The Wallflowers

The Wallflowers
A Story by Joan M. Baril

Sunday, October 19, 2014

 The Wallflowers
By Joan M. Baril
The band starts and the bride and groom swing on to the floor. Colleen is sitting beside her Aunt Joyce at the family table, her hands on her lap clutching her evening bag. She’d rather be anywhere else, anywhere in the world, but you can’t skip out on your sister’s wedding.
            Or can you?
At the head table, the best man bows out the maid of honour. The ushers, fulfilling their roles, partner the other bridesmaids. The six young women wear sleeveless green silk with trailing white ribbons. A swirling forest waltzes to, “You Light up My Life.” The blond bride, green piping on white satin, glows in the centre.
 Typical Dorion staging, thinks Colleen. Her sister’s voluminous 1980’s gown matches her passion for retro music.
She sees Sam Fellows, the groom’s cousin, walk over to the far wall where her brother Guy is talking to three or four other men. They’re colonizing a wall, she thinks, just like high school. A black and white male phalanx stands in front of the bar, facing the dancers. She knows most of them, went to school with many of them, is related to a few, but she knows none of them will ask her to dance. They never do.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Good Writing Advice Contained in a Novel

Good writing advice can come from anywhere. What a fun surprise to find some neat tips tucked up inside a novel. So I pass them on here.

In the book, A Far Cry from Kensington, by the late great Muriel Spark, the protagonist, Nancy, works as an editor for a small London publishing house. 

Nancy: "Now it fell to me to give advice to many authors which in at least two cases bore fruit. So I will repeat it here free of charge. It proved helpful to the type of writer who has some imagination and wants to write a novel but doesn’t know how to start.

You are writing a letter to a friend,” was the sort of thing I used to say.” And this is a dear and close friend, real – or better invented. Write privately, not publically, without fear or timidity, right to the end of the letter, as if it were never going to be published, so that your true friend will read it over and over, and then want more enchanting letters from you. 

Now you are not writing about the relationship between your friend and yourself; you take that for granted. You are only confiding an experience that you think only he will enjoy reading. What you have to say will come out more spontaneously and honestly than if you are thinking of numerous readers.  

Before starting the letter, rehearse in your mind what you are going to tell; something interesting, your story.  But don’t rehearse too much, the story will develop as you go along, especially if you write to a special friend, man or woman, to make them smile or laugh or cry, or anything you like so long as you know it will interest, Remember not to think of the reading public, it will put you off."

Nancy claimed her method worked for short stories as well as novel. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

New from Split Tree Publishing

Launch Party Friday, October 17, 8 pm at Daytona's Restaurant and Bar, Thunder Bay.

Chef Derek will be doing a demo at the INSPIRE! Toronto International Book Fair on Sunday, November 16th!
 Specializing in comfort food with a professional twist, Chef Derek Lankinen shares some of his most entertaining recipes, stories, and advice on how to make your dinner parties easy and fun in his own sarcastic, yet witty, voice.
Pre-Order from Split Tree Publishing,, and receive an exclusive invitation to the Launch Party where you will be able to sample recipes from this amazing book.
Anyone who pre-orders will be entered into a draw to win a dinner for two cooked by Chef Derek!
(If you live outside of Thunder Bay you can give your prize to someone local, use it when you visit the city, or tell us to pick someone else.)
This sounds like a great Christmas gift for the meat crunchers on your list. Last year I gave another Split Tree cookbook, Superior Flavours, a compilation of recipes from our great Thunder Bay chefs, to the cooks  in the family.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

NOWW members sell books at Waverley, Nov. 25

All writers with 2014/15 memberships in NOWW are invited to participate in a pre-holiday sale of their published books (traditional or self). It will take place on Tuesday, November 25 at from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm at Waverley Library. There is enough space for 10 tables so the first 20 members to register with Bonnie Tittaferrante will have a space reserved.
Authors need to state how many titles they will be selling so that space can be accurately allotted. If you are only selling one book, there will be three authors at your table. If you reserve a spot and then need to cancel, please inform Bonnie as we may have a waiting list.
To register, email Bonnie at Put "Book Sale Registration" in the subject line. If you do not receive confirmation within three days, phone 622-0904.
The cost to participate is FREE for current members. If all the spots are not filled by Sunday, November 2, space will be opened to the public. They will have to pay $25.00 to reserve a spot. (A membership is the same price.) Checks must be delivered to Bonnie Tittaferrante and written out to Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop. 
All registrations close Saturday, November 22.

NaNoWriMo upcoming. Explanation below.

Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW) will be offering a free workshop entitled Preparing for NaNoWriMo (what is it?, how to prepare and strategies for making through the 30 days)The facilitator will be Brian Jones who has twice completed the National Novel Writing Month in November and writes young adult fiction. The date will be Tuesday, October 28th, 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Waverley Library, 285 Red River Road. No need to register.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

2014 Governonr General's Awards

Winners announced November 18. Click on the titles to learn more about each book.  Happy happy reading.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Malala wins Nobel Peace Prize

Two years ago almost exactly, on October 9, 2012, sixteen -year-old Malala Jousarfzai was shot in the head by the Taliban. Her crime? Advocating education for girls. Her book, I am Malala written with Christine Lamb is an international best seller. Since her recovery, Malala has continued to work for the education of girls. She now lives in Birmingham, England.

Malala shares the prize with Kailash Satyarthi, 60, the  leader of a global movement to end child slavery and exploitive child labour. He has rescued thousands of child slaves and survived several attempts on his life.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Poem by Martin Hicks

The weather turns in subdued season
Red-coloured woods to sedate grey.
Regressive, as bright wit flies reason,
Grim, senile Earth wears dull array.

Weak sun departs till times hereafter
When all shapes note a cheerful scale,
When tone as tint joins rill run laughter
And warmth strips frigid, fearful veil.

Here now a songbird-late companion-
Death makes discarded crate its home.
Sweet, guileless tune for natural union
Finds throaty stop, gulped... styrofoam.

One whitish chip midst seeds mistaken
Then poor choice vital passage chokes
Where on path, only cold gusts shaken,
Dead leaves lisp further chilling jokes.

-Martin Hicks

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Spirit Garden and the Marina Writers

A perfect Lake Superior Day on Saturday hosted the readings of the poets whose work  embellishes Marina Park

Jean Pendziwol reads from her children's book, Dawn Watch
The acoustics in the Spirit Garden are impressive. The poetry could be heard clearly without the use of a mic. 

Marianne Jones telling us that she wrote poems as a child. At the time she fervently hoped to "find the right word to describe what I see." Obviously this happened and the poems she shared were terrific.

Early settler and traveller and writer, Catherine Vickers, (daughter of Suzanne Moodie) described a thunder storm on Thunder Bay in 1870.

A Ceremony to Initiate a Sweat Lodge and other Readings at Brodie Library

The Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW), a group of writers based in Thunder Bay, is hosting a free reading. Details are below. For more information about NOWW and its programs, email or visit


A Fall Reading


Marian Agnew
Joan Baril
Jane Crossman

NOWW kicks off the program year with readings from some of Northwestern Ontario's finest authors. We will also be having a poetry open mic, so bring along a poem to share! Readings are free and open to the public, so come on out and show your support for local writers!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014
 7 pm
Brodie Library Fireside Room
316 Brodie St. South,  Thunder Bay

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Bill MacDonald September 25, 2014

I don't remember when I bought my first Bill MacDonald book, but I think it was in the nineties sometime after he started publishing with Borealis Press. I remember picking it out in Fireweed after perusing the shelves and thinking, this is one prolific author.   
The book's setting was Silver Islet which Bill called "his spiritual home." Of course,  I read it first before I sent it off to my sister in Southern Ontario as a birthday present. It was the first of many presents to out-of-town friends who loved the connection to the home town.
Bill wrote tales of the local scene in an easy friendly style which looks simple to do but in fact is not.  His work is charming but not sentimental, funny but not raw, cheerful but not silly and above all interesting and a damned good read.  A lot of it is based on true Thunder Bay tales, of which there are many as anyone who lives here knows. 

In 2012, Bill was the recipient of the NOWW Khoui award, Charlie Wilkins gave a marvellous speech some of which is added here along with a partial list of Bill's books. Bill MacDonald had a long and eventful life but his books will live after him.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Poem by Peggy Lauzon

Ribbons: September 20, 2014

We spread out along the ribbon of the Trans-Canada Highway. 

We are 8,000 kilometers wide, but only a pencil line high. 

Our map is not to scale.

The highway narrows from four-lane to two-lane to gravel to trackless bush.

And one more polluted lake equals one more missing or murdered Indigenous woman.  There is simply no way to separate ourselves from the land. 

Families drag the Red River at their own expense.  Drag our collective unconscious as we struggle not to look at what surfaces.

We cut the ribbon at the Museum for Human Rights.  Lest we forget atrocities that happened in other times; in other places. 

The Red River is a different kind of ribbon.

We narrow from four-lane highway to trackless bush.  Or is it the other way round?

We are not to scale.  We could stand taller.  We will, when we truly see what surfaces.

We drag the Red River.

And there’s no knowing what will come next.

Peggy Lauzon

Written for the day of the opening of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights