Author Archives: d78hill

About d78hill

Canadian poet, blogger and freelance writer. Member of the League of Canadian Poets, the Writers' Union of Canada, the Canadian Authors Association, and a past President of The Ontario Poetry Society. Author of Tarnished Trophies (Black Moss Press, 2014)

Delicate Impact – Celebrating Poets

I have a soft spot for The Ontario Poetry Society (TOPS) and the not-for-profit organization has a soft spot for poets.

Every year around this time, The Ontario Poetry Society releases its annual membership anthology. The process begins in March when members interested in sharing their work will submit their ten best poems based on the year’s theme. Then during the spring months, an assigned editor will select the best work from those submissions.

Delicate Impact - Beret Days Press 2018

Delicate Impact (Beret Days Press 2018) edited by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson features the delicate-themed work of 63 poets from The Ontario Poetry Society.

It’s a huge project but the result is an eclectic mix of work celebrating poets and poetry. Some submissions are new creations. Others are previously published and/or contest winners. What a wonderful showcase!

This year’s anthology Delicate Impact: An Anthology of Contemporary Canadian Verse (Beret Days Press 2018) edited and compiled by April Bulmer and illustrated by Nan Williamson, features the work of 63 poets on 214 pages. The book is divided into four sections: Handle With Care, Delicate Matters, Delicate Cycles of Life, and The Climate’s Delicate, The Air Most Sweet.

April Bulmer- Author Photo - Creeds and Remedies Photo Nadezhda

Editor April Bulmer has just released her 11th poetry book, Out of Darkness, Light (Hidden Brook Press, 2018, John B. Lee Signature Series.). Photo by Nadezhda.

“The word… [delicate]…is an adjective that denotes a variety of definitions…” wrote Bulmer in her introduction. “…The poets in this anthology investigate many of these meanings in their delicately-crafted poems.”

Bulmer cited many examples: Kate Marshall Flaherty described an apple slice, John B. Lee penned a poem about foxes and Elana Wolff highlighted the blush of a crab apple tree. Other reccurring themes included birds and cycles and recycling with more cited examples by Donna Langevan, Kathy Robertson, Alvin G. Ens, and Katherine L Gordon.

Some of the contributors will be in London, Ontario today (Sunday, August 19) to read from the Delicate Impact anthology. Others will be launching new books or presenting new work. Non-members may share their poetry during the open mic portion of the event. Sign-up for readers is at the door. The Sultry Summer Poetry Gathering starts at 12:30 p.m. at Mykonos Restaurant, 572 Adelaide Street North. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome even if it is your first or hundredth time reading. Prepare to share one or two short poems. The length of each reading depends on the number of readers signed up.

Applause for this year’s editor/compiler:

Book-Out-of-Darkness-Light-April-Bulmer-Front-Cover-4-inch

April Bulmer’s 11th book of poetry, Out of Darkness, Light (Hidden Brook Press, John B. Lee Signature Series) was released in May, 2018. More information here.

She is known for her spiritual poems and her interest in women’s issues.

Another of April’s books (And With Thy Spirit, Hidden Brook Press) was recently named a finalist in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards (U.S.) in its spirituality category.

April lives in Cambridge, Ontario.

Sample Books by poet April Bulmer - 2018

April Bulmer is known for her spiritual poems and her interest in women’s issues.

Applause for this year’s illustrator:

Nan Williamson Artist Photo

Nan Williamson

Nan Williamson is an artist and poet. She is a graduate of The Humber School for Writers, 2013; her poems have appeared in literary journals in Canada and the UK.  Her sold-out chapbook, leave the door open for the moon, was published by Jackson Creek Press, 2015.

Always interested in the verbal-visual connection, she plays with shapes, colours, and texture to wed form and content in paint and poetry.

Nan is inspired by beauty – natural, or created in the arts and by language and the challenge of painting with brushes – or words.

 

Chapbook and Delicate Impact illustrations by Nan Williamson

Delicate Impact illustrator Nan Williamson is also a published poet. Her limited edition chapbook leave the door open for the moon (Jackson Creek Press 2015) quickly sold out. Her illustrations appear on the front and back cover of Delicate Impact as well as on the anthology’s matching bookmark.

Applause for this year’s featured poets:

 In alphabetical order: Sheila Bello, Christopher Black, Clara Blackwood, Wendy Bourke, Allan Briesmaster, Ronnie R. Brown, David C. Brydges, April Bulmer, Mark Clement, John Corvese, Linda Crosfield, Laura De Leon, Alvin G. Ens, Fran Figge, Kate Marshall Flaherty, Gill Foss, Renée Francoeur, Howard Freelander, Meg Freer, Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, Siegfried Gatkowski, Linda Lou Gauthier, Suparna Ghosh, Joyce Goodwin, Katherine L. Gordon, Glenna Hall, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, Eva Kolacz-Hutchman, Keith Inman,  I. B. Iskov, R. Patrick James, Judith Johanson, Mark Kruk, Donna Langevin, John B. Lee, Bernice Lever, Melanie Lever, Norma West Linder, Tom MacGregor, Bob MacKenzie, Martha Mallory, Fred Manson, Fotios Panos, Yavar Khan Qadri, Frances Roberts-Reilly, Kathy Robertson, Ellen B. Ryan, K.V. Skene, Michael Stacey, Dorothy Stott, Ellen Elizabeth Stout, Elsie Suréna, Lynn Tait, Vanna Tessier, Jim Tomkins, Sheila Tucker, Lily Williams, Nan Williamson, Elana Wolff, Jan Wood, Ed Woods, and Carmen Ziolkowski.

Submission Call For the 2019 Anthology:

Next year’s membership anthology Dancing on Stones will be edited, complied and illustrated by John Di Leonardo. He will be seeking poems on Landforms/Natural Environments, Music, Relationships, Impactful Situations. The deadline for submissions is March 15, 2019. More information here.

What are you waiting for?

 If you are at all timid about sharing your writing and don’t know where to turn, consider becoming a member. If you are an experienced writer looking for opportunities to give back to the community, contact the group as new judges and/or editors are often needed for some of its projects.

Additional information about The Ontario Poetry Society as well as their future readings can be found on its website.

Information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found here on my website.

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Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours Organizes Regional Tour of Prize-Winning Poet

“This morning, my stomach is a helicopter,/on top and in the rear, thrum, rumble, flutter/look how I run; will I need a mop?” – Tom Gannon Hamilton*

A southwestern Ontario poetry tour** featuring headliners Toronto poet and musician Tom Gannon Hamilton and Sarnia author and micro-press owner Sharon Berg will demonstrate how poetry can tell a story, be entertaining, serious and/or humorous based on such subjects as the war in El Salvador, dysfunctional relationships, art, suicide, cannibalism, nature, and more.

Tom Gannon Hamilton

Prize-winning poet Tom Gannon Hamilton will headline Big Pond Rumours Southwestern Ontario Tour with events in London, Sarnia, Petrolia, and Windsor  between August 19 to 28, 2018.

Organized by Sarnia’s Big Pond Rumours (BPR), the five readings will take place in four urban settings (London, Petrolia, Sarnia, and Windsor) between August 19 and 28, 2018. The tour also features a variety of other authors (Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby, London author and visual artist Sile Englert, Lambton poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill, Lambton author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby, and Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith) who will read on specified dates and in different locations.

“My goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this form of writing can accomplish,” said Berg who is also the tour organizer. “Poetry was once revered by kings and practised by people of the highest intellect. But in Canada, poetry has been celebrated as an art form for the people, which led to the appointment of poet laureates in tens of cities across the country. Every poem tells a story, and on this tour, with these authors, you are sure to receive a variety of stories.”

Sharoon Berg

Featured reader and tour organizer Sharon Berg says “my goal for these free community events is to introduce people who have little familiarity with poetry to an appreciation of what this art form can accomplish.”

Headliner Hamilton has a unique story to share. In addition to being the founder, curator, and host of the Urban Folk Art Salon (in partnership with the Toronto Public Libraries), he was also an aid worker during the war in El Salvador. His chapbook manuscript El Marillo, which won 1st place in an annual contest organized by Big Pond Rumours E-zine and Press, focuses on the havoc of events taking place in the 1980s during the extreme violence of the 12-year Civil War in El Salvador.

He has also just released Panoptic, a full-sized book, with Aeolus House, a micro-press owned by Canadian poet/editor Allan Briesmaster.

“This means that he has two books of stunning poetry to promote on this tour,” said Berg. “Hamilton is also an accomplished musician who makes his daily living performing music. He is likely to share a tune or two at each of the readings.”

Headliner Berg is returning to active participation in the Canadian poetry scene after a long hiatus while she worked as a teacher. She founded Big Pond Rumours International Literary E-Zine & Press in 2006.

“The existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant,” said Berg. “Indeed, both the international literary magazine and the press have gradually gained attention across the country for the work they are doing in promoting Canadian authors and providing an international forum for literary work.”

The press has already published chapbooks featuring Nelson Ball, Sharon Berg, Harold Feddersen, Tom Gannon Hamilton, Debbie Okun Hill, John Oughton, Brian Purdy, and Bob Wakulich. Plus, in 2016, Big Pond Rumours also released Paper Reunion: An Anthology of Phoenix A Poet’s Workshop (1976 to 1986) which includes authors like: Heather Roberts Cadsby, Richard Harrison, Stuart Ross, and Libby Scheier.

THE TOUR SCHEDULE

August 19 in London: Hamilton launches his chapbook at The Ontario Poetry Society’s Summer Sultry Poetry Gathering, 1 p.m. at Mykanos Restaurant.

August 23 in London: London author and visual artist Síle Englert reads with Hamilton and Berg, 7 p.m. at Brown and Dickson Bookstore.

August 25 in Sarnia: Toronto poet Heather Roberts Cadsby and Lambton County author/blogger/columnist Phyllis Humby will read with Hamilton 1 p.m. at the Sarnia Public Library on Christina Street.

August 26 in Windsor: Windsor poet and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press Laurie Smith will read with Hamilton and Berg 1 p.m. at Storyteller Bookstore.

August 28 in Petrolia: Lambton Country poet/blogger Debbie Okun Hill will read with Hamilton and Berg 6 p.m. at The Cottage Petrolia on Petrolia Line.

Each event is open to the general public. Admission is free.

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT BIG POND RUMOURS PRESS?

As the owner of Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press (BPR) and a recent retiree, Sharon Berg moved to Sarnia and a new home in August 2016. “I moved here, in part, because Sarnia has a small but vital community of authors,” she said. Her work on the magazine and as a publisher had gone on for years as a sideline while she worked, but both the E-Zine and her press were “small potatoes back then. Indeed, I refer to the press as a micro press because it publishes just four chapbooks (30 pages or less) for Canadian authors a year, the press runs being limited to 100 copies. Still, most Canadian poets and first time novelists have press runs of 500 copies with larger presses, so the existence of the BPR press in Sarnia is significant.”

Additional information about Big Pond Rumours Press can be found here and on its website.

MORE INFO ON THE SPOTLIGHT READERS AND THEIR WORK

 TOM GANNON HAMILTON:

El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) by Tom Gannon Hamilton

In March 2018, Tom Gannon Hamilton won 1st place in an annual Chapbook Contest run by Big Pond Rumours E-Zine and Press. Hamilton’s poetry in El Marillo, is of a different character than most authors in Canada present to their readers. It is literary, but it also reveals the effect of being an eye witness to atrocities through lines of poetry that bring readers right into the scene as a witness. Hamilton was a relief worker with Salvaide, an organization promoting social justice, during his time in El Salvador. He worked to provide medical supplies and other aid to the low income civilians in El Marillo. While thousand of people were being disappeared, the UN reports that the war killed at least 75,000 people between 1980 and 1992.

Hamilton has turned those tragic events into moving poetry. His award-winning chapbook is a dramatic and startling piece of work filled with every human emotion: from horror to terror, from grief and misery to sweet remembrance of others who joined him on that project in El Salvador. As one reviewer wrote of his work, “a lesser man would have had a nervous breakdown rather than turning those events into poetry”. Hamilton put his chapbook together as a way of making a public record about what he witnessed and of celebrating the work Salvaide did to save thousands of lives. It is also a text with special meaning for him as his wife died due to drowning under suspicious circumstances while she was in El Salvador. The pain he deals with related to this loss, is transformed into a celebration of her efforts to gain justice for the people she had devoted her life to.

Quattro Books Presents

As for his book Panoptic recently released by Aleous House, Canadian poet Donna Langevin wrote “Maestro Hamilton composes poems with the same musicality, virtuosity and fidelity that he brings to the violin he feels wed to.” This full-length collection will be officially launched in Ottawa on September 9 and in Toronto on September 12. 

SHARON BERG:

Odyssey and Other Poems (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2017) by Sharon Berg

Sharon Berg is founder of Big Pond Rumours Literary E-Zine & Press in Sarnia. Her first book was published in 1979 and her work includes: The Body Labyrinth, Coach House (1984), Black Moths, Big Pond Rumours (2006), The Great Hoop Dance, Big Pond Rumours Press (2016), Odyssey & Other Poems, Big Pond Rumours (2017) and two audio cassette tapes (Tape 5, Gallery 101 Productions and Black Moths, Public Energies, 1986). She also publishes academic work on the history of First Nations education.

Referring to her first poetry book with Borealis Press, John Robert Colombo said “love becomes lyric in your hands, and poem after poem I am moved from delight to delicious delight.” With the release of her second book from Coach House Press in 1984, Dennis Lee said, “She is one of the younger poets to watch,” while a book review in Malahat Review said, “These are vigorous, quick moving poems with a surprising tension and strength.” After more than 30 years, she will read from her long anticipated third poetry manuscript on this tour.

 ADDITIONAL GUEST READERS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:

 Heather Roberts Cadsby: In the 1980s, Cadsby co-produced Poetry Toronto and co-founded the press Wolsak and Wynn. She also organized poetry events at the Axle-Tree Coffee House in Toronto and the Phoenix: A Poet’s Workshop. In recent years, she served as the director of the ArtBar Poetry Series. Standing in the Flock of Connections (Brick Books 2018) is her fifth poetry collection. More info here.

Sile Englert is a poet, fiction writer, and visual artist from London, Ontario. Her stories have shortlisted in contests for Room Magazine and longlisted in Prism International. Her poetry placed second in Contemporary Verse 2’s 2-Day Poem Contest and featured in Room Magazine, Ascent Aspirations Anthology, The Canadian Authors Association’s Saving Bannister Anthology, Misunderstanding Magazine, and Crannog Magazine (Ireland). Read her Contemporary Verse 2 poem here.

Debbie Okun Hill is a Lambton County poet/blogger with over 30 years of writing and promotional experience. Drawing from Experience is a collection of ekphrastic poems that present her impression of various works of art. Her books are: Tarnished Trophies, Black Moss (2014), Chalk Dust Clouds, Beret Day Press (2017) and Drawing from Experience, Big Pond Rumours (2017). More info here.

Phyllis Humby lives in Lambton and is a well-known blogger at The Write Break, a columnist at First Monday Magazine, and a member of Crime Writers of Canada. However, Our Plan to Save the World, may be the first time that four of her stories are collected in one place. Our Plan to Save the World is an anthology that features five authors. More info here.

Laurie Smith, is a poet, editor, and co-owner of Cranberry Tree Press in Windsor, Ontario. She is also an award-winning poet and author of short fiction. Among her collections are Said the Cannibal, Gallstones, One Ninth of a Cat’s Life, Menagerie, and an upcoming collection of poetry inspired by the work of Charles Darwin. Read about Smith’s humorous 2018 National Poetry Month reading in Sarnia here.

* From the poem “Running of a Country” from the prize-winning chapbook El Marillo (Big Pond Rumours Press, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Tom Gannon Hamilton, 2018

**Written from the files of Big Pond Rumours Press and Sharon Berg.

Additional information about upcoming literary events in Ontario can be found in the event section of this blog.

 

 

#HeartwoodPoet – For the Love of Trees

“Poems fall like leaves until/wheelbarrows sag from collected rain.” -Debbie Okun Hill*

Yesterday’s e-mail from the League of Canadian Poets arrived unexpectedly like the popped cork from a champagne bottle.

“We are so excited that Heartwood is finally out in the world!” wrote Madison Stoner, Communications Coordinator for the League.

Heartwood - front cover image

Heartwood is published by The League of Canadian Poets, 2018. It includes 154 poems by League poets representing every province and territory in Canada.

I could feel the effervescence tingling in her words and the anticipated release of congratulatory balloons on a Facebook page. Bravo to editor Lesley Strutt and all the Canadian contributors and compilers and designers and more who worked behind the scenes on this important project. The League’s fundraising anthology Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees reinforced my own interest in nature and the importance of trees for our well-being. How wonderful to know that others felt the same way. I was pleased to tag along!

According to the Amazon posting, this collection published by the League “features poets from every province and territory celebrating the immeasurable value trees have for the environment and the soul.”

“Trees matter,” wrote Strutt on the back cover of the 288-page anthology, “and we have written about them with the windows of our hearts open, breathing in the good air that the forests provide.”

As one of over 100  #HeartwoodPoets involved in the project, I’m thrilled that the first section of my long poem “This trail of phragmites shrouds” was included in the book.

HEARTWOOD CONTRIBUTOR HD

Special thanks to the League of Canadian Poets for including my poem “This trail of phragmites shrouds – Part I” in its new fundraising anthology.

Since May 2011 (and also thanks to an Ontario Arts Council Writers’ Reserve Grant), I have written over 100 poems about southwestern Ontario’s ash trees destroyed by the invasive emerald ash borer. This particular poem was inspired by Bright’s Grove artist Mary Abma’s Signposts & Traces Ash Tree Memorial Trail installed in the spring of 2017 at Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. The poem described segments of the memorial service that she organized. More information about that service appears here. More information about Mary Abma’s project appears here. More information about the status of my ash-tree book…well, that will be shared at another time.

April 28 to May 2017

My tree-themed poem was inspired by the Ash Tree Memorial Performance organized by Bright’s Grove artist Mary Abma. The outdoor event was held April 29, 2017 at Canatara Park in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Another local poet involved in the League’s Heartwood anthology is Lynn Tait.  Her poem “If Our Mother Was a Tree” is featured. Tait is also a photographer and tree lover. According to the anthology notes, she “has published poetry in CV2, Freefall, Windsor Review, Literary Review of Canada, and in over 90 anthologies.

Sarnia audiences will also be familiar with these out-of-town contributors who have read in the area over the years: Allan Briesmaster, Keith Inman, John B. Lee, Michael Mirolla, Chad Norman, Vanessa Shields, and Glen Sorestad. Anthology contributor Heather Cadsby will be reading in Sarnia at the end of August. Also a special shout-out to Penn Kemp, London’s first poet laureate who has worked with area children as part of the League’s Poet In the Schools program.

However, there’s more than just a local connection to this national project.

In addition to the 154 tree-themed poems written by League members from across Canada, the book includes photographs by Chuck Willemsen and a foreword by Diana Beresford-Kroeger, author of The Sweetness of a Simple Life and The Global Forest: 40 ways trees can save us.

“We must turn to the poets to expand dreams,” wrote Beresford-Kroeger for the book’s back cover. “This is because trees are the parents to the child deep within us.” See her full quote below:

Heartwood - back cover image

“Praise for “Heartwood: Poems For the Love of Trees” published by the League of Canadian Poets.

Contributors are being encouraged to organize and attend launch readings across the country. As the League website states: “Interested hosts can organize a joint screening and launch for Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees and the 1-hour documentary Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees.” What an excellent idea!

Last night, outside my window, Amur maples and Austrian pine waltzed in the rain. Liquid confetti drummed over the tree crowns. Such a joyous outburst!

This morning at my desk, the celebration continues.

“What can the trees teach us?”

I open the patio door, step outside, and breathe in the moist air.

Stay tuned to the League’s social media to find out about a Heartwood launch near you. Check out the twitter hashtags: #HeartwoodPoet #LCPHeartwood

Once additional information becomes available, I will also post Ontario launch details in the event section of this blog.

Read more about the book here.

The League also has an article about the book here.

According to its website, the League of Canadian Poets is “the professional organization for established and emerging Canadian poets. Founded in 1966 to nurture the advancement of poetry in Canada, and the promotion of the interests of poets, it now comprises over 700 members.”

I tip my water-filled wineglass to the trees, “Cheers!!” Looking forward to reading this anthology beneath a healthy green canopy.

Follow this blog for future Canadian poet profiles, literary news, and reviews.

Coming soon: an interview with Canadian poet/editor Harold Rhenisch, Electronic Writer in Residence for the Niagara Branch of the Canadian Authors Association.

*From the poem “This trail of phragmites shrouds – Part I” from the anthology Heartwood: Poems for the Love of Trees (The League of Canadian Poets, 2018) Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2018

Interrogating the Local – Deadline Approaches for Brooklin Poetry Society’s Inaugural Contest

Another summer poetry contest? Sure, why not? You don’t live in Brooklin? No worries! I’ve never been there either. Just, take your notepad and jot down what’s happening in your own neighbourhood. Or better yet, grab a GPS and ‘interrogate the locals’ from another area! Don’t wait another minute!

Brooklin Poetry Society 2018 contest flyer copy (1)

Deadline for submissions is July 31, 2018.

Poets have less than two weeks to polish their “local” themed poems for the Brooklin Poetry Society’s Inaugural Contest. Digital submissions are being accepted until midnight, July 31, 2018. As the contest judge, I look forward to reading your new and unpublished poetry.

What constitutes a prize-winning poem?  First of all, follow the contest guidelines! You’ll find them here on the Brooklin Poetry Society’s website.

DSC_0091

Write the poem that only you can write!

Consider the theme: “interrogating the local”!  The contest organizers have even listed a few questions for reflection: “what does it mean to locate oneself in a given area? How significant are local communities in a globalized world? Why do we identify ourselves as local? How can we understand that term? How does the local speak to you?”

Don’t bore me with an essay! The guidelines state: “Poets are free to interpret the theme as they wish!” Have fun! Stretch your imagination like an elastic! Toss your words like frisbees into the air and see where they land!

I repeat, “don’t bore me”: Avoid the ordinary and ‘absolutely NO’ clichés unless they mimic the local language. This is a poetry contest: be poetic. Make sure each line scans well. Read it aloud! Show me with metaphors and similes. Use the five senses so I can taste the local pickerel or hear the coo of a regional bird or smell the bus diesel or feel the coarse texture of a brick school. Rant or rave if you wish!

Pay attention to your title. Razzle-dazzle with strong introductory lines and memorable last lines! Write the poem that only you can write. Move me emotionally or intellectually or both.

Consider local nuances. For example, whenever I travel by foot or car or bus or train or plane, I am reminded that each village, town, or city streetscape showcases its own characteristics. Where I live, summer is the season for local cherries, local festivals, and sunsets along local beaches. On the prairies, fresh picked saskatoons and home-made perogies with sour cream and fried onions are local favourites.

Will our global, transient, and nomadic wanderings eventually blur out the locals?

Can an animal or tree be local? Can you ever be a local again once you move from your hometown? How do you feel about the terms “buy local” or “locally made”?

From city rooftop mouse…to massive country mouse….I mean raccoon….

So many questions! Are you feeling inspired yet? Try brainstorming new ideas!

Still not sure about the value of entering contests, check my February 2015 blog post: “Poetry Contests: Is It Poetic Gambling?”

And who exactly is the Brooklin Poetry Society? Learn more here. They are a group based in the Durham Region of Ontario. Meet some of its members here.

Remember this contest is blind judging. I am not a member but have met several of the contest organizers in my travels.

Wishing you much success with your writing!

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Keep mining for those ‘local’ gems.

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Anthology Review – Our Plan to Save the World

“I was thinkin’ ‘bout going into town on Saturday. Thinking of asking that fat girl from church to go to the pictures with me. Cindy was her name.” – Phyllis Humby*

The first time I heard “Delusional Date”, the ‘coming of age’ story by Lambton County writer Phyllis Humby, I cheered. Here was a master storyteller in the making. The snappy dialogue and nuances of her characters Rafe and Cindy–plus Humby’s unique narrative style–clung to me like gum on the bottom of my shoe! Seriously, no ‘sour grape’ taste or feeling intended but the simile suited what I perceived was a cocky bubble-blowing protagonist. I applauded the way this author refused to sugar-coat her male character’s politically incorrect words but exposed all the gritty dirt and sticky elements pertinent to the plot.

P11 - Phyllis Humby as 'Cindy' - Eden Mills Sept 15, 2013

Phyllis Humby reads “Delusional Date” on the Fringe Stage of the 2013 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival.

This award-winning story also impressed the judges from the 2013 Eden Mills Writers’ Festival. They invited Humby to share her work with other emerging authors on the Fringe Stage. A video of her reading appears here.

Almost five years later, Humby continues to write and describe her stories as being “scheming, twisted, and spooky”. Her favourite storytelling medium is still the ‘novel’ of which she has written several manuscripts in a variety of genres from the ‘mainstream’ where a woman walks away from her home to move to Newfoundland to her memoir as a lingerie shopkeeper to her latest psychological thriller. She dabbled with short stories to market her name and upon submission several of them won awards and were published. Her ear for dialogue is impeccable. Her ability to hold the reader’s attention is strong.

Last year, she was asked to participate in an anthology project with four other writers: Canadians Nancy Kay Clark and Michael Joll and Americans Steve Nelson and Frank T. Sikora.

Our Plan to Save The World

Our Plan to Save the World (Lulu.com, 2018) is available in print and digital formats.

The result was Our Plan to Save the World (and other stories of false starts dead ends, detours, and determined people looking for their happy ending). The anthology (published this spring in print and digital formats) included 20 stories (4 tales each from the five contributors). Each story was slotted seamlessly in five themed sections: Set off on the search, Change the rules, Unravel the ties, Strive to connect, and Arrive at the place you need to be. Accepted submissions ranged from 2 ½ to 18 ¼ pages in length. “Delusional Date” became one of the showcased works. I cheered again!

When Phyllis (Humby) approached local writers to write a review of the book, I hesitated. First, we know each other on a first name basis so it would be a conflict of interest which I’m disclosing now. Second, what would I do if I didn’t like the published stories of the other contributors?

Out of admiration for Humby’s work, I took a chance.

Reading a new collection of short stories by an unfamiliar group of authors is like scratching a lottery ticket. Buyer beware but not with this powerfully-written anthology.

What a jackpot of storytelling to behold!

Michael Joll showcases Our Plan To Save The World

The book features the work of three Canadians and two Americans.

Don’t let the benevolent cover, the drawn-out title, and the absence of a more traditional trade publisher deter you from adding this book to your ‘must read’ list.

From a marketing point of view, the inside contents and section titles were beautifully designed and printed on crème paper. A larger print size would have made reading the collection more enjoyable. A more sinister cover and title would have better reflected the highly imaginative stories inside. Despite these suggestions, the strong content inside overshadowed any minor flaws. The 5-Star Review on Goodreads reflected my overall impression.

From first love heartaches to misguided spirituality, insanity to incest, suicide and other unexpected or unexplained deaths and more, the collection revealed dark and hard-hitting themes. Almost every story opened with a strong line that yanked me into a variety of unique settings and situations. For example, “Who the hell was St. Polycarpe?” (Clark p. 133); “I promised the doctor I’d stay off the booze.” (Humby, p.71); “Why does all the world love a rogue?” (Joll, p. 128); “If Mother knew I had picked up a hitchhiker, she would have thrown a good old Southern tantrum–” (Sikora, p. 125); and “Everything was fine until she turned crazy on me.” (Nelson, p. 82).

The strongest and most memorable characters were scarred physically and/or cerebrally: a 35-year old woman with a drinking problem, two teenaged runaways who stole a van, a 101-year old man reflecting on his love for his Rolls Royce, a student who walked on fire, Emma who was “the cruel, intriguing, and terribly lonely White Witch of Empathy”, a ‘mad’ sweetheart, a 14-year-old impregnated by a married man, a bat exterminator, and many more. Some characters were likeable. Others were detested for their stupidity or misguided actions but isn’t that what good storytelling is about? Each character felt authentic. Each life moved me.

I especially enjoyed the variety of genres: romance, historical fiction, literary fiction, speculative, science fiction, fantasy and more. Almost every story ended with not only a strong line but a surprise twist that lingered in my mind for days.

Michael Joll

Contributor Michael Joll

One of the most heart-wrenching stories in the collection was Joll’s “The Song of Solomon”, a tale of two sisters that began with the line: “All Faith wanted was to be slim and pretty like Alice, and to have at least one friend.” (Joll, p. 93) What transpired in this dysfunctional family will jolt the reader. To share it would spoil the ending!

To disclose any of the endings would ruin the book. The strength of the writing: the way it scanned and used different literary devices was impressive.

As a poet, I most enjoyed the metaphors and imagery in Joll’s story “In Singapore” where he wrote some beautiful lines. For example: “all of them small pebbles whose splash had left scarcely a ripple on his broader sea.” (Joll, p. 109).

Steve Nelson image 2

Contributor Steve Nelson

The sign of a good collection of stories by emerging authors can also hinge on its reputation with other publishers. Almost all of the works in this book were previously published in Canada and/or the United States. Credits include Ascent Aspirations’ The Crooked Edge of Another Day: An Anthology of the Bizarre, Bew Opsis Science Fiction Magazine, CommerLit.com, Lunch Ticket, Perfect Execution and Other Stories, Phantasmagoria, and Rathalla Review. Some have even won awards and honours including Steve Nelson’s “Night at the Store” nominated for a Pushcart Award.

The quality of the editing by Clark and Nelson plus the manner in which the stories were seamlessly tied together with invisible thread made this collection an equal contender with other professionally-written books.

Nancy Kay Clark

Contributor Nancy Kay Clark

I look forward to following the writing careers of these new-to-me contributors:

Nancy Kay Clark is best known as the Toronto-based writer/editor/entrepreneur behind CommuterLit, an online literary magazine she launched in 2010. Her middle-grade novel The Prince of Sudland will be published in 2018. More info here.

Michael Joll is a retired police officer and the current president of the Brampton Writers’ Guild. His first collection of short stories, Perfect Executive, was published in 2017. More info here.

Steve Nelson is a Chicago resident with a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His work has been published in The Rambler, Storyglossia, eye-rhythm, the Absinthe Literary Review, and elsewhere. More info here.

Frank T. Sikora is a graphic artist, writer, substitute teacher, and track coach from Wisconsin. His work has appeared on-line and in print in Canada and the United States. More info here.

Check out the blog The Write Break with Phyllis Humby for feature articles on each of the contributors as well as a run-down of the anthology’s process.

Frank Sikora

Contributor Frank T. Sikora

As contributor Sikora wrote in his preface: “My original goals were modest…I could just say I’m proud of the collection, but honestly, and thankfully, I can say it has exceeded my original vision.”

He concluded with “I believe we have produced an anthology of stories worth reading and preserving.”

Hear, hear! Bravo to all the contributors! A winning combination!

The anthology is being marketed in Canada and the United States.

Phyllis Humby Photo BW

Contributor Phyllis Humby

In Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, Phyllis Humby will be showcasing her work at a reading organized by Sharon Berg of Big Pond Rumours Press, Saturday, August 25 at the Sarnia Library, 124 Christina Street South. See poster below! More details will be announced later this summer. 

Check my Literary Event Listing for other upcoming Ontario Happenings.

*From the story “Delusional Date” in the anthology Our Plan to Save the World (and other stories of false starts, dead ends, detours, and determined people looking for their happy ending).(Lulu. Com, U.S.A. 2018), Page 119. Used with permission from the author . Copyright © 2018 by Lulu.com.

August 25, 2918 in Sarnia

Phyllis Humby will read from the anthology Our Plan to Save the World during Big Pond Rumours’ Saturday, August 25, 2018 event in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. (NOTE: POSTER UPDATED JULY 26, 2018)

Follow this blog for future reviews and features on Canadian writers.

 

Launched – A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain

“Both history and culture are important facets for a people to protect. One of the ways of doing this is through storytelling.” –David D Plain*

Aboriginal Day Events June 22, 2017He tempts us with a book launch invitation and a free bowl of Indian corn soup. I smile. I’ve never tasted corn soup before but we’re here (at the Maawn Doosh Gumig Community and Youth Centre in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada) to support David D Plain, a local indigenous writer, and to learn more about his sixth book A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula (Trafford Publishing, 2018).

At first, the banquet room appears empty. I didn’t think I was that early. Where was that free soup? (Teasing here!)

Julie from the local indie bookstore waves from behind a display of David’s books. Rosemary from the local cable station adjusts her lights and camera as she prepares to video record the official launch. David (the guest of honour) stands in front of a huge floor length window with a view of the grounds where the Aamjiwnaag First Nation 57th Annual Pow Wow will be held over the weekend. He appears calm and smiles when another familiar person walks into the room.

Launch - Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain Photo 3 - June 22, 2018

David D Plain’s new 122-page book is divided into 23 short chapters: the first half highlights some of the historical moments of the Saugeen Peninsula, the other half outlines some of the culture of the indigenous people in that region.

Lynn, Jane, and Bob are already seated at the front end of the middle tables. James, Norma, Sharon, and I join them. Within minutes, three long rows of tables and chairs fill with other local writers, friends, family, and guests. Some wander to the display area to purchase a book or two. Others ask for David’s signature. It takes a few attempts to settle everyone down.

Launch - Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain Photo 2 - June 22, 2018 Image of Wilson Plain who introduced his uncle at the event.

Wilson Plain introduces his uncle David during the official launch of A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula (Trafford Publishing, 2018), June 22, 2018 at the Maawn Doosh Gumig Community and Youth Centre in Sarnia, Ontario.

Wilson Plain, nephew to the guest speaker, introduces his uncle David as the aboriginal historian/author who frequently shares his knowledge about the Ojibwa history and culture.

Not only does David do this in the oral tradition via presentations to Ontario schools and other groups interested in learning more about the indigenous perspective of past events, but he has also preserved his words in the English language by writing four books (three non-fiction and one historical fiction) covering a 250-year period of the Ojibwa. He also has a memoir of his earlier years awaiting publication and a collection of poetry Poems from an Eclectic Mind was published by Trafford Publishing in 2016. Another blog post about David can be found here.

His latest book, A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula, features 23 short chapters focusing on the early history of “the Anishnaabek (Ojibwa) of the Saugeen (Bruce) Peninsula as well as their relationship with the Crown during the colonial period of Upper Canada.”

Each chapter is intended to be brief.  Written in a simple and straightforward manner, the 122-page book is meant to be an introduction for those who have minimal knowledge about the topic.

The first half briefly highlights key events in history such as the Iroquois battles, the War of 1812, the Treaty of 1836, Paternalism 1860 – 1900, and Modern Times. The second half outlines some of the Saugeen culture between 1700 and 1900 C.E.: language, religion, death customs, trade, sugar camps, gatherings, games, stories, and more.

Launch - Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain Photo 1 - June 22, 2018

A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula is David D Plain’s sixth book. The Book Keeper, Sarnia’s indie bookstore created a beautiful display of Plain’s books.

During the launch, David shares several stories and excerpts from his book.

Launch - Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain Photo 4 - June 22, 2018

Some not so serious moments after Plain’s cell phone’s ‘giggling’ ringtone interrupts his reading.

For example, “Lake Huron produced very large lake trout,” reads David, “Major Strickland was travelling on a schooner bound for Mackinaw in the early 1800’s when met by nine canoes of Ojibwa fishermen who came on board to barter. One of the passengers traded for a lake trout weighing “no less than seventy-two pounds.””

In another excerpt, he shares, “After wintering in small family hunting camps they would congregate at various sugar bushes in groups of six or so families. This gathering would take on an almost festival atmosphere as old acquaintances were renewed after a long and isolated winter.”

A lover of history and a member of the Aamjiwnaag First Nation, David explains the book was written in honour of his grandparents Eleanor and Joseph Root who were members of the Saugeen Ojibwa Nation.

In the book’s preface, he states, “I have spent many hours studying first-hand accounts and source documents as well as listening to oral history as told by the elders. This, as well as research methodologies learned along the way to a graduate level education, has qualified me to act as an aboriginal historian.”

Launch - Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain Photo 6 - June 22, 2018

A chance to meet the author during the book signing portion of the event.

A lively question period and book signing follow his informative reading. As promised, bowls of FREE Indian corn soup (courtesy of Audrey Jacobs) and a platter of home-made oven bread (courtesy of Chris Williams) await the guests.

Feeling adventurous, I stay for lunch. Mmmmm. With one spoonful of soup and a bite of bread, I drift back into another era and try to make sense of it all. A copy of David D Plain’s book settles in my purse. I look forward to reading it over the summer.

*From the book A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula (Trafford Publishing, 2018) Page 85 Used with permission from the author © Copyright 2018 David D Plain

 Follow this blog for future author profiles, book launch details, and other literary happenings.

Coming soon, a review of Our Plan to Save the World featuring five authors including Lambton County writer Phyllis Humby. Also a ‘Q & A’ feature with British Columbia writer Bernice Lever.

Launch - Saugeen Peninsula by David D Plain Photo 7 - June 22, 2018

A delectable lunch: FREE Indian corn soup (shown) made by Audrey Jacobs and homemade oven bread (not shown) made by Chris Williams. Both were shared with the book launch guests. Yummy!

Shokai’s Debut Memoir Opens A Window to the Spiritual Teachings of Buddha

“My wish for you is that you achieve the happiness that is yours to discover.” –Jindo Shokai*

His face glowed like solar energy as he spoke about the essence of love and how everything we do leads us to who we are and how we are all “mystically interconnected”.

The Search for Self book launch - reading by Jindo Shokai Photo 1 June 7, 2018

Jindo Shokai (also known as Richard Maxwell)

From a telecommunications employee to a funeral director to a certified Dharma Teacher, southwestern Ontario resident Richard Maxell (also known as Jindo Shokai to his on-line Buddhist community) revealed that his collected experiences (some of them magical) led him to this moment of publication.

At the young age of 81, he published his memoir The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man and launched it last Thursday (June 7, 2018) at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

The Search for Self book launch - booksi Photo 1 June 7, 2018

The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man was officially launched on June 7 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. A second edition has already been published and includes a glowing preface by Brenda Eshin Shoshanna, PhD.

The first time author attracted such a large audience that the indie bookstore staff had to set up more chairs.

The Search for Self book launch - intro by Susan Chamberlain June 7, 2018

“Richard has led an interesting life,” said The Book Keeper’s Susan Chamberlain in her opening remarks. “Tonight, we celebrate the author and his book.”

His inspirational, humorous, and informative reading kept everyone riveted to their seats. He also patiently answered a myriad of questions from “What is the purpose of shaving’s one head?” (To detach from the world and egotistical possessions) to “What brought you to the Lambton County area?” (You’ll have to read my next book).

The evening ended with supporters lined up from the cash register to the table where Shokai signed each purchased book.

“Jindo Shokai has written a wonderful book,” wrote author, speaker, and workshop leader Brenda Eshin Shoshanna PhD in her preface for the second edition of the memoir. “In this work we are taken on a journey through the course of his life, watching him grow in love and awareness.”

She highly recommended Shokai’s book to all.

I also enjoyed reading about Richard’s journey.

The Search for Self book launch - signing by Jindo Shokai with historical fiction wirter Bob McCarthy Photo 1 June 7, 2018

Sarnia’s renowned historical fiction author Bob McCarthy was one of several local writers who encouraged Richard Maxwell to write and share his story.

Below is my review, written from an advance reading copy received prior to the launch:

The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man  By Jindo Shokai Three Monks Division of L & R Productions, 2018    ISBN-13:978-198420636-7

Jindo Shokai writes, “I am no philosopher but I have done a lot of thinking and decided I may have sufficient talent to write a book that would allow me to succeed in the challenge of making this a better world.”

Three cheers to Shokai (also known as Richard Maxwell) for writing and sharing his debut book, his memoir The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man.

At a time when media headlines blast negative news of violence and natural disasters into our homes, Shokai’s writing invites the reader to slow down and watch for those ‘magical moments’ that transpire while sitting still.

The Search for Self - by Jindo Shokai

Deep and philosophical yet light and humorous at times, this memoir unfurls black and white and shades of grey snapshots of one man’s life journey towards becoming a Novice Priest and a certified Dharma Teacher. Shokai writes with the clarity of wisdom that can only be gleamed from his 80 plus years of experience. Although he touches on the subject of death (and shared personal struggles with loss), his memoir is more a celebration: a book about living each moment to the fullest.

At one point, he states, “Perhaps, poetry is the best way to get at the crux of death.” He seeks answers and shares his discovery with his readers.

For instance, his foreword quickly pulls the reader into the book with his question “What are you searching for?” and his final response: “I am pure energy; unconditional love.”

Written in a casual, conversational style, The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man is divided into 18 chapters with each section exploring a different phase in the author’s life.

For example, in the section on his “happy” childhood in Montreal, he describes playing on the chesterfield, “I would imagine riding up in the carriage and getting out to the sound of the wind whistling through the dark sycamore trees and the dogs following behind the coach would catch up to us and lick my fingers.”

The Search for Self - by Jindo Shokai - Back Cover

Other sections focus on: his neighborhood where kids played hockey with “a lump of frozen horse manure”; his time spend in school and Sunday school classes; his march into cadets with trips to Nova Scotia and Georgian Bay and cruises along waterways in Quebec, Ontario, and Bermuda; his first job picking up sticks and mowing the lawn; his 35 year career in the telecommunication industry; his foray into the funeral business; his explorations backstage with the Little Theatre Group; and his stay in Japan where he became “enamoured by Soto Zen Buddhism and the practice of Zazen”.

Sometimes the writer digresses “I promise not to preach or expound any further than I already have” but his desire to teach remains strong. “My hope to somehow convey the message that we are all dying and we should all be doing something concrete to spiritually prepare both ourselves and our loved ones for the eventuality is [sic] now multiplied infinitely.”

Sometimes, the writer provides too many details like in his chapters describing his work in the telecommunication industry. The reader can get wire-wrapped and short-circuited in all the technical explanations.

The Search for Self book launch - reading by Jindo Shokai Photo 3 June 7, 2018

At the book launch, Jindo Shokai held the audience captive with his anecdotes.

However, overall, this is a quick but satisfying read especially for those who are curious yet hesitant about learning more about Zazen (seated awareness) and the teachings of Buddha. The subject matter of the book is well balanced. For those wanting additional details: Shokai posts information about websites and includes biographies that explores the “Lineage of Soto Zen Buddhism as originated by Eihei Dogen-zenji in the thirteenth century as well as an explanation of Soto Zen Practice in two appendixes at the back of the book.

As a reviewer, I must disclose that this review was based on an advanced reading copy of Shokai’s book and that I know the writer. He was a regular participant and audience member at a local open mic event I co-hosted in southwestern Ontario. At the time, Shokai had a Canadian name and his quiet and kind personality would often light up the room. He rarely spoke about himself so I was thrilled to hear he was writing a memoir. In my opinion, each individual is special and it takes great courage (and dedication) to openly share one’s life and have the words published in a book.

I look forward to reading a possible sequel to his memoir.

As Shokai states in the last chapter of the book, “There is no greater miracle than a person becoming all that he or she can be!!!”

In Appendix II, under the heading “What is Solo Zen Practice?”, Shokai once again stresses, “the ability to be at rest completely, to realize the preciousness and wholeness of life in this moment is a skill we have lost in this busy world.”

Through his teachings, he has succeeded in reminding me to be still!

The Search for Self book launch - signing by Jindo Shokai Photo 1 June 7, 2018

Nice to see so many supporters for a local author.

An in-depth story about Shokai and his book appears in the Thursday, June 7 issue of Sarnia and Lambton County This Week. Read multimedia journalist Carl Hnatyshyn’s article here.

*From the Afterword of The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man (Three Monks Division of L & R Productions, 2018) by Jindo Shokai. Used with permission from the author.

Interested in more literary events? A partial list of future literary happenings in Ontario appears here.

FOLLOW THIS BLOG FOR FUTURE CANADIAN LITERARY REVIEWS, EVENTS, AND AUTHOR/POET PROFILES.