Money for Nothing: Cheques For Free

Startup Stock Photos

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.

 

 

D-I-V-O-R-C-E,Commitment and the Writer

weddress

 

I’ve divorced myself from the writing lifestyle. That is to say, I’ve been away from regular hours in the office typing away at a keyboard. I haven’t committed to writing exercises, carrying around books to study the plot and character structure or even just to bask in a café and enjoy the winter scenery of page after page of even my favorite author and I’m not about to apologize. In fact, it is quite possible the healthiest thing I have done for my writing career to date.

Minus a blog here and there it’s been nothing but leisure activities including but not limited to photographing everything under the sun, family time and watching some great flicks. (As long as I can keep my eyes open after the kids are asleep that is). More than one person has suggested and I agree they are right, that perhaps it’s too soon for my little ones to be watching Misery or Carrie so I save the horrors and thrillers for when they are sleeping  CryptTV.com streams some of my favs. Then there’s the action movies I have to choose from and my fav actors to watch. I never tire of films with Johnny Depp or Meryl Streep (Ottawa’s local actors are also quite good but I’m not naming names. You know who you are.)

I love watching One True Thing for the thousandth time. I cry every time I watch Losing Isaiah. The Deep End of the Ocean is a touching drama that will pull at heart strings too, I love that the protagonist is a mother and a photographer. I’m a fan of Finding Forrester. Alice Through the Looking Glass and Maleficent is a go to when I just want to get away from it all. G.I Jane, Far and Away, God Bless the Child, my absolute favorite local film is, I can’t say actually (I have a few preferences) but ottawashortfilms.com has a collection of great shorts.

I’ve been pressed for time to make it to the theatres but I would have loved to see La La Land,

A Monster Calls and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

I drink less coffee and more tea these days, my Stephen King book, Blaze, came in handy when I had to go to the emergency room in a matter where everything worked out; I got to read little more than a paragraph that night. Like I said, I really have not been living the writer’s life as of late.

I meet people in person over chatting online. I talk to strangers but I don’t take notes. I ride the bus but I don’t use my senses to explain the experience of being transported from one end of the city to the other, I don’t bother to take note of the sights, smells and other senses. Instead, I chat with my children playing silly mom and daughter/son games. I speak loudly when it might be better to whisper. I remember who I am when I’m not a writer. I breathe.

Life. It’s all about life and living. But I’m here now, committed once again to the writer’s lifestyle and the dedication and focus I need to recommit to get manuscripts polished and sent out and queries ready for publishers. Really, I went on a Writer’s Vacation, I plan to do it again in the future now that I remember. I remember who I am when I am not a writer.

Sometimes, you just have to say no to the workload and deadlines. Sometimes, you have to choose yourself over your work, your health over a hefty paycheque. Sometimes saying no is what writers’ like me really need to do to really want to say yes when all is said and done. This is what I want. This is what I do.

What do you say?

 

 

 

How to Speak People

Carrie Hands Something to Stan

SAY IT ONCE MORE WITH FEELING which I produced and wrote and the short ABSTRACT that I wrote both make their premiere screening at Rainbow Cinemas at the St.Laurent mall this Sunday with films starting at 3p.m. A colleague asked me if I was looking forward to the screening to which I gave a long, dramatic, well-thought out (I think) response that if I were reading a book I would hope a witty character would come out with.

“If you consider biting your nails so far back that they start to bleed as any sign of being nervous, then yes, I’m anticipating this Sunday’s premiere,” or something to that affect was what I wrote on social media in response, although it came out much more eloquently when I had just revived my arteries with a fresh cuppa coffee. I quickly reassured this person that my response was meant to be dramatic as only a writer can create such convoluted response. In truth I am quite anticipating the excitement of the premiere. In the meantime, I continue to write.

Producing Say It Once More With Feeling (and the word ‘With’ is deliberately uppercased as a measure of style not grammatical correctness) and writing Abstract have deepened my understanding of the film industry and helped me to realise that in attempting to attain your goals and realise your dreams you are only as limited in life as the people you let hold you back. I had my family’s support from the beginning of this adventure and a lot, and I mean a lot of self-confidence to help me get this off the ground.

Ladies, gents, peeps everywhere: if you’re gonna produce, write and otherwise invest your time in the film industry make sure you are 110% committed to the project because once you jump in there is no turning back. I am so glad I committed to these projects!

What mattered as much as having a supportive family in the creation of writing both films but in particular producing Say It Once More With Feeling was the overwhelming support that the Ottawa film community has shown me. Shout out to Ottawa Filmmakers and The Writers’ Room as well as Ottawa Actors, the list goes on. I am very thankful for their support, knowledge and willingness to support each other and as it happened, their helping me learn the ropes and put together a drama that I am hoping will turn some heads. I am competing with some very fine and talented filmmakers and there is a diversity of actors to watch in these upcoming shorts.

With a great crew and a phenomenal cast for Say It Once More With Feeling (don’t miss Julianne Carioto or Richard Groen in this one of a kind drama) and listen to an original score by Stephan LaCasse. I also want to send a shout out to the hard working cast and crew of the script Abstract that I wrote, I am really looking forward to seeing as many supportive familiar and friendly faces at this event as possible and looking forward to meeting some newcomers as well. Funds are being raised for the Canadian Cancer Society through this event. For more information see the website spartafilmchallenge.com

Sunday’s around the corner. It’s a big premiere for many. Will you be there?

The Dirtiest Words I’ve Ever Heard

 

http://www.writersdigest.com/writing-articles/by-writing-goal/improve-my-writing/when_to_use_swear_words_in_your_writing

Exposition: I have heard a lot of foul language in my life time, from the mundane, “Oh cookie crumbs,” to words I simply do not have the heart to put in writing or print for fear they might be rated ‘R’. No one likes the ‘A’ word, the ‘S’ word the ‘F’ word. Some people I have known used it as much as they drank coffee but that’s neither here nor there. What gets under my skin most these days is not whether or not someone is sneaking some vulgar profanity into their everyday language. Language is the colour of life. After all, as people we all have different dialects, patterns of speech, a variety of ways in which we annunciate our words.

Tomato, tomato. Did you say that the same twice or did you read both versions of that word? Inquiring minds want to know. Fiddlesticks, lost my thought. But honestly, as a new writer the biggest vulgarity in my life right now is the ‘M’ word, M for marketing. Book marketing. This is what my life must now include if I want my self-published book, Loved Like Me, to have any hope of surviving in the galaxy of books that exists on our planet.
Time to hit social media and make use of all those great social professional network connections I have amassed over the last year or two.
I spent the first week of 2016 celebrating in my mom/writer style this week with the release of the e-book and print versions of my first children’s book, Loved Like Me. It was illustrated by the very talented, Rob Nicholson.
Celebrating mom style means that I had a fancy homemade dinner and I feast on ice cream at home with a few of my favourite movies, (which I have yet to find time for),taking ‘social networking’ time on platforms like Facebook and occasionally talking to people face to face while I wait for my first editions to arrive.
This launch marks the end of what took me almost all of 2015 to get self-published and the beginning of my life as an author. Looking ahead, my writing calendar is in chaos. There are editing courses on the horizon, shorts to write and produce, a feature film I want to sell as soon as I find the time to adapt it from its present novel form (I made this one of my 2016 resolutions) and a novel to get the final edit done on and the list goes on. But wait- there’s more! Now I have to learn marketing.
Conflict: I don’t have the time, resources or marketing skills to push this book in the market place.
Rising Action: If/when I sell copies of this book, Loved Like Me, I will be able to start investing in other writing productions and projects. Time is my enemy. Woman vs. Herself: I must find the confidence to learn the skills I need to be successful or I am not going to be able to make it as a successful author. Will time defeat me? I am looking into learning marketing platforms through writers organisations such as Ottawa Independent Writers, online resources and of course other authors in the industry. Will time crush my dreams? Is there hope for selling one copy of my book before the end of the week? Inquiring minds want to know.
Crisis: The house looks lived in, the kids are happily entertained and play with one another occasionally including me in singing a rendition of songs seen on Mary Poppins, which I must have (willingly) watched a million times, I need to write something for my blog, I have editing and screenwriting and film commitments to meet, the coffee stopped working after the first sip today and I am waiting on results concerning entries for a film festival and writing contests.
Climax: Needs more story development but my eyes are fighting to stay open. I don’t know if exhaustion will win out before I can get this blog finished. I am running out of time. I am over exhausted and I have to get up in a few hours. I could market the blog based on this hook but it isn’t developed enough yet. Story development and a strong hook is key to selling scripts/stories.
Falling action: The hubby and I did the housework between eating, breathing and other uneventful necessities of life. My daughter plays on her toy computer and with her dolls, my son draws abstract art with finger paints or we all play Play Dough and sing silly songs between my writing script scenes and sometimes during. I take a break, play with the children and go back to writing and caring for them. It is tricky but entirely possible.
I am blessed with the gift of multi-tasking. I am determined to learn how to market my book so it becomes (yes, I can dream) a best seller. I realise in retrospect that I have accomplished a lot of the work I set out to do for pre-production, book editing, blogging and marketing. I realise that the film festival and contest winner announcements are a ways off and I take a breath. Time is still my enemy where the writing is concerned. There are and always will be deadlines to meet so long as this is my profession/vocation.
Resolution: I finish this blog, post it, share it with you, feel grateful that I have accomplished the things that I set out to do this evening. I turn off the computer and take some much needed ‘me’ time. That is to say, I plan on getting some sleep, although it is not likely that will be anytime soon.

 

 

 

 

Make it Memorable

I have submitted countless articles over the years for publication and yet every time I write something new and hit ‘send’ on the keyboard I still get butterflies in my stomach. Id’ve thought after almost two decades in the writing industry the anticipation of hearing back from editors would eventually grow old, common place even, but I’ve expanded my writing skills to include other genres of writing, more recently, including scriptwriting and in-between I’ve covered myself with researching how-tos on self-publishing and marketing in the writing industry for my latest book, Loved Like Me. (Oh, how I loathe marketing.)

If I could do without it I would just keep plugging away at WIPs, like a literary novel I started about four years or so ago, I can’t remember what was going on with the protagonist anymore but she and her sister were having a seriously hard time getting along, sibling stuff, nothing based on real life experience) for those of you who were just dying to know if I used events from real life).

From what I understand, you can, but it’s not something advisable, and at times even worthwhile, unless you are writing a memoir. (I would recommend asking someone who has written and published a memoir or two).It is my experience that the best conflicts to resolve in fiction writing are the ones that are not yours when you are also away from the keyboard, although some people argues that experience breeds plotlines, and they draw from real life, so I leave you to decide.

I love how easy it is in the process of freewriting to get lost in the hullaballoo of things you could write about and have that take away from what you are writing about, like I just did. Oh , and then to do another faux pas, which is to go back and read the first two paragraphs you wrote, edit and then keep writing. Did I just do that? You be the judge.

So tonight I submitted to a producer for the second time in my screenwriting career. It is different from submitting to an editor for several reasons, for one thing, there was no query letter. I answered a call for spec script. (For reference to screenwriting terminology I recommend The Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trottier.

Submitting and selling scripts are a completely different publishing avenue than freelancing short stories and articles. The rules for writing (and formatting) in screenwriting are completely different. (If you want to make life easier for yourself as a screenwriting software is, I find, a worthwhile investment.

When you finish and have removed yourself from your work for a period of time (unless you are working on a deadline) there are a few things you should ask yourself before submitting the piece.

Why should the editor of such and such a paper want your story? What are you offering the reader? The viewer? What makes your story unique? Why will it appeal to people? Is there a familiarity that readers and viewers might recognise in themselves? Is there a time bomb, a clock ticking and something has to be resolved in an urgent matter? Will something horrible happen to the protagonist or someone the protagonist cherishes dearly if the matter is not resolved? In other words, what hangs in the balance?

I know why I think my story should sell, but unless I have presented the set up and hook clearly no producer or editor is going to bite. I may throw many finished articles and scripts into the publishing sea, but unless my story sticks out and is memorable to the person reading it and grabs their attention right away, all I have are a bunch of pretty words strung together.

I have been on both ends of the writing spectrum in many genres. I have work that will forever rot on a zip drive (somewhere) and more polished work that I am waiting to hear back on.

One thing about life doesn’t change, there is always a story to tell, you just have to ask yourself if you are going to be the person to tell it and sell it, how you are going to go about making it…memorable.

Here’s to a Memorable 2016!

My writing goals for 2016 (albeit late) Get writing, keep writing, love writing, live writing, breathe writing, and oh yeah, gotta keep that coffee brewed. Now, back to writing.

 

Just Call Me Author

Here is the link to my latest work,one of my very favourite accomplishments.http://www.blurb.com/books/6790350-loved-like-me?t=1451419109649
#Tim Hortons #OneTrueThing #sleepwhat’sthat?#family#chocolate#writing#film#screenwriting These are a few of the things I like in life. I also like early mornings with my husband, kids and coffee, compared to late nights on the town with great music and dancing. (Yes, in part because I simply lack the energy to do the ‘fun stuff’ that my peers get to enjoy and also because I admit, I’m left-footed). Sense the green-eyed monster? I admit it’s possible, a little.

As a child I liked reading a lot, Roald Dahl, Judy Blume, those books where you got to pick your own ending. Weren’t those grand? When I wasn’t reading I was writing. Any ideas I had as a young girl I put down in writing different genres, a lot were journal entries, most of which have long since disappeared and I no longer remember anything about. One short story sticks out in my memory because my grade school teacher thought it was good enough to put in the school’s library.

Dashful and the Case of the Missing Unicorns was originally a class assignment. It was later peer illustrated and bound together with staples and a construction paper cover, something I relented to tell you about in a previous blog. As a writer I feel the need to defend my work: I realise that the title is a bit long –winded but hey, I was nine when I wrote it. And then the oxymoron comes into play: I am reminded that a writer cannot defend his work when the reader is alone with the prose which has them for a captive audience. So, I admit defeat in this instance and share this experience as a lesson in things not to do when coming up with book titles.

As a child I wanted to believe that writing project made me an author. It carried my dreams of becoming an author through grade and high school until I finally got my work published in a community paper and went on to J-school at Algonquin College where I learned the importance of appreciating and proper use of the tools that help craft a great news piece. I was happy to obtain my diploma and instead have the title of journalist. Unfortunately I had more of a taste for writing about social issues, human interest, entertainment stories, and poetry among other things, than covering politics.

Almost twenty years of experience as a freelance journalist led to writing and selling my first short. I had the pleasure of being on the judging panel for Digi60 and learning an immense amount about the craft of screenwriting as a result. (I’m working on producing my first short, written by yours truly, in 2016. SAY IT AGAIN WITH FEELING, Stay tuned…)

Flash forward to December 29th and I sit here beside myself because today I am no longer “just” a writer. I am an author. Loved Like Me, first editions of a story about a young boy who learns he is adopted and the struggles he has figuring out who he is and how he fits into his adoptive family have been ordered. The book I slaved away at for five years is finally published.

I want to shout, “I am an author,” from the rooftops of Ottawa. The problem is, that no matter how elated I am about congratulatory messages and an awesome celebratory spaghetti dinner with homemade garlic bread (and let me tell you my husband makes a mean spaghetti at that) in the same breath I shout my success to the world and rejoice, I realise my work has just begun.

Now if I want to sell my book to the masses I will have to really kick up my marketing skills, possibly make time for book tours, author meet n’ greets and such. I think to myself, wasn’t the point just to write and publish a book? Was it ever about going on the road and aspiring to gain great fortune? (For which I am realistic enough to realise will not happen with this particular book.)

Will this book become the focus of my life? It has taken up periods of time over the last five years. It has meant months of rejections from traditional publishers who lost the opportunity to represent me and my work. (As a self-published author you HAVE to believe in the value of your ‘product’ long before anyone else will.)

Becoming a self-published author has meant studying the craft of writing, consultations with an editor, illustrator and graphic designer all of whom I am fortunate to say are wickedly blessed at what they do. Whether I sell one copy of my book or twenty, I can’t help but repeat that I am both proud and happy to say that after a lot of hard work and persistence towards reaching this goal, I have published my first children’s book, Loved Like Me (available on Blurb). I am an author now, and third to being a mother and wife, nothing to me besides that, could be a better way to end 2015.

So if you see me on the street and you feel like saying hey, please, just call me Author.

I Want a Cigarette

 

I have trouble breathing every day. Some days are worse than others. I smoked for 14 years. That’s a lot of cigarettes. And now I am paying for my bad habits. But, I want a cigarette. I’ve heard it said that all writers are either heavy smokers or heavy drinkers. Likely because of the isolation of the act of writing. Writing is a beautiful thing but the solitary activity can mess with one’s mind after many years of working in the industry.

I disagree with the above mentioned adage. I think it’s unfair to say that all great writers do either. I think all writers do something, whether it is drink coffee, do a happy dance in the middle of the living room after typing, The End on a manuscript (Which most professional writers will tell you is not how the story ends when it goes to print. Usually it has a nice, rounded resolution to the conflict and the words The End become a moot point. But there it is.

I used to have a cigarette while I wrote, as I brainstormed, with my coffee, with my writer friends on smoke breaks during writers’ meet-ups and after every draft was complete of whatever writing project I was working on. In truth, it didn’t make my prose greater, it didn’t enhance the quality of my writing or help me to write a best seller. (At least not yet.) But I still have the urge after writing a great fight scene or something so heart wrenching I am hoping the reader is going to be crying their eyes out and reaching for the tissue, because it is the role of great prose to evoke emotion. I still want to reach for that cigarette.

There is nothing ceremonious about this blog, except that as I write I am craving a cigarette and I have not smoked in eight years. It would not make me a great writer to start up again and so I am including that in my reasons not to start again now, besides the above mentioned reasons.

I envy relate to the writers who still light up before writing, during writing and after writing. Is there anything, I used to wonder, that goes well with finishing the ‘vomit draft’ as it’s often called besides a cigarette and a cup of coffee? I don’t remember. But writing this blog has kept me from going to the store and buying a pack. So, mission accomplished. Still a non-smoker and a new post for you, the reader to review.

Whether you smoke and write or write and don’t smoke you’re still a writer— and nothing in the world can change that.