5:37 PM

Reading Resolutions

[Find my 2016 READING LOG here ] I was 'kidnapped' from work yesterday to have coffee with three older gentlemen—all of whom I ...

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Date Nights and Winter Highway Dreams

date nights and winter highway dreaming
Last night we journeyed along clear winter highways to the Wismer House in Port Elgin where we helped celebrate the birthday of a dear friend we hold close to our hearts. I have low expectations for a beach-town in winter but the crowd was enthusiastic and the atmosphere warm and we absorbed the low bar lighting and the infectious groove of The Mackenzie Blues Band and all I can say is as I sat there I knew without a doubt, this was the colour, taste and feel of happiness.

I am the poster-child for introvert. I am not naturally drawn to the pub scene where the floor is sticky with beer and the people swoon to rhythms they can't quite keep up to. I often feel silly—like a child hiding in the closet, watching the party through the slats in the door, enjoying the show but not ready to be part of it. I like to find my comfort. I like a table with a good view of the band and I like to park it for the night—a straight eye-line to all the excitement but safely on the outskirts where I can memorize the way people move and design wicked plot-lines for their doppelganger-role in my next novel.

I worry, every so often, that people think I'm not having fun. But then I tell myself: who cares! I'm having fun watching them thinking I'm not having fun.

Ha!

People-watching is the highest form of entertainment. And education. And creative fodder.

So I sat on that stool for hours—the stool I claimed upon first coming through the door—the stool that might make me a square—the stool from which I sipped my ginger-ale with lime and watched the bad dancers spilling their drinks and the band spreading so much joy you could feel it in the laugh-lines that will never really go away such a beautiful night...

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As we drove home, turning onto Bruce Road 10 as the clock clicked past 3 am, I felt warm with giddiness though my feet were freezing. "I want to live in a van," I said. "I want to sell everything and live in a van."

"Like Shameless?" my husband asked, his hand on my thigh as I drove.

"What?"

"The tv show."

"They don't live in a van. You mean poor and miserable? Life in a van would not be poor and miserable. I think it would be the most fun we've ever had." 

I want that freedom. 
I want the road. 
I want the world. 

{Of course, all of this is made entirely difficult because I also have children to parent BUT sometimes, dreaming out loud helps you know yourself and right now I KNOW I want to someday be a grey-haired hippie, exploring the country with the windows rolled down, Joni Mitchell on the radio, drinking coffee brewed in a pot on a hotplate at a rest-stop parking lot!}

"I would live in a van and I'd do it shamelessly. I want us to live wherever we park."

We gazed out at the empty highway and the fields on either side were lit up with a kind of magical blue light—though we couldn't see the moon through the clouds. {And, could you capture that light, it would possibly fetch enough fortune to purchase a really nice van!}

"What if, right now, this road was leading anywhere you wanted," he said. "Where would we park tonight?"

"New Orleans," I told him. Without hesitation.

"Yeah. Waking up in New Orleans. That'd be pretty great."

"I want to live on a commune, too," I said. "Just for a year. Just to give it a go."

"I don't think you mean that."

"Yes, I do. Beautiful, earthy people, barefoot drum circles, and community gardens. We'd park our van there..."

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When my head finally hit the pillow on the cusp of 4 am, my body still pulsing with the sound of the blues that were anything but sad, I thought distantly that dreams, no matter how silly, are the things that keep us grounded even though, by their very nature, they make us want to fly. And the moment we stop dreaming is the moment we stop living.

And I don't know about you, but I'm kind of banking on living forever...

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Reading Resolutions

[Find my 2016 READING LOG here]

I was 'kidnapped' from work yesterday to have coffee with three older gentlemen—all of whom I love for various reasons, though our common link is an appreciation for music and a history of making it happen together.

As we moved through various layers of discussion we landed, for a brief moment, on what we did for New Years Eve. One of them—the tall, gentle giant who sat to my right—told of how the party he planned to attend had been cancelled so he and his wife sat together in their living room with glasses of wine, taking turns reading to one another from a novel set in his hometown.



"That's so romantic!" I gushed.

"She gets me," he responded, grinning and tipping his head my way.

"Not really my speed," one of the others said.

Books.

Sigh.

I've become so lazy.

If I'm being wholly honest I don't think I could say I read through 10 full books in 2015. That's just embarrassing. My head hangs in red-faced shame.

Everybody knows if you call yourself a writer, you had better be a reader! What better education is there than consuming the very thing you hope to create? Constantly. Until your eyes blur. Until other people's stories are as much a part of your blood stream as your own. Until you know inequitably what you like about a certain author's writing and until you know inequitably what you hate. Because that is how you better yourself: by judging devouring the work of others who have done it.

A writer who doesn't read is just a hypocrite.

beta reading 'A Confession' by Bill Aicher
And so, this girl who does not make resolutions, is raising her right hand and saying, "I shall read more!" 

And not only for myself. I have begun reading to my children again too.

At night, as I pile myself beneath Noa's blankets and read to her from the clunky prose of a Nancy Drew mystery, she tucks her little head against my chest, her hair often sticking to my chin or finding its way into my mouth. She follows along as I read, ready to turn the page whenever I reach the end. And, every so often, she looks up at my face and watches me silently and I think that is the most precious thing ever and I am quite possibly the worst mother for waiting until she was seven-years-old to really savour these gentle moments with her.



So yeah. Reading. I'm doing it. 

Because time spent reading is never wasted.

All this to say...if you have any interest in seeing what I'm reading you can go here—I'll try to keep it updated and hopefully, the thought that I'm now making myself publicly accountable will keep me motivated to READ MORE which will, in turn, motivate me to WRITE MORE!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Beta Unto Others As You Would Have Them Beta Unto You...and other reasons to be brave

be the kind of beta reader to other's you'd want them to be to you

This is a strange and wonderful stage of the process I find myself in. Not only have I pulled together a complete manuscript, but now perfect strangers are reading it. Well, not strangers exactly, but not people who have an intimate connection to me that could influence their truth sensors in such a way to preserve my feelings.

It's great to have people close to you read your work. It can affirm relationships and strengthen bonds and create a bridge between your worlds that perhaps didn't exist before. 

But yeah...there's always this lingering wonderment: do they like it because they like it or do they like it because they like me?

And so, at this very moment, through the miracle of the interwebs, strangers are holding my pages, slicing and dicing them in the name of progress without the hindering need to protect me.

Because who am I to them?

I am no one. 

I am that inconsequential girl on Instagram or Twitter with which they have a rather inconsequential relationship. My feelings are black and white words or perfectly filtered photographs on a screen to which they owe nothing but honest feedback.

GAH!

How terrifying/exhilarating.

And, as much as it scares me, it's exactly what I want. Because at the end of it all I hope to produce a product that represents me at my very best and that can't happen without the unfiltered feedback of people who don't love me.

Which is also why I've taken on a beta-reading project for someone else outside my own physical world. 

Because every time I make that red pen mark - not to tear them down, but with the intention to build their project up to something better - I think about them doing the very same to me and realize I'm lessening the pain of criticism by criticizing

Because I know my own intent and through that, I'm able to trust theirs.

beta-readers

On being brave.


There is no way someone can create a piece of art that every single person will fall in love with. Unless you can understand and accept this as a reality there's no reason to step out in bravery. 

I am so good at stopping projects. I dive in. I'm excited. I work and work. And then I stop. Because the next step is the hardest and I don't have the emotional maturity to face it.

Until I do. 

And then I realize, I might be the bravest person I know.

{That sounds awfully narcissistic BUT bravery is relative and I'm just talking about writing here - not running into a burning building.}

Writing is simple if it's something that makes you happy. It's also an exercise that makes you raw and vulnerable and it's easy to decide to keep it to yourself and not risk sharing it with a world who might poop all over it.

BUT

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

And so I forge ahead, eagerly biting my nails and pacing a racing stripe in the floorboards as I anticipate that ding in my inbox as readers complete their task and send me their feedback.

It's not easy but it is necessary.

Bravery is the only way to find success among bookshelves of literary garbage. I believe this with my whole heart and I'm going to keep on being brave until I hold that final copy in my hands and I cry a little bit and then invite all of you to a smashing good book launch party!

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I'm still looking for more beta-readers! {Look at me, being brave again!} And yes, you're still invited even if you love me in real life. So, if you have a little time to read through a story about a boy and his mother, let me know and I'll hook you up! {comment below, email me or use the contact form} I'd really love a few more women to read it. Surprisingly my readers have been mostly male so I'd like to even out the playing field a little bit.

Learn lots more about what I want from my beta's here.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

When Your Main Character Isn't A Character At All

when your main character isn't a character at all
Sometimes, within a story, an object that might otherwise be valueless takes a throne of precedence - absorbing power until it holds almost the same significance as a main character.

In The Church In The Wildwood that object is a nail - an old, rusty, wildly significant nail. 

Ultimately, it is the villain of my story. But it is also the key to locking down redemption. It doesn't have a story of its own, per se, but it does have such an effect that without it there would be no story to tell.

When you write of such a 'character', you have no way of knowing whether it will move your reader in the same way it moved you, the writer. BUT, when it does, you feel heaven open up and a hallelujah chorus fall down on your head so all you can do is stare at them stupidly and stumble through an embarrassed thank you.

My book has gone through its first stage of beta-readers. One such reader happened to leave a copy lying around her house and her husband picked it up. 

And read the whole thing before she even had a chance to read it.

And he's not a reader.

That has to mean something, right?

We were at a family skating event on New Year's Eve. He skated up to me where I was leaning against the sideboard and pulled a long, thin jewelry box from his jacket pocket.

I felt a bit stupidly speechless when I opened it and saw a nail - the nail - laying there.

And I don't want to read too much into it. Truth be told, I haven't received my manuscript back from them yet - they could have hated the whole thing - BUT, the fact that the nail stood out as something worthy of creating art around...yeah...that speaks volumes and my heart is warmed at the thought that my words inspired a reciprocal creation that I can wear around my neck.

I mean, isn't this like the greatest compliment ever?!

Some friends have told me that they've avoided every little piece I've shared about The Church In The Wildwood because they don't want to ruin their eventual experience when they finally hold a published copy in their hands {I have the BEST friends!!!} but I wanted to share a little tease. And, to protect them, you'll have to click over for it. Click here to read the opening paragraphs...to meet the nail and one of its haunted co-stars...
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