Recently I received a charming invitation to “blog hop” about my writing experience. How it works is: a blogger/writer blogs about their writing process, and then nominates three other blogger/writers to do the same… and so it goes. Oh the blogs you can hop through in this network!
I was nominated by writer and editor Rachel Stuckey to blog it like it’s hot, a challenge I would never shy away from, and so now you get to read an insight into my life as a writer. If you’re a writer like me, or you’re interested in becoming one, hearing about the writing processes and habits of other writers is always invaluable information that you an apply to your own process.
I’ve done this before, a few years ago I was an invited panellist at my alma mater York University to speak about my experience in the writing and publishing industry. Here’s a clip from that lecture, where I was telling the students how to go about getting funding and grants for their creative writing projects from Canadian funding bodies:
A lot of the other writers in this blog-hop are travel writers, which I am as well, but I also do fiction (novels and short stories), playwrighting, spoken word, music/film/theatre/book reviews, academic essays, interviews with notable personalities, and basically anything remotely related to writing that interests me, so I cover a lot of bases.
Anyway, enjoy my insights and writing-foibles!
What am I working on/writing?
I recently finished writing my second novel! I have been editing it with the help of some outside eyes and also in conjunction with my literary agent, and it is ready to be taken to the next level. I don’t want to talk too much about this on here because I feel like it will jinx it, but when the “next level” has been achieved, I will blog the snot out of it, trust me. I have also been working on a whole bunch of short stories and have been submitting them to literary journals which, as any writer will tell you, carries a long waiting sentence before you receive word of acceptance or rejection. So while I wait patiently, I have already begun brewing in my head the concept for my next novel! Novel number three, here we go. This one will involve some historical figures and a lot of research, so for the foreseeable future, you can find me living in the library. Ah, Old-Book-Smell. How I love thee.
How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
My literary agent told me recently that the reason why he was so eager to sign me to his roster is because I am a “fearless” writer. Everybody wants to be a writer. Everybody wants to write the next great novel, but most of the time, they don’t want to take the chances necessary to achieve such goals. My writing, first and foremost, has a distinct voice. I spent years crafting my style, my form, my content, and my voice. For some writers, all that stuff comes naturally. Not me. I am not naturally gifted like Kerouac or Keats. I have had to work for every writing-coup I’ve ever had. The structure of each sentence is a BIG DEAL to me. So when it comes to what I write about, and my style of writing, I have to be provocative, and take chances, and let the story go to places that make even me uncomfortable. There’s no point in writing if you’re not willing to be vulnerable.
Why do I write what I do?
Great question. I don’t think anyone has ever asked me why I write fiction.
For as long as I can remember, I have always been a storyteller. I used to love crafting up little narratives in my head as a little girl and then telling Mum about them. When I was in Grade 4 and our English teacher gave us the assignment to write a short story, everyone turned in about 4 pages worth of writing. I turned in 40.
I always had my nose in a book, and would get huge book deliveries from Scholastic (remember Scholastic!!) every few weeks. I couldn’t read enough, most of the time. And I always felt the urge to tell stories, especially when new concepts and ideas would pop into my head. I always preferred making up the stories, rather than telling true stories, so fiction naturally became my weapon of choice. By the time I was 12 years old, just the sight of a sharpened pencil and a huge stack of crisp loose-leaf paper would get me all giddy.
I guess I enjoy the freedom that fiction affords. The freedom to completely own the story that you tell, and the characters therein. I love the ability to fashion wild scenarios, and explore all the dark facets of human behaviour when stuck in such scenarios. Non-fiction and memoir have to be true and grounded in reality. Fiction is beholden to neither. That is just too tempting for such a dreamer like me.
When I got my first professional publication at the age of 18, I never looked back. I was hooked.
I double-majored Theatre Studies and Creative Writing in university, and returned to both subjects for my Masters degree. Since then, I have been published in literary anthologies, literary journals, travel anthologies, daily newspapers, weekly alternative magazines, glossy mags, national and international reviews, academic reviews, and even an encyclopedia. I’ve had about five plays produced, and I’ve lectured and performed at academic and creative conferences around the world.
How does my writing process work?
I actually have a strange writing process. Firstly, I absolutely need to write my first draft by hand.
Even though I type faster than I write.
Even though this means that I have to go through mounds and mounds of notebooks filled with messy scribblings, and arrows criss-crossing all over the page.
I cannot just stare at a blinking cursor and start to write. I need to have a pen in my hand and paper before me. I think this has to do with the actual act of writing. I see it as a violent act. The violence of pressing the pen nub into the paper and scratching your words into its surface, forever defacing it. There’s something about the Violence of Writing, as I call it, that is required for me to tell a good story.
Secondly, I can’t write at home. I need to be out in public.
Maybe because writing is such a solitary and isolating experience, that the sheer presence of others makes me feel less alone.
Maybe because there are too many distractions at home (like bed and Facebook….. mmmmm, Facebook in bed….sooo tempting).
Maybe because my stories are usually set in urban areas, so it requires me to be situated amongst the populous to inspire the descriptions about life in the metropolis…
Maybe because the word Writer is synonymous with Coffee Shop, and therefore one is always apt to find themselves amongst other writers down at their local latte-hole.
Who knows? All I know is that I’m weird, man.
I nominate Fran Harvey over at Bookworms and Coffee Monsters because she’s just gotten her first poetry publication and is ON FIRE at the moment with writing and submissions and can surely offer some keen insight into her work and process.
Onto the next blog-hop!
Wonderful news to report that I hinted at in my last post!
One of my short stories has been sold to The Madison Review, a literary journal published by the University of Wisconsin. It’s entitled, “Waiting For Bardot,” (ha ha) and it’s the first story I’ve published that A) has a male protagonist (usually I write in a female voice, but I thought, what the hey)…. and B) has been published in an American literary journal. I’ve published a lot of articles in American magazines, but all of my literary work (aka short stories and prose fiction) has always been published in Canadian literary journals. American literary journals are much harder to crack because their volume of submissions is greater, as is their readership. So I’m quite chuffed to be included! The editors said they loved my story and are excited to include it. Aw. Bless.
**Warning: I’ve had a lot of trouble viewing the issue using Google Chrome for some reason, but when I open it in Safari, or in Internet Explorer (ug), there’s no problem at all. I haven’t tested it on Mozilla Firefox. So if you’re using Google Chrome and can’t open it like me, try another web browser.
I’ve screen-capped the first page of my story below to whet your appetite! Read on below:
Fanks for reading my work, my little munchkins! I’m so excited to have another literary publication this year (after getting a short story published just last year) and I’m so excited for the future! My career is taking me to amazing new places, and if I can keep up this hustle, 2014 is going to be my year. I can feel it!