Happy Birthday, Harry Potter! (or: “Platform 9 3/4”)

I got another runner-up win in a WritersDomain writing contest!! It was a Harry Potter FanFiction contest, in honour of Harry’s birthday, which is today, July 31. I’d never written fanfiction before (turned up my nose at it, if I’ve got to be honest), but this one I couldn’t resist. I mean, Harry Potter

And seeing as I was just there a year ago, at King’s Cross and the Platform 9 3/4 Store, that’s what I wrote about.

You can read it here: “Platform 9 3/4” – scroll down, mine is the third entry. On second thought, don’t scroll down, read the other two first. They’re really good. I might have to revise my opinion on fanfiction.

Life, the Universe, and Platform 9 3/4. Alohomora!

Snippets from a Writer’s Conference: @WordLake

Word on the Lake was, once again, fantastic. I came home with my head stuffed with info, my feet hovering about two inches off the ground with the sheer buoyancy of inspiration.

Here are a few snippets, visual, inspirational or educational (the latter paraphrased in my own words from what stuck with me):

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It’s not called “Word on the Lake” for nothing

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That’s a beaver paddling around!

Ian Weir (screenwriter and novelist): “Give yourself permission to write. A lawyer goes to school for about nine years – a writer should be allowed the same time to learn their craft.”

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Steve at lunch

Gail Anderson-Dargatz (novelist, teacher, mentor):

“Being a literary writer is like being a concert pianist. It takes the same level of training, and practice – and practice…”

“Write crap.” (i.e. get the first crappy draft on the page, then go back and work it over)

“Most writers share character traits of being odd, anxious, fearful, observant, introverted…” (There was a huge long list on the whiteboard. I almost cried with relief at hearing that I’m not alone.) “Don’t let your fears hold back your character on the page.”

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Another hugely encouraging Blue Pencil session – thank you, Jacqueline!

Jacqueline Guest (teacher, writer of historic novels for young adults): “If it’s character-driven, what’s driving the character?”

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Panel discussion on “The Importance of Writing Back Stories for Your Characters”

There was story after story of the presenters’ own lives, which was probably more inspiring than anything else. This was, after all, a writer’s conference – probably the most interesting group of people to listen or talk to you could imagine. It didn’t matter where you werein a workshop, at lunch, chatting between sessions – at the slightest provocation people drop into telling stories. And they tell them well – boredom is not one of the invited guests at a writers’ gathering.

I came away encouraged, inspired, and energized (as well as exhausted – it’s that introvert thing, which meant that even a day later I needed a really long nap just to recuperate some of my energies). My mind was expanded, and so was my network – I reconnected with friends from previous years, made new friends, found new mentors to follow and learn from…

I can’t wait for next year’s conference. But meanwhile, I have some writing to do!

Life, the Universe, and Snippets from a Conference. See you there in 2019?

Rearview Mirror on a Summer

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Long Beach, Vancouver Island

September has come, it is hers / Whose vitality leaps in the autumn…*

Except that my vitality ain’t doing too much leaping at the moment. I’m still scrambling to catch up with the long, busy, and, above all, “away” summer – you’ve seen a few of the pictures. We left home on July 9th; spent two weeks in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island; came home; then after all of two days I hopped on a plane (or rather, a series of them), and headed for Europe for a month. A few days of sightseeing in Munich; three weeks of family stuff (helping with a move, to be precise); then to cap it off, three glorious days in London.

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Marienplatz, Munich, with Mary’s Column and Old Town Hall

Six weeks, 1500 photos, a wealth of experiences and memories. My house and garden, meanwhile, went to pot. As for my writing – well, I was going to say that nothing happened on that front, either. But that would actually be quite untrue. No, I didn’t really put any words to paper (or screen, as it were). But among those 1500 photos are quite a few that I took specifically as references for my WIP (that’s short for Work In Progress, for the un-artsy of you). The whole time in Germany I was soaking up atmosphere, sounds, tastes, sights – all with a mind to how that could be put to paper. My hotel in London was a converted Regency townhouse – inspiration pure (I might just have to write a Regency novel one of these days just so I can set it in that street; it was called Burton Crescent in those days).

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Cartwright Gardens, Bloomsbury

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I want to go back…

One street over, Tavistock Square, was where both Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens lived for a while and wrote To the Lighthouse and A Tale of Two Cities, respectively. Five minutes walk up the street was the British Library – I got to see original manuscripts by (i.e. stare in awe at the notebooks of) Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Oscar Wilde; my jaw literally dropped when in one of the gorgeous glass cases I saw the Lindisfarne Gospels, and in another the Codex Sinaiticus… But I didn’t just revel in high-brow literature – I stopped in at King’s Cross Station and took a look at the Platform 9 3/4 store with its trolley stuck into the wall, too.

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The one and only portrait of Jane Austen, by her sister Cassandra. National Portrait Gallery, London.

I drank Bavarian beer in Munich, Württemberger wine in Stuttgart, and English cider in London; I ate pork roast with dumplings in the Hofbräuhaus, lentils and spätzle in the old part of Stuttgart, and beef-and-ale pie in a pub by King’s Cross. I got claustrophobic in the Bloody Tower as one of the bloody masses of tourists and sat in silence in the Stiftskirche in Stuttgart among a few other visitors stopped in to pray. I revelled in train rides and was moved to tears by world-famous paintings. And in between, I packed boxes and unpacked boxes; walked to the grocery store, walked to public transit, walked to visit people, and on Sundays went for walks by way of recreation.

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Beef pie and Symonds cider, in honest-to-goodness London pub

And now I’m back home in the land of peaches and salsa and grapes, where one has to take the car even to buy a jug of milk. I have limitless wi-fi again, so I’m catching up with what I’ve missed on the internet (which I haven’t actually missed that much – I’m considering making this a lifestyle). And I’m bound and determined to get back to writing. I have great good intentions to regularly sit down and work on my, well, work. One can always be optimistic, no? I certainly have enough inspiration to carry me along for a while.

Life, the Universe, and a Long Busy Travelling Summer. Now to process all those impressions…

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Franz Marc, “Birds”. Lenbachhaus, Munich. So beautiful it made me cry.

*opening line from a poem by Louis McNeice, Autumn Journal