The Penmen Profile: New Author Dennis Cardiff

by Diane Walters

dennis2116x158bAuthor Dennis Cardiff lives in Ottawa, Canada, with his wife, two sons and two stepsons. Working in the mailroom of an international law firm allows a lot of free time for him to write and do research on the Internet.

An artist of many talents, Cardiff has been a professional portrait painter since 1972. He studied art at the Ontario College of Art, University of Saskatchewan and the University of Ottawa. As a writer, his poetry has been published in the Sheaf, the University of Saskatchewan’s newspaper, the Anthology and an online poetry magazine, Shadowlands Express. His recent book “Gotta Find a Home: Conversations with Street People” (book 1 of 4) was published by Karenzo Media. Books 2 and 3 are currently at the publishers, and the 4th book of the series will be available in January 2015.

Have you always written?
In school, I always wrote extensive notes in class. I especially enjoyed subjects where I was required to do illustrations, maps or diagrams. At exam time, I could recall entire pages from my notes, especially in history.

In grade eight, I won a city-wide essay contest sponsored by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. The theme of my essay was four soldiers returning from war and the physical and emotional scars they bore. My father had served in World War II, and my brother in the Korean War.

My ex-wife was a poet. It was after meeting her in 1970 that I attempted poetry writing. I continued with poetry off and on since then. In 2007, I joined and took courses in novel writing, poetry, grammar and punctuation. The feedback I received from instructors and fellow writers was invaluable. I am still a member.

What’s your writing process in developing your storyline and characters?
My process is, and has always been, to just research and write. I literally cut and assemble facts into categories, then develop them into paragraphs. Later, I will develop a framework or outline to organize all my thoughts. I use a writing program, Scrivener, which is helpful in organization. At the end, I will review to make sure that opening sentences introduce a subject and closing sentences conclude events described.

What challenges do you face in your writing?
The challenges I face in writing are the words. I was told by my poetry professor that if a writer fully understands the issue they are trying to express, there are only a few combinations of words that will adequately convey that thought image to the reader. This involves using a dictionary to fully understand the scope and definition of each word used. With this knowledge, multiple themes can weave through the writing.

What has the road to publication been like for you?
I began by submitting poems to a university newspaper. At and Poetry Soup, I submitted poems to monthly contests. I have attended many seminars given by published writers and poets and have read many books on the subject of writing and marketing. A year ago, I joined This is a site that offers unlimited free space for writers, poets, bloggers, editors and publishers. I received very positive feedback on my blog, “Gotta Find a Home,” recalling conversations with panhandlers on the street. To date, this blog has had over 88,000 hits and has over 15,500 followers. It was here that I was approached by Karen Silvestri of Karenzo Media. She offered to assist me in publishing a book. After reading my entire blog, which spanned four years, she said that I had enough material for three books. The fact that all of my proceeds were going directly to people forced onto the street and to the Ottawa Innercity Ministries was an incentive for editors, publishers and proofreaders to offer their services free of charge.

How do you market your work?
I market my book on Facebook along with my blog entries. I pay to boost individual posts and my book page itself ($5.00 per day). My blog entries appear on GoodReads, Twitter, Author’s Den and Tumblr. I have an advertising campaign on GoodReads and have hosted two giveaways. I have joined authors, readers and marketing groups on Facebook. We trade likes, reviews and suggestions. I purchased a package of five reviews from ($98.00). They donated an extra five. I also purchased five reviews on GoodReads ($30.00). I made posters that I pinned to bulletin boards where I work. My wife has also posted these where she works. Daily, I post reviews of my book to all of my Facebook groups.

Who are the writers who have inspired you the most, and how have they inspired you?
Writers who have inspired me include: Tolstoy, Turgenev, Dostoevsky, Jeanette Walls, Elizabeth Berg, Wally Lamb, John Irving, Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan, Pema Chodron, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Chogyam Trungpa, Sharon Salzberg, Bob Dylan, Henry David Thoreau and Christina Feldman.

If you could keep just three books in your library, which would you choose and why?
If I were to keep only three books, the first would be Bob Dylan’s “Chronicles: Volume One.” I was inspired by the way he describes his method of deconstructing newspaper articles, works by other composers and writers. He reconstructs them as his own. The second book would be Thoreau’s “Walden.” It relaxes me every time I read it. It’s almost like sitting under a tree watching the clouds pass. The third book would be “Compassion: Listening to the Cries of the World” by Christina Feldman. It reminds me to live a life of service to humanity.