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Glenn Turner’s The Toronto Carrying Place

August 10, 2017

 Way back in high school, I knew that my friend, Glenn Turner, would one day be a published author. I was certain he would write a more gripping alternative to The Lord of the Rings. To my surprise, this British-born, Rexdale-raised, teacher-librarian has published a fascinating and often very funny history of an ancient portage route. The Toronto Carrying Place was a 45 km “short-cut” for First Nations people and fur-traders  travelling between Lake Ontario and Lake Simcoe. The book documents Glenn’s own three-day walk along the route as he searched for traces of the path and mused about its influence on today’s city and rural landscapes. 

This week, Glenn generously gave a multi-media talk to our small group. He walked us through some of the history and talked about his experience writing the book. My most pressing question was, “Why not fiction?” He immediately answered that it was “too distressing” to make bad things happen to characters he cared about. Somehow it was easier to describe the very real demise of the ill-fated, Étienne Brûlé , who may or may not have walked the Carrying Place portage. But in addition, Glenn said, he loves to read non-fiction, so it made more sense to write what he loves to read.

Please buy the book or reserve a copy from your local library! It’s a fascinating account of southern Ontario and Toronto history, with great illustrations and wry observations from my friend, the author!

Writers’ night and summer reading

July 28, 2017

Writers and booklovers gathered for a lively discussion with Bathurst Muses guests, authors Martha Schabas and Karen Connelly and editor and literary agent, Barbara Berson.

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Karen Connelly, Martha Schabas, Barbara Berson

Barbara, a literary agent with the Helen Heller Agency, described the often over-lapping roles of editor and agent and her own transition from one to the other. Martha and Karen talked about how they approach their work, how their approaches have changed over time and about their experiences getting their books into print.

Martha, who is also the dance critic and arts writer at The Globe and Mail, faced challenges pitching her novel, Various Positionswhich features a young girl dealing with very adult issues when she enrolls in a prestigious ballet school. Karen, author of eleven books, frequently switches between poetry, prose and fiction, often focusing on the impact of politics and trauma on the lives of individuals. But her new novel, The Change Room, is a steamy story about marriage, sex (lots of sex!) adultery and housecleaning. Have a look!

Watch for our next author night in the fall!

What do editors do? Notes from Anita Morris

May 1, 2017

As part of his role as Writer in Residence at Toronto Public Library, author Pasha Malla offered a series of workshops during his year-long tenure. In March, he led a discussion with his editor, Lynn Henry. Lynn is currently Editor and Publishing Director at Knopf Canada, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Editors work directly with authors to figure out what the writer wants to do and to help him/her get there. They ask questions that address gaps that may not be apparent to the writer and may open new spaces in a book where the author hasn’t gone yet. At the end of the editorial process, the writer and editor come to a place where both accept what the story is. The stages of editing include:

  • Substantive/developmental edit (addressing big issues)
    • Identify themes and structures
    • Examine the characters and how they are developed
    • Involves 1-2 major revisions
  • Line edit (issues of style e.g. whether a line should end earlier, slowing or increasing the pace)
    • Make real what was agreed to in the first stage of edit
    • Nothing at this stage should surprise the author!
  • Copy edit
  • Proof-read

In addition to working with authors, editors spend a lot of time talking to the publisher’s sales department about hooks for potential buyers. Sales staff have their own niches and networks and specialize in selling to libraries, schools or stores. For instance, “Dewey Divas” are publishing reps who sell to libraries.

Pasha’s first book, The Withdrawal Method, was a collection of short stories, something Lynn says can be harder to sell than a book of poetry. He initially submitted 30 short stories but now understands that it’s important to refine, select and shape the stories into a coherent body of work before sending it to a publisher. Lynn cut 19 stories and asked him to write two new stories to address gaps. Pasha said one of the new stories was the best he’d ever written. So good that the collection was long-listed for the Giller Prize, won the Danuta Gleed Literary Award and the Trillium Book Award, and made several “best book” lists in 2008!

Some publishers restrict themselves to submissions by agents. However, not all do. If an author doesn’t have an agent, it is helpful  to have a track record of publication in literary journals, or to be recommended by a published author/class instructor. Not sure if you need an agent or editor? See Barbara Berson’s comments to our group!

Ten years of writing together

January 31, 2017

It started on a whim when I called up a few friends and acquaintances to see if they’d be interested in meeting together to work on writing. Since then, the Bathurst Muses have met regularly since January, 2007. Three of the original five members (me, Anita and Shila) continue to be stalwart members while a fourth, Lynn Horton, is on leave this year. Like any group, we’ve gone through repeated phases of “forming, storming, norming” and ultimately, performing. We’ve talked a lot about how to work together productively, debated expectations and responsibilities, and more recently, discussed ways to manage membership. These discussions have been recorded, we hope, for the benefit of other writing groups.

What has changed? In short, we’ve all become better much writers. Not only do we share and critique work, but we’ve learned and shared a lot about the craft of writing. We’ve all taken courses, attended workshops, listened to podcasts and read a lot about the craft of writing. We’ve hunkered down at writing retreats in Creemore, Grand Bend and New York. We’ve been privileged to welcome editors, agents, playwrights, and several authors to talk with us about their work in order to enhance our own.

And we’ve had many successes. We’ve printed five anthologies and hosted five readings to increasingly large audiences. Since 2007, stories critiqued by the group have won awards, been short-listed, long-listed and published. Members and past members have published one memoir, ten short pieces and two podcasts!  Here’s to ten more years!

Sinful Success!

January 24, 2017

Corny, I know. Our fifth annual reading and anthology explored six of the seven deadly sins. The sell-out crowd took part in a quiz to see how well they could match the stories (not the authors!) to the sins. Here’s a gallery of highlights! Many thanks to the University of Toronto’s Graduate Student Union for hosting this cosy event. And special thanks to Leyla Godfrey for the photos!

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Anita, Rohan and Anne enjoy a chat before the show

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Bruce and Maddie at the sales desk

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Shila and Lynn (on leave and therefore without sin)

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Michelle launches the reading with envy

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Alison explores wrath

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Alison captivates with greed

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Val and June quiz the crowd

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Back row: Alison G, Alison C, Val. Front row: Anita, Shila, Maureen (on leave), Michelle, June

One week until our reading!

September 26, 2016

5th-reading

Which sin is missing?

September 20, 2016

We’re down to six deadly sins.  Two members have taken leaves of absence and their “sins” will be omitted from the 2016 Anthology. The rest of us are still grappling with our assigned themes. I thought it might help to consider the opposite virtues:

Lust             Chastity

Gluttony     Temperance

Greed          Charity

Sloth           Diligence

Wrath         Forgiveness

Envy           Kindness

Pride           Humility

But which sin will be missing? Find out on Sunday, November 6 at the Graduate Student Union.