Dare to dream

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Almost five years ago to the day, I built my first website in a small, bright flat in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.

It was early spring and the starlings roosted just beyond the window. I worked on the website in the afternoon after mornings writing in the Amerika-Gedenkbibliothe--the old American Library, perched along the canal. I was in Berlin because I'd been awarded a Canada Council grant to complete my first short story collection and had recently left my full-time job working at a small Canadian university. I had no idea what would happen after my grant ran out. Would I stay in Europe? Travel? Open my own business? 

I had never felt so free.

In a way, taking the leap to write in Europe felt like the real beginning of my writing career. Not because of the gritty romance of Europe, or even the grant itself. I had begun to publish stories and had just been nominated for my first major award, but taking these steps to arrange my life so I'd have long, full days to dream, imagine, and write was an important opening for me. Each day as I walked the canal, watching the long canal boats ply the grimy waters, the spark of possibility seemed everywhere. 

Leaving my job and stepping out into the world this way involved a certain amount of risk. Without getting all Eat Pray Love, stepping out of the security of what I'd known allowed me to begin to shape the life I most wanted to live.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
— Joseph Campbell

I believe that great writing involves some sort of risk. Not quitting-our-jobs kind of risk, in most cases. But leaving what we know, if only in our hearts and minds. Choosing to take those first steps, to put thoughts on a page, to share that writing with the world, takes a huge amount of courage.  

That's why writing is such a beautiful metaphor for life. Each day, when we write, we're confronted with the terror (and, hopefully, comfort) of the blank page. As with life, good writing is not created only by imposing our will or a pre-conceived idea of the way things will be. Controlling the story will only suffocate life on the page. It's a fine art between structure and the messy, pulsing chaos at the heart of the story. 

In other words, great writing involves letting go. 

Sitting in that bright Berlin flat, trying to build that website over copious amounts of bitter coffee and the occasional German dunkel, I had no idea of how the next five years would unfold. I did not know that more grants lay in store, that I would land an agent or negotiate a book deal with my dream editor for my debut novel. I didn't yet know of the stories and publications and interviews (so many interviews!) and reviews to come. Or that I would begin to teach and share with people like you, through offering writing workshops that incorporate not only the skill and tools for writing, but the philosophy, values, and encouragement for how to take risks and feel safely supported in the process. 

And now, as I launch this new website, I'm thinking about how the seeds we plant sometimes bloom many years in the future, when we least expect it. Don't get me wrong. Dreams are hard work. A dream without a plan is only ever a wish. 

But dreaming starts somewhere. Each time we make time to be with ourselves, with our secret thoughts and the private stories that live inside us, the stories that have yet to be born in the world, we're planting the seeds for a future we can't yet begin to imagine. 

I invite you to dream with me, in your own way, on your own time. 

Happy writing,
Trevor

Savour the End of Summer: A Yoga and Writing Retreat

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In Canada, summer is a time to play

It's a time to remember a time when the months stretched by like years, when summer meant a refreshing dip into the lake. A time to meet the day with wild, uninhibited abandon.

I'm so pleased to be teeming up with renowned yogi (and all around great guy) Joshua Lewis on a special four-day, mid-week retreat savouring the full glory of summer. Before the routines and obligations and general busyness of fall take hold, we'll gather together at gorgeous Shanti Retreat on Wolfe Island, an idyllic lakeside getaway just a short ferry ride from Kingston. 

Looking for a sweet combination of relaxation and grounding as summer winds down? 

Unwind into the final days of August with vigour and play—while heeding the call to anchor in and cultivate reflective practices to support you as the seasons shift and the autumn ‘new year’ arrives. We've lovingly structured the retreat to provide the twin anchors of a nourishing yoga practice and structured personal writing time to help you tap into your innate creative spirit.

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Daily meditation and yoga will be led by Joshua in his signature all-levels accessible and inclusive style. Long-time practitioners, as well as those with little or no experience, will find Joshua’s embodied and inspired teaching methodology to be approachable and profoundly impactful – calming and soothing for the body, mind and the heart. Classes will be offered in the Hatha tradition weaving a creative mixture of dynamic slow flow sequences with therapeutic modalities such as yin, self-massage ball rolling and guided meditation and visualization (yoga nidra).

I'm excited to be leading the writing practise at the retreat. Whether you are curious about writing, love to journal, have been working on a secret memoir, or have a specific fiction, poetry, or other projects in mind, this retreat will give you ample space to commit time, energy and focus to your writing practice. Guided activities will include responding to writing prompts, playful and interactive storytelling activities, and the opportunity to complete a short piece through the week. No prior writing experience is necessary, and there will be no expectation that you share your work if you prefer to simply indulge in some quiet writing time. All writing activities are optional. We hope to end the retreat with an opportunity for participants to share their own writing (or other talents) in a low-key, supportive setting.

An essential element supporting these personal adventures is the shared experience of connecting with your deepest self while in the community of others doing the same. Everything about the Shanti experience is intentionally designed to drop you in to the sweetest and most sublime state—from the idyllic lakeside locale and private seclusion of Wolfe Island to the vibrantly fresh and flavourful meals, not to mention the various waterfront activities at your disposal (swim, sunbathe, canoe and kayak to your heart’s content!)—this retreat promises to be a time for self-care, renewal and enlivenment.

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Shanti retreats sell out early. We'll be offering a number of group and other special discounts through early spring, so get in touch with questions or learn more about how to secure your spot

Fables for the 21st Century

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Late last year--in November, to be precise--I had the incredible opportunity to spend three weeks holed up in a cabin the forest at the Banff Centre for the Arts. I was in Banff as part of a cohort of ten writers commissioned to write fables addressing issues of concern to our time...Fables for the 21st century

My fable looked at the relationship between an android (robot) and human being. I wanted to look at how the advent of love or sex robots will impact our already challenging ability to form intimate relationships with other human beings. Will robots or AI ever develop a consciousness in the way we might understand it? What are the ethics of being in a relationship with a non-living being? 

While in Banff, I worked in the Henriquez Studio, a refurbished fishing boat, home to many generations of writers before me. It's where Yann Martel wrote part of Life of Pi, and where Alistair MacLeod worked as well. I worked under the mentorship of Madeleine Thien, Rawi Have, and Lisa Moore, and in creative collaboration with nine other incredible writers (and many deer and elk). It was an inspired and deeply productive time. I'm grateful to the Banff Centre and to our sponsors for the time and opportunity to create.

Our fables will be published later this year as part of a limited edition anthology, complete with commissioned drawings and artwork. Stay tuned for launch details!