The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 4

Part four of the Writing Excuses Retreat (WXR) begins on the morning of Thursday, August 4, 2017, day six of the cruise.

This was our day in St. Petersburg, Russia, and our third port day in a row. In every other port, the tours ranged from three to five hours and there was always the option to take a taxi and wander around on our own if we wished. In St. Petersburg, the tour was all day. In fact, it was two tours with a brief break in between.

The rules were fairly strict in Russia. Our passports would be checked on the way out and on the way in. We would be issued visitor’s visas for the day. We were not, under any circumstances, to leave the tours, as our visas only covered us for the cruise-related excursions. There would be no wandering around St. Petersburg.

It was also an early-rising day. We’d have to get up, get ready, and eat in time to report for our 8 am (ish) departure.

The morning would be spent at Catherine’s Palace. Sweet lord that place is huge, and we only got to see a relatively small part of it. The sprawling courtyard is bounded on all sides by buildings or iron gates. And all that yellow-painted detail? It will eventually be gilded, like the domes.

 

Catherine’s Palace is part of a city-wide restoration. Scaffolding was erected around several sections of the palace grounds as buildings were repaired and painted, only awaiting the gold leaf.

Inside, it was the same. Every entryway glittered. There were 14 different kinds of wood, imported from all over the world, inlaid in intricate patterns on the floors. And, of course, we had to don booties again to protect the site from plebeian tourist feet.

TheGildening

Just as in the royal reception hall in Copenhagen, each room was designed based on the style in one of the European capitals. There was the Versailles room in red, games rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, studies, art galleries, and lots of cabinets, painted in toile designs.

And there was the legendary Amber Room, which we were forbidden from photographing (though our tour guide did encourage us to take surreptitious photos at the doors, to and from the room—the babushkas were quick to discipline those who tried, though, so I refrained). Amber is one of Russia’s special resources and it’s considered an extravagance to cover an entire room in the petrified resin.

The Amber Room itself is considered a national treasure and that’s one of the reasons we weren’t to take pictures of it. They don’t want cheap replicas of the room appearing elsewhere.

TheGrounds

After the tour, we were taken out into the palace grounds and took the long way back to the tour bus past what looked like a Roman aqueduct, through the gardens and forested grounds, and one of Catherine’s personal outdoor retreats, or bowers.

On the way back to the pier, we stopped for shopping. The cruise crud I’d contracted had (literally) reached a fever pitch, and I availed myself of whatever over-the-counter remedies I could find. Of course, I bought souvenirs and gifts, as well, but coughing until my chest and gut were sore was getting tiring. Immediate comfort was my chief concern.

SpilledBlood

Forgive the intruding phone strap at the bottom. I’m a terrible photographer.

The afternoon tour took us into St. Petersburg and to the Spilled Blood Cathedral. The cathedral was built on the site of the murder of Emperor Alexander II as a monument to his greatness, by his son, Emperor Alexander III. It took 24 years to build, which, once you see the mosaics inside, is absolutely mind-boggling.

Every inch of the walls, arches, and domes is covered in mosaics. These few pictures will just give you a taste of its magnificence. Really, there are no words.

mosaics3

After the cathedral, we did a walking tour of St. Petersburg, during which we saw Senate Square and the Winter Palace.

Peter the Great wanted to build Russia a capital like Venice, a canal city on the Baltic. Really, Russia needed a naval port, and St. Petersburg served that purpose too, but its true purpose was to be the jewel of the Baltic.

canal

Though there are canals, St. Petersburg never achieved its architect’s dream of becoming a canal city. Every street is lined with grand houses, palaces, though, because all of the Russian nobility moved in and set up house, each family trying to outdo the others in terms of grandeur.

And there was a second shopping stop 🙂

I had time upon my return to devote some time to revision, and then take a cruise crud induced nap.

JasperFforde

That evening, Jasper Fforde delivered his talk on the last 5%, that ineffable quality that most writers lack: magic fairy dust. He promoted a lifestyle of creativity and joie de vivre so that, when we wrote, we couldn’t help but infuse that little something extra into our work. And he was hilarious.

At supper, I sat at Piper and Matthew Drake’s table. They are such an adorable couple, I couldn’t help but do an internal squee. They also had fascinating stories to tell.

Friday was our second day at sea as we sailed at top speed back to Kiel, Germany. The wind became progressively fierce throughout the day, eventually causing the water park and on-deck bar to close. All the deck chairs were stowed and the tables and chairs were crammed up against the rail and Plexiglas wall because the wind was blowing them around the deck. It was our only stormy day and even then, I barely felt the roll of the ship.

At the giant Q&A session, I sought out Thomas Olde Heuvelt, as I’d missed the early part of his presentation, and Emma Newman, because I wanted to get some help with my interminable burnout. Both were extremely helpful.

WXRecords

After lunch, we attended the on-board recording of the Writing Excuses podcasts. The first one featured one of my new friends, Mike Stop Continues.

Then, after another stint of revision, I had to crash. Cruise crud was getting the better of me.

At supper on this final night of the cruise, though I was not scheduled to sit with any of the instructors, there were enough absences, perhaps due to the cruise crud, that I got to sit at Emma and Peter Newman’s table. I think it was my second most enjoyable night (next to dining with the two Sarahs and the two Laurens).

The Newmans gave equal time to everyone at the table and it was the meal at which I learned the most about some of my fellow WXR participants.

Saturday was debarkation day, and so … yes, there was more queuing 😉

Fortunately, the process was handled as efficiently as embarkation and we were back at the Atlantic Hotel in Kiel by noon. Not all the rooms were ready for occupancy, however, and so a group of us gathered out front and His Majesty Dan Wells led us to a local laundromat.

Once everyone got their wash on, we strolled two doors down to a döner restaurant for lunch—yum! The owner had to call in extra staff to help with the crowd (!) Afterward, while we waited for our clothes to dry, Mary and Dan recorded Patreon special episode of the WR podcast. Then, we trouped back to the hotel.

Kiel

After checking in, I spent the afternoon wandering around Kiel’s mall and open market, meeting up with some of my fellow cruisers to head to supper. There was some disagreement over where to go, and we ended up splitting, some choosing a German restaurant, and my group opting for Mexican.

I must say, the German version of Mexican is … interesting.

And that is where my WXR adventure ends.

Next week, my journey to Helsinki, and how I spent my time until WorldCon began.

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

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Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Sept 3-9, 2017

Here are your informal writerly learnings for the first full week of September (!)

K.M. Weiland continues her most common writing mistakes with part 62: head-hopping POV. Helping Writers Become Authors

Colleen M. Story explains how your time personality influences your writing productivity. Writers in the Storm

Susan Spann explains the law (and ethics) of conference blogging. Writers in the Storm

James Scott Bell stops by the Writers Helping Writers coaches’ corner: using the novel journal to make writing breakthroughs.

Vaughn Roycroft is fortified by gratitude. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass muses on what makes a journey. Writer Unboxed

Here’s the second part of my exploration of The Hero’s Journey on DIY MFA.

Crash Course Mythology – The Hero’s Journey and the Monomyth. They do a really good job of illustrating how some of the stages of The Hero’s Journey are optional, or can be shifted 🙂

 

Leanne Sowul: it’s back to school time at DIY MFA—what do you want to learn?

Kristen Lamb explains why suffering is essential for great fiction.

Jeff Lyons returns to Jami Gold’s blog to bust the rest of the top ten writing myths.

Rachel Chaney is Dan Koboldt’s equine expert for this article: matching horses to use, climate, and characters in fiction.

And then, Judith Tarr contributed in praise of the hard-working fantasy horse to the Tor.com blog. What do these ladies have against Friesians, anyway?

Rebecca Solnit: if I were a man. The Guardian

Isabella Biedenharn: Libba Bray has some thoughts on this all-female Lord of the Flies remake. Entertainment Weekly

What growing up in the sulphur city taught me about beauty. Christine Schrum on the Latitude 46 blog.

Cat Rambo announces that games writers will be eligible for an award in the 2018 Nebulas. Geekwire podcast.

Tor.com presents Ursula K. Le Guin’s introduction to the Library of America’s The Hainish Novels & Stories, volume one.

OMG. Droughtlander’s almost over! Actually, the first ep will have aired by the time I post this. Still. OUTLANDER!

 

Ever think Gandalf was a dick? Well, so does Emily Asher-Perrin: five things Gandalf should have admitted instead of being a jerk. (ROFL-hilarious) Tor.com

So I went to WorldCon in August, eh? This happened. The Tea & Jeopardy live podcast taping with George R.R. (Really Really) Martin!

 

Enjoy, and be well until Thoughty Thursday!

tipsday2016

The Writing Excuses Retreat, part 3

We resume the tale of the WXR Baltic cruise on Tuesday, August 1st, day four.

I woke up at ridiculous o’clock and couldn’t get back to sleep. So I dealt with the morning’s email, social media, and blog reading, got up and dressed for the day, and went out onto the balcony with my lap top to work on my revisions.

We were approaching Stockholm, having sailed all night, and I was struck by the landscape. It looked just like northern Ontario. I could have been on Georgian Bay or in the Nipissing Narrows. So, of course, I took some pictures 🙂

JustLikeHome

It was the second of four consecutive port tour days and the early rising was a good thing as I had to get ready for my day in Stockholm.

StGeorgeandtheDragon

Our tour took us into the old town (every major city in Europe has one, apparently) for a walking tour. We saw the parliament and a couple of old churches, had the opportunity to get some souvenirs, and then we were off to Skansen.

DragonWaterspoutCoolDoor

Skansen is basically a Viking pioneer village. We toured some of the old farms there, saw a windmill, church, and old pillory (the pole they chained miscreants to for public punishment—like stocks). While we didn’t have time to see them, they had heritage craftspeople, and reindeer, which a group ran off to see—and were almost too late to catch the bus to our next destination (!)

Skansen

We then went to the Vasa museum. The Vasa was an enormous war ship, commissioned by the then king of Sweden. Against the advice and better judgement of his shipbuilders, he ordered a third deck of gun ports. This severely overbalanced the ship and the gun ports were too close to water level.

VASA

The Vasa’s maiden voyage lasted 15 minutes and she sank in the silty harbour where she sat for 300 years until salvage crews were able to raise her. The ship was remarkably preserved by the silt and the Vasa museum has been built around the salvaged ship to tell the tragic tale of one king’s hubris.

We got back to the Fantasia a little late and, after dropping my goodies off at my stateroom, I ran down to catch most of Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s presentation on maintaining a writer’s life. It was about setting and tracking writerly goals, not word count goals, but career goals.

First, he said to blue sky a goal. His included a house on the French Riviera 🙂 Then, you scale down to five years, then one, and finally break your year up into monthly goals. The important thing is to assess your progress.

At the end of each day, review what you accomplished, and what you didn’t, without judgement. Adjust your goals accordingly. Unexpected things are always going to happen. The point is to adjust course in a way that will facilitate success. Always take the positive view.

Thomas’s presentation appealed to an organized, goal-oriented person like me. I didn’t dive in and create a plan immediately, but I think I’m going to work on one for next year, taking account for how my experiments of the past couple of years have gone.

At dinner that night, I sat at Dan Wells’ table, and again, I enjoyed getting to know one of our hosts, more of my fellow participants, and the conversations we had about our work and goals.

After dinner, I went to the upper deck to take a picture of the sunset as we travelled to Estonia.

SunsetDay4

The next day was our tour of Tallinn, which I think was one of the port cities I enjoyed the most. We started with the amphitheatre where the annual song festival takes place. Apparently choirs from all over the world perform there, as well as many popular music bands.

We drove around the harbour to walk on the shore, saw a war memorial, and an old abbey which was being restored.

The centrepiece of the tour was the old city. In the case of Tallinn, the old city is completely surrounded by a wall, which still stands. It’s a place you have to walk through to appreciate. All the old buildings, the narrow, winding, and ascending laneways, the churches, the old merchant houses, the excavated headstones of Estonian notables.

And the market square. After the walking tour of the old town was complete, we were given thirty minutes to wander and shop. I bought most of the gifts I brought back for family and friends there and a few things for myself.

TallinnWall1TallinnWall3

Back on the ship, I attended Ken Liu’s presentation on how to work with your translator.

That night’s dinner was dubbed the elegant night. I sat with a table of other participants, most of whom I hadn’t yet met, and had another enjoyable night of camaraderie and conversation.

Once more, I took a picture of the sunset.

SunsetDay5

The next day was our day in St. Petersburg, Russia … which I’ll save for my fourth and final instalment of my WXR cruise adventure 🙂

I hope everyone in Florida is safe, tonight.

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

The next chapter: Double update for July and August 2017

This is what happens when I go away for two and a half weeks—I have twice the update to deliver!

Still, I would not give up having gone to Europe. It was life-changing, is still changing me as I readjust to “normal” life again.

July

In July, I finished another revision of Wavedancer. I should have moved right on to the next round of revisions on Reality Bomb, but the task involved writing a new opening chapter. And it was slow going.

Unlike most of my other novels, I’d started RB too late. Also, I had a rather huge plot hole to fill. Hashing things out with Phil gave me the means to fill the plot hole, but it would mean going even further back than I had intended.

There’s still a lot of reworking that has to happen. I’m not confident I’ve shown the proper bits. There’s quite a bit of narrative explaining what I thought was not as important, but now I’m not so sure. I’m probably going to leave it in its current, messy form until I start working with my new critique group (more on this in a bit).

I started July writing full force on a piece of short fiction, as well, but … I overshot the due date (July 15th) and still wasn’t finished writing. There were too many characters and too many settings to complete the story within the word limit imposed by the anthology call.

I made the decision to continue working on the story and potentially repurpose it for another contest or magazine with a higher word limit, but as work on RB stalled, so too did work on the story.

I was getting closer to the date of departure for my grand adventure (WXR and WorldCon) and my anxiety was having its way with me, as well. I wrote about this previously, and that, though I’d recovered somewhat from my spring bout of burnout, it was rebounding on me.

Blogging continued until the date of my departure.

I ended up adjusting my word count goal for RB, which I’ve subsequently revised at least twice since.

Once I departed for Germany, travel concerns overtook my desire to write until the third day of the cruise, when I committed a (very) few words to RB again.

Interestingly, when I read an excerpt of my short story on the cruise, one of the comments I received was, “I want to read the novel, when it’s finished.” So maybe it’s yet another not-short story 🙂 I have a habit of coming up with novel-sized ideas, no matter what …

JulyProgress

Word count breakdown for July:

50,100 words revised of my 50k goal for Wavedancer, or 100% 🙂

2,385 words revised of my amended 2,500 word goal for RB, or 95%. I had hoped for 15k, initially, changed it to 10k, and then realized that 2,500 was the best I could hope for.

Because the short story ran long, I wrote 3,571 words of my 2,500 word goal, or 143%. And … it’s still not finished.

Even accounting for my trip and blogging vacay, I wrote 6,155 of my 5,600 word goal, or 110%.

Total words revised: 52,485

Total words written: 9,726

August

I spoke to K. Tempest Bradford and Emma Newman about my burnout on the cruise. Both of them had some useful suggestions that I continue to work on implementing.

I’ll leave the bulk of my adventure details to my other blog posts on the topic, but one of the cool things to come out of the WXR cruise was a new novel critique group. We’re still in the organizational phase of things, and some of us have life events that will make starting in 2018 more feasible, but it’s going to happen.

I hope this will be the beginning of a fruitful and supportive group. The other cool thing? We’re international, with members from Australia to Germany. We’re awesome 🙂

I picked up revisions of RB on the third day of the cruise, and continued to revise through to my day in Kiel, until I flew to Helsinki for WorldCon. I then decided to give myself another break until I got home and readjusted to life in Eastern Daylight Standard Time.

It didn’t help that the cheap set of European outlet converters I bought didn’t include a ground, so I couldn’t charge my lap top, in any case.

It was good not to write or revise for a while again, though.

I focused on enjoying WorldCon and I made the decision not to take notes for any of the panels or presentations I attended. Since I’d already made the decision not to blog my session notes, I figured I’d give myself a break in that respect, too. I think I had a much better time at WorldCon this year as a result.

When I got home, I picked up on the blogging the next weekend, but didn’t get back to revisions until the 26th. Still, I got back to them, and I have been working steadily since.

I didn’t return to the short story, but have created another novel folder for it. I think the idea’s big enough to expand into 80k or so 🙂

So August is a little scant on both the writing and revising, but I’m satisfied. And I’m feeling much better.

AugProgress

I revised 14, 628 words of my amended 15k goal, or 98%.

Again, even accounting for my blogging vacay, I wrote 3,764 words of my 2,800 word goal.

Moving forward, I’m going to finish revisions of RB and begin the outlining for Playing with Fire, the fourth novel in my epic fantasy series and this year’s NaNoWriMo project.

Aside from blogging and my columns for DIY MFA, I’m going to let the rest of my WIPs slide for this year.

I hope that between now and the end of 2017, I’ll devise a more balanced plan for writing and revising in future years. I clearly can’t continue as I have been. I’ll also have the novel critique group to account for, which will have me reading and critiquing four other full length novels in the months when mine isn’t being critiqued (!)

So that was July and August in this writer’s life.

I’ll check in with you again at the beginning of October to catch you up on how September’s plans went.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong, whether assailed by fire or flood or fascism. The world needs your stories.

The Next Chapter

Muse-Inks: Weird mood stuff

So here’s the (first) thing: I’m freaking out inside (about my upcoming trip), but I’m trying not to freak out. I’m so excited I can barely stand it, but … if I let either of those two particular cats out of their respective bags, I won’t be able to function.

And I have to function. I have to be able to work. I have to be able to write. I have to be able to do normal, day to day stuff like laundry. And I have to be able to organize my shit and pack for the trip. Which, of course, loops me back around to freaking out.

Can I tell you that all this restraint is exhausting (and not have y’all think that I’m a whiny baby)?

Anxiety is real.

I may appear calm. I may speak quietly. I may smile.

Meanwhile, my heart’s beating a hundred miles an hour, I feel like I’m having hot flashes (and I’m of the age when some of them may be legitimate), I’m dizzy and feel like I might faint, and sometimes my extremities go numb. All of these reactions are the result of adrenalin release. Though I’m not actually experiencing anything that justifies fight or flight, my anxiety triggers the hormone cascade.

It also messes up healthy sleep, which means I’m perpetually tired.

Most of my effort centres on remaining clam. If I can prevent the cascade from happening in the first place, I’m good. So at the day job, I’m laser-focused until breaks and lunch and then I dive into one of the several novels I have on the go and I immerse myself in words.

I avoid talking about the trip, because that, in itself, can be a trigger. I can’t be rude, though, and once the topic comes up, I try to focus on the practical, the logical, the real. I’m not always successful. And once my anxiety kicks up, I can only ride it out, go for a walk to burn off some of the nervous energy, or focus on my breathing until my hands stop shaking.

An anxiety attack passes. That doesn’t mean it’s not hell while it lasts.

So, yeah. That’s the first weird mood thing going on.

The second is introspective weirdness.

I’ve written before that I used to dream vividly when I was young. I had nightmares and night terrors, somnambulism, and somniloquy (talking in your sleep). I’ve had out of body experiences, near death experiences, and other experiences of the universe that would be considered uncanny.

I’ve delved into meditation of various stripes, wicca, and European shamanism.

From my mid-twenties into my mid-thirties, I was what I would call a seeker.

After all the reading and the research and the exploration, I ended up settling on the uncertain ground of the agnostic. My experience of the universe defied definition. I didn’t want to force-fit it into a category. I let it be what it is, tell me what it wanted to, and I’d respond accordingly.

The problem is, as I get older, I’ve heard, or felt, those universal nudges less and less. And I don’t know what the cause is.

Have I, like Susan Pevensie, outgrown my sense of wonder? Recent events have led me to believe that this is not the case. Am I close enough to where I need to be that I don’t need those universal nudges anymore? Possibly, but why do I feel so … lost, then? Have I shut down my intuitive side? Again, it’s possible, but how can I tell?

I’ve been working on the assumption that all of the uncanny stuff has channelled itself into my creativity. This part of my life continues to blossom, but it’s a flower in a private conservatory. What’s the point if no one gets to see it?

I guess that’s what everything comes down to. I know what it is I need to do, and I do it. I write. I study craft and literature and story of all kinds. My life revolves around that central principle, sometimes to an unhealthy extent.

To date, however, I haven’t been able to produce a lot of objective evidence of the work that I’ve done.

I know that the writing is its own intrinsic reward. I will still be writing for the rest of my life, regardless of what does, or does not happen. I just keep missing, or messing up, opportunities to get my words out there, or my efforts proceed without significant results.

They say that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. The universe seems to be out of lessons. I need to find another way forward.

Maybe my big Baltic adventure will provide some answers.

In the meantime, I’m going to make the effort to remain open, to recognize a universal nudge if I get one, and to act on it accordingly.

There you have it: I suffer from mental illness (depression and anxiety), and I have an unorthodox view of the universe. Maybe one leads to the other? Or coaxes it along? Who’s to know? Unless the universe is interested in sharing … ?

I shall leave you on that ambiguous note.

This is my last weekend post until after Helsinki WorldCon.

I don’t know how active I’ll be on social media, though I’m sure I’ll be posting a scad of photos 🙂

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

Muse-inks

Muse-Inks: Still striving for balance

Greetings all you writerly people!

July is off to a good start. My plan seems to be working. By focusing on one revision and one short fiction project, I’ve been able to get back on the horse, so to speak.

On Thursday evening, there was a special meeting of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild to attend, so I took that night off revision and writing, but made up for it on Friday.

I’m also busily drafting my next piece for DIY MFA. Like the last one, it’s going to be a bit long, but I have a strategy that will hopefully keep it manageable and leave me with material for a second post on the topic. Stay tuned 🙂

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a good week for quality sleep. I guess I have to take the bad with the good.

Looming (less than 3 weeks away!) is my great adventure to the Baltic. Yes, early, early, on the morning of July 27th, I’ll be flying down to Toronto in enough time to find the Air Iceland kiosk, get through customs, and board my flight to Hamburg, via Reykjavik.

The Writing Excuses Cruise will be visiting Copenhagen, Stockholm, Tallin, and St. Petersburg, with tonnes of writing workshops in between, from July 29 to August 5. Then I hop a short flight from Hamburg to Helsinki on the 6th, rent a car to run up to Marttila (yes!—isn’t that awesome?) on the 7th, tour around Helsinki all day on the 8th, and then take in the amazing that is WorldCon from August 9 to 12 (it runs to the 13th, but my return flight takes off early that day … ).

It’ll be my first time outside of continental North America. I’m excited and nervous, and, let’s just be honest here, scared out of my wee gourd. I know I’ll have a fabulous time. This is a bucket-listy kind of writerly adventure, after all, but iz still escared.

I’m not afraid to fly, or of the plane crashing, or anything like that. I’m afraid that I’ll miss one of my connections, and therefore the cruise, altogether. I’m afraid my boarding passes, which, to this point, are all virtual, will not materialize, or that my embarkation form for the cruise won’t arrive. I’ve received confirmation that some of the forms were late. I should be hearing about my embarkation form soon.

Oh, and did I mention? I’m going by myself. Sweet baby Jesus.

I’m getting jittery just writing about it.

Went out for dinner with a dear friend, Kim, on Friday night and she says the trip will empower me. I don’t doubt it. But I’ve travelled on my own before. Just not such a big trip so far away with so many moving parts.

In other news … we’ve been enjoying the fruits (and vegetables, and herbs) of our labours. The strawberry harvest is just about done, and the raspberries are about to start. Friends have been dutifully decimating the rhubarb, and we’ve been harvesting greens for salads and sandwiches. And lots of herbs. Chives, parsley, lemon thyme … We’re almost overrun by the sage. And our beans are starting to climb the trellis.

GardenJuly

I’d show you the patio garden, but I haven’t finished weeding it yet and so it mostly looks like purple clover. *blushes*

Inside, I’ve been enjoying my orchids. I have no idea how, but I’ve managed to get two plants to flower. I’ll take it 🙂

OrchidsBloom

That’s it for this week in the writerly life.

Next week, I think I’m going to do a series discoveries post, just to shake things up a bit.

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

Muse-inks

The next chapter: June 2017 update

Hey all!

It’s been a weird, but busy, month. No wonder I’ve been struggling with burnout (at a most inconvenient time).

There was Graphic-Con on June 10th, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild picnic on the 13th, a DIYMFA meeting on the 14th, the Poetry Walk on the 17th, CanWrite! On the 24th and 25th, and on the 29th, The FOLD presented Publishing in Canada at the Sudbury Public Library. And that’s not even counting the non-writerly stuff.

That included a union election, Public Service Week celebrations, and a pre-Canada Day 150 pot luck.

Needless to say, I’m bushed (!)

First: the fun stuff

I eschewed my post last weekend because I was down in Toronto volunteering for and participating in CanWrite! 2017. I drove down on Friday, after work.

On Saturday, I attended J.M. Frey’s Culture Building Workshop (insightful and thought-provoking), the Publishers Panel, Richard Scrimger’s structure workshop (don’t solve for angle A), and the CAA Literary Awards Gala, all at the lovely Humber College Lakeshore Campus.

JMFreyPubPanel

RichardScrimgerAlissaYork

My bonus: I won a door prize of shortlisted works, including Alissa York’s The Naturalist, which won the fiction prize and, since she was also the key note speaker, I got her to sign 🙂

DoorPrize

Alissa’s key note was inspirational.

On Sunday, it was the AGM where some important professional organization stuff was decided, and then I was on the road home.

Last Thursday, I attended Publishing in Canada, hosted by The FOLD and Jael Richardson, with a panel of publishing experts who included Christie Harkin of Clockwise Press, Heather Campbell of Sudbury’s own Latitude 46, and Jennifer Knoch of ECW Press.

PubInCanada

It was a very well-attended event (the library staff raided storage to find enough chairs and still people were standing about) and they even fed us pizza 🙂

The balance experiment

Despite all the events in June, I started the month off trying to revise not one, but two works in progress, finish one short story, revise (rewrite, really) another, keep up with blogging, and compose my next column for DIY MFA.

I don’t even try to do that much in a month without tonnes of writerly events to attend.

I have no earthly idea what I was thinking.

You’ll see the gap in my writing and revision. It was about a week. And still, I figured, at the end of it, I could just resume the juggling. Head, meet desk.

As you can see, my efforts were partly successful, but by the end of the month, I gave my head a shake.

The month in word count

While I didn’t hit most of my goals, I made a decent showing, all things considered.

I finished the most recent run-through of Apprentice of Wind in the first three days of the month and moved on to Wavedancer. Even with the break and sporadic revision thereafter, I exceeded my revision goal on the project for the month.

Although I had a much better beginning for Reality Bomb in mind, I couldn’t seem to execute. This only confirms for me that I can’t work on multiple projects in the same phase of the process at the same time. I can’t switch my focus quickly enough.

Even halving my revision goal for RB, I didn’t come close.

I did better with the short fiction, but didn’t complete the story. It’s a good thing that the deadline was extended to July 15 (!).

I didn’t revise a word on the other story I was hoping to work on.

Blogging was fine. I exceeded my writing goal even though I missed out on a weekend.

JuneProgress

Here’s how the numbers worked out:

  • Ascension series: 62,394 words of my 60,000 revision goal, or 104%.
  • RB: 1,889 words of my adjusted 45,000 revision goal, or 4% (yes, you may laugh—I am, honestly).
  • Short fiction: 770 words written of my 2,500 word goal, or 31%. I took out the revision goal from the month.
  • Blog: 6,187 words written of my 5,800 word goal, or 107%.
  • Total words revised: 64, 283
  • Total words written: 6,957

Yeah, I’m a dope.

Moving forward

I’m going to focus on the revision of Wavedancer and get that done before moving onto RB again.

I’m going to finish my new story before turning my attention to revising the other one.

My hope is that simplifying things will keep me from going crazy. Crazy Mel is no fun.

I have nothing planned, event wise, this month—doh! I do have one: a special meeting of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on the 6th, but that’s it—until I depart for the Writing Excuses Cruise on July 27th.

I’m all about finding my happy place again.

I even submitted another poem for the Rainy Day Poetry Project. My friend, Kim, the Poet Laureate for Sudbury, has obtained the necessary permissions to put poems in invisible, but water-proof paint, on Sudbury’s sidewalks. They’ll only be visible when it rains. My submission isn’t a poem so much as something someone walking along in the rain might appreciate seeing.

In non-writerly news

After losing all its flowers, my fuchsia phalaenopsis (say that five times fast—oh, it’s not that difficult—blushes) orchid has bloomed again, and the one that started growing a stem at work (another phalaenopsis, white, though, I think) is setting blooms!

LatestOrchidMoreToCome

Phil and I have been enjoying our strawberry harvest this past month and are looking forward to raspberries shortly. The tomatoes, lettuce, and beans have been planted and are growing well, but are puny compared to my mom’s.

Phil built her a series of three raised beds and her tomatoes and cucumbers are going wild!

I hope that tomorrow the weather is clear. It’s been rainy/stormy lately and I’m looking forward to finally getting the rest of the weeding and some transplanting done.

And that’s it for the next chapter until September (combined July and August update). Since I hope to be somewhere on the Baltic Sea the first of next month, I will be taking another blogging holiday. Though Thoughty Thursday should still post on the 27th, that will be the last blog post until I return from Helsinki on August 13th.

I wouldn’t depend on seeing anything until the weekend following, and that will probably be devoted to the cruise.

Until the 27th, however, I’ll continue my regular blogging.

So until Tipsday, be well, be kind, and stay strong, my friends (but don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to re-evaluate if you’re feeling stressed).

Love y’as all!

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, June 11-17, 2017

A smaller trove from the Tipsday vault this week.

Jane Friedman coaches you on how to immediately improve your query letter’s effectiveness.

K.M. Weiland shares five ways to write a (nearly) perfect first draft (and why you should try). Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate shows you how to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to improve your characters.

Piper Bayard discusses the art of physical surveillance. Writers in the Storm

Emily Wenstrom answers the question, can Facebook ads really boost your author platform? DIY MFA

Oh yeah. It’s me. Talking about time travel. DIY MFA

And so I had to cram this in here: Natalie Zutter wonders, is time travel is science fiction or fantasy? 🙂 Tor.com

Gabriela Pereira interviews DIY MFA columnist and romance author Robin Lovett for her podcast. Now I have an earworm … Let’s talk about sexy, baby / let’s talk about you and me … 😀

Becca Puglisi demystifies worldbuilding. Writers Helping Writers

Remember that post I shared a couple of weeks ago that Foz Meadows took exception to? Yeah, well Janice Hardy takes on the topic, too: why you shouldn’t write every day. Janice makes some points that I seriously considering. I do work a day job and I regularly face burnout because I write like a maniac when I’m not working. Food for thought. Fiction University

Oren Ashkenazi lists five tropes that make a villain look incompetent (and how to avoid them). Mythcreants

Jenna Moreci: how to choose an editor.

 

Joanna Penn interviews Dan Blank on changes in the publishing industry and launching non-fiction books. The Creative Penn

Claire Light reviews WisCon, the world’s preeminent feminist speculative fiction convention. Literary Hub

Foxy Folklorist, Jeana Jorgensen, explains why the translation of the fairy tale collection you read matters. Patheos

And that, my friends, was you informal writerly learnings for the week 🙂

Come back for some thoughty on Thursday, and in the meantime, be well.

tipsday2016

Muse-Inks: A week in this writer’s life and more lessons in vulnerability

Greetings, writerly folk!

Fun stuff first.

On Tuesday of this past week, the Sudbury Writers’ Guild held its annual picnic on the lovely patio of one of our members 🙂 This is the first year in … several, that we’ve actually had a picnic outside. In recent years, because we’ve paid for the rental space, we’ve held the “picnic” in our regular meeting room.

Though the point is to get together and socialize before our summer break, it was nice to enjoy the lovely weather we’ve had recently.

Also on Tuesday, my latest column for DIY MFA went live. It was on time travel. I kind of gravitated to the topic because one of my works in progress deals with time travel, in a way, and so I’ve been researching the various theories. I’m kind of proud of this one. I’m proud of all of them, really 🙂

On Wednesday, I took part in the quarterly DIY MFA call. Gabriela has a number of new columnists and interns. It was great to get in touch with everyone and meet all of the new additions to the team.

Thursday was the final meeting of the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! sub-committee prior to the conference. That’s next weekend, and will necessitate a brief blogging vacay. Just for the weekend. Curation will go on as usual 🙂

Then, just today, I participated in my first urban hike, a cooperative event put on by the Rainbow Routes Association and The Greater Sudbury Poet Laureate, Kim Fahner. The poets from the Sudbury Street Poetry Project were invited to accompany hikers on a downtown route which visited the various businesses and organizations where our poems were posted.

PoetryHike

We paused to read our poems at each location, and chatted between. Just after my stop at NISA, it started to drizzle, and then to rain. We ended up at the Farmer’s Market and the drumming circle performing there, where Louise Visneckie crashed the performance and read her work with drum accompaniment 🙂

As I mentioned last week, I was courting burnout and so, I decided to take a break from writing and revision for a while.

In the meantime, writers have continued to post their thoughts about writing every day, especially if the writer has a day job. Even for writers who work on their craft full time schedule days off. It’s important to give yourself space.

What I discovered this week is that even if I’m not writing and revising, I’m still writing and revising. I carry a small moleskine with me all the time and I made a number of notes on my various works in progress. Even when I’m not writing, it’s where my heart and soul live.

This weekend, Phil and I are also pupsitting for Phil’s sister.

Buster

Isn’t Buster a lovely boy?

So, I’d thought that, perhaps, I’d get back into the habit this weekend, but I have to put the final SWG newsletter together, and I think I might defer until Monday.

I’ve been considering giving myself a regular day off. Perhaps Friday.

I am feeling better, though. More centred.

Another reason for this is that I’ve continued to listen to Brené Brown’s The Power of Vulnerability sessions.

Stuff I’ve learned:

I’m addicted to shame. I said this last week, but now, I want to unpack that statement. When things go to shit, it’s always my fault. I don’t think, “It’s unfortunate this happened.” I think, “I’m a bad person because I let it happen/couldn’t stop it.”

That’s the core difference between guilt and shame. In guilt, you’re accountable, you take responsibility but, because it’s the action that was thoughtless or hurtful, you can take ownership and change your behaviour. With shame, it’s not the action, but the actor, who is thoughtless or hurtful. It’s much more difficult to change behaviour when the story you tell yourself is that you’re hardwired that way.

I live in a continual state of low expectation because it’s easier than getting excited about things and being disappointed.

You can’t love anyone else more than you love yourself. This gets people’s backs up, but it’s true. If you don’t have compassion for yourself, how can you ever show it to others?

I overshare as a defence strategy. Brené Brown calls it spotlighting. I don’t know if I do it consciously, with intent, but I’m very open with some parts of my life, sometimes with people who might be classed more as acquaintances, than as friends. It makes people back off and confirms my bias that I’m a bad person. I’m not worth knowing.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this new insight. Yet. I now know that I have these issues and I’m learning some strategies to address them. I’m just not sure how I’ll get from point A to point B.

Mindfulness and baby steps. Like anything else, it’s a matter of patience and practice.

I also think I’m going to start gratitweeting. Blame Brené Brown and Kim Fahner, who is half way through her second year of the daily gratitude practice. I’m not sure when, but I think it’s a way to bring the good stuff to mind. It’s too easy to take those things for granted, and then you can too easily slip into hopelessness and depression.

I don’t expect the transformation to be immediate, but I do expect that it will help me manage my mood.

As always, I’ll keep you informed.

As I mentioned, next weekend there will be no post, and the weekend after will be July 1st (Canada Day!) and it’ll be time for my next chapter update.

Until next I blog, be well, be kind, and stay strong.

Muse-inks