June – Ideas Month

A different Perspective in Life.

Stevie Szabad, Author

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With my first book a non-fiction (as much as possible) memoir of my life growing up military, then becoming an Air Force wife and Hockey Mom, and finally settling down as a new writer – finished for now and heading to the editor and publishing cycle, well.. What next?

How about a sci-fi post-apocalytic heroine of a new religion? I have an idea for that. Or a historic romance of a local nature between a visiting monk and a local nun? I have an idea for that. The other one I’m thinking about is a very historic (back to pre-historic) old-fashioned “Michener”-style long range story of the women’s lives in my mitocrondial-DNA story.

But not today. It’s another summer day to enjoy, daydream, and plan for another time. And Bluesfest in Ottawa approaches – words are taking a break for the summer while music fills me up!

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That Time I Forgot I am a Writer

 

This blog has been quiet for a while now. In part because I have been focused a lot on turning forty this year and in part because I have been too busy with being a mom and a photographer while waiting to hear back from a second publisher about a thriller I finished earlier this year.

The first publisher I queried recently responded with a pretty rejection letter that included a personal note which defined my manuscript Nuka as “culturally rich”. With all the talk in the air of cultural appropriation I find myself in a possible predicament with the book having Inuit characters and a northern theme and even though my husband and children are Inuit  (I am not ) and so I am taking steps to decide whether or not to go forward with publication.

I have been seeking the opinions and input of members of the Inuit community and first sending my manuscript to northern publishers who I feel would best input whether or not I should go forward with publication. throughout creation of the manuscript I welcomed feedback from the community through my social media statuses.

In other news I have been studying the craft of writing as always through books dating back to the early eighties (that’s another blog)  and working on a re-write of my first feature film but at my age, excuses for not writing and engaging of the craft of at least thinking about writing count for nothing. Did I mention I’m turning forty? (Yes, that’s weighing heavily on me these days). I may create a count down to forty project, it’s up in the air.

I figured by now I would have published a few books, had more articles produced, written more short stories but in truth the stories do not write themselves and I have always been more focused on family than career since I hit thirty-two. My first children’s book did not get the type of distribution I hoped for and as a result I pulled it off the market. I had my pity party. I’m over it now and have moved on to other projects. Most of which, until today were still in the thinking stage.

For a long time I had a basement office, which I finally invited my husband to let him turn it into a man cave, or whatever it is men do with basements when their wives aren’t hogging that space. As a result I have bags of books to give away that I also swore I would have read by now when I bought them. (There are only about four bookcases worth of books in this place to begin with, maybe five if I count the ones I have aside that I still plan to read.)

I have written a few extra paragraphs onto a manuscript I started around 2012 but I don’t count that as progress, the fictitious child is still trapped in a negligent home and the siblings are still at war with one another. However, if I make good starting today this book may be done by year’s end yet.

In doing things I love, mothering, housecleaning (kidding but it’s a necessary evil), taking the kids to the library and going out for coffee I have found it difficult to leave my camera behind. I have discovered that it takes a few seconds to tell a story from start to finish with a single image than it does coming up with the right word for a sentence when the one that comes to mind fails to meet its purpose and the minute hand on the clock ticks like a dreadful fading pulse as if every metaphorical breath could be the character’s last if I don’t think up another word and fast.

I’ve been doing a lot of freelance photography work and for a while I feared that I might actually enjoy photography more than writing. I realise now that’s not possible (for me) as I have finally found my way back to the keyboard and to you the reader without whom this blog would just be a bunch of pixels wasting away.

By the way, Happy Father’s Day. And now, coffee.

 

Mr.Sandman…

I pulled a #StephenKing last night. I awoke shortly after four in the morning and wrote from start to end a very fluid dream that I think has the potential to make a great story. Before actually getting up to write it down I dreamt I was writing it down on anything I could find. In my dream I remember saying to myself, I’m not really writing this down am I? In that moment decided to let myself actually wake up to make sure I didn’t lose this jewel covered in dust.

I am also practising in this moment what Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway which I studied while pursuing Creative Writing in college suggests: Immediately upon waking the first thing you do is go straight to the keyboard and write whatever comes to mind without hesitation and allow no interruptions and as it was this story that came out. (This blog has been heavily edited).

It has been so long since I have woken up to the call of a good story, in fact I have let many story ideas go because at the time my children were quite young but they sleep a little longer these days. When is the last time you woke up to the call of a great story and wrote it down? What was the long term outcome? Was is just a loss of sleep of was it really rewarding in the long term?

 

The Morning after Effect

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So it’s the morning after I sent my manuscript out and let’s be honest, I’m still working on my first cup of coffee so that is the only plan of attack at this moment. It’s been a helluva week though filled with (blank space) still waking up, or as Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction, A Guide To Narrative Craft refers to the blank space, it’s the critic, keeping me from moving this blog forward, so I’m going to keep writing and hope this all makes sense when I’m done. (It is only 6:30 a.m. in my defense). I’m re-reading that book again, because every now and then I like to refresh what I know about writing and sharpen writing skills that perhaps I didn’t work as hard on or even missed reading it the last time around.

*8:30 now and I’m awake enough to remember that the week was filled with milestones for my writing career (none of which I will repeat at this time) suffice to say, good morning.

What amazes me as I write this blog, is that the kids are still asleep, which of course only happens when I wake up for no good reason before them. On the bright side, it’s the weekend (for some of us anyhow). I do not include myself in those lucky enough to bask in it though, since I have self-imposed deadlines that need to be met for other writing projects I am finishing.

Speaking of deadlines, I always find it amusing that writers are often not taken as seriously as people whose deadlines are imposed by others. I wonder why that is? I think it’s similar to a person who doesn’t have kids telling one who does that they are tired, the reception is often not something that smooths over as easily. After all how could a person with no children tugging at their ankles all morning, afternoon and evening possibly relate to one that does? The answer, I think, is universal: responsibilities and people to answer to, we are only as accountable as writers (I think) as we hold ourselves to be.

What are my responsibilities as a writer and mother? To balance the life I have created for myself in a way where I don’t find myself in over my head at the end of the day and yet still get stuff done. How do I do that? I create priorities and don’t get side-tracked. (Memo to me after getting the kids breakfast: as a mom of two I often get side-tracked.) The trick, I find, is to be side –tracked while keeping one hand (metaphorically) and when possible, at the keyboard.

 

If I can’t be writing I can generate story ideas. Some better than others.

 

When I get to writing I work on my paid assignments before working on long term projects for myself. Some days I only get fifteen to twenty minutes of writing done. (Okay I admit I’m a social media addict – of sorts) so if I could step away from some of those apps I would be a bit further ahead in the game. But, those fifteen to twenty minutes that come between colouring, crafts, outdoor play and other endeavors add up over time. That was how I wrote my novella, between the chaos and joys of parenting. And that is how today, I begin writing my novel. That, and a little sleep deprived.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let it be Known

luckyHappy St. Paddy’s Day! The luck of the Irish seemed to be with me today. I finally got up the gumption (a word my husband uses a lot that seems to have rubbed off on me) to send off my novella, Nuka, to its first potential publishing home. And then hours later, I got a sneak peek (posted to my author page on Facebook) facebook.com/shewriteswords of my interview with a local celebrity in the cooking world in Outdoor Lifestyle Magazine.

I’m sharing my top three notes with you about my experience sending off the novella and how it compared to when I pitched my children’s book Loved Like Me to potential publishers (take notes):

  1. That nerve wracking feeling you get the second you hit the send button – it stays the same.
  2. The query letter was shorter, sweeter and (sticking to the KISS principle) the subject line followed suit but I wrote something (I hope) will grab the publishers attention as opposed to the standard “query letter” (because they get tons of those).
  3. Following the rush that comes with sending off years of hard work (okay months that spanned over a two year period) I still had that air of, did I just hang myself with a metaphorical noose? Should I change my name while no one still knows who I am? Followed by, about time you sucked it up, buttercup. Next!
  4. I feel ready to tackle a new novel but not before celebrating completion of this project. Rewarding my hard work with a night of R&R (‘cause I’m a Mom and that’s how I roll).
  5. I’m going to start the work day tomorrow by putting a big red X through my office calendar. The countdown for acceptance or rejection is on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clinging To Life

 

I recently completed the fourth draft of what started out as a thriller/horror turned drama/crime story. The manuscript has undergone a transformation from being a very, very, rough first draft to a flowing fourth draft but I can’t say I’m much happier with it.

At what point do we stop worrying about what the reader will think and feel towards something we have poured our hearts and souls into doing? Two drafts? Twenty? There are many writers who think this process should be done in very few drafts to be effective as a writer but if that is true, how do you know when it’s time to ship or shelve a manuscript?

I find it difficult, with very few eyes on my novella to say that it is or isn’t publishing worthy. It is without a doubt the single, most frustrating problem an author can have comparing their most recent work to their last (especially when it’s an all-together different genre). At the end of the day I have several choices, send it out for reviews from beta readers and risk being fed to the sharks or keep it to myself and let it get buried under a stack of other prose that suffered similar fates.

How did you know you were finally finished writing the final draft of your manuscript? What made you take the dive to share your work with others? How did it make you feel? What was the outcome? Inquiring minds want to know. I’d love to hear your stories and experiences.

 

 

 

Money for Nothing: Cheques For Free

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I love my life. Want an assignment? Here you go. Have an idea for a story? Send it to us. Have an idea for a blog on a topic you love? Write about it and we’ll pay you to do something you love. Sometimes it feels like I am being paid to live life to the fullest, if only every freelancer were so fortunate.

Over my writing career I have had the pleasure of interviewing local celebrities, change-makers and activists working towards improving social issues in the community. I have met athletes, politicians, musicians, actors and people in the writing industry whose views and experiences have changed the way I see my social landscape.

I have encountered first- hand what it feels like both to succeed and fail on rollercoaster wavelengths and I have come out of these failures feeling stronger, more determined and as focused as ever on producing results never before seen compared to — myself.

In a recent conversation with a person whose tenacity and success I admire it was pointed out to me that we are our biggest competitors. It is not the writer whose paycheques are bigger or smaller than my last that I need to focus on but the writer who yesterday wrote social statuses on social media instead of spending time in a Word program writing fresh work.

We can only do better today than we did yesterday if at first we put the idea in our heads that we ought to always be pushing ourselves to write more, produce better quality pieces and not settle for what we think is our best work (at least according to another writer I know who swears that *they are never satisfied with their work and thus the end result is brilliant and highly successful). Oh wait, I’m doing it again. Seems the person who I was talking to was right – I do look at the writer to my left and to my right. I think a lot of us do. That said, is it necessarily wrong if our intention is to empower ourselves to do better by aspiring to what another has already achieved? I am told, it in fact is ill-advised.

Do you ever find yourself questioning why someone you know got the book contract and you didn’t? How have you felt when receiving rejection letters from publishing companies? What were your coping skills? How did you improve on your next query from your last? Have you used advice offered in responses from editors?

As writers I think we all begin at the start line of the metaphoric race that is our writing careers, preparing ourselves by learning the tools of the trade. Accumulating resources on writing, studying authors and periodicals with work by people whose work we admire.

It ought never be the goal to do anything other than your best, whether your best is a best-seller, an award winning article, or something you write that never gets published and is for your eyes only.

Writing as a hobby is relaxing, stress-free, exhilarating and enjoyable. Writing as a career is getting paid to live writing while enjoying all the stress-free, relaxing and exhilarating experiences life has to offer. Doing both, you can’t ask for much more.

Keep your eyes on the finish line and try not to look too much at your competitors, it will only slow you down.