Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Counting Down to Release Day with a CITW Giveaway

On April 1, I officially opened up pre-sales for The Church in the Wildwood, and I'm excited to say, I've actually sold some! What a thrill to think that by the time the soft launch rolls around, people—strangers!—will be holding my words, soaking in the story that I obsessed and moaned and dreamed and cried over.

It doesn't quite feel real.

pre sales for The Church in the Wildwood

If you'd like to place an order for your very own shiny, signed copy, just follow the BUY NOW link below and PayPal* will take care of the rest. (Please be sure to select the proper shipping method.)

How would you like to receive your paperback copy?

If you'd like to enter for your chance to win one of three copies, enter the Goodreads giveaway - and good luck!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Church in the Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak

The Church in the Wildwood

by Alanna Rusnak

Giveaway ends May 03, 2017.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

If you'd like to do both and give a copy away to a friend if you win...thank you, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!

I'm not going to lie to you friends, I'm exhausted. Between prepping for this launch, keeping the magazine going, and showing up to work every day, I've also been dealing with a crashed computer. Do you understand the devastation and emotional turmoil that rises to the surface when the main tool of all my creative pursuits kicks the bucket? It's just...it's like...

...I can't even talk about it.

I'm frustrated and scared.

  • Because 1: I need a computer to get above said launch off the ground.
  • Because 2: I can only get by on the gracious generosity of friends who loan me their machines for so long.
  • Because 3: The June issue of Blank Spaces is not going to build itself.

So, how can you help?


If I can sell 700 books, that could just about buy me a new computer. I'm all about making dreams happen. What do you say? Will you help me get to 700?

Seven hundred is a pretty big goal for a self-published book, but a goal's not really worth a lot if it's too easy to achieve, right?!

I don't mean to be pushy. I'm not advocating obligatory purchases. In fact, that's the last thing I want to do. What I really want is for people to buy my book because they actually want to, because they'll really read it, because something about the story speaks to them.

If one (or all of those reasons) sounds like you, consider supporting this road I'm on. I don't expect it will ever be paved in gold, but that's okay. I'm more of a bare feet in the grass kind of girl anyway.


"A beautifully woven tale exploring the complexity of relationships, family, and love...Real characters with imperfections, depth and honest voices."

"A deeply evocative story. The Church in the Wildwood presents humanity at both its best and worst. The depth and authenticity of each character is a triumph...A poignant beauty, that can exist in the ugliest corners of the world, is presented artfully by the author...Although harsh, the story is depicted through a fresh lens of redemption and hope, reminiscent of the innocence conveyed in the book Room by Emma Donoghue."

*Don't like PayPal? I can also accept an email money transfer, a credit card payment (through Point of Sale), or cold hard cash. Contact me and we'll work out the dirty details.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Knee-Deep Prayers (Welcome to Church)

The local licensed café is narrow and dim, deliciously warm, splashed (in the evenings) with a red light that calls you in off the street like a crackling fire. It's not pretentious or intimidating, and though I know it best as a place to sit during daylight hours, tapping away at my laptop, making friendly small talk with the owners who always seem happy to see me, it's just as kind a place after nightfall.

A friend and member of my regular Monday night Writer's Jam invited me out to the café to see her workshop a performance art piece she'd been piecing together with a small crew of other creatives. I didn't know what to expect and I'm certainly not prone to venturing far outside my comfort zone (though I'm getting better at it) but I wanted to support her.

And I was curious. With her in the mix it was guaranteed to be wonderfully weird. (I say that with true affection!)

And it was a night out.

Win win.

I arrived a few minutes early (with another Writer's Jam friend in tow!) to be wrapped up in a crushing hug by the aforementioned performing friend who's face, when she saw us walk in, told the kind of humble story that began with: I can't believe you actually came! 

"Is there going to be audience participation?" I asked as she hugged me.

"No," she promised. "Someone might just come up and whisper in your ear."

Her revelation meant I could sit wherever I wanted instead of the inaccessible back corner. I'm a wallflower by nature. Don't ever think of pulling me up on the stage as a "volunteer".

People filtered in, filling the space to capacity, chatting in the heightened tones of those hoping to be enlightened. Wine was poured and ginger tea steeped. I love that about this place. It's not like the times when I approach a bar and ask for an orange pekoe—when they look at me like I'm a totally lame, boring prude—here, no one lifts an eyebrow. Coffee, vodka, tea, wine...we're all the same.

The lights dimmed and the crowd hushed and so began the wonderful weirdness...

During one of my high school English classes I had to do a presentation on a theme from whatever piece of literature we were studying at the time. I don't remember if it was Shakespeare or Richard Adams, but I do remember I chose to present FEAR. And (because I obviously didn't yet know myself) I did a performance art presentation in the mini amphitheater of the basement drama room. It included the first eight notes of Beethoven's 5th Symphony played upon a single octave toy piano at intentionally sporadic intervals throughout the presentation; a flashlight held beneath my chin; a long strip of newsprint upon which we would all leave our fears behind in varying strokes of fat crayola markers; angsty original poetry; and a moody recitation of whatever passage was most drenched in FEAR.

It was brilliant.

And it was a disaster.

It was a brilliant disaster.

But only because I was preaching to a room of non-believers. Those kids...they didn't speak my language. They rolled their eyes and drew orange stick-men on my canvas of catharsis.

So, instead of feeling affirmed and powerful, I felt embarrassed and sad and even less sure of who I was and where I fit into the world.

Last Thursday night, I sat at a café table and watched all that bravery spill out from the stage, washing over a crowd that nodded along and mmmhmmmm'ed when they really liked a statement, that clapped like they meant it; a crowd who recognized that despite technical glitches and long awkward pauses there was a magic happening there. A magic that's made of freedom and the willingness to be vulnerable—the strength to refuse invisibility and I thought, 'Oh, this is strange.'

But I also thought, 'THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!'

Those brave souls up there, they were preaching to the choir. We all got it. Even if we didn't 'get it'. Somehow they spoke the language out loud that I've always been speaking inside.

I once stood along the wall at a Niagara Falls dance club while Vanilla Ice served drinks behind the bar. I hated every ugly second of it. The sticky floor, the violent strobe lights, the music that vibrated in my chest. I feel anxiety even in the remembering of it. The best moment of that night was the moment we were back out on the street. I didn't care that my husband's friend knew a guy who took us through the V.I.P. entrance so we didn't have to pay the $50 cover charge. I didn't care that Ice Ice Baby was close enough to see the pores on his nose, or that this club was tagged as that night's 'place to be'. I only cared that I was dreadfully unhappy and that the whole experience made me feel wildly inadequate and dull.

But this...this was warm and intimate and spiritual.

A friend recently returned to church after staying away for a while. He later told me how happy he was to have been welcomed back so warmly. My response was: Of course! That's what church is! It's relationship. It's connection. It's working together towards a shared purpose.

And that's what I found in that little café. Church.

Genuine relationship. Honest connection. A passionately shared purpose.

"Midnight stroll through knee-deep prayers." 

They mentioned that more than once...knee-deep prayers. And as I listened to the words of the poetry they spoke I recognized the psalms within them and immediately knew that every poem/prose/song/art is a prayer and prayer is the only language that everyone speaks, no matter their religious affiliation.

Midway through the presentation, the performers left the stage carrying tubes, the ends fitted with some kind of headphone. They moved through the audience, pausing by various people, placing the headphone against an ear while they spoke through the other end. I, having sat in the aisle, provided one such ear. "This is the most intimate our relationship will ever be," he said. "You don't have to tell anyone what I say to you here tonight. I love you, sister." And then he moved on to the next person.

First of all...very intimate! And second of all...awwwwww! Because that's all anyone wants isn't it? And it's ultimately why we try our hand at creating anything. To spread our heart—for good or for bad.

My last swallow of coffee was cold but my spirit was warmed having discovered this community. They left a little of their weird glitter on me so that when I went home later that night I did not feel dull, nor did I feel embarrassed or inadequate. I felt affirmed and empowered. I felt accepted.

I felt exactly like one should feel having found their church. I felt like I'd come home.

Monday, March 20, 2017

What Margaret Atwood Said (and what Cormac McCarthy helped me do)

"A word after a word after a word is power."

That's what Margaret Atwood said. There are many ways to interpret this statement—some petty and some profound—but what I know when I see that phrase is this: write it down and watch the magic that comes of it.

This is why there is such therapy in writing. Such cathartic cleansing. Sometimes, in releasing a thought through written word, you rid it of its power. Like when I type: I'm struggling. I can't write—I'm effectually proving myself wrong by the very act of declaring said struggle. Or when the power is proven, like when I typed (as a cry for help and encouragement): book me a week in an adorable cottage on a secluded, pretty lake—and less than twenty-four hours following that publication I had an offer of a cottage on a lake! True story, I swear—and you can bet I said YES YES YES!

What I'm trying to say is that allowing yourself to be heard is opening yourself to be a conduit for tremendous power—not in a witchy, hootchie-cootchie way—in a soul altering/affirming way.

We are our words. Our words are us.

In grade school there was this outbreak of playground chanting. You were to sit cross-legged, staring steadily into the eyes of a partner, holding hands, knees touching while reciting in unison I am you and you are me and we are each other in a creepy monotone that would have made Joss Whedon proud. Over and over—I am you and you are me—until a wave of The Powers Of The Universe rolled over you and shocked you apart, after which you'd lay back on the concrete and yell, "did you feel that??!?"

I never felt it, I just didn't want to be the one kid in school the universe decided not to embrace. "Yeah, I felt it! That was a BIG one!"

Ridiculous right? Silly kids who watched too much Tales from the Dark Side or thought the Beatles' lyrics to I Am The Walrus were something more profound than an LSD trip.

Still, with words we fought to force change. They have always been my weapon of choice. Which may be why it so pains me when they seem to elude me in those moments I feel I have a project worthy of their attention.

Following last weeks whine, my mother emailed to say she'd read that writer's block was like trying to push a ton of raw liver uphill by hand. Gross! Then she encouraged me to take a break. To accept the season and to enjoy my time off without the self-applied pressure to produce what wasn't coming naturally.

And I heeded her advice. Because you should always listen to your mother. And because that same post was featured on a different site and received a comment that signed off with the statement: don't expect to succeed. I was so ridiculously mad that I had to step back {because I desperately wanted to take the bait and engage but knew it would be a choice that would not well represent who I want to be}.

I had all of March Break off. I went into it with the romantic notion that I'd accomplish much and finally beat down the wall that's been hindering me. A fellow creative told me that when she's not feeling the writing vibes, she reads. I took that to heart.

Over the course of the week I read 2 books to completion and one to within a few pages. I let myself become fully absorbed in the story of Piper Kerman and her year in a woman's prison in her eye-opening memoir, Orange is the New Black (way better than the Netflix version!}. Within hours of finishing her story I was so captured by Cormac McCarthy's The Road that I could barely do anything else...including sleep. This book. It's gorgeous and devastating and it is everything I want to do when I set out to write something myself.

One of the early readers of The Church in the Wildwood told me my writing reminded him of Cormac McCarthy. And friends, if someone compares you to a Pulitzer Prize winner, you take notice! I had little experience with McCarthy. I'd read No Country For Old Men but I hadn't liked it. Of course, this was before I knew he was the old man version of me. I bought The Road because I was curious to see if I agreed.

I did not. I mean, the beauty of his words within a subject matter so tortured...I was flattered—oh yes!—but I also felt so so small. Because who in the world am I to think I could ever create something that another person held in their hands and thought, I wish I could write like this? Who am I to think I could succeed?


The only unsuccessful people are the ones who stop reaching.

What is success? Success is keeping your nose to the grindstone. It's not money or fame or any other empty pursuit, it's doing what you love and never stopping! 

Cormac McCarthy knocked a brick loose. I closed the final page, tears still on my cheek as I rushed to my computer and opened a project that's been sitting dormant, just waiting for me to find my way back to it. And I was in it. Really in it. For hours! And it wrapped itself around me and I couldn't stop and suddenly I was alive and it wasn't until I took a break to use the bathroom that I realized those tears had dried on my cheeks, crusty little trails that meant I'd rediscovered who I was through the heartbreak and searing victory of The Road.

And when I picked up my third March Break book, Yes Please by Amy Poehler, the opening forward was all about writing and how HARD it is. I laughed right out loud!

See? The universe does actually speak to me!

I couldn't sleep that night. How could anybody sleep if they're trying to lie down on a crumbling pile of broken bricks? It's uncomfortable in the most delicious way. You don't break down a wall to lay on it—you break it down to get to the other side. At 3:00 a.m. I was in my writing room, wearing a bathrobe, scribbling down all these ideas that wouldn't leave me alone.

Remember what I said last week?

I want to be eyeballs deep in something that makes me desperate—something that wakes me up at night...


So go forth. Put words to your dreams and then watch them happen. Maybe not quite how you pictured it. Maybe not how it happened for other people. Maybe not on a silver platter. Maybe on a timeline you didn't expect. Maybe so far into the future that you can't see the 'why'. The only thing that matters is the 'Why Not?' And yes, it will scare you; and yes, it will stretch you; and yes, you might want to quit and you might wonder why you ever wanted it in the first place.

But if you stick with it—if you accept the struggle as part of your journey—there's no way anything's going to stop you.

Because you are already successful. Because you earn every little victory. Because there is no joy in giving up.

Because a word after a word after a word is power.

*this post contains Amazon Associate links

Monday, March 13, 2017

Why Aren't You Writing?

It happened today.

Fresh returned from the dentist, my mouth sore {but feeling smug because I have very healthy teeth!}, I plopped down on the couch and just...nothing.

"What are you doing?" my eldest son asked.

"I'm on holidays," I said. A whole week. Beautiful!


"I should be writing."

"Then why aren't you writing? You have time. You have all week."

why aren't you writing? you should be writing


First of all, when did he become a grownup?

And second of all...nothing.

I'm wearing this author-guilt like a cape. It hangs on my shoulders and gives me bad posture and poor sleep. I want to be writing. I swear I do.

But I can't.

I think I'm broken.

And there ain't no band-aid to fix a broken writer.

I'm trying to find the reason but it's like digging for treasure without the 'X marks the spot'. And I wonder who I am and I look at all I'm doing and I'm like: I'M DOING THINGS!!! 

But it's not enough.

Because it's not all me. It's a lot of a whole lot of other people. Which is AMAZING...


I want to be selfish. I want to be eyeballs deep in something that makes me desperate—something that wakes me up at night—something that makes it impossible to waste three hours on episodes of the X-Files {true story}. 

And the most frustrating thing of all? I have things to work on! It's not like I'm running on empty. I've got jerrycans all around me. It's about figuring out how to pour that gas into my tank, crank the engine, and hit the open road.

I'm telling myself this is just part of the creative process. I've done this BIG THING* and I need a little dead-in-the-water to recover from the blissful agony of making that happen. I'm like a fish, flapping on the shore, gasping, mouth gulping at air that can't sustain, praying for someone to take pity on me and toss me back into the sea where I will rediscover the joy that makes the BIG THINGS happen.

So if you've been wondering why little blogging has been happening, this is why.
If you've noticed the crickets chirping on my Facebook author page, this is why.

If you want to know what kinds of things I've actually been busy doing, visit the Blank Spaces website. I promise I haven't been lazy {when it comes to other endeavours}.

If you want to know how to encourage me you could:

     a.) send me a care package of dark chocolate and/or really good coffee
     b.) leave a friendly 'you got this girl ' comment below
     c.) pre-order a copy of The Church in the Wildwood
     d.) book me a week in an adorable cottage on a secluded, pretty lake
     e.) all of the above

I promise I'm okay. This is just part of the journey. It will make me stronger in the end.

*My novel, The Church in the Wildwood is set for release on May 8, 2017!

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Five Year Plan

In June of 2013, I sat across from my boss and told him my five year plan. I wanted to write. Since I was a little girl learning to type on my father's snap-snap-snap-ding! typewriter, I knew I wanted to be a writer. I had stories in me. So, when my boss asked what I wanted to be doing in five years, I had to speak my truth.

By that point I'd been blogging a while. I felt like I had something to say. And I felt like people were actually listening. It was good. It was fun. But I longed for something bigger and deeper.

I wanted to write a book.

Because, for whatever reason, my head thought books were real writing.

That 2013 performance review set me on a path and I will be forever grateful for it {even though we all know performance reviews are THE WORST THING EVER!}. Saying out loud what I always held inside gave me the permission I needed to actually do something.

It took me a while. A lot of self-talk and fear-bashing before I saw any progress but now, here I am, closing in on four years from that pivotal moment, preparing for a book launch.


I mean, GAH!

The Church in the Wildwood is in its very final stage before going to press. It has been handed out to five trusted advance readers who are going through it, watching for spelling mistakes/misplaced commas/layout issues/etc. The end {beginning?} is near.

It's helpful to have that 2013 day to look back on, to be able to say: I'm doing what I set out to do. There's something powerful about that and it has birthed this strange urgency within me to keep going, to keep pushing, to never stop. Because now I've realized it's actually possible. I can make a go of it. Maybe I can't afford to quit my day job just yet, but the hint of its possibility hangs on the air like the promise of spring.

Stepping out in boldness makes you brave. Yes, perhaps your knees knock at every crossroads but that's part of the joy of the journey—the thrill of the chase. Fear keeps me humble and spurs me onward. It's a beautiful motivator once you realize those monsters in the closet are only shadows. The only harm to be done is in stopping—that's when shadows really can swallow you down.

So I don't stop. I move forward. I dig deeper into other projects. I start a magazine. I chase dreams. I book a launch venue. I surround myself with other writers/poets/artists. I discover a deep passion I have for championing the creative journeys of strangers {stay tuned for what that's going to look like - I'm SO excited about it!}.

I have about a year and a half until I ring that five year bell. I'm happy to know that no matter what's ahead of me, I won't be facing it empty-handed.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Beavis and Butthead. And Donald Trump

First of all, an apology: I am not the kind of radical person who waves a flag and loudly toots the horn of my convictions. I strive to keep any online space {of which I have control} free from politics. Because politics are ugly and polarizing and I want to believe in a sunshine and lollypop world.

But then some jokester played a big orange Trump-card on my pretty worldview.

Thanks a lot.

beavis and butthead and donald trump

And even though I try to avoid it WITH EVERY FIBER OF MY HAPPY-GO-LUCKY BEING, it seems I can't. Because I dream about it.

And sometimes you have to write down your dreams because they're just too incredibly profound to keep to yourself.

And by profound, I mean weird. And by weird, I mean someone needs to make this one into a movie a la Sharknado quality...

So Beavis and Butthead are standing on the street. "Heh heh heh" "huh huh huh" {I mean, gross — whoever came up with those characters is insane!} They're hungry. And it's perfectly sensible that they'd think the sun was a cookie. So they pull it down from the sky and they eat it. "Heh heh heh" "huh huh huh"

One of them walks down the street to where Hillary Clinton is standing, waiting patiently and not at all strangely. They share a passionate kiss {again, gross!}.

"Heh heh heh" "huh huh huh"

Hillary walks down the street to where Donald Trump is standing, waiting patiently and not at all strangely. She puts her hands on her hips, leans forward and opens her mouth wide, from which a ball of fire spews forth, engulfing poor ol' Donald. She wipes her lips on the sleeve of her blue pantsuit and marches through his ashes.

"Heh heh heh" "huh huh huh"

And the whole time, No Time To Crank The Sun by El VY, is playing in the background. Seriously. I've had that song in my head now for three whole days now!

So this isn't really a political post. It's just a dream journal entry.

And yes, I'll be checking myself into the mental ward this weekend...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

The Church In The Wildwood is a REAL BOOK (almost)

On November 1, 2014 at 12:01 a.m. I wrote the first sentence of The Church in the Wildwood. It seems so long ago and yet I can remember the thrilling feeling of starting something; the flighty sense that someday it would mean something; that this sliver of an idea would actually form into something, that someday, strangers would hold in their hands.

the church in the wildwood is a real book
I sat in my newly designed and designated writing room, created by my own sweat to actually see this idea through, a space carved out away from daily mom-life to invent a world that, until the moment I wrote it, didn't exist.

I ate Halloween candy stolen from my children's bags and I wrote about a boy locked in his closet.

By the end of that November, I had the rough draft of a full novel that I chased into something polished and presentable.

And now—two years, two months, and seven days removed from those first words—I'm working through the final proof. An actual printed copy. A real book. 312 pages of my imagination.

And I feel so...


the church in the wildwood is a real book
I spent a lot of energy {both physical and emotional} trying to take this book the traditional route. Rejected by agents and publishers alike.

But that's okay. Sure, it would be amazing to be picked up by a credible source BUT I also hate the idea of giving up the creative liberties that self-publishing allows. 

And so my heart is not broken. It's ready to take on this next part of the journey head on! I've invested a lot of time in exhaustive research and am fully convinced that now, more than ever, self-publishing is a viable and credible way to go. I am not {really} afraid to throw myself into the ring. Sure, it's loud in there, and there is a lot of garbage being passed off as literature—because anyone can be published these days...anyone—but I'm confident in my story and am not concerned about making a best-sellers list {though, let's be honest, of course I want to!} What I want more than anything is to share what I've created with the world. And if the publishing industry doesn't want to help me do that then, darn it, I'll make it happen on my own!

And I am.

Today I began the work of reading through the proof, looking for those last minute things that missed the bajillion rounds of editing, so I can finally sign off and do a full print run for the LAUNCH PARTY!

I have a loose timeline in place, I've already talked with the venue about early details, I'm working on setting up pre-orders so I can actually afford a launch party, and I'm working on an official press release to go out to local {and not-so-local} news outlets.

the church in the wildwood is a real book


It's scary and fun.

Here's to the next chapter and everything that comes with it!

And don't worry, I'll keep you in the loop. And I really hope, when the time comes, that you'll grab yourself a copy and support me on this journey. I'll even sign it for you. With love.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store

maybe christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a storeWe had a brilliant Christmas, tucked into our little Rusnak house with its little Rusnak smells and little Rusnak sounds. I'd made a point of staying home; of claiming December 25 for us; of promising not to leave my house for anything—even dinner someone else was willing to cook for us!

It was pure Christmas bliss!

Yes, there's something to be said for the excitement and bustle BUT I love the simplicity of taking our time and just sharing space with the same ones with whom we share life.

As we finished opening gifts, Zander {15, often seeming disconnected from anyone not on his iPhone} made an announcement: I didn't have much money this year so I couldn't buy you all nice gifts. Instead, I wrote you each a story set 15 years in the future.

And we were like WOW! Because, of course, to me anyway, that's the perfect kind of gift.

He began with Noa, who, 15 years from now, will be pulled up on stage at a One Direction reunion concert.

Liam's going to be a star hitter for the Blue Jays after a full sports scholarship to a great University.

Scott's going to win the World Poker Tour, 2031.

And me...well...with Zander's permission, I will share...

"Congratulations on one million sales, Mrs. Rusnak," a women said as she held out a copy of Blank Spaces.
Alanna quickly scribbled her name on the cover of the magazine, then thanked the woman.

Alanna had spent the past 15 years working on the magazine. 15 years of refining and perfecting the art of development, production, and selling them.

"Your magazine is wonderful! I've been reading it since the 12th issue, and I just can't get enough of it!" an older man said as he set down his own copy of the magazine to have it signed.

"I'm glad that you enjoy it," Alanna said simply.

"Can I get a picture with you?" the man asked, holding his phone at his side.

"Of course!" Alanna replied with a smile. The man walked behind the small desk and quickly snapped a "selfie."

It was previously unheard-of for a magazine producer to pick up this much of a fan base, but Alanna had become somewhat of a figurehead in the writing industry.

With three published novels, each selling reasonably well, and her well-known magazine, she was regarded as one of Canada's greatest writers. She was also regarded as an excellent example for small business owners.

She started at the very bottom. No government funding or large investors, just a dream and some coffee. But that dream quickly found its way into the hearts of thousands of Canadians, which helped to spawn her tiny empire.

Alanna still did the design work on her own, and her amazing son did most of the editing.
Blank Spaces still had a lot of growing to do, but to many Canadians, it was the best magazine in the world.

Yes, I wiped away some tears as he read—not just at my story but the others as well. What he showed us was that he knew us, he understood our hopes and dreams, and deep inside himself he wants to see us achieve them on some level. That right there, that belief, is the greatest Christmas gift he could have ever given!

And hey, if Blank Spaces is still alive in 15 years, I will be one proud 50-something woman!