Keeping the Raccoons Away

Yesterday Hubby and I braved the snowy winter roads to attend the book launch for “Plants for Atlantic Gardens” at the Telegraph Tea Room in Melvern Square. If you’re ever in the area you should drop in to the Tea Room it’s totally lovely.

Here are a few photos from the launch.

Jodi so graciously signed my copy of her book.

Not sure what we were talking about, but it looks pretty intense. Just as people ask mechanics for advice once they find out what they do for a living, I’m sure Jodi hears all kinds of new gardening tips in her travels. So, I had to tell her my husband’s foolproof way of keeping racoons out of our grapevine last summer. I don’t know about you, but I think Jodi looks totally impressed.

If you’ve never been to a book launch before you really should go. Not only are you showing your support for the author, but there’s always great food and great conversation. Best of all you’ll go away with a signed copy of the book. Sweet!

For fun I won’t mention what Hubby’s tip for keeping raccoons out of the grape vine is since I’m sure Jodi will want to add it in her next book. ;) But if you want to take a shot at guessing I say go for it or maybe you have a great gardening tip of your own that you’d love to share! Who knows maybe your tips will make it into one of Jodi’s future books.

Can You Love It and Still Find Flaws?

Reading over the comments from my last post, I started to wonder if it is possible to want both validation for our work as well as suggestions of ways to make it better?

I know when I first start working on a story I love it. I mean, you’ve got, right? Or why bother writing it in the first place? But to tell the truth once I’ve worked on it for so long, rewriting, revising and tweaking it’s darn near impossible to be objective. I get to a place where I don’t know if what I’ve written is any good —as in someone wanting to invest their time reading it.

My thinking is this, it would be nice to have someone tell me if the characters pulled them in, if it was a pager-turner, etc. etc, but of course only if it was. But at the same time I’d also want someone to point out any flaws. Hmm I suppose that would be called a critique, right?

This brings me to this question: Can you honestly like a story yet see ways that it could be improved? Or does it mean the book/the story isn’t any good if it has a number of flaws?

I’m thinking about the editing involved once an editor gets hold of your manuscript. They make suggestions, point out flaws and yet they still made the decision to publish your story. But how can that be if they still want you to make changes? I mean they want to publish it. Doesn’t that mean it’s already perfect?

One author told me her editor changed three words in her manuscript. I say wow! I don’t expect that will ever be my experience. Bitter, Sweet had 5,000 words added to it, extra scenes, a shift in one chapter from third person into first person plus some tweaking I did along the way. I worked with the suggestions my editor made and the story ended up much stronger because of it. I’ve read what other writers have said about the editing process for their books and it sounds quite similar to mine.

Right now I’m reading a book that took me a little while to get into it, but now that I am I would describe it as a good book. I like the main character and I’m enjoying the plot and I hope things work out for him. The thing is, as I’m reading this particular story I find myself being critical. Too much of this and a little too much of that. I’m not quite convinced that some of the character’s actions ring true for me. I find myself questioning it. It’s not a matter of not liking the character’s behaviour so much as it is a matter of believing their behaviour.

Yet I still call it a good book and it is truly worthy of publication. Perhaps other people would read the book and not notice what seems obvious to me. We all have different experiences with the same book and even interpret it in different ways. Or maybe I’m just cranky and looking for something to complain about. I’ve read this author’s work before and really liked it. Perhaps I’m super sensitive since I’m doing the same thing with my manuscript at the moment.

So in your opinion, is it possible for a story to be both good and flawed at the same time? And if a story is both good and flawed how much tweaking and polishing is really required considering the fact that an editor is going to want to make changes once the manuscript is going through edits?

How Honest Are You?

Okay, say your mom/dad/sister/brother/cousin/aunt/uncle—you get the picture—hands you their newly finished manuscript to read. They’ve toiled and slaved over it for months, they put heart and soul into it. It’s their baby. You read it and it’s okay but doesn’t blow your mind. You’ve read better, you might even have read worse. Or worse case scenario it sucks to high heaven and you have to force yourself through to the end. (That’s if you can make it through without ripping out your hair.)

Do you know where this is going?

Would you be able to truthfully own up to the fact that it really wasn’t your cup of tea or would you be like those family members from American Idol who tell their loved ones how great they are when their singing truly sucks?

I’ve been thinking about this since having sent one of my manuscripts to someone recently, wondering if it’s not putting this person in an awkward position.

I’ve never critiqued any one’s work before. To be quite truthful I don’t know if I could be 100% honest if I didn’t like it at all, and maybe I’d try to talk myself into liking it more than I did especially if it was written by a family member.

I guess I’m wondering how people who offer critiques can do so honestly without fear of crushing someone’s dream?

I have to think that if the person in question were another writer looking for honest feedback it would be much easier than someone who was just hoping to have some validation for their work.

For those who have critiqued another’s work are you brutally honest if you just don’t like the story or do you sprinkle dollops of praise in with the criticism? If the person just couldn’t write worth beans would you discourage them from writing at all? And yet, what if the writing is good but the story wasn’t your kind of story? We’ve all come across those books. Does the fact that I don’t like something mean it shouldn’t be published?

Sorry for the many questions. Just a few things I’ve been mulling over in my mind. I wouldn’t mind hearing what your thoughts are on this.

Hypothetically Speaking

So my daughter is at it again. In our latest phone conversation she asked me this:

“Hypothetically speaking, if you ever get eaten by a bear Mom, what do you want done with all those bits and piece of writing that you’ve saved over the years?”

First of all when someone starts out a conversation by using the words “hypothetically speaking” you know whatever follows is going to be a little off the wall, right? I mean, hypothetically speaking if I sprouted horns and a tail. (Add your own sentence here.)

As silly as it sounded she made a good point. She wanted to know if I would view those incomplete, unedited stories the way I would a journal, and if so would I not want someone to read it after I was gone?

I’m not trying to be morbid, I promise. But hey, we’re all going to be bear bait at one time or another—- hypothetically speaking, of course.

I quickly told her I didn’t look at it the same way at all. Knowing that someone might read some of my first drafts (those unedited pieces of monkey crap I wrote that never jelled into a story) if a bear ever snacked me upon, doesn’t make me feel self-conscious at all. Not only that, as many drafts as I sometimes start, I couldn’t imagine anyone taking the time to sift through them all. They’d soon nod off I’m sure.

On the other hand, I told her, giving someone the okay to read my journal would depend upon the contents. Some people use journals as a way of recording family events, not as a place to purge, lash out, and write down their deepest darkest secrets. I don’t keep a journal but I do know if I had one that I used for moaning and complaining I wouldn’t want people reading it while the bear was licking its chops.

Now you know I’m going to ask your opinion here folks. So here goes: Hypothetically speaking of course, if you got eaten by a bear do you want your journals/ unpublished stories destroyed or placed under glass and preserved for future generations?

Making Room

We did not all come over on the same ship, but we are all in the same boat.”

Bernard Baruch

The writing/blogging community is SO supportive of one another. I’ve mentioned this on many occasions. We stand by to cheer each other on during those times of triumph, and lift each other up when disappointment comes our way. We help promote one another’s books and blogs. We write reviews, buy books and post positive comments on Facebook. And it is an incredible thing. Who better to understand us than someone who is walking the same the path?

As great as what this community of writers/ bloggers is there are so many other people who can use support. My hope is that I will never become so wrapped up in my own journey that I will ignore all those who are out there in need of my help. There are so many people out there who can use some positive reinforcements. I sometimes need to remind myself that there is more to life than writing, and more people out there who are in need. I am one, but there are many others who need consideration.

I am fortunate enough to have the support of many people who do not belong to the writing/blogging community, yet their support means just as much to me. They are not walking the path by my side but they will be waiting for me at the end.

We are all on this journey called life; some of us are on the same path, but not all of us. The boat may not look that big but there’s still plenty of space for us all. We need only make room.

Didn’t Even See it Coming —Sweet!

How about those things in life that just come right out of the blue?

I’ve always considered myself someone who worked hard to get what I wanted. Nothing wrong with that, I say. I was brought up to believe that hard work was a good thing. When it comes to writing I think I work as hard as the next writer and my hard work has paid off over the years. I’m thrilled with the publishing credits I have and believe me I worked hard to get each and every one of them…I’m not complaining here just stating facts.

But this came to me yesterday right out of the blue and I thought I’d share it. A few years back I wrote an article on wreath-making for a labour magazine. I happen to find non-fiction quite challenging to write. I’m totally out of my comfort zone, and yet where would any of us be if we didn’t take chances and try new things, right? I know what you’re probably thinking, blogging is non-fiction, but it’s still a bit different than putting together an article for a magazine.

So the article was published and I haven’t given it much thought since, until yesterday that is. I received an email from the original editor who published the article. Seems as though the good folks at The Nova Scotia Federation of Labour’s Literacy Program would like to reprint part of it for an upcoming anthology which will be used as a literacy tool.

—Sweet on a few different level here. I’m all for supporting literacy (I’m a writer for goodness sake.) And look at that I didn’t even have to work for this one. Scary, when things happen on their own like that, isn’t it? Scary in a good way, that is. Guess I’m just not used to that so much. But I’ll take it with much gratitude.

I also want to mention that Christi Craig, a most excellent blogger, from the US won the contest over at Lynn A. Davidson’s blog and will receive a copy of my book very soon. If you’ve never checked out Christi’s blog you should pop over and say, hi! Here’s the link.

That’s it for today. I wonder what goodies tomorrow will bring?

Do you have any good news you’d like to share? Doesn’t have to be writing related just whatever’s on your mind.

Plants for Atlantic Gardens

My dreams are filled with lavender, hydrangea and magnolia, bright colours and sweet fragrance, but can I, I wonder, turn my dreams into reality?

Plants For Atlantic Gardens is a brand-new book out from Nimbus Publishing, written by gardening guru, Jodi Delong.

If you’re looking for the perfect gardening book, for either yourself or the gardener in your life, this book is it. Not only is it filled with beautiful colour photos (200 to be exact), but there is plenty of information for overcoming the challenges of gardening in the Atlantic area. (If you live on the east coast you all know what I mean about challenges.) The book highlights 100 of the best species for planting in Atlantic Canada and includes a hardiness zone and helpful tips on a variety of gardening topics.

Earlier today, a friend and I were literally gushing over this book. Isn’t that right, Torry? It really has to be seen to be fully appreciated. This book is not only for all the Atlantic Canadian Gardeners out there but for those of us who one day plan to make our dream garden a reality. (That means me too!)

You all know Jodi, sure you do! Jodi is the gardening editor for Saltscapes Magazine and she writes gardening columns for the Sunday Herald and The Atlantic Co-operator. Check out her BLOG for beautiful photos and information on all sorts of flowering plants and shrubs. Jodi was inspired to create this photo of herself when she got to see one of the rarest of native wildflowers, the plymouth gentian, growing down in Yarmouth county. She mentioned that it was one of the highlights of her life and so she created a double exposure in Picasa. The following quote, which I absolutely love, expresses Jodi’s thoughts about the photo.
“It makes the plant more important than me, and that’s how I feel about what I do–if it encourages others to garden, to protect pollinators, to beautify the world around me, I’m happy.”

Now there’s a lady who loves her plants.

You can order your very own copy at Amazon.ca or Amazon.com And you know there will be plenty of copies in the local bookstores.

Before I forget to mention it, book launches for Plants for Atlantic Gardens will be on Saturday February 26th, 2:00-4:00 pm at The Telegraph Tea Room, Melvern Square, in the Annapolis Valley, and the Woodlawn Public Library in Dartmouth on March 10th at 7.pm. A whole list of signing dates can be found here on Jodi’s blog.

Congratulations, Jodi, on the publication of this lovely, lovely book!

Never Turn Your Back

You know how you can’t turn your back on a kid because the moment you do they’re up to their eyeballs in something interesting?

Doesn’t seem that long ago when my ceiling was plastered with pie dough, my son jumped into my washer spin dryer, and the infamous “flour and water paste” episode took place. Oh yes, there have been exciting times in the best household over the years.

So, I also discovered that the Internet is a bit like those kids of ours we should never let out of our sight. Seems as though last night, while I was away, there was a lot going on behind my back

Blogger/facebook friends Darlene Foster and Dave Ebright both posted reviews of Bitter, Sweet on their blogs. Talk about a coincidence, and I didn’t even have to pay them. How about that?

For a look at what they had to say you can check out Darlene’s lovely review HERE and Dave’s most entertaining review HERE and sorry about the burn you suffered, Dave.

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that Darlene and Dave planned this out, but with them being on opposite asides of North American and so far as I know, haven’t met, either in person or via the net, that’s probably unlikely.

Thanks so much, you’ve both reaffirmed what I’ve known all along, the blogging community is wonderfully supportive and generous.

I was just thinking, maybe I should turn my back on the internet more often.

Busted!

Oh yeah, I got busted all right!

So what happened?

Quite simply, I felt like the kid who got caught with her hand in the cookie jar during a conversation with my daughter earlier this week.

Mel: Charlotte ate two meals yesterday

Me: Oh yeah

Mel: You’re not listening, are you?

Me: Yes, you said, ‘Charlotte ate two meals yesterday.’

(There was not the usual enthusiasm on my part.My granddaughter hasn’t shown a lot of interest in solids even now at nearly 10 months so, it’s kind of a big deal when she does eat.)

Mel: But you weren’t really listening. I could tell you were thinking about something else.

Me: (rather vaguely )I might have been.

Mel: *laughs* What were you thinking about? (She’s persistent if nothing else.)

Me: Who me? I might have been thinking about the story I’m working on.

So I got busted! I was definitely not engaged in our converstion. Usually I’m filled with enthusiasm when it comes to anything my granddaughter does.

Guess I’m not as good at covering up as I thought.

I’m not ashamed to admit that my mind wanders.

Just so you know, I don’t spend all my waking hours wrapped up tight in a reverie that I can’t tear myself away from. I can focus just as well as the next person. I can focus so well when I’m in the middle of writing a particular scene I lose all track of time.

Just don’t talk to me when I’m in the middle of make-believe.

As a writer, I spend a lot of time playing in the world of make-believe. I like to get to know my characters, feel their joys and their pain, find out what makes them tick. Hear their voice. We all did it as kids, we play-acted, made up stories, had tea parties with our teddy bears and dolls. We pretended to be our favourite action hero, the good guy who always prevailed. I mean, that’s what kids do don’t they? Is there anything more natural?

You’ll be glad to hear I don’t sit around with dolls and teddy bears these days (although something tell me I may again when Miss Charlotte gets a bit older) but that doesn’t mean I still don’t like to play make-believe. I’m a writer. I create worlds filled with make-believe.

But not all of my pretending is done on paper. A lot of my pretending takes place in my mind. You see that far away, deer-in-the-headlights look I sometimes wear, and that far away vague sound to my voice while on the phone, is for a reason.

I sometimes wonder if I don’t spend more time thinking about the characters I’m creating as I do writing about them. I’ve got to make them real. Make their words sound right. I’ve got to think about what he said and what she said, in my mind many times before I’m truly convinced. I have to step into my characters skin, feel their emotions, and yes, even pretend to be them.

But, don’t worry. I’m completely harmless. It just means that if I’m not hanging on your every word there may be a very good reason.

Here’s a question for the writers out there: Have you ever got busted for not paying attention while thinking about your character’s lives instead? Do you spend time playing games of make-believe with your characters or do you do all your pretending on the page?

Contest Reminder

Psst! Pass it on!

Just a quick reminder that there’s still time to enter the contest to win a copy of my debut young adult novel, Bitter, Sweet. The draw date is Feb. 14th, Valentine’s Day. So if you haven’t already, head on over to Lynn. A. Davidson’s blog, here’s the link, and let her know you want your name entered. (All it takes is to leave a comment in the comment section and you’re good to go.) It’s pretty darn simple and won’t hurt a bit, I promise. You may even win a free book. Nothing wrong with getting a free book now, is there? And don’t be afraid to pass the link along to anyone you think might be interested.

Good luck!

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