Learn With the Mesdames Part 5

The Student Turned Teacher by Rosemary McCracken

This is another in our series on Mesdames who teach and also learn along with their students. This month we feature Mme. Rosemary McCracken, author of the Pat Tierney series. Rosemary’s most recent book is”Raven Lake” and she is at work on a fourth book in the series. She is also the author of numerous short stories, including The Queen-sized Bed which will be included in the  2017 Bouchercon anthology,  A Passport to Murder.


Rosemary McCracken

I’m several weeks into teaching Novel Writing II: How to Develop Your Novel in George Brown College’s spring program, and it’s one of the best classes I’ve ever had. The course is designed for adult writers who have started or are seriously planning a novel. Most have taken the college’s Novel Writing I: How to Start Writing Your Novel or an equivalent. The current class is a perfect size: eight committed students. They’re tackling crime fiction, romance and women’s fiction. No vampires or post-apocalyptic works—just as I was getting quite attached to those vampires!

When I was a student…

What I find so cool about teaching novel writing at George Brown is that, back in the 1990s, I was one of these students. Up to that point, I’d dabbled in fiction writing, but I needed a big push to commit to learning the craft. Ironically, that push came in the form of a course on how to make sense of investments, financial statements and taxation.

I had just started an editing position on the news desk at the Financial Post, and it had been strongly suggested that I take the Canadian Securities Course, the first step in training to become a financial planner or an investment manager. It’s a gruelling course, especially if you have a full-time job. For six months, when I wasn’t at work I was seated at my dining room table working on assignments and studying for a marathon three-hour final examination. I became thoroughly sick of my seat at that table and my view of the dining room wall. But as the final exam loomed closer, I vowed that when it was all over I would continue sitting in that chair—but working on something I’d always wanted to do but never committed to: writing fiction.

The CSC exam was held in the spring of 1992. To celebrate the end of the course, I enrolled in a creative writing course at George Brown College that started the following week.

What Inspired Me

Over the next few years, I took several of the college’s writing courses: short story writing with Nancy Kilpatrick, novel writing with Caro Soles, mystery writing with the late John North and dialogue writing with Nika Rylski. All terrific teachers and I learned a lot from them. I even saw my first short story published in the Winter 1996 issue of Room of One’s Own magazine (now titled Room).

And Now a Teacher

In 2003, I returned to George Brown as an instructor, teaching writing for magazines. I left after two semesters to devote more time to writing fiction.

Last year, I returned again to teach Novel Writing II.

I look at my class this term and I remember how I felt as a George Brown student: hesitant and unsure, wondering if I was attempting something I wasn’t cut out for. But there was always the hope that I’d make it.

The publishing landscape has changed enormously since then. Publishers have merged and dissolved, and few major publishers accept new writers. But a number of small publishing houses have emerged in recent years, and self-publishing is now an option.

Writing requires a long-term commitment and a thick skin. I’ve seen many writers give up. Financial, family and health reasons prevent some from continuing to write. And many grow frustrated with having their submissions rejected by agents and publishers.

I address this in my class. I share stories from my writing journey. I tell my students to consistently do the work of writing their stories and novels, and not compare themselves with others who seem to be getting ahead more quickly. Every writer has his or her own pace, and some stories take longer to tell than others.

I tell them to set achievable goals for this class. I suggest they aim to complete their novel’s outline, write another 100 pages, and have five to eight pages critiqued in every class. That’s a lot of ground they can cover in 12 weeks.

Just as my teachers spurred me on, my job is to motivate my students to keep doing the work now and in the years ahead. Because that’s the way writers become authors.







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Mesdames on the Move-May 2017


For our upcoming anthology, 13 Claws, the Mesdames ran a contest for authors who had never before published a crime fiction story. We had a large number of quality entries so the decision was not easy.

We’re delighted to announce that the winning story is:

NIGHT VISION by Mary M. Patterson

The runners up:

 DANA’S CAT by Rosalind Place

THAT DAMN CAT by Marilyn Kay

All three stories will appear in 13 Claws – and we welcome Mary, Rosalind and Marilyn to a life of crime…writing!



The Arthur Ellis Award Gala

The biggest annual event for Canadian crime writers, the Arthur Ellis Award Gala, takes place on Thursday, May 25th at the Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm Street, Toronto.

The CWC annual general meeting will be held at 5 pm, followed by a reception at 6 pm. The awards banquet, where the winners of the 2016 Arthurs are announced, will begin at 7 pm.

Tickets are available through Crime Writers of Canada. Contact Vicky Blechta at info@crimewriterscanada.com


The Bony Blithe Minicon

The Bony Blithe Award was created by  Cheryl Freedman and Caro Soles to celebrate the best in Canadian light mysteries. This year’s winner will be announced on Friday, May 26th as part of a new all-day event, the Bony Blithe Minicon.


Caro Soles

Cheryl Freedman

Cheryl Freedman

The Bony Blithe Minicon will feature panels, discussion groups, loot bags and good eats. The fun begins at 11 am and runs through to 9 pm at the High Park Club, 100 Indian Rd, Toronto.

The winner of the 2016 Bony Blithe award will be announced over dinner.

Mmes Jane Burfield, M. H. Callway, Melodie Campbell and Rosemary McCracken have already registered and are ready to party! Tickets are available through the Bony Blithe website here.


Publication and Author News

Rosemary McCracken

Melodie Campbell

Big congratulations to Rosemary McCracken! Her story, The Queen-sized Bed, will appear in this year’s Bouchercon Anthology, A Passport to Murder.

And Melodie Campbell’s launch of her latest Goddaughter adventure, the Bootlegger’s Goddaughter, was a smash success. Mel donated all her book sales proceeds for the evening to the Hamilton Literary Council.

The best reward: two formerly illiterate women who had learned to read via the literacy council, read a section of dialogue from Mel’s new book. Mel presented each of the ladies with a full set of Goddaughter novellas .


Lisa De Nikolits

Mme Lisa De Nikolits received exciting news this week: in November she will be the Writer in Residence for Open Book Toronto.

Lisa will focus on 16 Shades of Noir, where together with fellow crime writers, she’ll examine noir crime fiction from its origins to  modern day interpretations.



Events and Readings

M. H. Callway

On Thursday, May 18th, 6:30 pm,. the Mesdames are welcomed back to Mt. Pleasant Library, 599 Mt. Pleasant Rd, Toronto for an evening of crime fiction! Mmes Rosemary Aubert, M. H. Callway, Mel Campbell and Lisa De Nikolits will be reading from their latest books and discussing Canadian crime fiction with mystery fans.

Catherine Astolfo

Cathy Astolfo

Cathy Dunphy

On Tuesday, May 30th, 2 pm, the Mesdames pay their first visit to the Beaches Library, 2161 Queen Street East, Toronto. The event was organized by Catherine Dunphy who will be moderating the panel: Catherine Astolfo, M. H. Callway, Lisa De Nikolits and Rosemary McCracken.


More News

And an sneak preview of June – another very busy month. M. H. Callway, Rosemary McCracken and Caro Soles will be attending authors at Limestone Expo in Kingston, Ontario, June 3rd and 4th. Limestone Expo celebrates all genre writing from romance, crime,  fantasy, speculative fiction and horror. This year both Crime Writers of Canada and Sisters in Crime will have booths  to celebrate crime fiction.

For more information on registering for Limestone Expo use this link here.



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Learn With the Mesdames Part 4: A Pleasant Summer Sojourn!

Summer Learning: A Most Pleasant Sojourn 

By Rosemary Aubert

This is another in our series of blogs by Mesdames who teach and also learn, along with their students. This month we feature Mme. Rosemary Aubert, author of the acclaimed  Ellis Portal series. Rosemary is a two-time winner of the Arthur Ellis award for crime fiction, winning in both the novel and short story categories. A collection of her short stories, The Midnight Boat to Palermo, was published in the fall of 2016  by Carrick Publishing.

For ten years I had the pleasure of conducting a course on novel writing in the summer. It was an intense all-day, five-day workshop for “mature” students in a community college near a small Ontario city surrounded by beautiful waterways, rural landscapes and romantic islands. Students stayed on campus at residences and often met for breakfast, lunch, and at least on one evening of the week, for a special dinner shared with students studying other subjects, such as art.

Among the many teaching experiences I have had, which began over fifty years ago when I was a twenty-year old teaching religious instruction, this experience was surely one of the best. Not only were the learners extremely eager, but the atmosphere was just the right combination of serious and casual. We wore leisure clothes, we gathered around a table to teach and learn, we shared coffees… It was great.

Of course, I learned a great deal about what is required to make such a comfortable atmosphere of maximum benefit to my students.

What are the main challenges in teaching mature students?

Here are a few things I discovered:

  • People who engage in vacation learning have looked forward to your course it for a long time—often from one summer to the next in the same way as people look forward to their single week at the cottage. For this reason, it’s essential to understand that expectations must be clear from the course advertising and that those expectations must be met or exceeded so that there is no disappointment.


  • Many of these students have very limited time to spend on their learning and they’ve chosen to spend it with you, so you’ll want them to feel that their time is well spent.


  • Unlike school and university students, these students are primarily customers, and like all customers, they expect to get what they pay for, and the provider must expect active resistance if they don’t get it!


  • Unlike school students, adult learners are equals with each other and with you. This has to be borne in mind in order to elicit the confidence necessary in the adult teacher-student relationship.


What strategies work really well?

I have always found that highly interactive teaching methods have worked best with adult learners. We sit around a table, we discuss material when it’s presented by the teacher, we engage in questions, opinion-sharing and debate. This means the teacher must be fully familiar with all aspects of topics presented but must also be willing to learn a thing or two once in a while!

 Such a highly interactive method of teaching guarantees that the topics studied are those most interesting to the students. However, the teacher must always have a definite plan that can be steered back toward. You always have to be aware of keeners, know-it-alls, and would-be executives who try to steer the other students toward their objectives rather than yours.


What is the best advice for teachers of mature students?

 It pays to be really nice but to always clearly know what your objective is and what you want your students to be thinking about. Sort of like a real estate agent…

 A successful teaching/learning experience only requires two things: One who knows and one who wants to.

 I can’t think of anywhere where you would be more likely to encounter this situation than in a well-prepared short summer course for adult learners.




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Mesdames on the Move–April, 2017


 Arthur Ellis Finalist

The  biggest night of the year for  Crime Writers of Canada (next to the Arthur Ellis banquet itself) will take place Thursday, April 20th when the shortlist for this year’s Arthur Ellis Awards will be announced. In Toronto the event will take place at Chapters/Indigo Bookstore, 2300 Yonge St., at Yonge and Eglinton, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Simultaneous events will take place in  five other Canadian cities.

The Toronto evening will begin with readings from crime writers, including Mme. Lisa de Nikolits. Lisa will read from her latest novel, The Nearly Girl. The nominees will be announced in our May blog and the awards will be presented at the Arthur Ellis Awards banquet, Thursday, May 25th, to be held at the Arts and Letters Club, 14 Elm St., Toronto.



Mme Cheryl Freedman sends us this message:

Cheryl Freedman

Cheryl Freedman

The Bony Blithe Shortlist!

Hey, all you fans of cozies, capers, and light mysteries! Mark your calendars for Thursday, April 13, when the 2017 Bony Blithe Award shortlist will be announced.


And set aside Friday, May 26, for the Second Annual Bony Blithe Minicon & Award Dinner. Bony Blithe’s tribute to the late, great Bloody Words will be even bigger and better this year with the event running from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.  – 10 full hours of merry mayhem – at the High Park Club in Toronto. Lunch, dinner, panels, dealers room, and more are all included in the $65 registration fee.

We’re in full planning mode for the minicon right now. More details about registration and the event itself coming soon. Our new Website is currently under construction, so like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bonyblithe/. We’ll post info there and let you know when our new Website is up.



Rosemary McCracken

Tuesday, April 11th, Mme Rosemary McCracken’s creative writing class, Novel II, begins at George Brown College. The course runs through to June 27th. If you want to learn the tools and secrets of successful novel writers, this course is a must. You may use this link to register.



Rosemary Aubert

Thursday, April 20th will be a busy day for  Mesdames Rosemary Aubert , Lisa de Nikolits, Rosemary McCracken and M. H. Callway, who  will be reading at the Coxwell / Danforth Library, 1675 Danforth Ave. at 2:00 p.m.  Then it’s off to the Arthur Ellis Shortlist announcement in the evening.


Lisa de Nikolits

 Wednesday, April 26th, Mme Lisa de Nikolits will appear again with the East End Writers’ Group at S. Walter Stewart Library, 170 Memorial Park Ave., East York. Meetings run from 7:00 to 9:15 pm. Writer Sharon Crawford is the chairman of the group.


 On Sunday, April 30th, the Mesdames will have their own big announcement–the winner(s) of the short story contest for best unpublished mystery writer(s). The story or stories will appear in the Mesdames new anthology, 13 Claws.



This year’s Authors For Indies, where Canadian authors help out at independent bookstores, will be held on Saturday April 29th. Mme. Melodie Campbell, will be at A Different Drummer Bookstore, 513 Locust St., Burlington at 4:30pm.

Note: The launch date for Melodie’s latest book, The Bootlegger’s Goddaughter, has been rescheduled for April 18th at the Ancaster Branch, Hamilton PL,

Mme Lisa de Nikolits will be at Book City in the Beaches, 1950 Queen Street East, from 11:00 till noon.  Mme. M. H. Callway  will be at the Village Bookshop, Main Street, Bayfield, Huron County painting bookshelves and chatting to customers!

Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell

M. H. Callway


Caro’s new novel, A FRIEND OF MR. NIJINSKY, is now available as an ebook and the print edition will be out in April! The novel takes us back to 1916 in New York City.

Young man about town, Morgan Vanheusen, is not a big ballet fan, but when the great Nijinsky arrives in New York in 1916, he is stunned by the mesmerizing performance of the brilliant dancer. So intrigued is he that he braves his father’s wrath by helping the dancer steal away from his family’s estate during a charity event. An unlikely alliance blossoms and Morgan becomes known as ‘a friend of Mr. Nijinsky’. Suddenly doors open for him and he grabs the opportunity to get back to racing the motorcars he loves. But as the young American is drawn in to Nijinsky’s paranoid world, he is pulled into a murder investigation and discovers a side of his city he never knew existed. Then his sister is kidnapped by a mad Russian and only his new ‘friend’ can save her. Can Morgan count on the eccentric dancer to rescue his sister?

What they are saying:

In 1916, New York City quivered on the brink of the modern era. With elegant prose and exquisite period detail, Caro Soles transports the reader back to that complex world, weaving a subtle, utterly enchanting story of betrayal and murder amid the swirl of debutante soirees, motorcar racing, Russian ballet, and social upheaval. —Barbara Fradkin, award-winning mystery author.

A hundred years after Nijinsky’s arrival in New York, Caro Soles serves up a heady, high-octane cocktail of intrigue, death, and desire with this novel about a secret chapter of the dancer’s career. A racy read, in every sense of the word. —Steven Saylor, author of Roma: The Novel of Ancient Rome.


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Learn With the Mesdames Part 3: The Accidental Teacher

This continues our series by Mesdames who teach. This month we feature Mme. Sylvia Warsh, who writes about her experiences working with seniors. Sylvia is the author of the Dr. Rebecca Temple series. Her novel Find Me Again won an Edgar award. Her short story, The Emerald Skull, featured in Thirteen, (Carrick Publishing) was nominated for an Arthur.



How did you become a teacher?

I never intended to teach, and at the start, had to be persuaded. I had inadvertently become the facilitator at the Forest Hill Writers who met Saturday mornings at the Forest Hill Library in the 1970s, then moved to Barbara Frum Library for the ‘80s and ‘90s. This was a workshop group of a dozen or so who read their work aloud, and sometimes devolved into tangents and conversation that, though interesting, would divert us from the feedback we all wanted. I must have been the most impatient one, because at some point, I began asking people to move along and became the de facto facilitator.

A lovely older woman named Cecile Jackson, who was part of that group, told me that she also attended a creative writing class at a seniors’ centre and that their teacher was leaving. She asked me if I wanted to apply for the job. I told her I was a writer, not a teacher and I wouldn’t know what to do. She said I was already doing the same thing at our meetings and that I would be fine.

Tell us how your teaching career evolved.

The Bernard Betel Centre for Creative Living turned out to be a lively place with a hands-on coordinator who was committed to keeping the creative writing class going. I had to become an employee of the Toronto District School Board and eventually join a union.

I spent a lot of time preparing lessons and finding anthologies from which the students could read good stories to see what they were aiming for. We would spend part of the three hour class time taking up their assignments and part studying a story. After a while, the Wagman Centre at Baycrest and the Overland seniors centre asked if I could take over their writing classes.

For my first 15 years of teaching, a fair number of Holocaust survivors came to my class, wanting to write their memoirs. These were remarkable people who had been through hell and wanted to be witnesses to what they had seen and experienced. Six of them went on to publish books. Demand has fallen since then, the down side of teaching seniors who are more prone to illness and mobility issues; three hours have become two. I have lost many students over the years, and I only teach at the Betel centre these days.

What is a typical class for your seniors?

Mostly, people come to the class in order to keep their minds active. Work out their little grey cells. I don’t lecture in class, but run it as a workshop. I give a short lesson on various points of writing: how flaws make a character real in a story, or how to jump right into the action at the beginning of a piece, or the pros and cons of different points of view. Then I assign an exercise for them to work on at home.

Most of the class is taken up with the students reading his/her assignment out loud, then discussion with feedback. If someone brings poetry, I ask them to bring copies for everyone so they can better understand and critique it. Some people will bring in longer prose and give me a copy which I mark up while they read.

I’m always on the hunt for interesting books on writing from which I can glean tips for future lessons and assignments. I have found over the years that though talent is innate, writing skills can be taught. People’s writing will improve if they are willing to work at it.

What have been your biggest rewards in teaching?

My greatest satisfaction comes when a student says they’ve learned a lot in my class. In the process of teaching various aspects of writing—having to break down lessons into sections on character, setting, point of view, dialogue, use of strong verbs, etc.—I have learned along with them. I used to write by the seat of my pants, but now I have a better idea of where the controls are.

Some of my students have been with me for 20 years. I have heard all about their families and their childhoods from their writing and I feel great affection for them. Many have met with tragedies, have lost siblings and babies when young, and in their elder years, spouses. Yet they carry on and entertain themselves (and me) with their writing. I’ve learned that each person is a unique library of experiences and knowledge that will never be reproduced. Each person has something important to say.


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Mesdames on the Move -March 2017 – An Update


Only 5 days to submit your crime fiction story to 13 Claws. The deadline for submissions by authors previously unpublished in crime fiction is March 15, 2017.  Check the tab on this website for submission rules!


Mme Lisa De Nikolits shares the details on her upcoming salon event at Mt. Pleasant Library on Thursday, March 30th at 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

And earlier on the same day, Mt. Pleasant Library, one of the Mesdames’ big supporters, celebrates its 25th anniversary from 2:00 to 6:00 pm with an open house and refreshments!

Good things all happen at once and on the same day we have the first new book launch of 2017 in Ancaster. See below!




The Mesdames are delighted to announce the first new book of 2017, The Bootlegger’s Goddaughter, by our Queen of Comedy, Melodie Campbell.

Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell

Mel’s launch will be held on Thursday, March 30th at the Ancaster Branch of the Hamilton Public Library, 300 Wilson St. East, Ancaster, at 7 pm. This will be a fun evening with readings and a prize for best mob costume.

Mel is a great supporter of adult literacy and all the book sale proceeds will go to the Hamilton Literacy Council. This is a fabulous event not to be missed!



Spring is definitely in the air with lots of events and readings this month.

Lynne Murphy

Lynne Murphy

Catherine Dunphy

Cathy Dunphy

Rosemary McCracken

Rosemary McCracken

Lisa de Nikolits

Lisa de Nikolits







Tuesday, March 7th, 7 pm  – Mmes M. H. Callway, Lisa De Nikolits, Catherine Dunphy, Rosemary McCracken and Lynne Murphy visit the St. Lawrence Branch of the Toronto Public Library at 171 Front St East for readings and a panel discussion.

Thursday, March 9th, 2 pm – Mme M. H. Callway gives her workshop on How to get Published at Wychwood Branch, TPL, 1431 Bathurst St., Toronto.

Jane Petersen Burfield

Jane Petersen Burfield


M. H. Callway








Thursday, March 16th to Sunday, March 19th – Mmes. Jane Burfield and M.H. Callway will be attending Honolulu Havoc, Left Coast Crime 2017 in beautiful Hawaii!  They are both delighted with their panel assignments. Friday, March 17th, Jane will be on the short story panel, Compact and Powerful. Saturday, March 18th, Madeleine will be on the thriller panel, The Gorgeous Outdoors, Rugged and Dangerous.

 On Thursday, March 16th, Jane and Madeleine join fellow Canadian crime writers  Cathy Ace, Robin Donald, Marilee Robson and Loreth Anne White in hosting an author – reader event celebrating CANADIAN crime fiction!

They promise a write-up of their fun and celebrations when they return from the tropics.



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LEARN WITH THE MESDAMES PT.2: Scary Stuff, Kids! Tips on Talking to Schoolchildren



The deadline for submissions by authors previously unpublished in crime fiction  to 13 Claws is barely a month away on March 15, 2017.  Check the tab on this website for submission rules!


M. H. Callway

M. H. Callway

This week, Mme M. H. Callway reports on her latest adventure: presenting her thriller, Windigo Fire to a classroom of Grade 8 students. You have to stay scared to stay sharp. Here she shares some tips on staying ahead of the class!

How did this adventure come about?

Our good friend, Steve, approached me about doing a talk at his son’s school.  I said yes then thought: what did I just do? What’s scarier than facing sixty 13-year-olds trapped in library class. Well, erm, nothing!

 Steve’s son, Francis, had picked my novel, Windigo Fireas his Canadian novel for his school book report. His English teacher, Ken, read it and loved it – and so did some of Francis’s classmates. When Ken  invited me to meet his students to talk about my book and the life of a writer, I couldn’t say anything but YES!

12000831_10154197942864018_1649104801334232488_oI was a little worried that I might be playing Officer Stodenko to Ken’s Sister Mary Elephant (see Cheech and Chong in Wikipedia, younger readers), but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had as an author. Good thing though that I could draw on my experience as a retired management consultant doing focus groups, seminars, sales pitches, etc. and winning over skeptical clients.




Here are some observations and tips for the unwary author embarking on their first school talk:

  • Kids are smart, Marv!

Remember how Harry and Marv, the two bungling burglars were outwitted by 8 year old Kevin in the movie comedy, Home Alone? Because the burglars thought kids were stupid. Do not underestimate the tough, intelligent and insightful questions kids will throw at you. They have no qualms about asking you how much money you made on your book, why you write for so little money, why you let publishers tell you what to do, why you don’t just self-publish and so forth. 

Tip: Be prepared for hard-nosed questions and have your answers ready!

  • Break the ice early!

There’s nothing worse than a disinterested audience. Silence is deadly. Kids are shy at first. After all, you’re a grown-up and a figure of authority. I broke the ice right away by asking the class who wanted to be a writer. Who was working on a book right now? It didn’t take long to unleash a flood of questions.

Tip: Break the ice by asking about their writing. And ask about their favorite books.

  • It’s all about respect!

From the kids’ point of view anyone over 25 is O-L-D. At the same time, kids respect anyone who really knows their stuff, is confident and doesn’t talk down to them. Assure the kids that you value their opinions and that you consider every question they throw at you to be a valid one.

I found that making the session an interactive one worked really well. Lectures don’t work in our digital world where attention spans are short. I bled the info out to them by answering “long” to certain questions like: “Who decides what your book cover will look like?” And occasionally, I tossed a question back to them.  For example, they asked “How did J. K. Rawlings get rich?” So I asked them what they thought. It surprised them that they already knew the answer. (Hint: It’s movie rights.)

Tip: Try to answer every single question. A challenging question often leads to a good discussion.

Tip: Make the session interactive and keep the lecture part short.

  • Learning is a 2-way street!

You will learn as much from the kids as they do from you. I learned that they read almost exclusively on I-pads. E-readers are passe, but printed books are still cool.

I never dreamed that Windigo Fire could work as a YA read, but the kids loved it. But then I realized that my protagonist, Danny is young and my second protagonist, Rachel is a 10-year-old kid. To my surprise, their favorite character was Santa, one of the villains. I really enjoyed giving Santa a hard time when I wrote the book – he fails at driving a Prius and he’s outfoxed by Rachel – and the kids did, too.  It was a no-brainer which section I chose to read to them.

Tip: Keep an open mind and you will be happily surprised by what you will learn.

Tip: Give students a choice about which pages you read.

  • The teacher is your best friend!

One reason my visit worked so well was because of Ken, the teacher. We planned the session together and he kept things moving by throwing in a comment or a question. Teachers can also rein in some of the more extroverted students.  Ken is working on a children’s book so it was great to meet and exchange information with another writer.

Tip: Plan your visit with the teacher beforehand.

At the end of my talk, the students presented me with a wonderful card they had all signed and a keepsake globe. A new world really awaits.


Students card











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Mesdames on the Move February 2017

Friday, Feb.3  Speed Dating for Writers and Librarians !   

The Ontario Library Association will be holding its Super Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, 255 Front St. West. A bevy of Mesdames will be appearing during the Crime Writers of Canada event beginning at 1:00 p.m. Mesdames M. H.  Callway, Lisa de Nikolits, Melodie Campbell and Rosemary McCracken will each have two minutes to tell the librarians about their  most recently published books or  novels in the works. Let’s hope many successful relationships ensue.


M. H. Callway

Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell






Lisa De Nikolits

Rosemary McCracken

Rosemary McCracken







13 Claws is Coming!


A friendly reminder about our contest for previously unpublished crime writers. The deadline for entries is only six weeks away on March 15, 2017.   See this website for submission details.

The winner or winners will have their stories published in our upcoming third anthology, 13 Claws.


Readings and Events!

Sunday, Feb. 19th, Lisa de Nikolits will be taking part in the prose reading series, Junction Reads, at 392 Pacific Ave., Toronto. The event begins at 5:00 p.m. Lisa will be reading from her latest book, The Nearly Girl.

Thursday, Feb 16th  Two great events are happening on this date and several of the Mesdames will be in attendance at both.

Sisters in Crime, Toronto Chapter welcome award-winning author, Kelley Armstrong creator of five supernatural series and a new crime fiction series, featuring Casey Butler. Meeting at Northern District Branch, TPL, Room 200, 40 Orchard View Blvd., 7 pm. There is a $5.00 charge for non-members.

The first 2017 Noir at the Bar Toronto takes place at 7 pm at the Wallace Gastropub, 1954 Yonge St at Davisville. Features readings by six leading crime writers, including Peter Rozovsky, the founder of Noir at the Bar who is visiting from Philadelphia.


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Learn With the Mesdames No. 1

Over the next few months we will be publishing a series of blogs from Mesdames who write and also teach writing. This month we feature our Queen of Comedy, Mme. Melodie Campbell, author of the Goddaughter mysteries.


Vegetables for Authors – or Why I Teach Writing

Melodie Campbell

Melodie Campbell

It all started in 1992. I’d won a couple of crime fiction awards, and the local college came calling. Did I want to come on faculty, and teach in the writing program? Hell, yes! (Pass the scotch.)

Over the years, I continued to teach fiction writing, but also picked up English Lit, Marketing (my degree) and a few odd ones, like Animation and Theatre. Such is the life of an itinerant college prof. (Pass the scotch.)

Twenty-four years later, I’m a full-time author. Except for Wednesday nights, when I put on my mask, don a cape, and turn into SUPER TEACH! (Okay, ‘Crazy Author Prof.’ Too much time alone at a keyboard can be scary. Pass the scotch.)

Why do I do it?   As another term lurks ever nearer, I decided to ask myself that question. And give a completely honest answer. Here goes:

  1. It’s not the Money

Hey buddy, can you spare a dime? Part time profs in Canada are poorly paid. I’m top rate, at $45 an hour. I’m only paid for my time in the classroom (3 hours a week). For every hour in the classroom, I spend at least two hours prepping and marking. We don’t get paid for that. At end of term, I spend several days evaluating manuscripts. We don’t get paid for that either. This means I am getting paid less than minimum wage. So I’m not doing it for the money.

2.   It’s not all those Book Sales

I found this alarming, but other authors since then have said the same. They teach a workshop and students beg for feedback on their manuscripts. But they don’t buy the teacher’s books. Not even one. I find this bizarre, because I would want to see how the instructor practices what she preaches. Bemusement aside, I’m careful in my classes not to pressure students in any way to buy my books. They’ve paid money for the course and that’s enough. My point is: if you think by teaching a course, you are going to get an avalanche of book sales, think again.

Years ago, an author gal more published than I was at the time said a peculiar thing to me:  “Aspiring writers don’t buy books.”

So why the heck do you do it, Mel? That’s time you could invest in writing your own books…


3.   It takes me Back to First Principles

I teach all three terms. Every four months, I am reminded about goal/motivation/conflict. Three act structure. Viewpoint rules. Creating compelling characters. Teaching “Crafting a Novel” forces me to constantly evaluate my own work, as I do my students’. It’s like vegetables for authors. In other words, good for me.

4.   It’s the People

As well, you meet people from different professions…doctors, lawyers, salesmen and women, bank officers, government workers, labourers, grad students, Starbucks baristas, roofers, police, firefighters, chefs, paramedics. I have my own list of people to call on when I need to do research.

Getting to know people other than your own crowd (in my case, other writers) is extremely valuable for an author. You’re not merely guessing how others different from you may think…you actually know people who are different. This helps you create diverse characters in your fiction who come alive.

By far, the most valuable thing about teaching a night course year after year is it allows me to mix with people who would not normally be part of my crowd. Adult students of all ages and backgrounds meet up in my classrooms, and many are delightful. I’ve treasured the varied people I’ve met through the years, and keep in touch with many of them.

5.    It’s good for my Soul

No question, my life is richer through teaching fiction writing, even if my bank account is not.

Students take my writing course for all sorts of reasons. Some take it for a college course credit. Some take it for interest, as they might take photography or cooking classes. Some need an escape from dreary jobs, and a writing class can provide that escape, if only temporarily. But many actually do hope to become authors like I am. And when I connect with one of them, and can help them on their way, it is magic. There is no greater high.

Melodie teaches Crafting a Novel at Sheridan College in Oakville. Courses start in September, January and April. Here’s the link. 

And you can help Melodie’s bank account by buying her humorous books, like The Goddaughter Caper. This will keep her from writing dreary novels that will depress us all. Pass the scotch.

More good news from Melodie!

Join me and the Hamilton Literacy Council on March 30th for the launch of Book 5 in the award-winning Goddaughter Caper series, THE BOOTLEGGER’S GODDAUGHTER! Celebrate more antics of Gina and Nico, in this multi-award-winning series set in Hamilton. Details of the launch to come.

And here’s the teaser:

Do old mobsters ever really retire? Not in HAMILTON!

When a transport truck full of unidentified booze is hijacked, Gina and Nico work feverishly to keep the latest bungled family caper under wraps. But the police are closing in. And once again, everything points to the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home in THE BOOTLEGGER’S GODDAUGHTER.



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Mesdames on the Move-Jan. 2017

It’s 2017! How did that happen?

Lynne Murphy

Lynne Murphy

The Mesdames of Mayhem are getting back to work after a holiday break,  teaching classes, appearing on panels and encouraging the public to read more books.  We hope everyone gave and received lots of books this year. If not, we have suggestions for you–just go to our blog of November 30th, 2016 HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM THE MESDAMES.

Several of the Mesdames have new books coming out this year. In February, Mme Melodie Campbell will launch the latest book in her fabulous comedy series,  The Bootlegger’s Goddaughter (Orca Books) followed by Worst Date Ever in September. (Also by Orca Books) Mme Lisa De Nikolits is finalizing the edits on her thrilling new book with Inanna Publications, No Fury Like That.  And Mme Caro Soles will be bringing out a new novel later this year. More details in our upcoming blogs.

130926-scary-catWe’re very excited that the Mesdames third anthology, 13 Claws, will be published by Carrick Publishing in September.  To encourage new authors, we have a contest for writers previously unpublished in crime fiction. The winner(s) will have their story published in our anthology. For contest rules, click on the above tab on this website.

This year promises to be a busy one with Bouchercon 2017 hosted here at home in Toronto and many upcoming appearances by the Mesdames. Meanwhile here’s where you can see and hear the Mesdames this month.

Tuesday, January 10th

Rosemary McCracken

Rosemary McCracken

Mme Rosemary McCracken,  is once again teaching her class,  Novel Writing II: How to Develop Your Novel at George Brown College, beginning Tuesday, January 10th. Mme. Rosemary writes the popular Pat Tierney seriesRaven Lake is her newest. To register follow the link here.


Lisa at Albert Campbell Local Authors Night

Also on January 10th, at 10 am, Mme Lisa de Nikolits, whose most recent book, The Nearly Girl, has received great reviews,  will be interviewed by Fran Lewis at 10 a.m. on her program  “Books”. To hear the podcast follow the link here.


Thursday, January 19th

Another busy day for the Mesdames!!

Mme Lisa will be appearing in Peterborough, Thursday, January 19th as part of a program called Women Write the City, at Theatre on King, 159 King St.  at 7 p.m. There is a charge of $10 or pwyc.



D. J. McIntosh

D. J. McIntosh

In Toronto, on the same day,  January 19th, at 7 p.m. Mme D.J. McIntosh will be part of a panel called “The Suspense is Killing Me” at the regular meeting of the Toronto Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Meetings are held at the Northern District branch, TPL, 40 Orchard View Blvd. Dorothy is the author of the highly successful Mesopotamian trilogy. Mme. Lynne Murphy will be moderator for the panel and the other participants are writers Steve Shrott and Jennifer Soosar. There is a five dollar charge for non-members of SinC.


Monday, January 23rd

dsc_7588Monday, January 23d, Mme. M.H. Callway will present her workshop on “How to get Published” at 6 p.m. at the Pape/Danforth Branch, TPL, 701 Pape Ave., Toronto.

Madeleine is also embarking on a new adventure on January 19th when she will be meeting fans of her debut thriller, Windigo Fire, at James Robinson Public School in Markham, Ontario.  Students have studied her book in English class as an example of Canadian literature.



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