Uninvited Guests

Kelly Dycavinu:

I’ll admit it… there are some guests I refuse to invite into my home. My OCD personality just can’t handle the mess! But this post from my lovely friend, Esther Hizsa, has me thinking… what (or whom) might I encounter if I welcome these messy ‘guests’?

Originally posted on An Everyday Pilgrim:

Jan Cornelisz Vermeyen--The calling of St John during the marriage at Cana.1530On Christmas we entertained family and friends for most of the day. We enjoyed every guest that came. But visitors are not always easy to have around. They may come late, stay too long, or forget what they promised to bring. Inevitably someone will do something that unsettles another.

Our feelings are like guests. Some are more enjoyable than others. Yet Rumi invites us to welcome them all. Why? Because we can encounter God in them.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful…

View original 117 more words

Seasons Change… and You’ve Been Waiting on Me

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We enjoyed an extended sunny summer here in Vancouver. With the BC teacher’s strike, kids literally did not return to school until the first day of fall. And then, with the turn of a calendar page, along came the rain… pouring and pouring… still pouring… will it ever stop? pouring.

Seasons change.

This fall we moved, I returned fulltime to my masters program, my husband started a new job, and we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary, my daughter’s birthday, and my husband’s birthday… ALL within a two-week time period! It’s a ‘new’ season and a ‘happening all at once’ season.

I thought to share with you this song from Future Islands, Seasons (I’ve Been Waiting On You). Watching it, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry… he’s just too intense! A little like life, I guess.

Okay, so I mostly laugh.

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News and Updates:

My picture book, Oosh Goosh Down in the Woods, was shortlisted in the SiWC writing contest (Writing for Young People Category).

My painting, Oh, Jerusalem!, was selected for inclusion in this year’s Christian Seasons Calendar. You may remember Oh, Jerusalem! from A Little Sheepish… Chalk on Dirt where I shared about a painting created from dirt and egg yolk paint.

This summer I wrote 50,000 words of my current novel-in-progress. While I didn’t make it all the way to my 70,000 word goal, I’m quite content with the accomplishment. Besides, I reached a point where it made sense to return to ‘research mode’. If you’re new to Popcorn with a Spoon, I shared the journey in a series of posts called Novel Ideas: Diarrhea Draft, Doing the Math, Faulty Metaphor and Character Alignment, The Writing Ritual, Research versus Writing (and Pottery in Ancient Palestine), and Positive Affirmation.

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How about you? Any seasons of change in your life right now? What do you think of this song by Future Islands? Did you attend the SiWC Writers’ Conference? Please share your news and updates.

Make No Mistake: Take the Next Step

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I’m here. Stuck in this place where I’m afraid to make a mistake.

It drives me crazy.

I’m not allowed to touch anything. What if I break it?

I’m not allowed to play. I might make a mess of things.

I’m not allowed to explore. I might get lost and not be able to find my way back.

It’s no fun. There’s nothing to do, but nothing.

Bird's Nest by Kelly Dycavinu

A work in progress

What am I talking about? This painting.

My daughter and I began to work on it during our season of slow. I like what we’ve done so far. And I know what I want to do next. But something always stops me from starting on the next step—the fear of making a mistake, the fear of messing it all up.

Do you ever feel this with your art? Your writing? Your life? Do you ever find yourself stuck in one place, afraid of making a mistake?

The irony is… most of what I love about this painting is the unplanned and unintended parts, the mistakes so to speak. So I guess I should stop stalling, get out the burnt umber, and start defining the twigs and branches of this bird’s nest.

How about you? What’s the next step you’re going to take?

***

Good news! A painting of mine has been selected for use in a calendar. I’ll let you know the details once the contract is finalized :)

Novel update:

New grains of sand: 8,285

Current status: 49,096

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

***

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2011-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Step by Step: Learning to Enjoy the Journey

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I don’t travel well. It’s getting from point A to point B that derails me. If I could just snap my fingers and arrive in Paris… perfect! Or teleport to Turkey… great! But, no, it’s never that easy, is it? Consider all the cost involved, the expenses incurred. Consider the fears to overcome, the fear of flying, the fear of the unknown, the fear of disappointment. Consider all the delays and detours, the lay-overs and lost luggage, the lack of sleep…

But I’m not just talking about travel, am I?

It’s the same situation with most of life’s worthwhile endeavors. Getting from where you are (point A) to where you want to be (point B) is rarely an easy effort. And this is why I appreciate those who are willing to share their journeys, step by step, with others. It’s one thing to announce to the world when you’ve arrived, and it’s another to assist others along the way so that they may arrive (eventually) as well.

Thank you to all those who have gone before and who have stopped to consider those who follow after.

***

Artist, Sandrine Pelissier, is someone I appreciate. Check out her step by step painting demos and tutorials. There are many inspiring ideas for your painting projects–not to mention gorgeous artwork–over at her site.

Here’s my attempt to follow the trail she’s blazed:

Red Flowers by Kelly Dycavinu

My experiment with zentangles and negative painting (painting the negative space rather than painting the subject directly). My zentangles need some work, but I enjoyed the learning process.

 

Red Flowers Detail by Kelly Dycavinu

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Marriage, parenting, writing, art, education are a few of my worthwhile endeavors. What are yours?

Novel update:

New grains of sand: 4,221

Current status: 40,811

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

My Son Wears His Sister’s Jewelry… and Why I Encourage It

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A Fist Full by Kelly Dycavinu

Don’t be fooled by the grinning green bear’s shiny smile or you’ll be whisked away on wild winds. This ring creates tornados.

The compass maps both time and place. It sends a blast that warps you to whenever or wherever you want. It’s often used to send the enemy to the moment of his/her destruction and demise.

The beaded ring with pink flowers offers the power and ability of every single animal.

The mood ring shoots water, ice and snow. You can freeze things with this ring.

The purple dinosaur harnesses the power of all dinosaurs and can summon them back to life. These prehistoric pets are very loyal and will listen only to you. They can’t be controlled by others.

The blue and silver beaded ring? Well, it gives you the power of all super heroes, even the ones you’ve invented yourself. (If you were forced to choose just one ring to wear, this would be your best bet).

And then there’s the rainbow bracelet. When thrown, it electrocutes what it hits. The four multi-coloured metal bracelets are so sharp and spin so fast they can cut through anything–even a house. But don’t worry, these bracelets only activate when spinning at super speed and there’s only one who can wield them with such strength (that would be my son, my super hero). Rest assured, the bracelets are in good hands.

My son doesn’t need to hear Boy, take off those girl’s things. He doesn’t need to hear that he shouldn’t wear them to the park. He doesn’t need to hear that it’s okay if he wants to explore further the world of women’s dresses and make up. And he doesn’t need to hear that it’s not okay. What he needs to hear is: Awesome, buddy! Tell me what would happen if you activate the electrocution device while time travelling. Can the mood ring shoot water and ice at the same time? What animal’s power would be best to summon if I was trapped in quicksand?

It’s imagination! It’s not always about gender identity.

But I wonder if, in today’s world, we’re too quick to make kids question it.

 

Rings and Things by Kelly Dycavinu

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Novel Update:

New grains of sand: 5,689

Current status: 36,590

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

Novel Ideas: Positive Affirmation

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Belinda WitzenhausenWhen I set out to get serious about writing my novel, I was asked to make a list of all the potential obstacles that would keep me from achieving my goal. Any beliefs, bad habits or barriers were to be written down.

Here are three of my twenty-plus obstacles:

Obstacle: I have young kids who demand my time and attention.

Obstacle: Doubt. Am I a good enough writer?

Obstacle: I get easily side-tracked and caught up in other projects.

Then I was asked to take these obstacles (or negative statements) and write, on a separate sheet of paper, a positive and present-tense statement that would affirm what I want. The following affirmations directly correlate to the obstacles I listed above.

Affirmation: My children inspire me to write. They are so easy-going and wonderful that it’s easy to fit my writing schedule into our day-to-day lives.

Affirmation: I’m capable of writing my novel and of writing it well. I can write a word. I can write a sentence. I can write many words and sentences put together in an intriguing manner. I have poems, short stories, publications, and prize money to prove it.

Affirmation: I’m committed to my writing and especially committed to telling [this] story. For the next six months I’m free to focus on my novel–other non-home based commitments will wait.

I must admit, at first I scoffed at the process. I worried that it would chalk up to nothing but empty and shallow ‘positive thinking’. I was wrong. Here’s what I learned:

  1. I was trying to overcome and break through obstacles that didn’t exist–or ones that I made for myself. You see, my kids do inspire me. Their creative minds amaze me. And they are easy-going. I didn’t have to make that up. It’s not wishful thinking. My kids play well together and they each play well on their own–and for extended periods of time. A box of Lego and a bunch of Strawberry Shortcake dolls and they are occupied for hours. My negative belief was simply wrong. It was false to assume that because I have young kids, I have less time/ability to write. Stopping to consider a positive affirmation to my negative belief helped remove an obstacle that shouldn’t have been there to begin with. (And it improved my attitude and relationship with the kids–of course they are an inspiration and not an obstacle!)
  2. Doubt can be dangerous and it should be subjugated to evidence. We all face doubts. Doubts about ourselves, our abilities, our future, our relationships… the list goes on. Again, to deal with doubts about my capability as a writer, I didn’t need to make up my positive affirmation. I just needed to consider the evidence. And there’s more than enough to commend my capability and support success.
  3. Obstacles will come, be prepared with strategies to overcome.
      1. When I re-encounter doubts about my ability (and I will), I can pull out my favourite short stories or read through certain sections of my novel that demonstrates my capability. This ‘evidence’ is also a tool for future use.
      2. Knowing that I like to get hands-on and involved with a wide variety of projects, and knowing that this behavior of mine will easily side-track me from my novel, my third positive affirmation is backed by a strategy. For the next six months I’m free to focus on my novel–other non-home based commitments will wait. I will not commit to anything new in the next few months. I’ve wrapped up some outside projects and commitments and I’m prepared to say ‘no’ to the many good and wonderful opportunities that will pop up in the meantime. Why? I’m convinced that finishing my novel is an even greater opportunity for me than any of the others combined.

So there you have it. A brief look at how articulating positive affirmations– rather than dwelling on negative beliefs, bad behaviours, and barriers– helped clear the pathway to my goal. Not every obstacle can be removed, but at least I’m better prepared for when I encounter them.

Please join me on the journey. Follow/subscribe to Popcorn with a Spoon for weekly updates. Leave comments. Share your goals and experiences.

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Credit Where Credit is Due

Two resources shaped my experience above:

  1. A novel writing workshop led by Andrew Jobling. It’s a useful resource to help overcome the obstacles most of us face while writing a novel. It’s not so much about the craft of writing as it is about the internal and external inspiration and motivation to write.
  2. Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger, PhD and Christine A. Padesky. PhD. You don’t need to suffer from a mood disorder to benefit from this book. We all face negative thoughts, emotions, situations, and behaviours. This book equips the reader to deal with them effectively and appropriately.

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 4,652

Current status: 30,901

It all starts here.

Novel Ideas: Research versus Writing (and Pottery in Ancient Palestine)

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We possess more information about the pottery industry than any other ancient industry in Palestine.

–B.G. Wood

Research. It’s fundamental to novel-writing, but it also can be one of the most daunting aspects. Where does one begin? Do I research first, then write? Do I research as I write? Or do I write what I know now and then flesh it out with the facts later? I’m interested to hear how you approach your research-versus-writing phases.

My current work-in-progress is set in ancient Palestine. My approach to the research has been a combination of the above. I spent a good chunk of time studying and learning and finding out information first, but as I read, the story also formed and took shape in my mind. Now I feel I know enough to do justice to the first draft, but I also know that once the first draft is done, I’ll have much more research ahead. It can be overwhelming if I let it. However, I’m choosing to enjoy the process, to respect the knowledge I gain, and to accept the gifts the research gives.

One of these gifts happens to be a character for my story. Reading about pottery in ancient Palestine I discovered:

  1. Pottery production (as a full-time subsistence activity) was a male-dominated industry
  2. It was viewed as undesirable ‘dirty work’
  3. Pottery workshops, due to smoke, fumes and fire-hazard, were on the outskirts of urbanized areas

A male potter, outcast and on the outskirts of society is a perfect fit for my story. He’s there, given to me by the research. And when it’s time for him to meet my main character, well, she and I will meet him together– as I write.

Bryant G. WoodFor those interested, here’s my complete annotation. I have pages of the following descriptions in my file:

Wood, B.G. The Sociology of Pottery in Ancient Palestine: the Ceramic Industry and the Diffusion of Style in the Bronze and Iron Ages. JSOTSup 103. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1990.

In the first section, Wood describes the nature of pottery production in ancient Palestine including a description of single and double potter’s wheels, vertical and horizontal kilns, potter’s tools and workshops. Pottery production is a male-dominated industry, viewed as undesirable ‘dirty work’. It largely takes place in urbanized areas, involving mass commercial production. The second half of the book uses ethnographic evidence to suggest that the diffusion of ceramic style is fairly rapid and complete throughout ancient Palestine as a result of markets, itinerant merchants and movement of consumers (women transporting wares to another location when married, etc). Large pots, pots of high value and cultic pottery are not subjected to the same strain as everyday ware and may last for generations—caution is required when dating these.

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So how do you approach your research? Any tips? Have you made any lovely discoveries? Any unfortunate ones that dismantled your story?

This week I signed up for the Clarion West Write-A-Thon. Feel free to check out my profile.

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 4,077

Current status: 26,249

Novel Ideas: The Writing Ritual

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Do you have a writing ritual?

You know, that ‘thing’ you just have to do before you can get going on your writing. Like rotating the hands of your clock until the time reads 8 am? Or turning around all your photos and figurines so that there are no eyes watching you while you work? Maybe you’re among the more sane and simply can’t work without your cup of coffee or tea at your side? Or perhaps you sit in a special spot?

I have a writing ritual. And (this may come as a surprise to those who know me) it’s not in the form of an obsessive compulsive behavior. Mine’s more Pavlovian in nature.

When I sit down to write, I play the theme song to Azrael’s Stop. Close your eyes and listen to this:

The moment I hear that first chord played on the piano, a part of my soul springs to life. Then the guitar grabs another piece of me. The strings soothe the anxious parts while the bass beckons my entire being forward. By the time the electric guitar erupts, I am inspired. I have entered a realm where one is meant laugh and tease, sing and dance, and tell stories. Through this music I meet my Muse. Always and without fail.

I can’t RAVE enough about Azrael’s Stop by Lucas J.W. Johnson and the team at Silverstring Media. It’s solid and sophisticated storytelling accompanied by a soundtrack of outstanding quality. Not to mention that it’s a purely unique experience to participate in a story told across multiple platforms.

Azrael’s Stop is an experimental fiction and music project, about life, death, and friendship. It is the story of a mystical tavern and how the people who go there develop over the course of a year: Ceph, the seventeen-year-old bartender who has seen all his loved ones die; Tom, the depressed old man, whom death will not take; Rye, who visits every day, though he died a year ago; Nael, the blind minstrel who saw war too young; Lona, the mysterious hunter of the dead; Trin, the girl who refuses to deal with her past; and the crow who watches over it all, cawing only when someone dies in Azrael’s Stop.

I appreciate the tone, sensitivity and maturity with which Johnson handles the topic of death. What each of the characters struggle with are very real issues. Nothing is trite or gratuitous, even when Johnson uses humour and irony. It is an intriguing story that captivates and, in my mind, compels the reader toward living and loving life.

I hope you’ll head on over to Silverstring Media and check it out. Both the ebook and soundtrack are available at 50% off the $9.99 total, if you subscribe. It’s a deal I can’t refuse.

Enjoy more great music by Devin Vibert:

So tell me, what’s your writing ritual? And how’s it going with your writing projects?

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 4756

Current status: 22,172

Novel Ideas: Faulty Metaphor and Character Alignment

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I must be honest… I’m working with a faulty metaphor.

It’s the whole ‘shitty’ first draft thing. Lamott isn’t the original or only one to say it. Hemingway does, too. “The first draft of anything is shit,” so he says. And then along comes me, thinking I’m fairly clever, calling my first draft a diarrhea draft! What have I done!?

I certainly appreciate the freedom a ‘diarrhea’ draft offers. It helps to know it’s okay if your writing stinks, for now, because it’s not really about writing well. It’s about getting it all out of you. It’s about dumping words and ideas onto the page. Yes, all this about my diarrhea draft has been very relieving.

But from there, all too quickly, the metaphor fails me. You see, I’m a very visual person and I tend to perceive my metaphors quite literally (it’s a lovely oxymoron, isn’t it? to be metaphorically literal?) So as I’m writing away I’m 1) excited that I’m writing away 2) thrilled that I like what I’m writing and 3) bothered at the thought that, in the end, it’s all labelled ‘crap’.

My intent with this first draft, once it’s done, is not to flush it all down the toilet. I want to pull from it all the pieces that are promising… this is where <gag gag and more gagging> the ‘shitty/diarrhea’ draft metaphor explodes (as in, I vomit). <still gagging> I can’t handle the image of me ‘playing with poop’ once this diarrhea draft is done.

So I’m adopting a new metaphor for my current first draft. Thank you, Shannon Hale, you’ve put an end to my over-active gag reflexes.

Shannon Hale QuoteHow lovely!

Now as I shovel, I grow more and more excited. Blueprints and designs for the most amazing sandcastle are forming in my mind. But the best part is the people I imagine living in this castle. That is to say, I’m finding, discovering, understanding my main character. We’ve stumbled upon some remarkable moments and created some beautiful memories together. She and I have aligned.

Here’s a glimpse at the first of my favourite moments with her. Remember, it’s a first draft and I’ve even resisted the urge to edit (repeated words, quirky commas, bumpy bits remain as they are):

My thoughts are interrupted by a pack of dogs howling in the distance. It seems I hear their song often these nights. I try to estimate how far off in the distance they may be. Are they roaming the foothills? Are they across the Jordan? No, not that far. Perhaps by the old altar. I think of them pissing on the Running Maiden and my blood seems to run hot and thick in my veins. They wouldn’t, would they? Surely those creatures would sense the sacredness of that tree. I sit up, agitated with my thoughts and afraid that my blood will congeal if I lie still any longer. My body must move. My mind must find rest. Risking discovery, risking waking Bilshah, I pull last night’s dress over my head and slip out of the tent. I head to the Running Maiden. Something within me wants to know that she is well, undefiled.

When I arrive at the altar I am alone. The Running Maiden whispers in the wind that all has been well. Not wanting to doubt her, but wanting to be sure she has been safe, I sit among her roots which are half exposed above the surface of the earth. I feel up and down their length. The bark is crisp and it rubs against my fingers until they begin to grow numb. Nonetheless, I check over every inch around the circumference of the tree. The earth, the grass, the bark, it’s all dry. No dogs have been here tonight.

Relieved, and somehow settled in my spirit, I lie down, nestled between two long roots that rise on either side of me. I sleep.

(excerpt of a novel-in-progress © 2014 by Kelly Dycavinu)

So what do you think? Am I over-the-top with my metaphors? Do you remember the moment you aligned with a character? Does favourite look weird to you spelled with a ‘u’? (Not to me, I’m Canadian). Are your gag reflexes as sensitive as mine? Your comments are welcome!

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

New grains of sand: 5150

Current status: 17,416 words

***

© Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kelly Dycavinu and Popcorn with a Spoon with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Novel Ideas: Doing the Math

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 I believe the first draft of a book–even a long one–should take no more than three months, the length of a season.

–Stephen King, On Writing

On Writing by Stephen KingI’m no Stephen King–nor do I aspire to be– but when you want to write a novel it helps to look to those who have already succeeded at the task. And King, with more than fifty-five novels in publication, certainly fits the description.

Today we’re talking numbers:

King aims for his novels to be approximately 180,000 words in length. Thus, within in a three month period, he commits to writing 2000 words a day. He writes every day and doesn’t stop until he has those 2000 words.

Once I start work on a project, I don’t stop and I don’t slow down unless I absolutely have to. If I don’t write everyday, the characters begin to stale off in my mind–they begin to seem like characters instead of real people. The tale’s narrative cutting edge starts to rust and I begin to lose my hold on the story’s plot and pace. Worst of all, the excitement of spinning something new begins to fade. The work starts to feel like work, and for most writers that is the smooch of death. — Stephen King, On Writing

And why three months? For King, any longer and “the story begins to take on an odd foreign feel.”

You and I may have different goals, personalities, and experiences while writing than King does, but I find his overall approach to be very helpful. Most writers face the dilemma of finding making, no, taking time to write (Time is not missing. Nor do we create it. Time is there, right in front of us and all around us. How do we choose to use it?).

If I want my first draft (aka my diarrhea draft) finished by September 1st and I’m aiming for 70,000 words, then I must commit to writing approximately 750 words/day. My calculations take into account what I’ve already accomplished and are based on writing six days a week. (I figure if the Author of our universe took the seventh day to rest and enjoy all of creation, then so can I take the time to rest and appreciate the world I’m creating).

But let’s say you don’t know how long your novel should be. And let’s say you’re not particularly driven by a deadline for completion. Let’s do some math:

If you commit to writing 300 words/day, five days a week, you will have a 78,000 word manuscript within a year.

Commit to writing 300 words/day, six days a week, and you’ll have a 94,000 word manuscript within a year.

Commit to 400 words/day, six days a week, and you’ll have a 86,500 word manuscript in 9 months.

I don’t know about you, but I find that encouraging. 300 words a day is very do-able. And to have a complete (albeit first) draft is nothing short of wonderful.

Really, the numbers thing– the math– is about taking the overall dream of writing a novel and dividing it into day-to-day reality. Commit to these numbers in day-to-day life and then the moment will arrive when you wake up to your dream come true.

What do you think? Do you find encouragement in this number-crunching? What goals or deadlines are you working towards? Have you ever read a Stephen King novel?

***

I’m going to write this novel. Word by word.

Current status: 12,266 words

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