In May I bought a Nikon Coolpix S8200. This weekend I had some time to play with its features. Finally, I have a point and click camera that can help me to capture moments with more accuracy. The pictures seemed to instinctually know what I wanted.
As we toured around Georgian Bay in mom and dad’s pontoon boat I experimented with the camera’s features. I am excited about the possibilities of using photography with writing.
How do you use photography and writing?
How has history impacted your work? Has it slipped into your created worlds? Has it inspired the people who inhabit them? If we fall too deeply down this well of thought it becomes impossible to separate the influences of history… Continue reading
Tonight after dinner, before I left for an evening walk, I reached into a pocket of my large black Matt & Nat bag hoping to find a pen. Instead I found some keys. Lost keys appear at odd times.
In December I spent hours looking for keys to open my writing trunk. Years ago I bought a large tool trunk to store old notebooks and writing projects. I secured the trunk with two locks. The trunk has been locked for about five years. I could not remember what was inside other than some old notebooks and drafts of my plays.
What can we learn about our writing by looking at the work we did as a child? Continue reading
Some say write what you know. Others say write what you are interested in and go out and know it. Last week I visited Archives Canada to do some family history research (that also serves as the inspiration for my next big writing project about Leilah).
My approach to research is like my approach to writing: go to where the energy burns brightest. I did not have a plan. I had a thick file holding three years of research notes, an iPad, and some blank paper. Generally, I wanted to know more about the Metis, the Voyageurs, lighthouses, and my family.
When we arrived at Archives Canada we had to sign-up for a Library Card. This process was easy–some photo ID, a computerized form, and a signature. Once our cards were ready we signed in at the security desk and received a key for a locker. It is helpful to read all the information on the Archives Canada website, Preparing for a Visit. Continue reading
Since the Oscars in February the video about the Bechdel Test has been passed around on Facebook, Twitter, and via email. A couple days ago I told a friend of mine about the test. He teaches film but does not have Facebook. Since then the Bechdel Test has been on my mind.
To pass the Bechdel Test a story needs to have at least two female characters with names who talk to each other about something other than a man. Continue reading
In August 2011 I barely started writing the story of Leilah. While on a writing retreat I spent two mornings exploring story and character. When I got home I put the story aside, too busy with other things to continue. For the last three months Leilah has beckoned me to the page, wanting me to tell her story. I do not really know who Leilah is exactly. She is a lot like me and nothing like me at all. Likewise, Leilah is a woman of paradox.
Leilah, a quiet woman in her late thirties, teaches creative writing in a Community Centre for senior citizens in present day downtown Toronto. I do not want to give too much away yet. Three basic components of the story:
- Leilah is on a quest for a particular pair of beaded moccasins
- Traditional understandings of time and space are challenged
- Leilah’s friends may surprise you Continue reading
Does a writing project ever truly feel finished? Sometimes I wish writers could be more like movie stars. Johnny Depp rarely (if ever) watches a film in which he is starring. Depp does not see revisiting the work as serving a purpose. When the filming is over, his contribution to the process completed, Depp walks to the next project without looking back. Depp knows when his work with a film project is done. Depp’s line in the sand is absolute.
My writing projects tend be done-ish when I reach the deadline. There comes a point in the writing process where I step back and allow the work to move on, much like an independent teenager who is ready to enter adulthood. I will have given the work all I can with the time and the resources available. I will close my eyes, make a wish, and blow the work out into the world to meet its fate. Continue reading
Inevitably I get bored in every creative project. From singing for an audience to painting with watercolours to acting in a community production to writing a novel or play, I get bored. The work loses its energy and zoom. Distractions appeal to me. I start to lose faith in the work and the process. This is not writer’s block, but a general malaise toward the work.
I have a box of unfinished projects. I started my first novel in the fall of 1998. I was a student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. I spent hours researching and writing the story of Tess, a modern rendering of Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles. I was fascinated by the idea of a “fallen” protagonist, a hero who is also a victim. I rewrote the first eighty pages for five years and then I put the project in a box. Continue reading
How to use this page:
When we meet as the WriteReads book club we use a list of quotations as our discussion guide. Review the quotations. Decide which ones resonate with you and which ones you oppose. How do the ideas relate to your writing process? Use a quotation as a focus for free writing.
How can books about writing process serve our work? Some say books about writing are procrastination tools, ways to distract or avoid the act of writing. Others say books about writing are sources of inspiration, ways to reinvigorate process or ignite the act of writing.
How do you use books on writing? Do they support or detract from the work of getting words on the page? Which are your favourite books about writing? Do you prefer books that prescribe approaches to technique or books that show glimpses of the writing life or books that offer writing prompts or books that reveal the process of a writer you admire?
What draws you to a book about writing? Or why do you prefer to avoid books about writing altogether? Continue reading
Solitude and community are essential elements of the writing life. Just as a writer needs to spend long periods of time connecting to his/her inner world, a writer also needs to nurture relationships and experience community.
Meaning continually moves from within us to outside of us and vice versa. When we write we translate the ideas ruminating in our minds to the page. The events of our lives feed the ideas and emotions pulsating through our work. Most writers create for an audience. When we give our work to readers they filter our words through their experiences and create a new meaning. A story that grew within us through the events of our lives can become a story on the page that is processed by a reader who interprets meaning based on his/her frame of reference. The work now belongs to both the reader and the writer.
A writer needs a safe community in which to test ideas, to share works in progress, to learn how to communicate his/her internalized vision for the work into an external product. A writer needs supporters who validate the writing process, ensure accountability, encourage discipline, and offer constructive critique. A writer needs to celebrate and commiserate wth like-minded people about the uses for a semi-colon, the intricacies of point of view, the format for submission to contests. Writers are life long learners. Writers need opportunities to learn about craft, process, and promotion.
Writing communities can be large or small. In high school we wrote together a couple of times a month in the computer lab. We worked on the school newspaper. In university we met in darkened lounges to share poetry and whisper book ideas.
When I became a grown-up I decided to become a “real” writer. I read all the books I could find on writing. I scheduled daily writing time. I played with poetry and prose. I kept my writing hidden. It was a secret past-time. Continue reading