Saturday, June 24, 2017

“My Mother, A Mouse and the Love of Reading” by Paul Daniel

I can’t remember a time when there wasn’t reading material in my home. Growing up, we had a subscription to The Toronto Star. My brother read the comics page of the newspaper; my mother, who was losing her eyesight, used a magnifying glass to read the front section; and my father, for whom English was a second language, made a game effort to read the sports page.

My experience with reading started with one solitary moment. I remember it as vividly. I must have been around five or six. My mother took me to the Mississauga Central Library at Dundas and Confederation Parkway. Don’t look for it now.  The old Central Library was torn down more than 20 years ago. But when my mother took me there, the library was brand spanking new.

She took me to the children’s section on the main floor and made what appeared to be a random selection of books. Only one stood out: Anatole by Eve Titus. Published in 1956, the story is about a mouse named Anatole who lives in France. Trying to get cheese for his family, he discovers that humans hate mice.  How can this be? he wonders. He is a proud French mouse, determined to find a way to earn his keep and to do so with honour.

Anatole eventually becomes the official cheese taster at the Duval cheese factory, grading the quality of its products. All the while, people are wondering who this “Anatole” is. I’ll leave it at that. I don’t want to spoil the story for you. It’s really good.

The words were clear and concise. The pictures, while not bursting with colour, were vivid. Perhaps it was the minimal use of colour that made such an impact on me and has stayed with me ever since.My mother never took a course in child psychology but she would have made a fine teacher. I think one reason she picked that book for me had to do with cheese. Like a lot of kids that age, I gobbled up cheese as if it were candy. She must have figured that a book that contained cheese would obviously have some attraction for me. Then again, maybe she was just lucky.

Years later, I found an online used bookstore that was selling a discarded original edition of Anatole. I paid probably more than ten times its original price. It was worth every penny.

I have never stopped reading. I have always said reading is one of the few things in life at which I excel. If I’m in a line up, I’ll be reading a book. If I’m at a coffee shop, I’m reading a book or a magazine. On my daily commute to work and back (which works out to four hours), my nose is scraping away at a book.

For many people, social media is entertaining. But I equate social media with eating too many loaves of white bread. It’ll fill you up but too much of it is bad for you.

In an age when thoughts are reduced to 140 characters and simplistic emoticons, I think of the great gift that my mother, indeed my entire family, gave me without realizing it. Enjoying the written word never goes out of style and it never gets boring. It only gets better.

Paul Daniel is an audio producer at Accessible Media Inc., (AMI) in Toronto, Ontario. Writing and reading have always been his second and third passions following his first passion, his wife, Mary. He’s enjoyed being in Brian’s creative writing class. “Brian’s class has reminded me the pleasures and challenges of writing,” says Paul. “There’s never a dull moment.” 

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Four Agents at Stimola Literary Studio seek fiction for young people, picture books to new adult, plus parenting and lifestyle books and cookbooks

Apartment 1986 by Lisa Papademetriou,
represented by Stimola Literary
Stimola Literary Studio
308 Livingston Court
Edgewater, NJ 07020

Note: Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio, and get each post delivered to your Inbox. ~ Brian

Stimola is a smaller agency, but all four of their agents are seeking authors. Specifically, they’re looking for picture books, novels and graphic novels, and in nonfiction, parenting books and cook books.

At present, they are most interested in:
  • Author/ illustrators
  • Great Read Aloud texts and ones that put a new spin on evergreen topics
  • Humorous middle grade, especially for boys
  • Spare of language/illustrated picture books for the very young
  • Middle grade/young adult mysteries with a fun “puzzling” dimension
  • Young adult novels: contemporary, fantasy, fantasy with historical underpinnings, mystery/thrillers
  • Multi-cultural middle or teen fantasy (African, eastern, middle eastern)
  • Magical Realism
  • Graphic novels for early, middle and YA
  • Picture book biography
  • Nonfiction, with crossover appeal in adult markets
  • And, just to keep things interesting… we are also looking to add to our growing list of parenting and cookbook titles with unique concepts and niche market appeal!

Allison Remcheck is the newest member of the team, and like all new agents, she needs authors. She is most interested in middle-grade and YA fiction

In particular she wants: fantasy grounded in reality with series potential; contemporary with a focus on current issues and diversity without being didactic; contemporary teen girl romance and coming of age; mystery and psychological thriller; and YA fiction with cross-over adult or new adult appeal.

She is also open to historical fiction, especially with a medieval or early 20th century backdrop. She is not not interested in high fantasy, paranormal, chapter books for younger readers, non-fiction picture books, or non-author/illustrator picture books.

Rosemary Stimola is most interested in author/illustrator picture books, middle grade fiction with series potential, and YA mystery/thrillers.

Erica Rand Silverman is primarily interested in books for and about children. She has worked with some of the most exciting new talent and treasured mainstays in the industry, as well as with the estates of our favorite classics. 

Erica represents picture books through young adult and the occasional adult nonfiction project in parenting, humor and wellness. 

She received her degree in Secondary English Education from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, and a Master of Arts degree in Theater from Hunter College. Before joining the studio in 2016, she was an English and Theater Teacher and Dean at a NYC public high school and a Senior Literary Agent at Sterling Lord Literistic.  

Adriana Stimola wants your cookbooks and lifestyle projects! She’s interested in stories that celebrate food and culture and that aim to gather people in the kitchen and around tables; books that highlight mindful and modern approaches to life and parenthood. Adriana is also a photographer, content consultant, and writer. Check out her blog here

See Stimola's full submission guidelines and online submissions form here.

Brian Henry will lead “You can write great dialogue," workshops on Saturday, July 15, in Mississauga (see here) and Saturday, July 22, in London (see here).

And there are three weekly creative writing courses, introductory to advanced, starting soon:
Exploring Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, July 4 – August 22, in Burlington. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington. See here.
Intensive Creative WritingWednesday afternoons, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington. See here.
      Details of all three courses  here.  

Brian Henry will lead a Writing for Children & for Young Adult workshop on Saturday, August 12, in Collingwood with literary agent Monica Pacheco (see here). 
In the fall, Brian will lead a weekly Writing Kid Lit class, Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov 30, in Oakville, with guest authors Sylvia McNicoll and Jennifer Mook-Sang (see here).
Note: For updated listings of Writing for Children & for Young adult workshops and for weekly Kid lit classes, see here (and scroll down).

Join us for a Fall Colours Writing Retreat, at Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin Park, Friday, Sept 15 – Sunday, Sept 17 (see here).

Also, in the fall, Brian will lead a full range of courses, including (for the first time) a creative writing course in Toronto:
Author Sylvia McNicoll
Intensive Creative Writing, Monday mornings, Sept 25 – Dec 4, in Toronto. See here.
Next Step in Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons Sept 19 – Nov 21, in Burlington.
Extreme Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons,Sept 20 – Dec 6, in Burlington
Writing Personal Stories, Wednesday evenings, Sept 27 – Nov 15, in Burlington
Writing Kid Lit, Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov 30, in Oakville, with guest authors Sylvia McNicoll and Jennifer Mook-Sang. See here.
Welcome to Creative Writing, Thursday afternoons, Sept 28 – Nov 30, in Burlington
Intensive Creative Writing, Thursday evenings, Sept 28 – Nov 30 in Georgetown. See here.

For more information or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email
Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian’s complete current schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Navigation tips: Always check out the labels underneath a post; they’ll lead you to various distinct collections of postings. Also, if you're searching for a literary agent who represents a particular type of book, check out this post. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Writing Kid Lit ~ Picture Books to YA, Thursday mornings, Oct 5 – Nov 30, in Oakville, with authors Sylvia McNicoll and Jennifer Mook-Sang as guest speakers

The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, a
New York Times #1 bestselling author
and one of Brian’s students
Writing Kid Lit ~ Picture Books to Young Adult
 Thursday mornings, October 5 – November 30, 2017
9:45 – 11:45 a.m.
Woodside Branch of the Oakville Public Library, 1274 Rebecca St, Oakville, Ontario (Map here)

Brian also offers Writing for Children & for Young Adult workshops on Saturdays. See here (and scroll down). See details of other upcoming weekly classes here (and scroll down).

From picture books to young adult novels, this weekly course is accessible for beginners and meaty enough for advanced writers. Through lectures, in-class assignments, homework, and feedback on your writing, we’ll give you ins and outs of writing for younger readers and set you on course toward writing your own books. 

We’ll have two published children’s authors as guest speakers: 

Sylvia McNicoll is the author of over thirty books, many of which have garnered awards and Her YA novel Crush.candy.corpse was shortlisted for the Arthur EllisYA CrimeNovel of the Year Award, the Red Maple Award, the Manitoba Young Readers' Choice Award, and the Snow Willow Award, as well as being selected as one of the Ontario Library Association's Best Bets and Resource Links' Year's Best for 2012. 
Most acclaimed, though, are her three middle grade books about fostering guide dogs  Bringing Up Beauty, Beauty Returns, and A Different Kind of Beauty which won and were nominated for many children’s choice awards. Her 2015 YA novel Best Friends Through Eternity tells the story of an adopted Chinese teen for whom an ill-fated shortcut along a rail track leads to the discovery of some uncomfortable truths. 
In 2017, Sylvia launched her new middle grade series The Great Mistake Mysteries beginning with The Best Mistake Mystery in January and The Artsy Mistake Mystery in September and finishing with The Snake Mystery in January 2018.

Jennifer Mook-Sang grew up in Caribbean Guyana and moved to Canada when she was fourteen. While reading bedtime stories to her two sons, she fell in love with picture books and decided to write one of her own. In one of Brian Henry's classes she found the beginnings of a story. That story grew into the humorous middle-grade novel, Speechless, published by Scholastic in 2015. 
Speechless won the Surrey Schools Book of the Year Award, was shortlisted for many other awards, and was recommended by the Ontario Library Association, the Canadian Childrens’ Book Centre, the CBC, and the TD Summer Reading Club. Jennifer’s spent the past year giving numerous school and library presentations and meeting her many young readers.  
In October, just in time for her to bring copies to our class, Jennifer's picture book Captain Monty Takes the Plunge will be released by Kids Can Press.
Jennifer lives in Burlington, Ontario. You can find out more about her at: 
Speechless is available online here.

Instructor Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada's most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. Brian is the author of a children’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  (Tribute Publishing). But his proudest boast is that he’s has helped many of his students get published. 
Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.  

Course fee:  $176.11 plus 13% hst = 199
To reserve your spot, email:

See Brian’s complete current schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

“Deconstructing a non-writing writer” by Tessi Lagtapon

I’ve got my laptop open but I’m not writing. Words were my lover for so long, but now spurned, I just sit at my kitchen table staring out into space. No thought in particular. I glance at my forsythia bursting out in yellow bloom. It’s cheerful even if I’m not. The grass needs repair. Our dog Pip has left her pee marks zigzagging there and about. I hate to go to the side of the house where there is hardly any grass left. Her muddy paws tell me the story sight unseen.

If I still had the gig with our local newspaper that I had for ten years, writing a column each month, I’d be at my keyboard clicking away, happily lost in a tangle of sentences. I’d be chuckling at the little joke I was writing or sobbing at an incident I fished from my memory bank or maybe getting upset at a perceived slight to my ego. Once a month I went through a mandatory emotional catharsis that left me alive and renewed.

“It’s a business decision,” they told me at the paper.

It’s a rejection, I thought. As a realtor, you’d think I’d be used to rejection.

“Are you thinking of selling your house?” I ask at the door.


“Thank you. Have a good day.”  I smile and go on to the next house. Multiply this by 30 and I’ve had my quota of rejection for the day. Tomorrow, I’ll get some more. It’s a numbers game. One yes, and the sun smiles through the clouds.

Yet this one rejection from the newspaper has left me disconsolate. Rejection from homeowners is just my job. Rejection from my paper, hit at my soul.

Why, indeed do I even want to write?

I am not a political analyst. Although I come from a country with a turbulent political history, I am quite matter-of-fact in my political views. In terms of interest, I rank political debates with waiting in line at the grocery cash. 

I am not a financial wizard. My crystal ball was out of whack when I told my boys to buy Nortel at the bargain price of $56.

I am not a scholar. Oh wait, let me dig out the paper I did on Ibsen a million moons ago: “His characters grope through the asphyxiating atmosphere into the open, freer life of the liberated.”  Whew! Just reading that sentence feels like navigating through a dark, smoke-filled pub.

I wasn’t paid to pontificate on politics, finance or the arts. My job was simply to bare my soul once a month – which I did 120 times.

My love affair with words started in college. Our school paper needed to fill a column. My friend, the Managing Editor, looked at me; I accepted the challenge and was instantly hooked. I even had the gall to publish in Spanish.  The Augustinian Fathers must have rolled their eyes behind my back.

I magnified this minute experience and landed a job as editorial assistant to the editor of a national entertainment magazine. For my first article, I put my by-line to an AP release of an interview with Richard Burton!  My editor blanched. AP didn’t find out. I kept my job.

I flaunted my press card everywhere, then dashed to the office to beat my deadline. I wrote about food, fashion, and dance – even architecture. I went by gut feeling and wrote with authority. I reviewed TV shows, eyeballed celebrities and picked the brains of society’s business leaders. None of my subjects questioned my “profound” views. So I kept on faking it and every week had the pleasure of seeing my by-line. My youthful ego blossomed with abandon. 

"Well, Tessie, I'm glad you asked me that...."
And then everything came to a screeching stop.  I got married. Had two kids. Came to Canada. Scrounged for a living. Had two more kids. Scrounged some more. Then one day, I lifted up my head and saw the world again. Through eyes, wide open, with time in my hands and laughter in my belly, saw that life beyond work is good.

Finding the funny side of an attack of shingles started me off writing again. The editor was entertained; a friend said I made shingles a must-have disease. I found myself once more filled with joy and clicking away. My hiatus from writing seemed to evaporate. 

Now I feel I am again waking up. My fingers hover over the keyboard. My pulse races. And then ... my heart is skipping with the staccato of the keyboard.

I am re-starting my torrid affair. I wouldn’t call this affair clandestine, for that would denote an affair concealed in the shadows of darkened alleys.  It is, however, all consuming, relentless.  I wouldn’t call this love sordid either. In fact, it is pure. It transcends age and weight, wrinkles and love handles. It is enduring, and exquisitely passionate. I have a love affair with the English language.

In university I inhaled words then exhaled sentences like:  “The winner of the recent contest, sang ”Hallelujah” with such rejoicing that one can imagine a staircase from heaven descend among the clouds with our Saviour’s hands spread out to welcome everyone to His kingdom.” As you can see I was a drama queen. I couldn’t get enough words to string together.

I have come down from the heavens a tad since. English is a vibrant language. What other language lets me describe so many varying degrees of anger?  The fact that I’m upset does not preclude a smile on my face; when I turn sullen you better not be talking to me; when I start fuming, I need you out of my sight; when I’m raging mad, all the knives better disappear; and watch out when I start foaming at the mouth!  

Every thought has a nuance, every action a measure that can be peeled off layer by layer like the petticoat of a wedding dress, exposing just enough until the next level of revelation. What power! 

…the gentle quiver of a leaf; the muted sigh of helplessness; the serene face of acceptance. Life at its best is the translucence of the newly sprung leaves of spring; the angelic grin of a toddler; the rapture of first love; the impassioned rhetoric of a politician; the wild and frenzied leap of a triumphant athlete. Such infinite shades of being!

… a baby cries, a widow weeps; the action is the same and yet different. I can only imagine a witch’s cackle, but I hear my daughter chuckle, my grandchildren giggle and my men’s earthshaking, belly-wrenching guffaws. And talk about a sexy language; a young girl’s coquettish look, a young man’s tremulous caress…

Actions are graphic realities; easily understood; emotions are brush strokes on a painting, the soft cadences of a musical phrase.  “I hate you” is trite but to loathe is to nourish a caustic venom in one’s insides. Loathing permeates its host with impunity, feeding on the excruciating anguish of a broken heart, crushed expectations, a tragedy; to fall into despair, alone into the dark abyss of hopelessness. 

English grew some more while I was busy scrounging for a living. A hundred years ago, I knew only ten figures of speech; now I can understand only the top twenty among hundreds. Oxymoron is my current favourite. True lies (Arnold’s movie) comes to mind first, then “brawling love, loving hatred,” (Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet); and “deliberate haste” (Obama). 

I remember onomatopoeias when I hear the commercial “snap, crackle and pop” and those that make me shiver:  the slithering snake, slime; the screech of nails on a blackboard. 

Dr. House, MD (a TV show) is a master in metaphors. Saying there appears to be some clotting is like saying there's a traffic jam ahead. Is it a ten-car pile-up, or just a really slow bus in the center lane? And if it is a bus, is that bus thrombotic or embolic?” 

Given these infinite expressions of being, how then can anyone not love the English language?  How then did I build a wall of procrastination to the very thing that gives me life and purpose?  I am no stranger to rejection; why would I allow a hundred editors’ rejection affect me?  All logical questions. Do I have a logical answer? No…

Psychologists say that putting a name to the problem is half the battle won. Is my enemy pride? Fear?? Ego???


I am writing again. 

Tessi Lagtapon was a supply teacher for the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board for seven years, then discovered Real Estate was a better fit and has been doing it for the past thirty-one years. More recently, her daughter has been gracefully taking over the business. “I call her my pension fund,” says Tessie. “I earn my keep by being her backup, office personnel, and to go-to resource.  Thank God she likes selling houses. Meanwhile, I can be in the garden and plot the next article.” This essay originally appeared in Forever Young

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Saint John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.