Summer Reading

Summer is for catching up on reading. There is something about reading outside in the sun or under a tree that is so lovely.

I finished Heather Dixon’s Burlington recently. It explored a mother’s social pressures to fit in. After just finishing a year full of pick ups and drop offs, I enjoyed this one.

Another book I’m reading also explores motherhood. Adrienne Gruber’s debut collection of essays, Monsters, Martyrs, and Marionettes is a fasinating read about parenting and caring, and living and. I’m almost halfway though and have found Gruber’s writing resonating with me. I’m looking forward to finishing this one soon.

Desire Path

The Public Library

There are so many reasons why writers love public libraries. For as long as I can remember, I’ve regularly visited a local library once or twice a week, and one of the reasons why is because I’ve always lived within close walking distance to one. That wasn’t intentional, but it’s the lucky way it turned out.

As a writer, I read a lot. I buy books to support writers, publishers, and booksellers, but I also borrow many titles across multiple genres and formats (hello audiobooks!) from the library. When I was starting down the path of writing my own book of poetry, one of the first things I did was borrow stacks and stacks of poetry books from the library to see how what those poets did. I studied many things when I read such as:

  • How is the writing flowing from beginning to end?
  • What keeps the momentum going?
  • How is the writer exploring place?

My first book, Desire Path, was a book that centred around my life through my experiences of suburban space. In a way, it was a bildungsroman because it started with a poem reflecting on where I was born and ended with a long poem about my first pregancy.

“Heirloom” in Desire Path (Talonbooks, 2020).

While I did not write a poem about libraries in this book, I very well could have and I like to think that my experiences as a regular library user are quietly working in the background of the poems. All the times I borrowed a book, learning from those poets, this is somehow reflected in my work.

When my book was published and I found my own slender title among the poetry stack in the library, well, it was good feeling and a special moment.

Writing Life

On Summer Writing Projects

I love spring and fall, but there is something about summer and, even, winter that urges me to dive into a writing project with earnestness. Maybe it has something to do with the extreme weather common to both these seasons now and July is looking like it will shape up to be a hot month in the Fraser Valley.

In June I submitted edited versions of manuscripts to the publishers of both my upcoming books. It felt good. Both projects took years to write and edit, and both projects were started in the summer. It could be the heat of the summer that inspires me or maybe it’s the fact that the year is half-way through that fills me with the urgency needed to commit to a project consistently.

This summer I am working through the first revision of a new novel project. I started writing the first draft the summer of 2022 thinking that I could have it finished by December 2022, but it ended up taking me until December 2023 with everything going on in my life.

And here I am in the summer of 2024 starting down the path of the first major revision. Instead of being disappointed by how long it has taken me, I’m choosing to see the time away from the work as being helpful. And while I have probably forgotten a few of the aspects I had planned to address in the first revision while I was writing it, that’s probably okay.

There is something both gratifying and overwhelming about approaching a second draft. I have one novel project that I didn’t pursue past the initial messy draft. When I look at the file on my computer, I marvel that I even completed a full draft of that story. I wrote it during my first maternity leave. And while it holds a special place in my heart, there is only so much time I can give to my writing so I need to be working on projects that I truly love. I liked the old book, but didn’t feel I had the energy to give it all the work it needed. It was good practice.

This new revision project, on the other hand, I hope I can get through it this summer. My first novel took eight drafts to get to the shape I was happy with. And there is always more to do on a project, but there comes a time when I need to let it go to make space for a new one.

How I Approach the Second Draft

In the first big revision, i.e. my second draft, I approach it the following way:

  • Take time away
  • Print out a copy
  • Read the copy first, taking notes on overarching themes and big plotholes but doing minimal page edits
  • Do a ruthless hardcopy edit (i.e. strike A LOT out)
  • Translate the edits to a new document and generate new writing

Then take another break and maybe start on something else, like an outline for my next project.

I’m curious to see how many edits it will take me this time…

The Very Good Best Friend

Pursuing Complication

The ideas that served as the foundation for my first novel came to me in glimpses. It started with glimpse of something that intrigued me, something I wouldn’t forget, and then later a glimpse of something else would haunt me. Sometimes they were actions. Sometimes traits. Other times I saw a place. Suddenly I had layers. Layers I could hold on to and complicate. Over time I found myself thinking about these images and feelings and places and about how they connected, if at all. Soon I thought I had an idea for a novel, and it turns out I did.

If only it was so simple and romantic. Daydreamer starts thinking more detailed about her regular daydreams, opens laptop and out comes a story in short hour-long writing sprints. This was not how it went for me.

Writers often talk about how to get that first draft of a novel. The idea being that if an aspiring writer can concentrate enough to get all the words on paper then the hard part is done. While I agree that getting the first draft on paper takes dedication, the subsequent drafts are even harder. Writing is about making decisions. Each draft is about validating those decisions or reworking those decisions into something different. For The Very Good Best Friend, I wrote at least eight full drafts and that doesn’t include the substantive editing process happening now with my publisher, Now or Never Publishing.

When I think about the state of my first draft and what the story has become over the last four years, well, it’s completely different. Interestingly, those foundational glimpses I first experienced that inspired me to tell this story and then used to layer my initial ideas together are all still there, but I needed to make them sharper. I wrote, rewrote, cut, and wrote, rewrote, and cut so many chapters that the small book has a million ghosts embedded in it.

Writing the first draft, even with the help of a high-level outline, felt like walking down into a dark, cluttered basement with only the dim light of my phone to illuminate where I was. I couldn’t see beyond my nose. I wasn’t sure if what I was seeing was actually what I thought I was seeing. Everything was hazy, nothing fully formed or looking right. This is all to say I had no idea what the heck I was doing and why on earth I had attempted to do something that. Write a novel? Me?

Regardless of how challenging it was, I gave myself the permission to pursue it, despite how complicated and exhilerating the process was. I feel good about that.

My Writing Takeaways

I’ve been thinking about the process I went through and thought I’d share a few takeaways I will remember as I approach future projects. Here they are:

  • Make an outline: I know there are brilliant people out there who can “pants” it, but I am not that way. The direction is helpful even if I end up changing it down the line.
  • Set word count goals: Mine are always a little ambitious for the time I have, but it gives me something to strive for and keeps me on track. And when I do hit the goal, which is more often than not, it feels great.
  • Give yourself a break: As noted above, I like to have writing goals, but I found that when I really didn’t have the energy to write, I still urged myself to do it. This resulted in writing that was mostly entirely chopped. If only I had used that time better! Listen to your body.
  • When the draft is done, put it away: This is a common tip from established writers, but one that can feel ambiguous when you’re just starting out. How much time? I’d say at LEAST a month or two after each draft, if you can. This allows you to come back to your work as a reader and not the person who just spent every free moment they had trying to tell the story. Giving myself time away was invaluable when it came from the editing process.
Motherhood The Very Good Best Friend

Living for A Dream

Ahead of Mothers Day, I’ve been thinking about what it takes to be a caregiver and writer, not to mention a worker and all the other roles we assume over our lifetimes. There’s always lots of talk about the sacrifices that women make when they work and parent. There’s the never ending load of attempting to make the seemingly impossible possible. I understand this and I live this.

It’s a whole other level when it comes to being a parent and a creative person because for most people the time to pursue creative projects takes place outside of regular work hours and when you are a parent those outside of regular work hours are reserved for time with family, who you love more than anything. So when do you get time to dedicate to your passions? To your dreams? The math doesn’t add up favourably for anyone.

Galley proof for The Very Good Best Friend forthcoming from Now or Never Publishing in March 2025.

This month I have been proofreading the galley of my first novel, The Very Good Best Friend. I started writing it in August 2020, when I suppose a lot of people began writing their “one day” novels because it felt like it was now or never, the world showed us how fast it could change. Seven complete rewrites and several years later, and I’m here, now, with a book that will be printed and in the world next spring. I’m proud of myself for pursuing my dream, but it wasn’t easy. I’m also charmed by the fact that Now or Never Publishing were the folks who took it on!

There were definitely days where I wondered if working on a novel was worth the sacrifice of time. Since it’s not published yet, I guess I don’t know! My hope, as any writer’s hope is when they create something, is that I’ll find readers who will resonate with the themes of the book. More on those themes later.

An odd thing happens when pursuing a dream and then achieving it. I have an urge to do it all over again. For people who need to write, who love to read, who want to be in worlds of words, the process never ends. I don’t think it means the struggle of how to manage and spend time gets any easier. Who knows, maybe one day.

Motherhood Writing Life

Give and Take: Motherhood and Creative Practice

I have been a writer for as long as I can remember, and while I may not be one of those writers who can remember the first book they wrote at five years old about bunnies, I have many memories of working away on my craft through stories, poems, essays, even a couple of monologues. As I got older and a little more confident in the quality of what I was writing, I began submitting some of my work to creative writing journals, local and national. It was a thrill to get that first acceptance. I still remember it: a flash fiction piece. From there, I published in many journals, but I was hesitant to pursue anything longer, anything that could be considered a “book.”

It wasn’t until my daughter was born that I really got serious about writing. Suddenly time didn’t seem like this endless thing, but something finite. Looking back now, taking the plunge to write longer, more focused pieces of writing while in the thralls of first-time motherhood seems very naive, but I’ve always had an all-in kind of attitude.

Give and Take: Motherhood and Creative Practice

Recently I recieved my contributor copy for an anthology called Give & Take: Motherhood and Creative Practice. The collection “explores the diverse ways contemporary artists navigate the unique tensions of motherhood in all its varied stages.” I have a short essay called “On Maternity Leave” in the section of the book called “Motherhood and the Experience of Time.” I was thrilled when I read that section title. I felt like the editors, Tara Carpenter Estrada, Katie Palfreyman, and Hilary Wolfley, displayed a level of insight in the curation of this collection that is such a gift to a writer. In the preface to the section, they included the following analysis of my essay: In “On Maternity Leave,” writer Taryn Hubbard describes how becoming a parent constricted her sense of time…Paradoxically, as some aspects of time compressed for Hubbard, others expanded” (140).

In my essay “On Maternity Leave,” I’m sharing my experience being on maternity and trying to balance a writing life and ultimately feeling insecure about it.

Here are two of my favourite exerpts:

Before I had children, I thought of time differently. Life seemed long, I felt like there would be time to get my ideas together, to produce something I was proud of, to master my craft. I figured it would happen “some day,” that I had the time to get there in my own way. When my daughter was born, those loose ideas of time went out the window. My life was finite. I had mouths to feed, butts to wipe, cookie crumbs to vacuum. I had a sleep schedule and a grocery list. Swimming lessons and ballet. I awoke in the middle of the night on urgent rescue missions because beloved stuffed animals had rolled onto the floor and my daughter wouldn’t stop crying until reunited. My life as a mother, a partner, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a worker, and a community member was finite. Every single aspect of my life took time, sometimes a lot of it. Embodying all those roles alongside being a writer who also actually produced things and attempted to get published? Well, I just wasn’t so sure of all that once I became a mother.

“On Maternity Leave” in Give and Take: Motherhood and Creative Practice.

Later on in the essay, I share a special moment between my daughter and I.

A week ago, my daughter in one of her usual campaigns to draw out bedtime asked me if I “would be the best writer ever.” I was stunned. I asked her to repeat herself; surely, she wasn’t asking me about something like writing, about my writing, about me? So she said it again, and this time I gently pulled her into a hug and I felt a rush of unexpected tears leak down my cheeks. Her comment touched my heart. No, I wouldn’t be the best writer ever, but maybe, with her encouragement, I could write. I could think. I could create. I would write because I had stories to tell and I’d carve out the time away from family to do it. Time for myself. Time for my thoughts. She brushed her teeth and went to bed after a few stories, not understanding how much her comment meant to me. I don’t mention it to her again, but I think about it often.

“On Maternity Leave” in Give and Take: Motherhood and Creative Practice.

I was grateful to receive my contributor copy of the anthology and to have the chance to relive this time in my life. The collection is full of incredible work by writers exploring all angles of motherwood and creativity, from interviews, to essays, to artworks, to poetry. It’s intimate and authentic, immediate and necessary. I recommend checking it out.