Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Passport to Edmonton

Edmonton skyline.
A few months ago I was dusting off the passport but life has a strange way of derailing plans.  So while the passport simmers it was a trip over the border - provincial that is.  Edmonton, Alberta is not exactly international travel but it's a beautiful city to visit despite unseasonably cold weather, that I'll say I griped about - a lot.  

My friend claims no responsibility?
The fire exit that started it all.
If you want to really see a place sight see a little outside the norm.  So we did.  First off there was the fire exit - always know your way outside the hotel in case of emergency.  However, note to self, if there's a sensor box on the top of the door and no sign - don't open the door unless there's a fire.  Unfortunately, I opened the door.  So with a siren wailing, I had to admit my error to the hotel concierge.
A bus window view of things.

With a bad start behind us it was off to the bus stop.  I rarely travel by bus but my friend insisted that it was the way to go.  Unfortunately on Saturday the buses only run every half hour.  We found that out as our toes began to curl trying to preserve what heat there was left in our feet.

The bus is a whole other world and you're only getting a brief glimpse.  Who is the young man that keeps hiding behind the hood of his hoodie?  Who is the older woman who is chatting up the young man with the heavy accent?  Are they lovers or...   Then there's the girl with the sad eyes and the bleached blonde hair with the heavy swathe of blue cutting across one side - what's her story?  Overhead are the signs warning against bad behavior on the buses.  I glance warily around the bus for the culprit that may have instigated such persistent warnings - for the signs are everywhere.  But the ride turned out uneventful.  Instead we soon discovered that like foreign travel, even when English is the first language of everyone involved, there can be communication break down.  This time it meant a six block walk in the cold.
Musicians, Edmonton Farmers Market
Edmonton's Farmers Market

It was then that we discovered a real find - a farmers market.  Again, not something I'd usually tour while in Edmonton.  I'm glad we did.  It was fantastic.   A group of musicians greeted us at the entry with a variety of warm and vibrant down-home music.  They set the tone for the visit.  We nibbled our way through the displays that ranged from the usual vegetables and meats to homemade cotton candy and designer hats, while we listened to lively music and chatted with local merchants. 

Edmonton was cold!!
By the time we reached the West Edmonton Mall it was near the end of the day and the beginning of sore feet.  As a result, I walked out of a store I have mentioned more times then my hubbie wants to remember with no bags in hand.  How could I go there and buy nothing after all that hype, he'll ask later - I'm sure of it.  But a cold beer and a warm Irish Pub just seemed like a nicer ending to a busy day than one more shopping bag.  And it was only one more bus ride away!

There's a world out there, outside the norm.  And this weekend I found it.  As a seatmate said on the return flight, "it was a change from what we were used to".  By this she referred to emigrating from the UK and coming to Canada.  Talk about stepping out of your comfort zone!  A trip to the West Edmonton Mall hardly seems worth mentioning.  But in the end it all makes for a good story - big or small a story is just a step outside the norm.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Get Mad

The other day I blogged about rejection in Rejection Bites.  My thoughts there did work for that one rejection but since then things have changed.  That post was before I knew rejection was going to strike again a few days later.   But when you have a story making the rounds rejection is a reality.  Not everyone is going to love your story or even like it for that matter.  You can only hope that one editor and one publishing house will.  But until that occurs, there's rejection to look forward to and it's phrased in any number of ways.

There are some good things about all this.  If nothing else, the manuscript made it to the publishing heart of NY if only for a brief slide across an editorial screen or two.  But now isn't the time for failed attempts at humour, now is the time to get angry because that's what it's going to take to get to the next level.

Not temper tantrum angry - we're not in a schoolyard anymore.  The rejections are real, not personal and the editor had valid reasons.  Hold back those catty little thoughts - oh what the heck do it, they make you feel better.  Then get mad - productive mad.  This is your story and your life and you're not going to let rejections sideline it - not even for a day, not this time.  Remember, you're not the only one that believes in this story or in you.  If you're lucky there's an agent buffering the first blow before sending it on to you.  And if you're not, gather the others who believe in you close family, friends, acquaintances - heck, befriend the postal carrier if she happens to be an avid reader. 

Okay, you're mad now what?  Well you do what any self-respecting writer would do.  It's a battle and while your story continues to rush the front lines, you open up your weapon of choice - power it on, whether it's a MacBook or a PC, and begin pounding those keys.  And you have my permission to hit them just a tad harder and faster than usual as you pound out that next story. 
There - that will show them.

And whatever you do, if you write to music change it and if you don't have music - start.   But this is no time for the gently sophisticated muse of the classics.  Chopin is booted to the curb and AC/DC or its like is the way of it and the volume is cranked.  And remember - the only way to ensure that you lose a battle is to take up arms and go home.  So, as the post at Terribleminds blog said, I must warn you quite colourfully - it's time to "staple your rejections to your chest and wade into battle with them as your armor.   Click here to head on over to read the rest.

Rejection - is that what makes success so sweet?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Rejection Bites

Rejection in whatever form is immobilizing.  For however brief a moment it makes us doubt ourselves.  There's no way to soften its blow.  If you have a dream of any sort you know this.  A dream is fragile.  Reality is tough.  And the writing industry is a stellar example of the often long ride to success through a mine field of rejection.

Publication doesn't make one immune to rejection.  Publication just reminds us that we have met success once, twice, three times - we can do it again.  With the exception of a few wildly successful authors, there's always rejection and it can come from all sides - from another publisher, an agent, an attempt at another rung up the ladder, a different genre, a different story - the list is endless in its mutations.  What is real is that every attempt to succeed exposes one to the possibility of rejection.  But the only other option is quitting - and that might sound tempting when the rejection blues hit but ignoring and not nurturing a talent is a soul killing proposition.

A dream to act - circa 1920
one of the finds from my Grandma's scrapbook
So what do you do when you experience the bite of rejection?   

First remind yourself that if this hasn't happened before it is definitely going to happen again - the only way it won't is if you quit.  And we've already determined that quitting isn't an option - not if you're reading this blog and not if you were listening to my critique partner this morning who pretty much shouted at me in our chat - even though I was only threatening to quit in a brief pique of self-pity.  But after almost a decade together she knows me well and knew the threat was a lie. 

Often the naysayers have some valuable bits of information to move you forward to that next level because whether you want to admit it or not, that rejection more than likely had valid reasons behind it.  It wasn't personal.  Take a breath and listen, there is something there even if it's just the courage to keep moving forward

But before you do that - mope - lick your wounds and analyze your position, remind yourself of your successes and the people who are firmly in your corner.  Then push forward because no one has the power to kill your dream except you.

"I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I woke and found that life was duty. 
I acted and behold, duty is joy."   Rabindranath Tagore


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Take a Breath and Remember

Some days you just have to take a breath and take a break.  Today was one of those days.  A day to recharge and focus on things that have nothing to do with stories or characters.  But as you can see, I couldn't steer completely clear - I haven't banned the blog.  But during prime writing time I am not writing and that's a good thing.  Stepping away gives me a different perspective. 

Poppy - the national reminder
Tomorrow I have no doubt that I will be more determined than ever to push forward.  Already there is a new plan in place that will take me to the same goal that I had before the road block, just in a different way.

While my initial thoughts were on what I would and would not do today, I was reminded of something much bigger.  Of the constant conflicts of mankind that are complex, seemingly unending and that sometimes put us all in jeopardy.  And that fact alone is sobering but more importantly today as the eleventh hour comes and goes,  I think of the sacrifices so many have made to protect the freedoms we all cherish and I send a silent thank you.

Today is Remembrance Day a day to remember why we have the freedom to forge our life path in almost any way we choose.   It's a day to remember something bigger than each of our individual lives and challenges. 

Sometimes it's all about perspective.

Lest we forget.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Road Block - Veer?

"I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle 
with human emotions." ~James Michener

I don't think it could be said any better and occasionally a writer needs a reminder of who they are and what they love to do.  I know I do.  And right now is one of those times.  

Why is it that when life is chugging along without a hitch, the road blocks appear?  That's what the last week has been for me.  So what to do?  Life isn't without the unexpected, I suppose that's what keeps us from slipping into auto pilot.  Every so often we must veer around something.  I suppose that's why life is called a journey or maybe more aptly a road trip.

When life's road trip hits a pothole or two or even a boulder, do you change course or just keep pushing forward?  I know that's a wide open question.  The decision is different every time.  The  recent road block  I think will require some rerouting of the journey.  Plans made, habits forged are no longer working, time for a change.  But that's not a bad thing - it keeps everything fresh and interesting.

For me - one of the changes is more exercise and with that thought I promptly discovered a blog post on how to exercise anywhere, check it out here.  Exercise anywhere - hmmm - even when life isn't chugging quite so smoothly. And a start this morning I actually took that coffee go-cup further than my writing desk - I headed outside with go-cup in hand and Rourke prancing along ahead.  Eight in the morning is usually when I'm parked at my computer, instead I was watching the antics of school kids as they surged like a school of small fish for the school entrance threatening to smother the waiting teacher.  And I smiled as I watched two stragglers who sauntered up the hill metres away from the others.  I remembered doing the same as a child - refusing to be corralled by the sound of a bell and following the theory that by the time the herd gets through the door, I would have enjoyed five more minutes of freedom and still have arrived on time. 

So with snow on the horizon, I ask what's new in Saskatchewan, it's time to get out the map and reconfigure.  Just another step in the process of shifting gears.

And you - do you push through the road blocks or do you shoulder through?


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thirty Words and a Story

A thirty word story, the idea was from a contest I mentioned it in my last post.  The idea intrigued me.  Thirty words, how hard can that be?

I found myself eating those words as I sat in the waiting room of an overcrowded doctor's office and no inspiration was forthcoming.  Across from me the constant dings and rings of an online game distracted me.  I looked up and met the bland gaze of a middle-aged woman who then returned to the game on her blackberry with all the outward enthusiasm of a child who has been told to finish off their least favourite vegetable.  Then a phone began ringing and she set the device aside to pull another mobile from her overstuffed purse.  When I looked up next, the game was dinging away and she was texting with methodical fury.  Somewhere in the back of my mind a bell rang and a voice recorded the single word "character".

Nearby a man sported a bandage across half his face and a scowl that threatened that he might not be adverse to creating a matching wound on someone elses face.  Beside me a woman avidly read her magazine, yet she never turned the page.  Another point to ponder.  Of course you can only ponder such things for so long.  So I turned to the mystery of my thirty word story.  Five minutes, one notepad and a complimentary pen later - no where near the word count.  I'm shocked.  This was supposed to be a breeze. I figured I'd have four or five stories to choose from by the time the wait was over.

 So back to the story.  I remind myself that writing a thirty word story before leaving the unending waiting room is doable. And  there was Ernest Hemingway's clever little story for inspiration.
 "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."  Ernest Hemingway
And if he could do it... wait - Hemingway?  Who am I kidding?  But I tell myself that his was a story in six words, I have twenty-three more to play with, definitely much easier than six.  So I have an advantage - only fair considering who I'm playing against. 

Finally there it is - I've written the story but there's an obstacle.  First, thirty words longhand has to be counted by hand.  When was the last time I didn't use word count?  I'd almost forgotten that old method - 1,2,3,4,5 slash, record count over the grouping and repeat.  Yes, I had too much time on my hands but what else are you to do in a waiting room where the last National Geographic has been removed from the magazine rack?

And just as my brain began to connect with another idea - the wait was over.

So the story - first, it's not quite thirty words and second, it's not the best not-quite thirty word story you'll ever read, but hopefully it's not the worst.  So here it is, my one attempt before I go back to the form I do best - long.
She loved him.  Now all that stood between them was one dead body 
and the murder weapon she held in her hand.

But if any of you are interested - click here for the contest.  If nothing else, it's a great little experiment for those holding patterns we all find in life - whatever waiting room you happen to be in.  It beats a three year old Family Circle magazine - that's for sure.

We all end up in the waiting rooms of life for one thing or another.  How do you fill the waiting hours?


Monday, November 1, 2010

Wanted Dead or Alive - 50,000 Words

NaNoWrMo starts today and I'm not participating.  That fact feels strange.  For me, NaNoWriMo was the event of November.  This year I'm a no show for a number of reasons.  First, I'm in the middle of a WIP that is chugging along quite sweetly and another 50,000 words might just be a problem.  And, while I love NaNoWriMo, I think the best compliment I can give it is that I've outgrown the event - it did its job and thank you!! 

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic event and because of that I hung around a few years longer than I probably should have.  But I loved the fun and hype of the online community, and the fact that it always raises money for worthwhile causes. 

NaNoWriMo provides a community where the habit of writing every day is painlessly acquired.  If you're a writer and you aren't sitting at that desk every day - do NaNoWriMo!  I can't stress enough that if you have a competitive edge at all you'll push for that 50,000 words.  I know I did.  I  still remember that first year,  I had over 50,000 words that took five months to straighten out, but I did it!!  And in the end - does anything else matter?

And on another take on shifting gears I discovered a fiction contest that piqued my interest.  A story in thirty words.  Interested?  I know I am.  Check it out at Smokelong Quarterly.