Panic is Behind Me – It’s Out of My Hands!

There is nothing I can do now. I have performed my duties as Elf Playwright. Whatever will be, will be. Que sera, sera.

traf
Just one of the many rooms in Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. Tour the castle while you watch plays take place inside 6 of its many rooms!

Right at this very moment there are 12 actors and 6 directors inside Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby, Ontario. Along with Driftwood Theatre founder and Artistic Director Jeremy Smith. They are reading 6 freshly inked plays. They might be laughing, they might be crying, they might be pulling out their hair, they might be looking for a corner to hide in. I have no concept of what they do for the 8 hours on the day of the Trafalgar 24 event. I write the play and I walk away. It’s their turn in the castle. All I know is that when I go back tonight those 12 actors and 6 directors will have hammered the 6 plays off the page and onto the stage. I still imagine their roles in all of this to be so much more difficult than mine. The real magic happens when the actors take up the words and when the directors take up the action. That’s why it’s so magically incredible to see my own play performed in front of an audience the day after I write it. The actors bring life to the characters and the directors bring life to the characters, the setting, the space. After my very first year at Trafalgar 24, I never again looked at actors and directors the same way. I used to think they had it easy. Now I know they get a rudimentary piece of archaeological hieroglyphs and they see whatever it is they need to see in it and they breathe life into it. They are magicians.

TRAFALGAR 24 TICKETS CAN BE HAD BY CLICKING ON THIS!

Tonight is when the audience converges on the castle. Tonight is when each of the 6 plays is performed 6 times. Tonight is when the wine and cheese and meats and crackers and desserts are spread out before you. Tonight is when the silent auction of awesome things takes place. Tonight is when Driftwood Theatre gets celebrated by the Durham Region arts community. If you live anywhere near Whitby, Ontario…you should click the link above and secure your tickets. Not only do you get your fill of wine and cheese and dessert, but you get to see 6 fresh plays while touring a beautiful 19th century castle. There’s nothing like it anywhere else.

Doors open at 6:30pm and the performances begin at 7:30pm.

FROM THE DRIFTWOOD THEATRE SITE:

Twenty-four artists receive a scant 24-hours to write, rehearse and perform six site-specific plays in Whitby’s beautiful 19th century castle. TRAFALGAR 24 is a theatrical event unlike any other, where the audience is right on top of the action as each of the 10-minute scripts play out around them in locations throughout the castle. At TRAFALGAR 24 audience members play a vital role of their own, helping to select one winning play to receive a commission for further development from Driftwood Theatre.

March 11, 2016 | 6:30pm Silent Auction Starts | 7:30pm Performances Begin | Trafalgar Castle, 401 Reynolds Street, Whitby

NEW for 2016 Trafalgar 24 Royalty VIP Ticket | $100 | Explore TRAFALGAR 24 like never before with a special Trafalgar Royalty VIP ticket. In addition to general admission, your TRAFALGAR 24 experience is enhanced by private pre-show reception with TRAFALGAR 24 playwrights, exclusive Auction Concierge service, and membership to a special VIP audience group guided by a famous Driftwood Theatre artist.

General Admission Ticket | $60

Twitter: #trafalgar24

Hope to see you there!

 

Look Back, Look Way Way Back…the Writer You Used to Be

I was recently sifting through my previous blog, which is now locked away in the interwebz forever. It was called A WANDERING MIND and it was almost exclusively for poetry. Circa 2007-2010. It carried hundreds of poems upon its crooked little back. The thing I notice when I occasionally pull it up to have a read is that the poems were, by and large, inauthentic. Or, if you will, fictional. Sure, I occasionally pulled out an authentic retelling or heart-truth. But everything was cloaked and shrouded…presented from a place of darkness with just the tiniest hint of a back-lit glow to the authentic. I was writing from a place of self-repression.

I give you exhibit A. In way of preamble, I wrote it on March 30th, 2008. I never burlapped a thing in my life. Hydrangeas? The word must have sounded pretty to me at the time. The bloody things do not have winter limbs…if you do it right. I don’t recall EVER being in Penetanguishene. Or on a train heading north, for that matter. My father was never dying. What’s a Plymouth? I couldn’t pick one out of a line-up.

Things to Do Today

Remove the snow
from the burlap shrouds
encasing the hydrangeas,
ready their limbs for rebirth.

Take the train north
to Penetanguishene,
where screams of ennui
will be muffled, go unheard.

Call my dying father,
speak of ’72 Plymouths
getting air on railroad tracks
long since removed.

Light the candles
on the sky white mantle,
watch the flames flicker
and later disappear.

post-amble? Come to think of it, I did own something in that poem. I remember the weightlessness of going over railroad tracks while climbing a steep hill in a car. It’s a glorious feeling to get air. Especially if there’s music on the radio at the time. It’s all Dukes of Hazzard and what not.

The more I scour the old poetry, the more I think I should rewrite it with my freer post self-repression mind. When you live with a secret like childhood sexual abuse, you shift everything to fit into little boxes. Even all the things you want and need to be authentic are slightly askew. Simply because you’re not the you you were supposed to be (and you never will be–you are a changed version of what you would have could have been). Your walls and barriers and safe places BLOCK OUT just as much as they RESCUE AND SAVE. So, really, until you face the demons…there is no winning.

That poem had almost nothing to do with me. And just like the hundreds of other poems that came from that period of my writing life, I had no recollection of having written it. It is as separate from my psyche as War and Peace is. I don’t know if you’re aware or not, but I did not write War and Peace. It can also be said that I didn’t write any of the poems that came from the dark era. But I did. It’s a conundrum. How can you own something that is not connected in some way to who you are?

On the same day that I wrote the above poem, I wrote one that perhaps I can still feel a bit of connection to. My go-to novel to use as a template for the perfect novel has always been The Great Gatsby, so the admiration for F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of those things that is constant in my life…it was there in the darkness and it is here in the light. I suppose a vestige of who we are is always there, whether or not we choose or try to access it.

tgg

Ode to F. Scott Fitzgerald

And I will dig up his grave,
and wonder at the box
in which he is kept.
And I will adorn
myself with his bones,
wear them like a coat
enshrouding
my fragile body.
And if he be but dust
I will swallow
in handfuls
to have him inside me.
And all for the sake
of an image
he wrote,
will I suffer
the height
of my madness.
“and the curtains
and the rugs
and the two young women
ballooned
slowly
to the floor”.
And for that
I will adorn myself
with his bones,
wear them like a coat,
Wrap myself in wonder
and partake of his dust.

Perhaps it need stay in the darkness. From what I can gather, I dug up the old sport and ate his dust. These are things of darkness, I’m sure. But thus is the extent of my hero worship of his writerly abilities. So, I’ll own it still. It gets to stay.

I’m not sure what this blog post is about. I just feel the need every now and again to revisit the writer I used to be. I don’t try to judge him or weigh the texts of my past with the texts of my now. I don’t need to know that I improved, and I certainly don’t need to know that I haven’t. I just feel that–whatever it is that I find–I accept it for what it is. Something I wrote while on my journey. As with life and each step we take to get us to the step we’re about to take and the place in which we find ourselves, our past writing is what has brought us to who we are now. Just own it. Don’t be ashamed of it. Don’t discard it. Like the bad memory that made you who you are, the bad poem also had a hand in shaping the writer you have become.

Acceptance of self. It’s a good thing.

On the same day I wrote the two above poems, I wrote this one on apologies. I have no idea where my mind was at…but I won’t apologize to myself for having written it. I am writer, hear me roar.

Prelude to an Apology

We’ll let the devil
Tongue our eyes,
Tantalize
And drink our light
In gulps divine.
We’ll let the saints
In numbers,
Stomp our dreams
And teem inside,
With lust,
The dust divine.
And shout,
We will,
The awkward silence,
Awake the night
We walk in vengeance,
And just a slight of hand
Away from wonder,
We’ll construct
Our own mythology,
but never will we offer
Those elusive
Things we straddle
And preen to pretty,
The often considered
But never whispered
Hushed and hidden apology.

Be your writing. And remember to look back on the journey every now and again…

 

Near/Far – The Journey of the Muskoka Novel Marathon

Once upon a time there was a magical place. It was in a land far, far away. And also quite near. It came to be that a hundred thousand brave warrior knights had heard of this magical place. Or forty or so, at least, give or take.

They set out on a rather long journey. For some it was far, and for others it was simply near. But even those brave warrior knights (let’s just call them writers, shall we) who came from near understood the metaphorical distance of the journey…the farness of their nearness, as it were.

image
Each year, the marathon raises much needed funds for the literacy programs of YMCA Simcoe/Muskoka. We have a blast, but it’s not all fun. We have an underlying mission that we take most seriously.

It was such a grand time that was had by all that they decided to do it again. And again. And again. And again. The event became a yearly festival/spectacle of writerly endurance, wonder, and mirth.

This faraway land is known as Huntsville, in the province of Ontario, in the land of Canada. The magical place is not really a place, per se, but an event. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a Spectacular Spectacular. Of sorts.

image
Last year I had the pleasure of reconnecting writerlyishly with M.E. Girard! It’s not always the same people at the marathon, but once you make the trip you’re a part of the #MNM family.

Why do I bring this event up today? Because registration is as much a spectacle as the event itself these days. Writers clamor to get in to this thing! With room for only 40 (ish) and rumours of its delightfulness spreading both far and wide (or near and far—as it were), it is getting increasingly difficult for a writer to procure his/her seat at the gala. As in, it is nigh on impossible.

And every March, like warriors of old, we stand before our keyboards on the night of registration and wait for the seconds to tick off… and for the virtual gate to open so we can scurry about and type our way into this yearly magical emporium of madness.

When the time comes and the gate opens, the Internet feels the tug of love from all points across Ontario as the virtual worms of registration information make their way to the Mother Ship of this Spectacular Spectacular up in the snowy northern outpost of Huntsville.

And at the end of registration night, there are virtual bodies scattered on dawn’s highway bleeding… Wait, no… sorry, I somehow channelled Jim Morrison for a second there. No bodies. BUT… there are, both near and far, those ecstatic to be ON THE BUS and those melancholy to have missed it.

Yes… I’m talking about the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON again. My skin prickles tonight in the knowing that registration approaches. It is neither near nor far on the horizon. And I want to call myself among the tribe of #MNM2016 participants. I want it, I want it, I want it!

Where else in all the world can one writer sit in the same room as 40+ others and do nothing but write for 72hrs? Nowhere. Where else can one take communion with a writing community more vibrant, alive, exhausted, miserable, exuberant, joyful, angry, and insane? Nowhere. Where else can one come together with a group of like-minded people for a cause close and true to all of their hearts? Nowhere.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon Fundraiser for literacy in Simcoe Muskoka County is more than a fundraiser to raise money for literacy, and it’s more than the greatest weekend retreat for writers on the globe. It’s a religion and it’s a cult. But don’t tell anyone. We’d have writers coming from… well, coming from near and coming from far to be a part of the worshipping. We’d have to go underground just to exist. That’s how spectacular spectacular our 72hr novel writing (and I swear to God that’s all we do!!) Marathon happens to be.

This is why writers begin to lose sleep through February and early March. They imagine themselves not registering in time, not securing one of the coveted spots at the July Marathon, not being a part of the most magical writing weekend of the year. And they spend their time at their keyboards, fingers at the ready… Awaiting the opening bells of the registration melee that opens the chaotic yearly ritual.

We want to be there. We want to be fierce warriors against illiteracy and we want a weekend of writing bliss. Whether we come from near or far… We just want a seat at the table. The journey to the Muskoka Novel Marathon… it’s all about words.

Check out the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON WEBSITE!

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For the past few years Sue Kenney has been giving writers the gift of her “WALK FOR CREATIVITY” to allow us a reprieve to connect with nature, barefoot. It’s such a welcome part of the amazing weekend!

The Evolution of a Playwright – Writer Labels

Labels! They’re so difficult to own. I reluctantly called myself a writer because I was one who put words down on paper. Then, when my first novel was published, I reluctantly called myself an author. In between, I was a poet and a columnist and a freelance writer. These things that define me, if only momentarily, are also the things that seem too monumental for me to be. Even now, it seems impossible. Each one of these labels.

I’m thinking the greatest of my unfathomable writerly accomplishments is, however, none of the above. The whole time I wrote these other things, I imagined a day when I would only write plays. I mean, dialogue is king, right?! Why would I want to do anything else besides put words into the mouths of characters? What’s cooler than seeing your characters come to life on the boards? I can’t think of anything.

Ever since I first read Tennessee Williams, Shakespeare, Molière, and, finally, W. Somerset Maugham, back in high school, I’ve been a bit obsessed with the idea of becoming a playwright. A Streetcar Named Desire blew me away. Entirely. The raw savagery of Stanley Kowalski, mixed with the tragic delusional broken princess of Blanche Dubois was flawless. Even though Tartuffe was written in 1664 it still stands in a league of its own as a comedy. Not to mention Maugham’s The Bread Winner and The Constant Wife…but comedies that have lasted. I don’t even know where to begin with Shakespeare. I just love his plays. I had an English teacher in high school who was a bit of an eccentric–okay, a lot of an eccentric–he used to get us to push the desks to the walls and perform Shakespeare moments together in the centre of the classroom. These were divine moments.

I’ve had many pivotal moments as a writer when I experienced epiphanies about LABELS, as they pertain to writers. One of the biggest was when I realized Matthew Quick wrote both YA Lit and Adult Lit. This gave me permission to do the same. I know it shouldn’t be out-of-the-box thinking that one could cross-pollinate genres, markets, styles, and types of writing. One should just write what calls out to them the loudest to be written. But sometimes it takes seeing other people do things before you can give yourself permission to do them.

The second such epiphany I had was that I could be a novelist and a playwright. Maugham was right there in front of me, all that time. I even had his memoir about skating the duo existence of novelist/playwright to refer to. The Summing Up is one of my favourite books on writing. Why? Because it speaks to me. Maugham was honest about how he discovered his love of writing plays over novels. This quote sums it up nicely:

“Thank God, I can look at a sunset now without having to think how to describe it.” ~ W. Somerset Maugham

Writing plays removes the need for descriptive prose. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, so the saying goes. But when you don’t have the prose between the lines of dialogue, you are faced with only your characters. You are left with conversation. This is, for me, my favourite part of novel writing. It’s nice to slip out of the need to piece together an entire world of description in order to tell a story. When I wrote my first short play, I knew I had found something I would always love. When I saw that play performed, I was hooked forever. Those were my words coming out of the characters’ mouths. It was a thing of magic!

I once wrote on this blog about how to write a 10-minute play. I wrote that post after having had 7 plays performed. I think the advice still stands today. I’m only one 10-minute play shy from having had 10 of them produced now. You can read that post here: HOW TO WRITE A 10-MINUTE PLAY

I will probably always write novels. As freeing as it is to have the director and the actors create the world surrounding the story, it is also rewarding to create that world yourself through prose. BUT…I don’t think I will ever feel as alive as a writer as I feel when I’m writing plays. I love writing the dialogue. I love walking around the house by myself reading the lines aloud to hear if they sound ‘right’. I love working and re-working each line until it does sound right. And I love sitting in my seat in front of the stage seeing real live people perform the words that came from my pen. I feel most evolved as a writer when I can sit back and watch my words take flight. There’s nothing like it. It’s a kind of happiness that begets desire. To watch one’s own play must be a high akin to the high an actor gets at the sound of the applause.

“Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.” ~ Walt Whitman

Try new things. If you’re a poet, don’t be only a poet. If you’re a novelist, don’t be only a novelist. If you’re a sci-fi writer, don’t be only a sci-fi writer. Labels for writers are interchangeable. Unless you wish only to have one, you can have as many as you desire. Writers have great opportunities to allow themselves to constantly evolve. It’s scary to step out of your comfort zone…but only until that next zone you find yourself in fits as nicely as the last one did. Find your happiness as a writer in this hour. If there is something you want to try, don’t let fear stop you from doing so. Let your fear be the fuel you use to tackle it.

molly

 

 

You Can’t Please Everyone…Writer Beware

Without shining a light on the issues that gave me the idea for this post, I learned early on that my writing is not going to be right for everyone. I also know that some people will love some things I write and hate other things I write. It’s just the way it is.

Once I write something, and have it vetted by beta readers, agents, acquisitions editors and editors…it’s out of my hands. Nothing I can say or do will make a reader like it. Nothing I can say or do will make a reader not like it. Whatever they feel about my work is up to them. What I do is present my best effort, made better by those who helped the piece make its way to the marketplace. After that, it becomes something that is entirely and emphatically out of my hands.

I read reviews. I know that some authors say they don’t read reviews…and that others should do the same and avoid them at all costs. But I do read them. Every single one I come across. I listen to what the reviewer has to say. Sometimes–in the majority of cases, I suppose…which makes me eternally grateful–the comments are extremely lovely. A lot of readers like the end product that I have put out there into the world. Sometimes–in enough cases that I feel the need to improve upon my work at all times–the comments are hard to read and most decidedly uncomplimentary.

I can’t write something that everyone will like. That’s impossible. That will always be impossible…for every writer.

I take the good reviews as a notion that I am doing something right…I am touching readers with my words. I take the bad reviews as a notion that I can do better. Much better. I appreciate the harsh reviews as much as I appreciate the glowing ones. I attempt to take away from them insights that will make me a better writer. I hope that they are never written with malice or as personal vendettas against me as a person. And even if they are, that is entirely the reviewer’s option. They have a right to write whatever they wish about my works. I’m only grateful that my words are being read.

I will always read my reviews. I will consider deeply whatever the reviewer is attempting to say…good or bad. And sometimes, their words will hurt me deeply. And sometimes I will get a review that will make my day, my week, my month, my year.

Ultimately, I’m responsible for my words. I own everything I ever wrote and allowed into the marketplace. And the reviewers? They’re responsible for their words. Their words are not supposed to have anything to do with me. They are free to comment on my works as they see fit to do so.

My job is to take the ideas and notions in my head, gestate them to term and give birth to them. My job, after that, is to not get offended or take it personally if someone thinks one of my babies is ugly. Someone else will eventually come along who thinks it’s a pretty baby. And someone else, again, will come along and think it’s an okay baby with some ugly defects. This is how it goes.

You take the good, you take the bad,
you take them both and there you have
The facts of life
No pictures today. I welcome you to visit either AMAZON, KOBOBOOKS, BARNES & NOBLE, or CHAPTERS INDIGO to check out my books. Reviews can be found (or posted) on GOODREADS. If you take (took) the time to write a review of one of my 5 books (Summer on Fire, Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, Burn Baby Burn Baby, Half Dead & Fully Broken), I thank you. Whether you loved my work or hated it, liked it or were indifferent to it, I thank you. One of the greatest gifts I have is my love of writing. The added gift I have is in knowing that my words are not going out into the void without having ever touched another living soul. Any review I receive is validation that I have put myself out there. Yes, it’s a vulnerable position to put yourself in. But it’s a position I chose with both eyes open. I can’t do so without expecting a little rain sometime. When you go from writer to author, you give the world carte blanche to judge you. You say to them, “BRING IT!” And then you merely hope for the best…

LISTED – Things in the Writer’s Toolbox

It’s been a while since I made a list here. I’ll try not to make this one too preachy or ranty. I will preface this list by saying it’s all been said before and you probably already know it all if you’re a writer. We should often remind ourselves of the important tools we have…because it’s so easy to forget the obvious.

What should every writer be equipped with? What are the necessary accoutrements to the handy box of tools they should always carry around with them?

  1. Vocal Cords – Seriously, this one cannot be stressed enough. What is one of the best things you could do for your writing? READ IT OUT LOUD. Where you hitch, fall, slumber, stall, falter, or stumble is where the reader will do the same. However you want to name it, if the flow derails while you’re reading aloud…there’s a good chance the same thing is going to happen with your reader. More than anything else, reading out loud allowed the writer to ensure that they are saying what they mean and meaning what they say. This is true of whatever you write…be it poetry, articles, plays, novels, short stories…what have you. It’s especially useful with dialogue…but don’t discount it with narrative. READ OUT LOUD.
  2. Always carry SOMETHING with you for note taking. When I first started out, the something was a pocket sized notebook and a pen. Now, it’s my Smartphone. I can just haul it out and jot a quick note for later. It’s not just for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Use your phone as a writer. If, that is, you would prefer it to the good ole notepad. Whatever works…just don’t be without SOMETHING. Sometimes you only get one chance at grabbing a fleeting idea. I know this because I have lost a few in my time. “Oh, I’ll remember it!” has so often become, “Shit! What was that great idea I had for my next novel. It was SO good. What the hell was it?”
  3. READ. READ. READ. Be inspired by the work of others. Read in the genre/market you like to write in. THEN…read in genres/markets you don’t particularly care for. All good stories are fundamentally the same when you look at them through the eyes of a writer. You can get from them craft and style and wisdom. Don’t discount whole genres…if the story is well written it will be elevated from the genre in which it sits. It will teach you how to be a better writer.
  4. See 1. BUT find a way to do this in front of an audience. Find an open mic for writers in your area. Once you have read the work aloud to yourself–and made necessary edits based on how the words sounded to your ear–read it aloud to others. If there are no venues supporting open mic for writers in your area…organize one. Or read in front of volunteers. Another idea would be to have others read your work aloud TO YOU. That way, you can follow along with a second copy and see where they stumble. Edit as you go. I can’t say enough how important a step it is to HEAR what you write.
  5. Keep a file somewhere (either in the back of a notebook, or on your computer or some other device) called POSSIBLE TITLES. Dump your spur of the moment nuggets into this file. I don’t know about other writers, but for me…I ALWAYS have titles come to me randomly. Maybe in passing dialogue, or ads, or newspapers or websites…you see a string of words or hear a string of words and think, “Hmmm…that would make a great title.” Or, out of the blue silence of your interior monologue will come up a title fully formed. Latch onto it…jot it down. Use this file as jumping off points. If you’re struggling to begin something, read the titles and see if any of them speak to you. They could be novel titles, poem titles, article titles…what have you. The point is, they rose up to the surface and you had an aha moment. Save it for later. Use it. That’s what writers do.
  6. THE GOLDEN HOUR – Have a golden hour in every single day of the year. Dedicate this hour to WRITING. Don’t deviate. Sure, find a seven hour period one day in the fall where you write non-stop and amaze yourself with that day’s word count. But still…always have that one dedicated sacred hour. You will understand the need for it once you’ve been doing it for a number of weeks, months, years.
  7. See 3. Only this one is perhaps a bit more fun. GO TO THE MOVIES. Enjoy the movie with popcorn or nachos or whatever it is you gorge on when you’re at the movies. But go! And truly, enjoy it…but also bring your analytical writer mind with you. Have it sit in the seat beside you. Share your munchies with it. Make sure it is paying attention to the dialogue and the space between the dialogue while you’re laughing or crying or whatever it is the words are making you do. Every story has a story to tell the writer. If you pay attention, you will receive it. It could be what to do or what not to do. It could be megalithic or it could be subtle. PAY ATTENTION. Writer mind will watch the movie with a critical eye, even as you are busy filling your face with popcorn.
  8. Be aware of who you are. Know thyself. I say this because only when you know yourself will you be ready to hear WRITING ADVICE. When you just aren’t sure…you will attempt to follow ALL WRITERLY ADVICE blindly. And, my friend, you will drive yourself batty in the process. Do this, don’t do that…the advice is rampant and most of the time it comes across as absolute. THIS IS THE ONLY WAY is the ugly trapping of quite a lot of the advice for writers floating around out there. ONLY WHEN YOU KNOW YOURSELF can you call bullshit to the advice that doesn’t work for you. AND NO MATTER HOW SUCCESSFUL THE WRITER GIVING IT IS…DON’T LISTEN TO IT IF IT DOESN’T WORK FOR YOU. Don’t discard it as bad advice…don’t ever do that. If someone is considerate enough to give advice, it probably comes from a place of good intention…it is probably something that has proven to work for them. BUT writing advice is a tricky thing. Not all advice works for all writers. You have to find your way. It’s great to read how-tos or, say, lists like this one…BUT there is no BIBLE OF ALL THE RIGHT ADVICE THAT YOU MUST FOLLOW OR DIE. There is only YOU…and your words. So be kind to yourself when you are seeking writerly advice. Try it all if you want, but do not be rigid in your stubbornness to follow it all. That would just be impossible. KNOW THYSELF.

That’s enough ranting for now. Just write…

I leave you with my favourite WRITER SONG…

World Building – It’s Harder Than You Think!

I was never one to write the fantastical. I never felt as though I had it in me. The past few years, however, I’ve been unusually adventurous in this department. It started with a brief and fleeting encounter with badness in my short story >> Rabacheeko.

I wrote Rabacheeko based on a friend’s nightmare. Then I entered it in a short story contest and was thrown for a loop when it received honorable mention. I mean, I did NOT like that story. It was too weird. I thought the made-up language and brushes with the bizarre were far too unfantastically dealt with. So much so…when the contest organizers invited me to read my piece at their anthology launch, I kind of said, “Yeah, sure.” I even considered going…but I was too humiliated by the piece. I could not read that in public.

The Anthology Which Holds My RABACHEEKO Captive! ACK!
The Anthology Which Holds My RABACHEEKO Captive! ACK!

Even after the sheer humiliation of having people read that short story, I still hadn’t had enough of world building. I wrote a Middle Grade novel called Dubious Pickles and the Space Between the Walls. Here’s the synopsis for that novel:

Everyone in Dobber Corner is afraid of Dubious Pickles. Everyone that is, except ten-year-old Arbour Lévesque. After an encounter with Dubious at the local thrift shop, Arbour knows there is nothing to fear. But when he follows Dubious home and peeks inside his windows, he discovers the world of impossibilities in which Dubious lives. Arbour witnesses a walking talking plastic man, a flying cat and a staircase that does everything twice.

Arbour decides to befriend the shy Dubious, but he knows it won’t be an easy task. He badgers his friends to help him infiltrate Dubious’ magical house. Inside, they discover that Dubious lives in a maze of secret passageways that honeycomb his mansion’s ancient walls. Afraid of their attention, Dubious attempts to scare the boys away. When drowning them in a room of pearls doesn’t do the trick, he tosses them into a cavernous abyss that takes them all to Nowhere Fast. Arbour’s brother Newton, a card-carrying genius-inventor-extraordinaire, lends a hand and the boys are able to overcome every obstacle Dubious throws their way.

The boys eventually convince Dubious they mean him no harm, but coaxing him out from behind his walls is but a short-lived victory. Bad things begin to happen in their town and the adults are quickly vanishing. Arbour knows that only the childlike Dubious can help him save the town from a threat more menacing than Dubious Pickles ever was.

Writing that novel took everything I had. I can dream up otherworldliness…sure, no problem. But to actually write it?! The task is as tiring as it is perplexing.

You would think I would have had enough. NOPE.

I am now knee deep in trying to complete the world I created for my 2014 Muskoka Novel Marathon novel, now renamed MY BOOK OF DREAMS. In it, the main character spends time in a bookstore that is NOT actually there. He has contact with a book that nobody else can see. Worlds keep shifting, time bends in odd ways. I don’t live in this world…so it’s not merely a stretch to imagine it…it’s hellish trying to get the vision from the fluidity of the brain’s landscape to the rigidity of words.

Don’t ever take world building for granted. If you watch a movie or read a book where it steps out of the everyday mundane reality of contemporary modern life…just know that whoever created that piece HAS DONE A LOT OF WORK CREATING THEIR WORLD FOR YOU.

I’m crawling through this piece, where I run through everything else. Difficulty level is at 11.

And who knows how convincing the realities of my story will even be for the future reader?! I’m asking for their suspension of disbelief, obviously…I hope I’m up to the challenge of giving them a new world to peek into.

GAH!

Deadlines and Commitments and Secret News, Oh My!

There’s a reason I love to share my good news from my writing life. It’s not because I want to brag about it. It’s not because I’m proud and I want to set myself up for a pride-goeth-before-the-fall moment. It’s so much deeper than that. I want to immediately share my writing accomplishments and milestones because I never get over being stunned that these things are happening to me. I am ALWAYS in a state of shock over my good fortune. I’m sure there’s someone standing around the next corner waiting to approach me and say, “We were only kidding, dingbat! Like these things would EVER happen to someone like you.”

But that gets a little tiring for people to hear. I know it does. I know I’M tired of hearing it. I want to own these things, take pride in them…be able to say, “I deserve this.” The truth is, I feel I am an incredibly lazy writer. I’m just waiting for the floor to fall out from under me. For people to discover just how lazy I really am when it comes to my writing life.

They say the first step is knowing that you have a problem. Sometimes I wish somebody would tell you what the second step is. What does one do with the knowledge of their problem? Enlightenment of your shortcomings seems like a huge step. I wonder how many of us try to make that initial step the journey itself. Yes, I know I have this problem…now I can die happy.

That’s not how it works. Somewhere along the line you have to discover a way to move past–move through–your problem. For me, I know my problem is about self-confidence in my abilities to write. As every accomplishment is reached, I wait for the sucker-punch that will inevitably take it away from me. I’m not worthy.

Sid Caesar died the other day (Wednesday, February 12, 2014). I wanted to share a quote of his with you.

“You think just because something good happens, THEN something bad has got to happen? Not necessarily. Two good things have happened in a row.”

That kind of smacks of his brand of humour, but it also smacks of a seemingly universal truth. Some humans have a hard time accepting good things happening to them. I suppose there is a myriad of reasons for this phenomenon. I know, for myself, I feel a high level of discomfort when a good thing happens. I don’t expect it. I worry, “BUT WHAT DOES THIS MEAN. I mean, really, mean…what does it really mean?!”

Well, lately some big GOOD THINGS have been happening to me. This time around, I’ve been trying extremely hard to just embrace them. Enjoy the ride. It might even be working somehow.

Which brings me to the deadlines and commitments. And my OH SO SECRET NEWS. (-:

I’m working fast and furious at getting through the first round of edits for HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN and BURN BABY, BURN BABY. If you see me about, please YELL AT ME. Tell me to go home. Tell me B.I.C. If you see me writing blog posts, tell me to stop! I have never had 2 manuscripts to polish at once before. This is new to me. My head is swimming with these two stories as I make my way through them. Thankfully, I despise missing deadlines and I take my commitments extremely seriously. I shall overcome! I will get these edits done.

Sometimes the work you do as a writer isn’t about creation. This is the time when it becomes a chore for me. Don’t get me wrong, though. A chore does not a burden make. I love every aspect of the writing life. There are just degrees of difficulty. My Achilles heel is the editing aspect, but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it. I just need to give myself that extra push…I think because it’s not so much about discovery as it is about repair. The initial writing process is my heroin…trying to keep the fingers moving at the same pace as the mind as I write to discover what will happen next. Nirvana!

As for the big news that I am bursting to share? I will soon be able to announce it. Again, I am attempting to come to terms with it…accept that I am worthy of it. Once the moratorium on mentioning it has been lifted, though, you best believe I’ll be talking about it. And, hopefully, fully owning the blessing as well. I do deserve these things. I may be a lazy writer, but I’m trying. I’m doing the only thing I know how to do. I’m soldiering on. I’m connecting. I’m opening my writing life up to the possibilities that surround me. And, more than anything else combined, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone. I’m attempting to do things I never once thought I was worthy of doing.

Now, if I don’t get back to editing the guillotine I set up over my head is likely to fall. And I’m too busy at the moment to lose my head.

Happy Writing! And Happy Embracing Your Inner Writer! And Happy Accepting the Good Things that Come Your Way!

R.I.P. Sid Caesar - Thanks for the funny. Thanks for the inspiration.
R.I.P. Sid Caesar – Thanks for the funny. Thanks for the inspiration.