The Best Parts

My plan was to start blogging again this week, and to dive back into Twitter, too. Life has a way of sideswiping sometimes, though. Something happened this week that I didn’t want to share about on social media, but that made posting about other things feel wrong.

So I’ve decided to write about some good things. Moments in this past year or so when I’ve absolutely loved being a writer, and felt like the luckiest person in the world.

A victory — I was awarded a grant through Access Copyright, administered by the Saskatchewan Arts Board. The thing with grants is that the money is nice, obviously, but it’s so much more than that. It means that someone has taken a look at your writing and your plans for this fledgling work-in-progress and decided that they’re worth investing in. That it might be something someday. It’s affirmation and encouragement in a business where we sometimes go a long time without either.

This was a research grant, to be used toward a trip to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to research my current work-in-progress. The trip was incredible. I spent six days stuffing my brain full to overflowing. Historical walking tours, museum visits, libraries, wandering the streets and taking pictures and jotting down sights and smells… and quite a lot of time in the archives. (Tip for historical writers — check to see if there are fire insurance underwriters’ maps for the area and time period you’re writing about. Those things are incredible — every building on every street outlined and coded according to building materials and purpose.)

I returned with a much more solid understanding of some of the key events in my book… but also some doubts. My research didn’t turn up what I was hoping, in terms of where one of my characters might have come from. I tried to make it fit, but it just didn’t. I was asking the wrong questions, or looking in the wrong places. The facts I found didn’t line up with what I was looking for, and there were gaps. But beyond that, it just didn’t feel right.

A few months later, I made a last-minute decision to venture north to Moose Bay and Moosonee for a writing workshop that was being led by my good friend Ruth Walker. Actually, I won’t say much about that here… mostly because there is so very much to say. It was a trip that was more than a trip, and the beauty of the land and the kindness of the people we met there deserve more space than I’m able to give them here. But that’s where I found my character’s home.

In terms of writing practice, I tried some new things this year. Some worked, some didn’t. Some I stuck with for a long time, some just weren’t a fit. I’ve had to loosen up my planning process, which was difficult for this chronic plotter to do. I’ve learned that I need consistency, and that it helps me to not start a writing session with a blank page and expect to come up with story, but rather to ease into it. For me, writing around the project is just as important as writing the words that build the scenes. At least that’s what’s working now, and although it feels less controlled than I’m used to, I’m thrilled with how things are going.

I’ve continued to be fortunate in my writing groups and writing friends. Writing works best as a team sport, I think. We work alone, but we’re in it together, sharing advice and support. My writing community lost someone this week, someone who was and is important to me.

Going forward, I think my blog posts will have a different flavour. I love reading and researching, and I want to share some of the great books and cool facts I find. But for now, a list of some of the good moments from this past year, while I remember a good friend.