Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing without Fear

So I was not disappointed with Word on the Street. The rain held off. The authors were fascinating, the books plentiful and it was wonderful to see so many people there to listen to authors talk about writing and the worlds they created. It really gives a writer a sense of hope that maybe, just maybe, books are not dead.

The best part of the day, for me, was listening to a workshop offered by the Humber School for Writers where Anthony De Sa and Anar Ali were discussing the challenges when writing about people or communities who may see themselves in their fictional work. The actual title was "Do I Have to Hide the Truth When I Write about People I Love?" They were both so honest about how they approached their writing and some of the fear they had to work through to get to their books "spiritual truth". In a nutshell, what I took away from the workshop was that if you approach your writing from a place of love and respect even if some of the truths aren't very nice, the writing is inherently honest and, as a result, so much more powerful. To the writer. To the reader. To the story. And, really, as a writer that's all you can do. You can't worry about what the reaction to your writing will be - well, you can but that way lies paralysis. Honesty to the story is the most important thing.

The workshop helped me understand that my story is my story.It is my 'fictional' truth and I have to accept that however it is received it is its own thing now created as honestly as could be by me. Even if I get slammed for not getting something right or someone taking it the wrong way or, God forbid, somebody in my family thinking one of the characters is based on them. Whatever. I'm proud of my story - not scared of it.

Oh, and can I just say that it's a real thrill when you meet an author whose work you admire and who turns out to be super-nice too? I learned something and got to be a fan girl too. It was great day.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Excited About Word on the Street

So the 20th Annual Word on the Street festival is happening in Toronto tomorrow. Book publishers, magazines, libraries, authors, agents, booksellers, workshops, signings, readings! What more could a book fan want? A writer could OD on the cornucopia of delights available.

I have been trying to get to this festival for years and have never been able to but I booked it weeks ago into our crowded September schedule, informed hubby and the kids (a couple of them may join me in the wanderings down at Queen's Park Crescent) and no matter what I will be there. I expect a surprised "huh??" from hubby who most likely has forgotten that I've booked the time but I'm not about to miss seeing Margaret Atwood, Anthony de Sa, Austin Clarke, Cordelia Strube, Nino Ricci and more.

But even more importantly I just want to be surrounded by other people who love books as much as I do. I better remember to take a big bag because I know I won't be leaving without picking up a few irrisistable reads.

If you're in T.O. this weekend - go to Word on the Street!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Burnt Out and It's Not Even October Yet!

I knew September would be busy. I knew Mercury would be in retrograde making all travel screwed up and all work re-done. I knew that the few, blissful days of being bored in August would seem like a hazy, vaguely remembered dream told to me by someone else. So why am I so surprised that I'm feeling like a wet dishcloth that's slowly sliding down a kitchen wall? But I know if I'm feeling wrung out my poor son must feel like he's hanging on a clothesline trying to dry out.

In the last seven days he's played 6 hockey games and two Baseball games. He's had a couple of hockey and baseball practices thrown in there for good measure too. Not to mention the return of the dreaded homework monster to which his battle plan is a combination of avoid, ignore and forget it at school. I feel like I've barely been home myself so have been seriously neglecting Daughters One and Two. I think they know enough to avoid stressed out mom and I'm hoping that whatever they're up to is all legal and won't require my attendance at any hearings or anything.

Tonight is the first game of the Baseball playoffs. Is it awful if I'm not too upset if his team loses? Tomorrow night is another hockey practice. Thursday night is Open House/Meet the Teacher night at the school. Friday night is another Hockey game. Saturday morning hockey practice. Followed by a jam packed weekend with a birthday party for a friend, Word on the Street on Sunday (yay!), hair appointment (roots are now almost two inches long and even The Boy has asked me when I'm getting my hair done)and the Ontario University Fair which I wanted to attend with Daughter One is happening at the Metro Convention Centre this weekend. Not to mention the book signing by Megan Crewe I wanted to attend for her Book Giving Up the Ghost. Sigh. I may just have to get a signed copy another time.

And I know there was one more thing I'm forgetting. What was it? What was it? Oh! Of course. Working on the Revision. Right. <>

Maybe when I've finished sliding down the wall.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Revision Zone

I've learned many things about my writing process since I began seriously persuing publication. I've learned that I can - for the most part -write anywhere, any time with any number of distractions. I write my first draft long-hand because it prevents me from going into editing mode. I can write on the subway for a half-hour, in a waiting room, at baseball and figure skating practices - but only if the arena has a heated lounge!Which means I can only write at one particular arena my daughter attends. For some reason my sons hockey arenas do not have this wonderful perk. Hence no writing is done while at hockey practices :).

I can write late in the evening, on lunch hours, in front of the TV (although less and less lately since I only ever watch my very favourite TV shows). I am definitely not an early morning writer. I edit first, second and third drafts on the computer. I print out and edit them on paper too - in any variety of coloured pens. I have become very flexible in how I achieve the drafts that I send to my CP and my agent. I have had to be given my hectic lifestyle.

But one thing I've discovered is that I am not flexible about how I do my revisions. Once I get those comments in - if they resonate with me and involve another tackle at the manuscript that is more than just a quick pass over for grammar and tightening up - I need a long, solid stretch of time to fully immerse myself in the book and the revisions. I need to consider what the revisions are doing or going to do to the rest of the story. Are any changes I make consistent with the established themes, will the changes alter motivations? Is that new scene I'm adding written in the same tone as what's gone before? And if I haven't looked at the book for a few weeks I need to read through it again so that any additional layering in of character thoughts or actions provide a build up to what will eventually happen at the end of the story. Since the book is now complete it is more important than ever to ensure that what I layer or thread through the plot and character motivations at the beginning of the story match with whatever happens at the end. If I'm deleting scenes, or descriptions or other information am I leaving plot holes? If I'm adding scenes, descriptions or other information am I killing the pace? Because there are so many questions and because there are so many potential pit falls when doing revisions, I prefer to immerse myself completely in them. No snatches of time like when I do the first few drafts. I need to be in the Zone. And to be in the Zone I need a long, solid stretch of time. Which brings me to my current problem: I don't have that this month!

I did about three quarters of those revisions to the WIP back at the end of August/early September when I was on vacation. But now, with school starting, back to work, and hockey season starting I'm back to my snatches of time. Which, if I was working on a first draft would be perfectly fine. But I'm not. So, not sure when I'll be in the Zone again but I can't wait too much longer - because if I do I'll forget what I was doing revision-wise a few weeks ago and have to start from scratch.

I don't know about you but I find revisions way harder than first drafts sometimes. Maybe because I know that finishing touches need a concentrated, steady hand - with nothing rushed about them.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Return of Super Hockey Mom/Van Driver

My respite in the sun is over.

I have been called to service again. No longer can I hide from the cold, harsh world ruled by ice and infused with the pungent odor of damp, moldy socks and acrid zamboni fumes. I must prepare myself for battle. I must return to my duty.

My goal? Delivering my charge - the potential hero of the game. He must be prepared. He must be PACKED. He cannot forget his neck guard, shoulder pads, gloves, underarmour, jock strap, knee pads, elbow pads, helmet, jersey. Most of all, he cannot forget his SKATES. This is his armour. His stick his weapon. His mother is his pack mule.

Once again, I must forge through congested rush-hour streets to get to the arena on time. My steady steed - our Chrysler minivan. Only three years old and already nearing 100,000 kms. We have been to many arenas in our travels.

I must, once again, curb my desire to curse at those unsuspecting drivers that are in my way. My charge cannot be subjected to his pack mule's increasing frustration and stress. My charge must not arrive for his battle in a bad mood. His pack mule must remain calm.

If we are lucky, if we arrive on time, with all equipment ready, if my charge has had enough time to eat, if his pack mule has not flipped off more than one driver or run through too many yellow lights, if the minivan steed has not run out of gas, all will be well. My charge will be dressed and on time, waiting to face the enemy. Waiting to enter the cold, hard surface of the arena and conquer all foes.

But wait? What is this I hear? My now fully-armoured charge is whispering in my ear, his small, determined face barely visible through the helmet cage protecting him from the danger of flying pucks and attacking sticks.

Have we forgotten an important piece of equipment in his arsenal? Does he need advice or encouragement from his pack mule?

Nay. It is something much, much worse. He leans in closer to me.

"Mom. I need to go pee."

The pack mule collapses at his feet.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Glee - ful!

I'm sure I'm not the only one touting the TV show Glee today after its season premiere last night. But it truly does deserve the touting. I didn't want to get sucked into another TV show this fall. I'm too busy. I can't waste time in front of the T.V. I told myself. I have too many things to do!!!


I'm a sucker for musicals. I'm a sucker for comedy. I'm a sucker for any kind of theatre arts geek vs. clique satire. I was suckered in.

Loved the Glee Club leader - he is sooo talented, uber-cute, great dancer (do they do their own singing on the show? Must check it out). Loved the cover of the Kanye West Goldigger song they did. Stayed up late to watch the next showing just so I could see that one musical number again. Loved the Gym teacher Cheerios squad leader. Hilarious.

So, I'm hooked. Just write off my Wednesday nights now between So You Think You Can Dance and Glee. How about joining me in the Glee Club? If you're not convinced then just find a clip of the Goldigger number. You won't regret it - pinky swear.

Monday, September 7, 2009

End of Vacation, Getting Organized and Throwing out Old Novels

Yup. That's it, folks. We're done. School starts tomorrow for the kidlets and I'm back at work after two weeks away. It feels like ages so I guess I must have had a long enough break.

Why is it that when the school season begins I feel like I need to get organized? I spent my last day of vacation cleaning out the laundry room for pity's sake! But there's something quite fulfilling about bundling up junk that's been stuffed into cupboards and thrown haphazardly into corners and sending it to the trash or, if it's something still useful but not for us anymore, to the Goodwill. Maybe it's because I know that with the schedule from hell about to descend I won't have a long stretch of time where I can devote to that kind of project. Thank God I've learned to write in snatches of time because otherwise I'd never have finished a book.

One of the cool things about cleaning up is you get to see stuff that you've kept that you've forgotten about - most of it sentimental. Old baby plates and first utensils, childhood sweaters, old school papers and, in a writers case, the books that will never be published.

You know the ones. Those first efforts you once thought so brilliant but now, years later as you re-read them the strongest feeling you have is an overwhelming urge to cringe. Still, you see the flashes of the writer you now are. The voice that has become yours. And while you know you should probably trash the pages (and the contest entries, course exercises and critique remarks that helped you become a better writer) you just can't bring yourself to do it. It's a piece of your own personal history and while you know it will never see the publishing light of day, you also know that every once in a while, when you clean up and you think "What's in that box over there" you will flash back to when you started writing and you thought every word spilling out of you just might be brilliant, just might one day, be published. And the disappointment when you realized you're not good enough. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

So even though these pages haven't been published and you know that they're taking up space you don't have, you just can't get rid of them. You know they're still important enought to keep. They are evidence of how far you've come and how persistent you've been. They are the beginning. And we all know how important beginnings are.

So, while I cleaned up a lot there were a few things I did keep. One box in particular. Really, it doesn't take up that much space...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

September Starts and Line Edits Begin

Well they arrived - September and my line edits that is. I can't believe they're both here!

September is one of those months that just gets crammed full of stuff really quickly. But this year seems busier than most. Not only is it the Boy's birthday on Friday (with subsequent birthday party on the 12th) the pre-season hockey craziness has started with practices, exhibition games and a tournament all before the middle of the month. Don't even get me started on the back to school shopping and the doctor and dentist visits. I'm still on vacation this week so a lot of that stuff is being taken care of over the next few days but when school actually starts next week and I'm back to work that's when the busy schedule really kicks in. God forbid I don't look at my calendar for the week and forget about picking some kid up from somewhere or getting groceries in the one and a half hour of free time I might have on a Sunday.

So you'd think I'd be more stressed out about doing my line edits that arrived on Monday. Nope. I'm actually enjoying them. Hey, maybe that vow to be more optimistic is working! I'm looking on it as my opportunity to deal with some little bits and pieces of clean up now so I don't have to obsess over some silly, stupid error. Little things do matter and now that the larger story as a whole is pretty solidified we're getting to the little things. And it sure doesn't hurt that my editor has made it really easy for me either. Basically she suggests a small correction or change which is highlighted in the text and if I agree I accept the change and take out the highlight. If I have an alternate suggestion I write it in and highlight that in a different colour. Mostly I accept the changes (because my editor is just plain right most of the time) so that makes things way easier than if I was hunting and pecking through my words without her map already in place.

Going through revisions and line edits is very much like having to clean up a messy house. You feel overwhelmed at the thought of doing the revisions at first (the heavy duty mopping, vacuuming, dusting, putting things away) but you know you have to do that so you can get to the final touches of the clean up (the line edits): polishing that side table, straigtening those pillows, lighting a scented candle to make the whole house smell wonderful. I hate cleaning and don't know why I used that analogy but I do know that when my house is clean and straightened up I feel way better. And I know when I'm done with these edits I'll feel the same way about the book.