Hello and happy March 8th, AKA International Women’s Day 2020!
I have to admit that I recently searched “How long has there been an International Women’s Day?” online because while it’s a day that gains greater significance for me with every year that passes, I don’t recall ever hearing about it as a younger woman or as a kid. Apparently that’s just the circles I lived and grew up in, however (something . . . interesting to me for a lot of reasons, in and of itself). It’s been around for over 100 years.
Anyway, the best site I came across is called (very cleverly, LOL!) InternationalWomensDay.com. I heartily recommend checking it out and (especially!) sharing any of the tidbits that interest you with kids in your life. Recognizing International Women’s Day, honoring it, talking about it, celebrating it, is not a slight to men or an attempt to denigrate them in anyway; it is about starting to address how much (and for how long) history failed to acknowledge women’s personhood and our contributions to the world (and, sadly, often still does). We’ve all heard and learned lots about male inventors, male pioneers-in-various-fields, male explorers, male artists, male authors (and so on and so on), and that’s wonderful because the things people have done are inspiring and great to learn from, regardless of their gender. But it’s really important to see opportunities for your own unique self, as fuel, fodder and motivation for your personal dreams, inclinations, talents and strengths. If you’ve never seen or heard about someone like you doing a particular thing, it’s difficult (maybe even impossible) to even understand it’s an option for you.
And on a personal note, if you’re a woman reading this, I encourage you to do something special, even if it’s very small, to celebrate YOU and the hard work that you do, the dreams (secret or “out there”) that you nurture, and the things you’ve overcome. 🙂
I also use the day to think about the women in my life (too many of whom are gone now) who guided, shaped and encouraged who I’ve become. (For better or worse, LOL.)
I come from a long line of incredibly tough, resilient, hilarious, deeply intelligent women—something I appreciate (and recognize!) more and more as I age. I try not to waste time beating myself up for not expressing my gratitude to some of them when I still had the opportunity (like my mom, for example), and instead strive to be someone they would say similar things about. Do I succeed? . . . Sometimes, maybe. Sometimes, not even close . . . but I think that’s one of the most important things they collectively taught me about how to live: to persevere in my goals, to keep trying.
Hello and happy December! It’s my favorite time of year here on my olde blog spot, as lovely WordPress makes it snow across the screen each and every day. Fun! 🙂
As ever, the merry month is already busy, but I’m carefully treasuring time aside each evening for reading, TV and a bit of knitting. You gotta have priorities, right?
I just finished BEFORE I WAKE by Robert J Wiersema and can’t recommend it enough, a beautifully written, heartbreaking and spooky story that also manages to contain a lot of hope and moments of intense joy and beauty. I couldn’t put it down and actually played hookey from my own writing yesterday morning to finish it.
In other news (which all seems to be story related – yay!), my alter ego Toni Sheridan has another Christmas novella just out: DRUMMER BOY, a sister story to last year’s THE PRESENT. They’re both on sale now, cheap, cheap, cheap, so snap them up and enjoy a bit of sweet romance and an escape from the winter chill. (And if you end up needing to play hookey so you can see what happens in the end, I won’t tell a soul. I’ll just be flattered. :))
And speaking of flattered, last but not least, I was contacted today by Crystal Bourque, an author, speaker and reader that I met at SiWC this year (exemplifying just one of the many reasons I think the conference is so great, the people you meet). We hit it off and have stayed in touch. Recently she gave BIGGER THINGS a read and decided to use it for her Podcast, Goldilocks and the 3 Cares.
It was fascinating and a little bizarre to hear other people (Crystal and her co-host, Andrew Gaudet) discuss my book. To my relief, though yes, there was an element they found too hot and one they found too cold, they mostly considered it just right. Yay!
The more people read BIGGER THINGS and talk to me about it or review it, the more interesting I find the variety of opinions people hold. Very fun! You can listen to the Podcast here. And do make sure to check out some of their other offerings as well, or subscribe to them. They always make me laugh, provoke thought, and give me new titles to add to my to-read list–as if I need more!
And since we’re on the topic of BIGGER THINGS, I have a promotion for any of you looking for gift ideas for book-loving friends or family members. For the month of December, if you buy a paperback directly from me, I’ll sign it to whomever you say, gift wrap it and mail it FREE OF CHARGE directly to your intended’s address (Canada addresses only). Contact me on or before DECEMBER 10th if you want the present to arrive in time for Christmas (Canada Post’s cut off for guaranteed pre-Christmas delivery in Canada is Dec. 11).
I can take payments via PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, or you can do an e-mail transfer from your bank. Books, including GST and FREE SHIPPING within Canada, are $17.84 each. E-mail me at evbishopATSIGNevbishopDOTcom for more info or to order.
And well, I think that’s it for me today: stories, stories, and more stories on the brain. I hope you’re in a similar delightful state.
I’m beyond excited to announce the birth of a new writing group, organized by the Terrace Public Library. It’s open to writers of every genre, form, and level of experience–from aspiring newbie to pro. Come out, make connections, grow in your craft, glean inspiration and motivation, WRITE. 🙂 (First meeting is Wednesday, October 15th.)
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.
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.
“But the sun’s been quite kind . . .” ~ Elton John. Photo by Ev Bishop, copyright 2014
January can be pretty low for me—low energy, low funds, low light, low . . . And this year, a series of tough situations conspired to bring me lower—the rotten kind of events, where people I care about are being kicked in the face by life in ways I’m powerfulness to help in any practical, lasting way. You relate, perhaps?
Waging war with the gloom, however, I also experienced some intensely lovely moments this month—things that reminded me of all the good in life, and in people, that coexists with the . . . not so good.
The incident with the most impact came totally out of the blue, and occurred, of all places, in the post office.
I had just received hard news and treated myself to a London Fog, while I wrote a note to my sister as a pick me up. Afterwards, I went to the post office to mail it, then checked out the lobby’s bulletin board. A unique poster grabbed my eye right away.
It was photocopied in black and white, but no less beautiful for the lack of colour. Funky block letters on a collaged-background made a strange but nice request: “Take what you need.”
Beneath the words and the artwork were tear-away tabs, but they didn’t hold contact numbers. They carried things the creator thought you might need:
Half the tabs were already missing. (In fact, I only know what each one said because tiny font on the poster’s edge gave copyright to Kelly Rae Roberts and I googled her name along with “Take what you need” until I found a copy of the same poster, intact.) I don’t know what I found more encouraging: that someone randomly posted it for no obvious reason other than to put some kindness and inspiration into the world—or that people were moved, like I was, to take something away with them.
I chose faith—something I’m in want of in multiple areas of my life right now. Which would you have taken? What do you particularly need?
I left the post office feeling a little lighter, a little stronger, a little more resilient.
And as so often happens, one positive moment opened my eyes to an abundance of other encouraging, buoying things.
I had wonderful coffee visits with friends who simultaneously challenged me and affirmed some of the ideas percolating in my head.
An old acquaintance from the past reconnected via e-mail, triggering good memories and excitement about new inspirations.
A complete stranger offered, uninitiated by me, to advertise the launch of the first novel in a series I’m going to publish and to help with any questions I have along the way.
Someone gave us a beautiful new chicken—her “nicest, kindest” one—because she’d heard our solitary hen was lonely. Funny, but it really moved me.
In a coffee shop, a young woman out for coffee by herself, slipped out to the washroom, leaving her bag and laptop on the counter where she’d been sitting. Some people might say it was stupid or asking for trouble, but I thought it was a good lesson. Sometimes we have to stop thinking of—almost expecting—worst case scenarios. We need to remember that a lot of people are decent. Are trustworthy. Are kind.
If you’re a little—or a lot—low these days, or going through things you have no idea how to resolve, I pray you experience some high notes this week—that you, like me, get what you need and find encouragement in some small, unexpected way.
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“What You Need” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, January 29, 2014 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”
Photo by en.wikipedia user, Remember, and has been released into the public domain.
Well, it’s a Déjà vu Thursday once again, and this re-shared post, though perhaps not the most amazing piece I’ve ever written, feels super-exciting and completely apropos for two reasons:
1) The Surrey International Writers Conference is just around the corner, and it always kindles thoughts on the importance of a writer’s community—thoughts that are more poignant this year, as I’m actually not attending the conference (for the first time in ten years!).
2) Right around the time of SiWC, I’ll be in London, England . . . but making a side trip to Oxford where I’ll do what? Well, have lunch and a drink (or two, ha ha) in The Eagle and Child! (Yes, that’s right—the pub where C.S.Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and the rest of the Inklings used to meet up.) To say I’m excited about EVERYTHING surrounding the trip would be the silliest understatement! Most of all, I just can’t wait to spend ten days with one my best friends (and one of my favourite writers), Jen Brubacher. Friends, especially ones who share your passions, are wonderful gifts.
Anyway, that was a ridiculously long introduction. Enjoy this week’s Déjà vu!
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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?
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* Well, him, Stephen King, and Julia Cameron—bwahahahaha, what a combination! I wonder what on earth they’d think of being grouped together?)