Week 4: Write for 5 right now

Photo 1 -from a magazine from long ago and unfortunately I have no photographer to credit at this point.

Photos 2 – from Creative Commons CC0

Hi kids,

Hope you didn’t have any green beer last night. If you did, I don’t want to hear about it. And let’s face it, you wouldn’t be up at 8am now, would cha?

These weeks are rolling by as if 7 days are wrapped into two. Don’t you feel that way? Here we are at Week 4 of Write for 5 our lives flashing before our eyes.

I guess I’d have to have a following of thousands and thousands to have the kind of participation that would be thrilling. Still, it is exciting for me to read whatever anyone submits and I’m super grateful for anyone who takes the time to play along.  It is true that interaction is what blogs are supposed to be about, right?

I’m wondering if you’ve noticed anything about your process or about how things come to you once you actually start writing. That would be interesting to hear about.

Guidelines

If you’ve participated before, you know the routine.  If not, here are the guidelines:

·         I post a photo (or two) above at 8am on Saturday morning. Like now!

·         You take as much time as you need to look at those photos, (above)  then choose one.

·         When you’re ready to write, set the timer for five minutes.

·         When you’re done, you post your results in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

If you need to see last week’s submissions, please go to this post and scroll down to the comments:

·         Five minutes goes by super fast. In a blink really. As long as it takes the kettle to boil. But, as I’ve said before, this is really about revving up the imagination more than it is about writing. Think of it as the appetizer for the main course: your “real” writing. Don’t think about it at all actually. Just get at it and see what comes.

·         Form is open: poetry, CNF, Flash fiction. Or whatever.

·         On Monday, I’ll let you know whose writing touched me in some way. Then, I choose a book for that writer (no matter where they are in the world). I pick one of my own books and mail it to you with a card and a note.  It’s an awesome way to cull my books, and to give someone a nice surprise.

Good luck. Give it a try!  You’ve got until Sunday (let’s say 11pm) to post your results but you don’t have to wait. Just stick your piece in the comments when you’re ready.

Let the free associating begin. Let the creative wizardry unfold. Let the subconscious rise to the occasion.

I’m sleeping with Susan Musgrave, and writing advice

photo by gayle mavor of a book by Susan Musgrave

Amal Alamuddin gets to sleep with George Clooney.  Ellen DeGeneres gets to sleep with Portia de Rossi.  I get to sleep with Susan Musgrave.  Let me explain.

I went to make my bed yesterday which entails merely throwing the duvet cover in place and I found this book. It was upside down.  My first reaction when I saw the book there was, Jesus! I’d actually slept on it. I’m  sleeping with Susan Musgrave. That made me laugh. And then the very next thought I had was, oh thank God, I can manufacture something out of nothing for tomorrow’s blog post. No offense to Susan Musgrave. I don’t know who she sleeps with, if anyone  but clearly it’s not about her.

My third thought was about how much writers, or maybe just writers who have yet to be published in book form, can’t seem to get enough of hearing about the writing process. Even though most writers eventually realize that there isn’t really any other writer or anyone else who can tell them how to write what they’re trying to write.

Only you can do it. Writing is a bit like dieting. There’s no magic bullet. You want to write. Sit down and put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. But first it helps to have something to say. And that’s the hardest part.

I can’t even explain what it is about reading about another writer’s process that is so appealing. It’s like the self-help genre for writers.  And I know I’m not alone in this.  If I was, nobody would ever show up to writing workshops, festivals or readings and there wouldn’t be an entire industry built around it.  

I think it’s akin to reading horoscopes. It’s not like you actually believe yours but there might be something in there one day that will make all the difference to your day, if not your life.

Fully aware that their process isn’t mine, and that it won’t ever be mine, that doesn’t ever stop me from devouring what published authors and the newest flavour of book that just received acclaim have to say.

I can’t even count how many talks, readings, festivals, workshops, and even a writing program or two I’ve been to. Might it be possible that I just nodded off when one of them provided the Holy Grail of writing advice and if only I hadn’t nodded off, I would have realized that they’d just slipped in the one bit of writing advice that was going to crack everything open and suddenly I’d have some story come to me like I was channelling J.K. Rowling?

No! Not going to happen. Let me rephrase that. It could happen but not because of listening to anyone else.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t educate yourself about writing, and all the elements that go into how to knock the socks off storytelling. That’s different. It’s the difference between research and research that looks as if you’re trying to rewrite, oh, I don’t know, THE BIBLE! 

Anyway, I just thought I’d admit that I’m as guilty as you are in devouring every morsel of writing advice and I’m sleeping with Susan Musgrave’s book written in 1994, Musgrave Landing, Musings on the Writing life, and with a photo to prove it.

Guilty as charged!

PS: I enjoyed the book. She’s funny!   Oh. I almost forgot. You can join in and Write for 5 with me and one or two others this weekend. What’s it going to take for me to get you in the mood?

A Road Trip on the Rocky Route to Publishville

Salmon Arm Wharf

The Word on the Lake Festival. Salmon Arm, B.C. May 2014 long weekend.

I peruse the list of presenters. Diana Gabaldon. Gary Geddes. Carmen Aguirre. Anne Eriksson. Gail Anderson-Dargatz. David Essig. C.C. Humphreys and others.

My gaze then passes over two more names: Howard White. Owner of Harbour Publishing. Carolyn Swayze of Carolyn Swayze Literary Agency.

WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT? Are you kidding me? The two people I most want to talk to in BC publishing? In Salmon Arm! Together.

Where else would I have an opportunity to talk to these two and why, God, must it be there, in that place named after a West Coast fish and a rather useful but wholly mundane human appendage: Salmon Arm.

Now. Let me be clear. Salmon Arm is really pretty. A cute little town. For some people, I’m sure it’s a great place to live. Never mind that Trudeau gave it the finger. You have to have lived there, hated it, and survived to relate to the gesture.

Someone has written, ‘Smile, God Loves you,’ on a building. And that’s the first hint. There’s something creepy underneath all that tidy organized. That subtle crack in the Leave it to Beaver brings a sense of relief to me, reaffirms just one of the reasons I grew to hate the place and here are a few more.

In 1979, I played on a championship high school basketball team ranked No. 1 in the province and we lost to the Salmon Arm Jewels in the final game of the BC Girls Basketball Championships. Years later, when my eldest sister was terminally ill at only 43 years of age; when she lay dying from breast cancer that had metastasized, she went into a coma while spending her last days at Eagle Bay, a nearby area. My first love/hate relationship with journalism began at the Salmon Arm Observer, a sentence that lasted 18 months.  It was also the first place where I lost it enough (the first time) to need to go to counselling and god knows that did not end well–not for me, and definitely not for the counsellor.

I haven’t set foot back in Salmon Arm–on purpose–for more than 14 years and I had no intention of ever going there again in this lifetime.

“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world…” It’s as if the Salmon Arm city limits are my very own fiery gates of hell; a test I must keep passing. Way too many important life exchanges, proportionately, have happened for me in the confines of its geography. Surely, I must have lived a couple of past lives there as the only plausible explanation.

An internal pull of intuition persisted. I knew from experience it was futile to resist.  Just shut up, get in the car and drive.

So I did.

Before I left, however, I made sure I had my query, the first 10 pages of my manuscript, my bio, and just in case there was any opportunity to hand it to either Swayze or White, a manila envelope to put it in.

Five hours later, I arrive. The next day, I miss an appointment with Howard White that some fabulous volunteer had to work really hard to get me. They call it a blue pencil. Might have even involved a sexual favour for all I know. Only one problem. They forgot to tell me. At the end of the afternoon, I hear the sad news. Appointment? What appointment? I missed it? With Howard? Are you kidding me? Damn!

Oh well. Not meant to be. I walk towards the elevator to go back to my room. When I look up he’s standing beside me. I suddenly forget his name. We move into the elevator. I don’t miss a beat. His name comes back to my adled brain.  I introduce myself. I ramble off the premise of my manuscript as quickly as an auctioneer trying to sell antique jewelry. He looks back a little dazed and wholly uninterested.

The festival continues. Mingling and learning abound. Fast forward to Sunday.  Carolyn Swayze’s workshop ends. It’s now or never. I ask her if she’d be willing to look at my query and my first 10 pages. “As long as your contact info’s on it,” she says. She takes the envelope.

It’s not much, but it’s something. I’m happy. I try to imagine the pile it will get chucked onto back at her office on Tuesday.

I proceed to the last workshop of the day. Howard White begins at the front of Room 136, Okanagan College. Next thing I know, Carolyn Swayze enters the room and takes the seat directly in front of me. I overhear a conversation that indicates she’s only there to wait for her ride. She begins to fidget. Of course she’s bored. She’s heard all this before.

She reaches down and takes something out of her bag. Oh my god. Is that mine? Is that my manuscript? She lifts the manila envelope and removes the white pages. She puts it down on the table in front of her, her head bends and she begins to read.

I inch forward in my seat.  I hold my breath. I’m almost close enough to lick the back of her neck. I’m bobbing left and right, past her head, over her left shoulder, straining to see what page she’s on.  I feel like a stalker but, hey, just a minute, I was seated first.

I’m horrified and ecstatic as I watch her turn the pages.  It’s like witnessing a bad car accident and being proposed to in the very same second.  I’m watching Carolyn Swayze reading the first 10 pages of my manuscript to pass the time while Howard White drones on, directly in my line of vision, at the front of the room.

Is she still reading? What page is she on? Why’s she looking up? Is that part boring her? I can fix that. We can fix it together, Carolyn. You can get me an editor. Focus on the potential. I will my thoughts to penetrate her cranium with laser beam precision.

It’s as if my dead sister looking down upon me has intervened. She’s saying, ‘oh, for heaven’s sake, can we just get on with this. Can you just get on with the next chapter of your real life and start living again, not writing? You’re boring me and I’m already dead.’

Howard White’s voice continues to dub over this surreal scene.

It’s too funny.

It’s enough to bring a big fat smile to my face and keep it there – Cheshire cat-like – all the way back down the Coquihalla Highway.

Mission accomplished.