Last Friday I was invited to participate in a school field trip. It was one I had been looking forward to for the better part of a year. I attended London Ontario’s inaugural event last year, so there was no way I wanted to miss this year’s Festival of Trees. Who can resist a full-day literary reading event jam-packed with Canadian children’s authors, illustrators, books and literary activities? Not me!
Every year the Ontario Library Association (OLA) promotes children’s literacy through their Forest of Reading recreational reading program. They select several new Canadian books in several different categories; Blue Spruce (JK-2), Silver Birch (grades 3-6), Red Maple (grades 7-8), and White Pine (grades 9-12) in both fiction and non-fiction. The program opens in October with announcements of the nominated books and runs through to May when the Festival of Trees is held and winners announced. Over 250,000 readers participate in the annual event through schools and libraries across the province (and country).
My oldest daughter was invited to attend last year’s Festival of Trees, as she had read the minimum ten books required. My youngest daughter was sorely disappointed, as she too had read several of the books in her category, but as there were only authors from the Silver Birch and Red Maple categories she was unable to attend. There was no way either of them were going to miss this year’s event though, so as soon as nominations were up they were both reading like mad.
Mama was so proud!
So after having devoured most of the Silver Birch books and a good number of the Red Maples, my oldest got an invite. Not to be outdone, my youngest got her whole class on board reading for an invite for them all, which meant I too got to spend the day basking in the literary event. Sixteen authors were led into the hall and introduced by local school children. They all went on to take part in workshops and book signings, but there were also giant word games to play, a button making station, temporary tattoos, a photo booth, the Maker Bus, TVO kids, Forest City Velodrome and of course a book store where you could buy any of this year’s nominated books.
I want to thank all the authors for not only coming up with their ideas for their books, but the drive to see them through to the end. Congrats to London Regional winners Cyndi Marko for winning Silver Birch Express, Anneliese Carr for winning the Silver Birch non-fiction, David Skuy for winning Silver Birch fiction, Rona Arato for winning Red Maple non-fiction and Caroline Pignat for winning Red Maple fiction. You are an inspiration to myself and all the children who were in attendance.
I want to thank the Canadian publishers who promote literacy in Canada and especially for young readers. Without you, those authors wouldn’t be there for us. Thanks too, to the OLA for organizing such a fantastic program and event. And thank you to Ms Phillips for allowing me to ride my children’s coat tails and attend this awesome day again.
But my deepest appreciation goes out to my children for loving books as much as I do. You inspire me to keep working on my own writing and give me the drive to hopefully see a book of my own in print one day. My words are for you.
Literary magazine based out of Calgary, ON. Looking for prose, poetry, photos and art for open submissions to future magazine editions; April 30th – Fall Open Issue – Issue released in September; August 31st – Winter Open Issue – Issue released in January
4000 word max for prose
creative nonfiction, short stories, postcard stories, novel excerpts, plays
British women’s quarterly magazine (sorry guys—no need to apply). So many ways to submit, you’ll have to check the website for all the details. Deadline for current submissions April 13th.
pay for accepted submissions
poetry (4 lines/40 words), a week of tweets (7/140 characters), rants & raves (80 words), pen portrait (200 words – headteacher is current prompt), monologue (200 words – voice of a zombie is current prompt), guest blogger (check website)
A Canadian literary magazine, based in Vancouver, BC is looking for submissions. Deadline for Summer/Fall general issue is May 15, 2015. The theme for the Winter issue is “I live in an Apartment”; deadline Sep 15, 2015.
Have you met Heather Grace Stewart? She is a Canadian poet, speaker, and author of the newly released novel Strangely, Incredibly Good. I have had the pleasure of getting to know her on Facebook and Twitter, and was recently delighted to win a copy of her new book. Yeah for me! It was a lovely Valentine’s present to receive and I flew through the pages. You can find my book review over at A New Day.
As Heather is such a warm individual, I thought I would take a chance and ask her if she would be willing to answer a few questions about her writing. I was thrilled when she graciously agreed to share a few thoughts with me and my readers.
Without further ado, I would love to introduce you to Heather!
Chatting with Heather Grace Stewart
Tell me a little about yourself. What do you do when you aren’t writing poetry or fiction?
HGS – When I’m not writing, I love playing with my daughter. The snow is finally melting here, so we just came in from enjoying a scooter ride around our street. I stole the scooter from her for a while. 🙂 I’m looking forward to Spring, when we can plant seeds together, and later in the summer, make bouquets from our garden.
I also love photography, scrapbooking, inline skating, and just hanging out with my family. We love flea marketing and gardening together and walking long stretches of the beach when the tide goes out.
You have written several poetry books. What made you decide to write a work of fiction?
HGS – I just wanted a change, and the idea for my story grabbed me and wouldn’t let go until I wrote it! I’d been writing poetry since age 5, and getting it published since I was 22 (in newspapers and the Queen’s University yearbook, then in a few poetry Reviews, and eventually, with my first collection in 2008). I just didn’t feel ready to put out a fifth poetry collection; it felt time to try something altogether different. I’m pleased I did!
As a writer, I know how exciting it is to have something published. Did it feel different to have ‘Strangely, Incredibly Good’ published versus when your poetry books were published? If so, how?
HGS – Three of my poetry books were self published, and for Carry On Dancing, I’d only queried about four or five publishers before landing my publisher. So yes, it was quite a different process.
Strangely, Incredibly Good was a lot more work. It took over four months to write and edit, with some months on hiatus in between because I hurt my back, and then I went through the long process of sending out query letters to try to find an agent and/or a publisher. I sent out 20 letters, and was ready to quit when I didn’t even get rejection letters back after eight weeks. Then I sent out a 21st letter, and got back a personal, kind reply from an agent, saying she wished she didn’t have so much on her plate because she’d love to take me on; that she was in love with my story. That gave me enough motivation to send out my 22nd query, and that effort landed me my publisher!
I’m proud of my poetry collections, but getting Strangely, Incredibly Good published in print, watching it hit #10 in Humorous Fiction on Kobo, and having people come up to me with great interest at Black Bond Books and Chapters, sometimes buying more than one copy – nothing else in my career has compared to how that feels.
Cat struggled with self-esteem all her life and that seemed to lead to the challenges she faced with her weight, in love, in her parenting, and even in her career. It’s only when Gene appears, and loves her for herself, that her self-esteem gets a much-needed boost and puts her life back on track. What is it that he provided that she couldn’t find for herself? Do we need love to define our self-worth?
HGS – Actually, that wasn’t the case at all. I don’t want to create a spoiler here, so I need to remain vague, but Cat had something happen in her past, a horrible tragedy for which she felt she was responsible. Her life went spiraling downward after that incident. She felt she was the cause of a lot of pain for a lot of people. That caused her to constantly overeat and it also made her lose self-respect, and one of the results of this was that she ended up with the wrong man. She didn’t think she deserved better than him because she felt she had been the cause of great pain for several families. She DID get started on trying to improve her self-esteem on her own, by trying to eat better, and by picking up the Wii machine. She took the first steps toward self-love on her own when she decided to finally go to the gym and then try the Wii.
When Gene popped out of the Wii machine, she was finally given a chance to remedy what she believed was her mistake (saying any more would be a Spoiler ) and once she did change a series of events, and finally forgave herself, her life got back on track, and she made better decisions, such as opening up the Cat Walk. Gene also loved her for herself, which helped her believe in herself more, but that was just the icing on the cake.
So no, I don’t think we need romantic love to define our self-worth, and Cat didn’t need it either. She just needed a do-over for parts of her life, and Gene had the magic that let her do that. Sometimes, we need a little shove from a good, strong love. She was wasting her wishes on vanity at first, and Gene helped her realize what she really needed to do to change the course of her life.
I’m glad you gave me a chance to clear that up for you though, because it’s a complicated plot with the time-travel and that affecting so much of Cat’s past and future life! The publisher, my editor and I were pulling our hair out at one point in the editing process, as we worked to assure that it was seamless! Most readers have said they have had to reread sections to get it all straight. It was so much fun to write but taxing work to make sure it was logical.
Let me say this on record: I enjoyed the challenge, once. 🙂 There will not be time travel in one of my books for a very long time! However, I really do love the whole concept of time travel, so, you never know 🙂
Do you have any other books in the works, poetry, fiction or otherwise? Will there be a sequel to ‘Strangely, Incredibly Good’; will Gene and Cat have a second chance at love?
HGS – There may be a sequel, yes. 🙂 I also have another book in the works, which is an entirely new topic but in the romantic comedy, contemporary fiction genre. The main character will be a feisty 27-year-old lawyer. I used to edit a law magazine, so I have lots of ideas.
That’s all I can say about both projects, for now! I’m excited to be writing again. I’m having lots of fun with the stories.
Thank you so much for sharing a bit about yourself, your experiences with writing and publishing, plus a little more insight into ‘Strangely, Incredibly Good’ Heather. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts with me and my readers and wish you much success in your future endeavours.
You can find Heather Grace Stewart on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and on her blog Where the Butterflies Go. I know she would love it if you stopped by to say hello, liked or followed her. You can purchase her books through her website, or via Morning Rain Publishers and Winter Goose Publishers.
It isn’t exactly a brand-spanking new year, but it is still early enough that you writerly types might still be keen in your writing. As much as we write for ourselves, there is another piece of most writers that also want to see their name up in lights. Am I right? Of course I am!
So how many aspiring writers have sent submissions to magazines or entered writing contests so far this year? Any? Hmm… How about a little inspiration. I haven’t shared any writing contests in a while, but there are a few that I have come across recently. Sometimes just knowing about a contest is enough to kick-start you writing. Why not try one of these?
open to Canadian writers that have not been published in book format
Tales 2 Inspire – THE UNDERLYING MESSAGE OF ANY SUBMITTED STORY SHOULD BE MOTIVATING OR INSPIRING, OR, FOR THE HUMOR CATEGORY, ENTERTAINING
less than 1200 words
no submission fee (FREE!)
Deadline – March 21, 2015
THEMES: Animals (Feathers and Fur), Humor (Laughter – true stories to give us a good chuckle), Child’s Play (Humorous stories about children), Spirituality (Many faces of faith), Serendipity (Beyond coincidence stories), Miracles