Monday, April 15, 2024

You're invited to the book launch for "Mortified" by Kristy Jackson

Hi, Brian.

 It's hard to believe it's been four years since I first started my writing journey with you! I'm so excited to share that I'm having my book launch for my debut novel, Mortified, for ages 8–12 in May in Saskatoon! This is a book I started with your Friday Intensive class and is also the one you edited. Thanks again for all your help (and our Friday crew too) making it better and getting me here!

 Everyone’s invited to my official book launch, which will streamed on YouTube and will be in-person at the Saskatoon branch of the McNally Robinson book store:
3130 8th St E, Saskatoon
Thursday, May 23 at 7pm.

We’ll have a reading, and a book signing after.

I’ve had some great buzz for this book already:

Kristy & Brian

“Brilliant, funny, unputdownable. Anyone who has ever been mortified will love this debut novel by new superstar author Kris Jackson. Mortified finds the heart of a middle grade reader with an entertaining and pitch-perfect story, beautifully illustrated by Rhael McGregor, brought to an expansive finish with style and grace. I loved it!”
 – Award-winning children’s author Alice Kuipers

 “This book is a delight and will have kids cringing, laughing and relating in equal parts! Hilarious and heart-warming, I couldn’t put this down. Belinda’s hilarious adventures will have young kids squealing with joy and laughter. Two thumbs up!”
 – Salma Hassain, author of The Secret Diary of Mona Hasan

Please help me share this with the world. Thanks so much Brian!


Note: If you can’t make it to Kristy’s book launch, Mortified is available for pre-order from Chapters here. (And remember, buying a book before it even comes out, encourages bookstores to order lots of copies.)

Mortified by Kristy Jackson, illustrated by Rhael McGregor (from HarperCollins)

For fans of Remarkably Ruby and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, comedy and cringe come together in this sweet novel about facing your fears.

When someone secretly signs up Belinda Houle, the school’s shyest kid, to audition for a play, Belinda turns to her best friend, Sally, for help. Sally isn’t like the other kids. Unlike Belinda, she isn’t embarrassed by anything. Also, Sally thinks she’s a witch.

Belinda doesn’t believe in magic, but if Sally has a spell for confidence—well, it couldn’t hurt to try it. Could it?

What follows the spell is a series of tragedies so tragic they would have been funny—if only they weren’t happening to Belinda! First, Belinda’s ex-best friend tricks her into eating dog food. Next, she’s forced to wear a wig when her hair-straightening session goes very wrong. And then, Belinda slips on a plate of paint, wrecking a mural, and ends up with globs of green, brown and yellow paint all over her head!

Things get worse and worse, until Belinda must face the facts: One piece of bad luck can be explained away, but this? This is a straight-up curse!

Can she break the curse before the dreamy Ricky Daniels takes more notice of her crooked wig? More importantly, how can Belinda battle the very thing she hoped the spell would take away: her embarrassment?

Kristy Jackson is a communications professional and the mother of two boys. Her work draws inspiration from her Cree and German background and a long list of embarrassing moments of her own. Her short fiction has been published by CommuterLit, Kids Short Stories and Quick Brown Fox. 

Kristy runs a program that delivers books to children in seven remote Indigenous communities in Canada. She also volunteers for a non-profit dedicated to improving literacy in her community. Mortified is her debut novel. 

Note: If you’re interested in getting published, come to our in-person “How to Get Published” workshop on May 11 in Niagara on the Lake (details here). If you have a particular interest in Kid Lit, don’t miss our upcoming online “Writing for Children and for Young Adults” workshop on June 15 with Erin O’Connor, senior editor at Scholastic Books (details here).

See all my upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and four-day retreats here~Brian

See more new books by your fellow authors here (and scroll down).

Sunday, April 14, 2024

Stretch out your summer with a Writing Retreat at Arowhon Pines Resort in Algonquin Park, Sept 3 – Sept 6


Algonquin Park Writing Retreat

Tuesday, September 3 – Friday, September 6, 2024
Arowhon Pines Resort
Arowhon Pines Road
Little Joe Lake, Algonquin Park
Ontario, Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All activities included. When you’re not writing, or for spouses who accompany you, there is plenty to do: canoe or kayak a series of lakes or hike trails to see wildlife (moose, loons, beaver, turtles, fox, deer), swim in the lake, sail, stand up paddleboard, play tennis, relax.

For indoor activities there is a games room with table tennis, shuffleboard, books, board games. Your stay also includes access to all Algonquin Park programs and activities including a car pass for you to fully enjoy the park.

Check-in isn’t until 3 p.m., but guests can arrive in the morning to fully take advantage of the facilities (though the meals included in your package don’t begin until after check-in time, so lunch on Friday is extra if you arrive early).

The formal retreat will begin late Friday afternoon. On Monday, we'll have our last formal get-together at 11 a.m., ending at 12 noon. Check out time is at 1 p.m.  Most guests have lunch while the bellhops load the car. But once you’ve had lunch, don’t feel you have to rush off!

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

Read about a stay at Arowhon Pines here.

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

Read reviews and other pieces about or inspired by previous writing retreats at Arowhon Pines here (and scroll down). 

Seminar fee:

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

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

$440 per person per night double occupancy ($880 per couple) OR $550 per night single occupancy, plus 15% service charge (in lieu of tipping), then plus 13% HST. 

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

For more information or to register (or just to let me know ypou’re probably interested), email:

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


Who can attend the retreat?

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

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

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

Should I bring my work in progress?

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

Should I bring my laptop?

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

Can you cater to specific dietary requirements?

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

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

If you want to arrive earlier or stay longer, that’s fine. Just arrange it with the resort. There is plenty to see and do in the park, and Arowhon Pines is a lovely base from which to explore. 

Is there cell phone reception and WIFI?

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

How about alcohol?

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

Can I bring my spouse?

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

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

For more information or to register, email: 

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

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

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


Thursday, April 11, 2024

“Every generation has new parenting ideas, but as a grandparent it’s hard to hold my tongue” by Sheila Perkins


Let me first establish that I love it when my grandchildren come to visit, even if they end up staying in my home for two whole weeks. I am grateful for their presence in my life and cherish the time we have together. That’s a given.

But, right now, I’m biting my tongue, possibly hard enough to leave a permanent ridge in it. Why? Because, once again, I am enduring a lengthy monologue, filled with unnecessary and exhaustive information. This time, the topic is the benefit of eating broccoli, how its enzymes help with nutrient absorption in our gut, which is crucial for preventing inflammation.

As an adult, I’m almost comatose listening to this science lesson, but as a three-year-old, my grandson is having none of it. I don’t blame him. He couldn’t care less about broccoli; all he wants is ice cream.

I resist the urge to speak up and keep my tongue firmly planted between my teeth. Why? Because I know that if I were to say anything, it would likely be the wrong thing. I think saying “no supper, no dessert” would be helpful. However, I know that would not be well-received by the parents or the child. It may even lead to a tantrum, now commonly referred to as “big feelings.” And then I would have to listen to another long-winded discussion, this time about how to handle those big feelings.

The lecture over, my grandson refuses to capitulate and lets out an ear-piercing scream as he flings the dreaded vegetable across the table, hitting me square in the face. Now, I like to think of myself as a tolerant, open-minded person, but even I have my limits.

“That’s it!” I explode.

A surge of shock and annoyance floods through me as a green glob slides down my glasses I don’t wait for the parents to intervene; instead, I lock eyes with my grandson. “Nana’s house; Nana’s rules. And one of those rules is absolutely no throwing things at people. Understand? Furthermore, if you can’t behave properly at the dinner table, you’ll have to go sit somewhere else. Alone.”

My darling boy’s eyes widen like saucers and his bottom lip starts to quiver, but he doesn’t look away. He seems to be debating the ultimatum, so I wait in silence. Finally, with a soft exhale, he nods his head, gives a faint reply, “Okay, Nana,” and continues eating his meal with a newfound sense of determination.

The meltdown is over, catastrophe averted, so why do I feel like I did something wrong? It’s because I know this is not how his parents would have handled the situation. Their version of parenting does not allow for stifling a child’s feelings and certainly does not involve threats. My less-than-popular reaction reflects the way I was brought up so, for better or for worse, it just popped out of my mouth.

Wiping the vegetation from my specs, I think to myself, is it so bad to make a child do something they don’t want to do? I’m not suggesting we got back to the era of “spare the rod and spoil the child” or even “children should be seen and not heard.” I am, however, teetering on the brink of the “because I said so” abyss.

Isn’t it possible these children might one day have a job where the boss’s every motivation is not explained? And they will just have to do what they are told, without any negotiation or examination of their feelings. Full stop. Not every request requires a protracted debate or explanation.

I understand children have needs and that each generation of parents takes a different approach to providing them. Along with unconditional love, children also need to comprehend expectations and consequences to feel a sense of security in the world. This has always been the case but although expectations are still clear, the road to consequence has been muddled with good intentions. Today’s mom and dad simply cannot bear to see their child unhappy, even for the shortest period of time, and will go to great lengths to restore a happy family dynamic.

Modern parenting philosophies strive to involve the child in a grown-up world to an extent never before witnessed.

The rationale is that granting children the ability to influence family decisions gives them agency, and although that is a concept never floated during my upbringing, it’s an idea worth considering. The problem I have with this approach, however, is that numerous studies have shown that being burdened with too many choices or decisions can result in increased anxiety in young children. I learned this through osmosis following countless battles with my own young children over which colour of drinking glass they absolutely needed, but now there is actual scientific evidence to back me up.

So, as yet, it’s impossible to determine which style of parenting is more effective but as with most generational change, the pendulum continues to swing. My belief is that it will come to rest somewhere in the middle. I’m not expecting this to happen any time soon, however, so my tongue will just have to toughen up. The groove might just get a bit deeper.

Sheila Perkins has always had the writing bug but it wasn’t until the pandemic that she could focus on what she loves most … telling stories. During the Covid lockdown, she took several courses and workshops to hone her long-neglected writing skills. Lo and behold, four years and two novels later, she still looks forward to those hours each day she spends pecking away at the keyboard.

“Every generation has new parenting ideas, but as a grandparent it’s hard to hold my tongue” was originally published in the Globe and Mail.

For information on submitting a First Person piece to the Globe and Mail (plus five other places to send your short pieces) see here.

To read more short stories, poems, short memoirs and essays, see here, (and scroll down).

See my upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here. ~Brian 


Wednesday, April 10, 2024

You're invited to “Writing for Children and for Young Adults” an online workshop

“Writing for Children and for Young Adults”

~ with Erin O’Connor,
     senior Editor at Scholastic Books

Saturday, June 15, 2024
 1:15 – 5:00 p.m.
Online via Zoom and accessible wherever there’s Internet

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. This is your chance to speak with someone within a publishing company in a small group setting and to pull back the curtain and see how it all works. Be sure to bring your questions – we'll have lots of time for interaction.

Special option: Participants are invited to submit the opening couple pages (first 500 words) of your children’s book or young adult novel (or up to 800 words if that gets you to the end of your picture book or to the end of your first chapter). Email your pages to me prior to our workshop. Erin and I will publicly critique about half a dozen submissions so everyone can see what works, what doesn’t, and how to improve your story-telling. Get your pages in early if you want to be part of this. If you’re not currently working on a children’s story, don’t worry, we’ll get you started! ~Brian

Guest speaker Erin O’Connor has worked in children's publishing for more than 30 years. She is senior editor at Scholastic Canada, currently focusing on nonfiction, picture books, graphic novels and series development. Erin began her career as assistant art director at Owl and Chickadee magazines, and at Scholastic spent many years with the school markets division acquiring everything from board books to YA novels. 

Erin understands children’s literature from both sides of the desk, as she’s also the author of 101 Math Jokes, 101 Cool Canadian Jokes, Canadian Cartooning and Laugh Out Loud Canadian Jokes, much to the confusion of her teenagers, who don’t think she’s very funny at all.

Workshop leader Brian Henry has been a book editor, author, and creative writing instructor for more than 25 years. He publishes Quick Brown Fox, Canada’s most popular blog for writers and is the author of a children’s version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Tribute Publishing Inc). But his proudest boast is that he’s has helped many of his students get published.

Read reviews and other pieces about Brian’s classes and workshops here.

Fee: $45.13 + 13% hst = $51 paid in advance by mail or Interac

To reserve a spot now, email:

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