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Posts tagged “writing process

My Writing Space

I once blogged about my writing practice and process, and I feel this is a nice dovetail: my writing desk and space. We all need to carve out our own little nooks in this world, and this tiny corner is mine.


This where I do all my writing: all my short stories, all my blogging, and all my freelance articles are done here, including a little doodling and reading now and then. I decorated it like this because I think it reflects me and my personality best. Some people prefer really modern, sleek, office-y, stainless-steel-type designs, and others prefer a kind of non-descript, antiseptic look. But I wanted my space to be peppered with all of the things that inspired me, visually and spatially, and all the things that really mean something to me.


For example, these are my Lebanese grandparents making-out on their front porch in Montreal circa 1948. I typed out that Bukowski quote on my typewriter. All the picture frames were bought from London flea markets, but a few I found discarded on the sidewalk. Who throws out gorgeous picture frames?!


That photograph in the foreground of the two 1920s women pushing the pram: I have no idea who they are. I found them discarded on the flea market grounds in Brussels right before the sky opened up and an incredible tempest washed everything away. I feel like I saved them.


Those are Belgian telegrams, and also some French postcards ad German letters, which I bought from their respective flea markets. I typed out the quote at the bottom, and I found the image of the typewritten quote at the top online and then printed it out on photographic paper at a pharmacy in London.


I got the antique iron keys from a friend who bought them for me when I was living in Copenhagen. I typed out the Dumas quote, and it sits on a small blue photo album from the 1940s that I bought in Paris. The vase & saucer I got at a London flea market, and the typewriter ribbon tin I bought at the Brooklyn flea.


The pill bottles in the foreground I got at a flea here in Toronto. The red-cover books in the background are all travel guidebooks from the 1920s, 30s, & 40s. It’s so interesting to read about “where to find a public bathhouse in London,” or about how many Francs you can get for your Crowns, Half-Crowns, Shillings, and Sovereigns. There’s even a section on why French customs strictly prohibits British matches from entering the country, but you can bring your own cigarettes. Also, air travel was so new, that they don’t really mention it. They only mention taking the ferry from Dover to Calais! The guidebooks have fold-out maps and even photographs. Looking at Amsterdam then and comparing it to now is such a mind-fuck.


That’s a Bukowski quote.


I bought that cigar box from a flea market in Düsseldorf. I put all of the small monochrome photographs that I bought from flea markets around Europe in there. A note about the photographs: I don’t know the people. I am assuming they’ve all passed, seeing as how their personal family photo albums were for sale on flea markets. I buy them because they look so happy. I like their faces. Also, sometimes going through private photos reveals some interesting secrets, as I wrote in an essay for VICE recently … And if they’re not in the cigar box….


… they’re hanging on my wall. From left to right, I bought him in Brussels, him in Copenhagen, and her in Paris.


That babe second-from-right is my Mum when she was 18. The rest, left to right, Brussels, Brussels, Berlin, and the child on the right is from Amsterdam.


These ladies are so old, they’re beginning to fade, but I love them all the more because they’re so bad-ass. On the left, I bought them in Paris and on the back it’s dated June 18, 1929. On the right, I bough her in Brussels, it’s dated August 18, 1922. She’s so fucking cool, I can’t even. I’m all out of evens.


Bought both from Brussels. Street scenes and street photography from the early 20th century are so amazing to me. I love the composition of the left photo! Right photo on the back is dated May 1942 and it says they just returned from shopping.


There’s my gorgeous bee-yooot. Read this for the story behind the provenance of this baby.


Some of the books that really moved me that are resting on my desk are All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Reader by Bernhard Schlink, The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert, and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.


I feel like I become a different person when I sit down at this desk. Outside, I’m gregarious and silly and hungry and moving and yelling and dancing and what not… but here, I am something else.


I have a lot more upcoming publications yet-to-be-announced, but now you know where I was when I wrote them.

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#BlogHop! Confessions of a Fiction Writer: A Cautionary Tale

 

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.

 

Who’s next?

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!