Wednesday, May 5, 2021

the insecure writer's support group and me


Dear insecure pals;

Yes, it is another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group - tap the name and signup or find others writing about writing.

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 May 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, PJ Colando, Tonja Drecker, Sadira Stone, and Cathrina Constantine!

I've got lots of things I want to say this month so I'm not answering the monthly question. I have had a complete rollercoaster of a ride for the last couple of months. I think it had begun last month in my writing world when I was asked for two full manuscripts - one for a slightly older YA called Bright Angel and one for my most current novel Crooked Knife. The first call for a full was the absolute direct result of teaming up with fellow blogger Liza from Middle Passages. We had both been feeling the blahs about the submitting process with our queries and decided to hold each other accountable to keep sending out those arrows of intention. I had Crooked Knife out to a few places and didn't want to send another query out until I'd heard from one or two of them. So I sent out Bright Angel to a new publisher in Nova Scotia. About a week later they asked for a full and then so did one of the Newfoundland publishers. The Newfoundland publisher promised a response within a month and I didn't know about the NS one. Well, a little over two weeks ago I heard from the wife of the Nova Scotia publisher with terribly sad news. He had died suddenly and it being a very small company they had to tell anyone awaiting news that there probably wasn't going to be anything happening in the foreseeable future. Naturally this was shocking news - the publisher, who I'd researched before sending, was just my cup of tea - a really interesting guy who had moved to Nova Scotia with his wife after decades of a full professional life doing something that was not publishing. I love these third acts - after all that's where I am at - so...

Two days later I heard from the Newfoundland publisher. They are seriously considering publishing my novel AND I have a revision to do - the plot needs work. They said nothing that was too outrageous and I agreed to work on it for a month - half of which is nearly up. It is all plot problems so I have undone my ending and am rewriting it. It is HARD. But I'm doing it and I am, of course, thrilled with the good possibility of getting a novel published. 

Of course regular life continues apace as well. I have a good pal who received a very dire prognosis about a month ago. She is in palliative care and there is myself and two other women who are supporting her through this time. To further complicate matters of course there is covid. It makes all the procedures take longer to happen - all the appointments difficult. Luckily she can still have two visitors a day on the unit even though the province is now in its most severe lockdown of the pandemic - we did so well and then the third wave hit with a vengeance. 

And I have a new grandson - a little pandemic baby born two weeks ago today. I've seen him once and hoped to be spending lots of time there (in between revising bouts) but now I'm going to wait until this phase of the lockdown is over. 

My sincere hope is that for next month's meeting of the IWSG I will be able to report that I have a book deal. I have been part of this gang for a very long time and I have been working towards being published as a novelist for even longer. I know that it won't solve world peace (whirled peas?) and that I'll be the same person I am now - but still I want it!!

I hope all are well and that those of you who continue to work towards your goals keep on keepin' on! Now I must get back to that pesky plot...

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Rebel Writing

 It's another meeting of the IWSG ! 

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

April 7 question - Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

Why, yes I am! If you can't take risks on the page, well I don't where you can. I'm not putting in all this effort to play it safe. I have two novels out looking for homes right now and both of them, I think, may be a little harder to place than is necessarily comfortable - but I won't change them to make them more palatable to the market place. The oldest one is possibly a YA, not truly sure, I didn't write it that way on purpose but that seems to be the consensus. It might be a little tricky because something terrible happens to the protagonist. I tried to not have it happen but working with an editor who begged me to try had both of us realize that the story had to go that way. The more recent novel presents some controversial topics to do with a large corporation and indigenous land use. I wrote it out of my fury with the provincial and national governments involved and heartbreak for both the ecological disaster happening and the vulnerable indigenous people of that land. Even though I have fictionalized the various aspects I know this will be a tough call for a publisher. I guess I'm looking for a brave-hearted politically savvy publisher and I hope I find him or her.

I don't think either of them are preachy or didactic in any way but they do deal with controversial subjects that I am passionate about. I cannot imagine spending the years needed to write a novel if it didn't include subjects that I feel strongly about.

Right now both of these books are under consideration by two different publishers who each requested a whole manuscript. I am tremendously pleased to have made it this far, and I believe both of these stories need to be told. My current WIP isn't about anything too controversial right now but who knows! Things can change and as I'm a pantser (meaning I don't pre-plot or plan my novels) I really can't promise my protagonist won't stay out of trouble.

Well, it is time to get back to that wip which is called (for now anyway) Lost & Found. I wrote a thousand words a day for all of March and for April my goal is 500 words a day as I also need to start putting in some structure. I have 55 thousand words so far and will have about 66 thousand by the end of this month which is nearly a book so lots of fun! 

I hope all of you are well and busy writing (if that is your jam) or gardening or making quilts or rocking babies or painting pictures or ...

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

what I read


Yes! It is another meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group - click the name to go to the signup sheet. We meet the first Wednesday of every month and boys oh boys (girls oh girls) do we have fun!

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 March 3 posting of the IWSG are Sarah - The Faux Fountain Pen Jacqui Murray, Chemist Ken, Victoria Marie Lees, Natalie Aguirre, and JQ Rose!

March 3 question - Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

I read voraciously and across all genres. Reading is my refuge and abiding habit. I am likewise motivated widely in what I choose to read :

1. What do I have on hand? In December I get lots of new books as it is both Christmas and my birthday. I`ve read 24 books so far this year - mostly fiction, but some dharma books (on Buddhist topics) and a couple of memoirs I think. Besides gifts I`ve been reading borrows from pals - we are all big readers and so the books fly around our households - and online from the library. I`ve also ordered a few online that I wanted to own. 

2. What I need in terms of distraction, healing, soothing etc... reading is my therapy and so I`m careful of what I take in. If I`m having a hard time sleeping then I don`t read disturbing books (too much violence or general sadness) in the evening. If I`m sad I usually read books I`ve read before or at least authors that I like and that I know will uplift me. 

3. Books for bookclub - so that is only about ten a year and one of those I will have chosen so not a biggy. But our bookclub is also a great source of referrals for books so there is that.

4. Books for the writing craft- (I originally said for my writing but I think reading widely is the best thing any writer can do besides writing!) I have  many books that I keep close by for different stages of my writing. The last two years I was revising and editing so I was very heavily into Susan Bell's The Artful Edit. Love that book! Now I'm onto a new project and am rereading old favourites like Write for Your Life by Joseph Sestito and On Writer's Block by Victoria Nelson, as well as the constant joy of Bird by Bird by Anne Lammott, Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and On Writing by Stephen King.

5. Books for information - I quilt, draw, meditate, garden, and cook so read many books that aid these disciplines. 

In this time of pandemic and social unrest I do read more than ever and I was always a big reader. I'm mostly retired and so have more time, and because I finished two massive projects in the fall of last year I've been slightly unmoored and reading has been even more of a refuge. I'm also staying off all screens on Sundays which gives me plenty of time to sink into good books. 

Is reading a refuge for you? I look forward to seeking out my fellow writers and seeing what they say on this topic...

Here is a photo from a retreat I went on with some pals down the shore...we walked and talked and cooked and read...

Here is a link to another blog of mine where I talk about my winter doldrums and how it 
affected my writing

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Yes it is another meeting of the fabulous insecure writers support group. Click that link to go to the sign-up page.

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 February 3 posting of the IWSG are Louise - Fundy Blue , Jennifer Lane, Mary Aalgaard, Patsy Collins at Womagwriter, and Nancy Gideon!

 February 3 question - Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

Why yes indeedy I have. And most of them through this group I do believe! I'm afraid to name names for the ones that I will inadvertently leave off (I'm old okay).

But I'm going to go ahead and do my best. I think the one I've had the longest as a pal is the Watery Tart Hart Johnson. Her blog Confessions of a Watery Tart was a lifeline of cheer and sheer foolishness for so many years. Unfortunately she has stopped blogging but I think is still active on facebook. I miss her! We never met in the flesh though we cooked up a few plans to do so. We were Beta readers for each other and when the world is allowed to meet again I would happily cross the border to meet with her. There were several other members of the Burrow (a mostly online writing group that instigated BuNoWriMo) like Cruella Collet from The Giraffability of Digressions, Tara Smith, Chary Johnson, and Rayna Iyer. I think mostly only Rayna is still blogging but unsure of that...

There are two pals I met a little after Hart that have been absolute wonderful support types - neither do the IWSG but always post a comment when I do. They are the fabulous Elizabeth Spann Craig who is a stalwart of the writing world with her longstanding blog Writing is Murder.  The absolute dear Margot Kinberg from the wonderful, but now defunct, blog- Confessions of a Mystery Novelist. But my gawd - she has a web site called Crime Writer Margot Kinberg where you can still get your fix.

One person that I'm determined to meet in person sometime in this lifetime is Liza of Middle Passages. She writes beautifully - her poetry takes my breath away and she is a wonderful photographer too. I also appreciate how steady she is - through some incredibly hard times of late she continues to post and share her writing life. 

Oh man, this is difficult. There are so many people I really connected to - Alan Orloff (A Million Blogging Monkeys), Elspeth Futcher (It's a Mystery and her brilliant sidekicks - the sheep), the marvelous Patricia Stoltey and the very fun Talli Roland (a bluenoser who decamped to London). Both Barbara Casey and Niamh Boyce of Ireland have special places in my heart. I also adore any post that Faith Pray makes from her great blog Sacred Dirt.

And I want to make a special shout out to our Captain - Alex J. Cavanaugh - who is the founder of the IWSG and comes to comment more than I think humanly possible! 

All of these folks I have made some personal connection with. Some it has been made up of comments and writing back and forth - some I've been Beta readers and they have in exchange. Some we've exchanged actual things - material objects like woolen hats and photos and paper prayer flags have whizzed through space and been held by one or the other of us. Outside of my writing life I have a number of relationships with bloggers in the visual and textile arts.  This photo is of me in Labrador sporting the best hat I ever had (and yes I lost it!) from Hart.

When I think of these people they are real - they are both body and soul present in my mind. How can that be? I don't care! 

So I will stop here and simply say that the blogging community in the realm of the literary or visual arts is bloody fantastic! Such good training for Covid too...

In Other News : I'm writing! I'm writing! I'm writing! 

What are you writing Jan? I'm writing a novel inspired by my own random crazy life. I don't want to write a memoir - I just want to be inspired by my own memories and see what happens. The protagonist has already split from being me and taken on her own life and history. I'm so enjoying this. I have about 12,000 words and it has been not quite two weeks. 

What a huge relief. I haven't not written for my whole life and I found the fallow field very barren. It was, in truth, only a few months...

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

woohoo it is 2021! first meeting of the year for 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 January 6 posting of the IWSG are Ronel Janse van Vuuren , J Lenni Dorner, Gwen Gardner Sandra Cox, and Louise - Fundy Blue!

Hi all dear writing and non-writing pals!
I'm writing this a few days early...because...well, I always do. There's lots  of things that I always do. That seems to be a side-effect of aging. One puts in certain protocols to prevent things slipping one's mind. Or this 'one' does. So when I get the notice of the next meeting - I go off and write it and post-date it. Then I can wake up on the morning of the 6th with a song in my heart, instead of a leaden bit of old porridge cemented together with the not-very-sticky glue of 'wasn't I supposed to do something?'

January 6 question - Being a writer, when you're reading someone else's work, what stops you from finishing a book/throws you out of the story/frustrates you the most about other people's books?

 I read a lot of books. This last year I read eighty. The year before 120. I read lots of fiction, some poetry, biography, travel-memoirs and dharma books (about my Buddhist practice).  I mostly finish what I start, but I'm careful of what I do start because of that. Recently I finished a book but sort of wished I'd tossed it - but no - I'm curious as to whether someone can rise above a poor start. I'm not going to name this book and I'm not putting it on my Good Reads list either. I don't think it would be helpful for me to tell this person what turned me off. Not at this point. What was it? It was meandering that bored me. The author could have made this already fairly slight book slighter. Per* could have cut about 30% of it and it would have sung instead of sagged. I think the problem was that per wasn't sure what per was writing. It was a memoir of a certain time and the author kept going on about side-issues - which weren't in of themselves boring but they were distracting. So that's about it. I don't like filler. Which doesn't mean that I don't like descriptive writing - I do - but it must further the story - not spackle together the bits of it that do.

Note about my own writing: I'm not writing. Not a sausage! Not a crumb! Not a morsel! I'm not editing, revising, or even just playing in the world of words. I think I just need to go fallow for a bit. I really haven't been able to make myself write for a few months. I really worked hard for two years on Crooked Knife. I sent of queries I am quite pleased with in September (and a few since) and now I just want to hear from the world. I have a kid's book percolating but so far my pen hasn't touched paper. Maybe I'll start a series of linked poems but right now the thought of any of that is about as enticing as more turkey. Nope. Enough for now. Still a writer - just not writing. Bear with me please. Isn't that a nice phrase - bear with me? I think it means more than we usually attribute to it. I think it means to help me share the burden of my non-writing - help me hold that up and be okay with it.

Here is a photo of a dried Queen Anne's Lace pod that I took recently. I've loved my walks amongst dried golden and frosted weeds and grasses this winter. It looks like a cage of stars...

*per is what I'm using for personal pronouns as in  Marge Piercey's Woman on the Edge of Time. It is used for all personal pronouns and therefore no need to memorize what people's choices are. I don't have the bandwidth for that.