Caroline Misner


Haven Rising
  June 26, 2017 08:30AM

Sometimes when you receive good news, it's hard to grasp it at first.  Last week, on the day of the summer solstice, I received an email from Al Forrie at Thistledown Press. He wants to publish my beloved novel "The Spoon Asylum".  I was stunned.  It took a few minutes for the good news to sink in.  I read and reread the email over and over again, just to be sure I wasn't dreaming, unable to believe it at first. I think I actually went numb for awhile.  And then that overwhelming feeling of joy and relief swept over me.  Yes, this was real and it was actually happening.  To me! 

"The Spoon Asylum" has been my beloved baby for over a dozen years.  It has been my favourite and I believe one of the best novels I've ever written.  Like many ideas in literature, it first came to me in a dream (think of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Stephen King's Misery) I dreamt I saw a teenaged boy meet up with a robust cheery black man in a field carrying a trumpet.  It began to rain and they found shelter in a small cave.  That's all I remember of the dream, but it became the seed that grew into "The Spoon Asylum". That teenaged boy became my protagonist, Haven Cattrell and the trumpeteer became his mentor Wetherby Moss.  Everything else fell into place after that.  Jazz became the central motif of the story; Jude Moss, Charlotte Handler and Eleanor Washburn all became central characters in the story and I fell in love with them all.  So much that I wrote a sequel entitled "The Myth of the Immortal Child" because I just couldn't let them go. But that is a story for another day.

It has been a long arduous journey to get it published.  So many publishers rejected it outright; many never even replied to my queries.  A few wanted to see the complete manuscript and I never heard from them again.  I thought there was something wrong with the story.  I workshopped it with Michael Crawley, who offered invaluable advice.  I showed it to my father, who is a professional jazz musician.  He pointed out how little I actually know about jazz.  I made the necessary corrections.  I worked it and reworked it to perfection.  But still no one seemed interested and despite my thick skin, I grew rather bitter over the experience.  Three other novels were published before it.  Perhaps "The Spoon Asylum" wasn't as good as I thought.

I sent my query to Thistledown Press late last summer with the usual trepidation laced with a glimmer of hope that was rapidly fading.  Like several publishers before them, they requested a complete manuscript which I dutifully sent.  Six months passed and I was getting discouraged, even to the point of considering sending it off to another publisher.  Then it happened.

I'm going to work hard for this one.  It is the one novel that I believe in the most.  Thank you, Al and all those at Thistledown for giving me this chance.  I promise I will not let you down.


Vala Revived
  March 26, 2016 12:26PM

Well, it has taken nearly two years and countless emails back and forth between Whisky Creek Press (now a division of Start Media) but the long anticipated sequel to The Alicorn will soon be released.  It's been a bumpy journey.  When Whisky Creek first got sold to Start Media I was sure it would be the end of any further publications from them.  After all, the new company restructured and there had been a change in staff.  I had no idea how these new people would accept my ideas or if the whole Daughters of Eldox trilogy would even be a part of their corporate vision.  Thankfully, after losing my original submission during the restaffing shuffle, they accepted my new book and it is on its way to release.  It's entitled "The Other" and it is a particular favourite of mine.  At first I didn't know where I wanted to go with it and the story turned out to be vastly different than my original vision.  I guess it's because I trust my characters so much.  I channeled Vala and allowed her to guide me.  She knows her world better than I do.  That must be the secret to good writing: trust your characters.  The more you get to know them, the better the whole writing process will be. 
I must admit I'm a little nervous about the book's release.  After all, I'm still working at promoting "The Alicorn" and now I have another book to pitch to the public.  But I'm up for the challenge.  After all, the most important thing about being a writer is to write for yourself first.  After that, everything else will follow.

The Antiigonish Review
  September 12, 2015 07:13AM

How long have I been trying to get published in the Antigonish Review?  I think I've lost count, it's been so long.  Ten years?  Perhaps twelve?  Maybe as many as fifteen.  Definitely as long as when I first reanimated my writing in early 2001 after a ten year hiatus.  In any case, I'm thrilled to announce that my poem "Bamboo Lampshade" has been published in the recently released Summer 2015 issue of the Antigonish Review, one of the most prestigious and well admired literary journals in Canada.
I'm honoured to have my work selected by them but it hasn't been an easy road.  For well over a decade I've been pestering the good people at the magazine with my stories and poems. (I think they may have gotten sick of hearing from me so often)  Other great Canadian literary journals have published my work, including The Windsor Review, Room Magazine and Prairie Journal, who nominated my story "Strange Fruit" for the McClelland Steward Anthology Prize.  But for some reason, Antigonish Review had always eluded me. 
I feel as though I have finally won a great victory; I've made it.  Hopefully, this is a harbinger of many more good things to come.
I find it ironic that at this point when many things in my life are going wrong (in many cases from bad to worse) my writing career is taking off.  Not only has "Bamboo Lampshade" been published by Antigonish Review, but another poem "The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter" has been published by Prolific Press in the Summer 2015 issue of "Poetry Quarterly".  Two more poems, "Ghosts of the Old Spectator" and "The Bath" will be published this year by Grain Magazine and The Dalhousie Review respectively.  I'm on my way!

A Return to the Group
  May 11, 2015 08:12AM

What has taken me so long?  For months I've neglected attending the monthly meeting of the Georgetown Writers' Circle at the public library.  Perhaps it was self-doubt, the great enemy of creativity.  Perhaps it was just laziness.  Perhaps I was so paralyzed with fear that my work was just not up to snuff and it would get ripped to shreds by the other members.  To this day I still harbour this mental image of editors and publishers laughing and spitting at my work before lighting it on fire and dancing the cha-cha around it with glee, thrilled to have rid the world of another case of bad writing.
But my fears were unfounded.  Reluctantly, I dragged myself to the group last Saturday and read my latest story "The Burning Times".  The other members were warm and supportive, just as they've always been.  I had forgotten just how much I need the group.  Not just for their critiques, but also for the camaraderie.  It's so refreshing to spend time with people who think the way I do and share the same passion I have for writing. It has renewed my faith in myself and what I do. 
I will find the time to attend more often.  I owe it to myself and my work.  Summer is coming and I often spend my weekends away at the cottage, but a few hours a month is little to spare for the rewards I receive.

Finally, Spring
  March 19, 2015 07:55AM

I don't think I'm alone here when I say that this has been a crappy winter.  After last year's horrific weather, which included ice storms, sub-zero temperatures and tons of snow that hung around until mid April, I was hoping this winter wouldn't be so bad.  But no such luck.  February was the worst.  It seemed as though it snowed every day and the cold was so intense it seemed to seep deep into the marrow of my bones.
Perhaps I'm just getting stodgy as I grow older.  There was a time when I relished the winter.  I didn't mind, or perhaps I just didn't feel the cold, and the snow offered a grand opportunity to polish off my skates and sled and get down to some serious fun.  I've posted a memoir entitled "Snow Persuasion" that shows just how much I enjoyed the winter.  I don't normally write nonfiction, but when I first wrote this memoir a few years ago, I felt a compelled to get it out.
Spring is supposed to arrive at precisely 6:45 pm on Friday.  Although it doesn't feel like it right now, I can see some changes starting to happen.  The snow, now stale and a dingy shade of grey, is beginning to melt.  Though the grass is brown and brittle, I'm noticing a few spots of green leeching through.  There is hope after all! 

Happy Halloween!
  October 31, 2014 10:50AM

With the end of October comes the venerable and sacred day of Halloween--or Samhain as the ancients called it.  To commemorate this day, it's my pleasure to announce that my short story "Devour" was chosen for publication in the Horror issue of Blank Fiction Magazine.  You can check it out here:
Horror has always been difficult for me to write.  Not many things really frighten me and this slasher porn that is so popular now in movies only disgusts me with its gore. This zombie craze that is so popular now I find more funny than scary.  Probably because I know there are no real zombies and never will be. Good horror relies on suspense and the fear of the unknown and the realization that what is happening could be real.  But the one thing that has always made my stomach curl is cannibalism.  That's probably why I had a hard time stomaching things like "Silence of the Lambs" and its sequel "Hannibal".  With that in mind, "Devour" was one of the few horror stories I could actually write.  It's not for the squeamish and even I had a hard time writing some parts of it.  I got the idea from a newspaper article some ten years ago about a cannibal in Germany who had the audacity to put an ad on line for a victim.  Someone actually answered that ad and became a willing meal.  Needless to say, the cannibal was tried for murder.  That got me thinking: what if there really are people out there like that?  How far are they willing to go to indulge their passions?
Those are the things that really frighten me.

  October 09, 2014 10:46AM

Autumn is upon us and I can't help but think about the many changes that I have endured over the past year.  With the publication of "The Alicorn", I have become sort of a minor local celebrity.  I gave my first reading at the Brampton Public Library a couple of weeks ago.  Sure, I've done readings before, but this was the first one where I was the "star".  For an hour and a half, I was on my own.  I was surprised at how many people came to hear me read--and not just my friends and family, but also people interested in the work I do.  I thought I'd spice it up a bit so I brought props and dressed as my heroine, Vala.  To my surprise, I was a hit!  I need to give a big thanks to my father and husband and my friends Kim and David, who I haven't seen in years, for coming out to support me. It looks like I'm finally on my way.  Now, all I need is to find the time to write.
The past year has seen so many changes in my life: I have lost my day job, moved to a new address, saw my daughter leave the nest and start out on her own at college.  I keep thinking of that wonderful song "Landslide", by Stevie Nicks, one of my favorite song writers "...can I sail through the changing ocean tide, can I handle the seasons of my life..." I find that humans are creatures of habit.  No matter how much we claim to thrive on change, when that change finally does arrive, we tend to greet it with trepidation, and sometimes even panic.  We like to settle down into our routines--some people call them ruts.  They give us comfort and assurance that all is right in our world.
But change is good.  Change allows us to thrive and grow, to test ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually.  Without change, we would stagnate and never move on beyond what we are and where we are.  So, like the dropping autumn leaves, I'm welcoming this change.  Though it may be scary, in the long run I know this change will bring out the best in me and those I love.

First Reading
  February 24, 2014 07:38AM

Well, it's finally happened.  I did my first reading last Friday night.  And to my surprise, I was an unexpected hit!  A friend of my sons' organized a poetry reading/art expo at a local restaurant and asked me if I would like to participate.  I balked at first.  It was a last minute request and I had nothing prepared.  But my sons pestered and begged and before I knew it,  I had to rush home from work early Friday afternoon and spend the next few hours nervously pacing my office and rehearsing the first chapter of "The Alicorn" and the poems I was to read--all the while wondering how I could have let these boys talk me into doing such a thing.
Needless to say, I was the oldest participant there.  Everyone else was in their late teens or early twenties and I felt awkward and out of place.  Why would these kids want to hear an old lady like me read her poems and novel?  But once I got up onto that podium, I was pleasantly surprised by their warm reception.  Not only that, but they really enjoyed my work.  I even brought one of the girls close to tears with "False Apocalypse", my homage to Michael Crawley.  I'm touched by their acceptance.  I didn't really think I could pull it off, but I did and looking back now, I'm glad I went through with it.  It may have been my first reading, but certainly it won't be my last.
But what delights me most about that experience is knowing how many young people out there are getting into the arts--be it painting, creative writing, and especially poetry.  It was a packed house, and toward the end of the evening, standing room only.  The crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative of every performer who took the stand, me included.  I'm so happy to know that poetry and artistic expression, contrary to popular belief, is not dead, especially not in the younger generation.  It is alive and thriving and these young people will help carry it on to the next generation and the next after that.  Poetry will live on so long as there are great kids like those I met Friday night to pass the torch.

RIP Mchael Crawley
  January 02, 2014 05:40PM

I received some very sad news today.  Michael Crawley, my dear friend and mentor, who for ten years has seen me through the publication of two books and countless articles, poems and short stories, passed away shortly before Christmas.  The news came as quite a shock.  Though he was not a young man nor was he in the best of health, his death was unexpected.  I last saw him in early November when the Georgetown Writers' Group convened for our monthly Saturday morning meeting at the library; he appeared winded, but still chipper and enthusiastic about the work we had done.  That was his way.  He rarely brought samples of his own work to our meetings, prefering instead to listen patiently as we read the fruits of our labors.  His advice was always sound, and he doled it out in equal measures of praise and criticism.  This was not a pat-on-the-back critique group laced with platitudes.  If what I had written needed work, sounded awkward, or was just plain bad, he let me know in no uncertain terms.  But that was what I loved about him.  He knew how to tap into my potential and egged me on to be the best writer I could be.  It was Michael who read my final draft of "The Alicorn" and offered some final advice before I submitted it to publishers.  I honestly believe I never would have gotten published if not for his encouragement, wisdom and guidance.  We were about halfway through the reading of the sequel to "The Alicorn" when he passed away and I regret he will not see the rest of it.  He'd given me invaluable advice so far.  It looks like I'm on my own now and I feel rather untethered and adrift.  What am I going to do now?  Who will I turn to when I need that extra push?  Who will tell me to stop wallowing in self pity and get my ass in that chair and start to write?  A part of me feels I will not be able to write again, at least not to the caliber that he inspired.
I know I'm not the only one who feels like this.  He was a great teacher and mentor to so many writers in the Brampton-Halton Hills area and he inspired so many of us.  He will be greatly missed, not just for his expertise with the written word, but for his kindness, patience and humanity.
Our final meeting will be next Saturday at the library.  His fiancee will be there in his stead and she will read to us the tremendous outpouring of condolences she has received.  I will need to bring a big box of tissues, perhaps two.  Afterwards, I will have to slip on my big girl panties, look myself in the mirror and tell myself this is it.  I am on my own.

The Unicorn's Release
  September 02, 2013 09:12AM

Well, it's finally happened.  After months of writing, submitting, rewriting, resubmitting, and then the inevitable days spent editing and proofing, my novel "The Alicorn" has finally gone "live" on Amazon and the website of Whiskey Creek Press.  To be honest, I was expecting a little more fanfare.  But it just seemed to slip quietly into the September line up of new releases.  Now comes the real hard work: the promotion.  I was never really one for blowing my own horn.  I am proud of all I have accomplished but I really hate boasting about it.  I'm more of the reclusive J.D. Salinger type of writer.  But then again, no one will know of my brilliance unless I tell them about it.  My first order of business will be organizing book signing at some local bookstores. (But first I have to wait for my shipment of books to arrive) Since "The Alicorn" is targeted toward adolescent girls, my daughter has spread the word among her friends.  Hopefully, that will boost the sales.  In the meantime, tell your friends, tell your relatives, tell your aunts and uncles and acquaintances, tell the folks at the office; tell people you don't even like.  "The Alicorn" is now available in e-book and paper format.  Hopefully it will be the next best thing since "The Wizard of Oz".

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