Category Archives: do something different

Recovering From the NaNover

Another year, another NaNoWriMo gone by.

On the NaNo website it says that there were over 310,000 participants from all over the world (596 regions), though I’m curious as to how many crossed the finish line (if anyone can point me in that direction, please do). But even if someone wrote only 10,000 words, that’s still 10,000 more words that they didn’t have at beginning of the month. That’s something.


I’m also curious as to how the process went for others and what they do once they’ve finished. Editing is certainly as personal a process as the writing part is.

This year was COMPLETELY different than when I wrote my first NaNoWriMo (INTERGALACTIC) novel two years ago. In 2011, I had been mulling the story and characters over for a few months, I had written an outline (what I call a sequence and beat sheet) and some brainstorming exercises around it all, I had wound myself up, started off with a bang, kept up a steady pace, and even finished early. I also had enough time to hang out in the forum and see how everyone else was doing.

This year I only had the seed of an idea (a location in space and time and 2 characters), had completed one brainstorming exercise, had a fuzzy direction with no sense of how the story would end, and I PANTSED it like crazy. I didn’t have much time early on, or in the middle, so with a week left to go I was still at 18,000 words. I wrote the last 32,000 in the final week. I didn’t have time to reread what I had written the previous day, just went for it. Also, the only contact I had with other NaNoWriMoers (NaNoWriMoists?) was on the @nanosprints twitter page where we encouraged each other to do things like write 1,000 words in 30 minutes.

Both times I was writing something out of my comfort zone. Trying on a new genre. In 2011 it was more plot-based genre fiction (a comedic YA sci fi), this time is was YA contemporary lit. Well, okay, I THOUGHT it was going to be magical realism, but it ended up more in the realm of “unreliable” narrator. The protagonist simply views the world differently than most folks and she’s a little mentally unstable. When it comes time to pitch it I think I’ll call it “The Perks of Being a Wallflower for Queer Girls.” Right now it’s called WINTERSPRING AND SUMMERFALL (although I’m thinking of changing that to Summerfall and Winterspring, whichever sounds better).

I am definitely more of a “planner” by nature when it comes to novel writing, though totally willing to go in new directions if inspired in the moment. I definitely let the magic happen during the creative process. The fascinating thing for me about “pantsing” it this year was that the story still emerged, even without the plan. It sprang from the ethers and I just had to trust. I had to let go of any expectations and just see where it took me.

One of my favourite aspects this time around was when a particular character emerged out of nowhere. A minor character (a gay teacher whose partner is dying from AIDS – this story takes place in the 80’s) turned up, who not only took the story in a wonderful new direction, he added drama, an ally for my protagonist, and a subplot that rounded out the story really magically at the end.

I keep saying that I have a “hot mess” on my hands, but I think when I finally read it (I’m setting it aside until my holiday break), it will be more cohesive than I believe it to be. That happens a lot to me and I have enough years of writing behind me for it to be so. Structure happens a bit intuitively for me due to my fabulous drill sergeant screenwriting instructors at the University of Washington.

So, how did you do? Did you pants it or plan it?

Are you going to give it a break or read it right away?

Set it aside to germinate or dive right into your edit?

And, most of all, what were some of your favourite magical moments?


Filed under behind the scenes, do something different, Intergalactic, NaNoWriMo, novel adventures, Pantsing, Rewriting, YA literature

Celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the 3:15 Experiment

I’m a bit at the eleventh hour here with this invitation (SINCE IT BEGINS TONIGHT), but truly, you could join the experiment at any time. And I wanted to write this invitation especially to those who don’t necessarily fancy themselves to be poets.


Since August 1993, a shifting menagerie of writers has been waking up each night at 3:15 AM for the entire month of August to write. The original idea was:

to discover what connections would be made while writing separately, but together, at the same time for a month while under hypnagogic influences.

The experiment was so intriguing and inspiring it kept growing and morphing. Many writers have come to look forward to it every year. Many have created their own guidelines and experiments within the format. We love this as long as people maintain the point: to write in the hypnopompic/hypnagogic states (between sleeping and waking / waking and sleeping).

Anything posted to any “official” 3:15 publication or website maintains the RAW unedited material. Though many writers choose to publish their edited poems elsewhere. We like that, too.

To Join:

A facebook page to stay in communication during the month:

3:15 Facebook Page

Some samples from years past:

The 3:15 Experiment Website
Though not everyone chooses to post their poems (or even types them out).

And here is a thesis paper written by Gwendolyn Alley on the topic:

The 20th Anniversary of the 3:15 Experiment

My invitation to you comes in the form of a poem.

you don’t have to be a poet

to write poetry
my father built greenhouses
and filled them with orchids

I believe people are meant
to get along with each other

the Indian taxi driver waves
me into my turn
gives me the right
of way      as I cruise
the summer streets on my
hand-me-down bicycle

I stop at the Holy Cross Anglican Church
to write down that line
about my dad’s orchids
before it spills into the road
with my juggled thoughts
of the two cherub-faced Mormon boys
who came to my front door
struggling to respond
when I told them:

Think of the metaphor of the ocean
how we can be drops
yet still disappear
into the One
universal consciousness

before thanking them for their good work
and sending them on their way
tripping tongue-tied through the gate

no, you don’t have to be a poet
to write poetry
you just need to write
an open door


Filed under Collaborations, do something different, poetry, The 3:15 Experiment, truth and beauty, writing exercises, writing life

Writing Life: The Short Shot

I had written short stories for classes or if someone invited me to write one, but I had never thought about writing for the short story market until about a year-and-a-half ago when I was asked to teach a dystopian fiction class to teenagers focused around producing a short story.

I always write with my students and use the development of my own story to demonstrate the creative process. I ended up creating something in my first dystopian fiction class that I really liked and thought there might be a market for the story.

I started reading more short stories on line, attending short fiction readings, and picked up several speculative fiction anthologies, and you know what? There’s some really interesting work out there.

Many people, including myself, romanticize novel writing and make that their number one goal. But it can take years to finish a novel to satisfaction and years more to see it in print. Short story writing can be extremely satisfying because one can finish a short story in a matter of weeks or even days with genuine focus.

You need to write as much as possible to hone your skills, and short stories allow you to explore numerous ideas and worlds and characters without too much of a commitment. It’s much less tragic to toss a short story that isn’t working then to trash an entire novel.

Getting short stories published is also a great way to keep your work in the public consciousness before your novel is published (or between novels being published). Sometimes it can take a while, but generally short story publication happens much quicker. For instance, I submitted to the Futuredaze anthology in June, was accepted the following month, and the anthology will be published in February 2013. From first draft to publication was less than a year. How many can say that about a novel that wasn’t self-published?

The best part? You don’t need an agent to submit to most publishers of short stories. And, unless it’s an “invitation only” anthology, publishers will put out calls for submissions, often inspiring the writer with themes for their magazines and anthologies (Canadian Zombies! Doppleganger Dragons!)

There are also paying markets. You won’t see advances and royalties, but you’ll get paid for your words and rights revert back to the author upon publication, so if you love your characters and your story and want to expand it into a novel later on, that’s your prerogative.

Or you could choose to self-publish “ebooks” of each of your short stories at .99 a pop if you want.

Pretty sweet.

If this inspires you and you want to check this world out, here are some recent calls for short stories in the paid market:

If interested in finding these markets, subscribe to yahoo groups CRWROPPS (Creative Writers Opportunities List and Duotrope (soon to be a paid listings @ $5 / month) to keep abreast of new calls for work.

And please feel free to post links to any calls you’ve found lately!


Filed under Calls for Submission, do something different, short fiction, writing life

Light Letter of Unsubscription

Light Letter of Unsubscription

In honour of my decision to GET and STAY FOCUSED, I have been unsubscribing from the many distracting e-mail lists I’m on. Some are lists my conscience thinks I *should* be on, but have not made the time to read (I like to say “have not made” the time to read instead of “have not had” the time to read to recognize that how I spend my time is always my choice).

Yes, I still want to save the planet. Unsubscribing from the oil spill relief newsletter will not make me a bad person. In the past, I would see those emails in my inbox and then file them for later digestion. They’ve been piling up for months. But did I sleep better knowing they were available for immediate retrieval? No, I slept worse because they became part of the Pile-of-Unread-Unrearched-Information-Vital-to-Making-Me-a-Better-Person pile. (And let me tell you, that pile was only 1/2 the size of the Great-Unfinished-Projects pile.)

Getting rid of all that guilt and responsibility is freeing me to be more focused on what I love to do, which makes me a ray of sunshine to deal with, which can only make the planet a safer place for all (including the environment, because when I’m happy I ride my bike more).

Each time I went to unsubscribe to a newsletter, it always asked for a comment about why I wanted to unsubscribe. I used to write some generic b.s. if anything at all.

So, instead, today when I unsubscribed (hoping to bring a smile to the face of the minimum wage worker whose job it is to record, collate, and write a report about why people unsubscribe from their site) I did something like this:

Please take a moment to tell us why you chose to unsubscribe:

It’s not you, it’s me. It’s tearing me apart to leave you this way. I’m just focusing elsewhere right now and can’t be distracted by your seductive stories. Perhaps in a parallel universe, we can still be friends. Best of luck.

NOTE: If you are not good at letting go all at once, keep a list of all the enewsletters you unsubscribed from in case you ever want back on their lists.


Filed under do something different, Show and Tell, writing life

Indie Bound, Indie Books

Last year at a writers’ conference, a small press publisher was giving a talk and mentioned that her press doesn’t sell their books at Chapters (or Borders or Barnes and Noble). You could see the audience of writers collectively twitch. What did she mean? How could her press afford NOT to have books at any of the major chains?

The issue is, that they cannot afford TO sell them there.

She explained:

Borders has over 500 stores. Lets say that they require you to send 5 books per store. That’s 2,500 books. And lets say only 2 books sell per store and they return the rest (to make room for new titles). Guess who pays for the shipping BOTH ways. The indie publisher. Not only that, the returned books are very often damaged. If this indie publisher only comes out with 3-4 titles per year it will most likely LOSE money by selling at major chains… unless they garner a major hit. And garnering a major hit is difficult for an indie publisher that can’t afford to have a separate marketing department. There might be only 2 people doing all the work.

Most people know there is a huge discrepancy between indie music and film production and the big budget music and film producers. The same holds true for the book industry as well. The internet has leveled the playing field for the indie music scene (you can create a grassroots movement online through MySpace) and technology has made it much easier to make a film for under $1 million dollars. However, it’s still extremely difficult to get your indie film into major theaters because all the space is taken up by big budget films that have major marketing campaigns. Let’s face it, indie filmmakers usually blow their wads making the actual film and can’t compete with the $20 million advertising budget of a large studio. Heck – it costs $500 just to get one bus shelter ad in Vancouver.

Internet distribution models and Print on Demand publishing have leveled the playing field somewhat for indie publishers. Especially since so many people buy books on line (it’s not like shopping for clothes, you want a book, you buy it)… but still, the discrepancies are there and because of the economy, many larger publishers aren’t taking risks on new writers.

Indie publishers are a wonderful service to up-and-coming writers. And Indie Bookstores are a service to the indie publisher and indie author, often supporting local and regional writers in ways that Borders or Chapters don’t. I remember the irony of being a featured reader at an event set up at Borders Books. I couldn’t get my books into that store. I asked them why not? I was doing a reading there, after all. I was told they didn’t deal with small presses.

I’m writing this today to remind folks that writers and publishers have to start somewhere. They have to be able to find homes other than just on line. They need places to read and interact with the public and stores that will support their work. Not everyone can get the publicity of Stephanie Meyers or Stephen King. Indie bookstores can also supply material for niche markets… like Banyan Books (spiritual/personal growth books) or KidsBooks.

I’m not saying don’t ever step into a Borders or Chapters ever again. Just think about exploring your local indie booksellers so that you might discover something new. Indie bookstores means more choice, more diversity, not just buying what the big pub houses want us to. They also put money back into the local community. I read somewhere that 20% more of your money stays local when you shop at an indie bookstore.

A great place to look for indie bookstores is INDIE BOUND, an online community of indie booksellers and other indie businesses. It’s also a great resource if you’re an indie author planning a book tour, because you can pick up the phone and talk directly to the person who can help you set up a reading. And they will even carry your books on their shelves… possibly as a featured author.

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Filed under do something different, industry poop

The Best Year of My Life… Seriously?!?

If someone told you that you could have the best year of your life, would you

a) fold your arms across your chest and go, “oh yeah? okay, give me the best year of my life.”


b) jump up and down excitedly and shout, “awesome! what do I need to do? Tell me and I’ll do it!”

If you answered A, then this post isn’t for you. Well, actually it is for you, but you’re not ready. So, bugger off. Go on.

Okay, now that those A people are gone…

I think most people tend to want the outside world to make them happy. If only THIS would happen, then I’d be happy. I learned a long time ago that it’s the other way around. I have to get happy first.

A friend of mine desperately wants to find a partner. She’s even said to me, “oh, it’s easy for you, you have a husband.” I nearly burst a gut laughing. Yes, I just found a husband and suddenly life was great! I told her marriage is hard work and I’ve fantasized about the freedom of being single. I know plenty of unhappy married people. She wasn’t too appreciative when I told her that she needed to get happy first. Then she’d find the perfect husband.

Think about it… happy people make happily married people. Grumpy, bitter, resentful people… not so much.

The most important thing I’ve learned over the past several years is that I am the one responsible for my own peace and happiness. Stuff might happen out there, stuff that I consider bad, hurtful, wrong, immoral, but I am the one in charge of how I let it affect me. And, more importantly, how I let all those righteous feelings stop be from getting what I say I want.

I am in charge of my own success. I am the only one standing in my way. Trust me, if you made an effort to honestly look at how you stand in your own way, and then really get out of your way, I bet you’d be more successful then you could ever imagine. The ways I get in my way are sneaky ninjas. I have denied, justified, blamed, and made excuses. Many of those excuses I didn’t even REALIZE were excuses because I thought they were the truth.

In Debbie Ford’s book The Best Year of Your Life, she challenges readers to get out of their own ways and create the best year of their lives for themselves. My GBF and I took her up on that challenge. But preparing for this new best year took some time.

The first chapter is on setting your intention. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. It took us a week after we realized what a huge responsibility we are. Having this intention and being committed to that intention meant for an entire year we could no longer blame anyone else for anything. Not only did we have to stop denying the ways we sabotaged our own success, we had to do something about it. We had to take action. There would be no excuses.

One of the things Debbie tells readers to do is to post notes all over the house that say “this is the best year of your life” as a reminder. Did you just cringe a little? Yeah, me, too.

Most people live with other people. And a lot of the time we care about what they think of us. And sometimes we don’t do things just because they might think we are stupid or silly. As I was showing my GBF the signs all over my house. I pointed to one in my bedroom and said – I hesitated with that one. You know, cuz Baby might think I’m being silly.”

“Would you rather he think you’re being silly or would you rather be happy?” he asked.

The sign is still on my nightstand. There’s one on the refrigerator, too.


Filed under do something different, inspirational poop, my gbf, on my bookshelf, serious play

Start the Year with Kindness

Several years ago I had the privilege of working for Puget Sound Community School in Seattle, WA. At that time, the school was only a few years old and had no fixed address. Classes were held in different places on each day of the week (from a retirement home to a community centre to a church to a frat house). Mondays we had field trips and/or community service and on Fridays students had mentorships in the community. There were no grades. Discipline happened democratically. The kids were amazing. I was having so much fun I couldn’t believe I was getting paid to work for them.

The founder and director, Andy Smallman, is a visionary educator, although I don’t know if his down-to-earth nature would call it anything other than passion. And his passion is contageous.

While I was working there, Andy facilitated an online “Kindness Class” – a way for the larger community to be involved with the school’s program. The assignments involved committing random acts of kindness and then sharing and discussing them.

He hasn’t run the class in several years and was inspired to bring it back last fall. Little did he know that when he did, the idea would spread around the globe!

We promoted [the Kindness Class] here and on the PSCS Facebook page. The idea spread and 250 people signed up. Steve sent a press packet about it to The Seattle Times. Their education reporter, Linda Shaw… came out and did a story ( that appeared in last Sunday’s paper. Local TV station channel 13 then did a quick news story on it last Sunday night ( &
…I have been made aware by people interested in joining future classes that the Times article has been featured in newspapers in Raleigh, NC (, Greensboro, NC, Jasper, AL, Dayton, OH, Springfield, OH, Ontario, Canada, and likely others. It’s also making the rounds on Twitter, most notably having been “retweeted” by Deepak Chopra. And today it became the “Idea of the Day” on bestselling author Dan Pink’s blog ( I’ve had people from as far away as Australia ask to join.

He had such a great response that he decided to run it again this term. I was so thrilled for Andy and PSCS that I signed up for the class, too. And, it’s not too late. YOU can sign up, too. It’s completely free:

…the idea is pretty simple. Each Sunday night I’ll post that week’s kindness theme via email and on a special blog set up for our class. Your job is to consider the theme and, in a way that is meaningful to you, act on it. After completing your act, you go to the blog and post what you’ve done so the rest of us get to learn about it. Imagine each of us interpreting the same theme each week in our own way and spreading ripples of positive action out in the world. It’s a revolution of kindness…

…As a virus, your acts will impact (some might say inspire) others, even people outside of the class. Being mindful, you’ll start noticing more of the kind things happening around you. You’ll become happier, more peaceful. You’ll sleep better. You’ll exercise and eat better. You’ll feel great. You’ll infect others with optimism.
How’s that sound for a way to start off the year?  Interested? E-mail Andy at

Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.
-Scott Adams


Filed under cool poop, do something different, inspirational poop, truth and beauty

3:15 August 3, 2002

The 2009 experiment is almost here. I’m feeling nostalgic. I’m posting one of my faves from experiments gone by…

Join the 3:15 Experiment Facebook Group to stay in the hypnagogic loop.

from August 3, 2002
Seattle, WA

cherry blossom midnight
sneaking spoons in the
dark hollow cherished
far too many words to
not describe my heart-break
it breaks itself you know
it erases its own glee
tumbling like laundry lists
believe that memory
believe that gesture
don’t believe your eyes

touch is like grapefruit
round and sensitive
the eyes     two
vulnerable moments
of now
my god doesn’t like
traffic lights

or marshmallows

my god knows something
about picket lines
and visits to the dentist

I want more of less
much more of less
dwindling down into a single
current of          sleep
not darkness          something
lucid and malleable

perhaps I am not a poet after all
perhaps           I am a


There is no solution
this mathematics


Filed under Collaborations, do something different, poetry, The 3:15 Experiment

Going on a Crone Cruise!

I’ve signed up to take a cruise to Alaska with a bunch of women over 40. I’ve never considered myself a cruise person before, but I couldn’t pass this up when I heard about it.

Dara Marks, script analyst extraordinaire, will be leading a women’s writing workshop during the cruise.

We’re leaving from Seattle on August 28th if anyone would like to join us! The early bird rate is in effect until June 15. More info below.


Engaging the Feminine Heroic – August 28 – Sept 4, 2009

FTX Events is proud and pleased to announce a unique opportunity for women writers who have dared to pursue something in the creative realm and would enjoy some pampering aboard a CRUISE TO ALASKA this summer! This writer’s retreat is for anyone who might be looking to deepen their storytelling skills and uncover some of the mysteries surrounding our shared experiences of maidenhood, marriage, childbirth, menopause, crone wisdom and dying. Dara Marks, a best selling author of ”INSIDE STORY” and renowned Hollywood script analyst is an extraordinary women who has much to offer and she has teamed up with another very talented woman Deb Norton, who is a writer, actress, teacher and the Artistic Director of the award-winning Theater 150 in Ojai, California.

Limited Space Available.
Contact (604) 873-0277


Filed under cool poop, do something different, on my bookshelf, screenwriting

2009 Women in Film Festival Recap

The 4th annual WIFF is over… the curtains are drawn… and Vancouver sits in a thin blanket of snow. It’s a great day to rest and recuperate.

I know I’m totally biased… but I think the WIFF is one of the best film festivals around. It’s not just the great films, it’s the networking/socializing, community-building, commraderie. That and just plain nice people attend the festival. The venue is great for hanging out in between screenings.

Some highlights (too many to mention!):

I mentioned The Baby Formula in my last post, which was quite fun. I also enjoyed Carl Bessai’s Mothers and Daughters. In it, six of Canada’s top actresses improvised their lines using only skeletons of stories to portray the interwoven lives of three mothers and daughters. What a gift to have Gabrielle Rose, Babz Chula, and Tantoo Cardinal all in one film.

This gem was a true collaborative creation. Instead of having a writer, it had six actors who worked with Carl to shape the narrative. They also used real places of business and real people to interact with while filming. It was quite the guerrilla operation, and apparently an editing nightmare because each take was different. They put it together beautifully, though, and the stellar acting is worth it alone.

The fascinating film The Girlfriend Experience directed by Ilianna Pietrobruno follows (in mocumentary style) a man obsessed with prostitutes. When he falls for one, his life behins to unravel. As one would imagine, his exploits destroy his relationship with his girlfriend. The actor David Lewis is totally convincing in this raw film Sexually graphic, in case you couldn’t guess.

Short films that caught my eye:

Liminal: Ina and Joy are naked and locked in a battle of elimination. Intense and theatrical. (I met the director, Stephen Mills, he was quite lovely and had come up from L.A.)

My Name is Pochsy – What a treat. Director (and cult comedienne) Karen Hines’ first film is getting critical acclaim. Totally original, dark and funny. Shot beautifully on Super 8. Basically, it’s a character sketch… but so much more.

Roast BeefWhat is it with the Quebecois? As filmmakers, they always come up with something off center. I would never say I’m a huge fan of “dance” films. They have to be something really original. This one takes place in a butcher shop… where a customer gets down and sexy to the tune of the meat being chopped and wrapped. So well done.

Another dance film, 30-Love (but you don’t even realize it’s a dance film… it’s a dance disguised as a tennis match), chronicles the demise of a long distance relationship. Quirky, just like the writer/director Alison Beda.

Bummed I missed: 50 Dead Men Walking by writer / director Kari Skogland. I was volunteering that night and missed the opening, and I didn’t want to go in late. I heard from the audience that it was excellent, so I’ll put it on my list.


Filed under do something different, film biz, industry poop