Category Archives: Coffee Shop Author

Frank Beltrano – Square-Foot Poet

Frank Beltrano was one of the featured Authors July 6th, 2014, over on my other blog, Reading Recommendations, and told us then of this unique way he’d developed of presenting his poems. He’s back now to describe a new project in which he’s participating that allows him to showcase his writing alongside the work of visual artists.

In March, when I unveiled my Coffee Shop Mysteries poems as shadow-boxes, it was suggested by the Westland Gallery that I participate in their Square Foot Show.

At that time I had already written a palindrome inspired by two greeting cards I kept on my desk. That poem benefits greatly from being read while viewing the artwork, watercolours by Cori Lee Marvin, that inspired it. So that was a natural for a visual poem.


I had also been asked by my friend, photographer Al Sugerman, to consider a series of photos he had taken of our mutual friend Tony Eyamie turning clay. The black and white photos were close-ups of his hands working the clay into the shape of an urn. My wife, Marie-Claire, and I visited Tony and Joan Bailey’s gallery, the Patina Studios in Bayfield, where my shadow-boxes are currently hanging, and Joan talked to us about the funerary urns Tony makes. All this came together in a second square foot piece entitled, “Hands and Clay”.


The Square Foot Show is an annual event at the Westland Gallery in Wortley Village, London, Ontario. Artists are allowed to submit no more than three pieces, which when framed must each measure one foot by one foot. This year, 172 artists are included. All sorts of media were used to create over 400 pieces.

I am honored my work is on the same wall as some of the finest artists from the region. My biggest thrill came from watching gallery-goers at the opening linger over my pieces and read the words. It is possible to see the observer’s attention shift from viewing to reading. It made me feel I have had an impact.

The show runs to August 16th. Plan to spend some time if you go. There is a lot to take in.

IMG_0237 Susan Toy & Frank at the Black Walnut Café  Oct 03 2013

And here I am, conferring with Frank Beltrano – who was also a Coffee Shop Author! – outside of one of the other popular spots in Wortley Village in London, The Black Walnut.

On writing contests

I used to enter writing contests. I quite enjoyed them. In fact, I entered the 3-Day Novel Contest four times since 2008, and I managed to complete three manuscripts and send them in after each contest ended. I never did win at all, but then winning wasn’t the reason I entered – completing a manuscript in 3 days was why I put myself through such a gruelling test. I’m about to ePublish the first of those three, That Last Summer, a novella I’ve been editing and preparing over the 5 years since it was written. This will be the next IslandShorts edition.

I’m mainly writing this blog post today to advise all of my readers that this year’s 3-Day Novel Contest is fast approaching! It will be held over the Labour (minus-a-U if you are American) Day weekend. I’m not entering this year. I am busy, as I said, preparing a manuscript I already have completed. And there are two other novellas that need work and some other short stories, too, from the one year I did not complete my entry. You still have time to enter though! The experience is, shall we say … Exhilarating? And the bonus is you will have a completed first draft, after all is said and done.

I also created this contest, Coffee Shop Author, which is no longer operating, but it was fun while it lasted and I’m still in contact with a few of the entrants and winners. There has been talk lately of creating an entirely new contest based on the same principle of authors being seen writing in public. Stay tuned. You just never know what will happen.

And, finally, I wanted to post this article on entering contests – How not to get Scammed: Strategies for Entering Writing Contests for those of you who do enjoy the thrill of entering but are afraid you may be taken to the cleaners.

Good luck to Everyone with your writing, whether you enter contests or just write!


World enough and time…

I attended a get-together of women who work with words – a group my editor and I put together, because we both work at home alone most of the time and wanted a way of connecting with like-minded women, mainly to keep us from going stir-crazy! The subject of finding time to write came up, and a couple of women told us they write in their cars – parked, of course – one while waiting for her daughter to finish school, and the other in a park or pleasant setting. When I was living in Toronto a few years ago, I would sit on a park bench at the boardwalk and write longhand. And Coffee Shop Author, the contest, was born as a result of my having spent hours writing at The Remarkable Bean. Many writers swear by retreats as their way of allowing them time to focus on their craft.

Now that I have my own business, and one that offers services to other authors in order to allow them more time to write, I find I’m in a situation where I’m working for everyone else, and paying no attention whatsoever to my own need for time to write. I could use a manager or personal assistant so that I can then be the same to other authors. How frustrating is that?

writer's clock

The meeting yesterday drove home the fact, at least to me, that we do have a support system, if we just reach out and ask. I woke this morning thinking, I really need to organize my time so that I’m looking after myself foremost, if not first. I know I can add more time to my day, by taking it away from whatever I do that’s not productive – like sitting at this computer for too long at a stretch. (Although I can somewhat justify that time as not actually wasted, because I need to use the internet to promote those authors I’m working with… a Catch-22 situation?) There are ways to manage time though so that it doesn’t have the chance to manage you.

I have a few ideas as to how I can achieve this – certainly, setting up a schedule and sticking to it would be a good start, but I don’t seem to have the discipline to last for more than a day with a schedule. So I thought I should put this question out there, and see what my virtual support group has to say about it. How do you manage to put time into your day so you can write or create? What tricks do you have to make you more productive? And how do you juggle paid work, or family, with your creative self? Switching off the computer is the obvious answer. What other ideas can you offer that would allow me to grab the time I need for myself, and not feel guilty about it? I’m all ears…

And here’s some appropriate music to accompany your suggestions … Time by Alan Parsons Project