Featured

Rainbows – a new beginning?

Photo L. Meyer

Rainbows bring the promise that the troubles of today will surely come to pass, hold strong in your faith and vision and the rainbow will bring fresh beginnings

Presley Love

Getting caught last evening in a flash thunderstorm where huge drops of rain fell sideways due to wicked prairie winds felt like just another hurdle to surmount. I stood inside the vestibule of the building I was leaving, wondering if I should just go for it and run out to my car or try to wait out the onslaught and stay dry.

My internal debate went back and forth as puddles outside grew into small lakes.

Fortunately, common sense won the day and I patiently waited for the rain to quit. It seemed to stop as suddenly as it began, with Mother Nature’s special alchemy mixing atmospheric gases creating a spectacular double rainbow. It easily met the standard of an awe inspiring moment.

By the time I got out my iPhone to shoot a quick picture, it was starting to dissipate. But the magic of a rainbow after a harsh storm, somehow speaks directly to you, causing you to pause and pay attention. We all experience those inner shifts at times of transitions in our lives. When we are able to consolidate our thoughts and feelings with memorable external experiences that seem to delineate an important marker in time.

A symbolic way to tuck the past behind us while moving forward.

Rainbows have symbolized new beginnings, inspiring hope, in most cultures around the globe through the ages.

If a new beginning is in the cards, I’ll gladly take it.

Stay happy and safe!

Featured

Scatter your creative story seeds…

Photo L. Meyer

Let your story surprise you. Lay a place at the table for an unexpected guest. Embrace the unforecasted storm. Allow kind characters to do something cruel. Let the selfish ones sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Be surprised. Be amazed.

Sophie Anderson

When the writing process becomes routine or even worse, when you get stuck in a bottomless rut, it may be helpful to simply turn your work on its head. Shake everything you are doing up, down, even sideways. At the very least, you may have some fun or discover a few diamonds in the rough worthy of using in some form of prose.

A recent foray while editing a piece of micro fiction left me stymied and ready to permanently hit the delete button. But a stray piece of creative advice from a writing retreat last month about cutting up writing that doesn’t seem to work, must have planted a small seed in my brain. And sprang forth when I least expected it.

I took the piece that I had been wrestling with, enlarged the font, then printed it out. With what felt like a whim, I proceeded to just cut it into pieces. The pieces dropping onto my desk reminded me of ephemera for collage or words cut for found poetry. So it seemed natural to paste them on a sheet of paper. Randomly. Without really looking at the actual text on each piece of paper.

Convinced that this would simply be a transformed word jumble, I left the mess to dry and went to make a cup of coffee.

When I returned to look at what I had done, I was surprised by what I found. Sure, the order of some of the pieces of paper stretched the grammar aspect a wee bit, but overall, I read in those words, the glimmer of a new story. A better story.

It was legible enough that I was able to return to my computer and resurrect a new piece of prose. I was slightly amazed that from that jumble of words pasted haphazardly on a piece of paper, a transformed piece of fiction began to emerge.

This time round this tiny micro fiction story resonated somewhere deep inside of me bringing forth new energy for the editing process. Who knows what this piece may look like when something clicks and lets me know that it is finished. But the reawakening of this prospective prose piece inspires hope and optimism.

Stories living inside of us are at times, weird and wild things. But finding ways to keep working to guide them into the world, brings a sense of satisfaction like none other.

Happy writing!

Featured

Release the pause button on play…

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

We do not stop playing because we get old; we grow old because we stop playing

George Bernard Shaw

Have you ever found yourself slugging through your day to day life and realized that playfulness is not part of it? Watching two neighbourhood children today, chasing each other while blowing soap bubbles and giggling so hard one of them began to hiccup, I felt like I had an epiphany. Play. That is what seems to be missing from my present “taking everything far too seriously” adult life.

It’s typically something fairly innocuous that alerts you to that dawning sense of something being amiss. But once you figure it out, you can’t unsee it.

Probably the state of mind most helpful during times of stress and strain, is a playful mind. But it is also the hardest state to transition to when everything in your immediate focus is through an intensely serious lens. And when it seems any spare moment should be dedicated to some task or type of work that needs to be completed, or at the very least, doing something “worthwhile”, play seems frivolous and far removed.

Knowing that there are adverse consequences to play deprivation, I have been trying to create a “play” list. (Pun intentional, ha – maybe I will get there after all!). Photography has always been my favourite way to play and I haven’t had my camera out for quite some time. Point of fact, the battery was almost dead. So as I write this, I can glance over at my camera on the charger and see that it still has a ways to go. Just like I do.

There are a multitude of ways to tap into this desired state of mind. A quick web search reveals a plethora of articles, blog posts, research studies on the importance of play to our overall well being and stock ideas about how to incorporate it into our busy adult lives. But it seems trite to assume that by playing video games, doing crossword puzzles, dancing in your kitchen as though no one is watching, could magically counter the impact of stress and burnout.

So where to begin. Reflection on this challenge seems to point to a sort of mind over matter type of thing. So it seems like if I can wrestle with the biggest barrier, attitude, I feel like I might just be on my way. And it also seems important to set goals to play, to do things with absolutely no purpose, to simply seek out moments for mindless enjoyment and fun.

How weird that part of responsible adulting becomes losing touch with that most important aspect of childhood. To be playful. Seems so simple when I write it like that. But I have a sense that I am going to have to work hard at my play goals. Wish me luck!

Stay safe, have fun!

Featured

Growing creativity

Photo L. Meyer

Push yourself to try new things whenever you can. It keeps you growing creatively. Remember that there is no right or wrong way to be creative; there is only the way that allows you to express who you are.

Catherine Anderson

Last year in the midst of a prolonged heat wave and subsequent drought, I decided that if gardening stopped being a source of joy, that I would either give it up or do things differently. Well not digging in the dirt and growing things simply wasn’t an option this year when spring finally rolled around. So instead, I chose to shake up some of my “go to” plants that I have grown for years, like castor beans, which no longer possess the same magic they used to.

So trying to grow a Kangaroo Apple Tree seemed like a good idea at the time I bought a small, strange looking green plant with spiky little leaves. The garden centre clerk warned me it could grow as tall as 6-8 feet and produce both flowers and fruit which sounded intriguing. This bushy plant is now blooming with delicate purple flowers, which sadly our harsh prairie wind at times, blows to smithereens.

But this adventure has provided a surprising element of daily excitement as I come to understand what this new plant requires in order to flourish. And the fascination of watching this aspect of nature adapt and transform to whatever conditions it grows in, doesn’t get old either.

Thriving, not just surviving, this plant now three feet tall, is a daily reminder that we can be creative in all aspects of our lives. Growing this unique plant native to New Zealand, provides me with an ongoing lesson about the importance of taking risks, being playful in any situation, and allowing the process of discovery to unfold as it should.

All of these serve as reminders that creation in any form, is one of the most amazing activities we can undertake. Our creative paths are unique to who we are and require open hearts and open minds. Being present to experimentation, brings a multitude of benefits. Not the least of which is an opportunity to start thinking and seeing in new ways.

There are many unexpected teachers available to us to share the process of creative discovery. We just need to take advantage of them when they appear in our lives.

Stay safe, be creative!!

Featured

Focus for a restless creative spirit

Photo credit L. Meyer

Generally I’ve found this to be true: I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card, when nothing has seemed worth enduring for another five minutes…and somehow the activity of writing changes everything

Joyce Carol Oates

What do you do when those tried and true tricks to jolt your writing heart to begin ticking again, falter, and then fails to beat with any sort of rhythm. Those horrible times when it doesn’t seem likely you can resuscitate your writing practice. Maybe never again.

You try journaling – going with the admonition to never lift your pen off the page. Free write in longhand, not on the computer. Go for a walk. Take photographs of random things on said walk. You seek out graffiti art hoping the creative spirits of youth in your community will somehow be contagious. Perhaps flipping through your well worn copies of craft books could help. Not today.

So you give up and start listlessly wandering around the internet until your hips hurt from sitting and your eyes get so dry you have to squeeze drops into them. But you still are searching for that spark. Something to light that fire that normally burns throughout your days and some nights and has allowed you to create stories. And those random pieces of writing that you just know have potential to become something.

And just when you have given up, you read an email from a dear friend. A suggestion about a book of essays with a couple of stories thrown in for good measure. Written by Jo Ann Beard, titled, Festival of Days (2021). So you find it at the library on the e-book catalogue, download it and read the first essay. Her writing is wonderful.

It seems like a justifiable use of your time since you just read that part of the writing process is reading. But reading like a writer. Still thinking on that one so for now it will be reading like a reader.

Suddenly you have to run to the computer, and low and behold a story just spills out. There it is on the screen. A sh*tty first draft, as Anne Lamott would say. And you review and read it over again one hour later. Whoa – not bad for the first outing after a dry spell that had you worried you would never write again.

The craft of writing seems to be a process that is in part mysterious, even mystical. There is a spiritual side to the muse and when it takes you on a journey it isn’t necessarily a straight ride. You can be down, feel flat, and suddenly it lifts you up, and re-opens your heart.

Creativity may be a fickle friend but is a friend indeed.

Happy writing!

Featured

Words to live by…

Source: Anonymous

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.

Stay healthy and safe!

Featured

June 21st – Celebration, in a good way

When I think of National Indigenous People’s Day, I think of celebration. I think of laughter. I think of family.

Sherry McKay

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.

Stay happy and safe!

Featured

Listening to the stories of others

Photo by Ali Camacho Adarve on Pexels.com

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.

Stay safe, happy listening!

Featured

Strength in numbers: The power of a writing community

Photo by Leah Kelley on Pexels.com

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.

Jami Attenberg

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.

(https://1000wordsofsummer.substack.com)

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!

happy writing!

Featured

Braving the publication journey

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I don’t think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won’t be good at it.

Anne Lamott

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!

happy writing!