Walking

It’s sticky hot in Montréal and I’m already regretting my decision to walk as much as I have today. I had convinced the boyfriend that Home Depot was close enough, that it wasn’t that warm, blah blah blah. We got to sit inside while I applied for financing so we could have appliances delivered to our new apartment, but when it was done and the iced coffee was gone, it was back into the sweltering summer air. We parted ways, and I continued deeper into the Mile End to meet Lisanne for a writing session.

I’ve made it a good five minutes from the store, though it felt like thirty, when I check my phone and get the news that our destination is closed. She’s relocated to la Panthère Verte, which isn’t much further, and I make it there in no time. We greet, I dump my bag, and line up to order. We share a nice meal, me with lots of picking around unexpected mushrooms, and take out our laptops.

The only problem is, the place has filled up a bit and gotten a bit livelier. It’s great ambiance for a date or a friendly debate, but not so much for setting in for some serious writing. No matter, it’s Mile End, there’s bound to be a cozy café we can work in.

We step back out into the miasma and head down Saint Viateur in search of a quiet place. It’s early on Saturday evening, surely folks are having dinner or predrinking before going out. We step into one place, but the vibe is all wrong, there’s bustle and children and noise noise noise. Back out again.

As we walk, we see restaurants and bars, not what we’re looking for. There are any number of cute boutiques, but we’re not here to shop. Before long, we reach Park Avenue (which is always avenue du Parc in my head, #sorrynotsorry) and realise that we’re near where we sat to write last time.

Naturally, we turn left, go back to that same café, and get some solid work done. I broke 10,000 words and nearly finished my sixth chapter. I also had an amazing pistachio chocolatine and a delicious iced mocha, so thanks, Caffè in Gamba! Next time, we’ll just cut the crap and head straight there.

I was so pumped with how much work I got done that by the time we said our goodbyes, I decided to walk the full half hour back home. Fortunately, it had cooled a bit by then, but the bounce in my step wore off before I could make it all the way upstairs. But then I got to collapse into bed and have a very relaxing evening, so it’s still a victory.

Dreams of autumn

I attended my first session of QWF’s Shut Up & Write, which is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. I was able to wrap up the third chapter of Claire and get a fourth out in three hours, including the novel’s first sex scene, which was interesting to write while in a room full of people. I left feeling accomplished and buoyant, and went and spent entirely too much money at Lush.

As I write more of this Louisiana project, I am exploring strange little corners of memory that I haven’t visited in a while. I don’t think my recollections are pristine, and I get a freedom from that to fudge details even further. This is meant to be fiction; the truest parts will be the emotions I felt. I hope I can successfully weave those into these alternate versions of events.

In the vein of digging up my thoughts on the past, I have signed up for a workshop on oral storytelling. I haven’t the faintest clue where to start, and the description specifically mentioned a focus on the difference between oral and written storytelling, so I think I have a lot to learn. I’m excited to see where this takes me.

I’m also looking forward to having a regular schedule to follow. My writing workshop is meeting infrequently enough to feel quite irregular. Part of what is holding me back is that I’m moving in a month and would like to start a routine that I can do at home. That’s not much of an excuse, though. I could treat myself to a nice drink and snack somewhere public. I often look at people in restaurants and cafés with a bit of envy; there’s no reason I can’t be them.

Then once I move and have proper spaces to write in, I can fix myself some tea and put on some good music to work to. The bf is fine with my writing time here, so I doubt there will be any problem once we have even more space to occupy. Meanwhile, we’re sharing a studio with a kitchenette and no bathtub and I’m hunched over my laptop on the bed. My back feels marvelous.

So I have my next meeting with my workshop soon, a brand-new workshop starting up, and a positive change in the home situation coming up. The start of fall is going to be a beautiful time.

Also, people are absolutely shitting on Tim Hortons’ pumpkin spice menu, I’m pretty sure they’re irredeemable at this point. R.I.P.

Of course, it’s been damn hot this week, so dreams of autumn feel slightly out of reach. Here’s hoping there’s a change in the wind soon.

Happy belated Pride!

Last weekend was the big weekend of Fierté Montréal, and the Village drew me in a couple times before I ran out of energy for it. Friday had me having supper with a friend from out of town, which led to a nostalgia tour of musical favourites as I walked to the bus and let my memories carry me away.

Saturday started a bit more low-key: brunch with the boyfriend, followed by meeting up with Lisanne for some serious writing. This time, we weren’t going to get carried away with conversation. We stuck to five-minute breaks between 25-minute stretches of silence, and I got out the entire second chapter of my novel. During our second break, I had shared a bit of what I was writing, and some of Lisanne’s questions led to me adding a bit more to the second chapter than I had originally planned.

We retreated to the park afterward, sat in the grass beneath a tree, and talked about writing and life. I think I liked this arrangement better than our last meeting; we got more work done while still being able to socialise and enjoy each other’s company afterward. I’m sure we’ll do so again soon.

From there, I met some friends for an afternoon of snacks and drinking. Then we headed off for the show in the park, me thinking I was entirely too drunk to be bothered by the crowds. In the beginning, it was fine, though I kept complaining that the music was too much soul and not enough beat. Then the act changed, the beat drew a bigger crowd, and I peaced out.

I only meant to step to a less densely-packed area for a moment, take a breath, maybe grab a bite, and head back in. Instead, I found my feet carrying me out of the park, my thumbs texting my friends to let them know that I’m fine, but I’m leaving. I wasn’t really fine, but I went for the shorthand. I knew I was going to be fine and that even if I was in a state, it would pass, and I didn’t want them to worry over me. Enjoy the show, but I’ve gotta get out of here.

I felt a little stupid being bothered by it, but I’ve long known that I’m a homebody, and my weekend had already been filled with social activities. I could have figured that my reserves would be low and I would’t be able to properly deal with stressors. Still, I did go out for a little bit, I heard some good music, I sang in a crowd with friends. That’s a win.

For the end of Pride Weekend, I had planned on going to the parade, but I didn’t feel up to crowds again. I opted instead for a quiet afternoon with my boyfriend at a friend’s place. We watched the Pride episode (a Pride episode? Did they do more than one?) of Queer as Folk, made comments on how much has changed since that show originally aired, and ate entirely too much junk.

I came home and ended up doing some more work on Claire. I was describing a conversation that was happening during a drive, so I decided to pull up the google and take a virtual trip down familiar roads. It’s the first time I’ve really done this, a good dozen years after the time when I drove those roads most often. The experience was surreal, and really helped me pace the conversation and weave in little details, some versimilitude. I know these roads. My school bus used to take me down them, so that even before I started driving, I had memorised their twists and turns.

There was even a memory around a certain twist, and as I wondered if it was too dark and too real to include, I wrote it in. I can think about it when I’m editing. I’m going to have a lot to consider in terms of where I draw the line between fact and fiction.

Energy levels

I had a fantastic weekend. Verdungeons & Dragons on Saturday after my shift; we finally reached level three, and I completely flubbed my character’s very first spell. Then brunch with a friend and some mild shopping before the QWF picnic.

Now, you might be wondering why someone would possibly think it’s a good idea to brunch before a picnic. I suppose we can chalk it up to me trying to have my cake and eat it too. Plus I don’t have a kitchen, I didn’t bring anything, so it didn’t feel right to mooch off of everyone’s collaboration to the event. I did sample some delicious sugar tartlike thing with pecans in it and I swear, I had an out-of-body experience.

As expected, it was great to talk to other writers about writing, to hear their experiences, to hear some of what they’ve worked on (I’ve made a note to look up a book later). I really enjoy the sense of community and camaraderie that I feel with these folk, and look forward to getting to know them better. It’s also reassuring to know that when I progress in my writing life, there will be people to ask for opinions and advice.

The other half of my weekend was given to cleaning in my apartment, sensibly nudged there by my boyfriend. I’ve basically been living in his place, and the landlord will need to show mine to interested renters, so it was due. We spent three hours sweating with only a fan to push the hot air around us. I was sweeping and cleaning up, but poor Fred was using hot water in the kitchen and scrubbing cabinets. Before we could finish all we wanted to, I called it quits; my head was pounding, my temper was building steam, and I was tired of standing.

So, socializing (a LOT) and keeping pretty physically active put me in no mood to go and deal with the daily grind. Getting back to work wasn’t so bad, but I had to start canceling on events to be able to stay home and recover energy. I feel a little guilty, but I’ve come to an understanding that if I don’t manage my energy levels, I start to feel a little frayed at the edges, and my mood sours. If I want to function and be productive in my daily life, I need to maintain a certain balance. Then it’s easier to make time to write, and I feel happy about having been productive in my writing life, and that feels great.

All that to say that I haven’t really worked on Claire apart from revising the first chapter and submitting it to my writing group. Now I have a little over three weeks to read their pieces, which is always fun, and progress a bit in my own work so that I have a few choices for my next submission.

I am loving this whole schedules thing, having other people rely on me, sharing work with others and reading theirs. It’s easy to keep momentum when I have these reasons spurring me on, keeping me going. It makes the entire thing more fun, also.

Disrupting my process

I’d like to begin by saying that I feel inexperienced enough to admit that I don’t yet have a good idea of what my process is. The only novel whose roughdraft I completed is now almost five years behind me, still unfinished. However, I’ve already started toying with an idea of doing something differently with my latest project.

I had it from my high school teacher before anyone else: “Don’t edit until your first draft is finished.” This was back when I thought all writing advice was gold and to be taken to heart and never questioned nor ignored. I think there is quite a lot of value in this thought, but I’ve also learned that it’s okay to try new things. That advice is not absolute. That I owe it to mix it up until I find what works best for me.

With Yggdrasil, I completed the entire roughdraft before I showed it to anyone for feedback. With my current project (let’s call it Claire) just beginning, and my writing workshop meeting regularly, I thought I’d try sharing the opening chapter and seeing if I’m starting off on the right foot. Since I think it’s a waste of my peers’ time to submit the very first draft I wrote, I’m revising a chapter before the rest of the novel is written. I’m almost satisfied, and will hopefully get some good criticism; for our meeting after that, I plan to have several more chapters to choose from.

I discussed a bit of it with Lisanne, a friend from the group, when we met for coffee last week. We didn’t get as much writing done as we had planned, but we had a nice time talking about our projects and peoples’ reactions to them, and how much truth was too much to put into a fictional version of events. We shared our experiences, and hopefully mine gave her more insight into what it was like growing up in Southern Louisiana.

One thing that’s easy to represent in my writing now is the heat. It’s been hot and humid here, and I was down south recently enough to recall key differences between summer in Cecilia and summer in Montréal. Despite this, I went for a day in the park with friends in Verdun. I was introduced to someone new, and I talked about my past for the first time since deciding to put it into a novel. I don’t think that necessarily changed what information I share; usually only the essentials for a first meeting. But then, of course, in quiet moments staring up at trees, my mind was going over which parts need to go into the book to tell this story properly.

I’ll be in the park again next week for a picnic with the Québec Writers’ Federation. I hope to meet some new folk, chat about writing, and relax (fingers crossed for cooler, drier weather!). I don’t think I’ll feel any of the apprehension I did about the last social event; I’m rolling right along, and anyway we’re all different, so there’s not much use comparing myself to anyone else. (Tell this to my nervous mind.) It will be fun to meet with like minds and discuss what we like to do.

I am considering adding another project to my plate: a member of the QWF posted about a call for submissions of dragon stories. Just like with my vampyre story, I always wanted to write about dragons (no alternate spelling here), and any new short story is a good way to practice. I haven’t come up with much about it, and an attempt at an introductory scene fizzled out when I realised I hadn’t yet come up with the emotions motivating the main character. If my current pattern holds, it will be something I’ve felt acutely and can portray accurately.

Speaking of feelings, I got a gut punch in the form of disappointment this week. After checking their website daily, I finally got my entrance exam results for McGill. My application has been refused because I “do not meet language requirements.” Eighteen credit hours of French at Concordia University, at least eight years of work experience in primarily francophone environments, and I failed the exam. I had felt so confident about it.

What I suspect is that because I do not read very much in French, I made mistakes that a seasoned reader would not have. I have always meant to read more news articles, novels, even classics; but somehow never got around to it.

I’m not closing the door on translation just yet, but before I schedule another exam for myself, I would like to practice for it. I want to get more comfortable reading in French, expand my vocabulary, gain an understanding for tenses not used when speaking aloud. I want to write in French and have someone experienced to give me constructive criticism. I feel that I severely underestimated what it takes to work in the field of translation, and that is why I got the results I did. I’m still disappointed, but it helps to understand that this didn’t fall on me out of the blue. I set myself up for this.