April is national poetry month – thoughts and a workshop

April is national poetry month and since poetry has always been a great help and boon to me emotionally, I celebrate it.

When I was twelve or thirteen or so, I discovered Zibby Oneal’s novel A Formal Feeling, a title borrowed from the first line in an Emily Dickinson poem that goes by the same name and casts light on the story’s themes. (It’s a wonderful book, by the way. I highly recommend it to YA readers, young and old . . . I mean, er, older. :D)

After great pain, a formal feeling comes—
The Nerves sit ceremonious, like Tombs—
The stiff Heart questions was it He, that bore,
And Yesterday, or Centuries before?

The Feet, mechanical, go round—
Of Ground, or Air, or Ought—
A Wooden way
Regardless grown,
A Quartz contentment, like a stone—

This is the Hour of Lead—
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the Snow—
First—Chill—then Stupor—then the letting go—

– Emily Dickinson

My dad had a love for Irish poetry and songs and old English verse, plus I was a fan of Robert Louis Stevenson’s verses for children, but Emily’s “A Formal Feeling” was the first poem (that I remember anyway) to strike a chord of recognition deep within me. By then I was already acquainted with sorrow—and for me, her words captured a truth that was difficult to put into words. She conveyed what sadness felt like and expressed a process I was learning.

I don’t know how many times I reread the poem as a teenager (or have done so as an adult), but it continues to be one my favourites.

Another piece that meant more to me than I can probably explain without a lot of melodrama is “First Ice” by Andrei Voznesensky.

A girl freezes in a telephone booth.
In her draughty overcoat she hides
A face all smeared
In tears and lipstick.
She breathes on her thin palms. Her fingers are icy. She wears earrings.
She’ll have to go home alone, alone
Along the icy street.
First ice. It is the first time.
The first ice of telephone phrases.
Frozen tears glitter on her cheeks-
The first ice of human hurt.

I suspect you, having read it, know the phase of life I’d entered—first love, first heartbreak, yes . . . but I always felt the poem spoke to something bigger than one isolated break up. It was the disappointment that resonated with me: the girl, for the first time, recognizing that people weren’t always what they promised—and/or weren’t as honest or straight forward as she was.

I could share many, many more poems that influenced me or comforted me (or just made me laugh; not every poem I love is sad!), but I’ll spare you for now.

I suspect you have your own poems or songs (and what are lyrics if not poetry?) that, no matter how long ago you came across them, still have profound meaning to you. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that you’ve even penned a stanza or two (or more), whether you consider yourself a writer or poet or not. Most of us have. There’s something in the human spirit that yearns to give voice to the emotions that move us and the passions that make us us.

It’s definitely true for me. Despite all my affection for essays and letters and my love of fiction, when overcome by happiness—or weeping, wordless sadness or white-hot coiled rage—I turn to poetry to help me vent, express, or attempt to make muddled sense of my mad joy and intense pangs and desires. Perhaps you do, too? If yes, I’d love to hear about it. (Or better yet, share a poem you love—your own or someone else’s—here. Please!)

Now circling back to it being national poetry month—and my desire to celebrate it.

If you’ve written poetry before but stopped for some reason, or if you never have but would like to—or if you’re a prolific pro looking for ways to invigorate and refresh your muse, honour those stirrings. Join me and Joan Conway this Saturday (April 25th) for an afternoon of poetry exercises and inspiration.

Spring Stirrings

Reading at Prince Rupert Library, Thursday, April 16, 7:00 – I hope you can come!

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been invited to take part in some super fun events over the next few weeks: An author reading at the Prince Rupert Library, Spring Stirrings – a Poetry Workshop (that I’m co-facilitating with Joan Conway), and an Authors for Indie Bookstores event at Misty River Books. I’ll post full details for each in the days to come, so keep a kind eye out if you’re interested.

Kicking off the three, I’m calling for all Prince Rupert, B.C. readers and writers. The Prince Rupert Library has invited me to do a reading and question and answer session, Thursday, April 16 at 7:00 p.m. I’ll be focusing on BIGGER THINGS, but will also have copies of WEDDING BANDS on hand. It should be a fun, thought-provoking evening (and there are great door prizes, lol). I hope to meet you there!

P.S. Please like and/or share this post if you have friends or family in the Prince Rupert area–and if you have any questions, ask away. :)

Bigger Things Reading Poster PRINCE RUPERT

Celebrate BIGGER THINGS! (And please share. ;D)

Well, I’m freshly back from SiWC 2014 and it feels absolutely perfect to round off my wonderful conference experience and kick start new project enthusiasm with an official launch party for BIGGER THINGS.

I’m beyond touched that Misty River Books and The Terrace Public Library are throwing this event, and hope you’ll join me tomorrow night (Wednesday, October 29) at 7:00 p.m. at the Terrace Public Library. The more the merrier! It will be fun. :) Please spread the word.

Bigger Things Launch Party

Hello Pulp Literature 4 and SiWC 2014 road trip!

Pulp Literature 4It seems lovely and fitting that the day before I embark on a road trip (Yaaaaay, one of my favourite things!) that will culminate in my annual enjoyment of SiWC, I get a treat in the mail*: Issue 4 of PULP LITERATURE, a fantastic gem of a reading treasure and the brainchild of, you guessed it, a lovely group of author-editors who frequent the conference regularly.

As most of you know, I’m a huge fan of short stories (as I discuss here), and I’m super stoked about the work Pulp Literature brings into the world, the treat that it is for readers, and the way it supports and nurtures writers of short tales. I can’t recommend it enough, and to wish its creators and team of editors, designers, proof readers, etc. a very happy 1st Anniversary, I entreat you: please buy your own subscription, gift it to someone in your life who loves to read (or receive mail, lol), and/or support their Kickstarter initiative.

And while you do that, I’m outta here. I need to gas up my car, pick up a few things, and make sure I’ve stowed my latest Pulp Literature along with a myriad of other book-goodies for road trip reading.

I’ll be gone a few weeks, so until I’m back, happy reading and writing. May you enjoy a surplus of uninterrupted hours of book bliss!

Warm regards,

*And have I said before how much I like to receive things by post that aren’t bills? Yes, I believe I have, but seriously getting my copy of Pulp Lit every four months has been sooo fun. Totally makes the subscription price worth it. I haven’t been so stoked about mail since I was a member of the Columbia House Record club and would receive new rock cassettes every month. (Oops, my age is showing! :D)

Calling all Terrace and area writers!

I’m beyond excited to announce the birth of a new writing group, organized by the Terrace Public Library. It’s open to writers of every genre, form, and level of experience–from aspiring newbie to pro. Come out, make connections, grow in your craft, glean inspiration and motivation, WRITE. :) (First meeting is Wednesday, October 15th.) TPL_Terrace_Writers_TAB_1

Northwords Writing Retreat, Sept. 20, 2014, Terrace, BC

downloadYay, it’s NorthWords Writers Retreat time again! Let me pass on the note from one of the organizers, Terrace Public Library’s fantastic Jess Dafoe:

Hello Northern Writers,

Registration has begun for this year’s NorthWords Retreat. We are very excited to welcome author and presenter Tawny Stokes.

Join us for what is sure to be a fantastic day of discussion and writing (…and free lunch and dinner).

There is a $20 refundable deposit to hold your seat. Register early, as participant numbers are limited, at Misty River Books or the Terrace Public Library.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more information: 250.638.8177 or by e-mail jdafoeATSIGNterracelibraryDOTca

Hope to see you soon!


I’ve taken part in NorthWords writing events, writing retreats or mini writers’conferences in Terrace, BC for years, as both an attendee and as a presenter, so I say with great confidence and a lot of noisy cheering that it’s always an amazing event, so motivating, so encouraging and so useful for writers at any stage of their writing life, from newbie to pro.

This year I’m extra stoked about the retreat’s offerings (“stoked” pun fully intended, heh heh) because although I haven’t heard Tawny Stokes speak before, her bio is fascinating and in this exciting, opportunity-filled time for authors, hearing from a hybrid author is sure to be inspiring and practical. You should definitely come, even if you have to travel a bit to do so. I know you’ll be happy that you did. Hope to see you there!

~ Ev


Misty River Books + Bigger Things by Ev Bishop = dream come true


Okay, okay . . . I fully admit the title of this post is a tad corny (or perhaps more than a tad!), but seeing BIGGER THINGS—a novel by me!—in the window of my long-time favourite bookstore, Misty River Books, did made my insides jump and skip like a playground full of happy six-year-olds!

I adore my e-reader as my friends and family will attest, but a paper book, one with a comforting weight and presence in your hands and a papery ink and daydream-delicious scent, one that you can snuggle with on the couch or lose yourself with in the tub, is a sensory delight that never gets old. I still do at last half my reading, if not more, the old school print book way.

But it’s not just seeing BIGGER THINGS in paperback that’s so special to me. It really was its placement in the window of the shop that got me. Many, many years ago now, Misty River Books opened its doors in its first home on Lakelse Avenue in Terrace, BC (one street and one block over from where it resides now), and my first visit impacted my life forever. Sounds dramatic—but it’s true.

I had just launched from my childhood home and was enjoying a day off from the Grand Trunk restaurant (now the Bear Country). I remember how I felt perfectly, even think I can recall what I was wearing, and I’d just purchased a to-go coffee, was planning to window shop, and was feeling terrifically adult and a bit heady with my new freedom.

It was a brisk autumn day with lots of crispy red and gold leaves and a brilliant blue sky, and as I walked down the pretty 4600 block of Lakelse I spotted the window display of the new bookstore everyone was talking about. I felt ridiculously cool and grown up, entering the store unaccompanied, coffee in hand. (I moved out of my house really young, hence the continuing awed feeling of being sooo “mature.” :)) Anna was super cool and friendly (as she still is today) and after affirming that I was “just browsing,” I perused the shelves with delight. Terrace had become a real town. It had an independent bookstore!

The day wasn’t just a lovely moment in my coming of age, however, it was a huge turning page for my writing self. I had wanted to be writer since about second grade, I took all and any writing projects in school seriously, participated in any writing classes available, and had I suspect, though I can’t quite remember Misty River’s inaugural year, just signed up for Creative Writing 101 at NWCC. Yet deep down I still worried I was kidding myself. How on earth could a kid hailing from Nowhere, BC (those were my thoughts then; I’m fonder of my hometown now) ever make it as a writer?

But what did I discover in Misty River Books that day? A magazine that did huge things to grow and give feet to my dreams: Writer’s Digest, a treasure trove of craft advice, inspirational articles, and information about how to sell stories. I was hooked. It really was a pivotal find at a pivotal time, the first thing to ever truly help me see that my “pipe dream” might actually be able to be a practical reality. And Misty River Books facilitated that.

Throughout the years, Misty River Books continued to feed my love of books (and that of my children’s and anyone else I could foist books onto as gifts), but they also nurtured my writing dreams, with kind words and genuine interest in whatever I was up to writing-wise, and speedy-quick willingness to order in whatever magazine or book I decided was a must-have if they didn’t already have it in stock.

And I’m not the only writer who feels a debt of gratitude to her bookstore. I attend SiWC every year, and I’ve heard dozens of stories from well-published “big” authors who laud a bookstore from their childhood or early writing years as being a font of inspiration and support. (Michael Slade’s tale of Duffy’s is a particularly fun and poignant one.) But talking about bricks and mortar bookstores always seems to bring e-books back to the table. Yes, bookselling is changing. Change—in all things it seems—is inevitable. But I don’t believe bookstores have to be a thing of the past. Nothing pulls people together—or helps people in their everyday life—like a good story, a great yarn, or a wonderful, wise book. E-reads are lovely for a quick escape or for hefting twenty books with you on holidays in a mere eight ounces of weight . . . but you don’t peruse shelves of e-reads. Visitors don’t pick up your e-reader and page through it—or they better not! Kids don’t lose themselves—and find themselves—in the pictures and texture of stories on tablets. Paper books foster literacy and an appreciation for stories, and they’re not reliant, thus at risk, when technology changes or crashes. There’s not only room—there’s a need—for both e-reads and print books.

And yes, while I love my digital versions of BIGGER THINGS very much, seeing a physical book with my name across its cover resting on my favourite bookstore’s shelves? Well, it really is seeing a dream come full-circle-true.

:) Ev

p.s. In case you’re wondering, yes, I still feel terrifically adult and a little bit heady with freedom when I walk through Misty River Books’ door, inhale the gorgeous scent of possibility and adventure, and peruse its packed-to-the-rafters shelves.