Is it always transitions?

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!

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!

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.

Working hard

I have been giving 100% at my new job, and any new learning experience is mentally exhausting, so there has not been much writing going on. I’ve done some editing for my Confabulation performances, but nothing much apart from that.

My gut reaction is to feel bad for my lack of productivity in terms of creative work, but ultimately this isn’t a useful line of thought. I’ve still come so far in such a relatively short amount of time, I can allow myself to put things on pause while I focus on establishing myself in my new workplace. Once my job becomes more routine, I’ll have more energy for creative endeavours.

Despite not having touched my novel, I have been keeping busy with stories.

I’ve joined another storytelling workshop, this one part of Confabulation and presented by the wonderful Matt Goldberg. There are a lot of familiar faces, and I’m really excited to see what we learn from each other and Matt in the coming weeks.

I was invited to participate in Confabulation’s Audience Favourites show, bringing back my very first performance from December. Having told a couple more stories since, I found ways to improve upon my earlier performance, as well as the text itself.

It was a night for feelings! Each of the other storytellers brought tears to my eyes. You could feel the entire room with them during their most powerful moments, there were these stunning silences. I opened the second half with my own emotional story, reliving the feelings I was relating, keeping them just under control so my voice didn’t break. It felt amazing.

A refreshingly tearless experience was Taylor Tower‘s retelling of a story she had showed us in workshop, and getting to see it told live was an entirely separate experience. I already knew the twists and turns, but a masterful performance has you right there with the storyteller each step of the way, even when you know what comes next. I was delighted.

There is also something to be said about being in the room while a story is being told. A recording cannot capture the energy of an audience waiting with bated breath to find out what happens next. Tension is nearly tangible, silences and dramatic pauses ring out, it’s magical.

So the novel has been set aside for a moment, but there is still a sizable stack of pages on my desk and they aren’t going anywhere. I’ve taken a break before and been able to get back into the voice this book needs. I just need to look over the outline and read the latest chapter and I should be able to carry on from there.

Back to work

I meant to come here and catch up sooner; I even brought my laptop down to Vermont in hopes of catching up with my writing life. It’s a bit harder than I remembered to get things organised when starting a new job, and packing up and leaving for a few days means I can’t bring all of my writing stuff with me.

I did manage to critique a piece for my gay writing group, but mostly my evenings were spent going to bed early and listening to the howling mountain wind. Vermont was beautiful, Stratton was lovely; but that wind. I declined to buy earplugs at Jean Coutu before we set off, so that’s on me.

Just before leaving for Vermont, I got to tell another story at Confabulation. Twice. The Shortest Story is an annual event, and having experienced the frenetic energy once, I can’t wait to do it again.

It was awesome to chat with other storytellers and hang out backstage. As always, it’s a pleasure to listen to what everyone shares, and I got to see most everyone else’s performances. There’s no theme, so we got to hear a bit of everything.

A really interesting thing about getting to tell a story twice in one night is that I got the first crowd’s reaction, and figured out what to play up or draw out. It’s easier to relax when you’ve already told your story once and it went well. And I had a drink in the green room during intermission, so by the time I got up to tell my story again, I felt amazing and I think it was better than the first time.

Now, between that and work, I haven’t made much time for writing. I met with both my writing groups this week and received wonderful feedback that asks the sort of questions I’m too close to come up with myself. I’ve scrawled all over the print copies for the eventual revision, but I’m still firm about saving that for later. I still have a lot of ground to cover with the rough draft, and I have to balance that with work now.

I cannot possibly express just how relieved I am to finally be receiving incooooooooome. Unemployment loses its charm extremely quickly.

February up and left

Where did February go? Time for a retrospective.

I started off freshly unemployed, and at the beginning of the month I was still riding the high of putting my foot down and making a decision for the sake of my own good. I had tons of free time, perfect for getting lots of writing done!

I feel like I wasted a lot of that time loafing around, but my calendar begs to differ.

I had my first meeting with a new writer’s group, this one comprised entirely of queer men. Since I make up the entire gay section of my previous writing group, I felt the need to seek the opinions of folk who are a bit more familiar with my subject matter. This isn’t to say I’m leaving my first group! I need as much feedback as I can get!

I slayed at my last Shut Up & Write, managing over 4,300 words in two and a half hours. I was buzzing and eager to get home and print up the new chapters and add them to the manuscript pile. I submitted one of them to the queer writing group, with a specific question of how much sexual detail is too much? This rough draft is extra steamy, I’m looking forward to hearing what they think of it.

Then I pitched for next month’s Confabulation, a special challenge as the stories are only two minutes long. My rough draft was shorter than usual, but still clocked in at nearly five minutes. Oops. It’s fun to make big cuts, though, so now it’s under the time limit and I’m ready to rehearse. Not too much, though; I aim to tell a story, not recite a bit of nonfiction.

I also started a new job, so my income woes will soon be over! I want to lament having less time to write, but my chequing account is sobbing, so it seems silly to complain. I’ll just have to include writing time in my schedule, maybe bring my laptop to work and set up in a café for an hour or two once a week. Or come home, fix myself a nice tea, and hole up in the office. There are options.

In fact, I’m off to Vermont next week for work, and my laptop is definitely coming with. Job by day, writing by night. Both of my writing groups meet the week after, though, so I’d best print up the pieces I’ll be critiquing and get to work on them.

I hit a bit of a wall with my French story: I got excellent feedback, then realised that I made the all-too-common error of losing myself in time while telling a story. I wrote out a reminder for the corkboard: what happens in the story is in present tense, what comes before is past, and anything beyond the scope of the story has to be in future. The me who is sitting at the keys and writing now gets confused about that, though.

I got overwhelmed by all of my spelling errors and the daunting task of changing tense for a couple pages of French text, so I abandoned it for the moment and did other things. It’s still there, I know I can tackle it, I just had a bit of a freak-out in that moment. It’s fine. I’m fine.