Category Archives: Writing

Who Am I? Why Am I Here? (for Blogging U 101 – not existential crisis!)

I’m a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes. And I’m a twin from Newfoundland who has lived in a lowriter cardt of different places.

Toronto, Tokyo, Texas, and Newfoundland… to name just a few.

I’m an alum of The Banff Centre, The Humber School for Writers, The Bard Institute for Writing and Thinking, and The Damarsicotta Lake Writers Conference, all workshops where I was privileged to work with the finest of mentors. I’m a member of The Toronto Writers’ Centre and The Writers’ League of Texas.

This year I am on a Writing/Reading/Swimming Sabbatical.  Diving into it all, face and eyes, as we say in Newfoundland.

Some sabbatical highlights: Getting to read from my manuscript in progress at the Writers At Woody Point Festival in Newfoundland last August as well as participating in, and winning, The Muskoka Novel Marathon manuscript contest in July.

I’m currently writing and editing something in the neighbourhood of 3 novel manuscripts and one short story. Let’s see how this goes…

Writerly Outreach

In an effort to stay focused on the writing drive generated this summer and push forward, despite it being September, and June such a long way away, I have been reaching out and connecting with other writers and friends from the Humber School for Writers 2012.

It’s hard to believe that it took place more than two months ago – and the diverse reports back seem at odds with the experience of my own small group. Most of us found the period afterwards to be pretty prolific and the writing came flowing out. In my case, pages got edited/revised. Others found themselves blocked and unable to write.

I also managed to start writing some brief vignettes for a new project, so I met my vow of at least beginning to write something new, before summer’s end, even while I am still mired in revisions for the big novel manuscript.

Positive Writing News for Me:

I met one writer friend to catch up over a great dinner, and she took a nice chunk of my novel to read and give feedback on. Her feedback was wonderfully encouraging and specifically helpful in suggestions.

I hosted two other writer friends who will form a more official writing group with me, and we will meet regularly to exchange and workshop sections of our novel manuscripts. I like them and admire their writing, so it seems like a perfect fit.

I participated in a reading for writers, hosted by another alum of the Humber School, where everyone in attendance was invited to read some of their own writing. I regretted not being able to stay for the whole event, but it was an excellent idea, and I hope these continue throughout the year.

In other news, I’m working on another scene/index card revision. We’ll see if that yields any sizeable segments for slashing.

Weeding Through the Weeds – Dirt in the Mouth

My initial alarm at homecoming to the sight of weeds approaching my waist (and sadly this is not a first for me) has abated as I contemplate the parallels between my current editing efforts – and in every respect – I still have plenty of weeding to do. This is what happens when you are:
A) Away all summer &
B) Not a gardener.

These are before pictures of the ‘garden’. I haven’t the heart to add ‘during’ pics, as it’s a work of considerable magnitude! Despite hiring an able-bodied young one from Rent-a-Son, diving in myself (getting a few clod-fulls of dirt in the mouth for my efforts), and my husband’s many hours at it, the weeding of the garden is far from finished. Perhaps I’ll put the during and after photos up when all’s done.

It might be harder to photographically document my weeding work on the editing front, but I will endeavor to do that too. The current approach – going from a written copy down to more cue cards, will, I hope, help me to cut more content on a larger scale.

The original manuscript was 507 pages. It went down to 474, and is now in the 440’s range. Still more weeding required. Hopefully all that pulling won’t leave too much more dirt in the mouth.

Timely Reckoning

I have big plans of writing in detail about the 3 Incredible Writing Conferences/Workshops/Retreats I attended this summer, but right now, it seems appropriate to show you what I was just served…very fitting, considering I was editing p. 430 of 474, and I’ve been at this manuscript since Time Immemorial.

Thanks, Becks Beer for acknowledging the many hours this labour of love has taken and will continue to take! (Becks has a limited edition of ‘artistic’ labels – this one finding me just now was fortuitous happenstance!)

My Desk at Damariscotta Lake Writers Conference – at the Kennedy Learning Center in Maine

This is my writing surface for the week. A polished board room table that could sit 16 – all to myself! Take a closer look at the view below.

This is my view for the week. Can hardly believe my luck. It’s turning into a wonderful week – great company among smart interesting people and lots of solo time to focus on my own writing. A lake to dive into any time the brain cells start to stagnate and good food to boot.

It’s a pleasure to be a founding attendee! Ralph Sneeden and John Casteen have done a great job of getting this retreat up and running.

From Wordsmithing to Number Crunching – Whatever Happened to Whatever??

My ‘Whatever Clock‘ is a prized possession – the gift of a former mentee, who gave it to me just as I was embarking on a year off in September 2008, an unpaid sabbatical, where I would have to answer to no clock for 12 glorious months. It is still mounted in Texas, where I spent a large part of that year off, and now spend a chunk of every summer with my husband – and only set an alarm clock if I have to catch a flight. (for example, tomorrow I have a 5:38 a.m. flight to Portland, Maine, where I will be attending the Damariscotta Lake Writers Conference in its inaugural year – so, yes, I will definitely be needing the alarm for that, along with a 7:00 p.m. bedtime)

During that year off, I ended up writing two book length manuscripts, one clocking in at about 200 pages and the other a whopping 500. Clearly, words were flowing. I read at least two books a week during that time, on top of the writing, and it was all about the love of language, the storytelling, getting it all down, with just those 26 letters of the alphabet, which according to Tim O’Brien (who was a mentor at The Humber School for Writers – can’t believe it was just a few weeks ago), that’s all we’ve got, so we better get them write – oops – right.

I updated the appearance of my Blog, which was starting to feel a bit like shag carpeting, or feathered Farah hair compared to other people’s. I kept the blog title as Moving Meditations. Still seems apt, since I am always going somewhere – never staying in one place. Often those transitions between places provide the time to consider things. When I come to Texas now, it’s for shorter stints. I know the school year is waiting, growing impatient, and will soon take over my time, but I am always hoping to slip back into that unplugged ‘Whatever Clock’ mode, where the words take over. It’s harder now, because instead of flying through early drafts, I’m deep in revising/editing territory. Frankly, it’s less fun – and returning to the places I inhabited during that blissful year of full-time writing has, instead of immersing me back in the land of letters, gotten me somehow stuck in and worrying about the world of numbers, and wondering whatever happened to ‘whatever’?

Here are just some of the numbers that are sneaking in and wrestling far too much brainpower from my typically wordwise consciousness:

# How time on the clock is ticking by at an alarming rate
# How many days/hours/minutes/seconds of summer vacation are left?
# How many pages can I edit in one day?
# How many words can I cut from each page?
# How many pages can I cut in total and still tell the story?
# How many laps/lengths can I swim? (70 for a mile a few times this week)
# How many times can I make a wish because I catch the digital pool clock exactly as the numbers all line up?
(1:11, 2:22, 3:33, 4:44, 5:55, 11:11, 22:22, 33:33, 44:44, 55:55)
# How many reps/lbs can I lift on the barbells?
# How many minutes on the treadmill, at what speed, and at what incline?
# Is that really the size of my bridesmaid’s dress?
# How many inches will it need to be taken in?
# How many grey hairs are there now? Ok, at least I can still count them.
# When will the temperature drop below 100 degrees Fahrenheit so I can breathe?
# How many bugs will I have to encounter in Texas?
# How humongous will said bugs be?
# What is the IQ of supernatural sized bugs?
# How many hours of sleep am I losing to said gigantic bugs?
# How many American dollars are there in my wallet?
# How much have I racked up on my credit cards on writing retreats, books, gym, etc.?
# Do I have the numbers of my passport, bank, frequent flyer, etc. cards?
# How far from this city to the next one?
# How many more airplanes, and how many more minutes up in the air?

This last concern leads me spend most flights quietly chanting in a mantra-ish fashion a few lovely and lyrical quotes that seem tailor-made:
“Men weren’t meant to ride with clouds between their knees”
Five for Fighting ‘Superman’
“I’m up on the airplane, making a deal with God, inspired by gravity”
Indigo Girls ‘Airplane’
“What seems dangerous often is not – black snakes, for example, or clear-air turbulence”
Amy Hempel ‘In the Cemetery where Al Jolson is Buried’

Ok, by recording all these number concerns, it is my hope to push them out of the forefront and get back into the story, the world of words. Achieve flow. Leave the number crunching for a future me to worry about. Wish I had a quote for that.

Ok, So It’s Been Awhile…

Yes, when I say awhile, I’m talking about two years. Since I was just able to take the time to reread through my entire blog history, I can find no earthly reason not to find the time to post more often. I can account for two ‘blog blockers’ that affected me in 2010: 1) Two important deaths in the family 2) Grappling with what’s reasonable/advisable to share online – as someone who had just returned to work after a year of writing full time, I honestly wondered whether it wasn’t better to just sign off entirely. Time has helped me with both of those ‘blog blockers’ and I’m hoping to return to the habit of somewhat regularly posting. More to come…

My Netbook/Knitbook Cover

In all it’s handknit glory. Try as I might, I could not find a store-bought cover in the right miniature size for this teensy computer. So now I’ve created the well matched combination of my very own knitting cradling my writing machine in cushioned safety.

I often think of my novel-in-progress as I do my knitting works-in-progress: there are holes with the potential for unraveling the whole. Those are the ones I’ve got to find and stop up. Then there are the stitches that hold everything together. Not necessarily the noticeable ones, but the ones with all the strength and structure weighing on their shoulders. Those are the ones I want to test – pull at and see if they hold fast and stay true.

Re-entering Writing on a Friday Night

How do you re-enter your writing? Something so organic, after a pause? This question was posed to me during the Writer’s Retreat at Bard College’s Institute for Writing and Thinking. It was the third time I attended, and the instructor this time was Celia Bland. It was an excellent question for someone who has over the years worked in frenzied fits and starts, only to break off for long stretches and then return, ready, but unsure how to reconnect to the writing again.

The answer it seems, is that it’s much better to never leave off in the first place. I learned that this past year, when I had all the leisure in the world to write non-stop and yet would sometimes find days had gone by where I had planned and written around, but never written into my piece again.

So, if never stopping isn’t an option (though it’s always on my goal list to consider for the future) now that I’m back to working full time, I’m finding it best to slip in sideways, where the work is least expecting me. Sometimes questioning precious parts of it in writing, (we called it text explosion at Bard) and sometimes letting it be and getting on with what comes next. I’m even trying some longhand, just to mix things up. That visceral mind to hand to mechanical pencil to page connection made at Bard is hard to keep up with in real life, but sometimes it’s just the fit.

Tonight, I’m just glad I managed to write 6 pages on a Friday night, when I haven’t written in almost a week, and before that even longer. I’m getting back to me.