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!

Wednesday, June 3, 2020


Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day.

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 June 3 posting of the IWSG are Pat Garcia, J.Q. Rose, and Natalie Aguirre!

June 3 question - Writers have secrets! What are one or two of yours, something readers would never know from your work?

If I told you one or two secrets then they would stop being secrets, no? Secrets are such an interesting topic. As a psychotherapist, I keep lots of secrets. I have learned to be very careful with what I share, and as years go by, I have less and less desire to raise myself up, by being the keeper of various dark secrets. In my writing process I find out what secrets I keep from myself. Yes, I do. Just like in my meditation practice. I find out what I am most passionate about - justice, for instance - youth, women, the environment, nature, education, and so on. In other words, the last thing I would want in my work is to withhold myself. My writing is where I reveal myself, not hide myself. And that is not to say that it is blatant. No, I prefer to subtly show my true self.

In my current writing, I am revealing that I am prone to despair about those issues I care most about. My protagonist in Crooked Knife is also prone to that despair, and it nearly keeps her from the heart of the mystery she is trying to solve. One of the main themes of CK is that, even when battling a losing battle, against forces too mammoth to contemplate without despair lodging somewhere in one's heart, a person, or community, can continue to stand for the vulnerable, continue to make small victories, chip away at the entrenched evil. We can fail and then fail better.

So that's one non-secret secret I've revealed.

Another? Peanut-butter is necessary for my well-being.

Oh, and making. Making is crucial.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Lucky lucky luck - or as I call it ' Pluck'

It's another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group! Go to the link to see who has posted this month or to sign up yourself!

The 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!

This month the optional question is:  Do you have any rituals that you use when you need help getting into the ZONE? Care to share?

Okay, let me elaborate - I have one ritual that I use in order to start writing. That ritual is to say to myself 

No one asked you to be a writer and there is only one activity that makes you one. Sit down and write.

Sure, sometimes it is tough to follow my own dictate, but I have found no magic formula for doing so. I wear whatever clothes I grabbed in the morning. Sometimes I have coffee with me, but it depends on what time of day I sat down to write. I don't drink coffee in the afternoon. I don't listen to music, because I'm one of those people who likes to listen to music when I listen to music. I don't understand background music. I never have. And I LOVE music. The other day I listened to a two and a half hour concert of Stephen Sondheim music (his 90th birthday tribute). I only listened and moaned and cried and laughed.

I don't have any specific writing amulets, though my writing room is full of tchotchkes ranging from little lead cows, to feathers, stones, bits of wood, a bed doll and various crooked knives and an ulu - but these are always here. Okay, okay...I did put the crooked knives on the window ledge so they would be particularly present, as the book I'm writing is called Crooked Knife, but truly that is not because I'm superstitious.

I am actually. Quite. But not about writing. The only voice I invoke is that of my father - who says 'bum glue' and 'pitter patter let's fly atter' and 'when the going gets tough, the tough get going.' Yes, he's been gone for nine years, but his voice carries.

Okay, now it is back to work I go. Only ten more days until this baby has to be delivered. Yikes!

Here is a very good luck rabbit that was on my front lawn this morning. He had four (FOUR!) lucky rabbit's feet.