Friday, February 25, 2011

We're in Good Hands

We can relax because the future is in good hands

Recently I attended a College of Management & Economics Student Association networking meeting.

This was their second networking event, whose intent was to bring the students and the community together to exchange ideas. This type of event gives students the opportunity to discover what opportunities lie in their community after they graduate, and gives busines people the opportunity to meet with their future employees and business associates.

It was a fascinating evening. These wonderful youg people are so full of hope and anticipation. They are filled with ideas and dreams and the successes they will achieve. It seems with every dream for themselves they have linked in a desire to give back. They are delightful, eager and, juicy and bursting with life. These young people are our future, and I can tell you we are all in good hands.

Yes, they will make mistakes, but not the ones we made. Their’s will simply be learning experiences, because they absorb things faster and are completely cable-ready for our burgeoning technilogical society. They are not daunted by change, but challenged by it.

There are no doubt times when we seem wise and exciting to them, and other times when we seem slow and plodding.

We do have something that may help them. It is called experience. I am sure they will eagerly make use of it. I only caution all of us with older heads to give of our wisdom willingly, but refrain from expecting them to follow the same paths on which we trod. They have their own and they must follow where it leads them. We cannot possibly tread in their shoes, so must resist the urge to lay down laws and rules and insist that ‘our way is best’. Because it is not. It is merely another way, a different way.

If you sometimes suspect that time is rushing you by and you feel as if you are getting older far too quickly, spend some time with a U of G student. You’ll be young again before you know it.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Why do I write?

What’s in a story? Why does one read? And how does that eventually transmute itself into wanting to move beyond reading someone else’s stories and telling your own?

Keeping his head down, John crept slowly beside the house toward the open window. It wouldn’t do to be seen right now. If Ma saw him there’d be hell to pay and he’d be the one paying it. His ears still hurt from the boxing she’d given him earlier this morning. And that had just been for not moving fast enough. For deliberately disobeying her, he’d get a much harder whipping.

How does one come to feel for the people who infiltrate their way into one’s imagination? Who is “John”? Why did I think of him? How did I think of him? Do I care about him? Does his story matter?

“Mrs. Earl, you cannot home school John. You must have a valid graduation certificate of at least grade 12. You must submit a monthly report to the school board showing your curriculum and the results of John’s testing. We’ve told you this multiple times but you have yet to submit anything showing your qualifications or your adherence to the rules and regulations. This cannot continue!”

The man from the school board sure sounded angry, John thought. Bet Ma was gonna give it to him good. She hated being told what to do.

Sure enough, a steady stream of profanities erupted from John’s mother. Grinning, John hunched down on his haunches outside the window and listened. He could have told the people from the school board that today was not a good day to come by vexing Ma.

Da had been right smashed when he got home late last night and the fighting had begun almost as soon as he had staggered through the front door.

Ma had got in a few good yells and punches before Da had overcome her. The fighting and screaming had gone on for a good couple of hours. Finally, Da had lurched down the hall to the bedroom and collapsed on the bed.

What a story! Why write something like this? Do I care any more about this John than I did a few paragraphs ago? Is this a story anyone would want to read? Why am I even thinking about something like this? It’s not in my sphere of experiences (Thank God).

So, why is it in my head? And why do I want to see where it goes?

A few minutes later John watched the man and woman from the school board storm out of the house and across the lawn. As they made their way past the piles of broken and rusted car and tractor parts toward their nice, shiny car, now covered in dust from the unpaved Macon county road, the man muttered about rules, jurisdiction and - worst of all - the “law” who would be called immediately.

Yep, trouble was brewing.

Why write? Why create John?

The truth is, I'm not sure why I write. But John lives now and I must know his story.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Meeting Minutes February 20, 2011

Wow, big group today. That and with other activities going on in the church, we ran out of chairs! First time ever! Oh, that and Gloria forgot her name(tag).

Kudos to Caitlyn for stepping in to fill Harry's shoes and take over his role as leader today and for the rest of the year. She did a great job keeping us all in line and the meeting humming along.

Ashley mentioned a group she has checked out and is becoming a part of called Me to We. It is an international group started in Canada, which sends aid to other countries. She thought it would be a great group for Richard and his daughter Eryn to check out to get an oxygen machine to the hospital she helped out in over in Africa. Me to We has a Facebook page which earns them $1 for every person who clicks "Like."

Anthology Update. Gloria is working on corrections and will have one more proof made up before the next printing. She will let us know via email when it is ready.

We had two new members today: Joe, a friend of Ruth's who writes about the Navy, and Dorothy, who lives at the Ecology Retreat and is a poet. We also welcomed back Judy M. who can only make it occasionally when her horses and the weather don't hamper her visits to the HWG!

Ruth announced that if anyone wanted to buy a copy of her book Mystical Verses directly from her, that she would give members of the guild a discount. You can also find her book at Artisan Store in Guelph and BookLore in Orangeville for $14.

Ashley treated us to a song she'd written after attending the Me to We meeting. The song was called Caged Bird and she also played guitar. One of the best lines commented on was "the cage was open, but you stayed." Pat was reminded of her dad, Mr. Bird, who passed away 5 years ago.

Jenn said Ashley's performance was a hard act to follow, but read from a journal entry about "experiencing life's eccentric journeys" and how it has brought her to us. Please check out Jenn's blog to read the entire article. Jenn, the warm fuzzy feelings are mutual. We are blessed to have you in our lives as well.

Ruth, as a membership co-ordinator for a group that dealt with the rules and regulations of self-publishing in Canada, got letters from all over the world and struck up a friendship with a man from Egypt. He works in downtown Cairo who sent a petition to her to support the uprising. When she told him she had lots of people sign it, he commented on how "courageous" Canadians are for signing it. She did some research and discovered there are only 4 publishers in all of Egypt. As a consequence of knowing this man and reading his emails and letters, she wrote an article about  choices and how "life is a game of truth and consequences."

Ruth's article led to a discussion of freedom in the Middle East. Joe wondered "what is happening in the villages as opposed to the major cities?" We don't hear about the whole of Egypt, mostly Cairo. Dorothy gave her views as a tourist who visited Egypt in the 1980s. Nancy talked about women in Egypt, how they are fighting back against the sexual attacks and protesting side by side with the men.

Marilyn, on her turn to read, announced, "And now for something completely different." She read us her script that won Second Prize (!!!) in the Screen Writing Challenge. The theme was "Everything but Love" and involved a breakdown in communications. She and her partner had 4 days to prepare a 6 minute script they titled "The Heart of the Matter." One of my favourite lines from her scripte was: "Not only are we not on the same page, we're not even in the same library."
She has also had a movie accepted for show in "Local Focus" in Kitchener and was proud to announce that she finally posted her "Why I Write" prompt on the blog! Way to go, Marilyn!

Diane (that would be me) read a short piece from her story that won Wynterblue Publishing's Murder in Ink contest this month.

Prompts: Caitlyn had an interesting prompt for this meeting. We chose two pieces of paper, one from each of two bags. One was a question, one was a word we had to use in the piece we wrote.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept, is to take one of the questions I'll wrote below and one of the words below them and write for 10 minutes. Or 15 minutes. Or until your pen runs dry or explodes from the force.

1) Are those your muffins?
2) What do you do when you're caught between a rock and a hard place?
3) Where's the corn on the cob?
4) Are we there yet?
5) Did you walk the dog?
6) How could he say that?
7) What did you do with the good plates?
8) What did the rancher say?
9) How come cat's butts go up when you pet them?
10) Why do I keep making the same mistakes?
11) Do dentists go to other dentists or do they just do it themselves?
12) What am I doing here?
13) Who is in charge?
14) Can a short person talk down to a taller person?
15) Is there an exception to the rule?
16) Who is in charge?
17) At a movie theatre, which armrest is yours?
18) Do butterflies remember life as a caterpiller?
19) How far can you fly east before you're heading west?

1) pudding (that one was for Richard, Caitlyn said.)
2) computer
3) moustache
4) disaster
5) egg
6) clock
7) lather
8) essential
9) razor
10) behind
11) repulsive
12) diamond
13) Navy
14) corner
15) radio
16) pavement
17) mist
18) tomato
19) manipulative

Our next meeting is March 6 and Jayne will be leading.
Happy Writing!

Why Do I Write

I write because I breathe. Writing is such a part of this incarnation of me, that I would sooner stop breathing than put down my pen or turn off my computer’s word processor.

How I love that my muse never forsakes me. No matter where or when I am, ideas flood in, full with colour, complete with dialogue and characters who demand their own lives.

I often find myself thinking of writing topics when I am driving, and when recently I was mulling over my roots in South Africa, the visions of a story burst in on my thoughts. Thank goodness for voice record on my iPhone.

Perhaps to show you why I have such a passion for writing, I can share just a few sentences that exploded into my consciousness like verbal fireworks that day.

The scent of my Africa is a hot, metallic and musky taste upon my tongue, energetic, vigorous and bursting with life.

Africa is the dry and dusty edge of an ancient world filled with mystery and heralding the birth of man upon planet earth.

It is a land of flamboyant colours, all of which are mimicked in the exotic flora and fauna of this magnificent continent.

Sleek lionesses blend in with the tall yellow grassland, permitting them to stealthily approach their dinner. Their movements are so slight, that the slight sway of grass simply suggests a gentle but welcome African breeze, not the lithe approach of one who is seeking nourishment.

Spring time brings the fuzzy yellow blooms of acacia trees as if hundreds of soft downy newborn chicks were nestled in their branches. Sometimes beauty comes with unexpected claws. Acacias have long, strong and vicious thorns, ready to sting the hand that takes liberties.

Late summer reduces life-giving water holes to grey, cracked mud, where elephants can wallow in perfect camoflage. The cooling mud has the added benefit of reducing the annoying itch of parasitic insects on the hides of these magnificent creatures, who are in reality, the true king of beasts.

The vibrant red of the aloe is also a flash of brilliantly coloured wings of some of Africa’s many birds.

As I dictated this last sentence into my obedient iPhone, I arrived at my destination, still reflecting my enjoyment of my few moments immersed in the veldt of Africa replete with the smells, the sounds and the breezes of my childhood.

This passion for words and visions, that I commit to print, is the reason I know without reservation that when I write, I am enjoying the necessary breath of life.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why I write

As a child I was always day dreaming. I would expect most kids do this for different reasons, but I am wont to explore them all here. At times the day dreams would become pure fantasy with dreams of exotic places, and people, and they could get pretty wild, like the characters in those dreams. Sometimes it got scary, and many times it was just plain fun.
Examination of events in the '30's might give one pause to conclude that daydreaming was more intense during these tough times than today, because we had so little, having more 'goodies' seemed like an impossibility, so we dreamt about them . However, until the academic level rises high enough along with passing years precise conclusions are difficult. I always thought it was just fantasy, and meant nothing more, time has proven a different conclusion.
As a young boy, the fantasy thing was having stories run around in my head not really realizing that they were the seeds of authorship. A lot must be realized to begin putting these things down on paper then being noticed as an accomplished novice. Some are lucky enough to have an audience early in life, for me it has come very late, but I'm eternally grateful to those who have given me their acknowledgement.
Academics were a hard grind for me as a youth, but over the years as life experiences mellowed the urgings of youth, I found that writing was an important medium for expression, not to become famous or wealthy, but 'to get it out of me' and have that satisfied feeling writers get when even a small piece is published, or at least, put on paper for anyone to read regardless of how many do (or don't) read it. Like any life endeavour that fulfills we humans, writing can be addictive as well as rewarding. For this old guy it is still fun, and hopefully the rewards will come before the call comes to 'come home', and when it does, hopefully I will have left something for my survivors to enjoy, to feel proud to have known that something good was accomplished by someone they love. For "the best is yet to come".
Ron Lehman

PS Dear Diane: I have subscribed to a blog for a while now, but really didn't do anything with it until today. I found your 2009 birthday message and got to read it today. Many thanks for
the wishes. Ron.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Writing Characters Workshop, Orangeville

"Writing Characters," a full-day workshop, Sat, June 4, Orangeville, Ontario

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - now there's a character!
How to find and create great characters
Saturday, June 4, 10 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Tweedsmuir Presbyterian Church, 6 John Street, Orangeville.
Pesented by the Headwaters Writers Guild

Whatever you're writing – fiction or nonfiction – readers will care about your story only if they care about your people. In this workshop, you'll learn techniques for creating fictional characters and depicting real people. You’ll learn how to breathe life into the page so that your characters start telling you how the story should go.

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He teaches at Ryerson University and has led creative writing workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Charlottetown. But his proudest boast is that he's helped many of his students get published.

Fee: $38.94 + 13% hst = $44 paid in advance
or $42.48 + 13% hst = $48 if you wait to pay at the door
To reserve your spot, email

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Into the Unknown

I was watching my kids do karate last night and an interesting thing happened.
One boy became overwhelmed at not being able to do the same kata, a set of movements that simulate a fight, that the others were doing. He'd only had his new belt for a few weeks and this was his first time doing that particular kata. This boy, E, was so frustrated that he cried through the entire exercise and had to sit aside to collect himself. While he was sitting, Sensei explained how this was something he still had to learn and not to worry, to take it a step at a time. What happened next made his point wonderfully.

Level by belt level, each group got up and were told to perform katas that they hadn't learned yet. This went on through Red, Green, Purple, Blue, Brown and, finally, the lone black belt in the class aside from Sensei. In each instance, there was at least one student who had no idea what they were doing and would run into other students or even have a foot stepped on. The class would burst into laughter. Most of them were under 10 and amused by the fact they weren't the only people stumbling and unsure. Even our new black belt was lost.

I drove home and commented to my own boys about what an interesting exercise it was.
It proved the point that we are always learning - even when we've achieve the pinnacle of our chosen activity or career. If you've stopped learning, it means that you've stopped listening or paying attention to the world around you.

As writers, we are constantly learning. The "rules" are frequently changing, the market fluctuates and we have to learn to adapt. Not to mention the world is our palette from which we can choose what to write about and colour the pages we fill with prose.

Don't stop listening. Don't stop paying attention. And, whatever you do, don't give up.
You will learn.

Diane Bator

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Meeting Minutes February 6, 2011

I have to admit that I nearly didn't attend this meeting. I waffled until 1:10pm. The meeting was at 1:30. It had been a very long weekend with a sick child then finding out last night that a friend had died Saturday morning. There's more about that on my blog, but it was (for me) very sudden and a really big shock. I decided that I would be better off being out of the house and not thinking.

We had a group of 14 plus Sammy (Caitlyn's dog and honourary member). Clare treated us with a batch of his wife Dorothy's blondies which were fantastic. We love Dorothy. I think her treats alone make her an honourary member as well!

Richard (yes, he's back!) handed down the Where's Waldo name to Ashley who wore stripped leggings and gloves. All she needed was the striped hat. He asked her how her NaNoWriMo story was going. She said she was able to use it, but decided that the last chapter was going to become the first chapter. Richard asked if she was dyslexic.

Richard told us that he now has a third agent interested in promoting his work.

We talked about the second edition of the anthology. Gloria wasn't able to be at this meeting, but is working on the edits and we will be able to buy copies for $7 once it is printed.

Pat brought up a book we talked about at the last meeting called "Don't Murder Your Mystery" by Chris Roerdan. It was highly recommended by a few members. The discussion turned to, as Marilyn said, "Art is subjective and you need to take those books with a grain of salt. Rules are meant to be broken." (Which, by the way, is a True Marilyn-ism as opposed to a Clare-ism.)

Richard told us that we shouldn't start massacring our novels based on one book. There are lots of perspectives and they are OUR books. Things we read in writing books are "only suggestions."

Ashley had nothing to read, but she did show us her "Sacred Cow" project. Her class was asked to draw the Mona Lisa in their own style. Hers is "Writer Lisa." She placed 1000 words within the picture - a picture is worth 1000 words - and drew Mona Lisa inside a box. Outside of the box, she wrote, "It is the duty of a writer to think outside of the box."
David reminded us that most writing books teach us to think INSIDE the box.

Our readings were started off by David, who told us about his RAF friends in England who are doing a writing competition. He is sending a revised version of a story called "The Meeting." Very rivetting story about a pilot flying at high altitude. David told us how he's flown over 99000 feet in a Hawker Hunter and saw the curve of the earth below as well as England, Ireland, Scotland and Norway. Great imagery in this story!

Marilyn followed him with a portion of a short story and prefaced it by saying, "If I've broken all the rules, I did it intentionally." My favourite line was "sexy voices are almost as good as chocolate." Her story was followed by a discussion of shevelled hair vs dishevelled hair. For the record, wordnik has no definition for this word, but has two examples from literature.
Richard announced that dictionaries have no place in a writing group.
David said that was part of the "shevellry" of writing.
Richard considered that a Clare-ism.

Jenn read two wonderfully romantic, moving poems. When Richard commented, she said her inspiration came from Twilight.

Pat read a touching letter she wrote to her father nearly 5 years after his death, thanking him for all he had done. Richard commented on how we are all our worst critics. His advice to her was to read it to her father, burn it and let go of the doubt.

Richard read from "The Book of Eryn," his daughter who has been working at a hospital in Uganda for the past few months. Last year she was in Ghana. He talks to her 3-4 nights per week about the things she has seen there and talks her through it. The worst of the things she's seen haven't made it to the blog. She will come back to Canada on Feb 10 and has an interview for medical school. After med school, she plans to join Doctors Without Borders. For the curious few who haven't read Eryn's blog (I'm a big fan!) you can find her at PS. Read with tissues at hand.

One of the discussions we had related to Eryn's experience, was the need for an Air Concentrator and how to get Proctor & Gamble, makers of Pampers, to help provide one rather than hand out disposabe diapers to people who could never afford them. An Air Concentrator filters oxygen from the air for babies who need to extra help to breathe for the first few days of life. Child birth is the biggest cause of death in Africa for both moms and newborns.

Pat talked about Dr. Ross Pennie, a doctor we'd met at a Brian Henry workshop about writing memoirs. His book, The Unforgiving Tides, was about his experiences as a young doctor initiated into medicine in Papua New Guinea. My copy has moved to the top of my reading list.

Judy read a poem called "Fleeting" from "Fat and Other F Words".

Ron read us a letter from his friend Dr. Stephen Badsey in England. Ron had sent him a copy of our anthology and was promised a critique in return. Some of the things he had to say (not verbatim, sorry, even I don't write that fast!) were: it's a wonderful book, you should be proud of your accomplishment, steal everything in terms of style and make it your own. One of the best pieces of advice, one that we always live by to begin with, is "read what you have written out loud. Something that looks good on the page, may sound like a suit of armour falling down the stairs." My favourite line was "what is good English may not be good Canadian."

Dr. Badsey also brought up the may vs might controversy. For example, "The seatbelt may have saved his life." In this example, we don't know if he is dead or not. "The seatbelt might have saved his life." The reader knows he is dead.

We all agreed the letter gave Ron a good critique and support. Richard suggested, after Dr. Badsey told Ron he was free to critique the letter, that we give it to Laura to hack to pieces and sent it back.

When is a prompt not a prompt?  When Richard is leading. This week's prompt was to start our own blogs. Well, at least write an intro and a first post as if we were starting a blog. He suggested for those serious about being published and getting their work out to agents etc, it was a good way for those said agents to learn more about us before thinking twice about our writing. It is good to establish a following via Facebook, a blog and a website.

What you should post? A bio. Samples of your writing. Personal appearances. Book launches.
How often should you update your blog?  At least once or twice a week.
How do you set one up? Visit our own blog on our website or blogspot.

Prompt: Finally! Think of a place you've been to. Write a brief into about your (your bio) and blog about that place for your first post. We'll be watching for new blogs to pop up!

Our next meeting is February 20th. Caitlyn will be leading.
Keep warm and keep writing.