Finnian Burnett

Author, Educator, Cat Person

Have you heard of the Write Hive conference? I found out about this when one of the founders did a workshop for The Crow Collective. Write Hive is a non-profit that seeks to provide inclusive and supportive spaces for readers. They give a free conference – or tickets by donation – that is all online through discord (and zoom). I reached out about doing a presentation or workshop for them and they asked me to come and present my workshop on writing the body. So I’ll be doing that this Sunday, June 11th at 7 AM PST/10 AM EST. It’s about an hour and a half and there will be a lot of generative writing.

If you’re interested in signing up for the conference, check it out here. They have so many other panels and presentations. And you have the opportunity to ask questions in the Discord server and connect with the folks at the conference!

I hope to see some of you there. If you come to my workshop from this blog, be sure to let me know.

Welcome to the 5 Minutes Series. Each week, I’ll ask five questions of some of my favorite authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals. This week I’m talking with Karelia Stetz-Waters, author of several excellent books including the recently released Behind the Scenes.

You are co-writing a book with your wife! How is that going, and can you tell me anything about it? 

Fay and I always wanted to write a book together. We imagined a non-fiction book on relationships (we’ve got so much good advice if people would only listen 😁 ) but we don’t have a platform as counselors or psychologists. Then we realized we could fulfill our dream of sharing tips for healthy relationships by writing romance together. 

Right now, we’re finishing revisions on a book called Second Night Stand (out in 2024). It’s about a ballerina and a burlesque performer who fall in love on a reality TV show. It’s fabulous. Y’all will love it. 

Process-wise, Fay and I decide on the plot, main characters, scene structure, chronology, pacing, and emotional beats together. She does all the research, develops the minor characters, and writes some of the dialogue. I do most of the drafting, leaving requests for her to fill in wherever I need help.

She’s better at brainstorming and thinking outside the box than I am. I’m incredibly disciplined and organized. 

Emotionally, it’s wonderful. I love writing, but it stresses me out too. I feel much more relaxed working with her. And Fay gets to escape from the emotionally taxing work as a civil rights attorney. We both love creating a world where everything works out and good things happen to good people.

You wrote a book (Satisfaction Guaranteed) that takes place in a sex toy shop. What was the inspiration for that book and how much research went into it? 

My dog had chewed up one of our vibrators so I went to my favorite sex toy store in Portland, She Bop (they ship if you’re not in the area 😉). But before going to the shop, I’d picked up a SCOBI from a friend. A SCOBI is the wad of mucus you use to start kombucha. It’s like a sourdough starter except a hundred times more disgusting. So I had my mucus in a jar in one hand while I chatted with the clerk at She Bop about sex toys our dogs had eaten. I thought, This is so Portland, I have to write about it. 

But what started as a funny setting led me to research that showed me how little education Americans get about the clitoris and the vulva. Medical education shortchanges the clitoris and vulva. Sex education classes do too. And all around us we get messages about how women should climax by penetration when, in fact, that’s not a reliable route to orgasm for the majority of people with clitorises. 

Writing Satisfaction Guaranteed, made me passionate about writing Sapphic romances that showcase the beauty and complexity of the vulva and clitoris.  Also I’m on a quest to buy as many clitoris themed items as I can and make a catalog of romances that use the word “vulva” so if you have suggestions, send them my way.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?

I love hearing from readers who say my work has touched them. I’ve received emails from women who said they had thought they were sexually broken until they read Satisfaction Guaranteed. If I can help one person feel great about their sexuality and sexual experience, it’s all worth it.

If you could instantly change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I didn’t compare myself to other writers. If I see that another writer has gotten more reviews than I have or has more followers or has won an award, part of me feels like I’ve failed. It’s not so much jealousy as an inner voice that says If you’d worked harder and been more strategic, that would have been you.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Write every day.

Karelia can be found on the web here and if you sign up for her mailing list here, you get a free novella!

Welcome to the 5 Minutes Series. Each week, I’ll ask five questions of some of my favorite authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals. This week I’m talking with Marion Lougheed, the head of Off Topic Publishing.

You run a publishing company, Off Topic Publishing. What’s the origin story on that?

Well, I wanted to start a cooperative publisher, but I had no idea how to do that. So I started an online magazine that published one short story a month. I also didn’t know how to do that, so it was hard to get good quality submissions every month. But I did learn a lot. I ran it for about a year and then stopped. Then during the Covid lockdowns, I joined a writers’ group on Facebook (Canada Writes, run by the wonderful CBC Books). We got chatting about starting our own contest just within the group. So I launched one and people seemed into it. The winner was published on the site and got half the entry fees. Off Topic grew from there and I started publishing books and running workshops and now this year we’re even holding a writing retreat and conference in Banff, Alberta, Canada, in August.

You are getting your PhD, you’re a writer, you run workshops, and you are a publisher. How do you make time for all the many shifts you have to do?

Honestly it gets overwhelming sometimes. I’m not an advocate of busy. I don’t wear that as a badge of honour. The writing has taken a backseat recently, except for my PhD. I’m also a freelance editor, so that is my “day job,” so to speak. But they do feed into each other. Like I’m planning to write a layperson version of my PhD thesis and my Masters thesis, and the publishing connects with other writers who then create awesome workshops. It’s a lot, but it keeps it interesting. I do like the variety. And then I can feel like I’m procrastinating on one thing while working on something else.

What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?

Skydiving? That’s certainly the most traditionally daring thing. I mean, every time you ride in a car in a busy city, you’re being kind of daring… I think entering a long-term relationship with real commitment is kind of daring in a quieter, more mundane way. I don’t know. This is a hard question. I don’t think of myself as particularly daring.

As a publisher and as someone who publishes anthologies and runs contests, you read a lot of submissions. What advice would you give someone to increase their chances of shortlisting for contests or getting accepted into an anthology?

It’s probably cliché but read the guidelines and follow them. Check seven times. Or more. For the monthly Poetry Box, I get so many poems that are just way too long. I don’t read them because they simply will not fit on a postcard. So now that person has wasted their time and mine.

On a writing level though, I think trying to come up with a fresh take. When I had the call out for pieces for my forthcoming Home anthology, I received dozens of pieces called “Home.” Be fresh. Be weird, even, if you can pull that off in an enjoyable way. Often our first or second or third idea is something others are thinking of too. When you get an idea, ask yourself how you can make it shine. So, this also means you should be reading a lot, so that you actually know what is common.

Speaking of anthologies, you have several coming out this year including a charity anthology for Ukraine. What inspired you to do that and what was the process to get it out?

My friend Bruce Lilly is a Canadian of Ukrainian descent. We were chatting one day about the war there and what we might do. I thought we could do a charity anthology and he jumped on the idea. The process took longer than I expected, partly because – surprise, surprise – we received a lot of submissions that did not follow the guidelines. The anthology is not about Ukraine. It’s about Standing Up (which is the title) in some nonfictional real-life situation. We got a lot of… not that. So we had to dig through, and of course putting together any big project is tons of work. I even had to recruit some buddies to help me sort through the stuff that was irrelevant or unsuitable in some other way. Bruce had to step back from the project for personal reasons, so I also ended up with a bunch of unanticipated additional work. I managed to carry it to fruition myself, although the print version is still pending. But that meant putting Home and Exhaustion and other projects on the back burner for a while, so now those have been delayed. It’s hard to juggle it all. But I’m glad to have created Standing Up and I hope that people will support it. All the profits from that book will go to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation. (Ed. Note. Standing Up can be purchased here.)

Bonus question:

Have you ever taken a photo of a weird bird?


Marion can be found at her website here, or for information on her editing services click here.

Off Topic Publishing is running a one-day writing conference (online or in person!) and a weeklong writing retreat in August in Banff. Information about that can be found here.

If you’re interesting in purchasing the monthly poetry box subscription with tea, chocolate, and a poem, check it out here.

​Welcome to the 5 Minutes Series. Each week, I’ll ask five questions of some of my favorite authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals. This week I’m talking with JM Landels, author of The Allaigna’s Song trilogy and one of the masterminds behind the illustrious publisher Pulp Literature.

You’re a writer, a publisher, a swordfighter, a mom, and I still see your name as a guest speaker for writing events all over Canada. Do you have a magic trick for handling it all?

Ha! A magic trick would be sooo nice. I really don’t know how I handle it – I just do. And sometimes I don’t. I’ve never been very good at focusing on a single thing. It seems I’ve always got to have several balls in the air, and yeah, sometimes I drop one, but I catch it on the bounce and muddle on.

I find I manage best when I get into a schedule. For example, on weekday mornings, I garden before breakfast, write between 10 and noon – usually with my Pulp Lit partner-in-crime Mel Anastasiou – and use afternoons for editing, accounting, emailing, etc, in between teaching riding lessons and running my farm, Cornwall Ridge.  I teach Mounted Combat on weekends, so that’s a pretty discrete time chunk. My kids are adults now, so being a mum is a benefit rather than a time sink, especially since my two youngest manage the day-to-day operations of our farm.

Of course the writing events throw a huge spanner into all of that. But since I have new book out, I’ve decided to go all out on in-person appearances this year. I’ll be in Montana, Winnipeg, Calgary, Pentiction, Kansas City, and Portland this year, as well as at several lower mainland events.  Lucky I’ve got those daughters to teach classes and run the farm in my absence!

Can you tell me a little about Allaigna’s Song and what inspired those books?

The character of Allaigna came to me as a fully formed heroine – a warrior and a performer with the illicit ability to sing music into magic – and I wanted to write her backstory. How did she grow into the woman she is? It’s essentially a bildungsroman.

The first scene starts with a portrait of Allaigna, her parents, and her baby brother.  I envisioned that portrait, and all the family tensions it contained, and wrote out from there. I started the first book when my kids were quite young, and a lot of the early writing was me processing thoughts and feelings about motherhood and family.  I was a childbirth educator and a doula at the time, so birth and babies come into the books a lot. The magic system based on music draws on my time fronting punk/indie/metal bands in the 90s.

There are three main POV characters: Allaigna, her mother Lauresa, and her grandmother Irdaign. Irdaign is a midwife and a seer, with an imperfect window on the future. It’s a gift and burden.  Her Sight allows her to prevent her husband’s death when the rest of his family is assassinated; but it also forces her to make choices she would not otherwise even consider, such as abandoning her daughter to the care of her husband’s second wife.

Allaigna’s mother, Lauresa, went missing en route to her wedding in a foreign country. Her sections in the first book tell what actually happened. It’s the most ‘action-y’ part of the first novel, with horse chases, bandits, perilous terrain, and a love story. In the second and third novels, Allaigna takes over the high action, with Lauresa’s conflicts shifting to the parental and political.

I have an image of Pulp Literature starting in a smoky tavern with werewolves plotting in the corner as you and your colleagues discuss the need for a place for quality Canadian stories. What made you start Pulp Literature and where do you see it going from here?

Haha, I like that story – maybe we should stick to it.  In fact, the only part of the image that’s accurate is that there was beer involved.  Mel Anastasiou, Susan Pieters, and I were sitting on Mel’s deck on a lovely July day in 2013, drinking beer and lamenting the lack of venues for genre short fiction in this country. Fireside magazine had launched not too long previously with a Kickstarter campaign, and we thought, ‘we can try that’. We ran a Kickstarter to fund the first issue, snagged my friend CC Humphreys as our feature author, put out a call for submissions, and we were up and running. And here we are, 38 issues and nearly 10 years later. 

Where’s it going from here? I don’t imagine much will change in the format or mandate. There’s an impulse to do something big and showy for our 10th anniversary, but we haven’t thought about what. We’ve got Robert J Sawyer as our feature author for issue 40, and we’ve got you as our feature author for the 10th anniversary issue, so that’s pretty awesome. (Ed. Note. Having just been mentioned in the same sentence as the “Dean of Canadian Science Fiction,” I am now dead. A bot is finishing this interview for me.)

If you could spend a day picking the brain of any living writer, who would it be and why?

I’m going to MisCon this month and CJ Cherryh will be there, so I’m hoping to get to pick her brain for a few minutes at least. Her books had a huge impact on me in my teens. The Morgaine Chronicles are probably why I ended up writing epic fantasy, and the Chanur series are some of my all-time favourite SF. I picked up The Gate of Ivrel the other day – just to refresh my memory because I hadn’t read it since the 80s – and I was swept away all over again. I read 50 pages just sitting at my desk, unable to stop turning pages. It’s so masterful that it’s hard to believe it was her first published book. She has an ability to transport you into a completely alien world and invest you in its politics and people in a way that seems utterly effortless. She’s incredibly prolific and all her books are superb science fiction and fantasy.

What advice do you wish someone had given you when you were just starting out?

The first draft is allowed to suck.  I knew I wanted to be a writer since I was about four years old. But despite some success writing in school and university, I could never manage to write a complete novel, or even a short story. I’d get about two pages in and start to self-edit.  Then, around 2003, I went to a retreat led by Dale Adams Segal, which introduced me to her Hour Stories cards. The process of writing furiously for three 20-minute stretches, and then reading out loud, was transformational. I do almost all my first draft writing this way, and I allow my writing to be complete garbage if it needs to be to get words on the page – because I know I will fix it in post.

Thank you! JM Landels can be found on the web here.

Welcome to the 5 Minutes Series. Each week, I’ll ask five questions of some of my favorite authors, editors, publishers, and other industry professionals. This week I’m talking with Tara Shannon, creator, artist, and author of the wildly popular Rabbit and Bear.

I’m absolutely in love with Rabbit and Bear. Could you tell me a little bit about how you started
them and where the inspiration came from?

Thank you! I love them too. They saved me. I was at loose ends following several years where I found myself grieving the loss of my parents, a pregnancy… my own life. In 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer, lost my job, was in a new relationship following a divorce… It was a lot, but I didn’t realize it at the time and I wasn’t dealing with any of it in a healthy productive way. I was trying to through therapy but I was on the run from it all, thinking I could get ahead of the pain without actually having to deal with it. Not surprisingly, that didn’t work.

In the spring of 2019 I was battling anxiety and depression, which I have on and off all my life, but at this point I felt the urge to do something creative to help me deal with it. In the past, writing had always helped me process my thoughts, and drawing had a calming effect. Never before had I put the two together. This idea to draw a rabbit and a conversation it was having with some dandelions about a wish, became almost overwhelming.

So, I sat down and started to draw, and write. Bear came along a bit later but in that one afternoon, I felt a fog and a weight beginning to lift. I knew
I had to keep going.

You’re well over 250,000 followers on social media now? What’s that like and is there anything
weird that’s happened since you went viral?

It’s all a bit surreal to be honest. It’s certainly something I never anticipated happening. I’m very grateful for everyone who follows my adventures with Rabbit & Bear and my other writing. Since going viral in 2020, everyday has been an adventure.

I think because it all came about after going viral, and the surreal nature of that experience, nothing has really stood out as being weird after that… it’s all definitely been a learning curve. My skin is thicker because of it all, I’ve learned more about myself and others… my empathy has grown. Most of all I’m finding my voice. It’s growing louder and stronger. I’m finding my way, and that’s what I wanted from the start.

What advice would you give someone who is insecure about their writing talents or worried
they’ll never find a publisher?

First and foremost, write. Write everyday, at least a little something and everyday try to get in touch with your authentic voice — that vulnerable part of yourself. That’s where your truest most powerful writing will come from. Sharing that is going to be scary, but find some way to share it.

I first started sharing some of my most vulnerable work from an Instagram page that few of my friends knew about. Then I began sharing in a writing group online.

The main thing though, is to write. Get it out there, find your unique voice, grow stronger in that voice and then… step out into the world and share it. If being a writer is really what you want, you have to take that chance… that leap.

Okay, just between us… who is your favorite? Rabbit or bear?

Ha! That’s like asking who my favourite child is! I can’t do that!… but, okay. To start, they’re both me and I love them both. But, the answer is Bear. Here’s why. My
nickname as a child was Bear, and after a while I didn’t like it. It was childish and embarrassing. It was my nickname because I guess I’d called myself Bara once or twice as a very small child just learning to speak, instead of Tara, and it stuck for some members of my family who started calling me Bear. For a long time I looked at that nickname as a reminder of my inadequacies…my failures and my past. I was failed as a child in grade school for one, and in my family I was by far the youngest member for a long time. I didn’t feel heard a lot of the time, and being called Bear was a reminder of that. I fought against it. But, Bear is a part of me. I own that part of
me now. I am Bear. Together we’ve figured some things out… not always easy, but here we are.

I’m happy now to be Bear. We haven’t figured everything out, but we can try to help Rabbit out as best we can with their questions. And, who’s Rabbit? A plush toy rabbit was gifted to me when I was briefly pregnant in 2009. Rabbit is my, what if? …My could have been. In the form of Rabbit & Bear, we’re together.

What are you working on now?

I continue to write and share new Rabbit & Bear’s as inspiration strikes me. Along with poems and short stories. My publisher and I just released a book of my poems and short stories on Amazon called, Gather the Stars and Hang the Moon.

I have a couple works in progress that I really need to finish… and, with my agent I’m working on a new children’s story with brand new characters. But, that’s all I can say about that for now… Everyday is an adventure.

Tara can be found on social media on Facebook and Instagram @tarashannonwritesand through her website.