Category Archives: writing

my writing process

My dear friend Kerstin Auer of Auer Life invited me to write about my writing process. She writes about her process here. If you are not reading her blog, you should. If you get a chance to have breakfast with her, you should do that too! She is fun and funny, smart and thoughtful. She is honest and herself – which is what I like about her the most. And? Her kids are hilarious.

What am I working on:
Fancy Feet is going to be an audio book! So everyone will soon be able to hear me tell my story. I’m waiting for the details right now. While there isn’t a second book yet, the book I have pored over for 3 years will be offered in a new way and I’m very excited about that.
I haven’t been here at my blog as much as I would like to be, but you’ll find me at other places, soon to appear at Bonbon Break. You can also find me in high schools telling my story, giving presentations on road safety for ICBC. After Fancy Feet became FANCY FEET, writing at my desk for hours each day was set aside to promote, sign books and worry that people are tired of me.

How does my work differ from others in its genre:
There are many brilliant writers out there, people who are achingly good whose work is inspirational. I can learn from them, but I can’t be them. I know my limits. While I strive to get better, I know I’m not a genius and I don’t pretend to be one. I don’t substitute big words for small words if small words suffice. I know how to string a sentence together. Voice is what makes all writers’ work unique and sets work apart. As I write I ask: is this true to me, to my voice?

Why do I write what I do:
I love writing and over the years that love has grown. My blog has given me an incredible opportunity to meet and connect with people. I love that thing that happens when you write something, compelling people to exclaim, “Me too!” Relating and sharing and the exchanging of stories are the best parts of blogging. I write because I can’t help myself. It is something that’s inside me. I feel at home among words, so I’m challenged and content all at the same time when I’m reading or working on a new piece. My blog has been a great platform to practice the craft of writing.

How does my writing process work:
Quiet. I need quiet. I can’t write with noise. I write best when I am alone. Scott works from home in the basement and I’m irritated if I hear the scrape of a chair or a muffled voice on the phone. When I hear his footsteps on the stairs, I actually bristle. You writers know what I’m talking about. Woe to the person who interrupts the writing zone. Yes, I am that precious.
If I’m stuck and hit a wall (you know that black hole where any skill you thought you had is sucked up, up and away) I take a break. I get up from my chair, have a snack or run an errand. That last sentence or the right word will often find me in the car or as I’m stuffing clothes into the washer. Books are good influences and triggers, too. Getting into someone else’s story makes room for my own. Writing is creative and sometimes we need for inspiration to find us, but it’s also a discipline. In order to write, I need to write.

Final thoughts:
Kerstin talks about bringing a notebook with her wherever she goes. When I worked on my manuscript a good friend gave me a notebook and it was one of the best writerly gifts I was given. I tucked it into my purse and any idea, thought…good, bad…went into this book. I dated it, so I knew when I had this profound or pathetic musing. Another wonderful gift given to me was Stephen King’s book: On Writing. It is the best book I have ever read about writing.

fancy feet: turning my tragedy into hope

I had just dropped off a van full of kids at the pool on a school field trip when I decided I needed a coffee because everyone needs caffeine on a field trip. Home isn’t far, so I made my way there to make my extra dry cappuccino. I opened the door and found Scott in the kitchen. He pointed to a box on the counter. “Your books are here! I wanted to open it, but I thought I should wait for you.”

My books. My heart caught in my throat. Instead of tearing open the box, I circled it. “Go ahead. You can open it.”

Scott ripped open the box and picked up a book. I stared at them. Stacked neatly, one on top of the other, Fancy Feet: turning my tragedy into hope. My sparkly red shoes on every cover. My words on each page. I picked up a book, opened it, and shut it. Chapter 1, 15, 28…Acknowledgments. Uneasiness formed a hard knot in my stomach. I looked over at Scott who had begun to read the book. “You’re reading it now?”

“Yeah. This is awesome. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Don’t you want to?”

I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture. Because I’m supposed to capture this moment. My book is here. It’s here! I’m supposed to be excited, but I’m not. I’m nervous. Apprehensive. Will people like my book? I snapped a photo of the box of books and posted it to Facebook. “A case of books! That I wrote.”

That hard knot of apprehension bloomed and then slowly shrank as your comments and emails and texts made their way to me sharing in my good news. Because this was good news. In the midst of worry, I’d forgotten this was good news, great news. I wrote a manuscript that became a book that got published. I’m an author.

A few friends and family who picked up early copies gave me more good news. I received texts like this one from my friend Jenn: “Just had to choke back tears at end of chapter 8. It’s so intimate, vulnerable and brave. You just let the reader feel with you. It’s beautiful.” And there were a few back and forth texts from my friend Tanya who said: “The book is so you. All I hear is you.” A request was made to the library for my book which will be a neighborhood’s book club choice. A dream come true.

The hard knot in my stomach disappeared and I felt gratitude, relief, and, finally, a sliver of excitement. People like my book. They’re seeing what I want for them to see. Through burns, amputations, the loss of a best friend, enduring more than 20 surgeries and a trial, there was hope. Hope was there from the beginning, woven through my entire journey, and here today.

I am thrilled to announce that you can pre-order my book today! For a sneak peek of Fancy Feet and purchasing a signed copy or finding other buying options look here. Can you hear my squeal of joy?

the post in which I ramble

It’s been forever. I had so many promising beginnings, so many on-the-cusp-of-genius posts and then a text popped up, a snack must be made, a floor needed to be swept. Urgent pleas to register for soccer filled up my inbox. Dance competitions and extra practices needed to be attended. A child wanted my computer, sometimes for homework, but mostly for minecraft. Speaking of minecraft, here is a must read for any parent whose children suffer from minecraft addiction. Good Lord, help us all.

I am working on book stuff, people. Book stuff! That means it’s so close. So close I can almost smell that new book smell. Hear the turn of the pages. I’ll have a sneak peek for you soon. My very first chapter of Fancy Feet, the book, coming your way!

I had great intentions of being around more, of writing more. Just a couple of months ago I made declarations of how I was back. Do you remember that post? It’s embarrassing now because I didn’t follow through. I meant to, I wanted to. What bothers me more is that I haven’t been to your spaces nearly enough; read your wise, soulful and funny words. Please don’t think I’ve forgotten or that I don’t care. I had no idea how consuming it would be to edit and edit and edit a manuscript or how weepy I would become after digging up my feelings surrounding the other driver or how exhausted I would be afterward when I was done, finally done, everything. When I read the email from my publisher that said “edits are accepted”, I joy-cried for 30 seconds and then, bleary-eyed, I binge-watched TV shows. I discovered Scandal. Scandal is super addictive. The Fitz and Olivia of it all, Defiance, the mole – I could not stop watching this show. In my TV fog, I had questions for my other shows like what is going on with Don Draper, the man with no redeeming values? Should I continue to watch The Killing? TV was a welcome distraction after being so in touch with my feelings for a very long time. What I’m trying to say is that I hadn’t counted on having to let some things go for a while because I can’t do it all.

It is almost the end of the school year and I feel the need to make a speech, thanking those around me who got me this far. To all the moms who understood and didn’t judge me or judged, but never to my face, when I forgot about a field trip or didn’t bring empty bottles, egg cartons or yogurt containers. To Scott for being the voice of un-crazy after I explained how I would be a total failure. To coffee for giving me a personality. To wine – cheers. To my friends who love me anyway. To Target where I can wander freely and aimlessly. To me for making lunches Monday to Friday from September to June…I am a marvel. To you guys, who have been here and are still here…thank you.

By the way, you can now subscribe to my blog by email. That’s for you, Julie Gardner!

 

the gift of words

I love words. Some words beg to be used in sentences, like vast and belligerent. Whimsical is as sweet as it sounds. There are words I enjoy because of what they mean like hope and ecstatic and mindful. They draw you in. I like fancy and delightful because it’s fancy and delightful. I play with words, shuffle them around until they become significant, revelatory. In our house we have words we make up like numptyhead. In our car you could hear, “What a numptyhead!” It’s a nice alternative to idiot when someone cuts you off.

Every year I choose a word to point to, something to steady me when my world gets uneven. Like Charlotte spinning words into her web, it becomes a banner, a guiding star. For a long time it was Perseverance. For two years my life was caught up in that word. Then I slowly worked through Overcome.  One year I pursued Generosity. Then Hope…recently Belief. This year a word found me. I pondered the many words in front of me and shook them as if they were contained in a snow globe.  They whirled and floated and settled. One tiny word winked at me on its way down. Shine.

I wouldn’t normally take on a word like that. A small word that packs a punch. It’s a word that deserves attention, a stage. It’s daring. It implies more. Shine wants to be explored and I suspect it’s attached to this manuscript I’ve been working on for three years. Soon I’ll be able to hold my book in my hands and I’ll feel the weight of my words, the heft of my horror, my undoing, and then my redemption. My wish is that these words will make someone feel less alone and fill them with possibility.

Shine is about ownership of a life I claimed 14 years ago. I said yes to life when death came for me. I turned from despair and chose hope and love. I spent a long time fighting, changing and accepting. Today, now, this year instead of something to strive for or aspire to, I wonder if Shine will be my gift.

What about you? Do you have words that guide you or words that beg for your attention?

where I’m at

I’m tap, tap, tapping into a small space inside me marked crash. It doesn’t take up as much room as it used to, but it’s a room that holds remarkable power. Once you step inside, it’s bigger than it appears, stuffed with old emotion and the unexplored under a thick layer of dust. When your editor tells you to let the reader in, that I need to dig deep; I have to open the door wide, shed my armor, and dust off emotion I haven’t touched in 12 years.

When you do something crazy like write a memoir everything is fair game, up for grabs. I understand the advice now to make sure there is enough distance between you and the subject you’re tackling, so one has perspective and prevents further harm. I couldn’t have written this manuscript ten years ago because it would have been too soon. I wouldn’t have been ready. Memoir is about honesty. Not just telling the truth, but being naked, exposing you to the reader. Here are my darkest thoughts. This is what devastation looks like. This is how heartbreak tastes. And then you have to craft it, find a creative way to say it. You don’t get to cover up with facts, lessons, and a smiley face.

Along the writer way I failed in some of the details, in the ‘going there’. I didn’t explain why I felt this way or I made statements about pain with little to back it up. So I’m at it again with the notes and sound advice of my editor, a wonderful woman who knows her stuff. This week I am writing about the driver. The driver of the vehicle that broadsided us. You know. That guy. I’ve been devoted to not discussing him, armor on, so he can’t creep in. Because he’s done enough. I forgave him long ago and I don’t want to give him more of my life. But, he’s a part of the story, a significant character. I can’t skim over the details, over him. The reader doesn’t know the story. You don’t know how I reached my conclusions and why I made my choices. The short answer is survival, but the long answer is what belongs in the book. I need to let the reader in. My job as author is not to guide you through the story, but to bring you in through all the senses and for you to feel what I felt. It means in order to let you in, I need to let the driver in.

So, when I am not working on Annie’s ballet costume (if you know me you know how funny that is) and terrified I’m becoming a Dance Mom, or catching up on laundry because my son is walking around naked in search of clean underwear, you’ll find me at the computer, hunched over, trying to shine a light on the dark places.

swept up

in a compelling story and beautiful writing. I read The Secret Keeper over the holidays and just fell in love with it.

humbled

You know when you’re blah and everything is just off?  You’re pretty sure you will never like writing again. When the phone rings you sigh. An email in your inbox is a chore – like mopping the floor chore. Shopping loses its shine. Even chocolate has let you down – yeah, I was doing all of that for a while. After a ho-hum summer, fall has been gracious and I’m breathing deeply again, reviving a flattened self.

I’m thankful for the beauty of the outdoors and I no longer judge the person who puts her dog in a stroller or straps this dog to her body. (Okay, I still judge a little. It’s not a baby!) I found art for the bare walls in my living room and dining room. The basement is cleaned up and organized after the kids shouted at me to HELP! I had promised to help and then I got sidetracked upstairs, trading cleaning for chocolate. Eventually I gave in to the guilt, unable to ignore their cries. And the best part of my rediscovered zeal for life? I’m working on the acknowledgments page of my book which means I get to thank the people who helped me.

Actually, I’ve been done for about 2 weeks. I just can’t hit send. I can’t part with it. It’s one of the last pieces to my story and maybe the piece I enjoyed writing the most. As I sat at my computer, I thought about the journey – the heart in my fingertips beginning, the agony of the middle, and the rush of finally, of the end. Writing and risking. Querying and rejections. Acceptance and contracts. Revisions, revisions. And now. While I applauded the people who supported me, listened to me and made-me-do-it-anyway, I felt grateful, loved and honored.

I’m especially honored by you guys. Honored that you read my blog. Honored by your encouragement. Honored by your belief in me. Beyond honored, I’m humbled. With all my heart, thank you. You’ve helped make this book a reality, a dream come true.

swept up

I’m thrilled to be featured at She Knows as one of the top 10 inspirational bloggers. I’m #2! Last week I received this good news from Jessica Watson, the lovely author of the article. I am filled to bursting. Check it out and visit the blogs of these amazing women.

for the love of writing

The day I knew I had to write my heart was in my throat, tears in my eyes, as I took refuge in my car.

I’m in over my head.

But.

I want this.

After completing the first day of a course on writing autobiography, in the obscurity of underground parking and a racing heart, I was hit with fear and love. All at once, I knew there was more.

I fell in love with words a long time ago. Sprawled on my bed reading just one more page before I had to turn out the light. Hiding novels inside text books at school. Excited by every creative writing assignment. I felt abandoned each time a great book ended until I found another. Words comforted, brought revelation and moved me to higher ground.

Before the writing course I began a blog on a dare. Fancy Feet became an online corner to store my thoughts and musings on life until it became more. I had been telling my story to people on behalf of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund, speaking to groups large and small about a 23 year old girl who was in a massive car crash on June 12, 1998. She lost her best friend, suffered burns to her body, the burns so severe her legs needed to be amputated. It was a story of survival and hope, and it began to find its way to my blog. My audience grew, people were interested.

Come join me at Erin Margolins’ blog: The Road to My Writer Roots where you can read the rest of my post. Erin, who is just so lovely, kind and talented (you’ll want to get to know her), invited me to write about writing, and I thoroughly enjoyed looking back on this writing journey and how much has happened since I began my blog 4 years ago. I am honored to be there with her today.

reflection

You’re ugly.

I stared in the mirror. Unsure, insecure, second-guessing, I couldn’t fight the voice in my head. I sighed and turned away. It was time to go to school.

Later that week ugly was hissed at me in the hallway as I walked head down, to my class. It only happened once but it was enough to confirm what I already suspected. I wasn’t good enough.

Not good enough followed me through most of my childhood into young adulthood. Ugly waned and there was reprieve. I gained confidence, but the need for more grew. It was comparison’s turn to nag me. She has a great life. Why can’t you be more like her? What is wrong with you?

I smiled. I had friends, a job, a boyfriend. And I carried a secret. I served the facade of fine and together, hiding what I lacked. No one could know how emptiness gnawed and chewed me up, how I couldn’t fill the holes. I hurt and I didn’t know how to stop it, so I dressed carefully, arranged my face, and exposed vulnerability only if provoked.

As I got older the voices quieted, emptiness retreated, and edges softened. I got to know honesty and courage. No longer bound to a lie I was free, becoming more, joy and beauty found; unaware I would be tested in two years.

A nurse handed me a mirror. “Are you ready?” On my back, on my side, attached to machines I saw my body, raw and ravaged, every day. This was the first time I would see my face months after the fire. Angry, red scar around my chin. Bald head. Oh, my eyebrows need plucking! I met my 23 year old green eyes. Too wide in my hollow face. Too much. I handed my nurse the mirror. I’ll never be the same. But, each day there was enough strength to survive, to overcome.

At 37, a few days away from 38, I’m in front of the bathroom mirror blow-drying my hair hurrying, hurrying to finish. My face is splotchy, bumpy. I need a coffee. Hair-dryer in one hand I turn on my iPod with the other, find a song I like, turn up the volume. Doubt threatens, comparison teases. I glance at the foggy mirror.

You know who you are.

I curl my hair around the brush. Struggling with doing it all and not doing enough, I rest in the reminder. I know who I am. I’ve come a long way. There will always be change, noise, something I don’t like. Today I’m accepting. Today I’m human. Today I’m happy with my hair.

I’m joining the wonderful writing community that is yeah write today. If you’re new to writing or have done it forever there is a space for you, or if you just want to get cozy and curl up with some good writing, then come on over.

the truth

I’m in a funk. A bluesy, what-is-my-problem, watching Vampire Diaries (Don’t judge. The storytelling and hotness are a great distraction) reruns funk. One evening over wine and a lot of food (as these things go) a good friend told me, “It’s completely normal to feel depressed after finishing a book.” And the guilt that had begun to build a home on my shoulders sighed. When my friend finished her thesis a professor gave her that insight and as she imparted it, I felt relieved, an answer to my emptiness. I love pinpointing problems. It’s almost as good as my fall TV shows returning. Holla Fringe and Parks & Rec!

The book is all I’ve been doing for 2 years. Off and on. On and off. You know. You’ve heard me going on and on about it here. I’m worried you’re sick of it. Shut up already. We know you’re writing a book. Truthfully, I was tired of me too. Talking, writing, thinking about the book. The book, the book, the book.

It was/is my purpose, my dream, my job. It crept into everything. While playing a game of Uno with my kids, a teachable moment presented itself as Annie told me about something that happened at school. I can’t remember this valuable lesson, but my daughter looked up from her cards and said, “You should write a book about it,” delivered perfectly with sarcasm. That’s my girl.

I traveled back in time, exploring and defining everything I felt as the life I knew was ripped from me. So, it made sense that I crashed just a little after revising for the hundredth time and then finally, finally sending it to my publisher.

I needed a break after completing the manuscript, but I couldn’t understand the queasiness in my belly, the lack of logic. I thought I should feel good, satisfied. To celebrate I bought tequila, made margaritas, and indulged in a novel someone else wrote. Then, I disconnected. Much like after I gave birth to Annie. I waited for elation, for the rush that’s supposed to come when you have a baby. I loved her, but I felt responsible, anxious. Not happy, not matching the posters on the hospital walls of contented mothers breastfeeding their newborns. I realized I have the post-book blues.

After all these years I’m still learning how to own my feelings, therapy-speak for ‘be honest’. Hiding is easier than admitting I have a problem. Saying it out loud, acknowledging that vacant flashes bright and neon lessens the burden. I’m empty, I’m afraid, I’m lost. It feels good to tell the truth even if it isn’t the truth we want. Sometimes we don’t know the truth and until we shed light on it, hold it up, we’re stuck. (I didn’t know until a friend pointed it out.) The truth doesn’t always offer a way out, but it gives us a way through.