What's on your chicken list?

I have two TBR (to be read) lists.

The first is all the books I really, really, really want to read and already own. Many are in my eBook library and vie for my attention daily. The rest sit on the shelves beside my bed and are a constant physical reminder of the wonderful worlds that await me.

The other list is the classic books that I know I should read but have avoided for a number of reasons: 

  1. I worry I won’t be smart enough to understand the profound themes that make them so revered.

  2. I’m certain that the authors’ brilliance will wither my confidence and leave me unable to write.

  3. I dread the archaic language of some of the older books.

To put it bluntly I’ve avoided many books out of simple fear.

Prompted by the purchase of Steinbeck’s East of Eden in December, I’ve decided to go through my fear, not around it.   

Last month I read East of Eden and loved it. Yes, Steinbeck was brilliant. No, I will never write at his level. But I yellow-tagged dozens of pages to go back to and read again. There is so much to learn from his work.

This experience made me wonder: what am I missing in other classic novels in favour of something more contemporary?

Resolution: to balance my ‘should reads’ with my ‘want to reads.’

Do you have any reading resolutions for the 2016? How are they working out so far?

Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Baby meet Moominmama  3 Nov 05 by Phillip Capper

What's bugging you?

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use. Emily Post.

Some sources even say that good manners will keep us in better health than our ruder acquaintances. Maybe they will. Or maybe they will just make other people feel a bit more respected in our daily dealings. That’s fine too.

What are your biggest gripes with people’s manners? Here are a few complaints I’ve come across lately. Some are mine. Others are the product of eavesdropping, one of my favourite pastimes:

  • People who eavesdrop.

  • People in stores who order salesclerks around like mininons. What happened to please?

  • Salesclerks who conclude transactions with either ‘no worries’ or ‘no problem.’ The customer could have spent their money elsewhere. Why would there be a problem? How about a simple thank you?

  • Sidewalk hogs. The ones that think they own that four feet piece of pavement. They and their mob of friends aren’t going to budge an inch for anyone.

  • Aisle blockers. They shop the way they walk, several people wide with no awareness of anyone else on the planet. If they meet friends, they make aisles impassable.

  • Cell phones not turned off in theatres and cinemas.

  • People who ask for things by email and then can’t be bothered with a simple TY response when they get what they want.

  • Lane blockers. You put your indicator on because you’re about to change lanes. The driver behind you accelerates to close the gap.

  • Litterbugs. Their coffee cups, plastic bags, gum wrappers, cigarette butts festoon city streets.

That’s the starting list but I had to stop. The last one makes my usually excellent blood pressure. When did our planet become on giant rubbish bin?

Still, I’m hopeful. I like to imagine what might happen if everyone turned on their most considerate and thoughtful behaviour. Maybe we’d see these results:

image from Triple M Sydney
  • Happier families and longer marriages.

  • A calmer society.

  • Less road rage.

  • Cheaper coffee.

  • The sun would shine every day. It would only rain between midnight and dawn.

Maybe not that last one but the rest aren’t beyond the realm of possibility.

What rude, self centered behaviour of others has tainted your day lately? How did you handle it?

Are you a young writer?

Here is a completion just for you:

 

http://bcwriters.ca/literarywrites/

2016 Valerie B-Taylor Young Writers Awards

The Federation of British Columbia Writers invites young writers (29 and under) to submit to our annual Valerie B-Taylor Young Writers Awards. Winners in each of three categories – – fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry – – will be published in the Fed’s quarterly magazine, WordWorks, as well as receiving a year’s membership in the FBCW and $100 in cash.

There is no submission fee!

Entries must be sent by email only. Detailed instructions are below. Judging will be blind.

Deadline

The deadline for submission to the 2016 Valerie B-Taylor Young Writers Awards is midnight on February 17, 2016.

Judges

We have three wonderful final judges for 2016. For poetry: Leaf Press publisher and renowned Vancouver Island poet, Ursula Vaira. Fiction: 2014 Victoria Butler Book Prize winner and prolific author MAC Farrant.  Non-Fiction: Readers’ Digest author and award winning humourist Judy Millar.  Judges will pick winners in each of two age groups: 18 and under and 19-29.

See more information about the Judges Here. 

Guidelines

  • All submitted work must be original, unpublished, and not awaiting publication anywhere. Previously published is considered to be any appearance in print or online, including on or in a newspaper, newsletter, magazine, anthology, chapbook, book, website, electronic magazine, personal blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  • All submissions are to be formatted in a serif or sans 12pt font, with margins of at least one inch. Acceptable file formats are .doc, docx and pdf.

  • Poetry – No more than three poems per entry; maximum length for each poem 50 lines (including spaces)

  • Short fiction and creative non-fiction – One story or article per entry with a maximum length of 1,500 words, double spaced. Short fiction may be a stand-alone excerpt from a longer work (Please indicate word count on front page).

  • Anonymity is preserved throughout the judging. Therefore please make sure your name/email does not appear anywhere on the manuscript.

  • Provide your complete contact information on a separate cover page that accompanies your entry. This page should include the following: (Please read carefully and make sure you follow, it is really helpful to us).

  1. Header: FBCW Valerie B-Taylor Youth Writing Awards (because we have another writing contest, “Literary Writes”, running concurrently and we don’t want to get the submissions mixed up.

  2. Age category and genre of your submission

  3. Title(s) of your submission

  4. Word or line count

  5. Your name, age, snail mail address and email

  6. Your telephone number.

    The winner will be notified by email. Following that, winners in each category will be announced on the FBCW web page and social media on March 17, 2016.

    Winning entries and a story on Literary Writes will be published in WordWorks.

    The FBCW reserves the right not to award a prize in a category should the judges feel there are not enough submissions to reach a meaningful decision.

    Note: It is not necessary to be a FBCW member to participate in Literary Writes. However, should you wish to join our writer network, you can join at the time of submission for a special rate of $20 (normally $25)

     

     

Guilty or Grateful?

From East of Eden by John Steinbeck:

The dry earth was ticking under the sun and the crickets rasped. “It’s real godforsaken country,” said Louis.

“Makes me feel mean,” said Adam.

“How’s that?”

“Well, I’m fixed so I don’t have to live on a place like this.”

“Me too, and I don’t feel mean. I’m just goddamn glad.”

 

Sometimes I feel guilty because I don’t have to live in the parts of the world where daily survival is a struggle. Guilt turns a person mean.

The accident of my birth in a prosperous, Western country can’t be changed. Instead I try to feel glad or grateful. Here are some of the things that made me grateful in 2015:

  • The Greater Victoria Public Library. Its seemingly inexhaustible resources of books, periodicals, movies, and music enrich my life.

  • HarperCollins Australia who contracted my novel Outback Promise and continue to help spread the word about it.

  • Great Plains Teen Fiction who continue to distribute my novel Lockdown.

  • All the wonderful people who read and / or bought my books.

  • The writing community at large who nudged me forward to helped me improve my writing.

  • The writers and readers whose well-timed encouragement kept me going. You know who you are.

  • My family and friends who continue to support of my writing caper and so much more.

  • My amazing husband whose capacity for joy and optimism encourages me every day.

I try to remember these simpler gifts also:

  • Life in a polite, orderly society where acts of terrorism or gun violence are minimal.

  • The miracles of computers and word processing that allow me to write with relative ease.

  • Having good quality food available within an easy walk of my front door.

  • The gift of electricity that fills my house with light and warmth.

  • Fresh water, hot or cold, that is delivered when I want it, with the twist of a tap.

Amy Morin tells us that gratitude has health benefits too. It seems intuitive. I know I feel better when guilt in my life is minimized.

How do you keep gratitude alive and guilt at bay? Are you feeling glad today or just a little bit mean?

 Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Rose in Winter in Tuscany by Waugsberg

More Buzz about the Book

Bree Testa gives Outback Promise 9/10 on her 1 girl…2 many books blog:

https://1girl2manybooks.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/review-outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho/

The thing that struck me most about this book was the reality of it. I had absolutely no trouble placing myself in Ros’s shoes and I could understand how such a devastating, senseless loss could cause a rift in the strongest of relationships.

[…]

I thought this book was fantastic. Amazingly well written and a deep and sensitive exploration of what must be a parent’s greatest tragedy.

 

From the Unshelfish book blog:

http://unshelfish.org/2015/12/07/review-giveaway-outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho/

Bolitho masterfully penned an emotional read, you are invested from the start, you feel the pain, the depth of sorrow. Have your tissue box handy and prepare yourself for an emotional rollercoaster ride, quite a compelling journey.

 

Suze Lavender said:

http://www.librarianlavender.com/2015/11/australia-days-book-review-giveaway.html

[…] a unique story with a difficult topic which is captivating, gripping, emotional, honest and absolutely brilliant.

 

By Carol Cram on November 28, 2015 five out of five stars on Amazon

Outback Promise is one of those novels that stays with you long after you've read it. A heartbreaking story is woven into a story of redemption and hope.

 

From the Coffeeholic Bookworm:

https://coffeebookmom.wordpress.com/2015/11/25/review-outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho/

It is a story about family, love, death, betrayal, financial crisis, acceptance and forgiveness. [...] the way the story was written was so beautiful and lyrical, I couldn't help but admire Maggie Bolitho

Does absence make the writing stronger?

A couple of weekends ago, we returned to our tiny place on Salt Spring Island (SSI). We hadn’t visited for eight months, because of the extended trip to Australia. What happened in our absence?

  • Spiders moved in, about 4,126 of them. They festooned the rooms with sticky webs and left their pencil-dot droppings under their favourite spots.

  • Weeds choked the front walk.

  • I forgot how the oven worked.

  • When the internet service restarted, the server no longer recognized our modem and vice versa.

  • Our neighbour’s dog forgot who we were and approached us warily.

Neglect was a show stopper as I found when I went to work:

  • My writing had become became slow and ponderous, as though trapped by spider silk.

  • Adverbs threatened to choke the narrative.

  • The discipline of daily writing had weakened.

  • I’d lost touch with some of my characters. Worse still I wasn’t using Scrivener or even a basic spreadsheet to track them. What colour were the protagonist’s eyes?

On the other side of that coin, taking a break delivered these parallel benefits:

  • We discovered we were hanging on to a lot of things we didn’t use. A big clean up ensued and a carload of gently used household items went to the local thrift shop.

  • My prose was thick with extraneous scenes and description. I was able to edit ruthlessly.

  • Coming back to a favourite place after a long absence, refreshed my love of SSI.

  • When I looked at work I hadn’t seen for months, I found quality writing that can be improved and sharpened for publication.

Have you ever stepped away from a place or project for an extended length of time? Was it a happy reunion when you came back?

What are they saying about Outback Promise?

Three weeks ago today, Outback Promise was released into the world. Here’s early some feedback from writers and book bloggers:

Highly recommended, character-driven reading.

…from the lovely Dianne Beth at Tome Tender, 5 out of 5 stars (22nd November 2015)

http://tometender.blogspot.ca/2015/11/outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho.html

I was completely absorbed in the story all the time I was reading this book, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well-written, contemporary, relationship-based drama.

….the talented writer & blogger Terry Tyler, 4.5 out of 5 stars (17th November 2015.)
http://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho.html

A very sensitive read with a great couple that I was cheering for at the center.

…prolific blogger and author Samantha March, 3.5 out of 5 stars (11th November 2015)

http://chicklitplus.com/bookreview-outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho/

I found many of the scenes confronting and emotionally touching - or more like emotionally punching.

…delightful book blogger Renee Conoulty 5 out of 5 stars (1st November 2015)

http://heysaidrenee.blogspot.com.au/2015/11/outback-promise-by-maggie-bolitho.html

There are lots more reviews on Amazon, GoodReads and other fine book sites.

The raffle is over for this year - many thanks to everyone who entered

Congratulations to Janvhvi from India who is the first prize winner, of the $15 Amazon gift certificate, drawn randomly by Rafflecopter.

2nd to 6th place random winners, each of whom will each receive a copy of my ebook, Outback Promise, are:

  • Katie C

  • HaveBooks W

  • Nicole A

  • Jennifer R

  • Victoria T

Thank you to everyone who entered. With 214 people trying for the prizes, it was great to have Rafflecopter’s random draw feature. I couldn’t have decided without it!


***

It’s the season when spirits start to roam the earth again. Isn't that the perfect reason to stay inside a good book?

Where better to get a new book than at the Annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop?  Many thanks to the amazing Kathy at I am a Reader Not a Writer for putting this together each year.

Click the link here for a list of participants offering reading-related prizes over the next fifteen days.

By clicking the Rafflecopter link below, you will be in the running for either an Amazon $15 gift certificate or one of five copies of my new e-book, Outback Promise.

My raffle is worldwide so enter now and enter often.

 

 

Are you giving thanks?

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues it’s the parent of all the others – Marcus Tillius Cicero. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in Canada and I want to list some of the things I’m grateful for, in my writing life:

  • For all my writing friends who share their wealth of knowledge, read what I write in its unpolished form, offer encouragement and hold my feet to the fire when it’s necessary.

  • For all the people who have pre-ordered a copy of Outback Promise for delivery on November 1st.

  • The people who bought and read my book Lockdown. Double gratitude to those who logged into Amazon and / or Goodreads and left a favourable review.

  • For the publishers, Great Plains Teen Fiction, who took a chance on me and published Lockdown. Thank you to the entire team and Anita Daher in particular.

  • HarperCollins Australia contracted Outback Promise for release as in e-book. Thank you Rochelle Fernandez for seeing the potential. Thank you Dianne Blacklock for the edits that helped realize it. And artist Michelle Payne for delivering a gorgeous cover.

  • Friends and family who believe enough in me to encourage me on this road.  

My love of writing started, like most writers, with a love of reading. Long before I dreamed of writing a novel, I had these gifts:

  • I learned to read early and had access to a good public library.

  • Every Christmas until I was eighteen I received a gift from great aunt in England, whom I never met. But hardcover books, wrapped in thin brown paper with my name on them, arrived every December. There were few books in our home and I treasured these ones that were mine and mine alone.

  • Having an English teacher in grades 9 and 10 (RIP Peter Seale) who improved my appreciation for the beauty of language and literature.

John Milton said gratitude bestows reverence…changing forever how we experience life and the world. Do you believe that? What are you thankful for now and in the past? Who or what helps you on your chosen path?

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Fall Colours in Canada by Vlad Livinov from Toronto

 

 

 

What happens when the music stops?

This is my last Saturday morning in Sydney. The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. It’s time to go for a walk along one of the stunning nearby beaches. Maybe stop for coffee and listen to the lighthearted banter of the locals enjoying their heavenly city.

IMG_2249.JPG

 

But first a blog. Normally my blogs are about writing. This time I’m reflecting on the past five months in this sunburnt country.

The highlights of this trip have been:

  • Standing in a vast gorge (Windjanna was my favourite) or on a wide outback plain, feeling tiny and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. At the same time I felt more connected than ever with the universe.

  • The constantly changing scenery. From towering forests to wild coastlines to dusty red roads, Australia is a dramatic country.

  • The fabulous animals, from the marsupials to the reptiles but above all, the birds. We’ve seen emus and brolgas, parrots, lorikeets, cockatoos, pelicans, and flocks of wild budgerigars. And hundreds of raptors in the drought-ravaged outback.

  • The brilliant outback night sky where the stars spread out like diamonds on velvet, unsullied by the light pollution of cities.

  • Driving hundreds of kilometres of empty highways with the man I love, with time to think, sing, laugh, and listen.

With my Australian-set novel Outback Promise being released by HarperCollins on 1st November 2015, this adventure became more significant than ever. It renewed my affinity for the sun-flattened plains and how the silent endless horizon heals the soul.

Often the pace of our travel compelled us to move from one place or another before we realized its true heartfelt significance. But isn’t that life itself? How many golden moments sift through our hands like sand, only to be appreciated in retrospect?


Where are you headed?

I’m on a five month road trip around Australia. As fabulous as this is, it comes with many challenges. Often these challenges remind me of the writing life:

  • No matter how carefully you plan where you’re going, you don’t always end up where you expected. Planning is important but accept there will be delays and detours.

  • A lot of time may be spent searching for things that don’t appear. You may climb many steps, walk many trails, without seeing a platypus or quokka. Then a huge flock of endangered white-tailed black cockatoos bursts from the forest. That’s when you realize some unproductive hours have led to this one brilliant moment. Be patient with the process. Don’t stop looking because the first effort didn’t work.

  • The idea of undertaking a huge adventure may seem wonderful at first but there will be moments of doubt. Some days you may even want to quit. Take the adventure one day at a time.

  • Other people may have been where you’re going before you. Ask for advice. Other people can save you a lot of time and disappointment. They also can send you in the wrong direction. Be a discerning listener. Sometimes the voices you hear aren’t the ones to listen to.

  • Sometimes it’s the same thing over and over again. Drive. Unpack. Pack. Drive. The monotony of one day paves the way for great discoveries the next.

  • The journey is not intuitive. You get better at it the more you do it. Practice improves the process.

What have you learned from your latest trip, be it across a continent or across a manuscript?

Photo from Wikimedia: a female, long-billed, black cockatoo (aka Baudin’s Black Cockatoo) at Margaret River, Western Australia by Snowmanradio

Second photo: the road from Pardoo Station Western Australia by Maggie Bolitho



What's the good of writing a blog if you don't post it?

Last month I wrote this blog but forgot to publish it. That’s my life in the constant ebb and flow of travel. Also I’ve been editing my novel Outback Promise when we’ve stopped long enough to set up my computer for more than an hour at a time.

Here’s what I wrote in June. I’ll write this month’s and put it up later in a week or so. It’s important to stay in practice. But more about that later.

June 8th, 2015: I’m in Australia for five months. In the past week alone my husband and I have driven over 1,800 kilometres, visited a dozen national and state parks—more or less—and spent nights in five different locations. This is a holiday right?

Yes and no.

Yes because I’m seeing exciting places that I may never see again.

No because I can’t stop working. My work, of course, is writing.

Writing is also my obsession and compulsion.

And here’s what happens if I let it slide for a day or two: I lose track of my characters. They wander off and have conversations without me. When I get back to the keyboard, they’ve clammed up.

“You weren’t here to listen? Did you expect us to wait until you were ready?” they ask.

Then I have to tease them back to life, work with them until they’re ready to share their secrets again.

They don’t arrive on the page, fully formed. It’s up to me to perform the small acts daily that bring them to life.

What happens when you step away from your keyboard? What takes you away from your work? What brings you back?

What do you see?

Melbourne. This is where the love affair began almost thirty years ago. Not my love affair with my husband which was already burning bright when I arrived. I’m talking about my love affair with Australia.

My early weeks were spent looking for work, hopping off and on the noisy trams. I puzzled over train routes and adapted to the volatile climate. The squat brick houses with their terracotta roofs and fenced front yards soon became part of my psyche. So did the deliciously ornate buildings constructed during the gold rush years that started in 1851. By the 1880’s Melbourne was the richest city in the world which is reflected in the fabulous architecture from that period.

Knowing how way leads on to way, (thank you, Robert Frost) I realize I may not see these sites again. So this week, when my husband and I walked the neighbourhood where we bought our first home together, I absorbed as many details as I could. Sniffing the faint scent of eucalyptus on the air, I listened to the call of the wattlebirds and touched the rough case of the gum nuts from the tree on the nature strip outside our old fence. I hope I caught enough of the texture of this city to last a lifetime.

Soon we will set off into the desert to explore new places and retrace old steps. My novel, Outback Promise which will be released in November, is set on that sprawling landscape. I will walk in Rosalyn Balfour’s shoes again and refresh my memories of her troubled journey.

My love affair with Australia may have started in Melbourne but it soon spread to every corner of the continent. Even in the harshest part of the Outback there is great beauty and renewal, which is one of the themes of my novel.

Is there one place you’ve said good-bye to that you’d like to see again? Where is it and what would you hope to take away as your final impression?


Photo of Flinders Street Station, Melbourne by Alan Bolitho, LM (leading man)>

Do you ever question tradition?

Anna Jarvis, the woman who started the Mother’s Day madness regretted its commercialization long before she died in 1948.

What would she think if she were to see the frenetic buying that marks this annual event now?

I had to go into a major Australian shopping centre today. The noise of the spruikers and whirr of the cash registers almost deafened me.

Where are the cards, I wondered, for someone who has the nebulous relationship I have with my mother? Not all mothers are saints. All that needs to be said is: I did not buy my mother a flowery card full of sugary sentiment this year or any other.

If people are so devoted to their mothers, why is single day needed to celebrate that fact? Why not go over to her house on a regular basis and cut her lawn or wash her windows? Or take her flowers when she doesn’t expect it? Why wait for Hallmark and your local department store to tell you that it’s time to recognize what she has done for you?

If we could take this fatuous day off our calendars, who would really be the loser?

Please don’t misunderstand me. I respect and admire parents of both genders—raising children is one of the most difficult challenges on earth. I just wonder: do we really need yet another season of buying trinkets to acknowledge that fact?


Picture from Wikimedia Commons: photo of Anna Jarvis posted by Olairian

What did you survive today?

Driving down the steep, twisty roads of the Australian Alps this afternoon, my husband and I did not die.

We did not die by approximately 4-5 seconds. A car careened around a blind corner toward us, on our side of the road. He was racing at 30-40 kph an hour over the speed limit and 100% over the sanity limit.

We screeched to a stop while the blue bullet swerved back into its lane. In our car, the ABS grabbed and the dash cam blinked into emergency recording status.

A couple hours earlier we saw a car that hadn’t been so lucky. Maybe it was a warning.

Car on the side of the road, Mt. Kosciuszko National Park.

Car on the side of the road, Mt. Kosciuszko National Park.

Either way we made it to our next accommodation—an old church—in one piece. I’m going to give thanks the best way I know how. I’m going to work on my novel!


What stories of near-misses do you have to tell?

Got any news that's fit to print?

I've been in Australia for two weeks. In that time I've met Rochelle Fernandez and Laura Brading from HarperCollins for the best cup of coffee ever.

Since then Rochelle has moved on to be Associate Publisher for International fiction, looking after all the books that come in through HarperUS and HarperUK. Good luck, Rochelle!

Enter: Anna Valdinger and Vanessa Williams to guide the Impulse writers along. I’m so excited to work with them!

The first edits for the Outback journey will be coming to a laptop near me around the middle of May. I’ll be nicely back at a desk by then, welcoming new thoughts on my story of sorrow, betrayal, and fresh growth.

We survived this first week’s super storm. So did most of the birds. My Aussie ear is coming back, sharpened by their song. Did you know that all songbirds, worldwide, came from Australia, part of the Gondwana?

Walking around Wentworth Falls yesterday was fabulous. Every bird in the forest was singing its survival song. “Look at me! I made it!”

TG for technology – I have voice recordings of them!

From the moment of our arrival, friends and fabulous memories have filled our days. We walk, visit, swim, eat. Get up the next day and start again.

Sydney feels like our home but we are anchored in Victoria. We love this place. We prefer our gentle island neighbourhood where a traffic jam is a five minute wait.

Australia delivers some of the best things imaginable: warm and engaged people, top beaches, fine horses, excellent wine, and good—often unusual—food.

Foods that I have personally sampled or considered sampling: bullets, melting moments, yoyos, vanilla slices, shark n taters, neenish tarts, lamingtons, party pies, hamburger with a fried egg, chook (fried or roasted), potato scallop, run over rooster. Over eight years, I’d forgotten most of these things.

Tomorrow is ANZAC Day. Alan wants me to go to the dawn ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli with him. I may even do that.

So many new things in such a compact time period! Finally tonight I sat down and started a new novel.

How do you get through times of great change? Do you lose yourself in the moment or scribble notes madly and turn them into golden prose?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Eastern Whipbird by Greg Miles

Will your Easter weekend be a taxing one?

Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work. Gustave Flaubert

Easter’s coming and so is the tax bunny. That means it’s time to gather together your tax papers and take them to your nearest tax professional. Or, if you’re adept at finance, it means organizing and filing your return. In another life long ago, I was a tax auditor. What follows is advice from those days and what I’ve learned since.

In some jurisdictions, writers and other artists have the opportunity to reduce income from other employment with the costs of their creative pursuits. I’ve blogged about this before but a reminder never hurts. Here are the good practises to develop an excellent file. These will help in preparing your tax return or defending expenses claimed in the event of an audit:

1.   Keep all receipts for all expenses incurred during the year. If you drive across town to watch a horse race because your character breeds and races thoroughbreds, keep a log book of the kilometres travelled. Keep the receipt when you talk to the trainer over espresso and cinnamon buns. Make a note on the receipt of which project it pertains to. Get receipts for everything.

2.   If you go to events or buy books at launches where receipts aren’t available, make notes of the date and cost. Take a photo of the event or keep a copy of the day’s agenda.

3.   Keep all your receipts together in a single file, shoebox, or shopping bag. If you’re not the organized type, that’s as much as you have to do for the current tax year—just keep it together.

4.   If you want the best work done on your tax file, take it to your tax professional as early as possible in the year. It’s always best to avoid the crush.

5.   If you want to be diligent in your record keeping, you could buy some basic bookkeeping software or record everything on a big spreadsheet.

The more work done at your end, the less you will have to pay for the professional tax preparer to do it for you.

Last practical advice: don't mess around with the tax office. Keep your claims reasonable. When you start to make a good income from your creative pursuits, don't try to avoid the tax bite. It's a fact of life.

Yes this is prosaic work, like doing laundry or cleaning the cat litter tray but it’s essential. When it’s properly taken care of, it can save you money and a lot of stress. 

How do you manage the business side of writing? Do you push it into a corner and hope it will go away? Or do you keep things in a neat accordion file, sorted by types of expenses?

 

Image from Wikimedia Commons: Evading the Toll by Thomas Rowlandson, created between 1805 and 1810, uploaded by DcoetzeeBot

 

 

What rhymes with Poetry Day?

March 21st is World Poetry Day. This year and every year. Here are things you can do to mark the occasion:

  • take a poet to lunch

  • take a book of poetry to lunch

  • try some blackout poetry

  • write a note to a poet whose work you admire

  • rearrange the magnetic poetry on your fridge door

  • pick up a pen and let your raw emotions flow onto the page

  • buy a book of poetry—please, your local poet could use the support

  • write a poem in a different language

  • write a backwards or giggle poem

  • go to an open mike event and try a slam poem

  • go the library and read poetry there

  • read your favourite poem aloud

  • memorize a poem then recite it loud

UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. Poetry is one way to open your imagination—what have you got to lose?

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Slam poem is recited by Toussaint Morrison of the Minneapolis band The Blend for a crowd at the 2007 Mifflin Street block party by The Moose