I went into downtown Edmonton Thursday night, by myself, and taxied home several hours later with an exhilarating buzz. It wasn’t entirely from the wine. I was filled with the heady feeling of euphoria. Why so happy? I finally met my clique. My brothers from other mothers, and sisters from other misters. My homies. My Tribe.
It was an event put on by the Writer’s Guild of Alberta. I showed up early at The Almanac restaurant on Whyte Ave so I could indulge in their decadent steak frites and a Pinot Noir. As I sipped and supped, people began wandering in off the frigid street, heading for the back room. Old people; young people; black, white, brown, and yellow people. Men. Women. It was a diverse group that arrived to watch four authors role play selling their book ideas to editors, and they’re all my new community. They’re writers, and they speak my language.
Before that evening, I had just assumed writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely endeavor. It’s just you, a computer or notepad, and an overactive imagination, shut away in self-imposed isolation. I’d finish a chapter and return to the world of personal interaction and sociability, but my brain would still be sitting in front of the screen, pondering the next move of my protagonist. Would she win the lottery? Stab a coworker with a pencil? Sleep with someone wildly inappropriate?
These are usually not things you can discuss with family or friends, unless they’re quite tolerant of long expositions of back story. While writing my first novel, I would keep my husband up-to-date by reading semi-finished chapters to him. (Note to self: Do not try this when he is sleepy or just finished a heaping bowl of pasta. Snoring is not the feedback I want or need.) Then we’d brainstorm ideas on where I should go next in the plot, getting more silly and outlandish with every sip of wine. Fun stuff, if you’ve got someone who will play along.
But when I’m struggling with questions such as, “Where should I break this chapter?", or, “How can I explain the courtship ritual of yetis without doing an information dump?”, I’m on my own. The internet is helpful, although I have yet to immerse myself in writer’s forums. Still, there I am, alone, staring at a computer screen.
Thursday night, I sat with two amazing women who have experienced the same trials and hurdles I struggle with. We chatted about elusive representation, whether or not to self-publish, and the fact that dealing with the business aspect of writing pretty much sucks. Together we watched some enlightening exchanges between wordsmiths and editors. A man who looks like a lumberjack is documenting the history of drag queens in Edmonton. One of my tablemates, a previously published author, pitched her first novel, which intertwines five generations, a deck of tarot cards, and arson. It. Was. Fascinating!
Now that it’s spring (or so the calendar says; it’s not easy to tell in Alberta), the Guild should soon restart their weekly member get-togethers. So you’ll know where to find me on Thursday nights: at The Almanac, talking plot, pacing, and point-of-view with my new family!