The Fall – When Life Begins

vic park

“Come Autumn. Come Fall. That’s when life begins” – Robbie Robertson

Most people hold the belief with much sincerity that Spring is where everything begins. Where sunshine comes in and more light and warmth come to the forefront.

Fall remains my favourite time of year. That sentiment just seems to grow stronger every September. A short time ago, I had an errand that took me into the halls of my elementary school. It was remarkably odd to go through this building. A building where I now have friends whose kids are attending school. It was a short stroll through the halls to the office that reminded me of how I used to feel every September. It was a dreadful feeling. I never wanted summers to end. Even the roughest summers were still worth living out versus the dread of returning to school. I never liked school even though I excelled in writing. September for me always felt like the start of an intermittent jail sentence. It was a sentence I knew I had to be serving. You could not escape it until you graduated. On the days in senior high school that I played hooky, it always felt like I was on the run from wardens.

Things have changed significantly. Over the years I’ve come to appreciate the fall as this pristine refreshing time of year. The harvest comes in. The colours of nature are changing. The idea of having to seek warmth in cooler temperatures is inviting to some people. Fall in Nova Scotia tends to actually last a while. When I used to live away I loved coming home during this time of year so I could take things in.

Professionally, the fall always feels like the new year’s celebration for writing. Everything about it is inspiring to me. It’s a great chance to look at work that is ongoing and work opportunities that are worth pursuing (hint – they are ALL worth pursuing). Writing of any kind to me is a peaceful pursuit. Fall is that peaceful time, therefore making work a part of that peaceful pursuit. It’s a great professional mindset to be in.

Part of my Fall Harvest involves a more serious look at my notes from the last year. What kind of content can I generate from those ideas? Is there a current project that something can be put to? Is there a title that needs a story put to it? What area of work do I want to refresh myself in? Something new to learn? A refresher on some old tricks of the trade? These are just some of the things I work through. You could say I’m harvesting the fruits of my writing labour. I like to think I’m a pretty good farmer.

Enjoy your harvest.


How To Thrive On Writing Rejection

May 2015 office

In my collection of notebooks and scrap paper, lies my collection of rejection notes dating back to my earliest days in the business. There is a good reason that I keep these and you should too. Rejection letters and notes do not always serve as a thumbs-down on your work. When it does, it should only serve as incentive for you to pick everything up and keep going.

How many of you have known people who have given this craft and business a chance, only to run away after a rejection letter? It’s understandable in a way. Especially if you are a sensitive person. I admit, I am like that. Yet, when it comes to writing I fully accept that my words are not going to necessarily appeal to everyone. Sure it would be great if it did. It’s just not the reality of the reading world.

Each rejection letter should be a learning experience. It should be viewed as an opportunity. It means your pitch, your piece, your content has been read by someone. They have taken all of it or a few lines from it and made their judgment on it to see if it fits what they are looking for.

Not building on these opportunities for improvement and continuous learning is a wasted opportunity in itself. Having the refresher is worth the time and effort. If a potential publisher gives you some specific feedback in relation to your content, all the better! Read that feedback and use it to your advantage. See if that feedback can be applied to any ongoing or existing projects you may have on the go.

Rejections are never to be considered negative reflections. Take whatever you can from each of those opportunities and build something bigger of your business. Keep looking for ways to write stronger and better. Revise the rejected content and see if it can be sold elsewhere.

Above all, keep at it.


Free Writing – A Refresher


Have you worked at free writing before and maybe left it behind? If so, you might want to consider giving it another go. Regardless of where your writing career might be at the moment, free writing can break open any perceived blocks and give you the very basis of an idea that could become your next great story or project.

When I first learned free writing it was as part of a class. It opened a whole new world of insight into how much one could accomplish. Some colleagues will set timers and just go for several minutes and stop right when the clock stops. I know of other colleagues who will give themselves a goal of so many words. They might sprint and shoot for a few thousand before stopping.

It has to be whatever works best for you. There are moments where I will set about free writing and only manage a single word. This is not necessarily representative of an unproductive session. Many times those single words have been revisited later and turned into something bigger and more expansive. They have become freelance pieces, short stories, website content, and blog posts. I’ve managed to make so much of those words work to my advantage.

Writing with the stream of your conscience encourages you to be more open with what you might want to say. It also can perhaps unknowingly give you a sense of self-confidence that may be lacking. Even if you write something without an intention to publish it, it is still writing and therefore still work.

Over the last ten years I have learned that writing can be like a muscle. You can start to lose it and lose focus if you don’t keep working at it. If you find yourself in a lengthy block, keep looking for ways to clear it. Free writing can work for everyone. If you are not sure what to write, then look at another option.  Go for a walk and do something physical. Do something that will allow you to engage in free thought. Your mind may pave the road just enough for you to rush to the paper and screen to start fresh again.

Keep at it.


Labour Days – School Daze


A classic Family Circus Cartoon brilliantly captured my feelings around Labour Day as a kid. Going back to school was real labour. I recall it as being a completely miserable time of year for me. Summer was over and the heartache of returning to school completely turned my stomach.

I went to grade and high school a bit of a distance away in a placed called Sutherland’s River. It was a ride that seemed to take beyond forever. There were days it was anywhere from a half-hour to an hour ride.  But I grew up in a household where a half hour drive to nearby Truro was made to feel like a full days’ travel. I never broke out of that mentality fully until I first left Nova Scotia in 1999.

On more than one occasion, I could have transferred schools to a place much closer to home. Early into my grade school years, my brother and I were both approved to transfer to a school in Trenton. I remember the transfer approval slip being up on the wall in Dad’s kitchen. Why they never acted on it really appears to be a bit of a mystery to this day. I don’t think my Mom even remembers why it did not go through. During my final year of high school, I have the opportunity to transfer to New Glasgow. That ended up not happening for reasons I’ll save for another page. I never really enjoyed school. Going to classes in the middle of nowhere felt very laborious indeed.

Let’s just say I minded the travel.  

The problem with going to school in the middle of nowhere was in a ways it felt like a prison. There was little to nothing nearby in the way of escape. Even during high school, which was right next door to the grade school, you were made to feel like you could not do anything. Don’t even dare think of leaving the property to take a 5 minute walk down the road to a gas station that offered some refuge and something better to eat than most of the cafeteria food. Forget it. In retrospect I suppose the school administration was just doing their jobs. Even so on the days in high school when I could drive I would waste no time getting out of the parking lot as fast as the car would take me. Driving away felt like a sweet escape of freedom. As if I had just been let out of jail.

The few moments I did enjoy of grade school usually involved playing road hockey or basketball in the gym. Plus the odd time or two when I would be able to make early explorations into the writing trade. I can easily pick out my favourite year of grade school as being sixth. Even with the odd days of trouble, there was so much to be thankful for then. Things at home were the most peaceful they would ever be. The one bully who used to be ruthless and relentless in his physical abuse had moved on to seventh grade. So the only time I would see him would be on the bus. I remember many weekends that year spending time with one of my closest friends as the Nintendo Entertainment System still was riding its’ crescendo of popularity. We were busy mastering our skills as video-game nerds all to the soundtrack of different kinds of music. Our diets of junk food and high-calorie drinks were not even remotely a concern. It was just a great time to be a kid. When it came to writing, I remember using the journal to vent my frustrations to one of my teachers for giving out too much homework. Much to his credit, he listened and actually addressed some of my concerns. As I recall, it turns out I was not alone.

Now I look forward to September as it leads into my favourite time of year. Fall is the refreshing cool off that one needs even if the Summer might have lacked in serious warmth. It is a chance to harvest your own reflections and see where the last part of the year will take you.

The grade school I went to is the one pictured here. It still stands as of this writing, with some of my former teachers still working today.

I don’t feel so old after all. 


Remembering Reading – Musician Autobiographies


Reading is a refresher to writing. Reading is learning structure and style. In a sense, reading can feel like a relaxing kind of work.

Of the many books I have read over the last few years, most have been autobiographies about musicians whose artistic output I have enjoyed immensely. In most of these kinds of books, the artists are writing them with the help of someone else who gets to have their name on the cover with their subject.

Those kinds of books tend to be quick reads for me. I want to get to the heart of their careers and where they went at certain times. What was happening during the recordings of a particular album, song, and so on. These kinds of books do offer great insight into how stories are told from the musician’s point of view.

One particular favourite book by Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagan really took me by surprise. Duff himself has evolved into a remarkable writer with weekly columns to his credit. He tells his stories with such flawless flow that you can see how dedicated he was to honing another craft. From a book like this I have learned to let go more as I am telling a story and worry about the edits later. As someone with a lifelong addiction to revising, Duff’s book offered me a refreshing look at my own writing.

There are a few others on my shelf that were written with the help of another writer. Those books have offered the same kind of refresher course that I sometimes need. You have someone sitting with the subject and having them tell the stories for later transposition to screen and page. Occasionally, there are books where the subject is told to go and write a few suggested memories themselves. They then give it over to their co-author for professional polishing.

Regardless of your preferred genre of reading, consider reading as part of your work ethic. Sitting with a book not only offers an escape to writers. It offers insight for anyone in this business to look at ways to constantly learn and improve on their word delivery.


Deadlines Often Make the Impossible Reality – By Sarah Butland

Sarah Butland is a Freelance Writer and Author based in my hometown of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. This past week, her novella “Blood Day” was released to Amazon.  If you own a Kindle, I highly recommend this as your next purchase. Several weeks ago Sarah invited me to edit her script. It was a fun and challenging freelance assignment that I was glad to be part of. At times I found myself lost as a reader and needed to go back a few pages into editor mode. I have invited Sarah to these pages to share some valuable “shop talk”.    

Blood Day Cover

I never believe things are impossible though I too often convince myself they are nearly so. When I found the contest for the Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick and noted the deadline I realized how unlikely I’d be able to meet it. I had a young child at home, was busy learning how to be a mom and get back on my own feet. But I did it.

After finding excuse after excuse to just forget about it, I heard a whisper from a highly regarded friend of all New Brunswick writers, Deborah Carr, suggesting I come up with something. With her vote of confidence and a lyric floating around my head I decided I’d do my best.

The word count was 4000 and I never wrote such a long short story before but do love a challenge. I wrote an adaptation of the lyric down on paper and the story began.

Without sacrificing my commitment to my son I sat at the kitchen table while he played underfoot, literally, and I typed. More attentive to his actions and giggles than to my own fingers furiously typing in an effort to write this story in just over a week. When I was done I had no idea what I wrote about or where the story would end up.

Not much time passed from submission to being told the story, my challenge to get me back to writing, won first prize! Blood Day won the 2011 Children’s/ Young Adult Writers Federation Competition which drew high regard from local authors. The only problem with it they told me, was that they wanted more of the story.

So over the last 4 years I wondered, pondered, avoided, talked about it and avoided some more as I had no idea where the story was going. It wasn’t my usual genre, I liked the cliff-hanger ending and that people were hooked and intrigued.  But alas, I decided I needed to write it out.

Setting a new deadline, which I missed by a few weeks, I decided to launch the book on my 33rd birthday. Giving me something to start the year off wonderfully and to reset my writing career once again.

All of this to say, nothing is impossible if you truly want it. Have a time frame in mind but don’t be too hard on yourself that you get stressed trying to meet it. Our universe has a magical way of pulling it all together to ensure you have what you need at sometimes you least expect it.

Live every day to its fullest, putting each excuse to the back of your mind while you work towards living your dream.

Veronica, the main character of Blood Day the Short Story and Novella, is more lost than you will ever be. She doesn’t bleed, breathe or even see her reflection, yet still knows she has a crucial role in who she is, just by being her.

Thanks for reading and hope to soon hear what you think of Blood Day – The Novella!

And thank you to @WriterDann for editing my book under a crazy deadline from me and far surpassing my expectations of him.

Sarah Butland (2)


Twitter: @sarahbutland_co

Shop Talk – Picking Up The Pen and Letters to Yourself

Power of Words

“Just write a letter, mail it to yourself. Read it out loud but to no one else.”

From The Northern Pikes song “Hopes Go Astray”

This great line from a song by The Northern Pikes is something that rings true to me many years after first hearing it. It might make even more sense now. Writing can be a very powerful form of release. It can work wonders for clarity of thought.

An old friend from my school days recently contacted me with very kind compliments about the content on this page and my social media pages. He references me as having given him reasons for picking up the pen again. He’s working as an Actor on the west coast and paying his dues to get places. I think it’s terrific that in his pursuit of auditions and screen roles, he’s finding the time again to work on his words and how he wants to write them out.

When I say writing a letter to yourself, I don’t necessarily mean just writing a letter. It certainly can help you make sense of what you might be feeling and perhaps inspire something on a personal path to healing. I’ve found that sometimes being able to express those emotions to paper and screen can have the effect of sharing it with someone else even if ultimately it is kept private.

In writing, the notebooks and scrap papers of ideas are in a way little letters to yourself. Those inspiring moments are a reflection of what you are thinking at the time you wrote them down. You will revisit these things later on for a few possible reasons.  One might be to glance back at yourself in the past-tense and reflect on something you were feeling. Another could be to check out what you look for previous ideas so that you can forge ahead and generate writing that will be read.

If you have not written something in a while, then why not try starting with writing a letter to yourself? See if you can free up any perceived word block that you may be experiencing.  See if it allows you to move ahead in order to write more.


With thanks to my friend Heathcliffe “Moon” Scaddan for the kind words of support.