In February 2016, I officially became a member of The Writers' Union of Canada.

“Making It” in the Writing World – Becoming a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada

In February 2016, I officially became a member of The Writers' Union of Canada.

In February 2016, I officially became a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada.

Hey all, as of February 2016, I officially became a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada. My profile can be found online here.

Becoming a member of The Writers’ Union has been on my bucket list since I first attended a Writers’ Union conference five years ago. I received a complimentary pass to attend as a Humber College School for Writers student and, at that time, learned that becoming a TWUC member is application based and dependent on having a published book that is recognized as successfully demonstrating commercial intent and professionalism. There are many organizations for writers that allow you to sign up for a fee and require no previously published work, but TWUC is not that kind of organization.  In other words, at that time, I saw membership to the Writers’ Union as a sign that you had “made it” as a writer. To join the Union, you had to be recognized by your peers as a professional writer – exactly what I always wanted to be.

It’s still mind-boggling for me to think that now, five years later, I am a Writers’ Union member – a professional writer with a book on its way – and I will actually even be presenting at the next Writers’ Union conference this summer (more on that later)! By my past self’s definition, it feels like I’ve “made it.” From this vantage, I’m not too sure what “making it” in the writing world really is anymore. Perhaps it’s seeing my first book do really well. If that happens, then perhaps it will be publishing a second book, and then a third, and then a fourth… And on and on it goes. I love to set milestones and see if I can meet them. I recognize now that “making it” – in writing and in life – will always be elusive and changing in definition. Needless to say, I was pretty much jumping for joy (clichéd, but true!) when my membership package arrived. I was able to look back on myself and say I’ve achieved at least one of the definitions of “making it” – at least in my little world.

Looking forward to sharing more news with everyone soon!

Connect with me on Facebook!

I’ve been off work for the last couple of weeks due to (a) our office’s holiday closure and (b) vacation time pre-maternity leave. As a result, I’ve been systematically working my way through my to-do list of things to organize our home and my life pre-baby.

One of my maternity leave resolutions was to stay away from social media – ironic as my official title at work is actually “Corporate Social Media Specialist.” But I wanted to stay away from the personal, zombie-like addiction to social media that I often found myself in – the wake-up-and-scroll-through-Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Twitter/Goodreads/Fitbit/BabyBump-first-thing-in-the-morning addiction. The don’t-forget-to-check-Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest/Twitter/Goodreads/Fitbit/BabyBump-before-bed kind of addiction. I think I’ve done as well as could be expected over two-weeks, but placing timelines around my personal usage has certainly freed up my time for more productive forms of social media in my life now that I’m not managing work accounts.

And so enters my official Facebook author page. I’ll be using this platform to communicate with people/organizations on Facebook from a professional author perspective, share relevant events, and generally cross-promote across all channels so we can stay in touch in the form you most prefer. I’d love to connect with you! Like the page at or via my Facebook page widget on this site.

Looking forward to connecting more with everyone soon!

Readings Made Simple: A workshop with Andrew J Borokowski

Last month I attended the Readings Made Simple workshop hosted jointly by The Writers Union of Canada and Diaspora Dialogues and led by Andrew J Borokowski. The event was a fun one, held in four parts:

  1. Andrew asking us about our public reading experience and sharing insights from his own experience
  2. An opportunity for us to read our work in a circle and get feedback
  3. A brief break followed by general stage/mic set up information and stretching
  4. An opportunity for us to read our work on stage through a mic

The workshop was insightful – an afternoon well spent. Key takeaways from the event for me included the following pointers from Andrew:

  • The challenge [with readings] can be how to get the poet out of the way – to let the words sing themselves” (so true!)
  • A reading is intended to convey the gist or flavour of a story, chapter, or book, and hopefully encourage your audience to buy what you are reading. As a result, material needs to be
    • Introduced (think about how you will do this/think about your introduction in advance)
    • Bridged (if you are reading from separate sections of the work)
    • Relative (think of how separate components of the reading relate to one another)
  • Control your gestures. Let your voice speak. Deliver your reading with honesty and conviction and “lift it up” (look up at the audience to bring your work to life)
  • If you’re extra nervous, invite a friend to be part of the audience and tell them the story
  • Ultimately “it’s telling the story, not giving a reading

My absolute favourite part of the workshop: the gentle reminder that readings are often central to an author’s promotional strategy and, though many authors may dread the public speaking aspect of it, the reading is not about the author – it’s about the work.

Thanks to Andrew, TWUC and DD for hosting a great event!

Becoming a Competent Communicator

Early 2014, I joined The Regional Municipality of York as the Region’s first Corporate Social Media Specialist – a dedicated resource to support the Region’s social media and online communications efforts. Since the role was brand new, I was able to shape the position, and I quickly began a flurry of training sessions and presentations to raise awareness about and familiarity with social media in the organization. These activities included a considerable amount of public speaking – something that was new and slightly terrifying for me. I’m a definite introvert and get my energy from being alone. At the same time, however, I was grateful for the challenge to step outside of my box and work on skills that I was previously unable to practice.

A few months after joining the Region, I was invited to attend a meeting for TROY Toastmasters – York Region’s corporate Toastmasters club. I’d heard of Toastmasters previously, mainly through my father, who has worked in a number of positions that has required him to assume roles in spotlights. He mentioned the merit of Toastmasters to me in the past but, short of being invited and escorted to a meeting, I never thought of actually seeking out a club.

I never thought I’d enjoy the Toastmasters experience so much. As a corporate club, TROY Toastmasters is somewhat smaller than public clubs. As a result, there are more opportunities to speak and participate. I enjoyed the opportunity to willingly step outside of my comfort zone with a supportive group of people and practice the various skills needed for effective public speaking. Furthermore, the certification process of Toastmasters appealed to my very process-oriented self. I enjoyed the clear guidelines, supportive reading material and step-by-step guide on how to go from step A – delivering an initial Ice Breaker speech – to the final step of being deemed a “Competent Communicator” (CC). Each step in the process also included a peer evaluation to provide constructive criticism.

I began my Competent Communicator journey in the fall of 2014 and secured Competent Communicator status by July 2015. My first few speeches focused entirely on work – offering mini training sessions on social media and conversation “netiquette.” As I progressed, however, I began offering speeches on more personal topics, which I found much harder to do. Speeches that delved into the benefits of writing and why I personally write and speeches that shared information about me and my personal life. The process forced me to learn and grow at every step.

Once securing your CC, Toastmasters encourages you to explore more refined levels of communication and leadership by using advanced manuals. They send you two advanced manuals for free as part of a reward for obtaining your CC. I chose Public Relations and Storytelling. The first for work, the second for writing (a whole other kind of work). I’ve found over the years that I’ve learned a few key things about my personality: I love a challenge. I like the reward of certification or course completion – I’d be a lifetime student if I could afford it! And I’m happiest when work meets my passion – my Toastmasters experience of being able to hone my professional skills while exploring those related to writing being a prime example. I’m looking forward to continuing my Toastmasters experience. I’d love to hear from you: Have you ever considered a Toastmasters club? What key things inspire you?

Finding a Local Arts Scene

Bradford Fine Artists

In 2014, my boyfriend (now husband) and I moved to Bradford, Ontario – a small town about an hour’s drive north of Toronto and forty-five minutes from where I had been living previously in Markham.

Markham is by no means a metropolis (though it did officially change from Town to City status in 2012 and has a population that is literally 1,000 times larger than Bradford), but it is bigger than Bradford and also that-much closer to Toronto.

When we moved to Bradford, we were thinking of a whole host of considerations: affordable housing, proximity to work, caliber of schools… “Arts scene” wasn’t top of mind for us in the decision-making process.

But I was pleasantly surprised to find, a few months after we moved in, that vibrant arts scenes can be found even when you’re not looking.

Driving Bradford’s literary arts scene – in my opinion – is Bradford’s library. Bradford truly has an amazing library with great programming. The library hosts a monthly Writers Circle, Book Club and Film Screenings. In addition, they offer Open Mic Nights, Jazz Nights and Spoken Word evenings that add variety and an opportunity to network in the community.

Bradford also harbours a group of dedicated art enthusiasts. Three dedicated artists – Janie Kuzmyk, Brad Houghton, and Shelby Thoms – are working to quite literally carve out a space for the arts in Bradford. They recently registered a not-for-profit arts organization named Bradford Fine Artists with a mandate to promote and showcase local artists while raising awareness, support, and funding for a dedicated arts space in Bradford. These artists understand the importance of art, that artists of all kinds need space to flourish, and that an arts presence is beneficial to every community. I was recently honoured to be asked to join as a member for Bradford Fine Artists, and am terribly excited at the opportunity to get even more involved in the community and in the local arts scene.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the past few years have been a whirlwind, with my husband and I moving four times in just under two years. It’s easy to feel uprooted when you’re calling a new place home every few months. But one of my favourite quotes has always been: wherever you go, there you are. I feel blessed to somehow always find kindred spirits, such as the neighbour down the street who is also writing a book, or the friends from my yoga studio who are amazing supporters of my novel.

Looking back, it’s good that I didn’t have “local arts scene” at the top of my list of criteria for a new town to live in. If I did, I might not have chosen Bradford. To the distant observer, a town of 30,000, compared to Markham’s 300,000 or Toronto’s 3 million, might seem too small to have anything big going on. But great things are happening here all the time, and there are unique experiences to be found in joining a close-knit community.

Ever passing through town? Stop by Bradford, check out the library, find some friends. It’s a pretty sweet spot, if I may say so myself.

Fellow Hot Yoga Bradford YTTs and the yoga studio owner at the Lotus Heart Centre retreat in Brighton

Mia Herrera – Yoga Teacher In Training

Fellow Hot Yoga Bradford YTTs and the yoga studio owner at the Lotus Heart Centre retreat in Brighton

Fellow Hot Yoga Bradford YTTs and the yoga studio owner at the Lotus Heart Centre retreat in Brighton

This weekend, I visited the Lotus Heart Centre in Brighton, Ontario for a yoga retreat. Since taking a hiatus from blogging for a little while, I’ve neglected to mention a few key activities I’ve been participating in, one of them being yoga teacher training.

I signed up as yoga teacher trainee (YTT) October 2014. I’ve been a yoga student on and off for years and was thinking of joining the YTT program for the past two years, but finally decided to join after moving to Bradford last year to get more involved in the community.

The YTT journey has been an amazing one, and far more complex than I anticipated. You can ask any yogini and she will tell you the same thing: Yoga is more than just physical poses; it’s something that requires body, mind, and spirit, and it calls for great perseverance, patience, and practice.

The Lotus Heart Centre retreat brought all YTTs from all three sister Ananda Yoga studios (located in Bradford, Aurora, and Georgina) together. As with the rest of the YTT program, the retreat gave me an opportunity to get to know some amazing people and focus deeply on my yoga practice.

Leading up to the YTT retreat, I was looking forward to two full days of uninterrupted yoga practice. I didn’t count on the amount of introspection the retreat encouraged as well. The retreat and the amount of time allowed for meditation gave me an opportunity to think about my life, assess where I am, and determine how I feel about it. The YTT retreat also helped me realize how important writing is to my personality. (Yes, somehow I always end up back at writing).

Writing is an integral part of my personality but, if I were to be honest, it often seems to get buried under the rest of my life. It seems that, for the past week, writing has been asserting its place as an important priority in my life – yelling, “Look at me! Don’t forget me!”

I noticed it first at the Bradford studio last Tuesday. There was a book on the shelf – one of those ones with 365 intentions – “messages from your angels.” I picked the book up, flipped to a random page, and found the following message (image on the right). I thought it was coincidental – writing being such an important (and yet sadly neglected) part of my personality and landing on this page.

"You've probably had many clues throughout your life that writing is part of your nature and purpose. This is a message for you to take time today to sit down and pick up your pen."

“You’ve probably had many clues throughout your life that writing is part of your nature and purpose. This is a message for you to take time today to sit down and pick up your pen.”

But then, yesterday (Saturday) night, as we were waiting for meditation to begin, a lady beside me pulled out a deck of oracle cards – coincidentally cards that were apparently from our angels again – and the card I was handed told me that I need to clear my mind to be more receptive to messages the world was giving me – whether these were messages from strangers that seemed to be hitting close to home or messages that seem to be coming up repeatedly.

Finally, during our last vinyasa practice this morning (Sunday), each student received a random intention card to read after they completed their practice. I looked at mine to find that it was a card all about expressing myself – about finding my creativity and finally voicing it.

It was at this point that I realized there is no single part of myself that I can separate out from the rest. A little while ago, I began drafting a blog post about how it seems that so many parts of my identity are compartmentalized – from what I do at work, to what I do at home, the person I am with friends, to the person I am with family, the hobbies I pursue in the yoga studio, to the hobbies I pursue in my notebook… all wildly different parts of myself that, oftentimes, don’t meet.

But I realize now that, no matter how varied these parts may feel, in the end, it all leads right back to myself. Becoming a yoga teacher has taken a lot of my time and attention, but it doesn’t make me any less of a writer. If ever, it’s enriched my ability to look inside myself and figure out exactly what I want to say. Even better, as I’ve seen this week, when I am having trouble finding my voice, it gives me an opportunity to reflect and find myself.

This blog, though varied, often has a narrow focus on me as a writer. It includes posts about readings, launches, and the writing process itself, as well as information about articles I write and reviews for games I play. I now realize I need to take a more holistic approach to this blog to fully explain exactly who I am and what my writing is all about. I’ll try better in future. As my angels have said, the more I listen to what the world is saying, the more creatively I can express myself.

And with that being said, from my yoga self, from my writing self but, most of all, from myself – from my light to yours – namaste.


P.S. I’ve officially added a new category to my website: Yoga!

Cappuccino at the Supermarket

Recap: Inanna Publications Spring Book Launch No. 2

Every cry in the vortex
Is the search for terra firma

Every repetition the desire
For new earth, as it were

A firmer future, a newer here;
Sand castles that do not disappear

– travel tips by Adebe DeRango-Adem


Yesterday I attended Inanna Publications Spring Book Launch No. 2. The event was to launch four books – all of which I would recommend:

  • Dancing in Red Shoes Will Kill You by Donna Decker
    A novel about the imagined lives of three women as they approach the date of the Montreal Massacre
  • Terra Incognita by Adebe DeRango-Adem
    A collection of poems that “explore various racial discourses and interracial crossings buried in history’s grand narratives”
  • Moments of Joy by Cecilia Frey
    A novel that explores how a dysfunctional family comes to terms with “the capricious workings of fate and the human heart” as the patriarch of a family dies of cancer
  • A Hero by Charlotte Mendel
    A novel that entwines the stories of a state war with familial conflict

I must admit that I have never before felt like more of a country mouse than I did at the beginning of Wednesday evening. I left work early for the almost-two-hour drive to the city, tried my best to find parking, and then hunted up some dinner. I know all of this together doesn’t sound like it should be such an ordeal, but I was particularly mortified when I entered a small cafe and ordered “anything on the menu with meat,” only to be told I was in a vegan establishment (surrounded on all four corners by other vegan/vegetarian establishments) – a far cry from the selection of Swiss Chalet/Harveys/Pizza Hut that I am used to in my town. It’s not that I am opposed to vegan food – I quite enjoyed my vegan pizza – but it did hit home how out-of-my-element I was.

Let’s be honest – I’m a writer. My element is being alone, in a quiet room, with a notebook for company. I’m not always the best at meeting new people, networking, or being in social situations in general, which is maybe why it’s been so many months since the last book launch I attended. BUT… when the readings started…

I was enthralled. Taken in by the dry humour of Cecilia Frey, the passion of Charlotte Mendel, the intensity of Donna Decker, and sheer poetry of Adebe DeRango-Adem.

There’s something to say about getting out of your comfort zone, only to find it again. I might like being alone, but I also like to hear beautiful, beautiful writing just as much. I was able to find the latter at Inanna’s second book launch event. And, at the end of the night, I left feeling rejuvenated – the part of me that maybe doesn’t get out that often refreshed, ready to move about my day-to-day life again.

I left the event remembering that writing is my way of searching for terra firma – to find new earth. And sometimes, when I’m lucky, I do.

Inanna Publications Spring Book Launch No. 2 Event Info

Inanna Publications Toronto Spring Book Launch No.2

Inanna Publications Spring Book Launch No. 2 Event Info

Inanna Publications Spring Book Launch No. 2 Event Info

Next Wednesday, May 27, I will be attending Inanna Publications Second Spring Book Launch featuring readings by Donna Decker, Adebe DeRango-Adem, Cecilia Frey and Charlotte Mendel. The free event is being held in Supermarket in Kensington Market (268 Augusta Ave, Toronto, ON).

Since moving further up north, I haven’t been out and about in Toronto as much as I used to be, and I’m really looking forward to this event. It will be even better with a few familiar faces around to catch up with, so I encourage all my writing, arts, and literary pals to come out and attend 🙂

Speaking of Inanna and book launches, I may have some exciting news to share in a little while. But, until then, all I can say is… stay tuned and I hope to see you all there!

Two-year Update

It’s been almost two years since my last post, and I really have no good excuse for the lack of updating other than the fact that life (as it usually does) got in the way. How do you account for two years of time? I thought a quick and easy way would be via a quick photo montage summarizing the highlights:

Between 2012 and today…

I moved four times – into the very first home I owned in Markham, all the way to the country with my boyfriend, into a suburb in Georgina (which ended up finding its way into my novel), and finally to our forever home in Simcoe County.

New Home(s)

I studied a lot, obtaining a Certificate in Adult Education/Staff Training from Seneca College, starting (and thus far completing 7 out of 9) courses for a Certificate in Human Resources Management from Centennial College, and obtaining my Project Management Professional certification.

Finally a PMP!

I crossed a few things off my bucket list – having my very own library (courtesy of Mat), a wine collection to drink, a spice rack, and going fishing, among other things.

Bucket List Accomplishments

I expanded my family. My brother got married and I adopted Bear.

Family Expansion

I worked and experienced a lot of fun and new things (i.e. Special Olympics) while figuring out a few others (i.e. to Oxford comma or not to Oxford comma? I am sure this dilemma will provide a wealth of blogging content later).


And last, but certainly not least, I thankfully did a bit of writing. With much help from the Diaspora Dialogues Long-Form Mentorship Program and my mentor, David Layton, I managed to finish my novel (for now).

Now that we’re up to speed, I hope to blog more regularly. There are tonnes of new things on the go, so I hope to see everyone soon.

And with that being said, belated happy new year to you and yours, from 2012 until now!

My First Reading Ever

Glowing with relief with my parents after my reading at Diaspora Dialogues’ “Toronto the Bad” event was done.

On Friday, April 20 I participated in my first reading ever. There’s a million things I could say about the event, from my anxiety in the face of public speaking, to my worry about what my parents would think, to the seeming serendipity of reading at an event I had been an awed witness of only a few years earlier. I could even touch on the way my voice shook from terror during my introduction, the way I zoned into the story halfway through, my failure to properly adjust the mic and therefore my need to talk into it through the side of my mouth, or that one annoying piece of hair that kept falling into my eyes. Perhaps I could even recap the fear I had when the reading was done, during which I realized I was in front of about 100 people reading my personal thoughts, and I just ran off stage.

But three weeks later, it still feels fresh enough to frighten, awe, and amaze me. Three weeks later, I’m still too shy to watch the video my Dad discreetly taped of me (against my wishes!), too high from the idea that I actually got paid for fiction, and too grateful to fully grasp the fact that one of the readers on stage was me and this week I’ll be published in this year’s TOK anthology.

Perhaps, when it all boils down to it, all I’d really like to say is, Thank you. To Diaspora Dialogues for the opportunity, to Olive Senior for the mentorship, to my fellow emerging writers for coming out and showing support at the event, and to my lovely boyfriend and family for witnessing me freak out, advising me to breathe, and allowing me to break their hands while I squeezed it out of fear and nervousness.

If you’re interested in finding me much more calm and composed at another awesome event, feel free to visit the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom at 7:30pm this Wednesday night (May 9). TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Book 7 will be launched – the book in which my short story, “Next Time,” is published. Accompanying the launch are readings by my fellow emerging writers, James Papotsis, Zalika Reid-Benta, and Yaya Yao, and a panel discussion between Moez Surani and Olive Senior.