Novels

Ontario Writers’ Conference – A Legacy of Creativity and a Labour of Love…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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Keep your eye on Naomi Mesbur – The Future of the OWC Organization is Coming!

 

 

I Will Tell the Night – Muskoka Novel Marathon 2016 Best Adult Novel Award!

A writer is sometimes lost and sometimes found. And quite often it’s a monumental moment that causes the shift between those two delicately interconnected worlds to occur. This weekend, I had one of those moments. I am found.

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The Dock at Dale & Sue Long’s Haliburton cottage on Lake Kashagawigamog this past Saturday morning, prior to our Hunter’s Bay Radio stop along the way to the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party!

I swear, sometimes it seems a writer’s life is made up of a series of gifts, miracles, and happenstances. Or so it very much seems to me. Every time I bring myself close to the edge of oblivion–to that place of writer/notwriter that I believe most writers go to–something or someone in my life brings me back to the heart.

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Writers! From left to right, Tobin Elliott, Christine Cowley, myself, and, Dale Long. Tobin and Dale were interviewed together for an episode of the show appearing later in October. And Tobin helped out with the narration of my play THE SPEECH, which I performed with Christine.

This past weekend, I began one of my many cycles of intense writerly related periods. They seem to come and go. Nothing happens for weeks or months at a time to even remotely suggest that you may in fact be living the life of a writer, and then suddenly you find yourself in a chaotic hotbed of WRITERLY stuff.

What started as a thrilling adventure at the local radio station in Huntsville, Ontario, this weekend, culminated in discovering that I had won a much coveted writing prize. Again.

I was invited by writer friend Christine Cowley to be interviewed on her radio program STORYLINES on Huntsville’s Hunter’s Bay Radio. But not only was I interviewed, which was a thrill in and of itself, but I also performed one of my Trafalgar 24 plays for the radio program…along with Christine herself playing the role of the lead in the short play, and my other writer friend Tobin Elliott stepping in as narrator. It was such a fun time! The episode of Storylines airs in early October and I can’t wait to see how the performance went. It will be interesting to see if it translates well as a radio play.

We stayed in Haliburton over the weekend, taking up residence in the cottage and bunky of writer friend Dale Long and his wife Sue. It was a thoroughly enjoyable stay, filled with great laughs, amazing food and good friends. Dale is something of a BBQ aficionado and what he can do with a grill, a cedar plank and a side of salmon is almost religious.  We thoroughly enjoyed our time with the Longs, the Elliotts, and the beauty of Haliburton.

After our stint as radio celebrities in the recording studios of Hunter’s Bay Radio Station, Dale, Tobin and I went to Kelsey’s in Huntsville with our significant others (Sue, Karen, and Michael) for a quick lunch prior to heading to the Muskoka Novel Marathon Wrap-Up Party. We were all excited to see who would take home the peer nominated awards and the Best Novel Awards this year. After the long summer that follows the July marathon, it’s always a special treat to head back to Huntsville and reunite with the other marathon writers…so the excitement we had felt at the radio station was only growing as the wrap up party approached.

The photo above-left shows the table full of awards handed out every year at the novel marathon wrap up party, from peer nominated awards to the judged Best Novel awards. On the right, Kate and Nancy from the YMCA revealed the total raised at this year’s Muskoka Novel Marathon—A whopping $36,000.00. Just see what 40 writers can do when they put their hearts to something. ALL FUNDS raised go directly to the literacy programs of YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka Counties.

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The Winners Take a Selfie! I was extremely thrilled to have been awarded the BEST ADULT NOVEL AWARD for the 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon for my novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. And just as thrilled for the lovely Lori Manson, who took home the coveted BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD for her novel NED AND NORA STONE.

I did not think I would ever win the Best Novel Award again. I counted my 4 previous wins among my greatest feats in my writing life. With the amount of struggling I have done in recent years, I can’t even begin to describe how much I needed this. It is the vote of confidence I needed to continue writing. It’s pure unadulterated validation.

I would like to thank Dale Long for two things. The first…over 24hrs into the marathon, I still did not have my novel started. I couldn’t connect. Dale told me to tell my story—just shake it up and make it fiction. Or something along those lines. So I said, “What have I got to lose…might as well do something!” He stirred my creativity and got me started. The second thing he did? I wrote my two title considerations down on a piece of paper, looked about the room until I saw Dale (who happened to win this year’s SPIRIT AWARD–for the 2nd year running) sitting and typing…then I approached him and asked him which he preferred. So, it is because of his choice that my novel is called I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. THANKS, DALE!

Here it is! My name on the Best Novel Award trophy again! VALIDATION!

A list of my Best Novel Award wins:

2007 – Best Adult Novel for SEBASTIAN’S POET

2008 – Best Adult Novel for THE REASONS

2010 – Best Young Adult Novel for HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN

2011 – Best Young Adult Novel for THAT’S ME IN THE CORNER

2016 – Best Adult Novel Award for I WILL TELL THE NIGHT

What an incredible weekend. Filled with affirmations, friends, laughter, food, love, light and life. I want to thank Tobin’s wife, Karen, for starting the snowball-rolling-down-a-hill conversation that culminated in the arrival of my new nickname, which I will expect to be addressed by from this day forth. I am LORD AWA (awa aka AWARD WINNING AUTHOR).

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a manuscript to pound into shape! I am now tasked with the great burden and joy of completing and polishing my novel, I WILL TELL THE NIGHT, in preparation of submission. (-:

Stay tuned to this spot! My spate of WRITERLY related chaos is still ongoing this time around. Tonight and tomorrow night I have some exciting writerly events happening that I’m sure I will want to write about. Stay tuned!

My Books for FREE on Kobo!

You have until August’s End to pick up two of my books for FREE at KOBOBOOKS! Both my 2nd and my 3rd novels can be downloaded at no charge for the rest of the month.

SEBASTIAN’S POET

Synopsis:

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

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

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

A LINK TO SEBASTIAN’S POET AT KOBO

Sebastian's Poet

THE REASONS

Synopsis:

With a mostly absent father, one sister deceased and the other on the verge of invisibility, and a certifiably insane mother, Tobias Reason is forced to grow up fast.

When his older sister Deja’s tragic death causes his mother to fall deeper into insanity, Tobias attempts to be a surrogate parent to his younger sister, Annabel. But broken mother Maggie takes up a lot of his time, causing Annabel to fall even further into the background of their chaotic existence.

When Maggie flippantly hands her mother’s house over to Tobias, he sees an opportunity to learn how and why his family has become so shattered. His world begins to collapse from the weight of the secrets he unburies, and he focuses in on a stranger from his parents’ past… a possible Ground Zero to Maggie’s fall into insanity.

If Tobias can somehow eliminate the past, he can make his family whole again.

A LINK TO THE REASONS ON KOBO

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Get both of these MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON Best Novel Award winning novels for free at Kobo until the end of August!

All 5 of my novels are available at AMAZON.

Digging in the Dirt – How to Repurpose Your Buried Words

The first rule of Write Club is…follow all the rules of Write Club. The second rule of Write Club is…there are no rules in Write Club. Therein lies the conundrum. We writers are a cocktail of confusion and contradictions. Do this, don’t do that…can’t you read the signs. But there’s one thing we should all get into the habit of doing. We should all be dedicated pack-rats when it comes to our words. We write the words we write for a reason. That reason may not always be clear when the words are being put down on paper or screen, but we should train ourselves to value them for what they are and what they may one day become.

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Treat your unused words like a garden you can later visit and harvest…

It’s true. Your buried prose and poetry can be repurposed. Have you ever written the first few lines of a poem because they grabbed you with the intensity of fire? Did that fire then fizzle out and force you to discard the work you felt so powerful for having created? Have you spent countless hours, days, weeks, months on a manuscript that you later tossed aside in frustration? Or how about those amazing middle-of-the-night ideas that left you breathless and certain you just came up with the plot for the next Great Canadian Novel? We’ve all been there, on the brink of a brilliance almost touched. I call these moments epiphonies. They’re like epiphanies, but they didn’t quite get you there. They’re phony aha moments, the bane of the writer’s existence. Or, at least mine.

I’m here to tell you to NOT give up. Don’t let these fly-bys into momentarily enlightened consciousness go to waste. If you wrote it, it meant something to you at the time. What’s the cost of saving your words nowadays? Nothing. Your disk-space can handle it.

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Trust that you saw beauty in your words, and that you will find a place for them…or a lesson from re-exploring them.

But how do you reuse, reinvent, recycle, repurpose, re-imagine? Any old way you can. Seriously. First, create a Spare Parts folder. Second, save everything that doesn’t come to fruition as a poem, short story, article, novel, song, etc into this folder. Name your documents wisely so you can remember what they are at a glance. Third, dig in the dirt of this folder every opportunity you have. Pry, pull, wrench, yank, rip and pluck any and all of your buried words and use them in any way you can.

Examples of how I returned to my Spare Parts folder and harvested words from it? Most recently, I stole a character from a novel that was three quarters written when it died. The heavy work on the character was already completed through the birthing of the fizzled out novel. He appeared to me in full, having already been alive in a previous work. I took some prose with me when I excavated him, but mostly I took him…his essence. You can do this with characters or setting or any little aspect of the original novel that you still love and wish you could use. There’s also the time I had a last minute opportunity to have a short story included in an anthology…but no time to write one. I looked through my folder and found another dead-in-the-water novel and I stole the first chapter. I made a few minor changes and, presto-magico, I had myself a short story! Another reason to save your drawer novels is time, growth, and the redoubling of your writerly wisdom through workshops and classes. One of your old unfinished trunk novels may very well be brilliant, but perhaps you didn’t have the wisdom needed to execute the idea to its full potential four years ago. After taking certain workshops, it might be helpful to revisit a dead novel. With your new eyes, you may see a way to rescue it.

Lines and stanzas from unfinished poems? Months later, when you’re having a dry-spell and wishing you could get your poetical groove on…steal those lines, use them as jumping off points for new poetry. Another thing you could do with poetry, once you have a pile of unfinished poems (and this will happen…it always does) is attempt to piece them together. You could very well have a complete poem living among the rubble of seven discarded ones. You must dig through the dirt to find the gold.

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Dig through the dirt to find the gold.

Save everything. Inspiration moments give you lovely little gems. Respect that. They might not be fully formed diamonds, but guaranteed there is something in there worth excavating at a later date. Trust your words and trust why you wrote them. Even if you never unearth them for future projects, it can be amazingly useful to revisit your older words for no other reason than to see how much you have grown as a writer since you first wrote them. That’s a reward you wouldn’t get if you deleted everything that fizzled.

So, be kind to yourself. Save your words. You never know when you’re going to need them. Spare Parts are like little treasure chests of pretty things. If you dig in the dirt long enough, you’ll find your diamond. And you’ll be happy you didn’t throw it away.

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