Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Samantha Garner : my (small press) writing day

I'm always intimidated and inspired in equal measure by highly-structured writing routines. I'd love to be a disciplined writer, waking up with the sun and nestling myself into my perfect writing space, which of course will impart creativity by osmosis. I'd somehow make a cup of tea without disturbing my sleeping husband and dog, and by the time they awoke, I would have written 2,000 words, as fresh as a daisy.

In reality, though, my writing day is more . . . let's say "freeform." Though intellectually I am a morning person, I also have the sort of insomnia that manifests as my eyes flying open at 3am, so when my husband's alarm goes off I'm more likely to burrow down into the blankets and groan consolingly to myself. From time to time I do fling off my blankets with confidence and squeeze in some 6am writing, but those days are rare and I don't trust them.

Once we've eaten and my husband leaves for work, there's a strangely magical half hour where the world is still quiet and I feel like the only one awake, where it's possible to dash off a few inspired sentences. But once I resolve to take the dog out, the magic breaks apart like smoke. If the morning is nice I might return home with the spirit of it clinging to me and channel it into my writing. But more often than not, it's time to work day-job work.

I'm a freelance writer, so my days are spent largely in a strange state of working and writing and thinking about one while I'm doing the other. I sit down at my desk to work-write something, and my gaze and attention pass over the notebook I use for write-writing. Or I'm write-writing and I get the nagging sense that I've been at it too long, and I need to move onto the next task in my work-write list. Working from home can feel like a mixed blessing - on paper I have all the time in the world to write; I should have written ten novels by now. But when I'm on the clock, my head tends to stay there even if I'm not actually performing work at the time. On the plus side, though, sometimes my bed is my office.

Sometimes I'll haul self and laptop to a coffeeshop to write, and I try to ignore the existence of wi-fi. There's something about making that walk to a different location and paying money for coffee and a snack that snaps my brain to attention, and I'm always, always productive. Other times, I leave my laptop at home and just walk aimlessly. Whether I'm actively thinking about my novel or not, there's a general loosening that Doris Lessing discusses in volume two of her autobiography: "Work begins. I do not sit down but wander about the room. I think on my feet, while I wash up a cup, tidy a drawer, drink a cup of tea, but my mind is not on these activities ... And this goes on when you are shopping, cooking, anything. You are reading but find the book has lowered itself: you are wool-gathering. The creative dark. Incommunicable."

Despite how this makes me seem like I wobble about my writing life, careening off walls and distracting myself, I find these little micro-routines are much better for me. Maybe I'm not the sort of person who can or should have a highly-disciplined writing routine. Maybe it's best to snatch out little moments and inspirations. Stolen victories, and a completed novel at the end of it.

Samantha Garner's short fiction and poetry has previously appeared in Broken Pencil, Sundog Lit, Kiss Machine, The Fiddlehead, Storychord, and WhiskeyPaper. Her novel The Quiet is Loud will be published by Invisible Publishing in Fall 2021. She is based in Toronto.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Jessica Drake-Thomas: Writing Day

7:50-8:50—I wake up, make a pot of coffee. I sit and then watch the news while I wake up.

8:50-9:15—I walk the dog through the neighborhood to avoid potential run-ins with coyotes.

9:15-9:30—I shower, dress, etc.

9:30-10—I read a poem that I’m working on aloud, then make a few small edits to it. I add the title to the TOC for the collection that it will go in. I change the order of the TOC several times, then I answer emails, check the Twitter, and I look at several pairs of leopard print pants.  

10-11:30— Write two thousand words of a dragon shifter romance for a freelance client. I don’t actually like romance, but evidently, I am very good at writing it. Currently, it’s my only source of income. Someday, I hope to never write it again. While I write, the dog naps, or watches me work. She also lets me know if a package has been delivered, or if there’s someone standing too close to the front yard. Sometimes, she sleeps on my feet, which is rather nice, although she snores like an elderly man.

11:30-12:15— Write one thousand words of a Regency-era romance for a freelance client. Look up different styles of men’s coats for the era. Evidently, the pockets were in the tails of the coats, and they had flaps at the hips, where there were no pockets.   

12:15-1— I feed the dog, eat lunch, then I have a second cup of coffee and some dessert. I usually let the dog out in the backyard for a bit.  

1-2:30—I write two thousand words of the Regency-era romance. I research different styles of carriage, choose to put in a Stanhope Gig, simply because it’s more interesting than a Barouche-Landau.

2:30-4—I write two thousand words of a Western Romance for a freelance client. By this time, I’m getting tired, so I just try to get in as many words as I can. I do stop to check the Twitter and the news several times.

4-5— I walk the dog. As I go, I make notes on my phone for poems, and my novel. The dog tries to walk off, into the woods and never return. I can’t blame her, and would love to do the same sometimes. We pass fields with of cows, horses. Two cows come up to the fence, and they spend about five minutes, where my dog and the cows stare at each other and wag their tails.   

5-7—I write two thousand words of my horror novel, which is about a haunted locket, specifically, Victorian Mourning jewelry—the kind with the hair. I’m obsessed with it, but can’t really explain why.   

7-7:50—I feed the dog and eat dinner.

8-10—I watch a few episodes of Fringe and I work on poems. My current collection has several Fringe-themed pieces, so I’m re-watching the series.

10—I get ready for bed.  

Jessica Drake-Thomas is a poet, novelist, freelance writer, and blogger. She is the author of Burials, which is forthcoming from CLASH Books in 2020. Her work has been featured in or is forthcoming from Grimoire Magazine, Coffin Bell Journal, Three Drops from a Cauldron, and PVSSYMAGIC.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Larissa Shmailo’s Writing Day:

5:00 am: I love it when I wake up early in the morning; this time seems more mine than any other. I weigh myself—the scale hasn’t moved but I am patient. I am obese, but less so by some 30 pounds now, and every day is a new adventure. This week I broke out of my couch-to -computer life to walk in the park and along Broadway for several miles. I am abstaining from my binge foods, sugar and flour, and every day I bend and turn my big body in joyful remembrance of motion. I am coming out of food fog and experiencing the pink cloud of addictive withdrawal.

Next, I do what I have always done – check my analytics. Did someone look at my blog? My Wikipedia page? My Facebook? My Twitter? Did something pending get published? Like Roland Barthes, who once wrote to me (yes, truly) J'écris pour être aimé de loin, I also write to be loved from afar, and to be read.

5:30, thereabouts:  I meditate on positive affirmations as I have done for years. Mixed in there are my literary ambitions—I visualize reading at the 92nd Street Y, of being published in The Paris Review.  I also remember David Foster Wallace who had every award and pub I could ever covet and who killed himself, and I affirm for less glittering but more durable qualities like gratitude, joy, humility, and love.

7:00 am: My poetry partner likes my new poem, “Over 35.” It is an interleaving of Shakespeare’s Sonnet XXXV with answering lines about infidelity. This is a gut poem; it proceeded from an ache in my body that could not be denied. Lying on the couch, I asked, “Can I write this later?” No, my gut replied, now. I decide I will send it to Poetry;  I have received my last rejection and it is time again. I bundle my Submittable, write my cover letter with my too-long bio, and send. It is done; I can forget about it for another six months.

9:00 am: What has Trump done now? I watch the news addictively. A child of parents persecuted by Stalin and interned in concentration camps by Hitler, I see the rise of fascism in the United States, of shameless, Goebbels-style propaganda – make the lie big, keep it simple enough for your stupidest follower, repeat it often, get others to repeat it. Sinclair has eaten Tribune and tells people on local news between the sports and the weather that Obama was funded by Hamas . . . this is the time writers earn their keep, as Toni Morrison said, these are the times we go to work.

11:00 am: My side hustle – I am a freelancer, write, ghost, do social media, edit, whatever I can to support my literary jones.  For the past year, I have gotten work as a terminologist, a creative namer for advertising—I come up with names like Xarelto and Aviator for products, organizations, and services. This is one corporate gig where being a poet is not cause to be thrown out of the interviewer’s office—creativity with language is prized and paid astonishingly well. Today, I name a banking data platform; they want names that connote reliability, innovation, flexibility, data science. I knock out 100 names according to their parameters, real words lightly coined, and feel gratitude for the easy money.

3:00 pm: My current project is a screenplay adaptation of my autobiographical hard-knocks novel, Patient Women. I am becoming acutely aware that I know very little about this genre, but for now, am trying to get the recovery from alcoholism, bipolar disorder, sex addiction and second-generation Holocaust survival all into 110 loosely packed pages in something that resembles the conventional format of a writing discipline that values conventional structures. To my surprise, I am succeeding and have gotten the war story all in with plenty of room for the recovery, although several chapters, characters, and subplots have had to be jettisoned or conflated. I am halfway through the roughest of rough drafts, and know I will have to go back to set up each shot visually, not verbally, and to edit mercilessly. How the hell am I going to sell this? I haven’t the foggiest; I am banking on, if I write it, the agent will come.

Evening. I didn’t procrastinate or binge today, a good day. More news, friends, sleep at a decent hour. Something to do, to look forward to; work and love, Freud said. It is a good life and I, woman of a thousand diagnoses, do not take a second of it for granted.

Larissa Shmailo is a poet, novelist, translator, editor, curator, and critic. Her new novel is Sly Bang; her first novel is Patient Women. Her poetry collections are Medusa’s Country, #specialcharacters, In Paran, A Cure for Suicide, and Fib Sequence. Her poetry albums are The No-Net World and Exorcism, for which she won the New Century Best Spoken Word Album award. Shmailo is the original English-language translator of the first Futurist opera Victory Over the Sun by Alexei Kruchenych, performed at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Garage Museum of Moscow, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and theaters and universities worldwide. Shmailo also edited the online anthologies Twenty-first Century Russian Poetry and From Pushkin to Pussy Riot: Russian Political Poetry and Prose. Her work is included in the libraries of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Smithsonian. Please see more about Shmailo at

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Nazli Karabıyıkoğlu : Just A Perfect Day: I’m Glad I’ve Spent It Writing

 I am a full-time writer thanks to my decision I took four years ago when I was wasting my time in corporates. Since then my routine changed a lot, in time I realized that I am working harder than my corporate days. First thing to be said about my writing routine/day is the pleasure of being free and independent. Every single day I wake up and thank universe/karma/god -whatever it is- for living in such freedom to create.
When saying full-time writer, I really mean that. I don’t need a laptop or paper-pen to write, especially when I am in nature. So, my typical writing day has two categories: One, when I am at a country side or travelling, I take several mind-notes to process and use when I create something. I find this process the strongest part of writing because the core of any story is built upon what you have got in your hard-drive. I don’t push myself to write everything I perceive, but to feel all the elements of nature.
Second, -this is the cruelest part- I always know the times that I should -I must- stay at home and start to work. These crazy days consume nearly eight months of a year. Normally, I work at nights, sleep like three to four hours, get up, take a walk and keep writing. This may sound harsh but not for me. This is my way of existence. And if I am not on writing state, I do editorial stuff or just read.
I don’t have a writer’s desk to show off, since I left it in Turkey. I don’t have a proper study-room but I can work on any desk, any room, any environment, the world is my study-room. I can work on grass, on top of a plane or under the roof of an elephant shelter. As long as I have the freedom of speech and freedom to write, I will keep on writing.

Note: Since I don’t have a proper writer’s desk, I am sharing my favorite writing position ever.

Nazli Karabıyıkoğlu is a Turkish author, now full-time resident in Georgia, who recently escaped from the political, cultural, and gender oppression in Turkey. She helped create the #MeToo movement within the Turkish publishing industry, from which she was then excommunicated. With an M.A. in Turkish Language and Literature from Bogazici University, Karabıyıkoğlu has five published books in Turkish and has recently completed translations of two new books for international publication. Having won six literary awards in her country, she has been actively writing for magazines since 2009.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Michael Edwards - my writing day

     3:59 am - My wife and I wake-up as our toddler, up too early, enters our bedroom. He wants to play and tries to climb into the baby’s crib.
     4:03 am - After trying to convince our toddler to go back to sleep, it’s clear no tricks or magic will have any effect.
     4:10 am - I play with the train-set and Duplo with our toddler in his room. Then switch to reading some Robert Munsch stories. And back to the toys again. Around and around.

     The next 3 hours or so are a blur of coffee, breakfast, trying to dress the toddler, trying to dress toddler again. 

     7:45 am - I have a shower. Get ready for work. Toddler is finally dressed, baby is dressed. My wife and I take the children downstairs to the double stroller.
     8:10 am - After much wrangling, tears and temper tantrums, we make it outside. Both children are in the double stroller, fastened, the little one cries and is soon asleep. We all walk together to my workplace. Kisses goodbye all around. My workday begins.

     At Lunch - Take a break and I jot some stuff in my notebook. Read a selection of Nelson Ball poems and check-in, the home fires burning - under control. My wife says both children are asleep, down for nap. A minor miracle.

     Day job over. I leave for home, walking. On the way, I notice two leaves that look like little hands folded on the ground. Take out notebook. Make a scribble. I arrive home to both children awake from nap. Take the toddler out for a bike ride, then to the playground. Along the way, he has to stop at and inspect all the fire hydrants. Who knew these things could be so cool? Red with blue tops. Red with green tops. With yellow tops. And on.

    5:45 pm - Dinner rolls around and we have leftovers. We thank the heavens, because it’s something the toddler will actually eat.

     After dinner, bath for toddler. I get him dressed in pajamas. There is plenty of playing in his room. My wife, my wonderful, wonderful treasure-of-a-love, puts the baby to sleep. I do the same with our toddler after many, many storybooks. He’s a bookworm. Great victory. He wants one more book. Just one more book, Daddy. Ok now, one more book, Daddy.

    7:48 pm -  Toddler is finally asleep and baby is asleep. Wife and I relax and decompress for a bit.

    8:11 pm -  I sit down at my writing desk.
    8:15 pm - Emails have been checked and news websites scrolled. The headlines I quickly forget. I then review my day’s notebook scratchings and dig into my latest drafts of poems in progress.

    9:47 pm - Nearly at the point of exhaustion. Words blend together and my brain calls it a night. I pick-up a volume, Heaney’s Electric Light and let his words wash over me as I slide into some zone between consciousness and sawing logs. Off to bed soon after.

Michael Edwards is an emerging poet/writer and young dad living on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Vancouver, BC. He is currently in The Writer's Studio at Simon Fraser University under the mentorship of poet Kayla Czaga. After bath and bedtime, he can be found writing, reading and honing his poetic craft. His work has been described as “quiet, reflective,” and “meditative.” And aiming high, parenting goals include, raising wonderful, literate children who care for this earth.