Life of a Writer. An Update. Point of View. POV. March 2017

As I prepare for the publication of my next book, a mystery with the title THE WHITE RIBBON MAN (2018), I have been writing short stories. These stories are primarily from the first person point of view, although they are fiction. It is a challenge for me to write from this POV, but I am having fun doing so. Usually when I try it, people in my writing groups suggest that the third person might work better. In many cases, it has done so and I have followed their suggestions. This time I am determined to leave the series I am working on in the POV I have chosen for it, so it will be interesting to see what my colleagues have to say.

One piece was critiqued a couple of weeks ago in my small writing group of women with at least two books each. They actually liked it and never suggested a different POV, but made helpful suggestions to improve it as it was presented. It will be interested to see what the other group thinks of the next story in this series. A group composed of a different demographic, but just as interesting and helpful with their critiques. I don't usually submit the same work to both groups, but I have when I think the feedback might be different and helpful for that reason.

I have been reading short stories again as a prelude to this period of writing. I particularly liked Norman Levine many years ago and went back to his work to see what I thought. Far more complex than I remembered, but still about rather ordinary people in rather ordinary circumstances, if not entirely ordinary nonetheless times and experiences of many people in the days written about. I liked the stories just as much on a later reading! Other writers as well, ones I may mention later in another post. Or not!
Posted on March 6, 2017 .

MERRY CHRISTMAS! 2016.

Happy and Healthy New Year to everyone who happens to drop by. I hope your year has been meaningful and healthy and that the challenges in 2017 you will be able to manage. I look forward to another interesting year and hope that it will include time with grandchildren (the two boys who live in different places, one in Montreal and the other in Blenheim - below), a bit of travel and completion of some more writing projects.  At the moment, a mystery is scheduled to come out in 2018 and I have just submitted a memoir.
Maurice's drawings.

Maurice.

Max and Grammaloutoo
Posted on December 22, 2016 .

LITERARY TALKS: Toronto

LIFE INSTITUTE

 
 

24 November 2016

LIFE BULLETIN:
LITERARY TALKS
A series of author readings and presentations of books, plays, and poetry

Presented as part of the year-round Programs for 50+ Lecture Series

Date: Friday, December 2, 2016
Time: 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Location: Ryerson University
Admission is free
Register now: ryerson.ca/ce/literarytalks

Join us for a special Literary Talks session as we discuss novels written by two of our very own LIFE Institute members, Kenneth Smookler and Mary Lou Dickinson.

Farr and Beyond: Lawyers for the Otherworldly*

Kenneth Smookler's first book, Farr and Beyond: Lawyers for the Otherworldly, is a wonderfully inventive comic fantasy that applies Ken's knowledge of the law to our most familiar and beloved tales with hilarious results. When Jack chopped down the beanstalk, where might it have landed and could issues of negligence be involved?  Might Captain Hook have had a legal case against Peter Pan for the loss of his hand in their duel?

Kenneth Smookler, Q.C. has practiced law at every level of court, from Magistrate's Court and Small Claims up to the Supreme Court of Canada, written for varied periodicals, and lectured for many decades.  But now Ken has moved on in an exciting new direction as a writer.


Would I Lie to You?*
Mary Lou Dickinson's latest novel Would I Lie to You, is an authentic and moving story that explores the reality of family secrets -- huge issues that are kept quiet under the veneer of polite society and that affect the individuals and families involved for generations.  The novel also raises the question of who is family and how do we create one.

Mary Lou Dickinson studied Arts at McGill University and Library Sciences at the University of Toronto.  She has participated in many workshops and residencies in creative writing and has been a member of the Moosemeat Writers Group since 2005.  Her fiction has been published in the University of Windsor Review, Descant, Waves, Grain, Northern Journey, Impulse, and Writ.

*Available for purchase at event.


Part of the year-round 50+ Lecture Series presented by Programs for 50+ at
The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education
ryerson.ca/ce/programs50plus
For more information contact:
Mena Carravetta
Tel: 416.979.5000 x3850
mena.carravetta@ryerson.ca
 
MC/rb


 
 The LIFE Institute - 350 Victoria Street, Toronto, ON, Canada M5B 2K3
telephone: 416.979.5000, ext. 6989     web: www.thelifeinstitute.ca
Ryerson Chang School logo



Posted on November 24, 2016 .

An Evening with Author Mary Lou Dickinson. Oct. 25, 2016




An Evening of Secrets and Revelations with Author Mary Lou Dickinson

Tue Oct 25, 2016
7:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
60 mins
Join author Mary Lou Dickinson as she reads from her novel "Would I Lie to You?" and discusses her writing process. "Would I Lie to You?" explores the reality of family secrets hidden under the veneer of polite society that can affect families for generations. Who is a family and how do we create one?

Copies of the book will be available for sale.

http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDMEVT260905&R=EVT260905


Posted on September 15, 2016 .

Summer Time on a Northern Lake. Reflections.

Summer is in the throes of passing.Too soon over! It is hot in the city now. It is humid. But to complain is to wish for winter. And I do not really want to experience ice, wind and cold weather yet for quite a while. Although it was not always true, I like summer. The thought of reflecting while feeling the wind blow through my hair as I sit on the edge of a northern lake seems to open as well the possibility of imagining characters and stories that fuel my writing.


Tell me what content you want to find on this blog.  I may meander through my own thoughts and miss telling you something you want to know. Or read about. Are there aspects of writing you are curious about? Are there things about writing you would like to ask? Let me know!
Click for Options
Please leave your comments below. I appreciate feedback. Indeed, you do me a favour when you let me know what you think, hopefully as well giving me ideas for what to write about here. Sometimes you are the source of such ideas. Really!



Posted on August 12, 2016 .

Life of a Writer: Branding!

I have been struggling for some time with Branding. It is a foreign  concept in my world, but so necessary if fiction is to stand out at all. So I have been playing with it as well as struggling. Life is supposed to be fun as well as a struggle, is it not!
Here is a first attempt. I am more than happy to receive your comments. I need all the help I can get to spread the word and will appreciate any feedback you care to give!

Dickinson enlightens her readers with compassion for and understanding of the human condition. She understands the deeply felt emotions of people longing for communication and connection as they deal with both small and huge problems.  As a former crisis counselor, she uses her experience to create fiction in her novels “Would I Lie To You?” and “Ile d’Or” that is authentic and moving. Through Dickinson’s characters, we understand their difficulties and embrace the possibilities and potential for change in our lives as well as in theirs. Dickinson loves having fun, too, and in spite of approaching a venerable age many consider the twilight zone is often seen on the dance floor cutting some amazing figures in ballroom, Latin and swing!


Note from my website:
The author's fiction has been published in the University of Windsor Review, Descant, Waves, Grain, Northern Journey, Impulse, Writ and broadcast on CBC Radio. Her writing was also included in the anthology, We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays and Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman. Inanna published a book of Dickinson's short stories, One Day It Happens,  in 2007, and her first novel, Ile d'Or, in 2010. Her latest novel, Would I Lie to You?, launched in October 2014. A mystery, The White Ribbon Man, has been accepted for publication in early 2018.
Posted on July 4, 2016 .

Always Looking For The Most Interesting Hat For A Writer.


And Doesn't This One Make Me Look Interesting? Ah well, beg as I would, cajole, plead my nephew-in-law was glad to loan it to me at the back yard birthday party where we gathered in Oak Bank, near Winnipeg, to celebrate Diane's 75th. The hat was certainly a conversation piece and a hit for the day and it shielded me from the sun. But no amount of entreaty would convince him to let me bring it home. When I realized what a special hat it was for him, too, as he had bought it on a family trip to Death Valley in the US and it looks good on him also, I stopped begging. I made sure I had photos though, so I could use them for occasions. Such as this post. And who knows what else?
Posted on June 25, 2016 .

WORK DAY.

Sometimes it takes a while to establish a routine. And then it happens! In the first photo, the reading glasses I spend precious time looking for. The second captures a mood that helps me to write. The third, an attitude that helps also.



Posted on June 7, 2016 .

Belgium Visit! May, 2016

Napoleon. 1815
These three photos capture some of the memorable moments of my trip to Belgium a month ago where I traveled with Friendship Force, Toronto and stayed with people who belong to FF Leuven and FF Belgian Coast in Belgium. It was a privilege and a pleasure to live in the homes of Belgians and to see the country through their eyes. It made for a very rich experience of their country. I have had individual experiences during my travels when I have seen beyond the tourist sights with people I have met, but this experience was different in that the whole visit was like that.

I can't access all my photos, so have chosen these three as reminiscent of very notable moments. Flanders Fields has strong resonance for Canadians as here our country joined in battle in World War I. Ypres and Passchendaele, two sites where Canadians fought. Also it was very moving for me to go to the fields of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) as one of my ancestors was here on the British side. Our family still have artifacts of his. Indeed, my sister has his pistols, shaving kit, journals and a musket ball that caused him injury.
Being there did not lessen my desire to end all war, but when one sees tiny Belgium and understands how it, along with other parts of Europe, were overrun, one knows why our military became  a presence there.
 
In Flanders Fields




Belgian Waffle




 And then, of course, there were the ubiquitous Belgian Waffles.Some of them were laden down with toppings, but my favourite was a plain waffle dusted with sugar with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce. Yummy. And I suppose that sounds like lots of toppings, but if you have ever been in Bruges or Brussels and have seen the waffles sold on tourist streets, you know my choice was somewhat Spartan. My host in Leuven liked the waffles with just a sprinkling of icing sugar.




Posted on June 6, 2016 .

Here is a review of Ile d'Or that is particularly pleasing!

http://indicebohemien.org/chroniques/2011/10/une-ville-dure-sous-la-surface#.Vw6YM8tRGcw.
The actual date of the review is in 2016

Chronique_littéraire

Une ville dure sous la surface

// Francesca Benedict - 1 oct. 2011
Numéro : Octobre 2011

Pour cette vingt-et-unième chronique, j’ai choisi de vous présenter une auteure anglophone de la région. Mary Lou Dickinson a grandi à Bourlamaque parmi les familles de mineurs. Elle vit aujourd’hui à Toronto, mais elle a gardé ses liens avec la communauté valdorienne. Avec ce roman, elle signe sa deuxième publication. Son premier titre, One Day It Happens, paru en 2007, rassemble des nouvelles dont certaines déjà exprimaient l’empreinte de cette appartenance. 

Quatre personnages se croisent après de longues années. Lucien est resté, Michelle est revenue s’installer depuis un certain temps, Nick et Libby vivent à Toronto et sont en visite. Ils se sont connus jeunes, alors qu’ils grandissaient dans Bourlamaque et ils sont tous rattachés les uns aux autres par Marcel, un enfant qui évolue dans des conditions aussi dures que celles qu’ils ont connues.

Essentiellement, l’auteure raconte la vie de gens qui ont grandi ensemble et qui aujourd’hui doivent composer avec leur passé autant qu’avec leur présent. Elle présente des personnes dans la quarantaine qui traversent les deuils et les bilans occasionnés par les hauts et les bas du quotidien. À cela s’ajoutent les amitiés, les amours, les rêves et les déceptions, opposant la fragilité de la condition humaine à la dure réalité de la vie dans une ville minière – la phrase « It’s a tough town under the surface » revient à quelques reprises, et semble faire autant référence aux gens qu’à la roche. En reflétant les nombreuses divisions de l’époque entre catholiques et protestants ainsi qu’entre francophones et anglophones, le passé révèle la profondeur des déchirures provoquées par le contexte politique et social des années 50.

L’auteure rebâtit la vie des personnages en les laissant raconter leurs propres souvenirs, auxquels elle entremêle le point de vue et les souvenirs des autres personnages ; ce procédé permet d’avoir en même temps une perspective intérieure et extérieure, ce qui traduit bien la complexité de la situation socio-économique entre patrons et mineurs ainsi que le lourd héritage historique et linguistique. 

Pour la génération qui a connu le passé de Val-d’Or, les références rendent facile la reconnaissance des lieux et de l’ambiance de cette époque. L’histoire correspond aux histoires qui circulent sur les premières décennies de Val-d’Or. L’intérêt du livre repose aussi sur le fait que Mary Lou Dickinson a su saisir le rythme, le souffle de la ville d’aujourd’hui. \\
Posted on April 13, 2016 .

Brussels Airport Opens on April 3rd, 2016

Three flights out of Brussels airport today. Like the rest of the world, I am watching to see how long it takes to recover from the dastardly terrorist attack that happened there two weeks ago. As I also wonder about another attack in Pakistan. But I have a special interest in Brussels because I have a ticket on Brussels Air to arrive there in the middle of April. Will enough flights be restored by then for mine to take off from Toronto and land in Belgium? I hope so as I still intend to go as part of a Friendship Force Toronto Outbound to stay with the hosts of two clubs in Belgium. One in Leuven, the other in the Belgian Coast area. A new experience for me! I have not traveled with this international club before and am very interested in seeing a country through the eyes of people who live there, from the insider's eyes.

Not much more to say for now. I will watch the daily reports on the status of flights and at some point soon check on the status of mine.


Posted on April 3, 2016 .

THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

 As I work with one of my writing groups on my memoir, Restless, I am drawn back to the place and time where I spent the early years of my life. Years away now and another era entirely. Once upon a time, I thought of it as a novel entitled Frontier Days. That novel later became, Ile d'Or, and it was published fnally in 2010, and was my second published book.That proved to me that dreams are worth following and that the long, circuitous journey of my life had been worth following. Not that there was much choice. When I look back on the journey, I did make choices, but the passion for writing never disappeared. And aside from my family as an ongoing priority, nothing else could ever dislodge it. I am grateful to have lived long enough to see dreams realized - the late arrival of wonderful grandsons and the excitement of published books!
My Books:
One Day it Happens (short stories) 2007
Ile d'Or (Novel) 2010
Would I Lie To You? (Novel) 2014
The White Ribbon Man (Mystery) scheduled for  2018
Publisher: Inanna Publications

Unpublished:
Children's stories for ages 3 to 7
Big and Little
Bow Wow the Elephant
Barker
The New Baby

Posted on March 30, 2016 .

LIFE OF A WRITER: WINTER 2016

ALL THE BEST TO MY FRIENDS AND  COLLEAGUES IN 2016!

The good news is another  book has been accepted for publication. I finally completed a mystery, The White Ribbon Man, which will be published by Inanna Publications, the press that has done my three books thus far. You will have to wait a while  to read it as publication is not scheduled until Spring 2018. There is the possibility that it will get moved to the fall of 2017, so while  I am hopeful that will happen I am not holding my breath. For the publisher, this timeline is an indication of a vital and full program, whereas it is harder for the author who has to wait to experience the satisfaction of holding and sharing the actual book. Nonetheless, it is good to know that Inanna, a feminist press, is now such a well established and respected press.
Also, I now have two thriving grandsons. One in southwestern Ontario is interested in business and Japan and is about to launch out on a university program in the fall. The other, in Montreal, will be 2 in April and is learning to talk in both English and German. French will come later! They both are  joys to have in my life. I value my far flung family and my friends most of all, although the passion for my writing and learning new things  sure takes up a lot of time! All of these ... family, friends and writing as well as dancing and travel and art and culture have given these "retirement" years meaning and purpose beyond expectations and I am grateful.

There is a possibility that my sister and brother-in-law will move from the west to Toronto in 2016 to be closer to their children and grandchildren. And friends in Toronto who are also  selling their house this year might in the course of their search find an apartment  closer to me. On both counts, fingers crossed!


The purpose for starting these newsletters was to update you on book and writing developments. But 😀 I suspect 😉 the tidbits around other aspects of life interest many of you just as much. And yes, I do get asked about my travels. I have decisions to make soon about that, depending on both money and time and, of course, health .You may find out what destination/s rise to the top in my next newsletter.

Happy dancing! Happy travels! Whatever you do, enjoy the journey.  Enjoy life.

With all good wishes for your health and happiness in 2016.
Mary Lou Dickinson
Posted on January 14, 2016 .

LIFE OF A WRITER: FALL REPORT. 2015


Another season, fall, is over and winter will soon be with us, if it is not already. Over the fall, I went on doing readings from Would I Lie To You? and meeting people. I read in Hamilton at LitLive on October 4th and in Chatham as a guest of the TriCounty Literacy Network on October 30th. I was the guest at a book club in Toronto on November 16th where I spoke about my latest book and told stories about my experiences of writing over the years. Also was invited to another club in November to talk about my previous novel, Ile d'Or. There are many ways to spend time with a book club, including Skype these days. So bear in mind that distance is not a barrier.
What strikes me most at the end of a year of doing readings and telling people about my novel Would I Lie To You? is how different each experience is. There is always something unexpected even if the formats might be similar. Of course, that keeps it interesting and also means one has to remain alert. Sometimes this is disconcerting, at others exhilarating. Take the experience of meeting other authors when I share the 'podium.' That is one of the highlights of the period of promotion for a new book as is meeting people who are curious and buy the book and those who have already read it. It leads to stimulating conversation and challenging questions. As the work up till then has been solitary, this period is an opportunity to reconnect with the world in a very meaningful way.
 
 
So thank you to all who have invited me to events and who have come out to enjoy them. Aside from that pesky summer pneumonia, it has been a stellar.year. And I hope you also had one and are looking forward to another.
 
 
 
Posted on November 25, 2015 .

Life of a Writer. Memoir. New Prologue. October 2015


PROLOGUE

The adventurous stories about Uncle Billy I heard as a child left me uncertain about what was real and what was imaginary. Even though my two siblings and I were told many tales about Billy’s discovery of the Banff hot springs in Alberta, he seemed so far away. That changed in the mid 1970s, when I was on a trip to western Canada with my then husband and our two children and we stopped for a couple of days in Banff. While walking down the main street, I spotted a wax effigy in a shop window. As we drew closer, I saw that it was of William McCardell.

“”Do you know who that is?” I asked the children.

They both looked baffled.

“Your Uncle Billy.”

“You mean he’s related to us?” Andrea asked, her voice rising in excitement. At the time, she was eleven, her brother seven.

“Yes.” I was excited, too, remembering Uncle Billy’s hot springs discovery. As a worker building the railroad tracks that extended across Canada, his story was one of adventure, curiosity and often recklessness. No wonder, I thought, that until then he had always seemed like a fictitious, larger-than-life, character to me. Although as it turned out, the man who discovered the Banff Springs, along with his brother and another man, was actually relatively small.

“Tell us about him,” Andrea said.

“I don’t know very much. Maybe if we go into this store and ask, they’ll have more information. And when we get home, we can ask Nanny.” (Their maternal great grandmother, who was still alive at that time).

For me what this man had long ago been was one of the imaginary characters in the stories I made up as a child in the northern Quebec bush.

“Let’s go inside,” I said.

Phil did not seem too interested. “I like the stories Grandad tells.”

My father told stories about South Africa where he lived until his family left for Canada, via England, when he was five years old.

“I remember one about a dog,” Phil said. “It was a small dog.”

“That was the one that saved Granddad’s life. It killed a snake that crept up on him.”

“What happened to the dog?”

“Poor dog died, too.”

But in this act of loyalty, he had saved my father from being poisoned by a puff adder.

“And there was another dog,” Andrea said.

“Yes, there was.” The other one was in a book Dad had read both to his children and grandchildren. Dad loved that dog, too. He loved the way Jock ran free on the Bushveld.

“Let’s go in,” Gord, my then husband, said. “We’ll see what we can find out.”

So we did, and were fascinated by a variety of historical figures on display. We soon fastened on the one of our ancestor. And it was in encountering Uncle Billy’s effigy that the stories of my childhood suddenly became real. As time went on and I discovered more about the various forebears in my family, what struck me was how my ancestors had a role in the creation of a country. From Uncle Billy’s work hammering in the ties and rails of the tracks to the west coast, his discoveries of the hot springs and, apparently, also of oil (along with someone called LaFayette) to other stories about another even earlier pioneer on the other side of the country, Louis Hebert, the first settler in Canada. Another ancestor of our mother’s, he had farmed on the St. Lawrence long before the railway was even contemplated.

So after both children were asleep in our hotel room in Banff, I felt compelled to jot down thoughts about the connections all of this led me to ponder. Until finally Gord said, “You’ll be exhausted tomorrow if you don’t get some sleep.”

Of course, he was right.

I did not know then that a year later our marriage would be over. Maybe he did not yet either. Or that one day I would have published books. I simply kept on writing for another half hour and finally, after that, fell asleep.

Those early thoughts became the starting point for this memoir. Yet I knew even then that if there were any value to writing it beyond my need to create some perspective on my own life, it would only be apparent much later. What began with scribblings about Uncle Billy went on to become tales about the frontier town where my own story started. And even that was in another era with a way of life that has, in many ways, disappeared.

So, what follows is based on my life. I have moved from the frontier country to an urban setting and from one century to another. And over a very long apprenticeship, I have moved from my early scribblings to publish books. This has been my life. It is my life.



 
 
Posted on October 30, 2015 .

Coast to Coast in the Summer of 2015

                                    September
 4th, 2015
Hello Friends and Colleagues: 
A summer bookmarked by the St. Lawrence River as it becomes wider near Riviere de Loup and English Bay in Vancouver was indeed a good one. It began with the Jazz Festival in Montreal before visiting a friend on the St. Lawrence, a quick trip into Quebec City en route home to Toronto and ended with a West coast family visit. (In the spring, this was preceded by readings in Montreal, Winnipeg and Saskatoon).
 
On a lovely summer evening in the middle days of July, my friend, Ruby, held a party in Toronto to celebrate my latest book. It was such a treat in itself as well as coinciding with the visit of American friends. So Clare and Jack were also able to be there. People mingled, I read from Would I Lie To You? and a recent children's story (Big And Little) and answered questions. It was relaxed and I thoroughly enjoyed it, as according to all reports, did the guests.
 
It was after that I came down with pneumonia and spent most of the next four weeks sleeping. I did not expect to make it to Vancouver at all and in fairness to a library where I was going to read, I cancelled the occasion. At the last minute, I found I could fly, but it would have been too soon for a public appearance. Indeed the fatigue lessened very slowly and I paced myself carefully for quite a while. Still, it was a good summer!
 
Upcoming in Fall 2015:
Oct. 4th. 7:30 pm. Lit Live. Reading. Hamilton, ON (Please come out if you are in the Hamilton area!) 
Oct/Nov. possible. Chatham, ON. Talk and read! 
Nov. 16. Toronto, ON. Book Club Speech and Discussion.
 
And on it goes! Although at this stage I am able to begin to give more attention to the writing itself again! Happy Days!

I hope your summer was both healthy and enjoyable!


Mary Lou
 
Posted on September 4, 2015 .