Monday, 16 March 2020

Watching Emma in a Time of Anxiety

On March 14, 2020, I braved the airport and the movie theatre. I'll confess I reconsidered my interprovincial trip more than once, but it's still considered safe and acceptable, so I boarded the half-full airplane, relieved I didn't have any symptoms of illness, and took the one hour flight to see my parents and sister in Alberta.
From Wikipedia

Temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius greeted me upon arrival, but my sister soon whisked me away in her toasty warm car and we headed to our most anticipated afternoon entertaionment - the newest version of Emma in film. It was well-worth braving the elements and a public place. Our fellow Theatre-goers were few, but mighty (I had to ask a gaggle of older women to please put away their phones when the movie started, and I will frequently quote the couple who sat RIGHT BESIDE us in the near-empty theatre as Captain and Mrs. Obvious. I think Jane Austen would enjoy their  commentary.)

The latest Emma film was a celebration of gorgeous costuming, talented acting, unexpected humour, musicality and even some choreography. I was especially excited about seeing Miranda Hart in this film. "You see, this actress is a comedian." Captain Obvious. I discovered her through Call the Midwife, stumbled upon her TV Show Miranda and have been a huge fan ever since. She did not disappoint in her hilarious and sensitive rendition of Miss Bates. I realize I am now closer in age to this character than to Emma. I greatly appreciated this performance.

I was a bit surprised by the introduction of Mr. Knightley, riding home and stripping down for a quick wardrobe change. "I hope he washed himself." The Captain. "Yes, he did. That's why he got naked!" Mrs. Obvious. I believe this was a sort of homage to the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice where Colin Firth jumps in the pond. Mr. Knightley in this film is far less rigid and much more emotional. I distrusted this at first, but was won over by the end.

Emma gets a similar dressing scene where she chooses to warm herself before the fire. "She isn't wearing any underwear!" Captain. "They didn't back then, you know." Mrs. Obvious. I was impressed with this actress's ability to change so believably from disagreeable, spoiled rich-girl to sensitive and thoughtful. She plays Emma very well.

I noticed the scene at Box Hill was not filmed on a hot day as is written in the book. Wind seemed to be a constant problem for outdoor scenes, but they carried on without a hitch. It is the scene on Box Hill which both changes Emma and gives the audience a deeper insight into Miss Bates' difficult life. Or, as Captain Obvious stated "Emma's so spoiled she just said something rude without realizing."

The Ball scene is touching and romantic. "They are falling in love because he touched her." Captain. This leads to an incredible series of hilarious events leading to a lovely proposal scene with an excellent twist.

Finally, Bill Nighy shines in sealing the romance with his chronic fear of drafts and the happy couple is given a moment alone. "Now they have to get married. If you kiss a girl like that, you have to get married." Captain.

It's a wonderful film and one I hope to enjoy several more times, maybe without the commentary. Perhaps it will hurry on to online viewing while we are all social distancing. What a challenging time we are facing. I hope my article has given you a few moments of diversion and the ability to Stay Calm and Wash Your Hands.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Poetry with Lorna Crozier

I had the absolute pleasure of attending a poetry workshop on my own little island last weekend
with Lorna Crozier. She's a wonderful teaching and enthralled us with the history of poetry, including several readings of poetry from different writers.
Lorna Crozier on
Our writing assignment was to write a poem of 7 lines beginning with the final line from another writer's poem. We were to come to a stop at the end of each line. Here are my attempts:

(First line from Linda Gregg's "The Woman who looks for her lost sister she says" from Too Bright to See)
"No," she said, "It's too late for flowers Dear."
Yet, there they were.
Waiting, helpless, in my hand,
Clutched round thick stems.
Dripping milk poison down my elbow.
I pry my fingers from the thorns,
No one to help me.
Mouth drying, fingers oozing.
I lie down, panting, at her grave.

Rodeo Queen
(First line from Linda Gregg's "No More Marriages" from Too Bright to See)
They're never going to do that to me.
A sequined woman, shivering in mud.
Grasping a hockey stick,
That was never going to save me,
From a life of obscurity.
She rose, gasping,
With laughter, full of life.
A pig squealing out from under her.
The crowd cheers.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

Editing: Ripping up the Quilt

Editing is not my favourite part of the writing process. This time around, I am doing some major edits, thanks to help from different people I met at the Surrey International Writer's Conference. 

I began with Anne Perry's workshop, fittingly titled "Edits that hurt. . . and really help. It was an excellent talk on the editing process which included the following book-altering tips:
1. Sometimes you can cut an unnecessary character or blend two characters into one to make a more interesting character.
2. When you are making a change, just rewrite the whole scene. Don't try to cut and paste. (I have not always followed this advice, but I hear Anne Perry telling me this whenever I am attempting to cut and paste).

Next, I pitched my novel idea to Dr. Genevieve Gagne-Hawes. I'll take a minute to elaborate: Attendees register for Pitch sessions ahead of time. They must arrive 5 minutes early to the ballroom.
The front of the room is filled with chairs and tables full of writers at the front. Along both sides of the room are the agents. The writers are sent to sit in chairs in the middle of the room where they wait to be called. When it is your turn, you line up in front of the agent to alert them they have one minute left with the writer who is seated before them. It is an interested opportunity to observe other writer's pitching. It is recommended that you do not bring your entire manuscript, but rather a one page synopsis or query letter. I observed many writers with their entire manuscript. I think it is just too tempting.

I pitched my novel to Genevieve who listened with an attentive smile. Then she asked me questions which directly pointed out my novel's biggest flaw. There's no hiding the problem. But, this gave me the chance to pick her brain for suggestions. My main take-away was to focus on the love story.

Next, I had a Blue Pencil Session with writer Owen Laukkanen. This is the chance to share your
writing with a published author and to discuss their thoughts about your work. Owen writes adventure thrillers and after researching his books, I figured he would find my book boring. I even attempted starting a murder mystery novel to entertain him, but I abandoned the pursuit before I got very far. I presented my three pages to Owen with an inward cringe. To my surprise, he did not fall asleep and instead encouraged my efforts, helped me tighten my dialogue and asked questions which inspired my to take the timeline of my story from two years and two major locations into one year and location.

I've had my work cut out for me since then. Merging characters and years is no small feat. Early into my efforts, I took on the view that my work now is like ripping apart a quilt, keeping the good parts and carefully stitching the quilt back together in a new and exciting pattern. Unlike the written feedback from the professional editor which stymied my work, meeting face to face with Genevieve and Owen has inspired me. I think it was the opportunity to ask questions and get to know them a little. I am grateful to be creating my tale again, one stitch at a time.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Anne Perry at Surrey International Writers' Conference 2018

I was so fortunate to attend the Surrey International Writers' Conference this year. By the time I
Anne Perry on Wikipedia
signed up, only Sunday was left as an option, but even a half day at this special conference is life-giving. There were so many highlights, but with my limited writing time lately, I want to make sure to remember the closing remarks from the talented and prolific writer, Anne Perry. I hope she doesn't mind my paraphrase of her words. I typed them into my phone on the Skytrain on the way home from the conference. Here's what I remember of her talk on the magic of writing:

"I want to share the best and worst moments. The Louvre at sunset. White roses in the moonlight and the sound of a Nightingale. 

"In my series set in WWI, I wondered what the chaplain would say to the man who saw his friend blow to bits the day before. I heard the story of a man at a conference who had lost his son to suicide. The worst situation imaginable. His minister visited every day and said nothing. Then every other day, then a couple times a week then as few times a month. Then I found what my character would say. 'You've been through hell and I will be here for you.' 

"A book is a companion during a bad time. Be there for your readers. Tell your story and tell is honestly. There was a homeless man at a conference in Portland who was spending his only $20 on my book. I need to be there for him. Like a hand in the darkness."

Thank you Ms. Perry for these strong and inspiring words. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Now Closed: Audiobook Contest!

Congratulations to Jen for winning a copy of my new audiobook! If you are interested in another contest, please leave a comment and I'll get another one going in the future.

Expectations on Audible

Six months after Pride and Prejudice, Darcy and Elizabeth are deeply in love. Elizabeth is planning her first ball at Pemberley, while Georgiana Darcy considers a life of spinsterhood. Wickham has used her so terribly, she cannot face another prospect.

However, her handsome neighbour, Phillip Lawson, is a continual distraction. Then, Lydia Wickham arrives uninvited with an alarming announcement. Can the Darcy's love survive?

To enter, simply leave a comment on my blog about why you love Jane Austen. You can get extra entries by following me on Twitter @austengurl and posting a comment on Twitter. Contest begins May 16 at 12:00 AM EST and ends May 23 at 12:00 EST. Good luck! I look forward to reading your comments.

A few details. . .
The winner must have access to to claim their prize. In order to receive your prize, I will need to contact you via email.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

North Shore Writers Festival

I was fortunate to attend the North Shore Writers Festival at the West Vancouver Memorial Library this past weekend. It's an incredible opportunity and I am so grateful to the sponsor's for allowing anyone to attend for free. In fact, I'm amazed there aren't writers overcrowding the room, forcing the organizers to require registration.
I attended several of the Saturday events. The first was Writing Canadian Stories: A NSWA Workshop. Three writers shared their experiences writing about Canada. Sonia Garrett is a teacher and mother who wrote Maddie Makes a Movie, a novel for young readers. She was encouraged to set the book in the United States or elsewhere, but found the book wouldn't be the same without it's Canadian setting.

Sanford Osler wrote Canoe Crossings a book about the history of canoes in Canada. He was also encouraged to expand the setting of his nonfiction book, but found he had to keep his book in the country he knows and loves so well. I thoroughly enjoyed his reading based on the tale of obtaining a fiberglass "dancing canoe" used in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Bernice Lever read a couple of her humourous poems and encouraged all writers of the wealth of Canadian material as well as the generous support of our government through grants and recognition of Canadian authors.

I then attended A Writer's Life with William Deverell. I was most impressed with his willingness to read from his first diary. He seemed to get a great kick out of rereading his earnest first attempts at writing and love. He also shared the story of getting into publishing through the Seal First Novel Award in 1979. He won $50 000 and was flown to Toronto to accept his prize and promote his book. The organizers were a bit worried about his "West Coast" appearance and the fact that he enjoyed a few drinks on the plane beforehand. They insisted he accept the prize in $20 bills and later promoted the book to booksellers and the press by sending copies of his book Needles complete with a hypodermic needle. Wow! Publishing certainly has changed.

At 1 p.m., there was a free lunch and Writers Cafe. Attendees were invited to eat with the authors. My friend and I sat with Sanford Osler and were able to ask him any question we liked. After this, we were a bit wiped and took a walk on the incredible Sea Walk in West Vancouver.

Finally, I returned for The Rule of Stephens with Timothy Taylor. Governor General Award nominee JJ Lee interviewed Taylor on the writing of his newest book and the stories behind the story. Lee is a warm and energetic interviewer with years of experience at the CBC.

It was an inspiring day and I hope to see you next year to participate in the 20th edition of the North Shore Writers Festival.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Interview with Jo-Anne Sieppert: Writer and Cover Designer

I met Jo-Anne Sieppert at a reading and book a few years ago. I was impressed by her wide range of writing interests and her personability. I then had the pleasure of getting to know her better through different writing groups and events and have worked with her on a number of cover projects. Thanks to Jo-Anne for agreeing to an interview on my blog.

Jo-Anne created the cover for the audio version of Expectations. You can find her design page here Coversanddesign
Cover by Jo-Anne Sieppert
She also created this cover for Taking Comfort.
Cover by Jo-Anne Sieppert

Samantha Adkins: How did you come to be interested in both writing and designing book covers?

Author Photo:
Courtesy Jo-Anne
Jo-Anne Sieppert: I’ve always been a writer, cliché I know. I was just never good at talking that much. Growing up in England you don’t talk about feelings or emotions, so I wrote stories or poems. I never thought I would do anything with them. My first book was just a little story I would tell my youngest at bed time to help him sleep. I used his nightmares and turned them into adventures he and his brother went on. When they would ask me to tell them again I knew I needed to write them down because I’d forget. Eventually the little stories turned into 110,000 words, 
then 4 books.  
When my first book was released (Nytstars) back in 2008, the cover the publisher selected was awful! It didn’t represent the story in anyway. So, I tried making my own cover, which the publisher excepted. This represented the story but was equally as terrible. I was embarrassed to show my book to anyone. I knew I had more books to write and that if I wanted them to look as good on the outside as I knew the story was on the inside that I needed to learn how to do them right. I went to school for web and graphic design. I discovered I really loved making book covers and I wanted to help other authors love their covers as much as I did.

SA: How are the two crafts similar and different?  

JS: Writing and cover design are similar because they both tell a story, only one uses words, it has sentences, paragraphs, pages and pages to get the whole story out. You have time to describe things, grab a hold of your reader and take them on an adventure. Cover design tells a story in images. Not the whole story, just enough to make you want to read more. Sometimes, you get to use images to draw the readers in and entice them. Other times you only have a design and title to catch their attention. Just as in a writing, it’s all in the details.

SA: Do you have a favourite book cover? (One of your own)

JS: My favorite book cover is for my book Brother. I love the way it tells the story from the face in the background looking over the silhouette of the couple.
SA: Where do you find inspiration for book covers? Does this differ from your writing inspiration?
Brother available on Amazon
JS: When I come up with a book cover idea for my own books it often comes to me as I’m writing. There’s a certain spot in the story, which varies for each book, and that’s the part that needs to be the cover. When I do them for other authors I ask them first if they have an idea that they want to see as the cover. If they don’t I ask them about the book. The part that they get the most excited about, that’s the cover. That’s the part that they wrote the story around.

SA: What is the best thing about being creative? What is the worst? 
JS: This is a loaded question. How long do I have? Lol. If I have pick just one, I’d say it’s having an outlet. A way to release all the thoughts, images, colours, and noises that swim around in our head all the time. It’s hard to focus on day to day with all the extra chaos in there. Being creative means we get to release all that into to something brand new, something that has never been seen, heard, or read before.
The worst part, there’s never enough time for it.

Here's a video of Jo-Anne reading from her book Aberrant:

Youtube Channel: It's My Story and I'm 
Sticking to It