Saturday, 18 March 2023

Come meet Editor-in-Chief James Fisher of The Miramichi Reader.


If you are a book lover, you need to connect with one of Canada’s major book review web sites - The Miramichi Reader.

Let’s welcome James Fisher – Editor -in-Chief. It’s not James' first time on the Scribbler. A lot has changed since then. I invite you to take a peek at his previous visit HERE.

Let’s chat with James.


Scribbler: Thanks for taking the time to be our guest James. When we talked about TMR before, it was in 2018 and you mentioned TMR had been in existence since 2014. What is the one major change during these years of which you are the proudest of?


James: I am very proud of the coverage we are able to provide to Canadian book lovers. While I started out with the Atlantic coast publishers and authors in mind, TMR has expanded its coverage nationwide. In addition, I hear great things spoken about TMR from my contacts in the publishing world, which makes me feel good. Blurbs from our reviews can be found on many publisher’s websites, and even in books themselves. I am very happy that TMR grew so organically, and in the process, gained credibility as a trusted source for book reviews.


Scribbler: TMR now has many contributors to the site. Can you tell us something about the growth and how do you find reviewers?


James: The addition of more reviewers, which really took off during the initial years of the Pandemic, has been wonderful, Allan. Many of these – including some who are authors themselves - were invited by myself, and others stepped forward when I put out a call on social media for more reviewers. I really wanted to cover more of the Canadian publishing scene and I can now boast that we have around 50 reviewers on the team, some contributing more frequently than others, but all are doing a fine work for TMR. One of our reviewers, Carrie Stanton, also doubles as our social media person, and that frees up more time for me to keep the site current.


Scribbler: What are important elements in a review?

James: Avoiding spoilers! Seriously, a good review should be balanced, mentioning the positives as well as the negatives about the reading experience. For instance, I recently reviewed a book that claimed to be a “true story” about a certain historical Canadian. However, instead of the expected non-fiction book, it read more like a novel with plenty of invented dialogue. In addition, there was no bibliography or list of references. No photos, nothing that would mark this “true story” as being authoritative. I mentioned all this in my review. I didn’t say that people shouldn’t purchase this book, just be aware of what they are getting.

In addition, a good review should elaborate on the book’s synopsis so that a person reading the review will either be intrigued to buy the book, or think “that topic doesn’t interest me” and move on.


Scribbler: You recently started a funding program through Patreon and Ko-fi. Can you give my readers some direction with how they can be an active part of TMR?


James: I began looking for funding sources, as up until last year (2022) I was funding all the expenses of TMR out of pocket. As the site grew, I needed to purchase a more comprehensive web hosting package, full versions of newsletter services, and WordPress plug-ins to keep the site running smoothly and looking professional. There are also some postal expenses and so on. I didn’t want to apply for a government grant, as I wanted the funding to come from the readers I knew were out there. I went with Patreon initially, then got onboard with Ko-fi as it easily allows one-time donations of $5 and up. I put a little “tip” button at the end of each post, so that if a reader appreciated that particular post, they could leave a tip. Every little bit helps!

Another great feature of TMR. Go HERE.


Scribbler: Anything else you’d like to share?


James: In 2022, I tried going the podcasting route as I had been avoiding getting into it for some time. While it was fun to talk to authors on Zoom, it involved a lot of my free time to edit the audio and create an episode that sounded somewhat professional. Eventually, I could see that podcasting wasn’t worth the effort for TMR. It was through our newsletter, social media, and the website that we were reaching the most people. So, I hung up the microphone. One has to try new things, but keeping the status quo is working for us quite well.



Thank you for being our guest, James. Thank you for the great site.


Dear Readers, be sure to visit The Miramichi Reader.


And thank you to all our visitors.

Sunday, 12 March 2023

The Story Behind the Story with British Author Mary Lay.


Let’s welcome Mary to the Scribbler.

It’s always a treat to have a guest from “across the pond.”

When you visit her website, you will read this:

“Welcome to the era of Art Deco, Jazz bands and flapper dresses!”

Sounds good to me.



I grew up in rural Berkshire, then spent over 15 years in Devon and Cornwall before settling for now in the Cotswolds. I taught myself to read and write when I was 4 because I was convinced I would be allowed to go to school if I could do those things. I’ve been writing ever since, though not always stories. I’ve also had a variety of other jobs including a support assistant for an autistic boy, a giftware model maker, proofreader, and digital learning manager. I’m a Royal Horticultural Society trained garden designer, and also have qualifications in agile product development.

Much of my life has had similarities to the Miss Read stories, and they are definitely my go-to comfort novels.



Working Title: I am in the final proof stages of my third novel, Birds of the Storm.



Synopsis: It is the third in the series; we are following Caroline as she embarks on a journey of self-discovery through 1920s England. Caroline Munhead has spent two years catching up with her old school friends and taking her first tentative steps as a young woman. Now in 1927 she spreads her wings a little further and finds herself in north Somerset in a rented cottage. A new group of friends and a new set of challenges bring Caroline to an unexpected proposal. Will she make Somerset her forever home? Will a message from beyond the grave prove true?




The Story behind the Story: This all started during lockdown in 2019. I would go out for our permitted 30 minutes of exercise and walk the streets of Cheltenham, looking at the buildings and wondering who first lived and worked there. Readers might not know, but Cheltenham is a Regency town, but with housing from different eras radiating out from the centre, and with lots of tree-lined streets and parks. I started to research some of the areas online and as I continued my walks, some of the characters came into focus for me.

I had read some of Elizabeth von Arnim’s novels but couldn’t find anything else in a similar vein. So, I decided to write my own. I wanted something easy to read, a gentle story of ‘normal’ people. I often think of these stories as a historical soap opera. There are occasional big events, but more often than not we are just spectators watching someone else’s life unfold.

Once I started, the first story, Catching Up, flew out of my fingers. Writing at evenings and weekends, it was done in just over 2 months. I couldn’t stop! The characters kept talking to me and I drove on with the second novel, The Price of Coal. That too was completed in 3 months. I took a short break and then continued with the instalment that is due for publication in March 2023, Birds of the Storm. There are two more complete novels, the ideas for number six, and also a companion book of short stories, because some of the minor characters have been rather cross that they didn’t play bigger parts and want to tell their stories too!

The narrative is driven by real events. That’s my starting point when I am thinking about the story first: what actually happened in that year and what effect might it have had on my characters? The event might become a backdrop, or it might influence the story – I’m never entirely sure when I start to write, and it’s not unusual for me to stray completely away from my original plot line as I discover some other true story that I can borrow from.

I pitched to a number of agents and publishers. I received three separate offers of hybrid contracts, but the more I learned about traditional publishing and how I could lose creative control of my work, I decided that I would self-publish. I work with a professional designer, Chandler Design Associates in Norfolk, and John there immediately understood the concept I had for the covers.

I’m under no illusions that I will be able to retire on my book sales alone! I see these novels as an achievement that I never imagined I would have, and a welcome supplement to my retirement plans. Of course, if someone is interested in turning them into a television series I would be interested, but I write mainly because the characters simply will not be quiet.



A question before you go, Mary:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


I actually wrote almost all of the five novels so far while sitting on my sofa. I have a very small flat, and no room for a desk – certainly no spare room to use as an office or library. In an ideal world I would have a small house somewhere in a cold country; Scotland, Canada, Scandinavia, somewhere like that. I find the quietness of snow captivating. A room with a desk that looked out onto a garden or countryside covered with snow, a log fire, a comfortable armchair and foot stool, plenty of reference books on the shelves and a small radio. I listen to classical music when I write, or nothing at all. I adore the Russian composers, particularly Shostakovich.

If someone could bring me a fresh pot of tea every hour or so, that would be appreciated. Either a good Assam, or a blend called Russian Caravan. There would be plenty of room for the tea pot as I don’t tend to write notes, though I am known to have piles of things – mostly knitting, books and piles of letters that I need to respond to.



Thank you for being our guest this week, Mary. Wishing you continued success with your writing.



And a Grand Canyon thank you to all you visitors and readers?


What are you reading?

Saturday, 4 March 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Author DC Malcolm of New Brunswick, Canada.


This week on the Scribbler, we are featuring another New Brunswick Author.

I’m pleased she accepted our invitation to share the good news about her debut novel.

Read on.


Born and raised in New Brunswick, D.C. Malcolm has always been fascinated by literature and had a vivid imagination. Whether she was going on some magical adventure; or making up scary stories about the house next door with her friends. As D.C. got older, D.C. started to write down her ideas and transform them into short stories. In the third grade, after winning a short story contest, her teacher suggested she become an author, and D.C. has been chasing that dream ever since. At 36 years old, she dedicated her spare time to launching her writing career.



Working Title: Guilty Deceptions



Synopsis: I am Sheriff Dawson, and things are usually quiet in this small town. Let me tell you why September 1869 changed my life. Young Caroline found what was left of the poor souls in Willow Grove, leading to the most complex investigation I have ever seen, let alone investigated. Sometimes I think I will never find answers as I try to make sense of this case. Even the clues that point to the prime suspect, a famous architect, complicate things. Now, I must prove his innocence before it's too late!



The Story behind the Story: I have always been interested in True Crime. I grew up with Robert Stack’s Unsolved Mysteries.

I watched every Friday night and never missed an episode. I became obsessed with local crimes, and read up on Allan Legere and Noel Winters among others. That’s when I stumbled upon a case from 1869. It was the case of Maggie Vail.

That case intrigued me because there were so many holes. So many unanswered questions that it made me wonder if they got it right.

In 2013, the first idea for Guilty Deceptions surfaced. After a single trip to the library and many late nights online researching about Maggie, and Saint John in the 1860s and I was finally ready to write. In my early drafts of Guilty Deceptions, I included real names as the book followed the truth of the case. Yet, time went on and the story evolved, and last names got changed because the story had transformed and leaned away from the truth. Suddenly it became a fictionalized story based on a real-life murder.

It took me eight years to publish Guilty Deceptions but it needed time to grow. Finally, in 2021 it was complete.

My mother, an avid reader had read the first five chapters and helped me get inside the characters' heads. She taught me how their personality would be at that time, and how they’d react to certain situations within the story. Many of the places mentioned in Guilty Deceptions were real places in Saint John or Willow Grove at that time. Like the gallows rumored to have been built by John.

In high school, I had toured the old courthouse for Law class and when I used the spiral staircase, I got sick and dizzy. Thus Sheriff Dawson had a problem with the stairs. On the same trip, I stood in the very spot the gallows once stood.

My brother had heard the story many times because I read out loud when I’m editing. He loved the scene: Get out of me house! He burst into fits of laughter whenever he heard it so I knew that scene was a keeper.

I had fun writing Guilty Deceptions and I have been told by others that they have fun reading it. There will be at least two other books featuring Sheriff Dawson, Saint John, and Willow Grove sometime soon.






A question before you go, DC:

Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


Over the new year, I finally got my desk for a semi-office space in my living room. My apartment is small and before that, I was writing on my couch! I usually start writing at 6 AM and continue writing off and on throughout the day until about 6 pm. I tend to write better when I listen to music (the track list depends on what I’m writing) currently the track list on my Spotify is 90s music, as I’m writing a romance based in the 90s. I usually have a coffee at my side. Most
 of my notes are on my laptop, but my desk can get messy sometimes. I also don’t stop writing  when I travel, but usually take a notebook and pen as opposed to my laptop.



An Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Guilty Deceptions:


Chapter One

Who would have dreamed that something like this would happen in a quiet town such as here? I've lived it and I'm not sure how I feel about it.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself. I tend to do that. Anyway, it all begins with the Sheppard family.

Billy and Anne Sheppard lived out in Willow Grove, on Black River Road. They were farmers because men of Billy's complexion got little education, but, Billy’s content with his little farm. They had three daughters. Margaret, the oldest, looked just like Anne. The middle child, Martha, a perfect mix of the two, and the youngest Caroline was Billy through and through. On September 12th, 1869, young Caroline stumbled onto the horrifying scene that altered our lives; forever.

Caroline and her sisters Margaret and Martha were out picking blueberries at the junction of Black River and Quaco. Caroline wandered off the main road and ended up a little way into the Barrens. As she plucked blueberries, she noticed a bit of cloth sticking up from beneath the brush. Now Caroline was a curious child and so she pulled at it with her hands. Caroline’s high-pitched scream echoed around the barrens and alerted her sisters, who rushed to her side. In a state of shock; all three of the girls threw their buckets of blueberries on the ground and ran all the way home. Swearing to keep what they discovered a secret; forever.

Where was I? At the police station, sitting at my desk and reading The Murders in the Rue Morgue for the thousandth time. I’m not alone, Deputy Patrick Jackson sat at his desk, fiddling with a deck of cards and I was reminded of the interview for his job.

“What do your folks do?” I asked. Patrick leaned forward and folded his hands on the desk.

“Well, my father, Thomas, is a banker. My mother passed away about ten years ago,” he said.

I frowned. “So sorry for your loss,” I said. Patrick shifted in his seat.

“Thank you,” he said. “It was a long time ago now. I barely remember her. Father never remarried, instead he focused all his energy on me.”

“Yeah, well that's the thing about fathers, they tend to do that,” I said. “So, tell me what makes you want to be deputy?”

Patrick crossed his arms. “Not my father. He doesn’t approve. He feels it’s a dangerous job,” he said.

“I certainly can relate,” I said. “I notice you’re rather young. No wife or a girlfriend to speak of, why is that?” Patrick glanced down, wringing his hands. He hesitated for a moment it could have been two before he shook his head.

“No,” he said. “I’ve got no interest in settling down with a woman. I hope that doesn’t stop me from getting this job.”

“Of course not,” I said.
Patrick’s odd. His lack of desire has very little to do with his looks. In fact, it's not that Patrick isn't handsome. With his wavy blonde hair, he parts in the middle–to cover the slight scar under his left eye. His green eyes and ivory complexion make Patrick look like a prince in shining armour; even with the scar.

The door opened and John Riley walked in like he owned the place. John’s my brother-in-law, of course, but truth be told, I didn’t like him all that much.

“Hello, John,” I said.

John nodded. “Stephen,” he said. He was being very formal this morning and I wasn't sure why.

I nodded. “How’s your father?” I asked. John shrugged and his eyes narrowed, and he was glaring at the wall behind me.

“I don’t care,” he said.

“You don’t?” I asked.

“My entire life he has done nothing for me,” John said.

“He gave you life,” I said.

“Father only cares about his stature in life,” he said.

“I’m sure that’s not true,” I said.

“I might be his son, but he doesn't care about me,” he said.

“How’s Annie and the boys?” I asked, changing the subject. This made John smile.

“They are doing well, thank you,” John said. John married my sister, Annie, in 1862. They have three youngsters, the oldest is about seven. John, a middle-aged man, has a thick red mane that curled around his ears and sticks out about an inch. His eyes are the colour of emeralds and he has a very thick and prominent scar that runs down his left cheek. He hovered over my desk like he’s the most important person in the room; I hate that.

“What brings you in today?” I asked, rolling my eyes. For about a year now, John has been coming in everyday without fail and he always has a feeble excuse for his visits.

“I wanted to remind you to bring a bottle of whisky to dinner tomorrow night,” he said, his eyes locked on mine as he waited for an answer. I blinked and shook my head.

“Don’t I always?” I asked. John peered at me and nodded.

“Yeah,” He answered. I peered back at him and furrowed my brow.

“Of course I'd bring one tomorrow,” I said.


Monday, September 13th, 1869

That morning, Billy and Anne were sure that something happened the day before with their girls. While all of their girls seem bothered by something, young Caroline’s the worst. She isn’t eating, and she isn’t sleeping, she’s ashen-faced, and Billy even noted her mumbling to herself a few times. That’s what made him decide to talk to Caroline. She’s sitting on the porch when he found her and she’s staring at her feet. He sat down beside her.

“Caroline, why are you not eating or sleeping?” Billy asked and glanced at the ground. Caroline sighed and pressed her lips together.

“Something bad,” Caroline said, not looking up at him. Billy glanced at his daughter, and noticed she’s trembling.

“What?” He asked. Caroline shook her head.

“Me can’t tell, me promised to not tell,” Caroline said and Billy pressed his lips together.

“What did you see out there in them Barrens? Can you show me at least?” Billy asked. Caroline sighed and nodded.




Thank you for being our guest this week, DC. Wishing you tons of success with your novel.


Thank you to all our readers and visitors.


I dare you to leave a comment.

Sunday, 26 February 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Susan Bernhardt of Wisconsin, US.


Let’s welcome Susan back.

This is not her first visit to the Scribbler and we are always happy to share her latest news.


If you missed her earlier visit, please go HERE.


Over to you, Susan.



Susan's town in northern Wisconsin was an inspiration for the quaint setting of her Kay Driscoll novels. Like Kay Driscoll in her cozy mysteries, Susan is a retired nurse who volunteers at her local free clinic. She also writes the Irina Curtius mysteries which take place in Manhattan.

An avid reader of mysteries, she is a member of Sisters in Crime, Inc., and the Wisconsin Writers Association.

Her published works include: The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1), Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2), Murder by Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3), Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4), Murder Misunderstood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 5), The Neighborhood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 6), A Manhattan Murder Mystery (An Irina Curtius Mystery), Dress to Kill (An Irina Curtius Mystery), "October 31st", "Midsummer", and "John and Madeline.



Working Title: The Neighborhood 



Synopsis: A new City Planner and his "Stepford wife" move into Kay Driscoll's neighborhood. The city of Sudbury Falls has a planning committee headed by this newly hired city planner intent on building a dam in the Sudbury River. The purpose, to create a lake for waterfront property featuring high-priced, luxury condominiums that the locals could never afford.

An uproar arises among the citizens who are passionate about the natural beauty of the Sudbury River. A newly formed Sudbury River Protection Society attracts Kay Driscoll and her friends with their “Save the River” movement.

When a murder occurs in the neighborhood, the unexpected happens. Chief Kirk asks Kay for her help in investigating the crime. What is up his sleeve? In the meantime Elizabeth's ex-husband shows up at her book signing after a five-year absence, Deirdre has a community feng shui-inspired May Day celebration at Planetary Herbals, and Janey goes on her first date.

Welcome back to Kay's world.



The Story Behind the Story: Why did I write this mystery? The truthful reason I wrote this sixth Kay Driscoll mystery is simply because writing seems to be in my blood. I can't imagine not writing. And I write to entertain, mostly through the characters, the plot of the story, and dry humor.

My first book was released in January 2014 by a Canadian publisher. I started writing the mystery five years previous to the publication date taking a number of writing classes.

What inspired the book? The environment is important for everyone. And not to be destroyed for the chosen rich. This idea became a focus for The Neighborhood. The book focuses on a small, but important level, on the lives of those living in the fictional Sudbury Falls. In real life, big companies, businesses, and industries are creating havoc in our environment and on the world.



Author Page on Facebook:



A question before you go, Susan: Can you tell us the perfect setting you have, or desire, for writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila? Neat or notes everywhere?


I've always been fascinated with romantic ideas of where authors write. Perhaps I had seen too many movies, but when I became an author, I pictured myself looking out of a second floor palazzo window onto the Grande Canal in Venice, with a glass of Prosecco beside my desk, pounding away on the keyboard.

Three years ago my husband and I did visit Venice and we stayed in a palazzo but there wasn't a balcony and if there had been, it wouldn't have looked out over the Grande Canal. But we did share a bottle of Prosecco in our room. If only I had brought my writing along.

Or I might be in NYC working in an Upper West Side Brownstone where I could practically touch the tree outside of my window. In between paragraphs, I'd watch the hustle and bustle of the street below with the only things on my mind being my novel and trying to decide which neighborhood eatery I would try that evening, Indian, Thai or Italian.

I've sort of lived out this a mystery where part of it takes place in this exact setting, a Brownstone on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

A Victorian home, a "Painted Lady" in San Francisco would be cool, looking out over the San Francisco Bay, hearing the cable cars in the distance and the seagulls above. I'd try to finish a chapter before meeting friends in North Beach at a coffee bar.

We have lived in the San Francisco Bay area and often times walked the different parts of the city including North Beach. But I wasn't writing then.

I recently was able to live out one of my romantic ideas of where to write. I went on holiday with my husband to the Caribbean and wrote on the powdery, white beach where I could look up and view the surreal, blue-green water. Between writing, I went for a swim and saw dozens of beautiful tropical fish in the crystal clear waters. Now that is romantic and I lived it completely! Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4) is the result.

But most of the time, I'm at home sitting on my sofa in our living room with my laptop on my lap typing away. There's a wall-sized window where I can look out over our neighborhood or watch the birds build their nests in our yew tree in the spring. I have a little make-shift side table, a Red Wing crock where I keep my teacup filled throughout the day. And when I'm not watching my carbs, I often have a scone sitting next to the teacup slathered in lemon curd and clotted cream.




These all sound like enjoyable creative settings, Susan. Thanks for being our guest this week. Wishing you the best of luck with the new novel and wishing you continued success with your writing.




And as usual, a tremendous thank you to our visitors and readers.


A question for you: What is your all-time favorite book you’ve read many times?

Saturday, 18 February 2023

The Story Behind the Story with Poet & Author Kayla Geitzler of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.


It’s an honour to have Kayla as our guest this week.  Not only is she a noted poet and author, but a very busy lady, as you will see in her bio.


We are most fortunate to have Kayla as the organizer and creator of so many wonderful events and opportunities to share our work.


She is deserving of every accolade and award she receives.


Let’s meet Kayla.






Kayla Geitzler was born and raised in Moncton, which is within Siknikt of the Mi'kma'ki. Named a "Rad Woman of Canadian Poetry", she holds a Masters in English with a specialty in Creative Writing from the University of New Brunswick. She was Moncton's inaugural Anglophone Poet Laureate and Frye Festival Poet Flyee, and is the organizer of the Attic Owl Reading Series. Her first collection of poetry, That Light Feeling Under Your Feet (NeWest Press, 2018), was a Calgary Bestseller and finalist for two awards. She is co-editor of Cadence: Voix feminines Females Voices (Frog Hollow Press, 2020) a multilingual poetry anthology, the first publication of its kind in NB. Kayla co-created Poésie Moncton Poetry, a website archiving video poetry of Mi'kmaq and Moncton region poets with Francophone Poet Laureate Jean-Philippe Raîche. She works as an editor & writing consultant, offering full-service editing and writing, book layout, university-level writing workshops, writing and performance coaching. In 2021, Kayla received a Top 20 Under 40 Award from the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Moncton for her entrepreneurial success and dedication to literature in her community.




Working Title: That Light Feeling Under Your Feet (NeWest Press, 2018)



Synopsis: That Light Feeling Under Your Feet plunges headfirst into the surreal and slogging world of cruise ship workers. These masterfully crafted poems challenge perpetuating colonial and class relations, as well as the hedonistic lifestyle attributed to the employees of these floating resorts. Kayla Geitzler’s debut collection interprets isolation, alienation, racism, and assimilation into the margins as inevitable consequences for the seafaring workforce of the most profitable sector of the tourism industry. Exploring the liminal space between labour and leisure, the poems in That Light Feeling Under Your Feet are at once buoyant and weighty, with language that cuts like a keel through the sea.



The Story behind the Story: That Light Feeling Under My Feet chronicles the two years I worked "the life" (as cruise ships employees call it) on three separate cruise ships. Although there is a disclaimer in the end notes claiming the poems' circumstances can't be verified as true, I'm always surprised at how many readers understand that to mean I made it all up. The book is autobiographical. The morgue really did break, the ice cream really was thrown overboard, and the bodies really were stored in the freezer. John Denver Jr. was the 17-year-old son of an entertainer, and I wasn't the only one who found him extremely annoying. He used to gallop around the ship on a hobby horse, firing a cap gun. I really did tell cruisers how the moose get to France, and I grieved with my Indonesian crewmates when the 2004 tsunami destroyed their villages. The Saturday my first contract ended (or was supposed to end), Hurricane Katrina swept into the Gulf and began its devastation of much of the Southern US.

          As Shoppies, or duty-free sales associates, we worked eighteen to twenty-hour days with a one-hour break and no guaranteed time off. This was not the Love Boat. Staff and crew members didn't go to bingo—they worked past the point of exhaustion, coping as best they could with what were often privileged and abusive passengers, and after letting off some steam in the crew bar, they slept the short sleep of the working dead below the waves. All this continues today.

          In 2004 and 2005, I was contracted by Starboard Cruise Ltd. As a new Shoppie, I had a base salary of $500 USD a month, and any extra income had to be made through commission sales. That might sound like a sweet deal, but here's the reality. On our thirty-five-day cruise from Vancouver to the Brazilian Amazon, the Duty-free staff only had two half-days and one full day off. (Cruise ships fly under "flags of convenience", they are registered in countries where there are few workers' rights.) We worked, on average, about 17 hours a day. That equals out to about $1.75 USD an hour. And we had accomplished something no other cruise ship had on an extended cruise: constant sell-out sales. For instance, I sold $15,000 USD in amber jewelry one evening, and $175,000 USD in Columbian emerald jewelry in one afternoon.


          That Light Feeling is an examination of how travel and living in the margins alters, or perhaps reforms, who you will be for the rest of your life. For good and ill. It also looks at the systems that take advantage of global employees. Cruise ships workers will tell you they "work to die"; the environment is that difficult for them. They often choose this work because they don't have to pay for room and board. I didn't choose to work on cruise ships because they seemed glamourous. I only wanted to travel. While it was a very difficult experience overall, it was just as rewarding in the relationships I made with my coworkers, the life lessons, and the lands and peoples I was able to visit. I worked with people from all over the world and made lifetime friends.

          After a debilitating back injury, I returned to NB. I enrolled in UNB and completed my BA in English with First Class Honours. When I entered the Creative Writing Masters programme, I was encouraged to write my thesis on the cruise ships. The stories were already old for me; I'd been telling them for five years at that point. But this presented an enormous challenge for me as a new poet. I had good training, but how would I conceptualize this idea—how would I craft these stories, many of which were dark or depressing?

          I took direction from "the life" itself, from its often chaotic sense of fluidity. I let the form be what it wanted. I used humour and I layered the writing to make it nuanced. Above all, as I wasn't just writing about myself, I had a responsibility to accurately and respectfully capture the crew while remaining honest. And as narrative poetry, for some reason, is often looked down on, I wanted to do something more encompassing than just tell stories.

          Five years later, after many failed submissions and two rewrites, I sent it to NeWest Press in Edmonton. While the board was reviewing my manuscript, it won the WFNB 2016 Bailey Prize for Best Unpublished Manuscript. I was thrilled when That Light Feeling was chosen to be an inaugural edition for their Crow Said Poetry series.

          Next year, 2024, will mark twenty years since I first felt that light feeling under my feet and roamed ports with a journal, scribbling terrible poetry. When I was a twenty-something skipping across the crests of waves in a speeding tender, or selling $3000 bottles of brandy, I didn't foresee this writing life for myself. But when a reader finishes That Light Feeling and tells me they were absorbed by one long story, and that they empathize with cruise ship workers, I'm glad these narratives live in the world. 






A question before you go, Kayla:


Can you tell us about the perfect setting you have, or desire, for your writing? Music or quiet? Coffee or tequila?  Neat or notes everywhere?


I don't like a lot of noise or distracting movements; I get into a flow and I need to stay there. I enjoy a quiet cafe with large windows, but I mostly work at home, at the kitchen table. If I'm working on form poetry, I need two screens, so I'll work in my office. In warmer weather, I sit on the porch when traffic is not so heavy.

I like to write with music in the background, usually something classical or atmospheric such as Agnes Obel, Vivaldi, Hania Rani, Fairouz, or Tori Amos. Silence helps with crafting language for emotions.

I like to have a cup of tea nearby, and I can write at any time of the day, although I prefer to write new material earlier in the day, and to edit/revise at night. If I'm writing new material in the evening, I'll sometimes pour myself a glass of Sicilian or Spanish red wine or a few fingers of Irish whiskey, neat.







Early morning sleep perforated by thunderous feet running past cabin
doors — someone crying Sea day! Sea day! in the hall cursing and shuffling,
Steiners and Casino dealers straightening uniforms over booze-bloated
bellies as they trip over Dancers raising Senor Frog glasses to work ethic.

Sleep-deprived Shoppies salute the day with Fuck off! and roll over until
the Manager phones: Get up to the Shops now, you twats! and through
anemic asbestos walls their disbelief unites in a boys’ choir of stiff
stretches and hangover tumbles from bunks; deodorant smeared under
navy cruise line polos as photophobic eyes squint out portholes —
Oh God, we’re stationary.

Sandbar-moored in the Mississippi’s middle: a whole day late getting
back to N’awlins — ten hours with angry flight-missed passengers; to
feed them staff and crew meals rationed. Then, in the terminal, seven
hundred would-be cruisers ugly with luggage; the midnight of our souls
in their flushed faces.

Four days of the guests from hell: vomit in the stairwells, riots over
souvenir maracas and 3xl t-shirts; stewards and bar staff weeping;
despite Captain intervention even a food fight night of the Black and
White Ball; so the av department played horror movies. Whenever
anyone turned on the tv there was Ghost Ship, The Poseidon Adventure,
Open Water, Titanic, The Perfect Storm — any scenario where seas
swallowed vessels and everybody fucking drowned.




Thank you for taking the time to be our guest, Kayla, and for the outstanding excerpt. Wishing you continued success with your writing journey.




And a big thank you to all our visitors and readers. It’s all for you.


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