Sunday, September 29, 2019

Laura Cok : my (small press) writing day

Since I work 9-5 and a weekday writing day would look like “go to work, come home, avoid eye contact with closed laptop while watching Netflix and petting dog,” I have opted for a Saturday. There’s still a lot of Netflix and dog-petting, but less avoidance of further screen time.

8:30 a.m. It’s my fiance’s turn to get up with the dog, but I’m inexplicably awake earlier, having had a weird dream about a fight in an abandoned Walmart. I’m not normally one for dream inspiration (would that it were so easy!) but something is sticking. Also, the dog is staring at me, willing me to get up and feed her breakfast, and her tail thumps against the wall are pretty loud.

8:35 a.m. I get up and feed her breakfast. We go for a walk around the neighbourhood and I try to keep my brain quiet as it fleshes out some of the backstory.

9 a.m. Coffee! And cinnamon rolls in the oven (the kind from a can where you have to brace for the pop). I cannot find my laptop anywhere and suspect it’s under the bed, so I creep around the house for a bit, trying not to wake my partner, but have to give up.

It’s analog time. I am not immune to the allure of fancy notebooks but I don’t fill them up very quickly, because for prose I write exclusively on the computer. Usually I go classic Moleskine but right now I’m working my way through a Leuchtturm that I got when we were in Berlin...two years ago. It’s a really nice notebook. I should write in it more.

9:45 a.m. I’m still scribbling notes when my partner gets up. He’s inquisitive about what I’m doing but I’m always a real jerk about The Process when I’m in it, so I mostly ignore him all morning until I run out of ideas.

10 a.m. He watches soccer. I read books and bum around the house.

10:30 a.m. I decide it’s finally time to download Scrivener. The project I’m working on, which has nothing to do with all the morning’s frantic scribbling, has gotten way too unwieldy for Microsoft Word. I don’t write in a very linear way and my approach to attempting a novel thus far has been “throw a dart at the board and start there.” So it’s gotten to be a bit of a mess, and thus, Scrivener. How hard could it be?

2 p.m. I am STILL working my way through this eternal Scrivener tutorial.

3 p.m. I need a break. This tutorial was written in 2006 and it’s charming enough, but I need something else. I take myself off to our neighbourhood Balzac’s and get a sparkling raspberry hibiscus lemonade (highly recommended!) and sit on the patio.

3:15 p.m. I’m alternating between reading Adrienne Gruber’s Buoyancy Control and Jane Alison’s Meander Spiral Explode, the latter being a fascinating approach to craft. I don’t have an MFA so I try to pick up what I can.

3:20 p.m. I keep getting distracted by the woman next to me, who is complaining volubly about a cop who left his car idling for twenty minutes while getting groceries. It is clear that she’s recently been dinged for something similar and her male companion is not particularly sympathetic. He’s saying something about car batteries and she is not having it.

3:50 p.m. I have written two terrible poems (again in the notebook)! This counts as a success even if they will never see the light of day.

4 p.m. Time to walk to the library with partner and puppy, where I do my weekly switch of returns and holds. Our branch is tiny and I am obsessed with the TPL’s hold system. I check my account every single day to see which books are on their way to me, and if I need to reorder my reading to align with which books I can’t renew. Partner and dog wait, dog worrying, outside, while I do a quick sneaky check to see if my own book is in yet (it’s supposed to be in this branch, for reasons I don’t understand and have some concerns about...can they tell I’m always here?), but it’s not. Later I’ll check the website and see that it’s lost!

5 p.m. More Scrivener tutorial. You can put reference images in there!

6 p.m. One journal rejection received. I update my spreadsheet, which I’ve been keeping since 2005. It’s colour-coded. There’s a lot of red, but the occasional patches of bright triumphant green. Personalized rejections are beige, because I don’t believe they exactly count as rejections.

7 p.m. Partner has made dinner. Afterwards we watch an episode of the Handmaid’s Tale and I get depressed.

9 p.m. Successfully loaded my work in progress onto Scrivener as a new project. Look at my cool new digital index cards! If only I knew what’s supposed to happen next in the plot!

9:30 p.m. I also throw in my notes from this morning before I forget how to read my own handwriting, which is a real risk. You can see the warning signs from my first grade report cards, but alas.

11 p.m. This counts as a very productive day. I will probably never have another useful dream again.

Originally from northern California, Laura Cok spent time in Grand Rapids, Michigan and Waterloo, Ontario before settling in Toronto, where she now lives. She holds an MA in English Literature from the University of Toronto, where she won the E.J. Pratt Poetry Medal and the University of Toronto Magazine alumni poetry contest. She has been previously published widely across Canada and works in corporate communications. Her first book, Doubter's Hymnal, was published by Mansfield Press in 2019.

Friday, September 27, 2019

my (small press) writing day : Juliette Sebock

More often than not, my writing day consists of a writing hour.

Or less. And that's on the off chance I've got the spare time to sit and write.  More often than not, my writing "ritual" consists of typing lines of a poem in my phone's notes app as they come to me, or trying my darnedest to remember the ones that came to mind while I was in the shower.

But, every so often, I'll find (or, perhaps more aptly, make) those few precious minutes just to write.  I have no submissions deadlines looming over me, I'm ahead on my bills, and, for once, no one's waiting to hear back from me in an email.

Even more unconventionalor, perhaps more common, though less romantic an imageI don't have a writing desk, but a lap desk and a small section of shelf at the foot of my bed for books and paperwork.  I run my press, my lit mag, my various jobs, and my own writing all from bedor maybe the couch, if I'm feeling adventurous. I know, I know, I'd sleep better if I made my bed for sleeping and sleeping alone.... Chronic illness will make you do the darnedest things, like spend half your life stuck in bed.

That being said, my day naturally starts in bedthe rest of my family has left the house by 8:30 at the latest, which is about when I'll venture out into the house.

Before anything else, I grab coffee.  If nothing else gets done in my day, I grab coffee.

On a good day, I'll start off with my "day job," transcribing video and audio for a good chunk of the day. Once I've made about $30 for the day (I'm working on finding something that pays more than just the basic bills!), I'm free to work on my other bits: this is the time where I'll write my latest blog post or book review, answer emails, review Nightingale & Sparrow submissions, send out submissions of my own, check in with my various teams, work on or search for freelance gigs, etc.

Some days, my "day job" goes well into the night.  Sometimes those other tasks last well past the time I'd like to go to sleep.

But sometimes, if I'm extra productive, have successfully avoided a flare, and have gotten through my to-do list, I'll just sit and write. 

More often than not, this will consist of my pulling out my phone and reviewing the bits and pieces and occasional full drafts of poems I've got saved in my notes.  I'll usually transfer them to the cloud on my computer, editing and adding to them as I go. I'll add the finished products to my overly-detailed spreadsheet and mark any submissions or works in progress I've got in mind for the piece at hand. 

Eventually, I'll check notifications and my inbox one last time and let myself go to sleep...before waking up to do it all over again.

Juliette Sebock is a Best of the Net-nominated poet and writer and the author of Mistakes Were Made, Micro, Boleyn, and How My Cat Saved My Life and Other Poems, with work forthcoming or appearing in a wide variety of publications. She is the founding editor of Nightingale & Sparrow, runs a lifestyle blog, For the Sake of Good Taste, and is a regular contributor with Marías at Sampaguitas, Royal Rose, Memoir Mixtapes, and The Poetry Question. When she isn't writing (and sometimes when she is), she can be found with a cup of coffee and her cat, Fitz. Juliette can be reached on her website,, or across social media @juliettesebock.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Kelly Krumrie : Writing Day

The cat and dog want to go outside and then come in and then go out again. I check to see if any tomatoes are ripe. I pick up dog poop. I walk around, refill my water glass. I read something I wrote. I open a book. I look up a word. I look up something else. I close my computer and then open it. I log in. I click my pencil. Outside, I assemble a word bank in my notebook, and I try to use each of the words in sentences. I rearrange the sentences. I look up. I let the cat out. I stand on a chair to look over the fence into the neighbor’s yard, pretending to look for the cat. I write another sentence. I change into my running clothes. I don’t wear headphones. I run the same route. I think of something and stop and I write it in the notes on my phone. I get home. I check my notebook, stretch, shower, eat. I open a new tab. I type what was in the notebook. I rearrange sentences. I open several books at once and pull words and sentences from those books into my notebook and then I type them on the computer. I make coffee and drink it. I use a foam roller on my legs. I look out the window. I reread sentences. I make another word bank. I open a book. I take a word from that book and put it in my notebook and then type it. I research something, and then something else. I get up. I pull up dead plants and chase a squirrel out. I look up a word and then something else. I refill my water glass. I go into another room. I have the dog on my lap.

Kelly Krumrie’s prose, poetry, and reviews are forthcoming from or appear in Entropy, La Vague, Full Stop, Black Warrior Review, and elsewhere. She is a PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Denver and holds an MFA from the University of San Francisco. She is currently the Prose Editor at Denver Quarterly.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Natalee Caple : My Writing Day

Author’s Note [addendum]: I have one deep regret about my new book of poetry. My incredible queer non-binary child came out to us after the book went to press and so the pronouns are all wrong. I regret, I hate, that I committed Casey to public memory as different than they are because I am so grateful and thrilled with who they are. I am so lucky and happy with my kids.

As a feminist writer it is a crazy embarrassing to admit that my writing day has always been stolen and assembled from the times and spaces I share with other people. I worry sometimes that secret even from myself is the fear that I don’t deserve space just for me. In my earliest days I shared a computer with my partner and I wrote short stories twice a week when they were swimming. I am quite sure that I never demanded time or said, you will have to wait, this is my time. My next long term semi marriage needed an office to themselves and I said I didn’t, but it really was not an option to share. I wrote on my laptop sitting on the red IKEA couch whenever they didn’t need the TV. I spread my papers out on the floor and the cats moved my pages around. Now, married a final time with two teenage children, there is a trick with my life I am learning to do. I could have my own office in this house that we bought when we moved to St Catharines so that I could take up my job at Brock as a professor who teaches Creative Writing. I originally set up a room in the basement as my office but it filled with toys. So, I set up a standing desk in a corner of the family room but a giant stuffed panda kept lying on the treadmill. Sometimes the Panda wears my clothes. Filling the cracks in my feminism, I remind myself I have an office at Brock University, but it isn’t a space where I feel safe and relaxed enough to get lost and that is what I need to write. Some writers need crisis and some need privacy I need movement and connection. I write in my head when I am swimming or walking or reading — and then I grab some tool to record the writing. When the writing is going well I write all the time. This makes me a very annoying person to watch a movie beside. To write I have to first put stuff in — it’s input input input output. So, when writing my feminist Western I would get up and watch a Western film and record the fragments of ideas that came to me watching. To write my recent book of poetry I filled myself up with other people’s poetry and then I wrote the poems those poems wrote in me. I might start by copying out all the lines in a book that start with the word “I” as I did with the poem, “Life of Gary” for Gary Barwin. Then I see something there, a character emerging or a riff about loneliness that rises out of nouns — a certain repetition of sounds or of water imagery and I sculpt that until it is my poem — the poem that describes the other poem to me, the experience of reading and connecting and then being differently after contact. I try to share my work with Casey and Imogen, my kids, so we take research trips on pirate ships and they offer ideas about monsters and storms. I never have a “day” where I write or a schedule where no one can talk to me. I just exist, writing beside people, picking up books and putting them down and picking up my computer and putting it down — capturing ideas for fragments of dialogue or a description of a ship. I might say, what do you think of this way of faking your own death? While we fold laundry side by side. Hmm, says Imogen, I think it has been done before. Mom, says Casey walking down the stairs, I think the monster should have big jaws and a lot of eyes and three arms on either side and a big muscular tail that it moves it through the water. I write that down and think, I miss Pris, I miss my grandmother, what if two of the pirates were more like them, one glittery and ambitious and the other raucous and mad for children. What if those two pirates staged a play together, a comedy, to entertain the crew one night under a super starry sky at sea?

Natalee Caple is the author of nine books of fiction, and poetry, and the co-editor (with Michelle Berry) of an anthology of author interviews and fiction by Canadian authors. Her work has been nominated for the KM Hunter award, the RBC Bronwyn Wallace Award, the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award, the ReLit Award, and The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction. Her latest novel, In Calamity’s Wake was published in Canada by HarperCollins and in the US by Bloomsbury. The novel in translation was published by Boréal and has been sold separately for publication in France. Her new book of poetry, Love in the Chthulucene/Chthulucene was published by Wolsak and Wynn in Spring 2019. You can find it anywhere that sells fine literature!