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Marie Wilson

Canadian author Marie Wilson’s first novel entitled “The Gorgeous Girls” has been called “erotica for the thinking woman” by its publisher HarperCollins. In Marie's words, the book - released in April 2013 - examines the lives of three women, “all disciples of the legendary Dorothy Parker, who meet regularly for drinks to dish on their romantic and sexual exploits.”

Marie explained that the novel was based on a series of articles that she’d previously written for Toronto’s NOW Magazine: “The editor and co-owner Alice Klein had contacted me about a new feature she was starting called Love and Sex – which would later become Naked City… I told her I had a rambling draft about three women who hang out and talk about sex – and love. She told me to send it along. From that draft, she extracted three stories for publication. So my Gorgeous Girls - Rose, Wanda and Constance - kicked off the feature…”

Marie’s contributions to NOW Magazine struck a chord with readers in Toronto. Encouraged by the popularity of her articles, Marie took on the challenge of writing a novel based on the amorous adventures of her three feisty protagonists: “Over coffee with a friend I was discussing a novel I’d been working on. I joked that I should put vampires in it if I wanted it to sell. My friend said, “Or sex.” This notion along with my partner Aaron’s idea that I should write a novel full of sex - because my articles had been so popular - gave me the idea to use those articles as the basis for a novel. It was a natural leap to weave it all together, including new material, into a novel. The articles were written over a period of two or three years, but it took me another year to write the additional material and then pull it all together.”

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Marie told me that she grew up in an environment in which she had considerable freedom: “I was an imaginative kid who was given a lot of free rein. My parents seemed to trust that process - or, because I was the last of their four kids, they just didn’t have time to interfere with my life. I didn’t like school much; it put blinders on my imagination. I did not like getting up so early in the morning only to be confined to a desk where I had to contain my natural excitement for being alive. This felt like torture to me! I preferred writing and painting and putting on plays in my basement.”

“When I was nine, I created an “office” in this little space beneath our basement stairs. I had a tiny table and a chair and a pen and some paper. And there I worked on my autobiography and a few stories about witches. I loved stories about witches and these conjurers figured in my autobiography as well. I always felt a magical connection to nature, and certain things within that realm spoke to me of mysteries beyond. The wind, the moon, the stars. At night there was a sense of something beyond the work-a-day world where you had to wake up before you were done dreaming…”

“High school offered some exposure to art and also fashion opportunities - creating what I would wear to school was a highlight of my day - and there was drama club. I was a born ham. But for the most part, the best thing I learned in school was to type.”

“I went on to university but I wanted to experience the real world, so I moved from Vancouver to Toronto to pursue a life in theatre. It didn’t pay, though, so I did a lot of different jobs: waitress, flower vendor, ballroom dance instructor, nanny, answering service operator. Later, when I had kids, acting wasn’t a practical profession for me and I started writing more.” Marie explained: “Acting often requires that you be away from home and family and ready to work long hours, sometimes without notice. If it’s a film, there’s money at stake for the production company and everything rides on your being able to stay on and finish the scene. Even in the case of theatre, I preferred to be there for my kids’ bedtimes. This became even more important once I became a single mother.”

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Marie told me that she usually takes on more than one project at a time: “I work on all kinds of things at once until one of them takes over. If there’s outside interest in the novel, I go full throttle on that. If I’m contacted to write an article, I’m full throttle on that. Same with if I have a short story competition deadline.” Marie described her creative process as follows: “I take the first idea or image or thought that comes to me and I write. I don’t stop to think about what I’m writing. I let it flow and then later I read it and see what’s interesting or what hangs together as a story. Then I do a lot of rewriting. A lot.”

Marie explained that writing allows her to be creative: “I love creating, and with writing you don’t need much in the way of materials or space. Dancing is another art form that requires few external things. Dancing is like writing with your body. I like dancing too.”

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Marie told me that she found her agent in a bar: “Aaron and I knew Peter from our mutual watering hole The Auld Spot. He was often seated at the end of the bar and we chatted with him in passing. And then Peter became the agent to our friend Bev Stone. He found a publisher for her novel ‘No Beautiful Shore.’ When my work was done he seemed a natural to ask about representation.”

Referred to HarperCollins through her agent, Marie described the publishing process as follows: “The editing process was fun, just a back and forth between the editor and me. She rarely balked at my suggestions, while I often balked at hers. But both she and my publisher assured me I had final say on the writing/editing decisions, which was cool. My publisher is a stalwart of Canadian publishing. He’s a great guy - he took a chance on me.”

As a writer, Marie has enlisted the support of her partner to help with the work of promoting her novel: “My publisher has done no promoting. I do some but my partner Aaron Schwartz does the most. He has been tireless in getting my book out there. Aaron is a talented artist in his own right and he’s my hero.”

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Marie told me that she is influenced and inspired by the work of Marguerite Duras, William Burroughs, and F. Scott Fitzgerald: “Marguerite Duras because her writing is powerful and mysterious; Bill Burroughs for his innovation and sheer guts; F. Scott Fitzgerald because his writing was both enchanting and real.” Her favorite novels? “Right now it’s a tie between ‘The Ravishing of Lol Stein’ by Marguerite Duras and ‘Oscar and Lucinda’ by Peter Carey. Also ‘The Great Gatsby’ is always at the top of my list. All these books spin stories that convey the mystery and magic of living and loving and dying.”

Despite her work as a novelist, Marie prefers writing screenplays: “Movies are my lifeblood, and while I find writing them much harder than writing stories or novels, the moving picture is where my passion lies… No, I don’t find novel writing to be limiting. In fact, screenplays are more limiting because you’re writing for another medium. You can’t just say what you want to say. You have to paint a picture for the screen. It’s merely my love of cinema that has me preferring to write screenplays. I am working on a screenplay right now. It’s my “monster in a box.” I’ve been at it for a long time!”

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Marie describes a typical day as follows: “I wake up, recall my dreams, then have coffee while gazing out the window at my little community: kids playing, gardeners digging. Toast and fruit for breakfast. I do some dishes and maybe the laundry. By early afternoon I’m off to walk our dog Nixie. The dog park is rife with wagging tails and wagging tongues and so I watch the pooches play and catch up on local news. Back at home I sit in my sunroom to write, sometimes with pen, sometimes with laptop, often with an old flick playing in the background. When writing threatens to exasperate or overwhelm me, I look out the window or at the TV screen. There’s always something there to catapult me out of the hole.”

“Late afternoon I head out to get groceries and run other errands. When the groceries get delivered I make something healthy for my teenager to eat; she’s in a band and keeps different hours from me. Then I take a short walk to my community centre where I do some work with the youth group I’ve started: hanging photos, clearing a room to create a recording studio.”

“Back at the apartment, I make a late dinner - or Aaron does - and we eat while watching Jeopardy. Afterwards I like to write while drinking a glass of champagne mixed with a soupcon of Magic Hour’s blackberry/lavender cordial. This is also a time to check Facebook to see what my other two progeny are up to; one’s a visual artist, the other a stand-up comedian. Both bartend to make ends meet. If I have time I watch a movie, if not I do a little reading. When I finally hit the hay, I have my laptop with me for last thoughts.”

“Writing fits in everywhere in my day. If I’m not on the computer or jotting in my notebook then it’s happening in my head or through my senses. Everything I do and see and smell and hear and touch and feel is a potential story or scene or shot.”

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Marie is currently working on her second novel – a visual work that integrates both narrative and photography: “It’s called ‘Walter Kist and the Seven Whorls’ and it’s about this private eye whose real passion is photography. Walter Kist is a young man who shoots from the hip and speaks from the heart. It’s a visual novel, which means photos tell part of the story. Ultimately it’s a love story.”

Marie’s advice to writers who are just starting out: “Write all the time. Do not give up.”

For more information about Marie's work, please go to http://www.mariewilson.ca/

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Image Credit: Aaron Schwartz


Marie Wilson was born to a paint merchant and an Olympic runner in Vancouver. After studying painting and theatre, she moved to Toronto where she appeared on some of the city’s best stages. Her writing has appeared in a variety of magazines and newspapers, including NOW and The Globe and Mail. She’s had handful of good reviews, found love, birthed three geniuses, and has recently written an erotic novel called The Gorgeous Girls, currently ranked #1 by www.harpercollins.ca

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Lady

by Marie Wilson

When we reach Anarchist Peak, my mother pulls over and stops the car. The view of the Okanagan Valley is magnificent, but that’s not what we’re here for. My mother reaches beneath her seat and pulls out a twenty-sixer of rye and a small bottle of 7 Up. As she pours herself a drink, she asks if I want one. I’m seventeen years old. I have driven her metallic-blue Ford half the way on this eight hour trip. While she drove the other half, I propped my bare feet on the dashboard and belted out the latest Leonard Cohen tunes: Like a drunk in a midnight choir/I have tried in my way to be free… Although we still have some notorious hairpin curves to negotiate before we reach her farm, I accept a drink. It is my mother’s version of a rite of passage for her daughter. We toast the success of our drive through the winding heights and steep descents of the Crowsnest Highway. My mother downs the last of her highway highball, then starts up the engine for the final stretch. I sip the strong liquor and wonder if they named Anarchist Mountain for my mom. In the Vancouver press she was once known as the Lady in Red and the Speed Queen. But despite the sound of those monikers, she was no shady lady strung out on bennies. Her other newspaper nickname was Queen of the Cinder Track. Yes, my mom was once a track and field star. And she wore red track suits. At sixteen she was deemed Olympic material and sent to Toronto to compete for entry into the games that were to be held in Berlin that year. But when wind of Hitler’s anti-Semitic rule swept the nation, my mom knew she would never get her stab at the gold. Like so many others, her coach boycotted the ‘36 Olympiad. Years later when the story of my mom’s kiboshed shot at international fame had become legend in our household, the only Speed Queen around was the washer on our porch where she did the laundry for her husband and four children. She was still the Lady in Red though: her lipstick, crimson to go with her black-as-night hair, and in winter her red toque. But perhaps more evocative of that sobriquet in the late 50s was her clandestine sexual life. She had an affair. My friend down the road from us had a good Catholic mother who was always in the kitchen. While she was in her apron whipping up strawberry shortcake, my mom was out drinking rye and seven in her high heels and pencil skirts. Not that my mom hadn’t ever made Jell-O or cookies. When I was little she’d baked with the best of them, and I can still remember rushing home after school to sink my teeth into a warm butter tart, fresh out of her oven. But when I (her youngest) was old enough to take care of myself, my mother got her real estate licence and was off travelling Vancouver Island, listing houses and showing properties - and much more, as it turned out, for this is when her cheating began. In one of our home movies my mother smashes a sledgehammer into a wall and laughs. So began our kitchen renovations: new pine cupboards, stainless steel sinks, a garburator. Just months after its completion, my father would discover her infidelity. She may just as well have taken that sledgehammer to his heart. My dad left, never to see my mother again. Nor did he ever mention her to us, except once when out of the blue he noted that “the man who broke up my marriage was named Jeb and the man your mother ended up with is named Seb”. In time I would see that this observation of rhyming names contained all the bewilderment he felt over the loss of his bride. Following the divorce, my mother took my sister and me on a road trip through B.C.’s interior. We stopped in little towns where I bought souvenirs: a pocket knife from Revelstoke, a pennant flag from Golden. The Ookpik purchased in Olalla snuggled with me that same night on a Winnipeg couch in a Keremeos motel. When I search my memory for that defining mother-daughter moment, the one story that describes our relationship, some words of motherly wisdom she left me with, I come up blank. There was no day when she revealed her dreams to me or let me in on her secrets. But I can still hear her voice, deep and soothing, and her laughter. I wonder now about her extraordinarily wacky sense of humour. Was that part of the “drinking problem” I later learned of? Was she impaired half the time? Or half-cut all the time? Was she authentically loopy or just looped? Though I never heard her slur words or saw her tip over, I understood as I grew older that she was fond of tippling. When the Bloody Caesar was invented it instantly became her drink of choice, a taste of saltchuck in a shade to match her lips. The last photo I have of her shows a woman of eighty-three, her hair still dark, her bone structure still chiselled, posing with a bobcat she’d just shot from her kitchen window. He’d been trying to get at her chickens and she took him out at a hundred yards. But the image that stays with me is one of my mother standing at the edge of the creek that ran through her farm. It’s a hot afternoon and we’re there for a dip. She is wearing her blue bathing suit. Her skin is as brown as toasted coconut and her hair is as black as ink, grey strands glinting like silver thaw in the night. She stands as tall and calm as a tree. In that moment I understand everything about her. Note: Marie Wilson has recently published a book entitled The Gorgeous Girls. For more information or to purchase a copy, please click here: http://www.harpercollins.ca/books/Gorgeous-Girls-Marie-Wilson/?isbn=9781443423946#.UX1sqvBXZBk.email

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Nights So Long and Dark

by Ana Torres

Nights so long and dark Please lay me down to sleep, I’m desperate for some rest And hope my dreams are deep. Nights with shining stars In this bed, I lie awake, Though I try to close my eyes I can’t for heaven’s sake. Nights so long and dark I just can’t face the day, Let’s keep the light afar With luck, the moon will stay. Nights that just drag on My mind is all abrew, Let’s make a pot of coffee And pour a cup or two. Nights, you are not kind In these hours I am alone, There is no comfort in the dawn For what must I atone. Nights, you are my friend I know you understand That I have come to life Because you’ve held my hand. Nights so long and dark On you I can depend, But what am I to do When you try me to no end? Nights so long and dark, Please take me in your arms, Pray lay me down to sleep And soothe me with your charms. ***** For more information about Ana's work, please go to: http://amtorres070.wix.com/amtorres Image Credit: Istockphoto/MisterM

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Walled Off Island

by Jeff Musillo

Feels lame fears the maimed, stands inflamed, naked without shame, in the freezing rain, eating some dame’s candy cane. Shakes           sneezing                       hands compiles             visible                        stains No tamed pity in the pits. No dimwits              playing parlor tricks. City so boorishly sick he took a whorish pick and returned with a limp, feeling syphilitic. Cover him with felt shawls. No way around it. The toxic tropical island recently built walls. There are now 16 malls within And each hypnotic hall begins with the same song dance credit card PIN. So take a number, hide in port as banana peels fill the food court; The crowd won’t sort so hold your retort. Just find a fried                          crack, take a peek outside. Watch it. ***** Image Credit: Urbancow/Istockphoto

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A Poet's Dream

by Carlotta Hamilton

Beats broken down beyond syllables in time Staggering dreams play in seams and bold rhymes Catch the tempo, break the structure anew Formulate verse, ride the tide, taste the dew Heroic are those sounds interlaced with words In the town of speech, precision is sought To amplify all I can do to play my part. Scratch out mistakes; lie in the mouth of truth Crumple the paper in gum-wad form And cast it back into my brain, away from Paper and pen, for a while. But wait, This is a poet's dream! Pattern and piece Fragments of thought, centered and serene. Finally, something real, something true To love rhythm and verse, this is what I do! ***** Image Credit: Stacie/iStockphoto

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Patty Duke Sipped Here

by Brian Petti

I have a story to tell my friends. It's a show-biz story. A story of perseverance, fortitude and a never-say-die attitude. A story of pluck, determination, and ambition. It's about going out there a simple chorus girl and coming back a star! Except that, in this case, the star is an end table. Allow me to explain. Those of you who know me may have received one of the ten thousand or so emails and Facebook posts regarding my play “Echoes of Ireland.” We've been on a bit of a spring tour, performing the show in Newburgh this March, Catskill in May, and coming up in June—Goshen! Get your tickets! While supplies last! Act now! JUST THROW MONEY AT THE PRETTY COLORS!!! Sorry, I get a little carried away. Anyway, the reason we've been able to pack up the show so easily and visit these fine villages is that we have practically NO set. It's literally four chairs, or stools, or boxes, or whatever the theater has handy for us to put our butts on. We have costumes—I mean, we're not completely without theatrical sensibility. And we have props too! We have—well, we have a couple. More than one. The lights get dim and then bright again. Okay, it's a good show. Don't judge a book by its lack of incidental music. Oh, and there's one table. Little dark cherry deal, 'bout yea tall. The table belongs to Dana, one of our cast members. She brought it in two days before we opened in Newburgh, and we were very grateful to have it. Not too big that it blocked the audience’s view, nor too small to rest a cup of tea upon (or some grammatically correct version of that idea). Throughout the show, laundry is folded on this table, and a fake cigarette and ashtray rest atop it. It’s a good, hard-working table that keeps its nose clean, does its job, and doesn't kill you to the rest of the cast as soon as your back is turned. A mensch. We liked it so much that we brought it with us when we went up to Catskill. We could have used other tables, but this one had proven its worth and deserved more consideration than the rest. Once again, it took its place among the stools and turned in yet another useful, utilitarian, hard-working performance. The show in Catskill was glorious. A wonderful, receptive crowd in a beautiful, brand new theater space. We received—along with our table—a standing ovation. I mention this fact only to adequately set the scene, not because of any prideful vanity on my part about the show and my cast. (It was one of the best days of my LIFE!) There was a pleasant post-show buzz, as the theater owners supplied free shots of Bushmills and some very nice Irish music. We packed up our costumes and returned home with the pleasurable warmth of a job well done. BUT—without our table. The theater owners informed us of the missing cast member and we arranged to pick it up the next week when my wife had a doctor’s appointment in Albany. However, that was when fate intervened and decided it was the long suffering table's turn to enjoy the spotlight. At the last moment, the owners (a charming couple named Steven and John) made arrangements to bring PATTY DUKE to the tiny, insignificant village of Catskill for a ‘one night only’ performance. Her only demand? A small table. But where to find one? Hey, what about the one left here by those idiot “Echoes” people? Thus, the table will soon have an IMDb credit. With Patty Duke. What a world. I agreed to this on Dana's behalf, which you may consider forward of me. But I took for granted that she wouldn't want to deny her table this once-in-a-lifetime experience to star alongside the original Hellen Keller. However, I took pains to insist I was not responsible for any water rings left by Ms. Duke. The fact of the matter is that the table will soon have a more impressive resumé than I do. My closest brush with stardom was when I almost sold furniture to Dianne Wiest. She didn't buy. Dana's fear is that when the table finally returns to her, it will be so inflated with its own ego that it will refuse to hold her jar of Q-tips anymore. And this, apparently, would be my fault. I told her—When the table starts talking about “that time I performed opposite Patty Duke,” just start flipping through an IKEA catalog. Actors need to know just how replaceable they are. ***** Fresh from its production in New York City and County Cork, Ireland, "ECHOES OF IRELAND" is an original play written by American playwright Brian Petti - about family ties, the immigrant life, and the Irish-American experience. It will be presented by Cornerstone Theatre Arts on June 21-22, 2014 at The Goshen Music Hall at 223 Main Street (2nd floor walkup) in Goshen, New York. Tickets are $10. To make your reservation, please call 845-294-4188. Seating is limited. "Powerful... Every emotion came to the fore during this story of pride and determination in the face of adversity." Cllr Karen Coakley, Mayor of Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland. ***** Image Credit: Used with Brian Petti's permission Image Description: From left to right, actors Elisabeth Henry-Macari, Ron Morehead, and Cat Barney

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