Writing classes, or how to spend lots of money without really having to write

13 10 2018

I’m guilty. I’ve been signing up for writing classes since I started writing way back when become-a-writermy youngest was 2 or so (He’s in his late 20’s). I’ve done college classes (excellent), online courses (variable).  Like Claudia Casper, I love literary festivals as well (SO fun and full of kindred spirits and one was in Iceland, just saying). I’ve done Humber, Gotham, and a few other classy places.

One could argue that I’ve been wallowing in writing courses and socializing with other writers rather than actually (ahem) images-2writing. But I have been published here and there over the years and was feeling pretty confident until I started writing for public health and was told I needed to suck all the life out of things. Now I have too much life in things.  It’s like, once the boot of writing pamphlets was lifted off my neck, all I seem to be able to write is bad language, unusual sex scenes, and naughty characters. And religion.

I MAY be working a few things out somewhere in the depths of my brain.

220px-Margaret_Atwood_2015I’ve just finished a Masterclass online, taught by Margaret Atwood. I’ve had my difficulties with Ms. Atwood, with her negative worldview, and most especially with the stranglehold she has on Canadian Literature. In a sour grapes way, I complain about the FOMA (Friends of Margaret Atwood), those who get slid in for Booker prizes on their first attempt, the upper crust of writers. (I am still bitter about Vincent Lam’s Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, which is yet another memoir about how awful doctor training is. They should try nursing training – the same disadvantages with much less pay and no respect.) (OMG, Bloodletting has been optioned for television! Gawd.)(I really don’t think it’s very good, can you tell?)

But I’m slipping into my usual pit of writerly jealousy and self-hatred (What have I published recently, anyway???). So, back to the class. Very rarely in the writing biz you fall across someone who is both a good writer and a good teacher. Margaret Atwood is one of those rare angels. (As are Christina Decarie and Meg Wolitzer and David Lebovitz and Claudia Casper, to name a few) The others I mentioned are good face to face, where I met them. Margaret Atwood manages to be warm, engaging, encouraging and realistic while chatting to a screen. As in Steven King’s wonderful On Writing, her course offers nuggets of information that are worth the time and expense to obtain.

Well, at least I think so, and as I said, I’m a bit of an expert in these things.

My favourite tidbit of advice from Margaret Atwood’s course?

“The wastepaper basket is your friend. It was invented for you, by God.”

I’m posting that on my computer. I need to remember this. For all of my creative endeavours…it’s freeing and opens the door to literary and creative play. After all, no one has to hear a wastepaper basket scream… and I can even use my crafting urge to create the basket itself!

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Does It Ever Get Dark Here – Little Fiction | Big Truths – Medium

5 08 2018

IN the summer, busloads of American tourists arrive in the Yukon. Invariably awed by the midnight sun, they shuffle up to locals, ice cream cones in one hand and guidebooks in the other, asking…
— Read on medium.com/little-fiction-big-truths/does-it-ever-get-dark-here-9f51d9b012fc

Love the writing in this. I can feel that hate in me, too, but it is for sunshine and heat and humidity….





“If we are not sometimes baffled and amazed and undone by the world around us, rendered speechless and stunned, perhaps we are not paying close enough attention.” Ben Marcus

13 05 2017

“So You Want To Be a Writer” – excellent article by the Guardian. I love the Guardian. A voice of sanity in a baffling world.

 





Hot Milky Tea

21 02 2017

cup-milk-tea-20969682I’ve been feeling so unsettled lately. The horror of DT’s first month reminds me of those other DTs – not that I’ve had them, mind you, but I’ve seen people in the throes of delirium tremens and it isn’t pretty.

I’m kind hoping that some of the people who voted the way they did are feeling a bit of that now – having over drunk the wine of hatred, they are swiftly and agonizingly detoxing as they see what’s going on.

Though I rather suspect not.

1418268334632And the world writhes. Like my stomach.
Used to be that people would recommend hot sweet tea for shock. It solved everything from post-amputation pain to a sliver in your thumb. I’ve taken to drinking it in the morning now. Coffee is too much for my agitated stomach.
I don’t drink it sweet – but milky is almost as good for shock, I hear, and oh so soothing to my tum.

In the back of my mind, I hear, homeostasis, homeostasis. All of life tends toward balance. It also tends toward entropy, which is where I feel we are now – the population finally realizing that democracy is a participatory sport, trying to fit decades of “just lying back and thinking of England” in with brains now realizing they don’t like what is happening, that they prefer to be part of the choice to be fucked over.

images-12It’s both exciting and terrifying, a race to some end. Having lived through the Cuban Missile Crisis and been told how to cower under my desk in event of an atomic attack, having lived in Germany during the Cold War and been given the pamphlet telling us how to survive in case of war – painting our windows white to repel the flash, storing 6 months of food and water, seeking out bomb shelters (which were marked everywhere in Germany and in Boston where I grew up), having sat through the test of the emergency broadcast system frequently on TV, I have a bit of remembered feelings of nuclear fear. They are here again, a niggling thought in the back of my mind. And in others’, too. Sales of bomb shelters are on the rise.

images-10Or maybe my fears are foolish and all this will result in a safer and more involved world, one that has looked into darkness and rebelled. Maybe this is the final impotent spurt of pale white men with big guts and empty souls, those worshippers of credit cards and such (read American Gods by Neil Gaiman).

The question that makes me agitated is, which will it be?

Thus the need for soothing tea. I’m not sure who to be more frightened of – DT, or the people behind him who are working double fast to remove all controls on business, or the appeaser countries, fearful of losing trade, so tossing self-respect in the wind and crawling cravenly to make peace
with a bully.

In any case, there’s little I can do about it, other than write to various representatives, protest where I can, make art, and drink my tea. And enjoy the chirping spring birds, the warmth of the sun, the icy snow, the taste of wine and cheese, the faces of my friends. We are living in blessed times in so many ways here in North America. They may be the last we have, whether through ecological change or rapid disaster.

Mind you, we’ve thought that before. Every age seems to think it is teetering on the edge of the abyss. Maybe this outing of our baser instincts, this example of how far our neglect has let us come, will cause the revolution we truly need to have happen.

Or maybe we’ll simply sink back into our couches, tired from all the protesting, and sip our milky sweet tea.

Let’s hope not. Cozy  and tummy-soothing though it is.

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More to read – this looks great – reblog..

5 02 2017

If you liked The Book Of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, then try Steal Away Home by Karolyn Smardz Frost. Here’s why…

via If You Liked The Book Of Negroes, Try… — The Savvy Reader





So impressed…

3 11 2016

I had the very good fortune to meet Judy Penz Sheluk some years ago at the fabled  (and sadly, deceased) Bloody Words Mystery Writers Conference. We’ve kept in touch since and I always like to hear from her, but lately she has zoomed on, winning all sorts of awards for her second novel, and I just had to mention her here both to say congrats and bask in reflected glory. You see, we once had a discussion over Tim’s oatmeal and she taught me about that, too. (It is surprisingly good.) I’ve learned a lot from Judy.

She’s a powerhouse. Just sitting by her sets your energy to a high vibrate – she is kind and encouraging, but she just goes. It’s like driving on a highway next to a Porsche. You feel the slipstream and you want to go faster, too.

An example is her website: (click on the image)websiteheader3

It’s stunning (as are her awards). In addition to writing two excellent novels and countless short stories, she’s got marketing down, big time (as the evil T would say). I watch from the sidelines, feeling the breeze and appreciating the energy. She is a professional writer. Me, an amateur. I rather suspect it will be ever thus. For one thing, she gets things done. For another, she gets a ton of things done. Me, I dabble. (ergo my Masters degree and no PhD – focus is difficult, and I hate paperwork.)

It’s well worth spending some time on Judy’s website, even now during Nanowrimo. For one thing, you will see how a professional website should be set up. But beyond that, the site is packed full of reviews and interviews with other authors, information on the publishing journey, links to writing associations and groups, even information on antiques.

It’s utterly splendid and can give you hope when you are in deep into your November writing and realize you are hopelessly lost and you will never be good at writing and life sucks and all that – then look at Judy’s website and realize that her first novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose. was published only this year and she has another one out already , Skeletons in the Attic, and who knows where she is headed next!

The website is a motherlode of information. Everything from how to name your characters to how the whole publishing thing works. It’s written in an easy, “you can do it” tone, and I find it cheering to see all the new release reviews.

Of course, I’m still toiling away at my books and stories, being more of a Ford Focus (go fast occasionally, slow right down unexpectedly) kind of writer. I’m glad I get to see Judy whipping past on the left.  I know she’s working hard, doing all the things she should. It is wildly impressive. Check out her site. You’ll be impressed, too.

Better still, read her books. I don’t usually read cozy mysteries as I prefer my mysteries darker and colder, but Judy’s are turny and twisty enough I can’t see what’s happening until the end. I like that. Plus now I want to own an old house and an antique shop and live in a small town. I want to hang out with her characters and slap the bad ones. I can’t wait for novel number THREE!

For now, THREE cheers to you, Judy, for your well-deserved successes. I hope you don’t mind if I look on and maybe learn a few tips!

 

 





Humidity

5 08 2014

humid-pic-300x230Ah, you’ve gotta love the Maritimes when they decide to get hot.

On the one hand, my hair looks fabulous. Curly hair + product + humidity = delectable curls.

On the other, I want to cut it all off and let the air cross my fevered skull. I pin it up maliciously and tear it out when the bobby pins have clung too strongly.

Worst thing is my brain goes into park in heat and humidity. I gaze about myself, mouth-breathing, slack-jawed, not a creative cell in my entire little grey collection.

It’s a good job I only really have one deadline to think about – a writing one that I want to do. And one that I’ve already begun, so the words I have to write can be pulled out of the already connected synapses up in my grey fog.

But I know if this humidity doesn’t break soon, I’m going to snap, like the French do during le vent d’autan

Although for my part, a good wind would be appreciated. Right now it’s like living in a dirty damp dishrag. My sheets are wet, my carpet is almost squishy, my cat is morbidly depressed. There’s a persistent feeling of mould.

And even though my delectable curls will become a Phyllis-Dillerish mass, I can’t wait for the rain to collect the humidity and bring it to the ground.

Maybe then my brain will wake up and I’ll be able to think…

humidity-blah

excellent drawing by Kate Elizabeth Queram

 

 








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