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Bookstore Magic

I ran into an old friend yesterday:

There’s been a street festival running all weekend. And it’s a true neighbourhood street festival: the kind where Italian grandmas pull passerby into their dancing and magicians pull quarters from kids’ ears. The secondhand bookstore had its one-dollar boxes out – and there, staring at me, was Old Bear.

I stopped dead. The plot eluded me (as it turns out, the toys rescue Old Bear from his attic seclusion), but the characters popped up, vivid as they were in childhood.

Old Bear. Little Bear. Bramwell Brown. Rabbit. Duck.

I hesitated for the briefest moment – and then I bought it. You see, I have a belief about secondhand bookstores. They help the right books find you at the right time. You can’t always force it. And when they’re sending you a message, it’s best not to ignore it.

So now I’m reunited with a book I haven’t seen in at least twenty years. Partly, I just wanted it in my life again. And partly, I’m storing it for some future child – maybe my own, maybe a niece or nephew, maybe a friend’s child. “Look,” the instinct runs. “Look, this book held magic for me – maybe it will for you, too.”

Some magic is a private thing. Some magic yearns to be shared. Childhood books definitely belong in the latter camp, at least for me.

I got another book as well. This one wasn’t in the festival bins. It was inside, along the wall of fantastika. My heart leaped to see it. (This bookstore generally has a thorough collection of Andrée Norton, Robert Silverberg, A.E. van Vogt, and others of that vintage, but slightly less fantasy.)

Nineteenth century British fantasy:

Same message, same instinct. The right book at the right time, the perfect counterweight to my ongoing Southern Ontario Gothic ponderings.

Except it wasn’t a loonie. It was $25. Which – there’s a few upcoming books I want sooner than the library can get them. Trail of Lightning, European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman, A Cathedral of Myth and Bone

So I put it back on the shelf, looked at the Tolkien editions beside it, and then circled around again. But it’s best not to ignore a bookstore’s message. At last, I took a deep breath and approached the counter.

“Great stuff in here,” the bookseller said.

“Yeah, for sure. It’s got Goblin Market.

“It’s twenty-five dollars…” He hesitated. “Actually, today, it’s eighteen.”

Some magic yearns to be shared. Stepping back into the sunlight and the festival, I felt lighter. Sometimes, it is important to remember that such magic exists. And our instinct to spread it gives hope indeed.

KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

Still digging the Holst and Vaughan Williams. This week it’s been “I Love My Love,” which has a very catchy melody and chilling lyrics. It’s one of those folk songs that’s a story set to music. The treble echoes around 1:30 and 3:30 are particularly haunting.

“How Long Did That Take?”

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.

Our three siblings! Rose, Paul, and Cathy Langley, played by Blythe Haynes, Peter Mundell, and Meghan de Chastelain.

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!

-KT

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!

Shaping Stories

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.

Labyrinth of the Chartres Cathedral in France (Sylvain Sonnet/Corbis, via http://www.smithsonianmag.com)

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.

-KT

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.

 

 

Tapping on Glass

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.

The “book” at top left opens into a lamp!

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.

-KT

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.

 

Some Perspective 

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.

KT

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:

 

Catching Comets: Ursula K. Le Guin

I was getting ready to go out when the news of Ursula K. Le Guin’s passing broke across my Twitter. An odd little noise slipped my mouth—somewhere between an “Oh!” and a gasp. Then I burst into tears.

I rarely cry at public figures’ deaths. (The Queen is an exception—I guarantee you, I will cry when the Queen goes to her rest.) But Ursula K. Le Guin is different. She isn’t just a “public figure,” or even just “an American novelist.” She was one of the greats: a lodestar around which to orient.

Over the past week, many people have written many touching tributes. I can really only flail and sputter, “But—but—but—Le Guin!” But I’d like to point out something interesting about this whole writing thing.

You can apprentice with any damn writer you like. Putting your words—your brain-stuff—into print creates a certain kind of immortality. And if you’ve got an author’s words, you can learn from them. In an odd, beautiful way, we can dialogue with the dead.

“Gossip,” by George Agnew Reid (1888). (www.ago.net)

This is what people mean when they ask, “So who are your influences?” Who shaped you, who spoke to you, who made your heart sing, who taught you?

Who are you arguing with?

Who are you writing back to?

Who do you secretly (or not-so-secretly) want to impress? To connect with?

Over time, I think, we build an inner gallery of teachers. Sometimes, we’ve actually worked with them (I have internalized several Stonecoast mentors’ voices—hi, Jim!).

But sometimes, we’ve come to know them through their words alone. I never met Le Guin. In the back of my head, I maybe hoped we’d one time stand in the same room, but it seemed kind of like hoping to catch a comet.

So I read her fiction and loved her fiction. It made me look at things differently and re-evaluate not only my writing, but my life, my baseline assumptions about the world’s workings. Like all good teachers, she challenged and prodded and pushed me further than I thought we’d go.

But beyond her fiction—it was this particular book.

The Language of the Night is a collection of essays about science fiction and fantasy, theory and craft. It is one of my personal Foundation Texts, underpinning the way I understand fantasy.

Consider this:

Now, the kind of writing I am attacking, the Poughkeepsie style of fantasy…is a fake plainness. It is not really simple, but flat. It is not really clear, but inexact. Its directness is specious. Its sensory cues—extremely important in imaginative writing—are vague and generalized; the rocks, the wind, the trees are not there; are not felt; the scenery is cardboard, or plastic. The tone as a whole is profoundly inappropriate to the subject. (Le Guin, “From Elfland to Poughkeepsie.”)

Or this:

When the genuine myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life. (Le Guin, “Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction.”)

Or this:

For fantasy is true, of course. It isn’t factual, but it is true. Children know that. Adults know it too, and that is precisely why many of them are afraid of fantasy. They know that its truth challenges, even threatens, all that is false, all that is phony, unnecessary, and trivial in the life that they have let themselves be forced into living. They are afraid of dragons, because they are afraid of freedom. (Le Guin, “Why Are Americans Afraid Of Dragons?”)

You see it, right? In her essays, she’s doing precisely the same thing she did in her fiction. She is challenging us. She is pushing us past the solar system’s last orbit, into the vast wealth of interstellar space beyond; from the shallows to the open sea; to what feels comfortable to what is Truth.

She did that not just for us writers individually, but for the genre as a whole. She lifted speculative fiction to what it could and must be; the thing we were too timid to dream until she showed us how.

So now we’ve lost our lodestar. But we have her map, in the form of her words. There’s only one thing to do, really. Keep going. That’s what any teacher wants, in the end: for their students to drift free and explore past the edges of the map.

Thank you, Ursula K. Le Guin. You will always be our teacher.

-KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

I love Vivaldi, and I’m absolutely fascinated with this piece. The title’s a total spoiler, but I was researching female tenor/basses for reasons, and I can’t stop listening!

 

 

 

Under the Shadow

So, I had a post all written about the existential anxiety caused by the threat of nuclear war.

But then, this tweet…
Image result for trump locked and loaded

…became only the second-worst thing to happen last week. 

There have been so many words of fury and mourning spoken about the events in Charlottesville, but I’ll add mine anyway. Through Saturday, I alternated between cold anger and heartbrokenness. 

Three people are dead. That it happened in Virginia heightened my emotions – if I have adopted any state, it’s Virginia – but really, it would’ve been equally reprehensible in any state.

This is 2017. We should not be tolerating Nazis. We should not be apologists for them. We should not even see them. The world fought a war about that very fact. It was this whole entire thing.

And my anger spins into froth because – have they learned nothing? Do they have no awareness? How does one read the diary of Anne Frank – look at the photos of mountains upon mountains of shoes – listen to survivors’ interviews and testimony – visit concentration camps – and not see that this is evil? How does one see that evil and embrace it anyway? 

There are no two sides to this. There is the side of evil and that of right. Right is not always polite. It is not always tender or gentle. Sometimes it is loud and uncomfortable, because right is brave, always. 

A vague cop-out about “all sides” is cowardice that makes my stomach turn. 

“We want to preserve what we have,” says neo-Nazi Peter Cjvetanovic. And yes, unwittingly, he laid it all out. They want to preserve a system which favours them and them alone. They want to maintain their privilege and overpowering voice. They want to stay at the top, even if they must crush everyone else to do it. 

Based on the widespread condemnation, I hope – desperately – that we are seeing the spasmodic death throes of a way of life that is passing. The dinosaurs must have raged too, when they saw the night falling. 

The events of this weekend are indeed America. They could be Canada, too. They are the result of decades of ossified racism, misogyny, and inequality. But this is not who we must be. We know who we want to be – let us work harder than ever to get there. 

“In spite of everything,” Anne Frank wrote, “I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

I believe that too. Now let us prove it.

And let us not fall into nuclear war, either. 

-KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

A long one this week: I’ve just been running Machaut’s Messe de Nostre Dame while I work. It’s a 14th century polyphonic mass, and it is gorgeous. The way the parts fit together is so different from my usual Renaissance polyphony—and I love the ornamental quavers so very, very much.

 

We Need to Listen: Guilt and Responsibility in Canada

This is a difficult post to write. It’s painful and awkward, and potentially upsetting. Which is also why it’s important.

This year is “Canada’s 150th birthday.” It’s the sesquicentennial of “our nation’s birth.” Break out the beavertails, deck yourself with maple leaves, and bask politely in our universal health care and handsome prime minister, eh?

Okay, so.

This is complicated.

I’m going to start with the simplest quibbles first and work my way up. On a purely historic, pedantic note, “Canada” was an entity long before 1867. Europeans have been calling it that since the 1530s. Indigenous populations were here millennia before that. This is the 150th anniversary of the British North America Act taking effect, that’s all.

That’s just me being persnickety. Let’s move on to the hard stuff.

We have a reputation, we Canadians. We’re polite. We apologize a lot. We’re tolerant, diverse; we value multiculturalism.

Look, there’s no easy way to say this: we treat Indigenous peoples appallingly, and we have for well over 150 years.

I’m not even sure where to start. With residential schools? With broken treaties? With erasure from the historical narrative? The effing garbage-fire of that “Appropriation Award” controversy? Repeated drinking-water crises on Canadian reserves? Epidemics of suicides? The 1,181 indigenous women murdered and missing between 1980 and 2012? The fact that those are only the documented cases?

It’s horrific.

And it’s not just in the past. It’s not just something that happened in 1867, or 1787, or 1653, or 1535. We’re not done. It isn’t over because it’s 2017: the same history plays out again, and again, and again. How could we be over it, when our country rests on the foundation of such a colonial legacy?

Add another layer of complexity: generally speaking, I’m happy to be Canadian. It’s in every bio I write. “KT Bryski is a Canadian author and playwright…” There are many things that Canada does well. We’ve a lot to be proud of.

But.

But we’re also this:

And this:

And hey, while we’re at it, we’re also this:

And this:

And this.

And yet, we are also these things:

 

 

 

And I don’t know. I don’t have answers. I don’t have suggestions. All I have is a thorny mass of conflicted feelings that I’ve been trying to sort through for over a year.

But perhaps there are two things to consider:

Canada tells itself that we are pluralistic. Our ideal nation-self is one which contains multitudes.

Then perhaps – does “all of the above” get closer to an answer? Can multiple Canadas coexist simultaneously? Can I have strong ties and affection for my country, whilst also being ashamed of its cruelties and failures?

Because Canada does have things of immense beauty and kindness. It also has many things which are horrific beyond words. There is light – I do believe that – but we’ve clung to our “sunny ways” for so long, we have failed to acknowledge and remedy our darkness.

And to even begin to do that, we need to do the very thing that, historically, we suck at.

We need to listen.

Listen here:

And here:

And here:

Here.

Here. Here. Here.

Here.

Listen. Own it. Listen some more. Repeat.

Happy Canada Day.

-KT

What I’m Listening to this Week

A remixed English folk ballad, because reasons. Here’s “The Three Ravens,” which kind of forgets about the ravens halfway through and becomes an allegory instead. You know, as a lot of old English poetry does.

But there’s some beautiful harmonies that remind me vaguely of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. I’m slowly starting to ponder a novel – and I suspect I’ll be listening to this song much more in the coming months.

 

Under Pressure

Okay, pals, let’s have some real talk. I wasn’t going to post this, but I think I need to get it out, and I can’t think of a better forum.

So.

This hermitage.

I doubt it caused any ripples, but I have been spending the last two weeks sitting quietly by myself. Basically, I got overwhelmed, and my response to being overwhelmed is to withdraw and shut up. The root wasn’t deadlines or workloads or anything. It was this immense pressure that I put on myself:

WRITE ALL THE THINGS. APPLY FOR ALL THE THINGS. LAUNCH ALL THE THINGS.

For obvious reasons (chiefly, I’m not a perpetual motion machine), I couldn’t.

And then I felt awful.

And then I went away to sit by myself.

 

I love this painting, but I’ve searched high and low and cannot find the artist’s name. If you know it, please send it my way so I can link properly!

 
Honestly, the worst part has been feeling like I’ve been letting people down. My creative partner. My mentors. My friends. I’ve joked that my creative ventures are predicated on making certain people proud…but deep down, it’s not really a joke, is it?

Rationally, I know—I know—the need for external validation is deadly. The drive has to come from inside. At the end of the day, the internal engine is the only one upon which you can rely.

But it’s hard. Giving this some good, solid thought, I don’t have a problem with motivation. I’ll write ‘til the cows come home, because that’s all I know how to do.

But the fear of disappointing people is my Achilles’ heel. Not living up to potential.  Being a flash in the pan. “That’s nice, but what have you done lately?” is both my inspiration and my nightmare.

Yes, I know. This is an insane amount of pressure to put on one’s self.

So.

What does one do?

I’ve been trying to ease the pressure by reminding myself that this isn’t a race. If I keep working, then when it’s time, things will happen in their course.

That’s the most important thing, I think. To keep working. To set aside the expectation and the pressure and the fear of disappointment and just keep going.

Liz Hand’s advice: always applicable.

In many ways, to keep working is an act of faith. With no idea where the road goes, we set off.

I’m slowly venturing back into the world. And rest assured—I’m still working.

-KT

What I’m Listening To This Week

One night this past week, I had beer and watched Moulin Rouge! and it was just what I needed. This song has been stuck in my head since.

Writer/Author/Artist

Last week, I had a dream—one of those dreams that makes you wonder if sometimes we really don’t just leave our bodies for a bit and go walking on another plane.

file0001416624972

In the dream, I was in a train station. It’s one I’ve visited in dreams before: the station a little way out of town, but still pretty close to the big junction. (My dream-geographies are remarkably consistent.) A writer whom I deeply respect and admire was hanging out too, waiting for the train. After some chit-chat, I said:

“Everyone else taught me how to write. You taught me how to be an artist.”

All the next day, the dream stayed with me, seeping into the sunlight as only certain dreams do.

Everyone else taught me how to write. You taught me how to be an artist.

Every so often, the sleeping brain figures things out. Craft and art: slightly different aspects of the creative self, aren’t they? Here then, is my theory. Just like we all have public, private, and innermost selves, I think that writer types are three selves as well: writer, author, and artist.

Writer

To my mind, the writer is the craftsperson. The Writer-Me is the one who managed to get Hapax published—clean, solid, functional prose and a well-crafted story. She’s the one who beat her head against POV for months until it finally clicked. She’s the one whose voice broke—from clean, solid, functional prose to a distinctive sharpness and lyricism.

Stonecoast1

The Writer-Self dissects other people’s books like kids taking apart radios to see how they work. She delights in seeing exactly how a plot twist or character arc was constructed. She tries to articulate why some stories just don’t do it for her.

She’s writing presently—she preferred writing presently to writing right now, because of the homophone in the line—but she’s sharing the job with someone else.

Author

I draw a distinction between writer and author. If you like, you can picture a parallel between author/writer and public/private.

So the Author-Self handles the social media, and she’s the one who does readings and sits on panels. She’s aware of how she presents: she’s the most outgoing version of myself, and she tries very hard to be gracious and polite, even when she’s exhausted, because that’s just good manners.

Photo de Katie Bryski.

Yep…there she is.

But more than that—it’s the Author-Self who does the business side. She maintains the submissions spreadsheet: which stories are with which markets, when they were sent, and their current status. She reads contracts and records earnings. She’s the one who learned to podcast, and create e-book files, and edit video, and lead workshops, and customize a blog, because those are all important authorial skills.

But there’s one more…

Artist

"Proserpine," Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1882.

“Proserpine,” Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1882.

The hardest one to get a handle on. The Artist is the one who makes stories sing. She’s the one that gives warmth and life to the skeleton so carefully wrought by the Writer. She’s the one who has to create, needs to create. She’s very probably the one who had the dream in the train station.

But the Artist isn’t just a self, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of seeing and breathing and being. And so the Artist is the one who wanders galleries and gets drunk on light and colour. Certain pieces of music make her cry, or gasp, or conceive a creepy, creepy play.

It’s the Artist who pays attention to the small things: apple blossoms and held-back tears. It’s the Artist who rises to the big things: love, and injustices, and fear. She looks to the Other and tries to understand.

She believes in fairy tales.

She wants to make her own.

But the thing is…

They’re not wholly separate, these aspects of ourselves that make up a creative self. They’re interdependent; they need each other. So I guess, as with so many things, it comes down to balance: the harmony of many parts moving as one.

Because really, they are one.

Now rock on with your bad selves! 😉

-KT

What I’m Listening to This Week

 A cheerful little madrigal by John Bennett. Actually, it’s not cheerful at all; it’s about wanting to cry so much you drown in your own tears. As one does, I suppose.

But it is very beautiful; there are some wonderful chords in there, particularly around the “springtides” section. I also love when the upper and lower voices start dialoguing with each other, before returning to a four-way conversation.