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

Monday, 16 October 2017

Books You Wish You’d Written

I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Elizabeth Gilbert’s BIG MAGIC, a captivating and useful book. It's read by EG, so listening to the audiobook is almost like having a one to one workshop with her, and it's illustrative to hear the book in her voice as well. 

One thing she talks about is how ideas are “out there” in the ether, in the recesses of the mass consciousness.  And, that if you have a creative idea, and you don’t get on with it, the Idea offers itself up to someone else.  Gilbert has a wonderful true story she relates about how that happened to her. She waited and lost her idea.  So if you have an idea and you’re procrastinating on it, her advice is: get on with it.

I didn’t have the idea for this series of books, but I wish I had.  

Written by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi, so far the series includes:
  • The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws
  • The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes 
  • The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide To Character Expression 
  • The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Psychological Trauma. 
  • The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to City Spaces 
  • The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Personal and Natural Place 
Any of them would be a practical tool to have at hand for those times when you get stuck visualizing or creating characters, and invaluable for those of us whose characters all tend to be too Nice, especially when your plot calls for some stinkers. 

For example, in The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Flaws, you discover “a vast collection of flaws to explore when building a character’s personality.  Each entry includes possible causes, attitudes, behaviors, thoughts, and related emotions.” 

And there’s its companion volume, The Positive Trait Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Attributes: 
“Real character examples from literature, film, or television to show how an attribute drives actions and decisions, influences goals, and steers relationships.”

Each admirable trait has information under these headings:
1.  Definition of the trait;
2.  Similar Flaws; 
3.  Possible Causes; 
4.  Associated Behaviours and Attitudes; 
5.  Associated Thoughts; 
6.  Positive Aspects; 
7.  Negative Aspects; 
8.  Overcoming This Trait as a Major Flaw; 
9.  Traits in Supporting Characters That May Cause Conflict; and my favourite shortcut section:
10.  Examples from Film, sometimes Examples from Literature.
(In Positive Traits, for "Spoiled," it was Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind; Dudley Dursley from the Harry Potter series; and Eric Bates from The Toy.

This is my favourite section because I can pretend I'm doing research and go watch the films "for reference." La!).
hey do that for each trait – in Negative Traits, from Abrasive right through the alphabet to Worrywart.  I leave you to go and see what they did with Nagging. 

QUIZ:  See if you can figure out which characters in literature or movies  the authors chose for these three negative traits (115 traits are dissected in the book). I'll put the answers in the Comments below. 
  • Gossipy
  • Forgetful
  • Self-destructive
No peeking before you've brainstormed a little, because recalling characters representing these three negative traits before you look, will be good neuroexercise!

©2017Margo Lamont

Monday, 31 July 2017

Round Robins: fun and folly. It's complicated.

We have experimented with many and varied forms of Round Robins at the Grind Writers, and its predecessor the Closet Writers Group, over the years. Some people call it collaborative writing.

We've done paper ones in a journal that was circulated by hand to members. That vanished somewhere and has not been seen since. Once a Round Robin goes AWOL, it is very hard to locate it again.

We did a very fun one at TCW one year -- passing it around and around. Finally, the man in our group got bored with it and wrote a character who killed everyone. Well, that was that. We had a good laugh at the implausibility of it all and its abrupt ending when we finally read it through together. 

I can imagine really fun RRs were they passed around in the pub and everyone had a shot with every contribution they made.

### ### ###

A bunch of us wrote in turns (for about 4 or 5 go-rounds) to a prompt that Margo liked from a workshop at the Surrey International Writers Conference orkshop on Writing Historical Fiction presented by Vancouver's best-selling historical fiction author Roberta Rich

For this one, we sent a Word.doc around by email. We had to add our bit within 72 hours, or pass on it and send it on to the next person.  (If you don't have a time limit like that, RRs will languish in one person's inbox while they're out of town, too tired to write after work, sick, uninspired, having a life crisis...)

That RR petered out when we couldn't quite agree on whether to keep it as real historical romance or set it in a made-up time and have it be a kind of fantasy historical romance. 

It was set in Tudor England in the time of Henry VIII. Some of us (Margo readily admits to this) were lazy and didn't want to look up every detail as we wrote -- did they really drink mead in the 15th century? (and come to think of it, was Henry's rule the 15th or 16thC? [it was both]) Did they have those lace cuffs she wanted to put on one gent's shirt? Did they say certain phrases? What sort of horses did they ride? You have to stop and verify everything for historical fiction. The research actually is great fun  -- deliciously distracting -- but it took a long time. 

We had built in a way to keep track of new characters any of us introduced along with their names, characteristics, and relatioship to other characters.  And a system of chapter recaps. (When the manuscript became so long it was quite unwieldy, Margo divided it up into tentative working chapters, something she wasn't entirely sure others appreciated but since we hadn't really developed a working structure, it wasn't always easy to discern things like that). 

Then there were style differences. Again, we had no structure to resolve those kinds of differences at all, never mind amongst 6-8 intelligent, imaginative women. For instance, some wanted to write sex scenes with the lustiness of the Tudor era; others wanted to have those four-poster boudoir curtains lower gently before things got too explicit. (Did they have four-poster beds in Tudor England? What was in their mattrasses? How did they keep those feather pillows from becoming vermin havens?  ...... you see how it goes)

Margo came to believe it would be so much easier to set it "somewhere in time," a time that sounded very much like Tudor England but wasn't, then be free to just make things up but with a real-sounding kind of Tudor flavour. She was in a minority, although even that wasn't totally clear. 

There were other issues, which I've forgotten. After a couple of rounds when the mechanics were demonstrating our house a-building was a mite rickety, we had a face meeting to try and resolve things. 

But we'd started out just writing gung-ho enjoying ourselves, and hadn't built any kind of decision-making structure. The truth is, too, you can't write by democracy.  So we ended up kind of treading water til the impetus to write fizzled and everyone got busy and their lives and dayjobs took over, and down down down the RR floated in the inbox until inertia ruled the day.

We did however send our output (which we all quite liked by the way) to Roberta and she was very gracious in the comments she sent us from deepest Italy somewhere, probably receiving more awards or doing research for her most recent book in her Venice trilogy - A Trial in Venice.

### ### ### 

If a group of writers produced really stellar, publishable output, collaborative writing could get really, really complicated unless you've sorted out a whole bunch of things before you start writing.

Say you decided to send it to a publisher and you have 8 or 10 people involved. They would all have to agree to the copyright and would receive royalties. The bookkeeping alone would be monstrous -- and who would do it?  Someone would have to get an agent for it; who'd do and negotiate that? And what agent would want to deal with 8 authors in a book that's not an anthology?  

Or would you self-publish? If self-pubbed, who would do all the work of compiling the front matter, designing the cover (and would 8 people have to agree on the cover? Oy); obtaining the ISBN, and holding the credit card to make those payments, doing the admin around getting refunded by the others. Who would format the manuscript for uploading if self-published. And if those tasks were all done by one or two of the group, should they get a higher royalty percentage? And who'd negotiate that?

I find my eyes getting heavy and my head lolling towards my chest just writing this.

Memo to self: never write collaboratively with more than one, max two, other writers. Way too complicated.

Then there was this.  Of about seven who started that Round Robin, at least two dropped out permanently at some stage. But they had already put quite a lot in a the beginning. Would they be entitled to equal royalties if it got published even if their input ended up being 1/200th of the total? Who would negotiate that? Who would draw up the agreement; who would hold it 'filed' somewhere? 

It's complicated.

My feet started to hurt just thinking about all that. And when it fizzed, I vowed to myself, "No more Round Robins!"

But they can be fun. So we did the uber-easy kind at the last Grind Writers. You just pass a paper around with a starter prompt. It's folded such that each person can see the contribution of the person before them, but that's all.

So they add theirs, and round it goes. It's quick and easy and very silly, therefore fun. And, of course, usually so wildly disjointed and contorted that these can be a howl to read at the end.

Here's the one we did last meeting on the fly. 


If you love writing historical fiction - this:

10 questions with historical fiction author: Roberta Rich
March 8, 2014
examiner.com March 5, 2014. Roberta Rich, author of "The Midwife of Venice" and "The Harem Midwife" answers 10 questions about her favorite time period in

Read More

See what I mean?
National Post: March 2017
A brief history of forceps and childbirth, from the author of The Midwife of Venice

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Sunday, 21 May 2017

2017 SCHEDULE Grind Writers

Grind Writers Schedule 2017

*Note: Important - please email grindwriters@gmail.com before attending a meeting.


Jan 22

July 8
Feb 4
July 23   
Feb 19
Aug 5   
Mar 4
Aug 20   
Mar 19
Sept 9
Apr 1
Sept 24
Apr 23
Oct 7
May 6
Oct 22
May 28
Nov 4
June 10
Nov 19
June 25
Dec 2

Dec 17

Tuesday, 17 January 2017


 Grind Writers News Jan 2017 

See it on Issuu here.
3 | Things to do at night by yourself
5 |  Lovin' Taylor's "barf" and Lamott's "shitty" first drafts
6 |  Vancouver writing. New West writing.
7 |  Literary Bran: the joys of regularity
9 |  Crapulous. Fard. Words that sound rude but aren't
11 | The photo writing prompt  JUST DO IT
12-15 | Submit.  (You know you want to)  MASSES OF MARKETS
16 | Local writing workshops of note