Northwords Writing Retreat, Sept. 20, 2014, Terrace, BC

downloadYay, it’s NorthWords Writers Retreat time again! Let me pass on the note from one of the organizers, Terrace Public Library’s fantastic Jess Dafoe:

Hello Northern Writers,

Registration has begun for this year’s NorthWords Retreat. We are very excited to welcome author and presenter Tawny Stokes.

Join us for what is sure to be a fantastic day of discussion and writing (…and free lunch and dinner).

There is a $20 refundable deposit to hold your seat. Register early, as participant numbers are limited, at Misty River Books or the Terrace Public Library.

Please feel free to contact me if you need more information: 250.638.8177 or by e-mail jdafoeATSIGNterracelibraryDOTca

Hope to see you soon!

Jess

I’ve taken part in NorthWords writing events, writing retreats or mini writers’conferences in Terrace, BC for years, as both an attendee and as a presenter, so I say with great confidence and a lot of noisy cheering that it’s always an amazing event, so motivating, so encouraging and so useful for writers at any stage of their writing life, from newbie to pro.

This year I’m extra stoked about the retreat’s offerings (“stoked” pun fully intended, heh heh) because although I haven’t heard Tawny Stokes speak before, her bio is fascinating and in this exciting, opportunity-filled time for authors, hearing from a hybrid author is sure to be inspiring and practical. You should definitely come, even if you have to travel a bit to do so. I know you’ll be happy that you did. Hope to see you there!

~ Ev

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Misty River Books + Bigger Things by Ev Bishop = dream come true

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Okay, okay . . . I fully admit the title of this post is a tad corny (or perhaps more than a tad!), but seeing BIGGER THINGS—a novel by me!—in the window of my long-time favourite bookstore, Misty River Books, did made my insides jump and skip like a playground full of happy six-year-olds!

I adore my e-reader as my friends and family will attest, but a paper book, one with a comforting weight and presence in your hands and a papery ink and daydream-delicious scent, one that you can snuggle with on the couch or lose yourself with in the tub, is a sensory delight that never gets old. I still do at last half my reading, if not more, the old school print book way.

But it’s not just seeing BIGGER THINGS in paperback that’s so special to me. It really was its placement in the window of the shop that got me. Many, many years ago now, Misty River Books opened its doors in its first home on Lakelse Avenue in Terrace, BC (one street and one block over from where it resides now), and my first visit impacted my life forever. Sounds dramatic—but it’s true.

I had just launched from my childhood home and was enjoying a day off from the Grand Trunk restaurant (now the Bear Country). I remember how I felt perfectly, even think I can recall what I was wearing, and I’d just purchased a to-go coffee, was planning to window shop, and was feeling terrifically adult and a bit heady with my new freedom.

It was a brisk autumn day with lots of crispy red and gold leaves and a brilliant blue sky, and as I walked down the pretty 4600 block of Lakelse I spotted the window display of the new bookstore everyone was talking about. I felt ridiculously cool and grown up, entering the store unaccompanied, coffee in hand. (I moved out of my house really young, hence the continuing awed feeling of being sooo “mature.” :)) Anna was super cool and friendly (as she still is today) and after affirming that I was “just browsing,” I perused the shelves with delight. Terrace had become a real town. It had an independent bookstore!

The day wasn’t just a lovely moment in my coming of age, however, it was a huge turning page for my writing self. I had wanted to be writer since about second grade, I took all and any writing projects in school seriously, participated in any writing classes available, and had I suspect, though I can’t quite remember Misty River’s inaugural year, just signed up for Creative Writing 101 at NWCC. Yet deep down I still worried I was kidding myself. How on earth could a kid hailing from Nowhere, BC (those were my thoughts then; I’m fonder of my hometown now) ever make it as a writer?

But what did I discover in Misty River Books that day? A magazine that did huge things to grow and give feet to my dreams: Writer’s Digest, a treasure trove of craft advice, inspirational articles, and information about how to sell stories. I was hooked. It really was a pivotal find at a pivotal time, the first thing to ever truly help me see that my “pipe dream” might actually be able to be a practical reality. And Misty River Books facilitated that.

Throughout the years, Misty River Books continued to feed my love of books (and that of my children’s and anyone else I could foist books onto as gifts), but they also nurtured my writing dreams, with kind words and genuine interest in whatever I was up to writing-wise, and speedy-quick willingness to order in whatever magazine or book I decided was a must-have if they didn’t already have it in stock.

And I’m not the only writer who feels a debt of gratitude to her bookstore. I attend SiWC every year, and I’ve heard dozens of stories from well-published “big” authors who laud a bookstore from their childhood or early writing years as being a font of inspiration and support. (Michael Slade’s tale of Duffy’s is a particularly fun and poignant one.) But talking about bricks and mortar bookstores always seems to bring e-books back to the table. Yes, bookselling is changing. Change—in all things it seems—is inevitable. But I don’t believe bookstores have to be a thing of the past. Nothing pulls people together—or helps people in their everyday life—like a good story, a great yarn, or a wonderful, wise book. E-reads are lovely for a quick escape or for hefting twenty books with you on holidays in a mere eight ounces of weight . . . but you don’t peruse shelves of e-reads. Visitors don’t pick up your e-reader and page through it—or they better not! Kids don’t lose themselves—and find themselves—in the pictures and texture of stories on tablets. Paper books foster literacy and an appreciation for stories, and they’re not reliant, thus at risk, when technology changes or crashes. There’s not only room—there’s a need—for both e-reads and print books.

And yes, while I love my digital versions of BIGGER THINGS very much, seeing a physical book with my name across its cover resting on my favourite bookstore’s shelves? Well, it really is seeing a dream come full-circle-true.

:) Ev

p.s. In case you’re wondering, yes, I still feel terrifically adult and a little bit heady with freedom when I walk through Misty River Books’ door, inhale the gorgeous scent of possibility and adventure, and peruse its packed-to-the-rafters shelves.

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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.

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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.:)