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On Writing Writing Life

It’s Been 13 Years & I Love You Just the Same…

Today marks the 13th anniversary of this website. I’ve been babbling about writing and travelling and life for a long time on this platform! When I returned to writing in 2002, after a rather lengthy absence, I thought it would only be for a couple years. I was just working through some heavy stuff at the time and figured I’d get my words down and abandon the creative pastime when I was done with the cleanse. Turns out it was a return to a passion that haunted me my entire life…one I avoided for various reasons I don’t really feel like getting into. I’m grateful the return was permanent…as permanent as something can be in an ever changing universe. Writing brings me no end of pleasure. It always has…even while I avoided it. A writer is always writing…even when they’re not. From 2002 to 2007, I was seriously prolific. I was purging decades…attempting all the various forms of writing at once, from poetry to short fiction to song writing to memoir to novels to articles. You name it…that 5 year period had me trying everything.

I have had SO MUCH FUN! 6 novels published, a 7th sold. 5 Muskoka Novel Marathon BEST NOVEL AWARDS. Memoir recorded on CBC Radio. Memoir published in Globe & Mail. Poetry published all over the world. 12 plays produced…all over the world. Contests wins. Short stories published. Anthology inclusions. Anthologies contacting me for content. It’s been a whirlwind. But I’m JUST GETTING STARTED. (-:

I’m so grateful I decided to create this blog/website. It’s the thing that’s kept be going after I wasn’t so sure I should. So, HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MY CREATIVITY!

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Categories
LGBTQ Fiction Paris Short Story

A Short Story for My Readers –

Here’s a short story about a lesbian couple taking a spontaneous trip to Paris in the midst of a crisis. It won 3rd place in a recent short story contest.

Paris at Sunset and Into the Night

A new beginning, she said. A chance to reconnect. To say we needed one was more than a little misleading. We’ve never been closer. I was more than willing, however, to accept Annie’s reasoning on calling it a new beginning on our year instead of on our lives. It’s only early June and I’m ready to pack this year away and never look back on it. When Annie mentioned Paris, it took me three seconds to say yes.

And now we’re here and I’m trying my best not to regret our spontaneous decision. We’ve left so much chaos back home, I find it difficult to focus on anything else.

“Remember our first trip here?” Annie says. We’re holding hands and standing in the middle of the bridge closest to the Eiffel Tower. It’s where we come at sunset to see the sun turn the Seine into a river of liquid gold just moments before the tower bursts into life with its spectacular light-show. “Remember how we didn’t know about the lights? How we both gasped in disbelief as it began?”

“Yeah,” I say, squeezing her hand a little tighter. “It was pure magic. You never get first times like that ever again, though, do you?”

“Nonsense, Margo,” Annie says with a hint of laughter. “Shame on your pessimism. Just you wait. It’s almost time. Don’t you remember?”

The sun begins to sink behind the buildings in the distance. I don’t feel the joy I felt the first time. There’s too much weighing on me. The first time, we were young. Invincible. And relatively new to each other. It seems like a millennium ago now. Though we’ve been back since, I’ve never been to Paris bearing such a burden as the one I now carry. This time, it’s different. Tainted.

“Our first time was over forty years ago, Annie. You can’t remember to take the garbage out. Besides, I’m almost certain you’re mis-remembering the lights. They didn’t start until sometime in the eighties. Our first trip here was in 1977.”

“For the Marche des Fiertés LGBT.” Annie turns to me and her smile is more than I can bear. “First one. Of course I remember it, Margo. I’ll never forget it. We were warriors.”

“There were no lights that first time. Or, at least no light show. Not like they have now.”

“Semantics,” Annie says. “First trip, first trip with the lights. Whichever. You knew what I meant.”

I did. And it’s not the first time I’ve called her on things. I can’t get away from myself these days. All I do is nitpick and whine.

“Let’s just enjoy the lights, shall we? Then we can head back to the flat before it gets too late.”

“We have all the time in the world, sweetie,” Annie says, her voice dreamy with misguided optimism. With lies. “No need to rush the evening away.”

Time has recently become the only thing in the world we do not have enough of. I turn to say something, but Annie puts a finger to my lips. “Ut tut tut. Don’t spoil the moment. You promised.”

Another thing I hate about myself of late. I keep making and breaking promises. There’s no way I can keep them all. One of us needs to be realistic. One of us needs to take this seriously and see it for what it is.

I relent, for her sake. I turn back to the view of the river and try to enjoy the way the sun’s rays melt into the golden chop of the gentle current. Just as I turn back, a big Bateaux Mouches passes under the bridge and comes into view below us. Voices from excited tourists on the top deck rise up to greet us. One of them catches my gaze and waves up at me. I return the wave and call out a quick, “Hello.”

Soon all heads on the open deck of the boat turn upwards and everyone waves. Annie’s smile blooms anew and she practically jumps for joy as she returns their greetings.

“See, Margo,” Annie says as the din of greetings dies down. The boat stops in the near distance to give the tourists a premium view of the upcoming light-show. I’m sure they paid a ridiculous premium for the vantage point. “Magic happens in this spot. It’s our spot, here. Our Paris.”

“I love you, Annie Willis. All of you. Completely.”

“What brought that on, sweetie?” Annie says. “Those are the first kind words you’ve said to me since we got off the plane. This is not like you.”

“Oh, please, Annie,” I say. I cringe because I know she’s right. But I don’t know how to calm down, take things in stride. “Just shut up and tell me you love me back. I’m war-torn and tired. I’m trying my best to navigate this landmine on your terms.”

“I’d give you the world if I could, Margo Wright,” Annie says. She winks and pulls a bottle of champagne from the grocery bag she’s been carrying since she arrived back at the flat and told me we were going for a walk down by the Seine. Before I have a chance to react, she hauls out two plastic wine glasses. “It was true when I fell in love with your dumb ass forty-three years ago, and it’s true today.”

I take the glasses from her as she sets the bag against the railing of the bridge and makes to open the champagne.

“Why are you the one who always gets to be so full of surprises?” I say. “I swear.”

“Because I really do love you,” Annie says. This has become a constant reply to this type of question. She’s as predictable as she is full of surprises. It’s what I like most about her, what drew me to her. She was home, only different. Better. “And you, on the other hand, are only sticking around for a good time.”

She couldn’t possibly be any further from the truth. It was here in Paris that I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this crazy woman. Back at that first Marche des Fiertés LGBT. Looking back at pictures, two things were obvious from that first trip we ever took together. One, the seventies would mock us from afar for the rest of our lives. Perms, flares and day-glo lipstick do not age well. And two, the way we looked at each other in those pictures. Fists raised to the sky in revolt and reverence, arms wrapped around one another as though we were afraid we would float away if we didn’t hold on. Those pictures scream love. Undeniably.

“Shut up and pour,” I say, holding the glasses out in anticipation. The cork shoots off and into the air above us. It unexpectedly arcs out over the river and plunges into its current. Annie covers her mouth, which is frozen in an O of shocked exclamation.

“Oops,” she says. There is laughter in her eyes. It is there always, come what may. I wish I could learn to take things in stride like she does. You would think some of her positivity would have rubbed off on me after so many years together. I seem to have learned nothing.

Annie fills both glasses and sets the bottle down beside the shopping bag. As she takes her glass and raises it into the last of the dying sunset, she says, “To us! To how far Marche des Fiertés LGBT and all the other marches have come, and to us! We’ve had such a great life, Margo. We’ve seen so many wonderful moments. Like the city of lights, we are immortal. To us. Forever.”

I bite my tongue. I have to.

“To us, baby,” I say, choking back tears as the solemnity of the moment does its best to smother me in its grip.

Our glasses find each other and offer a faint dull plastic click as they meet. Someone from the boat sees our raised glasses and offers up a hoot into the relative silence. This is followed by a growing round of applause as the rest of the tourists spot our toast and join in on the celebration, even though they have no idea how somber the moment is between us.

Or maybe they have the right idea.

For the entire two months since her diagnosis, I’ve been fluctuating between gratefulness and despair…thankfulness and hostility. I’ve always been the frugal one, the level-headed one, the pessimist, the ballast keeping Annie’s exuberance from floating us away like balloons on a trade-wind to someplace more exotic and unpredictable. I’m Debbie Downer to her Mary Poppins.

I almost said no the other night when she whispered, “Let’s go to Paris,” as I began to doze off. It was out of the blue and she caught me just before my final plunge into another night of bad dreams and restless sleep. Perhaps being caught off guard is what saved me this time.

Even though it took me mere seconds to say yes, the no was the thing that came immediately to my lips. I pushed back against it and banished it away, forcing it back down my throat as the yes rushed out. I have a long history of saying no and it’s a history I can no longer get back. I can’t bear to think of the missed opportunities I shot down for one insignificant reason or another.

We sip our champagne even though I have no idea what it is I’m celebrating.

“We saw the world change around us, pretty girl,” Annie says. “We have time to see more and you know it.”

“I’m scared, Annie.”

“You know me, Margo,” she says. “Nobody likes a challenge like I do. We have lots of work to do back home. I’m stubborn enough to stay long enough to get it done. This trip? It’s just a breather. We’re here to regroup.”

“I’m sorry. I should be more supportive. I’m just scared. Sixty years isn’t enough. We haven’t done all the things I’ve said no to yet, Annie.”

“Never apologize, Margo. You’re the sane one in our relationship. You keep me grounded.”

I swipe an errant tear as bile rises in my stomach. It’s the anger I feel with myself for the wasted bits. Annie merely smiles. She hands me her plastic glass, now less than half full, and bends to grab something else from her shopping bag of surprises. When she comes back up with the two pink pussy hats we made last summer for the Washington rally, all I can do is laugh. I’m not sure how to stop.

“What?” she says. “You didn’t think I’d leave home without them, did you?”

“Annie,” I say, grabbing one of the hats and pulling it down over my head, not giving a good goddamn what it does to my hair. “What the hell am I ever going to do with you?”

We laugh, but somewhere deep down inside I’m asking myself a very different question. What will I ever do without her?

“I’m not done yet, my love.” Annie puts the other hat on and reaches in to plant a kiss on my unsuspecting lips. Our teeth click together and we giggle before managing to get it right.

Annie poses us for a selfie with the tower in the background. It’s very similar to the ones we’ve taken all along in this spot, long before they were ever called selfies. Smiles on our faces and pussy hats blazing, she snaps the shot. I know she’ll post it soon on either Instagram or Facebook, and it’ll be accompanied by some harsh words of condemnation and battle cries for revolt…but the thing most people will see is what will make the heart of the shot and give it likes and mileage. Even after all these years, at the heart of it all we’re just two girls in love.

The tourists in the boat below us rise up into another cacophony of applause. This time, though, it’s not for us. The Eiffel Tower bursts into light as the darkness becomes complete.

I hand Annie back her glass before I finish my champagne and toss my own glass into the bag at our feet. Annie finishes her drink and bends down to pack things away properly. As she straightens up, I reach in for another kiss. We pull away and take in the shimmering display of lights on the tower. The world around us has fallen into a hush as everyone flocked about the tower looks on in awe.

Annie stands beside me in all her pussy hat splendor. I wonder at the way she takes in the lights like it’s the first time she’s ever seen them. My lone thought fills me with hope. The world still needs Annie Willis just as much as I need her. This truth soothes me more than a spontaneous trip to our favorite city ever could. Annie’s not done fighting. The least I can do is be in her corner.

THE END

CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT MY LATEST NOVEL THE CAMINO CLUB, AVAILABLE NOW FOR PREORDER ON AMAZON KINDLE!

(Pictures are my own, taken during my 2014 trip to Paris with the LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT.)

Categories
Camino Camino de Santiago Duet Books Interlude Press The Camino Club

Ahead of the Cover Reveal, THE CAMINO CLUB is Listed on Amazon!

caminoclub

Ahead of the cover reveal for my upcoming release, THE CAMINO CLUB (Duet Books/Interlude Press, OCT2020), I have discovered the novel is already linked (Kindle Version) on Amazon! It’s all beginning to come together! I’m getting so excited for this story to be out in the big wide open!

Here’s the link for AMAZON USA.

Here’s the link for AMAZON CANADA.

And here’s a couple photos of Michael and I actually ON the Camino this past September, and in front of the Cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. (Like Dorothy, we discovered the journey was more important than the destination. Unlike Dorothy, we had to do more than click our heels together in order to get back home.) We walked the famous pilgrimage route in Spain from Astorga to Santiago de Compostela. Some 347,000 pilgrims walked the Camino in 2019. We were only 2 of them. We’ll be back there soon!

Stay tuned for the cover reveal of my Camino novel. It’s a GLORIOUS cover and I cannot wait to share it!

 

Here’s the blurb from Amazon:

THE CAMINO CLUB – After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court-appointed counselor guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

Also, please consider adding THE CAMINO CLUB on GOODREADS!

Categories
Camino de Santiago Canadian Company of Pilgrims Laurie Dennett The Camino

A Hug for the Camino -Laurie Dennett Appearance at St. Thomas Church in Toronto on December 7, 2019

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After recently reading A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE and attending an informative talk by Laurie Dennett at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, I’m excited for this next appearance by the author who walked the Camino de Santiago in 1986 as a fundraising effort for MS research. In her last talk, Ms. Dennett focused on the late parish priest of O Cebreiro, Don Elías Valiña Sampedro, who made it his life’s mission to reinvigorate the famous pilgrimage route that weaves its way through France and Spain to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela and beyond to Finisterre at the end of the world.

Laurie Dennett will make her way from St. James Church up to St Thomas’s Church for her next speaking engagement. This talk will be more informal, with readings from her book as well as discussion on the Camino itself. A Q and A with audience members will be included, as well as discussion with members of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims regarding the ways the pilgrimage route has changed–and stayed the same–over the years.

If the Camino is sneaking its way into your life, as it is wont to do, you should make your way to St. Thomas Church on December 7th. They say that once you hear about the Camino, it grows in you until you answer its call. You may not know this, but your pilgrimage has already begun. What better way to ignite it and urge it on than through an afternoon of lively Camino conversation with fellow peregrinos (pilgrims)?! The event is put on by the TORONTO CHAPTER OF THE CANADIAN COMPANY OF PILGRIMS. Admission is $15. Tickets are available online HERE through this link or at the door.

Ms. Dennett’s book, A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE, will be available for purchase at the event. She will happily to sign it for either yourself or a lucky reader on your Christmas gift-list. It’s a wonderful read, filled with history, the camaraderie of the pilgrim lifestyle, humour, and the trials and tribulations of the adventures Ms. Dennett faced out on the road during her pilgrimage to Santiago.

Categories
Camino de Santiago Inkslinger Interlude Press Left Bank Writers Retreat Leftbank Writers Retreat Writers Writers Community of Durham Region

Christmas Gift Ideas for Readers and Writers

I think I did this once before, though I don’t recall. I thought I would compile a Christmas Wishlist for readers and writers. The READER part of the list will be based on books I have myself read this past year. Please keep in mind that I read mostly in the area in which I write, young adult fiction. You’ll recognize one of my other passions through the other books I choose to highlight, if you don’t already know it through my previous posts. (-;

CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST FOR READERS AND WRITERS

READERS

1. FULL DISCLOSURE by CAMRYN GARRETT: I absolutely loved this story! It’s funny, heartwarming, and a pure delight. It’s filled with theatre kids and the relationship between Simone and Miles is adorable. The sensitive subject matter is expertly handled. I’d recommend it for those who love YA and those who seldom read it. It was an exceptional story. I cannot wait to see what Miss Garrett comes up with next.

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(From GOODREADS) Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

FULL DISCLOSURE ON AMAZON

2. HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON by JULIAN WINTERS: This book was long awaited, as I devoured RUNNING WITH LIONS the previous year. Remy is a teenager struggling with identity; adopted, black, gay, brother, son. When asked to write an essay to explain who he is, he sort of comes to an existential crisis. Throw in the fact that he’s discovering a new romance while simultaneously being contacted by a previously unknown half-sibling, and you have the makings for a perfect storm of awesome YA-ness. I couldn’t read this book fast enough. Your YA reader will fall in love with Remy and his world. Julian is really the reason I sought out publication through Duet Books/Interlude Press. He’s just a lovely person…and I have fallen in love with the fictional worlds he creates.

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(From GOODREADS) Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself. So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.

HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON ON AMAZON

3. WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD (A THOUSAND MILES ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO) by BETH JUSINO: I can’t say enough about this book. I absolutely loved it. It came out in October 2018 and I have already read it three times. If you have a traveler on your gift list, whether or not they have ever heard of the world-famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, they will love this accounting of its wonders. Trust me when I say that this book under any traveling-reader’s tree will make their January. I keep it on my bedside table.

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(From AMAZON) In April 2015, Beth and Eric Jusino, laden with backpacks and nerves, walked out of a cathedral in the historic village of Le Puy, France, down a cobblestone street, and turned west. Seventy-nine days, a thousand miles, two countries, two mountain ranges, and three pairs of shoes later, they reached the Atlantic Ocean.

More than two million pilgrims have walked the Way of Saint James, a long-distance hiking trail familiar to most Americans by its Spanish name, the Camino de Santiago. Each pilgrim has their own reason for undertaking the journey. For the Jusinos, it was about taking a break from the relentless pace of modern life and getting away from all their electronic devices. And how hard could it be, Beth reasoned, to walk twelve to fifteen miles a day, especially with the promise of real beds and local wine every night? Simple.

It turned out to be harder than she thought. Beth is not an athlete, not into extreme adventures, and, she insists, not a risk-taker. She didn’t speak a word of French when she set out, and her Spanish was atrocious. But she can tell a story. In Walking to the End of the World, she shares, with wry humor and infectious enthusiasm, the joys and travails of undertaking such a journey. She evocatively describes the terrain and the route’s history, her fellow pilgrims, and the villages passed, and the unexpected challenges and charms of the experience.

Beth’s story is also about the assurance that an outdoor-based, boundary-stretching adventure is accessible to even the most unlikely of us. In her story, readers will feel that they, too, can get off their comfortable couches and do something unexpected and even spectacular.

Walking to the End of the World is a warm-hearted and engaging story about an average couple going on an adventure together, tracing ancient paths first created in the tenth and eleventh centuries, paths that continue to inspire and reveal surprises to us today in the twenty-first.

WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD ON AMAZON

4. A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE (ON FOOT FROM CHARTRES TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA) by LAURIE DENNETT: This is another delightful read set on the same beloved pilgrim path. This one is a sweeping narrative beautifully told, filled with history. If you have a travel-reader on your list who is also a history buff, they will fall endlessly into this story. Laurie Dennett walked the Camino back in 1986 when it was just a whisper. She did so for a cause, as well…MS research fundraising. She tells a riveting story about her walk, interspersed with historic references that leaves the reader simultaneously fulfilled and wanting more. It opens up a desire to dive deep into French history before the journey is even underway. It’s definitely one of those springboard books that will have the reader devouring entire sections of the library upon finishing. I find it a little disappointing that Dennett’s journey isn’t right up there in the Canadian consciousness alongside Terry Fox’s. She raised a massive amount of money for MS and she called in regularly to Wally Crouter’s CFRB radio program with dispatches from the pilgrimage along the way. This is the kind of story that legends are made of. Canadians should know about it. As someone who routinely devours information about the Camino de Santiago, I did not know of Laurie Dennett’s journey until it was brought to my attention recently through the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.

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(From the Publisher) HAVE YOU WALKED THE WAY OF ST JAMES? Have relatives or friends done so? Do you hope to travel it one day? Would you like to experience it, at least vicariously? This is your ticket. In spring 1986, Laurie Dennett walked the longest route of the Way of St James, or Camino de Santiago. She headed south from Chartres Cathedral, through the Loire Valley, historic Tours, Poitiers, Saintes, Bordeaux, and the Landes to the Pyrenees, crossing via Roncesvalles to Spanish Navarra. Then came La Rioja, the meseta of Castilla y León, Celtic Galicia, and finally Santiago de Compostela.
Her lively, 1987 account became noted for its direct style, cultural and historical insights, and depiction of the hospitality, kindnesses, and simple pleasures of life on the Camino. Laurie has remained active with the Way of St James, while pilgrim numbers grew exponentially and new modes of communication transformed travel.

An updated, lightly revised, lavishly illustrated version seems very à propos today. Inspired by the book, publisher John Parry and designer Anne Vellone have savoured, through Laurie’s account, the Camino’s joys, adventures, happenstances, and abundant treasures. Even if you never walk the route (and you’ll be tempted!), these evocative words and images will take you there.

A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE AT WORDSINDEED

5. I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST by MASON DEAVER: Another Young Adult title I want to shout about from the rooftops. It’s just soooo CUTE. Is it okay to sum up a book by saying it’s cute? It’s definitely also complicated, with its main character, Ben, thrown out of their house at the onset of the story for coming out as nonbinary. This OwnVoices story takes on a serious issue, the struggles of bigotry faced by LGBTQIA2 teens, and it does it with grace and love. There’s also an adorable romance This is a must read for teens on your list, but also for those who love a good YA read, no matter their age. Mason Deaver was put on my Immediate purchase list. I’m excited to see what they come up with next!

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(From GOODREADS) When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST ON AMAZON

WRITERS

Writers love to experience. You can always go with pens, paper, notebooks, books on writing, etc…the tools of their trade. OR, you can think outside the box and create your own certificates and coupons for RETREATS, WORKSHOPS, MEMBERSHIP, etc, etc, etc. Give your writer EXPERIENCE. Search for local workshops you can sign them up for, or simply create a gift certificate of intent for a workshop of their choosing. Below is one way to GIVE BIG, as well as a couple of more local thoughtful ideas for the writer(s) on your list:

6. LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT – A GIFT FOR THE WRITER ON YOUR LIST: I will never stop extolling the virtues of this yearly retreat for writers in Paris. What better way to honor the writer in your life, by giving them this uniquely immersive experience in the city of lights and love?! I took this retreat in 2014 and it stays with me still. It’s a romp through Hemingway’s Paris while simultaneously taking time to write in places like the Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg. This gift is for the soul and it will keep on giving years after it’s wrapped and under the tree. Click the pic below to go to the LBW website:

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7. MEMBERSHIP IN A LOCAL WRITING ORGANIZATION: I can’t say enough about how enriching my own local writing organization is for me. Membership in such organizations is not often expensive, and to give such a gift is to embrace and support the writer in your life in ways that will see them growing both in their craft and in appreciation of that support. We like to know that the non-writers in our lives are encouraging of our passion. What better way to show it than to give the gift of fellowship with other writers. There are such organizations everywhere. In the Toronto area, might I suggest the WRITING COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION? WCDR (Membership begins at $25 for students and caps at $75)

8. SANCTUARY! WITH SUE AND JAMES AND INKSLINGERS: Two bright lights in the local writing scene are Sue Reynolds and James Dewar. Whether your writer loves poetry or fiction, memoir or sonnets, steering them towards the light of the Inkslingers’ Sanctuary Days will give them an endless and endearing supply of creativity. Explore the website, find something that fits the writer on your list…or create a gift certificate with the promise of Sanctuary in the new year. THE GOOD NEWS IS THEY DO HAVE THEIR OWN GIFT CERTIFICATES AVAILABLE. If you’re local to Toronto and the surrounding area, this dynamic duo is located close-by to Port Perry and they’re expertise and enthusiasm–their sheer love of craft and community–will ignite the writer on your list. Give them a look. Click on the banner below to visit their website:

sanctuary

I hope these suggestions have helped with your Christmas list. Enjoy shopping!

Categories
Camino Camino de Santiago The Camino Club

The Camino Club Now on Goodreads!

This is the post where I announce that my upcoming YA novel THE CAMINO CLUB is now live on GOODREADS! It feels more real now, I swear.

Please consider adding it to a shelf on Goodreads and telling your friends and fellow readers about it. This book is so near and dear to my heart.

GOODREADS BLURB: After getting in trouble with the law, six wayward teens are given an ultimatum: serve time in juvenile detention for their crimes, or walk the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route across Spain over the summer holidays with a pair of court appointed counselor/guides. When it becomes clear the long walk isn’t really all that much of an option, they set out on a journey that will either make or break who they are and who they are to become.

No cover as of yet, so I’ll share a pic or two from my own Camino journey to add some colour to this post…

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This is Diego’s doppelgänger. Diego is a main character. The kids found this doppelgänger on a mural in Samos.

I wrote THE CAMINO CLUB after my first pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in 2014.

The church in the photo above is also found in my novel. This church is in Portomarin. The town moved it up a hill, and away from the valley they were going to flood, ONE BRICK AT A TIME and reassembled it up on the hill. The castle behind the photo of Michael and I on our September 2019 pilgrimage is found in Ponferrada. It is also the starting point in the Camino that the characters begin their own pilgrimage.

YOU CAN NOW PREORDER THE KINDLE ON AMAZON!

AMAZON CANADA PREORDER LINK

AMAZON USA PREORDER LINK

So, again, please consider adding THE CAMINO CLUB to your Goodreads shelf! Here’s the link:

CLICK HERE TO ADD THE CAMINO CLUB ON GOODREADS!

Categories
Camino Camino de Santiago Canadian Company of Pilgrims Laurie Dennett The Camino Club

Laurie Dennett – A Hug for the Apostle – And One for Don Elías Valiña Sampedro too!

(ETA: This post has been edited to include a REGISTRATION LINK for Laurie Dennett’s SECOND TORONTO CAMINO TALK. Please see the bottom of post for the link. The event takes place at St. Thomas Church in Toronto on December 7, 2019.)

This past Saturday we attended an event at St. James Cathedral in Toronto, put on by the TORONTO CHAPTER of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims. Laurie Dennett was invited to speak about her book A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE, but more especially about Don Elías Valiña Sampedro (1929-1989), the parish priest at O Cebreiro in the Galicia region of Spain, who almost single-handedly reinvigorated the Camino de Santiago in his lifetime.

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A Hug for the Apostle – Laurie Dennett

Having myself recently returned from the Camino, and being enamored with O Cebreiro from my own two quick trips through the village nestled in the mountainous region of Galicia, Laurie Dennett’s talk helped to revive my fascination with it. It is in the village of O Cebreiro where the world famous author Paulo Coelho professes to have found the courage to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a writer. In fact, in his will he has given instructions for his ashes to be interred in the village.

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Laurie Dennett giving her talk to the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims.

There is something about reaching the apex that leads to the village of O Cebreiro that makes one become a lifelong devotee to its streets. From the ‘Lady of O Cebreiro’ statue found at the entrance, to the church and the quaint buildings throughout, one immediately gets a feeling. The village stands out on the Camino, calls you back. It is poetic justice that the parish priest of O Cebreiro is the one who revived the Camino Francés. As Laurie Dennett spoke about Don Elías wandering the Camino with a pail of yellow paint and paint brush, I could visualize the happy and hopeful priest making his way through hill and dale, forest and town, painting yellow arrows all along the way…forever hopeful that the spirit of the Camino take hold for current and future generations of pilgrims.

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David Duncan, for the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, with Laurie Dennett looking on.

Whenever Don Elías was approached along the way, paintbrush in hand, either by bystanders or police, his response to their questioning as to why he was painting yellow arrows everywhere was always the same, “I am planning an invasion.” He didn’t live quite long enough to see his vision come true, but trust me when I say the invasion occurred. 308,064 pilgrims walked the Camino de Santiago in 2018. 301,036 in 2017. The numbers have been increasing yearly. Though this ‘invasion’ Don Elías spoke of was one of love, of longing, of searching, of finding. He knew that at the time. I imagine him winking at whoever he spoke to whenever he spoke of the invasion, but I don’t imagine he could have ever foreseen the sweeping magnitude of it. Pilgrims from all walks of life, from all over the world, follow his arrows every day. His legacy is powerful, and yet many of his followers do not even know the story of the parish priest from one of their favourite Camino stops along the way.

Dennett was most assuredly enamored by the priest, whom she had the good fortune to call friend and cohort. She too spreads word far and wide of the pilgrimage route held so dear to the heart of the now late priest. Perhaps, in her way, she is carrying on with the work he began as its ambassador. Perhaps all who walk the route are, in some way, ambassadors. I know that one of my wishes with my upcoming young adult novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, (October, 2020 from Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press) is that it persuades even one reader to put the Camino de Santiago on their life’s bucket-list.

Below are a few pictures Michael and I took of our extremely brief blip through O Cebreiro this past September, while we were making our way to Santiago de Compostela.

Laurie Dennett will be giving a second talk with the Toronto Chapter of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims on Saturday, December 7th, 2019, this time at St. Thomas Church in downtown Toronto. If you’re in the Toronto area and have even the slightest interest in the Camino de Santiago, I suggest that you make plans to attend the event. Laurie’s first talk was mesmerizing. I thank her for bringing Don Elías Valiña Sampedro to life for me! And I am currently finding her book as mesmerizing as her talk. I look forward to hearing what else she has to say about the beloved Camino.

To learn more about the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, click on the image below:

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To learn more about A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE visit WORDSINDEED. Or, you can attend the second talk and purchase the book there and have it signed by the author.

CLICK HERE FOR A LINK TO REGISTRATION FOR—LAURIE DENNETT: REFLECTIONS ON 35 YEARS OF THE CAMINO – SATURDAY DEC 7, 2019, ST. THOMAS CHURCH, TORONTO, ONTARIO

Categories
John Mann

John Mann’s Faithlift

Whenever I feel the need for a faith-lift, I turn to a cute little song called And If Venice is Sinking. I don’t know what it is about the song that hits my core every time I hear it…I’m just glad it’s there.

And If Venice is Sinking was written by John Mann and Geoffrey Kelly of Spirit of the West and it’s a track on their aptly named album FAITHLIFT.

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The folk group have a long string of beautiful, poignant, and at times even humorous, songs in their song-vault…but I tend to think of this one as their opus. It has so much raw emotion and beauty that it virtually sparkles. It makes you want to sing along and it makes you believe that everything is going to be okay.

Today, we’re not okay. Today we are mourning the loss of John Mann. The lead singer of the band Spirit of the West passed away yesterday from complications arising from early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, something he was diagnosed with at age 50. He was only 57 years old. I count him high on my list of outstanding Canadian poetic icons…right alongside Leonard Cohen, Gord Downie, Al Purdy and the rest. Not only that, he was such a blessing to see on stage. He loved life and it was evident in his movements.

Canada lost a giant…if you’re unfamiliar with John Mann…it’s time to get acquainted. Look up his work, his legacy, his song. He’s gone too soon. He should be remembered.

I’m certain you will know this one:

REST IN PEACE, JOHN MANN…

Categories
Camino de Santiago Duet Books Interlude Press The Camino The Camino Club

Symbols, Symbolisms, Signs, Statuary and Sights Along the Camino

Tomorrow marks the 2 month mark from the moment we first touched down on the Camino this year. We began our mini-pilgrimage in Astorga on September 13th (My 53rd birthday). It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by since then.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my young adult novel set on the Camino was picked up by Interlude Press’s Duet Books. As the release date is scheduled for sometime in October, 2020, the preparations are beginning to ramp up. This week, I’ll be talking with the cover designer and boy is my head spinning. The publisher usually has the last word on cover, but often the author is consulted and a discussion goes on behind the scenes prior to mock-ups. The problem I’m having this week is not what do I want on the cover of THE CAMINO CLUB. My problem is what do I not want. I want everything CAMINO. It would be impossible for me to distill my wants down to a manageable number.

All I have been thinking about is the symbols of the Camino. I thought I would gather them here and see what I come up with.

Everyone on the Camino carries a few things in common. One of those things–though they may look different depending on where you come from or where you picked yours up–is a CREDENCIAL. This is the little passport book we all carry to collect stamps from various places along the Camino (Hotels, Albergues, Hostels, Restaurants, Cafes, etc). There is one stipulation with the credential—a pilgrim must collect at least two a day from the 100km mark to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s up to the pilgrim to decide how few or how many they collect for the rest of the pilgrimage. Though not your typical ‘symbol’ per se, the credential is definitely a symbol to the pilgrim. Watching the stamps collect are such a part of the daily experience. It’s always thrill to add another stamp, turn another page…

THE CREDENCIAL

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As for the symbols one sees while walking? They are many…

THE YELLOW ARROW

The yellow arrow is EVERYWHERE. It’s how a pilgrim finds their way. They can be painted on the road, on houses, on trees, on fences, on everything.

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Follow not the white rabbit, for he will take you in the wrong direction. Look only for the yellow arrows. They’re not the most iconic symbols of the Camino de Santiago, but arguably the most important. They’ll take you there…

Sometimes the arrows aren’t yellow, but you know they still represent the way…

Even the yellow ones come in a variety of different ways…

THE ROUTE MARKER

Aw, the glorious route marker! How the heart sings when one worries that they have strayed and they finally come upon this symbol that tells them all is well, they’re on their way!

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They assure the pilgrim they are not lost, just as they let them know how far they have left to go before they reach the cathedral. This iconic symbol is everything to the pilgrim.

Quite often, there will be offerings left on these route markers…from stones to seashells to shoes…

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SIGNAGE

The Camino signage varies depending on where you are. If the arrows and the route markers are not enough to comfort the pilgrim, they’ll be reassured by the postage signage along the way…

ARTWORK AND STATUARY ABOUND

There is ALWAYS something to see on the Camino…whether it is something left behind by fellow pilgrims or something commissioned for the pilgrimage route. There’s as many statues as there is graffiti, as many messages as there is art installations. Statues and crosses and St. James representations…

REMEMBRANCES

One thing you don’t really think about until you see your first one? Remembrances. A lot of pilgrims don’t make it. There are markers where people have passed while attempting their pilgrimage. And remembrances for loved ones back home, as well.

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THE CATHEDRAL AND THE COMPOSTELA

It’s all for one thing…to reach the cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. Whether you are religious or not, by the time you reach the goal you had set your sights on so many days before, it’s a huge thrill to walk into the plaza at the end of the Camino and see the monolithic cathedral standing before you…

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And also a thrill to pick up that certificate once you arrive…the compostela that serves as proof of the journey…

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SOooooooo…yep! I’m having an extremely difficult time imagining what will make it to the cover of my book. The iconic seashell maybe? A yellow arrow? St. James? A route marker? You see my problem? Too many things! It remains to be seen…

 

Categories
Muskoka Muskoka Author Association Muskoka Novel Marathon On Writing

Upcoming Event at Muskoka Authors Association…

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I will be speaking at the Muskoka Authors Association in Bracebridge on WEDNESDAY, November 13th. Looking forward to some on-the-spot writing exercises and communion with fellow creatives. For several years I have felt a bit like an adopted child of the Muskoka region on Northern Ontario. It’s the place where I do the lion’s share of my novel writing. I have been going up to Huntsville, Ontario, in the heart of Muskoka, every year for over ten years. Huntsville is host to the yearly fundraiser for literacy known as the Muskoka Novel Marathon…where 40 or so writers get locked into a room together for 72 hours so that they each may attempt to write a complete novel in one sitting. It’s a magical experience that has had me falling deeply in love with Muskoka and its creative community.
From the Muskoka Authors Association website:
Novelist and Playwright, Kevin Craig, Shares Tips on Jump Starting Your Writing!

About this Event

Try Everything! Quirks and Tips to Help You Jump-Start Your Writing…

On Wednesday, November 13, Muskoka Authors Association welcomes, Kevin Craig, author of six published novels (Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, Half Dead & Fully Broken, and, Pride Must Be A Place). Kevin will give a short overview of their own writing journey, including how they bounced from one form of writing to another while attempting to stay focused on their long-term goal of writing young adult novels. Kevin will also share how they discovered there is more than one way to write a novel, and that you should explore the different ways with each consecutive novel you write. They will discuss how invigorating it can be to explore alternate writing forms along the way to your own writing goals, whether they are to write the Great Canadian Novel, a screenplay, a memoir, or a poem. As well, Kevin will discuss how important it is to allow yourself to escape your comfort zones while getting to those goals.

Whether you’re new to writing or a seasoned pro, you should never be afraid to try something new. New forms of writing can often trick our creativity and jump-start a stalled project back to life. They may even accidentally help you to discover new creative callings. What if the novel you’re writing is actually a play? Maybe the short story you’ve been struggling with is really a collection of poems.

Kevin will introduce some of their favourite exercises and prompts that helped in their own creative journey. Like Kevin, you may find that the journey is just as exhilarating and rewarding as the destination. Attendees should come prepared to write and share their work.

Kevin Craig is also a five-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin’s seventh novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, is forthcoming from Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press (October 2020). In addition, they are a playwright with a resume of ten short plays and two one-act plays staged in various places from Toronto to Mumbai, Australia, and the United States. Kevin’s poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals throughout the world. For several years Kevin worked as a freelance writer, writing everything from articles on interior design and travel to interviews with musicians such as Bif Naked. Several of Kevin’s songs have been recorded by various artists. Kevin was a founding member on the board of directors for the Ontario Writers Conference and is currently a member of the Writers Community of Durham Region. Kevin lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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You can visit the EVENTS PAGE HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION.

Here’s a link to the MUSKOKA AUTHORS ASSOCIATION WEBSITE.