Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jumpstarting Your Creativity Workshop

Zohra, Ivy and Peta-Gaye chumming in the Sultan's tent...
Last Saturday I facilitated a workshop called “Jumpstarting Your Creativity” in Mississauga organized by poet and publisher of In Our Words Inc. Cheryl Antao-Xavier. Cheryl and husband Allan had kindly offered their back patio as the venue and hosted the workshop as part of a wonderful “High Tea”. I entered the large netted gazebo—filled with antique chairs and a table of fresh fruit, samosas, canapés and cheeses—feeling like I’d stepped into a Sultan’s tent.

Cheryl brought together an impressively
Ceilidh, Bala and Shalini enjoying the food and drink
diverse and talented group of local writers—published and unpublished—who represented a wide range in writing genre, theme, style and cultural background.

Vicki Bismilla
Dr. Vicki Bismilla, born in South Africa into a family dedicated to the anti-apartheid movement, had recently launched her book Forbidden/Verboten with IOWI and is currently working on another work with a similar theme.

Ben Antao, who wrote for The Globe and Mail, has published
Ben Antao
several memoirs (e.g., Images of Goa and Goa,A Rediscovery) on his early life and experiences in his native Goa as well as several novels and short stories.

Peta-Gaye Nash is a short story writer who published a collection of short stories entitled 'I too Hear the Drums' and four children’s books through IOWI. She is currently working on a creative non-fiction short collection about her native Jamaica. 

Zohra Zoberi recently published her collection of poems True Colours with IOWI. A self-professed “citizen of the world”, she is currently working on a memoir of her adventurous journeys around the world. Jasmine Sawant and Shalini are writing contemporary and historical fiction based on political intrigue, culture and family, and calamitous events in Mumbai.

Jasmine and Mostafa discuss dreams...
Mostafa Dini, who just completed a five-volume series on neuroscience and brain function, is writing a book on dreams.

Konrad Brinck is writing a humorous slice-of-life short story collection; Ceilidh Barrett writes science fiction (my genre) short stories; Ivy Reiss, who coordinates the Oakville Literary Café, and Bala Menon, published author and publisher of Tamarind Tree Books Inc. are writing literary fiction in the short and long form. Mike Ghatine's book 'Secrets of Driving and Automobile Care' is being published by IOWI in print and ebook form. He is creating a collection of non-fiction anecdotes, philosophical meditations and sage advice on driving a truck in Ontario’s rural back country. A kind of “Zen of Truck Maintenance” book that intrigues me greatly. His wife Flanda shared that she was hoping to write a history book on her Babylonian culture. Cheryl Antao-Xavier has published two collections of poetry and will shortly release her first children's book based on the theme of integration and acceptance. 

I was impressed by the great range in creative pursuit and the depth of talent represented by these accomplished authors.
The Sultan's Tent before the crowd...

I helped myself to Cheryl’s exquisite samosas, other dishes and dark chocolate Petite Ecoliers before embarking. Then I asked each author to introduce his or her current work-in-progress. I prompted them into places where they were having issues and we just worked through them: whether it was storyboarding, plot, beginning and ending, finding the muse, doing research, defining "truth" or achieving historical vs. personal accuracy, organizing non-fiction hierarchy, defining character arc, or revealing mirrored protagonist vs. antagonist plotlines ... etc. we delved deeply. I brought my flip charts and we triaged each work and everyone braved my indecipherable scrawl with generous smiles.

Cheryl Antao-Xavier
The feedback from participants has been heartwarming!

Cheryl said to me:  “Your new middle name is PowerHouse Triager!” 

Marinella Antao said: I had a great time at the presentation on Saturday. I was not expecting to participate, but it was so interesting that I couldn’t stop myself. It really cheered me up and inspired and energized me to pursue my hobbies.

Thanks again, Marinella

Mike and Flanda Ghatine wrote: I would like to thank you for inviting us, it was very educational for us. Hope we'll have more workshops.

Vicki Bismilla wrote: Thank you Nina and thank you to all of you. Each of you taught me something!! Vicki

Konrad and Jackie Brinck: Thank you, Cheryl and Allan, for putting this workshop together and for the hospitality and the delicious food. I had a great time and learned quite a few things. Konrad

Zohra Zoberi wrote: Thank you so much for yesterday. Nina was terrific.

Ivy Reiss wrote:

Dear Cheryl and Nina,

Thanks so much for an inspiring and insightful evening! It was fun and in-depth, and I think it really channeled many people into recognizing the directions they wanted to take with their writing. It also helped me pinpoint where I am in regards to my plot and structure approaches as well, which was very helpful.

Thanks again for inviting me. And a special thank you to Cheryl for opening up her home, and making the environment so welcoming and comfortable (as usual!).

Best wishes,


Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visitwww.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.

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