Category Archives: The Writing Process

Communication: Avoid a Breakdown!

The Writer’s Midwife is currently undergoing changes! Ch-ch-ch-changes! However, we are still conducting local workshops as we design the online courses. If you would like to stay current with us, please go to http://www.thewritersmidwife.com/ and sign up for our emails. We are sending weekly newsletters with many awesome tips for writers and would love for you to stay part of the community!

 

Thank you for all of your support!

 

~Samantha

sb08

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Poetry, The Writing Process

Book Addiction. Are you a Pro or an Amateur?

I have a problem. Book buying has become an addiction. Another shelf has been added to the already limited wall space in our open-concept home. The new shelf puts it up to five bookshelves in our house. Two and a half are dedicated to fiction, one to children’s books, one to spiritual-minded or self-enrichment books and half of a book shelf is dedicated to poetry plus a couple of poetry baskets on the floor by the fireplace . This doesn’t include the books that are stacked on coffee tables, side tables and night stands. Books take over my house. But you know what? It makes me happy. Yes, I did say I have a whole shelf dedicated self-enrichment and spiritual books and many of those are Eastern philosophy.  Therefore, I get that ultimately “things” cannot make you happy. However, perhaps it is the ideas in the books, the connection to the authors on some level, the creativity and inspiration that pours out with every inky word. When it is a rainy day environmentally or internally, I head to a book store or library for solace (Libraries are the best because books can follow me home every time without any bank account guilt!). Two of the independent bookstores in Calgary have actually curbed my addiction by encouraging me to hold books until I have read a couple ha ha! I get asked that a lot, have you read any of the books you have bought? I am reading all the time, usually twelve on the go at one time. Here’s the thing I am beginning to notice: Although I have a library in my house with so many to choose from when I finish one, the books find me at the right time.

Exhibit A: Overflowing bookcase

Exhibit A: Overflowing bookcase

 

The Writer’s Midwife is in the process of growing wings and expanding to offer online courses by the summertime. Currently, I am enrolled in b-school and it begins tomorrow. It is an eight week online business course that helps you launch your online business. We were sent bonus material to begin our journey and one of the things Marie Forleo talked about in one of her videos was the book The War of Art  by Steven Pressfield. Ding! I knew I had that book somewhere! I had never even cracked it open but I had it for years. Twenty minutes of searching and I found it! I read the part Marie was talking about on being and amateur vs. a professional. This section of the book hit me between the eyes. Basically, Pressfield defines a professional as someone who shows up everyday. I show up to my mat everyday to do yoga. That’s great for my mind, body and soul, but writing? Writing and procrastination go hand in hand for many and I am one of them…until now. I am tired of being “The Writer’s Midwife” but cannot birth myself on the page day after day. I have been an amateur. Now, I am showing up to the page every day. This blog doesn’t even count. It needs to be journaling or creative. Moving me towards the poetry book I so desperately want to publish.

When I teach yoga, I highlight whether or not the practitioners are cheating on their mats. Are they actually lowering themselves to hover in Chattaranga Dandasana? Or are they making it look like they are as they swoop into Upward dog when it was about to require  a lot of strength? The same can be applied to the page and I will not allow myself to cheat by blogging or making notes about a book I am reading. While those things are important, they will not get me closer to the book I want to birth.

Pictures taken by Jamie Hyatt Photography

Pictures taken by Jamie Hyatt Photography

I had the amazing opportunity to meet and hug and hang out with Chris Hadfield. Just being around him “lifts” you up. He is the hero you want to meet. After meeting him and reading his book, he taught me a valuable lesson in turning dreams to manifestation. From the time he was a child, he asked himself whether an astronaut would make the decisions he would make. Would an astronaut eat ice cream or broccoli? He ate broccoli. Would an astronaut sit on the couch eating potato chips and watching t.v. or would he/she run around the block? Hadfield would run around the block. Would a writer answer the phone in the middle of  a writing session? Or would they ignore it? Would the writer write after the kids go to bed or watch t.v.?

It all depends on whether you want to be a pro or an amateur. I’m pretty sure I have my answer.

4 Comments

Filed under Books, The Writing Process

Coming out of the Closet: A Few Tips on Getting your Writing Out There

Today I walked into my mom’s grade three classroom with my two-year-old. She was the hit of the day, distracting them from Math. A welcome change. Immediately the hands started flying up to ask me questions. I assumed they would be toddler related questions about her development, the words she can say etc. Instead, they were all questions about poetry and writing. How many books have you written? How many poems have you written? How long have you been writing? And my personal favorite, what does it take to be a writer? Funny what getting published will do. I was always told that publication is just another hurdle, not the definition of being a writer. It comes with its fair share of challenges, namely the pressure to write more and perhaps “better” than before. I am an infant in this industry. I recognize that and am willing to learn all I can. However, what I am discovering is that it feels pretty good to be recognized by a literary magazine. It feels even better that it is a Canadian literary magazine. Signing the publication agreement sent me soaring and I have written more than I have in a long time. It has handed me motivation like I haven’t had before. A person doesn’t have to be published to feel this kind of flight. There are a few things you can do to take your writing on a date and try it out in the public eye:

1.) Open Mic Night

Pretty much every city has some form of spoken word open mic nights. This is great way to meet new people in the community and try your poetry out in front of an audience. Poets are really lovely people (at least the ones I’ve met) and they have all been there. They are your friends that you haven’t met yet and they will give you delicious feedback on where your work could potentially take you. If you are in the Calgary area you will want to check out Sheri-D Wilson and the Spoken Word Fest on Facebook or Single Onion, they have monthly open mic nights.

2.) Writing Workshops

I know we (the midwives) are totally biased on this one, however, writer’s workshops are a community and most of them require you to share your work. They are a great way to network and add to your writing toolbox. Besides The Writer’s Midwife, the Alexandra Writer’s Centre and the Alberta Writer’s Guild are two places we recommend getting a membership!

3.)Read Literary Magazines

Go out today and buy a few prospective literary magazines you can imagine your work appearing in. This will give you a better idea of what kind of writing they are looking for. Plus, you get to support these wonderful magazines! My favorite book to check out all of the literary magazines and agents in this country is The Canadian Writer’s Market. It has everything you could imagine knowing about where you want to send your work away.

4.) Send your Polished Work to a Magazine

You can use manuscript editing services through different writing organizations before you send your work away. The Midwives will even offer it! Many writers we know choose not to take this step and we understand it’s scary! However, blasting through the fear is part of the deal. The world deserves to see your work. It is liberating to send a piece of writing away. It is almost like giving it legs, or better yet, wings. If you receive a rejection letter, you have just joined the ranks of many, many authors who even make collages with theirs. It is also part of the deal. Try your best not to take it personally, there are many reasons a magazine may reject your work and it’s not always personal.

These are just a few tips to bring yourself out of the closet. Allow your writing to expand to a bigger audience. All in all you will know when you are ready. We would love to hear about your publishing stories or your rejection stories. Feel free to comment and share with us.

 

3 Comments

Filed under The Writing Process

Being Published. A Call to Celebrate.

There is cause for celebration for this midwife! This month alone not one but two of my poems were published. They have yet to emerge into the world but the approval has happened and one will appear online and one will be in the winter edition of one of my favorite literary magazines, Freefall. A lot of writers have told me along the way have minimized what it is like to be published. Almost as if it is a mere blip in life’s excitement meter and then it’s back to the grindstone. I agree that there is still writing to be done after a poem has grown wings and made its way into the world, but there is also reason to celebrate. It is a milestone. It feels like I’ve been put on the map and for some reason it makes me want to write more and more.

Perhaps the recognition is situated in that egoic place we all have, but it still feels good. I, for one am going to enjoy it to the fullest. After all, it’s all temporary anyway. I was also asked by the founding member of the RE: act collective in Calgary, Dymphny Dronyk, to be a featured reader in this years Poetry Shuffle. I was honoured. The Poetry Shuffle is a unique event where we start in one part of the city and make our way for 5 km to another part of the city, stopping along the way and listening to various poets at various venues. The theme this year was poems about Calgary and the flood. We followed our beloved Bow river all the way down to Inglewood where the Bow and Elbow rivers meet. Most of the places we read at were affected by the flood and at the time of some of the poems the construction on the river played like an orchestra in the background. For me, it was a pilgrimage and with every step we took, I fell more and more in love with this city. As we followed the river I felt a lot of healing taking place on many levels. It wasn’t just a poetry event.

Poetry shuffle reading 2 Poetry Shuffle reading

I had the pleasure of reading in the Central library that was flooded in June and opened it’s doors only a few short weeks ago. This particular venue had a microphone, which intimidated me a little, but it also had coffee and cookies so it all worked out in the end. I was so nervous the yoga teacher came out in me and I had to get the audience to take a couple deep breaths with me. They willingly obliged. As synchronicity would have it, I also had the pleasure of reading with my long-time mentor, Richard Harrison. I have been working with Richard for almost seven years now and he was my professor in many of my English classes in University. There were some moments that felt surreal for me.

Richard Harrison and the Central Library Crowd

Richard Harrison and the Central Library Crowd

Fall 2013 Poetry Shuffle 323

Today,  I am still riding the high from that event. I feel changed by the poetry community, by the river, by this beautiful city. I am so glad I am a part of it. Tonight let’s raise our glasses to milestones, to recovery, determination and community. Calgary, thank you for being my city.

The Bow 10th St. Bridge

The Bow 10th St. Bridge

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, The Writing Process

Poetry Does Float

During my vacation in Penticton, B.C., I met a woman who owned a clothing store and after a small hiatus from writing, she pointed me in the direction of The Courage to Create by Rollo May. I was able to get this 70′s gem from the library and am in the midst of carefully reading it since it is in rough condition. Rollo May speaks of the ways we limit ourselves and how we can stop. I haven’t read that far into it, so I don’t have the answers yet. However, the desire to release any limitations in my writer-self has brought some strange experiences my way…

I was fortunate enough to volunteer at When Words Collide, an annual Calgary literary event. As I spent four hours at the Alberta Writer’s Guild information table, not only was I surrounded by delicious looking books, but I was able to meet many interesting people/authors while I was there. One of the women who greeted me was a poet and she bravely asked if she could recite a poem for me. I willingly obliged and she began to read me a poem titled, “Body Image”. I have had my fair share of issues on this topic and here before me was a woman reciting to me with everything she had about how she was reclaiming power over her curves. I grinned from ear to ear as I listened and gave her wild applause when she was finished. She had brought together an vulnerable topic, brought forth through a vulnerable form of art and she walked up to a total stranger and expressed herself fully. I felt as though her poem was speaking directly to me, and I made a connection with her that day. We exchanged information and she graciously gave me her published book of poetry.

My view at When Words Collide

My view at When Words Collide

Yesterday, I was able to go to a free all-day workshop with our poet laureate, Kris Demeanor. It was called, Poetry Floats. My friend notified me about it at the last minute and the Universe conspired to get me there, including the availability of babysitters. I spent all day writing poetry, talking about form and was able to release it to the fountains at Olympic Plaza. I was in the company of a variety of people who had life stories better than fiction. A room full of people searching for creative freedom, and at the end of the day, one of them approached me. She was someone who translated poetry from the 1500′s into English and set it to classical music. She had her training in classical music and works at the conservatory in the museum. She asked me how long I had been writing and said she could tell that my work was more mature than the others she thought. I was shocked and pleasantly surprised, since I thought everyone in the room had amazing talent. Earlier in the day, she had mentioned a quote that said:  ” To finish a painting is to kill it.” She also said that there was a tradition where ladies of a particular culture leave one mistake in the quilts they make as a gesture to be humble before God. In that moment, I realized I had been trapped in perfectionism. Perhaps the poems I write will never be finished and that is OKAY! It was a revelation. All of this time I have been trying to meet the caliber of the other poetic voices that float around in my brain that aren’t mine. All of this time I have been trying to perfect each poem, instead of getting it to where it asks to be. Right now I am abandoning “not good enough” and transforming it into “this is art”, “this is enough”, “I feel great creating!”.  In little more than a day, this has opened up a part of me that is filled with poetry and I cannot get the words out fast enough like a flood, and you know, poetry does float.

Poetry Boat Stays Afloat

Poetry Boat Stays Afloat

NOTE: Registration for our workshops is still OPEN! If you want to register, comment on this blog or email us OR if you want more information check out the workshops tab on the home page.

3 Comments

Filed under Poetry, The Writing Process

You Call Yourself a Writer?

I am currently reading Therese Anne Fowler’s Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Fictional or not it is always a fascination of mine to be taken into the world of some of the great writers. The appeal of writing and writers is that it is such a vulnerable act that humanness bleeds through everything they commit to paper.

Image

The Fitzgeralds via google images

A topic part of the book explores through Zelda’s eyes is how one knows whether or not they are a writer. Zelda asks Scott about this question and he says he knew he was a writer because without it he would cease to exist. Through our writer’s workshops, which is comprised of 100% women, many struggle with whether they can attach “writer” to their identities. We have many preconceived ideas about what a writer is. We categorize and often venerate or glorify what it means to be a writer and stop ourselves from attaching it to ourselves. One workshop, we had a homework assignment where people were required to tell total strangers that they were writers. The assignment was difficult for many and they felt as if they were lying or fraudulent. The strange thing was they thought of themselves as writers enough to take a writing workshop. I am guilty of the same thing. One of the main things I tell myself is that I am not a writer because I am not published. I have tried to abandon this limitation in my writer-self by asking myself who would I be without writing and would I be okay if I could never write again? The answer is that I would not be okay without it. This is my mode of self-expression over painting, sculpting, singing, acting etc. When I received my first rejection letter, I asked  myself if I could call myself a writer then? This is only when I think about other people’s perceptions. Perhaps others will not accept me as a writer until I am published. When I am alone, in silence, in connection with the deepest part of myself, I am a writer. I am a writer because I write. Yes, there are days when I will choose picking up dog poop over being with my pen, but ultimately I need writing like I need air.

For the past two weeks and going on a third, my husband has been working twelve hour graveyard shifts trying to get High River, Alberta back up and running after the worst flood they have ever seen. I see him for two hours a day and I have taken on twice the load at home, especially when it comes to being a parent. I have no time to write and the time I was able to steal away, I needed babysitters to help. After two weeks of this, I felt as if I was going insane and falling further and further out of touch with myself. This is because I need writing in my daily life (at the very least every second day). I need writing like I need to shower.

Image

Image via google images

Perhaps this is the question we, questioning writers, need to ask ourselves: Can I function without writing?

We would love to hear about your explorations on this subject! Please comment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, The Writing Process

YOGETRY: Where Yoga and Poetry Collide!

Yogetry is here!!! The new workshop has a home at Samadhi Yoga and Wellness Centre! You’re invited to join us and get your downward dog on to the sounds of Leonard Cohen. After Savasana, we will traverse down the poetic rabbit hole with some writing exercises. This workshop is open to anyone regardless of your yoga or writing experience. See the poster below…

Yogetry workshop

Yogetry workshop

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Poetry, The Writing Process

Spotlight on Guy Gavriel Kay: Our Favorite Author Find for May

A close friend of mine introduced me to  the works of Guy Gavriel Kay about a month ago when I was admiring the cover of River of Stars  at a local bookstore. She began almost jumping up and down upon discovery that he had released a new book and she promptly whisked me away to the fantasy section to show me more of his works. After, reading a couple first sentences in his novels, I needed no more convincing and immediately downloaded The Lions  of Al-Rassan when I got home.

River of Stars

Last night he graced our city with a visit to our public library and with his new book in hand, I realized I was listening to one of the greats in  Canada.  Last night, he taught me something about the fantasy genre. How much of a playground fantasy truly is for the writer and how much imaginative freedom one can find in this genre. Kay described himself as having “chronic grad-school syndrome” when it came to research for his novels. A place where you always need to get one more footnote, or find one more article. It never ends. Finally, he gets to the point where he just has to start to write the book based on all of the notes he made (which are handwritten in Moleskine notebooks). He said that was his least favorite part because, “writing is bloody hard work!” Kay mentioned that the reason he chose fantasy, although he is on the edge of historical fiction, is that he doesn’t want to pretend to know what historical figures did in privacy. Fantasy gives him the room to imagine what they did and how they thought. One reviewer of his work described him as having a “quarter turn to the fantastical.”

During the question and answer period, many people asked different question about his writing process. He proceeded to tell us that he “hate[d] authorial pontification” and that author’s will always give you conflicting information on what works for them. He gave the example that Margaret Atwood recommends having a Thesaurus beside one’s writing desk at all times, where as another author whom I can’t recall, said to take a Thesaurus out to the garden shed and lock it up and throw away the key, essentially. I also know that Stephen King advises against a Thesaurus and says  that if you need a Thesaurus then it is clearly the wrong word. Although writing has a community surrounding it, it is ultimately a solitary act. This can be terrifying and liberating at the same time.

Another inspiring tid-bit about Guy Gavriel Kay is that his story began with an opportunity to work at Oxford for a year (I missed the details of what he was doing there) and after that year he decided to go to Greece and become a writer. One of the professors at Oxford warned him not to “leave a winning ball-game, Mr. Kay” but he did anyways and look at where he is now. I can already tell I am going to go back to that story over and over whenever I feel discouraged in this business (which is often).

Kay also shared his method for revising and he  said he “write[s] endlessly as [he] goes.” Every two weeks he goes back and rewrites what he wrote in those two weeks and then every six to seven chapters he takes a break and re-writes again, etc. etc. Although, he really stressed to writers to do whatever works best for them, he also shared his disdain for the separation between an engaging story and the language. Some reviews Kay has received mentions how Kay delivers both an engaging story and language. He expressed that there should never be a separation because it is in part the language that does make the story engaging. If I could have I would have high-fived him right then and there. The only way I will read a book is if it has both of these elements.

Lastly, when I finally got to speak with him in the book-signing line he was personable and made you feel as though he really cared you were reading his books. I have been to many books signings and not all authors possess this quality.

Thank you, Guy, for making lasting fans out of the midwives! Now we better get reading!!!

Guy Gavriel Kay

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, The Writing Process

Yoga and Writing: Levels of Practice

In B.K.S Iyengar’s Light on Life,  he mentions the four different levels of practice:

1) Mild Practice:  attending a class once a week and getting distracted from doing a practice at home. This level of practice is not bad or wrong, it will just not include big rewards. Some people have to stay at this level because of other things they have in their agendas.

2) Average Practice: increasing our application and devoting more time and effort. This level of practice promises greater results, although the practice is not always consistent. However, the practitioner becomes more aware of “fibre and sinew, liver stretch (as in back bends), and heart’s repose.

3) Determined and Intense: This level of practice allows the practitioner to refine their awareness and become more sensitive to the subtleties within their bodies.

4) Total Investment: This level of practice is characterized as “relentless, inexorable and a total investment of oneself in practice.” Over time this and as life’s demands shift and change in one’s lifetime, this level can become attainable.

Photo via yogainfo.ca

Photo via yogainfo.ca

As Westerners, we could typically berate ourselves for not being at the third or fourth level at this time in our lives. Heck, I teach yoga and I’m not even at the third level. In fact, last night  I was awake for and hour and a half because I felt guilty for not going to a yoga studio in over a week. I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.

What does this have to do with writing you ask? Writing, like yoga, is a DISCIPLINE. Writing can be looked at from the same levels of practice. How often are you writing a week? If you aren’t able to write for twenty minutes (or whatever daily goal you set for yourself) one day, do you write for forty the next day? Are you telling everyone you are a writer, but only writing when the inspiration hits you?

Photo via joelrunyon.com

Photo via joelrunyon.com

 

I am at the place in my life, with little kids and self-employment, where I have trouble fitting in when I can brush my teeth, let alone being at the “total investment” level. Yoga asana practice tends to fall to the wayside sometimes, but meditation and writing are two things I ensure I squeeze in everyday. I wouldn’t even consider myself at the “determined and intense” phase due to my lifestyle and this is OK! I AM STILL A GOOD PERSON! It may take me longer to do a head stand in the middle of the room and publishing a book may be a five to ten-year plan, but I do what I can and I pat myself on the back for still pulling out the pen and rolling out the mat.

I think if we beat ourselves up for the should’s a little less frequently we can see the magic and miracles in these types of practice. Pick up your pen and congratulate yourself for taking the step to look at the blank page today!

cartoon via google images

cartoon via google images

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Process

Dream Work and Resistance: Writing Despite the Darkness

The dream work we did this week proved to be interesting. The dreamers of the group had trouble experiencing a dream that made sense for the homework project and those whom could not remember their dreams, had lucid ones last week. I am in the lucid dreamers camp and as if my dreams were self-conscious, they ran and hid for the sake of this exercise. I borrowed a dream I had weeks prior. This is my mandala:

"Chasing Red Balloons"

“Chasing Red Balloons”

When it came to the writing portion, it proved to be more difficult than the week before. For myself, a poem poured forth that I didn’t expect in a style I was estranged from. I embraced it, however, and it some senses it was healing to meditate this long on a dream image and process some latent emotions I didn’t know were there. Others in the group resisted the assignment, asking what the point was. I have explored this question myself and reminded myself what The Writer’s Midwife is about and why we explore this type of territory. The point is to keep writing. The point is to explore writing you didn’t think you had in you. The point is to step out of your comfort zone and see what lurks in corners you didn’t want to shed light on, especially with a pen. As a yoga teacher, shedding light or exploring these places in ourselves that we naturally avoid allows us to accept ourselves as whole beings. In yoga, there are postures I cringe to get into because they make me uncomfortable for one reason or another. In my self-practice I avoid them. In a studio setting, my ego won’t allow me to go into child’s pose, so I try it. I stay with it. While I’m staying with it, I get to explore what it is about it that makes me uncomfortable and it gets easier each time I face this. Writing in a group setting can achieve the same result. If the assignment is to explore dreams and write from that place, the group-think will push us to go there regardless of how we feel about it.  Sometimes it works and it contributes to other writing in ways we didn’t expect and sometimes is doesn’t. Either outcome is okay.

Photo via tumblr.com

Photo via tumblr.com

This week we are going into fiction and the art of the short-short story. The short-short is a sub-genre of the short story and it can sometimes be called flash fiction or postcard fiction. Geist magazine from Vancouver, B.C. has a postcard fiction contest every year. Flash fiction can be found all over the internet. This week we are reading short stories and exploring the craft. Also, we are writing a list, as suggested by One Year to a Writing Life by Susan M. Tiberghien, to introduce ourselves to a character for our short-short stories. Tiberghien says to write a list of ten random things that comes to mind and then start to create a character from that list. Next week we will be introducing our characters to the group. Feel free to introduce your characters in the comments below and please tell us what your favorite short stories are!!

Happy Writing!

Samantha

Leave a comment

Filed under The Writing Process