Monday, July 31, 2006

Cathy Jones on Life and Times

The CBC biography show, Life and Times, will focus on our own Cathy Jones tonight when they show Barbara Doran's documentary Keeping up with Cathy Jones: The Life and Times of Cathy Jones. Catch it on CBC Television tonight at 8:30 NL time (or if you can't see it tonight, it will be repeated this Sunday at 3:00 PM NL time on CBC).

Sunday, July 30, 2006

My first reading recap

First of all, if you ever have to do a first reading of your first book, I highly recommend doing it at an event with 'Wine' in its title (as in the Wine and Words reading series I did). Also, if you can arrange for part of your payment for the reading to be a glass of wine, I highly recommend that as well. Calms the nerves quite well (but not quite enough to make you feel totally calm or stop the nervous shaking of the book in your hand). As well, if you have anything that might be considered humourous in your reading, allow for pauses for laughter when you are timing how long your reading will take.

So, the reading went really well. About twenty people showed up, sold a couple of books, signed a few autographs (still a very strange thing to do) but the great part was that people "got it". They laughed in all the right places and that was great because you never know if people will get it or not. You write in your own little section of the world in solitude, people tell you they found it funny or sad or whatever but to get an actual instant reaction to your work like that was great. I'm not sure how it would have felt if the funny parts thudded but they didn't, so yay.

I read the three letters home at the beginning of three separate chapters (The Road to Hell, the Cubby-Hole and The Grass Is Always Browner--even that title got a laugh) then read a bit from Lisa's "real story" from each of those chapters.

Now, I have a reading under my belt and I hope that means I will feel more relaxed when the book is officially launched which should be around the end of next month. But I will keep you updated on that.

Friday, July 28, 2006

On reading

Not just reading to yourself but reading in public. I have my first public reading tomorrow night at the Newman Wine Vaults (as I've already said in a post below). I'm pretty nervous (aka frightened to death) but everyone keeps telling me there will be friendly people there, mostly people I know I'm guessing, so it should be okay. There are two things about readings anyone who wants to be a writer must consider: one is the nerves and the second is what to read.

As for the nerves, there is a part in my book that pretty much happened to me, although over two different public speaking events. In the book I tell how Lisa Simms is giving a presentation and she hears papers rattling so loud, it is distracting. She eventually realizes it is her because her hands are shaking so hard, the papers she is holding are making a racket. That happened to me while doing a presentation about drunk driving for a Social Work class. The other part is when she is unable to breathe while presenting. That happened to me when I had to do an education session about alcohol and drug withdrawals for a group of Addictions Counsellors. My supervisor told me she thought I was going to pass out. But once I got going, I did pretty good. I can only hope I don't pass out tomorrow night.

Next is what to read. Really. You've got almost 300 pages there to choose from. Do you read something lighthearted or something more serious? Do you read a whole chapter? Include the letter at the beginning of the chapter? Read the part about the shaking papers so people will understand why you are not breathing? Start at the beginning might be good advice and I think it is but I have the luxury of having a book that is divided by letters at the beginning of each chapter, followed by the true stories behind the letters. Except for two of them, the chapters are pretty much self contained so I can read from almost anywhere with maybe a little description of who the characters are. So I've been practicing reading three letters with little sections of the stories behind each one, as per the advice of my friend Kathy. I have fifteen to twenty minutes to fill so it is a chance to let people know how the story goes.

Back to the nerves again, my friend Mary-Jean told me I can't complain about being nervous because I wanted to have a published book and part of it includes the readings. "It is what you wanted", she said. She is right.

If you're not going to attend, please send some positive vibes out into the universe for me around 8:00 tomorrow night. I'll let you know on Sunday whether or not I passed out (during the reading; I'm going to a party after the reading so who knows what will happen then).

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Reading at the Newman Wine Vaults

I will be reading from my new novel, this much is true, on Saturday, July 29, 8:00pm, as part of the Wine and Words reading series at the Newman Wine Vaults. Admission is $8.00 and includes a free glass of wine or port. Bennington Gate will have copies of my book available for purchase there.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Blast from the past

I am falling in love with a great new blog by wonderful photographer, Karen Chappell. I have been enjoying her photo blog for a long time now but she recently started a new blog called I Found my Childhood on eBay. This is a true trip down memory lane with regular pictures of things from childhood. There are Highlights magazines, the Kodak 120 Camera, and Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific shampoo, to name but a few of my favourites. So make it a regular stop and I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bathroom reading

So, we all know we like to read while in the bathroom. In fact, I read there probably more than anywhere else since I can spend hours reading in a tub. This is an interesting article and I do always have a few books on the shelf in there. The books in my bathroom include:

So, what books are in your bathroom or do you even keep any there? And do you ever read in there?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Yet another writing nomination for a NL author

Wow, the nominations for writing from Newfoundland and Labrador have been growing but this one gets way out there. Kenneth J. Harvey has been nominated for Italy's Libro del Mare, no less, for The Town That Forgot How to Breathe (or as the Italians say: La città che dimenticò di respirare). The prize is for 5000 Euros. Congratulations to Mr. Harvey and good luck in Sanremo, Italy, on July 27th when the award is given to the author of the best book about the sea.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I am writer, hear me roar

When do you call yourself a writer? This is a well-discussed topic in writing about writing, but I received a lovely email from a reader of this blog who had questions about writing and who called herself a "wanna be writer" rather than a writer. I told her to stand up and say out loud: "my name is _________ and I am a writer". See, I'm very good at giving advice to others. Not so good at taking it. I never called myself a writer before I got offered a publishing contract. Even now, I am more likely to say "I write" than "I am a writer". And the A word? Forget it. I can't quite get the word 'author' out when talking about myself. I don't know what I think my criteria for calling myself an author would be. Maybe winning some prestigious literary award or something.

The truth is, they are merely labels. In my opinion, you're either a writer or you're not. I think part of the reason I love reading about writers and writing so much is because it makes me feel like I fit. When I read about them, how they think, what they feel, where they get their ideas, and the like, I feel like I am a writer because I think like them, feel like them, and get my ideas like them. Not all writers are the same but I think you kind of know when you are one. You want to write, feel the need for it. You want to get things out of your mind and onto paper. You don't look at things quite the same as other people. You say "what if" a lot and have conversations going on in your head all the time (you may be a writer or maybe you're insane -- there are quite good treatments for one right now but I'm afraid the other is incurable).

I think there are two reasons so many people are afraid to say they are writers: First, they know the next question will be "oh, do you have anything published?" and unless you can say "yes", you feel scared to claim you are a writer. This is in part because of the second reason people are afraid to say they are writers: everyone says they are going to write a book. How many people have you heard say that? "I'm going to write a book one day", like all they have to do is to decide to pick up a pen and words will flow. They're sure their writing would be interesting, funny, poignant, and generally loved by all if they would only take the time to write. It is the bane of the writer. People think it is easy. You don't hear people saying "I'm going to star in a movie one day, maybe when I retire" or "I'm going to program a new web browser one of these days now when I get around to it". So many people say they are "going to" do it, that the general public gets leery and when you say you are a writer, you have to defend it.

In my experience, if someone is a writer, they are more likely to say "I'm going to be a writer someday" than "I'm going to write a book". They probably have stories/books well underway but know what it takes and won't just casually drop the information that they are going to pen a novel when they find the spare time. If you want to write, really want to write, not just like the idea of having written something, then you are a writer. You know it already, deep inside you, you're just not sure about admitting it. If you are already writing, you are a writer. Stand up and say it. If you're from around here, join the Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador and meet other writers, get the clay on the table and admit it today: you are a writer!


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Musing with music

Sometimes when you are stuck in your writing and don't know where to go next, maybe music can push you out of that rut. Music is my muse. Always has been. I envision whole scenes in my head according to a song and certain songs represent a scene, a chapter or a whole book when I'm writing. I don't listen to them when I write, only when I'm thinking about my story and doing my internal writing. Then by the time I write a scene, I can already picture what is going to happen; I just have to write the words. It is the soundtrack of my stories. I have a different playlist for every book (it used to be a different CD for each one and before that a different cassette). The soundtrack for this much is true includes (but is not limited to) the following songs (those of you who have read the book may be able to figure out which ones were used to write certain parts but not all are obvious. Some are just for a certain piece of music or a certain beat.):

Ennis Sisters -- No Change in Me
Cowboy Junkies -- This Street, That Man, This Life
Jann Arden -- To Sir With Love
Jann Arden -- Insensitive
Stevie Nicks -- Sometimes It's a Bitch
Queen -- Too Much Love Will Kill You
Luba --Every Time I See Your Picture I Cry
The Knack -- Good Girls Don't
Eurythmics -- Last Time
Lifehouse -- Sick cycle Carousel
Timber -- The Whole Way Home
Barstool Prophets -- Friend of Mine
Holly Cole -- I've Just Seen a Face
Toby Keith -- We Were in Love
Garth Brooks -- Friends in Low Places

I'm getting a pretty good soundtrack for the book I am working on the most right now. I'll share that on another day.

Labels: ,

Monday, July 17, 2006

Good review and weird orphans

First of all, Check out this great review of this much is true from Maura Hanrahan at her weekly book review: What I'm Reading. I am so happy about it.

Also, I've been meaning to blog about this for a while now but have gotten sidetracked. I am talking about Brad Peyton's (Brad Peyton from Gander, NL) brilliant new series on CBC called What It's Like Being Alone. It is a stop motion animated series. Now, I know it comes on at the same time as Canadian Idol (10:00 NL time) but that is what VCRs are for and Brad's series is definitely worth taping Canadian Idol (or vice versa if you insist). The animation is great, the show is funny and the characters take you in. There's Princess Lucy, Brian Brain, Flaming Charlie, Sammy, my favourite--Aldous, and a host of others. They all live in an orphanage, all dream of being adopted and all try to deal with the reality of who they are. Check out What It's Like Being Alone tonight on CBC television.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Meet the Greyhounds

Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada are holding a meet and greet on Saturday, July 22 at the Village Mall from 10-4 . My brother has two of them, Kelso and Maggie (Maggie is in the picture on the left). They have very different personalities but they are wonderful dogs. And they were rescued from an awful life. Both came with scars and Kelso was emaciated when they got him. He could not use stairs and was pretty scared a lot of the time. But he feels safer now and has a wonderful home. See him below and if you have been considering saving the life of a greyhound by giving one a home, take some time on Saturday to meet them and consider it again. But don't take it lightly. Like any dog, you cannot get one on a whim and hope it works out okay. You have to realize that you would be amongst the first people to give affection to the animal and you would not want to take it away because you hadn't thought it all through. The Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada can help you with your decision and will make sure you are ready before adopting.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Cleaning up the arts

Now, I don't bandy the word 'artist' around much about myself. I just write books but I guess in this case I'll use it because I don't think anyone has the right to scrub or sanitize anyone else's art. So I was pretty pleased to see a U.S. judge rule that companies are no longer allowed to remove "offensive material" from films and release them as their own, cleaned up versions. I'm sure directors, producers and writers make decisions about what they put in their films based on artistic interpretation (and what sells, no doubt). I have a book out that someone could think needs sanitizing but each and every word and phrase in there was considered. I wanted the book to feel real to people so I used words I thought people would really use if placed in a similar situation. Sometimes the words "darn" or "frig" just don't cut it. If I had changed things around, I am sure it would be a lot more comfortable having my relatives read it but I didn't and I sure wouldn't want someone else to do it, unless it was my editor and publisher, in consultation with me. The idea of someone taking my work and making it into something it is not, is an awful one. So good on the judge who made this decision.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


I think I've said before here that this whole getting published thing is pretty surreal. Picking up my book and holding it in my hand is still kind of like a dream, like I'm watching it happen to someone else. Same with being in the Newfoundland Herald or with someone telling me that he/she loves my book. Last night something maybe even more surreal than that happened. I was at a wedding celebration and someone I had never met, recognized me. From across the room. From my picture on the back of my book. And she loved the book ("I devoured it", she said--what a great review quote for a book jacket) and she seemed so pleased to meet me. Me! It was such a new and strange experience but great, not only to get good feedback about the book from someone who had never met me before but because she was a really fun, nice person who I could easily hang out with. I honestly did not think I would ever get recognized like that, let alone so soon after the book came out.

I debated posting here about this because I don't want to sound too full of myself but I put this blog here to talk about the writing life and how getting published feels and this definitely counts. I mean that is why one wants to be published. No, not to be recognized but to have someone read your work and enjoy it, be swept away by it, to connect with it. Sure, there are other perks to getting published but for me, all I ever wanted is for someone to have the book click for them like that. And now I've gotten that (many times over but for the first time from someone I don't know in any way) and it is great. So, thanks MJ.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

ReLit Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2006 ReLit Awards:

For short fiction: The Sound of All Flesh, Barry Webster (Porcupine's Quill)

For Poetry: Hot Poppies, Leon Rooke (Porcupine's Quill)

For Novel: Alligator, Lisa Moore (Anansi)

I wish I could have been there at the bonfire to hear the readings (Christopher Pratt, Lisa Moore, Wade Kearley, Barry Webster, JoAnne Soper-Cook and Joel Hynes). It was such a gorgeous night and any night with Joel Hynes reading is a good night. But I had other commitments and could not go. I bet it was a blast. Anyone who was there, add a comment and let us know how it was.


My blog's snapshirt:

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Newfoundland Herald and WANL

Valerie Kent at the Newfoundland Herald did a lovely little article about my book (with a bit about me). It is the July 9-15 one with Craig Sharpe on the cover. I found that really exciting since I've read that magazine for more years than I care to remember. Very surreal. Then I received a copy of WANL's newsletter WORD and there was more about my book and also an article I wrote about writers on the web. Pretty cool to get two magazines delivered on the same day that had my book in it.

If you are a writer, even a closet one not ready to admit you're one yet, you should look into WANL (Writers' Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador). The great WORD newsletter, with lots of information about writing and the literary scene in NL, is just one benefit of membership. They also have an online meeting place for members only and an annual general meeting that includes workshops and mingling with other writers. Go ahead, come out of the writing closet and join up.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Writing Life

Bet you've never seen that title before. You only get 1.2 million hits for it when you google "writing life" with the quotes around it. It sure is a popular theme and I suck it up with a straw. Love it. I love to read about other writers and how they write and what they think etc. Makes me feel more normal. So I waited with excitement to pick up the latest such book entitled Writing Life: Celebrated Canadian and International Authors on Writing and Life. If you feel guilty about buying it, all the proceeds go to Pen Canada (so you can spend that "guilty" money on my book, see?). When I bought it, the salesperson told me that she had just put it on the shelf about ten minutes before. Local NL writers Lisa Moore, Michael Crummey and Michael Winter have essays in the book. I'm just up to the John Berger chapter (just finished the David Bergen chapter with a fascinating essay about his life in Vietnam) so I can't say much more about it. I just wanted to let you know about it so if you like such books you can pick it up.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Beaumont Hamel

I know today is Canada Day to most, but in Newfoundland it is the anniversary of Beaumont Hamel, the horrible day in 1916 when 801 Newfoundlanders tried to take a German position in France’s Beaumont Hamel and only 68 answered roll call the next morning. This is the 90th Anniversary of that terrible day. I can't imagine how horrible it was for those men but on CBC Radio's Radio Noon yesterday, a teacher by the name of Ken Smith in Salisbury, England put his students through an exercise to help them try to understand. It is about 26 minutes in (you can fast forward it to that point). Listen and remember and be grateful.