Book News and a Podcast for the Merry Month!

Goldilocks and the 3 Cares feature BIGGER THINGS.

Goldilocks and the 3 Cares feature BIGGER THINGS.

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.

Enjoy the merry month!

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

DSCF1564

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.

DSCF1567

 

Inklings, Procrastinators, Me…

Photo by en.wikipedia user, Remember, and has been released into the public domain.

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!

– – – – – – – – – – – – –

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?)

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!

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!

Thanksgiving 2011

In just a little while I’ll be heading out to a second day of Thanksgiving feasting and I’m hoping I can do the spread justice, as I’m still full from yesterday’s imbibing and merrymaking at my house.

My stomach isn’t the only thing that’s bursting, however. As corny as it is, my heart and mind are too.

My dad, though unfortunately not—and maybe not ever—out of the woods, is, however, home again after many months away. Having him back and looking well and feeling energetic and a bit angst-ridden because he’s chomping at the bit, wanting to do stuff is amazing. He has a great appetite and is more than up to visiting.

And one of my oldest and dearest friends is up visiting from The House in Spruce Grove, Alberta—and another of my most kindred spirits is arriving from across the pond later this week.

My little kids (actually not so little) are healthy and thriving. My husband and I are enjoying autumn and the crisp air, vivid colours, and food prep (Mmmmm, blackberry jam, smoked salmon, pickles and huge batches of homemade soups for the freezer) that come with it.

Writing inspiration has been more plentiful than ever lately (two new novel ideas, and schemes about a putting together a poetry chapbook), I’m almost finished the second draft of my latest work-in-progress, and I’m preparing to head off to SiWC 2012 in ten days—yay and yay!

There are always hard things in life and some seasons that are tougher than others. After a few particularly gruelling months, coming together with people I love and consciously focussing on and celebrating the good things—the blessed things—that co-exist with the hard ones is wonderful.

Whether it’s your Thanksgiving month or not, I hope little things happen this week that remind you of all the good in your life—particularly if you have some not-so-good stuff you’re dealing, too.

Happy reading, writing, thinking—eating.

🙂 Ev

Get Thee to a Conference!

I can’t believe that this time last week I was at SiWC sitting in a workshop called Polish and Shine led by Elizabeth Engstrom (fantastic class!). This Saturday is decidedly less glamorous and thrilling.

All this past week I rode the post conference high, but now the fuzzy glow is fading just a bit (or being blocked from my immediate view!) in the face of the dishes stacking up, the floors being in serious need of a sweep and mop (oh, my dogs–gotta love’em; wish I could shave’em!), the laundry and meals that never cease to need doing/making, and the bathroom, argh, the bathroom! Let’s just not talk about it. . . However, all grumbling and moping aside, my newly reaffirmed goals remain clear and focussed. My inspiration is freshly topped. And when I think of all I want to do, plan to do, need to do . . . Yes, I feel a bit intimidated, but even more, I feel stoked: being surrounded by 600+ writers for four days is seriously motivating.

Almost every year I hesitate before I hit submit to register for SiWC (my annual conference ;-)). Then I recall what it does for me: refuels me for another twelve months, reminds me that yes, writing is a solitary pursuit, but that I am not alone. Literally hundreds upon hundreds of other people identify with and embrace a similar madness!

Meeting with like minds (or at least similarly bent ones), being surrounded by a crowd of folks who really “get” this strange obsession you have with stories and words, and having the chance to learn from others in different places in the writing path than you–well, corny as it sounds, it’s priceless.

Not cost-free though. I’m already starting to put money away for next year, and I think you should do the same.

And less you’re not convinced you or your writing are worth the extravagance of a first conference (or a third, a tenth, a twentieth!), what am I doing right now? Sitting down to write while the house is empty and clear, dirty and in need of a clean as it is–and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? We want to be writers, so we write. We don’t need conferences to give us permission or to remind us–but they do help us remember it. If you have the chance to take part in a writer’s conference, big or small, nearby or far, I really recommend it. It makes all the time we spend in solitary sweet.