Category: Fun

How to write like you look like a real writer

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writing at soccer practice

This was me, yesterday evening. I was stuck on a plot point that just wouldn’t fix itself, so I took my notebook and pen to soccer practice, rather than taking my running gear (nasty head cold, so that made the choice easier). An hour and a half later, I had the full outline for the second half of the book. It’s a short book, let me add. I still use writing advice bestowed upon our sixth grade class by a teacher I remember fondly: KISS. Keep It Simple, Stupid. I even like the Stupid part of the saying, which would probably be dropped by teachers now (would it?). I’m not that smart when it comes to plot. That’s where I really need to apply the KISS principle.

These photos crack me up because I’m clearly not writing. Pen does not meet paper. I’ve had a few portraits taken by photographers who want me to “look like a writer,” by which they mean, “look like my idea of a writer, please.” I am then instructed to pose with a pen and paper. I can explain til I’m blue in the face that I write my books on a computer. But people want to see their writers writing. (Nancy Forde, you are the exception to this rule!)

Occasionally, apparently, it happens. I write like I look like a real writer. (Now, if only I can decipher my own scrawl …)

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see, pen not touching page

Kitten update: Turns out Fooey would be happy with a fish. She just wants a pet of her own. I guess the dogs are too communal as far pets go? We had to break it to her that a kitten would not sleep in her bed, or not for long. I still kind of want the kitten, but I’m not telling her. Maybe I have a diagnosable problem: the desire to collect living beings to care for, possibly in volumes greater than I can actually manage.

Manage. Well, even if I can’t manage them all, I can still care for them all, right? Manage and care not being the same thing, when you get right down to it.

I’ve got some news. It’s small and I haven’t signed on the dotted line, but I’m going to tell you anyway, because it’s really kind of out there news for me: I’ve had an offer for the text of a children’s picture book!!! Details to come, assuming it all works out, and dotted lines are signed, etc. I’m so looking forward to saying, “Why, yes, I do also write for children,” when asked, which is regularly. In fact, the notes, above, are on the plot to a children’s novel I’m in the midst of.

The thing I’ve discovered about being productive is that you just have to sit your butt down and write. KISS. One word after another. And if you get stuck, it’s good to have a few projects spread out and on the go in different stages of completion. It’s pleasant if the projects are quite different in nature, too.

I’ve got my ideas basket over here. My opening paragraphs bin over there. My lonesome disconnected short stories haunting the cobwebbed corners of my office. My research files stuffed into the cupboard behind me. The half-written manuscript that hasn’t found the right structure lying in wait. Meanwhile, the completed manuscript that is looking for a home is not mine to worry about, not right now. Do the work. Let it go.

The other thing about being productive is that it’s nice not to be productive sometimes. To leave your desk and computer (or pen and notebook, as it were), and go have lunch with your husband to celebrate an offer on your first ever picture book. Woot! I’m off!

Side project: Amazing Race Canada audition

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Tricia and I goof around in front of my camera while our children entertain themselves nearby (click on photo to see in full)

We did it! My friend Tricia Orchard and I sent in our application to the Amazing Race Canada. Making the video was a truly fascinating experience, and perhaps a tiny taste of what being filmed for a tv reality program would actually feel like. Tiny taste. Tiny. I’m pinching my fingers together to show you. But nevertheless, it was a real taste, and did not, apparently, scare me off.

Click here to see our audition video.

We had the help of our friend and neighbour, Stephen Edgar, who happens to be a professional videographer/photographer, and my brother Karl provided the addictive background beats (they really stick in your head.)

We spent a couple of hours one afternoon splashing through a muddy swamp, running up a grassy hill over and over again, and dashing around a forest obstacle course; the weather that day was unseasonably warm for January. Which contrasted nicely with a shoot we did more recently, in fact on one of the coldest days of the year so far, when we repeatedly ran down a big hill in a farmer’s field just outside of town — it looks like we’re running the tundra. We also met for a shoot at Tricia’s house, which Steve had transformed into a miniature studio for the afternoon. There, we got a sense of what it would be like to be interviewed at length.

We got some head shots and team shots too.

The most excellent part is that all the way along, I could completely imagine Tricia and me competing together as a team, no matter the scenario. I think we’ll be laughing a lot. We’re both good sports. We both show up and do what needs doing without complaint. And we know our limits too.

I’ve never had a huge desire to be on television, but I’ve loved watching the Amazing Race with my kids, and Kevin and I have had fun over the years imagining ourselves trying to navigate the race as a team — and no, he wasn’t offended that I went with someone else, when the opportunity presented itself. I love to compete, but I’m also, by nature, curious. I want to know: not just where would we go and what strange tasks would we have to perform, but could I still be myself — recognizably myself; my better self — in this situation? Of course I hope so. But the discovery is in the doing.

I can’t decide whether this audition is in character, for me, or a bit of a departure. Is life about being consistent? I remember one of my favourite professors saying to me, “Don’t get predictable, Carrie.” (She probably doesn’t remember that. But it’s really stuck with me over the years.)

In some ways, this is the year of the application form. I fill in the blanks. I do my best. I cross my fingers. It means a lot of hoping, and waiting, to see which possibilities open for me — and in this case, for us, Team Snorchard. Yeah, our names don’t mash up all that well. Thanks for our friend Zoe for this suggestion; I think it just might stick. Yikes. Go Team Snorchard!

Measuring the weight of a day

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celebrating a birthday

Sometimes it’s best to measure a day’s success by values other than productivity. Sometimes, rather than thinking about what I’ve accomplished, I notice: I’ve connected with friends and family today.

I appreciate that on most mornings, when I get up early, I’m meeting a friend. A surprising amount of ground can get covered during this sleepy, short time together.

I appreciate the drives to and from swimming and soccer and piano. I especially love finding myself one-on-one with a child. We don’t have to talk about anything big or exciting. We’re just happy to be together. There’s a sense of purpose as we head toward our destination, but there’s no sense of hurry.

I appreciate saying yes to crazy projects/events with friends. Yesterday morning, I was running through a snow-covered farmer’s field with a friend. Yesterday evening, I was eating smores beside a campfire under a dark and starry sky. In between, I had lunch with a friend, ferried children to piano lessons, ran fast at an indoor track, hung laundry, washed dishes. I also got zero new writing done. How to measure yesterday’s weight and meaning and worth?

On Tuesday night, instead of reading in bed, I stayed up to listen to my eleven-year-old enthuse about a school project (who knew he could be enthusiastic about school?).

Sometimes I text a friend (or my sister) whom I miss, but don’t have time to meet face-to-face. These disjointed abbreviated back-and-forths feel oddly conversational, like we’ve been with each other during that time.

I am often rushing from task to task, moment to moment, place to place. But in between, sometimes even amidst the rushing, I recognize that I feel quiet, stilled, present, at ease. I feel connected, strongly, to the ones I love. I feel solidly, persistently myself.

I’m not necessarily being productive by worldly measures. I’m not making anything. I’m not earning anything. I’m not going anywhere. I have nothing visible to show for my day’s labours. So it might be asked, why bother throwing yourself in deep, whole-heartedly, if there is no apparent goal being forwarded or accomplished?

Ah, but you know exactly why, I’m sure: because. Just because. This is life.

My definition of happiness

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Christmas eve elves

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AppleApple discovers something else she’d like to do: learn how to play the cello!

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Settlers of Catan and butter beer

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cousin love

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Santa, with pillow-enchanced profile 

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er, too much butter beer?

Tomorrow is my birthday. I usually get all philosophical right about now. But today I don’t feel philosophical. I feel busy. Tired. Happy. Surprised, though I shouldn’t be, by the ongoingness of laundry and dishes. And these people I live with keep needing to eat.

We enjoyed four consecutive days of Christmas celebrations with various parts of our extended family, and some friends, too, although my camera didn’t make it to every event.

For the record, that’s four consecutive Christmas dinners: ham, ham, paella, and turkey.

I embraced the excess, then wondered why I felt so sluggish on yesterday morning’s run. Especially because I took Boxing Day morning and did not get out of bed til noon, reading and finishing Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, in one big gulp.

So many late nights. So many second glasses of wine. So much wheat and butter. Why so sluggish?

Yes, really, Carrie, why.

This morning Kevin rented a full indoor soccer field (huge!) so his U12 boys team could practice. AppleApple and I got kitted out in soccer gear and came along. It was 90 minutes of blissful scrimmaging, the boys’ team against everyone else — adults, friends, siblings. AppleApple was the only girl, and I was the only woman, and I’ll admit I felt a little intimidated going in. I’m thankful to have joined that team last spring, because all I can say is: soccer … so fun! It would totally be bragging to mention that I scored the sweetest replay-worthy goal (yes, against 11-year-old boys), but I can’t help myself. If only I could score goals like that for my current team. Sadly, we don’t play against 11-year-old boys, which is not to malign the skills of the boys, who are actually very good, and made us play hard.

Now Kevin is trying to snag more field time. And I think it would be fun to play on a co-ed team together — taking our marriage to new places, whilst our knees and hamstrings are still in working order. See, this isn’t a dream that can really wait for retirement.

“I wish we could play every day,” Kev said, and I had to agree. So that’s what we’ll do if we ever strike it rich.

Party time

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I have the best husband with whom to co-host birthday parties for children. Give him an idea (say, an Olympics theme) and the next thing you know odds and ends from the garage, basement and attic appear in the back yard, arranged into an obstacle course, or high jump (with bouncy landing pad), or relay track.

This was a three hour party. At least two hours were spent on the Olympic events in the back yard. For a full hour, kid you not, the mostly-seven-year-old crowd lined up and took turns jumping over a pool noodle onto a mattress to great cheers and applause.

As you can see for yourself.
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Now in season: summer

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All week, every day, I’ve gotten to do something seasonal: swim laps in an outdoor pool. Slathered in sunscreen, I’ve slipped into clear chlorinated water, and front-crawled back and forth along the 50m lanes for an hour. Swimming at noonish, I can see my shadow on the shimmering pool bottom, my arms reaching out overhead. The light on the bottom of the pool is beautiful to watch. It almost feels like I could swim forever.

With luck, I’ll get to swim most days for the next two weeks, while all the kids are taking lessons; I’ll be limited to half hour swims, due to scheduling, but half an hour a day is better than not swimming at all. Like Kevin said, lane swimming outdoors feels kind of like eating strawberries and asparagus in season — you have to get it while you can, and get as much as you can.

AppleApple expressed happiness about her relatively unstructured summer. I know there’s debate about sending kids to school year-round, but here in Canada, that makes no sense to me. Summer is barely here before it’s gone. Imagine kids being in school right now — indoors! — while there are raspberries to pick, and outdoor pools to swim in, and long late evenings to stay outside kicking a soccer ball around. For them, and for us, we need to grab what we can of summer, soak it up, go all out.

It’s like storing solar energy — heat for the long dark winter.

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