One More Time! The Muskoka Novel Marathon Part XIII

Lucky Number 13! Here we go!

It’s that time of year to start gearing up for the annual MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON again! And this year will be my 13th kick at the 72-hour novel writing marathon can. I have well and truly found what works best for me. It’s the bum-in-chair once a year chaos of a marathon writing frenzy.

The Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario, where the marathon usually takes place (when there’s not a pandemic).

This event is a fundraiser for area literacy programs. Since its inception, the MNM writers have collected hundreds of thousands of dollars through this marathon. And, as an added bonus, we get to spend an uproarious long weekend together in beautiful Huntsville, Ontario, in the heart of Muskoka.

40 Writers – 1 Room – 72 Hours – 40 Novels

Unfortunately, the past 2 years have been online…and this year will ALSO be online. Damn pandemic! I will tell you right now, it’s not the same as when you have 40 writers living together for 72 hours, sharing one big room, while each attempts to write the Great Canadian Novel. But the magic is still there. We meet through Zoom, we brainstorm, we chat, we laugh. We read our work. There is still a special dynamic that cannot be ignored. It’s still worth it.

Taking a break in the closet at the 2018 Muskoka Novel Marathon. My nap-cubby.

This year’s marathon is JULY 15th to JULY 18th. From Friday at 8pm to Monday at 8pm. If you register and write your novel (or part of your novel) during that 72 hour period, you can submit it at the end of the weekend. It goes to an industry panel of judges and a BEST NOVEL AWARD is chosen for MG/YA and ADULT manuscripts. Winners get prizes and the opportunity to submit their manuscript to a publisher, once they have time to complete it and edit it.

Meet and Greet at the beginning of the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon.

The online marathon’s registration fee is only $25. Here’s the INFO PAGE FOR FIRST TIME PARTICIPANTS. Keep in mind that the link covers in person details, but it also has the breakdown of prizes and awards, etc.

The facility where the Muskoka Novel Marathon usually takes place. The writers have one huge room to write in together, with a second room where we all dine together.

The in-person facility for this annual marathon is quite amazing. Once it’s back in-person, you should really consider vying for a coveted seat at the marathon table.

This dock is only a few feet from the building where the marathon takes place when it’s in-person.

Here is what I have done in past years at the Muskoka Novel Marathon:

What I have written at Muskoka Novel Marathon

2007|Sebastian’s Poet|Best Adult Novel Award
2008|The Reasons|Best Adult Novel Award
2010|Half Dead & Fully Broken|Best Young Adult Novel Award
2011|That’s Me In The Corner|Best Young Adult Novel Award
2012|Burn Baby Burn Baby
2013|Alive & Kicking
2014|The Book of Your Dreams|Honorable Mention
2015|Pride Must Be A Place
2016|I Will Tell The Night|Best Adult Novel Award
2018|Hey, New Guy
2019|No Visible Damage|Runner Up
2020|I’ve Waited Hours for This
2021| Worked on contracted novel…did not enter.

I’m not sure what my plan is for this year’s marathon. To use a juggling metaphor, a few balls are in the air.

Every time a writer reaches another 10-page milestone, they add a strip of paper with their name on it to the clothesline. It gets pretty full by the end of the weekend!

We will meet online this year. Hopefully this is the last year. The good thing is… we get to introduce NEW people to the Marathon this year. Because it’s online, people from all over the world can join…and there’s no cap on attendance. In person, the cap is 40 writers. So, if you want to focus on your writing for 72 hours in July this year, consider registering. You will get writing time, support, new friendships…win, win! REGISTER HERE.

There is LOTS of silly time to be had at the in-person marathon! Here I am with the zany Karen Elliott. Can’t wait to be back to the in-person event. I can’t believe I get so much writing done at the event, because we have the time of our lives!
I’ve met lifelong friends at the marathon, and also dragged many local writing friends to the event. And I’ve been lucky to get visits most years from my favourite person as well. 🙂

Here’s hoping 2023 is in person. As for 2022…it’s time to register! Cyber-See-You there!

To Create Inside of Chaos

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my position as a creative. When you juxtapose creativity with what is going on with the world today, it’s hard to comprehend that one could simply sit down, zone out, and create…amidst all the chaos.

I mean, honestly, between doomscrolling, masking, and just scraping by emotionally after two solid years of a pandemic…when does one have the time and mental capacity to create? That’s a real question, because I have been suffering terribly trying to come to terms with the answer. There is nothing worse for a creative than WANTING to create but not being able to motivate yourself to do so.

Today alone, we are waking up to Russia attacking Ukraine on the heels of Texas attacking trans kids and teens and their supportive parents days after ignorant moronic anti-masking Nazi racist anti-vaxxers tried to overthrow democracy in Ottawa. The world is so filled with hatred, madness, and rage right now. Where do we find the time to silence that chaos while sitting quietly and creating? It just feels like it would be turning one’s back on something important the very moment one shouldn’t look away. The world is HAPPENING RIGHT NOW.

I write this today after seeing a tweet cross my path on Twitter. Initially, I thought, ‘YES, YES, YES!’ It’s great advice. But it’s also somehow debilitating to ponder…especially if that’s exactly what you want to do, but you JUST CAN’T. For context, here is the tweet (click the tweet to go to Cavan’s Twitter):

No shade to Cavan Scott. I actually love the tweet. They’re incredibly right with this advice. Just don’t beat yourself up if you can’t pick up the torch of this tweet and run with your creativity.

It is also in times of trouble that creativity sometimes abandons our hearts. We need to give ourselves permission to NOT act on this tweet if we are unable to. Creativity will never die. YOUR CREATIVITY WILL NEVER DIE. Sometimes we need a break.

When the world is falling to pieces in front of your eyes and you can’t help but feel a deep lasting despair, please don’t complicate things by hating yourself for not being able to take refuge in your creative passions. Sometimes we are simply too overwhelmed to do so. Be kind… to yourself and to others. Times are dire. Be safe. Be the light the world needs in whatever little way you can be without burning yourself out.

Create if you can. Sit this one out if you can’t. Read poetry. Look at the beauty of art. Send hope into the universe for a better humanity. Do what you can to get by. Give yourself GRACE.

Hemingway’s Paris – Immersive Writing Retreat on the Left Bank!

The Left Bank Writers Retreat – Writing At Hemingway’s Favorite Spots in Paris!

The 2014 Left Bank Writers Retreat faculty and students, of which I was a student. From their website header, this photo was taken by Sarah Suzor. We’re posing in front of Les Deux Magots.
(Full Disclosure: I have no affiliation with Left Bank Writers Retreat. I am merely a past participant who thoroughly enjoyed and cherished the experience given to me by the retreat.)

It appears that the 2022 Left Bank Writers Retreat is a go!

If you or someone in your family would love nothing more than to tour Hemingway’s Paris while going deeper with your writing craft in the midst of the city of love and light, look no further than the Left Bank Writers Retreat!

The knowledgeable faculty are not only experts in the craft of writing, but they’ll immerse you fully into the Paris that Hemingway knew as an expat writer back in the day when he lived and wrote in Paris. And they’re all lovely people you will immediately feel comfortable with as they guide you through your Paris experience.

For me, being a first time visitor to Paris, I was immediately at ease in the presence of the LBWR faculty! You really get a sense that they’re taking care of all the details. Even those evenings when the students are left to their own devices, the faculty is at the ready to answer any questions you may have prior to your individual adventuring.

Visit Hemingway’s haunts, lunch together, explore museums, be guided through neighborhoods that come to life with your LBWR guides! I really can’t say enough about how wonderful my experiences were with this retreat. I think of it fondly and often…these seven years on since participating.

Visit their site for all the details:

LEFT BANK WRITERS RETREAT

Next retreat is June 11-17, 2022!

There is still time to register, either for yourself or for a family member (should you be looking for the perfect Christmas Gift!).

From the front page of the website, a little rundown:

Eight writers will spend a week immersed in new experiences in the magical setting of Paris’s Left Bank. Part writers workshop, part tour of Paris, The Left Bank Writers Retreat is for anyone who would like to break out of a writing rut and build momentum in their work. Will you be one of the 2022 Left Bank Writers?

Cost: $1,999 includes morning workshops, breakfast, lunch each day at a fabulous restaurant, snacks,
museum passes, literary tours, Seine boat ride, Metro tickets and a farewell dinner celebration.

This retreat will enrich your writing life and give you a lifetime of memories. I cannot recommend it enough!

LBWR on FACEBOOK

Retreat Schedule

About Page – Introducing the Faculty

Head on over to the Left Bank Writers Retreat website now, so you can head on over to the Left Bank come June 2022!

Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Auction – Feb 26-28 2021

The ASIAN AUTHOR ALLIANCE has created an Auction Fundraiser to support both the STOP AAPI HATE and the HATE IS A VIRUS organizations. Here is a note on the auction directly from the ASIAN AUTHOR ALLIANCE KIDLIT AGAINST ANTI-AAPI RACISM AUCTION website:

“We are a group of Kidlit writers and publishing professionals who are horrified about the intense rise in anti-Asian violence  after a year of xenophobic rhetoric and racist attacks. “The NYPD reported that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1,900% in New York City in 2020.” (Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans Are on the Rise. Many Say More Policing Isn’t the Answer,Time.com) We are running an auction to raise funds for two organizations that work against anti-asian racism and racism of all kind: Stop AAPI Hate & Hate is a Virus. Auction is open from February 26, 2021 @ 12AM EST until February 28, 2021 @ 11:59 PM EST.”

You have to act fast if you want in on items in this auction, as it only lasts for 2 days!

There are over 400 items to bid on. Here’s a link to the page that breaks those items down by category…for easier navigating of what there is on offer:

Items by Category

SIGNED BOOKS, BOOK BUNDLES (US ONLY | US/CAN | INTL)

BOOK SWAG

CRITIQUES BY AUTHORS

CRITIQUES BY EDITORS/AGENTS

WORKSHOPS, WRITING RETREATS

CALL WITH AUTHOR & CLASSROOM VISITS

CALL WITH EDITOR/AGENT

NAME A CHARACTER

MISC

I have items in this auction. UNDER THE CATEGORY OF SIGNED BOOKS, BOOK BUNDLES, you will find the following (Click on link to see my auction offering):

#254: Signed copies of The Camino Club & Pride Must Be A Place by Kevin Craig + $20 Gift Certificate for the online bookstore at Interlude Press | Kidlit Against Anti-AAPI Racism Auction

The opening bid on my auction package is $25 and it’s open for bidding RIGHT NOW. Ships for free to USA or CANADA. Please consider making a bid on this and all items in the auction!

Please spread the word to your writing and reading friends…to all your friends! This is over in 2 days. This is a tremendous and important cause! Happy bidding…

Author Life Month – Dream Retreat – Camino de Santiago

If you’re an author/writer and you’re over on Instagram, you may be familiar with #AuthorLifeMonth This is a one-month prompt based daily photo challenge for writers, created by @missdahlelama

Yesterday’s challenge (Day 17) was DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT. Though I didn’t focus on the one I’ve been imagining for the past 5 years, I was surprised to see that one of the other writers DID.

The idea that has been brewing in my head ever since the spring of 2014 is something I didn’t realize others would be considering. But then, I can also imagine every writer who ever walked the Camino de Santiago imagining taking part in a WALKING WRITING RETREAT on the Camino. It just makes sense. So, I was shocked, but not shocked to see it come up in the DREAM EVENT OR RETREAT day on Instagram.

It’s. The. Perfect. Marriage. I. Swear. To. God.

What I have been envisioning is a pilgrimage slash writing retreat that begins in PONFERRADA. Because writers would SUPER dig waking up on their first morning on the Camino with a view to Castillo de los Templarios (a literal castle of the Templars). I mean, come on!

This castle is the thing that dreams are made of. To start at the castle, with a group of 8 to 10 writers…it would be magical.

So, I would suggest a two week pilgrimage…but over an amount of land that would normally take a few days less. Because every day we would meander, walk a shorter distance than is normally walked by pilgrims. We would stop to write in open fields and on mountaintops, have picnic lunches in pastures, with food bought in little shops from small villages we stopped in along the way. We would eat our meals together, talk shop as much as possible…and enshroud the whole Camino experience into the writing prompts and exercises.

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With Connie. Camino de Santiago, Spain. 2014. A picnic along The Way…

I guess I’m not surprised by the fact that another writer has the same dream as me. I have always seen WALKING and WRITING as perfect compliments to each other. Walking embraces creativity in ways that standing still cannot. We think when we walk, we parse, we ponder, we roam in our own headspace. For writers, that’s such a luxury. I work out so many things in my writing projects while walking. To come up with an idea that incorporates both writing and walking is really a no-brainer. If a writer walks the Camino, they probably come up with this idea as a matter of course.

After coming home from my first Camino, I wrote a novel set on the ancient pilgrimage route. It’s now up for PREORDER on AMAZON. The Camino is fuel for creativity. There’s no denying it. I think other writers would experience the same phenomenon. It fuels your writing life!

WALK & WRITE ALONG THE WAY – A WRITING RETREAT ON THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO

-14 days in Spain on the Camino de Santiago

-From Ponferrada to Santiago de Compostela

-Days of walking and writing filled with prompts and exercises to enliven the imagination

-beautiful landscapes, incredible meals, the camaraderie of fellow creatives

-walk into Santiago de Compostela with notebooks filled with new words you wrote along the way

-Fiction, non-fiction, memoir—it works for any type of writing you’d like to explore

This idea literally sells itself.

Who’s with me?!

Christmas Gift Ideas for Readers and Writers

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

CHRISTMAS GIFT LIST FOR READERS AND WRITERS

READERS

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

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

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

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

FULL DISCLOSURE ON AMAZON

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

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

HOW TO BE REMY CAMERON ON AMAZON

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

bethjusino

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

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

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

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

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

WALKING TO THE END OF THE WORLD ON AMAZON

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

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

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

A HUG FOR THE APOSTLE AT WORDSINDEED

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

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

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

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

I WISH YOU ALL THE BEST ON AMAZON

WRITERS

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

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

lbwr.jpg

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

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

sanctuary

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

A Sure-Fire List to Help Motivate Your Inner Writer Into Actually Writing! Follow This List Carefully and You Will Be Writing Again!

Have I done a list lately? I should keep a list of the lists I list. Or is that list the lists I keep?

In a writing slump? Finding it hard to finish that Great Canadian (American, Armenian or otherwise) Novel? Trying to dedicate more time to writing this year because you’re one of those people who makes New Year Resolutions? Follow this list to a tee and you should find yourself back on the writing wagon. If you’re already on the writing wagon and you follow this list, you will find yourself even more connected to your writing. My point? Follow this list and you will write more.

The questionnaire
Do not skip items on this list. Follow it closely, or there is no hope for you. If you falter, you might go gently into the night and get lost forever in the vast vacuous land of NOT WRITING. Proceed with caution and a willingness to adapt yourself to the points made on the upcoming list you are about to read…

How to Write When You’re Not Feeling Writerly (OR When You’re Feeling Stabby and Murderous Towards Words, How Do You Embrace Them and Make Them Work in Your Favour…Even Though You Hate Them)


  1. Turn OFF the social media and Click the wifi to OFF. I know it’s impossible to imagine, but these things are distractions…killers of the imagination, even while they are stimulating it. If you follow this first item in this list, you will significantly increase your outflow of words. The increase could quite possibly be tenfold.
  2. See the first item in this list. Quite frankly, if you got this far in the list you aren’t following the steps properly.
  3. ARE YOU STILL HERE. Stop reading this. Turn off the internet and write.
  4. Don’t make me yell at you. SIT. WRITE. Open only one window…whatever program it is you use to write with.
  5. I’m gonna keep this list short and to the point. Only 5 items. Item 5 is CLOSE THIS WINDOW. SIT. WRITE. <<This advice works if you’re a beginner writer, or if you’re someone like that up-and-comer Stephen King…who has a couple books under his belt.

If you’re still here, clearly you’re not heeding my warnings. If you’d rather read than write, click on the image below to get yourself over to GOODREADS to enter to win a paperback copy of my latest novel, BURN BABY BURN BABY. The contest ends JANUARY 11, 2015!

goodreads

If you’re on INSTAGRAM, follow the steps in the picture below to win a paperback copy of BURN BABY BURN BABY in the INSTAGRAM contest! The easiest way to enter this one would be to go to Instagram and repost this image from my account. Instagram is sometimes tricky with resizing, etc.

Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!
Follow the Directions in this image to enter to win a paperback of Burn Baby Burn Baby on Instagram!

Okay…now there is still a chance for you. Turn it all off. SIT. WRITE. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. No magical equation. No tricks or gimmicks. To write more all you need to do is write more. One word in front of the other without the everyday distractions that weigh you down and mess with your creativity and drive. SIT. WRITE.

Zuzu’s Petals! Make Your Magic Authentic to Your Readers!

Unless one has never heard of the invention of a television, it’s fairly safe to assume that we all know the reference ZUZU’S PETALS. In case one among you (AND YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE!) has not yet seen a particular movie, I shall explain Zuzu’s Petals before going into the point I want to make about writing. (-:

ZUZU’S PETALS. They are perhaps the most glorious evidence of magic that we have in the universe today. Let’s just go right to it, shall we. Behold! Zuzu’s petals!

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ZUZU and her PETALS!

 

Aren’t they glorious!? The most beautifully gorgeous symbolism in all of moviedom! Yes…I’m excited. Of course I’m excited. I get excited every time I think about those petals. And tis the season.

In the above picture you will see Zuzu Bailey and her father George Bailey. They are characters in the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Zuzu’s story is a sad one. But it’s also one that is, at first glance, such a small insignificant role in the vast scheme of things. At first glance. I’m going to forgo the announcement that a spoiler follows here. Because all but maybe one of you have seen It’s a Wonderful Life.

Zuzu comes home from school with a beautiful flower and can’t wait to show her father. But some of the petals have fallen off. George, in his infinite desire to please everyone–and especially his lovely Zuzu–pretends to reattach the petals. But he secretly slips them into his pocket. Zuzu’s tragedy is averted, and her love and adoration for her father grows three sizes that day. Her flower is returned to its beautiful self and her tears retreat.

George Bailey then falls into the rabbit hole. He is taken into a world that would be the world how it would exist if he had never been born. It’s a much bleaker, darker world. It’s quite frankly a terrible world. It’s also a world in which Zuzu’s petals do not exist–no George means no Zuzu. Folks, don’t ever shout to the universe, “I WISH I WAS NEVER BORN!” That’s a rabbit hole you will not want to go down, right there.

As the movie wraps up, George is allowed to reverse his error and come back into the world he left behind. He has seen the vast changes his life-force has created in the world. He knows that the third rock from the sun is a better place with him in it. His faith in humanity is restored and he feels glorious.

Of course, he must be thinking, ‘Wow. What an awesome dream!‘ Because something otherworldly like that just can’t happen, right? But lo and behold…George Bailey reaches into his pocket and what does he find there? You guessed it! ZUZU’S PETALS. They were a huge symbol the whole time. Right in front of our noses. George IS. And how does he know he is? Because ZUZU is. Because…Zuzu’s petals!

“Zuzu’s petals…Zuzu… There they are!”

Today’s lesson for writers is simple. In truth, I just wanted an excuse to talk about Zuzu’s petals. Because they’re glorious and what not.

Firstly, did you know that It’s a Wonderful Life is based on a short story called The Greatest Gift. Written by Philip Van Doren Stern, it was privately published. I have to wonder if that means self-published.

My point? I do have one. No matter what magic you write into your story, it must be authentic. I use the term magic loosely here, because this can apply to any genre…not just magical realism or fantasy or paranormal or anywhere you would normally find MAGIC. I’m talking about anything from coincidences to ghosts to flying to world-building to Zuzu’s petals. Put clues in your work to authenticate the reality you want your reader to step into. Subtle clues. Tidbits of information that they can reflect back on when they reach the story’s conclusion. Something that will make them go, “AHA!”

I don’t know about you…but I eat that stuff up. I was just a child when I first watched It’s a Wonderful Life. And, for me…the most magical part wasn’t George suddenly running through a town that was COMPLETELY DIFFERENT than the same town we were just previously shown. The most magical part wasn’t the way people who lived as adults had suddenly died as children and lived-in houses became empty haunted spaces and even the TOWN became renamed in the blink of an eye. The most magical part were those petals. Placed lovingly into a pocket in the most subtle way…so that I would both remember their significance and forget their significance. Those petals were a glorious flower themselves…planted as a seed in a threadbare pocket. And when they blossomed, when George reached into his pocket and discovered those beautiful babies…well, my world stopped.

So the lesson for writers today is this—do that! Give your readers a whole boatload of Zuzu’s petals. Be like Hansel and Gretel. Leave glorious breadcrumbs throughout your story…breadcrumbs that will validate the story itself, make it more authentic. Every reader loves a great AHA moment. Just don’t manipulate them. Your breadcrumbs can’t have huge glowing neon signs on them that scream, “LOOK AT ME!” They need only be a few crumpled petals placed lovingly in a pocket in an effort to staunch the tears of a loved one.

It’s Not What You Say But What You Say and How You Say It – The Art of Talking Good Dialogue

For me, the chatter that takes place between the pages of a book is the most important part of the book. The connecting prose is merely the scaffolding, if you will.

There could be quite a few things wrong with a book, but if the talk is authentic it can still have legs. Yes, as writers we should concentrate on ALL aspects of our craft. It is incumbent upon us to do so. But I honestly believe there should be extra emphasis on the dialogue. The minute that becomes inauthentic and weighty, the book starts to take on water. Bad dialogue? It may never recover. For me, it’s the most inexcusable flaw in story. That’s why we should pay extra close attention to the words we choose to put in our characters’ mouths. Those words carry a LOT of weight!

Toronto City Hall Festival of Lights - The Secret to Writing Good Dialogue is to make yourself a part of the crowd. LISTEN. Then write!
Toronto City Hall Festival of Lights – The Secret to Writing Good Dialogue is to make yourself a part of the crowd. LISTEN. Then write!

It’s been a while, so… time for a list.

5 Quick & Easy Step to Writing More Gooder Dialogue

  1. Sorry about the list title. Every once in a while I like to make my writing readers twitch. I know that title is going to make someone scream. The FIRST step to writing excellent dialogue is LISTENING. It’s an easy step and it’s one you can do anywhere, anytime, anyhow. You don’t need any props or expensive equipment. Just plop yourself down somewhere and lend an ear to the environment in which you happened to have plopped. Great places in my Dialogue Listening Toolbox? DLT 🙂 My favourite for a while was Arrivals at the airport. Man, the dialogue! Coffee Shops, Subway Stations, Bars, Office Water Coolers, Hospital Emergency Waiting Rooms. You see where I’m going here, right. Anywhere! Just go somewhere where there are lots of people. Sit. Listen.
  2. Use slang and bastardized language at the proper acceptance threshold. Don’t weigh down your dialogue with an excruciatingly heavy amount of bastardized language or dialects. Just enough to suggest to the reader that it’s there. The only place I accept ANYWAYS ever is in dialogue. I do NOT consider ANYWAYS to be a word. In fact, the dictionary usually says this of ANYWAYS: informal or dialect form of anyway. So slang-a-lang-a-ding-dong is acceptable in dialogue. Because people use it. People hyphenate and shorten and murder words when they speak. So it is acceptable in dialogue. Don’t pepper it into your prose outside of those quotation marks, though!
  3. READ YOUR DIALOGUE OUT LOUD. Do NOT ignore this crucial step. I cannot help you, if you do. I consider it absolutely imperative to read dialogue out loud. It is unforgivable not to. If, when you’re reading it alive, you think, “NOBODY WOULD ACTUALLY SAY THIS. NOT THIS WAY.”, then you will know why this step is so important. And it will happen. I don’t think anybody writes perfect dialogue in a first pass. READ. IT. OUT. LOUD. If you have friends who will read it aloud with you, all the better. Sit together and go over the dialogue parts of your manuscript like you would a play reading.
  4. Don’t be afraid to murder your dialogue darlings. Sometimes, as writers, we write the perfect sentence. Then we sit back and bask in the warmth of the glow coming off that sentence. But quite often that stellar sentence is as useless as bark on a donkey. CUT IT! If your character gave some brilliant soliloquy that is just shining with the beauty of our language, but said soliloquy kills the flow of story by taking the reader out of its depth, SLASH IT. It’s your beautiful darling, but it just hiccupped your reader. Don’t do that!
  5. I don’t really have a #5 so I will just leave you with this. SAID rules!

Now get out there and LISTEN. It’s easy. SIT AND LISTEN. Then… SIT AND WRITE.

I’ve Gone Mobile (Or, Writer Gone Wild!)

I have made the move. And it feels great. I wasn’t sure if it would work out or not, but I’m LOVING it!

No more laptop, no more desktop. No more pens, no more pencils, no more books…no more teacher’s dirty looks. Oops. I didn’t mean to go there. It just happened. What I’m trying to say is I made the switch from laptop to tablet. And I’m loving it.

samsung

I thought I would give it a try because it’s ridiculous how quickly we get used to the downsizing of our electronic lives. The desktop computer seemed impossibly large when the laptop came into existence, and now…just the mere thought of carting my humungous laptop around exhausts me. (-;

When I got my new tablet, the first thing I thought of was writing. I was excited to get the closest app to MSWord and see if it would work for me. I immediately downloaded the free version of OfficeSuite, and loaded my latest manuscript to the app to see what I could see. It’s a go. The onscreen keyboard works well, the functions are similar enough in the app that I was comfortable transitioning without feeling lost in new technology. I began editing and writing. And I did so for a couple of days. Once I was sure that I could work in the new environment, I upgraded to the full version of OfficeSuite. For $21 a year, I felt it was well worth the investment. I now have writing on the go. Right there at my fingertips, wherever I am.

It feels liberating. That laptop–at least in my mind–was beginning to weigh a thousand pounds. With the tablet, and its functioning and acceptable 10″ screen, I have the freedom of mobility with the comfort of a bigger size than the smartphone I was considering using as my go-to writing implement.

To be perfectly satisfied, I created a new file and switched it back and forth between my laptop and my Samsung tablet. Just to make sure that formatting didn’t get messed up, or anything untoward would happen to the files compatibility-wise. It’s all good. It’s a go. I am now a tablet writer. (-:

I’ve been wanting to try this for quite some time, but I was leery. I thought it wouldn’t work out, for some reason or other. But I’ve gone mobile. This writer done gone wild…

Now…time to write.

I leave you now with Mr. Writer, by the Stereophonics. Because all writers are beautiful clowns…