Want a free copy of Creep Con? Willing to write a review? I have four copies to give away to the lucky scribes who contact me first.
Wanna meet me? Wanna win one of my books? Come on down to #teenfest in Calgary this Saturday, Sept 26, from 11-5 on Prince's Island Park and visit the Reality Is Optional booth. If you win on of our wacky writing and art games you get a book and other "fabulous" prizes. Also, every competitor gets a Reality Is Optional pin. What is Reality Is Optional? Click and find out. Want to know more about my books? Look up and click.
My latest book, Creep Con, about anime, comics, manga, and superhero cartoons and the fans who love them is now out. I am seriously in love with this book and I think you will like it too. I got to write about all my favourite things. You can check out more info about it at my page CREEP CON and even order a copy for yourself.
So recently I was asked by a younger writer, who is on the verge of finishing the first draft of her novel, how to keep up momentum and not lose hope. I get it. Writing novels is a long process, often taking years. Keeping up the fight to get to the end can be hard. Especially with work, school, friends, and family pulling in all different directions - many who don't understand the writing process and think it all happens with a magic wand or something.
Anyway, I gave her some tools I've used in the past and continue to use even now. I thought they might help others too, so I decided to post them here. Good luck to any of you out there in cyberland who might be on this very same journey. I know I am.
THINGS TO MAKE IT TO THE END:
- Set a deadline and make it firm. You get your school assignments in on time, so set a reasonable deadline for your novel and treat it as seriously as your school assignment.
- Add writing to your schedule. Writers don't have time to wait for inspiration. You need to make your own by just making the time. An hour at the minimum (as it often takes fifteen minutes or more just to get back into the flow). Plan for three or four times a week, one to three hours at a go. Just like you plan homework time, work time, and family time - plan writing time too.
- Earplugs or noise canceling headphones are a thing. Get rid of the distractions. Turn off your Bluetooth so you can't access the internet unless you are doing research. Listen to instrumentals if that helps you focus and keeps the family noise out of your head (I'm talking about my house here). Shut the blinds if you need to. Do whatever it takes to make your novel is the only thing going. Also, get snacks and drinks ahead of time so you don't have to get up for sustenance. You don't want to break the spell.
- Ask for respect. Let your family know that it is now writing time and you will be busy for the next hour or two. Put a sign on your door informing them that you are currently unavailable. Do whatever you need to do to get some privacy and space.
- Write everywhere. Take a notebook and work on scenes that you can (even out of order) in your notebook when you are waiting for the bus, having lunch, or whatever. Your notebook can travel, and there are always times when you aren't doing anything for a few minutes and can jot down some rough dialogue or work out a sticky bit of plotting.
- If you aren't writing, think about your novel. Always write, even if it's in your head. I do it while cooking and doing dishes. Sometimes even in the shower. That way when you do get time at the keyboard, things are pretty much ready to go.
- Set a word or chapter goal for each writing session. A lot of professional writers do this and it helps them meet deadlines.
It's hard to keep up the go, go, go in a novel that takes a long time, but you can do it. Just keep plugging away and it will be done quicker than you think.
I wrote about dyslexia in my recent book, Stupid. Readers said it gave them an insight into what it's like to have dyslexia. That makes me really happy. I want to get the message out.
However the reading aspect is really hard to actually show to people. Take the jumbled letters and moving words. Words that won't allow themselves to be pronounced (even though you usually know how). Add noise, and movement, and echos. Combine that with a line up full of people who just want you to hurry up and order. I mean the menu is right there! Just read it and pick something! What is taking you so long! Mix with infinite spellings (bird, berd, burd, bered, brd). And you have dyslexia.
But how does that look? Well artist and fellow dyslexic Daniel Britton has created a new font which really gives the feel to non-dyslexics of what it's like to try to read. It slows them down to my speed. Want to try it? Just follow the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/19/dyslexia-font-daniel-britton_n_7615156.html
Okay, not the most unique advice out there. But, as a teacher and mentor, I meet a lot of young writers spinning their wheels. They are either waiting for inspiration - those divine days where all you can do is write the muse hits you so hard. Or they have made it to the middle, or three chapters in, or just past the part they had super planned . . . and they're stuck. No idea where the compass lies. Or, after a busy day of school or minimum wage job, they are too tired to even attempt writing. All of these are good reasons not to write and more importantly, not to finish what they've started. However the truth is the blocks to writing are not as solid as they seem.
I've gone through all of these. I've seen the dark days when the muse is gone. When a thirteen hour or even sixteen hour work day, eight days in a row, left me so sapped there was no room in my brain for words. I've had writing rooms so dark and uninspiring I didn't want to go in there and do what needed to be done. I've seen plots and scenes where the characters wander and nothing is happening. I've laid down my pen in defeat.
But that's not how you become a writer.
Luckily for me, I realized something. That annoying phrase those "real" writers were always spouting, "Write every day." was true. That was, if I was going to follow my dream of being a "real" writer, and by real I mean professional. I had to write, every day, no matter what.
So what does it mean, write every day? In my world it doesn't mean pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, nor does it mean a set words or a set amount of hours (unless a deadline is looming. What it does mean is that I am mindful of my work every single day. If I don't have time to throw down with the muse, I'm thinking of the next scene or couple of scenes. I work out problems over dishes, expand characters on the bus, and plot in the shower. Then when I do write - I'm ready to go.
But how does that help the museless, the uninspired, the perpetually exhausted? Well, answer this, "How bad do you want it?" How bad do you want to be a "real" writer? How far are you willing to go to chase that dream, to see this story in print? Because I've been there. I've had the stuck story, the year long writer's block, the exhaustion where I thought I was going black and white like some fuzzed out TV. None of them are a good enough reason not to write. You can make it into an excuse - but it's a lie.
If you're to0 tired when you get home from work, switch your schedule. Write before you leave, then when you get home, have supper and go to bed. I've done it. Working at a daycare left me seeing double. So I started getting up at three in the morning and writing for three hours, then heading to work. Social life? Not much. Finished play ready for stage? You bet. And that was glorious, seeing that thing up there and hearing the applause when the actors took their bows.
If you are uninspired, suck it up. I'm very rarely inspired in the beginning. Mostly I'm tired, and the screen is hurting my eyes, and I don't think I'm going to be able to pull it off. The muse only comes once I get going, and sometimes not even then. Being a professional writer doesn't come by magic, it comes after a long hard slog. So get slogging. Writers don't get finished by whining.
If your story, plot, character has fizzled out - don't stop and try a new story. Finish! Even if it's all coming up crap. Finish. Trust me, it will look better after you complete your project, put it away for a month or two. Or at the very least, it will be fixable. Instead of quitting, look over your plot and ask yourself, "what does my character want, why do they want it, and what is stopping them?" Basic goal, motive, conflict (GMC) stuff. If you have that, then look at the scene you're writing. Each scene will have the same thing (though maybe different from the over arcing plot). Finding GMO will banish pretty much any stalled out scene and evaporate most writer's blocks.
And if that doesn't work, look at your narrative structure and your theme. Do some character sketches. Do some plotting. Story doesn't happen with out pre-work, and sometimes you have to go back and get it done.
But the basic message I want to get across here is this: If you want to be a writer you have to write. No excuses. No whining. No waiting for some tingly feeling that only comes very rarely. Write everyday and finish what you start.
Now get slogging and follow that dream. You can do it. I believe in you.
Things I learned on the TD Canada Children's Book Week tour are probably more than I can put into words.
I learned that kids are kids no matter where they're from. It doesn't matter if they're in a remote community or in a big city, they love to play, laugh, and will totally recognize the Pokemon theme song when you start reading it. I met Otakus in Cartwright, and Avatar fangirls in Churchill Falls, and a DC Universe follower in Wabush.
I met teachers and Librarians looking for new and better ways to engage kids and teens and was able to share the type of stuff we do at RIO with them (Reality Is Optional Creative Kids' Programming). Perhaps we'll even be able to start up some new RIO programs in Labrador, after all RIO is an idea and a philosophy more than an organization.
I learned that Labrador food is salty but good. That deep fried dough is better than it sounds. And I learned not to eat leaves I find on the ground. (Big lesson there).
I learned not to be scared of air travel - it helps if you imagine you are in a really defective massage chair rather than a turbulent airplane. I learned that the people of Labrador are ALL friendly and kind. I didn't meet a cranky one out there - and I was there for ten full days! Every place I went people showed me around, shared their culture, toured me, welcomed me into their homes, fed me, played games with me (good ones), talked with me, and smiled. Man, they smile a lot! They wanted to know all about me and they were happy to share everything about themselves.
I learned that when you are a passenger in a vehicle in Labrador, your job is to look for moose (and polar bears) - and it's not a joke. I learned that isolated communities are actually insulated communities and that kids aren't cut off but connected.
I witnessed amazing imaginations as the students created stories with Godzilla, dragons, and living mustaches. I saw advanced programming in regular schools, and teachers who work extra hard to bring real pizzazz to their classrooms. I learned that every woman is called Miss and if you're not called that, you are called Dear. I have never been called Miss or Dear so many times in my life.
I learned that my Red Robin toy was more popular than I was - no I'm not jealous (really), that bakeapple is a berry, and deer are caribou. I learned that people in Labrador move slow. They are totally relaxed. Plan for breakfast, it will take a while. I learned that Labrador is probably the most bi-lingual place in Canada - or maybe tri-lingual. The Innu still have their language if the family laughing their guts out on the plane to Newfoundland was any indication. They weren't speaking French or English. I learned that teachers really care for their students like family. That community matters and that they don't have family reunions, they have Come Home days - for everyone.
Labrador is a wild place. It's pockets of people who sometimes get ripped off by the government, ignored by corporations, and have to scrabble to make a living in a resource based economy (not unlike Alberta). But they don't let it get them down. They still find reasons to smile and joke. Their first response is one of kindness instead of suspicion. Labrador is a really amazing place - and I'm glad I went.
The final day of my TD Book Week had me feeling much better after the accidental poisoning the night before. This, of course was good, since I had been worried I wouldn't be able to fly back to my family.
Sandy had to leave me early as the ferry around here is pretty unreliable. The cabby I used to get to the airport told me that the ferry owner is paid for two trips a day whether or not they actually make both trips. So it's pretty much guaranteed for the morning run but in the afternoon it will slalom on through the ice and then give up and not bother with the trip. The people of the area have been promised a new ferry but it keeps getting canceled and delayed. On the other hand, because the ferry leaves Newfoundland and lands in Quebec (just over the boarder) it is the world's fastest ferry. With the time zone change the ferry leaves at 11:00 and arrives at 11:00 since the time change is an hour and a half and the ferry takes an hour and a half.
So I made the cab ride to the airport (which was in Quebec). The cabbie had no receipts in his cab and offered to send me one by e-mail. I really wasn't expected much. But true to his word an e-mailed receipt arrived safe and sound. I arrived at the airport WAYYY early. I pretty much just wanted to go home. Twelve days away from my family had me pretty homesick. Lunch was had out of a vending machine. I chatted with some people in the waiting room. People here are so friendly.
Because the airport is so small they do all the baggage checks by hand. My metal tin of tea raised a bit of alarm, also my metal water bottle - empty. I don't know what they thought they were but once I explained the security lady put them back and carried on riffling through my dirty clothes. After a three hour wait, it was finally time to board.
I flew from Blanc Sablon, Quebec, to St. John's, Newfoundland (a time change of 1.5 hours) and further away from home. The ride was bumpy, but I ran into one of the teachers I met on tour. She was taking three grade twelve students over to the island to see the university, college, and trade schools. One of her students had an appointment to see about becoming a nurse. All the kids were really excited. I don't think they leave their communities very often.
Even though it was a short flight, Provincial Airlines fed me a sandwich and cookies and gave me a drink (all free). I was really glad about this because I was trying to figure out if I could find a decent lunch at the next airport. Provincial Airlines really knows how to take care of their passengers.
At St. John's airport I had to pick up my luggage and check in with Air Canada. Because I had checked in so early at the other airport and because a plane left before I caught mine, I managed to convince myself that my luggage was lost before it even started to move along the belt. I was in such a panic that when it did arrive, I almost missed seeing it. Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy.
Then I couldn't get my passport to work in the Air Canada check in machine and I worried I would never get home. The lady at the counter had me sorted out in minutes - so I really had nothing to worry about. Once everything was done I went to Tim Hortons for a cup of tea to calm my nerves. I think I was just over tired from being up half the night sick - I was also missing my family pretty hard core. I talked to my daughter on the phone and my mood improved.
After that I went though security and into the waiting room. There I hit pay-dirt. My husband had seen the picture of pineapple Crush - a drink we don't have here. He wanted me to bring him back one, but I hadn't see one yet. However, in the waiting room there was a whole machine full of them - and as I was already past security, I could take it in my carry on bag. I spent the two hour wait watching anime on my computer before it was time to board the flight to Toronto. Finally I was heading towards home.
On this plane we could watch movies. It took about three hours to make it from St. Johns to Toronto (and another time jump). I watched Guardians of the Galaxy and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The weather was bad and we got stuck in a holding pattern because of a really big storm that had the airport on red alert. We landed at the exact time I was supposed to be getting on my next plane. Luckily, everyone was running late because of the storm - so I had time to snap a few pictures of the giant aiport, go to the bathroom, and talk to my husband briefly.
It was raining when we boarded the huge plane for Calgary. There were two seats beside me, but no one in them. I sat back and chilled out. Home was only 3.5 hours away.
I had time to watch two more movies on this plane so I chose Paddington and the Box Trolls. I was really tired, my body thought it was almost three in the morning, so I nodded off at one point and was startled awake as one of the characters from the Box Trolls yelled for help in my ear.
The air was clear in Calgary. I guess it had snowed in the morning but it was nice at night. We landed and I made my way out of the plane and to the baggage check - and there were my favourite people in the world.
I want to thank the Canada Council of the Arts, Canadian Children's Book Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador Public Libraries, and all the schools who invited me to work with their awesome students.
Next post I'll tell you all the things I learned in this amazing province. But right now, I'm just going to enjoy being home with my family.
Thank You Labrador!
I started the morning working on my reports for the tour and reliving all the awesome memories. The mini-report is only supposed to be about 300 words. It was really hard to pull that off but the more impossible task was the full report. That was mandated to be 2-3 pages. I ended up at ten. How do you squeeze this experience into so few pages? I did finally whittle it down to six but I guess I have to work on it some more. I very much doubt it will stay within the guidelines.
Around noon Sandy came to the door and asked if I wanted to go for a walk by the beach. By then I needed a break so I said I was game.
We saw three graveyards. Graveyards around here are by the ocean because that's the only place where the soil goes deep enough. The graves themselves are covered in berries.
We hiked for a bit, but there was still a lot of snow so we couldn't go too far. Sandy encouraged me to try a Labrador tea leaf. It turned out to be a bad idea. For people around here, they have pretty much acclimated to this plant. But for the rest of us, the only way to try it is as a weak tea - not a whole leaf. Labrador tea is slightly toxic and an irritant to the digestive lining. Sadly my digestive lining didn't like Labrador tea one bit and I ended up spending the night in the bathroom.
I'm looking forward to returning home tomorrow. This place is great but I miss my family and I just want to see them again.
While TD Book Week might be over, I was still in Cartwright this morning and nowhere near home. Cartwright does have a small airport but flights are few and far between. So instead of waiting around we hit the road on the way back to L'Anse au Clair, where I had stayed before I did the coast leg of my trip.
The morning was young and sunny. The smell of wood stoves filtered through the nippy air. Gulls cried and crows cawed. We hit the road at 7:30 in the morning heading towards Port Hope Simpson where the Alexis Hotel was located. We stopped to see the sights on the way and ate a few bananas in the van for breakfast.
They were just setting up for a banquet at the Alexis Hotel, but they had no problem serving us lunch in the mean time. I was getting pretty hungry by then. We had been on the road for a couple of hours. It is all dirt road out here and much of it is full of potholes. We did see the scraper taking care of that issue, but there is a lot of road to cover and they hadn't got to all of it yet.
The Alexis Hotel was really pretty on the inside. The dinning room had a great view of the port. The food was really good too. Sandy met a waiter who had just moved to Labrador from Nepal. Sandy used to live in Nepal setting up libraries and translating books. The waiter was really surprised when Sandy started speaking his language. They had a discussion about poetry. I was asked if I wrote poetry. The answer to that question is no - unless you count really bad poetry. I'm still a super newbie when it comes to writing in that form. Right now scripts and novels (and the occasional short story) are my only domain.
We headed out on the road once more. We stopped at Mary's Harbour for a stretch then drove on to Red Bay. Like I said in one of my previous blogs, Red Bay used to be a whaling town inhabited by the Basque. The Basque are indigenous people from north-central Spain and south-western France. They were known as the cleverest fishermen around. Wrecks from Basque ships have been found in Red Bay and they are a big part of the history of the area.
In Red Bay we stopped a at gift shop. I had very little room left in my luggage so I bought a puffin necklace and a magnet. I've bought other things back in Goose Bay, but I put them in the mail so I didn't have to pack them.
After that we drove over the Pinware river. It's a really powerful river. It even has a provincial park around part of it called Pinware provincial park.
We traveled on to L'Anse-au-Loup. I saw some icebergs on the way. They have this amazing blue colour under the water. It's hard to tell in the photographs, but trust me, it's really pretty. In L'Anse-au-Loup we looked for a store with bananas and Tylenol. We did find the Tylenol but no luck on the bananas.
We traveled on to Point Amour to see a native burial site from 7500 years ago. It belonged to a child who was buried with a bone whistle among other things. It is the oldest known burial site in the world.
After that we traveled a rather dodgy road - Sandy has some mad driving skills - to the Point Amour lighthouse. It is one of the few lighthouses left with the the light keeper's residence still intact. It's a working light house. The light was even on when we got there. It has a twin across the straight - though we couldn't see it in the fog. In the tourist season you can go to the top of the lighthouse, but tourist season hasn't started yet so we just wandered around the outside.
The wind was bitterly cold by this point and it was starting to snow and rain at the same time. Still we looked over the waters at the icebergs and saw the gulls. It's a really beautiful place.
Then it was time for the last leg of our journey to L'Anse-au-Clair where the Northern Light Inn resides. Sandy went to the local grocery store and found his bananas. I had to go to get some milk for my tea, Coffee Mate just doesn't cut it. They had worms for sale - I passed on those. I'm assuming they're for fishing and not human consumption.
The weather had gone from bad to worse. Wet snow blown by a sharp wind was trying to rip off my ears. We settled in to our rooms then went to supper. I ordered the Kaptains Platter (their spelling, not mine). It came in a bucket. This is a Labrador thing too. They take a bunch of stuff and throw it into a bucket, each restaurant is different - so what you get at one place you might not get at another. I was going to try cod tongues but they are super expensive. Though if I do get the chance before I leave I might give it a go anyway.
In my bucket I had scallops, shrimp (probably from the shrimp farms around here), fish, calamari, three kinds of fries, three carrot sticks, and three celery sticks. With the price of fruit and veg here - you never get much vegetation with your dinner.
Then it was back up to my room for some anime and the blog writing. Tomorrow I have to work on my TD Book Week reports and get my expenses sorted out. Once that's wrapped up, and if it's not too horrible out, I'm going to go for a wander and see what I can find. I fly out Monday at 1:45 Quebec time (the airport is just over the boarder in Blanc Sablon). Then I hop over to St. John's, then to Toronto, and on to Calgary arriving at 1:30 in the morning. It sounds exhausting. I'm glad I get a rest day before I go - even if I do miss my family like crazy. I'm even missing Mother's day. I kind of forgot that was happening. Ooops! I guess we'll have to celebrate it when I get home if we feel so inclined.
Oh, I almost forgot, I learned what a tickle is. A tickle is the water between the mainland and an island in a river or river mouth. Often both sides are called something different. They really do have their own language out here!
Until tomorrow's adventures - have a great night!
Writer, Teacher, Mutant. What more could you want?