Tag Archives: restless writers

Connecting in the time of COVID

RWWhen Maria returned from out west, merely months ago, we thought we were finally done with video calls. Then COVID happened. Now all four of us reside inside of Zoom. Our meetings have become more or less check-in’s instead of a loosely structured event like normal, but they’re still happening. A small win.

As the pandemic has evolved, each of us have experienced it differently. There have been some pretty significant disruptions to our work lives, family lives, and our financial security. Yet, we remain connected—we are in this moment together.

We’ve been doing our best to stay strong, stay positive, and stay home. I’d like to think as writers, we might understand social isolation a bit more than others. In fact, we make a point of forcing it upon ourselves on a regular basis, because how else would we get our pages done? Ah yes, pages. Those bloody pages!RW2

For those of you who are actually writing, there are some fun pop-up call-outs out there. Like this one! A Canadian publishing house in northern B.C. is hoping the extra time people have while isolating will result in some great writing. Muskeg Press has put out a call for submissions for stories written during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Publisher is compiling a book and paying authors of the chosen stories $350. Deadline is June 30.

Restless Writers? Are we up for a new writing challenge?

Pandemic Reflections

Times are tough, but we’re doing okay and have much to be grateful for. In an attempt to find new ways to connect, as well as an excuse to check-in on my pals, I posed a few questions to the Restless Writers. Here’s what they had to say:

What is the book getting you through COVID right now?

Andrea: Just finished The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce. Somewhat sad, but also hopeful and uplifting. I need a new one now, otherwise I’m about to start watching Outlander, which I hear is good Chic Porn.

BJas: It should be this: The Little Book of Mindfulness, by Patricia Collard. But it’s actually this: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey. Both on the bed-side table, along with The Book of M, by Peng Sheppard.

Maria: It’s not so much books but magazines. I am reading and re-reading issues of The Walrus.

Sharon: I had the accidental good fortune of signing out a whack of library books just a few days before the shut down and they’re not due until August! I’m just finishing The Reader, by Traci Chee, a YA novel set in a world where reading is unheard of. It’s provided a much-needed outlet to wind down.

What is the #1 insight you’ve had while in isolation? (or something you’ve learned about yourself during this time)?

Andrea: How interesting other people’s homes are when we connect on Zoom! And (for real) how important face-to-face connection is. I’m worried people will think distancing is normal after this is over. That would make me sad. We can’t keep doing virtual meetings thinking it’s the same thing. 

BJas: I like social isolation. A lot. And, it’s probably not a good time to pitch my book about a pandemic. I am also blown away by the everyday unlikely heroes and small business superstars. There is so much good happening, and it inspires me to do more and be better. 

Maria: Every day brings a new reflection about how people manage through hard times, and how much we need other people and community. Even the self-described introverts, like me. Maybe in The Before Times we took that connection for granted. Watching the stories about how Nova Scotia is coming together right now to help everyone who is hurting makes my heart break and soar at the same time. I for one hope that we all come out of this a little stronger and a little kinder.

Sharon: SO much, but one of the things I know I will take with me from this time is a gentler stand point on the bad stuff. I’m not saying everything happens for a reason but sometimes there is a nugget of goodness planted in the unpleasant that we just can’t see in the moment. e.g. Did living on one salary for 2+ years suck, have me stressed and lashing out on more days than I’d like to admit? You bet. BUT, has that same experience, which taught me about budgeting for what’s important, letting go of wants and making a meal of noodles last three days, provided me a leg up in this quarantine? Darn right. Shitty stuff is still going to come at me post pandemic but when it does, I’m going to trust a little more, even if I can’t see all the pieces.

What is the FIRST thing you want to do when this is all over?

Andrea: Hug all my friends and family.

BJas: Go for a really long drive with the top down and deliver birthday presents to family and friends, while playing Lana Del Ray.

Maria: First thing is a haircut. Second thing is a cocktail in a real live bar.

Sharon: Hang out with my dad. In the same room.

quarantine questionsWriters, we hope you are safe and well, and finding time to write and connect with what matters to you most. Family, friends, music, art – the very best of company! I leave you with this, a list of six daily quarantine questions, published by Brooke Anderson at Greater Good Magazine, intended to help you check in with yourself. Such a great reminder of the power we each hold to do better each day, for ourselves and others.

Lastly, a huge thank you to our friends on the front-line, essential workers, and volunteers for their dedication in keeping our families safe during this uncertain and challenging time. From all of us, thank you for everything that you do.

 

 

 

 

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How to make a pine cone garland

As per tradition, we followed our Restless Writers December meeting with an annual Christmas craft. After collecting (far too many) pine cones, we decided on rustic garland. For such a simple task, we were amazed at the number of bloggers writing novels on how to do this. Here’s how we did it in 5 simple steps.

How to make SIMPLE pine cone garland:pinecones layout

  1. Collect cones. Don’t do anything silly like sort them by size.
  2. Cut desired length of twine or ribbon—much more than you think you’ll need.
  3. Wrap twine around cones. Use wire to make small bunches.
  4. Add white paint or glitter to the cone tips.
  5. Scent cones with a fragrance oil like cinnamon or pine.

sharonVoila! Throw it on the mantel or wear it around your neck. Anything goes. And please….always wear a plaid shirt and start before 10 p.m.

A word about cleaning the pine cones to send the bugs packing. Many bloggers are instructing on washing the cones in vinegar, lemon juice, baking soda, and bagging and freezing, and even baking them on cookie sheets. We did NONE of this. We put our bin outside in below freezing temps overnight. It did the job. If this pine cone craft doesn’t do it for you, try searching “pine cone crafts” on Pinterest. It’s mind-blowing!

maria pic

Crafting in parallel, Maria worked diligently on a Christmas card wreath, with a little help from Mary (meow). Again, super simple.

Best excerpt from our holiday minutes:

“Here we are. It was fun.”

Chosen theme for 2019:

“Let’s keep it simple. And let’s get it done.”

Happy Ho Ho to all!

maria stuff

collagexmas

 

 

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#HappyEverything

It’s 2018. Screw resolutions. Especially the expected and traditional ones.

Instead, let’s view the new year as a fresh start, a way to share in the spirit of renewal with friends and family. There is something exhilarating about a new year. It can represent new opportunities and new stabs to improve ouGOTOMTGRWrselves and to be better towards others.

Looking back, 2017 was an eventful year for the Restless Writers. Probably the most jarring was that one of us moved across the country (like, super far away). After the initial shock (that it really happened), we swiftly figured out Google’s Duo App to be able to keep our monthly get-together inclusive. This resulted in duct-taping our writing pal (and phone) to the back of a wooden chair. Phew, still a foursome.

We celebrated weddings. A first (just babes at barely 30). And a second (a duo rocking 80). Both teary (for reasons unique), yet happy and joyful like a wedding ought to be. The message here—love like there is no tomorrow. Let’s all live this one in 2018.

We attended funerals. We mourned friends and loved ones. And continue to do so.

We also made stuff. Cool stuff, like nachos in a Bundt pan (thank you, Pinterest). Healthy stuff, like kale and quinoa salad. Sad stuff, like flower arrangements and picture boards. Comfort stuff, like chocolate chip cookies and gooey brie puff pastry. Festive stuff, like trees made from plastic spoons and paper stars made from an old dictionary.

RW stuff

We performed stuff. Personal stuff. Fearlessly, among friends. And discovered the “central moment of powerful truth.”

We wrote stuff too. Poems. Chapters. Resumes. Sympathy cards. Obits.

We received more rejection emails. Some encouraging, some downright icy.

Oh! How can I forget about a fun first for us—we planned a one-day writing retreat. Soon to be an annual event!

And as usual, we continued to talk business plans, value proposition, refining our brand, “setting up shop,” craft markets, Etsy, Amazon Handmade, and loads of other creative pursuits because, let’s face it girls, we will never quit our daydreams. Not ever.

On that note, may this new year give you the opportunity to renew, to love, and to follow your daydreams.

Happy New Year. Happy Everything!

daydream

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How to plan a one-day writing retreat

sunsetIt’s almost summer and another year has gone by where our ‘small but writey’ group has not taken a proper writing retreat—something we have traditionally looked forward to almost as much as Dyment’s buttertarts.

Retreats have been one of the ways we’ve tried to stay motivated, inspired, and productive. But as many of you know, the days get busy and each of us struggle with squeezing writing time into an already packed life.

This often makes the idea of a retreat seem impossible. But it’s not! The Restless Writers are trying something new this summer—we’re planning our inaugural ONE-DAY retreat.

 

Check this out. You can do it too.

1. Start small

Consider the following three elements: time, space, strategy. Start there and leave everything else behind. I mean, everything. Netflix included.

2. Rethink your definition of a retreat

Of course we’d love to spend a month or more at a private villa overlooking the ocean while we write, but with families and jobs we’ll be settling on someone’s backyard. For the price of a potluck, we’re carving out an entire day to devote to writing.

3. Make it official

We’ve put it in writing. We have a most official agenda for the day, planned meal times, and a couple activities to keep us energized, like a short hike and a game of bocce ball.

4. Make a commitment

Set a goal for what you’d like to accomplish and craft it prior to the retreat. Commit to yourself and honor your time.

5. Be flexible and creative

We happen to be starting with the backyard format, but there are other options to explore such as the obvious coffee shops, libraries, and bookstores. But how about a picnic table at a community park? A cool hotel lobby? An empty room at the YMCA? A friend’s empty RV? How about your own car parked at the waterfront?

So, get your portable writing kits prepared and be ready to take advantage of mini retreat opportunities. Gift yourself a chunk of time! It’s not only an investment in your work but in yourself as a writer.

Writing groups everywhere!

Unite. Inspire. Dream.

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Unless You Puke, Faint, or Die, Keep Going

In the last few months, I’ve dipped a toe in the query waters. After spending most of last year writing, editing and revising a children’s picture book, my fellow Restless Writers informed me it was time. Time to let my baby bird fly from the nest to see if any agent birds might be interested in what the tiny bird has to say.

This is my first foray into the vast query ocean and let me tell you, it is not a welcoming place. The water is cold, dark and pretty lonely. Hearing the word “no” and all its variations time and time again can leave you feeling like it’s time to hop into the nearest life raft, head to shore and happily hoard your writing for your eyes only for all of eternity.

Thankfully, I happen to have a secret weapon to defend against this line of thinking and help me forge ahead. Part cheerleader, part ball buster, this person is the Jillian Michaels of the query coaching world.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 9.03.12 PM.png

The name of this coach you ask? Well, I can tell you they won’t like that I’m mentioning them in this post. They will not like it at all. So let’s just say their name rhymes with Leckie Has.

Good. Now that we’ve got that out of the way let me tell you how Leckie has helped me with the process of querying. In a nutshell, like Jillian Michaels, Leckie refuses to let me quit.

Sent out 25 queries and received 25 rejections back? Awesome. Send out another 50.

Me: I got a rejection email from such and such agent.

Leckie: A rejection from such and such agent?! Sharon, that’s fantastic. That agent is amazing. Now send a query to this one and this one and this one.

Back and forth we go and as we do, somehow, I start to feel like my querying efforts are all going according to plan. The more defeat the better. Leckie reminds me that repeated rejections are supposed to happen, they are part of how the query process works. If you are hearing the word “no” it means you are putting your work out there and this is the only way to get where you want to go.

Of course this doesn’t mean I don’t still have days where the life raft is calling my name but I know with Leckie on my case side, it’s futile to entertain these thoughts. Better to query and query again and once more while I’m at it.

 

 

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Guest Post: An Official Invitation

This guest post comes to you from Anna, an honorary member at our Spring writing retreat.

door

One very cold evening this past February, I received an invitation in my inbox: “How would you like two full days of dedicated writing time where the only interruptions would be the songbirds (outside) and some free-flowing vino (inside)?”

Well, I am not really a writer, but I have always enjoyed the sound of songbirds and of course, have never been known to say no to free-flowing vino, inside or out! So of course, I said yes and this past weekend enjoyed a weekend as a guest member of the Restless Writers at the Andrew Logan House in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

What a privilege it was to join this super talented, generous and just plain nice group of women. There was such a feeling of peace and yes, as corny as it sounds, harmony.

In the words of one restless writer, “you decompress the moment you step in the door”.

We left everything behind (except of course for the copious amounts of food, drink and other “writing” supplies) and we focused on the moment.

There was plenty of space – to be alone and to come together. We read, we wrote, we reflected.

We cooked for each other, told each other stories, ate and drank together, encouraged one another and shared awesome “gifts of wisdom”.

Maria madcocktailse us special Algonquin cocktails – they are rye–based and every single one of us despises rye.  Yet we soldiered on, bravely sipping the concoction, pretending we were grownups in another era, before finally accepting defeat and ceremoniously pouring them down the drain. They came with a great Dorothy Parker-style story, so we had to try!

Sharon shared some beautiful lemon cream tulips and wisdom learned from her late Mom, advice she is still learning to perfect, about enjoying the deck liftulipse hands you, whatever it may be.

Beckie gave us special handmade quote books that included William Faulkner’s line, “If a story is in you, it has got to come out,” along with other thoughtful sayings and a few irreverent ones, such as the group’s mantra: write drunk, edit sober (Hemingway).

Andrea’s gift, a gratitude book, promises to start a new tradition, a brave attempt to capture in written form what this special group means to its members.

This past weekend, the birds did sing, the sun did shine, the wine did flow and the creative spirit was released (not to mention the visiting spirits from the graveyard across the street).

As Andrecakea shouted out spontaneously, “I’m happy to be here! Just for the record.”

Well said, Andrea! Thank you Restless Writers. I’ve never had an experience like that before. Even if the best lines in this post are the invitation, I’ll never forget it!

Anna

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We are never ever breaking up, like ever

Warning: this IMG_20141220_202552is a fluffy post.

As we reflect on the past year, it’s been one of discovery, friendship, and productivity for the Restless Writers. We’ve made friends with inner nuttiness, embraced angels, found love, and drum-roll please… completed manuscripts, short manuscripts and long manuscripts–twenty five months in the making.

Our final meeting of 2014 has been described as epic. Best. Meeting. Ever. And it had nothing to do with the bite-size gingerbread arranged perfectly in its own gingerbread bowl. It was about us, as writers, and what we have accomplished and shared over many months and many bottles of–you guessed it–Prosecco.

We’ve been on this journey together for more than a few years now and it keeps getting better. Like some secret society, we’ve solidified this journey; we’re officially etched in glass and we are never ever breaking up, like ever.

Here’s what we look forward to in the new year:

  • One of us will have a new YA novel on submission.
  • One of us will be querying for the first time.
  • One of us will be getting our shit together.
  • One of us will be making space for creativity.glasses

You know who you are.

Look out 2015. Here we come with stories in hand!

BJas

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Doing the best we can

doingitallThis month marks the Restless Writer’s 5-yr blogiversary with almost 36,000 views.

We’re not perfect bloggers, writers, or people for that matter. We may not post as often as we’d like to but we do the best we can. Each of us are at different stages in our writing lives, doing what we can, when we can, and how we can. If it means finding inspiration in our life stories, our kids, or our cats—that is what we do. Whether it’s producing chapters (or cookies) for our meetings—that is what we do.

It was Einstein who said it’s our human responsibility to do the best we can, it’s what keeps us happy, keeps us engaged, and gives meaning to our lives.

Do your best. Go the extra mile. And do it for your characters too. More importantly, don’t beat yourself up for what you haven’t done (or written), and celebrate the things you have!

How to be the best you can be, in writing and in life:

1. Figure out what you want and what you want to write.

2. Take a small step each day to get there.

3. Ask for and be open to critique.

4. Find a role model.

5. Take risks.

6. Be healthy (so you are ready for anything).

7. Be yourself and honest with yourself.

8. Try new things.

9. Treat yourself (well, duh, we have mastered this one. It’s called butter tarts).

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Fighting writer’s block

Oh the dreaded writer’s block. Just the word “block” itself is enough to make any writer cringe – like saying the word ‘castration’ to any human male. It’s physically painful, mentally stressful and emotionally draining.

And it happens when you know you have something brilliant brewing inside you. You can feel it churning and hear its silent screams of agony pleading with your brain to get out of the way so it can take over control of your fingers and guide them to a perfect, eloquent expression that will alter existence as we know it. But there are simply too many luscious words to choose from and your brain is overwhelmed by the possibility.

Well, I say, “Block, be damned!” Instead of fighting you, I will embrace you. Instead of fearing you, I will call to you and dare you to enter my being. For I am writer. Hear me roar (figuratively in your face using my onslaught of carefully chosen words and cunning turns of phrase.)

And how will I do that, you may ask? How do I dare speak so boldly to the invisible one who appears without sign or warning? How will I fight an immortal foe who has plagued every writer in history of writers? How will I conjure such brilliance in the presence of one who appears all powerful?

With the element of surprise, that’s how. I will take the unexpected road. I will diverge from my usual routine. I will break the walls around me and step outside my comfort zone. I will release my secure blankey of the known and explore unchartered territory. Simply put, I will try something new.

And how do I know it will work? How can I speak with such confidence? Well, just think of those times when you can’t for the life of you remember someone’s name, or the name of that damn song, or that friggin’ actor from that friggin’ movie. Your forehead strains. Your mind hurts as you beg in vain for the name to appear on your tongue. And when it doesn’t come, what do you do? You walk away. You let it go and move on, until a time when you are completely immersed in something else, or just about to fall asleep, and the name uncontrollably – with a volume that startles even you – blurts from your lips.

That’s what writers need to do too. Lose the block by becoming immersed in something else, in something that takes you outside of your usual approach to writing – like writing in a different style; writing about a subject that is foreign to you; writing a different genre. It will help you let go of the stress you have built up and explore a new path if only for a little while. You might even surprise yourself by finding something new you are good at, or at the very least, breathe new life into your current composition.

Here are some ideas. Pick one and let it surprise you with what you may discover about yourself:

5 ideas to step outside your writing comfort zone

  1. If you’re not a poet, write a poem. If you are a poet, give yourself a challenge to write a completely different style of poetry.
  2. Open a book to a random page and make the opening line of your new piece the sentence your finger touches. Or write one based on a random tweet. Lots of great material there. (This one is thanks to @thegrahammilne.)
  3. Write about a first experience (e.g., first sexual experience – these are usually juicy with awkwardness)
  4. Write the opposite of what you usually do (e.g., write a fictional story vs a non-fiction essay)
  5. Set the timer for 30 minutes and don’t let your pen stop moving. Write any and all words that come to your head regardless if they make sense, come in full sentences, or are the same word repeated over and over again for the full half hour (in fact – that might very well tell you what you should be writing about.)

We write to discover more deeply who we are and what it means to be human, but this discovery can become stilted when our reliance on our usual writing routines and styles becomes more powerful than the freedom we demand as artists to express ourselves.

Try it. Have the courage to let the element of surprise be both your guide and your weapon – and tell us at Restless Writers how it went.

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The time and space to write

Image from Write by the Lake, Taylor’s Wave http://woodsgood.ca/Taylor/

The Restless Writers share something very similar: the burning desire to write. And let’s face it, an equally burning desire to escape the familiar. Announcement: we just booked our first-ever literary adventure—beyond the home office!

The most common problem writers have is not writing. But this fall, we’re giving a gift to ourselves: a writing retreat. Not a conference where our time is allocated to instruction, awkward introductions, and scheduled meals, but private time, where we can connect with our literary vision and avoid the distractions that intrude on a writer’s day.

We all have manuscripts on the go and our characters are screaming at us to spend some time with them. We’ll be answering their call from the comfort and privacy of a Bed and Breakfast on the sunny shores of Lake Huron. That is, until we qualify for the Berton House Writers’ Retreat or perhaps Writing Immersion in Sustainable Tuscany or even La Muse in France. Yeah, dream a little writer’s dream, you get the picture.

While writing demands solitude and focus, it doesn’t have to mean isolation and deprivation (note to self: it can mean 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets). Our upcoming adventure will supply us with an ambience conducive to creativity, plus fellowship and inspiration. Our retreat promises to contribute to a sense of luxury well-being and provide us with the opportunity to learn while propelling us to reach our writing goals—individually and as a critique group.

This is new to us and already we’re bursting with ideas for our upcoming retreat. Here’s a good resource if you’re exploring this idea too, the Writing Retreat Guide: a guide to writers retreat centers and events, for writing groups or your own renewal and exploration. Give it a try, and may the time and space to write be yours for the taking!

Have YOU experienced a writing retreat? Any advice? We’d love to hear about it!

BJas

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