Friday, October 30, 2009

Phobias spelled Out

Okay, the day before Halloween and I just couldn't resist. This started at the Writers conference as a way to learn new words. If I heard a word I didn't know I wrote it down in the back of my notebook and looked it up later. I found out that a misogynist was a hater of women and that gravitas was seriousness of sobriety. But my favorite new word is Peoria(sp?) the fear of having too many mashed potatoes! I have been looking for a conformation that this word exists but no such luck. However, in my search I have found some interesting phobias and some down right unbelievable phobias.

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia---the fear of long words

Logophobia---the fear of words (no worries for me there)

Mythophobia---the fear of stories or myths(hope there aren't too many of these people around)

Omphalophobia---fear of belly buttons

Papaphobia---fear of the pope

Zemmiphobia---fear of the great mole rat

And then there is my personal favorite, Dutchphobia---fear of the Dutch

So while I cannot confirm fear of too many mashed potatoes, there are quiet a few other words, and phobias,out there to be discovered. If you'd like to share some on the comments I would like to see what other people have got on their own lists of new words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Passing it forward

Not all writers can attend a writers conference. Distance, time and money are all major factors in the decision to attend or not to attend. But that doesn't mean you can't gain a little from the things that I learned.

I, took notes!

The first author workshop I attended was with Jack Whyte. Fantastic speaker, passionate about what he does and a Scottish brogue to boot. But, this is what I learned from him which is most important :

  • Get into what motivates you, your passion, your anger, when it comes from within you, that's when it (your writing) becomes a valid
  • Beware of your inner censor. This can stifle your creativity if you are always worried about what other people think. (Including your mother, pastor, neighbour and friends)
  • Give yourself privacy. Discipline yourself to write every day, seven days a week as well as taking the time to read every day.
  • Writers block is your subconscious mind telling you that what you are trying to write is not acceptable/un-writeable. Give that section a break, then go back and try a new direction.
  • A good story cannot exist without a good character. (This was one of my favorite quotes)

Of course the workshop went on with other info, but I think this is some of the most pertinent. I am hoping to add a few notes from each of my most memorable workshops, to pass along my experience and what I gained out of it. And maybe it will help a writer or two with a different perspective on the writing life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

First Impressions

Back from SIWC, renewed, invigorated and motivated by the weekend. Gained knowledge, new friends (hi to all of you reading this ;), pitched my book, met with authors and moved forward in my writing journey. But that isn't what you really want to hear about. You want to know if I actually made a fool of myself. Not one to disappoint, I did make a genuine effort in that particular area.

First, the whole business of good impressions. You will recall that I mentioned in my last post before I left, that I had "extra deodorant". Well, if extra means you forget the deodorant at home than I was bang on in my understanding of the word "extra". The first day and a half I was running back to my room ever couple of hours to wash. No I wasn't running marathons, but if you will also remember, there is the nervous sweating business of pitching, letting someone reading your work and in general putting yourself out there. So, I did make a purchase (who ever head of paying $7 for Lady speed stick??) at the small store in the hotel and was smelling like baby powder from there on in. But alas, that was not the moment that stands out for me when it comes to being a fool.

I had a session with an author to read some of my work, go over what was good, what could be improved, yada yada yada. Problem being I didn't realize I should have a story for him to look at. So try and imagine explaining Robert Jordan's Eye of the world series or maybe The Lord of the Rings IN DETAIL in less than ten minutes when you are already nervous. Oh, did I mention that I was sitting down with Terry Brooks, national bestseller, who has over 30 MILLION copies of his work sold?

So as I fumbled and he tried to help me (he was very kind, like someone trying to converse with a handicapped child) I managed to confuse him completely, leave him with a lasting impression of this person, Moi, who can't even explain what she is writing about( I am quite sure he thought I was a simpleton) and I walked out shaking my head at the wasted opportunity. Oh boy.

I laugh about it now, I have to because if I don't I think I might never sit down with another author again and ask for their help. But as it was I had a second chance, not with Terry Brooks but with Robert Dugoni. But that I will leave for another post, as this one is all about mistakes and my second chance at a first impression went much better than my first chance at a first impression. Which in itself is a whole other story.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

SIWC 2009

Here I go, diving into the deep end, no life preservers, no swimming lessons and no life guard. I am heading to Surrey tomorrow for the Surrey International Writers Conference for 4 days...all be myself. EEK!

There is lots to learn, workshops to attend, people to meet and agents to pitch. Yeah that last one would be the stress that is causing pimple breakouts, sleepless nights and headaches. The Pitch. Sitting down with an editor or agent and trying to tell them all about your book, how fabulous it is and why they should take you on, in ten minutes or less. A query letter is easy, you print one up, send it off and it doesn't matter how much you're sweating, how shaky your hands are, those agents don't see it. But a pitch, right to that agents face, wow, they can see sweat stains, nervous twitches and smell that onion breath!

The trick I think is to be prepared. I have, besides my Q&A list, extra deodorant and body spray, Listerine, scope and gum, and enough makeup to weigh down that nervous twitch. Hopefully that covers all the bases, if not I may start drinking this weekend. ;)

All and all, I am terribly excited and I can't wait to tell you all about my first major conference, but I won't be able to write anything until Monday. So wait for me with baited breath, there is sure to be at least one story about me making a fool of myself.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Privileged First

As a writer there is a need for a reality check from time to time. For me, it comes in the form of my "First Readers". They are the people that I hand my baby over to, my manuscript(ms) in rough form, the people who see it before I do any major revisions, before editors and before any other form of critique. These are the people who will catch any major boo-boos in the ms, plot problems or characters that are one dimensional. They tell me if it stinks, they are completely honest with me and I appreciate that. But there is another kind of first reader out there, the kind that too often writers(myself included) are tempted to give our ms to.

They are the "everything looks fantastic and you shouldn't change a thing!" readers. Parents, spouses and good friends often fall into this category. They stroke our egos and calm our fears and anxieties. But I am going to share a secret with you about these kind of readers...


Telling a writer that their work is fantastic when in fact it is sheer drudgery to wade through only sets the writer up for failure down the road. Just because your mother says your work is the next Harry Potter, doesn't mean it's true. In fact, I would be tempted to say that it would be just the opposite. Our loved ones want to encourage and support us, so they don't tell us what they really think as in, "Holy crap that was the worst use of paper in the history of the world."

Want to improve your work before it goes to the editor? Gather together a small number of people who you would normally be afraid to show your work to. This is probably because you know they will tell you the truth, good or bad. For me, it's an older brother and a good friend, both of whom have no problem telling me if my writing sucks or if it rocks.

And if you want to be a writers "First Reader" be prepared to give the bad and the ugly with the good. Being dishonest with a writer only does us a disservice, it doesn't help at all. So break out your red pens and say what you really want to say. Don't worry, your writer can and will learn to handle it, if not, they are probably in the wrong business.

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Handy Reminder

One of my clients reads palms for a living and after our appointment she offered to read my palm. Besides the two children I am going to have, my long life and the fight with my hubby a few months ago (no she did not spit in my hand and tell me I was going to have a pool) she also made some remarks about my writing that got me thinking. She said that my writing delved deep into my spiritual side and would help people without them even recognizing it. This sparked something in my mind, something I hadn't thought too much about lately with all my efforts in trying to find an agent, editor and publisher.

A writer can only hope that their work will be more than a novel, more than a story that is read once and put away on the shelf. Possibly the words you write can offer hope to someone or maybe a realization that their life could be worse, much much worse, or maybe just a good laugh to lift the blue day blues. Whatever the case, I realized that I want my work to be more than a story, at least to a few people, to have the meaning, characters and triumphs to stick to the readers ribs like oatmeal.

This is why I write, not just because it's a passion/obsession, not just because I can't imaging a future without it, but because it gives me the chance to share the truths I have learned in my life and the belief that no matter how difficult the journey, the destination is worth the ride.

Hopefully, you all agree. If not, you should really read my books.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wringing Out Words

You might wonder at the title of my blog, so let me explain, there is a reason behind it. If you look up the word "wring" in the thesaurus these words follow : contort, twist, wrench, extort, force, wrest, anguish, distress, harass, pain, wrack, torture.

That is what it can be like to write. For those of you in the trenches with me, you understand how difficult it can be to get the right word, phrase, description or character. To sit down at your desk, wrack your brain with a blank page in front of you, and know you should be filling it with a fantastic new world and to have that page stay blank. Some days you have to wring the words out, and it can be more than difficult, it can be the most gut wrenching frustration.

So in an effort to extort a few more words out of my brain, to harass my mind yet a little more, I will be blogging my journey of publishing (see: anguish, torture & pain) my literary gems.

You will all get to see my distress as I seek out agents, editors and publishing houses. As I wrest rejection letters out of the mailman's hands, force myself to write just one more chapter and twist my editors words so I can say, "See, I didn't need to change this at all."

But I am sure you will also get to see the humour and fun in this journey of mine and hopefully you might learn a thing or two from my experiences.

Of course if all else fails, I plan on becoming a contortionist.