The next chapter: October 2018 and #NaNoWriMo week 1 update

Sooo…. I didn’t have the time on Wednesday to prepare this post and schedule it. And then NaNoWriMo started. And then Wordstock Sudbury started.

Accordingly, this will be a very brief update and combined with m week 1 NaNoWriMo check in.

My main project for October was to complete the outline for Tamisashki and I’m happy to say that work was completed Wednesday night.

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Because the outline is written in a notebook, I didn’t count the words. Further, I did a more rambling, draft version for each plot line, so it’s over double the word count of the final product. I’m better prepared to finish NaNo this year, though, and better prepared to finish the draft in the months following.

OctProgress

I wrote 4,528 words on this blog, which is 162% of my 2,800-word goal, and I submitted my DIY MFA column on time at 1,079 words (it’s coming out Tuesday), or 108% of my 1,000-word goal.

While there were no writing-related events in October, Phil and I did attend the 50th birthday celebration for our friend, Mark Kuntsi.

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Timing is everything with NaNo and for the past three years, the Wordstock Sudbury Literary festival has been on the first weekend in November. I do support the event and I make the time to attend, but that means sacrificing NaNo time.

I also signed up for Mary Robinette Kowal’s No-prep NaNoWriMo workshop, which was on Monday night. Though I’ve outlined, I figured having additional tools at my disposal (because I always, ALWAYS diverge from the outline) would be good. I also dig Mary’s strategies. Though I’ve heard many of them before, the reinforcement is always useful.

After the workshop, she stayed online for a group writing session which I didn’t participate in. I’d managed to write 1,758 words already that day and felt good about that progress.

On Friday, I attended Sarah Selecky’s book club about her new novel, Radiant, Shimmering, Light. I’ve been subscribed to her newsletter for years and found the concept—the commodification of self-care and how it affects two women, cousins, who navigate the social media minefield—and bought the book (of course).

Then, I attended a session on telling a good story with Waubgeshik Rice and Lee Maracle, two indigenous writers, moderated by Will Morin.

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I wrote 1,290 words on Friday.

On Saturday, I attended Alternate Realities, a session with Brit Griffin and Elan Mastai, both authors of speculative fiction. the discussion was moderated by CBC‘s Morning North’s host, Marcus Schwabe.

I then personned the Sudbury Writers’ Guild table until 5 pm, helped Dave Wickenden pack up, and went to supper with my dear friend, Kim Fahner, who gifted me with this lovely, lovely, handmade journal.

I managed only 690 words yesterday.

Here’s my book haul…

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Today, I’m off to the launch of Rosanna Micelotta Battigelli’s La Brigantessa, an historical novel set in the aftermath of Italy’s 1861 Unification.

Will update you next week about the launch and my NaNo progress for the week. I’m back to the day job for most of it.

Until then, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

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The next chapter: May 2018 update

Hello, all you writerly people!

It’s time for my next chapter update for May 2018.

Looks like I’m finding my stride. Things were going so well with the drafting of Playing with Fire, that I actually decided to take a purposeful break to read the draft to date. The problem I was encountering is that it’s taken me so long, relatively speaking, to draft the darned thing that I started to forget what I’d written way back in November (or December, January, February, March, or April!).

It’s been niggling at me for a while, and sometimes, I’d just go back to the chapter I suspected contained the bit I was looking to be refreshed on, but that got cumbersome, particularly since, once there, I’d start tweaking …

K.M. Weiland has been mentioning how she does a periodic re-read of her WIP, and I decided to give it a try. It was a nice rest, and a great way to tighten some of my plot threads, especially since I didn’t have to time to do much of an outline for this novel before I started drafting.

MayProgress

Even with the break, about nine days, I still managed to surpass my 7,500-word writing goal. I wrote 8,302 words, or 111%.

I’m enjoying the break from weekend blogging as well, and though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,000 words, even with just the curation posts going up, I managed to write 3,940 words on the blog, or 131% of my goal.

I met my DIY MFA deadline with a long column of 1,739 words, or 174% of my goal, and aggregated my penultimate Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 6,777 words, or 169% of that goal.

So, it’s been a good month, writing-wise.

The burnout thing

I promised to tell you how the whole burnout thing was going.

Well, after a lot of soul-searching, pondering, and some all-out navel-gazing, I’ve finally figured out why I’ve suffered such a protracted burnout in the past year. And, let’s be clear, I’ve been struggling since at least the beginning of 2017. It might, in fact, be longer than that.

Part of it is historical. It’s my writing wound, the lie I believe about myself as a creative person and about my work. If you’re ever curious and you have the time, you can read the posts in the category, My History as a So-called Writer. That will give you the low-down.

The short version is that my creative life has been full of threshold guardians (in hero’s journey terms), who’ve blocked me, stunted my growth, and betrayed me in various fashions. When I finally found my way back to a consistent writing practice in 2007, I thought I’d conquered those demons. In that version of victory, all the naysayers were wrong, and I was just going to do what I wanted. Screw them.

That, it turns out, was only half the battle. It’s the bitter legacy those experiences left me with that make me innately distrustful of handing my work off to anyone else, whether a friend, beta reader, editor, or … anyone. I don’t believe that the advice I receive is in the story’s best interest. Or mine. I always see it in terms of a personal attack, though unconsciously. I’m aware of it now but, in the moment, I often slip back into old ways of thinking.

While I’ve had some writing success, that lie has never left me. It’s made finding a critique group difficult. It makes working with editors a bit fraught. It also leaves me thinking that I’m not, at heart, a good writer (passable good, not even great) and that people are just humouring me. It’s not merely imposter syndrome. It’s a deep distrust of anyone else’s opinion of my work.

There’s been a lot of self-sabotage involved, mostly unconscious.

This is what I’m working to overcome now. It’s a process. It’s going to take time.

The next piece of the puzzle is that, in January of 2016, after decades of what we thought was good health, Phil went to the clinic thinking he might have shingles, and came home (well, there was some bloodwork in there) with multiple diagnoses: type II diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and possibly shingles.

He had no rash, though. Several months passed and the doctor said, fibromyalgia. Several more months passed, and they finally settled on widespread diabetic neuropathy. Until the doctor found the right combination of meds, there were some horrible times, but it all worked out. Eventually.

Two of the meds Phil was on were Lyrica (an antidepressant found to be effective for nerve pain) and Cymbalta (an anticonvulsant also found to be effective for nerve pain). Aside from managing his pain and elevating his mood (it has often been said of my husband that the inside of his skull is painted black), both medications increased the amount of melatonin in his system.

Phil, who had always been a night owl and considered sleep to be the enemy, was now getting the best sleep of his life. Things went well for a while.

Then, because he got a promotion that required occasional travel, Phil decided to stop both the Lyrica and Cymbalta. He couldn’t risk falling asleep at the wheel. Combine this with a progressively complex and worsening situation at his employer (ongoing) and things quickly went from bad to worse.

The health problems shook me, probably more than I’d care to admit. It was after Phil’s health situation resolved that I started to feel the real effects of the burnout.

But it was the work situation that broke the peace of our household. I was used to living with Mr. Grumpy Pants, but his problems at work followed him home and made everything more difficult. It was about that time that we brought Torvi home. The extra stress of bringing up puppy did not help.

Also in the mix was my great adventure of last year. Though Phil encouraged me to go, I felt horribly guilty about the expense. I’ll just be paying off the last of that debt this month.

Add to all that my own health problems. Though less life-threatening than Phil’s, they were affecting my quality of life. Now that most of them have been addressed, I’m in a much better place.

But every time I tried to dig myself out of the hole, emotionally speaking, in the last couple of years something popped up and dragged me back down. I’ve suffered several episodes of depression, panic attacks, and poor quality of sleep (resulting from the other two).

Most of these issues are resolving. I’ve had my ablation and other health issues are being investigated. I’ve lost about 25 pounds. I’ve gotten back to my regular writing practice and it’s feeling good. Torvi, at eight months and in her second obedience class, is becoming a good dog but, that too is a process.

Really, it’s just Phil’s work situation that’s the continuing problem but, though there’s still no end in sight, slow progress is being made. There’s hope that things might be largely sorted by the end of this year. We just have to hang in there.

I’m sure other world events have played their parts, but I’m actively seeking to minimize their effects on me.

I’ll keep you updated, for those who want to know.

My writerly event of the month

On May first (May Day, Beltaine—yes, I’m a paganish sort) I went to see the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, Sparrows Over Slag. It was part of Play Smelter, which ran the rest of the week. It was fascinating to see the evolution of Kim’s play, of which I was privileged to read an early draft.

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She gave a lovely Q&A afterward that gave further insight into her process. Writing a play is a different beast than any other kind of writing, even screenplays.

Later that week, I had lunch with Kim, who was only in Sudbury for a couple of weeks around Play Smelter. She’s been in south western Ontario, working hard on her craft and trying to figure out her next steps, creatively.

Just chatting over lunch was a balm. We are soul sisters and that won’t change wherever she goes and whatever she chooses to do.

And that’s it for this month’s next chapter update.

Until the next time I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 29-May 5, 2018

Another week has passed and here I am with another batch of informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland asks, what should your characters talk about? Helping Writers Become Authors

Julie Carrick Dalton says, it’s time cli-fi (climate fiction) became its own genre. I agree in part … The examples she cites are from a number of different genres, though. I don’t know if publishing in general or marketing in particular will be willing to get on board. Stranger things have happened. Writer Unboxed

Therese Walsh explains why you think your writing is brilliant one day and horrible the next. It’s a thing. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass considers authenticity vs. outline. As with many other aspects of craft, it’s a matter of balance, not one over the other. Writer Unboxed

Julie Glover walks you through the five stages of editing grief. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan helps you world build using deep POV. Writers in the Storm

Christina Delay is living for the writing wins. Writers in the Storm

Gabriela Pereira helps you write by design using colour theory. Writers Helping Writers

Kristen Lamb: why every writing project needs a synopsis, even though you hate writing them.

Elisabeth Kauffman tells you how to raise the stakes. DIY MFA

Kharma Kelley explains all authors need to know about the new EU law.

Chris Winkle: storytelling’s terminology problem. Then, Oren Ashkenazi critiques six underdeveloped love interests. Mythcreants

Kim Fahner considers Canada’s 20th Bookmark to be a “love letter” to Sudbury. The Sudbury Star

And then watch the unveiling!

 

Emily Petsko lists 25 foreign words with hilarious literal meanings. Mental Floss

More fun with words: the Merriam-Webster time traveler. Check out what words entered the dictionary the year you were born … or any other year since 1828 🙂

And that was Tipsday for this week.

Be well until Thursday!

tipsday2016

The next chapter: April 2018 update

Hey, all you writerly people 🙂

Here we are in May, Cinco de Mayo, in fact, and it’s time for my next chapter update.

It’s been a weird few weeks since I made my decision to stop posting every weekend. I had one weekend that was fairly restful, caught a flu and was sick for a week, and have spent the last week frantically catching up at work and at home.

I still think it was a good decision, but I’ll likely have to give it more time before I see real results.

I have formally announced my intention to hand off responsibility for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter, but elections (newsletter-er isn’t an elected position, but volunteer positions are filled at the same time as elected ones are voted upon) aren’t until the May meeting at the end of the month. Also, whoever decides to take over for me won’t do so until the beginning of the new SWG year in September. We usually break for the summer, so the June newsletter would be my last.

I’m still on the program committee and one of its sub-committees for the Canadian Authors Association, but my obligations have not been too onerous there. For now. If that changes, I’ll have to bow out.

On another front that I haven’t discussed much, I’m sad to report that my critique group has imploded. Well I’m two parts sad to one part relieved. I’m sad because I had great hopes, and relieved because it’s one less commitment to fulfill.

Several members were in the process of moving (some internationally) in January and February and so we delayed the start of the critiquing year. One submission has been made and I’ve read and critiqued it, but I haven’t heard from anyone else in the group about an online conference to actually discuss the submission, or anything else moving forward. I’m going to read through the submission one more time, finalize my written comments, and return them to the author. And then I’m going to pull the plug.

I may check out the novel critique group that the SWG runs. I need something. Writing in a feedback void isn’t getting me anywhere. I can continue to write and revise, but unless I can get some other eyes on the work, my revisions will lack direction and I’ll take so much longer to get anything ready for an editor, or for submission to agents or small publishers.

I got my taxes wrangled and, for the first time in a number of years, I’ve has absolutely no income to report from my creative work. No workshops. No panelist honoraria. No prize money. No sales of short fiction or even contributor copies. It’s a bit distressing. I’ve never had much income to report, but I’ve generally had something. It just makes me feel like I’ve been falling back, that it’s not just been my burnout, but something more insidious going on with me.

AprilProgress

I have, however, made strides with regard to my writing practice. For April, I set (or reset) the modest goal of 5,000 words written on Playing with Fire. I managed to write more days than not, and wrote 7,568 words, or 151% of my goal.

I also adjusted my writing goal for the blog given that I’m not posting most weekends. Even though I adjusted my blogging goal to 3,600 words, I wrote only 3,086 words, or 86% of my goal.

My DIY MFA post came in at 1,359 words of my 1,000-word goal, or 136%, and the SWG newsletter was 5,333 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 133%. Admittedly, the newsletter is not all my writing. I have submissions from the membership and the contests and inspirational quotes are found online and copied. Still, I have to fill in gaps, edit, format, and cobble all the disparate parts of the newsletter together into a more or less cohesive whole.

Overall, I wrote 128% more in the month than I set out to, and that makes me happy.

Though it was May 1st, I was able to attend one literary event, the staged reading of the latest iteration of Kim Fahner’s play, “Sparrows Over Slag.”

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Here are the actors, Morgan St. Onge, Matthew Heiti, and Sarah Gartshore.

Kim also had an artist talk afterward during which she explained the impetus for the play and its development.

On the Torvi front, we’re one class away from graduating from the beginner obedience class at Skiplyn Kennels, only to jump right into the intermediate class. Torvi is still a challenge. The second biggest problem now is her propensity to get up on counters, tables, desks, grab whatever she can get her teeth on, and run. She also jumps on people. We’ve been persistent with telling her to get off, and pushing her off, but she still hasn’t gotten the message.

The biggest problem is that she’s started peeing in the house again. We thought we had this licked, but no. So now we’re pacing around the yard reciting “do your pee” until she complies. She’s still distracted by everything. Even if she asks to go out, she forgets what she’s there for once she sees a bird, or squirrel, or a truck or a motorcycle goes by.

She’s showing steady improvement in all other areas, but those are the two stubborn problems.

Here’s a comparison: Torvi at seven weeks and Torvi at seven months 🙂

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As for the orchids, it’s all the fuchsia phalaenopsis. The pink has dropped all its blooms now.

And that’s all I have to report for this month. It’s been mostly good and I’m looking forward to better yet to come.

Until Tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories!

The Next Chapter

Wordstock Sudbury 2017

While I was offline in November, other than pup prep and pup rearing, and NaNoWriMo, I also attended Wordstock Sudbury 2017. It was November 2-4 and I took in several events.

On Thursday, November 2nd, I went to the Femme Poetic Force reading at One Sky.

Dinah Laprairie opened the event on behalf of Wordstock, then yielded the floor to former poet laureate Tom Leduc, who introduced the femme force readers, Tanya Neumeyer, Emily Ursuliak, Kateri Lanthier, and our current poet laureate, Kim Fahner.

Later that evening, I attended a dramatic reading of Kim’s play-in-progress, Sparrows Over Slag.

DramaticReading

For those who don’t know, a dramatic reading is unstaged. The actors stand to read their parts. It’s a stripped down version of the play that acts as part of the workshopping and development process. A play is meant to have an audience and a staged reading can tell the playwright a lot about how well the piece works. Staging is intended to enhance the play, but the words, the dialogue, has to be solid on its own before the rest of the play is built around it.

On Saturday, I attended Merilyn Simonds’ master class on The First Page.

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And later on, I attended Nathan Alder’s master class on speculative fiction (sorry, forgot to take a picture).

Overall, it was another successful year for Wordstock. The festival improves each year. There are still a few rough spots, but it bodes well for the future.

Plus a week in this writer’s life

Post-NaNo, I’ve continued to work on Playing with Fire, the fourth in my epic fantasy series. I’ll be working on the draft into the New Year.

Foolishly, I thought I’d be able to continue to write around 1000 words a day while I was still on leave. That resolution lasted for exactly one day before I realised that it would be untenable. Since then, I’ve been writing about 500 words a day, around pup duties.

With regard to the Torvi-beast, Phil and I have been trying to train her to our habits rather than letting our world revolve around her, as it kind of has been for the last few weeks. I have to keep reminding myself that Torvi was six weeks old when we adopted her. We’ve never adopted a pup so young.

Two weeks makes a lot of difference. I’m seeing it. She’s learned a lot in the last weeks. And she’s really good around my mom, who will be taking care of her when I return to work.

She’s sleeping through the night (mostly). She’s pooping outside, but there are still times when she pees inside, mostly when I’m not quick enough to get her out. I’m still her favourite chew toy, but we’re making progress. I’m told that’s the shepherd in her.

Torvi’s a pro at the sit, now, lays down with kib incentive, shakes a paw inadvertently, and walks a block or so most mornings. We’re too indulgent with the pup love for her to get off dependably. That’s brilliant for a ten week old pup. Really.

And she hasn’t actually destroyed anything … yet.

Though I’m back to work next Thursday, I’ve done the best I can at this point. I have to have faith that the work I’ve put in will bear fruit.

I’m going to start scheduling pup play dates in the near future. She’s okay to play with dogs we know have been vaccinated. She’s just prohibited from pet stores and dog parks until she had her full set of vaccinations in March.

I’m exhausted, though. Walking zombie. Our next pup will still be a rescue, but by then, I’ll be old enough that training a pup from scratch will be impossible. She’ll have to be three to six months and house trained.

Still love Torvi insanely and the cuddles are worth the rest of it, but I’m looking forward to catching up on my sleep. Someday.

Than and now 🙂

Speaking of which, it’s time for final outings and bed.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Muse-inks

 

Recently in the writerly life

Greetings, all!

Here we are, at my last pre-NaNoWriMo weekend post.

I’m going to recap some of the writerly events I’ve attended in recent weeks and mention a thing or two that will be happening in the nearish future.

First, we’ll be going back in time to September 28 and the Latitude 46 fall launch. One that evening, five authors were reading from their works.

LiisaKovala

Liisa Kovala is a friend from the Sudbury Writers’ Guild and she was launching Surviving Stutthoff, her memoir of her father’s experiences behind the death gate.

Also launching books that night were Sudbury’s Roger Nash, with his nineteenth poetry collection, Whazzat?, Rod Carley from North Bay, Hap Wilson from Rousseau, and Suzanne Charron with the second edition of Wolf Man Joe LaFlamme: Tamer Untamed.

The event was held at Ristorante Verdiccio, and it was a delightful evening.

Last weekend, October 21st, I attended the launch of Kim Fahner’s fourth poetry collection, Some Other Sky, which was held at St. Andrew’s Place in downtown Sudbury.

Kim not only reads, but she also sings, and she usually has The Wild Geese perform Celtic music before, during, and after.

Next weekend, November 2-4, I’ll be attending Wordstock Sudbury.

On Thursday, I’ll be at a poetry reading by Emily Ursuliak, Tanya Neumeyer, Kateri Lanthier, and Kim Fahner at One Sky, followed by the festival opening, and then a dramatic reading of Kim’s play Sparrows Over Slag.

On Saturday, I’ll be attending Merilyn Simonds’ masterclass on The First Page and then Nathan Adler’s masterclass on Writing Speculative Fiction.

Torvi

Phil and I will also be visiting our new puppy, Torvi 🙂 She’s still a few weeks from adoption age, so we’re bringing a blanket and toy out for the pups. When we do adopt, we’ll be able to aid the transition with the smell of momma Mocha and a familiar toy.

Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday will be posted this week, but after that, I’m getting to puppy prep and working on Playing with Fire. I’ll see you after the writerly masochism that is NaNoWriMo!

As ever, be kind, be well, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories!

Lessons learned and takeaways from my European adventure

Over the weeks since my return and interspersed with monthly updates, I’ve been recounting my European adventure. Now, I’m finally ready to talk about the benefits I’ve gained and the things I’ve learned from the experience.

Muse-inks

Planning and preparation are important

I committed to the Writing Excuses Retreat and WorldCon in early February. It could have been January, but I was hesitant because of the expense. Ultimately, it was a confluence of events: WXR doing a Baltic cruise—they usually cruise the Caribbean, WorldCon being in Helsinki, my desire to visit the country of my ancestry, and the fact that I could do all that AND get in some quality first time tourism at the same time as I continued my professional development as a writer.

Once I committed, I was hip-deep in making the travel arrangements. WXR had their own travel agents and I was able to get a great price on a return European flight through them. All of the cruise arrangements were made through the travel agency.

They facilitated the registration for the cruise, the booking of all the tours at each of the stops, and the issuing of all electronic travel documents.

I made my own hotel booking and, with very little back and forth, I was able to secure the convention rate for my extended stay.

While I attempted to make my additional travel arrangements through the travel agents associated with the cruise, they were busy enough handling the details for the cruise. I’d noticed that the Canadian Auto Association, of which I am a member, was promoting their European travel services. I decided to make the remaining arrangements through them.

There was much more back and forth, but by staying on top of the email thread, I had my flight from Hamburg to Helsinki booked, my rental car, and my bus tour to cover the days in between the cruise and WorldCon.

I went to the airline sites and to CATSA to help me with my packing. My thought was to travel light and only have my carryon luggage and my (fairly large) purse. I reviewed my itineraries for the flights, cruise, and the schedule for the convention to plan out, in rough strokes, where I’d have to be, when.

I was as prepared as I could be by the time I left, but while planning and preparation are important, they aren’t everything.

I still suffered panic attacks in the week leading up to my trip. I still had to deal with ongoing anxiety during the flights—not because I’m afraid of flying, but because I was afraid that despite all my planning, that something catastrophic in terms of making my connections, delays, or other uncontrollable elements (weather) that attend travel would render my planning useless.

Fortunately, none of that happened.

Travelling alone is empowering

Because so much is out of your control when you travel alone, you quickly realize you just have to put on your big girl (or big boy) pant(ie)s and git ‘er done.

Anxiety serves no purpose in these situations and, frankly, can’t be indulged. Yes. I wrote that. Anxiety, in some situations, is an indulgence. It’s an indulgence of imbalanced or malfunctioning neurotransmitters, and not easily managed, but it’s still an indulgence.

I have a friend who lives with obsessive compulsive disorder and its attendant anxiety. I invited her up for a short visit that, because of its brevity, was highly structured (I guess planning’s a thing with me). In the ensuing whirlwind, she didn’t have the time to perform her particular rituals.

Months (it might have been years) later, she told me how that visit had changed her. It was concrete evidence that even if she couldn’t indulge her OCD, that the things she feared would happen, didn’t. It was a breakthrough for her.

I travel alone all the time. I drive down to Ottawa, to Toronto, or to other cities in southern Ontario to train for my day job. I attend writing conferences, conventions, and workshops alone. Some of these have been across the country, or in the States. But I’d never been outside of continental North America before. In a very real way, I had never been more alone.

After the pre-departure panic attacks, though, I progressed straight to a semi-fugue state during travel. I was completely in the moment. I had to continually check my itinerary to make sure I was making progress to the next queue, or boarding, or whatever, because it was too tempting to slip into a place in which I wouldn’t care if I got anywhere at all.

Though I spent my waiting and flight time reading or watching movies to keep myself distracted, I wasn’t really forming solid memories of these things. I felt like a deer in the headlights most of the time. It was a test of endurance more than anything else, but I didn’t have a panic attack for the duration of my trip.

A little bit of that disconnect from reality followed me throughout my journey and reasserted itself for my days of solo travel. I was more in control once most of the uncertainty was behind me, once I’d reached the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel, for instance, or embarked on the cruise ship, or checked into the Sokkos Presidentti.

During the retreat itself, I had to be intentionally vulnerable, painfully honest, and resist attempts to make my work, accomplishments, or failures—essentially me—sound better, less devastating, or more professional than they were. It takes effort to do this when your body and brain is used to preventing you from doing these very things. It’s very liberating.

And, as my friend Kim told me, it’s also empowering. I can be authentic and the world doesn’t end. People still like me. I can be honest, and my tribe (writers) will support me.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts about this trip, the experience is still changing me. I’m a creature of habit and change is slow to come.

It was bucket-listy

When I started to attend conferences, conventions, and workshops, I started to set goals. Attend  Ad Astra. Check. I’ve now attended three. Attend the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Check. Attend When Words Collide. Check. Attend Can-Con. Check. Attend WorldCon. Check.

When I started to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, I became aware of their writing retreats. Initially, they were held at Mary’s parent’s house. Eventually, though, they became more ambitious and the retreat took place on a cruise ship.

So I put that on my list of writerly goals. The Baltic cruise was special, though. The Writing Excuses cast will likely not be doing something similar in the near future. I could have made it even more bucket-listy by attending the German castle tour that followed the cruise, but I had to draw my financial line somewhere.

Still, to attend a writing retreat on a cruise ship, in Europe, and to be able to see some of the world in addition to developing my skill as a writer? As they say on the credit card commercial, that was priceless. It was the perfect storm of opportunity.

Travel and experience are critical parts of becoming a better writer. You have to push your limits, get out of your comfort zone, to make a breakthrough.

Ask and you shall receive

I left on my trip with a couple of personal goals in mind aside from travelling Europe and participating in the cruise.

Again, as I’ve mentioned previously, I have been having increasing difficulty with creative burnout. I wanted to see if I could get some practical advice and solid strategies for identifying and addressing the underlying reasons for this.

K. Tempest Bradford and Emma Newman were particularly helpful in this respect. The path they’ve lit the way to is one I’m still walking. I’ll have to devote another blog to this in the future, once I’ve sorted more of it out.

For now, I’m easing up on the writerly goal setting. I’m making room for other entertainment, down time, and self-care. I’m not so obsessed with heeding the siren song of production (moar!). I’m working on understanding that what I can get done is enough, that I am enough, and that reminding myself of the reasons I chose to write in the first place (love!) take precedence over external validation.

The other thing I was looking for was something that I’ve been trying for a couple of years to get in place, a mentor, editor, or some other form of support to help me get to the next level, so to speak, in my writing. I’ve tried to get a situation in place, but often personalities, interests, or skill sets have not meshed.

I’ve also been a part of many informal writing groups in real life as well as on line over the years. Again, personal goals, interests, and skill sets have not meshed. Or the methodology has been, in my opinion, flawed. Focusing on the first X pages or chapters doesn’t result in appropriate feedback, and feeding chapters, or sections, to readers over months or years isn’t necessarily productive either. Neither approach allows the reader or critique partner to get a feeling for the whole story, which I think is critical to feedback that results in improvement.

By the end of the cruise, I’d expressed interest in a full-novel critique group. Over the course of WorldCon, connections were made and things were firmed up. Starting in January of 2018, there’s a group of us that are going to give it a shot. I have hope and expectations, but not so many, nor so high, that they will be easily disappointed 🙂

One thing that I wasn’t expecting to receive was the excellent advice of Thomas Olde Heuvelt on how to develop and maintain a creative life plan. I’ve been setting writerly goals for years, but they’ve been primarily one-dimensional and focused on production.

Thomas’s advice to let the over-the-top, blue-sky, dreamy goals inform your overall writing goals and to include holistic life goals, like health—physical and mental—and financial, in the plan helped me to realize how much wellbeing I’ve been leaving out of my goals in recent years. He also recommended having a five year plan in place, subject to change (life does have a habit of intervening).

My European adventure was truly a life-changing experience, in many ways.

I’ll have to let you know how everything works out, but as many of my takeaways were things I’m going to be implementing over time, the results may be a while in coming.

Next week, I’ll be devoting some time to Kim’s launch of Some Other Sky and my presentation for the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on Fantasy (yes, the topic is wide open—it’s going to be fun). After that, I’m going to be participating in NaNoWriMo and taking a month-long blogging break, except for the Thoughty Thursday coming out on November 2nd.

I’ll catch everyone up in December with another bonanza October/November next chapter update. There are also going to be some writerly events coming up in November, including WordStock Sudbury and a possible Gail Anderson-Dargatz workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild.

There will be more writerly goodness coming up.

Until next I blog, be kind, be well, and stay strong, my friends. The world needs your stories.

WorldCon 75 summary post

It seems we’ve exchanged hurricanes and mass shootings for wildfires and floods. Wherever you are, whatever has come your way, please find safety.


Welcome back to the ongoing tale of my European adventure 🙂

This instalment will be the penultimate one. Next week, I’ll cover my takeaways from the trip.

Since I’d made the decision earlier in the year to stop blogging my session notes … I didn’t take any during the whole of WorldCon (!) It was very freeing. I relaxed and enjoyed.

Something I forgot to mention in my last post is that I also enjoyed the hotel’s Sauna on Tuesday night. I had a nice, naked conversation with some Finnish ladies who were curious about all the Americans in town … but it was helpful for the cruise crud.

Wednesday, August 9, was the first day of WorldCon, and at breakfast that morning, I met up again with the Tracy’s, Heather and Bill, and their mom, Becky, who’d been my roommate on the WXR cruise. Bill was also attending WorldCon, while Heather and Becky did the tourist thing in Helsinki.

After breakfast, I strolled down the pedestrian underpass to the train station, bought my ticket at the kiosk, and caught the train to Pasila.

I want to take a moment here to express just how fabulous the Helsinki trains were. Clean, spacious, and efficient. My registration for the con included a train pass for the week, because they knew most of us would be staying in the downtown area. There are a couple of hotels in Pasila, but they were booked quickly, and blocks of rooms were reserved for those who needed accommodation (or so I understand).

The only other city train I’ve been on that comes close is Vancouver’s, but at the time I travelled on it, the number of passengers made the journey (with luggage) uncomfortable. In Helsinki, there were two main lines, the K and the I (though there were more) that ran north and between the two, one left every ten minutes.

The first day of WorldCon was a bit disappointing, to be honest, because I think the organizers underestimated the interest of casual attendance (day passes). Except for the academic stream session I attended, nearly every room was full and they were very strict about the numbers because fire regulations. I don’t blame the organizers, but it was a frustrating first day.

The convention centre did have a great food court, however, and I ended up meeting a couple of friends of fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild member Andy Taylor at the cafe. Tim Boerger and Nina Niskanen had both attended Viable Paradise with Andy and he wanted me to connect with them. I’d actually seen Nina at WorldCon last year, but I didn’t know who she was until after her steampunk panel was over 😦

While there, I also met Lara Elena Donnelly, author of Amberlough 🙂

I also saw a number of WXR cruise mates, and fellow member of SF Canada, Su Sokol.

That evening, I met up with a group of Canadian SF fans and writers, including Su, Eric Choi, and Jane Ann McLachlan, to have dinner at Zetor.

Thursday was a more productive day. I attended sessions on the Kalevala (which I was geeky enough to be reading at the time), Nalo Hopkinson’s Guest of Honour interview (I kind of stalked her sessions throughout—I’m a fan), a presentation on the sauna, the live taping of the Coode Street podcast with Kelly Robson and Walter Jon Williams, a panel on secrets in SF that Jane Ann McLachlan was on, how to start a podcast with Howard Tayler, and the live Ditch Diggers taping.

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That night was a meet up with Writing the Other alumni and K. Tempest Bradford. We went to a Nepalese buffet that was only a block or so from the convention centre called Mero-Himal. A number of alumni had also been on the cruise, and so it was a very enjoyable evening.

Friday’s WorldCon line up included a panel on artificial intelligence, one called Building Resistance, on which where Nina Niskanen and Kameron Hurley, one on female friendship in fiction with Navah Wolfe and Amal El-Motar, another Nalo Hopkinson GoH presentation, a panel on Austalian fantasy with Juliet Marillier, more Nalo Hopkinson (I said I was stalking her), a panel on how science really happens with Eric Choi, one on weird fiction with Helen Marshal, and one on alien language in SF with David J. Peterson, creator of the languages for the Game of Thrones series.

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Friday night was the night of the Hugo Awards Ceremonies and, still suffering from cruise crud (it didn’t completely clear until I was back home), I thought I’d catch the ceremonies on YouTube from the comfort of my hotel room. They were supposed to be webcast.

As I headed out on the train, the skies grew ominously dark and by the time the train arrived back in Helsinki, it was a full-on torrential downpour. The forecast had said that the weather would hold until evening … and so I’d left my umbrella in my hotel room.

While I waited some time at the station for the rain to stop, I eventually had to make it back to the hotel and got completely soaked. I got in and changed clothes, waited until the weather cleared a bit, and then strolled around the block—with my umbrella—to a little sushi restaurant for supper.

When it was time for the Hugos webcast … I was unable to connect. When I hopped on social media to see what I could find out, it turned out that there were technical difficulties and the webcast was a no go. I watched the Twitter feed for a while and ended up calling it an early night.

Saturday began with a science panel on planets beyond the Goldilocks zone, a panel on worldbuilding without ableism with Fran Wilde and Nalo Hopkinson (yes, I know), one on maintaining your scientist character’s credibility with Karen Lord, a panel on Octavia Butler (with you-know-who), I checked out the author signings where Mary Robinette Kowal and Margaret Dunlap were at side-by-side tables, a panel on fairy tale retellings with Navah Wolfe and Karen Lord, one on bad-ass female leads in young adult, and one on crafting a fantasy tale from mythology with Juliet Marillier.

I decided to call it an early night because I’d be heading for the airport in the morning for my flight home. I had supper at a sports bar, packed, and got a good night’s sleep.

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My flight left just after 8 am. I watched the sun rise on the train (at—bleargh—5:30 am) and, after a three hour flight to Iceland, watched the sun rise again 😉 Because I was travelling back through time zones, another five and a half hour fight brought me to Toronto before noon (!)

I hung out in Toronto for five more hours as my flight home was delayed, but I was home in time to watch that night’s Game of Thrones episode and then crawl into my own lovely bed.

I spent the next day resting and catching up on the television I’d missed during the trip. I could have used the rest of the week off to resent my internal clock and fully recover from the cruise crud, but it was back to the grind on Tuesday.

And that was how my European adventure ended.

Thanks for hanging with me on this journey!

As I mentioned off the top, next week will be my lessons learned/takeaway post but, because next Saturday is the launch of Kim Fahner’s latest poetry collection, Some Other Sky, I may not get the post up until Sunday. The next week, I’ll probably dedicate some time to writerly events (including the launch) and other happenings in this writer’s life, and then I’ll be on my annual blogging hiatus for NaNoWriMo!

Holy cow! This year is disappearing!

In the meantime, dear friends, be well, be kind, and stay strong. The world needs your stories.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 10-16 2017

And now … it’s time for your informal writerly learnings for the week.

Jane Friedman answers the question, what’s more important, author websites, or social media? Then she follows up with this post: social media for authors is the toughest topic to advise on.

Jami Gold visits Writers Helping Writers: translating story beats into any genre.

Abigail K. Perry: three major roles of minor characters. DIY MFA

Audrey Kalman shares five tips for processing a negative critique. DIY MFA

Slipping this in here because its (kind of) related. Jenna Moreci with part two of her beta reader process:

 

Brenda Joyce Patterson offers tips and techniques for training your writer’s brain. DIY MFA

Kermeron Hurley talks about creativity and the fear of losing the magic.

Laura Drake explains how to survive a confidence crisis. Writers in the Storm

Sierra Godfrey and Kasey Corbit share three steps for using the tarot for your writing. Writers in the Storm

Janice Hardy guest posts on The Write Practice: why your story conflict isn’t working (and how to fix it).

Kathryn Craft: say a little less; mean a little more. Writer Unboxed

Porter Anderson shares some news you can use (and some you shouldn’t). Writer Unboxed

Kim Alexander helps you put the fan back in fantasy—and get past ye same olde same olde. Kristen Lamb’s blog

Chris Winkle offers some insight into creating an eclectic magic system. Mythcreants

Oren Ashkenazi lists six common problems with long series (and how to fix them). Mythcreants

Anjali Enjeti explains why she’s still trying to get a book deal after ten years. Both heartbreaking and hopeful. The Atlantic

Kim Fahner pays tribute to Gwendolyn MacEwen on Many Gendered Mothers.

The CBC invites you to discover the best in Canadian Indigenous writing.

How to rescue a wet book (!)

 

Mandalit del Barco interviews Marie Lu for NPR.

Jo Walton: Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Day Before the Revolution” as a moment in a life. Tor.com

Robert Minto wonders, what happens when a science fiction genius starts blogging? New Republic

Abiola Oke interviews Nnedi Okorafor for Okay Africa.

I hope you found something you needed in this curation.

Come back for Thoughty Thursday 🙂

Until then, be well, my friends.

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 16-22, 2017

This will be my last Tipsday for a few weeks, but it’s a good ‘un 😉

K.M. Weiland delves into writing voice and the six things you need to know to improve it. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sacha Black visits Writers Helping Writers: myths and misconceptions of villains and mental health.

Then, Dario Ciriello drops by to discuss plotting for pantsers. Writers Helping Writers

Janice Hardy continues her birth of a book series with developing your characters. Fiction University

Jerry Jenkins stops by the BookBaby blog: become a demanding self-editor.

Annie Neugebauer explains why thought triggers are the Chekov’s gun of writing tricks. Writer Unboxed

Louie Cronin: stupid advice I have taken about writing. Writer Unboxed

Orly Konig Lopez: the shifting priorities of your writing career. Writers in the Storm

G. Myrthil: when life throws your writing routine off balance, remember these three things. DIY MFA

Linda Bernadette Burgess shares five things to remember when your manuscript hits close to home. DIY MFA

Oren Ashkenazi lists five magic items that break their stories. Mythcreants

Joanna Penn interviews Jeff Goins on the Creative Penn podcast.

Frank Miniter offers a no nonsense guide to marketing your book. Forbes

Kim Fahner talks about the Raining Poetry Project on CBC’s Morning North.

Nicole Brewer speaks of the influence of Anakana Schofield and Miriam Toews. Many Gendered Mothers

Constance Grady rereads Jane Austin’s most romantic scene: “I am half agony, half hope.” Vox

Christina DesMarais lists 43 embarrassing grammar errors even smart people make. Inc.

The 2017 Sunburst Award Shortlist.

Liz Bourke, Sleeps with Monsters: stop erasing women’s presence in SFF. Tor.com

Nikki Vanry lists five SFF novels with badass middle aged heroines. Book Riot

Hillary Kelly: our biggest questions after the Game of Thrones season 7 premiere. The Vulture

Eeeeeee! Emily Asher-Perrin announces the 13th Doctor! Tor.com

And moar eeeee! Leah Schnelbach shares the thrilling new trailer for Stranger Things 2. Tor.com

So much good stuff is coming out of SDCC 🙂 Germaine Lussier shares the latest Thor: Ragnarok trailer. i09

Come back on Thursday for some thoughty 🙂

Until then, be well.

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