Saturday, 28 February 2015

What's Trending

#Pitchmadness has been my trend for the week. With plenty of moral support from the gang at B & W, I jumped into the madness of an online pitching contest. Despite the fact that there is a large representation of middle grade and young adult authors, I thought the lineup of final agents was fantastic. I have discovered that the entire group of organizers and submission pile readers are outstanding.

New to Twitter, this has proven to be a crash course in how to get your name and your writing out there in 140 characters or less. I have learned to favourite, follow, retweet, respond to notifications and initiate a conversation strand. I have inserted pictures and links.

More importantly, I have connected with like-minded people. In a few sentences, I catch glimpses of vulnerability and insecurity. I also see perseverance, dedication and passion. It has proven to be a warm and accepting environment, one that celebrates the stories and nourishes the creators.

It is a universe that I have hesitated to enter, thinking it vast and impersonal. I have found it entirely the opposite. Thank you, Pitchmadness, for giving me this opportunity to learn how to tweet freely and comfortably to the world. 

Saturday, 21 February 2015

If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… the people who give you their food give you their heart. ~ César Chávez

We have driven up and down César Chávez Street many times since our arrival in Austin. I must confess my ignorance and admit that it was just the name of a street to me. This week I wanted to talk of breaking bread with friends, so I went searching for the appropriate quote. I find César Chávez’s statement profound and appropriate as I reflect on this month’s sharing of conversation over the dinner table.

Delving into César Chávez’s life story, I discovered that he was born in Arizona and that he and his family were migrant farm workers. I have personally known only one other person who grew up in a migrant working family. We met Santiago and his wife Ellen in the late eighties in Europe. We were doing the traditional year of backpacking. They were travelling in a Volkswagen Westphalia, searching for peace after a devastating tragedy that had happened back in the States.

We crossed paths in Seville, Spain and they opened up their humble home on wheels to us. We travelled together for five weeks, sharing stories, new experiences and lots of food. We have not seen them since, but have sporadically touched base through the years and have recently laid the groundwork for a get-together in the not-too-distant future. They and their story touched our hearts. We look forward to seeing this unforgettable couple again.

César Chávez worked hard throughout his life, overcoming his own limitations and taking up the cause of others, fighting for their right to a decent life. Our hostess, the owner of this beautiful home in the hills of Austin, encompasses his story. She too came from poverty, worked incredibly hard to overcome obstacles, and has always supported those less fortunate. She continues to take a stand in the name of civil liberty and rights. We have laughed with her. We have cried. And, we have shared wonderful food.

Friends from British Columbia flew in to enjoy a short vacation with us. Throughout their lives, they have advocated for the underdog. More, they walked the talk, opening their doors to many people over the years with no strings attached—only a guarantee that there would be a sympathetic ear, a cheerleader and, always, plenty of food. It has been a great joy for us to share this time with them.

Tomorrow, we have company coming over. Yes, two displaced Canadians actually have friends coming to dine. We met our Austin friends in Cozumel four years ago and have remained in touch. They graciously treated us to dinner last week and, now, it is our pleasure to host them. These new friends will meet our old ones. And, you know what will happen. We will share some wine, some laughs and some good food.

César Chávez was an impressive man on a national scale. Equally important, he was an insightful human being who recognized simple gifts. We too are blessed to be surrounded by such generous people who share their bounty unconditionally. They make sharing our food, and our hearts, one of life’s true pleasures.



Saturday, 14 February 2015

Spring is in the Air #hashtaghellotwitterville

Birdsong fills the air each day as I sit looking out at the hills of Austin, lost in thought, wrapped in dreams. Chickadees chirp and finches flit while a cardinal dominates the treescape. He is bold, flaunting his strength, his prowess and, the wee blighter knows it, his beauty. Spring is in the air, the game of mating has launched and the careful construction of nests has begun.

I too have started to gather random bits to build a nest of sorts of my own. I flew into the vast blue skies of Twitter this week. It is an immense universe, filled with so many voices that I am overwhelmed by the cacophony. I have panicked, fluttering frantically, a hummingbird trying to stay airborne in the updraft of sound. That was when I knew I needed a safe place and the comfort of familiar murmurs of support. I turned to my cyber friends.

While I still do not understand hashtag (It sounds like a stoner’s game from the 70’s), how to find the writing connections I am seeking or why the Twitter trend suggestions think I could possibly be interested in Justin Bieber’s love life, my friends have said hello, they have followed me and they have favourited my two sad little peeps. And, they wait in the wings, ready to give advice when I am done playing and am ready to truly soar.

In the same vein as it takes a village to raise a child, I am discovering it takes a community to build a nest. Thank you to all of my writer friends and friends of writers for lending a helping hand. I will continue to collect and weave in the odds and ends, until I have a solid, comfy nest where I will sit and transpose the discord into symphony and tweet my own sweet sounds to the world.

(Singing from the treetops @roserambles1)

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A Room With A View

At home, I have a view while I write. I tuck myself into our sitting room, affectionately called “the nook," content with glances out the wall of French doors to the world beyond. I have always loved that, but I did not fully realize its impact on me.

For many reasons, my writing stalled last month. Over this past week, I have come to see that environment was also a contributing factor to stagnation. The home we rented was lovely, but the view when sitting to write was the tops of palm trees. Exciting, perhaps, to a Canadian in the midst of a January freeze, but those palms swayed, battered by the cold driving rain, and the vista was a tad dismal. And, so was my writing.

My New Nook

The home we are currently renting is nestled in the hills of Austin, overlooking a lush canyon. I know it is a rich landscape because the house is framed with floor to ceiling windows and I get to gaze out at it from almost every room. It is an unusual home, adobe in design, it curves Mediterranean style, the ceilings reflecting the architecture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. The owner has an artistic flair and everywhere you look, you find something to admire, to think about, to dream on. Yet, she has also made it accessible and comfortable. I feel at home.

A Room With A View
I have done more work on Raven’s Path in one week than I did the entire month on South Padre Island. I curl up on my very own couch each morning while DH heads off to another nook. I write. I revise. I pull at my hair in frustration when a phrase does not fall into place. And, I look up. Trees blow in the wind, squirrels run across the stonework and I wonder about the lives of the people across the valley. I smile and get back to work.

When I write, it seems I need to see the world that waits for me. Or, perhaps, I need to be reminded that I am but one small part of it and to not take myself too seriously. Either way, I have discovered something very important. I need a room with a view. Preferably, a spectacular one. J