Sunday, 30 December 2012


So here we are on the verge of another year ending, and I find myself reluctant to let it go. Whatever happens in the future, 2012 will always be special. For those of you who are latecomers to this site, I thought that I'd recap my year, so that you'll understand why that is.

- March 16th: I received an email from the Lake Winnipeg Writers' Group (LWWG) informing me that my story, "Baggage", had taken 3rd place in the Flash Fiction category of their Write on the Lake contest. Included among the prizes would be publication in their journal, "Voices". Although my work has done rather well across the rest of the country, this would be my first ever publication in Manitoba. Just between you and me, my year could have ended right there and I wouldn't have complained.

- June 10th: While my ego and I were scrolling through the passages listed under my name on Google, we came across one that neither of us had seen before, from the Elora Writers' Festival. It appeared that my story, "A", had placed second in their competition. This was confirmed the next day when their cheque arrived in the mail. A strange way of finding out, I thought, but I was to discover that it wouldn't be the last.

-June 20th: Just ten days later, I found out that England's Global Short Story Competition had short listed two of my stories, "The Mathematics of Fate" and "The Icon", in the same way that I found out about "A". Neither story advanced, but it was definitely recognition, and the first time that two of my stories had gained that in a single competition.

- July 22nd: Amidst words like 'excellent!' and 'amazing!', I was enthusiastically informed that my story, "Heading Home", was accepted for the fall issue of LWWG's journal, "Voices". This would mark the first time in my career that I would have entries in back-to-back issues of a magazine.

- July 24th: TWO DAYS later, I received an email from the English publishing house, Wild Wolf (to whom I had sent sample chapters of my novel, The Adventures of Charlie Smithers, fourteen months previously) asking for the entire manuscript. Another first, and I'm here to tell you that invitations like that don't grow on trees!

- July 25th: THE VERY NEXT DAY, again, with no prior warning, I received a cheque in the mail, and a congratulatory letter informing me that my story, "Roll of Honour" had won in the Lest We Forget category of the Canadian Stories contest. Also included in the prize was publication in the next issue of the Canadian Stories Magazine. That made three stories published to date, and a first, second and third in competitions! Another first was, that after my work had finished second more times than I'd like to remember, one of my stories had finally won an award, justifying my putting 'award-winning' in front of 'author', which I will at the drop of a hat.

- August 3rd: A little more than a week later, I was informed that "The Mathematics of Fate" had been accepted for the fall issue of "Voices". The first time that I would have multiple entries published in the same issue of a magazine. Four stories published. After years of being deprived of making it into print in my home province, I was quickly catching up, and it wasn't over!

- August 11th: A little more than a week after that, Maurice, Voices editor, wrote to tell me that two more of my stories, "The Icon" (previously short-listed in both the 2010 Arts Hamilton Competition, and the April edition of 2012 Global Short Story Competition) and "Incomplete" (previously winning 2nd place in the 2010 Writers' Federation of New Brunswick Competition [with an "extremely impressed" from judge Steven Mayoff]) would be included in the Spring issue. All-in-all, that would make six stories published, or promised to be published in one year, by far and away a personal best. Note to self: I haven't heard back from Maurice on that, so I'd better send him a friendly reminder.

- August 30th: Sam at Wild Wolf Publications wrote, offering to publish "The Adventures of Charlie Smithers".

- September 4th: After days spent going over everything with a fine-tooth comb, and just generally behaving like a headless chicken, I finally bite the bullet, and sent away the signed contract. Six short stories and a novel!

- September 8th: Just four days later, I received an email from Jenny, at the John Kenneth Galbraith Literary Award, saying that both my entries, "Angel" and "And Then It Rained", had been short-listed.  More recognition.

-September 9th: The very next day, I was informed that the newsletter, Flight Plan, wanted to publish "Roll of Honour", the first time that one of my stories had been published twice...and in the same year!

- November 12th: After weeks and weeks spent going over the manuscript, cover art, blurb, review, acknowledgements, the dedication and producing a new photograph of myself that didn't do permanent damage to the camera, "The Adventures of Charlie Smithers" is finally released.

- November 24th: With the release of the fall issue of "Voices", I gave my first reading at McNally Robinson in Winnipeg, and lived to tell the tale.

- December 1st: The Lake Winnipeg Writers' Group highlighted me as their feature writer of the month. Check it out, it might not be there that much longer.

So now you might understand why I think that it's been a pretty terrific year - a novel and six other stories published (or are to be published - one of them twice!) and at least five others recognized by being short-listed, or in the case of "A", winning second place in a contest, without publication. To give you an idea, in 2011 I had one story published and two recognized. At the time I thought that was pretty good.

Now, for those of you who have just tuned in, welcome, and for those of you who have consistently followed these posts, thank you, and thank all of you who have offered their support and congratulations along the way. To all a very Happy New Year.

You will continue to stay tuned, won't you? I have a feeling that there'll be a lot more to come in the future.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

It's All About Family

I just wanted to share something, that in its own way, is the most special of everything that's happened this year, insofar as writing is concerned (and if you've been reading this blog, you'll know that this year has already been quite special).

Sister Barb and brother-in-law Chuck had invited all of us siblings over for dinner on Sunday. It was a no-brainer to attend. Barb puts on quite a spread, and Chuck loves his wine even more than I do. Not to mention that when we all get together it's a case of laughing until your sides ache. Seriously. So it promised to be an enjoyable evening. Consequently 4:30 PM on Sunday saw Amber and I at their front door (4:30, Barb informed me, was when cocktails would be served) only to find that everyone had arrived before us - sister Betty and brother-in-law Ken, and brother Joel and sister-in-law Pat (brother Lloyd and sister-in-law Linda, way out in Edmonton, could not attend). Whereupon I discovered that, no sooner had greetings been exchanged than I found a flute of Chuck's prized (and jealously hoarded) champagne thrust in my hand, and with all my family gathered 'round, Chuck proposed a toast to the success of Charlie Smithers, if you please. I was really quite shocked, and if memory serves, left totally speechless. As far as recognition goes, if any of you out there are the baby of your family, you'll know what I mean, even more than anyone else, when I say that I was deeply touched. The respect of your peers is one thing, but the respect of your older siblings is quite another, and trumps, virtually, anything else.

Later I did another reading (Chuck had called the night before, asking if I would do one, but the penny never dropped in what I jokingly refer to as my brain). Although it was well-received, I can't say that it was the same success as my first reading. Outside of the fact that I had, perhaps, fifteen minutes to prepare, several other toasts had been drunk along the way, so, no, it didn't go quite as smoothly as it did at McNally Robinson, but it was, I think, far more satisfactory.

In case you were wondering, I didn't drive home that night, and I read the first seven pages of 'Sean's Lament', a rather lengthy novella that you won't have heard of, being unpublished, but one which both Amber and I are quite partial to.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Another first: I'm thrilled to report that the Lake Winnipeg Writers' Group has chosen me as their feature writer for the month of December. Check it out.