Celebrating the Circle of Six
Reading Storied was like sitting at my kitchen table with a pot of tea and good friends. Their voices pulled me deep into their hearts and homes where they've lived, laughed, and loved to the fullest.
With their debut book about to be released, I interviewed the passionate Circle of Six, eager to gain insight into each author's persona. Each writer answered two questions from the list that follows:
1. Where do you get story ideas?
2. Why do you write?
3. Who/what inspired you to write?
4. Do you have a muse?
5. What writing project are you working on now?
6. What is your best tip (s) for writers who are writing in a group?
Linda Bond: Q 2, 5
I come from a family of storytellers. It is in my DNA. Stories energize me with connectivity and curiosity. I write to get better at it, and to better know how to help others write their stories well too—an unexpected and hugely satisfying offshoot to my journey. I write to encourage added purpose to the later chapters of life, to leave an afterlife in stories written and writers helped.
Two exciting new projects are coming up this fall: partnering with Joy to offer a four-part workshop called Long Story Short, which covers the key essentials of effective writing from both the novelist and the short story writer’s perspectives. I will also host a new initiative at our local library called Pages, where the public can hear guest writers share their work and discuss their craft. I write to enjoy the surprises that find their way into the next page.
Author Bio: Linda Bond learned in high school she could make things happen—sock hops, students' council, forbidden love. This knack kept its spark throughout a lifelong teaching career that includes children and teachers, mahjong players, and aspiring writers. She is the creator of the Writing Your Life Stories—Making It Happen workshop series. Her spirited narratives have appeared in Tales2Inspire, Florida's Lifestyles After 50, and Writers On The Air. She and her husband Martin, both with roots in The County, live and sail on the Bay of Quinte, and Linda also delivers a world-class martini.
Nell Davidson Q 2, 6
The reason I write is that I want my children and extended family to experience and remember what we have had in our past. I joined a memoir writing workshop, and under the guidance of our teacher, Linda Bond, I felt encouraged to write about my ideas, which were inspired by my life memories. Writing short stories for Storied was just the beginning. I’m currently working on a family memoir.
My best tips for writing in a group are to grow a hard shell, to take criticism with an open mind, and to never lose your own voice.
Author Bio: Nell Davidson has gone the distance in life locations. Born in South Africa to Chinese parents, she ventured as a young adult to London, England, where she met and married her husband, Mike. With two sons in tow, they immigrated to Toronto in 1970. Now retired from owning and operating a campground on Wellers Bay in Carrying Place, Ontario, she fills her time with more travel and writing memoir. She has been published in the anthology Grandmother, Mother, Me. Nell invites her readers to enjoy the journeys of her life that took her from bookkeeper to book writer.
Kim Fedor: Q 4, 5
I have two muses: nature and travel. I love to sit on a beach or walk through a forest. I take time to observe the intricacies of nature, and then my mind sees patterns that lead me to stories. The patterns of nature lead me to the structure of writing the experiences of a story. Sometimes they also lead me to memories. The same thing happens with travel. Especially when I am observing the people on the street or at a market during their everyday routines of work and commute. I prefer it when I don’t understand the language, then I see the patterns of movement and interaction without words, and I can create my own.
I am writing travel stories/memoir regarding my experiences as an antique dealer in Asia, specifically China and India, between 2006 and 2016.
Author Bio: Kim Fedor writes creative non-fiction. She crafts vibrant and insightful stories. A traveller since age four, Kim has always lived with a sense of adventure, saying yes to new experiences. The creative approach to life gives her much to reflect on and write about. Born and raised in Calgary, Kim now lives in Belleville, Ontario.
Donna McDonald: Q 1, 6
My story ideas come from my own life experiences; particularly lessons I’ve learned. We can’t take ourselves too seriously. Humour makes the heart light, and I find the best stories come from when I have done something ridiculous. Other people's experiences have also moved me to the bone, and I share those to highlight a different perspective on a topic or to be relatable to a reader.
What is my best tip for writers who are writing in a group? Be humble. The Circle of Six were fortunate to start out in a class where we learned to become better writers from each other. Our teacher, Linda, saw something in us that helped her improve her writing skills, too. We used a standardized critique form to guide us in reviewing our stories. It helped us to see the areas that were great or those that needed improvement. With my "Shifting Gears” story, somebody suggested I make it a love story between the car and me, as a certain line in the story was straying that way. I rewrote the story but then went back to the original, making a few alterations. Her advice didn't offend me, and my changes didn't bother her. If you are putting a book together, realize you aren't all going to agree on everything. That would take decades!
Author Bio: Donna McDonald began writing to document her idyllic, though sometimes bizarre, childhood. "Wonder Wagon," a story about her family's cherished 1964 Chevy Nova station wagon, was published in Our Canada magazine. She has enjoyed a lifelong career as a veterinary technician and is also a dangerously proud mother of three. These experiences have provided her with endless stories waiting to be told. She resides with her husband in Belleville.
Wendy Russell-Sheppard: Q 2, 6
Author Bill O’Hanlon says we write for four reasons: because we’re blissed, blessed, pissed, or dissed. Sounds about right to me. In the Storied anthology, my goal is to find wisdom in everyday moments, to find the extraordinary in them—extraordinary insight, compassion, courage and humour. I want to provide a glimpse into childhood experiences now filtered through the lens of adult perspective. Yes, I hope to entertain but, above all else, I want to illuminate a variety of relatable life experiences, to assure readers they are not alone.
Some tips for writing as a group (yes, it’s worth it):
* know yourself: if you work best alone, have a low tolerance for ambiguity, or have a hard time handing over control, you might struggle with a collaborative arrangement; be clear about group goals with no hidden agendas
*make critical process decisions before you start: shared leadership or one leader throughout the project; default decision-making process (majority votes, consensus, dictatorship); problem-solving strategies (cost/benefit chart, start/stop/continue chart)
*agree on a communication strategy and stick to it: regular meetings, emails; avoid “sidebar” conversations outside of the group—if an issue affects the entire group, then the discussion needs to include the entire group
*embrace the expertise each member brings to the group; know when to defer to someone with knowledge or skills you don’t have; know when to hire outside expertise, such as editors and designers; use your contacts
Wendy Russell-Sheppard became a secondary school English teacher after retiring as an elementary school administrator. A former resident of Prince Edward County, she shares her time between Belleville and her writing retreat up north. She is an experienced property renovator, general contractor, and race-car driver who is test-driving her writing voice with creative non-fiction. She is an award-winning author in Tales2Inspire—The Opal Collection, and wants to be the drummer in a blues band when she grows up.
Pat Whittaker: Q3, 5
Inspiration to write began with reading as a child. That included any printed word that came into the house, whether they were children’s approved Lassie books, my mother’s Woman’s Home Companion magazines, my father’s Saturday Night periodicals, my big sisters’ Book of the Month selections, or two daily newspapers.
In Grade 10, a substitute teacher helped light the writing spark in me. Mrs. Bull praised my English assignment paper about the beauty of autumn. She told me to keep on writing. She said I had a talent for it. That pretty much cemented my idea of becoming a newspaper reporter.
Sometimes one does not have to look far for inspiration and encouragement. I received both from my late husband, not only in the journalistic world but also in creative writing, as poetry became a field to explore.
Whatever the subject, if I were to become discouraged about lack of standards in a workplace, for instance, his advice was clear: keep to your own standards. Mediocrity was not an option.
Memoir of family members, alive and dead, is occupying my time now. Discoveries about relatives I never met have been enlightening and reveal possibilities for further creative non-fiction stories. Old letters, postcards, diaries and even shopping lists and receipts are putting my writer’s’ muse to work.
Author Bio: Pat Whittaker is a retired journalist. From age eight, she aspired to write for a newspaper. After graduating from Western University's Honours Journalism course, she began her first job as a reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press. Subsequently, she wrote news scripts for CBC Radio. At the Toronto Star, she was a copy editor, section editor and editor of the Letters page. In her ninth decade, she reclaimed her writing voice, and now shares her prose and poetry at the Wellington Open Floor. She lives in Prince Edward County with a terrifying cat.
Storied will be released on October 2, 2021. For more details about this book, and where you can get a copy, go to the Circle of Six website at circleofsixwriters.ca