Feels like home

When someone shows their appreciation for you, it’s always heart-warming.

This past weekend amplified that sentiment. The sentiment came from two people, both whom I’ve know for less than a year. Both, with whom I’ve become fast friends. So natural. So frighteningly easy. The only other people with whom I became fast friends and long-time confidantes are my best friend, Ali and another woman, who I affectionately refer to my sister. My ‘sister’ shall remain nameless unless she reads this blog and decides it’s fine to refer to her by her name.

The first person who showered me with appreciation and big love was local birth photographer, Elliana Gilbert. I interviewed her for the Winnipeg Free Press and it appeared in the Saturday print edition and online over the weekend. She was floored by the coverage we gave her and the birthing community noticed what the paper had done in shining a light on her, and therefore the subject of birthing. She is a talented photographer with a huge heart and a strong sense of what is right and what is worth fighting for. You gotta admire that in a person. It was this great big dive into the mutual admiration society.

I’m not one for receiving or accepting compliments in a gracious manner because I’m never quite sure that what I’ve done garners that kind of attention. But, I am one to shower compliments to someone who thoroughly deserves it. I don’t throw compliments around like confetti. I can be a pretty discerning confetti thrower. Yeah, I was throwing confetti at her. Lots of confetti.

She throws it back pretty good, too, I gotta admit. I think I’ve managed to brush most of it out of my hair.

The second person to show their appreciation to me was my technical advisor for the current novel I’m working on. I’m still refusing to name him. And it’s probably going to stay that way. He read the interview I did with Elliana and sent me an email telling me how much he enjoyed reading it. And that led him to confessing how much he loves working with me, tossing out additional compliments I wasn’t expecting and telling me how honoured he was that I would seek him out for his help with some of the finer details in the novel.

Damned fool made me blush. It’s not easy to do to me. But he did it.

To be honest, I’m the one who is honoured that he would be willing to answer the questions I have. I’m honoured that he would share some of his time with me and impart some of his knowledge onto me and into my characters and my storytelling. It’s gracious and generous.

As a result, he is offering me more opportunities to learn from him and expand my knowledge base in his area of expertise. It is beyond cool and awesome. I cannot be more grateful to have this person in my life.

Does it sound kinda like a mutual admiration society thing going on here? Yeah, I thought so. Experiencing this kind of love from other creative folks is weird, but in a good way. Love from non-creatives is just different. It’s something I don’t care to seek out because it doesn’t feel easy or right. It’s sort of intuitive… the choice to be comfortable or not.

Being in the company of other creative minds, who also happen to share similar values and sensibilities, feels like home. It feels safe. It’s safe to be unguarded, honest and raw. It’s safe to be inspired and to grow from those associations and friendships. That’s nourishing for the soul. Well, for my soul, it is. Can’t speak for anyone else.

I have so much love and gratitude for the people who light the fire in me, who keep that fire burning and who inspire me to ask more of myself with whatever I endeavour to take on.

I couldn’t possibly ask for anything more than that.

Collaboration at its best

There is a lot to be said for collaboration, and it should be seen as just another way to do things — James Patterson

In my limited experience, the act of writing (in the physical sense) is a solitary endeavour. But I know writers can and do collaborate, especially in writing screenplays.

I’m more or less a lone wolf in that regard. Collaborating with anyone seems like being in a temporary serious relationship. But then, all relationships are ultimately temporary. Yes? No?

When the writing group (that I belong to) has its monthly meeting, I hesitate to share or talk about what I’ve been working on. And it’s not because I think someone would steal my story idea. I’m not worried about that. The only person who can tell a story the way I tell a story is me. Nobody else. I don’t care how good someone can mimic my writing, that person doesn’t think like me and it is something that can’t be replicated.

My hesitation stems from the fact I’m not all that interested in having anyone help me problem-solve anything I might be encountering as I write the first draft.

I like to problem-solve my way out of a situation without anyone’s help. I call it challenging my ingenuity. That may or may not be a good thing but I haven’t derailed myself yet.

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this work-in-progress is my baby. I have this indescribable love and affection for these characters and I don’t easily share them with anyone. Only one person, my writing mentor, has read the work-in-progress as I work my way through the first draft. Three other friends have read snippets of it just because I simply needed feedback.

But my mentor and my friends haven’t been part of the actual writing process where the finer details of the characters are being hashed out over cups of coffee. I have one person for that. I like to think of him as my technical advisor. And as strange as it may seem, I do think of him as a collaborator. I’m not willing to say what kind of technical advice I am getting from him but he is key in fleshing out certain scenes for the first draft.

Last week, we had a fantastic three-hour coffee meeting. Seriously, my meetings with him are the best. Time flew by like nobody’s business. We covered a lot of ground and discovered how much we really had in common, with regards to how we look at life. Yep, a friendship in the making. While there are contenders for best coffee conversations, no one comes close to him. I can’t imagine anybody knocking him out of that position.

One of the great things about my technical advisor, aside from his knowledge and expertise, is his understanding of storytelling. In his line of work, he has read a lot of movie screenplays to ensure particular aspects of what the screenwriter has put together are plausible, realistic and accurate.

As well, he has been using his technical knowledge to write for a specialty magazine for the last 20 years. He was regaling me about a recent article he wrote for that magazine and musing about how much shit he could possibly get into for writing it. His editor is backing him up so hopefully, there won’t be much trouble.

Plus, he’s had a little experience with writing a screenplay for a short film, turning that screenplay into a short film and being its director. This was something I was unaware of and I’m glad he shared that tidbit with me. The film played at a few small film festivals and earned the lead actress an award at a festival somewhere in southern California. Some of the stories he told me about that time were fun to hear.

So yeah, he knows a little about writing and getting into a little bit of trouble.

I wasn’t expecting him to be so engaged with my writing process and my characters. But I really shouldn’t have been surprised. He needed to get a sense of my characters, the setting and the story, in order to give me his best opinion about ‘the devil’s in the details’ stuff.

I think I piqued his interest when I first approached him about picking his brain for the novel a year ago.

Before we met, I think most of his interactions were with writers who were screenwriters, not fiction writers/novelists. I think I had him hook, line and sinker when I mentioned a specific scene while he was helping me with some field research.

After the coffee meeting last week, he is pretty invested in my process after listening to some of the new scenarios I cooked up which were in need of his opinion. The reason three hours flew by so quickly was because we were so deep in conversation regarding my characters and their scenes.

There was a lot of ‘what if…’, ‘well, if…’, ‘I’m thinking it would be pretty cool if we had something interesting and cool like…’, ‘what does this character do/what kind of person is this character…’ and so on. Lots of questions were bandied about and answers were in good supply.

It was surprisingly easy to talk to him about the minutiae that belonged to my characters, even though there were times I didn’t think I was precise or succinct enough to explain what was bouncing around in my head. There was a lot of great back-and-forth, thoughtful brainstorming. And lots of anecdotal stories and laughs were had, too.

I can’t say enough about the experience of this kind of collaboration. This suits me to a tee. It is very much about having chemistry with your collaborator. I will always hesitate at the idea of collaborating because I don’t want to work with someone who rubs me the wrong way. I’d be spending most of my time wanting to strangle that person than work with that person.

Either I got lucky or this collaboration was always in the cards for me.

The relationship I have with my technical advisor just developed organically. It really does sneak up on you. Organic is a word he also uses when he talks about the creative process. He believes in allowing the process to grow and shape itself naturally. It’s beyond awesome finding someone who is like-minded. Warms my heart, I tell ya.

It’s great collaborating with someone who gets you, who is intrigued by you and doesn’t mind the fact that you might be a little more than off-the-wall.

Yes, I’m gushing. I tend to do that when I meet a super cool person with whom I have great chemistry.

He’s my kind of guy. He’s my kind of collaborator. Couldn’t ask for anything better.

Road trip

Stories exist to make you feel, to make you think. To challenge the status quo. Any good writer looks at their available choices and tries to surprise, if not delight, the reader. And sometimes, the writer is playing a longer game and will hurt you before they provide relief — Delilah S. Dawson

I’m not sure if any of my writing delights anybody. But I do believe stories — whether they come in the form of books, movies or theatre plays — should make you feel and make you think.

All I really want to do, is tell the best story I can, given the skillset I’m developing. Ambition will take you pretty far, but a solid skillset will take you farther. I’ve just passed the halfway mark in writing my first draft. I gotta say it feels weird. It’s going to feel weirder when I finish it. I’ll expand on that later after the novel is finished.

I am comfortable and happy with the choices I’ve made for my boys and with the choices my boys have made for me. I’ve lost track the number of times the boys and the rest of the characters have made decisions about their story arcs or their roles for me. They may not be real flesh and blood beings but they come from my flesh and blood, therefore they are real to me.

Granted, the last half of the novel hasn’t been written yet but I have the road map. I have all the interest points marked on the map. I even have a pretty good idea on how I would like to get from point N to point Z. But, how I move from one interest point to the next will always be up for negotiation between me and my boys. As long as we hit the interest points, I don’t care how straight or winding the roads are. The road taken will always be scenic.

I’ve already had an interesting trip with the first half of the road map. The rest is going to be a blast with my boys.

There is nothing better than a road trip.