Symbols, Symbolisms, Signs, Statuary and Sights Along the Camino

Tomorrow marks the 2 month mark from the moment we first touched down on the Camino this year. We began our mini-pilgrimage in Astorga on September 13th (My 53rd birthday). It’s hard to believe so much time has gone by since then.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my young adult novel set on the Camino was picked up by Interlude Press’s Duet Books. As the release date is scheduled for sometime in October, 2020, the preparations are beginning to ramp up. This week, I’ll be talking with the cover designer and boy is my head spinning. The publisher usually has the last word on cover, but often the author is consulted and a discussion goes on behind the scenes prior to mock-ups. The problem I’m having this week is not what do I want on the cover of THE CAMINO CLUB. My problem is what do I not want. I want everything CAMINO. It would be impossible for me to distill my wants down to a manageable number.

All I have been thinking about is the symbols of the Camino. I thought I would gather them here and see what I come up with.

Everyone on the Camino carries a few things in common. One of those things–though they may look different depending on where you come from or where you picked yours up–is a CREDENTIAL. This is the little passport book we all carry to collect stamps from various places along the Camino (Hotels, Albergues, Hostels, Restaurants, Cafes, etc). There is one stipulation with the credential—a pilgrim must collect at least two a day from the 100km mark to the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. It’s up to the pilgrim to decide how few or how many they collect for the rest of the pilgrimage. Though not your typical ‘symbol’ per se, the credential is definitely a symbol to the pilgrim. Watching the stamps collect are such a part of the daily experience. It’s always thrill to add another stamp, turn another page…

THE CREDENCIAL

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As for the symbols one sees while walking? They are many…

THE YELLOW ARROW

The yellow arrow is EVERYWHERE. It’s how a pilgrim finds their way. They can be painted on the road, on houses, on trees, on fences, on everything.

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Follow not the white rabbit, for he will take you in the wrong direction. Look only for the yellow arrows. They’re not the most iconic symbols of the Camino de Santiago, but arguably the most important. They’ll take you there…

Sometimes the arrows aren’t yellow, but you know they still represent the way…

Even the yellow ones come in a variety of different ways…

THE ROUTE MARKER

Aw, the glorious route marker! How the heart sings when one worries that they have strayed and they finally come upon this symbol that tells them all is well, they’re on their way!

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They assure the pilgrim they are not lost, just as they let them know how far they have left to go before they reach the cathedral. This iconic symbol is everything to the pilgrim.

Quite often, there will be offerings left on these route markers…from stones to seashells to shoes…

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SIGNAGE

The Camino signage varies depending on where you are. If the arrows and the route markers are not enough to comfort the pilgrim, they’ll be reassured by the postage signage along the way…

ARTWORK AND STATUARY ABOUND

There is ALWAYS something to see on the Camino…whether it is something left behind by fellow pilgrims or something commissioned for the pilgrimage route. There’s as many statues as there is graffiti, as many messages as there is art installations. Statues and crosses and St. James representations…

REMEMBRANCES

One thing you don’t really think about until you see your first one? Remembrances. A lot of pilgrims don’t make it. There are markers where people have passed while attempting their pilgrimage. And remembrances for loved ones back home, as well.

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THE CATHEDRAL AND THE COMPOSTELA

It’s all for one thing…to reach the cathedral at the end of the yellow brick road. Whether you are religious or not, by the time you reach the goal you had set your sights on so many days before, it’s a huge thrill to walk into the plaza at the end of the Camino and see the monolithic cathedral standing before you…

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And also a thrill to pick up that certificate once you arrive…the compostela that serves as proof of the journey…

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SOooooooo…yep! I’m having an extremely difficult time imagining what will make it to the cover of my book. The iconic seashell maybe? A yellow arrow? St. James? A route marker? You see my problem? Too many things! It remains to be seen…

 

Upcoming Event at Muskoka Authors Association…

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I will be speaking at the Muskoka Authors Association in Bracebridge on WEDNESDAY, November 13th. Looking forward to some on-the-spot writing exercises and communion with fellow creatives. For several years I have felt a bit like an adopted child of the Muskoka region on Northern Ontario. It’s the place where I do the lion’s share of my novel writing. I have been going up to Huntsville, Ontario, in the heart of Muskoka, every year for over ten years. Huntsville is host to the yearly fundraiser for literacy known as the Muskoka Novel Marathon…where 40 or so writers get locked into a room together for 72 hours so that they each may attempt to write a complete novel in one sitting. It’s a magical experience that has had me falling deeply in love with Muskoka and its creative community.
From the Muskoka Authors Association website:
Novelist and Playwright, Kevin Craig, Shares Tips on Jump Starting Your Writing!

About this Event

Try Everything! Quirks and Tips to Help You Jump-Start Your Writing…

On Wednesday, November 13, Muskoka Authors Association welcomes, Kevin Craig, author of six published novels (Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, Half Dead & Fully Broken, and, Pride Must Be A Place). Kevin will give a short overview of their own writing journey, including how they bounced from one form of writing to another while attempting to stay focused on their long-term goal of writing young adult novels. Kevin will also share how they discovered there is more than one way to write a novel, and that you should explore the different ways with each consecutive novel you write. They will discuss how invigorating it can be to explore alternate writing forms along the way to your own writing goals, whether they are to write the Great Canadian Novel, a screenplay, a memoir, or a poem. As well, Kevin will discuss how important it is to allow yourself to escape your comfort zones while getting to those goals.

Whether you’re new to writing or a seasoned pro, you should never be afraid to try something new. New forms of writing can often trick our creativity and jump-start a stalled project back to life. They may even accidentally help you to discover new creative callings. What if the novel you’re writing is actually a play? Maybe the short story you’ve been struggling with is really a collection of poems.

Kevin will introduce some of their favourite exercises and prompts that helped in their own creative journey. Like Kevin, you may find that the journey is just as exhilarating and rewarding as the destination. Attendees should come prepared to write and share their work.

Kevin Craig is also a five-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s Best Novel Award. Kevin’s seventh novel, THE CAMINO CLUB, is forthcoming from Duet Books, the YA imprint of Interlude Press (October 2020). In addition, they are a playwright with a resume of ten short plays and two one-act plays staged in various places from Toronto to Mumbai, Australia, and the United States. Kevin’s poetry and short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals throughout the world. For several years Kevin worked as a freelance writer, writing everything from articles on interior design and travel to interviews with musicians such as Bif Naked. Several of Kevin’s songs have been recorded by various artists. Kevin was a founding member on the board of directors for the Ontario Writers Conference and is currently a member of the Writers Community of Durham Region. Kevin lives in Toronto, Ontario.

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You can visit the EVENTS PAGE HERE FOR TICKET INFORMATION.

Here’s a link to the MUSKOKA AUTHORS ASSOCIATION WEBSITE.

It’s All About the Epigraph!

What’s the most difficult part of writing a novel?

Sure, the following steps could be difficult:

  1. Creating an Outline (If You’re Not a Pantser)
  2. Writing the First Draft
  3. First Round Edits
  4. Choosing a Title
  5. Second Round Edits
  6. Writing a Synopsis
  7. Third Round Edits
  8. Writing a Summary
  9. Fourth Round Edits
  10. Writing a Query Letter
  11. Sending out Queries
  12. Discussing Possible Contract with Agent/Publisher
  13. Signing Contract
  14. Doing Steps 7-10 over again with Agent (if Agent Acquired) and then Watching as Agent does Step 11 on Your Behalf.
  15. Acquisition, Contract Signing
  16. Editing Stages with Publisher
  17. ARCs.
  18. Marketing, etc

Yep. Each step has difficult to impossible written all over it. But nope. Somewhere in there is another step for some people. Epigraph. That little ole beloved quote up at the top of page one that serves to encapsulate the book’s mood. That little spark that ties it to the world.

I’ve always loved reading them in other books, so I knew as soon as I graduated to writing books that I would want to use epigraphs. Choosing them is one of the best parts or writing a book…but also one of the hardest. Some quotes come close and you love them more…but they’re not spot on perfect. Some you just love but they don’t come close. Others…they just seem to nestle into the top of your story like a glove…ah, sweet perfection.

I’ve had 6 books published now and 5 of them have epigraphs. I’m currently contemplating an epigraph for my 7th book and hoping against hope that my publisher will be cool with me using one. (-:

Here’s the epigraphs so far. You can click on the novel title to be taken to the book on Amazon.

BURN BABY BURN BABYBBBB

HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN

HDAFB

PRIDE MUST BE A PLACE

PMBAP

SEBASTIAN’S POET

SB

THE REASONS

TR

How about you? Am I the only one who obsesses over epigraphs, both in the books I read and in the books I write? What are some of your faves? Do you use them yourself?

3rd Place – Paris At Sunset And Into the Night…

It’s official! The winners of the 2019 Stratford Rotary Short Story Contest have been announced! My story PARIS AT SUNSET AND INTO THE NIGHT, about a lesbian couple coming to grips with a cancer diagnosis while taking an impromptu trip to Paris, tied for 3rd place in the competition!

A new beginning, she said. A chance to reconnect. To say we needed one was more than a little misleading. We’ve never been closer. I was more than willing, however, to accept Annie’s reasoning on calling it a new beginning on our year instead of on our lives. It’s only early June and I’m ready to pack this year away and never look back on it. When Annie mentioned Paris, it took me three seconds to say yes.

And now we’re here and I’m trying my best not to regret our spontaneous decision. We’ve left so much chaos back home, I find it difficult to focus on anything else.

So begins my story. I will refrain from posting it in its entirety here, as I heard there would be an anthology of winners in the future.

Congratulations to all the winners, including SHARON FRAYNE who I know from the Muskoka Novel Marathon. Sharon took 2nd place. (-:

In Canada, There Are No Stars Without Gord

It has now been two years without Gord Downie. To borrow a phrase from David Bowie, the stars look very different today. I cannot be in the darkness of a northern night, looking up into that spectacular bowl of stars above, without thinking of the Tragically Hip frontman and poet extraordinaire Gord Downie. On this second anniversary of his death, we should all look up.

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Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Cobourg, Ontario. June 20/13 This is Gord, being Gord.

Thank you for the music, Gord. Canada loves their patron saint.

YOU CAN DONATE TO THE GORD DOWNIE FUND FOR BRAIN CANCER RESEARCH HERE.

YOU CAN DONATE TO THE GORD DOWNIE & CHANIE WENJACK FUND HERE.

I saw the constellations reveal themselves, one star at time…

Oscar Wilde – AKA C.3.3.

Imagine being jailed for homosexual offenses. That’s exactly what happened to literary great–and effervescent raconteur–Oscar Wilde.

Now, before I continue, keep in mind that it’s still happening today. Homosexual relationships are criminalized in 72 countries.

72

C.3.3. served 2 years hard labour for his ‘crimes’. That incarceration has much to do with Wilde dying at such an early age. CELL BLOCK C, LANDING 3, CELL 3. That was Wilde’s name in Reading Prison. That was Wilde’s pseudonym when he later wrote about experiences he had while incarcerated. The Ballad of Reading Gaol was published under this pseudonym and it wasn’t until the 7th edition was printed that C.3.3.’s identity was revealed. The Ballad was a long poem on his experiences in prison. It was also the last thing he ever wrote.

For years I have said I would get a tattoo of C.3.3. I figure it could be a talking point. “Oh that? That’s just a little tattoo to remind people that homosexuality used to be illegal. Let me tell you a story…” Alas, it’s just too depressing…knowing that it still is illegal. IN 72 COUNTRIES. We have come a long way, but not far enough…

Anyway, today is Oscar Wilde’s birthday.

Happy Birthday, Oscar. Pay no attention to the number 72 above. I would not want you to realize how far we haven’t come.

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My Young Adult Novel THE CAMINO CLUB to be Published by Duet Books (an Imprint of Interlude Press)!

I am beyond ECSTATIC to announce the sale of my young adult novel, THE CAMINO CLUB!!! It has found a home with DUET BOOKS, the young adult imprint of INTERLUDE PRESS!

CAMINO

When I first set out on my own journey on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route back in May of 2014, I did so with a kernel of an idea for THE CAMINO CLUB novel percolating in my writer-brain. I had dreamed of writing a young adult novel that would combine a Breakfast Club scenario with the famous Camino pilgrimage route known as Camino Frances (or The French Way).

As my feet touched down on the pilgrim path, I imagined six juvenile delinquents reluctantly setting out on the very same path. They would be there not because they wanted to be there, but because they were court-mandated to be there. THE WALK youth diversion program would give all six of them the option to walk the pilgrimage route across Spain or serve time in juvenile detention.

I imagined their juvenile delinquent hearts being in a very different place at the onset of their pilgrimage than mine was at the beginning of my own. But I also tried to imagine that they would arrive at the famous cathedral in the city of Santiago de Compostela as changed as I was at the end of my own pilgrimage. I envisioned them softened, transformed, and maybe even less broken than they were when they set out on their forced adventure.

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This is a famous monument found on the Camino de Santiago, and one that my characters visit in my latest novel, THE CAMINO CLUB (This is found at MONTE DO GOZO or HILL OF JOY, which overlooks a valley from which pilgrims on the Camino can get their first glimpse of the spires of the famous cathedral in Santiago de Compostela).

As I completed my own Camino, I knew that the Camino de Santiago would stay in my heart forever. And I also knew that I had to share it…and I longed for that share to be impactful, meaningful. I wanted others to find the unbridled joy I discovered while walking The Way. If I could move just ONE person to discover the Camino and add it to their bucket list, I would feel as though I had won.

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One of the countless vistas pilgrims will come across while making their way across Spain on the Camino de Santiago.

It took me a few years of meditating on the concept, but I finally set out to write the novel that had been living inside my heart ever since I took that first footstep on my own Camino path. I had, after all, walked with all six of my characters alongside me. It was time to sit down and write their stories. I even had an idea for a seventh integral character, an homage to a ‘character’ I met on my pilgrimage across Spain…a magical character who stays with me to this day.

I could not be happier about the home this novel has found. It’s the home I wanted it to have all along. I’ve been amazed by INTERLUDE PRESS and DUET BOOKS ever since I first discovered RUNNING WITH LIONS by Julian Winters. I’ve kept my eye on them, ever hopeful that The Camino Club would somehow one day be a good fit for their boutique publishing house.

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Interlude announced the deal today, so I can now say it’s official! The Camino Club has found its WAY!

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A statue of a pilgrim making his way along the Camino de Santiago, complete with the Galician Cross, pilgrim’s staff and water gourd.

More details to follow, but for now I’m just thrilled to be able to announce the news! Eternal thanks to Annie Harper and the rest of the group at Interlude for taking a chance on this book that is so very near and dear to my heart in ways no other words I’ve ever written have been.

Time to celebrate! I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

Buen Camino, Peregrinos!

2019 Stratford Rotary Short Story Contest Shortlist Announced…

What a great way to get back into the writing mindset!

I made the list! Such a thrill to discover yourself on a shortlist! Rotary Club of Stratford’s annual short story contest winners will be announced at the Stratford Writers Festival on October 19th.

Up for grabs in the contest?

19 and under-Teen

  • First: $300
  • Second: $200
  • Third: $100
  • 3 Honourable Mentions

20 and over-Adult

  • First: $500
  • Second: $250
  • Third: $100
  • 3 Honourable Mentions

For me, just making the shortlist is a great reward and honour. I submitted a short story about a lesbian couple struggling with a recent cancer diagnosis and revisiting one of their favourite places on earth for a respite from their harsh new reality. PARIS AT SUNSET AND INTO THE NIGHT made the first cut, and in my book that’s pretty awesome in and of itself!

YOU CAN VIEW THE FULL SHORTLIST HERE

Good luck to my fellow shortlisted writers! And to all those who entered, KEEP DOING WHAT YOU’RE DOING!

From One Passion to Another – Back to Writing…

Now that the Camino de Santiago is behind me yet again, I’ll attempt to stop talking about it on here for a while. I can’t make any promises, though (like, I could drop a pic from the Camino without warning at any given moment!).

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Galicia Morning, Unfiltered Light.

I’m moving on to my next passion for a bit. On July 12th I participated in a 3 day novel writing marathon in Huntsville, Ontario. During the 72 hours, I wrote almost 40,000 words. My goal for October is to finish the first draft of this novel. Let’s see if I can keep the momentum going. I’ve been at it for 2 days so far and I’m feeling pretty good about it.

The manuscripts written at the marathon are entered into a juried competition at the end of the weekend. My novel, NO VISIBLE DAMAGE, was awarded Runner Up in the YOUNG ADULT category of the competition. I’m thrilled with that outcome. First draft, written frenetically in 72 hours? I’ll take it!

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A bookmark gifted to writers at the Muskoka Novel Marathon!

So I’m locking myself into writer mode for a bit. This may mean that I come at you with some exuberant writing advice every now and again. When I’m in that zone, it’s all I think about. Adios por ahora, mi Camino! Writing is my October jam!

One last story from my Muskoka Novel Marathon weekend prior to diving back into my manuscript. The bookmarks pictured above were given to ALL marathon participators. The back of each bookmark was blank. My fellow marathoner, Colum (who is literally the sweetest most kindhearted person) took my bookmark down to a local store in town and had the back personalized after I told him about a line that POPPED out of my manuscript. I wrote the line about a laptop that was thrown across a room in the story. During our conversation about the line in question, I told Colum it sounded like a great name for a punk band. Colum said it sounded like a perfect novel title. That’s the exact second my THE EPOQUE OF ETHAN manuscript became NO VISIBLE DAMAGE. Thanks, Colum! Both for giving me the TITLE and for getting the personalization of the bookmark done!

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Happy WRITING!

From Darkness and into the Light – Santiago de Compostela at the End of the Yellow Brick Road…

Day 12 – AKA We’re off to see the Wizard! This was the day we woke up in O Pedrouzo with our eye on Santiago de Compostela!

For the first 3 or more hours of the walk, we were in darkness. And it rained most of the time. It was, for me, an incredibly hard walk filled with anxious moments in black forests hoping we didn’t get too lost on the path.

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Just prior to daybreak, we hit the marker that announces the jurisdiction of Santiago! We were almost to the city of Santiago de Compostela and the darkness was about to brighten!

Soon after daybreak, we arrived at Monte de Gozo! The HILL OF JOY! This is the place where many pilgrims get their first glimpse of the spires in Santiago. It’s the ONE-HOUR mark, too. Soon, we would arrive!

ALL the familiar signs came into view, building on the excitement of our eventual arrival. Like the dancing star on the outskirts!

…and the Santiago de Compostela sign, which is so covered now with mementos you can just make it out…

SO close!!

Feelings of saudade! Longing, desire, sadness, joy, angst…everything wrapped up together. And excitement for Michael, who had not yet experienced his first arrival into the plaza in front of the cathedral!

THE FIRST GLIMPSES OF THE SPIRES…

That walk into the little archway just prior to walking out the other side into Praza de Obradoiro, the plaza in front of the CATHEDRAL. In the archway, the pipes…the pipes they play!

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Then, what the whole thing is for…the arrival at the Cathedral!

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And that, my friends, was OUR Camino de Santiago!

Keep your ears–and your hearts–open for the CALL. The Camino begins with a whisper. When it finds you, the whisper grows until the day you step off that plane and make your way to the path. When your feet touch down on the Camino de Santiago, your life begins…

You
Touch me
I hear the sound
Of mandolins
You
Kiss me
With your kiss
My life begins
You’re spring to me
All things
To me
Don’t you know you’re
Life itself