Boundbytheword Blog

keep updated in the world of Debris

The spotlight never burns! May 27, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 5:57 PM

If anyone’s ever doubted that I do love the warmth of a spotlight, let me be assure you – I do, I do!

Last night was the official launch of Wild Words, an anthology put together by the Writer’s Community of Durham Region. I was honoured to have my short story, Bittersweet, selected as a contributing piece. We had a great night last night, with a sold out crowd for the readings.

What fun! Besides listening to some fabulous writers read their work, I got the chance to stand up and read myself. It’s an opportunity I love and never turn down. A captive audience that has to listen (or politely fake listening) to your words for 5 solid minutes? It’s glorious for one who likes attention.

I was nervous for only a moment, when I realized my oldest daughter, Heather, was in the crowd and about to hear me read for the first time. I got a jitter, maybe two, then told myself she been hearing my stories her entire life, and I was being silly. After all, she couldn’t be a better cheerleader – she might as well have pom-poms stitched on her cuffs. She has my gift of enthusiasm, and sat smiling away as I read. It made me happy. I’m lucky to have a grand cheering section with my family and friends.

The best part of the night though, was signing the books. This was something new to me. As I’ve said, I’ve had the opportunity to read my work on many occasions, and I always feel a rush of energy, a surge of excitement doing so. But I’ve never had a book to sign. That was something new, and VERY exciting. I beamed each time someone I didn’t know asked me to sign their book. (you mean you aren’t related to me and you want my John Henry – how cool!).

I may be addicted. Sure, I’ve practiced the loops and curves of my “autograph” on the steamed up shower many times. Like the theory of “The Secret”, I believe if you put it out there, good things will come. So I already had perfected my stage signature. I’d already thought about cute little bits I could add, little bits of wisdom that I could place above my name. I’d planned it about the same time I started writing my first novel. (I think it’s important to dream and if you’re gonna dream, it might as well be big!) But, I didn’t expect how lovely it would feel. How much it would serve as a driving force to push me forward.

More than ever, I want that book deal. I want the agent. I want all of you to come out and have drinks, and eat candy, and listen to me read (maybe at my own, I’ll even get 15 minutes!!). One day. For now, I’ll do as a wise Wayson Choy advised me to do – work hard, be patient, and be brave.

Two out of three ain’t bad…right?

Thanks to WCDR, the Wild Words Committee and all the Judges for your hard work!


Writers Sometimes Smell Like Weiners May 26, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 2:20 PM
Tags: , ,

Busy day today! My short story, Bittersweet was selected to be part of an anthology just being released, called Wild Words.

I submitted the piece back in the fall, and though it didn’t win, it was selected as a piece that would be part of the anthology that comes out tonight at the official launch! Yipee!

I’m pleased as punch. As a writer, you submit all kinds of work, and it feels great to get an honourable mention or place in a top- whatever. That’s happened with other submissions, and it did feel amazing, but the work didn’t get published. So as much as it was great to get the pat on the back, the high was short-lived because I never saw it in print. I could never refer back to it for a boost when I needed it.

That changes tonight though, when I pick up my copy of Wild Words (order yours now!)  Besides signing the books, I also get to take part in a reading – which I love to do. Call me a ham (HAM!) but I love me a crowd.

I have to be sure to shower and doll up, because I’ve spent the last four hours being the Hot Dog Lady at my kid’s school. I cooked up and served 152 hotdogs, and yes, I smell like a big ol’ Oscar Meyer. My dog loves me and my stench, but I think I may need to do a scrub down before the book signing.

My house may be a mess, and my kids may have to eat cereal for dinner, but tonight I’ll ride the wave of being a published writer. That my friends, makes a messy house and underfed children just a minor detail. I get to put my hair net aside (okay, I don’t really wear a hair net, but you get the picture) and don some gorgeous heels. I get to sign my name and know that after the hard work, the rise and fall of my hopes, and bearing the weight of rejections somehow finding their way to my mailbox, I am published.

In a book.

With my name on it.

And I can keep one on my bedside, and one on my bookshelf and another beside my writing-table (yes, I bought several) to remind me that I am a writer. And that writers have the mantra and mission to write on.

And I am (a writer), so I will (write on). Cheers, and wish me luck on my reading tonight!


Renewed…and now I can exhale May 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 1:22 PM

Last week I was at a writers retreat, and I’m not gonna lie – I feel sort of ripped off in normal life now.

Oh what a life it would be to just live like you were on retreat. Meals served to you, a facilitated workshop in the morning to get your head in the right (write) space, and the whole afternoon and evening free to write, walk, reflect, revise. Life would be simple if life was just one big retreat. I’d also have completed works coming out my ears.

But, back to regular life, with the family, the pets, the housework, the gardening and all the everyday stuff that keeps your writing feet in the mud. Nice to be home, in my own space, and good to see my peeps, but oh my…there’s just something about being away from everything, surrounded by a group of brilliant minds and talented artists. The experience makes you long for the streets of Paris or a tiny cabin overlooking the ocean for inspiration and magic in the craft.

Inkslinger founders James Dewar and Sue Reynolds (who just happens to be my wise mentor) put together the fantastic retreat and it just couldn’t have been better. They have another one coming up in July, held at the same place I was just at on Lake Simcoe. If you’re looking for a retreat that will change the writer you are or the one you hope to be, you might want to check it out.

The feeling of utopia could have been our fantastic Chef Deb, brought in to nurture and fuel our bodies with her delectable offerings at mealtimes. I wanted to bring Chef Deb home and keep her in my cupboard. Is that legal? I guess I have to settle for the next best thing – one of several of her published cookbooks that make it look easy to be as great as her. Here’s hoping!

Without a doubt though, the heart of the retreat was the workshop leader, Pat Schneider. Pat is the founder of Amherst Writers and Artists, and organization dedicated to the principle that everyone can use words to create art. Pat is the author of Writing Alone and With Others, and she was one of those people you meet who can’t help but to change your life. Her energy is pure light.

And I do feel absolutely changed. I was able to work on poetry, which I never allow myself to do. I know some outstanding poets which makes the attempt daunting, and truth be told poetry overall is intimidating to me. But with the gentle guidance of our fearless leader Pat, along with the group of writers who forged ahead into the murky waters of vulnerability, I produced some poetry that I am really proud of. I’m also really proud of the fact that some of the work will be placed in an anthology coming out soon. (more details in a few weeks) All in all, it was a good week. A great week. Actually, it was glorious. And I thank my lucky stars that I could be a part of it.

On another note, a short story of mine, Bittersweet, was selected as a contributing piece of work for another anthology, Wild Words. We have our launch this coming Thursday. So if you are looking for a cool night out where you can hear some readings and mingle with the crazy writer types, drop me a line or RSVP.

Busy week again…lucky I am renewed!


Do you have Spidey-senses? May 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 8:38 AM
Tags: , , , ,

The strangest thing happened. My Spidey-senses were activated again.

Just before dinner there was a knock on my front door. A young woman stood on my doorstep with a folded up Google map in her hand and a small backpack on her back, looking for an address. I told her she had one more cross-road to go before she hit those numbers, about 10 minutes up the line.

“By car, or by bike?” she asked.

I peek my head out the door and see her 10-speed sitting in my driveway. I figure it would be more than double that by bike. When she groaned a little I asked her where she was coming from. Barrie, she said. That’s about a 30 minute drive by car, but on a main highway and as they say – as the crow flies. On a bike she would’ve needed to use county lines and smaller roads all of which are winding and hilly – which is great for a Sunday drive, but not so much for pedalling your 10-speed. My husband asks her how long she’s been on the road.

“I got on my bike at 12:45.” She groans. She is looking slightly haggard, and it’s no wonder – it was well after 5pm. This woman (who by no means looked like she normally spent much time on that bike) had been riding for more than 4 hours straight.

“I’m going to get a puppy,” She explained to us. “The guy said if I make my way there, he’ll give me a ride home, and the puppy will be my reward.”

Okay, so for those of you who might not have over-active spidey senses like me, this is the moment my brain catches on fire and explodes in my head.

The whole thing was already weird. Our house is set back more than 400 feet up a long driveway. It’s obscured entirely – you can’t even see a roof peak from the road. You have to drive through a tunnel of cedars – which looks romantic and quant for anyone coming to visit their dear friend Noelle, but can be completely creepy for someone who doesn’t know what’s on the other side. Both of my neighbours on either side have normal 50-foot driveway with a house in clear view. Either of their homes would have been the obvious choice for an inquiring traveller. But she chose my house. My set-far-back, can’t-see-it-for-anything house. So the whole thing already has my senses on alert, but now this? Getting “rewarded” with a puppy for driving all over green acres out to the middle of nowhere?

Am I alone is this so far? Does anyone else out there have the jeebies at this point?

I ask her if anyone knows she is doing this, and she assures me her CMHA worker knows about it. By fluke, my daughter, who lives 2 hours away, happens to work for CMHA so the acronym wasn’t lost on me. And this new bit of information didn’t help ease my concern in the least.

To streamline the story, she admits she’s desperate for a bathroom and since both my husband and I are home, we let her in and I offer to check the address online for her so she knows how far to go. Except there is no such address. So she gives us the Kijiji ad where she got the info and we call the number listed (which by the way doesn’t come up when we 411 it online). I call the guy listed as Fred, and let him know I have woman here looking for his address to pick up a puppy he promised her. He says he lives on the next line over.

Except that isn’t what his ad on Kijiji says.

He seems surprised by that, and starts giving me directions to his place that is the same number as listed on the ad, but an entirely different line number. I put my husband on the line. William gets on the phone with his best policeman’s voice (the same voice that sends me into frenzy when he tries using it on me during a fight, but in this type of situation works quite brilliantly). He clarifies that indeed the man has puppies, that he is driving the woman home to Barrie. (and that we know this now as well) We get the directions and the woman heads outside to journey onward, but not before I slip her my number and ask her to call me to let me know she arrived home safely.

But she’s hesitating. She’s hinting that the ride has been really long and she hopes it doesn’t take too long to get there. And the kind-heart in me wants to drive her there, get her puppy, and drive her home. But the survivor in me screams BAD CHOICE. I would never put myself in that kind of crazy-ass situation because I have a healthy fear of strangers who live out in the middle of nowhere who offer me rewards and rides home. I don’t want to venture there anymore than I want her to. So I don’t offer. I battle in my head and my heart, and I don’t offer.

My husband quietly asks me if he should drive her. The kind-heart in me wants to say yes. To send her with my big bodyguard so I know she gets home safely. But the cynic in me says this could go horribly wrong. That someone with no sense of fear, no sense of personal safety, and odd boundaries isn’t who I want my husband escorting in case somehow a kind favour turns into a mistake that changes our lives.

I don’t want to admit it, but I know that the fact that she made us privy to the fact that she in fact has a CMHA worker plays a part. I don’t want to admit it, because it means I am discriminating against her. I am judging her. And I hate it, because I don’t want to be that person.

I want to be that kind-heart that helps someone. Who doesn’t make assumptions and judgements.

But my gut is balled up in resistance-mode, and thought it may have taken me many years, I have learned to listen to my gut. I have learned that those Spidey-senses deserve a voice. And guilt can’t shake it. And good intent doesn’t trump it. And kind-heart loses out to it every time now. Even though outwardly, that makes me less of a kind-heart.

So the girl rode off. And we watched her go. And then I cried, because I felt like my hands were tied in an awful bind. And then William panicked because I rarely cry, and he’s never quite sure what to do when tears are shed.

And so, he comforts me, then drives out the address, arrives before the girl, and meets the man with the puppies. When the woman rides up she challenges his arrival.

“You were following me the whole time, weren’t you?” She says.

He assures her that he’s just arrived, and after meeting the man and seeing the puppies, his intuition tells him it’s all good and he comes home. And he tells me it’s all good. And I want to believe it, so I do, because what else can you do?

My oldest daughter, Heather, laughs at my over thinking the whole thing. She knows me well enough to know I believe some cosmic force drew that woman to my set-far-back, can’t-see-it-for-anything house. So I would know she was going, and so I would step into the circle, which I can never seem to help doing, and let him know, that in fact I know.

Which is marvellous if the puppy-giver was a sex-offending murderer who was going to kill her and feed her body to his pigs. But it’s pretty crazy if in fact it was just a kind farmer trying to give a woman a dog.

It’s actually pretty exhausting being in my brain. Unfortunately, it’s all I’ve got.


I’m A-Ok, Just MIA May 13, 2011

My dear blog followers, how I love you so. Thanks for your emails and check-ins. You need not worry, I’m alive and kicking (and thank you for the concern!). I’ve been bogged down and drowning just a little with coordinating a new organization up here in Simcoe County. The Writers’ Community of Simcoe County had its first meeting last night and it was a great way to kick off a new forum to support local writers. Pass on the info to any writer you know looking for a place to belong!

Now that the dust has settled and the water has left my lungs, I can get back to writing and get back to connecting to you on the blog. How I have missed you readers!

I thought it was high time to fill you in on how things are moving along in terms of Debris, my first novel, and progress on my second, Life As a Teenage Mutant. I’ll start with Mutant.

I am loving the voice of my main character Abby Brooks. She just drags me along my the nose, working my fingers to the bone with her antics and her haunting voice. I head to a writers’ retreat next week (yahoo – a whole week of writing in silence!) and my plan is to finish the first draft. I have every confidence that you will fall in love with her too, and once I’m back I’ll post my favourite scene so you can get a taste of her. I’m meeting with an Acquiring Editor as part of a workshop at the end of this month, and hope she’ll give me crucial feedback about my work. Maybe she’ll love it so much she’ll want to read more than the first 20 pages I’ve sent her. Cross your fingers. And toes. And depending how flexible you are, cross other stuff too.

Which leads me to Debris.

I haven’t given up on my first-born novel. Lots of queries are out to agents, although I just got a rejection last Friday. Yuck. But it didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would have. Waiting in limbo is far, far worse than actually getting a rejection response. At least it’s conclusive. I still have faith in Debris, but I am focusing all my energy on Mutant, because between you and me, it’s a far better book.

I used to hear authors talk about having a manuscript sitting on their shelf that would likely never get published. And it used to set me into panic. “I don’t want to spend all that time writing a book to have it just sit there, unpublished.” But the truth of it is, I’m a better writer than I was 2 years ago, and a year ago, and even 2 months ago. With every workshop, every retreat, every meeting and every critique – you become a better writer. At least if you are open to learning and improving you do get better. And I am, and I do, and I did.

So, Debris waits patiently to be noticed. I have a sneaky suspicion that Mutant will get me an agent and a publisher, and that Debris can be discovered on the heels of her kid sister Mutant. And that’s okay. It’s also okay if Debris never gets her chance. Things will work out the very way they should.

So wish me luck on my retreat and my mission to finish Mutant next week. It will be a labour of love, that I can assure.