Holiday break

It’s holiday time! The tree is up, the fireplaces are lit and the kids are home from school for the next two weeks.

Most years, I find myself desperate for a break by the time the holidays arrive. Between work and motherhood, I run myself ragged through December so that I limp towards Christmas Eve like a marathoner approaching her last mile.

This year feels different.

For the first time in my life, I’m spending the majority of my time writing. I’m making steady progress through this draft of my novel, following the outline I put together this fall. I have been (mostly) keeping up with my goal of writing 1000 words everyday and I’ve already got 17 000 words written on this draft. I feel a deep satisfaction to be moving forward and building momentum on this book.

So I guess it’s not surprising that I feel a little ambivalent about the holidays this year.

It’s time to stop writing for a few weeks, time to take a break and spend time with my family. We have lots to celebrate: Christmas, Chanukah, Charlotte’s 13th birthday, a new year and then Eric’s 40th birthday in early January. All of this in our beautiful new house!

I may sneak in some writing sessions over the break, but I do want to let myself slow down. I recognize how lucky I am to have this holiday with my family and I’d like to enjoy it!

To everyone out there in Internet-land, happy holidays. May we all find and appreciate health, peace, joy and love in our lives, now and in the days and years to come.

Pushing forward

My momentum is faltering.

I had a great daily routine set up of writing 1000 words a day, chugging steadily ahead on this draft of my book. I’ve been following my outline, which means I know the basic parameters for each scene as I sit down to write it. Every day, I felt good about making progress with this draft.

Then life started to get in the way.

First, we had to get some work done on the house, so we had various workmen traipsing in and out, putting in wires, installing gas lines and (inevitably) creating new problems that also needed fixing. This did not foster a particularly conducive writing environment.

Then, last week, we had lots of visitors from out of town (and across the sea) to celebrate my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. This was a tremendous success but it also meant my writing routine went fully out the window.

Now I’ve got one more week of my kids attending school, then winter holidays begin and they’re home for two solid weeks of vacation. I’m planning on writing 5000 words this week, then I have to hang up my writer hat for the duration of the school break.

What can I do but keep pushing forward? Onward, upward, step by painstaking step, word by word. Slower than I’d like, but hey, at least I’m moving in the right direction.


Hometown proud

It was probably inevitable that I’d write about Guelph.

I was born there, I grew up there, and I still go back every year to visit my parents. Now that I’ve started writing this draft of my novel, I find myself thinking a lot about the way Guelph looks and feels, from its downtown core to the outer suburbs. Certain scenes in my book are set in real places, like the Bookshelf Cafe and at Guelph Lake Island for the Hillside Music Festival. Other scenes happen in places that used to exist, but have actually closed down (R.I.P. Latino’s Restaurant).

One of my writing tricks is to open up Google Maps and use Street View to check on specific aspects of a place. I can sit at my desk in Montreal and virtually drive the streets of Guelph. It’s not the same as being there, but Street View provides me with all kinds of useful details to add depth and realism to my writing.

Of course, the strange thing about setting my novel in my hometown is that the city has changed in the twenty years since I lived there. Every year, real-world Guelph diverges a little more from the Guelph in my memory. I don’t think this is a major problem, but it means that my book is set in a kind of alternate Guelph, one that will hopefully look and feel like the city that lives inside my head.

I took the photo illustrating this post on Saturday, while I was helping out at the lovely Holiday Pop-Up Book Fair here in Montreal. The Atwater Library is currently displaying the “Scottish Diaspora Tapestry,” and we all know that Guelph was founded by proud ex-pat Scot John Galt, right? Actually, I just looked him up and learned that Galt is also considered to be “the first political novelist in the English language.” Huh.

My novel is not particularly political, but hopefully I’ll do my hometown proud.