Monthly Archives: February 2011

My Great Grandfather Peter McArthur

My great grandfather was writer Peter McArthur. He was born in Ekfrid Township, near Glencoe, Ontario. After studying at The University of Toronto, he moved to New York in 1890 to work as a freelance writer. In 1902 he moved to London, England where he worked as an editor. Returning to his birthplace in 1908, he wrote a twice weekly column for the Toronto Globe from 1909-1924. He also contributed to the Farmer’s Advocate from 1910-1922. His first book, To Be Taken with Salt: Being an Essay on Teaching One’s Grandmother to Suck Eggs was published in 1903. He went on to publish several novels, short story collections, poetry, a study of Stephen Leacock, and a biography of Sir Wilfred Laurier.

“A satirist is a man who discovers unpleasant things about himself and then says them about other people.” -Peter McArthur

The McArthur home (built 1835) where Peter was born in Ekfrid Township near Glencoe, Ontario in 1866. The house was donated in 1962 to Doon Heritage Crossroads in Waterloo County.

“Hybrid Love” in Lies With Occasional Truth

On-line magazine Lies With Occasional Truth has published my short story “Hybrid Love”. I was about to retire this piece last year when I gave it a  tweak and sent it out. Tada!

I was taking a creative writing class at the time I wrote this. When I met with the teacher to discuss my story he very seriously said to me, “After reading your story, I wondered if you might be crazy.” Thankfully, he wasn’t my first writing teacher and I had an ounce of confidence to tell him I wasn’t and that I gave my readers a little more credit than he was willing. I dropped the course as he was unprofessional with other students as well.

Name that Character

How do you name your characters? I sometimes use names of childhood friends, or names of cats that I grew up with (most had human names). I’ve also chosen names of characters from books I love (Paul and Marion from Sons and Lovers). Nicknames work well too. When I started writing I often had unnamed narrators and wonder if it is easier for a reader to identify with a nameless character. As a fan of Carver and Cheever, I like their oft used first and last names or collective last name for a family or couple.

I’ve used websites to look for names that were culturally specific and the white pages in the phone book are fun. A writer friend pulled out a book of baby names from his bag that he had been using for his upcoming novel. These can always be found at Goodwill or the Sally Ann.

Sometimes an entire story can be built around a strong character name. Other times, it can take many rewrites before realizing the name I’d chosen doesn’t work. I think my favourite character name that I’ve come up with thus far is Pinkerton Lewis.

Reading List 2011

John Cheever Stories
Black Bile Press Chapbook Series #4
The Indifference League – Richard Scarsbrook
Can’t Lit – Edited by Richard Rosenbaum
All the Pretty Horses – Cormac McCarthy
All My Friends Are Superheroes – Andrew Kaufman
Toronto Noir – edited by Janine Armin and Nathaniel G. Moore
The Crossing – Cormac McCarthy
Just After Sunset – Stephen King
the horn of a lamb – robert sedlack
Galveston – Paul Quarrington
Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened – Hal Niedzviecki
This Cake is for the Party – Sarah Selecky
Late Nights on Air – Elizabeth Hay
Light Lifting – Alexander MacLeod
Stones – Timothy Findley
Cities of the Plain – Cormac McCarthy
Barnacle Love – Anthony De Sa
Dinner Along the Amazon – Timothy Findley
Chump Change – Dan Fante