Friday, January 2, 2009

Dear Diary...

My first blog post. This is both exciting and scary, so very much like my quest for publication. But, I’m already ahead of myself. Since this is my first blog, I’ll introduce myself.

I am Janet, one fifth of the women now known as The Prairie Chicks. We are all proud members of the Saskatchewan Romance Writers (check out the SRW website, it’s listed in the Favorite Links section). My writing journey began in my childhood with the love of storytelling. See if you tell a good story, people will listen. And when they’re all too busy to listen, then a good story occupies your mind while you wait. Yes, I was a daydreamer. I also wrote in a journal, or diary. My first was a small, hard cover thing, blue with flowers. It locked – an important feature to keep out those that wanted to know my secrets. I still have it and reading it makes me laugh.

Grade eight was my first recollection of wanting to write a novel. I asked my English teacher if we could. She said no, imagine that. But the desire to put pen to paper sparked and I began writing short stories in my diary, no longer an actual book with the word embossed on the front cover, but a notebook hidden under my bed. I would fill pages and pages with make-believe stories. I would also write about the day, my feelings, my friends, anything I wanted. It was a place where no one looked and no marks were given.

Longer stories came much later, after high school when I would sit up late to watch old movies on CBC. I am a huge fan of old movies, especially black and white, and if it’s a musical, even better. Those are downstairs, the yellow legal paper fading and curling with age. Occasionally I read them over and, yeah, I laugh. I’ll never do anything with them. Just like I’ll never do anything with my diaries. But I keep them, believing they are a window into my past, a testament to who I was, a record of my journey as a person and a writer. And sometimes it’s good to see how far you’ve come.

I went to university (shout out to University of Calgary and fellow alumni). Then off to work in the Arctic where I met and fell in love with The Husband. Moved south, changed jobs, renovated a house, moved east, learned to weave, moved back west, and changed jobs again. Through the years my collection of diaries grew. Sometimes I would find a beautiful journal and fill those pages. Most times I wrote in notebooks, coil with shiny covers were my preference. I wasn’t writing fiction, but I was still writing. And every Christmas I wrote a letter to go in with the cards, every letter different than the last to challenge my creativity.

Then I sat down and wrote a novel. I wasn’t writing for publication, and getting someone to read it didn’t even cross my mind. It was mine, just like my diaries. But a strange thing happened when it was done. I liked it. And I wanted to improve it. It was exciting. After numerous edits (I think I’m officially on 12) I am now in the process of submitting. That’s the scary part. So on Fridays I’ll fill you in on the exciting and scary moments of an aspiring author. A record of events and observations all related to my quest for publication.

So People of Blogland – did you keep a diary when you were younger? If so, what was it like and do you still have it? Is there anyone who journals now, either frequently or infrequently? I’d love to hear your take on diaries.



Leah said...

Its so neat to hear this much about your writing history! I used to have a diary as a teenager but the things I wrote in there... well I kinda look at it and cringe. Now I do journal occasionally. I wish that I could get to it more but my mind seems to wander from it. I do love a good book though. Almost finished a whole 560 pager yesterday. Can't wait to read more on this blog! Hugs Auntie!

Janet said...

Good Morning, Leah - great to hear from you! It's hard to carve out time in a busy day to journal. I try to put aside 15 minutes right before bed (the journal's in the nightstand) and write then. Sometimes, it seems, sleep is more enticing!

What book? You have me wondering. There's nothing like a great book that keeps you reading.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hi Janet - I like your post and learned so much about you. Where were you in the Arctic? I spent 10 days in Yellowknife on a military exercise once and used to own land in the Yukon but never actually lived above the 60th.

I was a sporadic journaler. I tended to journal about the interesting things in my life, but I would go weeks or even months when nothing excited me enough to want to pass it on.

Mind you, I still have those journals, incomplete as they are and I won't every throw them away. Just don't ask me to explain why I keep them.

Jana Richards said...

Hey Janet,
I can attest to your storytelling abilities, both orally and on paper. The stories you've told us at retreats have had us literally rolling on the floor laughing. My favorite is the one when you first go to the Arctic. When you land at the tiny airport and they toss your luggage from the plane, your suitcase springs open and a year's worth of underwear spills out onto the tarmac. You find out later your future husband was watching the whole thing from the tower. Too funny! You really should put these stories on paper if you already haven't.

Janet said...

Hey Anita - I lived in Coppermine (now known as Kugluktuk). I always boast that I lived on beach front (Arctic Ocean) property. When the RCMP constructed a little pitch and putt golf course in their compound, I was able to add "Golf Resort" to my property description. I was there 4 years, then moved "South" to Hay River, NWT.

In my opinion, writers keep the written word. And sometimes it's just good to go back and read about yourself at a time when you weren't as "mature".

Janet said...

Unfortunately, or fortunately, that and many other "Arctic Adventures" are written in my journals. Another good reason for keeping them, I guess. The memory isn't what it used to be.

I was looking over my journal from the first year I was up there (writing about the diaries made me want to go read them) and hit a page that talked about a kitten I had found in March. Too cold for a kitten to be outside. I wrote about bringing him home - naming him Frostbite - keeping him in my room because the lady I was bunking with that first couple of months didn't like cats - and waking up to the most awful smell ever. At that time in my life I had no idea cats stank! I had forgotten all about that cat (no worries, I found a good home for him).

Even though some entries are cringe worthy (as Leah states), they're still great written memories.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Janet, my problem is that I've got boxes of notes and notebooks and stuff I've saved over the years. Most of it should be thrown out but I just can't. I mean, the reason I tore those pics out of the magazines in the first place was to show hubby what I wanted.

Sweet hubby's been going through it for me and I see boxes of paper heading to the burn barrel. I don't know what he's keeping or burning and I don't want to ask. Sometimes you just don't remember until you see it and in this case, it might be better not to remember.

And I just might decide to keep all those 1980 Mother Earth News magazines even though you can get them all on disk.

So, I write as I wait. Hubby is giving me lots of time to panic and fire him instead of the paper, but I know it's for the best. He's a romantic at heart so hopefully when he's done, he'll have a box set aside that's he's weeded out from the rest filled with my moments in time.

Suse said...

Hi Janet.

As I have also heard and read your stories, I know you are a great story teller. I'm sure all those years of journal writing has honed those story telling skills.

I've written sporadically in journals, and I too will not throw them away. I guess I think there will be a nugget of a story in some of those writings.

I just can't believe your grade 8 English teacher wasn't interested in encouraging you and your class to do some type of a creative writing project, even if it wasn't novel length. It would have been an excellent teaching opportunity - so says this teacher.

Karen said...

Hey, Janet, what a great article. I think we're off to a great start. I have tried to journal on and off since my elementary school days with little success. I am definitely not a pack rat but I do have a few things stashed away in a keepsake box, maybe there's a diary in there? In the past I have bought journals with good intentions, unfortately they still contain a lot of blank pages.

Have a great weekend.


Janet said...

Anita - I hear you. We've moved so many times, each time downsizing and tossing. Somehow, I always manage to find room for my writing stuff. I hope if you get a keepsake box, it has a little bit of everything.

Suse - thanks for the kind words. Great idea to look for story starters in there. Maybe there's a young adult possibility in my horrid teenage years journals? And, yeah, when I taught I was thrilled when a student "wanted" to do more than just the assignments.

Karen - I think we're off to a great start, too. And those journals - great places for notes on works in progress! I have coil notebooks for my various MS - I drag them everywhere in case I get a brilliant idea or a glimpse into character. Also great for scribbling down webpages, story starters, to do lists...

Anonymous said...

I did keep a diary. One of which was stolen and pages had been ripped out detailing my coming of age questions and thoughts even after I got it back. I also wrote stories for myself. Dumb ones, mostly, but I remember one with a group of military people creating a coup and the heroine was all of 12. Yep, I'm a dreamer. :)

But hey, dreaming gets you published. After 13 stories, two which hit best seller lists, I'm now writing under a new pen name for the inspirational market. And the nerves of submission feel just like I'm a newbie.

Janet said...

Hey, Kelly - Stolen? That would be horrible, and then to get it back and have pages, those pages, missing - can't even imagine. I have made The Husband swear on his Golf Magazine Subscription to burn every one of my journals if somethng happens to me!

I'm glad you talked about your nerves. I always think submitting will get better, but it never does. I just hit "send" on another query after an hour of checking, rechecking, and worrying. It's good to know the veterans feel the same way.

Best of luck on your queries!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Janet. You too. The only "easier" part is when you have a deal in place. THEN you can breathe a little with the submission. The hard part with that is hoping you live up to the expectation of what you agreed to. :)

I don't think spilling your creative soul on paper does get easier. I don't know. Maybe for long-timers?? As to my journal... yes, most difficult. In fact I was very happy to move away from that country and never have to fear running into the person who took it (he, an adult, stole pictures of me and weird things like sanitary napkins too. *shiver*. He worked for my dad and was in the house a lot. Needless to say, Dad fired him when the truth came out and the man confessed.)

Janet said...

That's a creepy experience to go through. My skin crawled just reading about it. Other than it is so personal, have you written about it? I'm glad your Dad took action - and I hope the man was punished.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I think your blog is off to a great start, ladies! Congratulations! I just added a listing to Prairie Chicks on my blog. Thanks for the great reading.

Leah said...

Auntie Jay, I'm reading Deb's Twilight Series right now. I picked them up on Christmas day, started reading them a couple days later, and am almost finished already. Didn't think I would fall for all that vampire stuff but I guess that I did. Maybe its all the romance that keeps me coming back...

Janet said...

Leah - there's nothing like a good romance (and all that happily ever after stuff). I might have to take a look at that series - see what all the talk is about. Even though I'm not into vampires!

Leah said...

Hey Auntie,
Just finished. Boy do I want there to be another book in that series! I really didin't think that I would be able to read the vampire thing either but the romance does it for me!