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.)
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!
I’m so excited to report: Bigger Things by Ev Bishop is coming July 2014. And I’m freakishly thrilled to give a sneak preview of the novel’s gorgeous cover, complete with back jacket blurb. Whaddya think?
I’ll post Bigger Thing’s actual release date when I have one. ‘Til then . . . Yay, I’m bouncing off walls! Please feel free to share my news and if you’re so kind as to read my book, I hope you enjoy it and spread a good word. :)
Some of you have expressed curiosity, even impatience, for more details about some of the changes and “new, exciting future things” that I’ve alluded to in recent columns and posts. Thank you! Your enthusiasm fuels mine.
There will be a flurry of new information and updates in upcoming months, and to kick them off, let me introduce my new passion, plaything, and workhorse: WINDING PATH BOOKS.
Winding Path Books is a boutique publisher that will predominantly publish works by me, though future plans include occasional short story and/or poetry anthologies.
The website isn’t up and running yet, but I’ll be sure to announce its birthday after a hopefully-not-too-lengthy period of labour.
And thus, to sum up Exciting Announcement One, I have officially entered hybrid author land.
p.s. Do you like the logo? It was created by Terrace artist Chancey Hall, and symbolizes the whimsy-filled, magical, crazy-winding-dream adventure I find the writing life to be perfectly. I love, love, love it!
A while back, I took part in a painting workshop (Running With Brushes with Noreen Spence and Dianne Postman). I loved it, needed it, and benefited from it for a lot of reasons, some of which I went into here. ☺
At one point, Noreen shared one of her favourite quotes from artist Sister Corita Kent: “Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.”
The words were a much-needed reminder and encouragement, as I (like most artists and writers, I suspect) battle perfectionism, insecurity, and the conviction that I’m not good enough and never will be . . . Good enough for what? you ask . . . Great question, and one I never have a very satisfying answer for—just never good enough to silence my own inner critic, perhaps . . . but I digress. In the actual process of writing, I forget to be neurotic. In the moment, the story or poem or whatever I’m working on is all I can see, focus on, feel . . . and it’s amazing, joyful, crazy—and transcends all my worries. There is only make!
I did a bit of google-sleuthing, and found, to my delight, a list of rules Corita Kent created and kept posted in her classroom when she taught in the Immaculate Heart College Art Department. The gem above is one of them . . . but the others struck me as equally important, inspiring, and bravery-bolstering. I keep a printed copy of the list stuck on my filing cabinet, a mere arm’s length away, for easy reading and a soft-yet-effective kick in the pants.
Maybe you’ll find Corita’s rules as heartening and revitalizing as I did, or maybe you won’t . . . Either way, happy writing, reading, creating this week!
p.s. I have every intention of writing rambling thoughts about some of the other rules soon. You have been warned. ;)
p.p.s. The picture at the top of this post is a digital image of one of the paintings created by participants in Running With Brushes–and the original painting is being auctioned off tomorrow night (Friday, Sept. 27, 2013) at 7:00 p.m. at the Terrace Art Gallery. It’s 5′ by 4′ and absolutely gorgeous. Perhaps I’ll see you there!
The Taste of Ashes by Sheila Peters reads more like non-fiction about actual living, breathing individuals and literally true events, than well-researched fiction that’s “merely” emotionally true. By praising it or raving about how much I enjoyed it, I feel I’m making light of real people’s very difficult, hard circumstances. Likewise, if I criticize any part, I feel I’m somehow slamming real people—and how dare I do that?
But I did enjoy it. Identified with it. Laughed out loud in places. The story’s written in a braided narrative, with three main point-of-view characters: Isabel Lee, one-time wild child, now recovering alcoholic and fodder for the small town rumour mill, Father Álvaro Ruiz, a priest seeking respite in Canada after enduring mind, body and spirit breaking torture in Guatemala, and Janna—Isabel and Álvaro’s daughter, born out of an intense affair the first time Álvaro was in Canada as a young Oblate priest—a child Álvaro knows nothing about. Once their voices were established and I knew who was who, I could hardly put the book down—though at times, out of stress, outrage and empathy, I wanted to throw it across the room.
Peters is incredibly skilled at showing the many-layered ways we hurt the people we love unintentionally (through ignorance and indifference—or just misunderstanding what they actually need from us)—and worse, the ways some people intentionally set out to damage and destroy others. She’s equally adept, however, at showing that healing also exists (if at a price), that love (in the furthest thing from a mushy, romantic sense of the word) endures, and grace—in sharp splinters of pain and light—can eventually pierce and change even the bleakest reality. She also shows and celebrates the power of beauty and nature.
Disturbing, challenging content adds depth to the pure pleasure of a well told, absorbing story and provokes thought. Like Isabel, I have lived in northern BC my whole life (I was born in Smithers and actually lived on Railway Avenue for most of my early childhood—the same street Isabel lives on), and any pain and personal hardship I’ve experienced has been on a small town scale. I don’t fear authorities. I have the luxury of “rights.” Torture at the hands of the government (shameful for me to admit) is the stuff of movie plots or awful newscast footage. I am moved and horrified by it, but in the detached way of one who is safe from such things. To explore the darkness and seeming randomness of that type of evil was very difficult and, I think, beneficial (though even that word—beneficial—reeks of privilege). I was shamed by my insulated safety, and by my lack of knowledge about South America, particularly Guatemala.
As all the best novels do, the ones that are read for generations because of the glimpse they provide into specific times and histories, The Taste of Ashes broadened my view of our world, and opened my eyes to aspects of human experience that shouldn’t be ignored.
I was driving to work in May, listening to the radio, and CBC happened to be interviewing a Forensic investigator about the trial of Guatemalan general Efrain Rios Montt (found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity, he was sentenced to 80 years in jail—a historic, and long overdue, achievement for the people of Guatemala), and I started to shake a bit. Not only did I recognize the name, I had personal reaction to the type of atrocities he was directly responsible for.
The Taste of Ashes can simply be read as an interesting story of a passionate, illicit love affair, its fallout and the subsequent lives of those involved, but for me it’s more—the type of tale that makes me consider the kind of person I am, the sort of life I am privileged to live—and what, if any, responsibilities come with that privilege.
Peters’ beautiful, strong writing and vivid, put-you-there descriptions made it easy to forgive the (very few) instances where I stumbled over a slightly awkward phrase or transition into a different point-of-view or time period that could have been smoother.
My only real “complaint” about the book is not about the story at all; it’s about its cover. While I know one can’t (or shouldn’t!) judge a book by the cover, I’m confused by its plain garb. I don’t see how the sedate, black and white photo of a babe in a blanket-sling on his faceless mother’s back fits specifically to the story or speaks to its themes. Nothing hints of the exposure (and exposé) the story provides of northern BC living. Nothing shows of the complexity of the cross-cultural, cross-generational relationships it delves into.
Don’t let the slightly boring cover put you off. The Taste of Ashes is well worth your investment of time and money. If you give it a go, let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
North Words Creative Writers 2013 Retreat is running August 10 – 11 in Terrace, BC this year. As ever, it promises to be an inspiring, motivating time, filled with craft discussion and writing exercises, and I was thrilled to be asked to be a guest presenter. Maybe I’ll see you there? I look forward to it!
p.s. If you have any questions about the event, I’ll either answer them for you or find someone who can. :)