Saturday, January 21, 2012

Hello Again, 2012

For the past several weeks I have been gaining my bearings, trying to get a grip on everything I need to learn and do to influence the trajectory for my writing. I am still finalizing my official list of writing goals for the year. Unlike last year, it has taken some time to figure out my priorities, while being realistic about what is actually possible for someone to do with big dreams, high hopes and the realities of time and financial constraints.

My first priority with regard to my creative writing is to publish my poetry collection, I Can Make Life. I am still in the process of researching how to best pull this off. When I thought of quickly converting it into an e-book on, I realized that I was feeling reluctant to use this, my baby, as the guinea pig for figuring out how e-publishing worked. Then it dawned on me that I already had a really good test subject for learning how to epublish: the blog I wrote in 2006 about our adventures as we stumbled toward parenthood. The blog was about a year in the making (culminating in the birth of our daughter) - and I believe is an interesting read! I'm currently re-working the text to make it more suitable to a book format and hope to have it "out there" in the next month or so.

As for the poetry book itself, I finally decided on a plan today: to make it available as an eBook on my website, on amazon, smashwords, etc., and sell a limited number of print copies. I am looking into fundraising for the print publishing, potentially with, and I am still researching self-publishing companies. I meet with Ginger at the end of the month and once the cover is ready to go, the book will be available in the not so distant future on my website and then the online distributors. While it won't necessarily be a goal to make a profit on the eBooks, I'd like to try to make back the costs on my print run...though I'd also like to have a number of copies available to donate to people in the health professions who can make these copies available to the women that could use them: midwives, counsellors, even local libraries.


Much time these past few weeks have been spent getting a handle on my duties as Food and Health editor for Thrifty and Green. This has been challenging in some respects – there is much to do, and I want to do it all, and be amazing at everything I do, without having to spend time learning! The first two weeks of January I spent some time figuring out how editors work together to create a magazine (for the upcoming February digital edition). Many aspects of it I’d never really thought about before. There were fun parts to the learning process: my kitchen became a test kitchen, for instance. I also became a (dubious specimen of a) food photographer. Popcorn was everywhere (the kids loved it!) I wrote a book review of one of my favourite cookbooks. I busily tracked down potential contributors, quickly formed some new friendships and realized how much I love liaising with other writers, and working as a team to meet a common goal. Those moments when things unexpectedly came together, in part because I was there to help make them happen, were fabulous.


I think overall I've scaled back what I expect I can do in the year ahead. I'm committed to my freelance work, which is taking between 10 and 20 hours a week on top of my 40 hour a week day job. I have creative projects I hoped to launch in the early part of the year that are going to take longer - and that's OK. My biggest wish for 2012, in fact, is for subtle shifts that amount to dramatic changes for me and my family. That all of the pressures don’t disappear, but that some ease off, even just a little. 

I do deeply want to make the books that are waiting to be made, but require more “me” time and attention to do so than I currently have. I want time to promote the ones that are almost there, ready for the world. Most of all, if it is at all possible I want to shift away from my downtown day job, doing much more of the writing and editing work I enjoy and am good at from home. I want to focus on the stuff that makes me feel aligned with purpose, appropriately challenged and at the end of the day, feeling satisfied that I met or exceeded my potential.

Maybe I want a lot. But if you don’t dream, how does anyone find themselves where they want to be? It really all does start in our imaginations.

So hello again, 2012. I hope you are with me on that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Hello Birdie! I have some tookies for you! And a banana!

The title of this post is a direct quote borrowed from my almost-2 year old son. He shouted it through the sliding door this afternoon upon spotting a bird as we were taking down Christmas window stickers. As my brain grasped what he was saying and feeling, I felt thrilled that he was enjoying the birdlife that hovers around our woodsy yard year round. The fact that he wanted to lure a bird closer to enjoy its company - and thought he could accomplish this with a "tookie" and a banana - was so amazing; his speech so clear, his desire so sweet that I ran to grab my video camera to capture what he'd say next.

Moments before I was thinking of my blog and the year ahead. I always feel excited at the end of a year. It is the feeling of being able to wrap something up with a sense of accomplishment, and then start fresh. I feel the same kind of excitement in September - a sense of wonderful beginnings that has stayed with me even though I haven't begun a new year of school in many years. The idea that you can start again with nothing but possibility before you has always filled me with a sense of hope and adventure; that I have a chance to do it all better this time. And maybe even enjoy it more.

My son's call to the birdie - to lure it close with whatever he can - is exactly what I hope to do in the year ahead. I want to spot the bird, find a way to talk to it and bring it close. To experience the magic of what may be far off or elusive, but maybe, just maybe, can be captured and made mine. And if the thing itself can't be captured -- and I do remember many failed attempts to catch birds with a salt shaker as a child -- I want to at least enjoy calling it close with my willingness to share some of my best stuff in the process. My son has a tookie and a banana. I hope to share what I have, too, with offerings more philosophical, but hopefully just as precious.


My writing year wound down in the same flurry of busy-ness as every other part of my life. I am very pleased that a few pleasant surprises and interesting prospects emerged in the last few weeks of the year to carry me forward into the new year.

I am thrilled to be working with Jessica Oman on some of her writing and editing projects (Jessica has even added me to her "Who We Are" page on her Write Ahead Business Consulting and Writing website). It has been a lot of fun for me to apply my proofreading, editing and copywriting skills to the assignments she's shared with me, and I'm hoping to work a lot more with Jessica in the new year. As a result of the varied projects I've assisted with to date, I realize that this is the type of work I want to be doing every day, in balance with my own writing projects. This type of work is not only fun and rewarding, it can be done anywhere. This is not a revelation so much as a hope that in the coming years I will find my way to work from home full time (my goal is to do this by the time my son is in kindergarten, but hopefully sooner!) So in the new year doing more of this type of work is one of the "birdies" I'll be trying to call close.

Through Jessica, I connected with Chris McGrath and his website and digital magazine, Thrifty and Green. Since my last post, I somehow turned a few contributions into a contracted gig as the new Thrifty and Green Food and Health editor. I'm excited about this denouement, which has me writing and publishing articles on a weekly basis, connecting with cool and interesting people, learning about digital publishing, green issues, the technical aspects of building a profitable website, and as an added bonus, supplementing my income. So far my experience has been rewarding and fun at T&G, and I'm looking forward to getting to know the other editors in the coming months. I never thought I'd actually find work of any sort on a magazine, let alone one as impressive as Thrifty and Green, but accepting this opportunity has been one of those things I just knew I had to do. I believe in saying yes to the unexpected, because you never know where any path can lead. Although I didn't seek out this opportunity, I'm very excited to be involved and to bring what I can to Chris' vision of sharing information, ideas and building community around sustainability, eco-living, and green values.


On the creative writing side of things, last week I learned the outcome of the Mary Ballard poetry competition, and want to congratulate Darlene Franklin Campbell on her winning collection of poems entitled Uncommon Clay. Darlene's submission was chosen as the winning manuscript by poet and contest judge, Jay Parini, who called the three finalists - myself, Darlene and Mary Stone Dockery - "all real poets, deeply gifted". I will take that compliment to heart, and say again how much I enjoyed being a part of this competition. If it hadn't been for the opportunity, I wouldn't have put this book together in four short months. Probably it would have languished in my mind, and maybe not seen the light of day for years, if ever - so I'm very grateful for the motivation to have started and finished it quickly.

While I had been silently cheering for my submission in the hopes it would be chosen, what I felt upon receiving the news was the relief of knowing. Once I knew the outcome, I felt the freedom to move forward with Plan B for the book. Immediately I called my friend, Ginger Deverell of Red Pear Creative, to see if she would be interested in assisting with designing the book cover. My hope is to launch a limited number of print copies and an e-Book sometime in the spring. In the meantime, I will be learning as much as I can about indie publishing and marketing so that I can bring this collection of poems out into the world. I may try to arrange some readings in the spring and summer months - something new and a bit scary, but had I won the poetry competition, my intention was to fly to Austin to read to anyone who was interested. So why not somewhere receptive in my own town?


My other creative projects (and there are a few lined up, at least in my mind...) will benefit from the research I do to turn I Can Make Life into a real book. There is one book I'd like to write in honour of my kids by spring/summer, and another secret project under a pen name that will also hopefully find its way out into the world this year via the indie publishing route. I'm very excited about all of these ideas and plans, and am ready to make a start. Just as soon as I have one more chocolate bell-shaped candy.

Hello 2012, and hello birdies!