It’s been a fun summer, and this is the first rainy day in a long time, so I thought I’d better catch up with this blog.
So to continue and finish with the Write Moment…
Okay, forget the suspense and let’s cut to the chase. My time travel story never got published. Turns out, writing time travel stories was a lot harder than I thought –
But my second story was published. I’ll never forget the early morning call (the editors didn’t know I lived in a different time zone than New York) and the cheque which felt like so much money for doing what I loved. Since then I’ve sold almost all my short stories – one hasn’t found a home yet, but I live in hope.
Also I published the Grim Hill series.
The main thing is, though, I was happily addicted to writing.
I think you can get hooked on writing at any age.
I was older, but that’s okay too, because I’ve had a lot of fun interests in the meantime: interests like art, and reading and archeology and travel and well, loads of stuff. I moved from interest to interest (and still do – I’m currently dabbling with star-gazing) but once I’d stumbled onto serious writing, all my other interests fueled my primary passion for storytelling.
So, when do you know you want to write?
You’ll just know because it becomes irresistible.
So like I said, I ripped open the envelope and…lived happily ever after?
I lifted the paper out of the envelope with trembling hands, unfolded the letter only to see it was a rejection fired back. So I sent out my story – again and again. Rejections were fired back again and again.
Curiously undaunted, I joined a critique group that I’d read about in a community brochure. Armed with my manuscript, I read my story to the group and sat back waiting for accolades. But all they gave me was advice. Sigh.
Oddly undaunted again, I sifted through the advice, reflected on the advice, rewrote bits of the story and submitted it again. The rejection came back, but this time with the comment that the imagery could still be sharper. Strangely, I still didn’t feel daunted. Instead I sort of felt complimented even though I hadn’t been. But I’d been treated like a real writer because an editor had taken a moment to point out how my writing could improve.
That process of writing the time travel story was the defining moment – that the writing, the crafting, the utter joy of creating could not be diminished by anything, because in the making of the story, and in the determination of sending it out, and sending it out again, I had become a writer!
Did that story ever get published?
Tune in for part five–
Okay, here’s where it got hard – sort of…well, not in the beginning.
Armed with the genre, an idea, a mood, and an atmosphere of mystery, I launched into a story about a woman who is drawn into a time portal.
I wrote with such fervour that by the end of a day, I’d written down the entire short story. Oh, how exciting it had been – as if I’d been on the grand adventure with my main character. Then over the next bit of time, how I loved crafting the sentences, mastering metaphors, and tightening the tension.
That fast, I’d fallen into a new passion, and strangely, developed a strong desire to share it with people.
So, I read the story to my husband who suggested I send it to the New Yorker (which is one of the reasons he’s a keeper) and I asked my friends to read it.
When a friend said, your story made me want to live in that apartment, to be that woman, I thought – mission accomplished!! That’s exactly how I wanted my reader to feel.
I got out an envelope and stuffed the story inside it, bought a stamp, carefully folded a return stamped envelope (I’d quickly done some homework and found out about proper manuscript format and how to submit a story) and fired it off to a SF magazine.
I waited on pins and needles for the magazine’s reply.
Then one day shortly after I sent out my manuscript, a letter from the magazine arrived.
I held my breath as I ripped open the envelope…
Tune in for Part Four
So I wanted to write a time travel story, but I needed a plot – or at least a plot bunny (which is like a dust bunny only instead of dust, you roll an idea around in your head until it gets bigger.)
I remembered how one summer when my nieces and nephew were visiting from Ireland, we’d taken them to the beach all summer. Every week we’d walk by a ground-floor apartment in an arty and hip beach neighbourhood, as we carried beach balls, blankets, snacks, and held little hands. I looked into the open curtains of that apartment and felt a sense of wonder at its bohemian décor. There was something magical about the scattered Persian rugs, ceramic vases filled with hydrangeas and roses, and stacks of books topped with chipped china tea cups perched on saucers. There was even a velvet settee with a silk robe tossed over the arm.
I imagined this was a place of residence for an actor or artist or musician. In other words, to me it was a portal into a totally different life.
Then low and behold years later, my husband and I would once again pass by that apartment on the way to the beach. We were once again loaded down with beach balls, sand buckets, blankets, and the small hands of our own children. Yet there the apartment stood, it seemed to me, unchanged over the years…
Not only was it a portal to another life, but it was frozen in time.
I had my time travel story. So I picked up that heavy pen and set it to paper…
Tune in for part three–
When did I know I wanted to be a writer?
I think I might want to be a writer, but I do not know how to start…
A person recently posed a question like this to me, and it made my mind wander back to when I began writing. I mean writing with the intention that I absolutely knew this is what I wanted to do – to become a writer. I don’t mean dabbling in writing…
For example, as a young kid, I totally enjoyed writing stories. My mom can testify to my magic princess stories and my nonfiction cat stories…and my year of coloured pens where I lovingly rendered comics of Frankenstein’s children and King Tut’s siblings before I moved on to making paper dolls with wardrobes for my little sister…
In grade five I entered a school-wide writing contest and came first (I’m not sure how many people actually entered, but I’m sure my arch rival had.) I remember the prize was a hairband and barrettes, which came in pretty handy because my hair was long (and it made me think the teachers bought the prize after they knew who the winner was because, hey, what if my hair had been short…or I was a boy!)
I still dabbled in story making in high school where I took creative writing and had a teacher say my writing was good. He had also said a whole bunch of people in my class were good writers, which I could see for myself. I found out later some of them had gone on to publish right out of high school, so maybe I should have taken his compliment more to heart. No matter –my time hadn’t arrived yet.
Instead I drifted away from writing. After so much essay writing in university, even lifting a pen seemed like a burden. Then one day I bought a science fiction magazine to read on a long bus trip. After finishing a time travel story, I thought to myself, okay it was neat, but I bet I could write a better one.
So…I had an idea I wanted to write a time travel story. That gave me the genre but what now…
Tune in for part two —
Do you think Sookie looks a little spooky?
What’s in a name?
Well, think about your own name. Does your name have a meaning? Who named you? Are you named after someone? Do you like your name? Have you adopted a nickname?
Get the picture – names are complicated and interesting…That doesn’t change if you are a fictional character.
So when an editor asks me to rewrite the ending, or fix a chapter, or start in a different place, I say, “Sure, no problem.” (um, after a long walk.) But when an editor asks me to consider renaming a character, I might dig in my heels and say, “What? – I’m not so sure about that…” Suddenly (and uncharacteristically) I’m a little stubborn.
That’s because I’ve already gone through the process listed above. What I haven’t done is pulled a name out of thin air. Sometimes I have favourite names I am waiting to bestow on just the right character (as I’m doing now with my new manuscript.) Other times, I’ve made word associations with my character and my character’s name. To unravel those associations is a challenging task.
In one instance a long time ago, a publication changed my character’s name without consulting me. To this day, I wince thinking how that didn’t work. If they had consulted me about the name they chose, I’d have gone back and unravelled and rewoven some of the supporting details.
What’s in choosing the right name? For me, quite a lot…
Are cats and writers supposed to go together? Most writers I know have pets, a few have dogs but the majority have cats. For me, we’ve always had family pets, but it’s been the kids who devoted themselves to our animals.
Until my son brought home a lost kitten…
The furry little guy had been trapped under a cement porch for several days until my son and friend coaxed him out. Then my son phoned and said, “I don’t want to take him to the shelter. He’s really cute, can I bring him back?” Only for a few days until you find a nice place for him, I’d answered.
The kitten had lost most of his tail, and he was dehydrated and starved. How had he even survived in this coyote and racoon ridden neighbourhood? I’ll admit I wasn’t looking forward to even a few days with a wild and terrified cat.
So what did the kitten do when my son brought him home? He leaped out of his arms, padded across the floor and jumped into my arms where he snuggled and wrapped his little paws around my neck, thereby wrapping me around his… er…cat finger…He actually sighed in relief.
So he’s stayed with us happily ever after? Well, sort of. You see, he is a little wild – and random – and he bites and scratches. I thought as he got older he’d settle in. Not so much.
Then my sciencey friend set to work trying to unravel the enigma of my cat – -how he was totally devoted to me one minute, and biting or scratching me the next.
Apparently he’s a hunter – and he has to dominate his jungle. But like I said, we live in a neighbourhood where cat posters are a weekly appearance – so he has to be an indoor cat.
So my friend advised me to set out tasks for this furry friend – he needed fake birds to chase (I found a cool wand with feathers that looks like a fluttery bird) and a tunnel to hide in and watch his prey, and hidden cat treats that he has to hunt for…
This has helped somewhat, but I shake my head even thinking about my slow descent into cat madness.
On the upside, he’s been a little calmer now the weather’s improving, and he sits outside on the deck with me while I try to read or write. Try is the operative word, because lately he waits until I’m not paying attention and then he jumps over the rail and sneaks into the yard. Then I go chase him – yeah, great fun.
Maybe writers and pets go together. It’s nice to be tapping away at the keyboard while a furry creature cuddles at your feet.
However, my furry friend has sharp teeth and claws.