North Shore Writers Festival

Where readers and writers meet


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That’s a Wrap!

After an exciting kickoff last night with authors and trivia fun and a full day of author talks and panel discussions today, attendees of the festival were invited to stay for a wine & cheese reception this evening. There was music, food, drinks, and the opportunity to mingle and talk about the events of the day. Winners of the North Shore Writers’ Association’s writing contest were announced, and the awards presented. Thanks for a great festival everyone!

Attendees take the time to mingle and visit.

Attendees mingle.

Music.

Music.

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Writing About the Personal – Author Talk with Helen Humphreys

“The great thing about reading is that you can experience an emotion that is not your own. There is a comfort in it…”

Helen Humphreys reading from her book, "Nocturne."

Helen Humphreys reading from her book, “Nocturne.”

Helen Humphreys is an award winning author, and has published four books poetry, six novels, and two works of non-fiction. She currently lives in Kingston, Ontario. Today, she shared her newest novel, Nocturne with us. It is a non-fiction book that describes the life and death of her brother Martin, who was a classical pianist in Vancouver. The book is written as a letter to her brother after he died, with 45 little pieces, one for each year of his life.

Normally a writer of novels, Humphreys moved away from her usual way of writing for this book. With novels, she spends a long time in the research stage, and while she is researching, the story begins to take shape. By the time she begins writing the novel she knows most of what she wants to do. With Nocturne, it began after Martin’s death, when she started writing a letter to him, saying all the things she felt she needed to tell him. She wrote in an instinctual way, writing when she had the urge to. The book was written with no premeditation- it is her truth, and nothing is made up. Initially, she had no intention of publishing it, but eventually after getting some good feedback on it, she decided to publish it.

An interesting question…does she think that her brother would like Nocturne? She thinks he would appreciate the gesture, but might argue with some of the content!

Now, Humphreys is looking towards transitioning towards fiction, and told us of her concern with making that shift. We are excited to see what she writes next!


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Humour of the Canadian Variety – Author Talk with Terry Fallis

It was standing-room only this afternoon as Terry Fallis visited us to talk about his novel Up and Down. With 125+ people in attendance, Fallis began by exclaiming “We Canadian authors are unaccustomed to to speaking to such large audiences!” Fallis proved himself to be not only an amazing writer, but also an amazing speaker, keeping the audience laughing happily throughout his talk.

A strong believer in the “write what you know” school of writing, Fallis began by reminiscing about the summer of 1969. The “summer of love” as his  nine-year old self remembered it….or, perhaps more accurately, the summer that he saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. That particular moment inspired a life long fascination with the space program and anything that flew. In his teens, he and his friends built a number of hang-gliders, which they tried their best to set in flight (though perhaps not successfully). Following this, Fallis started thinking about becoming an engineer.

Terry Fallis' first hang glider.

Terry Fallis’ first hang glider.

Now, as a writer, Fallis still employs his engineering mind, planning his books carefully in advance of writing them. Before he begins writing, he knows how long the book will be and how long each chapter will be. He explained, “I like chapters that are a common length…it’s like I am building a bridge.” In all seriousness, he finds that this method prevents him from wasting any words, and it allows him to write with great efficiency. By the time he begins writing a book, he knows exactly what he is writing.

His claim to fame? Marc Garneau not only met with him prior to his writing the novel Up and Down, he also read the manuscript of Up and Down,  proofread it, and found (51) errors that Fallis’ own proofreader missed. In Fallis’ opinion, “if you want a thorough job done, ask an astronaut.”  Also notable, if you’ve ever wondered what Terry Fallis uses for inspiration, it’s a doodle, drawn by Marc Garneau, and retrieved from the trash can after its disposal!

The manuscript of "Up and Down" with Marc Garneau's sticky notes.

The manuscript of “Up and Down” with Marc Garneau’s sticky notes.


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The Art of Food Writing – Panel Discussion

It’s lunchtime, and this session couldn’t have been timed any better! The audience was treated to a delicious array of information and advice on food writing and blogging.

Barbara- jo McIntosh expertly moderated a panel of four local food writers including Stephanie Yuen, Diana Chan, Mijune Pak, and Andrew Morrison. The panelists come from a range of backgrounds and are food bloggers, cookbook writers and magazine article writers. Despite their differences, they find common ground in the fact that their work is inspired by a passion for food. Mijune Pak described her motivation for food writing as a desire to understand and engage with other cultures around the world, while Diana Chan simply stated “I will eat anything, and I’ve never been afraid to try anything new.”

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The panelists all approach their food writing and experiences differently, and gave us many perspectives to consider. When they are reviewing food, they have to make a decision about how to write a fair and honest review. It was noted that we all have our own palates and tastes, so no one review can definitively describe a particular restaurant or dish for everyone else. Most strikingly, we learned about the stories that are created by food. When a chef cooks a meal, they create an opportunity for us to learn, and they inspire stories.

There was also lots of discussion about the food available to us locally in Vancouver. Andrew Morrison showed great enthusiasm for what Vancouver has to offer, and described the city as the most exciting food city in Canada per-capita! So, get out there and eat, everyone, and let it inspire your writing!


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Words from the People’s Poet- Author Talk by Evelyn Lau

Evelyn Lau, Vancouver’s current Poet Laureate – “the people’s poet” took the time to share her poetry with us this morning and also answered questions from the audience about her writing process and role as Poet Laureate. A very accomplished and talented writer from a young age, Evelyn Lau was first published at the age of 18, and in 1992, she became the youngest poet ever to receive a Governor General’s Award. To date, she has 5 volumes of poetry, two works of non-fiction, two short story collections, and a novel. Her works have been translated into a dozen languages worldwide.

Evelyn Lau sharing her poetry.

Evelyn Lau sharing her poetry.

After reading a number of poems, Lau shared her perspective on poetry and writing, explaining why she has always been drawn to poetry – “I have always liked working in a smaller space where every word has to count for itself.” Her writing process involves her retreating from the world and going for long walks. In fact, she explained “…when I am at a loss, I go for a walk at the mall. I do my best thinking there.”

When asked about her role as  Poet Laureate, Lau’s passion for poetry shone through in her response. She explained that her role is to promote poetry, and her goal is to make poetry more accessible and “everyday.” She has partnered with Poetry in Transit in an attempt to promote poetry and get rid of the fear that so many people have of poetry. The organization prints posters of poetry and posts them in bus shelters, businesses, schools, and other locations throughout the city. Thank-you Evelyn Lau, for your enjoyable and inspirational talk!


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So You’re Finally Published! Now What?

The sun is shining in Lynn Valley, and writers of all ages and levels of experience have come from all over the North Shore to share their experiences and to learn how to perfect their craft.

First up this morning, The North Shore Writer’s Association created a panel of five successful writers that are all at different stages in their career. The fabulous panel included Maggie Bolitho, Lynn Crymble, Martin Crosbie, Sonia Haynes, and Sylvia Taylor. Each writer brought a unique perspective to the session, as they have all had very different experiences with publishing. The writers graciously (and honestly) answered any and all questions from the audience.

Just in case your warm, comfortable bed wouldn’t let you out of its tight grip this morning, you can catch up below!

So you want to be a published writer? Here’s what you need to know.

  • Be patient.
  • Be motivated.
  • Be a storyteller.
  • Be curious about the world around you.

Some notable advice from the panel about getting published:

  • Start by finding your niche and identifying your strengths.
  • Know that you are an entrepreneur first and an artist second.
  • Attend seminars and participate in workshops to perfect your craft and learn about what is selling in the market.
  • Don’t be defeated by rejection letters- let them motivate you!
  • Feeling brave? Post them on your fridge and on your walls like Martin Crosbie…it sure worked for him!
  • Self publishing doesn’t mean you have to do it all on your own (you can hire an editor, cover designer, formatter, etc.).
  • Be open about your book, trust your editor, and forget your ego.
  • You need to work with an editor because they don’t care who you are: this is a business, and you can’t forget that.
  • Create an online profile to promote yourself- use social media, create a website, etc.
  •  Worried about wasting too much time online? Maggie Bolitho suggests setting a timer!

That’s the end of our first session, but there are still five more to go! Come and join us in the Community Meeting Room at the Lynn Valley Main Library.