Random

It’s been awhile…

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It’s been awhile since I have said hello here. Things have been a bit quiet this summer. Pushing through some personal issues, relaxing on the beach and seeking inspiration for all those words I love to write. The good mingling with the bad.

I thought I would share my newest author pic with you, actually my only author pic. I like it. My fabulous husband took it, and I think he has a good eye. It feels weird to have an author pic. I suppose that makes me an author. It’s pretty exciting.

Also I thought I would share my latest publication: ‘Green on the inside‘. I was thrilled to be published by Flash Fiction Online and not only that, but someone reviewed my story! Thrilling.

I hope your summer is full of sunshine and soft waves lapping smooth shores. ❤

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Writing Advice

Writing Cycles

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I tend to be inspired by topics swirling around mental health: I’m interested in mental illness and its effects on people and relationships; I’m fascinated by psychology and states of mind that make people see and believe things that don’t align with reality. And because the maladies of the mind are so often my muse, I thought it was about time I wrote about my relationship with the my own mind as it relates to writing.

Recently I was loosely diagnosed with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I say loosely because it wasn’t official, just a trend I noticed and spoke to my doctor about, who agreed that SAD could be the cause. The trend? Getting exhausted and depressed in the winter months. For example in the past two months my motivation has been drained and I’ve had real trouble getting out of bed (or wanting to do anything but sleep forever). It’s an awful feeling and in the depths of it quite terrifying because there’s a fear in there that things will never get better.

But inevitably they do.

I’ve started light therapy and that paired with the recent bloom of good February weather seems to have pulled me out of my funk. I’m full of energy now and back to writing (before I was only thinking about writing).

Luckily in the depths of my listlessness I’ve still managed to keep up on some reading I’ve been doing as research for my next book. I’m reading a book called ‘Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament’ by: Kay Redfield Jamison. This book is completely fascinating and I mention it because it doesn’t only touch on manic-depressive illness, but also on SAD and the ‘artistic temperament’-the general trend of writers and other artists to follow seasonal patterns of productivity.

According to the book many artists have seasonal periods of creation that align with the seasons in nature. Artists are cyclical creatures prone to productivity in certain months and less in others. It’s different for everyone when these peaks are, but they are present and have been studied. This idea relaxes me. Curious about the effects of the seasons on my own work I recently looked up each one of my novels to find the date in which I created the document to start writing them. The verdict: Spring and Summer (mostly summer). All of them. Not one of my novels was started in a winter month. Fascinating!

For me, my cycles seem to be even more extreme, as during the times when I am truly active I write like there’s no tomorrow. I have been known to write most of my books in no more than three weeks, sometimes even two and any short stories come out fully finished in an hour or two tops. Pages and chapters fly by when I am in a ‘flow’ period and honestly I love it. I like to get things done quickly and to leave the rest of my time for thinking and planning my next piece.

So what’s the point of me writing all of this?

I want to say I’m relieved. These cycles and seasonal ups and downs can seem strange and confusing when you think you’re alone. But reading about other artists and writers who share this cyclical spirit makes me understand myself a bit better and want to give myself more leeway when I’m not writing or inspired every hour of every day.

As issues of mental health are my muse, they can also be my comfort as I ride the waves of my creative productivity and try to make sure I’m being kind to myself.

I also want this to be a reminder to be kind to yourself too. Give yourself space if you need it and don’t push too hard.

Have you noticed any cycles to your writing life? I would love to hear about them!

Writing Advice

I think it might be magic…

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If I believed in magic that’s what I would tell you writing is.



The firing of specific synapses, the chemical cascade that transmutes the scent of a particular perfume into a fifteen hundred word short story, the fall leaves into rhyming poetry, your brutal breakup into a seventy thousand word novel.

It’s an ancient magic, recalled from distant cold nights huddled around fires, trading tales of news from far off lands, keeping the shadows subdued and enchanted. It’s ritualistic: reliant on special pens, specific desks, a certain walking route, a routine we know by heart, that sweet annihilation of reason, a sip of wine at midnight, or the writing sweater we refuse to wash.

We seek out other’s magic rhythms too, the successful among us, we gather at their feet and beg for their secrets. Do you rise early, before the sun? Do work in the morning, or the afternoon? Have a light lunch? Take a stroll at 3pm exactly? Stay up late? Because we’ve heard that’s a sign of greater intelligence. And they kindly share their magic recipes with us; their steps to plot and puzzle, to know your characters deeply, meaningfully, to personify your settings, objects, animals, plants. They tell us of their habits, their secrets, and we absorb them, make them our own.

That moment of inspiration is magic as well; a conversation overheard out of context, a furtive look on the face of a passerby, a thing out of place in an ordinary setting. It would strike like lightning if that wasn’t so cliche. Instead it’s a burned finger on the stove, numb with shock but unforgettable.

And finally there’s a flurry of magic words, scrawled on paper or composed on the blank screen, a flashing cursor moving endlessly ahead of letters forming perfect incantations, designed to cast a spell, a trance. And when it’s over we awaken, unsure of what we’ve done, feeling a satisfying loss, an emptying out. A bruise on our knee we never noticed before. How did that get there?


Maybe it’s unhelpful to say it’s magic though.

Maybe it’s too easy.

It’s a craft, you say, a practice, a discipline.

But I think there’s something worthwhile in believing in magic, just for a second, even for an unbeliever like me. Because magic is the world of make-believe and that’s where we, as writers, want to be. Magic reminds us of the unknown, the yet to be invented, the mystical, the sacred, the beautiful. Magic reminds us we are all connected to our imaginations, to our memories of things that never were.


Also, maybe magic can allow us to believe in ourselves.

 To believe that moment of inspiration will come again, even if it’s been gone for years. To believe that we have a whole universe inside of us that’s waiting to be written, that we are connected to those ancient ancestors of ours who told stories because that’s what humans do. Maybe believing it’s magic could help us when we’ve hit the wall, because with magic we can walk through walls, or move them, or fly over them on our broomsticks, or turn them into cotton candy and eat our way through. Maybe if we believe it’s magic when things get hard we can remember why we opened that document to begin with, why we put our pen to paper.

Maybe magic can be our placebo, the pill we take to tell ourselves our the headache is all in our heads.

I think it might be magic, so go on, write me a spell.

Random

Random Conversations: Our cab driver

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Me: Hi!

Driver: Hi! How are you tonight?

Me: Good, how are you?

Driver: I’m 1000% better than I was last night!

Me: Wow! Really? Why?

Driver: Well two weeks ago I went to bed…if you’re interested I’ll tell you my story…

Me: Of course!

Driver: Well two weeks ago I went to bed and I laid down on my left side, I started feeling all dizzy. On my right side no, but my left side so dizzy. I think it’s called vertigo…

Me: Wow, yikes!

Driver: So I ran to the pharmacist because I thought maybe I was having a heart attack…but no, my blood pressure was fine.


Me: Whew!

Driver: So I went to the doctor and he looked in my ear and I had an ear infection and ear wax! So he gave me some drops…

Me: That’s good! Ear infections are bad! I get wax buildup too, it’s bad.

Driver: So then I had this head pain…

Me: Oh no! Like a migraine?

Driver: No, like…I don’t know how to say it…like my head is empty…(laughs)

Me: (Laughs) Oh that’s not good!

Driver: No! So I went and had my ears…well they put a thing in and lit the end on fire…

Me: Candling?

Driver: Yeah candling! There was so much wax (holds up fingers to show how much wax). And my head feels better!

Me: Oh no, I think that’s not real. I think it’s a scam…you should have your doctor clear the wax out for you. They use this big metal syringe and fill it with water and shoot the water into your ear. It’s not very nice, but it works!

Driver: It’s a scam? No! I don’t think so! (Looks weirded out)

Me: Yeah I used to do it, but then I found out it was a scam!

Driver: No!

Me: Did you ask your doctor?

Driver: Yeah. And my naturopath.


Me: (Internal sigh) Oh, well I could be misinformed, I’ll ask my doctor, but I’m pretty sure it’s not real.


Driver: (Shakes his head)

Silence.

Driver: Well I was on Facebook the other day and I saw something about India…you know they were going to hang a prisoner.

Me: What?!


Driver: Yeah he was a criminal, so he was going to hang…that’s what they do there.

Me: Yikes!

Driver: Yeah, so they asked if they could do an experiment and the government said yes, so they took him and said instead of hanging, they were going to kill him with a cobra. And they showed him a cobra. Then they blindfolded him, because that’s what they do when they hang you, and they took two needles…they wanted it to feel like a cobra bite and they ‘bit’ him. Then guess what? He died! And they found cobra poison in his blood!


Ben: (Quietly) Maybe he had a heart attack.

Me: (Louder) Maybe he had a heart attack!

Driver: No! But they found cobra poison in his blood!


Me: Well maybe he got bit by a snake earlier!

Driver: (Laughs)

Me: I don’t think people just randomly have snake venom in their blood without getting bitten.


Driver: Well the body had lots of things in it, so maybe…

Me: Probably not venom…we would be in trouble if we were just walking around with venom in our blood!

Driver: (Laughs) Yeah…

Me: I’m surprised the government let them do that experiment.

Driver: Oh you can do anything you want in India. The government doesn’t care, they just want to get rich and for their friends to get rich.


Me: That’s kind of scary.

Driver: Yeah.


Me: Is that where you’re from? India?


Driver: Yeah!

Me: Oh cool, how long have you been here.?

Driver: 25 years.

Me: Oh, a long time then! Do you like it better in India or here in Canada?

Driver: Oh here of course. It’s much better here.



Me: Do you ever visit India?



Driver: Oh yes I went last month. We visited my wife’s brother…

Me: Nice!

Driver: Yes.

Long silence, Ben and I talk amoungst ourselves.

Driver: (Eventually) You talk about scams, you can’t trust anybody you know…you know even Volkswagen scams people!

Me: I know, it’s very hard to trust people, you have to be so careful. Oh! It’s a right up here and just drop us on the corner! Thank you so much! Goodnight!

Driver: Goodnight!

Random

The oddity of (very) minor celebrity

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Ben and I are (extremely) minor celebrities.

We’ve been on TV a couple times now, once on a game show where we won cash for complying with a talking ATM and the other time a reality TV series where we talked about watching TV.


When we were first on the game show we lived in Etobicoke and apparently everyone in Etobicoke saw the show because people were constantly coming up to us and saying: ‘you were on that show!’. We would smile and say ‘yup!’ because what else can you say to such an open ended statement?

And now that the reality show we were on is playing on repeat on every possible channel we’re getting a lot more recognition on the streets.


Being a celebrity, however minor, is weird.


Because people don’t really want to talk to you. They want to say something at you and then walk away. Some people even come up to us and start talking as though continuing a conversation we were just having, launching into something random like we’re the best of friends. Then, when we’re thoroughly confused, squinting at them like we’re trying to see them better, they smile and say ‘I saw you on TV last night’.

They want to wave at you too, we’ve had some of that. But surprisingly no random stranger ever wants to, you know, have a conversation.

I’ve never fully understood the appeal of talking to celebrities. Sure I’ve had my moments as a kid, starstruck and hugging Drew Barrymore or Kurt Browning (woot woot professional figure skating), but as I got older I started to realize the people we see on TV are just people and I don’t really have much to say to people unless I know them or am forced into a socializing situation with them. 

So I guess that explains why people don’t say much besides ‘you’re on TV’ when they see us. Because ultimately we’re people and unless they’re planning to actually try to befriend us, we are strangers and they don’t really have anything to say to strangers.


But it begs the question of why they even bother to talk to us in the first place. Sure some people tell us they like the show, or that we’re funny, and the other day we had some kids who wanted us to do a shout out to them if we were ever on the show again (hi Adrian!). But some people don’t say anything about it, they just point out the fact that they recognize us and leave it awkwardly hanging after that.


So why do they do it? Is it just for a story to tell? Like are they going home and talking to their friends about how they saw those wacky kids from the TV? It seems unlikely, but possible. Or is it just a knee-jerk reaction to seeing someone vaguely and distantly familiar. Like that person across from you on the subway who you know you know from somewhere and you smile at just to be sure you’re not being rude? Do people feel it’s the polite thing to do to offer recognition to the recognizable?

It doesn’t bother me, it’s just kind of weird sometimes and fascinating (because humans are always fascinating to me).

And ours is only a very minor celebrity. I can’t even begin to imagine the strangeness or the disconnectedness of actually being famous.

Story Notes

Story Notes: Tectonic Heart

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My story ‘Tectonic Heart’ was published recently at Zeit-Haus Magazine, a new online spot for minimalist literature. I was excited by Zeit-Haus because of its desire to provide a contrast to the flash and glitz of Las Vegas and I’m happy to report the magazine does not disappoint.

To read the story just head on over to Zeit-Haus and check it out.

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 Zeit-Haus before reading the notes.

About ‘Tectonic Heart’

The truth is I have a crush on Iceland.


I’ve never been but everything about it appeals to me. I’ve seen documentaries on the mysticism and the wildness, the volcanic landscape speaks to me, the art inspires me and the people intrigue me. Plus, I kind of want to hold hands with the country just based on this. In one of my books (currently unpublished) my main characters makes an unexpected stop in Iceland and has a strange and fantastic experience there.

One day I’ll get up the nerve and ask Iceland on a date.


In the meantime I will write about it, as I did in Tectonic Heart. The story was originally inspired by a prompt for a contest for a writers conference in Iceland and was meant to feature Harpa Conference Centre. I didn’t win, but I was thrilled to have found a home for the story at the wonderful, and definitely fitting Zeit-Haus.

Tectonic Heart was inspired by my novel that is partially set in Iceland. For some reason the barren, tumultuous landscape always makes me want to write about ghosts.

If you don’t know anything about Iceland I highly recommend looking into it, it’s become sort of a muse for me and for that reason I kind of want everyone to love it (up close or from a distance) as I do.

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Image credit: Stars over Iceland by flickr.com/claudiaregina_cc

Story Notes

Story Notes: Name it

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My story ‘Name it’ was published recently at The James Franco Review. It’s a new magazine and was so honoured to be included in the early days of it’s life as a publication!

To read the story just head on over to The James Franco Review and check it out.

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 The James Franco Review before reading the notes.

About ‘Name it’

This story was inspired by a fascinating article I read that came out of Stanford. The article talks about how people’s hallucinations or voices (when they are suffering with schizophrenia) are influenced by culture. It was amazing to learn that in some cultures the voices are more welcome and therefore more benign.

I’ve always been interested in psychology (I hope to take some classes in university when I get there) and I really wanted to write some fiction that illustrated the point made in the article because it is an amazing discovery and I definitely think mental illness is something that needs to be discussed openly and with compassion.


I was worried about writing this story for a couple of reasons. The first is that mental illness is a very serious topic and when I do write about it I want to do it respectfully. I’ve written about Alzheimer’s (and some other mental illnesses) before and I had the same concerns. I don’t want to offend anyone, I just really want to explore the topic from an artistic perspective. Also, in seeking publication for the story I didn’t want it to misinterpreted as ‘horror’ because it wasn’t intended that way at all. So I was happy to have found The James Franco Review as they seemed to understand what I was trying to accomplish with the story and they appreciated it.


The second thing I was worried about was writing from the perspective of a child, that can sometimes come off as ‘cutsie’ and I didn’t want that to be the case either. It’s always tricky writing with a strong voice like I did in ‘Name it’ because you run the risk of people thinking it’s over the top.

Overall though I was happy with the outcome and I hope that people reading these notes will check out the article that inspired the story and learn more about schizophrenia and some of the amazing people who are trying to ease the symptoms of those suffering with it.