Thursday, November 28, 2013

Interview with Author Susan Schoenberger


How/why did you start to write?
 I started to write seriously in my late 30s as a creative outlet that tapped into a different part of my journalist's brain. I don't like embellished writing as journalism, so I needed another venue to play with words.

How did you become an author?
 That was a very long road. I first wrote a novel that didn't go anywhere, then started working on short stories. When I attempted writing a novel again, I was fortunate enough to win a contest that helped me, eventually, find an agent. But even then, it took two years to sell A Watershed Year. Since then, I've had some rough luck and some great luck. Borders, which was much more enthusiastic about my book than Barnes & Noble, filed for bankruptcy just as it was coming out, so that didn't help. But then my editor at Guideposts Books moved to Seattle and got a job with Amazon Publishing, where she told them about my book. They are re-releasing it in November, which will give it another life, and they also bought my next novel, The Virtues of Oxygen.

What was your first published piece?
It was a short story called "Intercession," and it's the basis for the first chapter of my novel. 

Where was it published?
 It was published in the small journal Inkwell, which is based at Manhattanville College.

How long ago?
That was 2002. 

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
 I was a reporter and a copy editor, and both of those helped me as a fiction writer. The reporting skills are important for research, and the editing skills help me to fine-tune my own work.

What inspires you?
 Many other writers inspire me, as well as anyone who pursues a craft and really tries to untie the knots of what makes art successful and meaningful.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique
I'm convinced that Twitter is a meaningful endeavor, but I haven't had enough time to devote to tweeting and building my followers. So please follow me on Twitter! https://twitter.com/schoenwriter

Parting words
Thanks for the opportunity to share my story. 
(You're most welcome, Susan. I enjoyed reading about your author journey. And I wish you much success with A Watershed Year.)


Blurb:

A woman in the midst of heartbreak finds renewed purpose in her life when she decides to adopt a young boy from Russia in this powerful and triumphant debut novel.
Two months after the death of her best friend Harlan, Lucy remains haunted by the things she never told him. Then she begins receiving emails he'd arranged to be sent after his death, emails that will change the course of her life. One email in particular haunts her -- he tells her he is certain she is destined for motherhood. Thus begins her watershed year.
Links
To order the book:

My website:


My Facebook author page:


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Insomnia by Stephen King


It was a sunny, warmish day—unusual for early October. I unzipped the flap on the canopy, climbed onto the lawn chair and slipped into Stephen King’s world.

Insomnia was published in 1994. Well before the creation of the new genre—Baby Boomer Lit. But there’s no doubt this book belongs in this genre. King writes frankly about growing old and the moment of death.

‘ “The approach of almost every death which serves the Purpose takes a course with which we are very familiar. The auras of those who will die Purposeful deaths turns gray as time of finishing approaches. This gray deepens steadily to black. [The moment of death gives] release to those who suffer, peace to those in terror, rest to those who cannot find rest.’ (p. 396)

The senior citizens that people King’s book aren’t feeble and ineffectual. No, on the contrary, they fall in love, have sex and live dynamic, engaged lives.

Ralph Roberts is vulnerable—having just lost his wife—and so is a sympathetic character. He’s an every man which makes him easily relatable.

‘As that summer became fall, and as that fall darkened down toward Carolyn’s final winter, Ralph’s thoughts were occupied more and more by the deathwatch, which seemed to tick louder and louder even as it slowed down.
But he had no trouble sleeping.
That came later.’ (p. 35)

With the skill of a master, King takes time to develop his story. He uses the first forty pages of Insomnia to develop his characters, build intrigue and establish the world in which his story is set.

Completely engrossed in the book right up and including the bittersweet ending, I only paused briefly to note interesting observations ….

‘ “All lives are different. All of them matter or none matter.” ‘ (p. 577)

and acknowledge exceptionally well-written passages….

‘[L]ooked a few sandwiches shy of a picnic.’ (p. 144)

‘The light which did manage to find its way in here seemed to fall dead on the floor, and the corners were full of shadows.’ (p. 185)

 ‘He could feel the killer’s aura which surrounded this place pressing in on him, trying to smother him like a plastic dry-cleaning bag.’ (p. 501)

Insomnia has an old-fashioned charm, full of quaint sayings like:

‘Peek not through a keyhole, lest ye be vexed.’ (p. 384)

‘ “Looks like it’s shank’s pony the rest of the way up the hill.” ‘ (p. 463)

And as always happens to me when I read Stephen King’s prose, I was inspired to write…

It’s the time of the year when the clouds drift down in thin veils to dance with the evergreens. 
***
Next post:  An interview with author Susan Schoenberger

Monday, November 25, 2013

Free knitting pattern: accessory (hood)

Red-Nose Hood


This hood wraps around your head and keeps you warmer than a cowl would. 

Skill level:  Beginner

Material:
Knitting needles:  4.50 mm/ US 7/ UK 7 or size to obtain tension
Yarn:  one skein (200 yards/ 182 metres) worsted weight yarn

Tension:  5 stitches x 8 rows = 1 inch (2.54 centimetres) worked over Stockinette stitch



4 x 4 rib stitch (over an even number of stitches)
Row 1:  knit 4, purl 4 -- repeat to end of row
Repeat row 1 for pattern



seed stitch (over an even number of stitches)
Row 1:  knit 1, purl 1 -- repeat to end of row
Row 2:  purl 1, knit 1 -- repeat to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern

Cast on 80 stitches
Work in 4 x 4 rib stitch for 2 inches (5.08 centimetres)
Work in seed stitch for 12 inches  (30.48 centimetres)
Cast off

Finishing:
Sew two seams to form hood. (Sew a seam joining ribbing and top of hood)
***
This just in...
The email stated that Wintercraft (a gallery on Salt Spring that sells art and craft created on the Southern Gulf Islands) is opening on Friday, November 29 and will remain open until December 22. I was a participating artisan for many years and was always impressed by the diversity and quality of the work for sale. And this year promises to be just as impressive with over 90 artisan participating--including more than 10 new to the show. WinterCraft is held in Mahon Hall on Rainbow Road on Salt Spring Island.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

An interview with David Fraser -- poet

How/why did you start to write?

My earliest memory of writing was before I really had a grasp of the alphabet. I recall writing on the backs of discarded envelopes and composing my own stories about Peter Pan and the Cisco Kid. The writing was mere scribbles. Later in middle school I began writing poetry. Unfortunately in grade seven a teacher accused me of handing in a poem that my mother had written. I should have taken this as a complement but rather closed myself off after such an accusation. During high school I was writing all the time but keeping it to myself, as well as reading everything I could that interested me.

 I was fortunate to have two mentors in university, one was Margaret Avison, who twice won Canada's Governor General's Award and has also won its Griffin Poetry Prize.  The other was Margaret Aitkin. During that time both these mentors opened up their offices for informal discussions and the writing of poetry.  Also I was encouraged to publish my work and a number of poems were published in the University of Toronto anthology publications.

 Why I started to write is a mystery. Probably I can saw it was a means of exploring possibilities.


How did you become an author?

I would say as soon as I started writing, I considered myself an author. During my university years I was published and that made me feel I was a writer. However I pursued a career in teaching at the secondary and senior school levels, and although I continued to write, I had little time to pursue an active marketing campaign to publish a lot of my work. Nearer the end of my teaching career, I began publishing my work and for the last 18 years I have been published in many on-line and print journals as well as anthologies and my own collections.

What was your first published piece?

Probably the first published poem is “If”. It is a love poem to my first wife. Miraculously enough it was the first poem that I received a royalty cheque, ( $5.00 in 1979) since a Toronto composer used a few lines of my poem along with lines by Irving Layton for lyrics in a performed composition called Ex Tenebris.

Where was it published?

“If” was published in in complete by C.E. University of Toronto

How long ago?

1970

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

As I mentioned my main career was in education, where I taught primarily English, English Literature and Creative Writing. Obviously the content and the process of teaching others to write and work with text kept me always in a mode close to the written word. However I have worked as a baker, bartender, waiter, factory worker, ski instructor, and travelled. All of these experiences provide the raw material for my writing. Basically I see myself mining the sediment of my life, the newly deposited particles of current every day and also the deep layers that have been laid down over time.

What inspires you?

Life inspires me. I live in a location that is remote from large cities. I can walk outside my door, take the dogs for a run in the bush, go down to the sea, stare up at the mountains that sit across the strait to the mainland or look at the peaks of the mountains that from the ridge that runs the length of Vancouver Island. I am always active, whether it is writing, gardening, hiking and playing sports. People inspire me and I with my small publishing company and with the spoken word event, WordStorm, that I co-founded and run monthly out of Nanimo, I feel I am paying it forward, giving aspiring and established writers an opportunity to share their work either on the page, the computer screen or on the stage. That’s what inspires me.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I am currently working on a crime noir novel and will either self-publish or use a traditional trade publisher to present my book to the world. That will be a different experience than marketing poetry, since poetry is such a small segment of what people read these days. In terms of poetry, I believe, the live performance, either as a reading from a collection or as a spoken word, no paper, presentation is the best and most entertaining way to market my art. I enjoy the live audience. That is where you connect your words to individuals. Otherwise, it is also a good idea to have a web site, possibly a blog if you have the time and regiment to do so. Joining writers organizations is also a good idea. I belong to the Federation of BC Writers and in the past have served as a Rep for the Vancouver Island Region. I also belong to the League of Canadian Poets and receive funding for readings through being a member. I find that the more I do to help others, the more comes back to me in terms of author platform building.

Parting words

My writing comes from a process of accumulating sediment. Experience, imagination, truth and lies are laid down over time in layers and these layers are compressed by the weight of living. These are the strata that I mine to hone my craft.

Each moment in a day inspires me. However it is so hard to stay in the moment when the past, with its boxes of overlapping memory, beckons me to mine the sediment of my life, and of course when the future teases me with expectation and prediction. I find true joy when I can smash the moment, and be attentive to what is happening. It is then that I am a witness and an inspired observer on this fleeting journey. Perhaps it is then that a small round pebble on a beach will catch my eye and I will roll it along the tips of my fingers in meditative silence, before I stow it away in the depths of a pocket.


Links
Canadian League of Poets Page http://poets.ca/members_data/node/522
AA Publishing http://www.ascentaspirations.ca/aapublishing.htm


David Fraser

Writer, Poet, Spoken Word Performer, Publisher, Editor

David Fraser lives in Nanoose Bay, on Vancouver Island. He is the founder and editor of Ascent Aspirations Magazine, www.ascentaspirations.ca since 1997. His poetry and short fiction have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Rocksalt, An Anthology of Contemporary BC Poetry. He has published five collections of poetry; Going to the Well, 2004, Running Down the Wind, 2007, No Way Easy, 2010, Caught in My Throat, 2011 and, Paper Boats, 2012 and a collection of short fiction, Dark Side of the Billboard, 2006. In addition David has co-authored with Naomi Beth Wakan, On Poetry an inspirational book on poetics and poetry. To keep out of trouble he helps develop Nanaimo's spoken-word series, WordStorm. www.wordstorm.ca. In October 2009 and 2010 he participated in Random Acts of Poetry, a national poetry program that brings poetry to the streets of Canada. David is a full member of the League of Canadian Poets and is available for performances and readings via funding with LCP.

Canadian Authors Association


On Wednesday, November 13th I sailed from my island home—Mayne Island—to attend a Canadian Authors Association meeting. As this was my first meeting, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And I was pleasantly surprised. My pen flew across the paper, taking notes, as the panel of executives generously shared their favourite writing tips.

Tips…
'-No matter what your writing style, get a professional editor to review your work to help you say what you mean
-Organize your research and compose an original style of presenting your information
-Observe and analyze daily events that present magical moments
-Use proper grammar and strengthen your verbs
-Be consistent in your writing habits
-Know about the field and offer something that will capture the reader in that particular field. Humour and things that uplift and support the individual industry are welcome.
-Ignore your internal critic, and write anyway, because you have a story to tell.
-Reading your material out loud is the best way to get a feel for your story.
-Belong to a Writing Circle.
-A writer helping other writers—share your wisdom and support other writers
-Make your writing a business.'
quoted from the handout.

I highly recommended that all writers attended these meetings.

'Canadian Authors Vancouver holds monthly meetings on a variety of topics, all to do with aspects of writing. The public is welcome.' -quoted from News You Can Use

Meetings:  2nd Wednesday of month
September to November, January to May
At Alliance for Arts, 100 – 938 Howe Street, Vancouver
7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. [doors open at 6:45 pm]

Vancouver website: www.canauthorsvancouver.org
National website: www.canauthors.org

And for a slightly different account of the evening, please visit William Hay's blog
***
While flipping the winter issue of Aqua magazine I found another example of writers helping writers. This one was closer to home--in fact, it was on Mayne Island. The article is called The Power of Six:  Mayne Island Authors Group Creates Literary Excitement (written by Cherie Thiessen). The six authors are Amber Harvey, Jack Schofield, Lael Whitehead, Grant Buday, Helen O'Brain and Robert Harlow. Together they promote their work and lend each other support. To learn more about this group, please visit the Mayne Island Authors website. The article ends with an invitation to get involved with the group. First step contacting Jack Schofield (coastdog2@shaw.ca)
***
And, hey, hey, hey non-fiction writers...
Check out this new magazine maisonneuve
They want your submissions.
***
Tomorrow:  Please welcome Author David Fraser
Next Thursday:  I rave about Stephen King's Baby Boomer genre thriller Insomnia

Monday, November 18, 2013

Byron's Sweater (free knitting pattern)

My husband doesn't like wearing sweaters. That's not unusual. And not really a problem. Unless... Unless you're an aspiring knitwear designer--as I was from 2002 to 2010. So I decided to design a sweater he would wear. My first step: consult him on the design. My next step: consult him on the yarn. My last step: consult him on the fit. This sweater is truly a combined effort. Yet I didn't hesitate to claim I designed it.


Well, look at it.
Do you blame me?

I was still working on the sweater when we vacationed in Hofsos, Iceland. I finished it while there and I had my first International photo shot. Hofsos is a picturesque village in northern Iceland. 





Byron's Daylight in Hofsos sweater 
was first published in Knit Together (November, 2007)

Skill level:  Beginner

Materials:
Cabin Fever Aran Tweed or Kraemer Tatamy Tweed Worsted
250 yards per 100 gram ball - 8 [9, 10, 10, 11] balls
OR 1475 [1650, 1825, 1825, 2025] yards
1350 [1500, 1650, 1650, 1850] metres
worsted weight yarn

1 pair 5 mm 8 US 6 UK straight needles
or whatever size necessary to obtain tension

Tension:  16 stitches = 4 inches/10 cm

Size:  
Finished sweater:  
Chest:  38 [42, 46, 50, 54] inches
97 [107, 117, 127, 137] cm
Length:  25.5 [26.5, 27, 27.5, 28.5] inches
65 [67, 68.5, 70, 72] cm

Instructions are given for smallest size with instructions for larger sizes placed in square brackets []. When only one instructions is given, work it for all sizes.

Rib stitch
Row 1 (right side):  knit to end of row
Row 2:  knit one, purl one--to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern

Seed stitch (over even number of stitches)
Row 1:  knit one, purl one--to end of row
Row 2:  purl one, knit one--to end of row
Repeat rows for pattern

Stockinette stitch
Row 1 (right side):  knit--to end of row
Row 2:  purl to end of row
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for pattern

Back
Cast on 76 [84, 92, 100, 108] stitches
Work in rib stitch for 2.5 inches (6 centimetres)
Work in Stockinette stitch for 14 [14.5, 15, 15, 15.5] inches 
35.5 [37, 38, 38, 39.5] centimetres 
For tall size, add 2 inches (5 centimetres)
Armhole shaping:
Decrease 8 stitches at the beginning of next 2 rows
60 [68, 76, 84, 92] stitches remaining
Work in Stockinette for 9 [10, 10, 11, 11.5] inches 
23 [25.5, 25.5, 28, 29] centimetres
Shoulder shaping:
Cast off 8 [6, 8, 10, 12] stitches at beginning of next 2 [4, 4, 4, 4] rows
44 stitches remain for all sizes
Collar:  Work in seed stitch for 4 inches (10 cm) 
Cast off

Front
Cast on 76 [84, 92, 100, 108] stitches
Work in rib stitch for 2.5 inches (6 centimetres)
Establish pattern:  Work 12 [12, 12, 12, 14] stitches in Stockinette stitch, 10 stitches in seed stitch, 54 [62, 70, 78, 84] stitches in Stockinette stitch
Work established pattern for 14 [14.5, 15, 15, 15.5] inches 
35.5 [37, 38, 38, 39.5] centimetres
Tip:  Place a stitch marker at each side of seed stitch panel
Armhole shaping: 
Decrease 8 stitches at the beginning of next 2 rows.
60 [68, 76, 84, 92] stitches remain
Check:  with right side facing there are 4 [4, 4, 6] stitches in Stockinette stitch, 10 stitches in seed stitch, 46 [54, 62, 70, 76] stitches in Stockinette stitch
Continue for 4 [4, 5, 5, 5] inches
10 [10, 13, 13, 13] centimetres
Yoke
Establish pattern:  (right side facing) Work 4 [4, 4, 4, 6] stitches in Stockinette stitch, 10 stitches in seed stitch, 18 [20, 22, 26, 26] stitches in Stockinette stitch.
60 [68, 76, 84, 92] stitches remain
Continue as established for 2 [2.5, 2.5, 3, 3] inches
5 [6.5, 6.5, 7.5, 7.5] centimetres
Right side facing for next row. On next row, join a new ball of yarn in the centre of the seed stitch yoke panel, using one ball on each half of front. 
Continue working in pattern as established until armhole measures 8 [9.5, 9.5, 10, 10] inches
20 [24, 24, 25.5, 25.5] centimetres
Widen yoke as follows:  Work 4 [4, 4, 4, 6] stitches in Stockinette stitch, 26 [30, 10, 10, 10] stitches in seed stitch, 0 [0, 2, 6, 8] stitches in Stockinette stitch, 22 stitches in seed stitch, 0 [0, 22, 22, 22] stitches in seed stitch, 8 [12, 16, 20, 24] stitches in Stockinette stitch
60 [68, 76, 84, 92] stitches remain
Continue until armhole measures 9 [10, 10, 11, 11.5] inches
23 [25.5, 25.5, 28, 29] centimetres
Shoulder shaping:  
Cast off 8 [6, 8, 10, 12] stitches at the armhole edge of next 2 [4, 4, 4,4] rows
22 stitches on each side of yoke for all sizes.
Collar:
Continuing as for yoke, with separate ball of yarn for each half of front, work in seed stitch stitch for 4 inches (10 centimetres)
Cast off

Sleeves (make 2)
Cast on 72 [80, 80, 88, 92] stitches
Work in Stockinette stitch for 2 inches (5 centimetres)
Increase 1 stitch at the beginning and end of next row
74 [82, 82, 90, 94] stitches
Work in Stockinette stitch for 1 inch (2.5 centimetres)
Decrease 1 stitch at the beginning and end of next and every following 6th row until 50 [58, 58, 60, 64] stitches remain
Continue in Stockinette stitch until sleeve length is 2 [2, 2.5, 3, 3.5] inches 
5 [5, 6, 7.5, 9] centimetres less than desire length
Wrong side facing for next row
Decrease 8 [16, 16, 18, 22] stitches evenly across next row
42 stitches remain
Work in rib stitch for 2 [2, 2.5, 3, 3.5] inches 
5 [5, 6, 7.5, 9] centimetres
Cast off

Finishing
Attach sleeves, sew side, shoulder, collar and sleeve seams. Weave in ends.
***
Next post:  Meeting the Canadian Authors Association



Friday, November 15, 2013

Please welcome Author Alix Ohlin


Alix Ohlin's novel Inside (Knopf) and her story collection Signs and Wonders (Vintage) were both published on June 5, 2012.  She is also the author of The Missing Person, a novel, and Babylon and Other Stories. Her work has appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best New American Voices, and on public radio’s Selected Shorts. Born and raised in Montreal, she currently lives in Easton, Pennsylvania, and teaches at Lafayette College and in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.


How/why did you start to write?

I started writing as a child.  I grew up in a house full of books, and reading was how I understood the world.  My Grade Two teacher, Grace Tugwell—I used her name in INSIDE, as a tribute—encouraged me to write special assignments outside of class.  I still have some of the things I wrote for her, like an illustrated fable that I stitched into a little book bound with construction paper.

How did you become an author?

After I graduated from university I began writing seriously, and secretly.  I thought I would cultivate my genius in private until I could spring it full-blown on the world with a series of brilliant stories in The New Yorker or something.  Eventually I realized it probably wasn’t going to happen this way, and I went to graduate school in creative writing instead.  There I began to publish my stories in literary magazines, and eventually got a book contract.

What was your first published piece? Where was it published? How long ago?

It was a short story published in Western Humanities Review, a journal in Utah, in 1998.  It was actually part of a whole book-length story cycle, but I only published one story from it.  I still have the acceptance letter framed.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?

I worked a variety of jobs, like editorial assistant at a publishing company, temp, freelance writer, bookstore clerk.  I learned early on to make time for my writing around a work schedule, which was helpful discipline.  And working in book publishing and bookstores taught me a lot about the business that helped me as a writer—mainly by making me grateful for the people who devote their lives to those fields.

What inspires you?

I’m inspired by art museums, eavesdropping, gossip, family history, strong coffee, and the work of other writers both contemporary and classic.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique

I don’t think much about platform building, but I do think about participating in communities of writers—both online and in person.  I believe in sharing ideas and offering support.  Maybe the best platform is to be a good literary citizen: be a reader, support independent bookstores and literary journals, be part of the conversation.

Parting words

Just because I’m excited about them, here are some recent books I’ve read and loved: Middlemarch, The Gate by Natsume Soseki, and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.

Author website



Thursday, November 14, 2013

Wolf


Years ago, when I was young, a man visited with his puppy. She was so beautiful with bright blue eyes and a glossy coat. My heart leapt. But my dogs bared their teeth and growled. Clearly they hated her. And I wondered why. My dogs were sent outside--I played with the pup inside. It was only after the puppy and the man left that I learnt that I had played with a wolf. A. Wolf. The man, a hunter, had found her abandoned in the woods. Knowing that she was too young to survive without him, he rescued her.
Memories of that day ran through my mind as I read this.
***
Something special just arrived in my email inbox...


Celebration of Music and Literature on Salt Spring Island
Saturday, November 16th
at Mahon Hall

'The day includes two cello performances, student poet performances, play readings, book readings as well as book art.'

10:00h Doors open
10:30h Readers' Theatre--Playlette and skits/riffs..come for the unexpected
13:30h GISS students will raise the roof with some of their original and favourite poems. Then-GISS Improv Team will bring the house down
14:30h George Sipos -- the art of poetry--poem readings
15:45h Improv story telling with Chris Humphries
16:45h Michael Kevin Jones -- cello concert/interlude
19:00h Arthur Black Reading & Question/Answer period
20:00h Michael Kevin Jones -- cello concert/interlude
21:30h Doors close

To add to your enjoyment -- there will be an extraordinary exhibit of handmade books and book art to peruse at your leisure.

This event coincides with Salt Spring Literacy's Giant November Book Sale.
***
Sharing my author journey...
I've started working on book three of the Lyndi Wimpel series. Book one--A Long Way From Her--is spun around Lyndi's experiences as a government-run youth group participant.
Book two--All Alone In Her Head--is a novel told in short stories.
Book three picks up where Book two left off.
I'm having tons of fun with this series. 
But I'm also planning to do more submitting--especially of my short stories to literary journals, and maybe to writing contests. I need to do more dancing between writing and submitting, not just write.
***
Next post:  Please welcome Alix Ohlin author of Inside

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering them on Remembrance Day

My husband wearing his poppy

I wrote this story in 2003...

I once knew a man. Although he was old when I met him, by the twinkle in his eye, I could see glimpses of the young man he had once been.

He was of age upon the on set of the second world war and, like the other men of his community, he was eager to enlist--an eagerness driven by a passion to see the world, and to service his country. He'd wanted to sail from cloud to cloud on the wings of a huge, iron  bird. But, alas, it was not to be. Instead of traveling to distance lands--Italy, France, Japan--the man was stationed at a radar base in Newfoundland. There were memories he would share; horrors he never lived.

In sadness and in pride, the man stood straight and tall each and every Remembrance Day. He'd known the men who never returned. They'd been his playmates, classmates, friends. And he ensure that I honoured them, as well. Through him, I saw the soldiers not as faded images from a distant past but as flesh and blood.

I once knew a man. That man was my dad.

My dad wrote the story that follows and it was published in our community (Eriksdale, Manitoba) history book Memory Opens the Door (first printing 1970; second printing 1974)


My dad (taken on my wedding day)


A Tale From the First World War

One day after the folks had moved to B.C., they were back here visiting and Dad went with me to the train to pick up the mail for the Post Office.

One of the crew stepped off the train and Dad said, "Well, if it isn't Wilfred Lamb."

They shook hand and, pleased to meet each other, immediately began talking. As they chatted Dad told Mr. Lamb about a notice he had found on the wall of a bombed out building in France, during the First World War. The notice advertised a boxing match, to be held in Eriksdale, between Wilfred Lamb, Peter Whittall and others.

Thinking the paper would be of interest to Mr. Lamb, Dad arranged to meet him on the station next morning when the train went south, to give it to him. Then he went on to tell me how he had come by the notice.

"I was with the 16th Canadian, and they were a pretty tough regiment. It didn't matter how tired we were, we always marched back from the lines. But, there came a day at Passchendaele, when the regiment was in bad shape, we were told to make our way back as best we could. I was so weary I just had to sit down to rest.

"While I rested, my pack of ammunition slipped off unnoticed and I had gone quite a distance before I realized what had happened. Without protection, I would not get far, so I picked up the rifle and ammunition of the first dead German soldier I came across and continued to make my way back. I met one of our officers and hurried to explain the lost equipment and my reluctance to be travelling in that area without some means of protection. 

" 'Good thinking, soldier, carry on,' was his comment.

"When I came across the bombed out shell of a building, I knew it was time to rest awhile, for I was incredibly tired. I probably dozed a bit, then as I looked around in the dim light I could see 'ERIKSDALE' in huge letters on the wall opposite my resting place. That shook my confidence considerably. It just could not be, not here in France. But, it was there. Each time I looked up I could see it. Clearly, I had become deranged, 'looped' as some of the fellows called it. I hurried away from that spot, yet, that word 'ERIKSDALE' on that wall haunted me. Had I been seeing things, or was it real?

Next day I went back to that place. It was there. On a great big notice! A notice telling of a boxing match, to be held in far away Eriksdale, Manitoba. My home town! I took it down and sent it home and that is the paper I shall give to Wilfred Lamb, tomorrow."

How did the notice get on a wall in France? Who knows? I have pondered that question many times.

Probably, some one from 'home' had sent it to their soldier at the front. He, for want of something better to do, had hung it there -- and perhaps for a few moments forgot the Hell of War as he gazed at an ordinary notice from home -- and savored in dreams, the day when he would be 'going home'.

It is quite a few years since that day. Wilfred Lamb passed away not long after and I have often thought I should have had a copy made of that notice, but -- one is inclined to put off things not of immediate concern. Now, it is too late.
***
If you would like to learn more about Passchendaele and how it affected Canada and Canadians, I highly recommend watching this movie Passchendaele (written, directed and staring Paul Gross)


Remembrance Day on Mayne Island, 2013

 musicians

 colour guard

destination

***
Next post:  Wolf

Friday, November 8, 2013

Please welcome Author Winslow Eliot


How/why did you start to write?
Even before I learned how to write, I used to fill up blank notebooks with scrawls and symbols that I would pretend was real “writing.” So there was never a real “beginning” – it was something I always did.

How did you become an author?
I moved to New York City after graduating from college and was determined to make it as a novelist. By the end of my first year I was still working at temp jobs and plastering my bathroom wall with hundreds of rejection letters LOL. The rejections didn’t bother me – at least not enough to keep me from sending out manuscripts. I felt like a “real” writer every time I got one.

What was your first published piece?
I finally sold a romance novel to an editor – we met at a pretty wild party and hit it off. I sent her a mystery I’d written, which wasn’t her thing, but she bought several romances from me instead.

Where was it published?
A publishing house called NAL/Signet – they were launching a new romance line called “Rapture Romance.” Very steamy, romantic, tales… I loved writing those!  

How long ago?
My first romance novel was published in 1983.

What did you do before embarking on your writing career? Was it an asset to your writing? How?
I did play lots of music, but I never wanted to do anything but write, most of the time.

What inspires you?
I love to dance – a sufi form of meditative dance is my favorite. Also, walking in nature, people, friends ... and I teach high school writing and I do find that very inspiring. Teenagers are wonderful.

Please share one of your successful author platform building technique
I think having a really great website is the most important aspect of your author platform. The social media connections will ebb and flow, some become more important, or you join a great community somewhere else – but any time you connect with someone in a friendly way, you need to have a way to connect them back to a place where someone might become interested enough in you to buy your book. I also believe that having your own domain name is important, otherwise you’re just giving “hits” to blogspot or wordpress, rather than to your own name. It’s not expensive, but it does make a difference in the long run. But best of all, you can really try to convey a sense of who you are in a website. You can present your personality and your books through your posts and photos.


What’s a highlight of your publishing career? 
I have lots – but winning awards, one for my novel Heaven Falls, and three for my nonfiction What Would You Do If There Was Nothing You Had To Do? has been incredibly gratifying. There’s nothing like feeling recognized.

Parting words
Enjoy your writing journey! I wish more writers would create a more loving relationship with Writing, so that they are kinder to it and to themselves – treating it like the special, sacred relationship that it truly is. I have had so many ups and so many downs – really down, at times! – that I look back now and say, with Collette: “I lived a wonderful life – I only wish I had realized it sooner.”


Here is the Amazon link to The Happiness Cure:



All my books are also described and available on my website: http://winsloweliot.com/books/

Winslow Eliot
808 258-6276




Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Vancouver International Writers Festival adventure

My journey to the panel discussion Up All Night at the Vancouver International Writers Festival began shortly after 4 o'clock on Wednesday, October 23rd. Days later a neighbour told me that he'd heard the distinctive sound of suitcase wheels on pavement and wondered who was breaking the peace. (It's a sound heard in the summer but seldom during the rest of the year.)

Why did I take a suitcase to a two-hour event?
Well, because the last ferry leaving mainland B.C. heading to Mayne Island leaves at 7:20 pm. Up All Night was scheduled to start at 9:00 pm.

Why did I choose to attend that panel discussion? There were other panel discussions that would have been more convenient to attend--like those held in the middle of the afternoon.

It was the description...

'Plot-twists, reversals, setbacks and upheavals, a good thriller must have all of these and more. And a truly excellent one should keep you reading into the wee hours of the night. Lisa Moore may be better known as the author of the Man Booker–nominated February, but she deftly turns her hand to creating a page-turning thriller in CaughtScott Turow has sold more than 25 million copies of his legal thrillers and has been highly praised for his ability to engage readers with his writing, as well as dazzle with his twists and turns.' - from the Vancouver International Writers Festival

*Marsha Pessl was to be the third panelist but she had to cancel. She was replaced by Norwegian author and international sensation Jo Nesbo

It was the genre...
I enjoy reading thrillers.
I've written a thriller, and I'd like to write others.

And did I mention that I'm one of Lisa Moore's fans. (In this post I rave about February written by Lisa Moore)

Okay, so, there I am rushing down the road, worried that I'll miss the ferry. I continue to worry until, while purchasing my ticket, I look up at the clock on the wall of the BC Ferries' booth and realize that I'm twenty minutes early. I breathe. It's a sun-filled, warm(ish) day. I sit outside at the dock, flip open my book--Insomina by Stephen King--and read.

What felt like moments later, the ferry docked at Mayne Island and I walked on. Usually I have a late supper, around 7 pm, but for some reason the minute I set foot on the ferry I was hungry. I'm a vegetarian and so got to choose between a veggie burger with fries or a veggie burger with salad. I don't like salad, don't ask me why. Fries upset my sensitive stomach. So I zigged when others would have zagged and purchased a rice cake with my burger.

Meal eaten, I found a quite place to read. I was bent over my suitcase, digging out my book, when I heard, "Leanne?"
I didn't think the top of my head was a identifying feature--but I guess it is.
I looked up and was pleased to see a friend I hadn't seen for months, maybe even a year. We chatted until the ferry docked.

My mother-in-law was waiting at the ferry terminal to pick me up. After a few detours, she drove me to Granville Island. In the dark night, we searched for the 'Performance Works' building. There were signs but more would have been helpful. Even though it was only 8:30 pm people were already standing in line. Feeling, and I'm sure looking, like a small island gal I join the que. The woman standing beside me looked friendly so I said or maybe she said, "Hello, do you write?"

We continued to talk about our lives both with and without pens as we waited, walked inside and claimed our seats. Someone turned the lights down and the moderator claimed the podium. In response to his first announcement, my new acquaintance turned off her cellphone and I put my camera away. One at a time, each of the three thriller authors entertained the audience by reading from their books.

A Question & Anwser period followed.

Jo Nesbo showered the audience with good, old-fashioned Scandinavian charm.
Nesbo wrote his first book--The Bat--while visiting Australia. He said he had jet lag so thought writing would be the best activity to engage in. Five months later, he submitted his manuscript to a publisher but he didn't expect to it to be accepted. His goal was to have the publisher ask for something else.
Nesbo said that in Denmark, Sweden and Norway most serious writers have tried their hand at writing a crime novel. He liked crime novelist to illusionists.
Nesbo outline his writing process.
1)a three sentence description of the idea.
2)a five to twenty page synopsis.
3)a one hundred page synopsis complete with dialogue.
4)working on drafts, etc.

Lisa Moore's thriller--Caught--was inspired by Newfoundland folklore heroes. She wasn't aware that Caught would be read as a thriller. And in fact she wasn't sure she wanted to write a thriller because she thought, at the time, that the genre relied too heavily on suspense. And she thought that suspense was a manipulative device.She now realizes that there's nothing wrong with suspense. In fact, believes that it is necessary to encourage readers to keep turning pages.

Scott Turow, who had been a lawyer, was attracted to the genre (thrillers) because he enjoys exploring moral conundrums.
Turow said that all literature relies on conventions.
Turow described his writing process as varying greatly from Nesbo's. He said he typically spends a year groping toward a story. He writes pieces of narration, setting, dialogue. A question--how will I connect all of this?--is where the plot comes from. And it's only after the manuscript is complete that he could write a three sentence synopsis.

It was an engaging, fast paced Q & A that left my head swimming.

"Thank you all for coming," the moderator said.
The audience applauded.
"Books are available at the back of the room and the authors will be at the front of the room for book signs." Is what I think he said. Frankly my mind was too full of 'soon I'll be able to meet Lisa Moore' to take anything else in.
Well, to make a long story short, I did meet Ms. Moore. I hoped I wouldn't act like a silly, goofy fan. But I did.
"I'm so excited to meet you that my hand is shaking." I held my hand out and it was shaking.
Lisa Moore's friendly, welcoming smile immediately put me at ease. So, I asked, "Can I take your picture?"
"Yes, but." She nodded in the direction of the other people who were waiting in line.
Oh, there are other people? Some how this fact had totally escaped me. "I'll happily wait." I walked over to the side of the table and watched her engage with the other readers. She was equally welcoming to each of them--spending time, ask questions, showing interest.
I thought to myself, There's a lesson here--respect your readers, treat them well.
Finally, she signed her last book and I dived back in, camera in hand.
"Would you like to be in the picture with me?" she asked.
"What a great idea. Yes, please." But who will? 
The moderator stepped up to lend a hand.
Not wanting to blind a Canadian treasure, I'd turned off the camera's flash--that's why the picture is so dark.


There's Lisa Moore's friendly, welcoming smile and me--looking like an overwhelmed fan.