Monday, February 20, 2012

The Fridge Whisperer Talks Virgins, Knives and the Art of Brunoise

Chef Deb
One of the great things about having Chef Deb Rankine sit on the OWC board of directors is that it never gets boring.

If you haven't had the pleasure of reading her daily blog on, you're missing out.

Here's a blog post she wrote a few weeks ago while preparing to go on Rogers Daytime with OWC president Barbara Hunt.

Reading, writing and the art of brunoise this morning onRogers TV's "Daytime"... Feb. 7, 2012
I know what you're saying. That you get the reading and writing thing but what the heck is "brunoise" when it's at home? And how does it relate to reading and writing? 
Patience, Grasshopper, patience. 
I'm wearing two hats today on Daytime. My first chapeau will be worn as a board of director of the 4th annual Ontario Writers' Conference. Sided by co-chair, Barbara Hunt, we will be talking about this year's must-attend conference from two points-of-view, or POV for you writerly types. 
I will represent writers' conference virgins. You know the type. We're the closet writers with a manuscript or three desperately seeking the light of day. My mission is to get across to Daytime viewers that this conference is -- and has always been -- open to anyone who has a story to tell. It doesn't matter one iota if your grammar isn't stellar. Or that you don't know what a dangling participle is. Or what the word order of sentences should be. I promise you, this conference has something for every writer... even if the only thing you've published is your weekly grocery list. 
Barb Hunt will provide her Reader's Digest overview of what registrants can expect from this year's lineup of facilitators, plenary panel, luncheon and wrap-up keynote speakers. Don't fret if you don't know some of the names of the exemplary roster of workshop leaders "on offer." The OWC website has a complete list of bios and head shots for this year's conference facilitators/speakers. 
The Ontario Writers' Conference is like none other. Open to writers at all stages of writer's craft, the day is jam-packed with roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-writing workshops with themes the likes of...
  • Best Evidence: Digging Up the Facts with Susanna Kearsley
  • Talk to Me: Dialogue & Voice with Annette McLeod
  • The Art of Pacing: Keep Your Readers Reading! with Gwynn Scheltema
  • Writing for your Life with Isobel Warren
  • Familiarity Breeds Success with Ian Hamilton
  • How Absurdity, Magical Realism and Steampunk Can Change Your (writing) Life! with Adrienne Kress
... to name but a few of the thought-provoking writing realms the OWC will present this year. 
Next, I don my chefy hat for a little knife skills tutorial with Daytime co-hosts, Christian and Julie. 
This is where brunoise comes in to play. 
From Wikipedia (WIKI... What I Know Is): Brunoise is a culinary knife cut in which the food item is first julienned and then turned a quarter turn and diced again, producing cubes of a side length of about 3 mm or less on each side or 1/6 inch cubes. In France, a brunoise cut is smaller, 1 to 2 mm on each side.
I'm demonstrating other cuts, too, capping this segment with my "Why you don't need a garlic press" rant.
See you this morning at 11 on Daytime.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Ontario Writers' Conference: Five Years and Counting...

Writers are some of the bravest people I know.

I don’t personally know any soldiers – or policemen. I’ve known a few firefighters and they are brave, running into a burning building while everyone else is running out. But they don’t do what they do alone.

Writers do.

We face that blank page or computer screen every day alone. We pour our insides out onto that clean surface – in the hope – with the dream that it’s good. Usually enduring our worst critic – ourselves – sitting on our shoulders, heckling! We let those characters loose in our heads and record whatever mischief they get into. Sounds pretty crazy to most non-writers, I’m sure.

And it’s because writing is such a solitary act that we need the community of other writers. We need the support of those like-minded people:
  • to let us know that we’re not alone, too unusual or even crazy in this world;
  • to encourage or commiserate with during the ups and downs;
  • to secure feedback from;
  • to seek advice;
  • to simply visit with regularly over a cup of coffee and share our unique lifestyle with.

In 2006, my now co-chair, Sherry Hinman, then president of The Writers’ Community of Durham Region shyly, reluctantly told us of a dream she had…to hold a writers’ conference. Well, she might as well have been Mickey Rooney saying to Judy Garland, “let’s put on a show!”

The enthusiasm was immediate but the work to put on the 2008 Ontario Writers’ Conference took 18 months. That May,125 writers gathered at the Delta Toronto East Hotel for a full day of workshops, speakers, panels and general rubbing of elbows. And success!

But with every success, comes challenge. The Ontario Writers’ Conference could not function as an event or a side-project of a much bigger directive (the first OWC was a directive of The WCDR) and therefore it needed to be its own not-for-profit corporation.


As you may know, we are preparing for our fourth conference in five years. Five years! We took 18 months to plan the first one – and also granted ourselves 18 months to plan our first solo venture in 2010, and then went annual – 2011, 2012, 2013…

The structure of our day has remained the same – workshops, speakers, panels or plenaries. Lots of time for connecting and mingling or shopping for books. In 2010, we started blue pencil mentoring sessions with editors and this year we’re starting pitch sessions with agents.

Again, it’s amazing how a group of volunteers with that “fire” to give back can accomplish so much. And make no mistake, it’s an amazing group of volunteers.

Our latest challenge is the change in federal and provincial not-for-profit legislation; by October 2013, we have to – properly – rephrase our paperwork.

Just when you think things are templated or routine, there’s a curve.


Barbara Hunt
Ontario Writers' Conference

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Impact of the 2011 Ontario Writers' Conference Lingers On...

Last year, The Ontario Writers' Conference presented their Cornerstone Award to The Griffin Trust for excellence in poetry. Internationally acclaimed writer Carolyn Forché was on hand to accept the award and delighted conference participants with a reading.

Patrick Meade was in attendance and remembers it well:

"It was quite inspiring to hear Carolyn Forche at the 2011 Ontario Writers' Conference. It was even more inspiring to watch her present. With vivid imagery and evocative weaving, the  audience was taken, as if by ship, through the waters of her stirring poem. And like an ocean pressing her tides upon a waiting beach, the waves were wonderful. The delivery ... sublime. I was captured by Carolyn's presence and delivery. This poem came from that evening, which speaks about her offering to all of us; and going beyond our own boundaries."

by Patrick Meade

At the mountain she stands
Calls you away
With song in her eyes
A wish in her bones

Magma rises
From deep in the bosom
Sweeps the valley
In evening tones

At the shoreline
The lava surrenders
Wanders deep
Into a vast sea

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Turn One-Two-Three into Publish Me

“What did she say to you?”
 My friend, Kevin Craig, spotted me leaving a blue pencil session with literary agent Carolyn Forde at the 2010 Ontario Writers’ Conference. Not sure what clued him in. Could it have been the dazed grin on my face? My feet barely grazing the ground? I think he noticed hope blooming.
Converting hope into action
I’d just shared a synopsis and the first four pages of my manuscript with Carolyn, then nibbled my fingernails while she read them. She made thoughtful, detailed, constructive comments that pointed out my writing’s literary strengths. She suggested steps to make me more attractive to agents and publishers. And, bless her heart, she set me at ease.
Those ten minutes made a big difference in this writer’s life. I took her advice to heart and built my literary game plan around it. And then I followed the plan.
1. Finish the novel—and make it good to the last drop
When Carolyn learned the manuscript wasn’t complete yet, she told me, “Write the whole thing and give each chapter as much attention as you’ve given these pages. You often get only one chance, so go in as strong as you can—don’t rush.”
2. Get published in fiction markets
My magazine credits would only get me so far in the fiction world. Carolyn suggested getting a short story or a stand-alone chapter from the novel published in a reputable literary journal. Contests were another great way to get noticed, she said.
3. Go for a grant
“You need little things in your bio to make [editors and agents] go ‘Hmm.’ Get a grant,” she said. “Then you’ll really have an agent’s attention.”
When I told her I was applying for an Ontario Arts Council Works in Progress grant, she encouraged me to go for it.
“You have publishing credits. You might be able to get it. That would open a lot of doors for you.”
Progress report
I’ve spent the past year and a half chasing goals and following advice. Thanks to Writescape, I’ve attended plenty of retreats, courses and workshops. I’ve also gone to more conferences, like last year’s OWC. These events have provided first-class coaching and writing time. While my manuscript isn’t complete yet, I’m proud of the solid progress I’ve made. 
I entered a local short story contest recently and won first place. Prestigious literary journals? They haven’t agreed to publish me yet, but I’m working on it.
Best of all, I received a Works in Progress grant. Not the first time I applied, but my persistence paid off. For the next several months, writing fiction is my job—and my joy.
When my novel is complete and polished and ready to pitch, I know just who to contact—Carolyn Forde of Westwood Creative Artists. Because she asked me to.

Freelance journalist and author Heather M. O’Connor loves the magic of words. In October, she received an Ontario Arts Council Works in Progress grant. All of a sudden, Abracadabra!—she’s off on a one-year sabbatical to complete her YA fantasy novel. After that, the magic really begins.
Twitter: @heathermoconnor

Friday, November 4, 2011

No Ask, No Answer

If you met me while planning our fourth OWC in five years, you might wonder if I was always such an outgoing, promotional creature. It’s been a long journey from the university student who shook so badly that she couldn’t get through a presentation to where I am today. And, you know, that conference tagline—word by word—has special meaning for me.

First, I told my “back-then” self to slow down. To take overwhelming situations, one word, one sentence, one interaction at a time. Slowing down actually gave my mind the chance to catch up. And you know when you get nervous, your brain rattles and races? Mine did, too.

Once I got my pacing right, I could relax. My calmer self could actually enjoy speaking to a gathering or asking for a favour. Before I knew it, I was drafted into a volunteer organization. Fine, I thought. I’ll just camp out here at the bottom of the totem pole. This was not to be. I inched my way up to the position that booked talent. Yes, I asked people for their time. And they often said yes. Imagine! People wanted to play along if the event looked like fun. They wanted to give back to the community. This I learned; then I learned to use it.

On the very first OWC committee, I booked speakers and instructors and panelists. Huzzah! I had nothing to fear. If the candidates couldn’t come out to play, there was always the next time. But most often, they agreed. Success after success and now I’ll ask anyone for practically anything.

Inviting authors, editors, publishing professionals and agents to the greatest conference in the known universe is easy. Each year, I rise to the challenge of bettering myself with the program that I put together. You simply won’t believe who we’ve got this year.  

Man, next step: ask for money!

Barb E. Hunt
President/2012 Co-Chair & Program Co-ordinator
                                                                       word by word