Saturday, May 23, 2015

The Jaguar’s Children by John Vaillant, reviewed by Sally Wylie

The Jaguar’s Children, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015, Hard cover $18.77 (here) or $14.99 Kindle (here)

John Vaillant authored a work of non-fiction in 2005 titled, The Golden Spruce: a true story of myth, madness and greed.  It is a treasure of Native Canadian history, the logging industry and issues of who owns the land.  The forests of Haida Gwaii are matched by the story of Grant Hadwin, who felled the last and only living Golden Spruce.  The tree took two days to fall; it was 300 years old.

Vaillant brings the same dedicated attention to detail and riveting expose of controversial issues to his new work of fiction, The Jaguar’s Children.

Hector is a young man who grew up in a rural area outside the city of Oaxaca, the second poorest state in Mexico.  He is Zapotecan.  In Mexico, that means he is a second-class citizen, and more impoverished, exploited, and punished than others in the Mexican population.  To his advantage, he speaks some English, and his father believes he can escape to El Norte. 

We are thrown into the story with Hector and his friend Cesar who are inside an abandoned  water truck in the desert where the temperature rises to over 100 degrees during the day and freezes cold at night. The smugglers – the coyotes – have left them and 14 others to die when the truck broke down in a remote area of Texas.

John Vaillant
As the hours (and days) drag on, Hector tries, using the one cell phone left to them, calling the one name with an American code, AnniMac.  He begins telling his story to AnniMac by time frames during the day, and then, as days go by, the two bars of the cell phone dwindle to one bar. He no longer uses the phone for hope, but as a lantern to see briefly into to the misery of their existence.

He distracts himself by thinking of his mother, father and the life in the older days of Mexico. Here is where Vaillant is at his best describing in Spanish and English the language of the downtrodden, how the old days and the new betrayed the poor, the relevance of corn to the culture and their dedication to their ancient religion.  Vaillant tells Hector’s stories so convincingly; any reader must believe he lived there.

With each passing day Hector feels the slime growing thickly on the inside walls. The smells choke him, and the people trapped in the truck’s steel bowels cry and moan. He tells himself more stories, and we learn of Hector’s family and the link to their ancestor, the jaguar. 

In one story, two brothers see a jaguar approaching and think it will attack them.  They raise their weapons.  The jaguar says, “Is that any way to greet your grandfather?” That night the jaguar takes them into the hills and valleys to the mountain where he says, “This is my home.  I invite you to share it with me.”  “How can we repay you for this kindness?” they ask the jaguar.  He responds: “Remember who brought you here.” 

“Aha,” you say, convinced the ancestral story gives the book’s meaning, but wait.  Vaillant’s ironic voice asks us to put a “J” in front of the word agua – water – and an “r” after it.  Is he speaking about the illegals—the   Jaguar’s Children—inside the agua truck?  It is yet another layer of mystery which Vaillant creates while we bake with Hector in the dark heat of the jaguar’s belly daring to hope with only a capful of water a day.   

Sally Wylie is co-authoring the fifth edition of a text titled Observing Young Children:  Transforming early learning through reflective practice with Nelson Publishing.  She is currently writing a story for middle grade readers, plus other works.

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The two rules of writing

Many thanks to the Writing Sisters for this image

There may also be some techniques that are worth learning....

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Writing Your Life & Other Personal Stories, Sat, Aug 15, in Midland

Writing your life and other personal stories
Saturday, August 15, 2015
1:00 – 4:30 p.m.
Midland Public Library, 320 King Street, Midland, Ontario (In cottage country. Map here)

Have you ever considered writing your memoirs or family history? This workshop will introduce you to the tricks and conventions of telling true stories and will show you how to use the techniques of the novel to recount actual events. Whether you want to write for your family or for a wider public, don't miss this workshop.

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 Charlottetown. Along with Cecilia-Anca Popescu, he is the co-author with of Bloody Christmas, a memoir of love and revolution, which is currently under consideration with a literary agent. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published.

Fee:  34.51 + hst = 39 in advance or 37.17 + hst = 42 if you wait to pay at the door
To reserve a spot now, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

See Brian’s full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How to Write Great Dialogue workshop, Saturday, November 7, at the Oakville Public Library

The Oakville Public Library presents…
How to Write Great Dialogue
 The writer’s most important tool
Saturday, November 7, 2015
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Oakville Central Library, 120 Navy Street, Oakville, Ontario (Parking is around the back of the library and then up the hill a bit on Water Street, across from the Canoe Club. Map here.)

Accessible to beginners and meaty enough for experienced writers, this workshop will show you how to use dialogue to make your stories more dynamic and dramatic. Whether you’re writing fiction or memoir, you need to be able to write great dialogue and need to know how to mix your dialogue and narrative so that your characters come alive.  Come to this workshop and learn both the basics and the best tricks of the trade so that you'll never write a lifeless scene again.

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 Charlottetown. 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 Brian's weekly courses and Saturday workshops here.

Fee: 40.71+ 13% hst = 46 paid in advance
or 43.36 + 13% hst = 
49 if you wait to pay at the door

To reserve a spot now, email:
brianhenry@sympatico.ca

See Brian’s full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

New literary agent Penny Moore of FinePrint seeks Picture Books, Middle-Grade, YA, and adult fiction; also nonfictionKa

FinePrint Literary Management
115 West 29th Street 
3rd floor 
New York, NY 10001
http://fineprintlit.com/

Penny Moore is the latest edition to the team at FinePrint, and like all new agents, she needs authors. Penny represents picture books, middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction. She’s also open to nonfiction projects in the realm of pop culture, humor, travel, food, and pets.

In picture books she’s looking for anything with fun off-the-wall concepts to memorable heartfelt messages. As for MG and YA, she’s interested in all genres, and is seeking inventive works that combine well-defined voice, complex characters, and compelling plot lines. She’s especially keen on YA fantasy, historical fiction, sci-fi, and contemporary stories exploring romance and the complications of growing up.

In adult fiction, her tastes lean towards literary, speculative fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, psychological thrillers, and select romance projects including New Adult.

While completing degrees in Linguistics and Japanese Language & Literature at the University of Georgia, she spent time studying comparative literature at top universities in Japan and South Korea. She then worked as a middle school TESOL teacher, a period during which she grew to love and understand the children’s book market. In 2013 she found her way to FinePrint as an intern, officially joining the agency in 2014, and has since been actively working to build her list with exceptionally talented clients.

Query Penny at: penny@fineprintlit.com
Include the first ten pages of your manuscript pasted into the body of the email, with the word QUERY in the subject line. Please query only one project at a time and do not send unsolicited attachments as they will remain unread and deleted immediately.

Martha Magor Webb
Brian Henry will lead "How to Get Published: workshops in Windsor (for my American readers, that's just across the river from Detroit), on Sunday, May 31, with Martha Magor Webb of the Anne McDermid Agency (see here) and in Mississauga on Saturday, June 20, again with Martha Magor Webb (here).

Brian will also lead “How to Write a Bestseller,” with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, Saturday, June 13, in Toronto (here).

For more information or to register, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Kelley Armstrong
Other upcoming workshops, include “Secrets of Writing a Page-turner,” Saturday, May 23, in Barrie (see here) and Saturday, June 6, in Georgetown (here), “How to Build Your Story,” Saturday, May 30 in Guelph (here), and "How to Write Great Characters,"Saturday, July 11 in Burlington (here) and Saturday, July 18 in Kitchener (here).

This summer, Brian will lead a "Welcome to Creative Writing" course on Thursday evenings and two "Intensive Creative Writing" courses, one on Tuesday afternoons, the other on Thursday afternoons, all in Burlington. Details here

For more information or to reserve a spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian's full schedule 
here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

“Day of Grace,” by Brian Connelly

Towards the end there was one day like no other. It was late October when the shortened days and lengthening shadows brought bright, intense sunlight. The sky was clear and cloudless. Something else was very different that day.

“I feel pretty good today.  I think I’d like a Tim’s double-double.”

“You sure?  You were sick yesterday.”

“Yeah. I feel okay. Where’s Tanya?”

“Left early today. She’s got a home game, remember?”

Tanya was seventeen going on thirty as she tried to make sense of her life. Co-captain of the field hockey team at school, helping look after Joy, her sick mom, as best she could, and wanting to do both at the same time.

“Are you going to watch the game?”

“Let me get the coffee, get you settled and see how the day goes.”

Bathing, laundry, meal preparation, and the nurse’s daily visit made up the grim routine. I returned with the coffee, one double-double – Joy’s – and one black – mine.

As I handed Joy her coffee, I said, “At least your hair’s coming back. You have more than me now.” She laughed at this, a sound I hadn’t heard in a long time.

I watched as she enjoyed her coffee in the sunroom, now warm. She was dressed, in her chair, wrapped in a blanket, with a funky wool hat perched on her head.

“Is that cap to keep you warm or cover your hair?”

“Maybe neither. Maybe I just like the hat.  Too bad it’s not a Jays’ hat.”

Some more idle talk that I so wish I could remember followed, and soon it was noon. Then, “When does her game start?” she asked.

“Two thirty.”

“You should go.  I’ll be alright here for a few hours.”

“If I go at all, it’ll be for the second half. This is the last home game of the season, so I’m sure there’s an event after.”

“Who are they playing?”

“Not sure.  Maybe King City?  Do you want to get back into bed for a while?  It’s time.” Medication time. It always made her drowsy, but it kept the pain down. Giving medication on a schedule dictated by the clock not the emergence of pain kept her mostly ahead of it. From experience, we’d learned waiting for the pain to come calling only made it stronger and needed a bigger dose to force it back down.

I prepared the syringe and passed it to Joy. She was a nurse and always inspected my work.

“This is fine.  You’re getting good at this.”

A large hospital bed dominated the room.  A stool beside the bed made it easier for her to get in.   The bed controls were taped to a rail so she could control the height and angle of the bed. She got in slowly, carefully and un-aided, though not un-watched. Once I had taken her arm to assist her. She’d jerked her arm away and glared at me, saying “Not yet.  I can still do this much on my own.”

 The medication took effect almost immediately and she slept. Forty-five minutes later she woke, quite unusual lately as she often slept two hours at a time.

“Brian, I feel pretty good today.  What time is her game?”

“It starts in about an hour or so.  Why?”

“It looks like it’s pretty warm outside.  I’d like to go and see her play.”

If she’d asked that a month earlier, my response would have been, “Are you nuts? You could get a secondary infection and be back in the hospital.” But she’d taught me that when you’re losing your health you want to be sure you don’t lose even more important things, like time, precious time with your kids. I grudgingly acknowledged she was right. Again.

“Okay, I’ll get a lawn chair and blanket. It could get windy.”

“If it is I’ll sit in the car. Let’s go.  Please.”

Lately she was more irritable, even explosive.  Today she was tender, vulnerable and scared. A tear raced down her cheek, moving fast because no eyelashes were left to slow it down.

“Okay, give me a minute to get the stuff in the car, then I’ll help you in.”

A regular, fixed schedule was the only way I knew to get through the week. The doctor on Monday, the nurse every day, visitors as scheduled. I needed to control as much as possible in a universe that spun with “no rhythm, no meter, no rhyme.” A Tim’s double-double was not on the schedule; neither was Tanya’s game.  None of that mattered. Joy was determined to go and nothing on earth would stop her.

Joy hadn’t been outside for several weeks, yet that day she walked out the front door, down the stairs and into the car unassisted. She was cold at first but the car spit out heat as we drove to the school. The game was well under way when we arrived, with a crowd of spectators on one sideline. Joy made her way down that sideline, unnoticed by most of the fans. I set up the chair, wrapped her in a blanket and watched.  I was edgy.  Too many things could go wrong. My fragile sense of control was slipping.

Field hockey is a game I don’t understand.  What I saw was a group of girls in skirts, shin pads, helmets and gloves chasing each other with large curved sticks. A ball was struck and then the chase would resume in a different direction. Tanya was long-legged and her hair was either blondish red or reddish blonde depending on the light she was in. Her focus was on the game.  She was not aware I was present and certainly not with her mom.

A loud whistle signaled half time. The team assembled in a semi-circle around the coach, slurping water and chattering to each other. The coach signaled for silence and began to talk to the team. I walked down the sideline towards them. When the coach was finished, I made eye contact with Tanya.  Strands of hair stuck to her forehead, glued there by her sweat. Her knees were grass-stained green and line-marker white.

She stepped away from the team.

“Hi Dad. When did you get here? How’s Mom?”

“Arrived just before halftime.  She’s having a pretty good day.”

“I should get back,” She gestured towards the team.

“Someone special came to watch the game today. You’d best go and say hello.”

Tanya looked down the sideline and saw her mom. She ran back to her coach, said a few words and then raced down the sideline to Joy, dropping her stick as she ran. I’m sure I ran too, and I remember picking up Tanya’s stick along the way. Tanya stopped in front of Joy and without a word, buried her head in her mom’s lap. There were a few tears, of course, then hugs, more tears and a few comments about how Tanya looked. The whistle sounded the start of the second half.  Tanya ignored it.

Joy said, “You’d better get going, they’re starting to play.”

“I told the coach you were here.  I’m second shift this half.”

“You’re still part of the team. You’d better get down there with them.  I’ll be right here.”

 Tanya took her stick and jogged back to her team. Several teammates came over to her and either patted her back or hugged her.  At the next stoppage of play she went onto the field.

I would like to tell you that Tanya stepped up her game, worked her way down the field and scored the winning goal right in front of her mom. The truth is I don’t recall much about the game anymore and neither does Tanya. She didn’t score, and I’m pretty sure they lost the game, but none of that matters.

The rest of the day is a blur to me now. All I remember, and with astonishing clarity, is that late fall afternoon, those special few hours watching one of our kids play, and the simple pleasure of a shared coffee that transformed that day into a day of grace.

Like all days, this one ended, and like all good days, it ended too soon. The few days left with Joy were increasingly spent managing pain, sickness and sadness, hers and ours. Less than a month later, the cancer took Joy. That day of grace was Joy’s last gift to us. It sustained us as the days grew even shorter. It sustains us even now.

Brian Connelly recently retired after more than 30 years in the mental health field. Now writing full time, he is delighted to discover writing is good for his own mental health. He still enjoys running, but at a more sedate pace than formerly. Brian lives in Toronto with his wife and spends as much time as possible with his grand-kids.  “Day of Grace” previously appeared in CommuterLit, and "The Vinyl Cafe” has short-listed it for future use on air.


See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

New book: Wish List by A.R. McKinnon

Hi, Brian.
I've taken several of your courses over the past few years How to write a Bestseller with guest author Kelley Armstrong, Writing Great Dialogue, Writng and Revising and How to get published and I wanted to write to let you know that I’ve now published my first novel, Wish List, with Loose Id...

Wish List
A shadow of her former self since the horrific car accident that claimed the lives of her immediate family, Allison Thacker has lost her spirit and is wishing for more in her life. Her best friend steps in helping her create a wish list of desires to reignite Allison's creativity and passion. With a little luck and scheming Allison's letter falls into the hands of Marcus Brighton, the letters main focus, and to Allison's surprise her wish list brings her not one but two men to grant her wishes.

Just as she is opening up again and finding herself again her carefully reconstructed world crumbles around her. Her lovers Marcus and Jackson have a secret and it's one that could destroy her, if she lets it. Can they persuade her to open heart and trust them a second time?

Wish List is available through Loose Id here.

Thanks for sharing in your news letter.
A.R McKinnon

See Brian Henry's schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Monica Odom joins Bradford Literary Agency, seeks nonfiction and fiction

Monica Odom
Bradford Literary Agency
5694 Mission Center Rd. #347
San Diego, CA 92108

Monica Odom recently joined Bradford Literary Agency and is actively looking for authors. Prior to joining Bradford, she worked for five years managing finance, subrights and social media at Liza Dawson Associates, and became an associate agent there in 2013. 

Monica earned her Masters in Publishing: Digital & Print Media from New York University in 2014, and has a B.A. in English from Montclair State University.

Monica is seeking: Nonfiction by authors with demonstrable platforms in the areas of: pop culture, illustrated/graphic design, food and cooking, humor, history and social issues. She is also looking for narrative nonfiction in these areas, and some memoir. She loves to see a personal project turn into something original and surprising.

Fiction in the areas of: literary fiction, upmarket commercial fiction, compelling speculative fiction and magic realism, historical fiction, alternative histories, dark and edgy fiction, literary psychological thrillers, and illustrated/picture books.

Literary agent Martha Magor Webb will
be the guest speaker at "How to Get Published"
workshops Sunday, May 31 in Windsor (see here)
and Saturday, June 20 in Mississauga (see here).
Monica is most actively seeking adult projects, but is open to all levels of children’s projects and holds the same criteria no matter the age group: original storytelling, incredible voice, compelling characters, and vivid, detailed setting. She also likes to see a strong sense of narrative tension.

Monica is serious about the fact that we need diverse books and is looking for authentic representation of all characters, diverse or otherwise. She enjoys working closely with her clients on the editorial and developmental level to fine-tune manuscripts and proposals, and loves the process of managing a writer or artist’s career.

Some things Monica is especially interested in right now:
– Bold, fresh, fun, fearless female voices (one or all of these qualities)
– Unreliable narrators
– 1990’s nostalgia (culture and/or setting)
– Clever juxtaposition of high-brow and low-brow culture
– Stories and projects about families, siblings, coming-of-age, race, feminism, socioeconomics and inequality, memory, language, domestic themes, and environmental change
– Character or characters traveling, on the road, nomads with or without a destination
– A subtle but effective debunking of stereotypes and convention.

Query Monica at: monica@bradfordlit.com
The subject line must begin as follows: QUERY: (The title of the manuscript and any short message you would like the agency to see should follow)
For fiction, include your first chapter and a synopsis.
For nonfiction, include a full proposal, including the first chapter. For the agency’s preferences for a nonfiction proposal, see here.

Kelley Armstrong
Brian Henry will lead "How to Get Published" workshops workshops in Windsor (for my American readers, that's just across the river from Detroit), on Sunday, May 31, with Martha Magor Webb of the Anne McDermid Agency (see here) and in Mississauga on Saturday, June 20, again with Martha Magor Webb (here).

Brian will also lead “How to Write a Bestseller,” with New York Times #1 bestselling author Kelley Armstrong, Saturday, June 13, in Toronto (here).

For more information or to register, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Other upcoming workshops, include“Secrets of Writing a Page-turner,” Saturday, May 23, in Barrie (see here) and Saturday, June 6, in Georgetown (here), “How to Build Your Story,” Saturday, May 30 in Guelph (here), and "How to Write Great Characters," Saturday, July 11 in Burlington (here) and Saturday, July 18 in Kitchener (here).
This summer, Brian will lead a "Welcome to Creative Writing" course on Thursday evenings and two "Intensive Creative Writing" courses, one on Tuesday afternoons, the other on Thursday afternoons, all in Burlington. Details here

For more information or to reserve a spot, email: brianhenry@sympatico.ca
Read reviews of Brian’s courses and workshops here.

See Brian's full schedule 
here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Barrie, Brampton, Bolton, Burlington, Caledon, Cambridge, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Kingston, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Niagara on the Lake, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.