Best Adult Novel Award, I Will Tell the Night, Kevin Craig, Muskoka Novel Marathon, On Writing, Writing Life

The Things Writers Do To Themselves – Or, That Day I Didn’t Actually Finish My Manuscript

 

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A motley crew of rebel rousers also known as writers and their friends. Find us at a restaurant near you. But only if you want noisy atmosphere you cannot escape even if you try…

A 3-Day Diary of a Writer Once in Stasis

(Before I proceed, just so we’re all on the same page, the Merriam-Webster definition of stasis— “a state or condition in which things do not change, move, or progress“. So, that is where I stood as a writer prior to July and between July end and September end.)

Day 1 – Saturday, October 22nd, 2016

106 days after coming up with a shadowy wisp of an idea for my 2016 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel, I typed the words THE END on the last page of the manuscript. Then I quietly celebrated the moment by being silent and allowing this icy cold feeling to course through me and send a chill or two up my spine. That feeling was the climbing-out-of-my-skin motion made by the make-believe souls of my characters leaving the body they had possessed while I wrote. And in their absence, as usual, I was left feeling glum. Not good enough. Lonely. Why did they leave me? I didn’t even think the story was finished yet. Even as Finn’s omniscient narrator wrapped up the telling of the story, I wanted to scream, “NO! NOT YET! THEY HAVEN’T DONE THIS! THEY HAVEN’T DONE THAT!” But once the wheels of the bus start to roll, there really is no controlling it. The trajectory is a surprise only the vast nothingness from which the story arrives knows. At least in my case, where I outline and plan exactly NOTHING. Sure, I will have discussions about what I think will happen next, or things that will take place in a vague as-yet-unwritten future of the story. But they don’t always take place. And then, when I type those solemn door-slamming words THE END at the bottom of the manuscript, I know the rest of the story that I envisioned will never take place. And that makes me even sadder than I was when I realized I had hit the end. After the words have been struck and they glow there like doombabies at the bottom of the screen, you know you can’t fight your way past them. But you also get to see the world of your characters stretch out beyond those words of death. THE END. It is never the end. The unwritten scenes that you toyed around with, spoke of, discussed…they’re still there. They are ghosts forever hanging off the precipice of those two little words. They are phantom limbs, unformed digits, un-lived dreams. It’s very painful to be finished your story and still have material leftover in the end that you thought you would use within the confines of the novel. That leftover material is one of the many things writers look at to cultivate their own self-doubt and self-loathing. That material is the vision not perfectly transformed from thought-scape to page. Those leftovers are the scream the writer lets out after the cold icy surge of release as they let their characters escape their bodies. Not good enough. Failed to reach the vision. THE END. I think of this every time I see the slit on the face of Mona Lisa. Her lips could have been raised in the corners ever so slightly to bring her face into a more beatific smile. But Leonardo da Vinci, in his infinite wisdom, had already announced to himself, ‘la fine‘. There was no going back. My THE END stands sentinel over the blank space below it that cannot be filled.

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Requisite selfie with Mel. Bad Hombres.

Day 2 – Monday, October 24, 2016

I know I didn’t finish the novel. I wrote THE END, but I didn’t finish it. But you can’t go back. Done bun can’t be undone, as Stephen King once said. C’est la vie. So it is written. I spend day hating self for putting those two words at the end of the manuscript. I print out my manuscript and I am in awe over how big it is as a chunk of printed papers. Like, wow. I did that. I overhear Aves streaming from the heavens…or at least from the mouths of crackpot waste-oids singing heavenly verses in dark alleys somewhere in my general vicinity. There is music…and it is celebrating the awesomeness of my thick pile of pages, written in a frenzy of desperation while hopelessly clinging to one unwritten sentence after the other and attempting to harness them down and get them onto paper before forgetting my train of thought. Bam. The rest of the day, after printing out the manuscript, is spent listening to the knitpicking voice in the back of my head whispering, “YOU’RE NOT DONE. YOU’RE NOT DONE!” I sigh. I hold up my impressively thick pile of paper. I say, “Oh yeah? What do you call this?!” I listen as the voice whispers, “A START.”

Day 3 – Tuesday, October 25, 2016

I woke up with a desperate need to delete those two words at the bottom of my manuscript. I had already sent it out to 3 very generous fellow Muskoka Novel Marathon writers. They are acting as beta readers for me…they will tell me what needs fixing under the hood of my novel prior to me releasing it to the critical eyes of editors/agents. I gave myself leeway for once. I purposefully set my cursor to the end of those two nasty words THE END and then I hit BACKSPACE seven times. That’s ALL IT TOOK. The two words vanished into the ether. It was like a Christmas miracle. And then I proceeded to rearrange a bit of my last chapter, to unclose it. To unend it. To youdidntquitegetthereyouhavetogobackinandfixthis. Then, I proceeded to write the last chapter. So my last chapter became my second last chapter and my chapter that wasn’t on the page but was in my brain became my last chapter. Cue the emergency email to my 3 generous beta readers. Plead forgiveness, explain my folly, send the new second last chapter that used to be my last chapter and the new last chapter. Then go out with said 3 beta readers and the rest of the writing posse I hang with from time to time and attempt to forget about the fact that my ugly baby is inthehandsofothers. Then I BEGIN working on the manuscript I put on hold while racing to finish the Muskoka Novel Marathon novel.

 

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Selfie at Mongolian Grill Restaurant in Whitby, Ontario. Future Canadian literati, and friends…

Lessons Learned?

  • The end doesn’t have to be the end. You can delete those two words and start over at the ending.
  • Clearly, Leonardo knew this. He wanted the smile we see to be the smile she was left with. Whatever, Leo.
  • Friends who will stop everything and beta read for you are amazing friends to have! Remember to return the favour once the opportunity arises.
  • Don’t settle.
  • The Backspace key is your friend. It’s a modern day eraser that allows you to unend things.
  • 300 pages of 8 1/2″ x 11″ paper, stacked one on top of each other, is a goddamned impressive pile of paper when it is filled with words.
  • Stasis does not need to happen. Get your bum in chair and shut the hell up.
  • Mongolian Grill is yummy.
  • Pepsi is better than Coke because it is sweeter. This is also the reason Coke preferrers prefer Coke, because Pepsi is too sweet.
  • Selfie-sticks are handy for capturing a moment, but only if you’re nimble enough not to piss everyone off by taking too much time to capture it spontaneously.
  • Writing makes me happy. And the person I write alongside of also makes me happy.
  • Don’t forget a hat when you’re walking in the October chill, because when you do you’re ears hurt like hell!
  • It’s only the end when you say it’s the end the last time that you say it. Not before.
  • Summer always ends! And it’s not up to us where THE END goes on that season. There are some ends we have no control over. Take advantage of the ones you do have control over. (I’m looking at you, LEO!)
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The weekend away was most productive. I wrote several chapters of my Best Novel Award winning novel I WILL TELL THE NIGHT. And this guy helped me at every step of the way. Even if he didn’t wait for me whenever I stopped to take a picture of the beautiful FALL colours.

 

Christine Cowley, Hunter's Bay Radio, Interview, Kevin Craig, On Writing, Playwright, Writing Life

Listen Now! The Recordings of My STORYLINES Interview & Play Performance from Hunter’s Bay Radio…

Yesterday, the episode of the radio program STORYLINES, with host CHRISTINE COWLEY, on which I appeared, aired on HUNTER’S BAY RADIO. If you happened to miss that airing, Christine was generous enough to provide me with the tapes…and she has allowed me to use them however I wish to use them. Today, I share them here. In the episode, Christine interviews me briefly, and then the two of us perform my 10-minute play THE SPEECH…with the assistance of narrator Tobin Elliott.

So, here are the tapes. You can listen to them now!

 

In the interview, there is talk of my books, and other writings…particularly BURN BABY BURN BABY. You can check out my books on my AMAZON page…and order them from bookstores everywhere. Click on the image below to visit my page over on Amazon. You can read each book’s synopsis by clicking on the books on the Amazon page:

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Click This Picture to Visit My Books on Amazon!

Much thanks to Christine, for providing me with this wonderful opportunity! Though I didn’t really know what I was doing, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I usually write my lines knowing they will come from the mouths of others. It was terrifying and exhilarating to have the tables turned. I’m no actor! It gives one a deeper appreciation of just how difficult it is to deliver lines…couldn’t imagine doing it on the stage!

Thank you, Christine! And thank you Hunter’s Bay Radio. And thank you, Tobin Elliott. And thank you to Driftwood Theatre and their Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival, at which THE SPEECH was created!

Christine Cowley, Hunter's Bay Radio, Interview, Kevin Craig, On Writing, Playwright, Writing Life

Find Me on Hunter’s Bay Radio! The Speech rises again!

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This morning, you can find me over at HUNTER’S BAY RADIO! Back in September I went to the Hunter’s Bay Radio recording studio to tape an episode of STORYLINES with my friend-in-writing CHRISTINE COWLEY. Thank GOD we did more than an interview, because quite often I’m a horrible interview subject when it comes to talking. I freeze and forget everything in the world I ever knew…especially when it comes to questions about my books. I’m the worst!

Christine and I, with the help of Tobin Elliott as narrator (reading the stage direction), performed one of my 10-minute plays for the show. THE SPEECH has gone a long way since I wrote it in the wee hours of the night inside a Trafalgar Castle for Driftwood Theatre’s TRAFALGAR24 Play Creation Festival back in 2011. It has been performed or read in several states across the USA, in Australia, as well as in Mumbai, India.

This morning you can actually HEAR the play. Christine and I had a lot of fun recording it…I have no idea how it sounds, so I will have to listen in myself to find out. Hopefully it translates well to radio.

It airs today (Thursday October 6th) at 10:00am Ontario time. You can download the Hunter’s Bay Radio app for your phone in the app store, or you can listen in online at:

HUNTER’S BAY RADIO

 

Anthology, Horror, ID Press, Kevin Craig, Purgatorio Dialogues, Purgatorium, Yvonne Hess

The Purgatorio Dialogues – Meet the Writers of Purgatorium Part IV

 Another day, another visit with authors from the Purgatorium anthology coming soon from ID PRESS! Today, I have an interview with Yvonne Hess. One more to go. Amanda Tompkins has some writerly deadlines to meet, so she will be participating shortly. Writers ALWAYS have deadlines of one kind or another. It keeps us honest!
I also took the liberty of answering this Proustian Questionnaire myself…so you’ll find my responses here, immediately following Yvonne.
I love love love Yvonne’s response to the first question. It’s quintessential. Enjoy her interview and look forward to discovering her horror fiction in Purgatorium. It’s coming!

Purgatorio Dialogues – VIII – Yvonne Hess

 

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Yvonne Hess

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

The moments when I become aware that I am experiencing true happiness in that moment.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Literary/historical

3. What is your greatest fear?

Heights or being the centre of attention in a room full of people I don’t know.

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

Impossible to choose! But if I have to pick one I’d say historical.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

I actually don’t read horror.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

To me, horror could be anything from slasher/blood and gore to psychological thriller.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

I’m not sure any of these can be overrated.

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

(Not answered)

9. What else have you written?

Several full-length manuscripts.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

I can’t talk about that.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Singer/musician.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

The daughter of a multimillionaire!

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I can’t talk about that either.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

Impossible to pick just 3!! But if I have to…Shogun, Outlander, anything by Jane Austen.

15. Who are your favorite writers?

Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Diana Gabaldon, Edward Rutherford, James Mitchener…the list goes on and on.

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

I don’t think I have one.

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

People who make noise when they eat. GRRRRR!

18. How would you like to die?

Old and peaceful…with no regrets.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

The voices of those I love.

20. What is your motto?

It costs nothing to be kind.
On the Web, Yvonne can be found:
I could not make all the other contributors answer this questionnaire without also putting myself through the ringer. So, as we await Amanda’s response…I give you my own:

Purgatorio Dialogues – IX – Kevin Craig

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Kevin Craig

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Laughing with my grandchildren, or being purposefully lost and wandering in a foreign city.

2. What is your most preferred genre as a writer?

Although not quite a genre, I would have to say coming-of-age. I love the young adult market, but I love that a good coming-of-age story can explore themes not quite young enough for the YA audience, and yet still have the youth aspect to it.

3. What is your greatest fear?

The theft of childhood

4. What is your most preferred genre as a reader?

I don’t have one. Story is king, genre are the clothes donned by the story.

5. Which horror writer do you most admire and why?

Stephen King. Because he is one of the best character writers in the world. He knows the importance of all aspects of storytelling, not just shock.

6. What was your idea of horror prior to setting off on this adventure into Purgatorium?

Scary. Must. Terrify. Reader.

7. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

FORGIVENESS. It is not imperative to offer forgiveness. Some are not worthy of it. Most often, when you are giving it, it is to free yourself from the wrong done to you anyway. I only consider forgiving when the one I am forgiving is worthy. Sometimes, they are not.

8. What is your idea of horror now that you’ve been to Purgatorium?

It’s the genre where you take the reader by the hand and lead them down the garden path they simultaneously do not want to be lead down and can’t help but go freely and eagerly. They have to trust you and be leery of your motivations at the same time.

9. What else have you written?

Plays, poetry, novels, articles, and memoir. And manifestos…many manifestos.

10. When and where were you most afraid?

November, 1977…the day my childhood was stolen.

11. Which talent would you most like to have?

Singing.

12. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I always picture myself as an aging Russian peasant farmer woman. I think getting there would be hard and tiring, but to just wake up one day as an 87 year-old babushka wearing peasant woman picking potatoes on her farm would be the loveliest of things. As it seems very unlikely this would happen, I’ll go with DOG.

13. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

Not forgiving yourself for something that you could not possibly be blamed for…and having the kind of unhealthy mind that would allow this self-blaming to thrive and hold you hostage.

14. What are your three deserted island books?

I included this question because I hate it. The nature of the reader is that they love all the books. Their three go to books would change by the day, by the hour, by the minute. It makes for a conflict in the brain when they are asked this question.

Right this second, my answer is FRANNY & ZOOEY by JD Salinger, THE WONDER BOYS by Michael Chabon, and, THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS by Anne Rice.

But right this second, my answer is quite different!

15. Who are your favorite writers?

JD Salinger, Michael Chabon, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Jennifer Niven, Hannah Moskowitz, Sylvia Plath, John Green, Anne Rice, Mark Twain, Naguib Mahfouz, and on and on and on…

16. Who is your hero of fiction?

Zachary Martin Glass (Zooey)…because he is a king of sarcasm and a lover of life.

17. What sound grates on you more than any other?

The sound of a baby crying.

18. How would you like to die?

Any way other than the ways I have imagined in my darkest days.

19. What sound brings you deep joy?

A child laughing with utter abandon. And cicadas.

20. What is your motto?

I have several. This too shall pass comes to mind. As does Never quit and See beauty where others refuse to see it and LOVE.