When the universe hands you a free weekend...2 days in which to hunker down inside and contemplate life - including my writing life which is at the core of my contentment these days - then (feet-up) that's what I've been doing. It's always interesting to have time handed to you sequestered out-of-life. The fact that winter has popped up in the middle of what should be spring gives my head-space sort of a throw-back, whip-lash. It's all good though...
Having gone through the submission experience for more than 6 months (with poems that are up to a decade old) and garnering some real success in publishing, I (this week) upped my game by submitting poetry (at not submission fee) to such high-powered journals as Penn, Columbia, Seneca Reviews. Call me crazy, but you don't know how far your work has come if you don't test the waters, right? These are all unthemed calls for submissions (so a little different than the others I've sent in during fall/winter) but I'm used to getting rejections...these would be rejections from high calibre publications. Yay, me! So, I continue to write poetry (not as personal now that my Mom's death is fading somewhat) and more political/philosophical/historical/observational. We'll see? I'll keep you posted...
In the meantime, I crochet and knit. Anxiety-management I put in place during a gruelling fall (think heart attack symptoms!) seem to have nurtured me through a long, long, long (etc lol) winter, so carry on...
And lately, I find myself drawn to the colour pink. I know what you're thinking...I'm not exactly a pink person! But the prospect of a Master Suite addition to my 1973 house has me thinking of soft blush tones. And it feels good. I'm also watching an over-abundance of foodie programs on Netflix, baking bread at least once a week (with my maturing sourdough starter!) and experimenting with luscious herbs and spices from my fall harvest of the garden and those ordered up from California (post-San Francisco visit in October!) Wow, do the flavoured oils and vinegars as well as rubs and spices ever make a (POW) difference!
So on this (what could be miserable) captive day, I'm feeling like I'm heading in the right direction. Yes, I've retired some projects (kicked them off my plate) in the past year; now I'm revelling in the new; the rich & flavourful; the change!
Tonight I'll be reading from my latest book, DEVOTIONS at the Ontario Writers' Conference's Festival of Authors (at Creative Math & Music, Pickering, ON) in the 7-10pm time slot between cups of coffee and forkfuls of yummy cake! Do join us for author readings (mostly not poetry, if that's your thing). Brad Smith, Greg Gilhooly, Katherine Ashenburg...Blue Heron Books...Ted Barris, Wayson Choy...Story Starters Contest voting...
Then tomorrow, I'm hoping to sneak down to Bowmanville for a crafters' market (of sorts) because a purse-creator I know from FB will be showing/selling her wares among other artisans at GATHER (51 King St E, Bowmanville, ON L1C 1N1).
Followed in the afternoon by the Richmond Hill Central Library's Annual Poetry Gala (free), hosted by the amazing Barry Dempster. He always showcases 4 or 5 poets, who all read from their works (on sale at the event).
As if that's not enough, Sunday afternoon The Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, ON will host The Wild Nellies, holding a benefit event for Denise House Women's Shelter. And, yes, that's as energizing as it sounds! I know several writers and artists who belong to this new group of feisty women artists and (if I've got stamina left) will certainly be there!
Happy Spring Weekend (despite fat snowflakes) ~ Happy Writing!
These winter-ish months are the perfect time to devote yourself to writing - raw, uncomfortable, out-there-on-a-limb kind of writing. If opportunities don't present themselves to you for the churning, heart-palpitating, flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants creation, then you have to go looking for those experiences. Fold them into your life even if it's just 1 or 2 at a time.
As a poet, I'm a devotee of James Dewar's Poetry Sanctuary. A day of writing prompts and silent writing time combines with wonderful food, speaks to me. This past weekend, we were exposed to American poet, Ellen Bass' technique of encompassing everything (including the kitchen sink) in a 'long-armed poem'. If you're intrigued, please check her out - http://www.ellenbass.com/poems/
The other gift I've given myself to keep the energies flowing (during this endless wait for spring lol), was to join The Literary Nest's online poetry workshop out of California (a mere US$40 for 8 weeks of prompts and submission for feedback). And sure enough, I find myself stretched into filling assignments that require (dare I say) 'happy' poems this week. Okay, that's a true challenge for me (Queen of the gritty poem).
As subject matter, I was drawn to the log farmhouse that my second Ex and I built from scratch; the home that I left behind (for my Ex to live in) more than a decade ago ; the one my (now) adult sons grew up in. Happy was not possible, but nostalgic and melancholy will be apparent in the final few lines (written in the second person):
Was quitting your salvation when heartstrings
thrum recalling summer lanterns strung
from slivered porch rafters? A vacation
craft, you slicing the tops off soda bottles
then tasking your boys to finger-paint De Kooning
wild. How muggy nights still haul to mind
you pegging them in place on a crackled stringer
of old Christmas bulbs to rival fields of fireflies.
So, I encourage you to find those moments in your writing life that stretch you out of your comfort-zone. And happy writing!
Those of you who know me personally (have seen me at various writerly events in the past 6 months or so) have hear me expound on submitting your work whenever/wherever possible. Now I'll admit that's easier to do when you're a poet as I am. Those little nuggets take much less time to write and then to polish. But short stories, essays and then larger written work such as novellas, novels, whether in their entirety or as excerpts, should be sent out into the world as well.
By tracking submissions, rejections and acceptances, it's relatively painless to keep writing moving (out and back). There's always the opportunity to polish or edit between submissions, especially if you're fortunate enough to get some feedback. Yes, rejection is tough, but there are so many benefits to having your work interact with editors and, eventually, readers. It's the ultimate high when an editor says, "we were impressed with such-and-such."
And finally, the only way to toughen up that writer-armour is to expose yourself to the outside world. Yes, there is rejection, but it becomes much easier to swallow when acceptances happen. So, send that stuff out!
When offered an opportunity as a poet to participate in a reading for my local municipality ~ I jumped at the chance! As isolated, insulated writers, shouldn't we all take every gig that comes our way? The answer to that is yes. Yes, and...not no, but...
But it's tiring, you say. It can be exhausting pushing your work out; maintaining your visibility in the marketplace; not just creating, but selling yourself. When meeting with the lovely Marnie Mandel (Cultural Development Coordinator, City of Oshawa) over a coffee yesterday, we not only compared her visual arts background with my literary one, we talked what I called transmedia and she called intersectionality. We discussed her needs. We meandered around my projects and experiences. All interesting and perhaps fruitful. And that's important too!
She told me about a (free) opportunity that I'd like to share with you. A roster of professional development workshops that will help with that icky business side of things ~ branding. So, the first workshop has already happened...no matter...consider refining your own sense-of-self as a creative and register today. I know I am!
Anyone who's ever chatted with me about my writing routine (HINT: I don't write every day or do morning pages) has heard my recommendation to build into your life the structure that best suits your needs. Do you require the habit of a daily writing routine? Do you need silence? A busy coffeeshop? Do you produce your best work by writing-in-group? Then that's what you should do...
For almost 5 years (starting in 2008 ~ ending when my friend Tina was widowed and couldn't write), we met every other Tuesday morning and shared at least 3 pages of first-draft material with each other over coffee. We wrote novels that way. Reading each other's pages outloud to each other. The deadline mattered. The trusted first-reader mattered. The tiny bit of distance from pen-on-paper ~ letting us hear that our words were not dreck ~ that all mattered. So, if you need a trusted reader, make it happen. If you need to email copies to a friend, do it! If you need that coffee-date to produce, set it up. It's your job to figure out what your writing demands of you and make it so!
Many who hear me speak about writing these days have heard about WATTPAD (online, free books for the reading). Well, yesterday I added 2 more stories to that site. Game-Boy (a Y/A) was written with Tina's help (finished in 2011) and the sequel, Sh*t For Brains was completed 2012. These are mysteries (genre I'd never tackled before); with a psychic (lol) and have a great deal of mad-capped humour (also not my usual). The storylines and cast of characters are engaging and I'm quite proud of the work, but they never went anywhere (much) other than my drawer. Once brave - always brave? Yes, they're out there in the world. Check them out if you feel so inclined...
I feel (at my age) that we writers need to share our writing in some fashion. With the publishing industry changed, I take my opportunities where I find them now. I'm hoping these rambling might be food for thought. Cheers. Happy writing & reading!
Just a quick note while packing my bags for a trip south: I'm between writing projects which means while I'm scheming the distribution for the poetry/colouring book (DEVOTIONS), I'm also trying to corral the characters that keep showing up in my head for (not just 1 but) 2 Y/A stories (be they novels or novellas like ENOUGH available free on Wattpad.com).
How to pack for them, you might ask? Paper. Notes. Clippings. File folders to keep the stories separate. Laptop...for researching. But I'll also be packing a bathing suit, cap and nose plugs since I'm determined to dive right in! Wish me luck...
And aside from the writing materials, I'll also be bringing the pencil crayons and markers; the yarn and crochet hook; my tiny poetry scribbler for brain-dumps - all these as outlets for any frenetic creativity and to keep the anxiety (of vacationing?) of life in check.
On the laptop and the phone, I've also got lots and lots of music. Music to write by; to dabble by; to walk the beach by. Just for fun, check out the playlist I created for ENOUGH (which is on Wattpad). Here's the YouTube link to songs on a playlist (not my taste at all) that were channeled straight from my characters.
Cozy up during the winter, read and write! Til next time, peeps!!
We've all been presented with a clean slate; a blank page; like the crisp snowbanks outside and it's our obligation to take opportunity by the scruff and make things happen.
In my case that means taking DEVOTIONS to a whole new market. Yes, the launch is over. The holiday purchases of this poetry/colouring book were made. It's a start. So aside from submitting the book for several awards, I'm on the hunt for unique distribution for this very different kind of project. That will mean reaching out to some very unusual places: historical sites (i.e. forts), gift shops and craft shops. In order to prepare, I need to work up a spec page or line sheet on the product. Of course, Mr. Google and then an industry friend can be very helpful in fine-tuning what buyers or store reps would need. I also have a lead on an agent or two (that deal with some of the biggest retailers on the continent - yikes).
And if you're wondering why this isn't scary-out-of-my-depth - well, it is. No reason not to take on the challenge. At the same time, I'll be starting to write a followup. Retailing dictates that bundling colouring books together makes them more marketable. I'll keep you posted!
All this while starting to post another Y/A novella on the brilliant (free) WATTPAD website. And I've also got some brand new characters stomping around in the back of my brain (mental-health related, of course).
What do I do to relax? I've been knitting and crocheting to buffer the anxiety of this time of year. I'm always colouring. Winter months can be boring without the requisite splashes of colour, you must agree!
Writing is just like baking, isn't it? First, you need to clear the counter and take the time. Perhaps that means softening butter in preparation (just like the musings you might have about storylines or characters near to your heart?) Then don't you need to double-check your ingredients? Without flour, sugar, eggs, etc, you might only be able to create wallpaper paste or papermache goop. I relate these ingredients to your story elements such as setting (landscape, location, social surroundings), your inciting incident (those elements that ignite your writing) as well as any research necessary (as with my latest poetry/colouring book, DEVOTIONS).
So, I've been baking these last few days and what I noticed was that often you have to beat those ingredients together to make a smooth and consistent blend. Experience is helpful. But practice doesn't hurt. My Y/A novella, ENOUGH (free for the reading on WATTPAD.com) started life as an experiment (from a workshop exercise that Alissa York gave us). I had my incident and decided to see just how far this storyline would go "in the proverbial oven" by allowing in the range of 35 characters to each have a voice in telling the tale (in alternating chapters). Sometimes your creations will fall flat during the cooking/baking process. And sometimes they rise beyond your wildest dreams!
Well, back to the cookies. These latest ones needed to chill a little. Always a good part of the process. There was a large amount of shaping involved. My metaphor's holding up nicely. Bake time is important. Writers often wish a project would come together quickly, painlessly. Take note, that butt-in-chair time is a required element. Projects might take longer than anticipated to be "done". Don't fret.
As you see my delectables have embellishments. Editing is always necessary. Think of the rounds of edit-work as sugar-coating or chocolate drizzle. It only improves the finished product. ENOUGH is embellished with music videos (check it out); DEVOTIONS combines poetry, colouring and stickers. Weaving creative elements together will impress the palate.
Whatever your genre; your project; your process, you can't go wrong with a chef's patience. Good luck and happy kitchen-time!