Homage to Mavis Gallant

Crescent Street, Montreal (quotation from "The Fenton Child" by Mavis GallantThis year the Blue Metropolis Festival, Montreal’s annual literary festival, dedicated the opening event to Mavis Gallant who passed away earlier this year. Afterwards, Linda Leith, founder of Blue Metropolis and friend of Mavis Gallant, gathered writers, friends and fans together to pay tribute to her.

The stories painted a colorful picture of an entertaining conversationalist, an acute observer, a reluctant interviewee, a quick, incisive wit, an independent woman, a determined hard-working writer (over a period of ten years, she wrote 1,000 pages of a never-finished non-fiction book on the Dreyfus affair), a person who took great pleasure in her daily routine of ordering the plat du jour at her favorite bistro after her morning’s writing.

As a very young child, excited at meeting the Mother Superior, she Continue reading


Writing Craft and Community

spare parts for writing a storyI was stuck with my novella, not a bad stuck, just a point when I needed to stop, think, and realign characters and plot.

I pulled a couple of craft books from my shelf at random in the hopes of sparking an idea, or finding a new way to see my material.

  • “Naming the World” (ed) Bret Anthony Johnston
  • “Burning Down The House” Charles Baxter
  • “Creating Fiction” (ed) Julie Checkoway

Writer Unboxed

Not an hour later, I was reading a blog post from Writer Unboxed about the issue of craft books. Although many people shared their favorite craft books and inspirational authors, a number of comments expressed quite a lot of antagonism towards craft books – e.g., craft books are only written to make money; you can’t learn writing from a book…

I was very surprised because I think of writers/artists as curious people and would have thought they would want to see what other Continue reading

Looking For A February Treat? Try A Reading Week.

my reading list!February! Still cold. More snow – a lot – coming down. It’s time for something special. No, I’m not talking about Valentine’s Day, nor even about International Book Giving Day.

My special something? A Reading Week.

Now is the perfect time to gather all those books you’ve been wanting to read. And read them. A terrific February treat to go with those Valentine’s chocolates and the Olympics!

On my list:

  • “One Good Story, That One” by Thomas King. I pounced on this in The Word, one of my two favorite second-hand bookstore in Montreal (the other is Odyssey) as soon as I saw it because I so enjoyed King’s novel “Green Grass, Running Water.” I’ve made a start on this collection and love the cover design, love the stories, the stupendous Continue reading

Be Inspired: October Grab Bag of Exercises, Links, Ideas

Mother Earth, sculpture, Canadian entry at Mosaicultures Internationales, Montreal 2013

Mother Earth

I’m always excited and immensely grateful to come across links and ideas that inspire me to write and think and dream. Here are some I’ve been enjoying recently that I’d like to share with you.

Writing Warm-Up: a right-left brain exercise

  1. Touch your right thumb to your left little finger, let go, then touch left thumb to right little finger. Let go.
  2. Touch right second finger to left fourth finger, release, then left second finger to right fourth finger. Let go.
  3. Right middle finger to left middle finger. Turn hands over Continue reading

Back-Story and Writing Forward

I treasure the stories I fall in love with, not only as a reader, enjoying them for the terrific stories they are, but also as a writer, trying to learn from them by working out the secret of their magic.

My most recent love is “Reception” by Nona Caspers that appears in the Spring 2013 issue of The Kenyon Review.

There are a whole slew of reasons why I fell for this story: the striking image at the beginning, the way every detail echoes and reverberates with other details, the oddness of the details and images, the beautiful, clever ending that both illuminates the narrator’s experience and goes beyond it. But I especially love it for the pointers it gives me about back-story and writing forward. Continue reading

11 Steps to Preparing to Read Your Story in Public

Has your mind ever wandered while listening to a public reading?

As a kinesthetic and visual learner, I sympathize with how difficult it can be for some people to stay with a text being read out loud by another person, even if it is a story and not a lecture. Understanding this makes me prepare extra carefully for public readings.

Here is the checklist I use: Continue reading

Surfing the Narrative Wave (part 1)

cover of Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal by Jeanette Winterson

I am trying to read Jeanette Winterson‘s autobiography “Why be Happy When you Could be Normal?” as slowly as I can in order to enjoy it for as long as possible. But it’s not easy. As I read, I feel as I though I’m on a surfboard, being carried along by a massive wave. Once I start reading, there’s no stopping.

How does Winterson create this narrative surge? Continue reading

Freedom to Read Week

This week (February 24-March 2, 2013) is Canada’s 29th Freedom to Read Week (a project of Canada’s Book and Periodical Council). At Freedom to Read you will find posters, kits and suggestions for activities in your communities and classrooms.

I particularly like the idea of starting a Banned Book Club. The list of “challenged” books on the site includes Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird”, two of my favorite reads. Do you know what books have been “challenged” in the schools and libraries in your area? Continue reading