Tag Archives: writing

Introducing Donna Allard – International Beat Poet Laureate – Canada

“my bones pine to follow their naked path, be unknotted, enterprising and unafraid” – Donna Allard, International Beat Poet Laureate Canada (2019-2020)*

With three new books (Ghost in the Window (River Bones Press 2019), Three Times Around The World (River Bones Press 2019), and Cold Fire (SkyWing Press 2019)) added to her resume, New Brunswick based poet Donna Allard continues to not only follow in the footsteps of the original “Beat Generation” but to forge ahead with her own poetic style, interests and ideas.

Donna Allard Photo credit - Debbie Kilday

Canadian Poet Donna Allard – Photo by Debbie Kilday

Call her fearless like a warrior! If you follow her on Facebook, you will be inundated with posts not only about other poets but her interest in nature, social commentary, and other political views. She is not afraid to speak her mind and to reach deep into her psyche and to share her strong emotions with her followers.

Call her determined like an entrepreneur! When I first heard the name Donna Allard, she was the president of the Canadian Poetry Association and was resolute to promote poetry across the country which she has continued to do via her social media accounts.

Call her passionate like the “night’s caressing hand”! She lives, eats, breathes poetry. It is indeed her passion and if you read her poem “Beat Poets” in her book Three Times Around The World, you will discover her desire to be like them.

And now she is part of the new “Beat Generation”. In August 2019 in Connecticut, the National Beat Poetry Foundation, Inc. awarded her with the title International Beat Poet Laureate for the term 2019-2020.

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Gertrude’s Writing Room – Behind the Scenes with Vanessa Shields

I want roots in a space so I can do all the things I love to do in one location – and invite everyone to share the space with me! – Vanessa Shields*

Set up the ‘famous-author-themed’ chairs, open up the front door, and roll out the literary welcome mats! She did it!

“A gathering place for writers.” That’s how the website describes Gertrude’s Writing Room, a Windsor-based venture created and run by Vanessa Shields, local editor/mentor/instructor/poet and author of several books including the Black Moss Press poetry collections I Am That Woman (2013) and Look At Her (2016).

Vanessa Shields at Gertrude's Writing Room Open House Photo by Kara Smith

Welcome to Gertrude’s Writing Room: a Windsor-based venture created and run by Vanessa Shields! Photo by Kara Smith

Shields is no stranger to this blog. Back in 2016 in a Q and A post featuring her second poetry collection, she reiterated her long-time dream of opening “a space for creative writing, book launches, reading series, storytelling series, reading…with delicious coffees/teas and fresh pastries. I have no idea how to life this dream to life, but it’s there and very real in my mind.”

Fast forward several years! Shields is indeed realizing her long term goals. Not only did she “life” a modified version of her dream, but over the summer her business Gertrude’s Writing Room celebrated its first year anniversary with an open house in a new location inside Willistead Park, 1899 Niagara Street.

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Introducing Naming the Shadows by Sharon Berg

We were breaking strict rules, heading towards the high, crumbling hillside that was the northern face of this valley called Cedar Vale – Sharon Berg*

 What happens next for Elke, the young protagonist in Sharon Berg’s fictional tale “Trespass” is a heart-wrenching account of how quickly innocence can slip into a dangerous and dark abyss. The tension builds and as a reader, I am left scarred similar to my feelings after reading Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Will the horrors between bullies and victims never end?

However with shadows comes light and for this Sarnia writer her ability to shock (and move readers into action) is offset by her caring and strong interest in portraying the human experience in its painful as well as its tender, healing moments.

For almost a year, Facebook followers have received teasers about Berg’s upcoming short fiction collection Naming the Shadows to be published by the established trade publisher The Porcupine’s Quill based out of Erin in Wellington County. She’s proudly shared the cover depicting a painting by Alvinston artist Liana Russwurm and has created on-line posters for her upcoming book tour. “Trespass” is part of this new book which includes 9 short stories and two novelettes.

September 29, 2019 in Sarnia

Launching September 29 at The Book Keeper in Sarnia: Naming the Shadows (Porcupine’s Quill 2019) is the debut short fiction collection by Sarnia writer Sharon Berg. Special guests include Berg, artist Liana Russwurm, and poet/musician Tom Gannon Hamilton who will offer background music as she reads from the book.

Now the real work will begin!

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In the Theatrical Spotlight – David Stones as The Poet

My whole life shining/charged and fused/with its wick of burning flesh. – David Stones*

Toronto bard David Stones is on fire! He may consider himself a “weekend writer or poet”, but his highly-successful poetry collection Infinite Sequels (Friesen Press 2013) and his poetic performances (based on the book) are certainly attracting attention.

With blazing spotlight performances at the Stratford SpringWorks 2015, the London Fringe 2018, and most recently at the Hamilton Fringe 2019, he and his work have been labelled as “dazzling,” “unforgettable,” and ‘utterly mesmerizing.”

July 19 to 28, 2019 in Hamilton

David Stones’ “dazzling” performances are inspired by his book Infinite Sequels (Friesen Press 2013).

I’m not surprised. As a successful businessperson, Stones is proficient in wooing an audience for a standing ovation.

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Booked for the Summer plus Fall 2019 Releases

 

“I will address all seasons in turn/and summer the memories” – Donna Allard, International Beat Poet Laureate*

As a child I welcomed summer, those endless memories reading yet another book in the comforts of my favourite tree. As an adult, I still enjoy being squirreled away to enjoy the summer tranquility that outdoor reading can bring.

However, while vacationing from social media last June, I missed the biggest literary news to hit the area: the great Canadian author Margaret Atwood would be touring with her latest book. One of her readings would be held at a local hotel in late November 2019. By the time I heard about the event, all the tickets were sold out.

November 27, 2019 in Sarnia

Each year Sarnia’s indie bookstore, the Book Keeper, hosts numerous visits by emerging and established authors. Canadian author Margaret Atwood will be in the area in November but event tickets are already sold out. Photo courtesy of The Book Keeper

Although I will miss one of my favourite authors read, bookstores, libraries, and other organizers of literary events are already gearing up for a busy fall season and I’m looking forward to hearing more updates as they become available. Some of those Ontario happenings appear on the event section of my blog.

What are you doing for the rest of the summer to feed your literary mind?

Below is my August/September “hoping to read soon” reading material as well as some of the Fall 2019 book releases and activities that I’ll be following.

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Behold the Characteristics of a Prize-Winning Poetry Chapbook

The life of those/who went before/their bodies take the shape of sheers/that breathe upon the window ledge – John B. Lee – author of My Sister Rides a Sorrow Mule, winner of The Ontario Poetry Society’s 2019 Golden Chapbook Poetry Prize.

If someone asked you to judge a poetry chapbook contest, what would you look for? The squish of rain beneath rubber boots? The whirl and clang of a pinball machine? Would you seek out manuscripts focusing on your favourite subjects or would you evaluate the work on originality or the strength of the writing? How does one evaluate and compare a collection of Shakespearian sonnets to a test tube of experimental poems? Can a bushel of McIntosh apples compete with a box of Mandarin oranges? Can the writing of a people’s poet battle with a scholar’s life’s work and vice versa?

How many of you have entered manuscripts into contests and upon release of the winner’s list have asked, where did I go wrong? How can I improve my chances for the next submission call? Where can I go for advice? Should I even bother to enter another contest?

Apples and Oranges Photo by Okun Hill

Judging a poetry contest is like comparing apples with oranges. Find a manuscript with hackneyed clichés and themes and it’s quickly eliminated from the competition.

Last May, a cardboard box filled with poetry chapbook manuscripts arrived at my door with the instructions to select a top winner and five honourable mentions by November 2019. My head spun like a flying saucer heading straight for a chain-link fence. I had judged poetry contests before but this was my first assignment judging a manuscript contest. Just reading through the poems once could take months. I finally understood the weight thrust upon publishers inundated with a year’s worth of manuscripts. This would be no easy task.

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Celebrating the Life of Carmen Ziolkowski 1924 – 2018

“When I depart/ bring me to a place/of summer days/where flowers bloom/and friends hold my hands.//Then my heart will rejoice.” Carmen Ziolkowski*

When the news of Carmen Ziolkowski’s departure arrived in late December, a wintry chill settled on Sarnia-Lambton’s literary community. It left me and others numb but five months later, flowers did indeed bloom during her Celebration of Life held May 26, 2019 at the Sarnia Riding Club.

With the club house windows overlooking Lake Huron and a large vase of carnations greeting family and friends at the door, the love for this inspirational woman filled the room.

Carnations from Carmen's Celebration of Life

Carmen Ziolkowski often wrote about love and flowers.

As a writer, Carmen often wrote about flowers; she left a bountiful bouquet, a legacy of literary buds and blooms for her readers to admire and cherish. Trilliums, dancing cherry blossoms, forsythia, periwinkle, wisteria, bleeding hearts, and even bright dandelions scented her work. Her poetry sang with birdsong, the chirp of a sparrow, the tweet of a robin, the boisterous vocals of geese, cardinals, and eagles as they swooped and soared across the pages. The sun and the moon also played vital roles in her seasonal portraits.

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