Category Archives: News

Writing About the Pandemic

I identify with this cat , watching the world from distance - although Netflix and other streaming services have kept me entertained through the pandemic

The pandemic is still at the top of most of our minds, but when it is finally over will writers want to put it behind them or explore it in their stories? I ask this question on today’s BWL Author blog.

Happy New Year

I hope your Christmas celebrations were happy this year, despite the difficulties. Calgary was fortunate with its weather. A few days before Christmas, we got a huge dump of snow, which made for a pretty holiday season. The weather turned relatively mild after that. High temperatures slightly above freezing and abundant sunshine continue into January. I find our city parks crowded on weekends, with people making the most of what’s available during Calgary’s lockdown. Between writing, reading, clearing out my basement clutter and outdoor activities, I expect to have plenty to keep me occupied this winter. Best wishes to you all for a healthy and happy 2021.

Lake turned skating rink in Carburn Park, Calgary

Deer wades through snow in Carburn park

Snow shoeing on our neighbourhood golf course

Happy Soltice

I write this minutes after sunrise in Calgary, at 8:37 am, this shortest day of 2020.

Sunrise in Calgary

My clutter clearing project continues (see my recent blog post). Yesterday, in a box of old papers, I stumbled upon an article from Writer’s Digest magazine, ‘How to know when workshop criticism is useful or destructive, irrelevant or priceless.”  The article published in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s shows how times have changed. Among irrelevant criticism, author Nancy Kress includes comments from people with a political agenda.  She writes, “I have heard stories condemned for their negative portrayals of a woman, a union organizer, a military officer, a high school teacher and a wolf (the latter condemnation came from a wildlife advocate).  None of the criticism dealt with literary concerns (“This portrait isn’t convincing”). Instead, each centered on a political concern (“When you show a woman as weak and manipulative, it just reinforces stereotypes”).” I don’t know if Kress’ comment was controversial at the time, but I doubt today she’d advise writers to ignore a critique centered on insensitivity to a particular group.

Short Stories & The Giller Prize

Monday evening, I watched the live streamed Scotiabank Giller Prize show. Today, on the BWL Author Blog, I ask the question, Do Short Stories Sell?

I’ve published ten short stories in the past twenty years. Payment ranged from copies of the magazine to $1,000 to perks like broadcast on CBC radio and having my story turned into art displayed in the Calgary Public Library.  One change I’ve noticed since I started writing almost thirty years ago is that short stories have shrunk in size, unless you are Alice Munro and can publish in The New Yorker. In 1991, my creative writing instructor told us to bring in short stories of about 5,000 words for critique. He said anything less wasn’t really a story. Ten years later, when I aimed to get my work published, I researched magazines and determined that 2,500-3,000 words was the ideal length for a publishable short story. Not long after that, I found it harder to find markets over 2,500 words. I’m not in the short story publishing loop now, but I hear a lot about flash fiction. The shorter the better is probably the way to go if you want to publish short stories.

Calgary Public Library display of my short story artbook, "When a Warm Wind Blows Off the Mountains," produced by Sylvia Arthur

Souvankham Thammavongsa won the 2020 Scotiabank Giller Prize for her short story collection, How To Pronounce Knife

Canadian-American actor Eric McCormack, star of Will and Grace, hosted the online Giller Prize show

Happy Thanksgiving

Arethusa Cirque, Kananaskis, Alberta

Happy Thanksgiving.

October 12th is also my day for the BWL Author’s blog. Today I write about attending my first online writers’ festival, which was the first online version of When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers.

Fall in the Canadian rockies