Friday, February 28, 2020

Lynne Sargent: A Typical Writing Day

I am currently blessed with a relatively unstructured life as a Ph.D student. My day is never just a writing day, as I am never just a writer. I’m equally divided into three parts: writer, philosopher, and circus artist, and my breaks from each one are where I find space to do the others.

I usually rise around 8:30am, and do not do anything functional until I read the news for the day, and have a cup of earl grey tea. I work from 9 until 4, unless I am teaching circus in the evening, in which case I finish a little earlier. I eschew proper workspaces, and mostly work in a corner of the couch in my two-bedroom apartment’s living room, curled up with Luna my cat. I have two cats, but she has chosen me as her primary person, while my other furry friend, Auri, generally spends the day working with my partner in his office. When I work, I rotate through projects: reading articles and making notes , putting 500 words on the novel, editing a short story, marking, typing up a poem from my notebook, putting 300 words on my most recent essay, and drafting a philosophy blog post for Moral Guillotines once a week. I do these in no particular order, but rather as whims or deadlines or ideas take me. When I run out of ideas is usually when I make submissions as a break, or have a snack. I work on a system of input food (or more tea), and output words. 

When I teach circus in the evenings, I make a 45 minute drive out to the studio I teach at, and I spend that time listening to audiobooks or music, and thinking about various writing projects both creative and academic. Often when I arrive I have a quiet 5-10 minutes to jot down ideas or poems in my notebook. I often find myself scribbling down poetry or working on short stories in other places when I’m out and about at coffee shops, bars, or even concerts, and often sleep with my notebook and pen under my pillow to jot down half-asleep ideas and lines that come to me in nightmares. Thankfully, my partner is understanding. 

My writing is often a process not necessarily of sitting down to write, but rather of being-in-the-world and of letting the world wash over me, and making enough space to record the experience afterwards. I cannot write without other activities interspersed between writing periods, and likely would not be able to accomplish my other activities or even be a functioning and emotionally healthy human being without having the time and space to process myself and my experiences through writing. I let the wind move me, and my hungers and cravings both intellectual and otherwise drive me. Some might say my workspace, or my style is a mess, (or I am a mess), and it probably is, (and I probably am) but it also works for me.

Lynne Sargent is a writer, aerialist, and philosophy Ph.D candidate currently studying at the University of Waterloo. Their work has been published in venues such as Strange Horizons, Plenitude, and Augur Magazine, among others. In the past, they have been both a Rhysling and Aurora Award Nominee for poetry. Their first poetry collection A Refuge of Tales is forthcoming from Renaissance Press. To find out more, reach out to them on Twitter @SamLynneS, or for a complete list of their works, visit them at

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Candace de Taeye : My ( Small Press ) Writing Day

I do not have a room of one’s own. I usually write in an ambulance.

I have worked as a paramedic in Toronto for more than 13 years. I sometimes write in between calls, sometimes I knit instead. I’m trying to aimlessly scroll less on my phone.  If I’m writing it might be in a quiet corner at 45 station.  Here my partner and I have scavenged a mint green card table, a single wooden chair and small floral upholstered footstool from the curbsides of Rosedale. Admittedly there is not much ‘in station’ time for medics downtown. So, more often, I write in the passenger seat of the ambulance,  after I have disinfected the stretcher and restocked our equipment for the next call, while my partner finishes up the documentation.

I try to always carry a hardcover 5”x 8.25” journal- this is where I accumulate all the poem ‘fodder’. I scribble overheard bits of conversation, signage, questions that graffiti asks, a phrase from whatever book I might be reading, or ideas that have come to me more organically.

On days where I feel I might be lucky enough to compose some new writing I bring a soft cover 8.5”x11” cahier. These larger pages are where first drafts of poems are pieced together and hashed out.  It’s then easier to flip back though the various clusters of notes in the journal for ideas. I use the pen that is in my uniform pocket, the same one that is utilized for vital signs and medication lists. I am working on a manuscript of ‘work’ poems. Writing during the down time at work seems like a good way to keep the material authentic.

The city is vast as is the variety and pace of the people. Their spaces and their stories exist in such close quarters and are always bumping and mixing with one another. A lot of my own narrative is listening the stories that people want to share, and entering thousands of spaces that most other people will never see. From the private homes of every demographic, to bank vaults, bath houses, shelters, prisons, places of worship, back stages, even the undersides of subway cars. Everybody gets sick, injured or dies eventually. I do not wish to exploit other people’s histories, or claim them as my own. I do think I have a very unique privilege in being invited into these spaces while in an act of service to others.  Helping might mean defibrillation and CPR in one instance and making sure your cat is fed and you have shoes and a coat and your house keys for when you return from the hospital in another case.

I want to share my story, not unlike most writers. Though I have trouble writing myself into poems. They often come off as too surreal, abstract, a jumbled mix of source text and voices- just like Toronto. I’m working to get inside of more of my poems.

Candace de Taeye:  Lives in Guelph where her home life is the all-encompassing chaos of life with two small children, an array of aging pets underfoot, the detritus of toys, fur and mystery stickiness. She has had poetry most recently published in Arc, BAD NUDES, Carousel, CNQ, CV2, Grain, JoyPuke, Meat for Tea and Vallum. She has a chapbook Roe by PSGuelph, and a chapbook The Ambulance Act forthcoming from Frog Hollow Press.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Jenny Justice: A Writer’s Life

Doing What We Can With What We Have

I was recently asked to write about a day in the life of a writer. A day in the life of me. A writer. I sometimes still think writer is a word that applies to other people. People with books that are published and sold by big publishing houses and bookstores. People who are authors of books and books who have readings and income. But I know enough to know that writers are actually people who write and that whatever comes after that is extra.

A day in my life, as a writer, poet mostly, when I write can go like this: I wake up around 7am. My fiancé goes to the gym. My daughter is asleep. I have a bit of time to write on the couch. That is my writing station. I do not have a desk, an office, or a computer! I have a couch, a small apartment living room, and a chromebook. But I write.

Typically this works. Something is written. Usually before my fiancé is back from the gym. Then it is time for making breakfast, waking up my daughter, and getting her ready for school.

Once this all is done, I have to take the next step. As most of my writing now is posted online, I have to post it. And there it is. Out in the world. Something that did not exist just minutes ago, exists now and I can touch it, see it, and yes, be proud of it. Be happy about it.

After posting it, it’s time to share it. It is time to get on the social media train and do what I can do. Twitter, sometimes works. Facebook and Facebook groups, usually a good turn out.

Sometimes throughout the day, more writing can happen. Spontaneously, when inspiration hits. I can write on paper, which is nice. Or, I rush to my chromebook, and get it out.

Typically I post it right after. I do not have a storage or bank of poems, writings, and so on that I can just draw from to post or submit to journals, my other dream. I have goals of somehow creating a few ‘good ones’ to save up and submit to journals that I can afford to submit to. But I think I will have to work a bit harder on planning and organizing and the whole ‘I am good enough, smart enough, etc’ mantra of self-confidence ‘you can do it’ things.

Most days I am just so happy to be writing poetry again after years of having my voice silenced in an abusive relationship. Any day I write a poem is a good day and that is most of the days now. I honestly love that I wake up thinking of poetry, go to sleep thinking of poetry, and it is something my mind and heart return to throughout the day. This is what, I think wise people have said, makes a writer a writer. We cannot live without it. We are fulfilled by it. We have to write, so we write.

I am not sure what qualifies as advice or tips or tricks. I do what I do with what I have, really and I think that is probably the most practical thing I can offer to anyone looking to get a glimpse into a day in the life of a writer, this writer.

Sometimes, like now, I write this on the couch while my daughter watches endless episodes of Jessie, her favorite TV show, for the 6th or so time.  I too, enjoy Jessie. And I love my daughter. But what I am saying is sometimes writing is in bits and pieces. She asks for milk, she wants to show me something, I pay attention, I get the milk.

On days when I teach, no not writing or poetry as I often wish I did, but Sociology, I have to sneak in writing time when I can.  Teaching days are not as calm and quiet. But as an adjunct, they are rare. When I went to college, the first in my family to ever do so, I wanted to be an English major. I wanted to read books, talk about books, write poetry. I have been writing poetry since I was 7 years old afterall. But, I took one Sociology class and had to change my mind after the idea of potentially being able to save the world got into my young head. I decided I would do the justice work, the Sociology, but always love and practice the reading and the writing and the poetry.

Writing for me is usually like this - I am doing something else, or many other things, while holding onto ideas, words, sentences, and hoping they stick around to show up in a poem or a piece.

Certainly I wish that I could engage with the process in other ways. Yoga in the morning, meditation, a clear head, reading a lot of books, having a desk, having money for a coffee at the coffee shop. But right now, this is how it is. Home, tv, cooking for people, cleaning up after - dishes, laundry, making sure the house is not covered in clutter and risk, and then, in between seeing what I can write when I have that moment to write it.

I enjoy early mornings. Sometimes I wake up too early and that is less enjoyable. But the writing has it’s time to exist in these early morning spaces of quiet, just me, yes the couch, yes my chromebook, and some coffee and silence and seeing what happens. I do not have daily word goals or big works in progress. I might one day. But what I have now is the hope that a poem will show up, and then, the gratitude when it does. Followed by the immediate process of sharing and trying to find an audience.

I also have been moderately successful writing later at night. After my daughter is asleep. If my fiancé is still awake, we might work together on the couch. If he is asleep, I might be out in the quiet of night, writing on the couch.

I have my distractions, my woes, my stress. I am waiting for some things to get better. I am waiting for obstacles to clear. But I do devote myself to writing. To poetry. To writing it and to reading it. As often as possible. To finding places and communities for it. And to being comfortable with the big dreams I might want to have.

Dreams of getting into a journal. Dreams of being discovered and asked to do something regarding poetry - a book deal, a reading, whatever else people who discover poets what poets to do. Within reason and morality of course!

I have two books, self-published, and I do my best to see how to get them to people. How to get sales. So far, it is slow going. I have wonderful people who support me, and I love them for it. But I do not yet know how to push a self-published poetry book well.
I was hoping to somehow make a living, an income. I was making good money back in the Fall. And then the payment program of the platform I was using shifted and now it’s a bit of a downer. Once I was making almost $500 a month - from poetry! Now, it is down to $60 a month.
This too, I suppose is part of the writer’s life. Poverty. Being familiar with it. Doing what we can with what we have and not having all that much, for much of the time.

I do not yet know how to market her and find her homes in the hands of poetry lovers who might want to read a book of love poems that are also climate change poems, or a book of autobiographical snipits in poetic form about my life last year, the ups, the downs, the Disney vacation, the Buddhism.

Writing takes devotion. Writing takes patience. Writing takes a sense of trusting that it is okay no matter what is or is not happening. Writing is a leap of faith with every word. And every day

Jenny Justice, Poet. Jenny has been writing poetry since the age of 7. She has graduate degrees in Sociology but often wishes she had one of those fancy MFA things and probably needs to do some more Buddhist work on acceptance and being at peace. She lives in Reno, NV with her fiancé and daughter. Jenny is the author of Love in the Time of Climate Change and Reveal. You can read more of her poetry at Justice Poetic, on Medium. And you can sign up for her newsletter here.