Category Archives: Ev Bishop

Find a place you trust

Trust That Place

Trust That Place

A week or so back, I wrote about the power and inspiration I found in Corita Kent’s words, “Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail. There’s only make.” I then promised (threatened!) to share my thoughts on some of the other Immaculate Heart College Art Department Rules in the future. Well, the future, to quote some guy from somewhere, sometime, is now. And I’m starting with Rule 1.

Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.

If you read my blog, you’ve no doubt heard me allude to some of my many insecurities and neuroses as a writer (and sometime, just to change things up, I’m going to write about the flipside—the bizarre ego and arrogance I also have . . . but that’s another day). I almost always go on to say that the solution is to write anyway. Write through the fear. Write through the conviction that whatever I’m writing is crap. Write through the confidence that this piece is the one that will finally pull the curtain from in front of everyone’s eyes and reveal me for the impostor I am. Etc., etc., etc! (And I believe that: writing through, despite—even because of—whatever terror or sadness or confusion I’m feeling is crucial.)

I’m sure I’ve also shared that when I’m writing, in the act itself, I’m freed from my obsessive inner whining, criticizing, and self-abuse. I love stories. I love words. I love the adventure and freedom and challenge in trying to express the worlds within me—and I’m endlessly fascinated by the worlds and wild places that exist in others. On the outside we often share such similar lives—and our inner lives have similarities too—but how those similarities manifest in our dreams, visions, and imaginations are so crazily divergent.

I trust that writing place, when I’m deep into a plot, running through an essay, or mucking about in the dark recesses of my past, one hand out so I don’t smash my face on a low hanging limb, searching for the word or phrase to get that image out on the page.

I don’t always know why I write (though I try to articulate it once in awhile)—or what I should write. (Is there a form of writing that’s higher than another? Are some literary or artistic pursuits more worthy than others? Is seeking to entertain enough? Can one ever aspire to more than that without being a pretentious idiot?) But I trust that I should be writing. And I trust that inner place.

It’s the latter part of the quote I’m working on: And then try trusting it for a while. As in, maybe letting myself get all crazy with self-doubt and angst and really mean self criticism when I’m not physically writing is something I can work to let go of . . . and, actually, as I write this, I realize something that makes me freakishly happy: to a large degree, I have let go of it.

Yes, I’m still familiar with the winding tunnels of insecurity—but I have map to get through them. I know the language of creativity curses—and have counter spells. I used to want to write, need to write—yet didn’t write. I didn’t trust the place—and wasn’t sure it existed, or that I could find it if it did exist.

It is still hard to get to the page . . . fighting inner dragons, toughening up your maiden self, nurturing your mother side, honing your inner crone . . . it’s hard work (exhilarating, joyful, fun—but also intimidating, trying, scary . . .) But something has changed. I used to worry . . . What if there’s nothing there when I try to write? Now I know there’s stuff there, will always be stuff there . . . It’s more like I have to use a scythe to cut all the distracting ideas away so I can get to the ones I really want to explore.

I trust the place. I’ve been trusting it for a while. And that’s . . . well, pretty cool.


Lessons From Bubble Pop

I have an embarrassing confession. I have an addiction. To Facebook games—specifically Tetris Battle and silly, bright-coloured, manically cheerful Bubble Pop Battle. I live in two states: on the wagon and off the wagon.
 
When I’m on the wagon, I accomplish things, meet deadlines, get work done in the yard, and even, occasionally, clean my house. When I’m off the wagon (have broken its wheels and driven it over a cliff!), I stay up way too late to play just one more round, lament how I never have time to write, explain to my family that we might move permanently to fend-for-yourself meals for dinner—and that will probably only work if Dad goes grocery shopping.
 
When I’m in this hand-cramped, escalating-theme-music-wormed state (the later, in case you don’t know, is when a song lodges in your head and won’t go away), I justify my lack of self-control with soothing rationalizations: “It’s good stress release,” or “These types of games help improve spatial skills,” or . . . “I don’t have a lot of other vices.”
 
Then something amazing happened. I actually learned a legitimately important lesson, or rather, had something I know but sometimes forget, reinforced in a silly, bright-coloured, manically cheerful way!
 
Like so many lessons, the Bubble Pop epiphany was triggered by crisis.
 
I logged into Facebook to play, I promise, just five rounds of Bubble Pop (and at a minute a round, that’s not too, too bad an indulgence, right?). Before I could hit “play,” however, a little box popped up announcing that after September 30, Bubble Pop was done. Would no longer be available. THE TRAUMA!!!!!!
 
The creators then, remembering their commitment to manic cheeriness and good will, added, “As a token of our appreciation, we have credited your account with tons of coins.”
 
Whoaaaa . . . Sounds like a dream, right? I certainly thought so. The coins are actually limitless, which means every bubble-bursting weapon (and life protection aid) was at my disposal. I could play forever. I could never die. Muauahahahhahahahahahahaha! A monster was almost born, except—
 
Except it turns out that in Bubble Pop, as in life, things that come too easily, without work or effort or some sort of cost (time, resources, etc.), lose their value and interest for me. Become boring. Unsatisfying. Blah.
 
I do, on occasion, like most of us I suppose, think things like:
 
If only I’d win the lottery, so I wouldn’t have to work anymore—life would be perfect!
 
If only all my relationships were completely effortless, nothing but an unending stream of Hallmark movie worthy moments forever—
 
If only I didn’t have to do chores, and the house and yard and laundry and dishes took care of themselves . . . I’d have limitless free time to explore things I really care about.
 
If only I didn’t have to struggle to learn new techniques, programs, or material . . . my work and creative life would be ideal.

 
No. Wrong. False. Thoughts like that are based on the erroneous notion that ease brings contentment. I find the reverse is true. Periods of rest, relaxation and “having a good time” are lovely (and necessary), but too much holidaying makes me restless. Irritable.  
 
Pushing myself. Digging deeper. Not knowing if I have the resources or ability to tackle a new task or pull off a new endeavour . . . exhilarating! Challenge keeps life interesting, makes work meaningful, and helps relationships continue to grow and deepen and be satisfying.
 
Bubble Pop can’t truly get full credit for reminding me of all this, but (sadly, embarrassingly!) it did trigger thought . . . and for now, until some other captivating Internet game snags me, I’m back on the wagon, working on things much more interesting and time-worthy than popping yellow, purple, red and blue bubbles with my oh-so-cute cannon . . . trying to ignore the part of me that misses the pop-pop-pop.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

“Lessons From Bubble Pop” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, September 25, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
 


“Are you nobody too?” – Emily Dickinson

Prompted by the question, “If someone said they liked to read “vaguely romantic” poetry, whose work might that be?” posted in a writing forum I frequent, I started going through my head for poets I love/have loved and poems that have moved me.

The first names that popped to my mind were Sarah Teasdale, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Al Purdy–and one line, “A girl freezes in a telephone booth” (which comes from beautiful, if ripping, untitled poem by Andrei Voynesensky).

Then I turned to a hardcover journal that I got when I was sixteen or so. It holds favourite poems and quotes from my teen years, transposed from the various scraps of paper and spiral notebooks that the words had previously called home, along with passages and snippets that have resonated with me in later years. I’m slightly in awe of how much poetry I used to read–and by the poets I gravitated to, long before I knew they were “somebodies” in the literary world.

While I’m a fiction addict, there’s something about poetry that calls to me and speaks to me in a way that no other written form does. I wonder if it’s because poems are created with the words we find within ourselves when all other words fail us?

I don’t consider it a great work of art or anything, but I had fun with the following poem late last fall and feel satisfied that I captured, at least in part, the mood of that evening. It’s also nice now, in the heart of winter, to remember there are always aspects of deep weather that I enjoy.

Winter’s Eve

All is crinkly-crisp this night
Golden leaves are icy folds—wrinkled, whiskered
Street lamps glow and show
Grassy-green, silver-sheened
Underfoot, crushed mint
Overhead, elf-wine scent
Mountain ash berries ferment

Clear sky
Cold sky
Black with star eyes

Woodsmoke sighs
It won’t snow yet

                                    – Ev Bishop, copyright 2009

 I hope you’re digging into the words within you this week. And if you can’t find a story, seek out a poem.


Thanksgiving 2011

In just a little while I’ll be heading out to a second day of Thanksgiving feasting and I’m hoping I can do the spread justice, as I’m still full from yesterday’s imbibing and merrymaking at my house.

My stomach isn’t the only thing that’s bursting, however. As corny as it is, my heart and mind are too.

My dad, though unfortunately not—and maybe not ever—out of the woods, is, however, home again after many months away. Having him back and looking well and feeling energetic and a bit angst-ridden because he’s chomping at the bit, wanting to do stuff is amazing. He has a great appetite and is more than up to visiting.

And one of my oldest and dearest friends is up visiting from The House in Spruce Grove, Alberta—and another of my most kindred spirits is arriving from across the pond later this week.

My little kids (actually not so little) are healthy and thriving. My husband and I are enjoying autumn and the crisp air, vivid colours, and food prep (Mmmmm, blackberry jam, smoked salmon, pickles and huge batches of homemade soups for the freezer) that come with it.

Writing inspiration has been more plentiful than ever lately (two new novel ideas, and schemes about a putting together a poetry chapbook), I’m almost finished the second draft of my latest work-in-progress, and I’m preparing to head off to SiWC 2012 in ten days—yay and yay!

There are always hard things in life and some seasons that are tougher than others. After a few particularly gruelling months, coming together with people I love and consciously focussing on and celebrating the good things—the blessed things—that co-exist with the hard ones is wonderful.

Whether it’s your Thanksgiving month or not, I hope little things happen this week that remind you of all the good in your life—particularly if you have some not-so-good stuff you’re dealing, too.

Happy reading, writing, thinking—eating.

:) Ev


Vigil

Words come harder some days than others. But (at least for today) I don’t mind. The labour makes sense to me: words have always been my lifeline—and well, life comes harder some days than others, too, doesn’t it?

My dad has just been diagnosed with cancer (Multiple Myeloma) and while (again, at least for today) I’m feeling cautiously optimistic, it’s hard to not have just the word “cancer” turn my stomach to lead. Maybe for anyone. Maybe more so if you’ve already lost a parent to it. I don’t know.

I’ve been spending long hours with him at the hospital, helping him, trying to make sense (and a record) of the foreign language of cancer treatment plans and drugs, visiting him and talking/reading with him when he’s up to it—and when he’s not, just listening to the weirdly reassuring hiss and sighs of his oxygen, IV, and the massage cuffs we have on his calves. In a strange heart-twisting way, the time we’re spending together is lovely.

When my mom was dying I was hit constantly by the horrible irony of how vivid contemplating death made life. She was sickest over summer when the whole natural world around me was at its most brilliant, its most poignant, its most alive. I had an almost three-year-old, precocious and fascinated by everything: language, stories, trees, sticks, dirt, puddles, rocks, chocolate (“Candy is good for me, Mom—it tastes good, so it’s good for me!”); I had my little son growing in my belly, turning me as round as the harvest moon that came too soon, reminding me that fall was coming and that all of life is a constant cycle of change.

My mom died in October to the darkest rainy day I think that ever was. I obliterated the day on my calendar for years in black felt pen. I don’t know when I stopped.

And now my dad—a strong man who has never been sick a day in life, a man who always prided himself on hard, hard labour—needs help just to sit up, just to put on a gown. And meanwhile spring is shooting its little tendrils of green, bringing the grey, slate-cold earth back to life. My daughter is seventeen, ambitious and eager for her “real” life to begin. I am still round like the moon, but my little son is starting to look like a man—and I am again forced to remember, as if I could ever forget, that all of life is change.

I am shocked and horrified that it’s all happening again (though I cling so hard to the hope that it’s not like my mom, it’s not like my mom, it’s not like my mom, that I feel like my insides bleed), so I take comfort in—or find escape in—the details.

Huge drops of rain that somehow pelt but simultaneously move in slow motion against the huge window that overlooks an ugly parking lot but shows a gorgeous mountain in the distance. Each fat droplet slides down the glass leaving just a glimmer of itself behind, but manages to stay intact until it rests quivering at the bottom of the frame. Some stay beaded; more burst as if surviving the downward journey was a miracle and now they just can’t hold it together.

I trace each line of the daffodils in my mind and decide I like their scent, though really, it’s like pee.

My dad snores a rumbling, grumble, and his cough has stopped; I revel in the noise and the lack of noise.

I notice that the blank page at the beginning of an old, old book (Poems Worth Remembering) has tiny markings from some long ago hand that must have written a note on top of the soft paper and the indents transferred through. I make a mental note to use a soft pencil and gently shade the page until I can see what secret has long lain there.

And today we received good news. My dad is a good candidate for bone marrow transplants, which gives him wonderful odds at living for a long while with good quality of life. I know there are tough times ahead with the treatment, but it’s so good to know that there’s well-founded reason for optimism that’s trying to wriggle through my weathered heart.

I also came across one perfect purple crocus in my front yard. And I have never planted crocuses.

Even the most difficult, disjointed words are worth it—maybe especially so. I wish always felt that way about the harder aspects of life. I hope one day I’ll see that the labour makes sense.


One of those days . . .

So I had a very bad day at work yesterday–or, correction, a very sad day that turned into a bad day–a furious day.

A coworker had a family emergency so we were short-staffed (not good) and it’s been very busy lately (usually good). Customers piled in (as is typical) just after my other coworker who was at work went for lunch. And person after person coming through my station had terrible, heart rending things going on in their lives.

A friendly, kind man who’s come in month after month to pay his bills just found out his wife has cancer and was waiting to get news of when she could get into a specialist in Vancouver. A woman who brought in fresh bouquets of garden flowers for our office to enjoy all summer just lost her father. A couple who was separating: the woman crying intermittently between trying to help her soon-to-be ex with their sweet kids and re-organize what had been joint finances–that horrible awkward crying where you’re trying not to because you’re in public, but your body betrays you and you can’t hold it in. Him: tender and sad too, trying to console her. (I wanted to yell: stay together. It’s worth it. Things will get better. Please.)

And then after all these sad, bruised people comes a total ASS. You know the kind who lives just to make other people wish they didn’t–

Anyway, where am I going with all this? I’m not spilling just to share the sadness, I promise . . . And I won’t bother giving the jerk the privilege of my my choice words. It just occurred to me when I got home that I was/AM so lucky that I get to write. What do people do who don’t have writing as their outlet/refuge/therapy?

My night ended (late), but when I finally went to bed I was feeling soothed by, yes, my words, but also my family, the warm fire blazing in the woodstove, and hot chocolate and a feeling of gratitude. And it occurred to me: that’s why my characters have such bad days. Because they exist. And it’s strange how seeing them suffer and endure helps me makes sense of the world. A bit.

Happy, comforting (or cathartic, anyway) writing to you all.

~Ev


Tag, you’re it!

Apparently there’s a game of virtual tag going on and (in a way sadly reminiscent of “real” tag games when I was a kid) I was tagged “It” before I even knew what we were supposed to be playing. At least this version of tag, however, is fun!

Jennifer Neri (whose blog is wonderful, by the way) got me and the game is simple: now I have to answer the eight questions below and tag five other bloggers. Read my answers, if you’re interested, and at very least scroll down to see if I ran fast enough to catch you. :)

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?

Oh, this one would be hard except, fortunately, it’s something I have spent a lot of time thinking about as my husband, kids and I discuss it often. Occasionally I’m tempted to change answers–but no, I definitely, resolutely stand by desire to be a shape shifter (able to take on both living and inorganic forms). It’s the perfect power. Not only would it be absolutely fascinating and intriguing in every way to get to experience life as you whatever you can imagine, it would be almost invincible protection. Can you name a power that could ultimately thwart it? Hah–I thought not! ;-)

2. Who is your style icon?

I’ve read this question answered by others and it usually comes down to clothes . . . Thankfully, Jennifer, my butcher, connected it to writing style, so I feel free to do the same. My style icon is . . . uh, I have no idea. I admire too many authors to list and have never consciously tried to emulate anyone’s specific style. If you’ve read my work and would like to weigh in with a comment as to who you think my writing style is similar to, I’d be fascinated to hear your thoughts. :)


3. What is your favorite quote?

For today? Well, it comes from my friend Angela Dorsey (who I’ve tagged below). When asked to comment on her feelings toward the old adage “Write what you know,” she said the following:

“I’m a big believer in write what you want, and even more, I think the “know” is actually irrelevant, except with surface stuff that can be researched. To further explain I actually don’t think we can feel inspired to write anything that we don’t know and understand at least to some extent. If you look deeply enough into your story’s heart, you’ll find the stuff you know, the stuff that makes it a truly effective story, and even sometimes the stuff you want to make more consciously known to yourself through the act of writing the story. But I believe there has to be some understanding, some knowing, of those deeper issues to even be inspired to begin with.”

And I said, “Wow, I really like/agree/am inspired by that,” then posted it here. :)

4. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?

Hmmmmm . . . My Grade 4 teacher told me I was a truly horrible writer and since I was aspiring to write horror at that tender age, I was thrilled.


5. What playlist/cd is in your CD player/iPod right now?

(Embarrassed to say) I’ve been on a steady diet of Akon, BoB, and Eminem lately. I have a 14 year old son; what can I say besides, expletive, expletive, expletive? :D (No, seriously, I understand why he likes the music—super talented artists—and we’ve had some thoughtful talks about aspects of the genre or specific songs I have trouble with (and happily, he agrees/takes similar issue with).

6. Are you a night owl or a morning person?

Neither. I like sleeping. :)


7. Do you prefer dogs or cats?

Cats. Please don’t tell my sweet dogs though.

8. What is the meaning behind your blog name

Write Here, Write Now – I think it was my way of expressing my desire to work toward my writing goals and my unwillingness to put my writing dreams off to the side–and my hope to challenge other aspiring writers: Come on, let’s go. Write here, write now. ;)

And that’s it from me on these–Ayyyaaagah-trip-grunt-ugh–you’re it! I just caught:

Jen Brubacher

Angela Dorsey

Vello Sork

Shannon Mayer

Holli Moncrieff

Thanks for reading and for playing! (Don’t feel bad if you need to holler “Home free” and pass).


Is it weird to post a link to an interview of me?

In answer to my title’s question . . . perhaps. But I can’t help it. The questions were really fun and I’m excited and flattered to be featured on one of my favourite blogs, scribo ergo sum–a blog that just coincidentally happens to belong to to one of my favourite writers, Jen Brubacher. It is the best coincidence of all that she is also a dear friend.

Anyway, I always love a chance to talk about writing and if you’re at all interested in hearing about my first publication, how I got into writing and editing, what my opinions about ebooks vs. traditional books are, what my favourite writing books are, plus other intriguing writerly things ;-), please check it out at: http://jbrubacher.blogspot.com/2010/07/interview-with-ev-bishop.html


“On the Wall” will be up at everydayfiction.com tomorrow!

I’ve been writing a fair amount of short stories lately–very short, like under 1000 words. These little tales are fun to write and also beneficial from a craft point-of-view. (I usually write them as a form of exercise, practicing something specific in each one.) Then, as more “exercise,” I’ve been taking the stories a few steps further–through an edit and polish and then submission (when I like what I’ve come up with that is. I don’t rework/submit every one).

Tomorrow (Friday, May 7) one of my short stories will be the story of the day at Every Day Fiction Magazine.Please go and read it and leave a comment: “On the Wall” by Ev Bishop. I’d love to receive responses!

Happy writing and reading this week, everyone!

~Ev


Every Day Fiction

April has been an incredibly hectic month for me. I keep thinking I’ll be able to post all about it–and then something else happens. Oh well, that’s life sometimes. I do have a little something in the works though . . . maybe it’ll get put up Monday?

Happy news for today though–I had a leisurely writing morning, yay! Complete with warm, delicious coffee after coffee, time to play on the Internet and about 800 words in my WIP. 800 words isn’t much to get excited about, I realize, but they were good words and I was excited by how quickly and HARD I fell back into the story.

In other good news: Every Day Fiction accepted a short story I wrote today, which was very fun for me, since I go to their site and read the day’s short story, pretty much every day. If you don’t already, check them out at: http://www.everydayfiction.com

When I know the publication date, I will post it here.

And . . . well, that’s it for today. Have a lovely weekend, everyone. I hope you’re out enjoying sunshine or inside curled up with a good book–or right, you could be writing–that’d be great too! :D

~Ev


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