The Writer’s Walk

One of my favourite things about being a writer is what I like to call walking the writer’s walk. When you’re walking the walk you’re out there in the world of authors and readings and book launches and writing festivals—all kinds of literary functions.

Calling ourselves a writer, even feeling it deep in our bones is one thing, but there’s more to being a writer than talking the writer’s talk. Anyone can talk about being a writer so long as we can find someone willing to listen, but I believe we also have to walk the writer’s walk.

For a long time I didn’t walk the walk. For a long time I was oblivious to the outside world of writing. I lived in my own little writing world. I wrote my stories, I reveled in the contributor’s copies of my work I received, and kept on writing. Little did I know there was a literary world out there just waiting for me somewhere with other writers just like me, writers who were willing to be my friend, to share their experiences and offer advice. Being a solo act can be mighty lonely.

syr

Author, Syr Ruus reads from her novel, “Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart.”

Having participated in literary events, writing festivals, having attended book signings and launches for other authors has so totally enriched my writing life. Just the other Friday evening I attended an event at the Linc in Lunenburg. My good friend Syr Ruus was reading as well as poet Carolle Langille. These two ladies are absolutely marvelous. Seriously, check out their work if you haven’t already. There was also an open mic that evening and other writers and poets got up and read their work. I can’t begin to imagine the courage it must have taken to read before two such renown authors. (Certainly more courage than I would have had at that stage in my writing.) I say good on them!

In the weeks ahead I have some book launches to attend that I’m so totally looking forward to. Not only do I get to support some of the writers I know, and have met, but you just never know who you’re going to bump into at one of these events. Could be someone who’ll end up being a friend or even someone who has an interesting story to tell. Hey, you might even rub elbows with an editor you’ve been longing to meet or an author you’re just dying to speak to.

A writer’s walk is about immersing yourself in the literary world, attending events, supporting one another, getting to know your fellow writer. We’re a community, a community of like-minded people. Mind you, it’s impossible to attend every literary event, but you’d be surprised at the number of writers, and would be writers, who aren’t willing to engage themselves in the writing community at all. I say they’re missing out on a lot. In order to be a writer it’s important to walk that walk, to count your every footstep and claim that path as yours. Seriously, if you want others to support and lift you up as a writer, you should be willing to do that exact thing yourself.

Poet/writer, Carolle Langille.

Poet/writer, Carolle Langille.. 


Do you make an effort to “immerse yourself” in the writing community, to walk that writer’s walk? If not, what are you waiting for?

When Tragedy Strikes

It’s been an emotional week in these parts. Life seems unfair when someone is taken before their time, and we can’t help but feel sadness over their passing. When tragedy strikes in a small community we all share that loss. We grieve for what we’re forced to accept– that someone we knew is no longer with us, taken away when they should have had many more years to live. There are two losses we’re left to deal with. First, for the person who has passed, but we’re also left with the feelings of how that loss affects us personally.

If you live in a small community, you can bet this person was someone you knew. Someone you shared a laugh with. Someone you came to for help. Someone you offered help to. Someone you worked with. Someone you waved to when you met them on the road. Someone whose children you grew up with. Someone who dipped you up an ice cream at the fair when you were just a kid. Someone who was a member of your family. Someone who did what was needed in the community without being asked. Someone who understood the grieving process a community goes through when tragedy strikes because they’ve done so in the past themselves.

Someone very recently made the comment that you, “Never hear about anything good happening.” I know it’s easy to go down that road when bad things happen. It reminds us then of all the recent tragedies we’ve heard. We don’t have to go in search for proof that bad things are all around. They will find us…. if we let them. And as many times as we go searching we’ll surely find those bad things….

Everyday if we go looking…..

If we look for it, it’s there.

But the secret is to look for good things instead. Accept the bad as a way of life, because it surely is, but seek out as much good as is possible….And it is possible….Maybe not on a particular day, but some other day it will be made possible. I understand why the comment was made. We listen to the news and are bombarded with stories that echo what this person had to say. But life is a balance. Good is all around us. So much good that it gets overlooked, overshadowed by the misfortunes that comes along.

Death comes to all of us. If we’re born, we will die. There’s no getting out of it. Our death will affect those around us–our family and friends, our community, people whose lives we’ve touched and were not even aware of. We don’t get to choose the time or place or circumstances of our passing or someone else’s. If this was so we’d all live forever because there’d never a right time to say goodbye, and we’d never be ready to let go. Quite honestly, the circumstances of someone’s death can sometimes be that hardest to deal with. We all understand that life is fleeting, changeable at a moment’s notice, but somewhere along the way we forget that death does not only come to the old and the sick. It comes also to the young, and the healthy, and to someone who had plans for another day. In this small community we’ve shouldered our share of tragedies. But we face it together, feel it together, mourn together, begin the healing process together.

The sadness will lift. The memories we’re left with will warm us and make us smile as we remember, a father, or a mother, or a sister, or a brother, or a son, or a daughter, or a grandchild or a neighbour.

Book Launch Hangover

I’ve been suffering for a few days from a hangover–a book launch hangover, that is. This entire week has been like a whirlwind for so many reasons, not all of them book launch related. Still, it’s been difficult to get my head back where it needs to be. That’s the problem with a hangover–or so I’m told–the brain takes awhile to kick into gear. The launch went wonderfully last Sunday, and the weather couldn’t have been any nicer. For me, it was as much about my book as it was a community of friends and family all coming together as one. Pretty cool. While there was a lot of photo taking that day, I didn’t have a lot of my own to share. My camera was kind of on the wrong setting, but ah well. I’ll still share a few of the better ones. You’ll find them under the “Flying With a Broken Wing” tab HERE. Already people have read the book and so far most of them seem to like it. It’s not easy putting your work out there to be scrutinized by others. Some have asked if a sequel is coming , and that’s never a bad thing for a writer to hear. Cammie’s story is far from over, people. Let’s hope it doesn’t take me another two or three years to write it.  🙂 So for now the hoopla is over. I couldn’t have asked for a better book launch. I received flowers, cards, chocolate, and at least one hundred hugs. I’m still smiling. What does the future hold for this little book of mine? Hopefully, those who read it will enjoy it. That’s all a writer can ask for.

Holy Arch Nemesis, Batman!

Don’t have an arch nemesis? That’s what I thought until the year my book came out.

 

Someone recently made the comment that we all have an arch nemesis in some area of our lives. She mentioned having a twitter nemesis, (someone on twitter who was going through a similar life experience, but who always seemed to be doing it just a little bit better.) Okay, so we shared a giggle about it, but in the end, this person got under her skin so she unfollowed for her own peace of mind. Sometimes you’ve just got to do the thing that will bring you peace, right?

 

Shortly after my book came out, my kids started teasing me about having an arch nemeses. The person in question happened to have been an author whose book came out the same time as mine therefore you’d often see our books reviewed at the same time, advertised at the same time and generally in each others’ space. But that’s the way it is in this business. Nothing personal, nothing nasty, it’s all business. Many books are published in a year. My kids, being the kids they are, enjoyed calling this author my arch nemesis even though I would assure them that she was probably a very lovely person should we ever have the good fortune to meet. Of course they weren’t buying it. But that’s my kids!

 

So whether I liked it or not, it seemed, our books were in competition. How the heck did that happen, I wondered?  And was it real or simply imagined, something that came into being from a joke my kids started? I suspect the latter although, I then started to become quite conscious of this particular book after that. It was only natural. Remember how many red cars you saw after you bought yours? And when you were expecting your first grandchild, pregnant woman came at you from everywhere. We notice what we put our attention on.

 

Since my first book came out I’ve met so many of my fellow authors, and it’s been great making friends. I can’t say enough about how connecting with this wonderful community of writers has meant to me, but I’m not sure that being a part of a community will completely take away our need for “friendly” competition. I’ve heard authors who have felt a bit envious of another author’s book. I say envious, but I mean envious is a friendly way, if you know what I mean. Perhaps a particular book beat theirs out for an award or got more reviews—that sort of thing.

 

These things are nothing new. It started for some of us on the playground, some kid who was always a wee bit better at everything than we were, and we found ourselves in competition with them again and again. I believe we do sometimes find ourselves in competition with others, whether consciously or unconsciously. It can happen at work or even on a volunteer level. Parents of young children often compare their children’s development, and we’ve all met people I’ll call “one uppers.” No matter what story you have to tell, they have one a bit more spectacular on that exact subject. These competitions are just about everywhere, and I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing so long as it stays on a good-natured level. Can it be avoided? Perhaps if we go through life with blinders on, and keep our minds on doing the best we can in a particular area without worrying about someone else.

 

Do you agree that we find ourselves in competition with others? Do you have an arch nemesis—real or imagined—in some area of your life? Do you think it’s a bad thing, or do you feel there is nothing wrong with a little “friendly” competition?

A Small Part of the Whole

When I had my book launch nearly a year ago, I was overwhelmed by the show of support from the community I live in. Not only did many people from the community come out but some from Truro (2.5 hrs away), Halifax, the Valley and South Shore. The energy in that little community centre was staggering. Good vibes were floating everywhere.

As a community we shared in the success of the book, and later many people said they felt proud, not only for me but as a community. Look what we did! We showed everyone what East Dalhousie could do. The folks at Nimbus were a little bit surprised themselves I think.

I remember saying to everyone that day that in many ways it felt as though the book belonged to all of us, not only because of the setting, but because as a community we share in one another’s success. It’s a part of what being a community is all about, and I meant it!

Small communities are like a big family. We share in one another success, failure, hurts, sorrows, and happiness. We are there to pat each other on the back, to scold one another if necessary, to laugh together and above all to lift each other up during the darkest times. It doesn’t matter if you’ve moved away or remained here your entire life, nothing can truly separate you from the small part of who you are if you grow up or have ever lived in a small rural community.

This year we seem to have suffered many losses as a community. But we are strong. Tragedy has touched each individual family over the years and yet we can still find a way to laugh, to stand in awe of life’s mysteries, to be empowered by the very burdens we share. Together we are made stronger.

These past few weeks, the community shares in one family’s grief as they suffer a second most tragic loss in a few short months. These deaths have touched each one of us, not only on the surface but in that place within us that reaches far, far deeper. We have lost another one of our own.

On the surface we will smile and continue on with our daily lives but inside there is a small place hollowed out from our sadness. But we are strong and that place will heal as we remember that each one of us is a small part of the whole.

The Balance

Today I’ll be attending a third funeral in a little over a week. Death is a part of life. I have to remind myself of that. It helps sometimes, brings comfort when the person who is taken from us lived a long and full life.

Birth. Death. Joy. Sorrow. There is a balance to everything.

This reminder doesn’t always help. Not when a childhood friend is suddenly taken away.

I found myself grieving; not only for this friend, but also for the forgotten childhood memories that came suddenly back to life.

The community I live in is changing with the times. The number of life-long residents is dwindling as our young people go off to live their own lives and our seniors pass away. Fortunately, new people are moving in all the time. Without them the community might one day cease to exist.

To every thing there is a season; a time and a purpose

The question of self publishing

Earlier this week I met a gentleman and his wife at a luncheon in New Minas. He was both charming and articulate. The conversation eventually turned to writing. He’d published a book! Having retired from farming a few years back, he told me he needed something to do and it turns out that something was novel writing. Like me, he also had a great show of support from the community when he had his book launch. I guess that goes to show that rural Nova Scotia is VERY supportive of its own.

Over the course of our conversation he mentioned that his wife always carries three copies of the book with her wherever they go. And since I’m a push over for local authors I ended up buying one. I don’t expect I’ll get around to reading it until this winter as I have a lot of books on my TBR list. Before the luncheon was over I believe all three copies were sold. I laughed and told his wife she’d have to get a larger purse.

So the author’s name is Glenn Ells, from Sheffield Mills, a self-proclaimed “old coot.” Yes folks, that’s what it actually says on the back of his book!! Since March I believe, he told me he’s sold 1200 copies of the book—a  feat he is more than proud of. This is with no advertising, just word of mouth. I do believe he had someone from the local paper write a review of it, however. He told me his wife has sold 800 copies out of her purse alone.

The name of the book is “Starting Over.” It’s set in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley in 1760 and is based on the Planter years between the expulsion of the Acadians and the influx of Loyalists following the American Revolution. That’s about all I know except someone at the luncheon mentioned that it was a love story….What do you know? I guess even “old coots” can write about romance.

After meeting Glenn I started to wonder how many people out there are self publishing. My guess is it’s a fairly substantial number. It’s not something I’ve ever considered for myself for a number of reasons but I’m sure for someone like Glenn this has been a very rewarding experience. I’m wondering how many people out there have given thought to self publishing and just what your ideas on the subject is.

One thing that can’t be denied is the fact that Glenn is having one heck of a great time promoting his own book and meeting new and interesting people. I wish him all the best.

Back Cover Copy

When I got home from work an email was waiting for me from my editor at Nimbus. They had put together a draft for the back cover copy and she wanted me to go over it to see if there were any errors or problems. I have to admit when the book came out in the fall catalogue I figured the write- up that accompanied it would appear on the back cover. Apparently I was mistake and if the truth be told I’m not disappointed because there  are elements in the story that didn’t appear in the write-up in the fall catalogue. Luckily that has now been changed and what is to appear on the back of the book is totally different. I guess back in the spring the main objective was to get the book into the catalogue.

I genuinely like the back cover copy except for the first few lines which depicts Dalhousie as a “desolate, despondent place” where people generally ”keep to themselves” also a place where the fields are “unchecked.” As you all know, the setting for the book is my own little community, and we are a small community by anyone’s standards, but despondent and desolate sounds a bit too bleak to me.

Even though “Bitter, Sweet,” is set sixty years ago I can say with much certainty that those two words would not be an accurate description of the community. Back sixty years ago people would have had a little family farm and many of them would have made their living in the woods and they were very sociable if given half a chance.

I’m not overly concerned about this issue because I know it can be easily fixed. My editor has been terrific and seems quite keen on making me happy. I know she wouldn’t want any of the good folks here to be offended. When you’re born and raised in a place those roots run very deep. I know because as I grow older I feel a connection to this community that I didn’t feel as strongly when I was growing up. When you have lived in a place all your life you know you belong there, that you are a part of the history and that history is a part of you. In fact, knowing the people of the community the way I do, there would be some who would be highly offended by this use of language to describe the community, present or past.. Now mind you, we are talking about fiction here but I still feel a certain obligation on my part to put forth an accurate and respectful depiction of my community. After all, this is going off into the world and will be read by others. Not only that, I want to feel good about it myself. So problem solved, I’ll just fire off an email and give my editor another direction in which to take this. I’m really not worried.

This is my last weekend with the ms. No more twelve hour days, I’m now in the tweaking stage..I’ll soon be ready to loosen my grip!!

Book Launch

Although it is still a few months away I am going to mention that a time and place has just been set for the book launch. It’s to be held on October 25 at the community centre in East Dalhousie. Although there were other suggestions made, suggestions I was most grateful for, because let’s face it had I not been able to have it in the community I would have been looking for an alternative, the community centre in good old E. Dalhousie was my first choice.

Might I add  that I’m very pleased to be having the launch here because I happen to live in a pretty awesome little community. The people here have been extremely supportive of my work over the years and that support has meant so much. (Likely more than many of them even realize.)  As I told my publisher, I really couldn’t imagine having it any other place. Not only is the Dalhousie Road the setting for “Bitter, Sweet”—a fictitious Dalhousie Road of sixty years ago—but many of my family and friends live here, as well. It is the first time an event of this sort has been held in the community and, who knows, it may never happen again. So there you have it! I’m happy, my publisher’s happy, hopefully the good folks in the community will be happy with the news as well.

At this point I really have no expectations about the launch, for me it will be wonderful to celebrate the release of my very first novel right here in the community I’ve lived in my entire life.

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  • Publication date April 30, 2020. Available for pre-order NOW.

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