Sunday, March 1, 2015

CBC Bookies - Great reads chosen by viewers

The votes are in for the CBC Bookies.  Here are the winners. Besides the three pictured here, one of favourite books Sweetland by Michael Crummy was also a winner. 

Other winners were Echopraxice by Peter Watts; Walt by Russel Wangersky, Chez L'Arabe by Mireille  Silcoff; Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Looking for Jenna a story by Joan M. Baril

Looking for Jenna
By Joan M. Baril
I know Lake Superior well: the icy layers near the bottom, the streaks of light and dark blue that cross the surface on a calm day, the flash of white caps, the meditative shushing of the rollers lulling me to sleep at night.
I spent all my summers beside it from childhood on. As soon as spring unlocked the camping season, I was the first one in the water, faster than my brothers who were still unloading the car and faster than my parents who were busy setting up the cottage for the summer.
But my ten-year-old daughter Jenna is like my husband Donald, a little afraid of the water. She does not stay in long. She gets cold easily so I bring lots of towels to the dock when we go swimming and after, bundle her up well.
Donald seldom swims. He arrives after dinner every Friday. “Are you hungry?” I say. I always have a steak ready or fresh fish. “No, I ate in town.” His hand is in the air, outstretched. His fingers understand the latch on the upper cupboard, the bottle of scotch inside, the glass in the cupboard below.
“Daddy, I can do the crawl now. I can serve at tennis. Daddy, we hunted for mushrooms. We made a place mat of pressed leaves.” She holds it up with her long pale fingers.
He barely looks. “That’s great, dear.” He’s looking out the porch window, his gaze moving along the beach towards the other cottages. If he sees one of his friends, he wanders down, comes back late, bumping into furniture, his breath filling the tiny bedroom. “You’ll wake Jenna,” I say. His mumbles are unintelligible.
The knot in my chest eases when he drives back to town on Sunday afternoon. A  new week begins. I make sandwiches for the hikes, peg out the wet towels, sweep out the sand, go down to the beach to swim with Jenna and her girlfriend, Daisy. Sometimes Daisy’s mother joins us and I ask her to watch the girls for a bit while I swim out.
 I could swim forever. I could let Lake Superior claim me. I float and turn my head to find the line between water and air, the line where the waves change colours, move from mosaic to shimmer.
“Come down, come down,” the lake calls, just as it did when I was a child. I kick and dive and see the clarity of the underwater world. Perhaps a log or a stick twitches on the sand at the bottom. Sometimes, I try to scoop up a stray pebble, my fingers reaching through colder and colder levels of water. Why can’t my life take on this clarity, this simplicity? The lake holds me close.
But only for an instant.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Doug Livingston and the Double Read

by Martin Hicks

Doug Livingston

Douglas George Livingston has been composing poetry for approximately fifty years. During this half century he's been a lifetime resident of the Lakehead, although the majority of his artistic sensibilities seem to lie elsewhere, especially Europe.

Douglas also paints and keeps extensive journals on artistic and other concerns. To date, he's published four collections of poetry as well as single pieces in periodicals; attended many workshops; and given countless readings. His publications are, respectively: A Bufferfly Rides Her Horse (1982), The Perplexed Room (2003), Myoclonus (2012),and Kata Hodos (late 2014).

He's best known for his recitals at which the collective opinion of his audience is that they love the textured sound value of his work-it sounds so good! However, aside the same individuals invariably ask afterward “...but what does it mean?” Some hope that just one more reading and it'll all become quite clear. This doesn't happen. Livingston himself remarks that his compositions are the product of what he believes to be almost surreal automatism and thus he isn't quite sure-though their medium-what exactly such words convey, if anything.

Apparently there hasn't been a single article written on the subject over the past five decades to clarify this complex matter. Therefore, it's hoped that this belated sort of combined “four-in-one book review” may in part finally furnish the reader with one possible approach to appreciating Douglas Livingston's poetry. Even if you don't smoke, take out your meerschaum calabash and a goodly supply of tobacco and retire to a designated smoking zone. This imposing mystery is surely a two pipe problem, Shirley and Sherlock.

Oliver Sacks on Learning He Has Terminal Cancer

As I think of the recent death of Anna McColl, these words from Oliver Sacks,  printed yesterday in the New York Times, resonate with me. 

"I have been increasingly conscious, for the last 10 years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When people die, they cannot be replaced. They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate — the genetic and neural fate — of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death."  

Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, is the author of many books, including “Awakenings” and “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Farewell Anna McColl

Anna McColl 1930-2015

The Northern Woman's Bookstore is the only remaining feminist bookstore in Canada.and one of the few remaining independent bookstores in Thunder Bay. This week, bookstore co-founder, activist, story teller, Anna McColl died. Below is a tribute from the book store.

We are deeply saddened by the death of Anna McColl, co-founder of the Northern Woman's Bookstore. A feminist visionary, Anna worked hard over the years to make the north a more supportive place for women. While Anna had experienced many health problems in recent years, her death was unexpected, leaving us shocked and grieving.

Anna loved books. She was encouraged by the abundance of feminist literature that flourished in the 1970's, and wanted Northwestern Ontario women to have access to these books. Thus, she co-founded the Northern Woman's Bookstore in 1983, co-managed the Bookstore through the 1980's, and after "retiring" remained active both as staff and volunteer. Her love of the Bookstore, and the friends she made there, continued throughout the years. Newcomers to the Bookstore delighted in meeting Anna and hearing her witty stories. Anna greatly enjoyed our literary and social events. She came out to our most recent evening event, the Bird and Girl Concert we held in Nov. 2014, and we are happy that some of Anna’s last memories of the Northern Woman’s Bookstore were filled with the sweet sound of women’s songs amidst a circle of women.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Send it in! E writer in residence is now in residence.!

A great opportunity for writers but you have to act fast - only 20 writers accepted and time is limited. 

NOWW (Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop) is now accepting submissions for our e-Writer in Residence program. From February 13 until April 30, 2015, Northwestern Ontario-based writers and all NOWW members in good standing may submit their writing for an in-depth, critical review by Amy Jones.

Manuscript submission guidelines:

  • Manuscripts must be prose, in any genre, and must be typed in 12-point Times New Roman, double-spaced with one-inch margins, and not exceed 3500 words. Please include page numbers and a word count at the top of the manuscript.
  • Manuscripts must be emailed to Response time will be 1-2 weeks, and feedback will be delivered electronically.
  • Please include a brief introductory paragraph describing where you are in your writing career and what you hope to get out of the critique.
  • Please submit only one manuscript per writer.

Friday, February 13, 2015

"After fifty years, I still feel the need to write this story."

By Margie Taylor

After almost 50 years, I decided to write about being raped by my cousin. The Globe and Mail decided not to run it, which is fine, but I still feel the need to tell this story. I'll copy and paste it below. Read it or not, it's important to me to have put it on paper - finally:

As years go, this had been a tough one. My mother had died and my father was struggling both financially and emotionally to keep his head above water. At 17, the responsibility for the day-to-day running of the household was on my shoulders.

Early that summer I got a call from a man I’ll call Jeff. He was 7 years older than me and fresh out of the Navy. He was also my first cousin although I’d only just met him on a visit to the West Coast that spring and he seemed worldly and fun. My aunt, his mother, didn’t see him that way: she advised me to stay away from him.

“He’s been in the Navy,” she said. “God knows what he’s been up to.”
I should have listened but if I had I wouldn’t have been 17. When you’re young you think you’re invincible. You also believe you’re a better judge of character than a middle-aged woman who hasn’t seen her son in four years. Besides, we were cousins – nothing was going to happen. I wasn’t stupid, after all!

When Jeff called to say he was in town for the summer I was happy to spend some time with him. I introduced him to my friends and we “hung out” occasionally, going to the movies, visiting our mutual grandparents and so on.

One Sunday in July he rang to say he and a couple of friends of his were going fishing and would I like to come along? We didn’t own a car and the idea of getting out of town on a hot afternoon appealed to me. I didn’t know the other couple; they were his age and not very friendly towards me but I put that down to the difference in our ages. I was just a kid – they probably couldn’t see why Jeff would want to spend time with someone so young.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW), a group of writers based in Thunder Bay, is hosting a free workshop for writers. Details are below. For more information about NOWW and its programs, email or visit

Writing with Evocative Prose: A Workshop with Alex Kosoris

February 17, 7 pm

Waverley Library Auditorium 
285 Red River Road, Thunder Bay

Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) will be offering a free workshop entitled Writing with Evocative Prose. The facilitator will be Alexander Kosoris. Alexander discovered a love of writing in the late 90s, regularly contributing short stories to a blog called Apocalypse Madness. This quiet hobby blossomed into his first novel, Lucifer. He regularly blogs and writes reviews that can be found here, as well as his Facebook and Twitter feeds.

The workshop is free. No need to register.
For more information, check out the event on Facebook here!

Alex Kosoris

Check out the Facebook page. It is great. He has some suggested reading such as:

The current (unnecessary) reading list:
The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol (the superb translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs
Nocturne by Helen Humphreys
The Truth Ratio by John Pringle

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What We are Reading - From Lady Chatterley to Michael Christie.

For some reason, I am reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover. When I was thirteen or so, I snuck into my parent’s bedroom to “borrow” a copy. My aim was to flip through and find the hot bits. Alas, I found nothing. I realize now I was skimming one of the censored copies published before the famous court case which allowed the novel to be isued with full descriptions of Lady Chat and the gamey gamekeeper gamboling in the greenery.

Now, as I read, I swing between admiration for D. H. Lawrence’s amazing writing and desolation for his stupid ideas about women. First the writing. He takes such chances it leaves me breathless. He breaks all contemporary writing rules. He tells rather than shows. He changes point of view in the middle of paragraphs. He natters and worries a subject. He tosses in rants, mainly about the evils of industrialization. No one writes like Lawrence any more now that Bellow is gone.

In the character of the game keeper, Lawrence is surly, rude and misogynistic. Lady Chatterley says little and no wonder. Lawrence believes his manliness is being stripped away by modern women who are strong willed. He wants to hold a silent woman in his arms.  He should have taken the night train to London and bought an inflatable doll.

I shelved Lady C to turn to an excellent mystery by the Polish writer Zygmunt Miloszewski. The book, Entanglement, features the usual burned-out detective who feels trapped in a fading marriage. Of course he is trying to quit smoking and of course, he must deal with an unsympathetic boss. While battling the dark forces of Warsaw, he finds a renewed interest in life, namely a lovely journalist. I also loved Miloszewski’s  A Grain of Truth, set in the infamous southern Polish city of Sandomierz.  

Zigmunt Miloszewski

In January, I read two excellent books. Benediction, by the incomparable Kent Haruf, is the story of a dying man in a small prairie town. The lives of his family and neighbours weave into the story. Haruf has a compassionate and loving tone which pervades the book. Each chapter mentions the natural setting and the weather, both so important to Great Plains people in summer.

Poem by Estella Howard.

Manufactured fear
Cold winds blow in from the right
Build your fires strong.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Martin Hicks on a Triolet Roll

by Martin Hicks

Down by dock hostel times are sleazy
     With burly boy and teddy,
Dog on hot doorstep snoozes wheezy.
Down by dock hostel times are sleazy
Where bully makes bad drubbing easy
     While blondy waits for steady.
Down by dock hostile times are sleazy
     With burly boy and teddy.

-Martin Hicks
 And in case you dread the triolet, we have

Trioletophobia by Peter Blossom

I dread to meet a triolet,
The repetitions spook me.
I’m sorry but I have to say
I dread to meet a triolet.
I view them in a dreadful way.
Let OCDs rebuke me.
I dread to meet  a triolet,
The repetitions spook me.

-Peter Blossom