the writing mind. The result of my poet-ing has never been the driving factor. It was always about the process, just the playing with words to limber up for the real writing. The fiction.

As much as I used poetry, though, I have always had a deep love of it. I see its place and importance in the world. I just never took my own work in the medium very seriously.

Having been away from poetry for so long, however, I began to realize it might have been a bit more important to me than I was letting on. When you feel as though you can’t write poetry, you begin to see a disconnection between yourself and the world around you…the words around you. Poetry is playful. It gives the dabbler a feeling that they are grounded with their surroundings. Well, it made me feel this way, anyway.

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On Sunday I went to POETRY SANCTUARY DAYS at the Uplands Writing Retreat in Goodwood, Ontario. This sanctuary Sunday was hosted by writer, poet, writing instructor James Dewar. James is a friend, a mentor, and a all-round great guy. He was the first to offer me a stage to showcase my poetry. Some years ago now, he gave me a Feature Night at the Renaissance Cafe in Toronto. That was some leap of faith! I’ll be forever grateful for it.

Before I speak of the great and energetic day of creation, I have to say that the location is one of the most beautifully idyllic places I’ve ever come across. The house is all windows, facing a pond, trees, a dock, nature. So beautiful. I stood at the window wondering how anybody could actually live nestled within such amazing beauty. It almost hurt.

James’s lesson on metaphor and simile was one of those defining moments for me. As he spoke, a fissure appeared in my thinking and the light came on. It was so exciting to see poetry in a new light. And we were not only able to take these lessons in and discuss ideas as a group of poets, but we were also given invaluable writing time. The day was structured so that there were hours of quiet time where we all simply lounged around the house writing poetry. The best workshops give writing time to the participants. With the lessons fresh in our heads, we were able to explore what they meant to us as poets. I was able to put what I had just learned into action, thereby solidifying the concepts in my mind.

We also had times when we sat in a circle and shared our raw and vulnerable new pieces of poetry. I heard some extraordinary pieces. Amazing to hear just bled words…so fresh, the ink not yet dry. There was definitely something beautiful and enchanting in each piece I heard. I was honoured to be there, hearing such lovely words.

A delectable lunch was hand-delivered by my favourite foodie, the glorious DEB RANKINE, The Fridge Whisperer…longtime friend and sometime partner in crime. Thanks, Deb…for another fabulous meal!

If you’re in the GTA, you really should check out these poetry sanctuaries. I feel lifted for having gone to one. Thanks to James, for a fantastic day in paradise!

Find out all about the event:

INK SLINGERS – POETRY SANCTUARY DAYS with JAMES DEWAR

While you’re at the site, don’t forget to check out all the other things that INK SLINGERS has to offer!