Deanne Ouest, Author

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2014-08-14

Created by Deanne Ouest

Water’s Edge Retreat

 

It is early June and the weather can be contentious. Friday started with strong winds and an anticipated 30-50 millimetres of rain.  Our journey started in Hubbards, Nova Scotia with sheets of rain with blustery winds buffeting the car as we wound our way along highway #3 with wipers on high and the occasionally four-way flashers. The weather didn’t dampen our spirits as we made our way to our destination – White Point Lodge.

We arrived perhaps 20-30 minutes later than anticipated as the rain had slowed as down.     Check-in was quick and we made our way to our lakeside retreat. Grabbing our bags, we dashed through the drilling rain up a rocky path to the door of our building and quickly made it inside. A little damp from our mad dash, we stowed away our clothes, drinks, and treats for the weekend.

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A quick check of social media and we headed back to the lodge and grabbed some lunch. Lunch was hot and plentiful and we watched the crashing waves from our table as we ate.

After lunch we headed back to the room and hunkered down to attend to the purpose of the retreat – writing.  We pulled out our laptops and began hitting the keys after a quick social media check.

 

A few hours later and a change of clothes we headed for dinner at the lodge. We started with a nice Pinot Grigio in the lounge and engaged in a little people watching. At our reserved time we sauntered into the restaurant. A buffet was on display and we partook of a variety of offerings from seafood chowder, various salads, hip of beef and planked salmon. All delicious. Dessert was a choice of bread pudding, tarts, cream puffs, squares and carrot cake. As is the norm with a buffet we overindulged a bit.

IMG_6736Afterwards we settled back in the lounge to listen to live music and indulge in a post dinner drink. As usual, the people watching was engaging as we bantered. A couple of hours later we headed back to the room and did a little reading before going to sleep.

 

 

 

 

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Both early risers we awoke around 6 a.m. to a gorgeous morning. A few cups of coffee, some reading,  and a check of social media we headed for breakfast. A wonderful array of food was displayed on the buffet and we filled our tummies. Grabbing a coffee to go we headed to the deck overlooking the ocean and began writing,

The weather was wonderful. The sun was shining down on us with a slight breeze to keep the bugs at bay.  It was relaxing and productive until the horde of townies invaded our space with their chatter and cloying perfumes.  Shortly thereafter we retreated to our lakeside room to continue in silence – well as silent as the two of us can be – as disjointed conversations flowed as we work.

As the day progressed so did the weather. By mid-noon the thermometer had reached 25 degrees celsius which is quite warm here for this time of year. In my forays outside to indulge in a little sun, I graced my friend with a few interesting jigs as I dodged the hated wasps that seem to love to torment me – the dance of wasps – as I referred to it brought laughter. At lunch we walked to the lodge. A nice jaunt along the tree-lined road to build our appetite while enjoying the nature around us, as I doggedly dodged the bugs that so love me wherever we go.

Lunch consisted of a delicious pizza board with naan bread, slathered in a garlic alfredo sauce topped with ham, pears and an abundance of mozzarella – it  did not disappoint. For dessert the options were decadent – having spied the delivery of a few to the table next to ours. Classic chocolate cake with layers of chocolate ganache garnished with chocolate shavings accompanied by milk chocolate-toasted marshmallow ice-cream and a more than generous slice of vanilla cheese cake with a red fruit and white chocolate sauce finished our meal.

After lunch we headed back to the room and caught a glimpse of a bride heading down to the shore for her wedding.  Along the way to the room we searched for the wild bunnies for which the resort is known but to our dismay none were seen. Back at the room we indulged in a few more hours of writing with short jaunts into the sun to catch a few rays while checking social media for interesting bits of news.

Dressed for supper we headed back to the lodge for dinner. I indulged in the buffet once again and my friend had the delicious mushroom ravioli.

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We capped off dinner with a few sweets and headed into the lounge for drinks and music. The lone musician didn’t disappoint with an eclectic collection of 70’s music. Each table was adorned with trivia boxes and we kept ourselves entertained as we read and shared interesting bits while watching the folks around us. At one point we watched the wedding party head down to the shore line for some after wedding photos while perched on the rocks in front of the beach.

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After a few hours we headed back to the room and caught a quick glimpse of one of the bunny rabbits hopping around the parked vehicles.

 

We settled in for the night with some reading. A last-minute jaunt outside proved to be a little horrifying as we made our way out the door only to realize the glass was covered with hundreds of little green flies only to look up and notice thousands of the same flies covering the roof of the porch. We scurried inside completely freaked out checking to ensure we had not been followed. A bit more self-indulgent reading and we went to sleep.

The next morning was bittersweet as we packed knowing we had to head home soon.  The weather was gorgeous once again. A quick jaunt to the lodge and we ate breakfast. We did a last bit of writing as we settled in the lounge before heading home where this blog came to life.

It was a fantastic weekend at the water, hopefully to be repeated in the near future.

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Moving Forward

In November I had good intentions to get writing but they were derailed when my day job got a little crazy. I am now back on track and looking forward to a productive year. To assist me I’ve engaged a writing coach. What is a writing coach you ask?

To me it is someone who assists / mentors a writer by helping them move forward, provide an objective perspective on all things and guides them thru the process with encouragement along the way. They help with setting goals; deadlines; overcoming obstacles (I.e. bogged down in the process, reached a point where you don’t know where to go next, etc.); and whatever the writer may need to help them move forward and be the best writer they can.

My overall goal is to have my coach help me determine a workable schedule and set attainable goals while they guide me thru the process of developing a clear and compelling plot, help me determine a tone, style, and voice based on my intended audience. I want to finish with a coherent and captivating final piece of literature that I am proud to publish and share.

I envision the process will take me from my initial partial draft (which I’ve just sent – OMG – a slight panic attack after I hit send), various drafts (I expect a few) to the editorial process (editing, copyediting, and proofreading) and finally the end goal being a product that I can publish with a sense of accomplishment and pride.

As I finished writing this blog, I realized a few things:

1. The first person who will read what I have written is a successful multi-published author.
2. I wonder what I was thinking when I hit send.
3. I am optimistic and hopeful that my submission will not be completely marred with red ink.
4. At this moment in time, my dream of being a published author has transition into becoming a reality.

Wow. Now all I have to do is wait on the feedback – which is equal parts scary and exciting.

Next. . . Feedback – Where do I go from here?

Photographs – A self-portrait.


I love taking photos. When I travel, I always take too many photographs. It is one of the reasons I love digital. I no longer have to ration my photos to the 24 on the roll of film. I can take as many as I want and decide later.

Conversely, I hate having my picture taken. I am okay with random, I do not know they are happening shots, but I despise posing for photos. Selfies are not in my future. I have tried much to my amusement to take a selfie but I always look like I ate something nasty – you know that look. My kids always bemoaned the fact that I do not like getting my photo taken when they were younger and had to bring in family photos because 99% of the time I was on the other side of the camera so the pickings were slim.

So this weekend took a bit of a hilarious turn when a writing friend and I made a concentrated effort to get some professional photos taken. As an author, you need a public presence, which translates into having to have your photos taken so there are pictures to put on the webpage, FB, Twitter etc. For self-publishing, it is necessary. There is no publicity team taking care of such things. Personally, I thought it would be neat to pick a photo at random of someone you wanted to look like. Alas, that just is not the way to go. No Milli Vanilli’s allowed. Sigh…

After dozens of poses and background changes and quite a few laughs, we ended up with a total seven pictures that were acceptable and amongst those were fun shots. I think the total count we started with was around 48 pictures. The term to remember is acceptable. We don’t love them but at the same time, we don’t hate them. Thankfully, the photographer was a good sport. We were probably one of the stranger appointments she had.

They are not the worst I have taken but not the best either. That’s my opinion. I guess it comes down to what my friend said to paraphrase her, “It never looks like the real you.” I guess that is why I like random shots. Even if they are not perfect, I always feel like the facial expression is real – not forced. My smile always feels frozen when posing for a photograph.

It is similar to the reaction that occurs when you record your voice. You have in your mind what you think you sound like until you hear your recorded voice played out load. I use to dictate on a Dictaphone back in the early nineties and it took a while to get comfortable hearing my voice played back as I checked what I had recorded. I suppose getting you photos taken is the same. If you do it often, enough you get accustomed to it. I get my photos taken so rarely that it is uncomfortable whenever I have it done. Now I’m in no hurry to get to the comfortable stage.

I do have to say that going with a friend was a lot less painful than going alone. A friend will laugh with you during the process and not at you. In addition, there is the added support of knowing they are feeling the same way.

For chuckles – mostly my own – I have included some of the finalists below. The final cut was three for me and eventually one will become my ‘new’ photo presence.


 

 

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Procrastination vs. Choices

I’ve not been as fruitful as I would like to have been the last few months. All of my good intentions out the window. Life has a way of getting away from us and sometimes we let it happen.

A post on Facebook by a fellow writer the other day caught me out and stuck with me.

“there’s really no such thing as procrastination, just choices…it’s all down to choices I make. Sometimes every hour or every minute.”

She is right. It comes down to choices. Looking back over the last few months, I’m not happy with the choices I’ve made. I let myself get into a slump and didn’t drag myself out of it until now. Regardless of what was going on around me, I got in a rut and now it’s time to get out of it.

Life only passes you by if you let it and I did. I got lazy over the summer thinking I’ll do it tomorrow but ‘something’ always came up – choices and I didn’t make the best ones.

Well it’s time to get my groove back. Part of that is to get myself a writing coach. It is time to get someone to mentor me and motivate me in my writing. I’m so use to ‘deadlines’ in my day job that I let the lack in my writing get the best of me.

I’m at a point in my writing where I need helpful feedback. Am I on the right track? Where am I weak? What needs improvement? What’s good? What’s bad? What can I do better?

All questions swirling around in my head. I need guidance. It’s scary reaching out to someone – asking for help. Letting them analyze what I have written. I know it needs improvement and a lot of work to become a finished product that is as flawless as it can be. It’s still hard to take that next step even knowing it needs work. I guess I had to find someone that I think I can trust with my work. Someone who I believe will have my best interests at heart while being honest but no cruel.

I feel like the child who passes a scribbled picture to their parent with bated anticipation of their comments. As the parent looks down at the picture, thinking to himself or herself it looks like…then looking to their child and commenting on what they do see – the beautiful colors hoping for a clue to bring the scribbles together. “See mommy I made your dress blue. Do you like it?” With that clue the scribbles form into something more.

That’s where I am at. Presenting my scribbles with anticipation hoping that they show what I want and that they form the story I was hoping to convey and not just scribbles on a page.

Spring Cleaning – Setting Goals


 

I’m doing some spring cleaning on the writing front. I’ve looked at where I am at and where I am going and am revisiting my goals for the year. Spring to me is about renewal and that is where I am at.

If you’ve been on my blog before, the first difference is I’ve changed my header. I’m a visual person and although I liked my previous header I wasn’t in love with it and it didn’t reflect where I am at right now. I like the new look. It’s clean-looking, the colors are subtle but it’s still distinctive.

On the actual writing side of the business, I am two-thirds of the way through my first book draft. There have a lot of revisions as I’ve made some changes and corrected some missteps. For me, writing is an iterative process. The more I learn, the more I try to apply.

Translation: The first book will take the longest but it will pay-off on the second and third.

Once I get the first draft to an editor, I suspect the hardest part will occur. Rewrites, fixing plot and story arc. Accepting the critique of my work and applying it. That has been my biggest roadblock. I know once I finish the draft it has to be sent out, so I have been a creative procrastinator the last few months.

Part of my spring cleaning exercise is to mentally get over the fear, just do it and move on. So in setting my new goals, I am going to set some timelines for myself. One of those goals is to be more proactive on my blog and put up a post once a week. It may only be a paragraph or two but I am committing to writing something once a week, even if it’s just to say its been an interesting week.

So my first two goals are:
1. Finish the book one.
2. Post once a week.

See you next week.

Plotter, Pantser or Snowflake


It has been an interesting journey so far. I tried to be a plotter and outline everything. I really did. I would get so far and then feel myself being drained and losing interest. Then I tried to just let it all go and be a pantser but then I drifted and was all over the place. I was getting frustrated trying to find my groove. Where did I fit?

Then I came across this great book “How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method” by Randy Ingermanson. Wow!  I finally found a process that spoke to me. I really enjoyed this book. I loved how he explained the process by telling it in a story. Goldilocks, the bears, a wolf and a pig. It sounds hokey but for me it worked and kept me engaged. I could see the process in my mind as the book progressed.

I found it a nice balance between plotting and being a pantser. The interesting part for me is that he used a snowflake fractal as an example of how the process works. The best non-mathematical explanation I have come up with for explaining a fractal is simply “repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing loop”. You can find out more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal

This intrigued me as I stumbled across fractals several years ago in a display of yearly calendars. I bought the calendar because I really loved the pictures and have been fascinated by fractals ever since. The pictures below are all different representations of fractals. I just find them really interesting to look at.

My interpretation of the method in the book is similar to the repeating process. Building on what you already have and expanding it as you move forward. It’s what is working for me – at least for now.  As the pictures depict, the process can create some incredible visuals, I hope for the same results in my writing.


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