Category Archives: Reference

Thoughts on Point of View

Our most recent around-the-table discussion…

photo by Marcie Schwindt

photo by Marcie Schwindt

Elizabeth McCallister
I think point of view is one of the most difficult things that new writers can face. It seems like a simple enough task – are you writing in the first, second or third person.

It gets more complicated when you actually get down to doing it well. In a sense, you must inhabit not only the personalities of your characters but also the world that you have created. A narrator who describes someone or something seems the easiest route until you realize that you have written something from one of the characters’ POV.

Trying to write from more than one character’s POV can be one of the most difficult tasks. How do you clearly separate the two characters’ POV so that each rings clearly?

Which is the final most difficult task – creating a character who seems fully human.

Jockie Loomer-Kruger
I like first person especially ideal for memoir which is my preferred genre. I [also] like it for the poetry I write.

Second person – sounds like a lecture. Thou shalt not…

Third person – can add a different type of detail from first. Good for fiction with various characters.

Omniscient – All knowing and able to get into everyone’s thoughts – best for descriptive scenes, for commentary on a character.

Barbara Lefcourt
From 1st person, there are unlimited POV – age, sex, ethnicity, personality, stage of life. What first person POV do you feel comfortable writing from.
What kind of minds are you able to get [into] and imagine being?

A major reason I love to read novels is to be able to get into the body and minds of persons totally different from myself.

My own writing of course grows from my personal points of view that have changed with age and with living in totally different environments.

Kathy Robertson
[POV] should convey the author’s opinion without being obvious.
Metaphors are effective tools in conveying imagery.
The true meaning should be elusive, not fully comprehended until the end.
One image building on the other until the complete meaning is fully realized.

Becky Alexander
I like to use the antiquated POV known as the “omniscient storyteller,” the guy who knows all, sees all and this includes knowing (and telling) what the characters even think, let alone what they do, see, etc. Think of the writers of the Bible.

I like this form as it is time tested, has survived for centuries and is the easiest form (for me) in which to write.

Case in point: I hate second person POV. [Sounds like a lecture].

Wendy Visser
Narrative style a) where narrator stands outside the story b) where narrator is part of the poem or story

Humour – writer writes from humourous perspective
• form of entertainment
o should not be forced but natural.

3rd person perspective – work written in 3rd person allows easy access to the reader. Can identify more with the situation – empathy.

First person -[works] depending on subject matter.

Marcie Schwindt
When I think about POV, first, second, third, whatever, just seems like an obvious choice based on the character’s voice and how intimate the reader needs to be with him/her to “get” who they are.

What’s more interesting, I think, is choosing which character’s viewpoint to write from. Personally, I choose the weakest character to showcase because they always seem to pull the most interesting text from me. Strong characters are boring. Weak people have to “fake it”, still have to learn how to cope. They have the greatest potential character arc because they have less to lose from taking risks.

Life is too short to waste writing on boring characters. The next time you need to decide whose story to tell, pick the less obvious choice: the character who might otherwise have been the sidekick. Give the non-speaking stock character a voice. Their story might surprise you.

Rob Quehl
1. In my opinion, if an author switches from one character’s point of view to another’s, then the style of writing should change to reflect this, so much so, that after a few chapters, the reader should be able to flip open the book at random and know whose point of view is being shown at that point.

2. I like the second-person point of view. If done well, it can pull the reader in and get them involved in the story, as it makes it sound like YOU, the reader, are the main character. A wonderful example of second-person for children is the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series of books. (See example below.) I have also read second-person for adults, and found it unique and engaging.

Your Very Own Robot (Choose Your Own Adventure #1) synopsis:

Your parents are scientists and inventors. One day, they throw some pieces of a robot into the trash. If you can figure out how to put the pieces together, you’ll have a robot of your very own! But do you know enough to control it? Are you ready for the adventures your very own robot will bring?

Lee Anne Johnston
I find first person narration comes naturally to me and seems to flow. I feel too artificial using third person, although this is just me. First person has obvious limitations, i.e. your narrator can not get into the minds and hearts of others, whereas an omniscient 3rd person narrator can easily float from and into many characters.

Link Round-up

by Marcie Schwindt

Links to 10 helpful things I’ve found around the web this week:

Beat Procrastination and Get Motivated with The Procrastination Equation

What Makes A Good Almost Kiss?

Pitching Your Potential

Sub Ops Ten: Ten Things About Submission Opportunities

Hiveword: Online Fiction Organizer

How do you decide whether a particular conference is worth it?

Revise for Focus: Plot and Subplot in the Right Proportions

10 Things No One Told Me About the Publishing Process

The One Thing You Must Do If You Want to Write Storybook Apps

The Secret Train Car in Bloomingdale’s

Marcie Schwindt loves to read and write fast-paced, character and travel driven stories. She writes under the names Marcie Schwindt, Marcie Walker, and Amber Willow. Find her on Twitter @marcie8

Books for Writers

by Rob Quehl

I would like to introduce a book that has helped me considerably. It is called the The First Five Pages: A Writer’s Guide To Staying Out of the Rejection Pile by Noah Lukeman, a literary agent and former editor. I believe the book will be helpful to advanced writers as well as beginners. It is focused on fiction novels, but it may be helpful to all writers, including poets.

After much searching at the library, I became frustrated with the many books promising “the perfect plot” or lists of “ideal characters”, and other dubious formulas for success. Mr. Lukeman’s book is different. Surprisingly, the author does not claim to offer anything that will produce great writing. Instead, the focus of his book is learning how to identify and avoid bad writing. Specifically, the type of writing mistakes that an agent or editor will use to eliminate your manuscript.

The book is broken down into three parts:

  • Part I introduces preliminary problems involving presentation, adjectives and adverbs, sound, comparisons, and style.
  • Part II encompasses problems related to dialogue – placement, commonplace, informative, melodramatic, and hard to follow.
  • Part III discusses the bigger picture – showing versus telling, viewpoint & narration, characterization, hooks, subtlety, tone, focus, setting, and pacing & progression.

The author provides examples and explanations for each problem, as well as potential solutions. He also sprinkles in many enjoyable quotes from great authors.

This book helped me identify several problem areas in my writing. I went back and made changes, and I was glad I did. It also gave me encouragement that I was doing other things well.

Of all the books I have looked at, this is the only one I would recommend, as well as his follow-up book: The Plot Thickens.

I hope you find it helpful.

Rob Quehl lives in Kitchener and is currently working on two novels.

Divinely Inspired

by April Bulmer

Image: scottchan /

Before moving to Cambridge, I did graduate work in religious studies at the University of Windsor.  There I studied a pantheon of gods, some of whom are associated with poetry and writing.  Several cultures identify such gods and goddesses and invoke them when they are involved with creative work.  Here I identify some of those deities (as well as a couple of other divine sources), their mythological backgrounds, and their unique interests.

Hermes.   A major player in the pantheon of Greek gods, Hermes is known as a trickster, messenger of the great Zeus, and the guide of the dead into the underworld.  He is identified as the inventor of the Greek written alphabet and thus is the god of writing, as well as speech and dreams.

Apollo. As the Greek god of the sun, Apollo was also a god of music and often depicted with a lyre.  He was also, at times, seen as the protector of poetry, reciting and dance—anything that was associated with the public playing of the lyre.  It is believed that his music was inspirational in developing written work, inspiring the artist to produce thought into a document.

Muses. The Greek muses inspired and protected dance, poetry, writing and dramatic stories.  Today, they are still associated with modern theatre, music, science and research.  The muses are not true gods, but they are the focus of many Greek minds and literary inspiration.  The muse who protects poetry is Kalliope.

Odin. Chief god of Norse mythology, Odin is lord of wisdom, poetry, war, death and magic and is provider of the runic letters.  He is the Norse equivalent of Woden who was honoured in pre-Christian Europe and England.  He is considered sire of many other gods and co-creator of the cosmos and of humans.  It is thought that Odin/Woden may have originated in the Wild Hunt, the traditional mythology of Germanic peoples that tells of thunder storms being developed by the loud gallop of spirits of warriors.  In another story, Odin becomes wise by hanging upside down in the World Tree for nine nights without food or drink, dying from a self-inflicted wound with a spear. There he discovered magic runes and learned nine inspired songs and returned to life with wisdom which is associated with letters.

Sarasvati. In the Rg Veda, one of the early sacred Hindu texts, Sarasvati was the personification of a sacred river that bore her name.  Aryans performed religious rituals on its banks.  As the river-goddess, Sarsvati was associated with power, purity and fertility.  She is recognized as the inventor of the Sanskrit language and as the goddess of wisdom and learning, speech and eloquence.  She is also patron of all arts and sciences.

Devi Sarswati. Hindus also honour Devi Sarswati who is the goddess of knowledge, books, literature, and alphabets.  Each year they celebrate a day in her name.  They pay her respect by not reading any book or engaging in writing.  They believe the goddess, herself, resides in books.  They never touch books or writing material with their feet because they are considered a mean part of the body.  If, by chance, such materials are touched by feet, they hold them to their forehead, as it is considered an honourable place where knowledge resides.

Thoth. Thoth was a moon god in early Egyptian mythology.  He was associated with the sacred bird called the ibis, perhaps because its bill resembled a crescent moon.  As the moon became more significant in the Egyptian religious rituals and its calendar, Thoth became associated with calculation, magic, the organization of time, and writing.  He was the inventor of hieroglyphics and became known as the “Lord of the Holy Words.”  He was also scribe of the gods.  He kept accounts and records of them and the divine archives.  He also recorded the histories of the kings of Egypt.  He wrote their names on the leaves of a sacred tree.

Gabriel.  The Judeo-Christian archangel, Gabriel, is the angel of creative writing and literature.  She aids the writer in beginning the writing process and helps keep thoughts clear while writing.  If one asks for guidance, it is said she works though a person to write divinely-guided thoughts.  She inspires and fuels ambition.  She even helps to get the work published.  If you wish to summon an angel, burn a pink candle.  It is believed that Gabriel and other angels respond to the colour pink.

Sources:  Internet: “Gods of Writing,” by WolfWikis.  “Is there a god or goddess of literature, books, reading, writing, authors, etc.?” Yahoo.

In 2008, Serengeti Press published my book, The Goddess Psalms.  Below is one of the poems from that book that was inspired by my relationship with a divine goddess. 

Psalm 44

The rains came and
the well water
was clean and sweet
for drink,
a covenant of dirt and heaven.
I bury ashes
among old roots
where witches gather
to raise the moon:
arms lifted toward her veil:
crown and torn tulle.
And I bury my prayers
in the cradle of a tree.
Bear water and shadows:
a new mythology.

April Bulmer has published six books and four chapbooks of poetry.  She holds Master’s degrees in creative writing, religious studies and theological studies.  She has been published nationally and internationally in many prestigious journals including Harvard University’s Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion.  In 1998, her second book, The Weight of Wings was nominated for the Pat Lowther Memorial Award for the best book of poetry by a Canadian woman.  She is long-time member of the Cambridge Writers Collective.  She also belongs to Voices Israel, the International Women’s Writing Guild and the League of Canadian Poets.

Breaking Through That Dreaded BLOCK

Image: Idea go /

Since no one person has all the answers, we’ve starting gathering around-the-table tips from members on subjects that affect us all. What follows is some of what came out of our discussion on writer’s block.

Lee Anne Johnston:
I journal every day. In my formal writing, I write in the first person so the characters seem to develop themselves and tell their own story. I also am a very slow writer. I write historical mysteries and I just love learning the gritty details about the past that will make my story come to life.

Barb Day:
There you are writing away, the words flowing from you, gushing out, you can’t get your thoughts down on paper fast enough. Your mind is working faster than your pen. And then it happens – you hit a brick wall, your mind closes (more like slams shut.) Your pen comes to a screeching halt. For me- it’s always two reasons – I’m tired of sitting in the same spot for hours or I’m not knowledgeable about the topic I’m writing about. I get up, get a coffee, take a break and come back refreshed and ready to do research. The joys of Google and from the research, ideas pop into my head like crazy just from reading what someone else has written even though it’s dry, boring facts. And then I’m back at it – full speed ahead, refreshed and armed with new knowledge.

Barbara Lefcourt:
The key for me when I want very much to write but cannot get thoughts to flow IS TO NOT SIT AT MY DESK. Rather, I turn my attention to some of the mindless household chores that always get delayed being done: dusting, vacuuming, cleaning floors, hand laundry, etc. etc. etc. It also sometimes help to put favourite instrumental music ( no vocals) on my stereo. That often sets the stage for the magical flow of poetic expression. And it’s good to have paper and pencil handy around the house so I can easily pause to jot down ideas, expressions, particular words that must be captured before they fly from my head.

Marcie Schwindt:

  • I try to write something everyday to keep the muse happy and coming back.
  • I read from something published every day. There’s always something to be learned from someone else’s successes.
  • I critique at least one unpublished work every week. Figuring out on my own what does and doesn’t work for me, and why, is more helpful to me than anything I’ve learned second-hand (through a course, instructional book, etc.).
  • I plot out my stories, then don’t write them sequentially. If I’m blocked on something, I write around it. Once I have the thing surrounded, it usually surrenders.
  • I stop writing mid-sentence or mid-scene. That way I don’t really have to face a blank page the next day. I already know how that sentence or scene should end.

Diane Attwell Palfrey:

  • I get a lot of inspiration from news stories or articles I read via different search engines. I like to research a topic and then write about it. So when the idea train has left the tracks – I head for the PC. I like to write about people and relationships, the human condition etc. News is full of items that can be turned into poetry.
  • I also get ideas from Facebook. I’ll read my homepage and that will inspire me. Sometimes I can’t quite believe the kind of things that people blog on a public forum. But then I think – well – it’s giving me a subject to write about.
  • Sometimes I ply myself with chocolate and listen to music. It soothes and helps the ideas flow.
  • Most of my writing is done after midnight. That’s when the house is quiet, the phone has stopped ringing and there are no more e-mails to deal with.
  • I’m not above asking others for ideas. I’ll often ask someone to give me an idea. I’ll just say, “hey, I need to write a poem – do you have an idea for me – tell me a story and I’ll turn it into a poem for you”. My mother is a great source for that.

Have you ever suffered from Writer’s Block? How did you overcome it?

Hints on Writing for Anthologies

Guest Post by Donna Clark Goodrich

Image: taesmileland /

DO use correct format—for prose double space, no extra line space between paragraphs, no justifying right margin, 1 space after period, 12 pt. New Times Roman or Courier. For poetry single space with line space between verses.

DON’T use borders or put submission in box.

DO include name and complete mailing address and e-mail address on submission— not just your blog or web site address. Make it easy for the editor to contact you.

DON’T clean out your files and send everything you have.

DO stick to the theme.

DON’T ask for an extension on the deadline, saying how busy you are.

DO include a suggested title, and capitalize only first letter of major words in title.

DON’T send in a manuscript longer than stated requirements, telling the editor they can cut it down if they want to use it.

DO keep bio sketch within the requested length. Write it in third person, and leave out adjectives such as “loving husband” or “beautiful grandchildren.”

DON’T tell the editor “feel free to edit.” If it needs it, they’ll do it. That’s their job.

DO omit underlines and bold; italicize sparingly any words you want to emphasize.

DON’T write a few days after the deadline, asking if they’ve made a decision.

DO let the editor know if you change e-mail address or other contact information.

DON’T send your submission on Facebook.

Now, start writing and good luck!!

For more information about Donna, author or “A Step in the Write Direction–the Complete How-to Book for Christian Writers”, please check out her website –>

This post was submitted by CWC member Stella Mazur Preda.

Stella Mazur Preda’s poetry has appeared in many Canadian, and some US literary journals and anthologies over the last several years. Her poem My Mother’s Kitchen was purchased by Penguin Books, New York and published in an anthology entitled In My Mother’s Kitchen, which was released in May 2006. Stella’s first book of poetry, Butterfly Dreams, was
published in 2003. Stella is a member of the Cambridge Writers Collective, the Canada Cuba Literary Alliance, The Ontario Poetry Society as well as member and past-president of the Tower Poetry Society, Canada’s oldest ongoing poetry group. Stella is owner and publisher at Serengeti Press. Her 2nd poetry book, The Fourth Dimension, will be released in the spring of 2012.

Books for Poets

by S.J. White

It is easy to get into the habit of simply writing poetry and not have the least concern about the medium itself, of how it emerged from oral societies where it was essential to the furtherance of the culture, and moved into literary societies where a dozen other mediums can do better what it used to do. Yet still thousands of people write it. Why? The first step in this quest is to understand the construct of the medium and what others have written and are writing.

So if we write poetry, it is impossible for us read too many poems or too many books on what it is thought to be, and how to write it. Such resources are invaluable to our own needs to constantly strive for new ways to use words. I list here, some of the books that have been, and are, useful to me. Some will be out of print but are usually available used through Abebooks and others.

Image: digitalart /

20th Century Poetry & Poetics, Edited by Gary Geddes.

Introduction to literature, Poems. Edited by Lynn Altenbernd & Leslie L. Lewis.

A College Book Of Modern Verse edited by James K. Robinson.

How Does A Poem Mean by John Ciardi.
An Introduction to English Poetry by James Fenton.

Inside Poetry by Glen Kirkland & Richard Davies.

Creating Poetry by John Drury.

Sound & Sense by Laurence Perrine.

Two excellent anthologies are:

Uncommon Wealth, A 2000 page Anthology of Poetry in English Edited by Neil Besner, Deborah Schnitzer, and Alden Turner. This book gives examples of poetry from the 14th Century through to the mid 20th Century.

Good Poems for Hard Times Edited by Garrison Keillor. Another excellent anthology of more modern verse.

There are many more, but these books, in particular, I have found to be invaluable for reading and reference.


Stan White has published three books of poetry and numerous chapbooks. His poems have been published in the usual literary journals and anthologies. He is retired and lives with his wife in Brantford, Ont.

Books on the art of writing

A handful of mini-reviews
by Lin Geary

Image: Maggie Smith /

I’ve just finished writing a review of a newly-released book on how to create perfect Japanese short-form  verse. The review will be published in Haiku Canada Review, Oct. 2011, and the book is titled Lighting the Global Lantern by Terry Ann Carter (who will be reading her lyric poetry at the Hamilton Poetry Centre in the spring of 2012). So here is a book that will be making a difference in my life for the next while because I want to use it as a springboard for writing and publishing tanka, something I have consciously avoided so far. The book was conceived as a manual for school teachers, hopefully allowing them to stop using haiku merely as a no-brain lesson-plan for supply teachers and other potential catastrophes. But Lantern reads like a love-letter to anyone who would like to learn how to use minimalist and imagist thinking patterns to take his/her writing to a higher level. This book gets my five-star rating for organizational clarity and comprehensive coverage of Japanese verse in English, but is terrific also for its fine examples and on-line links to the zen-side of writing. Put this on your bathroom bookshelf as the chapters are short and random dipping is encouraged. Wintergreen Studios Press published this 178-page trade paperback, available through Amazon.

An interesting enough writer’s manual that I found myself dipping into between classes a couple of weeks ago was Stephen King`s 2008 triple-compendium of memoir, guide-to-good-horror-making, and generally good writing habits, simply titled On Writing. Since I am not a fan of horror-anything (especially if it is well-written, because it scares me out of my wits), I skipped to the middle section which spoke briefly yet eloquently of not bothering to take writing courses. I immediately included myself in the not-bothering part largely because I am a compulsive taker-of-courses on anything creative. (… I have a half-finished upholstery project from 15 years back waiting in the den for a set of screw-on legs….) So I have to say the Stephen King book did a  good job of saving me some extra time that I can now spend writing. On Writing is in paperback and can be found through most on-line book sellers and in used bookstores in your neighbourhood. Worth checking out as inspiration for creating better horror for sure, four stars as an overall writing manual.

My all-time favourite how-to writer’s guide for creative writing is Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. This is both a thinking guide and a doing guide. It offers exercises that bring your subconscious mind into play to get you writing effortlessly and creatively, and it makes you believe you are a good writer by proving it to you, if you are willing to follow some of her funny and fun suggestions. I realize now just how easy it was to scribble a first draft of one of my favourite poems (see F. Ward’s Road Work Ahead) by sitting in a downtown café with a window looking out over the Grand River, a tall coffee steaming beside my notebook, and a roomful of chit-chatty patrons surrounding me. Goldberg makes a point of recommending the writer schedule regular times for filling notebooks while sitting in public spaces. The rationale for public writing is that you will feel obliged to leave the editing till later, and of course your craziest ideas just spill onto a page while you pretend in front of this admiring crowd that you never delete a line and you don’t own an eraser. This book came out in 1986, one of many zen-inspired books picked up by Shambala Publications. It has been used countless times on high school creative writing courses and should get the full five stars for re-inventing beginner’s mind, a place where all our best thoughts occur.

Other writer’s guides I have found to have much merit include Jack Hodgins` A Passion for Narrative: A Guide for Writing Fiction. Published by M&S in 1993, this book gives you wonderful references to other writers who may have accomplished the same sort of thing you are trying to construct. The examples are very worthwhile and encyclopaedic in numbers, and the table of contents is an inspiration to read randomly, which I always find pleasing.  Total thumbs up for this book.

Anne Lamott`s Bird by Bird (1995) is patient and funny and gives you back your writing perspective when you have lost it. This is the ultimate writer’s-block buster from Anchor Books: Double Day.

Finally, I have to mention a book that comes at writing from a different perspective entirely, that of play-writing. Lajos Egri created The Art of Dramatic Writing to bring to light a creative interpretation of human motives. In an age when it is normal to think TV soap operas have cornered the market on delving into the human psyche, it is refreshing to look at a book that sees the deeper structural possibilities of human relationships, not just the emotive spillage. I noticed I have one copy that has many notes in my hand-writing in the margins and a second copy that is sectioned off with sticky notes, again from my own pen. This book from Simon and Schuster (1946) is still one of the must-read books for playwrights in the 21st century or for anyone who wants to create a truer and stronger psychological impact with less effort.

So, happy reading; happy writing.

Lin Geary, a long-time member of CWC, will be working frantically for the next little while to get Addie back in shape. She currently is the AGM secretary for Haiku Canada, and she hopes to do more about her sad lack of poetry writing as the days grow warmer and Pinehurst beckons. You can find some of her writing on-line with Ditch Poetry, Haibun Today, and VCBF haiku. She will be accepting a Sakura award for her VCBF winning haiku this coming May.