My latest column on DIY MFA

Come on over and visit me at DIY MFA for my latest column.

Mythic structure: The Virgin’s Promise, part two.

VirginsPromise2

This time, I analyze Ever After and The Hobbit using Kim Hudson’s archetypal feminine structure.

And while you’re there, check out the rest of Gabriela’s amazing resources 🙂

Until next time, be well.

 

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The next chapter: June 2018 update

Hello all you writerly people!

I know I’ve said this often in recent months, but this past month has been a weird one.

It started off well, but in the first full week of June, I was asked to deliver training with just one week to prep in and amongst my other duties. We didn’t even have a proper participant list until the Thursday before the class was to start. At least no one had to travel.

So, a week of frantic prep and two weeks of training followed by five weeks of post-training monitoring (PTM). Yeah, I’m going to be busy through to August.

I’ve had another life lesson confirmed for me. I no longer have to deliver training away from home to feel exhausted by the activity. Introvert me has to be on all the time in front of a class. It really leaves me drained at the end of the day with little to nothing left for my creative pursuits. And what little energy I have is still focused on Torvi, who, while she is showing steady improvement as she grows older, is still a handful. More on the T sitch, later.

On Wednesday of the second week of training, our group was inducted into a new PTM pilot project. The first class and group of monitors was chosen to be the pilot in advance of that class. The participants, their team leaders, and the trainers and monitors were all provided with training and information prior to the class. In other words, they were well-prepared.

Following the training, we were scrambling to mark the final tests, create course summary reports, and my co-facilitator was the lead monitor for the transition week, essentially dedicated advice and guidance for the whole class of fifteen. Plus, we both had our own agents (three each) to take care of.

I won’t get into the details, or this will be a very long, ranty post. Needless to say, it was madness.

JuneProgress

Given the crazy, I think I did pretty good. I wrote more days than not, and I wrote less than I would have liked, but I wrote, and that was the biggest part of the battle. I only wrote 6,635 words of my 10K goal, or 66%.

This means that it will be one more month drafting Playing with Fire. I should, however, finish the draft by the end of July.

I wrote 3,363 words on this blog, or 129% of my 2,600-word goal, got my DIY MFA column in early at a honkin’ 2,141 words, or 241%, and assembled my last Sudbury Writers’ Guild newsletter at 4,072 words, or 102% of goal.

In all, I wrote 16,213 words in June, or 92% of my monthly writing goal. Not too shabby 🙂

I did nothing in terms of creative events this month, but I did have supper with a good friend the other night. We haven’t seen each other in forever and it was lovely to catch up.

This coming month, however, I’ll have a couple of events to share. I’ll be heading down to Ad Astra next weekend, and the Sudbury Writers’ Guild will be holding a workshop with Gail Anderson-Dargatz on the 28th.

I may have another critique group in the making. I’ll find out more tomorrow and be sure to fill you in when I compose next month’s update.

In other news …

Phil continues to trudge toward sanity at work. It’s still rough, but they’ve hired someone who’ll be able to ease some of Phil’s burden and who’ll be starting mid-month. There will be some training before the new hire is going to be able to take some of the workload off Phil’s shoulders, but it’s another small win.

Health-wise, I’m pretty much sorted. My doctor put me through a battery of blood screenings, and other tests, and all of the results came back showing that I’m in good health. The one issue I’d wanted to investigate turns out just to be age-related and manageable without medication. Oh, and I have fibroids, which I didn’t have a few months ago, but I haven’t experienced any problems as a result of them. Funny, I don’t feel old enough to have these problems …

And … five months after the ablation, I had my first non-period. It was essentially just prolonged spotting. I’m cautiously optimistic.

We have one class left in Torvi’s intermediate obedience. As I said above, she’s improving, but she’s still a handful. One bit of progress is that I was able to take her across town in the car—without meds (!) I think we’ll be able to stop using them soonish. She may never enjoy the car, and she’ll probably drool every time we take a ride, but she’s not really distressed, and she hasn’t thrown up.

I took her to get her nails trimmed and she was snappy with the groomer. They may have to muzzle her in the future 😦

Feisty pup is feisty.

Tomorrow, I’m going to introduce her to a beach and see if she’ll swim. If, as I suspect, she’s got a good bit of husky in her, she may not do more than wade in and get her belly wet. I’ll be instagramming the pics.

And that was a month in this writer’s life.

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, June 3-9, 2018

Another week, another batch of informal writerly learnings.

Jane Friedman excerpts from Tanya Hall’s Ideas, Influence, and Income: what to look for in a book publicist and tips for going it alone.

Donna Galanti offers eleven ways to find and connect with other authors in your genre. Writers in the Storm

Fae Rowan explains why you have to give your readers what they want. Writers in the Storm

Jenna Moreci shares her top ten hacks for your writing process.

 

Agent Barbara Poelle answers a question about word counts on Funny You Should Ask. Writer’s Digest

Nancy Johnson helps you find rhythm in your prose. Writer Unboxed

Donald Maass gives you the reason to build a box. Writer Unboxed

Kathryn Magendie explores rhythms in reading and writing. Writer Unboxed

James Scott Bell invites you to use the writer’s spice cabinet. Writers Helping Writers

Chrys Fey stopps by Writers Helping Writers to help you boost your creativity mindset naturally.

K.M. Weiland reviews Avengers: Infinity War and gives us four ways to write a better antagonist. Helping Writers Become Authors

Sara Letourneau provides a case study on revenge as a literary theme. DIY MFA

And here’s my latest column. Mythic structure: The Virgin’s Promise, part one. DIY MFA

Ashley Hilst shows you five ways to inject theme into your story (without being obvious). DIY MFA

Chris Winkle explains how to give your hero sympathetic problems. Mythcreants

Monday and Tuesday are under your workweek belt. Feel good about that.

Be well until Thursday!

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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

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

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, April 22-28, 2018

Happy Beltane, y’all. It’s May Day!

Never worry, never fear, Underdog your informal writerly learnings are here!

K.M. Weiland continues her ultimate first chapter checklist series with part three: introducing the story. Helping Writers Become Authors

Kathryn Craft wonders if you’re emotionally ready for a developmental edit? Writers in the Storm

Catherine McKenzie: theft by finding. Writer Unboxed

Barbara O’Neal posts about the importance of a private writing habit. Writer Unboxed

Heather Webb is considering good advice, bad advice, and figuring out how to write through the “shoulds.” Writer Unboxed

Erika Liodice helps you find your way back to writing. Writer Unboxed

Dan Koboldt explains how you can level up as a writer with peer critique. Writer’s Digest

Sara Letourneau: how themes are presented in short fiction. DIY MFA

In my latest column for DIY MFA, I delve into the possibilities for future space travel.

Joanna Penn discusses comparisonitis, or “everyone else is better than me” syndrome. The Creative Penn

Nathan Bransford tells you everything you need to know about novel word counts. Later in the week, he explains why writers should perfect their first thirty pages.

Cyndy Etler drops by Jane Friedman’s blog to explain how to become a bestseller through money, luck, or work (mostly work).

Chris Winkle helps you distinguish between structured and unstructured advice. Mythcreants

Kristen Lamb offers some perspective on self-editing your dialogue and characters.

Chris Yogerst explores how Stan Lee became the man behind Marvel. Los Angeles Review of Books

Sarah Laskow invites you to go medieval by attaching a book to your belt. Atlas Obscura

Be well until Thoughty Thursday!

tipsday2016

Muse-inks: A decision and why I’m making it

I hinted on Thursday that I’ve made a decision about the blog, and if you’ve been reading, you might be able to predict what that decision is going to be.

*pauses for dramatic effect*

This will be my last Muse-inks/This writer’s life post for the foreseeable. I’m going to continue with my weekly curation posts and my monthly Next chapter updates, but otherwise, I’m only going to post if something of note is happening, like a DIY MFA column, reading, workshop, or other writerly event.

I’ll roll up the information I’ve been sharing on a weekly basis into my monthly updates.

I’m streamlining. I’m only going to post when I have something to say.

It’ll free up a little more time on the weekends and a few more words for my work-in-progress. It’s a first step in reclaiming my creative life.

Here’s the latest news in this writer’s life until my next monthly update.

In the last week, I’ve been able to write between 300 and 470 words a day. It feels good. I’m almost back to my 500-word-a-day goal.

Unfortunately, the weather up here in northeastern Ontario hasn’t been quite as cooperative. I’d mentioned, in posting a memory on Facebook, that the snow had almost melted. We could see grass! But, last Sunday afternoon, the latest storm blew through and we ended up with this:

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It basically looked like the memory, from four years ago, of a very snowy April day. This week, the grass is exposed in spots again, but, you guessed it, another storm is blowing up. We’re supposed to get between 30 and 50 cm of snow/ice over the next 48 hours. It’s sunny, at the moment, but the precipitation is supposed to start tonight.

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My other orchid has officially joined the bloom party 🙂

A Torvi tale: last week, I told you about the butt hackles 🙂 It turns out that laundry hanging on a line freaks Torvi out. Yes, the butt hackles rise, and she barks. Torvi, like her predecessor, Nuala, is not a barker. It’s so funny to see her out there, barking at the neighbour’s laundry, like, “That’s not supposed to be there! Hey! It’s moving! Did you see that? Look! Look!

We’ve reached the half-way point in our obedience class and, in the last couple of weeks, Torvi has been a star. In class. At home, things have improved, but she’s still having her hell-dog moments. Our house is a more pleasant place, these days.

We’ve been introduced to heeling with the meaty Rollover treat. I pinch a chunk between my left thumb and forefinger, keep my hand open, but slightly curved, and lead Torvi around, allowing her to nip at the treat. When we stop, the hand and treat are raised, and Torvi sits. She’s supposed to follow my pace and direction. We’re working on it.

We’re to practice off-leash in the house and switch to kibbles rather than treats for the basics (sit, down, sit up, stand, sit/stay, down/stay, stand/stay).

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Here’s Torvi in her Halti. She’s still getting used to it and tries to get out of it at every opportunity, but I will say again, the Halti transforms the walking experience. She doesn’t pull. She doesn’t lunge for people or dogs. I’d recommend it, or a Gentle Leader (a similar head collar) for everyone.

Between the Thunder Shirt and the anti-emetic, Torvi hasn’t vomited once. This past week, she basically laid down in the back seat and was quiet the whole way.

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Crash puppy dog on the yoga mat 🙂

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

Muse-inks

The next chapter: March 2018 update

Hey there, writerly peoples!

March appears to be the month when I got back on track with my writing. I didn’t write more days than I wrote at the beginning of the month, but that eventually changed. Toward the end of the month I wrote more days than I didn’t, but the days I didn’t write were the result of other commitments, namely Torvi’s obedience classes, the newsletter due date, and the necessary days juggling priorities before I could get back to the page.

MarchProgress

I adjusted my goals, given my limited progress in the first couple of months of this year. Still, with respect to my work on Playing with Fire, I fell short. Of my 5,000-word goal, I wrote 3,989 words, or 80% of my goal. Still, it’s close to four thousand words I didn’t have before. I’m pleased.

March was a long month and I estimated 7,400 words written on the blog … of which I only wrote 4,954, or 67%. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m okay with blogging less. It’s been a rough period for me, writing wise, and I’m happy that I can keep it up. Some of my friends have advised me to cut back on the blogging and it’s something I’m considering, but I haven’t committed to it yet, and I don’t know how it might look moving forward.

Once again, the newsletter was my overachiever. I wrote 5,113 words of my 4,000-word goal, or 128%. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I want to move this commitment off my plate as well.

I anticipate that April will be another rough month. My most recent column for DIY MFA was unusually problematic and ended up being a little late. While I wrestled with that, PwF languished again.

I’m trying to get our tax information assembled, but Phil’s employer has announced a third T4 will be issued to correct errors in the other two. So that’s going to take some time away from the writing, too.

I have to compile all my writerly expenses and, this year, for the first time in a number of years, I have absolutely no income. In the past, even if I didn’t have any sales of short stories to declare, I had workshop or panel honoraria that filled in the gap. I’m almost ashamed to send in 2017’s information showing no income at all.

Things in other aspects of my life are sorting themselves out and this helps. Torvi is maturing and with the obedience classes, she’s showing progress. We have a way to go. She’s just six months old and experience tells me that it’ll be a year or two before she settles into the dog she’s destined to be.

Between the Thunder Shirt and the anti-emetic medication, car rides aren’t quite as fraught as they once were. I really hope she grows out of the car sickness. Because we live in an urban area, we have to drive just to give her a good, long walk at the conservation area or go to a dog park.

Funny Torvi fact: she has butt-hackles. It may be because she still wears a harness most of the time, but where most dogs would have hackles rise the length of their spines, Torvi’s hair only lifts on her butt. It’s adorable.

Phil’s work situation is slowly resolving itself and my day job is levelling out, so the household is happier in general, these days.

Finally, my health situation is also settling. My menstrual difficulties have decreased to the point that, if this is as good as it gets, I’m satisfied. The procedure was worth it and if I have to do it again, I will. Yay, ablation.

And that’s about it for this update.

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

The Next Chapter