Happy new year, everyone! I hope you’ve plunged into 2013 keen to begin, or carry on, writing.
Coming up, new teaching initiatives for me include
- full-day introductory memoir workshops at Koffler Centre of the Arts
- creative writing retreats in Grenada (April) and Kawartha Lakes (July)
- a new Level II memoir writing course for University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies in Fall 2013, an 8-week follow-up to my intro course Memories into Story
I am also pleased to be returning to North York Central Library for my seventh year with a memoir series this June.
Here are the details. For further information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
January/March: INTRODUCTORY MEMOIR WRITING: FROM THE PERSONAL TO THE UNIVERSAL (full-day workshops)
Location: Koffler Centre of the Arts, 4588 Bathurst Street, Toronto, Ontario M2R 1W6 (free parking)
Dates: Sunday, January 27 OR Monday, March 4, 2013
Time: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Registration: Contact the Education and Student Services Office at email@example.com or 416-638-1881 x 4333.
Koffler Centre of the Arts is Canada’s only multidisciplinary, contemporary Jewish cultural institution presenting cutting-edge exhibitions of new Canadian and international art, and diverse programs in music, dance, literature, film, spoken word, and theatre. Their programs are open to everyone from every background.
April: SPICE ISLE WRITING & YOGA RETREAT in Grenada
Dates: April 7 to 14, 2013
Registration: Limited space still available. (Max 10 participants.) To apply, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for a detailed Retreat Guide.
Details: This creative writing retreat is suitable for most levels and for those writing fiction or creative nonfiction (including memoir). Yoga with instructor Dale Synnett-Caron, of Ottawa, is optional. Our guest speaker will be British-born author and screenwriter Oonya Kempadoo, now a resident of Grenada, named by the 2002 Orange Prize judges “a Great Talent for the 21st Century.”
May/September: MEMORIES INTO STORY: INTRODUCTION TO LIFE WRITING and MEMORIES INTO STORY: LEVEL II (online)
SPRING 2013: May 6 to July 12, 2013 ((Intro course only)
FALL 2013: September 23 to November 29, 2013 (Intro course). Dates for 8-week Level II course TBA; completion of Memories into Story: An Introduction to Life Writing is required.
Fee: $625 (Intro course)
Registration: Click Memories into Story for information or to register for an upcoming session.
Online: Creative Writing Program
ONLINE MENTOR PROGRAM: I’m available upon request as a writing coach through the Online Mentor Program, University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies. Contact course administrator Bill Zaget at the above phone number or email address for details.
June: SHARING YOUR STORIES: AN INTRODUCTION TO MEMOIR WRITING
Location: North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge Street, Toronto
Dates: Wednesdays, June 5, 12, 19, 26, 2013 (series of 4 workshops)
Time: 1 to 3 p.m.
Fee: Free BUT registration is required and opens May 1.
July: TURQUOISE WATERS WRITERS’ RETREAT (2nd annual)
Location: Sandy Lake, Kawartha Lakes Region, Ontario, Canada (host: Janet Markham)
(New) Dates: Monday, July 29 to Friday, August 2
Registration: This retreat is currently full. Please contact me to have your name put on the waiting list.
Details: This is a creative writing retreat for those writing fiction or creative nonfiction. We are pleased to welcome chef Frank Soriano, who will prepare our evening meals (and also write!). Guest author TBA.
Check out photos from some of my previous writers’ retreats.
Wednesday, January 9th, 2013
Here’s a spring roundup of recent publishing and writing-competition news from my former students and workshop participants, along with details of a new contest for poets (see HEIDI STOCK, below). I share these success stories here to celebrate these writers’ accomplishments and also to encourage other emerging writers.
The opportunities to reach a reading audience through memoirs and other forms of creative nonfiction, fiction based on life stories, poetry and fiction are almost limitless. As you’ll see …
(Names appear alphabetically.)
CHRISTINE BARBETTA’s memoir “The Party” is second-prize winner in the recent writing competition co-sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women (Aurora/Newmarket) and The Era/The Banner, with the topic Life Lessons. A reception for winners and finalists will take place April 17. Christine’s story was one she’d begun writing in my University of Toronto Memories into Stories course.
SHARON BROOKS-WALLACE’s memoir “Keikikane” (Son) is a finalist in the CFUW/The Era/The Banner competition. Her story is a mother’s reflection on the near-drowning of her two-year-old son on the island of Kauai.
Sharon, a student in the Fall 2011 session of Memories into Story, has founded the writers’ group OMG (Online Memoir Group) with others from her class: Ruth Fitzsimmons, Stephen Goldberg and Sarah Calvert. A fifth member will join this spring. Sharon’s current project is a book about her Scottish great-grandmother, Nellie, who sailed to Canada at age nineteen, and she is writing an article for the Troon Ayrshire Family History Society about her research and writing process.
SARAH CALVERT’s memoir “Eat, Pray, Songwriting … Keep It Simple,” about the pleasures and perils of being on tour as a songwriter, has been published online on the Songwriters Association of Canada website (6 Feb 2012). Also: Watch for an interview with Sarah here on my website soon.
JAN CSILLAG’s poem “Missing at This Time” appears in the Canadian Jewish News Literary Supplement (April 2012). Her poem is about the joyful expectancy of the Passover seder when the family gathers as well as the feelings of loss over loved ones who are no longer here.
STEPHEN GOLDBERG’s memoir “Silence Isn’t Golden,” a surprising story about his son’s speech therapy, has been published online at The Write Place at the Write Time. Steve told me and his fellow students that he enrolled in Memories into Story so he could get one work published and call himself a writer. And so he has, and is. (Don’t stop now, Steve.)
TILYA GALLAY HELFIELD’s memoir “Shame” appears in the recent Canadian Jewish News Literary Supplement (April 2012). “Shame” is an excerpt from Tilya’s memoir collection Metaphors for Love, currently seeking a publisher. Tilya’s describes her recent experience recording another of her memoirs, ”Sweet Adeline,” for CBC’s The Sunday Edition in “On the Air.”
AMY MATTES’s memoir “10 Years of Skirtboarders” has been published in Color Magazine. Amy is an original member of this Quebec-based group of female skateboarders. Her piece celebrates the Skirtboarders’ decade of accomplishments, which include making movies, organizing contests, and touring California, Sweden and Mexico to showcase their talent. The Skirtboarders range in age from 17 to 40 and are still thriving. Read more about them here.
MARY E. McINTYRE will see her short story “Kidnapped” published in Whispered Words, the latest anthology by Writers’ Community of Durham Region. “Kidnapped,” one of two stories by Mary to make the semi-finalists’ list, is about a young woman, distraught from a still birth, who steals another’s baby and hears her guilty conscience whispering in her head. The anthology is the published result of WCDR’s annual short story contest and comprises stories from the top 25 semi-finalists.
Mary’s memoir “Harmless” received an Honourable Mention in the CFUW/The Era/The Banner competition mentioned above. In the story, a farmer forces her to confront her irrational fear of cows.
VICTORIA SCHELE, of Santiago, Chile, is the author of Iron Horses: The Forging of Old and New Paths, a book of photo essays about the history of South American railroads that launched March 21. Iron Horses is published by Ceibo Ediciones. You can read more about it, and about Victoria, here:
LORYNNE SCHREIBER’s memoir “Internal Compass” will be published in the upcoming anthology Living Legacies IV: A Collection of Writing by Contemporary Canadian Jewish Women, edited by Liz Pearl and published by PK Press of Toronto. The story is about a gift from her grandmother that influenced her life.
SUSAN SIDDELEY read this week from her book Home First: A Memoir in Voices at the Parliament Street Library as part of the Toronto Public Library series “Keep Toronto Reading.” She’ll read soon as well at the Ryerson University Library & Archives. Home First, which begins in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, is a memoir of “three generations spread over three continents.” Find out more about her writing and self-publishing journey here: Writing “Home First”: A Memoir in Voices. Susan is founder of Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Santiago, Chile.
HEIDI STOCK recently launched the Canadian Aspiring Poets Contest, a competition for as-yet-unpublished writers. The contest opened April 1st, the first day of National Poetry Month and closes June 1, 2012. Evelyn Lau, Vancouver’s Poet Laureate, is the contest’s honorary patron, and poet Catherine Graham is judge. Winners will share $1,000 in prize money to be directed toward individual online mentoring with Catherine, and I’ll interview the first-prize winner here on my website. Contest guidelines can be found here.
Happy spring, everyone, and keep writing.
Writers mentioned above have participated in one or more of the courses or workshops I’ve led for University of Toronto [in partnership with the New York Times Knowledge Network; online], Koffler Centre of the Arts, North York Central Library (Canadiana Department), Otter Lake Writers’ Retreat in Ontario, Canada; Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Chile; Sabino Springs Writers’ Retreat in Arizona; and Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica.
Friday, April 13th, 2012
Guest post by Tilya Gallay Helfield
“I kept thinking of the movie The King’s Speech and worried I might develop a stutter. . . .”
I was thrilled when I received the first e-mail from Karen Levine, producer of CBC Radio One’s The Sunday Edition, on November 21st, telling me that there was a lot she liked about the short memoir I had sent her five days earlier.
It wasn’t quite ready to be broadcast yet, though. Acceptance was contingent on my making certain revisions. She wanted the piece to be more than a straight story, a mere recounting of memory. She needed to know why the experience mattered to me and how it had changed my understanding of the world. Was there a lesson here for me? A new perspective?
She indicated two paragraphs in particular that she felt needed work and told me that if I was willing to incorporate her suggestions, she’d be happy to take another look. Of course I agreed.
I had written the first draft of “Sweet Adeline,” for Allyson Latta’s writing course at Koffler Centre of the Arts last year. The story about my beloved Aunt Adeline was originally about 500 words. I made some revisions based on reactions from Allyson and others in the class and later expanded it to over 1,000 words, then cut and rewrote it two or three times more. It was this third (or perhaps fourth) version that I had submitted to The Sunday Edition.
Three days after our initial e-mail exchange, I sent Karen a revised version of the story. Soon after that, she sent me a second edit. I was moving in the right direction, she said, but she questioned one premise in the story and pointed out that there was too much dialogue, which would make it a difficult piece to read on the radio. She suggested I call her to discuss it, which I did that afternoon.
Thursday, February 9th, 2012
Three creativity-sparking writing courses are the latest additions to the program at Koffler Centre of the Arts this fall. The Centre has called its range of classes for all ages in painting, drawing, ceramics, music and dance—65 in all—“Toronto’s best-kept secret.” But that’s changing, and the expansion of its Literary Program, which includes my eight-week memoir writing course, is part of this wave.
Established in 1977 by philanthropists Murray and Marvelle Koffler, Koffler is a Jewish cultural institution with a mandate to serve the broader community. Koffler’s stated mission is “to bring people together through arts and culture to create a more civil and global society.”
Last year I was honoured to be invited to develop and teach several pilot courses, which I enjoyed doing through fall 2010 and winter 2011: Creative Writing (introductory and intermediate), and Writing the Short Story. Three of my students subsequently were published, one in an anthology and two in an annual literary supplement.
Monday, August 15th, 2011
Jan M. Csillag has lived part of her adult life in England and part in Toronto. She has taught children in the early grades to read, enjoy books and write stories. As a teacher she was able to combine her love of storytelling, writing and illustrating. She enjoys painting, sketching, reading, writing and travelling with her husband. Jan is currently studying creative writing at Koffler Centre of the Arts with instructor Allyson Latta, and continues to discover a love of the written word.
Friday, December 10th, 2010