Friday, October 29, 2010

Just for Laughs Comedy Tour 2010

WritersBlogque hit up the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour 2010 in Ottawa. This year's show is one to check out. A great lineup from start to finish.

Don't let their boring promo pic fool you. The pickpocket is a new act, Bob Arno. The tall skinny guy in a red suit. He'll rob you blind while chatting you up. Watch out for him at the airport and at the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour, he'll lift your stuff there too! Ha! He rocked. Something new!

Italian Frank Spadone hosted. He speels out typical girl problems faster than you can absorb. Quit bashing your wife's idiosyncracies and assuming we're all like that! Ha!

Gina Yashere, a black Brit from Nigeria. Figure that out! And a girl comic you'll likely like whether you are a guy or a girl!

Ryan Hamilton (from Idaho) how did that happen? He opened the show and was too good to be a starter. That's what makes a great show. No bombs!

Jeremy Hotz, you gotta love him, especially if you hate IKEA!

I've been going to the Just for Laughs Comedy Tour shows for the last seven years. I like it better than most of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival shows and galas in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Just for Laughs selects some of the most popular acts from their yearly comedy festivals, then makes them run rampant across a host of Canadian cities.

Never mind where you see the show. The comedians know how to yank your city's chain. Every city has a different quirky personality. (Ottawa - yawn!) I don't mean the comedians. I mean the city and the people who live in it. Hey, wait a minute. I live here too. I'm so glad I don't belong! Ottawa needs the comedy tour. If you can make Ottawa laugh, YOU KICK ASS! They made Ottawa laugh. Ottawa has a pulse? That's news to me!

This year's line up totally rocked. If you get a chance, check them out, if not this year, next.

Comedians are writers and performers. There is no braver writer than a stand up!

Could you do it?

What kind of writer are you? Novelist, blogger, playwrite, stand up comedian, journalist, . . .

Happy finding your writer self.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today's Quote: Be inspired by greatness, not intimidated by it

Whose quote is this? Well, it's mine unless someone comes along and tells me someone else said it before me.

I bet many have . . . said it before me, and I bet many have . . . been intimidated by greatness, or what you perceive as greatness and how you define success. I know I have and I am still intimidated by greatness. It can scare you, and at the same time make you in awe of it.

See, I still haven't defined greatness. That's a state of mind that is different for everyone. So I can save some words here, you'll make up that definition and what it means to you.

So, what do we do when we are intimidated by greatness? Great writers, great athletes, great musicians, great artists, great anythings?

We think we should just give up and watch, stop trying, or try harder. Does greatness inspire you or intimidate you, or both? What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Does greatness inspire you first, then intimidate you later, or does greatness intimidate you at first, and inspire you afterwards, when you've had time to catch your breath? It's hit me both ways.

Why not just keep going? Yep, that's the path. Just keep on going!

And here are a few tips and comments from Copyblogger on "How to Show up and Write", by Taylor Lindstrom.

Happy reading and writing!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ottawa International Writer's Festival, October 20-26. Will I discover something there worth finding?

Well, here we go again. Asking that same old question: "What do writers do when they aren't writing?"

Give yourself a new assignment and attend another writer's event. You're a blogger and you are your own boss. Let's try the The Ottawa International Writer's Festival, October 20-26 to see if we can find some more writer inspiration and new perspectives by hanging out with other writers. The ones with stories they've already told. You're still looking for yours.

Kingston WritersFest was a plus for me, and I've still got a list of blog posts to work on from material that I got from this event and two new books to read. I met a few of the authors and bought some of their books. I'd recommend Kingston WritersFest to others. Let's hope they include a topic on blogging at next year's event. And now I'm willing to give up other stuff I like to do to give another writer's event a shot.

Although I wish someone would give The Ottawa International Writer's Festival Web site and promotional materials a leg up! How about some creativity and spark! An image of an old typewriter for your poster!? I like their tag line, "Ideas need words." But I'd say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I think each blog post needs at least one compelling image and a few words. But I'm a Web writer. We are adjective adverse!

This is an Ottawa event. It sounds stuffy already. But I'll give it a try at least once and hope I'm wrong. I'm not fond of sharing links to Web sites I don't like, but I'm making an exception here. Non-profit events need support.

WritersBlogque will go there to check it out and look for something of interest. I love surprises, odd stories, and unexpected perspectives to find me. I'll be exploring the criminal minds angle a bit, but may discover something altogether different.

Kenk, looked like one to explore. The story of Igor Kenk, an ex-cop from Yugoslavia, heads to Canada in 1988, turns bike king thief, and runs a bike repair shop in Toronto, gets busted in 2008 for dealing drugs and stealing over 3,000 bikes, and only gets a few months in jail.

Follow up October 23: I went to the multimedia presentation by the Kenk Team

"Meet the Filmmakers?" Usually, these types of things are presented by people who have actually completed a film. The Kenk Team was only 10 percent along the way with completing the animated film of Kenk, and they do not have much to show you of their work yet, but they will explain to you how much work, research, and the types of effects they are working on for the project. They even admitted, "We don't know if we'll ever finish it. Is the National Film Board here?" I guess they are getting some funding from them.

Great. Why did I pay to come to this presentation on a Saturday night!

I think you are better off to wait until they finish the film, if they ever do. The presentation was not interesting and I don't know why it was included in the Ottawa Writer's Fest programming. There is a book already published. The Kenk Team is working on an avant garde "graphic novel". It was part of the Ottawa Animated Film Festival. Disappointing. I'd rather see completed animated films, with a discussion afterwards from the creators, rather than a presentation of a project that is just getting started. This was probably of more interest to film students.

By the time the four members of the Kenk Team had explained their intimate and detailed involvement with this project, with very few clips to show, and most of which you could already see on their Web site, I was already bored with the story of Igor Kenk. If they ever finish the animated film though, it may be worth checking out. Although, I think they may beat their own story to death if they keep presenting what they're working on before they finish it!

For more information on the Igor Kenk story, some bicycle bloggers seem to follow this odd story with interest.

Find more bits of the Igor Kenk story on BikingToronto, CBC NEWS,, and

What angle do you take to find your next story? How do your stories find and distract you?

Happy reading and writing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lisa Moore, Kingston WritersFest. Up, down and all around

This is a pic of Lisa Moore, not me. I like it. It seems to say something interesting without any words.

I showed up a little late for Lisa's talk on "Novel Architecture" at Kingston's WritersFest, Saturday, September 25th. It's a bad habit. One I need to change.

The room was small. Too small I thought for the 40 other people who showed up on time. I was looking for a spot to sit and saw one at the very back of the room near the door. It looked like it was already saved for one of the festival's many volunteers. They always sat at the back of the room and kept the door quiet if someone needed to leave during a session.

"Is this spot for me," I asked one of the volunteers. She didn't answer fast enough. Someone else did from one of the big round tables in the middle of the room. She smiled, "This spot is for you." "Sweet!", I thought. I'm so lucky sometimes. "Thanks!" And it was a really good spot. The best spot in the room at the point of the round table that left me pretty much dead center and in full unobstructed view of Lisa Moore.

The host introduced Lisa and the class she was giving, (the one in which she was soon going to tell us how to structure a novel and then begin the lecture with: "I don't know how to structure a novel. Nobody does." And later relate something about Virginia Woolf's work to multiple orgasims."), by reading off a long list of her literary awards and even had to cut it short. I always love this. It makes me feel in awe and so small all at once.

Published authors have some kind of power. The unpublished never seem to feel like they've made it, no matter how many unpublished novels they've written, yet the journey the author takes to get there, to being published, and the more they struggle is always the most interesting part of the story. At least for me.

And no one wants to hear, "Ya, I sat down one day and wrote this piece, no problem, and the first big publisher I sent it to bought it, it made the best seller list in a week, and I didn't even need an agent."

I'm here as a blogger for WritersBlogque, taking a look at what writers do when they aren't writing. 

Writers attend conferences and festivals. They network. They listen and ponder. And they get out of their own studio and do something different. It can be the best way to inspire your work as a writer. Whatever type of writer you are. Published, unpublished, on a path to somewhere, or completely lost.

What surprised me, and I love surprises, was that I was listening to a renowned and successful writer read a speech from her written notes and I didn't seem to hear one word. I caught myself judging her delivery style instead, and noticed her neatly tied up bun. She reminded me of a school teacher.

The more she read from her notes, the more I was thinking of something else. Even Lisa had questioned her delivery style. She told us she was wondering how to deliver this "lecture" on how to order your essay or structure your novel. She said it would be easier if someone would just interview her. So, she began by interviewing herself, "So Lisa, how do you structure a novel? I don't know how to structure a novel. Nobody does. The story informs the structure and the structure informs the story. Every writer works differently.”

I guess, then that we’re just stuck with ourselves and who we really are, I thought. Am I going to be bored with all this literary name dropping and talk about structure? I’m not a fan of formal lectures. I’m a blogger. We’re a bit like rebels to structure and rules. That’s why we blog. We want editorial control, and we want it whenever we want it. We usually don’t have an editor, and our publisher pretty much lets us do whatever we want for free. Sometimes we don't even have an audience other than ourselves! But still, blogging is cool. People like bloggers. “You have a blog! Nice blog. You have two blogs! Maybe I’ll start one too! What will my blog be about? I don't know about the writing part . . . !”

As Lisa continued reading from her notes, my mind and pen wandered away at breakneck pace. And I seemed to be the only one doing it. I was writing my own stuff during the lecture! How cheeky is that! How foolish! I should be listening to the famous, successful writer. I felt guilty, but inspired, so I kept right on going. Wherever and whenever you find or feel inspiration. Go for it! Everyone else probably thought I was just taking copious notes. At least that's what I hoped. I wouldn't want everyone to know what I was really doing and thinking! (See . . . it's great to be a blogger.) Being in a room filled with writers is just plain good writing energy. I need to do this more often, I thought. It's a real deal!

As the lecture's words kept bouncing off me, and I couldn't seem to relate, I started to classify the delivery styles of the other authors whose classes I had attended earlier. One had the style of a creative writing teacher, another was a real entertainer and a stand up comedian. My favorite presenters were the natural born storytellers and animators: Judy Fong Bates and Mary Louise Gay! Let's see, I guess Lisa Moore's delivery style for presentations is lecturer. She looks a bit the part.

Suddenly, with the one ear I still had turned to the lecture, trying to pull something out, I heard Lisa relate something about Virginia Woolf's work and multiple orgasims. The crowd was engaged and laughing and I saw that Lisa's bun had come loose. Her hair was flowing free. She was expressing her thoughts and knowledge with her whole body and hands. She was becoming passionate and expressive, and she wasn't reading from her notes! I started to wonder what inspired that interesting outburst and how she knew about multiple orgasims. And now I wished I had been playing closer attention to what she had been saying! Memories must be powerful things. They live in your body and can be reproduced at any moment.

Lisa became more and more interesting as she continued to speak. She was on a roll as she became her passionate, natural writer self. She shared a lot. I especially enjoyed listening to her tell us about different ways to structure novels and methods and techniques for putting them together. When she was writing her novel, Alligator, she said, "It was a BIG mess!" She had written it in bits and scenes. One day she called her editor and said, "I'm coming to see you! I don't know how to put this thing together." When Lisa arrived, her editor had printed out all the scenes of the novel and spread them out on the floor. When Lisa walked into the room, her novel looked like one big square, and they started to put the scenes together.

I liked Lisa Moore. If you get a chance, go listen to her speak and share what she knows. And pay attention! You never know what you're missing!

Happy reading and writing!
Peggy Varner
Publisher of WritersBlogque