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Archive for July, 2014

We are all connected

We are all connected

 

 

I find people endlessly fascinating, and enjoy connecting with them on multiple levels. Whether in-person or on-line, people’s views, personalities, and idiosyncrasies come through loud and clear in very short order. Some I gravitate toward easily, perhaps because of shared mind-sets and values, while others quickly become abrasive and offensive. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which. Of course I’ll seek out those whose ideas and opinions I share and enjoy, and will avoid those whose don’t mesh easily with my own. Still, I learn something from every single person I come into contact with.

 

For example, just this weekend I held a creative writing workshop at a local art centre, The Grand Bend Art Centre. It was a very small class, but that didn’t bother me. I believe in showing up for those who care to attend. I don’t like turning people away who might have an interest in learning, so when given the choice of going ahead with the small class or cancelling, I chose to go ahead. Why wouldn’t I? If even only one person shows up, then I feel I owe it to the Centre and to the attendees to do my part. The smaller classes just mean more one-on-one instruction and interaction, which can be great fun!

 

As we went through a series of small writing exercises, I began to see where each participant’s strengths and weaknesses lay, both in writing, and personally. One young girl was very shy and reluctant to share her written work aloud, even though she showed remarkable ability and promise. One woman had taught creative writing, but lacked the impetus to actually write the novel she’d always dreamed of. She too showed much promise and skill with words. What they both lacked was the ability to get themselves started on the path to writing and completing a full body of work. In short order, I knew my role; kick-starter. I was going to do what I could within the limits of four hours to ignite a spark of fire and encourage them to really start, and finish, a project.

 

Grand Bend Beach

Grand Bend Beach

One of the exercises I particularly enjoy during the workshop is what I refer to as a “walkabout”. This is where we go outside to explore the five senses and articulate what the participants see, feel, smell, touch. Writers must be able to bring forward these experiences while sitting in usually quite locations, away from the source of the experiences they are trying to write about. I wanted to remind them to be aware of the world around them on a daily basis. I wanted them to begin thinking in descriptive terms as they experienced where we were that day. Holding classes near a beach gave me excellent fodder for this type of experience and expression. We took the five minute walk down toward the lake. As we walked, I encouraged each person to describe what they saw around them. Then we stopped for a few moments, off the side of the road, and I asked them to close their eyes and describe what they heard and smelled. They talked about feeling the breeze on their skin, and hearing the cry of a gull as it swooped and dove overhead, or the sound of a squeaking bicycle gear as it passed by on the other side of the road. The scent of motor oil from boats moored nearby, and tang of fishy water assaulted their noses. By closing their eyes, they could focus on these elements one by one and experience them in a different way than they might normally. On reaching the dunes overlooking the long expanse of sand, water, and sky, they each described the tall grasses that graced the tops of the sand dunes, the leaden grey sky overhead that touched partially fog-shrouded land in the distance on one end, and cleared on the other to reveal the long pier and lighthouse close by. I reminded them that writing is about perception; their perception. The writer’s perception is everything, since it is always the writer who determines what the reader will see, hear, feel, scent, taste, and touch. Turn your head one way, and you experience one set of sensory input. Turn it the other, and you get a completely different angle. Turn your head too far, and you can’t see the other side at all, but it’s still there. Each person described the identical setting very differently, but with such passion and conviction. I loved it!

 

As I drove home from that class, I thought about how that little exercise is mirrored in our every day life and experiences. We can only perceive the world through our own senses, and we interpret those experiences in individual ways. No two people view themselves and the world around them in quite the same way. This is perfect. We aren’t meant to see and interpret the world around us exactly the same. It’s this variation that makes us unique and interesting. In that walk-about exercise, there was no right or wrong interpretation. Everything was valid and exciting. Putting words to the experiences helped us all see, for a quick span of time, through the other’s senses and mind. This is what the writer does. We share our views on the world, both real and imaginary, with others for a brief span of time. Close the book, magazine, or computer, and we all move back into our own lanes of thought, belief, and understanding. This is the magic, and joy, of writing, and life.

Writing and Life

Writing and Life

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Diving In

Diving In

This past winter I took a fair bit of time away from doing public appearances at bricks and mortar venues. After the release of my debut novel, In the Spirit of Love, I dove head first into the book marketing and publicity pool, and discovered a lot of areas I really enjoyed. I met some wonderful people, and gained invaluable experience by tapping into a number of venues. As for actual book sales, some things worked better than others. Book signings and readings were fun, but it was hit and miss in terms of actual sales. That’s okay though, since I went into it knowing it isn’t necessarily about sales; it’s about reaching new audiences, honing new skills, and just plain connecting with others. Our brutal Canadian winter of 2013/14 also had me glad not to be out on icy roads, travelling to more distant locales.

 

There was also the business of on-line networking, marketing, and promotion of this first title, while working diligently at penning, then editing the sequel, In the Spirit of Forgiveness. Writing and editing is time-consuming work. I can, and do, sit for as much as 5-6 hours per day just on those two activities, in addition to any on-line marketing. The really cool thing though, is that it doesn’t feel like 5-6 hours. Often it feels like maybe 1-2 hours. I become so engrossed in the story and the writing that it isn’t unusual for me to glance at my watch and realize time has literally flown for me. That’s a good thing. Before I began writing, I couldn’t imagine how anyone could sit at a computer and simply type up word after word, page after page-for hours. Now, I love it. It doesn’t feel like work at all.

 

With the release of In the Spirit of Forgiveness (June 1, 2014), I’m finding myself having to dive into the publicity pool again. The water is a little chilly, and I’m having to get back into the strong and steady strokes of swimming again, but I’m enjoying it. I remind myself of all the great experiences I had last year, and look forward to new ones. The hard part of course, is finding the right venues, reaching the people who book events, and making the time to get out from behind my desk.

 

I’ve discovered that the further I move into this writing gig, there really isn’t a lot of down time. Aside from the valuable and important time I want and need to spend with family and friends, I have a job that never really ends. You see, while I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting people and sharing my work with new readers, I’ve also just finished the first draft of a third novel, The King’s Consort. The real work is now ahead of me with this new WIP (work in progress). I have editing to do, at least two rounds, before sending it out to query agents and/or publishers, followed by tons of work to polish it up before it actually gets published. Although I’m currently with a small independent publisher who has done a great job for me with the first two books, I’ve decided to seek representation and/or publishing with a larger house. I have no idea if I’ll succeed, but I believe I at least have to give it a shot with this next book. It’s in a completely different genre (fact-based historical fiction), and I’m hoping it will garner some real interest.

 

Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

That means going through the entire difficult query process again, followed, inevitably, by the rejections I’m sure to receive. It’s a long, slow process, and it can be extremely intimidating. There are no guarantees it’ll be accepted anywhere, but that’s the name of the game. I figure it’s like anything new you attempt in life. You put your best foot forward, you give it your best shot, and you learn the lessons taught along the way. You also incorporate any lessons you’ve already learned. No lesson is ever wasted, whether negative or positive. I also know that, whether I pick up an agent or new publisher or not, I’ll continue to move forward with this next book. I love the story behind the facts I researched, and am keenly passionate about sharing it with readers. Because I’ve now successfully had two novels published, I’ve also gained a level of self-confidence I didn’t have before. I’m ready and excited to begin the next steps.

 

It’s daunting; this diving in again thing. But hey, every new day we wake up, we begin anew. We get up, we get dressed, and we begin our daily work. Diving back into the pool isn’t so hard the second, or third time. I know what’s coming, I gear up for the shock of cool waters, and hold my breath. Then, I start swimming long, strong strokes. Hmm, maybe I never really got out of the pool. You’re either in, or out. There is no in-between.

Fish underwater

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