WordWorks 2022 Volume III

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writer or seasoned pro, you are welcome here bcwriters.ca/join-us

Letter from the editor 3

Letter from the executive director 5

Member milestones 6

Second life: Finding options for out-of-print books 7

Always writing: In conversation with master storyteller Joseph Dandurand 8

How to set (and achieve) your writing goals for 2023 10

A business plan for writers 12 Shared vision, shared story 13

Revising expectations as divergent thinkers 14

A year of one hundred rejections 16

Scribbling rivalry: Best practices for conflict-free collaborative writing 18 The rejuvenating magic of a creative retreat 20 Getting that first draft finished 22 How to go about revisioning your first book 24 Launched! 26 The last word — with the Darling Axe 32

Cover image: Stock photo. Revision in a forest follows the seasons when the grey of winter bursts into the green of spring, like how a writer’s work can bloom once it’s been revised. —Diana Skrepnyk

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WordWorks is published by

THE FEDERATION OF BC WRITERS PO Box 3503, Courtenay, BC V9N 6Z8 www.bcwriters.ca hello@bcwriters.ca | wordworks@bcwriters.ca

Copyrights remain with the copyright holders. All other work © 2022 The Federation of BC Writers. All Rights Reserved.

ISSN: 0843-1329

WordWorks is provided three times per year to FBCW members and to selected markets. It is available on our website at bcwriters.ca and in libraries and schools across BC and Yukon.

FBCW Annual Membership Rates: Regular: $80 | Senior: $45 | Youth: $25

FBCW BOARD OF DIRECTORS: Greg Blanchette, Katherine Wagner, Cameron Roe, Barb Drozdowich, Peggi Peacock, Kamal Parmar, Suzanne Venuta, Wiley Ho, Craig Copland

FBCW AMBASSADOR: Joseph Dandurand

FBCW STAFF: Bryan Mortensen, Executive Director

Cadence Mandybura, WordWorks Managing Editor

Diana Skrepnyk, Design Director

Megan Cole, Programming & Events Coordinator

Meaghan Hackinen, Fund Development & Outreach Associate

Susan McLachlin, Writing Circle Coordinator

Rachel Muller, Community Engagement Associate

Abby Pelaez, Social Media Associate

Emma Turner, Executive Assistant

EDITORIAL STAFF: Cadence Mandybura, Managing Editor Sheila Cameron, Copy Editor Diana Skrepnyk, Graphic Designer

WRITE FOR WORDWORKS: Visit our submissions page at www.bcwriters.ca/submit.

ADVERTISING: WordWorks advertises services and products of interest to writers. Contact meaghan@bcwriters.ca

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: The Federation of British Columbia Writers functions on the unceded and ancestral territories of many Indigenous peoples and cultures. As champions of language, we cherish the oral and written traditions of the indigenous peoples of this land. We commit to uplift the voices and stories of marginalized peoples and communities wherever we work. We celebrate submissions from underrepresented communities and are actively seeking contributions from writers of all races, genders, sexualities, abilities, neurodiversities, religions, socioeconomic statuses, or immigration statuses. We encourage submissions from both published and emerging writers. We believe our strength as a community is in the breadth of our stories.

The FBCW gratefully acknowledges the support of the Province of BC, the BC Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Magazine Association of BC.

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Letter from the editor


evision” may conjure up a range of experiences for writers: the excitement of having finally finished your first draft, the perseverance of successive rewrites, or the anticipation of getting feedback from your beta readers. For most of us, revision is a necessary part of writing, helping to clarify our intent and polish our work. This issue’s theme, “re-vision,” takes that concept a step further: it’s not only about revising our words, but rethinking how we approach our craft.

In this issue, Rayya Liebich shares ways for divergent thinkers to adapt their writing practice, poet Joseph Dandurand tells us to stop procrastinating, and KT Wagner highlights the many benefits of writing retreats. Stories such as Shelley A. Leedahl repurposing her out-of-print poetry as song lyrics or James Leard co-creating a fictional character may inspire you to explore new creative processes. Making plans for 2023? Learn a method of reverse-engineering your goals with Alison Colwell, or follow Suzanne Anderson’s advice on setting up a business plan for your writing. If you’re motivated by challenges, see what Finnian Burnett learned from setting a target of one hundred rejections for the year—and try it yourself!

Regarding the brass tacks of writing and revising a manuscript, Lesley Taylor shares her experience of getting through the first draft, and anyone co-authoring a book won’t want to miss Anna S. Christie’s article about creating a solid partnership agreement. Finally, if you’re looking for tips on revision, read Wiley WeiChiun Ho’s advice on how to go about re-visioning your first book, or find your courage with the Darling Axe’s thoughts on shaking your story to its foundations.

For my part as the new editor, I’m looking forward to re-visioning WordWorks in 2023 while staying true to its mission of being British Columbia’s magazine for writers. I’m interested in finding even more ways to feature our members and their work, as well as expanding the diversity of people, perspectives, and genres represented in these pages. I invite you to email me at cadence@bcwriters.ca if you want to share what you enjoy about the magazine and what you’d like to see in future issues.

This volume was assembled on a compressed timeline, and I am grateful to all the contributors for their excellent work and great attitudes. A big thank you to Federation staff who helped

make this possible—Meaghan Hackinen, Bryan Mortensen, Rachel Dunstan Muller, and Diana Skrepnyk—as well as to our copy editor, Sheila Cameron, and former managing editor, Jessica Cole. I am impressed with what we’ve been able to put together on a tight timeline, and I hope all of you find value in these pages.

Happy writing, reading, dreaming, and doing. I’ll see you in 2023.

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Letter from the executive director

It seems like just yesterday that I wrote to you all saying we would likely pass 1,300 members by the next edition of this magazine. I was wrong. It happened the next day. The Federation of BC Writers has grown significantly over the last few years, and I am so happy to have all of you with us as we greet 2023. To all of you just joining us, welcome. And for those of you who are continuing, thank you for choosing to be a part of our growing community of writers.

This magazine is a showcase of the amazing talent we have in Western Canada both in front of and behind the page.

Two years ago, we were producing 1,300 copies of each issue and now we produce 2,000. Interest continues to grow, and a new team of volunteer distributors are helping to get our magazine into coffee shops and book stores around the province.

This issue is about “re-visioning,” and so it seems fitting to take this moment to welcome our new managing editor, Cadence Mandybura, to our team. Many of you may know Cadence from her work on our popular BC Writers Summit where she serves as one of our committee members. This issue is her first with us

and I am so excited to see what she has planned for next year.

I also want to recognize another member of our team who works hard on the magazine, but often does so in the background: Diana Skrepnyk, our design director. Diana has an extensive background in the field, and I like to think that we poached her from the Banff Centre and Royal Roads University—at least, that is a more compelling narrative than “We asked her if she wanted to join when we had an opportunity and she said yes.”

I also want to take a moment to thank all the people who have made this and the previous issue of WordWorks possible. Thank you to Sheila Cameron, who is a pro editor and has gone through these issues with great care and attention. Thank you to Jessica Cole, who stepped back in to help us finish the final details on the last issue and gave guidance on this one. No one ever really leaves the Federation.

Lastly, thank you to Rachel Muller and Meaghan Hackinen, who also lent eyes to the magazine. Without our amazing team, this publication would not be possible.

We have a full volume for you all, so I am keeping my letter short and sweet.

See you in the next issue, Bryan

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Mortensen Executive Director
Two years ago, we were producing 1,300 copies of each issue and now we produce 2,000.

Member milestones

Janis Harper has finished all of her major live book events and BC tour for her debut novel, Jonas and the Mountain: A Metaphysical Love Story (Sacred Stories, 2021).

In 2022, Kate Bird’s work was published in The Sun, The Phare, and Tangled Locks Journal, longlisted for the 2022 CBC Nonfiction Prize and the 2022 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, and featured on Writers Radio.

Caroline Lavoie’s entry for her YA novel Devil by the Tail was a finalist in CANSCAIP’s 2022 Writing for Children Competition.

Freelance writer/columnist Micki Findlay’s latest story, “The Phone Call,” was published last September in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Now published in six books, she attributes her success to an online writing course—Memoir Writing Ink. After much soul-searching on writing life with a disability, Lynn Atkinson finally crashed her own barrier with the help of her soulmate Dragon Naturally Speaking. Her able-bodied poems have been published in GRAIN and Dalhousie Review

Nicole Ardiel was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize for “Child-Free,” a poem about women who make a deliberate choice to not have children and the societal expectations and harmful misconceptions around this often-taboo subject.

Gary Karlsen’s No Ordinary Seaman: A Memoir has surpassed his expectations as an indie author with more than seven hundred copies sold in less than five years since publication.

Patricia Preston recently had a creative nonfiction story selected for an anthology titled Secrets (Demeter Press). “My Three Fathers” will appear in the anthology, publishing December 2022.

Amanda Hale is the librettist for Pomegranate, an opera set in ancient Pompeii and 1980s Toronto. World premiere with the Canadian Opera Company will be in Toronto in June 2023, followed by a tour to Vancouver. With support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Rachel Dunstan Muller’s storytelling concert “Once Upon a Fiddle” premieres in Parksville and Nanaimo the last weekend of February 2023.

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Second life: Finding options for out-of-print books

When you’ve been publishing with small presses for decades, at some point you may receive notice that the publisher is closing shop or your book is going out of print. I’ve been there—eight times—and each time I learned that my book would no longer be available, I felt a stab of sadness. It was, in effect, a small death in the family. Several of these books took many years to write, and even the first one—a slim poetry collection titled A Few Words for January—never embarrassed me. I wanted it to live on, damn it.

But it didn’t. And that first little death was followed by the passing of several of its cousins: my short story collection Sky Kickers; novel Tell Me Everything; poetry collections Talking Down the Northern Lights, The House of the Easily Amused, and Wretched Beast; my favourite child—the short story collection Orchestra of the Lost Steps; and my juvenile novel Riding Planet Earth Imagine dominos toppling. Yes, I was still publishing new books, but what did it say that more than half of my books were out of print, unavailable, and buried?

I sat with that for a long time. Decades. Then I decided to do something about it.

I’m a full-time writer and have had to be a thrifty and practical gal, from my second-hand wardrobe to do-it-myself haircuts. It physically pained me that work I’d put so

much effort into was now either sitting in boxes in my closet or, on occasion, dog-eared and only available via online outlets.

One morning I was thumbing through my poetry collections and considered how—with a few tweaks—some of the poems could become song lyrics. I began researching songwriting and literally within a few minutes, a minor miracle transpired: I found a legit music producer (on Craigslist!) searching for songwriters. I wrote, he said to send samples, I did, he selected a few phrases, and a contract and fat cheque followed. I earned more from those phrases than I’d earned from the entire book … possibly more than I’d earned in royalties from three books. The band is Maltavar, the song is “Shots of Bacardi,” and it’s a knockout (available on YouTube).

How else could I repurpose my work? Podcast production. I received a $5,000 Canada Council grant to produce one season of a literary podcast—Something Like Love—featuring my formerly published work, music, and writing prompts. As I now had the equipment and a makeshift recording studio, I wrote and produced two more seasons. Audio engineering was a sticky learning curve, but after hiring a producer for the first season, I learned the free program Audacity, and having the know-how led to contracts from a publisher to produce two audiobooks—and earn real income.

I’m presently filtering through my library of short stories and compiling a “new and selected” manuscript. It’s been nearly thirty years since those first stories saw publication, and hey, the rights belong to me. I prefer to not let the best of these tales turn to dust in my closet, and I encourage you, fellow writers, to find new life for the cream of your out-of-print work, too. Be resourceful—think across genres and disciplines, seek funding opportunities, collaborate. Add a dash of luck, and you may find, as I did, that the dominos don’t inevitably have to fall.

Shelley A. Leedahl is a multi-genre writer in Ladysmith, BC. Her most recent books are Go (poetry, Radiant Press), The Moon Watched It All (children’s literature, Red Deer Press), and I Wasn’t Always Like This (essays, Signature Editions). Her literary podcast Something Like Love was named among the top literary podcasts in 2022. See: writersunion.ca/member/ shelleya-leedahl

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Always writing: In conversation with master storyteller Joseph Dandurand

Joseph Dandurand is a storyteller, poet, playwright, and member of Kwantlen First Nation located on the Fraser River about twenty minutes east of Vancouver. Dandurand is the director of the Kwantlen Cultural Centre, artistic director of the Vancouver Poetry House, and current FBCW Ambassador. He hates rhymes and is fascinated by Sasquatch. Dandurand was awarded the prestigious 2022 Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize. His most recent collection, The Punishment, is available from Harbour Publishing.

FBCW staff member Meaghan Hackinen met with Dandurand over Zoom to learn more about his artistic practice, approach to revision, and reflections on his new release.

Meaghan Hackinen: Can you describe your artistic practice?

Joseph Dandurand: I’m up at 5:00 am every day. I go and get a coffee, go to my office, and sit down. If I’m working on a manuscript of poetry, I’ll usually write one poem a day; if I’m writing a new play, it’s usually one scene a day; and if I’m writing short stories, it’s usually one short story. What I like about writing so early—getting it done—is that if I’m having a really crappy day, I can always reflect back on what I accomplished in the morning. I’ve done that

for about fifteen years now. […] When I’m about to finish a book, I begin thinking about my next project.

MH: Has your perspective or focus shifted over the course of your career? If so, how?

JD: Yes, I think so. When I first started writing, I’d always come home to where I live now, the village where my mom is from. And thirty years ago, I was coming home to fish—I was actually on my way to Mexico to live on the beach and write bad poetry—and our chief, she gave me this thing called salary [laughs]. And so, I’ve been working for my people for thirty years now. […] Not truly growing up here as a young person, I really didn’t know a lot about my people, but over the thirty years I’ve learned so much. And one of the tragic things about our people—and most Indigenous People—is that there’s nothing written in a book for us, or for me as a writer to pull from, because everything was based off oral traditions and all that was lost for my people. Our elders lost it; my mother was five years old when she was put on a train in Fort Langley and sent to a residential school, so she lost it. But language and stories had been lost a generation before that. And so now I have—I like to think—this gift to be given or shown stories and to get them down as stories or poems or plays.

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MH: How do you approach revision, and is your approach different depending on genre?

JD: Definitely. Poetry, I write once. I might do a spellcheck, but that’s it. I never go back to revamp or rework poems—I leave it up to the editor. […] For plays it’s much more of a process: once it’s written, it needs to have a workshop with actors. What that does for me as a playwright is I can truly hear the characters speaking, whereas before it was just inside my head. You can really pick things out when actors are reading it—what works and what doesn’t—so it’s always good to workshop plays. Short stories are the same as poetry: minor edits and spellcheck.

MH: That’s interesting, especially what you said about poetry.

JD: I don’t know if I could go back and rewrite a poem. It’s like a painter when the painting is finished—you might go back and touch it up, but I don’t even go back and touch it up. Just onto the next one.

MH: Your most recent collection The Punishment just came out with Harbour Publishing. Did you learn anything while putting together or revising this work?

JD: I didn’t realize how tragic it is until I started rereading it. My mom, even though she has Parkinson’s, and her memory is starting to go […] you mention the word residential school to her, and she just starts crying. And that’s how inherently abusive her time there was: just the word triggers that. I used her a lot [in The Punishment], and then my own experience with drugs and alcohol is in there. I’ve been writing a series of books about my experiences in the Downtown Eastside and I think The Punishment has quite a bit of that in there too. What I love and hate is there’s so many characters and stories passing me by. I’ll stand at East Hastings and Main just watching people, and you sense the tragedy and wonder where these people came from. And for me they come from somewhere: a village upriver, or on the island.

MH: You’ve had a long and prolific career as a poet, playwright, and storyteller. Can

you share a transformational experience that you’ve had along the way?

JD: It’s through my spirituality, which I’ve been part of for twenty-four winters now. […] That saved me. Now I spend my winters in longhouses at gatherings and ceremonies. It’s like our church, that’s what I teach children when they come into our longhouse. And what I’ve found about my spirituality is that it’s a safe and true place to be in. I’d never seen that before while being raised a Catholic, or living on the streets, or being a drug addict and an alcoholic—there’s no truth to it. And that’s what I’ve found through my spirituality is truth.

MH: What would you say to someone who’s beginning or struggling with the revision process?

JD: Procrastinators, just stop procrastinating. I meet a lot of them and they’re so funny when I pick it out. Like this interview, you’re probably doing because you’re procrastinating.

MH: You just called me out—I’m procrastinating on an assignment!

JD: Early on as a writer, I found reading was so important because I didn’t read a lot in high school. Reading books opened all these doorways to different types of styles and people. […] If you are a writer, or you want to be a writer, the most important thing is to just keep writing. Even if it hurts. It’s supposed to hurt. Or even if it’s not what you want—at least you’ve got it out of yourself, and you can always go back and work on it some more. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Meaghan Hackinen is a bikeobsessed bookworm on a lifelong hunt for exceptional cycling routes. Her debut travel memoir, South Away: The Pacific Coast on Two Wheels is available from NeWest Press. Meaghan has an MFA in Writing and lives in Kelowna, BC.

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I’ll stand at East Hastings and Main just watching people, and you sense the tragedy and wonder where these people came from. And for me they come from somewhere: a village upriver, or on the island.

How to set (and achieve) your writing goals for 2023

goal without a plan is just a wish,” said Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

One of the best things about a new year is blank journals and the intoxicating list of new resolutions. At the beginning of the year, anything seems possible. I’m a huge goal setter and I believe that anyone who’s trying to achieve their bucket-list dreams needs to set goals. But you can’t stop there. Once you have a goal, you need to “reverse engineer” it to figure out what steps are needed to reach it.

I’ll admit I like to be organized, but I believe that creating a plan for a goal is a strategy that anyone can undertake. Follow these seven steps to achieve your 2023 writing goals.

1. What do you want?

Setting goals helps us figure out where we want to get in life. So first, spend some time creating a list of what you want to achieve this year. Some goals might be:

• Write the first draft of your book

• Get something you’ve written published

• Submit your work one hundred times

• Improve your writing craft

• Create a blog

• Write a new short story or essay every week

• Find a writing community that supports you

• Learn how to give helpful critiques to other writers

• Revise the first draft of your book

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2. Where are you now?

You need to choose a goal that is both realistic and sustainable. To do that, it helps to take a long look at your current habits and life. Did you set goals last year? Did you follow through and achieve success? If you didn’t, do you know what went wrong? What are your current writing habits?

Suppose your goal is two hours of daily writing. If you spend four hours every day on social media, then maybe that’s a manageable goal, but if you’re a busy parent with two kids and a full-time job, then maybe a daily writing practice is too big of a stretch. Take a good long look at where you are now. You need to be honest about where you’re starting from.

3. What can you control?

Look at your list of goals and try to focus on elements that you can control. For example, you can’t control being published, but you can control how much you submit. You need to choose goals that are within your control. Then you’ll have the power to make your goals come true.

4. Choose one goal

You can’t accomplish everything all at once. If you take on too many, or if your goals are impossibly hard, then you’ll fail and end up berating yourself, which doesn’t help you or your writing practice. Look at your list and pick just one goal for this year.

5. Reverse engineer your goal

Here’s where you get creative. First, write your goal at the bottom of a piece of blank paper. Now consider the step that might come just before that one. It’s important to think in small, baby steps. You are going to create a list of all the different things that have to happen before you can achieve your goal, a list that leads from where you want to be to where you are now.

For example, if you want to Write the first draft of your book, write that on the bottom of the page. Now what comes just above that?

Write eighty thousand words. Which seems pretty huge when written like that, so let’s break it down. You have an entire year, so you only need to write 6,670 words per month or 220 words per day.

Look at where you are now and decide the best way to tackle this—e.g., daily, or one writing day per week. Can you give up your lunch breaks and write for that time? Or go for coffee after work and write in the coffee shop for thirty minutes? Or

get up an hour earlier each day to write? Or can you dedicate one weekend day entirely to writing? Decide which is best for you, and then write it on the page. Write two thousand words every weekend. Now make the commitment to yourself and your writing goals. Pin your engineered plan next to your desk or some place that you’ll see it every day. Then begin with the first step at the top.

6. Review your plan

As writers, we want to build a practice that will sustain us in the long term. Sometimes we’ll mess up—we won’t follow through, or life will intervene. Allow yourself some flexibility. Take time to review your plan, whether that’s monthly, quarterly, or after six months. It’s important to check in with yourself to see if you’re still on track or if your goals have changed. Be kind to yourself, and with grace you can always come back to your practice. I’d planned to write one story a week in 2022. But in October I decided I wanted to participate in NaNoWriMo. It’s okay to change your goals. It’s okay if your goals shift. Just tweak your plan and carry on.

7. Achieve your goals!

If you follow through on your plan, I believe you can achieve your 2023 writing goals and get to where you want to be. My own road map for 2022 is still pinned to the corkboard in my study. And while I haven’t completed everything on it, I’ve had a great year with ninety-six submissions and five acceptances. I’ve got a long way to go as a writer, but with a good plan, I believe I can get there. You can too.

Alison Colwell is the executive director of the Galiano Community Food Program, a charity on Galiano Island. Her fiction can be found in DSF, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Drabble, and Tangled Locks, and her creative non-fiction in Folklife Magazine, Fieldstone Review, and the climate-fiction anthology Rising Tides.

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A business plan for writers

About ten years ago, I realized that I was not accomplishing as much as I wanted to with my abundance of book projects. As a business owner, I had done many business plans and they helped me to accomplish goals by providing a roadmap to follow. I decided to make one for my writing. My plan is only two pages long, but it has kept me on track with my writing and publishing. Creating a business plan for your writing will help keep you focused on your goals and support your career.

You want to start with a main Objective. Mine was to “help writers self-publish their books in a professional manner by providing products and services.”

Keep it simple. You can always adjust any part of your objective as things change. Even a short-term objective can be useful. The aim of completing a book and finding a publisher might be all you need to move your project forward.

I set up categories that I believed would be helpful to me as a writer and self-publisher. In the first category, Goals, I listed smaller objectives for writing and selling books, such as selling off all my printed books and completing another book that I wanted to write. Then I made a complete list of books that I planned to write. To my surprise, there ended up being fourteen books on that list. Another category was the Publicity that I needed to do to sell my books, including press releases, blog posts, and mail-outs to libraries. I even included a category for Distractions, which was pretty illuminating: I discovered that my volunteering was taking precedence over my writing and gave up a couple of organizations that I was involved with. Even though I do not make a living from my writing,

I made a table of Revenue and Expenses for the current year and following year. The expenses helped me identify items that I did not need anymore, such as subscriptions that were draining my writing income.

The category What Do I Want to Do? has been one of my most useful lists. Like many writers, I talk about what I want to do such as write, publish, consult, and teach, but putting it in writing helped to give me focus. I felt that I needed to be specific with my list too. Instead of stating “write,” I put down “write at least two hours a day during the week.” That forces me to work diligently to carve out time to write every day.

I revisit my plan every couple of years and update it as needed for what I am working on at the current time. It has helped me to stay on track with my writing projects. I find a business plan for me as a writer is one of the more useful tools I have used. It can be a handy tool for any writer. Try it.

Suzanne Anderson is an author and publishing coach who helps writers navigate the world of independent publishing. She self-published her first book in 1997 and has written three more books since. Best known for the book Self Publishing in Canada, she conducts writing and publishing workshops throughout BC. Learn more at selfpublishing.ca

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Keep it simple. You can always adjust any part of your objective as things change. Even a shortterm objective can be useful.

Shared vision, shared story

“Yes, and …”

exercise that anyone can begin, and it will create new ways to stimulate your imagination. It can be with someone you know well or a new collaborator, as long as everyone has the right attitude. The shared story is like sharing a brain. Starting with an image in a photograph, Hannah and I followed the basic rules of storytelling games that I teach in my classes:

• You cannot change what has come before.

Iwas staring at the computer screen in that empty space a writer feels before committing to an afternoon of writing.

I started scrolling and came across a picture of Hannah, a former student of mine from the college where I taught improvisation and storytelling. She was advertising a costume rental company and was dressed in an early twentieth-century English tweed walking outfit, carrying an antique camera. She had noted that the initials R.D. were on the camera and created the character of an English adventurer … Ramona Dale.

Thinking of a storytelling game that we’d played in my classes, I sent her an email. “Ramona Dale’s camera took her everywhere and, more often than not, into trouble.”

Hannah replied that the camera was a gift from Ramona’s godmother with instructions to “… bring her the world.”

This led us to begin a shared storytelling experience. We started slowly, a few paragraphs at a time about Ramona taking pictures of: a little girl polishing chestnuts; Mussolini’s “black shirts”; a very public lovers’ quarrel; and how Ramona got involved in a murder because she happened to be in that piazza with her camera.

There were no conversations about the story or what should be done, we just continued following the storyline. I found myself inspired by what Hannah sent me, and she was inspired by my replies. I looked forward to her emails and was disappointed when days passed without answer.

Hannah had spent time in Italy and brought her experience into the details of the people and the activities of the piazza. I pushed on the storyline and the development of relationships. I was plot driven, and Hannah had details and a feeling for the people and the place. This accidental beginning developed into The Lady in the Fountain. The emails continued and the story grew and, 7,500 words later, it was finished. If you’re a writer eager to stretch your creative muscles, I encourage you to try shared storytelling. It’s a fun

• Accept and add to the material your partner gives you with a “Yes, and …” attitude.

• Never try to say too much. When you reach a point in the story where you know what happens next, stop, and give it to your partner. (Give … it’s a gift!)

• Go with the first idea and yield to what is presented. We found it to be fun. There are fifty years difference in our ages and our previous relationship was that of instructor and student, but we accepted each other’s ideas and grew to respect the strength the other brought.

Where are we now? We’re talking about publishing; we’re starting on a new Ramona Dale adventure; and we are developing a theatre production of The Lady in the Fountain to present at Canada’s fringe festivals.

It’s amazing where one line of narration might take your shared experience, especially if you have a “Yes, and …” attitude; a willingness to yield to the storyline; and think of it as a game that could take you on a journey. It worked for us, and I hope some of you try it, too.

James Leard is the founding artistic director of The Story Theatre Company. Over the past thirty-five years, he has toured BC schools, acted in film and TV, and written/directed for fringe festivals throughout Canada. Recently retired from his role as Chair of Acting at the Canadian College of Performing Arts, he now spends his time writing and looking for publishers.

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Revising expectations as divergent thinkers

Like many creatives, I am happiest when I am inspired and in the flow of a project … but must accept that this is a finite place, and the “business of writing” involves many practical tasks. As an adult with a late diagnosis of AD(H)D, I am discovering why many aspects of the writing life are excruciating for me. With new awareness, I see the significant time and energy I need to go against neurotypical expectations, hold onto my focus, and keep discouragement at bay.

For example, organizing my time and planning my schedule is a constant battle. For years I thought my procrastination reflected my innate laziness, but I know now that this is the only way I can jump-start my focus. Instead of fighting the way I’m wired, I’ve shifted my mindset to practise acceptance, and trust that I will get it done. Here’s the proof!

But what about other roadblocks? How do writers who struggle with executive functioning get through the revisions, submissions, rejections, and practical details of a career in the arts? We need to come up with our own unique strategies through trial and error. The beautiful spreadsheets and tidy computer files might never be a solution. After many struggles

and outside-the-box experiments, I’d like to offer some strategies that may help other writers like me.

“Go where the energy is.” —Natalie Goldberg

When you pay attention to what has emotional energy in your writing, you can slow down and focus on the craft skills to improve it. You may set out to write a succinct essay on parenting, but if your draft takes you down a detour to a moment in your childhood—forget about the original topic and see where this thread wants to lead you. Writing that is raw, rich, vulnerable, and alive is always the more interesting story.

No shortcuts—take the scenic route

There is no “correct” way to write a book and no point-A-to-point-B road map for larger works. If traditional narrative arcs haven’t worked for you, look to the forms on the margins. Discovering Nicole Breit’s “Outlier” classes of creative non-fiction revolutionized the way I saw writing into difficult material. If I could draw a picture to illustrate my process of completing a memoir, it would be a tangle of knots.

I started in micro-memoir paragraphs, I changed the manuscript to poetry, I then “unpoemed” the

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entire draft, and, after learning about fragmented forms through Nicole, entered sideways using non-linear forms to unveil my memories. Intense and time-consuming? Yes. Fulfilling and freeing? Absolutely. Tangles are rich, complex, and beautiful. I needed time and detours to be able to find my authentic voice and the right container.

Visual space as inspiration

My writing room is my sanctuary and I use every wall to remind me of what I’m doing and why. I have a blackboard with Post-It notes, with reminders and inspiration from my favourite authors. I’m looking at a quote by Rilke: “The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heartwork on the images imprisoned within you.” Bam! Good reminder for when I think I want the easy way out of a project. I also have a bulletin board where I track submissions with bright paper and highlighters. An Excel spreadsheet might appear more organized, but I need the large format and personal penmanship to own it.

Celebrate the wins!

When anything positive happens in your creative life, mark it with a gesture of celebration. I keep a bottle of bubbles at the ready—just in case some good news comes my way. I also create a list of small wins throughout the month that I hang on a banner above my desk. It is remarkable how all the little wins add up to a long list at the end of the month and a long banner at the end of the year.

Create community

Writing is a solitary act, but the vocation of being a writer is too hard to do alone. There are many wonderful groups to join and starting your own writing circle can give your creative life a great boost. I recently joined Chelene Knight’s Forever Writers Club and marvel at the organized platforms with craft modules, writing prompts, and live workshops. This club reminds me that building a sustainable practice means leaning in on other creatives and that my mindset is what will allow me to carry on writing forever. I also teach creative writing classes, and this keeps me learning and engaged with other creative minds. In reflecting on the lifelines I’ve created to keep up my motivation and persevere, I can see how, without these tools, I would have given up a long time ago. Whatever your tools, your personal hacks, or your unique operating system, I hope you develop ways to stay connected to the pulse of creativity and the privilege of being a writer. And finally, being an artist is hard work: where can you find ways to make it a little more fun?

Little hacks: Desktop must-haves

1. Colourful pens: I indulge my child artist and make sure I have a rainbow of fun pens in a jar on my desk. Bright colours make even the most menial tasks bearable.

2. Timer: I rely on my iPhone timer for every task on my to-do list. For example: • 10 minutes: email catch-up

• 20 minutes: free write on idea I’m excited about

• 20 minutes: boring and painful grant writing

• 10 minutes: peruse writing contests

I’m strategic and cushion the “fun” between the “not fun” tasks, making room for what keeps me inspired and what needs to happen. I also block in breaks to move and eat chocolate.

3. Future ideas list: Keeping track of creative sparks was something I could never pin down. I now keep a list on pink paper and tape it to my desk (pretty Washi tape bonus). By sticking this on my desk, I am affirming that ideas are important and won’t fly away. I may be deep in a difficult revision, but one day, I’ll get to the new stuff too.

Rayya Liebich (she/ her) is a writer and educator of Lebanese and Polish descent. She is the author of the awardwinning chapbook Tell Me Everything (Beret Day Press) and the full-length poetry collection Min Hayati (Inanna Publications). She finds joy in teaching creative writing classes in Nelson, BC.

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A year of one hundred rejections

Afew years ago, I read an article about setting rejection goals. The premise, the author said, was to desensitize yourself to rejection by immersing yourself in it. While I could see the logic in learning to accept rejection, my heart wasn’t ready to submit myself to that much potential pain. But when I came across the concept again about a year ago, I was ready. The idea was still scary, but I could see the benefits of immersing myself in rejection.

I started with a goal of one hundred rejections in 2022, because if I failed, I wanted to fail big. One hundred seemed like an impressive number, bound to lead to impressive results. I came out strong in January with nineteen submissions, though seven were not rejected. (I count shortlisting as a non-rejection for the sake of this challenge because being a finalist is still a win.) I noticed something interesting even in the first month. Rejection became almost a game. If your story is accepted, you celebrate. If it’s rejected, you get to put it back out and make another tick on the list, bringing you closer to your goal.

The other benefit that came from my year of rejection is that I wrote more than ever: I answered themed calls, submitted to local contests, and went to a weekly prompt-based writing group. Ultimately, this led to publishing two flash fiction collections, something that might not have happened if I hadn’t created this challenge for myself.

Changing your relationship with “no”

A rejection goal is a fantastic way to change your relationship with the word “no.” The more you submit, the more you understand how subjective acceptances are. I’ve read some contest winners that stunned me with their brilliance and others that I couldn’t finish reading. Sometimes stories that I felt were my best work went nowhere, and stories that I didn’t love got accepted. You never

know what someone will enjoy, and a big rejection goal helps drive this lesson home over and over.

When you’re courting rejection, “no” becomes a source of growth. You can take each rejection as another chance. Either send your story back out immediately or put it aside for a few days and come back with fresh eyes. Instead of looking at “no” as a negative, think of it as your second chance. Maybe the story needs more work or maybe it’s destined for a better place to land.

Planning your rejection goal

If you’re ready to change your relationship with rejection this year, here are some tips to get you started:

Build a tracking system. When you’re submitting a lot, you need to keep track of everything. Some people use Submittable, Duotrope, or Submission Grinder. Investigate what each of these platforms offers before deciding. Personally, I use an Excel spreadsheet to list due dates, names of journals/ contests, word counts, costs, dates submitted, story titles, additional notes, and URLs. I keep a separate tab for remembering stories that still need submission.

If I write anything without sending it out, I put it on the spreadsheet, so I have a ready-made list for when a new call comes out.

Create a budget. A lot of contests charge a fee to enter. Some journals charge a reading fee. Plan a budget based on what you can reasonably afford to spend on submissions. Though contests are fun, it is feasible to submit to one hundred journals in a year without spending a dime. A budget also helps you keep track of earnings so you can calculate which calls were most lucrative.

Find journals and contests. Submittable is a great resource, as is the Poets and Writers website. The Crow Collective keeps a spreadsheet on their website

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When you’re courting rejection, “no” becomes a source of growth.

with a list of journals offering free submissions. A few writing organizations and conferences in BC have contests for Canadian writers. Social media is a good place to find journals or contests. Also, check out people whose writing you admire. Look at their websites or social media pages for lists of publications.

Read the stories in the journals you’re submitting to. Contests often publish their winners; many online journals have free access to stories they’ve published. You’ll get a feel for the kinds of works their readers enjoy. A big rejection goal isn’t an invitation to throw your work at any journal you find. Be intentional. Don’t send a science fiction story to a romance call or a 2,200-word story to a micro-fiction contest.

Read the guidelines. Be aware of deadlines and word count requirements. Some journals will accept reprints while some only want unpublished stories; note that some places consider publication on social media or personal blogs as previously published. If you are sending a simultaneous submission—that is, sending the same story to more than one journal at once—make sure the journal is okay with that. If a piece is accepted, withdraw it from any other places you’ve submitted to. (This is where your spreadsheet comes in handy!)

Be prepared to write—a lot. This goal can be a great way to spark your creativity. Use contest prompts to write a new story or hone an old one. Read stories to inspire new ideas. Maybe the contest deadline or a journal’s submission window will be a motivator. Writing to themes, self-editing, and tailoring your stories for specific word counts will only sharpen your skills.

Connect with others who are pursuing rejection or submission goals. Celebrate each other’s

rejections as much as you would an acceptance. After all, every time a writer gets a rejection, it means they submitted something—and that’s more than a lot of people can say.

Taking stock and looking forward to 2023

By the end of my personal challenge, I had submitted 150 times. I had some acceptances, several short listings, and a few long listings. All told, I ended up with ninety-five rejections for the year. Always remember that once you’ve submitted, the rest is out of your hands. You can’t control the response, but you can control how you deal with it.

As for me, my new relationship with the word “no” has benefited the rest of my life, too. I have more confidence in my writing and in general. I’m more likely to take chances in applying for jobs, submitting academic papers, and taking on exercise challenges. The benefits of the year of one hundred rejections are big enough that I’ll be doing it again in 2023. Would you join me?

Finnian Burnett teaches English and creative writing. Finn’s novella-in-flash, The Clothes Make the Man, is available through Ad Hoc Fiction. In their spare time, they watch Star Trek and take their cat for walks in a stroller. Finn lives in BC with their wife and Lord Gordo, the cat.

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Scribbling rivalry: Best practices for conflict-free collaborative writing

David, a North Carolina psychologist, had misdiagnosed his daughter’s mental illness a few times before he discovered a common yet little-known phobia that she suffered (emetophobia, the fear of vomiting). After some research, he realized that there were not yet any books written to help other clinicians diagnose it, much less treat it. He found my website that offered information for sufferers as well as resources for therapists along with my story of personally having recovered from the phobia. So he took a chance and sent me an email asking if I would collaborate on a book with him. Meanwhile, I had been contemplating a book for years—although I was one of only two clinicians at the time with knowledge and experience of the phobia, I was stuck in the where-do-I-even-begin rut, assuming I could never get published without a PhD. A collaboration was born, and I had a new start. David seemed like a trustworthy chap, and he had an impressive resume with research and other writing credits (as did I). Nevertheless, my husband is a contract lawyer who believes that “gentlemen’s

agreements” are often agreements between one person and a gentleman who turns out to be a fool. We would need a partnership agreement. The legal eagle added that he didn’t know anything about those, but there were people in his firm that did. Having been married to the man for thirty years, I knew what this meant: thousands of dollars. As a compromise, I looked for a partnership agreement template online, then David and I discussed the sections and edited it as best we could. It wasn’t witnessed or notarized, but at least we had something in place before we began.* My husband, tongue-in-cheek, called this exercise “practising law without a licence.”

The partnership agreement helped each of us to feel secure with the other, and it laid out a number of important factors that we may not have thought of, such as:

• Location where the business takes place (as we are in different countries)

• Business expenses being pre-approved by both partners

• Books and records being kept

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• What happens in the event of the death of one partner

• Laying out that no partner shall publish any journal, article, study, or report that may impact the business (partnership) without the other’s consent

• What happens with documents if one partner dissolves the partnership

• Agreeing to arbitration vs. litigation of the contract if there are any disputes

As it turned out, we had no disputes. David mentioned that he and his colleague who collaborated on another book used to argue all the time, so perhaps we should just pick a fight to see what happens. I asked, “Do I look good in these pants?” but he said that was cheating. We set deadlines and held one another accountable for such things as completing chapters on time, writing proposal sections, and, once we began working with the publisher, editing and indexing.

If either of us had written this book solo, it would never have turned out so well, as many facts and important insights would have been missed. The editing process both before and after we began working with the publisher was greatly enhanced by there being two of us, both of whom were familiar with the subject matter. We picked up on many of the other’s errors and sections that lacked clarity. The share feature on MS Word is brilliant. Not only does it mark up the text in different colours for each of us, it also shows you if the other person is working on a section—reading it, even—and where exactly they are.

David and I intentionally expressed our gratitude to one another often, which is so important in any collaborative process. Perhaps it helped that we were both psychotherapists and in our early sixties with long marriages and grown kids. We had a certain emotional maturity that lends itself well to working together.

Writing the book took years of parttime research as we each worked our day jobs. I had used the free app Slack with a volunteer board a few years back and so I set it up with various channels relating to research and each part of a proposal that we knew we would have to write, e.g., author bios, social platforms, marketing, comparative titles, etc. We whittled away at filling those in over time. We also used Slack to post scholarly articles for the other to read. In time we split up the remaining research areas and summarized articles for the other to read on Slack. We met a few times over Skype as well. Deciding upon a table of contents was probably the most difficult part of our task and took the longest time to get right. Even after submitting our proposal and having a publishing company accept it, we kept changing what chapters we would write and what order they should go in.

of us had written this book solo, it would never have turned out so well.


The great thing about the collaboration was that if one of us became stuck with a veritable writer’s block on a chapter, we found we could trade it for another chapter or something else. For example, I kind of get a kick out of doing citations in the proper format and David hates that. I was originally supposed to write a chapter on a topic I disliked, but I found in admitting that to him that David loved taking it over. I think it worked out evenly. It’s surprising how valuable another person’s general knowledge is.

If you are at all like me, you’ve been thinking about writing that nonfiction book for a long time and don’t know where to begin. Consider a collaboration. What do you have to offer another person that might entice them to work with you?

Just be sure to have a partnership agreement in place.

* The agreement can be found at emetophobia.net/?page_id=1783. The password is “WordWorks.”

Anna Christie is a psychotherapist and author of Evoking Change (2008), described by Kirkus Reviews as “A worthwhile resource for those wishing to live healthier lives, emotionally and socially.” She is also the coauthor of Emetophobia: Understanding and Treating Fear of Vomiting in Children and Adults, publishing in 2023.

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The rejuvenating magic of a creative retreat

Over the years, I’ve struggled with issues related to my writing practice: time, focus, motivation, and inspiration. In early 2014, a particularly bad bout of all four challenges kept me from the page for months. Then, I heard about a last-minute opening for a writing retreat with romance writer Susan Wiggs. I didn’t write romance, but the idea of a retreat appealed to me. The group met in the mornings to write and workshop our works-in-progress. Over lunch and dinner, conversations centred around writing. Free from the distractions of home, I focused more, got to know my characters better, worked out some plot issues, and spent needed time delving into craft. In short, I fell in love again with writing. By the end of the week, I was inspired, recharged, and completely sold on the value of writing retreats. After that, I looked for ways to incorporate regular retreats into my life. There are still times when I feel disconnected and frustrated with my writing, and a retreat refreshes my creativity.

For a while, I judged the success of a retreat by the word count I generated. That was a mistake. I’ve come to learn it’s the immersion in all things literary that inspires me and restores my creative reserves. This includes writing new words, of course, but also reading, revising, socializing with other writers, and contemplation time in an interesting setting outside of my everyday life. No matter your available time or budget, there are options for tailoring a retreat to suit your needs: Create your own. In summer 2015, I held my first Ghost Story Writing Retreat at my home and invited writer friends to stay overnight. We wrote, shared stories around a campfire, and chatted about writing. I cooked for everyone. It was a wonderful community-building event, but also exhausting. The following year, I relocated the retreat to Loon Lake Lodge in north Maple Ridge, and last November marked the eighth annual retreat.

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Book a trip and split the costs. Organizing a writing retreat doesn’t need to be complicated. In 2019, a group of us booked a four-night cruise starting in Seattle. We gathered on the upper decks to write during the days and arranged a large table together for dinners. We shared reasonably priced inside cabins and carpooled to the Seattle port. Make it quick. A retreat can be as short as one day. During warmer weather, a group of friends gather in my garden for a monthly potluck lunch and a few hours of writing in company—many of the benefits of a longer retreat at a low cost. Go solo. Writer friends of mine have undertaken solitary writing retreats, particularly when faced with a deadline to finish a manuscript. They book a hotel or short-term rental, then order room service or pack a cooler. House-sit. Another low-cost option for writers with some flexibility is house-sitting, particularly if you enjoy caring for other people’s pets.

Treat yourself. Plan and budget for the writing retreat of a lifetime. For example, the Wine Country Writers’ Festival is organizing one to Athens, Greece, next April. Think of a writing retreat as an investment in your art. I hope you find time and space in 2023 to renew your creative energies.

Surrounded by gnomes, gargoyles, and poisonous plants, KT Wagner writes Gothic horror and op/ ed pieces in the garden of her Maple Ridge home. She helps create literary community through teaching, an annual ghost story writing retreat, volunteering with FBCW & HWA, and co-organizing Golden Ears Writers. KT’s online at northernlightsgothic.com.

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Getting that first draft finished

Every writer will tell you how difficult it is to write, period. For me, the challenge was getting a first draft written. I found every excuse in the book not to sit down and write. And when I did sit down at my computer, there was always something to distract me—planning dinner, taking the dog out for a walk, checking in with an elderly friend … the excuses were endless. I also suffered from self-doubt. Someone was going to read my writing, so it had better be perfect.

I ended up in the trap of writing and rewriting the first few chapters. What finally helped me get the first draft of my novel finished was joining the National Novel Writing Month challenge, also known as NaNoWriMo or NaNo (nanowrimo.org). While this challenge is focused on November, the experience taught me valuable lessons about bringing your first draft to the finish line that can be applied at any time of year.

Preparing to write

Long before sitting down to write my first draft, I created character profiles using a worksheet that I found on blog.reedsy.com/character-profile.

Creating a profile for each character was onerous and time consuming, but once I gave the characters identities, they came to life and made my work easier. I also came up with a long list of possible scenes, a setting, a plot, and a couple of subplots. Doing this preparatory work helped ensure that I had a solid base of ideas for my draft.

Committing to the challenge

I started with two main goals: write fifty thousand words in thirty days and add to my word count every single day. This created some pressure

that basically made it impossible to go back and edit the work I had already written.

NaNo taught me to commit to a daily word count. At the end of each day, I logged onto the NaNo website and added to my total. Some days I was at par or over, and on other days I struggled to write much of anything at all. But I inched along, and it was motivating to see my total number of words grow as the month progressed.

Writing a bad first draft is okay

Early in the process, something interesting happened. I was so focused on writing and adding to my word count that I didn’t think about the need to edit. I did re-read what I had written every few days, and sometimes I made a few notes, but I carried on. Not only was it okay to write badly, but it was expected. One tactic I tried at the suggestion of a fellow NaNo writer was to leave a blank line whenever I got stuck on a sentence, like this: _____________. I could keep going and fill in that sentence later. By not pressuring myself to write a “perfect” first draft, I freed myself to continue moving forward, knowing that I would have a chance to return and revise later.

Checking unrealistic expectations

At the start of my thirty-day challenge, my plan was to get up early and write for two or three hours until I had finished my daily word count. This worked for a few days, and then life intervened and other things took me away from my computer. On those days, I found myself writing throughout the day and sometimes into the evening—still finding a way to get my writing done, even if it wasn’t according to my original plan.

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What I’ve learned from listening to writers talk about their experiences is that writing is hard work whether you are a seasoned author or just starting out. No wonder I found it difficult to sit down and write day after day! As the days passed, I found my back aching from being hunched over my computer. I took breaks, booked a massage, and kept going.

Enjoy the surprises!

It only took me a few days to use all of the scenes that I had prepared, and then there was nothing left to do but dive into my writing as I began to rely more and more on my imagination. Also, when I started out, I had profiles for thirteen characters. In the middle of the book, another character introduced himself to me and became a pivotal part of the story. No matter how much you prepare, enjoying the surprises of the creative process can help motivate you to keep going.

Finding your motivation

External rewards like the ones offered by NaNo motivated me in the beginning. By adding my daily word count to my profile page, I achieved milestones for the number of days I had been writing as well as certain word counts. As the month progressed, my motivation changed. Instead of being solely motivated by the rewards, I became motivated by the story I was creating and keen to discover where it would end. We are all motivated by different things, so find what works best for you. Marking your milestones is a simple way of finding motivation in your own progress.


In addition to joining NaNo, I asked five friends to be my accountability group. I checked in with

them every few days, and they in turn provided words of support and encouragement. Now that NaNo is over, I’ve asked them if they would continue as I work toward my next goal, which is extending my draft to eighty thousand words.


Initially I had two goals: write fifty thousand words and write daily. Despite not hitting the fifty-thousandword mark, I did write every day and I accomplished something I had wanted to do for years. I wrote the first draft of a novel. A messy draft full of plot holes and bad writing, but it’s a start. That’s okay; I got it done!

Creating your own challenge

I found being part of the NaNo community worked for me, and you may be interested in joining their camps in April or July. Regardless of when or how you’re tackling your first draft, I hope some of these learnings help you get to the end without getting stuck in the first few chapters. I did it, and you can too.

Lesley Taylor enjoyed a successful career in health care. She has also worked as a management consultant, college instructor and a freelance writer. She is currently working on her first novel. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying the outdoors or cooking up something tasty in her kitchen.

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How to go about revisioning your first book

You are not alone. I feel your pain, knee-deep as I am in the muck of another revision of my first book. I’m not an expert on revision—but is anyone? Even seasoned writers tell me revision is hard work and every project has its own unique problems. I’ve had many twisted sleeps over where to begin and how to keep going. After two full rewrites, I have a few insights—or at least ideas—to share.

Leverage your most productive time. Do your ideas flow most readily in the morning, afternoon, or evening? To set up for success, identify your time of least resistance. Many writers find well-defined spurts to be more productive than an unspecified block of time which, paradoxically, has a way of feeling overwhelming. Setting a time limit for yourself (for example, ninety minutes) can be very helpful. Perhaps this is because a sense of urgency, even self-imposed, is required to make the countless decisions, big and small, for revising work.

Find your why. Why do you need to write this book? This is not a facetious question but a way to get at your motivation for telling this particular story. Why can’t you leave this story alone? Why does it matter? True revisioning requires a clear-eyed look at your entire project, literally a re-vision. When you find your why, it becomes easier to move on to the task of figuring out what’s working and what’s not.

Pinpoint your book’s throughline. This is related to, but different than, topic or theme. It is the spine that pulls your whole book together, gives your central characters motivation, and reveals the book’s overall meaning. You should be able to sum up your book’s throughline in one sentence. For example, in Harry Potter, the throughline is that of a young orphan trying to find a place of belonging for himself in the world. Structure is everything. This is the scaffolding that connects your beginning, middle and ending. At the revision level, it should inform what you

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need to cut, add, or reorder. It’s worth mentioning that story structures have evolved past classical standards like the Fichtean Curve and Plot Pyramid to many more diverse forms. The good news is your story no longer needs to conform to expected structures; the bad news is it’s up to you to find the best shape (or container) for your story.

Consider a writing mentor. Having a mentor for your book is like having a steadfast ally for your writing when you encounter doubt (which everyone does!) or have questions about craft. An experienced mentor can help you look at your project more objectively and provide substantive or developmental feedback. Working with a mentor usually involves submission deadlines, which provide the all-important accountability often lacking when working alone.

Beta readers are gold. Like having a good mentor, beta readers who are also writers (preferably in your genre and not a friend) can provide invaluable support and feedback for your book-in-progress. You can find beta readers on social media platforms like Facebook (search for beta readers) or form a local group by reaching out to others who are writing in your genre. In my experience, a small group (three to four) works best, as you will need time to review the works of the others too.

Reread a book you love and study why you love it. This is not a call to mimic a beloved author, but a way to rejuvenate your own love for words and story. A few excellent resources: The Art of Revision is a reassuring and insightful craft book written by author and writing teacher Peter Ho Davies. The Situation and the Story by Vivian Gornick is a guide for finding the deeper story in the personal narrative (great for memoir). The Shit No One Tells You About Writing is a podcast hosted by authors and agents who give behind-the-scenes reviews of what makes compelling pitches and reads. Be kind to yourself. Celebrate each chapter and story you rework.


Revision is heavy labour. Sleep helps. A walk in the woods helps. Coffee with friends helps. Prioritize the process rather than the goal. Of course, we all want a finished book as quickly as possible, but the process of getting there is arguably the true prize. The process is what makes our writing .better, what gives our work—and ourselves—new dimensions.

Allow me to begin again.

Print out your manuscript and read it all the way through like a book. Most writers write on their laptops and tend to edit as they read onscreen. By printing your manuscript, you have a better chance of reading it like a book. Do a full reading without editing. Take notes. Then, return to it and revise it for one or two elements at a time—for throughline, character, theme, dialogue, pacing, arc, ending.

Read your work out loud. Don’t skip over sections that are familiar. You will begin to hear your own storytelling voice, your particular choice of words, any awkward sentences and repetitions. You might even try recording your readings and playing it back later. Let your manuscript rest. After each major revision, give your work—and yourself—a rest (about a month is good). Don’t worry, your subconscious will continue to work on it while you go about your regular business.

You We are not alone. Revision is really just writing, and all good writing is hard work. But once we get going, it can be a delight to revisit our own work to locate the deeper story, get closer to our characters, quicken the pulse in each scene. Each revision brings us closer to the heart of our story, what makes our words sing, what we will be proud to finally release into the world.

Wiley Wei-Chiun Ho identifies as Generation 1.5, inhabiting the haunted space between places, cultures and identities. Her short stories have appeared in anthologies and literary journals. Wiley is revisioning her first book, a memoir about growing up in a Taiwanese-Canadian “astronaut” family.

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The process is what makes our writing better, what gives our work—and ourselves—new

Launched! New titles from FBCW members

See You Later Maybe Never

Lenore Rowntree | Now or Never Publishing, 2022 | 978-1-989689-40-0 | $19.95

Her name is Vanessa and she’s pissed off with getting old. Forced out of her high fashion job in Toronto, Vanessa freewheels into the destruction of her long and comfortable marriage, sending her on a comical retreat to a holistic campus on a Gulf Island. Intelligent and funny, timeless and tragic. See You Later Maybe Never gets to the heart of it. Old is not a dirty word! “This collection of linked short stories is the welcome work of a mature writer. Dense with detail and nuance, the stories are fully-fleshed, satisfying.” —Sharon Butala, finalist for the Writers’ Trust fiction prize.

Long Time Dead: My investigation in the unsolved murder of Ralph Wilson Snair Susan McIver/ FriesenPress, 2022 | 978-1-03-0915112-3 (paperback); 978-1-03-915114-7 (e-book) | $14.49

In 1957, Ralph Wilson Snair was found dead in a car at the side of a highway in rural Kansas. On Ralph’s lap lay an untraceable revolver, wiped clean of fingerprints, his hat sat backwards on his head, and all his pockets were turned out. Who killed Ralph and why? Ralph’s great niece Susan McIver, an award-winning scientist and writer and a former coroner, investigates the mystery around his unsolved death six decades later. She combines an in-depth look at police procedures in criminal investigations and cold cases with changes in societal and medical attitude over the past 150 years.

Ghost Mark (A Dark Dreams Novel)

JP McLean | 2022 | 978-1-988125-63-3 | $18.99

Jane Walker’s nightmares aren’t imaginary—they’re glimpses into the past; and the past can be dangerous, especially when Jane inadvertently reveals her ghost form to a ruthless killer. Now he’s come looking for her and targets the man she loves. Jane must keep one step ahead of this cold-blooded assassin before he gets rid of Ethan permanently. She has one last chance to derail him, but that means taking her most dangerous dream journey yet—one from which she might never awaken.

Forging Forgiveness

C.B. Clark | The Wild Rose Press, 2022 | 978-1-5092-4293-1 (paperback), 978-1-5092-4294-8 (digital) | $18.99 (print), $5.99 (digital)

When college instructor Candace Cooper discovers bloody, bare footprints in the snow while running in a remote park, it brings back horrific nightmares of her past. Detective Aiden Farrell is determined to redeem himself in his new position, even if that means ignoring his growing feelings for the beautiful professor. His fear that the footprints are connected to a recent spate of missing teens intensifies when Candace is assaulted on campus. Aiden and Candace join forces, but as they start unravelling the truth, they get closer to a killer who’ll stop at nothing to achieve his nefarious goal.

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Trailer Park Shakes

Justene Dion-Glowa | Brick Books, 2022 | 978-1-77131-590-6 | $22.95

Direct and disarmingly wise, the poems in Trailer Park Shakes are rooted in community. This is a working-class Métis voice bearing unflinching witness to the workings of injustice—how violence is channelled through institutions and refracted intimately between people, becoming intertwined with the full range of human experience, including care and love.

Return Stroke: essays & memoir

Dora Dueck | CMU Press, 2022 | 978-1-987986-10-5 | $20

Graceful, probing personal essays by award-winning fiction writer Dora Dueck engage with a diverse range of ideas (becoming a writer, motherhood, mortality, the ethics of biography, a child’s coming-out). The topic of memory, in its malleability, impermanence, and surprising power, is central to the concluding piece, a memoir of the author’s 1980s life in the Paraguayan Chaco. This book “is a gift... [it] expands our thinking and merits a vast readership and new admirers” (Winnipeg Free Press). “Surely one of Canada’s finest writers” (Magdalene Redekop, Prof. Emeritus, University of Toronto).

Hangman: The True Story of Canada’s First Official Executioner

Julie Burtinshaw | Tidewater Press, 2022 | 978-1-990160-14-1 (paperback), 978-1-990160-15-8 (e-book) | $22.95

John Radclive hates being called Hangman. He is no murderous thug; he is a highly trained executioner who relies on science to bring God’s mercy to the condemned criminals. As Canada’s first official executioner, he revels in the salary, status and perks that come with the job. In his off hours, he enjoys masquerading as Thomas Ratley, steward at Toronto’s prestigious Sunnyside Rowing Club. But dispensing mercy presumes that the condemned are guilty. Radclive begins to question the Canadian justice system and his role within it—perhaps he is a hangman after all.

MEA CULPA: A Plea of Innocence Bruno Cocorocchio | FriesenPress, 2022 | 978-1-03-913746-2 | $20

MEA CULPA: A Plea of Innocence is a powerful memoir that dives deep into the childhood and psyche of the author by chronicling a lifelong struggle to gain parental approval. Passionate, moving, and thoughtprovoking, MEA CULPA is for readers who seek to understand why they, too, carry the burden of shame.

Off the Wall

Neil Garvie | Pod Creative, 2022 | 9798210464040 | $15

Some say poetry shouldn’t be fun. Well, they’re wrong. With various disasters reported every day on the news, there’s never been a greater need to lighten up—and poetry is called on to lead the way. Off the Wall is a book of wit and humour. You are invited to join the author for a daily measure of mirth. You deserve it. We all do. Off the Wall is silly, it’s brilliant. It’s edgy, it’s clever. It teases the brain cells, it’s fun. It has reason, it has no reason at all. Come, join in a trip into whimsy.

Innocence Derailed

Jane Catherine Rozek | Books of Life Publishing House, 2022 | 9780991991747 | $13.75

This emotional page-turner explores the hurt and wonder of first love and the raw and real experiences of becoming a woman!

Travels with Athóma

Daniel G Scott | Aeolus House, 2022 | 9781987872460 | $20

“This book will take you to places you will want to visit again and again.” —Pamela Porter, GG Award winner. “Stunning in its imagination, the story unfolds with the surprise and pleasures of a river, lifting and letting go, widening and narrowing, curling back on itself. I had a feeling I was being read to in an ancient language I forgot I knew.” —Tonya Lailey, poet and sommelier. “Here is a poem, an essay, an entire voyage that shows how even a child can learn to ask, ‘How do we humans / not know / how alive, sentient / it all is?’” —Kate Braid, author of Elemental and Hammer & Nail.

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DANIEL G SCOTT Travels with Athóma Aeolus House Poetry Reading for nearly years. He has published ve books of poetry, including Aftertime in 2019, and edited the anthology Voicing Suicide in 2020 with Ekstasis Editions. With Goldfinch Press, he has published black onion and two chapbooks: street signs and Interrupted Nose in Book Publishing released his chapbook [klee-shays] undone, volume one in 2020. He co-authored, with Shannon McFerran, The Girls (University of Victoria, 2013), an account of research involving adolescent girls’ diaries. He an Associate University of Victoria School Aeolus House Canada $20 ISBN 978-1-987872-46-0 In this deeply remarkable, luminous and lucent long poem, Daniel Scott pulls from boy and Athóma, sibyl, ethereal as of herbs and teaches him to shift his spirit into a tree, an eagle, crow, a stone. “It all started with trees,” says the boy; “I knew how alive the world immensity ...” This book will take you to places you will want to visit again and again and again. – PAMELA PORTER, GOVERNOR GENERAL’S AWARD Utterly enchanting. Reading Travels with returned me to my childhood heart and mind, to being keen and permeable to lives of all kinds. Stunning in its imagination, the story unfolds with the surprise and pleasures of a river, lifting and letting go, widening and narrowing, curling back on itself. had feeling I was being read to in an ancient language I forgot knew. –Daniel G. Scott tells an almost mythic tale of wise old woman and a curious boy, set in another time, another place, far away – or is it? As Scott says in his Afterword, “The mind is marvellous melting pot,” and shows it with breath-taking close-ups of the natural world, not looking from outside, but from within. Did you ever wonder what robin sees and hears? How tree feels? Know rock as your ancestor? “Seeing things with different eyes,” indeed! Here is poem, an essay, an entire voyage that shows how even child can learn to ask, “How do we humans not know how alive, sentient it all is?” – KATE BRAID, AUTHOR OF ELEMENTAL

Recovery Coaching Knowledge and Skills

Ray Baker MD | 2022 | 9781-7781043-1-2 | $79.99

A solid foundation based on sound theory, quality evidence and clinical experience to start your recovery coaching career. Learning modules in 17 chapters cover addiction, recovery, recovery capital, trauma-informed care, diversity, recovery coach roles, ethics, and competencies. Learning materials from this manual are currently being used by several teams of Recovery Coach trainers in two Canadian provinces. This manual is designed to be useful for recovery coach trainees, health professionals, therapists, policymakers and for anyone negatively affected by substance use and addiction.

Time to Wonder: A kid’s guide to BC’s regional museums Vol 2: Vancouver Island, Salt Spring, Alert Bay, Haida Gwaii Sue Harper and S. Lesley Buxton | Rocky Mountain Books, 2022 | 9781771605069 | $22

Whether families are experienced museum goers or just curious about something new, this is a book they will read over and over.

Letters from My Dead Sister

Naomi P Lane | 2022 | 9781-7776602-3-9 | $20

As children growing up, we have no awareness of our family’s mental health labels. Having a sister with bipolar manic depression was my version of normal. When she turned into a totally out of control wild teen, nobody tried to explain it to me as unusual. Her highs and lows permeated my existence and then, as adults, we grew apart. Finding a collection of her letters has allowed me to piece the puzzle of our lives back together. For anyone having a family member with mental health challenges, this book is for you.

Drawn into Danger

Keith Costelloe | FriesenPress, 2022 | 978-1-03-912036-5, 978-1-03-912037-2 | $20.81

Drawn into Danger, set in Algeria in 1980, explores themes of love and friendship from a bisexual perspective, but the group of friends find themselves drawn into a counterespionage mission helping the Algerian secret police. “Algeria’s political history is intriguing; the physical setting captivating. But tragedies strike, leading to a stunning and emotional conclusion.” —Clarion Reviews

The Flaw Jude Neale | Ekstasis Editions, 2022 | 978-1-77171-4781-5 | $23.95

“In her latest collection, author Jude Neale, shares freshly intimate and richly evocative poems. Her words inspire with a uniquely creative and precise selection of concept and meter. Each verse becomes its own tale, footsteps leading us on a delicate trek through emotion. Neale’s engrossing text is reminiscent of the revealing and cathartic work of Simon Armitage, while a love of the natural world is akin to the brilliance of her poetic peer, Mary Oliver…” —Bill Arnott, author of Gone Viking: A Travel Saga, and Gone Viking II: Beyond Boundaries

Just Passing

By Kamal Parmar | Silver Bow Publishers, 2022 | 9781774032411 | $20

In this slender volume, the poems offer a harmonious journey through the landscape of Nature and its innate connection with humanity. The poems take us to a road often not taken and give us a special glimpse into the workings of the master design.

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of the City of Nanaimo, British Columbia. She is an Associate member of the League ofCanadianPoetsand a Board member of member of the Canadian Authors Association and of The WritersUnionofCanada. She is also a past Board member of Nanaimo Arts Council. actively involved in the literary scene Kamal Parmar’s innate connection with nature permeates the pages of her poems; and her sense of loyalty and family weaves its way throughout the book taking us on roads often not taken that afford special glimpse into the workings of the master design. God’s palm print graces each page with joy and sorrow and empathy, empowerment and wonder. There is an ever prevalent eloquent ease to the flow of the words as the forests seems to whisper and the waters seem to sigh gently while the poems take on their own special characteristics and form their own little statuettes. Candice James, Poet Laureate Emerita, City of New Westminster, BC and author of ‘Behind the One-Way Mirror”. $23.95 Like a melodious wind chime, the poems in JustPassingBy offer a harmonious journey through fir, spruce, cedar and dogwood with lightness and grace. A profound sense of gentleness permeates the reader as Parmar’s verse weaves seasons and life. To be in forest and parks with the poet is to be at peace. Musicality brimming with existentialism, this collection is delight for the senses. Parmar’s spirit inhabits the landscape of Nanaimo, leaving it as pristine as she found it. Her music, simultaneously soft and strong, washes over us, calling us to presence, to our place in nature, leaving no footprint. JustPassingBy is an imagistic dance through depths of time and paradox, restoring readers with gentle wisdom to meditate on time and time again. ~ Cynthia Sharp, author of “RainforestinRusset”

Truly the Devil’s Work

Kim Bannerman | 2022 | 978-1778056703 | $20

After the tragedies of the Great War and Spanish Flu pandemic, Miss Rose is eager to enjoy her new career as Circus Salmagundi’s tattooed lady. But, while visiting the quiet village of Esquimalt, a housekeeper is bludgeoned to death and a devil mask is stolen from a private art collection. Rose is accused of murder and theft. To clear her name, she must root out the real killer. Is the murderer a stranger, a villager… or one of her own circus troupe? In a world left scarred by war and uncertainty, Rose must use the skills of her violent past to protect any hope for her future.

My Friend, My Enemy

Stewart Goodings | FriesenPress, 2022 | 978-103-915392-9 | $23

They spent their childhood summers together near the Caspian Sea, but Nadezhda and Alla lost touch, and it was only twenty years later that Fate reunited them. By then, Alla had suffered the devastating loss of her family in the Russia-Chechnya war, and had been recruited for a mission of revenge. Their friendship rekindled, the two women share a Moscow apartment and find their lives entwined in unexpected and dramatic ways. Can a friend also be an enemy? This is a story of how Nadezhda and Alla—‘almost sisters’— confront secrets and discover the limits of their friendship.

The Baker from Krabbendam

Elly Mossman | Askew Creek Publishing, 2022 | 9781999148126 | $24.95

After a devastating war that left his country in ruins, Johannes the pastry chef bundled up his family and moved to Canada, but discovered that struggles were his lot, no matter which country he took himself to. Funny, ambitious, creative, and flawed, Johannes struggled to find his footing through the turbulent relationships with his wife and children, and did his best with the norms and tastes of a new world.


More Growing: Youth Poets Pay Homage to Trees

Christine Lowther (Editor) | Caitlin Press, 2022 | 9781-77386-097-8 | $22

In this anthology, youth from kindergarten through grade twelve share their love and respect for trees, expressing their observations, anger, kinship, hope and sorrow. This unique collection includes a wide range of voices— Indigenous, settler, immigrant, and even international youth. Worth More Growing is a necessary anthology highlighting the importance of nature to a generation that will experience the ongoing consequences of climate change. A partner volume to Worth More Standing: Poets and Activists Pay Homage to Trees.

Down the Tiger’s Throat

Terry Groves | 2022 | 9780973407808 | $20

You’ve read him in magazines, ezines, and anthologies. Now you can have all of Terry Groves’ published short stories in one convenient book. Down the Tiger’s Throat is a rare peek inside this author’s head while you enjoy twenty-seven stories that will scare you, make you laugh, take you to other worlds, and excite you. Visit his website, www.terrygroves.com, for more information.

Sasquatch Discovered: The Biography of Dr. John Bindernagel Terrance N. James, PhD | Hancock House, 2022 | 978-0-88839-751-5 (paperback), 978-0-88839-751-2 (epub) | $26.95

Dr. John Bindernagel, a wildlife biologist, was Canada’s foremost sasquatch investigator, a news media resource person, a popular North American conference speaker, and author of two seminal books on sasquatch. He was beloved by eyewitnesses and amateur investigators but largely dismissed by the scientific community. He spent his last years championing the unfolding story of the discovery of the sasquatch at great personal and professional expense. This is his life’s story.

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STEWART GOODINGS MY FRIEND, MY ENEMY STEWART GOODINGS MY FRIEND, MY ENEMY tested by political violence. It’s also largely forgotten in the West, are author of A Russian Sister. encompassed in Goodings’ book which friends and country. It also provides former advisor to In Russia. experience in crafting this powerful and humane. My Friend, My Enemy uncanny resonance with today’s geopoRussian-Chechen con ict alongside the compelling tale convincingly told and Chechen locations and customs. author of Beautiful Communions. are compelling, heart rending and readers timely glimpse into life on the writing is engaging, the story fasciChange around the Strait of Georgia near the Caspian Sea, twenty years later that devastating loss of her recruited for mission women share a Moscow unexpected and dramatic ways. how Nadezhda and Aland terrorist misadvences of their friendship.

Immigration & Adaptation:

The Migrant’s Journey

Phyllis Marie Jensen | Routledge, 2022 | 9781138332461| $44

Across Canada, one in five is a new citizen. “Because we can and will wander, we imagine we can live more or less anywhere,” says Jung. Modernity implies mobility, but how does migration affect us? We lack a depth psychological model of migration and adaptation even though many early psychologists were migrants. This book remedies the gap by grouping the research of related disciplines into a depth model of migration based on the archetype of the hero defined by Joseph Campbell. Migration, whether chosen or imperative, is seen as a heroic challenge and adaptation potentially transformative.

House of Daughters

Simon Choa-Johnston | Earnshaw Books, 2022 | 9888769634 | $30

In the 1920s, Emanuel Belilios, a wealthy Jewish opium oligarch, suddenly leaves Hong Kong, and his junior-wife, Pearl Li, blames Semah, the senior-wife. Pearl kicks Semah out of the mansion where the polyamorous trio had lived, and she shuns everyone including her daughter Leah Felicie. But when death strikes Emanuel and Semah and her father in rapid succession, Pearl suspects that the Chinese curse against opium smugglers has returned. She must act swiftly to assuage the hex, and time’s running out.

finding home

Robert Martens | Silver Bow Publishing, 2022 | 978-1-77403-239-8 | $23.95

finding home is a poetic examination of the anxiety and disconnectedness of our current society. The book presents options for creating a new home for us all.

The Positively Chronic Journal

Jilly Hyndman CPCC PCC | 2022 | 9781777900526 | $40

In a world that expects us to be “healthy and able” at all times, this journal invites you to dial down expectations, turn inward and be with what it’s really like living with chronic illness—the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. Through creative and colourful prompts and lots of space to write, doodle and collage, you’re invited to explore how your chronic condition impacts all aspects of your past, present and future to deepen your understanding of yourself, your strengths, your triggers, your yearnings and learnings from and for a life well-lived.

Smelter Wars: A Rebellious Red Trade Union Fights for Its Life in Wartime Western Canada

Ron Verzuh | University of Toronto Press, 2022 | 978-14875-4112-5 | $34.95

Smelter Wars is a social history of Trail, B.C., during the wartorn 1940s and Cold War 1950s. It traces the lives of Trailites battling Depression-era shortages, wartime losses, and the quest for worker representation in the post-war era. Readers are immersed in a historic struggle, revealing how the local smelter workers union faced fierce corporate, media, and religious opposition. Smelter Wars is also a cultural study of a community shaped by the dominance of a world-leading industrial giant. “Highly recommended” —Tom Sandborn, Vancouver Sun, Sept. 2, 2022.

The Rawness of Time

Ben Nuttall-Smith | Rutherford Press, 2022 | 978-1-988739-52-6 | $19.95

A senior’s thoughts and distilled memories, expressed in poetry, short stories, and commentary.

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D G M Robert Martens grew up in village of Russian Mennonite refugees, where trauma, mutual selfhelp, and degree of community control were commonplace. During Simon Fraser University’s “long-hair” years of student rebellion, he quickly absorbed the individualism of the West. Robert lives in the city of Abbotsford, BC, where he has been heavily involved in editing, writing and publishing. He grieves our world’s loss of community and home. Toews amerlotortwo,beeasy,talksmall invites the speaker into collection, FindingHome Whether in bar or coffeeshop or teanot small, and do –remembrance, political commentary, the economy, the natural world, philosophy, entropy?) with echoes of Leonard Cohen’s later work and also Patrick lyric, to the meter of song lyrics, in free verse, prose, and long range is deep and wide in this darkandluminousvolume. Pourme Braun, author, SilentiumandotherReflectionsonMemory,Sorrow, collection slips from past into present while touching down, feather Petersburg, Greece, Ireland, and Montana to gather poems before the poet’s Fraser Valley home, where, walking the dyke, around or while sipping whisky, or drinking dark cup of coffee, he Bolshevik Revolution, his global travels, the meaning of life, and the eavesdropper and participant/observer, Martens gathers insights chatty bartender, bearded man on bicycle, beautiful, store clerk, bar or cafe patron, and more. Follow his lead; listen poems carry you home. ~ Elsie K Neufeld is poet, eulogist, and has midwifed twenty books into being, and most recently Mott Storie

All the World’s a Stage

Maureen Thorpe | 2022 | 978-1-7779804-2-9 (paperback) 978-1-7779804-3-6 (e-book) | $25.95

In All the World’s a Stage, Annie and her time-travelling friends take a vacation in seventeenth century London to see the famous Globe Theatre. London is bursting at the seams with the privileged, the poor and the rogues. A bag of silver coins brought by the time-travellers to purchase food and board becomes a sought-after prize from people who will stop at nothing to seize the bounty. In constant danger, Annie and friends must create ingenious and wily scenarios along with a famous playwright to bring the London gangs to justice.

Flying Through Rosedale

Albert Brecht | 2022 | 9798359296885 | $18.64

Engaging in a hilarious, politically incorrect romp through Rosedale in 1963, Max dreams to find the perfect girlfriend to sit in his Ferrari while he plays for the Toronto Maple Leafs. He resorts to some extreme temptations. Some dangerous, some unlawful, but always creative. It is a nostalgic glimpse into a kinder, gentler era where hormones run amok amid confusing sexual signals, sending both boys and girls searching for answers. Max is clearly confused. In the end, does he find the girl of his dreams? Does he bite off more than he can chew, or does he get exactly what he deserves?

Thick Skin: Field Notes of a Sister in the Brotherhood

Hilary Peach | Anvil Press, 2022 | 978-1-77214-195-5 | $22

Thick Skin: Field Notes from a Sister in the Brotherhood is a deep dive into the secret language and hidden culture of one of the most esoteric heavy construction trades: boilermaking. After twenty years as a transient welder in the Boilermakers Union, Hilary Peach has distilled a vast cache of journals, notes, and keen observations into a surprising memoir about life in the trade. At times surreal, Thick Skin is a collection of strange stories carefully told, in tenderness and ferocity, for anyone who has spent time in a trade, or is curious about the unseen world of industrial construction.

Not Quite So Handsome

Danny Peart | Milagro Press, 2022 | 978-0-9949329-6-9 | $20

In this collection the poet tries to keep a sense of humour while losing his father. He continues to focus on family and friendship, occasionally straying into music, travel and nature.


Helen Webster | Silverdog Publishing, 2022 | 9781777899530 | $19.95

Lucy is determined to leave behind her memories of the self-described Prophet whose psychological manipulations resulted in the death of her younger brother. She becomes suspicious of discrepancies in the financial reports of the charity where she now works. Should she bring the matter to the attention of the Board of Directors, knowing that she will be labeled a whistleblower and suffer the often cruel consequences of such an unpopular action? Does she want to endure weeks of publicity when her deepest fear is that it may make her whereabouts known to the Prophet?

Deadly Direction

Sydney Preston | FriesenPress, 2022 | 978-1-03-914157-5 | $15.99

Hollywood has arrived in Britannia Bay with the filming of the hit TV show, Paradise Pines. But the production has given the “name” director, Berens Nygaard, a chance to revive his faltering career. When he is murdered on Hallowe’en night, Detectives Ray Rossini and Jimmy Tan are faced with solving the third homicide in two years in this tiny town.

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Begin with questions

During our MFA at UBC, we both took Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s novel-writing workshop. Every week, one of us offered our novel outline along with several pages of writing to be critiqued by both Gail and our classmates.

It was a knee-weakening process because Gail used to do something we called dropping bombs into our work. She would make a suggestion that shook the story to its foundations. What if your protagonist was actually the antagonist? What if the novel took place fifty years in the future?

Everyone in the class dreaded this process. We all hoped we’d be the one to avoid major revision, but she didn’t spare any of us. She did this to teach us what the revision process should look like. We should be willing to throw things in the garbage. Big things. Sometimes almost the whole manuscript.

John Green does it. He throws away up to ninety percent of his first drafts. The thing is, most novels require this kind of edit before they’re even close to being publishable, but most writers balk at doing it. Gail must have known that, so she instilled in us a quality that doesn’t often get talked about in writing: courage.

When Michelle Barker started writing My Long List of Impossible Things, it was going to be a novel based on her mother’s life. The biographical details were the foundation of the whole plot. But several people who read the early draft said it wasn’t working. After a year of writing, with a draft of 114,000 words, Michelle had to face the music and start over. It was hard. Heartbreaking. But it was the right

decision. She salvaged a few characters and some of her favourite sentences and wrote an entirely different novel that went on to be published.

David Brown’s first manuscript was a sprawling YA fantasy adventure that he shelved after some invaluable feedback from a kind agent. He resurrected this story for his MFA thesis and rewrote the entire thing from scratch. Even with editorial help from several fantastic authors (including Michelle), the manuscript didn’t win over any agents. It wasn’t until David wrote a sequel set in the same world that he landed representation. But representation does not guarantee publication. After a full cycle on submission, he is again sharpening the axe for another deep revision to shift the story from YA to adult.

All of this is to say, first drafts are messy. They’re meant to be. But many writers go into a first draft hoping to minimize the amount of work they’ll have to do. They want their first drafts to be clean and perfect. This expectation causes no end of trouble. Writers would do themselves a huge favour to expect the mess. Expect changes—big ones. Expect that the first draft is going to be an exploration. Go in with questions, not answers.

Michelle Barker and David Brown are award-winning writers and senior editors at The Darling Axe, which offers narrative development, editing, and coaching. Learn more at darlingaxe.com

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We all hoped we’d be the one to avoid major revision, but she didn’t spare any of us.


2022 Volume III | wordworks cov3
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