The Need for Stories

The story of a writer often begins with the story of a reader. It begins with a passion for the written word, a longing for stories. I consumed stories. I was voracious. I read far above my grade level, and below it as well, reading the books on my classroom shelf, my parents’ shelves, and the stuff my younger sister left lying around. At twelve I was reading Stephen King, and the Bailey School Kids, and the Redwall books.

When I read that’s all I do. I disappear. I don’t hear people around me anymore. I read until I have to stop, or until the book is done. I have burnt dinner. I’ve been late for work. I’ve stayed up far past my bedtime. When my son was born I read a lot while nursing. I tried to do this when my daughter was born but realized it wasn’t safe – I’d lose track of my then-two-year-old son. I put books aside almost entirely for a few years, only flipping through a few old favourites to satisfy my need for words, books I could put down easily because I knew what happened in the end.

Often people ask writers where they get their ideas from and I’ve written about inspiration and motivation before. I think before we have ideas for individual stories we have the idea that we can write stories. Something clicks inside of us and we go ‘hey, maybe I could do this’. And then the story ideas start. There’s still time to turn back at this point, still time to say, ‘no, it’s too much trouble, I’ll just keep my nose in this book’, and that’s what many people do.

For me that click very quickly became a need. I realized I had stories to tell, stories that were important to me, ideas I wanted to share. I often feel like I have no choice in this anymore. I must continue to write. The ideas come faster than I can record them. I have projects I will never finish, and more I will never even have time to start. I am driven by a need to reach out to people, to communicate across time and space and reality, just as so many authors were able to do with the books I have read.

I have been inspired to start and continue this journey by so many authors, big name or indie, local or international, best sellers or obscure. I cannot list them all, I cannot remember them all, but here are a few books and authors I recommend:

Misty of Chincoteague: my mother read this to us when we were young and I remember the cover. It was a hardcover edition from the library with this close up of a grey horse face and the mane flowing around it. It was magical and stuck with me even when I couldn’t remember the name of the book. I did find it back again and reread it in high school along with King of the Wind and Cinnabar.

MAUS: A difficult read, one I undertook at thirteen when we did WWII in school. One of my favourite books of all time. It was dark but somehow humorous at times. It was honest, about his father’s life and his own, even his own failings. I think it’s that honesty and the stark black and white style that grabbed me.

Stephen King, Tamora Pierce, David Eddings, Anne Bishop, Patricia Briggs, Mark Leslie, Geralyn Wichers, Marianne Curtis, George RR Martin.

And it wasn’t limited to books – I learned a lot about story telling from television as well. TV can teach you about pacing, character, cliff-hangers, and more, but it cannot teach you about sentences and words and paragraphs, for that you must read.

X-Files, Xena, Andromeda, Sliders, The Lost World (TV show and the movie), Buffy (TV show).

I find it fascinating what inspires people and what pop culture helped shape them and their voice/vision. This is just a part of my list. Which books/movies/TV shows/authors are on your list?


Review: Electric Blue

Electric Blue is a collection of poetry by Lia Rees being released this weekend. I had the opportunity to read an advance copy for this review.

This book contains 20 poems. They are generally personal in nature, reflecting on the self rather than on nature or the state of the world. Most of them are free form though a few are loosely metered and rhyming.

My two favourite poems were If My Doctors were Electricians and Apocalyptic Bethlehem: A Fable.

Poetry is a very subjective and personal writing form. It’s easy to dismiss as rambling lines, incomplete sentences just thrown on a page, but good poetry is deeper than that. Good poetry paints vivid images with only the necessary words. Quite a few poems in this book had real power and drive, others were heavy with emotion. And yet, they remained almost conversational in nature. They were profound but also personal.

Poetry is a tough market these days so best of luck to Lia Rees with the release of this collection. I give it four out of five stars.

I’m Not Perfect

I don’t often write posts of a strictly personal nature but I need to get a few things off my chest. I’m not perfect.

I’m not a perfect writer – that’s why we have drafts and revisions and even then I find typos in my published works.

I’m not a perfect wife. My husband and I have a happy, devoted, loving marriage. And we fight, a lot. I cry a lot.

I’m not a perfect mother. I swear in front of my children, listen to music that isn’t exactly kid friendly, and lose my temper, a lot.

I’m not a perfect introvert. I love talking to people at trade shows and flea markets and street fairs. I like direct sales parties, and birthday parties, and BBQs – in small doses. But at the end of the day I need to sit with my writing or my knitting, and not deal with real people for a while. The longer the better. And most of the time I’d rather live in my own head.

I’m not even really a perfect ME. I’m scared of some of the things I think. I’m scared of some of the things I do. I’m forever second guessing my likes and interests.

I’m not a perfect person but this doesn’t make me a bad person. Or a bad mom. Or a bad writer. Or a bad wife.

I want to be better. I want to remember to do the housework without being nagged. I want to be better at talking to people I see everyday. I want to have more patience. I want to understand extroverts. I want to be better! But I’m stuck in a tough spot. I’m out of ideas on some issues. I don’t know what to do. But I’m also sick and tired of people foisting their opinions on me.

I won’t get into details because it was a misunderstanding, because I happen to like this person an awful lot even though we haven’t known each other very long, yet, and because, for better or worse, I tend to avoid conflict whenever possible BUT something happened. Someone thought I needed advice. Someone didn’t realize that I’ve heard most of it before, that I’m under A LOT of stress, and that under other circumstances I would have smiled and nodded and taken as a sign that they cared. Instead I cried. At work. And was SUPER embarrassed because of it.

Because introverts get embarrassed easily. And they can feel broken very easily. See, I’m not strong willed like my daughter. I’m no push over, don’t get me wrong, but afterwards I break. I carry a lot inside of me, a lot of pain and broken pieces and insecurities, and when someone scolds me or judges me I stick it inside with the rest and I smile and I carry on and at home I cry and I fight with my husband.

Maybe that’s not healthy. But I have a hard time being someone I’m not. This is who I am, this is how I cope, and I don’t know how to change. I think I’m holding very tightly to this way of being because it’s what I know because I reject advice left right and center when it’s about me.

When it’s about my kids I try everything and anything once. I still can’t get my daughter to stop drawing on the floors and walls and couches. I take all her crayons away, she takes the pen from her brother and draws on my couch. She will find a way to do it her way, to get the last word, the last deed, her own way. I don’t want to change her, I don’t want to break her, I want to teach her boundaries. I don’t want her arrested for painting on the school walls without permission. I don’t want her arrested for taking apart air compressors at gas stations or anything else she comes across.

I want to stop feeling broken and judged, more than anything else. I want to feel like a complete person again. I want to feel like me again. Instead I feel like a mask taped to a broken doll. As long as I smile and make small talk and laugh along with everyone else you won’t see the cracks and I can go home and hide in my TV shows and my music and my writing. I want to feel like a success for once. I don’t want to feel like a failure anymore, I don’t want to feel like my dreams are pointless. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of being yelled at. I’m so tired I’m ready to say FUCK IT and walk away. But I can’t. I can’t because I can’t afford it. Just like I can’t afford to take a sick day. And I can’t afford to stay up until midnight writing blog entries (but I do it anyways).

This didn’t go where I wanted it to but I’m going to leave it out here because I think it’s more honest than I intended. Maybe not as graceful or poetic, but certainly honest. And if people are going to see me different because of it, maybe it’s for the best. I don’t like pretending after all.


Project Updates

Hey! If you’re looking for the submission guidelines for the Anthology on Race that I’m HOPING to release in April go here:

Okay, so obviously I’m hoping to release an anthology on race, specifically on what would happen to a country, or the world, if one or more minority group or cultural group, disappeared for some reason. Deadline is in February, publication at the end of April.

That’s only one of a few projects on the go right now!

REIMAGINED is a collection of short stories and poems. They are taken from two collections (A Spark of Words and Words in the Mist) which are no longer available. Yes, they’re all by me. I’m in the process of giving them a thorough edit and a new format. This book will be available in February.

PIECES is a YA coming of age novel. Each chapter focuses on a single event or tightly related series of events (like the first day of school, Thanksgiving long weekend, or a Halloween party). The book is about Megan as she makes the transition from naive, sheltered, child to self-aware young woman. Of course that is a journey that takes years, this book is really about the catalyst that sets her on that road, and her first steps towards independence, and maturity. This book will be available over the summer.

JOANNE & BARB; THE GIRLS; LANCE – these three short stories are companions to Nothing Everything Nothing, the novel I released at the end of October. I’m letting them rest while I edit the other short stories because they are sounding forced and weak. I’ll get back to them in the new year. They will be available for free.

And not all of my projects have me in front of a computer, typing.

SEMINARS – in October I had the chance to attend a seminar in Otterburne MB. I sat on the panel with other published authors to answer questions. Since then it has been suggested that I work with one of the other speakers to host further seminars.

READINGS – in February there will be an Author’s Fair at the Jake Epp Library in Steinbach. I will have a table there and will be doing a reading from Nothing Everything Nothing and from Reimagined. Early in March (March 3rd) I will be doing a reading at the Jake Epp Library featuring selections from Nothing Everything Nothing, Reimagined, and Pieces.

TALKS – I will be speaking at two different schools in the new year, one about writing, the other about bullying. I also have a possible talk sort of lined up with a local ladies’ group to discuss bullying and how to help youth.

My last project is a little research, a little editing, and a little design. I’m doing the parish history for the Our Lady of Hope, Anola, 25th anniversary dinner.

And all of that is on top of Christmas, finding a new job, raising two kids, keeping my house clean, and whatever else life throws at me.

Again, if you’re interested in the anthology, details are here:

Camp Nanowrimo Check In

Halfway through the month now and time for my second check in. In the last week I wrote two short stories – no where near as impressive as the 30k novella I wrote in the first week but still, I’m happy with it.

The first short was a 4k story about a dream demon. I submitted it to an anthology being put out by Horrified Press (you can find them here on Word Press). I’m still waiting on a reply. I’m nervous, I hate waiting, but the way I figure it is this: it’s been a week and still no rejection so they’re at least considering it, right?

The second short finished at just over 8k (well below the 10k cut off) and was written for an anthology being released by Fox Spirit Books, a small UK press. This is the apocalyptic story I had in mind. Once camp is over I’ll be doing an overview post on that post apocalyptic future I have in mind. The story is written and I’ve edited it and handed it over to my father who has a sharp eye for grammar and general narrative flow. I’m hoping to have it submitted before the end of the month.

So, what’s next? Well, Overhauled and From the Ground Up were nixed by the publisher so I had to find a new project: A 30k romance novella about dirt track race car drivers. I’m about 3k in and I have it all outlined. There were a few slow days there but since I’m at 52k I think I should be able to hit 80k by the end of the month. This novella will probably take me until the 28th to write, and then I’ll have three days to pack before moving into my first house.

I’ll check in one last time when my word count is met. To my fellow campers: KEEP WRITING!!

Signing off …

(PS, has anyone ever counted how many words ALL Nano campers wrote in a single month? I’d love to see how many millions of words were put to paper in a month by a lot of crazy novelists)