Writing workshops and Contests

The first day of summer will arrive at today, bringing with it the longest day of the year. So far, the garden is happy although a little confused with roses—outstanding for the first time in years—blooming with the peonies. My favourite blue clematis, struggling up from the depths of fern garden, climbs over the rock wall and up a support.Peonies and Clematis I’m a bit behind in planting. My terrace pots, most of them, are still empty. If the rain holds off, maybe I’ll get to them today.

Good news from a contest in the UK: a piece of flash fiction that I have worked on from time to time for years, The Gulls Soared, placed third in the Winchester Writers’ Festival. The prize is a selection of books, but I don’t know which ones as yet.

Contests are a terrific way to get your name out, earn a little(sometimes) and receive feedback on your work. Aerogramme Writers Studio lists contests by closing date every two months.

June 6 and 7 I spent at Barbara Kyle’s workshop “The First Thirty Pages”. A terrific two days, sharing writing with only 8 others plus Barbara, allowing an in depth look at everyone’s work. A one on one with Barbara was the highlight for me although her advice has me working diligently on an outline for my all ready completed novel. That process is ongoing and should help me sharpen the focus. Check out Barbara’s website for news of a terrific Writer’s Symposium she’s organizing for the fall.

A tip for writers: A cheat sheet for writing body language can be found at Body Language, written by blogger Amanda Patterson.

That’s about it for this Sunday morning in June. I’m back to my outline.

A May Morning

Spring: the leaves popped on the Manitoba Maples along the creek back; serviceberry bushes bloomed white together with the spirea;  daffodils, mine at any rate, ended yesterday; the hummingbird returned last weekend, a few days early; the red-breasted grosbeaks returned to the feeder.

A long, harsh winter left some ornamental bushes bereft of leaves. My gorgeous Vibernum “Shasta” has growth only at the base, but the branches are green when I scrape them so I have hope. No hope for the Purple Smokebush and the Blue Mallow, I’m afraid.

Most of the roses and clematis have survived except for a little beauty—Blue Sprite clematis—that appears to be gone. But one’s never sure with clematis and it was buried deep so it may come along.

At the local nursery—Hills—I found two hybrid tea roses on their own root! I couldn’t resist and bought four: 2 dark red Royal William and  2 pink Royal Kate. They are supposed to be disease resistant and have a strong fragrance.

Writing: I’m within sight of the end of my first draft of my new Dangerous Journeys mystery with Anne McPail. This time she’s in Spain, her life endangered by her concern for a mysterious little girl.

Ontario is in the midst of an election. I see the Conservative Party is trying to position itself as the party of hope. Hope, as demonstrated by planning to eliminate 100,000 civil service jobs. A mythical number, neatly dissected by an editorial in the Globe and Mail. Hudak appears to pull these numbers from an imaginary hat. How many civil servants do you know? I can count at least three, not including the teachers, hospital workers, doctors, nurses, firefighters, police and whomever else the party fears to cut. That leaves social service, and labour and the environment, all unnecessary from its collective point of view. The ones I know are not at the top, not even managers, but workers who are on the wrong side of senior and likely to be cut first. Hope? Not too much. Read the editorial here. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/can-tim-hudak-win-election-by-100000-job-cuts/article18629579/#dashboard/follows

That’s about it for this Sunday in May.



Rainy Sunday Morning

This week the peonies burst open, gorgeous Festiva Maxima, white with a hint of pink in its throat, Duchesse de Nemours , deep cream at the centre of white petals, and others, deep pink, that I planted so long ago I’ve forgotten their names. The new ones are still hiding their colour although one has a hint of the promised yellow. I planted a Japanese tree peony two years ago. As I write its candy-pink blossoms are folded in waiting for the sun to encourage them to spread their petals.
Today the peony rains have come, but not so heavily as to shatter the blossoms and smash them to the ground. Ah, even if they are broken, they are worth the heartache of their early loss for the beauty and the scent that perfumes the entire garden.

The OAC application is on its way. Of course I thought, almost at once, of an alternative beginning and a fresh point of view. Too late.

At the last Writescape Writers retreat I attended and again at the Ontario Writer’s Conference, I listened to lectures about archetypes in fiction. I’ve been looking for more information as I had questions. When did one consider archetypes: at the onset of writing, when the book was in first draft, at the end when all would be clear? The books that I have talk about the subject but not enough to satisfy my curiosity so I turned to the internet and the blogosphere.
More confusion ensued. Are there five or twenty-five or a cast of thousands. Some writers seemed to be confusing archetype with stereotype. As I understand it(so far) archetypal characters are found in all eras, across all cultures and express why a character behaves the way he does.
This site is a list of other sites that deal with archetypes, symbols, motifs, etc.

Jordan McCollom’s site has a basic description of archetypes and a download of interesting articles on Plotting. Find it here: http://jordanmccollum.com/2009/10/archetypal-characters-heros-journey/

There are many more, hundreds more, sites and essays and university course materials that deal with the subject. And there are always Jung and Northrop Frye to consult.

I’m at the end of writing the first draft of my current work in progress. It will be an interesting and useful exercise, I think, to review my characters with archetypes in mind) as well as symbols, motifs, etc. I see opportunity to strengthen the characters in their various roles, bearing in mind that the characters, like the rest of us, are complex and contradictory and not content to stay where i have slotted them.

Sunburst Honey Locust and our garden, May, 2012

Late spring is my favourite time in the garden, except for all the others. But right now, I’m loving the acid green of the ferns, the stunning gold of the “sunburst” honey locust, the mauve of the Korean lilac(and its heady scent, wafting in every opened door or window), and the whites, from the candytuft to the “Bridal Wreath” spirea to the layered blossoms of viburnum plicatum “Shasta”. Only the weigela blooms pink now but soon it will be joined by peonies and roses. I’ve attached some recent pictures

Tree peony 2012

About 15 years ago I found a tree peony at Loblaw’s  for an incredible price, $17 at a time when the nurseries were selling them for $40-$50. I doubted it would be hardy but I planted it where a stone wall would protect it from the North winds and it would get morning sun. Later I had to move it, not far, and in the same bed, but it took at least two years to recover. This winter we had too little snow to cover it, and there was die-back on the stems.
But today, all those years later, its blooming again.

Summer, cont.


Gardening: Our hot, very hot and mostly dry summer continues. The garden, all except the roses is loving it, since we are able to water it from the river that flows past our home. The roses fear they have been transplanted to the deep South and have shut down production until more reasonable conditions return. Daylilies, hostas, echinacea, clematis and blue mallow are the stars of the moment.

I planted delphinums and staked them moments before a battering thunderstorm went through, so they are standing and about to bloom. I understand they are short-lived, so I will buy more next year to ensure a good clump.

Writing: Finally the last revisions are done, and the Facepainter has gone off to be set for paper production. Meanwhile, I’m at work on the sequel. A new character has stepped forward and I have to find something for her to do.

Do you know the organization called Great Courses. They finally have released a dedicated Canadian catalogue and some of the professors will be Canadian as well. Find them at http://www.thegreatcourses.com/ I followed one of their courses called Building Great Sentences, and now I’m doing a 30 lecture series on Analysis and Critique, How to engage and write about anything. The lecturer is excellent, my only quibble being that the lecture ends too soon.

Italy: We’re talking with our travelling companions about a trip in the fall of 2012 that would see us spending a few days in Venice, while they celebrate their fortieth anniversary, and then a road trip to Vienna, where we spend a few days to a week.

I’ve been studying Italian, through Rosetta Stone for several years now, with a year’s break to learn some rudimentary Spanish. I began again at the beginning with Italian and now approach the end of the third dvd. I received four and five at Christmas so I will press on. Learning a language, besides good for travelling, is supposed to be good for brain health.

Politics: Very sad news about Jack Layton. To be struck down like that in his moment of achievement is truly tragic.

What is going on with the Americans? They are just recovering from an economic disaster and now want to plunge into another one. Where are the adults?

That’s about it: writing, gardening, learning. Retirement is great!


Today I’m bringing the blog up to date on writing, photography and gardening, especially gardening.

This month I finished the revisions of the galley proofs for the print on demand edition of The Facepainter Murders. Revisiting work is always tough, because the errors are glaring, the ability to change it minimal, and the time consumed to check each period and comma and tense exorbitant. Especially the tenses!

I’m also working on my as yet untitled sequel which takes Anne McPhail to Bermuda. About three-quarters finished as of today, but still a draft or maybe two to go. This time Anne is a suspect when she witnesses a murder and can’t convince the investigating detective of her innocence.

I’m still learning how to use my new camera, and yearning for a telephoto lens. We left our birdfeeder up for the summer and have had many species that are new to us arrive. The vivid orange variety of house finch and his cousin the purple finch and families are currently in residence, replacing the delightful rose-breasted grosbeak of last month. They are all easily startled so I’ve been trying photograph from inside the house. Recently my brother and I went up to the Ottawa Valley. On a bush road near Barrett Chute we came upon this deer, having lunch in the ditch.

Gardening has  become a joint venture, and this summer has been busy with a new retaining wall to build, or rather supervise.

Victoria Lister Carley, landscape architect

Rosepark Landscaping.

We are delighted with the result, and I have a brand-new garden to plant!

So that’s about it: writing, gardening, taking pictures, and oh yes, still trying to learn Italian.