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Plotter or Pantser?

February 1, 2018

The writing world is divided between people who meticulously plot their novels in advance and those who fly by the seat of their pants. JK Rowling recently tweeted:

I fall somewhere in between. In a class with YA writer, Robert Paul Weston, I developed a broad outline for a young adult novel as a class assignment. It seemed useful and KM Weiland’s book, Outlining Your Novel, inspired me to add more detail.  I wasn’t sure I’d actually stick to the outline, but over time, it proved to be an invaluable map that kept me from straying off-course to follow exciting but unproductive subplots.

And now that I’m finished draft one, (small cheer), I face the real work of refining the story. Following the sage advice of Anita Morris  I’m developing a reverse outline based on the Story Grid template developed by Editor, Shawn Coyne. This outline helps keep track of characters, motivations, conflicts, time, setting and more. Coyne actually recommends using this method to plan a novel in from the beginning, but, there is still a pantser in me! I even have trouble committing to the level of detail he recommends for a reverse outline. So, now I’m experimenting with my own outline categories. So far, it seems useful to keep track of:

  • Chapter, Scene, word count
  • Date, time, setting
  • Key events
  • Characters on and off stage with physical detail
  • Conflicts
  • Questions raised or answered

I guess I’m plotting my pantsing….if that makes any sense at all.



Some people get everything right

December 4, 2017

The sixth annual reading was loads of fun! This year, each of us started with the same first line to create seven short stories and one poem. From a long list of 75 famous first lines, we chose, “Some people get everything wrong,” from Alice Munro’s story, “Pride,” in Dear Life. But clearly, we got everything right in choosing friends and family who gave up a sunny afternoon to hear us read. Thank you, everyone, for your ongoing support!

The Bathurst Muses: June Rogers, Anita Morris, Alison Girling, Valerie McDonald, Michelle Adelman, Shila Desai, Alison Colvin, Lynn Horton


Three days to go….

November 30, 2017

Save the date!

September 18, 2017

Bathurst Writers

Sixth Annual Reading

Sunday, December 3, 2017


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.

Barbara Martha Karen_edited

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!