North Shore Writers Festival

Where readers and writers meet

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Of Art, Entertainment, Writing and Life – Author Talk with Marina Endicott

Marina Endicott (author of Good to a Fault and Open Arms) spoke to the audience about the research process for her book The Little Shadows. It was a fine closer for the festival.

Endicott used a PowerPoint presentation (her first!) to show the audience pictures of the vaudeville entertainers and Cochrane, Alberta that populate her story. Her thoughts on the sense of real life behind the photographs influenced her writing of the book, and the reading she shared.

The first reading Endicott shared was of three sisters sending people home from the vaudeville show with the old soldiers behind the scenes. Her reading was filled with details of Aurora, Clover and Bella’s life as closers of the Canadian vaudeville show. Details pervaded all of the readings in the evening.

She described for us the sheer profusion of different vaudeville acts, so many different feats of strength, and posing acts and the monologue, which isn’t just Bob Hope, and shaped the character of Julius Foster Konigsberg in the tale. She also showed us the theatres she travelled to for her research, some that made it into the book and some that didn’t. Endicott showed us pictures of pages from the books that were essential research materials, flipping back and forth between her research and reading bits from her book they inspired.

All in all, Marina Endicott and her research process made for a fascinating presentation of how researching a century-old setting made for her richly detailed fiction and world.


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Dramatizing the Intrigue of History – Author Talk with Daniel Kalla

The fourth event of the day’s festival was Vancouverite Daniel Kalla (emergency room doctor and author of Pandemic and Resistance) speaking about writing and his latest novel The Far Side of the Sky.

Daniel Kalla began his talk by setting out the history of how Jewish people from Austria escaped to Shanghai after the Anschluss. At the time Shanghai was “the Las Vegas of Asia” because of its status as a treaty city that had been invaded by Japan (apart from the international settlement and French concession).

Kalla read an emotionally charged section of his novel from before the Adler family fled. The reading featured Adolf Eichmann blithely discussing his fear for the safety of the Jewish people after Kristallnacht, so Adler would have to leave the Reich or be sent to Dachau.

When he turned it over to questions, people asked technical writing questions about weaving in exposition, and how many times he had to submit manuscripts, but also questions about history. He talked about the era and the setting, and how the relationships between different ethnic groups worked. The key to historical fiction is to sound authentic, he said, and yes he takes a certain amount of license with facts.

Kalla stressed how his story is not a traditional Holocaust tragedy: “There were extremes of evil going on, but there were also extremes of decency.”

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Secrets of Successful Bloggers – Panel Discussion

The audience for the Secrets of Successful Bloggers panel was filled with people who had blogs or wanted to start blogging. The panel, Sean Cranbury (Books on the Radio & Advent Book Blog), Rebecca Bollwitt (Miss 604), Kelsey Dundon (The Anthology), Jeannette Ordas (Everybody Likes Sandwiches), and moderator Jenn Farrell (Canada Fancy) did a great job of introducing the topic.

After a discussion of how the panelists’ impulse to start blogging the direction was turned over to the audience. Some of the questions people asked were: How do you promote your blogs? By engaging in the wider community discussion on topics you’re interested in and creating content that your audience wants to share with their friends. The question of how people make money off blogs led to an interesting talk about the ethics of ads and disclosure of complimentary things to blog about. They discussed easy technical solutions for newbies and why someone might need more control. They talked about the difference between momentum and inspiration, and how using a pseudonym can get in the way of that.

The takeaways from the session are “Engage with your audience” and “Blogging is iterative and the blog you have today will be a different beast next year.”

It was a great panel, thanks very much to everyone involved.

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Getting Started, Getting Published – Panel Discussion

The North Shore Writers Association has a mandate to help writers get started and get published, so to assemble a panel of writers to talk about the topic of beginning as a writer. The panel today had Fran Bourassa, Gerhard Winkler, Sylvia Taylor, Lynn Crymble and Bernice Lever talking about all sorts of things.

The panel talked about topics like how each of the writers began as writers, what kind of doubts about their writing they’ve had since then (and what they’ve done about them), the value of writing organizations and groups, and the trials of getting published.

We had a 12-year-old and a physician who’d worked with the Hudson’s Bay Company 50 years ago ask questions and get big-picture advice, and people trying to find out how to stop getting lost in the manuscript. Lynn answered questions about her time spent planning versus writing the novel. Sylvia talked about writing prompts and avoiding internal editors (with the idea of having a lovingly-titled “barf draft”). Gerhard told stories of getting good honest feedback (even when they told him to kill the story). Fran encouraged the audience to not get hung up on getting published and start small.

Thanks very much to the North Shore Writers Association for leading such an informative and entertaining talk!