What Sort of Writer are You?

Little hummer takes a break

Recurring theme – someone asked me a question the other day: What are you working on now? I just stared. With a definite uncomfortable squirm in my chair, I responded, “Nothing.”

In another era, I wanted to be one of those women who had specific days when they did household tasks. You know the type – geez, you might be the type! Bathrooms on Monday, floors on Tuesday, dusting on Wednesday. I was more the madly try to clean up everything on the same day because company was coming woman. I could be seen running around in a state, dusting with one hand and pushing a wet rag with my foot over the dirty floor. Hoping for the best – cleaning with a lick and prayer, so to speak.

When I’m confronted with the question of what I’m currently working on and the answer is – nothing – I get a similar feeling. I want to be one of those writers who writes consistently. Like Stephen Leacock out in his boathouse every single day from eight until noon without fail. But I’m not. I’m the write until I drop and then fall into the doldrums believing that I will never write again type.

At the beginning of my master’s program, I read a book about writing your thesis or dissertation in fifteen minutes a day. It sounded wise but it was something I knew in my heart I could never accomplish.

My grandma used to say – You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. There is truth to the belief that one thing can’t be another no matter the effort put into transformation. I can no more write on a consistent and specific daily schedule than I could clean that way or create a dissertation in fifteen-minute blocks. It simply isn’t me.

When I’m not feeling uncomfortable with this state of affairs, I celebrate it. This is the fallow time. This is the gathering time. This is the time when impressions, ideas and connections incubate and grow until they burst forth in writing fury.

But there is still a part of me that feels like the sow’s ear and not the silk purse. What do you think? How do you manage your writing? Is it a daily, disciplined endeavour or is it an all out writing fury? And let me know how your garden is growing? Ours is doing not too bad Smile 

How is your garden growing

Book Selling in Picturesque Telegraph Cove

Book Selling at Telegraph Cove

This past weekend, we were off to sell books at the annual Boardwalk Craft Sale at the Pacific Ocean playground of Telegraph Cove. Please check out the link to the Telegraph Cove website. You will be amazed at the variety of outstanding west coast wilderness experiences they offer. The video of the grizzly bear tours will take your breath away.

It may be best to let the images of the day tell this story!

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The morning started out heavy with mist.

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There isn’t a direction you can look in that isn’t picture worthy.

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We got a great shot of Sointula artist, Marian White at work.

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Kayaking anyone?

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Yvonne Maximchuk – book writer and watercolour artist set up a great display of her work. Her husband, Albert, is the potter! http://www.yvonnemaximchuk.com/

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A perfect location, great chats with so many book enthusiasts and reconnecting with many local North Islanders – components of a perfect selling day. It was heart warming to have many people walk by, point at my books and call out to me, “I’ve read the first two … just getting into the third.” And variations on that theme. Home town recognition is quite the thrill.

Where do you get your ideas?

Glass half full - Guenette photo

Recently, I was asked this question – How do you come up with the ideas for your books? The person asking was sincere in a desire to understand the inner workings of a novelist’s process. My first thought was that ideas are a dime a dozen. They’re everywhere, free for the taking. As Amy Tan wrote, “It’s a luxury being a writer, because all you ever think about is life.”

Neil Gaimon talks of how every profession has its pitfalls. Doctors are asked for medical advice, lawyers are asked for legal information, morticians are told how interesting their profession must be before the subject is quickly changed. Writers must bear the burden of being asked where we get our ideas from.

I scrambled to pull my thoughts together and make an adequate reply. I considered answering as Hemingway would. “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” From there all will flow. I rejected that idea. By quoting Hemingway I ran the risk of sounding like a literary snob and such an answer would have been unsatisfying to a sincere questioner.

Instead, I talked of how I spend a lot of time getting to know my characters. They are the ones who have all the ideas. I’m with Stephen King when he says that the best stories always end up being about the people, not the events. The only problem with this answer is that it begged the next question. Where do the characters come from?

Where indeed? Even after five forays into creating characters and stories that fill whole books, the process is as much a mystery to me as it might be to someone who has never done it. Fair to say, as Chuck Palahniuk notes, “My writing process isn’t a very organized thing.”

The more I think about how the books came to be, the more the indefinable nature of the work strikes me. It’s almost as if I have fallen victim to a strange reflective amnesia. Where on earth did those first characters in Disappearing in Plain Sight come from? I just don’t know. E.L Doctorow tells us, “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.” He might have been wise to add that when looking in the rear-view mirror, one can see nothing at all.

The writing process is a hard thing to discuss. Virginia Wolfe had it right when she reflected that, “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of … life, every quality of … mind is written large in his [or her] words.”

All I know for sure is that all my life I’ve wondered about people. I’ve always been curious and I’ve always been prone to wild bouts of speculation. Questions of ‘what if’ have often driven my thoughts.

Maybe George Orwell has the answer. “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one weren’t driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Orwell could have also noted that having to talk about such a process is worse than going through it!

A new bird in town - Guenette photo

No Compass to Right–Stepping Out

Garden Chives - Bruce Witzel photo

Hodge Publishing’s Mari Howard, author of Baby, Baby and the Labyrinth Year (check out my Amazon review!), has read and reviewed the entire Crater Lake Series. Here’s her endorsement for the latest book’s Amazon page:

Gentle, compassionate storytelling, inclusive and character-led. ‘No Compass to Right’ is a compelling, warm, and delightful book. I loved it.

Hodge Publishing has provided a thorough and thoughtful critique of No Compass to Right over on their website under their – What we’re reading – section. The review contrasts the experience of reading my novel at the same time as Joanna Cannon’s, Goats and Sheep. In the case of this review, contrast definitely leads to depth. Many thanks. Please hop over and check the Hodge Publishing site.

Book Sale Table for Canada Day

Bruce had to pinch hit for me at a selling event in Port Alice on Canada Day. I was away in High River, Alberta with family. I think he did a super job with his table. He even provided a flowering plant and a baby pic of the missing author. Now that is dedication to a cause.

Home and Happy

Clematis in full bloom

Will you look at that clematis in full bloom right outside the kitchen door! Wow!

It’s been two weeks since I came home from my travels in southern Alberta. From the land of rolling fields of canola, rodeo broncs and shiny buckles, cowboy culture and prairie winds to my Vancouver Island, lakeside cabin. I had some wonderful time with kids and grandkids. Life is good.

Kristen and Me

Me and my lovely daughter, Kristen enjoying music in the park.

Canada Day Cuties

My Canada Day cuties – Emma and Brit.

High River rodeo

They’re wearing that Alberta look well – daughter – Kristen, son-in-law – Matt, and granddaughters – Emma and Brit.

So – enough of holiday antics. I thought I’d share a few highlights from the last couple of weeks at home.

Fresh Salad Greens

Fresh salad greens from the garden is a big treat! The lettuce, radishes, baby kale and chives make an attractive side dish.

Garden

Lots of work for the head gardener but it sure pays off.

Lower Garden

Vegetables aren’t the only thing in the garden these days.

Oh my, bear and Buddha

Bear and Buddha – east meets west Smile

Bear and apple tree cha, cha, cha Bear and apple tree – cha, cha, cha. For this dance the bear is definitely leading.

Bleeding Heart

The last of the Bleeding Heart in the woodland garden.

2017 Wild West Rodeo – Making Memories Alberta Style.

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Guy Weadick Days in High River, Alberta – Pro Rodeo, WPCA Chuckwagons, food trucks and … stop the presses right there. What more can you ask for?

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I lunched on pirogues smothered in caramelized onion, bacon and sour cream. Wow, oh wow!

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Rodeo and chuckwagons are an integral part of High River history and this prairie town knows how to host a bang-up event.

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Guy Weadick, the man the High River Rodeo is named for, is the father of the Stampede tradition in Canada. He came to Fort McLeod in 1904 and fell in love with the area. In 1908, with wife Florence La Due at his side, the pair came to Calgary as part of the Miller Brothers Wild West Show. Guy organized the first ever Calgary Expedition and Stampede in 1912. He went on to introduce the sport of Chuckwagon Racing to the Stampede in 1923.

Guy and Florence Weadick

Guy and Florence lived west of High River on the Stampede Ranch. They brought Hollywood to the Highwood through their friendships with Will Rogers, Hoot Gibson and Charles Russell. Guy was laid to rest in the High River Cemetery in 1953.

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All of the Pro-Rodeo events were exciting but my granddaughters and I loved the barrel racing best!

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The Chuckwagon Races have always been a big hit in High River. Since first run in 1946, the town’s enthusiasm for the heart-stopping competition has never faded. I can attest to that fact. The crowds were packed in for the Sunday running and the boot stomping excitement when those chucks rounded the last corner shook the huge grandstand.

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During a break in the rodeo action, granddaughter Brit took a fall and scraped her knee, drawing blood. A medical attendant was on the scene in moments. Like I said, a well-organized event!

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I can’t end this blog without reporting on the first event of the day – Woolie Bucks. Kids chase after sheep to snatch envelopes of prize money from their backs. Only at the rodeo, as the saying goes.

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A few last minute instructions and the race is on.

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The sheep were stiff competition but no match for these little cow pokes.

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Run like you stole that money off the back of a sheep!

We recently looked back on the one-year anniversary of the day my daughter and her family sold their home in B.C. and made their way to High River, Alberta. Trepidation was high for Bruce and I. We wondered how this change would effect all our lives. I am happy to report that things have come out as right as B.C. rain. The community of High River has been a special treat for all of us – welcoming and packed with all a young family with growing kids could want as well as special events grandparents can enjoy!

Rodeo days 1

Yee-haw!

Enjoying the Forest

Spruce Bay old growth forest, April 10, 2010 - bruce witzel photo

When you write a book, you spend day after day scanning and identifying the trees. When you’re done, you have to step back and look at the forest. (Stephen King)

Forest trail - Guenette photo

Stephen King’s words caught my eye this morning. I’m gearing up for life after the completion of my latest novel and I feel plagued by all the emotions that go along with the ending of any major project. I brought a ragtag and often chaotic assortment of threads, ideas and character voices into being through writing, rewriting, editing, proofing and formatting. I produced a book that I feel confident to launch into the world. Finishing such an endeavour is cause for celebration and, at the same time, leaves me feeling at loose ends. It is indeed time to step back from scanning and identifying the trees to look at the forest.

View from the repeater tower (2)- Bruce Witzel photo

Time to enjoy the fruits of my labour, celebrate the accomplishments and move on! Sounds like a plan.

Crater Lake Series promo photo

How do you cope with the ending of a major project? Jubilation, conflicted emotions, uplifted, let down?