As readers we have many options to acquire books, whether print or digital. In fact, we are inundated with purchase sites on a daily basis. One option that can be overlooked is a local library. No longer the gloomy and silent buildings of yesteryear, but bright, welcoming and fun places to hang out no matter your age. Most libraries run programs for the very young, youth and the not so young. Modern libraries are part of the community like never before.
My own local library has a plethora of programs and events on offer, as well as a beautiful glass fronted and modern building. It is a place to hang out, meet friends, and browse the shelves for books, movies, music and more.
There are special shelves for local and emerging authors, which is, of course, my favorite part of my library. I have several books on those shelves! It is not common knowledge, but when a book is borrowed it is recorded and an annual confirmation is sent to the author. It is called the Public Lending Right and the system is available in many countries.
So your challenge – if you choose to accept it – is to pick up a local author’s book (or two!) from your library and take them out to read.
If your library doesn’t have the book you want – remember you can request it. This will be a delightful surprise for the author too.
As we enter the last week of NaNoWriMo, I thought I would share my experience of the challenge and share some tips.
National Novel Writing month is a crazy experience, whether it is your first attempt or one of many. We all tend to become rather manic as we write to our daily goal of 1667 words (or more if possible). I remember my first NaNoWriMo was back in 2009. At the time my writing experience was minimal, and my longest piece of writing was maybe three paragraphs long, substantially less than fifty thousand words.
The panic I felt at the mind-blowing word count and the deadline date made me completely obsessed. I would race home from work to write, threw the easiest meals together for my family and ignored household chores, for the most part. This was my focus. Now, after twelve years of the challenge, I have become more relaxed knowing I am capable of writing at least 1667 words in an evening. My average daily word count fluctuates between 1700 and 1900 words this year. That is not to say I do not experience some anxiety; I just know how to handle the challenge better now. As with everything – practice makes perfect, or in this case ‘bum in seat’ makes an achievable word count.
Here are a few tips I found worked for me:
Cultivate your story idea before NaNo starts. It may be a character, a location or even a whole scene that propels you into the story.
Jot down notes for plot, character names & personalities, anything that you see being included in your narrative.
Find a time and a quiet place to write that works for you and your family. Designate a time, if that helps.
Don’t make excuses – write first then watch TV or scroll social media.
Use unexpected spare/free time to write, even if it’s only a paragraph. Every word counts.
Try writing bursts – time yourself to write a certain number of words in an allocated amount of time.
Aim to write over the daily word count of 1667 this helps you stay ahead. So, any unforeseen circumstances are not so drastic to your end goal.
Let the words flow – leave editing and revision for later.
Use the word count tracker on the website, it helps you stay on goal.
Mark or highlight a sentence if fact checking is required. This stops you going down internet rabbit holes.
Believe in yourself, your story and your success.
Celebrate the smaller victories – hitting a sprint goal, writing a smashing paragraph, learning a new word.
Make sure you rest, exercise and eat.
Enjoy the process of immersing yourself into creating a world of your imagination.
Even if you don’t achieve 50,000 words you have managed to write a fair amount – that is success. Remember this challenge is only the beginning of your narrative’s journey. The editing and revisions come later.
The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings is at once artistic and literary. This anthology is a gorgeous testament to the Group of Seven, through the unique lens of twenty-one acclaimed flash fiction writers. – Each flash fiction story, (a brief, condensed, though fully realized narrative, written in under five hundred words), is paired with a lush full-colour reproduction of the painting that inspired it, showcasing both Canada’s historical artistic oeuvre with its contemporary literary artistic talent.
Where did the idea for this book come from?
The impetus for this book began as a writing prompt. I am always looking for interesting, layered prompts: a phrase, paradox, scenario, image, to inspire and formulate a story around. I happened to be walking my dog along Vancouver’s Jericho Beach early one frigid but bright wintery morning and was struck by the awesome beauty of the snow-peaked North Shore mountains looming across that stretch of ocean. I imagined that Lawren Harris would have wanted to paint that stunning vista, and in that glance, had the inspiration for my story. – It was only later, when conducting background research for my piece that I learned that the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Group of Seven was coming up in 2020. – A light bulb went off! The anniversary presented a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the enduring genius of these painters, in story. I contacted fellow flash fiction writers with the idea of putting an anthology together inspired by the landscape paintings of the Group of Seven and the enthusiasm for this project was immediately infectious. I wanted to put together a book that would both increase the profile and expand the reach of these iconic Canadian painters, while at the same time introduce art lovers to the marvels and delight of flash fiction.
Why flash fiction?
Flash fiction is the hottest rising literary trend in Canada. It is my current obsession. I have been on a maelstrom writing flash for the past three years. Each miniature story (flash fiction) is a delicious morsel, the flavours exploding with each bite. For me, flash fiction (always written in under 1000 words, and usually in under 500) is storytelling at its best. It draws the reader into another world engaging her in an immersive, evocative, and emotionally resonant experience, albeit for a brief moment in time; ‘for a flash’. Each miniature story is meant to delight, surprise and challenge the reader. There is often much hidden in between the lines and white spaces inviting the reader to return again to discover more in the layers of the story. And while each flash fiction takes only a few moments to devour, each story takes much longer to ‘perfect’, requiring a practiced skill in crafting, sculpting, editing, and polishing. I love the challenge writing flash poses, and the sense of satisfaction in completing a layered piece with a beginning, middle, and end, in a relatively short period of time. Relatively short compared to that of the traditional short story of 1500-3000 words, novella, or novel (which can take years to realize). The Flash Fiction community of writers and readers across Canada is exploding. Canadian literary magazines, journals, and anthologies now publish several flash fiction pieces in each issue, and flash fiction workshops and classes, both online and in house, can be found everywhere. I find this so exciting!
Why the Group of Seven?
When I first saw a Group of Seven painting, a Lawren Harris, I was gobsmacked. A stunning mountain carved like folds of butter, light cascading down upon its peak, pure and ethereal. I was immediately transported, somewhere deep, sublime, and otherworldly. My love affair with the Group of Seven began in that moment. As a university student living in Toronto in the 80’s, I had the opportunity to visit the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg many times. The McMichael Collection even then, was remarkable and awe-inspiring. Over the years as I have discovered more of the Group’s landscape paintings in galleries, museums, books, and on-line. They have captured my imagination and heart for all these many years, transporting me into the story of the canvas and beyond. – I was inspired and driven to realize this book in celebration of their enduring genius.
How did you decide to pair the Group of Seven with Flash Fiction?
For me the match is made in heaven! The paintings are immediately perceived as storied, and the flash pieces are beautifully written, as if a painting. Both image and story invite the reader/viewer into another realm; a place of deep resonance and wonderment. Each read of the narrative, when paired with the layers, shadows, and textures of the landscape painting, becomes an immersive experience.
Each Contributor chose a landscape painting that inspired them, from a selection of Group of Seven paintings. Works by Tom Thomson and Emily Carr, both contemporaries of the Group, are also included in the book.
Who are the Writers/Contributors in The Group of Seven Reimagined and how were they selected?
Most of the Contributors are award-winning short story authors, several times over. They come from all regions of Canada, from coast to coast to coast, and three from the US, the UK, and AU, each with a distinct Canadian connection. I felt it was important to invite writers from across Canada who I thought would present a varied, distinct, and unique voice, and, be expert at crafting a miniature work of fiction. While Canada has so many brilliant short story writers, writing flash fiction presents unique challenges, i.e. excellent editing chops and concision, not every short story writer is comfortable with or interested in exploring.
I am a voracious short fiction reader. I read as many short story collections, journal, magazine, and anthology short fiction pieces as I could find, looking for a range of style, genre, and voice. Above all, I was looking for writing at a level of excellence. And of course, I found brilliant storytellers, and was excited by so many extraordinary works of fiction. It was also important that each person I invited to participate be more than enthusiastic about celebrating the Group of Seven and be inspired by their paintings.
I am thrilled with each of the writers selected. Mike Blouin, Carol Bruneau, Paulo da Costa, Alfred DePew, Tamas Dobozy, Valerie Fox, Travis Good, Mark Jarman, JJ Lee, Brett Loney, Lorette C. Luzajic, Yael Eytan Maree, Michael Mirolla, Isabella Mori, Nina Munteanu, Waubgeshig Rice, Robert Runté, Nina Shoroplova, Mireille Silcoff, Mary Thompson. Each one a consummate professional and joy to work with. Each writer has selected a gorgeous Group of Seven painting to inspire their story and each has contributed a marvellous flash fiction piece. The results and pairing are stunning. In addition to being the editor, I also have a flash fiction piece in the book.
Where did you get your training? How long have you been writing flash fiction? Have you always written, have you always wanted to write?
I think my path to becoming a writer is rather unique. I was sixty-two before I wrote my first story, ever. And I will be sixty-four before this book is published. I have never written fiction before. Never even tried. My writing up until very recently has been academic and analytically focused. I had done some journal writing intermittently as process-writing, but that’s it. Back in high school I wrote my final English exam interpreting a poem about the Tree of Life, referencing photosynthesis/ chlorophyll / life cycle / and the ecosystem. I was clearly off the mark. Words and imagery, conveying personal experience through metaphor or simile was not my forte, comfort level, or inclination.
Since beginning to write fiction three years ago, I have been published in twenty-five international literary journals, magazines, and anthologies, and have more in the queue.
My training is in Psychology. I am a seasoned Family Therapist. Decades of ‘being fully present’ in the therapy session has made the transition into writing surprisingly seamless for me. As Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Olen Butler describes, ‘writing takes place in the Dreamscape’. Being fully present in this ‘Place of Solitude’ is where writing is best explored and fashioned. I enjoy this space. It is where I am most myself. And it is where I create from.
I discovered flash fiction reading journals and magazines online. There is a dynamic global flash fiction community. I read flash fiction journals regularly and enjoy discovering new writers (new to me) – the talent out there is magic. I quickly found online workshops teaching flash fiction and have participated in many three-day, ten-day, and monthly workshops, and continue to enrol in one every month or two. The workshops are lots of fun, generative, and attended by highly creative, respectful, and generous writers. I’m totally hooked.
What do you enjoy most about editing?
Cultivating a relationship with the writer is a must for the editing process to be successful.
Pulling back to the barest of form and arriving at clarity is what motivates me in editing. I love the process. Finding increasing precision in word choice is my kind of fun. I delight in the concision, word craft, play, and intentional word choice used to create imagery that resonates and evokes an emotional response in the reader. My tool is a thesaurus. I clean up a piece to reveal its essence, letting it take center stage and shine. Presenting a re-configured or revised passage to a writer who chooses to accept it, is the ultimate satisfaction for an editor.
I have a lot of ideas, although only two have reached the planning stage. 1. A flash fiction anthology similarly structured to The Group of Seven Reimagined, ekphrastic writing, – flash fiction inspired by visual art. This time showcasing the surrealist and magic realism artists Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo and Kati Horna. and 2. A collection of flash fiction, all my own pieces.
I am exploring how to approach this next project differently. It has been enormously expensive to put this book together. The cost of permissions and licenses from Art Galleries, Museums and Estates to use hi-res reproductions of the paintings in the book has been almost prohibitive. This expense comes out of the author’s / editor’s pocket; the publisher does not absorb this cost. Having a sponsor/corporate interest would help move this next project forward. It is something I’m looking into.
The Group of Seven will launch in Vancouver in October, and in Toronto in May – details on Vancouver and Toronto launch coming soon – if you would like to receive an invitation to attend either Launch party, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with ‘Vancouver Launch Invitation’ or ‘Toronto Launch Invitation’ in the subject line. We are going to celebrate!
Karen Schauber is a Flash Fiction writer obsessed with the form. She has been on a maelstrom writing since she was first introduced to this brief condensed short story form three years ago. Her work has since appeared in 25 international literary magazines and anthologies, including Brilliant Flash Fiction, Bending Genres, CarpeArte, Ekphrastic Review, and Fiction Southeast. The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings, celebrating the Canadian modernist landscape painters, is her first editorial/curatorial flash venture. Schauber runs ‘Vancouver Flash Fiction’, a flash fiction Resource Hub and Critique Circle, and in her spare time, is a seasoned Family Therapist. A native of Montreal, she has called Vancouver home for the past three decades.
“Firstly, in essence it is your planet as well, Alice. Secondly, it is further away than any super telescope can view. Unfortunately, our escape required we never return. We have no idea what fate our planet suffered after we left.”
“What happened? Why did you all leave?”
Totoran guided Alice to a stone bench and sat beside her. As he looked into her eyes, she saw a shimmer cross her vision. Images began to appear and a dark sky appeared. Alice shook her head but Totoran held her chin.
“Let the vision come, Alice. I am showing you our last view of the Griffian world.”
Alice let her shoulders relax and watched the vision come into sharp relief. The landscape stretching before her eyes was festooned with hexagonal boulders stacked on top of each other. The dark sky was a dark purple but there were infrequent streaks of blazing aquatic blue across it. In the distance she saw intense blue sparks and flames shooting hundreds of feet upward.
“What you see is the destruction of our capital city, Alice. We have no idea if any Griffian’s, who escaped to the far shores, survived. We have no way of getting back now.”
“Who or what did that? Why can’t you go back?”
“You are so full of questions! The destruction was caused by a break in our atmosphere. A large fissure grew to extraordinary lengths across the whole planet. Without the protection of the atmosphere our planet was at the mercy of bombarding comets. These brought with them not only a kind of radiation but also bacteria. Griffian biology cannot withstand either of these elements and many hundreds of Griffian’s died. In a desperate hope that we could find another planet that would sustain us, we built a craft of mammoth proportions. Many did not live to see it launch.”
Alice saw the sadness in Totoran’s eyes but she was puzzled as to how a young Griffian could be so moved by an event that happened generations before. Unable to voice her thoughts she placed a hand gently on Totoran’s own. They remained silent for a while, both lost in their thoughts. Wrightsen’s croaky voice broke their peaceful contemplation.
“Prince Totoran, please you must come. The watchers have a report.”
Alice nearly toppled backwards off the bench with the speed in which Totoran stood up. He ran and soon disappeared down a corridor, shouting behind him for Wrightsen to take care of Alice.
“Oh goodness, what has happened, Wrightsen?”
“I think it might be human machines approaching, but sincerely hope that is not the case.”
“Can I do anything to help? What should we do?”
“We are at the mercy of fate, my young Griffian. I only hope we survive this conflict.”
Before Alice could stop her thought escaping her mouth, she blurted out.
“Did you see your world burn, Wrightsen?”
Alice clasped a hand to her mouth and shook her head vigorously while laying a hand on Wrightsen’s shoulder.
“I’m so sorry, don’t answer anything, I shouldn’t said that. I apologize.”
“Totoran told you then of our escape?”
He begun to but then could not continue. The sadness in his eyes was intense. How can he feel such pain? He could not have been there.”
“It is not for me to disclose the Prince’s secrets, Alice but we all feel the loss of our world. Tales are passed down generation to generation.”
“I understand that but to see how intensely Totoran felt at a distance event, stunned me.”
“As I said, I am not at liberty to discuss the Prince, my young Alice. Come now we should make our way further into the mountain.”
Alice followed the older Griffian, keeping close to the rock walls as other Griffian’s hurried this way and that in a determined manner. Wrightsen glanced back repeatedly to ensure Alice did not stray from their path. As they traveled further into the mountain fortress the air grew colder. Alice shivered, wishing she had some sort of cloak to wrap around her misshaped figure. As if reading her mind, Wrightsen pulled her sideways into a small room. With a click of her talons, Wrightsen produced a spark and lit a torch held in place by a bracket on the wall. The yellow flame illuminated the room. Alice saw large boxes piled high one side of the room and folded garments to the other.
“Take a couple, Alice, it will get colder the further we go.”
“Thank you, I was shivering with the cold and damp air.”
Once they were both wrapped in warm woolen garments, Wrightsen took Alice’s claw and guided her into the corridor again.
“Stay close, Alice, these passages are not frequented by the majority of the Griffian’s. There may be rock falls and slimy surfaces to deal with as the maintenance crews have enough to monitor and repair higher up.”
With care the two Griffian’s trod the narrow passage lit only by the torch flame held up by Wrightsen. A sudden gust of wind battered the flame, producing grotesque shadows all around them. Aware that Wrightsen had stopped, Alice stayed behind the older Griffian waiting for instructions.
“That’s not good. There are only a couple of reasons there would be such a gust like that. We must hurry, Alice and get to the sanctuary.”
“I have no time to explain, just follow me, Alice, we have little time.”
Alice heard the fear in Wrightsen’s voice and saw it cross the elder’s eyes. With her heart racing, Alice followed in silence through several passages, which gradually reduced in size. They were both hunched over when her guide held up a claw and stood still. Alice narrowed her eyes trying to glimpse what was ahead. The torch’s flame flickered casing shadows over the wet rock walls. A talon went up to Wrightsen’s lips and Alice compiled to remain silent. Claw in claw they moved forward one step at a time listening intently. A booming noise echoed along the rock walls, halting their progress for several minutes. Alice saw Wrightsen sniff the air then motioned to move forward again. After some time they came to a dead end, surrounded by a clawed rock face. Alice looked at her guide in puzzlement and pointed at the impenetrable barrier ahead.
Wrightsen placed her claws on the wall in front of her and pressed. A glimmer of light appeared to her left and Alice realized it was a door. Stone scraped against stone as they both pushed the rock door open. Once the gap was large enough to accommodate them, Alice and Wrightsen passed through. Before Alice could take a look around, the elder grabbed her shoulder and motioned for her to help close the portal. Once satisfied it was secure, Wrightsen turned to Alice.
“Now we can speak, we will be safe here.”
“Where are we exactly?”
“In the deepest part of the mountain, a place none of us ever wished to use.”
“Can other Griffian’s come here to safety? We should have brought others with us.”
“There are other entrances just as well hidden, do not fret, Alice. We need to continue for a while yet but there is no fear of being followed now.”
Alice took the torch from Wrightsen as she lit another. The rock walls were not as well maintained or as smooth so as they walked they took care not to bump into pieces of rock jutting out into the passage. After a while, Alice heard running water.
“Is that water I hear, Wrightsen? All the way down here?”
“It is an underground river and the reason we dug these passages so deep. We have supplies stockpiled but water is vital for a siege.”
“A siege? I don’t understand.”
“The humans will try to eradicate us, Alice. We must hide until they feel their invasion has been successful.”
Alice’s eyes grew wide with fear. She tried to make sense of what the older Griffian was saying.
“How long do we have to stay here?”
“Last time it was about ten years.”
“What! No…Wrightsen that’s not happening. I can’t be here that long. We have to go now, get out of here and fly far away.”
“Alice calm down, we can not risk going to the surface. We must stay and hope many other Griffian’s have made it down safely. Including the King and Prince.”
With her body shaking uncontrollably, Alice fell to the floor sobbing. The elder Griffian embraced her and made soothing noises to comfort her. A grinding sound made them hold still and quiet until Wrightsen heard a huffing sound and replied in a similar manner. Large shapes approached and gradually formed into Griffian’s.
“Wrightsen, what a welcome sight you are? How many are here?”
“My Prince we have not ventured further as yet. Alice is upset.”
Tortoran knelt beside Alice and pulled her head upward to face him. With great care he wiped tears from her skin.
“You are safe here, Alice, do not fear. I will try to be near at all times but cannot promise. The humans are blasting the upper rock face in an attempt to break through. We must be diligent and secure this sanctuary. “
Alice looked up her fear increasing at his words.
“They are blasting the mountain? Surely we must leave?”
“We have constructed numerous safety measures and escape routes throughout the mountain range, Alice. There is no way they can penetrate this far down. We are safe. Would you feel more comfortable changed to human form?”
Alice looked into Tortoran’s eyes seeing his sincerity and care. She felt easier having him near.
“Would the other Griffian’s not be offended if I changed, Tortoran?”
“No, of course not! Whatever helps you is fine. Wrightsen will be with you at all times and Marduke here will protect you too.”
Tortoran pointed to a large Griffian standing behind him, who nodded in agreement at his Prince’s order.
“Thank you, Tortoran for your understanding and for the extra protection but do you not need every available Griffian to fight?”
“We are many, Alice, it is not a problem. I would feel better knowing you are kept safe. Come, we can rest in the sanctuary.”
Alice wrestled with herself on whether to transform or not and decided her Griffian form would serve her better if the humans did penetrate the fortified sanctuary.
“I will retain my form, Tortoran, if we are attacked I will be better equipped to help. Thank you.”
Tortoran smiled at her and held his claw out to direct her forward.
“I would hope that situation does not occur, Alice. There are many Griffian soldiers between you and the surface.”
In single file the group walked steadily downward again along a narrow passage. There was a glow ahead of them and the torches bright flames diminished as they approached. The passage way ceased abruptly into an enormous cavern. Alice saw stockpiles of food and equipment on all sides. The cavern was teeming with Griffian’s carrying more supplies and others directing their placement. The low buzz of grunts and murmurings lessened as Tortoran entered the space. Griffian’s turned to face him and bowed.
Tortoran held up his claws and spoke loudly so the assembly would hear him.
“Griffian’s we will overcome as we stand together. We have endured before and we will again. Together we are strong. Continue with your assignments, I thank you all for your loyalty.”
Loud huffing sounds echoed around the cavern as Tortoran’s speech ended. Alice looked at him in awe. They all love and respect him.
Tortoran turned to her and guided her down a ramp into the center of the cavern. She was aware of questioning looks, as she passed, at her presence with the Prince. A corridor ahead was their destination. The walls were smoothed and there were torches cradled in holders along its length. Alice saw an elaborating decorated door before them and puzzled why such decoration was needed so deep within the mountain.
“Your majesty, I will await your orders.”
Alice turned at Marduke’s words and saw him stand to one side of the door. Wrightsen bowed toward Tortoran and then sat on a small ledge in the rock face.
“Come, Alice, it is time you met my father, the King.”
“Are you sure? I can stay with Wrightsen and Marduke.”
“Yes, I am certain. Please bow and remain silent unless my father questions you directly. He is not as fierce as he appears but insists on proper protocol.”
I found this award over at: http://suddenlytheyalldied.com/2015/03/18/award-season-continues-again/
As I love conversing and sharing with other writers, I have taken up the challenge.
What makes you dance? The completion of a manuscript, the first sight of the new book cover and any music with a great drum beat.
What is your favorite genre? Don’t really have one… I read multiple genres and write them as well. I favorite Stephen King, Kate Morton, Felix de Palma, Maeve Binchey and James Long. So you see a broad spectrum.
If you could have lunch with one of the captains from Star Trek or one of the characters from Star Wars, who would you choose and why? My husband watches these shows…not really my cup of tea. Although, I am drawn to the strong female characters. B’Elanna and Seven of Nine are great levers of those around them and do not concede quickly. As for my choice of Star Trek captains, I think I would choose Captain Kathryn Janeway – she stands her ground but her decisions are emotion and instinct based, which is her strength.
Which five books would you take with you to a desert island? Ferney by James Long, Under the Dome & The Stand by Stephen King, The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchey, Thrush Green by Miss. Read.
Why did you start blogging? I was encouraged to begin blogging by my publisher and members of my writing group to highlight my passion for writing and to connect with other writers and promote my novels. I enjoy the community and interaction of my blog and set a schedule and theme/topic for the year prior to New Year’s day each year. One year I utilized a desk diary word of the day and created posts every day using the day’s word. It was a lot of work but was thrilling to see where my mind went to create each post.
Do please link back here if you take this award – I’d love to read all your answers! Or if you don’t want to take the award, then answer some of the questions in the comments below. Let’s get to know each other!
I would like to extend the invitation to my followers and these are the questions I have set.
1. If you could become a character from a novel, who would you be and why?
2. Given the opportunity where in the world would you live and why?
3. What was the first song (record, CD) you bought?
4. Which movie(s) do you wish had not been made from a book(s) and why?