Saturday, 30 June 2018

Indigenous Style Guide: Writing with Respect

Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By 
and About Indigenous Peoples by Gregory Younging PhD 
Brush Education Inc., Edmonton AB: Feb. 15 2018
PB, 168 pp

ISBN Print:  9781550597165
ISBN eBook:  9781550597196 

This book is a must-read for every Canadian, writer or not. Gregory Youngling has done everyone a service writing and compiling this book.
It is more than just a dry style guide. (A usage geek, I actually don’t find style guides dry, but I know many people do). 

When Younging explains what the offense is in various word or phrases, you learn what the pain connected with it is, what the sorrow, the trauma, and the anger are—what, in some cases, the cultural or physical violence has been and, yes, the attempted genocide cultural or otherwise. 
Born in Canada, I initially found  it eally offputting to be considered a 'settler.'  
I’m not, nor were my parents nor any of my ancestors the people who came ashore and laid claim to this land centuries ago. Yet, the occupying force (Government; Crown) that was in place, that ordered my parents to relocate during WW2 to this country where I would later be born—that was the government of a colonial force, no matter how much time has passed. It’s simple. We are. They’re right. 
I have resented that settler label. This book helped me accept and wear it. By default, and not really my fault--you don't get to choose where you drop out--I'm part of settler culture. Unfortunate for me, it completely dispossesses me. (Where is my place in the world? What place can I claim to be from? Nowhere apparently. And that was hard to come to terms with and try to accept.)
Still, as I read this book, my heart opened even more to the suffering of the indigenous peoples (note: ‘indigenous peoples of Canada’: ok. ‘Canada’s indigenous people’: not ok -- that possessiveness again…).  We can’t undo what happened, but we can acknowledge it happened. (What we do about that, how we all handle it together—that’s another matter altogether.)
We need to fix it and make it right. That will never happen 100%: nothing can ever un-do the taking over, all the past pain, hurt and horror—but we can try. 

And one way we can all try is by watching our language. We can make that effort to become aware of how we talk about indigenous people, how we characterize them in language that may be deeply offensive (for very good reasons), and what we do with their stuff, in this case specifically their stories and history.
If you are writing about indigenous peoples or topics, one big takeaway from this book is: consult, consult, consult. 

Take your work to the Elders of the relevant nation and ask them to review what you have written to ensure not only that what you’ve done is accurate, but  especially that it is your story to tell. Because as Younging says in an interview cited below: 
There are a lot of editorial issues that are particular to writing by and about indigenous peoples. There are a lot of internal protocols and laws around indigenous knowledge and stories that non-indigenous people just don’t know. For example, some traditional stories are sacred, and there’s a training process required before you have the right to tell them. Some have an apprenticeship-like system, where someone has to train under an elder or master storyteller before they’re allowed to tell the stories.” We just need to think about how we would feel if some stranger came along and stole our histories and our stories and told them supposedly on our behalf, when we were perfectly capable of telling them ourselves, and those strangers told them incorrectly, out of context, and broke our sacred laws in the process.
It's all about respect. 
Younging says indigenous people are not saying ‘don’t write about us’ – they are saying, “If you’re going to write about us, make sure you understand these editing issues.”
We have a lot to learn. This book is one step towards starting that process.

Author Gregory Younging
 “is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. He’s been the managing editor of Theytus Books, the first Aboriginal-owned publishing house in Canada, for over 13 years.  Elements of Indigenous Style evolved from the house style guide Gregory developed at Theytus in order to ensure content was consistent and respectful.” (--Alberta Writers’ Guild).  He’s a professor of indigenous studies at UBC–Okanagan.   
This Quill & Quire Q&A with Greg Younging on editing indigenous works, story ownership, and Canadian publishing is a good introduction. 

©2018 Margo Lamont

Saturday, 28 April 2018

2018 Grind Writers meeting schedule

Before you attend, please email:  grindwriters [at] gmail [dot] com
We sometimes meet elsewhere; meetings may be cancelled.

Please come and join our Facebook group - search "The Grind Writers Group" (Make sure you put that "the" in the search words because there are two groups, one defunct.)

2018 Grind Writers Group schedule
(skips holiday weekends)

Sat Jan 20
Sun July 8
Sat Feb 10
Sun July 22
Sun Feb 25
Sun Aug 12
Sun Mar 11
Sun Aug 26
Sun Mar 25
Sun Sept 9
Sun Apr 8
Sun Sept 23
Sun Apr 22
Sun Oct 14
Sun May 6
Sun Oct 28
Sun May 27
Sun Nov 18
Sun June 10
Sun Dec 9
Sun June 24

Friday, 19 January 2018

MEETINGS SCHEDULE 2018 - The Grind Writers Group

Before you attend, please email
Sometimes we meet at other places, sometimes meetings are cancelled.

2018 Grind Writers schedule
skips holiday weekends
Sat Jan 20
Sun July 8
Sat Feb 10
Sun July 22
Sun Feb 25
Sun Aug 12
Sun Mar 11
Sun Aug 26
Sun Mar 25
Sun Sept 9
Sun Apr 8
Sun Sept 23
Sun Apr 22
Sun Oct 14
Sun May 6
Sun Oct 28
Sun May 27
Sun Nov 18
Sun June 10
Sun Dec 9
Sun June 24

Look for us on Facebook. Search "The Grind Writers." (there are two pages - make sure you put the "the" in your search words)

Monday, 15 January 2018

What question would you ask a psychic?

10 Min. Free-write Prompt:  What question would you ask a psychic about the future?

Do they remove Mr. Trump before his term is done? And is Mr. Pence even worse?

I’d also like to know about that “void” area archaeologists have just found in the Great Pyramid at Giza – a void the archaeology establishment seems to be going to great lengths to stress is not a “chamber.” Oh, why stop there: I could ask the psychic a lot about that because a good psychic should be able to go back and forth—way back and forth—in time. So I’d ask who built the Great Pyramid and how’d they get all those blocks…….
My issue around psychics is this: if I ask about a prediction of some future event and they say “X will happen” to me—that says something I may not be too happy with about Fate or Destiny. I don’t like the idea that our fate is absolutely fixed.

If the psychic tells me X is going to happen, then that means fate is fixed. Doesn't matter what I say or do. Doesn't matter what decision I make. Like the way Sleeping Beauty gets the puncture by spinning wheel thingie no matter that her father banned all spinning wheels from the kingdom for her entire life previously.  
I like to think there may be a kind of karmic template, but that we can add our own embellishments, that we perhaps can temper things a little by our actions. 

The concept of karma seems to say that. In a way. But then, if you experience karmic events as they say we do—then those may be fixed. Or… are they? It gets very complicated very fast. Are you predestined to have Experience Y to work on some past karmic issue, well then what’s the point of things like Buddhist “right action” if it’s already set in stone? How can you change anything by your actions; or is that only for the next life? Does the Christian concept of free will factor in?  
Another problem with consulting psychics and oracles was related by the ancient Father of History (or "Father of Lies"--take your pick) Herodotus centuries ago about that  time when King Croesus consulted the oracle at Delphi before an important upcoming battle against the Persians. 
Delphic oracle

“One ruler who consulted the oracle was Croesus, whose kingdom, Lydia, was located in an area that is now part of the nation of Turkey. 

Croesus was worried that his rival, Cyrus of Persia, was a threat to  him, and he sent messengers to Delphi to ask the oracle for guidance.

The oracle said that crossing the river Halys and battling Cyrus would  cause a great empire to be destroyed. Croesus wrongly assumed that the "great empire" which would fall would be that of his enemy.”

(from this forum

As the writer points out, contacting the psychic realms can be rather unreliable: ”The word "delphic," meaning "ambiguous or obscure," is a reference to the often enigmatic prophecies of the Delphic Oracle.”

No, it’s too too complicated. I’ll just ask the psychic about the 649 lotto. I'm only out three bucks if it’s wrong.
Margo Lamont

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Christmas - A Writing Prompt

At our last Grind Writers Group meeting before Christmas, "Christmas" was the season's organic prompt and I want to share the Christmas card I wrote to our members.

Grind Writers – December 17, 2017

Prompt:  Christmas 

Christmas is not all about presents. It’s also about presence. 

In this group it’s about your managing to get yourself here—putting it in your calendar; getting your writing gear out, maybe a piece printed to share; and getting here by whatever way you travel. Some of you come by car, some by bus, others cycle here, others walk. One of you comes all the way rom Surrey, another from UBC, another the West End. We draw together for this endeavour of writing, whatever it is. 
Christmas—the giving part—the sharing part Christ taught: “Do Unto Others” – is about you sharing your time to be here, sharing your work, trusting us to be supportive (there’s that “Do Unto Others” thing again), and being supportive yourself. 

Supportive isn’t just saying, “Oh, that was nice” or “That was good.” It’s really listening to a piece and trying to be that writer’s ideal reader. It’s trying to see where they are coming from—and doing what 
you can to help them get there through your feedback ("Love One Another”?) and via your encouragement, your cheering on the sidelines.  

It’s about making that effort to turn out to others’ readings. About taking the time to give them a boost review on Amazon or the VPL. About sometimes being their beta reader. All of which take time and give of yourself and your energy. 

So – thank you all for giving us all the gift of 
you all year as the we head into our 12th year in 2018. 

Merry Christmas! 


Margo Lamont

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Grind Writers News Dec 2017

Here's the link.

  • Isabella's Submission Party. BYOM.
  • 2 local markets seeking content. Xmas travel writing call.  
  • Places to go, things to do...
  • Contests 
  • Submit.  (you know you want to)
  • Workshops
  • VPL's indie collection 
  • Other writers groups 
  • The photo writing prompt (Just do it.)

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Grind Writers today

I’m glad, really glad, I went to the Grind Writers group today. But I wasn’t feeling that way when I woke up.

I am not a morning person. 

For a 10 o’clock start, I set my alarm for what I consider to still be the middle of the night: 7:30am. "No! -- I don’t want to write at bloody ten o’clock in the morning, why did I get myself into this?” 

Need coffee. Strong. But only one cup because I’m going to need to order a nice big fat artistically-topped almond milk café latte (was that enough detail for you?) at the coffee house where we meet.

Oh, um. But. That’s two hours down the line. One go-back. Just one go back to bed, trying to avoid hearing those raindrops smattering down my window, harbingers of today’s predicted monsoon bringing 70mm of what makes Vancouver so dreary and damp in November.

Fast forward to 12:30 when the group is over. 

I'm so glad I went. And I’m so grateful to the others who trudged out in the rain by bike, transit, and car to the café to join me in that inexplicably magical activity of writing.

Magic with laptops. Magic with pens. Magic pouring into dogeared coil notebooks or into fancy leatherbound journals and everything in between. 

Getting it down.

Getting what down?

Well, we're all in this huge existential cave. And we writers are standing on piles of rocks, with a pointy flint, scratching out things  on the cave walls. 
Scratch-scratch-scratch: I noticed this. Scratch-scratch-scratch: That was weird. Scratch-scratch-scratch: wtf was that all about?    Scratch-scratch-scratch: That experience drained my soul. Scratch-scratch-scratch: This was fabulous; this made my heart sing; that hurt, this was bad; I learned thus and such……….

Our experience. Here. Now. In this place, this consciousness, this experience of life. Ours each our own. And all so different, but overlapping in variously-contorted Venn diagrams.

We’re getting it down. Whatever it is to each of us. If we tell the truth, we’re not even necessarily getting it down for others. We’re getting it down (whatever it is) for ourselves. It keeps us sane.

Today I brought my pseudo-Pandora’s Box. It’s an homage to Bonnie Nish’s Pandora’s Box. She’s the ED of Pandora’s Collective, a creative  literary events-generating group. Bonnie brings her Pandora’s Box to writers’ groups. It’s full of many and varied items, 3D writing prompts. She hands one to each person. It could be anything.
Then you write.

Sometimes I actually agonize over the writing prompt. What will call forth those deep moments of reflection and revelation that sometimes, if we’re lucky, happen? I try many forms.

Writing prompts are completely unpredictable. 

Sometimes the most mundane item will bring forth a cascade of deep and meaningful writing. And another you've laboured over is meh.   

My pseudo-Pandora’s Box never lets me down. Maybe it is magic. It has, like Bonnie’s, a collection of objects from this world. Everyone reaches in the box and chooses an item without looking. The whole idea of free-writes is to not have too much time to think before plunging right into the writing. Writers have a propensity to overthink, well, everything and we can get stalled that way. We call it 'block' but it's just fear. The free-write pushes you past the fear. It gently forces you to, as the late Dr. Claire Weekes, advised: "Wait on no mood."

So we have our prompts and start to write for 15 minutes. The table goes silent. We hear the soundtrack of the jazz that Aperture’s owner Ryul collects.

We write. It's a special kind of silence.

The timer goes off. Too soon.

People volunteer to read. And by the end, I am very, very glad I didn’t give in to my hygge-proneness today and that I got myself to that coffee shop. So we read, our raw unedited output:

T. got a Tarot card, The High Priestess—didn’t like it, but nevertheless wrote a moving piece about aspirations. 

I. got a little jewellery box with keys inside, and wrote a 3rd person POV piece about someone getting that prompt in a writing group and what happened.

Of course you rarely can finish something in 15 mins., so we don’t know where that is going, but the point is, it was a start. The pump was primed.

G. shared some personal struggles, beginning with a question I think we’ve all had at some time or other as we were poised to read: “How much do I want to tell these people?”

I got the top of an IBM corporate souvenir, a Selectric
® paperclip holder, which took me back to my days working for the world’s most corporate corporation.

J. got a little plastic superhero figurine.
M. drew a hand-inked envelope that had  been re-addressed many times from which she spun an intriguing tale. 

N. wove a narrative about his relationship with the train and cars from an old Translink transfer card and how they affected his career at times.  

And B. looked at that egg slicer and embroidered a tale about a women’s encyclopedia of inventions in Canada.

And that was just the stuff that fell out of our pens and fingertips in a free-write. 

It is so relaxing and encouraging to be with fellow writers who understand, who don’t expect their cohorts to spit out Pride & Prejudice, War & Peace, or Ode on a Grecian Urn on a first go at it -- as the uninitiated, and friends and family, are sometimes prone to.
Later people read the work they had brought from home. More polished. Feedback before submission. 

I am again so glad I turned out and got there:  T. read us a long and powerful poem bringing us right into the pain she endures on a daily basis struggling to become who she is, with powerful emotional obstacles.

I got to hear N.’s poem, “Romantic,” which spurred a lot of conversation and feedback. And N.’s draft for a magazine piece that left us angry for all the right reasons. And another chapter in the wonderful experimental novel from M., who is such a keen and amusing observer of human traits and our 21st century culture.

Oh yes. It was worth it. It always is. Every time. Some times more than others, and this was one of the STMTOs. 

And worth it to have all that conversation, exchanging all those ideas about everything from the difference between romance and romantic; the #MeToo phenomenon; stigma in the workplace when employees do disclose their mental health issues; the deep anger that sours the soul in an emotionally-abusive relationship;  tender reminiscences; personal histories and self-acceptance, and much more — as people took a chance on reading something close to their hearts or risked reading something not yet as perfect as they would like; as others took flights of fancy into the past, into the future; and still others perhaps marked up on that big cave wall how it was going in life today, maybe notched off how far they had come towards something.

Tears held back. Laughter shared. All grist for the mill—our messy, contradictory, incomprehensible, wonderful mill of human experience here now or then when.  


Create your own Pandora's Box. You can put anything--small--in it. Common everyday objects or arcaneries. Then, every day just pick something out, and write. As Bonnie says, "Take the challenge. See what you can whip up."

Monday, 6 November 2017

Around Table Round Robin

A little bit of fun we have at Grind Writers with spontaneous writing Round Robins.  The paper that goes around is folded accordian-style, so you only get to see the previous person's added bit. Hence a certain amount of disjointed comedy, POVs changing, etc. And thanks to Beth for reading it aloud at the end. 

Feel free to add your bit in the comments.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Unhanged, Debut Dagger, and Canadian mystery writing

At a recent crime writing workshop with Vancouver mystery author Merrilee Robson, she told us about some mystery writing places you might like to look at if you're a Canadian writing in that genre.

1)  Unhanged Arthur Ellis Award: for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
("You have not had a novel, or novel-length work of fiction (50,000+ words), of any kind published commercially, whether: in print or electronically (i.e., e-book or published on the Internet) or selfpublished in any genre, including literary fiction under your given name or a pseudonym, and/or written alone or jointly with another author"). 

Info about it is here. Note: there are various Arthur Ellis competitions and the deadlines are different. Be sure to read the several pages of submission guidelines.

2) The Debut Dagger Award (UK) here.

3) Organizations Canadian crime writers should know about:
  • Crime Writers of Canada - here. They have a free newsletter you can subscribe to. 
  • Sisters in Crime (SINC) - Canada West - here.

Merrilee Robson is the author of 
Murder Uncooperative, (North Star Press 2016), set in co-operative housing in Vancouver, BC.

She's currently working on a historical mystery. This work in progress--Summer Smoke--was a finalist in the Freddie Award for Writing Excellence, sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America.

I asked Merrilee which mystery writers she reads:    
There are so many good mysteries around these days; it's hard to choose.
  • For Canadian authors,  I love what Louise Penny has done with her series set in Three Pines. I bought Deadly Appearances, Gail Bowen's first novel, on the recommendation of staff at People's Co-op Bookstore on Commercial Drive and I thought her description of political events was dead on (so to speak.)  I've read every one of her books.
  • Iona Whishaw is a local writer who writes a series set in BC in the period following WWII. 
  • Among British mysteries, I've enjoyed Elly Griffiths Ruth Galloway series, set in Norfolk, Jacqueline Winspear's Misie Dobbs historical series, and Anne Cleeves' books set in the Shetland Isles.
  • Of course there are the classics, Dame Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and a number of Golden Age Mysteries are being re-released in print and e-books. I just found out that Mary Stewart's romantic suspense novels are now available as e-books, many for only 99 cents.”

Margo Lamont