CRUEL TO BE KIND, WRITER VERSION

As a fiction writer, I know that I must put my main character through a series of life trials. The protagonist must suffer.   The reader wants someone to root for, someone with an indomitable spirit.

As I write for children, I need to remind myself that the protagonists in early chapter aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaheidi-spyribooks must also face difficulties, foes and hardships.   And the conflict must escalate into a moment of crisis.  Think of your favourite children’s book .  I guarantee is it chockfull of challenges.

Mother-Me and Writer-Me had to come to terms with my need to make an eight year old girl miserable, lonely, stressed and exhausted. Those of us who write know how real our characters can feel to us. But the biggest mistake that any writer can make is to make everything easy-peasy for our characters.

 

Writer-Me understood how the aaaaaaaaaaa-clovers-luckcharacter grows through challenges, whether the challenge be a school bully, a house fire or the death of a beloved pet. But the Mother-Me wants to coddle my heroine, give her good grades and prevent her from stepping into the messy dog poop of life.

I am so very grateful that I was given the opportunity to rework my story. Writer-Me told Mother-Me that my character is strong enough to experience loneliness, fatigue, failures and frustrations.  Her  growth  and perseverance made my happily ever after all the more meaningful.

Yay for rewrites and the editing process.   Stay tuned as I cruelly throw curveballs at my next young heroine.  Watch as she rises to the occasion and handles each skill-building stressor like the  third grade Super Girl that she truly is! Can you hear her?  She said, “BRING IT ON!”

 

Cheers!

TWO MORE POEMS ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION

aaa-snoopy-gets-mailThis week I received an envelope in the mail. Upon seeing it, I sighed.

Decades ago, a writer would not have been certain what the envelope contained . A rejection?  A request from an editor to revise work?   An acceptance?   A cheque?  Who knew.

Things have changed.   Most snail-mailed replies are rejections, in Canada.  Receiving a reply e-mail can mean either rejection or acceptance.  In the case of longer works (i.e. book submissions,) a phone call is the norm, if the work is accepted.  Why? Because  the acceptance signals the beginning of the editing process between author and publisher, heralds the start of a beautiful long-term relationship (hopefully. )

So, back to MY envelope. It was pudgy.  I smiled when I felt its weight.  I figured that the editor had been kind enough to send me a critique.  Every hard-working writer appreciates a hard-working editor who actually takes the time and care to send some feedback.

But the envelope didn’t contain a rejection or feedback.

I opened the envelope to find not only an acceptance letter, but proofs.

BAM, WHAT!

The Prairie Journal has accepted two of my poems (two!), and the literary editor sent me the proofs to show me how my poems had been formatted. HOLY COW.   The journal is ready to go to print!

It was the best of surprises.

I am just thrilled to be included in this wonderful journal that will feature more work by Barry Butson, a poet I very much admire.

I can’t wait to read the journal cover to cover! From the Writer’s Digest Writer’s Market, and in reference to The Prairie Journal: “The audience is literary, university, library, scholarly, and creative readers/writers.”

So, I’m in happy dance mode.

Thank you (big hugs) to all those who are happy dancing with me.

DONALD TRUMP & THE SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF

Fiction writers know that what we pen must — at the very least—sound believable. It’s the “Truth is stranger than fiction” scenario. The reader must willingly go where our story leads them.  If it sounds so out there, so beyond the realm of possibility, then the reader will discount your story, give it a big ole “F”  Now, a good writer can easily achieve that suspension of disbelief.  Which means that what is written may be far off the scale of realism and possibility, but is written in such a way that readers take that tremendous leap of faith and jump down your rabbit hole, or Mary Poppins themselves into a chalk drawing.

 

donald-trumpI’ve been thinking about Donald Trump. I’ve been thinking that if I were to write a novel  based on the current USA political party leaders that I would NOT be able to offer my readers suspension of disbelief.

 

So, we have a man who is an open racist and misogynist who may be voted in as the next president. And this is 2016.  And the last president was — finally — elected because of his platform, not his skin colour.  Think about it.  Think about writing a novel that features a man just a breath away from the most powerful position in the world who says he will PUNISH  ADULT WOMEN for having an abortion, who is cuddling up to a superpower who has outlawed homosexuality, hired hitmen to kill journalists and then there is of course that plane that was shot down in the Ukraine with a Russian missile.

Now, this presidential candidate has been caught in lies, let it slip that he doesn’t pay taxes (actually states that trying to find loopholes proves he’s smart –screw ethics, who needs them) and basically says when a woman says no, she doesn’t really mean it.

Even fiction couldn’t sell this guy as the next president. Readers would roll their eyes, stop halfway through the first page and chuck that paperback right into the closest garbage can.

Still, I can see him in a reworked fairy-tale… as the dragon or … the wolf who cross-dresses in Granny’s bonnet.   He’d make an awesome ‘Joker’ or ‘Lex Luther,’ right?

Naw. Even the Joker wouldn’t t set off a nuclear missile or re-launch the demographics which led to the holocaust.  So, best to leave this crazy villain where he stands.  At the doorway to Hell, refusing to tuck his tail between his legs …

The Best Kind of “No”

revise-and-resubmit

Well, I received a no-but from an editor this week. She has suggested that I rework my book and is willing to read it again, after revisions are made.  This kind of “no” is the best of all no’s.

And yes, it makes me happy. I recognize that I have been given another chance to redeem myself.  This is a rare opportunity.

I recognize what needs to get done, and I need to throw myself into this project. This is difficult when I am so close to finishing another book.

Still, all day long my character has been whispering to me. Which for me is a very good sign.  I’m half way done a new outline, already.  This map has many more hills and valleys.  I should be able to start the revision process tomorrow.

One day to mope is a requirement, I think. Then, carry on writing and get ‘er done!

I will be drinking pots of tea and be barely coherent for several weeks, methinks.

Carry On Writing

keep-calm-and-carry-on-writing-176Come tomorrow, Orca Books will have had my manuscript for five months. This is a wonderful thing.  As long as I haven’t received a full-out rejection, my book is still being considered by the editor.  In the meantime, I’m trying my best to “carry on writing.”

My mood swings between optimistic to a state of “prepare thyself pilgrim for a big ole letdown. “

I’ve replaced my problem with coffee with a problem with tea. Healthier?  Not sure yet.

I also know that I will not be contacting the editor.  This is a busy time for her.  She’s preparing for the fall launch.  She’s busy with authors and illustrators and copy editors, meetings, printers…

All this while she works her way through a slush pile. I know (many don’t) that  most of her reading is done at home, during her (haha) ‘off time.’

Still, I’m jumpy. The phone rings and I hold my breath, hoping against hope “she” is calling me.   I’m sure I’ve insulted dozens of people as of late with my less than enthusiastic, “Oh, it’s just you. Hi.”

Meanwhile, I keep plugging away at my next book; I reach my daily quota.

Life is good and busy. I’m an emotional mess.  In fact, I’m such a ditz that if … IF… she calls me, I’ll probably turn into an unprofessional blubbering baby who is nowhere near coherent.

No way if she’s on the other end, I say, “Oh. hi.”

No, offense intended, my friends.  No offense intended….

Cheers… my second grader is about to come home and distract me. THANK GOD!  haha!

Truth in Fiction

1111111fryfogel-plaque

Soon after we moved from Waterloo, we discovered how much easier it was to shop in Stratford than dealing with the road construction that is KW.  The city has a lovely library, department stores a-plenty and a choice of affordable grocers.  The drive is scenic, too.  And best of all, each time we travel to Stratford, we pass the Fryfogel Tavern, a place that fascinates me to the point of near-obsession.

One day, we drove past an open house.  I insisted that my husband turn the car around. Thankfully, my seven year old daughter was up for the adventure.  I sighed with relief when I saw that the organizers had provided a craft corner for children, as well as a monarch butterfly release. This provided me with an hour to poke about.

aaaaaaaafryfogeltavernoutsideI learned that the Fryfogel Tavern was built in 1845 and had been a stagecoach stop.  It was an Inn where soon-to-be settlers could get a meal and stay for the night.  The Stratford Perth Historical Foundation is slowly restoring this old gem. The kitchen in the basement has been beautifully restored and refurnished.  Still, many rooms desperately need to be brought back to life.

During the tour I learned that the Tavern was owed and managed by  Sebastian and Mary Fryfogel.  And I was told their young son, Henry, drowned in a nearby creek at the age of five.

The mother-writer in me fixated on the tragedy.  I began to research the Fyfogels and learned they’d had twelve children.  They’d lost one boy as an infant and a year after that loss, Henry had been born.  More research showed that Henry died of an accidental poisoning.

And a story was born within me.  Mary Eby Fryfogel had to care for her surviving children and serve her guests while coping with a very private loss.  Her husband was a politician of sorts, a busy man and she often “manned the fort.”

Just yesterday, we pulled up to the old tavern, again. We’d come upon another open house just by chance. It was finishing-up. A historian was packing up his car, and I shamelessly pounced upon him with questions. I managed to learn that a story had been long circulating about Henry eating poisonous berries.  But there is no written document of what truly transpired. So even the historical accounts are filled with conjecture, lack fact. Death certificates were not yet being issued in Canada.

11111111-tombstone-fryfogel

I have not written this story yet; it bubbles within me as I devote myself to writing chapter books and early middle readers.  I have connected to Mary in a very real way.  Legally, I can pen anything about Mary and Sebastian and Henry without ramifications.  However, ethically, I feel I must tell their stories as accurately as I can.

There is a deeper truth to be told:  the history of women, the existence of parental grief  when so many children did not make it to adulthood, how the people of today are not so dissimilar to the people of the past…

In my research, I also learned author Jane Urquhart also was inspired by the tavern.  Her novel, Map of Glass, references the tavern’s two murals.  The two murals were revealed when wall paper was removed.  She allowed her imagination to run rampant.  The artist who painted these murals is unknown.  Map of Glass in itself is a work of art…

I will never know how Mary Fryfogel mourned.  I only know the truth within the fictional: mourn she surely did. And if my facts aren’t a hundred percent accurate, then I hope what is bang-on is my  characterization of a real-life woman whose pain I can only imagine.