Tag Archives: stories

When Words Matter

You still might have time to attend When Words Collide in Calgary. For the August 14-16 writers’ conference, registering early was important. In fact, if you email now, you will be put on the waiting list! But at least you have a chance of attending.

Wordfest celebrations do have presentations for writers, but this conference is truly a great one for writers or those who dream of writing. As well, given the range of topics and the expertise, what phenomenal value for your money!

Having participated previously, I remember the countless presentations and panels on the art, craft and business of writing. Whether you have published or are still hoping to publish, the weekend offers something for everyone regardless of expertise and genre. If you want the scoop on events and presenters, just check out the program on the website: http://www.whenwordscollide.org.

There are so many great panels and presentations, but I will be on the following panels with these other fine presenters:

Editing Tricks Faye Holt, Ella Beaumont, Nowick Gray, Arlene F. Marks, Barb Galler-Smith (M) Catching your own goofs before you send your manuscript to your beta reader, or worse, Amazon. Developmental, structural, copyediting or proofreading: Do you need an editor before you self publish? What kind? Or have you been burned: I’m not going to let an editor touch my words!

To Blog or Not to Blog: Answer This Question Faye Holt, Maraya Loza Koxahn, Ella Beaumont, Ryan McFadden Should writers spend their little time writing their book or splitting it with a consistent blog. Panellists discuss benefits and best practices to hosting a blog.

Memoir or Autobiography?  Brian Brennan, Faye Holt, Vivian Hansen, Maraya Loza Koxahn Should your memoir start with your birth? Or is that your mother’s story? Memoir focuses on a significant event or series of events that illustrate a concept. Or do they? Panellists discuss what to include and what to leave out of memoir: the line between memoir and autobiography.

If you have registered, check the schedule for dates and times. Hope to see you there.

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52 Blogs!

I’m late for a very important anniversary date. But I am becoming more flexible. I have been a blogger for one year, so I am no longer a newbie. Admittedly, my count doesn’t exactly jive with WordPress statistics, which suggest this is the 51st published blog, and 2 drafts were not posted. But, for now, I plan to trust my own count.

What will the future bring to my history-related blogs? Just as in my writing posts, I’ll be attempting brevity. In fact, my goal is 400 words or fewer for each post, which is definitely a challenge for me.  Also, I might post a particular history blog that is continued over two or more Mondays. I remain interested in topics such as Doors to the Past, in which I recommend museums or archives that might be of interest to you.

Also, I remain passionate about History along the Highway or the history of our communities. However, my focus may shift so as to include “stories” from those communities. An example might be the life story of someone who lived there, whether the individual was well known or little known. By treating such “stories,” I hope emerging writers become more aware of the countless options available in life writing.

My new approach should allow me to tackle a broader geographical area, too. Certainly, many of my regional books treat history-related topics relevant to all of Western Canada. Some of the region’s settlers had once lived in Eastern Canada or the USA. Others, from Britain and European countries, came west, too. So, once again, flexibility regarding approach, geography and subject matter becomes a great option.

Also inline with my other resolutions, I plan to suggest some of my research-related experiences. Countless times, I have discovered great stories about people and communities at times when, unfortunately, those stories were not relevant to the particular book I was drafting. However, what happened during the research process might be of value to those of you who are investigating your own family and community history. So, along the way, expect an excerpt or two from interviews that I have completed over my many years writing and researching our past.

Will I be blogging at this time next year? I can’t answer that question. But I do know that we have more stories and history than I could cover in a lifetime.

After rewrites, I’m happy to proclaim “That is my 409 words.”

Editors: Writers Most Valuable Allies

Blogging feels like freedom, but surprisingly, what I have most missed while creating these freelance blogs is an editor, a second set of eyes to pick up any mistakes. No matter how much we have written, we overlook details when proofing our own work. We “read” what is in our heads, not the words as they appear. Similarly, when new to a genre, we may not realize how style or technology impacts the process.

With WordPress, options abound, and I know I’ll appreciate them as I become more proficient. However, the tiny window for drafting means I can see only one paragraph at a time. Too, I still haven’t found the spell and grammar checks, but initially, I posted without ever proofreading a black and white print copy of the entire article.

As an individual reader and writer, I applaud the concept of going paperless, but it doesn’t work for me. I am a print learner, so seeing the words on paper is the best process for my learning style. I need to view the entire draft to know if it makes sense. I need see the printed words, pick up my red pen and separate myself from the content. I need to become an editor, and that is an extremely difficult task if working with our own words.

When proofing our drafts, we don’t notice that we have repeated ourselves or bored readers with irrelevant details. Similarly, we may not recognize that what is clear in our own heads is not clear for the detached reader. Certainly, I have improved my process. I’m using a word processor for drafts, printing the posts and proofing with pen in hand. But I will always miss some mistakes. So, I was elated when a good friend said she would edit and proofread for me.

I am so pleased to introduce Shirlee Smith Matheson to all of you. She is a talented and experienced writer, author of 16 published books and many short stories. A popular public historian, her specialty is Canadian aviation, as well as the stories and history of northern Canada. Nine of her books are adult nonfiction, but also, she has written seven novels for the juvenile and young adult market. Shirlee has offered hundreds of readings and workshops at libraries, schools and museums, and she has mentored writers as writer-in-residence for Medicine Hat Public Library, Calgary Public Library and Alexandra Writers’ Centre Society (AWCS), Calgary. As well, she has instructed workshops for young writers’ conferences throughout Alberta and B.C. In addition, she has taught for Mount Royal University and AWCS.

Herself an award winning author, Shirlee has been a judge for the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, a responsibility that has required her to read 60 or more books to determine which ones should be the award winners. An avid reader and a graduate of Athabasca University, Shirlee is a member of numerous writers’ organization and aviation museums. In 2001, she received an Honorary Associate of Arts Degree from Northern Lights College in recognition of her contributions to the literary arts. Shirlee understands the power of words and the world of writers.

How fortunate I am to have her help. Shirlee, what an honour it is to welcome you to my blog and to the blogosphere! For more details about Shirlee and her work, be sure to check out her website www.ssmatheson.ca

Calling Canadian History Buffs

Calling Canadian History Buffs

At times, my husband and I think I must have been born in the wrong century. My favourite era is from the mid 1880s to the mid 1900s—not that I would ever want to give up my computer, dishwasher, automatic washing machine or GPS.

Yet most of the stories that grip me—especially the true ones—come from that timeframe. I like to read such stories, research them, watch films set in the period, become familiar with the material culture and technology of the time and embrace this other world in many ways.

Not surprisingly, my books are rooted in the period. But am I a historian? No, I’m not an academic historian. I’m what’s called a public historian or simply a history buff in the broadest sense of the word.

Clearly, I have other limitations. My interest is not in ancient history or the kings and queens of other countries. So bloggers with such a passion will cruise to other sites. In fact, western Canada is my primary focus, not because I don’t yearn for the history of out entire country. In fact, one grandmother was born in eastern Canada, and I have an aunt who passed her 100th birthday still living in Ontario. But acquiring the stories and history of the eastern Canada doesn’t happen quickly.

Still,  the great  advantage to being Canadian—whether living in the East or West– is that ours is a country with immigrants from all over the world. So, their history is truly our history, and what a never-ending, rich source of stories!

My own grandparents were born in four different countries: Canada, the USA, Ireland and Germany. My great grandparents? Well, some of the links are certain but others are for me –and perhaps you–to discover.

What about my friends’ grandparents and great grandparents or the many individuals I’ve interviewed and included in my writing? Fortunately, time-travel anywhere and everywhere seems the logical possiblity as we blog about our shared past.

Should writers join us? Of course. Whether you are telling true or fictional stories, you need context, perspective and ideas. Whether you are writing time-travel, historical novels and stories, public history or stream-of-consciousness, you might find inspiration and just the right setting in the brave old world of the past.  So, one month from today, we continue this journey.