Wednesday, January 17, 2018

So Pleased

I had wonderful news recently: my essay, "Hours of Daylight," won third prize in the creative nonfiction division of the 2017 Prairie Fire writing contest. It will appear in their summer issue, along with all the other fabulous contest winners.

The judge was Betsy Warland, and I'm thrilled that she even read my work, to say nothing of choosing it as worthy for recognition. (A quiet squee: squee!)

Excerpts from winning entries in all three categories are available here. It's such an honour to appear in the company of these writers! I'm looking forward to reading this issue.
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Aloud, in Front of Others

A week from tomorrow, I'm participating in a really fun event: a reading, sponsored by the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop. (Details: 7 PM at the Mary J. L. Black Library.)

The theme is "Janus," naturally, it being January. And what better theme for someone who's spent the past year's granted time writing and revising creative nonfiction? (Sad to say, what better theme also for someone who also spent a significant part of this past year SERIOUSLY revising a novel manuscript that has, shall we say, aged. Which isn't a question.)

I haven't quite decided what I'll read yet, but I will soon, and then I'll start practicing. Because no matter how many times I read a piece aloud before I submit it somewhere (and that's a lot of times), reading in front of other people is a VERY different experience. And a fabulous one.

Audiences are so helpful to writers who are working to better understand how people read them. (And isn't that all of us?) Because my husband and I live in the country and getting to town of an evening can be difficult in winter, I don't get to every single event where it's possible to hear people reading or performing their work. But I love it when we're there.

The audience doesn't get to just sit there--you're part of the event, even if the event is formal (no finger-snapping, as at some spoken-word events). Your attention is a gift you give the person reading.

You're receiving gifts, too, of course. First, I get to hear someone tell me a story. And second, I have to find that listening space in myself to hear the story. It's a brief time period when I stop the natter in my head and allow someone else's words to penetrate. Being there, in that moment, with that reader, is hugely rewarding.

It's a nice time of community. I'm really grateful for the opportunity to read.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018


A couple of years ago, I wrote about my best life-simplifier, indulgence, and challenge. Every time I use those iced-tea spoons, I am grateful I got them.

Last/this year, my best life-simplifier is combined with my best indulgence: I got an egg cooker.

Years ago, I received one from a cousin but somehow lost track of it in a move. So I bought a new one, and I even paid $5 extra to get it in teal. (Indulgence.) The colo(u)r makes me smile.

I've used it often. I eat eggs for breakfast almost every day, and having them cooked and waiting in the fridge makes mornings (not my best time) so much easier.

Two years ago, I mentioned saying NO to most things, so that I could say YES to others. I still try to do that.

Specifically in the writing world, I have said YES to things that scare me, and as a result, submitting work to publications is now easier.

This year, I'm in the position of submitting entire manuscripts for the consideration of strangers--a new level of scary--but I anticipate that THAT process will get easier, too.

I am also renewing my desire to say NO to news alerts. A resolution to express gratitude, every day, for my life helps keep my adrenaline even. (Well, more even.) My reasoning: in an apocalypse, I want to be aware of the gift of having lived in this beautiful, imperfect world.

The habit of staying out of social media except at prescribed times is, shall we say, still under development.

As for the third thing I mentioned 2+ years ago--ordering extra socks and underwear--it's about time to do that again. The cold snap came early this winter, and our well usually freezes up at some point in the early months of any year. Might as well be prepared.

These simplifiers, indulgences, and challenges will help me face those parts of 2018 I can't predict or anticipate. Or so I hope.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Thank You Notes

Dear Everyone Who Works or Has Worked at a Publication:

Thank you for the energy you expend helping writers find readers. Thank you for making time, on occasion, to include a brief comment with a rejection. Thank you for your honesty, your care, your attention.

Thank you, too, for the occasional reminder that you are as devoted to good writing as writers are. We may disagree about what constitutes "good writing," and that's cool. Artists can disagree about definitions while agreeing that art is important.

Because of you, writers and readers can meet in (sometimes imaginary) rooms to discuss imaginary or re-imagined people. What a gift.

Specifically, I extend gratitude to the readers and editors at the specific publications listed below. And because this post is not about me-me-me, the links go to the submissions pages of those publications, which writers should bookmark. Then, writers, browse archives to get a sense of their definition of "good" before submitting.

Compose Literary Journal. They're now closed to submissions until Fall 2018, but read those archives! Need more? Check out Write it Sideways. And the Compose creative nonfiction editor, Lisa Romeo, gives advice and "how I did it" content here, and she has a book coming out in 2018.

Gravel. Based at the University of Arkansas at Monticello, they accept many types of work, including flash/hybrid and book reviews. (Fun fact: you're probably mentally pronouncing "Monticello" wrong.)

Full Grown People. A lovely place to browse when you feel unsuccessful at being a grownup, which has made it an especially nice pitstop during the day during this past fifteen months or so.

Pithead Chapel. Also fun archives to browse. Also interesting cover art. Word limit of 4000 is nice for stretching one's writing legs.

Mischievous Books. (This link takes you to their products page.) A small Canadian publisher with a big heart--this year, running a short fiction contest and publishing an anthology, proceeds from which supported refugees. Well done!

Again--to those who work with our work, thank you. Another huge shout-out to readers--thank you for honouring our work with your time and attention, as well.

My resolution for 2018 is to continue to support all of you as best I can.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Getting Work "Out There"

As part of my ongoing effort to evaluate 2017 and plan for 2018, I'm meeting with folks to kick around some frustrations and ways to address them.

By the way, it's really fun to do this kind of thing with word-people you trust. Maybe trusted artists in other disciplines, too. For example, we spontaneously invented a series of metaphors around snowfall to describe various stages of the creative process. Fun times.

One of our discussion topics was how to distinguish between what is and isn't within our control, especially relating to having work published. In our control: researching and submitting. Not in our control: whether it's accepted. I've written about this before, many times, because it's basically rejection, one of my preoccupations.

Also as part of the evaluation process, I'm reminding myself to be grateful to those who administer contests and keep publications afloat. Next week, I'll give specific shoutouts.

Meanwhile, gratitude is one of the best ways to ensure that the last days of this year include a modicum of peace--peace, a moment of which is necessary before continuing to fight those good and worthy and necessary fights.
Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Looking Back

It's December in what has been a VERY busy year. Throughout the month, I'm looking back at the past year and looking ahead to what I want to do in 2018.

Besides, of course, focusing on getting stuff done in that last-minute pre-deadline rush, the one I thought I'd grown out of when I was no longer taking formal classes. However. Deadlines and all that.

One joy of this year has been playing around on Instagram. I don't do fancy stuff--mostly just posting the same "here's the view from the window" I've always enjoyed capturing with my camera. But I've posted fairly often, and recently I've been posting snow pictures; in fact, some of the ones I've also uploaded here.

In any case, Instagram assembles the nine photos people have liked the most into one shot. Here's mine:

It surprised me to see the photos from earlier parts of the year--even just earlier this autumn. Why? Because the landscape out EVERY WINDOW now is so very different. It's all snow, all the time. The last part of the world outside our windows to change is the lake ice--which is growing ever farther out into the bay.

I spent a little time last night looking at the earliest photos I took on this phone (from March or so), and (of course) trying to delete some (always too many photos). It was really nice to take a scroll/stroll back through autumn, summer, and the fifteen minutes that constituted spring. And it was a nice complement to the calendar- and to-do-list-based looking back I've been doing to prepare for 2018.

Happy memories. "Learning moments" and times of satisfaction. Unexpected, ephemeral flashes of brilliant wonder. Determination. Gratitude. All parts of 2017--and all elements that I might otherwise have forgotten.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Serious Snow

We had the first serious snow of the season yesterday. See?

And a few weeks ago, I wrote about not remembering my jeans--how seasonal transitions require new wardrobes and remembering hacks from the end of the season.

That whole process, going from not-remembering to "oh yeah," also works with mitts and scarves and hats. Just in case you were wondering.