Archive for October, 2008


Maybe Next Time

   Posted by: Faith    in Fiction on Foccacia

Results are in for the Fall 24-Hour Short Story Challenge! I didn’t win (I didn’t expect to), but I read the winning entries and now have a better idea of how to craft my story for next time.

The biggest bonus for me was reading over the list of common themes throughout the submissions… only to find that I didn’t fall into any of the categories, which means that I was original in my idea, or at least to some degree. I think my fatal flaw was straying a bit from the topic, which I can see after reading the winning stories.

Another challenge is being run in January 2009, and seeing as how the entry fee is only $5… I think I’ll have another go. :)

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Writing Organizations: Are They Worth It?

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

I’ve been flipping this idea around like a pancake for awhile now: Should I join a writing organization, or is it just a waste of money/time/emotional energy?

Almost any book on writing fiction and the facets thereof will tell you that joining a writing group is one of the best things you can do for yourself. They claim it’s a wonderful place to dialogue with others that have experience with publishing/agents/etc., and that all your questions can and will be answered. A number of these groups also offer space in their forums for people to exchange their work and have it critiqued by peers. This, supposedly, is the crux of everything for an inexperienced (ie. as of yet unpublished) writer.

So, I looked into a few of them, and most of them sounded pretty good, and like they had decent resources for someone like me. However, I was off-put by one thing in particular that all these organizations share in common: a rather large membership fee.

Yes, I understand that someone has to keep the group organized, and run the website, and get conferences and speakers in place across the country/continent, and so on, but seriously… writers aren’t exactly the wealthiest people on the planet, and typically it seems that you need to join more than one organization to get the full benefit for your writing (ie. a national organization, and then another one perhaps more targeted to your genre or focus). So whose bright idea was it to charge $100 to join???

I don’t know about anyone else, but $100 seems pretty steep to me. The dire financial situation of writers is why things like the Canadian Writers’ Foundation exist, and let’s face it – making any money from writing is rare for most people, let alone enough to make a living off of. For some people, $100 could make the difference between eating for the week or going hungry. Fortunately, I’m not in that situation – I have a husband who brings in the money, while I make a paltry contribution with my freelance writing contracts. Still, like any newlywed couple, we need to be careful with spending… so here’s a quick rundown of the few groups I’ve looked into and what they’re charging for a year’s membership.

Canadian Authors Association (CAA)

Membership Levels: Professional & Associate.

Key Benefits: Networking with writers across Canada; “new writers can develop their skills while established authors can find direction for their careers”; mentorships; “support for Canada’s most prestigious Literary Awards” (yay?); discounts on the annual CanWrite! conference, workshops, contests & The Canadian Writer’s Guide.

Swag: A quarterly members-only newsletter.

And that’s not all…: Grievance resources; a members-only “Virual Branch” mailing list; branch meetings (assuming there is a CAA branch for you within reasonable driving distance).

Cost for membership: $157.50 – no cost difference between professional and associate memberships.

The Word Guild (TWG)

Membership Levels: Professional, Associate, Affiliate

Key Benefits: Online members-only forum; “connection with like-minded people who share your Christian worldview and your passion to use your writing to honour God, and who provide professional, emotional, spiritual, and prayer support”; support for developing local writers’ groups; discount tickets to the Annual Writing Awards Gala; discount on Write!Canada conference, regional conferences, and contests (some with critiques); marketing advice; networking through volunteer positions with TWG.

Swag: Members-only bi-weekly e-newsletter.

And that’s not all…: Professional members get their names posted on the website under a ‘Hire Us’ section, along with cooperative exhibit & promo opportunities, blog posting withing TWG, promotion within TWG’s annual ‘Readers Guide’; grievance resources.

Cost for membership: $99.75 (Professional), $61.95 (Associate & Affiliate)

Romance Writers of America (RWA)

Membership Levels: General, Associate, Affiliate

Key Benefits: Advocacy; writers’ resources (incl. discussion listservs); leadership opportunities within RWA; member-rate contests & discount on National RWA Conference; discounts on certain industry-related products and services; voluntary insurance program.

Swag: Monthly members-only journal; bi-monthly e-newsletter.

And that’s not all…: Members have the opportunity to join special-interest or local chapters of RWA… however, there are almost always extra fees associated with joining these. For example, the ‘Chick Lit Writers of the World’ chapter charges $25 to join, while the Toronto Romance Writers chapter charges an extra $50!!!

Cost for membership: $75 + $25 one-time processing fee + $10 “foreign postage rate” for Canadians (to mail out the journal). No cost difference between membership levels.

I looked into the CAA because I’m Canadian, TWG because I’m Christian, and RWA because I have an almost-complete manuscript that I’m fairly certain would be considered ‘chick lit’… but there’s honestly no way I could afford to join all 3 of these groups. I think the RWA is the worst of them all, since the local chapters even charge to join, though the membership fee for CAA is pretty exorbitant as well. I’m seriously considering TWG, because the focus is on “writers who are Christian” and not “Christian writing”, which I appreciate. Plus, the membership fee is 1/3 of the other two (as an associate, since I’m considered “unpublished”). And their annual conference is held in Guelph, Ontario – that’s well within driving distance, as opposed to the other groups that have their annual meetings in Alberta (CAA) and anywhere from San Francisco to Orlando (RWA).

I’m still not fully convinced that joining any of these groups would be as beneficial as I’m told they are… but I guess you can never be certain until you try. After all, if almost all the writing books I read tell me to join, there must be some truth in it.

Unless, of course, the authors are the ones on staff… in which case, they’re just counting on suckers like me to pay their salary.


Tasty Fall Treats

   Posted by: Faith    in Rye Thoughts

Let’s face it: Writers love coffee. Not only do they love coffee, but they love coffee shops with comfortable chairs. And I don’t know about you, but I love it when coffee shops have their ‘feature of the month’ promotions… especially in the fall. I love fall drinks and foods, and I have a strange compulsion to try anything and everything pumpkin-related at the various caffeine-dispensing locales in the community. It also happens when they have almond-related promotions in the spring, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So, I thought I’d do the curious writers out there a favor, and give you my impressions of the fall flavors from the major coffee chains in my area. You can thank me later.

The Beverages

Second Cup: The description of the Pumpkin Spice latte on the Second Cup website is: “A warm, palate-pleasing beverage with hints of ginger spice and white chocolate. A Canadian fall favorite!” Indeed? Yes, it was warm (I’d hope), yes, it had a hint of white chocolate, and yes, there was pumpkiny-ness about the beverage. But spice? Not particularly. Perhaps a minute amount of ginger, but for those looking for some actual spice in their pumpkin spice (what a foreign concept!), this should not be your drink of choice. However, it was enjoyable – and extremely sugar-laden. If you want a sugary fall drink, this is it.

If I was grading this latte, I’d give it a B+. It wins on being tasty, but loses points for not exactly living up to its namesake.

Starbucks: From the website: “A delicious blend of pumpkin and traditional fall spice flavors combined with our signature espresso and freshly steamed milk, and topped with whipped cream and pumpkin pie spices.” Whipped cream? Check. Pumpkin flavor? Check. Spice? Check. A ridiculously happy barista serving it to you? Check and double check. From the smooth pumpkin flavor to the spicy aftertaste, this truly is a Pumpkin Spice latte. Starbucks knows what’s going on, do you? Awesomeness in a mug, that’s what. I’d drink this all year if I could, but alas, that’s where beauty and sadness converge: the beauty of fall, and the sadness of promotion season. Sigh. For pumpkin and spice, and coffee, this is the latte of choice. Grade: A+.

Williams: Williams Coffee Pub has its own Pumpkin Spice latte and muffin, and I must say the muffin is very tasty. No regrets there… on the other hand, both times I’ve ordered the pumpkin spice latte, something has gone wrong. The first time, I didn’t realize that anything was amiss, other than the fact that the latte was slightly lacking in the ‘spice’ part of ‘pumpkin spice’, and tasted reminiscent of… all their other coffee drinks. It could have passed for their caramel latte, or cappuccino, or whatever else. It really was underwhelming and pretty bland. However, it wasn’t bad (I didn’t say I don’t like their other lattes), so I figured ‘what the hey’ and drank it.

The second time I tried it was when I visited a different Williams, and saw a sign advertising their fall feature Pumpkin Latte… and in the picture, the latte had whipped cream and spice on top. Whipped cream!!! The one I’d ordered before didn’t have any, yet here it was on their official sign!!! Miffed, I decided to try it again, wondering if it would taste better with the extra spice and whipped cream on top. Well… talk about a big mistake. The latte tasted like warm water with a bit of sugar added, which was probably just melted whipped cream. I couldn’t taste any coffee, let alone pumpkin, let alone spice. And my friend Emily, who also ordered one, mentioned that hers tasted very strongly of coffee. Unfortunately, we’d ordered them to go, so we didn’t really have the opportunity to complain… but it seems like someone forgot to add the coffee to mine and doubled hers. Maybe the barista missed her own coffee that morning…? Honestly, I threw mine out after just a few sips. It was disgusting.

Either way, with two bad experiences and the fact that my first try was mediocre at best, I’d say save your money and skip this one. Grade: F. Epic, epic fail. Have a pumpkin muffin and call it a day.

Tim Hortons: Timmy’s doesn’t have a coffee-based fall beverage, but what they do have is a wonderful, amazing, delicious, and fantastical Pumpkin Spice tea. Yes, that’s right, a tea. It has a rich, spiced flavor that lingers on your tongue, and a full bodied pumpkin pie scent that makes you want to just sit there and inhale the curling vapors. And, if that isn’t enough, the pumpkin spice donut is a very tasty addition. The pumpkin spice muffin is fairly good too, but the white goo that they pump into the center might look a little off-putting… don’t worry, it’s just a spiced icing that tastes pretty good, but I’d personally go for the donut over the muffin. But the tea? I’ve already bought one box… I may go back for 4-5 more. I’ll definitely want to be drinking this long after the fall promotion is over and done. Grade (it’s tea, mind you): A+, with another A for the donut.

*Note: according to the Tim Hortons website, U.S. stores offer customers a shot of pumpkin spice flavor for their coffee… why not here????? All our other major coffee chains have pumpkin flavors for their coffee, so what on earth would prompt Tim Hortons not to offer it in Canada??? I think a letter to the company is in order.

The Winner

Starbucks wins with its actually-pumpkiny-and-spicy-Pumpkin-Spice-Latte. The others really don’t even come close, unless you enjoy drinking bland, generic lattes that maybe sorta kinda taste like what they claim to be.

Mmm... the winning Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.

Mmm... the winning Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks.

Tim Hortons also has a winner in its fall tea (and pumpkin donut), which I don’t remember being available last year. If it was, I missed out. I also haven’t seen any of the other coffee chains offering a pumpkin spice tea, so this seems to be a unique item for Tim Horton’s. Kudos to them for that.

Great tea. Very good donut. Decent muffin, but note how they don't show you the top where the white goo is...

Great tea. Very good donut. Decent muffin, but note how they don't show you the top where the white goo is...

And now… I’m craving a delicious hot drink of the pumpkin-related variety. Time to raid the box of Timmy’s tea… :D


October Free Book #2

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Yay! Another free book in the mail, this time from It’s We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee, and it came all nicey-nice in hardcover, too! I’m excited to read this one… very excited. I like animals. No, I love animals. I also love free books. Have I mentioned that yet? Maybe I will post the review here, as it seems my loyal reader (I know there is at least one of you… Emily) is aching for commentary. Who am I to let anyone down?

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So I have a dilemma: do I sell my soul, or attempt to keep my integrity in place and perhaps wither away in the process?

Let me elaborate.

Last week, my compadre and I were discussing the merits of writing bad fiction for the sake of making money. Perhaps not in such blatant terms, but… that’s really what it was. She mentioned ‘pot-boilers’, the kind of writing certain famous women used to do in order to ‘keep the pot boiling’ and put food on the table, while they were working on the fiction they actually wanted to write.

I’ve thought about this. I’ve thought about writing crap in order to actually have an income worth noting, and doing my ‘real writing’ alongside. The thing is, if you’re spending all this time writing crap, would it perhaps be better spent honing the “real” stuff instead, possibly leading to a finished work and publication sooner?

All I know is that for the stories I really care about, it takes me forever (or what seems like it) to research, plan, and then finally get it down on paper. I have some other ideas that I consider more ‘trite’, which I don’t really care about and I have a feeling I could write fairly quickly. I know, getting anything published these days takes a significant amount of time and effort… but if you can write quickly, it means more submissions get out in the mail, which typically means less waiting before someone wants to pay you for your work.

To boil the pot or not, that is the question.

I found this interesting article that made me smile, which I find to be so very true. Now, I’m not saying that I could write anything worthy of a Newbery Medal, but I’ve read some of these, and let’s be honest… beyond the heart-wrenching death of a beloved pet/pathos character/MC’s parent, a number of them are, well… not really that well written. In my opinion. It’s like the Oscars – the critics like it because they think it’s ‘art’… but the public is just bored.

But, that’s another topic for another day. For now, it’s time for another cup of coffee and a few more hours of keeping my soul to myself.

For now.

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Today I was walking through the aisles upon aisles (upon aisles…) of Halloween costumes and supplies at our local Value Village, and found myself faced with a significant amount of “fairy” outfits. Among these were costumes for an ‘evil fairy’, a ‘demon fairy’, a ‘copper fairy’ (what the…?), a ‘goth fairy’…

Now, don’t get me wrong – at a basic level, I’m impressed that the majority of adult fairy costumes actually attempt to correctly represent original faerie nature, before the dumbing down that began in Victorian England and cemented itself in Disney lore.

How is this relevant to writing in ANY way? Well, I’m so glad you asked.

You see, this year’s NaNoWriMo topic falls into the realm of the fay in Ireland. Yes, I’m writing a fairy story… but with real faeries. I’ve noticed a number of authors taking this direction lately, and it’s heartening. However, I want to write my own.  And so, we come to the point of convergence with Value Village costumes.

One of the threads on the NaNo forums is called ‘Let’s all dress up like our MCs on Nov.1st!!!’, to which I posted something along the lines of “fat chance, my MC is a 9-year-old boy”. However, the faerie queen will play a significant part within the story, something which just so happened to occur to me as I walked the aforementioned aisles…

No, I didn’t end up purchasing a costume. Yes, I did carry one around the store with me for about 40 minutes as I looked at other things, only putting it down at the last minute when I began to feel slightly doubtful that I would actually use it more than once.

But who I am kidding. A dress with wings? That’s got year-round written all over it.

I may go back tomorrow.

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50 Book Challenge

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

This January, I decided to take up a little something called the 50 Book Challenge. I think the idea originated on LiveJournal, but I’m not entirely sure… either way, there are subgroups on and Facebook where you can talk about your progress throughout the year.

The premise? Read 50 books in a year. Some people choose to measure it through word count – since clearly some books are longer than others – but I figured that for my first year at it, I’d just count the books. It’s easier.

In this blog’s earlier incarnation, I was posting my progress and reviews of the books I’d read each month, but I think at this point I’ll just wait until the end of the year. At the very least, I’ll reveal this: I’m well on track to significantly surpass the 50 books. I certainly didn’t expect it… but I guess when you’re conscious of the amount you’re reading, you can really manage to find the time to do more of it.

Not such a bad thing, in my opinion. :)

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I <3 Free Books

   Posted by: Faith    in Tasty Tomes

Nothing brightens my day more than receiving a free book in the mail.

Well, that’s not entirely true. I do love cake.

But you know what I mean. Yesterday, courtesy of the HarperCollins First Look club, I received an advance reading copy of Dreaming Again, edited by Jack Dunn. It’s a collection of speculative fiction by Australian authors… sounds pretty interesting, if you ask me. Which you didn’t. And yet, I’ve told you anyway.

My free book!

My free book!

Imagine, people giving away free books, and all that is asked in return is an honest review of said book. Really! Incredible.

I also received notice on yesterday that I’d won a copy of We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee… which means that there’ll be another day-brightening book coming along in the mail anytime now.

Huzzah! I’ll post my reviews on here eventually…

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25 Days and Counting…

   Posted by: Faith    in NaNoWriMo

Huzzah! It’s NaNoWriMo season!

That’s right… we’re only 25 days away from a month of little sleep, excessive caffeine consumption, and frantic attempts to make daily word counts.

I blogged about my progress last year, but as I mentioned before, I’ve lost nearly all the posts from this blog’s previous incarnation. I plan on attempting to track down some of the posts that may be sitting on my defunct laptop – I’m fairly certain I wrote at least a few in Word instead of right in wordpress – and posting them here during October as a “lead-in” to November’s insanity.

My husband has decided to try his own sort of writing challenge with me, revolving around his business blog. I’ll try to post my own progress here during November on a regular basis, but at the very least, I’ll have a widget or something in place that updates my word count every day. Maybe I should also install one that tracks how many cups of coffee it takes to actually make it through 50,000 words in a month…



It’s Contest Season!

   Posted by: Faith    in Fiction on Foccacia

…but then again, when isn’t it? To be honest, I have no idea. Until this past weekend, I hadn’t entered a writing contest since… well, since grade 2. I won, mind you, but that was then (“this is now, this is Stouffer’s, ooh ooh”).

Old Maritime commercials aside, this weekend I entered the Writer’s Weekly Fall 2008 24-Hour Short Story Contest – sort of on a whim, sort of as a challenge to myself. I wanted to force myself to produce something creative under pressure, since I tend to have problems getting anything done without some kind of pre-arranged structure.

Now that it’s all said and done, it was a pretty good experience and I’m glad I tried it. The results (ie. who won) won’t be in until the end of the month, but this time around, it wasn’t really about winning. Next time, perhaps. This time I just wanted to see if I could do it. I managed to write the story fairly quickly once the topic was released, but I ended up spending hours and hours editing the thing, trying to cut it down to the 850 word limit. I started with 1200 words, and thought “that’s not bad, I can edit that down”… naturally, I didn’t realize how difficult it can be to remove 400 words of a very short story, since in short stories, every word needs to be crucial to begin with. I think I got 3 hours of sleep that night.

The next contest with Writer’s Weekly runs January 23rd.

In terms of the next contest that I’ll be entering for sure (hah) is probably one of the Writer’s Digest competitions. They run a number of variously themed contests throughout the year, and the genre fiction short story deadline is coming up fast. I’ll keep you posted on my progress…

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