This is a writing experiment with its heart in community. Expect chills, thrills, and breathtaking plot twists…
Do you love chapters that end on a cliffhanger? One part contest, one part serial anthology, one part battle of writerly of wits; talented writers compete for the chance to captivate your attention. This story is inspired by a real abandoned hotel and artist’s colony, overlooking lakeside cliffs.
Set around modern day Lake Ontario, Austen and Tiffany are two teens thrown into a nail-biting search for Austen's little sister, Rhea, and her pet dog Ciggaro. The trail leadsto a condemned hotel in the beautiful but perilous grounds of Cliff Park, an old estate with a chequered past and it's fair share of ghost stories.
-- Joanne Weaver
This project is a paranormal thriller with a twist – author collaboration in a serial anthology. If you have ever wanted to read a suspense novel that combines mystery with lots of surprises, this innovative novel, the first of its kind on Wattpad.
Exciting writers compete to display their unique style, in conjunction with other talented authors. The idea is to combine a gentle game of writerly one-upmanship, with a chance for like-minded writers (and readers) to find each other. Only the most talented contributors will have their chapters included in the story.
Is a Serial Anthology Right for You?
Written by various authors in styles ranging from sweet to suspenseful, there is a lot of variety for the reader. If you don’t want to miss out, consider following the project on Wattpad. Here is the link to my Wattpad Profile: @MaajaWentz (on Wattpad)
There you will also find my Watty-Award-Winning mystery/thriller, Feeding Frenzy,as well as virtual shelves of reading recommendations in different genres. There is a lot of free fiction available every day on Wattpad. As a platform, Wattpad has a monthly audience of 45 million to whom it is committed to provide all its stories for free.
Note: Wattpad is for members only but all you need is an email address. Join Wattpad for full access, or get Cliffhanger Castle updates outside Wattpad by joining theLoon Lake Reading Club.
*** Update ***
After putting Cliffhanger Castle on hiatus while I concentrated on editing Feeding Frenzy for publication, Cliffhanger Castle is relaunched and looking for contributors. If you are on Wattpad and you would like to contribute, feel free to pitch me with a chapter idea. If I like your idea, and the samples of your work posted on Wattpad, you may just be our newest featured author.
I recently won a fan-run Best Blurb Award on Wattpad. This may be a big reason why Feeding Frenzy is climbing the rankings. I can’t believe it has risen to #53 in Mystery/ Thriller and #69 in Paranormal. That’s a lot of progress in a short time. I’m going to use it as motivation to keep adding chapters.
The clock is set for 5:00 a.m. Monday morning so I can get right back onto my write-teach-write schedule. Watch for chapter updates weekly on Fridays or twice weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays.
I Wish My Teacher Knew, the non-fiction online book I made to collect first-person stories about education and creativity, has received over 1050 reads on Wattpad. This is exciting because the more people read it, the more will contribute. The hope is that these stories will inform Creative Teacher Librarian with fresh ideas for renewing education. Find out more about it by clicking on the story below. Drop me a line if you have a story of your own to add. It would be great to hear from you.
Creative Writing Update
As of October 31, the new serial novel, Feeding Frenzy, is underway. Over a hundred readers have perused the first three chapters. As it grows, the hope is many more people will read it. Serial fiction is a great motivator and antidote for writers’ block. Since making a promise to update weekly, there is real pressure to follow through. Last week I posted chapters on Wednesday and Friday. Reader comments have been encouraging. Writing Feeding Frenzy is a nostalgia rush too, as it forces me to reflect on my first year of university, although mythical Loon Lake University is nothing like my alma mater, University of Toronto. If you like fiction with a little humour, mystery and paranormal suspense, this one may be for you.
The Wattpad experience has been stimulating in a lot of ways. I attended a second Toronto meetup at the Wattpad offices in October, which resulted in a new Halloween Story compilation. This platform makes it easy to engage online with writers and readers in their late teens and twenties. Who better to discuss creativity and new ideas in fiction?
My schedule for http://sfcontario.ca/ has firmed up. If you are in Toronto next weekend, and you are interested in speculative fiction, attending a convention is worth doing. I’m moderating three discussion panels and I’ll be running a flash fiction contest, open to attendees. If you are at the convention, be sure to say hello. Here is my schedule:
Reviews and Critiques – Saturday 11 AM
Tricorders in the Classroom – Saturday 12PM
Flash Fiction Slam – Saturday 7PM
Sherlock vs Elementary – Sunday 1pm
In case you are wondering what a Flash Fiction Slam is, I admit I made it up. The idea is to have writers perform their own 500-1000 word stories, and have the audience choose the winners. In a traditional poetry slam, a couple of volunteers are chosen from the crowd who give each slammer a score of 0-10 for his or her performance. No props or costumes are allowed, and only 20% of the offering may be sung. Beyond that, there are few rules. Whatever the reader does to make the performance exciting is allowed. My idea is to take this format and apply it to flash fiction, all in aide of engaging entertainment.
SFContario is a convention which offers over 50 panelists, covering science fiction, fantasy, science, costuming, art, writing, genre television, and movies, as well as other topics of interest to fans. It runs from the evening of November 14 to Sunday November 16, at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 300 Jarvis St, Toronto. I have been invited to moderate a few panels, including a couple that are education-related. The plan is for me to run a flash fiction contest as well. For more information or to join in the fun, check out SFContario.
Sunday I attended a meetup at Wattpad in Toronto, arranged by Takatsu. It was an opportunity to meet readers and writers who are eager converts to this new medium. We toured the Wattpad offices which feature magic marker signatures on the walls, top flight tech, commissioned Graffiti, a vault, the employee ping-pong ladder, a giant light fixture bedecked in Wattpad novel covers, and a tree-sized, tree-shaped bookcase. After the tour, and a brief-but-shocking game of Cards Against Humanity, we headed to C’est What? for dinner. My great pleasure was in meeting Gavin (‘The Orangutan’ on Wattpad) who was in town from the UK. We talked Science Fiction, family life and culture. Takatsu emphasizes philosophy, and there was plenty of that too. I also met a brilliant teen who talked Romanian history and politics.
Feeding Frenzy launches on Wattpad tomorrow. For more about this serial writing experiment, check out the previous blog post. The status report, as of tonight, is that half the novel is planned, a provisional ending is decided, and chapter one is written in draft. Tomorrow I get up at 5:00 am and proofread before I post it and leave for work. Terrifying as it is to post as I write, Wattpad provides an opportunity to interact with readers I can’t pass up. Who knows, maybe the second half of the story will surprise me as much as them.
I Wish My Teacher Knew, a non-fiction book I started to collect testimony from teens and adults about their school experiences, has surpassed 1000 reads on Wattpad. I’m very happy about this as the more people read it, the more will be likely to let me add their stories. There is nothing like first-person testimony to help define a problem, or measure success as I continue gathering information on creative teaching.
Enough! It’s time to lay out the Halloween costume (mine is a lady bug – complete with feelers, wings, and pearls for the visual pun).
Best wishes for a creepy, crawly, creative Halloween!
Starting October 31, I will be combining my love of experiment with Wattpad and NaNoWrimo to do something new. As a result I will not be blogging much about creativity. I’ll be too busy getting up at 5:00 am every day to write fiction. If we want students to experiment and create, we mustn’t be afraid to do the same.
Feeding Frenzy is my newest project and a creative sandbox to explore Wattpad and serial writing. Mexican telenovelas, Ugly Betty, Being Human, Sherlock and The Vampire Diaries are inspiring my approach to serial fiction, since I’m trying to teach this medium to myself.
Feeding Frenzy will be posted online, chapter-by-chapter as I write it. The germ for this idea as a science fiction story came to me a few years ago, but finding the right approach has been difficult. This problem fell away recently when I realized I already invented just the right setting for my last novel.
Loon Lake is a mythical, woodsy Canadian anytown which attracts the supernatural like a hockey net attracts the puck. Now, while I’m gathering reader feedback on the first Loon Lake novel, is the ideal time to explore Loon Lake University on the opposite shore. Here’s the blurb:
Feeding Frenzy is a paranormal thriller which explores our obsession with thinness. Imagine a supernatural mash-up between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stephanie Meyer’s The Host.
Sweet but chubby Tonya never gets the guy, the grades or the glory. When Loon Lake is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, years of dieting allow her to resist a mysterious mind-controlling entity. Can Tonya uncover the source of this evil before she too succumbs?
Follow this blog or, better yet, follow me on Wattpad to read it. It takes moments to set up a Wattpad account which gives you access to 75 million free stories, including novels by well-known authors.
It’s uncertain how long it will take to write and post a novel at the rate of one or two chapters per week, but my goal is to draft most of it during the month of November. So far I have character sketches, a few funny-looking diagrams on rolls of paper, and sets of plot cards written, discarded and done over. Outlines are hard to write from since story often veers from the original plan. My newest idea is to plot out the main points using sticky notes on a tri-fold science fair board. (Think table top cardboard study carrel.) Normally I’d just write the thing and edit later, but knowing I can’t go back and make changes is a unique challenge, and planning is my secret weapon.
The month of November means a lot of things for different people. For Americans it means Thanksgiving. For Canadians it means colder weather. For writing enthusiasts all over the globe it means NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic kick in the pants for those of us who have always thought we had a novel in us, but never found the time. Why wait until the kids are grown, until you retire, or until your jobs stops being so crazy? Do it now, in one month. Write that novel and bask in the glow of accomplishment.
I have done NaNoWrimo a couple of times now. Writing 50 000 words in a month is something I would normally only do during the summer, but in November there is the extra incentive of knowing ‘everyone’s doing it.’ Feeding Frenzy is going to be my NaNo novel for 2014. What about yours?
If you are interested in NaNo for yourself or as inspiration for young people, here are some useful links:
Guy Gavriel Kay is known for his fantasy novels, starting with the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, set at my alma mater, University of Toronto. He has written twelve novels, a book of poetry and numerous reviews and articles for Canadian and English newspapers. His internationally bestselling works have been translated into over twenty-five language. Among others, he has won the International Goliardos Prize for contributions to literature of the fantastic. Along with astronaut Chris Hadfield, in 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour.
In September, I attended a ceremony recognizing 30 years of the Fionavar Tapestry at Bakka Phoenix bookstore in Toronto. Kay is a witty speaker, who underlined how lucky he was to have collaborated with such ‘tolerant’ and wonderful people over the years, many of whom he met during the writing and production of his first novel, The Summer Tree.
The store was packed with fans who lined up to have their books autographed by Kay, and also Martin Springett who created the iconic Summer Tree cover back in 1984. In his speech, Kay also recognized writer Sue Reynolds, creator of the first published map of Fionavar. It was fascinating to hear how the bay she drew on the map, based on Kay’s writing, inspired him to ask for a tower to be drawn there, and how that tower became essential in book three, The Darkest Road.
The ceremony began with original music performed by Martin Springett. It ended with three fabulous Dufflet cakes, each sporting a cover from the Fionavar trilogy. It didn’t surprise me at all when hungry fans ate their way around the outside, but refused to cut into the photographic decorations. As part of the Sunburst award group, who awarded him a Copper Cylinder Award for River of Stars, I was invited to the after party.
While I’ve met Kay before, this was an intimate gathering. He even bought us a round. Guy Kay is personable and generous with his observations. Speaking to a small group of bibliophiles and writers, he commented candidly on his current work-in-progress. In his remarks, there were lessons for creative types of all stripes:
At 100 000 words, the point where most novelists are finished, he is halfway through his epic novels and said he ‘hates himself’ because what he is writing never measures up to his artistic intention. Quoting T.S. Eliot, Kay compared this artistic disconnect to the ‘desire versus the spasm’
Kay is an international bestseller with a reputation for literary prowess. How inspiring to hear such an accomplished writer admit to ongoing artistic struggle. It encourages me to keep going and finish projects, since you never know when the project you are working on right now will be the one to change your life.
The other lesson was how important people and friends are to creative work. Gathering a group of creative people who understand your vision and can help you express that to an audience is crucial, especially for word artists. It takes a team of people to put out a book and for me, since I am researching indie publishing, it was a good reminder that any publishing project depends not just on the appeal of the author’s work, but also on the talents of the team who edits, formats, prepares and distributes it.
At Bakka, Kay said author tours used to be common and joked that in October, you couldn’t go through a Canadian airport without bumping into an author. How things have changed! Publishers no longer have money to publicize new authors but an established publisher like Kay’s (Penguin) represents more than prestige and publicity. It’s also about working with a publishing team of the highest quality.
Kay’s most recent work, River of Stars, continues the story begun in Under Heaven, which is inspired by Tang Dynasty China in the eighth century. Kay is known for creating epic novels set in well-researched fantasy realms that resemble real places and times. From fictionalized Ancient China to Byzantium and beyond, if epic drama, exotic realms and history pique your interest, visit his author page to discover Kay’s unique worlds.
I will be doing a reading of short fiction and poetry at Can-Con in Ottawa, Saturday October 4, 2014. My co-reader will be novelist S.M. Carriere. One of the best things about conventions is meeting and discovering new authors and making new friends. Conventions are magnets for creative people in the arts and multimedia.
Can-Con is an Ottawa convention which brings together Canadian authors and content creators in science fiction, fantasy and horror. I attended last year for the first time and was impressed by the warmth and welcoming atmosphere. I spoke on the NaNoWriMo panel which brought together a variety of writers. The highlight for me was going out to lunch together and trading stories.
According to their website:
CAN-CON is Ottawa’s premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy gathering celebrating the written word. This yearly event brings together readers, writers, artists, scientists, and publishing professionals for panel discussions, workshops, presentations, readings, book launches, networking opportunities and to have fun. CAN-CON is a function of The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.
The 2014 Can-Con guest of honour is author Jo Walton, winner of the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Fantasy Award. The editor guest of honour is Gabrielle Harbowy of Dragon Moon Press. Also check out the panelists.
Why Attend a Convention?
Conventions are fun if you like science fiction and fantasy novels, and/or speculative movies and shows. There are even conventions dedicated to comic books.
Much more casual than conferences, ‘cons’ run on volunteer power. Organized by and for fans, at a convention it’s easy to meet a favorite author. He or she will probably attend the same parties as you.
If half the convention action is at the parties, the rest is split between concerts, award ceremonies, panel discussions and special events. At some cons there are workshops and fashion shows for fans who build and wear costumes inspired by anime, books and movies. There might be an improv show, fire works or even a star gazing workshop. It depends on what the organizers and participants decide.
The panelists at conventions discuss topics as far-ranging as politics, art, science, technology, genre conventions, cultural diversity in literature, and music. My favorite panels are about writing, including workshops, publishing panels, flash fiction contests, author readings and small reader-author meetups called “coffee klatches.”
Conventions for Creativity
My very first convention was AD Astra, in Toronto. The experience was so creatively stimulating, I went home afterward and wrote my first (unpublished) novel in a six-week streak. If you are into speculative fiction and appreciate geek culture, attending a local convention might be your ideal creativity boost.
The first week of school is over. Routines are starting to gel, kids are on their best behaviour and starting to make friends. Teachers are breathing a sigh of relief. It’s the honeymoon period for elementary teachers. This glistening doorway of opportunity, lit by September magic, will not stay open long.
Invite all the kids in, before that dull ‘day-to-day feeling’ arrives. Hook them with creativity. Kids love to be stimulated and challenged to imagine. They want your teaching to take them places they could never go on their own. Surprise them and help them stretch their minds, and they will know you are on their side when things get harder.
With this goal in mind, here are a few book suggestions for September:
Steal Like an Artist. Long books on creativity can be counterproductive. This short book by Austen Kleon is full of art, poetry ideas and inspiration for teacher-artists, or anyone who wants to live more creatively. I recently reread it and find it excellent for visual, material, dramatic and literary artists.
Kleon suggests that you take whatever artistic thing you do to procrastinate and do more of it. He gives practical advice for artists like ‘learn about money,’ and describes ethical ways to draw inspiration from the work of others. One of his big projects is Newspaper Blackout, a website which begat a bestselling poetry book.
You could have a lot of fun doing newspaper blackout poetry with your students. How? Students take fat markers and strike out words on a newspaper page, until the remaining words form a poem. The result might be a simple message like “Eat your vegetables!” More sophisticated students could juxtapose the title of the original article against their ‘secret’ message. For example, they could take an article about war and block out words to reveal “give peace a chance,” or “support our troops.”
Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends appeals to boys and girls. It’s not new material but his poem, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” is a guaranteed giggle. I introduce it by telling kids how my Dad used to recite it to me when I was little. “Sylvia Stout,” is a good model for student ‘chore’ poems or poems about garbage. With Green Philosophy paramount in modern schools, it’s time for young Silversteins-in-the-making to write recycling poems. If you like his style, there are videos of many of his poems and songs available on YouTube. “I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor,” is fun to sing with young children. Just be careful, not all Silverstein material is safe for school. Ever heard “Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh?”
Make your own crazy character mix and match flip book. Have you ever played this game? Fold over a small stack of paper and staple to make a booklet. Make two scissor cuts to divide the book in three, top-to-bottom. Students draw the head of a character or creature in the top box, the body in the middle and the feet at the bottom. Students open the booklet to the next page and pass it to the next student. This student continues by drawing another monster, athlete, animal or character, aligning the head, body and legs in the correct box. This process continues until all pages are filled and the books are returned for sharing, flipping and discussing. This little art and creativity project can be a jumping off point for writing “What if” stories or just a fun get-to-know you activity. Enjoy!
‘What if’ story starters:
What if you woke up with the legs of an Olympic runner?
What if you had the chest of a fish and could breathe under water?
What if you had the body of a bird and could fly?
What if your head was an octopus, legs and all?
What if you woke up with a hairy gorilla body?
What if you woke up with the pitching arm of a pro baseball player?
This one is just for writers. As a writing book junkie, I procrastinate by reading about writing. What better way to goof off and still feel productive? In my home office, I have a bookshelf of reference and writing advice books. Other titles I’ve purchased as ebooks or borrowed from the library. I’m not proud of my addiction, but it puts this next statement in context.
Elizabeth Lyon’sManuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, is the best book on fiction editing I have ever read. Reading it feels like having an editor at my side, pointing out potential flaws and providing techniques for reworking and deepening the second draft of my novel-in-progress. The chapters on polish and proofreading are short compared to those on style, craft and characterization. This is no grammar book for beginners.
If you want to do more substantive editing before you submit your work to a professional, this book is an excellent reference to read, and reread. The checklists at the end of each chapter help diagnose weak points and prioritize the complex processes of rewriting: adding, subtracting and re-imagining to enrich voice, style and emotion.
Takatsu wrote the first North American cell phone novel. I met with him to speak about creativity, multimedia art, writing, and education reform. His current project, Espresso Love, is a Wattpad novel. You can look at the video trailer, which he produced himself using Animoto to add mysterious signs to the urban landscape. His multimedia productions include songwriting, stories, video and graphic arts.
Takatsu praised the rigour of the Japanese school system and the close relationships and teamwork inherent in Japanese culture. Paradoxically, the strictness and high expectations bring out students’ talents and develop their abilities. Takatsu says that by working inside such a strong box, students learn to think outside it.
The same students who work together on a rigorous curriculum during school, and then clean their classrooms together, must participate in one club after school. These clubs involve many hours of daily practice in one area chosen by the student according to interest and talent. Choices include music, sports, visual arts and drama. The creative or athletic skills developed last a lifetime. Takatsu laments that in North America, although many people have a passion for the arts, many forget their talents once they enter the workforce.
There is a place for teachers on platforms like Wattpad, according to Takatsu. Educators are needed for collaboration, to teach net etiquette and also to mentor and teach writing skills.
I hope you enjoy this interview in which Takatsu speaks passionately about art and education. You can find his multimedia projects at Takatsu.tk.