Monday, 26 October 2015

Surrey International Writer's Conference Review

A few years ago, my friends Katie and Richard and I had the opportunity to go to the pub with C.C. Humphreys, an historical fiction writer.  We had a great talk about all things writing and he highly recommended we attend the Surrey International Writer's Conference.  Living in Alberta, this seemed an impossible feat of money and travel, but in moving to the coast, it has been one of my goals.  I nearly put it off for another year, but my husband and mom urged me to take the plunge and I am grateful for their support.

Even though I am much closer, Surrey is still a bit of a trek, so for my first year, I decided to book only the Saturday at the conference.  So, this Saturday, I woke up at 5:45 a.m. and walked, in the dark, to the ferry.  I was very grateful for my phone's flashlight app!  After the 6:30 ferry, I took the city bus to Burrard Station in downtown Vancouver.  Here is the only photo I took, which is a lovely fountain across from the station.

Next was the skytrain, and finally a shuttle to the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel.  I registered and then joined the opening session in the Guildford Ballroom.  Beverly Jenkins was the Keynote speaker who encouraged us to keep writing.

Next, I attended a session called Collecting Seeds: How to use Images and Occasions to Create Story with Danika Dinsmore.  After an entertaining introduction of her work and passions, she began to lead us through a writing exercise focused on remembering a place from our past and all of the objects in it.  Unfortunately, I was not able to finish the exercise as it was time for my Blue Pencil meeting with author, Gigi Pandian.

It was a rare treat to meet with Gigi.  She read the first three pages of my latest novel project and gave me some great suggestions about revisions I could make.  She was very warm and encouraging (she told me I was a great writer!) and directly after our meeting, I went to the conference trade show to buy her book Artifact.

The next session I chose was called Rewriting with Anne Perry.  She had dozens of great ideas for making "good even better."  She recommended writing one or two sentences about your theme, and especially what made you write the story in the first place.  She also shared some of the major themes in her novels and I am now looking forward to delving into her books as well. 

Again, I needed to leave the session early to attend the Pitch session I had scheduled with agent Nephele Tempest.  I prepared for this session by checking out some blogs on how to pitch to an agent at a writing conference.  This was my favourite.  I also began reading her blog and wrote up a query letter to focus what I wanted to say.  I emailed it to my brilliant writing friend Katie to make sure it was okay and she gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.

I waited with some other nervous writers on padded chairs in a ballroom lined with tables and chairs.  When our turn came, we walked to our agent and had ten minutes to pitch our ideas.  I was so glad I had been reading Nephele's blog because I was able to talk to her about a few things before launching into my pitch.  After sharing my idea, she asked one excellent question.  "What made you want to tell this story?"  After sharing my answer, she passed me her card and invited me to send her the first fifty pages of my book.  She recommended I complete revising my book before sending it and she urged me that there was no hurry and that her offer did not expire.  Hurrah! Thanks to my research, I remembered to ask her a question before skipping away in euphoria.  I've always been a bit confused by the number or new genres in fiction and asked her to recommend into which genre my book fits.

Following this, we had a Mystery Lunch in the main ballroom where each table sat with one of the conference presenters.  Our table had Jasper Fforde who was very entertaining and personable.  I am interested in reading his novel The Eyre Affair where he has Jane Eyre kidnapped from the novel Jane Eyre.  

Finally, I attended a session with C.C. Humphreys and Robert Dugoni called The Terror of the Second Draft.  Humphreys and Dugomi bantered about the writing process, prefacing that all authors need to find what works for them.  I liked their suggestion that a writer create an outline after the first draft.  I can see how this would focus my work and help me see the big picture.

I wanted to attend a fourth session, but by 3:45, I was tired and my brain was full.  I headed back out toward public transport, looking forward to meeting my family for supper.  It was an amazing first experience, well worth the money.  In meeting some of the other writers, I can see how staying for the full three days would be beneficial in the future.  For now; however, I have a lot of new inspiration and a large to do list ahead of me.  I hope I can attend again with a friend next time.  Maybe I can talk Katie into coming out next year:)

Friday, 9 October 2015

Anemone, Barnacles, Muscles too . . .

My daughter Julia just returned from a four day trip to Bamfield Marine Science Centre.  I told her I would interview her for my blog when she got back, because I know a lot of our friends and family will want to hear all about it.  Here she is, answering my questions.  The photographs are hers as well.

1.  How did you get to Bamfield?
First, I went on the ferry to Horseshoe Bay.  It was 20 minutes long.  Then I went on the Nanaimo Ferry.  It took about one and a half hours.  Then I took a charter bus to Bamfield.  It took four hours.  For two hours, I got to watch a movie called The Spy Next Door.  On the way back, I watched Gulliver's Travels.
On the ferry to Nanaimo

2.  Where did you eat at Bamfield?
I ate in a cafeteria that looked small on the outside, but big on the inside.  It always took a long time if you were last in line, so you had to get their quickly.  When I first got there, I ate pork, glazed carrots and potatoes.  They had a lot of beverage choices like milk, and a lot of different kinds of juices.  There were two coloured juices that were blue and pink.  Someone found out how to make purple out of it by putting pink and blue together!  It was very popular, even some of the adults there did it!  The food was marvelous!
Main building at Bamfield

The cafeteria is in the back

3.  What did you do there?
The first time I went on the boat was when I first got there.  We tested the water to see the temperature higher up and lower down.  We also collected plankton to look at in microscopes.  A couple days later, after we collected the plankton, we looked in the microscopes.  It was creepy at first, but then I got used to it.  They looked like little aliens and bugs.  I showed a picture of them on the television.
Plankton on T.V.

Microscope we used

Plankton in a petri dish

At Brady's Beach:  We had to take a boat to get to the second part of Bamfield.  We had to take a one-kilometre hike.  We had to do an activity where you had to go to a tidal pool and look at all the creatures in it and make a little song or rap about it.  My group made a little rhyming song about what we had in our tidal pool.  It went like "Anemone, Barnacle, Muscles too.  If you don't like that, then Boo Hoo Hoo!"

The coolest part about the tidal pool was the Sea Anemones.  We touched them and they stuck to us a bit when we tried to pull away.  They were cute!
Where we crossed the water to Brady's Beach
Thank you Julia for your excellent pictures and answers.  I'm sure glad you got back safe and sound!!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Walking in Autumn

“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn--that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness--that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.” 
― Jane AustenPersuasion

It has come to my attention that some of my readers are becoming haters:)  For those of you who die a little inside when they read my blog posts, wishing you lived where we live, you may not want to read any further.  However, if you are secure in your surroundings, feel free to peruse this random collection of photos from some of my walks in the past few weeks.  There's nothing like walking to bring on writing!

A misty morning yesterday

Instead of walking, we decided to go to the beach this past weekend.

This made me think of a walk from my friend Laurie's book

Our last summer swim took place here

Like a scene out of The Hobbit
Stay tuned for an interview with Julia after her four-day field trip to Bamfield.  We sure miss her and can't wait until her return tomorrow!

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

If you love Mr. Darcy, you will like Armand Gamache

Book Review: Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny

This is the third Armand Gamache book I've read and they just keep getting better.  It struck me at the end of the book that Armand Gamache, the Chief Inspector of the Surete, with his heroic actions and gentlemanly qualities could be an older, modern Mr. Darcy.
Cover from
 Like Mr. Darcy, Gamache is a leader among his peers.  People around Quebec recognize him as a respectable, intelligent man.  He works hard and takes care of those beneath him.  However, unlike Darcy, he seems slow to judge others and has a genuine interest in meeting new people, no matter what their background or circumstances.  Like Darcy, he has a tender affection for his wife of many years and goes to her for advice and support.  It's the future relationship I think most Austen readers imagine for Elizabeth and Darcy at the end of Pride and Prejudice.

Darcy and Elizabeth by Hugh Thomson, 1894 on wikipedia
 Penny's writing continues to amaze me in Bury Your Dead.  Three mysteries are woven together in this novel.  My dissatisfaction with the ending of her previous book, The Brutal Telling, was not unwarranted.  In an unprecedented move, Penny continues the mystery from that book into this one.  My feelings of unease and sadness at the end of The Brutal Telling were somewhat appeased at the end of Bury your Dead.
I was somewhat disoriented at the beginning of Bury Your Dead in that there are some major events which happen between this book and the previous.  I thought I had missed one in between.  However, this back story is later revealed throughout the book.

This was also the first book I've read that wasn't set primarily in Three Pines.  Penny does a wonderful job of describing Quebec City in the dead of winter.  Like her descriptions of Three Pines, I almost feel I've been there.  She also did a stellar job of explaining the complicated history of Quebec and its tenuous relationship with the rest of Canada.

I can't recommend Louise Penny highly enough and I am grateful to my good friends Sally and Deanna for sharing her with me!