Monday, November 28, 2011

The Art of Writing

Writing is an art! It is an expression of life as the writer sees it, and as such is similar to other arts.

If you think about writing in terms similar to artists who produce works with paints and a variety of other media, it can change your attitude toward your own writing.

Good art? Bad art? When you really think about it there is no such thing. All art is simple different.

Take expressionist painting and recollect everything you have heard said about it. Some artists are hailed as geniuses, some dismissed as wanting, and some are said to be delightfully able to produce such colourful “primitive art”.

And then you hear someone say: “I don’t know anything about art, I just know what I like.” Whether you believe it or not, that is probably the most honest and nonjudgmental statement made.

When I was very young, I loved certain books and artwork and music. As I grew into adulthood I found I preferred other artistic endeavours. My tastes have continued to change and I now find many of those initial expressions of art no longer have the ability to please me. That, I believe, is really the key. Art IS in the eye/ear/mind of the beholder.

This is what makes our world so delicious. We have so many choices of art to choose from, of art to delight in, and even of art to dismiss as not to our liking. None of this art is really any better or worse than any other. We have each developed in a certain social culture that encourages not only our behaviour, but also our tastes.

So be not discouraged if your writing does not win you awards or get published by huge well-known publishers. Does your writing please you? Your mother? Your spouse? Even if it only pleases you, it is good writing.

Do not be discouraged by anyone else if you find writing a joy. It is your expression of who you are, and that is never a bad thing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Meeting Minutes November 27, 2011

This was our last meeting for the year since the church (and all of us) will be busy with Christmas for the next month.
Our leader today was Nancy.
We also celebrated Ron's upcoming 80th birthday on Dec 10. We sang Happy Birthday and ate chocolate cake for such a momentous occasion!!!  Happy Birthday, Ron!


A reminder about the Christmas luncheon on Dec 11 at Noon at Kelsey's Restaurant.
Members will be responsible for paying for their own meals and we hope for a great turn out! Please contact Patricia if you haven't responded yet.

Marilyn asked about the Artist's Way group that had been discussed on Oct 16 & 30th. While the group did respond about where and when we meet, we have met each Friday since Nov 11 and will be closed to new members due to the nature of the discussions. In case you haven't read the book, the discussions are very personal and follow the exercises laid out by Julia Cameron. A certain degree of trust and discretion have already been established in those three weeks that would be disrupted by newcomers.  If there is demand, a new workshop may run in the spring.

Ron reminded us about the group he's been involved with Women Writing for a Change. He will send further information.

Diane announced an upcoming show put on by students at ODSS on Dec 15 and 16 at 7pm called "Deadline" about "budding writer, Alex Wilcox, as he struggles to meet an ultimatum set by his father to become published within three weeks." Tickets are available at the door at a cost of $8 per adult and $6 per senior/student.
Sounds like a great event to support an amazing school and fellow artists!


Joe got a lot out of Marilyn's premise exercise from last meeting and wrote a premise for his book. He did a great job of it.

Marilyn wrote "The Art of Writing" which stated that "even if it only pleases you, it is good writing." She will post it to the blog for all of us.

Nancy read "Reflections from The Artist's Way" and asked "why do we compare our art with seasoned artists?" and "why can we always hear the negative, but put aside the positive."

Clare passed around pictures about an article he has coming out in the spring issue of Sideroads. The article is about Birds of Prey and he had some amazing photos of a bald eagle and falcon he had the opportunity to meet. There were also pictures of a tree in his yard that he had cut to a stump that was 5 feet tall. He plans to carve it and has already made a dent in it - so to speak.

Shirley is having hip surgery Nov 28th. We all wish her well and hope she has a speedy recovery.


Nancy's writing prompts for this week were plays on movie or book titles:

1) A Few Bad Men (A Few Good Men)
2) Alive Again (Dead Again)
3) The World According to _____________ (my mother, my sister, me, my husband, etc.)
4) It's a Crappy Life (It's a Wonderful Life)
5) Murder in the Writing Group (Murder in Hum Harbour by our own Jayne Self!)

OR let's start at the beginning when I took my first writing workshop with the late Ed Wildman (we base our format on his workshops that he learned from Natalie Goldberg):
1) What I don't remember is....
2) What I remember is....
or 3) The last thing I remember is....

Marilyn made up new titles and premises to books and movies.
Sonja wrote "Lord of the Fries", an interview with Ronald McDonald.
Danielle told us about "The World According to my Daughter."
Trina read the beginning of a good mystery called "The Potato Chip Girl."
Kelli used the prompts "What I remember is..."
Jayne wrote "It's hard to put into words what I don't remember because I can't remember." To which Patricia told us that'd she'd posted a message "How do you know you're not seeing it if you're not seeing it?" Anyone confused yet?
Judy wrote "Murder in the Writing Group."
Patricia did some personal writing based on her learnings in The Artist's Way and used the prompt "It's a Crappy Life."
Nancy wrote "In another life, I'd be queen of the whole world." She also read a poem by the late Janet Bellinger called "In Another Life."
I read my piece called "The World According to Brady" which is part of another novel called "The Bakery Lady."
Ron wrote "It's a Wonderful Crappy Life" and thanked us all for the cake and well wishes. He was very touched by it all.
Clare made a play on "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" and came up with "The Good, The Stupid and The Sexy." He also made us all laugh!
Joe didn't use any of the prompts, but made a commentary about the Internet.

As they say in showbiz, Th-th-th-that's all Folks! See you all in 2012!
We'll be back for our next meeting on January 8th, 2012.
Diane will be leading and will gladly hand over the reins to anyone else who would like to take meeting minutes for the next year!!!

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Friday, November 25, 2011

How Did You Do It?

Question: How did you get published?

Short Answer: By persisting.

Longer Answer: It’s taken twelve years and five novels to reach this milestone. So much for quick money!

From the start, I began attending the annual Write! Canada conference. Through their intensive teaching sessions I learned writing basics, like Point of View, plot curves, and suspense. I met agents and publishers, learned what they expect, and learned appropriate ways to approach them. I gained hands-on skills with formatting, computers, and internet use—all transferable to writing.

I joined Writers Digest and amassed a library’s worth of books on writing (at a reduced cost). These are my textbooks, and I study them as I would college texts. When I joined Romance Writes of American, I quickly discovered I am not a romance writer. I joined Crime Writers of Canada and attended two Bloody Words conferences. Bloody Words was great for free books, and discovering people who plot murders for fun—like me. I joined The Word Guild and found a home.

Despite advice that I diversify my writing—I’ve written a couple of articles, short stories and devotions to plump my resume—I have focused on novels. These I’ve written and re-written, queried and submitted. I considered papering the bathroom with my rejections until I signed with an agent (we met at Write! Canada) and she began accumulating the reject notifications instead. My relationship with that agent lasted over three years, yet she was unable to sell my manuscript, Caught Dead. I submitted it to contests, and was twice short listed. In 2010 Caught Dead was published as an online serial—I still hope to see it in book form.

Murder In Hum Harbour, was written at my agent’s behest. The manuscript made it through two editorial evaluations, and looked promising for a series. Then the publisher closed, and once more, I had nothing.

I kept looking on my own, but I admit I was losing heart. Then a friend told me about Harbourlight, a new US imprint looking for mysteries, and I contacted them. It used to take months to hear back from a query. Harbourlight stunned me with their turn-over time. Less than a year from query to book in hand.

So what have I learned from all of this?

  • Persist. This business takes time!
  • Keep improving your craft, no mater how much it hurts.
  • Make connections. Writing may be a solo act, but achieving publication is not.
  • Publication is not the ultimate achievement. It’s just a step to whatever comes next.

Jayne E. Self

Murder In Hum Harbour

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Meeting Minutes November 13, 2011

I'm a little behind this week. I've been working on some edits for both my agent and a publisher for Murder on Manitou as well as doing some renovations on the basement.

Marilyn led our meeting this week and led us in a round of introductions to new visitor Stafford, who professed to be a writer but only on a family blog. Welcome, Stafford, hope we didn't scare you off!
We did talk about the joy of being with other writers and how it forces us to write. Ron asked Stafford "Do you have any idea the depth of your writing?" None of us do. We write and dig deeper each time we do, creating art where we never knew any existed.

Gloria gave us all information for a booklaunch at Eramosa Eden on Nov 27 from 1-5pm. The book is called "Limericks from the Animal Kingdom" by I. Mary Hackney and features art work by Carly Hatton, a 19 year old autistic woman. Her website is The book was published by Gloria's imprint Sprial Press. For more details, you can check or

Marilyn has a new release from Sundragon Press called "Keep IT Simple" by Sharon Bennett.

Nancy asked if we would like to host a workshop by Nora Zylstra-Savage in the new year. The total cost for a three hour workshop would be $345.00 ($34.50 per person if we have 10!) and focus on creative writing and finding inspiration. Check her out at:

Nancy also reminded us that Dec 11 is our Christmas Luncheon. This year we are holding it at Kelsey's and will have a reservation time. Family is welcome to attend.

Gloria read three limericks from I. Mary Hackney's book. Very clever! A great gift for all ages.

Nancy read a poem she called "Tapestry."

Danielle wrote a song for the Sunday school kids church concert based on the book "Little Bunny's Christmas." She wrote the words and the organist at her church came up with the music. She said it sounds fabulous and will see if she can get a recording. The performance will be Dec 4th at Knox Presbyterian Church in Grand Valley at 10:30am. All are welcome!

Joe is updating his previously published non-fiction work to included new information in an epilogue. More information at He is looking for an American publisher once it is updated. It is currently published in German and Spanish.

Marilyn had a piece about how writers organizations and groups help to encourage and give help and support. She says judging the content of other people's writings becomes political and we are not there to discuss politics. She appreciated the safety of the group, everyone reads aloud with like-minded people.
Nancy told us later that we also discuss what people have said for discussions sake.

Stafford read an item off his blog from Nov 10 that he has also submitted to the Banner. It was a very thought provoking look at war in our global village. Thanks for sharing!!

Ron talked about a group he's gotten involved with called "Women Writing For (A) Change"

Marilyn focused on the premise for this session. She gave us a definition then a list of novels to write a premise for.
Definition of Premise: "A story premise introduces the protagonist (without naming him/her) and sets out a story's core dramatic issue, the movement of that issue toward resolution, and the fulfillment that resolution sets up for the story's audience. It should be brief (one or two sentences at most), provocative, and contain an idea that jumps out at you. It is expressed in the present tense, is easily understood by a 15 year old and should attempt to be the same but different from other similar stories."

The novels:
Harry Potter and the Philosopher Stone - JK Rowling
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
Romeo and Juliet - William Shakespeare
Even Cowgirls Get the Blues - Tom Robbins
Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austin
Black Beauty - Anna Sewell
Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexander Dumas
Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Stieg Larsson
The Pelican Brief - John Grisham

Marilyn suggested that we write a premise before working on any short story or novel.
It was a tough, but interesting exercise.

Our next meeting is Nov 27. Nancy will be leading.
Our last get together of 2011 takes place Dec 11 at Kelsey's. Bring your appetite!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2012 HWG Meeting Schedule

2012 Meeting Schedule

All Meetings Begin at 1:30pm

Location: Tweedsmuir Church, 6 John Street, Orangeville

Anyone who cannot make their allotted time as a leader should switch with another leader or arrange for coverage.

Sunday, January 8th – Leader: Diane
Sunday, January 22nd – Leader: Judy
Sunday, February 5th – Leader: Danielle
Sunday February 12th – Leader: Jayne
Saturday, February 25th - Brian Henry Workshop (Time TBA)
Sunday, March 4th – Leader: Clare
Sunday, March 18th – Leader: Marilyn
Sunday, April 1st – Leader: Nancy
Sunday, April 15th – Leader: Diane
Sunday, April 29th – Leader: Judy
Sunday, May 6th – Leader: Danielle
Sunday, May 27th – Leader: Clare
Sunday, June 10th – Leader: Marilyn
Sunday, June 24th – Leader: Nancy
Sunday, July 15th – Leader: Diane
Sunday, August 26th – Leader: Judy
Sunday, September 9th – Leader: Danielle
Sunday, September 23rd – Leader: Jayne
Sunday, October 14th – Leader: Clare
Sunday, October 28th – Leader: Marilyn
Sunday, November 11th – Leader: Nancy
Sunday, November 25th – Leader: Diane
Sunday, November 9th – Christmas Luncheon

HWG sponsored Writing Workshop - February 25th

The Headwaters Writers present …

"Secrets of Writing a Page-turner"

~ 18 secrets from the pros ~

Saturday, February 25
Tweedsmuir Presbyterian Church, 6 John Street, Orangeville
Time 10:00am to 3:30pm

Ever stayed up all night reading a book? In this workshop, you’ll learn you how to
build that kind of tension. And we'll help you put into practice the techniques professionals
use, on every page and in every kind of story, to create drama and tension.

Fee for members of the Headwaters Writers:
$35.40 plus hst = $40 paid in advance
or $42.48 + hst =
$48 if you wait to pay at the door

Fee for the general public:
$38.94 + hst = $44 paid in advance
or $42.48 + hst =
$48 if you wait to pay at the door

To register, please make out a cheque to Brian Henry and mail it to:
Brian Henry, 110 Reiner Road, Toronto, ON M3H 2L6
To reserve a spot now, email

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Headwaters Writers' Guild member and Filmmaker, Alberta Nye's new documentary, "So I'm Dying ... Now What? - Margaret Hackman's Final Journey" is a film that expresses how one person deals with impending death with humour and a sense of adventure. To purchase a copy visit Alberta Nye's website @

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Monk in the Attic

Following is the story written at writing group this past Sunday. The first paragraph was written by me. The rest was contributed by different members of the group as it was passed around the table. Please note that the instructions given were NOT to read all that had been written before (which is why this changed from 1st person to 3rd). Most of the stories were humourous. Mine was just weird.

The Monk in the Attic

After mother died, cleaning out her house was not a chore I looked forward to. I had no idea what surprises were in store for me. And surprises there were.

A box containing steaming letters. Pictures of a man standing in front of a monastary. Handsome he was, with a smile meant for who. My mother? These letters were not from my father for sure.

She picked up the first letter. The writing looked like a medieval scribe had penned it with a quill. The paper had a parchment look, but had been folded and unfolded many times. Parts were streaked with damp tears.

That was the problem with parchment. It conveyed the tears but none of the meat of what was happening with the writer. He/She was obviously very sad.

The scroll reached such proportions as to spill over the ancient table. It had belonged to one of the others and was of maple complete with compartments for treasured items.

The story the scroll conveyed was poignant and the monk wiped his own tears away as he read.

"Mirror, mirror ont he wall. I am the most beautiful monk of all."

The words moved him, but only because he could translate the clue buried inside them.