Back to work

 

In just over a month I turn 65. I am moving into Elderhood as graciously as I can. And perhaps not in the normal way of doing things, I am going back to work.

Not at the library, this time.

Last summer when I was planning my move to Nanaimo, I started looking around for a community of like-minded people. Having been a member of the Unitarian Church of Vancouver, which nicely mirrored and supported my values in both my everyday and spiritual life, I was hoping to find the same in my new neighbourhood.

shelter1I did. I was thrilled to discover the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo (FUFON), where I was welcomed in so warmly to its inclusive, open congregation.

And where, very early on, I discovered important work being done.

The Unitarian Shelter has been providing a non-judgemental welcome, a warm bed, hot meals, and companionship to Nanaimo’s homeless for eight seasons. This ‘low-barrier’ shelter, supported by the Fellowship’s congregation, the community, and with federal and provincial funding and a grant from the City of Nanaimo, will open its doors again in October offering a safe, warm and dry overnight environment for men and women from Nanaimo’s streets.

someoneAnd I’m thrilled to begin serving as the shelter’s Executive Director on August 1.

I won’t be making beds, preparing meals, overseeing the laundry, or cleaning the washrooms – other than on an occasional volunteer basis. That is best left to the Shelter Coordinator and his dedicated team of staff and volunteers. I’ll be ‘in the back’, helping build and maintain relationships with the FUFON congregation, funders, donors and volunteers and looking for new ways to spread the word about the shelter, generate funds, and build awareness of homelessness in our communities.

I am so proud to be doing this work.

And so very sad that in these times, it still has to be done.


“Do not avert your eyes.
It is important that you see this. It is important that you feel this.” 
Kamand Kojouri


After the deadline

Dressed for the weather in the Quantock Hills of Somerset.

Like many, it snuck up on me when I was not looking. And as deadlines go, it was a small one, for a 1,200-word article for Inspired Senior Living, a monthly magazine which is one of the few still open to freelance travel articles.

And I was writing about something I love to do – walking in the UK.

But I got the assignment in November 2016. Which I promptly ‘sidelined’ in my mind as the deadline seemed seemed so far away.

I did other things… mainly traveled, got involved in quite a bit of volunteer work, spent lovely times with family and friends here, and on the Lower Mainland. And on my return from an 8-week trip to Europe, somehow thinking the deadline was for Aug 1, pulled out the assignment email.

Turns out it was JULY 1, just three weeks away.

It’s been a long time since I wrote an article… you know what Mark Twain said, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” It took an indorndinately lot of hours to draft those 1,400 words (yes, longer than assigned, but I think I am good as some of them are As You Go notes, which I hope aren’t included in the word count). Then, with no in-house First Reader, I needed a pair of fresh eyes – which I found in fellow Nanaimo writer Judy Millar.

Then the issue of pictures. The ones I had in mind had disappeared from my laptop. Or maybe were never there. I trawled through every directory, my two iPads, my external hard drive. And then remembered a thumb drive to which I had uploaded pictures from my previous computer.

But where was it? After two days of turning everything upside down in my house, it literally fell into my hands when I was searching through a closet I had already checked.

I had pictures.

Then I had to figure out how DropBox works – the favoured way of forwarding images to editors these days, I’m told, but had never used before. But thanks to the expertise of another fellow writer Julie Ferguson, I soon had that figured out.

So today both article and pictures were sent off, duly acknowledged by the editor, and I’m done.

And now I’m basking in the post-deadline glow. It’s done. It’s gone. And in August I will see just how those words and pics look on the page. 

Meanwhile, I hope to have dug back into another project which is my priority for the summer and fall. A project with no deadline, which means it could take forever.

 

 

 


Pitching in 140 characters

 

Picture books are devilishly hard to write. I continue to toy with them from time to time because I love the form so much.

I agonize over every word and phrase, read them aloud, and more often than not put them away in a drawer to ‘season’.

Ocassionally I send them out and watch as boomerang-like they return to me. Sometimes with an encouraging note. More often with a form rejection that I know REALLY means, “Please never bother us – or any other publisher or agent again – with such drivel.”

But being an optimist, I persist.

Tomorrow is Picture Book Pitch Twitter Day. And today I have been trying to condense a couple of story summaries into 140 characters. 140! If I thought writing a 300-600 word book was hard, this was pure agony. But worth it. In that it really helped me drill down to – what to me seems to be – the heart of the matter.

Even if the two stories I pitch tomorrow meet with only resounding silence, the effort of refining, revising and editing the pitches will give me tools I can continue to use as I continue my quest to place just one picture book story in the hands of young children and their parents.

#pbpitch

 


It’s been a while…

 

… but I will be back in the classroom in July to present a four-hour workshop to members of the First Unitarian Fellowship of Nanaimo.


TRIBE – New anthology in the works

 

International Women’s Day seems the perfect day to announce a new publishing project.

‘Tribe’ will be a print anthology exploring the lives and experiences of older, single women and will include poetry, fiction, memoir, nonfiction, personal narrative, prose poems… about all and any topics that affect women. It will be published by LPwordsolutions in Nanaimo, BC.

Contributors will be paid a small honorarium and contributors’ copies, with 50%+ of any net profits from the book going to a women’s charity… determined with input from anthology contributors.

Please pass the word to any female writers you know who are:
a) single by choice or circumstance, and
b) over 55 years old.

You can download the writer’s guidelines from the Tribe blog here. Or if you have questions or comments please contact tribeanthology@outlook.com.

I am hoping to put together an editorial team to review submissions, and hoping to include line drawings in the book so will be looking for submissions from artists.

LP

 

 

 


You’re on hold…

I tried to get too clever with a few website updates today, and all my splash page menu tabs disappeared. Give it a few days and Kyle Reid of Conceptic Design will help set me straight.

(I did work one of those switchboards in my very first job in London many aeons ago!)


Gulp!

 

I had an idea for an adult story a couple of days ago, this after weeks…months…a couple of years of very little motivation to write anything.

Knowing that I write fast and dirty, and needing to break this logjam, I decided to write 1,000 words a day of the new work for 60 days. Without fail. And see what comes out of it.

Dec 27: Day One of Holiday Let – 1113 words – this included about 800 words of a scene, and a couple of hundred notes about what was going on in my head as I worked on it.

Dec 29: 1079 words of another scene.

Dec 30: Three (today) – 1206 words of a third scene.

I have my three main characters on scene, with reference to two others who may be significant. A few plot points have spontaneously developed as I’ve been punching words onto the page. And I’m immersed in the setting of the North Cornwall beach town of Perranporth, complete with the ‘lost church’ of St Pirrans – in both the present and late-60s when my family rented a holiday house (a ‘Holiday let’ as they are known in England) each summer for a number of years.

My voice is rusty. My typing not so hot. But I am determined to keep plugging on, writing full scenes, worrying about the narrative connective tissue later, doing nothing more than giving each day’s work a quick read through and adding a few thoughts for next day’s session as it occurs to me.

I’ll check in here from time to time to post an update on how I’m doing. And if you have any thoughts that will help me keep going, do share them here.

lp-beach

LP posing on Perranporth Beach, about 1966… Photo courtesy my boarding school friend Barbara (Babs) Tipson.

 


A Room of One’s Own

Virgina Woolf’s writing room at Monk’s House, Rodmell, Sussex.

When I first downsized from a two-bedroom condo to a one-bedroomed one, I was quite happy with my new workspace – the kitchen table.

But it turned out not to be the best space for me – as I also used it for eating, checking email, playing dominoes with my grandson, mixing scones, reading the news, online research…

Like Virginia Woolf and her Room of One’s Own, I needed a designated space that triggered my writing muscle as soon as I sat down in it.

So then I had to go in search of a small table, figure out a space to put it in my living room, and pick up a couple of chairs to go with it. Thanks to Craigslist, that most valuable of online shopping venues, I was able to find what I needed at a great price, and these things are now in place.

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Since I moved my writing into the living room, I not only find I am more productive, less-easily distracted, and quite comfortable, I also now have a space to store the clutter of paperwork that somehow still seems an inevitable bi-product of this ‘paperless work world’.

I’d certainly prefer a little house at the end of an English garden, although I do note that Woolf’s room of her own is disconcertingly close to the Ouse River where she took her own life.


Getting back to work

This quote by the American Poet Mary Oliver has always rung true to me.

“If Romeo and Juliet had made their appointments to meet, in the moonlight-swept orchard, in all the peril and sweetness of conspiracy, and then more often than not failed to meet — one or the other lagging, or afraid, or busy elsewhere — there would have been no romance, no passion, none of the drama for which we remember and celebrate them. Writing a poem is not so different—it is a kind of possible love affair between something like the heart (that courageous but also shy factory of emotion) and the learned skills of the conscious mind. They make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Or, they make appointments with each other but are casual and often fail to keep them: count on it, nothing happens.”

My life has been rather disrupted by life’s upheavals and a recent move, so I’ve done little writing for the past few months. But it’s time to get back to it.

DSCN2156

I no longer have a study, having moved from a two- to a one-bedroomed apartment. But I’ve become quite comfortable running much of my new life from the kitchen table, where I have good light, space to spread out, and the teapot close at hand.

Now is the time to assert a little discipline, to strengthen my resolve to get back to it, and to apply my seat to the chair and not get up until I’ve sweated a little blood.

A few other writers I’ve talked to about my recent hiatus and the challenge of getting back to work have suggested that I will start to write again when I’m ready. I tend to think I will only be ready once I do get back to work.

I can think about the projects languishing in my drawers all I like. I can talk about writing from dawn to dusk. But until I make an appointment to work, and keep it – nothing will happen.


Doing it for free

 

They come from all over – requests from libraries, schools, community groups – asking for free presentations, workshops and readings from writers.

A number of years ago, when I was trying to explain that this was not something I could accommodate, I did suggest that if the teacher was willing to forgo her wage for teaching that day, I might be willing to donate my time, too.

Dead silence. Then a kind of choking noise… Laughter? Outrage? I never did find out as she hung up pretty quick.

But perhaps you get my point.

I work at my craft. I take time from other necessary activities in my life to put into my writing. I make an investment in space, equipment and supplies. I make part of my living from my writing, and all the activities relating to it.

And I no longer do it for free.

Libraries have budgets and can apply for grants. If schools value literacy, they should also value the writers who contribute to helping develop it in their students. We live in a society that – rightly or wrongly – shows the value of something by attaching a dollar value to it.

I have worked for free in the past for the right person, project or organization. I mentor other writers. I donate copies of my  books. But I do maintain the right to say No.

Today I received the latest request. Sadly, this came via a writer who was also once the ED of a provincial writers’ organization. Who should know better.

I wonder if she understood when I said no. That this was something I could not do, ‘like many other children’s writers who cannot work for free.’

I wonder if next time the library needs its plumbing fixed, it will ask the tradesperson to do it for free.

Although I bet they DO have a budget for that!

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