Sunday, November 29, 2020

Michael Melgaard : My Pandemic Writing Day



I write on weekends now. I used to write weekdays—I’d drop my oldest kid off at daycare and go into my office (a former cold storage room under an antique shop) to write from 9:30 until 2:30. With the pandemic my kids are at home, so I don’t have weekdays, or the office, anymore.

My workday starts when my kids wake me up. This could be anytime between 7:30 and 9. Earlier is better because then I can get more writing done, but later is not bad because I’ve been terminally behind on sleep for eight months. An extra half hour goes a long way. Once the kids are up and the coffee on, I head into my new office, which is also the bedroom.

My partner works a 9-5 job from home, so the “office” is mostly hers. Her computer set-up takes up the small desk at the foot of our youngest child’s crib. I push her laptop, keyboard, and second monitor to the back of the desk and put my laptop in front of it. There’s just enough room for a chair between the desk and side table stacked with diapers. I put my notebooks on the bed and my coffee on the small sliver of available desk. It’s crowded.

I haven’t had a regular enough schedule to commit to freelance writing since the pandemic started, so I’ve just been working on my novel. It’s nice to have just one thing to worry about, but it’s slow going. In March I was three months away from finishing; now, with my pandemic-adjusted writing schedule, I’m probably three months away from finishing. Eight months of cramming writing into any spare moment and I’ve managed to get to the point I started. I try not to think about that too much.

Half an hour into my workday, my four-year-old knocks on the door. He likes to deliver my breakfast. Work is interrupted a few times a day—my partner comes in to get clothes, the kids come in to say hello or show me a screwdriver or pull out the yoga mat for reasons I can’t make sense of. It’s nice to see them, of course, but it does break concentration. Even with the interruptions, mornings are my more productive time—usually I can get in three hours of steady(ish) work.

At noon, I come out for lunch and then the youngest naps, so I have to clear out of the bedroom. I watch a Sesame Street with the four-year-old and then build a model train town with him. At 2:00, I start to get antsy about getting back to work. Our youngest’s naps can be as short as an hour or as long a three and a half. If he naps long, my afternoon’s work is shot. Today, he wakes at 2:30.

My afternoon work is usually more disjointed. I write for an hour, and then edit, answer email, and look at Twitter. I try not to beat myself up about the latter. Social medial seems like a waste of my little writing time, but it’s the only connection I have with anyone outside my house right now. It’s important to read what other people are writing and participate in the writing community in small ways.

I finish at five. Today was a decent day, I revised 3,000 words of my 65,000-word novel. Normally, that would feel like a good amount—it’s a pace that would have me finish this draft in a month. But working only two days a week it will take me ten weeks. I plan to do more after the kids’ bath/story/bedtime, but it’s nine by the time they’re asleep and I don’t have it in me. I feel guilty, but I know the feeling of being behind won’t go away if I cram another half hour of writing in at night. So, instead of turning my computer on, I grab a book and relax as much as I can.



Michael Melgaard is the author of the short story collection Pallbearing. His stories have appeared in Best Canadian Stories 2020, Bad Nudes, and Joyland. He lives in Toronto.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Ryanne Kap : My Small Press Writing Day: Grad Student Edition


It takes me seven days to write about my typical writing day, which is very in character.

I’m currently doing a Master’s of English, which means that most of my time is spent reading and thinking about other people’s writing. On Tuesday afternoons I parse articles and essays to learn about methodology. On Wednesday mornings I think about climate fiction in comparisons: Henry David Thoreau and Jeff VanderMeer, Walt Whitman and Ben Lerner, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Tommy Pico. On Wednesday afternoons I struggle through theory. Between all that, I read everything from Kafka to Sally Rooney for a first-year course on narrative, attending two lectures per week and running a tutorial and pretending I know more about literature than my twenty-five students.

A typical writing day is school work, cooking, Netflix, and then an hour or so of actual writing around 11:00 p.m. 11:00 seems to be my magic hour¾it’s when I’m unfocused and tired enough to stop thinking and start typing. The stories that I’m excited about, the ones that I end up submitting, usually show up in one or two nights. They are few and far in-between.

This past month, I’ve been trying to NaNoWriMo my way through a short story collection, which has turned out to be the meanest thing I could’ve done to myself.

I’m a Bad Writer with barely any writing habits; I don’t do 200 words every morning, nor do I carry a notebook around for daily bursts of inspiration. I write when the spirit moves me, which is rarely. Writing 1667 words a day was never going to work. 

But on a typical writing day, I’m always thinking about the next thing I’ll write, even if I don’t actually do it. I hear a song and the feeling gives me a scene or a character. I get sad about past relationships and wonder which parts I can mine for a story.

And if I don’t have a notebook, I at least have the Notes app. That’s how most of my bad poems happen (though they come far later than 11:00 p.m.).

When I manage to write, it’s usually in Microsoft Word, or Google Docs if I need a different space to type in. If I’m submitting for a contest or a magazine, I sometimes use the font they publish in to imagine my stories as successful. I’m a big fan of fonts, and a big believer that the right font will make the story come easier.

Sometimes I listen to a writing playlist I made which makes no sense. It includes: four songs from Hamilton (including “Nonstop,” which will make you feel bad if you don’t also write fifty-one essays in the span of six months); the slow-dance song from Enchanted; “Everything” by Michael Bublé.

I write at my desk, in bed, on the floor while my puppy runs circles around me. I write during class, sometimes, if I can manage not paying attention. I write when a book makes me jealous or in awe of its prose. I write when incredibly upset or bored, when I should be doing something else, when a 2000s sitcom is streaming white noise in the background.

I write when I can, and sometimes when I’d rather not. I write until I’m too tired to see the words properly or understand what they mean. I fall asleep thinking of character names and how to say that one thing better and what word count I was supposed to hit that day.

And then the next day begins.





Ryanne Kap is a Chinese-Canadian writer from Strathroy, Ontario. Her work has been featured in Grain Magazine, Ricepaper Magazine, Watch Your Head, Feelszine, Scarborough Fair, and The Unpublished City Volume II. In 2020, her short story “Heat” won first place in Grain Magazine’s Short Grain contest. Ryanne studied English and creative writing at the University of Toronto Scarborough and is currently pursuing an MA in English at Western University.

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Anne McDonald : A day in my writing life…..24.11.20

Great plans last night to have a seriously productive writing day today……turns out both my husband and son are off work so will be home in my small apartment for much of the day….however this also means I wont be woken up at 5.30am when my son gets up for work and spends half an hour going from bathroom to kitchen to bedroom etc…so every cloud I think.

5.30am phone goes off with a message from my cousin.”I believe your U.K. cousin is coming on Thursday”…..
5.45 am cat decides she wants to go out because she is now awake
10am I drag myself out of the bed to set up a zoom call with a theatre maker for 3pm to discuss a script application, notice the same bastard cat is now fast asleep on the end of my bed, resist urge to drop kick it off the balcony.

When looking for script to discuss on zoom call, I find a short script I wrote a couple of years ago about the statues of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Phil Lynnot and Molly Malone who come alive at night and have a meeting in Dublin to discuss the theft of Molly Malone's barrow (she is a famous fish monger)….now I am confused as to which script to discuss and feel a bit like a dithering idiot.

11am, check post, proof copy of debut poetry collection STILL not arrived, after telling everyone it would be launched in October then November, I think it will now be January…..decide to launch it on 8th march 2020 which is International Women’s day….the first year anniversary of my performance in The London Irish Center before the world literally fell to shit the day after. Note to self, listen when publisher tells you it takes time….

12.17 have shower in an effort to look more like a serious writer than a bag lady in afternoons call….

Son decides to put rashers (bacon) on so I am totally distracted by the lovely smell in between wondering will I submit a proposal for a series of poems about clothes (have a prized winning one called Whose Coat which was a prize winner in this years International Strokestown Poetry Competition, and like the theme) or should I stop fannying about and continue to rewrite novel or it will never be submission ready.

Note; writing space is laptop on kitchen table which now has to be cleared for above mentioned rashers…..I am currently moving house and the new (to us) house has no wifi and half a kitchen and is  30 miles away so much of my life is in black bags and I have no chance of a pair of matching socks.

About 3 months ago I had developed a lovely routine of meditations, writing time, physical exercise and sorting sale of house out. That too has fallen to shit. However I find that sometimes I have more writing success in the middle of chaos than in lovely rhythmic days. Wonder about submitting a short story to a competition about A thanksgiving turkey and Norman Rockwell.

I dream of having a writers desk made of hand carved oak that looks out over a meadow and has a green reading lamp and a fountain pen.

Son asks at table “whose the lucky duck that gets to drive me to my welding exam tonight?”…I keep my head down. Hubby (predictably) agrees to drive and wait in the middle of an industrial estate in the middle of no where. Since the lockdown closed all the pubs and coffee shops I have been avoiding this drive which I used to enjoy because it was an excuse to sit somewhere with my notebooks. And I don’t feel the least bit guilty. Not one little bit.

Aunt (83) fell yesterday and lots of jiggery pokery re daughters in England and if they could travel under current restrictions, she lives on her own, etc etc etc. Lots of phone calls, whatsapps messages. My daughter rings for a chat, then a call from pal who is trying to sell her house and is now living in an empty shell with her stuff in storage rings and my heart breaks for her. Meanwhile message comes in from theatre director/playwright  to send her over my application so far and she will have a look at it before we talk, haven't even started.

Lads fecked off and sink full of dishes, try to visualize vase of flowers where pots and pans are. Messaged director whilst on phone and now have to apologize cos message sounded shirty.

Note to self, turn fucking phone whatsapp arse book and twatter off if you expect to get any writing done!!!

Decide to leave thinking about application till I talk on zoom…house in a chokker as we are currently staying between two which I am aware of is a first world problem but….I am feeling all of my vintage today as a result.

Now I am thinking who am I to be thinking I am a playwright..literally 5 mins before the zoom call…..

4pm, just off zoom call, love the idea for the script, got LOADS of brilliant advice, direction, ideas so delighted with myself now! Lots to do with application but in the middle of a pandemic its great to have a project (s) that are not disease related!

Have to go to Lidls now to do the grocery shopping, when I die I am coming back as Barbara Cartland!!!!

7pm house fed, just finished a lot of “stuff” calls and son gone to do his welding exam…I feel the need for some wine….but I’ll wait.

7.18 call with another poet who is hilarious always cheers me up. She has just attended a drama series of workshops with the theatre director I spoke with earlier and had a blast, it is indeed a small world! Lots of ideas/poems/chats/exchange etc.

7.45 dishes still in sink. Emailed solicitor to find out where I will be sticking my Christmas tree up.

8.10 setting out writing plan for tomorrow…..arse like a breadboard from sitting.

8.45 read some poems sent by a colleague in New Hampshire, always love reading new works and particularly from someone I only got to know because of Covid, 3000 miles away and yet when we talk on zoom it is like we were reared in the same place.

9;m Son just home, exam went ok’ish, hanging up writing boots now, done for the night.
Will wash dishes when I get back from a walk. I swear. But its bucketing down so no walk for me.

Today my writing space was mostly the kitchen table. And it was fine.

Anne McDonald is an award winning writer, spoken word poet and performer who has had poetry, short stories and non fiction published in Ireland and the UK.

She has performed in theaters in Dublin and London as part of a stand up group of women and is a regular reader on open mic nights in Ireland, the US and the UK.

Anne has had poetry published extensively in journals and online publications and has worked as a librettist for the Performance Arts Labs summer school supported by the London Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Her first collection of poetry Crow’s Books is due for publication in January 2021.


Monday, November 23, 2020

Ash Winters: My (Small Press) Writing Day


My typical writing day has the consistency of thick cream. Picture it being stirred with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry about what the cream is for. Just focus on how it is soft and smooth yet still capable of drowning you. This cream day with all its texture and falsely endorsed healthiness starts at about five thirty in the morning. The alarm begins at five doing its gentle bells followed by a snooze button dance. I always partake in this drama for a half an hour or so.

This is when I remember my dreams and sometimes nightmares. I cherish them, think of them like windows into myself. I break them down in an attempt to get in. Only to find out that it is the place I have just been no more or less confusing. On occasion I have what I call adventure dreams. I have been told this is encouraged by my love of reading sci-fi and I believe it. Just like I believe, in the lighter sense of the word, lots of sci-fi. Just the other night nearly the whole world was underwater. I was on a ship running out of food when more survivors swam up to us. They had been swimming for three straight days when they found us. I lifted a woman out of the water and she was so light in my arms it was as though I carried nothing at all.

When I am done with the dreams, or the dreams are done with me, I sneak out of the darkness of our bedroom and head toward my desk. I stop for coffee first. Then I nestle in. I start with my morning pages. A type of journal from the Artist’s Way where you free write whatever comes to your head for three pages. Something I have been in the habit of doing for just under a year now. It clears my head. It feels a bit like tidying the kitchen before you start to cook; which is a must for me. How one cooks in a messy kitchen I do not know. The morning pages are filled with dreams and emotions with no context. Thoughts skip and jump all over the place without even trying to explain themselves. They are drivel or they are something like this article. I am not sure because I never read them.

          Instead I get to cooking. I do a quick gratitude journal because if I think about it I remember how lucky I am and if I don’t think about it I forget. Then I get into the three poems I write every morning. They are about, well, me. They are about the weather, about love, hate, and, forgive me, sometimes the news. They are a tether holding me to this world. Without them I do fear I would wash away. I started writing every day in the morning just over two years ago, while I was in rehab. Sober for the first time in my life I was going through a lot of changes and experiencing feelings in their full force for the first time. Putting down the bottle let me pick up the pen. Some might say it even forced the issue.

That being said I have always written poetry. I still have the first poem I remember writing, stuffed in a trunk somewhere in my mother’s attic. I can still picture the golden sunlight coming through my bedroom window to land on my dog and myself while we rested on the bed. I know the feeling I had then because I have had it so many times since then. A feeling of wonder and clarity in the beauty that is just beyond our reach. I don’t have this feeling every morning when I sit at my desk, but I often do and there is something just straight up magical about that.

So with the three poems jotted down in my spiral bound notebook I do what must be done next and flip open my laptop. I go and get another coffee before I dare to turn it on because it is definitely needed at this juncture. If it is a day I must go to my job as a carpenter I only have a few more moments there before I must put on long jons and wander out into the cold. If it is a weekend, I stay. Through the morning I edit current projects and grumble my way through application forms. I spend a surprising amount of time staring out the window at the really good view of my neighbours brick wall. I love every minute of it. So much so that the time in the afternoon slips away even faster than the time in the morning does. I am too soon dragged away to the kitchen by an empty stomach. Writing in the evening has never been much of a possibility for me so the stomach grumble marks the shift change. It marks the moment when my cream day turns to butter and I leave my black wooden chair to its own devices for the night but I will be back again just before the sun rises. 





Ash Winters is an emerging Toronto-based poet. Genderqueer and sober, their work navigates complex and colourful emotional landscapes. They graduated with their BA in English from Lakehead University in 2010. Their poetry has recently appeared in; Existere, Open Minds Quarterly, and The White Wall Review. Their first collection of poetry, Run Riot, comes out with Caitlin Press in January 2021.