Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Chance to Contribute Thoughts about Self-Publishing Online

More and more these days, publishing online is a possibility that I suggest to my workshop participants, but whether the option of publishing on a blog or a website is right for you, and what you choose to publish there, will depend on your writing goals, your audience and other factors.

I recently asked author Rebecca Rosenblum, who created the entertaining blog "Rose-coloured," for her thoughts and she was intrigued enough to blog on this topic. Drop in and see what she has to say at


If you're curious about self-publishing online, or are already doing it, Rebecca and I would like to hear your opinions (or your concerns or questions). There is so much experimentation going on out there with electronic publishing that there's no "right" answer for everyone. We encourage you to comment on her post on "Rose-coloured."

Rebecca and I were fellow judges in the 2009 U of T Magazine short fiction contest. She is the author of a short-story collection Once, which won the Metcalf-Rooke Award, and her second collection, The Big Dream, has been accepted for publication by Biblioasis.


While I'm posting, let me also wish everyone reading this the best of the season. May you experience joy and good health in the new year -- and of course, time to revel in reading and writing!

Just a reminder to those on my Google Groups list not to reply to this message directly. You can go to my blog and comment there, or write me directly at lattamemoirs@gmail.com

Happy holidays,

Allyson Latta

Friday, November 13, 2009

Allyson's interview with Markham Village Writers

My interview with Donna Marrin, founder of Markham Village Writers, has been published.

I hope you will visit their new site. The interview appears at http://markhamvillagewriters.com/focus-on

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tilya Gallay Helfield to be published in journal "carte blanche"

Tilya Gallay Helfield's short memoir "Stars" will be published on-line in the November edition of the literary journal carte blanche on November 18, 2009 at www.carte-blanche.org.

"Stars" is one of the chapters in a collection of creative nonfiction stories that she has been working on. Other short stories and essays written by Tilya have appeared in The Fiddlehead, TV Guide, Viewpoints, Monday Morning, Winner's Circle Anthology and on www.theoccupiedgarden.com.

Tilya is a talented visual artist and writer who has participated in some of my online memoir workshops.

Congratulations, Tilya.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Memoir Workshops - Fall 2009 and Winter 2010 - Online, and in Santiago, Chile

My Fall 2009 North York Central Library workshop series is now full. Please see the Toronto Public Library’s upcoming “What’s On” program for dates and registration details for my Spring 2010 series.

More Workshops ...

He Said, She Said: Effective Dialogue Writing (online)
Days Road Writers' Workshops
Location: Online
Date: October 19 to November 27, 2009 (6 weeks)
Fee: $129
To register: Contact Allyson at lattamemoirs@gmail.com

Note: Workshop site is accessible only to registered participants. It's open 24/7 for posting/reading, and I monitor it regularly, Monday to Friday.


Memories into Story: Introduction to Life Writing
University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies
Location: Online
Date: Winter Session - January 18 to March 29, 2010 (10 weeks)
Fee: $585
To register: Contact U of T
Tel: 416-978-2400
Email: learn@utoronto.ca

Note: This course may be taken for a credit towards a Certificate in Creative Writing.


Journeys & Discoveries: Writing from Your Life
Location: Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat, Santiago, Chile
Date: February 7 to 21, 2010
To register or find out more: Contact host Susan Siddeley, motocad@rogers.com

Join us!
An informal get-together with Chilean music and wine will take place in downtown Toronto on November 18, at 6:30 p.m., for those interested in learning more about Los Parronales and Allyson’s residential workshop there. If you or someone you know may be interested in this writing holiday, please contact Susan at the above email address for details and directions.


ALLYSON LATTA is an editor of award-winning literary fiction and nonfiction who also leads writing workshops online, throughout the Greater Toronto Area, and occasionally abroad. Currently one of her edits is nominated for the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Annabel Lyon’s The Golden Mean. The Golden Meanis also a finalist for the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize. Allyson edited one of the finalists for this year’s Rogers Writers’ Trust Non-fiction Prize as well: Wade Davis’s The Wayfarers. She has worked as an editor on the last three out of four winners of the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize.

Visit www.daysroadwriters.blogspot.com, or contact Allyson at lattamemoirs@gmail.com

Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering Jane

Polish-born Jane Boruszewski, of Syracuse, NY, took part in several of my online courses through Ryerson University in Toronto between 2004 and 2006, sharing short memoirs and fictional stories based on her life experiences. She was enthusiastic about the writing process, and her sweet nature and determination to write inspiring and often beautiful stories about some of her difficult life experiences – especially in a language that was not her first – endeared her to me and to others in these groups. Between 2003 and 2007, she was delighted – as were her supporters here in Canada, with whom she kept in contact – to see several of her stories appear in OASIS Journal.

OASIS Journal editor Leila Joiner will dedicate this year’s issue to Jane’s memory. The story posted on the Days Road Writers' Workshops blog earlier today was one of Leila’s favourites among Jane's contributions.

Jane will be missed by all of us who knew her.



Jane was born in Poland, and in 1940 at age 13, during the Second World War and following the invasion of her country by first Germany and then Russia, she and her family were deported to Siberia.

With Britain's support, in July 1941 the Polish Government-in-Exile re-established diplomatic relations with Russia. This led to an “amnesty” for Polish citizens who had been held in Russian labour camps and prisons, and to a Polish army being formed inside Russia. Jane's future husband, Walter, enlisted at the age of 17.

Some of the Polish army was needed to protect the Western Allies' oil fields in the Middle East, so under the amnesty, 77,000 soldiers and 43,000 civilians, including 20,000 children, were evacuated from Russia to various countries including Iran and the Middle East. Polish soldiers went on to fight in North Africa and Italy.

In 1942 while Jane was travelling with her family by train to be closer to the Polish army for protection, she and her older sister Mary fell ill and had to be taken to a hospital. When they were released, they didn't know where their family had gone, so an army-run orphanage took them in. They were transported to Iran, and from there to East Africa, where Jane spent the next seven years and completed high school.

After the war, Jane travelled to England, where she met Walter. They married in England in 1949, and two years later immigrated to the United States on a special visa for ex-Polish soldiers and settled in Syracuse. There they raised three daughters, and Jane completed two years of college. Writing, says her husband Walter, was her passion.

Jane’s sister Mary married and settled in England. Jane’s father died in Russia, and her mother and younger sister remained in Russia for a few more years before returning to Poland. Although Jane and her mother were back in touch in 1947, they were unable to see each other again until they were reunited in the United States in1964, after a separation of 22 years.

Jane passed away August 1, 2009, at 82 years of age. She is survived by Walter, her husband of 59 years, 3 daughters, 8 grandchildren, and 20 great-grandchildren.


OASIS Journal (www.oasisnet.org) accepts submissions from outside the U.S.; for more information please contact the editor, Leila Joiner, at ljoiner@dakotacom.net. OASIS Journal 2009 will be available in late October through www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.

"My Favourite Game" by Jane Boruszewski


by Jane Boruszewski

“Hey, Marek, why do you always have to be the first guard of Dwa Ognie (Two Fires),” I shouted at a sturdy boy holding a ball in the crook of his arm. He stood at one end of a grassy field that was marked off with sticks and stones.
“…ooo…nie nie nie,” the edge of the nearby East African jungle echoed my Polish words.
“Ya, tell us why?” someone else wanted to know.
About a dozen youngsters, milling within the boundaries, waited anxiously for Marek to begin the first round of the game this morning.
His dark eyes went to Bolek at the opposite end of the field. Bolek was the other guard, who, with Marek, was supposed to keep the ball flying from one end to the other, either above our heads or between our bodies. Their aim was to hit a contestant. Even the slightest graze was enough to send us out of the game.
Marek laughed. He dropped the ball to the ground and dribbled it awhile. Then he caught and raised it slowly over his bushy head and held it high for everyone to drool over. Making big circles with it, he yelled, “It’s because I have the only ball in this camp, in Tengeru.”
“Bastard!” called out Stasia, the biggest girl in the group.
Marek pretended to ignore her, but he lowered the ball to his side and, staring into a space to her left, sent it spinning straight at her. With the speed of a cannonball, the ball hit Stasia’s chest, and she fell to her knees.
“You are already out,” he hissed.
“Yes, you are out!” cried the others in the field.
“That’s not fair,” she said, getting to her feet. “Marek, you didn’t say that Dwa Ognie had started.”
“Out! Out! Out!” the others shouted, amid much laughter.
“Get out before I hurt you again,” Marek warned.
“I’m going…going,” she mumbled. On her way out, she smacked small Edzio across his back.
“Fatso!” he called out after Stasia, sticking his tongue out at her as she staggered off the field. Edzio was the best player among us. He had developed the art of ducking the flying ball and using others as a shield at just the right moment. Most of time, he was the last one left in the game. As winner, he was handed the ball to start the next game with a partner of his choice.
I hated the little squirt.
And now, as soon as the ball went into action, we players turned into wild creatures. Running backward so we were always facing whichever guard had the ball in his hands, we swore and screamed. “Come on, Bolek, get me if you can…Marek, you think that you are tough, eh? You are nothing but a bully…” We called the boys names I can’t put on paper.
Caught up in a fearful excitement, I ran about as if seized by madness. I avoided the flying object by jumping up, ducking, or leaping backward. We kicked and elbowed one another, but felt no pain, only a fury of anger. Right now, in the midst of this madness, I was not a child who lived in Africa, but a nine-year-old grownup, ducking bullets with our Polish soldiers, fighting off the Nazis in 1939. In the distance, Jaroslaw was bombed every day while I watched it burn and smoke, flames shooting up to the sky. I had cried to see our captured countrymen being kicked and whipped by Germans. In the beginning of the war, Nazis rode in tanks across our village or rode on horses, but when they left, the Russians came to stay for good. Both invaders robbed me and my friends of our childhood.
And who was robbing us now? Marek? But he had been robbed, too. He had lost both of his parents to typhus in Uzbekistan and crossed the border with a group of Polish orphans, strangers to him.
Suddenly, I saw the ball coming straight at me. I spread my arms and caught it. Bolek had thrown it at me, hoping to get me out of the game, but he failed. I couldn’t believe my luck. As I hugged the ball, I felt sweet success filling up my heart to the brim. I grinned, knowing I was temporarily saved from having to leave the field. I savored my precious moment. I had conquered the ball the way I had beaten the typhus that tried to claim my life in Russia.
“Don’t just stand there gaping, you stupid goose,” I heard Marek’s voice behind me. “Let me have the ball!”
Slowly, I turned around and stared at the ruffian, grinding my teeth. With his arms folded across his chest and his legs wide apart, he looked like a short Lensky assembling our grownups for all-day labor in the Siberian forest. Lensky and his helpers kept the Poles confined to a place of imprisonment in the district of Omsk on the shores of the Irtish River. For two years, my parents worked for meager food alone. For two years, we children were too hungry, too cold or hot, and always humiliated by Lensky. And here in Tengeru, biting my lips hard, I was about to throw the ball, not to Marek, but at him, wanting to hit his nose, wanting to see it bleed. But he caught the ball with ease and laughed his awful laugh.
“Communist!” I called him the name we Tengerians hated and despised.
Marek seemed to ignore my insult, but I knew he was up to no good. As I thought, he sent the ball whizzing at me again. Today, his and Bolek’s shots were harder and more twisted than ever before. The two bullies kept aiming at our heads or chests. At this moment, I was one of four contestants left in the game, and I wanted to win this turn, even if it killed me. My fingers itching and palms sweating, I braced myself. “Ready for another catch,” I muttered to myself. “Be careful,” a small voice inside of me warned. But I did not listen to its advice. I spread my arms, but forgot to jump up a bit.
Woops! I felt a hard blow on the left side of my face. A million stars exploded before me, and then faded away. I went down to the ground, and the ball rolled away from me, laughter floating about me.
“Another loser,” someone sneered. “Got what you deserve.”
I got up with effort and staggered off the field to join the players grouped outside the boundaries. With my cheek numb from the blow, I sat down on the ground next to Wanda, the shortest girl of us all, who was sniffling, as always. Her hands embraced her knees, and she looked like a fetus curled up in its mother’s womb. From the time I met her in Pahlevii, our first friendly camp on the other side of the Caspian Sea, I had felt compassion for this playmate. She told me then that her papa was shot in Warsaw by the Nazis for hiding a Jewish family in his cellar. After his death, Wanda’s mama went to live with her cousin in Eastern Poland, which was occupied by the Russians, and they had deported the woman with her daughter to Kazakhstan. Two years later, they both found themselves in Iran, where her mama died of dysentery.
I had lost my little brother in Siberia, a month after our arrival at Bialy Jar, the Russian settlement. Extremes of climate and lack of proper nourishment killed the poor baby at nine months of age. We buried him in a hole we dug in the woods. A month later, my aging aunt died, for what reason, I never knew.
“Janka, you got a whopper there on your cheek.” Wanda’s voice brought me back to Africa and to my gang. There were still two players left in the field, and I wished I were one of them. But now my head was getting hot, and I felt dizzy.
“Have to go home,” I whispered, glancing at Wanda’s sweet profile, outlining itself against Mount Meru on the western horizon. I smiled sadly. The mountain was always there, like a loyal friend, for everyone who wanted to look at it and be consoled.
“Don’t you want to stay for the next turn?” asked Wanda. “You usually wait to the end of our games.”
“I…I don’t feel well,” I moaned, touching my face. It felt hot and lumpy. I tried to stand up, but sat right back down in order not to fall on my back.
“I’ll walk you home,” said Wanda.
Before I could say no, she helped me up and put her arm about my waist. I leaned on her thin shoulder. Listening to our playmates hollering, we plodded toward my hut, where I lived with my big sister, Marysia, Mrs. Nadzieja, and her daughter, Irena, who was my age. Wanda helped me to get into my bed. It was one of four leaning against the round, white-washed walls and shielded carefully with a snowy white mosquito net. We were all told that mosquitoes here carried malaria and were advised to keep the nets down at night.
No one was home, and I was glad. “Sit down, Wanda,” I said, pointing to one of the wooden stools that embraced the round table in the middle of the hut. Everything here was round to match the walls of the round hut. The pointed roof was covered with palm leaves, and the earthen floor was smooth and hard.
Wanda looked around. “Where is your washbowl?”
“What do you want it for?”
“To bring water from the faucet.” Tengeru had no water inside our shelters. Each group of huts had stoves, laundering tubs, and water pipes installed outside.
“I’m not thirsty.”
“A cool compress on your face will stop some of the swelling.”
After Wanda left me with a wet rag on my face, I fell asleep. Right away I plunged into a nightmare from my past:
I am lying in the hospital bed next to Marysia’s. We are both ill and hurting all over. Marysia tells me I have a very high fever, and she begs the nurses to give me some medicine, but in vain.
“Where is Mama?” I keep asking. “I want my mama.”
“Janka, don’t you remember? She and the rest of our family are on the train that is supposed let them off in Bukhara.”
I nod. Tears fill my eyes, and I’m blinded by the naked light bulb above my head. I keep asking the nurses to shut it off…
Someone shook me by the shoulder, and I woke up in the round hut.
“What’s the matter with you, Janka?” Marysia said, leaning over me.
“It hurts,” I said, touching my swollen and throbbing cheek.
“They hit you with the ball. Have I not asked you to stay away from those bullies? But you don’t listen.”
“I wish Mama was here,” I moaned.
“Ya, if she were here, she would know how to deal with you.”
I turned away to face the wall, and she walked away.
Mrs. Nadzieja made delicious potato and beef soup that late afternoon. The good woman checked my face over very carefully and told me I was fortunate not to have lost my eye. I waited for her to scold me the way Marysia had, but she did not. For the last several weeks, she had advised me to stay away from Dwa Ognie. Ever since we moved in with her, she had been pestering me to hang around with her precious Irena. Irena herself wanted to be my friend, but I thought she was too boring and not very popular. Today, everyone left me alone after supper, so I could recover from being hit.
Next morning, my eye had closed from the swelling. Irena told me that the lump on my cheek had turned black and blue and was as big as a hill. I had a slice of buttered bread for breakfast, and a cup of coffee sweetened with sugar and whitened with powdered milk. The powder made grease dots on the surface of the coffee; one had to get used to such a drink. Today, I was excused from washing the dishes, and I stayed in bed.
“Would you like to play a guessing word game?” Irena asked, after she had done her share of housework. I liked to hear her speak because she never hurried or skipped any syllables, and she rounded her mouth for perfect O’s. But I shook my head.
An hour later, I saw her drawing something on a piece of brown paper on the table. All she ever did in her free time was draw or scribble. From my bed, I watched her pencil getting shorter and shorter from being sharpened so many times, and I could hardly wait for it to get too little for her to use. Then I got bored and was about to nap, when she noticed that my eyes were open. She returned to my bed and offered to stay with me in the hut. Her dark, expressive eyes seemed to search my soul, and I resented the look.
“Leave me alone,” I hissed. Hurt or not, I was not going to be stuck with her company.
Without a word, she left. Where did she go? She was always so polite, and that also irritated me.
Now I was alone again. Marysia had gone gallivanting with her friends, as usual. She told me they were going to Duluti Lake with someone who was supposed to take pictures. Irena’s mother was doing laundry at the outdoor sinks, which had built-in washboards and running water. With no one to disturb me, I could think clearly about things and people I did not think about often. Maybe I should quit Dwa Ognie. I was getting hurt, and I hurt others by kicking, shoving, and hitting. Down deep in my heart, I didn’t like what I was becoming. Yet what would I do without my gang and the ball? I would have nobody to hang around with except Irena. Maybe she could be a good friend, after all? Eck. No. Even that leafy young tree in our back yard would be more fun than she, if one wanted to climb to its top. Irena did not fit with my crowd because she was neither brave nor active enough, and she was such a good daughter and perfect child that it made me sick to my stomach. But what about the gang itself? How many of my so-called playmates had bothered to visit me in the hut? None, so far. And who would be next to get hurt by the ball?
On the third morning after I was hurt, I got out of bed and moved about the hut. I gladly helped Irena with washing the dishes and making up beds. I also swept the floor, simply out of boredom.
“Since you are up, Janka, what are you going to do today?”
I shrugged. “I want to go back to play Dwa Ognie, but I don’t want my friends to see me looking so bad.”
“Come outside with me?”
“No way. I’m not showing my bruised face to anyone.”
“Let’s climb up my tree.”
“What can we do up there?”
“You will see,” she said, grinning.
Twenty minutes later, she and I had settled down in the tree house she had made up there. “So this is your secret hideout, Irena.” A spark of interest stirred in me for this skinny, long-legged girl with straight, brown hair.
She nodded and smiled. Right now, her round face not only looked interesting, but almost beautiful. I asked how she had made this cozy room in the elbow of the branches. And she said that she found pieces of cut boards behind the outhouse and nailed them to the tree. She made three walls and a floor, which she lined with grasses and leaves.
“You are clever, Irena,” I said sincerely. “But what do you do up here all by yourself?”
“Daydream,” she whispered, staring into a hole in the foliage toward Kilimanjaro, which sprawled like a giant haystack to the north of Tengeru, about fifty miles away. The mountaintop was covered with snow even though it smoked or shot flames upward sometimes. It was volcanic, we were told, but not expected to erupt for hundreds of years to come.
“What do you dream about?”
She paused for a long time before answering. “I try to imagine how it would be to go back to Poland after the war ends.”
“It would be wonderful to see my farm,” I said. “Our house was big and had smiling windows. The barn and fowl shelters and the silo were surrounded by a white wooden fence, and so were the flower gardens—”
“But I also think of something else.” Irena interrupted the thread of my thoughts. “And I dream of…”
“Of what?”
“I wish…to have…a boyfriend.” She giggled into her fist.
“You do?” I looked sideways at her.
“Yes, I do. But most of all, I would love to have a best friend.”
“I see,” I said, adding to myself, Don’t look at me, kiddo.
“And I do something up here.”
“Huh? If it’s something weird, don’t tell me.”
“I draw pictures, silly, and write poems.”
Thinking that I would be bored looking at her things, I was about to suggest we descend the tree and go back into the hut. But when I opened my mouth, I said words that surprised me. “Can I see your pictures?”
From under planks used as a table, Irena pulled out her sketches of Meru and Kilimanjaro, with huts and trees umbrelling them. Her drawings were simple, but full of details. She had captured the image of the rocky top of Meru, which was pointed and constantly hugged by fluffy clouds. Even Kilimanjaro smoked its pipe, like it always did. She even drew monkeys swinging from tree to tree.
“You’re an artist,” I said, envy kicking at my guts. How I wished at that moment that I could create something constructive, too. Maybe, just maybe, I could start a diary. If I only had a tablet and a pen. These things were hard to find in Tengeru until after our people began to organize schools. “Yes, you are good at drawing,” I repeated, picking up the image of a monkey sitting on the roof of a hut. “This one is my favorite.”
Irena stood up and, bending over like a monkey, sang out, “Eech, eech, eech.” She scratched her underarms, and I imitated her. Soon we both were laughing, making monkeys sounds and giggling until noontime. While I was with her, I forgot about the bruises on my face and about my gang. Then Irena showed me the poem she had written. In it she described how she missed her birthplace and her father, who signed up with the Polish Army while still in Russia. I thought the poem was beautiful, but didn’t tell her so, because I was now jealous of her talents, of which I had none. Maybe because of that feeling or because of sitting up in the tree so long, I suddenly turned off Irena’s voice. Now I was listening to the screaming of my gang, playing Dwa Ognie in the distance. Suddenly, I wanted to be with them. But I said nothing about it to Irena.
Early next morning, Marek showed up on my doorstep before the game started. I came out of the hut and, standing before him, I asked, “What do you want?” I pulled my light brown hair over my ugly bump. With one eye, I stared at him, an old hatred stirring in me. He doesn’t look so big or mean now, I thought.
“Came to see if you were all right,” he said.
“I’m still living, no thanks to you.” Now I brushed the hair from my face. “See what you did?”
“Wow!” His mouth opened wide. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, blinking and stepping back a bit. Yet, after a short pause, he said, “Coming back to play with us?”
I ached to say yes, yes, yes. But instead I blurted out, “And who else did you hurt lately, Marek?”
“No one, and I’m sorry, again, for hitting you.”
“That’s all right,” I heard myself say. “What’s going on with everyone?”
He scratched his head. “We’re still playing, but now we don’t have enough people in the field.”
“You see, some kids stopped coming.”
He shrugged.
“Is Wanda…?”
“She quit the day Stasia elbowed her in the stomach and made her throw up right in front of everybody.”
“Dear Heavens!”
“The twin sisters attacked Edzio and broke his arm…”
“My God! Marek, you, I, and the whole gang are bad, very bad.”
He stood in silence, looking down at the ground.
“You know, I don’t think I’m going back to play with any of you anymore.”
“I…I don’t blame you for feeling this way.” With his head still down, Marek, the bully, shuffled away. He looked like a confused boy of thirteen now, which is what he really was.
That he was changing for the better, I knew then. And that I was changing, too.

* * *

What every writer needs most is perseverance, and Jane Boruszewski definitely possessed that quality. She began submitting her stories to OASIS Journal in 2003, and has had a short story or memoir published every year since then. Jane also followed the edict “Write what you know,” and her fiction was based on her own experiences, or the experiences of people she knew. But she also had a vivid imagination and was able to embellish the facts, adding depth and drama to characters and events in order to create a good story. Along with perseverance, the best advice I can offer to any aspiring writer is to read ... read ... read!

—Leila Joiner, editor and publisher

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pay It Forward: Life Writers Ink success stories

Formed by an enthusiastic group of novice writers who came together through some of my online workshops, Life Writers Ink is a small group of women from a range of ages and backgrounds who meet regularly to encourage and critique one another's creative writing endeavours. Several "Lifers," as they've dubbed themselves, have met with success recently in some notable ways:

* * *

MARY McINTYRE published a personal essay titled "30,000 Lasting Impressions of Georgian Bay" in Lifestyles This Week, a Parry Sound publication. The essay developed out of a writers' retreat this summer organized by three Life Writers Ink members at a cottage on Otter Lake, near Parry Sound. One of their activities was a boat tour. To read Mary's reflections on this experience, visit:


* * *

RUTH ZARYSKI JACKSON will see two of her poems published in an upcoming anthology of poetry and prose written by and about grandmothers, titled Grandmothers' Necklace. Ruth was published for the first time last year when a vignette, "Room in My Heart," appeared in the anthology about grandmothers titled The Wisdom of Old Souls, published by Hidden Brook Press.

Ruth has since launched a blog, Memoir Writers World, and she invites you to check it out at:


There you'll find the post "Reading Not Writing," about her first public readings as a published writer.

* * *

CHERYL ANDREWS's poem "The Frayed Map" appeared in the Summer 2009 issue (Our Sacred Identity) of the theological literary arts journal SmoKe and SaLt, published by Vivian Carter's NEUK Press.

* * *

GAIL RUDYK, yet another member of Life Writers Ink, now runs an informal memoir writers' group out of her Georgian Bay cottage. Following is an introduction by Gail to a recent piece by one of her fellow writers.

I was excited about writing my life stories and wanted to share that enthusiasm with others, so two years ago I started a cottage memoir writers' group. Since I stay up at our Georgian Bay cottage all summer, it gives me something to look forward to every Wednesday morning. There are six of us and we meet for coffee, chat, and then sit down to read a story which we have each written over the week. It's important to read our story out loud and get feedback from fellow writers.

We all have the same goal: to get our stories down on paper for our children and grandchildren. As a bonus we found that sharing our life experiences has brought us closer than we had ever imagined. Now we sometimes expand our two hours to three, and meet at someone's home for lunch following the meeting.

The following was written by group member Charlene Lowes:



by Charlene Lowes

When Gail Rudyk started her memoir writers' group at her cottage last summer, she was kind enough to invite me to attend. A group where I would be expected to write something weekly was a stretch for me. I am a number person not a word person. Could I manage this? What would be the ramifications?

At first, I declined the invitation. I was busy. I had other obligations. Thankfully, the invitation didn’t come with a deadline. Later in the summer, I was allowed to change my mind.

The experience has been interesting though at times stressful. The words don’t just flow when I have to put them onto paper. This summer Gail has been giving us a subject every week. I have learned that I need to take time to think about the subject and how it pertains to me. I certainly cannot write anything credible in the last half hour, as MaryLou manages to do most weeks. For several days, I find the "subject" consuming my mind. After thinking things through, my thoughts start to form into what I hope will be a coherent account of some happening or other.

We are all aware of the fact that humour is an important part of life’s experiences. It helps us deal with issues that might otherwise overwhelm us. I have come to realize that although it plays an important part in the writing of memoirs, humour can also be used as camouflage. Like the class clown who uses humour to hide an inferiority complex, the writer can use humour to hide his or her deeper feelings.

Last week, our subject was "The Not-So-Perfect Mother." Most of us used this opportunity to poke fun at ourselves in a light-hearted way. One of us did not. Margaret was courageous enough to trust us with a very painful part of her past. Without a doubt, Gail was Margaret’s role model. Margaret has commented on the honesty Gail used in writing about her father’s anger issues. With or without Gail’s influence, the importance of Margaret’s courage and trust cannot be overemphasized. It took our little group to a new level of friendship and understanding.

Scot and I have never regretted our decision to live our retirement in Tiny. We have met lots of fun and interesting people. We have an active social life that we love. However, these new relationships are mostly superficial due to their relatively short duration and the lack of shared life experiences. The members of our memoir group have shortened the incubation time of new friendships by honestly sharing meaningful events from our past. And Margaret gave us the gift of her friendship by doing just that.

* * *

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Words Alive Literary Festival, September 20, 2009

Don't miss the Words Alive Literary Festival in Sharon, Ontario, tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There's a fabulous lineup of author readings, workshops and so much more. I'll present a workshop there myself in the early afternoon. Visit wwww.wordsalive.ca for the full festival schedule and directions. Hope to see some of you there.


Here are more details from the festival flyer:

The Words Alive Literary Festival celebrates a rich literary heritage providing a showcase for local and Canada-wide authors. One day of author readings, public readings, workshops, panel discussions and storytelling including poetry with music and art will allow you to travel with new voices to different lands and have the opportunity to become a part of their human experience.

Sunday, September 20, 2009
10:00 am to 6:00 pm

The Venue
The Festival is held annually at the Sharon Temple National Historic Site and Museum. We use the beautiful historic buildings for readings and workshops, the enchanting grounds for storytelling, vendors, and picnicking. In the event of inclement weather, the outdoor activities would be relocated to Temperance Hall and/or the East Gwillimbury Town Hall complex next door; this enables us to hold the event – rain or shine – in warm, dry, and comfortable surroundings! Learn more »

Affordable Family Fun
Words Alive is a budget-friendly and family-friendly event. Parking on site is free and a very modest admission of $5 is charged for attendees age 16-years and up. Food and beverage vendors are available, but attendees may bring a picnic lunch if they prefer. We will have a book sales table, an opportunity to get your purchases signed, a souvenir table, and much more!

Mission Statement
To act as a catalyst in our community that will bring together, stimulate, encourage and support all writers and readers.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Registration open for fall session of "Memories into Story" (online), at University of Toronto

Here are the details for my upcoming online course being offered by University of Toronto's School of Continuing Studies:

Memories into Story: Introduction to Life Writing

(Paste the above address into your browser, and search for course alphabetically by title.)

Students who wish to pursue the Certificate in Continuing Studies in Creative Writing must indicate their intent IN WRITING to the Creative Writing Program Office (scs.writing@utoronto.ca) and also MUST ALERT THEIR INSTRUCTORS IN THE FIRST CLASS that they will need to be evaluated. Students are solely responsible for keeping a dossier of their ORIGINAL evaluated works.

SCS 2282 – 004 Memories into Story: Introduction to Life Writing (Online)

Instructor: Allyson Latta

Instructor Contact: lattamemoirs@gmail.com

Restrictions: Instructor will make every effort to return messages
within two business days.

Date: Starts September 21, 2009; 10 weeks

Required Reading: Writing About Your Life: A Journey into the Past, by William Zinsser
two published book-length memoirs of the student’s choice (no “celebrity” memoirs) to be approved in advance by the instructor

Brief Course Description:

Channel your life experiences into creative writing by exploring the nature of and diversity within memoir and related genres. Readings, exercises and instruction stimulate your memory and guide you in developing your unique voice and style. Discover your “emotional truth” and hone your craft. Bring your memories to life on the page, for yourself or for publication, through personal essay, memoir, or fiction.

Learner Outcomes:

• Recognize the range of possibilities in writing about personal experience
• Apply fiction techniques to life writing/memoir writing
• Analyze structure in selected short and book-length published memoirs
• Discuss challenges inherent in writing about real people and events
• Assess own writing using self-editing checklist
• Write one short story or book chapter (2,500 words max.)


Assignments (3 x 20%) 60%
Participation 10%*
Final Project 30%

*For submitting optional course exercises and participating in discussion board forums.


90 to 100% Honours
70 to 89% Pass
60 to 69% Pass
50 to 59% Pass
Less than 50% Fail / Incomplete

Final grade will be Honours, Pass, or Fail.

Instructor Bio:

Allyson Latta, BA, HBJ, is a literary editor who over the past thirteen years has worked with many of Canada’s most respected authors and edited numerous award-winning works of fiction and non-fiction, specializing in memoir. In 2004, for Ryerson University, she developed and taught one of the first interactive online memoir writing courses, on which others have been modelled. She also leads workshops through her own company. After earning degrees in criminology and journalism, Allyson worked as newspaper reporter, associate editor for Quarry literary journal, and associate editor and features writer for Ottawa Magazine and Ottawa Business Magazine. For three years she lived in Japan, where she taught college-level English and published personal essays. Allyson is a consultant for the annual Words Alive Literary Festival, held in Sharon, Ontario, and a judge for U of T Magazine’s short fiction contest.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Right Time for Everything, Guest Blog by Pat Irwin Lycett

I’ve been writing all my life, never with a view to publishing (still don’t, except in newspapers, usually letters to the editor).

Three years ago I read about the Writers’ Circle of Durham Region in the Oshawa paper; tried the number listed, to no avail, gave up for a number of reasons. One year later, in May, I came across the number again and made contact. There really is a right time for everything!

In July, same year, WCDR announced that Fred Ford was planning a Wednesday night class, Writing Is Hard Work (WIHW), to be held every second Wednesday from 6:30 to 8:45 at the Pickering Library. We began meeting in September. There were about twelve of us, some poets, most writing fiction; that lasted until Christmas, when a few melted away. Some new folks were added from a waiting list, and we’re now finishing our second year with a tight group of seven, including Fred. We’ve grown quite close, and we love one another’s fictional characters.

I discovered after about eight months in class that I was actually interested in memoir, and joined Allyson Latta’s eye-opening North York Central Library four-week workshop series. It was well worth my drive to Toronto.

For our bi-weekly Pickering class, three members e-mail a chapter, usually by the prior Wednesday, for discussion the following week. We critique in writing at home, then present our comments in the group, and end the evening by handing across heavily-marked written material.

With a total of seven people, it can make a rather light evening if two of our group are unable to come; so the move for this fall is to accept perhaps two to three new people into the fold, and Fred is presently interviewing new candidates. I am the only one writing memoir, and adding a new memoirist has been ruled out by the group! They would be interested in adding a writer of town history, perhaps, just to add balance. Many of us occasionally submit poetry, one writes travelogues, most are working on The Great Novel; the age range of our group is 40 to 72.

Learning to write my memoirs has been a gradual process, coupled with my planning what turned out to be a well-attended family reunion, held last August in Orono. While in the process of reunion planning, I chanced upon my mother’s old family history, which really started the ball rolling. I’m now pretty dedicated, trying all sorts of techniques – a train ride has been suggested – and themes to carry the memoir through.

In the group we’re all free with our opinions, and we don’t always agree with Fred, but he is the leader, and he’s pretty good. Writing groups can have many varied formats, and I consider myself lucky that I landed in this one, as I needed a group with some structure.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Los Parronales Writers' Retreat Photos

Let's try that photo link again:


Los Parronales Writers' Retreat

Join me in Chile, February 2010, when I'll be editor-in-residence at Los Parronales Writers' Retreat

“Journeys and Discoveries” Writing Holiday in the Sun

Don't miss this unique opportunity in February 2010 to combine writing and travel.

Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat in Santiago, Chile, has invited me to present the workshop series “Journeys and Discoveries: Writing from Your Life” from February 7 to 21. This two-week writing holiday will engage writers who are eager to explore and develop their own memoirs or experience-based fiction. The retreat offers an inspiring and relaxing blend of morning workshops and private editorial consultations with me, plus space and opportunity in surroundings conducive to solitary creative writing or community with like-minded writers.

Set on a privately owned 60-hectare property in the Andean foothills near Santiago, Chile, Los Parronales – Spanish for “vineyards” – offers panoramic views, and is surrounded by vineyards, grassy pasture and bush-covered hillside perfect for strolls and photo-taking. The facility includes a traditional Chilean-style main house with guest rooms, open-air porch, swimming pool, communal areas, library and workshop space. Enjoy Chilean food, wine and culture on site, as well as accompanied excursions.

Flights to Santiago, Chile, via Lan Chile, have never been more reasonable. Or Air Canada flies there direct.

For more photos, click
Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat (If this doesn't work, see subsequent post.)

Detailed information available from your host
Susan Siddeley:
Email: motocad@rogers.com; Tel: (1) 416-968-0769


Editor and writer ALLYSON LATTA has worked with many of Canada’s most respected authors and edited numerous award-winning books of fiction and creative non-fiction. For Ryerson University she developed and taught one of the first interactive online memoir writing courses, which served as a model for others as far away as Australia. Beginning Fall 2009 she’ll teach life writing for the University of Toronto. She also leads workshops through her own company. After earning degrees in criminology and journalism from Carleton University, and completing the Economics for Journalists Program at the University of Western Ontario, Allyson worked as newspaper reporter, associate editor for Quarry literary journal, associate editor and features writer for Ottawa Magazine and Ottawa Business Magazine, and for three years taught English in Japan. She has published short memoirs and short fiction, and writes about current affairs for a national publication for secondary school teachers. Allyson is a judge for U of T Magazine’s 2009 short fiction contest, as well as a consultant for the annual Words Alive Literary Festival, held in Sharon, Ontario. She lives in the Toronto area.

SUSAN SIDDELEY, the co-ordinator of Los Parronales Writers’ Retreat, was born in the West Riding of Yorkshire and has recently returned to Toronto, Canada, after spending many years in Andean South America. She has published three collections of poetry, When in Chile, Still in Chile, and On Line, and is a two-time winner in Grain magazine’s “Short Grain” contest.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Cheryl Andrews to be published in "SmoKe and SaLt" quarterly

Here's the full version of the post that appeared earlier this week!

A note from Cheryl Andrews:

“Allyson Latta has worked her magic again, successfully bringing Allyson Alumni together. Allyson made me aware of Vivian Carter’s SmoKe and SaLt call for submissions for the Summer 2009 issue, Our Sacred Identity. My poem ‘The Frayed Map’ was accepted for inclusion in the edition. While the poem may not be considered memoir in its purest form, it does speak to a real point in (emotional) time for me.

“A special thanks to another Allyson alumna and fellow member of my writers’ group Life Writers Ink, Mary McIntyre, for her critique and heartfelt feedback on ‘The Frayed Map.’”


Cheryl Andrews is a writer, novice artist, photographer, accomplished leadership coach and lover of the natural world. She is a founding member of Life Writers Ink and serves on the Advisory Committee of Words Alive Literary Festival. Cheryl was raised in Southwestern Ontario and moved to York Region in 1998.

Vivian Carter, BFA, M. DIV., Dip. Th., who participated in one of Allyson's workshops at Fred Varley Art Gallery, is a meditative writer, artist, spiritual guide and retired minister. Never having found a literary art journal that explored the Soul and Spirituality, she decided to publish one herself. Vivian is the publisher, editor of NEUK PRESS, and SmoKe and SaLt: lyrical art and dappled shadows, a Canadian quarterly. She may be contacted at thevicar@rogers.com


SmoKe and SaLt


Neuk Press

The theme of the upcoming issue is “Wilderness.” Submission deadline is September 4, 2009.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"First Person Arts" Memoir Contest: Deadline June 30, 2009

PHILADELPHIA – First Person Arts is going across to the nation to find the best videos, photographs and stories that define how individuals, families, and communities are managing during these hard times. The contest, First Person America: In These Hard Times, invites artists to document how this generation of Americans is coping with one of the hardest economic periods since the Great Depression.

This contest is also open to Canadians, but please note that the setting of the submitted video, photograph or story must be a U.S. one.

Try clicking here for more details: First Person Arts press release

or go to the contest website, www.hardtimes.firstpersonarts.org:

In These Hard Times Memoir Contest

"Memoir (and)" Memoir Contest: Next Deadline August 15, 2009

The following is a note from Memoir (and), a literary journal based in Sausalito, California, about the writing contest affiliated with its Spring-Summer 2010 issue:

Hello all of you at Days Road Writers' Workshops,

Our contest information is as follows:

The Memoir (and) Prize for Memoir in Prose and Poetry
The Memoir (and) Prize for Graphic Memoir
Four prizes awared up to $500.

Memoir (and) reading period for Spring+Summer 2010 (Issue 6): 5/1/09 -
8/15/09. Accepting traditional and experimental prose, poetry, graphic
memoir, narrative photography, lies, and more. All submissions eligible
for contest entry. Submit online or mail to: Memoir (and), P.O. Box 1398,
Sausalito, CA 94966.

Guidelines at www.memoirjournal.com



The Memoir (and) Prizes for Memoir in Prose or Poetry are awarded to the
most outstanding prose or poetry memoir—traditional, nontraditional or
experimental—drawn from the reading period.

Grand Prize for Memoir in Prose or Poetry

* $500 cash award
* Publication in print and online
* Six copies of the journal

Second Prize for Memoir in Prose or Poetry

* $250 cash award
* Publication in print and online
* Six copies of the journal

Third Prize for Memoir in Prose or Poetry

* $100 cash award
* Publication in print and online
* Three copies of the journal

The Memoir (and) Prize for Graphic Memoir is awarded to the most
outstanding graphic memoir drawn from the reading period.

Prize for Graphic Memoir

* $100 cash award
* Publication in print and online
* Six copies of the journal

Thanks for the consideration, and please e-mail your response to submissions@memoirjournal.com.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Mariel E. Valerio
Memoir (and)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Life Writers Ink: A Fledgling Writers Group Spreads Its Wings

by Cheryl, Anahita, Ruth, Gail and Mary

Our group of five women first came together as participants in Allyson Latta’s online memoir writing courses. Compelled by the support, encouragement and professional critiquing we learned through those courses, we didn’t want to let go. The Memoir Writers Social Allyson organized in September 2008 gave us the opportunity to meet face-to-face for the first time.

When Allyson posted an article on www.wordsalive.ca, “Start Your Own Writers Group,” I (Cheryl Andrews) was inspired and forwarded it on to Anahita Printer Nepton, Gail Rudyk, Mary McIntyre and Ruth Zaryski Jackson.

"I know that workshops … can provide inspiration while they’re going on, but that that inspiration can disappear in a poof once they walk out the door (real or virtual). A writers group is the logical next step ..." (Allyson Latta 9/30/2008)

It certainly was the logical next step for us, and the article became the basis for our group Guidelines. We took them to a fairly comprehensive, yet informal and relaxed level and haven’t referred to them since. The extensive discussion process we undertook about the structure of our writing group was the critical element.

We came up with a name, "Life Writers Ink." Mary (lovingly) refers to us as the Lifers.

We held our inaugural meeting January 25th, 2009. We prefer Sunday afternoons, once a month and take turns hosting. As Allyson Alumni we have slipped into the writing group format with very few wrinkles!

"Every meeting reinforces my respect for our writing differences and how we learn from each other… I gain so much from your ideas. You energize me again to do more heavy lifting with my pen." (Mary McIntyre)

During our meetings we read our pieces to each other, critiquing upon request, socialize, discuss and swap books we’ve read recently, share news about upcoming literary events and contests, cheer and applaud successes and pry open the door when one of us hits the creative wall.

"I personally enjoy the side discussions that come up about the latest books we have read and information about any calls for submissions." (Gail Rudyk)

Life Writers Ink is about discovering the courage to explore the furthest reaches of our creative sides and providing encouragement as we move toward publishing. Writing memoir brought us together, and the support we get from the group has provided the incentive to investigate other genres. I’m playing with fiction, Ruth has ventured into the realm of poetry, and Gail, humorous vignettes about life and living. Anahita is sharing poignant passages from the journal she kept while watching over her dying father. Mary has found the energy to take on a major memoir project about where she really grew up: the family cottage.

" … (our) varied styles … keep our creative energies up, fueling new ideas/stories … suggestions are fodder that provides … options and directions that we may not have thought about, whether we use them or not. The variety of styles … helps to keep the blinders off so we are free to grow, develop and express ourselves beyond our abilities." (Anahita Printer Nepton)

Email helps us extend the encouraging borders of Life Writers Ink. Between meetings fresh pieces get circulated and critiqued, ideas tossed out for input, and progress, roadblocks and angst shared. No one is allowed to go silent for too long.

There’s something extraordinary about the camaraderie of our group. The comfort level with being honest and open as well as supportive and critical is way beyond where a newly formed group might be.

"I … feel supported by the group to move forward and overcome my lethargy… our writing differences stir our creativity and make us better writers. Thanks for your encouragement with the submissions." (Ruth Zaryski Jackson)

We take courses and participate in workshops. We created this writing group and read voraciously, but ultimately we each have to spend the time writing, the best we can, alone in a room, or "… ass in chair," as Margaret Atwood says.

We laugh a lot. We work hard. We are having great fun, and we are all writing!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

News: Read my interviews in "The Writers Den: Conversations on Memoir" ... and get reminiscing to enter Words Alive's Memoir Writing Contest

Two bits of news ...

The Writers Den: Conversations on Memoir

I've had wonderful feedback so far on my blog's newest feature, an evolving section called "The Writers Den," which includes my interviews with a number of memoir writers (commercially published as well as self-published), and others with thoughts or advice on the genre. Read interviews with authors David Gilmour, Richard Scrimger, Howard Engel, Catherine Gildiner, Maggie de Vries, and Robert Ward, among others; literary agent Marie Campbell, author and self-publishing coach Stacey Lynn Newman, and American psychologist Dr. James Pennebaker (who studies the healing potential in writing about difficult life events); as well as thought-provoking essays by Blanche Howard and Tilya Gallay Helfield, and helpful tips on memoir writing from authors Lawrence Hill and Beth Powning ... and much more.

I'd be happy to hear your impressions of this new section, and also your input as to what other sorts of interviews you'd like to see here in future.

Words Alive Literary Festival Memoir Writing Contest 2009

The annual Words Alive Literary Festival, held in September in Sharon, Ontario, just north of Toronto, is hosting its first mid-year memoir writing contest. The deadline is June 5, 2009, and contest guidelines can be found at

Words Alive Memoir Writing Contest

(or go to www.wordsalive.ca and click on the icon for "Memoir Writing Contest")

I've been asked to join the team of judges, which includes Blanche Howard, Allison Howard, Beth Powning and Elizabeth Yeoman.

There's still time to polish up your gem of a story and submit it! Please read the guidelines carefully.

The 2009 Words Alive festival will take place September 20, so mark it on your calendar and watch the festival website for updates on the lineup of outstanding authors, poets and others who'll present there. It's a not-to-be-missed event for readers and writers of all ages!

Workshopper Beatriz Duran publishes her first editorial in the Toronto Star

BEATRIZ DURAN, 34, who took part in my North York Public Library series of memoir writing workshops last spring, is pleased to announce that she has joined the Toronto Star Community Editorial Board. Beatriz hails from Merida, Mexico, and now lives in Toronto. She recently published her first guest editorial (byline Beatrice Duran), "Thousands Take That Leap of Faith," and kindly sent me the link.

Here is her message:


Hola Allyson,

Hope this message finds you well. I know you have a new workshop coming up. I am sure it will be a great experience for those attending, just like it was for me.

I wanted to share a piece of news ... this past fall I joined the Toronto Star Community Editorial Board. Being part of the Editorial Board has been a great experience. The best part is that anybody can apply. The Star then appoints 12 participants who serve for 1 year. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

I was invited to contribute a column on a topic of my choice, so I decided to share part of my experience living here as an immigrant.

Here's the link:


Thousands Take That Leap of Faith

I've been writing since I was 18, but it was not until now that I decided to get "serious" about it, partly because my moving here caused me to question my ability to communicate in another language.

Participating in your workshop helped me overcome that "fear" and gave me the confidence to write about my experiences. It also made me think that perhaps the best time to start writing your memoirs is the present. After all, the past is not always that far away :)

Feel free to share this on your blog, it might encourage other writers.

Warm regards,



Friday, March 27, 2009

Bernie Kuntz Self-Publishes "Limericks to Save Planet Earth"

Bernie Kuntz, one of my workshop participants, shares the news that his creative poetry-for-charity project, a self-published book titled Limericks to Save Planet Earth! is now available for purchase. Bernie is a member of the WALRUS Club, a writers' group created by five enthusiastic writers who met in my June 2007 North York Central Library workshop series -- the other members are Celine Kessler, Margaret Nosworthy, Sonia Goodman and Stan Stevenson. (I was humbled to learn that the name of the club is an acronym for Writers of Allyson Latta 'R' Us.)

While most of the limericks in this 100-page paperback are based on real people, places and events in his life, a few deal with fictional "mature content," though he assures me that these are pretty mild! All profits from the sale of his books will go to three charitable organizations involved in cancer research, heart research and action against climate change.

Bernie's "appeal-ing" limerick on his book's back cover says it all:

Oh dear reader, my thanks for support!
This anthology won't be for naught...
Let us save Planet Earth,
While enjoying some mirth?
But, to happen, this book must be bought!!!

He adds: "Readers may even enjoy some of the poetry as an unexpected bonus!"

Limericks to Save Planet Earth is available for $18 a copy. To order, contact Bernie by e-mail at bernelle@sympatico.ca.

Further details and excerpts from the book can be found on Bernie's unfinished "storefront" page at www.lulu.com/berniekuntz, or click Limericks to Save Planet Earth

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Workshopper Dolores Kivi's short memoir to be published

Dolores Kivi of Thunder Bay, Ontario, sends exciting news that her short memoir titled "Until Death Do Us Part" (title may change) has been accepted for publication in The Globe and Mail 's "Facts and Arguments" section in time for Valentine's Day 2009. It's scheduled to appear Friday, February 13. The piece traces Dolores's relationship with her late husband, Alf, from the time of their romantic meeting during the Second World War through sixty-two years together.

Dolores is currently working on a book-length memoir about their relationship that incorporates letters she received from her husband when he was stationed overseas during part of their courtship. Dolores has participated in several of my online writing workshops.