The next chapter: Diving back in

The last of my caturday quickies is a bit of an update on the work in progress (WIP) and other writing projects I’m tackling these days.

I revised my short story “A Terrible Thing” for Tesseracts 17 and submitted that on February 27, just one day before the deadline (!)  I submitted a short story back in October for the competition, but was not successful at that time, though the rejection letter was of the very encouraging variety (please send us something else).  I followed the editors’ advice, and ATT is sufficiently different from the story I submitted last fall that I hope it will tickle some fancies 🙂

I also submitted a poem for the League of Canadian Poets’ National Poetry Month blog: “peregrine.”  I’ll link through when it’s posted.

In related news, I forwarded an opportunity to my friend, Kim Fahner, a couple of months ago, and she, in turn, asked her publisher to submit her poetry collection, The Narcoleptic Madonna, to the powers that be.  The result?  Kim will be participating in the Battle of the Bards at Harbourfront Centre April 3rd!

It’s inspired me to think more seriously about submitting some of my poetry to various publications.  We’ll see where that leads.

As of today, I’ll be diving back in to Initiate of Stone and the next set of revisions.  I’ll also be revising “The Michael” for the Writers of the Future competition and working on a new story, “Way Station,”  (which the Retro Suites inspired) for In places between.

Finally, after my bout of training fury and certification regret, I’ll be catching up with my critiquing crew.

I never did work further on Gerod and the Lions.  I am hoping that I got far enough into it that I’ll be able to pick up the threads when the time comes.

A not so pleasant writing-related task that I’ll be picking up shortly, is collecting all my various financial bits and pieces and submitting my taxes.  I claim writing as self-employment on my income tax.  My lack of recent publishing success is a bit of a concern, but it’s certainly not for lack of effort 🙂  Do you think auditors would accept this blog as evidence of my industry? 😉

Writerly Goodness

Writerly Goodness

What’s been happening in your writerly lives lately, my friends?  Are you writing “hard”?

What’s coming: I’ll continue my series, A life sentence with mortal punctuation, tomorrow, and in the future, I hope to have an interview with Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award 2012 quarter-finalist Alon Shalev regarding his writing life and the second book in the Wycaan Master Series, The First Decree.

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Caturday Quickies: On inspiration

Place as inspiration

As I mentioned in the first of today’s (not-so) quickies, I was in Chatham this week.

The place I stayed in was an amazing hotel called the Retro Suites.  If you’re ever in Chatham, I’d recommend it, just for the fabulous quirk factor.

The owner restored classic cars for years and you can see a lot of that material  has made its way into the hotel.  Fenders turned into benches, tools turned into sculpture and art.

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A “school” of vice-grips 🙂

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An assemblage of dispirate art and antiques

The owner is a massive collector as well.  Throughout the suites, framed classic movie posters, old microphones (including one from Elvis and one from the Voice of America) and radios, vintage furniture, tables made out of the tail-pieces of WWII bombs, authentic Turkish samovars, and paintings by one of the owners’ family members grace the walls.  He even has a couple of the FAO Schwartz tin soldiers in there.  You can spend hours just wandering around the joint.

A pair of FAO Schwartz tin soldiers with automotive-part furniture

A pair of FAO Schwartz tin soldiers with automotive-part furniture

Each suite is decorated in theme.  My suite was the “Chrom-e-delic.”  I’m sure you can see the mod 70s influence 🙂  Go to the site (linked above) and see some of the other suites for yourselves.

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The hotel is actually a block of converted and renovated buildings.  It’s a wonderful maze in there and inspired an idea for my third (of thirteen) original short stories for Kasie Whitener’s Just Write: 2013 Short Story Challenge.

Books as inspiration

I started reading Catherynne M. Valente’s Palimpsest this past week.  Just previous, I finished Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches, which features as its MacGuffin, a palimpsest, or book within a book.  Picking up Valente’s book next just seemed the logical extension in my mind 🙂

I was struck by Valente’s lyrical style of writing.  It reminded me of a couple of other books I’ve read: Kathryn Davis’s The Thin Place, and Richard Grant’s Views from the Oldest House.  I’m not sure why I associate them, but I think that, once again, it has to be the quirk factor.

This too, is feeding into my new story 🙂

Dreams as inspiration

I’ve often mentioned that I, like many other authors, draw inspiration from my dreams.  I’ve had a couple this week that I’m going to keep in the idea file.

One, though I think I’m going to play with the particulars a bit, is about a family of vampires (hence the playing, I don’t think another book about vampires could be published any time in the next few decades), who hire a human investigator to discover why their fellow creatures want to kill them.

The dream was more detailed, of course, but this is just to give you the basics.

The second dream is a little more bizarre.  A group of refugees (what they’re running from was not clear in the dream) take refuge in what looks like the ruins of a castle, but turns out to be sentient.  Not only that, but as they explore the castle, they come across indications that at least one of them has travelled to the past, and left messages for them to find around the castle.

Definition of inspiration (courtesy of the Miriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

1
a : a divine influence or action on a person believed to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
b : the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
c : the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

2
: the act of drawing in; specifically : the drawing of air into the lungs

3
a : the quality or state of being inspired
b : something that is inspired <a scheme that was pure inspiration>

4
: an inspiring agent or influence

in·spi·ra·tion·al adjective

in·spi·ra·tion·al·ly adverb

What inspires you?

Caturday Quickies: The certification run

This past week, I travelled to Chatham to deliver yet one more session of Business Writing Made Easy.  The critical difference this time?  I was assessed for my trainer certification.  Eeps!

An omen?

What started my week was the journey to Chatham, some six and a half hours away.  Phil dropped me off at the car rental place at 8 am (we only have the one car).  Past experience taught me that I’d be in and out in less than 15 minutes, back home to load up my luggage and boxes, and on the road by 8:30 am.

When I walked in, there were four people waiting, one of them had an insurance claim to deal with due to a dent in the rental, and another was returning a car from another rental company.  The rental location was two employees short-staffed, and I settled in for a wait.

The first car I was given had some issues.  I couldn’t afford to wait any longer, so gratefully accepted an upgrade and was finally on the road shortly after 9 am.

The loveliness of the ETR

The journey itself was great.  For the first time, I used the 407 express toll route (ETR).  In the time it would have normally taken me to reach the hotel near our regional headquarters from the ETR on-ramp, I was exiting at Halton Hills, not far away from Guelph.

The ETR saved me precious time and allowed me to reach Chatham before the end of the day.

Lusting after the Zzzzz’s

I quickly checked into my hotel (more about that in another caturday quickie to come) and toted my boxes to the office, arriving just before 4 pm.  I spent the next several hours setting up the training room with my co-facilitator, Carole.  About 8 pm, we gave up for the night, Carole checked into the hotel, and we enjoyed a late supper at the hotel’s rather excellent restaurant.

I rarely sleep well when I’m on the road, but that first night was especially challenging.  I don’t know whether it was nerves, the trains that passed by periodically all night, or something else, but from 2:25 am on, I couldn’t sleep.  I’d gone to be just after 11 pm, and there’s no way I can function properly with only three hours’ sleep.

Despite that, I met up with Carole for breakfast the next morning, we finished setting up the room and our activities, I met my assessors, and class got underway.

The assessment

Really, I’m trying not to think about it much, because every time I do, I start thinking of all the things I did wrong, all of the technical difficulties I encountered, and all of the other things that could potentially have done me in so far as certification went.

I started asking closed questions.  My SMART Board activity bombed.  Toward the end of the second morning, I was exhausted and running on instinct rather than cultivating the Zen awareness critical to my success.  I curtailed a couple of side bar conversations clumsily.  I forgot participant names.  What’s the expression?  I sucked so hard …

The assessors were very kind.  I’d actually worked with one of them before, delivering workshops in Cornwall a few years ago, but their job is to make sure that I can facilitate in a participant-centered manner in accordance with a set of 18 competencies.  They assessed me for a full day, 1 pm to 4:30 pm the first afternoon, and again from 8:30 am to noon the second day.  I had to facilitate the class solo.

At the end of the first afternoon, the assessors asked me a series of questions about the competencies that weren’t clearly visible in my facilitation and presentation skills.  Things like the room set up, placement of visuals, the joining instructions, utilization of pre-course assignment materials, continuing professional development, and so forth.

At noon the next day, I bid them farewell and was advised that I would be informed of the outcome of the assessment within a couple of weeks.

I’m kind of dreading it.  I think that having to go through the assessment again would be a little bit more than I can handle moving into the new fiscal year.  Thus the avoidance tactics 🙂

The good parts

My co-facilitator bought me a wee gift.  Isn’t it lovely? congratulations

I tried not to tell her she was counting my chickens before they were hatched and just appreciated the gesture.  Carole also asked me to focus on all the things I had done well in the class.  Though I was able to list several things, my mind quickly gravitated toward the negative and I returned to avoidance.

The final day of class, with Carole at my side, went well, and by the end of it, several of the participants not only told us how much they enjoyed the class, and what good resources they got out of it, but also told us that their colleagues were asking how they could get on the list to attend the course.

That kind of validation warms a facilitator’s heart 🙂

After class, we packed everything up, and had an hour or so to enjoy Chatham and some of the quaint shops in the area.

At breakfast on Friday morning, Carole asked me some very helpful questions about the certification process.  She has an interest in pursuing it, and was curious about what might be next for me given her expectations for my success.

It was another very helpful way of keeping my mind from dwelling on all of my short-comings.

I dropped the set of posters I’d borrowed for the delivery of the course back at regional headquarters on my way through Toronto, and was home by 4:30 pm.

At home, Phil reminded me that my focus on the negative wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Being conscious of what I did wrong means that I’ll be less likely to repeat those errors since I am, as always, my toughest critic.  I get so embarrassed about it that I determine never to fall into the same trap again.

It’s all about doubt, something that plagues me in both spheres of my professional life (training and writing).  I constantly question the value of what I do, regardless of the evidence to the contrary.

So … the next you’ll hear about this is whether I have, in fact, been successful or not.

Have you been assessed, or tested recently?  How did you feel about the process?  What did it teach you about yourself?