Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Susan Smith-Josephy : My Writing Day

My writing day is both the same and quite different each day.

I get up with the light. So, these days, that is about 5:30 am.

There are several things to deal with right away, take care of pets, get the house started for the day with laundry on and coffee going. I go for a walk and when I get back, the coffee is ready.

I do some reading in the morning, usually non-fiction. Right now, I am reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life which is a library book I got out the week before our library closed due to COVID-19. It is not due back until July and at the rate I am reading it, I will not be finished it before then. As I am reading the book, I must stop myself from rushing off and researching every time Bryson says, ‘we don’t know much about so and so’s early life.” I love going off on tangents, and that is why I have so many things on the go at once.

By the time my morning obligations are over, I can get to my computer where I check news and social media and open up a new document for my Daily Diary entry. I started writing a diary back in late January as part of an assignment for David Sedaris’s Masterclass. I am glad I did because otherwise I would not have a record of this historic time. Sedaris says that ‘everything is funny eventually’ so I guess we will see if that is true when I re-read the diary in a few years time. Another thing I like about doing the diary is it helps pull out memories and make connections between the present and the past. I do not have any plans to write a memoir, but it’s still a useful exercise. And it does get me writing every day, it sets a good habit.

My writing day is different depending on what projects I am working on. If I am in the writing or editing phase of a book, then that is what I’ll be agonizing and focusing on. However, at present I am working on promoting my newest book that was just published by Caitlin Press. The book Cataline: The Life of BC’s Legendary Packer was a long time in the making, and I’m pleased to have it in print. Due to COVID-19, in-promotions, readings, launches and signings have been put off, most likely all of them until next year. But that’s not stopping me from doing quite a few things online and that’s keeping me busy. Jean ‘Cataline’ Caux was a splendid fellow, and I am glad the book is finally out. I am looking forward to getting my copies and doing some video readings, as well.

I am also working on another book, about the 1914 Union Bank robbery in New Hazelton. It is a fascinating, unique, and tragic true crime story that I have really been enthralled with. The research has taken me places I never thought I would go—from Ossetia in Caucasus region to mental hospitals in British Columbia. The first draft is together now, so the painstaking process of going through it has begun. I urge anyone who’s interested to have a look at my blog post here which gives an overview of the project.

Most days I spend time corresponding with other writers, friends, organizations, museums, and archives. And lately I have been doing some grant applications. All these things take time but are valuable parts of the whole.

As the day winds down, I complete my diary (usually frantically) by about 11 pm. I try not to just focus on my activities or feelings, but try and get some solid observations written down and attempt to capture any interesting conversations I’ve either overheard or participated in.

I finish of my writing day by reading.

I write non-fiction and read a lot of non-fiction, also. If I read fiction, it is inevitably mystery novels. I prefer those set in Britain, or genealogical mystery novels. Sometimes they overlap! I have loaded up my Kindle lately with all sorts of mystery novels. The first one I chose to read is A Siege of Bitterns which is the first book in the Birder Murder series by Steve Burrows. I just started it and it is good   , an unusual sort of a book.

Susan Smith-Josephy is a writer, researcher and genealogist. She trained as a journalist at Langara College and has worked for a number of small town newspapers in BC. She has a degree in History from SFU, and is passionate about BC History. She lives in Quesnel, British Columbia.

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