Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I once had a creative writing teacher who told our class the following.

"To become a successful writer," he said, "you have to do two things. First, you have to toss your TV out the window. Second, you have to marry someone rich."

It was good advice, especially the TV part, but I think he could have added one more item to the list. Avoid Crazymakers.

Julie Cameron, in her book, The Artist's Way, describes Crazymakers as "those personalities that create storm centers. They are often charismatic, frequently charming, highly inventive, and powerfully persuasive. And," she adds, "for the creative person in their vicinity, they are enormously destructive. You know the type: charismatic but out of control, long on problems and short on solutions."

In short, they will sabatoge your writing time.

Early on in my writing career my life was filled with crazymakers. It seemed that every time I found a few hours to write and was just getting into the flow of a project my phone would ring or the door bell would buzz and one of the many crazymakers in my life would be there, sucking me into the eye of their storms. By the time I was able to hang up or they had moved on, I was totally derailed and could not get back into the project. Crazymakers never ask if it is a good time to call or visit, or if they are interrupting something. They just give it to you with both barrels.

I don't have as many crazymakers in my life anymore. I'm not sure why. Maybe I've became more protective of my time. Call display on the phone certainly helps and my real friends always understand that writing is my work, and that I have a truly miserable boss (me). When I give writing workshops and the participants ask how to become successful, I give them this advice: become tyrants with your time. Schedule writing into your week, and stick to the schedule. Don't let anyone steal your time, and that's really what it is. Stealing.

Most writers don't have the luxury of full writing days. They have to write in the margins of their lives, between paying jobs, carpooling the kids, maintaining a home and making meals. It's hard to squeeze in writing time, and when you do, you feel selfish, especially if you are not yet published. But that is the irony. To become published you have to spend hours, years, mastering the craft. You have to send out submissions and accept rejection letters. Above all else, you have to persevere. You have to write. And write. Expecting your family and friends to give you the time to work at your craft is not selfish. Avoid the crazymakers. They are not your friends. Your friends want you to be successful.

Remember that.

Here endith the sermon.

Oh, and don't forget, get rid of the TV.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Favourite Quote

Recently my book publisher asked me to fill out a questionnaire in preparation for the launch of my next book, The Gotcha Gods. One of the questions asked was, what is your favourite quote?

Hmmm. I love quotes. I even collect quotes. I went to my journals and searched for something perfect, the quote that would sum up my beliefs and values succinctly and beautifully. No luck. They were all lovely, but each of them spoke to only part of my life, like friendships, writing, or finding inspiration. I left the question blank, but felt bad about it.

Later it came to me. Desiderata.

Desiderata is a prose/poem that I feel speaks directly to me. I have always loved it, from the first time I heard it as a young girl. When I searched for it I discovered that it is attributed to Max Ehrmann in 1952, but I believe I once read that it was first written in the 16th century. One of my daughters recently discovered the music that was written to go with the words. She burned it onto a CD so I can listen to it whenever I want, which is often.

Unfortunately, it is too long to use on an author bio, but I will post it below. Clearly, these are words to live by.


Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Backyard visitors

Good news! We haven't seen the skunk for a few weeks. We smell him, he's definitely been to visit the neighbours, but Winston is back to smelling doggy and not skunky. Our strategy of blocking any potential backyard skunk-access holes with chicken wire must have paid off, although the skunk can still walk up the driveway and into the backyard anytime he wants. Fortunately he stayed away the night we had a backyard wedding reception, a sit-down dinner for 100. Can you image??? A direct hit to the dog that night would have caused mass pandemonium. I cringe to think of it.

A little bit of trivia: when I went to purchase chicken wire I discovered it is now called poultry wire. Is this the new, more politically correct term, do you think? Gotta keep those turkeys happy.

A new, more welcome backyard visitor I've had this year is a hummingbird. This is the first time I've had a feeder, and I'm fascinated by these tiny birds. I have the feeder hanging directly outside my office window where I can enjoy their visits.

Amazing hummingbird facts:

Hummingbirds can fly forward, backward, shift sideways and stop in mid-air. (Can a helicopter do all that?)
An average hummingbird consumes at least half its weight in nectar each day. (Lucky birds!)

The hummingbird is the world's smallest bird (but the hardest to catch - see next fact.)

Hummingbirds can reach speeds up to 60 miles an hour.

While lapping up nectar, they can move their tongues in and out of their bill at a rate of up to 12 times a second. (Give that a try why don't you!)

A hummingbird's wings beat 78 times PER SECOND during regular flight. (See how fast you can flap your arms!)

Female hummingbirds' tongues are longer than the males.

Hummingbirds use spider webs as glue to attach the nest to a tree branch and as a binding agent for the building materials.

Whoa! Such amazing little creatures. Mother Nature is one clever gal.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Summer Reading

There's a romantic notion that summer should be filled with lightweight, 'beach' books. Ha! Not for me. For some reason I always spend the summer plowing through one very long book. This year my book club chose Wally Lamb's I Know This Much is True as our summer read for exactly that reason - it is so long and we'd need the whole summer to get through it. I'm almost there, and look forward to reading something much lighter next. That said, I agree with the blurb on the back cover that describes the book as, "A work of astonishing craftsmanship, structural symmetry, and literary self-awareness." So true. The book is truly a masterpiece of fine writing.

Last summer I read John Irving's hefty Until I Find You. It too was a brilliant saga, told in that warped voice that only Irving can pull off. Highly recommended. (But then I love anything Irving writes.)

I also love anything Jodi Picoult writes and in the past year I have read My Sister's Keeper, Vanishing Acts, Plain Truth. I intend to read everything else she has written too, as soon as I can wrestle the books out of my daughters' hands.

Other stand-out books I've read this past year:

Before I Wake ( Robert J. Wiersema)

Ms Zephyr's Notebook (KC Dyer)

Marley and Me (John Grogan)

Escaping Into the Open: The Art of Writing True (Elizabeth Berg)

Looking at this list I'm surprised to see so few teen novels there. Other years I've read only teen fiction. Rejoining an adult book club has clearly changed my reading habits.

On the to-read-very-soon list:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (a classic I've somehow missed)

The trilogy: Uglies, Pretties, Specials by Scott Westerfield (recommended by my 15-yr.-old daughter)

Dear Catastrophe Waitress by Brendan Halpin (I enjoyed his first book, Donorboy)

The Book Club by Mary Alice Monroe

Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood I believe all the women are Canadian (?) My friend Alison Kelly (actress from Mom's the Word) has a piece in this book. I've seen the cover, it's gorgeous!

These and more I need to squeeze in between the monthly book group selections.

Would love to hear what others think should be on my MUST READ list!

Yours in books,


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

They Liked It!!!

Those wonderful people at Orca Books have sent me a contract for my latest project, Sister Wife! Yahoo!!! The plan is for The Gotcha Gods (or maybe just Gotcha)to be released in the spring of '08 and Sister Wife will come out the following spring. After a long dry spell with no new books, I'm back on the writing track. It's a satisfying feeling.

Sister Wife is set in a town very much like Bountiful, BC, where polygamy thrives. Emotionally it was a difficult book to write so this contract is especially rewarding.

Two activities that a couple characters in the book enjoy are balancing rocks and building inuksuit (plural for inuksuk). Funny thing, I like doing those things too! There's a magic in that moment when you balance a rock in a way that looked impossible. It feels almost spiritual.

On hikes with Winston, my bouncy springer spaniel, we sometimes stumble across inuksuit at the side of the trail. They always make me smile and I stop and build companions for the lone ones. One winter a whole community of inuksuit sprouted up in Cates Park where I often walk. I looked forward to going there each day to see if there were any new ones, and to add my own creations. I never saw anyone else building them, but I felt we were playing some kind of game, a game without winners, losers or competition. That's how my story, Sister Wife, was born. Two of the characters individually build inuksuit on the beach, and wonder about the identity of the other builder.

Ideas come from the oddest sources...

Until next time ~