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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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To Capture the Moon –

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We had a gorgeous full moon last night, and in honour of it and the thoughts the moon always triggers in me, here is today’s Déjà vu Thursday. Enjoy, and good luck in your own attempts to capture the moon, or whatever else you’re seeking. :)
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The yellowed-ivory moon rose over the snow topped mountains in the near distance. Huge bellied and magnificent, she sat heavy in the periwinkle sky of the early spring evening, queen of all she surveyed. And I, a peasant beneath her, awed by her visage and her serene scrutiny, deserted my leaf-raking and flowerbed cleaning and ran for a camera—completely taken in: this was the night I’d capture the moon.

I fetched my camera, and . . .

Completely failed in my quest. I have seen gorgeous photographs of the moon. The people who take them are magicians. Or perhaps they too think, You call this image beautiful, breathtaking, magical? No, you should have seen the moon that night. I didn’t even come close.

I know in seeking that illusive picture of the moon, concepts (magic spells!) like aperture, ISO, and EV 1 or 2 units come into play, along with tools like telephoto lenses, tripods, and the like. I have heard that I can master them. And perhaps I will. Strive. Try.

My first pronouncement—“completely failed”—softened under her encouraging glow as the night darkened around her. I emerged instead with a lesson, applicable to my writing and so many other parts of my life. The attempt is the joy, is the success, is the purpose. The moon will never be captured fully, but she can be suggested, alluded to, conjured, imagined, dreamt. . . .

And as if to affirm that truth, I discovered that two of the twenty or so shots I took turned out . . . not bad. Though nowhere close to how beautiful the moon actually was on April 6, or how she overtook the horizon and my imagination, I hope they hint. . . .

So the aftermath of my night’s chase? Most often with words, but sometimes using picture, paint or other, I’ll keep seeking to express the beauty and mysteries that sometimes surprise us in the day or wait and appear only fleetingly at night. And most often I’ll miss the mark, not accomplish what I’m shooting for, but that’s okay. I accept the quest. I revel in it. I delight in it. And who knows? Sometimes I might come . . . close.


Lessons From Bubble Pop

Lessons From Bubble Pop.


Spring Stinks

"Early Spring Daze" - Photo by Ev Bishop

“Early Spring Daze” – Photo by Ev Bishop

Spring stinks. No, seriously, it does. All the dead plant life from fall, frozen all winter, finally thawed and rotting. The sopping wet fields and lawns release an icky, sweet, almost manure-like scent as organisms in the dirt decompose. But it’s a stench I love. It smells like possibility.

Like, regardless of whether my new year’s resolutions have already fallen by the wayside or whether I’m already behind in my yearly goals whatever they may be, it’s okay because it’s spring. Time for new growth. For planting. For milder weather and easier times.

And this year, thanks to our gentle winter, the promise of spring has come earlier than usual. (And I say this despite the fact that as I write this, snowflakes as big as my fist are falling from the sky. That’s the kind of optimism spring brings! The kind that makes me smile at the crazy, cold sky and say with great confidence, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s not ‘staying’ snow.”)

I think everyone feels it—or I hope they do: a rush of hopefulness and happiness as plans about what they want to do in the warmer months in beautiful Terrace unfurl in their minds.

I’ve been poking about my perennial beds with glee. Things are going to take off early this year—but not too early. (Nothing’s so developed that I’m worried everything will be killed if we have a late cold snap). I’ve noted that I need a new roof and my house is desperate for a paint job. (The past four or five years it was just in want of a paint job. The desperation is new.) I even contemplated an old-fashioned spring-cleaning as I looked at my walls, but thankfully came to my senses. There’s no need to get too crazy now.

But whether the walls get scrubbed or not, spring always feels like it harkens a new season of industry, one where I’ll get to all my chores—and enjoy doing so.

And this year spring is more exciting than ever because I feel like thrilling new growth abounds beyond my own yard, small gardens and personal aims. Wherever I venture in town, development is afoot.

After years where it seemed like our shops and merchants were just struggling to hold on and keep the rent paid, parking lots are filled with cars. Long empty retail spaces are filling up. And the Skeena Mall . . . well, holy Toledo, it actually looks like a mall. Maybe it’s weird to be grateful to contractors you’ve never met, but every time I look at the lovely Skeena Mall logo with its swirl of green pine, that’s what I feel.

And equally weirdly, I’m thrilled by the big signs on the corners of the mall parking lot that will one day advertise the stores that fill the mall. Finally! I never understood why mall merchants weren’t permitted to have outdoor signs. Kudos to those who enabled the change.

New restaurants have opened up and will hopefully thrive, including our very own sushi bar. Shops and companies that started out small are expanding, buying or renting bigger office spaces, building new, larger shops. Oh, Terrace, after years of dormancy, we’re growing again!

Spring. It’s the perfect time to muck in the mud, figuratively and literally—but it’s also a great time to clean up and go walk about and window shop (and also to shop shop!). In winter, we (or, at least, I) tend to bundle up and run from one place to the next on a mission to do whatever I need to do quickly. In spring, it’s time to meander and daydream.

I hope whatever you’re up to this spring finds you inspired and motivated—and that when you smell that hint of stink under the sweet fresh breeze that’s soon to bring us warmer days, you’re filled with a sense of anticipation and promise. On small and big scales, in personal and public matters, it’s going to be a great growing season.

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“Spring Stinks” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, February 27, 2013 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”


Moving Day . . .

As much as I adore *Wordpress (and I do, I really do! :D), I’ve decided to act on a long contemplated decision: I am moving my blog, Write Here, Write Now, to my main website evbishop.com.

It’s labelled, cleverly, “Blog” in the menu bar, or you can just click and find it here.

Please follow me over there because I’ll really miss you if you don’t. There’s a sticky post at the top of the page where you can sign up to subscribe to Write Here, Write Now by e-mail . . . or (top corner of screen) you can set it up as a RSS feed to wherever you best like to read the blogs you follow.

I won’t be updating this site anymore, but I’ll leave it active for awhile so that if you don’t happen by super regularly, you’ll hopefully still find me.

Thanks!

Happy reading, writing, and whatevering,
:) Ev

p.s. The whole of this blog has been exported to its new home already, and if you’re thinking of a similar amalgamation of your blog and website, but are worried because it sounds difficult, let me put you at ease. It’s really easy! You should totally do it. Think of all the time you’ll save (that you can dedicate to writing!) by only maintaining one website.

*Fortunately my blog is CMC WordPress template, so I won’t be in withdrawal or anything.


It’s all Rock ‘n’ Roll to me

This weekend, I’m going on an Artist Studio Tour. I’m sure I’ll find ideas about things I can do with my own creative space, but my real goal is to soak in others’ inspiration and water and renew my crazy inner word and thought garden.

I’ll try to share some of my impressions next week, but in the meantime I’ll leave you with this week’s déjà vu: some of my previous ponderings on other artistic forms and their affect/influence on my writing.

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My daughter has started painting. She also takes a lot of photos (digital and old school 35mm). Lately, I’ve been struck by the contrast between her two arts—and how those differences relate to writing.

Photographers strive to capture images of what’s already visible in the world and focus in on it, with the goal of revealing what exists—what is tangible, what is right there in front of us—in a new way, making people see.

And, of course, most artists wielding a camera hope to make us feel—to invoke peace, hope, or joy showing the lovely things that exist all around us. To stir up empathy or make us angry (thus, hopefully, motivated to do something about whatever issue riled us up). To kindle awe or understanding about the world around us. To make us laugh. To make us cry. But they attempt to do that by showing us what already exists.

Painters, or the ones whose work I relate to most anyway, seem to approach their work the opposite way. They start with reaction (emotion) triggered by something real and try to express how feeling looks. The results on the canvas may be realistic and identifiable—a brook, a tree, a face . . . but they just as easily might be abstract colours and shapes and form, or some combination thereof. The final piece creates something real, yet isn’t fact-based or often a literal representation.

For me, those visual processes are close cousins to writing—non-fiction is like photography. I write about what really exists, for a variety of reasons—to create a record, to encourage, to challenge, to entertain, to inform. . . .

In fiction, I start with an idea or emotion or question and explore it through story—sometimes realistic, sometimes absolutely fantastic. Every time, with the hope of stirring the fears, concerns, rages—and the dreams, worries, and hopes—of the reader. I’m not concerned with the factual at all.

Whether the setting is a modern high school classroom, the moon, or a castle in a land of fairies, what I want is for people to feel—to recognise that emotional truths exist separate from literal events, times and places. After all, there’s something surreal about being human—there’s our physical reality, but then again, something so, so much more than that, in which we live and move and have our being.

Poetry and music are like what mixed-media is to visual arts—seeking to express what almost defies expression, to give substance to what is invisible yet is also somehow the crux of existence. Oxygen to plant life.

I read a comment on a blog recently that said that “real” writers don’t write blogs. (The irony that the comment was made on a blog, by a writer made me smile—and in a large part helped fuel this slightly odd post. As much as I see differences within the forms, mostly I see connections and related pathways between all modes of artistic and creative output. I’m not sure there’s any definitive definition for a writer—except that he or she writes. And although it’s interesting and fun (perhaps even helpful, occasionally) to wax poetic on the purpose and function of various forms of writing, I don’t know if it really matters how or why or what a person writes.


Sex, violence, morality and other Scintillating-somewhat-scary stuff . . .

Déjà vu Thursday – In light of my last post, I thought I share one in a similar vein, written way back on October 12, 2009. Enjoy and as ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I spent a lovely morning reading and contemplating various writing blogs. Kathy Chung (of Kathy – Rambling—a new blog I will now frequent) wrote about questions of morality that she’s been pondering because of one of her characters.

Joseph Grinton (Writing about modern romance), also newly frequented by me, had thought-provoking words in How To Write Sex Scenes.

I didn’t come across a blog post that opined on how much detail should be given in depicting violent acts, or discussed how to write violent scenes realistically, or tackled realism versus gratuity, but somehow (and not just because I think Sex, Violence and Morality makes a grabbing title) the three things seemed linked in my mind. Writing about them (and similar high-octane subjects) demands a certain bravery.

In the early days of my fiction, I realized that I was guilty of writing in the same manner that I watched scary movies as a kid. Scary music cues something Awful about to happen—swoop, blanket over my eyes. Smack, hands over my ears to tune out screaming and howling . . . I’d actually ask, “Is it over yet?” and wait for confirmation that the most horrible bits had passed before I’d peek again.

In writing that avoidance technique looked like this: Write a hook or some great invocative scene that foreshadows emotional or physical (or better, both at once) danger to character. Insert # # # to show that time has elapsed. New scene starts immediately after Event deemed too violent, too sexy, too something-scary to delve into comfortably. Often, since the reader needed to have some knowledge of the ordeal, I would do some sort of recounting, usually in the form of a conversation between the sufferer of the atrocity and his/her close friend.

“I can’t believe you went through that.”

“I can’t believe it either. I thought I would die when Joe pulled that knife on me and proceeded to—”

“It must’ve been even more terrifying because it probably triggered childhood memories of watching your own mom be killed in front of you . . . ”

“It did—but I managed to summon the will to fight, because I pictured my own daughter Macy’s little innocent face—I want her to grow up strong, to not feel like being a victim is inevitable the way I always did . . . ”

(Okay, please, please note, my writing was never really that bad—or Gah, I hope it wasn’t! But if a person avoids showing events as they happen, unnatural, stilted summary scenes become necessary—and if you’re even thinking, “My summary scenes aren’t stilted. They’re graceful and elegant,” go slap yourself and delete/rewrite the scene!)

I’m still working through what I feel is a good balance between portraying life as it is really experienced and what is too much—a completely subjective line, I realize. And I still battle with self-consciousness and worry. What will people think of me when they see the things that make up my head? What will people close to me say if my stories don’t line up with their ideas of morality? GAH—I write sex scenes and have children who read—awkward! I keep returning to the fact that to avoid writing something because it makes me (or someone else) uncomfortable is stupid and goes against the very reasons I write: to explore the world I live in, to figure out what I think, to yell into space: I am here, trying to figure things out . . . And in the end, if I offend or make someone close to me feel awkward? Well, they don’t have to read me.

So how about you? Are there topics you “don’t go”? What scenes are (were) your Kryptonite? Have you found ways to overcome your inhibitions? Should writers even try to overcome a shyness? Maybe some boundaries are good things . . .


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