Immerse Yourself – Do Writerly Things and You Will Be a Writer!

This past weekend was a major ‘Writerly Weekend‘ for me. Well, technically the weekend actually began Thursday night. That was the night I was locked into Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. As one of six playwrights taking part in Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival, I was given headshots of two actors, a theme and a room in the castle in which to set my play. Oh, and eight hours to write it! (-:

This is the first of my 5 Trafalgar24 playwright gigs where I knew of the actors prior to writing my play. Let me tell you how much more intimidating that is! I had the amazingly talented Christopher Kelk and the equally stunning Adriano Sobretodo JR. I think I spent the first thirty minutes or so just looking at their headshots and thinking, ‘I have to write words that will come out of these two mouths!!!???‘ I have seen Adriano in various TV roles and I have had the good fortune of witnessing Christopher lob one after the other of his Trafalgar24 roles out of the park…not to mention some of his other works. They are both veterans in their field.

After my initial shock, I sat down to write a play. I really was incredibly fortunate to get two such talented actors. To be honest, I have yet to see a Trafalgar24 actor I wasn’t totally impressed with. The event attracts the best of the best to the ever-shifting ‘stages’ of Trafalgar Castle.

This was the first year I tackled a drama for Trafalgar. I just couldn’t put Christopher in a comedy. Talk about taking chances! But I believe the risk paid off. After seeing the play performed on Friday night, I knew I had made the right choice. Both actors performed beautifully, and the director, Carly Chamberlain, made some excellent choices in choosing the business of the play. I loved the direction. It’s the same every year. On Friday morning, I feel as though I am leaving the castle having left behind this meager offering of a few words on paper. And then the elves show up and make my Walmart flip-flops into Jimmy Choos. Every year, the director and actors transform my play into something far more spectacular than it was when I was finished with it. Theatre is such an extremely interactive and collaborative thing, and I am always amazed by the contribution that goes into a play once the words are on paper. It’s sheer magic.

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I did say it was a writerly weekend, right? Well, the WCDR Roundtable Meeting took place on Saturday. This was a special edition Roundtable. I was part of the planning committee for the WCDR U25 Panel Discussion, and it was an absolute pleasure to see it come to fruition. The panel was made up of Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) authors. And my own agent, Stacey Donaghy, moderated the event (quite beautifully, I might add).

When we set out to create this particular Roundtable Meeting, we had the concept of a mini half-day conference in mind. And that is exactly how it panned out. We had 3 agents on hand, taking pitch sessions from hopeful authors. We had the panel discussion, and workshops for both adults and young adults. There is a writing contest for the young adults who attended, we had a tremendous load of giveaways which were collected by various sponsors. The whole thing just had the feel of a conference, tightly compacted into a few hours on a Saturday morning.

To get the whole story of what you missed, click here. (-:

We were thrilled to have the following authors on the panel: Deborah Kerbel, Joanne Levy, K.A. Tucker, Norah McClintock, and Lesley Livingston. And sponsorship! We had sponsorship. (-: Penguin Random House, Writescape, and Ink Slingers were all generous in their sponsorship of the event.

The Panel - A Phono
The Panel – A Phono

I can’t really take all that much credit for U25. The brains behind the event was my writing friend, M-E Girard, someone who, herself, will be sitting on panels in the very near future. Remember her name. She’s a kickass writer who is about to explode onto the horizon. (-: As I recently stepped down from the WCDR Board of Directors, M-E did the lion’s share of the work on U25. And she did it up beautifully. I was happy to be slightly involved.

M-E and I, being silly at the podium. If Ellen can do it at the Oscars, we can do it at the WCDR Roundtable Meeting. (-:
M-E and I, being silly at the podium. If Ellen can do it at the Oscars, we can do it at the WCDR Roundtable Meeting. (-:

For those in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) who missed the WCDR U25 Panel Discussion, don’t forget that the WCDR Roundtable Meetings happen every month but one…throughout the year. Every one is a nugget for writers. You should seriously check them out. They take place in Ajax, Ontario…which, believe it or not, is only about half an hour from downtown Toronto. If you’re in Toronto, don’t be shy…because the Writers’ Community of Durham Region welcomes EVERYONE. And, honestly, there is life EAST OF THE CITY. The WCDR is only a short ride away. And it is a VAST and welcoming community. So over the top worth the drive. CHECK OUT THE MONTHLY MEETINGS HERE.

Whatever you do, and wherever you do it…make sure you’re getting enough WRITERLY things into your life. They validate the journey. Trust me! The more you live the writing life, the easier it gets. And TAKE CHANCES. Stretch your limits. Try things you never thought in a million years you could pull off. When I first petitioned Driftwood Theatre to take part in my first Trafalgar24 event, I had exactly ZERO plays under my belt. I didn’t let that stop me. We grow when we push ourselves. We discover that we’re stronger than we thought we were. Next time you see a writerly opportunity that sounds amazing, whether or not you feel confident enough to tackle it, take it on! You may have to put on your superhero suit…but that’s okay. Whatever works, right. Now go forth, and conquer your writing life. It’s waiting for you…

March WCDR Roundtable Meeting – U25 Panel Discussion!

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Don’t let the name fool you. The March WCDR Roundtable Meeting is NOT just another Roundtable Meeting. Not that there’s anything wrong with all the other great Roundtable meetings put on by this fabulous organization! Each one is fantabulous! But MARCH, 2014—Now this one is a beaut! Think–WRITING CONFERENCE! Think CELEBRATION OF YOUNG ADULT, NEW ADULT, and MIDDLE GRADE FICTION! Think MUST SEE EVENT! You don’t want to miss this one! Why, this promises to be the best thing to happen for writers since Mr. Magorium opened his Wonder Emporium up for a writers’ sleepover pajama party back in ’07! BUY. YOUR. TICKETS. NOW!

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Let me fill you in on what you can expect to see at this extravaganza. First…let’s dissect the name, shall we. U25- This refers to the body of readers covered by the writers in attendance on the panel. UNDER 25. We have Middle Grade authors, Young Adult Authors, and New Adult Authors. In order to encapsulate all 3 markets, the name U25 was born. If you do NOT write for these markets, don’t count yourself out of this event! It is going to be geared towards these markets—but also, away from them. The panelists will be giving advice that will resonate for writers of all markets. Writing advice will not be YA/MG/NA specific.

Who will the panel be comprised of, you ask?

  • Joanne Levy
  • K.A. Tucker
  • Deborah Kerbel
  • Norah McClintock
  • Lesley Livingston

This panel is a who’s who of the Canadian YA/NA/MG landscape. You will want to be on-hand to hear what these authors have to say about the writing process!

CLICK HERE TO READ PANELIST BIOS

My literary agent, Stacey Donaghy, will be on hand to moderate the panel discussion.

It doesn’t stop at the panel, though. This Roundtable Meeting is set up like a mini-conference. You can sign-up ahead of time for PITCH SESSIONS WITH LITERARY AGENTS.

Agents in attendance on the day of this unique WCDR Roundtable WCDR U25 MINI-CONFERENCE are:

  • Stacey Donaghy of Donaghy Literary Group
  • Sam Hiyate of the Rights Factory
  • Ali McDonald of The Rights Factory

CLICK HERE TO READ AGENT BIOS AND THEIR CURRENT INTERESTS!

This is an amazing opportunity! It’s not every day one gets to pitch their work to a literary agent. You don’t want to miss out on this opportunity.

For young writers, there is yet another aspect to the day. From the WCDR U25 Webpage, here’s the special invitation to young writers:

A special invitation to young writers

We’d especially like to invite local young people to join us, and have some great things planned specifically for young writers:

  • Join WCDR members and guests to listen to the panel discussion, and have a chance to ask questions of the panelists.
  • Receive a bag of writing-related swag, which will include a ticket to our young-writers-only raffle.
  • Opportunity to participate in a special writing challenge. Those who enter the contest have the chance to win and be published on our website—and get paid!
  • Attend a one-hour workshop after the meeting to learn more about writing.

Note:

  • Young writers from grade 8 to 25 years-old are invited to attend this event.
  • Registration fee for the RoundTable meeting only: $25
  • Registration fee for the RoundTable meeting and the special workshop: $35

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE U25 PAGE AT THE WCDR WEBSITE

Here’s something to remember about the WCDR:

ALL writers are welcome to attend. You do not need to be published AND you do not need to be a member of the organization to attend a WCDR Roundtable Meeting. The WCDR Mission Statement is as follows:

Mission statement: The Writers’ Community of Durham Region encourages writers at all levels; offers opportunities for support, education and networking; and promotes the value of writers and writing.

So, what are you waiting for? Today’s the day you should consider becoming a member of this vibrant organization! And for those writers in TORONTO reading this, trust me…these meetings take place in AJAX. That’s only a 20 minute ride, tops, from downtown. If you’re in Toronto, there’s no reason you shouldn’t attach yourself to the WCDR. You’ll thank yourself for doing so. They will propel your writing career to the stratosphere!

Duo First Person Narration and WCDR Roundtable Approaches!

Before I get to the upcoming (impending?) WCDR Roundtable Meeting, I thought I’d talk a bit about duo first person narration. I spoke about this to a fellow WCDR member at the WCDR Words of the Season event at The Bear & Firkin in Pickering this past Monday. The first thing I panicked about was a passing mention that writing this form is difficult.

I’m a bit puzzled. Perhaps somebody else can chime in with why they think writing 2 POV characters in first person is difficult? Is it because both characters need to be individuals and it’s presumably hard to write 2 FP POVs in the same novel because the reader may not know which POV they are reading? I did not have that problem. My characters were as different as day and night. I don’t know if any readers had a hard time separating the two voices, but I myself never got lost in the grey area between the two. I never questioned who was speaking. Perhaps this is the difficulty that was alluded to? Who knows. I can just say with absolute surety that I did not find it difficult. In fact, I had so much fun I might just do it again!

I wrote my 3rd published novel as a duo narrated first-person POV. I did it because it was fun. I had no idea it was hard until I heard it said this week. Since hearing that, I’ve been apron-wringing about my novel, THE REASONS. It was NOT hard to write that novel. What I found hard about that novel, was keeping up with the manic narrative that coursed through my brain at the time. I couldn’t get it down fast enough. My narrators are mother and son. And the best part was writing the insanity of the mother. It was a trip getting into her headspace every other chapter. I wrote The Reasons during a 72hr novel writing marathon. I still maintain that I dictated that novel. The two first-person POV characters, Tobias Reason and his mother Maggie, were extremely willing interviewees. Yeah, it sounds crazy…but sometimes one just gets right IN THE ZONE when writing. So much so that it feels like the characters did all the work. All I did during that marathon session was tap the keys…I was a conduit to a pair of mal-adjusted dysfunctional lunatics, and it was a thrill ride. HARD? Hardly!

Now! It’s almost time for the next WCDR Roundtable Meeting! Are you coming this month? You do NOT need to be a member to attend. These monthly meetings are wonderful networking opportunities. AND they are great rewards to give you writing life. As soon as I began to attend these meetings, way back in 2003, I felt legitimate. I had arrived. Attending these meetings helps to get I-might-be-a-writer people off the fence. When you become a part of the action at a WCDR Roundtable, you’re plopped right into the thick of the writing life. Each meeting is an adrenalin shot to keep you in the head-space of writer.

To discover what went on at the January 2014 WCDR Roundtable, click the picture below of Sarah Selecky. Sarah spoke on the finer points of short story writing. January was also the launch of the WCDR Short Story Contest, which Sarah herself will personally judge. You might best know Sarah for her WONDERFUL STORY PROMPT TWEETS on Twitter.

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January 2014 WCDR Roundtable Guest Speaker, Sarah Selecky

Don’t miss the February WCDR Roundtable Meeting. What’s going on at this one?

National Bestselling EVE SILVER will be speaking at the February event. her topic will be: Writing Romantic: A Creative Exploration for all Genres

There is always an After Breakfast Mini-Workshop at these meetings. For February, Sandy Campbell will be taking on the topic of SEX. CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THE FEBRUARY MINI-WORKSHOP GETTING SEX ON THE PAGE!

For those writers in the area who are shy-reluctant-terrified to attend one of these meetings, I’ll tell you right now…YOU WILL BE WELCOMED WITH OPEN ARMS. Have no fear. All levels of writers are welcomed–and encouraged–to attend. My first was terrifying! I thought I would have to show my WRITER CARD at the door. Truth be told, I was positive I would actually be turned away at the door…by a posse of laughing actual-writers, with a chorus of, “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE” singing me out the door. But it is not like that! AT ALL! You will be welcomed. Your hand will be held, if need be. Or not, if you’re freaked out by that sort of thing. Newbies are escorted to a table with at least one veteran attendee, and they are made instantly welcome into the fold. Do yourself a favour…ATTEND!

You must register by 9am on the Wednesday before the meeting. Next meeting Saturday, February 8th at 8:30am at Ajax Convention Centre in Ajax.

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER FOR THE FEBRUARY WCDR ROUNDTABLE MEETING!

From Ontario Writers’ Conference to Writers’ Community of Durham Region…

So, I’m about to step into a new role on the Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR) Board of Directors. This was something I considered for a couple years. I was on the board several years ago, when I first joined the organization. After finishing an approximate 8 year stint on the Ontario Writers’ Conference Board of Directors, I felt it was time for a change. I cherish both organizations. I’ve seen a lot of growing pains and wonderful achievements through my stretch on the OWC board. The yearly conference is now running extremely smoothly. I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished. (click on the logo below to go to the OWC site)

It’s easy to walk away from something when it’s sparkling with achievement. And it’s easy as well to step onto another project when it too is sparkling with achievement. I’m going from one golden goose to another. Both of these organizations have much to be proud of…as both are run by dedicated and passionate people who do their best to present the public with a shining example of what an organization should be and how an organization should be run. The move, for me, is so simple. Though two completely separate entities, both organizations’ boards are populated with friends who are like-minded in their determination to make the creative writing community in their area among the best writing communities in the world. Both the WCDR and the OWC have become synonymous with par excellence.

Though I have finished my tenure with the OWC, I will continue to promote the conference here and elsewhere. You may be hearing a lot more about the WCDR from this point onward. What some nearby communities need to know is that the WCDR hosts monthly breakfast meetings that are an excellent source of networking and learning for writers. I hope to help spread the word about the organization and make its reach a little broader over the next couple of years. I would like to see Torontonians heading east to Ajax to take advantage of our community. These breakfast meetings are open to anyone who would care to attend. They are welcoming to writers of all levels and they have excellent industry speakers delivering valuable information in an amazingly friendly atmosphere of camaraderie.

I wish the Ontario Writers’ Conference a lifetime of success. I’m planning on attending now that I will be free to take it in from the other side of the desk and I’m really looking forward to that experience. Working with the organization has been such an amazing gift…I will miss the people and the process and the excitement of putting the yearly event together.

Come June, I will be the Vice President of an organization that has helped my growth as a writer TREMENDOUSLY over the past decade! As I step onto the Writers’ Community of Durham Region board, I urge others who have benefited from a non-profit volunteer organization to VOLUNTEER. It’s the best way I know of to show appreciation for the gifts you have received from said organization. You will find that by volunteering, you enrich your own experience with the organization too. By giving, you receive more! 🙂

(Click on the logo below to go to the WCDR site)

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When You’re a Few Moons Late, Everything Can be Everything

I just came back from the monthly breakfast meeting hosted by the extraordinary Writers’ Community of Durham Region (WCDR)!

Sometimes these meetings prove to be more brain food than you’re expecting, but just the right amount you need. I was in the right place at the right time this morning. The guest speaker was DANIEL SCOTT TYSDAL, a man who gingerly walked us all out onto a taut tightrope, asked if we were comfortable and then snipped the end with a honkin’ huge pair of clown scissors. Well, at least figuratively speaking. Actually, I can imagine him sneaking up on the rope with said scissors, stopping to snicker, tip-toeing forward ever so slowly, and then POW! 100 writers free-falling to the death of their comforting yet stagnating common-sense.

Not exactly what he did, but I felt the security of the rope under my feet…and I felt the free-falling giddiness of having lost my breath by amazement. Like all great poets, Daniel Scott Tysdal seems to understand the need to leave the security of the laws of physics and normalcy behind when donning the POET hat. He left me feeling the need to get back into some poeting. That’s a good thing.

Every once in a little while you need someone to cut that string that holds you to the sharp-edged confines of reality. Judging by the air in the room at the Ajax Convention Centre this morning, that was handily accomplished. I felt these little cement balloons of normalcy lightening, melting, snapping and transforming into helium balloons of wild mind. Daniel held the secrets of the universe and he fed them to us one tiny little lie at a time. I walked away from the breakfast thanking the universe for offering up such a wizard this morning. I really really needed this. I have missed the juggling of words, the loose-lipped word leaves falling into the unstructured structure of poetic lines.

Here’s a poem for you to enjoy. Daniel Scott Tysdal on the Toronto Quarterly Journal’s website:

PLEASE ACCEPT MY CONDO

If you live in the GTA, don’t miss a WCDR Breakfast. Each meeting is a gift to creativity. They pump you up and ready you for your next adventure in writing. Community is such an important aspect of writing. And to think, for decades…nay…millennia, we thought it was a solitary act. The sitting, the foraging, the writing, the words on papering…sure…that’s solitary. But before the segregation…that’s the secret the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION has realized together. Before the segregation comes community. Together, we prepare ourselves for the rigueres of our solitary acts. We enter our offices and our dining rooms and our basements and our garages alone…but we all know that the writing community we leave behind is with us. We’re here for each other.

When the group has such profoundly explosive creative types as Daniel Scott Tysdal to entertain us…we know we’re doing the right thing. We’re widening our circle, exploring our craft and loosening the grip that reality has on us. We’re preparing ourselves for the cave. Today, when I crawl into that little cave to create, I will have new knowledge with me. I will have the memories of this breakfast meeting to spur me on. I’ll do my best to snip that concrete balloon that holds me to this earth, to float effortlessly into the wild mind needed to explore creation. And if I’m really lucky, I won’t be interrupted by any of that cumbersome spam that attacked Daniel today while he attempted to give his talk to his enthralled audience. (-:

While I enter the solitary silence, I’ll leave you with the book trailer for my second novel, SEBASTIAN’S NOVEL…a book I wrote in solitary confinement with a head filled with community.

Hey TORONTO, You Should See What’s Happening in Durham Region’s Thriving Writing Community!

In June, 2011, I wrote a blog post about just how dynamic Durham Region, Ontario is, when it comes to writing. It’s really quite unbelievable, the amount of things going on! And we are just east of Toronto…close enough to make the trip, and SO worth it!

I wanted to revisit that, as there are about to be quite a few events of interest to writers AND readers alike. As well as the theatre crowd!

Click here if you want to read my past post about THE WRITING LIFE EAST OF TORONTO

The first thing I wanted to mention today is something I’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of for the past 3 years, and something I will be a part of again in about a week’s time.

Trafalgar Castle, Whitby, Ontario

For those who did NOT know, there is an AMAZING castle in Whitby, Ontario, just east of downtown and just off Hwy #2. During the rest of the year, it is an all-girls school. BUT during one wonderful weekend every March it becomes the haunted castle in which TRAFALGAR 24 takes place. This year, that weekend is MARCH 8-9. Trafalgar is a play-creation festival. On Thursday night at 10pm, 7 playwrights will enter the castle. When they are released at 6am Friday morning, they will be leaving 6 brand new plays behind (one of the plays will be written by two playwrights, the other 5 plays will be written by individual playwrights).

At 6am, the directors and actors will enter the castle. They’ll have 8 hours to rehearse the new plays. Once they are finished, the castle will be prepared for the evening gala. This gala includes an audience of some 350 people (split up into 6 smaller audiences who will travel together throughout the castle to view each of the 6 plays), a silent auction filled with WONDERFUL items AND a mile-long dessert table that would make any bakeshop close in shame.

Trafalgar isn’t ONLY a wonderful yearly event that takes place in the thriving creative community of DURHAM REGION, it is also a fund-raising event that allows DRIFTWOOD THEATRE to bring its own unique brand of community to locations throughout Ontario during the summer months. Driftwood has THE BARD’S BUS. Every spring, the theatre group boards the bus and takes SHAKESPEARE to the people! Trafalgar 24 is one of the ways they can do this. Driftwood is a pay-what-you-can travelling theatre group. Watch for them in your Ontario community this coming summer. Make sure you catch their show when it hits your town. You will NOT regret it!

Jeremy Smith is the man behind DRIFTWOOD THEATRE. This morning, he appeared on local radio station CKDO to talk about the Trafalgar 24 event. You can listen in here:

JEREMY SMITH OF DRIFTWOOD THEATRE TALKING TO TERRY JOHNSTON ON CKDO – FRIDAY MARCH 2, 2012

To learn more about Trafalgar 24, including ticket information, visit the Trafalgar 24 page of the DRIFTWOOD THEATRE website here: T24

Event #2 – This is an ongoing event and all are welcome. The WCDR (Writers’ Community of Durham Region) has a monthly breakfast meeting for writers. This event takes place at AJAX CONVENTION CENTRE, which is located just off the 401…and minutes east of Toronto. You can watch a video that showcases these breakfast meetings on Youtube:

WCDR breakfast meeting have guest speakers who are from the spectrum of the writing world. Every meeting is a must see for writers at any stage of their writing path. They meet on the 2nd Saturday of the month. EXCEPT for this month! The March WCDR Meeting will be held on Saturday, March 17th. If you live WEST of Durham Region…it is WORTH the drive to Durham Region to take in this event!

For full information, visit the breakfast page of the WCDR website.

Event #3, #4 & #5 – These three events all have to do with the Ontario Writers’ Conference. I am a board member of the OWC. This year I am looking after conference registrations. We have an incredible line up for the 2012 Ontario Writers’ Conference, but we also have events happening ‘around’ the conference date.

The 1st OWC event, I’ve already featured today on my blog. I’ll just quickly cover it here. GET YOUR GAME FACE ON – Agent Pitch Workshop – This workshop is sponsored by the OWC and will take place Tuesday April 3rd at Trent University, Oshawa Campus. This is open to EVERYONE…not just conference attendees. Full details on the GET YOUR GAME FACE ON page of the Ontario Writers’ Conference

The 2nd OWC event is the FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS! We are taking this to a different location this year. This popular event will now take place on the evening prior to the Ontario Writers’ Conference. This years authors include; MARINA NEMAT, EVA STACHNIAK & BRAD SMITH. Friday May 4th, from 7PM -10PM at Al Dente Restaurant, 1305 Pickering Parkway, Pickering, Ontario. ALL CONFERENCE ATTENDEES CAN ATTEND THE FESTIVAL FREE OF CHARGE. If you are not coming to the Saturday conference, you can still attend the festival, but you MUST register ahead! You can pay the $20 fee at the OWC Paypal page. Click here for full FESTIVAL INFORMATION.

The 3rd OWC event is the conference itself. This takes place on Saturday May 5th at the beautiful DEER CREEK GOLF AND BANQUET FACILITY in Ajax, Ontario. You can check out ALL speakers and workshop presenters here. Workshop descriptions are here.

For REGISTRATION information, click HERE.

There is an EXCELLENT assortment of Ontario Writers’ Conference videos to be found at the OWC Youtube page here. For your immediate viewing pleasure, here’s a look at last year’s guest speaker Andrew Pyper:

So, if you live in Toronto…know that you are missing out on an AMAZING thriving artistic community just outside your doors. Don’t be afraid to make the trip east. We’re JUST OUTSIDE Scarborough.

Ten Years of Community & Growth – WCDR

It’s official. I’ve been taking writing seriously now for TEN WHOLE YEARS! I found it extremely hard to believe this fact. During the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION January Breakfast Meeting, I was presented with a certificate of appreciation for being a member in good standing for 10 years. I was shocked when they called my name. I had no idea ten years had gone by since I first found the courage to admit to myself (and others) that I was a writer. When I mailed in my membership form to the WCDR I thought for sure they would send it back to me with a gruff little note on it stating something about them only allowing REAL writers to join their exclusive club. I was CERTAIN of it, in fact.

I stayed away from the organization’s events for the first few months. I was too afraid of being turned away at the door. What is it about some writers who just can’t seem to accept the fact that ANYONE can write. All you need is the desire to do so. I didn’t believe that was true. I imagined myself infiltrating this writing organization. I had to sneak into one of their events…unnoticed and unassuming. So…after several months of seeing their Breakfast Meetings being promoted in the local newspaper, I finally gained the courage to register. I would show up and if they grilled me too badly and discovered that I wasn’t a REAL writer, I would just quietly slither away and disappear into the dark crevice from which I had come.

It didn’t happen. I was immediately accepted. I was sat down with some newbies and some veterans. Everybody was so nice and inviting. I FOUND MY COMMUNITY!

When I returned to my seat last month with my certificate, I first experienced a bit of sadness. 10 years. On the trip back from the front of the room I kind of took an inventory of the accomplishments I made in those 10 years. It was a bit of a mood crusher at first.

Then I thought, “Shut the hell up!” I no longer want to listen to that negative voice that makes me miss out in the good things. Had I listened to that voice 10 years ago, I would not have found the friends I made through the WCDR. I would not have had the awesome experiences I had through WCDR events and networking. My life is RICHER because of this organization. I’m proud to be a member. They have helped me as a writer and as a person. I couldn’t imagine not being a member.

A community is as good as its people. There are so many beautiful people in the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION. I encourage anybody in the area to take the plunge. You will thank me. I thank myself all the time for finally gaining the courage to take those first steps. Walking into this writing community was one of the best things I’ve ever done. So, at this 10th anniversary of my membership, I say to myself, “many happy returns!”

Visit the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION today.

They have sister organizations too! If you’re in YORK REGION or SIMCOE COUNTY, check them out at WCYR or WCSC

Toronto Writers – There is LIFE East of the City!

I’m quite sure that the little city west of Durham Region has a vibrant writing community. I mean, with a population of roughly 2.5 million…you would think that there were enough writers to form a circle of some sort. Maybe a cozy table of 4 at the local Starbucks? Or perhaps they meet en masse on a downtown street corner and belt out poetry & prose to the throngs of passersby on a Saturday afternoon? Who knows? I’m far too busy with the dynamic writing community here in Durham Region to find out what the little city to the west of us is doing as a writing community (this is not entirely true! Us Durham Region writers often travel in groups to Toronto for writing events of interest!). I’m sure they’re having a blast though.

I wonder if they know what’s happening here? I wonder if they realize that the Durham Region is attracting some of Canada’s biggest writers to their stages and writing events? I wonder if they know how close Durham Region is to their city? It seems a shame that more Torontonian writers don’t get in their cars and make that long mysterious vortex of a trip to the nether regions of EAST OF THE CITY!

In Durham Region, we have the WRITERS’ COMMUNITY OF DURHAM REGION, which is a wonderfully supportive writing community for writers.

I wonder if any of the TORONTO writers who stumbled upon this post are brave enough to click on the above logo? I wonder if they are ready to discover an entire writing universe that lingers just EAST of their metropolis? Because if they were to do that (click on the above logo), they would find out that they can attend monthly WCDR breakfast meetings at the posh AJAX CONVENTION CENTRE, which is JUST off the 401 and minutes from Toronto. There is a guest speaker from the Canadian writing community at each of these meetings. And tons of opportunities to network with fellow writers, editors, publishers, etc. They would probably be amazed that the WCDR is able to collect over 100 writers together in the same room once a month at 8:30 on a Saturday morning!

After discovering these monthly breakfast meetings, I’m sure Torontonian writers will wonder how they too can take part in such a vibrant Saturday morning activity. They might even want to find out how to JOIN THE WCDR FOR BREAKFAST! (<that’s a link!)

But the WCDR breakfasts are really just the tip of the iceberg. The Durham Region has BOOKS & BEVVIES, a lively night out with fine food and readings. This event gives writers another fine opportunity to mingle, network, enjoy each other’s words and company.

A growing component of the writing community EAST OF THE CITY is the annual ONTARIO WRITERS’ CONFERENCE This event takes place in Ajax…again just off the 401 and minutes from Toronto.

Toronto writers can even watch past Ontario Writers’ Conference speakers on the OWC Youtube channel. That way, they can see what they missed… and plan ahead so they won’t have to miss another conference ever again!

Yes…if they click on the above logo they will most definitely be taken to the OWC Youtube page. And once there, they can watch such writers as Robert J. Wiersema, Wayson Choy, Andrew Pyper…and a slew of others…give talks at past conferences.

I wonder if Torontonian writers realize they won’t fall off the end of the world if they travel east of Scarborough? I wonder if they realize they would be fully welcomed and embraced by the vibrant writing community that is BUZZING with electric energy and sitting here right in their own backyard?

These are some of the bigger events in Durham Region, but they are by far not the only events for writers. The Whitby Library is always able to attract big name writers to their downtown branch. It’s always worth the drive to Whitby to hear authors such as Robert J. Wiersema and Susanna Kearsley reading from their newest releases!

I wonder if the Toronto writers who have not yet ventured EAST OF THE CITY know of all the remarkable world class writing workshops being led by Durham writers?

What’s that above these words? Why, another link to fabulous Durham Region writing opportunities, of course! I bet there are Toronto writers clicking on that logo right now to discover what Inkslingers is all about!

But there are other busy Durham Region workshop facilitators too! Just click on this link and you’ll discover Durham also has an amazing WRITESCAPE in its playground. I know Toronto writers just clicked on that link. They’d be crazy not to! With all the wonderful retreats being hosted by Writescape, they would want to know exactly what it’s all about!

I wonder if there are any more Toronto writers out there who are willing to take the plunge off the edge of the world and make that worthwhile trek EAST OF THE CITY? If they were to do so, they would surely enrich their writing lives beyond belief. Notice how I said MORE. The Durham Region already attracts a number of Toronto writers to its vibrant community. Some have already discovered the secret of the abundant writing world we have here (lucky them!).

Durham also has a vibrant theatre community…and it’s growing all the time. Don’t miss out on the annual DRIFTWOOD THEATRE’S TRAFALGAR24 PLAY CREATION FESTIVAL. It’s only in DURHAM REGION!

Click on the castle pic above to find out how you can find yourself on the inside, having the time of your life! But only if you brave the drive to WHITBY!

We also have a theatre festival in Durham. The annual Durham Theatre Festival is region wide…and offers a wide variety of plays to choose from. Some written by Durham Region playwrights! I wonder if any of the Toronto writers are going to click on the logo below?

SO, TORONTO…what are you waiting for? The Durham Region Writing community is here. And it’s ALWAYS ready to embrace more writers! Take that leap…make the trip EAST OF THE CITY! It will change your life!

You can Twitter follow some of those mentioned here: @ONTWritersConf @WCDR1 @HotSauced @Inkslingersca @Piquant_Pr @Writescape_ @DriftwoodTheatr

Lamu Town

(Originally appeared as PART THREE in a THREE PART SERIES in the WORDWEAVER.)

As our plane landed at the Manda Island airstrip, I was crazy with anticipation. Out the window, I had glimpses of the Indian Ocean and the tiny Arabic/Swahili island of Lamu!

Our first dhow (a traditional Arab sailing vessel) ride took us to Lamu Island. I didn’t know then that I would spend much of the upcoming week aboard these beautiful boats. We climbed from the dhow onto cement stairs that ascended right up out of the water. Lamu Town!

We arrived on a very special day: Islamic New Year, 1430—a day of festivities: donkey races, dhow races, dancing in the streets and vibrant reverent prayer. I was enamoured with everything I saw. Fellow traveller Venus Thrash was
offered a donkey ride upon our arrival. We followed her through the narrow streets of Lamu Town as she was escorted, like visiting royalty, to Lamu Fort and the town square. We were swept up and fully embraced in their celebration!

I woke the next morning at 4 a.m. to the gorgeous sound of Muslim prayer. It was so beautiful, I didn’t care about the early hour. I had too much to take in to waste time sleeping. The weekend was free time and only half of our group had arrived in Lamu. Eight of us had arranged for a special day trip with one of the dhow captains.

The dhow crew took us to Manda Beach, where we swam in the ocean while they made us a meal of fresh fish, coconut rice and tantalizing curry. After the meal, which was served under the shade of an acacia tree on beach sand-raked smooth by the crew, we lazed around while the crew cleaned up. Later, we piled into the dhow and made our way through an intricate mangrove forest waterway. As the path narrowed, we had to step out into the black waters and walk among the ancient mangroves to the entrance of the 15th-century Swahili trading town of Takwa. We walked the ruins with mouths agape. Crumbling walls of an ancient mosque, dinosaur baobab trees, wells, homes, a withering school and the burial site of a revered Imam…it all fascinated us. The air of Takwa was alive, abuzz—either with the voices of long dead ghosts or a mass of unseen insects. We didn’t know which. We only knew the peace of being there…the sacredness of the island.

Unfortunately, we only had half an hour in Takwa. Any longer and the waterway leading to the island would vanish. We’d be forced to spend the night within the island’s sacred hum. As much as we loved the ruins, we didn’t have to be told twice when it was time to leave.

One last surprise for the day… we emerged from the mangrove forest at the precise moment the sun touched the horizon and melted into the Indian Ocean. Perfect timing! We watched the sun melt into the ocean as we ate freshly cut fruit served to us by the crew.

That was just the first full day on Lamu. Every day was the same: perfection. We had our writing classes on the rooftop terrace of a hotel in the centre of town—a terrace with a 360 degree view of Lamu Town and the ocean surrounding it. We had sun, donkeys, dhows, sharks, weddings, Masai dancers, poetry readings on the beach, Imams, absolute joy in the face of abject poverty, a dancing/singing festive Kiswahili Christmas Eve mass in a tiny Catholic church, Rastafarians, children playing soccer, hennaed hands and so much more.

What a perfect place to end our Kenyan trip. I will never forget the people of Lamu. Their joy has changed me. Their remarkable radiance is something we could all aspire to. And writing. Ah, yes. I was there for the love of writing. My passion for words has never been stronger. The beauty of the world classroom…what a perfect place to dance with one’s muse!

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!  (-;