The Purgatorio Dialogues – Meet the Writers of Purgatorium Part II

Welcome to day two of my interviews with the writers from Purgatorium. Today, I’m featuring Pat Flewwelling and Tobin Elliott. Together, with Connie Di Pietro and Dale Long, they make up the staff of ID PRESS. Pat had me laughing out loud in places. Especially when she spoke of her fear of flying and then let me know she was boarding a plane (sadly, I’m quite certain her fear amped up yesterday…as she experienced several delays at the airport prior to boarding said plane). What can I say about Tobin Elliott? Nobody makes me cry as often as Tobin does. He’s like that phone commercial that breaks you down and leaves you bawling and surprised that a 30-second vignette could cut you so close to the bone. He’s a funny guy…but he writes with an emotional poignancy I myself could only dream of owning. Even his Facebook updates often have me swallowing through the lump in my throat. Yes…a couple of his responses here left me in tears. Something in the way he writes…

The Proust Questionnaire was not penned by Proust, but rather made famous by him. It was a personality questionnaire that Proust famously answered in the most delightful of ways, and often. It was his answers to the question that caused the questionnaire to take off and become a favourite form of interview…it even had a life as a parlour game of sorts. I find that it reveals a lot about a person…it invokes personal insights as well as personality, sense of humour and one’s beliefs, etc. This questionnaire I composed is not entirely the same as the Proust version, but a lot of the original questions remain intact. Enjoy today’s insights into the minds of Pat and Tobin, two of the ten writers featured in PURGATORIUM!

Purgatorio Dialogues – III – Pat Flewwelling

Pat Flewwelling

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Letting go.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Anything but Westerns, Romance, and Poetry.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Flying. I go a little crazy before and during every flight. Like…I need to gnaw on people and scream and stuff, that kind of afraid. I hate flying.

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Non-fiction and mystery.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Nancy Kilpatrick, because she’s not afraid to tell a new writer the painful, honest truth, without being discouraging – but as an editor, she is also willing to give new, unknown writers a chance.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

That it was an easily maligned, but not easily defined, genre. It should, at the very least, make me shiver at the profoundness of the human soul – either as profoundly evil, or profoundly defiant in the face of utter horribleness.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Temperance. All things in moderation, including moderation.

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Horror doesn’t have to go to extremes – neither all-scary, nor all-gory, nor all-demonic/paranormal. Sometimes horror can use a soft touch.

9. What else have you written?

Three dark fiction novels (Helix: Blight of Exiles, Helix: Plague of Ghouls, and Helix: Scourge of Bones), two dieselpunk novels (The Fog of Dockside City series), a crime/biography (Judge Not), and a smattering of short stories. Those are the published ones, at least.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

Depends on your definition of “afraid”. If you mean anxious to the point of running away, the answer is “Any time I’m in Costco on a Saturday afternoon.” If you mean, jump-scared / ran away / screamed like a little girl, then it would be that time I tried to clean my first fish, and it wasn’t as dead as I’d thought it was, and it jumped clean off the plate, flapping tail-to-mouth in the air. If you mean “afraid for my safety”…that seems to be the times when I’m most focused and self-controlled, so I guess I would have to say, “n/a”…?

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Is tact a talent? Because I’d like to have that. Mind you, I find talent overrated. If a talented gymnast won gold every year without hardly trying, and this other “talent-less” but hardworking gymnast won silver for the first time in sixteen years, I’d applaud the one who won silver.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to come back as the incarnation of bad luck. I don’t know why I said that. I blame the lack of coffee. But it’s amazing what bad luck can do for you sometimes. A flat tire could save you from a five car pile-up.

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Convincing yourself that you can’t – and don’t deserve to – change.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (aka Blade Runner, Philip K. Dick); The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Howard Pyle); The Hound of the Baskervilles (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle).

15. Who are your favorite writers?

The ones I’ve met in person. Well, most of them, anyways. Also, Raymond Chandler, Sam Thomas, and Ellis Peters.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

Brother Cadfael. Crusader turned sailor turned Benedictine monk / gardener and sometimes murder-solver. He’s completely anti-noir because he looks for the good in humanity, despite war, murder, profiteering, etc., and knows the value of a peaceful place.

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Power tools. Any power tool. Literally any. If they had faces, I would punch them.

18. How would you like to die?

Quickly, purposefully, and in saving someone else.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The overall harmony of nature in the morning, deep in the interior of Algonquin Park.

20. What is your motto?

Video et taceo. For the record, it was also Queen Elizabeth I’s motto, and it is not Latin for Netflix and tacos.

On the Web, PAT can be found:

Pat Flewwelling


Purgatorio Dialogues – IV – Tobin Elliott

Tobin Elliott

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Perfect happiness is having my family around me, lots of books to read, good friends who love me unconditionally, and my pets. Preferably on a lovely fall day.


2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

I love the horror genre, but it’s finding the horror in the everyday things. To me, the monster isn’t scary unless it’s in a position to take something cherished away from my human characters. A realistic character reacting to the loss of a lover or child or parent is more terrifying than a monster that bites his neck or kills him.


3. What is your greatest fear?

Not being able to be there for those I love. Whether that’s due to a debilitating terminal illness, or death, or just not being available when one of my kids or my wife really needs me. I never want to let down those that need me most.


4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Oh damn. That’s tough. I love good horror, probably because I find it so rarely. But I also can say the same for good science fiction, or thriller, or crime drama, or mystery, or non-fiction books. I read constantly and widely, so for me it’s less about genre and more about the quality of the experience.


5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Also a tough one. I admire Stephen King simply because he’s bucked the odds and become not only the most popular modern author, but he did it writing a much-frowned upon genre. But I also have great admiration for Jack Ketchum because no one—absolutely no one—has affected me like he did with some of his writing, particularly The Girl Next Door.


6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

From a reading standpoint, usually something involving a supernatural element. I love my vampires and werewolves and demons. From a personal standpoint, it was—and remains—the answer to #3. Our greatest fear is always that thing that inspires the greatest horror.


7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Physical beauty. Yes, I like attractive looks, just like everyone else, but I despise how they often give the person a pass to be an absolutely deplorable person and get away with it. I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton. Beauty fades, but the ability to be empathetic and honest and funny and loyal are forever.


8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Finding the horror in the everyday. As I said above, I love my vampires and werewolves and demons, but nothing matches the horror of a parent or role model who is more of a monster than any of them could ever hope to be. So, a bit more of a dovetailing of greatest fear and horror.


9. What else have you written?

I’ve written some ugly stories about awful people doing terrible things. I’ve had three novellas published through small presses, as well as a couple of short stories in anthologies. All are horror. But I’ve also written three interconnected horror novels and collaborated on a dark fantasy novel involving the Four Horsemen, a God who is mad (and angry) and the Biblical Apocalypse. Oh, and some blogs that made people laugh.


10. When and where were you most afraid?

Well, there was a time in Algonquin Park when a bear attacked our camp for about an hour and the only thing between it and my twelve-year-old tasty flesh was tent fabric. But I think the most terrified I’ve been…well, to be honest, I can’t even talk about it. That’s not a cop out, it’s the truth.


11. Which talent would you most like to have?

The power of persuasiveness. I’d love to be able to guide people to make better choices. From small things like helping my kids, to larger issues like preventing things like gun violence, racial crimes, sexual attacks, and better leadership for the countries of the world. As the old Coke commercial said, I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.


12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

Probably a cat that my daughter would own, because I know I’d live like a freaking king.


13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Losing a loved one. No question. Because there is no lowest depth when it comes to that.


14. What are your three deserted island books?

I hate this question. Still, I’ll play your silly reindeer game…

The Shining – Stephen King

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle – David Wroblewski

Boy’s Life – Robert R. McCammon


15. Who are your favorite writers?

Stephen King, Jack Ketchum, Dennis Lehane, Robert E. Howard, Elmore Leonard, John Skipp & Craig Spector (when they collaborated), Douglas Adams, Harlan Ellison, Harper Lee, Ray Bradbury, J.K. Rowling, Carsten Stroud, David Wroblewski, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Chris Claremont, Warren Ellis, Terry Moore, Brian Michael Bendis, Garth Ennis, . And a bunch of others that I likely can’t think of off the top of my head.


16. Who is your hero of fiction?

You’re killing me here. Sorry, I’m going to have to stray from books because I tend to default to a character in a television series. Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce as played by Alan Alda in M*A*S*H always wins for me.

If I need to go from the written word, I’d likely choose Danny Torrance, the young boy from The Shining. There’s a lot that I can identify with in him: an abusive, alcoholic father who could never say no to his demons, a mother who desperately tries to swim the current of her husband’s madness and keep both her own and her child’s head afloat, and Danny himself, walking through the corridors of a manmade hell, doing all he can to understand and navigate away from the horrors…


17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Anyone whining. Drives me absolutely batshit.


18. How would you like to die?

That’s an odd question. Would anyone really like to die? Not so much. Nor do I, and as I get older, the thought intrudes more and more as my mortality makes itself known. But if I have to go, I want to go out with those I love around me, and everyone laughing and joking and telling their most embarrassing or stupid stories about me…god knows there’s a lot of them.


19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The sound of my wife or kids saying they love me. The purring of my cats. My dog’s yipping in his sleep as he dreams. Wind through the leaves. Rain. The strange muffled silence after a snowfall. The Beatles. Pink Floyd. Heart. Boston. David Bowie. Cheap Trick. The Eagles. Steely Dan. Billy Joel. Elton John. Tom Petty. The Electric friggin’ Light Orchestra. And…absolute silence.


20. What is your motto?

I have a few…

“What would you attempt to do if you knew you would not fail?” – Robert Schuller

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

“Mommy’s all right, daddy’s all right, they just seem a little weird.” – Cheap Trick

“Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three lefts do.” – Unknown

“And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.” – The Beatles

 On the Web, TOBIN can be found:

Tobin Elliott



Watch this blog for more Purgatorio Dialogues! Six more to go!


The Purgatorio Dialogues – Meet the Writers of Purgatorium Part I

The Cover of the Upcoming Anthology PURGATORIUM from ID PRESS.

I recently had the idea of interviewing each of the writers you will find within the pages of the upcoming horror anthology, PURGATORIUM. The first thing that came to mind was the PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE and how much fun it always was to read the way people would respond to some of the questions on it. So, I cribbed from the list of questions on the questionnaire, keeping some of them intact, removing some and adding some of my own that would relate to the experiences the respondents would have had in writing in general and in writing for the anthology in particular. (I’m so good at writing run-on sentences, aren’t I!?)

There are ten of us in the anthology. I will eventually share all the Proustian Questionnaires here. I thought I would begin with the principles of the newly formed ID PRESS, which is the press bringing PURGATORIUM to the marketplace. Today, I thought I would share the responses I received from Connie Di Pietro and Dale Long. Without further ado, I bring you the slightly altered Proust Questionnaires of Connie & Dale…but we’ll just go ahead and call them the PURGATORIO DIALOGUES. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did! For me, reading their responses made me realize just why I chose these lovely people as friends.

Purgatorio Dialogues – I – Connie Di Pietro

Connie Di Pietro

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

My idea of perfect happiness is the comfort from the warm sun on my back, toes in the sand, rolling waves and my children’s laughter. My music, mornings spent writing, evenings spent reading, and a table surrounded by friends and family enjoying a wonderful meal together.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Not sure I have any one preferred genre. I do have those which I’d find difficult to attempt to write in, because I don’t read them. I do love the dark and twisted.

3. What is your greatest fear?

Waking up and finding that all my fingers had been lopped off and my tongue pulled from my mouth.

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

This, like the above, is difficult…as my reading is varied. But dark and twisted always does win out.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Stephen King, because he isn’t afraid to bend his genre and go beyond the traditional horror of blood and gore. Andrew Pyper is also a very generous man with his time and talent in helping those of us who are just learning how to climb the ladder.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

I had a fairly good grasp of the genre. I have been given the title Queen of the Macabre.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?


8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Same as it’s always been, there are so many varying degrees of horror. And sometimes the most horrific are the most realistic.

9. What else have you written?

Besides my cupboard filled with shelved stories, I’m currently working on the 2nd book of a trilogy about witches who travel through time trying to find their way back home in a time when witches were persecuted. I have another novel that is currently being shopped by my agent at The Right’s Factory. I have a short story in another anthology

10. When and where were you most afraid?

I was born in 1971. In 1973 my parents brought us to the drive-in theater, second billing was The Exorcist. That’s right…I stayed up in the back watching it. Still have quite a vivid memory of that. It took me deep into adulthood to watch it again without an afghan over my head as I peered through the knitting. And yes, you did the math right. I was 2 and a half, to be exact.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Pole-dancing. Imagine the shape I’d be in!!

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I’d like to come back rich and beautiful, because this whole nice thing doesn’t pay the bills so well.

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Seriously, the lowest depth of misery is treating others unfairly, unjustly and with inequality. It must be a very sad existence to think that you are better than everyone else around you.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

The Red Tent, The Secret (because I need the universe to get me off of the island), and Little Women.

15. Who are your favorite writers?

Anita Diamont, author of The Red Tent and Day after Night, Stephen King, and the Brontes….I know they are 2.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

(Not answered)

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

Whining and fighting….I do have 4 kids.

18. How would you like to die?

Never thought of dying much and my preference in the matter of which I would die, but I’d have to say in my old age while I slept after a wonderful meal surrounded by all my friends and family. I’d also like to know I would/could be in control of my own mortality.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?


20. What is your motto?

Teach Peace

On the Web, CONNIE can be found:

Connie di Pietro


Purgatorio Dialogues – II – Dale Long

Dale Long

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The waves at my feet, Wings on the BBQ, margarita in hand, surrounded by friends and family.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Genre? GENRE?? We don’t need no stinking genre!

3. What is your greatest fear?


4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Anything that is exceptionally written.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Mary Shelley. For starting it all off, for writing horror in a time when women weren’t seen as credible writers, for living through what she did.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

Running out of charcoal.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Success/fame. Are those virtues? In today’s age they seem to be.

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

Running out of charcoal and margarita.

9. What else have you written?

Middle grade ghost stories, old fashioned Christmas “scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago”, Humour short stories, life stories (eulogies), post apocalyptic science fiction and some fantasy.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

The day my wife got diagnosed with cancer. Sitting in the doctor’s office. It felt like the world cracked open and threatened to swallow us.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

To cure stupidity and ignorance.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?


13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Misery always has a lower depth.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

How To Build A Boat Out Of Sand by Neil Degrasse Tyson, Cooking with Coconuts by Deb Rankin, How To Make a Radio from Palm Trees by MacGuyver.

15. Who are your favorite writers?

All the writers in and around Purgatorium. I admire the ones that didn’t make it into the anthology for their grace and for putting themselves out there.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

Each time I open a well written book, that character becomes my hero of fiction.

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

The noise made when a Know-it-all opens their head hole.

18. How would you like to die?

I don’t like to die. Ever.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

Hearing my daughters sing when they don’t know I am listening.

20. What is your motto?

“To infinity and beyond!” No, that’s not it. “Live long and prosper!” Nope, that’s not it either. “I’m Batman!” Close, but not it. “You say that can’t be done, do you?” Yep. That’ll do.

On the Web, DALE can be found:

Dale Long





More Purgatorio Dialogues to come! Stay tuned!


Life is Change – Writing Outside the Comfort Zone (Purgatorium Comes)

The Jester’s Court Restaurant in Port Perry, Ontario, is housed in what is presumably one of Canada’s most haunted establishments. It was a fitting place to unveil the beautiful cover for the upcoming HORROR ANTHOLOGY —> PURGATORIUM!

Last night I had the extreme pleasure of being a part of a new and exciting creation. When you’re a member of one of the world’s most vibrant writing communities, these opportunities rise up often. They begin as a kernel of an idea, and then people jump on board and they blossom into real tangible things. When a group filled with creative vitality comes together, magic can happen. I witness that all the time as a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region WCDR.

ID Press is comprised of 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse…er, um…I mean 4 members of ‘THE BAD TABLE’.

Last year, the idea of creating an anthology of stories rose up out of the din of what a group of WCDR members affectionately refer to themselves as THE BAD TABLE. It was Connie De Pietro who came up with the original kernel. With much excitement, the idea was tossed and bandied about until it was formed into an actual possibility. And then creativity happened.

Pat Flewwelling, Connie Di Pietro, Dale Long, and, Tobin Elliott are ID PRESS.

From the first idea came the writing of and the submission of a collection of short horror stories. For some of us, it was an introduction to a genre we had not yet explored as writers. This was, in fact, a part of the original concept—STEP OUTSIDE YOUR ZONE OF COMFORT. As writers, we are constantly striving to better ourselves. One way to do this is to try something new. With a collection of dark storytellers at the helm, the horror concept was formed and it was eventually the premier genre that the group chose to run with.

Fast forward several months and ID PRESS (GO LIKE THEM ON FACEBOOK) rose up from the gossamer darkness that encapsulated THE BAD TABLE of WCDR members who sit at the back of their monthly ROUNDTABLE MEETINGS causing chaos and upheaval in the otherwise well-behaved room. From the chaos comes a well-oiled fine-tuned machine. And you know, I wouldn’t want to sit anywhere else. We’re rambunctious and giddy and loud…but these things are often needed in the formation of creative endeavors. I’m proud to sit among my friends in writing.

A Glimpse of the Cover for PURGATORIUM, an Anthology of dark stories…coming soon from ID PRESS.

What I loved most about the original idea was the forced capitulation from the comfort zone. All writers should try this occasionally. In fact, all creative people in any media should try it. It injects fresh blood into one’s creative process. One never knows until I tries. Growth can only happen with change.


“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” ~ Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr. The more things change, the more they stay the same. UNLESS you turn them on their heads. So cometh the horror!

To step into a genre you have never before written in is a terrifying thing. But we’re writers, right? It’s not like we are chemists working with a new element just recently discovered in the deep quagmire of a distant planet’s molten sea. Even if we do struggle and squirm in our attempts to explore the new genre, whatever the outcome, it most likely won’t result in our death. We will come out on the other end of the experience with new knowledge and new appreciation for the genre. Whatever that genre may be. As writers, it is important that we never disqualify or belittle a genre simply because we ourselves do not write in it. They are all important, they are all appreciated by the readers who love them.

I just had to include a friend selfie here! Mel and I at last night’s PURGATORIUM cover reveal get-together at Jester’s Court in Port Perry. Writer friends are the awesome!

If you’re a writer reading this blog right now, do yourself a favour. Think about a genre you would never in a million years imagine yourself entering into. Go to your local library and pick up a book in that genre. Read it. Listen to the way the story is formed, take note of the genre’s quirks and nuances. And when you’re finished reading the book, or several books in that genre, sit down and write. Give the genre a go. You’d be surprised not only by how difficult it is, but also by how easy it is. The elements of writing are the same across genres…it’s the elements of the genre that make the experience one of growth and enlightenment. You’re a writer…you already know what goes into making a good story. You just have to manipulate the way of thinking you have in your genre of choice in order to make yourself fit into the genre of the experiment.

If you attempt this genre-swapping experiment, you may discover a whole new appreciation for a genre you previously largely ignored both as a writer and as a reader. You may even discover a new genre to devour as a reader. What could be better than that?! I have always found that if I try something new I’m usually not disappointed. This is true of slipping into the reading of a genre I usually don’t explore. Change is good. Life is change.

The folks at THE BAD TABLE had an idea. And we ran with it. I am extremely thankful for the engine behind this idea—the smaller group among us who stepped forward as captains of this vessel of creativity. Because of them a simple idea took off and became a wondrous thing that we will soon unleash upon the world. I will share more details of this upcoming anthology as they are released. For now, I would just like to personally thank the powerhouse behind making an idea a tangible thing that I will soon be able to hold in my hands. A thing with a breathtakingly gorgeous cover (soon to be revealed) that I am extremely proud to be a part of. Thank you Connie, Tobin, Dale, and Pat. You are deeply appreciated. Your efforts and talents and vision are deeply appreciated. You are all the fire that burns in the depths of our Purgatorium, as well as the phoenix that rises from the ashes of that creativity fire.

PURGATORIUM! It’s coming!

Ontario Writers’ Conference – A Legacy of Creativity and a Labour of Love…

The Ontario Writers’ Conference Gang Through the Years! – LIsa Craveiro, Deborah Rankine, Barbara Hunt, Sherry Hinman, Rosalyn Cronin, Cynthia Rattey, Sylvia Chiang, Dorothea Helms, Cathy Minz, Collette Yvonne, Lana Cutrara, Sandra Clarke, Janet Kopp Boccone, Jessica Outram, Karen Cole, Kevin Craig, Naomi Mesbur, and, last but not least, Wayson Choy. (missing from the picture, and unable to attend last night, is Anne MacLachlan)

Last night the members of the various Ontario Writers’ Conference planning committees and Boards of Directors assembled in one place to celebrate the legacy that the organization has become. And, of course, we brought our Wayson along for the ride!

We met at the lovely Nice Bistro in Whitby, just north of the four corners. The din in that restaurant was quite staggering, considering it was a closed gathering comprised only of those you see in the swarming selfie animation above. All were excited to see one another and catch up on life in general as well as our various writing lives.

Missing from the collage of selfies above are the hundreds and hundreds of attendees who made the conference the success it was, as well as the amazing array of workshop presenters and speakers and readers the organization has amassed over the years of its existence. Each and every person who moved through the conference served to make it what it was—a thriving nurturing hotbed of creativity inspiration.

When the opportunity for speeches arose, Wayson Choy was soon front and centre. He has always been mesmerized by the vitality of the OWC. Once again, he spoke to the passion involved in assembling such a space for the growth of creativity. He was all gratefulness and grace, as always.

As organic as the conference was, though, it was also a well-oiled machine run flawlessly and with a constant drive and desire of making it better. Attending the Ontario Writers’ Conference had become the must do event of every spring and the reason to leave the house after another long cold Canadian winter. Upon the arrival of the 2016 conference, it was announced that there would be no more conferences. And a collective sigh rose up against this sad news. An event that connected its participants year after year was no longer going to be an impetus to create, and impetus to meet, an impetus to discover an impetus.

OWC – Friends!

Some of the patterns of attendance at the conference throughout the years spoke to its vitality and strength. What I affectionately referred to as the Ottawa Contingent seemed to pick up more writers along the way each year, perfectly demonstrating the they’ll-tell-two-friends-and-they’ll-tell-two-friends-and-so-on-and-so-on phenomenon first acted out in the old Faberge Organics Shampoo commercial. And we also saw workshop presenters become attendees as they looked around themselves at the conference and recognized the value in it.

A Selfie with Wayson.

The jewel in the crown was always the Honorary Patron, our very own Wayson Choy…with the conference from beginning to end. Wayson always delivered inspiration in his talks…an inspiration that would lift attendees’ souls and give them motivation to continue, to accept themselves on their individual paths, and to reach for more. In his caring and nurturing Wayson way, he reached down into the hearts of each of us and said, “It’s okay to write, to be a writer…tell your story.” Everywhere I go, I hear stories of how Wayson touched people who had been present in the audience at an Ontario Writers’ Conference event. He gave himself freely to all those in attendance, with grace and wit and light.



It will be sad not to have this annual meeting of like-minded creative people assembling in celebration of this thing we love. But from the ashes of the fire rises the phoenix. The OWC is not gone…it is merely changing. No, there won’t be a yearly conference like there was in the past. But keep an eye out for announcements. I’m sure they’ll come. The OWC promises more…

Keep your eye on Naomi Mesbur – The Future of the OWC Organization is Coming!



I Will Tell the Night – Muskoka Novel Marathon 2016 Best Adult Novel Award!

A writer is sometimes lost and sometimes found. And quite often it’s a monumental moment that causes the shift between those two delicately interconnected worlds to occur. This weekend, I had one of those moments. I am found.

The Dock at Dale & Sue Long’s Haliburton cottage on Lake Kashagawigamog this past Saturday morning, prior to our Hunter’s Bay Radio stop along the way to the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party!

I swear, sometimes it seems a writer’s life is made up of a series of gifts, miracles, and happenstances. Or so it very much seems to me. Every time I bring myself close to the edge of oblivion–to that place of writer/notwriter that I believe most writers go to–something or someone in my life brings me back to the heart.

Writers! From left to right, Tobin Elliott, Christine Cowley, myself, and, Dale Long. Tobin and Dale were interviewed together for an episode of the show appearing later in October. And Tobin helped out with the narration of my play THE SPEECH, which I performed with Christine.

This past weekend, I began one of my many cycles of intense writerly related periods. They seem to come and go. Nothing happens for weeks or months at a time to even remotely suggest that you may in fact be living the life of a writer, and then suddenly you find yourself in a chaotic hotbed of WRITERLY stuff.

What started as a thrilling adventure at the local radio station in Huntsville, Ontario, this weekend, culminated in discovering that I had won a much coveted writing prize. Again.

I was invited by writer friend Christine Cowley to be interviewed on her radio program STORYLINES on Huntsville’s Hunter’s Bay Radio. But not only was I interviewed, which was a thrill in and of itself, but I also performed one of my Trafalgar 24 plays for the radio program…along with Christine herself playing the role of the lead in the short play, and my other writer friend Tobin Elliott stepping in as narrator. It was such a fun time! The episode of Storylines airs in early October and I can’t wait to see how the performance went. It will be interesting to see if it translates well as a radio play.

We stayed in Haliburton over the weekend, taking up residence in the cottage and bunky of writer friend Dale Long and his wife Sue. It was a thoroughly enjoyable stay, filled with great laughs, amazing food and good friends. Dale is something of a BBQ aficionado and what he can do with a grill, a cedar plank and a side of salmon is almost religious.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Longs, the Elliotts, and the beauty of Haliburton.

After our stint as radio celebrities in the recording studios of Hunter’s Bay Radio Station, Dale, Tobin and I went to Kelsey’s in Huntsville with our significant others (Sue, Karen, and Michael) for a quick lunch prior to heading to the Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party. We were all excited to see who would take home the peer nominated awards and the Best Novel Awards this year. After the long summer that follows the July marathon, it’s always a special treat to head back to Huntsville and reunite with the other marathon writers…so the excitement we had felt at the radio station was only growing as the wrap up party approached.

The photo above-left shows the table full of awards handed out every year at the novel marathon wrap up party, from peer nominated awards to the judged Best Novel awards. On the right, Kate and Nancy from the YMCA revealed the total raised at this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon—A whopping $36,000.00. Just see what 40 writers can do when they put their hearts to something. ALL FUNDS raised go directly to the literacy programs of YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka Counties.

The Winners Take a Selfie! I was extremely thrilled to have been awarded the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon for my novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. And just as thrilled for the lovely Lori Manson, who took home the coveted BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD for her novel NED AND NORA STONE.

I did not think I would ever win the Best Novel Award again. I counted my 4 previous wins among my greatest feats in my writing life. With the amount of struggling I have done in recent years, I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this. It is the vote of confidence I needed to continue writing. It’s pure unadulterated validation.

I would like to thank Dale Long for two things. The first…over 24hrs into the marathon, I still did not have my novel started. I couldn’t connect. Dale told me to tell my story—just shake it up and make it fiction. Or something along those lines. So I said, “What have I got to lose…might as well do something!” He stirred my creativity and got me started. The second thing he did? I wrote my two title considerations down on a piece of paper, looked about the room until I saw Dale (who happened to win this year’s SPIRIT AWARD–for the 2nd year running) sitting and typing…then I approached him and asked him which he preferred. So, it is because of his choice that my novel is called I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. THANKS, DALE!

Here it is! My name on the Best Novel Award trophy again! VALIDATION!

A list of my Best Novel Award wins:

2007 – Best Adult Novel for SEBASTIAN’S POET

2008 – Best Adult Novel for THE REASONS

2010 – Best Young Adult Novel for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN

2011 – Best Young Adult Novel for THAT’S ME IN THE CORNER

2016 – Best Adult Novel Award for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT

What an incredible weekend. Filled with affirmations, friends, laughter, food, love, light and life. I want to thank Tobin’s wife, Karen, for starting the snowball-rolling-down-a-hill conversation that culminated in the arrival of my new nickname, which I will expect to be addressed by from this day forth. I am LORD AWA (awa aka AWARD WINNING AUTHOR).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript to pound into shape! I am now tasked with the great burden and joy of completing and polishing my novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT, in preparation of submission. (-:

Stay tuned to this spot! My spate of WRITERLY related chaos is still ongoing this time around. Tonight and tomorrow night I have some exciting writerly events happening that I’m sure I will want to write about. Stay tuned!

Violently Happy – The Sedona Syndrome

“Violently happy
it will get me into trouble.
Violently happy
I’m driving my car
too fast
with ecstatic music on” ~ BJORK

The rush of emotions I felt while staying in Sedona was very real. And very intense. I can’t imagine living there and EVER getting used to it. Take a place like that for granted? Never! It’s funny…there was much talk about the vortexes that could be found there. But it seemed to me that the entire place was one big vortex of energy…and it made me feel in-sync with the everything in a way I had never felt before. I felt violently happy.

“Sedona spiritual vortexes are powerful and transformational energy centers that are located at specific sites throughout Sedona, Arizona. Vortexes are the intersections of natural electromagnetic earth energy, also known as ley lines.” ~ From the website SEDONA RED ROCK TOURS.


It was a two-hour car trip from our place in Sedona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. And it was a beautiful drive, filled with insane mountain twists and turns that brought us to a dramatically higher elevation. And with the top down in the early morning hours we came to understand just how cold it got in Arizona when the sun was not up!

My first real glimpse of the Grand Canyon. South Rim from a lookout we came to after parking the car and walking towards the trailhead. This must be the place!

We set out fairly early in the morning, as we knew it would be a long day of hiking down into and up out of the canyon. To think I didn’t think I wanted to do the Canyon. I don’t know what I was thinking…having the red rocks of Sedona on my bucketlist, but not having the greatest hole in the history of holes on the same list?! From the moment I knew I was going to see the Canyon, my thoughts on it began to change. Of course I should want to see something so incredibly beautiful. As we put it on our list of attractions we would visit on the trip, I added it to my bucketlist…feeling slightly guilty that it wasn’t already there.

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I would say WE chose Bright Angel Trail for our excursion down into the Canyon, but if I did I would be lying. I chose nothing…I only thrilled at the trails that were chosen for me. I remained blissfully unaware of the paths chosen for me until we arrived each day at the various trailheads. Each one was perfect! Including BRIGHT ANGEL…

I’m not going to lie…GOING UP was difficult. But it wasn’t TOO difficult. I’ve been hiking and walking and jogging and running for a couple of years now…so I was ready for the hike up out of the Canyon. But it wasn’t a walk in the park.

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This sign kind of says it all. Go down only as much as you think you can climb back up. No further. And there’s no shame in resting along the way back out of the Canyon.

This was one of the longest treks we took and by far the most populated. There were a lot of people on this trail. I wasn’t the least bit surprised. Is there anything more beautiful?

The Bright Angel Trail was probably also the most well-formed of all the trails we were on in our week in Arizona. The trail was wide and clearly indicated all the way to the bottom…with two rest stops along the way for water and bio-breaks. It was quite impeccable and user-friendly, as trails go.

And I never tired of looking up, down and all around me. Every glance gave another gift to the eye and the soul. So much beauty…and to think I almost said no to this incredible force of nature.

The vastness of the Grand Canyon makes one simultaneously disappear into oblivion and feel more vital and alive and big than ever before. It’s the equivalent of a spiritual enlightenment if ever there was one…

DAY 6! BELL ROCK AND THE COURTHOUSE BUTTE! Our final HIKE day. We originally decided to have Thursday as a day of rest before our Friday all-day trip back home to Toronto. But I couldn’t imagine being there for a day and NOT hiking. There were two trails fairly close to home and side by side with one another that we decided to try on our last full day in Sedona. They were easy…so it would be sort of a rest day. (-;

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There were many places along the perimeter of Bell Rock where you could climb and explore. Such a beautiful place! This was only a skip and a jump up on a ledge near the bottom…nowhere near the top.

Probably one of the easier hikes we did in our week…it was a trail that circumnavigated the two attractions. One big circle of a hike with two beautiful formations in the middle…or so I thought. There was a third, much smaller formation that was no less beautiful. I never did find out what it was called, but it took my breath away…

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Is it weird that I saw these as four little witches having a little huddle? I swear, I felt their scheming and heard their cackling…

As with the notion that going down is voluntary but coming up is mandatory at the Grand Canyon, one should never bite off more than they can chew on ANY trail in the desert like conditions of Sedona and the surrounding area. On this trail (We actually did the BIG PARK LOOP TRAIL—which incorporated the two other trails on the site) we came upon someone in clear distress…someone who misjudged his ability to complete the trail. We stopped about a quarter of the way along the trail to help a man rise to his feet…with the assistance of his friend. And I scoured the brush just off the trail to find them a walking stick to further support him until they made their way back off the trail and to their car. It’s never a good idea to take to the trails if you’re not one-hundred percent certain you can finish it. This man was clearly in deep distress. I was glad to see them heading straight for the exit and not redoubling their efforts to push forward.

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We decided to bring our shadows with us on this trip. It’s always comforting to find them either trailing behind us or showing us the way!

Although this was an easy trail to walk, there were certainly a lot of things to climb and explore along the way. It was absolutely a FUN trail to do…and I would highly recommend it!

This is the formation I mentioned earlier whose name I couldn’t seem to discover. If you happen upon this blog and know the name of this formation, please let me know in the comments!


I called that unknown formation THE MUSHROOM…for obvious reasons. My one desire, once it came into view, was simply to TOUCH it. I thought, ‘If I could just touch that awesome formation, my day will be made.’ The closer we got to it, the more I realized my wish would come true…but I had no idea just HOW thrilled I would eventually become!

As you might be able to see in the collection of photos above, I was not only able to touch THE MUSHROOM…but I was also able to climb to its very pinnacle and look out at the vastness of the area from its tippy top stepping stone right smack-dab in the centre of it! This little formation became one of the highlights of the trip for me. It just sort of took my breath away when we walked around the corner of Courthouse Butte and saw it sitting there all by itself all pretty and mushroomy and whatnot. ❤

At the end of our trail when I heard, “If you want to climb Bell Rock, I’ll wait down here for you.” I jumped at the opportunity  and practically flew up that rock! If you see little specks of people down below me in this pic, they are actually ON bell rock…there are several layers of it below them and I’m several layers above them. It was such a fun climb…I just jumped from rock to rock, slope to slope until I reached the point I wanted to get to. What a beautiful vista down below. As I walked around up there, I was able to take in everything else in the area…including the highway and all the buttes and hills strewn about…

What an amazing day Day 6 turned out to be. A day of rest morphed into one of the most memorable days of an incredibly memorable trip!

After that incredible hike, we had one last afternoon at the pool followed by one last evening out on a beautiful Sedona restaurant patio. It was a revisit to THE HUDSON…one of the first restaurants of the week. We loved it so much, we rebooked before leaving the first time.

If you ever go to Sedona and you’re looking for a place to eat…please make sure that wherever you go, you ask for the patio! I’m quite certain wherever you land, you can’t go wrong. The town is literally surrounded by mountains.

Well, that’s it. Sedona and Arizona in a nutshell. It was literally one of the hardest places I have ever in my life had to leave. But I will definitely carry it with me always and forever. In fact, I’m quite certain I’ll be back. One day…

This is 50! (x 2 = 100!)

On the Occasion of my 50th Birthday! Sedona at its Best..

September 13, 2016 – A Milestone Birthday Celebrated in Paradise! THIS is 50!

Day 4 – West Fork Trail at Oak Creek AND Thomas Point Trail!

BUT FIRST! Huevos Rancheros! Before setting out to hike the West Fork Trail, we went to a little restaurant I saw down the street from where we were staying. I LOVE huevos rancheros! And with a name like HUEVOS, this restaurant spoke to me immediately!

I was NOT disappointed. Their huevos were incredible!

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When in Sedona, Arizona, do yourself a favour and stop by HUEVOS – A MORNING EATERY. Their huevos rancheros are top notch!

After an amazing breakfast, we were ready to really begin the first day of my 50s.

Sedona has so much more to offer than red rock. It really opened up to us on my birthday. The West Fork Trail was lush and beautiful. If you do the whole trail, to the end and back, you get to cross the meandering creek a couple dozen times. Sometimes, this is done on strategically placed rocks, and sometimes it is done on logs and branches.

While walking the West Fork Trail, you’re down in a valley of sorts…and it doesn’t matter in what direction you look up into, you will find the beautiful mountains and rock outcroppings that Sedona is famous for. They’re everywhere. But the trail is simpler and more relaxing than a lot of the other trails…because of the way it’s nestled in the forest valley. If you do this trail, it will give you a nice variety of scenery AND a pleasant cool walk.

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On our way out of West Fork Trail, I decided to leave a little something behind…a token of Canadiana. Just like the ones you will see alongside any highway or byway in our own country. An INUKSHUK!

After the pleasant trail in the West Fork on Oak Creek, it was time to cross the street and see what Thomas Point Trail was all about. For a 50th birthday, I’m pretty sure it was one of the best on record. I don’t know how it could have been better…

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One thing to point out about Thomas Point is that the trail was hard to find. We almost gave up on it. You are led to believe you’re on it, and then the path you’ve taken leads to exactly nothing…but dead-ends. I was just beginning to feel a sense of relief that we weren’t going to climb the almost 1000 ft to the top when we discovered our wrong turn and found the right path!

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While getting slightly lost and turned around on Thomas Point Trail, we were momentarily pummeled by a short freak hailstorm.

After finding the proper trail, we made our way up the rather big hill or small mountain. At first, prior to coming out into the open, we criss-crossed our way up the forest. This was difficult but not too difficult…strenuous but not too strenuous. It was when everything opened up that we felt a little more vulnerable. The path narrowed and it suddenly felt like we were no longer climbing a hill, but a mountain side. And the edge was right there beckoning to us with every footstep. And cacti appeared and other desert flora.

Yes, it was steep. Yes, it was incredibly windy at the top and it felt like the mountain was fighting to kick me off, and YES! I did wave my hiking towel over my head in victory. THIS IS 50!

Word of advice if you ever find yourself looking for the trail on Thomas Point Trail…LOOK. Once you find it, you’ll be glad you did. The vistas that open up to you once you get up and out in the open are heart-stopping and breathtakingly beautiful! SEEK AND YOU SHALL FIND. And if you don’t find it, go back across the road to the person on duty at the parking and ask. It really is a must see (sort of secret-ish) trail.

After a long day of hiking, climbing, creek-crossing, laughing, loving, running, walking, and inukshuk making, we were ready to head back down to Sedona proper.

I found it very difficult not to take pics from the car for the entire duration of  our holiday. Everything was just TOO beautiful. The 5000ft elevation sign on the roadside was posted on the way down the enormous hills that took us to the trails…so I’d estimate that we were somewhere around 6000ft while hiking…although we were down in a valley. Elevation was pretty mysterious in Sedona. We were HIGH!

After a long day of trails and mountains and driving, we were ready for dinner. And with a creekside table, L’Auberge de Sedona was ready for us! I will never forget the day I turned 50…and I will never forget the meal I had at L’Auberge that day. We were both celebrating 50…so it was a combined 100-Celebration, as it were. (-: The restaurant was fabulous…every plate was a feast not only for the mouth but for the eye. The fois gras was the best I’ve ever had. Even the dessert was special. Who gets pearls on their dessert? And the waiter was fantastic. He even handled our Scared-Canadians grilling about the upcoming election with finesse and aplomb.

This was a birthday I couldn’t even imagine being around for at one time. I’m glad I made it. And with any luck, it’s just the beginning. I mean, fifty is still young, right? It’s the trailblazing and mountain-climbing age. We have a few good years left in us.

(The rest of the trip will be covered in a third post.) And, yes, dear reader…these posts are just as much for me. When I’m old and grey(er) I’ll be able to find out what I did on my 50th birthday, simply by reading this post. God willing.

Driving back down into Sedona with the top down on the Camaro. This is 50!

This Must Be the Place – Sedona, Arizona


I always found the song This Must Be the Place by the Talking Heads to be so incredibly ethereal. From the first chords of the song, I can feel myself welling up. The definition for ethereal is truly the way I feel about that song– “extremely delicate and light in a way that seems too perfect for this world.”

“Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me around
I feel numb, born with a weak heart
Guess I must be having fun…” ~ This Must Be the Place by the Talking Heads

It’s a delicate song…flawless and light, even effervescent. It seems too perfect for the bold brashness of this world.

“There was a time before we were born
If someone asks, this is where I’ll be, where I’ll be…” ~ This Must Be the Place by the Talking Heads

I believe I have found this song’s doppelgänger in PLACE. I didn’t know what to expect when we recently headed down to Sedona for a hiking vacation. I just knew that the red rocks of Arizona were always on my bucket-list. And that it was a place I had to visit before dying.

I was taking pictures before we even finished our two hour car ride from the Phoenix airport to Sedona…

“Feet on the ground, head in the sky
It’s okay, I know nothing’s wrong, nothing…” ~ This Must Be the Place by the Talking Heads


From the moment we landed, I knew that I was coming home (one of the many ‘soul’ homes I have discovered around the world, I should add). Once I had my feet on the ground–and my head in that sky–I knew it would be the most painful thing to leave there. From day one, Sedona was a breathtaking beauty I have yet to discover anywhere else in the world.

I have to confess here that I did absolutely zero of the heavy planning that was involved in this trip. I simply gave the vague idea that hiking red rock and desert and Arizona was high on my bucket-list. Here’s the itinerary as I remember it (Not including the day we arrived):

Day 1 – Guided Trolley Ride that included the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The trolley driver and tour guide was amazing! A Vietnam vet with a thousand stories. He had been everywhere and done everything. He was as entertaining as the scenery was beautiful. If you go to Sedona, a great way to begin your journey is by easing into things with a Trolley tour. SEDONA TROLLEY

Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona (a church built into the buttes)
The church was gorgeous inside and out.
As with most days, Day 1 was capped off with an afternoon at the mostly abandoned pool. The last stop prior to an evening of dining amidst the scenic views of Sedona’s restaurant patios.

Day 1 Restaurant Choice was THE HUDSON. It was so good, and the views were so amazing, that we secured a reservation for later in the week before we left. The pics below show the views from our patio table, the butcher’s block (charcuterie), and, a statue we encountered just prior to entering the restaurant. There’s a couple art galleries in the same mall parking, and there are plenty of beautiful sculptures and statues throughout the area. This one, of a boy lifting a frog up out of a pool of water, reminded me of my grandson Edward and his lifetime love of all things FROGGY and GREEN! I mean, that statue IS him.

Day 2 – Airport Loop! This was a fun hike. Just a short walk from where we were staying, we got to add a couple miles to the hike just by walking there. What surprised me about the Loop, right at the onset of the hike, was how seemingly dangerous it felt. You were CLOSE to the edge right away. Rather thrilling when I was expecting an EASY hike.

The prickly pear cactus (Seen in the pick above, with the red berries growing on them) is quite beautiful, as cacti go. And they can be found all through the hills and valleys of Sedona. Our trolley guide explained to us that he picks the berries and his wife makes prickly pear jelly with them.

The restaurant patio of the day was SALTROCK SOUTHWEST KITCHEN. It had a lovely view and an amazing martini that was as spicy as it was boozy. The food was delicious and our waitress was awesome. There was one little hitch I noticed, but it didn’t take away from the overall experience, really. A visitor to our table seemed uncomfortably awkward each time he appeared (Once dumping bread on a fly-by and telling us it was free and to eat it). Other than that, it was quite lovely.

Next up? Day 3 – Chuckwagon Trail and DEVIL’S BRIDGE! Devil’s Bridge was one of the extreme highlights of the hiking tour, which I’m sure it is for many-a hikers.

Chuckwagon Trail was so indicative of the Western movies I grew up on in the 70s. It was down in a valley filled with rock and dried creekbed and cactus and dessert shrubbery…with 360 views of mountains, mesas and outcropping. Marvelous beauty…a perfect film set!

Even with all the wonder and beauty offered to us hiking through Chuckwagon, we were not prepared for what we were about to encounter!


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The bridge was dangerous and thrilling…exactly what I was expecting from a medium hike in beautiful Sedona. It was heart-racing to be out on that ledge far above the valley below. Absolutely loved this entire day…it was a great mix of landscapes and scenery!

I’ll cover day 4 and onward in a separate post, as I’m afraid this one is getting too long. Must get it all out before the details blur together and become not day after day after day, but rather THAT trip to Arizona. (-: