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,
Ev

*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)

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!

Jess

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

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Word on the Lake

A busy weekend of stories, music, and much inspiration!

So I’m just back from a whirlwind trip to Salmon Arm, where I had the wonderful fun and luck to participate in Word on the Lake festival—a writing conference put on by the amazing, dynamic Shuswap Association of Writers.

I hardly know what to rave about first. The venue—The Prestige Waterfront—which is a gorgeous hotel altogether, set on the mind-blowingly beautiful shoreline of Shuswap Lake, overlooking a wildlife sanctuary. If I’m fortunate enough to visit the area again—and/or to take in the same conference another year, I will definitely arrange to spend an extra day, so I can walk the nature trails and seek out the Western Grebes and watch the turtles and ospreys.

Kicking the conference off Friday night, attendees enjoyed a fabulously entertaining coffee house where various presenters riveted the audience with readings, inspiring mini-speeches, and even a crazily amazing, foot-stomping song—thank you, David Essig! (I highly recommend buying his music and his novel Dancing Hand.)

Saturday’s layout included a myriad of high quality craft and business-related workshops. I was slightly awed by the big names at a relatively small conference (less than 100 attendees—with authors like C.C. Humphreys (Spread the PLAGUE!), Diana Gabaldon, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, and Ann Eriksson, to *name a few). The atmosphere somehow managed to feel both cozy and very professional at the same time.

The banquet Saturday night was a special highlight for me (and not just because of the prime rib which was amazing). The writing contest winners were announced, and I’m excited to finally be able to share news I’ve been sitting on for over a month.

My short story, “The River,” received 1st Place in Askew’s Foods’ Word on the Lake Writing Contest, the Young Adult category. Yay! (Insert much happy dancing!) It was lovely to receive the cash prize and free conference package, but it was fiction contest judge Scott Fitzgerald Gray’s kind words and praise that made the night for me—along with the number of people who approached me throughout the evening and expressed excitement to read it. Is there anything better feeling than someone identifying with your story, appreciating it, “getting” it? I don’t think so.

Sunday passed much too quickly, with an inspiring keynote/call to action by Ann Eriksson, more great classes (all of which mentioned sex in some way or another because Diana was doing her infamous “How To (and How Not To) Write Sex Scenes” workshop, and the other presenters joked—perhaps from what had been true fear—that they were surprised anyone even came to their workshops considering her topic), and the forging of new friendships.

And then it was all over, except the driving—and weirdly enough, I adored that part of the weekend too. My son was kind enough to road trip with his mama and we rocked out, ate lots of junk, listened to two and a half audio books, spotted a crazy amount of animals, and laughed a lot. Good times!

I definitely recommend Word on the Lake—especially if attending a bigger conference is intimidating to you. The quality was great, the cost reasonable, and the people wonderful.

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* Click here to see the full list of inspiring speakers. It’s an impressive list!

Book Review – The Taste of Ashes by Sheila Peters

Taste of Ashes 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 Retreat

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. :)

NorthWords Adult Poster 2013