Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 - A Year of Writerly Firsts

I don't usually spend a lot of time looking into the past - I'm definitely a go forward girl myself. But this past year has been so personally eventful for me and so filled with firsts that as 2010 looms ahead I do feel the need to look back. I feel very much like I'm approaching a cliff after running at full speed for many, many miles. So before I take the big leap into 2010 (more like fall into the great unknown) I want to pay homage to the year that was and see the past year (and decade) that was the big lead up to what I hope will be even more interesting writerly first experiences.

Of course, the biggest and most monumental 'First' was getting an offer on ILLEGALLY BLONDE. That happened in February. Kind of hard to beat that! But even though the next 'firsts' I'm going to list aren't as climactic as that one they are still very personally important to me on a number of levels.

2nd 'First' - I started this blog. Seriously, that was a biggie for me. I'd never really put myself out there 'publicly' and making a commitment to write about my writing journey was very scary. It's helped me connect with writers I would never have had the chance to meet and made me really think about my writing process and what I've learned - and still have to learn - about writing novels, the book publishing industry and being 'out there' for people to read. For a fairly private person like me this was a very big first.

3rd 'First' - having my name appear in Publisher's Marketplace. I dreamed about this as I learned the craft over the last seven years. Seeing my name and the name of my novel appear in the publishing industry's main source of information made my heart race and my palms sweaty. The dream made real.

4th 'First' - Working through edits with my first real editor! Hi Anita!! I had no idea what to expect and was so relieved to have Anita to guide me and support me through this very big first.

5th 'First' - Meeting so many amazing writers in Toronto who I've learned from and admire so much.

The Torkidlit authors group: Helene Boudreau, Cheryl Rainfield, Debbie Ohi, Claudia Osmond, Deborah Kerbel, Adrienne Kress, Marina Cohen, Mahtab Narsimhan, Megan Crewe, Maureen McGowan, Bev Katz Rosenbaum are all amazing writers and wonderful people.

Anthony De Sa: a Toronto born and bred Portuguese-Canadian author who wrote Barnacle Love about the Portuguese immigrant experience with such compassion, honesty and beauty. I was thrilled to meet him and even more thrilled to discover how lovely, supportive and encouraging he is in person.

6th 'First' - Joining Twitter. I would never have done this if not for Debbie Ohi and her positive encouragement. It's turned out to be a wealth of information and a place where writers have created a wonderful community.

I'm sure there are a whole slew of other firsts that I can put down but those are the biggies for me. As 2010 - the Year of the Tiger and I'm a Tiger! - approaches I know there will be other firsts to experience. All will be equally scary and exciting, I'm sure. The first decade of the new millenium was a big one for me once I discovered my passion for writing. I really hope the next ten years will be filled with as many wonderful firsts as I've had the priviledge to experience over the last few years.

I wish for all of you only one thing as the new year and the new decade approaches: Discover what you love to do. Then proceed to nurture it with the intensity of a first love. Only good things - and remarkable firsts - can follow.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Birthdays

It's that time of year again. Yep. The birthdays keep piling on. Thank goodness! So even though it's kind of irritating to see the numbers grow what I have finally come to terms with is having a birthday around the Christmas season.

As a kid it was a bit of a bummer to have a birthday so close to the holidays. Friends were out of school and busy with their own family events or out of town so there were never too many opportunities to do a birthday party. There were a few 'combined birthday/Christmas presents' that always left me feeling a bit ripped off. Whatever. Time passes and now, I rather enjoy having a birthday so close to the biggest holiday of the season. Seriously, I'm too darn busy to notice half the time that I'm getting older because I'm running around doing last minute holiday shopping myself. I tell you the best way to deal with getting older is to forget about it! But you know what the very best part of having a birthday this close to Christmas is? I force my kids to go get a picture with Santa even though they are way too old and because it's my birthday they can't say no!! *insert maniacal mommy laughter here*

But what I really look forward to every year is my birthday horoscope - since my birthday is so close to the end of the year it's like a peak into the New Year and what's in store. So here's some of my 2010 projections:

It's all about you, dear Capricorn. Once again, the Sun is back in your sign recharging your batteries for the rest of the year. Furthermore, it will attract opportunities and people to you. Enjoy these good times. Retrograde Mercury will also attract ex-partners and old friends.

If you want to start something new or if you want to change your life in some way now is the time to stop thinking about it and to start taking the decisions and actions that will make it happen. Anything is possible if you believe it is possible.

Ah, I love the possibilities of a new year. Happy birthday all you Christmas babies!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's Not Always About the Quantity

I've been stressing a little bit about how I'm not building up the wordcount as fast as I'd like with this WIP. I had some major time over the weekend to write on the hockey bus road trip (a bus full of active ten year old boys is not that dissimilar from a crowded subway train where I manage to do lots of writing) but I only did about ten pages or so. Not a huge amount but not bad since prior to that I'd been squeaking out maybe a page or two every couple of days. Seriously below my usual writing rate.

But something interesting happened a few days ago. I wrote two short paragraphs. That's all. And then I stopped to re-read them. Why? Because in those two simple paragraphs I'd found the essence of my heroine. The 'why' of her existence and discovered the intrigue of wanting to get to know her even more. I was finally hooked by her when before I'd wondered if she was going to be this bland stereotype throughout the book. If she was, why would I want my hero to spend any time with her? That was what was causing me to write so slowly. I was still figuring her out.

You see, I hadn't truly gotten a handle on her until I'd written that measly bit of wordcount - about 100 words in total. Once I'd written those two paragraphs the writing became easier - faster. Sometimes it only takes a sentence or two that will release the torrent of words later.

So what's the moral of all this?

Don't worry if your words are squeaking out at a snail's pace. Quantity is certainly nice and definitely important in finishing that dreaded first draft but even in the driest of deserts you can find some moisture that will keep you going. Keep writing, even when you're in a dry patch, even if it's just a few hundred words at a time. Because you never know which words will be the ones to release the floodgates.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Road Trip

Just a short post today because I'm about to head off this afternoon on a bus trip with 16 ten year old boys to a hockey tournament in Sudbury for four days. Yes. You heard that correctly. Hockey trip. Sudbury. In DECEMBER. Me. What's wrong (besides everything) with this description?

I checked the weather and, of course there's snow squalls over much of central Ontario with all the wind and snow we've been having the last couple of days. And Sudbury's going to have the balmy temperature of - wait for it - minus 11 degrees Celcius.


So I'll be away from the blog, twitter, email, the blueboards, my comfy bed. Ack. Think of me when I'll be sitting at a freezing hockey arena at 7 am tomorrow morning cheering my baby boy on. The only positive? I hope to pile on some words in the WIP on that 4 1/2 hour bus ride. If there isn't a game of mini-sticks going on in the aisle, that is.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Holiday 2009 Must See Movie List

I've gone months without going to my second favourite place to spend time outside the bookstore - the movie theatre. So, in anticipation of having a little more time around Christmas and New Year's I have my Must See Movie list all ready to go (some of these came out in November but, hey, they're still in the theatres so they count)

The Blind Side - Love movies based on true sports stories. Sandra Bullock looks like she's finally playing to her age and away from her tried and true rom coms. Love her, love the story and I can see it with my kids. Sold.

Sherlock Holmes - Robert Downey Jr. is an Acting God. 'Nuff said.

Up in the Air - Heard this will be the movie to sweep the Oscars. Even if it didn't star George Clooney, the fact that Jason Reitman (Thank You for Smoking) wrote and directed it would be enough to get me to fork over the bucks to see it.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox - I have to have one animated movie on the list for the youngest. This one has gotten terrific reviews.

Everybody's Fine - A father trying to reconnect with his adult children. Robert DeNiro playing a sympathetic, lonely man. Must see.

A Single Man - Hello? Colin Firth? Automatic Must See.

So there it is. My holiday movie must see list. About twelve hours of time I must spend in a movie theatre. Quite happily!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why Waiting is Sometimes A Good Thing

First of all, let me be quite clear - I hate waiting. Hated it since I was a kid and my mom would be puttering around the house doing God knows what while the rest of us waited in the car knowing we'd be inevitably late for whatever event we were headed to. I despised walking in after something started with all eyes on us and everybody thinking, "Finally. Now we can eat." (Note: My Portuguese family didn't like waiting to get started in on the food.)

I think that's what made me become the chronic early arriver I am now. I am always at least 15 minutes early to doctor's appointments, meet ups with friends, etc. My clocks at home are set five minutes fast just to get my chronically late family out the door just a little bit faster (and, just as an aside, what giant cosmic joke has been played on me that not only was I raised by a chronically late arriver I am now surrounded by two out of three offspring and one husband with the same disease? /rant ). Yes, all in all, I'd say one of the great beliefs of my life has always been that faster is better, waiting sucks and life's too short to spend twiddling your thumbs waiting for stuff to happen.

You know where this is leading, don't you? Yup. That kind of blanket belief is ripe for a challenge. Through my writing journey I've learned that early is not necessarily better all the time. And taking your time can be a very good thing sometimes.

We all know publishing is a slow business - g-l-a-c-i-a-l-l-y sloooooooow. I wonder how I've stuck it out for as long as I have knowing my little personality quirk. But I have learned to appreciate the time it takes to get things done in this industry. Take, for example, the fact that once a book is acquired it takes about a year to have it released (let's not get into how long it takes to get a book acquired - that's a whole other level of waiting). Sometimes less, sometimes more but on average you've got about a year if you're lucky. Some writers have to wait almost two years to get a slot on the publishers list. Yes, that year or two can be excrutiating wait for that final step in the journey. Especially when you've got friends and family members regularly asking you: "When's you're book coming out?" (insert Nelsa grinding teeth here)

I've got about five months to go until Illegally Blonde is released and now I can say I'm really glad it took this amount of time. I'm waiting for the last final proof to arrive from the publisher and I'm not going to rush going over those pages (well, if I'm given a day to look over them then I'll rush! :). But now, more than ever, it is a time to savour the book - before it's released. It is, in a weird kind of way, my last time to 'own' it. This year long wait has been my opportunity to get used to the idea of being published. It's been a time to prepare myself for the book being out there - for me being out there to promote it as best I can. People are starting to ask what I'm going to do about the book launch and I tell them I'm not sure yet. I'm taking time to sort ideas out in my head. There's nothing concrete yet but, for once, I'm taking my time to figure it out. I'm sure when the release comes everything will seem super speeded up so I'm not complaining about the wait now. I kind of appreciate it.

I've definitely learned that slow isn't necessarily always bad, that rushing to or through something can lead to mistakes (especially speeding tickets), that taking the time to savour the moment - to really think about where you are now and where you want to be - is something everyone should learn to appreciate. For me, this year long wait for the book to come out has been a good thing.

Now, if I could just learn to appreciate how long it takes my son to get himself dressed in the morning...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Keeping Your Writing Mojo Alive When Christmas is Around the Corner

So I had a slight freak out this morning when I looked at the calendar and saw those dreaded words - December 1st.

December?? Already???

Don't get me wrong - l love me my Christmas time. Love the decorations, the music, the friends and family get togethers, the food, even the snow (about the only time of the year I love the snow). I even have a birthday thrown in there just before the holidays for an extra dab of something special. Although, if I'm being honest, I'm not too keen on celebrating that particular event these days. But, as with anything worthwhile, the holidays come with a price - more stuff to plan and do within an already packed schedule. So with spare time at a premium what's a conscientious little writer to do?

Weirdly enough, I tend to get a lot of my writing done in the month of December. Sure, I'm off for a few days here and there but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm sitting at home all day tapping or scribbling away. I think it has more to do with the fact that in 31 days it will be the end of the year. To me, that creates a huge deadline in my mind. What do I want to have accomplished by the end of 2009? Do I only want to have 50 pages written in the new WIP? Or can I get to the halfway mark - get over that dreaded middle hump so that the new year will start off with one of my goals already halfway accomplished?

I also think about all of the extra things I do during this month and convince myself if I can find time to decorate a house, buy the gifts, attend the parties why can't I find the time to write? Really, in a way, that's almost the easiest thing to do compared with all the other stuff I have to get done. Writing is something I LOVE to do. I love to make up stories. How can it be hard to find the time to do something I love?

Yet there's that old saying - we always hurt the ones we love so I know it's quite easy to neglect the writing. But during this busy month, it is critical to keep that love alive - that mojo for writing - because it's so much harder to get back onto a track once you've derailed. Yes, a new year has so much hope and possibility that it's easy to say 'I'll start writing again in the New Year' but the real test comes at the end of a long, hard year. If you can finish off the year knowing you've continued to write during one of the most distracting months of the calendar then you know you can handle the easier months. Besides, at the beginning of the new year you'll be that much farther ahead!

So don't let December distract you! Keep on writing!