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Pickle Me This

June 25, 2019

Jump In

The city swimming pools are open, and school is almost out, and I ALMOST went swimming in the lake on Sunday, and I turned 40, and celebrated my 14th wedding anniversary, and both my children had birthdays too, and Briny Books sold so many books that we ran out of money for postage, and my blogging course is nearly ready for launching, which is very exciting, and I am trying not to bemoan the end of May and June, which are my very favourite times, but there is still summer ahead, never mind all the work (ACK!) I have to do between now and then. Deep breaths. It’s going to be fine.

May 9, 2019

The Countdown is On

I have had a busy week as we finished the website for my TOP SECRET BOOKISH PROJECT, which launches on June 3. (The countdown is on.) I also put up a brand new literary matchmaking quiz and am pleased that response has been as enthusiastic as it’s been to the first one. And I’ve been working on Blog School too, which is going to have a site of its own soon, but in the meantime, the info I’ve made so far has been expanded, and I am excited. And I am excited, which is my favourite way to be, always counting down to something. (Overthrowing the patriarchy is next up on my list.)

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April 26, 2019

Revelations

Remember in January when I was listening to Amanda Laird’s podcast and it changed my life? I’ve been talking for years about turning my blogging workshops into an online course. I’ve wanted to be more deliberate in my blog and my social media platforms. And there was one other absolutely wild fantasy that I’ve had forever and ever…but more about that in a moment…

Remember what I wrote in January, about how marketing was kind of gross…but what if I was really using that idea as a place to hide for fear of failing? If you never try, you’ll never fail, and you’ll never win either, but not failing is a kind of winning—but what if it isn’t?

And it’s not like I don’t know failure. I have two new novels in the bag [or in the drawer; time will tell], another in the clearance bin, and exist in a state of publication limbo, which is why thinking about ways to be more active in my own success was becoming important to me. 2019 began and I had nothing specific to be excited about, which was the very worst thing. I don’t even know how to move forward in that situation…which is why I was very susceptible to the message of that podcast I was listening to in January, a conversation with Amanda Laird and Kelly Diels. I was looking for something, for permission, for inspiration.

Here’s what being a blogger has taught me: absolutely everything about making it up as you go along, figuring it out in pieces, step by step, and always learning, always growing. Trying and failing and trying again.

Blog School is launching in September. (Are you signed up for the mailing list yet??) I’m writing the modules from scratch, and I’m so excited (yay!) and also so happy to be this confident that I have an excellent product to offer.

In terms of my second goal, I really have gone back to the blog, and I’m loving it—and I’m contemplating ideas like selling ads and thinking about how to boost my audience (but not by changing the kind of work I do here) and I’m really excited about all this too.

And finally, the wild dream. A wild dream that I cut down to size so it would fit properly into the life I have and not be overwhelming. A dream that is still in the pilot project phase, and there’s so much learning ahead, and figuring stuff out, but I’ve been happy to have others put faith in this project, which will be bolstered by their expertise (and also by mine!). All will be revealed in the next six weeks or so, but here’s a glimpse of what’s happening in the meantime—or a piece of a logo at least….

I guess this is really happening!! Stay tuned…

January 28, 2019

Can You Tell I’m Turning 40?

I bought a Brené Brown book a couple of weeks ago, in case it wasn’t totally obvious that I’m turning forty in the next six months and am currently experiencing a mild case of the kind of existential crisis that necessitates some reinvention. Although I must confess that I am not finding the book (Daring Greatly) to be such a revelation. As anyone who has read my blog for five minutes can attest, I don’t have a problem with being vulnerable, and perfectionism has never been a force that I’ve had to go to battle with in any part of my life. Instead, it’s with “imperfectionism” that I’ve found my strength as a creative person during the last decade, as a blogger in particular. Which is mostly the art of being a human—and I excel at that. (We all do.)

But what has prompted my mild crisis is the dawning awareness (which I alluded to in my ambivalent post about your stupid bullet journal) that imperfectionism has its limits too, and that it’s possible to be using it as a kind of a cover, a retreat. An excuse to not to bother to be any more ambitious, because that’s just not my brand, man. Because brands are not my brand, man, which is fine, but what if part of the reason I’m so comfortable being merely good-enough/imperfect and not having to make the effort is not so much because effort is distasteful, but because I’m afraid of trying and failing and having everybody see? Because I’m scared of trying to figure out a new path forward, of stumbling and making mistakes in public view. All those things that I’ve been able to counsel writers through with blogging—I’m comfortable showing my process here—but I’ve been hesitant to apply the same lessons in other areas of my life. Now I’m turning forty, however, and I think it’s finally time.

In the last ten years, without deliberateness and mostly due to persistence, luck and a passion for books that is as organic as gut bacteria, I’ve been able to create a unique place for myself as a writer, as a reader, as a reviewer, and a literary critic. It’s a place that I’m amazed by now, by the opportunities and connections I’ve been able to experience, and I’m grateful for all of it. But this place is also a tricky kind of place as well, because I’m not just a reader, I’m not just a writer, I’m not really an editor, I’m not just a blogger, I’m not simply an impartial critic, and I’m not a proper journalist either. And my failure to fit properly into these pigeonholes (in a newspaper/magazine/publishing industry that has fewer and fewer opportunities to offer all the time) has bothered me, and made me feel like I was doing everything wrong sometimes, made me feel like the space I’ve come to inhabit as a writer and a reader is the problem after all.

But it’s only a problem if I’m sitting around waiting for other people to deliver me opportunities, you see? Which is why I’ve decided on a new approach for a new year and a new decade, why I’ve decided to finally begin work on projects I’ve been wanting to do for years, why I am going to start being more deliberate and entrepreneurial in my professional life—because the unique place I’m in also offers opportunities. And my blog will be the centre of that—it’s been the centre of everything. Part of my distance from my blog last fall was because it felt like undervaluing my thoughts and ideas to be publishing them here rather than on a more legitimate publishing outlet. But then why wasn’t I feeling that way about the thoughts and ideas I was posting to Twitter and Facebook? This question clarified so much to me. What if, instead of composing Twitter threads and having Facebook arguments with your weird cousin, I was posting here instead? The back-to-the-blog movement, as I wrote the other week. It all coalesces here. I still love writing for magazines and newspapers, and the opportunity to work with editors, but what if I stopped looking at blogging as a kind of defeat. What if I worked to build my audience here, to build my newsletter, perhaps to have non-annoying advertising and make some revenue there? To build on something that is mine.

I am so excited about blogging right now. Yesterday I said that to my husband, about how on Sunday I look out at the week ahead and all the things I plan to write about—I wasn’t feeling so inspired a few months ago. But I really am now, with a renewed appreciation for the kind of space a blog can be, and a certainty that we need blogs more than we ever have—which makes it advantageous that I’m finally planning to launch an online blogging course in September. The Pickle Me This Blog School is in the works and I look forward to applying what I’ve learned from nearly twenty years of blogging and eight years of teaching blogging to show people how to create a blog that fits their lives and even makes life richer.

I’m also going to be working to engage people to connect with writing and storytelling in other ways, to inspire them to find and make time/space in their lives for books and reading. Partly through what I’ve always done via my blog and other platforms, but with other projects and initiatives as well, plans I’m hatching now. And I hope that you’ll be excited (and inspired!) too as it all starts to come together.

September 4, 2018

New Leaf

But as much as I love summer, I’m not sorry to see September at all. I’m happy to get my workdays back, for life to rediscover balance. My room is tidy for the first time in months, and yesterday I found a little bookshelf on the curb with which to organize the avalanche on my bedside table. I have no doubt that this little shelf will change my life, which is the kind of thought I often have in Septembers. This will be year I get it right, and not least of all because of my cool slouchy Cotton Ginny top. Obviously, of course, those were the September thoughts of a few decades ago. But still, the sentiment is the same.

This September is all about new beginnings, and also (I hope!) endings too, as I finally finish the first draft of my new novel, still untitled. It’s about taking the lessons of summer’s freedom with me into the new school year and making the most of the time I have to work while my children are at school. It’s also about serious reading as the evening belong to books again, and it is my best intention (although it always is) not to fritter it away on internet excess. I want to use my phone less while I am at home, keeping it in a fixed place in the house instead of always within arm’s reach. And I want to be more deliberate about the way I use social media too, visiting these sites just once or twice a day, when I have something to post even, and not just because I’m bored and require a distraction. I already don’t have Twitter and Facebook on my phone, so it’s not the world’s hugest problem, but I want to become more active as a user of these sites, instead of just passively scrolling along. And no phones at dinner. I don’t care what your excuse is. Or that the excuse is always mine.

September 18, 2017

Finally!

My children started school two weeks ago, but they didn’t really, because Iris’s first day wasn’t until Thursday, and I still had two articles due that week, plus two presentations to prepare for in the week following. So back-to-school as not a breath of fresh air and return to routines, because instead it was a scramble, but I did it. Articles finished, presentations presented, and here I am finally with five full workdays before me with only my usual deadlines, and time for creative work. I am going to revise a short story and write a new one that has been brewing for awhile, and then a new draft of my novel begins and there’s going to be lots of digging. So much work ahead, but I am looking forward to it—discovery is the greatest thing about writing anything. Plus, I have a million books to write about (far too few disappointing reads lately means I’ve overwhelmed with things to tell you about) and I want to write about my trip to Edmonton, so let this post serve as official confirmation: this blog is back in business. And if you’ve sent me an email lately, I will probably reply to it soon.

June 8, 2017

An interlude

This week’s radio silence brought to you by fun nights out, lots of busyness, and a string of books that just aren’t taking. As ever, I’ve been instagramming though, so head over there to see what you’re missing—which is mostly hammocks.

February 22, 2017

Where I’m Calling From

My book exists in the world, it does. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s being couriered to my house this morning and so at some point in the not-distant future I will be holding it in my hands. Which I’m looking forward to, and not, because I much prefer anticipation to the fleetingness of a single moment. When a carton of The M Word anthologies arrived on my doorstep three years ago, I cried and cried, and not necessarily because of happiness. I remember feeling like kind of a fraud, because I’d published this book, but it wasn’t really my book, and while I was proud of it (and I still am) it felt somehow illegitimate. Would I ever be a real writer? And this, of course, is always the question.

And yet somehow I am a real writer, if the definition of the term is that I have deadlines coming up, just so I don’t have a single moment to take a breath before the book’s release. Which I’m not complaining about. The alternative would be no deadlines, and then I wouldn’t be a writer, and so I go forth, making it up as I go, which is the only way I’ve ever gone. In this way, being a blogger has been a tremendous boon to my writing life. Making it up as we go is our raison d’être.

Thankfully, apart from the flurry (and gift) of work, everything else is quiet—knock wood. We spent a long and low-key weekend partaking in the weird Spring-in-February weather, which I refuse to feel bad about because weather is weather. You take what they give you. The children continue to be funny and interesting, and also very very loud, but we know where they got that from. And the books pile up, and so many of them continue to be exceptional, original—there’s no running out of ideas yet. I love to read. I do so love to read, better than I love almost anything.

“Would you choose me or books,” my family asks me, and I always take the former, but not before hesitating. And not without some reluctance.

How fortunate we are to live in a world where both is not necessarily a spoil of riches.

August 22, 2016

Finite

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For a few weeks, I was wondering if this summer would be endless, or at least why it couldn’t be. We had a stellar run of days at the beach and road trips and memorable ice cream cones and stargazing. We’ve had a spectacular mix of GO-GO-GO and also lying around on the grass doing nothing. This summer has hung in a marvellous balance, just enough of everything we ever wanted. The children haven’t been complaining about boredom, or Harriet walking around delivering deep heaving the deep sighs which have always been her summer speciality (and a sign for me that we need to get her back to school). It has been a very good summer, the kind of summer you get when your baby is finally three and the world and the days open up their (figurative) arms so wide—I remember the same feeling during the summer of 2012 when Harriet was three, but it was only temporary as by the end of that summer I was pregnant. By the end of this summer I will not be pregnant (and in fact I will never be pregnant ever again—a fact that, I was telling Stuart the other day, makes me as giddy as the prospect of having a baby once did) but all the same, it starts winding down quite naturally. Summer was never meant to be endless, and if it was, I suppose we would tire of it. Summer winding down now with a fairly ordinary couple of weeks in the city. Harriet is in daycamp at the museum, but only for the afternoons, which means that we don’t need to bother getting out of bed until we feel like it, let alone getting dressed. Each day they’ve watched a movie while I’ve settled down to write my 1000 words. So it’s a fairly undemanding routine, but it’s still a routine, getting us set for back to school in just a few weeks time. I’ll be returning here too to let you know about wonderful books I’ve been reading—the new Louise Penny, and Zoe Whittall’s new novel, and I am reading Mister Nightingale, by Paul Bowdring, now, and it’s wonderful. Anyway, returning to real life The key to transitions like this, I think, is to like your real life, so that a return to it comes with its own rewards. Plus there is the prospect of autumn. Also, I’m semi-down with a stomach bug that has left me stuck on broth and popsicles, and when it’s all done (soon, I hope!), feeling generally well health-wise will seem like a ridiculous pleasure.

January 26, 2016

Funny Faces

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Do you know that I’ve nearly filled up an entire notebook with jottings and quotes from my Mad Men rewatch, and we’re only just beginning Season Three? To what purpose, I don’t know. It’s my new fitness regimen (the Mad Men, not the notebooks) as I ride my exercise bike while we’re watching, and I check the time less and it goes by much faster than when I’m merely reading. (Don’t tell reading I said that; it’s all exercise’s fault anyway.) I might give up on fitness altogether at the end of Season 7. Anyway, it’s a scramble to get the children into bed so we can begin watching and me riding by 9 or so, which means when it’s over, it’s that time of day I’ve spent all day waiting for: time to curl up with Tana French. I am reading her novel, In the Woods, for the first time, and I am in reading heaven. Ostensibly crime fiction but so much more substantial than that, rich and enthralling. I am so busy right now, which was a terrible time to pick the book up, because all I want to read is read it all day and forever. I am looking forward to discovering her other four novels, each of which features a more minor characters from the previous. one Anyway, I’m now in the midst of my second week to finish up my edits on Mitzi Bytes, and things are going well. Getting back to it in a matter of minutes, but in the meantime, wanted to share with you some funny faces from previous days: Harriet and Iris and I making funny faces in the kitchen; evidence that Stuart and I indeed went skating at Harbourfront on Friday night and it was wonderful; and a perfect photo from yesterday when Iris broke into the stampers and rubbed one all over her face, inadvertently channelling David Bowie.

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