Monday, February 29, 2016

Great writing workshops in March: Writing for Children & Young Adults, Writing with Style, and Writing Your Life & Other True Stories

The Calling, a YA novel by 
Kelley Armstrong, a New York Times 
#1 bestselling author
and one of Brian's students
Writing for Children & for Young Adults ~ the world’s hottest market
With guest speakers Monica Pacheco, literary agent at the McDermid Agency and Jennifer Mook-Sang, author of Speechless
Saturday, March 5, 2016
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Burlington Central Library, Centennial Room, 2331 New Street, Burlington, Ontario (Map here.)
If you want to write the next best-selling children’s books or just want to create stories for your own kids, this workshop is for you. Learn how to write stories kids and young adults will love and find out what you need to know to sell your book.
Special option: You may, but don't have to, bring 3 copies of the opening couple pages (first 500 words) of your children’s book or young adult novel (or 1,000 words if that will get you to the end of your picture book or to the end of your first chapter.) If you’re not currently working on a children’s story, don’t worry, we’ll get you started on the spot!
Monica Pacheco
Guest speaker Monica Pacheco is a literary agent with The McDermid Agency. The McDermid Agency represents literary novelists and commercial novelists of high quality and writers of nonfiction in the areas of memoir, biography, history, literary travel, narrative science, investigative journalism and true crime. 
The agency also represents children's and YA writers and also writers in the fields of science fiction and fantasy.
The McDermid Agency's clients include distinguished literary authors such as Michael Crummey, Greg Hollingshead, Andrew Pyper, Nino Ricci, David Adams Richards and Michael Winter. The agency also represents writers of narrative non-fiction, such as Charles Montgomery and James MacKinnon, both of whom won the Charles Taylor prize for literary non-fiction in their years of publication.
Monica Pacheco represents a growing list of writers. Her clients include: actress/writer/director Sarah Polley, Yves Meynard, Madeline Ashby, Marty Chan, Irina Kovalyova, Sarah Henstra, Eli K. P. William,TV food stylist Janice Poon and Bram Stoker Award-winning horror writer David Nickle.
Monica is actively seeking clients in the areas of literary and commercial fiction, young adult, middle grade, high concept picture books, fantasy and science fiction.
Jennifer Mook-Sang
We will also have author Jennifer Mook-Sang as a guest speaker. Jennifer lives and writes in Burlington. She’s as amazed as anyone to find she’s a published author. Her humorous middle grade novel Speechless was started in one of Brian Henry’s classes and was released by Scholastic in September. 
Speechless is already a hit. The CBC has named it one of the 75 best books published in 2015 (see here), and it’s a finalist for the Ontario Library Association’s Silver Birch Award. 
Jennifer was also a finalist in the Writing for Children Competition 2014 sponsored by CANSCAIP and The Writer’s Union of Canada. Jennifer will speak about how she got her first book published. 
In the meanwhile, Speechless is available online here.
Fee: 40.71+ 13% hst = 46 paid in advance by mail or Interac
or 43.36 + 13% hst = 
49 if you wait to pay at the door
To reserve a spot now, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Writing for Children & for Young Adults
… is also being offered Saturday, April 2, in Barrie, with literary agent Rachel Letofsky (see here), on Saturday, April 30, in Guelph, with Yasemin Uçar, senior editor, Kids Can Press and authors Jennifer Mook-Sang and Kira Vermond (see here), and Sunday, May 29, in Ottawa with acclaimed author Alan Cumyn (see here).

The Oakville Public Library presents …
Writing with Style
Saturday, March 12, 2016
10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Oakville Central Library, 120 Navy Street, Oakville, Ontario (Map here.)
If you do any kind of creative writing, fiction or nonfiction, this workshop is for you. We’ll tackle the nitty-gritty of putting words on paper in a way that will grip the reader’s imagination. You'll learn how to avoid common errors that drain the life from your prose. And you'll discover how to make your writing more vivid, more elegant and more powerful.
Fee: 40.71+ 13% hst = 46 paid in advance by mail or Interac
or 43.36 + 13% hst = 
49 if you wait to pay at the door
To reserve a spot now, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca

Image from Me, Myself and Ela
The Caledon Public Library presents…
Writing Your Life & Other True Stories
Saturday, March 19, 2016
10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Alton Branch of Caledon Public Library, 35 Station Street, Caledon, Ontario (West of Hwy 10, North of Regional Road 24, south of Hwy 9. 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.
Fee (including lunch!): 40.71+ 13% hst = 51 paid in advance
or 43.36 + 13% hst = 
55 if you wait to pay at the door
To let us know you’re coming, email brianhenry@sympatico.ca
or phone the library at: 905-857-1400
To register, bring cash or drop a cheque off at any branch of the Caledon Public Library  map of all branches here) or mail a cheque to:
Albion-Bolton Branch Caledon Public Library
150 Qyeen Street South
Bolton ON L7E 1E3

Writing Your Life & Other True Stories
… is also being offered Saturday, April 16, in London. Details here.

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. 
Brian is the author of a children’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Tribute Publishing Inc), and along with Cecilia-Anca Popescu, Brian is the co-author 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’s has helped many of his students get published. 

Don't ever miss a post on Quick Brown Fox. Fill in your email in the box to the right under my bio, and get each post delivered to your Inbox. Also, if you’re not yet on my newsletter, send me an email, including your locale, to: brianhenry@sympatico.ca ~ Brian

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

Sunday, February 28, 2016

“Gratitude for a Life Transformed,” by Louela Manankil-Rankin


I wracked my brain this week trying to think of some object to bring and some story to write for show and tell at Brian’s writing class. My problem is I can never say “no” and I found myself stressing over the completion of this assignment. I always feel this way whenever I engage my neurotic self into the process of creation. I am somewhat obsessive-compulsive with a flare of perfectionistic tendencies. This is not a formally diagnosed mental health issue but after observing my life over many decades, I have come to understand what makes me intense.

I finally sat at the computer and began to produce something that could be perceived as coherent. I was not aiming for logical and creative. I was attempting to design something simple but perhaps “on the other side of complex,” a phrase used by my boss. Already I was sounding incoherent; so I decided to return to the stories of my life and what pulled me into living differently this week, something from my inner world as opposed to what was out there amidst the clutter of my life. I would bring gratitude for a life transformed because of Shazia’s story “The Sand Timer” (posted on Quick Brown Fox here.)

Last week, as I sat and listened to Shazia read her story, I felt transported to a place to ponder my existence. The movement of the clothes in her closet as she ran her hands through them made me feel the presence of a life celebrated. How often have I looked at my own closet only to wonder what to wear to work the next day? 

This week, I ran my hands through my clothes and felt my own spirit and the experiences I had when I wore them. My clothes took me to memories of weddings, funerals, and graduations, and I am grateful for this experience.

Like Shazia, I, too, have a box of miscellaneous stuff that needs to be cleared out. But now I was not focused on the trinkets or the children’s’ old possessions – their first drawings, their certificates. The baggage that drew me were those issues that lay deep within myself. A suitcase full of things I wish I could change.

I continue to struggle and yearn for conversion but modifying one’s beliefs takes a great deal of muscle, energy that I find difficult to engage. I pulled a prayer from memory that sustained me over the years. It’s been the anchor that’s grounded me,  my compass that’s provided direction to keep going and forgive my weaknesses. It was my sand timer:

Fast from discontent and feast on gratitude; fast from anger and feast on patience; fast from bitterness and feast on forgiveness; fast from self-concern and feast on compassion.

Finally, Shazia talked about her will to control how her life would be spent and how it could be used to help others. The story she wrote became a trigger to my own awakening. It was a reminder to continue my work towards a better version of myself. Her words, fortified with bravery and courage, became a stronghold against my fears. It was when I felt this that I knew I wanted to bring gratitude to my show and tell.

Louela Manankil-Rankin is an academic nurse educator for Nipissing University Scholar Practitioner Program. She joined Brian’s classes in September to quench her thirst for creative writing. She started out with a class on “Memoirs” followed by her current course, “Welcome to Creative Writing”. Louela believes that writing is a way for our spirit to speak; for words reveal to us what we most need to understand. Louela lives with her husband in Oakville, Ontario.

Note: Brian will be starting a new introductory creative writing class this spring. See the details of all siz classes starting soon here. And see Brian's full schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

“Experiencing Venice,” by Lorena Perkins


I often hear people talk about wanting to go a country – say France or Italy – to experience the life and culture. But do they actually want to experience the country or simply visit it?  These aren’t the same.

I recently had a conversation with a friend, who had just returned from Venice.  Now, keep in mind that I was born near Venice, have family there and, when I do visit, often immerse myself in the everyday life of an Italian village. Which is why I became a little bothered as she began to regale me with her experiences in Venice as if she was now the guru on Italian life. 

Lorena in Venice
Listening to her speak about all the “attractions” – the gondola ride and the shopping – oh let’s not forget the shopping! I couldn’t help but think that she had disregarded all the tips I gave her about how to get a real sense of the city, its culture, its people.

Sure there are incredible historical buildings that are a must-see, and if you only have a few days to spend in this grand old city, I recommend you take the tourist route. 

But my friend was going to be there for three weeks, speaks Italian and begged me to tell her what to do and where to go to experience everyday life in Venice.  She was very explicit in saying that she didn’t want to just go there as a tourist, that she wanted a taste of a Venetian’s everyday life.

She went on to tell me of her frustration at not being able to find a Starbucks and her elation when she finally did. Are you kidding me? One of my greatest disappointments in Venice is that they allowed Starbucks and McDonalds to set up shop!  A city that serves the best coffee in the world, not to mention some of the best food in the world, had succumbed to the pressure of the tourist masses! Aghhh!

There’s a saying, “If you want to experience the true culture, shop where the locals shop, eat where the locals eat.”

"Best coffee in the world" – the pastry's not bad, either.
She couldn’t understand why the city felt the need to practically shut down at lunch time. It was very frustrating to her because there was nothing to do.

Nothing to do? Really?

When the shops close over the lunch hour, there is a calmness that blankets the city.  Walking through the narrow alleys of the city far from the tourist area, you can hear families sitting down for their lunch, “Tutti a mangare!” the mother calls. “Everyone to eat!”

The clang of plates being laid on the table, the sweet aroma of lunch that was most likely prepared by nonna after she came back from the early morning market with fresh vegetables, pasta and meat.  

You can hear the television echoing in the background, most likely on the news channel. Televisions always seem to be on at lunchtime in Italy –  and always on the news channel.  This makes for spirited conversations and, at times, passionate debates between family members as they indulge in their lunch feast.

After a while, the televisions are off. There is a sense of peacefulness – a real quiet.  This is the Venetians’ time. Perhaps it’s to steal a nap, read a book or take advantage in an afternoon delight! After all, they do have a reputation for being passionate romantics!

Whatever it is they choose to do, it is part of their way of life. Work is a mere interruption in daily routine. “Work to live – not live to work” comes to mind.

As you emerge from the narrow street you find yourself in a piazza … and it’s just you. Well, you and a few pigeons.  This is the pigeons’ lunch hour and they’re busy feasting on the bread crumbs shaken off tablecloths after lunch tables were cleared in the surrounding trattorias.  This is a zen moment, a chance to sit still for a while and listen to the water trickling from a small fountain – what joy.

As I continued to listen to my friend, I couldn’t help but think to myself, that she’d missed it.

If you had only given yourself time to just be, I thought, ignored your itinerary, allowed yourself the pleasure of getting caught up in watching and listening…

When in I’m in Venice, I never miss going to the early morning market.  I watch as the local farmers anchor their small boats to the side of the canal and begin to offload crates and crates of fresh fruit and vegetables.

In this market, you can only find fruit and vegetables in season, a peach is ready to be eaten, strawberries are sweet, watermelons are ripe.   As the men offload their precious cargo, a crowd watches, waiting anxiously as the stands are being set up.

To think that this ritual for the Venetians has taken place for hundreds of years in the same location, same time!

I love getting caught up in the passion the locals have in picking out the freshest of crimson colored tomatoes, mushrooms that had just been picked in the early morning hours – and the bantering! Oh the bantering back and forth to agree on a price.  I don’t think they banter so much what they pay, it’s just the thing one does – a joy for its own sake. The yelling back and forth – you’d think it was a huge argument when in fact, they’re talking about what to make for lunch, ending the banter with a laugh. What an experience.

By the way, while you’re at the market, do yourself a favour and buy some fruit!

I realized that my friend simply visited Venice, didn’t really experience it, and that’s all right . After all most of us just visit a place when we venture far from home.  She was content with her visit and she’ll never know what she missed.

Lorena Perkins was born near Venice, Italy, and goes home to visit whenever she can.  In June, she will return to spend time with her 92-year-old grandmother and will be bringing her grown daughter along to experience life in an Italian village. Lorena had been writing journals since the age of 12 and has amassed quite a collection. With the encouragement of her husband, she decided it was time to venture into the world of creative writing.  Joining Brian’s creative writing class is the first step. 

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Friday, February 26, 2016

You Can Write Great Characters workshop, Sunday, June 5, in Georgetown

How to Write Great Characters   
Sunday, June 5, 2016
1:30 – 5:00 p.m.
St. Alban's Church, 537 Main Street, Georgetown, Ontario (in the village of Glen Williams (Map here.)

Whatever you're writing ~ fiction or nonfiction ~ readers will care about your story only if they care about your people. In this workshop, you'll learn techniques for creating fictional characters and depicting real people. You’ll learn how to breathe life into the page so that your characters start telling you how the story should go.

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 their first book published and launch their careers as authors.

What past participants say:
Hi, Brian.
I just wanted to thank you for the “Writing Great Characters” workshop on Saturday.  I have been stalled in my writing, and I realized at the workshop it was because I didn't have a clear picture of my character's personality and motives.  Your exercises and handouts have inspired me and I'm happy to say I spent the rest of the weekend writing.  Writer's block conquered (for now, ha)!
Looking forward to all the upcoming workshops.
Marina Unger

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 Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Ratatouille: Cooking up a Modern Classic, a film review by William Henry


From The Iron Giant to The Incredibles and Up, Brad Bird’s animated movies have become modern classics. But of all Bird’s films, Ratatouille is my favourite.

The film has a Trumbo-like storyline. The protagonist Remy is a masterful chef but also a rat and can never be welcome in the kitchens of Paris. Remy befriends a janitor to act as his front, while Remy does the actual cooking.  Add the essential ingredients of a Pixar film – excitement, humour, romance, morals, and friendship – bake, and serve up one of the great animated films of all time.

The animation throughout is spot-on. Paris breathes. The characters live. Even the CGI food looks delicious.  The perfect atmosphere is accentuated by a musical score which makes the action more exciting and fun, while it really drove home parts like Ego’s monologue.

I did find the film’s beginning slow. It could have benefitted from an American Hustle feel, with a smooth as fondue presentation.  And the simplicity in the opening title bugged me; it didn’t represent the film. The title should have been superimposed over Paris, shot with the graceful atmosphere that makes Ratatouille, Ratatouille.

But I don’t intend to puncture a beautiful soufflé of a film. The critic in this film, Ego, has a lot to say about food critics who can only taste what’s bad. Film critics should also remember that, even when not every part has been baked to perfection, the overall taste may still be delicious!
***
Quick Brown Fox welcomes your book reviews and other book-related pieces and also reviews of movies or of whatever else catches your eye. Details hereRead how to write a book review (or any kind of review) here.

William Henry is 13 years old and in grade 8. He’s a big amateur film buff and a professional actor. His dad teaches creative writing and publishes Quick Brown Fox. You can read more film reviews by William here and here, and read about his adventures in Hollywood at age 7 here.  

See Brian Henry’s schedule here, including writing workshops and creative writing courses in Algonquin Park, Alton, Barrie, Bracebridge, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Guelph, Hamilton, Ingersoll, Kingston, Kitchener, London, Midland, Mississauga, Newmarket, Orillia, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, St. John, NB, Sudbury, Thessalon, Toronto, Windsor, Halton, Ingersoll, Kitchener-Waterloo, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.