Boundbytheword Blog

keep updated in the world of Debris

S-S-S-S-S-So glad to meet you… July 27, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 2:38 PM
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My daughter is a chip off the ol’ block. Not my block though. Unlike me, she has a true adventurer spirit and likes to break the rules. Please do not confuse the fact that she likes pink and gemstones with the inference that she is “a girly girl”.  Cue the corn snake.

My little miss has a thing for creatures, especially ones that other people cringe at. Anybody will pick up a soft little kitten or a toy poodle. What fun is that? She likes the thrill that comes with finding a creature somewhere on our property that most people would run from. It gives her a few hours of wild playtime. Was she dismayed when we looked it up on the internet and saw that corn snakes have teeth (not fangs) and will quite readily bite? Actually strike, poised like a rattler? Nope. She simply ran in the house, grabbed gardening gloves and reached into the bucket.

The fun didn’t end there though. Nope. After two hours of playing with the little guy (outside of course – mummy doesn’t let yucky things that I’m terrified of in the house), my daughter was pleased as punch to run up and show me a new development.

Cue the regurgitated mole.

Oh joy! After being mauled for what was apparently too long, the snake tossed his lunch in the bucket. My daughter got to witness the entire thing. She was fascinated. Seemed he was just lightening his load though, because the next time she “took him for a walk” on the grass, he slithered away so fast she didn’t have a chance to grab him and get him back into the bucket.

She cried, then pouted, robbed of her new pet. I’m sure he celebrated the escape in his own slithery way. I though, did not celebrate. Since she lost him closer to the house than when she originally found him, I now have visions of a corn snake hanging out under my porch until he’s 6-feet long.

Cue the mom with ophidiophobia.


Words of Wisdom from HSW… July 24, 2011

     Words of Wisdom taken from Mentors at the Humber School for Writers at this year’s summer workshop…enjoy!


“There are two ways shame can come into your work: for what you have written and for how you have written it. Only the second is valid. The other can be ignored, which is wonderful because you have some control over that second one.”    – – Wayson Choy


“Write the book that you want to read. Your talent needs to find a drive of its own, so be true to yourself; write the way you want, about what you want.” – – Guy Vanderhaeghe



“Memory is important to your creativity.”  “Find the thing that feeds your creative life.” – – Erika de Vasconcelos


“When you write about a world – either fantastical or realistic –  never make the reader feel ‘that would never happen’. They have to believe the world you have created fully.”   – – Nino Ricci



“A poet adapts masks to explore truths.”- – Olive Senior


“Don’t write a message, write a story.” – – Freida Wishinsky


“There is a great joy in creating a character that is you, but different.  It allows you to knowingly invite that confusion. Take your world  – distort it, parody it, characterize it.” – – David Bezmosgis



A chauffer with benefits July 17, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 2:53 PM
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The week at the Humber School for Writers was fantastic. After a week loaded with information, guidance and instruction I’m back home drained and exhausted but filled with motivation. Though one thing I didn’t have to face coming home on a Friday evening and heading northbound on the 400 was cottage traffic. And not because I left early enough or just got lucky with the cars on the road.

No, I got lucky because after 14 years together, my husband still tries to impress me and offered to pick me up in his plane. Now before anyone gets the idea that we’ve struck it rich and he’s flying around in a deluxe private jet, think again. It’s a 1984 Cessna.


And though he’s been flying since he was 17 years old and is meticulous when it comes to safety, I have haven’t flown with him since before we got married. That time (also a ploy by him to impress) it was a glider. That date was a flop as I ended up sick for hours from the turning in the thermals (updrafts) in order to get more height and stay in the air longer. It wasn’t my finest moment, and it didn’t impress me, not in the least.

The bottom line is – I don’t like to fly. Unless of course, there’s a beach at the end of the journey. So each weekend when Will goes flying, he tries to talk me into going, but I really have no interest. No more interest than he has in coming to a writer’s retreat. We all have our passions, right?

Anyway – getting home on a Friday night in 20 minutes instead of 2 hours (3 or 4 if you factor in traffic) sounded like a good alternative to me, so I agreed. It made him happy, because he could show off a little and play Top Gun to his wife. It made me happy because I would be home with my family and my dog sooner, rather than later. It also meant I would finally get up in his plane – something he’s been after me about since April when he bought it.


So we had our flight from Toronto Island Airport home to the Oro Airport and I’m in one piece. I won’t lie, I was a little skittish.

But I got home safe and sound, without a scratch. My ears didn’t even pop. But that doesn’t mean I’ve changed my disposition about being in the air on a frequent basis, or at the least, not for pleasure. I’m a writer, not a flyer.


Too Much Grit in YA? July 13, 2011

There’s been a lot of talk lately about YA. Young Adult fiction that is, and the talk centers around just how much is too much. Gritty YA books that focus on social issues have come under attack and it has me nervous.

I’m a huge YA fan. We’re not talking the old Nancy Drew books here. We’re not talking Twilight either (though say what you will, Meyer has the angst of teenage longing down perfectly). I’ve read some YA in the last year that leaves adult contemporary fiction in the dust. Exceptional reads that leave you thinking about the characters long after you put the book down. Scars by Cheryl Rainfield educates and rips your heart out as it deals with abuse and self-harm (mutilation). It was up for a governor general’s award last year. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is the first in a trilogy of dystopian novels that explore the effects of war and violence on those coming of age. That book has spent more than 130 consecutive weeks to date on The New York Times bestseller list since publication in September 2008. Crank by Ellen Hopkins, is one of many in her verse novel series (a whole novel done in poetry) that deals with addiction to meth and the horrors that come with it. It was one of a series of seven books that all spent some time on the New York Times best seller list.

These books are not fluff. They are an immensely engaging read, they have characters that suck you in and won’t let you put the book down. You’ll drop your jaw once or twice, maybe more. These are books that make you think, make you dream, make you hope. It’s also likely you’ll clutch your chest several times and gasp aloud. But let me assure you, they’ll make you think.

All of these books and many more can be found in your local bookstore on the YA shelves. And they do sit alongside the books about vampires. They also sit alongside novels about shopping for the best dress ever and how life is unfair when you break a nail or get a bad haircut. Just like adult fiction, YA has a wide range of topics, a vast range of depth, and breadth of quality as well. But the fact that you can find anything out there now, to suit any kind of reader is fantastic. What did you read, after all, when you were 16? And wouldn’t it have been great to have a plethora of material to choose from?

I read YA with my 12-year-old son. I wouldn’t have a problem with him reading them on his own at say 15 or 16 years old, but even the Hunger Games was one that I read aloud to him at night so I could filter when I needed to, and discuss things when it was called for as well. I haven’t read the ones dealing with abuse or addiction with him yet, but they are on my shelf ready to do so when the time is right. Not that I would freak out if he read one on his own, but I want to be ready to have the conversation. I do like the opportunity to discuss social issues with him, and YA novels give me an opening to do that.

My struggle with YA comes from the writer perspective rather than the reader. My current work in progress, Life as a Teenage Mutant is a coming of age novel about a young girl dealing with sexual abuse and drug addiction. I wrote it as an adult commercial fiction, but the narrative voice (the main character Abby) ranges from 12-18 throughout the book. Mutant is gritty. Sometimes nasty. Mostly heartbreaking, but with a thread of resilience that draws on the strength of the human spirit. Abby’s voice is haunting and real, and is the very heart of the book. But there are abuse scenes, drug use, and sex. Not the Harlequin romance type of sex, but the bad choices kind of sex. The “makes you feel dirty, damages the spirit, but sometimes fun while it lasted” kind of sex.

And I am told by editors and agents and publishers that it is indeed a Young Adult Book, but I won’t lie; it makes me a little nervous. Like, somehow I fear my hate-mail might outweigh my fan-mail.

Here’s the thing: young females (and males) will read this book and be changed, that I know. This book will touch people, make them feel less alone. This book will send a message about understanding, empathy and kindness to people. This book will matter.

But – parents may hate this book. They may feel I’m glorifying a good buzz or promiscuity (though it clearly doesn’t look pretty on the page). High schools or libraries may think it’s too much too soon, and churches – don’t get me started – they might start prayer circles in my name. I don’t think I’d be a welcome speaker for Sunday school, let’s just put it that way.

I can’t Disney-down rape and its effects. The truth of it is Abby’s story is not crazy fantasy or non-believable fiction. Abuse and addiction affect every single person on the planet. If you’re lucky enough that it hasn’t touched you directly, count your blessings. But don’t be ignorant enough to think it hasn’t touched your life all the same. Fallout from the effects of abuse influence how you parent, how you connect with others, what kind of lovers you choose, how many lovers you choose, why you choose a lover, what kind of friend you are, and ultimately what kind of person you are.
It doesn’t always result in misery. Sometimes horrible things of all sorts have a profound impact that somehow spins into the side of light rather than dark. Things that in turn, make you a better parent or a more compassionate human being. But, if you think you (and in turn, your teenagers) haven’t been touched by the effects of abuse by someone in your life somehow – think again.

Isn’t it a good thing to let our children see the effects? Both the anguish and the resilience that comes from misfortune? Can understanding adversity create empathy?

So I ask you…what’s your take on the progression of YA books and the effect they are having on readers – young or old? Is there too much grit in our YA books, or are we simply and finally opening the doors for discussion and understanding?


Send Full Manuscript…music to my ears. July 10, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 10:29 PM
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I held out on you my dear readers, but I needed time to let it marinate.

You all know I’ve been worked like a mad-woman on my revisions for Life as a Teenage Mutant. I finished last week and promptly sent out a query letter to my first pick agent with sample chapters attached. That was Monday. On Friday afternoon, life got better. I got an email with those three words that make life worthwhile.

“I love you.”

Okay, it wasn’t actually those words. It was “send full manuscript”, but to a writer, that does say I love you. At least I love you a little, or right now, or I have the potential to love you. To say I was giddy is an understatement. If it wasn’t enough that I had my bags packed for the Humber School for Writers Summer Workshop, this news put me over the edge. I was a ball of nerves. Quite honestly, when I replied to the email and had to hit send, I almost threw up. It was that unsettling. But glorious.

So I came to Humber giddy as a school girl and have been fluttering around here ever since. It was a great day yesterday, and another great one today. I guess if I had to pick one moment that stood out more than the rest though, it was lunch. No, they didn’t serve chocolate covered chocolate. I sat down to chat with an agent and had a great discussion about the direction of Young Adult fiction and the evolution of a writer from dreamer to worker. She asked a lot about my work, and there is nothing better than talking about your novel – unless it’s talking about your novel to an agent! Oh, yes…I almost forgot – she said she’d like to read my stuff. I assumed a few chapters, because that seems to be step one in this business (actually query is step one, chapter samples is step two). When I confirmed and said -“Three or four chapters then?” she made my day. She said she loved me. No – she didn’t, but she did say “send full manuscript”. Can I hear a hallelujah?

So now I have a new high – two agents in one week. Pretty amazing and I’m trying to just focus on the good of it – the high. Except sending a full manuscript is much like disrobing. Not totally of course, that comes when you actually get published and have your work out there for the whole world to see. Commando style. No – full manuscript is sort of like taking off your shirt and bra. Exposed from the waist up.

You can bite your nails right along with me – agents are piled high with reading material and authors waiting to be discovered, so I hope to hear back soon, but imagine it might take a while to get the news either way. Until then, I just have to stand here, hands to the sky and boobs to the floor, and hope they like what they see.

It’s times like this I wish I were an A-cup.


Day one at Humber School for Writers… July 9, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 8:44 PM
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I’m exhausted. Full day loaded with information. The speakers are fabulous and the energy in the room of 80 writers is electric. It feels much calmer this time for me though…I’m not busting with nervous energy and making a fool out of myself this time around. (small blessings!)

We had 13 success stories from HSW alumni, and had speakers that included an agent, a publisher and the wonderful Wayson Choy. He talked about writing your truth, but telling it slant. He reminded us all to venture into those raw, scary places where the best writing comes from. Good advice if you are looking to resonate with your readers.

I meet Nino Ricci tomorrow which will be exciting, and some editors, authors, and other industry people lined up to speak. It should be another full day of fill-you-brain-till-it-bursts information. I am already in my PJ’s and setting a record – lights will be out by ten! What can I say? My brain hurts!


Getting geared up and stressed…er, I mean ready. July 7, 2011

Filed under: What's Up? — Noelle Bickle / Abby Brooks @ 3:33 PM
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I haven’t been sleeping, I’m skipping breakfast, eating cereal for lunch and having late dinners that start with dessert. My house looks like a bomb went off right down the center it, and I’ve been shopping way more than I should be. What’s the problem, you ask?


Why am I stressed, you ask?

I leave at six a.m this Saturday morning for the Humber School for Writer’s (HSW) Summer Workshop. I couldn’t be more please about it. While I spent the same time there last year as a workshop attendee, this year I’ll be working as a teacher’s assistant for Nino Ricci. I’m thrilled, excited, and downright giddy about it. So why am I stressed, you ask?

I didn’t say bad stress, I just said stress. And the list of bits getting to me include: leaving my kids and husband to fend for themselves, leaving my dog walk-less for a week, and leaving the house (in hopes that the cleaning fairies visit while I’m gone). I worry about my daughter getting to camp on time, with appropriate gear and sunscreen on; about my son getting to tennis, getting a new racquet, and not pulling his hair out with the antics at home between his father and sister; and that my pets will never forgive me for the abandonment. I worry that my house will look even more destroyed than it does now, and that my husband will be so exhausted and fed up that he’ll want a divorce or worse – tell me no more writing weeks away (yes, to a writer that is worse).

I’m also worried about my role as an assistant in that classroom. Anyone who knows and loves (or even likes) me, will know I have energy to spare and I can be spastic at times. That exuberance seems to accelerate when I’m nervous or excited, and I’ll be both. I’ll planning to try to keep level-headed and look normal so I don’t scare the “real authors” off with my intensity. I know it can be a bit much – but honestly, its work to contain.

So I’m busting at the seams happy about my week away at the HSW Summer Workshop for Writers and can’t wait to see Wonderful Wayson again. I understand I’m also in for a treat with the incredible Nino Ricci, and I can’t wait to see what he has in store for the students he’ll mentor during the workshop. I want to be a sponge and soak it all in!

It would be a dream to one day blog about being a speaker at HSW. Once I meet the goal of getting published, that’s the next goal I have on my list (besides getting a second novel published). My plan: write a novel (check), attend HSW (check), spend a year revising novel (check), write second novel (check), work as a classroom assistant at HSW (check), get published (???), finish second novel (check), be invited to be a keynote speaker or mentor at HSW (???), get published again (???), write third novel (???) get published again (???), write fourth novel (???), get published again (???), and so on and so on…

Here’s hoping for a productive week and hip hip hurray for one more thing I can check off my list of goals on my road of words and all things bookish!