Rest In Peace, Wayson – The Thing About Wayson Choy

I have read so much about the act of being present. I sought it out in biographies and in documentaries and in fiction. I first heard it whispered in descriptions of sages and religious leaders. The Buddha, for instance, has always been held up as a glowing example of a being who was PRESENT.

But in my life–in my everyday life–I hadn’t really discovered any examples of anyone who seemed to be truly present. Here and now.

Until Wayson.

I won’t say Wayson was a saint. That isn’t what this is about. But the thing about Wayson was that he was present. And when you were in his presence, he treated you like you were in his presence. You had his attention. He was a mentor, a teacher, and a sage. And he was always willing to share himself with those around him. He couldn’t not encourage, teach, share. It wasn’t in him not to. And because of this, all who have met him–even for a brief period of time–feel a great sense of loss today. He was a giving gracious man, and he made you feel as though you mattered.

Do yourself a favour, and pick up Wayson’s memoir on almost dying. It’s a treasure.

I’ve heard a great many Asian Canadians speak of how important Wayson’s works were for them, how his books were the first experience they had had of seeing themselves reflected in fiction. He knew this fact, he knew it fully and completely and he carried it with him, filled with grace about it and knowing the importance of it.

What struck me, and what was important to me, was the way he often introduced himself as a gay man when beginning his speeches. He was a proud gay man. He spoke to me about this, too. He felt the importance of this pride, which was something I never truly understood. To me, pride was just a word thrown around about an event in the gay calendar. Wayson took it to a deeper level. Wayson made it real. He was someone who often talked about being courageous and telling the truth and being honest and being true to yourself. This was part of his being present. He knew the importance of authenticity. In order to exemplify that, he willingly put himself out there to show others what it meant to truly be authentic. He embraced it and allowed others to embrace it in themselves.

The Ontario Writers Conference Family. Wayson threw himself in to our little organization, fully and completely. He made us better.

“When you can tell other peoples’ lives truthfully you are telling it to yourself. You are saying this is who I am. I recognize what is important. Let me tell you about it.” ~ Wayson Choy

You are most like yourself when you are being authentic. Wayson knew this. And he knew how much others thirsted for that authenticity. And he was present enough to gently guide us in that direction. By example, and by humor and sometimes by the use of tough words.



Thank you for sharing your wisdom so freely, Wayson. I’ll not forget your loving kindness. Thank you for helping me to wake up. I love you.

“You are a book, always being written…” ~ Wayson Choy

On the Horizon – Events of Writerly Interest

Every now and again I write a catch-all post to include some of the things on my writerly horizon. The ones in my immediate future may be of interest to those of you in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area for visitors from elsewhere on the globe).

Event #1 – Ontario Writers’ Conference FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS

Originally birthed at the Ontario Writers’ Conference, this legacy event of the now defunct annual conference promises to be an exciting evening out for writers and readers alike. The event takes place at Creative Math & Music (1064 Salk Rd., Units 5-7 Pickering, ON, L1W 4B5) on Friday March 31st, 2017 from 7;00pm-10:00pm. From the OWC website:

The Festival usually features:

  • entertaining interviews and inspiring author readings (see below)
  • opportunities to mingle with Canadian Authors, fellow writers and avid readers
  • voting for the winners of our Story Starters Contest
  • exciting prizes !

Announced thus far for the festival is the amazing TED BARRIS as emcee and award winning debut novelist ANN Y.K. CHOI. You can read more about the festival, including bios for both announced authors at THIS LINK FOR OWC FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Ted Barris, and of seeing him in action as an author interviewer and interviewee. An evening with Ted Barris is worth the price of admission. And I am right in the middle of reading Ann Choi’s KAY’S LUCKY COIN VARIETY from Simon & Schuster Canada. It’s a lovely coming-of-age story that takes place in Koreatown in Toronto in the 80s. I’m thoroughly enjoying it and hope to have it completed by the Festival on the 31st. Here’s a brief synopsis of the book from Goodreads:


A bittersweet coming-of-age debut novel set in the Korean community in Toronto in the 1980s. This haunting coming-of-age story, told through the eyes of a rebellious young girl, vividly captures the struggles of families caught between two cultures in the 1980s. Family secrets, a lost sister, forbidden loves, domestic assaults—Mary discovers as she grows up that life is much more complicated than she had ever imagined. Her secret passion for her English teacher is filled with problems and with the arrival of a promising Korean suitor, Joon-Ho, events escalate in ways that she could never have imagined, catching the entire family in a web of deceit and violence. A unique and imaginative debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety evocatively portrays the life of a young Korean Canadian girl who will not give up on her dreams or her family.

Keep watching the OWC website further further author announcement. And get your TICKETS soon, as they just may sell out!

Even#2 – WCDR Words of the Season


This is a regular feature of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. It’s an evening of readings from WCDR members and it features fiction, poetry, memoir, non-fiction, etc. Taking place this time around in Whitby, Words of the Season will happen on Tuesday April 4th, 2017. This is an open event and anyone is invited to attend. Simply show up at:

La Rosa Ristorante
3050 Garden Street
Unit 102
Whitby, ON

Arrive as early as 6:00 pm. Socialize, eat, enjoy a beverage – food and drink available for purchase. Performances start at 7:00 pm. Fully accessible venue.

Maaja Wentz will be emceeing this event. Members read, but anyone can come and listen. And stay for a meal.

I will be one of the readers this time around, reading from an upcoming novel.

Event #3 – April WCDR Roundtable Meeting

WCDR Blue Pencil Extravaganza

This mostly monthly breakfast menu for the Writers’ Community of Durham Region is always lively…and always filled with approximately 100 writers from Durham and the rest of the GTA–an amazing feat in itself for a Saturday at 8:30am.

The APRIL meeting will feature what the WCDR is calling a BLUE PENCIL BONANZA. Foregoing the usual format of a GUEST SPEAKER, April will be set up as a hands-on critiquing meeting. Each table will feature a different genre and a professional in that genre will facilitate the table through a critique of sample pages submitted by members at the time of registration. Meeting attendees could either choose to participate by submitting their work ahead of time OR observe at the table of their choosing. Please note that NON-MEMBERS will not be permitted to submit samples. This is only open to WCDR MEMBERS.

This event takes place:

BISTRO 67 – Durham College, Centre for Food
1604 Champlain Avenue, Whitby ON




The May 6th WCDR Roundtable Meeting will feature Guest Speaker TREVOR COLE. He will talk about “the early days of organized crime in Canada, before the First World War, when the Italian criminal underworld was known as the Black Hand. He’ll describe how it dovetailed with the beginnings of prohibition and led to the rise of Rocco Perri as the most powerful bootlegger and mob boss in southern Ontario.”

If I wasn’t leaving the continent on the very day this event is happening, I would most certainly be there. I hate to miss it.

Mr. Cole will also facilitate the AFTER-BREAKFAST MINI-WORKSHOP on May 6th >>>

How to Write Great Dialogue with Trevor Cole

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!



ONTARIO WRITERS CONFERENCE, The Last – Are You Registered?

It’s coming up on the very last ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE. Have you registered yet? You won’t want to miss out on this phenomenal GTA area writers’ conference. It’s got everything…amazing speakers, great workshops, food, panels, interviews and discussions. AND…the beautiful Wayson Choy. He has been the honorary patron of the conference since its inception in 2008. Just to be inside his orbit for the day makes it all worthwhile.

The Incomparable Wayson Choy! The 2014 conference. Having fun with Wayson and selfies. 🙂

Wayson will once again be one of the conference’s speakers. His talks are always inspiring, thoughtful, gracious, and meaningful. I spoke with Wayson a month or so ago and he was really looking forward to attending the conference…as usual.



April 30 – May 1, 2016

Ajax, Ontario

If you’re a GTA area writer, or don’t mind traveling to the GTA area, you should really treat yourself to a day immersed in what it is you love—WORDS. It will re-ignite your writing life and kick-start your creativity into full swing. Just in time for spring!


Click on this link to go right to the REGISTRATION PAGE.

If you would like to peruse your workshop options, check out this link to the WORKSHOP CLASSES.

If you would like to see a list of speakers, facilitators, agents, mentors, etc, check out this link to the SPEAKERS & FACILITATORS.

For the open to the public portion of the conference, there is the FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS.

The conference takes place at Deer Creek Golf and Banquet Facility in Ajax…just off the 401…and just EAST of Toronto. Click here for directions.

With the amazing workshops, master classes, agent pitches, manuscript mentoring, speakers, etc…I think you will find that there is something for everyone at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. At the end of this year’s conference, we’ll be saying goodbye to this amazing yearly event. Don’t miss out on your last opportunity to be a part of it.

See you there!



2012 Ontario Writers’ Conference – A World of Possibilities!

Tears are a good indication that, as a team, you are doing something right. When I first saw one of the 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference registrants coming up from her Blue Pencil Mentor Session with a pool of un-fallen tears collecting in the corners of her eyes, I was a bit hesitant to ask her what was wrong. And then her face bloomed into one of the biggest smiles I have ever seen. When she tried to speak, her breath caught in her throat. She was too happy to form an intelligent sentence.


When she was finally able to communicate to me what was on her mind, I felt another pang of justification for the long hours of planning we put into the conference every year. Her session was with an agent and the agent had asked her to send her manuscript in when it was completed!


And in 2011, I caught a moment of sheer exhilaration as Wayson Choy’s lecture let out. The crowd was silly with childish glee. And there were butterflies everywhere. When Wayson does something, he does it big! I couldn’t count the butterflies and I couldn’t count the smiles. Origami had taken over at the 2011 Ontario Writers’ Conference. (-: It was a sight to behold. And I beamed…because I pictured all those writers going home to their keyboards, setting their origami butterflies in a place of honour…and typing away with a newfound exuberance for the words they create.


That’s what we do this for…to hear success stories from writers who brave the nervous uncertainty of surrounding themselves with industry professionals for the opportunity to make positive changes in their paths to publication. To see the creativity of writers blossom into something bigger than it was when they arrived at the doors in the morning, eager to begin their day.


Every year as we committee members are running around making sure everything is moving as smoothly as possible, we come into contact with writers in the midst of a joyous moment…of discovery, truth, solidarity, success, enlightenment or recognition. Doesn’t matter what it is. If we see that glint on a passing face, the pool of tears collecting in wide-open unblinking eyes…well, we know. We know that the whole year of planning was worth the effort. That’s why we do what we do…as volunteers for a not-for-profit organization, our payback is in knowing that what we gathered together on the conference day has touched the life of a writer.


If you see one of the conference organizers walking around on the day of the conference with a beaming glow on their face, you’ll know they just stumbled across a registrant in the midst of an aha moment of bliss. Their success is our success! We’ll never get tired of seeing the fruits of our labour!


Wayson Choy – Honorary Patron of the Ontario Writers’ Conference


So when you come to the 2012 conference on May 5th, come with an open heart and mind. Come with bubbling potential. Come with hope and nervous wonder and a willingness to believe in the miraculous. We know we’re not going to change the world in any major way…but we certainly hope to bring a little change to your world.

 …word by word

 Visit the ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE YouTube Station – We have a large selection of previous speakers to view at our dedication YouTube channel.

Visit the Ontario Writers’ Conference website to find out about the 2012 conference! We hope to see you there!

 The 2012 Ontario Writers’ Conference takes place on Saturday May 5th at Deer Creek Golf & Banquet Facility in Ajax, Ontario…just minutes from downtown Toronto. All registrants receive FREE entry to the Friday evening FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS. If you cannot make it to the conference, you can still come out Friday evening to the Festival of Authors (Tickets- $20).

Incomparable Wayson – Ontario Writers’ Conference

It’s time, once again, for the Ontario Writers’ Conference planning committee to switch into high gear. One of my favourite times of the year!

While we get busy planning the 2012 conference, take a moment to watch the incomparable Wayson Choy (Author of the Jade Peony & Not Dead Yet) speak at our 2011 conference. Wayson has been the Ontario Writers’ Conference Honorary Patron since the inaugural conference of 2008.

You can check out all the OWC video and pictures at the OWC website! – Click on the PHOTOS & VIDEOS tab. There, you will find video featuring our past speakers – including Robert J. Wiersema, Andrew Pyper, Dwayne Morgan, Robert J. Sawyer & more!

The 2012 Ontario Writers’ Conference will take place in Ajax on Saturday May 5th, 2012. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for details. We’ll be announcing speakers, workshops, etc, as they are arranged.