Monthly Archives: January 2015

A 10-page story…

I’m doing this short story writing challenge with Emma, and reblogging her post about it – I couldn’t agree more with the surprising math of short versus long. Everything else I’m working on is in the hundreds of pages, so this is a refreshing change of page/pace. And yet… it requires quite a different set of tools. We’ll see if I can find that toolbox.

Emma L. R. Hogg

Last week I decided that I would write a short story and enter it into the Toronto Star’s Short Story Contest.  It seemed logical to me that since I’ve written a number of novels that surely I could whip up a 10-page short story in no time at all.

Not true.

What I quickly realized is that a short story isn’t 10 pages of a 200+ page story.  A short story is 10 pages of a 10 page story.

While some writers may shy away from the daunting number of pages in a typical novel, I learned that, in my case, it is just as frightening to fathom a complete story – with a beginning, a middle, and an end – in a limited number of pages. It’s like an artist who paints on a 10-foot square canvas and then decides to try painting on a 10-inch square canvas…

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Book Blog – Literary Intentions – A Book A Week in 2015 & You?

How many books are you planning to read this year? Will you log and record them like notches on your literary belt before the details of what you’ve read slip almost entirely from your memory? Pile-of-Books-2That’s my plan for this writing sabbatical year.

As much as I am always reading something, I love the fact that this A Book A Week (52 minimum) in 2015 challenge has me not only reading with more of a sense of deadline and purpose, but I’m also making notes of things that stood out, instead of just turning down the bottom corner of a page on a memorable passage that I will almost certainly never go back to. That’s kind of symbolic of how much of what I read I forget, and the scattered attention span and memory deficit of our internet heavy lives. I’ve always read several books a month, but to even remember their titles a few months later is a challenge in itself. I’m usually reading 3 or 4 books at the same time, and this challenge is helping me focus a little more closely on one (ok, two) at a time.

I’m also more self-conscious of the narrative nutrition (or lack thereof) of a given selection, given the writerly company I’m in. (Thanks to Amy Stuart for quantifying a reading challenge for the year!) For example, I just read a technical book on writing for the web – that I will definitely not be including in my 52 books for 2015, no matter how much it looks and smells like a book, and no matter how helpful it might have been in explaining some concepts to me. On that note, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of my guilty pleasure (ie – YA) selections don’t make it onto my official list, either – though those reads will probably push me well over the book-a-week mark to 52 on that less official tally 🙂

My current reading: (Books 2 and 3 on the list) The Writer’s Notebook II – Craft Essays from Tin House, and The Divinity Gene by Matthew Trafford, Short Stories of amazing inventiveness.

You can read my blog post on Book 1 – The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill here:  https://tenalaing.com/2015/01/09/book-blog-the-girl-who-was-saturday-night-by-heather-oneill-45-book-reading-challenge/

You can read about my Literary Intentions for 2015 – (My Writing Sabbatical Year) here: https://tenalaing.com/2015/01/01/writing-sabbatical-a-midpoint-check-in/


Book Blog – The Girl Who Was Saturday Night by Heather O’Neill – 45 Book Reading Challenge

Just finished The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, by Heather O’Neill. Without revealing too much, I hope: I expected to like it, and really did. I responded rather viscerally to the twinship – having a twin of my own. It was interesting to sThe Girl Who Was Saturday Nightee that fierce love and competitiveness played out from the perspective of fraternal boy-girl twins who’ve also known each other since “we didn’t have brains? When we were just heartbeats and thumbs?”

I found myself reading O’Neill’s English words with a French cadence, and feeling nostagia for a time in Quebec that I experienced first hand – though I lived in Quebec City and only visited Montreal. The idea of Separation and the looming Referendum were never far from conversations in the early nineties. Loved Nouschka’s voice, and although I found myself frustrated with some of her choices, often it felt like she had none… For someone who went to 13 different schools, it’s hard to imagine a girl who spends virtually her entire life on the island of Montreal. Despite the limitations (largely the men) in her life, Nouschka keeps pushing forward, creating opportunities for herself, while still loving the ones who stand in her way or hold her back. She even shows generosity toward her narcissistic father: “How lovely to be in a production of your life instead of being in your life itself.”

Finally, the imagery is so strong – as if Nouschka turns over every stone and has you crawl under it with her to see what’s underneath. I was squirming at points, imagining the smell of apartments filled with feral cats and crapped pants. Makes me want to reread Lullabies for Little Criminals.


Writing Sabbatical – A midpoint check in

Ok, clearly my writing sabbatical – which began in June 2014 and extends to September 2015 – has not involved any blogging. This blog has lain fallow long enough now that I’ve probably forgotten how to eveBook Mugn make a post. Still, here it is January 1, 2015, an inspiring and significant year in my little writing life, and so I’m going to carve out a few literary intentions for 2015 and post them here for good measure. I’m even attaching numbers to the words where I can, to make them measurable.

~ Read 45 books and keep a record of not only the books read but some impressions of my reading.

~ Meet my writing partners as often as possible to write and commune. Weekly if possible.

~ Write a minimum of 2 hours or 1250 words per day, 5 days a week on new manuscript.

~ Write at least one short story – for submission to contest (2500 words max)

~ Blog about the standout writing experiences this sabbatical year has held: Banff Centre, Writers at Woody Point, Muskoka Novel Marathon – manuscript contest win, Writers League of Texas events, Toronto Writing Group

~ Blog weekly, at a minimum.

~ Spend at least 10 hours per week editing completed manuscript.

~ Continue to swim 5 times a week – (it’s proven to be an incredibly rich story creating opportunity and, of course, it’s good for me)

~ Stop for a moment every day to appreciate the gift of this time, this year, this life.

Happy New Year! Bonne Annee!