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Using Fiction Tools to Write Memoir (continued)

Again, I connect you to my post on my Only Child Writes blog. This time it is using another fiction writing technique for memoir – setting. Blog post is here.

And next week we’ll get back to strictly fiction.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series.

 

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Memoir writing and fiction writing are connected

Writing fiction and writing memoirs have a few things in common. Both have characters; a POV, setting, narrative and dialogue. But there is something very different about them, that you need to remember. In fiction, you make up your plot and characters. In memoir you are telling your truth, your life (or parts of it as you remember). And the people in a memoir are real people from your past and/or present – even if you change the name to protect the guilty. However, in both fiction and memoir, emotions and feelings are very important.

As mentioned in last week’s post, I am teaching a memoir writing course at the Toronto Reference Library. And again like last week I put a snippet of what we cover this week on my other blog Only Child Writes. Like last week I’ll refer to it and this time will include the link here.

In this post I excerpt a small part of a chapter from my memoir. The excerpt is shortened even more. And yes, I change the people’s names. But the excerpt shows how you can write memoir, fiction style. The main character here is of course, me (or in your memoir, you).

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. More info about  Beyond Blood here.

 

 

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Sharon writes M and M

I like to say I write “M and M.” And I don’t mean the candy – although I am a chocoholic. What I write is mystery and memoir. And because I’m one day late with this week’s posting  (too many deadlines, don’t ask), I want to take a look at the second M – memoir writing. Or in my case this month teaching memoir writing  – four weekly sessions at the Toronto Reference Library.

Before I go off on a memoir tangent, I want to mention that many authors, besides me, who started out writing and in some cases, publishing memoir books, also turned to fiction. For example, Catherine Gildner of the Too Close to the Falls memoir “series” – three books so far, also wrote the mystery Seduction. Ross Pennie,whose first published book was a memoir of his time as a young doctor in now writes the Dr. Zol Szabo medical mystery series. If you go to to the Crime Writers of Canada website and check the members biographies, you might find a few more who write M and M. And their quarterly e-publication Cool Canadian Crime (it’s free and available to all, not just CWC members) keeps mystery readers (and writers) up to date on members new books.

So back to that Memoir Writing Course and the connection here I am going to make. I also write another weekly blog on Tuesdays – which focuses on growing up an only child and the consequences over the years since. That gives me leeway for many topics, including writing memoir and teaching memoir. On this other blog, called Only Child Writes (what else would I call it?) for the Tuesdays this month I have been posting a snippet post and a link to it to read the rest. It is all writing and some of it can apply to fiction writing as memoir, although the truth according to the author, is written in fiction style.

Only Child on Research for your Memoir

“Have you found Grandpa’s farm?” my cousin Leona asked me when I called her just after arriving in Walkerton, Ontario.”

This is all part of my research for my family history on my mother’s side.

Read on. Can you see possibilities in what happened for some short fiction?

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Author of the Beyond mystery series. More info about  Beyond Blood here.

 

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Posted by on April 14, 2017 in Blogging, Writing

 

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Let it rain – between your book covers

I hate heavy rain, especially large amounts, especially mixed with strong winds. Which we are getting today in Toronto,Canada. So, what am I doing about it? Besides staying in and checking the basement for any water getting in?

I put the rain in my third Beyond mystery book. Not the rain coming down right now. In one scene I have my main character, PI Dana Bowman, walking through a rain – heavy with blowing winds. Unlike me, Dana drives, but she has been somewhere near home so left the car in the driveway before the rain started. Now she is walking home, but the rain and what it brings – including the kickstart to the novel’s story- begin happening as she struggles through the rain.

In a nutshell, I took a re-occurring scenario in my life, a scenario I don’t like – and fictionalized it.

You can do that, too, but there are caveats.

  1. If your story occurs in another time – an that means not today – make sure you are accurate in presenting your story.. My novel takes place in late fall 1999 in a fictional town called Thurston, Ontario. Thurston is loosely based on Aurora and Newmarket in York Region, Aurora is where I lived for 23 years – although I got out of Dodge in 1998. Rain storms today are not the rain storms of 1999. In Canada and the United States we get way too many and in some cases they are of possible flood proportions. The winds now are stronger and more frequent. So I researched Environment Canada’s historical weather information for the lower half of York Region in  November 1999, right down to the day.
  2. You may think your memory of your situation is clear in your mind to the point where you are right there, but it might be a good idea to list its components – with the rain again – were there many puddles?   Did the wind turn your umbrella inside out? Was it daylight, dusk or night? What exactly from this scene do you want to use – its essence or something specific?
  3. Remember, the scene must have something to do with you story’s plot. Don’t just put in heavy rainstorms because you like or hate them and find them cool. Maybe your main character is chasing someone in the rain. Does he or she slip or fall? What is going on around her? I work in the cars splashing by and what Main Street, Thurston is like during a rain storm. But it is all part of the plot.
  4. When you get down to actually writing that scene in your story, keep writing and don’t stop. Hopefully you’ve done any research and have some idea how you want to morph it into part of your story. When you go through it to rewrite, you can check to see if it makes sense, if it is part of the plot.
  5. Make sure it doesn’t go off into a long expository tangent.Just work in some information with your plot.For example with the rain in my novel, I show the reader how heavy the rain is by how it affects Dana struggling to walk along Main Street and also the others she meets, including … well, that would be giving some of the plot away,

And don’t forget to enjoy, to get lost in the creativity of the writing. It can help get your mind off current problems – even if they include heavy rain. Speaking of which, it is time to check the basement again. And oh yeah, it was also our garbage pickup day today, so while we had a lull in the rain earlier, but not the heavy wind, I was continually running outside to right bins – mine and a few friends across the street. And of course, today was the day the city decided our street should have the new supposedly racoon-proof green bins for wet waste delivered. They may be racoon proof, but not extreme-weather proof. The bins were flying all over the place and mine came minus the scoop and instructions. I did grab the instruction paper as the wind blew it down the street. A very wet sheet, now drying on a kitchen chair.

But that’s for another story, another day. Dana Bowman wasn’t dealing with garbage bins.

How do you work reality into your fiction?

And as usual, click on the Beyond book icon at the top to find out more about the first two Beyond books.

Cheers.

Sharon A.. Crawford

Dana Bowman, looking for her umbrella before braving the elements?

 

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Rolling out the author readings with Canadian Authors Toronto

Now that spring is here, it is time for me to get back into author readings.So next Tuesday evening, April 4, I will be taking my Beyond books for a reading at a Toronto library branch. Four other authors will join me: Bianca Lakoseljac, K.V. Skene, Michael Pawlowski, Ellen Michelson, Catharine Fitton

The readings are being held by the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch. This branch has been shall we say “sleeping” the past couple of years, but now branch president Chris Canniff has kick-started it with this author reading which is open to the public.

The Canadian Authors Association has been around for close to 100 years. It was started in 1921 by some prominent Canadian authors, including Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock. It’s focus has been and still is “writers helping writers”, which it does in many ways. These include work with copyright issues for writers, establishing literary awards including the annual CAA Literary Awards for non fiction, fiction, poetry, and drama. CAA also came up with the first book contract between authors and publishers.

And, oh yeah, members are both published and non-published authors.CAA has branches right across Canada.

Some of these branches have a Writer in Residence. Vancouver branch’s WiR is well-known poet, editor, and short fiction author Bernice Lever. Bernice used to live in my neck of the woods and she was one of my mentors. She used to run a writing critique group in Richmond Hill, just north of Toronto. When I lived in the area, I attended it. Bernice inspired me to start my East End Writers’ Critique group in September 2000 and EEWG is loosely based on the Richmond Hill group.

I, too, had the honour of being Writer in Residence for the CAA – the Toronto branch, from 2001 to 2003, and then again from 2009 to 2015, although the current Toronto branch website still has me listed as WiR. The website is to be updated shortly.

You can check out more about the Canadian Authors Association here. There are links to the branches and much more information.

As for the Toronto branches Authors Reading evening, here is the “dirt” according to Chris Canniff and a link to the CAA Toronto Facebook page. And you don’t have to be a CAA member to read at this event, but if you are in the area you can drop in to meet us.

“We want your stories! The Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch is having a meeting on Tuesday, April 4 at 6:15pm and we want you to come prepared to read, or come to listen to what others are writing. Event details are below Bring your best work, or a work in progress! Please RSVP to president@canauthorstoronto.org to sign up for a reading. Readings are generally 3-5 minutes long, but that can be extended depending upon the number of readers. Beverley Burgess Bell, who hosts an Oakville Writers Group, will be moderating. Come out, bring a friend, and help us make this meeting a success. We look forward to seeing you there! Check out our new Facebook page, at > https://www.facebook.com/CanadianAuthorsAssociationTorontoBranch/ And our soon-to-be-updated website www.canauthorstoronto.org Event Details: What: Member Reading. Non-Members are also welcome to attendd, but all members and non-members should RSVP. Non-members are encouraged to consider membership!
When: Tuesday, April 4 from 6:15 – 8:15 Where: Toronto Public Library [Annette St. Branch] – 145 Annette St. Website: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?R=LIB022 Location Details: Closest major intersection is Keele and Annette Streets. Branch is located on the southwest corner of Annette Street and Medland Street.”

And if you click on the Beyond book icon at the top it will take you to more info about my books.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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Are librarians to be made redundant?

S. Walter Stewart – Sharon’s library branch

I am a big fan of librarians. In all my years of using the library (since I was 12, back in the grey ages, the early 1960s), I have received all kinds of help from librarians from finding books to other research to daily living. Now, the Toronto Public Library Board is starting a pilot project in the cities two smallest library branches – Todmorden in the east and Swansea in the west.

The project would extend the hours the libraries are open. But there is a big catch. There will be no librarians present. If you need to contact a librarian, it will all be by video. And no security guards, so good luck if some crime is committed. Video cameras may catch it, but with no staff person present in the library, good luck.

A City TV news story describes the situation, including listing the crimes that have been committed in the last year or so in various branches. You will notice we are not talking about stealing books in this story here. The librarian union head, Maureen O’Reilly, is interviewed in the story. Ms. Reilly also emailed out petitions, copies to go to the city’s mayor and the signer’s local councillor. You bet I clicked on the email and went to the page with the petition letter. The letter also had space for alterations/additions to content and so I added a short summary of how l have always used libraries and how as a writer and reader the librarians have helped me.One example I gave was one of the librarians at the S. Walter Stewart Branch was instrumental in getting my East End Writers’ Group (a writing critique group, see my website for more info on EEWG) to meet there at no cost to us – we are now partners with the branch and part of their programs.

Interestingly, this branch is the first library branch I started going to as a child of 12 – when the new big branch first opened. Except for the 23 years I lived in Aurora, S. Walter Stewart has been and still is my library branch. And yes, when in Aurora I was a regular patron of the Aurora Library where one of the librarians (who became a friend) helped me with some health information when I was still a journalist – getting me set up on data bases to check out the information. This was in the early 1990s before a lot of this info was available on line.

But I still go to the librarians in person for info, to teach writing workshops and courses, for presentations with my Beyond mystery books – with or without other authors.

And on a more personal note – when my son was a toddler and driving me nuts in the  Aurora Public Library, the head librarian quietly called me over and spoke to me. Not to tell me to get my son to shut up. She was concerned with me, with my getting frazzled, etc. by being a young mother. The librarian suggested we take a break one day soon and go to lunch. And we did.

Meantime, the librarian at S.Walter Stewart helps me with PR for our EEWG meetings and also when we have guest speakers and do presentations. Perhaps one of the biggest clarification of that is a few years ago after EEWG celebrated its 13 anniversary with a presentation in the library auditorium, after the presentation a few of us went out to a nearby pub to chat and grab a drink and some food. This librarian and her husband came along, too.

I can’t even fathom doing workshops or courses at a library branch with no librarian present (although the two in the pilot project don’t have the room for this). I am constantly asking questions and asking for help in workshop setup. Sure, some is done by email and phone, but not all, especially when I show up. What would happen if problems occurred with a workshop? And if there are no librarians present, who sets up the room, including bringing in and setting up any AV and computer equipment?

This is all very short-sighted and stupid by the City of Toronto and the library board. If they are trying to save some bucks and increase library open hours, the flip side doesn’t work. Librarians will be out of work and we the librarian patrons will be worse off for it.

Here, the end doesn’t justify the means, especially as the end is questionable.

If you want to read more about this situation just Google “Toronto public library no staff at Todmorden” and you will get a long list.

I hear this situation is happening in a few other places too.

Is this the price of progress? If so, turn the time back to the 1990s. And if I sound like a curmudgeon, so be it.

What do you think of this situation?

Comments, please.

Cheers.

Sharon

And yes, copies of my Beyond books are in some of the public library branches Toronto and York Region (latter includes Aurora). For those outside these area, you can check out my Beyond books by clicking here.

The CWC gang up close at Gerrard/Ashdale library. Photo courtesy of Gail Ferguson – a librarian then

 

 

 

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Listen to your publisher

I am lucky that the editor at my publisher’s goes through my submitted manuscript and makes suggestions. Then we book a phone consult to hash through all these suggestions and comments.

It really gets me thinking beyond whatever box I was writing in.

I had that experience earlier this week. This was the “final” submission, i.e., the one that would make or break whether my new Beyond novel would be accepted for publication.He was quick to praise that it was a much better story and worth being published, but it came with the suggested changes. And some of them pointed out what wasn’t working and left the how-to-do-so up to me.

So we had, as the current dialogue goes, “a conversation about it”. We were both polite but explored what could be done. He said he had read the novel as a reader and not a publisher and that’s where his suggestions came from.

Besides stretching the creativity limit, it also served as pointing-out what just might not work. He didn’t say it, but he was playing devil’s advocate.

Not all publishers do this with their authors – whether new. Often it is “my way or the highway if you want it to be published.” That often stifles the author’s creativity. It is okay for authors to talk about why they wrote what, but go from there. Get past the ego that everything in your manuscript, down to the last comma, is sealed in gold and it has to be published exactly that way. We have probably all read published trade books where the publisher gave the author (often a well-known author) free rein. I won’t mention any names, but some of those books could have been shortened by 200 pages or so.

Getting published, at least by a trade publisher, is a two-way street. Remember, your publisher wants to sell your book, so making that more viable is a good idea. And it can also increase not only your royalties but the book’s presence in a very crowded market.

I have to the end of April to make the changes. So, after our phone conversation, I spent the rest of the afternoon and into dinner time going through the whole novel again and making short comments to his comments based on our conversation. Because being human, I would not remember it all if I didn’t do that.

I’ll keep you posted on Beyond Faith.

Meantime, you can familiarize yourself with the Beyond mystery series by clicking on the Beyond Blood icon a the top.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

 

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