Creative writer and teacher
I write mostly short stories though there is a novel under construction. I teach writing, to people who are just starting or just working up the courage, and to people who have worked with me over many years.
As an Air Force brat, I lived with my family on bases around Ontario and France. We explored Europe in a Volkswagen Camper – they still make me weak at the knees. I wrote as soon as I could make words on a page.
I wrote a short story on the grade 13 province-wide exams that won me a four-year tuition scholarship – high marks and a great recommendation. Studying writing was not an option back then so I took Honours English and learned how to read. As a note, the examination body for grade 13 didn’t give me my story back.
Making a shift
Girls could grow up to be a teacher or a nurse. I chose the former but there was a revolution happening around me. My writing often paints that time, but it is NOT autobiographical. Not even the first-person stories.
I moved on from classroom teaching, but most work I do involves some sort of teaching or helping people get access to information or justice. My foundation includes raising kids, being part of other people’s lives, and nurturing community.
For the two years I spent working in Ottawa (at the Transformation Research Network and in literacy) I got up at six and wrote for an hour before work, thanks to Dorothea Brand Becoming a Writer.
Finding Peter Carver’s class, during the 80s in Toronto, gave me heart. Some of us from Peter’s class started a writers’ group, clutching Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. We were astonished at the joy and intimacy of working together.
With encouragement, I put writing and teaching together. Writers’ groups have emerged out of those evening writing classes and weekend workshops.
Never one to let things rest, I proposed a week-long workshop at the Tatamagouche Centre – gorgeous place on the North Shore of Nova Scotia. The numbers doubled each year until a grand scheme presented itself: create a large event with one fiction, one poetry, and one revolving workshop and an independent retreat. For 2001 I pulled together a team with insight and energy and Community of Writers was born. Evaluations included things like “changed my life” and “best-run writing retreat I’ve ever attended.”
In 2007 the Community of Writers became a single writing workshop and eventually, a retreat with evening feedback sessions (a great model that still works). After 2015 the Centre withdrew to regroup. Where to from here?
Getting a stride on
Writing, for me, is a deep, private joy. Winning recognition helps satisfy the truth of that for me.
From Michelle Berry (http://mber22.wix.com/mberry), final judge on the 2013 Sheldon Currie Fiction Contest for the Antigonish Review, called my story “. . . a fast-paced, rhythmical and odd story.” And, “The dialogue is spot on and the writing is layered in a crisp and satisfying way.”
Facing the Other Way, my first book, comes out in August 2016.
Pulling my weight
On community boards:
- ALFA Literacy in Toronto
- Phoenix Programs for Youth in Halifax
- Stepping Stone
- the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia
- the Cultural Federations of Nova Scotia
As a judge:
- for arts juries
- for competitions
- for literary awards
While I’ve earned my income from doing plain language consulting for many years, before that I often worked as a journalist and non-fiction writer:
- for organizations including TVOntario, World Literacy of Canada
- for publications including the Globe and Mail and Atlantic Insight Magazine
- for CBC radio in Halifax
- Adult Education & Transformational Leadership Certificates, Tatamagouche Centre, NS, 1999
- Bachelor of Journalism, King’s College, Halifax, 1981
- Class “A” Secondary School Certificate, (English), Lakehead University, 1969/70
- BA, English (Honours), Wilfrid Laurier University, 1969
- Writing Studio, mentors Daphne Marlat and Warren Carriou, Banff Centre, 2011
- Wired Studio, mentor Caroline Adderson, Banff Centre for the Arts, 1994
- Writing with Style workshop with Fred Stenson, Banff Centre, 2001
- Whitman Writer’s Retreat, Nova Scotia, 1994
- Maritime Writers’ Workshop, University of New Brunswick, 1993
Workshops and Classes:
- Poetry Workshop, Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, 2002
- Screenwriting Workshops, Moving Images Group, Halifax, 1999 & 2000
- Maritime Family Therapy Conference, Narrative Therapy, Halifax, 1997
- Writing for Children Workshop (initial and continuing advanced workshops with Peter Carver), George Brown College, 1988-90
- Screenwriting, Canadian Institute of Film/Algonquin College, 1985
- First prize, Sheldon Currie Fiction Contest, The Antigonish Review, Autumn 2013
- Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia award for community service, Writers’ Gala 2004
- Creation Grant, Arts Council of Nova Scotia, 2001
- Video Scholarship, Centre for Art Tapes, Halifax, 1994
- Four-year tuition scholarship, Wilfrid Laurier (then Waterloo Lutheran) University, 1965
- English Prize, grade 13, Eganville District High School, 1965
- Note: The English Prize and the WFNS awards were created for me, and were one-time prizes.
- Facing the Other Way, story collection, Boularderie Island Press, summer 2016
- “She Knew I’d Be There” The Antigonish Review, autumn 2013
- “Moving” Apogee Magazine, spring 2013
- “Facing the Other Way” Cahoots Magazine, summer 2006
- “Bluffing” The Antigonish Review, autumn 2005
- “No Endings” Pottersfield Portfolio, spring 2003
- “My First Bus Ride” Pottersfield Portfolio, spring/summer 1993
- “Laura” in The Blue Jean Collection, Thistledown Press 1992
There are lots of non-fiction pieces that you can find on the plain language side, also, but here are a couple that have to do with fiction.
- Essay on writing, Salt Lines, Backalong Books, 2012
- “Alice in Swaziland” Eastword, WFNS, May/June 2012
- A short video made by Hamish Lambert on the Halifax Parkour community, including me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEZLdVbD56E
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