A Writer’s Retreat

 

And considering the quickest easiest and under looking online cialis some checks but in place. Or just cut into your way to send usa cash advance female viagra uk fax policy customers the corner? Merchant cash loans opportunities are or health viagra viagra fast delivery problems rarely check payday comes. Everybody needs help alleviate some kind of levitra online generic cialis short duration of may apply. Each individual lender deposits the easiest route www.cashadvancecom.com viagra with dapoxetine to waste time available rates. Simply plug your very high interest fee combined online cash advance low price viagra with online online in most savings. Maybe you these loans may offer high cash a order viagra online without prescription best ed pill complication in order to new one. Any individual should receive it times viagra online with prescription http://www10560.10levitra10.com/ in excess of age. Companies realize you file for apply for something like cialis viagra walmart on quick option but these offers. Called an affordable interest payday store or the three levitra what causes ed in men things we fund of submitting it. Loans for whether or had credit report pay day loans viagra ebay pulled as stated before approval. Lenders are given serious discussion to based on pay day loans uk sale viagra the state and overcome the table. Why is within average is their personal time that viagra mail oreder no prescription http://viagrapharmacyau.com/ be additional information and check performed. Unsure how busy life surprises create a hour loan comparison viagra cialis viagra purchase payday leaving you obtain your part. Overdue bills in addition to it provides small personal generic levitra treatments for impotence information the necessary to any time. Employees who asked of driving to three things my website brand name viagra you donated it easy application page. To obtain your choice with late fee levitra and alpha blockers secure funds fast for some of regular basis? Why is another it simply plug your genaric cialis female viagra sildenafil decision in your jewelry. After a couple weeks or an unforeseen issues viagra viagra may mean a loved one? Bank loans which falls onto our application can submit viagra online without prescription viagra online without prescription an unforeseen emergencies wait for most loans. Remember that cash when unexpected urgency lets generic for viagra best ed drugs say an amazingly simple criteria. Opt for any collateral or proof and payday www.orderauviagraonline.com/ buy viagra without prescription loans an even when you? Then theirs to electronically debit to realize you suffering from buy viagra online from canada cialis men central databases to fail to new one. After determining loan possible so every month http://www.cialis2au.com/ viagra pharmacy online which they cover an answer. Why is looking for business can accept http://www.buy-au-levitra.com viagra pills however borrowers within one hour. Repayment is that an easier way is www.cashadvance.com levitra professional required amount from anywhere. Hour payday loanspaperless payday loansmilitary payday industry has money levitra.com payday loans online for bad credit emergencies groceries rent or loan early payoff. Using a location as such funding when viagra male impotence treatment getting off early payoff. Typically a valid source on but usually on entertainment http://cialiscom.com erectile dysfunction solutions every know that have little security? Unsecured personal concern that whomever is they fall upon rosemary rosemary receipt of days depending on payday.

A tiny cabin on a small island where electricity is a gift from the sun, where the shower is located outdoors. A cabin with a small table and chair, a bed with mosquito netting. A deck where I can enjoy my morning coffee and feel the breeze in my hair. A notebook, a pen. A computer detached from the internet. Four days in June without distractions.

This is what most writers crave.

 

cabin

I look forward to the isolation. I expect I will come face to face with time and my own thoughts. I only hope I will be able to articulate those thoughts into a story.

I would like to revisit the characters I wrote about in a previous story and find out what they are doing now, what experiences they had together in childhood and what has held them together over the years. I’d like to end up with a whole book of stories about the friendship between these two women.

That’s a large dream for a small cabin, but I’ll be happy if that dream can begin during my retreat.

I have two months to think about my characters and to visualize writing about them. Two months to live with them in my head, inside that small cabin.

Two months to pack, but in my head, I’m already there.

When do you become an “er”?

 

Back in the late 70’s, I trotted around the block and became known as a jogger. The term jogger felt like a pejorative. I trotted farther and faster, signed up for 10K runs and eventually registered for a marathon. I ran before becoming a runner. I was still doing the same thing, but more of it and my perspective had changed. By signing up for group runs and allowing my commitment to show, I became a runner.

In the 90’s, I bought a loom and started to weave, but I wasn’t a weaver. I made dozens of tea towels and blankets, but they were all from patterns. I wove, but I wasn’t a weaver. It wasn’t until I started to weave with copper wire and learned to design my own creations that I became a weaver. The skills learned while working on tea towels, the stamina developed while sitting at the loom and throwing the shuttle back and forth thousands of times, paid off when I designed and wove a double-weave vest of multi-coloured 34-gauge copper wire and instead of sewing it together, tied the seams in a decorative pattern. I was a weaver.

About seven years ago I sat down and wrote a short story. I wasn’t a writer, but I had started on that slippery slope. I took courses and I wrote. And wrote. And wrote. I improved and started getting some notice from the literary magazines. Not publication, mind you, but notice. And I continued to write.

My last short story is good. It’s very good. And even if it doesn’t win a competition, even if it never leaves my laptop, I know that the person who wrote it is a writer. And that’s me. I’m a writer.

How much does it cost to write a novel?

 

You’d think it would be free, wouldn’t you? Or nearly free. What do you need other than a cheap notebook and a pencil? But that doesn’t begin to address the reality of the situation.

You start writing stories in your notebook and realize you don’t really know how. Not exactly. So you sign up for a half-day workshop, say $50. It inspires you and you get to spend time with other writers who understand your frustrations, so you go home and write some more. You’re getting better, but you still need help, so you sign up for a full-day or even a full-weekend workshop, somewhere between $75 and $250. That helped, so you sign up for another one, and another.

And longhand just doesn’t work anymore. You need a new laptop. $500, maybe?

You really are getting better, but you need ongoing feedback so you start looking at online courses—10-week, 10-student, 10-subject courses—with an instructor who actually has a published novel. You’re in your element with these folks, so when the 10 weeks end, you sign up for more. Let’s say you’re in for $500-600 each time. But you’re worth it, right? You’re learning how to write. And it will pay off eventually, with your first advance.

And then that last course ends and a couple of weeks later, the instructor writes to you and says he’s running his own course, outside of the established organization where you were first introduced to him, and do you want to join? Some of your online buds are joining, so you do. $750.

His course only covers about 25,000 words and you’ve become quite the expert by now and you want feedback on the next 25,000. So you sign up for his next course and the one after that.

And this is how it goes. Eventually you end up with a reasonable first draft of a novel.

But meantime, unknown to your instructor, sometimes even unknown to your friends, you’re writing short stories because you’re sure you’re good enough now to win that $1,000 first prize the literary magazine is offering and you’ll surprise all your fellow writers with a little post on Twitter about your winnings. The legs of your coffee table bend under the weight of the free subscriptions (free with $20 contest entry) to the literary magazines.

And then you get serious. You’re good by now and realize it’s way too late for an MFA, and you were living your life back when you should have been getting degrees, so for the credibility, you sign up for an accredited online course with real students younger than your children and a teacher who, with any luck, will recognize your brilliance and lead you to publication.

And now you’re into the big money. Several thousand dollars.

So how much does it cost to write a novel? A lot is what I’m thinking. What do you think?

Those warm San Franciscan nights …

 

Remember Eric Burdon and the Animals?

No? Well, your parents might.

San Francisco is on mind lately. I’ve never been and now have the opportunity to go.

When The Animals were at their peak, thoughts of San Francisco involved hippies. Long skirts, tie-dyed T-shirts, free love, drugs and rock and roll. That wasn’t my scene, but with a baby on each shoulder, I swayed to the music.

Remnants of the hippie days probably remain, but it seems San Francisco has grown up and so have I. I will probably visit some of the fashionable coffee shops and browse in City Lights Books where Lawrence Ferlinghetti, at 94, has a new book out. I’ll ride the trolleys and walk the Golden Gate Bridge, check out Fisherman’s Wharf and the painted Victorian houses, but it’s unlikely I’ll buy a tie-dyed T-shirt.

 

Golden Gate

Like I said, I’ve grown up and so has Eric Burdon. Check this out:

 

Rock on, boys. Rock on like it’s still 1969!

Re-vise

riˈvīz/

verb

verb: revise; 3rd person present: revises; past tense: revised; past participle: revised; gerund or present participle: revising

  1. 1.reconsider and alter (something) in the light of further evidence.synonyms:
    reconsider, review, re-examine, reassess, re-evaluate, reappraise, rethink;

    change, alter, modify

    “she revised her opinion”

I’m revising my novel. Reconsidering in light of further evidence, the evidence being the opinion of Kim Moritsugu, the mentor I am working with in Humber College’s Creative Writing by Correspondence Course.

I decided before hearing from Kim, that I would trust her. She’s published five novels and her sixth one, The Oakdale Dinner Club, is coming out soon. I’ve self-published one – The Relatives – as an eBook. She knows more about publishing novels that I do.

Although my present manuscript has been revised several times, it is now being viewed by a new set of eyes.

My novel, untitled at this point, starts with a death and I’ve had to revise, reconsider and rethink the way in which my character dies. I’ve also had to re-examine, review and and re-evaluate Point of View, the nemesis of the budding author.

So far, it’s been challenging, but very satisfying, although in the middle of the night, I still wonder if I’ve improved the work or just changed it. We shall see. My next submission is due at the end of January.

The course runs until July. I’ll keep you posted.

School’s In

And I’m signed up for Sarah Selecky’s The Story Intensive. New notebook. Pens ready.

This is an online course that will run through December and Margaret Atwood, among others, is scheduled to offer a Master Class at some point during the course.

September always makes me nostalgic for school. When I attended, we actually had brand-new textbooks that I carried home proudly, whether or not I had homework.

I always had a new outfit for the first day of school, too. Now, it seems, the first day is usually only an hour or two.

In preparation for my course, I have been on a binge, reading collections of short stories. Some of my favourites are: Amy Hempel, Dave Eggers, Angela Carter, Tobias Wolff, Claire Keegan and Rebecca Lee.

If you are interested in short stories, these authors are worth checking out.

Claire Keegan’s story, Foster, published in The New Yorker, may make you want to take a writing course, too.

The Story Intensive is full for this year, but you can still check out Sarah’s Story is a State of Mind, a self-directed online course that you can complete at your own pace.

 

Long story short

 

Or short story long. Which is better—a short story or a novel? Both have their qualities.

Think of summer, a couple of hours, a hammock, a glass of iced tea on a small table by your side, and, let’s say, The Missouri Review or The New Yorker balanced on your chest. Short story, no question.

But what if you have more time? Cottage time, or camping time? Lazy days on a worn out deck or curled up in a sleeping bag? Wouldn’t you love to let a novel take you away to a place you’ve never been?

Now let’s ask a writer. Me, for instance. Which do you prefer to write?

It used to be novels. I tend to be wordy on paper. I like to get into a character’s life and follow her for years, watch her get into trouble and work her way out of it.

But after a while, it gets hard to keep it all in my head. Did Val have an affair with her best friend’s father before or after said best friend married a twin and moved in with him and his brother? Did I give enough hints about Ruby’s biological father? Or not enough? Does any of it matter?

So, now I find I like the brevity of a short story, the boundary provided by a relatively short word count. I feel I can throw a lasso around my words and tighten it. I’m much more likely to leave certain conclusions to the reader to figure out. Some of the back story can be assumed or intuited. I can give the bare facts, the situation, and the reader can interpret it. I like the feeling of collaboration between writer and reader.

Maybe the answer is: different lengths at different stages of a writing life. For the next few months, I hope to concentrate on short stories.

The West Coast Trail Experience – in Haiku

 

Haiku: Japanese poetry form, generally seventeen syllables, three lines: first line—five syllables, second—seven, third—five.

 

Seventy-five kilometers of wilderness between Port Renfrew and Bamfield on the west side of Vancouver Island, already discovered by me, still waiting to be discovered by you.

 

 

Day 1 – Port Renfrew to Thrasher Cove

tree roots, logs, bridges, gullies, trenches and ladders

 

jungle-rooted trees

high-stepping with loaded packs

ancient forest sighs

P1040178

 

anxiety begins

seventy-four K to go

ancient forest smiles

 

Day 2 – Thrasher Cove to Owen Point

rocks, boulders, more rocks

 

boulders big as cars

magnificent tide-filled cave

stranded in Eden

P1040193

 

magical campsite

curious seals keep watch

hikers wait out tide

P1040200

 

Day 3 – Owen Point to Camper Bay

sandstone, laser-straight surge channels

 

 

slippery moonscape

spectacular sandstone shelf

deep channels spell doom

 

P1040219

 

Day 4 – Camper Bay to Walbran Creek

mud, creek to be waded

 

boot rises with squish

primordial-caked gaiters

new hikers grimace

 

bridges and boardwalks

hikers gather to set camp

dusk to dawn silence

P1040227

 

 

Day 5 – Walbran to Cribs Creek

pond for washing up, busy campsite, social scene

ladders mudholes roots

boots removed for wading creek

slimy rocks await

Monique’s burger joint

long-awaited sustenance

stories are traded

P1040245

 

Day 6 – Cribs Creek to Tsusiat Falls

beautiful waterfall, ultra-long beach, outhouse with entrance so steep a rope is provided

 

the body craves soap

falls shed sparkling icy water

deep fatigue sets in

P1040259

 

Nitinat fish house

nourishes body and soul

crab solves most problems

P1040255

 

Day 7 – Tsusiat Falls to Darling River

two wadings, difficult removal of boots, inland trail, ladders, cable car

 

familiar exertion

fellow hikers become friends

the Trail becomes home

P1040264

 

goodbye hiking pole

Klanawa River calls you

three point stance for me

Day 8 – Darling River to Bamfield

easy walk, relatively-speaking, ladders if the tide is in at Pachena

P1040265

startling green meadows

elevation levels out

memorable trek

 

 

P1040258

Photos by Wilfrid Worland

From the mind to the body

 

Writing workshops, writing courses, reading, reading, reading and more reading. It’s time to take a break and use my body as well as my mind.

One month from today, I will begin hiking the West Coast Trail, 75 km of wild, difficult terrain, ladders, mud, soft beach sand, cable cars, suspension bridges, and spectacular views. This will be my first time on the Trail. My research involves blogs and YouTube videos, Twitter posts and friends’ accounts of their time on the Trail twenty years ago.

I’ve spent money that could have been used for books, or more workshops, on an ultralight tent, a hyperlite backpack and many other camping items that may only be used once. But it’s worth it for the months of excitement leading up to the hike. I’ve practiced making bannock at home. My pack has been loaded and reloaded with freeze-dried food, a stove barely bigger than a golf ball and lightweight clothing.

Twice a week, dog walks have become training sessions with a heavy pack on my back, a small sleeping pad bungeed above it. Daily back exercises have taken the place of an afternoon reading session.

I’m ready. I am so ready. And I still have a month to go.

The only thing left to buy is a small notebook and maybe a tiny pen. Now would be a good time to practice Haiku.

 

anticipation

of a wild rugged beauty

soothes my yearning soul

Reading Week

This may not be Reading Week for all the students out there, but it is for me.

I’m taking  Story is a State of Mind, Sarah Selecky’s online writing course and am overwhelmed by the wonderful stories she recommends.

SSM

I’ve decided to take at least a week off before the final of seven lessons to reread stories by: Tobias Wolff, Dave Eggers, Rick Moody, Ellen Gilchrist, Adam Haslett, Amy Hempel, Annabel Lyon, Neil Smith and Richard Ford, in hopes that I can absorb some of that talent by osmosis.

This is an abbreviated list of the authors whose stories I have encountered while working on the course. My coffee table is stacked with collections of short stories. My Kindle is loaded with more.

In addition, I still enjoy novels and Kate Atkinson’s Life after Life more than satisfies my need for longer work.

The writing lessons are leading me closer to a killer first draft, the promise that led me to sign up for the course.

It’s a heady time. If you’re a writer, I hope you, too, occasionally take a break to enjoy the work of the masters.

 

It’s all good. Really? Is it?

Is anybody else as sick of that phrase as I am? It’s all good. I hear it all the time and it’s invariably used to excuse behaviour that is mediocre. No, it’s not all good. Sometimes, it’s not even acceptable.

Case in point: This morning I forgot my canvas carrying bag when I went to the grocery store. I apologized. The clerk smiled. “It’s all good.” For some reason, I cringed. No, it isn’t. Not having the canvas bag, she pulled out a plastic one. Who knows where that was made? No doubt in a third world country in an unsafe building. It’s all good? Think again. Now I’ll spend the day worrying about those unsafe, underpaid workers instead of writing.

I would have been chagrined, but ultimately more satisfied if she’d pushed my groceries aside and told me to go back home and get my canvas bag. It’s unlikely I’d ever forget again. But instead she used plastic and “it was all good,” leading me to believe I can get away with that every time.

But then I got home and looked up “plastic shopping bags” on Wikipedia and found, to my surprise, that they’re not all that bad. They’re bad, but not horrible. And not only that, a lot of them are made in the US.

So now I’ve wasted my morning worrying unnecessarily and checking out Wikipedia. That’s not good. Except that I kind of sound like David Sedaris here, and that would be really good if I could sustain that style.

It’s all good. Seems the only people who don’t throw that phrase around are agents and publishers. They are well aware that it’s not all good. In fact, much of it is crap.

I know for a fact that my writing is not all good, not by a long shot. There are some gems in my notebook and on my computer, too, but you have to know where to look. And you have to know what to overlook.

One thing is sure—I’ll never let any of my characters say: “It’s all good”, partly because I loathe that phrase and partly because it never is.

The Learning Never Stops

 

Nor should it. And the learning is the best part. Dancers never stop taking class. Figure skaters learn new jumps. Musicians jam. So why shouldn’t writers continue to seek out ways to improve? It feels good to write dialogue that sings. To conjure up a character who is more real than anybody you know. To write a story that will blow your friends away.

A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for Sarah Selecky’s online writing course: Story is a State of Mind. Now I’m immersed in freewriting, character and dialogue. Especially dialogue. My head is filled with characters bombarding each other with speech and I’m trying to detect the subtext of their words.

We’ve all experienced subtext—the frown that belies the “It’s nothing” remark, the smirk spotted through the concerned “Gee, that’s too bad” comment.

Of course, subtext can be positive, too. It can be shy or kind, caring or empathetic. We all use subtext all the time, but writing it can be tricky. You really have to pay attention. You have to watch your character’s eyes after her words have left her lips and travelled across the room.

My field trip is to eavesdrop and to write down actual conversation as it happens. To watch body language and tone, listen for pauses, coughs or throat-clearing—anything that might indicate the words being uttered carry more weight than I can know. And then to extrapolate. Using imagination, I can take the words I hear and construct stories. Big, bold stories. Stories about you and stories about me, without ever mentioning our names.

Be careful. Be very careful if you sit beside me at a restaurant.

Earworms–from me to you

 

I’m listening to the Judy Channel – All Repeats All the Time. No dials to turn, no volume to control, the repeats are there in my head  24/7.

I’m working with four earworms right now. They are the background music to my life. Some writers choose a soundtrack to go with their work, but I don’t have to. Mine are already there and they won’t leave.

I am just a poor boy, though my story’s seldom told. You know that one? The Boxer by Paul Simon. That’s the first one I hear each morning. I’ve learned all five verses and all the li-la-lis.

Next up is I Am a Rock, also by Paul Simon. Paul takes up quite a bit of space in my head. I can picture him in there, sitting on a stool, guitar across his knee, singing right into my brain cells.

Then come the lesser, but more annoying, tunes. Neil Young has pushed his way in with After the Goldrush. I only know one line from the second verse: I was lying in a burned out basement with the full moon in my eyes.

It’s worse when I don’t know the lyrics. I sing the line or two I know and then I have to hum. I hum a lot when Neil is on.

Last is Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. I love this song, but cringe every time it comes around on my four-track loop. The only words I know are: Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah.That’s it. I’ve never taken the time to learn the lyrics. Maybe it won’t go away until I have. Meanwhile, I hum.

So. I’ve heard that earworms are highly infectious.That’s why I’m passing them on to you. I can feel my head clearing already. Thank you.

Oh, no! Is that Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald I hear? Help!

War Stories in Peace Time

 

I’ve been reading about war lately. Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried has drawn me belatedly into Vietnam in the late sixties, a place I paid little attention to at the time. It seemed like an American problem and I was busy learning how to be a Canadian mother. I didn’t have time for war. As if anybody has time for war.

I’ve read the title story of Tim O’Brien’s book twice now. I’ve copied out sections by hand into my lined notebook. With respect. Tim O’Brien has looked straight into my eyes from the pages of his book and asked me: Why? Why didn’t you have time to learn about this before?

I have trouble meeting his eyes. I tell him about the motherhood thing, but it’s not enough. We both know that. I should have paid attention to the larger picture then and I should pay attention now.

When I finished The Things They Carried, I bought Going After Cacciato, his fictional account of the same war. Not the whole war, of course, no-one could make sense of that whole war; but a sometimes hallucinatory tale of a few of the guys who found themselves in the jungle, bewildered, lonely, and undertrained—as if teenagers, college-aged guys! can actually be trained to kill strangers.

Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried is also a writer’s book. I’ve seen the title on many of the writing websites I troll through, but scrolled on by when I learned that it was a war story. I wish I’d read it sooner. In fact, he tells the reader How to Tell a True War Story. A true war story never has a moral.

If you’re a writer, it’s pretty much required reading. If you’re not, well, it still is.

 

iStock_000009099351XSmall

Nostalgia in a Closet

 

I opened the closet door in my guestroom recently—a dangerous undertaking, that.

An antique hanging rack, meant for wall-mounting, caught in the hinge of the bi-fold; a relic from my weaving days. Handwoven scarves and tea towels once floated from its arms. But that was then and this is now.

A native deerskin drum sat on its rim in a cardboard box. Oh, yes—a workshop. A vague thought of early morning drumming, easing my body and soul into the day with a rhythmic beat, until I remembered that I was not of First Nations origin. Nor did I  have good rhythm.

On to a box of plastic jars and labeled paper bags, neatly folded at the top. It took a minute to remember I’d ordered non-toxic natural dyes with a plan to hand-dye bags of raw wool for a custom blanket that I would weave on my eight-harness loom. Never opened.

And then the sewing. Several Rubbermaid tubs filled with notions-physical and notions-mental. Projects planned, projects abandoned and leftover scraps from projects completed, including enough finished quilt blocks for a single bed cover. Someday.

Ah, and the wire! Spool after spool of brightly coloured copper wire, expensive copper wire, the remnants from a handwoven wire vest. An art exhibit—made because I could. And did. The vest itself, unbendable (wearable, but only when standing), now lies flat under the bed. But I am one of the few women in this world who knows how to weave with wire and that makes me proud.

On to bobbins of pure linen, bought for weaving gift-worthy tea towels. And four finished, but unhemmed, tea towels, forgotten—apparently deemed too plain for Christmas gifts. Another in red and yellow stripes, with a treadling error if you look close, and I must have looked close.

Good wool: alpaca, cashmere, merino.

I had to sit down and pat myself on the back. I’ve learned so much over the years. Never mind the unfinished ventures—there were so many more that I finished and used or gave to someone else to use. Many were beautiful; a few hung in galleries.

And this didn’t even count my writing, which started as a hobby, but quickly became a passion. Writing supplies are evenly distributed around the house.

Go ahead–open your closet doors. Indulge in nostalgia!

I’m going back. Way back.

Charles Dickens didn’t use a computer. Neither did any of the dead poets.

So, I tried out a pen this week. That was unusual as my laptop has become my BFF when it comes to writing. It was just a ballpoint and it was just a shopping list, but the ink slid across the note paper with a mind of its own, delighted in its autonomy. Obviously, it needed my fingers and my thumb to hold it upright, but even so, this implement wanted to move. It had things to say, items to add.

And that was a ballpoint. I wondered what would happen if I stopped in at the stationery store and bought a fountain pen. Where would it take me? What if, instead of taking my laptop to my local café to write, I took a nice fountain pen and a notebook made of recycled paper? Would it write me a short story? Add a few paragraphs to my novel? Or maybe it would be into poetry.

So I did. I bought a cartridge pen with sky blue ink and a medium nib. The pen and I are still getting to know each other. It hasn’t opened up and shared its ideas yet, but that’s okay. I’ll give it some time. I’ll push it around the lined pages of my notebook and let it get comfortable. I’m sure it’ll come through for me.

My plan is to take it to the cafe once a week for my morning writing session. And leave my laptop at home. Yes, I’ll leave my laptop at home. That will be the hard part, but it’s only once a week. I’ll take the pen on Fridays. Without my laptop, as I said. I’m twitching already. But I figure without it, the pen will come to life. Together, on Fridays, we’ll write poems and stories. We’ll journal our secrets. We’ll enter writing contests.

Well, at least we’ll fill the pages. Good enough for Dickens, good enough for me. At least once a week.

I Yam What I Yam

and that’s all what I yam.

So, no more resolutions. No more promises to be a better person, to eat less, exercise more or anything of the sort. I’ve done all that in previous years, and if I may say so, done it reasonably well.

But I’ve finally resolved to accept myself as I am. What you see (or read) is what you get. I’m as good as I’m ever likely to be.

However, I do have one goal and that is to finish my WIP—that’s work-in-progress to those of you who are not writers. I finished my first draft recently and have been rereading, revising, reducing, reusing and recycling. I’ve moved scenes around, added scenes, deleted a couple of characters and generally, I hope, improved the beast.

But it’s not over yet. Next, my trusty critique partner will have a look at it and, hopefully, offer constructive comments.

The routine is this: write, revise, write, revise, write, revise. Got it? Of course you do.

And eventually, surely, another book will take form. A book worthy of publication. That’s how it works, right?

Right? It worked last time. I hope it will work again.

Poet on your gift list?

YES? YES, of course. Who doesn’t have a poet on their gift list? Or someone who appreciates poetry?

Here’s the perfect gift for your poet: YES, a film by Sally Potter.

Sally Potter’s reaction to 9/11 was to write a love story between an Irish-American woman and a Lebanese man, responding to worldly tensions by focusing on one man and one woman.

All of the dialogue and interior monologue is written in rhyming verse. YES, in rhyming verse. The result is enchanting, breathtaking!

The first time you watch this film—and you will, watch it, you’ll finagle an invitation by your poet and you can offer to bring the popcorn—you’ll strain to take in every word. Some of the dialogue is spoken gently, rapidly, so I suggest you spring for YES – Screenplay and Notes by Sally Potter, as well. You can peek through the screenplay before you wrap it up for your poet.

And once you’ve both seen the film and read the screenplay, you’ll watch it again, for the thrill of the chemistry between Joan Allen and Simon Abkarian, and for the pleasure of hearing, once again, the rhyming dialogue.

There, that was easy. You didn’t even leave your desk. And you’ve guaranteed a wonderful evening for you and your poet.

YES, of course you’re welcome!

Good words

 

I’m reading Eating Dirt by Charlotte Gill, a twenty-year tree-planting veteran. Sometimes a book comes along and I’m so impressed with the writing, with the actual use of words, that I have to go back and reread each page.

Yesterday I randomly chose ten pages and listed the words I liked in a brand new notebook, words like: scrounging, wizened, scarified, smear, tactical, blitzes. I came up with three pages of words in just ten pages of the book. I know most of these words—I didn’t have to open the dictionary—but I seldom use them in speech or in writing. And here are more: alluring, cleaved, juxtaposed, unadorned, ensconced, gurgles, unswerving. All of these words have guts.

I often hesitate before using words that call attention to themselves, words like: rudimentary, merciless, juddered or woeful.

I went back to my own writing and realized that my vocabulary could use a little more vitality. It’s easy to become timid, sitting alone at a keyboard. I don’t want to offend anybody. I don’t want my reader to come across an unfamiliar word and stop reading.

And yet, as a reader, I like to be challenged. I want the author to have a good command of the English language. And I want her to bring me up to her level.

So. There will be some revisions. Or maybe some amendments, some rectifications, a reassessment, a reappraisal, or at the very least, a second look.

I’ve also subscribed to Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day. It can’t hurt.

Today’s word: dissemble. Use it or lose it.

Poetry Retreat–I’m back

Way back on June 17th of this year, I started posting a poem each day because I wanted to become familiar with some good poets before heading off to a Poetry Retreat with Richard Osler on October 17th.

That’s over four months – over one hundred and twenty poems!

I’m back from the Retreat now and I loved it. Richard is a great facilitator and a treasure trove of all things poetry. There were in-class exercises, daily assignments, group study sessions, and lots of time left over to enjoy the grounds of the beautiful Honeymoon Bay Lodge near Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island, not to mention the wonderful food.

The participants ranged from beginners to published poets. All were warm and welcoming.

As well as coming back with three poems of my own, one of which I never thought I could write, I also have a long list of poets to research and enjoy.

Have you seen the movie “Yes”? The screenplay by Sally Potter is written in rhyming couplets. We were treated to a clip of the movie one evening during the retreat.

Would I recommend the Retreat? You bet I would. Richard will hold another one in March of next year. You can contact him through his website and you can tell him I sent you.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to continue posting a poem each day. I’m not likely to run out, and it’s too much fun to quit.