I Heard the Word, and it was on the Street

Word on the Street was held on the Halifax waterfront this year. It’s the annual celebration of book and magazine publishers, authors, anything to do with the written word. Two years ago I read from my manuscript as my book wasn ‘t yet back from the printers. This year I went to be part of the audience, brought along my camera and enjoyed the day as a spectator. Okay, so I hung out around the young adult stage for much of the time we were there. It only seemed natural. Plus, I was hoping to get some photos with some of my favourite YA authors.  I’m putting together a scrapbook, one that I hope Miss Charlotte will adore when she is old enough to be reading these authors for herself. Hopefully, she’ll be impressed to see that her Nanny Bee actually met these incredible authors for real.

We arrived in time to hear Jan Coates read from, “A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk.”  I’m not sure why I didn’t make Jan pose for a picture with me. Maybe it was because she was in a hurry to get over to the Woozles booth to sign books. As many times as what Jan and I have had coffee together it makes me wonder why there isn’t one single shot of the two of us together. Why is that Jan?

 

 

 

We checked out the various publishers who were set up. Got a few pictures of the books on Nimbus Publishing’s table.

Look, there’s JoAnn Yhard’s books Lost on Brier Island and The Fossil Hunter of Sydney Mines. Sorry that I missed JoAnn’s reading, I blame the chauffeur, although I can’t complain because he does a darn good job of driving the old folks around the city. Thanks, Matt!  Not to worry, we took him to have his photo snapped with Theodore Tugboat. It was all good.

When I asked for a photo with Sheree Fitch, she pulled out her glasses from her big Mary Poppin-sized bag and asked me to put them on. Well, you don’t say no to Sheree Fitch.

What do you think? Do I look any taller in these?  Hmmm, I’m kind of wondering now what all she keeps in that purple bag of hers.

So listen up, I learned a valuable lesson while talking to Sheree yesterday. Never, ever tell an author, such as Sheree Fitch, that you loved her book. You’ll be sure to get a somewhat polite but confused response when they ask you “which book?”  Duh! Like Sheree’s been published a gazillion times and I have read a number of her books, but I don’t think she’s yet mastered mind reading. Always remember to mention what book you’re talking about. It just makes it  SO much easer for the author.

We listened while Sheree, Jill MacLean ad Don Aker read from their books and answered the audience’s questions.

I chatted with Jill MacLean later. I met Jill last year at at the book launch for author Cynthia D’entrement’s book  Unlocked . Jill even wrote me a lovely note  last year to congratulate me on Bitter, Sweet’s nomination for the Bilson Award. So it’s obvious that I could have used Sheree’s glasses this time too., or would you believe I was sitting down for this shot?

 

 

 

I was excited to meet Valeria Sherrard. Valerie’s latest book, The Glory Wind, won the Ann Conner Brimer award this year. Yay Valerie!  I’m SO looking forward to reading it. It was remarkable to watch as Valerie answered questions from young readers. Seems to me, those young readers had some well thought out questions. Glad it was Valerie on the hot-seat and not me.

I ran into Syr Ruus yesterday as well. She was off to sign copies of her book, Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart. Okay, so Syr scrunched down a bit for this photo to make me appear a bit taller. How’s that for friendship, I ask?

Before heading back out of the big city, we listened to Steve Vernon read from his YA novel, Sinking Deeper.        Having already read the book, I knew what to expect. My son did not. I do believe by some of the chuckles he quite enjoyed Steve’s sense of humour, and his lively writing which comes out quite nicely in this book.  Steve’s a great story-teller and very entertaining. A real pro.                                                                                                                                                                                

So, I think I covered just about everything. Of course, there is so much more to Word on the Street than what I covered, but I can’t be in every place at once . If you have never gone it’s well worth going to. We have some truly remarkable and talented authors in our area.

Just Being Human

I am a human being, not a human doing. Don’t equate your self-worth with how well you do things in life. You aren’t what you do. If you are what you do, then when you don’t…you aren’t. – Dr. Wayne Dyer

When I came across this quote by Wayne Dyer, I immediately thought I don’t want to be a human doing all the time. It is so easy to become caught up in life, always working, never feeling able to take time to relax and simply enjoy life. When it comes right down to it, family and friends should always be at the top of our list. As important as writing is to my life, it can’t be all there is. Suppose for some reason I was no longer able to write, I would like to think that some other area in my life would replace that void, but I do know for a fact that my family would never replace it because they are far more important.

I sometimes think we can become so consumed by following our passion that we forget there is much more to life. Sometimes it’s as if we wear blinders, keeping our eye on that one goal in life. We hunger for it. We forget the more important things in life. This past week spent with Miss Charlotte helped put things in perspective for me yet again. Since my daughter and her husband live in another province being grandparents is a bit of a challenge. I only hope that Miss Charlotte will come to know us in a way that our kids knew their grandparents who lived quite handy. Not as easy to do with the distance between us, but luckily the Internet makes it is much easier.

One of the nice things about having Miss Charlotte home was having our other children visit during that time, and knowing that, they too, are building a relationship with their little niece despite the distance. It may not be a prefect situation, but we’re making the best of it. With any luck Miss Charlotte will come to think of “Ant Grub” and “Uncle Mutt” as two very important people in her life.

Tomorrow we’re off to Halifax Word on the Street. We’ll spend the day with our son, say hi to some authors who will be reading, and hopefully get some great pictures to share.

The really best things in life simply happen when we pause for a time and stop being human doings and allow ourselves to simply be human beings.

Do you ever find yourself becoming caught up in “doing” instead of “being?” What helps to put life in  the right perspective for you?

Making Memories

Look how quickly a month rolls around. Today you’ll find me over at A Hopeful Sign. I hope you’ll drop in and say hi, maybe check the site out while you’re at it.

I’m sneaking in a little computer time while Miss Charlotte has her nap. I don’t expect to do a whole lot of writing this week what with Miss Charlotte here until Saturday, but that’s okay.  I’m just excited for the extended visit.

She’s growing mighty fast and, at seventeen months, has a larger vocabulary that some adults I know. It’s a great feeling to know that one day she’ll be reading the stories her nanny has written.

Earlier today, when the subject of a quilt was brought up, I mentioned to my daughter that I had helped a neighbour with the quilting and she later gave the quilt to me as a gift. I have wonderful memories of our times together. My neighbour lived to be 100.  My daughter said something then that struck a note with me when we spoke of the quilt. She said that everyone should make something to leave behind for others to remember them. This is how I feel about the stories I have written.

Yesterday, Miss Charlotte helped plant some tulip bulbs. With a little luck we’ll have a patch of tulips for many years to come.

It doesn’t matter how old or young we are we are all capable of making memories for the future.

A Bowl of Cherries

Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious,
Life’s too mysterious
You work,
You save,
You worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go

So keep repeating “It’s the berries.”
The strongest oak must fall
The sweet things in life
To you were just loaned
So how can you lose
What you’ve never owned

Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh,
Laugh and love
Live and laugh at it all!

This silly little song holds a lot of truth and serves as a reminder that we shouldn’t always take life so serious. The picture is a reminder to me of just how delicious those cherries were this summer. I’ve been waiting for the perfect time to post it. When is it not the perfect time to post a picture of fresh cherries?

This post has nothing to do with writing, except maybe the mention of the word writing, but I don’t think that counts. I’m also not sure I care at the moment. I happen to be in a silly mood. Miss Charlotte is due to make a visit this weekend, she’s even bringing her parents along. I have a right to feel giddy.

I hope you are in a place at the moment where you can live, love and laugh to your heart’s content, and if not, hopefully you will find that place soon.

So, if you want to throw something silly out there to prove you aren’t taking life so serious, I say go for it! We can all stand a good giggle.

The Brevity of Roses

“That book does not exist.”

Those were Ed’s words the day I drove out to his bookshop to order The Brevity of Roses written by blogger friend, Linda Cassidy Lewis.

Ed thought he was being clever, that I wouldn’t have a clue what he meant by that, but I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, Ed. I know what print on demand means. (It actually seems like a very good idea, although I’m sure Ed might not agree seeing how he likes to stock books on his shelves.)

So many bloggers were writing wonderful reviews of Linda’s book, raving about it in fact, and for awhile I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to get my hands on a copy. Luckily, I discovered there’s a bookshop a little less than an hour from home that would order Linda’s book for me. All I had to do to get my hands on Linda’s debut novel was to prepay. No sweat. I could do that! So you see, even if you don’t own that little piece of plastic you don’t have to deprive yourself. There’s always a way around everything. (Okay, so the lack of a credit card is a personal decision, one that I’ve been rethinking lately.)

This past while, I’ve followed Linda on her journey to self-publication and, I won’t beat around the bush, I’ve admired her initiative, all the work that went into getting her book out there. She’s a determined kind of gal and I’m all for determination.  (She even designed her own cover! How cool is that?)

If you haven’t already checked out Linda’s book, you might like to slip on over to her blog out of my mind, and check it out. You’ll find two sample chapters of The Brevity of Roses to read on the sidebar right under the book cover, and if you like what you read they can print you off as many copies of that “non-existing” book as you want. Non-existing! Oh Ed, I do beg to differ.

Linda’s writing speaks for itself. Oh yeah, the lady can write! For me the mark of a good book is one that leaves a lasting impression on the reader and, I have to say, I thought about Jalal, Meredith and Renee after the book was read. Bravo!

I also feel moved to mention that when Bitter, Sweet was released in the US last year, Linda was right there to support me as a debut author. What some people might not realize is that, as authors, we truly do appreciate all those people who buy our books. Without them, our words would not reach a larger audience. And it is for the reader that we put our selves and our work out there,  knowing that there will be those who will rave about our efforts, and those who may be less enthusiastic about it. We just can’t satisfy every reader. It is not an easy business to be in, and yet here we are.

So, congrats, Linda, on a job well done. Enjoy your time as a debut author, you deserve it!

Everyone Poops

Okay, laugh at the title if if you want to. No one’s going to know anyway…

Not sure how many of you are familiar with this children’s book that was published in the 1970′s, but it’s about exactly what you think—poop.  The whole premise behind the book is the fact that all animals, including humans, poop. There are a few basics about being human that we all share and pooping is one of them. Since it’s a universal thing, I suppose we shouldn’t find it embarrassing, but we do.

My daughter likes to remind me, “Everyone poops, Mum,” during those times when I think that for some reason I shouldn’t have the same faults as all other human beings on the planet.

So where am I going with all this you might be asking? To tell the truth, I have a confession to make. Nope, it’s not about pooping, but the fact that, like everyone else, I make mistakes. BIG SHOCKER!

After posting my last blog post here, I started to have thoughts about whether or not this was a post I had been working on many months previously and  hadn’t yet posted,(which is sometimes the case) or if I had in fact posted it before. Sometimes I work on several posts at a time and sometimes, for one reason or another decide not to post them right away. I knew I had written it a long time ago, and saved it in my file with all my other blog entries. When I came across “Got To Be you,” I was positive this was one I hadn’t published before. It didn’t seem familiar to me at all–At least until after it was posted and several people had commented, and then it niggled at me a little.

So, it started to get under my skin the way things do sometimes when we’re not so sure about something. That tiny thought kept growing until I just had to check it out before it drove me berserk .(Okay, so that’s an exaggeration, but it did start to bug me.) I checked back through my old posts and, sure enough I discovered, I had published it a number of months back.. Okay, talk about embarrassing. I would have simply deleted it but a few people had already commented, and it didn’t seem right to delete the whole post after that.

So I apologize if you recognized that post and got to thinking I was repeating myself. If, like me, you had no recollection if the post, that might be a good thing depending upon how you look at it.  ;)

Yeah, like everyone else I make mistakes, but as my daughter tells me, “Everyone poops, Mum. Everyone poops.”

Guess I won’t waste too much time worrying about it. I will try and mark all published posts in my file so that it doesn’t happen again. Since I’m sure you’ve all made mistakes as well, feel free to share your own story so I won’t feel so all alone.

Gotta be You

I wrote my first novel when I was thirteen and in junior high. I wrote it out in long hand on a lined tablet with yellow pages. It was a love story about grown up people, and a doctor named Rae, things I really knew nothing about. Yet, I felt compelled to write that particular story.

I can’t remember the plot, or even the title, although I do recall the opening when the good doctor is driving down a muddy dirt road in a rainstorm. Why? I have no idea. The rest is pretty fuzzy. Regrettably, I destroyed the story quite some time ago, embarrassed by my fledgling efforts. Looking back, I now wish I had kept it. You know, something to look back on. I mean I was just thirteen.

It might be fun to look back at now. But gone is gone, and nothing can bring it back.

Although, I’m not sure how the book ended, I do know it didn’t have a happy ending—girl did not end up with boy. There was no happy-ever-after. Don’t know why. I guess it just didn’t feel right.

I remember when I was working on this novel my father asked to read it.
He seemed amused that I was tackling something so ambitious as a novel. I felt a bit proud. My dad never got to see any of my published work as he left this world about five years before my first story was published. I stopped dreaming about him after I told him, in a dream, that I was a writer, something I’d always wished he’d been alive to know about.

My older sister also read my novel. She read it after it was completed. Needless to say she didn’t like the ending. She wanted a happy ever after.

So what did I do? I changed the ending. I went against what felt right for the story and changed the ending to reflect what my sister thought was right. I remember not wanting to do it. Yet change it I did.
\
Funny, how we can bend under pressure, change who we are and what direction we are going in, just to please others. Today, I would not change the ending. Today, I would stick to my guns.

Now, don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need to make changes in our WIP.

Revision is NOT a dirty word, but before you make any changes to your story you should ask yourself,” Why?” Is it just to appease others or will your story benefit from these changes? A writer needs to write their story, not the story they think someone else want them to write. Writing our own story adds authenticity to our work. Remember, you are the only one who can write that particular story in that way. When changes are needed, make these changes for the right reason. Be yourself. Write your story, not someone else’s.

That is all…

Hints of Autumn

I looked for Autumn, and she was there, hiding among the foliage, peeking out at me, moving with shy steps into September. Again, it feels too early, and she makes this writer’s heart feel a slight bit melancholy.

Have you seen signs of Autumn where you are?

Laura’s Little List for Aspiring Writers

I was trying to think about some advice I might give to aspiring writers if say, my opinion was ever asked. No matter what we do if life, if we have any amount of success, we’ve probably learned some valuable lessons along the way. I’ve had some success. I’ve learned things. I thought I’d make a little list.

In the beginning I knew nothing about writing or publishing, had no idea what getting published entailed. I simply started writing. Then I bought a book: The Canadian Writer’s Market. I’ll never forget the day I bought that book, knowing those pages contained the very essence of my dream. Who knew there was actually a book out there that told you how and where to submit your work? Wheeeee…. I was going to be published!

See, I was pretty naive way back when.

But you learn. We all do. We do something one way and if that doesn’t work we do something else, again and again, until we get the desired results.

I’ll be honest. I’m not much of a list maker. I think I’ve mentioned that before on this blog. I blame it on being a middle child, cause we’ve got to blame our shortcomings on something. Right?

Sometimes I start out with good intentions, I set down a list of tasks I’d like to accomplish. I might even do that for a day or two, but then something goes terribly wrong. Mainly me. I lose interest and the whole idea of list making goes down the drain.

So pardon me if I make this list short. Since five seems like a nice rounded number to begin with, I’ll make this list short and sweet cause, if you’ve got to read through yet another list, I figure it should be short and easy to digest. Sometime later I’ll think of a few more things to add to the list, and maybe I will, cause surer than anything I’m going to learn a few more things as I continue to write.

So here it is.

Laura’s Little List for Aspiring Writers:

# 1. You are never as good as you think you are.
Keep this in mind when you’re first starting. In the beginning I thought I wrote some pretty clever, not to mention astounding, prose. Once that baby landed on some editor’s desk it was going to be published. I just knew it! It took me many rejections to realize that I had plenty more to learn about writing, that all these first efforts was simply practise. And that’s okay. When you learned to walk, you started out with baby steps.

# 2. Nothing you write is ever a waste of your time.
So some of us need more practise than others. That goes with all things in life. It doesn’t mean we won’t eventually master it. Of course not! You knew that. When discouragement sets in, and it surely will at some time, forget about lashing out and deleting that story you’ve worked so long and hard on.(You’re probably too old for temper tantrums.)You didn’t waste your time. I’m presently rewriting a story I wrote a few years back, bringing fresh new language, and a brand new beginning, to an already existing story. I’m happy to have that original story to look back on now. If I had deleted it in a fit of discouragement I’d be kicking my rear end about now.

# 3. While your use of words is important so is the story because every story need a good solid plot. Plot? You mean there actually needed to be a plot? A purpose to all those beautifully crafted words I was writing? A beginning, middle and an ending, plot? I thought I could wow some editor with my words alone. Nope. Something’s gotta happen. That’s just the way it is.

# 4 If you’re going to make it in the publishing world, you must learn patience. Once you have learned patience, you must relearn it, maybe even a few times until you absolutely get it. And once you’ve got it, you’ll be plagued at least one more time with impatience cause the Universe insists that you really get the lesson. I figure patience is a biggie so far as the Universe is concerned. Writing/publishing takes time. We send out our manuscripts and wait for a response, one that we’re sure will come any day. The Canadian Writer’s Market said wait three or four months before following up with a query on the status of your submission. Three or four months? I wish! Think a year, maybe longer. Editors are very busy people.

# 5. Be original. This doesn’t necessarily mean wild and crazy, unless of course you like wild and crazy. You can still write about things you know and love, but try to put a different spin on it. Tackle that subject in a way no other writer has. Come up with original turns of phrase. Remember that no one can tell that story the way you can. It’s your story, after all, and you are a distinct individual looking to discover your own unique voice in the world.

So there’s the end of my little list. Of course I have learned more that these five things. I’ve been writing for over twenty years for goodness sake, but these were the first five that came to mind. Now get out there and start practising.

 

If you’re a writer, I invite you to share your wisdom in the comment section and add something to my list.

 

The Voice of Stories Past

I interrupt my writing this evening for an important question for you..

It seems no matter how much I write, or how many stories I’ve had published, there are always questions that pop up from time to time.The art of writing, in itself, is always a constant work in progress as we tread from the familiar into the unfamiliar. Each writer has different experiences, learns different things. Hopefully, we share what we’ve learned. Since I don’t have a writing group to ask these things of, I’ll see what you all have to say.

Here’s the problem, or should I say my question.

When a story is set in the past, let’s say 1930 for argument’s sake, and the main character is telling the story in first person, do we assume that the past this character is speaking from is the recent past or could they be telling a story that happened in the distant past? Am I making sense?

It seems to me that the voice used in the story would definitely be different if it was a story told in the distant past. Say if I was telling a story that happened to me when I was twelve wouldn’t the story sound different than if I had told that story a few weeks after it happened? I have to say yes. That said, I’m thinking it should be made clear to the reader that the story happened in the distant past or else, as the reader, we generally assume that the narration if coming from the recent past.

For me, this could become an issue when I write Young Adult if my character was to sound wiser than their years or experience might dictate.

So, here is my questions put clearly: Is it generally assumed that a story told in past tense has just recently happened and if it happened many years ago should it be clearly stated at the onset?

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