Sunday, December 31, 2017

“Happy New Year” a fifty-word story by Mary Steer

“Happy New Year!”
Mary Steer

In this, my “Year of Yes,” I’ve:
 – got multiple tatts and piercings
 – bungee-jumped
 – sky-dived (dove?)
 – sat through a live opera
 – adopted a dog
 – and twelve cats
 – been a surrogate for an infertile friend
Next up: my Year of NO.

Mary Steer only has her ears pierced. She will be ringing in 2018 with a long story, “The Yarnabomber,” appearing in The Ocotillo Review. It will be available for purchase by mid-January at kallistogaiapress.org. You can read more of Mary’s work at marysteer.com.

“Happy New Year” was originally published on 50-Word Stories. For information on submitting to 50-Word Stories, see here.

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


Saturday, December 30, 2017

How to Write Great Dialogue, Saturday, Feb 11, in Windsor

How to Write Great Dialogue
Sunday, February 11, 2018
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. (Includes lunch!)
Sho – Art Spirit & Performance Centre, 628 Monmouth Road, Windsor, Ontario. (Map here)

Accessible to beginners and meaty enough for experienced writers, this workshop will show you how to use dialogue to make your stories more dynamic and dramatic. Whether you’re writing fiction or memoir, you need to be able to write great dialogue that both sounds natural and packs dramatic punch, and you need to know how to mix your dialogue and narrative so that your characters come alive. Come to this workshop and learn both the basics and the best tricks of the trade.

Workshop leader 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 St. John. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published.

Fee: $65 in advance or $75 at the door (Registration includes lunch)

Register on the Windsor International Writers website here 

Or reserve a spot now by emailing: pamelajeangoldstein@gmail.com

And mail a cheque to:
Windsor International Writers
c/o Goldstein Debiase Law Firm
475 Devonshire Rd.
Windsor, ON  N8Y215

 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, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Big Pond, Story Quilt and Canadian Stories want your stories, Free contest for Indigenous voices, Call for Catholic articles, and a Short Prose competition

Hello, Brian.
I am wondering if you could share the following information with your readers?
Big Pond Rumours is fishing for stories and we are not particular about the genre of the pieces that we hook. They could be flash fiction, short fiction, or stories up to 8,000 words. They could be detective stories, memoir, western, or artful literature, it doesn’t matter so long as they are quality reading. We also accept poetry (send up to 6 poems) and we are now open to publishing book reviews. Our main criteria: the work must be previously unpublished (we take first rights only), we don’t enjoy gratuitous violence, and remember you’ll be asked to provide a brief bio and headshot for the contributor notes if your work is accepted.
We have two issues a year and the deadlines are: Summer – June 30 and Winter – December 31. Submission details here.
Thank you,
Sharon Berg 
Founder / Editor, since 2006

Indigenous Voices Awards ~ free contest
There are separate prizes for unpublished work in English, French and an Indigenous language, any genre and for published books of prose and poetry and work in an “alternate format.”
Prize: Five awards for unpublished work totalling $10,000 and three awards for published work totalling $15,000
There is no entry fee.
Deadline: January 31, 2018
More information here. For submission details, see here.


Writers Union of Canada short prose competition
For fiction and nonfiction
Entry Fee: $29
Prize: First: $2,500 and entries of winner and finalists will be submitted to three Canadian magazines for consideration
Deadline: February 15, 2018. Contest details here.

Story Quilt is an online magazine that wants your stories!
Stories can be told in many ways:
  • "True" format using personal experiences or true facts from known sources, or
  • "Fiction" based on facts, or
  • "Pure Fiction", or
  • "Art" as in artist’s creations either in black and white or colour, or Photography, or
  • "Applied Arts" as in quilts, or in Videos, or in Music,
or in any combination of the above. Suitable essays and novellas may also be considered.
We accept stories from authors from various fields. Your post must have unique content and add value to our website.
Deadline: Ongoing. Submission details here.

Note: Ed Janzen, the editor of Story Quilt, also edits Canadian Stories magazine. Canadian Stories  is mostly original and Canadian true stories, memoirs, poems, limericks, songs, cartoons, line art, anecdotes, folk stories, family legends, and travel experiences. Also fiction is accepted if set in a Canadian context. However fiction is not the major content of the magazine. 
Deadline: ongoing. Submission details here.
Canadian Stories also has an annual contest. Deadline June 15, 2018. Details here.
Dear Brian, 
I’m the managing editor of Catholic Digest. Could you update the information that you have about our publication on your website?
 Our revised guidelines for writers are here.
  Thank you for your help.
 Take care, 
Paul McKibben
Managing Editor/Catholic Digest 
Note: Queries submitted to Catholic Digest must be strongly focused on a definitive topic, and hold a national appeal. Features are approximately 1,500 words on the following topics: marriage, practical spirituality, prayer inspiration, Catholic identity, parish/work, parenting, and relationships. Catholic Digest does not accept submissions of fiction, poetry, academic papers, puzzles, cartoons, political or opinion pieces; book, music, or movie reviews; reprinted material.

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, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Writing and Revising workshop, Saturday, Feb 10, in Guelph


Writing and Revising
Saturday, February 10, 2018
10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Harcourt United Church,  87 Dean Ave, Guelph, Ontario (Map here.)

If you want to refine your story-telling skills and cut the time you will need to spend editing, this workshop is for you. You'll learn how to step back from a manuscript in order to find – and fix – flaws in your plot, structure, characterization and style. You'll learn how to rethink, rework and rewrite so that your manuscript will live up to your vision.

Special Option: You’re invited to bring the first 500 – 1,000 words of one of your pieces of writing. You don’t need to bring anything, but if you do, three copies could be helpful.

Workshop leader 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. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published. 

You can read reviews of Brian's courses and workshops here

Fee: 43.36 + 13% hst = 49 paid in advance by mail or Interac
or 46.90 + 13% hst = 53 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve a spot now, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

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, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

New agent Jordan Hamessley at New Leaf Literary seeks kid lit: picture books to YA, plus adult sci-fi & horror

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo,
represented by New Leaf Literary
New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
110 West 40th Street, Suite 410
New York, NY 10018

New Leaf Literary & Media is a full service management and representation firm. In the five years since morphing from a boutique literary agency into a one-stop shop for writers and artists, New Leaf has had thirty-six books hit the New York Times bestseller list and eight films produced, including CBS Films’ sleeper hit, THE DUFF, the DIVERGENT series, and Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner AMERICAN HONEY.

On the literary side, New Leaf has seven literary agents all looking for authors – everything from picture books to YA, from crime fiction to romance to upmarket woman’s fiction, and from lifestyle books to cookbooks.

Jordan Hamessley is the newest member of the team, and like all new agents, she needs authors.
With nearly a decade of experience working on the editorial side of publishing at Penguin Young Readers (Grosset & Dunlap), Egmont USA, and Adaptive Studios, Jordan made the switch to agenting. Jordan had the pleasure of editing many award winning and critically acclaimed authors such as Sara Benincasa, Len Vlahos, Ilsa J. Bick, Adam-Troy Castro, E.C. Myers, Dori Hillestad Butler, Andrew Keenan-Bolger and Kate Wetherhead, Michelle Schusterman and more.
She earned a reputation as an editor for being the “horror girl” and edited horror and ghost stories for all ages from chapter books (The Haunted Library series by Dori Hillestad Butler), middle grade (Gustav Gloom series by Adam-Troy Castro) to YA (Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward.) She also has a deep affection for contemporary middle grade with heart and humor. She is always looking to find stories that bring the queer experience to the children’s space across all age ranges.
She is actively building a list of diverse children’s fiction from picture books through YA and select adult science fiction and horror authors.
She is also looking for quirky, nonfiction picture books with a STEM focus.
Some of her favorite reads of the last few years include Nova Ren Suma’s The Walls Around Us, Isabel Quintero’s Gabi: A Girl in Pieces, Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts, Charlie Jane Anders’s All the Birds in the Sky, and Barbara Dee’s Star-Crossed.
Her top five books of all time? A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving, Contact by Carl Sagan, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, and Carrie by Stephen King.
Jordan lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family and sings show tunes and tap dances in her spare time.

Query Jordan at: query@newleafliterary.com
Include the word Query in the subject line, plus the agent’s name; for example: Subject: Query, Jordan HamessleyPlease also include the category (e.g., PB, chapter book, MG, YA, adult fiction, adult nonfiction, etc.) You may include up to 5 double-spaced sample pages within the body of the email. No attachments.

If you’re interested in and finding an agent or publisher (someday soon or down the road), don’t miss the How to Get Published workshops on Saturday, Feb 24, in Oakville with literary agent Martha Webb (see here) and on Saturday, March 3, in St. Catharines with HarperCollins editor Michelle Meade and author Hannah Mary McKinnon (see here).

If you’re interested in Kid Lit, be sure to register for the Writing for Children and for Young Adults mini-conference on Saturday, April 21, in Waterloo with literary agent Barbara Berson, Simon & Schuster editor Patricia Ocampo, and Young Adult author Tanaz Bhathena (see here).

And don’t miss Writing Great Characters on Saturday, Jan 27, in Mississauga (see here), Writing and Revising on Saturday, Feb 10, in Guelph (see here), How to Write Great Dialogue, Sunday, Feb 11, in Windsor (see here), and How to Write a Bestseller with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong on Saturday, March 24, in Caledon at the Bolton Library (see here).

Also, starting soon, Brian is offering a full range of weekly writing classes, from introductory to intensive:
Exploring Creative Writing, offered at two times:
Thursday mornings, Jan 25 – March 29, in Oakville (see here)
and Friday afternoons, Feb 2 – March 23, in Toronto (see here).
Writing Personal Stories, Thursday afternoons, Jan 25 – March 15 in Burlington (see here).
Intensive Creative Writing, offered at four times/locales:
Tuesday afternoons, 12:30 – 2:45 p.m. Jan 16 – March 20, at Appleby United Church, in Burlington (see here)
Thursday evenings, 6:45 – 9:00 p.m., Jan 18 – March 22, at Appleby United Church in Burlington (see here)
Friday mornings, 10:15 – 12:45, Jan 19 – March 23, Glenview Presbyterian Church in Toronto (see here)
And Wednesday afternoons, 12:30 – 12:45, Jan 31 – March 28, in Burlington (see here)
See details of all seven classes offered in the new year here.

For details or to reserve a spot in any workshop, retreat, or weekly course, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca
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.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

“A Mimico Boy’s Christmas” by Gary MacLeod


Mimico, Ontario, 5 a.m. Sunday, December 25, 1955

When I was seven years old, Christmas mornings in Mimico always seemed like they were among the coldest days of the year. In our city-sized backyard the icy glaze-topped snow reached to our thighs; temperatures were always “minus something.”

Inside the house, in the hastily converted back porch that my older brother Alan and I now called our bedroom, it was a little warmer but the insulation sciences of the 1950s hadn’t yet developed enough to keep us anywhere near toasty. Meanwhile below us, in the dirt-floored basement, the coal-fuelled furnace chugged away, fighting to deliver enough heat to make our family comfortable on this magical morning.

My brother and I lay silent but wide awake in our matching twin beds set side-by-side, barracks-style along the thin wood paneled wall painted powder blue in the fashionable colour of the day.

It was Christmas, the most wonderful day on the calendar! Santa’s day! Presents day! The day that kids around the world spent the other 364 days of the year dreaming about! And who could blame us? Mr. Eaton’s and Mr. Simpson’s colourful catalogues, as thick as the New York City phone book, stoked a level of greed in us that would make even the most ardent capitalist envious.

Specially produced kids’ television programs which emanated from stations WBEN and WGR in Buffalo, took black and white electronic marketing to an art form and inspired in us an overwhelming desire to own every Slinky, every Lone Ranger Pistol and Holster Set, every Meccano building kit yet created.

“Alan, is it time to get up yet?” I whispered.

“No. Go back to sleep,” he responded with no conviction.

I checked the Westclox wind up alarm clock on the night table between our beds. It warned me that it was just 5:17, far too early to wake Mom and Dad.

Ah! But wait. There were the Christmas stockings we had hung the night before at the foot of our beds. Something to satisfy our Christmas morning curiosity, like an appetizer before the main course. Would they contain treasures or trinkets? We used our Eveready flashlights to find out, but please, please God, no oranges or socks or crummy bow ties! Not again this year!

We leaned forward, plucked our stockings from their perch on the foot boards and dove in.

My heart was crushed! Two walnuts? I dug deeper. New underwear? I kept going. I pulled out an apple, then the inevitable socks. I sat up in bed as a combination of disappointment and anger invaded my excitement like a black smog. A tear slipped from the corner of my eye.

My brother remained silent and I sensed that at that moment we were sharing one of those bonding sibling events … mutual disappointment. Were these meager stockings intended to warn us that we couldn’t expect to find much better under the tree?

I was well aware that we were not a rich family, though not poor either. We were, like most other families on Eastbourne Crescent, very blue collar. Something to be proud of but not something a seven-year-old boy could build his Christmas dreams on. We could only place our faith in Santa to fulfill the inflated, unrealistic expectations we had conjured in our youthful brains.



“Listen!’ Alan said. “I think I hear the kitchen radio. It’s playing ‘White Christmas.’ It must be okay to get up.”

“Let’s go!”

We sprang to our beds as if shot from twin cannons. We headed straight for the Christmas tree in the living room. There it was in all its glory. Green, red, blue, yellow lights sparkled like stars illuminating the bright metallic balls, all covered in glistening silver tinsel. The ivory angel on the tree’s highest spire beckoned us forward, giving us her permission to come closer. Gifts wrapped in plain tissue, some red, some green were scattered in a five-foot radius at the tree’s base.

We stood like athletes waiting for the starter’s pistol, watching for Mom’s barely perceptible nod of her head, our signal to let our pent-up curiosity explode in a flurry of riotous ripping and tearing. In the darkness of a cold, cold winter Christmas, 1955 was starting to look a whole lot better than our stockings had portended.

I can’t recall what gifts I received; they don’t seem important now in the least. It’s the memories of that boyhood joy that matter beyond measure and I draw on them now each and every December to lighten my steps and my heart. Mom and Dad are gone now of course, but their spirits still visit us faithfully each December 25 as I watch my own children and grandchildren delight in the special joy that only Christmas can bring.

Gary MacLeod is a Sales and Marketing Executive who, now in retirement, is eager to make good on a personal promise to himself: to learn something new every day. Brian’s Creative Writing Course helps him fulfill that commitment perfectly by making it fun to develop his interest in communicating more effectively. Gary enjoys spending his time reading biographies, following Canadian political and social change, and exploring the countryside with his wife Linda in their sports roadster.

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.


Saturday, December 23, 2017

“Christmas Pickle” by Marian Dykstra


I was at work on a Saturday in November, making pots of steaming coffee, sweeping up sesame seeds from bagels, and serving a customer with a macchiato when I noticed my husband walk in, concern on his face.  My brother had called him following a frantic conversation with Mom.  Dad had had a seizure at home, had fallen unconscious, and was being taken to the hospital by ambulance. 

My family lived farthest away, an hour from everyone, and my husband suggested I leave work immediately as my coworker offered to finish the shift.   Along the drive, I thought of Dad’s health, his high blood pressure, smoking habit, two shots of whiskey a night, and how his mom, my Oma, died of a stroke.  We braced for the worst. 

My brothers, sisters, an aunt and uncle gathered with Mom and Dad in the emergency department.  While he was being examined, Dad had a second seizure.  We knew it was serious and my siblings and I held hands to pray.

On Sundays we go to church.  We get up, eat breakfast, take showers, and put on clothes that are a bit nicer than the ones we wear the rest of the week.  My Oma’s watch is the last thing I put on and the most important part of the outfit.  

It is laid out on a special shelf, in a protective case, near an angel figurine I bought in the Maritimes last year after hearing of my Oma's death.  The watch lays in front of a framed print that Dad had the graphic artist in our family design for each of his six children.  The sign reads:
Words to live by
Happy Moments
Praise God
Difficult Moments 
Seek God 
Quiet Moments 
Worship God 
Painful Moments 
Trust God 
Every Moment  
Thank God

On the Sunday following the emergency room visit, I got up and went for a long run.  It was dark, cold, and I woke up groggy.  Running is routine on mornings when I wake up feeling crappy.  It’s meditative and lifts spiritual angst.  A natural high occurs when the running is through and stored tension gets released.  


After the run, I called my parent’s home, knowing that Dad had a planned follow up with a neurologist at Hamilton General Hospital.  My twelve-year-old son was going to play guitar in church that morning and I wanted to be there.   I felt Dad would be in good hands and I could help by praying.

My sister, who answered the phone, heard of the church plan and suggested the hospital appointment instead.  My runners high balanced to calm submission.  She told me to meet them on the seventh floor.

I thought of other times I’d been in a hospital with people who were dying or facing devastation.  Being present was the best gift in moments of uncertainty.  I packed several magazines and leftover banana bread, alongside directions to the hospital and a pocketful of change. 

Arriving at Hamilton General, I parked the car and fed eight dollars into the meter, noting later that for a few extra dollars, I would have hit the maximum and had parking for the day.  The elevator was beyond the gift shop, whose Christmas colours, ornaments, and cardinal paraphernalia beckoned.  Later, I thought. 

Dad lay on a hospital bed, Mom on one side, two sisters on the other.  A nurse was at the foot of his bed and all looked up as I entered with the bag of magazines.  I was the only one with coffee. 

“I brought magazines,” I announced.   “And O magazine for you,” I quipped to dad, knowing how much he hated Oprah. 

“Oh no, no, no way!” he responded on cue. 

“Don’t you remember how you used to yell at me to turn her off and get you coffee when I was younger?”  I said.

“Does anyone want coffee?” I asked, looking again at my cup.  I pulled out the Redbook, O, and People magazines, passing them out, waiting for a response about coffee. 

Mom decided it would be helpful, while waiting, to have two of us sit with Dad and two go for a walk so the room was less crowded.  My sister and I took the first shift, opting to get Mom’s coffee and a peanut butter cookie.  She always liked a little treat with coffee.  While waiting to pay, I noticed a cereal called, “Holy Crap Breakfast Cereal.”  Laughing, I took a photo. 

While passing the gift shop again, I saw a group of pickles among more traditional Christmas ornaments.  This strange display became a new focal point and later, when I brought Mom down to see them near the cardinal ornaments, she paused, perhaps trying to see the value. 

“I have to have that pickle,” I said.

“I’ll buy it,” replied my conservative, Dutch mom.  My protests fell on deaf ears.

When we returned to Dad’s room, he was being tested by the female neurologist who looked like she had just finished high school.  Earlier I recalled him asking the nurse whether his doctor would be “a young guy or an old guy.”  Knowing he would have preferred “an old guy,” this young doctor had everyone’s attention and completed a thorough exam. 

“Do you want to see my pickle ornament?” I said to my bewildered sisters and slightly amused dad.

It wasn’t my first round in an emergency room with a loved one in critical condition.  Several weeks later, Dad is still alive, recovering, and everyone is grateful.  I’ve learned that navigating life’s rough patches goes better with common sense, strong faith, and a healthy dose of humour.  The pickle ornament will hang on our tree, serving as a reminder of the time we were in the hospital with Dad and we nearly lost him but then didn’t.  Being present in the moment with some humour is a great gift.    

Marian Dykstra wrote this piece in Brian's, Writing Personal Stories course. Having this piece published is a thrill and an honour.  She is a retired social worker, enthusiastic barista, aspiring writer, and mom of three great kids.


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.