Local Support!

I was very pleased when our local arts council asked to interview me for their website.

Writers need support.  Yes, we work alone, in silence or not, depending on our individual preferences, and much of our thinking and plotting and creating is done in solitude, too.  But we need colleagues to talk to, and when we get to publication, we need a different sort of support: publicity.  So I was very pleased when our local arts council asked to interview me for their website.  Here’s the link:

https://guelpharts.ca/marian-thorpe-launches-the-empire-s-hostage

Thanks again to the Guelph Arts Council!

Community

Yesterday I saw a glimpse the other side of it, the heart and soul and sweat and generosity, of time and talent and spirit, that makes the festival.

Yesterday I read at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, in the tiny Ontario hamlet of Eden Mills. I was reading because the two pieces I had submitted to the Fringe contest, for not-yet-widely-published authors, had been chosen by the jury. Four poems in the first submission, and a short story in the second.

eden-mills-wall

I’ve been going to this festival on and off for the last twenty-five years. Eden Mills, a hamlet of many 19th century limestone and clapboard houses, spans the Eramosa River. Readings are done outdoors, mostly, in back yards running down to the river; in a sculpture garden, on the grounds of the old mill, in a re-purposed chapel. It’s been a way to spend a lovely September afternoon, listening to people read, eating ice cream, browsing the books in the publishers’ way.

Yesterday I saw a glimpse the other side of it, the heart and soul and sweat and generosity, of time and talent and spirit, that makes the festival. The Fringe readers were treated no differently from anyone else reading: we were invited to the authors’ lounge, (which had taken over the ground floor of a resident’s house) where there was coffee and breakfast pastries available when we got there, then lunch, and later wine and nibbles. Conversations were open and welcoming; I talked to Steven Burrows, another birder and author of birding mysteries (we talked about birding, not writing), and then I talked to the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada, George Elliott Clarke, about the surreality of beginning a writing career in my fifties. (His take on it? It’s a good time; fewer distractions).

I read in a natural half-ampitheatre with the river behind me and people ranged in lawn chairs, on blankets, on the grass, on the hill in front of me. My readings both went well – I was sure I was going to stumble over the line “No survey stake or draughtsmen’s pen rules here” (try saying that!) in one of my poems, but I didn’t.

In between the readings, I mostly worked the table of Vocamus Press, the Guelph-based small press that also promotes and publicizes the work of other Guelph writers. This too is hard work, lots of chatting to people (many aspiring writers), selling a few books, handing out cards for the book promotion Vocamus is doing in October. I was a poor backup for Luke, the founder, whose natural salesmanship is far better than mine.

At the end of the day, in the middle of a conversation about literary theory and criticism with a young poet, after a glass of well-earned wine at the lounge, we took ourselves to the village hall for the dinner for all the authors and publishers. Salads, rolls, butter chicken and rice for the first course – and wine on the table, replenished when we’d emptied a bottle – but it was the desserts that were the crowning touch. Because residents of Eden Mills take it on to bake pies – goodness knows how many – for this annual event. How many pies do you need to feed more than fifty hungry writers, plus publishers, volunteers, and organizers? However many it is, they did it. And they were goooood.

There are two – or maybe three – intertwined communities here: the community of Eden Mills, which welcomes, organizes, hosts, bakes, provides food, opens homes, washes dishes (and puts up with writers taking over the village once a year): the supportive, involved people who don’t live, perhaps, in the village, but who are nonetheless integral parts of the Festival, whether it’s organizing the Fringe, arranging the buses, selling books on the Publishers’ Way, and doing a thousand other things I’m not aware of. And then there are the writers themselves, who were again most welcoming, generous, and open, with their time and their thoughts. I was proud to be, in a small way, part of these communities on Sunday.

Thank you, Eden Mills Writers’ Festival!

More Good News!

I’ve just learned that my local library has ordered Empire’s Daughter for its collection. That’s quite rewarding, really; it’s really nice to see the library supporting local authors.  So now it’s in three libraries – two public (the other one is my university’s library, as part of its Campus Author program) and one private (the library of the rec centre in the over-55 community in which I live.)

And I’ve finally worked out a thorny problem in the sequel, so it’s coming on a-pace!

 

 

 

A Dream Come True

Can you imagine how that feels?

For thirty-eight years–since I came here for university in 1978–I have frequented the aisles of an independent bookstore in my city, starting at its original location and moving with it to its purpose-built new home, which included a cafe, and after a few years, a cinema. I’m not exaggerating when I say it has been, and is, a cultural hub here, and is in part responsible for the fact that we have a small but healthy downtown, one filled with cafes and interesting stores, music venues and concerts, art shows, and summer markets. It’s been a labour of love from one family, into the second generation now.

I used to look at all eclectic books…and dream that one day a title of mine would join them. Delivered to them today, soon Empire’s Daughter will grace the Young Adult fiction shelves. I am excited, awed, honoured. Of all the places it can be bought, this is the one that matters to me. This is the one that validates me as a writer. This is the dream come true.  Can you imagine how that feels?

The Kindness of Strangers

I don’t know any of these people from Adam, and they had no reason to even respond to me…

A week or so ago, I was researching battles to find one I could model a battle in Empire’s Hostage on.  Battle strategy and action are NOT my strong point!  After entering the keywords I wanted into Google, I was led to a website on medieval warfare, which had a wonderful detailed description of the Battle of Stamford Bridge.  It was perfect.

So, I emailed the site’s contact for permission to adapt the description, explaining how I wanted to use it.  He emailed me back, telling me that those articles were written by someone else, who held the copyright – but was kind enough to start an email conversation with that writer and me.  Today I heard back from the author, who gave me permission….and then, having checked out Empire’s Daughter on Amazon, bought the book!

I don’t know any of these people from Adam, and they had no reason to even respond to me, except that they are kind and polite people. The sort the world needs more of.  I’ll pass that kindness on in some way, if I can….and I have to say, it made my day.

 

 

ChiSeries, Covers, and Cash

It is a little intimidating for an indie writer to be reading alongside two established names in genre fiction…

This past Tuesday, I had the honour of reading at the ChiSeries here in Guelph. Some background; the ChiSeries (The Chiaroscuro Reading Series) is a national Canadian reading series put on in a number of cities, promoting genre writing. I was reading along with two award winning and/or major award nominee writers of science fiction and fantasy: A.M. Dellamonica and Kelly Robson.

Spinnings Final Cover
Available on Amazon

It is a little intimidating for an indie writer to be reading alongside two established names in genre fiction…and it’s even more so to be reading last. But it seemed to go ok….the applause for my reading (I read an abridged version of my short story In an Absent Dream, currently published in my e-chapbook Spinnings), was hearty and I think genuine, and Kelly had some kind words for me. It’s allergy season, so I was concerned my voice wouldn’t hold out, but it did, although I think it was a bit scratchy by the end.

Family members and writing group members came along to support me, which was truly appreciated. I’d also got the proof version of the paperback of Empire’s Daughter that day, so I brought it along, mostly for reactions to the cover (positive, I’m happy to say!) I’ll be posting the cover soon, once I have an actual launch date. I’m still working on finding all the errors and correcting the proof.

And I’m actually (and unusually) getting paid – an honorarium – for the reading, thanks to various levels of government that support the ChiSeries. My (and yours, if you’re Canadian) tax dollars, supporting genre writers. How very nice.

Brexit, birds and boxes

The disruption to my writing life from the move has settled down, and the opportunities are emerging.

The disruption to my writing life from the move has settled down, and the opportunities are emerging. My new city has a vibrant and supportive writers’ community, as I’ve said before; yesterday I went to my first ‘Genre Writers Group’ meeting in a downtown coffee shop. This is a brand new group, so it seems I made my move at a good time!

Six of us met at this first meeting, self-published and traditionally published, experienced and newbies and in-betweeners. We talked about plotting and planning vs free-flow writing; we talked about sales, and mostly we talked about publicity and marketing, exchanging ideas and opportunities. As a result of this, I sent an email yesterday afternoon and have been accepted to read at the next Chi Reading Series here. Put on by Chizine Publications, the Chiaroscuro Reading Series takes place in a number of Canadian cities every few months and focuses on fantasy, science fiction, and horror. I’m not sure what I’m reading yet – it will depend on the time given – but it’s a chance to network with other genre writers and to reach a larger audience. I’ll keep you posted!

I’m back to the Writing Room, the Monday morning quiet-space-and-coffee meeting, after an absence of six months. I made it back just in time to read at our spring open-mic night last week. I chose to read from Empire’s Hostage, which has been on the back burner as well for the last half-year, figuring it would give me the prod to get back into it. Which it did, and perhaps all the better for the hiatus – and perhaps too for the reactions and emotions stemming from the Brexit vote, which in some ways reflect the themes of the book: what is independence? Does a country stand better on its own, or as part of a larger unity? Where do concepts of love of country, love of leaders, duty, stand when allegiances shift?

In a different mode, I’m also writing a monthly birding column for our neighbourhood newsletter, and have been ‘coerced’ (not really) into the production team, which means I am learning desktop publishing software in my spare time. It’s a very different type of writing and editing, but it’s all writing.

I should get a review out in another week or so, and hope then to be back into a rhythm on those. I’ve started investigating paperback production for my books, and I’m looking into some creative writing courses, either at the university or at the local college, in the autumn. For the next two days, I’m giving my niece, who is heading off to university in Halifax in September to study journalism (another writer in the family!) a mini-vacation, exploring this city and environs, riding bikes, eating ice cream, hiking the river trails.

Somehow I think the boxes still languishing in the basement may never be unpacked…when will I have the time?

A Humbling Experience

I felt a little bit like a fraud, to be honest.

Once a year, my alma mater, the University of Guelph, honours its faculty, staff and alumnae who have published, edited, or illustrated a book in the last year.  This year’s honourees included winners of and nominees for some of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards, including Thomas King, Dionne Brand and Alison Pick…and alongside those well-known names was me.

campus author poster

Which was a humbling experience, let me tell you.  There I was, author of a self-published, moderately successful e-book for young adults, being feted in exactly the same way as these major authors, whose books are taught and read in schools and universities, who have won major prizes….I felt a little bit like a fraud, to be honest.  But, on the other hand, the University knew exactly what I had written and published, and they chose to include me (and others like me).  I thought that was wonderfully democratic and non-hierarchical….and also typical of my university and its community.

My plaque has pride of place on my office wall.  I will admit that I do keep looking at it.

Thank you, alma mater. May you never change your attitudes and beliefs.

Open Mike Night

In a couple of weeks we’re doing an evening session, a salon – basically an open mike night for the writers who write here.

Our revered and celebrated local bookstore/restaurant/cinema opens its restaurant/bar area to writers on Monday mornings.  It’s just a quiet place to write, with internet access, coffee and tea, and focus.  No instruction, no conversation.

I’ve just started attending this fall.  Sometimes people record on the chalkboard what they are working on – business writing, theses, novels, short stories, memoirs, blog entries.  I use the time to work on Empire’s Hostage. It’s highly productive: there are no distractions, and unlike working at the university library I can leave my laptop and phone on the table when I go to the washroom, or to move my car to avoid a parking ticket.

In a couple of weeks we’re doing an evening session, a salon – basically an open mike night for the writers who write here.  I’m both looking forward to it and apprehensive.  Two of the writers who come on Monday mornings – regulars – have both been nominated for prestigious national writing awards.  And I’m going to read an excerpt from my genre fiction?

But yes, I am.  While I’m in awe of writers who are writing work worthy of major book awards, I’m not one of them. I write to tell a simple story to entertain – and I hope to some extent challenge – young adults (or maybe anyone over the age of twelve) and to explore landscapes, both physical and of the mind.  I do it the best I can, and that’s what I’ll read.  And because I know this city, and the attitudes of those for whom this bookstore is an important part of their lives, there won’t be judgement, or negativity.  We’ll appreciate each others writing, regardless of genre, or publishing contract, or experience. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Editorial Services Contest – Two Days Left! (And please re-blog!)

I was gently reminded that:

  1.  I should have posted this on a weekend to reach the most possible people – so the giveaway contest has been extended slightly…and…
  2. I should have asked people to re-blog more “forcefully” (not my words!)…so…please do…:-)

Here’s the original post:

I am a lucky indie writer.  My young-adult adventure novel, Empire’s Daughter, was accepted for publication by a small press, which meant it received the entire professional editorial process, edited for story, continuity, copy-edited, etc., by two very talented editors.  Sadly the press went out of business – it’s a tough world – before Empire’s Daughter was published, but I benefited enormously and learned a LOT through the months of editing and re-writing. So when I published Empire’s Daughter through Smashwords and Amazon, it was polished to a high standard and has sold well.

This is not an opportunity many new writers get, and it’s one I’d like to pay forward.  So here’s my offer:  I will provide editorial services free of charge to one indie author in each of the following editorial capacities:

  1.  Story review – a read-through of the manuscript, suggestions for expansion/contraction of the story, voice, character development;
  2. Copy-editing – a detailed read of a finished manuscript for typos, grammar and spelling, name change errors, and the like.

Here’s how the give-away works.  First, go into this blog site and read some of my work – there is fiction, non-fiction, verse and a short story to look at.  If you don’t like my writing, then you probably shouldn’t enter. (You can, of course, it’s up to you!)  Then, either in the comments below or by e-mail to marianlthorpe at gmail.com, let me know the following:

Your name, the name and genre of your work, and whether you want a story review or a copy-edit.  All entries received in the next week will be literally put into a hat (by category) and one name for each pulled out by my husband.

And you must be an author without a book contract.  Those of you with contracts will have access to these services – as I did – so please leave this free opportunity to those who need it.  Clearly, I can’t check this, so you are on your honour on this aspect.

Oh, and the work has to be in English.  I speak execrable French and read it to some extent, but not well enough for this…and that’s the end of my multi-lingual abilities.