The Creative Life is a Struggle – But it’s Worth it!

Enjoying the sun on the rooftops in Los Angeles at “Perch” a trendy downtown bar.

I’m a busy person without counting any of the writing I do. I look after my home and family, hold down a busy, complicated job four days a week as a fundraiser and event coordinator, and try to steer the Sunburst Award organization toward their goals. In addition I spend a lot of time crafting menus and shopping for groceries and making healthy foods, and looking after my physical fitness and managing my weight. Phew! Now I’ve even impressed myself.

Desert Sol House at Springs Preserve, Las Vegas.

 

 

Did I mention I am doing all this while coping with a chronic illness? I won’t go into details, because the efforts I make on the health and fitness front have helped me enormously with this issue. Life can be a struggle, and my life is no different than that of many others. I strive to learn, cope and manage so I can thrive.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco.

 

 

One thing I don’t do a lot of, is shop. I order stuff on-line and go for a clothing shop to one or two of my favorite spots and buy a season’s worth of items all at once. No strolling the mall for me!

So where do I find the time to write? I will tell you, it’s not easy, but if you have the bug, like I do, you owe it to yourself to find a way. There are gaps and corners in my schedule, and I’ve found times over the years I can dedicate to writing. In the morning before I go off to work for an hour or half, or when I come home in the afternoon for an hour when I’ve already made dinner on the weekend. And on the weekends when we don’t have social stuff on the schedule, traveling on a train, waiting for an appointment. Even on vacations when I get up in the morning or during the afternoon break from touristing, and of course, on the plane and in the airport departure lounge. I’ve included a few photos  below of our most recent trip to Las Vegas, San Fransisco and Los Angeles.

Palace of Fine Arts, San Fransisco.

I used to watch more television, and I think I still spend too much time on that. I try to make it a reward for the end of the day, when my work is done. But even when my schedule is wide open, I have to beware the challenges of procrastination that keep me from getting started. When I open my computer to work, I go to my browser and check my email and a whirlpool of ideas, offers, learnings and friendships awaits me, threatening to drag me away. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone that route, but as an hour or two goes by without any awareness, I end up chastising myself for following that rabbit down that hole. I should know better, really!

Historic Cable Car in San Fransisco.

I do, but I don’t. The fact is I knew it was a bad choice when I opened up my email program. I knew it when I just flipped to Facebook to see what was happening and who had liked my last post. I knew it when I started to check my calendar and my bank account and Amazon for deals. I do know this, yet I do it anyway. You see, I am avoiding the dragon that awaits me. The one that makes me doubt what I’m doing, that makes me struggle to resolve the issues my story has. No amount of hours of work or sweat and blood will ever overcome this. It deviates my intention and makes me feel the hours I spent avoiding the work have been totally wasted even if I had all of those things on my list to do.

The Golden Gate Bridge in the foggy distance.

I do sometimes win this battle. It helps if I start out right at the beginning of the day doing exactly what I intended. A little work right up front helps to grease the machinery of creativity and remind you that you can do it, and will. I prove it to myself in these times. It also subverts the evil procrastination monster that lurks in my office corner snarling at me. But I’ve also learned the reason why I use other activities as a way to avoid the hard work of creating: I have to do all of these other things too, and at least I know I can successfully accomplish them. My hope is that the sense of accomplishment I get from doing other tasks will propel me forward into my creative work.

Does this work? No! Why? Because I am still using these other activities as an excuse to avoid the really hard work. But the fact is, the writing is never as hard as it seems it will be. When I have been able to get the writing done first, I come to it with an openness that allows me to feel my way through the pitfalls of my plot and I find solutions and create excitement in myself. Even I don’t always know what my characters are going to do, I discover it as I go. It’s terrifying but exhilarating!

Sunset at the Griffith Observatory.

I’ve taken over a year to edit a novel at the story level because in part, it took me that long to figure out how to fix it. And I’m not done yet! Novel writing is a marathon of sorts. It takes stamina and sticktuitiveness. Yeah, I know it’s not a word, but one day it will be!

I need to learn how to make myself take charge and do the work. Even writing this post felt in some way like an avoidance of the work. At this point, everything feels that way, as if I need to be working on this project all the time, to the exclusion of everything else. I have read much from other authors about how they don’t do the laundry or dishes, which makes them a challenge to live with. I couldn’t function that way, but somehow, I need to find that balance. The place where creation and maintaining a life come together nicely. Until that happens, I will feel guilty and struggle with my demons.

We enjoyed a jazz concert at Disney Hall.

So why bother if it’s such a struggle? Good question. I guess perhaps because I need to do this. And really, when it’s working, it feels absolutely awesome. The ideas flow and for a brief time, I feel almost invincible. Not only do I find ideas come more easily, but the creativity spills over into my work life as well. The after-effects are quite amazing. With rewards like that, it’s hard to stop.

Disney Hall, Los Angeles, CA. Frank Ghery, wow!

Getting Out and About

I love to go to conventions. I’m lucky I have so many to choose from. Not only does my home town host several I enjoy that feature my genre and focus on literature, such as Ad Astra, but occasionally I find one nearby enough to be able to get to without too much hassle, and I have a loyal friend who usually wants to join me.

This year I’ve scheduled two out of town conventions: Can-Con in Ottawa, and World Fantasy Convention in mRzWkNeColumbus, Ohio. Both are heavily weighted towards literary concerns. Can-con is focused on Canadian content, which I totally support, and World Fantasy is more like a trade fair for authors. One can expect to see many of the luminaries there, as well as editors and agents and some very savvy readers. There will be no Klingons roaming the halls there as there might be at other conventions.

What I like best about attending these is the chance to meet other authors and to learn more about the trade, but also to hear what readers have to say. It’s even great when I get to do a reading or be on a panel. There’s nothing like pithy discourse in front of an audience on an interesting subject.

parliament-hill-ottawa_enIt’s also important from the point of view of creativity to get out of one’s environment from time to time. See new things, experience new tastes, sounds and sights, and be away. You can even do this in your own city as long as you go somewhere you haven’t been before.

 

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Once, a while back, I went downtown on a week day in the middle of the day to write at a little cafe there. It was such a great day and so summery and bright, I felt uplifted by it all, and took a bunch of pictures with the intention of blogging about it later.

Here is the train station downtown in Toronto. Since I live near a commuter station in the suburbs, I prefer to take this mode for a quick and convenient ride into the heart of Toronto. It’s under a major renovation, so everything is upside down on the inside, but it was nicely cleaned up on the outside for last year’s PanAm Games. There’s even a cool curved skyscraper in the distance.

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One thing that always inspires me is our CN Tower. It’s modern, tall and aspiring to greatness. Here it is, peering out between other tall buildings and against a bright summer sky.

 

 

 

 

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What really made me happy that day, as I walked along, enjoying the sun’s warmth and the bustle of the city, was the piano man.  He was playing some ragtime pieces on a piano that was set out by a special project.

This one appears to be moved in and out as needed, as you can see by the wheeled platform resting against it. I shudder to think of moving it in and out each time it gets used. I can’t imagine it was good for the tuning either.

Still, even a badly tuned piano can bring joy. It left me uplifted and when I reached my destination cafe, where I sat down in the very last available seat (serendipity, it must have been) and settled into a productive session of writing. In spite of the noise and the people, I found this environment more conducive to creativity than anywhere quiet in my home. It may not suit everyone, but this is what suits me, sometimes, at least. Getting out and about is good in general for your health, and even better for your creativity, even if you go home to do the work. At least you go home filled up with new energy.

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Why I Write

A long time ago, when I was a high school student, I had the chance to write my own stories during an independent study course I took in English. You can read about my experience here on wattpad.com.

I didn’t always write, for I had begun with art. I tended toward the visual in my earlier days, but the desire to express myself in writing was there early on.

mhY3004 In University I had an art show. I wrote a creation myth and illustrated it with watercolours and inks, and I showed it along with some of my photography. My show was called “Spontaneous Generation.” How pretentiously arty is that? I was eighteen, so I think I can be excused.

Later on, I managed to wrangle my way into a creative writing course, even though it wasn’t my major, but I dropped it in exchange for something else. In hindsight, it might have been a good decision. From what I hear, some people have very negative experiences in University writing programs. By their very nature, these tend to encourage students to be brutal critics of one another’s works in order to impress their teacher. I wouldn’t have lasted long if this had been the case.

Later on I got into non fiction. I wrote a book on volunteer management as part of the placement component of my volunteer management program. I published it with my placement supervisor, and our tiny publisher sold some copies, so it was novel (I know, silly pun) to be “published” however slight the book might have been.

But this isn’t answering my premise as stated in the title of this article. Why do I write?

Well, it seems I keep finding things to write about.

Writing is part sharing your opinions and ideas, part creativity, and part imagination. If you write fiction, you get to do more with that imagination part, and that’s the part I like best. It’s also the hardest part. Any creator, whether of film, photography, sculpture, theatre or dance, will likely suffer from the following affliction at some point: the concept in your mind doesn’t match the creation you have made. Or at least that’s what you think. I have found this to be true in writing as it is in painting and sculpture.

The fact is, confidence is wrapped up in all of this, and confidence is something that tends to be in short supply in the world. People need others to tell them that something is good in order to believe it. Writers often need editors to like their work and buy it before they feel that the work has merit. Don’t show it to your mother, whatever you do. She’ll either love it because she loves you, or tell you that you won’t amount to anything, depending on which sort you happen to be related to. Mine doesn’t want to see my work, likely because she’s afraid of falling into one of those categories.

I like writing because I get to go other places in my mind, creating other worlds, magic powers, new scientific discoveries, and so much more. I get to squeeze out my emotions in cathartic sessions of melodrama, inventing scenarios where my heroes and heroines get put through the ringer and survive. I need this, and I think people need to read this as well. People need stories where the protagonist prevails in the end, in spite of the odds, so that they can believe it will happen for them too, whenever they face adversity. Isn’t that a gift if you can offer it?

Writing is a gift to the people of the world. People who don’t share their work don’t get to enjoy this feeling, which is too bad. I get all warm and goosebumpy when my Wattpad readers beg me for the next chapter in my novel. I know I’m giving them something they want, and they’re craving more. This is good. Great, even.

Finally, I have to say that living a creative life has been important for my mental well-being. I’m a pretty solid and stable sort (comes from being the eldest, likely) but I think creating on a regular basis has elevated my creative ability, which has spilled out into all sorts of other areas, such as cooking, decorating and coming up with ideas, no matter what the context.

I think it’s sad when people have creative urges and get put down for making the effort. It takes time and patience to become good at everything, and writing especially. I will never bore of trying to improve, and there will always be things I need to learn, so writing has built in life-long learning, which is also a great thing for the mind and the spirit.

I still like the visual. I kept away from Pinterest for ages, knowing it would draw me in and take away my writing time, but now that I have an account, the world seems beautiful and endlessly vast. The vast visual world then turns into words for me, and I must, I have to… sit down and put the words on paper.

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Casting Your Characters – Images that Inform Writing

I don’t set out to create characters that look like actors, but I find it helpful to have images of some. I put them on my Pinterest board for the novel I’m working on, along with a bunch of links to sites I will use for reference (things like a diagram of horse riding tack items with names). I also occasionally search for an image of a place to help me, but because I write works about a fantastical world, I end up having a tough time finding anything that matches what my imagination came up with. This is also a reason I’m having a difficult time creating a book cover that really speaks to what my book is about. Here’s my board for Ungloved.

ungloved

My first cover, although very pretty, isn’t conveying that this is a fantasy novel set in another world, nor it’s epic nature. It does convey romance and has some of the hallmarks of a YA cover – purple background and a frilly graphic decoration.

Book covers need to tell readers what kind of book they will be getting. I had one made up when I thought my novel would fit in the Young Adult category, but I’ve since decided that it won’t work. It seems to say that one should expect a paranormal romance (read vampire love story) as opposed to epic fantasy with a serving of romance. It’s not that my cover couldn’t say those things if you looked at it hard enough, but on first glance, we’re trained to sum up what we see and categorize it in an instant, and in that moment, based on covers of books published in the past, my old cover doesn’t say what I need it to say. Imagine my readers begin, thinking the work will be set in the real world, only to find right off the bat that we are somewhere completely different. It won’t make them happy.

So back to characters. I love this part. Shaping a character is an art, like sculpture. (I majored in this in University!) but often it’s more like cooking for me than like stone sculpting. I take a pinch of personality trait from someone I once knew, a dab of something I saw on TV, mix it with a little more borrowed habits, and voila, I have a fully three dimensional (I hope!) person who will behave in interesting and captivating ways on the page. Whether I planned for it or not, these characters will force me to write their story the way they want it. For me, often writing is simply letting destiny happen.

So let me show you someone I made up from my own little noggin. Here is a character profile for the lead in “Ungloved”

LIRIEL GODEHERA

Role in Story: Lead

Occupation: Healer

Physical Description: Diminutive in size, pale complexion, shoulder length pale blond hair and misty blue eyes. Heart shaped face. Young but fully developed. I imagine Liriel looking a lot like Amanda Seyfried. She has a heart shaped face, big blue eyes and full lips. Liriel would be paler than a human, and her eyes a paler shade of blue. She is particularly petite.
Personality: Feisty and independent. Spirited and not easy to control. Marches to a different drummer. Is unwilling to follow the social conventions of her people, always trying to go against the grain. Thinks with her heart as much as her head. Is extremely intuitive.
Habits/Mannerisms: Liriel hates the gloves her people always wear, and takes every opportunity to pull them off. She is always tempted to touch things in order to learn more about them.
Background: Liriel’s father is King of Kalad. She has two older siblings, the very proper Selana, and the mercurial Valran. Her father is very distant with his children, so they have developed independently. Liriel is a recent graduate of the College of the Marukar, where Marulan are trained. She had difficulty during her training, since her methods were unorthodox, even though she achieved the same results as others. Liriel’s intuitive nature applies strongly to her healing, and therefore she never directly applies the teachings of her college. In addition, her power is greater than others realize, so she is always being told to conserve when she is certain she has more than enough, which creates conflict. The College is frustrated, but unable to kick her out due to her family connections, so the push her through quickly and pass her early so she can go out and work.
Internal Conflicts: Liriel’s contrarian nature makes it difficult for her to acquiesce and behave in an expected and acceptable manner. All of her choices seem to lead her away from a conventional life.
External Conflicts: Liriel just wants to be with Lorenzo. The war between their two countries makes this impossible.

 

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Going Viral

At first I didn’t believe it, but every hour when I checked my account, my novel “Ungloved” currently posted to Wattpad.com kept increasing in number of reads. Yes, people, I have readers! This is why most people write. So people can read their work. Of course, we are shy about how well it will be received, and we worry people will hate us for the opinions espoused in the work, but we do really want people to read what we write.

As I mentioned last post, the folks at Wattpad had agreed to feature my novel, which in simple terms means it goes to the top of their list of recommended works, so people actually notice it. After being there for a mere 5 days, the number of reads the work has garnered went from about 600 to nearly 5000. That’s like going viral.

The extra cool thing Wattpad does, it they provide a map showing where the people who have read the work come from, and a percentage for each place. Suddenly my map for this novel filled up with countries all over the world. How cool is that? Not only did 5000 people read (ok, it doesn’t quite work like that) but they live all over the world. I’ve pasted in the map with today’s pattern so you can see how amazing that looks. The darker the blue, the higher the concentration of readers.2015-12-15 21_47_36-Wattpad map

I should also mention that I visited the Wattpad offices last week in Toronto where I live. They are right downtown in a historic building with a real tech startup feel to the place. I was surprised to see how much of the staff were IT folks. Somehow that’s not what I imagined.

It’s been the week for visiting, because I was privileged to be able to visit the head offices of none other than KOBO Inc. My favourite people. I wish they will reign supreme in the digital book world, because they are nice people, think globally, are collaborative,  and best of all, they love books. Who can argue with that? The folks at Kobo Writing Life generously provide my favourite literary award, The Sunburst Awards, with tablets for all of our jurors, so they can read the e-submissions we receive. They are super supportive of self-published authors in so many ways. I plan to publish my work there when I’m ready, and will go through the extra trouble of setting up an account directly with them, rather than going the easy route and use Smashwords or one of the other distributors. It may be more work, but in the long run, it makes for a better working relationship between author and book selling platform.

At the moment you can find my novel, “Ungloved” on wattpad here. And if you like engaging military women, you might enjoy my latest offering, “Unsheathed” also on wattpad here. This work is in the process of being added, with a new chapter going up every week as I review the first draft and make edits. Both of these will end up with nice new covers and a full, professional edit on all the major online bookstores once they are ready, likely some time in 2016. A third novel, “Unravelled” is in the works.

Life is busy!

 

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Nanowrimo Update

While I had great intentions at the beginning of the month, I dashed off to World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga Springs, NY for four days of super social, authorly fun. Then my mother in law came for a visit, and my Sunburst Award work needed attention. Before I knew it there was only a week left and I was behind at only about 13,000 words. Then I got sick. I’m not looking for sympathy. It was what it was, but I still feel that I accomplished something in the progress of this novel so it was well worth doing the bit I did.

I had been struggling to find the plot and the right place to start as well as the best way to convey the inciting incident. Sometimes stories come to me in broken up parts, so it takes some thinking to piece together how the whole thing should flow. Like giving birth, sometimes it’s fast and easy, other times it’s wicked hard. I could look at this as a failure, but it does nothing helpful for me to try to destroy my self esteem over something I did some of instead of all of. I have nothing special to prove to myself–I won Nanowrimo twice already. Artistic people have to learn to encourage themselves, not criticize. It’s hard enough to do this without all the pressure we put on ourselves.

Some good news…my novel “Ungloved” was selected to be featured on Wattpad.com in about a week and a half. This will do much for the number of people who are actually able to find the work on this site. Even on a free site, it can be really difficult to get noticed! I also began posting my second novel, “Unsheathed” which hasn’t been noticed much yet, so the boost might affect it as well. I’d best be ready for the onslaught. I hear one gets a lot of comments at first.

I have been feeling super creative lately, though, and where I may not have made huge strides in the current novel, I wrote a short story and came up with a great idea for a world for my next series.

I very much want to include some of my art in this blog, but I have been so busy that I haven’t created any yet. It was my idea to sketch scenery and characters from my world and put them here. Perhaps one day, others will send me their own sketches which I can share as well. Fantasy can be very visual, and I love visual.

In the meanwhile, I offer up the map of my world as it currently stands. It’s a quick sketch, and I’m no map maker, but it was necessary for me to have that visual to write in this world. I may get someone to do a more professional version. I actually met a guy who was a professional cartographer or geographer recently. He said he could do something for me if I wanted. Of course, he will need paying, and I have an editor and eventually will have a cover designer, and well… you can hear the clink of coins as they leave my proverbial pocket. Preparing my first novel is going to be expensive.

So here it is: Estallium, the world which includes two kinds of people, The Hilliri, and The Trillas. And of course, there are also the Guardians, but they kind of don’t live in the world.

Map of Estallium

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Author Prepares for Nanowrimo!

In November I will commit novel.

Nanowrimo is a crazy idea that really works, at least for some…83,000 people who participated in 2014. It’s a month long, internationally used site that encourages people to try writing a novel in a month. Okay, only 50,000 words, which is a fairly short novel, especially if you write fantasy, as I do, but it’s a pretty good start.

I’ve done this successfully twice, and have two novels to show for it. Of course after the month is over, the novel is far from complete, but a first draft is a big deal, and then you have something to work with and the long task of editing begins.

Outlining is not considered absolutely necessary for Nanowrimo members, but I find it much easier to head out with at least a sketch of what I’m going to write. I hate staring at the blank screen wondering what happens next in the story. I’d much prefer to have some ideas to get me through.

This year I’ve decided to go one step further and take the time to do a very detailed outline. I’ve decided to apply a method to do this. I’m going with Shawn Coyne’s Story Grid method. He’s an editor who’s come up with this method to help authors find their issues with their own works when self editing, but I’ve decided if it’s good for that, it would be even better to start out with a grid and (hopefully) avoid some of those pitfalls in the first place. Will it work? I’ll let you know in a couple of months!

Update: I just find my way to this post from Chuck Wendig about outlining. Beware the salty language if that sort of thing bothers you, but he lists the many different outlining and the pros and cons of each of them in a  very long post. Very instructive.

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Share the SFF Love

sharing carrotThe Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF for short) community is an interesting space.

The first Worldcon I attended, the annual gathering of the tribes of fans, authors, editors and others who love the genre, made me realize how diverse and accepting these folks must be. Grandly large women proudly donned their plus-size corsets, fans dresses as Wookies, Storm Troopers, Klingons, and Sailor Moon, and a large contingent of people in various personal powered transportation devices made me realize that while people come in all shapes, sizes and abilities, we don’t always see them. In the halls of the convention hotel I saw them all come out and look comfortable doing so, their common denominator being the genre and a love of its offerings.

Of course, everyone getting along sounds kind of utopic. It’s not really that way all of the time. The point is that we try when so many others wouldn’t. We have, at least, bought into a principle, if not always acting on it.

So when the community gets fired up with angry blog diatribes and bitch-slapping takedowns, it polarizes people to one end or the other of the spectrum of opinions on the current topic, whatever that may be at a given time, and it gets nasty. The SFF community includes some very smart and very articulate people with some very divergent opinions. That should be considered a healthy thing. But we have to sometimes take a step back and look for the positive. Such was called for by author Alyx Dellamonica in this blog post. I would like to offer my contribution to the (hopefully) viral response to the latest, and really, to all controversies. Let the positivity flow.

I’d like to recognize: 

  • Guy Gavriel Kay for writing beautiful and brilliant work that inspires me to write better.
  • Julie Czerneda, who continually feeds burgeoning authors with encouragement and wisdom and a love of all things froggy.
  • Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory for bringing people together and exposing them to great authors and their work through their reading series and via Chizine Publications. I’m always impressed with their courage to continually push the envelope.
  • Sunburst Award founders Marcel GagneMelissa GoldPeter Halasz, and Diane Walton for caring enough to establish an award that highlights Canadian authors and their work in the area of literature of the fantastic. I know from communications with the winning authors how much the award itself means and how much the prize money has helped them to keep going with their work. Writing can be a lonely activity and the rewards a long way off from when we start a work.
  • My writing buddies at Bloor West Writers who share their insights on how to make my work better every single week — no holds barred!
  • Maaja Wentz, who sets the bar higher and shows me how much more I can do and write. Thanks for including me in your collective writing projects. It’s nice to know someone in the neighbourhood who shares the same interests!
  • The many volunteers who plan workshops and conventions for writers and readers, because it can be a difficult and time consuming job, and everyone’s a critic.

If you want to hear more about the great people of SFF, check out the thread labelled #SFFLove on Twitter. I encourage everyone who has felt some SFF love to consider adding their own post or tweet.

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Digital vs Print, or, Why I love E-books

ebooks-v-booksI spent several hours this morning clearing off space on my i-pad so I could use it again. Apparently, they have a very limited hard drive which fills up very quicky. My i-Pad is filled with images from my travels and reading. I was able to remove all the old books I had already read, so they now reside only in virtual space, although still available to me, in my Kobo account, and for my critiques for my writing group, online in our group file-sharing spot. Funny, that even though I went digital, I still need to make “space on my bookshelf.”

After completing my digital housekeeping I went to play on Facebook where I found this video from a Chilliwack based second hand book shop. It’s a music video style hommage to print books. The chorus chants “I’m all about the books, no Kindle” as the sweetly-dressed housewifish ladies dance and sing their praise of books. It’s cute, and it’s gone viral. Good PR for the local Chilliwack bookstore, I guess, but it does underline an issue that has been percolating for the last few years: which is better, print or digital books?

Full disclosure: I read a lot of digital books and very few print books. This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the beauty and craft in the making of a print book. I do, but as I have acquired devices to read on (a Kobo Touch and an i-Pad) my choice appears to be leaning towards digital these days, and I find I’m actually reading more.

It all started when I was having difficulty getting through one of my favourite author’s more recent offerings, which I had purchased in hardcover. It was a very thick book. My body was unhappy when I took it out to read. My shoulders complained, my back ached, and my neck got stiff. I had an idea to search out a digital copy from the public library. They had a copy, and in a few days I was done reading this novel with minial effort. I had lost track of where I was in the book, not having the thick pages to show me what I’d read and what was left to read. I took my reader to the gym and place it on the ledge of the cross-trainer as I pumped and sweated away (I made the type really large and put lots of space between the lines which helped make reading easier). I read in the waiting room during appointments and on the train when I headed downtown.

With the ease of reading increased so dramatically, and the number of places I could read as well, I decided to see what else on my bookshelves was available from the library. I began to increase my rate of reading (I’m a slow one) and blew through several big bricks in the next few months. I began to look for discounts on digital versions of books I already possessed if they were not available in the library. I bought as many as I could find at really discounted rates ( I did already own a print copy), and read them all in quick succession. I used both of my devices. It was great!

I still have shelves full of books, but I hesitate to add to my collection now, knowing that I’m more likely to read if I buy digital versions, and my husband, tidy freak that he is, will be happier if I collect less stuff too. But print books still call to me. They have pretty covers and nice ragged edges that speak of craft and the art of making, and I realize this is one way that people get drawn in. They fetishize the object. The book is valued beyond the content within the pages. I know people who collect books and never read them, most likely seduced by their beauty and the idea of being well-read. I guess I’m more practical than most, so I resist the urge to purchase the pretty book.

Some people hate electronics. they see people as possessed, using their phones and tablets in the subway and on the bus, or walking about the streets and think this is very wrong. I say it depends what they are doing on these devices. Are they playing Angry Birds ad infinitum and Facebooking meaningless drivel about where they are and what they’re eating, or are they reading Shakespeare and Tolstoy? Well, that may just be my snobby side showing, but I think it does matter what we do with our time as a culture. If we are reading, I can’t see how that can be bad, no matter what the medium (or content) is.

I will say this: there is a use for all formats, and some people will always prefer print over digital, and that’s fine with me. I still prefer to read textbooks and dictionaries in print, for example, although I tend to read recipies on my tablet now. It’s easier in some ways to navigate a print book, flipping pages to find your target. Digital books have the capacity to do things that print doesn’t do well–or at all. I can adjust the print to the size that suits me, a boon to my aging eyes, and digital books can have additional content, such as hypertext links to other stuff, or embedded video, something print just can’t do. This capacity gives books the opportunity to be something new and different, and I think that’s really exciting.

As always, technology creates new ways of working and living, and we all have to decide if we are going to jump on that bandwagon each time it comes around. Just don’t reject everything new outright. You may be missing an opportunity.

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Tweet Out! or, How I Learned About the Power of Social Media

Twitter-LogoI’ve been meaning to record this experience I had recently, since it’s hard to understand, without experiencing it, what the power of social media really is.

I like social media. I’m a social person. I’m even an extrovert, a less common animal in the author landscape, from what I’ve seen. I use a lot of social media, some better than others. I even use it in my work. I manage several twitter and facebook accounts and pages, and use Pinterest, LinkedIn and LiveJournal as well. Oh, and of course, a hootsuite account to manage it all.

Still, talking to people you’ve never met can be disconcerting. I must say, though, that my experience was utterly heart-warming. Here’s what happened…

As you know, I’ve been posting my chapters on Wattpad.com in an attempt to get some reader feedback and to use my commitment to posting once a week to get the novel through an edit. I had some help in the begining when a friend, Maaja Wentz, who is a little bit ahead of me in this process, dedicated a chapter of her work to me. This drove some traffic over to my novel which got a bunch of reads in the first few weeks. The trouble was, things had ground down to a halt.

I worried that my early few chapters weren’t grabbing people, and thus, few people were reading on to later chapters at all. I revised the first two chapters, just in case, but I wasn’t getting visitors any more. It’s the perennial problem for artists…how to get known?

Thanks to my friend Maaja, I had heard of a group of romance writers who use wattpad called the wattpad 4, and that they had a twitter chat scheduled every Monday night at 8pm EST. One day I managed to get my act together and get on twitter at the beginning of one of these chats. Maaja had showed me how to follow their hashtag in hootsuite to keep track of the discussion, or I would have been completely lost. I managed to make a few comments that were well received among the hundreds flitting across my screen that hour. They seemed like a good bunch.

The leader of the discussion, one of the 4, opened the floor at the end to questions from the group, so I asked how to get people to read my work. Several people offered up answers that were helpful mostly suggesting I read and comment on other works on wattpad. Fair enough, it is a social media, I remembered! When I mentioned that I worried my first few chapters were not grabbing people enough, people assured me that it just takes time. Like–one or two years!

Here’s the nice part…I was asked the name and link for my novel, which I provided, and before the discussion was wrapped up, my count on Wattpad jumped up 50 reads! Several people even posted comments on wattpad saying it was a good read, not to worry about the work. I didn’t even know that many people were following the twitter chat.

I have learned my lesson. Reach out and connect. Support to others when you can, share your experience, and ask when you need help. The world is full of giving people. It may surprise you. This experience restored my faith in human kind. Social media is for sharing with people you know, yes, but its also a way to reach out and meet new people, sometimes people who share your interests, or perhaps who know things you need to learn. Use it, and use it well.

Here’s where you can find me: Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest

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