Looking forward…a writer prepares…


Hullo Sweeties:

Long time no post, eh?

As many of you know, this year has been a … rough one … for me.  I won’t go into the whys and wherefores here, but suffice it to say – my work has languished.

I set aside Sanctuary (my novel in progress) last December and didn’t find my way back to it until a few weeks ago.

I was close… so close… to just… Chucking it all in.

To declaring in the novel a failed experiment.

To maybe even stepping away from writing at all for a time and heading off to explore other things.

But I picked up the draft and read through it, making some notes.

Luckily…I found some good things mixed in with the skitter-scatter-stinky-doo that is normal in an early draft of a novel.  I found enough “good” to make me want to give it one more shot.  To continue working.

I started in on yet another reVision on November 18, 2015.

That day, I wrote the following in the Scrib:

So… here we are, back again.  I am about to ride into town, wash our clothes and cut off all of my hair.

Then I am going to return and when I do, I will begin again.  I fear that I shall never finish the thing called Sanctuary – it is far too huge and strange for this mind to wrap round.  But I have a driving need to see this through to some kind of end.  Be it a gathering of stories or whatever.

So my plan is to… yes… begin again. And to take a stroll back through the book as it now exists in the Sanctuary 2014 project and take only the bits I love and see what they are and how they might fit together – or not.  Maybe they serve as leaping off points for stories in and of themselves.  I don’t know.

Let us begin clean.  And because it sang to me, this morning, let this sentence from Eudora Welty serve as …. An inspiration toward…going deeper instead of wider this time…

The events in our lives happen in a sequence of time, but in their significance to ourselves they find their own order, a timetable not necessarily—perhaps not possibly—chronological.  The time as we know it subjectively is often the chronology that stories and novels follow: it is the continuous thread of revelation.”   – Eudora Welty One Writer’s Beginnings

I love that… the continuous thread of revelation…  Love it.

It echoes what I struggle towards with the Watchers (a group of beasts and humans in the novel), how time doesn’t necessarily flow chronologically for them… or, perhaps, for any of us.

I think that is a big trouble in the book right now. The structure is so… day to day… and outward.  I need to find the continuous thread of revelation to spool out.  Perhaps for each character and then, somehow for the reader.

I yearn to … simply create a world that they can sink into.  Yes.  That’s it.

But it isn’t simple…and…  “Ay, there’s the rub!”

I began working on the reVision that day.

After I did this…

...after a trip to Mel's Hairdressing Salon....
…after a trip to Mel’s Hairdressing Salon….










A few weeks later, we packed things up, closed down the shaky-shack and headed down to Toronto to spend the holidays with my Sister in Law and to see some pals.

I spent a weekend with Eden, a friend from Uni, and—brave soul that she is—she suggested that we get in touch with our mutual Creative Writing instructor, Susan Swan.

Susan and I have emailed each other and been in touch on facebook over the years, but when Eden mentioned asking her out for coffee… I was ENTIRELY nervous and shy.  I felt like a 12 year old girl with a crush about to call up the beloved and try to appear cool.

Eden was the brave one.  She made the invite and we “SQUEEEEEEEE!ed” together via email when Susan accepted.

Long story short… I had a WONDERFUL weekend with Eden and our meet up with Susan was… oh man… it was just so good.  To sit and talk about our lives and our work… ahhhhhhh.

Susan is a wise and insightful woman with clear grey eyes and a voice you just have to pay attention to.

When I spoke to her about going back to school and asked her what she thought of the Ryerson Publishing Program (have I mentioned I was thinking of going back to school?), a strange look crossed her face.  She said the program is very well-respected and then she paused and said, “Do you want to work in a publishing house in Toronto?”

I blurted, “No.” And continued, mumbling… “No.  Well…not really…but…maybe… I was thinking maybe I could do freelance work or… or something.”

We continued to talk about my life and the novel and how lost I am feeling with it.  She nodded in recognition and said, “Yes.  You are in the trees.” She mentioned Humber and their Creative Writing by Correspondence program that pairs writers up with mentors for a 7 month period to work on a novel.  She went as far as to offer to email the person who heads up the program and put us in touch.

She said, “Would you like that?”

I mumbled, “Yes.”

Eden said, “YES.  Pam would like that very much.  Please do that.”

We all chuckled.

The next morning, there were two emails from Susan in my inbox – one putting me in touch with Humber and another just to say…. Some lovely supportive stuff.


After talking with Susan and Eden I was a bit… spun around.  I spent some time walking and thinking, turning over what it really is I want to DO in 2016.

I got online and started chatting with my gang of fierce and lovely writer pals The Rough Writers.  We formed a group back in Saskatchewan many moons ago.  A group of women writers who gathered to talk about… the writer’s life. About how we survive as writers – financially, physically and spiritually.  We are now a bit scattered across the country, but a call out via email is all it takes to gather this magnificent sisterhood.  You can find out where the Rough Writers hang out online over on my Wisefolk page.

I decided that what I truly want to do this coming year is… finish Sanctuary (or at least get to a draft that I am willing to show to some select readers for feedback – heh heh).

I took a look at the Humber program and some other great programs like the Banff Centre’s Writing Studio, The Sage Hill Writing Experience and various residencies and retreats.

After a flurry of emails with the Rough Writers and a few other writer pals across the country, a plan began to take shape.

I won’t bore you with the hemming and hawing and weighing of pros and cons of all these wonderful opportunities.  I’ll just cut to the OUTCOME…

I am off to spend 2 weeks at St Peter’s Abbey in SK during the Saskatchewan Writer’s Guild Winter Retreat in February.  A bit crazy, perhaps, when it seems that I have a rather… retreating lifestyle already…. but what this would give me is… solitude (in a different way), good food (prepared lovingly by someone else), and a place filled with writers in which to work.

The energy at St Pete’s is legendary.  See Five Reasons to Go on a Writing Retreat  by Arthur Slade.  Once there, I can just lock myself down and hammer away at the reVision of the novel and/or chat with others about the work. I will also get to spend some time in the presence of at least TWO of my fellow Rough Writers.

It is gonna be EPIC.

I’ve also been accepted for Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s 5 month online mentorship.  This session runs from Feb and running until June and oh-my-gawd-oh-my-GAWD am I ever excited!

I’ve been a fan of Gail’s since I first read The Cure for Death by Lightning and A Recipe for Bees.  Now I will get to work with her and other writers on her forum and… oh man… the idea of having some company along the trail as I work through a new draft is…. FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC.  What a boon.

And… the bountifulness and support goes on….

As I was laying all of this in place over the weekend, Tracy Hamon (one of the Rough Writers) sauntered down the street and spoke with Sandra Birdsell—who was the Humber mentor I was most interested in.  Sandra generously let Tracy pass on her email to me in case I had any questions about Humber or any other options like working with her privately.  Though I’ve chosen to go with Gail’s program this year, I’ve emailed Sandra to thank her for talking with Tracy about me and I am keeping her email at hand for the next time I find myself…flailing about (writing wise).

Sandra sent back a lovely email, congratulating me on taking “the bull by the horns” and digging in to this rewrite.  She also added her voice to those who speak of Gail’s stellar reputation and reminded me that… sometimes we have to allow our novels to go backwards in order to go forward.  Once again, I am so glad to know that I am not alone in this.  I know know KNOW that it is part of my process to write-write-write and end up with WAY TOO MUCH STUFF, but when I’m in the muck, it’s hard to hold on to the confidence that I will find my way out.


Once again, I am reminded that I am not alone on this crazy Writer’s Trail.  I am part of a wonderfully supportive community.

Oh… speaking of…. here’s one more example of the amazingness of my fellow scribblers.

As I wandered the interwebs and stumbled across Gail’s program, I scratched the surface a bit and found out that the fabulous Kimmy Beach has worked with Gail.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually met Kimmy in the flesh, but we run in the same circles and I totally dig her and her work. Anyhow…. I facebook messaged her to ask about Gail’s program—not realizing at the time that Kimmy actually offers similar services.  Holy Jebus did I feel like a SCHMO!  Kimmy not only eased my fears and told me not to feel like a schmo – she gave Gail an entirely glowing review and urged me to GO FOR IT!

And cuz the Universe just opens up when you allow yourself to SEE…. I also stumbled across these beauties in the last few days.

Another Art Slade post on The Pressure of Being Creative.

And this amazing amazing short film that Leona Theis shared on Facebook. I don’t think I can embed the video here so go and watch it and then come back….


Isn’t it great?

This film is so gorgeous and wise.

As I struggle with Sanctuary, what I keep thinking/saying is that I can’t seem to find my way to the ENDING…. Meaning what?  Meaning the ending I WANT? Or just an ending that leaves me … satisfied.

I hope it is the latter, but I also know that I might be trying to IMPOSE MY WILL upon the story and make it land where I want it to land.  I fear no good can come of that.

I am going to watch this film over and over as I work on this new draft.

I am also going to begin each work session by reading over the following blessing from John O’Donohue’s Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

May the light of your soul guide you.

May the light of your soul bless the work you do 

with the secret love and warmth of your heart.

May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.

May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light 

and renewal to those who work with you 

and to those who see and receive your work.

May your work never weary you.

May it release within you wellsprings of 

refreshment, inspiration and excitement.

May you be present in what you do.

May you never become lost in the bland absences.

May the day never burden you.

May dawn find you awake and alert, 

approaching your new day 

with dreams, possibilities and promises.

May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.

May you go into the night blessed, 

sheltered and protected.

May your soul calm, console and renew you.

Isn’t that the loveliest work blessing ever?

I am so grateful, right now, for my tribe.

May I learn not to turn away from you and suffer in silence.  There is a time, I know, when I need to work in solitude, but I must remember that I am not ALONE.

Thanks for stopping by.

Sorry to blather on so long with this post.  I hope to begin posting regularly again in the new year and hopefully that will keep the posts a bit shorter.

Wishing you all a wonderful Yule, happy holidays, and may 2016 be your BEST year, yet.

Go easy ~p

8 Comments on “Looking forward…a writer prepares…

  1. Well, it is obvious you have been through a lot when it comes to your writing. I’d say you’re being too hard on yourself, but when it comes to writing, I’ve always thought people should be more critical of what they put out there. It sounds like you’re doing the best thing possible; setting up space to write alongside the right type criticism.
    All the best to you, and enjoy your holidays.

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts…you always give me much to think about and I’m feeling inspired. Go do what you do.

    • Huzzah for inspiration!
      You often provide me with the same, Sydney. I love the stuff you are doing around body image. You’re doing good good work for the world. Thank you.

  3. Hey Andrea – Sending you big wishes for a wonderful holiday as well.
    I’ve really been enjoying your pictures, though I don’t always speak up.
    Such a beautiful world you share with us.

    Thanks for stopping by.

    go easy ~p

    • Hey L – Thanks for popping over. Sending you a wave from the weeds.

      May your work go well ❤

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Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

Keeping the Dream

The Healing Journey and Covert Abuse

Starting Over

Because there's never enough time to do it right the first time but there's always enough time to do it over

Ailish Sinclair

Stories and photos from Scotland

Cathy Standiford

Historical fiction, poetry, essays

Keeping the Dream

The Healing Journey and Covert Abuse

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