Tag Archives: local author

Interview with Paul Gooding


picture of Paul GoodingPaul Gooding enjoys poetry from the Victorian to the modern age, especially Tennyson, Frost, and Andrea Cohen. He’s the contact person for the Writers’ Circle, who meet on the last Wednesday of the month in the Waverley Auditorium. For more information on Writers’ Circle, please call him at 807-345-8513.

Shauna Kosoris: How did you get involved with Writers’ Circle?

Paul Gooding: Through a library ad. I was put in touch with Irene Warmenhoven, who edited the first anthology, Voice of Thunder, in 1998. I believe that they had existed prior to the first anthology.

For new members, it doesn’t matter if you’ve written a little or a lot, you can bring what you have and we’ll celebrate and read it. Everyone is welcome. There are no authorities. Everyone has their own thoughts on the piece. Everyone is welcome.

It’s wonderful that Writers’ Circle is so supportive. Other than that support, what is the most positive thing you have gotten out of being a member?

I think it’s the experience of seeing my work in print to a wider audience. To more than just fellow writers. The Writers’ Circle books were placed in the Thunder Bay depot of local works. That was instigated by Ken Boschcoff. I don’t know where it is located but it is the mayor’s collection of books.

That’s very exciting! You were on the editing team for Thunder on the Bay, the Writers’ Circle’s 4th anthology. Who else worked on that with you?

Thunder on the Bay was edited by Joan Baril, Michele Tuomi, and I. Martin Hicks assisted in editing as well (he’s since passed on). L. Keith Johnson was the guiding light to that one. Each time we met he kept a record of who came to the meeting. He was a massive contributor to everything.back cover picture of Thundering

The last anthology, Thundering, has a picture of all our contributors. Keith is third from the right.

Your bio in Thunder on the Bay and Thundering says you started writing after taking a course in Victorian Prose & Poetry. Why did that course inspire you?

It was an era of poetry that appealed to my mother. She got me several Tennyson books. I find the music of the poetry very enticing. I had to imitate it. The professor of that course was Dr. S.R. MacGillvary.

Was that here at Lakehead?

Yes. There’s another teacher, Claude Liman, who also inspired me. He’s since left town.

Have you always written poetry, or have you tried prose, too?

I tried prose in high school. I’ve written several academic papers. But poetry really. I’ve been in several poetry groups besides Writers Circle. My friends and I test each other. It’s lots of fun.

What is your favourite poem form to write and why?

I think variations on sonnet form, 14 lines. But the order of the lines isn’t given much prominence. Whatever I can fit into 14 lines. I’m not a strict follower. It takes a lot of skill. A sonnet is 14 lines, 3 quatrains, and a couplet. I don’t adhere to it strictly.

In terms of interests, I think also in terms of influences: Robert Frost. Andrea Cohen.

Why those poets?

I like their voice. I can feel them speaking to me directly and enjoy sharing their poetry. Sharing common interests.

How long does it take you to write a typical poem?

Probably no more than 30 minutes. I don’t write a lot. I write when I feel like it. Not interrupted. 30-40 minutes generally.

What was your first published poem?

I think the poems in Voice of Thunder. That was back in 1998.

So what are you working on now?

Right now, I’ll be giving a presentation to Writers’ Circle on William Wordsworth sonnets. That will be the last week at Waverley in May.

Good luck with that! Let’s finish up with a few questions about reading. What poet first inspired you to write?

I’d say Tennyson. Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He represents an isolated individual speaking for his age. An isolated individual who can remain true to his individual self.

Is there a book you think everyone should read?

Just read anything, really. If you get a copy of Victorian Poetry and Prose, it has major poems and essays.

Stuart Mill -essays
Carlyle -essays
John Henry Newman – essays

Victorian poetry still satisfies. I’ve been writing poetry since 1998 and it still provides challenges, examples, flights of fancy. It’s an escape from the mundane world to a higher reality. It lifts everything up to a higher dimension.

And what are you currently reading?

A book called The Crimes of Paris. It’s about the theft of the Mona Lisa and the criminal underworld of Paris. It’s got larger than life characters. From before Sherlock Holmes.

I also read a book called The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.

thundering cover

Interview with Jean E. Pendziwol


Author Picture of Jean E. PendziwolJean E. Pendziwol is the award-winning author of eight published children’s books.  Her debut adult novel, The Light Keeper’s Daughters, will be published in 2017 by HarperCollins; her latest children’s book, Me and You and the Red Canoe, will also be published in 2017 by Groundwood Books. You can find her online at http://www.jeanependziwol.com/.

Shauna Kosoris: Your writing career began with the publication of the picture book No Dragons for Tea: Fire Safety for Kids (and Dragons), which was published in 1999.  What inspired you to write this book?

Jean E. Pendziwol: My writing career actually began a few years before that. Prior to having kids, and continuing on a casual basis after they were born, I worked as a freelance writer, mostly for trade publications. I researched, wrote, photographed and did editorial coordination. Having young children re-exposed me to children’s books, and in particular, picture books. I love the format – the partnering of images and text, the challenge of working within a limited number of words, and, especially at that time, the ability to hold a story completely in my head before I even put pen to paper.  No Dragons for Tea was inspired by my daughter.  At that time, she was extremely afraid of fires, and more so, by fire alarms. I was concerned that she didn’t have the necessary tools to respond in an emergency situation and searched out resources. What I found were a number of books about fire safety that were all either didactic or frightening. With the help of our local fire prevention officer, Brian Berringer, I came up with the idea for the book. I was thrilled when Kids Can Press wanted to publish it! I was fortunate in that it was timely, relevant, accessible and engaging and it carried an important message.

I love that it spawned a whole series of engaging safety stories for children, too!  Right now you’ve published eight picture books, with another one tentatively scheduled for release next year.  What is the appeal of writing for children?

I love the challenge of writing picture books. There is a misconception that because the stories are short and for children that writing them is a simple task. It’s actually one of the hardest genres to get published in, which I fortunately didn’t know at the time I headed down that path. Several of my picture books are poems, and while written for children, have a universal appeal. Once Upon a Northern Night in particular has touched many people.  I love that my stories speak to people in an intimate way. And because I value and respect children, I want to create something for them that is valuable and respectful.

What’s the hardest thing for you when writing a picture book?

There are so many audiences to keep in mind. The audience for the story is a child, but it also needs to speak to the adult who will be making the decision to buy or borrow the book. Picture books are most often read out loud, and read many times over, and as a writer, these are things I need to consider.

Your debut adult novel, The Light Keeper’s Daughters, is due out next summer.  What made you switch your focus from writing children’s books?

I haven’t. I love and will always love writing for children; this is just another branch of the same writing tree. When I first started working on The Light Keeper’s Daughters, I intended for it to be for middle grade or young adult readers.  But as the characters began to take shape on the page and the themes and plot evolved, it settled into a story more suited to an adult audience. I was also at a point in my life where I was able to devote time to a more involved, lengthy writing process necessary for a novel-length story.

Has it been hard switching from writing for children to writing for adults?

For me, writing is always a learning process. Skills applicable to children’s writing are also important for adult writing; keeping the audience in mind; respecting the reader; ensuring that the voice remains consistent; and keeping the pace appropriate. I think my tendency to be a concise writer has served me well in my work for children and that has carried over to my writing for adults as well.

What can you tell me about your new novel?

The Light Keeper’s Daughters features two fascinating women, Elizabeth, who is elderly, blind and living in a senior’s home, and Morgan, a teenager completing community service hours for spray-painting graffiti. They are drawn together after the discovery of journals penned by Elizabeth’s father when he served at Porphyry Island as lighthouse keeper nearly sixty years ago. As they decipher the musty words, they realize they are connected through Elizabeth’s enigmatic twin sister, Emily, their lives shaped by the harsh Lake Superior environment and the secrets kept by a family for a lifetime.

I look forward to reading it next year!  So what are you working on now?

I’ve got a few projects on the go, some for children and some for adults… This, that and another thing. 🙂

Fair enough.  What book or author inspired you to write?

I grew up sailing on Lake Superior, so had plenty of time for reading. Interestingly, I never envisioned myself being a novelist, although I always loved to write. Some of my favorite books included the Mary Stewart series about Merlin and King Arthur (The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills), Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M Auel), Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Ken Follet. As a young child, I read Enid Blyton, and had A.A. Milne read to me.

Is there a book or author that you think everyone should read?

I think that’s a difficult question – readers are so diverse, which is wonderful. Not everyone likes the same kind of book. Some of my favorites (other than the ones noted above) include To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee), The Thirteenth Tale (Diane Setterfield), Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie, Ina Rilke), All the Light We Cannot See (Anthony Doerr), Skellig (David Almond) and the Little House books by Laura Ingalls. Oh, and Because of Winn Dixie (Kate DiCamillo) – pure genius in my opinion.

And what are you currently reading?

I just finished The Illegal (Lawrence Hill), I’m reading Fifteen Dogs (Andre Alexis), and have Amy Jones’ We’re All in This Together on the list.  I’m also re-reading some of my favorite middle grade books, looking at them from the perspective of a writer, including The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis), Coraline (Neil Gaiman), Little House in the Big Woods (Laura Ingalls), and Holes (Louis Sachar). And, of course, Because of Winn Dixie.

Cover Picture of Once Upon a Northern Night

Interview with Alexander Kosoris


Alexander KosorisAlexander Kosoris is a novelist and book reviewer who was born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He attended the Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto between 2006 and 2010. After graduating, he moved back to Thunder Bay, where he now lives with his lovely wife – as well as the majority of his relatives – working as a pharmacist.  Lucifer is his first book.  You can find him online at kosoris.com.

Lucifer is the well-known story of an angel rebelling against God, but it is set in an office building with God as the CEO.  What inspired you to write it?

Alexander Kosoris: I honestly can’t pinpoint the exact reason. I remember Lucifer beginning around when a friend committed suicide and I really started giving my beliefs, my outlook on life, thoughtful consideration, at least more actively than up to that point. Perhaps it was therapeutic, my way of coping; I don’t know.

So why the office building?

Biblical concepts seem hard to visualize for me, so I felt it would be interesting to relate such processes to real-world parallels. I chose an office setting for a few reasons. Firstly, Heaven seems to have a clear caste system. At least from the brief glimpses we’re allowed into Heaven from Biblical stories, people and angels don’t seem to be created equal, and everyone seems to know exactly where he or she stands. Breaking such a notion down to an office-building structure encapsulates this fact very cleanly, with angels being unable to act effectively without heading to different levels and managers for approval.

Such a setting structure also relates to God’s mysterious methods. Think of stories in the Bible, such as Eve being created from Adam’s rib, when God seems to have the ability to just create a human from nothingness. Now, extrapolate this concept to the entire creation of Man, the Earth, and the entire universe, as well as the physical laws governing the universe, and God utilizing His office full of angels to make such things. Does He need to use an office of angels for this creation? No. Is it a matter of testing angels to see what they accomplish? Is there actually a point to the process, or is it merely for His amusement? Don’t expect an explicit answer; He works in mysterious ways.

That’s true, He does.  Lucifer starts out very light-hearted and then gets more serious as it goes. Was this intentional?

Very much so. I wanted to have fun with the concept, but I always had a plan to try and tackle some heavy ideas as it went on. Whether I succeeded or not, I wanted to do more than just tell a story; I wanted to make something that was meaningful to someone.

You ran an Indiegogo campaign to help Lucifer get published. What did you learn from that experience?

Perhaps, that promotion is hard? I suppose I would have learned that sooner or later, but it was good to get it out of the way before the book even came out. I also learned to pick my battles. There were a lot of decisions that went into that campaign that I disagreed with, but most of them weren’t significant, so they really weren’t worth any argument. I can be a stubborn man, however; I clung to the issues that I felt could make or break my writing career at this early stage, such as halting the campaign for months while my friend fixed the terrible original video that was made, and shall never be seen by human eyes again.

That was definitely worth it; the video that you have now is hilarious!  You did a series of Lucifer readings around Thunder Bay during the spring, including one at the Brodie Resource Library. How did they go?

They ranged from horrendous – “no one showing up” horrendous – to wonderful, where I had the privilege of participating in some engrossing discussions after-the-fact.

That’s unfortunate that no one showed up to some of them.  But I’m glad to hear that others were much better!  Along with the readings, you also conducted a writing workshop back in February at the Waverley Resource Library entitled “Writing With Evocative Prose.” Why did you choose to speak about this topic?

I was noticing trends in the writing I was reading and enjoying around that time: all the stories were able to evoke a strong, emotional response from me. Because I’m interested in writing on a very analytical level, I wanted to delve deeper and find out how these authors were so successful in doing so. Once I discovered applicable strategies for writing, it struck me as a topic that would be very useful to both writers wishing to improve their craft and readers who want to understand literature in an absorbing way.

Are you planning on doing any more readings or writing workshops in the near future?

I’ve been organizing readings whenever and basically wherever I can. (I’ll be reading next on August 17th at the Two Harbors Public Library, followed by CommuniTea and Coffee on August 22nd.) It can be hard to fit these types of events into my work schedule, but I’m lucky to be working with people who have been hugely patient and accommodating. Writing workshops are different beasts entirely; I love doing them, but they take a lot out of me. The last one took a solid month of preparation, so I’m assuming I’d only be able to commit to one a year.

Good luck!  What are you working on now?

The working title is Going Home, and it’s about a man who crash-lands his spaceship, crossing paths with a terrible monster as he makes his way home. It’s turning out to be a great deal more grotesque than Lucifer, which makes me a bit worried that people who passed on Lucifer because of the name will be horrified if they decide to give this one a chance.

I guess that will come down to marketing; hopefully Going Home’s eventual blurb will help to avoid that problem.  Let’s finish this up with a few questions about books and reading.  What book or author inspired you to write?

The biggest influence to me has been Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut; it really changed the way I looked at telling a story. I think I owe a lot to Christopher Hitchens as well; he taught me to utilize language to its fullest potential.

And what are you currently reading?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick; it’s absolutely fabulous.

Lucifer cover

Interview with Sharon Irvine


colour photo Sharon  2 Feb. 2008

Originally from Southern Ontario, Sharon Irvine is a converted northerner.  She is a retired teacher who has previously published two books of poetry, one being a collaboration with members of her writing group. Sharon will be launching her new short story book, Close Encounters, at the Waverley library on October 15th – be sure to stop by!

Shauna Kosoris: Your newest book, Close Encounters, just came out this year.  What can you tell me about it?

Sharon Irvine: Close Encounters is a collection of short stories that has been written over the past ten years. The stories have all been workshopped in a prose writing group called “Writers Northwest” of which I am a member.

The title reflects the nature of the stories in that all the characters have ‘close encounters’; it may be with other people, with their own fears, hopes and dreams, or with events that life throws at them. Some of the stories are light and humorous, and others deal with serious issues which many people face as they go through life. Some characters commit murder for a second chance while others cope with loss or make decisions about how and when they will die.

The collection offers a variety of emotions and hopefully will appeal to a variety of readers.

SK: Why do so many of the stories in Close Encounters revolve around death?

SI: I had not really thought about the fact that several stories revolve around death. Actually, only four of the fifteen stories involve the death of someone, and one involves the death of an animal.

Death is a universal experience, one we all encounter sooner or later; so, it’s not all that surprising that it is a favourite topic of writers. It’s also the bogeyman under the bed that we all fear and wonder about, and I think it’s natural to write about something that has both an element of mystery and inevitability.

When you asked the question, I began to wonder if I was preoccupied with death, but I don’t think I am, even though I am older and closer to it. Death in the stories is really only a mechanism to tell the story and reveal the character; it’s not the focus of the story, from my point of view.

SK: Much of your work (including your contributions to Core Samples and your previous book, Watching the Parade) is poetry.  What drew you to short stories for Close Encounters?

SI: I decided to write short stories initially because I wanted to see if I could. I became caught up in the form and quite enjoyed writing prose. I found it challenging but interesting. Of course, I had a lot of help from the members of “Writers Northwest” who have been very patient with my prose struggles.

As a much younger person, I wrote short stories all the time, but once poetry captured my attention, I let the prose writing drop to second place. Now, I enjoy doing both: they have different challenges, but I find them both stimulating. What intrigues me the most about prose is creating characters and making them react to the twists and turns of life. I love it when readers tell me they empathize with a character I have created.

SK: What first drew you to writing poetry?

SI: I love the music of words and the challenge of saying the most with the least number of words.

For me, poetry is the quintessential use of words; it’s the astronaut of language that flies above all the rest.

I was lucky enough to have several teachers who loved poetry and passed it on to me. They taught me to feel the words, not just see them. And they showed me the power of words.

SK: Can you tell me a little about your first published poem?

SI: My first published poem actually was in grade three: My dog loves me

even when I do bad things.

I think I have grown a little in terms of poetic technique since then, at least I hope I have.

Probably the most significant publication of one of my poems occurred when I joined “The Thunder Bay Poetry Workshop”. I had been writing poetry for many years but was afraid to show it to anyone. It was my friend, Elizabeth Kouhi, who convinced me to join the group and share what I was writing. Shortly after that, two of my poems were published in The Whiskey Jack. Since then, I have been sharing poems with fellow poets in a group called “The Paratactics” and have written two books of poetry, one on my own and the other with members of the group.

SK: What is your favourite poetic form to write and why?

SI: Free verse is my favourite poetic form, but I also enjoy the challenge of writing within specific boundaries dictated by a particular form like the sonnet or the ballad.

Free verse gives the poet so much latitude with regard to rhythm, choice of words, page set-up, etc. You are allowed to take the idea and run with it without having to consider specific rhyme, stanza length, line length, etc.

SK: How do you engage people who are not eager to read poetry?

SI: I was a teacher for over three decades which means I had a lot of practice trying to engage people in poetry who are not eager to do so. I believe that the most important thing is to convince them that poetry can have many meanings for different people; there is no set idea that fits everyone. Having said that, if you say a poem is about Superman, you had better be prepared to find details in the poem to support your idea, like a phone booth or two. You can’t just pull a meaning out of the sky; it has to come from the poem itself.

You have to convince them that poetry is mostly serious but can be fun, and you can do that by doing choral reading and dramatizing poems, writing limericks and giving a prize for the best one, writing a group poem where everyone puts in a line, etc. There are lots of ways to have fun with poetry.

If you want people to engage in poetry, you have to convince them that they can write poetry themselves. There are lots of techniques to accomplish this. Once a person writes a poem, he/she can understand the difficulties and appreciate what other poets have done, and also experience first hand the intellectual and emotional stimulation of doing so.

SK: You are originally from Southern Ontario, but are now a “converted northerner.”  Why does Northwestern Ontario appeal to you so much, particularly for your writing?

SI: Much of Northwestern Ontario is sky, water, rocks and trees: the primary elements of life. Living here where you can feel the pulse of nature is important to me. It seems to me that northerners have a much better idea of real values. Life here is more basic; you can freeze to death and what’s more, you know you can.

This view creates situations and characters that are both interesting and imperative. For example, one of the stories is about blowing a beaver dam that is flooding a grain field. This is a fairly common problem in the north, and it creates situations and characters that are a very different type from someone who works on Bay Street in Toronto.

I think that the characters of the North don’t have the layers of unreal values that others may have because they have to deal on a daily basis with the geography of the North. You don’t just hop in your car and drive to Fort Frances; you make sure you have extra food, warm clothes, a sleeping bag, candles etc. because there are hundreds of kilometers where there is only you and the bush, and if your car breaks down, you had better be prepared to survive on your own.

SK: Finally, I have a few questions about what you read.  What book, poem, or author inspired you to write?

SI: There is no one word answer to this question. Every author I have ever read has influenced me in one way or another. I may not know it, but the influence works its way into what I write.

I love to read the poetry of Don McKay who is a Canadian, but I have to say that my all time favourite poet is T. S. Eliot.

SK: Is there a book, poem or author that you think everyone should read?

SI: I think everyone should read Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In my opinion, it is a masterpiece of creation, a whole world of totally plausible, fantasy characters in the archetypal struggle between good and evil. It is totally engaging whether you are a child or an adult and without being preachy, it teaches basic values.

SK: What are you currently reading?

SI: I am currently reading a non-fiction book titled The Wild Trees by Richard Preston and The Long Way Home by Louise Penney, a mystery.CE SI Launch Poster LGL 14-page-001

The Pineville Heist by Lee Chambers


heistAaron Stevens is pretty unpopular in school.  As the son of Derek Stevens, the richest man in Lee Chambers’s The Pineville Heist, it’s no wonder: the people of Pineville all suspect that Aaron’s father is planning on closing the local mill.  If that happens, Pineville will become a ghost town without any industry, forcing everyone to move away.  To secure their own fortunes while simultaneously giving a big “screw you” to Derek Stevens, a couple of people decided to rob the Pineville bank.

When his father forces Aaron to walk to school, Aaron unknowingly sees the robbers. Later overhearing the sheriff talking about the robbery, Aaron puts two and two together and talks a couple of his friends into skipping school to recover the stolen money.  But when the robbers are murdered, Aaron and his friends are caught in the middle of everything.  Grabbing some of the money and running back to school, Aaron is separated from his friends.  Terrified that they didn’t make it out of the woods alive, Aaron is left running for his life, having to remain one step ahead of the relentless killer who wants his stolen money back.

I don’t normally read thrillers, but I found myself quickly drawn into The Pineville Heist. While the writing can at times be a little bit awkward, I found I stopped noticing it as I got caught up in the plot; The Pineville Heist is the type of book that you won’t want to put down.  Now that I’m finished reading it, I can’t wait to see the movie, which was filmed locally and is due out in early 2015.