Thursday, June 28, 2012

Small Space, Big Memory

Whenever I come back to Canada, my old room waits for me.  It's not the room I grew up in, since my family moved around a few times, but it's the room where I spent my last year and half of high school, and all of university.

It's also the place most of my stuff ended up.

I think to really get a picture of what this is like, I need to describe my room.  My room is tiny.  Right now, I'm currently sitting on the floor next to my bed.  My feet are almost touching the other wall.  This is the furthest point from me.

In other words, my room is the size of some walk in closets.

But it's my room and my mom (being ever creative) found a way to make it work.  It involved a custom made bed (that I juuuuuusssst fit on) with drawers underneath, shelves above and extra shelving in the closet.

Today I decided it was time to clean out all my stuff (seeing as my suitcase is parked in the living room because there's no room for my stuff).  And I have a lot of stuff.  And even more memories.

I've come across a ton of stuff that I'd forgotten I'd had and I wanted to write about some of them.

Some of the things I've found include my Irish dancing shoes from that time I took Irish dancing for just a few months, my large collection of Disney VHS tapes, pictures of anime characters--from when I was obsessed with all things animes, friendship necklaces (that are only half a necklace and I can't even remember who has the other half), I've got soccer equipment, track equipment, things from Egypt and there is so much more.

But the best thing I discovered while I was digging through my bedroom was something I must have done when I was in grade 3.

And I'll need to back up to explain that a bit.

When I was in grade 3, my sister, who has Spina Bifida, was in the hospital for basically the whole year.  I don't really remember why, but it was obviously related to having Spina Bifida.  Well apparently, while that was going on I got a bunch of my friends to draw her pictures and sent her a whole folder of stuff.  It included a letter which went exactly like this:

To nicole from Kelly-Anne (this was when I was obsessed with using my whole first name)

I hope you get well soon
I miss you relly much (apparently I didn't miss her relly much)
roses are red
villtits are Blue
sugar is sweet
so are you.
I hope you come home soon. When they's noting to do I thank of you and wonder how you are.  I hope I see you soon. Love Kelly-Anne

I can't believe I still have this, I don't even know how it showed up in my room.  But it's nice to be able to look back.

I also found my journals from when I was in grade one.  I can barely decipher the things I wrote.  Maybe I'll share them some other time.  But I have to give credit to those primary teachers, who can somehow decipher even the worst kid's writing. 

Question for you guys: ever come across something about yourself that just made you go awwww?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Problem with Life...

Source that it tends to get in the way.

But only if you let it.

I had the perfect plan for Sunday.  It was all planned out.  Nothing was going to get in my way.

I was leaving Kuwait on a Sunday morning.  I had about 20 hours of travel.  I'm not sure if any of you have ever traveled that far, but it is boring.  Wait, not just boring, it's the soul sucking, crushingly, want to stab your eyes out and have a temper tantrum kind of boring.  But I am extremely clever and had a plan!  Nothing could go wrong!  I would use my time to write!

Plane One:  I consider taking my laptop out, glance at my laptop case, but leave it in the overhead storage.  And get out the iPad.  That's ok though, since I have so many hours ahead of me.  I have lots of time to write.  Plus I do have the awesome Penultimate App if I do decide to write. (I did actually use my iPad to do some notes.  If you have an iPad and don't have a notebook app, try out penultimate or notebook +.  Both are pretty awesome for quick notes.)

And while I'm playing--I mean writing on my iPad--I've decided that the perfect plan is to write in London, waiting through my four hour layover.  It's the perfect plan.  I can sit down, grab a drink, and write for four hours when I would have been bored!  Perfect!  Nothing can go wrong! (I feel like I said this before...this must be the part where I tell you everything went perfectly).

Wait, they couldn't be making an announcement that our plane was delayed...and we would be... stuck on the tarmac... for two hours.  But it's ok, our flight time is not actually 6 hours!  It's 5 and a half.  I will still have two and a half hours to write.  Wait...they're not telling me we have to circle before we land...  And there isn't a parking spot open... And then, I had forty minutes to dash through the airport, make a quick stop at duty free, and sprint to my gate so I wouldn't miss my flight.  So much for that four hour writing block.

It could have been worse.  A ton of people on my plane actually missed their flights.  At least I only lost some writing time.

Onto plan B!  I would write on my plane ride until the jet lag took over and I passed out.  Great plan!  Wait...they're not telling me...we're stuck on the tarmac for an hour.  And  that since I was in an exit row seat, I couldn't have my laptop bag in front of me.  So writing had to wait (just like me!)

Finally, the plane takes off.  Now, if that stupid seat belt sign would just switch off, I can write.  Still on...still on...still on....Finally!  Lights flicked off.  I jump out of my seat and grab my laptop.  Success!  Now to show everyone around me that I'm a real writer.

And then the drink cart comes around.  And my table tray is only big enough for either my drink or my laptop. Sorry, laptop.

And then comes the dinner.  And I am writing waits a little more.

But then, there is nothing.  The lights are dimmed, the flight attendants have vanished, my belly is full, my throat is wet, and I am ready.

And so I wrote...and wrote...and tried to go to the internet, but couldn't... so I wrote some more.  And then I slept.  And the flight was still boring, but for about two hours, I actually only thought about my writing and it was a nice focused setting.  Almost makes me want to fly more often...almost.

Despite all the delays, and set backs, I did manage to get a decent amount of writing done. I finished the first chapter of my new novel.  I gave myself a nice pat on the back and imagined everyone sitting around me was extremely jealous (I'm sure they were only pretending to be asleep).

I guess at the end of it all, I could have given up. I could have just said screw it I'm not going to write today.  I had tons of excuses.  But I want to be a writer!  And that means finding the time, even if life does want to get in the way and screw up all your plans.  You just can't let it.

What do you do when life gets in the way of writing?  (or whatever else you plan to do)?

By the way, I discovered the comic Will Write For Chocolate in my searches the other day.  It's really cute and all about writing.  Check it out if you have time.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Now What?

This weekend, I finished the first draft of my novel.  It's actually the first time I've finished a novel.  It's been slightly surreal to have reached my goal.  When it finally hit me, I was popping dance moves all around the house (please note, this is a fairly scary sight that no one should be subjected to).

Mid dance move, I told my husband to be.

His response?


I reminded him that I'd been working on this novel since February.

The next question, which I think I'll be hearing a lot of from my non-writing friends, "Are you going to publish it?"

I asked him if he wanted the long or short answer.  He chose the short, which I gave him (short answer was not now, by the way).  But I thought I would share the long version here on my blog.

For my writing friends.  You already know this story.  Many of you have done this dance already, so feel free to sit this one out.  But if you're interested in my plans for my book, feel free to keep reading.

So, now what?

Well, the first thing I'm going to do is lose my novel in a far corner of my hard drive and let it fester.  My plan is to leave it there for my entire summer vacation, while I work on my next book.  But why not take advantage of all that summer vacation I have and edit it then?  Because I'm too close to my writing right now.  While I know it's flawed, and could pinpoint some of the major problems, I know I can't see all of the flaws right now.

After that I'll do a second draft.  This will involve major overhauls to the work, deleting scenes, adding scenes.  I expect it'll be a bit grueling and frustrating at times.  But the novel needs it.  It's the revising that makes good writing (my students still don't believe me when I tell them this).

And then?  Then it'll be back into a corner for a few weeks (less than for the first time around) before I take it back out for a third edit.  My hope that this will be a smaller edit and revise.  Where I'll focus more on things like word choice and sentence structure.

By now, I'll bet my non-writing friends must be thinking, finally we're at the publishing stage!  Well, not quite.  The next step would be to get a beta reader.  This is someone who will read my story and look for plot, grammar, and any other issues they can find.

Which means, I would need to do more revisions.

And who knows after that.  Maybe I'll be done editing and revising then.  Maybe not.  It's quite the process, isn't it?

But finally, after all that, then I would start trying to get it published.  Which is a whole other journey and will require a whole other post because this one has gotten a bit long.  For the short answer to what happens after the editing and revising happens, it's a sad, sad story of hope, determination, and rejection...lots and lots of rejection.

That's it for now.  I'm about to catch a plane to Canada! 

Friday, June 22, 2012

All's Well that Ends Well

I have something to show everyone today.

For those of you who see nothing (which would be all of you), that's exactly what I am showing you. 

When I write, I keep a cheat sheet at the end of my manuscript.  These are point form notes from my outline of plot points in the story.  After I write something, I delete it from the list.

Which means, you are looking at an empty list.

Which means....

I finished the book! (And met my deadline!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Some Like It Hot

...but I don't think anyone likes it this hot.

In honour of the last day of school, summer vacation, and the dust storm making it less hot than usual (it's a mild 34C out today!), I thought I'd ignore writing for today's blog and give you some helpful hints on how to know it's too hot in the Middle East.

So here are some helpful clues that let you know it's too hot in the Middle East (aka it really would be a better idea to stay inside today):

  • The sun is out.
  • Your seat belt tries to burn you. (watch out for that metal part!)
  • There's a traffic jam because so many cars have to pull over to let their cars cool down.
  • The man in the dishdasha looks at you, shakes his head, and says "it's too hot!"
  • You step out of the car and your flip flops become slip slops.
  • Your outdoor swimming pool is more like a hot tub.
  • You cancel going out for dinner because walking to the car will make you too sweaty.

These are just some of the things that have kept me inside over the last two weeks.  Normal temperatures are at about 50C these days.  But the good news is, I'm heading back to Canada on Sunday!  I can't wait to be able to spend some time outside. 

So tell me, what clues let you know it's hot where you live?

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Dreaded Deadline

At this time next week, I'll be back in Canada for my summer vacation!!! I am very excited (you can tell by all the exclamation marks). But before I go home and really relax, I have this small, little thing hanging over my head.

My Deadline.

Well, it's sort of a deadline.  Seeing as it is self-imposed (and those deadlines are always a little too easy to move).

I want to be done.  I started working on my current manuscript (which has no name!) back in February.  It's now been five months, 63,000 words, and more hours than I can count, and I still. am. not. finished.

But I'm close!

In about 10,000 words I will be finished this story.  Then, I get to shove it in a closet (or a far corner of my hard drive) for the rest of summer vacation (while I work on something else).

I needed a push to get it done.  So I gave myself a deadline.  Before I fly out next Sunday morning at 8 am (my local time) I want to be finished this story.  Besides, deadlines are good for us.  I wouldn't get any work would get done without them. Whether it's a long term deadline (finish the novel by June 24) or a daily deadline (write 1,000 words a day)

Not to mention, when you meet a deadline there's always that sense of accomplishment.  That feeling that you have done something.  It's even better when you meet a self-imposed one.  Because then you've just accomplished a personal goal.  And there's nothing more awesome than that.

My deadline has resulted in me looking a bit like this:

But I'm happy with my progress.  I've typed at least 1,500 words everyday for the last four days.  It's put a good dent in my manuscript and I can feel myself inching closer to the finale.

Soon enough I will look like this:

And I cannot wait to have that feeling!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Writing is Hard!

Writing is hard!

I thought I would try to start my brand new blog with a dramatic, and thought provoking statement.  I ended up with writing is hard.

Well, I'm not lying, at least.  It's good to start with honesty.  Writing is hard.  My students tell me this almost everyday.  This is how I know it's true.  But they're right.  It is hard.  It's hard to sit there and focus and just write.  I struggle with it almost everyday. 

But we haven't even gotten to the hard part yet.

The hard part is still to come.

But I can't wait to tackle it. I can't wait to be at the point where I fight through revisions, to search for that perfect agent--only to get rejected, and to find that publisher--as big or small as they may be.

It's an exciting journey and my life is all about journeys.

And as I sit here with my 60,000 (and counting!) word manuscript I know I'm getting close to getting into the real writing journey.  And hence, the blog.  To share my struggles, and my successes, with whoever might be passing by.

And so, here it is.  My blog.  Enjoy.


P.S And just for my students who might be stalking me. I'm afraid you are out of luck here.  This blog will be a lot like the stuff I talk about in class.  If you find that boring, you might want to save yourself now.  If you like the stuff I talk about, keep reading!  You might find the information useful.  See you in class!