Book & Movie Reviews

Family Story as Bestseller

Two Great Reads That Draw on Family Stories
Does your family’s history have the drama needed for a wide readership?

The answer lies not in content but in your ability to find its story threads, the glowing strands that have relevance and insights for others. That’s a tall order—often requiring multiple rewrites to get distance and objectivity, overcome familial objections, and to filter genealogical minutia. But there are a growing number of writers who are doing just that to gain an international following.

Here’s two widely different examples: the novel Postmark Bayou Chene by Gwen Roland, and The Juggler’s Children, creative nonfiction by Carolyn Abraham.
Postmark Bayou Chene
This is […]

Writing About History

The Art of History, Unlocking the Past in Fiction & Nonfiction, Christopher Bram
Books about writing history are hard to find, so this new addition to the canon is a prize—in every sense. The Art of History is a slim volume that packs a lot of punch.

Christopher Bram is a passionate consumer of history, and a writer of both fiction and nonfiction. His homage to the subject covers all the dynamics of craft, from story structure to the use of details. And scattered throughout is an eclectic mix of fiction and nonfiction examples, because “they’re two sides of the same mountain.” Bram unpacks these […]

Memoirs require focus, perspective and clarity

Totem Poles and Tea, by Hughina Harold
A Stellar Example of a Memoir with a Focused Theme
Every writer hopes their book will be in print a decade after its release—but that’s not often the case—especially with local history memoirs. The first edition of Totem Poles and Tea did not get off to a promising start, thanks to a drab cover and its incongruous title, but Hughina Harold’s clear, focused writing—and great stories—triumphed and the book continues to be read.

Hughina’s subject is the two years she spent in the combined job of school teacher and nurse in the isolated Kwakwaka’wakw village […]

Family History Written as Fiction

Using Fiction to get at the Essence of Truth in Family History
Presenting a family story as fiction gives the writer license to stray from the constraints of layered facts, illustrated by quotes, to delve instead into the essence of the truth. That is, after all, the fiction writer’s job, to make us experience and feel, sense and question. Fiction requires mastery, but for a growing number of nonfiction writers, their material has exerted an uncontrollable pull into the imagination. A remarkable case in point is Jeannette Walls’ book about her grandmother, Half Broke Horses, written in a form she dubbed “true life […]

Fiction Writer’s Book Has Applications for Nonfiction

A Stellar Book about Writing Fiction (& Nonfiction)
Write Away, One Novelist’s Approach to Fiction and the Writing Life, Elizabeth George
This slim volume by Elizabeth George, creator of the Inspector Linley series, is the best I’ve read to date about writing fiction–with lots of applications for nonfiction too! My co-blogger Annette Yourk often cites this book—so I put it on top of my summer reading stack. And she was right. George has a clear and articulate voice, with ideas based on her own successful practice and lots of teaching.

George runs through all the big questions, from what’s at the heart […]

Creative Nonfiction Brings More Life to a Biography

Are You Curious about Creative Nonfiction?
Here’s a Terrific Summer Read: The Paper Garden, by Molly Peacock
A captivating example of creative nonfiction is the biography The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock. The author juggles multiple subjects, including her own story, in the hallmark form of this genre. Her views and personality resonate with the same clarity as her primary subject: “Mrs. Delany,” a 17th century English artist and correspondent, who created hundreds of flower mosaics from layers of hand-coloured paper. Peacock uses her close up examination of these mosaics, held in a major British museum, as metaphors for Delany’s inner […]

Characters, Scenes and Dialogue in Mystery Writing

Blog Posts are Murder
Musings on the genre by Annette Yourk
There were three murder mystery writers in my last course. That was a first, so I thought I’d blog about it. I’m not an expert or a junkie (aside from my Minette Walters phase) but I enjoy a good mystery from time to time.

I compared types of prose, creation and handling of character, and the role of setting and landscape. I read three selections: In Pursuit of the Proper Sinner by Elizabeth George of the Inspector Lynley series. Saints of the Shadow Bible by Ian Rankin, creator of John […]

A New Approach to Writing a Biography of Jane Austen

Here’s a New Approach to Writing a Biography
Book Review: The Real Jane Austen, A Life in Small Things, Paula Byrne
Perhaps you’re writing a biography and want a fresh approach? Or maybe you’re a fellow “Janeite” longing for new insights into the author’s inspiration and ideas? Both can be found in Paula Byrne’s new biography The Real Jane Austen, A Life in Small Things (2013). Byrne approaches her subject from a unique perspective. She didn’t follow the usual linear path, starting from Austen’s birth on a snowy winter morning in 1775, but instead approaches her subject from thematic subjects. Her […]

“Ruffles on My Longjohns” by Isobel Edwards

Book Review: Ruffles on My Longjohns, by Isobel Edwards
Here’s a guest post by Sandra Doran of Campbell River, BC, sharing a favourite coastal history book from the past century.

I listened to my mother’s stories of growing up in the town of Ocean Falls and her and her friends’ expeditions into the surrounding hills and valleys. I wondered about the homesteaders who settled in the valley to the east and was delighted to find, at a second hand book sale, Isobel Edwards’ book, Ruffles on My Longjohns, where she talks about her experiences living in the Bella Coola valley.

When Isobel […]

Writing Family History Based On the BC Coast? Read These Writers From the Past

British Columbia Writers of the Last Century: Part I
There are BC coast writers from the past who are a delight to read, though some have fallen into obscurity. The books we’ll review here over the coming months are polished narratives and a window into the past. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of these authors or their titles—but have you read them? You may have to search these titles out through used book sellers, but it’s worth the effort!
The Curve of Time
M. Wylie Blanchet’s The Curve of Time deserves its spot among BC’s literary classics. Blanchet sqeezed her five young children […]