Deborah Ellis

Deborah Ellis
Coming to Thunder Bay

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Doug Livingston

Doug Livingston, poet, painter, art lover and intellectual , died May 16, 2019. He will be missed by his many friends in Thunder Bay. At one time, Doug worked as a lens grinder. In 1977, a good friend, poet Ulrich Wendt, wrote this poem about him.  I usually ran into Doug at launches, readings and other literary events. He often was called on to read his elegant and fantastic poems. I will miss him a lot.

Mr. Livingston

Mr. Livingston is a lens grinder. How?
His deadly work among the dials,
the burning oil, the powdered glass
like sugar, cocaine, snow
is over and over and over vari-grey
tone-lite, tone-ray, blue, green
and the occasional lens bursts into flames.

If you are free this evening,
he will take you slowly down. The grey March rain
has wrecked the old snow down, exposed
the naked neon junk man broken cars
dead bird and are you free
to where the empty men go no place in their overcoats
to where  old clothes, a wheel, a broken doll,
 a clock with mangled hands
lie useless in the snow and he will take you down.

He will show you down the basement stairs to where
his careful notions of distracted light
burn green, blue bending red. An unmade bed,
a broken chair and paints lie scattered.
He will offer wine in paper cups and he will offer
visions in a sketch book, page-by-page, the holy visions
burning in a slow turning brain.

Are you free this evening?
he longs and lingers for conviction.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Just a reminder!!

An evening with Deborah Ellis
Reading and Conversation

Deborah Ellis will be in conversation with Cathy Alex of CBC Radio discussing her international bestseller The Breadwinner as well as social action through writing. She will read from her latest book Sit, followed by an opportunity for questions from the audience.  For more about the reading, please click here.
Date: Friday May 10, 2019
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Thunder Bay Art Gallery
​Cost: No Cost
Registration: Not required
NOWW gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts through The Writers' Union of Canada.

Just a reminder....

Join fellow Northwestern Ontario writers as we celebrate the craft of writing in an evening event that includes the presentation of awards for the annual NOWW Writing Contest, the Kouhi and Phillps awards, the staging of a winning 10x10 play, and a keynote address by our guest author, Deborah Ellis. Gourmet appetizers, cash bar and music by Masoud Manzouri on the Tar and Maryam Amini on the Kamancheh. More information and tickets: 2019 Write NOWW LitFest.

Date: Saturday May 11, 2019
Time:  7:00 pm - Meet and mingle
            8:00 pm - 9:30 program
Location: Thunder Bay Art Gallery
Cost: $25
We still have a few tickets left!
Get them quick before they're gone!!
(If you would like to attend this event and the cost is prohibitive please contact NOWW administration at to apply for a subsidy.)
Masoud Manzouri on the Tar and Maryam Amini on the Kamancheh will be providing musical accompaniment at the 2019 LitFest.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

A poem about Spring

Other things go about their lives
simply; that is, there are
now buds in a red mist
hanging aloft in the maples,

millions of maples, millions
of buds misting in the air
which in a week will break
into green along the highway

that took us here from town.
And will bring us back, but
not now, not for a day or two,
please God, my face has thawed

and I am capable of sight, my senses
all my senses have come back to me.

Michael Harris

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Book Review by the Great Margie Taylor

The Unbearable Lightness of Being 
Book Review by Margie Taylor

The Prague Spring was a period of mass protests against the Soviet Union, beginning in January, 1968, and continuing until August of that year. For a few months, under the leadership of Alexander Dubček, the citizens of the former Czechoslovakia experienced a liberalization of restrictions on travel, free speech, and the media. On the night of August 20–21, the Kremlin sent in 200,000 Russian, Bulgarian, Polish, and Hungarian troops, along with 2,000 tanks. The reforms were cut back, hard-line Communists reclaimed their positions of power, and Dubček was deposed.

Milan Kundera experienced the invasion first hand. An outspoken advocate of reform communism, he was expelled from the Association of Writers in 1969, his publications were banned, and his books were removed from the bookstores. In 1975 he went into exile in France and became a naturalized French citizen in 1981. He continues to live there and even after the events of the Velvet Revolution of 1989 he has rarely returned to his homeland.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, published in 1984, is set against the background of the curtailed protest movement, and so in that way it can be considered a political novel. But it’s also a meditation on the nature of existence, and the unbearable fact that we live our lives only once and can never know where another path might have taken us. This, then, is the “lightness” of being, as opposed to the Nietzschean concept of eternal recurrence, the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur ad infinitum. And while this lightness is upsetting to some, it is also a source of freedom: if we are here for a short time and then gone forever, life has no meaning and the decisions we make carry no weight.

“The heavier the burden,” Kundera writes, “the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become. Conversely, the absolute absence of burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant. What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?”

The characters in the book represent the two opposite ends of the spectrum: light and heavy. The main character, Tomáš, is a surgeon, and a womanizing intellectual. Briefly married in the past, he has no wish to communicate with his ex-wife and has nothing to do with their son. He sees his sexual adventures as a way of keeping himself light, and continues to see other women after Tereza, a pretty young waitress and occasional photographer, comes to live with him. Tereza is a gentle soul who believes in the romantic ideal of a life-long commitment to another person. She’s devoted to Tomáš in spite of her knowledge of his lechery (sorry, but there’s no other word for it) and suffers because of it. To keep her happy he marries her, but the smell of other women permeates his hair and disturbs her sleep. She becomes depressed and has nightmares in which her husband is going to kill her, or humiliate her in front of other women. In one dream she’s buried alive; Tomáš comes to visit her and digs out some of the dirt, but she knows that eventually he will stop coming and she’ll be left to die.

The one constant element of Tomáš’ erotic life is his mistress, Sabina, who embodies lightness, or freedom. Beautiful, talented, and open-hearted, she befriends Tereza and finds her a job as a photographer. When the Soviets invade the city, she, Tomáš, and Tereza flee to Switzerland, but Tereza doesn’t stay long. She returns to Czechoslovakia and is followed, a short while later, by Tomáš. Returning to Prague means giving up his freedom – because of a dissident article he once wrote criticizing the communist regime, they will not be allowed to leave again.

Back home, he’s subjected to pressure by both underground dissidents (in the form of his estranged son) and the authorities, and regards each side as a form of heaviness. Offered the chance to redeem himself by signing a denunciation of his article, he chooses not to sign it, and loses his position as a surgeon as a result. Tereza convinces him to move to the country with her. There, away from Prague, his erotic adventures come to an end. And so, later on, does his life. Driving through the hills one night, their pickup truck hurtles down a steep incline, instantly killing both Tereza and Tomáš.

As for Sabina, who has stayed behind in Geneva, she falls in love with Franz, a university professor. Franz is married and tortured by the thought that he must betray his wife in order to be with Sabina. When he finally leaves his wife in order to be with Sabina, she flees, first to Paris and then to America:
“She had left a man because she felt like leaving him. Had he persecuted her? Had he tried to take revenge on her? No. Her drama was a drama not of heaviness but of lightness. What fell to her lot was not the burden, but the unbearable lightness of being.”

I should state right here that my favourite character is not any of these deeply flawed human beings but a dog. Karenin is Tereza and Tomáš’ pet, although she bonds more closely with Tereza, keeping her company when Tomáš is off having adventures. Like her owners, she finds peace and contentment in the countryside, making friends with Mephisto, a pig, Unlike the humans in the story, Karenin is capable of steadfast loyalty and unconditional love. Her death from cancer is to me the one truly poignant note in a book I found cerebral and austere.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Wayson Choy

Wayson Choy, one of Canada's  greatest writers, died Saturday, April 27, 2019.

I met Wayson Choy at the Humber School of writing. He was the mentor and teacher for our small group. I had read all his books, starting with his first book, The Jade Peony, which, he told us, took him eighteen years to write.

We soon found out that not only had we been given a wonderful teacher, but also we were in contact with a great soul. I know the phrase "great soul" may seem a strange description. It certainly was to me. But Wayson had an exceptional presence: humble, warm and accepting . His openness and friendliness came across in his relaxed, insightful teaching and his genuine interest in each member of our group and our attempts at writing. I still remember some of the lessons to this day.

Wayson's literary output was not large but it was superb. After The Jade Peony, written in 1995, he wrote Paper Shadows: A Chinatown Childhood, and All The Matters, which was nominated for the Giller. His last book, Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Dying, brings his story full circle.  He won many, many prizes

A few  years after my memorable time at Humber, I met Wayson again in the cafeteria at the Toronto Writers's Festival. He remembered me and, to my surprise, remembered the story I had written for the class. He added a few nice things about my writing. We sat and talked books for over an hour.  He looked frailer but the same indescribably aura still surrounded him. I had never met anyone with this presence and I probably never will again. I feel lucky to have known him.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Writers - Check This Out.!!

In my opinion, if you are not a NOWW member, it's worth joining to access this free opportunity.

Gary Baldwin eWriter in Residence

NOWW eWriter in Residence 2019: Gary Barwin
Calling all writers:
The Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) would like to invite you to participate in a unique project: members of NOWW will be provided with the opportunity to have their work professionally reviewed by Gary Barwin an experienced writer, musician, and multimedia artist. Submissions can be in any genre, including poetry and excerpts from novels. 

For the next five months, we are offering Gary’s services as an ewriter in residence to 15 NOWW members. This will include the following:
  • Proofreading and copyedits
  • A commentary letter of at least 500 words that will substantively address components of the material such as: 
      • Prose: Discussion of form, content, technique, concept, point of view, narrative voice, character, dialogue, setting, theme, pace and development, showing not telling, suggestions for revision and further development, and any additional topics which seem relevant.
      • For poetry: Discussion of form, content, technique, concept, linebreaks, word choice, prosody, and suggestions for revision and further development, and any additional topics which seem relevant. 
      • Examples of ways to write more efficiently or more elegantly.
      • Suggestions for “next steps” in writing/publishing of the current or future MSS. 

The submitting writer has 15 calendar days after he/she receives their work back to review comments to ask up to 5 clarifying questions on the commentary and to submit a second draft. 

Gary will also be leading two workshops on finding your voice as a writer, called Giving Voice to Voice, one in Thunder Bay on Saturday, Sept. 14 and one in Kenora on Monday, Sept. 16. Further details to follow.
NOWW will be selecting up to 15 writers who are NOWW memberson a first-come, first serve basis. Once selected, participants will be given further details on how to submit. Gary will review one submission from each writer and also communicate via email to ensure that the feedback is clear, as per the following schedule. 
June 15, 2019 Deadline for submitting manuscripts to Gary
July 15, 2019 Gary will return all critiques
August 1, 2019 Deadline for submitting second draft/5 clarifying questions
August 16, 2019 Gary will return final critiques
Prose: 2500 to 7500 words. 
Poetry: maximum 20 pages. 
Any work in any other genre: 7500 words. Chapters from novels will be accepted and may be accompanied by a brief outline of the full work if the writer feels it would be helpful/useful for Gary to know the larger context.
.If interested please email NOWW at admin@nowwwriters.caby May 15, 2019. Please include the word “ewriter” in the subject line and the following information in the body of the email:
1.     Name
2.    Address
3.    Phone number
4.    Email address
5.    Type of Genre you would submit

Monday, April 15, 2019

Reminiscences of a Canadian Anti-Vietnam War Activist

The Vietnam War lasted from 1965 to 1975 and sparked a generation of protest. Here, war resister, Carl Goodwin, a former resident of Thunder Bay, shares a few memories of  those years.

 Reminiscences of an Activist.
by Carl Goodwin

Fall 1969 September maybe October, at the University of Regina

“Hi I’m Fred from Chicago.”
“Karl Goodwin. Northern Ontario.”
We are two members of a four-member panel invited to speak on the politics of what came to be know in those days as the “New Left.”
Fred and I are both somewhat nervous. Both of us are trying to anticipate what we might contribute to the discussion.
Fred discretely covers the microphone and brings up the topic of fishing to ease some of the tension.
FRED: Here you got some good pike fishing out your way.
ME: Yup.
FRED: What’s the best pike lure, man?
ME: Daredevil. Big or small. Tripple hook. Pike hit ‘em. Taste OK. Boney though. Good fighters. Catch ‘em mostly in the reed beds close to shorelines. More familiar with fishing back home in Southern Ontario though. Catfish.

I was thinking back to earlier times under the willows in my home village in southern Ontario. A Huckleberry Finn like existence. A friend and I once found a half-sunken rowboat in that creek. Patched it up with roofing shingles, tar and nails. Fished from it all one summer.

In Regina, I think I spoke about Quebec nationalism and diversion plans for siphoning water into the US. Small potatoes really.

I came across Fred’s picture recently in a book, “Witness to the Revolution,” by Clara Bigham cataloguing the life and times of anti-Vietnam War activists. Fred Hampton was described as a charismatic and eloquent Black Panther leader.  Fred was an African American and Chairman of the Chicago Branch of the militant Black Panther party.

The Panthers had ten thousand members divided into thirty-two chapters. They provided hot breakfast programs in intercity schools. They were strongly anti-war and against black recruitment. They supported the pro liberation struggles in Latin America, and South East Asia. They were a militant organization.

On page 247 is a picture of Fred Hampton’s bedroom. The drywall is pocked with bullet holes; the mattress blood soaked. The pole lamp is broken sideways and reading materials are strewn on the floor.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

James Stevens launches New Book - Black Auntie

Lunch - Tuesday, April 16 at the Waverley Library
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Along with 
Julia Ann Roy
Roberta Washington-The Washington's of Thunder Bay-
Norman Sponchia-Songs based on reading Black Auntie

James R. Stevens is The North Writer. As author of many enduring nonfiction books, James (or Jim, as many people affectionately call him) tackles life, culture, and history in northern Ontario with his writing. Best known for Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree and Angelique Abandoned, Jim just released his latest book - Black Auntie's House of Ill Repute. It's an exciting, true-story account of one woman's escape from slavery to make a home in what is now Thunder Bay, Ontario.

“I enjoy researching and writing previously untouched northern topics,” says Jim. “With this approach most of my book adventures result in volumes that have enduring value. The Wild on the Superior Frontier volume is the first book, of hundreds written on Lake Superior, that treats the Great Lake as a frontier of western civilization.”

Jim’s 1971 book Sacred Legends, which was written with the late Cree artist Carl Ray, has been in print for over 40 years. Killing The Shamen, co-authored with the late Chief Thomas Fiddler, has had nine editions printed. Not many authors can claim this kind of longevity for their writing.

James has over fifteen books to his credit. Check out his web page at

Sunday, April 7, 2019

An Evening with Deborah Ellispage2image7672 page2image7832
Reading and Conversation
Deborah Ellis will be in conversation with Cathy Alex of CBC Radio discussing her international bestseller The Breadwinner as well as social action through writing. She will read from her latest book Sit, followed by an opportunity for questions from the audience. This is a great event to bring the kids to!

Date: Friday May 10, 2019
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Thunder Bay Art Gallery 

Cost: No Cost
Registration: Not required
NOWW gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts through The 
Writers' Union of Canada.

About Deborah...
Deborah Ellis is an award-winning author, a feminist and a peace activist. She penned the international bestseller The Breadwinner, which debuted at TIFF in 2017 as a feature film produced by Angelina Jolie, as well over 30 challenging and beautiful works of fiction and non-fiction about children all over the world. Among the many awards she has won are the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Ruth Schwartz Award, Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a Body of Work. She has been named to the Order of Canada.

Writing for the Young Reader 
This workshop will look at how to shape stories, how to bring the larger world into the smaller world of the child, and how to keep the child’s point of view at the centre of the story. While approaching technique specific to writing for the younger audience, writers of all genres can benefit from this workshop.

Date: Saturday May 11, 2019 Time: 10:00 am to 12:00 noon Location: Mary J L Black Library Cost: $10 for NOWW members,
$40 for non-members (includes a one year NOWW membership) Registration: Required - online at:

Gala Events and Awards

We've decided to shake things up a little bit this year and try out a new venue and format.

Join us at the beautiful Thunder Bay Art Gallery for a gala evening celebrating writing excellence in Northwestern Ontario!

The night's festivities will begin with a meet and mingle hour with cash bar (Sleeping Giant Brewery beer and wine), complimentary hors d'oeuvres, and the musical accompaniment of Masoud Manzouri playing the Tar and Maryam Amini playing the Kamancheh.

 This will be followed by a formal program announcing the winning entries from the 21st Annual NOWW Writing Contest, the presentation of the Kouhi and Phillips Awards, a keynote address from our guest author, Deborah Ellis, and the staging of one of the 10 x 10 Showcase plays. All this, and a reduced ticket price of only $25!!

Saturday May 11, 2019
7:00 pm - Meet and mingle, 
8:00 pm - 9:30 program 
Thunder Bay Art Gallery
To purchase tickets on line go to and click on Events
Cost $25
if the cost of attending this event is financially prohibitive, please contact us at to apply for a subsidy. 
Masoud Manzouri on the Tar and Maryam Amini on the Kamancheh