Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why You Should Alert A Writer To A Spelling Mistake

It had been a good day. I felt positive. I'd checked a lot of to-do's off my list at work, plus I was wearing one of those outfits that make me feel fancier than I am on the inside and, you know, that just perks a girl up, being all mysterious and whatnot.

tell a writer when they make a mistake


I was happy.

Then I came home and before I even got through my first sentence, my husband was all, "you've got something in your teeth."

And I was like WHAT? How long has that been there? And doesn't anybody care about me at all? And what in the world kind of good does it do to be all fancy if you're not being fancy at all—if you're just a big old fashioned loser in a pretty dress?

[Editor's note: Alanna didn't actually say anything like that, she's not completely crazy.]

I picked an almond skin from between my lateral incisor and my canine {or vampire tooth, as we Rusnak's like to call it} and tried to remember how long before home time it had been when I poured that little pile of trail mix into the bowl on my desk. And who did I talk to between work and home? And now, in light of all that, who was I no longer friends with...?

I couldn't remember. I hope they all had a good laugh.

I do have a point. I promise.

Just as friends need to tell friends when they have an almond skin stuck in their teeth, so do reader friends need to tell writer friends when they have spelling or grammar mistakes stuck in their writing.

Do you see?

It's only the polite thing to do. If you do it politely.

We writers, we're like turtles. If you poke us with a stick, we'll go into hiding. You've got to be gentle. When your friend has lipstick on her teeth, you don't yell across the room {I hope!} you pull her aside and discreetly whisper so as not to embarrass her. The same formula applies.

Don't fill up a writers website comment box with grammatical corrections. Comment areas, especially on blogs, are places where you're invited into the conversation—respect that by adding your opinion about whatever was posted but save the corrections for a more subtle revelation. Be discrete but don't be shy. Send a private message, email, text—something that will bring attention to the error without posting a red flag and bringing it to the attention of everyone else, too.

My online presence is one of the vehicles I use to present my voice as a writer. It's incredibly important to me that I do that well but no matter the time and effort I put into self-editing, mistakes get through and that kills me!

I'm so thankful to have a group of fellow writer's, friends, and readers who aren't afraid to tell me when I mess up. Their fresh eyes mean I'm able to make quick edits, getting myself back to my fancy-on-the-outside writerly self; who, if I may be so bold, is positively fabulous!

Or will be. Someday.

I guess, ultimately, this is a thank you letter. To all you beauties who aren't afraid to speak into my work. Because that means you care. That means you're in this with me. And it's nice to know you've got a team you can count on!


Monday, April 18, 2016

Falling Off The Camel But Getting Back On The Horse

~ on uneasy goals and attainable challenges ~

In March I signed myself up for Camp NaNoWriMo which is just like November's NaNoWriMo except you set your own word count goal. I thought it would give me the aggressive push I needed to really dive into Animals Don't Talk On The Moon and force the story out of me. I meant well. I really did. And I really wanted it. I love this fantastical tale that's taken up residence in my brain, gnawing away, begging to be told. So why not?!

I set my goal for 30,000 words.

goal setting

Then the only thing in the world that became important to me was sunshine and budding trees...

We're eighteen days into April and I've written 4,759 words. Yes, there are still 12 days left and yes, I could do it if my heart was in it.

If my heart was in it.

Camels plod through desert sand with incredible perseverance. A hump of water. Hair falling over pretty eyes. And they go and go and sustain their keeper, spitting on the path, one foot in front of the other until the sun bakes them or Aladdin hires them for a showy entrance to Agrabah. Really, they're only as motivated as their rider. Give them a day off and they'll lay under a cactus plant, batting their lashes and napping the day away. {Obviously I don't know the first thing about camels, but bear with me, I'm trying to work out a metaphor...}

So I set my goal. I marked my map. I signed off with my travel agent—all visa's secure and toll money in my pocket—and I hit the trail with good intentions. BUT then my bum got really sore, sitting up high on that bony hump, and my mouth got full of dust, and I got discouraged by poor health, tooth aches, and the income tax I have to pay.

All I wanted was for my horizon to be my background so I could curl beneath an olive branch and reclaim my motivation.

So I did.

I quit.

I slid off that camel—he was smelly anyway—and I wrapped myself in colourful shawls and took a nap by a shady sand dune and waited for my heart to align with my destination.

And my heart said, "Go eat some chocolate and stop being so serious!"

So there it sits. That incredible children's fable, resting at 4,759 words and I feel perfectly fine about it.

Because sometimes goals aren't the right thing. I mean, goals are great, but sometimes you just foul it up in the setting of them.

Let's strip it down:

What is my goal?

        My goal is to write.

Why do I write?

       Because I love it.


And how shall I do it?

       Like a tattooed cowboy!

So I've dusted myself off, decided to let that stray cow wander a bit {the cow is Animals Don't Talk On The Moon - keep up people!}, packed some cans of beans and a plaid blanket and swung myself into the saddle of Pleasure Seeker {pure-bred, black-eyed, award winning stallion} and rode away from that sleeping camel, into a sunset of pure romantic corniness where, for a season, I will write for the pure pleasure of it.

I will, of course, continue on the search for representation. The Church In The Wildwood is ready to sell and I'm perfecting my query with firm plans to start sending it out by the end of the month. It's a good goal and I'm feeling positive about it.

All other writing, right now, will be frivolous and silly and fun and easy and whatever I'm in the mood for at that particular moment.

Because why should it be a grind when it can be a joy?

I'll be posting some work to Wattpad as things move forward. It's an experiment of sorts. I'm interested to see if it's a good platform through which to build a readership. I'd love if you popped over and had a peek. There's one short story there already and I'll be posting parts of another all this week!

Now this horse and I? We're off to find a campfire. We've got camel burgers to cook.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

When A Bad Week Brings Out Your Worst Self

"You doing any better?" he asked.

I finished doing up the last button on my winter coat {Did you get that? Winter coat? It's April!} and cinched the belt tight at my waist. I tried to smile. I tried to give a nice 'it's all good' but all I could muster was a grimace and a weak shake of my head. "I'm miserable!"

"How do you deal with it?"

"What? A crap week?"

He nodded.

"I cry," I said. "Sometimes you just need a good sob session."

He couldn't relate. {Crying's not for everyone.}

dare the boldness of joy

"I yelled at my kids," I admitted—more bad week confessions. "Like really yelled."

"Really? What did they do?"

"They didn't know what to do."

Because I don't yell. Yes, sometimes I raise my voice. I do get angry. But real yelling is very rare and this was a pop-a-vein-in-my-forehead-while-we-were-parked-at-a-gas-pump yell. They weren't even being bad. They were being silly. And. I. Could. Not. Take. It. Sometimes you just can't. And sometimes it all boils over and the moment it happens you feel like a worm but all you can do is hope they still love you tomorrow.

We drove home in silence after that. Me gripping the wheel too tightly and all three of them afraid to look directly at me just in case one glimpse turned them into pillars of salt.

They got themselves ready for bed. I didn't have to ask them to do it. 

"I'm sorry," I said to Noa as I tucked her blankets up around her neck. "I love you to the moon and back."

"Love you too," she said, quick to forgive and forget.

"Why can't I have a story?" Liam asked.

"Because it's past bedtime and I'm grumpy."

He wrapped his arms around me and dug his chin into my shoulder, trying to pull me back into his bunk. "Why don't you ever sleep here?" he asked.

I unwound his arms and kissed his face. "I love you," I said.

"Love you too."

Zander found me in the kitchen, filling the kettle, holding it together. Barely. "Make sure you get a good rest tonight," he said and he folded those long teenage arms around me and said a million things without saying one thing.

"I will," I promised. "Goodnight. I love you."

"Love you too."

And tears leaked down my face as I waited for the whistle of the kettle and in that moment I knew how lucky I was and how nothing was better than those 'I love you's' because in them was a world of forgiveness and grace that I didn't deserve but that was freely given and OH...the humbling power of that!

It would be great, wouldn't it, to always be our best selves? But there are moments it's just not in us to give. There are times when we worry we have no goodness left. There are days when we've been mined to the core and we are but a shell of who we want to be.

On the Saturday of Easter weekend, I became ill. Weakness. Headache. Fever. By Monday I had lost my voice and it remained M.I.A. until Thursday. I spent a weekend at a Writer's Conference instead of letting myself rest and mend. By the next Monday my illness was reduced to a cough and leaky sinuses and I had a dentist appointment to fix an old filling. Of course, something went wrong with the "fixing" and I found myself with a terrible toothache lasting from Monday night until Wednesday afternoon when they could fit me in to fix the fixing. So yeah, by Wednesday night I was dangling by my fingernails and all it took was one giggle too loud for me to blow my top.

Not my proudest moment.

It wasn't really until this past Friday that I felt the walls of misery begin to crumble and a bit of my old joy leaking through the cracks.

Hallelujah! Glory Be! 

Because thirteen days of misery is Not Okay!!!

I am a happy person. I have a knack for finding the bright side BUT even happy people fall down.

The real test is in how you get back up. Sometimes it takes a few days of crawling on your knees but the point is that you do find your feet again—eventually.

"There's a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."

Leonard Cohen said that but I claim it as my own truth. He also said, "dare the boldness of joy" which is possibly my favourite thing anybody has ever said; in fact, if I ever got a tattoo, that's what it would say:

Dare The Boldness Of Joy

Because this world is rich with misery. It's up to each one of us to farm our own gold and mine glimpses in those around us. Joy is reciprocal and available to anyone open to receive it. So today I choose joy. Even though the sky is grey and more snow is coming and I can't seem to keep the fire hot enough and somehow I always miss at least one cobweb and our well pump is acting up and the cat keeps getting fatter instead of catching the mice in our ceiling...I choose joy. I choose to dare its boldness. Because I can't sustain myself any other way.

What are you choosing today?

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

When You Know You Could Do It Better

~ Coming to grips with a negative conference experience and understanding that Ted Dekker has ruined all future conference adventures ~

dealing with a negative conference experience

Last weekend I had the exciting opportunity to hit the long road to Ottawa and attend a writer's conference with a friend. I paid my registration fee, chose workshops that sounded inspiring, felt excited about a keynote speech on the topic of building platform, booked a nice hotel, and eagerly anticipated a grownup weekend in which I could shuck my 'Mommy' title and just be an enthusiastic writer, aspiring to learn and better my craft.

Sounds amazing, right?


Well. First of all, this was a one day conference. 8:30 am - 3:00 pm. That's only 6 1/2 hours. An hour and a half was wasted on coffee breaks and lunch. {Worst cup of coffee I've ever tasted. Lunch was wonderful but good coffee is imperative to an educational experience!} So really, that's only 5 hours of poorly caffeinated education.

With nearly fourteen hours of round trip driving.

Do you see?

I was expecting to be bombarded with five hours of powerful workshops, an invigorating keynote speech, and an inspiring panel discussion. I expected to come away empowered—desperate to keep writing with promising leads on various opportunities.

I attended two workshops. One on writing effective dialogue and one on editing. Both had great value yet were squeezed into such time restraints that I left feeling incomplete—at least another hour was needed in each to really tackle the subject matter and gain tangible, implementable information.

As I sat waiting for the keynote speaker to begin, I felt a low buzz of excitement—platform is huge and I want real tools to help me build mine. I was really looking forward to what he had to say—a long-time veteran of the publishing world, an adorable older gentleman who has seen global success, has a spunky attitude and warm grin. This is going to be good, I thought. This is what I came for.

[Insert fart noise here]

After spending way too long touting his own books {and fair enough, that's his right—use the platform he's given and all that} but suddenly he was talking about building inroads between world religions and then it was a town hall meeting about how to lobby the government against euthanasia.

What? Are you kidding me?
There is a time and place for political conversation. This was not that place. 

I paid money to learn about writing and to explore my aspirations with other like-minded people. I couldn't give a rat's patootie what the proper email address for congress is.

When one dear woman {God bless her and her cotton socks!} raised her hand and asked, "but what about platform? Should you establish that before you try to publish something?" That man, that adorable, quirky, I-thought-I'd-learn-something-from-him man said, "No!"


Well what in the world was he there for??!

And what in the world was I there for?

Two years ago I sat in an auditorium as best-selling author Ted Dekker perched on a wooden stool, pouring his heart straight into my heart and it was all I could do to keep from crying because everything he said moved me and made sense and spoke to the artist in me that was so desperate to really find her voice. That experience cost a stupid amount of money. And it was worth every single cent because I still remember things he said. Pieces of advice he offered up that day still resonate through my soul and inform what I'm doing today. That's amazingly powerful. {And yes, in all honesty, I'm probably just a tiny but in love with him but that's besides the point—that man can deliver a keynote that will rock your world!}

It was only after everything was over, as I sat across from my girlfriend in a quirky little coffee shop, nursing a pretty chai latte and debriefing our various disappointments, that I realized the truth: Ted Dekker has ruined me for all future writing conferences.

Thanks a lot, Ted!

But even if I can force myself to set that aside I know the conference did not live up to its potential. In fact, I know I could put on a better event myself and that's wildly depressing.

But fear not! All is not lost! I refuse to let the weekend beat me! I mean, what better way to build up a friendship than by spending long hours in a car getting to know each other? And what's more fun than googling 'Best Coffee Shop In Ottawa' so you can find yourself at a little, off-the-beaten-path establishment called 'The Laughing Goat' where the staff is wildly enthusiastic and eager to please...And how thrilling to just park your car and wander the streets of Little Italy until you stumble into an intimate little restaurant with food so good it hurts your brain...and what a treat to spend two nights in a beautiful little French hotel with deliciously comfortable beds and warm staff who speak with sexy accents, where someone will bring you fresh towels and fluff your pillows...

The most writerly part of the whole weekend was the time she and I spent having our own conversations about the craft. Because that was real and that was what I wanted and that was what I went looking for. 

Funny that I didn't even have to leave home to find it.
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