Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Why I Write


Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the November 4 posting of the IWSG are Jemi Fraser, Kim Lajevardi, L.G Keltner, Tyrean Martinson, and Rachna Chhabria!

Yes, it's another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! I love this month's question - it goes to the heart of these times. Here it is:

November 4 question - Albert Camus once said, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” Flannery O’Conner said, “I write to discover what I know.” Authors across time and distance have had many reasons to write. Why do you write what you write?

As my writing is varied (plays, novels, poems, essays) one might think my purposes might be as well. Nope. I write to wake myself up and perhaps to wake others up in the reading of it. It isn't that I think my waking up is crucial to the saving of the world, but I do believe that it is imperative that we all become aware of the water we swim in. So...I believe that both Camus and O'Conner answer this question as I might. The last big writing I did was my novel Crooked Knife - now looking for a home. I wrote it because I was enraged and broken-hearted about a certain situation. Writing gave me a place to try and understand my thinking and feeling about that situation.  My hope is that others reading it will be both entertained by the story and have a new understanding of a community that is little valued. 

 I write poetry to discover what I might be thinking and feeling about very big questions - the core of my belief system, my values, my sense of beauty and the raw energy of the world. I'd say it all comes from the same place but the poetry is another layer. Another prismatic view of my world.

I write for the same reason I read. To wake up.

Hope when you are reading this that your community - where ever that may be is functioning and that people are acting peacefully. I am very aware of the division in the USA and how frightening and painful that must be for my American friends. I pray that whatever outcomes occur that kindness be the first virtue embraced.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

out my window

 And here we are at another meeting of the IWSG

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

The awesome co-hosts for the October 7 posting of the IWSG are Jemima Pett, Beth Camp, Beverly Stowe McClure, and Gwen Gardner!

October 7 question - When you think of the term working writer, what does that look like to you? What do you think it is supposed to look like? Do you see yourself as a working writer or aspiring or hobbyist, and if latter two, what does that look like.

I don't think much of the term working writer. It seems too wordy. My partner doesn't say he is a working carpenter. My pal doesn't say she is a working doctor. Maybe it has become cheapened - the perfectly good word 'writer'- because people feel like if you say you are one, you may be fantasizing. I write. I have written my whole life. On occasion I've been paid to write - journalist, publicist, etc... So...I feel like it is a slippery slope of propping yourself up. I don't much going around presenting myself as my career or work choice anyway. Perhaps that is because at the age of 68 I can lay claim to too many livelihoods. I'm a psychotherapist. I'm a teacher. I'm a clown. I'm a playwright. I'm a cook. I'm a daycare worker. I'm a logger. I'm a cleaner. I'm an entrepreneur. I'm a photographer. I'm a meeting planner. I'm a counsellor. I'm an arts administrator. I'm a publicist. I'm a journalist. I'm a director. I'm a...human. Other than human, I've been paid for all these jobs and more I haven't thought of. But, since I was a teenager, I've written. I've written through all of them. It is the only work I've continued throughout my whole life.

On other fronts - my query packages are out and I'm waiting to see what happens next. I only sent three but they were very directed. (I had someone who had paved the way so they weren't blind submissions)  I'm working on a new novel and have decided that this time I'm going to write at least a skeleton of an outline. I have already begun the first draft - have about ten thousand words and it has the same protagonist as in Crooked Knife so there is already lots of background known. I plan on working on the outline and then doing NaNoWriMo to get my next fifty thousand words or so. It is called Red Bay. 

I love October. I know this is a tough time but I'm continuing to enjoy this new house and the maple trees are turning. Turning is one of my favourite words. Turning, falling, changing...

I went to Tancook Island last week for three nights. I think I found my next place to set a novel. Island people are so interesting no?

Thanks for visiting and see you next month!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Falling through the turns, turning through the fall

It is the monthly meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Here is its mandate:

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Oh I love the fall! My whole being leaps into excitement. I know the news is dire and life drear, but I have fresh notebook head and will stay here as long as possible. What? You don't know what fnh is? has to do with 13 years of schooling being hard-wired into our heads in the formative years. This year I will not fall behind. This year I will not ruin my binders with stickers. This year I will do my homework when I get it. You get the notion. And new pens. And your first day outfit (my favourite - a brown plaid kilt with a creamy Aran knit sweater - grade 11). It is fresh start, do-over, endless supply of "lives" in the big game of life.

And how does this relate to writing? Uh...well only in so much as  it affects every part of my life I guess. I'm doing the finishing touches on my submission package for Crooked Knife - my goal is to send out the first lot on Saturday - because it would be my mother's birthday and that seems lucky. I'm working on a piece for the blog the editor I hired puts out on the subject of place as character. I'm not letting myself start a new quilt until all of that is done. Focusing! I will focus this year in the school of life. 

Here is this month's question:

September 2 question - If you could choose one author, living or dead, to be your beta partner, who would it be and why?

Yikes! If it is someone I adore I'd be so freaked out at them reading my raw novel, and if it is someone I don't adore why would I choose them? Okay. Be brave. Stand on the side of your work with love and respect. For my current project - a mystery - I will choose Reginald Hill - beloved writer of the mysteries that  include Andrew Dalziel, Peter Pascoe and Edgar Wield. The completely misogynist hard-drinking Dalziel is one of my favourite protagonists. Hill would be a good beta reader for me because he suffered from people trying to get him to apply political correctness constraints on his characters. And I'm sure I will too. Also, I think my mystery has a fair share of humour though the topic is bleak - and he had a great light touch with that as well.

For my poetry collection, Red Rover, I would like my friend Sue Goyette to be my beta reader. I haven't asked her yet as she is deep into finishing her master's thesis, but I may at some point. Her poetry is utterly transcendent and I've had her as a teacher so I know she gives great constructive help. 

I feel that I do want to give a shout-out to my REAL CURRENT BETA READERS however. First is my life-partner, Ron, known in blog land as 'the fella'. He is a wonderful beta-reader - such a persnickety reader which is what I want. He is both my beta-reader and copy-editor. Second is my long time writing pal, Gwen, who is sitting across from me as I write this - like she is every Wednesday that is possible. We read each other's work as a matter of course, and I will be reading a short story she's sending out right after I finish this. She is such a good writer and very generous and helpful as a teacher as well. She has a book you can find on Amazon called Facing the Other Way, a collection of linked short stories. I highly recommend you get it.

Okay - I must get to work now. Focus. Clean notebook and all.

Hope you are all well and surviving whatever situation you find yourself in.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

still crazy, still writing - another meeting of the IWSG

Calling another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group!  What is the IWSG I hear you ask? Very straight-forward: 

Alex J. Cavanaugh, the founder, noticed a lot of blog posts from writers mentioning their doubts, concerns, and lack of confidence. He also saw the positive replies they received and realized that the writing community offered an abundance of support. Writers want to see other writers succeed, which is how he came up with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. This group would act as a form of therapy, letting writers post about situations where they need encouragement, or to offer words of encouragement to others if they have experience.

On September 7, 2011, Alex launched the monthly blog posting of the IWSG and it has been going strong ever since.

On the first Wednesday of every month we share of thoughts about writing on our blogs. We also have an optional monthly question to assist with member's posts, which can be found on the Sign-Up page.

August 5 question - Quote: "Although I have written a short story collection, the form found me and not the other way around. Don't write short stories, novels or poems. Just write your truth and your stories will mold into the shapes they need to be."
Have you ever written a piece that became a form, or even a genre, you hadn't planned on writing in? Or do you choose a form/genre in advance?

Okay - a very good question.  I write poetry, plays, novels, and creative non-fiction. I have written only a few short-stories and when I entered them in contests the jury members would undoubtedly mention that there was too much going on and didn't I mean to write a novel? Well, yes I did. As to genre - mostly I just want to write a good story but out of my five or so mostly-finished manuscripts - two are mysteries, two are 'literary' (whatever the sam hill that is) and one might be YA - with another YA coming along. 

I like artists that bend the form - Michael Ondaatje started as a poet - did a sort of long-form poem/play (The Collected Works of Billy the Kid)  and is mostly now known for his wonderful novels. Kate Atkins wrote literary fiction and then decided mysteries might be fun and manages to go back and forth between the two. Margaret Atwood - novels, poems, essays. I like polymaths like Leonardo da Vinci - painting, drawing, sculpting, architecture, science, inventing. Or Benjamin Franklin (author, politician, inventor, scientist) or Joni Mitchell (singer, songwriter, painter). I could go on. But I won't - because I have lots to get at.

Here's a quote that works for me:
I certainly agree that putting everything into little genres is counterproductive. You're not going to get too many surprises if you only focus on the stuff that fits inside the box that you know. David Byrne

or how about one from Miles Davis:
"I'll play it first and tell you what it is later." 

And this is my favourite -

My family could only afford to get me the box of eight Crayola crayons, but I craved the one with all 24 colours. I wanted magenta and turquoise and silver and gold. Joni Mitchell

Me too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

oh canada

it is another  meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group - link here IWSG to find out more about  this very exclusive and posh club!

I'm ignoring this month's question as it addresses 'industry changes' which I do not want to even consider. Am I an old curmudgeon? Perhaps. Can a person who identifies with the female gender be a curmudgeon? I have no idea.

Today I want to address two things in light of what we writers might consider - our country and how we feel about it, and the world we live in and how it is doing. Can we fiddle while Rome burns? Yes, clearly, that is an option. But should we? I think not.

I am a proud Canuck and today is Canada Day. Normally, on this day, we might go canoeing out to Rogue's Roost and go for a swim, and have a picnic. We might, if we were very optimistic, drive into town, find a parking space four miles from the waterfront and wander down in huge crowds to not watch the fireworks which will have been cancelled due to fog. But, under these new times, instead we had old friends come over to our house - we shared books and conversations, drank home-made and bought wine, and ate delicious salads and pastries. It was wonderful and I didn't miss one other thing. And this morning my writing pal, Gwen, came over, and while we aren't quite back to writing together, we walked and drank coffee and talked writing. Yesterday I got my manuscript back from the editor I contracted - and girl, do I feel both excited and overwhelmed. I figure, if I really put my butt on the chair, I could get this final revision finished by mid-August - then a few weeks for a copy-edit (three friends are doing this) and then I'll be ready to pitch it by September. Gawd gawd gawd. I did not start today, but will tomorrow - today I just considered ways and means. I think I need another screen so I can have my edited ms up and work on the clean copy. Also, I need some sort of journal (yes, another one) to help with those things I have to remember to put back in or take out that aren't totally clear as of yet.

As to the state of the world - well, yikes! Even though my novel is but a lowly mystery, the themes are congruent with what is going on. It is about how hard it is to maintain hope when both government and corporate concerns are battering the community you are worried about. So there's that. It is a mystery about ecological threat, the colonizing of indigenous people, and youth at risk. So, not exactly a way to escape worldly concerns, either as a writer or a reader. is burning within me - I wrote it to attempt to heal some wounds and I hope others find it so as well, or at least a good read. But, no need to get ahead of myself.

For now I will consider small pleasures - hugging my best friend of over forty years, finding a novel to read that I can't wait to crack open, excellent potato salad, and a glorious array of blooms on the rhododendron. Oh and the Merlin chicks should fledge soon - cannot wait to see that!

Happy Canada Day!