Another month, another list of failures. Such is the life of a poet.
Rejections from literary publications, misses in contest submissions, “no room at the inn” messages from retreats.
A poet sure doesn’t write for any kind of commercial success or broad readership. To do so would be beyond crazy – we all know that readership for poetry is pretty much limited to fellow poets, a handful of literary enthusiasts, and a grab bag of friends and family.
I just finished a new essay based on old notes. Writing takes time. Writing works with time.
In this case, the taking of time is particularly appropriate. I wrote about Writing-On-Stone park, the greatest collection of First Nations rock art in North America.
The park itself is in the wind-and-water carved valley of the Old Man River, in southern Alberta, dropped into the flat Canadian prairie. Here, nature has written its own story in the rock, even before the earliest humans started to write their stories.
What are the risks of writing non-fiction about real people, real family heartbreaks, real relationship challenges? Does writing about life’s difficulties produce any catharsis and relief? Why would a writer want to revisit tragedies in his or her past?
Those were just a few of the questions addressed last week by authors Barbara Stewart, Lynne Van Luven and Jane Johnston. In an engaging evening panel discussion at Cadboro Bay Book Co., the three shared their experiences and insights as writers and, in Van Luven’s case, as an editor of many others’ memoirs.
In September, I gave a presentation to the Wired Words conference (Federation of BC Writers). My presentation was on my LinkedIn profile but difficult to find, so here is a direct link to it on SlideShare.
‘You can’t go home again,’ Thomas Wolfe wrote in his famous 1940 novel that carried the phrase as its title. But for writers the greater truth may be that you can never leave home. Or that home never leaves you.
I recently had the pleasure of co-leading a “Writing Home” workshop for the Writers Guild of Alberta with my colleague Judith Williams, an international award-winning author of non-fiction for young readers.
It was fun to pull some highly influential books from my shelves and revisit writers’ perspectives on writing about place. I quickly accumulated quite a stack of sources – more than I could even touch on in the afternoon workshop.
Pull on the shorts, the t-shirt and the runners. Head out the door. Put one foot in front of the other. Again and again.
At its core, running has an attractive simplicity to it. If only writing were so simple.
There is a school of thought that writing is – or can be – that simple. The idea is that writing is a process, a practice, a method for getting at clear thought. Not a way of communicating thoughts that are already clear.
A stack of journals sits on my desk. Hilroy notebooks, perfect-bound journals with elastic ties, a big black drawing book with many blank white pages, a couple notebooks with section tabs, and one with a hard cover.
Some have pages torn out. Most have empty sections. Some have logs of my attempts at healthy living and other habits that seemed a good idea at a particular point in my life.
We writers are intrigued by mysteries. We read them. Many writers compose them. Hey, even I have a mystery novel manuscript in a box in my basement.
We are intrigued by the unknown.
Yet for many writers, the realm of book contracts goes beyond mystery and becomes a true horror story. As creative people, many writers avoid the business side of their work. Which may be why literary agents exist - to help writers make that connection between wonderful wordplay and the cold economics of the book business.