Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Lesley Crewe

Okay.
 
So just ask me how my weekend went…go ahead…ask me. Okay, I'll tell you. My husband, John, daughter, Sarah, and I went to Halifax for the weekend, where we picked up our son, Paul, and went to the Rolling Stones concert on Saturday night.
Get this. We stood…STOOD…with fifty thousand other idiots from 4:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m in the POURING RAIN.
 
We had a blast!! Once you're wet, you're wet. I mean, it was miserable and we all wore garbage bags over our rain clothes and had a huge tarp around us, and our clothes will never be the same again, and our hair will never be the same again, and our feet will never be the same again, but how often do you bond as a family like that? All four of us singing (badly) "I can't get no…satisfaction!!" as Mick Jagger gyrated his bony hips about forty feet away! (The stage came towards us at one point and they got closer and closer…I thought I was hallucinating with all the weed in the air.)
It'll be a great story in fifty years…just about when I recover from the ordeal!
 
I apologize for digressing. I'm supposed to be writing about Word on the Street.
 
Okay.
 
So just ask me how my weekend went…go ahead…ask me. Okay I'll tell you. I was reading from my new book Shoot Me at the Word on the Street Festival the next day. Since I was stuffed up from my bonding experience the night before, my voice was a little cracky and weird, but everyone in Halifax sounded the same way, so who cared.
 
And of course my children were supposed to attend the reading, and they sort-of did. Sarah was pacing outside the building on a cell phone trying to give directions to her three girlfriends who'd parked about two miles away by mistake and were running along the Halifax waterfront to try and get there on time, and Paul and his girlfriend had just woken up after John called him to say "where are you?" The answer wasn't supposed to be "in bed."
 
So three-quarters of the way through the reading I'm trying not to be aware that my out-of-breath children are running through the venue with friends and significant others in tow. To make up for it, they plunked themselves into the front seats and clapped vigourously as I said, "Thank you for coming" and walked off the stage.
 
It's a good thing a mother's love knows no bounds.
 
Not that something like that is very special for them. I've been reading to them since they were in the womb and I'm sure they're heartily sick of it. As Sarah's friends apologized to me afterwards, I told them not to be ridiculous and I can read to them any old time they want. Strangely, they all started yammering to Sarah and the subject was dropped.
 
I'm starting to get the hang of these things. After a year in the "business" and with my second book to flog, I'm not as freaked out about having to show up for these events any more. Once upon a time I assumed I'd run away in a flood of tears if no one showed up for a reading or a signing.
And it has happened.
 I had two people come for a reading in New Glasgow on the most glorious Friday evening in early summer. Believe me, if I didn't have to go I wouldn't have been there either. But I had the nicest time. Just me, the librarian, the bookseller (whose children won't be attending university), my husband, the two ladies and the camera guy. (Yes, it was taped. Just me and the empty seats.)
 
And then there was the signing in the dead of summer in Antigonish. It happened during the Lobster Festival weekend, which everyone in the surrounding counties waits all year for, apparently.
I became fast friends with the mall's security guard.
 
But it's all part of this wonderful journey. I was thrilled to be asked to read at Word on the Street. What a pleasure to be surrounded by people who love books and who love to read and who work so hard to promote reading. I still have to pinch myself when I realize that I'm now on the other side of the desk, actually signing books instead of just buying them. To meet other writers and know that I am one of them now, is just sinking in.
 
I have satisfaction up the yin yang.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Maureen Hull's Advice to Aspiring Writers

1. Read: widely, cross-genre, garbage to High Lit. Every book you pick up on how to write, and every workshop instructor you meet, will tell you this, because it's important.
 
2. Put your coffee mug on the floor. If you put it on your desk, sooner or later you'll knock it into a pile of papers or, worse yet, onto your keyboard. Could be expensive.
 
3. Don't answer the phone or the door when you're writing. You're not available. They'll get back to you.
 
4. Get some fresh air. Open a window. Stretch. Walk around the block. Sit on a park bench and blow bubbles.
 
5. Confess to yourself: I want to be published, many times; I want to make so much money at it that I can just write and never work at another job in my life; I want a housekeeper to cook and clean, efficiently and very quietly; I want to spend two months every winter under a palm tree with my laptop on a wicker table nearby in case I feel inspired.
 
6. Admit to yourself that this is never going to happen. Probably. Then go back to writing.
 
7. Acquire a skill that will bring in enough cash to support yourself and your writing habit. Acquire a patron (they may be extinct) and then let me know how you did it. If you buy lotto tickets—don't kid yourself.
 
8. Join a writers' group and/or a writers' organization. Take a few workshops. You need support and information, and those are the places you'll find it. Share what you learn. Writers need allies. Get some; be one.
 
9. Have a real life. Appreciate the planet—it's gorgeous—and try to see some of it firsthand. Take care of important relationships and make some effort to stay healthy. You can use parts of your real life in your writing, but don't make writing the whole of your real life or you won't have one.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Monica Graham

So here I sit, writing. Or I’m supposed to be, but the sun is shining, the kayaks are stacked on the roof of the car, and I’d rather be paddling—or anywhere but plopped on my butt in front of a computer screen.

…Oops. Was that me who just wrote that?

I shouldn’t have. Honestly. I do what I love to do—write—but there are days when I wish I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth. Then I’d never have to worry about writing enough to get paid, how much I’m going to get paid, when I’m going to get paid—or even if I’m going to get paid.

“Independently wealthy”—I think that’s what you call it.

Never mind. Of more importance right now is a looming deadline and writer’s block, two colliding clichés. What’s another word for…oh, look—is that a woodpecker outside my window? I’d better go look it up. Where’s the bird book?

Ok, here it is. No, it’s a yellow-bellied sapsucker. What a nice name. Oh, well. Back to the salt mine.

Where was I?

Maybe this is old age, when I can’t remember some words, and I can’t forget others—like yellow-bellied sapsucker.

I think I’m hungry. Or maybe I’m thirsty. I know one thing, I can’t sit in this chair a moment longer.

So now it’s three hours later, not very long when compared to the age of the universe, but an eon closer to deadline.

I’m damp and tired, and my hair is sticky from salt spray, because instead of sitting at my desk, I sat in my kayak at the door of the sunset. I followed the sun’s red road west, and when the waves got a bit too scarily high, I turned around and surfed in the other direction. In the cove’s shelter, the water was a smooth green mirror, and twin upside-down tornadoes trailed along each paddle blade. I never noticed that before.

Enough of that. It sounds a bit too much like I’m a character in a Margaret Atwood story—not that I’ve got anything against Margaret Atwood, but I want to write my own stuff and be just as famous. Ha.

I tried paddling fast enough to leave a wake.

Then I tried drifting to see where the wind and waves and tide would take me, which was precisely nowhere. I started a kayak’s length from a harbour buoy, and fifteen minutes later I was still there. As inspiration or as metaphor, it just didn’t work.

I considered watching the sun sink all the way below the horizon, but realized that would leave me loading the kayak on the roof rack in the dark, which is an exasperating exercise.

How practical I’m getting. Maybe I’m just too practical today to be inspired.

So as the sky changed to that odd maritime shade of pink-blue-gold, I paddled back to reality. It was dark when I got home, so I left the boat on the roof.

I might need it again tomorrow.