28 January 2015

January Journalling

Every so often I commit to journalling on a regular basis. I create a file, or a folder of files, or a .scrivener project, and have at it. If it sticks for more than a week I investigate older files on my hard drive and inevitably rediscover I've been doing the same thing for decades. Committing to journalling, succeeding for a while, and eventually forgetting about it.

I keep the journal files within the spiderwebbed chaos that is my legacy writing folder. This folder has existed on several computers, through different operating systems and definitely different word processors. Some of the oldest entries are now unreadable by current applications, but I keep them anyway, as if another ten years will suddenly produce the skeleton key of word processors instead of cementing the documents' place in the trashbin of indecipherable.

Not leaving out all the hard copy journals I have, the pages and pages written longhand at the beginning of notebooks given to me by well-meaning friends and family throughout my life. They're beautiful notebooks and every one is at least partially written in by well-meaning me at the start of some journalling phase. And then...

Then what? Why do I start this process again and again and give it up again and again? Reading old journal entries is fascinating and reveals to me the person I was at the time, or the person I thought I was. And writing them now isn't just cathartic but it's an exercise that stretches my skills as a creative writer and also an honest human being. So why doesn't it ever stick?

Woolf painted by Roger Fry,
one of The Bloomsbury Group
I like to believe I'm in good company. We have Shelley's journals, and Woolf's, and Twain's, and Cobain's, and all sorts of people I like to believe I can somehow be lumped with in any category at all. Did they journal every day of their lives, or did they drop it and pick it up again when it occurred to them? I bet the latter. I bet every one has at one point written,

It's been a while. What happened?

"I got out this diary and read, as one always does read one’s own writing, with a kind of guilty intensity. I confess that the rough and random style of it, often so ungrammatical, and crying for a word altered, afflicted me somewhat. I am trying to tell whichever self it is that reads this hereafter that I can write very much better; and take no time over this; and forbid her to let the eye of man behold it."
Virginia Woolf

"In the diary you find proof that in situations which today would seem unbearable, you lived, looked around and wrote down observations, that this right hand moved then as it does today, when we may be wiser because we are able to look back upon our former condition, and for that very reason have got to admit the courage of our earlier striving in which we persisted even in sheer ignorance."
Franz Kafka

"I had started keeping a journal, and I was discovering that I didn’t need school in order to experience the misery of appearances. I could manufacture excruciating embarrassment in the privacy of my bedroom, simply by reading what I’d written in the journal the day before. Its pages faithfully mirrored by fraudulence and pomposity and immaturity. Reading it made me desperate to change myself, to sound less idiotic."
Jonathan Franzen

"All I wanted was to live a life where I could be me, and be okay with that."
Charlotte Eriksson

"I could probably write a book about how awkward I feel most of the time, and I’d rather not. I’d rather write a book about other people."
Jen Brubacher

13 January 2015


I don't usually read romance. Full-on smut, sure, but not romance. I'm too often disappointed. I guess I expect more from lovers than I do from people who just want to screw each other. So if I recommend a romance novel it's because I've been surprised by the characters, and because I see them as complex and interesting rather than the stereotypes of purity, sexuality, and idealistic love.

Ev Bishop is starting a new series with 'Wedding Bands' and I'm pleased to recommend it. Here's her blurb.

Ditched by her high school sweetheart, Callum Archer, on the night they’re supposed to elope, Jo Kendall casts out on her own, brokenhearted.

Over the years, Jo reels in a life she loves, centered on the outdoors, fishing (favoring a lucky wedding band lure), and her fine dining restaurant—a life that crashes away when her husband and business partner cheats her, leaving her bankrupt and alone.

Then her uncle dies, bequeathing Jo and her sister, Samantha, his rural property. Jo returns to Greenridge, determined to build a new business and permanent home—without the help of a man. Unfortunately Samantha wants her inheritance in cold, hard cash and hires a lawyer to get it for her, a lawyer who turns out to be none other than Jo’s long-lost love, Callum.

Jo’s fledgling plans—and her heart—are at risk once more.

If Jo can fight her insecurities, she might end up with a wedding band that doesn’t come with a sharp hook. But should she risk everything she’s worked for, yet again? Before she can decide, she needs to know: can a lost love truly be reclaimed?

You can buy Wedding Bands in eBook form here:

Amazon.com ~ Amazon.ca ~ Amazon.co.uk

KOBO ~ For your NOOK at Barnes & Noble ~ Apple/iBooks ~ Page Foundry ~ Scribd

Don't have an eReader and/or prefer print books? Wedding Bands will be out in paperback at the end of the month.

Find more about Ev Bishop, her other publications, and her very fun newsletter at her website.

14 November 2014

Ich spreche un peu de English.

Language is marvellous.

I grew up speaking English and have started to learn two other languages so far: French and German. As I've travelled and talked with people in person and online I've found an interesting difference between French and German reactions to my attempts to speak their language.

If I try to speak French, a French speaking person will speak back to me in English as if to say, "No. Please stop. Don't do this terrible thing you're trying to do. It is an abomination and we must not discuss it. Move on."

If I try to speak German, a German speaking person will speak back to me in German, with cheer and enthusiasm, using longer and longer words until I'm crushing my English-German dictionary to my face and thinking, 'What is that? Is that a word? How is that a word?' and looking up each syllable of their sentence hoping eventually I'll be able to put it all together and discover its meaning.

Truthfully, I enjoy the German approach more. It seems friendly and encouraging, even if they're secretly laughing at me.

I wonder what the stereotypical English approach is. I just live it so I rarely notice when it happens, except that people are forever apologizing for their bad English, and English speakers are forever telling people their English isn't that bad.

28 October 2014

Chapter 2: NaNoWriMo

Dear —, 
Hello from the woman in the ice box. Let me chip the ice from my lips and fingertips and greet you warmly, though I have little warmth to give. I’d give anything for the light that shines when you open the door to my resting place. I’d give you my secrets. 
Apologies from the woman in the ice box. It’s been so long since I’ve spoken in my own voice the slush just slid right out and all over your nice suit. Tell me, is the shop in Burlington Arcade still giving you the discount twice? Or have you found a new purveyor of solid gold novelty cufflinks? 
I didn’t realize I’d be bitter. I thought I’d be desperate to please you and say what you want to hear, and eventually begin to tell the truth. But I started with truth, prettied up as it is. I didn’t expect that at all. 
Let me try again. 
Hello my friend. I have missed you and everything around you far more than is healthy for for me. And now I find I want to talk to you even though we both know that isn’t easy, or wise. Even though I can’t see the smirk that calms my most bitter claims, even though I can’t hear your quick retorts, I want to throw my words to where you are. So I am. 
How do you stop from missing a place? A person you can remember and imagine and have imaginary conversations with, but the conversations of a place are a series of gestures and expressions not easily reproduced. I can look at a photograph or even a video of Picadilly Circus, but this won’t summon the hot wind from the underground station blowing magazine covers on the newsstand, tripping tourists as they peer up and up and forget there’s a roundabout of heavy traffic bleating to be processed. Even the memory of you catching your hat half a foot off your head and recommending The 39 Steps for the dozenth time won’t stop my stomach clenching and my heart stuttering with regret. 
A person dies, and others say, Never mind. She knew how much you cared. She’s in a better place. 
A place is forbidden to you, and there is nothing others can say. A place never knows or cares how you feel, and it is always where it is—unless it’s destroyed completely, so let’s not venture further in this thought. We had enough of that in 2005. 
I am well, thank you for asking. I have a home to myself and a great amount of land that would be some sort of buffer if people respected this sort of thing, but they don’t. Mail is delivered right to my door despite the mailbox at the end of my driveway. This includes human-born advertisements for cookies and other goods to support the local school band. This includes requests, nay demands, for candy from tweens who have put the least amount of effort into a costume since I had to make a limousine driver from one of your suits and my Ray Bans. 
Tonight is Halloween. Oh the tricks I could play. The traps and snares along the drive, and the stories I could tell, each chillier than the last until I wasn’t alone here in my box. Until every beggar in this faux-kind community was candy-coated in ice, blinking and mouthing the words and waiting for the door to open. 
But not all of them would have you to hold them in the world, my friend. Not all of them would feel the icicle stab between their shoulder-blades digging deeper every year.

I'm writing NaNoWriMo this year and as I had an idea for a longer story I'm doing it a bit differently. I'm "rebelling." I've started writing early, and I'll indeed write 50k during November but I might continue writing after, too. I expect a full-length novel that my NaNo 50k is only part of. I've never rebelled quite this much before--my last rebellion was the short story collection--so I'm not sure how it will go, but it's what I'll try.

Visit my NaNoWriMo author page right here and let me know if you're playing along. Happy writing!

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