Author Names & Book Titles

Logo designed by Darcy Morgan

Logo designed by Darcy Morgan

One of my challenges after writing my book was deciding on what name to use as an author. It seemed like a simple decision, but in the end it proved to be a lot of work! I wrote an essay about it that was published by Writer’s Digest. You can read it here.

The other question I get asked a lot is about my novel’s title. Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety was not my original choice. I loved Paper Swan, a title that my editor came up with. The Ugly Duckling was my favourite children’s story growing up. I saw Mary, my protagonist, as the duckling that grew up into a swan. Origami swans are a motif in the novel. After much consideration and discussion, Kay’s Lucky Coin Variety was chosen. It reflects the story’s principal setting. As well, each word conjures different connotations that come together to create varied layers of meaning.

 

11th Floor Writers

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.

 

Inspired

Statue of Lincoln by the Ohio River, Louisville Waterfront Park

Statue of Lincoln by the Ohio River, Louisville Waterfront Park

In a letter to a friend, Abraham Lincoln wrote about his visit to Louisville, Kentucky in 1841. He was sitting on the waterfront (where I took this photo) and saw enslaved African-Americans on their way to New Orleans. He was deeply disturbed by what he saw and wrote: “That sight was a continual torment to me…” I was recently in Louisville and was intrigued by the city’s rich history. Kentucky was a border state during the American Civil War, and Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation did not apply to it. Slavery continued to be legal in Kentucky until 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery, was ratified. Today, the city of Louisville is a beautiful and culturally rich state. It was chosen as Lonely Planet’s top US tourist destination for 2013.

More on my visit to Louisville.

Dream, set goals, celebrate

My daughter Claire's graduation, June 2013

My daughter Claire’s graduation, June 2013

June and July – the months of graduations, commencements and convocations. Over the years, I’ve attended them as a student, as a teacher, and most recently as a parent and as a guest. This year, I have had the honour of speaking at two ceremonies. The following thoughts highlight the key messages I was trying to convey.

Do take the time to celebrate. Like the Roman god Janus, graduation has two faces – one looking back, the other forward. In other words, graduation marks both an end and a beginning. Celebrate your accomplishments. Doing so will make you feel good, and energize you to be excited about what is to come.

Learn the difference between dreams and goals. Since I was an immigrant child learning English, I have dreamt about publishing a book. It was during my five years in the Creative Writing program at U of T’s School for Continuing Studies that my outlook and attitude towards writing shifted. I moved from having dreams of writing to having goals of being published. There are significant differences between dreams and goals. Dreams allow you to be lazy; there are no deadlines and no accountabilities. Goals, on the other hand, require focus, action, and adherence to deadlines. It takes little effort to dream and to fantasize. It takes a lot of hard work and planning to reach your goals.

Dream, set goals, celebrate. Repeat.

[This entry also appears on the 11th Floor Writers’ blog.]

April Poems

April flowers bring...

April flowers bring…

Emily Dickinson said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.”

Organized and sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets, Canada has acknowledged April as National Poetry Month since 1999. The United States introduced the idea in 1996. Great Britain celebrates October as their National Poetry Month.

Sometimes I struggle through a poem, lost in the words or its meaning. I love the freedom that comes with reading them. There are no right or wrong answers – there shouldn’t be. You can read a poem, and it is yours to interpret; yours to personalize. I love how some poems make me feel. Like music, they can provoke me to tears, to laughter. Or they can leave me thinking, reflecting. Sometimes, they even leave me confused and dazed.

A few of my favourites:

The Cross of Snow by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
A haunting poem. Longfellow’s wife burned so badly when her dress caught on fire, she died shortly afterwards.

i carry your heart with me by e.e. cummings
One of the best love poems ever.

I Am in Need of Music by Elizabeth Bishop
A classic.

And in honour of both National Poetry Month and the month of April:
Always Marry An April Girl by Ogden Nash

My favourite Canadian poets include: Leonard Cohen, Michael Ondaatje, Margaret Atwood and Catherine Graham.

More on National Poetry Month:

Celebrate National Poetry Month with CBC Books

National Poetry Month FAQ

St. Paul’s Square or St. Pauls Square?

apostropheWow – there really is an organization called the Apostrophe Protection Society.  It exists in England and thanks to its founder, John Richards, the apostrophe that had been banned from local street signs in Mid Devon, England, has been lifted.

Apparently the apostrophe debate has been ongoing for years there (see here). Town Council had argued in favour of removing the apostrophe. They stated that they were receiving too many complaints from the public about the proper use of apostrophes, and that the apostrophes were confusing the GPS systems.

As a former ESL student and ESL teacher, I could only imagine the confusion the absence of an apostrophe could create for students learning English. St. Pauls Square – does it belong to Paul? Or are there many Pauls?

More on this:

Grammarians rejoice as English town drops apostrophe ban

Apostrophe Protection Society

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynn Truss (paperback)

Proper Apostrophe Usage – Purdue Online Writing Lab

Happy, dark, or ironic – Short stories with a twist

bookcasesWhether they are happy, dark, or ironic, I love twist endings. I stumbled onto “A Letter to God”, a short story by Gregorio Lopez Fuentes (translated by Donald A. Yates). It is about a poor farmer named Lencho who sadly loses his crops during a terrible hailstorm. Poor, but a man with strong faith, he writes to God and asks for money to help him get through the winter. The ending made me laugh out loud – it was so nutty. You can click on the story title to read it online. 

Some of my other favourite short stories with a twist include “The Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant and “The Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin.

It takes talent and good storytelling to create a twist ending that works. It can’t feel forced or heavy-handed to be effective.

Here are some links you might want to check out: