A story about a Walrus

walrus brainstorm

Well, this blog post is a little delayed. Okay, a lot delayed. Between re-releasing Heart Like an Ocean, editing Embraced by the Ocean, editing for a customer, and, well... other projects... blogging just did not happen. But, since I promised a blog post about the writing workshop I did recently, here it is.

This is the second year I went to this school to do a writing workshop. I went a year ago to talk to grade 7s and 11s about writing and decided that there's nothing more boring than having someone just stand up there and talk... so we did a writing workshop. You can read about there HERE.

Anyway, on to this year.

So, once again, I went in to do a writing workshop with the grade 7s and 11s. This time, it was the first class of the day--I don't know about you, but my brain is not fully functioning at 9 am. I need a LOT more coffee before I'm ready to really think. But I figured it'd be no big deal. Brainstorming a story with a group of kids isn't that hard. Yeah... until they give you the word "walrus" as your starting point.

I debated asking for a new word... after all, I hadn't had nearly enough coffee to work with the word "walrus", but I also didn't want to discourage the enthusiasm of the student. After all, I was there to encourage and facilitate writing, not create the story I wanted to create.

So, we went with "walrus". The grade 7s seemed to have a blast with it. I really had to direct the brainstorming and ask some questions to keep them on point, but the imagination in these kids was fun and infectious.

In the end, when they read off stories, it was neat to see the strengths in each kids' writing. One girl had great characterization--she really focused on his wants and needs. Another had a fantastic grasp of active sentences. Other's told a story in just a few short sentences. Some only got an opening scene written. 

One of my favorite things about doing these workshops is seeing and hearing the different approaches to a story, even when we all brainstormed it together. Just goes to show that even though a story could have the same premise, everyone is going to tell it differently.

The one downside to this workshop was that the grade 11s weren't nearly as excited about working with "walrus" as the grade 7s were. When you have two drastically different ages together, I think that's bound to happen sometimes. Especially since I prefer to have the students give me a word, rather than me feed them one. I want them to know how to create  a story (short or long), article, essay...etc... off of a single theme or word. Walrus was a challenge, but we managed to create some fun and amusing stories out of it. 

If you're a teacher and interested in having me come and do a workshop in your class, please don't hesitate to ask. The easiest way to contact me is through my booking page.

The day I wanted to give up

Photo by Riccardo_Mojana/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by Riccardo_Mojana/iStock / Getty Images

Today was a bad day. It started with a handful of meltdowns from my 4-year-old which was followed by my dog running away (he's safely home now). These alone make for a less-than-stellar start to a day, but add in an email from a store letting me know that they'll be removing The Ocean Series from their shelves... well, that's just salt in the wound.

Having books removed from shelves is not that strange. It's the nature of consignment contracts and the business. You get a certain amount of time guaranteed, and then, if you're not selling, the store will make room on the shelf for different books. Normally, I'd have no issue with this. But today, well, it sucked. I began to start doubting myself. Why do I do this? Why do I bother to pour months and months of work, hundreds of dollars, and endless effort into putting out a book? I get my foot in the door of a store, get my books on the shelf, only to have them removed again.

This isn't the first time I've had doubts about writing as a career. Don't get me wrong, I'd never give up writing. I can't. But sometimes, when the recipe is just right, when I'm having a bad day, or get a review, or have someone tell me that I'm just dreaming, or I'm just plain tired.... well, sometimes I think about giving up being an author. And I know I'm not alone in this. There are authors and artists out there every day thinking about throwing in the towel. 

It's hard. It's really hard to share our stories with the world. That's not just work we're putting out there. That's not just time and effort. There's a little bit of me poured into each and every book, and authors put that piece of themselves out there for the entire world to take and do with as they please. Sometimes you get glowing responses. Sometimes you get 1-star reviews. One month you make a bestseller list, and another month your books don't make sales and get removed from a shelf. You gotta grow a thick skin to keep trudging through this business. But some days, that skin is worn a little thin.

Thankfully, I have some great friends can usually talk sense into me. So no, I'm not giving up. I'm not quitting. But today, I really wanted to--and today is not the first time I've felt that way, nor will it be the last. Of course, I also know that I likely never will give up. Sharing my books with you guys is something pretty special, and way more important than those days of self-doubt. 

Oh, and don't worry, you can still find my books in bookstores around Winnipeg :) Just not every bookstore. 

Why I took marketing off my to-do list...

Today, I took marketing off my to-do list. I'm pretty sure I heard screams from marketers all over the world when I did that, but I breathed a sigh of relief. In that single action, a lot of pressure just... disappeared.

I'm not a marketer. I'm an author. I don't like marketing. I'm no good at marketing. I'm not a salesman. I'm an author. I've said it before and I'll say it again and again and again. That fact will never change. So why should I waste my time trying to market when it really, really, really bugs me? To sell books, Christine. Selling books is good. Yes, yes it is. But here's the thing, and here's the meat of why I took marketing off my to-do list...

The majority of authors these days are doing all their marketing on social media. Facebook posts, tweets, instagram... because that's the access we have to the "market". But social media is social media. Not advertise media. Not sell-to-me media. Not make-me-think-I-want-to-buy-your-product media. If I get annoyed by seeing countless posts of "buy my book" or advertisements, then why in the world would I add to that? Not to mention, when's the last time you bought a book based off of a "buy my book" post?

Yes, I know, marketers are mad at me. I'm not doing myself any favors. But I'd rather be social and use social media the way it's supposed to be used: to connect, to talk, to update, than to sell.

I like to think that if you follow me it's on social media it's because you want to know what's going on. You'd like to see writing updates and know when a book releases, but you don't want it shoved in your face. You'd like to see a bit of my life, just like I like to see a bit of the people's lives that I follow/like/friend...etc... 

So that's why I took marketing off my to-do list. I'd rather post to social media organically, when I have something to say or share or update you on, rather than as a thing to check off because I'm supposed to do it or it might sell some books.

I'm not giving advice. Believe me, my book sales are nothing to aspire to. But hey, at least that pressure is off my shoulder and I can be happy with my social media page knowing that I'm not spamming people. 

So, that's why I took marketing off my to-do list. But hey, if you feel like buying any of my books... ;) 

That blog post about NaNoWriMo

NaNo-2015-Winner-Banner.jpg

Well, that time of year has come to a close again. Yep, National Novel Writing Month is done, and I write this blog post with a mixture of relief and... is that emptiness?

Every year I participate in this crazy challenge we call NaNoWriMo. 30 days and 50,000 words later another challenge is complete and I get the satisfaction of posting the winner picture all over the place, basking in the congratulations, and feeling generally pretty accomplished.

This is the sixth year I've participated in NaNoWriMo, and the fifth year I've actually completed it. Every year has presented its own set of challenges, whether it was last year when I had a whirlwind trip at the beginning of the month which had me falling way behind, or this year when I had trouble staying disciplined... either way, I usually find I need to really push myself to hit that 50,000-word mark. 

When I participate in NaNoWriMo I learn more about myself, I learn more about my writing, and the story generally takes on a life of its own. It's an exciting way to write, and one that can never quite be recreated without the pressure of a month long writing marathon. And now, on the first day without it, I'm feeling a little lost. But, of course, that never lasts long. The to-do list with books is long and unending.

So, in closing, congratulations to all those who participated, whether you finished or didn't, it's still a huge accomplishment, and you still wrote more this month than you probably would have otherwise. So give yourself a pat on the back, raise a celebratory glass of your drink of choice and toast yourself or someone you know who lost themselves in a literary world for 30 days. You done good.

As for myself, I'm taking a day off. 

That blog post about C4 Comic Con

c4 comic con table

This past weekend I spent my time in a room full of artists, authors, fans, cosplayers and general awesomeness. Also known as C4 Central Canada Comic Con.

I've been attending Comic Con for the last three years and got a little glimpse "behind the table" last year as I "helped" (hung out) my friend Andrew Lorenz with his September17 table. But this year was my first year as a vendor in artist alley. (BTW, September17 just launched a brand new, gorgeous website.)

Going in, I really wasn't sure if Comic Con was the right demographic for my books, but I figured that it wouldn't hurt to give it a try. Plus, I would be spending the entire weekend there regardless (you have no idea how much I love comic con lol). Over the weekend, I learned a lot about what it takes to have a successful table at a comic con, and I'll likely be implementing a lot of those lessons moving forward, but overall I'm very pleased with how things went.

I shared my table with Melinda Friesen and her book, Enslavement, and was in a row with some great friends and talented people like AP Fuchs, Andrew Lorenz/September17 Productions, Donovan Yaciuk, and Justin Shauf. And even Kyle, my husband, made it out to support me and offer his help. I'm seriously one lucky girl.

And can I just say, signing a comic book that I co-wrote... probably one of the coolest experiences EVER. 

I was also really excited to find out that my friend from Calgary, Joshua Pantalleresco, got a last minute table. That's part of the awesome that goes into these conventions: they bring people together. I can't even begin to name all the wonderful people who I spent time with during C4. I tried to on Facebook... and I kept forgetting people. I know, I'm horrible.

I picked up a few books, sold a few books, made some great memories, talked shop, connected with people, and all-in-all had an unforgettable time.

Before I close off this blog post, I want to give a special shout out to my brother, Brenden. He's a local Winnipeg artist, who you can find at Knightingale Art & Design, and a huge supporter of my writing. This guy drove me to comic con, helped me set up, kept me company, and even gave me prints of his work to give away with book purchases--one is going to be a book cover in the near future, and the ship one was actually inspired by my own books (every time I think of that I kind of get all giggly. Me. My words inspired someone else's art. Seriously cool.)

Brenden in the mandalorian armor he made himself.

Brenden in the mandalorian armor he made himself.

Going into writing I didn't really know what to expect. I think I had this idea that I'd sit behind a computer, type out words, sell some books, maybe have some fans, and call it good. I never could have imagined the friends I'd make and support that this community brings, and C4 really just brings that all together into one big building and one whirlwind of a weekend.