I’m up!

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Hello,

A lot of time has passed, over a year in fact, since I last wrote. I wanted to come back sooner, but some days I didn’t want to, some days I physically couldn’t, and some days I felt too embarrassed and disappointed in myself to believe I should or could write.

But here I am. Again. Wiping the dust off my shoulder and my keyboard and trying.

I looked up a few of those inspiring quotes to add to this post. None of them really explained why I decided to pick up my long abandoned blog and book.

I started the year on a great reading kick. I was commuting for three hours every day and everything I read was great. If I started a book I didn’t like I dropped it. For nearly five months, I was in book reading bliss. But once my work shifted to back at home, my reading didn’t come with me and I felt like garbage. I binged watched television and movies, spent too much time scrolling through Twitter and Facebook, and got caught up on the youtube channels I follow. One day, I was scrolling through Twitter and read a post about self-comfort vs. self-care. I realized that I was comforting myself but not caring.

So I picked up my books again. Hilary Mantel. Kevin Kwan. I even attended an author event with Kwan for his newest book, Rich People Problems, which was delightful. Reading good books has turned into wanting to write a good book.

This summer, my brother asked me if I’d been working on my book. I didn’t try to hide my lack of progress behind the too busy response. I haven’t been working on it, but I know that I should. I still, after all this time, like the idea of my book. But blank pages don’t tell a story. Not even a bad one.

So I will write. I will write for this blog. I will write my book. I will read. I will keep trying because I want to and that’s enough reason for me.

 

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Fast Reader, Slow Writer

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Getting caught up in a good book is easy enough to do, especially in the winter. What’s not to love about curling up with a hot drink and a strong story and watch the cold nights pass by.

While work generally leaves me little time to read in the winter, this year I did a pretty good job of keeping up with my reading. I think being part of a 50 Book Challenge really helped, and, though I’m a little behind schedule, I’ve managed to not completely lose momentum.

Except when it comes to writing.

Reading is easy. Enjoyable. Cozy. Writing, however, is work. Most days it requires great effort to put words to page. The struggle is real. I would much rather sit and enjoy quietly turning the pages than curse-out a blank page or delete and retype a sentence that just won’t come together.

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So while I’ve read the books from my 50 Book Challenge, I haven’t been writing about them. I’m trying to get caught up now. Trying to remember the books I finished reading weeks ago and write something thoughtful about the stories and my experience of them. But if I thought it was difficult when the stories were fresh in my mind, putting off writing about them has not done me any favours.

I am a huge procrastinator when I have the chance. A habit only matched by my fiery determination once I set myself to a task.

I have three books to write blog posts for:

Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans

Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro

Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

 

And three books to read:

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Looking for Alaska by John Greene

The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu

The challenge for me this month is to write as much as I read. I’m trying to take it one book at a time and remind myself that while I did organize the books by month, the point is to read them all not read them as a prescribed time, so I’d like to have all the posts caught up by April. I really enjoyed all the books I’ve read. This was the first time I’ve read Alice Munro and the series of stories—wait, I’m going to save it for the blog post.

Happy reading (and writing!)

BJL

And now a word from DAR

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I’m working on my post for David Adams Richards’ Road to the Stilt House and came across an interview with him from 1990. At this time, he had five novels published, the last being the Governor General’s Award winning Nights Below Station Street, and was soon to release Evening Snow Will Bring Such Peace.

Well worth the read even if you aren’t familiar with Richards’ work as he discusses the book trade in Canada, a writer’s relationship with academia and critics, and the lives of his characters.

The interview is conducted by Kathleen Scherf for the journal Studies in Canadian Literature. Here is a little quote to pique your interest:

KS Speaking of shaping Canadian literature, what about the debate over government funding of the arts: does it encourage mediocrity, or provide for excellence? Is it possible to be a writer in Canada and to make a living without government funding?

DAR No. If no one got funding, then there might be two writers in Canada: Margaret Atwood and Pierre Berton. And as respected as these people are, I’d still like to see some others write, so government funding is necessary. And sure there’s going to be grants given at the wrong times perhaps for the wrong reasons to the wrong people, but there are going to be grants given to other people who certainly can use them and who will write fine work.

KS Some people make money by writing for film and television.

DAR Yah, well, I wrote a film script, but when it was finally produced it wasn’t very much like the film script I wrote, so I won’t even talk about it, but I did a CBC script for Nights Below Station Street.

KS Is there an art to writing television?

DAR Well, it’s the art of getting along with people because it’s so communal, and I’ve never been able to do that.

The link is below. Hope you enjoy!

Interview with David Adams Richards

Writing > Reading

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For the past few days, I’ve put down the book from my 50 Book Challenge to take up a different kind of challenge – writing a short story. I was spurred on by a deadline from Writer’s Digest magazine of January 15. Every year they have the same contest. I’ve even written for it in the past (with no success) but shelved the idea for the past few years. In fact, this year, I let one, then two, opportunities to submit a piece pass me by. But when a third extension was announced, the best thing ever happened. A story idea popped into my head. A complete story. A story I knew I could write well. A good story.

So once New Year’s Eve past and a round of sickness left my house, I sat down and put that story to paper. Even with the beginning, middle and end all in my head, it was a lot of work to get down what I saw in there. I needed silence. I need coffee. I need to block Facebook and Twitter and the whole World Wide Web. I need to read it back out loud over and over again.

And tonight, I did it. I wrote the final word. You want to know how it felt? Do you remember that classic cinematic gem Romancing the Stone staring Kathleen Turner and Michael Douglas? The movie begins with a voice over by Turner, who plays a romance novelist named Joan Wilder, reading the final sentences of her latest book. As she types the last words, the camera cuts to her face, covered in tears, and she says “God, that’s good.”

 

You see her face? That was me but with more fist pumping. Yeah, that’s good!

 

But, now I’ve got to tell you, after all the work I put in to write just 1,500 words, I’m ready to kick back with a good book. And that’s what I’m going to do tomorrow because on Wednesday I’ll be editing and fine-tuning so that I can send this story, my story, for consideration.

Wish me luck!

BJL

2015 in review

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I’m looking back as I’m preparing for 2016, so here is the 2015 annual report for re: read pages as prepared by WordPress.com. Thanks for visiting, and I look forward to reading and writing with you more in the coming year!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 13 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Don’t tell me what I can and cannot do

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Here we are heading in to late July and I haven’t posted in a long, long while. I’ve written things. I’ve been reading. But I couldn’t make myself click publish.

I couldn’t get excited about what I was writing. All I saw were the ways in which it wasn’t matching up to the expectations I have for myself and what I want to be.

Mostly I was feeling like a failure because recently I’ve had a string of professional rejections. A lot of no thank yous were filling up my email and filling up my mind.

I had a crisis of faith: faith in myself, faith in my writing, faith in my life. I had already been feeling the need for change. Things haven’t been fitting together as comfortably as usual. My kids are getting older. My interests are changing. My needs and ambitions are shifting.

And as I tried to discover new experiences and opportunities, I was getting shutdown. I began to feel stuck. Like who I am and what I am capable of isn’t good enough for where I want to go and what I would like to be doing.

I felt stupid. Incompetent. Useless.

And so I haven’t published anything. I’ve avoided looking at my blog and pretended that it didn’t matter to me. I binge watched tv and read too many Buzzfeed quizzes (I would be sorted into Ravenclaw and I should go to Paris on my next vacation; these are things I needed to know).

But then I got really busy with my day job. Like seven-days-a-week busy, with nights and evenings, too. And I thought being bad at something I enjoy is better than being good at something that just pays the bills. And am I really that bad or do I just need to make room for improvement?

So what does that mean for re: read pages?

That means that re: read pages is going to be a place where I work on my voice. I’m going to write more broadly or at least with fewer restrictions on what I may post and when. If I read something that makes me pause, I’m going to blog about it. If I have an idea for something other than my novel, I’m going to blog about it. And if that means I post things less than perfect, or scholarly, or deep, so be it.

I love reading and I love writing. And if the requirement for me getting more professional opportunities is spending more time reading and writing – that is nothing to complain about.

Trust issues

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I’ve been working on a scene in my book that is a pivotal moment for my main character. I’m not actually that far along in the story yet, but I really wanted to write it so I skipped ahead. The difficulty in writing the scene was the need for Rosaline to decide if she trusts someone or not, and I needed to decide if her decision is the correct one. My choice and hers could bring the story in different directions and I had to weigh the pros and cons of each. An added concern was that the choices revolved around a real life event, so the characters’ actions had to make sense for the real outcome.

On June 14, 1497, after leaving a family dinner at his mother’s home, Juan Borgia was murdered and his body dumped in the Tiber in Rome. The Pope began an investigation, but abruptly called it off after only a few days. As a result, while the family had many enemies, a rumour implicating his brother Cesare began to circulate. Juan’s murder was never solved.

Borgia

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At this point in my story, Rosaline is close to the Borgia family, acting as Lucrezia’s confidante and friend and frequently sparing with Cesare, though they are also friends. It is a dangerous time and Rosaline needs to decide what path she wishes to follow.

While the process was difficult and I struggled to make a final choice for the plot, I really enjoyed writing it and, ultimately, I think I stayed true to Rosaline’s character and her development.

Now I have to go back and tie the sections of my story together. Knowing where the characters are going and what the fall out will be helps me weave details and clues in the previous pages. I have to admit, the hard work of putting together feels really satisfying.

BJL