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Category Archives: Toronto Public Library

Writers in Residence can help authors

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

If you are writing a novel, a short story or anything else and you want some outside feedback, consider consulting a Writer in Residence. Writers in Residence are all over – with writing groups, libraries and art clubs to name a few. Sometimes you have to be a club or organization member to talk to a writer in residence. However, usually with a library-based Writer in Residence you don’t.

I have been a writer in residence – not for a library (not yet anyway) but for the Canadian Authors Association, Toronto branch – twice – 2001 to 2003 and 2009 to 2014. So I can see this from both sides of the writing fence.

From the WiR side of the fence I have done one-on-one consultations with writers – in person, by email and on the phone. I have edited and/or evaluated a few pages of their manuscripts and had lively conversations about their marketing their stories or novel, for example. For the in-person consultations, we have met in my home office and in libraries. Yes, libraries, but not connected to library WiR. This was the CAA Toronto chapter appointment  – the earlier one.Before the regular meeting in the library auditorium, I would be available for half an hour or so for anyone who wanted to talk to me about their writing or have me take a look at something they had written. If it was a per-arranged appointment, often we met in the Food Court as this library is in a mall. And at the beginning of the CAA branch meeting, I would say a few words (up to five minutes) on some aspects of writing – writing tips. I found the whole experience very satisfying as I could help other writers and I also learned a lot from them. It’s a two-way street..

Writers-in-Residence sometimes are paid – it depends on the organization. CAA Toronto paid me, although each residency had a different payment setup.

Toronto Public Library writers in residence are paid quite well and so they should be with all they have to do. This includes spending some time in a room set aside for them a the library branch – usually one of the largest branches. They can do some of their own work, but they also use the room to consult with writers – usually for half an hour. Writers can get in to see the WiR by submitting a 20-page manuscript to the library branch at the beginning of the residency and then the library gives them an appointment time and day. This does not cost the writer anything.

Currently the Toronto Reference Library is looking for a Writer in Residence for spring 2018. This means that the twice yearly (spring and fall) WiR sessions are full for 2017. Obviously with it being December and the Christmas season, the fall 2016 WiR session is over. But here is a list of criteria for the library’s WiR

Eligibility Criteria

:

Canadian citizen, permanent resident of Canada

 

Minimum of two books in print, published by a professional publishing house, at least one of which is a memoir

 

Active in the writing profession; active online presence

 

Experience in teaching creative writing

 

Understanding of the needs of aspiring writers

 

Experience developing and delivering programs, workshops, readings

 

Working on or planning to work on a new project intended for

book-length publication.

 

That’s just it in a nutshell. And yes, I have consulted with Writers in Residence before – both with the Toronto Library and with the Toronto Heliconian Club Literature Section – of which I am a member. I have had line by line edits and comments in person, the writer pre-reading the manuscript pages and commenting on it when we met. These occasions turned into lively discussions and I learned a lot. Not only  possible changes in my manuscript but encouragement to continue writing for publication. Only once did I consult with a library WiR who didn’t resonate with my manuscript. Despite the criteria for WiR listed above, this author did not have memoir-writing experience and I had submitted 20 pages from my memoir-in-the works. So, he just didn’t get it. However, he is an accomplished and published literary fiction author so I am sure he helped many writers writing in that genre. That was a few years ago anyway.

 

So, wherever you live I urge you to find a writer in residence and make an appointment with them for whatever your writing concerns are – writing or marketing.

 

And the usual, click on the Beyond Blood graphic at the top to go to my author profile and books and where to purchase. Christmas is only 17 days away. Gulp! I have my Christmas decorations up (finally) but still have a bit more Christmas presents to buy. And for a huge lot of one of them (fudge) online shopping just won’t do. The best fudge in town is homemade fudge with no additives or preservatives which to buy I have to go to the Christmas Market at the Distillery in Toronto. Maple Fudge is the name of the company with the fudge booth there. They have a store in Niagara on the Lake and I have been there when out that way visiting cousins during the summer. But now it’s the Distillery Christmas markets where I have to also deal with the crowds. And go on weekdays or pay the $6. entrance fee on weekends from 5  p.m. Friday. Something about paying to get in to do Christmas shopping is just not right. But they do it because the weekends were getting overcrowded.

 

But I must have my fudge and it isn’t ALL for me. Some is, though. Fudge is fuel for writing energy. Or that’s my excuse anyway.

 

Happy writing.

 

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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What’s Your Story? East York Saturday Oct. 1

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

Authors  -published and unpublished, publishers and bookbinders mix this coming Saturday at another of the four Toronto area What’s Your Story? events. This one runs from 2 p.m. to 4.30 p.m. at the S. Walter Stewart Library branch  in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  And the bolded word is not a mistake. There will be a bookbinders workshop and it is not digital. Also in the lineup are four area (East York part of Toronto) authors – one emerging and three published – who will each read their essay on their neighbourhood, a networking session with publishers and published authors, and a chance to get one page of your manuscript anonymously critiqued by members of my East End Writers’ Group. The “anonymously” refers to the manuscript page being submitted without the author’s name on it. Authors wanting to sample our group’s writing critique on a small scale can drop one-page of a manuscript in a bowel or box and sit in our writers’ circle where they can take part in a writing critique.

And we published authors will be able to sell our books.

But I am jumping ahead. “What’s Your Story?” was conceived by the Ontario Book Publishers Organization. The concept is to showcase the literary scene in four areas of Toronto with both published and want-to-be published writers coming together and getting a chance to show their stuff and network and learn. With each Toronto area, the OBPO joined forces with an area arts group and a Toronto Library branch for the half day’s events. In East York, East End Arts, an umbrella group for so many creative organizations for the area, was picked. And one of their representatives, in turn, called on me to have my East End Writers’ Group participate. Adom (from EEA) and I brainstormed what EEWG could do and came up with the writing critique.

The whole afternoon is a celebration of writing, publishing and reading. And you can read a lot more about it on the East End Arts website. There are photos, bios, and info on the individuals and groups participating, schedule of events, a place to sign up for learning/participating sessions.

And yes, that includes the bookbinding workshop. Pity, it runs the same time as the writing critique session.

I love the title of these events as it is so evocative of writers and writing.

So, taking that title, I’m asking you:

WHAT’S YOUR STORY?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

And as usual, if you click on the Beyond Blood book cover at the top, you will link to my Amazon profile.

 

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Author reading calm after the storm

The latest Beyond book in the series

The latest Beyond book in the series

To continue with last week’s post about the East End Writers’ Group meeting amidst a thunderstorm, my author reading the next evening at another library branch – the Mount Pleasant library branch – went well. In fact the whole Thursday evening of this Urban Art and Folk Salon was something special for all of us. I call it the calm after Wednesday evening’s storm because it was a delightful evening and despite the usual pre-presentation nerves, very enjoyable.

I left in lots of time to allow for public transit screw-ups. Tthere was one delay when I was switching subway lines. Trains were holding because somebody who shouldn’t have been on the tracks was, at another subway station. The TTC kept us informed about subway service and I boarded about the third train that arrived when the train service resumed. When I transferred to a bus, I chatted with a woman who was actually on one of the subway trains that was stopped. She said that everything (including air conditioning and I presume lights) was turned off while they sat. That seems unusual as anytime I’ve been in a train stopped for whatever reason, things were not turned off.

But after this little glitch, everything got better. I sat on a park bench by a school yard and had my sandwich and fruit and took a slow walk the four blocks up to the library, arriving in plenty of time for the 6 p.m. start to the Salon. And what a Salon it was. Lots of musicians, mostly folk who are really good with playing guitar and singing, two poets, and me reading about murder and mayhem. But I read it like it was a play performance – two short story excerpts from Beyond the Tripping Point and the beginning of Beyond Blood. Tom Gannon Hamilton, one of the poets reading and also the host and organizer of these monthly Salons, is also a violinist and he accompanied the other musicians on his violin. The library supplied snacks and at the break I met some new people and re-connected with some “old” (as in those I had met before, not necessarily age).

It was truly a wonderful evening and made up for all the nonsense from the night before. And I notice from the information online that the S. Walter Stewart Library branch where my East End Writers’ Group meets still has the children’s department downstairs closed until further notice due to flooding. I am always outraged and saddened when flooding of buildings – libraries, peoples’ homes, etc. occurs. Most of the time it is from severe weather.

But don’t get me on that topic. I cover it in my personal blog Only Child Writes – in several postings from time to time.

And as usual if you click on the Beyond Blood book cover at the top, it will connect to you my amazon author profile.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Preparing for author reading amidst aftermath of severe storm etc.

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

You would think as an author I could focus on just the preparation for my reading this evening as part of the Urban Folk Art Salon at the Mount Pleasant Library. But I’m dealing with too many snafus and bad happenings – yesterday’s, ongoing ones, and possibly a somewhat repeat this evening of the one last evening.

Last evening my East End Writers’ Group had its usual almost monthly writing critique at the S. Walter Stewart Library. But we had a severe thunderstorm – actually the heavy rain was the severe part with flash flooding including in the library basement where we meet – we had to go to higher ground and I let everyone out early because I was worried about some water getting in my basement. Yes, some did although with all the towels etc. I had down it was more damp in places in the laundry room. I’ll be going into all this flooding business in my post on my other more personal blog Only Child Writes next Tuesday. For now suffice to say, I got soaked going to the library (despite wearing rain gear) and my running shoes got soaked inside despite spraying them earlier in the day with water repellant.The shoes are outside in the sun now in the hopes that they dry in a few hours. Because…

We may get another round of these thunderstorms with heavy rainfall later this afternoon going into the evening. The Weather Network calls it a risk of a thunderstorm. Just what I need when I have to head out to yet another library for this Urban Folk Art Salon. This time I gave house keys to a neighbour who also has had (now fixed in his case) basement flooding so he should know what to do. Now I just have to get out and there staying dry and get back home again. And enjoy myself the whole evening.

There is more to this why my basement still floods story, but that will also be in the Only Child Writes post next Tuesday.

The other situation I’m still dealing with is trying to get the rest of the payment for a writing course I taught last month. The cheque for two sessions arrived on Tuesday – late. It seems to be too many layers of departments involved and it doesn’t help that my signed contract got lost by the middle-department – that’s the cheque I’m still waiting for.

Such are the woes of the writer. Now I better do one more round of practicing for tonight.

Meantime you can check out the details of this evening’s Urban Folk Art Salon on my author blog post last Thursday or for a shorter version on my Gigs and Blog Tours page here.

And as usual if you click on the Beyond Book cover at the top, it will take you to my Amazon author page.

Wish me luck later today and this evening. And if you are in the area in Toronto this evening, drop in. At least the program room is upstairs on the second floor, so hopefully all will go well.

Cheers.

Sharon

 

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Crime wave hits Gerrard Ashdale library March 24

Longshot of the Gerrard Ashdale library CWC presentation

Longshot of the Gerrard Ashdale library CWC presentation

At 6.30 p.m., March 24, 2016 an unusual crime wave hit the Gerrard Ashdale branch of the Toronto Public Library. Downstairs, the dead body outline was “drawn” with masking tape. Upstairs, “crime” was in progress – at least between the book covers, and expanding to the audience facing the five crime writers in the front.

For the next hour and a half, true crime writers Mark Eddy and Nate Hendley and crime fiction authors Lisa de Nikolits, Steve Shrott and Sharon A. Crawford (also moderating to keep the crime enthusiasts on track) discussed various aspects of crime writing and reading – from authors’ and readers’ view points.

Besides the why we write what we do (Lisa and I have social justice as our reasons and Mark Eddy, author of The Recent History of Terrorism in Canada 1963 -2013, wrote that book because Canadian literature didn’t have this history published). We also discussed where we get our ideas. For example, many of mine come from real life incidents such as a harrowing drive up Highway 11 to cottage country with a friend when her car brakes stopped working. I take the incident and fictionalize the characters and plot.

But one of the most interesting discussions was in answer to the question:

What is your take on novel or true crime endings, i.e., should you leave the reader hanging or have a resolution that ties up the book’s contents?

Some wanted a full resolution, but some were okay with a resolution for the main plot, but some of the issues with the characters could be left hanging, especially for series novels. Nate Hendley, who (among other true crime books) wrote Steven Truscott; Decades of Injustice about Steven Truscott (who was wrongfully convicted of murder and rape at age 14,in 1959), was pleased that he could put in his book that in 2007 the Ontario Court of Appeal declared Truscott acquitted of the rape and murder of Lynn Harper. That declaration was the result of Truscott himself filing an application for this in 2001. Justice moves slow. In fiction, that can happen faster.

The five of us authors in the hot seats also discussed unusual ways we promote our books. For example, Nate Hendley had copies of his Truscott book at a presentation of a play about Truscott in southwestern Ontario. I dress up as my main Beyond Blood character, Dana Bowman and do short skits where Dana disses me. See my website for where Dana will next appear.

Meantime, here’s another photo of the CWC gang up close at Gerrard Ashdale. Both photos were taken by the library branch’s head librarian, Gail Ferguson.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The CWC gang up close - Sharon, Steve Shrott, Nate Hendley, Lisa deNikolits, Mark Eddy

CWC gang up close – Sharon, Steve Shrott, Nate Hendley ,Lisa de Nikolits, Mark Eddy

 

 

 

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How Writers in Residence can help your writing

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

What are the advantages of having a Writer in Residence look at your writing and give feedback and marketing advice?

I’ve had the good fortune to be involved  on both sides. For two sessions I was Writer in Residence for the Canadian Authors Association Toronto branch. In that position, I have helped writers with advice on marketing their manuscripts, writing a query letter, editing and evaluating their manuscript – up to a point.

One thing about a Writer in Residence is he or she only evaluates/edits up to 20 or 30 pages – either for free or at a lower rate than normal fees. But it is worth every dollar (we don’t have pennies anymore in Canada), Euro or whatever denomination your country has. It is also worth your time because of the vast experience of Writers In Residence. They are published authors in various genres and if you pick your Writer in Residence to match your area of writing it can benefit your writing.

The process varies, but generally it involves submitting a few pages double-spaced of your writing-in-the works and then meeting with the WiR to get his or her feedback, ask questions and get some advice on how to make your manuscript sparkle and perhaps some marketing tips.

Recently, I had the experience of being on the other side of the fence. I am a member of the Toronto Heliconian Club and one of the benefits is the Writer in Residence. Just before Christmas I met with her – Dawn Promislow –  not for critique of my new Beyond novel in the works, but for an assessment of a five-page personal essay. I didn’t have to pre-submit the manuscript, just brought a couple of hard copies – one for her to look at and one for me – while we chatted.

And it was more than just a superficial chat. First, Dawn read the manuscript, then did a general overall evaluation including summing it up as good and more professional than she expected. (Note: this essay had been rewritten more times than I have fingers.) Then we went through it all line-by-line and discussed what worked, what didn’t, what could be expressed better and in fewer words, and what could be deleted. One of my concerns was to make it shorter so I could submit it to markets that require a shorter than 1300 personal essay. Previous to meeting withe Dawn I had shortened it from 1500 words to 1300 words.

It was a two-way discussion, none of this just giving advice with me listening. That’s important because the bottom line is it is my story and if I don’t have some input in the critique, I won’t really understand what needs to be done. The whole meeting took about an hour and 20 minutes.

So, besides CAA and clubs like the Heloconian, where can you find a Writer in Residence?

Try your local libraries. The Toronto Public Library system has two Writers in Residence programs a year, alternating locations with the two largest library branches – Toronto Reference Library and North York Central branch. I have submitted manuscripts over the years to WiRs at both branches. You have to have a library card for this – but library cards are free and renewed annually.

And submit is a keyword here. You have to submit up to a certain number of pages double-spaced to the library by a certain date. Then the library gets the manuscripts to the WiR and you will hear back from the library with an appointment time and date to meet with the WiR. Currently the TPL WiR is poet, memoir author, former journalist, etc. Brian Brett at Toronto Reference Library. For this session, Brian Brett will be focusing on poetry.

That’s another key. Submit something you are writing in the area of the WiR’s experience. Unlike me, who once submitted a chapter of my memoir to a literary novelist and poet. My memoir was part literary in style, but this author just didn’t get it. Another time, much earlier, I submitted one of the original chapter versions of the memoir to a well-rounded in writing experience WiR – Austin Clarke and got some excellent and thorough feedback. It was also a two-way discussion and it was Mr. Clarke’s feedback that helped me decide to actually write more chapters in a memoir.

So, a few tips for submitting your work to a Writer in Residence.

  1. Follow any submission guidelines.
  2. Make sure you match the WiR to what you are writing.
  3. Rewrite, rewrite your submission – a loose draft won’t do.
  4. Show up on time for your appointment with the WiR.
  5. Listen to what the WiR says but don’t be afraid to question and add details about what you are writing – it is not a one-way street.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask related questions that are pressing – such as markets, copyright issues, and in the case of memoir (one I always find comes up in my memoir writing workshops) –  naming names and the fear with writing your story.

Good luck. The WiR can be the experience that helps you get your manuscript focused and inspires you to keep at it.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

To find out more about Sharon A. Crawford and where her Beyond books are available click on the Beyond Blood book above.And visit her website

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Act like a journalist to do research for your novel

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Three and a half years ago I finally stopped being a journalist. Or so I thought.

The journalistic writing may have stopped, but something stayed, something carried over to my fiction writing. My research skills, including my interviewing skills and more important the realization that even with fiction you need to seek out the experts for some aspects of your novel besides the craft of writing fiction. Most novels contain something else – perhaps medical conditions, perhaps police procedure, perhaps court procedure, perhaps historical information, perhaps socio-economic conditions, perhaps geographic information. The list goes on and on.

So as I write my novels, this research necessity is always in the back of my mind. Coupled with readers’ intelligence and knack to find anything off in my novel, I make notes in brackets in the manuscript about getting more info. I even do separate files with lists of what I need to find and where I could get it.

Some, of course can be found on the Internet. Mr. Google is very helpful. So are books on the subject. But some more specifics may need that personal expert.  In the last few years when I did a story for a magazine – print and/or online, and I needed information, I did the list of online links for information as well as indicating where a person was necessary. Sometimes there would be someone mentioned in these links; other times not. Then I used my other writing connections – sometimes posting on a listserve I belonged to – sometimes directly to a contact who might have this info.

I have received some good sources that way including a source who decided he could play guinea pig to be interviewed because he had been involved as victim in the crime. (Yes, this was a story about crime).

Other times I’ve found sources at writing or other conferences – either others attending or a speaker. So I talked to them, let them know what I was doing, and asked if I could interview them.

Usually they could help including letting me interview them.

Sometimes just random conversations with friends lead to sources and sometimes they were the source. Other times it worked for story ideas. That can work for fiction story ideas but that’s for another post.

Another good source is your public library and sometimes it is better to go right to the library, especially if there is a reference library branch. Stacks of books that you can’t find elsewhere and you can’t borrow can be found there – for in-library checking. And don’t forget the knowledgeable librarians. University libraries can also be of great help.

Just remember that because you write fiction, you have to include some facts. You wouldn’t want to have your main character holidaying today in a country using the country’s former name? If you set your story during a war, you definitely want to get your facts right about places and dates.  Leave no (research) stone unturned.

Which reminds me – I need to talk to a medical doctor who specializes in concussions for the novel I’m currently writing. I have taken the first few steps, the Internet, books, and getting some contacts from a former medical doctor turned journalist.

Your publisher may catch some or raise questions about others, but what if you are self-publishing your novel? Either way, you the author are responsible. Get your facts right. Act like a journalist but write like a novelist.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The book cover at the top links to Beyond Blood on Amazon.com

 

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