Winding Down After When Words Collide 2016

I left the Delta South Hotel approximately 24 hours ago, my exit heralding the end of When Words Collide 2016 for me. Overall, it was a great festival. I was really impressed by the panels I attended and I learned a lot –there’s so much knowledge I can’t wait to start implementing in my writing and on my respective blogs.

In reference to my last post about WWC, concerning all the prep work I had envisioned, certain aspects of my attendance were a failure. To be brutally honest, I set myself up for failure from the get-go.

I’m talking about networking here. Deciding that I could do a complete 360˚ personality turn and dive head first into networking with less than 4 weeks to prepare is up there on the list of Dumbest Ideas Ever. Worst though, is the fact that I didn’t actually end up making time to prepare in that small space of time, so I turned myself into a sleep deprived head case for the festival.

I psyched myself out, got barely any sleep in the weeks (and especially the couple of days) leading up to WWC, and couldn’t do anything that I wanted to do. Have you any idea how hard it is to be outgoing, friendly, and cognisant on no sleep? Usually I’m ok with very little sleep, but I was EXHAUSTED when I arrived at the conference on Friday. I was barely functional, and it just got worse from the moment of my arrival on.

I designed new business cards…whoopty doo, when I couldn’t even strike up the energy to place myself in situations where the exchange of said cards would be appropriate.

I went in with the semblance of a game plan…whoopty doo when I went and hovered by Kate’s merchant spot any time I didn’t have a panel.

I went in with the mental mantra that I was going to talk to lots of people…whoopty doo when I was so tired I kept avoiding eye contact because I was petrified of trying to maintain my end of a conversation thread.

Yes, I’m being hard on myself, but I’m so unimpressed right now. At least I can identify where I went wrong.

The weekend was not a total bust. I did manage to meet a couple of new people, and I had lunch with a group on Saturday, and I managed not to make a colossal ass of myself though there were a couple of moments where I really put my foot in my mouth hard. Such is my state of existence though on a regular day.

Sunday was by far my best day of attendance because I had really given up on networking by that point so I was much more relaxed –funny that that’s the day I had more conversations with people. I crack myself up sometimes.

There is a light side to this dark mess I created. I now have business cards I’m not reticent to hand out. I now know that I need to start working on networking right now so that I’m ready come next year (my whole day job point in my last post ignored the fact that at my job people come to me and strike up conversation, not the other way around). I now have a couple of ins I need to figure out how to utilize come next year. And I need to remember to bloody relax.

The front of my new cards.

The front of my new cards.

And the back.

And the back.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You win some, you lose some. I’m glad I’ve walked away from this year’s festival with the knowledge of what does not work for me, and a new plan for aspects of my business that will help me with networking next year. It’s all a matter of starting small and letting that snowball build up on itself without me desperately trying to push it up a hill.

If you attended this year how did your plans go and what did you think of WWC? I also have a post on Anxiety Ink with a few more specifics of my own attendance than I mentioned here.

Prepping for When Words Collide 2016

As I’m sure you know, every year I attend the local (to Calgary) readercon When Words Collide. This will be my fourth year attending and I’m hoping to shake up my experience this time around; with August fast approaching I decided discussing my aspirations here will transform into a plan and help me to get my butt in gear.

In 2013 and 2015 I attended the offered pre-festival workshops featuring Patricia Briggs and Faith Hunter. Those were writing-life altering experiences. This year the master classes didn’t call to me, so I’m simply attending the festival, though that itself is rife with more information than any writer brain can process quickly.

All the writerly wisdom gathering aside, my focus this year is networking. I am a terrible networker. Atrocious really. My social anxiety, coupled with my doing-my-darnedest-to-be-punctual-but-rarely-am stress, and my myriad issues with strangers means that when I’m not inside a presentation or with someone I know, my brain is in defensive mode. Defensive mode is not the best head-space for trying to chat people up.

I was largely on my own last year because Kate, who is my WWC compatriot, had multiple presentations to prep for and attend and a merchant table she helped out with, among other things. I was pretty exhausted, but I did damn alright on my own –I even had lunch with someone I met outside the little café I was eyeballing.

I’m betting this year will be largely the same since Kate has her own merchant spot to handle on top of everything else she likes to tackle. I don’t mind the alone time at all, but I want to do more than mentally bolster myself during that time.

So, with a little under four weeks to prepare (as of the day of me writing this post, 10 days from it going live), I am going to do my best to learn how to network in such a setting!

I feel better armoured since I know in advance that I’m going to be largely on my own, and my day job in customer service has made me a pro at small talk, plus never underestimate the bolstering power of a professional persona. E.V. O’Day is much better in such a setting over the long haul than Elisa is any day.

Wish me luck! And I will absolutely be passing along my results and knowledge!

Oh, and I hope to see you at WWC!

Learning –Should I Take the Plunge?

On the heels of my annual spring slump, which I discussed in my last post, comes my dire need to shake things up and find meaning. Post-slump, I start to get itchy in both my personal and professional lives –I feel like I should be doing more, challenging myself more… Needless to say, a lot of feelings of inadequacy come out of it.

The only answer I really know to all of my problems is learning. However.

I have no desire to get an MFA; I never have. I don’t think having a degree in Fine Arts necessarily makes you a better a writer, unless you’re looking to get into the academic politics of creative writing. I don’t have the patience or the energy for such a world. Maybe that will change, but not in my immediate future.

Neither am I at the point of wanting to go to graduate school for anything in English because I don’t have anything to add to academia at this time. I can be part of the conversation, sure, but I want to start a conversation, not merely participate.

As for going back to school to study anything else, my heart’s not in it. Not to mention I’m still carrying a swack of student debt that I don’t need to add to simply on a whim.

Thus, I’ve been leaning towards more life-applicable courses in a field I never thought I’d have any interest in: business. Even writing that down gives me the heebee jeebees. But I work for a large corporation, and there are parts of it I want to understand better, and I want to have the knowledge and skills to put my feet in other doors because there are days I feel like I could be easily walked past. Plus, being a writer nowadays is akin to owning and running your own business, so any base in that area will be a boon for me.

I love the abstractness and critical thinking that are part and parcel of academia, but those outside of that world don’t have a clue that those are the main skills cultivated, or that those skills are important and widely applicable. Thankfully I am a person who can pick up almost any skill and apply my knowledge in a lot of circumstances; but sometimes people don’t want to take the gamble with me. I’ll admit I feel a bit vulnerable in the real world sometimes.

Then of course, money is an issue. As is time. I know if push comes to shove I am a good saver and a good prioritizer. So, do I take the plunge where learning is concerned? I’m still thinking, but I do have a course in mind and I’ve been looking at my budget.

Getting Through My Spring Slump

Upon reading all the literature out there and watching the people around me, spring truly is the quintessential time for growth and new beginnings.

The days are longer, warmer. People are coming out of their winter hibernations to do all the stuff. There’s energy in the air.

What says spring more than daisies?

What says spring more than daisies?

And here’s about the time I admit that I seriously struggled to get through spring. Every year it’s the same thing: I start to feel heavy and exhausted as April rolls around, and I lose sight and motivation as far as my personal goals go all the way to June.

Every spring, without fail, this happens to me. It used to require my the-end-of-school-is-almost-here-just-keep-going mantra. Now there’s no school, no ending to be celebrated, no break to embrace. Just a continuous path of just-keep-going.

This spring has been particularly bad since I’ve had additional stressors and energy-sucks added on. I’m only now coming out of the fog and I am woefully behind everywhere I look.

I don’t know if it’s the longer hours of sunlight messing with my night owl tendencies

I don’t know if it’s the influx of allergens that make my body require more adjustment time.

I don’t know if it’s the increased activity since winter does tend to make me much more homebound, and hence more productive, whereas spring requires me to get myself out there.

I don’t know if it’s the increase in temperature –this May and June have been the hottest I have ever experienced. If they’re any indication of July and August I may be a puddle by the time September rolls around.

Perhaps it’s a mix of all of those factors and other entities I’ve yet to identify. All I know is that I need better coping strategies because losing three months of discipline and words is much worse now that I have less free time because of work and family.

Setting myself a reminder about my usual slump time as the spring season rolls around might be a good start for next year, but I’ll definitely need to do more to lessen the impact.

If anyone out there has any strategies now is the time to share them!

An Epiphany and A Facepalm

From the day I started blogging on Anxiety Ink to my initial planning for E.V. Writes, I have tried desperately to pinpoint the theme that connects all my stories together. Well, a “marketable” theme that I could put in a single line.

Early on, when I thought of going the indie publishing route, not that that is off the table by any means, a lot of veterans noted that it was important to have a specific theme or a brand. An author brand is essentially the themes and messages that connect all of one’s work, which determines what a writer wants to be known for. A brand sets you apart and helps you could connect to your readers right from the get go.

I’ve posited a lot of ideas to myself that lacked specificity and direction. I can’t even share my poor examples because they are atrocious grasps at flimsy straws.

Needless to say, I was overcome with anxiety because my current body of work is small and I could not for the life of me determine how all of the pieces I have created connect to one another. Saying I write about women who are independent and strong-willed does not exactly set me apart.

My epiphany isn’t as bright as it could be, by which I mean my theme still lacks a certain directness that I need to determine by writing more stories but I finally feel like I’m on the right track, the end of which I cannot wait to get to!

What I write are survival stories. No, I don’t write tales of outdoor adventures about humanity versus nature. Survival doesn’t have to as extreme as all that. I write about the different ways people survive through the struggle of life. Everyone suffers trials and documenting how people get through some of the worst things and come out the other side still roaring to live is what I do. Survival under all its definitions and nuances is what I document.

And now that I’ve written that down, I realize that’s EVERY. SINGLE. STORY. OUT. THERE.

Damn.

Alright. Back to the drawing board. Again. It sounded good at midnight…

Double damn.

untitled by Julia via Flickr. Looks like a classical facepalm to me.

untitled by Julia via Flickr. Looks like a classical facepalm to me.

The Contention of Women Writers and Initials

The relationship of female writers and the use of initials is not a topic that is new to me. I’ve tackled it before on Anxiety Ink. Please note the comments nearest the end are the really important parts.

I myself am a female writer who writes under initials. I have a couple of reasons as to why I prefer to do so, mainly the world’s inability to pronounce or remember by first name –at least I thought this was my main, valid reason until I read this passage in Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead:

“I used my initials instead of a first name – I didn’t want any-one important to know I was a girl. Anyway, in high school we’d studied an essay by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch which said that the ‘masculine’ style was bold, strong, vivid, and so forth, and the ‘feminine’ one was pastel, vapid, and simpy. Writers are fond of saying that writers are androgynous as to their capabilities, and that is no doubt true, though it is telling that most of those who make this claim are women. But they are not gender-neutral in their interests. Most importantly, they are treated differently, especially by reviewers, however that difference in treat-ment may manifest itself; and sooner or later that will affect them” (Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead. Anchor Canada Edition. 2003. 21).

Having read this, and reacted like I was dealt a blow, I think my rationale for writing under initials has much more to do with feminine baggage than my own neuroses over my name. Those are my emphases in the passage by the way. I have never read a woman whose writing I would consider simpy, by the way. Weak prose are a matter for editing, not a fact of nature for women writers.

Anyway, before you set this quote aside as dated or as second wave hogwash –its 2016 after all!– know that just last year I spoke with a woman who decided at the last minute to initial her name on the marketing book she published so that she wasn’t immediately dismissed by male readers as just a woman. She wanted a chance beyond that first glance, she wanted people to read the blurb of her book at the very least before they dismissed it if that’s what they were inclined to do.

Key phrase there: “just a woman.”

Let that sink in. Seriously. It is 2016 and there are still countless female writers out there who either publish under initials or adopt a male alter ego so that they are taken more seriously. Hell, so they are given more opportunities! Don’t believe me? Joanne Rowling not only publishes under J.K. but also Robert Galbraith. And that’s Joanne freaking Rowling!

What are we doing to our women artists that they can’t even feel sure of themselves in their own female skins? It’s hard enough being an artist, it’s damn near close to impossible being a female artist sometimes.

I’ve never in my life judged a book’s content on the gender of the author unless it’s a man that really really demeans the female characters in his work, but that’s a whole other ball game. It appalls me that gender is even a factor. I didn’t even know this was a problem until I hit adulthood. Why is it that kids don’t care who writers what as long as it’s an entertaining story? Why do we slather all of these crazy labels on everything as adults?

It baffles me.

Developing Resilience

Between work and my personal life over the past few months, I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress. I’ve also been taking a lot of work stress home with me because I’m extremely frustrated with certain team members. I’ve always done my best to leave work at work, but it’s been spilling over a lot lately.

Last month I had a little sit down with our district vice president, and he asked me what my happiness level is at work on a scale of 1 to 10. Sensing yet another mini-lecture if I said what I really thought (a previous answer to a different question had led to a long reply), I gave it a 9.

Later that same week in my monthly one on one with my manager, she brought up my 9 grade, and because I’m much more comfortable with her, I told her I’m really at about a 7. It’s the highest I’ve been at over the past year, since at one point I was dreading coming to work and got stomach pains thinking about aspects of it. Thankfully, that problem has been resolved.

Still, I’m not as happy as my manager and I know I could be –and the root of this problem is not going to go away. So we discussed me developing better coping mechanisms –like focusing on positives and letting things go. I do my best to practice both in my personal life so it makes sense do the same at work.

A little while after our conversation, I came across this tip sheet on my company’s newsfeed called “Build Your Personal Resilience”:

Building Resilience

This is an amazing list of ways to help people build themselves up so that they can better cope with stress. It’s all about making a positive foundation so that when stressful changes occur, one is ready to be flexible and better able to manage. It’s all extremely obvious, but when you’re floundering in an emotional lake, having those points in front of you is the best life preserver.

life preserver by gabe popa via Flicker

life preserver by gabe popa via Flicker

I don’t like change, but I would normally call myself a resilient person. Lately, not so much. I’m constantly stressed and on edge, which is making itself very obvious to me by the fact that my sleep is off, more often than not I am frustrated no matter what I’m doing, I haven’t had any desire to write, and I feel absolutely zero motivation to do anything. I’m just going through the motions of life.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far is part of a cycle. My personal stress –which has been extremely high since November due to some significant life changes– is feeding into my work stress which is in turn spiking my stress levels when I’m away from work and on and on it goes until it is completely out of hand.

The worst part is that it is robbing me of the things that make me happy and relieve/reduce my stress because I am sucked dry of all mental energy.

I hit my breaking point on March 25th. I was jogging and pulled a muscle in my leg. Again. I’m mad because I have been working so hard on upping my physical endurance and I take great pains and precautions to prevent injury.

Obviously, I was ignoring the warning signs because this injury doesn’t just happen (unless you’re an athlete); it’s the product of cumulative stress and strain.

Sound familiar?

Instead of taking it easy and letting my body heal from its minor stress, I pushed and pushed until I can’t even walk on the treadmill without pain, let alone run.

As mad as I am at myself, I’m looking for the silver lining –I’m taking this as a sign that if I don’t get a grip and practice my mental coping mechanisms instead of pushing everything back without dealing with it, my psyche is going to snap and that will require far more care and rehab than my poor leg.

While I’m taking it easy on my abused body, I’m also taking steps at showing myself positive progress. I’ve created a fitness binder full of data and useful quotes to keep me motivated while I grapple with my inability to jog for the foreseeable future. See, creating a positive foundation here!

Next I intend to sweep away all of the physical and metaphysical detritus keeping me away from writing and all of the other things that make me happy.

I’m relearning how to cope with the things I cannot change instead of letting them chip away at me because my foundation is currently not up to snuff. That is changing.

It Is Still Tough To Be a Woman These Days

The week of March 20th to 26th was a tough one for me, not to mention the globe. Between the bombings in Turkey, Pakistan, and Belgium that saw mostly women and children slaughtered by extremists, to the outcome of the Ghomeshi trial, to more misogyny spouting forth from the constantly gaping maw of Trump, and hearing about yet another sexual assault on UBC’s campus, I was ready to throw in the towel, to shut the damn door.

door by Dean Hochman via Flickr

door by Dean Hochman via Flickr

Why the fuck is life so hard for women? Still?

As my Prime Minister has said, it’s 2016.

Prove it.

I can turn the TV on practically every single day and see that some woman anywhere has been the victim of some horrible violence at the hand of some monstrous man –and yet it always seems like these women are on trial. Stories are always a dissection of “how did this wholesome young man turn to this action” or “how can a culture condone this” instead of focusing on what matters: what and who he took from the world or the woman.

Since the infamous trial ended my social media has been rolling posts about sexual assault and harassment. Woman are mad. We’re tired, we’re fed up, and we’re full of rage. And you know what we’re tired of, fed up with, and full of rage towards? The status quo that always says we should take more precautions when it comes to men who aren’t taught any damn respect!

It’s only April 3rd at the time of this writing and I’m still in the mood to flip the world off.

I’m tired of the excuses. This is our world too and enough is bloody well enough.

LE BOOK CLUB

Because I was all negative in my last post, I thought today I would be positive and tell you about something new and exciting in my life. Ok, if you’re not a huge book nerd you won’t find this very interesting, but I’m happy about it so I don’t care.

After An Evening with Zadie Smith (yes, all things circle back to that magnificent night!), as my friend and I stood in the parking lot chatting things over, we had a thought.

Well, the topic of book clubs came up, and how we both wished we were a part of one which induced a revelation. Yes, I’m sure you’re wondering why we aren’t in one now. You see, we live 50 km apart and five years ago we tried the online book club thing with a few friends of ours and it didn’t work out.

My friend tried joining a book club with her mom but it didn’t work for her. And I don’t know anyone with the same reading tastes as me who is also relatively close to my age group near me, so I haven’t even tried. Plus, I’m not good at evening commitments.

Now we have a better plan. We’re starting our own mini-book club, and we’re going to meet up every two months at a place that serves caffeine and discuss the book we read, maybe including outside sources. We may or may not let other people come to those meetings. We haven’t decided.Gone with the Wind

I’ve taken the liberty of naming our book club, LE BOOK CLUB, using our initials and all caps to make it look awesomely legitimate. She’ll thank me later.

I didn’t realize how much I missed the idea of sitting down and talking face to face with someone about a book we’ve both read. Sure, I’m an avid fan of Goodreads and occasionally discuss books on there, but it’s not the same. One, I don’t have the endless hours to spend on the platform typing like I did once upon a time. Two, there’s something special about an in-person discussion with another human. I must be missing my English days.

I was honoured to pick our first book, Gone with the Wind, and I must have it read by mid-April. Did I mention I’m really really excited?

Happy reading!

 

Interesting Finds #2

Look at that, it’s the fifth Tuesday of the month which means it’s time for Interesting Finds.

I haven’t been doing much research lately, but I have been on the hunt for post inspiration. Beyond that, there have just been a lot of things that have caught my attention around the internet.

Enjoy!

Prison tattoos tell a fascinating tale of their wearer, possibly none more so than those of Russian prisoners: http://www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140424-decoding-russian-criminal-tattoos.

I truly believe art is integral to existence, at least an existence that matters. This is the best defence of literary discourse I’ve ever heard: http://electricliterature.com/what-literary-discourse-offers-in-an-age-of-extremism/

It’s one of those great tragedies that great works fall to obscurity: http://lithub.com/10-more-writers-nobody-reads/

I love sharks. I love volcanoes. What’s not to love about sharks in volcanoes? http://www.upworthy.com/sharks-living-inside-a-volcano-if-this-was-a-movie-itd-be-shark-cano-but-its-real?c=ufb2

I don’t know if these are the best feminist quotes of 2015, but they’re still pretty great. #6 takes it for me. http://msmagazine.com/blog/2015/12/18/the-10-best-feminist-quotes-of-2015/

People might not be highly aware but paleontology and archaeology are strong in Alberta. http://archaeology.org/news/4045-160104-canada-alberta-grave

I find part of myself is being called to Appalachia. Must be an Irish thing. http://appalachianink.net/2015/09/06/the-last-of-the-granny-witches/

That’s all for now, folks!

 

*Featured image source: Cocoon by Internets_dairy via Flickr