Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Fiddlehead celebrates two anniversaries with one great contest

I subscribe to a number of Canadian literary journals and reviews, such as Descant, the Malahat Review and—my geek favourite—On Spec.

But the journal that makes my brain dance a jig when I see it in my mailbox is the Fiddlehead.

This year is the Fiddlehead’s 65th anniversary, and also the 20th anniversary of their Poetry & Short Fiction Contest, and they’re celebrating with a splash.

  • $2,010 Ralph Gustafson Prize for Best Poem
  • $2,010 for Best Story
  • Plus $500 each for Two Honourable Mentions in each category

The winning entries will be published in the Spring 2011 issue of the Fiddlehead (No. 247) and on the website, The winning authors will also be paid for publication.

Sounds like a great opportunity, eh? So get on it! The deadline is December 1, 2010. Read the guidelines here:

While you’re at it, why not subscribe to the Fiddlehead and one or two other literary journals? Check out the literature category at for easy ordering.


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How garage sales are like editing

The weather was good to us today. The rain even held off til the end of our event—a garage sale in the country. Today, we edited our home (and our lives) and it felt GREAT!

It took us about a week to clean out each room in the house in prep to sell our wares. And oh the lovely wares: bikes, beds, games, and gadgets. Accumulation. Everyone does it. And for me and my hubs, two greenies at best, we definitely have our share of objects destined for repurposing and recycling. We are dreadfully guilty of giving treasures new life, which means, parting with trinkets can often feel like selling a kidney.

And people want them organs, let me tell ya. The characters came a-crawlin’ in seek of something for nothing: wedding goers (dressed to the nines) killing time till dinner, dudes ditching family picnics, musicians waiting their gig-time downtown, antique dealers, farmers, cyclists, the boo radleys—the works. We also had the escarpment tourists and the boldest barterers, looking to trade six cobs of corn and a cantaloupe for an old wagon. And what the hell? Guess what we had for dinner? Yep, corn on the cob.

Having a garage sale today felt a lot like editing my manuscript. It went something like this. Clean a room. Remove crap. Change my mind. Put crap back. Take another look. Remove the crap again. Repeat. This is a similar process of revision that I scuffle through with my middle-grade fiction novel. The only difference being: I have sold the damn wagon—and not the manuscript.


Progress update: My agent-search continues, with 3 full MS requests & 5 partials. Bring it on. Haggle me. I’m ready.

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Author visits at Burlington Public Library this fall

Stack of Library BooksAlthough I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the first red leaves on the drive back from the cottage last weekend, there’s actually a lot for the Restless Writers and our local reading/writing pals to look forward to this fall (besides our trip to the Surrey International Writers Conference, October 22-24). And we don’t have to go any farther than our local library.

Burlington Public Library (BPL) hosts visits from noted Canadian authors each month—and they’re free! You do have to pre-register, since seats go fast. To register, call 905-639-3611 ext. 134. All visits take place from 7-9pm in Centennial Hall, Central Library. (Notes: Dates are subject to change, so keep an eye on the BPL website for updates.)

Here’s the BPL fall line-up:

As part of the Engaging Authors series, offered by BPL and A Different Drummer Books, Doug Sanders, author of Arrival City: The Final Migration and Our Next World, will be speaking on Tuesday, September 28. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased at the library or the bookstore. Limited tickets are available at the door.


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5 Ways to Provide Gracious Feedback

Take this, bitches! Okay, I just pulled a Lori Dyan there. Such sentiment could be perceived as ungracious, but I assure you (in this case) — it’s ALL LOVE! 

Like Maria says, our little writing group can be a bit loosey-goosey when it comes to rules. However, because critiquing is such an important part of our Restless Writers’ unwritten rules and responsibilities, it seemed worthy of a follow-up blog post to: The Restless Writers’ Guide to Criticism.

 To grow and evolve as writers we must do the inevitable—offer our work to others for critique. Agreeing to provide feedback is one of the best things we can do to improve our writing skills. In fact, just being asked implies a “trust” in each other’s skills and opinions to help take our stories from good to FANTASTIC.

According to Write for Your Life, there are ways to provide feedback  that can be tough, thought-provoking, compassionate and yes, even constructive.

5 Ways to Providing Gracious Feedback:

1. We’re talking one person’s opinion

Always frame your feedback as only your opinion. Others will have different thoughts or suggestions—particularly the author! Add a statement at the end of your feedback emails that reads:  please accept/reject/alter or ignore anything here as it is your work and this is my take on it.

2. Feedback is not a monologue

Feedback involves more than one person. It’s a dialogue. Always offer to discuss your comments or suggestions with the writer. Remember, it’s okay to disagree. It’s the writer’s work after all and they do get the final say.

3. Be Positive & Stick to Specifics

Always begin with something positive! Then use specific examples to illustrate your point. Give suggestions on how the writer may make changes. Be honest. Constructive feedback is more likely to give a writer an ‘a-ha!’ moment, even if it initially feels like a slap in the face. Avoid broad-sweeping statements or generalisation. It gives a writer nothing to work with.

4. Stick to Deadlines

Don’t leave people hanging for weeks waiting. Writers assume that if people don’t get back to them in good time it means they’re struggling to find the right words to tell you that your work stinks. Determine mutually agreeable deadlines for turning in feedback.

5. Set parameters from the get-go

Ask the writer: what kind of feedback they’re looking for, what draft version they are sending, where they are planning to send it (e.g. contests), the word count, due date for submission, and the date feedback is required.

Sure, giving feedback can sometimes be terrifying but if you stick to this format, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Start small. Be truthful. Offer creative alternatives. The more you do it, the less painful it will be.

How do you provide *gracious* feedback? Any suggestions to add to this list?


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The Restless Writers’ Guide to Criticism

yes - notepad and penFor those of you who are regular visitors here, you already know that we are a little writing group that meets on a semi-monthly basis to read each other’s work, offer constructive feedback, and act as a sounding-board for the challenges of juggling writing and life.

We are, to put it mildly, a bit loosey-goosey when it comes to rules. I’m sure the founders of the Clarion Method would frown at our “guidelines.” For instance, we don’t have designated moderators—we each take turns playing host, a task that involves making sure the wine is chilled and the lottery tickets are bought.

But we do believe whole-heartedly that we are helping each other become the best writers that we can be, without getting in each other’s way.

According to Kate Monahan, who writes for the MFA Confidential blog, if you belong to a writing or critique group, there’s no law that says you have to incorporate absolutely everyone’s feedback into your WIP.

Joining a writing group opens your work up to criticism—that’s the whole point. But it’s not about letting someone else’s style and imagination overwhelm your own.

When the Restless Writers get together, each one of us works our individual magic. We each have something to add: an eye for dialogue, a grammatical pet peeve, or an awareness of dated jargon. (Although as a group, we cannot seem to sort out how to use italics properly to set off thoughts in first-person POV. Or if it’s even necessary. A little help?)

Beckie, for example, will always tell me if I’ve used “forcefully” two times in the same chapter. And Lori helps me sort out the words that sound great in my head but come out all wrong in the story. (Ahem…I deleted “prowler” like you told me to, ladies, but I’m keeping “bum’s rush.” It has a quaint, 40’s-era feel to it that pleases me.)

As for me, I will always delete the extra spaces between sentences, encourage you to re-evaluate your hyphen placement, and tip you off if I don’t think your characters are acting authentically.

But of course, take my criticism with a grain of salt. And that goes for any writer who is part of a group. Always let your own voice shine through.



Filed under Group meetings

How Tweet It Is…

We are the Restless Writers and we are Twitterholics.

Maria, Beckie and Lori's initial reactions to Twitter

Whether we’re toiling the summer away on patios while sipping Mojitos, or in basements sweating over queries (note: put the two together!), there’s one constant to be found: we’re taking regular breaks to tweet, see who #FF us, check for new followers, or just read everyone else’s stuff. Pavlov would be proud.

We were tentative at first, putting out little missives announcing blog postings. Then we slowly began following other writers, agents and interesting celebrities. Now, we ourselves have a sassy cadre of followers with whom we banter regularly. And if you look at who we’re following (as well as who follows us), it’s very telling of our personalities:

Beckie is currently shopping around a kick-ass proposal for a non-fiction environmental book aimed at younger audiences. Her lists include YA / MG writers and agents; greenies (those with an environmental slant) and book bloggers.

Maria is our literary empress, PR maven and indexing dynamo with a penchant for short stories. Her list is as diverse as she is – everyone from Seth Myers to Simon & Shuster (UK) to AintYoMamasBlog.

Lori is the stay-at-home-mom and pop culture junkie who is querying her women’s lit manuscript. Her list is full of the usual suspects: agents; funny writer-types; and any celebrity not on a reality television show.

There’s definitely some cross-over (hot hitchhikers traversing the globe, line forms on the left), but that’s true of us as well – during our last meeting we marveled at how such different women, writing in such different genres, could enjoy each other so much.

Who should we follow on Twitter? Is it you? Let us know in the comments!


Filed under Group meetings, Life and stuff, Writing ideas, Writing resources