Canadian Authors Association, Canadian Writers' Summit, CWS, Kevin Craig, On Writing, Toronto, Writing Life

Canadian Writers’ Summit! Big Issues in YA Writing…

CWS

The Canadian Writers’ Summit is scheduled to take place this coming June at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto, and it is HUGE! This is being billed as a SUPER-CONFERENCE, as it is hosted by a bevy of Canadian writer organizations. Members of all of the writing organizations hosting the event (and there are many), as well as anyone interested in writing, are encouraged to attend.

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been added as a last minute replacement to participate in the BIG ISSUES IN YOUNG ADULT WRITING panel discussion on Friday June 17th. This is especially pleasing to me because I dedicate my novel writing life on tackling young adult issues. It’s what I do. I have no idea whether or not I’m good at it, but I am 100% committed and passionate about doing it. Everything I write for the YA market is issue oriented.

From the CWS website, here’s the write-up for the panel discussion:

Jump into the world of young adult literature. The subject matter and story lines of YA literature are typically consistent with the age and experiences of the main character, but YA literature spans the spectrum of literary genres and themes. Hear more about the big issues of today in YA from Canada’s YA literary writers.

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I hope to contribute some helpful wisdom to the conversation and look forward to discussing the importance of tackling issues in YA literature. It’s a delicate thing to do in fiction, especially when writing for today’s intelligent teens—injecting issues into story without preaching or talking down…and without making it obvious that the issue is there. One needs a delicate balance to do this—as, in the end, story and entertainment value are paramount. Issues kinda sorta need to be there without being there. So looking forward to this Super-conference…visit the website today. It’s a super packed conference that most definitely has something for everyone!

CWS
CLICK THIS IMAGE TO VISIT THE CWS WEBSITE – Hope to see you there!

To check out my own issue-centric young adult novels, click on the covers to visit their Amazon pages for details and to read the openings through the LOOK INSIDE feature:

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My other titles, Sebastian’s Poet & The Reasons, are definitely ISSUE stories facing children as well…but they have mature themes and are NOT considered Young Adult.

See you at the CANADIAN WRITERS’ SUMMIT at Harbourfront this June!

Books, Canada, Canadian, Canadiana, Coming of Age, Fiction, GoodReads, Gordon Lightfoot, Kevin Craig, Musa, Musa Publishing, Novels, Queen Street, Setting, The Beach, The Beaches, Toronto

Set in Toronto. Set in Canada. Are These Viable Settings for Novels?

If you’re Canadian have you ever felt the shame that goes along with it? Don’t lie. It’s there. We are the country ashamed of its culture. We are the country struggling to define its culture. We are the country used to depict American cities in movies because it’s more budget friendly. We are the country that is painstakingly removed from said movies one Toronto Star box at a time. Oops…don’t get that Tim Horton’s in the shot…this is New York, people. Remove all traces of Canada.

But sometimes…sometimes Toronto IS the best place to set a thing. Think of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World. That was a delightful tour-de-force of a movie that would not have been the same in any other setting in the world. Toronto was a perfect match for Pilgrim. I’ll never forget being at the Scotiabank Theatre during the opening credits of Scott Pilgrim. The crowd went wild. That was US on that screen. Toronto. For once it was okay to be from this amazing city that seemed to require secretive measures whenever it appeared on the big screen. Toronto was a dirty little secret in Hollywood. And we all sensed it…until Scott Pilgrim.

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Yes, Scott Pilgrim wasn’t the first movie openly set in Toronto. And it won’t be the last. It did seem like a line in the sand, though. Scott Pilgrim definitely brought out our cool side. We could do this. Toronto can be a cool setting. It is a viable world city. We need to change our perceptions.

When I started writing my 2nd published novel, I knew instinctively that the perfect setting for my bohemian 1970s family on the brink of destruction was The Beaches neighbourhood of Toronto. I love my city. I love it hard. Sebastian Nelson, the narrator of Sebastian’s Poet, had to be from Toronto. Had to be from The Beaches. And no, I won’t call it The Beach. It’s The Beaches. It will always be The Beaches.

For my first novel, I intentionally avoided naming the setting. I was afraid that agents wouldn’t look at a novel that dared to mention Canada. This comes from somewhere. I didn’t dream up this self-loathing of place on my own. As Canadians, I sometimes feel we are conditioned to take the back seat. The sad part is, I think it’s mostly ourselves relegating ourselves to this stature. We have blurred lines where our nationalism is concerned. We grow up on American TV and music. We occasionally shun our own programming. We say, “That show’s Canadian” with disdain before quickly changing the channel.

I LOVE America. This is not an anti-America rant. I just wish we were comfortable enough in our own skins to not only be proud to be Canadians, but to salute our homeland in our creative endeavours. My go-to instinct, when embarking on fiction, was to never speak of Canada in my writings. I’m so glad I ignored this instinct when I created Sebastian’s Poet. Sebastian needed to be from the Queen Street East neighbourhood. He needed to know the yumminess that is THE GOOF. He needed the Eaton Centre windows at Christmas in the 70s. He needed to know Cirone’s Grocery, the TTC. He NEEDED GORDON LIGHTFOOT!

Some stories just require Canadiana in order for them to be told. Sometimes, the only place in the world where a story belongs is in Toronto. We set a tourism record here in Toronto for 2014. 14.3 million visitors. It’s time to show our streets in movies and literature. It’s time to stop being ‘New York’. We can do this. We can be ourselves. We’re good enough. We are a viable setting.

15725603My Toronto set novel, Sebastian’s Poet, is the story of a boy growing up with a bohemian father on a path of destruction in the 1970s and the folksinger who tries to rescue him from the chaos.

From Amazon:

Sebastian Nelson is a boy in search of a family. Abandoned by his mother, Sebastian is left with a broken father who doesn’t even seem present when he does show up. Forced to be the main caregiver of his younger brother, Renee, and lost in a sea of indifference, Sebastian only wants to experience the love a real, stable family could afford him.

One morning he discovers the famous folksinger, Teal Landen, asleep on the sofa. Teal’s nurturing nature brings an immediate sense of security into Sebastian’s tumultuous life. But a dark secret looms between Teal and Sebastian’s father of a hidden past. Sebastian is driven to discover their secret, but also he’s aware of how tenuous their hold on Teal really is. He doesn’t want to lose the feeling of home Teal’s presence has brought him.

If Sebastian pushes too hard, he could lose Teal forever. He could be destined to raise his younger brother alone, while witnessing the total decline of his emotionally devastated father. If Sebastian is abandoned by the only healthy influence in his otherwise shaky existence, he will also be forever in the dark about the secret that will reveal so much about his fractured family.

LOOK INSIDE and 1-CLICK Sebastian’s Poet today at Amazon, now on sale for $2.67.

Check out the Amazing Reviews garnered by Sebastian’s Poet on GOODREADS!

Childhood Sexual Abuse, GTA, Half Dead, Half Dead And Fully Broken, Happiness, Inspiration, Lynne MacDonell, Male Survivor, Male Victims, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Sex Abuse, Sexual Abuse, Therapy, Time For Men, Toronto, Weekends of Recovery, Welcome

Real Life Heroes – Who Are Yours? And How Do You Honour Them?

I have had a few readers ask who I’m referring to in my latest novel dedication. Half Dead & Fully Broken released on January 19th. I spend a lot of time writing my dedications. Maybe even more time than it takes for me to write the novel itself. (-:

First, let me share a screenshot of the dedication with you…

DedicationWe all have heroes. If we’re lucky, we have more than one. If we’re really lucky we have more than we can count on two hands. I take my hero worship seriously.

The first in the above dedication is my late uncle. He was loud, opinionated, overbearing, at times scary, and, most of all…an amazing kind-hearted soul who would do anything for the ones he loved. I don’t know why he had such a soft spot in his heart for his nephews, but he did. And he would tell us, too. I remember that he loved me and wasn’t afraid of showing it in his way. And I remember that his laughter filled every crevice of a room. Hell, it filled the sky and the trees and the grass and the bees when he happened to be outside when he laughed. Just as a room or a cathedral could not harness his laughter, the great outdoors was also no match for it. I would do anything to hear it again. And a part of me will never stop hearing it. With all of his flaws, he was an amazingly good person. His legacy proves this. So, I wanted to mention my Uncle Don in my most recent dedication.

The first thing we should do, when it comes to heroes, is remember that nobody is perfect. Don’t look for flawless perfect people to look up to. Heroes can be tarnished and flawed…and, yet, still be beautiful.

The second person in my most recent dedication, Lynne MacDonell, is someone who has dedicated her life to rescuing men (and women) suffering the serious and life-damaging side-effects of childhood sexual abuse. Lynne is a tireless champion for men (who happen to be a marginalized group in a world that still has not fully come to the realization that boys too can be victims of sexual abuse). Not only does she run her own practice here in Toronto, but she flies across North America as part of the MALE SURVIVOR WEEKEND OF RECOVERY therapist team. And on Tuesday nights, she runs 2 groups for men. TWO! Every Tuesday. Every single Tuesday. Not one, but two.

Sometimes I think of the axiom, NO MAN GETS LEFT BEHIND, when I think of Lynne and her efforts to save male victims of childhood (and otherwise) sexual abuse. She will not rest.

From Lynne’s own website (linked above):

My Practice involves the healing of survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Although I work with both men and women the majority of my clients are men and their significant others. I offer two groups for male survivors covering topics of trauma issues, safety, healthy and unhealthy coping strategies as well as many other issues. I work with my clients in groups, in relationships and as individuals.

As a member of the award winning team of Malesurvivor.org, Weekends of Recovery, I have been involved developing training for and awareness regarding male survivor issues for OPP, Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness, Ontario Victim Witness Services as well as many others. 

I choose my words carefully in my dedications. We crave heroes in our fiction. It is to be expected that there will be at least one hero in every work of fiction. And, as writers, we try to find the right flawed-characteristics-to-heroic-characteristics ratio…in order to make those heroic characters seem real, believable, honest, true, plausible.

Lynne MacDonell defies the logic of Fictionlandia. Does she have flaws? Sure…I’m almost positive she does. If I’m going by the belief that we all do, I have to concede that she does too. Have I seen any of them? NO. This is the part where I say, “I’m not just the president of the Hair Club for Men. I’m also a client.” I’m there, in Lynne’s second of two Tuesday night TIME FOR MEN groups as often as possible. I don’t make every single Tuesday…but I certainly try.

While my characters are stumbling around in the dark attempting to help each other, to be heroes to one another, Lynne MacDonell is out in the real world…saving lives. I know this because she played a significant role in saving mine. Including her in the front dedication of one of my books? Easiest decision I ever made.

Who are your heroes? Before you answer that question, think about what HERO means to you. It doesn’t need to be someone capable of swooping down into your life from on high to save you from Niagara Falls in that crucial last second before you go tumbling over into nothingness. We should recognize our everyday heroes. Those people who, through either big or small ways, make our lives a little bit brighter. Who offers you sunlight in your moments of darkness? Who tells you that everything will be okay? Who simply goes along for the ride with you when times are trying? Who says, “You are not alone” at those times you feel most alone?

Something else to think about. Every day, each of us has the opportunity to be someone else’s hero. Every minute we have that opportunity. Just be your best self, and you never know who will benefit from that. Every moment, we have the power to effect the life of another…both positively and negatively. If you are carrying around a pocketful of heroes, make sure to emulate them.

We can be heroes…for ever and ever…

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Writers Need Community…

There. I said it.

I would love to dispel the myth that writers are solitary creatures who wince at the light of day and run from the possibility of community with other writers. The problem may well be that not all writers know this. Not all writers have a community like the writing community that I am a part of. This makes me terribly sad.

My community is the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. We are over 300 strong. And we support and nurture one another in our writing goals. Competition and jealousy do not survive within this community. We do not knock each other down to get to the finish line, to achieve our writing and publishing goals. On the contrary. We carry each other over the hurdles and finish lines. We celebrate our individual achievements as a whole. We celebrate each other as we celebrate the written word. And…believe it or not…we are NOT a cult.

We are a club, yes…but we are not inclusive. ANYBODY can join. ANYBODY can participate. ANYBODY can benefit.

I’m talking about the Writers’ Community of Durham Region because our monthly Roundtable Meeting is fast approaching. About 100 or so of us get together once a month (except for August) on an early Saturday morning to break bread and network. It’s an amazing opportunity to put on the WRITER hat and BE a writer. AND, there’s a special guest speaker at every meeting! And the opportunity to take both a workshop and a Blue Pencil manuscript session.

The best part, for those in the city (TORONTO), is that this takes place JUST east of the city. The meetings are held at the AJAX CONVENTION CENTRE just off highway 401 in Ajax, Ontario. And EVERYONE is welcome to attend. You don’t even have to be a WCDR member.

As writers, one of the best things we can do for ourselves is to treat ourselves to writerly things. Like these breakfast meetings. Like workshops. Like conferences. When we are living the writing life, we become better writers. We immerse ourselves in the lifestyle.

Check out the WCDR. You owe it to yourself. And if you’re from Toronto, please don’t do yourself the disservice of thinking you live too far away to become involved in this stupendous organization.

CLICK ON THIS LOGO TO BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY!
CLICK ON THIS LOGO TO BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY!

Watch the Youtube video about the Roundtable Meetings:

 

The WCDR Roundtable Meetings take place on the second Saturday of every month but August. Visit the WCDR site by clicking on the logo above to discover more about the organization. There are always events going on. Don’t miss out on your opportunity to live the writing life in one of the world’s most vibrant and active writing communities…