have words, will travel


What a pleasure to get this in my inbox – the cover of my new book! Unpacked: from PEI to Palawan is the story of a young family, who after losing a precious baby girl, set out to discover who they really are as a family, and to heal their aching hearts.

Forthcoming from Pottersfield Press, in March 2017.


Well, it’s happening folks. FurtherMo turned five this summer with very little pomp and circumstance. I feel like I’ve spent the last two years lost in my obsession to publish that i’ve ignored the roots and groundings of these journalistic posts. Maybe I should re-name this blog to FurtherMo: The Diaries.


And some of you may wonder what the life of real writer is like, and when it is that I might write at all with two children scampering around, between publishing Cargo Literary issues and supporting the man I love run a small craft brewery (drink Upstreet!) . And I guess that some days the answer is vague and unanswerable, while other days i am somehow able to spin hundreds of words into stories and articles, mostly to give them to other websites and creditors and publishing realms.

But I miss just you, my twelve loyal readers, and I thought I would take you through the magical journey of what’s changed in the life of Mo, and what’s about to.

What’s Changed

I care more about the particularities of my craft, about finishing sentences and fixing my own scenes that are somehow not working. Weak writing is bad writing. I care more about being the best writer I can be, and less about where I measure up next to others.  These are the challenges I turn to at five am at my desk downstairs, even if i have to move family reunion folders and Girl Guide screening applications to do it. This is my work. I know this now, in part thanks to this building below.



Mo & Truman

I care more about taking care of the writing world I live in, by helping other writers who are struggling, just like the few early editors who I am eternally grateful for because they took care of me.  I read dozens of Cargo submissions daily and love finding gems of little essays that sparkle in their own way, but where writers have tried too hard to editorialize.

I think a lot of times, we stand in our own way. If we could only move out of our own way and let our stories pass, we’d probably be set.

What’s also changed is that the are a lot more two year old car seat selfies discoverable on my mobile phone. It looks like someone hasn’t washed his face in about a week. That’s what happens when you’re stuck in an interminable piece of dialogue that MUST be improved, only you don’t just know how yet.

What’s not changed

What’s not changed is the insatiable desire for connectivity and tool sharing amongst myself and other writers, even if we are on different pages, platforms or peripheries. I still need so much guidance and inspiration. One of the ways that I’ve managed to do this is to read for other journals, too, connect with editors and go to conferences. One of my last posts was about Puerto Rico, and I still feel very much like i left a tiny piece of my heart on the streets of San Juan, the place where I discovered that if i just believed it, the world would lay itself out straight for me.

And Cargo Literary was born. (knock, knock.)

Cargo Literary


Photo by PEI Photogenix

Cargo has given me the chance to explore a full world full of writing and writers, not just my tiny office with its spilled juice everywhere. It’s given me the chance to publish essays and poems and artwork that have opened my heart with gratefulness and stung with the salt of tears. The stories are lush, penetrating, and worldly.

It’s also let me pursue my other writerly passion projects, like mentoring young women in Afghanistan through the Afghan Women’s Writing Project. Here I have the honour of reading their current stories, which enlighten me in the ways of the world. How lucky we are to live in Canada.

What’s Changed

I am still bound and mystified by the great, island landscape which gives me the opportunity to be born again each season. There are hope in these transitions, and I now look forward to each passage with the clarity and focus of an experience thirty-something year old, not with the roaring twenties drift that I once imagined I would never lose. I am okay with the world, somehow.

I am okay with less than perfect family photos and batty cake pops and the serenity of an autumn trout river. In fact, i am thankful for them, and for health, and security, dance lessons and naps. Even if i haven’t published my first book yet, although that is still in the works my (12?) friends, let me assure you.




So where ever life may take me, then come on middle age, i’m ready for you! Although we may swoop through it’s valleys, life has a way of always taking us back to the top.







Lobster Fisher For a Day

Published by Welcome P.E.I. Locals Blog
June 04, 2015

It’s still dark when Captain Lori Clark picks me up in her white half-ton truck — just after 4:30 am. The first time I met Lori, it was behind a gorgeous blush and eyeliner job and a glass of white wine. Today, she’s in her rubbers, and she tells me I’d better be in mine, too.

We are heading to Malpeque Harbour, or around here, better known as “The Cove,” and towards Lori’s lobster boat, the Southern Lady. Although people have been fishing out of Malpeque for more than fifty years, Captain Lori’s only been out here about six, but three more before that when she worked on her husband’s boat, Captain Ewan Clark’s Pura Vida. She is among about 1,300 other fishers who hold lobster licenses on PEI this year. The fisheries are an integral part of Island culture and economy, especially to many in the Island’s smallest, most rural communities.

Lori’s brought me some coveralls but thankfully it’s not too cold of a morning and my layers of fleece and tuque will do. I greet her two hired hands, Jason Cooke and Brittan Turner. Jason says he’s been fishing as long as he remembers, and when he counts back from his age of 38, he says about twenty years. Young Brittan on the other hand, smiles shyly at my questions, nineteen years old and his first season out on the boat…

Check out the rest of my adventure here at the Welcome PEI blog 🙂  

things writers need


As I sit the airport bar in Charlottetown, I consider my life as a writer. I wonder which glimmering cloud, which formative happenstance has allowed me to become the writer that I am today?

I know that there have been several people who have helped me get here, through my MFA, in the midst of babies and anthologies and parent teacher meetings and submission guidelines. You know who you are. You help me when I’m overwhelmed. You find me when i’m lost. Husbands and mothers, mostly.

Today I am traveling to #AWP15, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, one of the most massive writing conferences in the country. Which brings me to the topic of this post:

Things Writers Need

1. Time These are the five am wake-ups when we sneak downstairs, the late nights after babies’ bedtime and the reasons why I can’t go for coffee or meet you at lunchtime.

2. Solitude Revision is a bold, dynamic process, but it is a lonely time too. It’s the time when you are totally stuck in your own head and no matter where you go on the planet, you are poised in your mind between sentence one and sentence two. This requires immense concentration and focus, and is libel to occur when you least expect it, in the middle of a party, watching monster trucks on youtube (ESPECIALLY when watching monster truck on youtube), or whenever else. Suddenly, you are needed by your words. Listen to Liz Gilbert talk more about that here: Liz Gilbert on the Elusive Creative Process

3. Community  These are you, my dear editors and freelancers and people who have reached out to me on Twitter or read my work. Readers are the most important people in the world because when i’m sitting down here in my basement, and I’m writing words on pages, it is for you, through you and in you that I am writing for. Human connection, intrigue and wonder, neural networks of emotional intensity. That is you. And AWP! Dear organizers, thank you.

IMG_25154. Other Writers  Here i am pictured here with Cargo Lit‘s creative nonfiction editor, Melissa Matthewson. Other writers are important because there is so much life outside of our work, yet it consumes us. We are constantly in need of generative conversations, explorative undertakings, and the final pushes from writers in our circles that make words appear on pages. You are my believers, and my most critical editors,  the “you can do betters” the i hear in my head when i’m writing.

5. ENCOUNTERS WITH CRAFT this one probably should have been higher up on the list, but i love reading craft books, and my advisors have published a few, such as Words Overflown by Stars and Before We Get Started  and Showing and Telling. I love reading their books because although they may touch on similar subjects, presentations and style differ and connection happens on various levels. And what’s more is my never ending reading lists, essay, articles, novels, poems! Words, words, words. And don’t favourite bloggers, like where would i be without Jane Friedman and Grammar Girl?

6. Inspiration. You are my world, the people that I meet, the memories and the makers that spurn me on to write, the twists of fate and the mountains yet to climb. You are the language of the two year old and the convincingness of the *tweener* (did i really just use that word?), you are PEI’s north shore and my adventures and challenges being a life-long learner and mom. You are where my heart is happy, my next best paragraph, my acceptance letters, and the reason i continue to do what i do.


to new beginnings

I did it! I finished my Masters in Creative Nonfiction. And now what? Things may be summed up here, in the last sentence of the Globe and Mail astrology column.


 life is

an adventure

or it

is nothing

Puerto Rico

When I decided to go into the Masters in Fine Arts program at VCFA, I never dreamed of the world of writing possibilities that would open up for me, the psychic and spiritual conversations i would share, the unending vulnerability  and potential that would open up inside of me. This January, I met sixteen of my fellow poets and writers in Puerto Rico, where we spent four days in sun-drenched San Juan. We workshopped each other’s words in the mornings, summoning higher selves, writing in each other’s margins and pointing out where we’ve kept a secret from the reader. We begged for more.

In the afternoons we heard vivid and poignant lectures by Puerto Rican writers,activists, self-published, well travelled teachers and candles in their small but important circles there, fighting for justice, for identity, for freedom.

Yolanda Arroyo Pizzaro, “Las Negras”

Hector Feliciano, Author of "The Lost Museum"

Hector Feliciano, Author of “The Lost Museum”

Then we moved to El Junque, the Puerto Rican rainforest, home to the famous coquí frogs and the perfect tree snails who slide under your doors and walls unsuspectingly towards lost a lost cracker. This is where I conducted my graduate lecture in travel writing and read from my new book, Unpacked. I then received my diploma (conferred by Tom Greene) , with hugs from the VCFA faculty and staff.  We all drank mojitos and danced salsa and merengue after, with the amazing cooks in the kitchen coming out to teach us a few of their effervescent moves.

IMG_2342 - Version 2

As Leila says, Mommy, MFA.

Introducing CARGO

So by now I have taken on another editorial project, a new online literary magazine dedicated to the travel & the inner journey, Cargo Literary.  I suggest you follow us on FB at https://www.facebook.com/CargoLit or on Twitter@CargoLit. We are also still looking for submissions for our inaugural issue, due out later in February. Find the submission guidelines here:www.cargoliterary.com (our landing page but more to come).

I guess that’s it for the update. Hope everyone is well and happy in 2015.

love, mdc

What were you thinking?

photo (12)I don’t always claim to know what I’m doing. I don’t. I’m a dreamer, a pure Sagittarius (and yes I think that’s important), a thinker. I admit. I lose my way. I can’t follow a plan. I am easily distracted by the intoxicating beauty of  rhubarb leaves, punchy high pitched horn lines, and the sway of birch trees in the wind, suspended in the magic of their glorious fall transitions from green to gold.

But it’s been happening a lot lately. The other morning, I jumped in the shower with my husband. Really, the vessel is too small for both of us and a jump-in rarely happens, but I like when it does. The kids were watching Curious George, and I had a minute, maybe two. I grabbed a big green bottle and loudly squeezed the gel on my hand. He started laughing.

“Do you always do that?” he began.
“What?” I questioned.
“Wash your hair with conditioner?”

I stopped and giggled when I realized that this happened last night too, except we were at the bathroom sink. I was perpetually not paying attention.

“You’re doing it again.” He said, accusingly.
“Doing what?” I asked.
“Using my toothbrush.”
Whoops. I did’t even notice.

How am I supposed to remember what my toothbrush looks like from day to day, especially when it’s so often changed in the name of “public health”? I have a daughter with two toothbrushes, and now a toddler with one  (which i’m sure would prevent a lot of cavities if he didn’t brush his hair with it), his and mine. My toothbrush cup overflows.

And I admit. I lose track. He throws me off guard when he asks, “What are you thinking?”

Something funny has started happening to me since I’ve begun writing full time. I live completely in my head, extending my week into one  long metaphor, my perception jagging in every which direction as I shift the angles for a better view on the page, something more interior, something deepened.  I don’t notice where i am in space, that’s too unimportant. I’m thinking about something else. Something major.  I’m thinking of the story of my life, that’s all, my story.

The story of my life.

I had a prompt. This summer, I had the pleasure of interviewing my friend, David Weale, the famous PEI author, for a review I was doing of the play he co-wrote with Colin Buchanan called Story (Read that review here). At one point, David turned the tables on me and asked,

“Mo, what’s your story? What will you be remembered for?”

I’m still not totally over the question, and each day as I plug away at my computer on endings and beginnings and passages through things, I’m thinking about it. And also in the shower, when i’m washing my hair with conditioner, and when i’m using my husband’s toothbrush, and when i’m burning the kids’ toast, and when i’m feeding cat food to the dog, ignoring phone calls or otherwise.

Storytelling has long been a high art form,  and it’s slowly making me question my place in the world, the words i leave behind and the stories I craft- right now –  my essays, my poems, and the travel memoir that I am working on that will tip the scales at 250 pages (not to mention which will become my Creative Thesis for my MFA!)

My tiny inner voice wonders why or if I deserve to be different from anybody else, coupled with the steady stream of rejection letters that seem to put the nails in the coffin. But another voice tells me to persevere, to keep submitting, and to honour that creative process, the drive to create a more succinct, bolder voice, one that will grow, become refined, become assured.

But there’s still the toothbrush thing. So when I think of my teeth, I think Orange, Orange, Orange. The story of your life is Orange.

Maybe that will do for now.


My Writing Process Blog Tour

IMG_0178MARY-KIM ARNOLD is a fiery poet whose words reflect the depth of her diverse experience. The first time I heard Mary Kim’s poetry, my heart almost stopped. We were at a new best friend’s sleepover in a hotel in Burlington, VT. Words and spaces blended together seamlessly. She would pause, tilt her head, let her horn rimmed glasses ponder and continue, giving new life to each pristine line she spoke. She was a pro.

A colleague of mine at Vermont College of Fine Arts (her second degree in Creative Writing), MK  maintains a thoughtful blog at Small Fires: A Pillow Book. She is the one who tagged me for this My Blog Writing Tour! Her poetry can be found at Two Serious Ladies, Tin Houseand of course, The Rumpus, where she is an editor.

— So, I’ll ask myself these questions, and then I’ll answer them, that’s how it works. OK? OK.

Here we go:

What are you working on?

(1) For the past two years, I have been working on a personal memoir of travel and grief. In 2008, after the loss of our baby girl at forty weeks gestation, my husband and I took an epic backpacking trip through Southeast Asia and the Philippines. Our daughter was two years old at the time, and she became a central character in the travel memoir I hope to publish sometime this century. The story is mixed in shades of darkness and stormy seas of confusion and grief, following a path of color and culture as the main character, Mo, finds the freedom to liberate the heavies in a sort of reality check taking stock of what she really has left in this world.

(2) I have a collection of essays that need to be manicured in some fashion. These have been written in the past two years. They are a revolving door of personal and lyric essay, involving a myriad of themes including gardening, the land, marriage and children, meditation, the realizations of middle life. There’s also some really great dialogue based on my hilarious eighty-one year old father, a retired chemistry professor and local innovator who seems ever present in most of my essay work.

(3) My roots of poetry have recently swelled, suddenly growing limbs and lines after almost a decade dormant. At my last VCFE residency, I had the privilege of attending a workshop called The Porous Boundary between Creative NonFiction and Poetry, led by the great essayist Patrick Madden and long established poet, Betsy Sholl. This has really resonated for me in a writing age where I want to explore new possibilities in text and media, and also create innovative books. If there’s anything that’s better than writing, it’s talking about writing. VCFA workshops are the best.

(4) My girlfriend Romina and I have an ongoing journal that we have been creating since 1998. These are nonfiction shorts (yae, brevity!) which involve text, photos, leaves, and things written in popsicles and lipstick. Romina has been my number one reader for about twenty years now, and we have been through just about everything together, including a five year old manuscript which has been shelved for the moment. This book awakened something in me finally gave me permission to sit down and write, which was one of the first turning points in my writing life. Hopefully there are many more ahead.

(5) I have become a bit of a gregarious reviewer, which seems to play well to my social life here on Prince Edward Island. I am reviewing books, theatre shows and musicals, sometime integrating interviews, with bits of elaborate ideology.

How does your work differ from others of its genre? As much as I want to say that I am supremely original, the truth is that I’m not sure. I feel my work is different than some other travel memoir as it takes the reader on an emotional journey as well as one through time and space, but I am by far the first to do this. Maybe it differs in that my focus has always been on family, and generating a balance between the unpredictable electricity of cultural inquisitiveness with the smell of a kindergartener’s peanut butter toast.

Why do you write what you do? I guess I write to figure out my world, and to make it meaningful not only for me, but for those around me. Stillbirth hasn’t been an easy thing for me to deal with, but I’ve grown through the loss to another side of myself, and one I never expected to find. I love this family lifestyle writing because we can learn so much from our kids, through the honesty and the obsession and the questioning and their constant surge of reorientation. I’ve become an essence of the person who i want to be, and the role model i need to be. My writing has just been a recording of this process. I write to become better. For the last five years I have become obsessed with the craft side of writing, and it’s been a wonderful injection into my writing psyche. It’s made me want to read more, write more and fills in the gaps in my whimsical style with backstory, scene setting, body language, and attention to detail.

How does your writing process work? The only quiet hours in my house are between five and seven am, and this is amazingly productive time for me. I find that the earlier I can catch myself off guard, the closer to my dreams I can write, and usually before some little person saunters into my office needing a cuddle. I also enjoy the stillness of my mind at this time, before my busy brain is turned to dentist appointments, returning phone calls and the daily errand and housework churn of a family of four. My husband is always amazed that my critical mind takes over at nine o’clock, but it’s true. At that time, writing is over and revision begins.

So now I tag two more people. I met Jason Howard, a fine young Kentuckian, when we drank bourbon together for four semesters at VCFA, planning our lives together as writers and dreaming in essays and memoirs. Jason’s book, A Few Honest Words, The Kentucky Roots of Popular Music, was published last year and he interviews musical greats such as Joan Osborne and Naomi Judd. You can also find him on Twitter @jasonkylehoward. If you ever meet Jason in a bar, ask him about Ann Boelyn.

Monica Lacey‘s love of words has been going on for decades.  In her honest beginnings,  Mon wrote and created her own books of poetry and boldly stocked our small city’s library with them. She has always been an inspiration for living the artistic life, and we are old friends from a past life, we think.  She has currently expanded her artistic merits to an impressive roster of visual art endeavours. Find her blog about her work at Dance the Changes.