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Writers invited to contribute in memory of Norma West Linder

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Cathy Dobson

The late Norma West Linder was widely respected for her prolific writing and generous spirit, having lived most of her adult life in Sarnia and having mentored many novice writers along the way.

With that in mind, the Lawrence House Literary Arts Committee is planning a unique written tribute to West Linder and is accepting contributions this month.

Both emerging and seasoned writers are encouraged to submit poetry, stories (2,000 words or less) and short accounts of experiences shared with West Linder.

It was Leonard Segall, chairman of the Lawrence House Centre for the Arts, who first suggested the idea of an online tribute, said literary committee spokesman Ryan Gibbs.

West Linder passed away last summer at the age of 94 and had been a patron of the Lawrence House for years.  She had often participated in open mic events by reading her poetry.

“Norma was always very supportive of the Lawrence House and the literary arts,” said Gibbs.  “And many people knew her.”

But those who didn’t are also encouraged to submit material for the tribute, which is named for a 2013 book by West Linder called “No Common Thread.”

Gibbs, a poet and communications instructor at Lambton College, considered West Linder a mentor and wrote the afterward for “No Common Thread.”

“I always thought of her as a kind and encouraging person,” he said.  “She was a mentor to a lot of writers.”

West Linder grew up on Manitoulin Island and moved to Sarnia to raise her family.  She began writing poetry in the 70s when she taught create writing at Lambton College.

In total, she wrote five novels, 14 collections of poetry, a memoir about Manitoulin Island, two children’s books and a biography of Sarnia-born Pauline McGibbon, first female Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.

She taught at Lambton College for 24 years and belonged to numerous writing groups and associations.

Submissions for the “No Common Thread” tribute will be accepted at https://lawrencehouse.ca/uproar/theme/ until Nov. 30. Apart from writing that relates to personal experiences with West Linder, written work can reflect the themes she loved best including Manitoulin Island, music (particularly jazz), teaching and beaches.

The No Common Thread commemorative issue of the Uproar Literary Blog will be published Dec. 15.

“What made Norma such a good writer was her sharp and very realistic dialogue, her really identifiable and diverse characters and her sense of community,” said Gibbs.  “Our main objective is to celebrate her.We look forward to selecting the best submissions for the tribute blog.”

The literary arts committee has two other projects this season.

From Dec. 15 to Feb. 15, prose and poetry will be accepted on the theme of “Transitions.”

“We live in an era of many great changes and invite poems and stories about individual, community, and/or broad socio-political transitions,” said Gibbs.  The Transitions blog will be published Feb. 15.

Finally, from Feb 15 until April 30, the committee will host the third annual Carmen Ziolkowski Poetry Prize in honour of the Sarnia poet born near Naples, Italy.

This is an annual competition that attracted more than 120 poems from across Canada and abroad last year, said Gibbs.

“In her spirit, the committee is seeking well-crafted poetry that is heartfelt, nature-based and hopeful.”

Winners of the Carmen Ziolkowski Poetry contest win cash prizes of $500, $250 and $100.  Details will be available at https://lawrencehouse.ca/carmen-ziolkowski-poetry-prize/.

The Lawrence House Literary Arts Committee consists of Gibbs, Rhonda Melanson, Lois Nantais, Kathryn Shailer and Ann Towell.

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