Spring Writing Workshop @ Shecosystem

Dig deeper, go further, get more out of your writing.

Join us – Jacqui Markowitz and Janis Seftel from The Jam Press – for an intensive workshop that takes a deep look at your writing. Experience what it is like to work with Janis and Jacqui, as we collaborate to bring out the best in your creative writing, whether you have been writing for years or you are new to your craft. You might be working on a memoir, a novel, short stories or your poetry… we read it all. Each participant will have a chance to see what it’s like to have a professional read of their writing, touching on creative development and structural and editorial suggestions. Bring a piece of writing to the table and work with us at the comfortable and dynamic space that is Shecosystem. Enjoy the focus, energy and integrity of how we work together to take your writing to the next level. The evening is designed to ignite and inspire. Six spots available.

Date: Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Time: 5:30-7:30pm
Location: Shecosystem, 703 Bloor Street West (suite 201, upstairs)
Cost: $20.

Cost includes a constructive and open review of your work by workshop facilitators and fellow participants. In advance of the workshop, email your piece (up to three pages) to, with your name as the subject line. Please email the piece you want to workshop by the morning of Monday, May 8.

To register or for more info please email

You can also see the event on Facebook here.

We look forward to getting to know the unique voice in your writing!



The world of a writing coach

“What do you do at The Jam Press?” (Ah, the number one question).

“We help first-time authors to get their book out into the world. As writing coaches, we also provide creative writing workshop services for writers who want a customized approach to workshopping their writing.” (Sums it up, yes?)

Hopefully this explains a little bit about the work of a writing coach. Each time we are asked, we further reflect on the role that we can play in an individual’s writing journey.

So many writers have been doing it “on the side” for much of their life, as a hobby or a way to process their experiences, always feeling like it’s something that comes after their other work. This is absolutely legitimate, but what often happens when our formal working lives wind down is that there is suddenly so much more room to focus on deep reading and writing. People get back in touch with genuine interests and passions. It’s a beautiful process to see. That creative side of one’s mind can be prioritized in a new way. One of our clients, Julie Schwartz, has involved us in this journey and so far it’s been a remarkable privilege.

So, what actually happens when we sit down with someone like Julie?

The process begins fairly organically, as we need to determine how much editorial work the manuscript or collection of writings require. The writer shares with us either a finished manuscript or a loose series of chapters, and we talk together about vision for both the nature of the book and what publishing goals might exist. We can also explore what the client themselves reads, and what books they’ve seen out there that have a connection with their own work. We are curious and we have a lot of questions. What has left an impression on you? What kind of writer do you want to be? Do you want to be the face of your book or let the book speak for itself? With Janis as editor and Jacqui as creative guide, we offer a double-pronged offering so the writer can always see both the small and big picture of their work.

Sessions can be constructed frequently and intensively over a few months, or drawn out more languidly over six months to a year, giving the client several windows in which to develop their craft independently. Sessions can be opted into on a one-time basis, or, more productively, organized into bundles of four of five at a time so there is a commitment from everyone to go deep. We’ve found that some people simply desire a clock set against their work, so the output feels finite and there are reachable milestones along the way. We are that clock! For example, we might workshop two or three pieces per session, and those are the pieces that take up all headspace for the client throughout the month. Then, when there’s a consensus about the piece being complete, we are all satisfied to move on to the next grouping of chapters/pieces. In this way everyone is biting off manageable chunks, and the looming anxiety around “writing a whole book” doesn’t seem so strong. It also allows us the freedom to dive into the themes of those particular pieces and give them their due attention.

In the time between one session and another, Jacqui and I evaluate the status of the work, read and review new material and plan for the next session. There is a lot of time spent in the “in between”, making sure that enough has been done to deliver fresh feedback and approaches to the writer. Similarly, the client takes that time to focus on redrafting some pieces or writing something new based on advice about where there might be gaps in the story.

Our core priority is maintaining the same voice that the writer had when they first met with us. This is a joy to follow, as usually the voice simply gets stronger and more confident, and the volume of writing increases.

If you are seeking this time and space to write in a guided and supported way, or you know someone who is, we’d love to hear from you.

You can get in touch at

Written by Janis, who would be pleased if you took a look at this article.




What does it take


Recently I had a conversation with a young couple both trying to make a go of independent careers. They had lots of excuses and doubt and desire. The money is not consistent. It’s hard to get clients. How long can they sustain this?  As I thought about their dilemma, I realized that it’s really not much different from how writers feel about their books. How I felt.

How do we get down to the writing? And when we’ve written it, then what? Most of us don’t have literary agents or publishers waiting anxiously for the glory of our words!

It’s a job. It has structure. Hours. Quotas. Deadlines. All self-inflicted. Oh, and overtime, lots. And, there is no silver lining, or light at the end of the tunnel. Writing is entirely self-serving. It feeds the part of us that can’t live without it. Is it ego? Perhaps. But, it is an intangible overpowering need to write that comes from somewhere deep within us.

In a writing class many years ago at U of T, Michael Winter told us that he sits at his computer at a regular time every day with no wifi for distraction and writes. One word, or hundreds. It’s the discipline of writing.  I have no idea if he will remember saying this, or if it was just his method for the book he was working on at the time. But, it left an impression on me.

We can fool ourselves into thinking we are working; that we are spending a lot of time, and committing to the task. We are baffled when months or years have gone by, and we are still not done. How can that be? We are working so hard? I have been there. Once I had the experience of really, truly, wholeheartedly committing to writing, I understood that all those other times were simply test runs, a pre-cursor to the real thing.

When I sat down to what would be the final re-write of my novel, Conversations for Two, I worked from 6:00 am to at least 4:00 pm, and most often after a break, went back to it in the evening. For six months. Seven days a week. Single-minded. Focused. I dreamt my book at night. Sometimes getting up in the middle of the night to find my computer and change a word, a sentence, or make a note of the scene that was playing in my mind.

You know, we hear about success after the fact. After the business has been opened, the book has won an award, or the deal has been signed. But, the true success is in the doing. It happens in all those months and years before the accolades. Once they come, the truly successful people are on to their next venture.

So, write, write, and write. You are not finished when you think you are finished. I don’t like to write in all caps for effect, but I’ll say it again. You are not finished when you think you are finished. Ask people to read your book who are not your friends. Hire a book consultant, and an editor. You know, when I see how much our clients are benefitting from the notes, thoughts, and critical thinking we bring to the manuscripts, I sincerely wish I had that opportunity with my writing. Here’s what one of our clients, Julie Schwartz, had to say about her experience.

“Writing with Jacqui and Janis reminds me of favourite teachers: the ones who see your potential and guide you gently but firmly towards your best work.  I feel I am a better writer courtesy of their respectful, professional and engaged consultative approach.”

Then, if you believe that what you have written is the absolute best it can be, and you must share it with the world, then publish.  Send out query letters, and do whatever it takes to get the word out. But, you don’t have to wait for someone else to give you the green light. You can publish yourself.  Book publishing is going the route of the music business. Artists no longer have to wait to be signed and recorded. I think it’s tremendously exciting and empowering to publish your own work. But, that’s a different article. And, that’s another way in which The Jam Press can help you with the dream to write and publish your book.

In the meantime though, just write. Every day.




Renovate your writing



I’ve just finished a renovation in my house. It all started when the dishwasher broke, then the fridge… I think you can guess the rest of this story. I ended up replacing the kitchen and the hall closet, and then, bit-by-bit, pretty much changing the entire main floor.

The timeline followed that trend as well. Seven weeks turned into six months. I was immersed in every single aspect of the project, from design, to appliances, countertops and even the right shade of white for the walls. I know, you’re thinking that white is white. That would be wrong. There are differences. Some subtle, no doubt. But some whites have too much grey, or green, or a yellow undertone, which significantly affects how the paint looks on the wall.

In 2015 I released my first novel with The Jam Press, Conversations for Two. Writing and publishing a book requires an incredible amount of attention to detail. How every single sentence should comprise exactly the right words and attitude, and how one sentence flows to the next. How many times do you use the same word? That is a great exercise by the way. Our editor and co-coach with The Jam Press, Janis Seftel, will tell you what an absolute crazy, obsessive person I became! In the final reads I was shocked at how many times I used “blue”. Subsequently, I can now recite at least twenty shades of blue…

All this is to say that there are great lessons to be learned from both my reno and my writing experiences that support the other. Here are seven lessons learned from my renovation that I can absolutely apply to writing. Funny how that works…

1. Have a plan. Change it. Make another plan. Go back to your original plan.

2. Take a sledgehammer to your project before you start. Ideas are like walls: knock them all out so you can see the structure without the clutter.

3. Visualize your project from beginning to end. See it at every stage and make changes before the frame and drywall. If there are problems in the layout they don’t magically go away. You cannot fix major flaws in your story at the end with the edit.

4. At least triple the amount of time you think you’re going to need to finish. Writing needs time to breathe. As the walls are knocked down, the story reveals itself, perhaps differently than you expected.

5. Conceiving the reno was similar to writing the first draft of a book. The construction is like editing, because things change as you see the shape evolve. The installation is like publishing. The cabinets and countertops package and support the design, as the font, paper and cover represent our words.

6. My first instincts were always the best. I chased my tail trying to find better tiles, appliances, faucets, sinks and stone for my countertops. Looked at everything, everywhere and ended up with my first choices every time. If you are clear from the start then all the subsequent decisions will be aligned.

7. Dust settles. Everywhere. There is nowhere to hide! Eventually though, it is cleaned away. And what is left is a beautiful space. You have to be in the trenches to write a book. It’s messy, always there, follows you around relentlessly until it’s done. Then, when it is, you feel like curling up to a delicious well-earned sleep on crisp, fresh hotel sheets. Or in my case, finally being able to put my dishes in the dishwasher!

Written by Jacqui Markowitz, who started The Jam Press to help other women fulfill the dream of writing their books too.

Starting the year at Shecosystem

fullsizerenderFor our small and many-hatted team at The Jam Press, one of the delights of our job as writers and writing coaches is when we actually meet in person for intensive, inspiring planning sessions. Writing is mostly a solitary exercise, as is editing, crafting press releases, contacting vendors and reviewing ebook formatting. As I work mostly from home, getting a chance to break away from the solitary realm – as rewarding as it is in its own right – is an absolute thrill and I jump on it. For me, expanding my network by meeting other women who work for themselves is one of the most motivating things I can do in my work. And so when my friend and fellow book editor Michelle MacAleese told me about Shecosystem, a friendly and productive coworking space at Bloor and Christie in Toronto, I was genuinely curious, and felt welcomed by a try-it-out-for-five-days package. A chance to make a cup of tea in the morning with other people? Let me in.

The wonderful thing about showing up with the intention of getting stuff done is that other people might hold you accountable at the end of the day! It’s working in a community, not in a vacuum. It’s seeing someone else’s perspective on an issue, even if they aren’t particularly well-versed in the realities of your industry – they can still share valuable advice. It’s also experiencing that amazing talent most women have of knowing when to gab and when to focus. From the moment I took a mug off the shelf in the kitchen to the time I said goodbye to everyone later that day, it felt like we had worked alongside one another for months.

The second time I worked at Shecosystem, all of us who were there by 10am got together in the middle of the big, bright floor and shared our priorities for the day. Just letting another professional know what I hoped to tackle was hugely empowering and somehow more tangible than reporting to family and friends what did happen that day. It reframed what I believed was possible, especially in the dead of winter with every self-employed person crawling back to their responsibilities after holiday hibernation and not quite working at full-tilt yet.

The icing on the cake was discovering last week that the founder and operator of Sheco who welcomed me so warmly, Emily Rose Antflick, is an old friend of the person who originally introduced Jacqui and I. (Jacqui and I met through her niece, Julie Persofsky, the utter chance of which deserves its own blog post.) Emily has been incredibly successful in creating a space for women to feel that perfect balance of the comfort of home with the routine and communal vibes of the office. And it’s so non-officey. Emily’s offering of a place that provides workspace, community and wellness is so imperative to our understanding of how we can achieve productive and meaningful work.

I kind of felt like I was visiting a friend at work, except that the arty and vibrant space was for me, too.

Thank you, Emily! Looking forward to future days at Sheco.

Written by our Senior Editor, Janis, who enjoys a good chat while the kettle boils

Our afternoon at Type Books

On the first day of May we packed the Forest Hill location of Type Books to host a reading with Jacqueline from her book Conversations for Two. The conversation was flowing and the support for such a beautiful story was there in spades. Thanks to all who attended that afternoon, for your enthusiasm for the book and for The Jam Press. Check out some photos!

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Photography by Shayna Markowitz 2016