Monthly Archives: August 2014

Writing a biography based upon slim evidence

Book Review:  The Invisible Woman by Claire Tomalin
Do we fully appreciate our freedom to choose—and to change—our marital status? I suspect not. Claire Tomalin’s biography of Nelly Ternan, a mid-Victorian actress who had a love affair with Charles Dickens, illustrates the life altering impact of inflexible social conventions on a not-so-distant past generation.

Claire Tomalin normally tackles literary greats but her subject here is a little-known woman who lived for over a decade within the shadows of Dickens’s life. Like Dickens, Ternan’s childhood was rooted within the hard scrabble of the working class. She and her extended family were actors, […]

Is it Abstract Art or an Obscure Message From the Past?

Rock Art of the Inner Coast of BC
Part I: The Discovery Islands
The intrigue for me is the obscured stories they allude to. Little has been recorded either in oral traditions or by anthropologists. Speculation suggests they represent lineage myths and prerogatives. Some of the images–especially those found at a great distance from any known village sites–are thought to mark fishing grounds. Others wonder if these are the marks of shamans or the visualizations of those who entered the spirit world to gain new powers.

The richly imagined supernatural world of the Mainland Comox people, who once dominated this area, gives […]

Some organizing structures to help you get started as a writer

Getting Set to Write is Like Packing for a Trip
Outlining Methods – Part II
Here’s some ideas for writers who prefer to use basic structures for organizing their research and ideas as they get set to write a family history, biography or memoir. This offers a light approach to the process described in last week’s blog about more complex forms of outlining:

Some might describe what’s offered here as “organic” outlining methods (see the Writer’s Digest article Go Organic I use what I call a “chronological list” to wrestle my research material into a cohesive summary, and a “subject […]

How To Get Organized to Write – Part I

Create a Plan to Guide Your Writing: Part I
Did you see Jocelyn Reekie’s posting ( about writing without an outline? Jocelyn is a confirmed “pantster” (working by the seat of her pants). I’m not a full on “plotter,” but I like to work with a bit of structure. Here’s the first of several short posts with thoughts about various ways to approach the planning phase. 

The pros and cons of outlining are hotly debated, especially among fiction writers, some of whom take weeks—or months—to prepare complex outlines. Nonfiction writers seem to hover on the margins of this controversy. Our genre can […]