Creative Grocery List: An Evening With Peter Carey and Josip Novakovich

little wooden man with veggiesI have a very unwriterly reason for having a soft spot for Peter Carey: my godmother was a fervent fan of his.

I remember a wonderful visit with her years ago in her little house (oh how I loved her royal blue bathtub and loo), listening to her talk in great excitement over tea and cake about “this marvelous new Australian writer” and his newly published first novel “Oscar and Lucinda.”

So when I heard the two-time Booker Prize winner was coming to Montreal to discuss “the writing of inspiration” with Globe and Mail’s Arts Editor Jared Bland at Concordia University, how could I not go? Especially as they were to be joined by Booker short-listed author Josip Novakovich, the master, I discovered last year, of the art of hilarious-but-serious anecdotes.

How to begin

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Writing and the Dynamics of Smell

I watched a mother pass sample pots of dry teas to her young son in a local tea store. Oranges, he said, sniffing at the tin his mother held out while at the same time continuing to tease his little brother. Grapefruit. Vanilla. Mint. He got them all. I thought about writing and the sense of smell.

Smell for Narrative Energy

In Edinburgh last year, I was entranced by the installation “It Happens When The Body Is Anatomy Of Time” by Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. The fragrance of spices, cloves, cumin, turmeric, pervaded the room, bringing the visual artwork – lycra ‘skins’, the stitching details, the colour and lighting – alive, and making the installation a sensual and exciting experience. Continue reading

Do You Really Want To Know What Your Body Parts Are Saying About You?

finger of Northumberlandia, Lady of the North
finger of Northumberlandia, Lady of the North

When I broke my wrist a couple of weeks ago, two people on the same day warned me to be sure to treat the pain. The body remembers, they told me.

As an ex-dancer I’m a firm believer in body memory. It’s a wonderful feeling to let one’s body take over and remember the movements of a choreography. And who hasn’t moved in a particular way (or smelled or tasted or heard something) and have a previous occasion – where we were and who we were with – leap to mind?

But here’s something very weird: I’m convinced (in retrospect) that a week before I broke my wrist, it saw the future.

Suddenly, out of the blue, Continue reading

Writing (Dancing, Singing…) From The Sole: A Warm-Up Exercise

bare foot on carpet I liked to make sure my little dog Brandy walked on several different surfaces every day – grass, packed earth, tarmac, mud, gravel… Needless to say, people thought I was nuts but I felt the sensory stimulation would keep him lively and perky. He did live to eighteen!

This exercise, based on the same idea, is a great way to ground yourself before any kind of creative work. I particularly like to do it before sitting down to write or when I’m stuck.

You can use any images, words or ideas that came to you during the exercise in your writing (free write, first draft, insert a new image/idea into something you’re already working on). Or you can simply use it to connect with the ‘now’, to be present with yourself and slip away from your controlling inner editor (or any outer editors for that matter). Continue reading

Looking to Write Your Way Out From Your Usual? A Writing Exercise!

Fanny Fanny, a sculpture in welded bronze by César Baldacinni

Fanny Fanny
by César Baldacinni

Feel like it’s time for a change in your writing? Looking for portals that might lead you to different kinds of stories or different styles of writing from your usual? Try this exercise!

The exercise has two parts. The first – how to write this exercise – comes courtesy of Montréal poet Blossom Thom*, the second – the prompt – is from me.

You will need plenty of paper (I’d suggest good sized paper, not an itsy-bitsy notebook), and a pen or pencil.

But first, a warm up to power up both sides of the brain!

Warm Up

Clasp your hands in front of you. Note which thumb is on top. Open your hands and clasp them again, this time with the other thumb on top. Clasp and re-clasp your hands, alternating thumbs on top, as fast as you can.

Now do the same hand clasping exercise behind your back! Faster!

Part 1: Get Ready…

Using pen or pencil, you will write with Continue reading

Writing Exercise for Narrative Energy: Juxtaposing Multiple Ways a Character Experiences the World

David Moore's 1994 sculpture Site/Interlude, Musée de Plein Air de Lachine

Site/Interlude by David Moore

In life we constantly shift between different ways of experiencing the world – between inner and outer lives, between doing and thinking, dreaming, remembering, talking, between being (in one’s body) and interacting with people, things. We shift between emotions, between judging, enjoying and complaining, between sensing and moving.

Forcing a character to experience similar rapid shifts disrupts linear thinking, often producing Continue reading

Word-icise – A Word Workout and Writing Exercise!

The Passing Song, Catherine Widgery, 1992 Musée Plein Air de Lachine

“The Passing Song”
Catherine Widgery

Today’s writing prompt will be an end-of-summer word workout!

1. Start by exercising your fast-twitch word muscles. List all the words you can find within the word given below!  For example: if the word were “greatness”: great, eat, teen, neat, greet, gnat, rent, rest, ten….

2. Then we move to the slow-twitch/endurance word muscles. When you have found all you can, find at least four more. (And then four more?) Go on, are you sure there aren’t more?

3. Worn out? Add in some words which use any letter as many times as you like: trea(t), sten(t). Use real names: Tess, Stan

4. Now the pay off! Start writing, incorporating ALL the words in your list in the order in which they appeared.

The prompt word is:

RESOLUTION

Have fun!