Sunday, November 30, 2008

Richard Scrimger Lecture Notes

We talked about author Richard Scrimger today at our meeting. His website address is If you or your child is artistic, check out his design a cover contest. I would love it if one of my kids would attempt it and have him come speak at their school. They don't even want to think about it.

What was and wasn't said today:

The first thing Richard said was, "Thou shalt not be boring."

- Inside there are truths and they are unique to you. Stories come from the dark places within us. Start with the truth, then say "what if..." and that's where the story comes from. The main character is a version of the writer.

- The more you are aware of your own story, the more integrated as a society we are. We are looking inside ourselves and our own memories to get our stories on paper.

- Inside you there is sadness, sorrow, loss, anger, fear. These are the story lines. Lots of good writing is revenge writing.

- When you are writing a story you are revealing yourself. It is like a striptease. You want to entice the reader; you want to seduce the reader. Take the clothes off one button at a time. How many surprises are there at the end of the striptease? You want to lead the readers along so they want to know how this is going to be different. Slow down. Bring out the character, something we can identify with. Have the reader connect with the character.

- There are 3 stories [I thought there were 7]: The Journey Plot, The Stranger Plot (the stranger could be cancer, a letter, news, not necessarily a person), The Lost Plot. Actually, all stories are about loss.

- Stories are all jokes. Your job is to tell the joke the right way.

- The worst thing you can do is to tell too much about the character. The more you tell, the less interesting the character would be. Examples: The character House - his cane makes the character. Tony Soprano - he's not just a mob guy; he's a mob guy in therapy.

- Kids and adults have the same emotions. Stories happen when things go wrong.

- A writer has to be a good liar, a thief (steal characters from your past or present, their names, their characteristics, change their sex), a terrible parent (you want your own children to be boring; we want something bad to happen to our fictional children).

- All stories have a secret that is hidden from some of the characters in the story. Sometimes the readers are in on the secret. It's like a time bomb we are waiting to go off. It's the secret that draws the story.

- Writing is like a striptease, but it can also be a prayer.

This was for the benefit of those who were not in attendance. You heard a lot of this said at our meeting... if you were there. Nancy, feel free to add stuff since you took more notes than I did. LOL! I have now exhausted my list of new quotes that would have lasted me a couple of weeks so consider this today's Quote of the Day.

Keep happy!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/29

...ask yourself, “Which ideas, among all these I’ve generated, have the most complication inherent in them?” Specifically, which promise the most complication between characters? Which ideas put my characters in passionate opposition to one another? These are the ideas with the greatest capacity to lend conflict and interest to your story. The more passionate, the better. – Alice Orr

Friday, November 28, 2008


The below quote was taken from a lecture Nancy and I attended today by Richard Scrimger. You all missed a fascinating and entertaining lecture.

Your writing prompt for today is to write about revenge.

Quote of the Day 11/28

Lots of good writing is revenge writing. - Richard Scrimger

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/27

Often I think writing is a sheer paring away of oneself leaving always something thinner, barer, more meager. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/25

Anyone who believes you can't change history has never tried to write his memoirs. - David Ben Gurion

Lecture Reminder

Just wanted to remind everyone about this Friday's Humber lecture on "Lies Reveal Many Truths" by author Richard Scrimger at the Orangeville Public Library. It is only one hour long from noon until 1pm. If you plan to go, make sure you have $20 for registration.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/25

I’m not a very good writer, but I’m an excellent rewriter. – James Michener

Members Christmas Luncheon

Sunday, December 7th, is our annual Christmas Luncheon. We will meet at the King's Buffet at 11:30am, enjoy some great food, and this year we will be adding a BOOK EXCHANGE. If you have some books you are willing to part with and are interested in finding some interesting reads for yourself, bring along as many books as you want and we will have a book swap at the restaurant. At least we'll try. If we have to we could do it at the library following that. Better to do it during lunch though.

Following our luncheon we will be meeting at the library at 1:30. Instead of our usual writing session we will be playing Balderdash which is, in essence, a game for writers but a whole lot of fun.

Family members are welcome. Please RSVP advising how many members of your family will be attending so I can make the reservations at The King's Buffet. Time is flying by quickly so please respond to my email address as soon as possible.

Keep happy,


Monday, November 24, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/24

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Sylvia Plath

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/23

I don’t give a flying fig Newton what the reviewers say. I care about my readers... If you’re an author who cares about the craft and the experience your readers have, you pay pretty close attention to that. – Brad Thor

Friday, November 21, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/21

If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow. - Louis L’Amour


You are sitting in a booth in a restaurant. Are you with someone? What is happening? Or are you alone? Is there someone in the booth next to you? What do you hear?

Nipissing Writers

I've been a busy beaver up here in North Bay. There was a group of writers here who met on rare occasion, but disbanded a couple of years ago when the site of their meetings went out of business. There was interest expressed by several people last weekend at Gulliver's Bookstore that indicated a willingness to resume activities. I located a large room at a central locationwhich I contracted on behalf of the group and we begin regular bi-monthy Sunday afternoon meetings beginning January 11th. I understand there was no format to their meetings, simply discussing their work and critiquing, but no exercises in creative writing. I am introducing prompts and 15 to 20 minute creative writing sessions in a format similar to that of the Headwaters Writers. We have briefly discussed meeting on alternate weekends as a "drop in" but I think that will follow once we become more organized. There are some published writers and many unpublished writers here, a good ix and I think we can help each other. It sure beats working in a vacuum.

Christmas Miracles Anthology

The following comes from the Christmas Miracles Book's website. You can submit your story by clicking on the link.

Christmas Miracles is a book project we have contracted with St. Martin's Press for late 2009 release. We seek true stories of miracles that took place at Christmas. They must revolve around that special time of year.

We prefer first-person narratives.

This is an excellent opportunity to see your writing in a book with other outstanding authors.

You must follow these guidelines:

  • Deadline for stories is December 24, 2008.
  • All entries must be double-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman, Word document.
  • Stories may run from 900 to 1,300 words. We will not consider longer pieces.
  • We will edit all stories we accept so that they have a unified voice.
  • Your name will be listed with your story and you'll have a four-line information/resume paragraph at the end of the book.
  • Every story must have a positive solution that results from a miracle through events or timing at the Christmas season.
  • Every story must have a positive application. That is, you must tell us what you learned from that miracle or how it changed your life.
  • You may send an original or a reprint. (If a reprint, please tell us where it was published and assure us that you own the reprint rights.)

If we accept your story, you will retain rights. You'll also receive a $50 honorarium and a free copy of the book when it is released in October 2009.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/20

I don't think it is possible to give tips for finding one's voice; it's one of those things for which there aren't really any tricks or shortcuts, or even any advice that necessarily translates from writer to writer. All I can tell you is to write as much as possible. - Poppy Z. Brite

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/19

Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it. - Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/18

It's none of their business that you have to learn how to write. Let them think you were born that way. - Ernest Hemingway


When I first took a workshop with the late Ed Wildman, he talked about taking a writing workshop with Natalie Goldberg in Taos, New Mexico. He’d learned from her that reading aloud was a valuable tool for writers.

A closet writer for five years, at first, I was terrified to read my writing. What I learned is that it’s part of the process of writing. You write – you read. I feel that I’ve grown as a writer and a public speaker. At my daughter’s wedding this year, I read a speech that I’d written. After I sat down, I realized that I had experienced any anxiety.

At Ed’s writing workshops, we always brought our writing from home and read it. The late Janet Bellinger and I would be up at 6:00 A.M. working on a piece of writing that we would read that day. We didn’t want to disappoint Ed.

I would encourage you to bring your writing to read at our writing sessions (twice a month) at the library.

Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind has an excellent piece in reading aloud.

If you have a good experience of reading aloud, please feel free to add a new post explaining how it has helped you.

Happy writing and reading aloud --- Keep writing, be happy.



We used to collect money only at Christmas. Once we decided to donate a Commencement Award for the late Janet Bellinger– we started to donate money each week and we opened a bank account.

Commencement Award for The Late Janet Bellinger Memorial Award – Janet was a founding member.

At Christmas, we give a small gift to our secretary and Webmaster whose donation of their time allows the rest of us time to write.

It’s for any supplies that we need or cakes to celebrate our successes.

We appreciate your donations. Please reply to my recent email re our Christmas donation.


The Bellinger Family and Headwaters Writers’ Guild awarded the Late Janet Bellinger Memorial Award on November 7, 2008 to Krystine Lawaska – a student who is continuing post secondary education and has improved her writing skills. Leigh Bellinger – Janet’s daughter, presented it to Krystine.

Next year will be our last year of donating $200.00 towards the Award.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/17

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light. - Joseph Pulitzer

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Toronto Star Joe Fiorito to speak at Humber College Wednesday Nov 19,2008

Memoir Writing course at Humber College, Lakeshore campus, has invited Joe Fiorito
to speak about his fiction, non-fiction, and memoir writing, specifically his book
'The Closer We Are to Dying'. He'll do a reading, talk about his writing, and take
questions. A car-pool invitation from Heart Lake Road/410 in Brampton is available.
Guests from Headwaters are welcome to join the talk.

Quote of the Day 11/16

Hardly anybody ever writes anything nice about introverts. Extroverts rule. This is rather odd when you realise that about nineteen writers out of twenty are introverts. We are been taught to be ashamed of not being 'outgoing'. But a writer's job is ingoing. - Ursula K. LeGuin

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/15

The first step to becoming a better writer is believing your own experience is worth writing about. - Peter Marmorek

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/14

You learn by writing short stories. Keep writing short stories. The money's in novels, but writing short stories keeps your writing lean and pointed. - Larry Niven

Independent BookSellers

The local North Bay book store, Gullivers, is celebrating Independent Book Sellers Day tomorrow with a short ceremony and a book launch at 1 p.m. by a local author. I'm not sure if Booklore in Orangeville is celebrating as well, or whether this is just a local event, but it would be a great opportunity to let Booklore know that you support them if indeed they are planning a similar event. I look upon it as a way to meet other writers on the local scene and socialize with them. Wynterblue Publishing is a local company that does print on demand and offers similar services such as editing, proofreading, etc. This is a good contact for anyone who has experienced rejections from major publishers and are looking to have a book published in small numbers. Check out wynterblue on the Internet.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Write about divine intervention.

Quote of the Day 11/13

Talent isn't enough. You need motivation - and persistence too: what Steinbeck called a blend of faith and arrogance. - Leon Uris

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What Genre is my Novel?

If you're not sure, here's a fun wizard that might help you figure it out.

Fishing"s Greatest Misadventures

Sue just received four copies of the book "Fishing's Greatest Misadventures" from the editor of CasagrandePress in California (accompanied by a cheque for $100. US). I have contributed a short story to that book and plan to bring it to one of the meetings when I'm in Orangeville later this month.

The bio of "Bill Bennett: Pioneer Bush Pilot and Outfitter" is due from the printer this month and if I have received my complimentary copies I will bring it to the meeting as well.

My publisher has agreed to publish another bio I've written, "Bernice Walker, Woman of Courage" (working title) in 2010 and is currently evaluating the young adult novel, "A Trout for Tyler" for publication. My article about Flower's River, Labrador will appear in the Spring issue of the Atlantic Salmon Journal.

There are currently no writers groups in North Bay and I am thinking about starting one. Canadore College and Nippising University are nearby and I'm thinking this would be a good source for people who want to write and socialize with other writers. The local independent book store is supportive. I've also been invited to speak to Books by the Bay next July about my role as Mentorship Chair of the Outdoor Writers of Canada, its benefits, and how to become involved.

Many of you will recall Sherri, who visited us during my workshop last December. She has been published in Outdoor Canada and has her foot in the door with the editor, so I believe we'll be seeing more of her work there in future.

One of my good friends, Ron Pitts, is showing his striking photography at the Dufferin County Museum and Archvesuntil November 16th. If you want to experience some eye-opening and breathtaking nature photography you should visit there before it closes. Tell him I said Hi.

Quote of the Day 11/12

The fast I write the better my output. If I'm going slow I'm in trouble. It means I'm pushing the words instad of being pulled by them. - Raymond Chandler

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Giller Award

Woohoo! Joseph Boyden won the Giller Award for Through Black Spruce, which I am reading right now. If you ever manage to find your way over here, Joseph, CONGRATULATIONS from your newest and biggest fan!

Keep happy!

Quote of the Day 11/11

The publisher's decision to buy someone's book, assuming the material is appropriate to their programme, is based on a combination of many elements including a strong story, good writing and well-presented material. So do your homework. Find out the guidelines for submitting manuscripts for each publisher and follow them. Send in the best work you can - and then be patient. It is not a good idea to threaten the publisher who is, after all, your first point of contact! You just never know who could be on the way to making your dream come true. - Paula Campbell, Poolpeg Publishing

Monday, November 10, 2008

Valuable Website

I was looking for a website to help my daughter with her French homework. This is an amazing website. You can translate any language into any language. It can be very valuable to a writer if you want to bring in a character who speaks a different language. Check it out!

Quote of the Day 11/10

I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain. - Audre Lourde

Wayson Choy speaks @ Humber College, Lakeshore Campus

My Memoir Writing Course at Humber College, Lakeshore Campus, invited

its participants to share the evening with a few friends. So I invite my colleagues

at Headwaters Writers' Guild to hear Wayson Choy speak about his writing, teaching,

and publishing career. His published memoir recounts growing up in Vancouver, B.C.

in a cultural minority.

December 3, 2008 7:00 - 10:00 pm

Car Pooling available from Brampton
(410/Heart Lake Road & Sandalwood Parkway)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/09

Sharing our stories can also be a means of healing. Grief and loss may isolate us, and anger may alienate us. Shared with others, these emotions can be powerfully uniting, as we see that we are not alone, and realize that others weep with us. - Susan Wittig Albert

Humber Lecture Series

From Friday's Orangeville Banner:

Area residents are invited to participate in the Humber Orangeville lecture series, taking place each Friday from noon to 1pm at the Mill Street Library. (Only one hour???)

The one lecture I thought might be of interest is November 28th, Lies Reveal Many Truths - bringing out the story within us, examining why we act the way we do, who we are and what we should be doing about it. Taught by author Richard Scrimger.

Visit for more information.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/08

Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts - Salman Rushdie

Friday, November 7, 2008

Free Download

Donald Maas Literary Agency has a free download available. The Career Novelist: A Literary Agent Offers Strategies for Success is available from their website.

Quote of the Day 11/07

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist. - Isaac Asimov

Freelance Success Stories Contest

Our favourite kind of writing contest: It's open to all writers and it's FREE!


It's that time of year again when I start asking for submissions to the Freelance Success Stories contest for the next edition of Writer's Market. I love reading about all the successes, but what really gets me every time is just how many routes to success there seem to be.

This year's contest has a deadline of December 31. It's open to any writer and should be between 800-1,500 words in lenth. As usual, there is no entry free. An exciting development is that the first place prize has been increased to $500 along with publication in the 2010 Writer's Market!

Entries can be sent to with "Freelance Success Stories Entry" in the subject line.

Check out a 2009 Writer's Market for previous winning entries, but success stories have to be nonfiction and personal (your success story, not someone else's). It can be about your first byline, first big sale, moment you realized you made it, odd writing gig, etc.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Write about something you found in the deep recesses of a closet.

The Canadian Writers' Contest Calendar 2009 Order Now!

2009 Edition - The Canadian Writers' Contest Calendar gives full listing of Canadian contests arranged by deadline dates. It lists contests for short stories, poetry, children's writing, novels, and non-fiction. If you want to order one of your own....
Fee: $22
Cheques payable to: Brian Henry, 110 Reiner Road, Toronto, On M3H 2L6
Reserve by email:

Brian Henry "Real Characters" How to find them, how to create them

Saturday December 6, 2008
1:00 pm - 4:45 pm (registration 12:45)
Oakville Central Library, 120 Navy St, Oakville
Fee: $36 in advance, $40 at the door
cheque payable to Brian Henry, 110 Reiner Road, Toronto, ON M3H 2L6

Seminar excerpts:
"Whatever you're writing--fiction or non-fiction--readers only care about your story if they care about your people"
"learn techniques for creating fictional or real people"
"breathe life into the page so that your people start telling you how the story should go"

Brian Henry's"Dialogue" The Writer's Most Important Tool

Saturday November 8, 2008
10 am - 4:00 pm
Appleby United Church 4407 Spruce Avenue, Burlington
Fee: $40 in advance $44 at the door
cheque to :Brian Henry 110 Reiner Road, Toronto, M3H 2L6

Seminar excerpts:
"meaty enough for experienced writers, how to use dialogue for more dynamic, dramatic stories"
"whether for fiction or memoir, bring characters alive by mixing dialogue & narrative"
"learn the best tricks of the trade so you'll never write a lifeless scene again"

Quote of the Day 11/06

In keeping with Laura's post...

A writers' group would have the great advantage of keeping you up to scratch like Weight Watchers does, or Alcoholics Anonymous. If you have to turn up with something written every Wednesday, then it's easier to keep your schedule than if you only had to deal with yourself. - Maeve Binchy

The Purpose of Writing Prompts

In the latest issue of The Writer magazine, there are two articles that remind me of our writing group. The first, by Susan Colebank, is "How a critique group and ad led to a book deal." Part of her experience involved good timing, but the most important part is that she used the writing group to break out of a rut, and that's what ultimately led to her being published.

The second article is an interview with award winning novelist, Sheridan Hay. The idea for her novel, The Secret of Lost Things came from...(drum roll please)...a writing exercise. See? Writing exercises can lead to great things. (Oh, and by the way, Diane, that novel takes place in a bookstore.)

Sometimes I've wondered what the point of all those writing exercises and prompts is. I am not really a big believer in exercises. I learned to knit by making a sweater, not practice swatches. I figure I can learn to write by writing stories, not through writing prompts.

BUT (and yes, it's a big but!), at my very first writing group meeting, back on January 27th, 2007, led by Nancy, one of the prompts was "I have a confession." I only wrote a couple paragraphs at that meeting but I was intrigued with the character I had created. I dug the paragraphs out a few weeks later (when I was running early for the writing group I might add) and kept going with it. That writing prompt turned into my story "Freedom From Gravity," which placed second in The Dorothy Shoemaker Literary Awards contest.

So, there you have it. Writing groups lead to book deals, writing exercises and prompts lead to awards. Bring on the prompts!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/05

I write to become understood. After I had published my first novel many people started ethusiatically commenting on it. I had tried to talk about the same things in normal conversation, but my message hadn’t gone through. Now I found a channel for it. - Raija Oranen

Writing Group Reminders

The Headwaters Writers' Group and the Bellinger Family are presenting a writing bursary in the name of the late Janet Bellinger at commencement ceremonies at ODSS this Friday, November 7th at 7:00pm. All members of the Writers' Group are welcome to attend.

Also, there will be no lunch bunch gab session this Saturday, November 8th. Hope to see you all again at the library on Sunday, November 16th. (An email I sent had wrong dates as someone changed my calendar over to December. Sorry!)

Keep happy!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/04

I am writing in the garden. To write as one should of a garden one must write not outside it or merely somewhere near it, but in the garden. - Frances Hodgson Burnett

Monday, November 3, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/03

Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact. - Robert McKee

Writing the Sacred Workshop

Writing the Sacred: A Psalm-writing, journaling and poetry Workshop
When: Saturday, November 8, 2008
2:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Location: Dublin Street United Church
68 Suffolk Street W, Guelph, 519-821-0610
Cost: By donation

To reserve a spot, contact Sheryl Spencer at sspencer (at) sentex (dot) net

At a Writing the Sacred workshop you'll be invited to a fresh encounter with the Hebrew Psalms. Ray McGinnis will show you some of the ageless poetic elements present in the Psalms alongside other examples of sacred poetry across the centuries. You'll hear read cries of the spirit inviting you to express your own longings for God on paper. Whether you are a seasoned writer or have never put pen to paper, you'll be expertly guided, step-by-step, to a place where you'll emerge
with your own new psalm/sacred poem. You'll leave with tools for how to use poem-making as a tool to write your own new Psalms, and as a companion on your own spiritual, prayer life and devotional journey.

Signed copies of Writing the Sacred will also be available for purchase at this workshop for $26.50, cash or cheque.

Ray McGinnis is a poet and has written in journals all his life. He has taught over 7,000 people how to write prayers, poetry, and autobiographies, all the while guiding them to bring their whole heart, mind, and spirit to the process. Writing the Sacred is in its second printing.

For more information about his workshop and book visit
Published by Northstone, an imprint of Wood Lake Publishing
Writing the Sacred ISBN: 978-1-896836-73-7

"Ray McGinnis has a finely tuned ear for the deep meaning of the Psalms... as a veteran workshop leader he has a knack for drawing out bursts of imagination out of people that may not know they had it in them..." - Douglas Todd, Spirituality and Ethics writer, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver, British Columbia

"Writing the Sacred is rich with insight, power and meaning. Ray McGinnis gives us a great gift by showing the Psalms to be a living language, a poetic language vital for today. These pages are permeated with our human story - our raw and beautiful longing for God...(and) acts as a healing balm and creative catalyst to help you reclaim your soul's voice." - John Fox, author of Poetic Medicine: The Healing Art of Poem-Making

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/02

... persevere. Formally set aside time to write - respect your book enough to try to fit it in, in bitty gaps, around the rest of your life. - Marian Keyes

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Quote of the Day 11/01

A book is a journey. Well, it is if you finish it. If you don't then it's no journey at all, just a series of stops and starts and eventual disappointments. - Maeve Binchy