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)
“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
Just a friendly, hopefully useful, little reminder of life and the curveballs it can throw your way.
Anyone hear about the main stage at Bluesfest collapsing? If you live anywhere in Canada, you probably did.
If you also live in Ottawa you may have been aware of many less sensational but more real stories arising from this storm ranging from the extremely tragic death of a seven-year-0ld boy to the fact that many, many people were without power for quite a while. This, as always, caused both hardships (our neighbour who had the back of her house sliced off by a falling tree and lost half a side of beef she had stashed in her freezer for her husband’s upcoming surprise birthday party) and inspired great neighbourhood cooperation (in our community people one one side of the street who had power ran extension cords to the other side of the street so those without could plug their refrigerators in).
In my case it was a bit of a pain but we muddled through OK and I really can’t claim my suffering was anywhere near that experienced by others (although my green bin is the most full it’s ever been with the former contents of my freezer).
Which brings me back to my PSA. Be prepared. If you were a Girl Guide you’ve heard this one before. However, it’s important and it pays off so I’m saying it again. BE PREPARED.
Of course there are many ways to be prepared in your life and the running of your household, etc. but, since this is a writing blog, I’m going to talk about being prepared as a writer.
(A) Don’t only write electronically. Or, if you do, make sure you have good battery power and / or many adaptors which allow you to plug into cars and / or charge in unlikely places. For me, my trusty old (paper) notebook and a good pen are all I need to get through a power outage.
(B) Back up. Save. Back up again. Do these activities frequently. Of course everyone has their own way of backing up but, sadly, for many people their way is to intend to do it someday, or know they should do it more often. In my case my much-more-technologically-savvy husband has rigged up an automatic back-up program which runs on our computers and copies everything up to an external hard drive. Which is nice and gives me peace of mind and all that but which still isn’t quite enough for me. I also like the simplicity and convenience of the extra method I always use for my work in progress. Everytime I work on it I do a save then I e-mail the saved file to my hotmail account. It takes two minutes and it’s 100 per cent accessible whenever and wherever I am. This has also served me well when a few times I’ve made big changes and then decided I didn’t like them. I just had to hunt back a couple of days through the files in my hotmail and open the older version to reinstate my original writing.
So, let this be a little reminder / kick in the pants that long before there was electricity there was writing and there can continue to be writing without power. If you’re prepared, that is.Filed under Uncategorized | Comments Off
I wonder if any of you reading now were also reading way back when I first wrote about some of my favourite quotes?
One of them was from my first and longtime riding coach, Jeff McKessock who was known to say, fairly often, “Everything is forward.”
This is certainly true in riding but I think it’s even more true in life. I’m constantly reminded of how important it is to keep moving, running, going forward.
Otherwise, bad things catch me! Here are some examples both serious and not-so serious:
(1) Mosquitos and deer flies and bugs, oh my! Anyone who’s hiked, camped or done anything outdoorsy in Ontario, especially at this time of year, knows the importance of keeping moving when the bugs are out.
(2) Calories. Not that you’d know it to watch my kids scoff down six bowls of cereal at breakfast time, but for those of us no longer growing (up), it’s crucial to keep moving lest the calories catch up.
(3) Self-doubt / rejection / despair. Sound heavy don’t they? And they can be. If you’re not moving forward when they hit. Standing still these things will wallop you and knock you to the ground. However, if you’ve already got some momentum they feel more like a kick in the rear as you’re on your way forward anyway. Example: one day this week I received two things in the mail. One was a notice that I hadn’t received a grant I’d applied for. Ow! The second was a nice congratulations note and a cheque for my first place prize in the West End Writers contest. Great! True, the grant would have been worth a lot more money than the contest was but, still, it pretty much balanced my day out. Obviously these things don’t always come on the same day, but getting an e-mail announcing contest finalists in which your name is not included goes down a lot easier when you know you just sent off an entry for a new contest the day before. Hope, as they say, springs eternal but your job is to make sure you always have something out there to hope for.
So I’m here to urge you to keep moving. You’ll be leaner, fitter, less itchy and much more hopeful. All good things in my books.Filed under Uncategorized | Comments Off
I enjoyed Tudor’s Saturday post on how people think. And I fully agree that fortune favours the prepared – that those ‘spontaneous’ flashes of inspiration generally come to people who have created fertile mental soil through ongoing commitment to their craft.
As much as I could relate to the experience of being an ‘idea-popper’, I could also relate to Tudor’s comment that our societies also need plenty of people to live a more linear mental life, so as to keep the world running smoothly.
What I find hard is having a foot in both worlds. Compared to a (stereotypical) creative artist, I’m pretty boring. But compared to a (stereotypical) suburban volunteer/housewife/freelancer, I’m pretty creative. Depending on the season, my surroundings, and my support group, I lean more or less in one direction or the other ; my artsy side and my linear side compete for dominance. If I lean too far in either direction, I get frustrated.
I am learning that, for me, letting go of ‘linear’ considerations like bill-paying and career glory is maybe the better choice when it comes to my writing life. Because if I make those my goals, my writing time is going to be market-driven and ultimately not the creative outlet I want it to be.
So, having bolstered my creative half by completing the SFU Writer’s Studio last year, this September will see me trucking off to Capilano University to reinforce my linear side – the side I’ll be counting on to do aforesaid bill-paying. I’ll be taking Cap’s Medical Assistant program, and looking forward to exercising a different part of my brain altogether.
Having been self-employed for so long, it is simultaneously thrilling and daunting to contemplate marching to someone else’s drum. But I’m thinking that this new left-brain endeavour will, in its own way, create the structure and support that will free up my right brain writer-self to play as it sees fit – for personal, not just professional, reasons.
That’s the plan, anyway. We all have our version of the struggle to find life/work balance. What’s yours?Filed under From Peggy, On Life, Organizing our Writing Lives, The Writer's Path, Uncategorized | Comments Off
This post has been percolating in my head for a while and I wasn’t sure when I’d write it, then I read this post of the INTERN’s and it gave me the nudge I needed.
Long story short, I’ve recently figured out writers think / work / produce differently than other people. That our brains work differently. I’m not trying to pretend this is news or an earth-shattering revelation or anything, but, a recent episode of Ideas on CBC radio sparked this thought process and then INTERN kept it going, so time for a post about it.
First, backstory. One of the things I get paid to write is a document called the BCR (Biographical Career Report). BCRs are usually at least 50 pages long and go into great detail about how someone likes to learn, make decisions and plan, as well as what gets them involved in situations and the conditions they like to work under. For each section (e.g. learning) there are about 10 choices. So, you can learn by “Studying and Reading”, by “Learning and Doing”, etc. The interesting thing is, often, when I’m debriefing the client 0n this document, we’ll be talking about the way they like to learn and they’ll say “well, what other way is there?”
Which is a huge teachable moment. Because, according to the template, there are nine other ways to learn and, I would argue, in real life there are probably even more than that. Or, at least, more specific descriptions of the ways. And so I often end up saying to people that there are other ways and these other ways aren’t wrong, just different, and maybe some of the trouble they might be having at work comes from the fact that they work one way and others work in other ways and neither one is right; they’re just not the same. Basic but important info.
So, you’d think I’d be up on all this sort of stuff and hyper-aware but, I tell you, listening to Ideas the other night gave me a lightbulb moment. The gist of it was that – they call them “geniuses” but I’m not about to include myself in that category so I’ll say “artists” – have different thought processes, internal brain workings, whatever you want to call it.
One of the main things discussed was that people who are deeply committed to their craft / art / life’s work often seem to have thoughts / theories / creations pop into their head as if by magic.
And, they did use a real-life genius as an example, Sir Paul McCartney who, it’s said, woke up one day with the tune to “Yesterday” in his head. It sounded familiar to him, and nice, and he asked lots of people of it was some song he just couldn’t place (like a toothpaste jingle perhaps?) but, no. Nobody had ever heard it before and it has gone on to become apparently the most covered / played / recorded / popular song in history.
Not that I’m anything like Paul McCartney but that so happens to me. All the time. Now, as the Ideas show pointed out, there’s a lot of work that goes in ahead of time. Like you have to be pretty much immersed in the subject to have these “spontaneous” ideas appear. And there’s lots of work after in honing and revising and whatever it might be depending on your particular field. But the “Eureka” or “Aha” moments are definitely there and can be pinpointed quite easily.
I think this is a bit of what INTERN was referring to when she talked about getting out in the world and getting some space so the ideas can start flowing again. She even says, “It’s like there’s a part of your brain that can only know certain things when it’s taken away from the computer, and by going for a walk you let the genius loci take over and fill in the blanks.” Amen to that INTERN.
It’s only been by realizing my brain works this way that I’ve realized some other people’s brains don’t. I’ve never understood people who say they hate writing or find it such a tough slog or have no idea what to write because I’ve always just thought “well, sit back and relax and the story will come to you.” I figured what these people really weren’t into was the editing, revision, etc.
Now I realize not everyone has stories pop into their heads. Which is probably good. Because it’s important that, in this world, some people have designs for bridges pop into their heads. And others spontaneously have a great idea for how to stop the growth of cancer cells. It’s probably also good that some people are more straightforward and not distracted by all this idea-popping and can figure things out in a logical fashion, start to finish and keep the world running smoothly.
To be honest, if you just listen to the Ideas podcast you’ll probably get a better grasp on this whole thing. I promise you, it is interesting. At least to me. Which, come to think of it, doesn’t mean it will be interesting to you. Because we could be different that way…Filed under Uncategorized | Comments Off
I’m not on Facebook and I’m not on LinkedIn. And, oh yeah, Twitter – not for me. I know I’m in the minority. I know lots of people swear by these tools and really love them. However, I’m a conscious abstainer.
There are many reasons for this, but one is that I’m already a bit more “out there” than I’d like to be. Googling “Tudor Robins” brings up several pages of information. At first it used to freak me out how much you could find out about me by doing this. You can see, not only what kind of work I do but also which races I’ve run in (with my times!) and where I’ve given charitable donations. You can see where I’ve chosen to spend some of my volunteer hours and what some of my opinions are on community issues. I’ve gotten used to it but at first I really didn’t like it.
The point is, Google already provides an image of me to anyone wanting to build one. I figure there’s a good chance prospective clients and publishers Google me. I know I often Google clients to try to learn a bit more about them.
This is why if you’re “out there” at all (or even if you think you aren’t) it’s really, really important to Google yourself every now and then.
Here are three good examples of why self-Googling has stood me in good stead in just the last 24 hours:
(1) Unauthorized use (aka “stealing) of my work. This happens all the time. Pretty much every time I think of Googling myself, I find a new site which has lifted one of my stories from a site like CanadianLiving.com or More.ca and has completely reprinted the whole thing on their site. Not OK. First of all, that’s my work and I need to be paid if it’s going to be used. Because of the nature of my work I often find my stories used in online newsletters and the entire newsletter will be built around my story about (for example) quick tips for cleaning your house. There will then be tonnes and tonnes of advertising surrounding it, meaning whoever published it is making a good amount of revenue off my back. The other reason I don’t like my work being lifted is that I have a reputation to maintain. My stories will sometimes end up on really wacky-looking sites that are unprofessional and “out there” in the worst sense of the word. Even if they did pay me, I wouldn’t want my work appearing there. So far this has been pretty easy to fix. I send them an e-mail offering them the chance to pay for my work or remove it from their site. It’s usually down within 12 hours. Job done. This kind of self-Googling is akin to self-grooming. You have to keep your image looking good.
(2) Learning new information. So, the other night, while I was discovering the latest site which had “borrowed” my work without asking, I came across a weird entry. It said something about finalists being announced in a writing contest. At first I thought it was a contest I already knew about but, when I clicked on it, I found out it was a different contest and I had won! What a strange way to find out something like that! Definitely important though so I’m glad I Googled.
(3) Finding out what other people are saying about you. This, I figure, is what Angie Nussey’s (now Angela Evans) husband was doing when he discovered this post I wrote about Angie’s great song “Don’t Give Up”. At any rate, he just contacted me to let me know Angela has a new album, “Still Hope” out. You can learn more about it at her website and I know I’m looking forward to receiving a copy of the new CD as soon as this lovely postal strike is over!
For now I’ll continue to use Google to help me, and will continue to avoid the rest of the social media world. I realize, if I ever get a publishing contract, that may have to change but that’s a trade-off I’m willing to make; opening up a FB account in return for getting my novel published. Bring it on!Filed under Uncategorized | Comments (3)
One thing I learned at the knee of Ivan Coyote (my mentor during my time in the SFU Writer’s Studio) was to consider telling your story in ways that go beyond paper and ink.
For her, that included live storytelling, commissioning musicians to compose songs based on tales from her grandparents’ lives, slide shows behind her on stage, etc. For others, it might mean writing a digital novel with enriched audio-visual content at the click of a mouse. (For one experiment in the digi-novel that didn’t sit well with me, see here.)
For many of us, the thought of imagining new creative, multi-media combinations and collaborations is equal parts thrilling and exhausting. The creative possibilities are exciting; the learning curve and time required to get one up to speed on new technologies and market niches, sometimes daunting.
But if you’re intrigued with the thought of telling stories in new ways, here’s a market for you: Fox and Bee (a two-person creative industry run, literally, out of a cottage) has produced a $2.99 app called In Common: Bikes that pulls together bike lore, quotes, trivia, photos and nonfiction, bike-related stories from all over the world. They’ve even thrown in a bike courier delivery game that’s curiously addictive.
Fox and Bee’s goal is to give us a global sense of how a common object is used in different places and by different people. AND (here’s where you come in), they have a call out for submissions on shoes. You have until July 1 to produce a nonfiction piece that’s between 500 and 2,000 words. Here are the rest of the submission guidelines.
Part of the proceeds from the app go to micro-financing loans through Kiva. That’s just one of the reasons I like the attitude behind this creative duo’s offering … so if you want to be part of the multi-media world (but don’t want to learn the techie part yourself), consider doing some sole-ful writing for Fox and Bee!
Filed under From Peggy, Memoir, Sites We Like, The Publishing Industry, Uncategorized | Comments Off
Well, sort of. It’s all relative.
However, I do have a milestone to report, in that I found out this week that I’ve won third place in the North Shore Writers’ Association (NWSA’s) 15th Annual Writing Contest.
With this placing comes a whopping $25 prize! So, OK, it’s not quite enough to enable me to get on a plane and attend the party where the prizes will be handed out (in BC) but it is a big deal in that it’s the first time I’ve received money for writing fiction.
There’s also going to be an anthology which means this will be the third short story I’ll have published. In case you need a refresher, I had a story published in the Ottawa Citizen in February and, just recently I received an honourable mention in the National Capital Writing Contest, which also saw my story published in their anthology.
A couple of notes our regular readers will find interesting. (1) The winner of this contest, Elaine Berg, is in one of Peggy’s writing groups and (2) this story evolved from some of the work I found in the Treasure Trove I wrote about early in May.
So, how do I feel about this? I feel gratified. It’s nice to have positive feedback. It helps keep me from suffering the “am-I-some-crazy-lady-sitting-all-alone-in-my-house-deluding-myself-that-I-can-write” syndrome. It’s useful to know that two different judges both thought my work was noteworthy. It helps me think I do, yes, at least know how to write.
However, will this help me get closer to my ultimate goal of having my novel(s) published? I’m not sure (although, another important thing entering these contests does, is keep me from obsessing too unhealthily about that). What I will say is, if there is a way for it to help me get closer to that goal, I’ll definitely leverage that.
I’ve talked a lot about why I decided to have this Year of the Contest and what it does for me but I’m going to see if I can get an outside (in other words, wiser) input on what entering contests does for writers in general. If that works out, you’ll definitely see another post about it here in the near future.Filed under Uncategorized | Comments Off