Category Archives: Writing

I Drink Coffee and Stuff Happens !

Photo of Dave Whamond from his Facebook page.

Last night at the December meeting of the Canadian Society of Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers, our speaker was Albertan Dave Whamond. What a guy! He has written and illustrated some fifty children’s books .

Dave creates picture books and chapter books and graphic novels for kids and they have won all kinds of awards.

But………. he also has a syndicated newspaper comic called Reality Check which has been published daily since 1995

And………………. he creates images for the popular Cobblestone Puzzle company.

And……….he does artwork for national ad campaigns for clients like Tim Hortons, Canadian Tire, Coca Cola and Disney.

And………….he does illustrations for all kinds of magazines like the Washington Post, The New York Times, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, Macleans, National Geographic and USA Today

And………..well the whole time Dave spoke he kept referring to different kinds of projects he has worked on, or is working on, or hopes to work on, and I finally stopped writing them down because this man is just a creative machine!

Dave talked about how his parents nurtured his creativity by buying big rolls of paper and covering the hallway of their home with it so he could doodle and draw away to his heart’s content.

He told us about a letter he wrote cartoonist Lynne Johnston when he was young and how she took the time to write back and give him advice.

He advised us to never be afraid of rejection and to not be afraid of falling on our faces with our creative projects.

When asked how he came up with all the ideas he needs for all the different creative projects he works on Dave said when he gets up in the morning, “I drink coffee and stuff happens.”

After Dave’s inspiring presentation the CANSCAIP members were put in different chat rooms to visit with each other.

Photo of Elly Barlin-Daniels from her website

In my first room one of the people I got to visit with was Elly Barlin- Daniels who was profiled in the spring edition of the CANSCAIP newsletter. Elly is in the midst of producing a Broadway show and among very many other accomplishments is the marketing and communications genius behind the I READ CANADIAN annual campaign for children’s authors.

Photo from Laura Alary’s Facebook page

In my second room I was with Laura Alary an author from Halifax whose book The Astronomer Who Questioned Everything will be published in May of 2022. Another book of hers coming in March of 2022 is The Sun in My Tummy. Those two books are just part of a longer list of interesting published titles Laura has to her credit.

And in my third room I was with Sylvia McNicoll something of a creative machine herself with more than 30 children’s books to her credit. Her latest called What the Dog Knows comes out in May of 2022. During our chat Sylvia showed us the cover of one of her books which has just been translated into Korean.

In the acknowledgements section of my book Lost on the Prairie I thanked the CANSCAIP organization for the stimulating professional opportunities they give to Canadian children’s writers. Last night was a great example of that.

Other posts………

The Girl Who Loved Giraffes

Ten Things I Learned About Writing From Margriet Ruurs

Relentless Persistence

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Pantser or Plotter?

At the Christmas market in Steinbach. People who stopped at my display were interested when I talked about being a pantster. Photo thanks to my friend Debbie Jackson. I only took off my mask for the photo.

In my recent talks to various groups about my book I have explained how I wrote my novel Lost on the Prairie in pantster fashion. A pantser is someone who writes in a way ‘by the seat of their pants’. They just start writing and discover as they go what will happen to their characters.

A plotter has their entire book planned before they begin writing it.  They know what will happen to their character in each chapter or scene of the book and they plot that out with a story line graph or charts or a myriad of notecards with different scenes and events on them.  

I had the general idea for my novel before I started to write it. I knew a boy would be lost- have adventures- and then would be found. But that was it.

One day I simply sat down and started writing the first chapter of my book. My book is historical fiction so often when I was researching a certain place I’d get ideas for what the next event in my book would be. It was kind of exciting to discover what direction my story would take next. On the other hand it sometimes led me to places where I got stuck and I had to wait for inspiration, look for inspiration or ask others what to do.

There are advantages to being both a plotter and a pantster. And truth be told I think most writers are a little of both. A plantster perhaps?

Here I am working on writing a history book for the school where we taught in Hong Kong. When I am writing non-fiction I am definitely a plotter and a detailed planner as you can see from the charts and notes in my office.

Other posts……..

How Did You Become A Writer?

A Million Views

We Never Stop Talking

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Rejected by Chicken Soup- Barrelling Down the Mountain

I mentioned in an earlier post that from time to time I’d post stories on my blog that have been rejected by the Chicken Soup for the Soul publishers. I’ve had quite a number published in their books but an equal number of submissions have been rejected. Here is one that I submitted for a book featuring stories about Winter in Canada.

My family on our ski trip to Lake Louise

I couldn’t stop. Trees, snowboarders, rocks, and the colourful toques of fellow skiers flashed by me as I plummeted down the mountain. Then just ahead on the horizon, I saw a ledge that seemed to drop off into an abyss. This is the end I thought. I’m going to sail over that edge and plunge to my death.  So I did the only thing I could think of. I sat down. My bum banged painfully along the slippery slope for a few meters, slowing my descent. I swerved sideways and then my extended skis hit a tree. My downward flight had come to a crashing halt. 

 I was on a Christmas skiing holiday at Lake Louise in Banff Alberta with my extended family. The vacation was our Christmas gift from my parents. It was the first time skiing for many of us. The rest of my family took naturally to the sport, but I was very apprehensive. I decided to start on the beginners’ slope where a patient coach named Jason instructed me in basic ski techniques. By the end of the first day, I was riding the T-Bar up the hill with ease and swooshing down the small hill confidently. 

The next morning my two brothers encouraged me to try the big mountain. 

“You’ll be just fine,” they said.  

I did have a sense of foreboding when I launched myself out of the ski lift chair at the top of the hill and promptly fell down. The workers had to stop the lift mechanism while they dragged me out of harm’s way and helped me stand up.   I stood at the top of that massive mountain for quite a while just staring at the long winding descent and wondering if I could really ski all the way to the bottom.  I couldn’t even see my final destination.

But with my brothers’ shouts of “You can do it,” echoing in my ears I finally pushed off and started down the slope. In just a few seconds I was picking up speed at an alarming rate. I flew past other skiers, my sister, my sister-in-law, my nephews and my two astonished brothers. It wasn’t long before I realized that I didn’t know how to slow down much less stop. I was in for the ride of my life.

 It was when that ledge loomed ahead that I figured our family Christmas vacation was about to end in disaster. With death staring me in the face I simply plunked down. My butt would be black and blue the next day but my speed slowed and when I saw a tree approaching I stuck out my skis. Although they made a crunching sound as they hit the bark miraculously both my skis and my legs remained in one piece. 

My brothers picked me up, helped me take my skis off and stayed by my side as I walked all the way down that mountain. I was far too afraid to put the skis on again. I thought I’d never make it wading through that deep snow but my brothers kept telling me I would and I did. I spent the rest of our ski holiday on the friendly beginner’s slope. I’d had enough thrills. I’d been to the mountaintop and I didn’t need to go back. 

Many times during the rest of that Christmas vacation members of my family would burst out laughing for no apparent reason. When questioned they’d admit somewhat apologetically that a picture of me flying down the mountain had popped into their head. During future Christmas ski trips, I did become a fairly confident and competent skier but I suspect my family will always remember my first attempt at downhill skiing the best.

Other posts……..

Canada A Country For All Seasons

Water-Skiing

My Mennonite Grandmother’s Chicken Noodle Soup

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10 Things I Learned About Writing From Margriet Ruurs

Margriet Ruurs was the keynote speaker at the Prairie Horizons Conference for children’s writers in May

I have already written about the inspirational keynote address Margriet Ruurs gave at the recent Prairie Horizons Conference for children’s writers. She also did an interview with writer Alice Kuipers. Here are ten things I learned from Margriet during the conference that I want to remember as I continue to write for children.

1. Possibilities for stories are everywhere. “There are so many books out there just waiting for you to write them. Stay curious. Keep your eyes, ears and mind open and it will take a lifetime to run out of things to write about.” Margriet told us she has lined notebooks where she collects ideas.

2. While it is important for children’s books to address pressing social issues we need fun and silly books too, books brimming with happiness that aren’t filled with hidden messages and meanings. Margriet says about 90% of the books she reviews are issue-based.

When We Go Camping by Margriet Ruurs

3. The first draft of a book is often the easiest to write. It is easier to cut words from your manuscript than it is to add them. Sometimes editing can take years.

4. In order to keep publishing it seems best to have more than one project on the go at a time. Margriet is often working on five or six projects.

My Librarian Is A Camel by Margriet Ruurs

5. Doing extensive research is important even for fiction and poetry. Search for information on many different websites and look carefully at the source of the information to be sure it is authentic and trustworthy. Margriet said one of her books took seven years to research.

6. Ultimately you are not selling your book to kids but to the adults who are going to buy the book for them.

Stepping Stones by Margriet Ruurs

7. Most publishers expect you to have a social media presence and to promote your book online. Since Margriet has not been able to travel or do author visits in person during the pandemic she has used the time to work on her website. She keeps a blog about her travels.

8. Being stubborn is a valuable trait in a writer because you will get lots of rejections. Margriet has written more than a hundred children’s stories and only forty of them have been published. She talked about a binder of rejected manuscripts. On its spine, are the words, “Only those who persist are published.”

9. Being a children’s author takes lots of courage. Margriet says you need to give yourself a prize every time you submit a book because it means you have been brave. She admitted she has some manuscripts she is scared to submit.

10. You can’t count on your past track record as a children’s author. Every piece you submit has to have legs of its own. It is never easy to get published. The rejections won’t magically stop so you have to really believe in your story.

Other posts……..

Ten Things I Learned About Writing From David Robertson

What An Inspiration

Timing and Luck

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A Book Is A Dream You Hold In Your Hand

Stepping Stones written by Margriet Ruurs and illustrated by Nizar Ali Badr is published by Orca Books with text in both English and Arabic

I bought the book Stepping Stones as a gift for my grandchildren recently. Their mother is a physician in Saskatoon and part of her job is working in a clinic for refugees. I thought Stepping Stones, which tells the story of the immigration journey of a Syrian refugee girl named Rama, would help my grandchildren gain a greater understanding of the importance of the work their mother does. My oldest grandson is very artistic and I knew he would be intrigued by the beautiful illustrations in Stepping Stones that were made with rocks.

I am almost embarrassed to admit that at the time I bought Stepping Stones I didn’t even look at who the author of the book was or learn anything about its story.

Screen shot from the Prairie Horizons writing conference hosted by the Saskatchewan chapter of CANSCAIP

Then last weekend I attended the Prairie Horizons conference for children’s authors. Normally it is held in Saskatoon but this year it was online. The keynote speaker was none other than Margriet Ruurs the author of Stepping Stones and she told us the story of the book.

Photo of Margriet Ruurs from her Facebook page.

Margriet has written and published some forty books for children. She lives on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia but has travelled the world. Margriet was on Facebook one day and came across the work of a Syrian artist named Nizar Ali Badr. She was fascinated with his beautiful creations that were made from rocks he collected from a beach near his home. As he finished each piece of art he took a photo of it with his camera.

Artist Nizar Ali Badr at work – Photo from Orca Books

Margriet wondered if she could use his art to illustrate a story about a refugee family. You can imagine the energy and persistence it took for Margriet to connect with an artist who lived across the world and didn’t speak the same language, make arrangements to use his artwork, write a story that dovetailed with his pictures, and convince a publisher to take on the book. At the conference, she explained it all in fascinating detail and you can get an idea of the process from this CBC video or from this page on the Orca Publishers site.

What is even more fascinating is what has happened with the book since it was published in 2016. Stepping Stones has won a bevvy of awards and has been translated into many different languages. Margriet decided to donate her share of the royalties from the book to organizations that help refugees, and that as well as other efforts initiated as a result of the publication of Stepping Stones has raised more than $100,000 so far. The book has solicited countless accolades including an endorsement from the Pope.

My Librarian is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs is published by Boyds Mill Press

At the conference, Margriet also told the story of two of her other books The Elephant Keeper and My Librarian Is A Camel. The publication of both has been instrumental in raising support and awareness for important environmental and literacy endeavours. Her stories about these books were riveting and by the time Margriet was finished her keynote address at the conference I was in tears.

Margriet told us that a book is a dream we hold in our hand. An author never knows when they write a book what can happen with it, what the book can do to make people’s dreams come true, how a children’s book we write might play an important role in changing the world.

Now I can hardly wait till the pandemic is over and I can visit my grandchildren in Saskatoon again so we can read Stepping Stones together and I can tell them all about the story of Margriet’s book. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few more of Margriet’s stories didn’t find their way into the Grandma bag of books that always comes along on my visits.

Other posts……….

My Parents- Refugee Supporters

Thoughts on Refugees

This Woman Should Be A Saint

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Ten Lessons from a Writing Life

Yesterday I gave a talk to a church group about how the various things I’ve written in my life have taught me ten valuable things. I gave examples from my own writing for each one.

1. The world is full of fascinating people with interesting stories to tell.

As a writer, I have had the opportunity to interview NBA basketball players, politicians, politician’s partners, Hutterites, peace advocates, Olympic medalists, airline pilots, Buddhist monks, teachers and women who served as maids for Winnipeg’s wealthy in the early 1900s. These stories about interesting people were published in the Winnipeg Free Press, on travel blogs, in magazines and in my regular column in The Carillon.

2. Teamwork is important.

My novel Lost on the Prairie would not be coming out if it wasn’t for my wonderful editor Nandini Thaker and designer Jacqui Thomas who worked so hard with me to create a book I can be proud of.

3. Criticism can be very helpful.

When I wrote for the Faith Page of The Winnipeg Free Press I received many letters that criticized what I had written. It forced me to think carefully about what I believed, to learn to express myself clearly and taught me to be very humble.

4. Look at the world through the eyes of children.

Trying to see things as a child would can open up new perspectives and help you see things in entirely new and meaningful ways. I had to look at things from a child’s point of view when I wrote curriculum materials for children. I had to try to see the world through the eyes of a 12 year old boy when I wrote my novel.

5. Writing helps you get through difficult experiences

Writing about difficult life experiences like my mother’s death or how our family survived the tsunami in Phuket, or how I dealt with the foster care system as a teacher helped me process those experiences and deal with them.

6. The Bible may be an old book but it still has things to teach us.

That’s a truth I’ve discovered when I write sermons or devotionals for an annual meditation magazine.

7. Look for the positive.

I have had quite a number of my stories published in Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies and when you write those kinds of stories you have to look for the silver lining, for what is good and positive in life.

8. I can speak up about important issues.

I have noticed that particularly recently I have been using my newspaper columns in The Carillon to speak up about issues that are important to me and that I think society should address.

9. We are all connected.

Writing my daily blog has certainly proved this. Via a blog post I’ve reconnected with a childhood friend, my former students, connected with an employee of the British Supreme Court, connected with the writer of a film textbook and many others.

10. Being a life -long learner is rewarding.

My writing assignments have taught me about so many different subjects many I would probably never have explored if I hadn’t been assigned to write about them.

My job as a writer has enriched my life. I am grateful to Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach for asking me to talk about my life as a writer last night. It was a good exercise to try and list the ways writing has made my life meaningful.

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How Did You Become A Writer?

I’ve always loved reading and I love books.

Reading stories with my Dad

I was lucky to grow up in a home where my parents read to me a lot.

Setting off for kindergarten with book in hand

I could read already when I was in kindergarten. I devoured books. I read whole series like The Bobbsey Twins, The Box Car Children, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Little House on the Prairie and Elsie Dinsmore.

I still have my original copy of Anne of Green Gables, a gift from my Aunt Viola.

In 1963 enjoying a good book on the couch

I was always reading. My Mom took me to the Good Will store in Winnipeg to buy used books and my Dad ordered books from Readers Digest that came every month- they were condensed versions of novels, usually, four in a book and I read them all. I think my love of reading is what led to my love of writing.

My Grade Five Class in 1963 with our teacher Mr. Klassen. I am second from the left in the second row.

My writing was nourished by teachers who celebrated my writing talents.

My Mom framed the first newspaper article I had published at age 10. I still have it.

In grade five my teacher Mr. Helmut Klassen submitted a story I had written about a big snowstorm to the local paper The Carillon News and they printed it. I was thrilled. My mother cut out the article and framed it. I still have it.

In 1966 when I was in grade seven my teacher Mr. Melvin Toews published a magazine about Canada’s upcoming centennial and each student had a story or a poem in it. My contribution was on the first page in the magazine and it was a short essay about Canada. I was really proud of that and I still have a copy of the magazine.

As a teenage high school student I was the editor of my school newspaper. I am sitting right in the middle.

In high school, my English teacher Miss Gunn was brand new to the profession and she assigned so many writing assignments. Although some of my classmates weren’t very happy about having to do all that writing I was in my glory and Miss Gunn was very affirming about my writing. Her encouragement led to me becoming the editor of the school newspaper at my high school.

With my first kindergarten class at Lincoln School in Winnipeg

I became a teacher and enjoyed writing song lyrics and poems and stories for my students.

I helped to set up a kind of publishing house in my school so my students could publish stories they had written.

I have written nearly 2000 articles for The Carillon

Then in 1985, just after my second son was born, someone wrote an article in our local paper The Carillon News that said parents, particularly mothers, who enrolled their children in daycare didn’t really love their kids. I was UPSET! I knew daycare was an important service to communities and families and so I wrote a letter to the editor Mr Peter Dyck explaining that. He not only printed my letter he asked if I’d like to become a weekly columnist for the newspaper. That was thirty-six years ago and I am still writing a regular column called Viewpoint for that newspaper. For three years I also worked as a newspaper columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.

Just a sampling of some of the places my work has been published

Being a newspaper columnist led to lots of other writing jobs and since then I have had hundreds of articles published in magazines, newspapers, anthologies, journals and on blogs and travel websites. I have written many curriculums, some institutional histories and even the script and lyrics for a musical.

With our sons at a temple in Hong Kong

I moved to Hong Kong for six years to be a teacher there and joined an organization called Hong Kong Women in Publishing. Their regular workshops and discussions and a chance to be published in their annual anthology was a big boost to my confidence as a writer.

I also wrote about our travels on travel websites and for newspapers and magazines. I began a blog to let people know about our life in Hong Kong and when I got back to Canada I changed the name of the blog but kept it going. I still write something on my blog What Next? everyday.

With some of the members of my children’s writing group at an awards ceremony

When I came back to Canada from Hong Kong I decided it was time to try a different kind of writing so I started taking courses, and going to workshops and joining professional groups that could help me learn to be a children’s writer. I discovered that many people believe getting a book published as a children’s writer is harder than getting a book of any other kind of writing published. I wrote all kinds of stories for children’s magazines, wrote several picture books, started a couple of novels and finally finished Lost on the Prairie but none of those things got published.

Here I am with Naomi Parker a Sisseton Wahpeton elder and one of the many interesting people I interviewed while I was researching my book.

I worked on the novel for several years changing it, adding to it, doing more research, and getting lots of advice. I submitted it to publishers who rejected it and then I tried Heritage House and they loved it and sent me a contract to have it published.

Working on a historical writing project in my office in Hong Kong.

I am currently finishing the first draft of another novel and am trying to find a publisher for a picture book I have completed.

Writing in a house we rented in Iceland

Writing is something I like to do, but over my lifetime it has become something I need to do. Writing helps me learn about the past, make sense of the present and dream about the future.

Other posts………..

Writing For Children Not As Easy As I Thought

Writing Dividends

A Million

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Is Good Reads Good?

Recently I was part of an online seminar led by Tiara Chutkhan, who is also known as The Book Worm Babe. Tara’s presentation was focused on helping authors learn about how they can promote their books on the Good Reads site.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Good Reads, it is a place to keep track of the books you have read, are reading, and would like to read, and to write reviews of books. It can give you an idea of what your friends are reading too. Authors can generate interest in their books on Good Reads. They can also find out what kinds of readers like their books and get feedback on their writing to help them improve their craft and their audience.

Tiara gave authors lots of tips for how to use the site to promote your books by creating an author page, inviting friends and family to review your book, by getting involved in Good Reads book clubs and discussions and even lobbying to have your book receive a Good Reads award.

I’ve had a spotty presence on Good Reads for the last couple of years but the seminar I took convinced me that utilizing the site more consistently could be beneficial to me as an author.

I’ve got much to learn about book promotion, especially book promotion during a pandemic when book launches and book club invitations and school visits and book parties just aren’t possible. Workshops like the one I attended about Good Reads are helpful and best of all during COVID many are being offered for free.

You can check out the books I’ve reviewed on Good Reads here.

Other posts…….

To Market, To Market

A Million

Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up To Be Writers

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To Market To Market

Melissa Manlove Chronicle Books editor – photo from Melissa Manlove’s Twitter page

Non-fiction is BOOMING! Last week I attended an online presentation by Melissa Manlove a senior editor for Chronicle Books. She gave a very insightful seminar on writing non-fiction picture books for children. The market for them is apparently BOOMING! Authors have a much better chance of having a non-fiction picture book published than a fictional one.

A book about Hurricane Katrina by Don Brown was one Melissa recommended as a sample of what is catching publishers’ attention these days. 

Melissa told us teachers are looking for exciting, engaging non-fiction books that will teach kids about scientific ideas, mathematical concepts and social studies topics. She suggested children’s writers should begin by closely examining the Common Core standards most American schools use. These standards tell you exactly what specific things kids are required to learn in each subject area and it’s those things picture books should address. In Canada, there are education standards in each province for schools as well. But to really have a successful book you need to capture the America market AND the Canadian market.

Over and Under the Snow is a recent book Melissa edited about animals in winter

I have done quite a bit of work on a biographical picture book about famous Canadian female artists but Melissa made me think I should probably shelve that project. First of all, she told us there is a glut of biographies about famous people written for kids right now so to get a biography picture book published is extra tough. She also said they don’t publish that many art books because teachers tend to use visuals rather than text in art classes and…….. she added as a final blow to my idea for a picture book about female Canadian artists……. biographies of artists just don’t sell very well.

When it comes to picture book biographies your best bet is writing about a scientist. On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne is about Albert Einstein. It is published by Chronicle Books. 

What does sell?

Melissa suggested we check out the picture books recommended each year by the National Science Teachers Association to get an idea of what kinds of books are popular with elementary school science teachers. The 2020 list includes intriguing-looking books about animals and oceanography, computer code and electricity, the senses, astronomy and evolution.

Melissa introduced us to the kind of non-fiction books publishers are looking for by reading quite a number of books to us. She read books about sharks, Hurricane Katrina, Albert Einstein, microbes, hibernation and locomotives.

Melissa’s seminar was courtesy of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators a professional group providing some wonderful on-line programming during the pandemic. I belong to the organization so I can keep abreast of what’s going on in the publishing world of children’s books.

It is nice to just follow your own creative ideas when you write picture books. I’ve finished manuscripts for quite a few but………..they haven’t sold and Melissa’s seminar helped explain why. She reminded me that we have to consider the MARKET when we write!

So it’s back to the drawing board! Melissa says at the top of the list for picture books that sell are those that really make kids ask questions and wonder. She encouraged us to write books that address scientific inquiry and engineering design. Mmmmmm I need to start brainstorming. Do you have any ideas for me?

Other posts………

Beer Baseball and Literature

Top Ten Pieces of Writing Advice From David Robertson

What an Inspiration

 

 

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What’s Autofiction?

Illustration by Francesco Ciccolella for an article in The Guardian about autofiction called Drawn From Life

The other night at my writers’ group meeting one of our members announced she thought she’d finally found her niche genre. “It’s autofiction,” she said.

I think most of us had puzzled looks on our faces at that point. Although we are all published authors with decades of writing experience, the term autofiction was new to us. Someone looked up the definition and read it. 

Autofiction is a term used in literary criticism to refer to a form of fictionalized autobiography.”

I think most fiction writers will tell you their novels contain all kinds of references and descriptions and characters that are drawn from, or inspired by, their own personal experience.  I suspect almost every work of fiction has certain autobiographical elements.  Does that make it autofiction?

I am reminded for example of a reading author Miriam Toews gave at the public library in her hometown of Steinbach more than two decades ago. She was reading from her first book The Summer of My Amazing Luck. She had just told us the novel wasn’t autobiographical but as she was reading a passage from it about the father in her story, her voice broke and I wondered if she would be able to finish.  It was clear Ms Toews had a very personal and emotional connection with her character. Those of us who knew her father, as I did, and had read The Summer of My Amazing Luck could find many similarities between the fictional father in the story and Miriam’s own Dad.  

Many years later a CBC reporter about to interview Miriam about her award-winning novel A Complicated Kindness said in their introduction that the novel was a “thinly veiled autobiography.”  So would you call Miriam’s Toews work autofiction? 

I think most autobiographical writers will tell you they use poetic licence and imagination when writing their books.  Their memories may have faded and there is always a tendency to embellish past experiences, to construct them in ways that will allow us to live meaningfully in the present.  Many autobiographical writers include sights and sounds and details in their work that may not be verifiable. One of the best books I read about Hong Kong during the six years I made my home there was Gweilo: A Memoir of a Hong Kong Childhood by Martin Booth. It was beautifully written and provided a remarkable and engaging insight into what Hong Kong was like in the 1950s.  Booth lived in Hong Kong with his family from ages 7-10. His autobiographical memoir published in 2004  is a fabulous read.  But……….. I found it almost impossible to believe that fifty years after the fact someone could recall the taste of every item on a dinner menu, or the word for word conversations of their parents, or all the fashion details of a woman’s dress they saw in passing on the street.  

As a New York Times reviewer said of Martin Booth’s memoir “his observations are marvellously detailed, if sometimes suspectly so.”   So would you call Martin Booth’s memoir autofiction? 

Although I am not an academic in the field of literature or a literary critic I have this feeling that almost everything one writes is a kind of autofiction. What do you think? 

Other posts……….

A Walk In My Hong Kong Neighborhood

Hong Kong Inspiration

Miriam Toews Has A Complicated Relationship With Her Hometown

 

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