The term “literary canon” refers to a collection of works considered representative of a period or genre.
Having studied English Literature (Renaissance, 19th century, Canadian Lit., and Shakespeare), I was familiar with the term, but it was not until I read “Speaking of the Canon” , a post by agent/blogger Janet Reid, that I gave serious thought to the idea of a personal literary canon.
Janet Reid begins her post as follows: “The canon is what one must have read to be considered well-educated. There is the canon for Western civilization which is largely books that are non-fiction. There is the canon of English literature (the books you’d see in an English Lit survey class in college.) There is the canon for literature of the American West.” She goes on to say that there is also a canon for whatever genre you write in.
I write historical suspense set in Newfoundland, modern day suspense set in Vancouver, and short stories with… you guessed it, suspense. I read a lot, nonfiction and fiction (literary and commercial.) When I started writing, my reading became studying. And I found my influences, my personal literary canon. These are books from writers I admire, books which sit on my shelves (not just in my Kindle) so I can go back to them frequently, riffle through the pages, find sections or paragraphs or sentences or phrases that moved me, and get transported all over again. These books make me want to write better.
My literary canon is listed below, alphabetically by author (no affiliates here, by the way.) This list is fluid in that it changes as I learn and grow.
It’s my write before Christmas, I’m happy to pen
holiday wishes to all once again.
It’s become a tradition, this greeting in rhyme
To readers and wordsmiths at holiday time.
Authors work solo but none are alone.
It takes a village (an adage well-known)
With this in mind, once again I’m highlighting
Links and events in this world of writing.
A new writer? This world’s a mysterious place.
Catch a conference! It’s there that you’ll come face-to-face
With writers and editors and agents and such.
Volunteering’s an option if the cost is too much.
Got a post that helps others? Want it retweeted? @MondayBlogs is a place you’ll be greeted.
Ready to market? Don’t know the score? Book Marketing Tools has ideas galore.
Having trouble with structure? Can’t seem to outline? K. M. Weilandhas guidelines to help you refine.
Seeking courses or webinars to carry you through? Writer’s Digestwill surely have something for you.
Do you have a routine? Great tales must be spun
And writers toil daily to get the job done.
(On that note, dear writers who are reading this verse,
If today you’ve not written, go away and WRITEFIRST!)
So here’s to my tweeps, and all Facebook friends,
And bloggers and techies on whom I depend.
As for Tea & Critique with friends Fran and Mary,
I always apply their sage commentary.
A toast to all editors (writers, pay heed!)
You need that blue pencil if you want to succeed.
Take it from me, I once published alone,
A difficult lesson but from it I’ve grown.
(Despite years of grammar in English and Latin
I made mistakes and had to go back in
Re-edit the published, suck up the shame,
Suffice to say I won’t do it again.)
Accolades to my editors, Michael and Ken, At the Heart of the Missing‘s being scoured by them
For content and structure and copy and line
My new novel! Pretty soon you’ll see it online.
Here’s to writers who’ve found success on the road,
Who’ve looked back to aid others to lighten the load,
You help bridge the gap from the dream to real ground,
Your help is essential for success to be found.
Some bloggers review without compensation ,
They truly deserve a standing ovation! Fictionophile is a gem I discovered this year
(Stop by. Check her posts. You’ll find great reads there.)
Most of all, here’s to you, readers, on you we rely,
The work’s not complete until you stop by.
Samuel Johnson once said (and I paraphrase herein)
“A reader finishes what a writer begins.”
That’s it for this year. Best wishes to you
As 2017 comes into view.
And now, ere December rolls out of sight, HappyChristmas to all! Have great reads and great writes!
Coming in 2017! Images: Shutterstock.com Design: michaelhiebert.com
“Here is all I ask of a book – give me everything. Everything, and don’t leave out a single word.”~ Pat Conroy
Yesterday I read of the recent passing of author Pat Conroy, probably best know for his novel The Prince of Tides. I love the story, the beauty, the lyricism of Conroy’s fiction but my favorite of his books is a memoir titled My Reading Life.
My Reading Lifeis Conroy’s view of life through the books he’s read and through the people who introduced him to those books. This work resonated deeply with me: I related to Conroy’s love of words, to his knowledge of Latin, and to his habit of collecting words and phrases and quotes. I was amazed at how much I learned about this author through his reading choices; I even started a list of the books he’d read, thinking that I would visit them all at some point.
During this list-making process, I searched the book’s title on Pinterest and discovered to my delight that the list already existed! The title of the Pinterest Board? My Reading Life-Pat Conroy.Thank you to Liz Whittaker for creating this board which is not only a gift for readers like myself, but also an outstanding tribute to avid reader and accomplished author, Pat Conroy.
RIP, Pat Conroy.
I invite you to join my author journey: subscribe to blog or newsletter or both! The newsletter contains news about books, links to some blogs, and occasional fun facts about my beloved island of Newfoundland. To sign up, simply place the required information in the spaces provided on the right. Rest assured your email address will not be shared for any reason.
I originally come from the island of Newfoundland but right now I’m coming to you from the island of my sofa. I have the flu and, due to my husband’s medical history and resulting weakened immune system (detailed in Olympic Hope), I have placed myself here, in solitary confinement, with only tea, books, and tablet as companions. A good place from which to comment on my favorite reads of 2014.
Here are the books that I found inspiring, compelling, challenging, or truly entertaining this past year:
The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak Set in Nazi Germany with Death as narrator. A young girl, through the theft of books and with the aid of her foster father, develops a passion for reading which sustains her through the reign of Hitler. This novel is classified as YA but its power and eloquence defy such limitation. Searing. Grim. Indelible.
This is the Story of a Happy Marriageby Ann Patchett This memoir contains a collection of previously published articles (NY Times, Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s) about love, friendship, work, art. Clean, clear language. Honest. From the soul. Inspirational.
Larry’s Partyby Carol Shields Set from 1977-1997. A fumbling man discovers his love of mazes and finds his way to self through his labyrinth of a life. Quiet. Arresting. Realistic.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Societyby MaryAnn Shaffer & Annie Barrows This epistolary novel is set on the Channel Islands during WWII. A tribute to book lovers, it details the journey of a cast of courageous book club members whose island is occupied by the Nazi regime. Nostalgic. Enchanting. Inspiring.
419by Will Ferguson (2012 Giller Prize Winner) A literary thriller set in Canada and Nigeria, this is a woman’s crusade to find the man she deems responsible for the downfall and death of her father. (The term 419 is a code for Nigerian email scams.) Taut. Intriguing. Educational.
After Thisby Alice McDermott An apt portrayal of the reality of life in an Irish Catholic American family. Lyrical. Engaging. Poignant.
All the Light We Cannot Seeby Anthony Doerr Set in France during WWII, this novel has two surprising protagonists, one a blind girl, one a Nazi soldier. The beauty in this lies in the author’s ability to create sympathy for the young soldier and to help the reader see through use of sound. (A must read for any writer seeking to improve sense of sound in writing.) Ambitious. Authentic. Riveting.
Behind the Scenes at the Museumby Kate Atkinson Atkinson’s first novel, this exquisitely-written piece details , from conception onward, the life of Ruby who takes us into the world of her quirky British family. Complex. Funny. Heartbreaking.
My favorite book of the year? I must cite two from the above list: 419for the education I received (until I read this, I would have assumed 419 to be an area code, no more) and The Book Thieffor its innovation, power, and simplicity. (In case you noticed… yes, I am currently reading a lot of WWII fiction: my work-in-progress, Book II of a trilogy, is set during that era.)
And now… I’m looking for some good reads while I remain quarantined on the couch, Kindle at the ready. Any suggestions?
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The information came to me recently via email from Colleen Rush, Education Coordinator with the Chilliwack Hospice Society. Inspired bythe book,The End of Your Life Book Club, Colleen created an event to raise awareness about World Hospice & Palliative Care Day. Her idea? The Book Lovers’ Bucket List Event, to be held at the Chilliwack Library on Oct. 11, from 10 a.m. until noon.
If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others:
read a lot and write a lot. ~ Stephen King
I do both.
What follows are some of my favorite opening lines.
Can you name the titles of the books?
(See answers below!)
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
“Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.”
“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
“As a boy, I dreamed of fishing before I went, and went fishing before I caught anything, and knew fishermen before I became one.”
“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a Dumpster.”
“Elspeth died while Robert was standing in front of a vending machine watching tea shoot into a small plastic cup.”
“Riding up the winding road of St. Agnes Cemetery in the back of the rattling old truck, Francis Phelan became aware that the dead, even more than the living, settled down in neighborhoods.”
“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was 14 when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.”
“Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before.”
“It happens that I am going through a period of great unhappiness and loss just now. All my life I’ve heard people speak of finding themselves in acute pain, bankrupt in spirit and body, but I’ve never understood what they meant.”
“They’re all dead now.”
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
Back When We Were Grownupsby Anne Tyler (2001)
The Go-Betweenby L. P. Hartley (1953)
Lines in the Water by David Adams Richards (1998)
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (2005)
Her Fearful Symmetryby Audrey Niffenegger (2009)
Ironweed by William Kennedy (1979)
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (2002)
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (2002)
Unlessby Carol Shields (2002)
Fall On Your Knees by Anne-Marie McDonald (1996)
A Tale of Two Citiesby Charles Dickens (1859)
If you have any favorite opening lines, please share. Would love to read them! Might even read the whole book!
A FREE SHORT STORY for you when you subscribe to my Author Newsletter! Simply put your first name and your email address in the space provided on the upper right.
Little did I know when I grumbled over precious time spent getting my novel onto the shelves of a local food chain that the effort would result in a magical evening in the company of avid readers. I was invited to a meeting of the Book Travellers, an octet of women whose group demeanor is a combination of the delicacy of porcelain and the strength of spider silk, women who have woven friendship into a book club that has endured two decades.
The Book Travellers are so named because each member returns from every trip with souvenir bookmarks for the group. The group chooses their books a year in advance, at a sleepover, in a cabin, on a nearby lake, each June. Through their meticulous ‘bookkeeper’, they keep track of every meeting (attendance, books read, and comments) and have done so since 1998.
They take turns hosting the event and, during my visit, they appeared to be as comfortable in their host’s home as they would be in their own. (author note: a wonderfully infectious state of ease.)
Our evening began with tea and dessert and progressed to discussion of my novel and books in general.
Elizabeth made Lemon Pavlova. Delicious!
Personal details slid through book talk, information about connections made through vocation—librarian, teacher, nurse, accountant—and avocation—curling, volunteering, walking, travelling. There were snippets with giggles about surprise birthday jaunts and fragments with sighs about thoughtful memorial gifts.
Overall, a delightful evening in the company of readers, one which served not only to deepen my fervor for reading but also to re-ignite my passion for telling stories. More importantly, I experienced a surprising gift: the joy of being in the presence of unmatched strength and vitality. Truly Canada’s Steel Magnolias.
And so, to: Elizabeth, Bonnie, Judy, Randi, Nancy, Magda, Leona, and Kathy, I express my heartfelt thanks.
My best to all of you, always,
Please subscribe to my Author Newsletter by including your first name and email address in the space provided on the upper right.
P. S. Dear Writers, Marketing can be a pain in the posterior: In my case, it took five trips to the store, several forms that had to be filled, trashed, replaced, filled again and edited; it also took a few emails to the wrong people before finding the right people. I was left wondering if time-consuming grunt details are worth it. They are. Do it.
Are you a reader? I have loved reading for as long as I can remember. I read for many reasons: escape, meditation, knowledge, meaning, and pure love of story. What follows are some quotes about the love of reading, most of which came from two great sites: Search Quotesand Quote Garden.
For the Love of Reading…
Reading is a discount ticket to everywhere. ~ Mary Schmich
To read a book for the first time is to make and acquaintance with a new friend; to read if for a second time is to meet an old one. ~ Chinese Saying
I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve. ~ Charles De Montesquieu
The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries. ~ Rene Descartes
A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one. ~ George R.R. Martin
A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint…. what I began by reading, I must finish by acting. ~ Henry David Thoreau
I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive. ~ Malcolm X
To feel most beautifully alive means to be reading something beautiful, ready always to apprehend in the flow of language the sudden flash of poetry. ~ John Andrew Holmes
The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it give you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination. ~ Elizabeth Hardwick
If you read a good book, you’ve got a friend for life. ~ My nephew, Matthew, at age nine.
Are you a reader? What is special about reading for you? What books are you springing into right now?
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My best to you,
P. S. If you can read this, thank a teacher. ~ Harry S. Truman
Unmatched characters: everyday people, everyday journeys. I got so caught up in her stories that, in 2013, I read all thirteen of her novels. In an interview posted at the back of one of her novels, Anne Tyler recommended the work of Lisa Moore, the next author on my list.
February is the heart-wrenching story of a woman whose husband dies on an oil rig. Caught (short-listed for 2013 Giller Prize) is the story of a man who escapes prison and heads off on a pot-smuggling adventure. Both books display a mastery of details; images leap from the page.
A thrilling murder mystery set around a dark subject: sorcery. Stunning voice. Seamless transition between past and present.
My absolute favorite book of the year? The above-mentioned Life After Life by Kate Atkinson. It was so challenging, so compelling, that I still think about it, months after having read it. (I am currently on a Kate Atkinson reading binge.)
What was your favorite read of 2013? Any suggestions for my 2014 ‘To Read’ List?