So my decision to scale back the dayjob?
It was a good one. The next two months are looming ahead a particularly dense forest. We’ll get through just fine – we know all the wolves by name – there’s just a lot of brambles waiting to snag on the way.
But that’s pretty par for the course. I’m hunkering down; I can feel the reptilian part of my brain kicking in and triaging things.
(If I’m slow to respond to things, my apologies.)
And I’m relying on old hacks. Cooking in batches to eat through the week; working on the train (that’s where I’m writing this post!); prioritising choir, so I have some decompression and social time.
And then there’s the clothing.
This is a weird one. We’ve all seen the cartoons about freelancers, yes? Pyjama-clad, food-spattered, wild-haired?
I can’t do it. Not because I take any particular interest in clothing, but because I use it to shift between modes. The dayjob is business casual – for me, that’s usually dress pants and a button-up or cardigan. In an ideal world, I’d add oxfords, but the gravel roads eat them.
So that works through the day. And then the moment I get home…
It’s the writer outfit of tee-shirt and jeans. Physically changing what I’m wearing helps transition my brain from one sphere of my life to the other. It’s a bit doing mask work in theatre. Very subtly, mostly unconsciously, the face beneath the mask starts to assume the same expression.
The inside starts to mimic the outside. That’s really the heart of it. That’s why I fully dress and wear makeup even when I know I’ll be home all day writing. It’s a ritual; prepping the outside preps the inside as well.
Of course – as with everything in creative fields – it totally depends on the individual. If writing in pyjamas works for you, rock on with your bad self.
For me, I just need a way to navigate the different areas of my life. Especially right now, with so many threads interweaving! (At the fundraiser for CANTICLE, I went with my convention wear: jeans and blazer, tee underneath. It got me into the right headspace – and I felt like me.)
What about you? What are your sartorial preferences?
What I’m Listening To This Week
I’ve been drafting hard and fast, so I’m living with a lot of long instrumental pieces. Mostly early twentieth century. I’ve quite enjoyed exploring the works of Rimsky-Korsakov, a Russian composer. This one is a new favourite for obvious reasons. 😊
I’ve been getting an interesting question lately, as a general trend. And it’s a question that’s very difficult to answer.
“How long did it take you to write that?”
It leaves me scrambling because I’m never sure what they mean. Or more accurately, what they think they mean. Is it just the actual sitting-and-typing draft work? Or are we including outlining and research? Does editing time count? The early rambling noodling I do with every project? Or does the clock start the moment the idea sparked in my brain?
For me, at least, they’re all different answers. Generally, I say something like, “Writing the first draft took X time, but I’ve been thinking about it since Y.”
But even then, I need to do some personal archaeology.
Take A CANTICLE OF LIGHT. One of those “On This Day” posts appeared on my Facebook this evening. My former housemate’s cat lies on two whiteboards that pretty clearly show CANTICLE ponderings.
The photo is dated May 2016. Except then I put the play aside for a few months. It ended up being a NaNoWriMo project of sorts—I banged the first draft out in about five weeks. Which sounds pretty quick, but again, it’d been bouncing around my skull for ages.
What’s the right answer? Very few people want to hear about skull-bouncing time.
Besides, that’s not even counting editing. As far as I remember, I had a table read in February 2017. I forget when Missed Metaphor offered to produce it, but it must have been summertime, because I do remember a) wearing shorts, and b) walking home through a warm, sticky night.
Then things got busy, so I put edits on hold. The final draft got finished around December.
So was it five weeks to write? Was it a year? Was it a year of editing even though I took months off to deal with other projects?
But here’s the kicker. I remember sharing very, very early CANTICLE thoughts in 2014. One character had a different name, the ages were different, and the plot wouldn’t have worked—but it was still CANTICLE, in zygote form.
Really, all my projects are like this. Quick drafting times, really long gestations.
And all of those phases are “writing.” The long periods between editing where the story reshapes itself in the dark. The white-hot rush of fingers on keys. The sporadic poking at outlines and characters.
Sitting on the bus, musing about a boy with two sisters.
It’s similar to the museum, where visitors look at a saddle or a tin lantern or a dress and ask, “How long does that take?” I mean, I get it. It’s an easy hook in. A yardstick. It’s a way to quantify something overwhelming, and to relate it to one’s own experiences.
But the honest (if frustrating answer) is, “As long as it needs.”
How very true, for all our arts.
Also, while we are here: CANTICLE and SIX STORIES updates!
SIX STORIES has begun rehearsals and now we’re sourcing props, costumes, and set. The landing outside my apartment has become an impromptu theatre storage space.
CANTICLE’s fundraiser was a delightful evening! Great talent, great people, great fun! Tickets are available to purchase here! (We run May 30th – June 2nd.) Next stop: the Box Theatre!
What I’m Listening To This Week
You know I keep it honest here. When things get particularly stressful, I bust out the Anglican chants. The repetitious tunes help calm the squirrel-brain—it’s my comfort music!
Whoa! Here we are, back on the blog! It’s not Monday—what gives?
Our GoFundMe campaign for Six Stories, Told at Night wrapped at midnight, and a Facebook post wasn’t going to cut it!
When last we saw our plucky co-producers, they had tweaked the campaign after blowing past the initial goal on the first day.
“Well, we were going to offer a vlog,” quoth I. “And I can write a seventh story; I’ve got some ideas. And…oh man, okay. What about…Coxwood Season Two?”
“Are you sure?”
“We’ll set a ridiculous target,” I said, all confidence. “We’ll never make it.”
And so the campaign trucked along. It was wonderful! Blythe and I spent a very pleasant week feeling warm fuzzies, writing limericks, and recording messages for donors (if anyone out there is Fringing It Up, drop me a line when you’ve decided what you’d like Blythe to record for you!).
We closed Monday at $730. “Cool, cool,” I said, “we’ll see how far we can get by Wednesday night.”
Tuesday passed. We had enough to cover the admin/festival expenses, plus a chunk of production.
“What if you make it to $1500?” a friend asked.
“We won’t,” I replied.
“I think we’ll hit $1000,” I said, coming home on the subway. “I’ve got a good feeling.”.
On arriving home, I made our final “ZOMG last few hours!!!” post. Then I sat back, ready to relax into a job well done. The box office would probably still take a hit, but not a huge one. If we were careful, we could probably manage pretty good shares when it came time to divvy up the takings…
Incredibly, you guys carried us to our ultimate goal.
We got very excited:
And then the lurking migraine I’d been fighting burst forth, I threw up, and we called it a night.
But now it is morning! So—we made our ultimate stretch goal. What does this mean?
For SIX STORIES:
We can have a kickass show. There are festival/administrative expenses associated with the Fringe. Those are covered. Set, design elements, costumes, signage, programs, handbills/buttons…all that just got so much easier. We’re entering Fringe from a strong position. A lot more is within our grasp!
And of course, compensating our cast and crew is a massive priority. This is why this campaign has meant so much to us—we wanted to give as much box office to them as possible. From the entire “Six Stories” team, THANK YOU.
You’ve unlocked everything, you wonderful people!
ROAD TO THE FRINGE PODCAST!
Once this blog posts, I’m pulling out the calendar to figure out a release schedule. Get ready for interviews, chatter, shenanigans, and rehearsal snippets!
Can’t make it to Toronto? We’ve got you covered! Meet our fab cast and crew, see bits of rehearsals and design elements, and make the leap with us from pure audio to live theatre!
I’ve been noodling some ideas. I definitely know the direction I want to go in. And oh…oh, I think it’ll be so cool. For this, I’ve got to consult with the team a little. I’ll keep you all posted.
COXWOOD SEASON TWO!
I’m gonna admit, I didn’t expect to make it to the ultimate goal. But we did! So—back to Coxwood for a second mini-season! I’m not entirely sure how many episodes it will be, but I’ll be taking a look at this after Fringe finishes in mid-July.
If we can release it by the end of 2018, amazing! As always, I’ll keep you posted.
Thank you, everyone. Seriously, from both of us—thank you, thank you, thank you. We are stunned that you believe in our show like this. We’ve spent the last fortnight feeling incredibly humbled and loved.
And now the work and fun begins! Our first production meeting and rehearsal is Friday. We can’t wait to get started!
KT and Blythe
What I’m Listening To Today
Sorry, friends. I’ve got very little wit or wisdom to offer this week. Between the horrific van attack in Toronto, returning to the dayjob, and a swamp of work, it’s been a bit of a blur.
I did get out to the McMichael Gallery of Canadian Art, which is a wonderful place I visit far too infrequently. It was an absolutely lovely day—the kind that keeps you going through the slog.
Since we’re here, I’ll take this opportunity to remind the Internet that the “Six Stories, Told at Night” GoFundMe continues until Wednesday—and it’s been an incredibly humbling experience. We have well surpassed our initial goal and we both want to thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Let’s see how far we can get by Wednesday night. (Our Faerie Queen needs her crown, after all!)
And with that, I’m off to the ravines for some much-needed time with my trees.
What I’m Listening To This Week:
I found this totally by accident, but it makes me think SO MUCH of A Canticle of Light. More importantly, it pulls me back into that family. I’m not sure that I’m completely done with those characters yet…
When it rains, it pours! More SIX STORIES updates for all of you!
First, we needed to take promotional photos for the play. These are the images we send to the Toronto Fringe for use in the programme and website.
Y’all remember the podcast image?
We thought it would be cool to recreate it as much as possible…in real life! And so I spent a very pleasant evening tromping through Toronto’s least-sketchy ravine, looking for a suitable tree.
Although I heard my own podcast running through my head, over and over:
At the ravine’s edge, I hesitated. There could be druggies in there. Gangs. Guys like Peter.
Witches, fairies, wolves.
–Six Stories, Told at Night: “Le Chien d’Or”
Hence choosing the least-sketchy ravine. I found a very nice tree. Though it’s hard to tell without leaves, I’m fairly sure it was an oak cultivar. This is what it looked like on my scouting expedition:
And this is what the ravine looked like, post-April ice storm:
Snow by itself wouldn’t have been awful. This is Canadian theatre, after all; some snow is probably appropriate. The problem is that we’d already decided that Blythe would be shooting in a sundress—though the season is never specified in the play itself, the Toronto Fringe is in July.
She was a trouper. Armed with a portable light from our awesome pals at Missed Metaphor Productions, our intrepid photographer, and a thermos of tea, we set to work.
Table-reads aside, it’s the first chance I’ve had to see Sam come to life. And pals—it’s so flipping cool. This is my favourite part of playwriting: this moment when someone who’s only lived in your head is suddenly standing before you. While I mainly write prose, theatre gives me too great a high to shake completely.
Also—like, we were in the woods, at night, in a distinctly faerie-esque atmosphere as the April snows drifted down. “This is what Sam did,” I thought. “This is the story.” The fabric between our world and SIX STORIES’ felt a tiny bit thin at that moment.
We got the shots we needed, we went out for drinks, and there was much rejoicing.
THEN we launched a GoFundMe for the show. We’re on a shoestring budget for this show: Fringe works on a profit-share basis. Expenses come out of the box office, and the remainder gets split amongst the company.
“We don’t need much,” Blythe and I told each other. “Just to offset some props and stuff.”
We blew past our goal within 12 hours.
Which, hey, lesson learned. We didn’t think big enough the first time around. So back to the drawing board we went.
“I mean…well, we’re gonna need to get programmes printed.”
“Yeah. And it’d be nice if we could…you know…not worry so much about the set, props, and costumes.”
“Don’t forget the administrative fees…”
Currently, we’ve got a number of stretch goals and reward tiers (yes, yes, if we make the Ultimate Uber Stretch Goal, I’ll write another season of Coxwood History Fun Park). And we’re completely humbled by the response thus far. Seriously, our most sincere thank you to everyone who’s shared, liked, commented, supported…we literally couldn’t do this without you.
We want to make you proud. We want to produce the best show possible. We’re so very thankful for your belief in us.
The GoFundMe will close on May 2nd. Then…well, I guess we’ll see if we return to Coxwood. We seem to be well on our way! You can find the campaign (and donate, if you’re so inclined) here!
It’s been a lot of emotions and long nights, pals. But we are so very happy.
What I’m Listening To This Week
Ahh, Ēriks Ešenvalds, you awesome contemporary choral composer. “Only In Sleep” is neat because it kinda sounds like a traditional folk song, but it’s got choral chords and harmonies up the wazoo.
Also, super poignant lyrics. But from Sara Teasdale, I expect nothing less. 😉
Today I thought I would give you all some updates on my two plays!
The gang is assembled! We have our full cast and production team. They are all delightful, talented people, and we can’t wait to work with them.
We have a venue! The show’s going up at the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. We couldn’t be happier!
We have a fundraiser! Starting on Wednesday, we’ll be running a crowdfunding campaign. The demands of stage theatre are very different than audio drama. We want to bring you the best production possible, so we’ll be reaching out for help.
Plus, Blythe and I have cooked up some awesome rewards to unlock along the way. If you can’t make it to Toronto for the Fringe Festival, this is a great way to stay involved with the show. We can’t wait—if we make our goal, we’ll be firing up the mics once again for a companion podcast. We’re definitely itching to get back on pod!
The Toronto Fringe Festival runs July 4th-15th, 2018. We should be getting the specific schedule for SIX STORIES later this month. We’ll announce it as soon as we can!
A Canticle of Light
Switching gears, this play is being produced by Missed Metaphor Productions. They are also delightfully talented people, and I can’t wait to see how they bring this Southern Ontario Gothic drama to life.
CANTICLE also has its cast! You can learn more about them here!
This play’s going up at the Box Theatre, May 30th-June 2nd. If you’re in Toronto, there is a fundraising event planned for May—more details forthcoming soon!
Life is very, very busy, but I’m also very happy. Both these plays have special places in my heart. As hectic as things are, I’m thrilled they can take their journeys together.
What I’m Listening To This Week
As a composer, Dan Forrest has such a lovely flow. He’s got some stylistic similarities to Ola Gjeilo; probably no surprise I like them both. In this piece, I love the swooping, circling theme that repeats the plea, “Entreat me not to leave you.”
I finished the initial read-through of the Beer Magic novel this week. At this stage, that’s just a simple read for overall content; I need to get a sense of the novel in its entirety before I can pinpoint its weaknesses. Mostly, I flagged plot snags and weak patches as I went:
And I noted things to explore in more depth later:
But when I finished the read-through, I still wasn’t sure what the key to the novel was. I hadn’t found it—the truth that will steer the novel to its final form. I didn’t know what the novel’s thing was.
See, my long-form fiction pieces all have things associated with them. Hapax is a line of falling dominoes. Heartstealer is a lobster trap. Six Stories, Told at Night is a Ferris wheel. Do these images ever explicitly appear in any of those works?
No. That imagery isn’t for the reader. It’s for me. It’s how I hold the entire story in my head, and how I figure out the structure. If I know what the novel is—I know its DNA. The entire story unlocks itself.
I’ve got a novel in the trunk that never found its shape. It shows: that novel has a deep structural flaw, it kind of meanders about, and while I still love it (as you do), it never cohesively hung together.
So what’s Beer Magic?
After thinking it over, I realized a common element between my other novel’s “objects.” Falling dominoes, lobster trap, Ferris wheel—they’re all active objects. None of them just sit there. None of my novels are stones, or couches, or spoons. They all have a goal attached to them—they do things.
And they act upon the reader. They represent how I want to move the reader through the novel. The object is the end goal, an invisible structural principle that underlies the entire story.
The Beer Magic’s object was on the tip of my tongue last night, but I had to sleep. Lying in the dark, I kept thinking, and thinking, and then…
You know those funnel-shaped black hole demonstrations? Like the one at the Ontario Science Centre? You launch marbles into the machine and they spin around and around, always inevitably drawn to a centre point?
I liked it. I latched onto it. But when I woke up this morning, I thought of something else:
The labyrinth at Chartres cathedral.
Walking the labyrinth is a spiritual exercise. Symbolically, it combines a circle’s wholeness with the inexorable forward momentum of a spiral. Once you enter the labyrinth, you’re drawn inevitably towards its centre, even when the path seems to verge further away from it. The Chartres labyrinth is also a fine example of spiritual geometry: it’s built along a cruciform shape, with four quadrants, and an invisible 13-pointed star underpinning the entire structure.
I also love this note from another labyrinth: The centre of the circle is geometrically the point of perfect balance, also called the “still point.”
The black hole machine and the labyrinth have a commonality, of course: that inescapable pull to a central point.
I’m really excited for these revisions now.
What I’m Listening To This Week
I love folk songs and drinking tunes. They touch the same nerve that fairy tales do—and they’re often stories themselves, set to music.
Okay, okay, I’ve known that having electronics on the nightstand is bad for me. Plenty of studies agree: blue light messes with your circadian rhythm, it’s bad for your eyes, and the temptation to check one more email stimulates the brain when it’s trying to wind down.
“But I can use the night-time setting and get rid of the blue light.”
Great. It’s still distracting.
“But I like to read before bed.”
Since people somehow read at night before the advent of tablets, I got a bed-side lamp.
“But my tablet is also my alarm.”
That stymied me for a while. Guinness makes sure I don’t sleep too late, but he usually gets hungry around 8:30, and I often need to wake earlier than that.
And so I would read with the book-lamp, but the tablet was still right there on my nightstand. Ostensibly it was pulling alarm duty only, but really, it was watching. Waiting. Biding its time. And you know what? It didn’t feel good. I didn’t like that it was so tempting. I didn’t like the gritty tiredness in my eyes.
“You know,” quoth I, “there is a device specifically designed to wake people at pre-determined times…”
And so I got an alarm clock.
On one hand, it’s much less efficient. My tablet combined many functions: alarm, book-light, the book itself. But that intense streamlining isn’t always for the best. Part of me resists coming overly-reliant on any one thing (to be honest, this is why I’ve skipped the “Sign in with Facebook!” option as much as I can—and I’m really happy about that now). But also—
I felt like I was always looking at glass. Tapping at glass. Our world is becoming one of flat surfaces and sharp lights. In some ways, we’ve never been more connected, but in others, there is always a barrier between us and the world. “I feel like I’m watching the action through glass,” is a comment I often give when I’m editing manuscripts—lately, it feels like I can apply that comment to increasingly large swathes of my life.
There’s a certain joy in some inefficiencies. They force you to slow down. And in that slowing, you’re forced to experience things more deeply, more fully. With my tablet safely in the kitchen, I can’t Wikipedia my midnight musings. In the depths of the night, I have to visit with my own thoughts. I have to sit with myself. It’s important that we’re able to do that, to inhabit that still quiet space inside.
Of course, as a writer, I’m stuck with screens to a certain extent. Screens are how I’m talking to you right now. I need screens to practice my art (I could write by hand, I suppose, but my handwriting is so torturous and slow that it tips from benign inefficiency to pointless frustration). But for me, that’s all the more reason to find alternates in other parts of my life.
After all, glass is beautiful. But it’s also very cold and hard. I’m ready for a little softness and gentleness. I think my eyes will appreciate it, too.
PS. Totally burying the lede here, but I’ve announced it quite enthusiastically elsewhere on social media: I’ve sold a story to Lightspeed Magazine! “Ti-Jean’s Last Adventure, as Told to Raccoon” is an odd little piece and I’m thrilled that it found its home. Plus Lightspeed is one of my dream markets, so I’ve been glowing all week. 🙂
What I’m Listening To This Week
I haven’t thought about “Into the Woods” for years, but the finale popped through my head this week. (One of the few things that infuriated me about the film was that they cut this piece, thereby undercutting the entire theme, but that’s another rant.)
“There are always wolves, there are always spells, there are always beans, or a giant dwells there…so into the woods we go again! You have to every now and then!”
A good point, in general.
Heavy weekend, my friends. Between the astonishing images from the March For Our Lives, the shattering speech from Emma Gonzalez (if you haven’t seen it, please do), and loss striking several friends, words are a little hard to find right now.
But it’s been a weekend for perspective.
I’ve been so worried. Deadlines and submissions, work and striving. But in the end—well, those things seem small compared to everything else. If nothing else, this is a good reminder to come up for air and actually look around at life—to remember who we are, what we cherish, and what kind of life we want for ourselves.
This isn’t to say, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” mind you. Sometimes, the small stuff is the most important. Having a picnic brunch on the choir room floor is small stuff, but honestly, the fellowship and love fed my soul more than anything else this weekend.
It’s the unimportant stuff that gets in the way. The chatter, the noise, the pettiness that creeps like invasive vines through our lives. And it’s hard, because those things often feel very important. The trick is to find the signal in all the static, and lock onto it with everything you’ve got.
When the chips are down, when the clock’s running out—what matters most to you?
Go that way. We’ll walk together.
What I’ve Been Listening To This Week
A story title got Gibbons’ “O Clap Your Hands” stuck in my head. It’s like clockwork: wind it up and watch it spring forth to its natural end: