How do I become a writer?

Calving writingI’m often asked this during school visits and by aspiring writers. The answer is surprisingly straightforward.

1. Read (a lot)

2. Write (a lot)

There is no magic. It boils down to hard work. No one can teach you how to write a book. You learn by doing.

Author Brian Doyle (The Plover) sums it up nicely. He says, “If you wish to be a writer, write. There are people who talk about writing and then there are people who sit down and type. Writing is fast typing. Also, you must read like you are starving for ink. Read widely. Read everything… ”

He adds, “A piece is not finished until it is off your desk and onto an editor’s desk. Write hard and then edit yourself hard. Look carefully at your verbs to see if they can be energized… You do not need a sabbatical or a grant to write a book. Write a little bit every day. You will be surprised how deep the muck gets at the end of the year, but at that point you can cut out the dull parts, elevate your verbs…find the right title, and send it off to be published.”

I might add one more thing to Doyle’s wisdom…

3. Get feedback.

A writing critique group (or partner) is critical to help you find those dull parts. This shouldn’t be your romantic partner or best friend, they will spare your feelings and tell you that your work is brilliant. It’s not. Every writer needs constructive feedback and editing.

Writing classes can’t teach you how to write your book, but they can get you warmed up through the use of writing exercises and assignments so sign up for one if you can’t get started.

No two writers approach their work in the same manner. There is no right or wrong way. Some outline in detail. Some revise as they’re going along. Some just sit and write madly  until the first draft is complete, and then go back and revise.

Whichever approach works for you, just do it. Turn off the TV. Unplug (or set to vibrate) the phone, and put your fingers on the keys.

Oh, one more thing. Please invite me to the launch party.

 

Cartoon credit: Calvin and Hobbes

 

Thank you, Mom

Library

This week I spent a morning sitting in a comfy lounge chair at my local library. Occasionally I would look up from the book I was reading and watch the steady stream of people going in and out through the front doors. It was a weekday morning, so it was mostly seniors and toddlers with their caregivers. Librarians were helping patrons, and there was a quiet but friendly buzz in the building. I said a quiet ‘thank you’ to my mom who turned me into a library user all those years ago. Is there a better institution in our communities? I don’t think so. All those books, free! Continue reading

A Catch 22 – Selling the rhino horn to save the rhino

rhino 2

Okay, who doesn’t want a cure for cancer and/or hangovers? I sympathize, but I won’t be looking to the horn of the rhino for relief anytime soon.

As we’ve heard in the news, rhino horns are a coveted commodity in Asia, thought to do everything from curing life-threatening disease to relieving simple ailments. As a result, the animals are being illegally poached and killed for their horns. Their numbers have dwindled alarmingly. The situation is dire.

Enter, stage left: South African, John Hume owns and operates the world’s largest captive breeding operation of rhinos.  He claims that his life ambition is to save the rhinos from extinction. His farm houses 4% of the global population. He, too, saws off the rhinos’ horns, (without killing the animal) in order to make them less attractive to the poachers (who do kill them). The thing is, the horn grows back and can be harvested every 18 months.

The twist: Hume sells the horns to the Asian market, arguing that the profit he makes goes directly back into sustaining his farm that protects the rhino.

Talk about a paradox. Hume is keeping the demand for rhino horns alive, the exact same reason he has to run a rhino refuge in the first place.

If there was scientific evidence showing that yes, indeed, the rhino horn does have medicinal value, this practise of Hume’s may have some merit, but until then… it seems education is still the way to go, the dispelling of incorrect beliefs about the properties of the rhino horn.

(And yes, easy for me to sit here in Canada and condemn a practise happening in South Africa when our own threatened species, the grizzly bear, is still being trophy hunted. Just as horrific, I know, I know.)

Cover Art!

Dancing in the Rain CoverHere it is, the cover for my soon-to-be released novel.

It’s always a bit of a shock for an author to see the cover of their new book. We have our own idea of what it will look like after years spent writing and rewriting the story, but the publisher is the one who designs it.

This is not the cover I imagined at all, yet it’s perfect, depicting some of the key elements in the story. I also love the background colours.

I’d imagined a female figure actually ‘dancing in the rain’, but that would have been all wrong as the title is just a metaphor for what happens in the story. No one actually dances, but the characters do spend time riding trams and the forest trails and mountain vistas are central to the story. The mood of the cover art is achy,  the characters’ paths are about to cross but they are separated by the isolating bubble of their individual trams. They are on their own journeys.

Beautifully done, Orca Book Publishers. Thank you. Can’t wait to get my hands on the first copy.