RoundTable Recap: January 2014

Curious to know what went on at our monthly RoundTable meeting? Please enjoy this RoundTable Recap (prepared by Susan Croft, in charge of public relations for the WCDR). Also, look for more of these recaps after each RoundTable meeting!


The WCDR kicked off 2014 with Short Story Contest judge Sarah Selecky, who listed her top 10 dos and don’ts for contest entries at the January RoundTable.

Selecky began her discussion of what makes a great short story by talking about two brains—the “top brain,” aka the brain in your head, and “the belly brain,” aka instinct. You have to rely on both to get a great story since, unlike a dancer or a sculptor, who can leave language and thought behind and get into the physical aspects of their art, writers must both forget language and work with it. “Don’t overthink things,” Selecky said. “This means clearing your mind and going to your page without any assumptions … You know the story, and it feels good to write it down. It’s not effortful, it’s the best thing in the world.”

Selecky likened the place a story comes from to a person remembering their first phone number. Everyone can do it without thinking; you just know it.

“What gets me really mad,” Selecky said, “is when I read a story and I can tell it’s written from that first-phone-number place, but I can’t take it because the writer’s technique just isn’t there.” So, to help people planning to submit to the WCDR Short Story Contest, which Selecky will be judging, she provided a top-ten list of technical things not to do:

  1. Try not to write the beginning of your story the same way everyone else does. The three most common ways of starting a story are: with a dream, with an alarm clock going off, or with a sentence like “It was a grey February day.”
  2. Don’t “bedazzle” your dialog tags with fancy verbs. Use said or, where appropriate, asked. The important part is what the character is saying.
  3. Don’t make your character look in a mirror so you can describe him or her. Whatever the detail is that is driving you to the mirror, try to find another way of describing it.
  4. Don’t write long, descriptive passages about the landscape.
  5. Make something happen. “You can write with detail an observation so accurate that it aches, but if nothing happens to your character, it’s not a story,” Selecky said.
  6. Avoid weird or clever descriptions in place of he or she.
  7. Use adverbs sparingly and with respect.
  8. Do not use unconventional fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus. Selecky says she has “strong opinions about fonts in submissions, and if you’re using a font to lend atmosphere to your story, stop it.”
  9. Honour and follow the submission instructions.
  10. Remember that you must feel surprised by your own story—ideally, every time you read it.

(These top 10 tips are also available on Sarah Selecky’s website.)

A writer’s job is to transfer emotion to his or her readers. To do this, you have to “write through the emotion.” “If you try to write an emotional scene dispassionately, there’s a problem,” Selecky stated. “If you don’t feel strong emotions, your reader won’t either.”


Other Highlights:

As always, Blue Heron Books was on hand with a variety of books for sale—including a selection of titles by our guest speaker. Janet Stobie, Thelma James, and Corey MacLean were also in the lobby selling their work.

Blue Heron Books table in the lobby

Sherry Loeffler was at the library table, overseeing our collection of books that members can borrow from RoundTable to RoundTable, as well as managing our Pay it Forward collection.

Sherry at the library table

Cryssa Bazos announced that there were only three (3) spots left for those wanting to read at the upcoming Words of the Season event, which will take place on Monday, January 20, 2014 at The Bear (located at Liverpool and Highway 2 in Pickering). The evening will begin at 7 p.m., and you’re welcome to come by and cheer on fellow WCDR members as they celebrate the chilly season in poetry, prose, and song.

M-E Girard talked about the upcoming Books and Bevvies meeting, and announced our upcoming U25 Panel that will be held at the March RoundTable. Come out to hear authors who write for the under-25 market speak about craft in a discussion moderated by literary agent Stacey Donaghy. We’d like to encourage local teens and early twenty-somethings to join our wider membership in learning more about what it means to “be a writer.” Pitch sessions with agents will be available that day, and there will be a sign-up sheet for one-on-ones with industry professionals.

Phil Dwyer reminded WCDR members to sign up for Sarah Selecky’s daily prompts, and to check the WCDR website for contest information. The deadline is coming up in March, 2014, and you can’t win if you don’t enter!

Jenny Madore spoke about the WCDR Grants and Scholarships program. This year, we have more than $3600 to give to members writing at all levels and, like the contest, you can’t win if you don’t submit. For more information, check out our Grants and Scholarships page.

Ruth leading the writing exercise

Dawn Riddoch announced—for those who hadn’t noticed—that the WCDR has a new look for its e-blasts: The Buzz will be replacing the old daily emails, and is a quick way to find out everything you need to know about the WCDR and its members. (Note: If you’re not a member of the WCDR, you can still sign up for this free newsletter by entering your email at the top of the website sidebar!)

Our writing exercise this month, “Keeping it Brief: the Art of the Short, Short, Short Story,” was led by Ruth Walker, who had more than 100 writers trying to write a story short enough to fit on a postcard.

We also had a fantastic assortment of raffle prizes today, including gift certificates from Blue Heron Books; three copies of Sarah Selecky’s book, This Cake is for the Party; a spot in Jessica Outram’s memoir workshop, “Beyond Memoir: We Write Who We Are;” The Writing Fairy donated a copy of the Guide to Writing Contests; and the 2014 WCDR Short Story Contest balloon arrangement.

M-E Girard led our mini-workshop, “Agent Queries: it Starts Long Before Pressing Send,” which was packed with helpful tips and tricks. The workshop was sold out! Next month, the mini-workshop will be “Getting Sex on the Page,” led by Sandy Campbell. Be sure to sign up in advance!

Every month, a slideshow is displayed during the RoundTable meeting. Members are encouraged to submit slides for upcoming workshops and writing-related events. If you weren’t able to take in the information, or weren’t present at the meeting, you can still see what’s going on by accessing the slides as a PFD download. January 2014 WCDR RoundTable Slideshow

Our February speaker is Young Adult adventure and romance author Eve Silver. Register early!


MEDIA CONTACT: Susan Croft, PR Coordinator −

PHOTOS BY Kevin T. Craig

Note: Please remember to register! We hate having to turn people away, and the mini workshops fill up fast, so registering early ensures that you can get a slot. We are not able to let you in at the door without registering in advance. If you pay by PayPal, verify that you get an email from PayPal confirming your registration. If you don’t receive the email from PayPal, contact Dawn Riddoch at and we will look into it. Thanks for your cooperation.

4 thoughts on “RoundTable Recap: January 2014”

  1. Thanks for dropping by, Sue! Trying to showcase all the great things that go on. Being there is magical and inspiring, but it’s nice to still catch up when you can’t be there and still get a little taste.

  2. I was so excited to see the Round Table recap, since I was unable to attend. Thank you so very much.

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