Watching the events that have been unfolding south of the border, has been astonishing and upsetting in equal measures. As a woman, I have grown up in a time and culture where human rights are at times hard to come by. But once enshrined, it seemed inconceivable that the right to make choices could just be erased.
As the world grapples with a war, climate change, roaring inflation, threats to income and food security, it just boggles the mind that we will likely be facing another summer of social discontent. And given the previous power struggles over how to manage the pandemic, one can only hope for a better display of human civility.
The time is now to work with one another collaboratively rather than pulling even further apart on ideological issues that drive self-serving politics. There are simply too many tangible pressing world needs that must be addressed with immediacy.
If only our world could be sprinkled with a modicum of respect, kindness, and care, imagine how far we could go together.
When I think of National Indigenous People’s Day, I think of celebration. I think of laughter. I think of family.
Set against a backdrop of spiralling negative news clips, our country was able to draw a collective breath of fresh air yesterday. The celebrations for National Indigenous People’s Day provided a series of teachings about the power of community, family, connections, and above all else joy. In a good way.
Traditional ceremonies to mark summer solstice, through the lighting of fire, smudging, feasting, dancing, storytelling also opened doors across the country for connection with each other. A day to put aside stories about war, inflation, pandemics, violence, and the rampant anger that seems to have a stranglehold on our communities.
A day of remembrance, recognition, respect and hope for reconciliation. Showcasing a vibrant multi-layered culture. Unveiling memorials to commemorate the dark, dark history of residential schools. But above all, a lesson about the spirit of a people who understand deeply what the concept of freedom is about.
A coming together to honour and celebrate the cycles of nature, of community, of family, and each other. And an open invitation to everyone living in this country to share in some way, this journey of healing through understanding, acknowledgment, and love.
A truly special day shared with all of us, teaching us to suspend worry, fear, and our ever present anger, to simply enjoy what we have, where we live, and who we walk with.
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.
Karl. A. Menninger
It is a rare moment when we are afforded the opportunity to listen deeply to the stories that others have to tell. Most typically, our listening skills become dull and impotent as we age, when the stressors in our lives loom large and bloat. When the incessant news spin that we all seem to gravitate towards, churns on relentlessly spitting out negativity. But when those golden opportunities present themselves to listen to the stories others are telling, it both elevates and transports us.
Last week, I had the privilege to attend the launch event for the reading of my stories published in a literary magazine. Along with more than a dozen other writers. Albeit nervous and out of practice attending public events, I was thrilled to be a part of it. The venue chosen had a serene and sacred atmosphere, quietly understated and elegant. A perfect space for the telling of stories created deep within so many hearts.
Sitting, masked in an audience of peers, fellow creatives and aficionados of the writing arts, sent shivers of excitement up my spine. But I quickly found myself drawn to the readings of every writer that night in a manner that I can only describe as magnetic. Each story, spoken through the voice of the creator, seemed so vibrant it was as if the words shimmered and then planted themselves deep within me.
Listening is a skill that I realize I often take for granted. Hearing these stories live not only moved me in unexpected ways but brought home the fact that listening deeply to what others have to share doesn’t happen often. There are times when a life lesson taps you on the shoulder when you least expect it and you know you must pay heed to it.
Perhaps as I move more bravely out into the world, it is time to seek out more opportunities to hear the readings of creative work. So I can again, listen with intent and heart to hear the stories shared by those around me.
It is now five years later and there are more than 15,000 people from all over the world signed up for the annual 1000 Words of Summer project, with even more than that likely participating. Every year more wonderful authors contribute their thoughts on creativity, productivity, and inspiration.
If you have ever needed a large dose of motivation to kickstart a project, you probably know that the most positive way to keep going is with the support of other people. In particular, members of your tribe. The people who know how difficult the writing journey can be and are able to offer heartfelt affirming words of encouragement and ideas.
When I find my energy for writing starting to become limp, I turn to the members of my writing group for support and inspiration. So when I happen upon other writing resources I tend to gravitate to them.
Last year, I read an essay on the #1000 words of summer annual project led by Jami Attenberg but filed the idea somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind thinking it probably would be worth a try. Not ready for taking this project on last June, I did however, sign up to receive her newsletter, Craft Talk.
As the date for beginning the #1000 words of summer 2022 writing event drew closer, I started paying more attention to the explainer that was sent out and some of the testimonials. As the June 4th kick off date drew closer, I thought more and more about this and decided to sign up to participate.
Belonging to this burgeoning writing community came with no cost other than the need for a commitment to write every day for two weeks.
Certainly sounded doable so I signed in to join the slack and prepared to become a part of this large writing community. Inspiring words have also been shared from amazing luminaries, Roxanne Gay, Sara Novic, and Min Jin Lee with more to come each day. Their personal experiences with the writer’s life have also helped nudge my motivation and I have written more than the minimum for the past four days.
Writers share thoughts about their writing, or lack thereof, roadblocks, and energy levels on the slack platform. It is both validating and affirming to learn that my experience is not unique. Simply part of the writing process.
And it feels serendipitous to have discovered a large group of writers from around the globe who want to share resources, encouragement and motivational tips and techniques. What a wonderful place to be!
I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.
Have you ever finally gotten up enough nerve to send out pieces of your creative writing to literary magazines only to receive a declined notice in Submittable so fast it gives you whiplash?
Or maybe you have a secret list of favoured publications that you dream will one day accept a piece of your best work. So you finally get enough nerve to take the plunge, hit submit but then wait for weeks and weeks. When you are just about to give up, you decide to send a query about the status of your submission. And receive a warp speed response that is a combination apology/rejection note.
Perhaps you have worked hard to complete your edits, have carefully reviewed the submission guidelines, and crossed your fingers (arms and legs) as you hit submit. Then a few days later you take a peak in your Submittable account and discover your work is “In progress”. And you have read somewhere that the longer it takes to be reviewed the better the odds are that you are going to have your work accepted. So having your prized piece of work linger in that state must mean something is going to happen. Right?
You just know that this is it. This has to be your moment.
And then, it happens, the rejection that reads like a form letter. Or worse yet, a hastily written personal email that actually has a typo in it!
So you decide then and there, that you are writing only for yourself, to learn the craft, to honour and express what resides deep in your heart and soul. You will learn to become content to leave the publication racket for those who have more gumption than you have. You know you should have gratitude that you were published some time ago so resign yourself to this uneasy state of acceptance.
And you carry on, writing often but at the same time growing uncertain about what you will do with all of the work that now languishes in draft Word folders.
As time passes by, you forget the sting of rejection and the emotional roller coaster that accompanies the submission process. You have read that all writers go through this and that it should be considered part and parcel of becoming a published writer. A real writer would face the risk of rejection head on, leaning into the idea that this is growth oriented and actually a positive.
So you submit three pieces of flash fiction to a magazine that you respect but you aren’t convinced will result in publication success. But it is part of learning so you treat this as an educational opportunity. You have read that collecting rejections can be an important aspect of the writing process.
Some time passes and then, suddenly in your list of new emails, you receive a notice of acceptance. Unbelievable! Your work will be published in a print literary magazine and you may agree to read your work at the launch. A launch, what!
So you go through a new process, working with an editor to prepare and ready your work to shine in the best possible light in a print publication. Along with the work of so many amazing writers.
And then the day comes, you open the mail and find two complimentary copies of the literary magazine, spring, Volume 13 which contains two of your flash fiction stories. You sit down to flip through the magazine, admiring the beauty of the cover art and the layout, breathing in that new print smell. You close your eyes in order to fully capture this moment. Then you quickly scan through the table of contents and find your name. Twice.
You do that smiling and crying thing at the same time. And a single thought occurs to you – this risk/reward publication thing in the field of writing – it is really worth the journey!