Susan Goldberg Host Thunder Pride Literary Evening

Susan Goldberg Host Thunder Pride Literary Evening
(photo by Jay Chung)

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Austin Clark 1934 - 2016

Austin Clark, author of "The Polished Hoe," dies at 81

Friday, June 24, 2016

Insights from Judging a Writing Contest by Annette Gendler

I just wrapped up serving as one of the judges in the Hemingway Shorts contest sponsored by the Hemingway Foundation of Oak Park, and I thought I'd share some of the insights I came away with:

1   Don't start your story with a weather report unless the weather is the main topic. This is my number one pet peeve from having judged this contest! About 80% of the stories submitted began with a weather report, and about 95% of them had nothing to do with the weather. Beginning with the weather is not the way to distinguish your work from a pile of submissions. Weather reports are boring, so even if the weather is the topic, get on with it.

2   Have your protagonist appear in your first paragraph. Readers relate to people, not things. Ditto the weather issue. If I couldn't figure out who this story is about by the first paragraph, chances are I didn't read on.

3   Too many actors spoil the story. A short story is, after all, short! Too many characters diffuse the action and tension, plus your reader gets easily confused if there are a lot of names to follow. It's another way to lose the reader's attention, and a contest judge has to pay attention to a lot of stories. If yours makes this hard, it's not going to happen.

4   Mind your grammar, word choice, and spelling. Errors in any of these resulted in prompt rejection. By definition, a writing contest is looking for the best writing in a given genre, and the best writing does not contain errors. While spelling errors weren't prevalent, I was astounded by the number of entries that had obvious language issues, such as using "attendance" when "attending" should have been used. Have someone else read your work before you submit, as those are the kind of errors the writer will easily miss.

5   Keep to the word limit. Entries above the word limit were immediately deleted. While I didn't come across many of these, there were still some.

6   Submit early. Judges have to begin reading submissions before the deadline because of the sheer volume. A lot of submissions do come in right before the deadline, but a judge will also simply get tired from reading the flood and might have already settled, in his or her heart, on the top choices.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Thunder Pride Literary Evening

Poet Jayal Chung read  "A Poem for my Imaginary Daughter"

The   Thunder Bay Art Gallery hosted this year's Thunder Pride Literary Evening of wonderful readings, and book signings to an appreciative audience. But beyond the conviviality was a shadow, the massacre in Orlando, which host Susan Goldberg addressed in her opening remarks:

"I'm not scared about tonight. Maybe I'm overly optimistic, or maybe I'm just in denial, but I feel that the art gallery, in this city, is and will be a safe space for us. What I am is sad, and pissed off.

"Sad for the murders of 49 people who could have been any of the people who will gather tonight. It could have been me and my friends, dancing till 2 AM At Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, like we did. Sad like I get teary at random moments throughout the day trying to process this.

"And pissed off that we still can't gather 90+ happy, arts-oriented, peaceful people into a beautiful space without it being an act of risk, an act of defiance, an act of supreme hope and confidence. I'm pissed off that as an organizer, host, executive committee member, friend, parent, teacher and mentor that I am creating and promoting an event the sole purpose of which should be joy but that carries an undertone of risk. And that, implicitly and explicitly, my job is to ask you now to manage that risk with me.

"Showing up and reading poetry, memoir, prose: it's a brave, beautiful, radical and angry act. "

Sarah Brennan read her poem "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."
So many highlights. A stunning reading by guest speaker, Hiromi Goto, from her memoir. She spoke about a room of her own, linking her life to that of Virginia Woolf, two lives very different. She spoke of the need for a life of the mind, that strange and somehow old fashioned phrase, but so necessary for women and writers. 
Hiromi Goto
Ma-nee Chacaby spoke of her life as a two spirited woman. She talked about violence and sexual abuse in her past and continual harassment in the present. And she made the audience laugh too. She stressed the need for women to write their own memoirs to pass on to the young generation. "Don't worry if you think you are not educated enough. Just tell your story to someone smarter than you and get her to write it down for you."

The Authors at Thunder Pride Literary Evening

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Mark Munger Discusses His Two Finland Themed Novels.

Book Talk with Mark Munger
Waverley Resource Library Auditorium
Friday 24th June 2 - 4 pm

Wonderful reviews have followed Marc Munger's two Finnish themed novels, Suomalaiset: People of the Marsh, set in Duluth, Ontario and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan during the labour unrest of the early 1900's.

It's sequel, Sukulaiset: The Kindred, depicts the reverse migration of the Finns from the US and Canada during the 1920's and 1930's to Karelia as well as the turmoil experience in Finland during WWII and its aftermath,.

Both books are big, bold historical novels that have received international attention.

Munger, a NOWW member and author from Duluth, will read from and discuss these books at the Waverley Library in the Auditorium on Friday June 24, from 2 - 4 pm.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Prideful Night Ahead at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

Tuesday June 14, 2016 

7:00 PM

Thunder Bay Art Gallery 

Join us for an author reading by West Coast–based writer Hiromi Goto, author of the beloved Canadian classic A Chorus of Mushrooms — winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book in the Caribbean and Canada region — and, more recently, the young adult novels Half World (winner of the 2010 Sunburst Award and the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award) and Darkest Light. 

As well hear from Thunder Bay based writiers Ma-Nee Chacaby and David Belrose, and find out the winner of the third annual Youth Literary Contest

Thursday, June 9, 2016

First Nations People and Librairies

Resolutions passed by the Liberal Party at their convention in May. This blog does not, as a rule, use political content but I felt this was an important step to make sure all Canadians have access to public libraries. Please read the resolutions and you will see how much is is needed. The local law school also has a book collection for First Nations communities. Please support these initiatives (no matter what your politics.) Every child should have access to a library.
At the Liberal Party of Canada Convention in Winnipeg, Manitoba in May 2016 the following resolution was adopted unanimously:
WHEREAS every Canadian deserves access to a local public library;
WHEREAS an estimated 85% of Canadian First Nations communities do not have a local public library;
WHEREAS most Canadians know that a strong public library provides an opportunity to improve ongoing learning skills, literacy skills and social skills;
WHEREAS most First Nations are dependent on Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada for program funding, and 
WHEREAS Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada has zero programs to support public libraries;
BE IT RESOLVED that the Liberal Party of Canada supports the establishment of public library services in Aboriginal communities.
The NRC understands that the federal government is not bound by party policy. But we believe this is a great sign of broad-based support for the cause of strengthening public libraries for First Nations, Metis and Inuit people in Canada.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Taka a Country Drive to the Book Exchange at South Gillies

Here's a great idea. Bring books, take books at the monthly South Gillies Book Exchange at the South Gillies Community Centre at the intersection  of Highway 595 and 609.  More at 11 am to 5 pm. Here are the dates.
Book Swap

Spring and Summer Schedule

June 18
July 16
August 20.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Three Reasons I miss the Northern Women's Bookstore

1. Neither Ma-nee Chacaby's memoir A Two-Spirit Journey nor Amy Jones' novel We're All in this Together are available at Chapters. Northern Woman's owner Margaret Philips gave priority to local writers and made sure she had them in stock in timely fashion.

2. At the NOWW award night Chapters provided the book table. Almost before the evening was over, they packed up and left. Few people got to buy books and even worse, the guest of honour, Michael Christie was not able to get many books sold. When Margaret had a book table, and she had them at every literary event, she stayed until everyone had a chance to browse and buy.

3. Drury Lane Books in the tiny town of Grand Marais hosts two or three literary events per month, including full moon readings and writers' salons. Chapters in Thunder Bay hosts how many? Zero. Margaret hosted many many and I have such great memories of hearing and meeting many local writers as well as local music plus eating delicious food.

Outside the Lines plays at The Northern Women's Bookshop. Margaret Phillips in blue.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Helen Cimone aka Book Bag Lady Presents Two New Books

Hello Joan
We have 2 new Book Club in a Bag titles to tell you about:
And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, donated by the Food For Thought Book ClubA CBC Canada Reads 2015 Selection!
Finalist for the 2013 Governor General's Literary Award for French-to-English Translation

Tom and Charlie have decided to live out the remainder of their lives on their own terms, hidden away in a remote forest, their only connection to the outside world a couple of pot growers who deliver whatever they can’t eke out for themselves.

But one summer two women arrive. One is a young photographer documenting a a series of catastrophic forest fires that swept Northern Ontario early in the century; she’s on the trail of the recently deceased Ted Boychuck, a survivor of the blaze. And then the elderly aunt of the one of the pot growers appears, fleeing one of the psychiatric institutions that have been her home since she was sixteen. She joins the men in the woods and begins a new life as Marie-Desneige. With the photographer’s help, they find Ted’s series of paintings about the fire, and begin to decipher the dead man’s history.

Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis donated by the Chick Lits Book Club
" I wonder", said Hermes, "what it would be like if animals had human intelligence."
" I'll wager a year's servitude, answered Apollo, that animals – any animal you like – would be even more unhappy than humans are, if they were given human intelligence."

And so it begins: a bet between the gods Hermes and Apollo leads them to grant human consciousness and language to a group of dogs overnighting at a Toronto vet­erinary clinic. 

Suddenly capable of more complex thought, the pack is torn between those who resist the new ways of thinking, preferring the old 'dog' ways, and those who embrace the change. The gods watch from above as the dogs venture into their newly unfamiliar world, as they become divided among themselves, as each struggles with new thoughts and feelings.

Wily Benjy moves from home to home, Prince becomes a poet, and Majnoun forges a relationship with a kind couple that stops even the Fates in their tracks.

A big thank you to the clubs who donated these 2 great titles. If you are interested in booking either of these new Book Bags for you group, please call or email me.
Public Services Assistant

Mary J.L. Black Library
901 Edward Street South, Thunder Bay, On P7E 6R2


Andre Alexis

The Kids were the Jurors and they picked Duncan Weller's The Boy from the Sun.

A message from Duncan Weller

Hi Joan, 
$5 - Thunder Bay, Ontario 

The Boy from the Sun is a children's picture book that won two of Canada's top awards, the Governor General's Award and the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children's Picture Book Award, where children are the jurors. To order go to

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Launch of A Two-Spirit Journey: The Autobiography of a Lesbian Ojibwa-Cree Elder by Ma-nee Chacaby with Mary Louise Plummer

Elder Isabelle Mercier (with Joan Baril) who opened and closed the gathering with smudging and prayers

The launch of Ma-nee Chacaby's book, "A Two-Spirit Journey" was attended by laughter and smiles when she read about the antics of her childhood. It was also attended by profound sadness as she spoke about the violence she experienced when she was a child, a married woman and an alcoholic living on the streets. 

I have almost finished reading it (stayed up most of the night) and the contrast between light and dark, a life of brutality and a life of social activism, had me smiling and often, crying. Ma-nee's life was saved by her many friends, by AA and by a firm spiritual belief. Although she managed to survive many trials, she was still beaten on the streets for coming out as a lesbian. This book is an immediate classic on a par with Maria Campbell's book "Halfbreed." Every page trembles with a searing honesty.

The first sentence: "My name is Ma-nee Chacaby. I am an Ojibwa-Cree elder, and I have both a male and female spirit inside me. I have experienced a long, complicated, and sometimes challenging journey over the course of my life."

This is a book about violence and secrets. When a girl was raped in Ma-nee's community or a child was sexually abused, the victims were cautioned to keep quiet. Marital violence was overlooked. Ma-nee is blunt about the alcoholism in her village, her own alcoholism and the alcoholism, drugs and physical and sexual violence on the streets of Thunder Bay where she lived as she said, "as a bum." Pervasive racism worked to keep her there but she also received help from many kindly friends, social workers and members of her family.

The book is a first rate production with many photos and examples of Ma-nee's art work. In the excellent "Afterword," Mary Louise Plumber tells us how the book came about and its place in the broader field of indigenous literature. I was happy to see, at the end, a glossary of Ojibwe words, a list of people mentioned and a strong bibliography. A class act all round. 

The large audience at Lakehead University on Monday afternoon May 16, were spellbound with wonder at Ma-nee's great strength and resilience. Afterwards people  lined up and sold out the books within a few minutes Then they lined up to put their names down on a list to be called as soon as more books came into the University Bookstore.

Ma-nee signing books. One of her paintings lies on the table as an example of her work as an artist.
Ma-nee Chacaby at the Launch
photos Joan M. Baril

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Writers Retreat Here? You bet!!!

Dear Joan, This seems like a good time to introduce myself. 

I currently live in Calgary and write mystery-thriller novels & children's books under a different pen name. My connection to the area is that I grew up in Atikokan and that area is where my heart remains. I have lived in BC and Alberta, where I retired from a career in policing in 2011.

 Things have come full-circle with my recent purchase of lakefront property near Atikokan. With the help of a Thunder Bay librarian friend and her contractor husband, we're working on it this summer to turn it into a small writer's retreat where I hope to live year round. 

The footings for the sauna/writer solarium are in and the structure should take a few weeks. We hope to get the guest cabins built this summer so we can try our first retreat next year.    

I am so looking forward to getting reconnected to the area.

Makenzi Fisk