Wednesday, May 1, 2024

May Day

May 1st!  Happy May Day! But who has encroached on this wondrous day that celebrates spring in all its craziness? What - it's a day to reflect on the plight of the worker? Aw fudge. I don't wanna. Don't get me wrong - I'm a union girl down to my toes. Why when my first child was born over 54 years ago, I went into labour at 9 am and delivered at 5. But I want to celebrate mayflowers (so sweet, so elusive, so fragrant) and hope that the merlins come back to have their next batch of kids here again, and get my peas in again (durn birds ate the first bunch I put in). I want to make a flower crown and lie about in the grass dreaming of swimming. Here's the version of May Day that I want: (Wikepedia naturally)

May Day is a European festival of ancient origins marking the beginning of summer, usually celebrated on 1 May, around halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice.] Festivities may also be held the night before, known as May Eve. Traditions often include gathering wildflowers and green branches, weaving floral garlands, crowning a May Queen (sometimes with a male companion), and setting up a Maypole, May Tree or May Bush, around which people dance. Bonfires are also part of the festival in some regions. Regional varieties and related traditions include Walpurgis Night in central and northern Europe, the Gaelic festival Beltane, the Welsh festival Calan Mai, and May devotions to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Europe,  It has also been associated with the ancient Roman festival Floralia.

Besides we already have a day for the worker in Canada - it is Labour Day and it happens the first Monday in September. Proper thing.

Of course today also marks the monthly celebration of the insecure writer, as does the first Wednesday in every month. Go to this spot to sign up or find other writers banging on about their insecurities. Insecure Writers Support Group

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!

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

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

The awesome co-hosts for the May 1 posting of the IWSG are Victoria Marie Lees, Kim Lajevardi, Nancy Gideon, and Cathrina Constantine!

May 1 question - How do you deal with distractions when you are writing? Do they derail you?

May 1 answer: Well duh, yes, distractions aren't distractions if they don't derail you.  How do I deal with them when I'm writing? I entertain them for awhile. I let them take me away on clouds of inconsequentiality and then when they are distracted themselves I smack them and send them packing! Positively everything is distracting to me when I am trying to focus. And I meditate every day so I'm well aware that all distractions begin and end in my own head space. And no, it isn't true that knowing a problem is half a problem solved. But being so well used to them I can give you my list of ways to derail my distractions before they completely take over.

1. Have a list of things I really want to finish every day. It shouldn't be a huge list - just two or three things to do with writing projects such as get one query out, or write 2000 words in wip or research microscopic black holes for book on Shag Harbour incident.

2. Give myself a time limit on distractions. For example : allow myself half an hour to watch youtube on how to train my dog to do the cha cha. Or tell myself that after working steadily for an hour and a half I can go to the kitchen and start a batch of cookies.

3. Instead of focusing on the distractions or distract myself by worrying about the distractions, I try and focus on what is going well. I climb the mountain of possibility instead of falling over the cliff of despair. I reward myself often (just with little things but still) knowing that I'm the kind of work horse that responds better to the carrot than the stick.

4. Remind myself that if I'm being particularly distracted it is usually because I'm afraid for some reason of going forward with writing. Then I spend a bit of time sleuthing out my apprehension. That usually works a treat.

Okay - back to work I go. I have one more post to write and a query to make.

So Happy May Day everyone! I'm going to go pick mayflowers and loll about in the grass.

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Naïve no more

 It is the April meeting of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Link here to sign up for this beacon of hope in a sea of turbulent storms (hmmm...think I've just joined the purple prose posse.)

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!

Hello fellow writers, today I want to talk about something different than my usual. I'm not afraid of appearing foolish and/or weak. I fully embrace my foolish weak self. I have not been through the fire because either I'm still in it or? I do feel safe in your company, but I wonder if you are safe in mine? Nah, just kidding. I do want to talk about a form of safety however. It is something that has arisen in my writing life - a feeling of vulnerability and how it arose. It is hard to be both 72 years old and to recognize that one is still naïve in the ways of the world - at least in the ways of the publishing world. 

It is an old story I believe. Bedazzled by being chosen I didn't fully examine my new partner in this business. For it is a business - this being an author. It is very interesting to me (in a horrifying way) that like my early romantic choices I didn't fall prey to evil or dastardly types, but just one that was inept, lackadaisical, and didn't remotely put my interests first, or even eleventh. And I did not examine my contract properly for escape clauses. I did have a lawyer look it over but we both neglected to notice that there was no mention of rights reversal in the language, or at least not one that included me. 

So - in the barest terms I can write it - I wrote a book that is in the same series as the book published (trying not to use any names here). The publisher of the first book declined to even look at it, reporting that the first one hadn't sold well enough. The first one sold well beyond what most debut books sell, but who am I to argue. I didn't like being rebuffed but the bloom was well off that rose anyway, and I looked forward to finding a publisher that would be more attentive. All the books sold were because of my hard work by the way. Trouble is that a publisher won't be interested in a series when the initial book is held (imprisoned?) by another publisher. Okay. I did some research and sent off a request to have my rights returned to me in full. I heard nothing, which was the modus operando, so I wrote again. Finally I received a reply only not really. The publisher said that they had a number of my books in their warehouse and wouldn't be able to sell them if they reversed my rights. I did a little digging and I'll get to that in a minute - but this turns out not to be true. They can't print anymore but they can sell remaining stock. I was willing to take some of them from the publisher but not the bulk because why would I?  I was paid no advance - I was never warned that they didn't think sales were good and it was the publisher who was wanting in the marketing business not me. I replied with these details and mentioned that in all the back and forth the publisher had not once responded to my question. The words rights reversal where never written by the publisher. They were, in my opinion, trying to monetize my departure. This is, I hasten to say, not illegal but it sure is unethical. What they are in effect saying is that they don't want to publish future books, but no one else will be able to either. It's been, as of when this will be published, three weeks since my last request. I'm being held hostage by a humbug. 

Why am I telling you this dumb story? Because some of you will be like me - madly sending out queries and being thrilled if one comes up good. And here is my advice - go to the site Writer Beware and read everything they've got on what should be in your contract, especially in terms of rights reversal. Victoria Strauss was invaluable in helping me parse what was happening. I felt  gaslit and she shone the light of truth on what was happening. She responded to my cry for help in two days. 

As to what I'm going to do next - I am not sure. I think I will forgo more emails and send a registered letter, and I may stop being coy about who is doing what on social media, but I'm hoping I don't have to do that. It makes me wonder about the writing associations I belong to - the ones I pay membership fees to. Where is their help for this sort of thing? I'm going to start asking more questions and quit being so dewy-eyed. Now keep in mind I'm in Canada so some things are different, but not many. One thing that is different is that small publishers here get pretty nice sized grants from the government to publish books. Not sure if that is the case in the much bigger market of the US but it pays to know these things.

Hope you are all well and enjoying some kind of spring (or fall) weather! We're heading to Cuba for two weeks a week from today for a much needed vacation.

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Carrying On

I now call this meeting of the Insecure Writers' Support Group of Prospect, Nova Scotia to order!

I'll do roll call.

Is Jan the writer here?


Is Jan the author here?

    'sound of crickets'

Okay then, is Jan the procrastinator here?

    Yes, I'm here. (mumbles something under her breath)

Is Jan the diehard romantic here?

    Yes, I'm here in my writing jacket with leather on the elbows and a pipe and a tumbler full of scotch.

Oh, I didn't realize that Jan the diehard romantic was a guy.

    Well...sometimes. Today I'm fashioned on Hemingway. Yesterday I was a starving artist in a garret in Paris. I was wearing a wispy gown and drinking absinthe.

Alright, moving on. Is Jan the business person here?

    voice of Jan the writer - "she is out trying to find Jan the author."

Of course she is. Finally, is Jan the householder here?

    Yes, but I can't stay long. I'm still trying to finish the decluttering in the writing studio, but Jan the painter is making that nearly impossible. Also, we have folks coming for dinner.

Okay. We have a quorum. First thing on the agenda is that Jan the author hasn't heard back from the publisher and can't give Jan the writer the go ahead to collaborate on the new query package. Who will contact Jan the A. and get her to write another blasted email?

    voice of Jan the diehard romantic "I will. I'll fill her mind with thoughts about what fun she'll have when her next book is published - that week or two when everything is rosy."

    voice of Jan the procrastinator, "I don't think she should bug the publisher just yet. Maybe after Easter would be better. Or Monday next, Monday is a good day to begin things."

    voice of Jan the business woman who has just come in the room, "No! It has to be done today. I couldn't find Jan the author anywhere. Think she's on a bender. I'll write it."

So do we have a motion?

    all speak up, "don't be crazy! If Jan the business woman says she'll do it, she'll do it."

Jan in charge looks abashed,  - Okay, next order of business. Jan the writer, I've heard that you aren't keeping up with your writing schedule? How can we help you?

    Voice of Jan the writer "You can tell Jan the householder to quit inviting people to dinner. And why do things need to be so clean?" (laughter all round) And Jan the painter needs to remember where she is in the pecking order."

    Voice of Jan the householder "You know darn well that every time you come to some plot point you can't figure out that you call on me to insist on cleaning the fridge or doing our taxes so lay off!"

Kafuffle breaks out,  "Order! Order!"

    Voice of Jan the writer "I think this meeting is over! I have a piece to write for the Insecure Writers' Support Group and then I'm working on edits in Butter & Snow so get lost."

I now call the March meeting of Jan's Insecure Writers' Support Group Prospect Division over.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

February Blues

Hello all dear Insecure Writers and those who love us. The IWSG meets the first Wednesday of the month so here we are. I'm not really blue despite the title, just a wee bit flat of spirit perhaps but it'll come back. It always has. 

 I don't wish to discuss authoring today, only writing. I've been swapping teaching with a pal on our street. She's a talented oil painter who is working on a novel. At least once a week we get together and paint and talk writing. She's a generous teacher and I think I am too. Obviously we talk about the crossovers in our disciplines. I'm doing an edit on her novel this week and it strikes me that figuring out the mechanics of the plot and structure are a lot like composing a painting. And the diction, the actual word choices, the metaphors, similies, and so on are a lot like the brushstrokes a painter uses. We both seem to have a good handle on composition or plot, we know what we want to say and even when we want to say it, in order to lead the viewer (or reader) to the focal point (crisis) but we both need help loosening up our brushstrokes, being more confident and even daring in that department. I want her to stretch and try to say things freshly, cut out hackneyed phrases for surprising ones, and I think she'd like me to be bolder with my mark-making. I know once she starts she'll get what fun figuring out just the right word or phrase is. And I sometimes get a fleeting moment of grace and joy when I let loose with my brush. And isn't that it? Isn't that the real reason we do this crazy highwire act?

Hope you are all well and using these winter days to go deep into your work with verve and joy!

Wednesday, January 3, 2024


Happy New Year dear Insecure Writers! It is our first meeting of the year of the Insecure Writers Support Group,* and I hope everyone has a nice clean notebook because it is time to set our intentions for the year ahead. No, I did not say the word 'resolutions'. Intentions. I like to think of it as a trip I might want to take in 2024. Where am I now? Where do I want to go?  How will I get there? What will I do when I'm there?  For the purposes of this meeting I will focus on my writerly intentions. Before I know where I want to go, I must ascertain where I am. 

Step 1 - where am I?

Let's see - I have one novel traditionally published. I have a second book finished but for the copy editing in the same series, and one finished in a different series. I have one YA book finished and about three books started but not nearly done. 

Step 2 - where do I want to go?

I want to see my three unpublished novels published.. I want to continue writing as the three finished ones look for a home and would like to have two more ready to send out by year's end, if not sooner. So, to synthesize, I'd like to find a publisher, either on my own or with the help of an agent, who wants to represent most if not all of the books I can churn out. While of course realizing they'd have to accept each one on its own merits.

Step 3 - how will I get there? 

I have the second in the Nell series being read by beta readers. When I get feedback on them I will revise accordingly. My fella is a primo copyeditor and has agreed to do that. I will be sending The Rock Walker out next week to beta readers and will by the end of January have both of those books ready to shop. When I have my query package made I will send to the agents and publishers I'm most interested in working with. While I await word on them I will have fun with my brand new work in progress - a hard-boiled detective story set in 1946 in Halifax!

Step 4 - what will I do when I get there?

When I have some possible deals to make I will carefully insure that the agent or publisher is the right fit for me and my novels by being as straight-forward as possible about what I want. This will never be about money for me, but about enthusiasm and understanding of what my books are about. As well, I will continue to have fun writing which is, in fact, what is deeply important to me. 

*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!

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!

Thanks for coming by everyone and hope you are having as much fun as I am navigating in this strange land of writing.