Welcome to the next chapter monthly update for May 2023. It’s going to be another epic update. Actually, it’s epic-er. Lots of stuff to cram into this month.
I woke up May 1st to the news that a tentative deal had been reached and the strike was over (for now). The deal still had to be formally announced, information sessions held, and members vote on whether to accept the offer or not. And if the membership doesn’t vote to accept, we could be picketing again if further negotiations fail.
CRA workers were still walking the picket until their bargaining team had an agreement they could present to their members. This happened within the week.
Our ratification kit was sent out on May 10th. The ratification vote was called on the 24th, but the voting period doesn’t close until June 16th, so you (and I) will have to wait until next month to learn the results.
In the meantime, life threw us another curve ball. Our break line blew, and the car was out of commission until we could find an appointment at a repair shop, which was more difficult than you’d think. The garage we’ve been with for 20+ years was booked solid for six weeks. Our dealership was booked for three. Ultimately, we found a garage that could help us, got the car towed there, and the necessary repairs completed in five days.
It was interesting living without a car for those few days. I hope that the universe doesn’t have any further surprises in store for us. With Phil’s broken shoulder, the strike, and the car, that’s three. Things have to turn around soon.
The month in writing
I worked on a creative non-fiction piece and finished it (I think) on May 6th. Actually, I gave it a few more passes and submitted it on the 8th. There is such a thing as editing the life out of a piece. It’s my first CNF. I have no idea how it will fare.
I continued to edit my poetry collection, work on notes and acknowledgements. I sent it back to Tanis (who was having fun in Finland—I’m so jealous) over the Victoria Day long weekend. She’ll have final notes back to me in June.
Actually, she returned the second round edits May 29th. I’ll work on it on the weekend (June 3rd and 4th) and then forward it to my publisher, Heather, for final copyedits, formatting, cover, and all that jazz. April 2024 is getting closer!
I revised a short story for an anthology call due May 31st. That, too, I finished (after several passes) and submitted on the 28th. And then the call was extended until July 31st. Oh well.
And I finally got back to Reality Bomb. I reviewed the chapters I’d done before, added a stack of Post-it notes to my map, and generally prepared to dive back into editing with Suzy in June. I officially contracted her on the 24th and paid my fee. It’s happening!
Related to that: My ah-MA-zing news (that I alluded to last month): I received the CSFFA Professional Development Grant! W00t!! Now the first session with Suzy will be mostly covered! I was informed by email on April 30th but asked to hold back on announcing the news until the CSFFA made their official announcement. Now they have, and I can! You may have seen my blog post about it earlier in the month. I thought it bore mentioning again 🙂
I submitted my application for my first Ontario Arts Council Northern Arts Grant on May 1st (again, for better or worse). There was a lot more to it than the OAC grant I applied for last fall. I have no idea how well I did (or did not). I’m still committed to applying for every grant I can. The more grant applications I submit, the better I’ll get at writing them. That I worked on this one while in the midst of the strike … let’s just say it probably wasn’t my best work. But I have no objectivity, so who knows?
I read my poetry at the TWUC Ontario region virtual open mic on May 2nd. It was good to share my poems again.
On May 3rd, I received an email from Odyssey Workshops notifying me that my application to Your Personal Odyssey was not accepted. Each year, the email’s a little longer and this year, Jeanne Cavelos said she enjoyed reading my writing sample. There were even more applicants than last year, and the competition was fierce. I’ll see it as a “one step closer to yes” rejection 😉
On May 12th, I received the package from the K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Celebration contest and judging was underway. More than twice as many poems as were predicted, but I managed.
I attended a CAA board meeting on May 23rd. It will be one of my last. I’m stepping down after two terms to focus more on my writing.
Filling the well
I virtually attended the FOLD from April 30 to May 7, watching most of the sessions in replay. Always a great literary festival.
I watched the first of the Donald Maass series of Free Expressions webinars on May 5th, the Eight Lacks that Torpedo a Good Manuscript. Thought-provoking as ever.
I signed up for another Tiffany Yates Martin webinar through Jane Friedman and watched it on May 7th. The Power of Dialogue in Fiction was a different offering than I’ve seen from her before. Excellent, as always.
The TWUC Webinar, Construction of a Story Arc, featured past winners of the Danuta Gleed Award. Interesting insights into process.
I attended Writers Read for Dawn Walker on May 10th. I’d already signed and shared the petition through change.org and when I was notified of the reading, I decided to show my support. Also, Kim Fahner was one of the readers (and Alicia Elliott and Louise Bernice Halfe and Dawn herself). It was a compelling and heart-wrenching evening. I’ll encourage you to support Dawn’s legal defense fund.
I signed up for Your Novel’s Four Key Scenes with Susan DeFreitas, once again, through Jane Friedman. And once again, I watched the replay. She got into the neuroscience of story. Mirror neurons. Semantic and episodic memory. All the good things.
From May 12th to 14th, I attended the virtual version of the Nebula Conference and Awards Ceremony. There were a lot of great panels including one on revision and one on neurodivergent writers 🙂
I registered for Cece Lyra’s Putting the Hook in Your Book webinar on the 18th. I had a conflict and watched the replay. Full of insight. Cece introduced me to a new way of thinking about story in terms of pitch or query.
Then, I signed up for Carly Watters’ Preparing Your Pitch Package for Literary Agents webinar on the 24th. A bad couple of days at work meant that I had to watch the replay. I did not have the gas. But it was an amazing webinar that covered both fiction and non-fiction queries/packages. And the resources!
I watched a Word on the Street virtual webinar on creating time & space to write on the 25th. It’s not that I don’t already have time and space to write, it’s just that I can always learn something new, and Melissa Yuan-Innes (Yi) was on the panel 🙂
I’m just signing up for all the things 🙂 On the 31st was Jean-Louis Trudel’s “To Enter the Writing Multiverse,” another CAA/SFC webinar. An excellent presentation on creating a diversified writing career.
I had a lovely massage booked with my RMT on the 24th. Much needed respite.
Phil actually got to see the endocrinologist on May 9th. He received a year’s worth of prescriptions, a referral for a bone scan, and an appointment for next year.
He had another appointment with Dr. Vokey on the 12th and this was his last. Unfortunately, the x-ray technician asked him to contort his arm into a weird position and then Vokey manipulated the joint as part of her final exam. He was so sore, he bailed on Mother’s Day dinner.
Speaking of which, my sister-in-law hosted Mother’s Day dinner at her place. It was a lovely weekend for it. Super-delish pasta and strawberry shortcake for dessert. Torvi stayed home with Phil.
He also had another physio appointment on the 29th. This, too, would be his last. There’s really not much more they can do for him. He just has to keep up with his exercises and see how things go.
What I’m watching and reading
It’s finale season. Just warning you now, there are a lot of shows I’m going to be running down.
Phil and I watched Seven Kings Must Die (Netflix), the movie finale of The Last Kingdom series. It basically covers Bernard Cornwell’s most recent novel in the book series the BBC/Netflix series and movie are based on. The series benefitted from being able to cover the events of each novel over up to ten episodes. The movie suffered from having to cram everything into less than two hours. It felt like several novels crammed into one movie. We enjoyed it, but not as much as the series. I have yet to read the books (though I have purchase several).
Season five of The Rookie (network) ended with a wild conspiracy that had all the LAPD and their partners on edge. Riddles, masks, ambush attacks, home invasions, abductions … it was a lot. And at first, I was worried they were going to kill of another Black character. But it all worked out and in the last moments of the episode, the mysterious mastermind of the attack drives out of town, his own goal accomplished and the LAPD none the wiser. I guess that’s setting up next season.
The Rookie: Feds (network) completed its first season. There was a lot of crossover between The Rookie and its spinoff throughout the season. I like Feds, but not as much as The Rookie. The finale was a win-lose scenario. Moral grey area. They’re waiting to hear if they’ll be renewed.
The first season of Will Trent (network) was excellent, however. I really like the series and will have to check out the books it’s based on by Karin Slaughter. The finale involved a serial killer with links to Will’s past.
The next seasonal domino to fall was True Lies (network). I liked the movie, so I figured I’d give it a shot. The series was nothing like the movie. Mission briefings were slick, digital cheese. It wasn’t as funny as I hoped, either. The season and series finale (it’s been cancelled) sets up a second season that will never happen. Unless one of the streamers picks it up.
I watched the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy (network). I don’t know how much longer the series will go on. Everyone’s leaving. And now that Ellen Pompeo has stepped back … I mean is there a Grey’s Anatomy without Meredith Grey? I like the new interns well enough, but it’s becoming a lot of the same old, same old.
Phil and I watched Antman and the Wasp: Quantumania (Disney +). I enjoyed it, and Phil was interested enough to actually watch the whole movie with me in one sitting. Jonathan Majors is a tour de force. Hank’s ant farm! “I have holes! Rawr!” >munch, munch, munch< Much fun.
Then, I watched Still (Apple +), the Michael J. Fox documentary. It was amazing.
I needed a little mindless entertainment toward the end of the month, and Jolt (Amazon) fit the bill. Kate Beckinsale plays Lindy, a woman with intermittent explosive disorder who’s just trying to live in the world without harming anyone. She connects with Justin, on the advice of her therapist, but shortly after their third date, Justin is killed, and Lindy decides to use her disorder to find the murderer.
Onto the reading. And, as kismet would have it, I finished reading a lot of books this month, too.
I read Brian Staveley’s The Emperor’s Blades. Solid epic fantasy, but there was a continual stream of objectification and fridging going on, which robbed what might otherwise have been thoroughly enjoyable of the thoroughly part. The emperor is murdered, and his three children have to contend with the fallout while trying to step into their own destinies. I enjoyed Kaden and Valyn’s journeys, but Adair’s was not as well-developed, another reason I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I could have.
Then, I finished Austen Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist. It’s not a long book, but it’s filled with pithy common sense that every writer needs to read interspersed with clever blackout poetry and nifty sketches. Yes. Every creative needs to read this book. That is all.
Next, I turned my attention to some shorter works.
I read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. Depressing story. Before he woke up a giant cockroach, Gregor was the sole provider for his family, but they took him for granted. He had ambitions to send his sister to the conservatory, so she could pursue her talent with the violin. After, his mother, father, and sister all get jobs. His father has some savings, but he decides they should only be used in an emergency. Like his son turning into a cockroach isn’t an emergency. All the while, poor Gregor wastes away as his family withdraws their love and support, the only “food” he really wants. When they finally decide they must get rid of him, Gregor dies, almost as a favour to them. And life goes on.
I also finished my re-read of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves. Not a shorter work, but this was the order I finished it in … I don’t know how to be objective about this series. I love it so much. And I can only hope some of her brilliance might rub off on my as I study her work. Now, it’s on to Blue Lily, Lily Blue.
Another short piece I re-read was “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. I have a story idea that plays with Sleepy Hollow, but I haven’t been driven to actually write it, yet. I like to keep in touch with the story from time to time. This was one of those times.
Next, I read Penric’s Fox by Lois McMaster Bujold. I’d only read Penric’s Demon before, but I don’t think it matters what order you read these tales in. This is apparently the fifth novella in the series and involves Penric investigating the death of another temple sorcerer whose demon may have made its way into a fox. I liked it a lot.
I finished Aliette de Bodard’s In the Vanishers’ Palace. Yên, a failed scholar, is sold into the indenture of Vu Côn, one of the last dragons, to pay her village’s debts. The dragon takes her to a reality-bending palace, where death waits around every tessered corner. Yên expects to be killed, but Vu Côn makes her teacher of her twin children. Another surprise: Yên begins to have feelings for Vu Côn.
The Wild Wood by Charles de Lint was another short read. It was originally published in 1994 when concern for the environment wasn’t so much a part of our daily lives. The author even composed an introduction to this anniversary edition in which he apologizes for the overt “we have to care for our environment” vibe. Eithne is an artist who lives near a marsh and forest just outside of Ottawa. When faerie begin to appear in her artwork and dreams asking for help, she has to decide whether her desire to help is worth the sacrifice she’s been asked to make.
Then, I dove into Princess Floralinda and the Forty-Flight Tower by Tamsyn Muir. It’s a delightful, queer riff on the Rapunzel fairy tale. The witch who traps Floralinda is overzealous. And very experienced. She traps princesses all the time, but artistry is her thing. In Floralinda’s tower, there’s a different monster on every floor, starting with a diamond-scaled dragon. In the first months of her imprisonment, hundreds of princes try to rescue her … and the dragon is very well fed. As summer turns to fall and winter threatens, Floralinda decides she has to rescue herself. LOVED!
I read “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El Mohtar, a shot story from The Starlit Wood anthology of fairy tale retellings. A woman cursed to walk until she wears out seven pairs of iron shoes meets a woman who volunteered to be sealed away in a glass cage. A lovely, sapphic tale of two women discovering how they misogyny of their loved ones has caused them to suffer and the freedom they find when they choose one another.
Next (I did warn you—I read a lot this month), I read Bryony and Roses by T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon). A lovely retelling of Beauty and the Beast. Gardener Bryony and her beleaguered pony Fumblefoot are caught in a blizzard on the way back from getting rutabaga seeds. As she begins to lose the feeling in her extremities, Bryony finds a mysterious estate. The estate is sentient, and the beast is in trouble. Fabulous.
Then, I read The King of Elfland’s Daughter, by Lord Dunsany. A prince wins the hand of the king of Elfland’s daughter. They have a child, but the king misses his daughter and lures her back to Elfland where she pines for her husband and son. So, the prince, now a king, goes in search of Elfland to retrieve his bride, while his son, who hears the horns of Elfland, but does not heed their call, hunts unicorns with trolls and will ‘o’ wisps. Happily ever after isn’t … until the king makes a sacrifice that will change both the Kingdom of Erl and Elfland forever.
Finally, on May 31st, I finished Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. A novel and a movie are necessarily two different things, but, with the exception of a few details, which the author is careful to note in his foreword, the novel evoked Kubrick’s movie quite well.
And that was the month in this writer’s life.
Until next month, be well and stay safe; be kind and stay strong. The world needs your stories!