Tag Archives: Canadian Author

Gardening Words – A Literary Spring Cleaning

“North wind yanks her long skirt./A hand-knit scarf covers/her tulip-shaped face.”  -Debbie Okun Hill*

Call it a brain freeze or an ice-cream headache: that sensation of eating or drinking an ice cold substance during a hot summer’s day! (Insert laughter here!) Last week, the temperatures soared above 30 degrees Celsius: much too hot for planting seeds!

Lost in Reality TV Snow - Okun Hill - January 9, 2018

This week, the wind off the lake numbs my fingers. Words pile up like snow, like unread books on a shelf, like autumn leaves clogging the eaves trough, like spring cleaning that never gets completed!

Quick, grab me a broom and a rake to smooth out this unruly tangle of rejection slips and word roots gnarled and snarled on my desk and in my yard.

I’m waiting for my garden-gloved fingers to unthaw.

In the meantime, browse through the good news gathered in my in-basket:


Am I dreaming? Is that really an ash sapling (one of several) growing in my back yard? Shhhh,  please don’t tell the emerald ash borer!!! Yes I’m still looking for a publisher for my ash tree themed manuscript!

Ash perhaps - May 22, 2018 FB size

Thank you Andrews Gripp of Harmonia Press in London, Ontario for posting three of my poems “Tasseography”, “Rehabilitation” and “Bottled Water” in the third issue of his on-line zine Synaeresis.

Synaeresis Issue Three

Published on-line June 1, 2018 by Harmonia Press

Here’s the line-up of featured poets. More information about Harmonia Press here.


Also thank you to the Lake Winnipeg Writers’ Group for including my poems “No Sign of Spring”, “Nocturnal Creatures” and “Turning a Corner” in their latest anthology Voices, Volume 18, Number 1 launched earlier this spring at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The book arrived a few days ago and I can’t wait to read it. They are organizing a contest for fiction and poetry with an extended June 14 deadline. More information can be found here.

Voices 18-1 LWWG anthology published by BK Publishing - launched May 6, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba Low Res Cover

Published by BK Publishing – launched May 6, 2018 in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Coming soon, a sample of my previously published poems translated into Greek! How cool is that? More details to come!


I love watching regional authors bloom.

The Search for Self - by Jindo Shokai

TONIGHT (June 7) at 7 p.m. at the Book Keeper in Sarnia, Ontario, Jindo Shokai (also known at Richard Maxwell) will be launching his debut book, a memoir called The Search for Self: Confessions of a Dying Man (Three Monks Division of L & R Productions, 2018). Local writers will remember Richard from the Spoken Word events held at the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts. Expect an inspiring presentation as Shokai shares his spiritual journey towards Zen Buddhism. Follow this blog for a book review and photos from tonight’s launch.

On June 21, London’s Poet Laureate Tom Cull will lead a workshop on ekphrastic poetry (writing poems inspired by art), 6 to 8:30 p.m. TAP Centre for Creativity, 203 Dundas Street. There is a charge for this event. Advanced registration required. Scroll down to see more info about Cull’s debut book.

On June 22 at 11 a.m. at Maawn Doosh Gumig Community and Youth Centre, 1972 Virgil Avenue, Sarnia, Ontario, indigenous writer David D Plain will launch his latest historical non-fiction book A Brief History of the Saugeen Peninsula.  The event is hosted by Aamjiwnaang Heritage & Culture E Maawizidijig. A previous blog post about Plain appears here.

Aboriginal Day Events June 22, 2017

Micro-press Big Pond Rumours under the ownership of Sharon Berg and based in Sarnia continues to offer publishing opportunities for writers. See the poster below as well as the press’s updated website for current and future activities. Two new prize-winning chapbooks were launched earlier this spring and several readings are being planned for the summer.

Big Pond Rumours Upcoming Projects

And three cheers to local indie bookseller The Book Keeper who continues to invite special guest readers to Sarnia. On June 19, staff have organized an Intimate Evening with Karen Connelly, author of The Change Room. This ticketed event includes a copy of the book, dinner, a glass of wine, and a fantastic night.  Space is limited. More information is available from The Book Keeper.


Bad Animals by Tom Cull

Bad Animals (Insomniac Press, 2018) by creative writing instructor and London, Ontario’s current poet laureate Tom Cull. According to the book’s back cover, “Cull’s debut collection is equal parts zoo, funhouse, and curio cabinet.”  The book was officially launched in London, last Friday (June 1), but another reading with Laurie D Graham is planned for June 11, 2018 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Open Sesame, 220 King Street West in Kitchener. He will also be reading with Jeffery Donaldson on June 20 at 7 p.m. at Epic Books, 226 Locke Street South in Hamilton. See this blog’s event section for more details.

Thin Moon Psalm (Brick Books, 2007) by Sheri Benning and Lost Gospels (Brick Books, 2010) by Lorri Neilsen Glenn. Thank you to Poetry London for gifting me these two books as partial payment for a recent regional reading I did in London.  I’ve added the books to my summer reading list.


Our Plan to Save The WorldOur Plan to Save the World , an anthology of short stories by Nancy Kay Clark, Lambton County writer Phyllis Humby, Michael Joll, Steve Nelson, and Frank T. Sikora. Phyllis will be sharing work from this book at a Big Pond Rumours event scheduled for late summer in Sarnia. Follow this blog for more details as well as a review.

The Spoken World: Poems (Hagios Press, 2011 – now available through Radiant Press) by Harold Rhenisch. I’ve been admiring the work of this prolific Canadian poet, short story writer, novelist, blogger, translator, and editor, from a distance. Here’s a link to his author’s website and a link to his many blogs.

The Spoken World by Harold Rhenisch

At the moment, I feel ill-equipped to engage in a meaningful conversation with this talented individual (who recently helped me with some of my work) but my goal is to post a future interview with him. (Wish me luck.) I am particularly interested in this book as it explores Rhenisch’s “relationship with his long time mentor and friend Robin Skelton”. I want to read it first.

People Places Passages: An Anthology of Canadian Writing (Longbridge Books, 2018) edited by Giulia De Gasperi, Delia De Santis and Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni. Bright’s Grove editors Delia De Santis (and the late Venera Fazio) are renowned for their work in promoting Italian-Canadian writers.

People Places PassagesAccording to the publisher’s blurb: “The volume is the most comprehensive collection yet of Italian-Canadian writing, and a milestone in the history of the Association of Italian Canadian Writers (AICW), whose thirtieth anniversary coincides with the publication of this volume.” An interview with De Santis re: her involvement in the project will be posted later this summer.

So much to ponder! Can you feel the June sun nudging the ‘word’ buds to grow?

“Time slips forward….You turn around, refreshed/pink colour returns to your cheeks”**

*From the poem “No Sign of Spring” from the anthology Voices: Volume 18, Number 1 (BK Publishing, 2018) Page 78 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2018 
**From the poem “Rehabilitation” from the zine Synaeresis III (Harmonia Press, 2018) Page 58-59 Used with permission from the author © Debbie Okun Hill 2018







Sarnia Writers James Deahl and Norma West Linder Launch Three New Books

So much of our journey occurs/between two great silences./We must either walk the path/of the blood-red moon/or go down to the river/and welcome whatever rises/from its black depth – James Deahl*


Toronto Launch – October 18, 2016                                      Sarnia Launch – October 23, 2016

Summer’s heat lingers-clings to the windshield, to the steering wheel, to the green autumn leaves dipped in brilliant yellow paint and crimson red stain. Prolific Sarnia writer James Deahl tugs the knot in his tie and opens the power windows as he drives his car along Highway 402 towards London, Ontario.


James Deahl chats about love and death during the Toronto launch of To Be With A Woman (LUMMOX Press, 2016)

His tour schedule includes the launch of three new books at the Toronto Public Library’s Parliament Street Branch and, for the next three hours of his trip, he speaks (almost non-stop) about Ontario’s landscapes, love and death. His passion for both poetry and his partner the prolific Canadian writer Norma West Linder rises with each breath as perspiration beads like liquid pebbles along his forehead.

“When Gilda died very shortly after her fifty-third birthday, I thought I would also die,” he says. He emphasizes this at the Toronto book launch and again in the introduction of his book To Be With A Woman: A Journey of Love & Death, Poems, 2007-2010. Gilda Mekler was Deahl’s second wife and his business partner for the now defunct small press Mekler and Deahl. After his long mourning period, he developed a close friendship and fell in love with Linder. “I love and honour my Norma and strive to be the man she deserves.”

His new 134-page poetry collection, published by LUMMOX Press, focuses on these two women. As stated in the Toronto Public Library flyer: the book “begins with the death of his second wife, Gilda Mekler, in early 2007 and ends with his engagement to Norma during the summer of 2010.”


Guest reader and poet Pat Connors reads from his second Lyricalmyrical chapbook during the October 18, 2016 launch at the Toronto Public Library’s Parliament Street Branch.

Toronto launch’s guest reader Pat Connors, author of Part Time Contemplative (Lyricalmyrical), wrote that “James Deahl’s newest release is philosophical and ironic. It tells of love lost, and then of new love found, all leading to a great appreciation of an even more foundational relationship. He writes about the events which have marked his life with such clarity and honestly that it speaks to all of us.” Connors’ full review appears in the Volume 19, Number 111, October-November 2016 issue of Canadian Stories. 

Linder’s new and 26th book and 6th novel Tall Stuff (Hidden Brook Press, 2016) also focuses on love and has been described as “a romantic novel based on ‘little theatre’” or as the back cover states: Tall Stuff is “Singing in the Rain” meets “Love Story”.  Additional information about Linder’s book appears in this Lambton Shield article written by Sarnia writer Sharon Berg and posted on October 10, 2016.

The third book launched in Toronto is Landscapes: Poems from the seasons of Ontario’s soul published by Israel’s Cyclamens and Swords Publishing. The 74-page collection includes the poetry of both Katherine L. Gordon and James Deahl. According to Ottawa writer Ronnie R. Brown, “In Landscapes, two well-respected poets join forces to present a stunning display of places and ideas, “giving a tongue to the world around them”…”To read Landscapes, is to experience Canada from the comforts of your armchair.”


Norma West Linder shares her work October 19, 2016 during CADENCE, Sarnia’s newest reading series with a little music.

Brantford’s Poet Laureate John B. Lee in his review published in the August/September 2016 issue of Canadian Stories concludes: “Like Anteus who takes his strength from the earth – they seem to be writing –I am here – in Ontario – standing on worthy ground –ground as good as any – inspired and inspiring – a place on which to stand from when you might move the earth with the fulcrum and lever of these fine poems.”

The Sarnia launch of all three books will be held this Sunday, October 23 from 1 to 2 p.m. at The Book Keeper, 500 Exmouth Street. Stop by and meet these prolific writers in person!

An earlier blog post about James Deahl and his poetry book Unbroken Lines (LUMMOX Press, 2015) appears here.

An earlier blog post about Norma West Linder and her novel The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015) appears here.

An earlier blog featuring their joint poetry collection Two Paths Through the Seasons (Cyclamen and Swords Publishing, Israel, 2014) appears here.


Canadian writers James Deahl and Norma West Linder will be reading in Sarnia on Sunday, October 23, 2016.

*epigraph is from the poem “Our Travail” published in To Be With A Woman: A Journey Of Love and Death, Poems, 2007-2010 (LUMMOX Press, 2016) Copyright © James Deahl 2016

Follow this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.

Norma West Linder Adds Second Children’s Book to Her Diverse Literary Portfolio

But right until the end of the period, all Katie could think about was Mindemoya. What a funny name! It sounded like the sort of place where strange things could happen. –Norma West Linder*

For over fifty years, Canadian writer Norma West Linder has surrounded herself with words. Books spill from shelves in her living room. Tabletops hold magazines and other reading material. Not only is she an avid reader but she has produced an impressive and diverse portfolio of literature during her prolific writing career. Her contributions to the literary community include 5 novels, 14 collections of poetry, a biography on the former Ontario Lieutenant-Governor. Pauline McGibbon, a one-act play, a children’s book and a memoir on Manitoulin Island. She also taught English and Creative Writing for 24 years at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada and wrote a monthly column for The Sarnia Observer for 7 years.

Norma West Linder

Canadian Author Norma West Linder

Retirement is far from her mind. In fact, her latest book The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015) is a 77-page ‘chapter book’ that transports her back to her youth, to Manitoulin Island where she spent her formative years, long before she settled in Sarnia.

It’s the same setting she showcased in Morels and Maple Syrup: A Memoir of Manitoulin Island (Vesta Publications, 1977) and in her poetry chapbook Magical Manitoulin (Beret Days Press, 2006). This love for her childhood haunt is reinforced in her poem “Going Back” where she states: “when I was twelve/we moved from Manitoulin/yet somehow I remained an Island girl/and each time I go back I live again/those carefree days**”

Linder’s imagination soars with her latest novel. Marketed for children ages 8 to 10, the book follows the fictional story of Caleb Larkin and his step-sister Katie Lambert who witness a spaceship landing on the island. Her chapters are beautifully enhanced with 10 full-colour images by Calgary resident and artist Afsheadeh Abbasnezhad.

According to poet, publisher, literary judge and reviewer Katherine L. Gordon, “Norma West Linder has written a tale imbued with the historic magic of Manitoulin, a place alive from the ancient of days with spirit power. A perfect setting for adventure and self-discovery.”

Book - THE PASTEL PLANET - Norma West Linder - F and B Cover

The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015) by Norma West Linder

The Pastel Planet will be officially launched Saturday, January 16 starting at 2 p.m. at The Book Keeper, Northgate Plaza, in Sarnia. James Deahl, Linder’s biggest fan and significant other will also be reading from his new poetry book Unbroken Lines: Collected Poetic Prose 1990-2015 (LUMMOX Press, 2015). More details about Deahl’s book appears here.

Additional details about Linder’s The Pastel Planet appear here.

Below is an interview conducted with Linder earlier this month:

1)      Describe your new book The Pastel Planet. What inspired you to write it?

My book takes two youngsters, Katie and Caleb, on space trips over Manitoulin Island with friendly aliens who resemble huge Gumbo babies. I wanted to write another novel for children because my first one about our family dog was well received.***

2)      How does your work differ from other writers? What makes it unique and special?

Even though it’s said there’s nothing new under the sun, each writer has his or her own voice and a unique way of seeing the world, as unique as our fingerprints.

3)      What is your writing process? And why do you write the way that you do?

I’m erratic in my writing habits; some days I’m at it for hours, other days I accomplish nothing. But if I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about it.

4)      What are your plans for promoting your book?

The Book Keeper in Sarnia will do a launch for me on January 16th at 2 o’clock, when James Deahl, my Significant Other, launches his book of poetic prose pieces, Unbroken Lines.

Norma West Linder & James Deahl Photo 1 by Okun Hill

Norma West Linder and James Deahl travelling together on their literary journey.

 5)      Who are/were your mentors and why did they inspire you?

Other writers inspired me, novelists like Margaret Laurence and Ernest Buckler, and poets like Ray Souster. James inspires me on a daily basis. 

6)      You are a prolific writer. What advice would you give to a young writer just starting his/her career as a writer?

The best advice I can give beginning writers is to know everything there is to know about your characters in short stories or novels. For poems, it’s a good idea to put the first draft away for a day or two, let it get cold, then revise if necessary. Oddly enough, you may have to discard the very line that prompted you to write the poem in the first place.

7)      What are some of the challenges facing writers today?

For writers of short stories, a form I’ve always enjoyed doing, the market today is lamentably small. When I was able to sell stories to Chatelaine, the pay was good, and often the stories would be picked up for publication in England and Australia, again, with substantial payment. Much of what is written today appears only online with minimal payment or none at all. To me, that is less satisfying than holding a magazine or book in my hands.

8)   What future writing project will you be working on following/during your tour?

I’ve written articles, essays, stories, novels and plays. However, the publication of poetry has given me the most satisfaction, although the reward is not a monetary one. But unlike other kinds of writing, one has to wait for Erato, the poetic Muse, to come to call. And she can stop calling for long stretches when you might think she has abandoned you. Just wait. She always comes again.

Thank you for sharing your comments. I wish you continued success with your writing!         

*epigraph is from the end of Chapter 1 of The Pastel Planet (Hidden Brook Press, 2015). Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright ©2015 Norma West Linder

**from the poem “Going Back”, Magical Manitoulin (Beret Days Press, 2006). Reprinted with the author’s permission: Copyright @2006 Norma West Linder

***Linder’s first children’s book was titled Corey (Vesta Publications, 1979). It was 91 pages long and was illustrated by K. Herb Linder.

Watch this blog for additional Canadian Author and Poet Profiles.