Sunday, April 30, 2017

Writing for Children & for Young Adults workshops in 3 locales

The Rising, a YA novel by Kelley Armstrong,
a New York Times #1 bestselling author
and one of Brian’s students
Writing for Children & for Young Adults ~ the world’s hottest market

See current listings for Writing Kid Lit weekly classes and one-day Saturday workshops here. See Brian Henry's complete current schedule of classes and workshops here.

With Yasmin Ucar, senior editor, Kids Can Press 
and author Jennifer Mook-Sang 
Saturday, May 13, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Albion-Bolton Branch, Caledon Public Library, 150 Queen Street South, Bolton, Ontario (Map here.)

This workshop is also offered Saturday, May 27, in St. Catharines, with Anne Shone, senior editor, Scholastic Books (see here), and Saturday, Aug 12, in Collingwood, with  Monica Pacheco, literary agent with the McDermid Agency (see here).

If you want to write the next best-selling children’s books or just want to create stories for your own kids, this workshop is for you. Learn how to write stories kids and young adults will love and find out what you need to know to sell your book.

Special option: You may, but don't have to, bring 3 copies of the opening pages (first 500 words) of your children’s book or young adult novel (or 1,000 words if that will get you to the end of your picture book or to the end of your first chapter.) If you’re not currently working on a children’s story, don’t worry, we’ll get you started on the spot!

Guest speaker Yasemin Uçar is a Senior Editor at Kids Can Press. Yasemin has been a children’s book editor for close to twenty years. She worked at Scholastic Canada before moving to London, UK, in 2001, where she worked as a Senior Editor at Piccadilly Press. In 2006, she moved back to Toronto and worked as a freelance editor for a number of years before joining Kids Can Press in 2012.
Yasemin has worked with many popular and award-winning authors and illustrators, including internationally bestselling author Louise Rennison, Ashley Spires, Barbara Coloroso and Caroline Adderson.

Guest speaker Jennifer Mook-Sang grew up on the shores of tropical Guyana and moved to Canada when she was fourteen. She lived an ordinary life in search of treasure until she found the beginnings of a story in one of Brian Henry's classes. That story grew into the humorous middle-grade novel Speechless, published by Scholastic in 2015. 
Speechless was shortlisted for many awards, and recommended by the Ontario Library Association, the Canadian Childrens’ Book Centre, the CBC, and the TD Summer Reading Club.
Her picture book Captain Monty Takes the Plunge will be released in the fall of 2017 by Kids Can Press.
Jennifer enjoys visiting schools and libraries to talk about the three RRRs - Reading, wRiting and procRastination. She loves sunshine and sand and, though quite fond of the letter “R,” her favourite letter has always been “the C.” Jennifer lives in Burlington, Ontario. You can find out more about her at Speechless is available online here.

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He teaches at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. 

He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers and is the author of a children’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Tribute Publishing). But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published. 

Workshop fee: 43.36 + 13% hst = 49 + $6 for pizza lunch = $55 
paid in advance by mail or in person 
or 46.90 + 13% hst = 53 + $6 for pizza lunch = $59 at the door
To pay in advance, make your cheque out to the Caledon Public Library, and mail it to:
Attention:  Laura Nolloth, Caledon Public Library, Albion Bolton Branch, 150 Queen Street South, Bolton, ON, L7E 1E3
Or you can pay in advance in person at any Caledon Library branch. (Branch locations here.)  
To reserve a spot now, email:

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, April 28, 2017

“Shoes on the Wire” fiction by Christine Maika

For as long as I can remember, they’ve always been there. As we left Maynooth, usually after stopping for gas and an ice cream on the first long weekend of summer, we’d see them dangling by their laces from the telephone wire above the only road that led into and out of town – a pair of denim blue sneakers. They were a family landmark.

My parents had bought the cottage 25 years before. It was a homecoming of sorts for my dad. He was born in the backcountry of the Barry’s Bay hills to Polish immigrants enticed to Canada by the promise of farmland if they were willing to clear the treed terrain. After the end of the war, my dad left Barry’s Bay for Toronto to start fresh, establishing a general contracting business and marrying my mom – a city girl from Montreal assigned to write my father, a stranger, as part of the war effort.

My parents surprised us one night after Sunday dinner as my mom was clearing our plates from the table. “We bought a place on Kaminiskeg,” my father said matter-of-factly.

My three sisters and brother – all in our teens or early twenties – looked forward to the parties we’d host and the indoor plumbing the cottage had, unlike the our grandfather’s house closer to town where, as kids, we’d spent most of our time in Barry’s Bay.

As the Friday night drive up north became more familiar, we would note the usual landmarks guiding our travel north: the chicken coop near leaning dangerously toward the ground outside of the town of Burleigh Falls, the sign announcing the town of Bancroft, the last major town on route 62 before our destination. Then between here and there, the town of Maynooth, and finally, as we exited town, the dangling sneakers.

Maynooth wasn’t a place to write home about. Highway 62 was the main road in and out of this town, which had a gas station, an ice cream bar, and the shoes. My older sister, ever the authority, would say matter-of-factly that a drunken man had pitched them up there in a stupor one night walking home from the Legion.

My younger and more mischievous brother imagined a kid like himself taking revenge on a school bully, launching his coveted Chuck Taylors over the line. My dad dryly said some lad was keeping them there for safekeeping until he needed them again. We all had our theories.

The shoes were always a topic of conversation as we gassed up and hit the black top, anxious to make the final stretch to the lake. The first one to see them would squeal, “They’re still there!” as we rode underneath the phone line stretching above the highway. On our first trip up every the spring, the shoes were always a highly coveted sighting.

This tradition continued as we invited our friends up to the cottage for parentless weekends. We had gotten used to the shoes hanging on that wire, convinced they weren’t ever going away. The shoes took on an air of nostalgia as we entertained our friends with theories of their origin. The shoes became an omen of good things to come at the cottage and the omen was rarely wrong.

Those shoes on the telephone wire outlasted my dad who stopped going up to the cottage soon after his ALS diagnosis as he became frailer and less mobile. I’d visit him in his care home and report that the shoes were still on the line in Maynooth.

St. Hedwig's, Barrry's Bay, Ontario
Always a man of few words and with a disease robbing him of his body but not his mind, he’d get a twinkle in his eye, and with a slow shake of his head in disbelief, he’d erupt into uncontrollable laughter.

The shoes were on the wire on his final journey home to the cemetery in Barry’s Bay.

Nearly 25 years since we first packed up the cars on a Friday night, I’m still making the trip to Barry’s Bay, now with my two girls riding in the back seat.

Freda shouts, “Are we stopping at the store?” She means the ice cream store in Maynooth and she already knows the answer – they just have to promise to save room for grandma’s chicken noodle soup, which will be warm on the stove when we arrive. Monica giggles and the twinkle in her eye is the same as her grandfather’s.

As we drive out of town with chocolate-stained lips and sticky hands, we anticipate our usual landmark. The three of us are dumfounded as we cross under the telephone wire. The girls turn their little bodies around quickly to get a second look out the back of the truck at the empty wire. I peer at them in the rearview mirror and our wide eyes meet as the girls turn back toward me. They shoes are gone.

“I guess he finally came back and got them!” I tell my girls.

Pausing, uncertain if I’m kidding, they at last erupt into giggles.  We start a new tradition that day, exchanging stories of what happens to the shoes next.

Christine Maika is an Improvement Lead with the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement. In her work, she advocates for health system redesign informed by the lived experience of patients and their families, often shared through storytelling and other engagement techniques.  She is an editor and contributing author of a book released in December 2016 titled Patient Engagement – Catalyzing Improvement and Innovation in Healthcare. Christine is completing her Master’s in Public Health part-time and lives in Ottawa.

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.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Interview with Marie Lamba, literary agent with the Jennifer De Chiara Agency and author

Marie Lamba
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

Marie Lamba is the author of the picture book Green Green (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2017), of the upcoming picture book A Day So Gray (Clarion), and of the young adult novels What I Meant… (Random House), Over My Head, and Drawn. 
Her articles are in more than 100 publications, and she’s a frequent contributor to Writer’s Digest. She has worked as an editor, an award-winning public relations writer, and a book publicist, has taught classes on novel writing and on author promotion, and belongs to The Liars Club. 
Marie is also a Literary Agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in NYC, where she represents picture book writers and illustrators, middle grade, YA and adult fiction, plus memoir. You can follow her on Twitter @marielamba, and like her Facebook page: Marie Lamba, Author, and visit her blog here.

QBF: Marie, a big welcome to Quick Brown Fox.
Marie: Thank you so much for having me here!

QBF: On The Jennifer De Chiara Agency's website, you express interest in Middle Grade and Young Adult books with a STEM tie-in. Can you expand on that?
Marie: STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. When fiction ties into one of these areas, it adds a dimension to the work that really appeals to schools and libraries, because they are looking for books that encourage kids to nurture these skills. Books with a hook – meaning they have something about them that easily draws people to them – tend to sell better. But more importantly, a STEM tie-in is so helpful to kids who are interested in these topics. They love to see themselves reflected in literature in a positive way. This is especially important for girls because we need more girls in these fields.
Some great examples of STEM tie-in books I represent? Check out The Friendship Experiment (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a debut middle grade novel by Erin Teagan about a science-loving girl struggling to find the perfect formula for her mixed up life. Also, give a look at To the Stars! (Charlesbridge), a picture book written by Carmella Van Vleet and Dr. Kathy Sullivan, illustrated by Nicole Wong, which is about Dr. Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space!

QBF: Also, you mention looking for MG and YA novels with diverse points of view.  What sorts of voices are you hoping to find in submissions?
Marie: I’m a strong believer in representing all voices and points of view in literature. That means representing stories with folks from diverse races, LGBQT people, various religious backgrounds and nationalities, as well as people with disabilities.
My own kids are of mixed race, and I never saw mixed kids represented as heroes in stories, so as an author myself, I wrote two young adult novels that did just that: What I Meant… (Random House), and Over My Head. The response that I got from mixed kids around the world was moving – they really appreciated seeing themselves reflected in books.

QBF: Any other books you’re especially looking for? Anything you see too much of or that seems overdone these days?
Marie: I’ve definitely seen enough of the snotty popular teenage character and her crew ruling high school type of books. Do we really only care about being popular? Or about snagging that hot popular guy who seems shallow but secretly has a heart of gold? Instead, I’d love to see more young adult novels that are nuanced and that reflect the complexities of what teens really go through these days.
I’d also love more heartfelt middle grade novels that make me laugh but that also make me tear up and ache for the main character.
And I’d love to find works that reveal true heroes – stories that we can all be inspired by.  Oh, and some fun middle grade fantasy that doesn’t feel like a copycat of something already out there.  

QBF: Can you tell us about your process when you’re considering a project…
Marie: Sure! First comes the query letter. Is it well-written, and does it draw me in? Honestly, if a writer can create a one page letter that is compelling, then I’m not going to have faith in their work.
Next, and only if I’m interested in what the query said, I’ll read the 20 pages pasted in below the query (my guidelines allow that). Often I’ll lose interest within just a few lines, simply because the writing isn’t of good quality.
But, if I zoom through those pages and I’m longing to find out what happens next, I’ll Google the writer to make sure what I find online is professional and positive. If I find that the writer has nasty posts bashing agents, editors or writers, or I find the author is in some way offensive online, then I’ll reject that person. Remember, I have to work with them over the long term. But if everything looks good, I’ll ask for the full manuscript.
If the full not only lives up to its promise, but completely wows me (and it feels like the type of project I know I can help the writer with and market to commercial publishers), I’ll schedule a call with the writer to chat with them about their goals and expectations. If we seem to be on the same page, then I’ll offer representation.

Green Green – Marie's latest book, available from
Macmillan Canada here and Macmillan US here.
QBF: Are there things you come across in query letters or manuscripts that will get them immediately rejected? If so, what are a few of them?
Marie: Yes! I think all of these are no-brainers.  Like if the writer is obnoxious, saying they know agents are all greedy and not interested in quality, or they include anything rude and unprofessional. If the writer doesn’t address me by name (then I know it’s a cut and paste to everyone), or says things like Dear Agent, or even Dear Sirs! Whenever a writer sends out a query to all agents in the world (all cc’d), I delete without reading it.
If the writer includes attachments, makes the query itself an attachment, or asks me to look at online links rather than giving me a query. Also, poor grammar and sloppy writing is, of course, a no-no. As is sending me things that I specifically say in my guidelines that I don’t represent.

QBF: How do you decide if a manuscript is worth considering?
Marie: I’m drawn in by the description, and then? The writing really adds to my interest and excitement. If I feel lost in the writer’s world and just have to see more, then I know there might be something special there.

QBF: How many pages do you usually read before you give up on a manuscript?
Marie: It varies. Terrible writing can stop me within a line or two. Wonderful writing can pull me through the initial 20 pages and get me to request the full, but sadly, the majority of manuscripts do tend to lose my interest by around 50 pages in. I suspect that writers spend so much time polishing their initial chapters, but everyone should really pay attention to pacing and structure throughout so that the quality shows up on every page.

QBF: Besides the writing and publishing credentials – and loving their work, of course – is there anything else you like to know before you decide to represent an author? Do you like to meet with prospective authors?
Marie: I have clients all over the world, some of whom I’ve never met (but would love to some day!). But if I’m interested, I always connect with a writer over the phone before offering representation. I want to make sure that they are cooperative and open to edits, and that they know they must take a role in marketing their own writing online and in person. I also want to understand what they’re looking for in an agent and to see that their professional expectations are realistic. Also, I want to be sure that we click, since we’ll be partners for, hopefully, a long time in their career. 

QBF: Can you tell us something about how you work with authors….
Marie: As an author myself, I take an author’s career very seriously. I know we writers want to know what’s going on in the background, so I always let my clients know when things have gone out, to whom, and I share editor responses as they come in. Communication is so important, so I really try to keep my clients in the loop.

QBF: How much editorial work do you do with your clients?
Marie: I’m extremely editorial, which means that if a novel needs work, I’ll point out specifics that need attention, as well as offer up suggestions. I work closely with my authors in order to make sure that submissions are in their very best form before going on submission to editors. While this takes a lot of time on my end, it’s proven very worthwhile, and editors have reacted so positively to submissions that I’m happy to put in the time on this aspect.

QBF: Can you tell us something about how you pitch to publishers. Do you make preliminary editing suggestions to your authors before pitching the work to a publisher?
Marie: Once the manuscript is in tip-top shape and I’ve worked with the author to create an appealing brief synopsis and a tight author bio, I next spend time shaping my verbal pitch. Sometimes this takes me days to get just right. It’s so important to capture the essence of the work and to convey to an editor why they should be excited to read it.
Next I spend a solid amount of time pulling together my list of editors, and I research recent developments to make sure that these folks’ interests haven’t shifted. Then I get on the phone and start calling, and pitch the book to the editor. I then follow up with a well-crafted email that includes a bit more about the book and the author, and attach the manuscript, the synopsis and the bio.

QBF: About what percentage of books that you submit to publishers actually get accepted?
Marie: Great question! I’ll never have the answer to that one – because this is a subjective business and it’s impossible to know which books will be snapped up immediately and which ones may not find a home. I believe that everything I send out is compelling and of high quality, but if the market is starting to move away from an element in a book or an editor has something in the pipeline that feels a bit too similar or they, for some reason, just don’t fully connect with a project, editors may pass.
I do think it’s important as a writer to know that your agent will do everything possible to find a home for your work, but getting an agent doesn’t guarantee a book deal.

QBF: Is there any book (or books) that come to mind that taught you something about the publishing industry, and what did it teach you?
Marie: Good question! For me, success in this industry really rests in writing a well-crafted book. So I tend to read books about the writing craft, more than about the industry. One of my very favorites as a writer and an agent is Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. It breaks down how books can fail when it comes to plotting and structure and tension, etc. And it includes ways to fix these elements. Knowing these elements helps me spot weaknesses in works.
And I’ve found it pays to listen to what editors say to me when they do pass on a client’s work. Sometimes these comments point to issues in the manuscript that can be revisited, and sometimes we’ve been able to address these issues in a revision, send it back out into the marketplace and seal some really sweet deals.
Best of luck to you all with your writing!

Query Marie at:
Put "Query" in the subject line of your email, and please send the first twenty pages in the body of your email (no attachments), along with a one-paragraph bio and a one-paragraph synopsis within your query letter. For her full submission guidelines see here.
Author Jennifer Mook-Sang
Brian Henry will lead Writing for Children & for Young Adult workshops on Saturday, May 13, in Caledon at the Bolton Library with Yasemin Uçar, senior Editor at Kids Can Press and author Jennifer Mook-Sang (see here), on Saturday, May 27, in St. Catharines with Anne Shone, senior editor at Scholastic Books (see here), and on Saturday, July 29, in Collingwood with literary agent Monica Pacheco (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).

And don't miss the June in Algonquin Writing Retreat,  Friday, June 2 – Sunday, June 4 or Monday, June 5, at Arowhon Pines Resort. Details here.

Other upcoming workshops include: “You can write great dialogue,” Saturday, June 10 in Guelph, with author Hannah McKinnon, (see here) and Saturday, July 22, in London (see here) and “How to Write Great Characters,” Saturday, June 17 in Burlington (see here).

Author Hannah McKinnon
This summer Brian will be leading three creative writing courses, introductory to advanced:
Exploring Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, July 4 – August 22, in Burlington
Next Step in Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington
Intensive Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons, July 5 – August 23, in Burlington
      Details of all three courses  here.  

For more information or to reserve a spot in any Saturday workshop 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, April 26, 2017

How to Write Great Dialogue workshop, Saturday, July 15, in Mississauga

How to Write Great Dialogue
Saturday, July 15, 2017
10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Unity Church, Unit 8, 3075 Ridgeway Drive, Mississauga, Ontario (Map here.)

Note: You can also attend this workshop on Saturday, July 22, in London. See 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.

Read a review of "How to write great dialogue" here. For more reviews of Brian's weekly courses and Saturday workshops see here and scroll down.

Fee: 43.36 + 13% hst = 49 paid in advance
or 46.90 + 13% hst = 53  at the door

To reserve a spot now,

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You’re Invited to a Book Launch

Max is back – Again

A Family Matter is Chris Laing's third novel in this post-WWII mystery series featuring Max Dexter and Isabel O’Brien.

Max’s mother returns to Hamilton after an absence of twenty-some years. Max is not anxious to meet with her – why should he be after she’d abandoned him as a child? But a bigger question looms: is she involved in an internal mob war now heating up and about to explode?

Everyone is invited to the book launch
Sunday, May 7, 2017
2–4 p.m
Bryan Prince Bookseller,
1060 King Street West, Hamilton

We hope you can join us!
Chris Laing

If you can't make the book launch, A Family Matter is available through Chapters / Indigo here. and the two other Max Dexter mysteries, A deadly Venture and A Private Man, plus Chris's short story collection, West End Kid: Tales from the Forties, are available 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, 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.