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Revisions complete.

Last night I packed up my revised manuscript to send it off to its first entrance into the outside world. (its first “once-over” from eyes who do not know me)

A big moment.

I also stuck a floppy disk into the computer and sent it whizzing through cyber space to my mother’s email address. Although somewhat dissappointed that it wouldn’t arrive physically at her door (all 3.5 pounds of it tied neatly with string), I was heartened by the fact that we are saving trees, time and money by indulging in this magical sort of technology.

A bigger moment.

This morning I sat up in bed and whispered the last words of a wonderful dream. (I had been constructing my next novel in my head as I slept.)

“It all turns out in the end.”

After sharing a muffin with a sleepy-eyed toddler I discovered something else that had happened in the night. While I was preparing to make my entrance into the world of literature, Carol Shields was making her exit from this earth. I can only hope that the moment was as kind and graceful as her writing, as she was.

This past May I decided to write Ms. Shields a letter. My only hope was that it would reach her. As ill as she had been with breast cancer these past few years, I expected nothing in return. I was thrilled when a few days later a short note came, thanking me for my letter.

Here is the letter I wrote to her. Safe journey Ms. Shields.

May 26, 2003

Dear Ms. Shields,

Thank you. Thank you for sharing your words with the

rest of us. Thank you for spending countless hours

spinning, weaving, mending line after line of

language. Thank you.

I have thought about writing this letter on many

occasions, always second-guessing myself into putting

my thoughts aside for another day. Today they will

hopefully reach you and find you content and well

rested.

I suppose my message is a simple note of gratitude,

expressing my admiration for your courage in life and

words.

Four years ago I packed my belongings and moved from

Chicago to Nova Scotia. (For the love of a good

Canadian man and because I had finally found my true

‘home’.) Now with two small children and far too much

laundry, I challenge myself each day to find at least

a little time to write.

I was listening to CBC radio the other day and I heard

a recent interview at your home in Victoria. The

interviewer read a passage from your essay, “About

Writing”. My husband, who was also listening,

commented that the excerpt shared the same sentiment

as a passage I had written a few days earlier, part of

a larger novel I have been working on for the past six

months. I’ll share it with you and then be on my way.

“I have the desire (and the right) to have something

that is uniquely my own, something beyond the whorls

of my fingertips. Poems on grocery receipts and café

napkins, the lazy canopy of a lullaby’s tune, the

hand-stitched map of the quilter’s square…through

instinct we gestate meaning, comfort, and life. We

create home.”

With affection,

Ami McKay

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Survived the “in-between” period where I refused myself the habit of working on the novel each day.

It was so hard to stay away from it, but I managed about a month’s worth of not actually touching it. I worried the entire time that I would forget where I had wanted to go with it or that some freak natural disaster would destroy it. (wiping out the computer, the back-up disk and my hard copy)

Gladly, even giddily, I have returned to it for revisions. I’m ‘in love’ with it again, although I find I beat myself up over not doing this or that a certain way the first time. Ah hindsight…

They say writing a novel is akin to giving birth. Lately I find it’s more like trying to maintain a relationship…the chase, the lust, the love, the regret, the break-ups, the make-ups, the warm comfortable feeling of coming home.

Read “For Writers Only” during that time. Here’s what Ms. burnham has to say about it. So true!

“When you’re not writing you have plenty of time for fear.

Correcting galleys helps. Reading proofs. But that work is not ‘real writing’. Friends come up and congratulate you on your finished book, and you look back at them, savagely. You give a sickly grin. “Thank You.” You barely manage to muster the memory of manners, and you must forcibly remind yourself that they’re right – yes, yes, it must be good to have finished your book. In fact you remember how one day, it was. One day you put down your pen (turned off your computer) and thought with a surge of undiluted joy – I’ve done it! Finished!” And you were laughing to yourself because secretly you knew you still had weeks of playful work to do, editing, smoothing, polishing the sharp white stones. Or else you thought you’d use this freely flowing fine good enegy to start another work.

Instead in two days you collapse.”

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Another little bit about Dorothea Brande before I close up her book and put it on the shelf… I have found yet another thread of wisdom about writing that has been pulled into the works of contemporary writers such as Natalie Goldberg and Sophy Burnham.

It is the idea that writing is a meditative process. Back when dear Dorothea was writing she didn’t come out and call it ‘transcendental meditation’ or ‘sitting zazen’, but she describes the experience in detail and it’s bang on with things that Natalie Goldberg has mentioned in her books on writing. (Writing Down the Bones, Wild Minds, Thunder and Lightning)

I must agree…magic happens when I can free my mind from the crosshatches of the mundane. Chase off monkey mind and I am left with a space where my best thoughts rise to the top. They come while walking the loop, picking rocks on the beach, soaking in the tub, between the end of the day and sleep. (and don’t fool yourself into thinking they will last…the notebook must be handy at all times!)

The reading – a wonderful night for all five participants in the WFNS mentorship program. We done ourselves proud.

I was nervous right up until I was standing at the front of the room. Once I started reading, the characters took over and told their own stories. What a freeing and exhilarating experience. I have to say that I love all aspects of being a storyteller…the written and the spoken word. It brings out the Dickens in me.

Natalie Goldberg

WFNS