Thursday, October 29, 2009

What's the Scariest Movie You've Ever Seen?

Okay, I may not be the biggest fan of Halloween - trying to figure out costumes, do make-up, make sure I have enough candy, decorate with skeletons and carve pumpkins exhaust me beyond my already epic exhaustion levels (a Monster-loving Mom I am not). But I do love me a good, scary movie. Well, at least I did. I'm not so sure I want to be scared anymore and I don't know why that is.

See, I'm trying to decide whether to go see Paranormal Activity. It's getting some really good word of mouth and reviews. Even the ads are slightly freaking me out. Sounds like a sure scary deal, right? So why am I hesitating?

Well, for one thing, hubby thinks scary movies are kinda dumb so he wouldn't waste his time. None of my girlfriends are really that into fright fests and my oldest daughter hasn't indicated an interest. But beyond not having a date for the movie I think the reason I'm hesitating is that I don’t really want to be scared.

I used to love movies like Friday the 13th (the original, people!), Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween (the original, people!) etc. Ahh, those wonderful, wacky scary films of my youth. But as I got older and I saw movies less and less, the scary ones started to freak me out more and more. I remember seeing The Blair Witch Project when I was about 8 months pregnant with my second child. I had no prior knowledge of what the movie was about so went in with an open mind. I remember being kind of creeped out watching it but nothing huge in terms of big frights. I went home that night and I was home alone - both hubby and first child were gone for the weekend - and as I walked upstairs to bed I started feeling this kind of creepy, crawly sensation down my back. I called the dog upstairs, figuring I was just overreacting to being alone in the house and being so hugely preggers. But as I lay in bed, I couldn't stop thinking about that last scene in Blair Witch. Remember? The one in the deserted house, in the basement, when you catch a quick glimpse of someone facing a wall? Like you expected that person to turn around and give you a severe fright but the camera just blanked out? Man, I don't know if it was the pregnancy hormones or what but I got up, locked the bedroom door, let my dog jump into bed with me and tried to go to my happy place.

Since that movie the only other scary one I've seen is The Descent - which I will never want to watch again after having a major heart attack when I first glimpsed the creatures that lived in those caves. Yick.

Have I lost all courage? Am I a complete wuss? What happened to my fearless - almost gleeful - anticipation of being scared? I mean, I used to watch Rod Serling's Night Gallery when I was ten for pete's sake! If I can handle creepy dolls coming to life when I'm that young why am I hesitant about watching a ghost story like Paranormal Activity? Is it because maybe I really do believe ghosts exist? And the idea of something unseen, seeing me, is the ultimate creep out of all?

Sigh. I really do miss my old, fearless self.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blogging on Borrowed Time

I just lost the post I was writing about blogging on borrowed time. Figures. Our computers at home are going haywire and I'm never sure when I'm going to lose the chance to twitter or blog or even visit my favourite writer's boards - Verla Kay's.
So all this has caused me massive anxiety as I think, "Oh, no! I haven't blogged in five days!" or "Ack! I haven't tweeted in over 24 hours!"

Seriously, Nelsa, who cares?

I'm thinking I should blog. Should tweet. Well, who says I should? All this talk about networking, getting your name out there, becoming part of a writer's community, yes it's all important but, honestly, when did I start to worry more about these things than the writing?

I'm starting a new book on November 1st (no, not Nanowrimo but coinciding with many who are doing that challenge). My challenge isn't a book in a month. I'm giving myself 3 months to complete a first draft. So if I don't blog as much over the next 3 months is it a crime? No. And while I do recognize that all of these things are important I also acknowledge that these blogs and tweets and interactions on writer's boards are not the most important thing. The writing's the thing. I need to write and write well. Whatever happens beyond that is out of my control to a certain extent. I'm not the best blogger, never will be. I'm never going to be a full convert to twitter. But trying to become the best writer I can personally be? Now that is something I can commit to.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

When a New Idea Percolates

So I'm supposedly taking a break after handing in my revised wip to the agent. Taking a break means no writing for two weeks while the new idea percolates. I've heard that term used quite a lot with writers. Percolate. Great word. But what does it mean? I mean, I know what it means, but it's so different for every writer, ya' know?

My version of Webster's Dictionary explains that Percolate is derived from the Latin percolare, fr. per - through + colare - to sieve. It defines it as follows:
A) to cause to pass through a permeable substance (as a powdered drug) especially for extracting a soluble constituent
B) to prepare in a perculator
C) to be diffused through
D) to ooze or trickle through a permeable substance
E) to become lively or effervescent
F) to spread gradually

Yes. To all those things.

A new idea - for me - needs to pass through my brain (is that the permeable substance?) like a drug - I can't get enough of it at first - in order to extract the soluable (loosened or dissolved) constituent (the writing). But in order to loosen that constituent it first has to be prepared, diffused, before it can ooze and trickle through my brain onto the page becoming, hopefully, a lively and effervescent story that will spread gradually to many, many readers.

So now that I'm done revising the WIP the new idea which has sat in a corner of my permeable brain for awhile, percolating away, can now take over. There is room for it to really simmer now, for me to lie in bed at night and actually not be able to fall asleep very quickly because I'm thinking about the opening, the characters, the ending, the bits and pieces that will make it into the story, the others that I'm not sure about - everything that can make this new idea work. Percolating is absolutely essential for me to be able to write a good story.

But while percolating is a good and necessary thing, there is also a dark side. Percolating also involves thinking about the fears and the questions. Will I do the idea justice? The story should probably be in third person not first - hmm. haven't written in third for a while so how creaky will I be? POV will be primarily a teenage boy - will I screw that up?

As part of the percolating, I may write down a few things, may even outline the first part of the book in detail. Or I may decide to pants it with only the ideas rattling around in my head to guide me. More likely it will probably be a combination of both processess. But the trick is to start while the idea is still fresh enough to be fun (don't overthink it too much or the idea may get stale) and when anticipating the fears of failure haven't overtaken you to the point where you get too paralyzed to even start.

I've given myself two weeks before I put pen to paper again. But I can't be too prescriptive about it. It might be sooner. The urge to write the new story will build. Soon it won't be enough to just be thinking about it anymore. Only when I start it will I know if it will work. When I can see if my percolating idea can eventually become a 'lively" and "effervescent" story.

Until then, I don't think I'll be falling asleep very easily.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Best Part of Writing is Having Written

I don't know what famous author said that but, boy, do I completely agree.

I used to think that the best part of writing was getting caught up in a new story idea and then brainstorming/outlining/imagining/daydreaming/insert your favourite word for doodling out the next big concept that would consume you for three to six months here. Then I thought that the best part of writing was starting the first draft when everything was bright, shiny and new. Then I thought getting to the end of that first draft was nirvana. I must say that never once did I think slogging through the morass of the middle was the best. Still don't. But murky middle notwithstanding, those other things are pretty cool.

But now, I really believe that having gone through all those steps, the outlining, the beginning, the dreaded middle, the blissful end, the seemingly neverending revisions are simply teasers until you get to the very best part of the writing process - the knowledge that you have finished. It's kind of like licking through all that hard candy before getting to the soft, chewy centre of the Tootsie Roll pop. That feeling when you can sit back, read through the entire novel - my God, I've written an entire NOVEL - and bask in the thrill of creating something that you are (hopefully) proud of, something that (hopefully) hangs together, something that (hopefully) has the layers and the meaning and the subtext you wanted to convey to a reader, is like no other feeling when writing.

It is all that is good and satisfying and fulfilling.

Yes, I know that a book is never completely done. Yes, I know that should the book sell there will be still more to do. But, for now, it is enough to know that I have written. I have reached the soft, chewy centre of the Tootsie Roll. And, no matter the consequences I might have to face later, I'm sure as hell enjoying the decadent sugary high of it now.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Boys, Books and Diary of a Wimpy Kid

So I'm once again amazed at what the master of getting young boys to read, Mr. Jeff Kinney, has done with his latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid installment Dog Days. Especially my young boy. In fact, I'm going to be very upset when he finishes reading it because for the last couple of days it's the only thing we can use on The Boy for motivation that works. Okay,let's be honest here - when I say motivation I mean threats.

"If you don't get dressed and downstairs for breakfast in five minutes, you lose Diary of a Wimpy Kid for a week!"

"If you go upstairs for bed right NOW you can read Diary of a Wimpy Kid for an extra fifteen minutes."

"The bus ride isn't so bad. Remember, you have Diary of a Wimpy Kid to read!"

I swear, when I have the time I'm going to analyze every word and picture in those books and try to figure out what it is exactly about it that connects with boys (and I assume girls too since it is such a mega best seller it can't be just boys buying it). One of the things I've heard when others have been trying to figure the magic out is that the book doesn't preach to the reader. But neither do a lot of well written middle grade books. And the humour helps. Humour ALWAYS helps. But there are a lot of funny books out there. What's special about this one? Maybe it's the main character. I mean Greg is kind of a rude obnoxious kid. The way he treats his best friend Rawley borders on bullying sometimes. But the author shows all of his faults, doesn't apologize for them, he is what he is with no judgement about it. And maybe that's what every little boy (and girl) wants. To be accepted and loved for who they are even if they're not very nice sometimes or if they're doing something that a parent doesn't think is good for them. Does it really matter that my son gets obsessed with video games to the point where he could (if not ejected by his parents) spend the whole summer downstairs in the dark? The Boy cracked up at that in the opening pages of Dog Days. He IDENTIFIED. He's a kid. Kids get obsessed with things. Kids get lazy. Kids aren't nice to other kids sometimes. Kids are kids.

And that is what Mr. Kinney has created in the pages of his books. A real kid. Even if in cartoon form.

If there are any critics of these books still out there all I can say is: "Come over to my house. My son is reading. And loving it."

That is pure gold.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Juggling Act

I have a special affinity and sympathy for the struggles of working moms who also want to write. It is my sisterhood, after all. I also have an understanding of the working writer mom dealing with a guilt complex - a very special sisterhood indeed. Many of my friends and some of my fellow writers who are just beginning this journey ask me, "How do you do it? When do you get the time to write? How do you manage?" You're not going to like my answer.

I don't think I manage very well at all.

I don't have the answer on how to find the time to be a mom, writer, wife, career person, friend, family member and every other hat you might be wearing. If I did I'd write a book about it and make a bazillion dollars. I don't even have a plan or a way to organize all those balls we're juggling. All I do is live with the guilt that I'm not keeping the balls in the air. Inevitably, something has to drop.

For example, this weekend was Canadian Thanksgiving. A whole 3 days at home. Surely, I could get to do all the things that have piled up over the last few weeks. Surely, I could finally finish the revision that I've given myself to the end of this month to complete. Surely, I could spend more quality time with hubby, the kids and my visiting family. Well, in some ways I did do all of that - but not everything was accomplished.

I could have spent more time with family, I could have written more, I could have done more laundry. But at least I did a little bit of each. And maybe that's my answer. It's not all or nothing, you see. It can't be. That way lies madness. I mean, I can't juggle at all so why do I think that if I put more than two or three things in the air I'll be a success at it? I won't. But I know I can juggle those two or three. So on any given day I pick those two or three and deal with them. The next day it might be two different things. By the end of the week I'll have juggled a grand total of fifteen to twenty things but on different days. Totally doable and quite impressive when you add them up.

So, bottom line, don't try and be a master juggler every single day of your life. All you'll end up with is a bunch of balls rolling around at your feet ready to make you trip and fall. So take it easy, one day at a time, one or two balls at a time and, most importantly, one guilt trip at a time.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Have You Written Down Your Writing Goals?

I know a lot of people make New Year's resolutions about what they want to accomplish in their life for the coming year. I've never been a big New Year's Resolution kind of gal myself. Honestly, I don't need to deal with the guilt if I don't lose those extra ten pounds or the worry that I will never be able to keep my house clean no matter how many times I say I'll do it. Those kinds of goals are, I guess, just not that important to me (Gee, I wonder why?? :). And always having to do the goals in January? Why then? What if you suddenly get the urge to learn sky diving in August?

No matter what I think about New Year's resolutions (and, hey, if they work for you all the power to you) I do still believe in the importance of having goals. And if something is truly important to me, when there's a goal I really want to achieve, I'm a big believer in WRITING THAT GOAL DOWN. For me, writing it down is like a promise. To me or the universe, whatever, if I see the words on paper I can't avoid the promise I made.

When I started writing seven years ago I realized that I wasn't just doing this thing for fun. I was writing with the intent of one day being published. I didn't know how tough it would be or how much I would have to learn but I knew that was the goal. That was what kept me writing at one a.m. when everybody else was asleep. It was what kept me going when the rejections piled in or when manuscripts weren't turning out the way I thought they should. And to remind me of that goal, I wrote - on a little yellow sticky note that's still in the top drawer of my desk - "I want to be published by the time I'm (insert age here). You see, I always allowed for what I would do if I didn't make that goal by the time I gave myself. If I didn't make it by a certain age, well, then, I'd put in the next age where I would work toward achieving that goal.

As you can tell, I'm also a big believer that there is no failure in not reaching your goals. I do believe there is failure if you have none.

So, because I'm going to be published next year, does this mean I have no more goals? Are you kidding me? There is always something to strive for, always something to achieve. I've written two new goals on a new sticky and I've given myself a time limit for that. One of the goals is more like a hope - because I'm not sure I can influence whether it happens or not - but the other one I can definitely work towards. And, no, I'm not sharing them with anyone. Until I achieve them they are private and personal to me. No one else is accountable to those written words except me. No one else has the right to ask me how I'm doing in getting closer to those goals. Only I know. And the universe. Because, as any writer knows, the written word is a very powerful thing.

So, have you written down your writing goals yet?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Gone Over to the Dark Side - I'm on Twitter!

Funny how a group of cheerful, friendly and supportive kidlit author's can convince you by their sheer enthusiasm that Twitter will not turn one into a babbling, incoherent mess of mangled Internet chum! Of course I should join, they said. Did I know how many kidlit authors are out there in Twitterland? How many wonderful, helpful connections one could make? How, if I just gave it a chance, I'd see how great Twitter was? Besides - how could I keep up with what the kidlit authors in and around Toronto were up to? What was I afraid of?

Ah. And there's the million dollar question. What was I afraid of? Something new? My continued anxiety about being 'out there'? I'm a soon to be published author, for pete's sake. I have to be out there. I've always said the worst fears are the ones you don't face.

So tonight I took the plunge. I joined Twitter. May God have mercy on my soul. Come on and twitter me. I'm at

Sigh. And I'm still getting used to blogging...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

When Do You Feel Like a Writer?

I was getting new glasses the other day and through my near-sighted squinting into the mirror trying on pair after pair of equally nice but invevitably expensive frames nothing seemed quite right. But then I put on a pair of dark frames a bit funkier in style than what I'd been used to and I exclaimed out of nowhere, "Oh, wow! I look like a writer!"


Now why did I instinctively gravitate to glasses that I felt made me look more 'writerly' - whatever that looks like? Did I need to look like a writer because I didn't feel enough like one already? Only recently have I actually started to admit to people (outside of close friends and family) that I am a writer. But do I really believe it or is it something like that old saying "Fake it till you make it". If I say I'm a writer more often maybe one day I'll really believe it?

Maybe I'll feel like a writer after my first book is published but, in my deepest heart of hearts, I think I'll always feel like I'm a bit of an imposter. No matter how many words I've written, no matter how many courses I take, conferences I attend, I always feel like the other people who are writing are more like writers than I am. I'm not sure why I have this insecurity about calling myself a writer. I mean, I write. It should be simple. Yet, it's not.

It's not that I can't label myself. I'm a lot of things. I'm a mother, a wife, a bad cook, a good friend, a proud Canadian - there are any number of roles I inhabit. But I have to remember that I felt weird calling myself a wife at first. But I got used to it. It was weird being a mother at first - kind of frightening actually. But I can't imagine not being a mother now. So, like any significant aspect of your life, a new label just needs a little getting used to I guess.

So, after several million words and almost seven years of writing I just need to say it more often. So, here goes: "I. Am. A. Writer."

Wow. It still feels weird. But good. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

10 Reasons Why October's My Favourite Month

1. September is always crazy, awful busy and I'm pretty much glad to see the end of it.
2. No humidity! My hair always looks better ;).
3. The changing colour of the leaves - the best part of the month!
4. My wedding anniversary. At least once in a year the hubby and I actually go out for dinner as a couple not a family.
5. Indian summer - the most wonderful sun, warm days and cool nights. Perfect weather - except it only lasts a week or two.
6. Canadian Thanksgiving. Turkey, gravy, stuffing, pumpkin pie. Bliss.
7. Cutting the grass for the last time until spring.
8. Warm sweaters and leather boots.
9. Fall TV shows are all back.
10. Only two months left till Christmas!!!!