Like a Rolling Stone

The days are just rolling by. And I haven’t updated this page as often as it deserves. That’s not laziness so much as I find that Facebook and Twitter have overtaken my need to blog. They are a great way to get the “news” out. And perhaps far too easy to use.

That said…here’s some belated news: We had a marvellous time in February with the Banned Books Café. What could be better than reading banned books aloud? So dangerous! Thanks to our readers: Jill Morgan, CBC; Gord Barnes, Amnesty International; playwright Kelley Jo Burke and former Writers-in-Residence Gail Bowen and Edward Willett. And extra special thanks to the crowd who came out on a cold, cold day.

In March I did a presentation on Starting Off With a Bang! Obviously the beginning of a book is extremely important. It provides the hook for the reader. I was once told by another writer (Lois Simmie) that you should imagine someone reading your book in a bookstore. You have to make sure your first paragraph grabs their attention enough that they pull out their wallet. Otherwise the reader will put down your book and pick up another one. So work hard on that first paragraph (oh, and work hard on the rest of the book, that goes without saying).

As I write this I’m getting ready for a presentations on Ebooks (April 9th) and then the Reader’s Summit (April 23-26th) and the Saskatchewan Book Awards (April 25th). It’s going to be a crazy/busy/creative month. Come one, come all.

I should also point out that I only have one or two slots left for personal consultations on your writing. So book soon!

Saskatchewan Book Awards:
The Reader’s Summit

The Marathon

Well, I’m halfway finished my term as WIR (writer in residence) at the Regina Public Library. So far I have met about a hundred gnomes, twelve murderers, a talking robot, a sleep lord, a king who becomes a boy to save his kingdom, several feisty prairie teen girls, a cast of thousands, a warrior queen and… well, quite a variety as you can see. Oh, and I’ve met writers. Many writers. Some have come with one or two pieces, others with novels that we are slowly working our way through a few pages at a time. It really is quite inspiring to see all of this creativity come out of the woodwork in Regina.

Each of us has different goals when creating a piece of writing. But we are all in the same boat. Actually, on the same track. I am reminded of the words of a professional marathon runner. He said that he was most impressed by anyone who finished a marathon. A marathon is extremely painful and he was done with that pain in about two hours. But for those others who ran for four or five or seven hours. He found those accomplishments worth his respect.

So I guess I’m just saying that when writing, we’re all running our own marathon. And the first and most impressive thing is getting to that finish line.

Although, you never have to rewrite a marathon. Once you’re done your marathon, take a rest. Then start running again…

The Things I Learned

We’re well into December here at the Regina Public Library and it’s the season of one on one meetings (in other words I don’t have any extra presentations this month). Lately, the name of game is rewriting. As you can see by the picture there’s an exit sign right above the sign for the Residency Office. That’s the exit sign for all those overused words and phrases: suddenly/he nodded/he said sulkingly/that/and then/…you get the picture. They’re outta here. It’s curious the habits that we writers fall into. Or are they ruts? And we can’t quite get out.

Actually, one of my appointees (is that what you call people who make an appointment with you?) summed it all up quite nicely in an email she sent me after one of our meetings.

“The helpful things I learned about how to improve my writing-
-Don’t add overused words and expressions, too boring and redundant.
-Be descriptive but not too wordy by repeating things you have said already.
-Try to weave the characters throughout the whole story so the piece flows and is not so disjointed.
-Add dialogue to make the story more interesting and human.
-Make wiser choices of the words you choose to match the situation or object you are talking about. (silk mud, not good)
-Shorten things up, be concise, don’t run on about something just for the shake of trying to explain, readers get it with better and shorter word choices.
-Write, write, write just for the exhilaration of it! (I almost said for the love of it but that is so overused!)”

Lynn Fluter

I think she said it all. Now time for me to go back and put my money where my mouth is…or my overused words where the exit sign is. Suddenly–you’re outta here!


Cookies, Horror, and the Kitchen Sink

Welcome to the latest Writer in Residence (WIR) blog update. The days and weeks are just whirring by. I’m certain I could fit in a pun about WIR and whirring, but I will leave that to your imagination. I have read so many wonderful pieces of writing so far. It’s really impressive the variety of styles. And I welcome many more of you to drop by and share your work. After all…it’s free. I would promise cookies. But really, I’d eat them all long before anyone dropped by. You’re welcome to bring cookies, of course.

Part of my job is to do presentations outside the library (in other places that is… not out on the street corner… too cold for that). The “Scaring up a Fantastically Good Story” workshop was well attended. We had great fun looking at how Stephen King or Clive Barker is able to draw us into their horror stories. Really who wouldn’t have fun talking about ghosts, goblins, and guts? We covered everything from how to “ground” your readers in reality before bringing in supernatural elements to how to keep them believing in the fantastical elements in the book.

I also recently did a presentation at the Lifelong Learning Centre about creative non-fiction. It may surprise some people, but I actually do have one non-fiction book—John Diefenbaker: An Appointment with Destiny. The LLC writing group is stuffed full of energy (and donuts… at least they had donuts there). They listened kindly to my dissertation and readings from the book and even had a few of their own “Dief” stories to tell. It’s so nice when the library lets me out of my office for donuts.

December is shaping up nicely. I have plenty of bookings (but could always use more). Soon, too, we will have dates for my presentation on How to Create eBooks.

Keep on writing!


Last Moment Ideas


So this is my second day in the office as WIR at the Regina Public Library (WIR stands for writer in residence–I like the acronym…it sounds like things are whirring around me). I’m here every Wednesday from 1-9 PM.

My day started out with the two and a half hour trip from Saskatoon. This is office time, too, because I listen to audiobooks as I travel. Today’s book was a BBC version of the Foundation trilogy by Isaac Asimov. It…ummm…sounds very ‘70’s at times but certainly captured my attention and is classic science fiction. I was reminded that when Asimov pitched this series he’d already set up an interview with an editor (I guess you could do that in the old days) and was on the bus on the way to his appointment when he realized he had no ideas to pitch (nothing like waiting until the last minute). He happened to be reading Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire and thought, why don’t I pitch a series of novels about a galactic empire that is in decline?  That’s what he pitched and that’s what the editor bought. And the rest is history. Or psychohistory…for those who’ve read the books.

It’s an example of how sometimes the big ideas can come at the last minute and from a simple concept. It’s the work of the writer to find those ideas and turn them into a story that readers will want to read.

One more note:  I took the above shot on the way down. There was an overwhelming abundance of clouds in the big blue sky. The STOP sign is important. Is it telling you to STOP what you’re doing and start writing? Or is it telling you to STOP and look around and capture the moment?

Technically it was telling me to STOP and LOOK before turning onto the highway. An important thing to remember.