Events

Upcoming Reading – Bed Post

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I’m not typically known for my erotic fiction, but I have dabbled in it and I was thrilled to be invited to read at Bed Post. It should be a fabulous night and I encourage anyone who likes sex to come out and make merry with all manner of performances on June 26th at the Social Capital.

Story Notes

Story Notes – The world of her own making

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My story ‘The world of her own making’ was published recently in A cappella Zoo (Issue 14) and I was so excited.

To read the story just head A cappella Zoo and order up Issue 14.

Because I love to know about the origins of a story from the writer’s perspective, I thought I would share some notes about this story with you.

Spoiler Alert: There are spoilers in the story notes below. So if you want to read the story with fresh eyes check it out first at A cappella Zoo before reading the notes.

About ‘The world of her own making’

I love origin myths; the expansiveness of the claims and the simplifying of all the complexity of the universe into something completely human centric. Our gods are so often personifications of us, with all of our most basic (and sometimes terrible) traits; jealousy, lust, rage, hunger. Any origin myth we’ve conjured up is such a great indication of our humanity—our desire to connect with something bigger than us, our wish for the simplicity of a god-like figure.

I wanted to write a story of a girl who ate the world and naturally, as I was writing it, it turned into an origin story. A new world from the old, not something from nothing but something born from a normal girl who simply got hungry.

I can’t imagine a universe where something comes from nothing. I think ultimately that makes me a believer in an infinite multi-verse which has its own issues but I like the idea of a new universe coming from something pre-existing because a lone god in an empty void creating all of existence is even more confusing and definitely less science-friendly.

I liked being able to really get into the texture of things in this story, assigning common tastes to objects that aren’t meant to be eaten and I enjoyed the ultimate grandeur of the tale. I guess thoughts of the universe are never far from my mind because they creep into my writing at any given opportunity.

Writing Advice

Theory of Mind (and why your perspective is a unique snowflake)

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We went out to dinner the other day with Ben’s parents and as we were standing outside of the restaurant some guy passed us and told me he loved my bag (because my bag is pretty awesome—see above photo for proof).  My mother-in-law looked surprised and stared at the guy as he walked away, then looked at me like I should be shocked and impressed.  I smiled (because it’s always nice to both get a compliment and make someone smile), then shrugged because frankly that happens to me all the time; it’s a part of my personal landscape.  People constantly approach me on the street about my clothes, they ask to take pictures, chase me down to ask where I got my shoes, hell I’ve even had people jump out of a car to snap a pic with me.  I’m like a Toronto landmark, sometimes the only hint of colour for miles.  But the point here isn’t my attention grabbing style…it’s the fact that my mother-in-law was surprised by my experiences out in the world.  I experience the world in a completely different way than she does—and that’s fascinating. 



When we’re young, it takes some time but we eventually develop something called theory of mind.  Here’s the Wikipedia definition (which is way better than mine would be):

“Theory of mind (often abbreviated “ToM”) is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.”

Now you may think that theory of mind is something you’ve always had (because who could imagine their lives without it?) but it’s actually something we have to develop and learn.  It’s not innate.  Which would explain why we sometimes struggle with it.  I know I do.  Sometimes I expect that someone will just get what I’m saying or how I’m acting without having to explain myself.  Sometimes I expect the world to just fall in line with my mentality and I wonder why it doesn’t.  It’s a problem of intellectual laziness to be sure, but it’s also (in those moments) not using my theory of mind.  Forgetting that other people are well…different from me; that they see the world from a completely different perspective, that they can’t always understand my perspective just as I can’t always understand theirs.

So that leads me to writing.  


For a long time I struggled with my most recent book (What it means to be a man) because it is partially auto-biographical.  It’s based on my (sex) life and my relationship with Ben and when I finished writing it (then re-writing it) I hated it because I was positive everyone would be bored with hearing my own, personal, internal voice.  I have to live with it, I hear my own voice in my head every day.  I struggled and generally reviled the book…then I remembered theory of mind.  Just because I have to listen to my own voice yammer on and tell the same stories of my life over and over, doesn’t mean everyone else has.  To people who don’t know me (or at least to people who aren’t close enough to me to have heard all of my sex stories and know every detail of my relationship with Ben) this story is completely unique.  It’s a perspective they’ve never heard before.  It’s my mother-in-law standing on the street in shock as a man talks to me about my backpack.  

So what’s the point?


All of our personal stories are unique fucking snowflakes.  

All of our perspectives are our own, completely and totally.  No one else lives in our minds, so to the world our stories are fresh and new.  

I used to worry that people would be bored of my stories and that I absolutely had to make up brand new ones about characters I never knew in order to be interesting.  But now every time that fear kicks me in the gut, I kick it right back with theory of mind.


POW!

BAM!

THAWK!

You’re a unique snowflake dammit so go forth and tell your stories with confidence!

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Call for Submissions: Inspiration Series

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Inspiration is a fascinating thing.  Sometimes it comes in waves, sometimes in a steady stream.  Some people have complete control over it while others personify it as a fickle muse, appearing and disappearing as it wants, on its own schedule.  With the launch of the Inspiration Series I’m looking for personal stories of writer’s inspiration.  I want to understand the creative process from an individual perspective and to explore the similarities and differences in the experience of writing inspiration.

I’m seeking essays, anecdotes, personal stories or poetry that elucidate the moment of inspiration.  I want to hear about your process, feelings, theories, personifications, struggles and victories in the realm of inspiration.

Details

Here’s how it will work:

1) You submit!
2) I’ll start the series and post a new writer’s piece every Monday (to offer inspiration for the week ahead) until all the submissions have been posted (or people stop sending me submissions).  I will post them in the order they have been received.
3) All submissions will be posted at www.starspider.ca (the Happy Musings blog) and I’ll tweet each post with the hashtag #museinspirationseries from my twitter account @MusingStar.
4) Upon completion of the series I’ll create a summary post where I discuss the series and link all the posts in a table of contents.

Deadline: Ongoing

Contact: E-mail submissions in the body of the message (no attachments please) to: madamspider at gmail dot com with the subject line: Inspiration Series.

Content: Please include your submission with a title (max 1000 words), your bio (max 100 words) and any links to twitter, websites/blogs & facebook you want to include.  Also note that it is limited to one post per writer.

Rights:  You retain all rights to your words at all times.  Your submission will technically count as a guest post on the Happy Musings blog.

Payment:  Unfortunately this is an non-paying gig, however I will be including your bio and links in the post, so hopefully that can send some traffic your way!

Rejections/editing:  There are no rejections here!  I will be reading every piece first and correcting any grammatical errors, but other than that I want your pure, unadulterated thoughts and feelings on your own well-springs of inspiration.

Why:  I love inspiration and creativity and I find it fascinating.  I love talking to other writers about their process and the moments that initiate their acts of creation.  I have heard inspiration described in so many ways and I love the almost spiritual nature of it.  Because of all this and my ongoing desire to inspire people to be creative I wanted to provide a place for people to muse about their muses and collectively explore our shared moments of inspiration.

I look forward to reading your words!

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My Agent Wish List

ImageSince I decided to apply myself to my burgeoning career as a writer I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject of agents.  How to get an agent, what an agent can do for you, why bother to have an agent etc… I made the choice to pursue the traditional path of publishing because I’m brand new to the whole writing world and I wanted to find someone who knows more than I can read on the internet to guide me.

Now, for obvious reasons, agents aren’t easy to come by.  There’s the querying, then the sending the pages, then the anticipation and long waits.  But in a lot of cases once you get accepted into Agentland it seems like a pretty good place to be.  However, I have heard some horror stories, tales of neglect and being cheated, of communication breakdowns and other issues relating to writers and their agents.

In all the talk of getting an agent, the breathless hoping and the crossed fingers, I don’t often hear about people setting expectations for their agent.  In fact, more often than not, it seems to be the other way around.  Perhaps it’s the scarcity of the acceptance letters that keep writers from being realistic and business-minded about the prospect of getting an agent’s attention, but the more I dip my toe in the waters of the agent sea, the more I try to solidify my own expectations and form a wish list of my own for finding a good agent match.

I’m an entrepreneur.  I’ve been in business for myself for probably around eight years now and I find that has helped me to understand what it is I’m looking for in a business partner.  Because that’s what an agent is, a business partner.  Agents are the people who will represent you in the publishing world, they are the people who will help you make money and they are the people who will champion your work just as much as you will champion it yourself.  As a writer, you are definitely an artist, but you are also a business person running your own small business and I find it helps me to see it as such.  Because I don’t want just anyone to join my business, do you?

You can learn a certain amount about an agent through internet searches and websites, but the real trick is getting to know them (if they like your work enough to give you a call or offer representation).  It’s at that point when you have a choice.  You don’t just have to jump into business with the first person who likes you, although it may be tempting after all that longing and waiting.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and figure out if the agent you are in contact with is the right fit for you and your work.

Agents often have wish lists, books they want to represent or topics they are interested in (which you can generally find in their interviews or on their websites), but as writers I think it’s important that we do too.  As I spend more time in the industry, meet people and do my research, I try to narrow down my own agent wish list to the most important points.  So in the future when I (hopefully) get the chance to work with an agent, I’ll know what I’m looking for.

Here’s my agent wish list:

Good Communication – Communication is key for any good business partnership.  Can I be honest with this person?  Can I ask them questions?  Do they respond in a timely manner to my communications?  Are they willing to be honest with me?  Do we have a good flow to our communications?

Shared Literary Interests – Although I have a style and a general tone to my work (typically magic realism), sometimes I like to experiment.  I want an agent who enjoys all of my work and is interested in a bit of diversity of style, genre and format.

Open Minded – Most of my main characters tend to be bisexual.  I sometimes write books about sex and drugs (not always, but it happens).  I need an agent who is open to LGBT characters and the idea of things getting a little racy.

Hands-On Industry Guidance – I’m a publishing noob but I’m totally willing to work my ass of to make my career a reality.  I’m looking for someone who wants to work with me to help me learn the ropes of the industry.

Passion – I’m crazy passionate about things I dedicate myself to.  Sometimes to the point of insanity.  I need an agent who is just as passionate and excited as I am, because I want to feel the shared love for the work.

Sense of Humour – I like my business partners like I like my friends, with a sense of humour about things.  Life’s too short to take things too seriously and I want to know that I can have a laugh with someone I’m going to work closely with!

That’s pretty much it.  I guess it’s not a lot to ask for, but I’m sure there are agents out there who will fit that criteria and those who won’t.  But when it comes time to decide I don’t want to settle for someone who won’t be a good long term business partner, I don’t think any writer should!

Writers – Do you have an agent wish list?  Feel free to share!
Agents – What are your thoughts on writers having wish lists? Do you have wish lists of your own?

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Advice for new writers (or old ones that need some inspiration)

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The Short

Just write.  Writing isn’t about being good, it’s about being passionate.  Don’t let anyone tell you how to write or what to write, just keep writing and don’t stop till your arms hurt and your eyes refuse to focus on the page.

The Long

Each time I sit down to write and stare at an empty page, a void opens up in front of me.  It’s a wide expanse that alternates between self doubt and emptiness and I peer into it with wide eyes and half a heart.  Sometimes it lasts a fraction of a second and other times the seconds march on into minutes, but either way, it’s my job to leap over the void and into the story.  Each time it’s my job to overcome my boundaries and write.

Art is an act of bravery and writing is an act of art.


When we put words on a page it exposes us, our hopes and dreams, our darker side, our interests and passions.  We are exposed to whomever might be reading our words, but more importantly, we are exposed to ourselves.  When we write honestly and openly, there’s nowhere for us to hide and that can be a scary thing.


Try it now.  Open a word document or a journal (of you like writing by hand) and write a series of statements about yourself.  Each one should start with ‘I’.  Write until you come to a natural end.

Did you do it?

I did:

I am tasting the water.
I am speaking with fire.
I am opening my eyes.
I close them too often.
I am thinking of something I don’t want to do.
I dream of things I’d rather not speak of.
I wish for little but hope for everything.
I am waiting for summer to arrive.
I wish I could see the moon on the lake every night of my life.
I want to write well.
I want to be good.
I need to be real, or else what am I?

So what does this mean?  Maybe something, maybe nothing.  It’s just words on a page that came from my mind.  Sometimes it is more meaningful than others but if we spent our whole lives trying to read into the words that we conjure, we wouldn’t get anything done now would we?

So my advice is to write…but how to write?

Write like no one’s reading


Because no one is.  Sure you’re reading, but you know yourself right?  So it’s not all that bad.  The more you write for other people, the more you will veer away from what you are passionate about and what drives you.  If you aren’t writing for you, you will probably get bored of it mighty fast.

Write like there is no good

There are so many different kinds of writers (and readers) out there, who’s to say what good really is?  And even if there is a good and you’re not it, as long as you are doing what you love, why should it matter?  If you’re writing for fame and fortune, it’s a long shot anyway, even for people who are really crazy amazing.  So best stick with the love and try to go from there.

Write with curiosity

Try new things.  I’ve always written urban fantasy, but I have a great deal of respect and passion for truly well written high fantasy (which I believe is scarce), so I’m going to give it a try.  I’m curious to see if I can write high fantasy well.  Don’t limit yourself to what you think you’re good at, try new things, because they may surprise you and if nothing else, the challenge will hone your skills.

Write free

People will try to tell you all sorts of shit about your writing, I promise.  Everyone will have a different opinion.  Some people will love it, some people will hate it and, unfortunately, some people might even try to read into your psyche through your writing. This is about as effective as a psychic reading (meaning not effective at all).  Sure writing exposes you and opens you up to your inner voice, but trying to make sense of that in any psychologically profound way is nigh impossible and ridiculously fruitless.  Write free.  Don’t read too deeply into your writing.  As humans we are great at (and love to) find patterns.  We will even find them when they are vague or nonexistent.  So don’t cling to patterns and let yourself believe they mean things about your subconscious, and for the love of all the gods, don’t let anyone else do it either.

Write with the knowledge that you can always edit later

Everyone has a different way of doing things, but I like to get a full thought out before I edit.  Whether it’s a paragraph, a chapter or a whole story, if you’re in the flow don’t chicken out and go back to check if everything’s al good.  The past is the past and it isn’t going away, so move into the future as far as you can before venturing back.  But please don’t forget to venture back, because it isn’t perfect back there, not yet.

Write with passion

Write for the love, not the money (because the money will either be slow to come or will never come at all).  Write because you can’t stop yourself.  Write because it makes you happy (or makes you miserable not to).  Write because you’re curious and you want to try.  Write because beauty is possible.  Write because life is too precious to go without mentioning.

All of the points above are well and good, but they all have one thing in common.  The word ‘write’.  So at the end of the day, the take home message is, was and always will be: write.  Just close your eyes, jump over the damn void and write like hell.


Tell me about your challenges and share your ‘I’ lists!

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Growing as a writer

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I started writing fiction again after a long hiatus about a year and a half ago.  The very first thing I wrote was a short story that morphed into a novel comprised of interconnected short stories.  The novel was called The Major Arcana.  It took me a year, but when I finished, it was 140,000 words and I breathed a huge, happy sigh.  I did it, I wrote a book.  It was a great feeling and completely liberating after years of repressing my writing.

Once I was done, I decided to put the book away for awhile and wrote some short stories to develop my skills.  I always intended to go back to The Major Arcana and edit so I could try to publish it.  As I was writing more short stories though, I came across another idea and ended up writing another novel called A Girl Out There.  This one only took a month and had about half the word count.

This brings me to yesterday.

We were in the midst of editing A Girl Out There, when I got a message requiring me to revisit The Major Arcana for a submission from long ago.  So I pulled it out of Chronos (my back up drive) and read one of the stories.

The story I chose was one of my favorites at the time, about a circus full of super heroes…awesome stuff right?  Wrong.  It was crazy.  Ben and I both read it, then sat there staring at each other with wide eyes, mouths agape.  What a piece of shit.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, some of the language and ideas were really nice, but overall it was crammed full of words and practically nothing happened through the whole damn thing.

The most nutty thing about it was the difference between that story and my current novel.  A Girl Out There is lean, quick and to the point.  Major Arcana is a lumbering beast, a dinosaur.  It’s quite shocking to see the difference and really fascinating.  It needed such a massive overhaul (maybe half the words cut and an entire story arc re-work) that I ultimately decided to leave it where it lay for awhile longer (possibly even forever).  The editing needed would take an eternity that I’m not ready to invest.  It was a first try at something I needed to do and a totally important step in my writerly development, but at the end of the day I’m not sure it’s much more than that.

The point is, I love being able to look back and see how much I’ve grown in such a short period of time.

I’ve stopped feeling the need to write so many words – how many do you really need anyway?

I’ve moved (mostly) from passive to active phrases.

I’ve learned (I hope) to get to the point and have a full and satisfying story arc, as opposed to just rambling about pretty things.

Overall, although I was shocked at the state of my previous work, I’m pretty happy to have come so far and I can only imagine how I’ll feel looking back on my current work in a couple of years.

Why not dig out some of your old writing and compare with the new?  It will give you a good idea of how far you’ve come and what you’ve learned along the way.

Tell me about your experiences with looking back!