Monday, January 30, 2023

Online: Finding Your Voice workshop with guest speaker Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, Saturday, April 15

Finding Your Voice

Saturday, April 15, 2023
1:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Online and accessible wherever there’s Internet

If you do any kind of creative writing, fiction or nonfiction, this workshop is for you. What do publishers and agents all look for? Voice. We’ll tackle the nitty-gritty of creating a voice that’s all you while avoiding common errors that the drain life from your prose. You’ll see how to put words on paper in a way that will grip the reader’s imagination, and you'll discover how to make your writing more vivid, more elegant and more powerful.

On the technical side, workshop leader Brian Henry, will show how authors get their voice on the page through point of view, and will look at the strengths and weaknesses of first and third person narratives – and how you decide which to use.  

Guest speaker Laurie Elizabeth Flynn will address both the personal aspect of voice and the technical.  On the personal side, she’ll talk about finding and developing her voice, about switching gears between writing YA and adult novels, and will offer advice for writers developing their own creative voices. On the technical side, she’ll speak about voice in a multi–point-of-view novel and differentiating voices of characters in a large cast. 

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published. 

Read reviews of Brian's workshops, classes, and writing retreats here (and scroll down).

Guest speaker Laurie Elizabeth Flynn is a former model who lives in London, Ontario, with her husband and their four children. Under the name L.E. Flynn, she is the author of three young adult novels: Firsts (Macmillan), Last Girl Lied To (Macmillan), and All Eyes On Her (Macmillan Imprint label). 

Her adult fiction debut, The Girls Are All So Nice Here, (Simon and Schuster) was on the bestsellers lists in Canada for two months, was sold in 11 territories worldwide and has been optioned for television by AMC. She’s hard at work on her second adult psychological suspense novel.

When she’s not writing or taking care of her kids, you can likely find Laurie hiking in the woods, perusing thrift stores for vintage dresses, or bingeing on reality TV.

Note: The Girls Are All So Nice Here, All Eyes on Her, and Firsts are available from Chapters here, and Last Girl Lied To is available from Amazon here. Visit Laurie’s website here.

Fee: $40.71 + hst = $46 paid in advance 

This workshop will be offered on Zoom. You will need a computer, tablet or smartphone with a mic and, preferably, a camera {i.e. a webcam}. 

To reserve a spot now, email:

 See all of Brian’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

“Sanctuary” by Susan Bédard

“Teach me to read,” I begged my teacher mother. “

“Yeah, teach her,” dad said.

“No, she’s too young. She’ll be bored when school starts if she can read already.”

The highlight of each week in my young life was going to the public library with my mom and siblings. Usually, when others came to visit or we were away from home I would hide behind my parents or peer cautiously around a doorframe. Visits to the one-story brick building that housed the library were different. There were other people there but we all knew that this was a place of peace and quiet. Maybe that’s what made it a sanctuary for me. It was a far cry from the noisy confusion when hordes of relatives would periodically descend on our farm and much less confusing than trying to keep track of dad at the co-op or mom at the local department store.

In the library we left the real world outside to enter an enchanted world. Once the doors swished closed behind us the magic began. I tilted my head up to watch the dusty motes of sunlight stream through the window. It was set high above the bookshelves showcasing rows of books of all sizes and colours that my four-year-old eyes found miraculous. I crouched in a corner to peek more closely at the pictures and mysterious letters, their secret treasures igniting my imagination.

Picture books fascinated me. Giraffes and hippos in dusty savannahs contrasted with seals and polar bears on glaring ice packs. My hunger to learn to read grew. Chapter books with all those letters waited to be unravelled into words and sentences and stories of far-off places and adventures.

Every week we lugged piles of books to the front desk and plopped them in front of the librarian. She whipped open each cover, pulled out the card and stamped it with the due date. The smack and thump of the rubber stamp hitting the ink-soaked pad then the paper was the loudest sound in the building.

At home again, I pointed to the pictures and words as mom read to us from the library books. I desperately wanted to be able to read for myself.

Grade one finally arrived. Now I could learn to read. Another first grader Michael, and I walked the dirt road between fields and woods to get to the town school. It was fun to swing our lunch bags and poke sticks at the grasses waving along the path. Once we surprised a turkey hiding in the fencerow into frightening flight. Learning with others the same age proved tiring but fulfilling.

Two months later, without warning, I was uprooted from my grade one world in town and thrust into despair at the two-room school in the village. The noisy yellow bus now picked me up. I lost Michael. I lost my nature walks. I lost my sense of comfort and security. I cried. All morning, every morning in those first weeks, I cried. Labelled by teachers and students alike as a crybaby made me cry even more.

Gradually, the lure of learning to read began to win me over. I hunkered down at my desk and began to decipher the squiggles on pages into letters and words and sentences: 

See dog run. The dog chased the cat.

I had found my passion, the lens through which I could see and identify the world. I now knew how to read. There was no need to be continue to be teased by kids on the bus. There was certainly no need to go back to the two-room schoolhouse.

That afternoon I announced to my parents and siblings that I was done school because I could now read. My earnest statement did not meet with much success. They all just laughed. The next day, heartbroken, I was back in school.

Until grade three ended, the public library was my only library sanctuary. Books were available on shelves in the classrooms but once I had read them all, and I did, there was nothing else available. Grade four brought big changes. The two-room schoolhouse had been renovated to have classrooms for each grade up to grade six. Best of all, there was a library. My sanctuary space had expanded. I could safely hide between the stacks and find lots more to read during those increasingly boring classes. 

The teacher tried to pin the label “retarded” on me. Testing resulted in the diagnosis: “She’s reading at a grade twelve level. She’s just bored.” That year I began to fine-tune how to tune out lessons and classmates while reading a book tucked into the shelf under my desktop. I didn’t get caught most of the time.

By grade six I was scrunched down behind my desk, so bored with the lessons but continuously reading, reading, reading. My new name, bookworm, was given by teachers and students alike. It only increased my desire to burrow through written material of all kinds. I gobbled up books, magazines and newspapers, cereal boxes, encyclopedias and dictionaries.

I missed most of my own birthday party that year. Someone made the mistake of gifting a book to me before the party was over. I managed to distance myself from the rest of my guests at an outdoor skating party in February. Mom found me curled up in a nest of straw in a wooden calf hutch near the skating area, happily engrossed in the antics of the fictional characters of my new book while the real characters of my life laughed and slid all around me. Shamed into abandoning the gift to rejoin the party brought tears from me and knowing looks from the guests. Crybaby and bookworm.

I finished the book later that night. Sanctuary was between the pages.


Susan Bédard lives in Listowel, Ontario, with her husband and mom. Mom to three adult children and newly retired, she loves connecting with her first grandchild, reading, nature, travelling and exploring all forms of creative writing.

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Sunday afternoons: Writing Kid Lit course, April 2 – May 28 ~Online

Writing Kid Lit

Picture Books to Young Adult Novels

Online: Sunday afternoons, 1 – 3 p.m.
April 2 – May 28, 2023, {0r to June 4 if it fills up; n0 class May 14)
Offered online and accessible from anywhere there's internet 

This course is for adults {or teens} interested in writing picture books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade books, or Young Adult novels. This course is accessible for beginners and meaty enough for advanced writers. Through lectures, in-class assignments, homework, and feedback on your writing, we’ll give you ins and outs of writing for younger readers and set you on course toward writing your own books.

We’ll have two children’s authors as guest speakers – TBA.

Instructor Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada's most popular blog for writers, taught creative writing at Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. Brian is the author of a children's version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Tribute Publishing). But his proudest boast is that he’s has helped many of his students get published.  

Read reviews of Brian's various courses and workshops here (and scroll down).

Fee: $193.81 plus 13% hst = $219

To reserve your spot, email:

See all of Brian’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.


Thursday, January 26, 2023

New book: One Summer at Ril Lake by Dale Rutherford writing as Margery Reynolds

Hi, Brian: 

I am happy to announce the release of One Summer at Ril Lake, under my pen name Margery Reynolds. It is the first in my Muskoka Cottage Read Series and is something entirely new from the manuscripts I was working on in class. The lessons learned and knowledge gained were invaluable and apply to writing of any genre. And so, inspired by the atmosphere during visits to a cottage on Ril Lake, many trips to the Huntsville area and by your writing retreats at The Briars and Algonquin Park this novel falls into the light romance genre.

It was described in a review by author J. J. Richardson as a, “gentle love story about family dynamics, secrets kept and secrets revealed. The characters are likeable, the plot isn't rushed and there are a few twists to keep the reader guessing. Great debut for this author.”

Here is a short synopsis:

Dale aka Margery Reynolds

All Felicity Jefferies wants is a little serenity and some alone time at her cottage to regroup after her husband’s passing. But her son’s endless questions give her anything but what she went to Ril Lake to find. Instead, they force Felicity to delve into, and reveal, family secrets she hoped would never come to light. 

All Ben Pierce wants is to mend a wounded relationship with his estranged daughter, but she wants nothing to do with him and cannot forgive him for walking away over a decade ago.

Newly acquainted neighbours at cottages on Ril Lake, Felicity and Ben unpack the baggage of their respective past relationships, while kindling a new relationship of their own. Will this new and unexpected friendship stand the test of the final secret Felicity must reveal to her family and to Ben? A secret kept buried for more than twenty years that has the ability to either heal the past or tear apart the present. The future is anybody’s guess.

The book is available in e-book or paperback format on Amazon here.

One Spring at Ril Lake, the second in the series, is slated for a May release.

With appreciate and with gratitude,

Dale M. Rutherford

Aka Margery Reynolds

See Brian Henry’s upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.


Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Labour Day Weekend Writing Retreat at Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin Park, Sept 1 – Sept 4


Algonquin Park Writing Retreat

Friday, September 1 – Monday, September 4, 2023
Arowhon Pines Resort
Arowhon Pines Road
Little Joe Lake, Algonquin Park
Ontario, Canada

Give yourself a long weekend of writing time  a weekend of instruction, inspiration and creativity. Award yourself with time away from distractions, with no dishes to do and wonderful food at every meal, as you sit with your feet up and write in the most beautiful wilderness setting in Ontario. This is where the Group of Seven got its inspiration (Tom Thompson is buried just a couple of lakes over); it’s a wonderful place for you to find your inspiration, too.

The retreat will feature both instruction and guided writing exercises, plus one-on-one critiquing and coaching from Brian.  You’ll also have lots of time to relax, rejuvenate, and reconnect with your creativity.

All writing levels welcome. Whether you are just beginning or have a novel in progress, please join us. 

This year, the retreat will again be limited to eleven participants. This will mean plenty of one-on-one time with the instructor.

The setting: Arowhon Pines is a peaceful, quiet resort nestled in the woods on Little Joe Lake inside Algonquin Park. There are no motorboats on the lake, except for the resort’s own pontoon boat which takes guests on occasional wildlife tours.

The resort is without TV and is far from the roar of traffic. The cry of a loon is the loudest noise you’re likely to hear all day.

Rates include charming accommodation (cabins have a mix of queen beds for one person or couples or twin beds for two people rooming together; rooms also have private bathrooms and each cabin has a lounge with fireplace to share with your fellow writers). 

Three all-you-can-eat gourmet meals per day are provided, featuring an abundance of fresh food prepared by master chefs and an inspired kitchen staff. (Bring your own wine or beer!)

All activities included. When you’re not writing, or for spouses who accompany you, there is plenty to do: canoe or kayak a series of lakes or hike trails to see wildlife (moose, loons, beaver, turtles, fox, deer), swim in the lake, sail, stand up paddleboard, play tennis, relax. For indoor activities there is a games room with table tennis, shuffleboard, books, board games. Your stay also includes access to all Algonquin Park programs and activities including a car pass for you to fully enjoy the park.

Check-in isn’t until 3 p.m., but guests can arrive in the morning to fully take advantage of the facilities (though the meals included in your package don’t begin until after check-in time, so lunch on Friday is extra if you arrive early). Each guest can borrow a day pass for Algonquin Park. The formal retreat will begin late Friday afternoon. On Monday, we'll have our last formal get-together at 11 a.m., ending at 12 noon. Check out time is at 1 p.m.  Most guests have lunch while the bellhops load the car. But once you’ve had lunch, don’t feel you have to rush off!

Participants are welcome to bring spouses, partners or friends, as there will be plenty to do while you’re writing – canoeing, kayaking or sailing, swimming if warm enough, tennis, reading and just plain resting and unwinding, enjoying the wilderness.

Read about a stay at Arowhon Pines here.

Instructor Brian Henry has been a book editor and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers, teaches creative writing at Ryerson University and has led workshops everywhere from Boston to Buffalo and from Sarnia to Saint John. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get their first book published and launch their careers as authors.

Read reviews of previous writing retreats at Arowhon Pines here (and scroll down). 

To see more reviews of Brian’s weekly courses and Saturday workshops, see here

Seminar fee:

For the full 4-day, 3-night retreat: $221.24 plus hst = $250

Accommodation fee (including accommodation and food, plus use of all the resort’s facilities):

$419 per person per night double occupancy ($836 per couple) OR $524 per night single occupancy, plus 15% service charge (in lieu of tipping), then plus 13% HST. 

Book early – space is strictly limited! Full receipts issued.

For more information or to register, email:

If you have questions or need more information about the accommodations,
phone the resort: 1-866-633-5661

Who can attend the retreat?

Everyone interested in developing their writing skills is welcome to attend, whether you're aspiring writer or an accomplished author or simply enjoy writing as a hobby. There is no requirement for you to have been previously published or even to have an intention to publish.

I'm a poet / playwright / other writer. Is this retreat for me?

The retreat is open to anyone who enjoys writing. Instruction will focus on narrative writing; i.e., stories, whether fiction or memoir. But if you’re an essayist or poet or whatever, you’re entirely welcome.  

Should I bring my work in progress?

Yes! If you have an on-going writing project, bring it with you. Bring more than you expect to get to; you'll have lots of time for writing. Besides, you may want to switch projects or share a project that’s just started or one that’s all done, except for reading it to a small, appreciative audience. If you’re not currently working on anything, don’t worry, we’ll get you writing.

Should I bring my laptop?

Yes, if you prefer to work on your laptop. If you prefer to work on paper bring that. Or go crazy and bring both your laptop and your notebook.

Can you cater to specific dietary requirements?

Yes, just let the staff at Arowhon Pines know beforehand about your needs.

I want to stay longer or arrive early. Is that possible?

If you want to stay longer, that’s fine. Just arrange it with the resort. I don’t Arriving early isn't possible, though, as our retreat is scheduled for their opening weekend. There is plenty to see and do in the park, and Arowhon Pines is a lovely base from which to explore. Arowhon will keep the same rate throughout your stay.

Is there cell phone reception and WIFI?

Arowhon Pines is an island of luxury, but in the midst of wilderness, so spotty cell phone at best and no WIFI, though there are landlines and there’s access to the resort’s Internet connection. (Contact the resort for details.) But be sure to have your writing projects on your laptop when you come, not stored in the Cloud.

How about alcohol?

Arowhon does not serve alcohol, but guests are welcome to bring their own wine, beer or whatever to have with meals or back at your cabin or wherever. (Though do note that Hemingway’s advice to write drunk, mostly produces drivel.)

Can I bring my spouse?

Certainly. Just let them know you’ll be spending most of your time writing, (though you will have some free time every day), and make sure they enjoy superb food, beautiful wilderness, and relaxing on the deck or the dock or out on a canoe as they glide past a moose munching on water lilies.

For more information about the resort, visit their website here.

For more information or to register, email: 

To book your accommodation at Arowhon Pines, phone toll free: 1-866-633-5661
And be sure to tell them you're with the writing retreat!

Or you can book on-line here~ But be sure to also phone and tell them you're with the writing retreat!