For those of you who don’t already know, Two Writers Talking is on hiatus for a while.
And you can follow Tudor at her new blog, Pen to Paper, also known as tudorrobins.ca. Stay tuned for posts every Saturday just like you’ve been used to here at Two Writers Talking.
Take care in the meantime and hope to see you at our other ventures!
Peggy & TudorFiled under From Peggy and Tudor, Organizing our Writing Lives | Comments Off
If you want to write, if you love to write, if writing is central to your well-being, at some point you need to have a serious think about needs vs. wants.
I’ve talked about this before, but just in case anyone is still unclear, writers don’t make a lot of money. OK, most writers don’t make a lot of money. I’m going to talk more about my big picture thinking on this in Part Two next week, but for now, I’m going to share with you my list of needs vs. wants.
(Oh, and by the way, I’m stipulating to oxygen, food, sleep, etc. – definite needs).
- my family
- time to spend with my family as a family.
- time to read
- time to write (note sometimes I need to write more than I need to read and sometimes vice versa)
- time to run (I guess this means running shoes are on the needs list too!)
(are you noticing a bit of a theme here? Time, time, time. Never enough of it…)
- a place to live where I feel at home
- a (paper) notebook and (good) pen
- my laptop
- clothes that keep me either warm or cool, depending on the season, and that are comfortable
- my bike (this is borderline. I technically don’t actually need it but, since we only have one car, it sure makes my life easier).
- forms of exercise other than running, e.g. riding and skiing. I love doing these things and they enrich me but if I had to choose just one thing I would stick with running, hence these are wants
- my current house in my current neighbourhood. I’m lucky in that I already have this want but, realistically, we are very lucky and could certainly survive (and thrive) in a smaller house in a less expensive neighbourhood
- the ability to buy a new laptop, a new bike, etc. I don’t actually want these things now because I am very attached to my 20-year-old mountain bike and my seven(?)-year-0ld laptop but I like knowing I can replace them if I need to
- extra clothes chosen for colour, prettiness, etc. beyond those needed for basic comfort
- one take-out dinner each week from our favourite Greek place, also a lunch out every couple of weeks
- the continued ability to spend a huge chunk of our summer at the cottage
I’m sure there are more in each category and some kind of blur the lines – I think there’s kind of a “needy want” category and maybe that’s where my riding and my bike fit in.
Interestingly, most of the things on my “needs” list are free. Money-wise anyway. They may take a lot of time and effort but they don’t cost much. It’s the “wants” stuff that costs more in my particular situation.
How about you? What are your needs and wants lists? What do they look like? Don’t fudge or put things where you think they “should” go. Be realistic. What do you really need to be happy? I’ll talk about why I think this is an important exercise in next week’s post…Filed under From Tudor, Inspiration, On Life, Organizing our Writing Lives, The Writer's Path, Writing as Career | Comments Off
Tudor: As I hinted in an earlier post, the time has come for a change. An ending of sorts – or at least a suspension – and a couple of new beginnings.
Due to exciting (and time-consuming) developments in Peggy’s life and because I’ve finally pulled myself out of complacency long enough to kickstart my own website (something I’ve been meaning to do for ages), this will be the last post on Two Writers Talking for the foreseeable future.
What can I say about TWT? I can’t say it was everything or nothing I expected it to be, because the truth is, I didn’t have any expectations. If anything can be said to have grown organically, this blog did. Peggy and I decided to move our long e-mail conversations to a more public forum and Two Writers Talking was born.
And kept going. Pretty steadily. For quite a while. An achievement if I dare say so myself.
The one thing I can say for sure is that during the time of TWT I have been struck anew by the generosity of this writing community that surrounds us. Peggy, of course, was generous to agree to write a blog with me. To share her expertise and opinions (and to organize the start-up – that especially!).
A couple of regular commenters have also displayed the generosity I’ve come to love in the writing world. Lee Ann, when I suggested I might pitch a workshop idea to the Ottawa Catholic School Board was instantly supportive. Recently, when I was able to tell her the course was a go, she was happier for me than my own mother (really!).
And Lynn. Oh my goodness. Lynn. I have haunted Lynn’s life these last few weeks. She is more responsible for my new site being up and ready and going and beautiful than I am. Way more responsible. She gave me recommendations at every step along the way, coached me in the few small things I did and single-handedly designed the whole thing. She even stepped in and wrote some inspired bits of content which started out as placeholders but which I’m not letting go of. All this and she still left a detailed and thoughtful comment on last week’s post. I have no idea where she gets the time…
My friend (and talented editor) Gillian, refused payment for line editing my entire manuscript (and it was a great line edit) and I’ve received incredible feedback on my manuscripts; some paid for, some not, but all worth considerably more than what I had to shell out to receive it.
In general I find those involved in writing and the writing world, give much more than could ever be expected. We may be under-paid, we mostly are under-paid, but we certainly don’t underperform.
I’d like to thank everyone who’s inspired me and made me feel supported and included in this great world of writing and I hope to see you all regularly over at tudorrobins.ca.
Peggy: Tudor’s right. It takes a village to raise a writer, and we’ve both been fortunate to be citizens of a very generous, literate village.
As much as we’d like to think that our Writer Self is strong enough to sit alone at our desk to answer our calling – often in the absence of pay, publication, or even mildly interested readers – some days it proves too daunting a challenge. That’s when it helps to get an inspiration infusion from the people around us.
Encouragement comes in different forms. Often all that’s needed is a friend asking us what we’re working on now … and being interested enough to ask a few questions, or say they’d like to read our story when we’re ready.
Sometimes we’re helped by the chance to put our writing to use in a different capacity, one that’s of benefit to others and provides us with some immediate, tangible satisfaction. Just recently, for example, I have been helping to write and edit content for a new, soon-to-launch community website that’s going to be enjoyed by many local residents and give me a change from my usual navel-gaving memoir work. It’s been fun to get back into community reporting and get the immediate feedback I remember from my days at the North Shore News.
I learned from my year at the SFU Writer’s Studio the immense energy you get from being surrounded by people who are enthusiastically committed to their writing life. As any Star Trek conventioneer can tell you, there is something pretty exciting about gathering with others who share your passion for a hobby or vocation that isn’t terribly mainstream!
But sometimes, I think, we can be equally inspired by putting ourselves in a new environment that has little to do with our writing life. After several years of immersing myself in communal and individual writing activities – workshops, writing projects, literary non-profits – I am looking forward to exercising a different part of my brain altogether.
I’ll be taking an eight-month, full-time Medical Assistant course that will plunge me into a new career entirely. I won’t ever leave my writing life behind (in fact, one reason I’m pursuing this program is for the eventual career flexibility that will allow me to incorporate my literary life around what will likely translate into casual or part-time hospital shifts).
But I do look forward to getting away from my desk and learning new skills in a new environment. And I am confident that the energy I get from that will end up fuelling my writing as well. I’m already salivating at the thought of the new, multi-syllabic words I’ll have at my disposal after I finish my medical terminology course! Not to mention the wide range of people and situations I’ll meet over the year ahead – all part of an interesting new landscape that will no doubt have me thinking up plots on my lunchbreak!
Along with my new studies, I’ll be prez of the North Vancouver’s Young Writers’ Club and the Lynn Valley Literary Society, running an adult writing group and blogging for LynnValleyLife when it launches in the fall. So Tudor and I will both be pretty busy, and we’ve reluctantly had to let go of Two Writers Talking for the foreseeable future. But we’re leaving it live so visiting writers, readers and teachers can look over some of the past posts and workshop exercises for what we hope are some timeless tips!
I have loved working with Tudor over the past few years (an inspiring, hard-working writer if ever there was one), and look forward to seeing where her new ventures take her. This isn’t a goodbye from us, just an evolution to the next stage of our lives and the adventures that beckon down the road.
Both of us wish you many adventures of your own, literary and otherwise, in the months ahead. And many thanks for being our ‘village’ – we hope you’ve enjoyed your citizenship here at Two Writers Talking.Filed under From Peggy and Tudor, Inspiration, On Life, Organizing our Writing Lives, The Writer's Path | Comments (2)
As Tudor has already hinted, we are both planning some upcoming life changes that we’ll talk more about on Saturday.
For me, the year ahead will require a re-focussing of time and commitment; I’ll need to stop dancing from one writing project to the next and learn to commit to just one or two.
Knowing that I’ll have to put some of my writing on the back burner for the next while has me a bit anxious, but at the same time it’s helped me sort out what I really do most want to accomplish (and even how I define ‘accomplishment’).
Over the next months, I won’t be looking for fame and riches, but have decided the one daily writing practice to which I do want to adhere is writing a “One good thing” entry.
Let me explain. My son Mark brought me back a lovely Italian leather journal from a recent school trip – so lovely that of course I felt my writing couldn’t possibly live up to its aesthetic standard! So it sat there, untouched, but I felt guilty every time Mark asked me, hopefully, if I had started using it yet.
So I took some colourful, fine felt pens out of my desk drawer and sat down with the journal. I stared at the thick, creamy pages, took a breath and wrote “One good thing today is that I was charmed by the companionship of two old men I saw having coffee together in Tim Hortons.”
That started me on a daily practice of recording one good happening from the day; a quiet moment, a summertime festival, a joke from one of the kids.
Those of you who write memoir pieces know the result is sometimes prose that you’d be leery to share with any of your family members – especially your children! It’s a nice change to write a journal that I’d be happy to leave out on the coffee table, and in fact I’ve written in the front that I’d like it to be given to Mark when I eventually kick the bucket. I hope it gives him a glimpse back at the many happy memories he had a part in.
Of course, others might call this a ‘gratitude journal’, and the positive effects of keeping one are well-discussed. How easy it can be to focus on the negative – writing my ‘one good thing’ book will, I hope, help re-dress the balance.
It will also be interesting to see how expansive my interpretation of the word ‘good’ will prove to be over the year ahead. As was so well described in CBC’s Ideas in the Afternoon program today (Say No To Happiness by producer Frank Faulk), a richly-led, satisfying life isn’t one in which ‘happiness’ is the prime goal, but perhaps one in which one’s (inevitable) suffering is given meaning.
So over the months to come, I may gain the wisdom to see that the ‘one good thing’ in my day was actually the thing I would have most liked to avoid! But right now, I’m enjoying recording the perfect bloom on the delphinium, the glass of wine with Mom, and the fireworks over English Bay.
Whatever your plans for the year ahead, I hope they will include many contemplative, creative pauses of your own.
Filed under From Peggy, Inspiration, Memoir, On Life, Organizing our Writing Lives, The Writer's Path | Comment (1)
Just a quick note to let you know my workshops are now open for registration.
Here’s the description:
Getting Ahead Using Writing Contests
If you want to take your writing to the next level, but aren’t sure how, entering writing contests could be your answer. Contests can provide motivation and opportunity to writers trying to hone their craft and get their work noticed. Canadian writers, working in a variety of genres, will find no shortage of contests open to them with, in most cases, no experience or credentials required. Learn why entering contests is good for your writing, how to find contests that are right for you and tips on preparing and submitting your work. The instructor, Tudor Robins, has been a freelance writer for many years and has had a great deal of success being published in many high-profile magazines and newspapers. Her recent prize-winning results from several writing contests have inspired her to help other writers see the benefits of this opportunity.
The cost is $21 plus HST and they run:
Saturday, September 24, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., at St. Ambrose Adult School, 175 Beech Street, Ottawa (registration bar code 48004).
Wednesday, October 12, 7:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m., at Holy Trinity High School, 180 Katimavik Road, Kanata (registration bar code 48005).
Any questions, please let me know.
It would be great to see you there!Filed under Uncategorized | Comments Off
I’d love to know. Especially now, in the summer, which is definitely the season when I make more time to read than at other times of year.
Maybe I’m just imagining it, or being overly sensitive, but I feel like, similar to the 100-mile diet / locovore / locally-grown food phase, there’s a similar kind of trend going on in book buying. As in, if it’s big and a chain, it’s bad. If it’s small and individually owned, it’s good.
And I have to say, at the risk of being kicked out of the politically correct clatch, I don’t agree.
That’s not to say I think the opposite either. To be honest, I think wherever you buy your books is just great. I try to be a minimalist in other respects, but when it comes to books I think the more you read, the better. Of course, lots of those can come from the library but I also buy lots (and lots, and lots!).
I don’t think a book bought is ever a book wasted. They can be passed on and loaned out and donated to book sales and fundraisers. More and more people can enjoy them. Some will even probably enjoy them more than you did. There aren’t that many secondhand goods that are often even better the second or third or fourth time they’re used.
So, here’s where I buy my books:
(1) Amazon. Yes, I buy many, many books here. I love the selection. I love the free shipping. The prices are very good. The books come very quickly. This is where I shop when I know exactly what I want. I don’t browse at Amazon. I save that for the rest of my book-buying locations which include;
(2) The bargain wall at Indigo on Princess Street in Kingston. Very specific, I know but this is my favourite bookstore in the world. Sorry to all those who scream it’s part of a chain and so evil; I love it! I love the look and feel of this store. I love the selection. I love that the bargain area doesn’t look bargain and doesn’t only consist of books piled on tables but has whole floor-t0-ceiling shelves of beautifully-stocked books to browse. They’re even alphabetized so in a quick glance I can see if any of my favourite authors are there.
(3) The clearance areas of any other bookstores. In a pinch I can always make this work.
(4) Scholastic flyers. Do you remember these from your school days? Do you get them home with your kids? I love them. I always read through them with my breath held thinking “please don’t have too much good stuff in here,” because I have written some monstrous cheques to Scholastic. The beauty of these flyers is they’re so targeted. There’s always at least one new book to appeal to an eight-year-old boy that you would never have found on your own.
(5) The Broadview Book Bonanza. I have to admit I’m a bit picky about buying used books. I don’t like books that feel “overused” or neglected or musty. The pages feel funny under my fingertips (I swear it’s true). Still, the Book Bonanza is a different animal. It’s a major fundraiser at my childrens’ school and they are PICKY about what books they put out for sale. I get big, beautiful hardcovers every year for $2 and then I send them back in to be sold again the next year still looking brand new. Just for fun, here are some stats from the 2011 Book Bonanza:
- 19,459 books donated, sorted, boxed, moved, and displayed
-1273 DVDs, CDs, and games donated and sold
- 250 boxes packed, hauled, unpacked and recycled
- Over $11,500 in funds raised for our playground or our school programs!
- 250 books given back to Broadview’s library maybe more
- 100 books donated to St. Vincent de Paul
- 75 boxes of books donated to Woodroffe Public School’s Spring Fling
- 50 boxes of books donated to Rockcliffe Public School’s Book Sale
- 100 books donated to Westminster Church
- 100 books donated to a new school in Africa
- 40 volunteers? And some new faces, thanks everyone for coming!
- 20 student volunteers, including 1 fabulous grade 7 class!
- 45 hours spent sorting, boxing, and setting up books
- 45 minutes to cleanup and put away (almost a personal best)
As you can see, the Book Bonanza is much, much more than just a book sale which makes it even better to shop there.
And, for the record, although I can’t remember having bought any books at Wal-mart or Loblaws or Shopper’s, I’m not about to slam those stores for carrying them or those people who buy their books there. READING IS GOOD. Buy your books where you can, when you can. Enjoy.
So where do you buy your books?Filed under Uncategorized | Comment (1)
This year Tudor has been an inspiration to us all and an example of the success, synchronicities and satisfaction that can come your way when you enter contests.
I try not to spend too much on contest fees every year (unless they come with a subscription to a journal that I really want), and enter a range of different challenges, from haikus to anecdotes to fiction to memoir.
If you’re like me, you end up with a collection of polished pieces (a feat in itself!), but sometimes I forget to go back and re-purpose them once the contest period is over.
Fortunately, there’s a call for submissions out now that may help you put some of those orphans to use. The folks who publish the “Uncle John’s” readers series are compiling their first ‘flush fiction’ anthology. No, the topic doesn’t have to be bathroom-related, but the word count does have to be less than 1000 words – just the size, perhaps, of some of your previous contest entries.
Submissions must be postmarked by August 31, 2011 – snail mail only. Full details are here.
Good luck – and thanks, Tudor, for keeping us inspired!Filed under Contests, Markets & Events, From Peggy, Organizing our Writing Lives | Comments Off
“I’ve decided to become a novelist.”
Cue several mental reactions from me.
(1) “Yes, and I’ve decided to perform an appendectomy.”
(2) “Oh, that was my mistake – I didn’t ‘decide’ to become a novelist.”
(3) “Shut up. No, really SHUT UP.”
Followed by actual reaction which is produce a forced smile and stay very, very quiet until I have counted to 10.
You’d be surprised how often people say something along these lines. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ve heard it too. Maybe you too have sought some sort of relevant education and / or training and have put in long hours at your keyboard / notebook trialing and erroring. Maybe you have sought out other writers’ advice and have read endless books in your genre. Maybe you’ve ripped apart your manuscript and re-written all 60,000 words of it, then ripped it apart again. Maybe you’ve researched the market, learned about query letters and bios and cover letters and partials and fulls and the synopsis; don’t forget the dreaded synopsis. Maybe you’ve jumped through seventeen hoops to meet all the submission guidelines of each and every possible agent and / or editor – “Page numbers in the top left hand”, “Page numbers in the top right hand”, “Indent all paragraphs”, “Don’t indent paragraphs”, “Write a 250-word synopsis”, “Write a 15-page single-spaced synopsis”, “Compile a target market evaluation of the genre you’re writing for and assess how your work will fit into it using comparisons to three other books currently on the market” (yes, I did that one). Maybe you’ve spent hundreds (maybe thousands but I don’t want to think about it) of dollars on ink cartridges and paper and envelopes and manuscript boxes and postage – don’t forget postage – to submit your work all over the great, wide, English-speaking world.
Maybe you’ve done all that, and you still aren’t published, and somebody has walked up to you and said they’re unfulfilled with their career and it’s not all that and they need a change and “I’ve decided to become a novelist.”
And, if all that is true, you’ll know how I feel when I hear it.
So, please don’t say it. Just please, not that. You can try “I’ve decided to work on my writing,” and you can even try “Do you have any suggestions?” To which I will smile – genuinely this time – and say, “Yes, start writing. Put pen to paper. Then come back and talk to me after your first 10,000 words.”Filed under From Tudor, On Life, The Publishing Industry, The Writer's Path, Uncategorized, Writing as Career | Comments Off
… or are you? Whether we practice them or not, most of us have become familiar with the benefits of the ‘slow food’ philosophy; how slowing down in our preparation and enjoyment of a meal can improve both the experience itself and our longterm health. How might the same attitude affect our writing?
I had to fill out a permission form today, and instead of grabbing the nearest pen and zipping through it as quickly as possible, ending with an illegible scrawl of a signature, I decided to put my portable Royal typewriter (circa 1927) to good use.
I bought it at a thrift store last summer, and had it re-ribboned and oiled by Polson’s Office Products, a longtime Vancouver business machine company that has seen many of its products become eclipsed by the computer age. They have given up their storefront location (victim as well to the new Canada Line station) and now give old-fashioned, door-to-door service (call 604-879-0631 for info).
Typing, or for that matter, thoughtful handwriting, require two things that any writer needs: patience, and the willingness to be imperfect. It allows me to focus my attention on the physical act of writing, a welcome balance to the cacophony of thoughts whirling through my writer-brain, each pounding on the door in a bid to be let out.
When the writing is slowed, the most authentic, important thoughts rise to the top and the others die away. And by accepting the inevitable blotches and typos that come with manual writing, I am perhaps more likely to stick with that thought; see it through until it is fully, if imperfectly, expressed, rather than continually backspacing to ‘pretty it up’ as I go along and thereby robbing it of some of its raw power or momentum.
If you google ‘slow writing,’ the majority of articles you’ll find deal with how to deal with the problem of slow writing in children or adults. But I have heard of a religious practice in which a scribe forms each letter of a sacred text individually and deliberately, conscious of every curl of his pen as he faithfully transcribes the sentences. The slow reading and contemplation of a scripture verse, or ‘lectio divina’ is a reclaimed meditative practice in many mainstream Christian churches. Why not ‘slow writing’?
We experiment with many things in our writing craft; where we write, with whom we write, when we write, what we write… but you may not have considered varying the speed at which you write.
Summer holidays are a natural time to make a conscious effort to slow down. Instead of sitting down at your desk to your usual 1000-word daily quota, try sitting in the shade with a pencil and limiting yourself to one small piece of paper. Spend the same amount of time as if you were churning out your thousand words, but slow your pace so that you come out with just one page worth. Or try writing a scene of dialogue on a manual typewriter instead of on your computer. Does changing the pace of your writing change its flavour?
Most of us require the speed and convenience a computer lends us. But learning to slow down and enjoy the actual craft of writing, even if only on the occasional summer afternoon, brings a certain magic of its own.Filed under From Peggy, Inspiration | Comments Off
This post is a bit of a round-up of mid-summer news; stuff you might want to know.
(1) I still don’t think I’ve managed to process this one completely. Which is kind of nice because every now and then I take it out of the compartment in my brain where it lives and I have a fresh look at it and get newly excited. I found out late last week I was a finalist in the Writers’ Union of Canada’s 15th Annual Writing For Children Competition. This news, in and of itself, is very gratifying and exciting. For some reason I keep getting hung up on the fact I made the shortlist from 680 entries to 118. That alone seems incredible. I still haven’t really zeroed in on the getting to the final 12 bit. What I am extremely pumped about (extremely!) is this part, “the Union will submit the winning story, together with the stories of eleven finalists, to three Canadian publishers of children’s literature for their consideration.” Oh. My. Goodness. What an opportunity. After years and years spent slogging it out on my own, doing the submission thing all by myself, this just seems like heaven to me. Wow.
(2) I’m teaching a workshop! Probably. And maybe even two. It’s all based on enrollment (as in there has to be enough) but the Ottawa Catholic School Board has agreed to my proposal of holding a workshop to help writers enter writing contests and are adding it as a new course in their Fall continuing education catalogue. It’s going to be a two-hour workshop and, I think, pretty affordable at $21.00. Once the course is open for registration I’ll post the details and I encourage anyone interested to sign up, as well as passing the info onto others who might also be interested. I’m pretty pumped on the benefits of entering writing contests these days (see item #1) so can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with others.
(3) Changes are looming for Two Writers Talking. Peggy and I will be giving you more information so stay tuned for that. Can’t say more right now, but will very soon.
In the meantime hope you’re all enjoying your summer!Filed under From Tudor, On Life, The Writer's Path | Comments (3)