Looking for a job


Do you remember when you were fresh out of college or university and wanting to find that perfect job in the field you just spent four years studying?  You got money from your parents to buy the perfect “power outfit”, perhaps an attaché case to look more professional, and then you set off in search of gainful employment.  You arrived on time for each interview and got told the same thing from each prospective employer – come back when you’ve got some experience.  As you left the interviews, the thought in the back of your mind got stuck on a crazy loop in your head and played incessantly – if nobody will give me a job, how can I gain the experience I need?

Looking for a literary agent is much the same for a debut author.  It took more than four years, from conception to finished product, for me to write my first novel.  I put more focus and emotion into creating the story than I ever expended in college and I am truly proud of the finished product.  The people who have taken the time to read it have loved it.

But convincing an agent to give the whole story a chance is like applying for a job with no real world experience.  Those first five or ten pages you submit are like your first two minutes in a job interview, they are introductory and don’t really give the person reading you enough time to see what you are really about.  They can only judge you based on a succinct appraisal that doesn’t give your story time to prove itself and, in the end, they prefer an author who has been previously published.  In other words, they don’t want to give the job to people who don’t have experience.

This post is not an attack on literary agents, by any means.  I get it.  They receive a plethora of emails from thousands of people who think they could be the next Dean Koontz, Nicholas Sparks or J.K. Rowling.  Their email inboxes must feel like a revolving door, having multiple queries thrown at them every time the door makes a new revolution.

My intent with this post is not to blame literary agents for being so busy.  My intent with this post is to merely put a wish into the universe that, one day, that revolving door will find a giant foot wedged into it allowing my query to fall into the right inbox at the right time.  Just maybe, I can impress someone enough to have them read the whole manuscript and to get the job without having previous experience.





Je ne parle pas le francais…..

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When it comes to making decisions, I like to take my time to weigh all my options.  I am not a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of person so I choose to give a great deal of thought to the choices I make.  Last year, choosing to suspend my satellite subscription was the best choice I have made in a long time because it resulted in me being able to focus on my writing and finish my first novel.

This year, I wanted that ‘lightning in a bottle’ experience again so I contacted my satellite provider and arranged to have my service disrupted on the 9th of February.  I counted on that move to encourage my creativity and focus my attention on my new book.  I hadn’t counted on the Olympics beginning just as my TV programming was ending.

There are a handful of free channels still available on my Bell network and one of those channels is covering the Olympics.  Sadly that channel is a French station and, although I excelled in my Grade 10 French class, there is no mention of the little dog Pitou or finding a sweater because it is cold.  If, at some point, either of the phrases, “Il fait froid aujourd’hui, ou est mon chandail” or “Ou est Pitou?” should ever be uttered, those words will be some of the very few I shall have understood during the entire 2018 Winter Olympics.

Thankfully, emotion is a universal language.  While I cannot understand most of what the commentators are saying during the games, I can comprehend what the athletes are feeling after they have crossed their finish lines or completed their programs.  Exhilaration and anguish do not need words to be conveyed.  On Monday night, I watched Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform their Free Skate in the Ice Dance Competition.  Once their program was completed, I muted my TV and simply watched their body language and their smiles.  I didn’t need anyone telling me how they felt because I could feel it just watching them.

Sometimes taking the rhetoric out of a situation allows us to truly perceive the emotion as it is meant to be conveyed – naturally, organically and wordlessly.  Je pense, ne pas etre capable d’entendre les mots m’a fait comprende encore plus.



Boys will be boys, and then they make you dinner


I stopped by my brother’s house on Saturday to pick up my empty Tupperware containers.  The rule is….if I get them back, I fill them up again.  I love to make soup and they love having homemade soup for lunch, so it’s a no-brainer.

My oldest nephew was in his car behind me and we pulled into the driveway at the same time.  After most of the family had an appropriate amount of time to make fun of his morning hairdo, I headed to the grocery store to get all of the ingredients for the three soups I was making that afternoon.  I was just about home when my phone beeped with a text message.  It was from my nephew asking if I had dinner plans for the evening.  His parents were going out for the night and he wanted to make something nice and have me join the two boys for dinner.

I have written two previous blog posts titled, “Boys will be boys and then they make you cry”.  I’m sure you can surmise what happened next.  Yes, the tears appeared at the thought of a 17-year old boy not taking advantage of an empty house to have his friends over.  Instead, he made steak, baked potatoes and a salad for his Aunt and his brother.

Suddenly, the dynamic of boys being boys was replaced by a dinner that the three of us enjoyed and gave us time to catch up.  There were no sibling shenanigans, my older nephew cooked, my younger nephew cleared and stacked the dishes in the dishwasher and I sat staring at these two faces who seem like they should still be seven and four, not seventeen and fourteen.

In a world where the character of some children can be questionable at best,  I sat in awe of the two young men sitting with me at the dining room table.  To say my brother and sister-in-law got it right is an understatement and I am so proud to have these two young men in my life.  Now, if you’ll excuse me…..I have something in my eye….again.

One step away


The hopeful feeling that something great is just around the corner sparks in the back of all of our minds.  That fire is fueled by the creative desire that drives us to do what we love.  But more often than not, that spark is quelled by the reality of our day-to-day lives.  Imagination allows us to light that fire again but reality can be a tropical rain storm when we are desperately hoping for the dry Santa Ana winds to turn that spark into a raging creative inferno.

I was tagged in a Facebook post last night by a friend I have known since I was 5 or 6 years old.  Ironically, from his tin boat, he used to deliver words to my dock in the form of the morning newspaper.  Now, forty-plus years later, through a tag on social media, he delivered some words to me that really hit home, words I needed to hear.

Success is a funny thing.  You can dream of it.  You can chase it.  You can feel like you can almost touch it, but never do you imagine it could be a mere one step away.  He sent me this video of Anthony Bourdain describing the life he was living before that one step closed the gap between his reality and his eventual success.

This video is the wooden match for all of us who have dared to set the kindling for that fire but have second-guessed torching the wood to start the spark.  Light it.  Bathe in the light from its embers.  Those Santa Ana winds could be one step away.


Putting yourself out there


Trying to find a literary agent is much like putting yourself on an internet dating site.  You spend a great deal of time stressing over how to describe yourself and your work without sounding obnoxiously confident but you have to nail that very fine line between determination and arrogance without exaggerating either of those things.  Contrary to internet dating, that agent is only looking for one very specific thing and if you don’t have it, they move on.

I have never been comfortable being the person to profess my strengths.  I can write for days about subjects that have nothing to do with me, but words vanish as soon as I have to point them in my direction.  I am extremely happy with the final product of my first novel and so are my Beta readers.  I want nothing more than to find an agent or a publisher who believes in it as much as I do.  But that process is much more daunting than staring at that first blank page, knowing that you have to string together over 80,000 words in an articulate and entertaining way.

Agents and publishers who are not interested in your work will not dangle bait in the water to see if you bite.  They are more than willing to move on to the next pond because there are so many fish and so few anglers.  An agent can’t even cast a line into a body of water without a frenzy of fish ready to fight to the death for the rare hook that shines in the distance.  In a sea of Piranhas, I feel like I am the poor carrion waiting at the bottom to be consumed by the predatory beasts with the sharper teeth.

(image credit)

But there is always hope.  I know that one day, those Piranhas will have distracted themselves by something very shiny and I will be in the right spot in the pond at the right time, staring at a hook that was meant to catch only me.  And like every angler who is waiting for the “big one” knows, it’s all about patience.


Crouching Author, Hidden Fear


When you give yourself so fully to something you are committed to, anything you are committed to, there is always the hidden fear that your efforts may not be received as well as you would have hoped.  From the moment you send that something into the great unknown, the fear is multiplied exponentially and your hope for a good outcome is sabotaged by the nagging apprehension that continually plagues you.  Self-doubt is a vicious curse.

But then you begin to receive feedback, really positive feedback, and your doubts slowly abate.  You gradually allow yourself a few moments to revel in the glory of the true affirmation of your talent and you think that your lack of conviction stems from your inability to believe that your commitment to your craft is worthy of praise.

I am that crouching author.  I have the hidden fear and the regrettable ability to doubt myself when it comes to my writing.  Only recently have I begun to believe more in my talent because people have responded so well to my writing and have been very encouraging.  It is one thing to write.  It is truly another to have people enjoy what  you write.

I can honestly say, putting myself out there has been a lesson in gaining confidence.  Somewhere under the veil of hesitation lay a willingness to expose the most natural part of myself, the writer in me, and I have been truly overwhelmed by the affirmations I have received as well as the encouragement to keep writing.  There is much less fear now and so much more belief that I can do this.  I can be a writer.  Wait.  Forget that.  There is no more fear.   I am a writer.








Gaining a little more confidence

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I don’t know how Dean Koontz, or any author for that matter, felt after they completed their first novel.  Were they elated?  Were they sick to their stomach?  Were they prone in a semi-fetal position rocking back and forth thinking that they would eventually have to deliver this literary child to the public for mass consumption and scrutiny?  I have experienced all of these emotions, and more, in just the past few months.

I have been fortunate to have my first three Beta readers be very supportive and encouraging and give extremely positive feedback to The Waking Hours.  I have just sent a digital copy to reader number four and, in the next few days, will hand deliver a hard copy to reader number five.  In a perfect world, I paint a pretty picture of rainbows and unicorns as I receive their reviews of the book.  But somewhere, in the far recesses of my mind, I know the second shoe eventually has to drop and it may not fall as precisely as I would like.

I am well-aware that with success comes the possibility of epic failure, or at least overtly constructive criticism, and I think I have secured myself behind a wall that is strong enough to allow me to absorb those critiques with a comfortable cushion.  Although I have bled countless times trying to craft a worthy tale, there is still some blood to be shed in the battle of writer vs. reader and I know I will not emerge completely unscathed.   To bastardize a line from one of my favorite movies, The Replacements, “Pain heals.  Readers dig scars.  Glory….lasts forever”.