Writing Life

The Working Writer

September always falls into my lap like a bunch of orange leaves. This year is no exception. We’ve all been feeling the speed at which life is going this year. I call it #ballsfast. (You can start a world phenomenon with the hashtag. Go ahead.)

While the summer did go by #ballsfast each day felt fully lived in. Like your favourite pair of shoes. I love that I have the life situation to be home with the kids. I love sleeping in and snuggling with them…hanging by the pool…having play dates and day trips. Even though they did go to day camp (YMCY FOY camp – amaze-balls) and I worked at Suede a couple days a week, we were missing each other by the time the work/camp day ended.

So in swooped September. We were all ready for school – me included. (Except – I’m never really ready for making lunches. Ugh. At what point do the kids make their own lunches?!) The weather was still summer-gorgeous which is always tricky when you go back to school. Alas, since the extraordinary lunar eclipse, the weather has become predictably fall-ish.

*The kids under the moon*

I love sleeping in autumn – leaving the window above our bed open a crack and inhaling the cool air that is the season changing. Ahhhh. Yes. I’ve got a cold. That also comes with back-to-school. I think everyone I know either has or is just finishing a lengthy (3+ weeks!) head-to-chest cold. *Cough*Cough* (Damnit! I peed a little!)

I’ve titled this post ‘The Working Writer’ because I think it’s important for folks to know that a writing life isn’t all writing, all the time. At least not mine. Not yet…or maybe not ever (?!). Most of us have jobs that aren’t related to writing. Or maybe they are, but they’re more about making money than they are about the creative process. For me, these jobs are varied and many. In part because I’m a Gemini and can’t sit still if I’m not doing 6.7 million things. But mostly because these ‘other’ things I do make me so damn happy. Joy and happiness motivates many of my work-related choices. That’s not to say they’re easy or without challenges – at all. But it’s all worth it.

The Novel

As far as my writing life is concerned, the summer was for writing. I somehow managed to write, write, write – late into the night, in pockets of in-betweens…I finished my novel, Hangman and send it off to the patiently waiting agent. I also took advantage of the self-publishing lab at the Windsor Public Library and got the book printed so I could hold it in my hands and feel it. *THIS IS NOT THE PUBLISHED COPY!* I just wanted a reader copy to hold and love. It sure does feel good in my hands! In case you missed my *I just finished my novel* vlog, here it is.

I had the word doc bound into a book (thank you Windsor Public Library Express Self-Publishing Lab). It’s kind of ridiculous, this 600+ page story (double-spaced!)…and each time I read it, I find typos and things that need tweaking. I’ll get there.

I’ve yet to hear back from the agent who I’m hoping (like crazy!) likes the story and wants to represent me. (No pressure! ha!) It’s a long road. I’ve settled in. I’m eating moderate amounts of chocolate whilst waiting. And, keeping busy doing other things.

Mouth Piece Storytelling – The Food Edition

The second Mouth Piece event was held at the end of September to a packed house a Rino’s Kitchen. Such fantastic fun! Although the events are happening every 3 months, it’s a good amount of planning and promotion…and I still get nervous before the show starts. Here’s a blog about the event, complete with photos and congratulations to the winner, Storyteller Joe.

The next Mouth Piece event is in December. The theme: Home for the Holidaze. I do hope you can make it! I don’t have a guest storyteller yet. I’ll let you know when I do. And…so I can pleasure delay you…our February ‘Rated R’ (for Really Hot) event is scheduled with a very special guest storyteller. Hot dog, you’re gonna get a rise of this one!

Readings & School Visits & Artistic Endeavours

So readings and school visits are an important part of my writing life. I love teaching and being in a classroom is like being on stage. I had a reading in Barrie for Culture Days. I shared the MacLaren Art Centre lobby stage with poet Anna Yin and novelist Nalini Warrier.

Anna Yin, Nalini Warrier, Me

I love after the reading when we get to talk about our writing and other writers we know and love. And sometimes, we do book exchanges and/or buy each other’s books. I’ve gotten many a great book from meeting other writers at readings. I enjoy travelling to read especially to new places I haven’t read before.

I had the opportunity to read at the 100,00o Poets for Change event held at Mackenzie Hall. We shared poetry about Sandwich Town, and listened to performers from Bloomfield House drum and sing up stories from the past – making the history of Sandwich West come alive.

I spent the day at Glenwood for their annual Read-A-Thon. What a blast! I can talk about reading all day! And I got to read stories from some of my favourite authors to attentive, enthusiastic kids.

The grade 7 & 8 students have been on my novel-writing journey with me, so when we met up in the library, they were so pumped to hear what has been happening. They screamed when they saw the bound copy of Hangman. The best! I read two chapters, and the kids were asking me when they can buy it and when the movie will be out. Of course, they all want to be in the movie too! Perhaps the best part of the reading was when one of the girls asked to take the copy home. She said, “I’m reading [extremely famous/well-sold/turned-into-films/vampire trilogy] and yours is so much better!” SQUEE!!!! So there’s that.

I was also a part of a reading at Walkerville Collegiate with two other Black Moss Press writers, Mary Ann Mulhern and Chad Norman. Chad was on his book tour all the way from Truro, Nova Scotia. We spoke to the students about our writing processes, our beliefs (or not) in writer’s block (that question ALWAYS comes up!), and the importance of reading and writing everyday.

Publisher Marty Gervais joined us as well and was able to speak to the students about publishing.

I received an email from one of the students after this particular reading. Here’s what she had to say:

I was in both of the presentations that you did today.
I just wanted to say that I absolutely adore your work. I love the aspect of your poems that are so raw and relatable. The way you work the most ordinary human moments into incredibly engaging pieces of work astonishes me.
I am so inspired by you, and I am so thankful that you came today. Please, continue doing what you do. You are brilliant.
Thank you for sharing your gift today. It was a moment of “awe” that I will never forget.

I mean, !!!! That is so intensely heart-melting and motivating. Especially on those days when the rejections roll in…and I wonder what the heck I’m doing this all for. That’s what I’m doing it for. The ‘awe’ of it. The purity of words and how they affect our souls. Amen.

For the fourth year in a row, I was invited to be a part of Scattered Ecstasies. Organized and hosted by the geniuses at SHO Art, Spirit & Performance, Scattered Ecstasies is a tornado of arts – poetry, painting/visual art, and this year, music spun together by local artists for a show that can only be described as magically transcendent. Stemming from this quote: Expect paradise not only in the single awesome hereafter, but in the scattered ecstasies of everyday life (Alex Ross), artists work together in ‘responding’ to each other’s work. This year, we were to respond to a portion of Modest Mussorgsky’s piano concerto ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. I had the gigantic honour of working with painter Holly Wolter and actress Michele Legere. The evening was a chilling, beautiful, raw, intense and exhilarating.

Me, before the show began. All nervous and excited!

Michele and I – so filled with ecstasy we went blurry!

Me, Michele and Holly – and the stunning painting Holly created. Look at it shine!!!

I will openly admit that writing the poem for this event was one of the most challenging things I’ve done. It took me weeks to write the poem – and I had to leave the mainland to complete it – only finding the words on Pelee Island when I went to visit over the summer. The poem is entitled: The Marrow and the Bone….Response to this trifecta of ecstasies was overwhelming. One friend even said: this is the best poem you’ve ever written!

Thank you to Barry, Lorraine and the team at Sho Art, Spirit & Performance!

BookFest

I had the pleasure of moderating the Student Writing Contest Award ceremony at this year’s BookFest. I absolutely adore this part of BookFest – especially listening to the winning writers read their poetry or short story. The Joy Theatre at the Capitol was filled with excited winning writers and their friends and families. As well, young adult writer Raziel Reid, author of ‘When Everything Feels Like The Movies’ was there to offer some advice about writing and following your creative heart. Raziel is the youngest writer to win the Governor Generals Literary Award. I read his book before the festival – man, it’s amazing. I was thrilled to get it signed!

Grants

Grant season is all up on me. I’ve applied for an Arts, Culture & Heritage Fund grant as well as about 5.4 thousand Writers’ Reserve grants. Last year I was 100% rejected. Let’s see if this year, I do a bit better! Grants take up time and energy and money. I’ve got a few more to send out.

Here are some link, if you’re interested. (The ACHF grant is closed, but I’ve included the link for next time.)

Arts, Culture & Heritage Fund

Writers’ Reserve (Ontario Arts Council) – deadline to submit is Jan. 29, 2016

Works-in-Progress (Ontario Arts Council) – deadline Feb. 18th, 2016

Editing & Writing Guidance/Mentoring

I am always working with local (and abroad!) writers. Some of us meet weekly for editing and intense workshopping. Others send me their work for peer-review and suggestions. Income -wise, this is a great way to make some money – and learn and feel warm and fuzzy inside while you’re doing it!

Jury Duty

No, not in a court of law! I am currently the chair of the Pat Lowther Award committee for the League of Canadian Poets. This means I get to read stunning poetry from women writers – and go through the process of choosing a winner. It’s both a blessing and a heart-break! But I feel honoured to be on this jury – and to be reading such amazing work…and play a part in awarding a poet for her writing.

This is not the first jury I’ve been on. And like the others, it won’t be a simple role. But, I truly believe that being a working writer includes volunteering time and energy and love for the literary community. I go back and forth on how I feel about awards…but the truth is – I’m in it for the peer-relationship. I’m in it for my opportunity to share and use my expertise and passion for literary arts. I believe that my opinion, my writing experience, and humanity can play a role in another writer’s life.

Being a judge/editor/jury member is not easy and it shouldn’t be. It’s such a strong inspiration to be on this side of the relationship – heaven knows I’m so often on the other end – submitting my heart away. Rejection always causes some sort of feeling in one’s chest…but me being a jury…well that’s me having the feeling too. And following my heart and mind when choosing what I (we) believe is a winner…also knowing in my heart that every writer has a spark I’m clapping for.

On The Horizon

I have to change my website. Start anew. I’m both excited and terrified at the process this will take. I’ve hundreds of posts on this blog…do I move them all? How long with that take? What elements do I keep? Get rid of? There’s so much history on this site/blog…but it’s time to change…and so I’ll be working on that.

I want to unload my plate…focus on less things at once. Fall into fall….or the couch…or a bowl of ice cream…or a grand book…or a cup of tea…

Then…before we can say ‘Are those Christmas decorations at the dollar store already?! Expletive. Cuss. Cuss. Cuss.’ – the holidays will be here all covered in snow…

I hope your fall is lovely…that you’re smelling the earth and hearing the leaves and watching the colours as they wrap you up.

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