Sunday, 29 July 2012

Writing Retreat

Many thanks to subscriber Faith Hope Cherrytea for suggesting the Canadian Reading Challenge.  I have four books for my list so far:  Hanging On To My Dreams by Arnold Henry, The Petty Details of So-and-So's Life by Camilla Gibb, Aberrant by Jo-Anne Sieppert, and Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald.  I have met Sieppert and Henry through my writing group.  In fact, I just had the pleasure of spending a day with them at a writing retreat we organized in Beautiful Alberta.  It was the first writing retreat for me and for most, if not all of the writers in attendance.  I think this was to my advantage as I put the event together.

I can't believe I've never done this before.  What a treat to be in a roomful of other writers.  To have them comment on your work, share their experiences and hear them read.  It was quite inexpensive, thanks to our lovely hostess.  It was nothing fancy, but I think the simplicity of the day lent itself to helping us create.  Here's what our schedule looked like:

9:00 Meet and Greet - We introduced ourselves over coffee, fruit and muffins.  I started the ball rolling by suggesting we talk about our favourite authors as well as what we enjoy writing.  Then I went over the schedule for the day and reviewed our plans for critiquing one another's work.  There were 11 of us, so I had each person bring 10 copies of a piece of writing they wanted some feedback on.  I knew some people were nervous about this, so I talked about how we critique in our writing group.  While reading a piece, we make note of what makes us laugh, any grammatical errors that we happen to notice, anything that is unclear and anything that stands out to us as especially good.  We had the day to read over the writing and make notes at our own pace.  This worked well, though I think next time I might put a limit on the length of the pieces.  Most of us found it difficult to give good feedback on all of the writing.

10:00 - 12:00 - We had time to write, read, edit or chat with other writers.  Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so those who wanted to chat could go outside and enjoy the view while they talked, which left the room nice and quiet for writing.

12:00 - 1:30 - We broke for lunch and had the option to go for a walk.

1:30 - 2:30  My friend Katie led us in a writing exercise.  These are fantastic for getting you out of your regular writing rhythms.  My latest book project started as a writing exercise used at a writing meeting.  We had the option to read our writing aloud when we were finished.  It is amazing how many ways a writing exercise can go!

2:30 - 3:30 - We had one more work block for writing, editing, reading or talking.

3:30 - We gathered our belongings and I asked people to share the best thing about the day and one thing to improve next time.

What a great way to spend a Saturday.  I'd love to know of your experiences with writing retreats.  I'd appreciate new ideas for next time.  Thanks!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Writing Letters

I am a big fan of CBC radio.  If you aren't a Canadian, this is our national radio station where you can hear anything and everything from jazz to opera, radio plays to news shows.  I previously mentioned my appreciation for Stuart McLean, who has a weekly radio show called The Vinyl Cafe.  If you have never heard of it, google it and listen to an episode immediately!  Especially if you can find an episode featuring a Dave and Morley story.  I promise you won't be disappointed!

Today, I had the pleasure of hearing two writers talk about their "relapse" into letter writing.  They spoke of how writing a letter by hand forces them to live in the moment.  They can't write nearly as fast as they type and so they have time to process what they are writing.  They also have the opportunity to write about things that they would edit if they knew their writing could be accessed by unknown readers - as I do when I write my blogs, tweets and Facebook updates.  I was inspired.

And, I couldn't help but think about my book, Suspiciously Reserved.  In this book, Jane Fairfax frequently communicates to Frank Churchill by letter.  She also emails and texts when necessary, but she trusts a hand-written letter.  This theme of trust runs throughout the book and I'm afraid even I am uncertain of Frank Churchill's trustworthiness.  In our fast-paced, self-centred modern era, who can we trust and how long does it take to build this faith?  Can a hand-written letter reveal more about its author than a text or email?  I plan to try.  Just as soon as I can find a pen and some paper.  What do you think?

Click here to read about Mary Robinette Kowal's letter-writing challenge.The Month of Letters

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Kindle Fire!

You can win a Kindle Fire as well as 20 Austen-related Indie novels including Suspiciously Reserved by clicking on this button.  It is through a fantastic blog called Indie Jane.  Good luck!
Click here

Sunday, 1 July 2012

A Fleet of Fantasy

Though it may seem as though I haven't been writing much in my first year back teaching, in fact, my weekend efforts are beginning to amount to something.  I started with short stories, as I often do once I finish a book and look for my next project.  It was my goal to write one short story a month during the teaching months.  In October, I began a short story in writing group based on a prompt we were given "You always said dragons didn't exist . . ." but the story wouldn't end.  It kept going and keeps going.

Once again, I am venturing into unknown territory.  Fantasy fiction was something I had abandoned in favour of realism, but returning to the land of dragons and talking animals has been delightful.  And when I really think of it, how realistic is Jane Austen fiction?  Am I not slipping into the fantastical realms when I imagine what it was all like?

In my efforts, I have been revisiting favourite fantasy writers - C.S. Lewis, Madeline L'Engle and Lewis Carroll.  Yes, my book is aimed at children which is a natural fit for me, being a mother of young children and a teacher of the same.

I keep wondering if I should stick to one genre and get really good at it, but I only seem able to write what I am currently obsessed with.  What do you think about this?  Should a writer stick to one type of writing or should they cross borders, confident that they will be able to figure it out?  Margaret Atwood is an inspiration here.  From historical fiction to science fiction, she triumphs.  I treasure your comments:)  Thanks!