9 New Year’s resolutions for a writer, ie. me

1. Get dressed every day of the week. Okay, 5 days out of 7. Fine, 4 days. NB: Pants with coat covering pajama top and hat covering head does not count as getting dressed.

2. Speak to people who are not my children or my children’s teachers at least three times a week.

3. Do not live inside my head so much so that said people can actually speak to me.

4. Do not turn every incident into opening scene of a story. See note no. 3.

5. Remember that children need to eat on a regular basis.

6. Remember that children should be picked up on time from school, otherwise kids gets ushered into office and exasperated staff from school call with snarky voice.

7. Periodically leave the house for something other than driving children and buying food. ie. Go for walk, or do yoga, or have lunch with a friend. See note 3 and 4.

8. This is the most important. It will help when New Year’s Resolutions are not kept:

Remember the power of introverts.

9. When have broken all resolutions and am proudly basking in power of introverts, must remember am not hermit or will become stinky crazy cat lady. Already one cat lurks by my windows and door meowing to get in. He has even snuck into house and helped himself to my wine (I caught him with his paw inside my glass). Repeat: Am not hermit.

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Happy New Year! 

 

How about you: any resolutions this year?

A full circle

I’ve been re-writing, re-plotting, and re-drafting, the majority of a novel I wrote eight years ago. Shocking when I think it was that long ago that this project came into my thoughts and I began to write it. It took me one year to write that first draft. It was the first idea that spurred me into being a writer.

My grandmother’s death at the time was the inspiration for the premise. While that hasn’t changed at all, the story line has a lot. As have some characters. And motivations. And arcs. When I returned to this particular work last October, I thought it was an easy fix, and I thought it was basically done. Silly me. But once I’d ripped it apart, I realized I’d gone to far in to turn back or give up on it.

But, that didn’t mean I didn’t want to. Especially as I have another novel I put on hold to whip this one into perfection (ya right! lol), and as I have ideas aplenty, I often wondered why I’m trying to fix something so broken when I can just start fresh. Well, the thing is, I think I just want to prove to myself that I can do my very best with it rather than dump it, and another part of me thinks it’s a great novel, one that many people can relate to. It’s a novel about death, or rather about how the living cope with death. And it’s a novel about stories, and how we each have one, and the choices we make as we travel down the road of that story.

I’m never steady in my belief in my own work. Sometimes I think it’s terrific, other moment I think it really sucks. The last few weeks I’d been thinking, okay, I’d better give up on this novel, the premise stinks, there’s too many characters, and it’s not plausible. Normally, I push through these moments, but this time I came very close to throwing in the towel.

And then three weeks ago my family and I buried my paternal grandmother. I was very close with her, all of my childhood, and even much of my adult life was in a shared residence with her. We even shared the same house during the pregnancy and birth of my first two children. The topic of my novel became too close, not something I was able to revisit during her illness and death.

About two weeks ago I sat down to work, and still, I questioned the story. This was a first–normally distance gave perspective, it allowed me to see flaws and solutions, not just garbage as I was seeing this time.

Yesterday, we buried my maternal grandfather. It was a swift death for him, a quick service. In three weeks, my two last living grandparents died, and I saw vast reactions to death. I saw my own different reactions to their deaths. Those around me responded differently. My parents come from different backgrounds, and I witnessed traditions that were quite different in each of the services and funerals. And it made me reflect on my grandmother’s death all those years ago, and how I felt at the time, and the story my mind created to cope with it. And I thought, “here I am again.”

I’ve come full circle, and yet, I’m a different person I was then. A lot has happened in these eight years, a heck of a lot, some wonderful, some terrible, and I’ve been thinking about this novel on and off during these last forty-eight hours since my grandfather’s death. Maybe this too is a coping mechanism, an avoidance technique. But it doesn’t feel like it. Because in thinking about these deaths, I’m thinking about my emotions, and I’m thinking that I really want to finish this novel after all. Right now there’s a sureness in me I haven’t felt since its creation. A sureness that I know the story I have to tell, and that I’ll be able to do it just right. Maybe I just had to live a little more before I was able to figure it.

As a side, this blog has been a little quieter than usual, a little more down than usual. Here’s hoping for a steady gait over the next while. And I hope all is well with all of you.

a release

When I was a little girl into to my early teens I used to write poetry, but only when the moment called for it. I sat in the dark and wrote unseen words; I’d let my pen or pencil drag crookedly across the page, or I’d write in neat lines, depending on what emotions needed to Get Out. It was always fun for me to wake up and see what I’d produced during the night. Not so much the words, but the pattern and shape that they made strung together as cord or as disconnected pieces.

I haven’t done this in years, I actually forgot that I used to write like this. Somehow, during the growing up process, I let go of this ritual.

These past days have felt like a moment for writing poetry (or what I called poetry but was only a word dump). I’ve been holding it in, not writing, not seeing the words. And then I remembered: I don’t need to see the words. I just need to open up and a shape will take form.

So here goes:

A cliché. They say it in books, in movies, on tv.

A broken heart.

A pain that lashes, that rips, that tears, and binds.

A memory.

Almond eyes.

A myriad of smells that belong solely to one person.

A voice. Loud. Always yelling. Always caring.

A touch. Fleeting, rare. Hands kept tight, working, not soft, not gentle, not idle.

Reserved.

A memory.

Of love. Always, of love.

Of life.

A life.

A whole. A unit.

A goodbye.

And the bindings begin to unwind. Letting in breath and wind and light.

And then a smile. Of what’s remembered. Of what’s to come.

Blah. So there, it’s out. For now. Not sure why I wanted to do this on the blogosphere, maybe it’s about moving forward, moving on. Maybe it’s about release and connection. I wonder if my words would have been the same if I was writing them for no other eyes, instead of here, when I knew others would read them. Maybe later when I come back and read these words, I’ll see a pattern, a shape, of what I produced, in the light this time. Not in the dark.

This was written in loving memory of grandma, who passed August 16th, at the age of 88.

When fiction becomes reality

Most of the time I think we write what we experience. I’m not talking memoir or travel logging but about pure fiction. We take our lives, or we take the antithesis of it, and write about it. We write about the emotions in them, the struggles, the victories, the conclusions we come to. I don’t think this is done consciously, but I think our stories are formed by what we have lived.

But, is it possible that occasionally we live something so that we can write about it better? Four years ago I was writing a trauma that I had never endured myself. I wrote it with imagination, transfer of emotion, and empathy. A few weeks later I live the experienced. I remember being in the ER and saying–see I wrote about it, now I’m living it.

In my current wip I’m at a point where my MC thinks her children are in danger of having a genetic disease that is at the best life changing, and may very well result in mortality. I was writing the emotions of a mom who thinks her kids may die.

We had a great weekend with the holidays, and my daughter turned six on Sunday. It was a wonderful celebration. On Monday, I was rocking my toddler to nap while my elder ones played in the backyard. I will not outline the events but it led to me finding this same 6 year-old caught in the climbing rope of our tree fort, hanging by her neck, mouth agape, not breathing, feet flaying. She was fine, I got there in time, but I’m still walking around with that image glued to my retina. And do you know what my first reaction was? Anger. Vivid white blinding anger. I wanted to kill her. How dare she do something so stupid. It was followed by calm, and then by shock as it hit me that we had almost lost our daughter.

In my scene the mom only hints at anger. It wasn’t all-consuming. It was fleeting, replaced almost spontaneously by anxiety. I see from my experience how inaccurate I was when I wrote that scene. And I can’t help but ask if it happened because of what I was writing about? I know it’s totally loopy, but this is not a new idea–stories coming to life, characters landing in their novels, people living at the mercy of an author.

The truth is, I know it’s about circumstances: I’m a mom writing about a mom. A mother’s fears are great motivating factors, they provide high stakes, are easy to relate to, and given  that I have 3 children I’m bound to experience some of this duress. We were lucky, there was no medical procedures needed, no resuscitation necessary–we were a shaken family with one of us badly scrapped up on her torso and raspy lungs for a few minutes. That’s all. Thank god. But, it really changes everything, brings about a different perspective that inevitably lands directly in my writing.

How about you: Have you ever written a fictional event that you ended up experiencing in real life?

I’m doing it again.

Talking about my babies.

The baby turned 1 this past weekend. 1!

Quite possibly the oldest cliché of all – where did the time go?

With my first child, the first year was eternal. I was smothered by my own emotions, living for him. Nothing mattered but him. It was intense. It was brutal. It was painful. It was exhilarating, and peaceful, and joyful. It was the most of everything I had ever experienced, on top of it all being new.

The first year with my middle child was much of the same, but with more anger. I was tired, and hadn’t slept at all since my first was born, and I was walking into walls all the time. But the need to care, to protect, to cherish, to love, at all costs was still the strongest of all I was experiencing.

This baby, my third child. My healing baby. His middle name means ‘to life’.

For five hours we listened to his heart stop with each contraction when I was in labour. He was tangled up in his umbilical cord. I still don’t know how I managed to keep it together during that time. He was born, large, strong, and beautiful. With him, I’ve learned that parenting doesn’t have to be full of pain, anguish, and anger. Oh, there are moments of it, of course, suffering is part of it all, and perhaps that’s the difference now. I used to sit and stare at my first two, crying, imagining all the pain they would experience as they would grow. Now I know it’s part of what shapes us. It’s nothing to fear or run from. It’s part of learning coping mechanisms, and becoming good strong adults. After all, that’s my main job, is it not? Guiding them into being the best they can adults.

I have an ache in me when I look at him sometimes, yes, it’s still there at moments. He’ll grow, and I won’t have my 24/7 cuddle monster attached at my hip. He’ll join the rest of the world, and while it’s painful to leave that part of life behind, it excites me to see who he’s becoming. His enthusiasm, his love of outdoors and music, his ease and his joy.

Happy birthday baby boy! You’re 1!

A lesson in a greeting card

You were a thought, and now you’re here.

This was on a card I received at my baby shower when I was pregnant with my first child. I didn’t understand it fully at the time. Three children later, I have come to know what it means.

A thought.

My second child, my daughter, turns five today. So young, so new, a small space of time. Each moment to her is still so alive. She lives immersed, without constraint, not looking ahead. This leads to so many tears, of anger, frustration. And so much joy. But mostly to experience. She experiences life in a way I strive to.

A thought.

She laughs. It rings out, and the whole house is drawn to her. Her elder brother, watches, hesitates, and smiles. He too learns the ease of lightness from her. The baby throws herself at him. He learns what it is to love from her.

A thought.

Dried leaves are in her hand. She pressed them in the autumn, and finds them now. Forgotten treasures. A birthday gift. She throws them, and they float to the ground, littering our carpet with gold and red. Do you want one? she says. Sharing her find. Sharing her joy. It has never occurred to her to keep it for herself.

Happy birthday my daughter.

The Unexpected Pleasures in Publication…

In the last few months I have decided to crawl out my writer’s hole and begin attempting to enter the world of published authors. So far it has been a very positive experience, and not as harrowing as I had feared.

When I announced a publication to my children who are 3 and 5, I was surprised by my 5-year old staring at me intently.

“I didn’t know you could do that, Mama,” he said. This wasn’t the first time I had a publication, but it was the first time he understood what it meant.

He promptly plucked a flower (not from our yard – oops), and presented it to me!

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I’ve placed it on my desk, as a reminder of all the good things that come – especially those we never anticipated.