Hopewell Rocks Really Rock

On our last trip to New Brunswick we went to see the Hopewell Rocks. We’d been wanting to go for awhile now, but it never happened. This time our daughter actually scheduled a time for us to go between bites of birthday cake (Yes, Miss Charlotte turned one year only recently) and trips to Princess Auto.

These beautiful rocks have been carved out by the Bay of Fundy millions of years ago. They’re also called the giant Flowerpot Rocks.

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From a writerly point of view, there are so many inspiring places in nature. Aren’t there? Could you imagine yourself standing at the top of one of these Flowerpots looking down into the Bay? What is it about nature that inspires us the way man-made structures cannot? I’m not sure anyone has ever looked at a paved parking lot or a skyscraper and felt inspired.

Have you found a favourite place that inspires you? Is there some place in nature you’re looking forward to visiting, Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, The Pyramids?

What’s Happening to da English Language?

This post could easily turn into a rant if I let it, but I’m not going to let it. I’d rather laugh about it than spend energy ranting.

It started off by a status update a younger family member had on Facebook that lead me to ask the question (While pulling my hair out by the roots.)

What the heck happened to the English language?

So I get the whole texting thing. I understand that words are abbreviated. “U” for “You”, “R” for “are.” That makes sense to me. No big deal. Not to mention it’s pretty acceptable on twitter. It has to be with only 140 characters at our disposal.

But now I’m seeing the kids writing things like, “back from the movies…fun time wit the fellas,” in their facebook status. When someone asked which movie. The reply came “hobo wit a shotgun.”

When I sarcastically questioned this young person’s use of the word “wit” someone else chimed in:

“Live in the city and all you hear is Wit ..da… fo… sho

Well, maybe that’s the way “city” people speak these days. I live in the country so what do I know? But the writer in me still says, no…no…no.

“With” is spelled “with,” and will never ever be spelled “wit.”

*Eye twitch*

I started to wonder what my novel would look like if I wrote and spoke the way this particular young person does.

So here goes:

Dat has to be da law,thought Pru Burbidge da day a strange car stopped in front of da house. It was late January and bitterly cold, even wit a fire burning in da kitchen stove. Da bottoms of all da windows were decorated wit sheets of frost frozen so solid dat Pru had just a small patch of glass to see through. An icy wind had whipped across da crest of da snow all dat morning and shut da house completely off from da main road.

I’m fairly certain that my editor at Nimbus would never have accepted Bitter, Sweet had it been written in that manner, but she lives in the city so maybe I stand to be corrected. After all, that’s all you hear in the city. Right?

Sarcasm aside, is this the way the English language is heading? Are we evolving into a society that no longer values the proper use of the English language? I’m not even speaking aboutthe parts of speech here because that’s a whole other blog post in itself.

I don’t hang out with a lot of young people so I can’t say for sure if this is the way most young people speak and write today. I have only the word of these two people on facebook.

So I’ll ask da rest of you. Do you see or hear young people commonly using “wit” for “with” “da” for “the” and “fo” for “for” ? If you do, does it make your eye twitch da way it does mine?

But most importantly if da use of these words (did I say words?) suddenly became acceptable could you ever see yourself fully embracing their use?

Read it; Gift it?

Would you give someone a pair of socks you wore one time for Christmas? How about a cup and saucer you drank tea out of on several occasions? And that wall hanging your great-aunt wrapped up for you last Christmas that you just don’t love?

How about a book you’ve already read, one that you kept in perfect shape?

A friend once asked if it was all right to give someone a book as a gift if you’ve read it first. I remember making a joke, saying something to the effect that she should make sure it wasn’t personalized with her name on it. That would probably make it a dead giveaway.

Seriously though I love giving books to people as gifts, and I know a lot of other people do as well. Some of the books I’ve purchased over the years as gifts are books I’d also like to read myself. Of course I only buy it if I think the person receiving it would enjoy it. I don’t just buy books for others knowing I’d be able to read it afterward. That might be considered clever to some, but would hardy seem a thoughtful gift if I had some ulterior motive. Put that way it almost sounds devious. LOL!

I personally haven’t read any of the books I’ve intended as gifts before giving them, but I don’t really see anything wrong with it if somebody wanted to read a book before gifting it. Many people admit to regifting all the time, and maybe this is a bit like that.

I have a few books I’ve recently bought that I’m considering giving away—one I’m reading at the moment, so this is why I’m thinking about my friend’s question. Will I actually give this book away as a gift? I haven’t quite decided. Perhaps if I do, it won’t be a gift for a special occasion. Perhaps I’ll make it a “just because” gift with no strings attached.

So I’m wondering, how you all feel about giving a book you’ve already read to someone as a gift? Would if feel a bit like cheating if you gave it to them as a Christmas or birthday gift or do you do it all the time?

Hey, I’m not here to judge you, I’m just curious as to how the rest of you feel about this.

Happy Easter

Easter says you can put truth in a grave, but it won’t stay there. ~Clarence W. Hall

St. Cyprian's Cemetery, East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia

photo--Matt Best

Wishing you all a Happy Easter!

This Easter weekend is shaping up to be a bit different than we’ve seen in the past. Our son was out on Good Friday for a visit. Both he and our daughter are working tomorrow and won’t be able to be with us. My mom, who has spent the past twenty-two years helping us celebrate Easter, has other plans this year. It looks as though it will just be my husband and I, and our neighbour. This isn’t meant to sound pathetic. It’s all good. Every year cannot be the same as the last.

How are you spending your Easter weekend?

Voices From Within

“No, it’s not a very good story—its author was too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as he should have to the one coming from inside.”—-Stephen King

Love this quote by Stephen King. Whether or not you’re a fan of his work you’ve got to admit the man knows what he’s talking about when it comes to writing.

But it’s not always easy for a writer to listen to the voices coming from inside, is it? Sometimes those voices shock us. Where the heck did that come from? No, I can’t write that! We dig in our heels while dragging our way through the story. Or sometimes we turn and run the other way. Every once in awhile, if we’re lucky, the words even leave us a tiny bit mesmerized, and we find ourselves thinking, that’s kind of good.

Okay, we say kind of because we don’t want to openly admit that maybe it’s a bit more than “kind of good” because maybe it’s actually great! It sounds too much like bragging for us to admit otherwise. Not to mention that we’re a bit shy about the whole thing. Perhaps others might not be as awestruck by our work as we hope for.

Have you ever written a story, set it aside for some time, only to come back to it much later? As you’re reading through that long ago story did a certain line or paragraph jump out at you? Did you find your self thinking—Did I really write that?

I’m willing to bet that those lines, that we can’t imagine writing, are the result of listening to the voices that are coming from inside. I say, go for it. Forget what you’re family and friends might think. Write the story that is begging to be written. Who knows it might be good. It might even be great! Jump in with both feet and give it a try. What’s there to lose?

Are you sometimes surprised by your own writing? Do you agree with Stephen King, that we are too busy listening to other voices to listen as closely as we should to the one coming from inside?

Risky Business

We cannot escape fear. We can only transform it into a companion that accompanies us on all our exciting adventures…Take a risk a day—one small or bold stroke that will make you feel great once you have done it…..Susan Jeffers

I remember one summer our parents took us to a small river to swim. It wasn’t a deep river by any means, and we were all good swimmers. The water was fast and forceful in one place, and we would let the current jostle and bounce us downstream. Once we made it through that particular spot we’d climb out of the water, hurry back up stream and repeat the process. It was both fun and frightening. Even though we’d butt up against large rocks, and suffer some scrapes and bruises, it was so much fun we didn’t want to stop.

The fun we had outweighed our fear of the bruises and skinned knees we got along the way. Our perception of things is often distorted when we are young. I’m pretty safe in saying that the water wasn’t nearly as fast as we imagined it to be or else our parents wouldn’t have taken us. Yet our fear and excitement were very real to us.

Some writers take risks in their writing while others tend to play it safe. Can I really do that? we sometimes ask.

Bitter, Sweet was written in both third and first person. After my novel came out another writer commented that she didn’t know that could be done in YA fiction. Choosing to write it in both third and first person felt right at the time.

One thing I try and strive for in my writing is to find that place where the story I’m telling feels right for me. Sometimes that takes a bit of doing, but I work at it until I’m able to bring it to the place where I’m comfortable with each sentence and paragraph. I need to believe the story and feel it with all my heart. I try not to worry if some editor is going to like it. That’s a sure and fast way to stifle creativity. If the story I’m working at dictates that I take some risks I need to at least try it out, because sometimes those risks end up making me feel great about the story I’m working on.

Writing is not about playing it safe. It’s about writing the best story we can in the best way we can. It’s about listening to what our heart tells us is right, and if that sometimes means taking risks don’t we owe it to ourselves to give it a try?

This question is for writers and non-writers– Do you often take risks or do you always play it safe? Do you agree with what Susan Jeffers said, that taking one small risk will make you feel great?

Tweak It, But Don’t Bruise It.

It’s not always easy for a writer to say goodbye to the story they’ve worked on for months or even years. We work our way through the first draft and any number of other drafts deemed so very necessary. We head into edits, cutting away and adding new scenes. We look for perfection in our manuscript. It needs to be perfect, right? How can you send it off into the publishing world if it isn’t?

But how do we know when to stop tweaking? When do we decide it’s good enough?

Seems no matter how many times we go through a manuscript we can find something to change, something that can be made better. We switch around sentences, check on grammar, work on punctuation, fix the dialogue, and once we’ve gone through it for the last time we end up going through it again. Sound familiar?

While tweaking is a essential to any story there’s a point where we have to decide that enough is enough. At some point we have to release that tight grip we have on our manuscript and trust that somehow our story will end up on the right editor’s desk.

Can a manuscript be bruised?
I suppose that depends upon the person who’s doing the tweaking, but I feel certain in saying that at some point we can push our stories over the edge. Too much polishing can take off that lustrous shine. Tweaking a manuscript is essential; bruising it however might be considered abuse. But let’s not be judgemental, we’ve all been there at one time or another.

I’m in the tweaking stage at the moment, getting down to the nitty-gritty. I’ve rolled up my sleeves. It won’t be long now I’ve promised myself, and I plan to stick to it. It’s ready. I’m ready. That’s just how it has to be.

I’m going to make sure not to leave my poor manuscript bruised beyond the point of recognition. I don’t want to wake up one day, read through that story I started out with
one last time, only to realize it’s no longer the same story I fell in love with so many months ago.

How about you, do you think at some point you can bruise your precious manuscript or do you think that there’s no such thing as too much tweaking?

Renewing a Weary Spirit

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”
~~~Robert Louis Stevenson

We all find inspiration in various places. For me, nature is usually a good place to start. I’ve been surrounded by forests my entire life, have watched with wonder as the seasons change.There have probably been times when I took this for granted having lived in the country all my life.

I like to write about the outdoors; the sound, the sight and smells of rural Nova Scotia. Even when I don’t actually give a name to the setting in my story I usually write with the assumption that it is somewhere close to home. It is what I know, and what I love. It feels right.

I love these pictures for their greenness, for the way they remind me of how awesome our forests really are when left untouched, uninhabited. They really can renew a weary spirit without even trying. I can hardly wait for our green world to come out of hiding. It will be another month or more before the leaves appear. But for now I must sift through my photos with longing until that time comes..

What has inspired you lately?

Let Me Entertain You!

Some blog post titles make me want to break out in song. This one happens to be one of them.

Let me entertain you
let me see you smile
I will do some kicks
I will do some tricks

I’ll tell you a story
I’ll dance when she’s done
by the time we’re through entertaining you
you’ll have a barrel of fun

I’ll a tell you a story
I’ll dance when she’s done
by the time we’re through entertaining you
you’ll have a barrel of fun
you’ll have a barrel of fun
you’ll have a barrel of fun

So, I’m no Ethel Merman. I’m not going to dance or even do tricks or high-stepping kicks, but sometimes the writer in me feels a bit like the singer of this song.

Like any entertainer, a writer is in the business of entertaining. When a reader picks up a book isn’t that exactly what they are expecting? And when the writer says to the reader, “Come on in and see what I’ve got to show you!” it darn well better be entertaining or else there will be no standing ovation at the end, no one crying out for an encore.

While a writer’s words might not dazzle the same way a chorus put to music might, the whole purpose of writing a book is to entertain the reader.

Last evening we went to a dinner theatre in a neighbouring town. The local church members preformed the play and entertained us with some upbeat musical performances. Whenever someone on stage broke into song the entire room filled with energy. Right away the audience was clapping along, allowing themselves to become thoroughly enthralled in the moment. Even if it wasn’t your “kind of music” you couldn’t helped but be carried away by the beat. Now, while the performance wasn’t of professional calibre, because obviously the performers were not professional, no one could have cared less. Everyone had an enjoyable evening.

And as always this got me thinking:

I’ve read very few books that have totally captivated me to the point where I couldn’t/ didn’t want to put the book down. I’ve got to admit it takes quite a bit to razzle-dazzle me in that way. I’m sure there are plenty more out there that would fall into this category for me, but hey, I’m only one person. I can only read so much!

All of this, however, makes me wonder if the written word is a tougher sell. As readers, are we more critical of the books we read, than a performance we might see on stage? Does the added attraction of music turn us into a fickle audience member much easier to please or is there something spellbinding about a live performance? I mean, what’s the deal?

I’ll turn this question over to my blog readers…

Do you think that, as readers, we are much harder to entertain than we are as an audience member at a show filled with razzle-dazzle? If so, why do you think that is?

Where Have All The Bloggers Gone?

I can’t help but notice the decline in blogging activity these days each time I sign into Google Reader.

Can we blame it on the season? These glorious spring days? All those months of being trapped indoor for hours at a time?

Hmmm…..What do you think?

Used to be I’d nearly panic when I logged into Reader and saw all those unread blog posts waiting for me. Although I have a good number of blogs that I follow through Reader it’s not an outrageous number or even close to the 200 number that one blogger claimed the average blogger follows. But still….

A lot of people start out blogging with great enthusiasm but eventually run out of steam. I’ve sometimes wondered if that won’t one day be my fate as well. Some days it’s tough to even imagine we have something worthwhile to blog about. Ideas become stale. We feel uninspired. I mean, how many different ways are there to blog about the same subject?

Blogging is a big commitment. Life happens. We get busy. We enter times of tribulation. Our job takes us away, and our family life. Many bloggers are also authors, and when push comes to shove we’ll choose writing over blogging. It’s just the way it has to be. There’s no getting around it. And yet, there is no saying we can’t take a break from our blogging activity from time to time. Why not? Aren’t we all entitled to a vacation from time to time?

Have you been as committed to blogging lately and have you also noticed a decline in the number of people updating their blogs? Do you periodically take blogging vacations?

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