Friday, June 30, 2017

Standing Room Only: Ode to a Beautiful Book Launch

The saxophone player ran scales as I set up the book table with the help of a few of my girls. (These things can't happen without a team behind you!) Nerves had settled in the pit of my belly, but listening to those notes fill the space as we decided whether to stack books on the table or line them up on the shelf calmed me and allowed a little thrill to tickle down my spine.

It's really happening. The day is finally here.

Nearly three years of my life have been dedicated to the creation of The Church in the Wildwood and every day (since I typed those first words on November 1, 2014) has been leading me to this important moment.

It's launch day.

Everything was ready—or as ready as it could be. I had 37 books for sale (that's what was left of the 70 I ordered) and deep down, my wish was to run out; I wanted to have to take orders because there were none left. This felt like a silly goal, like I was setting myself up to be disappointed, but I refused to let it go.

I had a clear plan for the evening: intro, reading, signing, cake, band. Easy.

I didn't anticipate that by 7:05 I'd be sitting behind the table signing books, having already sold more than half!

The café beginning to fill up before the official 'program' began
People kept coming, keeping me stuck behind the table and unable to greet attendees (I'm not complaining!) until finally, the café owners dimmed the lights to signal 'It's Starting' and Pam (M.C. extraordinaire) took the stage to introduce me.
When she arrived during the set up earlier in the evening, she asked how I'd like to be introduced. "Nothing formal," I'd said. "Just be yourself." She'd taken a clipboard and blank paper and begun to write what she would say.

And oh, such nice things she said! I have no idea what any of them were—that was approximately the point I left my body in order to survive the public speaking that would follow her introduction—but I know she was generous with her compliments and I was overwhelmed with the desire to put my hand over my heart to make sure it didn't burst from my body.

The crowd applauded as I stepped onto the platform. (Whoa!) The stage lights were so bright I couldn't see any faces (blessing!) but I could tell the place was full—every chair taken, and nearly every square inch of floor claimed by a body. Standing room only! (What in the world?) I said some things—again, I don't remember what—but they laughed at one point so maybe I'm out-of-body-witty and I didn't even know it. (Ha!)

Then, after a band member lowered the microphone for me (I'm just that short and adorable), I dived into a reading of Chapter Fourteen. It's a heavy section, but it's powerful and rich and I chose it because it shows the vulnerability of my favourite character without giving anything away regarding the main plot.

I clearly remember writing that chapter—the research it took and the depths I had to mine to find the right way to speak for the character—but there's just something fresh and empowering about reading your own words aloud to a room full of people who came specifically to hear you do that very thing. It breathes new life into those words, taking it from a black and white narrative to a full colour experience.

"I can't believe you chose that chapter," my husband said later. "I was tearing up as you read it...I was so caught up in the story."

After I left the stage, the cake was served and I took my place behind the table once again as the band filled the background with their bluesy groove.

It's a strange thing, to sign your own name over and over again, but I balanced that by sending my personal copy of the book around the room, asking guests to sign it for me as a memento of the evening—such a precious thing to have now that the night is over.

It wasn't until the next day that I sat down and read through all the beautiful messages. I cried when I read the one from my daughter, and then I couldn't hold the tears back as I went through the rest. I found signatures from people I hadn't even known were there and people I wouldn't have ever expected to come and even complete strangers who were there because they loved literature. I mean, wow!

I feel so loved, so supported and encouraged. I'm overwhelmed by the response. I'm thrilled that I only have two copies left. And I'm humbled and amazed by the messages that are coming in every day from people who have already read (and loved) the book.

I want to thank everyone who showed up—your presence meant the world to me! I want to thank my husband for his ceaseless support and my children for being on their best behaviour (and being so darn good looking!). I want to thank the band, The Usual Suspects, who donated their time and their talents to creating a wonderful atmosphere. I want to thank my girls—you know who you are—for showing up early to decorate and being there to handle book sales so I didn't have to worry about it. And finally, I want to thank Kevin and Michele, the owners of The Garafraxa Café, for being tremendous hosts and so willing to champion community artists.

That's enough. It's my curtain call. I'm off to work on the next Wildwood installment. Stay tuned for The Ghost of Iris Carver. Writing is to be a big part of my July 2017 plans!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

There's No Time To Blog

*cricket noises*

They say the key to a successful blog is to post OFTEN. I argue that 'they' don't have a job, a family, and a million other projects in the works. I wish I had time for an eloquent soliloquy, divulging the extraordinary ho-hum-idry (yup—made that up!) of my day-to-day life, but alas...I've dug myself a deep hole of (super fun) work and I DON'T HAVE TIME!


1. I am mere days away from the official book launch party for The Church In The Wildwood.

2. I am mere weeks away from the full launch of my official publishing (support, service & consultation) company - yes, it's true!

3. I am mere months away from the release of the first trade paperback anthology by above mentioned publishing company, and have already sent out official publishing contracts to 34 Canadian voices that will be featured in said anthology.

4. I am planning to sleep in 2073—or, in the words of the great Jon Bon Jovi: when I'm dead.

Need more?

1 Part II. I ordered the cake today. $50.99. For a cake! Holy moly! But it's going to have the book cover on it—so that's cool and fun. It was a step of faith. I could have chosen the smaller one and saved a bit. I'm having this nightmare where I'm sitting along in the venue with enough cake for fifty people...and I sit there and I sit there and no one comes and I have a huge cake and a box full of books and...

...people will come right? Will people come??? WILL I BE ALL ALONE WITH A GREAT BIG CAKE??

So...if I'm being honest, I'm pretty nervous about the party. Not that anyone would be able to tell or anything...

2 Part II. It's really just the website I'm waiting on. Things are already in full swing elsewhere. I keep getting mail addressed to Alanna Rusnak Publishing and it's AWESOME! I feel proud and accomplished and like this is something that might actually help me buy groceries.

3 Part II. I'm not telling you any more. You'll have to wait for the official announcement just like the rest of the world!

4 Part II. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

While I'm napping you can watch this video of me reading the prologue from my book... could also let me know if you're coming to my launch party by clicking here could also buy my book!

*more cricket noises*

Friday, June 2, 2017

The 5 REAL 'L' Words of a Writer's Retreat

There are moments when everything moves inwards and I feel like I'm doing nothing but treading water. Because to focus on the backstroke means the breaststroke gets neglected. Or so it feels. And so I sit in this puddle of overstimulated TO-DO with no clear direction on which to fix my gaze.

Things get done, but it doesn't feel efficient; and honestly, there are times I sit in my pretty little writing room and scroll through social media, sipping a tea or coffee without actually tasting it, not doing what I sat down to do in the first place.


A refocus is necessary. Whether it's once a year, once a month, or once a week. It's part of maintaining good mental health. And it's important to recognize the sludge in your lungs, climb out of the farm pond, spit in the bucket, and dive into a deliciously clear mountain spring.

For me, that spring was a weekend writer's retreat. And I call it a writer's retreat, but really it was an opportunity to clear my head and get-er-done—to face the projects I'd been dragging my heels on, to refocus on my goals, to set the cross-hairs on my target and take the shots I've been too nervous to take.

And to make a real go of it, I needed these five things:

  1. Inspiring LOCATION
  2. LIKE-MINDED companions
  3. Unapologetic LISTS
  4. Permission to LAZE
  5. Lots of LUNCH (aka food at my fingertips)

Inspiring LOCATION

Because I am basically the luckiest girl in the world, one member of my Writer's Jam group has a family cottage, perched neatly along the shoreline of Lake Huron. With three bedrooms, one bathroom, a full kitchen, a wood stove, gorgeous views of the water, and WiFi, it was designed for a weekend like this.

Upon arrival, after going down to look at the water (Rule #1 of the cottage, I was told), I set myself up at a table in front of a picture window that looked down on the lake. And later, when I needed a break from the screen, I could wander the shoreline, or stumble* along a walking path I discovered, or sit out on the rocks to watch the loons dive or the sun set. (Rule #2 of the cottage: stop everything and go outside to watch the sunset.)

Being so close to so much beauty was exactly the kind of brain-break I needed in the middle of my chaos-break (aka Writer's Retreat)

*I may have landed ankle deep in a little stream that crossed the path because the stepping stones weren't secure. I say 'may have'. I'm not actually admitting anything really happened.


I strongly believe one of the best thing I've ever done for my own creativity was to open my table to a writer's group. For a long time I'd looked at my trajectory as a purely individual pursuit. Part of this was my introverted nature. Couple my natural shyness with that pesky 'I'm just a mom' attitude and you're left with flighty dreams that don't really stand a chance at seeing the light of day. When I started chipping away at that SHYWALL and actually invited others into my creative story, the things that opened up for me...the hope and the was truly beautiful. 

So, to pair a working writing weekend with two of those table-sharing-lovelies? Yes, please!

We are wonderfully different, each at different stages of our journeys, each with different projects on the go, and different goals we're currently reaching for BUT to share a space with people who crave creative living with the same fervour I do...that's just a breath of fresh air.

Had I tackled this weekend with others less inclined to creative projects, it would have fallen flat. We had shared vision. We were not there to have fun, or giggle into the night, or get fat on junk food and steak (though all those things happened!) —we were there because we all had things we wanted to accomplish and we trusted one another enough to know we would be allowed to chase after those things.

Unapologetic LISTS

My first task of the weekend was to create a list of all I hoped to accomplish. The girls and I joked about putting things on our lists just so we could check them off quickly and feel accomplished. Like 'Make List' or 'Boil Kettle'. Lists ground me. They help me focus and give me direction. And darn it, I love checking things off—a big HECK-YES! I'M DOING IT!

My initial list had sixteen major things I aimed to get through. (Of course, those sixteen received about a million sub-points each.) And in the end, I managed to scribble a pretty check beside twelve of those sixteen.

I feel good about that number.

And the amazing thing about lists is: you can bring them home with you! Ah yes...the work never ends...

Permission to LAZE

Focused dedication is HARD WORK and hard work deserves a break now and then. With no set agenda (save dinner plans and the 'stop everything and watch the sunset' rule) and because we were each working on our own projects, there was no expectation to go to bed or to get up or to wear pants. We each followed our own clock and comfort. Pyjamas all day? Why not?! 

With a cottage complete with two tables, two couches, and an easy chair, we found ourselves on an organic rotation—changing positions as bums went numb at the table, or legs fell asleep on the couch. And there was always the open invitation to take a walk, alone or with a partner—no pressure either way. There was only one time when we all actually sat and worked together in the same location, and that was on the first evening, after an incredible steak dinner (thanks Pam!), and after WE MISSED THE SUNSET (can you believe it?!) we all ended up at the table together, digging in until midnight.

Lots of LUNCH

You might have thought we were preparing for the apocalypse with all the food we brought with us. But let me be very clear: productivity depends on calories! Don't argue, I won't have it. We had a wealthy supply of snacks and treats and make-your-own breakfast and lunch spoils. No one went hungry or thirsty. There was a moment when we thought the only tea we had was Earl Grey (gag!) but thankfully—THANKFULLY—that problem was quickly rectified.

Dinners were more intentional. There was the aforementioned steak (which will forever live in our memories as the thing that made us go OOOOOOOOOOOOOO and I'll have what she's having and It will not defeat me!). And there was the trip into the nearby beach town for fish and chips that turned into a Celebrate The Church in the Wildwood Dinner. (You can read more about that here along with some more dorky book-nerd photos.)

celebrating The Church in the Wildwood by Alanna Rusnak

Food is the ultimate key to writing retreat success. You can take that to the bank!

It was a wonderful weekend of PRODUCTIVE GLORY and I'm already trying to figure out how I can make it happen regularly. I'm pretty sure a writer's retreat is my love language.

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