Where’s the Write Spot?

Every second week I gather up my pencils and notebooks after breakfast and set out to find somewhere to write for the day. Preferably somewhere I’ve never been before.

“No one is immune to the impressions that impinge on the senses from the outside.” Creativity, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Could be a park, a café or terrasse, an art gallery or museum, a mall, a greenhouse…

I find working somewhere different helps spark off fresh, unexpected ideas.

The new chairs and benches on the Montreal streets this summer are attractive options too! I love the replacement of sidewalk flowers along McGill College Avenue with parsley and other herbs.

summer chairs along ave McGill College, Montreal

Sometimes I look up places I’ve heard about in advance, but usually I just set out and see what I come across. Montreal is a great place for that!

When I saw Continue reading

Opening the Door to Backstory

Backstories are always fascinating to a fiction writer. How can you know the characters in your story if you don’t know what’s happened in their past and how that’s affected them?

Is that why I feel so sad when I see yet another of Montreal’s beautiful old mansions bite the dust? Because when we’ve lost Montreal’s old buildings, we won’t know Montreal?

I couldn’t help but wonder what the story was of this building Continue reading

If Only This Were My Secret Door To Writing

near Beaver Lake, Mount Royal, Montreal

Just looking at these quirky little lopsided buildings in the trees to one side of Beaver Lake on “the mountain” (Montreal’s Mount Royal) makes me want to sit down and write.

I’m sure I’d finish my next story collection so much faster if I had one of these as my private writing nook.

Unfortunately that little sticker says Continue reading

Free Modifiers, Dependent Clauses and a Good Night’s Sleep

bedroom in apartment in Gaudi's La Pedrera (Casa Milà), Barcelona

Towards the end of my appointment with the sleep doctor, after he’d told me exactly what time I should go to bed every night and what time – exactly – I should wake, he suggested I put my iPod under my pillow, ready for the hours when I lie awake.

On the iPod, he said, should be something like ‘The History of the World.’

Goodness, I said. That’ll send me to sleep.

That’s the whole idea, he pointed out gently.

I hadn’t got around to doing that but I remembered it as a long-time writer buddy and I were exchanging emails about grammatical Continue reading

What Did I Discover From My Year of Blurt Writing?

So what did I discover from my 2016 blog resolution to blurt out a quick story or poem once a week?

“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou

1. It was a great brain zapper! The main idea of Blurting had been to energize my brain as I edited a collection of stories which I’d been working on for quite a while. It worked! Forcing Continue reading

In Search Of A Writer-Friendly Computer Chair

I often feel like Goldilocks when I sit down. I so rarely find a comfortable chair! The seat of this one is too deep and sinks too far back where the chair back meets the seat. That one’s too high and has no support for my back. And that other one’s too low and the headrest forces my head forward.

Where’s my ‘just right’ chair?

When I gave up my dance life and chose a sit-and-write life, I tried any number of chairs to use at my laptop. I’d get one thing right (for example, position of the keyboard) and everything else would be wrong (my feet didn’t touch the floor; I had to look down at the screen).

“Get a desk chair,” my husband said.

Nah! They were too expensive and so very ugly.

But I needed to find something I could sit on that would be at least not too uncomfortable for fairly long stretches of time.

Exercise balls? No. Kneeling stool? Nope. Australian saddle seat? My dentist swore by it. Maybe I would have too, if Continue reading

Snow Rage: Writing Lesson From A Snowy Sidewalk

I’m clumping along on my ‘grippers’ – grampons attached to boots for icy sidewalks – to the pharmacy. Only a narrow strip of sidewalk has been cleared between the two banks of high snow.

Inevitably I’m going to come face to face with someone heading in the opposite direction. Who will be the one to step aside, into the snow, and wait for the other to pass? Me? Or the other person? Continue reading

Walking Meditation and Peripheral Vision For Creativity

Hoodoo Trail, Banff, ABI’ve enjoyed walking meditation for years – I just didn’t know that was what I was doing!

I knew that when I walked our dog (especially as he became older and walked more and more slowly), I became hyper-aware of all sorts of sensory details around me, and that I’d often have what seemed like brilliant ideas as to how to solve problems with the story or choreography I was working on.

Hoodoo Trail, BanffIt was only when I went on a guided hike with Ronna of Eco Yoga Adventures while at a writers’ residency at the Banff Arts Centre that I discovered the concept of walking meditation.

I have to thank Ronna for a wonderful experience and for introducing me to these strategies for entering into the flow of this kind of dynamic meditation. Continue reading

When Someone Reads What You’ve Written

well salted Montreal street outside Montreal General HospitalYou’d think that celebrated award-winning children’s author David Elliott couldn’t possibly complain of a shortage of readers. But in a recent post on his website he shares his disappointment with a particular publishing experience.

I was impressed that an author with such a large following would be so honest about a less than stellar publication experience, and was as happy as if I’d written the book myself when I learned that all was not lost… that David had received Continue reading

Freedom and Structure in Revising a Story: Matt Bell’s Revision and Rewriting seminar at Grub Street

sculpture Monica (1985) by Jules Lasalle in Musée Plein Air de Lachine

Monica (1985) by Jules Lasalle
Musée Plein Air de Lachine

There I was, with a first draft I loved, a folder bursting with a massive amount of material I’d developed in search of what that first draft was truly about (none of which felt right), and absolutely no idea how to pull my story together or move it forward.

This was not a new experience for me. It always seems to happen with my favorite stories, the ones I feel really invested in, the ones I know have to be finished.

Unless my first draft is short and gives me a clear idea of where it’s going, my attempts to dig deeper into the story end up with me bushwacking my way through tangled undergrowth with no idea of whether I’m heading north, south, east or west. I have more than a few stories floating unfinished on my laptop’s hard drive (on my brain’s hard drive too). I’m not even talking about a novel here, just stories of maybe 2,500-5,000 words.

So – what next? Continue reading