Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Video: "Not Quite What I Was Planning"

"Not Quite What I Was Planning" is a book of six-word memoirs that resulted from a competition held by Smith Magazine and Twitter in 2006. Here's an entertaining video version of some of the submissions.

Workshopper Gail Rudyk to be published in Australia

Congratulations to workshopper Gail Rudyk of Richmond Hill, Ontario! Two of her short memoirs have been accepted for inclusion in an Australian anthology published by Life's Inspirational Moments. The new anthology, tentatively titled Caring Moments, is a follow-up to Stolen Moments (pictured above). Set to appear in it are Gail's stories "The Red Coat" and "Unforgettable."

Here is some information from the publisher:

"Life’s Inspirational Moments focuses entirely on raising awareness of Alzheimer’s Disease and supporting those who have to live with it. One of the ways we have chosen to do this is through our collections of true-life stories. While the disease itself is heart-breaking, our aim in these books is not to focus on the sadness but on the love, humour and strength of human spirit."

For more information, visit www.lifesinspirationalmoments.com

Gail recently read a version of "The Red Coat" to the Memoir Writers Social hosted by Days Road Writers' Workshops and held in Unionville on September 17, 2008.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall 2008 Workshops Update

My upcoming Online Advanced Memoir-Writing Workshop, which starts Monday, September 29, is now full. The eight group members hail from the Toronto area, northern Ontario, British Columbia, New York State, Arizona and New Zealand. Some are returning participants (a couple recent, others from years back), some new. I look forward to having them share their stories and their thoughts on memory and memoir.

There are spaces left in two live workshop series I'll lead this fall at Toronto Public Libraries -- Wednesdays through October at Albert Campbell District Library, and Fridays through November at the North York Central Library. These are both introductory workshops, which means that we'll go over the basics, but I also welcome participants who have done some memoir writing and are interested in group discussion, tips and writing prompts to further their efforts. These library workshops are free and you must pre-register. Note that the North York Central Library respectfully asks that individuals who have already taken one of my biannual workshop series there not register a second time. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Memoir Workshop at Words Alive Literary Festival, September 21, 2008

I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop titled "The Memoir: Moments as Inspiration" to an enthusiastic group of 24 at the day-long Words Alive Literary Festival in Sharon, Ontario on Sunday. This second-annual celebration of words was attended by about 300 people, who gathered at the historic and beautiful Sharon Temple and surrounding buildings in Sharon, Ontario, to hear author readings and enjoy workshops, storytelling, public readings, writing contests, music and art.

The day got off to a chilly autumn start, but by late morning the sun was pouring through the large windows of the former temple, and warming the treed grounds as visitors meandered among scheduled events, sharing their appreciation of reading and writing. Governor General's Literary Award winner Karolyn Smardz Frost took part, as did Giller Prize nominees Anthony De Sa and Mary Swan and more.

The festival is run entirely by founder Vali Stone and a team of tireless volunteers, so kudos to them for their hard work in bringing to York Region such a multifaceted and entertaining literary event.

I encourage you to check out Words Alive Literary Festival and to plan to attend Words Alive 2009!

If you're looking for support in your writing and a way to motivate yourself, read my piece titled "Start Your Own Writers Group" on the Words Alive site under "News."

Friday, September 19, 2008

Memoir Writers Social Raises $1,000 for Alzheimer Society of Toronto

Blacksmiths Bistro was the scene of a lively party on September 17 when close to 40 people gathered for the Memoir Writers Social. The evening, as I told the audience, was to be a celebration of memory and writing -- a chance for some of my workshop students to meet (or meet again) and mingle and discuss memoir, and a fundraiser for an organization that helps those whose memories are failing, the Alzheimer Society of Toronto.

My mother has Alzheimer's, and I know that the families of several of my students have been touched by the devastating disease as well. We're far from alone. According to the Society, in 2008 in Canada, 1 in 13 individuals over age 65 has Alzheimer's or a related disease, and in individuals over age 85 the condition affects 1 in 3. Some 36 percent of Canadians know someone who has Alzheimer's. Through events like the Memoir Writers Social, funds can be raised to help those who suffer from it, and someday to find a cure.

On Wednesday the sun came out for our occasion. Some guests arrived early to enjoy a stroll along Unionville's historic and flower-bedecked Main Street. The two-storey space – "The Grey House" owned by Blacksmiths Bistro and used for special events – was warm and welcoming, as were the staff, and the hors d'oeuvres were delicious.

Attendees hailed from as far away as Dorset and Mount Forest. Some were students from my online workshops who had come to know one another through the course site and had been looking forward to meeting in person. (Good thing there were name tags, said a few!) Others were students from my live workshops. I was especially delighted to see most members of the WALRUS Club, a private memoir writing circle that developed out of one of my North York Library series and that's been meeting for over a year.

Author Kristen den Hartog was our key speaker. She charmed everyone there with her thoughtful reading and discussion about the difficult but ultimately rewarding process of writing a book based on long-ago family memories, and signed copies of The Occupied Garden (The Occupied Garden), co-written with her sister Tracy Kasaboski. McClelland & Stewart and the authors donated all proceeds from sales of the book to the Alzheimer Society. HarperCollins Canada Ltd. and Thomas Allen Publishers also kindly donated books to the event, as did authors Lawrence Hill, Blanche Howard and Allison Howard.

Gail Rudyk of Richmond Hill, one of my workshop participants, read her bittersweet story titled "The Red Coat," about her mother who lived with Alzheimer's for 15 years. (A version of Gail's story has been shortlisted for publication in an Australian anthology.) The other two readers were prize winners in my "Summer Days" Memoir Writing Contest: Mary McIntyre of Stouffville (1st prize: $75 plus a signed copy of A Memoir of Friendship: The Letters Between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard, published by Penguin Group [Canada]) and Tiina Heathcock of Dorset (2nd prize: $50). Mary, too, is a past workshop participant. (See clickable links to their stories at the top of the page.)

A few other writers displayed their work, including Stacey Lynn Newman and Robert Ward, as well as some of my students, Bernie Kuntz, Gail Rudyk and Ruth Zaryski Jackson. The evening also featured an art show and sale -- with contributions by Tilya Helfield (Polaroid transfer prints), Gail Rudyk (acrylics), Stacey Lynn Newman (photography; Stacey Newman), and Cheryl Andrews (acrylics, mosaics; FrogHairs) -- a book sale, and a raffle. Prizes in the draw ranged from movie passes to signed copies of bestsellers (Lawrence Hill's The Book of Negroes, recent winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, was a coveted one) to jewellery to a gift certificate from Cosmedicare Spa worth $500.

It was a very special evening, and I'd like to thank each and every guest -- students, colleagues, friends, authors and artists (many of you are more than one of these to me!) -- for their enthusiasm and support. A heartfelt thank you also goes out to a few individuals who donated even though they knew they couldn't make it, especially workshopper John Lee of Victoria. Cheryl Andrews, this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't planted the seed in my mind and watered me regularly. Nothing I could write would convey the myriad ways in which you assisted me. Anahita Printer Nepton, your way with the art and book displays was magical. Larry Hill, I kept your note on my bulletin board and re-read it often to bolster my resolve.

The Memoir Writers Social raised a total of $1,000 for the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. The following organizations and individuals contributed gifts or their valuable time to make the evening unforgettable:

Blacksmiths Bistro
Brick Literary Journal
Cineplex Odeon at First Markham Place
FrogHairs Art Studio
HarperCollins Canada Ltd.
Holtz Spa at the Hilton Suites
McClelland & Stewart Ltd.
Muriel’s Flowers
The Paper Place
Thomas Allen Publishers
Varley Art Gallery
Writers’ Circle of Durham Region

Allison Howard, Penticton
Amy Wu, Markham
Anahita Printer Nepton, Richmond Hill
Bernie Kuntz, Toronto
Blanche Howard, Vancouver
Cathy Witlox, Ajax
Cheryl Andrews, Newmarket
Gail Rudyk, Richmond Hill
John Lee, Victoria
Kendel Lloyd, Alzheimer Society of Toronto
Kristen den Hartog, Toronto
Lawrence Hill, Burlington
Nita Pronovost, Toronto
Shirley and John Kolanchey, Edmonton
Stacey Lynn Newman, Milton
Stephen Newman, Milton (photographer)
Tilya Helfield, Toronto
Tracy Kasaboski, Deep River
Tristan Latta-Goddard, Markham

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Memoir Writing Contest Winners Announced

The winners of the Days Road Writers' Workshops "Summer Days" Memoir Writing Contest were announced last night, September 17, 2008, at the Memoir Writers Social in Unionville, Ontario. There were 31 submissions in all, most from Ontario, a few from other provinces, two from the U.S. and one from England.

First-prize winner Mary McIntyre of Stouffville was awarded $75 plus an author-signed copy of A Memoir of Friendship: The Letters Between Carol Shields and Blanche Howard, for her beautifully descriptive story "Scugog at Dark," a childhood memory of time at her family's cottage.

Second-prize winner Tiina Heathcock of Dorset was awarded $50 for "The Journey," a poem she wrote to come to terms with the loss of her Estonian homeland after the Russian invasion. Her mother, father and she -- only an infant at the time -- escaped, but her father died shortly after their move to Canada.

Both winners read their winning entries before an audience of about 40 people who gathered for an evening to celebrate memoir writing and to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of Toronto. (More about the event in an upcoming post.)

A couple of judges' comments about Mary McIntyre's winning story:

"She really managed to transport me to her childhood as well as parts of my own. A very charming aspect of the story is its simplicity. It’s not a trip to Disney World or some other grand event; it’s a small, almost-everyday event, and yet it’s so special through the eyes of a child. I love the innocence of that. Some of the images/use of language that struck me as particularly wonderful"

"This story makes me feel like I am toasting marshmallows, while inhaling the smells of campfire and Muskol. It reminds me of grandparents, summertime, trips in the car away from home and the grand perceptions of small children. I found the story to be beautifully written, simple but layered and with a touch of bittersweet longing. Well done."

Honourable mentions in the memoir writing contest went to Tony Kicinski of Markham for his story "Freedom," and to Mike O'Connell of Kingston for his story "St. Lawrence River."

The prize-winning entries (1st and 2nd) will be published on this site within the next few days.

Congratulations Mary, Tiina, Tony and Mike!

Thanks go out to judges Cathy Witlox, freelance editor and U of T grammar instructor, Stacey Lynn Newman, novelist and former owner of Wingate Press, and Cheryl Andrews, adult educator, for taking the time to read and evaluate submissions.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

"The Wisdom of Old Souls" book launch

DRWW workshopper Ruth Zaryski Jackson sends news of two book launches for the anthology The Wisdom of Old Souls, which contains her first published memoir. The first takes place Saturday, September 20, in Kingston at Chapters on Princess Street. The second takes place September 27, in Oshawa at the Stellar Literary Festival. Click on this link for details about festival: Stellar Literary Festival