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
by Allyson Latta
I’m sitting at Juanita’s, a rustic beach-front restaurant, sipping a foamy piña colada as the departing sun drifts shades of pink over the Pacific. We arrived early to watch the sunset and for just one drink, and it was quiet then, but with the Latin-rhythmed Costa Rican music pumping from the speakers and the aroma of garlic-sizzled sea bass wafting out to the street, other patrons have been enticed and the place is filling up. Several tables draped in bold orange clothes are pushed together for our group, and looking down the line at the smiling faces of exuberantly chatting writers, I think, not for the first time, how remarkable it is that we’ve found our way to this place.
Many of us met only a week ago. And when these women and men first stepped down from the airport shuttle in front of Namaste Gardens — a small yoga retreat in Playa Herradura on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast — they were all slightly rumpled and sheened, visibly tired from travel, unsure of what to expect, and a tad shy with me and one another. One whispered to me as I showed her to her room, “I don’t want to be here,” which startled me, until I realized what she meant. She was worried about fitting in, about whether she belonged here with “real” writers.
But as a writing instructor of mine once said, and I took this to heart, “If you are writing, you’re a writer.” And everyone who’d come to Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat was here to write. They were also here to experience a bit of Costa Rica: the rich sunsets, lively music, beaches and cuisine.
Oh yes, and ”Tico time,” an extremely relaxed view of clocks and schedules subscribed to by Ticos (informal for Costa Ricans) that, depending on the circumstances, can delight travellers or drive them crazy. Trust me: delighting in it is the best way to go.
Tuesday, April 10th, 2012
Award-winning Canadian novelist William Deverell was a featured speaker at my Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat in Costa Rica last month. Against a backdrop of lush foliage, cascading flowers and startling blue pool, and with the occasional curious tropical bird or butterfly pausing to watch, he shared with retreat participants and visiting writers from the capital city of San Jose his thoughts on “A Writer’s Life.” Here are 10 tips gleaned from his presentation.
1. Write what you dream of writing — not what others want you to write.
Though he aspired to be a writer even as a teen — he read us a few angst-ridden journal entries to prove it — and worked for many years as a journalist and later a lawyer, he was thirty-nine years old before he finally took a sabbatical plunge into novel writing. He describes the writer’s block he suffered, even during the early days of his sabbatical, as “pathological.”
He eventually recognized that he’d been hampered by his father’s high literary standards, fearing he’d disappoint if he didn’t write a “serious novel.” His father was a journalist and a reader of classics who suffered from unfulfilled literary aspirations. Bill says his own fear of failure began in his teens, prevented him from writing for decades, and even “drove him” to the law. (“I never wanted to be a lawyer,” he says.)
Thursday, February 9th, 2012
This just in. Award-winning Canadian author William Deverell will be the featured speaker at my upcoming writers’ retreat: Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat in Playa Herradura, Costa Rica, January 21 to 30, 2012.
William, who divides his time between homes in Pender Island in Canada and near Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, has a wealth of writing background to draw from for his presentation. A former journalist and criminal lawyer, he is best known for his crime novels, which have been translated into 14 languages and sell around the world, and as the creator of the popular, long-running CBC TV series Street Legal, which has aired in 80 countries. His latest novel, I’ll See You in My Dreams, was released just this month (and a partial memoir is at the plot’s centre, by the way).
Monday, September 26th, 2011
Profile: Travel Writer Erin Van Rheenen
Erin Van Rheenen has done an impressive amount of globe-trotting and living abroad, and writing about both—especially for someone who says her earliest travel memory mostly involved crying. But then, she was only three years old when her mother and father, a Peace Corps doctor, moved the family from their home in Oregon to Nigeria.
“My mother was always up for the adventure,” she says. “She didn’t flinch at moving two toddlers to Nigeria, and she delivered her third child there—my little brother’s birth certificate lists his ‘Tribe’ as Van Rheenen.”
Six years later, the family picked up and moved again—this time to Guatemala, where her father worked at a clinic on the shores of Lake Atitlan. And family vacations, she says, were often road trips to Mexico in their old Ford station wagon.
Monday, August 29th, 2011