“The supreme question about a work of art is out of how deep a life does it spring.”― James Joyce

mjt-head-shotWho Am I? 

Mitchell Toews lives and writes lakeside in Manitoba. His work appears in print and online, in places near and far. He is working on a novel. You may follow him on the trails or out on the water or ice, or more conveniently here at Mitchellaneous.com, or on Twitter or Facebook.

I WRITE ABOUT fictional everyday heroes and gritty situations familiar to most readers. Real life. Feelings, characters, and place.

“I come to writing fiction from the storyteller’s places: the campfire, the backseat on a long drive, the beer parlour.” —MJT

Writing is something I have always loved. I wrote for work — business reports for Dun & Bradstreet, ad copy, corporate communications, marketing material — but was always reluctant to go “all in” when the kids were little and the mortgage big. I devoted myself to FICTION in 2015 or so, retiring from my day job in 2016.

Being a writer is hard work. I write every day: flash fiction, short stories, CNF, and novellas. I edit and re-write and submit. I blog.

Projects.

1 — I have begun querying a themed collection of stories set in the imaginary town of Hartplatz, Manitoba and the lives of the characterful Zehen family. The stories go from 1920 Russia to the future, share events and quandaries big and small, in places near and far — but all in Canada, and many not too far from home, wherever that may be. “Pinching Zwieback — Prairie Stories” is the working title.  

2 — A WIP novel is well underway. It’s called “Mulholland and Hardbar” and is a MennoGrit flight from the village to the bush.  “Fargo, but with Mennonite accents,” I guess you could say. Others have said: dramedy, Bildungsroman, coming of age.

“Mulholland and Hardbar is a unique and moving story about an odd pairing of young men, their complex and dangerous relationship, and their need to learn how to face difficulty with courage and the absence of malice. The story follows the four seasons in the boreal: friendship, mistrust, deceit, and violence.”

‘Mulholland and Hardbar’ is now past its FIFTH full edit and stands ready to be queried sometime in the not too distant future. UPDATE March 2022: Courtesy of The Writers’ Union of Canada and their sponsorship of the Mentorship Microgrants program, I am one of the fortunate co-recipients of this outstanding program. I have partnered with proud TWUC member (and perennial all-star) Armin Wiebe to review this novel manuscript.

3 — In June 2020, I was the recipient of a Manitoba Arts Council financial grant to help with the expenses for an ekphrastic artbook based in Manitoba. It will feature photography and related short story fiction. Covid delayed that project as photographic collaborator Phil Hossack and I were not able to travel but it is back on track in 2022.

“A book of Manitoba portraits, visual and literary.” 

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Some, but not all of my stories recount events and conflicts from the “Mennosphere” —  inwardly oriented communities that can generate wonderful characters and practical — often beautiful — solutions to life’s confusion.

 

oldmainstPart of my context is to have grown up in the little town of Steinbach, Manitoba. My great-great grandfather was, “Delegate Toews,” a unique, forceful and devout man who was one of 12 emissaries from a group of Mennonite settlements in Southern Russia (present-day Ukraine). They sought refuge as Russia caved in on top of them and their conspicuous isolation. The delegates chose the East Reserve — a parcel of land at the extreme eastern edge of the Canadian prairies. Subsequent relatives were shunned by one of the Mennonite churches and — remarkably for that time, the early 1900s — sued to try to negate what they viewed as an unfair act. My personal history is inextricably interwoven in Steinbach, in Manitoba, and in the Mennonite experience in Canada and beyond.


 

Steinbach was created from the aforementioned migration. I, in turn, have created the village of Hartplatz as the imaginary home for many of my characters. It is where vectors intersect: faith and doubt; pacifism in a world at war; honour and temptation; fervour and absurdity; the temptations of the wide welt, and of course, humour. Many of these Hartplatz stories are in the bildungsroman tradition; in both first-person and narrator formats. Often gritty. K-mart fiction or maybe better yet: schmaundtfat fiction.

“God causes it to rain on Chevs and Fords alike,” as Diedrich, the main character in one of my stories puts it. The way the characters resist, pitting their will against that of their foe — the foe they seek to love — can make for a good yarn.

I build things in my little workshop here at the lake where we live year-round. I spend a lot of time fixing the uncooperative work, damaged digits, and the tools I break along the perilous way.

I love to paint and I’ve promised to go back to it some more, focusing on Warhol’s fascinating blotted line ink and watercolour mono-printing technique. I am an avid windsurfer (and windsurf hydrofoiler, if you know what that is). I row my sleek shell in the dawn calm. Janice and I catch a few pickerel and “hammer handles” in the lake and we travel when we can; volandos con fragatas.

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Jan and I reside in the boreal forest just north of the Fiftieth latitude in eastern Manitoba. Their property — like the Penrose cabin in my upcoming novel “Mulholland and Hardbar” — is situated on Métis land: Anishinabe Waki ᐊᓂᔑᓈᐯᐗᑭ  http://www.anishinabek.ca/ 

I have two daughters and three grandchildren.

 Meg With Winter Hair Tere Firma

Jan and I owned a manufacturing company for 16 years and I worked in the advertising and marketing side of the Canadian advanced secondary wood manufacturing industry from 1997 on. 

Now I am doing what I love — writing fiction. Living in the wild. (The wild with a StarLink internet connection, mind you.)

 

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022
Since April 2022

20 thoughts on “About

  1. A really fun site and you do a great job of communicating your enthusiasm for writing. Wow. That comment was so official. I’ll try again– you made me laugh and you made me want to go to my desk and write. Hmmm. Better.

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  2. HI Mitchell ,Nice to meet you .Thanks for stopping by on my blog and giving it follow. I am happy to get connect with a writer with you.
    Keep coming on my site in your free time and sharing my feedback.
    Happy Weekend !!

    Payal

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  3. Hi Mitchell, really enjoying your blog and your attitude to writing. I used to be a journalist on a regional daily paper in Tasmania (that little shield-shaped island south of Ostraya). I started as stringer with no training (“we’ll just throw you in the deep end & see if you swim”.) That was great experience, meeting people I’d never meet in my stuffy home town & learning their stories, copping their insults. “Bloody blow-in!” was a common one, mainly from middle-aged rural men on the windy NW coast. So, I worked as a journo for 30 years, mainly on trade & industry mags, then, forcibly retired like so many others as the print media shrank, FINALLY started writing for myself.

    Horror Headlines is a spin-off to promote my first not-self-published volume, my verse novel, Newtown Voices. I’m so glad you liked my Harry post. You landed on the first of my not a horror headline posts. Next post will be back to crime and poverty and rapidly changing social conditions un the late 1970s. It’s so much fun to be able to combine journalism with story telling! BTW: I also have a poetry blog, of poems I do’t consider good enough to enter into competitions or send to publishers. That’s the nearest I’ll allow myself to self-publishing again. https://wordpress.com/posts/songsfromanewplace.wordpress.com

    BTW2: I have ex-Mennonite friends who moved to Tassie and joined the Anglican church I was then attending. I’d never really heard of Mennonites before I met Karlin & Ed. Life in Tassie can be very insular. (Pun intended.)

    Shall drop into your blog from time to time to see what you’re up to. All the best, Sue C

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sue! So interesting – your past and meeting Mexikaunch Mennos in Tas. I will read more of your stuff! I’ve had some success submitting short stories to UK and Irish markets. Your comments (a small sample, I’ll admit) lead me to wonder if I should dip a freckled toe in your faraway waters. Canadian pubs are standoffish–maybe that’s SOP, grass greener, etc. I wrote a story about Mexican Mennonite migration into my hometown that Karlin and Ed may like: http://bit.ly/GrootaPieterRPJ Also, I enjoyed your artful pun! Cheers, mjt

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  4. Awesome work Mitch! I look forward to reading more. You have a great way with words and a wonderful sense of humour. I am a Taves formerly from Ontario but now live on Salt Spring Island in BC. My father was born in Russia in 1914, emigrated to Canada in 1924, became a Baptist minister in 1958 or so and then passed away suddenly in 1960 leaving me with very little information about my ancestors or his time in Russia. Thanks to the internet I am now connecting with cousins I used to know and some I’ve never met. I am revelling in the discovery of family history long past and am trying to learn German (Plautdietsch is almost impossible!) I’m not sure that we are related in any way but I feel a kinship with your stories. It’s great to meet you!

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    1. Hi Ruth Anne! Thanks. I am so happy to hear about the connection you feel! Several new stories coming soon and a novel in the works.

      If you tell me your Dad and his father’s names, birthdates-places, I can check the “Toews book”. My G-G-GF was Delegate Toews of the Kleine Gemeinde church in Russia who came to Can/US to scout out the free land in 1873.

      We love BC — kids and grandkids there. One daughter lived on Galiano for a year. Loved it. We were in Chilliwack for nine years. Now back in Manitoba. Cheers!

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    2. By the way, if you folks happen to be in Manitoba (why in the world???) we are having a get together where artists are invited to read, play, sing, exhibit, etc. July 20. It’s at our home on the shores of Jessica Lake. Some Plautdietsch whiperers and many Toews-Taves will be on hand.

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    1. I think Doug and I may have connected a few weeks ago because our DNA shows a distant match but we didn’t look too deeply to see where the connection was. More to discover! Email coming shortly.

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  5. Good morning Mitchell. I was wondering if you would consider being a guest on my author’s blog? Readers from all over the world. A new audience for your writing perhaps? Please have a peek and if you are interested be an honor having you as a guest. If you are interested, please send me an email at sbscribbler@yahoo.com and I will send you some brief details. Thank you.
    (link: http://www.southbranchscribbler.com)
    southbranchscribbler.com

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What a bunch o’ great shiess dreck you can peddle in a short bi- op, friend!
    I reverberate with the menno pacificism you evince….

    Liked by 1 person

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