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…