The Next Phase

I feel I have entered the next phase in my writing journey.

The very end of March and all of April, my goal was an hour of writing every day, one blog post a day, and one hour of reading a day. I made an easy goal, and spent many more hours than that, but it kept me motivated. I’m ready to set new goals for May.

If I am not working mornings, I will write as soon as I get up. If I am, I will write after work and before supper.  From reading about writing, several people suggest using word count instead of time as a measure. I again want a goal that is easy to reach so I don’t get discouraged. I will start at 500 words a day and see how it goes, in the past month I have written as much as 2000, usually close to 1000, sometimes 300. I will allow myself one day off per week, but probably won’t need it.  I read a lot. I don’t think I need to keep track of how much.

I’ve started researching how to submit short stories to magazines. Many say unpublished work only, so I need to be careful what I put on the blog. Some consider any work available online as previously published, not just published on paper or a commercial site. This makes me a officially a published author! Just an unpaid one, unless you count the Grant MacEwan Young Writer’s Scholarship I won in 2007 for $2500.

I think instead of a daily blog post, I will try to work more on my existing projects than put my energy into my writing diary. I will cut back to one post per week, but more if I feel inspired to. I will not post any finished copies of anything I plan to eventually submit to a magazine. I have put up a rough draft of one of my fables, but it will be revised and other stories added. You are allowed to share excerpts with feedback groups, that is not considered published. I’m glad I discovered this before I posted a lot of the projects I’ve been polishing, like ‘Noise Complaint’ and ‘Medieval Feast.’

I started looking into magazines that would be a good match for what I write. So I googled creative non-fiction, which seems to be really flowing for me lately. It was also the genre of my award-winning story on Albertan culture. “True Story” is offering $300 for 5000-10,000 words, that one caught my eye. I could also find magazine websites with submission calls and contests based on horror, children’s books, travel writing, cooking, Canadian writers, women writers. There are actually a lot out there! Some you have to pay to submit, which kind of puts me off. I found a website that you sign up and they will send you different jobs hiring writers for magazines and blogs, but it has that scammy feeling, and I want to write whatever I want at my own pace, not “we need a piece on that football game by 2pm,” or whatever. I might look into it, but I need to be very selective because if a piece is accepted I can’t send it to someone else looking for unpublished work. I also need to research how copyright, First Serial Rights, and all that stuff works.

By the end of May I hope to have some polished good copies, and a better idea of who I want to make submissions to.

 

 

 

 

Progress Report

I had an hour of sleep and a ten-hour workday, and I was going to allow myself to take a break from writing, but here come the words tumbling in my mind needing to be let out.

It’s now been more than a month of daily blog posts, in fact I didn’t even notice when I made my one month mark. It’s becoming a great archive of where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going with my writing.

In addition to the blog, I’m working on several writing projects.

The Last Shipmate- based on Survivor and Big Brother but in a shipwreck scenario. It came from an idea that was sparked in a blog post about reality TV. While typing out the outline I was laughing and having a great time. I love the twist at the end. I don’t know if I have enough in me to make a novel, but it’s going to be longer than I usually write. It’s at 2500 words with the outline and I’m almost on chapter 3 of 10 or so. I’m finding juggling so many characters kind of tricky. I hope they don’t come across as too stereotypical while poking fun at the stereotypical characters usually cast: the athlete, the ditzy girl, the tough older lady, the hot guy, etc. I’m not basing anyone on any specific cast member. The host is quite a bit like Jeff though.

Noise Complaint- a non-fiction story of dealing with misophonia (sound sensitivity) while living in an apartment. It’s coming out quite poetically, lots of metaphor. It was going to be my blog post today but it needs to grow more, maybe a lot more. Maybe take it into horror fiction instead of memoir. Last night was a rough one, hence the one hour of sleep last night.

Animal Fables- I have one story and a bunch of ideas and outlines typed out, it’s at 1700 words. I’m waiting for the weather to improve to go out to the park which is my setting. I’ve been procrastinating starting the illustrations too. I’m still thinking of how I’m going to write the story of how my city got it’s name to make it my own and not rewriting the existing folk tales.

Medieval Feast- a non-fiction description of a medieval feast I attended last month, that was also meant to be a quick blog post but needed more time.

Aylomerna- I have a great idea for the setting and building backstory for my human character based on ancient people in Mesa Verde and Mexico. Still thinking about big plot decisions I need to make. This one is getting put back together small pieces at a time, but I haven’t given it much attention with all the others going on.

Well, time to go watch this week’s Survivor and Big Brother episodes, I mean, do some research for my writing.

 

The Baby Giraffe is Risen!

I woke up this morning around 9, after kicking the cats out around 7. I planned to get on the computer right away to type out notes about my fables and local history, finish the editing for Morbidity, and type up a blog post for a poetry piece from the past. In my bullet journal, I have grocery shopping and the library, both I can’t do tomorrow because of Easter Sunday. At the library, I have books waiting for me that I asked for from other libraries, research on Ancient Mayans for Aylomerna, some children’s horror fiction, a book about this region’s plants for the fables.

But first, a little visit to Facebook for some morning news. Before I was even two stories in I saw that the much anticipated baby giraffe at Animal Adventure Park had been born! Cancel everything! The baby is here!! It’s an Easter Holidays miracle!

I watched the videos the crew posted on Facebook, then went back and watched a recorded version of the live feed to get a different angle. After witnessing it all, it made me start making connections to what I feel is holy about Spring, and it isn’t the cruci-fiction of Christ, although I truly appreciate the time off from my day job for the Easter Holidays. I immediately told myself I don’t want to get into religion or politics on the blog, but I never learn this lesson. Sorry.

There are memories of church signs with movable letters spelling out HE IS RISEN! It was similar to the bulky cut out letters on school bulletin boards declaring SPRING HAS SPRUNG! There were flowers and chicks and bunnies, I had to peel out the chocolate eggs from their foil wrappers, I threw up in the back of the station wagon from eating too many jellybeans. The Sunday school I went to when I visited my grandparents didn’t mention the torture and murder of their religious leader, or the blood of lambs as a metaphor, or how they made his death suit their beliefs instead of admitting defeat.

I’ve always been curious about all the religions in the world, once I found out there was a choice. The church and the summer bible camp, my Godmother giving me Max Lucado books, they tried to make me a Christian but I wasn’t. I am in tune with Nature and the Universe, I seek Truth.

I taught a few practicums in Catholic School while I was a student teacher and when I started out as a sub. I would attend mass, arms crossed across my chest to signify my unholiness until the Eucharistic minister would trace a cross on my face and declare me blessed by God. I would cry during the songs. I wanted to believe that there was a loving force directing your fate, but I couldn’t name it the same name as they did, and I felt like an outsider.

During the Easter Mass, I witnessed young children come up to the microphone and proceed to talk about slitting the throats of lambs, for some superstitious ritual they did thousands of years ago. But isn’t taking an innocent life something that an evil cult would do? Blood smears and daggers and candles, how can something supposed to be on opposite ends of a spectrum be so similar? Then the chanting, it freaked me out. It wasn’t like the church my grandparents went to. I learned about the stations of the cross, I understood what Easter meant to followers of Jesus. Sacrifice, forgiveness. I couldn’t figure out the part about HE IS RISEN though. I wondered if people were just pretending to go along with this? I wasn’t trying to be offensive. They killed him, it should have ended there. If he had magical powers he would have found a away to get out of it. Is it blasphemy for me to believe this, should I delete all these words, try to pretend I don’t have these thoughts? I think what Jesus taught was great, if only we could love our enemies, flip the tables of the money lenders and help the sick and poor.

Spring is holy to me because it is about renewal. I live in a place of stark difference between seasons, winters are hard. Seeing the first signs of green and buds on trees and the return of ladybugs and robins really drives to the deepest part of me. I guess that’s how Christians feel after Jesus pushes aside that big ol’ rock and goes on up to heaven. Spring is beginnings, it is growth, it is animals giving birth to their babies so they don’t die in the winter. My family decorates eggs, binges on chocolate, and gets together for a family dinner. We don’t go to church any more.

I was going to type more about the baby giraffe, and less about my controversial beliefs, I really was. Guess it just needed to come out.

After watching the birth I went back for some comments, as that was a big part of my first article about April. People suggesting names for the baby, I don’t know if it’s been declared female or if they just assume. People thanking April for having the baby on Saturday so they wouldn’t have to miss cooking Easter dinner on Sunday. Someone pointed out that April is 15 years old and had the baby April 15. Someone tells someone else to stop watching if they think it’s gross. It is pretty gross. That baby got pooped on while the mom was pushing, then there’s all that mucous hanging out her back end that she can’t seem to reach to eat it up. But once that baby giraffe has figured out its legs, and mom has cleaned it up, it’s just so cute. The beauty and magic of how we all came to be, wet and tiny and vulnerable through our mother’s strain.

Progress So Far

It’s been a little over two weeks since I have been committing time to writing every day.

Each day I put something on the blog, usually an informal essay about something that has inspired me, where to get ideas, and reflections on the writing process. I then work on one of projects I have going, go through my old writing, or read. I have a writing journal to jot down notes and ideas while the project is just forming or while I’m researching something.

I started by going through my writing portfolio. It contains all my teen angst stuff from the 90s, a dream journal from almost 20 years ago, several notebooks I called Crush where I poetically poured my heart out about all my infatuations and heartache, the articles I wrote for the MHC student newspaper where I just complained about things, reflections on lessons when I was a student teacher, a speech I gave to my graduating Education Assistant class encouraging them to go all the way and become teachers, a comic I drew about working in a call center where the characters were created from error codes I dealt with daily, unfinished projects and ideas from Creative Writing in University, a few polished pieces also from that class, and reviews my classmates, friends, and professors wrote about my writing. I also had some ‘notes’ typed out on Facebook over the last several years that I went through. If something really moved me, I’d come home and write it down. Before my grandparents died I wrote them letters every month. So I guess I’ve always been a writer, now I’m a daily writer.

Projects:

Aylomerna

The story of a lonely dragon who falls in love with a human, but to save his life she gives her own and becomes the sea. This was a short story from my portfolio that I am reworking. I pretty much ripped it apart and will be starting over, because something in the story still holds me and it is not done. I had a lot written about the dragon’s experience but very little of the human. I started thinking about what his life and family is like, why is a boy wandering around in a cave? I immediately began drawing from my last vacation to Mexico where I swam in underground rivers in caverns, and at one point the guide casually mentioned the Maya would send their young through the caves as a kind of spirit quest becoming a warrior ceremony. A HA that’s what he’s doing in the dragon’s cave! And now I can describe the caverns a lot better and with accuracy, how amusing that I wrote the first draft having never seen an ocean. So I tried to research the coming of age ceremony and can’t find anything about it online or at the library. I did come across some descriptions of Ancient Americans living in cliff dwellings in Colorado, which inspired the human’s village. His original name is Evan, but it definitely needs to be something else, maybe Spanish. I don’t want the story to have a specific setting, just a very long time ago by the sea. This could end up continuing to be a short story, or perhaps unfold into a novel. I want to throw a few illustrations in, but not like a picture book.

Morbidity

A short story about a death-obsessed woman describing her last days suffering a variety of mental illnesses, the end reveals she is a ghost in purgatory. This came from a lot of dark thoughts I’ve had and experiences myself and those I’ve known have gone through. I don’t feel there is enough structure, there is no story line, just rambling thoughts of a dreary existence with some poetry thrown in. I find it very revealing and it makes me feel both brave and vulnerable to shine a light into the deep shadows hiding in my mind. I can’t figure out how to kill her off. I have played around with shell-fish allergy. She is suicidal so it would be ironic if it was a complete accident. Struck by lightning?

Animal Fables

I love talking animals. I made a few paintings that were the first seeds of this idea, using Canadian animals and setting to form stories similar to traditional folktales. I can’t help but be influenced by those I’ve read in the past, but I am not going to rewrite fables, I’m going to make my own. I have lived in Southern Alberta my whole life, I know its climate and its flora and fauna. These will be my setting and characters, not set in Native times, set right now tucked off in the parks where I live. I’m planning to bring my journal to these parks to collect thoughts and ideas while I’m in nature. I started brainstorming animals that live here, and what morals I could work into the tales, and why animals have certain attributes. This will also include a painting series of local wildlife.

……………………..

I also have a lot of reading piles going on. I’m reading authors I admire like Margaret Atwood and HP Lovecraft, reading memoirs by writers like Stephen King and Bill Peet, and books on how to write and get published. I am balancing my writing pursuits with working part time as a substitute teacher. I have some ideas for a dystopian future story where the public school system has crashed and burned but I would have to be very careful so I don’t get sued by the Teacher’s Association for bad-mouthing their current practices. I have joined a writing community on Facebook where I can connect with other writers, and participate in discussions about the process. It’s all coming together and I’m hopeful I will one day be published, just need to get some polished manuscripts and put in the hours of typing instead of thinking.

Editing and Rewriting

The short story from University that I want to rewrite is terrible.

I’m going to scrap it and start from scratch, keeping the parts I like, and continuing to wonder why I put in some of the parts I did. I went through each section and asked important questions and made decisions of what was important to the story. The main character might not even be a dragon anymore! That was the whole thing that started the idea, but now I’m not sure it fits the story. This is good though. It means I’ve grown so much as a writer in the last ten years. It means I’m getting good practice with the editing and rewriting process.

I will post the original version, and my comments on what needs to be revised.

………….

Halomyrne

(Aylomerna)
I decided to change the name because it was hard to pronounce. I now spell it as it sounds. Halomyrne looks like hay-lo-mayrn? Mern? Halo- is a Greek prefix meaning “salt.” Mer means “sea” in French. I chose this name for the shape-shifting dragon knowing her destiny to become part of the sea.

I remember once when all was still possible; the mind free to believe in the forces of the universe unexplained by science. We could communicate with nature, we could read prophecy in the stars, we could rearrange molecular structures to assume other forms, and most of all we could harness the energy of life to create or destroy. The humans called us fire-breathing beasts, bent on murder, when truly as protectors of the land we loved every single one of our humans. It was the dragon Torthszel who discovered how easy it was to manipulate their minds. He toyed with emotion cruelly to achieve his desires, but sadly fear and doubt, and later avarice, insanity, and corruption of power ultimately brought our fair land to ruin. Uncountable suns later, I find I have awakened from a non-intentional mind trance to feel my mind completely alone of my brothers and sisters, there is only nature who can understand me now. The humans have turned off their minds entirely. Except you child, and that is why you must listen close.

This sounds so hokey to me now, almost embarrassing. I am deleting it all. I need the intro chapter to show that the protagonist is a dragon, possibly the last, and is speaking first-person to her human friend. It will explain the dragon magic of this world- energy of life, communicate with nature, shape shifting, prophecy from stars. I will also write the memory of when dragons were hated by humans and hunted almost to extinction, because of fear and corruption.

~ 1
Halomyrne chose to live alone among the waves and caves of the sea. Her comforts were the silver green bed of sand and the familiar constant noisiness of the turbid water’s essence. She had lived so long she no longer remembered if she had ever had a family or if her memories were imagined. Regardless, she knew at this time she was the only one of her reptilian kind that was or would ever be. She stretched out her long, radiantly scaled body and listened to the babble of crabs, seahorses and any creature that came to her caves, occasionally picking up the chatter of gulls and the shallow gossip of insects. The echoing walls and lichens were her constant company, but usually had not much to say.

I will need to go more in depth of the sea-cave setting, based on my experiences of cenotes and underground caverns in Mexico. She would be friends with a lot of bats, small fish, probably not seahorses. I need to show more of her personality. She is not exactly lonely, but would like some more interesting company. She should see a prophecy in the stars that she doesn’t understand, that she will fall in love with a human but sacrifice herself and become the sea. I need to find a way to show that without giving away the ending.

~ 2
All would have remained at a stagnant, unremarkable peace, had it not been for the adventurous soul of young Evan. He was a child who the humans, but not the stars, claimed destined to become a member of nobility, a ruthless leader of men. He came upon her not in fear but awe, her smooth and glittering silver sheen accented by her eyebrow ridges, claws, and horns of golden hue. In places it seemed jewels were encrusted on her magnificent hide, but truly it was reflections of the sea upon her metallic flesh. Her eyes shone sapphire in the dim light of the sea drenched cave, and he was not afraid. She could feel his mind speaking to her, and at last, had found someone who inspired in her something more than that of a barnacle.
This young boy returned almost daily to the cave throughout his youth. She watched him grow, and learned to take the shape of a human skeleton, her gender filled in the rest beautifully, so that she did not shapeshift into the same body as Evan. She turned herself into human form to wade along the sandy edge of the coast and run her delicate fingers through the waves of the sea, to climb among the rocks and caves, to frolic, to dance, to whisper thoughts and daydreams, and fall in love as the years of adventure and discovery passed joyously. Every time he was around she would become human, for she thought this was what he wanted, to love her forever and for Halomyrne to be his wife.

The whole part about how she is shapeshifting feels so clumsy and forced, I need to explain differently how she can magically become a human with the energy of life, it doesn’t need to be too technical. The child meeting the dragon should be a separate chapter from their growing friendship. 2- she meets child 3- he is growing into a teen 4- she starts falling in love and considers being human.
The character of Evan is very underdeveloped. Who is his family? Why is he alone in the cave? I’m thinking his parents have sent him on a vision quest, coming-of-age ritual that he needs to find his way out of the caverns to be a warrior.

~ 3
Halomyrne wanted to return to the life she remembered through dream. She felt more true to her destiny as her glowing, sparkling self, although she could choose any form. The stars were more obscure than usual when it came to guiding her decisions. If she were to be with her lover, she must form human shape almost indefinitely. She could not deny her true shape any more than the chemical emotional impulses of her aching heart. The thought of her dilemma pained her and kept her from happiness.

I don’t know why I said she could read prophecy in the stars and then she can’t? What? Need to make it so she receives visions of the future that don’t make sense but will at the end. She struggles with staying a dragon or changing her shape for love. If she can be anything, why is the default a dragon? Is it difficult to shapeshift, maintain other forms? Is there a sacrifice, is it draining, etc?

~ 4
Since the beginning of time Halomyrne had no need of food or sleep, she spent her time thinking and observing, changing shape occasionally for warmth or swimming, reading prophecy in the stars, sometimes using telepathy to converse with all the life forms in the universe- clouds, plants, the earth, and its creatures. This new friendship with Evan interrupted her entire awareness; she knew she must consult her mentor for guidance, the eldest lifeform that ever existed, Mthusulo. His bark was gnarled and in places revealing silver white polished wood, other places the knots revealing representations of facial features. The moss strewn across the brow gave the impression of wistful eyebrows of the elderly, untrimmed of course. The tree lacked the musculature necessary of speech but was able to communicate directly through thought impressions and emotion. This wise entity gave her the advice to try accepting life as a human, or she would always regret never knowing what it would be like if she had not. As she crept silently back to her cave, she began to feel serenity.

She has not been around since the beginning of time and she does need food and sleep. I need to mention Mthusulo in the chapters where Evan and Aylomerna develop their friendship. I was considering making the old tree character the narrator. Why would he tell her to be a human? Wouldn’t it be more wise to stay true to herself?

~ 5
Gazing upon the wondrous tangerine and lavender fire of the sunset, she could not wait for Evan’s return to tell him the decision she had made, to take a leap of faith and face all that would stand in the way of their happiness. If she flew she could find the village by nightfall. She stepped awkwardly along the unfamiliar flattened ground as a human woman and immediately met the stares of those in the village. They were amazed by her stooped figure, nude, with scarcely visible remnants of bumps and ridges on her face. Halomyrne had never been self conscious in her natural or human form with Evan, but she now felt the others forming judgments of fear and repulsion. She had not realized the cultural codes of acceptance. Looking the people in the eyes, she frantically searched for a mind to respond to her own, muttering illegible throat noises. She heard their responding shouts but did not understand.

It’s sunset but she’s going to find a place she’s never been by nightfall? Then I picture the scene in the afternoon, when people are out in the village, not going to sleep. I think she has fashioned some clothing from seaweed and shells or something, Evan hasn’t been hanging with some hunchback naked mute chick all these years has he? Wouldn’t the villagers be more curious than hostile?

~ 6
Confused, attacked, about to be held captive, shrill cries arose from the villagers with a loudening chaos she suddenly found herself surrounded in. Halomyrne did all she could do to protect herself, taking her full natural shape as a dragon and releasing a fury of concentrated energy visible as burning blue light. They lashed at her with leather ropes, poked her with sticks, and sprayed pain into her eyes with poison. With a screaming roar, she brought her head down to the ground in search of safety, only to hear the clink of a metal collar around her tender scaled neck. In the surrounding clamour of surprised and violent voices, she heard the frantic yelping of dogs, understood them barking for her release, but the humans had long stopped paying attention to the language of the canines.

Why is she attacked and tried to be held captive?
When she is attacked why wouldn’t she just turn into mist right away? What happens so that her human form can’t hold and switches back to dragon?

~ 7
Upset and disturbed, but unable to be captured, Halomyrne willed her molecules into mist and quickly whisked away with the wind back to the security of her cavernous eternal refuge. From then on she adamantly refused to enter human life. Evan tried to explain how not everyone in the human village was so abusive and cruel, but Halomyrne saw that he too carried weapons of harm and became confused and afraid of him, afraid to trust him, afraid of how continuing to love him might alter her existence. The ordeal remained whether she should choose love and selfishness, and make him abandon all he knew to join her in the cave, or deny love and live alone but allow him to go on living the human life he was born to fulfill.
Evan told Halomyrne he would leave his village and would never put her through the torment she faced when she came unannounced and unprepared. He had never wanted her to be hurt and would sacrifice his life for her. Happiness was not his social standing and career but his companionship, and Halomyrne’s reward for the patience and kindness she had always showed toward him was to be forever cherished and enveloped in the warmth of his love.

Is it weird if there is inter-species coupling? Should she even be a dragon then? Maybe just some magical humanoid thingy? This could be a chapter where they fight and make up, romantically. Or is it a platonic love? He’s from a rich and powerful family, she would be protected, they wouldn’t have to live in the cave. Maybe a chapter where they try that and it doesn’t work and that is why they return to the cave? Then his family finds out what she is and hunts them down in the cave.

~8
Halomyrne was resting peacefully, blissfully unaware of approaching doom that she must have overlooked in the stars. Evan too was caught unaware when the knights appeared with orders to rescue him from the evil dragon’s lair. He became aware of their presence in time to witness several armoured men approach the gently methodical rising and falling bulk of Halomyrne’s body, and instantly reacted to the flick of motion in the corner of his eye. He lunged his body impulsively towards his sleeping friend. The pike went right through, and Halomyrne was alerted to the danger. In that moment, each lover feared it would be themselves who would die, that the other would be left alone, and then feared the other was stricken and had been taken from them. Evan’s lifeless body crumpled limply and unnaturally to the feet of his beloved. The knights were subsequently roasted in their metal body ovens, all except for one coward who had remained hidden behind a rock and ran back to the village before Halomyrne reacted to the murder.

Is she a human or a dragon when she is sleeping? Isn’t she usually a human around him? Would knights attack a sleeping woman?
If she reads prophecy in the stars there should be some kind of warning that she doesn’t figure out in time. Or scrap that whole idea.

~9
Halomyrne cried out in a rage to the heavens, her mind searing with the passion of her emotions. She pleaded directly to the universe to resurrect his life. Mthusulo joined his mind with her to comfort her rage, and show her the option that lay before her. She could not read her destiny in the stars because it would never had made sense until now. She was told that in exchange for the restoration of Evan’s life, Halomyrne could stay a dragon and forget all of her magic, becoming a simple beast; ignorant to emotion and thought. At sunrise the deal would be struck.

If the deal is to stay a dragon, why does she choose a different shape?

~ 10
The first rays of light immediately felt the mind of the waiting Halomyrne. Her decision had been reached. Evan awoke later that morning at the entrance to the cave, light splayed upon his face. In a dizzy stupor he opened his eyes, his mind, and his heart to perceive his true love changed into the rolling waves of the sea. He lived to be a grizzled hermit, forever an outcast from society, forever looking forlornly out to sea at the dancing glow of the surrounding waters.

How does he know what happened? Would his family just let him be a hermit? I still have many unresolved questions.

The Creative Compass

A book that is helping my writing process is “The Creative Compass: Writing Your Way from Inspiration to Publication” written by Dan Millman and Sierra Prasada.

The authors describe five stages to writing:

Dream: Define Your Story- think about an idea, jot down notes
Draft: Tell Your Story- create the imperfect first draft
Develop: Follow the Golden Thread- writing, cutting, rewriting
Refine: Choose the Right Words- get feedback from readers/editors
Share: Move Your Readers- decide on a mode of publication

My favourite is the Dream stage. I get so many ideas, I think “there is a story here!” But I don’t usually flesh out those ideas and they wait to be developed, brought into the next stage. I have a writing journal that I collect thoughts in, ideas come from dreams, experiences, the news, or just out of the blue. I have a cat facts calendar on my desk. One day it informed me there was a cat named Mincho in Argentina that lived in a tree for six years without touching the ground. She had three litters. Could this be the start of an illustrated children’s book? Why did she stay in the tree? Do other cats in Argentina live in trees? What does this say about her personality? How did she keep kittens from falling out of the tree? Did those cats grow up and return to the ground?

I’m currently drafting a piece of writing about April the Giraffe, the Internet sensation followed by thousands, waiting for her to give birth on live feed. I start writing about April, and answer who, what, when, where, why, how, etc. I begin to tap into a creative place where my thoughts start flowing and I type them all out. I don’t worry about typos yet, and sometimes leave sentences unfinished if I’m not sure where they are going. I watch the live feed, I read what people are commenting, I get more thoughts that I need to write down. I’m now at a place where I’m waiting for the birth, and what happens after the birth. I think I’ve written most of the anticipation section. I could go back and start editing or I could wait until all the rough draft sections are complete.

I’m at the develop stage on a few projects. My short fantasy story “Halomyrne” is a work in progress. I finished the first few drafts in University but it never felt complete, and there was stuff I wanted to change, or didn’t know how to explain. I am now going back and cutting out parts, rewriting parts, adding things. It shows how far I’ve come as a writer that I can look at this piece I once thought was so amazing as kind of amateurish!

I am in the middle of the Develop stage in reading the Creative Compass. I’m enjoying all the insights, and really feeling like I’m meant to write. Even if it’s only an hour a day, it’s going somewhere.

What Are My Strengths?

I stopped by the library and checked out some books about writing and the publication process. It seems as though if I want this dream to materialize the first step is to read and write every day, and I usually do. The next is to “know your audience.” I originally thought of my students, but I suppose I’d like grown ups to hear what I have to say too! I am writing to children, teens, and myself and others like me. I suppose I’m writing to people just trying to make sense of it all.

I also have been going through my writing portfolio from University. It’s a gold mine of ideas and unfinished projects, but there is also a section of Reviews that my friends, roommates, professors and classmates wrote. Not only stroking my ego, the reviews point out my strengths as a writer, what sets me apart from others pursuing this path.

Creativity/Imagination/New directions

Art/Illustration/Photography/Design

Conversational tone, say it like it is

Proofreading skills, strong speller

Poetry

Risk taking/Raw, real, honest, dark

Mental illness awareness

Nature, environmentalism

Search for meaning/Insight

Humour

I am a Canadian woman who grew up in a lower-middle class single parent home, never having what the cool kids had, never feeling I belonged, bullied for my heritage/clothes/hair/weight/appearance etc, without many of the same opportunities. It has made me identify with the underdog, and reject the status quo for something better. I want all the young people going through all that to know they are not alone and that they will find their place.

What I Want to Write

I am thinking about what my favourite genres are to read, and what areas I see myself doing well in.

Illustrated children’s books: I read these with or without children all the time, the art is a big part of what I like about them. I could illustrate my own stories. Growing up I adored Bill Peet and Dr Seuss for the use of rhyme, talking animals, and the pictures.

Young Adult: I want to appeal to people finding their place in this world, “coming -of-age,” showing them a real, raw, dark take on things that might not be as appropriate for young children. I would also want to add drawings and poetry.

Horror: I grew up reading as much Stephen King as I could get my hands on. I also liked vampires before they were so mainstream. In the 90s in high school I would’ve been classified as emo or goth but they didn’t quite have those terms yet. I’ve lost people recently and my paintings lately have been mostly about death and grieving.

Fantasy: I’ve read more of this genre than any other, starting with classic Tolkien as a child. I love magic, and mythological creatures. I started a short story about a dragon that falls in love with a boy years ago, and I’m working on it again. It could be my first novel.

Historic Fiction: I worked in a small-town museum as a student and it was one of my favourite jobs. I loved finding out about things that happened long ago, how life was different, and feel a connection to old objects. It would be fun to take a relic of the past and create a narrative around it.

Non-Fiction: as a teacher I am always reading and sharing non-fiction with my students. Sometimes I get “in the zone” and I start describing something in a more passionate and conversational tone than textbook, and the kids lean in and really pay attention. Usually in social studies; history and the state of the world.