Michael Christie from Thunder Bay

Michael Christie from Thunder Bay
Nominee for Giller Prize for novel Greenwood

Monday, September 9, 2019

Wow. What a concept! Writers Take Note!

Write-In Wednesdays is a new NOWW offering. Once a month, NOWW writers will gather at a coffee shop with their writing materials (laptop, pen, paper, etc.) and a desire to be productive on their own projects among other writers. 

Working on a novel, short story, play, piece of creative nonfiction or some poetry? Bring that to the table and toil away alongside other writers doing the same thing. We want to write together and what better place to do that than a place that serves coffee? 

The event will run for two hours (from 7pm-9pm). If you don’t have any projects on the go - don’t worry; we will have writing prompts on hand to help you get started! 
This is an informal event to gather and do what writers do best - write. We hope to see you there!
Wednesday September 18, 2019 @ Seattle Coffeehouse at 7 pm.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Summer Reading with Sweet Peas

Three very good books. Flights by Olga Tokarczuk; In Other Words by Anna Porter: How I Fell in Love with Canada One Book at a Time; Party Wall by Therine LeRoux.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Book Cover Challenge

Margie Taylor’s Ten Book Challenge required me to post on Facebook the covers of ten favourite books. Just covers. No commentary. Here they are:
1.    Sweetwater by Michael Crummey
2.    Dear Life by Alice Munro
3.    Dubliners by James Joyce
4.    A Two Spirit Journey by Ma-nee Chacaby
5.    The Russlander by Sandra Birdsell
6.    The Tin Flute (Bonheur d’occasion) by Gabrielle Roy
7.    The Josephine Trilogy by Sandra Gulland
8.    The Dead Celebrities Club by Susan Swan
9.    Lear’s Shadow by Clare Holden Rothman
       10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

September 2019
with Gary Barwin
(Thunder Bay and Kenora)
Workshop Description

Writing is a dance between finding the words to say what you want and letting words magic the world of the text into being. In this lively and interactive writing workshop, we’ll explore these questions:

What is “voice”—your voice, the voice of the narrator, the voice of characters within a text?

How does word choice, sentence structure and overall flow affect or express the particular world of the story or the sensibility of its characters or narrator?

What is the right rhythm for what you want to say?

How can rhythm be a source of thought?

How does sentence length affect the flow of thought, create the texture of the world, (re)create the sound and sense of the sensibility of the narrator or their world?

What are ways to explore a wide range of different approaches to creating voice in both fiction and poetry?

And one final question: Will we try a whole bunch of different writing activities?
Answer: yes. 

Thunder Bay
When:    Saturday September 14, 2019
Where:   Mary J L Black Library
Time:      10 am to 4 pm (with  1/2 hour lunch break)
Registration: required:  
Price:   $10. for NOWW members 
                                           $40. for non-members (includes one year membership with NOWW)

The Thunder Bay workshop is now full. If you are interested your name can be added to the waitlist.  Just contact admin@nowwwriters.ca and ask to be put on the list. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

A Writer Thinks about the Future - and the Past.

My recent grant from the Ontario Arts Council made me very happy indeed. It was not only the money which will help pay for research, travel, and supplies, but also it was the validation, the assurance that  I am on the right track with my novelThe Canadian Suffragette. This acceptance affirms that the story telling, the writing, the characters, the reader interest and all the other elements which make up a successful novel are in place. Competition for grants is severe, and yet I managed to come through. Thank you, thank you, unknown judges of my work.

The Canadian Suffragettehas a long history going back to 1985. As a professor at Confederation College, I was encouraged to take a short sabbatical on reduced salary in order to go to Toronto for four months to access research material on women’s history and to create the credit course which I eventually taught for several years. 

In Toronto, the librarian at OISE pointed out several books about the British Suffragettes. I was amazed at how little I knew about this incredible organization. I was struck by their organizing abilities, their courage in the face of violence, and their high-spirited shenanigans. Any group that would rent a hot air balloon to sail over the Houses of Parliament and drop leaflets had my full attention. 

I began a search for Suffragette memoirs and found many. All the leaders and many members wrote about their experiences, in jail and out, and produced some of the most memorable reading I have ever encountered. Although the books were mainly out of print, second hand sellers in Toronto and London helped me start my own collection.

Later, when I travelled to England to continue research in the British museum, a pattern was forming in my mind focusing on the year 1908, a pivotal year for the organization. In 1908, the Suffragette organization was at a crossroads. Only five years old, they had thousands of members all over Great Britain including women from the U.S., Australia, and Canada. But the street violence they encountered was worsening, becoming dangerous. Some members, such as the Canadian, Mary Richardson, wanted to retaliate, break windows and destroy property. Others, like Sylvia Pankhurst, counseled non- violence. In 1908, the first stone was thrown, breaking the windows in 10 Downing Street. My fictional heroine, Canadian Lara Erickson, is caught between these two viewpoints. 

Although I was having good luck with my short stories, I thought I would give a novel a go. Luckily, I acquired an American agent but, in spite of her best efforts, the thing did not sell. I put it aside as an apprentice attempt and went on with the short stories, eventually publishing seventy, mostly in Canadian literary magazines.

But recently, I realized what was wrong with the early novel: too long, too many characters, too many points of view jumping around from chapter to chapter, no love interest, and so on. 

I decided to ditch the entire mess, go back to the research and consider everything from the life of a young woman living in Port Arthur in 1908 who is shamed by vicious sexual rumours which cause her to flee the city. In England she joins the Suffragettes, encounters street violence and prison but also gains the courage to return home to face her enemy. But she too has to decide between non-violent and violent retaliation. 

The OAC and my writing groups like it so I hope readers will too. 

Since 1963, the Ontario Art Council has supported professional Ontario-based artists and art organizations. Check out www.arts.on.ca. Good Luck!

Monday, August 19, 2019

Good bye, Margie Taylor, the Greatest Book Reviewer Ever

Dear Bloggers: Because of ongoing computer problems during the last three months, I have not been able to post this sad farewell until now. This blog has published many of Margie Taylor's book reviews to much acclaim. I hope we get more writing from Margie and we wish her the best for her e-book. Here is her good-bye letter and her final book review.  Joan Baril

Good morning,

Today's post is the last one in this particular project. I set out to read and review a book a week from the list of books contained in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. 

It's been a fun project but I've decided 101 is enough - for me and maybe for you! Thanks to suggestions from friends I'm putting the reviews into an ebook later this month, so you'll get at least one more email from me about that.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and thanks for the feedback.

The final review is of Anne Michaels' best-selling novel, Fugitive Pieces.

Again, many thanks.

Fugitive Pieces 
book review
There was so much hype about this book when it came out in 1996 that I put off reading it for several years. More than 20, in fact. This was partly because I was in the throes of finishing my own first novel (which came out the following year to no hype whatsoever), and partly because the reviews were so overwhelmingly fulsome I could only assume I’d be disappointed when I read it.
Having finally got around to reading Anne Michaels’ debut novel, I find that to be only partly true. As a novel, it’s disappointing, but as a kind of extended poem it’s nothing less than magical.
The book is divided into two parts: Part One tells the story of Jakob Beer, a renowned poet who, just before his death, has begun writing his memoirs. A child during the Nazi invasion of Poland, he survives the destruction of his village and is found, days later, practically buried in mud, by a Greek geologist named Athos Roussos. Athos takes the boy to Greece and hides him until the end of the war. Haunted by memories of his family – especially his older sister, Bella – Jakob still learns to appreciate the beauty of the natural world, thanks to Athos’ teaching.
When the war ends, Athos and Jakob emigrate to Toronto where Athos teaches and Jakob studies to be a translator. He meets a spirited young woman and marries her, but his obsession with the past eventually comes between them. He leaves his wife and, years later, marries Michaela, a much younger woman. Together, they move to Greece. There, in the old Roussos family home on the island of Idhra, Jakob is able to write, and to finally let go of the past.

Part Two offers up a new protagonist – Ben, a Canadian professor whose parents survived the Holocaust. He has met Jakob, admires his poetry, and is impelled, after Jakob’s death, to travel to Greece to retrieve the poet’s journals. While Jakob was obsessed by dark, terrifying memories of the war, Ben, who wasn’t born at the time, has been raised by parents so deeply damaged by their experiences they cannot offer him any emotional security. As immigrants with a terrifying past, they can never let themselves feel completely safe; their sense of home can be taken from them at any random moment. Ben inherits their insecurity; tragedy, like genetics, is passed from generation to generation.
I said earlier that, for me, the novel is a disappointment. When it comes to fiction, I crave, above all else, a good story. I need characters I can believe in, even if I don’t particularly like them. I want dialogue that’s written the way people speak, even if they’re saying horrible things. And please, please give me action. The action in Fugitive Pieces takes place, for the most part, in the past. It is remembered rather than lived, told to us through the tormented dreams and memory fragments of its protagonist. Much of it is told so obliquely and wrapped in so many layers of metaphor it’s often difficult to know just what is happening.
Critics have described the writing as “lyrical”, “magical” and “incandescent”; they’re right. In fact, the text is saturated with beautiful sentences that could only come from the pen of a poet. Often, however, on reflection, those sentences leave the reader confused:

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sue Blott's prize winning story, "The Painter and the Pin Up"

This is a story you won't forget. It won first prize for short fiction in the 2019 annual NOWW contest.

Sue Blott

The Painter and The Pin Up
By Sue Blott
            Darlene wondered why she had agreed to this madness. Warm summer air from the open window caressed her bare ankles as she sat on a bar stool alone in the room two floors up on Bay Street. She clasped the fuchsia kimono tighter at her neck, shivering as its silkiness skimmed her arms and shoulders. A waft of sandalwood caught her by surprise. A masculine scent. She swivelled to face the window. Sunlight and leafshadow shifted across her and up the walls; bursts of blue and yellow light from the window’s stained glass dotted the floor by her feet. She wanted to lose herself in their patterns, imagined early evening sun on the lake. She dipped her toe in a splash of turquoise. 
She could leave now, shrug off the kimono, redress her upper body, and simply walk away. Only the painter’s assistant knew she was here. She hadn’t even told her friend Maryanne of her schedule. And certainly not Lawrence. He knew nothing of this. Why should he? Once she might have told him. But not now. Possibly never.
            Yes. She would leave. Maybe buy a persian or two on the way home. God knows she deserved that at least. She began to slide off the stool.
            “Nah ah ah,” said a soft male voice behind her. “Please stay. You’re Darlene, right? You won’t be the first to leave. And it’s okay but please stay.” A bearded man, maybe early thirties, young enough to be her son, pranced with the ease of a dancer in front of her. He smiled at her, brown eyes crinkling at the corners, as he rubbed his hands, then extended his right hand out to her. “Blair. May I?” He turned the stool this way and that then nodded at her. “What month are you?”
            Darlene shrugged, suddenly aware of her short greying hair and hands stained with age spots. “February I think. The dead of winter.” 
            “Ah…the white month, all ice and snow.”
            “That’s fitting. I’ve lost a lot of my warmth. And colour.”
            “Of course. Of course. All of you ladies, the same. Yet so, so different.” Blair fiddled with his hair, tied in a man bun, all the time studying her, dipping first to his left, then his right. “What did you have in mind?” he finally asked.
            “Oh I have no idea. I thought you decided that.”
            “You have such faith. That’s good.” He smiled, his eyes twinkling with mischief. “I thought you were going to run away on me.”
            Darlene nodded. “But I didn’t.”
            “Only because I came into the room in time to prevent you. We can stop any time you feel uncomfortable though.”
            “That would have been about ten minutes ago.”
            His light lilting laugh evaporated into the air like tea steam. Pointing to the kimono he said, “Could you…? My assistant is right over there in the corner. Ashley will be here the whole time. Just the three of us here. You’re totally safe.”
            Safe? Darlene hadn’t felt safe in over a year now. Just get it over with, she told herself. She unknotted the tie on the kimono and let it fall open and away. She winced with embarrassment as she felt her right nipple harden in the cooler air but she pushed the slippery fabric off her chest until it draped around her hips, cascading past her white capri pants. She closed her eyes tight, couldn’t look at him looking at her.
            “Just paint a railway line type thing, you know like a scar,” Darlene said. “On that side anyway.”
            “I have done that before but I like to match the painting to the personality as much as possible. You may feel bitter…but it’s not about this, is it?”

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Another Thriller from Jacqueline D'Acre: Killer Katrina.

Copyright 2019 Jacqueline D’Acré

We're hooked at the first sentence as Hurricane Katrina barrels down to slam the city of New Orleans and destroy it. Thunder Bay's Jacqueline D'Acre has allowed this blog to give you, Dear Readers, the first chapter of her upcoming mystery novel Killer Katrina, featuring the lovely Bryn Wiley.  Enjoy!

Killer Katrina

A Bryn Wiley Mystery By Jacqueline D'Acre

Chapter One
Monday, August 29, 2005, 10:06 A.M.

Playing a lethal game of hopscotch, Hurricane Katrina touched down three times in Louisiana. The last landfall was in St. Tremaine parish, due north of New Orleans, on the far shore of Lake Pontchartrain. It was a Category Three hurricane when it arrived, so no one was expecting out of the ordinary devastation.
I’m Bryn Wiley and I was en route from Thunder Bay, Canada, home to St. Tremaine parish, to my tiny hamlet of Absinthe Wells. I was just outside Slidell when Katrina hit. Just before the arrival of the first wave of the hurricane I looked for somewhere to stop to ride out the storm. My arms and shoulders ached with tension as I had been fighting high winds and heavy rain for over an hour at the steering wheel. My canoe, lashed on top of my car, added to the pressure since it acted like a small sail in the storm, blowing me backwards.
From an eagle’s eye view a hurricane looks like a giant, round, saw blade composed of snowy-white clouds with a hole set slightly off-center. The “hole” is the eye of the storm and it’s calm inside the eye. Because the eye is off-center, one side of the hurricane is larger than the other, so it hits with more force, heavier rainfall, higher velocity winds and more thunder and lightning. More devastation.
I pulled into a coffee shop that was blessedly actually open. The car door almost unhinged itself when I stepped outside into sluicing rain with Lulu, my black Standard poodle, leashed close beside me. I struggled to close the door and after I slammed it shut I bent double and fought the wind and rain across the parking lot to the building. Inside, I was hit by a wave of coffee smell. I ordered my coffee—an extra-large—and I added milk and three Sweet’n’Lows at a small counter. I took a seat where I could simultaneously watch a blonde, Channel Four weather woman, struggle with high winds to make a report, and to monitor the storm out of a window cross-hatched with masking tape. The man at the counter said not a word about my bringing my dog into the place—everyone recognized that everyday rules didn’t hold right now. The other only occupant of the restaurant, a man in overalls in a seat not far from me, got up and turned up the sound on the TV.
            “…Katrina began as a Category Five hurricane and fell to a Category Three with winds at one hundred twenty-five miles per hour. Parish officials confirm that in New Orleans, water was seen rising on both sides of the Industrial Canal…” shouted the girl as her umbrella blew inside-out. Rain lashed her and she struggled to stay on her feet. I sipped my coffee. It was delicious and hot, helping calm my shivering from the cold air conditioning and the wet. The ache in my arms was subsiding. Lulu lay down at my feet and with a sigh rested her head on her front paws. 
            I was worried about my horse, Count Amethyst, stabled at Theodore Goodall’s Morgan horse farm in St. Tremaine parish. “Am” had been there for the past three weeks while I vacationed on Lake Agimak at my uncle’s cabin, near my Canadian hometown of Thunder Bay in Ontario. But previously, I’d been living in St. Tremaine parish for many years and Orleans parish as well and now I considered New Orleans my hometown. I’m a writer who specializes in equine articles for horse magazines and I frequently found myself solving murders alongside the writing. The writing paid—well, somewhat—the murder-solving didn’t. But I couldn’t resist getting involved. 
My last case concerned the murder of Theodore Goodall’s wife, Marcie. Now I sipped my coffee and fretted about getting home in the storm. The windows rattled and the small brick building shook as Katrina roared around it. Fear shot through me and I shuddered. Lulu whimpered and huddled closer. 
            I watched the hurricane through the masking-taped window and I caught my reflection. I saw a redhead with a short, asymmetrical haircut—one side cut to her ear tip, the other to her jaw. I was dressed in black jeans and a white sleeveless top. My green eyes didn’t show up against the raging storm outside.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Book nominees - 2019

An interesting line up. Atwood's book, The Testaments, a sequel to the Handmaid's Tale, is not even on the shelves yet. For me, some familiar names: Deborah Levy, Salman Rushdie, Kevin Barry, Jeanette Winterson. Enough here to keep me reading all winter. 

The underlined titles should give a link to a New York Times Review.

Margaret Atwood, “The Testaments” 
• Kevin Barry, “Night Boat to Tangier” 
• Oyinkan Braithwaite, “
My Sister, The Serial Killer 
• Lucy Ellmann, “Ducks, Newburyport” 
• Bernardine Evaristo, “Girl, Woman, Other” 
• John Lanchester, “
The Wall 
• Deborah Levy, “The Man Who Saw Everything” 
• Valeria Luiselli, “
Lost Children Archive 
• Chigozie Obioma, “
An Orchestra of Minorities 
• Max Porter, “
• Salman Rushdie, “Quichotte” 
• Elif Shafak, “10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World” 
• Jeanette Winterson, “Frankissstein.”

Monday, July 29, 2019

Margie Taylor review Of Human Bondage

After a month without a workable computer, I am catching up with our Prima Reviewer Margie Taylor. Margie gives us her take on “Of Human Bondage”by Somerset Maugham and as usual it is brilliant. 
 “The summer came upon the country like a conqueror”.
It’s not the first line of Somerset Maugham’s masterpiece, but it’s one of many I wish I’d written. I first read this book many, many years ago (don’t like to say just how many) and loved it. I was swept away by the characters, especially the protagonist, a young man with a club foot who is, as you might guess, inordinately sensitive about it. It’s not an understatement to say it profoundly shapes his outlook on life, given that he’s ridiculed by classmates and colleagues, who resort to calling him a “cripple” when they really want to wound.
Of all the novels Maugham wrote, Of Human Bondage is the closest to autobiography. His parents died when he was a child, and he was sent to England to live with his uncle, the Vicar of Whitstable. His uncle was cold and emotionally distant, and school was a difficult experience. As he put it later in The Summing Up, he had much going against him:
“I was small; I had endurance but little physical strength; I stammered; I was shy; I had poor health. I had no facility for games, which play so great a part in the normal life of Englishmen; and I had, whether for any of these reasons or from nature I do not know, an instinctive shrinking from my fellow men that has made it difficult for me to enter into any familiarity with them.”
If you substitute the stammer for a club foot, that passage is an apt description of Philip Carey, Maugham’s fictional protagonist. Philip also loses his parents at an early age and is sent to live with an uncle, the Vicar of Blackstable. His aunt, who’s never had children of her own, cares for him, but for the most part it’s a loveless childhood, relieved only by his uncle’s vast collection of old books. As lonely children have always done and will likely continue to do, Philip finds solace in reading: The Thousand Nights and a Night, Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and The Admirable Crichton, to name a few.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Dear Literary Bloggers, This site has been idle for two weeks because of a mega virus. I have now received my Mac and hope to update the blog soon. Joan M. Baril

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Great short story by local writer Pat McLeod.

by Pat McLeod
                  "What do you think of the new neighbours?" asked Leann stabbing her ribeye and sawing off a bite.
                  Dave shrugged shoving a roasted Yukon Gold into his mouth. "Haven't really met them," he chewed. "Waved at her a couple times. Gave him the guy nod."
                  "I talked to her today." Leann sipped her Nineteen Crimes. "She seems nice."
                  "What's her name?"
                  "Rian. With an i."
                  "Really?" Dave shrugged. "Odd name for a woman. What's she do?"
                  "Occupational Therapist."
                  "Don't know." Leann chewed. "Never came up. I think he works in an office though."
                  "Yeah, I've never seen him not in a suit. And that Prius he drives is kind of a wimpy car."
                  "Just because he drives a Prius doesn't make him a wuss. Maybe he prefers not shoving money in his gas tank."
                  "Or maybe he's a wuss who drives a girly car."
                  Leann pointed her fork. "You're an ass."
                  Dave grinned. "Yes. Yes I am."

                  Dave was dicing garlic when a knock came from the door. He looked out the garden doors off the kitchen to the deck and saw the new neighbour standing there.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Canadian Books that Canadians are Buying This Week

An interesting list. Richard Wagamese, whose death in 2017 saddened many readers, has three books on this best seller list. A surprise listing is a book devoted to the bass fiddle at #2 in the non-fiction list. And the Handmaid's Tale continues to sell very well, perhaps helped along by the new TV series roughly based on the book and perhaps by the distressing and draconian war against women currently being waged by Rebublican states in the US. Anyone who takes seriously Jordan Peterson's 12 Rules for Life should get one - a life that is and not the book. Washington Black by Esi Edugyan at #1 remains popular with readers and book clubs. Amy Jones' new book Every Little Piece of Me has been garnering dynamite reviews and should appear on this list any day. Amy was a long term Thunder Bay resident. Our reviewer, Laura Atkinson, recommends Women Talking by Miriam Toews. Women Talking is a finalist for the Governor General Awards. Right off the charts, I am reading Sir Wilfred Laurier and The Romance of Canada By Laurier LaPierre. This insightful and well-written history has given me a new view of Canada in the early 20th century.

1. Washington Black, Esi Edugyan, Patrick Crean
2. Full Disclosure, Beverley McLachlin, Simon & Schuster
3. Warlight, Michael Ondaatje, McClelland & Stewart
4. The Quintland Sisters, Shelley Wood, William Morrow
5. A Brightness Long Ago, Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking
6. Starlight, Richard Wagamese, McClelland & Stewart
7. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Emblem
8. The Party, Robyn Harding, Pocket
9. The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline, Dancing Cat
10. Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese, Emblem

1. 12 Rules for Life, Jordan Peterson, Random House Canada
2. Geddy Lee’s Big Beautiful Book of Bass, Geddy Lee. Collins Design
3. Feeding My Mother, Jann Arden, Vintage Canada
4. By Chance Alone, Max Eisen, HarperCollins
5. Love and Courage, Jagmeet Singh, Simon & Schuster
6. Cat and Nat’s Mom Truths, Catherine Belknap, Natalie Telfer, Penguin Canada
7. The Never-Ending Present, Michael Barclay, ECW
8. Teardown, Dave Meslin, Penguin Canada
9. Embers, Richard Wagamese, Douglas and McIntyre
10. 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act, Bob Joseph, Indigenous Relations

1. Diary of an Awesome Friendly Kid, Jeff Kinney, Amulet
2. Just Jamie, Terri Libenson, Balzer & Bray
3. Why I Love My Daddy, Daniel Howarth, HarperCollins Canada
4. National Geographic Kids Almanac 2020, Cdn. Edition, National Geographic Kids, National Geographic Children’s
5. Dear Girl, Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Holly Hatam, Paris Rosenthal, HarperCollins
6. Oh, the Places You’ll Go!, Dr. Seuss, Random House Books for Young Readers
7. Dear Boy, Jason Rosenthal, Holly Hatam, Paris Rosenthal, HarperCollins
8. Brawl of the Wild, Dav Pilkey, Scholastic
9. Unicorn Bowling, Dana Simpson, Andrews McMeel
10. Share Your Smile, Raina Telgemeier, Graphix