Posted on December 31, 2016
I thought writing a novel was difficult. Since the publication of Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety in spring of 2016, I’ve discovered selling books and getting them out into the world is even harder. And, there are so many more people involved!
I wrote but did not share my writing with others for years. Then I took a Creative Writing class and shared stories with my instructors and classmates. I can’t begin to express how important this proved to be. I not only learned to be a better writer, but the networking led to the publishing of my debut novel and opportunities to speak and read at different conferences and events including the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP) in Los Angeles.
Also born out of my Creative Writing classes was my writing circle, the 11th Floor Writers. Since 2007, it is my core critique group and writing support. We hold each other accountable and provide opportunities to collaborate and provide constructive, meaningful feedback of our work.
When I signed with my publisher, my writing world expanded to include members from editorial, marketing, publicity, and sales teams. I’ve been tremendously fortunate to work with an outstanding team. I adore my editor, Phyllis Bruce, and everyone at Simon & Schuster Canada. Jackie, my agent, not only helped me navigate through a 17-page contract, but she is my sounding board and go-to person for everything from book ideas to questions I have about the industry.
Thanks to my publishing team and agent, I was invited to some of Canada’s biggest literary festivals and events this year. There, I got to connect with not only readers but fellow writers. I asked them questions about their writing lives and the writing process which proved to be invaluable information for a debut author.
I’ve also been fortunate to meet with some wonderful booksellers. What a pleasure to chat and share conversations with them! Book critics and everyone who reviewed and wrote about me and the novel helped promote its visibility, for which I’m grateful. I had the chance to be interviewed on radio, TV, and in person at several events including ones held through the public libraries. All these opportunities were wonderful places to connect and share with readers.
Readers. It all comes back to them. I am deeply appreciative that people have taken the time to read my novel. Connecting with them either in person or via social media has been a wonderful and immensely gratifying experience.
Finally, I remain grateful to my family and friends who keep me grounded because it has been quite the roller coaster ride so far! I’m especially thankful to my awesome daughter, Claire, the one person I wanted most to share stories with.
Posted on December 14, 2016
I met Michelle McLaughlin at Word On The Street in Toronto, and was delighted when she wrote to me. She and Alanna Rusnak had seen me speak at the Humber School for Writers Workshop: Overcoming the Odds: Long Journey to Publication. In turn, they introduced me to Blank Spaces, a new Canadian literary magazine, where Michelle is an assistant editor and Alanna is an editor and publisher. Both women are also talented writers. According to Blank Spaces’ website, their mission is “to celebrate and champion the work of Canadian creatives, bringing exposure and support to artists across our great country.”
I love the feel and energy of the magazine! December’s edition (issue 2) includes the stunning photography of Aidan and Leanne Hennebry from Hush Hush Photography. Their photos of New York taken from a helicopter are breathtakingly beautiful. There are also many entertaining and engaging articles, essays, and poems, including the winning story from issue 1’s writing prompt challenge. The deadline to enter the next challenge is January 10, 2017.
Blank Spaces is a quarterly publication with new issues released in September, December, March and June. According to their submission guidelines, they are looking for:
Posted on December 11, 2016
Kamal Al-Solaylee has a background in journalism and is a professor at Ryerson University. His accomplishments are long and varied. He presented his second book, Brown: What Being Brown in the World Today Means (To Everyone). It was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for English-language non-fiction.
Steve Paikin also has an extensive background in journalism and is the anchor of TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin. His stories about how he came to write Bill Davis: Nation Builder, and Not So Bland After All were entertaining and informative. Considered one of Ontario’s most important premiers, Davis was in office from 1971 to 1985.
Charlotte Gray and I work with the same brilliant editor, Phyllis Bruce, so we had met before. She is a much loved historian and author. Her latest book is The Promise of Canada: 150 Years — People and Ideas That Have Shaped Our Country. I’m intrigued by the influential Canadians she chose to write about, none of whom are prime ministers or hockey players!
I’m excited to read all three books, and thank Ben McNally for including me in today’s event!
Posted on December 1, 2016
There’s been a few changes since I last posted a blog in the spring …
My debut novel, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety, was released by Simon & Schuster Canada … I finished my MFA studies in Creative Writing … I’m now working on my second novel set in 1924 Korea …
It’s December. I think I’ll take some time to reflect on this past year … it’s been quite eventful!
Posted on August 4, 2015
The guidelines we use to run our writing circle, The 11th Floor Writers, have been added to its website. I can’t believe that we’ve gone eight years. It helps that we follow a set routine: we meet the second Saturday of every month at the same venue, we rotate chairs, and everyone adheres to guideline expectations.
I’m currently working on my second novel, and continue to be grateful for the support and constructive feedback I get from this group.
Some online resources worth checking out:
A Workshop Guide for Creative Writing
A great place to start. The guide asks a series of questions we should be considering as we critique others’ work.
Tips for Revising Creative Nonfiction
The tips also apply for fiction writing.
15 Tips for Successful Writing Groups
A comprehensive guide with lots of useful suggestions and tips.
Posted on March 20, 2015
I was finally able to thank Allyson Latta in person when I met up with her last month. She was a guest speaker at a Markham high school where she spoke to students about her work as a freelance editor. I was fortunate enough to work with Allyson on my first book which will be released early next year.
Allyson has worked with many prominent Canadian writers including two of my favourites, Marina Nemat and Lawrence Hill. Her website, full of guest posts, interviews, and all things that might interest any writer, is definitely worth checking out. Allyson also teaches memoir writing at the University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies.
Thanks to a quiet March Break, I was able to finish reading a couple of books. One novel I would highly recommend is Michael Crummey’s Sweetland. After visiting Newfoundland a few years ago and falling in love with that province, I couldn’t resist reading this book. Set in a remote island community, our protagonist Moses Sweetland, fakes his own death and stays behind after everyone else relocates.
For more information:
Michael Crummey’s Sweetland is like a song of mourning – a review by The Globe and Mail
Michael Crummey: How I wrote Sweetland – Canada Writes
Posted on March 19, 2015
Local farmers were out selling fresh maple syrup at St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market. The place was packed with people, mostly families out enjoying a sunny March Break day. Located 1.5 hours west of Toronto, this is the largest year-round farmers’ market in Canada.
Along with some wonderful ready-to-eat foods like perogies, souvlaki, and apple fritters, you can find everything from handmade quilts to used vinyl records. I spent quite a bit of time perusing used books, finally getting the following copies to take home:
Posted on November 3, 2014
David is one of the most accomplished writers in Canada. I still can’t believe that I was lucky enough to work with him. At all times, he encouraged me to persevere. We completed the first draft of my novel in only thirty weeks!
David’s new book, Crimes Against My Brother, was released earlier this year (Doubleday Canada).
Posted on January 22, 2014
Posted on January 14, 2013
“It’s told from the point of view of a horse,” my daughter, Claire, told me when she started reading Black Beauty. “I don’t know if I want to read it.” She finished the book today, and concluded that it was a great read, and Black Beauty was a character she wouldn’t ever forget.
When Claire asked me to name some memorable characters from books I had read, the first few names that came to mind were:
Nomi Nickel, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews (Canadian)
Sixteen-year old Nomi, who lives in a Mennonite community, is abandoned by both her mother and sister. She asks a question that continues to haunt me: “Is it wrong to trust in a beautiful lie if it helps you get through life?”
Atticus Finch, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
As a kid, I had a crush on Atticus, and wondered how many fathers were like him in real life. He was so wise and had the right things to say about everything that mattered: “You never really know a man till you walk a mile in his shoes.”
Dunstan Ramsay, Fifth Business by Robertson Davies (Canadian)
I read this book in grade 12 English class. Dunstan’s involvement with Mary Dempster, a woman he spends his life trying to make a “saint,” is a result of his deep rooted childhood guilt: “I feared to go to sleep and prayed till I sweated that God would forgive me for my mountainous crime… I was alone with my guilt, and it tortured me.”
Anne Shirley, Anne of Green Gables by L.L. Montgomery (Canadian)
I remember wondering if I should add an “e” to the end of my name after reading Anne say, “A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished.”
Iago, Othello by William Shakespeare
I’m wowed by his evil brilliance as much as I fear it. I still get chills reading, “I am not who I am.”