Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I'm moving... come follow me

My blog has moved to Wordpress. I've been able to port all the posts from this site, so some of the posts may look familiar, but I'm up and running again., with buckets to share about my writing life.
I begin with the news, that after a hiatus of twenty-odd years from attempting publication, I jumped back in the world of submission rejection, until yesterday morning, this little gem landed in my inbox:
Dear Susan Wadds,
Thank you for sending us “Choose the Hammock”. We would like to publish it in the next issue of carte blanche.
I had to read it three times for its message to sink in.
As I prepare for a week-long writing retreat with Pat Schneider I am dancing around my suitcase. One of my niggling doubts has been that although I know I have the capacity to write nice prose, I wondered if my ability to tell a good story was lacking. Choose the Hammock is the "story" of one woman's life told through a series of photographs. It is about 1200 words long, so it figures that much is up to the reader. The story had previously been sent to a contest, where the first tier judge's comments suggested that all I had done was present a series of vignettes and not told a story at all. This was a question I was bringing to Pat Schneider. That question dropped, I go into the retreat even more available to the magic of spontaneous freefall, without the busy mind full of questions damming up the flow.
Thank you, carte blanche, and thank you to Sue Reynolds for the prompts, inspiration, and encouragement.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Vote for me and come to my party

This past week I put together what stories I have written that aren't already out asking to be published and sent them off. I found one online contest at Author Stand that is free to enter, and is judged in part by readers. To that contest I sent "Bird in the Hand" a short story I wrote a couple of years ago about how longing can infuse an ordinary taste with the flavour of magic. If you want to vote, click here and register: Bird in the Hand. The other stories have also been submitted to contests and to one literary journal.

So now I return my attention to Weather Vane. Scene by scene I go through it. With a month or so distance from it, I find my vision clearer, the problem bits that I just couldn't figure out how to fix are suddenly simple. Backstory is no longer a show-stopper. Glimpses of past and future are dropped in and threaded through the story. It's actually fun. I think I may be the only oddball who finds writing to be fun. I was all set to pull my hair out, but not a strand has left my head in the production of this novel.

Now I am preparing for the tropics. My gifted and gift-giving teacher, Sue Reynolds, has agreed to lead daily writing practice on this retreat to Costa Rica next month. With Kripalu yoga, Esana will help us begin each day by opening and stretching our bodies and inviting us to stay in present time. Time slows down there and that's just what's needed... lots of time. Click on this link to find out more: Costa Rica, February 2011
Once on the site, click on the retreats link, and you will find details about this wonderful trip.

 All the things we must do to promote ourselves, I am undertaking, but that part is never really fun. I try to make it playful and I am by nature enthusiastic, but selling myself is tough. So that's it for now - the promotion part. Vote for me and come to my retreat and I won't bother you again. Until the next time.

Next post, I promise, will be more entertaining.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Marriage and the black haired lover

Not to leave my readership hanging, here is how the rest of John Deere's prophesy panned out:

Shortly after my breakup with Michael, one of my fellow waiters, Aris, a handsome gay man from Sparta., invited me out for a drink after work. At the bar, he asked if I would consider helping his cousin immigrate from Greece to Canada. For a considerable fee. I was still smarting from the insult of Michael’s response to my own query of marriage, so I actually considered this proposal. It wasn’t until after I met the man, realized that I couldn’t tolerate his chauvinism even over dinner, and Aris had become my lover, that John Deere’s words registered. 

Aris was black-haired and profoundly sexy, and even more shocked than I was that girl flesh was more delectable to him than man flesh had been.  An early pleasurable encounter with an older man had secured the notion that he was homosexual. Huh. The other waiters in that restaurant scattered when I walked by, as if my touch would render them woman-lovers.  As if. A few years later, I received a letter from Aris, asking if I would consider joining him on his farm in Sparta, to marry and raise babies and chickens. I pictured glimmering white yoghurt drizzled with honey the colour of his eyes, on a blue table in the morning sun.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

What's in it for you?

Until now, the idea of research has been as appealing as having sharp pins poked into my eyes. Lately, I have found researching to be very exciting. That is largely due to the fact that my current research is all about how to manage stealing some time in which to write. But I have also been reading more and more about blogging - how to do it, how much to do it, what not to do, etc. Michael Hyatt in his blog post listed many important caveats for bloggers, but the one that grabbed me noted that readers don't want to know about you (unless you are Johnny Depp), they want to find something for themselves in your post. Something they can use. 

We use fiction for reflection and illumination, but also for pleasure, enrichment. It isn't direct, like a bulleted list or a step-by-step how-to improve your life usefulness. But stories and anecdotes are just as useful in our lives as information, and a hell of a lot easier for all levels of our brains to assimilate. But is writing stories about writing stories informative, entertaining, enriching? Will I amass a readership, if I go on rambling about my "process"? Better to tell stories than to talk about writing them, I figure. The problem is that, once a story is published in a blog, it is considered "published", which excludes the story from consideration in some contests and journals.

But I'll take a gamble and keep things interesting, if not useful, and post a clip from my new work in progress.
I know, I know, I said I wasn't going to start anything new until Weather Vane was done, but it's not my fault, this story is very pushy and doesn't want to wait, apparently.

The day I broke up with Michael, I had gone to see the psychic, John Deere. In the reading, he described a destructive man whom I should consider dangerous. I laughed it off, knowing that Michael was depressive and mean, but destructive or violent, I didn’t think so. John Deere also said that I would have an offer of marriage, but that it would be a difficult decision to make. Then he described a new lover who was “black-haired and very sexy”. This was all very puzzling, since I was deeply in love with Michael, and wouldn’t hesitate if he asked me to marry him. Even though marriage was not on my to-do list at that time in my life. Michael and I lived in our own apartments – he at the bottom end of Spadina and me just north of Bloor – but I was paying both rents, both utilities and often, food. He was designing Japanese-inspired wearable art and I was working two jobs slinging designer hash on Queen Street West. He took naps in the afternoon, ate the food I brought to him and turned his back at night.  I guess that’s why I loved him so much. We had more sex in the months following our separation than we had in the two years before. 

Michael met me after my reading with John Deere. We had stopped walking to wait for the light at the corner of Carlton and Gerrard. I turned to him and asked, “Did you want to marry me?” The October wind picked up stray leaves and flung them at our legs. A streetcar going west clattered by, its steel wheels screeching as it made the turn. Michael swivelled his long body, tilted his head so that he was both looking over his shoulder and down at me. His eyes half-closed, eyebrows pulled into a high tight arc. “No!” his tone thick with distain, as if the very thought of such a notion dirtied him.  As he stepped off the curb to cross the street, I pushed myself after him, and walked a little behind, muzzled and mute, until he came to the subway station. I pulled up beside him and he looked down as though he had just noticed my presence. A flicker of a light illuminated a crevice in my brain, a crevice where a truth was stored -- this is the way he always looks at me. 

I have to go home, I said.

See you later, he said.

At my bathroom mirror, I applied thick kohl around my eyes and brushed my permed curls into soft brown fuzz. I slipped on a heavy midnight blue sweater that covered my hips, and took the bus to his apartment. 

We sat across from each other at his small but tasteful kitchen table, where a month before I had served him eggplant parmesan. It had taken most of the day in that tiny kitchen to make the sauce and prepare the eggplant. I wanted it to be as close to the dish we ate twice in that place by the Spanish Steps. He took one bite, threw down his fork. It’s too salty! It’s disgusting. He was right. It was too salty.

As I fingered the saltcellar I told him I couldn’t go on like this, that I needed someone who appreciated me, who cared for me and who would show me that he did. Someone who wanted to make love to me. He sat with his forearms folded loosely over his long legs, head down, listening. He nodded, as if recognizing a core truth. I guess I won’t know what I’ve got ‘til it’s gone, he said, his voice quiet. Then he looked up and asked, shall we make love one more time?

Monday, January 3, 2011

short wish list

Yesterday morning the house was quiet - grandson gone home, guests gone home, son sleeping his teenage Sunday sleep - so I did what I love best: slid out of bed, put the coffee on and sat at the keyboard facing the river to write 2,000 words before 10:30 am. Stinky and smushed from sleep is the best state from which to access the muse, I've found. With a bucket of coffee and some leftover Christmas ginger cake.

On a Facebook writers' group, the question was posed, "What is your writing mood?" with which you begin the year, and I posted "jubilant". Who would have thought that at such a ripe age that the juices would flow more richly than ever? Huh.

So not only did I tap out the first couple thousand words of my new "mystery" story, in the afternoon I got down to  spitting and polishing a couple of short works for submission. One to a contest and one to Grain Magazine. I have two other stories entered in other contests, so I can only hope that one or two will catch hold and take root... to grow the tree to make me eligible for a grant. A grant to take me to Banff. That is my dream... a residency at Banff to finish Weather Vane.

Step one: get published. Step two: apply for a grant. Step three: apply for residency. I'm on it. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Sexy memoirs and money

Maybe it isn’t such a good idea to take a writing holiday, or I should say a holiday from writing. I have begun to feel as if my novel is complete, that the work is done, and my characters are off on their not-so-merry ways living their own lives without my assistance. But even if they are doing just that, I am not done with them. Hopefully, they will have lived a few weeks without me meddling in their lives and come up with some stories of their own to share when I return to the keyboard. I will position my hands over the keys and they will tell me what to write. 

In the meantime, I am considering things such as grants. This notion of “second draft” or finished novel (!) has me a little intimidated. I have shared here that I once believed this part of the process to be a little clip here, an adjustment there, and we’re done, but that now I recognize the dedication and attention required to construct this puppy. As I weep and wail and tear my hair, crying, how will I manage such a thing with a teenager to wrangle, a business to run and a household to maintain? 

I gaze longingly at various author’s notes of gratitude to Canada Council, Ontario Arts Council and other foundations for assisting them. I wonder at Isabel Allende who retires from family duties for months at a time while she writes her books.  Some of the grants available to writers actually seem to be within my reach, if not my actual grasp. One step at a time, there Missy. The definition of a professional writer is someone who has received monetary compensation for their efforts. Hmm.  I have been paid for every piece I had published... in copies. Unfortunately, copies of quarterlies and anthologies have very little nutritional value, and landlords shake their heads sadly... So now, I am researching the market for publications that pay for short prose. It’s time to polish up some of my shorter pieces and write some new ones. It’s just hard to shake my head free from Simon and Beth and Katie, my Weather Vane characters.

However... I do have an idea for an ersatz memoir that has me excited. A fictional memoir of lovers with a modern twist. It won’t be dewy-eyed and tremulous, I can assure you, but I can’t divulge the “twist” just yet. 

I used to have a friend who was extravagantly talented, had dozens of brilliant ideas and truly remarkable creative gifts. But for years, she wandered through these ideas, dabbling and fretting, unable to focus on one thing long enough to land and see any project through to fruition. I don’t have the kind of talent that woman has, but I am grateful to have it clear in my mind what thrills me, and how I want to use the abilities I do have. The other day I noticed two stunning paintings hanging for sale in a local cafe. Painted by this woman. And I did my little internal happy dance for her, hoping that this means she has landed... and knowing that she did land, at least long enough to produce these two works. Whether you balk or leap doesn’t seem to matter if, at last, you put your hands to the task and get ‘er done. 

I may not have the luxury of days alone in which to research and write, but write, I do. And if I make the effort to send out what I’ve written and keep doing that, even as I fill a box with rejection slips (in my twenties I papered an entire wall of my apartment): sending and waiting and resending, I am certain that compensation will come, grants will come, an agent will come, publication will come... It always comes back to the writing, though. The end won’t arrive without the means. And the money means is useless without the written means.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

the time in between

As I wait for my manuscript to come home from school, I have been holding up pieces of it to the window and to the mirror. I watch light sparking off its facets as it turns in my hand.

Some of the sparks have caught fire.

Here are some of the secondary characters getting ready for a Christmas party... this passage is unlikely to show up in the novel, but it was fun to play with their voices.

Everything was perfectly planned: prosciutto and figs, wine soaked goat cheese, smoked salmon and chevre. Champagne chilling, punch made, with a non-alcoholic one for the teenagers, the music was chosen – not too heavy on the Christmas theme. Some U2, Van Morrison, a little Hip, and then some Ray Charles. I loved my new Boise sound system with the iPod dock. It meant I didn’t have to think about the music all evening. Lots of candles in frosted holders and a light touch of festive red. I tried to get Dallas to help, tried to engage her, but she either lay on the couch watching MTV or went outside to smoke. I even asked what music she would like to include on our little playlist, but she just shrugged and said she didn’t care. It’s all good, is what she said. That’s terrible grammar. Sometimes I think I would go insane if I did have a child. If they turned out like her. She makes me so tired and sad. I’m trying to help out my sister by letting her stay, but it’s costing us to have her here. Especially now. When the second implant hasn’t taken. I don’t think I can do it again. Not when I look at her.
Auntie keeps putting on that fake little smile and goes all teachery on me. All like happy and cheerful and then she goes all spazzy and starts crying and runs off to her room. Like how am I supposed to say, oh yeah, like let me help you with those little stupid pieces of whatever that stuff is, when any minute she’s going to throw a hissy fit and tell me how much she loves me and I don’t even appreciate her. I don’t give a shit about her stupid little party for her stupid friends. They all think I am like all hot for these old guys. I just like to watch them get all stupid and scared of me.
I don’t know why Dallas is always watching me. It feels a bit like one of those creepy movies where some innocent guy gets set up by a supposedly innocent girl. That maybe Becky is going to find a pair of her blood stained panties in my drawer, like in that movie with Rebecca deMornay. Dallas taunts me when I sit in a chair across the room, or on the far side of the kitchen table. I’m pretty sure she left the bathroom door open on purpose. I don’t want to see her like that. When I try to talk to Becky about sending her home, she cries and says I’m not supporting her. I hate how much this treatment is changing her, changing us. I hate how much she is suffering. But you’d think I had just slapped her when I suggested we consider adoption. We’re too old, she screamed. I don’t think we’re too old. She is only thirty-eight. I can’t think of her as being too old for anything. She has done so much planning for this party. All she’d let me do is pick up the flowers. That’s how it is. Clearly marked territory in our home. Sometimes it helps. Then the borders suddenly change and it’s a minefield. I think I’m supposed to stay out of the way, and I find out I was supposed to take out the garbage. But we never go to bed angry. Never. She will always come into my arms once we are in bed. She puts her head on my chest, her soft fine hair trailing down into my armpit, and she speaks. Sort of away from us, but real. I don’t talk much, but I really like that she does. She puts it all together in a way that makes sense. And then, when she cries I don’t feel so helpless. Because I get to hold her.