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!

What Writing Means To Me

I was just tagged by my friend and fellow author Jen Brubacher in a meme about what writing means to me.

She wrote that writing is truth and her elaborations are so perfect and true that I’m kind of jealous she wrote it, not me. It’s particularly worth reading for a certain drunken dwarf’s quote and her thoughts on said quote.

The person who tagged her, Icy Sedgwick, wrote that writing is escapism—and I wonder, really, if any writer lives who wouldn’t agree with her on some level at least.

And the “it” who got Icy? Tony Noland, who expressed that writing is freedom.

And just before him, Ruchira Mandal expounded on how writing is a journey.

Am I trying to cheat by giving the answers those other writers provided? Not at all. It’s just that their answers fit perfectly with what I want to say: writing is many things to me. The reasons I write, what I “get” from my writing, and how I feel about the process vary from day to day, even from hour to hour—yet I find there are always similar tendrils of desire as put my pen to paper or my fingers to my keyboard (to discover, to explore what’s “known,” to have fun).

Writing is a science—especially non-fiction, where I work from a hypothesis (thesis!) (articulated or not) and hone each phrase, insert each fact, and carefully draw each picture or stage I want to reveal to my reader, all the while deliberating on what I know and what I can reasonably infer about life.

The results can be surprising—sometime I realize I need to discard my initial premise because my experimenting (my writing) reveals a flaw in my thinking or logic—a new hypothesis is needed. Other times, the conclusion is exactly what I had hoped/envisioned/felt sure it would be—very affirming stuff. And, as in all science, while there are breakthroughs and massive epiphanies, there is never an arrival moment where all is known, all is suddenly clear.

And writing is magic—especially fiction. Us odd few called to the task, take strange ingredients, some commonplace, some only hinted at in polite company, some imagined, some completely undefined, only intuited, and throw them all together in simmering mess (or carefully measure out and weigh and add in at specific times, depending on our style).

It’s a shadowy art, unpredictable and dangerous even when it’s white. It’s often exhilarating, joyful and fun—but no words appear without some personal sacrifice (even if it’s just time that we worry could or should be better spent) and sometimes there is pain.

When the magic works, we conjure people long dead and still to come. We play with time, sending readers back and forward in both this world and others. A barrage of scents—good and gross—waft from our pages. People curl up, relax and smile—and freeze, sweat, flinch and flee—at what we smooth across their brow, glide along their chest—jab into their bellies. They grow embarrassed, become livid and enraged—weep, laugh, bite their lip and nod—with emotions evoked by lines of text.

We reveal strangers’ stories and end up showing the readers themselves. We hold up a mirror, but it’s our guts and innards that are reflected back at the reader with their lives, past and present, transposed over top.

When the magic doesn’t work—or, at least, doesn’t yield the results we were aiming for—we, sometimes weeping, bleeding, and beaten, return to our worktables to try different combinations, to explore different roots and weeds. We work, despite the pitying looks of naysayers and the laughter, even jeers, of those who doubt our ability or think we’re merely crazy for trying.

And why do people turn to science and/or magic? Because they are searching. They are longing. I am searching. I am longing. For connection, for understanding, for hope and to give hope . . . for many things actually. So for me, perhaps above all else, writing is a quest.

I don’t know why you write or what writing means to you—perhaps, like me, you find your thoughts on the subject toss and change like the ocean—but I’d like to find out and would love you to share thoughts here.

And to keep the meme-tag game going, I tag:

Laura Best
Jennifer Neri
Angela Dorsey
Kathy Chung
Vello Sork

Star Spinner

My family plays a game called Star Spinner. You go outside when it’s dark and find a large field (or at the very least, a space moderately free of dangerous obstacles). One person has a flashlight (turned off for the time being) and heads away from the group. Everyone playing holds his/her arms out to their sides and spins and spins and spins, until from far away the flashlight holder yells, “Go!” and turns on the light.

Dizzy and blind—laughing hysterically, shrieking with nervousness or moaning with a sick feeling of nausea—each person runs as fast at they can (which is always, at best, some lurching, stumbling gait) toward the light.

I’ve played many times, but I’m still not sure who wins. I think the person who gets closest to the target thinks it’s him, but really it’s anyone who participates, who runs stumbling toward their goal, who gets up after falling, who perseveres in spite of the nagging, sensible voices in their heads and the fear (it’s dark; you’re dizzy; you might fall; stand still for crying out loud, stand still!).

Lying (inevitably) on the cool grass, staring up at the stars, still feeling slightly queasy (from spinning, from laughing, from nerves), it doesn’t matter how far you got. You’re just pleased you played. You were dizzy, had no idea where to go, but you ran full out.

Star Spinner—in addition to being just a crazy amount of fun—has always struck me as a powerful metaphor for various aspects of life: for writing, for faith, for relationships. . . .

I can only see so much—and half the time I’m anxious beyond words—but if I push past that and run screaming and laughing into the dark, I overcome fear and realize I’m completely exhilarated. The goal is often still shining somewhere beyond me, but the more I play, the more that part doesn’t matter.

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.

What you always wanted to do

My little sister Ellie Higginson is an Opera singer and moved to Germany just over a year ago, after several extended trips to various locations in Europe. In many ways her artistic journey echoes my writing journey (and I suspect there are similarities between most artists whatever their mode of expression!); each exciting step is the result of many years of unseen work.

Ellie’s living in Goerlitz (a small town in the furthest part of East Germany, right on Poland’s border), singing under contract with the Opera theatre there. And now it’s audition season again and she’s eagerly looking ahead, working toward roles with other larger theatres—see, again, the writing connection: you get one gig, hurrah! But you haven’t arrived, you have to keep working, keep submitting, and repeat, repeat, repeat. 😉

The Terrace Standard and its sister publication, The Weekend Advertiser, ran articles about her recently because having any kind of an International performing career—let alone an Operatic one—is exciting news to the people you grew up around, but when you you’re a small town girl hailing from, of all places, Terrace, British Columbia, Canada, it’s that much more newsworthy.

A man who read the article approached me in the grocery store the other night.

“I saw that article about your sister in the paper,” he said.

I said something witty, like “Hello and oh yeah?”

“It was really cool.”

There was something so genuinely pleased for her in his tone that I can’t really explain it in words very well.

“I took it to work and showed all the guys—‘This is Wilf’s sister, man. She’s living in Germany and singing Opera.’” (Our brother used to work with him.)

We chatted on for a few minutes more about where she was exactly and how she was doing. Then he shook his head, and repeated with just a touch of wistfulness, “It’s just really cool. She’s doing it—she’s doing what she always wanted to do. Not many of us can say that.”

Bam! I was at once so happy and so sad, because he’s so right. Not many of us can say that. Somewhere along the way of growing up, getting married, and/or having dependents or other responsibilities, it’s easy to give up on that thing we always wanted to do, that artistic or athletic or fill-in-the-blank pursuit that made us happy, made us feel uniquely us. I think that’s what we love about someone else accomplishing something unique or special—it’s a reminder: Following your dream, living your dream, is possible.

I feel very fortunate. Dreams are about the experience you have while dreaming, not “results” and while my dream isn’t over yet, just like Ellie, I’m doing what I always wanted to. I wish I’d thought to ask the guy what it was he’d always dreamed about . . .

I hope Ellie knows what an inspiration she is . . . I think I’ll give her a call this week and remind her.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .

Well, here we are with only one more sleep ’til Christmas 2010. It came extra quickly this year didn’t it?

As some of you know, I’m working on unique-for-me type of story this December—a Christmas themed romance. I thought I’d just a tiny snippet from Candice’s Christmas prep, though admittedly, if you’re hitting the stores today (as I will be after work for just a few things), you’re probably going to be in a busier place than even she finds herself. 😉

The line up at the till was twelve heaping buggies deep, but the two express lanes were worse, with twenty people or more each looking like they’d taken “fifteen items” as a minimum suggestion not a rule, so Candice stayed where she was. The last Friday just before Christmas—what a stupid time to hit a grocery store!

As she stood waiting with her small basket of milk, eggs, bread, and frozen pizza—meant to hold them over to her “real” shop later in the weekend—she perused the droves of people milling about, shopping, laughing, fretting. It was kind of nice to stand still. A waste of time, obviously, when she had so many things to do, but kind of an enforced break all the same. She sipped the Eggnog Latte she’d splurged on and felt quite decadent as she played a game she hadn’t in a long while. Who was that person, what did they do, how were they feeling?

What I like about the scene (that will no doubt change immensely as it’s first draft stuff) is that even feeling stressed and cranky, Candice finds a few seconds of calm inside herself and even daydreams a bit. And that’s my wish for you this Christmas—not that you’ll be stressed or cranky at all, but that you’ll find some time to sneak away—whether you’re in a crowded place or not—to observe and ponder and feel just a bit decadent as you do so.

Merry Christmas!

December already!

It’s December already—unbelievable, but fun. Deck the halls—falalalala!

I’m a bit afraid, however, because every month I play the “this is the month where everything will slow down and I’ll finally be able to write a little bit more” game—and every month, well, you play the game too, you know what happens: life doesn’t slow down; it only speeds up. Schedules don’t free up; they shuffle so we can fit more in.

But December? I don’t even try to fool myself. Lovely, full month that it is, I know my writing time will only shrink. But that’s okay this year—in fact, I’m looking forward to it. I managed to clear all recent “must write” goals (well, except for the ones I botched—cough, cough, Nano 2010), and with the exception of a few Ev’s Writing Services jobs, I am going to write for the pure fun of it this month.

You read that right. Pure fun. No goals other than to write at least twenty days this month (any subject, form, genre, no minimum word count), plus one tiny structured one. I’m going to enter Jen Brubacher’s very fun sounding contest.

The whole take-it-easy and play theme for December 2010 is a much-needed Christmas present to myself.

How about you? Do you write more or less during December? Do you give yourself a break or do you use the month as one last push to meet your goals before the year turns? Whatever you end up doing writing-wise, I hope you pour yourself some eggnog and really enjoy it.

p.s. It’s not that my writing isn’t fun all year—it’s just that usually it’s goal-orientated, stories I want to submit, a novel I want to pitch, etc. What will be fun about this month is that I have no prior intentions . . . . 😉

Facing Fire by kc dyer – Win a free book!

Dear All,

It’s an exciting day for me — and a bit of a different type of blog post from me to you. Several years ago now, I had the pleasure of meeting this crazy-fun, spontaneous author, kc dyer, in Surrey at SiWC.

kc dyer’s books include The Eagle Glen Trilogy (Seeds of Time, Secret of Light, Shades of Red), Ms. Zephyr’s Notebook, and A Walk Through the Window – the first novel in a new series. Its sequel, Facing Firing, was just released this week and her main character Darby is gallivanting about the Internet, doing guest blogs to stoke flames of interest for this latest tale.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s Darby on Facing Fire and how journal writing can spark a great story.

p.s. Please comment so I can enter you name in a draw for a free copy of Facing Fire!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Hi Guys!
 
My name is Darby Christopher, and I’m here because Ev kindly offered to share her special writing space for a day. I’m on a wicked blog tour celebrating the launch of my new book. I’m heading all over the place but this is definitely the farthest north I’ve been since – well, since I had a bit of an odd encounter with a polar bear last summer–
 
While we’re on the subject of polar bears, I’d better start by telling you something about myself. I don’t generally pursue polar bears in my spare time, but after the past year or so it’s become pretty apparent that I do have a weird talent for . . . time travel. This month, as you know, I’m celebrating the release of my new book, FACING FIRE, and it’s got me to thinking. 
 
The story tells what happened after the magical summer that you may have read about in A WALK THROUGH A WINDOW. But before I got to the walking-through-windows and slip-sliding-through-time bits, I had to do a little writing.
 
In the first story, my teacher gave us the dreaded summer journal assignment. At first I was hugely upset –- I wanted to spend my summer skateboarding down Yonge Street in Toronto, not writing my deepest, inner-most thoughts into a lame coil notebook. But you know, after the summer I had . . . well, let’s just say I was pretty glad to have kept a record.
 
So, in a way, I guess you can call me a writer. And if I thought things were weird in the first book? Well, they got a whole heckuva lot weirder in FACING FIRE. Not to mention this little problem at school . . .
 
I’d better not say any more, I think. Let me just tell you – if you write a journal, I think it’s a GREAT idea. And if you want to learn more, I think you’ll just have to read my book. You can find out more about it at www.kcdyer.com
 
Or better still, how ’bout winning a copy as a prize? If you comment on this post, Ev will put your name into a draw to win a free copy of the new book – FACING FIRE. And if you link to this post somewhere else (like in another blog, or on Facebook post or even a tweet) we’ll put your name in for the draw for BOTH of my books. So comment away!
 
By the way, if you’re into looking for prizes, check out my blog HERE at Darby Speaks. I have an AMAZING contest going with some totally fantastic prizes. If you like Twitter, you can follow all the latest on the contest and the blog tour and launches @DarbySpeaks.
 
See you there!
 
And hey, Ev? Thanks for having me. I think you should start, y’know. Tell us all about what goes in YOUR writing journal!
 
~Darby

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? 😀 (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).

Where I Write . . .

My officeTwo blogs that I love to frequent – Murderati and scribo ergo sum – recently had posts about writing spaces: Murderati over a period of weeks as its multiple authors take turns describing and sharing pictures (you’ll just have to visit the site and scroll back through recent weeks for all the lovely inspiring nooks and crannies) and Jen Brubacher here sharing her own unique view of her own little niche in London.

It got me thinking and dreaming a little about where I write. I always wanted to be one of those coffee shop writers who wear cool clothes, smoke endless cigarettes (Whoops, that’s politically incorrect now, isn’t it? — That was my 80s’ daydream. Smoking wasn’t as bad then!), and write reams and reams of brilliant prose inspired by, yet simultaneously oblivious to, the streams of humanity walking past the window, fighting at the table beside them, flirting with or harassing the barista . . .

I wanted to be Hemingwayesque, writing in some Cuban bar that would eventually name a drink after me . . .

I wanted to be ferreted away in some ancient ivy-ridden library–a serious academic with thick, non chic glasses (so non chic that they were chic!). I wanted to have my work space be the turret in an old Victorian styled house overlooking the ocean . . . I wanted to write in . . .

Truth be told, none of those venues suit me. I like absolute quiet or the white noise of my family crashing about the house, doing their thing around me. I can’t be in too interesting a place or all I do is people watch or explore.

I write in an odd little space in the heart of my home — literally the walk through point to get to any part of the house — at a little corner desk designed and handcrafted for me by my husband. The walls have an ever changing assortment of post it notes, quotes, cartoons, postcards, to do lists and random artwork. The shelf contains bottles, sea glass, old spoons, sea shells, rocks, pine cones, fishing net, a tea set, lots of dust and well, other curiosities and pretties that caught my imagination during a walk or explore.

My alter-ego Bobblehead Ev (or Mev, a.k.a. Mini Ev, actually) and her mini Bert sidekick (who, of course, matches my Bert sidekick) keep me company. I stash a lot of pens plus junk in my first “big girl” mug–a yellow smiley orb that’s totally awesome.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I love that it doesn’t have windows. When I stare ahead all I see is the world inside my head. But I also love that I’ve layered it with lots of doodads to distract inspire me.

It’s always immaculately tidy or a huge jumbled mess. There’s no middle ground. And hands down, it’s where I think and dream best.

How about you? Where do you write? In a specific spot or nest or on the fly where ever the muse takes you?

p.s. I’m definitely not the only writer/reader interested in writers’ workplaces. Google “writers’ spaces” and have fun!