Friday, November 11, 2016

HWG 2017 Meeting Schedule

Headwaters Writers’ Guild
2017 Meeting Schedule
Meetings take place at Orangeville Public Library
1:30pm – 3:30pm

Sunday, January 8 – Leader: Judy
Sunday, January 22 – Leader: Sonja
Sunday, February 5 – Leader: Clare
Sunday, February 19 – Leader: Don
Sunday, March 5 – Leader: Nancy
Sunday, March 19 – Leader: Judy
Sunday, April 2 – Leader: Sonja
Sunday, April 23 – Leader: Clare
Sunday, May 7 – Leader: Don
Sunday, May 28 – Leader: Judy
Sunday, June 11 – Leader: Sonja
Sunday, June 25 – Leader: Clare
Sunday, July 16 – Leader: Don
Sunday, August 13 – Leader: Nancy
Sunday, September 10 – Leader: Judy
Sunday, September 24 – Leader: Sonja
Sunday, October 15 – Leader: Clare
Sunday, October 29 – Leader: Don
Sunday, November 5 – Leader: Sonja
Sunday, November 19 – Leader: Clare

Saturday, November 25Christmas Luncheon

Remembrance Day and the Perfect Gift

Remembrance Day and the Perfect Gift

By Nancy Rorke

I have a confession to make. I’ve always been intuitive. I inherited it from my father, which is ironic because he doesn’t believe that I’m his. I’ve never believed him. It led to a tumultuous and complicated relationship.
Even though his disdain of me created a miserable childhood, almost a decade after we stopped talking, I forgave him. After I mailed him a reconciliation letter, we began a new relationship. But even then, he wanted a DNA test. I refused.
After my cousin published our family tree, I shared it, along with family stories, with my dad. It gave us something safe to talk about. We both love history.
          “You know more about my family than I do,” he often said.
          In the spring of 2010, I woke up with the feeling that even though my father lived on his own and was in fair health, this would be his last Father’s Day.
Even if he didn’t love me, I wanted him to know that I’d always loved him. What special gift could I give a man who had everything? I decided to compile all the old family photos and other memorabilia that I could track down into a memory book.
By mid-May, I borrowed my paternal grandmother’s photo album and began scanning old photos. My cousin Ralda, mailed me copies of all her photos including those of my father’s beloved grandparents.
Glory, another cousin, had become the keeper of the family memories. She mailed me a photo of my grandfather, Edgar Rorke, and copies of postcards that our grandparents, Gertrude and Edgar had exchanged during WWI. She knew the addresses of every place our grandmother had ever lived, as well as where Edgar was buried.
We contacted cemeteries about our great-grandparents, great aunt, and Edgar. I took photos of all the graves to verify dates, and of all the residences.
My mother told me that my paternal grandfather died of tuberculosis and that’s why; they vaccinated me against it when I was born with a lung infection. I have a scar on my left shoulder. Edgar and I are linked forever.
Glory shared Edgar’s story with me. He’d caught tuberculosis from the war.
With scanning the photos and fixing them, taking pictures of the graves and residences, and trying to compile all the memorabilia, I never finished the memory book in time for Father’s Day.
          Two months later, we were told that my ninety-year-old father had a stroke. The day after Thanksgiving, the hospital admitted him again. At 9:00 a.m., my older brother phoned me.
        “Because of the stroke, Dad can’t take care of himself. We have to find a nursing home for him.”
        By 5:00 p.m., my younger sister called. My father had brain cancer and wasn’t expected to live. In late October, they admitted him to palliative care.
        Between visits to see my dad, I continued to spend every other moment completing the memory book.
          Every visit, I brought him a gift. One week I brought him a CD and discovered he’d stopped listening to music. Another week, I brought him his favourite snack foods and realized that he’d stopped eating. I wanted to celebrate my father’s ninety-first birthday early in December ‘cause I knew he’d never make it to January 14. I begged my older siblings repeatedly, but they said no. 
          Time slipped away along with my father’s health. With the weekly drive to Toronto, there just wasn’t enough time to finish the book. I decided to take it to my father anyway. He couldn’t read the documents, so I resorted to bringing him the old photos, along with childhood photos of our family.
          When I showed him the photo of his grandparent’s last residence, he said, almost in a whisper, “That’s my grandparent’s house.” And, when he saw his grandfather Timothy’s photo, he held his breath. “That’s grandpa.”
          I smiled inwardly. I’d finally brought him something he loved. And then I showed him the photo of Edgar, and his father’s grave. My dad’s eyes widened. He didn’t say a word. He looked down at the floor to hide his tears.
         Thoughts bombarded me. You idiot. Why would you bring a photo of his father’s grave? He’s dying. He doesn’t want to see photos of graves. What were you thinking?
Finally, he spoke. “My father’s funeral happened three days before my ninth birthday, and I’ve never known where he was buried.” 
         On Remembrance Day in 2010, Dad left the hospital. My older sister drove him to the cemetery, and he stood at his father’s grave for the first time in eighty-one years.          Finally, I’d given him the perfect gift.
         Every November 11 before that, I mourned the loss of lives due to war. But that year, it became personal. I’d never had a grandfather because of the war. Now, I wept for the grandfather I never knew, and for my father who would soon join him.

Posted on behalf of Nancy Rorke

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October 30, 2016, Meeting

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, at 7:00pm, Clare McCarthy will be launching two new books at BookLore in Orangeville. Please come out and support him.

On Tuesday, November 15, 2016, from 6:30pm-9:00pm there will be an Open Mic Night for authors and poets at Euphoria Cafe in Orangeville.

Writing Prompts:

1)  Pick two radically different genres of fiction (for example: science fiction and western!). Write an outline, or the beginning, of a story that includes elements of both genres.

2)  Pick 2 or 3 people you have seen featured in the news or on social media lately and use them as the basis for characters for a fictional short story.

3)  If you had an evil twin, what sort of mischief do you suppose the two of you could get up to?

4)  If a cosmic ray managed to penetrate the atmosphere and reduce you to a smoking ruin, what sort of superhero do you think would rise from the ashes of your past life?

5)  The phone rings and a mysterious voice whispers, “It is done!”

6)  Pick a common household item (examples: a hairbrush, a key, a dishcloth), but don’t tell us what it is. Make it a character in a short piece of fiction and ask the group members to try and guess what it is when you read your work aloud to everyone at the end of the meeting.

7) Write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper about an issue of importance to you.

 8) What would you like your life to be like in 5 years?

9)  Tell us about the most memorable Halloween you ever had.

10)  Write a letter of advice to someone who is just starting out in a hobby or craft in which you have some expertise (eg. sewing, carpentry, gardening, masonry...whatever).

The final meeting of 2016 is on Sunday, November 13, 1:30pm in the meeting room at the Meridian Credit Union, 190 Broadway, Orangeville.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Writing is a Risky Business by Clare McCarthy

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”

During my life, I have had to balance between this advice by Mark Twain and that of musician activist Pete Seeger, “If there’s something wrong, speak up!”

The resulting conflict between these two pieces of advice led me to conclude, “Writing is a risky business.” Sitting, musing about a situation, you run no risk.

By speaking up however, you run the risk of being wrong but you might then be able to weasel your way out of a statement by saying, “Are you sure that’s what I said?” 

If you express yourself, by writing, a critic can wave your written document in your face and say, “Here are your exact words. What utter nonsense! How can you be so stupid?” There will then be no weaseling out of what you really said, whether it’s a column such as this one, an editorial, a letter to the editor, or even a letter to your grandmother.

When writing, you run many risks. You might be misinterpreted, your facts might be incorrect, you might have made spelling errors or used lousy grammar or if handwritten, it might even be illegible. If you are expressing an opinion, it may not be a popular one. There will always be critics.

Another challenge in any writing is referred to as the ‘hook’. How do you begin a piece of writing to entice a reader to continued reading beyond the first few words? Following the ‘hook’, the contents of what you write must then be interesting enough to sustain the attention of your prospective audience.

In my writing, I do not always expect to be right or wrong. Hopefully what I write will make you think.  After reading what I’ve written, I’d be pleased if you commented, “I didn’t know that!” I try to include a hint of humour as well in what I write to make the experience more interesting.

Thus as you write out your thoughts, be aware of the fact that you are taking risks. Author Ted Sturgeon once said, “It doesn’t matter what you write, what you believe will show through.”

With the risks of writing, there can also be rewards. I expect that much of what I’ve written will be around much longer than I will.

To quote author Bud Gardner: “When you speak, your words echo only across the room and down the hall, but when you write, your words echo down  through the ages.”

When asked why he wrote, James Thurber said, “I don’t know what I think until I read what I have to say.”

I find writing relaxing and am constantly amazed where my ideas come from. 

Writing may be a risky business, but I feel that its benefits far outweigh its risks. 

One sage once wrote, “Risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing.”

Written by Headwaters Writers' Guild member Clare McCarthy for the August 11, 2016, edition of The Orangeville Banner newspaper.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Writing Prompt: Feeding The Muse

These figurines were prompts for our meeting of June 26, 2016. Below is what I wrote.

Feeding The Muse

Downtown, the streets were busy: cars on the road, shoppers rushing along the sidewalks, clowns entertaining the masses in hopes of earning a few dollars, and two cops walking the beat.

In the middle of it all, an old man, rotund and bald, sat in an arm chair smoking a pipe. He was most certainly out of place. Yet dogs on leashes took a liking to him, sniffing at his feet before plopping themselves down to rest. Their owners’ attempts at moving them along were fruitless.

“Ahoy, there,” said Officer Smith. “What are you up to, sir?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all. I’m not breaking any laws, am I?”

Officer Smith looked at his partner, Officer Jones, who pulled out a small book from his coat pocket and began scanning the pages of rules and laws of the city streets.

“I am simply observing,” said the old man. “I have no alcohol or food. I am not littering. I’m not causing a disturbance. I’m not bothering anyone.”

“What is your name, sir?”

“Houston. Nathaniel Houston.”

Officer Smith wrote this in his notebook. “May I ask how old you are?”

“How old am I? I don’t see that it matters any but I am seventy-two years young.”

“And where do you live?”

“Sixty-seven Hogs Hollow Road, not the loonie bin if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“I wasn’t thinking that at all, sir.” Smith glanced over at Jones as if to say ‘that’s exactly what I was thinking’.

Officer Jones shrugged and continued flipping the pages of the police manual.

“I’m guessing you’re retired, sir?”

“Retired?” the old man scoffed. “There is no sense in retiring unless you are unable to continue living.”

“So you’re working?”

“I make a living.”

“Sitting in a chair on a busy downtown street?” Jones asked. “Could you be panhandling? That’s against the law.”

“Goodness no. I’m not panhandling. I live a very comfortable life with all my earnings throughout the years.”

“And exactly how do you make these earnings, as you call them?” Officer Smith asked.

The old man looked up at the officer, eyes wide. “I told you my name, did I not?”

Smith looked down at his notebook. “Nathaniel Houston.”

“And you don’t recognize the name?”

“The Houstons used to own this town,” Officer Jones said.

“Used to?” the old man bellowed. “But I am an author of many books, sold millions. I am sitting here observing as a method of feeding my creativity.”

The two officers looked at one another.

“Don’t think there’s a law against that,” said Officer Jones.

“I should think not!” said Mr. Houston. “Where in the world would we be without imagination and creativity?”

Smith slapped his notebook shut. “Indeed. Have a good day, sir.”

What can you write from one or more of these figurines?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Blessings from The Artist's Way

Blessings from The Artist’s Way
By Nancy Rorke

Sometimes I am my own worst enemy. I sabotage myself by not listening to that small, still voice within that guides me to greatness. Or what I believe would be great for me. Instead, I listen to my censor, consisting of my parents, my siblings, and my critical friends.
            Often I think, Who am I to dream that I could make a difference with my writing? Who am I to believe that I can live a creative life? Do creative people have anxiety because when we were children we received negative comments whenever we told adults what we wanted to be?
            When my artist daughter was four, she asked her father, “Daddy, do artists make any money?”
            “Only if they’re dead,” he said.
            I, of course, in the privacy of the kitchen, threatened murder if he uttered anymore discouraging remarks. But it was too late. It took her too many years to count before she picked up a paintbrush again.
            When I was twelve a relative asked, “Why, with all the great writers, did I think I would have something to say?” Then I began to doubt myself. I don’t understand why some people discourage artistic dreams.
            I frequently wonder why new writers forgo their vocation. Is it because we are constantly told that authors are born writers? The truth is that all writers struggle to learn the craft. Gifted artists, actors, dancers, musicians, performers, singers, writers, and all creative people practice their art.
            Why won’t I allow myself to write badly? After all, it’s only practice? Why is it that I compare my beginning work with that of seasoned pros? What in God’s name is wrong with me? Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, says we need to take a leap of faith, but it’s difficult for me to believe that God cares about my writing.
Another issue I have is that I only hear negative comments about my work and I negate the positive ones. Why can’t I just write for the sake of creating or for the joy that I experience when I write? Instead I think, Maybe it’s a waste of time. I can’t be a real writer because they make lots of money. Why did I believe that I could become the writer of my dreams? Could it be, because since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to write?
Whenever I am discouraged, I remember Mrs. Palmer, my Grade 10 teacher. I asked her to look at a short story I’d written over the summer holidays, and she agreed. Three days later she told me that the head of the English department saw my story and he wanted me to join the Grade 13 writing club.
During numerous bouts of writer’s block I pull this compliment up and think they must have thought that I could write. Thank God for Mrs. Palmer and all my English teachers who always encouraged me.

 I don’t know what led me to write this, but, for some reason, it appeared on my page this morning. Could it be blessings from The Artist’s Way that causes me to reflect on the page and take dictation from my soul? 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Writing Quotes to Inspire YOU!

Ask yourself, “What do I love deeply? What has brought me to my knees? What has totally broken me? The combination of these answers can give you a voice. - Natalie Goldberg

If you want to write, write, this is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait. Make the time now, even if it is ten minutes a week. – Natalie Goldberg

We're writers, of course we’re scared. That doesn’t mean that we don’t write. Or rewrite. Or show our work to others. Or ask questions. Acknowledge the fear and move on. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Ask for help. Comfort and encourage one another and be kind. – Judy Reeves -Writing Alone, Writing Together

Sunday, May 15, 2016

House Swarming in Drayton

It's a good thing! May 23rd from 2-5 pm, you're all invited to a house swarming event at Nadina Mackie Jackson's church house in Drayton. An afternoon filled with great music, storytelling, poetry, art, and food. Free, and not to be missed. RSVP to nadina at or call 416-453-7607. Yours truly will be throwing down some poetry on the themes of home and oneness. Cheers.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Meeting Schedule for 2016

As a reminder, and because there have been a few changes, I am posting the meeting schedule with leaders for the remainder of 2016. Meetings take place at 1:30pm at 6 John Street in Orangeville.

The Headwaters Writers' Guild meeting schedule for the remainder of the year:
May 15 - Leader Diane
May 29 - Leader Clare
June 12 - Leader Judy

June 26 - Leader Clare
July 17 - Leader S.J.
August 21 - Leader Marilyn
September 11 - Leader Diane
September 25 - Leader Jayne
October 2 - Leader Judy
October 16 - Leader Clare
October 30 - Leader S.J.
November 13 - Leader Jayne

Saturday, November 26 - Christmas Luncheon

HWG Author Book Release

HWG author Diane Bator has a new book released in her Gilda Wright Mystery series of books.

This is the 3rd book in the Series. You can find all of Diane's books on

Call for Submissions - Eden Mills Writers' Festival

2016 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival Literary Contest - Deadline: June 30, 2016.
Open internationally to aspiring or and modestly published writers, over the age of 16.
Contest categories:
Short story (2500 words max.)
Poetry collection (of 5 poems or less), or
Creative Non-Fiction (2500 words max.)
The best entry in each category will win a $250 prize. Winners will be invited to read a short selection from their work at the Eden Mills Writers Festival on Sunday Sept. 18, 2016.
Entry Requirements:
Include four copies of each submission*
On a cover page, include title, with your name, address, phone number, and email. Name and contact info should not appear on the copies of your manuscript.
Email entries will not be accepted.
Manuscripts will not be returned.
Submission Fee:
$15.00 (CDN) per entry. Cheques to be made payable to Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.
*A combination of entries may be sent in one envelope with one payment for each entry (e.g. a short story and a poetry collection, and $30.00).
To submit, mail four copies to:
Laurel Marsolais
39 Bushmills Cres.
Guelph, ON N1K 1T6

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Writing Prompt, April 24, 2016 - Perspective

Prompt #4 - Describe an event or scene as an adult might see it, and then re-write it as a child might see it.

I hadn't seen some members of my family for a few years. It's unfortunate that it takes a death of a parent to bring us all together. I think the last time we were all together was Mom and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. Tommy was an infant then, and Riley didn't even exist.

After the funeral service we all gathered together in the church hall. My siblings had changed quite a bit; as had their children. Everyone was growing up.

I spotted my brother James. With both children in tow I ran over to greet him. I released both their hands as I threw my arms around him.

"James, it's been so long!"

"Hey, Sis." He hugged me tight. "It is so good to see you. It's been far too long."

Tommy, 5, and Riley, 2, squirmed in between us. Tommy pushed at James. "No!" he yelled. "Don't touch Mommy."

Both James and I laughed.

"Tommy," I crouched down beside him, "this is mommy's brother James, your uncle. Say hello to Uncle James."

Tommy put his arms around my neck and clung to me. Riley began smacking at my arm. "Mama, mama, mama..."

I laughed again. "And this is Riley," I said to my brother as I lifted both children into my arms. "Say hello to Uncle James."

James, always the sweetheart, reached out to pat each child on the back. "Hello, Tommy. Hello, Riley. It's good to meet you. It's been a long time since I've seen your mommy - and you. I've missed you all so much. You've grown into two beautiful children.

"Thank you," I smiled.

Tommy clung to me, both arms around my neck, looking the other way. Riley buried her face in my shoulder.

"Tommy is five," I said to James. "And he's mighty heavy." To Tommy, "Can Mommy put you down now?" His arms tightened around my neck. "I guess not," I laughed. "So, James," I twisted my head around despite the grip on my neck, "where is that beautiful family of your's?"
There were so many people in the big room with all the tables and chairs. I held tightly to Mommy's hand; Riley held her other one. It was noisy.

Suddenly Mommy started moving. Riley and me had to run to keep up. Mommy let go of our hands and hugged a strange man. I didn't like that. No one hugs my mommy except Daddy. I pushed my way between their legs; Riley did too.

"No!" I yelled. "Don't touch my mommy."

Mommy came down to our level and looked at me and Riley. I looked at Riley as Mommy said something about Uncle James. I put my arms around Mommy's neck and held her tight still looking at Riley. She got what I was trying to tell her and she began hitting at Mommy.

Mommy lifted us both up and Riley and I smiled at each other.

"Say hello to Uncle James," Mommy said.

The man put his hand on my back. I held Mommy tighter trying to get away from this strange man with no hair.

I just stared at Riley and she stared at me. Neither one of us knew what the heck was going on.


HWG Meeting April 24, 2016.

S.J. was leading this week. The writing exercise was an exploration in how perspective can change a story. She was inspired by a book she read, "Mooreeffoc" by Tetiana Aleksina (foul language warning), where the story was told from different perspectives, characters you wouldn't expect.

Patricia suggested a movie called "Sympathy Said the Shark", a psychological thriller filmed from different character perspectives.

The book can be purchased at Amazon on E-Kindle. The movie can be rented or purchased through various streaming methods (ie iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Vudu, XBox, etc.)


1. Envision a scene or event at which more than one character is present. Write the scene from one character's perspective and then re-write it from another character's perspective.

2. Ever seen the film "A Bug's Life"? Describe a scene as a human would see it and then re-write it from the perspective of something extremely tiny, such as an ant or a fly on the wall.

3. Write a short scene or event from the perspective of how you imagine a tree or plant might see it. When you read it to the group, note their reactions to this perspective. What challenges do writers face when they have to get readers to invest in characters that have perspectives that are very unfamiliar to most people?

4. Describe an event or scene as an adult might see it and then re-write it as a child might see it.

Miscellaneous Prompts (for those who are uninspired by perspective today):

5. Write about the best vacation never had.

6. If you won 2 million dollars in a lottery, what would you do with it?

7. Aliens are landing in your backyard.

8. A mysterious stranger hands you a sealed envelope at a local cafe...

9. The light in your shed keeps turning on at night, apparently all by itself...

10. The phone rings. You answer it, only to discover it's your oldest friend who suddenly went missing a few years ago.

11. Pick a current event in your community and write a newspaper column about it.

12. Write a review of a restaurant you have visited.

All HWG members are encouraged to share their writing on this blog.

The next meeting is Sunday, May 15th. Diane is leading.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Laughable Limericks

Following in Clare's footsteps

There once was a man called Clare
Whose face was covered with hair
He said with a grin, as he scratched at his chin
I'm the ginger-haired son of a bear.

More to come later
Marilyn Kleiber

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

In the book club that I belong to, we read a story on DNA and the possible effects that it may have on your actions. A friend mentioned a possible issue with DNA. The homework was to write anything Irish story. I combined my obsession with DNA and then I wrote, I am From.

By Nancy Rorke 

I am from Ui Briuin a fifth-century Irish King of Connacht and the first O Ruarc (a Viking name that means famous king) who was the King of Breifne. I am from the four more O’Rourkes who were the Kings of Connacht and who were one of the most powerful families in Ireland. 

I am from Tiernan O’Rourke (King of Breifne, 11241172) who donated money for the gorgeous The Book of Kells, completed by the church. I am humbled and speechless at its beauty 

Unfortunately, Tiernan fought ruthlessly with Dermot MacMurrough. When Dermot seized Tiernan’s wife, possibly with her consent, they became mortal enemies. Dermot fled to England and brought the Normans to Ireland. The Irish lost everything, including their language, the right to own land, and later, the right to be educated. He became the most hated man in Ireland and his descendants changed their last name.  

I am from John Rorke (b. 17[-) and Phebe Ruddock (born 18681821). John’s father, Patrick Rorke, possibly dropped the O when he became a Quaker. John moved to Waterford near Dublin. He had thirteen children. Most of his family immigrated to Canada between 1820 and 1826, years before the 1845 famine. John died on the way to Canada to join his children, and was buried on Staten Island. 

I am from Richard Coates line, my third-great-uncle, who built the first pipe organ in Ontario, was a musician and an artist. He lives on the pages of the Internet. 

I am from my grandmother, Gertrude Sullivan Rorke. Her mother, Isabellawas Englishbut Gertrude Sullivan’s family fought against the English with my friend’s family, the McCarthys. 

am from the still waters of sorrow, harboured regrets, and an indescribable longing to return home to Ireland. 

I am from the Vikings who live in my DNA and possess me, and who enableme to protect myself or go to the death if need be.  

I am from the dark secrets and the anguish that lives in my soul from the days of long ago. 

I am from eons of Irish and Viking storytellers who embellish the truth to make up the best story possible. I am from those who never let anything go and hold onto to every wrong doing, and try to even the score. I am Irish to the core of my being.  

Posted on behalf of Nancy Rorke