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Not a single story … but a real one nevertheless


I’m donating. Why not join me?

Originally posted on johnageddes:

I simply have to share this today.

My friends Heather Haynes and Cathy Cleary have recently returned from a trip to Congo where they have been helping a group of women who have had horrific experience with war and rape and disease and poverty. Cathy and Heather have immersed themselves in attempts to assist these women. I have watched a couple of their YouTube posts and must encourage you to do the same.

My experience in East Africa has taken me to places where poverty and the consequences of poverty have impacted many lives. Lack of opportunities for education or health care, no clean water to drink and no place to defecate except a field or behind a tree or in a plastic bag that is thrown to the railroad track that runs through the slum. This is poverty beyond what you can comprehend if you don’t see it. But…

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Thats it, I’m done.

pallas-cat-manul-6__880I can’t do it anymore. I took a break, I tried again, I hated every minute. 

I’ve spent I don’t know how many dollars and hours taking writing courses over the years. I took them to learn the trade, to force the inspiration, to try to get closer to some real, for life publication. 

I’ve been published, for short things. I’ve won a prize or two. For short things. I’ve entered contests and placed. Again, for short things. I like the thrill of the dash, the lack of dreadful other stuff – the synopsis, the pleading cover letter, the explanation of WHY YOU ARE THE BEST PERSON to write this particular thing…all of that hangs over my head like a dead albatross, frozen, on a stick. I can’t face it. It is a powerful disincentive to write.

But that’s an excuse, really. The thing is, I’m missing the feeling in writing lately – that wonderful flow. You writers out there know what it’s like. It feels like walking with the gods, hand in hand with a muse. I laugh out loud when that happens, such is my joy.

I remember writing my first three day novel and laughing throughout. It was such FUN! My character took off and I raced behind her with my keyboard, trying to keep up.

There is such intense joy in such moments that it is impossible to continue when they aren’t there.

So I’ve talked with myself. I’ve bargained with myself. I know I can write, it’s not a self-confidence thing, I’m not depressed. I simply don’t want to. The world suddenly feels full of books to read and I think to myself there is no need to add mine to the pile – there are much more persistent sorts than me out there, people who will push, who need to push. 

I did all of that, in my work and in my parenting. I worked hard hard hard. I ended up disgracing myself with a breakdown caused by MS. I parented hard hard hard I played hard, too) – loved those three creatures with every cell in my being, and, well, they grow up. I exercised my way through bilateral knee replacements with MS to a recovery my own doctor finds amazing. I needle felted over 40 animals in the space of a month to raise money for MS.

So I know I can work hard. But I also know my time is more limited now. MS lurks in the shadows. To keep it at bay, I have to exercise every day. I have to rest, every day.

And in the remaining hours, I want to feel that joy, that flow. I find it when I am creating with my hands – building creatures, hooking rugs, constructing things, brewing beer, making bread, throwing pots, tactile things. Perhaps my MS brain has shifted me out of the word side, has pushed me into touch-based creations.

I remember going on a date with a fellow once – we went to Westport, ON, and as we walked along, I ran my hands along the stone buildings, feeling their texture. He wondered why. I couldn’t explain, but it was the same temptation that made me want to run my hands over his shoulders – he was a professional hammer thrower and his shoulders felt like warm granite, bulked with muscle I’d never before felt.

So I’m leaving the darkened corners of my head, that place where writing lurks and refuses to come out and play, and heading into the tactile light. 

Don’t be alarmed if I touch you.

I’m so popular!!!

twitter_follow_meGosh. My little heart is overwhelmed. Today I had three new people start following me on Twitter. I’ve got 532 followers now.

Makes my heart feel all warm and cuddled.

Except that 75% of these are either self-published authors who do nothing, nothing, nothing of interest except use the platform to advertise their books, or people who offer to help me promote my self-published book.

I don’t have a self-published book.

I may in the future, but you can bet your callused writing fingers that I won’t be hiring some shady Twitter creeper to help me market it. And I HAVE bought the occasional book from a twitter feed (see William Frederick), but that’s cos his twitter comments were funny, they made me snort coffee out of my nose, they engaged me and I wanted to read more of what he had to say. His book is a fun romp, too – I encourage y’all to check it out. And God. His/Her tweets are worth a read.

Oh, you social media people, do please stop to think about all the noise out there. People will not be enchanted by repeated entreaties to buy books. Tell them a story, tell them about you, make them look by doing something silly. Make it worth their while to spend the time with you.

As for my twitter friends, well, sorry if I’m not in touch with you all. I rarely tweet and if I do, it’s all about current events or things that grab my attention. Your multi-hashtags and repeated titles  – not so much.

See you on the inter webs.


Writing resistance

So, I’ve just realized a project I thought was nearly done is in fact, only halfway there.

It’s too short. It’s 24,000 words. It should be 35-40,000. I could weep.

I’m tempted to send it around as a novella and hope it gets published that way. But I’m also tempted to rewrite the entire thing and add bits to where it is thin and FIX it. It will take me a long time. But the story will have more depth, something that my wonderful writing mentor, Donna Morrissey, suggested when I was working with her thorough Humber’s School for Writers.

But I can’t help but wonder, is this a real need or is this resistance? I just finished reading the excellent The War of Art by Stuart Pressman. It’s filled with tales of how/why we procrastinate. The tune was familiar. I could probably play it on my ukulele. Let me just see…

But I digress.

I could also felt a scene to describe it. Let me try that…

The sad thing is that I set myself up for mocking as I procrastinate. Everyone is onto me now. Truth is, I find writing HARD. I enjoy it when I’m in the flow, but the flow is harder and harder to maintain. That’s why I can actually do the three day novel contest, but no way can make it through Nanowrimo.

I’m a 50 yard dasher. I always have been, even in school. I could run like the dickens for 50 yards, but my energy petered out for the long term. It wasn’t until I laboured for my daughter for 18 hours that I realized I had strength to endure, and it’s not like I had any choice in that.

So I fling myself into a writing jag and block out people but I can only maintain it for a while. Then I find my wandering eye sliding over to a neat art project or that pile of yarn or a book to read or a tune to play…and the flow is lost.

Resistance? ADD? Or am I just not suited to writing, after all?

Every time I start writing, I go through all of these doubts and then I realize how perfectly I’ve created a wall to doing it. I need to do what I’ve done before in all sorts of other areas and just shaddup and push on through.

From Writers Circle:



Writing the victim

Victim_role-300x239I’m battling with my story characters. They have spent a long time not dealing with things, and as such have made themselves victims. The family is destroyed, the relationships between members are severed, and at least one child is severely harmed, and all because the family jointly determined they were victims and pulled the horribleness into bed with them.

It’s not that I don’t sympathize. God knows I’ve been a sucky victimish-assuming type now and again. But it’s hard for me to get into the let’s not deal with things until they destroy ourselves mindset.

Nope, I’m more active. I push at things until disaster hits me full in the face. Why wait, I figure? Why not bring it right on immediately, and devil take the hindmost if other people aren’t ready to take it on at the same time…

Not that that’s any better, mind. In fact, it’s often worse. But it’s where my bull-in-a-china-shop mind takes me. So dealing with my more passive characters is a challenge. And it’s very instructive. The more I write them, the more I find it hard to write them.

In amongst this, I find myself less tolerant of victims in general.

Writing is SUCH a fascinating work. In the midst of this story, which I started writing because I was feeling victimized myself, I discover an intolerance I thought I didn’t have. And it’s making it hard to identify with my characters.

So what this tells me is that I’ve got to find additional depth in the characters I’ve written. It’s like finding that one good thing in an evil character that redeems him or her, makes the character believable and even likeable. I’ve got to find that strength in my characters that makes me like them, challenged as they are. Because we all do have that strength, the strength to choose the life we want.

Yeah, sometimes we get kicked to the curb, by circumstance, by illness, by lack of resources – but we can control the way we face those challenges. We can stop pulling that comfy blanket of denial and other-blame over our heads and step out into the chill, shake our arms and stomp our feet, and take steps in the direction we want to go. If nothing else, we can change our attitude to the life we are leading and make a positive corner in it.

We may never get to our goals, but we for sure won’t get there by blaming others for our shortcomings or bad choices. At least if we’re walking on our own, we know why we are taking small crooked steps.

Or, in the case of my characters, we can take responsibility for what we didn’t do, and make amends.

Sigh. So back I go….


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Author Guest Post: 5 Tips for Aspiring Writers by Robyn Schneider

Originally posted on The Savvy Reader:

Robyn Schneider is the talented writer behind the endearing novel, The Beginning of Everything. Her newest book Extraordinary Means is available in stores today and she is celebrating by sharing some of her best writing tips with the aspiring authors out there!

5. Write a practice novel or two. Learn how to pace a book, learn what your personal themes are, how you write about them, and what your weaknesses are. Then write another book, which will be easier.


4. Read your favorite books critically. Ask yourself why you like them. Is it a character? The world? The banter? Then ask yourself structural questions. How long is the book? How long are the chapters? Is there a lot of dialogue, or a lot of action? Knowing what elements make up the stories you love will help guide you when you sit down to write your own.


3. Outline before you…

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Families, or what would we write about without them?

stick-figure-family-stickers-12Saw a mini-van today with a partial stick-figure family on the back – just the dad and the son. The mom and another child had obviously been peeled off (in a fit of pique? In sorrow? In rage?). So I wondered. What happened to the other figures (there might even have been a dog there, or a cat)? What happened to the family? Was it a divorce, one kid each arrangement, or was it a terrible tragedy? Did the dad murder the other two and then rip off the stick figures so no one would wonder (ineffectively)? Does the mom have a car with the other two figures stuck on?

So many authors write about their dysfunctional families. It’s tempting. Fits right in with the “write what you know” dictum, especially given that we really have no idea how other families live. I used to try to imagine how my friends lived at home, but unless you were there 24/7, you could never be sure they weren’t putting on an act for you. They always seemed quieter than my family…

As a parent, you are learning all the time. You make mistakes. You try again. You fight with your kids, your partner. You break up. People stop speaking to one another. They start again. I used to think it was all good as long as there were some feelings – when I did home visiting, that saddest children were the ones who were neglected – no one cared about them. At least if their parent was yelling at them, they noticed they were there, I figured.

In my head, I’m the sort of parent who would peel off the stickers on the back of the car in a fit of pique. How I long for the Jewish tradition of rending clothing while shouting “I have no son!” It would be so cathartic, but my Roman Catholic upbringing means I get to sit around instead, feeling awful when my kids ignore me or treat me badly because somewhere in my guilty heart, I know I must have done something, sometime, to deserve such treatment. Or if something bad happens with friends or complete strangers, I know that it must’ve been because of something I did. In a way, it’s nice to always have an explanation.

So I get hurt, and then my brain gets busy. How could I use this pain in a story? How can I take the feelings and put them to good use, as so many other authors have done?

God knows I have enough meat for several novels. The question is, do I make them mysteries and kill off all those I want to hurt back (mwah hah hah), or do I make everything turn out all right in the end? Maybe I should have aliens from another planet intercede. Or maybe something in-between?

All I know is that despite the slings and arrows, I’m grateful. If everyone were sweet as pie, why, I’d have nothing interesting to say.


(But sometimes, sometimes, that might be nice.)