Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Gone fishing


I'm taking some time off to kick back and hang out with the family (mostly on our back porch, though). I'll start posting again after Labour Day.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, reviewed by Sandra Ziemniak

Doubleday Canada (2012), 516 pages, buy it here

As a child I remember being stunned into silence by even the simplest sleight of hand or familiar illusion.  It wasn’t the trick per se, or even the enticing exuberance of the trickster, as much as it was my desperate hope that magic was real and that one day I too might master the mystical ways of the enchanter.  I had forgotten that delicious sense of wonder until I recently came across the novel Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. 

Night Circus is the tale two young people caught in a web of illusion and genuine magic, of deception and love. We first meet the young Celia, Prospero the Enchanter’s daughter and sudden protégé, as she is unceremoniously left on his front doorstep after the untimely death of her mother.  In an act of selfish indulgence her father magically binds his daughter to an unknown opponent and sets in motion the next phase of an ancient and deadly competition of magic and power.

Set in the late 19th century under the magical Big Top of a travelling nocturnal circus, the novel follows Celia and her adversary, the orphaned Marco, from their early years as students of magic to their young adulthood where they finally meet and their mutual binding is uncovered.   Their individual displays of magical ability grow in richness and strength but the conjuring of magnificent scenery and elaborate spectacle only displeases Prospero who returns to remind Celia of what is truly at stake. But Celia and Marco have become bound in another way, by their deep affection for one another, and Celia has already decided how the challenge will really end.

Erin Morgenstern
Morgenstern writes with a spellbinding prose and employs complex, ethereal imagery that kept me interested and engaged and on the lookout for a few free minutes where I might sneak off to read another couple of pages or so. 

There are, however, a few refinements that Morgenstern should have considered when writing Night Circus.  With a few too many main characters it was sometimes difficult to keep them all straight in my head and I have a couple of questions about Marco’s acquisition of his magical powers and why the novel keeps jumping a sometimes confusing timeline.  As well, though the ending was generally satisfying, I felt it needed a stronger sense of urgency to build tension for the reader prior to the novel’s climax.

Despite a few flaws, however, I feel the novel was well worth my time and find myself recommending Night Circus over and over again.

Even if fantasy isn’t your genre, my suggestion would be to willingly suspend your disbelief and give Night Circus a read.  Settle into your favorite comfy chair and allow yourself be swept away by the rich tapestry of language and breathtaking imagery that Morgenstern has to offer.  In my final assessment, I have to say that I’m happy I did.

Quick Brown Fox welcomes book reviews and other book related pieces. Quick Brown Fox also welcomes reviews of plays, movies, restaurants or anything else you get up to. Right now, I’d especially love a review of The Search Angel by Tish Coshen. Email your review to me at brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Sandra Ziemniak lives in Milton, Ontario, but does some of her best writing on a rickety old deck tucked beneath towering pine trees near Sauble Beach.  Her work has appeared in Dogs in Canada and The Teaching Librarian and she currently has a couple of short stories under consideration for publication.  

Sandra is actively seeking representation for her novel, Waking Celia, a contemporary family drama about a daughter who risks more than she can afford to save her dying mother’s life - a novel that she started in one of Brian Henry’s intensive creative writing courses.  Visit Sandra’s Facebook page here. 


See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

“Into the middle of things” an essay on writing by Gila Green

My debut novel, King of the Class, is divided into two sections. In the first half, readers meet Eve Vee, a twenty-something, university student from Canada, who wakes up one day on an Israeli kibbutz in the year 2018 to find her South African fiancé Manny Meretzky missing.

This part of the novel continues in chronological order for one year as the couple struggles with religious differences against the backdrop of a post-civil war Israel that’s divided against itself into two states: one radically religious, the other radically secular.

In the second half of the novel we jump ahead by more than a decade. I don’t want to give anything away, but since the release of King of the Class in April 2013, I have received many emails from readers who are curious to know what happened in the twelve years skipped over in the novel.

I could probably write a new novel purely based on those “missing” twelve years. But are they missing? Not as far as I’m concerned.

Why do writers use in media res (Latin for “into the middle of things”), and is it fair to the reader?  There is nothing new about this narrative technique, which we find in everything from Homer’s Odyssey to films, poetry and plays. In media res allows the audience to jump into a story right in the middle of the action. It is neither a frame nor a story within a story nor a self-contained story.

When I wrote King of the Class, I wrote the first half of Part Two first. That was the story I so much wanted to share with readers – the story of a boy who was so misunderstood in the school system that other parents were prepared to symbolically murder him. I concretized this murder with a kidnapping.

I didn’t make up this symbolism, just took it an extra step. Judaism considers embarrassing someone in public a symbolic murder; the redness that flushes the cheeks of the victim, reminiscent of spilled blood.

As a mother of five children I’d spent the last couple of years in an Israeli school system where I’d watched helplessly as too many such symbolic murders occurred. Ironically, most of the people murdering the kids with embarrassment were well-meaning parents.

This is not to single out the Israeli school system. No doubt children worldwide are subject to embarrassment, abuse and humiliation because they are misunderstood. When I sat down to write my novel, this was this situation I was initially protesting.

After fifty or so pages, I realized readers could not possibly understand the depths of Eve’s pain and connection to her son, Netsach, if they had no knowledge of how she came to marry Manny Meretzky. I abandoned my simple kidnapping story and wrote Part One of my novel.
Only after Part One was complete did I go back and finish Part Two, struggling to find justice for the reader, for Netsach, for Eve and Manny and for myself as both a writer and mother.

To devote time to the interim years was not the heart of the story. After all, you cannot be a king of the class in nursery school and even in kindergarten it’s more of a joke than anything else. The label may nip at the heels of a young child, but only grows long fangs around the middle of primary school when, Netsach, the boy at the centre of my novel has the label “king of the class” bestowed on him.  

The result is a novel that makes extensive use of in media res. I very much wanted readers to jump into the kidnapping with both feet, to taste a little bit of what’s it’s like not only to be the king of the class, but to give birth to one.

Gila Green comes from Ottawa but now lives in Israel She published her first novel, King of the Class (Now or Never Publishing) in 2013. Her short stories have received seven international nominations and two fellowships, and her collection, White Zion, was nominated for the Doris Bakwin Literary Award. Please visit her at www.gilagreenwrites.com

For information about submitting to Now or Never, see here


See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sharon Pelletier & Rachel Stout of Dystel & Goderich literary agency seek new authors

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management
One Union Square West
Suite 904
New York, NY 10003

Sharon Pelletier is the newest member of the team Dystel & Goderich, and like all new agents, she needs authors.
Sharon worked for Europa Editions, Vantage Press, and Barnes & Noble. She graduated with English and History majors from Hillsdale College in Michigan in 2006 and moved to New York in 2009 to work with books.
Sharon is looking for witty literary fiction and smart commercial fiction featuring female characters who are strong but not necessarily quirky. She also wants compelling narrative nonfiction that tells a little-known story.
Query Sharon at spelletier@dystel.com

Rachel Stout joined Dystel & Goderich after graduating with a degree in English from Fordham University and working as an intern at LJK Literary Management. Rachel is interested in literary fiction, narrative nonfiction, and believable thought-provoking YA, as well as magical realism.
Query Rachel at rstout@dystel.com

Submissions: No attachments. Query only one agent at Dystel & Goderich at a time. Include a cover letter, an outline or brief synopsis of the work, and a sample chapter. We will respond to most query letters within six to eight weeks. If you don’t hear from us within that time frame, chances are we did not receive yours. Feel free to resend it.”
For a complete list of agents at Dystel & Goderich and what they’re looking for, see here.
See their submissions page here.

Brian Henry will lead a “How to Get Published” workshop with guest speaker Carly Watters of P.S. Literary agency in Georgetown on October 5 (see here), and will lead a “Writing for Children & for Young Adults” workshop in Mississauga on Sat, Oct 26. (see here.) 
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Brian will also lead “How to Write Great Dialogue"workshops in Burlington on Sept 7 (see here) and in Toronto on Sept 28 (see here). And he’ll be leading “How to Build Your Story” workshops in Barrie on Sept 21 (here), in Sudbury on Sept 22 (here) and in Ottawa on Nov 17 (here).  To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

But before you submit, the best way to get your manuscript into shape is with a weekly course. In September, Brian will be leading “Welcome to Creative Writing” on Tuesday afternoons in Burlington (see here); “Writing your life & other true stories” on Tuesday evenings in Burlington (here); "Next Step" courses on Thursday afternoons in Mississauga (here) and Thursday evenings in Georgetown (here) and “Intensive” courses on on Wednesday afternoons in Burlington (here) and Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (here). 
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Elmore Leonard, rest in peace


The great crime novelist Elmore Leonard died this week, aged 87.
Here are Leonard’s ten rules for writing:

John Travolta in Get Shorty, the best film
 adaptation of one of Leonard's books
Never open a book with the weather.
Avoid prologues.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said.”
Keep your exclamation points under control!
Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Same for places and things.
Leave out the parts readers tend to skip.

Of course, as with all writing rules, there are exception. Orwell's 1984 opens with the weather, and I like prologues, though I don't recommend them. 

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Competition for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel, plus 3 other contest for 1sttime mystery writers

Sponsored by Minotaur Books (a Macmillan imprint) and Malice Domestic the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel contest is one of four crime novel competitions for first time authors sponsored by Minotaur Press. The other three are: The First Crime Novel Competition, the Best (first) Private Eye competition, and the Hillerman Mystery Contest for a mystery set in the American southwest.

The Minotaur Books/Malice Domestic Competition for the Best First Traditional Mystery Novel:

The competition is open to any writer, regardless of nationality, who has never been the author of a published traditional mystery (that includes self-published works and ebooks) and is not under contract with a publisher for publication of a traditional mystery. Only one manuscript entry is permitted per writer.

All manuscripts submitted: a) must be original works of book length (no less than 220 typewritten pages or approximately 60,000 words) written in the English language by the contestants. 

GUIDELINES   
  1. Murder or another serious crime is at the heart of the story, and emphasis is on the solution rather than the details of the crime.
  2. Whatever violence is necessarily involved should be neither excessive nor gratuitously detailed, nor is there to be explicit sex.
  3. The crime is an extraordinary event in the lives of the characters.
  4. The principal characters are people whom the reader might not like, but would be interested in knowing.
  5. The suspects and the victims should know each other.
  6. There are a limited number of suspects, each of whom has a credible motive and reasonable opportunity to have committed the crime.
  7. The person who solves the crime is the central character.
  8. The “detective” is an amateur, or, if a professional (private investigator, police officer) is not hardboiled and is as fully developed as the other characters.
  9. The detective may find him or herself in serious peril, but he or she does not get beaten up to any serious extent.
  10. All of the cast represent themselves as individuals, rather than large impersonal institutions like a national government, the mafia, the CIA, etc.
Nominees will be selected by judges chosen by the editorial staff of St. Martin’s Press and the winner will be chosen by St. Martin’s Press editors.  St. Martin’s Press reserves the right not to select any winner, if in the sole opinion of the editors, none of the manuscripts submitted are of publishable quality.

An attempt will be made to notify the competition winner, if any, no later than April 1st. The winner will be officially announced at the Malice Domestic Convention in May.

If a winner is selected, Minotaur Books will publish the winning manuscript by offering to enter into its standard form author’s agreement with the contestant. The winner will receive an advance against future royalties of $10,000.

Deadline: All entries must be postmarked no later than October 15 

It is important that you submit your manuscript as early as possible.  Our judges are volunteers who are extremely busy with their primary concerns, and it is inevitable that your submission will get a more careful reading if the judge does not have to contend with a flood of last-minute entries.

Full contest rules for all four contests sponsored by Minotaur here.

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wolsak and Wynn publishes poetry and nonfiction

The Boreal Dragon by Katherine Bitney,
published by Wolsak and Wynn
Wolsak and Wynn Publishers
280 James Street North
Hamilton, ON L8R 2L3
http://wolsakandwynn.ca/

Wolsak and Wynne is a literary press run by Noelle Allen that publishes poetry and nonfiction. Here's what they have to say about themselves:

“We are dedicated to publishing clear, passionate Canadian voices in poetry and non-fiction. We believe that poetry has the power to crystallize and express the diverse life of this country in the most concentrated form, while non-fiction unfurls these experiences for the reader.

“Since the company began operations in 1983, we have published 122 titles, including six nominees for, and two winners of, the Governor General’s Award for poetry. Our non-fiction has been nominated for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and has been garnering great reviews.

“The authors we publish display widely divergent styles and approaches to writing. We favour no one style over any other and we publish to no agenda beyond that of presenting the best in Canadian poetry and non-fiction, from fresh new voices to assured familiar ones.”

Archives of the Undressed
by Jeanette Lynes,
published by Wolsak and Wynn
Query with a small sample of your work. Snail mail only. No electronic submissions.
For poetry, include a sample of 15-20 poems, single spaced on one-sided, white bond paper, with no more than one poem per page.
For nonfiction, include a sample chapter and proposed table of contents.
Full submission guidelines here.

Brian Henry will lead a “How to Get Published" workshop with guest speaker Carly Watters of P.S. Literary agency in Georgetown on October 5 (see here).
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Brian will be leading “How to Build Your Story"workshops in Barrie on Sept 21 (here), in Sudbury on Sept 22 (here), and in Ottawa on November 17 (here). 

Also, Brian will lead a “Secrets of Writing a Page-turner” workshop in Bracebridge (in the heart of Muskoka) on August 10 (see here).
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

But before you submit, the best way to get your manuscript into shape is with a weekly course. In September, Brian will be leading “Welcome to Creative Writing” on Tuesday afternoons in Burlington (see here); “Writing your life & other true stories” on Tuesday evenings in Burlington (here); "Next Step" courses on Thursday afternoons in Mississauga (here) and Thursday evenings in Georgetown (here) and "Intensive" courses on Wednesday afternoons in Burlington (here) and Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (here). 
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.



Monday, August 19, 2013

Literary agent Jacob Moore of Zachary Shuster Harmsworth seeks SciFi/Fantasy, memoir, plays & nonfiction

The Rest of Us, a debut novel by
Jessica Lott, represented by
Zacharay Shuster Harmsworth
Zachary Shuster Harmsworth
 A Literary and Entertainment Agency
1776 Broadway, Suite 1405
New York, NY 10019
and
535 Bolyston Street, 11th floor
Boston, MA 02116

Jacob Moore is the newest member of the team at Zachary Shuster Harmsworth literary agency, and like all new agents, he needs authors.

Jacob Moore was the recipient of the 2008 Aiken Taylor Internship with the Sewanee Review, America’s oldest continuously published literary quarterly. He joined Zachary Shuster Harmsworth in 2012 as an agent in the New York office, where he brings his previous experience as a freelance journalist, editorial director for a PR firm, and in-house editor at ZSH to serve a broad range of projects for a variety of clients.

Jacob is particularly committed to working closely with writers to bring their work to a higher editorial level. He is currently looking for journalists, bloggers, academics, Sci Fi/Fantasy writers, playwrights, and memoirists contemplating relevant social and philosophical issues in new and creative ways.

Query Jacob via the online form here.

Brian Henry will lead a “How to Get Published” workshop with guest speaker Carly Watters of P.S. Literary agency in Georgetown on October 5 (see here).
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Brian will lead “How to Write Great Dialogue" workshops in Burlington on Sept 7 (see here) and in Toronto on Sept 28 (see here). And he’ll be leading “How to Build Your Story” workshops in Barrie on Sept 21 (here), in Sudbury on Sept 22 (here) and in Ottawa on Nov 17 (here).  To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

But before you submit, the best way to get your manuscript into shape is with a weekly course. In September, Brian will be leading “Welcome to Creative Writing” on Tuesday afternoons in Burlington (see here); “Writing your life & other true stories” on Tuesday evenings in Burlington (here); "Next Step" courses on Thursday afternoons in Mississauga (here) and Thursday evenings in Georgetown (here) and “Intensive” courses on Wednesday afternoons in Burlington (here) and Wednesday evenings in Mississauga (here). 
To register, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

See Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Kingston, Peterborough, Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, Georgetown, Milton, Oakville, Burlington, St. Catharines, Hamilton, Dundas, Kitchener, Guelph, London, Woodstock, Orangeville, Newmarket, Barrie, Orillia, Bracebridge, Sudbury, Muskoka, Peel, Halton, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.