Happy Halloween everyone!
I’ve had a great writerly October at the Junior Authors Convention, the BC Teacher Library gala event, in helping out at the writers’ workshop at the Vancouver Science Fiction Convention, and catching some of the Writers’ Festival.
Seriously, it’s almost like a month long Halloween party. I learned some important lessons for writing as well, which, once I’ve cobbled it all together I’ll chat about on this blog.
In the meantime, phew, I’ll be quite happy to stay home tonight and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters.
I’ll sort of be participating in a fun Halloween event; my zombie story will be part of a Halloween production this evening:
Have a safe and fun evening!
My friend Shannon sent me this picture of kids playing soccer in the fog – it is awesomely spooky and reminds me of Grim Hill.
Speaking of Grim Hill I will be attending a couple of events in October.
October 3rd, 4th & 5th I’ll be at VON — Vancouver’s Science Fiction Convention helping out in the writers’ workshop and appearing on various panels. http://www.vcon.ca/
October 18th I’m super excited to be presenting at the Junior Writers Conference in Richmond. http://laurathomascommunications.com/conference/
October 23rd I’ll be attending the BCTLA (BC Teacher Librarian Association’s )75th Gala.
I hope to see lots of friendly faces.
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–
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…
Seriously, sometimes the writing life can look bleak.
It’s interesting that when it seems like an impossible goal, my non-writing friends have given me just the right encouragement at the right moment.
Once when I was in a tough writing workshop, I told a friend that it was too huge a challenge. Then she said to me, “How can you say that? You’re a parent and that’s the biggest challenge ever.” I thought about it and decided she was right. What could compare? I sailed through the rest of the workshop.
Another time, when the writing rejections were piling high, a friend who remembered that I’d published a short story right out of the gate in a popular New York magazine brought me a small gift. She cut out an article about that magazine and laminated it for me to post on my fridge. The article explained how that magazine received over 50,000 short story submissions a year and only published 30. My friend said, “Your story made it past 49,970 other competitors. Don’t think you can’t sell a story.”
The third advice I just received is timely. I’m thinking, yikes, what do I write next when I don’t have a publisher? This friend quoted a famous author. The author said he writes all the time, every day, endlessly…and only sometimes he sells something.
Whoa, even a famous author doesn’t easily find new homes for his manuscripts. It’s writing that’s important to him. Hey, that’s good enough for me.
In the meantime, I received the proof for Grim Hill: Carnival of Secrets. It looks every bit as amazing to me as the other Grim Hill books. I’ll post soon when it’s available!