The Look of June: Will Work for Stickers

So. The thing about being a creative type is that it forces you to looks you to look at your shortcomings, and then, challenges you to figure out a way to make those work for you, as opposed to against you. (And to be clear, by “you”, I mean “me”). One of my shortcomings is that I have two settings – work like a fiend, and complete stop. And, given that writing a novel (as well as having a writing career) is more akin to an endurance race than a sprint, the sprinter in me often runs into trouble. Couple that with my tendency to be, ahem, rather hard on myself, and well, creative paralysis sets it.

However! If there is one thing I know how to do, it’s practice. All those hours spent in the practice room have to be useful somehow, right? So, a few months ago, I decided to use what I used to use on my students: I set up a sticker system. It looks like this:

Each of those stars means something – blue is for my run days, red is for writing 1000 words, pink is for editing, etc. The beauty of this for me is that I’m able to see how I’m spending my time, and most of all, for one who tends to think she’s inherently lazy and unable to get anything done, I’m able to see that I’m not only working, but working consistently. Before, it never felt that way, but now? The proof is in the sticker.

Because, at the end of the day, the thing that makes a writer a writer is writing. I’m writing, ergo, I am a writer, and if I need a calendar full of stickers to remind me of that, then, that’s what I’ll do.

Now, I must away, for there are stickers to earn…

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Updatery: the June Edition

Oh hey there, blog. Um, long time, no see, huh?

Erm, yes. So, I haven’t been blogging. Oops. But then, life has been a bit busy with this, that, and the other. Things like…

1. Writing! I wrote The End on a big project in May, and am now waiting to see what’s what. And, since inertia is a writer’s foe, I am already back to work on a new WIP, and am neck deep in research (writer’s math: author + research = happy happy)

2. Running! I’m all signed up for my first half-marathon in October. Eep. But, for someone who always believed she couldn’t run because it hurt too much, the fact that I CAN run is cause for celebration!

3. Hiking! So, my beautiful SLR is in the shop, which means I have been severely limited in the photo-taking department. Fortunately, I’ve got an old point-and-shoot as a back-up, because….OWLS!

So yes, all of that is to say that life is good and busy, and that is no small thing! Posts in these parts will continue to be few-and-far between, cuz there is writing to be done, and there is no time like the present.

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Books of 2013

So, it’s 4 am and I can’t sleep, so I figured it was a good time to post the list of the books I read in 2013. Better late than never, I guess.

(stars indicate books that I enjoyed, or were meaningful, or stayed with me…)

*FROM WHERE YOU DREAM – Robert Olen Butler
FLY BY NIGHT – Frances Hardinge
* GOBLIN SECRETS – William Alexander
THE TESTAMENT OF JESSIE LAMB – Jane Rogers
NO REST FOR THE DOVE – Margaret Miles
BRIDES OF ROLLROCK ISLE – Margo Lanagan
THE WATERS AND THE WILD – Francesca Lia Block
THE CREATIVE HABIT – Twyla Tharp
THE MEDITERRANEAN PRESCRIPTION – Angelo Acquisla
IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN TO ME – Claudia Black
MIDWINTERBLOOD – Marcus Sedgwick
* FINDING WATER – Julia Cameron
THE DAUGHTER OF WITCHING HILL – Mary Sharratt
GODS AND GODDESSES IN THE DAILY LIFE OF VIKINGS – Jen Green
UNCOVERING HISTORY & EVERYDAY LIFE IN THE ANCIENT ARAB & ISLAMIC WORLD – Nicola Barber
CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER – Peggy Orenstein
TREASURES OF ISLAM – Bernard O’Kane
HOMECHILD – Joan MacLeod
OVER SEA, UNDER STONE – Susan Cooper
TELL ME WHAT TO EAT – Elaine Magee
CHARLIE: A HOME CHILD’S LIFE IN CANADA – Beryl Young
THE ACID REFLUX SOLUTION – Jorge E Rodriquez
RED SPIKES – Margo Lanagan
TO BE OR NOT TO BE PAIN FREE – Marc D Sopher
* SKELLIG – David Almond
THE PSYCHIC PATHWAY – Sonia Choquette
BALLERINA: SEx, SCANDAL, & SUFFERING BEHIND THE SYMBOL OF PERFECTION – Elizabeth Abbott
OUT OF THE SHADOWS: A LIFE OF GERDA TARO – Francois Maspero
NICE RECOVERY – Susan Juby
DROPPING ACID: THE ACID REFLUX DIET – Jamie Koufman
LOVE YOU HATE YOU MISS YOU – Elizabeth Scott
BROKEN GROUND – Jack Hodgkins
CLEAN – Amy Reed
FAILING FORWARD – John C Maxwell
YOGA FOR A HEALTHY MENSTRUAL CYCLE – Linda Sparrowe, Patricia Walden
THE WHEAT BELLY DIET
A SICK DAY FOR AMOS MCGEE – Phillip & Erin Stead
A BALL FOR DAISY – Chris Raschka
DON’T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE BUS – Mo Williams
I WANT MY HAT BACK – Jon Klassen
KNUFFLE BUNNY – Mo Williams
A HEN FOR IZZY IPPIK
* EXTRA YARN – Mac Barnett
RIDING INTO WAR: A MEMOIR OF A HORSE TRANSPORT DRIVER – James Robert Johnson
THE ICE CREAM BIBLE – Marilyn & Tanya Linton
OUTRAGEOUS WOMEN OF THE MIDDLE AGES – Vicki Leon
INNER GOLD – Robert A Johnson
* HELP. THANKS. WOW – Anne Lamott
OBERNEWTYN – Isobelle Carmody
THE BLACK HAWK – Joanne Bourne
HARMONOGRAPH – Anthony Ashton
THE ART OF TEA-LEAF READING – Jane Struthers
SMALL MECHANICS – Lorna Crozier
THE WESTING GAME – Ellen Raskin
THE HAUNTING OF MADDY CLARE – Simone St James
THE NIGHT CIRCUS – Erin Morgenstern
* THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE MONGOL QUEENS – Jack Weatherford
THE ANGEL THERAPY HANDBOOK – Doreen Virtue
THIS IS NOT MY HAT – Jon Klassen
* CODE NAME VERITY – Elizabeth Wein
* ENDER’S GAME – Orson Scott Card
* WHEREVER YOU GO, THERE YOU ARE – Jon Kabat-Zinn
* TECHNIQUES OF A SELLING WRITER – Dwight Swain
BEAUTIFUL DISASTER – Jamie McGuire
LOVE IN THE TIME OF GLOBAL WARMING – Francesca Lia Block

So, that amounts to 67 books. I’m aiming for at least that this year, but it all depends on how much non-fiction I read…so, we’ll see!

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More Good News!

Wow, it’s been quite a week so far! This morning, I received word that SHADOWS CAST BY STARS has been shortlisted for the Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy! Woot! Woot!

Do check out the lists of all the finalists (the Canadian Children’s Book Center sponsors awards in a variety of categories) – I know my to-be-read pile has just grown by leaps and bounds!

Congratulations to the other nominees! I’m very glad to be in such fine company!

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Some Really Great News

So, today I get to share the news that SHADOWS CAST BY STARS has been selected as one of the finalists for the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature. I’m very thankful for this honour, and offer my hearty congratulations to the other finalists!

From the press release:

Established by CODE in collaboration with William (Bill) Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation, the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature aims to provide engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across Canada by recognizing excellence in English-language literary works for Young Adults by First Nations, Métis and Inuit authors.

The Award is the result of a close collaboration with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Association of Canadian Publishers, the Canada Council for the Arts, GoodMinds and Frontier College.

To learn more about the Burt Award and CODE, please visit their website. They do fantastic work for literacy around the world!

And also: yay!

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Updatery: the August edition

So, um, I realized today I haven’t updated the blog in a while. Eep. But, I have been busy, writing and visiting and traveling and hiking and doing life stuff. Life stuff is good stuff, yes?

So, here is a visual summary of what I’ve been up to!

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Hope everyone’s been having a great summer!

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A little SHADOWS CAST BY STARS news

So! When SHADOWS CAST BY STARS grows up, it’s going to be a….paperback! I’ve been sitting on this for a while, but I saw that the paperback cover has gone up on the internet over the weekend, so I guess it’s official:

Nifty, huh? So, mark June 4, 2013 on your calendars, because that’s when this new incarnation of SHADOWS CAST BY STARS will be hitting the shelves!

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Books of 2012, and looking ahead to 2013

Every year, I set myself a reading goal. For 2012, it was to read 60 books, and sadly, I didn’t make that goal – close, but no cigar. Part of that was because I was reading a lot of non-fiction, which I read more slowly than fiction. Another part was that I was reading a lot of writing craft books, and with those, I find I need time to read, digest, read, digest, make notes, go back, re-read, digest.

But, also, if I’m being real, I spent WAY too much time on the wrong things last year. I’m not a resolution maker, but I do think I’m going to make thinking about what I’m spending my time on a theme for 2013.

Now, as for the books I read last year, the following list represents the books I finished (as opposed to ones I put down midway through), and any book with an asterix (a star for those who get that!) is one I enjoyed. But, to simplify, my particular favs were:

ALAMUT – Judith Tarr
WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED – Cat Hellisen
CHIME – Franny Billingsley
RIVER IN THE DESERT – Paul William Roberts
HALF-BREED – Maria Campbell
and, with extra stars, THE RETURNING – Christine Hinwood

This year, I’m aiming for sixty books again…so, we’ll see.

Now, onto the books I read in 2012!:

* HOW TO GROW A NOVEL – Sol Stein
THE MAID – Kimberley Cutter
* ALAMUT – Judith Tarr
ALCESTIS – Katharine Beutner
IMAGINARY GIRLS – Nova Ren Suma
SALTED: A MANIFESTO – Mark Bitterman
SAVING JUNE – Hannah Harrington
HERE LIES ARTHUR – Philip REEVE
THE APOTHECARY – Maile Meloy
WITCHLANDERS – Lena Coakley
* CHIME – Franny Billingsley
TEN CENTS A DANCE – Christine Fletcher
* THE WAND IN THE WORD – ed. Leonard Marcus
MORTAL ENGINES – Philip Reeve
THE GIRL WITH THE GLASS FEET – Ali Shaw
* A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT – Sebastian Japrisot
* WHEN THE SEA IS RISING RED – Cat Hellisen
SNAP – Alison McGhee
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK – Neil Gaiman
GEORGE’S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE – Roald Dahl
WAY TO GO – Tom Ryan
THERE IS NO DOG – Meg Rosoff
THE RIGHT AND THE REAL – Joelle Anthony
* A COALITION OF LIONS – Elizabeth Wein
THE INVENTION OF HUGO CABRET – Brian Selznick
WOLF BLOOD – N.M. Browne
* THE WICKED AND THE JUST – J. Anderson Coats
* RIVER IN THE DESERT – Paul William Roberts
EXODUS – Julie Bertagna
* PLEASE IGNORE VERY DEITZ – A.S. King
* THE RETURNING – Chistine Hinwood (plus a couple extra **, because this was my fav of the year)
* DEALING WITH DRAGONS – Patricia Wrede
CONCEIT – Mary Novik
THE HIPPOPOTAMUS MARSH – Pauline Gedge
* HALF-BREED – Maria Campbell
HOW TO TELL A MYTH – Robert Walker
HOW TO TELL A LEGEND – Janet Stone
A REALLY GOOD BROWN GIRL – Marilyn Dumont
THE NIGHT WANDERER – Drew Hayden Taylor
WHAT’S THE MOST BEAUTIFUL THING YOU KNOW ABOUT HORSES? – Richard Van Camp
SPIRIT GIFIT: THE CONCEPT OF SPIRITUAL EXCHANGE – Elmer Ghostkeeper
THE NEW PEOPLE: BEING & BECOMING METIS IN NORTH AMERICA – ed. Peterson & Brown
THE LONG JOURNEY OF A FORGOTTEN PEOPLE: METIS IDENTITIES AND FAMILY HISTORIES – ed. Lishke & McNab
BONE DANCE – Martha Brooks
AMELIA ANNE IS DEAD AND GONE – Kat Rosenfield
A MONSTER CALLS – Patrick Ness
* RELATIVES WITH ROOTS – Leah Maria Dorion
THE GATHERING: STONES FOR THE MEDICINE WHEEL – Gregory Scofield
THE BOOK OF THREE – Lloyd Alexander
THE CLOUD ROADS – Martha Wells

And, while I’m at it: a huge thank you to everyone out there for all your support this past year. Bringing SHADOWS CAST BY STARS into the world was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done, and 2012, for me, was a year of struggle. It would have been a whole lot more struggly if it weren’t for the well wishes, kind reviews, and general support from my friends, readers, and family. Thank you so much for that.

And, before I go, today’s walk took me down to the oceanside, where I saw this beauty:

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A Wintery Walk

Today, the DH and I went out for a hike, the first real hike we’ve done since I got sick back in the beginning of December. I’m still coughing and hacking, but the worst is over (I think, I hope!) and it’s time to get back to regular exercise – something I haven’t really been able to do since the summer, what with the Achilles issue and then the October cold/plague, and then, this December bronchitis yuck.

All of which has been a huge reminder that I need to take better care of myself. I often don’t realize I’m run-down until it’s too late and then…it’s too late. This, I think, will be my 2013 theme: taking care of self, so that I’m healthy enough to take care of everything else. (And on that note, I am pathetically, entirely, and completely behind on everything – the cold plus two very sick cats who have required constant nursing has wreaked havoc on my ability to get anything done in the month of December. Apologies to any and all who have been affected by this…)

So, on that note, two photos I snapped while walking:

Blackberry on snow:

And Morrell Lake:

Happy almost 2013, everyone. Wishing you all a safe and prosperous New Year…

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Updatery: the Late Night/Early Morning Edition

So. It’s been a rough couple of weeks here at Chez Knutsson. Our lovely, beloved Alex kitty has been gravely ill, and last week, we were certain it was time to say goodbye. However, cats being the amazingly resilient creatures that they are, she’s rebounded, thanks to the equally amazing care from Alex’s veterinarian. But, it’s been a challenging time as we continue to learn to manage her diabetes (she was diagnosed back in October) as well how to juggle all the other medications that are allowing her to heal from the past week’s crisis.

Add to that a wicked chest cold, and, well, I’ve been down for the count. Today was the first time I’ve been out of bed in days, but due to a nap this afternoon, I’m wide awake when I should be sleeping. Not the best way to heal up, but…*shrug* As my husband is so fond of saying, It is what it is.

Maybe it’s the time of year, or maybe it’s because I’m getting ready to dive back into revisions on my middle grade project, but…I’ve been thinking. I’ve been thinking about what I write and how I write it, about why I tell the stories I tell, about what I hope to gain from those stories, about what I hope to share with those stories, and about the life a story lives once it’s left my hands. But, most of all, I’ve been thinking about why the stories I’m called to tell need to exist to begin with. I’m not sure I have any answers, but maybe answers aren’t what I need. Because thinking leads to questions, and questions, to my mind, are what open paths. Answers, I sometimes think, close paths. Though, that’s what I’m thinking tonight. Tomorrow, I might change my mind.

What I do know is that I’ve come up with a little mantra, once that I was first introduced to when I was doing some horse work with Jodine Carruthers. I’ve been horse-crazed all my life, but my relationship with the horses I’ve encountered hasn’t always been easy. That unease came to a head a few years back when I took a position at a stable and found myself way out of my element – not because I didn’t have the horse skills I needed, but because horses have a way of making us n look at our shadows, and I was hiding from mine. I knew I was in a bad place, and I needed help. So, I went to work with Jodine and her horses, and Jodine introduced me to the concept that story has no place with horses. They don’t care about your history, or why you are the way you are. They just see you as here, now. That’s a strange concept for a storyteller. I mean, I have a running narrative in my head all the time – either my own story, or the narrative of the stories I’m working on. (My brain is a busy place.) So, learning to stop, to be, and to be here now was really hard. And, it’s still a work in progress for me–a balancing act, perhaps, as I learn to allow story to be my work, and not be my all.

Horses aren’t part of my life these days. That’s a bit of a sore spot, but it is what it is. Someone once said that you can have everything you want in life – just not all of it at the same time. Now is the time without horses. I have other work to do. But, I still have the lessons I learned from the horses I’ve known.

Be here, now. That’s what they’ve taught me.

Those are the words I’ve been living lately, taking one day at a time, each moment as it comes, because really, there’s no other way to do this living business.

Be here, now. Tomorrow, I’m applying those words to my writing work.

Be here, now.

Be here.

Now.

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