New Host of Canada Reads

New Host of Canada Reads
Wab Kinew

Monday, November 24, 2014

Ethical Author Code

(reposted from blog by Dylan Hearn) A couple of weeks ago the Alliance of Independent Authors announced the establishment of an Ethical Author Code in response to a general concern about the behaviour of some authors, both self-published and traditionally published. Like the vast majority of authors I know, I already follow the principles behind this code but I believe there is a real value in stating this more explicitly.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wab Kinew replaces Gian at Canada Reads and host of Q

Wab Kinew, the accomplished aboriginal broadcaster and reigning champion of Canada Reads, is stepping up to host the popular battle of the books on CBC. To read the CBC story about Wab and Canada Reads follow the link.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thomas King wins GG for fiction.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sophie Kinsella's Top Ten Writing Tips.

1. Always carry a notebook

Carry a notebook everywhere and write down everything that springs to mind, even if it doesn't seem relevant at the time. You can do a lot with a passing thought or a little bit of overheard dialogue. 
Get into the habit of looking at life like a writer and writing it all down. Don't worry about what "it" is going to be yet, just write it down as a habit. Because then, when you do have your big idea and want to write a book, you'll already be used to that process and have material to work with.

2. Think "what if" and read 

Start to see the world in a "what if" way and keep your possibilities for a story. Teach yourself to take a tiny little nugget of substance and extrapolate and tease it out into something else, have fun with it and see the potential.
It can seem tiny and insignificant but if you can sense the grain of a story there and keep your mind open to those possibilities, you will constantly come up with new ideas.
Reading is vital if you want to be a writer, it's essential. I've been a bookworm ever since I was a child, I was the type who would read a cereal packet over and over rather than make conversation at breakfast!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reading on the Road

Reading on the Road

 A five-day drive requires a lot of reading decisions. This was not the first time I have driven due south through the heartland of the USA.  Freeway driving means passing near many small towns along the way and stopping overnight at motels. Newspapers of any kind are getting harder and harder to find in mid America. Few motels provide newspapers any more or have a newspaper box outside. None of the gas stations carried newspapers.  When I asked one motel clerk about newspapers, she said, “go on line.”  

Bookstores are tough to find too. So I had to stock the vehicle with reading material before I left. What to take? I love audio books and when travelling in the States they help when MPR fades and only preachers, church services and vile right wing commentators remain.

I brought along a Michael Connelly police procedural called Angel’s Flight. The miles flew by. Connelly is a strong writer, straightforward, and a master plotter.  A Connelly plot twists but always makes sense. In this genre, the crimes are just backdrop to the story of the cop and his relationships in and out of the force. LAPD Harry Bosch is typical: a nuisance to his superiors, a failure in love and an ex-smoker who is forever pulled back to the weed.

For reading in the dim light of the motel bedside lamp, and in the equally dim but much noisier breakfast room, I chose the following:

Margaret Atwood’s new book of short stories, Stone Mattress. Great choice! She calls her stories tales and says they are based on fairy tales but I found this claim a bit ingenuous. Atwood’s fantastic imagination and her strong prose carry each story effortlessly. I read one or two stores at night and thought about them the next day as I drove along. You don’t easily forget an Atwood story. And yes, Zenia, from The Robber Bride, does reappear.    

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. A ne’er-do-well drunken father and his very different son set out on a final trip, the medicine walk, the journey towards death.  I was with the pair every step of the way.  A powerful book.

Pushkin’s Short Stories. I have read many of them before but still, a master is a master. In typical Victorian fashion, they start with a man saying to the unknown reader, in effect, “let me tell you this strange thing that happened to me.”After a few paragraphs on childhood, we are in, journeying into a card room where one man always wins, or journeying across the steppes to a military garrison where love and death await. Pushikin is the master of the telling detail. Each character is introduced with a few descriptive phrases and we effortlessly take the newcomer into the tale. Pushkin often puts a duel into a story; ironically, he himself died in a duel. Too bad. 

When I visited his house in St. Petersburg, I was in tears listening to his fate on the headphones. The Russian women guides rushed over to comfort me, patting me on the back and handing me tissues.  In true Russian fashion, they did not find my emotion embarrassing but completely normal. “Too young,” one said, squeezing my hand. “He left us too young.”

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Alistair Macleod Last Work Reissued

For Remembrance Day, McClelland and Steward have re-issued a small book, only 47 pages, the last work of Alistair MacLeod. It is called Remembrance. When Alistair MacLeod came to the Sleeping Giant Literary Festival a few years back, I fell in love with his gentle personality, his soft voice and the way he made short story writing seem easy. In his workshop, he discussed plot. You start with a character,he said, and then think about her and just work out various things that could happen. It seemed so simple as he outlined his method but I knew it took him years to write a story. MacLeod died last April, a loss indeed.

In his recent CBC Sunday essay  Michael Enright remembers "Alistair with a red moon face, twinkling eyes and the smile of a young boy.

"He was not a prolific writer. He published only one novel and 20 short stories. It took him ten years to write his masterpiece, No Great Mischief. He wrote in longhand on yellow legal pads. His great friend and editor, Douglas Gibson, called him "a stone carver, chipping out each perfect word with loving care." His work is unique, unlike any other writer I can think of. It has the clarity of dialogue of Flannery O'Connor and the diagnostic precision and descriptive powers of Alice Munro.

The story deals with three characters all called David MacDonald (only in Cape Breton!). Enright calls it " a story that makes you sit up straight and take notice; it's not maudlin or sentimental. And although Alistair says none of the MacDonald characters is based on his father, there are similarities. "My father went to war when he was 17," he told a reporter, "and he wasn't full of patriotic zeal, he was just kind of starving."

To read all of Michael Enright's review

Monday, November 3, 2014

A little late but a great Hallowe'en poem.

Hallowe'en is my least favourite holiday now. Not when I was a kid. Then it was all about sugar, tacky home-made costumes and the magic of running around with other kids after dark.  Yes, there were a few scary ghost and skeleton decorations but jack o' lanterns, witches, owls, and black cats ruled in orange and black.  

But in later years, death and gore have taken over the holiday, making it more gruesome.  Children are now treated to decomposing body parts, pots of blood, and yawning graves with decaying corpses as they move from house to house.  It is as if the horror movies and the vampire novels have hijacked the holiday.

 Travelling through the southwest USA, I almost missed picking up this poem by Martin Hicks. At last, with computer hooked up, I pass it on.

Even after the holiday, a great poem in the true, but now lost,  Hallowe'en spirit.


Dank halloween fresh candles flutter,
Weird costumes flit adown dark street,
Crisp fallen leaves fill grass and gutter
Witch child disperses with dragged feet.

Wedge moon looms yellow slice of butter,
Whole neighbourhood at front doors meet,
Orange pumpkin leers nearby proud cutter,
Ghosts haul full sacks, cry trick-or-treat.

by Martin Hicks

Saturday, November 1, 2014

International Festival of Authors - November 6 - Art Gallery!!!

What do Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer, Alison Pick and Michael Winter have in common? They are the writers featured at the International Festival of Authors coming on Thursday, November 6th to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. The event starts at 7pm. Tickets are available at the Bookstore for $10. Make sure to pick up yours before they are all gone. IFOA has been enthusiastically received every year in Thunder Bay and this year proves to be the same or better!!  See you there! For more information,

Northern Woman's Bookstore
65 South Court Street
Thunder Bay, Ontario  P7B 2X2
Phone (807) 344-7979
Store hours: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays 11 am - 4 pm

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Charlotte and Jane lead off 2014 Writer's Circle.

The Writer’s Circle – a dynamite year ahead for writers and lovers of literature.

I got a call from Irene Warmenhoven who told me about some of the recent events planned for the Writer’s Circle.

First, The Writer’s Circle meets on the last Wednesday of every month (except December) at the Waverley Library at 7 pm.  Open to all and all welcome.

Last month Hugh McDonald dropped in to talk about self publishing and Irene spoke about those two beloved literary heavyweights, Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen.

At the next meeting, on October 29 (Waverley 7 pm) the group will collaborate on a mystery story to be called “Framed for Murder” an art gallery who-done-it. Picture this. Participants are asked to bring in a couple of paragraphs describing a character who could appear in such a story and from there, the plot thickens! Come prepared to show your Jekyll and Hyde creative side. Judy Greencorn will be along to discuss plot and character in general terms.

November is the Christmas Pot Luck. Please bring nibblies. (no hot dishes please).

January: We learn how to write a magazine article.

February: Tentatively set to look at the art of critiquing with Joan Baril.

Stay tuned for dates for the November, January and February meetings. All at Waverley. 7 pm.

Unfortunately, Writer’s Circle member and organizer, Keith Johnson has had to drop out because of ill health. Please, get well Keith. You have done so much for the group.  Also, poet and poetry maven Paul Gooding, who has given so many interesting workshops on poets ranging from Tennyson to Alan Ginsberg, will not be able to continue his workshops this year due to pressures of work. Thanks for the memorable evenings, Paul.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

 The Wallflowers
By Joan M. Baril
The band starts and the bride and groom swing on to the floor. Colleen is sitting beside her Aunt Joyce at the family table, her hands on her lap clutching her evening bag. She’d rather be anywhere else, anywhere in the world, but you can’t skip out on your sister’s wedding.
            Or can you?
At the head table, the best man bows out the maid of honour. The ushers, fulfilling their roles, partner the other bridesmaids. The six young women wear sleeveless green silk with trailing white ribbons. A swirling forest waltzes to, “You Light up My Life.” The blond bride, green piping on white satin, glows in the centre.
 Typical Dorion staging, thinks Colleen. Her sister’s voluminous 1980’s gown matches her passion for retro music.
She sees Sam Fellows, the groom’s cousin, walk over to the far wall where her brother Guy is talking to three or four other men. They’re colonizing a wall, she thinks, just like high school. A black and white male phalanx stands in front of the bar, facing the dancers. She knows most of them, went to school with many of them, is related to a few, but she knows none of them will ask her to dance. They never do.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Good Writing Advice Contained in a Novel

Good writing advice can come from anywhere. What a fun surprise to find some neat tips tucked up inside a novel. So I pass them on here.

In the book, A Far Cry from Kensington, by the late great Muriel Spark, the protagonist, Nancy, works as an editor for a small London publishing house. 

Nancy: "Now it fell to me to give advice to many authors which in at least two cases bore fruit. So I will repeat it here free of charge. It proved helpful to the type of writer who has some imagination and wants to write a novel but doesn’t know how to start.

You are writing a letter to a friend,” was the sort of thing I used to say.” And this is a dear and close friend, real – or better invented. Write privately, not publically, without fear or timidity, right to the end of the letter, as if it were never going to be published, so that your true friend will read it over and over, and then want more enchanting letters from you. 

Now you are not writing about the relationship between your friend and yourself; you take that for granted. You are only confiding an experience that you think only he will enjoy reading. What you have to say will come out more spontaneously and honestly than if you are thinking of numerous readers.  

Before starting the letter, rehearse in your mind what you are going to tell; something interesting, your story.  But don’t rehearse too much, the story will develop as you go along, especially if you write to a special friend, man or woman, to make them smile or laugh or cry, or anything you like so long as you know it will interest, Remember not to think of the reading public, it will put you off."

Nancy claimed her method worked for short stories as well as novel. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New from Split Tree Publishing

Launch Party Friday, October 17, 8 pm at Daytona's Restaurant and Bar, Thunder Bay.

Chef Derek will be doing a demo at the INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair on Sunday, November 16th!
 Specializing in comfort food with a professional twist, Chef Derek Lankinen shares some of his most entertaining recipes, stories, and advice on how to make your dinner parties easy and fun in his own sarcastic, yet witty, voice.
Pre-Order from Split Tree Publishing,, and receive an exclusive invitation to the Launch Party where you will be able to sample recipes from this amazing book.
Anyone who pre-orders will be entered into a draw to win a dinner for two cooked by Chef Derek!
(If you live outside of Thunder Bay you can give your prize to someone local, use it when you visit the city, or tell us to pick someone else.)
This sounds like a great Christmas gift for the meat crunchers on your list. Last year I gave another Split Tree cookbook, Superior Flavours, a compilation of recipes from our great Thunder Bay chefs, to the cooks  in the family.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NOWW members sell books at Waverley, Nov. 25

All writers with 2014/15 memberships in NOWW are invited to participate in a pre-holiday sale of their published books (traditional or self). It will take place on Tuesday, November 25 at from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Waverley Library. There is enough space for 10 tables so the first 20 members to register with Bonnie Tittaferrante will have a space reserved.
Authors need to state how many titles they will be selling so that space can be accurately allotted. If you are only selling one book, there will be three authors at your table. If you reserve a spot and then need to cancel, please inform Bonnie as we may have a waiting list.
To register, email Bonnie at Put "Book Sale Registration" in the subject line. If you do not receive confirmation within three days, phone 622-0904.
The cost to participate is FREE for current members. If all the spots are not filled by Sunday, November 2, space will be opened to the public. They will have to pay $25.00 to reserve a spot. (A membership is the same price.) Checks must be delivered to Bonnie Tittaferrante and written out to Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop. 
All registrations close Saturday, November 22.

NaNoWriMo upcoming. Explanation below.

Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) will be offering a free workshop entitled Preparing for NaNoWriMo (what is it?, how to prepare and strategies for making through the 30 days)The facilitator will be Brian Jones who has twice completed the National Novel Writing Month in November and writes young adult fiction. The date will be Tuesday, October 28th, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Waverley Library, 285 Red River Road. No need to register.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

2014 Governonr General's Awards

Winners announced November 18. Click on the titles to learn more about each book.  Happy happy reading.