Monday, 13 April 2015

Output from the Alphabet prompt (Malcolm's)

The prompt: was to:
(a)  for 2½ mins., generate a list of words starting with an assigned letter of the alphabet.
(b) Write an opening sentence or a story or piece, using word(s) from your list.
(c)  Write a sentence (that may or may not be connected to the above) using some of those words to describe a setting
(d) Now for 10 mins., free-write based on your list of words – using them or ideas/images they conjured up.

The J list:
Janet, jam, janky, january, july, june, juaritas, jujubes, juicy, junky, jumbled, jambled, jamboree, jackson, Jackson, jew, jewish, jewelry, jerk, jerky, jarrow, jack, Jack, Jackie, Jummers, jankers, jubilee, jampton, jump, jumpy, jumping, jumper, juniper, jantlon, jantlen, jow, jabberwocky, jackhammer, jarleston, jamp-jamperoo! Jill, Jillian, jickers, jeepers, Jan, Juanita, jallieanna-oop! Jettison, jet, jetting, jet-ski, jet-skiing, jeppie, jazzy, jazz! Jamerique, juop-juop-jarroo! Jarrow.
___Free-write Prompt on “J”
Jantlon scanned the room. It was white, the room: the furniture, the walls, the drapes. Hell, even the clothes of the people in it, himself included. Beyond the room, looking out the floor to ceiling French patio doors, he saw July in New Hampshire. Jantlon shifted in his seat, trying to get comfortable. He was conscious of not letting his linen suit get wrinkled. He placed his white fedora on the delicate table beside him.

Jump, jump, jazz – yah! Jibbity, jibbity, bee bop boo! Badadadada, badadada! Badadada, doop doop doop – biddity, biddity, bop, bop, bop, Badadadada, badadadada! Jantlon remembered the old tune fondly. He wished he were “Jackson,” still, but someone had to infiltrate, someone had to make their way into white society and see if they could get some money and bring it back to the community.

Jantlon shook his head. The soft notes of piano floated in the air, all grace and calm. “The musical equivalent of Valium,” he thought.
Not that there was anything wrong with Valium, or its musical equivalent. It was just so different from his music. In his neighbourhood, if someone was going to play a slow song, it was going to be a plaintive blues number, filled with the wailing or crying of a singer. Instrumentals? They existed for dancing. And even then...

Everything he listened to had a singer. Jazz had vocalists, even if they were just making noises with their mouths, that didn't amount to language, or language as we generally think of it, he mused.

He looked again, out the patio doors. The grass went on and on. Such extravagance! So much space. A green soft carpet, almost all one colour and texture: no dandelions or Creeping Charlie. Breathtaking? No, not that. Maybe –- yes, it could be –- breathtaking in its homogeneity. Like a painter who uses small amounts of paint on a brush, working it into the canvas so the viewer can't see the texture.

There was a grove of trees to the left. Apples? And at the very back of the lawn, Jantlon could see a garden – almost a farm, really, it was so large. Perfectly manicured rows of short plants, brown dirt between them, stretching off into the distance.

© 2014 Malcolm van Delst.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Old Friend From Not Far Away - Surrey International Writers' Conference 2015

From conference coordinator Kathy:

Welcome to the first newsletter of our 2015 conference year. We have so much great information to share, this’ll be a long one. We hope you’ll be as excited as we are by all our news.

This year’s Surrey International Writers’ Conference will run October 23-25, 2015, with master classes on October 22, at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel in Surrey, BC.

Registration will open on Wednesday, June 3. Mark your calendars!

Changes are afoot!
If you’ve ever been to SiWC before, you may be one of the many people wrote something like this on your evaluation form: “Wow! So much great content. I only wish I could see more of it!” This year, you’ll be able to. We’ll still be offering 70+ workshops and panels over the three days of the conference (plus pre-conference master classes, of course!), but thanks to some minor tweaks to our schedule, for the first time ever, we’ll be offering four workshop sessions on the Friday and Saturday instead of three. You’ll still have lots to choose from in each session, but you’ll be able to attend more sessions than ever before. Prepare for massive brain overload!

Mary Robinette Kowal explains the secrets
of short story-writing, 2014

More content but not more $
Even though we’re offering each attendee 25% more content this year, we’re delighted to tell you we will NOT be raising registration rates. This year’s prices will be identical to last year’s. You’ll just get more for your money!

With those changes in place, we went back to our evaluation forms and took a look at the other common requests.  The new schedule will allow us to accommodate other attendee suggestions from over the years, including offering a quiet writing room in some time slots and even a chance for some of you to share your expertise with us. Stay tuned to our blog for information about that! (All our blog posts get mentioned on Twitter and Facebook, and of course on our website, so wherever you follow us, you’ll see them.)

Reduced hotel rates (but don’t wait too long to book)
In other news, our group rate is already available at the hotel and bookings are well underway. Check out the information
here. Please use our group rate when you book; it’s important for us and the hotel to know how many people are staying for the conference, and it helps keep our prices down when you do. Book early! Our group rates are available until mid-September or until the hotel sells out, which is often much earlier than that.

Jack Whyte (l) and Diana Gabaldon (r)
with contest winner 2014.

Writing contest open
Our writing contest is now open to entries. This year, we’re concentrating on short fiction of all sorts, with our Storyteller’s Award. 

Details on our contest page here.
Presenter bios coming soon
We’ll begin posting our presenter bios on the website in the coming weeks, and the workshop and master class schedule in the lead-up to registration opening, too. The presenter roster this year looks amazing, if we do say so ourselves.  As always, we’ll offer workshops on a huge variety of topics for writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir, online content and more. Whether you’re a brand new aspiring writer, a multi-published bestseller, or any kind of writer in between, SiWC has something for you.  Our goal is to offer stellar professional development for writers at all stages of their careers. And of course, every year you can take advantage of our blue pencil and pitch appointments, which are always included in the cost of your registration.

Cory Doctorow, one of many
well-known presenters
Advertise in conference brochure
If you’re interested in buying ad space in our conference brochure this year for your book or your day job business, please contact kc dyer at for information and rate sheets. We offer everything from classified ads to full-page colour and lots of options in between.

Follow on Twitter
Looking for more SiWC info? Apart from our very occasional newsletters like this one, you can follow us on Twitter @siwctweets and check out our website and blog at

If you’re on Twitter and would like a little writing support & encouragement, join the conversation using #thisdaywewrite. For conference-related tweets, we’re using #SiWC15 this year. Stay tuned on Twitter in coming weeks for hints about this year’s conference theme.

Check out our website for answers, including our FAQ, but if you can’t find what you need, you can contact us through our contact form or email me at

Please get the word out about SiWC
Know writers who don’t know us? We so appreciate your referrals.  Thank you to everyone who’s introduced SiWC to a friend so far. We hope to see many new faces and lots of old friends again this year.

See you in October!
Kathy Chung
SiWC Conference Coordinator  *  

The Surrey International Writers' Conference, held every October in British Columbia, is the most comprehensive conference of its kind in Canada. SiWC offers writers in all genres -- from beginners to experts -- the opportunity both to hone their craft and to expose their work to the international literary marketplace. 

To receive email newsletter updates about the conference
or for more information please visit

Monday, 6 April 2015

The Mysterious East

With  Downton somewhat over, and Scandal, Suits, House of Cards, Covert Affairs, Blacklist, and Homeland becoming too grisly or violent, I feel a mystery reading binge coming on. 

Luckily I recently discovered (starting initially with John Burdett's Bangkok 8, thanks to the well-read Peter Kavanaugh, author of The Man Who Learned to Walk Three Timessome writers who have abandoned the American gumshoes and the British detective inspectors, in favour of wise and amusing Asian detectives, solving mysteries wrapped in enigmas and uknowns, in Bangkok, Tibet, Vientiane, Shanghai, Hong Kong, etc. 

Most of these quick-thinking men are living by their considerable wits to out-manoeuvre not just crooks and murderers, but their corrupt police forces or tyrannical political regimes:
  • Eliot Pattison’s INSPECTOR SHAN series.
    (Set in modern Tibet: “In an earlier time, Shan Tao Yun was an Inspector stationed in Beijing. But he lost his position, his family and his freedom when he ran afoul of a powerful figure high in the Chinese government ...”). 
  • Colin Cotterill’s DR. SIRI PAIBOUN series.
(“Laos, 1976. The monarchy has been deposed, the Communist Pathet Lao have taken over. Dr. Siri, a French-trained physician, 72, is the national coroner of Laos, and is also a most reluctant shaman.” He dances a careful, often wry, dance around the communist authorities, having become a considerably less than enthusiastic communist.
  • John Burdett’s SONNCHAI JITPLEECHEEP series.
    Sonnchai is a half-American, half-Thai Buddhist detective whose mother runs a Bangkok brothel (“Nobody knows Bangkok like Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, and there is no one quite like Sonchai: a police officer who has kept his Buddhist soul intact—more or less—despite the fact that his job shoves him face-to-face with some of the most vile and outrageous crimes and criminals in Bangkok.”)
  • Robert van Gulik’s JUDGE DEE series. (Based on the historical figure Ti Jen-chieh 
    (c. 630–c. 700), magistrate and statesman of the T’ang court, these cases are set in ancient China, all solved by the upright Judge Dee (in ancient Chinese crime stories, judges are often in the role of the detective.)
  • Qiu Xiaolong’s INSPECTOR CHEN series featuring Inspector Chen Cao of the Shanghai Police Bureau and set in relatively contemporary times.

It's refreshing to be off the mean streets of L.A. and New York and even away from the blazing fires of the English "cozies" and into the unfamiliar -- at once hilarious and a split second later terrifying --landscapes of these murder- and mystery-solving gentlemen who conjure and contort to avoid prison or re-internment themselves. 

-- Margo Lamont

Caroline's G-words

The prompt was to generate words from an assigned letter of the alphabet for 2-1/2 minutes. Caroline got the letter "G." This is her list:

George Girth Ground 
Gentleman Ginger Gentry 
Germaine Google Giant 
Gasket Gerard  Grim 
Gymnasium Grime Gynormous 
Ghoul Green  Golly 
Gregor Gleam Gambling 
Glimmer Gillian Gem 
Geometric Gory Grant 
Ghastly Gruel Gargoyle 
Grain Gill Grill 
Go Gain Going 
Gone Gum Gamey 
Gummybear Game Gun 
Ghost Gas Gorge

Then, three more parts, using the G-words:
1)  Use one of your G words in an opening sentence for a short story, novel, (1 minute)

2)  Use another G word(s) to describe a setting for a piece (could be the piece that #1 is the opening for, or a distinct setting) and write as much as you can for 2 minutes.

3) Using G-words from your list, free-write for 10 minutes.

See what happens, what emerges from your pen or onto your screen
Don't think it.
Don't take your pen off the paper or stop typing for the  10 minutes.
Forward only. Edit later.