Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hot WIPs Night

Yesterday evening, Susan Fish, writer and CEO of Storywell, held a Hot Works in Progress Night at the Raintree Cafe in downtown Waterloo.

Eight of us gathered to participate in a writers' version of speed dating. We paired up to deliver the pitches for our works in progress (mainly novels) and every six minutes rotated around the table.

I enjoyed the evening immensely and was exposed to different genres--contemporary women's fiction, Young Adult, fantasy, and cozy mysteries. Afterward, we shared our experiences and discovered that we had all revised and improved our scripts as we moved around the table.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Poetry Workshop

I loved writing poetry during my high school years, but my writing went underground shortly afterward. When I heard about Melinda Burns' poetry workshop at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library, I decided to go and see if the muse was still there.

As I listened to Melinda read her own poem and those of Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon and Jane Hirshfield, I felt new ideas stirring and the desire to write poetry rekindled. After a short interactive session, Melinda assigned three short exercises which many of us shared.

Food for further thought...
  • "Poetry is eating all my problems." (A little girl from the Poetry in School program in California)
  • Read Amy Bloom's article, "Why Poetry Can Save Your Life?" (Oprah, December 2006)
  • Poetry is a container for both strong and mixed feelings.
  • Poetry acknowledges the inconsolable while giving comfort.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Taking Up Scrapbooking

I just came back from a scrapbooking workshop with Gloria Nye at Eramosa Eden. I have been curious about this popular hobby for a while, and today I decided to try my hand at it.

I am hooked!

Right now, I am organizing my book reviews, but I have ideas for two travel scrapbooks. I appreciated Gloria's advice regarding layout and design and look forward to future sessions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


My article, "Completing Your Educational Journey,"  appears on the Back to College website.

This site provides advice and other resources for adult re-entry students pursuing professional development or advanced degrees.

Read the article.

Monday, February 20, 2012

This Means War

Definitely far-fetched with lots of action, romance and humour, This Means War was a great choice for Family Day.

I enjoyed watching Reese Witherspoon play the part of single product tester Lauren, who is lured into the world of online dating by her best friend, Trish (Chelsea Handler). Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play CIA agents, FDR and Tuck, who have been demoted to desk jobs. FDR and Tuck compete for Lauren's affections.

Chelsea Handler provides most of the laughs with her irreverent comments and advice.

Watch the trailer.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sundays for Writers

This afternoon, I joined six other members of Guelph Write Now and Guelph Writers Ink at Lucie's Restaurant in south Guelph.

We shared and critiqued the first five pages of our respective manuscripts. I enjoyed reading the different genres, which included literary fiction, science fiction, fantasy, Young Adult, Regency Romance and a cozy.

Great stuff!!

Friday, February 17, 2012

The Art of Storytelling

Last evening, Sya VanGeest from the Guelph Storytellers Guild presented an entertaining workshop at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library.

She displayed her well-honed communication skills as she interspersed her PowerPoint presentation with folk tales. We all participated in one story and she listened as each of us told the stories behind our given names.

A few of her hints...
  • Get out of yourself when you tell a story. Realize that you are only the conduit of the story.
  • Stories are meant for the ear. Do not memorize the story before telling it.
  • You can find your stories in different places. Be alert to what you see, hear and read.
  • Throw your voice.
  • Practice your story by living and feeling it. Have it in your head and go over it many times...before falling asleep, while doing chores, while driving...
  • When telling your story, build on the positive energy of attentive audience members. Ignore the one or two audience members who may be sleeping or not paying attention. 
  • Trust your instincts. There is no one way to develop a personal style.
  • One of her suggested resources: New Tales for Old by Gail deVos and Anna Altman

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


My article, "Revisiting Mathematics,"  appears on the Back to College website.

This site provides advice and other resources for adult re-entry students pursuing professional development or advanced degrees.

Read the article.

Monday, February 13, 2012

At the Total Woman Show

Yesterday, I drove out to Kitchener for the Total Woman Show. The show featured more than 150 exhibitors, speakers, workshops and a fashion show showcasing the ten finalists in the Fabulous Women Over 40 Model Search. These extraordinary women have battled cancer, overcome abusive situations and faced other challenges in their lives. While emcee Audrey Wilson stressed that it's not just about looks, all the women looked radiant as they modelled fashions from local retailers.

Later, I  sat in on an interview with local Olympians, Amanda and Cindy Overland, and their father Ernie. What an extraordinary family! The two girls and their brother Kevin are Olympic athletes. Ernie has volunteered at the Cambridge Skating Club and run 16 marathons, five of which were the Boston marathon.

While it was tough and expensive on the single father, he managed to raise three gifted elite athletes. Amanda and Cindy stressed that they didn't make any sacrifices. Instead, they made choices to eat, exercise, rest and manage their stress. And they have faced many challenges. Cindy had mononucleosis, ruptured her appendix and broke her arm in four spots. Kevin was involved in a serious car accident. Amanda has experienced knee, back and groin pain. And Ernie faced a divorce from his wife.

When asked about their role models and mentors, they cited their parents and each other. Cindy included Terry Fox and her coaches, Lisa and Tom.

In their own words...

"There was  some kind of tough inside me and I was able to do it." (Amanda)

"Work hard and leave a mark on your kids." (Ernie)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Editing with Brian Henry

Yesterday, I joined seventeen other writers for an Editing workshop with Brian Henry at a local church here in Guelph. In the past, I have driven to Kitchener, Woodstock, Oakville, Mississauga and Burlington to hear Brian talk about the writing journey. I was thankful that I didn't have to drive too far yesterday.

I am now ready to edit and revise my manuscript and found the workshop extremely helpful.  I was also able to get some one-on-one time with Brian. He gave me some excellent tips on how to improve the first 1000 words--critical words that can make or break a manuscript. I have been told that many agents stop reading after the first page.

Brian has a good sense of humour and I often jot down his quips along with his practical suggestions...
  • If you revise the same page too many times,you are probably ignoring a major problem in your book.
  • The first step of revision involves adding and expanding, giving the manuscript its fullness and making the voice more distinctive.
  • Paring down is the last step.
  • We all have a tendency to fall in love with our writing. To make it better we must fall out of love with it.
  • When the characters start misbehaving, do not get rid of them. Go with the flow and make the appropriate changes.
  • Write with passion, revise at leisure.
  • Or...Puke it out, mop it up.
  • "Give yourself permission to write a crappy first draft." (Anne Lamont) It is easier to work with a crappy first draft than a blank page.
  • If the manuscript doesn't work, put it aside for a year.
  • Working with only professional editors is limiting. Find more readers.
  • Zen of revising--read like a reader. That is, read like you have never seen it before.
  • With a strong voice, you can make almost anything work.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Light Entertainment

Last evening, I enjoyed listening to a reading of Zumba in the Pool with Carlos at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library. Written by local playwright, Mary Mulholland, this play deals with the antics of seven ladies at a health club.

Kitty Pope and six other local ladies treated us to a delightful evening filled with laughter.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dinner with Writers Ink

Last night, six of us met at Symposium Restaurant for our monthly dinner. Lots of discussion and advice floated around the table as we discussed query letters, police procedures,  and submitting our work. I found the session after dinner very informative and inspiring.

Today, I'm up bright and early ready to write.

Monday, February 6, 2012

iPod, iPhone, iPad, iEverything!

Earlier today, I drove out to the Forest Heights Branch of the Waterloo Public Library to hear Bryan Dunham, the Coordinator of Information Technology talk about the latest Apple gadgets.

I finally learned what all the fuss is about. Curious at first, I became very animated about the iPad and I am looking forward to the launch of iPad3 in the spring. I am even considering buying one.

Bryan is also passionate about his iPad. He is convinced that it can virtually replace almost any computer. He  demonstrated the different features of all the gadgets, focusing mainly on the iPad.

Some of his tips...
  • You can use the Notes feature as a word processor. But be aware that it is a very rudimentary program with no formatting. Purchase Open Office for $15 to get formatting and other word processing features.
  • Add a Bluetooth keyboard if you want a larger keyboard than the one provided.
  • Expect to pay between $549 and $749 for an iPad. 
  • If you are considering a refurbished model, you will pay $100 less.
  • iPads are available at the Apple Store. You can try them out first.Take advantage of the full range of services offered, especially the Genius Bar at the back of the store. To avoid waiting in line, book an appointment online.
  • iPad is intuitive. You won't experience the steep curve you would with other systems.
  • Buy a smart cover ($49 to $69) and a case ($29) to protect your iPad. Get a screen collector.
  • Kobo and Kindle readers are built in.
  • Buy a screen cleaner ($5.99 at Radio Shack) and use a lint-free cloth. Do not use Windex on any LCD devices.
  • To get the music and applications, sign up for iTunes.
  • Charge the lithium battery every day.
  • The new features of the iPad3 include a high gloss screen and Suri,  the personal digital assistant.
  • One of the ladies in the audience recommended the following book: iPad for Seniors...Dummies version.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Workshop in Waterloo

Last evening, I drove out to the Waterloo Community Arts Centre on Regina Street for a workshop entitled, How to Get Published. Author Erin Bow talked about her writing journey and provided us with handouts and many good tips...
  • Read in the genre you wish to get published. Check out the latest publications at  your bookstore or library.
  • Read Quill & Quire and other writers magazines. Subscribe to free newsletters.
  • Participate in Internet-based writing communities such as RWA.
  • Social media can be very valuable, but Erin reminds us to participate only if we enjoy it.
  • Connect with your favourite authors by sending fan mail. You can make many interesting connections.
  • If you are interested in writing fiction, try to get your short stories published in literary magazines. Many of these journals will also accept essays, poems and book reviews. But read the magazine before you submit to it.
  • Do not query an incomplete novel.
  • In the first paragraph of your query letter, indicate why you think the agent would be a good fit.
Erin's match-making exercise for finding an agent...
  1. Locate the shelf of the bookstore where you want your book to live.
  2. Pick out ten to twelve books that appeal to you and resemble the storyline or theme of your book. 
  3. Read the books.
  4. Look in all the Acknowledgment sections and find the names of the agents and publishing houses. Alternatively, you could write and ask the author for the name of his/her agent.
  5. Rank these agents.
  6. Send out query letters to the agents.

Additional  comments...
  • You do not need an agent if you are looking to publish in a small or medium-sized publishing house.
  • An agent wants you to do well; a publisher wants your book to do well.
  • Do not self-publish if you want your book to end up with a large publisher. Note: Amanda Hocking is the exception to this rule.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

One for the Money

It has been a while since I read Janet Evanovich's  One for the Money,  but the storyline came back to me as I watched the film. Katherine Heigl delivered an excellent performance as Stephanie Plum. In a recent interview, the author admitted that she would be thinking of Katherine when she wrote her next novel. And I am certain that all her readers will have that same vision.

Debbie Reynolds and Sherri Shepherd were well cast as Grandma Mazur and Lula. Jason O'Mara played the part of sexy Joey Morelli who seduced and dumped Stephanie while in high school.

A quick summary of the storyline...

Desperate for cash, Stephanie Plum convinces Vinnie, her sleazy cousin, to give her a job as a recovery agent for his bail bonding company. Stephanie decides to take on Joey Morelli, his biggest bail-jumper. Lots of action and humorous moments at family dinners.

Watch the trailer.