I’ve thought a lot about my job, having decided at a very young age that I wanted to be a writer (with all the misconceptions of what that actually looks like). Then I struggled with the definition of “writer” and whether one has to have published anything to consider themselves “deserving” of the title. (You don’t; you are a writer if you write, regardless of frequency and quantity.) But while I knew in my soul of souls that I am a writer, the bills need paying, and thus employment is needed.
I’ve gone through a lot of jobs since I started as a so-called sandwich artist in a Subway attached to a gas station. I have long thought about a story that would weave them all together into a cohesive experience with a resounding finale, but who can ever be certain they have found THE job for them?
I’ll be telling a story with Confabulation on the Mainline stage for the first time since February 2020, which was the last time I told a story in public before my manager at Starbucks told us we could go home for two weeks. (Funnily enough, I won’t be talking about Subway or Starbucks this Saturday.) Since then, I’ve been an English tutor online, a customer service rep then call centre manager for a local eyewear company, and finally a massage therapist.
And that’s only a tiny part of the journey! One day, I’d love to spend an hour going through my CV and the various misadventures and lessons learned. For Saturday night, I’ll stick to one career transition, and I hope it resonates and gives people inspiration to take charge of their professional lives (as best they can).
It has been nearly four years since I attended my very first storytelling workshop, something I signed up for on a whim without fully understanding what I was getting into. I was working on a novel, the Quebec Writers’ Federation workshops had opened for fall registration, and the theme fit my work; though my book was not a memoir, there was a great deal of truth going into it.
The first word I wrote under “Storytelling Workshop #1” was: Confabulation. This does not refer to the phenomenon of filling in memories with fictions, but a monthly storytelling series in Montreal featuring new and experienced storytellers performing true tales centered around a theme. The first meeting of the QWF workshop was October 1st; two months later, I would be refining my first Confabulation pitch into a story told onstage at the Phi Centre (the theme? Family stories).
Since then, I have shared many important moments of my life, often deriving greater meaning from the process of transforming memories into stories for the stage. In my second workshop, this time a Confabulation StoryLab presented by Matt Goldberg, I bonded with storytellers I had met at the Mainline for the Shortest Story. One of them has become a close friend and neighbour, the fabulous Emma Lanza.
Over the course of many walks through the park near her place, we figured out that we would love to work together and take our conversations about story to a group of people wanting to learn more. When we heard that the QWF was accepting workshop pitches, we put our heads together and devised an exploration of embodiment and expressing one’s truth onstage. We began collecting books and articles and stories that expanded upon our ideas and illustrated the elements of storycraft.
We are pleased to present the culmination of our work in Your Story, Embodied: an eight-week adventure designed to get the story out of your body and into the minds of your audience. We will explore prompts based on the body, the elements that make a good story, and how to take a memory and turn it into a memorable tale. Space is limited to twelve participants, so don’t miss your chance to embark on this journey with us Wednesday nights at 6:00pm, beginning October 5th. The eighth week will feature a showcase of our participants’ talents as they present a five-minute story in front of a live audience of invited guests!
In other storytelling news, Confabulation kicks off its new season at the Centaur Theatre this Saturday, September 17th with Summer love (get your tickets here)! Join us for a celebration of the season before we transition into fall and sweater weather! I’ll be there in my capacity as social media manager, taking pictures and enjoying the stories as we gear up for an amazing 2022-23 season!
To remind myself what was going on, and to illustrate this expanse of silence, we will be exploring a photo listicle beginning with February 2021: Josie yawns and is adorable. No further caption required.
Shortly thereafter, I got myself into a mental bind with regard to writing and art, and it has taken this long while to untangle it enough to come back here and put some words down.
It was February 2021. I was working for BonLook, I was making CookIt meals (and occasionally having meltdowns in the unfamiliar space of cooking), and I was chatting with my friend Emma to get our stories into shape for Confabulation’s Shortest Story XI. I quietly gave my fantasy novel another crack in an orange notebook I’d written in before, keeping one page empty for notes and ideas and doodles.
Then March, and I keep pulling tarot cards, and I start learning the team leader position at work, and I struggle to add new routines to my life. It’s easiest to do something as an established routine, and I want to journal more consistently, and stretch every day, and feel better overall in my life. The fantasy project is going on in the background, for fun, but there isn’t any serious writing happening yet. Training and learning a new role takes a lot of energy.
In May, I turn to runestones (though I will barely broach the second futhark before getting distracted). I like to feel the cold stone grow warm in my closed fist, I like the sound of them rattling together in their bag, I like keeping one nearby to affirm its meaning. They’re also nice to look at.
Then we got COVID. It felt gross to think that although we had “done everything right,” we still somehow failed. While I worked from home, my boyfriend worked in retail, so the math was not in our favour to begin with. Fortunately, neither of us required hospitalization, and our sense of smell and taste were gone only long enough to startle us a little. After five days, things were looking up.
We keep on CookingIt, with a few mishaps, and certainly more meltdowns. My therapist has talked me through visualizing the outcome I desire, and preparing myself: watching videos, rereading the recipe, and seeing myself perform each step properly. It just feels like there isn’t enough time, and I spend a lot of my time feeling drained of energy.
We celebrate Orlando’s birthday in a restaurant, a first since having COVID. I remember anxiously awaiting the vaccine; health guidance was to wait 90 days after symptoms ended to get the prick. But we had a lovely supper at a restaurant with a couple of friends, it felt so “normal” that I got up to go to the bathroom at one point and was three full steps away from the table when I realized I’d forgotten my mask. What times.
Around this time, I also attended the Violet Hour Book Club and wrote the note “hopepunk” in my journal. I have no clue who said it in reference to which book, but I was glad to see it. Hopepunk. Nice.
Summer is weird. Hangouts with friends outside, although the numbers are down and so is our guard, somewhat. But then we can socialize while walking in the open air, sweating and hydrating, or on nicer days when the heat isn’t so cruel. I also spend a lot of time in Final Fantasy XIV as Vile Amethyst, a red mage who dispatches local gods and fights evil empires, like ya do.
September comes, and the COVID cases are rising and making me nervous, but I have two virtual appointments I’m looking forward to. First is my irregular meeting with my therapist, every few months to help with panic attacks or dissatisfaction with my work/writing/entire life.
The other is with École Setsuko, which I have had my eyes on for a while, another piece of advice from my therapist. Their site now mentions a payment plan, and my promotion in the late winter/early spring means I might be able to swing it, if I cancel CookIt. My therapist recommends I sign up for a day-long introductory workshop before committing, and that’s the plan.
I sign up, I sweat through it (which I was also warned of, therapy is fantastic!), and I walk home exhilarated and exhausted. I commit right away, because the workshop was on Sunday and class starts Tuesday. Within a couple of weeks, I know basic strokes, I have far more of an understanding of anatomy than ever, and I buy my massage table.
Life since September 2021 has largely been devoted to massage school, and practice, and homework. There has been some room for creative work, and there are a few things bubbling under the surface that I will mention here soon (but not yet, sorry). There was also a return to the Confabulation stage in March of this year.
Since then, I’ve continued to work as communications coordinator for Confabulation. I have continued to study hard and practice harder at my Swedish massage program, with the eventual goal of building up a private practice. I have continued to work at BonLook, though I am reducing my hours to accommodate a course for massage school.
I have also been writing, but the point of this post was to get all of the prelude out of the way. The real talk about writing is coming down the line, when I’m more sure of my feet and the direction they are taking me in. It has taken a while to claw my way to some space of decent organization, and this space is a tool for organizing myself and drawing a semblance of structure around my life.
It’s also a great way to take inventory of what I’ve been up to and realize, “Damn. I really have been busy. And that’s okay.”
See ya soon. Maybe at the Centaur, tomorrow? Confabulation is celebrating twelve years of true-life storytelling with Signs and Symbols (click the link for tickets!) tomorrow, May 28th at 8:00pm. I’ve actually been working with Emma again, helping her get her story stage-ready, and I can’t wait to see the final result!
I had such good momentum, but autumn turned to winter and a lot of shifting took place.
First of all, I will remind myself to never underestimate the effect of darkness suddenly coming an hour earlier. I feel more pressure to use the daylight to best effect, I get mopey when I haven’t seen a blue sky in too long, and the cold can be a huge deterrent when it comes to enjoying being outside.
There has not been a lack of news.
I have been asked to curate and host an evening of queer storytelling! Chris DiRaddo, who I know as president of the QWF, producer of the Violet Hour, and host of the Violet Hour Book Club; proposed it to me, and I had no choice but to reply, “I’d love to! How do I do that?” I ended up asking several people this question, and their answers led me to ask people I know if they had stories to tell. Everyone’s got a story, but how many of us want to get up on stage and tell it to a room full of strangers?
Then I told a particularly personal story at Confabulation: Games at the Centaur Theatre, revisiting how it felt to actively lie to the partner I was cheating on. The story felt impossible to write, but a conversation with Nisha Coleman gave me the confidence to confront what I was doing (trying to avoid telling the difficult truth) as well as a page and a half of notes to incorporate into a new draft. I got it out, I practiced, and I felt all of the emotions as I told it onstage.
I always remember, but sometimes forget to feel, that whatever scares me the most in my art is what I must absolutely pursue. Like this horrifying memoir idea, but that’s on the back burner because I have a mentorship to focus on!
As of last Sunday, I am dedicating the vast majority of my creative time to working with April Ford, my QWF fiction mentor, on my novel. We already have such plans! I am making lists and trying out different synopses and we will be meeting biweekly for the next few months. There will be a reading! I will shake off this rust and make some progress with this book!
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.