2012 in review

Interesting that this should come out only days after I compiled my own Best of 2012 🙂

Happy New Year everyone!  I’m off to the sister-in-law’s for a partay!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 10,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 17 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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The best of Writerly Goodness 2012

Well, since I only started blogging (in this incarnation) in March, it’s not been a year yet online, but I’ll give you an idea about what I think has been the best of 2012.

Best movie:  Definitely Cloud Atlas.  I don’t know why, but this movie really had me thinking and feeling.  I know that not everyone shares my inclinations, but Cloud Atlas blew me away.

Kim and I will be going to see The Hobbit tomorrow, but I honestly don’t anticipate that it will impress me as much.  I’ll enjoy the heck out of it, but Cloud Atlas affected me …

Best writing book: (A.K.A writing book porn): The Right to Write.  I’ve had the book on my shelf for years and it wasn’t until the Wordsmith Studio Goodreads group chose it that I actually cracked the cover.  I love Julia Cameron’s philosophy even if I am still struggling with morning pages.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.

Runners up include Larry Brooks’s Story Engineering and Syd Field’s The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver.

Best fiction: The Hunger Games.  When my Mom read it before I did, I figured I better get around to the dear little thing.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Mind you, Larry Brooks’s 11 part analysis of the book was fantastic too, and made me think that I’d have some substantial writerly lessons to learn from it.

Riding Suzanne Collins’s heals are Hugh Howey’s Wool Omnibus and Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest, both of which I’m still reading, so I’m not sure, strictly speaking, that they count (!)

Best non-writing, non-fiction book: The Happiness Project, by Gretchin Rubin.  Again, still reading it, but it does speak to the control freak in me 🙂

Best writerly experience: The New York comes to Niagara pitch conference.  Fraught, yes.  Learning experience, double-yes.

Best local arts event: Hands down has to be the Launch of Kim Fahner’s The Narcoleptic Madonna, though Jon Bulter’s The LaCloche spirit: The equivalent light exhibit and Scott Overton’s launch of his novel Dead Air are close seconds.  Nor can I forget the 100 thousand poets for change event in North Bay.  Poetic road trips are the bestest.

Best posts
These have been selected due to the number of all-time views.

  1. Do you dress for success?
  2. The cadre … or should that be cabal?
  3. Feminist lunacy from Battle Chant
  4. Why did I call this category Alchemy Ink?
  5. Eight metaphors for persistence and why you’ll want to read this anyway – my very first post!  Awww … you guys 🙂
  6. Character sketches, part 2: Eoghan
  7. Character sketches, part 3: Dairragh
  8. Rethinking my online strategy
  9. Why spoilers are good for writers
  10. An Interview with Kim Fahner
hAPPY NEW YEAR

hAPPY NEW YEAR (Photo credit: Helgi Halldórsson/Freddi)

I’ll wait until New Years Day to post on resolutions.  So have a happy New Year all, and thanks a bunch for all of your support!

Virtual hugs!

Writerly Goodness.

The Next Big Thing – Initiate of Stone

My friend, Kim Fahner tagged me in this project in which the writer answers questions about their work and then tags other authors to blog their “next big thing” in turn.

So I’m going to victimize tag Scott Overton, who though he’s just published Dead Air, I know has more irons in the fire, Brian Braden, who has a fabulous WIP to share, Tim Reynolds, who’s always working on something fabulous, and Sandra Stewart, who likewise keeps her irons hot (in more ways than one!) 🙂

Onto the Questions:

  • What is the working title of your book?

Initiate of Stone  Bonus: Series title:Ascension, book 1

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is one of the few ideas I’ve had that did not come from a dream.  I just started with an idea of a young woman, forged by elemental forces, who survives war to become the hero the world needs. Everything grew out of that seed of a character and story.

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Epic fantasy.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Actually, I’ve blogged this before, so I’ll take the lazy-a$$ route and simply link the previous character sketches, all of which include my casting suggestions:

Ferathainn

Eoghan

Dairragh

Supporting characters

Villains (muwahahahahaha)

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An uninitiated mage must uncover the secrets her family have kept from her in order to defeat the man who ripped her family, her hope for initiation, and her innocence from her.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year, writing in the evenings and weekends, working full time in the day.

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write novels.  I have lots of ideas.  This just happens to be the first one I chose to work on.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

IoS features a strong female character that doesn’t necessarily find fulfilment with a guy.  There are romantic elements, but Fer’s issues can’t be resolved in the course of this novel.  Thematically, I address the painful legacy of secrets, even those kept in care or kindness; the sometimes twisted relationship between parents and children; the difference between institutionalized religion and spiritual practice (how the one can damage and the other promise healing); and the struggle to realize one’s true potential, whatever it is.

So I hope your interest has been piqued 🙂

Thanks for the opportunity Kim, and if anyone is interested, I’ve blogged about my WIP Writerly Goodnesspretty extensively.  If you’d like, just pick my “Work in progress” category and read away.  I haven’t blogged the novel itself, just the character sketches and world-building behind it.

It’s back to the day job for me tomorrow, so I probably won’t post again until the weekend.  Have a good end-of-the week all!

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

God bless us, every one!

Just a brief post today to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!

Two of my favourite ecards:

I kind of love the interactive one and I just can’t resist the dog-y charm of the other 🙂

Tomorrow, I’m going to post on the Next Big Thing project which Kim Fahner has been so kind as to tag me into.

And of course, I’ll continue to post through the end of the year including a top ten kind of post and one about those deadly New Year’s resolutions.

For now, I hope you’re all having a peaceful holiday, full of love.

doctor who christmas special

doctor who christmas special (Photo credit: lism.)

I’m going to enjoy the Doctor Who marathon on Space, culminating in this year’s Christmas special 🙂

 

 

 

 

Have been watching my share of seasonal movies though, A Christmas Carol, Miracle of 34th Street, and the annual The Sound of Music.  The title of this post is taken from the Dickens’ classic.

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...

Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

‘Tis the season … of change

English: An artificial Christmas tree.

English: An artificial Christmas tree. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This Christmas been a little weird for me.  To give you all context, I’m going to have to give you a before and after perspective.

Before

In past years, my gifts consisted primarily of baked goods.  I’d start in November and bake one batch of cookies every weekend, usually Merry Fruit cookies, Christmas shortbread, and either Viennese crescents and thumbprint cookies, or something more earthy like gingerbread and chocolate chip.  My mom would also put together some Christmas treats: hello dollies, Skor bars, and sugar cookies.

Cookie box

Cookie box (Photo credit: mmatins)

I also made two kinds of dog biscuits for my friends who owned pets: peanut butter and cheese.

These would all be stored in the freezer until it was time to put together the parcels, usually a week or two before Christmas, and the I’d get the plates and tins put together, sign all the cards, and send everything off.

Phil would often make the deliveries for me.  One year, making my own, I surprised one of our friends in his pyjamas 😉

For a few years, I also participated in cookie exchanges and got a greater mix of treats that way.

Decorations would be up the first weekend of December and be taken down January 1st.

My office Christmas party, Phil’s, the office pot-luck, and usually one or two other seasonal events usually crowded into the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Last year, I didn’t bake.  Phil and Mom did, so I was still able to put together small gifts for a few friends. The family decided not to exchange gifts (we’re all adults here).  I didn’t go to either office party and did not participate in a cookie exchange.  Due to a rearrangement of our very small living room, we no longer had room for our Christmas tree.

It was a hint of things to come.

After

This year, I just haven’t caught the Christmas spirit.

With the new acting position and all the travel it’s required, I’ve just been exhausted.  I decided, for the second year in a row, that I would not bake.  This year, neither Phil nor Mom baked cookies either.  We don’t need all that sugar and fat anyway.

The decorations didn’t get put up the first weekend in December and when I got around to it the next weekend, only the garlands for the railings, ceramic tree (our substitute for the big one), and door decorations were hauled out.  No Christmas cups, no Christmas platter, no musical Christmas slippers, and no Christmas music (something I usually play while I’m decorating).

We went to Phil’s office party (left early), but not to mine, and I happened to be absent for the pot-luck, and the BEA (Business Expertise Advisor) hive’s dinner was cancelled due to poor weather.  I made it out to a friend’s house party last night (Christmas Merriment is always that at Shirley’s), but that’s pretty much it.

Christmas dinner is at Mom’s this year, and due to changing life circumstances, Phil and I won’t be having any visitors this year.

The immediate family is buying presents, but we’ve put a limit on it.

It’s a subdued season, but I’ve decided that suits me just fine.

Grinch or Curmudgeon?

Am I being a Grinch, or a curmudgeon because I’m not caught up (for once) in the holiday hype?

I don’t think so.

I’m still celebrating, just not as much as in past years.

What do you think?

Have your Christmas celebrations changed over the years?  Have they grown more elaborate or more sedate?

Do share 🙂

The dog in winter … just because

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, or even if you drop in occasionally, you’ve probably noticed that I write about my dog from time to time.  This is one of those times 🙂

Nu (Nuala) is a quirky beast.  First, she pees like a male dog.  Yes, she lifts her leg.  It’s a learned behaviour adopted from dog-friend Daisy, who in turn learned the skill from her dog-friend Colonel.  This is a particularly useful skill in winter, when snow banks often crowd the sidewalks.  Trust me, it’s better than the embarrassing (for me) pee in the middle of the sidewalk or driveway, which often occurs just when another pedestrian or the homeowner walks up.

She used to climb the banks, but I’ve had to curb that inclination.  More on that in a bit.

Nu also has a couple of behaviours reserved for winter.  She’s a sniffer.  The rest of the year, she walks with her nose to the ground and often finds the most interesting (read disgusting) things on the side of the road.  Used tissues are a favourite, but occasionally she’ll go for the feces of other animals or the leavings of feral cats (bird corpses mostly).  It’s so disappointing when your pet actually behaves like a dog 😛

Her reaction to having these things extracted from her mouth has resulted in one of her many nick-names: Clamps.  Nu will clench her mouth shut, and physically curl her body to prevent either Phil or myself from getting to the offensive bit.  She becomes completely rigid and I’ve often had to lift most of her 80 pound weight to get at whatever tasty she’s found.

The snow-nosian pupWhen the first decent snow falls, though, the sniffing takes on a whole new dimension.  Nu buries her entire face in the snow, snuffling and digging through it in her attempt to find whatever delicious smell has attracted her. She emerges as the snow-nosian pup.  The snow melts pretty quickly, but sometimes we see the abominable (adorable) snow dog.

I walk Nuala using a Halti.  She can haul anyone clear across the driveway when she has a mind to, so it helps to keep her in line without causing strain on her neck.  She hates the thing though, and during the rest of the year, she’ll rub her chin on the ground in an attempt to scratch beneath, or remove the Halti entirely.

In the winter, this behaviour turns into what I like to call her seal impression.  Nu slides on the snow, nose first, clearing a path for the rest of her to follow.  Her front paws fold back (kind of like flippers) and she slides across the snowy yard, wiggling.  She really does look like a seal.

In recent years, Nuala’s had a few minor health situations.  A couple of years ago, she sheared one of her molars in half.  This necessitated a lengthier-than-expected dental surgery that left her disoriented and whining in that particular post-surgical way.  Any of you who have gone through it with your pet will know what I mean.  Stumbling when she tried to walk, and moaning through a clenched and quivering jaw.  It was truly pathetic.

Last year, she developed what we thought was arthritis, and she was started on a regimen of Metacam and Cartrofen which seemed to be working, but this year, after her Cartrofen booster, she started limping more than usual, not less.

She wouldn’t put weight on her right rear leg and when we took her in to the vet last week, the tentative diagnosis was an ACL injury.  Yes, animals get them too, but unlike humans, you can’t tell them the reason why they can’t run around like a yahoo anymore, climb snow banks, and get overly excited over company.

Here are a couple of helpful videos from Vetstoria.  Note: The second one shows the actual surgery and those uncomfortable with graphic medical information should steer clear.

We’re trying to keep her quiet, and ‘easy,’ ‘whoa,’ and ‘no’ have become a large part of our communication these days.  If she doesn’t improve over the holidays, Nu will be admitted to the vet’s for a day where she’ll be sedated and a definitive diagnosis made.  At this point, she’s resisting the manipulation that could potentially reveal the extent of the injury.

Because the ligament is soft tissue, an x-ray won’t show anything about the ACL.  It will show any ancillary damage caused to the bone, however, so that too might be in Nuala’s future.

If the ACL is significantly torn or detached, Nuala’s headed for surgery, either in Ottawa or Guelph, and that’s an issue for us because both Phil and I work and Nu doesn’t travel well, even over short distances.  One or both of us would have to take the time off work, and neither of us has the vacation to accommodate such a trip.

Though expensive, the cost is not the issue with us.  Our last dog, Zoe, had a couple of Zoesurgeries in an attempt to remove the cancer (hemangiosarcoma) that she developed.  The bill was over five thousand and in the end, the cancer had spread and still resulted in her death.  Sad days, those.

Our cat, Thufir, developed diabetes, and we treated him for years with metformin and then insulin before he finally succumbed to complications.  Phil and I believe that pet ownership includes the responsibility for the animal’s overall health.  These unforeseen crises are some of the reasons we have credit cards and a line of credit.

So that’s life with Nuala these days, who’s earned yet Thufiranother nick-name, the Hoblin, as a result of her current injury.

Will likely update you in the New Year with the developing situation.  I won’t lay claim to prescience, but I have a feeling that surgery will be in our collective future.

Do you have a pet with health issues?  How are you managing it?  My best wishes to anyone dealing with anything serious.

I woke up today = epic win :)

We’re all still here.  No zombies.  No rapture.  The apocalypse, it turns out, it just a calendar reset, very much like the solstice, or New Year’s Eve.

Then I got the G+ notification this morning that in the Julian calendar, it’s actually December 8 and that the end of the Mayan calendar  and Christmas are both days away yet.  Needless to say, my response to that particular bit of sharing cannot be repeated on Writerly Goodness.

Up here in the north, we got our first real snow storm of the year, right on time.  Five to six inches fell yesterday and last night, necessitating a one and a half hour snow-blowing odyssey for myself, and that after a kind neighbour cleared my mom’s side of the driveway.  Heck of a way to spend a day off 😦

Back to the matter at hand.

Maya Calendar

Maya Calendar (Photo credit: Xiaozhuli)

The Mayan calendar restarts at this point.  They may not get to celebrate this particular new beginning every year, but that’s what today represents for them: a new beginning.

Similarly, the solstice is the renewal of the sun in the northern hemisphere.  The shortest day and longest night passes, and from that point in the year, the days become increasingly longer and the nights increasingly shorter until the summer solstice flips the switch.  Here’s astronomer Phil Plait’s informative article on the event.

For those of you with paganish leanings, or the Celtophiles among you, here is a link to this year’s solstice ceremony at Newgrange.

English: Newgrange, Ireland.

English: Newgrange, Ireland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cultures throughout the world celebrate the solstice in one way or another.  Christmas celebrations (among others) can be traced back to, or related to the pagan solstice celebrations that predated them.

It is not only the beginning of a new season, but the beginning of a new year for some.  If you think about the 12 days of Christmas and start the count on the solstice, the final day of celebrations will be anywhere from January 1 to 3, depending on the year and the day the solstice actually falls on.

That’s why I think that we call it the Christmas season, or used to call it that before the political correctness police descended en masse and advised everyone that we had to say “Happy Holidays” and not “Merry Christmas.”

I get the inclusiveness of the message.  I’m not Christian myself, but I was raised in that tradition and I celebrate Christmas with my family and friends like most people of Anglo-European descent.  My paganish side honours the solstice and the season it starts for me, culminating in the New Year.

Like the Mayan calendar, and the solar/astronomical year, our calendar restarts at this point as well.  January 1st marks a new beginning for most of us, a time of putting up new calendars and taking down Christmas decorations.  The tree (a pagan tradition, by the way) is shipped to the curb for recycling, or repackaged back in its box until next year.

Resolutions are made and adhered to or abandoned as our nature demands.

So what do you think about renewals, the Christmas/holiday season, and what it represents for us?

Coming soon: I’ll be posting on Christmas Day, creating a “best of the year” post, and blogging about planning and resolutions with a writerly focus.

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice...

Sunrise over Stonehenge on the summer solstice, 21 June 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For now, I’ll simply wish everyone a happy solstice.

A solstice soundtrack:

Write on, my friends!

 

The Right to Write

As part of the Wordsmith Studio Goodreads group, I have been reading Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write.  I think I’ve fallen in love 🙂

Cover of "The Right to Write: An Invitati...

Cover via Amazon

Julia’s philosophy of writing is something that I’ve aspired to for years and I think that I’ll be referring to her book for some time.  The book has an organic quality to it that I admire.

What follows are the gems I mined from Cameron’s book, and all the credit for them must, of course, go to the author.

Gems:

Introduction
“Writing has for thirty plus years been my constant companion, my lover, my friend, my job, my passion, and what I do with myself and the world I live in.  Writing is how, and it sometimes seems why, I do my life.”
“Our ‘writing life’ … cannot be separated from our life as a whole.”
“… writing is a powerful form of prayer and meditation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance …”

Begin

“It’s a luxury to be in the mood to write.”
“… writing is like a good pair of pyjamas …”

Let yourself write

“We have an incredible amount of mystery, mystique, and pure bunk around exactly what [becoming a writer] means.”
“When we just let ourselves write, we get it ‘right.’”

Let yourself listen

“Writing is about getting something down, not about thinking something up.”

The time lie

“The myth that we must have ‘time’—more time—in order to create is a myth that keeps us from using the time we do have.”

Laying track

“For the first time, I gave myself emotional permission to do rough drafts and for those drafts to be, well, rough.”
“Writing—and this is the big secret—wants to be written.”

Bad writing

“Bad writing—when it’s good—is like New York street pizza.  Sometimes it’s a little too crusty.  Sometimes it’s a little soggy, but the tang is undeniable.  It has flavor.  Spice.  Juice.”

This writing life

“I have crawled out of lovers’ beds to sneak off and write.”

“There is a great happiness in letting myself write.  I don’t always do it well, or need to, but I do need to do it.”
“Writing is alchemy.”

Mood

“All of us have a sex drive.  All of us have a drive to write.”
“Writing may be an art, but it is certainly a craft.  It is a simple and workable thing that can be as steady and reliable as a chore—does that ruin the romance?”

Drama

“Keep the drama on the page.”
“Keeping the drama on the page is ruthless, enlightened self-interest.”

The wall of infamy

“… I advocate writing for revenge.  I advocate writing ‘to show them.’  You turn the dross of your disappointments into the gold of accomplishment.”

Valuing our experience

“Seeking to value ourselves, we look to others for assurance.  If what we are doing threatens them, they cannot give it.  If what we envision is larger than they can see, they cannot give support for what it is we are doing.”
“Valuing our experience is not narcissism.  It is not endless self-involvement.  It is, rather, the act of paying active witness to ourselves and to our world.”

Specificity

“One thing at a time, one thought, one word at a time.  That is how a writing life is built.”
“Detail allows us to communicate precisely what we mean.”

Body of experience

“Because we think of writing as something disembodied and cerebral, because we ‘think’ of writing rather than notice that what we do with it is meet or encounter it, we seldom realize that writing, like all art, is embodied experience.”
“True knowledge, authentic knowledge, is something deeper than the mind entertains.”

The well

“Writing is what we make from the broth of our experience.  If we lead a rich and varied life, we will have a rich and varied stock of ingredients from which to draw …”
“Sanity in writing means acknowledging that we are an creative ecosystem and that without fresh inflow and steady outflow the pond of our inner resources can grow stagnant and stale.”

Sketching

“If I see or hear the impulse to put in a tree, I put it in the landscape of what I am writing … the writing itself knows when and how and where it will use it.”
“‘It’s a sort of lucid dreaming where I carry the idea of the story and the Universe delivers to me bits and pieces as I need them.’”

Loneliness

“Not writing is the lonely thing.  Not writing creates self-obsession.  Self-obsession blocks connection with others … with the self.  Writing is like an inner compass.  We check in and we get our bearings.”

Witness

“What writing brings to life is clarity and tenderness.  Writing, we witness ourselves.”

“Why don’t we do it in the road?”

“People who write from discipline … take the risk of trying to write from the least open and imaginative part of themselves, the part of them that punches a time clock instead of taking flights of fancy.”

Connection

“Writing is a way not only to metabolize life but to alchemize it as well.  It is a way to transform what happens to us into our own life experience.  It is a way to move from passive to active.  We may still be the victims of circumstance, but by our understanding of those circumstances we place events within the ongoing context of our own life, that is, the life we ‘own.’”

Being an open channel

“When writing dominates a life, relationships suffer—and not coincidentally, so does the writing.”
“Although we seldom talk about it in these terms, writing is a means of prayer.  It connects us to the invisible world.”

Integrating

“The root of the word ‘integration’ is the smaller word ‘integer,’ which means ‘whole.’  Too often, racing through life, we become the ‘hole,’ not ‘whole.’”

Credibility

“Based on the idea that writing is product, not process, the credibility attack wants to know just what credits you’ve amassed lately.  The mere act of writing, the fact of which makes you a writer, counts for nothing with this monster.”

Place

“The accumulation of details, the willingness to be specific and precise, the willingness to ‘place’ a piece of writing accurately in context—all of these things make for writing that a reader can connect to.”

Happiness

“It is my belief that writing is a way to bless and to multiply out blessings.”
“Writing is a form of cherishing.”

Making it

“The universe is not, to my eye, a cruel and capricious place.  I believe that our desire to write is a deep-seated human need to communicate and that it is answered by an equally powerful human drive to be communicated to.  In other words, for every writer there is a reader—or many readers.”

Honesty

“Writing is about honesty.  It is amost impossible to be hinest and boring at the same time.”

Vulnerability

“Vulnerability in writing is the enemy of grandiosity … of pomposity.  It is the enemy of posturing; the enemy of denial … Vulnerability is writing health, and health—as I can assure you—can be a scary-feeling experience for some of us.”
“Vulnerability, which is honesty’s shy younger sister, is the part of ourselves that renders un capable of great art, art that enters and explores the heart.”

Dailiness

“Writing is the act of motion.  Writing is the commitment to move forward, not to stew in our own juices, to become whatever it is that we are becoming.”
“Reality happens in daily doses.  Life lived a day at a time is life made much of.”

Voice

“Writing from the body—dropping down into the well of your experience and sounding out how you feel—ultimately yields a body of work.  We say that a voice is full-bodied without realizing that this is a literal phrase: when we write from our gut rather than from our head we acquire the same resonance that a singer does when the breath comes from the diaphragm rather than high up in the chest.”

Form versus formula

“… joie de vivre, … kick-in-the-pants power comes when we allow form to triumph over formula.  In other words, when we trust that writing ‘live’ has a real and valid life to it.”

Footwork

“It is a spiritual maxim that God never closes one door without opening another.  It is a spiritual joke that while this may be true, the hallway in between is murder.  When we are ‘stuck’ in our writing lives, it is usually because we are clinging to a situation that has outlived its usefulness to us or we are unwilling to explore a new risk that we sense we really must take.”

Practice

“Practice means what it says: writing is something to be done over and over, something that improves through the repetitive doing but that needs not be done perfectly. … Consistency is the key to mastering the instrument that is you.”

Containment

“Showing our writing to hostile or undiscerning readers is like lending money to people with terrible fiscal pasts.  We will not be repaid as we wish.”
“We must write from love and we must choose those to read us who read from love: the love of words.”

Sound

“We talk about the writing voice but seldom about the importance of literal sounds in the sound it makes.”
We talk about music in writing but we seldom focus on the music all around us.”

I would live to write, but …

“We want official validation that we are ‘really’ writers.  The truth is, we need to give that permission, that validation, ourselves.”

Driving

“I have a drive to write and I do drive to write. … the art of writing devours images and … if I am going to write deeply, frequently, and well, I must keep my inner pond of images very well stocked.  When I want to restock my images, I get behind the wheel of my car.”

Roots

“… writing benefits from other commitments.  Writing responds well to some gentle scheduling.  A day job not only promotes solvency, it promotes creativity as well.”

ESP

“It is my belief that all of us are naturally intuitive and that writing opens an inner spiritual doorway that gives us access to information both personally and professionally that serves us well.  I call this information ‘guidance’ …”

Cheap tricks

“… the part of me that writes in young, vulnerable, and easily swayed. … I use a lot of cheap tricks to bribe my writer into production.”

Stakes

“In writing, stakes are a question of clarity and empathy.  As writers, we must make it very clear what our characters stand to lose or gain so that our readers, encountering these stakes, can feel empathy and care about the outcome.”

Procrastination

“Writers procrastinate so that when they finally get to writing, they can get past the censor.”

Into the water

Julia’s prescription of morning pages, a narrative time line, and cups.  You’ll have to read the book to find out what these are.

The right to write

“To be truly human, we all have the right to make art.  We all have the right to write.”

These are only a few of the gems I could have plucked out for you, and all of them are of a similar nature.  If you are inspired or intrigued in any way by these, go grab the book.  Go on now!  Give yourself a lovely gift for Christmas.  Or suggest it to a loved one.

Cameron includes exercises at the end of each chapter and it forms a kind of writer’s rehab.  The Right to Write is, if nothing else, Cameron’s attempt to heal the injured and encourage the aspiring writer.

The Narcoleptic Madonna Launch, Dec. 7, 2012

Lovely night!  Music, poetry, and beautiful art.  Inspiring in all kinds of ways 🙂  Thanks, Kim, for putting together a wonderful evening.

My apologies though, for being late (!)  I knew I needed $6 for parking, but I was hoping that I’d be able to pay on exit and get some change at the launch, or, failing that, there would be some place on campus to get change, whether it be a change machine or store.  There was a store, but the vague directions of “down the hill” didn’t really help.  So I ended up stopping at a couple of different places and essentially going most of the way back home before I got the change I needed, returned, paid, parked, and finally got in.

It’s all on me, but I missed some of Kim’s opening remarks, including some very kind ones about myself.  If it’s possible to kick yourself in the ass, toe first (‘cause, come on, that’s the only way to do it so it counts), then I’d be doing it.

The day itself was a bit of a crap shoot for me.  I was ill (still am), but damned if I’d miss Kim’s launch and I am SO glad I made it.  Enough about me.

Kim Reading1Ever the gracious hostess, Kim started off with her acknowledgements to the people in her life who’ve been teachers, mentors, and friends on the way, to the artists who have influenced her and the experiences she’s had that have shaped her craft.

As mentioned in the interview I posted last week, The Narcoleptic Madonna has been twelve years in the making, and most of that time, Kim has been primary care-giver for her parents, both of whom have passed away.  Kim also struggled with depression.  This journey of love and loss, recovery and the process of reclaiming the self is the journey that Kim describes in the pages of TNM.

I’m not going to share any of her poetry here.  For that, you can friend Kim on Facebook, follow her blog, The Republic of Poetry, or, best of all, buy TNM, Braille on Water, and You Must Imagine the Cold Here, or any of the other anthologies that her work may be found in.  The experience of reading Kim’s poetry is well-worth the price of admission.

Kim reads with wit and élan, the genesis and process of her work as much a part of her presentation as the poetry.  At several points, she had the audience in stitches, and reached out to specific communities within her fandom (Catholic, fellow teachers, students, family, Irish heritage, etc.) with particular poems.

After Kim’s first set, she invited The Wild Geese of the Sudbury Branch of the ComTheWildGeesehaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann up to perform.  She sang “The Fields of Athenry” with them, her soulful vibrato pulling the tenderness and sorrow out of each verse and chorus.

In the second set, Kim delved into some of the darker moments of the past twelve years.  Then she moved into the process of how she began to reclaim her life and happiness.  She also read one poem that emerged from her recent visit to the Anam Cara Artist’s and Writer’s Retreat.

A second set of music from The Wild Geese followed in which Kim sang “Red is the Rose.”

After a brief but heartfelt thank you, we were released to refreshments, book-purchasing, and the long line-up for the signing.  Kim also made available a family “puffed wheat” recipe for those who’d been clamouring for it 🙂

TrishStenbaughArt2I took a few moments to appreciate the backdrop for the event, the evocative art of Trish Stenabaugh, who contributed the cover art for TNM.

In the line-up, I had a chance to chat with a number of friends, Doctors Shannon Hengen and Marilyn Orr from Laurentian University, Karen Baglole, a mutual friend and owner of The Ultimate You, one of the best aesthetician/day spa joints in town, Irene Golas and Vera Constantineau from the Sudbury Writers’ Guild, and some other mutual friends.

By the time I reached Kim with my five copies, I could tell that the wrist cramps were KimSigningsetting in, but she bore up well and continued to smile and share a laugh with her friends throughout.

Several of the attendees have been posting to Facebook since last night that Kim’s event was the Best. Launch. EVAR.  I tend to agree.  Kim puts on a launch like she would a dinner party, inviting us into her world, asking us to make ourselves comfortable, and sharing her life and love generously.  Kim gives us gifts and we are happy to reciprocate.

Bask in the glow, my poetic soul-sista!  Ya done good 🙂

An interview with Kim Fahner

Kim FahnerKim Fahner lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario, where she teaches English at Marymount Academy.  She had published two books of poems, You Must Imagine the Cold Here (Your Scrivener Press, 1997) and Braille on water (Penumbra Press, 2001).  This new book, The Narcoleptic Madonna, is also being published by Penumbra Press (2012).  Kim is a member of the Writers’ Union of Canada, The League of Canadian Poets, and PEN Canada.  She worked with Timothy Findley through the Humber School for Writers back in the late 1990s.  Most recently, she served on the editorial board of the ezine, terra nord/north.

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WG: First, hugs and thanks for virtually gracing me with your poetic presence here on Writerly Goodness.  I’m really excited about the launch of The Narcoleptic Madonna on Friday, December 7, 7pm, at Thorneloe University Theatre.

TNM will be your third poetry collection.  Could you comment on how, from the poet’s perspective, your work has evolved from You Must Imagine the Cold Here, through Braille on Water, to TNM?

KF:  If I consider how my work has evolved over the years, since the publication of my first little book of poems in 1997, I find some aspects echo through all three collections, but I also find that I have grown both as a person and as a poet.  This is to be expected.  My early poems were often lengthy, wordy and more narrative in nature.  I still have narrative work, but it might be more of a ‘narrative lyric’ in style and form.  My most recent poems, some unpublished, are purposeful experiments in poetics.  In August of this year, I attended an ekphrastic poetry workshop at the Anam Cara Writers’ and Artists’ Retreat in Eyeries, on the Beara Peninsula, Co. Cork, Ireland.  I had, prior to that, written a few ekphrastic poems, but now I am very enamoured of the genre.  That wonderful retreat was led by Seattle poet, Susan Rich, and attended by poets from around the world.  Since then, I’ve been playing with the idea of persona poems and dabbling more and more in the ekphrastic field.  I’m trying to stretch out in a poetic yoga pose, so to speak.  I want to continue to challenge myself to evolve as a poet.

WG: How or from where do the ideas for your poems come to you?

KF:    I think, as many poets might say, my ideas for poems come from life itself.  I find that I am always observing others.  Poets need to be in the world, but not always of the world, if that makes any sense.  We must hover on the margins, so as to better see how people behave in the world.  I get poetic ideas when I’m walking my dogs.  I find inspiration in nature, something that is prevalent here in Northern Ontario.  I also love to travel and I find that traveling often inspires me to write.

WG: What themes does TNM address?

KF:  This new collection, The Narcoleptic Madonna, seems to have a few key thematic threads running through it.  The most obvious, to me, is that of the idea of journeying to find oneself.  I often find that I must journey outwardly in order to go inside.  By traveling, I journey within myself and uncover new layers of being.  Sounds elitist, but it’s not.  It’s just a heightened awareness of who and what you’re made of, and how you fit into the world around you.  The collection covers poetry that was written over a twelve year period of time.  During the last ten years, I spent a great deal of time taking care of my parents as they became ill and then died.  This was transformative to me, in terms of how I defined myself and how I saw myself.  As a result of that, a number of the poems in NM deal with life, love, death, and the recreation of spirit that comes after death.  It really is a collection that speaks to the phoenix-like quality of life itself.  There are endings, but those endings always seem to spawn new beginnings.  I’m not saying it’s easy to recreate oneself after losing someone you love, but it’s necessary and unavoidable.  That process, of walking someone through the last years of their life, isn’t an easy one, but it did serve as inspiration for poetry and for reflection on lessons learned.  I also spent a great deal of time dealing with depression.  This, too, was a painful, but transformative process for me.  Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to recreate yourself.  That seems to have been part of my process, as a person, and that process is reflected in my work.

WG: I’m a big fan of writing process.  Could you say a few words about your process as a poet?

KF:   I’m not the best at revision.  Usually, when I’m not experimenting with purposeful poetic exercises like ekphrasis or persona, I tend to find that lines discover me!  Usually, when I’m walking, images come to visit.  Sometimes they come to me in dreams, but if I don’t write them down, they disappear.  Other times, when I’m driving through the city on the way to work, I see people and begin to wonder at their lives.  A poem comes to me quickly, in a rush of lines or a first stanza.  Then, I might leave it for a day or so, but whenever I return to it, the poem writes itself in a rush.  I fiddle with it a bit, initially, but then it sits on its own for a few days.  When I return, I slice and dice it a bit, but I’m nowhere near the expert at revision as some of my poet friends are.

WG: Given all of the above, how long did TNM take to come together for you?

KF:  The final part of the collection, its acceptance by publisher John Flood and Penumbra Press, has birthed itself over the last ten months or so.  I had submitted the manuscript to another press, but it was rejected.  Then, I sent the collection to John and he had it for a while.  He emailed me in January or Februrary of 2012 and said he was interested in publishing the work.  I was thrilled.  The last few months, from September onward, has been a time or editing, proofreading and revision.  I love working with John because he has decades of experience in working with poets, so he often sees things in my work that I would rather ignore.  He’ll suggest revisions that, initially, I might resist.  That’s all ego, though, as I always initially feel ‘Oh, I can’t change that….it’s my poem.’  Once I get past the idea of resisting the suggested revision of my work, I always get to a place where I see that his edits are things that make my poems stronger, leaner, and more than what they were before.  I trust him implicitly now and I know he sees my work with more objective eyes.

The actual writing of the manuscript, though, has stretched over a twelve year period.  The topics of the poems vary, but I notice that I am always a keen employer of metaphor in my work.  It’s my favourite poetic device, I am sure!  I think in metaphor on a daily basis, and I know I teach through metaphor as well, so it makes sense that metaphor plays such a key role in my work.

WG: Is there anything else you’d like to share about NM?

KF:   I’m just very excited to have this book come into the world.  My only regret is that my parents aren’t here to share in it.  Without them, without their support, I would never have come this far in my life as a poet.  They were always supportive of my creative sidnarcolepticcovere.  When I decided not to do a PhD in English years ago, in my mid-twenties, because I was worried about what academia would do to my creative work, they were the first to reassure me that I wasn’t making a mistake.  The certainty that they had in my gift, in my talent, was comforting.  I just wish they were still here to see NM arrive in the world.  I think they would have loved it.  It’s dedicated to their memory and I hold them close to my heart.

WG: Thank you for dropping by Writerly Goodness, and for your time and thoughtfulness in sharing these insights.

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The countdown to Kim’s launch has begun!  In six days she’ll be at Thorneloe University Theatre reading from her brand-spanking new book.  Will you be there?  I certainly will!