July 1st will be different this year without the concerts, large street parties and especially without the fireworks (Team Sheltie is quite happy the latter are cancelled). I hope you get a chance to celebrate somehow. I’ll be away from my desk, aiming to catch the sunrise and hopefully the sunset too. We aren’t a perfect country by any stretch, but I’m proud to call myself a Canadian. Enjoy the holiday everybody!
It’s nearly the end of October. Yesterday’s torrential rain sent gusts of leaves falling from the trees. Good thing the garden has been put to bed for the winter because it’s the kind of weather that doesn’t encourage outside lingering. Luckily, I have some great books to keep me company when the rain is falling. Here’s what I’m reading this week:
By the fire: Ebb & Flow by Heather Smith
Before bed: Deep Water by Lea Tassie
On the weekend: The Oysterville Sewing Circle by Susan Wiggs
Books read to date in 2019: 50
It’s Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada (Columbus Day weekend for my friends south of the border). It’s that time of year when we gather with friends and family to celebrate the many blessings in our lives.
It’s not always easy to be grateful, particularly if we follow the news and witness horrors like we did last week in Las Vegas or when we see world leaders using Twitter to taunt, bully and inflame. It can also be difficult to feel appreciative when we face our own personal challenges, and we all have them. But that’s the time gratitude is particularly important.
This Thanksgiving weekend, I’m grateful for many things, but I’m especially grateful to live on the beautiful west coast in a city where nature is valued and in a country with strict gun laws. I’m lucky, and I need to remember that.
Early last week, in the middle of all the horror unfolding in Las Vegas, a Steller’s jay appeared in our back garden. We’ve lived here thirty years and this is the first time we’ve had one in our yard. They aren’t common on the south coast, at least not in our area. He came with a partner (jays pair for life) and the two of them spent most of the week swooping from tree to pond and back to the tree again. They’ve gone now; they’ve moved on to grace another garden with their presence but I’m grateful they visited us at all.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
As I write this, a series of big storms is predicted for the Pacific Northwest and we’re scheduled to head off to the mainland to see family and friends. Normally we’d reschedule but there’s a high school reunion planned so we’re motivated to make the trek. Let’s hope the weather cooperates. If not, I’ll be staying home and reading by the fire. I have a few extra books on hand just in case. Here’s what I’m reading this month:
At the gym: First Star I See Tonight by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Beside the fire: Unearthed by Alexandra Risen
Before bed: Blueprints by Barbara Delinsky
Books read to date in 2016: 60
In a few days I’m heading up island to Schooner Cove for another Red Door retreat with the Pen Warriors. These ladies have been getting together every three or four months for fifteen years! I’ve been part of the gang (with a few breaks here and there) for a good part of that time.
Retreat is an act of moving back or withdrawing. And that’s what we do. We withdraw from the outside world. We retreat from our families, our responsibilities, and the news of the hour. We spend a couple of days concentrating on writing, publishing and all things related to both. We always leave time for personal catch up and we never go hungry (or thirsty) but for the most part, we work. We follow an agenda (thank you, Bonnie) which varies from session to session and can include everything from story critiquing or group plotting to blurb writing and promotion. And we generally leave time to talk about craft.
Up for discussion this time is Blake Snyder’s classic Save the Cat. Most of us read it soon after it came out in 2005, but we decided to read it again and discuss it at the Red Door. Snyder was a Hollywood screenwriter who maintained you need a log line to summarize a story even before coming up with a character or a scene. He felt the log line helps with clarity and focus and ultimately results in a stronger story. If you haven’t read Save The Cat I recommend it. If nothing else, it’s one more thing to consider and another possible tool in the writer’s tool kit.
I’m just about finished another round of revisions on One Good Deed, I have a book proposal to finish by the beginning of September, and a couple of articles to research and write too. I also have line edits to tackle for Million Dollar Blues and I’ll be exchanging emails with Estrella Cover Art as we work to come up with a cover concept. I’m planning to send that story into the world sometime this fall.
It’s going to be a fun (and busy) three weeks. At the end of it, I’ll be rewarding my efforts by escaping up island for a few days at the beach.
Enjoy the rest of your summer. See you in September!
The leaves have pretty much fallen from the trees, our apples have been harvested (and turned into crisps and pies), and later this week we set our clocks back an hour to standard time. Many people don’t like the fact that it gets darker earlier, but I don’t mind. It means it’s lighter in the morning, which makes it easier to get up. Not only that, the darker evenings are a perfect time to curl up and read a book.
Here’s what I’m reading this month:
Beside the fire: The Precious One by Marisa de los Santos
At the Gym: Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger
On the Kindle: Hope in a Jar by Beth Harbison
Books read to date in 2015: 70
I received an email from a teacher-librarian a few weeks ago. This wasn’t a request for an author visit but instead a question about living in BC. The woman in question is doing her masters and was about to give a seminar focusing on BC authors. She wanted to know how living here informs or influences my writing.
I mulled it over for quite a while because it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. When I responded, I gave her some context, explaining that though I was born on Vancouver Island, I grew up both in Victoria and Vancouver, spent a year in Edmonton as a young teen and five years living in Winnipeg when I was in my early twenties. When I finally returned to the island in my late twenties, it really was like coming home.
I think there’s a certain mindset one has being born and raised on an island. You’re dependent, to a large extent, on ferries (or planes) for mail, food, fuel and the ability to come and go. You can’t just up and leave (or return for that matter) without checking a schedule or two. There’s also an understanding that land here is finite: there’s only so much room for garbage disposal or new buildings. That’s not so on the mainland where there’s always room out in the valley or up the mountain. Island living is said to be an insular sort of existence. If one defines insular as being set apart, I’d agree. If you toss in the other definition of insular being ignorant or disinterested in other cultures, I’d argue against it. That kind of insular attitude isn’t limited to island living, and I certainly don’t see it here on Vancouver Island.
With those thoughts rattling around my head, I was no closer to answering the woman’s question. How does living here specifically impact me as a writer? I finally came to this conclusion: living on the west coast impacts me. I bring that sensibility to my life generally which, by extension, flavors my writing. Some of my books are set in B.C. Others are set on the prairies which I grew to love too. A few are set in the U.S., though every U.S. setting I’ve never used has been on the west coast – Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angles. I think that’s telling.
To me as a writer, setting plays as big a role as character. So when I place a story in a particular location, I need to have lived there or at least spent time there to absorb its nuances. But while I’ve been to New York, for instance, I haven’t spent as much time there as I have in Seattle, San Francisco or L.A.
I relate to the coast. I know the flora and fauna, the birds and animals. When someone complains about a heron fishing at their pond, I know exactly what that sharp, two-toned beak looks like as it dips into the water. When a friend mentions that the bark is peeling from their arbutus tree, my mind immediately goes to the intoxicating honey scent of the arbutus flowers that bloom in spring. I know what spring is like here (often rainy, though not this year), and summer and fall and winter too (most definitely rainy). I’ve lived with the nuances of light and dark, I’ve experienced drought and floods and windstorms. I understand the politics, the environmental issues, and the social nuances that permeate towns and cities up and down the coast.
Does that mean I’m limited to setting my books on the coast? No. I love to travel and spend time in other places, and I’m pretty good at researching too. So that’s not an issue. But when it comes right down to it, I get the west coast mindset. The salt water tang infused my blood at birth. And I’m more than okay with it.