Essays, Misc

What’s Up and What’s Not: A Writing Journey Update

Welcome back! It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but once you read the first two sections below I think you’ll know why. That said, after seeing how time had passed, I figured I should do as promised and update you all on my current writing journey.

Let us begin with the telling of the first harrowing tale of disappointment…

The Hole:

From alexiuss.deviantart.com
From alexiuss.deviantart.com

First off, I literally dropped out of writing. Mental and physical fatigue from working hard at it for so long and so intensely, as well as the onset of a full-time work schedule and the kids going back to school disrupted things so much that it became just impossible to do any serious writing. It hurt. It made me quasi-depressed. I worried that I’d loose the skills and all the momentum I’d built over the years. But this is life: we are called to make tough decisions all the time. So I sucked it up, gritted my teeth and trimmed the fat, as it were. Still, I am hopeful the break will be for a short time only, just long enough for things to fall into place and me to catch my breath…and sanity.  

On to harrowing tale number two…

A Warning:

Please take the following to heart: for those who write a lot, you might have come into contact with a terrible, terrible problem that few people write about, elbow tendonitis and/or neck pain. I have both. The neck pain has been around for a while but got increasingly worse because of an old habit of writing in bed. As I write these words, I realize how stupid that was, but at the time, I didn’t think about it: I wanted to write where I felt the most comfortable and, consequently, the most inspired. Nothing felt more sterile to me than writing at a desk. It was only when my leg would go numb from being bent for so long that I finally ‘got it’. So I changed sites, only to encounter another problem: even while seated at a table, tilting my head to look down at my laptop still caused pain. Worse, sitting at a table high enough to accommodate my neck meant messing with the angle of my hands on the keyboard which led to yet another problem (hello wrist and elbow pain!) I’m still trying to find a better solution. 

So, writers, be careful! Think ergonomics! Protect your body to ensure you have a long writing life, one that isn’t hampered by chronic pain. For those who have already succumbed, I found some videos with some great info: check them out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Csb91xr0x00 : This shows a massage technique I like a lot

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3GoDQ9ylZY: This video shows some good exercises

http://youtu.be/TTRcXeJ22ds: Despite the rough opening, she has good suggestions for posture, etc.

Do you have any tips/suggestions about this? I’d love to hear them.

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On to the final tale of horror and disappointment…

 The conference in Ontario: Fail

I had planned on attending CAN•CON: The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature in Ottawa this fall, only that didn’t pan out. And really, it’s because of a stupid reason: I’d intended to share a table with a fellow writer to sell books but it cost too much to print and ship them to Canada! See, 2 years ago when I was looking for a company to publish my book, The Purple Morrow, there didn’t seem to be many suitable Canadian options so I looked to the US. I had them printed but knew nothing about duty fees and provincial taxes so the total cost was more than expected, but I managed. This time around, even though I was asking for a reprint, the quote was ridiculously high– even the publisher agreed. So no books, no conference. Note to Canadian writers:  keep this in mind when choosing your publisher: if you can, go local. 

But the sun rises! Here follow positive testimonies…

The writing group: Score!

This has been one of the biggest pleasant surprises yet. After hearing other people’s experiences with writing groups which were less than satisfactory, I had no idea what to expect when I joined one in July. The writing scene in Montreal (and Canada), at least what I’ve come into contact with, is largely literary—that seems to be where the action’s at. So it felt weird that I, mostly a genre writer, would set foot in this camp, even joining a writing federation (more to come).

I’ll be honest: the group was a culture shock. Online, where most of you know me, I’ve been in contact with other genre writers. It’s comfortable, and I see myself and my writing journey reflected in a lot of you. However, the women I met in the group more experienced (in life as well as in writing), and–doggone it!–better than me. Okay, ‘better’ is subjective, so how about…more adept in producing the kind of writing I’d like to one day. Weeks later, I admit I still have to check my confidence. Which piece do I submit? Will they think it sucks? And it’s hard to get feedback face to face. But it’s because they are so smart, so experienced, so passionate about what we do that makes the group work for me. They analyse everything, see meaning in things I never had. Some are poets, a true gift, which enables me to see the world through different eyes. It’s downright stimulating. If you can get into such a group, by all means at least try. 

From ballerwives.com
From ballerwives.com

Luckily, the women are welcoming of my contributions, even if my pieces seem to come out of left field. As much of my writing has a literary or lyrical feel to it, I find reading their works and listening to our discussions challenging, refreshing, while still somewhat familiar; I am embracing and assimilating whatever I can. I just hope they are willing to put up with my space ships and warring clansmen a little longer. 😀 

alien

The Writing Federation: Score!

Being a solo writer is hard. Not having the right ‘connections’ or access to resources  can be discouraging. Without support it’s hard to ‘get out there and get known.’ So I joined the Quebec Writer’s Federation in the summer around the time I joined the writing group. In July, I attended their Schmoozer event which was a great experience (you can read about it here). I met some neat people and got an introductory feel for what the local writing culture is about.

The Federation provides opportunities to network, as well as other things like workshops and mentorships. I’ve signed up for a workshop on how to break into the publishing market, which is scheduled for December. The best part is that it’s animated by the owner of a publishing house. Score! I haven’t yet heard anything about the upcoming mentorships but my ears are open.

There’s something else. Every month I get emails listing publications looking for submissions, which means I don’t have to look myself, a very time-consuming activity. Because of that, I’ve submitted to four different publications. I’ve had one rejection (which was expected since their preference was short stories over novel excerpts and I had submitted the latter); and one acceptance! It’s for the CAA Anthology of Montreal Writers VOLUME 6, the first publication featuring my work that people have to buy. I mean, it’s an actual physical publication, something people can hold in their hand and put on their shelf. *Happy sigh* That’ll be out in December. And yes, I’m thrilled. 🙂

Anyway, that’s all the big news for now. Hope you enjoyed reading about my ups and downs, hopefully feel inspired and motivated. Please drop me a line: How is your journey going? Successes? Lessons learned? Please share!

Essays, Misc

Hoofin’ It! Another Step Forward

So, my diabolical plan to slowly take over the bookstore world one book at a time took another step forward today. 🙂 Last week, I visited Beazley Books in my first stop to get The Purple Morrow into the hands of local readers. This morning, I headed to M’as-tu lu?, a new and used bookstore that sells English and French books.

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After the great experience I had last week, I decided to take my son along so that he too could experience a different sort of book store. As a family, one of our favourite outings is to visit the massive Chapters (Indigo) chain store, browse and buy books and then sit down for some hot cocoa and a snack. But I thought it would be nice for him to see what a smaller, home-grown shop was like—one where we can hear each other when we speak and where you can talk to the owner and feel welcome and appreciated just for being there. It’s amazing what a simple, “Bonjour!” can do.

M’as-tu lu? is co-owned by mother and daughter duo Michelyne and Melody. Today, I was greeted with a great big smile, wonderful enthusiasm and friendly conversation. It was nice to see the store promoting and selling books and art from other home-grown artists and that people were constantly coming into the store to browse—and buy.

Now, for those of you who don’t know much about Quebec, we’re located in a country that is bilingual—English and French—but the province of Quebec is French-speaking. Being an Anglo author (English speaking) then becomes something of a rarity. Lucky for me, I am the first Anglo author to contact the store and the owner very kindly offered to stock my book as well as post promotional materials like posters, bookmarks, etc. (which reminds me, I have to crack the whip and get my husband going on those!) Also, they referred me to a community newspaper, and after speaking with them, it’s possible they will interview me or review The Purple Morrow. 😀

All this to say that, so far, getting out into the community is a great experience. My son got dragged out of the world of Minecraft long enough to be exposed to a more personal side of the book market and seeing the benefit of local people helping each other, as well as getting to see his mother pursuing her dream of not only writing a book but actively getting it out into the real world. That strikes me as an invaluable lesson for kids growing up in a world where they are told they “can do anything” but don’t always have the means or know-how to do so. I also know he’s proud of me, and that it meant a lot that I invited him to share this experience with me.

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So, what’s the purpose of this post besides blathering excitedly about another positive experience hoofin’ it? For one, these last two weeks have really built my confidence in the product I have to offer. When people see what you have to offer and value it, right away you stand up straighter with swelling pride. I love my book, but something profound happens when I see people respond to it, even if it’s just to the cover. Don’t get me wrong. Receiving feedback online is fantastic, but when you can see someone’s eyes light up in front of you… that’s something no one can take away. When I left Beazley Books and M’as-tu lu? I felt confident they would be enthusiastic to show/refer my book to a customer. Finally, I hope to encourage other authors to consider tapping into their local markets in addition to the online one. So far, I’ve seen they are open to supporting home-grown entrepreneurs. The worst they can say if you call or email is no. But what if they say yes?

Anyway, that’s my Hoofin’ It! piece for the week. Drop me a line and let me know what you think. Have you ventured out into the local business market for your books? Do you prefer to promote and market online? I’d love to hear your thoughts.