The aftergloom

There’s a curious thing I’ve noticed that happens to me after a performance, and the better the high, the harder I crash. I had the opportunity to speak about it with my therapist the first time it happened, and her reaction surprised me. To her, it was obvious that I might feel like absolute garbage the day after a huge rush of positive emotion.

Now, I can’t fully blame this phenomenon for my silence. Unemployment has stretched on a bit longer than usual, and I’ve been slow to find a job. I just received my first pay from Starbucks and it was like a breath of oxygen into a cold and dusty chamber. I also really enjoy making coffee and chatting with people? Who’da thunk!

All this to say that taking my boyfriend’s tips for bus fare and not wanting to socialize because there aren’t enough coins for that is FUCKING EXHAUSTING. It’s hard to squeeze out any creativity when I have no idea if I’m about to get another NSF fee (can you believe I used to DEFEND those when I worked for the bank? Ridiculous!). I’m not out of the woods yet, but now that steady income is restored, I miraculously find myself with energy to write!

So, THIS show. I’d been playing with this story idea since the summer, when I decided to tell it at the last minute at an open mic. I got some applause, I felt some validation, but the story felt largely incomplete and I set it aside without knowing how I wanted to improve upon it. Plus I rushed so fast that five minutes somehow became three.

Then I found out that one of the upcoming themes for Confabulation was hair. Perrrfect! I agonized over what to pitch now that I don’t write out my stories fully before performing them, but the submission form says a summary is fine, so I provided that and moved on with my life. Then I got the confirmation e-mail, wrote out a bullet sheet, and recorded a draft to send to the producer.hair bullet sheet

A large part of writing anything is turning ideas over in my head as I go about normal life, seeing how they fit together and if they’re good enough to stick around. I will write down moments of inspiration in case I can’t remember them later, but I’ve found the best elements of my stories accumulate slowly and persist over time.

The shirt coming off was a later addition, and I almost dismissed it because I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I have worn my shirt at pools, it took me years to get comfortable going out in a TANK TOP, how in the hell could I ever whip off my shirt in front of an audience of STRANGERS?

As I built the story in my head, the idea persisted and I grew more attached to it. Why shouldn’t I be able to match the emotion of my story’s end and show that I am actually fine with all this fur?

Of course, I got to the Phi Centre and was informed that the evening’s show was going to be video recorded. I felt a stab of doubt before I shook it off and resolved to end my story as rehearsed. (I wanted it to come off it one swift, smooth motion. No catching on my ears, thank you.)

There is something particularly wonderful about the stress of walking to the stage, approaching the mic, and feeling each step as a spike of anxiety. Then I breathe, and ease into my story, and I dive so far into it that stress is a quiet voice in the back of my mind.

As I told the story, beginning as an awkward adolescent and moving into my so-called adulthood, I could feel my confidence building. There was no worry as I reached my conclusion, pulled my shirt over my head, and ended my story. I was grinning like a fool afterward, proud that I had done it, satisfied with the ending.

Storytelling is magical, and I needed to come here and write that.

Fur for days

I’ve made the joke often enough on hook-up apps: I’ve got fur for days. Look at this chest and shoulders, what else am I supposed to say?

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Fortunately, Confabulation has given me the chance to get up on stage and talk about my journey with my body hair. It has been a long and winding road to acceptance and I’m proud to share my experiences tonight at the Phi Centre!

To get ready, I’ve been walking around my empty apartment telling the story to myself while my cats judge me. Absurd! They’re far furrier than I am.

I have printed a second run of “pumpkin smut latte” and opened an Etsy shop since people exist in places other than Montreal. The virtual storefront looks a little lonely with only one zine available for the moment, but I am working to get “hairy slutsmas” ready as early as possible. Slowing the process somewhat is my waffling on whether a second story is necessary—I think I need to play with layout before I can make that decision.

It’s very interesting to have complete control over the product from start to finish, to be the one who gets to decide whether one more sheet (four more pages) will make a better zine, or will it be too crowded? I have an idea for a cute and intimate story centred on a feeling, which I would totally share here but I prefer to keep a few secrets on platforms like these.

Best option? I’ll do a freewrite and see how I feel afterward.

There are only three chapters remaining in the outline for my novel! I can sense feelings rising to the surface; I have only completed one rough draft of a novel before, and I definitely had to take some time to recover from the overwhelming rush of emotion. I already get emotional thinking about the nearly 60,000 words I’ve written so far! the corners of memory I’ve explored! and the fact that I may have to write several versions of the ending to strike the right balance!

Nothing to do but get in there and write it. I won’t know which way to end the novel is best until I try.

 

Examining readiness again

It is always so irritating when a change of temperature brings a little cold. We’ve been having cooler weather here and I had the sore throat to prove it. Being sick increases my frequency of demotivation naps, where I can’t do anything but curl up and try to sleep the ugh away.

Despite this, I’ve gotten some things done! I pitched a summary of a story for Confabulation‘s Hair theme and it has adolescence, awkwardness, and acceptance! I’m eager to develop it into something more polished.

In the meantime, the pitch has been posted to my Patreon, in the Works-in-Progress tier. It’s a little less frightening to put that out there when I still have no patrons at this level, but there’s also the voice in my head saying, “Yeah, but it’s only a click away. Someone can read this in the middle of the night while you’re sleeping.”

Half the fun of being a writer is that ambivalence: please read what I wrote. No, wait, don’t! I mean, do, but only if you have nice things to say! Wait, I changed my mind!

I could let this go on for half an hour while I sit motionless in front of my keyboard, but fuck it. Slightly before I’m ready, as always.

Apart from storytelling, I am eyeing the last six chapters of my novel and getting ready to make my move. Like a cat wiggling its butt before pouncing! I’m excited to write my first ending to this novel! If it’s like everything else I work on, it won’t be the final ending, but I can’t revise a blank page. I have to try things.

I’m also starting to think about Fringe. I have more time to consider it, for sure, but I have a vague notion that I could write a 60-minute show… we’ll see. Maybe I’ll just have to pitch before I’m ready, as usual.

Two thirds

I have been more physically active this past week, so that’s one goal met!

I also reached a new milestone with my manuscript: I completed the rough draft for part two of the novel!

This one is particularly exciting as part two takes up the bulk of the book. We begin with Simon in Montreal in part one, he travels to Louisiana for part two, and (spoiler alert) he will return to Montreal in part three. With that chunk of work behind me, I am down to six outlined chapters remaining to be written. As outlines go, this could change before the end, but that means I am nearly done with the rough draft as a whole!

I very much look forward to setting this manuscript aside and working on something else for a bit.

In other news, a new season of Confabulation starts next Friday with Ritual! There are some interesting themes in the following month that I’d like to pitch for, but this time I’ll be a spectator. I did participate in a special outdoor Confabulation as part of NDG Arts Week! I got to tell a story in a park with some of my favourite storytellers, including Claire Sherwood and Nisha Coleman.

I think it’s time I worked on my pitch. Less talking, more doing!

Breaking 50k

Getting out last week’s post felt really good, but there was no real update there, so here we go!

The QWF has a wonderful resource called the Hire-A-Writer directory for people interested in coaching, editing, feedback, etc. Many of the faces there are familiar to me from social gatherings, and a friend of mine recommended Elise Moser from her own experience.

Many of the chapters of my novel have been workshopped on an individual basis, often submitted in pairs of consecutive chapters, but I needed someone to look at a larger piece and tell me whether I’m on the right track. I communicated with Elise, who put me at my ease immediately. After a brief exchange to clarify what I was looking for, I submitted the first six chapters of the novel and tried to put it from my mind and work on other things.

I got feedback a lot quicker than I expected! The short of it is, I am heading in the right direction, even if I have a lot of ground to cover. Elise provided excellent points for me to work on, and as a result I’ve drafted a new opening chapter. This makes my third attempt at beginning this novel, which is fine; the beginning is the most important part. It determines whether a reader continues along this journey with me or moves on to something else.

I’m submitting to my primary writing group, and I can’t wait to hear how they receive the new chapter. I have Elise’s notes for the remainder of the opening chapters, but I’ve been focusing my efforts on completing the rough draft. I have pushed past 50,000 words and nearly completed part two of three; I have seven more chapters outlined and that’s it. The rough draft as currently outlined will be complete.

Facebook was kind enough to remind me that it’s been a year since I sat down and outlined this book. I had recently returned to Louisiana to visit family and those experiences were fresh in my mind. I had been cultivating ideas of home and belonging ever since I moved here to Quebec, some eleven years ago. It feels like I built a framework then, and I have been steadily adding to it for a year so that now I have something that is beginning to take shape.

As slow as progress feels sometimes, I can look back on this and feel proud.

In other news, I’ve been invited to perform a story that appears in Claire at a special pride edition of Confabulation! Tomorrow night, I will be telling the story of how I met Mathieu, which began a chain of events that led to me moving from Lafayette, Louisiana to Blainville, Quebec. Come hear the tale at le Ministère tomorrow at 9:30pm!

I did it!

Did you have doubts? Given my sporadic updates in the past, I don’t blame you!

But I did it!

This took several takes, a change of t-shirt, and required turning off the air conditioning in my home office (that thing is LOUD). I will be updating weekly with new videos available to patrons of the appropriate tiers. Become a patron here!

Completely free text updates will continue on this site! This has been my home for many a year and I am fully dedicated to maintaining this space. This is the portal to all of my creative shenanigans.

What have I been up to apart from talking to my cell phone? Last Sunday, I got a message from Rachel McCrum inviting me out to Breathing Space, an open mic taking place at le Dépanneur Café. I had already arranged to go with a friend, who ultimately couldn’t make it, but now I had someone else to hold me accountable so I agreed and began wondering what I could possibly read.

There was a chapter of my novel which seemed promising, but it went into insecurities about dating while exploring non-monogamy, and that felt a little too raw for my very first open mic. It was also a lot of dialogue, and I didn’t fancy doing voices.

I had a story idea, and since I’ve taken to creating my stories by reciting them to myself (with the occasional recording), I started working it out loud. I managed to get it to about five minutes, headed out, trying to remember essential lines.

It ended up being about two and a half minutes because I rushed like it was nobody’s business. For some reason, I get anxious performing in new spaces, and though the room felt very welcoming and the telling went well, once is not enough for me to feel fully at ease. Still, that’s another first for me, and I’m mostly pleased with the result.

There is a video, credit to Marie Cornellier (it was so great to see you there!). It’s going on Patreon next week as one of my works-in-progress; I’d like to flesh out this story and give it another go.

Comedy and storytelling

I had a blast at Tinder Tales last Saturday! I arrived early with some friends, enjoyed a nice meal with a couple of cocktails, then joined the other performers downstairs. The mic was not in service, but I learned how to project back in high school so I wasn’t nervous about that.

Thus began my crash course on the differences between comedy and storytelling. I am still processing some of the finer points, and there is a huge amount of overlap in this particular Venn diagram. I’d like to take a workshop on comedy, or read about it, do something to expand my knowledge and help clarify these new thoughts.

I sat back and appreciated the performances, laughing along with the crowd, which was a very warm and friendly collection of faces. Then came my turn.

“This is less of a Tinder tale and more of a Scruff story,” I began before launching into my performance. You know how it goes: you meet a guy for drinks, you have a chat, you find out your ex lives with his ex. I got some good laughs, and I even saw some sympathetic looks as I went into more vulnerable parts of my story. I don’t know if I stuck the landing so much as slid to a stop, but I felt good on the whole. I know I’m being my own worst critic here, but it’s helpful to think of how I can do better next time.

Thank you to an amazing audience, including several friends; your support means everything to me! Thanks to Adelade LaFontaine for producing, Monica Hamburg (catch her show Pornomedy) for hosting, and to the hilarious performers who got up and told their tales. A special shout-out to Heather Hurst (@ForceOfStature on Twitter and Instagram) for looking at a table of three bearded men and asking, “What is the name of your podcast?” We had a good laugh after the show when I told her they were my people.

I’m pretty sure I’m a storyteller and not a comedian (or perhaps some hybrid creature?), though I do enjoy the relationship between tension and laughter and I would like to learn how to better manipulate said tension. So it’s practice, practice, practice and on to the next story!

I don’t have anything in the works just yet, so it seems like an opportune moment to return to my long-neglected novel. I’ve got Shut Up & Write next weekend, I’ve submitted a total of three chapters to two writing groups, momentum is building and I need to harness that energy and let it take me as far as possible.

Another first

I’m not freaking out, you’re freaking out!

In a mere two days, I will be performing at Tinder Tales for the very first time! I’ve run through my story enough to figure out which words sound awkward together and which beats I want to really hit. I might have an ending, but I’m not too sure on that yet.

The ending is crucial. I want something that will close the story and let the audience know that it’s over before I bow my head and return to my seat. I’m not looking to tie everything up with a nice bow, but there needs to be a certain resonating thought that signals the story is over.

It hasn’t happened every time, but usually I come to the event with a clear idea of how I want the story to end. It may not be memorised word for word, but I know more or less what I want to say and I try to make my way there naturally.

All this to say, I have a vague idea of where I want this story to land, and a little over 48 hours to refine that idea without over-rehearsing my story. Come out to Lord William Pub on Saturday night to see if I stick the landing!

A moment of calm

I’ve reached the end of the Confab Storylab, culminating in our breakout performance at the Freestanding Room. It was a great night of awesome stories in an intimate space, I was able to feel fairly laid-back even though part of my brain was screaming about how much improvisation I was about to attempt (like, a lot).

It worked? I had to ask for some outside opinions, naturally; I got caught up in the flow of the story, went off on an unplanned tangent, and wrapped it up as neatly as I could. Telling a story seems to happen in a breathless rush with me, though I don’t feel like I sped through it at all. Those minutes go by in a flash, then I’m bowing my head and retreating to my seat to enjoy the heady rush of a story told.

One of my fellow workshoppers shared a story that centred on the Main Deli, so a few of us went down the road for smoked meat and latkes. My first. Yeah, I’ve been in Quebec 11 years, lived on the island for three and a half, and still had never gone for a smoked meat sandwich. What kind of a Montrealer am I?

A Montrealer-in-progress, obviously.

Since that night, not a lot of work has been done on stories. I have Tinder Tales coming up May 25 at Lord William Pub, I should probably run that by a few people and get some feedback. I have a submission deadline in my calendar for a nonfiction contest organised by the Malahat Review, and a vague notion of what to write for that. QWF’s Shut Up & Write is starting up again, and I am keenly aware that the last session earned me nearly 4,000 words of my novel. I can’t expect that every time, but my word count has not increased in (gulp) months and I need to change that.

So many stories

April has been a fantastic month.

The Confab Storylab has been rolling right along. giving me new tools and tricks to play with in my storytelling. The more I advance with these techniques, the more I understand that I am going to have to try things different ways before I ultimately settle on my way. As someone raised gifted with a huge fear of failure, this is mildly terrifying.

Luckily, workshops like these provide a safe environment to fail in. I told a story that I had barely written a rough draft for, and got a page full of notes on how to develop it. Last week, we were asked to take a familiar story and improvise part of it. Going off-script is taking a huge leap outside of my comfort zone. I like my lists, I love my threes, I enjoy hand-picking sensory details that firmly plant my audience in my story.

I was pleasantly surprised to discover I do less floundering than anticipated. It’s not pretty, but it’s very real, and that is often the more desirable trait in storytelling. Watch me get lost in a moment on stage while I search for words to bring you into it with me.

May promises to be exiting as well! The storylab is putting on an intimate breakout event where I’ll get to experiment a bit. I am also performing at Tinder Tales on May 25 at Lord William Pub. Who doesn’t love awkward dating stories? I’m excited to share one of mine (oh, there are many!) with a room full of strangers.