Music, Stories and Song.

Music, Stories and Song.

Amy Jones, New e-writer in Residence

Amy Jones, New e-writer in Residence
For more info, stay tuned. Congratulations Amy

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Get It Down (While You Can.)

Many years ago, I arranged a recording session with my beloved aunt in order to capture her memories. Alas, I had left it too late. She was able to remember very little and the dementia, which claimed the rest of her life, had erased the past from her brain. I regret this deeply. I had the opportunity for years and did not take it.
I met Linda Wisniewski at an Imternational Women's Writing conference in New York. A woman of wisdom. Her web site is
Joan M. Baril
Linda Wisnieski
Get It Down (While You Still Can)
By Linda C. Wisniewski
Does anybody but me have this underlying anxiety, this fear of aging, of death, of being unknown? Some days I think it’s the malady of our age. Otherwise, why the popularity of so much “escape” entertainment, TV, movies, the web, video games, gambling, drinking, etc. etc.? What are we escaping from? Facing our feelings, says Dr. Margaret Paul, author of Inner Bonding. We are afraid of facing the loneliness, heartbreak and emptiness of our lives, and our helplessness over others.
James Taylor sang “the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” But how can I do that? It’s passing, tick by tick of the clock. Yesterday, I was in high school, now I’m collecting social security. What happened in between seems like a day, a week, a month at most. The great actress Maggie Smith in an interview said “old age is having breakfast every half hour,” meaning, the days flip by that quickly.
How do we come to terms with this, if ever? I want to. I don’t want to be an anxious old woman. I want to live with purpose, to do something worthwhile and do it quick, while I still have time. But what if I never find that something, feel worthwhile enough? Can I never relax? Maybe James is right: the secret is enjoying every minute as it passes, not because it passes, not focused on the passing, but on what is here, now, this moment.
And maybe that is the reason for the popularity of memoir writing. We want to record that we were here, that we learned something, that our lives had meaning.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

NOWW’s 2015 e-Writer in Residence, Amy Jones, to present workshop and reading in Thunder Bay
NOWW is pleased to announce two exciting events in February to kick off their e-Writer in Residence program with Amy Jones. Jones, a fiction writer living in Thunder Bay, will provide manuscript critiques and workshops to Northwestern Ontario writers between February and April, 2015.

Jones is the third e-Writer in Residence for NOWW, following successful programs in 2011 and 2013. “Like a traditional Writer in Residence, Jones will provide support to writers—both new and experienced—by giving them an opportunity to learn from someone who knows the ropes,” said Daniel Klein, past president of NOWW. “The exciting difference is that she will be able to reach writers located all over our vast region, even in the far north.”

Daniel Klein, President, Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop 

The program will launch on Tuesday, February 3 at 7 pm in the Brodie Library Fireside Room. There will be a reading/meet and greet with Jones, who will be joined by local authors Marion Agnew and Joan Baril. The evening will also include a reading of selected works by the late Bill MacDonald, who was a NOWW member and avid supporter of literature in Northwestern Ontario. This reading is free and open to the public. 

Following this, on Saturday, February 7 from 10 am to noon, Jones will present a free workshop on writing short fiction. The workshop will take place at Trinity United Church, 30 Algoma St. S, and will also be streamed live online to allow writers in the region to also participate. The web address for the live stream is

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Canada Reads - The 2015 List

Who Defends What. 

CBC's annual battle of the books competition, revealed this year's roster of panellists and contending books Tuesday morning on Q:
  • Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, will defend Ru by Kim Thúy, translated by Sheila Fischman, a story inspired by the author's own experiences as a refugee from war-torn Vietnam.

  • Actress Kristin Kreuk (Beauty and the BeastSmallville) will defend journalist Kamal Al-Solaylee's memoir Intolerable, which chronicles his journey as a Middle Eastern gay man finding a home in Canada while members of his family slip into hard-line interpretations of Islam. 

  • Activist and social entrepreneur Craig Kielburger will defend The Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King, the acclaimed writer's critical and personal missive on what it means to be "Indian" in North America.

  • Broadcaster Elaine "Lainey" Lui (etalk reporter and co-host of The Social) will defend When Everything Feels like the Movies by Raziel Reid, an edgy work of YA fiction that explores youth, sexuality and the search for identity.

  • Singer-songwriter Martha Wainwright will defend And the Birds Rained Down by Jocelyne Saucier, translated by Rhonda Mullins, a haunting meditation on aging and identity.
  • You can learn more about this year's contenders and panellists on our Canada Reads 2015 page.
    The 2015 show will be hosted by Wab Kinew, who won last year's competition defending The Orenda by Joseph Boyden. This year's panellists are tasked with identifying "the one book to break barriers."

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Thunder Bay Novel

Michael Christie, the professional skateboarder-turned-author, burst onto the Canadian literary scene in 2011 with his award winning book of short stories, The Beggar's Garden, set in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

His follow-up, and first novel, is an inventive coming of age story firmly rooted in northwestern Ontario. 

If I Fall, If I Die, tells the story of Will, an eleven-year-old boy who's entire world is the home he shares with his agoraphobic mother. 
"He's sheltered in the most extreme sense," said Christie, from his current home on Galiano Island. 

That is until one day Will steps outside, discovers Christie's gritty version of Thunder Bay, and becomes embroiled in a mystery that draws him to the city's icy harbour, and iconic decaying grain elevators. 

Christie, who lived in Thunder Bay while writing the book, said he wanted to capture his hometown. 

"I grew up in Thunder Bay, so it's a huge part of my imagination," he said.
"It's a dark book, but it's also a love poem to the city, I think. It's a city I love very much."

If I Fall, If I Die, hits the shelves on January 20th. 
CBC Jan 20/15

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Thunder Bay Writers - an opportunity

The Thunder Bay Writers Guild, the region's longest running writing group, has room for a new member (membership is limited to 12). Guild members meet monthly at Confederation College to critique each other's work. Applicants may submit two writing samples, up to 3500 words each. Short stories or creative non-fiction preferred. Deadline is February 28. Send writing samples along with contact information to

Friday, January 9, 2015

Thunder Bay Public Library and Your Best Little, (Very Little,) Newspaper in Town

John Pateman Chief Librarian

It arrives with the Chronicle Journal once a week. Or you can pick it up at the front desk of any library in town. It's called Connect and its full of great info.

Example 1: County Park is moving to a better location at the front of County Fair Mall near the grocery store.  Example 2: A new creative area, called Makerspace, for inventive people including, we hope, a 3D printer.  Example 3: computer training. Example 4 Hands on help with your i pad, iPad, e book reader etc. Example 4: borrow a person. No kidding. Borrow someone interesting to talk to.

Plus lots of special interest programming for kids, teens, avid readers, writers and even knitters.

And the grace note: everything is free!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Announcing NOWW's 17th Annual Writing Contest

Announcing NOWW's 17th Annual Writing Contest
The Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop is pleased to announce the launch of their 17th Annual Writing Contest. This year’s contest will feature cash prizes in four categories:

·         Poetry – Judged by rob mclennan
·         Fiction – Judged by Paul Carlucci
·         Young Adult Fiction – Judged by Emily Pohl-Weary
·         Creative Non-Fiction – Judged by Amanda Leduc

Entry is free for NOWW members; for non-members the entry fee is $10 per entry with a maximum of two entries per category. Submissions must be postmarked by March 13, 2015, and the winners will be announced at NOWW’s Literary Awards Party on May 9, 2015, and online. For judges’ bios, complete contest rules, or to download an entry form, please visit the NOWW website at
For more information, please contact:
Amy Jones
Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop
(807) 708-5652

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Memoires of A Cajun Night
By Joan M. Baril

When we reached the dance hall, the Cajun orchestra was skeining out wild music through the open doors and windows into the oak-scented night. A revved-up accordion, fiddle and guitar drowned the noise of cars on the road, the beat of surf beyond the dunes and the laughter of the dancers. Their shoes on the bare boards snapped out a base line as they flew through a Louisiana two-step.
            My new friend, Loreen, had invited me. I had met her at the Grande Isle Bird Festival, an annual bird watching event held every April in this village built precariously on a barrier island south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.
            Y’all’s une Canadienne,” she said, “so y’all have un vrai bon temps.”
            Loreen’s accent was as thick as molasses and I had to twist my ears into knots to decipher the rolling English mixed with the odd word of French.
            The dance hall reminded me of country halls in Northern Ontario.  Long and low and open to the warm night, the bar took up one end and the stage for the perspiring musicians the other. Wooden tables circled the dance floor. Loreen introduced me to the ten or twelve people around her table: sisters, cousins, neighbours and another birder who had come for the festival, a former resident of Grand Isle and now a doctor in New Orleans.
            “Bienvenue,” the doctor said as I sat down beside him. “That’s the only French I know.”

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

In Black and Grey. A Triolet by Martin Hicks

In Black And Grey

In black and grey bleak harbour stretches,
     Night shady buildings stencilled.
On shoreline near dark charcoal sketches
In black and grey bleak harbour stretches.
Strong acid rain boat's shadow etches
     Nigh sketchy figures pencilled.
In black and grey bleak harbour stretches,
     Night shady buildings stencilled.

-Martin Hicks

Painting by James Whistler "Nocturne Series".

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Poem


                                                                                                                        CHRISTMAS  2014

                             This Christmas

                              I am getting edgy

                              About a lot of things

                               Putin and the Ukraine

                                Harper and Trudeau

                                The Falling price of oil

                                 And the Canadian dollar

                                 Isil, Barbarous and uncivilized

                                  Israel and the Palestinians

                                   Australia and the Chinese

                                   Canada and the Aboriginals

                                    The U.S. and the Blacks

                                     And the window on Climate Change.

                       But this I know for sure

                                      We will celebrate this Christmas
                                      With trees and lights and carols
                                      Turkey and the trimmings
                                      And gifts, many gifts
                                      Of laughter, warmth and  love.

                                                                                                                           Margaret  R. Cunningham

Friday, December 19, 2014

What Books Do for the Human Soul

What Books Do for the Human Soul: The Four Psychological Functions of Great Literature

A four-point perspective on the rewards of reading by writer and philosopher Alain de Botton .

    It looks like it’s wasting time, but literature is actually the ultimate time-saver — because it gives us access to a range of emotions and events that it would take you years, decades, millennia to try to experience directly. Literature is the greatest reality simulator — a machine that puts you through infinitely more situations than you can ever directly witness.
    Literature performs the basic magic of what things look like though someone else’s point of view; it allows us to consider the consequences of our actions on others in a way we otherwise wouldn’t; and it shows us examples of kindly, generous, sympathetic people.
    Literature deeply stands opposed to the dominant value system — the one that rewards money and power. Writers are on the other side — they make us sympathetic to ideas and feelings that are of deep importance but can’t afford airtime in a commercialized, status-conscious, and cynical world.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Great books here.

Christmas is just around the corner and to herald in the season, the Northern Woman's Bookstore is having a 20% off sale on hard cover books. Works by such authors as Ann-Marie MacDonald, Heather O'Neill, Margaret Atwood, Sarah Waters, Naomi Klein and Jean Pendziwol, to name a few. Just in time for gift giving! 

Northern Woman's Bookstore
65 South Court Street
Thunder Bay, Ontario  P7B 2X2
Phone (807) 344-7979
Store hours: Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays 11 am - 4 pm


Friday, December 12, 2014

God, I love a good book. And 2014 has been a great year even though I read only eighty-six books  rather than the ninety plus.  Here, in no particular order, are my top ten favourites.

1.The Son by Philip Myer. A Texas western with ranches, oil, Comanches, greed, betrayal and violence. This a sweeping book covering two centuries and includes the downfall of the Commanches and the Mexican settlers, the influx of whites, the destruction of the Texas range.  The characters are superb mainly centring on a single family. Peter is the conscience and Eli represents the hard men who triumphed using violence. The character of Jeanne Ann is nuanced, showing the internal pressures on a woman trying to rise in business in a man’s world.

2.  The Shadow Queen by Sandra Gulland. A good straightforward historical. Mme de Montespan becomes King Loius XIV’s mistress and takes in a young  actress from a travelling troupe.  

3.The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith aka J. K. Rowling. I love a good mystery and this is one of the best. What more can you ask than a great plot and fascinating characters, in this case a curmudgeon detective, Cormoront Strike and his sweet secretary, Robin, who also wants to be a detective.  Robin becomes more assertive and this affects her relationship with her selfish boyfriend. Grumpy Cormorant becomes a bit more empathetic.  Danger lurks. Rowling also takes a few good slams at literary critics who romanticize violence and gore.

4. The Train to Warsaw by Gwen Edelman. An elderly couple go to Warsaw.  Both are survivors of the Warsaw ghetto. They are imprisoned in memories and, at first, refuse to go out of the hotel room. He, a writer, invited to speak to a prestigious gathering, lambasts the Polish crowd for their anti-Semitism. The book is written in short vignettes, without an attempt to give each a witty or ironic twist as so often happens in this style of novel.  The vignettes slowly build a picture of their past lives.

5. Sweetland by Michael Crummy Moses Sweetland refuses to leave the Newfoundland island which has been crippled by the loss of the commercial fishery. As the remaining residents take the government compensation package, Sweetland schemes and dreams to stay on in the community where his family has lived for twelve generations but, cut off from the outside world, surrounded by memories, he needs all his guile and strength to survive. This book affected me deeply.  I stayed up until past three to finish it. So be warned. The next day I reread the powerful ending chapter.  A masterpiece.

6.Plainsong by Kent Haruf A mesmerizing book about a few characters in the small prairie town of Holt. Lyrical writing tells great stories in a compassionate manner. I enjoyed this book very much.

7.Hologram for the King by Dave Eggars. Another masterpiece. A 54 year old washed up Death of a Salesman type is in Saudi with his team to sell a hologram to the king. His former jobs were taken over by the Chinese and this one will too. But meanwhile, memorable scenes in which the inept protagonist trys to bolster his confidence and carry on. Sad, sharp, terrifying.

8.A.D. New Orleans After the Deluge by Josh Neufield. A graphic novel. Excellent book which follows several characters as they live through Katrina and the flood. The Convention Centre figures prominently where thousands, including hundreds of children, were placed and left without food or water. The military came by but gave them nothing. Those who tried to leave were turned back at gunpoint.  Finally the gang members broke into local stores, scavenging for supplies and taking the initiative in distributing them. This is a different story from the one unusually told of the streets being controlled by gangs.

9.A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes. This is a classic, written in 1929. It is considered one of the top 100 books written in English.  Children captured by pirates.  Death and fun on the pirate ship.  A sinister pall carries the story from one extraordinary scene to the next. It is an original and amazing work of art. Like the children, I was captivated. 

10. Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. Marvelous stories, each one a gem. The best is the last, “Torching the Dusties” The world is sick of the old folks who use up too many resources after a lifetime of screwing up the environment. Various groups want to kill them all and the protagonist, a woman in the targeted old people’s home, wryly considers the situation while her beau, an old arthritic romantic Hungarian, plans their escape. Recently an article in the Atlantic suggested one should not live past 75 and a surprising number of readers agree. As usual Atwood touches a nerve.