150 Words For 150 Years

To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday (for Europeans of course, not for those who were already here) Atwater Writers Exhibition ran a writing contest: 150 Words For 150 Years.

Writers submitted from all over Canada, the U.S., and several other countries too, such as India and Serbia.

I wrote a non-fiction piece about two particular incidents, 86 years apart, involving my grandmother’s copper kettle.

The kettle was given to her in 1912, a wedding present, just days before she and my grandfather (six days married) set sail from England for Canada. My mother gave the kettle to me when Continue reading

The Challenges of Judging a Children’s Writing Competition

Even though I’ve graded any number of school and university students’ papers, exams and projects, I’ve never enjoyed it. That’s an understatement. I loathe grading!

So why did I volunteer to join a judging committee for a children’s writing competition?

I suppose I felt it was a small way to give back to the larger writing community. I’ve been so lucky to have wonderful generous mentors and friends who’ve taken the time to give me advice and feedback.

In any case, what could be so hard about helping judge a children’s writing competition?

Plenty, as it turned out! Continue reading

What is ‘Home’ for a Writer?

Bridge House, Ambleside, Cumbria, EnglandA writer friend who had recently moved to Montreal asked me where home was for me. Was it Montreal?

I was surprised how complicated it was to answer that. Yes, my home is in Montreal. I’ve lived here for years. But Montreal is not totally “home.” There are ways in which I’ll never feel I completely belong. For one thing, I only have to open my mouth and people know I’m not from here. I certainly don’t sound like a francophone Canadian. I don’t sound like an anglophone Canadian either.

Where are you from? I’m asked that at least once a week.

But where I came from isn’t home either. That country has changed so much that when I’m there, I’m definitely a visitor. I even have trouble working out which coin is what value when I get on the bus or go shopping.

So is home being with my husband? With my family? Or is it…

I’m clearly not the only one to have trouble pinning down the idea of ‘home.’

The panel discussion “What is Home” at the recent Blue Metropolis Literary Festival, Continue reading

Opening the Door to Backstory

Backstories are always fascinating to a fiction writer. How can you know the characters in your story if you don’t know what’s happened in their past and how that’s affected them?

Is that why I feel so sad when I see yet another of Montreal’s beautiful old mansions bite the dust? Because when we’ve lost Montreal’s old buildings, we won’t know Montreal?

I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was of this building Continue reading

If Only This Were My Secret Door To Writing

near Beaver Lake, Mount Royal, Montreal

Just looking at these quirky little lopsided buildings in the trees to one side of Beaver Lake on “the mountain” (Montreal’s Mount Royal) makes me want to sit down and write.

I’m sure I’d finish my next story collection so much faster if I had one of these as my private writing nook.

Unfortunately that little sticker says Continue reading

Finding the Right Door

Ethiopia

It’s taken me years to finish my collection of short stories. Now I’m in that lovely but frustrating floaty ‘what-next?’ phase.

EthiopiaIt’s not that I don’t have plenty of projects to work on (two other story collections are in the pipeline) but I’d really like to sink my teeth into something totally new.

EthiopiaAnd I feel there’s some idea lurking out there, not so far away, waiting for me… Something important.

Ethiopia

It’s just a matter of finding the right door….

Ethiopia

Doors to hermit caves in Ethiopia

Inspired by Norm’s Thursday Doors

Free Modifiers, Dependent Clauses and a Good Night’s Sleep

bedroom in apartment in Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Milà), Barcelona

Towards the end of my appointment with the sleep doctor, after he’d told me exactly what time I should go to bed every night and what time – exactly – I should wake, he suggested I put my iPod under my pillow, ready for the hours when I lie awake.

On the iPod, he said, should be something like ‘The History of the World.’

Goodness, I said. That’ll send me to sleep.

That’s the whole idea, he pointed out gently.

I hadn’t got around to doing that but I remembered it as a long-time writer buddy and I were exchanging emails about grammatical Continue reading