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Life is Beautiful

life is beautifulI was really taken with this image….


Stacks of books with a small handwritten note, ripped from a page, and peeking out from between two novels with a small heart and the inked “life is beautiful.”

It perfectly captures ME.

I was always a bookworm growing up, and found quiet refuge in reading. As soon as I opened a book, the rest of the world fell away. And as I read “The End”, as much as I missed the story and the characters, I knew there would always be another book to open. I was always happily searching for the next one.

As I grew, I continued to read and it still brought me happiness. But I also paid attention to all the small things in life that are joyful – my daughter giggling in her sleep when I tickled the soft skin under her chin, my husband reaching for my hand, and finding it, without having to look, the comfort of sinking my head into a fluffy pillow at the end of a long day.

I think that my thirst to read, my (continually refining) powers of observation, and my inclination to always try to look on the positive side of things will serve me well as an ever aspiring writer.

What special qualities do you have that are important to your life as a writer?

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Writing with Honesty



A writing tip from Chuck Wendig


Any creative person has to be a little bit hard of heart — how can you not be? You can’t go sobbing into a potted plant every time you get a bad review. Just because someone told you “no, I can’t rep this, can’t publish this” doesn’t mean it’s time to head to the bell tower with a .300 Weatherby and start taking out anybody carrying a book or a fucking Barnes & Noble rewards card. Rejections toughen you up. Step to it. Suck it up. Lean into the punch. We all get knocked down. This is your chance to get back up again with your rolled-up manuscript in your hand and start swinging like a ninja.


* I can respect anyone who can put “Care Bear” and “Ninja” in the same paragraph.  Thanks for the laughs 🙂


Check out the rest of his tips regarding rejection @terribleminds 🙂



Any way to the coast…

Just Keep Going!

Ignore your inner nagging thoughts. They are seldom accurate perceptions of what you are actually achieving. It is deeply unfair to criticize your navigation skills when taking a journey into unknown territory. Try not to demoralize yourself. I call my first draft “the Lewis and Clark.” Any freaking way to the coast – is the correct way! Do not criticize yourself for the odd wrong turn, the weather slowing you down, having to stop for supplies. There is no bad route when you are on a voyage of discovery. Just keep going!


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The only writing rules you’ll ever need!


You may have noticed that I’ve been missing in action for a few weeks – but with good reason.  I have been working almost daily on polishing my novel.  I have even found some readers to provide editing and feedback before I start sending out my manuscript to publishers (with fingers crossed and a bottle of wine for good measure).  Though my little baby MJ keeps me quite busy these days, I am finding a rhythm now that she is almost 6 months old…and it includes my writing, reading and even attending a writer’s festival event here in Ottawa (more on that soon).

In the meantime, I found this cute list of “Writing Rules” – since aspiring authors seem to be always looking for tips.  The most important advice is always to WRITE SOMETHING.  I found over time as a writer that inspiration and opportunity do not always intersect.  Sometimes one must make time for an opportunity to write.  Then write.  And allow inspiration in.



The Power of Simple Words, Animated


Getting from “no coordinates exist like one’s domicile” to “there’s no place like home.”

“Use the right word, not its second cousin,” Mark Twain admonished. “Use short words, short sentences and short paragraphs,” David Ogilvy advised.

Last week, my friends at TED launchedTED-Ed — a wonderful new series of short animated videos for high school students and lifelong learners, using visual storytelling to deliver compelling messages in equally compelling ways. To kick off, this lovely video by copywriter Terin Izil, animated by the one and only Sunni Brown (remember her?), makes an appropriately succinct case for using simple words and brevity in writing, in just two minutes.



“Variety may be the spice of life, but brevity is its bread and butter. So when it comes to $10 words, save your money and buy a Scrabble board.”

Then again, even E.B. White — the quintessential champion of brevity — felt compelled to play devil’s advocate against brevity for brevity’s sake:

“Writing is not an exercise in excision, it’s a journey into sound. How about ‘tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow’? One tomorrow would suffice, but it’s the other two that have made the thing immortal.”



Novel writing tips – PLOT

The following is an essay that Sarah Pekkanen, author of Skipping a Beat and These Girls, wrote for Writer Unboxed, a writing website that I will be adding to my personal resources as I finalize my own novel.  I thought her writing tips were very useful – particularly with regard to making sure scenes have lots of tension!  You want to make your reader care about the people and the situations in your novel and tension-filled scenarios will certainly help accomplish that.


What I’ve Learned About Writing a Novel

There’s one type of person I always meet at my booksignings: Someone who approaches my table with a mixture of frustration and hope in their eyes. They pick up my novel, but they don’t seem to really see it, because it isn’t my book they want to talk about – the book they desperately want to discuss is the one they’re struggling to write.

They’ve got the best of intentions. They’re smart, accomplished people – but they can’t quite get started. Or they have an idea, and maybe they’ve even written a dozen or fifty or a hundred pages, but then they smash into a mental roadblock. Or they’ve finished a draft, and even they know it’s terrible, despite the fact that their mother loves it. The book they produced is nothing like the book they imagined.

I understand, I always tell them – maybe too well. I’ve been there myself.

For years, I worked as a newspaper reporter, and I penned free-lance magazine articles on the side, but even with all that training, I found writing a novel to be … ahem, challenging. In the same way that running a marathon in high heels, backwards, might pose a slight challenge.

It took me a long time, and a few terrible drafts of books, to pinpoint the source of my problem: I hadn’t studied my craft well enough. For that, I blame conventional wisdom. After all, doesn’t conventional wisdom tell us that writers are born, not made? That being able to create a book is a God-given talent, similar to coming out of the womb with perfect pitch? I didn’t know you could learn how to write a book. I figured either you had it, or you didn’t. And I was beginning to suspect I didn’t.

I credit my agent, a sassy New Yorker who doesn’t hesitate to dole out critiques or praise when necessary, with leading me to the light. I’d turned in another terrible draft of a book, and she slogged through it, then she called me.

“I guess I could try to send it out as a character-based novel,” she said. I think it’s accurate to report that enthusiasm was not ringing through her voice. In fact, she kind of sounded like she wanted to shoot herself.

“Let’s wait,” I said. I wanted to give it one more try, and suddenly, I thought I knew how to do it.

Here’s what I took away from that phone conversation: I had my characters down – they were in good shape. What was missing from my novel was plot.

I set out on a quest to learn how to infuse my books with plot. I began by searching for books about plotting, and I bought every single one I could find. The stack still stands on the top of my computer hutch, and if it ever comes crashing down, it might take a few days for them to find me in the rubble – I have that many books. I read every single one, scribbling notes in the margins and folding down the corners of pages when I came across particularly helpful points.



The most important thing I learned is that putting together a novel, for most of us, is difficult – but with certain creative tools, it can get easier. You may never achieve perfect pitch, but you can definitely be taught how to write a book.

The two finest guides I found were Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell, andWriting the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass (which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read his terrific Writer Unboxed contributions). Here are some key points I learned that helped me write a novel my agent was able to sell:

    • Real estate agents have a credo: Location, location, location. Here’s the writer’s credo: Tension, tension, tension. Fill your novels with it. Stack tension into your scenes until it’s as high as my wobbly tower of plotting books. You can never, ever have enough tension.
    • Learn the rules for writing a successful commercial novel. Start with a likeable protagonist, give her a goal, throw obstacles in her way, throw bigger obstacles in her way, and then see her through to a bang-up finish. You need to start strong, and finish stronger.
    • Turn the books you love into writing courses. Take some novels you admire, a stack of index cards, and a pen. Re-read the books and chart out every scene – the character and the main action – on index cards. Lay the cards out in order and study them to figure out how the author constructed their brilliant works. You’ll demystify the process.

This is just the beginning; the books by Bell and Maass taught me so much more, and every time I re-read them, I come away with new tips. The best part of all? Now I have three novels of my own on bookstore shelves, and I’ve just turned in the fourth to my editor. But it never would’ve happened if I hadn’t learned to plot – and for that, I’ll always be grateful to the authors who took the time to show the rest of us how it’s done.



READERS??? Anyone?

I thought this cartoon pretty much sums up my life right now.  I am on maternity leave with my first baby, and spending time on my reading and writing.  I’ve entered some writing contests through the CBC (haven’t won any yet), read some new books (some are 5 pages or less – see information about being a new mom) and I’ve been working on my novel.  I had hoped to have it fully completed before the baby arrived, but that didn’t happen.  I blame my crazy “nesting” instincts in the weeks leading up to her birth.  Apparently organizing every cupboard, closet and wardrobe had a higher priority than writing.  However I did finish a first draft and, after taking a bit of a break, I’ve been finalizing it in the last few weeks, and came upon an interesting problem.  I am having a (REALLY) hard time finding readers to review/critique my novel.  Apparently people are afraid they won’t be able to give me an honest review?  I guess I am putting people in a tough spot by asking – “tell me what you think” (but don’t crush my tender “writer’s” soul).  But how can I improve my writing if no one will even read it to begin with?


5 things you need to know …in order to write a successful book


I attended the Ottawa Independent Writers (OIW) October meeting, where author Nichole McGill made a presentation regarding writing successful books.  I was advised by my mentor, Mrs. W., to touch base with a writer’s group if I could and I was lucky to find this one.  They have monthly meetings covering different topics.  I will be attending next month as well when they present on “Starting out as a New Writer” – which will be all about putting the stories that swirl around in one’s head on paper.

Some general tips from Nichole:


  • What is the soul?
  • What is the journey of your main character?
  • How does the character’s journey change?

You should be able to explain to others the WHAT and WHY of your story in just a few sentences.  Nichole calls the WHAT, the logline and describes this as “the spine of your story on which everything is hung.”  A logline is one sentence that describes

  • Who is your main character?
  • What is their transformative action?
  • What is the end result?

Essence is the moral of the story and otherwise known as the WHY.


Nichole says that with the advances in technology and the resulting changes in the publishing industry, as an author, it’s more important than ever to know your audience and know the market for your book.  She highlights that the more “niche” your book is – the better.  One thing to remember as an author is that you must not only sell the story to the publisher, but also who will be the marketing audience.


  • You need to get the voice right (e.g., young adult)
  • Never underestimate the intelligence of your reader
  • Test your manuscript with real readers (i.e., target audience)
  • Acknowledge the new power that readers have (readers as bloggers and reviewers of novels)


Embrace re-writes!


  • Learn about e-books and e-marketing
  • Take control of your digital rights
  • Make sure your potential publisher is e-savvy
  • Take charge of your online presence
    • You should own/have
      • or
      • Facebook author page (after being published)
      • Twitter – @yourname
      • LinkedIn – your name
      • Good Reads – author page once published
      • Indigo/Chapters – author profile
  • Book bloggers are your friends!

I found the presentation to be useful and informative.  These were all items that I had thought of in connection with the preparation and publishing of my novel, but it was nice to see the ideas and suggestions wrapped up in a neat package and tied with a bow.

Hope this is helpful to other writers out there ! 🙂

(image source:




Who inspires you to follow your dreams?


For me, one person who does this is my former high school English teacher.  She read the first half of my novel and encouraged me to keep going.  This was important to me.  Although writing the book was something I wanted to do, and I would have pushed forward no matter what – having someone in my corner definitely helps.  When my husband and I are invited over to her house, she always prepares a great meal for us (her homemade noodles are my favourite), we visit, and she asks me questions about the novel-writing process and where I am in my project.  I always leave her house excited about what I am doing and eager to keep going.

I am going to be taking some time off work starting November 10th, so I plan to have the first draft of the novel completed by December 1st at the latest, but in the meantime there are several writing seminars that I will be attending, I’m finding myself a local “Writer’s Group” and I’ll be recruiting some “readers” for the first draft of my novel.

There are busy (but fulfilling!) times ahead!

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