September – ALWAYS a busy month! (Updates)

I don’t remember a September that wasn’t action-packed. Historically, it just seems like one of those months where everything happens at once. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! This September is no exception. Things started to roll today, and it’s looking like yet another exciting September for me.

September 1st – My poem WHEN VENUS TAKES A RIDE was posted on the website of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate. It was chosen as the Poem of the Month by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate, Pierre DesRuisseaux. It will be featured for the month of September, and archived on the site for two years. I wrote this poem after my first day on the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. I went there this past December with the Summer Literary Seminars, as part of their Kenya writing program. We took a plane to Manda Island from Nairobi and then hopped a dhow over to the island of Lamu. Once there, the group was given a walking tour of Lamu Town. During this tour, one of the poets in the group, Venus Thrash, was given a ride on a donkey (there are no cars on Lamu, but there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of donkeys). The poem is about that experience.

September 11 – Just like the second Saturday of every month (except for August), the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) hosts it’s monthly Breakfast Meeting. If you’re a writer in OR NEAR the Durham Region, these are NOT to be missed. The September Breakfast Meeting speaker is Neil Crone. Personally, I think he’s one of the funniest people in Canada. It’s a DON’T-MISS month! Neil will be talking about writing humour.

September 24-25Uxbridge Celebration of the Arts. It’s a 25-year anniversary celebration of the vibrant artistic community of Uxbridge, Ontario. And when I say vibrant, I mean electrifying. I’m constantly amazed by the artistic community in this small town just west of Port Perry, Ontario. I’ve been drawn there on several occasions for BIG TIME artistic endeavors. This time, I’m partaking in the fun. I’ve been chosen to be the playwright for the 25-year anniversary celebration. On the 24th of September I will be given a prompt and I will have 25 hours not only to write a one-act play, but to send it off to my director, Jessica Outram, have her run through rehearsals with the actors AND have it performed live on stage at the Uxbridge Music Hall at the 25th hour. So I’m giving myself about 5-6 of those 25 hours to actually pen the script…as I think they’ll need the bulk of the hours to rehearse. This is the kind of thing I absolutely love! I was fortunate enough to do this type of playwriting on two other occasions, for Driftwood Theatre, as one of the playwrights for their 2009 and 2010 Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival. I can’t wait to find out what I will be writing about! AND…the best part…watching it come to life just a few hours after it’s written. I am constantly amazed by the talent of the directors and actors that I am fortunate enough to work with!

September 26th– I will be MUSKOKA BOUND! It’s the wrap party for the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon. This event, held every July, has quickly become one of my favourite writing related activities! You sit in a building with approximately 30 other writers and you write a novel—in either 48 or 72 hours. How amazing is that! It was a great group this year (as it is every year). We had a lot of fun, and it’s hard to believe at the end of the weekend that there was actually time to put together a manuscript between the fun. I wrote a Young Adult novel this year – HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN. I’ve been editing it since July. The wrap party is on the 26th…all the writers regroup and award trophies for various different things–BIC AWARD for Bum in Chair, Most Prolific Writer, Spirit Award, Rookie of the Year Award and the Remy Award for most money raised. Most money raised, you ask? The marathon is a double-edged sword. It is a huge benefit to those writers brave enough to participate, but it’s also a marathon of hope. Each writer raises funs for the Muskoka Literacy Council…it’s writers helping readers. The marathon raises funds and awareness for the council—it helps them to spread the joy of literacy. Another prize awarded at the wrap party is the BEST NOVEL AWARD—awarded, actually, in different categories—Best Adult Novel, Best Young Adult Novel and Best Children’s Novel. The manuscripts are sent to 6 industry judges immediately following the marathon…and they read and judge them over the summer. The winning novels get sent to participating publishers for consideration. The benefits of this event are just neverending! I have my eye on the hands on favourite for Best YA this year—I’m not going to name names (she will not be mentioned here!), but I had the opportunity to read one of the manuscripts and I found it STELLAR. We will see what the Wrap Party brings us. I consider this wrap party the official end of summer, even though Huntsville is already quite in bloom with turned foilage by the time it rolls around.

Month EndMuseitup Publishing is preparing to launch! My Young Adult novel SUMMER ON FIRE will be published by Muse in July, 2011…but the publisher is launching in October. We’ve been talking excitedly about this launch behind the scenes. September is bound to thrive with chatter between publisher and cover artists and editors and writers. It’s a great family to be a part of! I’m really excited about the launch…and can feel the tsunami of its approach! September is THE month to be a Museitup member!

Not to mention! September is another month of busy planning for the 2011 ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. This is an ongoing labour of love that factors into every month on the calendar. We want to organize the best conference every year. To do this, we must be dedicated to putting in a lot of volunteer hours. It’s worth it, though…so rewarding to see the happy faces of writers on the day of the conference!

And I’m certain there will be more excitement along the way. Like maybe a reading from author friend Karen Cole  somewhere in Uxbridge, maybe! Or maybe some poetry read by friend Barbara Hunt!  (-;

2011 SLS Unified Literary Contest Announced!

The 2011 Summer Literary Seminars Unified Literary Contest is now open!

What’s in it for you?

FIRST PLACE WINNERS from each category – FICTION or POETRY – will have their work featured online in Canada’s premiere literary magazine, THE WALRUS…as well as published in print in a TBA American Literary Journal.

They will also have the choice of attending (airfare, tuition, and housing included) any one of the SLS 2011 programs – in Montreal, Quebec (June 12 – 25); Vilnius, Lithuania (August); or Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya (December).

This is a HUGE prize! And a huge opportunity.

SECOND PLACE WINNERS will receive a full tuition waiver for the program of their choice.

THIRD PLACE WINNERS will receive a 50% tuition waiver for the program of their choice.

ALSO – A number of select contest participants, based on the overall strength of their work, will be offered tuition scholarships applicable to the SLS 2011 programs.

FOR FULL CONTEST DETAILS, VISIT THE SLS CONTEST PAGE

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SLS WRITING PROGRAMS

As a past participant in SLS Kenya, I can guarantee you’ll thoroughly enjoy the program.

Contest Entry Fee: $20

Contest Deadline: FEBRUARY 15, 2011

Summer on Fire – Young Adult Novel – Publishing Contract!

While I was participating in the 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon this past Saturday, I received a contract offer for my Young Adult novel, Summer on Fire!

Summer on Fire will be published in ebook form. The tentative release date is July, 2011.

I’m extremely excited about this publication. I worked long and hard on this one! It began as a NaNoWriMo project in 2003, my first NaNoWriMo attempt, actually. And I’ve been working on it on and off since then.

The quick blurb on Summer on Fire:

Zach Carson is a loyal friend. But is loyalty enough to keep best friends together when one of them sets fire to the rural barn they use as the local hangout?

Zach, Jeff Barsell and Arnie Wilson struggle to pick up the pieces when news spreads that a body was discovered in the burnt out shell of the neighbouring home. When the word murder is used by the local police, the stakes grow even higher. When the police start searching for their most likely suspect—none other than Jeff’s older brother, and nemesis, Marty Barsell—the boys decide to join forces and come up with a way to prove his innocence.

But just how innocent is Marty Barsell? When Marty admits to being at the scene of the crime, the three friends enlist the help of Zach’s annoying sister, Sherry, as well as the sympathetic town eccentric, Ms. Halverton. But can they keep it together long enough to save Marty, and themselves, from eminent catastrophe? Summer on Fire is the story of friendships, and the lines we are asked to cross in order to keep them.

I will be posting all the details soon.

Now…on to the editing process for the novel I wrote during the Muskoka Novel Marathon. ** 72-hours — 52,000 words — Young Adult Novel — Half Dead & Fully Broken **

What’s New…

There are a few things going on at the moment. Time for a short list!

1) The Writers’ Circle of Durham Region is a fabulous writing group that I have held a membership in since 2003. They have helped my writing path in far too many ways to mention. I would definitely not have experienced most of my successes without this vibrant group behind me. A truly wonderful ballast for any writer—anywhere! They have changed their name. They will still be known as the WCDR (the acronym remains the same), but they will now be known as the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION. A name change the organization felt was needed to reflect the growth and popularity it has seen in recent years. A circle suggests a small tight-knit group of writers at a table…not what the WCDR is. We are a vibrant community approaching 300 members strong. The group is now known throughout the world…and it has members far far from its umbrella hub of Durham Region, Ontario. Hence, the decision to change its name. Still the great nurturing organization it has always been…just a slight name change to reflect its burgeoning-ness. (-:

(Check out the community at the above link. Any writer looking for a group to join that will help propel their writing need not look any further than the WCDR.)

2) Today I was notified by a representative of the Parliamentary Poet Laureate that one of my poems – When Venus Takes a Ride – will be featured as Poem of the Month on the Library of Parliament website. The poem will be added to their website on September 1st of this year. It’s such an honour to be recognized in this way…and for a poem that means a great deal to me. I wrote it on the day of my arrival to the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya. It was such a magical time for me…and to be able to share the poem on such a prestigious site is a thrill!

(check out the website for the Parliamentary Poet Laureate here: PARLIAMENTARY POET LAUREATE)

3) I am crossing my fingers. I am hoping that I am chosen for a play writing gig that I submitted to. If chosen, I will be writing the play in September and it will also be performed in September. I will find out on or before the 21st of June if I made the cut. Fingers crossed! More to come…

4) I did a reading this past Saturday at the WCDR breakfast meeting. Nerves like crazy…I have to get more comfortable with this kind of thing! I read an excerpt from my completed YA manuscript Summer on Fire…which is currently being considered. It felt like the reading went well, but who knows. At any rate, I did not pass out!

Kenya and Writing: A Perfect Fit

(Originally appeared in The Word Weaver)

Before I left for my recent trip to Kenya, my only thought was writing. I was going to AFRICA and I only allowed myself to think of one thing: WRITING. How pathetic is that? I was so anal about attending my first writing program, I allowed it to overshadow the fact I was going to the most beautiful place in the world.

Thankfully, I came to my senses the moment the plane landed in the mossy sweet heat of Nairobi.

Joseph, from Wonders of Africa, picked me up at Jomo Kenyatta. His kamikaze driving was all that stood between me and certain death. The streets and roundabouts of Nairobi are the most beautiful arteries of controlled chaos I’ve ever been thrown into.

Joseph dropped me off at the Kivi Milimani Hotel. The Summer Literary Seminars organizers were there to greet me but in my post-flight zombiehaze, I only wanted to crawl upstairs to my room and sleep.

Day 1. 6 a.m. Woke up, packed, ran downstairs and met up with Joseph. We hit Nairobi’s death-defying streets again for a trip to Wilson Airport for my flight to Masai Mara.

After four take-offs, five landings and much retching, I was ready for solid ground! Another capable Joseph, my safari guide for the next two days, greeted our 16-seater at Keekorok Airstrip.

Wilson Airport - Nairobi, Kenya

Before the safari, however, I detoured to Keekorok’s backyard hippo pool—home to 39 hippos! I watched as they frolicked and I stared in awe at the elephants and giraffes roaming the nearby hills. I attempted to be a poet but discovered I would rather eat the dirt…jump into the hippo pool, shoot its mud into my veins. I was in Africa—the future home of my heart. It was already happening.

Safari time! But after a full day in the acacia-dotted Masai Mara savannah, it was the Masai people I first wrote about when I made it back to my Keekorok room.

A journal entry: The Masai warriors almost made me forget the safari. The most amazingly beautiful sight. Hearing their singing makes you want to burst into tears. It’s guttural and filled with haunting. Longing. Joy. Goosebumps. Their shouts seemed random, mixed in song, but each one was perfectly timed. The rhythm matches something inside you. Shatters it. Latches on. Takes you with it. Such an incredible experience! You can feel them in your chest as they lift miraculously in dance. They had my heart!

Masai Dancers at Keekorok Lodge - Masai Mara, Kenya

 

A journal entry: Elephants/1, Lions/3, Giraffes/2. There was folly in this menagerie inventory system. After these first sightings it was on to a pride of 13 lionesses and cubs. A herd of zebra, not a mile away, grazing with elands. Bones and skulls everywhere, beacons in the vast open plains. When I spotted a cheetah, Joseph yelled, “Duma! Duma!” and called the other groups on his CB radio. Their trucks soon converged on our paradise, photo lenses extending to capture a mother cheetah with her cubs as they chased a herd of gazelle. Two hundred gazelle moving in perfect unison, nature’s finely tuned miracle engine in motion. Traps your breath! This is where God is. Hundreds of buffalo, beautiful birds riding their massive haunches…ready to steal the bounty of insects their shuffling feet lift from the browned savannah grasses. A warthog. A herd of eight elephants. Giraffes can kill a lion with their hind legs…one swift kick!

But majestic beauty as they dine upon the upper leaves of trees, unconcerned with the killer beasts at their heels. Wildebeests. In the distance, Tanzania. 8km away. The Masai hills in the background—named for their similarity to a lying-down Masai warrior.

Lion on the Masai Mara Savannah - Masai Mara, Kenya

My safari was over but my adventures were just beginning. It was only day two. I had a writing program to attend in Nairobi and Lamu. Kenya had begun to enter my bloodstream. I was going to allow myself to make this about Kenya first—writing second. It was the only way to take Kenya home with me…so I could write about it later.

Back to Nairobi.