Monday, May 31, 2010

HWG Guest Poet GTG: A Review

On Sunday, May 30, 2010, GTG (aka Gary T. Gravelle) joined the Headwaters Writers’ Guild to talk about his book Paths Through Heartache: A Journey in Poetry. Mr. Gravelle’s wife, Joanne, was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease in 1989, she passed away in 2001. The collection of poetry is a story of their love and life and received high praises from members of the Ontario Poetry Society of which he is a member.

Mr. Gravelle, a former English teacher at Orangeville District Secondary School, used poetry as a tool to help him through their heartbreaking journey of love, life, suffering and loss. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be donated to The Huntington Society of Canada. As well as reading some of the poems to us, he shared his story and his writing process.

The book is broken down into three parts, the three stages of the journey, beginning with brief personal essays which bring the collection together to form a story. Photographs of roses are scattered throughout the book, including a picture of the rose engraved on his wife’s tombstone. One of his writing students, Emily MacInnes, produced the collection of 100 poems. It begins with The Empty Chair which sets the theme and is one of the most powerful pieces in the book along with Hands and Vigil. The two final poems, Retrospective and The Finale, were written five years after his wife passed away. The titles speak for themselves. You will no doubt cry while reading this emotional collection of poems.

Mr. Gravelle told us that when he writes he creates an environment with music and a candle, though he has been known to scribble a poem on a napkin at a stoplight. After writing a poem he does not look at it again for 24 hours. At that time the only editing he will do is with setting the structure and any spelling errors. His poems do not rhyme. In fact, “Thou Shalt Not Rhyme” is one of his rules. Rhyming is confining and limits the freedom of expression.

Harry asked, “What makes a poem a poem if it doesn’t rhyme?” Mr. Gravelle responded that poetry is about emotion, saying the most in the fewest words, breaking up the lines. He recommends writing prose first and then playing with the structure, the line breaks. Gravelle says space is as important as spelling.

Clare asked, “What does writing do for you?” Mr. Gravelle said that writing poetry was a way of releasing anger, frustration, questioning God. It is a personal thing, feelings of human emotion. He finds writing poetry very cathartic. He added that he did not write poetry from the time he and Joanne met in 1968 until about 1994. “Why? Because we were happy.”

Harry told us that he had only begun taking poetry seriously three years ago. When asked what “taking it seriously” means, Harry said that he thinks about it every day.

Mr. Gravelle finished up by reading some of his more humourous poems from Trail of Stones, a darker look at fairy tales. “Humour and emotion go hand in hand,” he said. “One balances the other.”

You can purchase Paths Through Heartache from GTG at At this time he has sold 130 of the 200 copies originally produced. It is his hope to have more published after the first run is sold out.

Judy shared some of her personal and humourous poems with the group.

There was no time for writing. The prompts were handed out as homework. They are:

1. You’re listening to the radio.
2. “And it was at that age...”
3. It’s snowing.
4. Write about a time someone said yes.
5. Before I was born
6. If I could do it over again
7. You hear a siren.
8. It’s too soon to tell.

From Judy Reeves’ A Writer’s Book of Days

Another option is to write a story or poem using one or a combination of words from the list below:

May, Capacity, Banjo, Pink, Echo, Exploration, Recover, Affection, Formal, Butterfly, Watery, Silky, Cheerful, Ostrich, Obvious, Spring, Juggle, Nostalgia, Magnolia, Dominate.

Our next meeting is scheduled for Sunday, June 13th.

Jayne's Guest Blog Post

Check out Headwaters Writers' Guild week at C. Patrick Schulze's blog. First up this week, Jayne Self. Don't forget to rate the articles. One of our members is going to win a prize!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Guest Bloggers - First Week of June

Five members of our group are going to be guest bloggers on C. Patrick Schulze's blog beginning Monday May 31. Jayne, Diane, Gloria, Laura and Richard will appear one each day so be sure to check it out at

Just a reminder that I will not be at the May 30th meeting so someone will have to take notes and post the meeting minutes.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Caught Dead: A Dean Constable Mystery

Writing is such fun!
Check out my book trailer at
and let me know what you think.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Meeting Minutes, May 16, 2010

Harry was leading the last meeting. He hardly had a chance to open his mouth before a discussion about what is and is not appropriate to post to the group's blog began. We talked about some things being offensive to one person but not to another and how we should be encouraging each other and not try to censor. What it came down to was that everyone should use common sense when posting to the group's blog. Be aware that each of us represents a group of many other writers with many different voices. If something appears on the blog that any of us finds offensive, please feel free to discuss it with the author and the group.

We had a large group this meeting, which always makes for more energy and variety.
Clare told us about his talk at the Dufferin Museum on May 15th. There was not a great turn out, but he did enjoy it. He told us that he sent a copy of The Hurleyville Taxi as well as a CD of the songs written about it and a DVD to Stuart McLean from The Vinyl Cafe on CBC. Clare got a letter from the production assistant to say they had received his package, but Stuart was out of town for a while. They wished him all the best and promised to look at it for the show.

Caitlyn read her poem about meeting her six-year-old self. Kelli suggested that she write an adult version. What would her adult self say to her six-year-old self. Judy said we all have negative self-talk and that we should all turn that around and pretend we are six. Would we still say the same things to ourselves then? Sandy wanted to talk to Caitlyn about turning her poem into a song!

Ron read a story about 12 Steps. Not about addictions - well unless you include counting basement stairs as an addiction! Lord Tweedsmuir who is the namesake for the church, wrote 39 Steps which was turned into a movie.

Sandy read a poem she did for her grandson about her two sons. She also showed us a memoir called Cakewalk written by Kate Moses. The book includes the song lyrics for "Love You" which Sandy wrote as part of the group The Free Design. Kate Moses also wrote a novel called Wintering: A Novel of Sylvia Plath.

Pat read a short story written from a prompt she had three years ago. A woman gets a letter from her father dated 2003. He died in 2004. Laura told her it was worth the wait, which may end up being the new title.

Kelli had a list of names. She wanted the group to help her pick one for the bully in her new book. The group picked Brad from the list but suggested she choose a nickname rather than just a name.

Laura reminded us about the Amazon bookstore on the Website! She will add the books by Kate Moses to it and asked that we send her two or three of our favourite book titles to promote our friends or favourite writers. It's also a great place to buy books since we do get money back from it.

Jenn announced that she has started her own blog but I didn't get the address (sorry Jenn! Feel free to post it or email it around and we'll add it!) She read two of her poems to us "Tangled" and "Superstition"

Gloria read a short memoir called "A Sister's Gift" about her older sister's death and preparation for burial and how she coped with everything. Loved her line about "a statue without a voice." Thank you for sharing something so deeply personal.

Ruth read "the funny one", a poem called "Writing a Poem." She also read a poem called "Mother's Musing on the Meaning of Women's Shoes." It is posted on her website along with a tasteful photo of a woman wearing nothing but stilettos. It was inspired by a show about the Bata Shoe Museum. Shoes apparently have a bit of an obscene history (spikes and stilettos). Richard commented on how we bare ourselves when we write and become "literarily naked."

Alberta announced that she and Gloria were going to The Book Shelf in Guelph on May 24 for a movie premiere. Theirs! They have participated in the 24 Hour Movie Challenge for a few years now and always managed to pull off a fun and interesting show! We got to watch one at an Eramosa Eden retreat.

This is a shorter post today. I did not make notes while everyone read their prompts because I got absorbed in them all. It's very inspiring to hear what people can do with a simple song title!

Here are the prompts Harry gave us to work with:

The Rite of Spring
Some Enchanted Evening
Pop Goes the Weasel
Wild Horses
Wish You Were Here
Achy Breaky Heart
Strange Fruit
Me and Bobby McGee
Chain Gang
Closer to the Heart
Great Balls of Fire
Monster Mash
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy
Somewhere over the Rainbow
I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face
Tutti Frutti
Ain't Misbehavin'
Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend
Unchained Melody
That's Amore

Just a couple of reminders!!!
  1. The Eramosa Eden Retreat is June 19. Directions will be available or you can look them up on-line. Bring lunch, something to write in and with (laptops are welcome) and a camera if you are so inclined. It is a great place to get away from it all and be inspired.
  2. June 19 is also the deadline for Anthology submissions!!! Prose pieces can be up to 2,000 words. You may submit 2-3 pieces and we can decide from there on what to use.
  3. Our next meeting is May 30. Nancy will be leading. I will be away due to an art workshop that I'm really looking forward too so someone else will have to take notes and post the minutes. Any takers?

Have a great couple of weeks and keep on writing! See you all in June!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Here is your Monday Mystery Fix. Caught Dead Chapter seven.//

Short Story Writing

The following, I thought, is pertinent as well, for us to remember as we prepare our stories for the Anthology. Gloria
This is from:

Write Something Worth Selling

OK, so this might seem obvious, or like the kind of comment that doesn't really help much, but you need to understand at the outset that people are only going to pay money for stories that are well-written and intriguing on some level. Here are some things to keep in mind when you try to size up your work:

  • Have a Definite Climax or Resolution – A short story needs to do what it is going to do quicker than a novel, so you need to get to the payoff soon. When you get there, it needs to be clear what is happening and why it is happening. Bounce your ideas off some good friends to see what their reaction is to your storyline, and revise accordingly.
  • Characters – Your characters must evoke strong reactions, meaning they must be likable or unlikable. Most of all, they must be believable. Even if they are fantastical or mythical, they need to have motivations that readers can relate to. Otherwise, no one will care about what happens to them.
  • Write With Your Senses – One of the best ways readers are drawn into stories is by feeling the writer's words. What does the scene smell like? What sounds are playing in the background? What does the material of the girl's dress feel like? Make sure your stories are full of vivid sensory details.
  • Revise, Revise, Revise – Don't stop until you get it right. Some famous writers revise thirty or forty drafts before they submit the story for publication. Great writing takes a lot of work, so don't be afraid to keep working on a story to get it perfect.

Tips for Short Stories

I came across this article this morning and although these are all tips we have heard about, I thought it a good reminder for us short story writers. The link is at the end if you want to read more. Gloria

Show Don't Tell

Think about how does the storyteller delivers the story. If they tell about a rotten smell, and back away with nose wrinkled or hold their nose, the audience sees that the smell is bad. In the same way, as you learn how to write short stories, you need to show the smell is bad with your words—words that create an image in the reader's mind. In other words, "rotten smell" doesn't really create an image, whereas, "Rita pulled the container from the refrigerator in her search for something to eat. She lifted the lid and peeked inside. Big mistake. Released air hissed and spewed the stench of moldy cabbage into the air faster than she could seal the container and toss it in the trash." This story could go on with air freshener, allergic reactions, opening the windows…whatever is necessary for moving the story forward.

Components of a Good Story

It doesn't matter whether your short story is fiction or non-fiction, the same components are necessary for a good story.

  • Plot: If you don't develop a plot, your story is nothing more than words. Your short story should be made up of a series of events organized for one purpose—your plot. These events should create a type of complication or conflict, which forces your character to make a choice. The choice will lead to a further dilemma and or crisis, which tests the character. The climax of the story comes about at the height of the crisis, and should be followed with resolution.
  • Setting: In the case of a short story, you don't have much time to create setting. This is the physical place where the story happens, and is used to make the plot work.
  • Characters: The type of characters you choose will depend on genre, and of course on whether or not you're writing fiction or non fiction. The key to making your characters believable is to let the reader see them. What body language do they use? Give them quirks or habits, and of course a few physical characteristics. Mix this information with a small amount of back story and they'll come alive.
  • Dialog: Dialog is a great device to move the plot forward while delivering back story information naturally. Note the key word here: naturally. The information must "fit" the conversation. Forced information dumps only draw attention to themselves and are not the mark of a good writer.

Vivid Imagery

Just like the oral counterpart, the key to drawing your reader into the written story is vivid imagery. This doesn't mean blocks of flowery description, but learning to use active voice with specific verbs that involves all the senses. It takes practice. If you are interested in learning more through practical first-hand experience, it's a good idea to join a writing group or take online classes where writers exchange critiques and offer feedback.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Next Meeting

We have a meeting this Sunday, May 16th, 1:00pm at Tweedsmuir Church. Harry will be leading.

Note: Jayne will not be there. I will be unlocking the door. Don't expect me there before 1:15. ;)

See you all there!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Anthology Submission Tips

Tips for submitting to anthologies from Writer's Relief:



Today is my granddaughter’s 8th birthday. Time goes by so quickly.

Life is a series of adventures that become your life. I keep writing that phrase and it lingers in my mind waiting for a chance to be used.

Life is unbelievable. It calls out to you to live your best life. It hungers for a chance to become great or for you to use your God-given talents rather than burying them.

Could it be that we’re afraid to step out of the “label” that we wear given to us by family, friends, and teachers? Is it too difficult to shine or to take the high road and live our dreams? Is it easier to suffer depression, sadness, or worst of all regret for not living our best life?

Will we cry at heaven’s door, not now Lord, I haven’t finished my novel? Whenever somebody dies, I often wonder, did they live their dreams or did they die with regrets.

I often ask my older brother, “Have you ever imagined how great we might have become if we didn’t have a crazy childhood?”

We talked about how our younger brother always played his two wooden drum sticks on everything in our house.

“Why didn’t our parents buy him drums?” my brother asked. “He might have become a musician.”

“Because they didn’t have any dreams themselves so they couldn’t nurture ours,” I said.

“I remember you always wanted to become a writer. At least you’re writing now.”

What I didn’t tell him that it took my second near-death experience before I picked up my pen to write and it’s been a long process.

My younger cousin, Allen John McMinn died last week. I regret that we didn’t spend more time together. Thirty or more years ago, when most of our cousins attended our Uncle Jack’s funeral, Allen and I decided that it was crazy that we only saw our family when somebody died. We arranged a family reunion on the Island. It only happened twice.

The last time I saw Allen was approximately three years ago at our Auntie Noreen’s funeral and now I’m going to his memorial on Friday. Allen, till we meet in heaven.

I hate regrets. What will you regret?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Writing Buddies

Some of you may find this article about "Writing Buddies" of interest. It's kind of like we do outside the group.

Eramosa Eden Book Launch

Hi All,

This is the photo taken by the SNAP magazine of Gloria Nye's Book Launch, April 18, for the 26 "Stories of Prayers & Faith", which many members of the Headwaters Writers' Guild attended. It was a wonderful day celebrating the publication of these heartfelt stories. Thanks to everyone who supported this project!

Ruth Cunningham

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The page is staring back at me!

I sit here in front of my new 250 dollar "refurbished" IBM desktop (my really sweet Hp laptop exploded a couple of weeks ago. Apparently it did this in retaliation to some of my writing.) with my old but very expensive monitor with a blank 'Microsoft Works' page brightly lit up. I only mention the monitor because it's not one of those fancy 'flat screen', 'high-def' monitors that make you feel like your in a cinema. No, it's a 19 inch behemoth that i bought many years ago specifically to view my photographs. It weighs a tonne and I'm pretty sure I blew out a sphincter muscle carrying it up from the basement.

But I digress.

Back to the empty page. Now it could be that I'm experiencing a sense of paranoia but I feel that it isnt so much me staring at the page, but the page staring back at me. Is it attempting to encourage me with its snow white glare? An elusive electronic muse perched, waiting to give me that awe inspiring static spark of illumination?

Or is it a demon in disguise? Mocking me, tempting me to write something atrocious on its gleaming surface only to crash in cruel defiance.

I sit here pondering these questions and I take my finger and dip it in my chocolate pudding (I like chocolate pudding.) and I draw a happy face on the gleaming white surface. I take a moment to let my eyes take in the monitor, the screen, and the happy face and I smile back at it confirming once and for all,,,,,, I've lost my bloody mind.


In Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch, God says that there’s enough time. It’s easy for him to say. He should tell that to a mother with five children trying to get her children ready for school. Or tell it to a woman with a full-time job in the home and outside the home with children. What’s the old saying, a woman’s work is never done.

Imagine most of our mothers only worked in the home.

Time seems so fragile when your best friend dies or for that matter when any loved one dies. Could it be ‘cause humans know that there are two sides do life—birth and death? In an earlier post, I mention the movie, The Blade Runner. ( ) The robots are searching for their maker in order to obtain their expiry dates.

As we age, aren’t we always wondering about our own expiry date? While going through the grieving process when my best friend Colette died, I thought about the meaning of life and then I focused on the meaning of my life.

I believe when loved ones die that they gift us a gift? I constantly wondered what gift did she give me? Finally, I realized she gave me the gift of time. Don’t waste time because you don’t know when you’ll be called home.

Since she died, I revaluate my life but especially time. The worst addiction I have is checking email. Do I have to check it every two minutes? I spend very little time watching TV. I usually disconnect the satellite in May and start it back up in September.

I make almost every decision based on time. Will this give me more time to write? If I organize the Open Mic will it be a benefit to my writing?

I spend my precious time with close friends and family. And of course I spend every second I can with my granddaughter because I know how quickly my own children became adults.

Time for writing is a big component of my life. Yes, God is right, there’s enough time, although I’m doing the best I can to use it wisely.

What motivates me to write is my age. Imagine when I was in the late Ed Wildman’s writing workshops, I was the second youngest. When I started Headwaters Writers’ Guild for a long time, I was the second oldest. I’m six years older than Colette was when she died. I use this to motivate me to write.

The last two nights I didn’t sleep through the night and it isn’t even the full moon. I thought possibly I should get up to write. Finally, I fell back to sleep around 5:00 a.m. I swear I wasn’t asleep more than ten minutes when I heard a voice in my dream yell,

“Leave me alone, I just fell back to sleep.”

Even in dreamtime, I’m reminded to put writing on the top of my things to do.

How do you want to spend your time? Watching TV, checking email, or do you want to live a life fully lived? Do you want to write? Then write.

There’s always enough time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


I don't know what I'd do without my journal. I've completed over 200 journals and I'm still journaling.

On Sunday, I read my raw short story 'Til We Meet in Heaven. I mentioned that I first wrote it in my journal in February 2005 during a bad winter storm. I wondered how my ancestors buried in Horning Mills would have survived a bad storm. The what if prompted me to write the short story.

For years, I wrote by long hand in my journal and then typed up my stories, poems, or parts of a novel on the computer. In order to save time, I learned to compose at the computer. Most of my pieces still start by hand and then move to the computer. If I'm having trouble starting or finishing a writing project, I always revert back to writing in my journal. For me, handwriting allows me to find "flow."

July 6, 2001 Journal

I had two dreams that talked about my writing. I’m hedging. When I allow myself to write then everything else falls into place. I ’m just a beginner. I push my worries aside. Maybe I’m afraid I might have to write about the disasters of my youth.

What ever happened to our dreams? Polished and left in our closets or locked away in a special room. Afraid to breathe or begin a new life, we retreat, we take the bus, follow the crowd and we lock away our special dreams.

Who are we to dream? Who do we think we are? We cringe and our dreams remain hidden and silent. We take the bus and live an ordinary life. Who are we to dream?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Caught Dead: A Dean Constable Mystery

Sometime congregational life can be murder!

If you haven't started Caught Dead yet, you can find the first four chapters at

If you're already hooked, here's chapter five.

Meeting Minutes May 2, 2010

A funny thing happened on my way to work today. Two of my kids got sick. Okay, not so funny, but it is giving me time to catch up on the laundry and post the meeting minutes to the blog.

We had a large group yesterday. Nancy started off by saying she was happy more of us are posting to the blog. (and not just meeting minutes! LOL) We talked about how to start a writing group for people who want to start one elsewhere. The most vital thing Nancy suggested was GIVE IT A NAME! There will be less confusion later. Our group started off as just The Writing Group then later the website was posted as The Orangeville Writing Group. That evolved into Headwaters Writers' Guild since we have writers from all over the Headwaters region.

Pat has been in contact with a writer/blogger by the name of C. Patrick Schulze. He has invited members of our group to be guest bloggers on his site. We had five members "volunteer" to be his guests: Jayne, Richard, Gloria, Laura and Diane. If you would like to check out his blog, you can find it at If you have any suggestions as to what the five of us should write about, we'll take them! Jayne is emailing him for more information and will get back to us soon.

Reminder: The anthology deadline is June 19!!!

The limit on prose pieces is 2,000 words. You may submit prose or poetry. We have not set a limit on number of pieces, but everything in moderation. Two or three pieces TOPS!

We would like the book to be about 150 pages and it will have a soft, glossy cover similar to Stories of Prayers and Faith. We will call it HWG Anthology 2010 to leave the possibility for future volumes.

You may send your works via email to Gloria at

We threw around some ideas for titles. I know that's not the most pressing detail we need to discuss but I'm posting some of the ones we came up with in the meeting as well as ones people sent out afterward.

Possible titles: A Gathering of Stones, Carved in Stone, Stories to Munch On, Airing Of Laundry, Carved in Sand, The Guilded Page (Anita), A Novel Idea (Chris - my husband who sleeps with one eye open), and a list of ideas from Harry: Pearl Necklace, Flock, Be Write Down, Stone Circles, Hands Full, Read This Book, Hive, Windings, Catkins, Tributaries.
Apparently Harry had a lot of time on his hands last night! Great ideas.
We do need to choose not only a title - which may just be HWG Anthology 2010 if we keep getting so many good ones to choose from!- and a cover photo. Clare and Richard both had some amazing photos yesterday. This is not going to be easy!

Onto the readings.....
Clare polished and read the story he wrote from a prompt last week about Jayne and Harvey Self. He also read Silver Angel Sings and told us it would only take 1 1/2 minutes to read. Pat timed him and he was bang on.

Pat emailed Gary Gravelle and he may be at our May 30th meeting.

Nancy suggested we go around the room and introduce ourselves since we have 3 new members now: Jenn, Kelli, and Alberta. Notable intros were Richard who said he was a bit of a drama queen (he knew we were all thinking it) and Laura aka Trouble, who writes when she's not editing for some people who write too much (Diane).

Sandy read her children's story, Zack and Kitty.
Kelli read part of the sequel to Amber and The Fallen Bridge, which is called Amber and The Bully.
Jenn read a couple of very nice poems.

Harry is turning his poem about the circus into a book of prose featuring vignettes about each of the circus folk and pictures. He read about Otto the Calliope Player. Richard gave him a picture prompt to as not to encourage his wild mind any further that day. Pottery is more benign than a nude woman on a chair.

Caitlyn read a story called God is in my Bathroom. She described herself as Mcgyver but without all the scientific training. It was a great story that made us all laugh and think. People suggested she send it to Reader's Digest, put it in the Anthology, or send it to Plumber's Monthly.

Ruth was busy thinking and couldn't write. She read from her blog on Her piece was called Have You Ever Thought About Your Thinking? In it, she delved into how our brains work and what it means to think.

Judy was reminded by Nancy to post her "Best Excuse for Not Writing" on the blog.

Nancy read a story about Theodore and Harriet. It was very moving and a window on how life was in the pioneer days.

Nancy also told us that Nancy from BookLore would like to host an Open Mic night at the store possibly in September. She is looking for someone in our group to organize it. Any takers? It would involve a bit of time and a lot of fun.

I read a very short story called Petunia's Peril about a black widow. Everyone asked if my husband slept with one eye open. He's read the story and he's still here. I have nice spot under the rose bushes though.... Kidding.

Richard handed us each one of his photographs to write from. It was interesting hearing not only what people wrote but what the real stories behind the photos were.

Clare read his prompt AND USED THE "F" WORD! And Nancy missed it!
Richard wrote his about the Naked Lady on the Chair picture that he took away from Harry. He was glad to find out from Judy the title of a picture book that he was looking for called The Mystery of Harris Burdick. Feel free to check it out online. Very interesting concept.

Well, that's all I've got for today. Hope you've had fun.
Our next meeting is May 16 and Harry will be leading.
Don't forget to submit your anthology stories and poems!!!

Keep in mind our Retreat is June 19 at Eramosa Eden. The cost is $10 for the day which is payable to Nancy. We usually car pool when convenient. Hope you all join us for a fun day next to the river. Bring your cameras! You never know what you might see!

Keep Writing!