Sunday, May 31, 2020

"Running on Empty" by Cheryl M Taylor

When you’re driving east from Thunder Bay, you want a full tank of gas. It’s eight hours to Sault Ste. Marie – 690 kilometer (430 miles), and there aren’t a lot of gas stations in between. I gassed up along the way in Terrace Bay so by the time I reached White River, I needed more. But I had a plan. I wasn’t going to get a full tank because I planned to return home by way of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and gas was cheaper in the States. I just needed enough gas to get me to The Sault.

The other issue on that part of the TransCanada is moose. They’re a night hazard, according to the frequently posted signs, but I don’t believe that the moose have read the sign. My sister and I once drove from Hornepayne south to the Sault and counted 34 moose in two days, all in broad daylight.   Thankfully they were posing for photos in the lakes and streams off the road and not square in the centre of the highway.

On this trip, my last stop was for supper at eight p.m. in Wawa, then east toward Sault Ste. Marie. An hour out of Wawa I glanced down at the gas gauge. My heart might have stopped momentarily. The needle was at the one-eighth full mark. There may have been liberal use of profanity but I won’t go into detail here. There was something not quite right about one voice in my brain reciting George Carlin’s “Seven Words that Can Never be Said on Television” at the same time as another voice in my brain was beseeching the heavens for aid.

What to do, oh, what to do? I’d misjudged my needs because I had the air conditioning cranked up. Okay, first order of business – turn off the a/c.

My mind raced to think of other possibilities: coasting down hills with my foot off the pedal. Yes, that certainly sounded good to me.

Third idea was to tuck myself in behind a transport truck. This had something to do with high school physics, which I failed. But for some reason to do with pull or drag or aerodynamics, if you tuck in behind a big rig, you use less gas.

Also, if a moose crossed the highway, the truck would hit it, not me. Then again, if the truck did hit a poor moose, and I was too close, I might not be able to brake fast enough and I’d plough into the back of the truck.

Fourth idea was to lighten my load. I’d purchased a number of garden rocks to enhance our garden. Should I throw those rocks out the window?  Nope. I’d paid good money for those rocks. My other ideas would have to suffice.

And then the low fuel light appeared, and my car gave a little Ding.

If I thought I was panicking before, now I was freaking out. I began to pray to my late mother and father, the saints in the heavens, angels, Jesus, God, anybody who had the time to listen.

Stop. Did I say my late mother? Oh, no, I couldn’t pray to her. How many times had she said, “A car runs just as well on the top half of the tank as it does on the bottom half”? How many times had I seen her eyes begin to dart about, looking for a gas station, if the gas gauge came within a hair breadth of the halfway point? No, I couldn’t pray to Mom.

Dad would be a far better choice. He wouldn’t want to see his little girl stranded. Mom would be saying, “Serves you right. Maybe you’ll learn a lesson”. 

I slowed down as I went through every village, looking through the growing darkness for a service station. I saw only one and it was closed for the night or had gone out of business for good.

If I remembered my owner’s manual correctly, when the alarm sounded, I had 2 gallons of gas left in the tank. If my car got 35 miles to the gallon, then I had 70 miles worth of gas or roughly 100 km, so by now I had about 90 kilometres left. But...what if I remembered incorrectly? What if the manual said I had 2 litres left, not gallons? Forget whether it was imperial or U.S. gallons, divide by 4 and I had roughly 25 kilometres of fuel. Which one was it – gallons or litres? Did it really matter? Empty is empty.

It was time to think of what to do if, God forbid, I ran out of gas. I did have a cell phone and I did have road side assistance but cell phone service is spotty in places with more moose than people. Okay, worst case scenario (and I couldn’t help but think of the worst), I would have to spend the night just off the road. If I rolled down the windows a bit, it wouldn’t be too hot, but mosquitos would get in. Plus, there were bears. With the windows down a bit, a bear could get his claw in, rip off the window, and drag me out of the car where he would enjoy the most unique meal of his life – somewhat aged, more fat than muscle, but tasty all the same.

Then, there were the two-legged threats. Some big, evil, smelly, ugly person might come along and offer help but demand an unspeakable payment  in return. My imagination was in overdrive.

And then I saw the light. No, no, no, not THAT light. Very bright lights clustered together that could be a gas station. Dared I hope? Could it be? “Oh please, please, please, let it be a gas station”.


I pulled into the Goulais River filling station – Open 25 hours, according to the sign.

It was also a full service station. No problem. I’d pay the extra 4 cents a litre. I was not even going to ask if they gave AirMiles. The young man approached the car and I panicked again. What if he was coming to tell me that they had run out of fuel?

“I have the car, then the truck, and then you.”

“Not a problem,” I said. “Take your time. I just thank Jesus I made it here without running out of gas. I”ve gone 28 kilometers since the low fuel light came on”

“Ooh, that’s pushing it.”

Trust me, I’d already figured that one out.
Shortly after I left the gas station, I saw a sign that read Sault Ste. Marie 18 km. Could I have made it on the fumes remaining in my fuel line? I’ll be forever grateful I didn’t have to find out.

Cheryl M. Taylor is retired and living in Mississauga with her husband and two fur babies. Her stories have been published in various gardening journals and newsletters, once before on Brian Henry’s blog Quick Brown Fox, and once in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Being an avid cinephile, she eagerly shares her reviews of new releases with family and friends.

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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Seven agents at Irene Goodman Literary seek authors ~ Everything from picture books to adult fiction and nonfiction

Irene Goodman Literary Agency
27 W 24th St
# 700B
New York, NY 10010

Note: 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, and if you’re not yet on my newsletter list, send me an email, including your locale to ~Brian

Irene Goodman and her agency has been around the publishing world for more than 30 years. Seven of the eight agents at the agency are open to new authors, including Irene herself (though I suspect she doesn’t take on as many new authors as she used to).

Pam Gruber recently joined Irene Goodman Literary Agency as a literary agent, representing adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction, graphic novels, and select narrative nonfiction. She was previously editorial director at Rebel Girls. Like all new agents, Pam needs authors.
Pam began her career in publishing as an editor, working for over ten years at Hachette Book Group with a number of acclaimed authors and illustrators. From there, she went on to serve as the Editorial Director at children’s media start-up Rebel Girls, where she saw first-hand how a great book can expand into other entertainment mediums.
Originally from Philadelphia and raised by two artists, Pam knew she wanted to work in publishing from a young age. She brings an eye for detail to every book she gets her hands on, and her experience at a publishing house gives her insight into how editors think, and what they’re looking for.
Pam looks for work that is gripping from page one, whether it makes her break out in a smile or gives her goosebumps (from excitement, not fear!). She loves complicated female protagonists, innovative twists on old tropes, and getting swept away by fully realized worlds – be they portraits of the next town over or an imagined universe unlike our own.
Specifically Pam represents adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction with literary voices and commercial hooks. She is particularly interested in layered fantasy, speculative fiction, fantastical realism, rom-coms, and coming-of-age stories with a twist.
She is also open to middle grade and YA graphic novels, as well as select narrative non-fiction on lesser-known subjects.
Pam would not be the best fit for prescriptive nonfiction, anthologies, potty humor, paranormal, or erotica.
For fiction, please include a query letter and the first ten sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. For nonfiction, simply send a polished query letter.

Maggie Kane was born and raised in northern Michigan and received her BA in English and Humanistic Studies from Saint Mary's College in 2016. She then moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing. Maggie has since interned with Gelfman Schneider and ICM Partners as well as Inkwell Management before arriving at IGLA. She's currently interested in middle grade, young adult, and character-driven fiction. She can't resist a twist of the fantastical in unexpected places, and her reading interests are varied, from magical realism and fantasy/science fiction to idiosyncratic family sagas and literary suspense. She'll happily follow a compelling voice wherever it leads.
For fiction, please include a query letter and the first ten sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. For nonfiction, simply send a polished query letter.

Whitney Ross joined Irene Goodman in 2018. Before that she worked as an editor at Macmillan for nearly a decade, culminating in her role as a senior editor for Tor Teen, Tor, and Forge. Over the course of her career, Whitney has had the pleasure of editing many talented authors, including Susan Dennard, Cora Carmack, Eric Van Lustbader, Steven Erikson, Katie McGarry, Ann Aguirre, Dan Wells, and Stacey Kade.
Whitney represents middle grade, young adult, and adult fiction across all genres, with an emphasis on historical, science fiction & fantasy, romance, and contemporary fiction. She is also open to nonfiction submissions in the areas of design, cooking, and fashion.
Whitney loves to read novels set in unusual time periods and locations, whether that involves a fantastical element or not. She is rarely able to resist the trickster king motif, and has a weakness for read-between-the-lines subtle romances. And she can’t wait to be surprised by tropes turned upside down, and unusual takes on old favorites. Yet she's constantly surprised by books not on her "wish list," and is always open to stories with compelling characters and emotionally involving plotlines.
Whitney earned her B.A. in English Literature, a B.S. in Entrepreneurship, and an M.S. in Publishing. In her spare time, she enjoys competitive sports such as skiing and shopping, and tasting wines with her winemaker husband.
For fiction, please include a query letter and the first ten sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. For nonfiction, simply send a polished query letter.

Kim Perel began her career at Forbes magazine working in an editorial capacity and later worked as an advertising copywriter. For over five years, Kim was an agent at Wendy Sherman Associates where she conceptualized, sold, and even authored numerous books for major publishers. She is passionate about powerful writing and delicious sentences. She holds an MFA degree in Creative Writing from The New School where she studied with world-renowned professional writers in the areas of fiction and nonfiction. She also received her undergraduate Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. In her spare time, she co-curates the popular H.I.P. Lit event series.
Kim is actively looking for engaging, voice-driven literary fiction with a strong plot (from quirky family sagas to an ensemble casts of characters), beachy reads, rom-coms with a twist, and commercial fiction that's impossible to put down. 
She is also interested in nonfiction from established experts and influencers alike in the areas of lifestyle, wellness, memoir, politics and reportage and research-driven narrative nonfiction.
For fiction, please include a query letter and the first ten sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. For nonfiction, simply send a polished query letter.

Barbara Poelle began her publishing career as a freelance copywriter and editor before joining the Goodman Agency in 2007, but feels as if she truly prepared for the industry during her brief stint as a stand-up comic in Los Angeles. Barbara is also the author of Funny You Should Ask: Mostly Serious Answers to Mostly Serious Questions About the Publishing Industry (Jan, 2020) based on her Writer's Digest column of the same name.
Barbara has found success placing thrillers, literary suspense, Young Adult and upmarket fiction and is actively seeking her next great client in those genres, but is passionate about anything with a unique voice.
Barbara is looking for high octane thrillers, edgy mysteries, literary and upmarket fiction and YA. “If your critique partner has ever said your work reminds them of either Jordan Peele or Tina Fey,” says Barbara, “now would be the time to leap into my queries inbox.” 
For fiction, please include a query letter and the first ten sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. For nonfiction, simply send a polished query letter.

Miriam Kriss, Vice President of the Irene Goodman Literary Agency, has been a literary agent since 2004 with a focus on commercial fiction. She doesn't look for specific stories; rather, she looks for a voice she can fall in love with and champion. This strategy of taking on only clients she's passionate about has led to six-figure deals for first-time authors and numerous client appearances on the USA Today and New York Times bestseller lists.
Miriam is open to all genres of commercial fiction, from picture books through adult. She's especially on the hunt for female-driven epic fantasy and thrillers, diverse voices in young adult and middle grade, and any novel that pulls her in and makes her forget she's reading. Basically, if it's fun to read she probably represents it.
She's incredibly selective in her nonfiction projects but has been known to jump on the right one.
For fiction, please include a query letter and the first ten sample pages of your manuscript in the body of your email. For nonfiction, simply send a polished query letter.

Irene Goodman has been a leading member of the publishing community for over 30 years and still loves every minute of it. She has sold over 1,500 books and counting. Her clients are regulars on the New York Times, USA Today, Publishers Weekly, and Bookscan bestseller lists. Her list includes current affairs, pop culture, food, Jewish interest, Francophilia, lifestyle, upmarket fiction, middle grade, young adult, thrillers, historical fiction, and mysteries. 
Originally from the Midwest and still trying to lose the accent, Irene has a B.A. and a master's degree from the University of Michigan. She and her husband divide their time between New York and the Berkshires, and have two grown children.
Irene is particularly interested in fiction that hits the sweet spot between literary and commercial – it’s a captivating story, it has something important to say, it's not hard to read, and it's beautifully structured and written. It can be women's fiction, an intelligent thriller, a fun mystery, historical fiction, or middle grade or young adult fiction.
She is avidly interested in nonfiction focusing on pop culture, music, science, Francophilia, Judaica, and lifestyle. Nonfiction can be for adults, young adults, or middle grade.
Irene prefers a particular format to queries. First, paste in the first ten pages of the manuscript. After that, include the synopsis. And finally, at the bottom, include the query letter.

Scholastic Books executive editor
Anne Shone
If you’re interested in meeting an agent and in getting puiblished, don’t miss our upcoming How to Get Published workshops Saturday, Oct 3, in Toronto with Evan Brown of Transatlantic Literary Agency (see here) and Saturday, Oct 24, in Guelph with Paige Sisley of the CookeMcdermid agency  (see here).

And if you’re specifically interested in writing and publishing Kid Lit, don’t miss Writing for Children and for Young Adults, with Anne Shone, Executive Editor, Scholastic Books, Saturday, September 12, local to be determined. Details 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 online and accessible anywhere in the world:
Online: Exploring Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons, July 8 – August 19.   Details here.
Online: Intensive Creative Writing, Tuesday afternoons, July 7 – Aug 25. First reading emailed June 30. Details here.
Online: Intensive Creative Writing, Wednesday evenings, July 8 – Aug 26. First reading emailed July 1. Details here.

Beyond that, Brian’s post-lockdown workshop schedule continues to take shape:

Algonquin Park Writing RetreatJoin me for a magical weekend at Arowhon Pines Resort, an outpost of luxury in the middle of the wilderness, for a writing retreat. Thursday, July 9 – Sunday, July 12. Details here.
Burlington: Raising the Stakes: How to increase your story's tension, Saturday, July 18. Details here.
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.

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, October 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 Algonquin Park, Alliston, Bolton, Barrie, Brampton, Burlington, Caledon, Collingwood, Georgetown, Georgina, Guelph, Hamilton, Jackson’s Point, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Midland, Mississauga, New Tecumseth, Oakville, Ottawa, Peterborough, St. Catharines, Sudbury, Toronto, Windsor, Woodstock, Halton, Muskoka, Peel, Simcoe, York Region, the GTA, Ontario and beyond.

Online course: Exploring Creative Writing, Wednesday afternoons, July 8 – Aug 19

Exploring Creative Writing
7 weeks of discovering your creative side
Wednesday afternoons, 1 – 3 p.m.
July 8 – August 19, 2020
Offered online and accessible wherever there's Internet
This is your chance to take up writing in a warm, supportive environment. We’ll explore writing short stories and writing true stories, writing in first person and in third person, writing technique and getting creative, getting down your very best writing and just for fun writing.
You’ll get a shot of inspiration every week and an assignment to keep you going till the next class. Best of all, this class will provide a zero-pressure, totally safe setting, where your words will grow and flower.
Note: This class will be held live via Zoom. To participate, you'll need Internet access and a microphone and a camera {i.e., a webcam} on your computer, tablet or smart phone.

Fee:  $167.26 plus 13% hst = $189
To reserve your spot, email:

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’s has helped many of his students get published. 
Read reviews of Brian's various courses and workshops here (and scroll down).

See Brian’s complete 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.

Friday, May 29, 2020

“Working in long-term care these days is breaking my heart” by Monica Catto

“We’re going to have you sit two metres apart; just to be on the safe side,” I say to the residents as my colleagues and I rearrange their wheelchairs in the activity room.

We know the storm is coming and begin to batten down the hatches, making what preparations we can in our long-term care home before it strikes.

But the wind picks up speed, and we need to change course.

“We’re going to bring your meals to you in your room. It’s just a precaution.”

These words bring little comfort when spoken from behind goggles, a surgical mask and a gown. Their own fearful eyes and trembling lips are not hidden by personal protective equipment.

I continue to be positive and focus on spreading joy, not fear. Under my own PPE, I’m sweating as I play my guitar and sing songs of faith outside the residents’ rooms. They hum along and gently sway in their wheelchairs, a distraction from the wind howling just outside the doors.

News of the virus’s impact on our facility spreads with as much speed and virulence as the illness itself. Some residents aren’t well enough to fully comprehend the enormity of the situation, but others are well aware that they are witnessing – no – becoming part of history.

We connect family members to their loved ones through FaceTime and Skype. It starts out as a novel project; it’s fun and gives me a real sense of joy to watch our residents experience the magic of technology, some of them for the first time.

The novelty wears off quickly. I link a daughter to her mother. “Mama, stai bene?” a worried voice asks. “Sei malato?” She’s asking her mother if she is okay or if she’s sick.

The praise we receive for being proxy for loved ones not permitted to visit, becomes accusatory. “Do you clean the iPad between visits? Did my mom just cough – is she okay?”

I answer positively, as much as I can. Yes, we use strong anti-microbial wipes between uses. As for the cough, I just don’t know. I’m tired, physically and emotionally.

I pass by one woman’s room, peek my head in her doorway. She says she’s okay, but lonely. I enter her room, not sure if she’s infected, but take my chances.

“This is so hard,” her tears form quickly at the corners of her eyes.

“I can sit with you a while,” I tell her, perched at the edge of her bed. The room is shrouded in deliberate darkness. She suffers constant migraines and cannot tolerate the light; a malady that further darkens the isolation.

"My husband died when he was 41 years old. I know it’s been a long time, but I miss him so much. Especially now when I’m stuck in my room and my sons cannot visit.”

I know a thing or two about grief, and I’ve learned what helps to ease the pressure on the bereaved. “Tell me about him.”

In 15 minutes, I learn about her beloved Mario whom she met in the same village in her homeland of Italia. She tells me about her eldest, only 12 when his father died; his thrust into manhood and role of family provider. Her face relaxes in the brief time she purges herself of memories, good and sad. Even in the shadow of her room I can see a sliver of light pierce the darkness, bring something close to relief.

I’m called away for a debrief meeting with the administrator and my colleagues. We discover that the virus has begun to infect our residents.

Despite our administrator’s attempt to sound positive, it does little to allay the fears of a caregiver who’s been looking after one of the affected residents for the past six hours. Her head bows in defeat; her goggles fog up from tears she’s trying to hold back. She is a single mother of two young children. How is she going to look after her kids and keep them safe? We’ve already been instructed that we are to self-isolate when we leave work.

I’m working long hours and I’m tired. Still, l manage to put on a brave face and crack jokes with the staff and residents. But then the nurse practitioner takes me aside.

“Monica …” he begins slowly, "Mrs. M is not doing well, and her family would like to see her before she … well, you know.”

I get the iPad and head for her room. In more than 30 years of elder care I have seen the passage from this life to the next many times. There has never been a time when family members could not be by their loved ones’ side as they die.

I punch in the contact information and immediately see a grief-stricken daughter on the screen. I don’t focus the iPad on her dying mother right away.

“I’m so sorry.” My words are muffled inside my surgical mask.

“Can I see my mama?”

It’s a contortionist’s feat to get Mrs. M in the iPad’s view. I sit on the floor beside the bed which is on its lowest setting. My own head rests on the mattress, almost touching Mrs. M’s head, and my arms are raised and off to the side so as to keep her weakening body in view.

My arms ache as I struggle to hold the iPad in place. I weep quietly along with the daughter as I bear witness to what should be a private moment of farewell.

Eventually, I discover that if I lay beside a resident on their bed, with one foot on the floor to brace myself, I’m better positioned to hold the iPad in place.

“Papa,” a grown son’s voice cracks between sobs, “Talk to me, Papa.” But Papa can’t talk and passes within the hour.

This is the point where I break. I leave Papa’s room to go charge the iPad. I collapse into a chair and the tears fall. Breaking the physical-distancing rule, our nurse practitioner awkwardly tries to console me, rubbing my back. Another nurse makes me a coffee and I find quiet shelter in the storm to regroup.

Another day brings a rare light in the midst of the storm. It’s one resident’s birthday. We decorate her room and have a virtual party with her sons. Singing Happy Birthday and serving her a piece of cake is a welcome reprieve.

Another day, another resident and another family member.

“Her breathing seems strange. Is she okay?”

With my head beside her mother’s, I can smell the sickeningly sweet smell of death emanate with each breath she struggles to take. But it’s not my place to say.

We’re slowly seeing things turn around. No new cases in the last few days and we’re all breathing cautious sighs of relief.

I don’t want things to return to normal. What was deemed normal in long-term care clearly wasn’t working. What I do long for is a new normal – one where people are cognizant and appreciative of the efforts that professionals in LTC make every day.

Monica Catto is an aspiring photographer, writer and social justice activist working in the human trafficking field with the White Rose Movement of Toronto. She lives in Mississauga, Ontario. You can visit her blog here
“Working in long-term care these days is breaking my heart” was originally published in the Globe and Mail in their “First Person” feature. For information on submitting a personal essay to the Globe and Mail (and to 21 other places), see here.

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