August 30, 2014
If you’ve been reading my previous Best of Seasons (like this one for autumn and this one for summer) you know the basic formula. I ramble on and on, waxing lyrical about birds and flowers and leaves, gushing in a teenage fashion about how it’s like my favourite season evah and telling you what I read, listened to, ate and wore. It really is riveting stuff.
And then. Winter.
You know how I feel about winter. Perhaps, to you, winter is the zzsshhhh of snowboard against powder, the bracing freshness of the air, the prickling, life-affirming cold against your skin and the opportunity to snuggle and nest and make spiced hot chocolate. But to me winter is sagging tracksuit bottoms, rosy, sticky-with-snot cheeks of unwell small people, a chill that won’t leave my bones, early darkness and pervasive malcontent.
So I guess it’s fair to admit this is less of a “Best of Season” and more of a survival guide. Here goes. Here’s what I can recommend in order to make it through:
August 28, 2014
Surprise! I’m back! It feels a little like going back to school (that’s a good thing—it always filled me with delight, strangely enough). More on the goings-on since I’ve been away in my next post, but for now…a blog tour stop for you.
Last week a fantastic author I know, Robin Stevenson, asked if I’d write a post for a blog tour on the writing process. I find writing about writing a good way to get back into the swing of it—kind of a self-reflective pep talk—so I said yes. Plus, process can be strange and frustrating and wonderful (like all things in life that matter) which makes it worth talking about and trying to understand. Reading other authors’ posts about their process has been fascinating and helpful.
I met Robin Stevenson at the Forest of Reading festivities in Ontario, Canada, when our books were both nominated for the Silver Birch Award. I was so excited to be on stage with her when her book, Record Breaker, won the award. Such a well-deserved win! Robin has written sixteen books (and counting) for children and teens and also edits and teaches writing in Victoria, BC. Check out her website: www.robinstevenson.com and her blog tour post about her process here.
And here are my answers to the blog tour questions:
What are you working on?
I’m working on two manuscripts at the moment. One is a YA novel-in-verse that comes after my first novel-in-verse, The Opposite of Geek (it’s not a sequel, but sort of starts where the first left off). The other is a middle grade (prose) novel about a mother-daughter relationship involving abduction.
How does your work differ from other books in its genre?
Well, I’m not sure my books stand out in a broad sense. They feature child and teen characters, deal with social issues, identity, acts of courage, and contain funny dialogue just like many books in their genre do. I guess I try to tackle hard issues with honesty and humour (though that’s not original either, is it?). It’s just the best way I know to get through things, whether in a fictional world or the real one. BUT The Opposite of Geek has one of my brownie recipes at the back. Does that count as being different? And delicious?
Why do you write what you do?
I’m a big believer in not (fully) growing up, so it’s no surprise that I love writing books for kids. I like that kids are creative, active readers who are open to experimentation and new things. This works well for me because I love pushing genre boundaries and just going with my creative whims. Growing up is an intense, confusing and magical time and I love being able to capture that in my writing, partly because I want to re-experience it and partly because I think childhood has a lot to teach me now, as an adult, as well as those I write for.
How does your writing process work?
First I get seduced by an Idea. This can be a character, a place, a situation, but it is always SO BRILLIANT I need sunglasses to look at it and must be in its presence as much as possible. I start frenzied writing down of the Idea and the first 30-40 pages of the story. I usually brainstorm some kind of plot, but it’s more to make me feel better than to actually stick to (which I usually don’t).
Then I get stuck in the Novel Bog. The sticky, mucky place where I realize I’m not as far into the story as I thought, the first act climax keeps getting farther away, not closer, and the original big Idea seemed way better in my head than this jumble of scenes I’ve written. This is the hardest part of the process for me, but once I slog through the bog, it’s usually faster and easier on the other side. There’s also a lot of procrastination in the Novel Bog, so I can often be found in the kitchen, baking cookies or making soup instead of slogging.
Once I’m through all that, I try to weave a plot into the story, do some character building and get myself to the end of the draft. Usually I have lots of ideas for fixing the draft already, but I’m exhausted and need to…take a break to make all the ice cream recipes in one cookbook.
But sooner or later I have an epiphany about a plot point or character and rush back to start revisions on the draft. I LOVE revisions. First drafts are terrible, but they make revisions possible. Like chopping onions, they are a necessary evil.
And now, on to the next blog tour stop! I’m tagging Kim Thompson to post about hers next. I met Kim at the Forest of Reading in Ontario this spring (it’s an amazing place to meet amazing writers!) and also had the pleasure of catching up with her on Salt Spring Island this summer.
Kim Thompson is a filmmaker, television writer and children’s book author. She grew up in Saskatchewan, studied and worked for many years in Toronto, and now lives with her daughter(/boss), on Salt Spring Island in British Columbia. Her first novel Eldritch Manor was published by Dundurn Press in the fall of 2012. Check out her author site: www.kimthompsonauthor.com as well as her blog about children’s literature and movies: Rarest Kind of Best.
Happy end of August, everyone!
August 24, 2014
It’s been a rough couple of weeks, don’t you think?. Everywhere, it seemed, bad news got grimmer and good news sparser. This guy, this crazy-wonderful / wonderful-crazy guy, left us bereft and heartbroken. Hope, in all manner of places and circumstances, seemed to pop and extinguish like lightbulbs. Wars got messier, revenge got uglier. It was nasty out there. I just wanted to bolt the doors, climb into bed and pull up the covers. For approximately three months.
In our world, a pleasant, suburban microcosm, the whole family got ill one after another. When the horrible-gremlin-viral-thingy had been through each of us it tagged its minacious cousin and the cycle started all over again. And again. I, like everyone else, blame the season. I’ll admit I’m simply no good at it. If I were to write a book about my relationship with it it would be titled “Winter and Meh.” In winter my body just wants to build a thick layer of blubber (well, hellllloo chocolate) and hibernate. I’m sooky, I’m cranky, I’m needy. Crabby, overwhelmed, restless and listless.
My poor attitude has sparked a series of debates. In my own head. With myself. (That’s how people like us roll, no?) On the one hand, it’s okay to feel flat and irritable and sometimes eat all the things in the pantry including the kids raisins and spoonfuls of peanut butter. And on the other hand…really? At my age? Do I need to be doing this? Sure – my head argued with…ah…itself – it’s winter, you’ve all been ill, you’ve got post-holiday blues, you’re going into a different phase with your manuscript, plus you’ve probably got PMS, plus you’re pre-disposed to being a maudlin pain in the %#$@, but….do you WANT to be like this? Huh? Is this what we’re going with here? My brain had a good point. It can be clever like that.
Clearly (pun intended) it was time for a change of lens.
And… I genuinely needed a change of lens. My camera lens broke when we were in Europe. Nifty segue?
August 22, 2014
It’s the end of the week – time for a Sweet Little Something with our favourite nomad, Amanda. Please leave a comment, a haiku, whatever takes your fancy, we love to hear from you. And, even more importantly, go on and have yourself an awesome weekend.
With love, H & A x
August 17, 2014
Have you ever seen a child stare into a candy shop? Their sweaty foreheads pressed to glass with superglue force and sticky hands braced wide like Spider-Man, ready to web swing to another building. Their breath fogs the glass as their mouths salivate at the thought of chocolate covered treats and colourful sugared candies. With bug eyes they struggle to look at all the stores contents in one go and with fixed focus they beg in desperation to their parents, spitting on the glass, “Maaarrrm, can we go inside PUH-LEASE?” Well that pretty much sums up Skip’s reaction whenever he sees tapas.
Tapas are seductive, satisfying little plates of gorgeousness wrapped into one dining experience. It’s quintessential grazing at its finest and how we love to eat. We spent last weekend in Madrid, armed with a long list of must eat foodie destinations thanks to our Airbnb host, Fernando, who also just happened to have the most fabulous sun filled apartment right in the centre of town. Top of that list, and our favourite experience by far, was the Mercado de San Miguel, a food market dedicated to all things tapas. We walked around the busy food hall, thrice. Food envy is rife here and calls for a calculated approach. The biggest error is to fill up early and then choke on regret when you see something spectacular that you no longer have room for.
We commenced grazing with a half dozen oysters, reigning from three different regions and shucked right there in front of us, divine! Oh and a glass of champagne…to wash them down of course. We had a kebab stick of olives, cured meats and cheese before diving into a selection of tapas that were beautifully presented on slices of baguette, duck pate with cranberry sauce, salmon and crab mousse, caramelised onions with goats cheese, a mini hamburger and a fabulously zingy gazpacho.
I’m not a dessert fan but apply the theory “When in Rome” when dining. Crema Catalana is a popular Spanish dessert that I’d describe as tasting like creme caramel with a creme brûlée consistency. Surprisingly it’s not very rich and very delightful! Churros or Spanish donuts as they are commonly called, are a standard go-to dessert choice and we also opted for a fruit yoghurt which had little cubes of juicy mango throughout. YUM!
During our food market degustation I wondered where this concept of tapas came from and here is what I discovered…It all started with a Spanish King, Alfonso the 10th who lived in the 1800′s. He was referred to as ‘The Wise’ for his interest in astrology, languages and music. Not so wise was his choice to marry a 10 year old girl when he was 32! Eikk! He went on to father 11 children and 4 illegitimate children. For the purposes of this story I am renaming him “Alfonso the super creepy playboy”.
When the King, “Alfonso the super creepy playboy”, fell ill, he was unable to digest large meals. Instead he favoured small bites of foods with some wine. (Aids the digestion!) Once recovered from his illness he realised that eating small bites with wine meant he was able to tolerate alcohol much better and then decreed all publicans must serve small amounts of food with every glass of wine. Traditionally this meant a glass of wine was served with a piece of cured ham covering the glass. The word ‘cover’ in Spanish is ‘Tapa’ and so a cultural tradition was born. So while this King was a super creepy playboy, when it comes to the invention of tapas Alfonso deserves the title of ‘wise’.
Yours in wandering and wondering,