Sunday, September 29, 2013

New Season-New Writing Space

Writers talk a lot about their writing space. How important is it? I’ve trailed through the house writing in every room but one. This summer I spent most of my time parked in front of the window in the living room, my computer balanced on my lap. I loved the view.

It’s time for a change-up and I’m thinking of going back to the storage room. That’s right. A couple of years ago, I complained about the interruptions and distractions of working in the main floor office and my husband suggested using the desk in the large storage area in the basement. There were no windows and there was a heavy oak door to shut out all household distractions. He was right. It was a great place to work. For a time. I’m the kind of person who likes a change of scene now and then. It gives me a boost when I re-decorate, re-arrange furniture, or introduce new pieces.

Now, with the change of season and a new writing project just around the corner, I decided to move back to my writing space in the storage room.  Yesterday I checked out the situation. Oh my. All summer I’d been tossing things onto the desk. Filing, sewing, magazines, books, dolls without heads. Well everything that needed attention but could wait until I had the time to deal with it.

With a huge sigh and the urge to run, I tackled the job.  One third of the room is available to me. The rest is stacked with Christmas decorations, not-ready-to-throw-out-yet items, and baby paraphernalia−that I would be more than happy to pass along to a new grandma, a trunk filled with off-season clothes, and, and, and.

Okay, so I looked at my third of the room. Unfortunately, the first thing I had to do was clean off the top of the desk. I hate that job but an idea started to take hold and I began working with a little more enthusiasm.

 There was a long Christmas tree box that had to remain in my ‘space’. I covered it with a narrow patchwork quilt and added a couple of decorative pillows. Looks like a bench seat (don’t sit on it).

It was hard work moving a seven foot desk away from the wall to the centre of my space. It was even harder unrolling an area rug under the heavy desk. Then I came across the matching runner. That was easy.  
I commandeered an old oak coffee table, already in the storage room, and placed it along the wall behind the desk as a catch all. Hauling a wing chair from the family room to use in the corner of my ‘new’ office wasn’t too difficult. Oh, and I found a little end table and then plucked a small table lamp from another room. Yep, things shaped up and, overall, I’m pleased with the results.
Except for the printer and my laptop, the desk is completely clear –for now. Oh, there is a small vase with some colourful silk pansies, and a couple of rocks. I like rocks. And my good luck charm−an old girl who is supposed to be my guardian angel.
I’ve set a date to begin my new project−October 7th. On that day−and not before−I will settle into my re-furbished space and begin a new season of writing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Writing, Editing, and other Fun

After Sadie left I wanted to take a nap but knew there wasn’t time. But then I fell asleep in the bathtub so managed a few minutes. (chuckling here) I actually thought it was the cat waking me and then realized it was my own soft purring breaths.

It wasn’t my three year old granddaughter who wore me out. She had a tummy ache so we stayed home and cleaned out bedroom dressers which, when we got to the accessories, interested Sadie greatly. Scarves, belts, and costume jewellery. Oh, and purses. Those little clutches with sequins, or beading, or just shiny little bags with long skinny straps. Yes, she loved those the best. Look Nana, they fit me. I laughed. The little purse practically touched the floor. The jewellery was the best. Chunks of plastic that she used words like amazing, lovely, and corgeous to describe. That’s right, corgeous.

No, if I had to account for my fatigue it would not be my fun day with Sadie, it would have to be mental depletion from my writing activities the night before. A short thriller/suspense/crime/goosebump kind of story. Actually, it’s not the writing that tires me, it’s the editing. (a collective groan here).  It doesn’t necessarily mean I hate editing. I like it. Really, I do. I like it even better when I’m finished.

Here’s how it works. I write the story. It might take hours, days, or weeks. When the story looks good−meaning I love it just the way it is−I SAVE it. Next, I save it to a new file and go crazy. I rip it apart. Take the middle paragraph and use it to open the story. My finger hovers over the delete button as I dawdle over my favourite sentence. The one I felt smug about when I tapped it out on the keyboard.  But what the heck, my ready-to-go story is safe and sound in another file. I ramrod over the words, killing my darlings, and changing anything that sounds like writing.

My favourite authors are those who keep me on the edge of my seat and make me feel as if they are sitting across from me telling me this unbelievably wild story and I believe it. I believe every word they say. I mean that’s why it’s so unbelievable, right? No, it doesn’t sound like writing. It should never sound like writing. Not the crime and suspense anyway.

Think about it. Stephen King is the best when it comes to painting a colour by colour picture of his characters. You don’t even realize he’s doing it and then they’re right before your eyes. From a furled ear and slumped shoulders to pidgeon toes. Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.

In the end, I liked the new revision of my story the best. Decided to go with it. That’s what tired me out. Feeling my heart race when I got it right, and relief that it was finished. I’d given birth to another story.

It wasn’t until the next day, after my time with Sadie, that it hit me. That’s when it would have been good to curl up in my pyjamas and watch some mindless TV−fall asleep. That was out. I’d committed myself to attending an authors’ reading. I always follow through on a commitment. I like to think I do anyway. Besides, listening to authors who have made the journey can be very inspiring.

All writers talk about...The Journey. I never really got it until this past year.
This is a picture that my friend, Debbie Okun Hill, snapped from the hotel window as I headed out to my own reading.  
It feels like I’m moving in the right direction.



Monday, September 23, 2013

The Magic of a Writers' Festival

I could not have written this blog yesterday or the day before or the day before that. I needed time to absorb the emotion, the experience, and the magic.

It was an honour participating in the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival on their 25th Anniversary. To quote The Record, the festival is virtually a Who’s Who of established and emerging Canadian writers’.
People had asked, Are you nervous. Before I arrived in Eden Mills, the answer was Yes. But meeting the writers, understanding their creed, their passion, and being a part of the celebration overshadowed the apprehension about my reading.
I toted books from home hoping for the opportunity to get them signed. I was lucky to meet and chat with Linwood Barclay about his latest novel, A Tap on the Window, as well as my personal favourite, The Accident. Cathy Marie Buchanan likewise signed The Day the Falls Stood Still and The Painted Girls. Meeting Cathy was a highlight! That left Beginning of Was by Ania Szado. She signed my book just before leaving. Can’t wait to read her new release Studio Saint-Ex.
A small house on the main street served as the authors’ Green Room. That’s where I met Linwood Barclay. That’s where the writers gathered the morning after the party to register and collect name badges. Many of us had become acquainted the evening before at the incredible outdoor gala welcoming and uniting this year’s cast of readers. It was at the party that I got to know YA Fantasy Writer Rachel Hartman from Vancouver, recipient of the 2013 Sunburst Award for her novel Seraphina. Because I wanted to attend her reading, I  missed the first set of Fringe readers consisting of Shannon Alberta, Michelle Glennie, Mo Markham, Desmond Beddoe, and Meghan Casey.  I had the pleasure of chatting with Des and Meghan in the Green Room before dinner and their excitement at being invited to Eden Mills matched my own. The other Fringe readers included Brittany Smith, J.E. Hewitt, and Star Spider.

The day passed in a heartbeat. The readings ended. The crowds dispersed. The writers made their way back to the Green Room. Soon the little house bulged with talent. The living room, dining room and kitchen filled. Writers standing, sitting, crowding couches, or parked cross-legged on the floor. Sipping on a beer or enjoying a glass of wine. That scene - my mind snapshot - will never leave me. It looked like a family reunion – in many respects it was.

That was the magical moment. A moment frozen in time. Not the stage or the dinner, or the book signings. It was the crescendo of voices, the pulsing energy, and the force of like minds. That moment will always be with me. I will be able to recall that memory and re-live the feeling at will.
It’s impossible to mention all the writers I met. At least in this blog. In future blogs I will talk more about the actual readings and how they affected me. More about my reading and how I could do it differently. Aside from the exposure from reading at a festival of this calibre it was an opportunity to learn, to ask questions, to glean as much information as possible from writers who have made the journey. Whether it was at the party on Saturday night or on the shuttle bus the next morning, meeting on Publishers’ Way or at the dinner held at the Community Centre, everyone was friendly and supportive.

As someone mentioned at the time, the heartfelt good-byes after dinner were reminiscent of last day at camp. Hugs, well wishes, and email exchanges.

It was an honour to be included in this monumental celebration of the written word.

The magic lives on.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Prepping for Eden Mills Writers' Festival

Three years ago I gave as much thought to being a Fringe reader at the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival as I did to having a granddaughter named Sadie Muffin. Sure that’s her name. Just ask her. But I’m thrilled with both roles. The idea of participating in the festival makes me as happy as seeing Sadie’s infectious smile every Nana day.

At first, I panicked about the actual reading. But as I said to my daughter-in-law, it’s only seven minutes. She then pointed out that when I’m standing in front of an audience seven minutes could seem like a long time. Thanks Monika. That aside, I edited my humorous submission to fit the allotted time and my panic about reading is all but gone.
I’m more excited and nervous about the chance of meeting some of my fave authors. I’ve been a fan of Cathy Marie Buchanan since her first book, The Day The Falls Stood Still and I wrote a review of The Painted Girls for Quick Brown Fox. Read it here

Also, though I’ve yet to read Ania Szado’s latest Studio Saint-Ex, I have her first novel Beginning of Was. No doubt, I’ll pick up Studio Saint-Ex with the hope of Ania personalizing it.

Then there’s Linwood Barclay. OMG. Thrillers are where it’s at and Barclay is good. I’m a Lee Child/Michael Connolly/Stephen is King type reader and I’ve added Linwood Barclay to the list of read ’em alls.

Actually, right now I’m engrossed in Barclay’s latest, A Tap on the Window. This morning I was reading it. The vacuum hose lay tangled at my feet. Funny how that happened. I’d left the book in plain view right next to my knitting. One glance in that direction and it looked as if the bookmark was inching towards me. Finally, I dropped the beater bar, scrunched my wool and needles aside, and plopped into my chair. The dishwasher was full, the washing machine had a load ready for the dryer, and there I was lost in a good book. What else is new.

So, there’s no time for me to be nervous about my reading. Right now, my focus is on getting some books signed during my two-day dream weekend and saying hello to my favourite authors.