Wednesday, April 29, 2020

How to Write Great Dialogue, Saturday, Aug 15, online

How to Write Great Dialogue

Due to the pandemic, this workshop will now be offered online on Saturday, August 15. Details here.

Saturday, August 8, 2020
{rescheduled from May 2}
1:00 – 4:30 p.m.
St. Cuthbert’s Anglican Church, 1541 Oakhill Drive, Oakville, Ontario (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 that both sounds natural and packs dramatic punch, and you need to know how to mix your dialogue and narrative so that your characters come alive. 
Come to this workshop and learn all about writing dialogue  both the basics and the best tricks of the trade. 

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 St. John. But his proudest boast is that he has helped many of his students get published.
Read reviews of Brian's Saturday workshops, weekly courses and weekend retreats, here {and scroll down}.

Fee: $37.17 + hst = $42 paid in advance or $39.82 + hst = $45 at the door
To reserve a spot now, email:

See Brian’s full schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

”Memories of My Mother’s Kitchen” by Cindy Robinson

My mother certainly could have been a professional chef; everything she cooked, baked, fried, or assembled was delicious.  There was always something on the stove ready for anyone who might be hungry.  When I was dating Steve, my husband-to-be, he loved to come in after a night out because there would always be some leftovers or homemade soup for a late-night snack. 
     As I remember my mother’s kitchen, I think of the five senses. 
     I distinctly recall the smell of tart vinegar that was used to make dill pickles every year.  Mom would get baskets full of cucumbers, carefully arrange and squeeze them into big jars, add some garlic, dill, and pickling spices, then cover the whole thing with vinegar.  These large jars would be put in the basement and had to be turned upside down every week during the pickling process.  It was a long process, but, in the end, those pickles were tasty.  I also loved the pickled beets that she made.  My dad also got into the pickling process with his pickled eggs.  Pickled eggs were not a favourite food of my mom’s, so he was left on his own to make those.
     When I think of the sense of sight in my mother’s kitchen, I’ll always remember the pink appliances.  The fridge was pink, the wall oven was pink, the cooktop was pink!  I think she even tried to find a pink toaster.  I guess it was a popular colour in the 60s and it went well with the turquoise countertops. 
     Who knows, those colours for a kitchen may come back in style some day.
     The sense of touch comes to mind as I remember being taught how to roll cabbage rolls.  The cabbage would need to be boiled to just the right tenderness, the thick part cut off, then just the right amount of filling put in.  The tricky part was the rolling.  The ends had to be tucked in after the first part of the roll. Then after the ends were tucked in, the rest would be rolled.
     I remember how awkward it felt to get one right after a few times of rolling it. I would then look over and see that my mom had finished rolling six perfect cabbage rolls.  They were my favourite dinner, but now I have to confess that I have found a great recipe for a cabbage roll casserole which doesn’t include any rolling.
     As I think of the sense of taste, I recall the delicious homemade soups - Mushroom Leek, French Onion, Chicken Noodle, and Borscht.  The secret to her great tasting soup was to leave it on the stove. There was always soup ready for you whenever you needed a snack, getting tastier by the minute. 
     Finally, my sense of hearing brings me to recall the many parties and celebrations that my mom hosted at our house.  We would laugh, we would sing, we would play music and we would dance.  This fun happened every year as we celebrated Christmas with the whole extended family at our house. Over 30 people would fill one half of the basement rec room.  The other half  had four long tables filled with everything you could imagine to eat. My mom would bake, cook and freeze everything at least two months ahead and did it all herself.
     The salad table seemed endless.  There were bean salads, coleslaw, tuna macaroni salad, five-cup salad and jellied salads made in a variety of Tupperware molds.  My favourite of all fell into both the salad and dessert categories.  It was a Strawberry, Dream Whip and Angel food cake made in a Tupperware mold.   I enjoyed that salad so much that last year at a “Mad Men” New Year’s Eve party when the guests were to bring only food that would have been served in the 60s,  I brought that one and I still had the same Tupperware mold to make it in.  I might have been the only one who ate it that night, but it certainly was delicious.
     I have a whole library of cookbooks, and sometimes I just like to sit and read the recipes and look at the pictures.  I still have three or four of the old recipe file boxes that my mom kept over the years, as she liked to read recipes, too. She'd copy them out on cards and write who or where she got the recipe from.  Often, I will recall a dish that we used to have and begin a search for that specific recipe in one of the old boxes.  Reading these recipes she wrote on handwritten cards brings back the memories of the sights, sounds, tastes, smells and touches of my mother’s kitchen.         

Cindy Robinson lives in Hamilton, Ontario.  While being cooped up in her home she enjoys advancing her creative skills either in the kitchen whipping up meals for her family, painting landscapes, or writing stories.  She has many tales to tell from her long teaching career and raising three wonderful boys.  When not in isolation, she enjoys hiking and biking in the Bruce Peninsula and travelling to beautiful beaches. 

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond. 

Sunday, April 26, 2020

“Beneath the Masks” by Sara Aharon

Beneath the Masks
First invented
For rituals
Then masks
Formed personas
In theatre.
In the theatre of life
Masks keep
something hidden
Covering our
True selves.

I (whatever that means)
We all hide behind
A mask of
Our unconscious
Some wear a mask of
Smiley faces
To block a well of tears
Others wear
Hugs and kisses
To cover ice.

And there are masks
That can’t hide
Only distort
Trying to fool
but fail.
Masks of
chosen personas
Let the real ones relax
Tucked in -
the shadows.

We wear them now
In different colours,
Fabrics, patterns
Beneath the
Is only ME
And I can’t wait
For ME
To meet

For now,
In the play called
I seek a new mask
After spending years
Peeling the old.
I think I’ll order
the polka-dot or
leopard one.

Sara Aharon lives in Toronto. She is the proud mother of two adult daughters. These days she makes her living as a virtual psychologist, and since she has more time on her hands, she writes about plagues (and other things).

See Brian Henry’s schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly online writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Four agents at Raven Quill Literary seek kid lit ~ Picture Books to Young Adult

No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen,
represented by Raven Quill

Raven Quill Literary Agency

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Also, if you’re not yet on my newsletter, send me an email, including your locale to: brianhenry@sympatico.a ~Brian

Raven Quill Literary Agency was founded in 2020 by Jacqui Lipton. The agency specializes in children’s literature, picture books to young adult. All four agents at the agency are looking for authors. Three of theme are quite new to agenting, and like all new agents, they need authors.

Lori Steel will be accepting submissions only until May 1, 2020. After that, check back with Raven Quill to see when she reopens for submissions.
Lori’s experience runs the gamut from school librarian to freelance editor to intern/assistant with two kidlit agencies. She holds degrees in history and education, as well as an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she currently serves as Coordinator for their Oxford/Bath summer residency program.
Lori represents fiction and non-fiction for young readers. Across all age groups and genres, Lori seeks stories with authentic, unforgettable voices that reflect the diverse world we inhabit, instill the possibility of hope, and illuminate the shared human experience. She represents fiction and non-fiction for all young readers from picture books to young adult and is actively building her list in all genres except horror.
More specifically, for MG/YA, Lori is interested in representing contemporary stories that make enduring connections and reflect the ever-changing world inhabit. She would love to see meticulously researched historical fiction that flips conventional interpretations and extends the conversation—along with narrative nonfiction that illuminates a little-known slice of history or unique perspective. For fantasy, she finds it hard to resist folklore-inspired tales and earthy world building. In all genres, she has a soft spot for settings that seep off the page, stories with musical themes, unconventional structures, and verse novels.
For Picture Books, Lori is particularly interested in manuscripts crafted with spare text, play with structure, and utilize collusion to engage participation with an emphasis on texts that don’t underestimate young readers. She is searching for whimsical, lyrical, surprising, and/or humorous stories that young readers will beg to read over and over again.
Query Lori through the agency’s online query manager here.

Kelly Dyksterhouse holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults for Vermont College of Fine Arts and has interned as an editorial reader at leading literary agencies and worked as an independent developmental editor and writing mentor. She considers the opportunity to help bring books into existence to be a great honor, and it is a particular joy for her to work alongside authors as they develop their project from idea to polished manuscript. The best feeling of all is when those manuscripts end up as books in the hands of children.
Kelly Dyksterhouse joined Raven Quill in February of 2020, coming from over five years of interning for literary agents. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She represents projects spanning from picture books to young adult in all genres and has a collaborative and editorial approach to her client's work.
Submit to Kelly through the agency’s query manager here.

Kortney Price graduated with a B.A. in English from Greenville University in 2014. Since then she has internedwith several prominent literary agencies, worked as an agency assistant at Holloway Literary and was an associate agent at Corvisiero Literary. She found her home with Raven Quill in January of 2020 and is building up her list of wonderfully talented authors. Kortney specializes in books for children from picture books through young adult with an eye for all things dark and spooky to light and fluffy.
In picture books, she’s a sucker for anything either humorous or emotionally poignant. She has a soft spot for unique retellings and the absurd. My favorite picture books of all time growing up were The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, Heckedy Peg, Tacky the Penguin, and The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything.
For early reader and chapter books, she is looking for just about anything. Amelia Bedelia was her all time favorite. Magic Tree house-type books are also a favorite. She loves history in these stories and would love to see more books geared toward boys in this realm.
The Painters of Lexieville by Sharon Darrow
represented by Raven Quill
In middle grade, she’s still more than a little obsessed with finding a wilderness survival story. “Show me kid versus nature, whether it be mountains, desert islands, or jungle,” says Kortney. “I’m dying to find something in this realm.” Otherwise she’s looking for super creepy horror, poignant contemporary, historical adventures and troublemakers on the space station type of sci-fi.
In young adult, she’s looking for the same kind of survival stories as in middle grade. For Kortney, contemporary YA should be either lighthearted romance with a good dose of comedy or a much more serious contemporary tackling topics that are much heavier such as dealing with trauma.
Kortney’s main wish in YA is for more horror, magical realism, psychological thriller, genre blending historical… basically all of the stories you avoid reading when home alone. She adores stories with a distinctly gothic feel, hauntings, psychological cat and mouse games, or other dark and twisty elements.
Like everyone else, she is “incredibly passionate about diverse representation in the books I work with. It’s not mandatory, but for me all of those uniquely special brains or bodies that don’t operate like everyone else’s are some of the best people in the world and I am determined to ensure these communities have representation in the books they read.”
Kortney tweets here.
Submit to Kourtney through the agency’s query manager here.

Jacqui Lipton is the Founder of Raven Quill Literary Agency and previously worked as an Associate Agent and intern at several leading kidlit agencies. She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. A law professor and attorney with American and international experience in commercial and intellectual property law, she is the author of Law & Authors: A Legal Handbook for Writers (University of California Press, 2020). She also writes columns on legal issues for writers for the SCBWI Bulletin, Luna Station Quarterly, Catapult Community Page, and Savvy Authors and is a frequent presenter on these issues around the country. 
Jacqui is currently seeking submissions for middle grade and young adult, both fiction and nonfiction.
While she’ll consider all genres within kidlit, she has a particular interest in science fiction, a good contemporary romance, retellings of classic stories, and mysteries of all kinds. She’ll consider fantasy and urban fantasy, although (sorry to say) dragons and high fantasy aren’t really her thing so if you’re the next George R.R. Martin, you might be better off submitting to someone else!
Submit to Jacqui through the agency’s query manager here

Anne Shone, Executive Editor,
Scholatic Books
If you’re interested in writing for children, don’t miss the Writing for Children and for Young Adults workshop with guest speaker Anne Shone, Executive Editor, Scholastic Books, Saturday, Sept 12, in Alliston. See here.

In the meanwhile, though, the best way of upping your game as a writer may be with a weekly course. This summer, Brian Henry’s offering an Introductory course and two Intensive courses, one of them online and, so, accessible anywhere in the world:
Burlington: Welcome to Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons, July 8 – August 19.   Details here.
Online: Intensive Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, July 7 – Aug 25.  1st reading emailed June 30. Details here.
Georgetown: Intensive Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, July 8 – Aug 26. 1st reading emailed July 1. Details here.

Beyond that, Brian’s post-pandemic workshop schedule continues to take shape:
Southampton, Ontario
Southampton Art School: Join me in this lovely beach town on Lake Huron for two workshops: How to Build Your Story, Saturday, July 25 (see here) and How to Write Great Characters, Sunday, July 26 (see here).
Oakville: "You can write great dialogue," Saturday, Aug 8. Details here.  
Collingwood: "You can write great dialogue,"  Saturday, Aug 15.  Details here.
St. Catharines: How to Make Yourself Write,"  Saturday, Aug 22.  Details here.
Alliston: Writing for Children and for Young Adults with Anne Shone, Executive Editor, Scholastic Books, Saturday, September 12. Details here.
Evan Brown
of Transatlantic Literary Agency
Toronto: How to Get Published with Evan Brown of Transatlantic Literary  Agency, Saturday, Oct 3. Details here.
Guelph: How to Get Published with literary agent Paige Sisley of CookeMcDermid, Saturday, Oct 24. Details here.
London: How to Write Great Characters, Saturday, Oct 31. Treats for everyone in costume.  Details here.
Jackson's Point: Writing Retreat at the Briar's Resort on Lake Simcoe, Friday, Nov 13 – Monday, Nov 16. Details to come.

See Brian’s complete current schedule hereincluding writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kingston, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Southampton, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

"The Gypsy's Promise" by Margery Reynolds

“Follow the setting sun and you will meet him,” the gypsy lady said as she curled her gnarled fingers around her crystal ball. “I see him . . . there . . .” she gasped putting a hand over her heart, “oooooh. He is tall, dark and wait. What is this?”

“What?” I cried my gaze transfixed on her weathered face.

Her eyes opened wide and flitted across the table to meet mine. “But you know this man already,” she began again in her thick accent, “He is no stranger to you. He looks at you with familiar smiles.”

“But —” she raised her hands for silence and bent closer to the ball.

I confess, I came to her with a discouraged heart, convinced after two failed relationships and a series of really bad dates, that there was no one in the world for me. I was destined to be single but somehow still clinging to the hope that someday I might meet my true love, my soul mate the man of my dreams, I succumbed to the taunting of a friend.  She was so convinced that this gypsy lady could help she even presented me with a gift certificate. What could it hurt, I’d thought.  Surely, anyone who sells and accepts gift certificates had to be legit.

And there I was in a candle lit room, filled with dangling amulets, dream catchers and over stuffed pillows. The heavy velvet curtains were drawn over the windows, perhaps more to ward off the suspicious neighbours than to keep in the deep, dark secrets of her clients. The air was filled with frankincense as sticks of it sent curls of smoke spiraling toward the ceiling.

And in that moment when she described him, this man she saw in her crystal ball as tall, dark and… well, my heart quickened. How could it not? But surely it wasn’t someone I already knew. All the men I knew were creeps or they were married and some of the married ones were creeps too.

She raised her hands and waved them over the glass as if trying to draw the image closer to her. “No, is no use,” she slurred. “The vision is now gone. The crystal grows cloudy. I see nothing more.” She sat back and looked at me with a satisfied smile, as if she’d imparted some miraculous revelation, expecting no doubt some gratitude in return.

“That’s it?” I cried. “Follow the setting sun and I’ll meet him? And he’s tall and dark and someone I know.”

When the knobby fingers of her left hand flitted toward the door indicating the session was over I pushed back my chair, grateful I hadn’t wasted my own eighty dollars on such foolishness and made my way to the door.  Somehow I just couldn’t leave it there. I had to know more so I pressed her for another answer. “Please, can’t you tell me how I will know this man or if not that his name, at least?”

The gypsy groaned, rolled her eyes toward the ceiling and sat up straighter in her chair. “Young people, you have no patience, no sense of adventure,” she sighed realizing I wasn’t going to leave. “Very well, but…” Her gaze fell to my purse.

“Oh, you want more money?” I fished a 10 out of my wallet and laid it on the table. The tilt of her head suggested another ten was in order. And when she’d scooped up the money she motioned toward the chair and I sat, again.

Her eyelids dropped, her face lifted toward the ceiling as she placed her hands flat on the table in front of her. Soon she was swaying back and forth, back and forth until she came to an abrupt halt. “M” she said, followed by “Manuel? No, not Manuel?” She turned her head to one side, eyes still closed as if consulting someone to her right. “Michael. No? Maxwell?”

“Max!” I couldn’t stop the outburst. “Oh, surely not Maxwell Anderson.”

Her eyes snapped open and her head bobbed once, twice three times. Bracelets of various metals, silver, copper and gold jangled as she raised her arms overhead. “Max!” she cried pointing a crocked finger at me, her head bobbing in agreement. “That’s the name the spirits are trying to tell us.” Her hand flitted toward the door. “You will go now.”

As I made my way across the park to my apartment on the east side my mind whirled back in time to the only Max I knew, a former boss at the first job I’d had after graduating from university. Max Anderson was tall and he was dark, but Max was not the handsome “man of anyone’s dreams” kind of guy. He was more likely the “nerd of no one’s dreams” with his thick, bottle bottom glasses and pocket full of leaking pens. And don’t get me started on his breath when he leaned over me to look at something on my computer screen. We were convinced he ate garlic for breakfast?

I left that ad agency after a year but Max had stayed on and oddly enough he was promoted to account manager and last I heard was dating his personal assistant—poor girl. But, that was at eight years ago. Who knew what Max was up to these days? He might have had laser surgery and it was possible that someone had given him some fashion lessons. He might even have discovered breath mints. Though somehow I doubted it. No, the gypsy lady had it wrong. It simply could not be Max Anderson.

Just to be sure though, for the next few evenings I avoided going to my favourite bench in the park; her words ringing in my ears, “follow the setting sun . . .” I stayed inside because avoiding the sunset seemed to be the way to avoid seeing Max.

Eventually, I realized the ridiculousness of it all. Max was probably working in another office in another city by now. And it occurred to me that my friend might have set me up, paid the woman and given her Max’s name as a joke. After all we’d both worked at that agency and we’d shared many a joke at Max’s unknowing expense. And then I thought about how ridiculous the old woman looked dressed in her gypsy clothes, her flaming red hair and her sun dried, wrinkly old face. And that room, laden with incense and things dangling from the curtain rods. Surely this had all been arranged. Maybe her accent wasn’t even real.

Convinced I had been the brunt of some horrible joke, I sent my friend a quick and snarky text thanking her for the joke at my expense and resumed my evening strolls in the park.
Once again I settled myself on my favourite bench to watch the sun set over the river. From my vantage point I could watch the sun as it sank below the skyline of the city with its brilliant splash of colour dancing across the water. The ripples glistened with shades of apricot and pink like tiny fairies frolicking on top of the water.

And as the last rim of orange was about to disappear and the lights came on to brighten up the path in front of me a huge Bernese Mountain dog came barreling down the path. Shy of his leash and delighting in his new-found freedom, he bounded up to me and planted a slobbering wet kiss on my folded hands. He was gone again in an instant, chasing a grey squirrel to the base of a nearby tree and barking fiercely as it hurried to safety.

A man, huffing for breath rounded the bend after the dog and stopped a few yards away.

“Sorry . . . about . . . that,” he puffed, doubled over in exhaustion. “He doesn’t usually . . . get away . . . on me.”

“It’s all right,” I chirped fetching a tissue from my pocket.

When he straightened to full height I realized who he was and when his familiar smile greeted mine I smiled back.  “Double shot latte with soy milk right?” he grinned.

“Right.” I grinned back at the new owner of the cafĂ© where I picked up my morning coffee. There was no disputing this man was splendidly tall and he was deliciously dark and just about the most handsome man I’d ever seen. I’d said as much to a friend several times when we’d met for coffee. We both assumed he was married. Gorgeous men like that usually are. And his name was Gary; it said so on the nametag he wore when he was working. Not Max like the gypsy had promised. Still, he was tall and dark and two out of three ain’t bad.

He perched on the other end of the bench. “This is going to sound like a cheesy line and I promise it isn’t meant to be . . . but . . . do you come here often?”

“It is pretty cheesy,” I said, laughing, “but, yes I do usually. Just the past couple of weeks I’ve been . . . well I haven’t but it’s my favourite place to watch the sunset. I love this park.”

“Me too. I discovered when I moved into the building over there.” He jerked his thumb toward the iron gates at the south entrance.“Oh, that’s a nice building,” I offered. “A little over my budget though. I’m over there.” I pointed to the row of brownstones opposite the east gate. When his eyebrows raised I added, “In the basement.”

The Bernese gave up teasing the squirrel then and pranced up to join us. With a heavy sigh he plunked down at his master’s feet. Gary reattached the leash and gave his dog a pat while I admired the wonderous love between a man and his dog. I could love a man like that, a caring man, someone who would caress my soul with the gentleness Gary showed that dog. And then I heard him talking; not to me but to the Bernese.

“How on earth did you get off that leash. You’re a naughty boy, Max.”

Margery Reynolds is the third daughter of a peach farmer, who grew up picking fruit and building sand castles on the shores of Lake Ontario, dreaming of her own happily ever after while reading the tales of Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden and Jo March. Most recently she closed her book store and tea shop Novel-Teas, (in Niagara Falls) and has begun working on her own stories. She is currently writing two historical fiction novels set in the late 1850s in upstate New York and St. Catharines, Ontario. In her spare time Margery enjoys photography, genealogy and spending time with her grandchildren.
You can reach her on Twitter @MargeryReynol19

See Brian Henry’s current schedule here, including Saturday writing workshops, weekly writing classes, and weekend retreats in Algonquin Park, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Jackson’s Point, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, New Tecumseth, Oakville, Ottawa, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.