Category Archives: Writing

You’re Probably Not Doing Anything Else in November Anyway.

A few weeks ago I tweeted out to the world that I was thinking of signing on for NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. I asked if I knew anyone who had done it before, if it killed them, made them stronger, etc. Just out of curiosity, really. And no one really responded, which is fine, and I figured that was because I didn’t know anyone who had done it before. Or maybe I did and it actually killed them, I guess. Anyway, then I went and signed up. Because honestly, why not?

Why not indeed.

Back in June or July, I can no longer remember which, I participated in a writing challenge called 1000 Words of Summer, the brainchild of delightful author Jami Attenberg. The premise of this challenge was to write 1000 words (obvi) every day for two weeks. At the end of that, writers would have approximately 14,000 words under their respective writing belts. When all was said and done, and the two weeks were up, I had around 16,000 words. Added to the 4,000 or so I already had…well, that’s a significant amount of words. In sentences and paragraphs too, not just random words! (I feel the need to say that for some reason.)

The thing is, those first 4,000? Took me FOREVER to get down. Weeks of stealing a couple of hours at a time in the library or at home. Hours and hours of character sketches and plot points and reworking things. And all I had to show for it was 4,000 or so words. It’s not terrible of course, I was glad to have those words, but there is something about a goal and a deadline that really lights a fire under me.

The great thing about the 1000 Words of Summer idea was that I felt accountable to someone and that someone was none other than Jami freaking Attenberg. I mean, ok, it wasn’t like she was looking over my shoulder to check my word count, but she was sending out encouraging emails every day for those two weeks and that was super motivating. Often, she would write, that she also was having trouble getting the words in, doing the job, and that also was encouraging to hear. Theoretically and intellectually I know that most writers and authors have days or even weeks where the words just don’t come, and I love the writers that I know and follow who share this with the world so beginners like me can breathe a collective sigh of relief that we are not alone. But there was something about getting those emails directly to me (ok, and lots of other people too) that made my writing spirit soar every single day of that challenge.

Write when you’re tired, write when you don’t want to, write even if you know you’re going to delete it at a later date. These were all such good lessons for me, and at the end of the two weeks, there were only 2 days where I didn’t hit the goal and many days where I went way, way over.

20,000 words, give or take. That is tough to walk away from. And I didn’t. I’m still at it, and I’m going to do my best to turn those 20,000 into closer to 70,000

I know. It’s 30 days vs 14 days. 1000 words each day vs 1667 words each day. But it’s not not doable? Right? Right.

It’s a goal plus a deadline and both of those things are 100% my jam. I work best under pressure, I work to tight deadlines like a BAWSE. I got this. And, maybe, we got this? If you’ve ever considered NaNoWriMo, now is the time, friends. I learned first-hand this summer that the writerly community is one of the most supportive out there. Everyone wants everyone else to succeed, and it is so refreshing. So take the plunge with me! Dive in! It doesn’t even have to be a novel! Start some kind of writing project and commit to 30 days where you’re writing every day. Just start. Like I did. Like everyone who has ever written anything did. You just have to start.

It’s been a rough year and a lot of that roughness shows no signs of fading away. So write with me. Let’s lift each other up and share our struggles and our successes together. And, once it’s all over and the words are on the pages? We’ll drink a shit ton of champagne.

So NOW who’s in?!?

Keep the Story Going

Back in January, I made some resolutions. More like goals, I guess you could say. Things I want to accomplish this year, things I want to do, etc. There is nothing exciting at all about this, this is the kind of thing people do in January, I am not unique in this, of course.

I wrote these goals/ideas down in my journal, because once they are on paper, they are a bit more real. I suppose sharing them here would make them even more real, but I’m not ready for that, sorry. I still want the ability to renege on them if I choose, and if they’re here, well…

My journal has a table of contents page, so I have taken to indexing it by month (nerd alert) so for example pages 37-52 = January 2018. Oh, that’s because I actually started this journal in September, the ACTUAL new year, when you’re a freak who still gets excited at the beginning of the school year.

Now within those months I can make a page reference to something specific should I want to, and so I have noted in my ToC that my new year’s goals are listed on page 37. This has been quite handy for me to refer to, honestly. It’s actually pretty great to be able to flip to a page and find where my head was at on January 1st, and to see how I’m doing. And not in a judgey way, either. Every so often I take a look at what I wrote down, to remind myself of what I want to accomplish, what I don’t want in my life. And that’s important.

One of my goals was to submit at least one piece of writing somewhere. It doesn’t matter where. A magazine, a contest, a blog…nothing hard and fast, just make sure to get my writing out there. Wherever “there” might be. And, I am pleased to say that at the end of February, “there” became the CBC nonfiction contest. I mean go big or go home, right? So yes, I wrote a piece, paid my entry fee, and sent it off into the ether where someone that I don’t even know will read it and judge it and deem it worthy or not. Even typing that breaks me out in a cold sweat, but hey, guess what? I did it. It’s out there.

And the “worthy or not” part is totally true, and totally fine. I do not expect to win, place, or even show in this contest, and that is absolutely fine. It’s all about the process, all about keeping the story going. My story. Pretty happy about that part.

 

The sweetest hangover

And just like that it’s over, we tend to our wounded we count our dead…

Wait, no that’s not gritLIT Festival. That’s Yorktown, from the Hamilton soundtrack.

For those of us on the committee, by Sunday night we sort of felt like walking wounded. It’s a lot of time to spend in the gallery, the hotel, running here and there, organizing, etc. But it was, as the kids say, WORTH IT.

gritLIT happens over four jam packed days in April, and while it goes by in an absolute flash, I’ve always found it takes me a few days of post-festival processing, reflecting, and regrouping, to put my thoughts down in blog post form. In fact, in looking through my drafts, I found my gritLIT wrap-up post from 2016. Partially completed, never posted. Whoops.

This year, thanks to a renewed passion for writing and blogging, I vowed I would rejuvenate this tired old girl (the blog, not me) and inject some life into it. There are multiple reasons for this, one of which involves gritLIT, and, as I said on Twitter, what better time to resurrect something than Easter weekend. This is also, in case you don’t already know, the time to watch Jesus Christ Superstar because of Jesus, obviously, but also because who doesn’t need a little funkiness during their holiday weekend? Also, last year I watched it and LiveTweeted it, and Ted Neely, who was Jesus in the film, retweeted me AND tweeted at me, so GOALS.

But back to gritLIT. This was my second year on the organizing committee and the first time I really felt fully invested and fully a part of the festival. Probably because I knew the ropes more or less, but mostly because I felt I had more of a role this year. The first year on any committee you join is kind of observational – at least for me it is – but this year I was ready to rock. And I did.

As always, the festival opened with an evening of poetry, and this might have been my favourite event of the entire festival. But wait, you say. How can the first event be your favourite, when everything else has yet to come? Well never fear, I would be heard to say after EVERY event “I think that was my favourite” so bear with me. We heard from Robin Richardson, two poets from Hamilton Youth Poets, and then from the incomparable Vivek Shraya. They were all so electric.

Another highlight from Thursday was the chance to hear Iain Reid read from I’m Thinking of Ending Things, which was a book I loved even though it confounded me – or maybe because it confounded me. Rebecca Rosenblum read from So Much Love, (now on my to-read list) and both authors joined us in the hospitality suite after their readings to chat about books and beer and all things Hamilton. It was lovely.

Friday was an action-packed evening, and I was able to join Ann Y.K. Choi, Diane Shoemperlen, Lesley Livingston, and Leslie Shimotakahara for dinner at Rapscallion prior to their readings. And honestly, what a treat to be surrounded by these fabulous authors, so generous with their time, so patient with their answers to questions they’d likely been asked a thousand times before. One of the things I love most about gritLIT and mingling with authors is the mutual respect, admiration, and engagement among them, and that was in full effect at our dinner, and then later on during the readings and the discussions that came after.

Saturday, when I try to recollect it, is a blur. There was an incredible and important conversation with Bev Sellars led by Annette Hamm – everyone needs to read Price Paid, this is not an exaggeration. Then we came to ANOTHER of my favourite sessions, a panel with author Kerry Clare, who read from Mitzi Bytes, and Merilyn Simonds, author of Gutenberg’s Fingerprint. And oh my goodness, the cartoon hearts were shooting from my eyes from the very beginning, and they just didn’t stop. I read and loved both books and adore both authors, but I think the greatest part of their panel was their chemistry, how well-aligned they were, how much they enjoyed the other’s company, how much they enjoyed the other’s writing. Truly lovely, and truly inspirational.

I also was lucky enough to host Kerry’s blogging workshop  later that day which was great, and was also the kick in the ass I needed to find my blogging mojo, so I will be forever grateful to her for that.

This brings us to Saturday night, WHICH WAS MY FAVOURITE.

I have adored Denise Donlon since she first appeared on my television and in my living room hosting The New Music, and I have always been fascinated by her incredible career, so I was over the moon to learn that she would be coming to gritLIT. Her chat with Annette Hamm did NOT disappoint, and she was as charming, funny, and wonderful as I’d always known she’d be. Denise also joined us in the hospitality room Saturday night, so now I can say I’ve had drinks with her – bucket list, check. Denise came back on Sunday for a highly emotional panel that featured Chris Pannell (Love Despite the Ache) and Teva Harrison (In Between Days), and she wowed the audience – and me – yet again. I purchased Denise’s book and she signed it for me, and as she was leaving she hugged me and thanked me for bringing her to gritLIT. And then I pretty much floated down to Mills Hardware for our final gritLIT 2017 event.

There is so much more to say – about the festival, about the incredible authors who joined us, about the wonderful committee who put it all together – but I will stop here. If you were there, thank you for being part of the festival. If you weren’t, I hope we’ll see you next year.

We have our wrap-up meeting next week, then our first planning meeting for the 2018 festival in a month or so. But first? I am just going to nurse this love hangover for as long as it takes.