one writer’s year

We’re in that odd place between Christmas and New Years. My birthday lurks in here somewhere, ready to pounce and pronounce me some unholy number. It’s always been a weird time of year for me. When January arrives I breathe a sigh of relief and the tight bundle of anxiety I’ve been wrapped in releases me into a fresh, exciting, new beginning. A return to myself.

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Almost there.

In the meantime, I’ve signed up for Storystorm in January, which I’m excited about. I had a few breakthroughs on the novel I’m longing to write but whose idea isn’t quite cooked yet. Discovering the 12 Days of Christmas for Writers has helped me put my writing year into perspective. I highly recommend it. Due to my December-holiday related depression, I tend to forget the good stuff that happened in 2018. The assignments in the 12 Days brought it all back. Thanks for that!

Here’s what happened:

  • Dragon Crossing won first place in the WFNB’s Fog Lit Books “For Young People” prize. I got to read it to a roomful of writers and it was an amazing experience! After receiving the judge’s advice to turn it into a gothic middle grade novel, Dragon Crossing has been put aside until I figure out if I should flesh it out into said novel or if the magic lies somewhere in the short story form.
  • Toby’s Alicorn Adventure came out in Cricket and it was thrilling to see my story fully illustrated on the page.
  • After seeing a beloved publisher planned to accept unsolicited manuscripts, I pulled out a book idea I’d been plotting and wrote, edited, received critique, and edited again in a few months to make the deadline. What got me was how much fun I had getting Dreamers, Inc. together in such a short period of time. The creative rush had me thrilled to my fingertips. High five to my critique partners who were willing to work with my tight deadline, too. #heroes
  • After two years of revisions I finally got my story The Night Janitor where I wanted it. All the hard work paid off when it found a home in an amazing anthology (TBA) with a Table of Contents that makes my jaw drop. Stay tuned for more details in early 2019.
  • I bid on, and won, a charity auction for a professional critique from the award-winning editors of Uncanny. The story I submitted is one I’m excited about and I hope their critique helps me to take it the next level (in less than two years this time). I’ll share more on this when I receive the critique and process the experience.

So go away, December brain-shadows. 2018 was awesome. Sure, disappointment, discouragement, and regret held space as well, but… meh. They’ve taken up enough of my energy already.

What surprises did 2018 hold for you? Did you have any creative breakthroughs?

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IWSG: book or film?

Today’s post is a part of a monthly blog hop called the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where writers can share concerns and bolster each other. You can see the participating blogs here. This is my first IWSG post. Planet Pailly’s IWSG posts about his muse inspired me to sign up and join the conversation.

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I’ve been wrestling with the concept of why some stories should be written rather than filmed. Why it is we often hear “the book is always better.” Its easy to say, ‘I prefer to read, it’s a different activity than watching, I get to use my imagination’ and dismiss the argument as irrelevant, but I think writers have a vested interested to understand what books can do that films cannot. We should take advantage of those aspects, shouldn’t we?

According to a 2015 article by Carol Test, the reason the written word is unique is because of the ‘interiority’ of the book or short story. When we’re reading, we are able to follow the story directly from the character’s, or narrator’s, mind. We open a book, put on their perspectives like a coat, and watch the world from their eyes.

But consider movies like 2011’s Limitless, where the character’s interiority anchors the story.  My partner watched Limitless over the weekend, bringing it to mind quickly, but a slew of others follow. Fight Club. Six Feet Under. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Most film makers chose not to use interiority as a device, but the fact remains that they can, and they do.

Words can be chosen to manipulate a reader into a certain frame of mind or expectation, but a movie score can do the same.

Where is the space where books remain unique?

I’m pulled back into those earliest of writing lessons, teachers rapping on and on about using all five of the senses. Movies, I realize, can only use two senses: sight and sound. Touch, taste, and smell are a void. Movies smell like popcorn, the touch of buttery fingers, and the acrid taste of buttersalt. They can show you the incense burning in a medieval church, but it takes the written word to fill your senses with musky, perfumed smoke thick enough to hide the smell of the congregation’s unwashed bodies. To remind you of how its half-forgotten scent clings to your woolen tunic and your hair as you walk home.

Can it be as simple as these three missing senses? I don’t know. My gut says there’s more, much more, and to keep hunting. Books hold space in our lives. There’s poetry and rhythm and so many things to consider, to experiment with.

That said, I’ll be extra conscious of writing touch, taste, and smell into my work this week. What do you think? What else can books do that films cannot?

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a crumble of castle

There’s a liminal nature to abandoned or neglected buildings which attracts me. The place in these photos is an old gypsum silo situated at the back of the village of Hillsborough, NB. The dock where ships laden with gypsum moved up the Petitcodiac River into the Bay of Fundy is gone but for bundles of wood emerging from the shifting mud.

White gypsum pebbles, a form of selenite, dot the earth. Some make their way into my pockets.

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The concrete silo is the closest thing to a castle you’ll find in these parts.

The graffiti is a beautiful, hidden expression by individuals trying to exist as liminal as the structure itself. Most of us are that person, desperate to leave a mark, any mark, at some point in our lives.

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There are beautiful graffiti artists who leave a memorable image, knowing it will not last. It is art meant to be destroyed to make way for more art. I struggle with this metaphor as a creative person. I dream of a story that echoes through generations and lasts forever. This is that dream’s opposite and I cannot look away.

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There are other graffitists, too, caught unprepared with a can of spray paint and a sudden desperation. They scrawl a curse word when they panic in the moment, unable to think of anything clever and too uncertain to make something beautiful. These curses remind me of a primal scream. Of something trapped. I imagine this feeling repeating itself in a future lunch room, a coworker’s unexpected get well soon card laid before them, their mind blank and unable to think of anything more clever than the card already says. They don’t swear this time. They sign their name instead. Maybe they’ll remember the old castle tower in the moment, maybe they won’t.

The tower doesn’t care. It watches the tide go up and down on the river and dreams of pretty white stone.