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Poetry Reading Contest, Canadian Authors Association

The Canadian Authors Association held their Fourth Annual Let it Snow, Let it Grow Member Social at the beginning of March. The theme was a challenge to writers to pen a narrative poem or short story about what it means to grow. I entered the contest which entailed a public reading of my work at the event, held at The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse.

Reading my poetry at The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse for the Canadian Authors Association.

Reading my poetry at The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse for the Canadian Authors Association.

I was proud to be selected as a winner, along with fellow CAA board member Hendrik Slegtenhorst. The event was hosted by author Gail Sidonie Sobat.

Receiving  the contest award from Gail Sidonie Sobat, with fellow winner Hendrik Slegtenhorst (and my daughter who ran up to be in the picture).

Receiving the contest award from Gail Sidonie Sobat, with fellow winner Hendrik Slegtenhorst (and my daughter who ran up to be in the picture).

I am proud to be a board member of the Alberta Branch of the Canadian Authors Association. CAA is a wonderful organization with the mandate of “Writers Helping Writers.” It has been immensely encouraging for me to connect with other writers in an open environment of learning and support. If you are interested, please join us!

Thanks for Your Votes

Exposure Photography Festival held its closing party on February 28th at Endeavor Art Gallery in Calgary. The gallery is beautiful with tall walls and large windows; definitely a space I would love to have a solo exhibition in one day! At the party, VISTEK announced the awards for Emerging Alberta Photographer and People’s choice. I’m always a little disappointed when I don’t win (human nature, right!) but just to be selected for the Emerging Photographer Showcase and having my image on a billboard in Calgary are true highlights.

Exposure Photo Festival VISTEK Emerging Photographer Finalizt Alexis Marie Chute copyright 03

Exposure Photo Festival VISTEK Emerging Photographer Finalizt Alexis Marie Chute copyright 02

A huge thanks to all my family, friends, clients, colleagues, Twitter followers and Facebook friends who voted for me! Your support is always more than appreciated!

Exposure Photo Festival VISTEK Emerging Photographer Finalizt Alexis Marie Chute copyright

Endeavor Art Gallery, Suite 200, 1209 First Street SW Calgary Alberta

Endeavor Art Gallery, Suite 200, 1209 First Street SW Calgary Alberta

PRISM Non-Fiction Update

Unfortunately I was not chosen as a winner or runner up for the PRISM International Non-Fiction contest. I was feeling down when I received the news and medicated my state with brownies, fresh gooey brownies – which did help.

I shared this news with my friends on Facebook and was met with many congratulations for even making the short-list. One of my writing pals, Patty Ntihemuka, commented, “These could also be celebratory brownies.”

That’s right, Patty. We all need to celebrate how far we come, because often it is quite some distance. It is too easy to focus on how shy we are of the prize, whatever it may be.

I am thankful I entered, thankful for the opportunity and thankful for where I will go from here.

Short-listed!

My creative non-fiction piece has been short-listed for PRISM international 2013 Non-Fiction Contest!

This is such a super honor! When I posted yesterday about the schedule of when the winners would be announced, I was actually off by a day.

Today is the day!

At some point today I will get an email with either ‘Congratulations’ or otherwise – but no matter what, I am thankful and elated to have gotten this far.

My piece of writing is about my experience of attending my son Zachary’s memorial service.

I will post again later on the final verdict. Until then, I’ll be holding my breath…

PRISM international’s 2013 Non-Fiction Contest long-list

 

When I write, I create, edit, submit and forget. It’s a process that works since I am a super busy artist/photographer/writer/mom/wife/renaissance woman extraordinaire. The forgetting part is handy since I don’t waste time biting my nails wondering if I have a rejection letter city hopping its way to my mailbox.

PRISM International Magazine

So you can imagine I was wonderfully surprised to discover that my creative non-fiction piece, “Goodbye and Goodbyes” made it onto the long list of the PRISM international 2013 Non-Fiction Contest long-list. Wawsa! This news made me smile!

The long-list of 15 pieces of writing has been officially announced today. The short-list will be announced tomorrow, Tuesday January 15 and the grand prize winners and runners up the following day, Wednesday, January 16. It will be a whirlwind three days and I have already begun my nail biting now that the race is on. I may have no nails left by Wednesday but I can’t wait!

 

A little bit about PRISM International:

PRISM international is a quarterly magazine out of Vancouver, British Columbia, whose mandate is to publish the best in contemporary writing and translation from Canada and around the world.

 

The submissions for this competition go through two rounds of blind judging before the final verdict is decided by the final judge, Andreas Schroeder.

Here is the long-list finalists! Congratulations to all writers! What a feat! It is truly an accomplishment to get this far and I am thrilled to be listed amongst these fellow creatives.

– ‘Sans Everything’ by Cullene Bryant

– ‘An Excerpt from Horse Camp’ by Jonarno Lawson

– ‘Queasy’ by Madeline Sonik

– ‘Salt Spring Sprouts n Seeds’ by Stephanie McKechnie

– ‘When you finally know me’ by Trisha Cull

– ‘Nine Bouquets from Nine Sailors’ by Eve Joseph

– ‘People and Cow of Good Fortune’ by Leonard Neufeldt

– ‘I Thought I Knew You Emily’ by Madeline Nattrass

– ‘Click: Immortality’ by David Alexander

– ‘The Skeleton Coast’ by Zara Callmann

– ‘The Breaking Wave’ by Laura Trethewey

– ‘Habibi’ by Maisie Jacobson

– ‘Goodbye and Goodbyes’ by Alexis Marie Chute

– ‘Narrative Supplement’ by Carolyn White

– ‘Vanishing Point’ by Heather Tucker

 

I will put out another Writing Update on Tuesday and Wednesday to announce how the competition plays out!

My 3 Day Novel Contest Experience

 

It is now one week from the time I began tying my 3 Day Novel Contest story. I do have to say, I really miss my characters. I want to give them a call, ask how they are doing, see if they want to hang out and catch up. It’s as though their lives have continued on and I am missing out on the action.

Coffee became a staple for this non-coffee drinker. My husband made sure I had a warm cup at all times. 

Besides actually writing my story, which was a fabulous rush, an exciting push; I loved every minute of chatting on Twitter with my new writing buddies. I had not anticipated this wonderful dialogue of encouragement, page and word counts, and silly late night writing frustration. It was beyond a highlight for me and I hope to continue the conversation with these awesome people.

 

I had pages and pages of my story outline, written by hand, to focus me through the process. It was the best decision I made to prepare before the clock started ticking.

 

A few reflections on writing the 3-Day Novel Challenge:

 

  • My outline was my best friend. I could not have pressed through in the tough moments, the times when my brain was so tired that I nearly lost my plot’s direction, if it was not for the guiding hand of my outline. It said to me, late at night, “Now where do you think you are going?” in its gentle but caring manner, “Get back over here and refocus. You’ve got a job to do. Get your characters moving.”
  •  Time pressure = less writers block. I had written about writers block the week leading up to the 3-Day Novel Contest and I do believe this mental preparation made a world of difference, especially the positive affirmations and tips for combating the block, but really, the rush of the weekend meant I had no time to even get caught in a jam…
  • But when I did get caught, some wise tweeters encouraged: keep the plot moving, introduce action. I found this advice a life saver. Introduce action. Action moves the story forward, gives your characters something to do, something to talk about.  It was revolutionary for my story where my protagonist tended to get a little lost in her head.
  • My twitter buddies, many who have done this contest many, many times before constantly posted page and number counts. This was both a distraction and an encouragement for me. When others surged ahead I cursed my poky finger’s pace and got worried that my word count wouldn’t count for much. At the same time, I felt camaraderie with other writers who were on the same page, so to speak. It also helped me realize that I was not alone (a lot of us were on par). These updates were a double edged sword, but apart from their distracting and motivating properties, they were simply a lot of fun.

 

I found a new treat! The flavour didn’t last long but it was a sweet reminder of my childhood self.

 

This last week has been spent recovering with sleep and family time but I have very wonderful memories of my first 3-Day Novel Contest. I am excited to develop my story.

The shortlist and winners will be announced in January 2013. The grand prize is book publishing – the dream of every serious writer. If my novel is not the winner, I will still be sending it out into the world and I will keep you posted.

 

These are the happily kicking feet of my two month old co-writer who insisted I have regular breaks throughout the weekend.

 

My co-writer made sure I took the crap out of my story.

 

Each day I stuck a post it note on my computer with a page number goal. This was helpful motivation despite the fact that I didn’t reach my ultimate goal of 100 pages (but I was not far off).

 

I encourage anyone to try the #3DNC for the experience alone. It was an amazing journey and I am very thankful to my family for helping with my kids, not bugging me too much but also providing food (THANKS MOM!) so I could be a part of something so special.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Office Ready for the 3 – Day Novel Contest

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This is not excessive preparation. I kid you not. Participating in the 3-Day Novel Contest with two kids is a challenge. I have stocked the office with whatever I may need to hole myself in to prevent my beautiful two and a half year old daughter from seeing me. If she locates me or even hears a noise from the office she will remember I am not with her and will hone in on my whereabouts until she is nestled in my arms. This is a wonderful trait – but counterproductive on a weekend such as this.

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Thus, I am stocked with snacks: water, cup, almonds, wheat crackers, apples, oranges, chocolate pudding cups and spoons, peanut m&ms, and the always delightful Orville Redenbacher’s sweet & salty kettle corn.

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Plus care and distraction objects for my newborn, who will invariably be hanging out with me while I write: baby swing, swaddling blankets, play yard and mobile, floor play gym, breast feeding pillow and change station with pad, diapers, wipes, bum cream and the all important change of clothes for life’s little accidents.

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I also have a pillow and blanket for myself because you just never know, right?

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The most important detail, I have cleaned off my desk of distractions – thank goodness – as I am easily distracted.

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My wonderful supportive husband has moved our home phone out of the office because, lord knows, I will be brought to profanity if another telemarketer calls me mid-thought and asks if my parents are home.

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My theme music for the weekend: Patti Smith and Alanis Morissette

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I still must text all my wonderful family, especially my BFF mom, to inform them that I am off limits for the weekend. I know they will understand. I am a woman on a mission.

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That is all from me for now. I am off to feed my newborn and head to bed to catch my last few precious Zzzz’s before the marathon or sprint or whatever it is officially begins.

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I wish all other participants a writer’s-block-free weekend!

Positive Affirmations to Combat Writer’s Block

 

As I was telling my husband about the 3-Day Novel Contest when he turned to me and said, “This weekend is going to take a lot of discipline for you.”

 

My next thoughts were telling: Oh crap! What have I got myself into?

 

Immediately, the negative self-talk began – but I caught myself mid thought. Why am I telling myself that this challenge is going to be too hard and that I don’t think I can do it? Why am I already scheming an exit strategy to get out of it?

 

What I really need to be doing is encouraging myself, saying good and uplifting messages to my inner artist. Being a creative individual is trying enough, why not be my own best supporter instead?

 

My husband and I brainstormed phrases of encouragement that I can use when writer’s block catches me in a downward cycle of negativity. I love these phrases and wish they were all 100% true of myself – but sometimes we need to speak our hopes into being, like a self-fulfilling prophesy or a pep talk to a sports team. There is power in positive-self talk. If you don’t believe me, try these phrases out for a week and see if your circumstances or at least your mental state does not receive a pick-me-up.

 

Positive Affirmations for Writers:

  • “I am a brilliant creative mind and I will accomplish whatever I set out to do.”
  • “I don’t need to feel lonely; my family and friends support me in my pursuits and will be there for me when I need them.”
  • “Only those who try have the chance of success.”
  • “My ideas are creative.”
  • “My characters are dynamic.”
  • “My plot has depth.”
  • “I am in control.”
  • “I am the bully of my own writer’s block.”
  • “I have the power to write writer’s block out of my story and my head.”
  • “This time to write is a gift I give myself.”
  • “I will not sabotage or be afraid of my own success.”
  • “I believe in myself and my work.”
  • “I will get through this tough stretch. This too shall pass.”
  • “What I write will make a difference.”
  • “My audience is out there. I am writing for them.”
  • “Anything is possible for me.”

 

Specific encouragements for the 3-Day Novel Contest:

  • “I think of myself as an Olympic athlete. This contest is my race. It’s only three days. The end is in sight.”
  • “This is going to be fun.”
  • “If the challenge was easy it wouldn’t be worthwhile.”
  • “No matter the outcome, I will be proud of myself.”
  • “The journey of this experience will be a catalyst for even greater creativity.”
  • “I can sleep tomorrow.”

 

Repeating these positive phrases to yourself will shift you from negativity to a more positive outlook. Who doesn’t want that transition when stuck in a rut? I will be practicing speaking these sayings to myself as I embark on the 3-Day challenge and also as I continue my work as a writer. Try it for yourself and let me know if it makes a difference for you.

Put Writer’s Block in its Place

 

Here are a few little tricks can you do to overcome writer’s block. First of all, don’t freak out. Try these techniques instead. With the 3-Day Novel Contest only days away, these are the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” I will be utilizing when caught in a block.

 

Do’s

  • Run the stairs of your home or apartment.
  • Eat a healthy snack or meal. Nothing too heavy. Fruit and veggies are great for snacks.
  • Look out the window and let your mind wander. Watch cars go by, day dream about the shape of clouds.  Breath deeply and allow yourself to simply be for a moment.
  • Draw a picture or doodle.
  • Shift mental gears by doing something (besides typing) with your hands. For me, this would be work on my wood sculpture for 10 minutes. For others, this could be laundry, taking out the garbage, vacuuming a room, peeling potatoes for dinner.
  • Do a word search.
  • Lay on the floor and stair up at the ceiling while calming yourself.
  • Go outside and take a few deep breaths of fresh air.
  • Take a short nap.
  • Go for a brisk walk or run – a sprint even.
  • Take a cold shower (not just reserved for hormone filled teenage boys!).
  • Change your clothes; get out of your pyjamas and into clothes that gear you up for work.
  • Drink a whole glass of water.
  • Stretch out your muscles (yes, I would suggest getting out of your desk chair to do this).
  • Set the mood of your writing area: lighting, music, a photo on your desk of your favourite vacation spot (your happy place), and a scented candle.
  • Get away from your computer. Leave your office. Change scenery for a brief period of time.

 

Don’t

  • Answer the phone if you are in the middle of a thought. Better yet, turn the ringer off. That’s what answering machines are for.
  • Update social media.
  • Check and respond to e-mail.
  • Watch TV (It could turn into a longer break than you had anticipated).
  • Eat junk food. Avoid artificial sugars and salts.
  • Give in to negative self-talk.

 

I will very likely refer back to this list myself in the heat of the moment as I participate in the 3-Day Novel Contest while battling the block. If I come up with any more ideas I will be sure to post again.

 

Do you know any good techniques you’d like to add?

 

When trying to overcome writer’s block, the most important point of both the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” is to not give in to negative self talk. It truly is in the fragile ground of our mind where the batter over blockages is either won or lost. Maybe you do not even recognize your negative thoughts. They are subtle for sure.

 

Be attentive and listen to the messages you tell yourself. If you are genuinely a self-nurturing and self-encouraging person – good for you! If not and you start to realize the words you use that defeat your own mojo, come back to Artist Reborn tomorrow. I will be posting an uplifting list of positive affirmations for writers.

Don’t Stare Directly at Writer’s Block

 

With the 3-Day Novel Contest less than a week away writer’s block is already trying to psych me out. The contest is a 3 day challenge to write a novel at sonic speed. It takes place the September long weekend and provides the ultimate writing sprint. This is my first year participating so I don’t fully know what to expect.

 

Apart from the actual writing itself, my sneaky writer’s block already whispers in my ear:

  • Your newborn will cluster feed and cry all weekend, you won’t be able to get anything done.
  • Your two year old will miss you; she’ll bang on the office door and scream the undeniable call, “Mommmmmy!”
  • You’ll grow lonely while all your family and friends are hanging out enjoying the last of the summer sun and eating tasty BBQ.

 

Then my writer’s block moves on to pre-emptive strikes against my writing process:

  • There is not enough time – you are too much of a perfectionist.
  • You don’t have enough experience. Who are you? You think you can write a novel?
  • The plot you are imagining has holes.
  • Your characters are flat.
  • Your fingers can’t type fast enough!
  • The jokes you write are only funny in your own head.
  • If you chicken out, no one will know.

 

That’s the catch, though, I will know. I will know if I don’t give it my all or fail to finish the race. This scenario would mean defeat at the hands of my nemesis. I am aware of what I must do: Wage war on the writer’s block that attempts to floor me before the 3 days have even begun.

 

My technique leading up to the weekend: Don’t look writer’s block directly in the eye. If I distract myself from the practicalities and instead focus on preparations, day dream about my characters and lose myself in imaginings of plot and structure – then somehow I can actually avoid thinking about the writing itself, the part that really gets my nerves quivering.

 

I am sharing my fears and telling everyone I know that I am in the contest because I need the accountability. If I write about writer’s block here on my blog, somehow its evil whispers wither in power. I am choosing not to chicken out before or mid-race –but it helps to know that everyone else expects me to push through as well.

 

Please ask me, come next Tuesday, “How did it go?”

 

Over the next three days I will be posting ways to combat writer’s block. Check back for helpful ideas.