A wink of purply-blue

Today I found these little beauties that had somehow popped up in our winter-ravaged, ragged-looking lawn:

I’m not sure what it is. A wildflower? A weed?

Whatever it may be, these small winks of purply-blue spell S-P-R-I-N-G!

And they gave me prickles of hope. Hope for warmer weather, hope for more green, more colours overall, more warmth, and more sun. 

Hope for a thaw.

A thaw from winter. A thaw in my brain from the icy plug that has slowed my words to a mere trickle these past weeks.

Hope that these small winks of purply-blue also spell T-I-M-E-T-O-W-R-I-T-E. Hope that I will carve myself out some time amongst the busy-ness that is small children and puppy and 9-to-5.

The purply-blue gives me hope that I can do it. That the words will flow again. That a balance of patience, perseverance, and persistence is what I need.

I have already written this much–hooray! I have snatched a moment of playing children and napping puppy to breathe upon the page (or screen). And it feels great. Like going for your first run of the season and remembering how good it feels. Realizing how much you missed it and how you want to feel it again and again and again.

Inspiration can come from small places.

Thank you, dear little flowers. 

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A lovely rejection

Can rejections possibly be positive? Even inspiring? Check out the following rejection I received in my inbox yesterday:

Dear Dana,  

I so appreciate the opportunity to review your book – it’s important work! – but am sorry to say that it’s not quite right for my list at the moment. I encourage you to continue developing your work and reaching out to agents. 

Thanks for being in touch, and best of luck in your search for representation.

A rejection that actually motivates me to write more! What a blessing. Thank you to the anonymous agent. And thank you, universe.

No pencils allowed

So I got a sketchbook and a set of artist pens for Christmas. One of the first things that went through my mind was: I need to get some pencils.

Why?

Because with pencils you can go back and erase any mistakes. You can try again. And again. Until you get it right. Then you can trace over the “right” drawing with the pens.

If you make a mistake with a pen, you’re screwed! You can’t erase! You can only scratch it out or mark over what you initially put on the page and it looks messy and horrible.

Or does it?

Maybe another way to see it is that mistakes made in pen reveal your process.

Maybe you have to just accept the “imperfection” and just keep drawing.

These thoughts reminded of a writing process I heard about where you don’t go back and fix anything; you just keep writing. The Delete Key is forbidden. The first order of business is to get that draft onto the page. Editing is for later.

I admit I have never written like this. Instead, I tinker. I play with a sentence over and over, deleting and rewriting until I think I get it right. I admit it makes for slow writing.

I hesitated before I scrambled for a pencil for my sketchbook: I know I would tinker with my drawings, too. I would erase and erase and draw over and draw over until the sketch was “right.” But then how long would it take me to finish one sketch? Days? Suddenly sketching seemed a lot less fun and a lot more work.

So I decided that the pens are all I need. I will draw without an eraser. No pencils allowed. If I make a mistake, that’s okay. It’s a sketchbook, not a commissioned piece of art! And it won’t be on public display, except for the excerpts I may choose to post from time to time.

I think that will be my New Year’s resolution: to fill up my sketchbook using only pens. There’s 240 pages in the sketchbook so that gives me some wiggle room if I am unable to sketch each and every day. But no pencils allowed! Mistakes will happen, and I will let them be.

Here is the first drawing I did in the book. I admit I concentrated really hard NOT to make a mistake. Which is probably cheating…?

Then my daughter wanted me to draw her doll. I try not to twitch when I see how poor of a replication it turned out to be and that I can’t go back and erase things like that smaller eye…

 

But I shall breathe and accept and keep turning the page. Art is a process.

Sometimes a kick in the pants feels good

This weekend I attended CANSCAIP’s Packaging Your Imagination conference. It was my first time attending the event and it certainly won’t be my last. Inspiring talks! Tons of information and advice! And a particularly special component: the One-to-One Evaluations.

I submitted a partial manuscript to be evaluated by one of the conference’s selected editors from a Canadian publishing house. I would receive a 15-minute consultation and feedback. 

The moment I submitted my work online before the conference I thought, “Yes! I need this! It will be awesome!”

My thoughts as the clock ticked down to my scheduled consultation time: “What was I thinking? What I submitted is crap!

Well, deep down I knew it wasn’t necessarily crap. But there was a niggling feeling in my gut that the work I submitted lacked something. Maybe a big something. And I couldn’t put my finger on it.

A little shaky and a lot nervous, my scheduled time came. I listened to what the editor had to say. He asked a lot of questions, all of which I answered (phew!), and then he gave some advice.

And then a funny thing happened: he verbalized that “something” that was missing from my work. I won’t go into the gory details but I walked away a lot less nervous and a lot more determined. Re-write. And read. Read, read, read.

So thank you to the editor and for CANSCAIP for giving me the kick in the pants I needed. My work is not crap, but a work in progress.

The Starbucks cinnamon is gone again…

Here are seven reasons why it is a bizarre night here in Starbucks:

  1. After I placed my order the barista asked me, very sincerely, “And how was your day today?”
  2. The cinnamon is gone. Did that cinnamon-stealing kid I saw a few weeks ago strike again?
  3. A couple brought a huge, adorable dog into the shop. The couple had a hushed but heated argument. Then they left (with their dog).
  4. There is a family reunion of sorts occurring at the table beside me.
  5. A teenage girl just came into the shop wrapped in a big Franklin the Turtle blanket.
  6. I am bored with the story I am writing. Not a good sign. 
  7. I have an urge to read a trashy romance novel.

The night is getting interesting. Should I order another coffee?

November reminds me of oatmeal

It’s November. Where I live it can be a pretty dreary month.

  • It’s dark when you wake up and dark at dinner time.
  • Clouds. Lots of grey clouds.
  • Most people (especially those with small kids) are hungover from Halloween.
  • There’s no statutory holiday! What’s with that?
  • It is spelled: W-I-N-T-E-R-I-S-C-O-M-I-N-G.

November reminds me of oatmeal. You need something that warms the belly yet it is downright void of flavour on its own. 

Don’t get me wrong–I love oatmeal! But I gotta add something to it. I usually add cinnamon and berries. Cocoa is good, too. What can we add to November to liven it up?

  • My husband’s birthday! And the birthdays of everyone else who was born in November! Birthdays are awesome.
  • Poppies. To remember. And also to appreciate their vivid redness and beauty.
  • It’s NaNoWriMo:National Novel Writing Month! I’m going to try to write a whole novel by November 30. Why not try? Courage! My personal weaknesses: perfection and self-editing. For me, this NaNoWriMo will be about writing with abandon!
  • This month is CANSCAIP‘s Packaging Your Imagination conference. It will be my first time attending and I’m über-excited.
  • Oh yeah, there’s an election happening in the USA. Depending on your views, this might be like adding arsenic to your oatmeal…

So there we go. November ain’t so bad, with copious cinnamon and berries.

Hope (and walks and whooshing parachutes)

A few days ago I received a response from the Publishing World that was positive.

Not an acceptance, but a respectful nod in my direction, so to speak.

A baby toe in the door.

It was something to celebrate. A whoosh of elation. But I held back from becoming a complete happy hurricane.

Sort of like a big, colourful parachute that kids play with: it is whooshed up into the air–look at it go!–but held down by hands that don’t want it to flutter away, out of control.

Up and down the parachute is whooshed, and up and up the heart fills with a light joy. 

The parachute can fly, certainly, but there is something very special in the whooshing.

Or like walking through the woods and you see light streaming through the trees. In itself the light it beautiful, but you know that if you keep on walking you will eventually get to a clearing where the sun shines brightest.

Eventually…right?

I’ll keep on walking. Because the walking itself is something to cherish. 

On saying good-bye and moving on

I recently took a deep breath and sent out a piece of writing I worked on for a while. It feels like saying good-bye to a good friend who will be gone for a long time. And they don’t have a cell phone or access to internet so you can’t keep in touch with them.

I miss my regular early morning coffee with them. I sit down at the dining room table and they’re not there. They’ve gone off on an adventure to “find themself.” And I’m left all alone, to figure out what to do from here. Maybe I’ll hear from them eventually, and maybe I won’t. It’s the not knowing that hurts.

I reminisce about exploring together, tinkering together, and finding meaning together. My heart aches a bit. But it wasn’t always fun or exhilarating. Sometimes is was hard. Sometimes we didn’t know what to say and just sat there at the table or at the coffee shop and tried to avoid eye contact. Something was blocking us and we had to dig deep to find out what it was. Or we had to take a little break from each other. But we always came back together. I cared too much not to.

Now there is the possibility that they might not come back. Or they might come back changed, in a heart-wrenching way.

I think about moving on, about finding another friendship. But “it-won’t-be-the-same” holds me back. 

So I stare at my screen, Googling desperately for anything of interest, while my coffee gets cold.

There is one kernel of a new friendship that could develop. Potentially. I found it the other day. Do I take the leap?

I’m still haunted by the one who is somewhere out there. But at the same time, I hate drinking coffee by myself.

My recent dilemma

I’ve been at a loss for words lately. I started a story and I don’t know where to go from where I left off!

A girl named Violet found a door on the side of a tree. Apparently it belongs to a fairy named Spark. Violet’s father can’t see the door. And a cat started talking to Violet, telling her to visit the fairy.

What happens next? I have no clue!

Violet certainly won’t be able to resist visiting the fairy. But what is the fairy like? The cat said he was mischeivous. In what way? Does he have magical powers? Will Violet like him? What does he look like? What does the inside of his house look like?

In any good story the main character must want something more than anything in the world. What does Violet want? Her mother hasn’t appeared in the story anywhere yet…I have a feeling Violet’s mother has something to do with what Violet wants. But I could be wrong.

Importantly, I’d like to avoid cliches. Face it, there are a LOT of fairy stories out there. How can mine be original? Not that I want to write the next Peter Pan, but I just want to make my story…different, in a good way.

So, my brain simmers and sputters over this dilemma of where the heck my story is going. It will be a surprise for all of us!

What if academic journals included comics?

Yesterday I received copies of the journal in which I was recently published (hooray!). It is an article I worked on with several colleagues at the School of Pharmacy at the University of Waterloo about the personal influenza (flu) immunization rates of Ontario pharmacists. Basically, of the 780 pharmacists who took our online survey, 70% said they were vaccinated against the flu.

We decided to include an advocacy piece to encourage more pharmacists to get vaccinated. We worked with Sante Communications Group and they suggested designing a comic. Here is the finished product that ran alongside the article in the journal:

(The fact that Jenny looks a lot like me is purely coincidental!)

It was very cool of the Canadian Pharmacists Journal to publish our comic. And it got me thinking: what if academic journals ran more comics like this? Although they are expensive to print, they could certainly provide online versions. And some academic articles lend themselves to visualization more easily than others. It would take more time to publish the research as well, considering the effort involved in illustration and design.

But would readership be affected in any way? Would the public be more interested in perusing the journals? 

Would academics welcome some comics in their reading? Like a graphic novel version of the journal? Or would it be mostly interpreted as “dumbing-down” their research?

I’ve always valued presenting science in a form that is easy to understand for the public. It really forces you to identify the key points and bottom line(s) of the research.

Just some things to think about. In the meantime, kudos to the Canadian Pharmacists Journal for going out on a limb! 

Now perhaps it’s time for me to work on a graphic novel. 🙂