12:32 PM

Hugging Hillary Clinton

When we finally turned off the news feeds and went to sleep on Monday night, the race was too close to call. My spirit was unsettled. Nerve...

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My 'Friday Phrases' Interview

There's a quirky little writing website that hosts a Twitter hashtag game (#FP), through which writers across the globe are invited to share little snippets of their work. Through my participation in this exercise, the darling ladies behind 'Friday Phrases' reached out to me for an interview about a month ago. Yesterday, the interview was posted. How fun!

Here's what we talked about:

I like my stories deep and brooding, my chocolate dark, and my coffee with a little milk and sugar. I dream of the day when my passions will afford me the luxury of pursuing them full time; however, real life keeps me firmly planted in my responsibilities and I chase dreams in whatever spare moments I can steal back.

#FP: What do you love most about writing? What speaks to you?

AR: I love the freedom I find through writing. As an introvert, unless I’m very comfortable with a person, I tend to hide myself quietly in the background. I’ve found a boldness through writing that I’ve never known in my face to face living. I like to think of myself as ‘internally eloquent’ — in other words, when I try to say my thoughts out loud, they feel thin and forced; when I write them, they have a fluidity that boasts confidence. I used to wonder if this was a character flaw on my part, but I’ve learned to embrace it.

#FP: So, what have you written?
AR: I began a blog in 2010 as an exercise in discipline. Forcing myself to be vulnerable and write publicly helped organically grow my confidence. As more people saw my words and encouraged me to continue, I began to feel an obligation to produce content. That public motivation was powerful.

#FP: In 2013 I published a book of poetry, When We Were Young (ASIN: B00F3QNT9A) and just this year I published two short stories, Eve Undone (ISBN: 978-0992125530, ASIN: B01F4MQ51G) and Kissing Johnny (ASIN: B01F4LDQQ4). I’ve just had a piece of creative-nonfiction published in Under The Gum Tree, a literary magazine from Sacramento, California, and in May of this year I started my own Canadian Lit magazine, Blank Spaces.

I’m working towards the publication of my completed literary novel, The Church In The Wildwood and I have another novel, Black Bird, approaching first draft completion.

When did you know writing was for you?

AR: I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I have a tiny trophy in my office from a writing contest I won in the 2nd grade! I’ve always known I had the heart of a writer but it hasn’t been until these last few years that I’ve gone all out, throwing my soul in the mix too.

#FP: What are you working on at this minute? What was the inspiration for it?

AR: The inspiration for Black Bird came from a dream, one image: the shadow of a dandelion. That image birthed the first scene and from there, the story of Bird Mitena seemed to blossom on its own. I’m excited to see how it all comes together. With the launch of my magazine I’ve had less time to work on my own projects. I’m learning to navigate the extra workload and set boundaries. I hope to get back into my novel very soon.

#FP: Do you work to an outline or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you? Plotter or Pantser?

AR: I’m definitely a pantser. I admire the writers who can plot their entire story but that method is so foreign to me. I love the game of discovery writing presents. There’s nothing more thrilling than when a character surprises me! I will often have a sense of where things are going, and I may have ideas for certain scenes, but I never really know the whole picture until it’s pounded out through my fingertips.

#FP: How do you find #FP helps your writing?

AR: Participating in things like #FP have been brilliant for my editing process. I’m a wordy person. If you could say it in three words, I’m likely to say it in twelve. Having to limit myself to 140 characters is an amazing challenge. I find, as I search my projects for something to fit the theme, I’m forced to edit phrases down to fit within the tweet and the end result is often better than my original.

#FP: What inspires you most about writing?

AR: There’s something so beautiful about creating something from nothing. I love looking back two years ago, before I began writing The Church In The Wildwood, and thinking ‘Iris Carver (one of my main characters) didn’t even exist.’ It’s motivating to know I have within me the power and imagination to create whole worlds. That inspires me to keep going and build more.

#FP: Who are your writing inspirations? How do they influence your creativity?

AR: Anne Rice is my writing hero. Not only is her writing beautiful, no matter her topic, I love how she doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks. She writes what she wants to write and doesn’t apologize for it. You can see much of her personal journey reflected through each story and I adore that vulnerability. She bleeds on the page. I want to do the same.

#FP: What is your favorite motivational phrase or musing on writing, and why?

AR: Leonard Cohen said, “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” This is isn’t about writing specifically but I love the reminder that nothing is perfect. Too often we stop ourselves because we don’t think whatever we’re doing is good enough. This reminds me to push on. There’s beauty in imperfection.

#FP: What is the hardest thing about writing for you?

AR: Definitely time management. I have a “real job” in communications and graphic design, I’m a magazine editor, I’m a wife, a mother to three children, and a volunteer in my community. I’m tired. Most nights I’d rather just crawl into bed and watch Netflix. Without intentionally setting aside time dedicated to writing, it would never happen for me.

#FP: What do you tell yourself every time it gets hard? Every time the stars stop aligning? What do you do when writer’s block knocks on your creative door?

AR: I get out of the house! Sometimes all it takes is a change of scenery to get things moving again. I have a few local coffee shops where I like to set up. There’s nothing like a convenient flow of caffeine to get those characters on the right path again!

#FP: Do you have any secret and wacky writing rituals that help the words flow?

AR: I can’t make anything happen without a title and an image to go with it. I have great fun designing covers for all my projects. Something about the visual representation unlocks the words for me. Even when I write a new blog post, I almost always have to have the post image ready before I can write one word.

#FP: What advice would you give to aspiring writers and poets, anyone who wants to free the art within? What helped you make it to this point?

AR: Tell your fear to shove it! If you really want to write you won’t be happy until you do. And when you do, do it proudly. Tell people. Shout it out. Find a community of like-minded people and be active in it. I was terrified to admit I wanted to write. I was sure people would think I was a fool. It took me far too long to realize it only mattered what I felt about myself. If I was happy chasing after my heart, others would be happy for me too, whether they “got it” or not.

#FP: What genres do you find yourself most drawn to? In your books and in your #FP’s?

AR: I like dark, edgy fiction. I want to be unsettled and left questioning how I look at the world. This comes out in my own writing but with an underlining softness I used to balk at. I’ve learned to accept the romantic that hides deep down inside me. My fiction writing still has some darkness but I don’t fight the light that squeezes its way in there anymore.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Leonard Cohen: You Gave My Soul A Beam To Travel On

When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That's about all you can do. Leonard Cohen
Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/leonard_cohen.html
When things get really bad, just raise your glass and stamp your feet and do a little jig. That's about all you can do.
—Leonard Cohen

Sadness makes a lady weary...

I woke today to the news of Leonard Cohen's passing and I sat at the breakfast table, listening to Hallelujah because I needed to wrap myself in his voice, hot tears leaking down my face.

"Oh," Liam said. "You're crying."

They didn't know what to do with me.

"He was one of my favourite people in the world," I said, choking on my words, kissing them goodbye and ushering them out the door while they looked at me with a kind of 'what's up with mom?' wonderment.

I am emotionally fragile. This week has nearly killed me. I want to curl up in a little nest of blankets and listen to the echo of Leonard reciting 'My Lady Can Sleep'. I want to disappear for a time, to revel in grief because, though it hurts, it is one of life's most precious gifts.

Because through grief we understand what it means to truly love.

He was my guy. He was the provocative, raw, boundary-pushing artist who ultimately inspired my own artistic aspirations.

I remember the moment I found him, a stained paperback book of poetry on the high school library shelf. Opening those pages opened my eyes. I'd always thought truth had to be placated with flowers. His poetry gave me permission to be honest. He taught me that vulnerability is the most beautiful of all the abilities.

Leonard is quoted as saying, "I was 15 when I first became deeply touched by the rhythm and structure of words..." Well, when I was 15, I became deeply touched by the rhythm and structure of him. He touched a place within me that fiction never reached.

I will mourn him deeply because he touched me deeply. We lost a beautiful soul this week; it's my impassioned prayer that we never lose his spirit.

Fare thee well my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Though you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you
—Leonard Cohen, Nightingale

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hugging Hillary Clinton

When we finally turned off the news feeds and went to sleep on Monday night, the race was too close to call. My spirit was unsettled. Nerves pulsed through me like the moments before walking onto the school stage in seventh grade when I gave a speech in front of community judges about Beethoven.

I've never involved myself in politics. Not to this extent. And I've certainly never really cared what happened in countries beyond mine—yet things were different this time. This time I knew in my core, no matter the outcome, it would punch me somehow.

a canadian's thoughts on the american elections

During the early pre-dawn hours of November 9, while darkness pretended to wrap this side of the world in a lullaby, dreams rocked me until I was standing in a field. It was that magic hour when evening light shoots across the wheat in such a way it turns to gold and as I walked through it, I saw a woman standing in the distance—alone, arms resting at her side, fingers brushing the tips of the wheat. A heaviness rooted in my stomach at the sight of her, at the sadness in her face and the loneliness in her posture. I knew if I could extend one bit of grace to her, I would find a way to do it.

I approached and as I drew near I realized it was Hillary Clinton. She watched me come, shaking her head slightly as if to say, 'I'm strong, leave me be'. But I ignored her and continued until I could gaze directly into her wet eyes. I wrapped my arms around her and it felt, for a moment, like I was hugging the world. And then my mother appeared beside us and said in her gentle way, "It's all going to be all right."

I woke then, shaken, and grabbed my phone from the dresser beside me, flipping to Twitter, where of course, I learned the news with immediacy.

I couldn't sleep after that. And when dawn finally broke and I met the children in the kitchen, I asked them, "Do you know?"

They all did. We've been talking about it a lot.

"I feel sick," I said.


"I just don't know..."

But I do know. I know that I'm terrified by what this means for the whole world. What does it say that one of the major world powers allows an arrogant bully blow fish to be its leader?

What does it mean?

I cried on the way to work. I was listening to interviews on the CBC and I'd watched a video about a mob burning the American flag before I left and I was just shattered. My heart broke for America and my heart broke for us, and as I crested the hill into Allan Park a rainbow appeared to my right and that made me cry even harder.

I was a wreck. I drove an extra loop around town to gather myself.

Then, of course, the day continued in such a way: an hourly succession of more bad things. I got some different hard news that rocked me, I learned about the personal tragedy of a close friend, the marriage of another friend is dissolving, our Passat is officially headed to the wreckers...

The sky is falling and there isn't enough chocolate in the world.

I left work early because I was exhausted by trying not to cry. When I got home I snuck into my room, crawled in my bed, and tried to keep it together.

When my husband found me he asked, "Did you have a good day?"



"The world is falling apart."

And then I told him everything, wiping tears while he lay beside me and when I finished he called in the children and they piled on me with hugs and giggles and I remembered that the sun rises every day.

This is not a political post. I'm not looking to start a conversation about who you support and why. I want to talk about how we move forward. How can we plant a seed of hope after this volatile season? How do we spread the message of love? How do we swallow our judgements and trust—really trust—that something bigger is at play and that good will ultimately prevail?

I don't know. I do know that when I woke today, I wasn't quite so shattered. I am still sad. I am still suspended in this strange bubble of mourning I'm struggling to put words to and yet, as I sat on the porch step with my mug of tea, watching the last leaves falling and the blue sky behind I remembered that rainbow and the abundance of beauty that exists around us every single day and I know, somehow, just like my wise mother said, it's all going to be all right...
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