It’s All Worth It

Recent release of Real Life Diaries series: Living With Rheumatic Disease.

We come to the desk every day and write. We send out our stories, poems and non-fiction articles just waiting for that one bite that will launch us into literary success.  We wonder if we are making progress with all the hours we spend lurking in our own imaginations and putting all those words into the computer. We have those doubtful moments when we question if all the hard work and rejections are worth it. And then one day…

I began my writing practice when I was a kid. My first taste of publication occurred when our high school annual published a poem I’d written for English class. I was already well into studies for theater but seeing my words in print for the first time was a heady experience. I was determined to continue writing after chasing my dreams on the stage. I wrote on and off over the years, compiling stories, poems and even began out the daunting task of crafting my first novel. I never submitted any of these projects, just played with them on those rainy nights off from rehearsals. I was confident that one day I would have all the time in the world to launch a writing career. But that moment came far sooner than I anticipated.

In my thirties I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. It’s a manageable disease and there are worse conditions out there, but this new diagnosis altered the life I built. I spent years in the dance studio and on stage, and suddenly I was faced with a disease that changed the way I moved. I stopped performing for a while, to figure out my new limitations, and that’s when the door to the beginning of my writing life swung wide open. Since I was no longer able to express my creativity through dance and I didn’t have the stamina for the hours of rehearsals and performance, writing became the creative outlet I craved.

I wrote my first story on my great-grandmother, a non-fiction piece about childhood memories; I followed that up with a couple of short poetry and fiction pieces. And then I dove into writing about living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I was having small successes with the short fiction pieces, but it was me writing about my life with disease that my opened my world. I blogged about my life, I contributed to health articles, I was invited to contribute pieces to arthritis websites around the world, I was sent to an all expense paid health bloggers conference in Toronto, I speak once a year at our local university and now, five years later I am holding a book with my words between the cover.

My biography as a contributing writer to Living With Rheumatic Diseases.

It took a disease to launch my writing life. I now wonder what I was waiting for – the perfect time to begin, I suppose. Life has a funny way of letting you know the time is now and I’m glad I listened. This is still only the beginning of a long journey for me. I still have hundreds of stories waiting to come to life, and my own novels to craft, but despite all the rejections, the rewrites, the edits, and the hours of wordplay, if you keep on coming back to the desk and find joy and purpose in your process, all the hours of commitment are worth it.

Taking Research on the Road

Research is necessary for the writer. We research everything from the right kind of devices for writing, publication procedures, literary agents, publishing houses, facts versus fiction, writing markets, coaches, editors, people, professions, places – the list is almost endless. Research is essential for us to find the right fit for our work, and often it can take as much time, it not more, as the time we put into the act of writing.

Today’s technology, as distracting as it may be, it a most useful tool. I spend a lot of my time travelling from one place to another – the advantage for me living in a congested city is that I rarely drive, so most of my travel is as a passenger on public transit. The time it takes travelling from one place to another is the perfect opportunity for me to log onto my smart phone and browse the internet for information on the topics I am currently researching. The worldwide web is our door to almost anything we need to study – but I there is also another way to explore our writing world, and that is to actually get out into it.

My favorite kind of research is the type that takes me out on road trips. Recently my partner and I stole a weekend and travelled out to a historical ghost town a few hours from where we live. We spent an entire day following winding roads over majestic mountain passes, invigorated by fresh air that always holds a touch of fall even in the midst of a blazing hot summer. Eventually we turn a corner and dip down into the dry desert terrain, where an unforgiving heat smolders over sagebrush and sand.

We find our tiny little ghost town exactly as we expect – silent, hot, dusty, and almost devoid of human life, but the for the pockets of houses still occupied amid the sleeping debris. I took pictures of the past, walked through deserted streets rousing my imagination to absorb the sights, smells, and sounds. I had an impression in my mind of what I was looking for – I didn’t find it. There was a moment of disappointment. I brushed it off, content to accept the day as a great outing with my partner, when suddenly, I discovered a new insight that would prove to be a most striking revelation for my current project. It was a simple observation that was overlooked in all the previous investigations and research, but it was one I would not have found had I not gone on this journey.

Travelling and exploring the world around us is both invigorating and challenging. We don’t always find what we’re looking for – our research can often lead us to dead ends, creating frustration and a feeling of having wasted precious time, but this is not always the case. There will always be those moments that offer us an opportunity to discover new components that would not have been obvious to us in any other time or place. Those are the moments we celebrate. They wipe our previous defeats, rejuvenate our passion, and validate the path we chose.

I won’t tell you what it was I discovered. It is my fervent hope that one day in the future you will have the opportunity to read about it from the book I hope to place in your hand.

Happy travels.

 

A Celebration of Words

DSC_2563It’s that time of year when summer is slipping silently into fall and I am slipping into the world of writing festivals. I have attended two festivals every year for the last five years, soaking up extraordinary days filled with all the passions of a writer’s heart – author’s, books, inspiration, revelation and workshops.

Tucked away in the arms of an intimate park on the sea-kissed Sunshine Coast, is the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts. An outdoor stage patiently waits for the clusters of people who gather each year to meet their favourite writers or discover new ones. Familiar faces flow through the crowds, nodding at one another as if we are old friends, drawn together by the love of words. For four stimulating days writers eagerly share insights about their current and future projects, their process, their struggles, their triumphs, what motivates them, and what inspires them. It’s a perfect time to let my work simmer for a few days while I savour the captivating philosophies of others, learn from their experience and envision the day I will be up there on the stage to talk about my work. Between presentations I meander through the book tent, scooping up stories to chill out in – sometimes I have already read an author’s work before I see them, sometimes it is their presentation that compels me to buy their book.DSC_2574

Every year I take my notebook, prepared to write down a fresh writing secret, a wise quip, the name of a book; often in the midst of their dialogue I am struck with a new stimulus I can apply to my own projects. More often than not, it is something completely unrelated that sparks and idea – a random gesture, an electrifying word – it’s one of the many joys of writing festivals.

At the end of the day I sit outside beneath an inky sky with a glass of wine, a bag full of books, and my pen hovering over an empty page, relishing these moments of comfort and simplicity drawn from the heart of the challenging and demanding work we have as writers – and I would not trade it for anything.

 

 

A Freedom in Reading

DSC_0982 (3)It has been a scorching summer – the driest we’ve had on record in our temperate rain forest, a season of smoke and fire. It has been a season of drought, not only for the rain we crave, but also for the words I would bring to the page. I have lost my vision in the residue of a demanding few months, and like the rain that will not fall, my stream of words have evaporated to a trickle. But this does not mean I am not working. It simply means I must turn to another aspect of my job as a writer. I have found a reprieve from my own drought in reading.

Reading is essential to the writer. It is, in essence, the writers’ research. Reading helps me release my mind. It takes me out of my own head for a while, unlocking a fresh awareness to thoughts and impressions without the pressure of a deadline. I keep a notebook by my side while reading, because often ideas will come when I least expect them. It is the season of brainstorming, dreaming and exploration. I am training for the creation of my own road map. Reading reminds me why I write. It revives my dedication to the craft I love and helps me carve out my own style.

Just like sticking to a writing schedule, it’s important to find time to read. I am learning to incorporate reading as part of my work, dismissing the niggling voices in my head that tell me I have too many projects to complete, that I don’t have time for this. The fact is, I’m always going to have to too many projects. Being an avid reader will only enhance my skill as a writer. Reading allows my imagination to flourish, showing me all the hidden possibilities I hope to deliver to my readers.

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut

A Lesson in Writing Book Reviews

DSC_0982 (3)I was asked by a fellow writer if I would review her new novel. I was thrilled to be one of the few invited to preview her new book. There was just one problem – I had never written a book review before.

I was faced with this issue last summer when I offered to write a review of my friend’s play. I thought it would be good for me to step outside my comfort zone and attempt to write in a new genre. I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but I did it and was told by a reader from the other side of the world that she was ready to rush out and buy tickets. I had taken on a new challenge and conquered it with flying colors. And now, I was about to throw myself into the unknown once again.

Writing about a play is a lot different then writing about a book. A play is usually no longer than two hours and right after the show, you need to go home and write the review immediately – it’s easy to write about something that is so fresh in your mind. Writing a review for a book is an entirely different task. You need to set aside time to read, and you need to read it at least twice – once for first impressions and to get the flavour of the story, and a second time to find the flaws and inconsistencies. You can actually read it as many times as you need, but like reviewing a play, there is a deadline looming. I had agreed to read this book and write a review at a time when I had my own hands full of deadlines and submissions. My attention was torn between reading her book and getting my own work done. In the last 48 hours before her novel was to go live, I buckled down and finished her book and got my review online just under the wire. I enjoyed writing my review, but I have learned before I agree to review someone’s novel again, I am going to make sure I have the time and attention to give it.

Here is my review of Sharon Gibbs novel Bound to Survive. This book is sure to delight for fantasy lovers around the world.

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1186390494?book_show_action=false

 

 

One Page at a Time

DSCN39192014 was a busy year for me. I published three pieces and was asked to guest blog for a couple of websites. I attended writing festivals, workshops, happily became a member-at-large in my local writing group and was invited to a bloggers event in Toronto. It was an amazing crazy year filled with new opportunity, frustrating moments, and unexpected accomplishment. I took a look back at last year’s post (Another Chapter) to see if I’d accomplished what I wanted. In many ways I did. But I also accomplished goals that were never on my list.

There are many things I want to accomplish for this next year, but for now I’m going to try a different approach. I learned that sometimes the best things happen when I’m not looking. I’m simply going to stick to my routine – write every day, write without censure, and write from the heart. I’m going to turn one page at a time for the next 365 days and just discover what happens next. I hope you will too.

 

The Publishing Circle

DSC_0982 (3)I attended an interesting workshop by a publishing company whose goal was to assist writers with their publishing needs, both in self-publishing and traditional. Their job is to help the writer determine which type of publishing would be in their best interest based on their project.

Both types of publishing have their advantages and disadvantages. In self-publishing you have complete control of your projects – you will receive 100 percent of royalties for copies sold. The trade-off is that you will do all the work, pay all the expenses and make all the decisions when it comes to cover design, editing, marketing and distribution. Traditional publishers will take most of the prep work off your hands, but they will have final say on the cover and appearance of your book, and you will only make a percentage of royalties for copies sold. Traditional publishers will always take the safe bet – a book that fits neatly into a clear genre that is marketable. If you have a book that is unusual, that doesn’t fit into a normal category, publishers will usually pass unless it is exceptionally written and you can show them the target audience. For books like these, self-publishing might be the best option because you can create your own niche and likely you already know the target audience for the work you are creating.

The world of publishing is in constant flux. We have more choices than ever in how to present our work to the world. The question we have now in regard to our work is: which one is right for the work at hand? When it comes to my long-term projects, I am still researching my options. In the end, the decision will be made based on the kind of book I produce. Would my project work best with traditional publishing or self-publishing? The wonderful thing about this query, is that when I am ready to decide, the choice is mine to make.