Monday, January 18, 2010


The workday begins with me sitting on a bench, writing, while sipping a coffee inside a mall in town. Every seat inside the Starbucks is taken. Laptops are open in front of at least half the patrons.

This is what happens when the power goes out.

Although the town powers on, it’s dark in the outlying areas, including at my home. We the power deprived crawl out of the woodwork and head for the town lights. Who are all these people? Other writers? Entrepreneurs? Home business operators? Getting a seat inside Starbucks isn’t crucial. I can’t use my laptop because, although the place is wireless, my ancient device can’t access the service. Add laptop to the wish list should I get an advance on any writing in the near future.

I’m guessing the power died somewhere around two in the morning as rains pummeled my windows and winds huffed and puffed, thrashing the tall pines and threatening to blow the house down. Happens many times each winter. We’ve been spared some this year. Still, the inconvenience of the moment is expected to last the full day, midnight being the time the hydro company estimates for getting power restored.

I move to a small table in the mall. Right beside the Lotto Centre island. Seventies music pipes through the ceiling: “Sad Eyes”, Karen’s haunting voice singing “For All We Know”, Chaka offering a soulful “Sweet Thing”. The classics, as I know them, compete with today’s hip hop, blaring from the Athletes World across the way. (Wish they had an apostrophe in their name. Help us, Lynne Truss!) It’s catchy, but it can’t compete with Chaka.

A steady stream of hopefuls stop by the lottery base to check their tickets. The system is down, the only inconvenience perceptible to townsfolk. They don’t know how lucky they are already.

Without my laptop, it’s paper and pencil today. I used to prefer first drafts scrawled on legal pads and plain notebooks, but I realize I’ve made the full transition to thinking and writing in front of a computer. I have no choice but to fall back on my old ways. I cannot afford for today to be a write-off. I have also loaded plenty of non-electronic writing tasks in my backpack: the latest issue of The Writer—a rare chance to study articles I never seem to get around to reading—, an old screenplay I need to reread to decide if it’s worth revising, a TV script to study for formatting and pacing.

Despite the power outage, I must continue to plug away. The brain power is on its own today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have no children of my own so I don’t have an authentic sense of what it’s like raising them and hoping that one day they will leave home with the best possible shot at living a happy, successful life. I have dogs, but they never grow up. Lincoln, in particular, doesn’t learn any of life’s lessons because, well, he doesn’t seem to learn. (He is awfully amusing, thank goodness.)

I am not the first to compare writing projects to one’s offspring. Yes, it pales to the constant care involved in parenting, but there is that element of creating something and shaping it to be the best it can be. The milestones and personality get tweaked after regular, often difficult, reflection. And then there comes a point of realization that every opportunity imaginable has been offered to this being and the best thing is to set it out in the world.

I have a habit of sitting on “completed” writing. It’s hard to let go. What if I send it out and it meets rejection? What if I can find an extra spark if I hang on just a little longer? Thankfully, despite my clinging, there comes a point when the manuscript is itching to move out. I can feel it and there is no way I can hold it back any longer.

Yes, it’s ready.

Today I shall send two picture book manuscripts out into the world, Eric’s English Lessons and Alastair on Safari. I am proud of the unique personality of each. Eric is a fearful, serious individual who takes everything literally. God help him. Hopefully, he’ll also come across as a sympathetic, even amusing character who makes us think about the way we say things. Alastair, on the other hand, always was a wild child. He’s a reckless, daring adventurer but also a keen observer. Bursting with imagination, life is his for the taking.

I cannot sit back and fret too much about the fate of these “children”. To be sure, I hope to hear good news with respect to both of them. But I have much more to focus on at home as I continue to raise Broderick, Esmeralda, Julie, Sven, Clint, Dennis and the rest of the brood. Although two are gone, it’s still a full house of rambunctious characters, each vying to have his or her story heard. Of that, I’m truly thankful.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I don’t think I’ve ever compared my writing to an episode of “The Bachelor” before but here goes. As I baked chocolate brownie muffins last night, the pilot bachelor took a group of women on a date to Magic Mountain. (The whole group date thing is icky, but I shall try to stick to the subject.) They had the entire theme park to themselves. I wasn’t watching the screen—one must not waste chocolate on a botched batch!—but I’ll assume they rode the roller coasters. I went to Magic Mountain once when I lived in L.A. and the place is all about the roller coasters. And that’s where I made a connection with my writing.

(Sort of) like that entourage, my writing experiences are very much like riding a roller coaster on my own. Over the last twenty-four hours, I’ve gone from a grim low to an ecstatic high.

The low arose from my searching for publishers and agents on the Internet and in The Canadian Writer’s Market. About four weeks ago, I designated January 13 as Submission Day, with the intention of revising and polishing two of my picture book manuscripts and one teleplay and getting them in the mail. The good news is that I am excited about the projects that I’m preparing to send out. The bad news is that I don’t feel like I have a great sense about where to submit them. Many publishers do not consider picture books. Others do not take unsolicited manuscripts. That requires a search for agents, most of whom are not taking new clients and others who don’t consider authors unless they have been recommended and referred. The doors to the TV script arena seem even more guarded. Hours spent searching and I still didn’t feel I had a plan.

But then things perked up. I went to the gym and returned home to do a final polish on one of the picture books. After some tweaking, I reached a point of being fully satisfied, even energized, about the project. The rise continued when I got a call from a friend who is arranging a dinner later this month with a group of friends that includes someone who co-wrote a feature film now in theaters and generating Oscar buzz. I look forward to the opportunity to chat with him about his experiences.

And this morning I drafted my query letter for my other picture book. The letter has much more zing than prior versions, giving me a better feeling that I am creating the best circumstance I can to get my work noticed. It seems that I have reached the pinnacle of the roller coaster. But then maybe not. Maybe it’s time to build a taller roller coaster.

Riding alone is exciting, but also scary. Still, it beats sitting on a bench, clutching an oversized stuffed purple alligator and a bag of cotton candy while watching others experience the thrills and, yes, the occasional nausea. (One can get nauseous even being a bench warmer. A little cotton candy goes a long way.)

By the way, the chocolate muffins turned out amazing. Perfect with whipped cream. Comfort food to deal with the angst in finding a publisher/agent and a reward for trudging onward!