Monday, August 20, 2012


I forgot this blog was here, until today, when I was watching a video of Neil Gaiman (this one) and he said something I needed to remember.

"You have the ability to make art. And for me, and for so many of the people I've known, that's been a lifesaver, the ultimate lifesaver.  It gets you through good times, and it gets you through the other ones. Sometimes life is hard.  Things go wrong, in life, and in love, and in business, and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do:make good art."

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The collaborative nature of art

I don't think there's anyone who writes or creates or composes who hasn't had a day when things start showing up that you don't remember planning.  The first time it happened to me, I was resisting writing a sonnet with all my heart, and resisting that resistance with all my head, when suddenly the last several lines spooled out onto the page for me, correctly iambic and frankly, a miracle.

This first novel of mine has been like that, some days.  I'll sit down and suddenly someone is shouting "Who stands Sentinel this night?" and I peer at the page and think "Sentinel?  What on this earth I'm making up is a Sentinel??" (It's a gesture of respect.  Some day you'll read all about it, maybe.)

I'm thisclose to the end.  I feel like I have said "I'm DONE!" so many times that all I've done is made it clear that I keep using those words and they do not mean what I think they mean.

The biggest thing left to fix was the metrical rhymed poetry that is rather more prominent than I'd thought it would be.  I write poetry, and I write good poetry, but I do NOT write good metrical rhymed poetry, nor do I do well writing poetry to assignment.  The surest way to shut my creativity right down is to say "Write a poem about Alberta."  Suddenly I know nothing about the province I've lived in for most of the last thirty years.

So the poetry was weak, I knew it was weak, I didn't know what to do about it, and I fired off a series of panicked emails to my long suffering singer/songwriter/baker/pastor/farmer brother in law, suggesting phrases and omitting words and adding words and trying to breathe.  We chatted on the phone a few times, and then, last night he sent me eight lines of awesome.  I read the email and a small light shone down and a choir started to sing somewhere.  (I may be overstating things just the teeniest bit.)

And I was reminded again about just how very interesting God is, and how interested He is in the creative process, and how He loves to surprise us, and I can't even tell you how delighted I am that as I sat in Alberta, knitting a blanket for a beloved great-niece, my brother in law was feeding cattle and writing a sermon way over there in Manitoba, and both our brains were noodling away on this ballad - it came to him.

Writing can be lonely. 

Yesterday wasn't.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


"You never learn how to write a novel. You just learn how to write the novel that you're writing."
Gene Wolfe, paraphrased by Neil Gaiman


Thursday, March 15, 2012

The difference between poetry and prose

I had the great good pleasure of hearing Billy Collins read poetry and discuss poetry, twice, in the last 24 hours.  I am, unfortunately, not able to quote this exactly because I thought I could come home and look it up, but apparently, not everything everyone has ever said is on the internet.

Mr Collins was quoting Kenneth Koch (I believe.  I know I have the last name right because he spelled it for me) on the difference between poetry and prose.

Mr Koch said "No dogs on the beach - now that is prose.

No dogs, or logs, on the beach.
No poodle, however trim.
No dachshund, unable to swim.

Now that is poetry" and Mr Collins elaborated.  "It is poetry because the words in the poem are playing with each other, with sound, and rhythm and structure."

They bounce around each other, and become more robust because of who they are with.

I didn't want to forget this.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


And sometimes, and it's as true of authors as it is of readers, you have a life. People in your world get sick or die. You fall in love, or out of love. You move house. Your aunt comes to stay. You agreed to give a talk half-way around the world five years ago, and suddenly you realise that that talk is due now. Your last book comes out and the critics vociferously hated it and now you simply don't feel like writing another. Your cat learns to levitate and the matter must be properly documented and investigated. There are deer in the apple orchard. A thunderstorm fries your hard disk and fries the backup drive as well...

And life is a good thing for a writer. It's where we get our raw material, for a start. We quite like to stop and watch it.
Neil Gaiman, from this post.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


"I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right."

Markus Zusak, quoting Liesel Meminger, in The Book Thief

Saturday, July 9, 2011


“It’s not possible to advise a young writer because every young writer is so different. You might say, “Read,” but a writer can read too much and be paralyzed. Or, “Don’t read, don’t think, just write,” and the result could be a mountain of drivel. If you’re going to be a writer you’ll probably take a lot of wrong turns and then one day just end up writing something you have to write, then getting it better and better just because you want it to be better, and even when you get old and think, “There must be something else people do,” you won’t quite be able to quit.”
— Alice Munro