This picture is of Sherrie Botten, Head of Rowan House Shelter in Okotoks, Alberta with the 2017 Stampede Princesses. The event was an outstanding success with nearly 300 enthusiastic supporters in attendance. There was great food, a silent auction and fiddlers.
This morning I listened to Gloria Gaynor interviewed on CBC Radio Q. She spoke about her career and also about having been a survivor of sexual abuse. She has started the aptly named website, "I will Survive" that helps to support other people who have been sexually abused or are victims of domestic abuse. What a wonderful cause for her to take up! Here is my contribution to her page "Community": https://iwillsurvive.org/karen-l/
(reprinted from the website "Women Writers, Women's Books" April 5, 2017 (above link)
Natalie Goldberg states in her book, Writing Down the Bones, that it is essential for a writer to have a relationship with a coffee shop. The picture of the writer sitting in a coffee shop penning the next bestseller is ubiquitous. In fact, sitting here in a coffee shop, I can see at least two other people writing – one on her laptop and one in a notebook. The laptop woman is not answering her emails – I peeked as I walked by to make sure. The notebook man is not likely doing his shopping list as he just now, so carefully, placed his notebook and pen into his well-worn leather satchel. So, three writers in this tiny coffee shop, including me. But, why?
The lure of the coffee shop is so strong that now there’s an app for that. “Coffitivity.com” can help create the atmosphere of a coffee shop wherever you are – just add coffee and a laptop to the familiar buzzy noises! Is that the key to writing success?
My husband and I have a suburban up and down bungalow and my downstairs office gives me more than enough room for a long charcoal-coloured desk built from a length of kitchen countertop, two walls of bookcases, a large file cabinet and a seldom-used reading chair draped with a hand crocheted throw. Add coffee in a bright ceramic mug, turn on Coffitivity.com, and presto, my office is a coffee shop! But is it? Does an actual coffee shop give you some additional magic ingredient that a writer needs? And if so, what is it?
Perhaps the attraction of the coffee shop is just plain company. Writing can be a lonely pursuit, so why not do it cheek to jowl with others in pursuit of caffeine? Some attribute the lure to research – if you sit, sip and listen to people talking, you can get more real about writing dialogue. Though this feels a tiny bit invasive to me.
My productivity increases when I work to a deadline so giving myself a certain amount of time in a coffee shop or a caffeine limit works for me. But the convenient timing of mid-morning snack rolling into lunch can enable the guiltless reworking of a chapter or two.
At home, the commute from office up to my kitchen is not the same as walking to a counter. First off, I have to make the tea or coffee myself. While I am waiting for the beans to grind or the water to boil, I inevitably start wiping down the top of the stove with specialised cream cleaner. I can lose an hour just going for one coffee. In the coffee shop, all I have to do is order my coffee and someone calls me when it is ready!
There is something romantic, European even, about writing in a coffee shop. Ordering a French press or latte evokes a tiny café on the Champs Elysee faster than you can order the flight tickets over the internet. Adventure without leaving your neighbourhood!
Writers live in a world of their own making. I don’t leave my home in the morning by car, bus or rail so I don’t have “commute time” to read online blog sites on my tablet, listen to an audio book or peruse an article in a writing magazine. My daily commute is only a staircase long. Five minutes if I move slowly. When I descend to my office, it feels like going to work. I have an anxiety to produce plans for a course I’m going to teach, answer emails, research writing opportunities, cover large poster paper with mind maps in anticipation of my new book or post helpful hints on my Facebook author site.
But experience has taught me that anxiety to produce may result in work that is less creative. I need to take the time to refresh my ideas or to disengage my brain from “produce mode.” That is when I need to find a place and time to read all the things I would have read had I had a job that gave me “commute time.”
If my creative pipe has been plugged for too long, a “vacation” from my office may be the plunger needed to clear it and get the creative juices flowing. The coffee shop is the cheapest and fastest mini-retreat available. No guilt incurred if I run to the coffee shop for an hour or so with my writing magazines (some new ones and some I haven’t opened for the three months since publication), and happily spend the next hour highlighting, folding down the corners of pages I have to go back to and jotting down ideas in my notebook. By taking myself out of my office, the ideas come.
But in the end, though I love to write in coffee shops, the lure still eludes me. Does the pungent smell of burnt coffee beans in the air spark the creative urge? Is it the freedom to play hooky from the “work office,” or the luxury of knowing someone else will brew that perfect cup of energy booster for me? When I enter any coffee shop, do I re-live a long-ago morning when I sat and drank my brew near Haight Ashbury? Or subconsciously reminisce about a coffee shop I frequented in the City of London?
Is there a magic ingredient or is it simply a myth? Is it any of these things or none? Do I need to know? Or just get down to it in the coffee shop?
I found out yesterday that The Full Catastrophe won a Finalist medal in the USA Best Book Awards in the category of "Women's Issues." This is the second such award that The Full Catastrophe has won - the other was in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards.
There is some question as to whether book awards really mean anything - but if a jury of writers thinks that a book is worth reading in comparison to other books, then the award is meaningful. I am thrilled also that the category is Women's Issues as the whole issue of gender equality and women being treated with respect is front and centre at this time, perhaps partially in light of the recent election of someone in the States who has made bold public statements about women as objects, but also, here at home in Alberta, where female politicians are subject to harassment simply because they are women, where the wage gap between men and women is still too much and where women are murdered and injured by their partners.
If the awards The Full Catastrophe has received help in my quest to be another voice that says we need to address the issue of gender inequality in our country and that we need to uncover the effects of abuse and trauma in order to heal, then they are definitely valuable.
I was interviewed this morning by Linda Thompson of The Authors Show. It is interesting how good questions from this good interviewer sparked thoughts about my book.
She asked if I thought my book was similar to others describing difficult marriages. I thought for a moment and then answered "No, I don't think so and I will tell you why." My training as a psychologist has given me a vantage point from which to show and analyse my past marriages and the healing from abuse - and to be able to put the experience in context so that the reader will understand what was going on for me while all this was happening. I show my rational for staying, how I reacted and survived during the endless screaming, threatening, insults, obscenities and embarrassment. I was able to explain how I covered up my pain and shut down what should have been natural reactions to all that. Then, after leading the reader through my husband's illness and death, I was able to explain my healing process through Jungian analysis, citing dreams and the slow step by step recovery to wholeness.
I also came away from the interview feeling very positive - and that doesn't always happen if the interviewer is not skilled and insightful.
Kudos to the Author Show and I will post the link when the interview goes live!
When you are a memoir writer and teacher, you have to read memoir - I am completely captivated by The Nazi Officer's Wife by Edith Hahn Beer
I am delighted to feature Jane Davis, award winning UK author, in my blog today
Jane Davis is the author of seven novels. Her debut, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. Six further novels have earned her a loyal fan base and wide-spread praise. Her 2016 novel, An Unknown Woman won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year Award. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’ Her favourite description of fiction is 'made-up truth’. Jane lives in Carshalton, Surrey, with her Formula 1 obsessed, beer-brewing partner, surrounded by growing piles of paperbacks, CDs and general chaos. When she is not writing, you may spot Jane disappearing up the side of a mountain with a camera in hand.
Universal book link for eBooks: https://books2read.com/u/3kZveg (special pre-order offer of 99p/99c, then £2.99/$3.99) My website: www.jane-davis.co.uk (Anyone who signs up to www.jane-davis.co.uk/newsletter receives a free copy of my novel, I Stopped Time.)
Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+JaneDavisAuthor/posts
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jane-Davis/e/B0034P156Q/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1
‘A compelling portrayal of the bohemian life of an activist poet, the men she loves, and the issues she fights for.’ Eleanor Steele
A rose garden. A woman with white hair. An embossed envelope from the palace.
Lucy Forrester, for services to literature, you are nominated for a New Year’s Honour.
Her hands shake. But it’s not excitement. It’s rage.
For five decades, she’s performed angry poems, attacked government policy on everything from Suez to Trident, chained herself to embassy railings, marched, chanted and held placards high.
Lucy knows who she is. Rebel, activist, word-wielder, thorn in the side of the establishment. Not a national bloody treasure.
Whatever this is – a parting gesture, a final act of revenge, or the cruellest of jokes – it can only be the work of one man. Dominic Marchmont, outspoken literary critic and her on/off lover of fifty years, whose funeral begins in under an hour.
Perhaps, suggests husband Ralph, the invitation isn’t the insult it seems? What if Dominic – the man they both loved – has left her an opportunity?
'Completely gripping, excellently written and skilfully put together, I can't recommend My Counterfeit Self highly enough' ~ Isabel Wolff, author of Ghostwritten
From the award-winning author of Half-truths and White Lies, an emotional story of hidden identities, complicated passions and tangled truths.
Jane, you’ve just won Writing Magazine’s Self-Published Book of the Year award. What does being independent mean to you?
It means I’m in complete control, which is daunting and thrilling in equal measures. Having previously been under contract, I was aware how much control authors have to relinquish by authors. I was asked to re-structure Half Truths and White Lies so that big reveal came in the penultimate chapter/ new end chapter. (Whenever I get negative reviews, it’s always the reveal and the ending that readers object to, as they describe my original ending to me.) I was given a great cover design, but I couldn’t see how it related to the story. And then came the title change. I had called my book Venn Diagrams. It was published as Half-truths and White Lies – in the same year that an erotic novel was published under the same title. When I finally held the book in my hands, it didn’t feel as if it was really mine. It was almost as if I was selling someone else’s book! But worse was to come. My publisher exercised its right of refusal on my follow-up novel because ‘it wasn’t women’s fiction’. Without any discussion about my writing plans, Half-truths and White Lies had been published under a women’s fiction imprint.
It was clear that I wasn’t working with people who shared my visions and values.
With self-publishing, I can choose to collaborate with professionals who will help me make the book the very best it can be. That means the edit, the accuracy of the proofreading, the type-setting and the Andrew Candy’s fabulous cover designs.
What was your first book and how many books have you published since?
My first novel didn’t make it as far as being a book, but it did earn me the services of a literary agent and the words, ‘Jane, you are a writer’, which sounded far more glamorous than ‘Jane, you are an insurance broker’. I’d call that four years well-spent! There was a draft contract from a small publisher, but the small publisher was eaten up by a big publisher before the ink had a chance to dry. I called it After Hilary. In retrospect, I’m rather glad that it was consigned to the bottom drawer reserved for all first novels, because like most first novels it contained semi-autobiographic elements and I’m pretty darned sure they would have come back to bite me. I have published seven novels since then. None of them are remotely autobiographical, but this has never stopped family members from claiming that they recognise themselves.
But you must have autobiographical elements in your work?
The trouble with baring your own soul is that none of us live in isolation. Other people feature in our stories. I read how an author called Maria Bento Fernandes was sued by her husband’s family after they claimed she revealed intimate details of their family life in a novel. When she appealed against the original charge of libel, on the basis that hers was a work of fiction, the European Court of Human Rights didn’t uphold the original decision, but ruled that the award should stand as the author had ‘failed to respect her in-laws’ ‘right to a private life.’ He ordered her to pay them 53,000 EUR. I suspect Christmas at the Fernandes will never be the same again!
So the challenge is always to make it personal – because I think you need to – while maintaining a distance. I remember that when I was writing the book that became Half-truths and White Lies, my middle school was pulled down to make way for a housing estate. Since it was within walking distance of my job, I made a pilgrimage every lunchtime to see the wrecking balls do their work. In the evenings, writing as Peter Church, I described the dismay he felt at discovering that a block of flats had been built on the place where he used to play marbles. He asks himself how it was that his old school was torn apart and he didn’t feel a physical wrench.
Similarly, the house that I burn down in the opening scene of An Unknown Woman isn’t invented. It’s mine. I imagined standing in the road, watching the destruction of my house and everything in it. For my new novel, My Counterfeit Self, I’ve drawn heavily on my experience as a writer. I’ve included feelings that I’ve never spoken about to anyone.
You mentioned your experience of being published under a women’s fiction imprint. Do you think traditional genre classifications are too rigid?
I share Joanne Harris’s view that ‘women’s fiction’ isn’t a genre. All it does is reinforce the idea that books written by women are not for men. At a time when bookshops have been asked to do away with ‘boys’ fiction’ and ‘girls’ fiction’, this category seems outdated, not to mention inappropriate.
It is easy to say what chick-lit, sci-fi, fantasy and erotica are. The difficulty with general fiction is that you can run out of categories before you find one that suits. I’m uncomfortable to bracket my work in the literary category along with classics and Man Booker Prizewinners. Where it’s an option (and it isn’t always), I tend to opt for ‘contemporary fiction’. Although it begins and ends in the present day, My Counterfeit Self is the second of my novels that could also be described as historical.
What’s the story behind your latest book?
It’s the story of a radical poet activist called Lucy Forrester, who’s a cross between Edith Sitwell and Vivienne Westwood. Having been anti-establishment all of her life, she’s horrified to find that she’s been featured on the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list. To be honest, the idea of writing about the life of a poet came directly from reader reviews. Several comments that my prose was like poetry. I had no idea if I could actually write poetry but this gave me confidence that I might be able to convince readers that I could see the world as a poet does.
My Counterfeit Self is an intriguing title. What does it mean to you?
Lucy’s parents behave so appallingly that, in her late teens, she’s freed from any obligation to live up to their expectations. And that’s not to say Lucy isn’t moral. One of my early reviewers described her as ‘fiercely moral’, and I thought, yes, she gets her! It’s just that Lucy invents her own moral code. She moves out of the family home and decamps to bohemian Soho. In distancing herself from her parents she adopts a new personality that she hides behind. Although she insists that she lays herself bare in her poetry, it’s keeping secrets from those who love her most that is her undoing.
You’ve worked with cover designer Andrew Candy again. What was the concept behind this one?
I chose an image by Sergiy Glushchenko/500px, which has already won an award for underwater photography and when you use an award-winning photograph, you don’t want to muck about with it.
The theme of water is repeated in the book, as Lucy swims as part of her physical therapy as she recuperates from Polio. I think the image also suggests her reaction to shock. Then, it reflects the main political cause Lucy writes about. Having always been a CND supporter, she also gets behind the British Atomic Veterans. It struck me that the bubbles in the photograph could be manipulated so that they were in the shape of a mushroom cloud. The idea of the mushroom cloud coming out of the poet’s mouth really appealed to me.
We meet Lucy Forrester as a young child. How difficult is it to get inside the head of a nine-year old and convey their consciousness without ‘talking down’?
I don’t have children of my own but the mother of my godson put to me, ‘You only know what comes out of their mouths. You don’t know what’s going inside their heads.’ But, of course, the author does have to know. I remember childhood as a very frightening place, and all of the articles I have read about childhood psychology reinforce that memory. I don’t think that a child’s mind is uncluttered. They are absorbing any number of new facts daily, and have to give them a context within their limited knowledge, something we as adults have to do less often – although we still experience similar pain barriers, say, learning a new piece of computer software. I hope there’s nothing twee about the way that I write children.
As well as all of the usual challenges of childhood, Lucy Forrester suffers from a debilitating childhood illness. Struck down by Polio, she spends the best part of two years recuperating. Although she isn’t paralysed, Lucy has that same stubborn determined streak that Roosevelt displayed when he refused to accept the limitations of his disease. The refusal to wear leg braces, to face the world sitting down. She resents overhearing her father say that not much is expected of her, and it makes her want to defy him. It really fascinated me to discover just how many famous people had suffered some form of serious childhood illness. Staring death in the face defines a person. They seem to become driven. You only have to watch the Paralympics to see plenty of examples of just that.
Aside from childhood illness, what things shaped Lucy Forrester?
There’s her wonderful governess, Pamela, who responds to her father’s comment that she should be encouraged to do a little light reading by having her read the newspapers, and then teaches her the invaluable lesson that just because something’s illegal, doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong.
And of course she meets the two men who will become central to her life – Dominic Marchmont who becomes both her literary critic and on/off lover, and the photographer Ralph who provides her with a sort of stability and security that’s she’s never experienced before. Theirs is the real love story as far as I'm concerned.
"If your memoir is to be deeply truthful, you must have the determination to look within the dark corners of yourself, to shine a light on those aspects of your life that have been hidden away, denied and disowned. Facing what you fear the most in yourself and reintegrating and accepting those parts requires a different kind of courage than climbing Mt. Everest, but by doing so, you can change yourself and, in doing so, change your potential future."
Pam Francis, celebrated UK journalist to the stars of television and cinema with her copy of The Full Catastrophe: A Memoir in her garden in Dunstable, Bedfordshire
Writing a book is at times a lonely and onerous task - many nights spent in front of the computer and notes scribbled in the local coffee shop and at the grocery store when you are hit with interesting ideas that you are afraid will fly into the ether if you don't grab them and write them down quickly. Many days, weeks and years spent writing, and re-writing, editing and proof reading, to capture and translate what is in your heart and your mind. Then, finally, the book is a reality, a concrete entity and the new task is to tell people in twenty five words or less what your book is about - so that they will be interested enough to buy it and then sit down and read it. Sending it out into the world so that it can find its way to the reader makes the book cycle complete.