Category Archives: Professional Development

Where to go, what to do?

I’ve been thinking about SiWC a little because it’s been four whole months (really!), since I was there soaking up inspiration and writing-life camaraderie and I’m already looking forward to the 2012 conference.

Friends that I meet up with at the conference every year have often commented that it’d be really great if we could do some sort of Pro-D weekend twice a year, not just the once . . . and as spring approaches (Please!), I’ve been thinking that sounds like a better and better idea.

So how about it . . . any suggestions of conferences or workshops that you highly recommend?  From local writers’ group seasonal offerings, to self-guided mini retreats, or the extravagant Maui Writers’ conference . . . I’d just like to hear what you’ve taken part in—or what your dream writing related getaway would be. Of course, if you’ve had any bad experiences and have some strong “Stay away” warnings, those would be helpful too.

And now I’ve updated my website (√) and written a blog post for this week (√). It’s back to my W.I.P. for me. Please respond to my queries above. I’d love the fodder for daydreaming and future planning.

:) Cheers and happy writing!


Can (should!) a writer ever really go it alone?

Déjà vu Thursday – This is a re-post of a fairly recent pondering (written originally August 5, 2011), but it feels timely because the Internet—and its friend and foe ways—has been a big part of my writing life again lately. Just last night I was thinking, Yeesh, if it wasn’t for my writing friends and cohorts, what would I do? Maybe you’re feeling a similar blessing (or a sad lack?). As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

* * *

If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer. ~ David Brin

Last night I met with the Northwords Writers’ Camp writers and presented on how the Internet fits into/enhances my writing life. I mentioned how it’s a great resource for:

Support, Inspiration, Community
Education, Practice
Writing markets, Publishers
Marketing, Communicating and building relationships with readers

I also delivered the reminder that we all apparently need to hear on on occasion. Just like any super hero has their kryptonite, the Internet has a side that can cripple even the most stalwart writer. It’s called TIME SUCKAGE. Only writing is writing.

And I touched on a few other things to beware of online (in blogs or public forums):

Nothing is private
Nothing goes away
Published online (even “just” on your blog) is published.

But feeling that the pros of getting involved in the Internet writing community (how it can help one grow in and enjoy his/her writing life) far outweigh any small cons, I encouraged each attendee to start their own blog and we spent the rest of our time talking about Do’s and Don’ts of great blogs and did some writing exercise to per chance get us started.

As ever I was blown away by people’s creativity and how unique and highly individual each person’s results were, even with exercises as specific and guided as the ones we did together were. It reminded me yet again of why I write, why I read—to share, to learn, to grow. To think, to laugh and sometimes, though definitely not last night, to cry.

It also reminded me of how good it is to get together with other writers (in person, live!) and talk craft. The Internet is awesome and I’m incredibly grateful for it, but it doesn’t replace the value and importance (and fun :)) of getting together in real-time with flesh and blood people who share your interests. (We talked about that too.)

If you’ve been writing in solitary confinement (as is, of course, the necessity and norm)—or perhaps are feeling that you’re not getting enough alone time with your words—re-read the quote I opened this post with. It’s good to have people and other activities in our lives. They refill the well.

Yes, only writing is writing, but sometimes to keep on track with our writing (in a way that brings joy, refreshes our inspiration, soothes our fears, etc) connection with other kindred souls—online or face-to-face—is just what the Dr ordered.

What do you think? Can any writer truly go it alone?


Day jobs—the good, the bad, the ugly!

About a year and a half ago, I decided to take a part-time day job—to supplement my writing and editing income, yes, but also (more importantly), because I wanted to free up my creative mind.

Nothing kills creativity like wondering how the mortgage will get paid and the freelance life (mine at least) was a bit feast or famine—some months were fantastic. Others—eek, not so much.

I’m not alone in extolling the benefits of working—at least part-time—for someone else when you’re in an artistic field. Over the years I’ve heard many professional authors and writers warn not to quit your day job too soon. Some even advocate never quitting your day job entirely—always keeping a ladle in the stew, so to speak. . . . Sometimes the recommendation’s based on the issue of money. The freelancer or novelist’s income can be irregular, like I mentioned. Sometimes it’s because the speaker feels that having a job in the “real” world gives inspiration to draw from, plus a much needed break (at times) from the solitary, inner realms that writers live in.

I can see both sides.

Most of us understand the comfort (and necessity) of at least a certain amount of dependable income, so I won’t spend much time on that. Ditto, we tend to be able to understand that having co-workers—both the ones easy to get along with and the ones that . . . aren’t—can inspire, perhaps act as sounding boards, etc. . . .

The big lure of going out one’s own is time. After all, what’s more tempting than the idea of business casual (or business professional) equaling pajamas? What could be more ideal than having an uninterrupted 8 hours to write—well, an uninterrupted 8 hours, minus the two hours for a cool lunch with other like-minded, pajama wearing intellectuals, that is. We romanticize (or I should say, I romanticize) the image of the madwomen in the attic a little too much. And there are, of course, days when the daily grind feels, well, like a grind—and we just want to be free from it.

I maintain, however, that if you really want to write a lot, to make your writing be your life’s work (a very separate thing from your primary source of earnings, by the way)—whether or not you have to do other work to pay your mortgage or buy groceries won’t stop you. It might even motivate you (when you have eight hours stretching ahead of you, it’s easy to wile away 6 of ‘em. When you want to get in 1000 words and you only have an hour or two, you tend to get on it).

And less than satisfactory days at work—even the occasional rotten days? Even better. (Just make sure that you’re not in a job you absolutely hate, because that could be muse-killing—though that’s a side tangent.)

If your “day job” is too perfect, too all-absorbing and fascinating, there’s the danger that you will feel, well, fulfilled by it and the desire, the drive, the compulsion to write will diminish.

If your job is creative and calls for imagining and envisioning and brainstorming—it could feed your writing, sure, but it could also easily satiate the part of your psyche that craves all that creating and thinking.

Chaffing a bit at work—whether it’s because the job doesn’t stimulate you mentally or inspire you creatively, or it doesn’t pay enough, or because of personality clashes with other staff members—is a good thing.

If you’re lucky enough to have job to go to that pays the bills, gives you fodder for characters (maybe even villains!), and you have the added benefit of not loving it too much, good on you! You’re in the perfect place to kindle your writing fire and motivate you to get your stories out. (Or that’s what I tell myself anyway. Heh heh.)


Sticky Note Solutions

November—already, can you believe it? Some of you are probably happily bogged down with Nanowrimo this month. It’s early in, the inspiration is thick and humid, the words and ideas are growing like crazy, but despite your amazing work ethic and exciting word counts thus far, you’re ever cognisant of the reality that you need to log 1666.66 words per day (better round that up to 1667!) to nail this bad boy.

Others of you, like me, decided to forgo the 50 000 word extravaganza this month, because you have other writing priorities yelling loudly in your head that you don’t want to ignore.

Whatever camp you fall in, I suspect that because you have spectacularly lofty goals this month, life will throw a lot of unexpected distractions at you this month, including but not limited to things like: surprise visits from old friends, birthday bashes, baby showers, or other celebratory not to be missed events, extra work hours, a small family crisis or two, etc . . .

Wait? Am I talking about November particularly or the writing life in general? Rats, you caught me. Nano or no Nano, my writing life, despite my best laid plans, always gets interrupted. I still manage to get quite a lot done most months, however, and one of the easiest ways I’ve learned to motivate and focus myself (not to mention remind myself of what I actually want to accomplish) is to use sticky notes. And not the sticky note app—the actual, messy little pieces of paper that one scrawls notes on and sticks up all over the place.

The idea is not uniquely mine, of course. After all, sticky notes were invented to leave memos for yourself. And I took a class with author Kerri Nelson, called “The Book Factory—Produce Multiple Novels in a Year” that I raved about before in “Take 15 . . .

Kerri advocated constructing a brief list of things you need to get done in a day or in a chunk of writing time, keeping it in a highly visible place, then before you got to bed that evening making sure you’ve accomplished each one.

There’s something powerful in the act of prioritizing (only so many goals fit on a sticky note) and then crossing each accomplishment with swift stroke of ink. The more specific the goals, the better.

When I jot down “Blog post,” it’s a little tougher to get down to, than if I write “Blog post + TITLE,” because just writing a title is consideration of an idea—and idea that stirs about in the muck and mire of my brain, and is then more than ready to muddy up the page once I sit down to it.

When I write “Edit TITLE,” it’s not as effective as when I write, “Edit three chapters of TITLE.”

“Write a chapter” is not as forward-driving as “Write scene where blah-blah-blah.” (Of “blah blah blah” is actually spelled out on the note—even if so cryptically that only I know at a glance what on earth I’m talking about.)

I also write mundane, non-writing tasks on my sticky notes (“Toyota Payment, “Park Optometry,” etc.), not because I consider them writing-related per se, but because my brain sometimes uses menial chores and other trivial “must-do’s” as a way to avoid writing. “You shouldn’t write right now. You should insert-silly-but-practical-distraction.” Once those chores make it to the sticky note, I can make my procrastinator shut-up. (It’s on the sticky note, it’ll get done. Now be quiet, I have work to do!)

I don’t know if sticky notes will revolutionize your writing days or the short sessions you try to sneak in around the other demands of life, but I know that when I’m using my sticky note system, I’m always a little blown away, by how I manage to get things done when I have no time.

I wish you crazy productivity this month—especially if you’re Nanowrimoing! And if you have special methods or tips for breaking down your big goals into smaller, manageable ones, please share.:)


Motivation

I’m gearing up for SiWC 2011 (leaving on Wednesday actually, yay!), and as usual I’m super stoked for the conference and all the workshops, presenters and kibitzing with other writers—lots of whom have become friends by now, my eighth year. (Ohmigoodness, do you know how wildly affirming and inspiring and plain ol’ fun it is to be in the midst of 600+ people who all share your obsession? I live in a small town, so perhaps the huge gathering of like-but-very-different minds is that much more amazing, but it is good, good stuff—worth every penny I pay every year. It fires me up, re-energizes and refocuses me for the next 12 months, every time.

That all said, as much as I relish the conference itself, an equal draw is the time I’ll spend with three other writers—Barb Cameron, Angela Dorsey, and Jen Brubacher. While Jen is unable to attend SiWC, because of the way her trip to Canada worked this year, she is able to make our annual pre-conference sushi and gab-fest—a group meeting of what we informally call Woodstockers 5—a name with a story behind it that makes sense only to us.

Thursday night, we’ll meet at a certain restaurant that’s become tradition, slide our bottoms onto bright-coloured satin cushions, and commence blabbing our heads off over our past year’s literary successes, woes, accomplishments, and challenges.

Then we’ll pull out our Woodstocker 5 Goals and share what we followed through with—and confess what we didn’t. A couple of us will then go onto elaborate about plans for November 2011 through October 2012 (our writing year has started to mimic the months that pass from one SiWC to the next). A couple of us (or at least one of us, me) will have to share our plans later, via a small online writers’ forum, after the conference has done its magic and put wild dreams in our (my) head.

Writing is by necessity a solitary pursuit and like a lot of writers, I’m okay with that—thrive in seclusion, actually. Need a lot of alone time. However, over years I’ve noticed that I write better—and am much more prolific—if I have a few close writing friends to celebrate and commiserate with. And to give me the occasional swift, motivational kick. (Thankfully, the boot is usually just a figurative.)

If you’re feeling in need of a bit of motivation, I can’t encourage you enough: try to find a writing workshop or conference to take part in over the next months or track down a writing friend or two to start meeting semi-regularly with. There can be a danger to spending too much time talking about writing and not doing enough writing (a post for another day, perhaps!), but for some of us, too much isolation is just as inspiration-killing.

p.s. I’d love to hear what works best to keep you on track with your writing goals (so I can steal your method, lol).

p.p.s. I think I’ve written on this topic before. What can I say? Sometimes I need reminding of what “works” to keep me working!


Art lessons with Noreen Spence!

Radelet's Cherry Tree. Copyright Noreen Spence. Digital Image used with permission.

I was ecstatic to receive an e-mail the other day from one of my favourite artists (her trees, her trees!), Noreen Spence, announcing that she has her “fabulous new studio set up” and is back to painting large (as in huge canvases!).

AND she’s offering painting lessons–at said new, fabulous studio where you’ll be “ surrounded by the nurturing forest, where the generous light pours in through five enormous windows, and where there is room to move.”

In addition to be wildly talented, Noreen is a really caring, thoughtful, affirming person and whether your goals are just to try something new, to have fun, or even to yes, give yourself permssion to be or become an artist, I know her lessons will enhance your life and your craft.

She offers three different fee structures:

Individual 1 hr lessons, $30 per hour
Group lessons, 1.5 hrs, 3 people, $15 per session
Individual 2 hr lessons, $50 per session

To find out more or to register, give Noreen a call at (250) 635-6938.


Can a writer (or should a writer) ever really go it alone?

If you have other things in your life—family, friends, good productive day work—these can interact with your writing and the sum will be all the richer.  ~ David Brin

Last night I met with the Northwords Writers’ Camp writers and presented on how the Internet fits into/enhances my writing life.  I mentioned how it’s a great resource for:

  • Support, Inspiration, Community
  • Education, Practice
  • Writing markets, Publishers
  • Marketing, Communicating and building relationships with readers

I also delivered the reminder that we all apparently need to hear on on occasion. Just like any super hero has their kryptonite, the Internet has a side that can cripple even the most stalwart writer. It’s called TIME SUCKAGE. Only writing is writing.

And I touched on a few other things to beware of online (in blogs or public forums):

  • Nothing is private
  • Nothing goes away
  • Published online (even “just” on your blog) is published.

But feeling that the pros of getting involved in the Internet writing community (how it can help one grow in and enjoy his/her writing life) far outweigh any small cons, I encouraged each attendee to start their own blog and we spent the rest of our time talking about Do’s and Don’ts of great blogs and did some writing exercise to per chance get us started.

As ever I was blown away by people’s creativity and how unique and highly individual each person’s results were, even with exercises as specific and guided as the ones we did together were. It reminded me yet again of why I write, why I readto share, to learn, to grow.  To think, to laugh and sometimes, though definitely not last night, to cry.

It also reminded me of how good it is to get together with other writers (in person, live!) and talk craft. The Internet is awesome and I’m incredibly grateful for it, but it doesn’t replace the value and importance (and fun :)) of getting together in real-time with flesh and blood people who share your interests. (We talked about that too.)

If you’ve been writing in solitary confinement (as is, of course, the necessity and norm)or perhaps are feeling that you’re not getting enough alone time with your wordsre-read the quote I opened this post with. It’s good to have people and other activities in our lives. They refill the well.

Yes, only writing is writing, but sometimes to keep on track with our writing (in a way that brings joy, refreshes our inspiration, soothes our fears, etc) connection with other kindred soulsonline or face-to-faceis just what the Dr ordered.

What do you think? Can any writer truly go it alone?


Northwords Writing Camps 2011

Dear All,

If you happen to be in lovely Terrace, BC early this August (or if you could be) and you’re a writer (established or newbie), the Northwords Writing Camps are running again and you should be there!  There’s an adult camp running August 2-5 from 6 – 8:30 for four evenings and a youth one (ages 11 – 16) running the same dates from 10:00 – 1:00.  The camps are FREE (thanks to the wonderful Terrace Public Library and generous sponsors noted on the posters below) and feature three different authors presenting–including me. :) 

 

You can register for the youth camp at the library and for the adult camp at Misty River Books. I hope to see you there!


Ev Bishop on Ether Books

As some of you know, three of my short stories (“HVS,” “Wishful,” and “Red Bird”) are available through Ether Books, a fantastic forward-thinking publishing company that I can’t say enough good things about. Not only have they published my work, they supply me with an inexhaustible source of new short fiction!

I’ve been playing with the idea of promoting some of my work with video and since Maureen Scott, one of the gurus behind Ether, put a call out for Ether authors to share their sentiments about Ether Books in 30 seconds or less and post them on youtube, I’d thought I’d start there. So all that said, here’s me, Ev Bishop, on Ether Books. Enjoy!



When I have my office back under control, I may do short blip on each of the stories they’ve published. Stay tuned.

And hey, if you haven’t read “Wishful,” or “Red Bird,” or “HVS”—you don’t need to wait ’til there’s a video promo! Grab your iPhone, iPod, or iPad, download Ether Books’ free app here and check me out. :) I hope you enjoy them.


Inklings, Procrastinators and . . . me

C.S. Lewis is one of my favourite writers. I love his Narnia creations, and his books on Christian faith (most notably, Mere Christianity and The Problem With Pain) were instrumental in bringing me to Christ. It was, however, his writing in A Grief Observed that most spoke to me. Though losing a wife and losing a mother are ultimately different; loss is ultimately the same and Lewis’s honest writings about sorrow helped me. And re-affirmed my conviction that books and story—fiction and non—are crucial helpers to us humans as we try to figure out how to live and what it mean to be, well, human. It’s not giving Lewis too much credit to say he’s one of the reasons* I started writing again.

But it’s not really C.S. Lewis I want to write about today. It’s his Inklings—a writing group that, from what I’ve gathered, consisted of twelve or so members (including J.R.R. Tolkien). I won’t embarrass myself with the romantic view I have of the bunch holed up in some pub, corner of a library, or ancient book and antique laden reading room. I won’t confess that thinking of them, I always feel the warmth of a crackling fire glowing from a grate and see it casting looming shadows of the literary greats along the walls—shadows that grow as their stories did, well into the night. And I won’t admit that I’m sure they always drank port—its scarlet red shimmering as firelight refracted off the crystal glasses containing it—cheers! And of course there’s cigar smoke. And equally of course, somehow said smoke is sweet and mellow and doesn’t make me gag or give me a headache just being in the same room with it.**

Oh, how jealous I was of his writing group! And then I got to be part of my own—a smaller group, though, I think, not lesser for being less. We try to meet in person once a year or so (and usually manage to, thanks in part to the huge pull of SiWC—but it’s tricky as we hail from different parts of B.C., and now, London, England), and we meet online regularly in a private forum called Procrastination (which makes us Procrastinators now, doesn’t it?). We drink lots of tea and coffee—and only occasionally port. I do have a wood fire that warms me—or at least the living room near me. We all have tonnes of books—or at least read tonnes of books. I don’t smoke cigars, but can’t speak for the others in the group.

I wish I lived in a place where we could all be together, at least monthly, but I can’t complain too much because I live in a time where despite huge geographical differences, we can still maintain very close relationships and share our words in real time, almost instantaneously.

It has been said that C.S. Lewis would’ve written and published all that he did without the Inklings (and the same has been said of Tolkien), and I suspect that may be true—at least partially. I think his writing community was a huge help to him, creatively and emotionally and practically.

The writing life can be a lonely, misunderstood and alienating (except when it’s the glorious opposite of all those things!). The writing craft is daunting—you only master one thing to notice six other problems you’d never even thought of dealing with. And the publishing world? Well, let’s just say it’s always been rife with tales of doom and gloom and the end of books and reading—not the happiest news when one’s trying to eke out a living with their words. Meeting with kindred spirits who like you, who like your stories, who are kind and funny and compassionate—even while they’ll straightforwardly tell you what is and isn’t working with your stories—keep you keeping on.

In James W. Miller’s review of Diana Pavlac Glyer’s The Company They Keep: C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, *** he says that, “using a formula for determining influence created by another scholar, Karen Lefevre, Glyer analyzes the way the Inklings served as Resonators (encouraging voices), Opponents (thoughtful critics), Editors, and Collaborators (project teammates) for one another. She then adds her own fifth category, that they were Referents who wrote about one another and promoted one another’s books to publishers and the public.”

When I read that description, I thought, Egad—I’m so lucky! I have the good fortune of being part of a community like that too.

How about you? What is your writing community like? Are you part of a writing group? Does it have a name? Is it a face-to-face group or an online one? Do you feel there’s an advantage to either type of meeting?

- – - – - – - – - – - –

* Well, him, Stephen King, and Julia Cameron—bwahahahaha, what a combination! I wonder what on earth they’d think of being grouped together?)

** I don’t know if I ever stumbled across this picture and description before I googled, “c s lewis inklings pictures,” but apparently my imagination was well fed! ;)

*** A book I haven’t read yet, but that’s totally on my list now that I’ve read fifteen or so reviews about it.


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