Saturday, 23 April 2016

Nothing Compares 2 U—Prince

I've always loved purple. When I was a kid, I got to pick the carpet for my room; I chose purple shag. My bedspread was mauve as were my curtains. I would choose purple stuffed animals, purple doll clothes and put that Laurentien pencil crayon #5 to good use whenever an opportunity presented itself. I suppose it was inevitable that I would fall for Prince.

I first met his work in Dirty Mind and Controversy. There is little purple prose on those albums. They are raw and they are real. Struggling with finding my place in the world, trying to figure out who I was as a young adult, and exploring my sexuality, the unfiltered lyrics and driving vibe of those albums hit the sweet spot. I listened to them over and over, not knowing yet, that it was the launch of my adult version of loving purple.

When I saw Purple Rain I was sandwiched between my boyfriend and his brother at a drive-in theatre. They ceased to exist. I knew the acting was terrible and the movie incredibly simplistic, but Prince was mesmerizing. My body vibrated with the music and I totally crushed on this man who was like no man I'd ever known, yet personified love and sex. That November, I went to his Purple Rain concert. He proved that his talent was no hype. I was spellbound from start to finish. Nothing has equalled it for me.

His "take me as I am" attitude, showed me time and again that it's okay to be different. More than okay—it's important to accept and rejoice in differences as well as commonalities. He was about connecting on a primal level, about being human and about celebrating that mixed bag of experiences and emotions that defines our species.

I have made no secret of my love of all things Prince, as the friends who sent emails and texts on Thursday, checking in on me, can attest. But, I'm not a gaga-for-celebrities kind of person as a rule. I don't hunt down news of them or obsess about their lives. I don't feel they owe me anything or that they are my friends. Yet, I am devastated by Prince's death. I feel truly gutted.

He has been with me since I was seventeen. Controversy was the background to my first long-term relationship. My husband went to the Purple Rain concert with me, although we went with a group of friends as friends and had no idea that we had a lifetime together ahead of us. But, he loved that show and the music as much as I did and I fell a little bit in love with him that night. Prince gave us the music to dance to, allowing us to release that after-performance adrenaline. Our theatre troupe, our dearest of friends, would squeal at the first notes of Let's Go Crazy and hit the stage. And, when we closed the bedroom door at night, Prince serenaded.

His music has been the soundtrack of my life. I will miss him, this man I never knew. Goodbye my purple friend.


Saturday, 16 April 2016

“I love my rejection slips. They show me I try.” – Sylvia Plath

You have to have tough skin to be a writer. To be an artist of any kind, really. Heck, everyone needs tough skin to venture into personally unchartered territory. It doesn't matter what you are pursuing, if it's new, it's daunting. I remember auditioning when I first came to Toronto. Only a few times. I didn't like the pressure of competing. I didn't have the guts. Maybe I didn't have the talent. Who knows? I'll certainly never know, because I skittered away like a frightened animal into a maelstrom of jobs.

Eventually, I grew a set. As a result, I've had some amazing experiences and a fabulous career. I discovered that if I worked hard, and stuck to it no matter the ups and downs, good things happened. My dreams unfolded. I have faith that the same applies to writing. I am working hard to improve, not just my specific stories, but my writing in general. And, I am approaching it with the same doggedness I adopted all those years ago.

Still, rejection is hard and it's tempting to put tail between legs and head into the proverbial hills. I've only sent out a handful of queries. I stopped for the reasons listed in my previous posts, but am revving up to begin again. So many of my writer peeps have almost exhausted their lists and are defeated. I am bracing myself for that, but not running. No, I am going to stand tall, keep reading, keep learning, keep writing. I'm holding to my formula: hard work + stick-to-it-ness = success. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day.

And, it's not just wishful thinking. I have proof. Check out the sampling of authors below and the rejections they endured before landing an agent or a publishing contract. Because, for those who don't know, querying to get an agent is the first gauntlet. You run a similar one with publishers after you get an agent. But I digress. Back to my belief in my formula. As you can see, it's founded on experience and definitive evidence from the field of writing. J

Cheers to all my writer friends and anyone else striving to reach a goal. We're in this together, and our time will come.


Agatha Christie was rejected for years before getting a contract.

Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind was rejected 38 times.

Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen's Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 134 times.

Stephen King's Carrie was rejected 30 times.

Kathryn Stockett's The Help was rejected 60 times.

J.K. Rowlings' Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was rejected by 12 publishers.

To read some of the defeating comments that writers have risen above, check out LitRejections.


Saturday, 9 April 2016

I like to write first-person because I like to become the character I'm writing. —Wally Lamb

I've had several emails asking me what the heck I am talking about with my revisions—close third to first person. Wha? I forget that many of you are not writers and have long ago forfeited the structural analysis of writing for the vagaries of day-to-day living. You are not wallowing in the debate of the worth of your words. You are out in the world, making your way and working hard. But, I like to think, you are hoping a good book awaits you as a reward at the end of a weary day. That's where my gnashing of teeth and biting of nails come in. And my revision.

I initially wrote Lizzy's story from her point of view but not from her headspace. While the story unfolded from her viewpoint, Lizzy was she and her. It was close third POV but there was still an element of a camera watching. It was also told in the past tense. So she said, he looked, they went. Contrast that with first person present where the action is happening now, and the reader is in her head—I say, he looks, we go.

Once I started the rewrite, I was addicted. I began to see what Lizzy sees, feel what she feels. When I looked at scenes directly through her lens, I found I needed to flesh them out more fully, to delve more deeply into the dynamics of her interactions with others. It has resulted in several thousand more words. I think they're good words. Strong words. Words that better convey the layered agonies of Lizzy's world.

Below is the first page of Cutting to the Chase. The first is my original opening in third person. The second is the revised first person. Hopefully, it lends clarity to what I have tried to explain above. If you feel comfortable, let me know what you think.



Lizzy lay the steel against her leg, its smooth metal a cool caress. The slight scrape as it dragged across her skin sent a chill down her spine and she shivered, anticipating. Spreading her legs wider, she allowed her hand to slip to her inner thigh, inhaling deeply before edging the corner of the razor into the soft flesh.

She held her breath, riveted, waiting. The first crimson drop hit the water—the silent splash echoing in the small room, shouting in her mind—then it dissipated into watery nothingness, becoming whispers of agony. She exhaled slowly, drawing the blade in a straight path, fascinated as always by the gentle folding away of skin. Like pulling the strip on a Babybel. Except, she was the cheese inside out.

“You’ve been in there 30 minutes!”

She pulled the roll of toilet paper and pressed a clump of it against the cut. The little shit could wait.

“I timed it. Thirty stinkin’ minutes. You don’t own the freakin’ washroom!” The door reverberated from his banging.

“Shut up.” She wiped, but she’d gone deeper this time and it kept dripping. Grabbing more tissue, she managed to smear the blood, the mess looking a lot like her watercolor attempt last week. Mrs. Opal had described it as a sailor's warning, whatever the hell that meant.



The metal is cool against my leg. I want to put it away, shove it back in the cabinet out of sight, forget it exists. But, I can't. Instead, I tip it and drag it across my skin, scraping slowly. Chills run down my spine, making me shiver. I spread my legs wider, allow my hand to slip to my inner thigh, totally giving in to it, edging the corner of the razor blade in. It's easy. Flesh is soft.

I hold my breath and wait. The first crimson drop hits the water—the silent splash echoes in the room, shouts in my mind—then it disappears into watery nothingness. The buzzing in my head softens Mom's angry words to whispers. I can breathe now and my heart starts to thump normally. The sharp pain eases. I draw the blade in a straight path. I love how the skin folds away. Like pulling the strip on a Babybel. Except I'm the cheese inside out.

“You’ve been in there 30 minutes!”

I pull at the roll of toilet paper and press a clump of it against the cut. The little shit can wait.

“I timed it. Thirty stinkin’ minutes. You don’t own the freakin’ washroom!” The door reverberates from his banging.

“Shut up.” I wipe, but I've gone deeper this time and it keeps dripping. Grabbing more tissue, I manage to smear the blood, the mess looking a lot like my watercolor attempt last week. Mrs. Opal had described it as a sailor's warning, whatever the hell that means.


***I submitted my first page to the Secret Agent Contest at Ms. Snark's First Victim. It was an amazing experience. The secret agent critiqued the first pages of forty writers. I learned so much from reading the submissions as well as the thoughtful and thorough critiques. I was so pleased to discover that, not only is the secret agent one I would love as my representative, but she also picked my first page as a runner up—which means she will now definitely be reading my query, first five chapters and synopsis. It makes me feel really good about the hours spent on revising to first person.


Saturday, 2 April 2016

Somethin's Gotta Give

I apologize to those of you who take the time to find me out here in cyber world, but it's a non-blog week. DH and I tackled the 800 square foot deck this week. Sanding and staining has been a time-consuming task. And, when I'm not knee-deep in Cedar tone #2053, I am busy with the revision.
However, I don't want you to leave disappointed. I give you the girls for your viewing pleasure. See you next week!