March 20, 2017
The North Shore Writers Festival is coming up, April 7th and 8th — with some really wonderful programming and discussions. On Saturday, April 8 I will have the great pleasure of interviewing Zoe Whittall onstage about her acclaimed, Giller shortlisted novel, The Best Kind of People. Here is what the program says…
March 20, 2017
On Sunday I’m looking forward to presenting some thoughts on short story writing at a westside creative artists salon. If you are an artist, writer, neighbour, or just interested, I hope you’ll join us.
The Salon is a Kitsilano & West Point Grey monthly get together to explore, see, hear, and discuss art and its process. The Salons were started by Mary Bennett, a visual artist and they are held in David Eby’s offices on West Broadway, who has kindly donated his space for neighbourhood projects.
Beth Coleman, a playwright whom I’ve had the pleasure of mentoring, invited me to be part of it. She wrote to say, “In the past season I enjoyed learning about automatons as art, experiencing oral story telling myths, exploring labyrinths as spiritual and art forms, studying abstract paintings of nature.”
So here is what I’ll be presenting on this Sunday….
Dreaming and Writing Short Stories — The Art of Getting Lost
“When I write short stories, it feels as though it is a craft, yes, but also a mystery. Part of that mystery requires following some of the quirky rules of a fairy tale journey. You need to go deep into the unknown. You may need to call on magical helpers to assist you. And somewhere along the way you almost always end up totally lost. All the breadcrumbs are eaten, and often it is out of this – this true confusion as to direction – that the meaning of a piece emerges to ignite the imagination and show the way home. We will explore this creative arc, do some writing exercises to get in touch with people’s unique voices (bring a pen and paper) and I’ll talk about and read from a recent short story.”
Date: Sunday, March 26, 2017
Place: David Eby’s Community Office, 2909 West Broadway (at Bayswater)
Time: 6-7 pm Potluck food; 7-8 pm Presenter; 8-9 pm Socialize and network
Bring: Dessert or finger food for sharing. There will be a networking table for flyers and cards about upcoming performances and exhibitions.
Questions? Contact Mary@marybennett.net
February 14, 2017
Would you like to make deep progress on your writing in a hugely beautiful and creative location?
I’m teaching Going Under the Words – Creating Fiction and Memoir — a five-day writing workshop at the Hollyhock Retreat Centre, on Cortes Island – June 2-7.
I hope you’ll consider joining me and other writers there.
It’s hard not to effuse madly about Hollyhock. I’m thrilled to be teaching there. It’s one of the most enchanting environments I know. The forest surrounds you. The beach is close. The surf is sounding in your sleep. The garden is a perfect place to write, under the apple tree, beside the head-high delphiniums. (I wrote my story, Oh, My Darling at that wooden table.) But there are hundreds of quiet nooks to steal away and write (including by a fire in the lodge if it’s raining).
Whether you are beginning a new project, or diving into finding your voice for the first time, or are deep into the revision or editing stage of a long-developed work-in-progress, this workshop is designed to find you where you are, and to give you guidance and tools for the journey.
It will be an intense mix of exploratory writing – to free your voice and hit a ‘creative flow’ – and daily group lectures and experiments on key aspects of creating a narrative (from dream stage, to structuring your work, to writing with intensity, to revising, editing and publishing). Your writing will be workshopped in a supportive group setting, and some time will be set aside to discuss your writing one-on-one with me. We will also spend time exploring the writing business, and how to build – and sustain – a writer’s life.
You can follow the link, below to find more information and/or to register. There is also info about scholarships. And information about how to get to Cortes Island – you can go by ferry, or take a watertaxi from Campbell River, or even take a floatplane.
Many good wishes to you all. I hope I get to see you there in June,
Hollyhock at: 1-800-933-6339 x 232.
December 15, 2016
I am teaching a novel and memoir writing bootcamp in late January, through SFU’s Writers’ Studio. Whether you are deep into a manuscript, or just starting out, the bootcamp can provide the energy and inspiration to make real tracks with a book.
It takes place on two Saturdays, Jan 28 and Feb 4th. It’s a chance to learn new techniques, work fast, experiment and play with your work, going much deeper and surprising yourself — before the inner critic holds out a hand and says, no!
There will be a mix of supported writing time, seminars and experiments to uncover the unique threads of action, plot and character that can lead you naturally to the end of your piece.
The details are attached in this Simon Fraser University link.
December 15, 2016
I’m thrilled to have my short story The Wolf Expert published in this fall’s Canadian Notes & Queries, and to be anthologized in 2016’s Best Canadian Stories, from Oberon Press. This season’s CNQ is a really interesting one, with pieces by Anakana Schofield, Brian Busby, and Patricia Robertson. This is CNQ’s first colour edition, under the new editorship of Emily Donaldson. My story is beautifully illustrated by a photograph by Nancy Friedland. Such a wonderful magazine. I’m glad my story found a home in it.
September 9, 2016
Where do writers find the juice that makes their fiction come alive? Where do they go, and how do they find the courage to explore the secrets, crimes, confusions, reconciliation and forgiveness — the human depths in other words — that fiction writers need to tap to create stories that are truly meaningful, complex and compelling. “Only Trouble is Interesting,” the fiction writer Janet Burroway says in her seminal book on writing fiction, and I am delighted to be moderating this session with three hugely talented writers who have explored Trouble, and made it their own: Rowan Hisayo Buchanan’s, Ashley Little, and Francesca Melandri. Three award-winning authors from Canada, the US and Italy.
6:00-7:15, Tuesday, October 18th, Studio 1398, Granville Island.
September 9, 2016
I will be conducting an on-stage conversation with Teva Harrison, the author of In-Between Days, at the Vancouver Writers’ Festival. Teva’s graphic novel on living with, and creating in the face of, terminal breast cancer was heralded as one of the most anticipated books of 2016, by The Globe and Mail.
I already admire her chutzpah and grace — and humour — and I know we’ll have a lot to discuss. I have fictionalized my own breast cancer experiences in three stories, Oh, My Darling, In Delphi, and — most recently — The Wolf Expert.
EVENT #60. Friday October 21st, from 1:00 to 2:30 pm, at Studio 1398.
July 24, 2015
I am looking forward to this Vancouver Library event. On July 29th, 7 pm, I’m participating in a special program to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
It is a multimedia event with Cathy Stonehouse – reading from her collection Grace Shiver — Tetsuro Shigematsu – previewing the play Empire of the Son — and me, reading from Radiance.
There will be a discussion time with the audience and other panelist. I am looking forward to talking about creating imaginary worlds out of the shadowy and burning stories of The Atomic Age.
Please share with others. Thanks!
December 6, 2014
My daughter and I were among the 125 citizens who got arrested on Burnaby Mountain, crossing the police tape line to protest the oil pipe line that Kinder Morgan wants to run from the oil sands, through Burnaby Mountain, to the harbour. Below is a short piece I wrote about it soon after. Since writing this piece, Kinder Morgan was denied an extension of its drilling, and all charges were dropped against protestors, as Kinder Morgan had had the wrong GPS coordinates. Crossing the line and getting arrested was a thrilling and frightening experience, but one I’m proud of — both for myself and for my daughter. It moves me to think of being part of this great movement, which includes First Nations leaders, children, grandmothers, and so many wonderful young men and women, who camped on the mountain through rain and freezing cold, and who led the charge.
Finding Hope on Burnaby Mountain
“Mum, I think I’m going to get arrested today.”
Lucy, my nineteen-year-old, said this as we stood on Burnaby Mountain last Sunday. I felt my heart start to beat fast. I could read her stubborn, lit-up expression. It was the same one she’d get before snow-plow-bombing down a ski hill when she was little. Now she had dreadlocks and striped leggings and smelled of wood smoke, but it was the same message: Nothing was going to stop her.
Below us near the highway a crowd was preparing to march up the hill to where Kinder Morgan was drilling into the mountain core, testing for an oil pipeline which, if built, would carry 890,000 barrels of oil a day from the Alberta oil sands to tankers in our harbour. The area was marked off with yellow police tape and guarded by dozens of police.
“Okay.” I felt myself choke up. “It’s your decision.” Which she knew. But which I said anyway.
As I walked back into the crowd, I realized I knew this was coming. Lucy has always been passionate about what was happening to the earth. She would come home from grade school in tears about climate change, species extinction, forest degradation, and I would worry about how to comfort her. How do you begin to address the sadness in a child, as they hear about these things? What can a parent possibly say? Or do?
Now at Burnaby Mountain, Lucy was ready to take action herself. She was one of dozens of young people – bearded, dreadlocked, thoughtful, rebellious, joyous – who, along with First Nations, had taken the lead, camping, risking arrest, keeping a sacred fire burning. I could feel their energy as I joined the crowd – a pulse of hope.
And when the question came a few moments later, Who is planning to risk arrest today? to my surprise an eleven-year old girl, sporting a tiger-eared hat and a hand-made placard, put up her hand.
“I am,” she said.
She and her mother had both decided to walk under the yellow police tape. “I can’t stand the sound of that drilling,” the girl, Kate said. “It’s driving me crazy.”
Again, that pulse of hope.
Which may be why, forty five minutes later, Lucy and I were holding hands above our heads in a salute with Kate and her mother, Kim, and all four of us were leading the demonstration up the hill. A hundred people chanted behind us, “Hey hey – ho ho, Kinder Morgan has got to go!”
We would get arrested all together — a double mother-daughter whammy.
The police barrier came into view. There were a dozen police in green-neon coats standing with crossed arms, legs spread, guarding the tape barrier. Beyond them were paddy wagons. And beyond that? The Kinder Morgan drill, droning steadily.
I glanced at Lucy. She looked jubilant, purposeful, and I realized all at once that she was pouring strength into my hand. “Here goes,” she said. We took hold of the yellow tape and stepped under.
What followed happened quickly. The police closed in – their politeness almost surreal after seeing pictures earlier in the week of police struggling with protestors. A police officer skimmed close and took my arm: “You’re under arrest – what’s your name?” I told him. He gave me a smile, “My name is Terry,” he said, as though leading me onto a dance floor.
The rest was less pleasant. We were handcuffed and placed in a paddy wagon. Then, at the jail, we were ordered to take off all but one layer of clothing. When I said I needed my glasses, I was told by a police officer: “Why? You’ll be in a jail cell, there’s nothing to see.” We were each placed in a solitary cell with a narrow built-in bench, a metal toilet in the centre, and a video camera on the cracked ceiling.
I spent the four hours we were jailed trying not to worry, and breaking my time by doing yoga, finding out later that Lucy was doing yoga in her cell, as was another arrestee, Jeremy. (We must have been an unusual sight on the video monitors!) It took work to fight off the frightening feeling of not being free. I worried about whether we’d be able to travel to the States. I worried a lot.
To ward off these fears, I replayed walking up the hill, Lucy beside me. And yes, there it was again – that surge of hope and happiness, almost on a cellular level. I was incarcerated, in stocking feet, without my glasses, being watched on a video camera. They had even taken my bra (the danger of underwire!).
But we had done exactly what we needed to do. We held hands and faced the frightening beast called climate change.
Sitting in that jail cell, my brave daughter close by, I am exactly the mother I most want to be.
October 31, 2014
My brother John Lambert has translated Limonov, by award-winning French author Emmanuel Carrere, about the bad boy of Soviet literature, Edward Limonov. Sounds like a remarkable man, a remarkable and explosive ride — and a daring novel on the cusp of biography. After many years in Berlin my brother John has recently located to France with his family. See this review of Limonov — and John’s ‘crackling translation’ — in the New York Times. The novel, originally published in French, is now available from Farrar Strauss Giroux.
October 2, 2014
Do you have a story in progress you want feedback on ? Or a novel you just know could take off if you could get in and under it? If you have writing you’d like feedback on, I will be acting as Writer in Residence at the West Vancouver Memorial Library this November, from the 27th to the 30th, noon to 3:30 each day. Contact the library to sign up (604-925-7403), and you will get a half hour session, with comments and suggestions on both what is working (very important) and what you might do next to strengthen your piece. Click here for more details.
Here is a picture of a study stall at the library. Photo credit, Kerry Clare, at Pickle Me This.
June 28, 2014
Here is an insightful analysis of my story, “Oh My Darling,” in one of my favorite on-line book blogs, Steven W. Beattie’s That Shakespearean Rag (Notes from a Literary Lad).
June 13, 2014
The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award longlist is out, and I’m thrilled that “Oh, My Darling,” is on it. The list has many Canadians, including Cynthia Flood, Douglas Glover, Lynn Coady and Kathy Page. This is a huge, international prize for a book of stories, out of Cork, Ireland, and it’s an honour to be on the longlist. click here to see list.
March 3, 2014
If you are a writer struggling with how to take your writing to the next level, giving it more depth, more power, a deeper sense of symbolism — more aliveness — I hope you’ll join me for a 5-day course at Metchosin International Summer School of the Arts. Going Deeper: Writing and Revising Fiction will take place at the stunning Pearson College of the Pacific campus, June 30-July 5.
I’m excited to be teaching this course. A decade ago I took a poetry master class here with Patrick Lane. The campus is out of this world beautiful, a wonderful place to gather inspiration and explore writing. All around you there are artists, photographers, bookbinders, and musicians. There are a lot of fascinating evening discussions. A lot of cross-fertilization.
This course is designed to teach writers how to ‘get under the words,’ uncovering layers, finding connections, taking your stories or novels-in-progress to a deeper level.
It will include an exploration of:
· How to get work down in our own, authentic, voices, bypassing the internal critic.
· How to let the revision process work for you (90 percent of writing is revision!).
· How to shuck the outer skins of a piece, to get at its more fascinating heart.
· How to use the surface clues to find symbols, and bring them to the surface.
· How to build a piece that has conflict, action, and power in its DNA.
· How to know when to stop.
I’ll also be giving lots of advice on writing in general, publishing and building a writing career. It will be intense, but fun. And there will be lots of time to take walks, retreat, write, think, and explore the inspiring natural setting.
See the link here for the full course description. The cost for the course is $495 — accomodation and meals are extra. To apply you need a story draft, or first chapter from a novel-in-progress. If you’d like to view the registration guidelines, click here.
Photos: 1. The dock on campus. 2. A beautiful arbutus tree.
February 10, 2014
Oh, My Darling has won a CBC Bookie Award for best short story collection in 2013.
Thanks to the producers of CBC for nominating my book, and to readers for casting their votes for Oh, My Darling in the final run off. The Bookies were a really fun event to be involved with — half award, half get-out-the-vote campaign. It was an honour to be listed with the other writers in the short story category, whose story collections are wonderful. Other short story nominees were Lynn Coady, Austin Clarke, Nancy Jo Cullen, and Douglas Glover. The link to the CBC site is here.