Expecting Sunshine Book Launch!

Summer Reading – Authors, Artists & Thought Leaders

Last week I was in one of my all-time favorite bookstores in Kelowna. Mosaic Books have such a great vibe and I particularly love their table upon table of bargain books. Yet, of course, the book I found was not in the bargain section!

Here it is: The Best of Writers & Company, by Eleanor Wachtel. The book features interviews with “15 of the world’s greatest authors.”

Alexis Marie Chute writer author books

These writers include:

  • Jonathan Franzen
  • Aleksandar Hemon
  • Doris Lessing
  • Hilary Mantel
  • Orhan Pamuk
  • Toni Morrison
  • Alice Munro
  • Edwidge Danticat
  • Anne Carson
  • J. M. Coetzee
  • W. G. Sebald
  • Seamus Heaney
  • Mavis Gallant
  • Yiyun Li
  • Zadie Smith

I am so excited to dive into this book. Reading is one of my favorite things to do – especially in summer.

I am also reading:

Alexis Marie Chute writer author books shelfie

You’ll notice in my choices of books that I love peering into the creative practices and lives of other artists and authors.

In the Wachtel book, readers learn about the writer behind some truly interesting publications. In Thornton’s book, we are invited into artists’ studios and artistic productions.

I find this so inspiring.

Sometimes creative folks (like myself) can feel a sense of isolation when working primarily alone. That is one reason I love reading about other creatives. It’s like having a writing group available 24/7 – or an artistic critique group. OR a collective of thought leaders handy for inspiration.

What books are you reading this summer? Comment below and share why you like (or dislike) your book or books of choice.

Thanks for reading!

– Alexis Marie


If you would like to know about my publishing journey – and ways to help you as you seek to get your book out into the world – check out my last post called, “Ten-Part Publishing GUIDE Intro.”

AND, visit me on Instagram where I share more about what I’m reading. Find other readers and books by searching #shelfie

My forthcoming memoir, Expecting Sunshine, will be released April 18, 2017 by She Writes Press. Click here to read about the book and documentary film.

Ten-Part Publishing GUIDE Intro

Write What You Know – even in Fiction

Write what you know. This may seem like the most obvious advice in the word, but it’s not. While I’m sure many of us have a burning desire to write the next great novel of pure fictitious brilliance, there is something to be said for using the material your life has gracefully provided you. And it is immediate and at-hand. The only research required is within your own personal history and daily life.

Julia Cameron‘s suggestion of writing “morning pages,” from her book called the The Artist’s Way, is one great suggestion to mine the creative juices from our lives. In this free writing, free flow, pre-consciousness approach, we can find creative breakthrough by writing whatever comes to us. I suspect that this method frequently reveals gems from one’s own personal reality.

What if you rebut: “My life is so boring!”

I’d respond: “Is it? Is it really?”

My six-year-old daughter tells me when she is bored. Often times it is when she is not engaged by me or a teacher or a friend or her siblings; and also when she is too tired or grumpy to play by herself. When she says this, it always blows my mind. She has a pretty amazing life for a little girl – that’s what I feel from my perspective at least. I’ve stocked our home with countless garage sale books. She has neighborhood friends and they play (safely) in the street. We travel to visit our out of town family. When I look at all the places she has gone, the experiences our family has had together, the opportunities open to her, I think: “Wow, you’ve had a great life so far, my dear.” I hope most days she realizes this too.

It’s all a matter of perspective. 

write what you know alexis marie chute writer author mentor BLOG

One of our mandates as writers is to translate our experiences into our fiction, non-fiction, poetry, young adult stories, mysteries, essays, short stories, and the list goes on. Whatever your mind can conceive of, right?

If you are a fiction writer that has never considered taking inspiration from your own life, I suggest you give it a try! Think about the people that cross your path every day; your coworkers, family and friends . Maybe some of them can become your most beloved characters – or villains. You have a collection of people around you. People you know extremely well – from their opinions to their facial expressions. Take inspiration from these folks and write that kind of detail and intimacy with humanity into your stories. The same goes for settings.

I’ve heard it said somewhere, something to the effect of: there is no true fiction. (If someone can point me to the actual quote, that would be much appreciated.) There is a grain of truth behind all stories. What better reason is there to write what we know!

Somehow, my life experiences always seep into my writing. Or perhaps I would better describe it by saying: my life provides the richness of inspiration for my writing. This is something I am extremely grateful for. 

I am so inspired by the human experience that I have inevitably become an avid observer and recorder. For me, memoir and personal essays are an easy choice. However, it is nice every once and a while to break out and experiment with fiction. You could say my successful completions of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month; 50K in the month of November) and the 3 Day Novel Contest (September long weekend; 100+ pages) are just such a foray into crafting work outside my every-day life. I would also argue that I simply love a challenge.

Funny enough, I actually found it much easier to write fiction to the pace of the racing clock during these competitions than I did the one year I participated in NaNoWriMo with a memoir as my goal. I couldn’t unearth my personal stories that quickly. They require a slow-cook-approach I’ve discovered.

What I write about most often, for my profession and for pleasure, are family stories. Parenting. Motherhood. Being a working-mom. Being an artist-mom. Personal identity. These topics are close to my heart. They feel almost quintessential and spiritual to me. For now, I am telling these stories through creative non-fiction. Its a blurry category. Is it 100% truth? Well, no. Is it fiction? Nope, not really. At the same time, I feel like creative non-fiction is my perfect vehicle, for now, to write what I know.

 

What writing projects have captured your heart right now?

What are you working on?

How do you use your own life as inspiration for your work – no matter what genre you are writing in?

Please comment below. Let’s have a conversation : )

If you’d like to get these posts directly in your inbox, please subscribe by clicking here.

 

Thank you for reading!

 

– Alexis Marie

 

Mentoring Magic for Writers’ Success

Summer is often a season of declining motivation – but for writers, it is a great time to get focused and tap into your creative energy. Let the heat of the sun fuel you! Get focused on your project – or projects. Now is the time.

There is power in action!

– Alexis Marie Chute

Mentoring Magic Alexis Marie Chute writer author coach mentor creativity 2


I’m sure you’ve heard this writing advice: “Get your butt in the chair” – but who said it had to be an office chair? Find a seat outside and enjoy the summer – while chasing your writing dreams.

Get your writing on track with some Mentoring Magic.

I call it MAGIC because there is something wild, powerful, mysterious, and indescribable about the creative spirit. This is a unique and wonderful place to create from – and a place I strive to live in every day. Let me help you get there too.

I would love to help you on your journey of becoming and inhabiting your calling as a writer! I offer creative coaching – but I prefer to call it mentoring. The difference is distinct in my mind.

A COACH is on the sidelines.

A MENTOR is in the thick of it with you.

My goal with Mentoring Magic is to stir the sometimes abstract creative spirit inside of you. I will help you get motivated and cultivate relentless determination. You will focus on where you need to go and what you want to achieve.

I will read your work. This is huge. How can I advise you without knowing your writerly voice and your challenge areas? We will get on the same page – literally – and I will send my notes back to you.

 

mentoring magic holistic mindful coaching manuscript evaluations alexis marie chute blog 2

Fantasy Quill ©2011-2016 KippCantDance

 

As writers, it is a tremendous help to have someone who knows the ropes, a fellow writer who can give you the needed edge and competitive advantage in the industry.

Whether you want to pursue writing to heal your heart, or supplement your income, I am the mentor for you.


 

Please email me to book your sessions: [email protected]

If this is your first time booking with me, the sessions start in a bundle of three. Each session costs $120 +GST CAN. Three is the magic number so we can really dig into the creative work together.

Click here to read praise from my past mentoring clients.  

Read more about my mentoring by clicking here.


 

Here is another blog posts about Mentoring Magic:

Mentoring for the Modern Writer

 

The Gift of Literacy: Reflections from the life of World War Two Survivor Eva Olsson

Yesterday I visited the school where my husband is a vice principal. I wanted to see him, true, but the main reason I popped in was to hear Eva Olsson speak. She was visiting Edmonton to present to students in the Sturgeon School Division, traveling from her home city of Toronto, Canada.

Eva is a World War Two survivor and her stories were arresting. She used her experience with the “Nazi bullies” to implore the children in the audience to stop using the word hate and instead treat each other with compassion and respect.

Eva Olsson Alexis Marie Chute Writes 02 blog

She told the story of how her family was lined up with thousands of other Jews and separated. One group went to the gas chambers. The other group was put into work camps. Eva was just a teenager. Her mom was separated from her, sent to be murdered, and that was the last time they saw each other.

Eva’s father went to a work camp and died of starvation. The photo Eva showed was of a long line of bodies so thin that their stomachs caved in and the people were literally just skin and bone. It was like a collection of arching ribcages. The image made me shudder.

Eva Olsson Alexis Marie Chute Writes 01 blog

Eva and other girls her age were sent to another work camp. They slept outside on the grass – even when it was raining – and spent winter nights in a mud hole like pigs. They were all given wooden clogs, not in their size, and had no socks. Their feet were covered in blisters.

 

“May a new love for humanity be born out of the horrors we have known.” From the Scroll of Remembrance at Bergen-Belsen

Eva spoke of the power of hate to do such horrible things to other people. She also critiqued the bystanders of Europe who let this horrible tragedy of genocide take place. Her message was that bystanders – even those of today – that watch evil happen and do nothing are just as guilty.

I felt incredibly proud to hear such morality praised and advocated for – and also a little uncomfortable. Sometimes it feels our culture is very grey. We don’t want to upset others with our values so we water them down. Tolerance is at the forefront. Eva’s message actually felt wonderfully refreshing! There is right! There is wrong! We must be resolute in our convictions.

At one point she asked all the junior high kids: “Who does NOT like going to school?”

A large number of hands went up.

(Being a bookworm and an education-addict, I cringed when I saw the hands.)

What was Eva’s response?

SHAME ON YOU!” she said sternly.

Eva did not go to school as a child or youth. She could not read or write. This embarrassed her greatly. She so badly wished to get an education! (She now holds a PhD so I believe her wish did come true.)

This is one of Eva’s messages that will linger on with me forever.

I don’t want my children to take their education for granted. It is a gift.

 

“I cannot live in the past, but I must life with it. Perhaps writing my story will weaken the hold the past has had on me.” – Dr. Eva Olsson LLD (Hon.), FRCPSC

 

When I was younger and in grade school, I was bullied relentlessly. It wounded my spirit deeply and I too would have put up my hand saying I would rather be anywhere else than in the classroom. At the time, I didn’t appreciate school. Who does as a youth in North America where we don’t have to fight for it?

I hope to cultivate a love of education in my kids. The ability to read and write opens many doors, cultivates the imagination, allows for understanding and compassion for others, and creates a means for self-expression.

As both an avid reader and an author, I cannot imagine my life without the gifts of education and literacy. These are things I fight for in my life – not in grand ways, but they are priorities that I protect none the less. It can be as simple as turning off the TV to read a book. Choosing to use proper English even when texting. Reading to my children before I tuck them into bed even when I myself am oh so very tired.

I celebrate the stories my daughter writes on every piece of paper in the house. Her spelling is a mystery most days, but she is learning. She is hungry for it. What a gift! What a precious ability that we have which I hope we never, ever lose sight of. What a blessing!

I am so very thankful that Eva Olsson reminded me of this lesson – of the critical importance of literacy.

Eva’s life is inspiring. To read more about her, please click here.

A Writer’s Reading List

There is not much in life where a person can succeed alone. Learning from others, being mentored and reading books are key activities for anyone wishing to strengthen their skills and creativity.

A Writer’s Reading List

What books are your favorites?

What literature has inspired you over the years?

What titles motivate you as a writer?

I have collected the beginnings of a reading list from what I personally have found helpful. It is made up of books I have read and ones I hope to dig into soon. A good number of the titles I discovered during my Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA.

Some of these books are helpful for the craft of writing. Others will inspire you creatively. A handful will motivate you to edit, while others are for the publication stage of a writer’s life.

Happy reading everyone!

Note: I have added a category to my blog called READING LIST. I will add to it over time. Please feel free to comment below with the names of books you have found helpful.

Reading List for Writers Authors Alexis Marie Chute Writes BLOG

FICTION & NON-FICTION HANDBOOKS

The Craft of Writing

By William Sloane

Beyond the Writers’ Workshop

By Carol Bly

The Art of Time in Memoir

BY Sven Birkerts

Writing & Selling your Memoir

By Paula Balzer

Burning Down the House

By Charles Baxter

Art and Fear

By Orland & Bayles

Narrative Design

By Madison Bell

Illuminations

By Walter Benjamin

What If?

By Painter & Bernays

Letters to a Fiction Writer

By Frederick Busch

Writing Fiction

By Janet Burroway

From Where You Dream

By Robert & Olen Butler

Six Memos for the Next Millenium

By Italo Calvino

Creating Fiction

By Julie Checkoway

Pen on Fire

By Barbara DeMarco-Barrett

Story Matters

By Denman & Shoupp

Aspects of the Novel

By E.M. Forester

The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers

By John Gardner

On Writing

By Stephen King

Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children

By Nancy Lamb

A Giacometti Portrait

By James Lord

Writing the Breakout Novel

By Donald Maas

The Lonely Voice

By Frank O’Connor

Reading Like a Writer

By Francine Prose

Writing in Pictures: How to Write and Illustrate Picture Books

By Uri Schulevitz

Deepening Fiction

By Stone & Nyren

If You Want to Write

By Brenda Ueland

Why I Write

By Eudora Welty

The King & The Corpse

By Heinrich Robert Zimmer

Backwards and Forwards

By David Ball

The Life of the Drama

By Eric Bentley

 The Playwright as Thinker

By Eric Bentley

The Empty Space

By Peter Brook

The Power of Myth

By J. Campbell & B. Moyers

Playwriting

By Louis Catron

Aristotle’s Poetics

By Gerald Else

The Art of Fiction

By John Gardner

How to Write a Selling Screenplay

By Christopher Keane

Screenwriting from the Soul

By Richard Krevolin

Bird by Bird

By Anne Lamott

An Experiment in Criticism

By C.S. Lewis

Screenplay: Writing the Picture

By R. Russin & & Missouri Downs W

The Screenwriter’s Bible

By David Trottier

The Writer’s Journey

BY Christopher Vogler

Picture This: How Pictures Work

By Molly Bang

How to Write a Children’s Picture Book

By Bine-Stock

Nonfiction Book Proposals Anybody Can Write

By Elizabeth Lyon

Writing With Pictures:  How to Write and Illustrate Children’s Books

By Uri Shulevitz

 


 

FICTION & NON-FICTION ESSAYS

  • Baxter, Burning Down the House
  • Baxter, The Art of Subtext
  • Baxter, Bringing the Devil to His Knees
  • Berg, Stephen (ed.), In Praise of What Persists
  • Birkerts, Sven, The Art of Time in Memoir
  • Calvino, Italo, Six Memos for the Next Millennium
  • Gornick, Vivian, The Situation and the Story
  • Gornick, Vivian, The End of the Novel of Love
  • Hersey, (ed)., The Writer’s Craft
  • Justice, Donald, “The Prose Sublime”: A Donald Justice Reader
  • Kundera, Milan, The Art of the Novel
  • O’Connor, Flannery, Mystery & Manners
  • Plimpton, George, The Writer’s Chapbook
  • Prose, Francine, Reading Like a Writer
  • Rich, Adrienne, On Lies, Secrets and Silence
  • Spitz, Ellen Handler, Inside Picture Books
  • Welty, Eudora, One Writer’s Beginnings
  • Welty, Eudora, The Eye of the Storm
  • Cooper, Susan, Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children
  • Harrison, Barbara & Maguire, Gregory, Origins of Story: On Writing for Children
  • Marcus, Leonard, Ways of Telling: Conversations on the Art of the Picture Book
  • Zinsser, William, Worlds of Childhood: The Art and Craft of Writing for Children. 
  • Zinsser, William , On Writing Well

 


 

POETRY HANDBOOKS

The Practice of Poetry

By Behn & Twichell

Measures: Contemporary American Poetry in Traditional Forms

By Dacey & Jauss & Strong

Poetry Handbook

By Babette Deutsch

Poetic Meter and Poetic Form

By Paul Fussell

Rhyme’s Reason

By Hollander

The Poet’s Companion

By Dorianne Laux and Kim Addonizio

The Discovery of Poetry

By Mayes

Western Wind

By Nims

The Sound of Poetry

By Robert Pinsky

The Making of a Poem

By Mark Strand and Evan Boland (eds.)

The Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics

 


 

POETRY ESSAYS

  • Bell, Old Snow Just Melting
  • Birkerts, The Electric Life: Essays on Modern Poetry
  • Bryan and Olsen, Eds., Planet on the Table:  Poets on the Reading Life
  • Dobyns, Best Words, Best Order
  • Eliot, The Sacred Wood
  • Glück, Proofs and Theories
  • Hass, Twentieth Century Pleasures
  • Heaney, Finders Keepers
  • Heaney, The Government of the Tongue
  • Hoagland, Real Sofistication: Essays on Poetry and Craft
  • Jarrell, Poetry and The Age
  • Justice, Platonic Scripts
  • Pinsky, Poetry and the World
  • Plumly, Argument and Song
  • Pound, The Literary Essays of Erza Pound
  • Sontag and Graham, After Confession:  Poetry as Autobiography
  • Stevens, The Necessary Angel
  • Vendler, Part of Nature, Part of Us
  • Vendler, The Breaking of Style
  • Vendler, The Music of What Happens
  • Voigt, The Flexible Lyric
  • Williamson, Introspection and Contemporary Poetry

 Here are some links to other reading lists for writers:

FlavorWire – 25 Books Every Writer Should Read

Bustle – 11 Books All Aspiring Writers Should Read, Because Spending Time with these Titles is like a Mini-Workshop

Open Culture – Earnest Hemingway Creates a Reading List for a Young Writer, 1934

Aerogramme Writer’s Studio – Stephen King’s Reading List for Writers

 

 

A Day in the Life of the Writer

I think people envision writers sitting around in over sized leather armchairs, writing in pen by a dim incandescent light, cigar smoke wafting around in lazy curls. Or maybe the idealized vision includes a reserved seat in a coffee shop where the writer gorges on lattes and people watching, clicking their laptop ferociously as inspiration strikes. Or maybe the writer is traveling in the Sahara. Or scratching notes on a pocket pad of paper as bullets whiz by and the thunder of tanks surround them.

Or the vision of the writer includes the best-seller status. I recently heard an aspiring writer say he wants to write the next Harry Potter series. I chuckled to myself, while wishing the writer all the luck in the world. I did wonder though, what is that person chasing? Is it the long hours of writing, the even longer hours editing and the painstaking process of bringing the book(s) to publication? Or is the writer hungry for the title, the gold stamped cover, the royalty cheques, and the fame?

ALEXIS MARIE CHUTE EDITING WRITING WRITER RED PEN PHOTOGRAPH

 

What does the life of a writer really entail?

There are perks for sure, but the writing life is actually bursting with hard work, rejection and administrative chores that none of those daydreaming about the idealistic writer actually take into account.

I wake up by an alarm and get my kids to school. I make lists of things I need to accomplish – and typically writing is only the half of it. I answer emails and phone calls, and handle the business, legal and insurance needs for all my projects. In my daily life, I do an exorbitant amount of research, planning, strategizing, and networking – all so I can be a writer and do what I love. I work in the evenings. I am always collecting ideas. I dream about my characters or a speech I am to give – until my alarm wakes me up again.

It’s a fabulous life!

The life of the writer is not glamorous… at least not yet from my experience. I’ll let you know if that changes. Like any passion; there are good days and bad days, perks and pitfalls, and sacrifices that need to be made to get to the next level.

If you aspire to be the next J. K. Rowling, good luck to you! (I am not being sarcastic.) Roll up your sleeves and get to work! I look forward to reading your book one day – and sharing mine with you.

Happy writing!

I’m an MFA Graduate!

Graduations are bitter sweet. I loved my two years in the Masters of Fine Art program at Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. I met many wonderful writers, both those that sat beside me in classes and those that taught us – but from all those creative individuals, I have learned a great deal.

I needed a wider-angle to get all the students and faculty into the picture!

I needed a wider-angle to get all the students and faculty into the picture!

It is sad to move on, leaving a fabulous cohort and regular residencies behind. Cambridge was a hub of creativity and vibrated with people and ideas. Yet, it’s the possibilities of the next horizon, so they say, which is wildly exciting.

I am an extremely planned person, so I know my next few steps, but at the same time the possibilities astound me. I’m open for whatever may come next. I’m thinking PhD, new writing assignments and my next memoir, which is already in the works.

Alexis Marie Chute MFA graduation Lesley University 2015

Waiting to give my graduation speech in which I told a story about two characters: Muse and Writer.

 

I’m the kind of person that thrives on activity. I may not be working hard for university classes after this, but I’ll be putting that same determination into whatever is to come. And don’t worry – I’ll keep you posted!

Graduation speech given. Degree received. Now on to the next adventure!

Happy writing, my friends!

The Social Media Seesaw for Writers

Social media is a gift for writers who are now able to directly engage with their readers and promote their work. Yet, it can also become a consuming time-suck and addictive distraction from doing the actual work: writing. It is a hard balance, like the pursuit of all “balance” in life, as to where the line is on how much social networking is really too much.

I myself go back and forth on the social media seesaw, feeling some days like it’s a blessing and others like it’s a curse.

Computer

Here is how I manage the double edged sward of social media and get stuff done:

  1. Make lists. I write out everything that is a priority to complete, which often includes a few social responsibilities of my business, such as blogging and twitter. Then I organize myself and my schedule, taking into consideration the most important tasks that need to be done and how much time everything will take. I keep the lists handy to keep myself on track.
  2. I switch off from social networks and focus on the priorities. When I am writing for a magazine or my current book projects or crunching a deadline on whatever I have on the go, I give it my full attention. My phone is my distraction, so I will lock its screen so I can’t log onto social networks, or leave it in another room. It is so important to give whatever you are doing your undivided attention.
  3. Schedule the social. This has been a wonderful timesaver. I write my blogs, schedule when they will be released and on what social networks I wish to share the posts. This keeps me active on all my social platforms every day, even when I am actually being very unsocial and working on my books. Helpful programs like Tweet Deck and Hootsuite are also great at scheduling ahead of time.

Seesaws can be a lot of fun. The same is true with social networks. You may go back and forth on how much you choose to engage those networks, but your presence there is essential. Figure out how to manage the seesaw and you will set yourself up for success.