Tag Archives: blogging

Writing on the Run

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I sincerely hope that I never have to go on the lam because if I do, it will surely spell the end of my writing career.  I’ve only been gone two weeks and despite all good intentions, I managed to post ONE blog entry.

[Insert picture of Banshee hanging her head in shame HERE]

Perhaps it is the nature of our vacations.  Perhaps I am not organized enough.  Perhaps I am too:

  • old
  • cranky
  • tired
  • all of the above

What the hell happened?

We brought a computer – mostly for my benefit.  Hubby doesn’t need his laptop to stay connected – he can do everything on his iPhone and he was determined to check emails as little as possible.  I vaguely remember flipping open the laptop early in our stay in Atlanta and then…darkness.

In my defense, we were SO busy in Atlanta.  Tired after the long drive from Toronto (via Cincinnati), we found we had no respite from driving while in our former Southern home.  We literally spent the entire four days there behind the wheel.  With one exception, all of our friends live waaaaaaaaay outside the city.

And, if I’m honest, I partied in Atlanta.  I hadn’t seen some of these people in nearly ten years.  I woke late and went to bed later.

Burnt out, exhausted, and with a cumulative hangover, I set out for Virginia Beach thinking a few days on the shore would restore me, get me back on track.  I thought my biggest worry would be spilling sand or margarita on the laptop.  It was not to be.

The rain poured down – inside and outside our hotel.  Our feet stuck to the room carpet.  I begged the children NOT to expose any bare skin to the bed covers.  We fled the next day.  In our haste to leave, we apparently left behind the power cord for the computer.  Ooops.

Rattled, we fled to a luxurious beachside hotel in Kitty Hawk, NC.  I felt behind in my scheduled relaxation.  It was still drizzling but I was ON THE BEACH.  Determined to get as much time with my old friend, the Atlantic Ocean, I put all thoughts of blogging far from my mind.

Washington DC afforded me no extra time either – being bitchy takes time and energy.  We were all experiencing severe travel burn-out at this point.  The best thing to do was split up – I went for lunch with a dear friend and hubby went on a museum/gallery trek with the kids.  Although we had Wi-Fi in the room, our computer had no battery power left.

We looked northward with dread, I have to admit.  Another long drive with less-than-inspiring scenery (New Jersey Turnpike) and the exhausting prospect of sightseeing in Manhattan.  The good news:  we wouldn’t have to drive.  The bad news:  we were just plain pooped and tired of being cooped up together 24/7.

No power left in the computer, no energy left in me.  I got on the Staten Island ferry hoping that some fresh air (ok, I know its New York Harbour) would perk me up.  I walked to the hotel business center and sat down in front of one of the computers.

The sign read:  Insert Credit Card here.

Free Wi-Fi in the room but not there.  Fuuuhhgetaboutit.

Oh well, I’m more of a yarn spinner than a diarist.  Maybe this is the way it has to be for me.

The piles of dirty laundry in my living room are rivaling the Empire State Building in height.  As soon as we hit the house, we each fled to our separate spaces.   This morning, cup of coffee from my neighbourhood cafe by my side, the laptop was opened.  So simple.

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More Than Words

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Now that I’ve finished marching round the house singing Rule, Britannia, I’ve resolved to get back to work.  Yesterday (in between salutes to the Queen), I read a post by Kristen Lamb.  In it, she managed to scare the pants off me – which I have to admit, she does quite often.  It’s not her fault.  I’m easily spooked.

Both she and another blogger I follow, C. Hope Clark, maintain that the act of writing, finishing and polishing something is not the end of the game anymore.  Gone are the days when an author sends an envelope of neatly typed pages to agent and editor and they do the hard work.  Authors today are required to do much, much more than write.

Much more.  Let me say it again in case you thought you’d let your eyes scamper over those words- much more.

As if writing good prose isn’t daunting enough, writers now have to acquire boatloads of knowledge about things that they might have no aptitude for.  In fact, some of the things writers should know (if they want to be anything more than hobbyists) were taught in courses they probably actively shunned in university.

I can’t think of a course I didn’t actively shun in university…I really should send them a thank-you for graduating me with a degree.

To make matters worse, we have to learn about things that didn’t even exist when some of us were in university.

For me, social media is the mystery.  Blogging?  I resisted for years – what could I possibly have to say? No doubt some of you are asking yourselves that very question about me…  Facebook (and Mark Zuckerberg) were just twinklings in the ether.  Twitter? Isn’t that a nervous laugh?  These are things we must now not only be aware of, we have to become expert in IF we want anyone other than our mothers to read our work.

Hope Clark has been documenting the birth of her novel, Low Country Bribe and frankly, I get exhausted just reading about it.  She lives in South Carolina but for a few weeks recently I thought she had moved to Pennsylvania.  Or, was it Indiana?  Between book signings, writer conferences, and other publicity events, the woman hasn’t been home much. All the while, she has maintained her presence on the Internet.  Poor thing probably Tweets in her sleep nowadays.

She has posted quite a few photos of herself, seated at cloth draped tables (no doubt she had to provide both table and cloth) with stacks of her novel beside her, smile on her face.  Maybe she enjoys this sort of thing but I don’t know.  After all, she wrote a book entitled The Shy Writer.  If any of us are shy, we need to get over it.  Now.

Hope has long been proselytizing about the need for authors to get out there, be visible, toot their own horn.  However, I think even she must be slightly gobsmacked by the sheer physical effort it takes to publicize and sell a book. (Note:  she is not self-publishing this book either).

What I’ve gathered from both Kristen and Hope is that authors must be prepared to practice in the following areas: public relations, marketing, legal, public speaking, fundraising, medical, spiritual.

Medical?  Yes.  You must be adept at restarting your own heart when the stress gets to be too much.  No agent is gonna do it for you.  Spiritual?  Anything that appeals to you, be it prayer, voodoo, dervish-ing – whatever floats your boat and gets you through the sales pitch you will have to make to innumerable independent booksellers.  It can’t hurt. Legal?  You’d better know your rights at the very least.  A course in basic contract law, perhaps.

I get chest pains just thinking about it.  So, in addition to writing well, would-be authors should also train as if for a marathon or triathlon for stamina and energy are also needed.  A firm tushie will help with those hours you sit on hard metal folding chairs as you sign copies of your book.

But, as with all things literary, there is no guarantee of success.  At least I might end up in killer shape; and, if I do it write (Freudian slip! Meant to say “right”), I will reap more rewards than just a firmer tushie.

Inspiration, All Around

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It has been said many times that inspiration crops up in unexpected places; however, it also springs from places where one hopes it might, a place not unexpected but a place often taken for granted – like not seeing the forest for the trees.

I often read other blogs – either here on WordPress or when I’m trolling around on other sites – mostly about writing and the writing life.  On WordPress, Freshly Pressed gives me an opportunity to “window shop” – with titles and/or photos that intrigue, I often find gems worth reading.  When other bloggers take the time to read my posts and press the “like” button, I always try to return the favour.

Yesterday a fellow blogger , Lesley Carter liked one of my posts – by the way, thank you Lesley for reading and liking – so I promptly checked out her blog too.  What a bonanza!  I want to BE Lesley Carter when I grow up.  She made me want to hop on the next plane for anywhere and she inspired me to make improvements to blogs about my own travels.  Her blog is a treasure trove for anyone who loves travel and for those who just like to read about it.  Her enthusiasm shines on every word. 

When I read excellent posts from other bloggers – either like Lesley’s or my friend in France, who is sharing his expat adventures as a “trailing spouse” – I am inspired to write more and inspired to try to write better.  I don’t write just to exercise my fingers – I want people to read my posts, chuckle, cry, agree, disagree, think.  And keep reading.  Having said that, it’s also great fun to live vicariously through other bloggers.

You never know where inspiration will pop up but chances are it is all around you.

Is Focus the Thing?

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I lack focus.  Someone I know who might be reading this is falling off his chair laughing right now (or crying and shaking his head).  I jump from one project to the next leaving everything half-finished when I realize I’m bored with them all.  I’m a prolific writer but knuckling down and writing about one thing, finishing one project has proven to be quite a challenge.  I feel adrift.

In an effort to practice focus, I’ve started a new blog exclusively about a cat.  It can be found under www.frannamac.wordpress.com under the title, The Cat’s Handmaiden.”  Just an amusing chronicle about life with a precocious kitten named Alyss.  I run the risk of being slapped with the derisive moniker of “Cat Lady”  but I don’t care.  It’s a writing exercise.  Luckily the subject matter is both entertaining and adorable.  I promise, she will not “talk,” I don’t dress her up in human clothes…I am merely an observer.  At first I thought this could be a niche but now I’m unsure – I’m not an expert on cats, I simply own one.  Does one need to be an expert?

 I understand the concept…sort of.  For example, specialists make great bloggers – nutritionists, life coaches, dog psychologists – they have specialized knowledge in their respective fields thus lending credibility to their posts.  I have no specialty.  What I do have is a long resume, fourteen years of parenting, and an obsession with home renovations that I cannot afford.  Oh, and a psychotic kitten.  There are many “experts” who say writers should specialize and then build a portfolio around that specialization.  But what of me (and I know I’m not alone) – wearer of many hats, owner of none, so to speak?

Is it so simple as writing what you know?  Or is it acceptable to write about what interests you – with no expertise, only curiosity driving you?  I know so much and yet so little.  I am intensely curious – about everything from quantum physics to the domestication of cats. I could write about parenting two teenagers but God, how many thousands of people write about that?  I was a Realtor once and I love the idea of real estate but I cannot claim to be a specialist.  I love travel but can’t afford to do it.  Most of my journeys come courtesy of the “little yellow man” on Google Maps.  Hey don’t knock it – I drove through the Highlands of Scotland the other day and it was very entertaining and much safer than the real thing.

In any event, The Cat’s Handmaiden is out there – have a read.  Now, back to The Novel…or, maybe a snack…

The Difference a Year Makes

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About a year ago, I cleaned myself up, put on some high heels and went to a book launch.  I went with a friend who knew I had aspirations to be a writer; he thought it might be interesting for me to attend a launch, see all the work that goes into publicizing a book after it is published.  In attendance there were bloggers, publishers, a literary agent or two, and the author’s legion of friends, family and well-wishers.

As I was introduced around the room, invariably the question came up, “What do you do?”  And I flubbed it.  You know when you’ve completely flubbed something when the person you are talking to – his or her eyes start to wander within 10 seconds of you starting to speak.  “I’m trying to be a writer,” I said to one.  Knowing that wasn’t right, I tried again with the next person: “I’m a writer – just starting out, you know…”  Oh God, with every introduction, I sank a little further into the floor.  Finally, the last time I managed to choke out, “I’m a writer…”  which led to the natural response, “Oh, what do you write?”  My desperate response was, “I’ll write anything.”

Disaster.

Fast forward to last weekend.  I attended a birthday party for a neighbour – there were approximately 40,000 people of all walks of life crammed into their house.  I knew exactly three of those people, including my husband.  A woman leaned into my ear and screamed over the music, “What do you do?”  I screamed back, huge smile on my face, “I’m a WRITER!”  She then followed up with “What do you write?” and I hollered back, “FICTION!”  “WOW!!” she bellowed.  “THAT IS SO COOL!”  Her husband caught up to the conversation and I excitedly talked/yelled about all the things I am working on, the classes I’ve taken, along with amusing anecdotes about what a hermit I am.  Several other people overheard (Lord knows how – the music was stupendously loud) and we all engaged in an enthusiastic, if brief, conversation about writing, favourite books and so on.

What a difference a year makes.  Not just a year but a year of nonstop, concerted, focused (more or less) writing.  I am living the life.   I’ve written not only fiction but have posted close to 90 blog posts on WordPress.  I have done a bit of freelance editing.  And, I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to whisper about being a writer because I’m not a “published author.”  I’ve had one short story published in this year, and there’s more where that came from…I am a writer, by God.  There is determination and confidence.  I have a sense of purpose.   I show my work to total strangers now.  Braver still, I show my work to my  family and my in-laws.

That is not to say that I don’t still have paralyzing moments of self doubt; I totally do.  I recently trashed 230 pages of a first novel attempt because it was boring me to tears – Jeez, if it bored me to tears, it would most likely put anyone else who read it in a coma – but I now realize that this is not unusual, I am not a freak.  The past is littered with the full trashcans of writers pitching stuff – going back to quill and parchment days.  Maybe even cave dwellers threw sabretooth tiger dung on some of their scratchings…

I’ve come a long way.  I have a long way to go.  At least now, I know where I’m going which is a huge improvement from last year!

Clarification Needed

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This is what I get for writing on a Friday at the end of what has been a crappy week.  Certain readers of Write or Else misinterpreted my previous blog, thinking that I was publicly lamenting the end of a love affair.  [Insert hysterical laughter here].

I wonder, if George Clooney and I ever embark on our long-overdue love affair (once he sees reason about dating someone his own age), if I would ever lament the end of it in a public forum.  Well, writing about it is way more likely than me going on “Dancing With the Stars,” so…well, we’ll have to see won’t we?  [Oh, for God’s sake, I. Am. Kidding. ]

Here’s what I was actually going on about:  parenting and how absolutely unbelievably mind-smackingly difficult it can be sometimes.  “The Rock of Truth”  was fiction as in a make-believe product of my sick, exhausted little mind.  The metaphor, truth as a 1,000 pound rock, is something I made up.  I have not been hit by an asteroid and there is no need to call the Mounties.

Whew.  I hope everyone’s on the same page now.  I hate causing kerfuffles with my writing but it’s happened to me a lot lately.  I don’t set out to write controversial pieces; in fact, until lately, I shied away from even reading them.  However, as I’ve gotten older, I have become less sensitive to controversy.  It’s what my mother used to call the “I-don’t-give-a-rat’s-pattooty” mentality that comes with age.  I apologize if I’ve misspelled “pattooty.”  I wouldn’t say I actively court controversy; I just don’t give a rat’s  ass (much easier to spell) if someone disagrees with me.  Misunderstandings, especially personal ones, I will still work to correct but that might change in two months when I turn 50.

Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Back to…Oh, Maybe Not

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Today was supposed to be different.  Today was supposed to be The Day when Routine, accompanied by its sidekick, Normalcy, returned.  The day after Labour Day was the day I’d looked forward to with an enthusiasm that I don’t usually demonstrate for much else (except perhaps sleep).

Back to School Day was to lead seamlessly into Back to Work Day – no more procrastinating, time to write and seriously.  So prepared was I for this day, I almost laid out a new outfit to wear.  No alarm clock needed; I was up, ready to flip each reluctant child off their respective mattresses like Gordon Ramsay flipping delicious creations from frying pans to plates…rapid fire, efficient.  C’mon let’s go!  Have a good day, no worries, here’s your lunch, now get OUT.

As I strode purposefully into the kitchen it became apparent a major appliance had other ideas.  Refrigerators are supposed to hum contentedly in the background while keeping food cold, crisp, and yummy.  They are not supposed to groan, flash their interior lights or make ominous clicking sounds.  They are certainly not supposed to do all these things on Back To School/Work Day.

Granted, my expectations of The Day might’ve been too high.  Same as, in addition to being Back To School/Work Day, it was the day I vowed to avoid all fattening food even though it’s my husband’s birthday.  A particularly luscious chocolate cake sits on the counter sagging from the weight of its thick layer of icing, mocking my pitiful efforts at good behaviour.

Waiting for the refrigerator repairman, I encountered a more nebulous roadblock – a friend’s blog.  Laugh-out-loud funny, interesting, and quite well written, it is better than my blog on every level.  So, in addition to major appliance breakdowns, surly children, and my own gluttony, I battle jealousy.  I don’t begrudge my friend’s talent.  Well, not totally.  I’m thrilled he’s writing.  In fact, he should retire permanently from his former profession and write…always.

It’s just that on this day, the day I was to return to the craft I love, to the thing I want more than anything to be my life’s work, I did not need to be faced with my own mediocrity.  Oh well.  Delusions of sparkling wit are fleeting…just like Canadian summers.

Over a slice of cake, I will re-read my friend’s blog.  I’ll subscribe to it.  I will be a vocal, enthusiastic fan because every good writer deserves fans.  But I will also study him shamelessly, try to channel his effortless dry humour, absorb his storytelling skill,  and strive to learn how to turn the mundane into the hilarious as he does.  (Damn him) Forget being a fan; I’m a blogger stalker…a blogker?  Blolker? Stalgger?

I will buckled down and get all serious about myself…tomorrow.