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Anyone for a writers' retreat in Haliburton?

Anyone for a writers' retreat in Haliburton?




So we’re launching a one-week writers’ retreat in the Haliburton Highlands.
From Sunday July 7 to Friday July 12, I’ll serve as writer-in-residence at Tamarack Lodge and Art Centre. Tamarack is two and a half hours north of Toronto. Situated on a motor-free lake, the lodge comprises four cottages and a “big house” with a separate meeting space.
I’ll lead workshops for five mornings (Monday to Friday) from 9 to 12. You can spend your afternoons writing . . . or you can go swimming, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, or forest walking. Or you can mix and match. Evening activities will include a campfire reading, a presentation by the writer-in-residence, and an evening of student readings.
You will stay in one of the four cottages. Tamarack will provide lunch and dinner and supplies for a continental breakfast.
The idea is to check in on Sunday July 7 between 3 and 5 p.m. Check out will be after lunch on Friday July 12. The cost will be $1150 per person, single-room accommodation, meals included. If anyone wants to share a room with bunkbeds or twin beds, the cost is $ 995, but you have to register with a roommate from the beginning.
 We have only eleven spots and they are available first-come first-serve. The person to contact is Barbara Kraus, co-owner of Tamarack Lodge. She can be reached at info@tamaracklodge.ca or 705-559-5972. 
In the workshop, Telling True Stories, we’ll focus on writing memoir, autobiography, travel articles – or whatever you are writing. We’ll look at point of view, writing scenes, handling flashbacks. And we’ll do some in-class freewriting and sharing. You will need to bring a laptop to make this possible (no printer available).
Also, after you have registered with Barbara, I hope you will send me a 1,500-word work sample which I will distribute for workshopping among all participants.
For the record, our writer-in-residence (that would be me) has earned a teaching-excellence award from University of Toronto (continuing education) and serves as a mentor in the low-residency MFA program in creative nonfiction at University of King’s College in Halifax. www.kenmcgoogan.com

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Ken McGoogan
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Nicola Sturgeon shines in Toronto visit

Nicola Sturgeon shines in Toronto visit




OK, this is huge. The fabulous Nicola Sturgeon turned up in Toronto to open a new Scottish government office in Canada. She is setting it up to encourage investment and tourism, and quite rightly, too. This morning the First Minister of Scotland turned up to open the Toronto Stock Exchange. You can see her doing that in the video clip below. All this is excellent. But the most exciting news, and I know you'll agree, is that she was handed a gift . . . and it turned to be a copy of How the Scots Invented Canada! The handsome, well-dressed chap who gave it to her is James Waddell, Vice President and Chief Internal Auditor at TMX Group Limited. And he kindly thought to send me the above photo and the link below. So James: huge thanks for making my day! And for those of you who have read this far, here's a bit of news. My next books is called Flight of the Highlanders: The Making of Canada. And it comes out in September. You can be sure I will send one copy to James Waddell and another to my favorite contemporary politician. You guessed it: that's her in the red jacket.




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Ken McGoogan
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U.S. writer discovers Alexander Mackenzie

U.S. writer discovers Alexander Mackenzie


The latest issue of Canada's History finds me reviewing Disappointment River by American writer Brian Castner. The subtitle is Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage and the publisher McClelland & Stewart. 
The clouds over the mountains to the west of the Mackenzie River looked like “three enormous flying saucers descending on us.” They “were layered, like plates or shelves, the sky behind nothing but black. The temperature dropped twenty degrees.”
Author Brian Castner was retracing the 1789 journey of fur trader Alexander Mackenzie to the Arctic coast. Castner and his paddling companion scrambled ashore and erected their tent, but “the front hit like a concussion, a wall of thickened menacing air. The tent recoiled as if struck, the outer shell suddenly pummelled by wind and fat drops of rain. The whole shelter was vibrating.”
The front stakes tore out, the tent collapsed, and the two men found themselves trying to regroup while “soaked in the driving rain and only half-dressed, boxers and no shirts.”
This is one of many vivid passages from the new book Disappointment River. Castner is a skilled writer who, no mean feat, manages to interweave the tale of his own adventure on the great river with what history-buff Canadians regard as the familiar story of Mackenzie’s epochal quest.
The writing is excellent. But this book feels especially fresh because, while most historians treat fur-trading explorers in either a British or a Canadian context, Castner brings an American perspective to the table.
When was the last time you saw Washington Irving quoted on the fur trade? Right. Yet Castner cites that nineteenth-century man of letters three times. Castner does not ignore the Laurentian thesis — that Canadian economic development came mainly from resource exploitation — or the foundational nature of the fur trade, but he is more inclined to reference the American Revolution or the 1760 capture of Detroit.
“In traditional American mythology,” he writes, “we associate the West with opportunity, but the North is known for hardship. Their conjunction — in the Northwest Passage, North West Company, Northwest Territories — speaks to both ideas. You go north and west to test yourself, but in pursuit of an objective.”
Castner mentions that, before leaving home, he read widely in Canadian newspapers and books. And the paddler is acutely aware of being a foreigner in a strange land. One of his companions makes a joke, he writes, “in an exaggerated northern Wisconsin accent that came off as vaguely Canadian.” He notes that one man he meets has “good looks that I’d call All-American if he weren’t Canadian, born and bred in the North.”
Elsewhere, while driving northwest through rural towns, Castner writes: “‘No wonder Canadians seem to be natural socialists and praise collective effort,’ I thought. ‘Their land is too big, they too few.’”
Again, this is not off-putting but refreshing. Here’s an American showing an interest in a landscape, a social reality, and a history beyond the borders of the United States.

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Ken McGoogan
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Our son the lawyer makes front page news

Our son the lawyer makes front page news


So our son the litigation lawyer made the lead story in yesterday's Globe and Mail. OK, he turns up near the end of the convoluted yarn. But I had no idea that back in 2005, when he was a law student, Carlin was involved in such cloak-and-dagger skulduggery. He has been practicing now for more than a decade with Duvernet, Stewart, an amazingly successful boutique firm based in Mississauga.
But here is Globe reporter Mark MacKinnon, writing of 2005 and looking for Boris Birshtein: "After trying, and failing, to deliver the documents at two Toronto addresses, the law student, Carlin McGoogan, made the 75-minute drive north to Shanty Bay, a quilt of elegant farm and cottage properties on the western shore of Lake Simcoe. Faced with a gated driveway and what he described as a 10-foot-high fence at Mr. Birshtein’s home there, Mr. McGoogan taped Alon Birshtein’s statement of claim to the iron gate. This fall, 13 years later, I found myself following in the student’s footsteps. . . .
Like Mr. McGoogan before me, I found myself with only the Shanty Bay address left to try. So I rented a Chevrolet that I hoped looked nondescript, and headed north from Toronto on an early autumn afternoon. I found the property exactly as Mr. McGoogan had described it – but on this day, the gate was open, though dense forest obscured any view of what lay beyond. . . ."
Today, answering my email queries from a ski hill in the Eastern Townships, Carlin revealed that on another occasion, he did get into the mansion at Shanty Bay . . . and even spent time in the steam room. All this was news to me. Speaking as a father, I can say only that at such revelations, the mind reels. But click here for the MacKinnon yarn.
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Ken McGoogan
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The Devil made me jive with Margaret Atwood

The Devil made me jive with Margaret Atwood


The Devil made me do it. I knew it was wrong. I knew I had no business inviting an iconic Canadian writer out onto the dance floor. I knew people would hate me for it. Who did I think I was? But a little voice told me to go ahead and ask her to dance. Graeme was there, standing tall. Sheena was there, camera in hand. 
But I'd better come clean. We had danced together at least once before, Ms. Atwood and I, at a meeting of the The Writers' Union of Canada. This was back in the day. 1985, I think it was. Things were different then.
Now it was 2011 and I had reason to be wary. We were voyaging around Scotland with Adventure Canada, having a blast, and had ended up in this community hall on the island of Jura. George Orwell had lived somewhere in this vicinity. Here on Jura, he had discerned that Big Brother was always watching. Coincidence? I thought not.
But I shrugged off all that and plunged ahead. I mention this in what you now learn is my "year-ender" because I grow skeptical about the way browsers function. My stats tell me that my all-time most popular blog post, with 17,300 viewings, is entitled A younger male writer crosses swords with Margaret Atwood. I ask you: have more than 17,000 people cast their eyes over my divigations? Or does that total derive from an algorithm that automatically counts "one" every time it chances upon "Margaret Atwood." So, yes, this is a test. That, anyway, is my story.
My other greatest hits are also all included in last year's greatest hits, which featured voyaging in the Northwest Passage, my book Dead Reckoning, and Let's Invite Scotland to Join Canada.  I remind myself that this means not that I have been less entertaining this year than last, but that "all-time" is cumulative, and so it takes more than one year to reach the upper echelons of even these modest heights.
But now I refrain from adding a second photo to this post. The Devil insists that I could justify an image of the cover of Dead Reckoning. No, I say, and stand firm. People would accuse me of being shameless and worse and that . . . that would hurt my feelings. For the rest, I would add: Merry Christmas! Happy New Year. Party on!


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Ken McGoogan
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Researching the Highlands inspires magical paintings

Researching the Highlands inspires magical paintings


Faithful readers will know that I have been researching a book about the Highland Clearances. It is called Flight of the Highlanders: Canada's First Refugees. And it will be published next autumn by Patrick Crean Editions / HarperCollins Canada. But this post is not about that. 
This is a post about Sheena Fraser McGoogan, with whom I have spent the past few years traipsing around the Highlands. While I scribble notes, she sketches and takes photographs. 
Then, when she gets home, she heads out into her back-yard studio, where she mixes and matches and magically transforms her gleanings into colorful acrylic paintings. 

Usually, Sheena paints large if not massive. But in the past few months, she has turned her hand to producing a few small gems -- twelve inches square. Here we see three of them. I have been authorized to offer these up as possible Christmas presents at a sale price . . . wait for it . . . of $350 each. If you covet one, or OK, three for $900, contact sheena.mcgoogan@gmail.com.  







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Ken McGoogan
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Before turning mainly to books about arctic exploration and Canadian history, Ken McGoogan worked for two decades as a journalist at major dailies in Toronto, Calgary, and Montreal. He teaches creative nonfiction writing through the University of Toronto and in the MFA program at King’s College in Halifax. Ken served as chair of the Public Lending Right Commission, has written recently for Canada’s History, Canadian Geographic, and Maclean’s, and sails with Adventure Canada as a resource historian. Based in Toronto, he has given talks and presentations across Canada, from Dawson City to Dartmouth, and in places as different as Edinburgh, Melbourne, and Hobart.