BOOK LAUNCH of OFF HIGHWAY: JOURNEYS OF NOVA SCOTIA WRITERS on Saturday, December 9, at 2:00 p.m., at Just Us! Café, 5896 Spring Garden Road, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Books are $15.00.  Also for sale on Amazon
Off Highway Front Cover FINAL (1)

Write-up from the Chronicle Herald newspaper:

Members of the Evergreen Writers Group come together from all walks of life. The group serves to motivate and encourage each other to greater efforts and accomplishments.

The group’s members come from all over the Halifax and Dartmouth area and have various levels of writing experience. They also have, as they say on their website, “… interests in almost any genre, from historical fiction and memoirs to mysteries and science fiction.” Among their ranks are poets, short story writers, novelists and playwrights.

The group can trace its origins back to a creative writing course held by Russell Barton in 2012. The course was held at Evergreen House, part of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum, and the name seemed rather appropriate.

Almost all of the 12 members of the course wrote a short story for the group’s first anthology, Out of the Mist, which was self-published in 2014 after two years of hard work. The anthology was a collection of ghost stories — some real and some fictional — all based in Atlantic Canada.

“Writing is like therapy. It helps you deal with issues. It’s like a form of release,” said Paul Bourgeois, one member of the group.

Tom Robson, a Yorkshireman who came over to Nova Scotia in the early 1970s and fell in love with the province, has a subtly different take.

“It is a hobby with a product and I feel the product should be shared. It takes courage to open yourself up and become vulnerable, but by doing so you improve the product. That’s another benefit of working together as a group.”

The group provides social benefits to its members, but it also spurs them on to write more — and provides a forum for them to present their efforts to each other.

The group’s second anthology, Off Highway: Journeys of Nova Scotia Writers, is a collection of short stories and poems linked together through the theme of a journey, either literally or metaphorically. It was published recently and will be formally launched at two separate events coming up.

The first will be at the Just Us! Cafe, located at 5896 Spring Garden Rd., on Dec. 9 at 2 p.m. The second launch event will be at the Alderney Gate Public Library (main level) on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m.

Judi Risser, who took the cover photographs for the new anthology, said, “I consider writing to be an art form and we all have a need to self-express and to connect. We share that connection with others.”

The foreword of the new anthology is by acclaimed author Lesley Choyce, a U.S.-born author who has lived in Nova Scotia for many years and is the creator of more than 80 books, including novels, non-fiction and poetry.

Both anthologies by the Evergreen Writers Group are completely self-made and are available on and in some gift shops.

The Evergreen Writers Group meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month and new members are always welcome. To learn more, visit


It’s Out

It’s Out


Tom Robson.

At some stage in their creative life, almost all writers tell themselves “I have a novel inside me, somewhere”. Some make a public pronouncement and continue to do so for a number of years, or even decades. Others bury this dream deep inside and hope that one of their efforts will be completed and will survive editing, proofing, suggested alterations and rewrites and the criticisms of those with whom they share early drafts.

Many writers start, but give up on their definitive novel. Their dreams are confounded by the many pitfalls awaiting the would-be novelist. The story that they want to tell becomes too convoluted and inconsistencies of plot or relationships are impossible to resolve and consuming of precious time. Then questions which are so obvious to the reader go unnoticed by the writer, even during the innumerable corrective rewrites of the text with which they are over familiar.

Perhaps the research, necessary to make the context of their novel accurate and the characters credible and which needs to be part of the novel, becomes the novel, pushing plot, characters and storyline into subservient roles.

Many writers, adept at shorter stories, cannot get the right mix of plot movement, character development and necessary descriptive detail so that the novel flows and satisfies the reader. Facts and situations that the writer has clearly fixed in their mind never make their way onto the printed page. Their presence there is assumed by the novelist whose creative mind they have never left. Such omissions may be minor. On occasions they bring the creation crashing down. Squeezing them in, on rewrite, does not necessarily solve the plot problem.

Many who believe the novel is somewhere within, are unaware that the topic that so intrigues them is a dead-end alley in an obscure genre for which the audience is limited and markets likewise. That which fascinates you, in all its literary and descriptive detail, is unintelligible to the majority who could care less what you have written.

Now we get to the soul-destroying aspect of novel writing. On the assumption that you have cleared, or infilled in rewrite, the pitfalls listed above, assume again that your writing buddy friends and/or professional editor agree that your novel is as good as you can make it. Now is the time to submit it for possible publication by those demi-Gods in publishers sweatshops who reject on the flimsiest of pretexts, despite never detailing exact criteria for submission or a timeline for a decision on your masterpiece.

My novel is out!

It is nowhere near publication and may never get there. But the novel that I have long felt was causing creative indigestion has emerged. If someone likes it enough it will be published. I like it, but it will not be self published. A necessary adjunct to that is marketing – a subject which earns me a recurring “F”.

Published or not, I have written a novel. It may be flawed, despite the efforts I have made to overcome the difficulties of the first-time novelist. A walk around the shelves of your local bookstores or a search, on line, for novels new, old, reduced and out-of-print reveals the degree of competition for sales space and marketing strategies. I would not bet on my work joining them.

So why am I writing this bragging piece about how I have succeeded in completing a novel? Why am I taking such pains to describe how difficult it is?

As I implied, at the beginning of this piece, many wanna-be novelists share a characteristic. They procrastinate. Their novel is somewhere safe inside and will eventually be regurgitated. What’s the hurry?

Herewith a cautionary tale. I was in my forties before I found the joys of writing, and even older before I realized that this satisfaction invoked by creative writing is, by itself, often enough – if you like to write. Children’s stories, poetry, plays, travel pieces, short stories, scary stories, a prizewinning novel for early teens, personal writing which was collected as a patchwork memoir and self published; all were my creations. The quality varied – and always, deep inside, was that novel.

Reading taste dictated that I would probably write a ‘history’ or a ‘mystery’. I believe we write what we live and read. But a historical novel requires detailed knowledge and/or research of the life and times of the novel. I am a lazy researcher and, had I overcome this fault, I would have lost the story in the details of the age in which it was set because I would become obsessed with the historical trivia.

I would love to create a detective operating in a time and location of which I have intimate knowledge. It is my favorite genre but I never cease to be amazed at how the mystery masters and mistresses can juggle the plots, clues, red-herrings, forensics and other technicalities while keeping the characters believable, locations fascinating and front and centre of a developing story – with sequels to follow.

I entered my eightieth year with arthritis and an unformed novel knotting my working parts. Time was definitely a factor. A prompt stimulated a short story about two forty-somethings finding one another and, perhaps, love. A chance remark, that this could be the opening chapter for a longer piece, worked better than antacid on novel indigestion. The romance developed and a 70 000 word, short novel grew.

The question hangs in the air – how can an eighty year old great grandfather possibly write a romantic novel?

My novel is at the stage where my wife has read all of it and says, had she not been intimately acquainted with the author she would have quit after thirty pages. However, she did persevere and enjoyed the book. Fellow writers have offered to read and comment. Changes consequent on their feedback will happen, but it also needs professional editing and comment from an unbiased expert.

If it passes all these scrutinizations I will submit it under a pseudonym of one of my daughters’ or granddaughters’ names with a phony, female author biography.

If it makes it to publication I shall enjoy revealing the truth about this old geezer who, amid all his arthritic bones, had a romantic bone left in his body – one that hatched into a novel.

But any novel, from fertilization, over innumerable stumbling blocks, to sales, takes for ever. Revelation of ancient authorship could well be posthumous. But at least I won’t be worried about marketing.


Indie Author Extravaganza, this Saturday, August 20, Halifax, Nova Scotia!

A couple of members will be there selling books, including:

OUT OF THE MIST (the Evergreen writers’ anthology);

WRITTEN WHILE I STILL REMEMBER, a  memoir written by Tom Robson, one of the members of the Evergreen Writers Group; and

OUT OF THE CAVE, an anthology created by one of Evergreen’s members, Catherine MacKenzie.


I, Me, She

Poem by Judi

Love is given freely to you, to me.
We need only widen our arms, our hearts, our eyes
To accept this gift, to feel the light
The warmth, the generosity.

Love requires simple acts of gratitude
We create, we give, we share
We open up our hearts, our minds
We inspire kindness, quite simply, we care.

Love comes in many different forms
We widen our smiles, our eyes, our hearts
We feel the light, the warmth, the sincerity
Each of us is deserving, each is more than worthy.

Love requires trust, trust enough to ask
To ask for what we want, or to ask
For that, which is something greater
For, in truth, we know not what we need.

Trust in the universe, it knows how to heal
Our stolen voice, our broken wing, even our shattered heart
What we give, in turn, we receive
Love is universal.

To accept this endless treasure
We give, are given, we give back, we believe
Ahhh…yes, now I see
Love is a gift from the universe.

Love is a sacred gift, Love is free
Free, oh, really…?
YOU say, I need only be me
Why is this the most difficult of tasks?

Because, now I must take off all my masks
Love requires truth
Surely I can be, finally, truly and wholly me
To accept this gift of love.

I, me, she who stands as proud, as tall, as an ancient redwood tree
I, me, she who has dreams and visions even when she’s not sleeping
I, me, she who cries like a baby, roars like a lion and soars as high as a butterfly
I, me, she must be… utterly and completely free.

I must be free to Love me, so that I can be free… to Love
You are already forgiven, be free… Love
And, when you have forgiven me
We shall both finally be free to Love… freely.

The Saddest Day of the Year

by Phil Yeats

Christmas was the saddest day of the year, the only time he regretted not having a family.
The orphanage taught him about frugality and hard work, but not about love. Through university, an interesting career as a computer specialist, and three years volunteering for charities, Kevin Anderson worked hard and saved his pennies. He didn’t lack friends, but after a drink or two, always went home alone. It had been his choice, what he was comfortable with. He’d never been on a date or visited the home of a colleague.
Staying alone and aloof from social interaction hadn’t been difficult. He didn’t have a psychological need to be with others, and the structure of his workplace made it easy to maintain his distance.
After retirement, everything except his work with Meals on Wheels continued as before. Spending three hours a day, two days a week, delivering meals with fellow volunteer Pamela Barlow led to a closer friendship.
He’d maintained his distance until she invited him to Christmas dinner with her family. He accepted Pamela’s invitation and ventured forth to buy wine for dinner, and presents for her family. He discovered that he enjoyed buying things for others.
On Christmas Day, a terrified Kevin Anderson climbed the steps to her modest house, a sixty-four-year-old man on his first date with no idea what to expect. The door opened and Pamela’s welcoming smile bewitched him. The joyous noises and warmth from within quelled his fears. A warm fire, mistletoe and the traditional turkey dinner beckoned.

Two Snakes

a poem  by Paul Bourgeois

I turn
to see two snakes
fighting in the dirt
tongues tasting themselves
as they twist
and bite in passion
swallowing their darkness
in an orgy
of sensual violence.

In paradise
when the fallen angels walked
Eve let the snake penetrate her
and it slipped
so slowly
inside that she didn’t mind

the serpentine insersion
and so she ate the apple
but only felt the pleasure
of fire and water
as the red flesh moved past her lips
and the juice ran down her cheeks

and so life began
and mankind was forced to run
into the world
and here are two satans set
against each other
twisting in the rustling leaves
debating the fall of mankind.